…it’s sunday…but honestly I can’t claim to be noticeably restful…though I do promise I’ll eventually give it a rest…at least for the time being…but times being what they are…here we go again seems to be the order of the day
It can be hard to get your head around what rightwingers in the US actually believe. On the one hand, they claim to love babies; on the other hand, they’re against government funds going towards helping to feed babies. They claim to love freedom and hate government meddling, but then they’re frenetically trying to pass bills that would take away a woman’s freedom over her own body and allow the government to meddle in intimate reproductive choices. Like I said, they’re a complex bunch! Still, I’ve mapped their moral compass as best I can, and compiled this handy cheatsheet to help understand where conservatives stand on various issues. Here you go.
Essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom; should remain freely available and shouldn’t be controlled:
Highly dangerous and must be banned or tightly controlled:
“You want to talk about how we could have prevented the horror that played out across the street?” the Texas senator Ted Cruz said on Wednesday, while standing outside Robb elementary school. “Having one door that goes in and out of the school, having armed police officers at that one door.”
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that the National Rifle Association (NRA), who bankroll a long list of Republican politicians, including Cruz, are the ones responsible for coming up with the too-many-doors talking point. In 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA assembled a taskforce to come up with a school safety proposal that didn’t involve meaningful gun control. The result was a dystopian 225-page report that included recommendations like: arm teachers; build bigger fences; get rid of trees; “design windows, framing, and anchoring systems to minimize the effects of explosive blasts, gunfire and forced entry”. These are recommendations, let me remind you, for schools. Not for maximum security prisons – for schools. The report also contains pages and pages of recommendations about doors, including the idea that there should be a single, controlled entry point and that doors should have ballistic protective glass.
Many of the NRA’s recommendations, it should be said, had been implemented by Robb elementary. In 2020, the Uvalde school district received $69,000 in state grants to enhance physical security in Texas public schools, which included installing “exterior doors with push bars” and “door-locking systems”. None of that stopped the shooter. It shouldn’t need to be said, but doors are not responsible for school massacres. Guns are.
…now I don’t know what kind of entirely-divorced-from-reality-batshit-fucking-crazy-high-on-whatever-the-fuck-rots-your-brain-this-way bullshit mental gymnastics they have to pull to cognitively dissonance their way to this one but…as I’m sure there must surely be endless people pointing out all over the internet…if you have more than one problem to solve for anything that solves one at the cost of completely undoing your efforts to deal with another is logically a non-starter…& the building code doesn’t like shit that overrules…much less fucking upends…shit that’s there to make it easy to escape a building…mainly on account of fires but for other reasons, too…so how in the actual fuck is putting one solitary door into/out of an entire damn school supposed to work other than to ramp up the chances that even if you’re lucky enough never to repeat the events of last week with an entire campus instead of a classroom being the wrong side of a barrier it takes too long to get through…maybe you just lose a bunch of people to a different kind of disaster they’d have otherwise escaped…after all, given how eminently-surmountable the fences at this place turned out to be you’ve also got to assume those campuses are going to be walled in like some kind of medieval fortress…possibly with the whole moat/drawbridge/portcullis combo…who the fuck even knows at this point…& I realize that it’s broadly impossible not to have ingested an unhealthy amount of information about just how unspeakable a tragedy this latest one appears to be so I’ll try to stick to more general aspects & see if I can lurch my way to a different subject sooner than later…but…aside from the glaring inconsistency with which people apparently devoted to the “original” meaning of arguably antiquated documents penned in some cases by literally unreconstructed white dudes ignoring the part where the whole clause begins with the phrase “a well regulated militia”…because sure they love the militia/military-cosplay/stuff-that’s-labelled-terrorist-training-camps-when-it’s-in-another-country ticket they figure it gives them…the regulated bit sure seems like it might have been the focus of the authors…the whole bearing arms part comes in what some people might call a subordinate clause…but what do I know…my normal involves the thing you might have done illicitly before you turn 18 but can legally do after being getting drunk off your ass…not buying what looks like the same machine gun you saw in a movie/video game with which to take your adolescent rage out on the world
The assault weapon ban, which lapsed in 2004, should be renewed. Somehow, it must become much harder in this country to buy a weapon. No 18-year-old, especially one with such a deeply troubled history as the alleged Texas gunman, should be able to buy a firearm.
