Saturday, September 30, 2023

"Wave of Coups in Françafrique: Is Africa’s Oldest Autocracy Next? "

From The Elephant, September 28:

With widespread insecurity, escalating public discontent, an absence of the rule of law, pervasive poverty, and frail state institutions, Togo is ripe for a coup.

In the wake of a series of coups that have jolted Africa, speculation about which nation will follow is rife. The pioneer of coups in Africa, Togo frequently emerges as a prime candidate in these conjectures. The country’s 1963 coup was the first on the continent under the leadership of Gnassingbé Eyadéma. In 1967, Eyadéma orchestrated another coup and held on to power for the next 38 years. Following his demise in 2005, Eyadéma was succeeded by his son Faure Gnassingbé, who orchestrated his own coup before subsequently holding contested elections that resulted in at least 400 deaths, according to a UN report.

Togo’s vulnerability to military coups stems from its colonial past and its long history of autocratic rule. The country also faces the same socio-political turmoil that has precipitated regime change in other African nations. One of Africa’s poorest countries, with a struggling economy, Togo is also grappling with escalating terrorism, especially in the northern region bordering coup-prone Burkina Faso.

The current semblance of stability in Togo can be attributed to its robust militarisation. While a number of African nations have transitioned peacefully to democratic governance, Togo’s regime has craftily manipulated global perception by positioning Gnassingbé Eyadéma’s non-military son, Faure, at the helm, ensuring the perpetuation of his father’s authoritarian legacy. Faure Gnassingbé’s journey to the presidency defies the archetypal dictator narrative. Educated in military schools during his formative years, he pursued higher studies in economics at the University of Paris Dauphine and an MBA from George Washington University in the US. His ascent in Togo’s political landscape has been swift, becoming Minister of Communication in 1998 under his father’s rule, then parliamentarian, Minister of Public Works, and ultimately president.

Togo has suffered decades of oppression in the iron grip of the Eyadéma dynasty. Gnassingbé Eyadéma is particularly infamous, remembered as one of the continent’s most brutal dictators. Mysteriously disappearing opponents and egregious human rights abuses led to a ten-year suspension of European Union aid between 1993 and 2003. Nevertheless, Eyadéma sustained a puzzlingly close relationship with France, the nation’s former colonial overseer that had acquired two thirds of Togo after World War I.

Recent coups in Africa have predominantly taken place in ex-French colonies.... 


Also at The Elephant:

"As India-Five Eyes Relations Sour, US Ratings Agency Moody’s Takes Aim at India’s Aadhaar Digital ID System"

Talk about mixed emotions. On the blog we take a very "Don't mess with India" attitude but on the other hand Aadhaar is, frankly, creepy.

From naked capitalism, September 29:

The report calls into question key aspects of India’s digital ID program, including its heavily centralised nature, the reliability of its biometric identification systems and its vulnerability to data breaches.

Relations between India and the so-called “Five Eye” nations (United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) are in a bit of a rough patch. According to an article in The Hindu, India’s second most circulated English-language newspaper, India’s relations with Canada are now at their lowest point since the 1980s, after Justin Trudeau raised “credible” allegations last week that Indian agents were involved in the murder of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a Sikh plumber-cum-separatist leader shot dead by masked gunmen on the outskirts of Vancouver in June.

Delhi, of course, has denied any involvement while saying it will cooperate with any investigation. Nonetheless, the ensuing diplomatic crisis has so far led to visa suspensions and reciprocal expulsions of senior diplomats. The Trudeau government already paused negotiations on a Canada-India free trade agreement more than two weeks before going public with its allegations.

And it is not just Canada that is casting aspersions on India’s possible role in the crime. According to the US envoy in Ottawa, David Cohen, Trudeau’s allegations, first aired in Canada’s parliament last week and then reiterated at the UN General Assembly last weekend, were based on “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners”:

“There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this… We have been consulting throughout very closely with our Canadian colleagues — and not just consulting, coordinating with them — on this issue. And from our perspective, it is critical that the Canadian investigation proceed, and it would be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation. We want to see accountability, and it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result.”

