Streetwise Professor

April 30, 2021

If You Woke Up With Wood . . . You’re Rich!

Filed under: Commodities,CoronaCrisis,Derivatives,Economics — cpirrong @ 6:33 pm

Especially if it’s lumber. Not so much if it’s timber or logs.

Lumber prices have been on a tear recently. The CME lumber futures price has risen inexorably for weeks:

The softwood lumber PPI has increased 73 percent from April of last year, when Covid cratered all markets (including all commodity markets in particular) to March of this year. As the graph above shows, the price increase in the last month alone will add almost 100 precent to that. The plywood PPI is up 43 percent. The PPI for logs, timber, and pulpwood has not risen nearly as much over the April 2020-March 2021 period–only 7 percent.

So what’s going on? This podcast has a pretty good explanation, which comports with the analysis that follows. My main objection is that it repeatedly refers to the market as “broken.” No. A market is broken when it sends the wrong price signals. It is not broken if it sends the right signals, even if you don’t like them. That’s what’s going on here. Prices are signaling a major change in demand patterns that is straining a productive capacity oriented to the old patterns.

The podcast claims that log and timber prices are down. That’s not consistent with the PPI data, which does demonstrate some uptick in log/timber prices. I have also seen reports that timber/log prices are firm in western Canada. But it is obvious that the spread between lumber and timber has widened dramatically.

Which provides a perfect opportunity to apply what I teach in my commodities classes: Find the bottleneck. In a reasonably competitive market, the spread between two commodities, one that can be transformed into the other, equals the cost of that transformation. Sawmills transform logs into lumber, so if the spread between the prices of these things blows out, that shows you where the bottleneck is–at the mills.

The podcast largely confirms that. The sawmill sector has contracted and consolidated in recent years for a variety of reasons. The Covid-induced economic shock of last year also led to the idling of capacity. Now demand has come roaring back. There is a building boom, driven by an exodus from cities and a substitution of things for services. The turnaround has been so abrupt that sawmill capacity has not been able to adjust to keep up. It of course takes a long time to build new mills, and the decision to do that depends on expectations about long-term demand. It is quicker and more economical to restart idle mills, and to add shifts, and that is happening. But it can’t happen overnight.

A transportation bottleneck is exacerbating the problems. Shortages of railcars and trucks are limiting the ability of sawmills to satisfy demand. These shortages reflect in part a commodities boom generally. Chinese demand for US ag products (which has sent corn prices soaring) is contributing to that, but the transportation sector has been robust generally since its doldrums of a year ago. In that time the Dow Jones Transportation Average is up 128 percent off its Covid bottom, and is 40 percent above its pre-Covid collapse level.

Transportation bottlenecks tend to widen spreads at all levels of the value chain, from timber farm to mill, and from mill to lumber yard.

Lumber inventories are at barebones levels, as one would expect in such circumstances. When the supply-demand balance is tight today relative to what is expected in the future, the efficient thing to do is to draw down inventories and to consume everything that is being produced. This is leading, exactly as theory would predict, to a pronounced backwardation in lumber prices:

Note there’s an almost 30 percent backwardation going out six months. That’s very steep. Very Although I wouldn’t put too much weight in the distant deferred prices (given the absence of volume and open interest) one, it appears that the curve flattens out after the six month point.

So what’s going on is commodity economics 101. A surge in demand after a sharp fall (which led to reductions in transformation capacity) caused the lumber market to hit constraints–constraints in the amount of available inventory, and constraints in the capacity to transform a raw product (timber) into a consumable one (lumber). This in turn caused spreads (calendar spreads and the spread between finished and raw prices) to blow out. Market participants are responding to these price signals. The backwardation suggests that the constraints will ease by the end of the year. That of course is a forecast based on current information. Things could change.

So things ain’t broke. Indeed, what is happening in the lumber and timber markets is a symptom of a robust economic recovery, at least in the housing and goods sectors. It also reflects an apparent ongoing structural shift post-Covid (and post urban disturbances of the last year), namely, a desire to move out of cities driven by the recognition that more people can work remotely, and the declining amenities of cities (largely the result of lockdowns and their aftermath, and an upsurge in crime). Such an abrupt and seismic shift inevitably bumps up against constraints determined by past investments tailored to accommodate the old consumption patterns. That affects prices, and prices signal the need for new investments to alleviate the bottlenecks. This too shall pass, and within some months the bottlenecks will ease, as. participants all along the value change respond to the extraordinary price signals we see today.