After the racist shooting at a Buffalo supermarket earlier in the month, the Democratic establishment temporarily swung away from the scourge of guns to the scourge of online misinformation and how to crack down on it. Democrats of all ideological stripes swiftly backed new legislation that would “improve intelligence-sharing” between law enforcement agencies, building on a bill that passed the House Judiciary Committee that would create permanent offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and FBI to “monitor, investigate and prosecute cases of domestic terrorism”. The proposal would also improve training for local police to detect and investigate what they believe is terrorism.
Since the motivations of the Texas killer are more opaque, there has been less talk about such measures. This is for the best. Measures to empower federal surveillance state apparatuses inevitably backfire, leading to the abuse of civil liberties, particularly endangering vulnerable populations. American Muslims after 9/11 understand the danger of unleashing DHS or the FBI on so-called terrorism suspects. The term remains vague enough to encompass all kinds of people who may, for whatever reason, appear suspicious to overzealous federal officials.
Using mass shootings to expand the power of DHS would be a serious error, one that would inevitably punish the left when Republicans take power again. Donald Trump or another rightwing president would not hesitate to reclassify various progressive organizations or movements as domestic terrorism, especially if they reside beyond the political mainstream.
The focus must remain on guns. It’s understandable, in one sense, that Democrats would shift to fretting about expanding the purview of a Bush-created agency: taking action is immediately plausible. There may be enough votes to pass the bills and invite bipartisan support. Banning assault weapons or even instituting increased background checks has been a political dead-end for so long because the gun lobby owns the Republican party and many rural voters are gun-owners.
If the federal government is paralyzed, Democrats must redouble their efforts in various state legislatures to flip chambers and win executive offices. This may be the only answer. States individually can do a great deal on the gun control front. If limiting access to guns is unpopular in conservative states, Democrats must find ways to campaign on other issues and implement safety laws once in power. For starters, there should be more bipartisan consensus around raising the age of gun purchases. If 18-year-olds cannot legally drink, why can they buy firearms? Since most violent crime is committed by the very young, cutting off guns to teenagers could make a small difference.
…& yes…I can vouch for the fact that drunk teenagers can be their own kind of nightmare…& in the worst cases that can lead to a loss of life sometimes…but I wouldn’t hesitate to trade them for the chance of not having any with unsupervised fucking firearms…call me crazy…but despite any “they could get a gun anyway” argument that part at the very least seems like your actual no-brainer?
…&…as they say…once more for the cheap seats
…either way…this is not stuff I know a lot about
…even so…I don’t know how much time I’ve got for arguing about the correlation/causation thing…although…could be now is a good time to re-examine some of that, as it happens
Identifying what causes what in complex systems is the aim of much of science. Although we have made amazing progress by breaking things down into ever smaller components, this “reductionist” approach has limits. From the role of genetics in disease to how brains produce consciousness, we often struggle to explain large-scale phenomena from microscale behaviour.
Now, some researchers are suggesting we should zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Having created a new way to measure causation, they claim that in many cases the causes of things are found at the more coarse-grained levels of a system. If they are right, this new approach could reveal fresh insights about biological systems and new ways to intervene – to prevent disease, say. It could even shed light on the contentious issue of free will, namely whether it exists.
…anyway…I was trying to make my way off this particular topic…despite the fact that I think it does deserve to be not only discussed but acted upon…but that’s because it’s sunday & I think we could all use a break
It’s certainly true that people might cynically leverage a tragedy to try to take political steps forward. There are examples of this that would be universally understood to be inappropriate. Often, it’s subjective: if you disagree with the political point being made, you’re more likely to view the interjection of politics as inappropriate. We also sometimes see allegations about cynical opportunism deployed not as a sincere complaint but as a way to defuse anger that might spur political change.
After the killing of 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Tex., we are once again in a “don’t politicize this” moment on guns. It’s worth assessing what that suggested boundary actually means.
“As sure as night follows day, you can bet there are going to be Democrat politicians looking to advance their own political agenda,” said [better-dead-than-ted], “rather than to work to stop this kind of horrific violence and to keep everyone safe.” Democrats, in other words, want to politicize this.
“Politicize” can means lots of things. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting spree, Cruz tweeted his condolences to those affected. It’s a sort of politicization — politician expressing his condolences — to which no one would object.
On Wednesday, though, Cruz was making comments like this on television.