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has echoed these sentiments, confirming that the US is “coordinating” with Canada and is seeking “accountability,” while stressing that “it’s important that the investigation run its course.” Interestingly, Blinken did not mention the spiralling US-Canada dispute in the readout following his meeting in Washington yesterday with India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, but that does not mean it was not discussed.

Aadhaar Under Attack

Now, a report by Moody’s Investor Services on some of the challenges facing digital identity programs around the world is raising hackles in the subcontinent. The main cause of the anger is a three-paragraph section that calls into question key aspects of India’s digital ID program, known as Aadhaar, including its heavily centralised nature, the reliability of the biometric identification systems it uses and its vulnerability to data breaches:

Aadhaar, the world’s largest digital ID program, assigns unique numbers to over 1.2 billion Indian residents using biometric and demographic data. This system enables access to public and private services, with verification via fingerprint or iris scans, and alternatives like One-Time Passcodes. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) administers Aadhaar, aiming to integrate marginalized groups and expand welfare benefits access.

However, the system faces some hurdles, including the burden of establishing authorization and concerns about biometric reliability. There have been cases of service denials, and there are risks to reliability of biometric technologies, especially for manual laborers in hot, humid climates.

The real kicker comes in the third paragraph, which argues that decentralised identity [DID] programs such as the SSI [Self-Sovereign Identity] system rolled out by countries like Estonia — which is now working with the Zelensky government to pilot a national mobile application modeled on Ukraine’s Diia application — offer a far better approach to digital ID than India’s heavily centralised system....

MUCH MORE, India's government is taking the Moody's action to be a threat and is reacting.

One of the commenters frames the issues:

The Rev Kev

This seems to be part of a move to unpick the BRICS and India is a natural target. They also had a go at one of the new members of BRICS – the United Arab Emirate – but that seems to have fizzled out. So Trudeau’s attack was a shot across the bows and Blinken bringing up this assassination with India is to let them know that Trudeau’s attack was done with Washington’s backing. I suppose that you can say that the US is telling India that either ‘they are with us or against us.’ India was been all over the place between aligning with the west and aligning with the BRICS as Modi is as erratic as Erdogan. Truth be told, aligning with the west would be extremely dangerous for India because in the long term they would be pushed into a fight with China as a proxy. But India has seen how well that is working out for the Ukraine and the wealth that they would have to give up abandoning the BRICS would never be made up for by what the west has to for India – unless it is in weapons.


May 2020
Bill Gates Would Like To Export India's Aadhaar Biometric Identity System To the Rest of The World

This is a couple years old (May 3, 2018) but I wanted it on the blog for future reference.
From India's News 18 (CNN International/Network18 j.v.):
Bill Gates Dismisses 'Aadhaar' Privacy Threats; Funds World Bank to Bring it to Other Countries

July 2022
NYU School Of Law: "The World Bank and co. may be paving a ‘Digital Road to Hell’ with support for dangerous digital ID"

October 2022
Reserve Bank of India: "Concept Note on Central Bank Digital Currency"
A clear, concise look at the considerations the central bank of the world's largest democracy is juggling and balancing. Combined with the country's digital identity system, Aadhaar, which the IMF seems to like despite its flaws and vulnerabilities and you can glimpse the future, now.

"Dumb Money, the New Movie About the 2021 GameStop Short Squeeze, Is Very Funny"

From the Jacobins at Jacobin Magazine, September 28:

Director Craig Gillespie’s new film Dumb Money transforms the 2021 GameStop short squeeze into a rousing comedy about everyday Americans turning the tables against the financial elite. It’s the best “COVID movie” so far.

Director Craig Gillespie won my heart with I, Tonya, his scathing 2017 film about the quintessentially American life of skater Tonya Harding. In demonstrating how to redeem the degraded biopic genre, I, Tonya was so brilliant, I even forgave Gillespie for his subsequent film, the bloated Disney reboot Cruella (2021). He quickly rebounded, directing the first three episodes of the surprisingly insightful Hulu series Pam & Tommy (2022). He always does great work when he’s back on his turf — sharp satirical takes on the lives of working-class Americans who become celebrities, however minor, and however briefly, thereby getting a class-conscious range of grotesque cultural experience that’s eye-opening.

