Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Ag Commodities: Corn Hits Limit Up; Soybeans Tack On 5%

As noted yesterday:

This report and the July WASDE can whip the markets around to the sincere dismay of folks caught on the wrong side of the action. 
(and their bankers)

From Successful Farming:

The U.S. farmers planted fewer corn and soybean acres than the trade expected, according to the USDA.

As a result, the CME Group’s corn market jumped 40¢, its daily limit up, soybean rocketed 85¢ up, and wheat surged 22¢ higher.

At midsession, the July corn futures are 32½¢ higher at $7.27. New-crop September futures are 39½¢ higher at $5.98¼. December corn futures hit its daily limit up of 40¢ at $5.88¾. 
July soybean futures are 80¢ higher at $14.39½. 

August soybean futures are 80¢ higher at $14.19¾. New-crop November soybean futures are 80¢ higher at $13.92.

Sept. wheat futures are 25¢ higher at $6.71¼. 

Aug. soymeal futures are $18.80 per short ton higher at $369.20.

Aug. soy oil futures are $2.99 higher at 65.15¢ per pound.

In the outside markets, the NYMEX crude oil market is +0.59 higher (+0.81%) at $73.57. The U.S. dollar is higher, and the Dow Jones Industrials are 152 points higher (+0.44%) at 34,444 points.

A big acreage number was built into the market, but the USDA didn’t push out those big numbers.
Anything above 180.3 million acres breaks the 2017 total acreage record....


Ag Commodities: Grain In Storage (Grain Stocks) Quarterly Report June 30, 2021 FIREWORKS!

 Dramatic reversals to the upside for the futures.

From the USDA:

Released June 30, 2021, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Corn Stocks Down 18 Percent from June 2020 Soybean Stocks Down 44 Percent All Wheat Stocks Down 18 Percent Corn stocks in all positions on June 1, 2021 totaled 4.11 billion bushels, down 18 percent from June 1, 2020. Of the total stocks, 1.74 billion bushels are stored on farms, down 39 percent from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 2.37 billion bushels, are up 11 percent from a year ago. The March - May 2021 indicated disappearance is 3.58 billion bushels, compared with 2.95 billion bushels during the same period last year. Soybeans stored in all positions on June 1, 2021 totaled 767 million bushels, down 44 percent from June 1, 2020. On-farm stocks totaled 220 million bushels, down 65 percent from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 547 million bushels, are down 27 percent from a year ago. Indicated disappearance for the March - May 2021 quarter totaled 795 million bushels, down 9 percent from the same period a year earlier. Old crop all wheat stored in all positions on June 1, 2021 totaled 844 million bushels, down 18 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks are estimated at 142 million bushels, down 38 percent from last year. Off-farm stocks, at 702 million bushels, are down 12 percent from a year ago. The March - May 2021 indicated disappearance is 467 million bushels, up 21 percent from the same period a year earlier. Old crop Durum wheat stocks in all positions on June 1, 2021 totaled 27.5 million bushels, down 34 percent from a year ago. On-farm stocks, at 13.5 million bushels, are down 24 percent from June 1, 2020. Off-farm stocks totaled 14.0 million bushels, down 42 percent from a year ago. The March - May 2021 indicated disappearance of 14.7 million bushels is up 55 percent from the same period a year earlier....
And more to come. 

Ag Commodities: USDA Annual Acreage Report, June 30, 2021 FIREWORKS!

The big three futures were fading going into the reports and have reversed dramatically.

From the USDA:

Released June 30, 2021, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service 
(NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of 
Agriculture (USDA).

Corn Planted Acreage Up 2 Percent from 2020
Soybean Acreage Up 5 Percent
All Wheat Acreage Up 5 Percent
All Cotton Acreage Down 3 Percent

Corn planted area for all purposes in 2021 is estimated at 92.7 million 
acres, up 2 percent or 1.87 million acres from last year. Compared with last 
year, planted acreage is expected to be up or unchanged in 28 of the 
48 estimating States. Area harvested for grain, at 84.5 million acres, is up 
2 percent from last year.

Soybean planted area for 2021 is estimated at 87.6 million acres, up 
5 percent from last year. Compared with last year, planted acreage is up or 
unchanged in 28 of the 29 estimating States.

All wheat planted area for 2021 is estimated at 46.7 million acres, up 
5 percent from 2020. This represents the fourth lowest all wheat planted area 
since records began in 1919. The 2021 winter wheat planted area, at 
33.7 million acres, is up 11 percent from last year and up 2 percent from the 
previous estimate. Of this total, about 23.6 million acres are 
Hard Red Winter, 6.59 million acres are Soft Red Winter, and 3.50 million 
acres are White Winter. Area expected to be planted to other spring wheat for 
2021 is estimated at 11.6 million acres, down 5 percent from 2020. Of this 
total, about 10.8 million acres are Hard Red Spring wheat. Durum planted area 
for 2021 is expected to total 1.48 million acres, down 12 percent from the 
previous year....

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Logistics: Norwegian Warehouse Robotics Firm, AutoStore, Plans IPO at $10 Billion Valuation

 From Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance:

AutoStore is weighing an initial public offering that could value the Norwegian warehouse robotics company at more than $10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company is working with Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. on the planned listing, which could come as soon as this year, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. More banks could get added to the roster at a later date. While the venue for the IPO hasn’t been confirmed, AutoStore is leaning toward listing on a European exchange, the people said.

Deliberations are ongoing and no final decisions on the timing and size of an IPO have been made, according to the people.

Founded in 1996, Nedre Vats-based AutoStore provides robots used in the storing and retrieval of goods in warehouses. It specializes in so-called cube storage automation and its technology is deployed at more than 600 sites in 35 countries.

Private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners acquired the company in 2019. In April, it sold a 40% stake in AutoStore to SoftBank Group Corp. in a deal that valued the company at $7.7 billion including debt....


"Canada to ban sale of new fuel-powered cars and light trucks from 2035"

Lots of economics and politics in this, with a distinctly Canadian accent. And a greater than trivial chance the country breaks up.

From Reuters, June 29:

Canada will ban the sale of fuel-burning new cars and light-duty trucks from 2035 in an effort to reach net-zero emissions across the country by 2050, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government said on Tuesday.

Only zero-emissions cars and trucks can be sold from 2035, according to a statement, adding that a mixture of investments and regulations will help industry transition toward that goal. The government also said it will set interim targets for 2025 and 2030.

"We are committed to aligning Canada's zero-emission vehicles sales targets with those of the most ambitious North American jurisdictions," Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said in the statement.

Britain said last year it would ban fuel-powered vehicles from 2030, while the United States has yet to fix a date. California, the largest U.S. auto market, said last year it would move to electric vehicles starting in 2035, and the Canadian province of Quebec has set the same target....



"Breath of fresh air! France gloats as UK caves to EU – fishermen to plunder British fish"

 From the always restrained and judicious* Daily Express, June 29:

FRANCE has gloatingly mocked the UK after its fishermen were given free rein to plunder British fishing stocks.

Yesterday Jersey doled out a three-month extension allowing European vessels to fish in their waters. Authorities on the Channel Island granted it following a request from French Minister for the Sea Annick Girardin amid an ongoing spat between the UK and France over access to British waters.

Celebrating the decision, Ms Girardin tweeted: “Jersey has finally accepted the three-month extension of the provisional licenses.

“A breath of fresh air for our fishermen.

“Our goal now is to continue protecting their rights and make sure they can continue their activity beyond September 30.”

Many French fishermen moaned that they lost out under the new rules when the Brexit transition period ended in January.

This led a flotilla of outraged French fishermen to blockade the island’s main port of St Helier amid heated confrontations between them and British fishermen last month.