[…which, interestingly, won’t embed…but isn’t deleted…claims “we have seen the face of evil“…I’m sure by coincidence does seem to have itself an embedded video in which you see his face…haven’t listened to the audio but since the other line in the tweet is “The Senate needs to act by passing legislation to harden schools so this doesn’t happen again.” I’m gonna go ahead & assume nothing he said is worth listening to if you value your blood pressure, sanity or believe in the possibility of contagious stupidity]
What often emerges at moments like this is a vague sort of “not yet”-ing generally applied to those who advocate for restrictions on the availability of firearms. That the time has not yet come for any such discussion, given that parents (or, more vaguely, “communities”) are still grieving. Sometimes, the proposed boundary is that the victims have not yet been buried, suggesting that discussion of politics wait until that’s happened.
The immediate intent of this chiding, obviously, is to cast the person raising the political issue as somehow morally deficient or unsympathetic to the victims. The broader intent is to let anger dissipate — something that happens very quickly.
Since 2010, there have been 77 mass shootings in which three or more people were killed, according to data compiled by Mother Jones. It’s hard to gauge how long it takes for attention to fade after those incidents, but it appears to be about four or five days. That’s the average duration that cable news networks spend an unusual amount of time talking about shootings in the wake of a major incident.
The other challenge, of course, is that incidents in which multiple people are shot to death occur so frequently that there’s almost never a time in which no community in America is suffering from the aftermath. Data from the Gun Violence Archive shows that the longest stretch this year in which no place in America saw an incident in which at least two people were killed and two injured is nine days, ending on Jan. 18.
If the boundary is victims being buried, we’re always in a “don’t politicize” period. The massacre in Uvalde occurred before the victims of this month’s mass shooting in Buffalo had been buried.
We should however recognize this demand for what it often is: itself an effort to politicize tragedy. Demanding that people not advocate their own responses to tragedy because it’s “politicizing” things is, itself, a political tactic. It is politicization, leveraging the suffering of those affected to bolster one’s own political position.
Using victims’ pain to deflect your opponents’ political goals is no different from using victims’ pain to advance your own.
…& while I do understand how it might have been difficult to sell some folks on a slogan that boiled down to “defund the police”…these police seem to be making a better case for it that they have for the 40% share of their local budget they seem to get…to pay for among other things a SWAT team that supposedly trained for exactly this eventuality & did some sort of tour of the school earlier in the year…even by their own standards…I mean…what conclusion do the police generally draw when the statements of people at the scene of a crime change repeatedly under questioning as facts appear which contradict previous responses?
Despite their notoriety, mass shootings — as defined by criminologists — generally do not happen often enough for detailed data analysis. Moreover, there are at least eight databases of mass shootings, including one maintained by The Washington Post, with different definitions and parameters. An upcoming paper for the Justice Department, written by a team led by James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, Grant Duwe of the Minnesota Department of Corrections and Michael Rocque of Bates College, attempts to craft a common definition: A mass public shooting is any event in which four or more individuals, not including the assailant(s), were killed by gunfire in a public setting within a 24-hour period. Mass shootings associated with criminal activity are excluded.
Fox told the Fact Checker that most mass shooters are very determined individuals and that even with an average of seven or eight mass shootings a year, new laws might only reduce the number by one a year. But he said stricter gun control laws would be “the right thing to do for a different reason” — they might help reduce overall gun violence.
Anyone who slaughters innocent people with firearms in theory would be expected to have mental health issues. But most people who have mental health issues are not killers; in fact, they are more likely to be victims of gun violence. Nearly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, while epidemiological research suggests that nearly half the U.S. population may experience some symptoms of mental illness in their lifetime.
That makes it difficult to know when to draw the line, especially because mental illness is not a predictor of violence. “Databases that track gun homicides, such as the National Center for Health Statistics, similarly show that fewer than 5 percent of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness,” noted Jonathan Metzl and Kenneth MacLeish of Vanderbilt University in a 2016 study. They said that other factors, such as alcohol and drug use, may increase the risk of turning toward violent crime even more. A history of childhood abuse is also considered a predictive risk factor.
Red-flag (“extreme risk”) laws — which generally allow police to take firearms away from people who exhibit concerning behavior — have been passed in 19 states and the District of Columbia, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun-control laws. Between 1999 and 2021, at least 16,857 extreme risk petitions were filed, the group says. Florida, which passed such a law after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, has used it 6,000 times since then.