April 24, 2021

Two Self-Inflicted Diplomatic Wounds. But At Least We Don’t Have to Worry About Mean Tweets, Right?

Filed under: China,History,Politics,Russia,Turkey — cpirrong @ 9:07 pm

The Biden administration self-inflicted two serious diplomatic wounds in the space of a single day.

First, even though India is experiencing a wave of covid infections and deaths, its worse so far, the administration refused to relent on a ban (imposed by the Trump administration) on the export of vaccine ingredients.

Yes, the policy was originally Trump’s, but (a) you’d think that would be a bug not a feature with this administration, (b) India’s circumstances are far more dire today than they were when the ban was implemented, and (c) in the US, vaccine usage has nearly reached a saturation point, with many providers having shots wanting for arms.

India (both the government but especially the citizenry) has reacted extremely negatively due to this refusal, which is not surprising given the state of covid panic in the country. The United States should be courting India, not alienating it. After decades of hostility to the US (due not least because of US support for Pakistan, India’s post-independence antipathy to colonial powers or their allies, and dependence on Soviet/Russian weapons), India’s existential conflict with an aggressive China had created an opportunity to make India if not an ally, a country with which the US could cooperate on issues of common interest–most notably containing China.

That underlying dynamic is still there, but this thoughtless refusal fuels the latent suspicions of the US among many Indians and makes such cooperation far, far more difficult. It benefits the health of Americans virtually not at all, but alienates a country we should be courting.

The second self-inflicted wound involves Biden’s official recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire during the depths of WWI. (Do not underestimate how this war scarred Turkey. The Ottoman Empire suffered a greater percentage loss of population during the war than any other nation, even if one deducts the Armenian dead. The Ottoman Empire was dismembered, and Turkey itself was almost devoured in the aftermath. Only Ataturk’s miracles in the War of Independence saved Turkey from being divided among the Western powers and the Greeks, and left as an Anatolian rump that no one else wanted.)

Yes, the fate of Armenians was horrible. Well over a million died. Numberless others were displaced, often to desolate camps in the Syrian desert. If you meet someone whose name ends in “ian” they are almost certainly the descendants of the Armenian diaspora. (Those with names ending in “yan” are usually post-Soviet emigres). Their martyrdom was widely acknowledged in the US. In my parents’ era, children were told to eat their vegetables, because of the starving Armenians.

Like all historic episodes, especially those that occurred in the crucible of WWI, the story is complicated. But regardless of where the guilt lies, it happened more than a century ago. Those who committed the atrocities, and those who suffered them, have long since died.

But living Turks of all political persuasions are neuralgic about being blamed for these long-ago events. Even ardent Erdoğan haters in the CHP are of one mind with him on this issue: calling what happened in the long-dead Ottoman Empire a genocide is a red line. Those who do so are Turkey’s enemies.

Turkey’s response was immediate. It recalled its ambassador to the US, and its foreign minister gave a bitter statement, claiming that this will irreparably harm Turkish-US relations. He also said that the US should not cast stones, given its historical treatment of Native Americans. (The administration’s repeated condemnations of America’s historical actions make it a particularly attractive target for such barbs.)

Many in the US, particularly in the Armenian community, dismiss this. They say that it will blow over.

Don’t be so sure. Under Erdoğan Turkey has been wobbling away from the American (and Nato) orbit. Given Erdoğan’s dicey domestic circumstances, stoking the resentment and taking real steps to distance the country from the US are natural political moves. Russia will clearly notice–and seize upon–the opportunity. Erdoğan will be quite open to their blandishments.

And do not underestimate the power of Turkish nationalism. In my experience, they are among the most chauvinistic people in the modern world. (Han Chinese are the only rivals for the title.) They are not postmodern or post-nationalist, like most Europeans. This is deadly serious to them. It will not blow over.

Turkey has geopolitical importance, not least because of its geographic position. It has been a difficult country for the US in recent years, in large part because of its mercurial and grandiose leader. Provoking it unnecessarily will bring the US many policy headaches. Virtually at the same moment as Biden’s announcement, Turkey escalated its conflict with America-aligned Kurds in Iraq. The genocide announcement will make it all the more difficult to try to manage that conflict.