A postponement was requested on May 12 - as the two sides try to hammer out a lasting agreement.

In a statement, Jersey’s government said: "It is proposing to extend by three months the transition period which allows certain French boats to continue fishing in bailiwick waters....


*As amateur scribblers we are adherents of the WaPo's Joel Aschenbach's dictum:

      ...When in doubt, go with the most hysterical headline.
(Rule one of blogging is that the End Of The World will be good for page views.)
Joel Achenbach, Washington Post
-World War Five

"Covéa said targeting AXA XL reinsurance acquisition: Report"

 From Artemis:

According to reports in the French media, insurance group Covéa is targeting an acquisition of AXA’s non-life reinsurance operations, which would be the Bermuda headquartered AXA XL Re division.

Reported first by L’Argus de L’Assurance on Friday, any deal would see Thierry Derez’s mutual insurer Covéa finally realising its ambition to acquire a large, global reinsurance operation.

Covéa has previously tried to acquire global reinsurance company PartnerRe, but that deal, which had at one stage been approved by all parties, in the end fell through after attempted renegotiations over the price with seller EXOR in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic failed to find an agreement....


"When commission-free trading apps make over $100m in commission a month"

 From FT Alphaville:

eToro’s commission fees increased by 141% in Q1. Not bad for a firm that just wants to “empower people to grow their knowledge and wealth”.

If you are someone who spends any time watching videos on YouTube, the chances are that you will have seen one of eToro’s ads. Probably one of the ones in which they tell you how easy it is to trade stocks on their platform, commission-free. The Israel-based stock, CFD and crypto trading house has even brought in some pretty big celebs for these ads, like Alec Baldwin:...


If you can't trust your gamified trading platform who can you trust?

Actually, as noted in March 20's "Crypto and Equity Trading Platform eToro Came Public via a $10.4 Billion SPAC Deal":
Everything I know about eToro came from a House of Commons Treasury Committee hearing on crypto assets. That and the adverts. For a while the ads were ubiquitous. But mainly the committee hearing.
From the House of Commons:
Treasury Committee 
Wednesday 20 June 2018 Meeting started at 3.11pm, ended 5.23pm 
Here's the transcript of the oral testimony, The witnesses are:
  • Marco Santori, President and Chief Legal Officer, Blockchain,
  • Obi Nwosu, CEO and Founder, Coinfloor,
  • Iqbal Gandham, Chairman, CryptoUK and Managing Director, eToro
  • Izabella Kaminska, Editor, FT Alphaville


We did have one other post on eToro: 

Online poker, it's a bitch, what with being illegal and all. What we really need is a legal way to lose lots of money online, using an addictive videogame-style interface. Enter eToro: where Reuters 3000 meets Nintendo Wii!

There's some kind of genius here. FX trading has historically been practiced by a combination of well-paid sell-side professionals and a few delusional stay-at-home day-traders who think they can beat the market. What's been missing from the market is inveterate gamblers who don't particularly mind losing money so long as they think there's a chance they can win.

Until now. With eToro, you can see a screen where three or four different currencies compete in a footrace. Or play a different game, where two currencies have a tug-of-war match. Whatever game you choose, your commissions are guaranteed to be stratospheric:

When a user registers for a real money account, that account is actually opened at one of two foreign exchange trading brokers, RetailFX or IFX Markets. eToro decides which broker based on where it expects to make the most commissions on trades the user makes....

That was in 2007.

Big Money: Mormon Church Connected Group Outbids Bill Gates Connected Group On $200 Million Farm/Ranch Properties

Our third and final (today) link to DTN Progressive Farmer:

June 24, 2021

Winning Bid on Easterday Assets: $209M
Mormon Church Group Outbids Bill Gates on Easterday Farm, Ranch Assets

This article was originally posted on Wednesday, June 23. It was last updated with additional information at 11:36 a.m. CDT on Thursday, June 24.

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- A company connected to the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints was the winning bidder for the assets of southeast Washington rancher Cody Easterday, according to court documents filed in federal bankruptcy court. The second-highest bidder was an investment company tied to Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Back in April, Mesa, Washington, rancher Easterday pleaded guilty to wire fraud for defrauding Tyson Foods and another unnamed company $244 million in costs for buying and feeding hundreds of thousands of cattle that didn't exist. Easterday, 49, faces up to 20 years in prison.

The criminal case and connected Chapter 11 bankruptcy of Easterday Ranches Inc. and Easterday Farms could lead to the liquidation of an extensive family farm operation in eastern Washington involved in cattle feeding, as well as having 22,500 acres of potatoes, onions, corn and wheat in the Columbia Basin....

....MORE, including an interesting detail or two

And how were they able to outbid Farmer Bill? 

They have access to large-by-large assets

A friend of the blog sent us this Wall Street Journal story when it came out last year:

The Mormon Church Amassed $100 Billion. It Was the Best-Kept Secret in the Investment World. 
A look inside the vast but little-known fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: ‘We’ve tried to be somewhat anonymous.’ 
Updated Feb. 8, 2020 5:07 pm ET 
Salt Lake City
For more than half a century, the Mormon Church quietly built one of the world’s largest investment funds. Almost no one outside the church knew about it. 
Some of that mystery evaporated late last year when a former employee revealed in a whistleblower complaint with the Internal Revenue Service that the fund, called Ensign Peak Advisors, had stockpiled $100 billion. The whistleblower also alleged that the church had improperly used some Ensign Peak funds. Officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, colloquially known as the Mormon Church, denied those claims. 

They also declined to comment on how much money their investment fund controls. “We’ve tried to be somewhat anonymous,” Roger Clarke, the head of Ensign Peak, said from the firm’s fourth-floor office, above a Salt Lake City food court. Ensign Peak doesn’t appear in that building’s directory.
Interviews with more than a dozen former employees and business partners provide a deeper look inside an organization that ballooned from a shoestring operation in the 1990s into a behemoth rivaling Wall Street’s largest firms. 

Its assets did total roughly $80 billion to $100 billion as of last year, some of the former employees said. That is at least double the size of Harvard University’s endowment and as large as the size of SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the world’s largest tech-investment fund. Its holdings include $40 billion of U.S. stock, timberland in the Florida panhandle and investments in prominent hedge funds such as Bridgewater Associates LP, according to some current and former fund employees. 

Church officials acknowledged the size of the fund is a tightly held secret, which they said was because Ensign Peak depends on donations—known as tithing—from the church’s 16 million world-wide members. The church is under no legal obligation to publicly report its finances. 

But the whistleblower report—filed by David Nielsen, a former Ensign Peak portfolio manager—has heaped pressure on the church to be more transparent about its finances, something the church has avoided for decades. 
The firm doesn’t tell business partners how much money it manages, an unusual practice on Wall Street. Ensign Peak employees sign lifetime confidentiality agreements. Most current employees are no longer told the firm’s total assets under management, according to some of the former employees; few employees understand what the money is intended for.... 

Agricultural Commodities: Ahead of Wednesday's USDA Acreage and Grain Stocks Estimates

This report and the July WASDE can whip the markets around to the sincere dismay of folks caught on the wrong side of the action. 
(and their bankers)

From DTN Progressive Farmer:

USDA's Acreage and June 1 Grain Stocks reports will be released at 11 a.m. CDT Wednesday, June 30, and are known for their perennial impact on corn and soybean prices, at least for the day. In the past five years, December corn and November soybeans recorded double-digit price responses to USDA's June 30 reports in every year but 2018.

Many of us still shake our heads over USDA's high corn estimate in 2019, but the record does show that USDA's Acreage estimates have a 90% confidence interval of 1.7% over the past 20 years -- a fairly low margin of error. Even so, USDA tended to be too high in 16 of the past 20 years.