Yet New York’s red-flag law was not invoked against Payton Gendron, the suspect in the racist attack in Buffalo this month that left 10 people dead. He had said in school he planned to commit a murder-suicide and was taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. Police chose not to seek a red-flag order, apparently because he did not name a specific target. New York’s governor has since signed an executive order seeking to strengthen the law.
…anyway…much as I don’t seem to have managed it…there’s a reason I was trying to talk about something else
The problem is not one of caring. Even the people with whom I vehemently disagree probably care. I concede that. The problem is what they care about more and how little it matters how much the rest of us care.
We post pictures of the dead and the bereaved. We do this because we cannot or will not accept that others know the same facts that we know but care less about them than we do. In these moments, we struggle to make the other side care. Parents know that children are murdered. Religious faithful know that the elderly are murdered in church. Politicians know that their constituents live in fear of being gunned down. But other things matter more to them. Winning an argument. Owning a gun. Making money. Never having to think of distasteful things. And winning more arguments. Theirs is a challenge for a priest, not politics.
We also ignore what sociologists would call the material basis of emotions. Emotions are not politically neutral experiences; they emerge not from the ether but from the earth, the very foundation of our dirty, delicious, embodied lives. I’m reminded of research looking at the relationship between racial identity and empathy. In a study that measured levels of empathy among white Americans watching a white police officer shoot an unarmed Black man, the more that viewers identified as white, the less empathy they had for the victim. Commitment to membership in the racial majority can shape our emotional response to human tragedy. You see a similar relationship as it relates to all kinds of other violence. This is not an empathy gap but an inequality gap. People care as much as their material reality allows them to care.
[…]Anne Helen Petersen writes in her newsletter: “Collective and individual action feel impotent. The idea of representative democracy comes to feel like a farce.”
She is right. It feels like a farce because it is a farce. Petersen names the risk: a legitimacy crisis brought about because our political system no longer convinces those it rules that it deserves to rule. The political analyst Elie Mystal put it even more sharply: “All the people who care to stop school shootings already vote for politicians who also care, and all the people who don’t care either vote GOP or don’t vote at all. It’s all baked in. And the people who don’t care have shown that carnage doesn’t change their minds.” It does not change our minds.
As consumer-citizens, we have been conditioned to believe that if our votes don’t matter, our donations will. And if our donations don’t do it, then we can simply call the manager or email political liaisons. Citizenship looks like leaving a Yelp review for the representative who was elected in your gerrymandered district.
None of it is enough. Citizen-consumers are ill equipped for the electoral politics we have. That politics is bigger than our preferences. Big donors, both corporate and supranational, have more say than the majority. The issue isn’t that voters don’t care about gun control but that caring is all we seem able to do.
Caring Is All We Seem Able to Do [NYT]
I know it’s a hopeless effort to say this, but imagine the reaction if a prominent liberal politician were to declare that the reason the United States has a severe social problem that doesn’t exist elsewhere is that Americans are bad people. We’d never hear the end of it. But when a Republican says it, it barely makes a ripple.
And I guess I should say for the record that I personally don’t believe that Americans, as individuals, are worse than anyone else. If anything, what has always struck me when returning from trips abroad is that Americans are (or were) on average exceptionally nice and pleasant to interact with.
OK, I think everyone realizes that none of what Republicans are saying about how to respond to mass shootings will translate into actual policy proposals. They’re barely even trying to make sense. Instead, they’re just making noise to drown out rational discussion until the latest atrocity fades from the news cycle. The truth is that conservatives consider mass shootings, and for that matter America’s astonishingly high overall rate of gun deaths, as an acceptable price for pursuing their ideology.
But what is that ideology? I’d argue that while talk about America’s unique gun culture isn’t exactly wrong, it’s too narrow. What we’re really looking at here is a broad assault on the very idea of civic duty — on the idea that people should follow certain rules, accept some restrictions on their behavior, to protect the lives of their fellow citizens.
Where does this hatred of the idea of civic duty come from? No doubt some of it, like almost everything in U.S. politics, is related to race.
One thing it doesn’t reflect, however, is our national tradition. When you hear talk of home-schooling, remember that the United States basically invented universal public education. Environmental protection used to be a nonpartisan issue: The Clean Air Act of 1970 passed the Senate without a single nay. And Hollywood mythology aside, most towns in the Old West had stricter limits on the carrying of firearms than Gov. Greg Abbott’s Texas.