And for what? This gesture will not bring anyone back from the dead. It will not undo what has been done. America helped in the best way possible–by welcoming tens of thousands of Armenians. (Including the Kardashians. Isn’t that sacrifice enough?) It is moral preening that will not reverse past atrocities, nor prevent future ones. And it is contrary to US national interests.

And Turks–including in particular Turks in the US–believe that Biden’s action does not even rise to the level of moral preening. In their eyes it is corruption, political venality, repaying Armenian-Americans (in California in particular) for massive campaign contributions, given in exchange for his promise to do what he just did. Given the absence of any other plausible explanation, this seems very reasonable. And very despicable

One day, two pointless gestures that do significant damage to relationships with two geopolitically important nations with which the US has had difficult relations. I see zero upside for US interests in these actions, and much downside. God help us if these are harbingers of US policy over the next four years–which alas is extremely likely.

But hey. At least we don’t have to worry about mean tweets, right?

Why Is Proof of Efficacy Required for Pharmaceutical Interventions, But NOT Non-Pharmaceutical Ones?

Filed under: China,CoronaCrisis,Economics,Politics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 11:43 am

Under Federal law, a pharmaceutical intervention must be proven safe and effective before it is marketed to the public. If after introduction it proves unsafe or ineffective, the Food and Drug Administration can rescind its approval.

Note the burden of proof: the manufacturer must prove safety and efficacy. Safety and efficacy are not rebuttable presumptions.

Would the same be true of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). This neologism (neoanacronym?) is used to describe the policies that have been imposed during the Covid Era–most particularly, lockdowns and masks.

Neither had been proven safe or effective prior to their wholesale–and I daresay, indiscriminate–use. Lockdowns in particular had never been subjected to any clinical experiment or trial. Indeed, the idea had been evaluated by epidemiologists and others, and soundly rejected. But a policy first introduced in a police state–China–spread just as rapidly as the virus to supposedly non-police states despite it never having been proven efficacious or safe.

A year’s experience has produced the evidence. Greetings, fellow lab rats!

And the evidence shows decisively that lockdowns are NOT effective at affecting any medically meaningful metric about Covid. This American Institute of Economic Research piece provides an overview of the evidence through December: subsequent studies have provided additional evidence.

Furthermore, lockdowns have been proven to be unsafe. Unsafe to incomes, especially for those whose jobs do not permit working from home. Unsafe for physical health, in the form of inter alia deferred cancer diagnoses and treatment for heart attacks and strokes and greater substance abuse (with higher incidence of overdoses), as well as delayed “elective” surgeries that improve life quality. Unsafe for mental health. Unsafe for children, in particular, who have experienced debilitating social isolation and profound disruption in their educations. (Although given the trajectory of American public education, especially post-George Floyd/Derek Chauvin, feral children might be better off than those subjected to the tortures of a CRT-infused curriculum and CRTKoolAid drinking “educators.”)

Masks are not as devastating as lockdowns, but they have also been shown to be ineffective and also unsafe, especially for those who must wear them for extended stretches–which includes in particular children at school.

(Remember “For the children”? Ah, good times. Good times.)

Drug regulation was one of the first major initiatives of the Progressive Era, and the 1962 FDA Amendments that imposed the efficacy requirement were also driven by progressives. My assessment of the economic evidence (especially the literature spawned by my thesis advisor, the great Sam Peltzman) is that the efficacy requirement in particular has been harmful, on net, because it delayed and in some cases prevented the introduction of beneficial therapies.

But even if–especially if–you accept the progressive-inspired conventional wisdom regarding pharmaceutical intervention regulation, you should be dismayed and even furious that the same logic that has NOT been applied to NPIs. The underlying principle of drug regulation has been “show me”: show me something works. The underlying principle of Covid Era ukases has been: “Evidence? Evidence? I don’t have to show any stinkin’ evidence.” Indeed, it’s been worse than that: those who demand evidence, or even politely point out the lack of evidence, are branded as heretics by the very same “progressives” who believe religiously that requiring proof of efficacy of drugs is a good thing.

How to square this circle? How to explain this seeming contradiction?