For soybeans, the 90% confidence interval is higher, at 3.0%, and the tendency has been to be too high in 13 of the past 20 years. USDA's habit of overshooting planting estimates for both corn and soybeans has been a sore spot for producers, contributing to lower-than-needed pre-harvest prices.

Corn and soybean planting estimates are sometimes revised in the October Crop Production report with the help of other supporting data, such as Farm Service Agency reports.


USDA's current planting estimate for corn stands at 91.1 million acres. This time around, many think that is too low given this year's high prices and drier planting conditions. Dow Jones' survey of analysts expects USDA to estimate 93.82 million acres of planted corn in 2021, the most since 94.0 million acres were planted in 2016. If true, corn plantings would be up from 90.82 million acres last year, and this suggests a 15.2 billion bushel (bb) corn crop, using a yield of 177 bushels per acre (bpa)....


Agricultural Commodities: Report Beats Rain

That's yesterday's weekly Crop Progress Report.

The headline is in reference to the intro line to Sunday's "Storage: Very Important To Roman Emperors and Commodities Market Manipulators"
A repost from August 2020 that may come into play as we approach harvest season (I know it's a ways off but there was rain across the corn belt and the farmers are twitter-moaning about possible price declines on Monday)

From DTN Progressive Farmer, 6/28/2021 | 4:16 PM CDT

Rain Boosts Corn, Soybean Conditions in East, While North, West Continue to Bake

This article was originally posted at 3:08 p.m. CDT on Monday, June 28. It was last updated at 4:16 p.m. CDT on Monday, June 28.


OMAHA (DTN) -- After several weeks in a row of falling, corn and soybean conditions stabilized somewhat nationwide last week, though conditions in Northern regions of the country continued to decline, USDA NASS said in its weekly Crop Progress report on Monday.

Nationwide, corn condition was rated 64% good to excellent as of Sunday, June 27, down just 1 percentage point from 65% the previous week. That is the 10th lowest good-to-excellent rating for corn in 12 years, only higher than in 2012 and 2019.

"Corn condition declines in South Dakota, Minnesota and Ohio slightly outweighed improvements in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan," said DTN Lead Analyst Todd Hultman.

Corn silking was rated at 4%, equal to last year but slightly behind the five-year average of 6%. The most silking was reported in Texas and North Carolina.

With a wide swath of rains moving across south-central and eastern parts of the soybean belt last week, the nation's soybean crop managed to hold on to a good-to-excellent rating of 60% for the second week in a row. As with corn, that puts this year's current rating at the 10th-lowest good-to-excellent rating for soybeans in the past 12 years, Hultman said.

"Crop declines in Minnesota, South Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee and Kansas balanced out improvements in Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana," Hultman said.

NASS said 96% of soybeans were emerged and 14% of the crop was blooming as of Sunday, a little ahead of the five-year blooming average of 11%.

The crop conditions story was completely different for the spring wheat crop, as the major spring-wheat-producing states again missed out on significant rainfall last week....


Monday, June 28, 2021

"Lost Rembrandt painting rediscovered after falling off a wall"

 From United Press International (also on blogroll on right):

A Rembrandt painting that was long considered to be lost has been rediscovered after it fell off the wall of a home in Italy and was sent for restoration.

The Italian Heritage Foundation said the painting, The Adoration of the Magi, was painted by the famed artist around 1632-1633, and was considered to be one of Rembrandt's lost paintings until it fell off the wall of a country home in Rome province in 2016 and was sent to art restorer Antonella Di Francesco for repairs. 

Di Francesco said the painting had been darkened by old varnish, but during the cleaning and restoration process it became clear that the work was a long-lost Rembrandt....


Also at UPI:

Baton Rouge family surprised by $50B mistaken deposit 


As the Electric Light Orchestra peeps say:

Accroche-toi à ton rêve
Accroche-toi à ton rêve
Quand tu vois ton bateau partir
Quand tu sens ton cœur se briser
Accroche-toi à ton rêve


"Chinese EV battery maker Envision to build $2.4bn plant for Renault"

And the Chinese companies just keep burrowing deeper and deeper into the supply chains.

From NikkeiAsia, June 28:

Green tech group signs deal with Nissan's French partner and seeks growth in Europe

Chinese green tech company Envision Group plans to invest 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in a battery plant in France to supply Renault Group, underlining how Asian companies are aiming for a major slice of Europe's electric vehicle supply chain.

Envision and the French automaker -- which is in a car making alliance with Japan's Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors -- announced the plans on Monday. Zhang Lei, Envision's founder and chief executive, is due to meet French President Emmanuel Macron and the automaker's officials on a visit to France on Monday, a group spokesperson said.

The factory will be built in partnership with Renault in Douai, northern France, near the automaker's existing plant. Its capacity will reach 9 gigawatt hours per year by 2024 and 24 GWh by 2030, Renault said in a statement on Monday.

Envision Group did not hide its ambition for a bigger market in the region.

"This first-phase development will unlock future large-scale investment to grow the local supply chain and develop the whole life cycle opportunities of batteries, including energy storage, battery reuse, smart charging and closed loop recycling," Zhang said.

It will be the fourth overseas plant for Envision AESC, the group's battery unit, which it acquired from Nissan in 2018.

It is following in the footsteps of other Chinese battery makers, led by market leader Contemporary Amperex Technology, in aiming to capitalize on growing appetite for EVs in Europe. Last year almost 1.4 million EVs were sold in Europe, amounting to year-on-year growth of 137%.....


Platts' "Commodity Tracker: 4 charts to watch this week" (UK green cred; EU gas storage; Power of Siberia)

 From S&P Global Platts:

The dynamics of gas flows into China and question marks of the UK's green credentials are the focus of S&P Global Platts editors this week, as well as EU gas storage and US LNG supply.

1. Fall in China gas imports via Power of Siberia in May opens door for LNG

China gas imports

What's happening? Gas flows into China via the Power of Siberia pipeline in May were almost half what they were in June, at just 17 million cu m/d. The reduced flows in May likely propped up LNG demand, which rose 20 million cu m/d or 7% month on month. The next planned maintenance is scheduled for between September and November, and there was no announced maintenance in May, so why the volumes fell remains unclear. Furthermore, there is no economic incentive to turn down volumes amid currently elevated Asia spot LNG prices.

What's next? Power of Siberia volumes are expected to return to normal levels in June, and LNG imports have already started to slow recently, reaching 293 million cu m/d based on 30-day moving averages. The strong gas demand is expected to continue to be driven by robust industrial activity and top-line power demand....


Indonesia and Coal

An indigenous battery industry would capture some of the value-added from the country's world-class nickel resource. Elon Musk went to New Caledonia to secure a supply. He should have gone to Indonesia. And maybe built a gigafactory.

As we saw back in April regarding Sulawesi:

Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk has said nickel is the metal that concerns him most as he looks to scale up battery-cell production, and last year he promised a “giant contract” for miners to encourage production. Without new sources of supply, the robust EV industry could face a critical shortage within a few years.....

Capture some of the downstream profits and you have a bit more wiggle room to deal with the coal.

Related: "As Supply Chains Shift, Indonesia Should Get a Serious Look"

And the headline story from MENAFN, June 24:

Indonesia''s dirty coal habit is proving hard to break

In setting an original target of 2070 for net-zero carbon emissions, President Joko Widodo's government has made it clear to the angst of environmentalists that at least for now coal remains the necessary way of the future in powering Indonesia towards a place in the global industrial supply chain.

Despite a renewed campaign by the Joe Biden administration and the European Union to tackle climate change, there is still 6,000-8,000-megawatts of coal-fired power generation either under construction or in the final planning stages across the archipelago.