…but…I don’t want to try to concoct some hierarchy of awfulness in an attempt to suggest something outranks something else in terms of urgency…but there’s definitely a but here all the same…because the part where urgent attention is required to correct things that are bad-trending-to-worse in sufficient profusion to risk giving that impression is not a coincidence…be it guns…roe v wade…or…you know…the world in general & how it might be nice to maybe not just burn shit down until we all choke on the results over the graves of a bunch of very rich & entirely dead men?
In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk.
In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.
And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.
Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.
“We’re an energy state, and energy accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue for us,” said Riley Moore, the West Virginia state treasurer. “All of our jobs come from coal and gas. I mean, this is who we are. This is part of our way of life here in the state. And they’re telling us that these industries are bad.”
“We have an existential threat here,” Mr. Moore said. “We have to fight back.”
“There is a coordinated effort to chill corporate engagement on these issues,” said Daniella Ballou-Aares, chief executive of the Leadership Now Project, a nonprofit organization that wants corporations to address threats to democracy. “And it is an effective campaign. Companies are starting to go into hiding.”
The pushback has been spearheaded by a group of Republican state officials that has reached out to financial organizations, facilitated media appearances and threatened to punish companies that, among other things, divest from fossil fuels.
These efforts come after years during which many in the financial sector boasted that they were prioritizing environmental, social and governance issues, also known as ESG, rather than pure profits.
Republican lawmakers, however, are becoming more organized in their efforts to slow corporate progress on climate issues.
Mr. Moore, the West Virginia state treasurer, coordinated a letter in November from 16 state treasurers and comptrollers to banks across the country, threatening “collective action in response to the ongoing and growing economic boycott of traditional energy production industries by U.S. financial institutions.”
“It is our sincere hope that no financial institution will be rendered ineligible to provide banking services to our states,” the letter said.
In private, elected officials in conservative states have been even more blunt.
“These big banks are virtue signaling because they are woke,” Gary Howell, a West Virginia state representative who sponsored a bill that would blacklist companies that have divested from fossil fuels, wrote in a Feb. 8 email to Mr. Moore. The message was obtained by Documented, a corporate watchdog group, under a Freedom of Information Act request. “They either shut up or get on the list, that is my goal,” he wrote.
Idaho’s top elected officials, including the governor and the entire congressional delegation, sent a letter last week to the chief executive of S&P Global, the ratings agency, objecting to the company’s use of ESG metrics in its rankings of states. “It is impossible for the State of Idaho not to conclude that S&P has adopted a politicized ratings system,” the Republicans wrote. Officials in other states, including Utah, have sent similar letters.
Curtis Loftis, the South Carolina state treasurer, emailed senior executives at JPMorgan on Sept. 1 and warned banks “to stay out of political culture wars and particularly abstain from the petty, ‘woke’ cancel culture.”
…& it’s fucking working
BlackRock, on behalf of its clients, had $259 billion in assets invested in fossil fuel companies around the world, with $91 billion invested in Texas fossil fuel companies alone, Ms. Blass stressed, listing BlackRock’s sizable holdings in Texas energy companies, including Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Kinder Morgan.
BlackRock also this month said it would support fewer shareholder proposals calling for climate action because “we do not consider them to be consistent with our clients’ long-term financial interests.”
The efforts appear to be having an impact beyond BlackRock, as well. At the annual meetings of big banks and oil companies — including BP, ConocoPhillips, and Citi — shareholders voted down climate proposals that would have slowed investments in fossil fuel projects.
As the stock markets sink and concerns about inflation grow, the pushback against environmental, social and governance concerns is spreading.
Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, waded into the debate. “ESG is a scam,” he said on Twitter this month. “It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.” Shortly after that he shared a meme that declared an ESG score “determines how compliant your business is with the leftist agenda.”
And last week, the global head of responsible investments for HSBC Asset Management, Stuart Kirk, made a provocative presentation titled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk” at a Financial Times event in London.
…& it’s worth bearing in mind that at least part of that whole deal…is one that pushes the exposure to what the science is pretty fucking clear need to be making their way into the category of “stranded assets” lies with…guess what…not the fucking people looking to make a profit on those deals
Individuals in rich countries face huge financial losses if climate action slashes the value of fossil fuel assets, a study shows, despite many oil and gas fields being in other countries.
The researchers estimated that existing oil and gas projects worth $1.4tn (£1.1tn) would lose their value if the world moved decisively to cut carbon emissions and limit global heating to 2C. By tracking many thousands of projects through 1.8m companies to their ultimate owners, the team found most of the losses would be borne by individual people through their pensions, investment funds and share holdings.