I think it is as plain as the nose on your face. Power. In particular, power exercised by progressive technocratic elites. The FDA acts empower a progressive technocratic elite. Lockdowns and mask mandates empower a progressive technocratic elite–far beyond the wildest dreams of the most zealous FDA bureaucrat. (They also empower idiot politicians who imagine themselves to be part of some elite.) They are both premised on the belief that individuals are incompetent to choose wisely, and must be coerced into making the right choice. Coerced by credentialed elites who are better than you proles.

So an apparent logical inconsistency–proof of efficacy for thee, but not for me–is in fact no inconsistency at all. They are both who, whom. A soi disant elite (ha!) always pushes the alternative that gives them the most power, and deprives you of the most choice. Who (the progressives): Whom (you).

April 17, 2021

Putin Calls Biden’s Bluff: Xi No Doubt Watches With Amusement

Filed under: China,History,Military,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 6:20 pm

Domestically, the US political situation is dysfunctional. On its best days. To compound the dangers, the international situation is fraught.

At present there are two smoldering hotspots involving world powers (and arguably superpowers) that could suck the US into a confrontation with such powers–Taiwan and Ukraine.

China has ramped up the rhetoric over Taiwan. It has also increased its provocative military behavior around the island.

Russia has amassed a 50,000 man plus military force, heavily armed and armored, on the borders of Ukraine.

Taiwan and Ukraine have been hotspots for years, but it is at least plausible, and in my view likely, that the increase in tensions is the direct result of the change in administrations. That is, China’s Xi and Russia’s Putin are testing Biden. Or they believe they have already found him wanting in the fortitude and strategic departments.

Who can blame them, really?

In Ukraine in particular, the Biden administration has played things in about the worst way imaginable, and has no doubt convinced Putin that they are weak.

Most notable was the embarrassing exhibition involving the supposed dispatching of two US destroyers into the Black Sea. The Russians reacted quite aggressively, and last week it was announced that no ships would be transiting the Bosporus after all.

I thought it was a horrible idea to send the ships in any event. Play out the game. If deterrence fails, and Russia and Ukraine recommence the hostilities that (sort of) ended 7 years ago, then either the DDGs would have to turn tail (which would not be a good look), or they could get involved in combat with the Russians. Even overlooking the dire consequences of armed confrontation between the US and Russia, the ships would have been able to accomplish little, and would be at extreme risk. Yes, they are very capable platforms, but are intended to operate as part of a carrier battlegroup. Operating independently, they would have little influence on a battle in Ukraine, and would be extremely vulnerable operating within range of dominant land-based air and missile forces. Which is why they almost certainly would have turned tail.

The Russians would have known this, and playing out the game, would have realized that two DDGs would not effect their operations in Ukraine. So the deterrence value of the deployment would have been close to zero; the upside of the deployment negligible; and the potential downside huge.

In other words, don’t make non-credible bluffs. That’s exactly what the administration did, before backing down. Thereby revealing that it was bluffing, and had no intention of backing it up.

This came to mind:

(That was John Cleese as Putin at the end.)

The worst possible way to play this, regardless of whether you believe that the US should risk a confrontation with Putin over Ukraine, or not. The. Worst.

It’s sickly ironic that this climbdown from a confrontation with Putin occurred about the same time that one part of the administration discretely acknowledged that the “Russian bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan” story was a complete crock. That story was flogged incessantly over the summer to reinforce the narrative that Trump cowered before Putin, and was running away from Afghanistan as a result. Well, the story was bullshit, so there was no cowering. It is the Biden administration that is demonstrably cowering. (Even while the Pentagon was backing off the bounties story, others in the Biden administration were continuing to assert it.)

That story was another flagrant example of media mendacity. The NYT journalists who wrote it should be consigned to oblivion–but they won’t be. If they were lied to by their anonymous sources, they should call them out–but they won’t. So there is NO accountability for lying, or for trading in lies (as the NYT journalists and so many other journalists do). They used to say never trust anyone over 30. That was always a dubious statement. It is anything but dubious to say never trust any journalist, regardless of age.

Furthermore, Biden cemented his image of weakness before Putin by offering to meet him in a summit–at least, you can be sure that this offer cemented an image of weakness in Putin’s mind. It makes it look like Biden is coming to Putin as a supplicant.

Another own goal.

And shifting to the other end of the world, you know Xi is watching this very, very closely.

The coming months could be worrisome, indeed.