Analysts estimate that coal won''t reach peak usage until 2035, a period during which Indonesia hopes to become the world's fourth-biggest economy despite the setback caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw growth slide by minus-1.2% last year.

Domestic consumption still dominates the economy. But what is expected to drive further post-pandemic growth is Widodo's single-minded effort to become a major cog in the global lithium battery-electric car industry and other economic benefits those industries are expected to bring.

Former Indonesia ambassador to Washington Dino Djalal says Widodo was made to feel uncomfortable at last April's virtual global climate change conference when his 2070 zero-emissions target turned out to be 20 years behind most other countries.

Under the Paris Climate Change Agreement's five-yearly cycle, each of the 196 signatory countries are committed to mandatory nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to an increasingly ambitious program to slash greenhouse gas emissions. 

While the president doesn''t usually show much interest in international affairs, he is now confronted with the realization that if he wants Indonesia to be a destination for major foreign investments, he can''t afford to ignore the growing demand for climate change action.

But only up to a point. Western pressure to phase out coal at this critical stage in Indonesia's development is often met with resentment, with officials noting that developed countries had no such environmental obstacles in growing their economies.

Widodo doesn''t react well to pressure and with powerful Chief Maritime Minister Luhut Panjaitan as his point man, some analysts believe Jakarta is falling ever-deeper under Beijing's influence with Chinese firms showing no signs of losing their position as the country's biggest investors.

Former trade minister Tom Lembong warned recently that Australia, the US and like-minded countries will have to mount a coordinated effort if they want to stop Jakarta ''going all in'' with the superpower. ''Indonesia will continue to gravitate towards China under the Jokowi administration and possibly beyond,'' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Djalal says climate change has been an Indonesian ''blind spot'' and that despite setting emission targets Widodo has remained fixated on infrastructure and economic development, with coal making up 22,000MW of the 35,000MW electricity program he launched in 2014.

Leaders at the recent G7 Summit in the UK agreed to end the funding of new coal generation in developing countries and to offer up to $2 billion to support the transition away from unabated coal capacity.

There are also signs that the EU may be prepared to add coal to a list of commodities that could be denied access to the European market unless Indonesia complies with international sustainability and environmental standards.

Although the government is committed to reducing emissions by 29% over the next eight years, or 41% with international assistance, it will only phase out new coal projects after 2025 when the last of the thermal plants under the 35,000MW program is commissioned.

''We think the strategy will shift to new and renewable sources (but) how Indonesia actually gets there is a question still up in the air,'' S & P Global Ratings analyst Minh Hoang told a webinar this week. ''Coal will still feature heavily in Indonesia's energy mix for years to come.''

While state-owned power utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) is prohibited from building new coal-fired plants after 2025, the policy on private projects is unclear, particularly on the main islands off Java where power shortages have always been an issue.

The coal-fied Celukan Bawang 2 power plant in Singaraja on Indonesia's resort island of Bali. Chinaís plan to fund dozens of foreign coal plants from Zimbabwe to Indonesia is set to produce more emissions than those of major developed nations, threatening global efforts to fight climate change, environmentalists have warned. Photo: AFP / Sonny Tumbelaka

The biggest of those stations are in nickel-rich Central Sulawesi and North Maluku where Chinese industrial giant Tsingshan Steel and its partners are drawing on the world's biggest reserves of nickel to put Indonesia on the global industrial map.

Tsingshan's refining complex in Morawali, Central Sulawesi, is already powered by a 2,000MW coal-fired station, but the Mines and Energy Ministry (ESDM) has reportedly banned the firm from adding a further 250MW unit to its 750MW coal plant at Weda Bay in Halmahera.

After months of indecision and fruitless negotiation, that may explain why the government has now apparentlydecided that Freeport Indonesia's (PTFI) new copper smelter will be built at its original site at East Java's Gresik Industrial Park (JIIPE) instead of Weda Bay.

ESDM's director-general for minerals and coal, Ridwan Djamaluddin, told earlier this month that PTFI and state-owned holding company MIND ID had made the final decision to stay with Gresik, which has already undergone some site preparation. 

Joint venture talks ran into an obstacle over Tsingshan's demands for a 5% discount on the price of PTFI's concentrate and also parent Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold's concerns over adhering to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules that Chinese firms are not compelled to follow.....



"Why Indonesia struggles to tap its solar energy potential"
UAE Makes A Big Bet On Indonesia

Thorium: "Indonesia’s Nuclear Dream, Revived?"And many more, though be forewarned a lot of our Indonesia posts are on volcanoes or China encroaching on Indonesia's fishing grounds.

The New Top500 List Of The World's Fastest Supercomputers Is Out (AMD; NVDA)

From Top500, June 28:

Fugaku Holds Top Spot, Exascale Remains Elusive

FRANKFURT, Germany; BERKELEY, Calif.; and KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— The 57 th edition of the TOP500 saw little change in the Top10. The only new entry in the Top10 is the Perlmutter system at NERSC at the DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The machine is based on the HPE Cray "Shasta" platform and a heterogeneous system with both GPU-accelerated and CPU-only nodes. Perlmutter achieved 64.6 Pflop/s, putting the supercomputer at No. 5 in the new list.

The Japanese supercomputer Fugaku held onto the top spot on the list. A system codeveloped by Riken and Fujitsu, Fugaku has an HPL benchmark score of 442 Pflop/s. This performance exceeds the No. 2 Summit by 3x. The machine is based on Fujitsu's custom ARM A64FX processor. What's more, in single or further reduced precision, which is often used in machine learning and AI, Fugaku's peak performance is actually above an exaflop. Such an achievement has caused some to introduce this machine as the first "Exascale" supercomputer. Fugaku already demonstrated this new level of performance on the new HPL-AI benchmark with 2 Eflop/s.

Outside of this, we saw quite a few instances of Microsoft Azure and Amazon EC2 Cloud instances fairly high on the list. Pioneer-EUS, the machine to snag the No. 24 spot and the No.27 Pioneer-WUS2, rely on Azure. The Amazon EC2 Instance Cluster at No. 41 utilizes Amazon EC2.

Here is a summary of the systems in the Top10:

  • Fugaku remains the No. 1 system. It has 7,630,848 cores which allowed it to achieve an HPL benchmark score of 442 Pflop/s. This puts it 3x ahead of the No. 2 system in the list.
  • Summit, an IBM-built system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, USA, remains the fastest system in the U.S. and at the No. 2 spot worldwide with a performance of 148.8 Pflop/s on the HPL benchmark, which is used to rank the TOP500 list. Summit has 4,356 nodes, each housing two Power9 CPUs with 22 cores each and six NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs, each with 80 streaming multiprocessors (SM). The nodes are linked together with a Mellanox dual-rail EDR InfiniBand network.
  • Sierra, a system at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA, USA is at No. 3. Its architecture is very similar to the #2 system Summit. It is built with 4,320 nodes with two Power9 CPUs and four NVIDIA Tesla V100 GPUs. Sierra achieved 94.6 Pflop/s.
  • Sunway TaihuLight, a system developed by China's National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology (NRCPC) and installed at the National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi, which is in China's Jiangsu province, is listed at the No. 4 position with 93 Pflop/s.
  • Perlmutter at No. 5 is new in the TOP10. It is based on the HPE Cray "Shasta" platform, and a heterogeneous system with AMD EPYC based nodes and 1536 NVIDIA A100 accelerated nodes. Perlmutter achieved 64.6 Pflop/s.
  • Selene, now at No. 6, is an NVIDIA DGX A100 SuperPOD installed inhouse at NVIDIA in the USA. The system is based on an AMD EPYC processor with NVIDIA A100 for acceleration and a Mellanox HDR InfiniBand as a network and achieved 63.4 Pflop/s....