…yup…pensions…of fucking course it’s pension funds
The analysis also found that financial institutions have $681bn of these potentially worthless assets on their balance sheets, more than the estimated $250-500bn of mispriced sub-prime housing assets that triggered the 2007-08 financial crisis.
The researchers did not predict if or when these fossil fuel “stranded assets” would cause a financial crash, but said the size of the number was worrying. The US and UK are by far the countries with the biggest potential stranded assets in their financial sectors.
Overall, the study calculated that individuals own 54% of the $1.4tn oil and gas assets at risk – $756bn. Three-quarters of these people are in the 38 developed countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) group. Governments and corporate creditors carry the balance.
But the proportion is much higher in the US and UK, where individuals own 86% and 75% of the potentially stranded assets respectively. In contrast, 80% of those assets in China are owned by the government.
The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, said the rate of change needed to tackle the climate crisis was “so large that the rapid collapse of fossil fuel industries presents major transition risks”. The researchers compared a scenario in which little was done to limit global heating and temperatures rise by 3.5C with a scenario in which substantial action was taken and the global temperature rise was limited to 2C.
The countries hit hardest by losses in the financial sector would be the US, with $283bn at risk, and the UK ($98bn), both far above the third-placed nation, the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands ($28bn). Canada and Australia are in the top six. About 90% of the risk in the UK is due to ownership of oil and gas assets in other parts of the world.
Mike Coffin, at the financial thinktank Carbon Tracker Initiative, said the new analysis was complementary to CTI’s own research, which recently found oil companies were at risk of wasting $500bn on future projects.
Coffin said the study focused on future losses from existing assets. “What is critical is that investors recognise the risk of committing huge amounts of capital in new assets that run the risk of becoming stranded as long-term fossil demand weakens.” The Guardian recently worked with CTI to show the 12 biggest oil companies are on track to spend $103m a day to 2030 on projects that would mean attempts to keep global heating well below 2C would fail.
The study also focused on exploration and production. But including other parts of the oil and gas industry, such as refineries and equipment suppliers, would increase potential losses, Coffin said. “The overall magnitude of the stranded asset risk within the oil and gas industry is likely to be significantly larger than that quantified in the study.”
…so…naturally the uber-troll is out there just pulling stuff out of his ass hand over fist as fast as he can type
“This is actually a good thing,” Musk said in response to a question from a Twitter user. “It has been raining money on fools for too long. Some bankruptcies need to happen.
“Also,” he continued, “all the Covid stay-at-home stuff has tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard. Rude awakening inbound!”
It’s tough talk from a man said to be worth north of $218bn, more than anyone in the world. And it conveniently overlooks the considerable handouts Musk himself took in the process of growing his net worth after plunking down $6.5m for a majority stake in Tesla in 2004. How did Musk weather the economic storms and rude awakenings thereafter?
Musk also claimed on Twitter that a recession would be good because “companies that are inherently negative cash flow (ie value destroyers) need to die, so that they stop consuming resources”. From 2010 to 2018, Tesla raised $20bn in capital while producing a negative cash flow of $9bn; 2021 was the company’s first full year of profitability.
It isn’t just Washington that has been generous. Tesla also benefits from state tax income tax breaks for green vehicles and routinely helps itself to corporate subsidies. Since last August the company has received roughly $64m in incentives to move to Austin, Texas, and build Giga Texas – the spanking new factory that’s expected to produce another gonzo Musk idea, the Tesla Cybertruck.
Musk’s other companies have benefited from corporate welfare schemes too. In 2015, the LA Times reckoned Musk’s companies had benefited from almost $5bn in government support. That includes SpaceX, which just landed a $2.89bn contract with Nasa and a $653m air force contract, both in 2021; and SolarCity, which capitalised on $1.5bn in government aid and haemorrhaged cash too before the solar energy company was absorbed into Tesla –which itself accepted payroll benefits from Donald Trump’s $600bn pandemic stimulus package.
…now…I don’t know what the forensic accounting equivalent is of an AR-15…but there are some accounts I’d like to see full of holes about now…& not in the bankrupt-as-in-shield-my-assets-&-cover-my-ass sense, either…I mean I’d like to see some particular people wiped out in a purely financial sense…before they do it to the rest of us in another sense entirely…because the idea that this stuff is coordinated in any sense ought to be deep into tinfoil hat territory…& not seemingly staring me in the face?