Fight The International Tax Cartel

Filed under: Economics,Politics — cpirrong @ 5:37 pm

In the US, conspiracy/collusion among firms to fix prices is a per se violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Per se meaning that it is illegal, full stop. There is no defense that the action is reasonable. The EU has similar rules. So do most G20 nations.

But this is a classic example of “rules for thee, but not for me.” Many governments have been hot to establish a global minimum corporate tax rate. Recently, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen came out in support–something that the United States has never done officially.

You see, though governments (at least theoretically and rhetorically) think that firms should compete, they are aghast at the idea of governments competing, especially on tax. The ability of capital to flee to low tax jurisdictions sends governments of large nations in particular into paroxysms of fury. Why? Easy: because it constrains governments’ extractive power.

The conversion of the US government to the tax collusion cause (which has long been led by Germany and France) is clearly driven by post-Covid fiscal diarrhea. (And you thought Covid was a respiratory illness, didn’t you?) The trillions in spending continue to mount, with more to come if Biden’s “infrastructure” bill passes. (What’s infrastructure, you ask? What isn’t!) The debt-to-GDP ratio is already in excess of 100 pct, and the end of the climb in the ratio is nowhere in sight. To the extent that the administration has a plan to at least slow it, that plan relies on higher corporate taxes. Hence the need to keep corporate capital in the US, and to prevent it from fleeing to lower tax jurisdictions.

Hence the support for a tax cartel.

Competition is the strongest bulwark of liberty. Indeed, a persuasive hypothesis explaining Europe’s rise to prominence was that its fragmentation promoted competition among polities that limited the extractive power of governments, in contrast to say China or Russia. Even within Europe, the biggest states (e.g., France, Spain) were the most extractive because their size gave them some extractive market power.

Without the option to exit, you are at the mercy of the state.

When governments start to work together–i.e., collude–be afraid. Very afraid. They are colluding against you to deprive you of that exit option. You should want them to compete. Because they will compete by reducing the amount they will take from you.

And if you think that the tax cartel’s burden will fall only on corporations, not you–think again. Capital taxation is extremely inefficient, and reduces labor income. Tax capital, and there is less capital. Less capital, labor is less productive. Labor is less productive, wages fall.

Not to mention that the fiscal fillip will support spending that largely wasteful–wealth destroying, not wealth enhancing. It diverts resources from productive to unproductive uses.

So fight the tax cartel. It is an anathema to your freedom and economic well-being.

April 10, 2021

“Public Health”: The Mask for Fascism

Filed under: CoronaCrisis,Politics — cpirrong @ 10:39 am

In the Time of Covid, numerous liberties, and indeed Constitutional rights, have been sacrificed in the name of “public health.” The ruling class has learned this lesson well: these enemies of freedom realize that claims of “public health” are the perfect Trojan horse to achieve their dreams of subjugating the proles.

Now everything is a “public health” crisis. Guns–“public health” issue. Racism–“public health” issue. CO2–“public health” issue. The Supreme Court–“public health” issue.

I kid you not!:

“There’s growing recognition that the Supreme Court poses a danger to the health and well-being of the nation and even to democracy itself,” said Aaron Belkin, the director of the group Take Back the Court. “A White House judicial reform commission has a historic opportunity to explain the gravity of the threat and to help contain it by urging Congress to add seats, which is the only way to restore balance to the court.”

Appeals to health are particularly seductive in this era of safetyism, when ironically most of the true health scourges of humanity have been eliminated, or at least greatly reduced, and marginal risks have been transmogrified into horrific threats. Moreover, by appending the term “public” to the emotive word “health”, the ruling class denies individual responsibility or insinuates the abject irresponsibility of individuals, and asserts the necessity of controlling you. For your own good, you know, and that of “the public.” You are a selfish bastard if you resist, right?

The public health profession has always attracted statist control freaks. There are indeed limited circumstances in which external health effects of individual decisions are so damaging that some constraints on individual choice are justified, and it would be acceptable if public heath authorities stayed within that small box. But the profession has striven mightily to expand its authority to wider and wider spheres of personal behavior. And particularly in the midst (would that it be in the aftermath) of covidmania the totalitarians among us, who presume to rule us, have found public health claims to be a powerful weapon in their relentless campaign to destroy freedom and rights.