Klaus Schwab Is Not Davos Man, BlackRock's Larry Fink Is Davos Man

And whether you agree or disagree, if you are not watching what he is up to, you are not getting the full picture.

We'll have more on the behemoth and its boss later this week but for now here are two clips via Investment Hulk (dba Hulk Family Office):

Capital Markets: "European Political Drama Kicks off Big Economic Week"

 From Marc to Market:

Overview: The global capital markets are off to a quiet start of what promises to be a busy week. Quarter and month-end adjustments, Japan's Tankan survey, the eurozone's preliminary June CPI, the US employment report, and an OPEC+ meeting are featured. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed amid a mixed regional performance. It had risen in the last four sessions. European shares are paring last week's gains, which saw the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 gain 1.2%. Energy and consumer discretionary sectors are leading today's losses. US futures are little changed. Last week, the S&P 500 and NASDAQ rose to new record highs. The US 10-year yield is holding a little above 1.50%, while European benchmark rates are slightly softer. The dollar is narrowly mixed. Neither sterling nor the Swedish krona have been unhinged by the political developments as they lead the movement against the dollar. Norway, New Zealand, and Canada are seeing their currencies nurse small losses. Emerging market currencies are also mostly heavier, and the JP Morgan Emerging Market Currency Index is posting the second day of small losses following a four-day advance. Gold was turned back from the $1785-$1786 area. It continues to map out a triangle pattern within the range set on June 18 (~$1761-$1797). Crude oil is little changed, with the August WTI contract hovering around $74 a barrel. Iron ore prices are firmer, though copper is off for the third session. The CRB rose 2.2% last week, its fourth weekly gain in the past five weeks.

Asia Pacific
The gap between consumer and producer price increases in China suggested a squeeze on profits, which Beijing reported earlier today.
Industrial profits slid to a still an impressive 36% in May from 57% in April. Separately, China ordered Tesla to fix all 285k cars it has sold in the country. Tesla is doing so with a free software update for its autopilot function. Meanwhile, reports suggest India has moved 50k troops to its border with China to around 200k, a 40% increase over the past year.

The US and Taiwan will hold their first trade talks in five years on Wednesday. Supply chain security (semiconductor chips) and digital trade (cybersecurity) are said to be the focus. Last week, Taiwan lifted its ban on US beef and pork, though a referendum is planned in August about US pork, which contains ractopamine, a controversial food additive. Instead of joining a regional trade block, the Biden administration seeks to strengthen bilateral ties in the region. The US national security personnel seem to be the driving force here more than the trade office....


Sunday, June 27, 2021

"Work Starts On Kanal Istanbul"

 From Reuters via gCaptain:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday launched a $15 billion canal project intended to relieve pressure on the busy Bosphorus Strait by laying the foundations of a bridge over the planned route.

Critics of what Erdogan dubbed his “crazy project” when he revealed it a decade ago question the viability of a waterway running 45 km (28 miles) through marshland and farms on the western edge of Istanbul, and say it will damage the environment.

“We view Kanal Istanbul as a project to save Istanbul’s future,” Erdogan told a ceremony. “We are opening a new page in the history of Turkey’s development.”

Construction workers poured cement into the foundations of the 1.6 km bridge as a crowd waved Turkish flags. Erdogan said the canal would take six years to complete.

The government says it is increasingly hazardous for tankers to wind their way between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara down the congested Bosphorus, which divides the European and Asian halves of Istanbul, a city of 15 million people.

Already 43,000 ships pass through every year, far more than the 25,000 the government considers safe, causing longer and longer waiting times. By 2050, it is estimated that number will rise to 78,000....



Why Turkey is Important

The headline for this piece at ZeroHedge is "A US civil war is now on the table as new alliances form" but that probably is not going to happen. See after the jump.

More interesting is the writers insights into the geo-strategic importance of Turkey.

From Capitalist Exploits via ZH, Jun 24, 2021:

First, let's talk about Turkey. Turkey, Nato’s second largest military, will never join the EU. If you haven’t heard me say it before, let me repeat it. So what, you may say. What does that have to do with anything?

Well, I’m not sure, but here is what we do know.

  1. Turkey is absolutely 100% critical to OBOR (One Belt One Road). The old Silk Road that Xi intends to make his legacy.
  2. Turkey has the second largest standing military force in NATO behind the US.
  3. Turkey refused to sign the Paris climate accord.
  4. Turkey is an important transit country for natural gas produced in Azerbaijan and Russia with prospects from other countries in the region.
  5. Turkey has been aggressively developing alliances with other Turkic-speaking countries: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. You will note that all of these countries are energy producers, which brings me to my next point.
  6. Fossil fuels aren’t going to be replaced any time soon, and those who control them will dominate first economically and then politically. It’s always been that way, and it’s not going to be any different this time around.
  7. The Turks control the Bosphorus, which really means they have influence in the Black Sea, which really means they have influence with the Ruskies.

In short, Turkey is likely to be critical going forward, which was why I was not surprised to see the following:

Erdogan says Turkey has raised FX swap deal with China to $6 billion

You may recall a few weeks back I mentioned to you how the EU had tried to block Turkey from building a coal fired power plant, funded by Chinese banks. You will also recall that Turkey told them to kick sand.

Turkey is going to be very important over the next decade.

Here is OBOR. It is, of course, the old Silk Road being resurrected by the CCP.

Literally following this Silk Road and then understanding what sort of ideology exists in the respective countries can assist us in better understanding probabilities for our asset allocation.

As a reminder. Turkey is the largest economy in the Eurasian region with an upper-middle income economy and a strong record of growth over the past two decades, notwithstanding recent currency turmoil. This gives Turkey a strong bargaining position to ensure its own interests are taken into account alongside China’s ambitions.

It lies in a geostrategically important location that connects Europe and Asia by sea and air, as well as Africa. Turkey lies on the shortest route for China’s ambitious plans to create a Eurasian trading network.

If we step back in time and look at the history of the region, one of the key reasons for the decline of the Middle East was the destruction of the Silk Road or what we could refer to as the Indian Ocean economy. That trading network connects China, India, through East Africa and the Middle East, Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) into Europe.

It was the Portuguese first, then those cheese eating Dutchmen later and then, of course, the flag waving Brits who dismantled these economic trade routes. Cities that previously thrived declined in importance, wealth, and power. OBOR is designed to bring back these old trading routes.

If even mildly successful, this will mean that the Middle East will become very important, and Turkey is going to be the geographical lynchpin for the OBOR into Europe and even up into Russia and former CIS.

Now, if the West wasn’t commiting suicide, I would say that the success of OBOR could be halted in its tracks but well… it is, and therefore it wont.

The infrastructure spending and buildout required is massive. Estimates for Asia alone are around $26 trillion, but there is no way it can all be done by Chinese construction industry.

And this is where Turkey is likely to play a critical role, because Turkish manufacturers are very competitive and offer high quality.

If you travel through Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and throughout the “Stans” and the Middle East, it is Turkish goods that are increasingly prevalent and desired.

The construction sector plays a crucial role in the Turkish economy, contributing 5.9% of the GDP, employing roughly 10% of the Turkish workforce, and impacting up to 30% of Turkey’s GDP.

Expect to see more Turkish companies operating in the region and where trade takes place, expect political alliances to follow.

Certainly Erdogan will seek to use this influence in the region for economic and political influence.

The key for Turkey will be to ensure its own self interest while achieving its goals. Either way, it is positioned uniquely for the world we’re rapidly moving towards....

....MUCH MORE, civil war in the U.S. bit. 

