The Crucifix


Several months ago, Adam Tooze warned that ‘the huge public debt commitments that are being made now will, no doubt, serve fiscal conservatives as a cross on which to nail progressive politics from here until kingdom come’.


This certainly seems to have begun. Despite promises by the central government to do ‘whatever necessary’ to support local authorities, in the last week, as councils have raised the alarm of impending bankruptcies and inadequate support, Robert Jenrick, Sec of Housing, Communities and Local Government, has chosen to blame their investment decisions – as if there are any investment portfolios performing well in the current environment.


“There are some councils that have very significant exposure to commercial investments,” Jenrick told the committee. “Some that are perfectly understandable and some that were perhaps unwise investments to have made in the first place. I have long argued against councils establishing very large commercial portfolios, for example.”


The tragic irony is that many local authorities resorted balancing the books with ever greater reliance on commercial investment in response to budget cuts under austerity (cutting an average of about 2/3 off council’s government grants). Now that those investments are reflecting the current economic shut down and short term injections are needed, no doubt the Conservatives will push for what they have been pursuing for the past decade: selling off public assets, no matter how profitable and especially on the cheap.


‘Mayors warn of looming council bankruptcies’, Jonny Ball


‘ “Whatever it takes”: Has the government broken its promises to local councils?’, Jonny Ball

Something between the Wild West and an annexed state under martial law


A great read for anyone wanting to know more about the details of US policing and real world, actionable change that can be enacted immediately.


Main takeaways:


  • The US is the wild fucking west and I had no idea how astoundingly unregulated those crime syndicates were.
  • A major part of that lack of oversight is the immense strength and influence of the police unions.


As an old fashioned Socialist, it’s not often I oppose union influence but a radical shift needs to take place to shape the market in which the police union operates.



‘How to Actually Fix America’s Police’, Stoughton, Noble, Alpert in The Atlantic

Remember the Amazon?


With the world’s attention turned, Bolsonaro is pushing for ever greater expansion into the Amazon. Worse still, with CV-19 having a potentially devastating effect on the indigenous communities, the Amazon may find itself without its fiercest protectors.


Not only does the Amazon capture vast tonnage of carbon (released when it burns) but it’s rooftop reflects heat through the albedo effect, just as the ice cover of Greenland does. Meanwhile, as we drive to extinction the uncountable number of species held within the planet’s richest biosphere, the livestock and mining practices which replace so much of this forest are major polluters.


Lovejoy and Nobre (2018) suggest that if deforestation reached 20-25% of the Amazon’s original forest area, the southern, eastern, and central regions will become savannah, with enormous consequences for the water cycle on a global scale causing major climatic disruption. Savannah is itself a stable state and, once established, represents forest that can not be restored.


Here’s a short piece on the immense threat Bolsonaro poses to us all:


‘Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is devastating indigenous lands, with the world distracted’, Brian Garvey & Mauricio Torres

“Playing the refs”

If you’re not abreast of these phenomena, than you’re simply not involved. Enjoy…

‘Trump Is Doing All of This for Zuckerberg’, Zeynep Tufekci

“Playing the refs by browbeating them has long been a key move in the right-wing playbook against traditional media. The method is simple: It involves badgering them with accusations of unfairness and bias so that they bend over backwards to accommodate a “both sides” narrative even when the sides were behaving very differently, or when one side was not grounded in fact. Climate-change deniers funded by fossil-fuel companies effectively used this strategy for decades, relying on journalists’ training and instinct to equate objectivity with representing both sides of a story. This way of operating persisted even when one of the sides was mostly bankrolled by the fossil-fuel industry while the other was a near-unanimous consensus of independent experts and academics.”


In a time of demagoguery, “impartiality” and “establishing the facts” are contradictory terms. Another sterling example of the Fourth Estate failing the people, speaking for power and making a mockery of the facts. Enjoy 😏

‘Why is the BBC bending to the Government’s definition of impartiality?’, Owen Jones

“When faced with a very clear choice between yielding to government pressure or serving viewers by telling them the truth, BBC management, shamefully, chose the former,” says one Newsnight source. “BBC bosses believe this helps preserve the organisation. All it will really do is sign its death warrant.” 

Universal Basic Income


I’ve been more than a little disappointed by the ease with which “the Left” has picked up UBI over decommodification as a means of progress and recovery, post-pandemic. I am deeply suspicious of what could so easily be used as a disempowering, alienating form of alms; satiating the ever more wretched with just enough tuppence for them to quell their discontent by partaking in rabid consumerism at the detriment of the environment.


Of course, there are a variety of possibilities opened up by UBI, not all of them Huxleyan, but when Social Darwinist technocapitalists advocate for something, “the Left” should treat it with a lot of caution – as they should any idea claiming to be “non-ideological”.


Here’s an excellent article from a few years back, which has stayed with me ever since and is a particularly interesting read now:

‘The False Promise of Universal Basic Income’, Alyssa Battistoni


NB. The Finnish experiment, since seen as a failure, was in practice an exercise in Universal Credit masked as UBI.



A Podcast Recommendation

Carlos Doesn’t Remember, Malcolm Gladwell


This is the third time I’ve listened to Season 1 of Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History Podcast. It is every bit as moving as I remember and every bit as important.


Episodes 4-6 are a stand alone set addressing education in America and the jaded American belief that their state is a meritocracy.


Here is the first/fourth episode. Key takeaways:


“talent is fragile”

Caroline Hoxby & Christopher Avery, ‘The Missing “One-Offs”: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students’