Which is why unless proven otherwise, subject to a very high burden of proof, we should view any assertion that something is a public health issue as a mask for fascist assaults on our liberties.

April 5, 2021

Justice Thomas Echoes SWP, But Alas Our Proposals Regarding Tech Companies Are Futile In Today’s Corporatist State

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 7:17 pm

Over four years ago, to address social media platforms’ exclusion on the basis of viewpoint (i.e., censorship) I advocated treating them as common carriers subject to a non-discrimination requirement. The thrust of my argument was that these platforms have substantial market power and are subject to weak competitive discipline due to network effects and other technological factors.

In concurring with a Supreme Court decision to deny cert in a case that found Donald Trump violated First Amendment rights by blocking users on Twitter, Justice Clarence Thomas came out strongly in favor of the common carrier approach to regulating Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

Justice Thomas’ reasoning follows mine quite closely:

It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information. A person always could choose to avoid the toll bridge or train and instead swim the Charles River or hike the Oregon Trail. But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.

Justice Thomas also notes, as I did, that limiting common carriers’ right to exclude is a longstanding element of the American and British legal systems: “our legal system and its British predecessor have long subjected certain businesses, known as common carriers, to special regulations, including a general requirement to serve all comers.” To this, somewhat more perfunctorily Justice Thomas adds more modern public accommodation laws as a restriction on business’ ability to exclude. Common carriage is a narrower conception because it generally requires some market power on the part of the company, and for this reason I find it a superior basis for regulating social media companies. But regardless, this is hardly a radical proposal, and is in fact deeply embedded in law dating from a classical liberal–i.e., laissez faire–period.

Thomas notes that imposing such a restriction is up to the legislature. Alas, that’s not likely, especially given the influence the social media and tech companies have on the legislature, and more ominously, the clearly expressed interest of the party in power to use the social media and tech companies to exclude and censor speech by their political opponents–whom I daresay they consider political enemies, and indeed, beyond the pale and deserving of banishment from the public sphere.

The leftist party in power cannot restrict speech directly–that would violate the First Amendment. And this is where Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon etc. can be quite useful to the leftist party in power. As private entities, their exclusion of speech from their platforms does not facially violate 1A. So note with care the pressure that leftist legislators are putting on these companies to police speech even more than they do already. These members of the party in power are outsourcing censorship to ostensibly private entities as a way of circumventing the Constitution.

As their previous behavior indicates, moreover, these companies do not necessarily need much prompting. They are ideologically aligned with the party in power, and are implementing much politically-slanted censorship of their own volition.

This symbiosis between the private businesses and the governing party is the essence of the political-economic model of fascism. At times, the relationship looks like an Escher etching. Like this one in particular:

Which hand is the Democratic Party, and which one is Twitter et al? That is, is the Democratic Party driving social media companies, or are social media companies pulling the strings of the Democratic Party?

The answer is both–like in the Escher. And that is the essence of the political-economic model of fascism. Corporations are acting as political actors, and politicians and those in government are using corporations to advance their political agenda. This is true in any political system, but the symbiosis is far, far stronger in fascist ones, and the antagonisms far weaker than in more liberal polities.

And as we’ve seen in recent months, it’s not just social media and tech companies that are involved. Corporate America generally has adopted a leftist political agenda, is advancing this agenda, and is attempting to pressure governments–especially state governments–to do so as well.

The injection of companies like the major airlines–all of them–and Coca Cola into the Georgia (and now Texas) voting law controversies is the most recent example. But entertainment companies–including professional sports as well as Hollywood, music businesses, etc.–are also exerting substantial political muscle.

Corporatism–a strong symbiotic relationship between government and powerful economic entities, especially corporations–is the essence of fascist economic systems. That is exactly what “capitalism” in the United States is today.

In such a system, the public-private dichotomy does not exist, and libertarians/classical liberals who act as if it does are useful idiots for the corporatists.

This model is also a good characterization of the Chinese system, which although is ostensibly communist, has become clearly corporatist/fascist in the post-Deng era. Interestingly, the main struggle today in China is between the state/Party and large corporations that Xi and his minions believe are too powerful and hence too independent of the state. Even in symbiotic relationships, there is a struggle for power–and for control over the rents.