As to civil war, although we will be commemorating a great battle of the American Civil War, July 1 - 3, the fact is that mature democracies tend not to descend into all-out shooting style civil wars. At least compared to other forms of government.

So we have tried to find portents that such a rare event may come to pass and for this search Frances Fox Piven has proven to be a rather remarkable guide. Which I hope explains all the Piven posts

Frances Fox Piven on Why Protesters Must “Defend Their Ability to Exercise Disruptive Power” 

Frances Fox-Piven: “We Should Be Prepared for Incredible Waves of Mass Protest”

"Frances Fox Piven on the Importance of Social Movements Being ‘Unruly’" 

Serious Politics: So What Is Frances Fox Piven Thinking About These Days? 

....Direct Action of the Unemployed
One form of response during the Great Depression was direct action; another was petitioning or advocacy to the government for social programs or relief. Could you tell us what you see as the advantages or flaws of each form?....
The community organizers and students of political science among our readers will recognize the 'ol Action directe, perhaps accompanied by a bit of Thomas Carlyle’s whiff of grapeshot describing the end of the French Revolution, this time round.
As noted in the introduction to June 8's "Capital Markets: All Is Unfolding According To Plan":

...It's probably time to brush up on the Jacobins and the Committee of Public Safety.
Maybe the history of the XMI on October 20, 1987 as well.
More to come as the summer progresses....

Back in 2007 I was poking a bit of gentle fun at the Marxist-Leninists-Trots:
 "International Day of Direct Action Against Climate Change and the G8":

Oh happy day!
I haven't heard this kind of lingo in a while: "The 8th of June International Day of Action Against Climate Change and the G8 has been called by the International Rising Tide Network. This is a call for autonomous, decentralized actions appropriate for your town, city, or local area. Use this international day of action to support local struggles against oil refineries, gas pipelines, strip mines and coal-fired power plants. Disrupt the financial backers of the fossil fuel industry. Organise workshops to spread sustainable post-petroleum living skills. Find a weak point in the infrastructure of resource exploitation and throw a literal or symbolic wrench in the works. It’s time to visit your local polluters and give 'em hell!" From

From the 70's Australian broadsheet Direct Action.

From the French version of Wikipedia: Action directe (AD) est un groupe clandestin (aux influences anarchistes et communistes...)

From Wikipedia: Action Directe was a French Maoist/Marxist-Leninist militant group which committed a series of assassinations and violent attacks in France between 1979 and 1987.

I knew something was up when Desmogblog linked to " Thought Online" for the story "Talking about a revolution: Calls for action on global warming, inequality",
which was originally posted at Peoples Weekly World.

I've missed PWW's take on local self-determination such as this story from Estonia, "Estonian gov’t desecrates anti-fascist history"--"On April 27, the Estonian government removed a monument honoring the 270,000 Red Army soldiers who gave their lives in the fight against Nazism in Estonia from a central square in Tallinn, the country’s capital, and moved it to a cemetery two miles away."

Time to brush up on the Dialectical Materialism (nobody told you this was going to be easy)....

One thing to keep an eye on is the use of the word "ungovernable" in the U.S. Here's GoogleTrends (web searches) since 2004

"Michelin Puts Puffy Sails on Cargo Ships"

 From IEEE Spectrum, June 25:

The move could boost a vessel’s fuel efficiency by 20 percent

3D rendering of Michelin's Wing Sail Mobility (WISAMO) autonomously-deployed, inflatable sails on a cargo ship

The white sailboat outside of Michelin Group’s Swiss office doesn’t have a sail at all. Instead, it has a wing. The puffy, inflatable structure towers over the vessel, resembling an enormous meringue with a spine of stiff peaks. At sea, it cuts through the wind like an airplane wing, sending the sailboat flying across the water. Now Michelin wants to fit the technology onto cargo ships. The goal is to harness wind energy to reduce the use of diesel fuel—and thus curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The French tire maker unveiled its Wing Sail Mobility, or WISAMO, project earlier this month. The set-up operates with the push of a button. First, the telescopic mast rises from its base, reaching up to 17 meters high. The wing, which starts as a pile of fabric, slowly unfurls as a small air compressor inflates the double-sided material. As wind flows over the 93-square-meter wing, the variations in air pressure create lift, helping propel the vessel forward. When the ship approaches a bridge or encounters rough weather, the system automatically retracts....


"Why Indonesia struggles to tap its solar energy potential"

Following up on the introduction to Thursday's "As U.S. Bans Some Chinese Solar Imports, India Makes A Big Bet".

 From ChannelNewsAsia, (Updated: ):

JAKARTA: Opened to the public in 1978, Jakarta’s Istiqlal Mosque was built to commemorate Indonesia’s independence.

But over the years, the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia has become more than just a symbol of independence.

It also represents tolerance and pluralism in Indonesia, as it was built by a Christian architect and stands just across Jakarta’s cathedral. World leaders such as Angela Merkel, Narendra Modi and Barack Obama have visited the mosque.

A recent major renovation is sending yet another important message to the world: renewable energy and climate change. There are now 504 solar panels that have been installed, generating an equivalent of 150,000 watt-peak (Wp).

“They help to save our monthly electricity usage,” said Suhendri, the mosque’s technician who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

While solar panels on mosques or houses of worship are still relatively rare in Indonesia, the Jakarta government pledged last year to install more solar panels in the city, especially on government buildings and schools.

The step was taken in line with the need to combat climate change and reduce illnesses caused by Jakarta’s notorious air pollution.

Launching Jakarta's clean air initiative in September, city governor Anies Baswedan said: "Experts estimate that air pollution has caused over 5.5 million cases of air pollution illness in Jakarta every year. That is nearly 11 cases every minute ... In recognition of the importance of clean air, I issued the governor instruction number 66 in July last year which put in place seven solutions the Jakarta government has to do for clean air." 

"Among the solutions, we strive to install more solar panels in government buildings, accelerate the development of mass rapid transit as well as increasing the use of clean energy for transportation," he added.

Back in 2017, the Indonesian government initiated a movement called The National Movement of One Million Solar Roofs to encourage buildings to use solar energy.

These are all measures taken to ensure Indonesia can reach its target to use 23 per cent renewable energy by 2025 while cutting emissions by as much as 29 per cent by 2030.

But despite various efforts, solar energy adoption is still low in Indonesia.

Experts interviewed by CNA said financial constraints and inconsistent policies are the main reasons. However, they still believe in the potential of solar energy in the archipelago.


Lying on the equator, Indonesia has abundant sources of solar energy, said Satrio Swandiko Prillianto, Greenpeace Indonesia Renewable Energy Campaigner.

There is about 208 gigawatt (GW) of solar energy potential in the country. But in 2019, only about 100MW, or 0.09 per cent of its potential has been installed, said Mr Prillianto.

The energy density is on average 4.8 kWh/sq m/day.....


Space Invaders Version of Twinkle, Twinkle (Ah! vous dirai-je, maman)

This piece, "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" is the reason I don't play piano. Many years ago a kindly neighbor asked if I wanted to learn to play the instrument. I said sure and she started playing with one finger and I'm thinking I can do that and all of a sudden she segues into the variations and yikes!