Increasingly, they fretted, the tenets of stakeholder capitalism — and the environmental, social and governance-themed investing trend that has risen with it — are under attack from populist politicians, finance industry contrarians and a different band of activists from the ones Schwab imagined.
One trigger for their concerns was a speech made the previous week at a Financial Times conference in London. In it, Stuart Kirk, head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management, had rubbished the consensus that investors should try to encourage a more environmentally responsible capitalism by factoring climate risks into their calculations.
Even some former industry insiders have broken ranks to paint ESG as mere “greenwashing”. Tariq Fancy, BlackRock’s former chief investment officer for sustainable investing, now calls sustainable investing “a dangerous placebo”. Desiree Fixler, former head of ESG for the Deutsche Bank-backed asset manager DWS, says the acronym has become meaningless.
The other person haunting delegates at Davos was Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida who is battling Disney over a bill to limit the teaching of sexuality and gender identity in the state’s public elementary schools. The populist governor’s appetite for a fight with Disney chief executive Bob Chapek has sent a shiver down many executive spines, in part because DeSantis is not an outlier in a party that still attracts a majority of US corporate political donations.
In recent weeks, Florida senator Marco Rubio has introduced legislation to let investors sue companies that stray from maximising shareholder returns; former presidential nominee Mitt Romney has signed a letter saying ESG scores are “politicising” S&P’s credit ratings; and former US vice-president Mike Pence has attacked ESG principles as “pernicious”.
For Vivek Ramaswamy, a conservative entrepreneur and author, this backlash is an overdue reaction to elite over-reach. This month, he raised more than $20mn from libertarian tech investor Peter Thiel and others for an anti-ESG investment group, declaring that it would happily invest in the oil and gas stocks that big asset managers increasingly shun.
“I’ve been working on this for over two years and it felt like I was pushing uphill for much of [that time],” he says. Now, though, “the tides have changed”.
…because of-fucking-course peter-fucking-thiel has money to throw at specifically profiting from the exact shit guaranteed to make things worse for as much of literally-everyone-else as mathematically possible…that shit could not be more on-brand for that miserable son-of-a-bitch
Ramaswamy argues that the defining cultural and political struggle of our time is not between left and right, but “between the managerial class and the modern citizen . . . It’s the reincarnation of what happened in 1776 in America.”
…what the actual fuck are you smoking to be bringing fucking 1776 into a defense of investing in shit-that-only-isn’t-ultimately-worthless-if-we-go-for-worst-case-scenario-on-a-global-scale?
In the past two months, a conservative advocacy group has persuaded a California court to strike down two state laws that would have imposed diversity quotas on company boards. At their annual meetings, chief executives from Goldman Sachs to Meta have been pressed by conservative shareholder groups over their charitable donations or racial equity policies. One such group, the Free Enterprise Project, says it is trying to save corporate America from “the socialist foundations of woke”.
Yet recent academic studies show that the calculus behind taking the kind of socially liberal positions that could label a capitalist as “woke” is more complex.
CEOs who took a stance on the issue left employees who disagreed with them feeling demotivated, she found, while not meaningfully motivating employees who agreed with them. Weighing in on politically divisive issues, she concludes, is in fact “a riskier proposition than a lot of people realise”.
…& the whole greenwashing thing doesn’t exactly help
For all their suspicions about their critics’ motivations, several advocates of more sustainable ways of doing business acknowledge the limitations of ESG, which is as ambitious in scope as it is ambiguously defined.
“Criticism of weak or inconsistent implementation is fair game,” Richard Samans of the International Labour Organization and Jane Nelson at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, wrote on the WEF website this week.
“I’m really afraid that too much of it is lip service . . . ESG has become too much of a check-the-box asset class,” says Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, whose Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism convenes an influential group of stakeholder-focused chief executives.
Homroy, for his part, suspects companies will have no choice but to become more environmentally responsible, but he also suspects their commitment to the kind of social activism that could expose them to attacks may be peaking.
Rightwing populists and industry sceptics are mounting a backlash against a vision for business that looks beyond profits [FT]
…&…well…there was other stuff I had every intention of mentioning
…so…when it comes to understanding I appear to be fresh out…& some shit seems like it might be true whether we like it or not…for better or for worse
…but can we at least get back to having that last part be true…because it fucking ought to be?
[…I’ll calm down enough to find some tunes at some point…at least I assume that’s going to happen]