So while I applaud Justice Thomas for advocating legislation to impose common carrier status on tech behemoths, it must be acknowledged that this proposal is naive in the current environment. The mutual interest between the current party in power and corporate interests in advancing political agendas generally, and suppressing speech in particular (in part because it also helps advance those agendas), is so great that such legislation cannot come to pass today. It is doubtful that it would have come to pass even had Trump won reelection. The slide into corporatism/economic fascism has progressed too far to hold out little hope that it can be reversed, absent some social convulsion.

April 3, 2021

Don’t Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Filed under: Politics,Sports — cpirrong @ 12:57 pm

Major League Baseball has been a major part of my life since birth. I don’t exaggerate. One of my first pictures is of me in a crib with a little glove and baseball cap. Baseball was a touchstone of my father’s life–as it was for his father. When he realized his dreams to play professionally were unrealistic, he enrolled in a baseball management school in Florida–mere months after my birth (in Chicago), thereby leaving my mother alone with a colic-y kid for 4 months. There he recognized that unless you were related to the owner, your professional ceiling was to become (as he put it) the head of peanut concessions. But although his desire to make baseball his profession came a cropper, the sport retained its grip on him. The Cubs, alas, also had him in their grip. Our family lived and died–mainly the latter–with their fortunes, to the point that the radius of weekend car trips was defined by our ability to listen to games on the car radio. (My dad had a preternatural ability to turn on the radio an instant before the first pitch.)

I was not quite as obsessed as my dad, or his dad (who claimed to have seen the Cubs play in their–then–last winning World Series in 1908), but I was nonetheless passionately followed the Cubs, and MLB generally, during my youth and into my 20s and 30s. During college and grad school I frequently made the trip from Hyde Park to Wrigley to sit in the bleachers–which at the time cost $3.50. The Cubs’ 1984 division championship thrilled me. The Cubs’ 1984 fiasco in San Diego crushed me. Although family and professional responsibilities constrained my investment in fandom, I still remained very engaged, and passed this along to my kids. We were all ecstatic at the 2016 World Series miracle.

I was looking forward to this season. No longer, because MLB went woke, and decided to move the All Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s recent vote reform law.

So MLB, you are dead to me. Don’t take me out to the ballgame.

Sports should be a distraction from partisan strife, not a partisan participant therein. Yes, I understand that there has always been an intersection between sports and politics, and socioeconomic issues more generally (e.g., integration, wars/patriotism). But gratuitous involvement in a highly partisan issue is inimical to the purpose of athletics. One of the joys of watching sport is that it gives an opportunity to escape the noisome miasma of politics, and to focus on the talent exhibited between the lines. Alas, in recent years the political miasma has progressively (in multiple senses of the word) polluted sports. Not surprisingly, my interest in following has changed inversely.

Basketball and football have led the descent to political correctness–and my interest has declined commensurately. But now baseball has decided to join them. So GFY, baseball.

The pretext for baseball’s capitulation to wokeness is particularly loathsome. The lies–propounded by the Senescent in Chief, among others, claiming that the law is “Jim Crow on steroids”–around Georgia’s law are egregious, and the purpose of these lies is clearly viciously partisan. What is particularly egregious is that those who support efforts to safeguard voting are vilified as racists. By joining with those making these claims, MLB is slandering millions, including millions of those who pass through the turnstiles or tune in on television, and who hence pay the bill, as racists. To which I can only say: Fuck you. Sideways. With a Stihl. You will not see another dime from me. Ever.

And just who are the racists here? One feature of the Georgia law that has resulted in shrieks of outrage is that it requires those who want to vote by mail to provide their drivers license number. So apparently the outraged believe that black people are too stupid to do that. How racist is that?

And we are hectored by the left repeatedly that questioning the results of a political process is a “conspiracy theory” that defiles the temple democracy. The Georgia law was passed pursuant to the constitutional processes of the state, which are in accordance with the US Constitution. So aren’t those–including MLB–who criticize this outcome “conspiracy theorists” and actual or potential insurrectionists?

I doubt that the ownership and management of MLB is doing this for principled reasons. They are doing it because they are pussies who are petrified at being called racists by the woke mob. So they capitulate, pussy-like, and demonstrate their fealty by calling tens of millions of other Americans racist.

Have fun with your new friends, MLB, because your old friends aren’t going be around to pay the multi-million dollar salaries of utility players.

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