Here's the Rousseau YouTube channel with "Mozart - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (12 variations on Ah vous dirai-je, Maman)"


The sheet music gets rather dense with notation (variations 4, 5, and 6):

And from Atari


Storage: Very Important To Roman Emperors and Commodities Market Manipulators

 A repost from August 2020 that may come into play as we approach harvest season (I know it's a ways off but there was rain across the corn belt and the farmers are twitter-moaning about possible price declines on Monday)

From Aeon, August 20:

Astrid Van Oyen
is assistant professor in Roman archaeology at Cornell University in New York. Her latest book is The Socio-Economics of Roman Storage: Agriculture, Trade, and Family (2020).
Accumulation and its discontents
Whether collecting, storing or hoarding, we’ve always had our issues with stuff – not least deciding what’s worth having 
How much grain is enough to make it to the next harvest? How much for a lord to appease his subjects? How much is enough to survive, to grow, to flourish? Anthropologists and archaeologists have approached these questions under the banner of surplus. ‘Surplus’ denotes that extra bit that allows some people to be released from the relentless need to cultivate their own foods, and to devote themselves to other endeavours, such as craft production, transport, construction and so on. Surplus is what allegedly propelled the most profound achievements in human history, from the pyramids of the pharaohs to the monumental city of ancient Rome, a pre-industrial metropolis with a population of perhaps more than a million. Accumulation allowed such diversification of human activities – whether the surplus it represented was redistributed via market mechanisms or through a centralised power, whether divided up in a fair or unfair manner. Surplus, as this old story has it, is the basis of civilisation itself.

Yet ‘surplus’ as such doesn’t exist. People don’t gather ‘surplus’. Instead, they collect cars, harvest grain or store canned foods. In reality, accumulation is practised and thought about in relation to the specificity of the material world. Only in the abstract models of scholars does ‘surplus’ mean anything without reference to the real world of things. For that reason, the theory that mere ‘surplus’ somehow launched civilisation is wrong.

By ironing out the complexity of the material world, archaeologists risk flattening the texture of human history and human life. Take the example of my grandparents in Belgium, who lived through the Second World War. In their old age, they kept a big, meticulously organised pantry right in the middle of their house, and stored so much food that I developed a habit of checking the sell-by date of anything I ate there – whatever they consumed was bound to be far beyond its expiry date. Shortage and uncertainty were so acutely grafted on to them that it informed their storage practices even when historical conditions had changed. But the question ‘How much is enough?’ – which had a radically different answer in the 1940s than in the 1980s – does little to elucidate the historical link in their ways of thinking and acting.

What matters is not just how much they stored, but where (in a central windowless pantry: showing a concern with control), how (organised and inventoried: again, an issue of control), and what (foodstuffs: they remained in survival mode, even when consuming rather lavishly). Today, things are different for most people in the Global North. Even as a pandemic makes hoarding mainstream again, the foremost desired storage facility is probably still the walk-in closet, where people ‘store’ future versions of themselves. Endlessly additive (clothes tend not to decay within a person’s lifetime), such treasuries of garments are kept in the most intimate parts of a house, while fuelling outward displays. And when pandemic-inspired panic-buying does hit, it shows up in the toilet paper aisles, revealing how everyday luxuries have become non-negotiable. Storage, in other words, offers a historically sensitive window on to people’s deep-rooted mentalities, their hopes, and their fears – all questions that are silenced by the bland banner of surplus.

Being alive to the complexity of accumulation (rather than the purported role of surplus in a reductionist version of complexity) requires a better understanding of how people relate to things, and vice versa. Recent developments in archaeological theory and the so-called ‘material turn’ can help.
Casting accumulation in terms of surplus has perpetuated a fallacy of human control over the material world: any historical actor either has access to surplus or not and, if they do, they’re in control. In one sense, this is undoubtedly true. Accumulation – and its physical manifestation through storage – pauses the active use of objects. It takes things temporarily out of circulation, things that are not needed here-and-now but might be called upon for future use. It enables people to manage access to goods across time and space. Storage is what allowed inhabitants of ancient Rome to drink wine year-round (even if the grape harvest took place only in the fall) and to eat bread made from Egyptian wheat (even though it was harvested hundreds of miles from the imperial capital).
Storage is a human intervention that engineers the world of resources at our disposal. It is no surprise then that control of storage, and therefore of accumulation, is and was highly sought after. Accumulation means security. It means wealth. It means status. To have is good, but to hold (and thus to have tomorrow) is even better. Throughout history, full granaries and overflowing storehouses were coveted by elites, chiefs and emperors. In Minoan society in the 2nd millennium BCE, powerful central buildings (so-called ‘palaces’) on the island of Crete maintained large storage facilities. Meanwhile, monumental storehouses lined communication routes in the Inka empire, used to maintain an imperial apparatus of administrators, armies, and labourers – as well as to serve as a visible reminder of the state’s power and domination. Social and political hierarchies widened as some people were more successful than others in accumulating and storing....

How can you not love a book whose very Preface begins:
How do you know an empire when you see one? One classic answer to this
comparative conundrum is to look at storage facilities. Empires, it is assumed,
extract and centralize resources from across their territories, a brute imperialism
that finds expression in massive, central storage complexes and a continuing
concern with the circulation of stuff. The dazzling archaeological remains of
storerooms at Rome's ports of Ostia and Portus are testimony that the Roman
empire fits this rather restricted bill. But what can storage do beyond this
exercise of identification? Storage has more to offer the student of the Roman
world: as a topic that is at once at the core of survival and prone to envy, strife,
and competition; as a practice that is both grounded in the matter of economics
and inhabiting the social imagination, as an acute concern for farmers and 
rulers alike - storage opens up an inquiry into the very anatomy of Roman 
If interested see also at Cornell Research:
The Emperor’s Closet—Power and Storage

Previously on the Storage Channel:

"The Effect of Futures Markets and Corners on Storage and Spot Price Variability".
To Create A "1%" In A Social Hierarchy You Don't Need An Economic Surplus, Just A Storable Form Of Wealth 
The Golden Age of Commodities Market Manipulation: Corners, Storage and Squeezes

These days however, to purloin that wealth, you don't even need to be dealing with storables:
How to Manipulate Non-storable Commodities Markets

Remember, the spectrum runs from storage to hoarding to market corners.
And corners in commodities refers to physical, you can't corner a commod by simply buying futures or forwards, you also have to take up the physical supply.
Conversely, squeezes are accomplished in the futures..

A couple decent papers on this aspect of the abundance theory are:
"Large Investors, Price Manipulation, and Limits to Arbitrage: An Anatomy of Market Corners" and
"Market Manipulation, Bubbles, Corners and Short Squeezes"
The only way to combat abundance is with artificial scarcity, i.e. manipulation....

"Venture capitalists want to build the libertarian fantasy of a city without commons"

Although this piece takes on Libertarians and the right, it is on the left you see such oddities as journalists for (quasi-) censorship and in regards to the platforms and other venues, the full-throated assertion of the right of free association and that rallying cry of the folks who resisted the integration of lunch counters in the late '50's - early '60's:

"But they're a private business!!!"

From Real Life Magazine, June 21:

Send in the Clouds
Venture capitalists want to build the libertarian fantasy of a city without commons

The stranger and more heterodox factions of the right wing have long dreamed of creating a utopia to call their own, far from the draconian tax structures and governmental intrusion they see as a brake on their genius. Examples abound: There’s the Free State Project, aiming to pack New Hampshire with thousands of true believers in political autonomy in order to refashion the state as a libertarian enclave (without fully seceding from the United States, of course). There’s also “seasteading,” perhaps the most popular retreatist gambit, in which residents would live on a boat set permanently adrift in international waters. These projects come in many flavors — from unalloyed tax haven to would-be ecotopia — and draw anarcho-capitalist bona fides from supporters like Patri Friedman and Peter Thiel. Historian Raymond B. Craib memorably defined the overall seasteading vibe as “Milton Friedman and Robinson Crusoe together, reminiscing about Burning Man, on a remodeled off-shore oil rig.”

Take seasteading onshore and you get “charter cities,” a phrase usually attributed to economist Paul Romer’s 2009 TED talk. Rather than flee to the oceans for terra nova, Romer proposed that sovereign urban “polities” could be created by anyone on land, provided they find “free space.” In practice, as Ash Milton argues, these so-called cities end up looking like “special economic zones” (or SEZs).  The SEZ and the charter city are both more focused on securing the greatest possible profit with least governmental oversight than anything else, but the SEZ does so in a flat, affectless way. It’s a collection of tax loopholes made material. So is a charter city, to be clear, but the venal profiteering of the SEZ is elevated to the ideological firmament: It is intended to function as proof of the efficacy of libertarian ideals. Romer himself is providing the blueprint for this vision in Honduras with a project called Próspera. Próspera’s website calls it an ”economic development platform,” which roughly translated, appears to mean part colonial outpost, part entrepôt, and part maquiladora, all strained through the blandest possible solarpunk design sensibility (and crowned with luxury residences designed by Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects).

....Such statements could be dismissed as vacuous Silicon Valley hype were it not for Pronomos’s heavyweight lineup of investors and advisors, including Marc Andreesen, bitcoin maven Roger Ver, Balaji Srinivasan, Taavi Kotka (the brain behind e-Estonia), and of course Peter Thiel, from whom the majority of the firm’s $9 million stake comes from.[sic]....


For more on Srinivasan see 2014's "The Silicon Valley Secessionist Clarifies His Batshit Insane Plan" or any of the posts on

Also: "Out With Seasteading, In With Land"

If anyone wants to try this on U.S. soil, and even for the currently existing platforms: Google (YouTube), Facebook, and Twitter, they should definitely know what responsibilities large companies take upon themselves when they effectively own the town square.

A good place to start is probably the U.S. Supreme Court: 

Marsh v. Alabama :: 326 U.S. 501 (1946) :: Justia US Supreme Court ...


Pruneyard Shopping Ctr. v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74 (1980)

"Michael Lewis on how to spot a crisis coming"

 From Prospect Magazine, June 6:

Michael Lewis has spent decades chronicling the life of US institutions. He tells Jay Elwes why the US’s shocking failures on Covid-19 could have been avoided

In the teeth of the US pandemic, a biochemist named Joe DeRisi set up a Covid testing unit called Biohub. The aim was to provide testing kits to local health officers. Biohub would process the completed tests and inform the health officers of the results. But there was a hitch. Most local health authorities could not receive Covid test results electronically. The information needed to be sent by fax. And some of the local authorities had fax machines so old that they couldn’t handle more than six pages at a time. Some didn’t work at all. That meant that in the year 2020, Biohub—as well as providing Covid testing kits—also started buying and delivering fax machines. 

This is just one of many startling anecdotes in Michael Lewis’s new book The Premonition. Lewis has been chronicling the life of US institutions for decades. His 1989 debut, Liar’s Poker, was an excoriating—and bestselling—account of his time on Wall Street. Since then, he has written a stack of blockbusters on everything from baseball to behavioural psychology and high-frequency trading. Several have become Hollywood films. Ever since the banking crisis, he has reaped handsome returns from his writing on different aspects of financial disaster (The Big Short, 2010; Boomerang, 2012) and the frailties of American governance in the age of Donald Trump (The Fifth Risk, 2018).

But The Premonition is the most disturbing of all Lewis’s books. When the pandemic struck, the US public healthcare system, first ignored and then cynically used as a political lever by Trump, failed to work. In the crucial early weeks, as the virus spread, there was no unified response, even though health experts could see what was happening. Stifled by bureaucracy and internal politics, the systems created to protect the public became a threat to their lives.

Faced by the collapse of America’s public health services, one of Lewis’s subjects delivers the line that haunts the book: “these,” he says, “are the symptoms of a failed state.”

Lewis has made a career out of taking apparently unpromising subjects and turning them into narrative gold. And yet he never meant to become a writer. He studied art history at Princeton, but his thesis adviser warned him “there aren’t going to be any jobs” in that field. After a chance meeting with the wife of a senior executive at Salomon Brothers, he landed an interview with the Wall Street investment bank and then a job. 

At Salomon Brothers he witnessed the birth of the mortgage-backed securities market, which he wrote about in Liar’s Poker. Mortgages and what banks do with them are not, on the face of it, subjects to wow the crowd. But Lewis revealed a world of preposterous excess, of “big swinging dicks,” of phonies and geniuses, all driven by a crazed desire for money. What made the story alluring was that Lewis had identified a small group who had seen what others had missed—that the US home loan market contained billions of dollars in untapped value.

Seeing what everyone else has missed is a recurring theme. In Moneyball it was the canny baseball coach who figured out that most people were studying the wrong statistics. In Flashboys, banker Brad Katsuyama uncovered what he regarded as an attempt to rig the stock market using high-frequency trading. In The Big Short, the focus was on hedge fund managers who saw the crash coming, and in The Premonition, he follows the health experts who anticipated the gathering Covid storm.

Not all his characters are especially heroic, but their superior nous makes them irresistible. In the case of Liar’s Poker, this led to some unintended consequences. Lewis thought he was writing a warning letter about a finance sector running out of control. (The complex financial products invented at Salomon Brothers in the 1980s were the same ones that blew up in 2008.) Years later, Lewis went out for lunch with the former CEO of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund. “Your fucking book destroyed my career,” Gutfreund told him, “and it made yours.” He was right on both counts. But the public loved Lewis’s chutzpah. Instead of being warned off Wall Street, readers began asking how they could get into finance.

But now America, and the world, faces a catastrophe more serious than any financial collapse. “It seems to me the stakes are highest now,” Lewis said when I spoke to him via Zoom. “It may not matter all that much if the New York Yankees are stupidly run. But it matters a whole lot if the Centers for Disease Control is not well run.”....


Spoiler alert

The CDC and the other three (and four) letter agencies waited their entire bureaucratic lives for this pandemic moment and failed. Utterly and completely failed. I mean the name of the place is "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention." I don't recall when they added the "...and Prevention" bit, they sure didn't rise to the "control" part, much less adding to their responsibility.

And now there is mounting evidence that not only didn't the government scientists have a plan, they obsfucated, prevaricated, and outright lied about what they did and did not know. Time for a house-cleaning.

As Harley Bassman, the Convexity Maven put it back on May 5, 2020:

Most people will remember the 1992 movie, “A Few Good Men”, for the crescendo court scene where Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) shouts at J.A.G. Lieutenant Kaffee (Tom Cruise): “You can’t handle the truth”
Depending upon your politics, you were either inspired or offended as Jessup continued: “You have the luxury of not knowing what I know; And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”

I was occasioned to think of this scene as I considered our rather haphazard response to this pandemic. It is a primary responsibility of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the NSA (National Security Agency), the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), and likely a few more embedded in the “deep state” to game out any possible national security risk, from Martians to meteors.

So why does it seem there was not a secret folder in the file cabinet labeled: Pandemic response?

There have been over a dozen movies on this topic, so it’s not like the idea of a global pandemic was totally alien (irony intended). And while some will surely blame this entirely on the President, too many people would have known this folder existed for it not to be leaked.

At a bare minimum, the Congressional and Senate intelligence committees would have had this folder delivered to their desks sometime in late December when (our spies at) the World Health Organization(WHO) first received reports from the Chinese about a cluster of 41 deaths from a mysterious pneumonia.

Surely the gears would have been grinding at a dozen Govt Agencies as early as late January when the President closed the airports to flights from China.

I suppose the alternative, of which I am incredulous, is that there was no folder.

Forced to consider the latter, let us not make the same mistake with our investments; perhaps it is time to take the long view and build our own folder.Courtesy of the latest quarterly review from Hoisington Investment Management, the -oriole line-is the quickly expanding Monetary Base, which is projected to reach the -heron dot-of $5.0Tn at month’s end....