And now he’s back in top form once again with the endearingly funny biographical comedy drama Dumb Money, currently playing at a theater near you. The screenplay by Lauren Schuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo was based on the 2021 nonfiction book by Ben Mezrich, The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees.

“Dumb money,” as the movie tells us in one of its explanatory title cards, is the scornful phrase used by big investment firm traders in describing “retail investors,” the regular individuals who risk their little savings on the stock market. The sneering contempt of the haves for the have-nots is the context for the movie, which is about how one adorkable real-life small trader named Keith Gill, working out of his basement during the COVID epidemic, defied the odds by investing and encouraging his online followers to invest in GameStop, a company “shorted” by hedge fund managers who expected the company to fail. Here’s what that means:

Basically, this means that an investor borrows the stock, sells it on the open market, waits for the price to fall, then buys it back at the lower price and pockets the difference after repaying interest on the initial loan (stock that they borrowed).

Paul Dano has never given a more appealing performance than this one, playing the nerdy longhaired Keith Gill aka Roaring Kitty, his online handle in his YouTube videos, in which he wears assorted cat T-shirts along with a hilarious Rambo-style red headband that we see him ritually tie onto his forehead before logging on. Based on his own research, he’s decided that GameStop stock is actually undervalued, and he invests his little family’s entire savings.

Soon he becomes the unlikely David vs Goliath leader of an online movement, via YouTube and Reddit, that causes the GameStop stock to soar, eventually destabilizing the stock market and destroying at least one large investment firm. Gill’s plainspoken endorsement of GameStop, “I like the stock,” becomes a catchphrase that he uses with modest defiance later on when he’s forced to appear before Congress at the climactic point of the film to defend the role he played in the 2021 “short squeeze” that led to a Wall Street panic....


If interested see also the New York Post's "Billionaire Ken Griffin freaking out ahead of ‘Dumb Money’ movie"

"Kick Start Or Kick Over — Can The U.S. Defeat Russia In The Lithium Battery War?

I have to be careful when linking to John Helmer at Dances with Wolves.

He's been reporting from Russia for a very long time, which raises the red flag question, why are the Rooskis putting up with him.

And the answer, of course, is that he serves some purpose for the regime and since he's in media it's probably because he's somewhere on the spectrum between CNN's Eason Jordan:

CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan yesterday sent a memo to his staff defending his decision to withhold information about how Saddam Hussein's regime had intimidated, tortured and killed Iraqis who had helped the cable news network over the years....
—WaPo, April 15, 2003

His approach became known as "Taking the Eason Way Out...". Catchy, someone should write a song.

Somewhere between that and the New York Times' Pulitzer prize winner, Walter Duranty who was an actual mouthpiece for Stalin.

So with that heads-up here's Helmer, September 28:

In January of this year the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported the reserves of the nine leading countries in the world which mine lithium, the new fuel to power electric batteries. Chile led, followed by Australia, Argentina, China, and the US which claims to have one million tonnes. Russia was left out of the USGS chart.

Russian sources report its lithium reserves are currently between 3.5 million and 5 million tonnes;  that’s at least three times more than the US.  The US is also much more limited in its capacity to develop new domestic lithium mines compared to Russia.  Bolivia was also omitted from the US Government chart because its reserves were called unproven resources. In fact and in the ground, Bolivia leads the lithium world with 21 million tonnes.

The difference between what USGS reports and what happens next isn’t the distinction in geologists’ terminology between reserves and resources. It’s US Government policy to stop, sabotage and destroy Russia’s ability to meet its lithium requirement from its own, domestic sources, or by importing from friendly countries like Bolivia.

In response, a new plan for combining lithium mining projects in Bolivia and Russia will produce a surplus of Russia’s foreseeable requirement for lithium battery production. But not only that. Allied in technology sharing, investment, trade, and political agreement, the two countries will protect each other in the conservation of the lithium market. If everything goes according to plan, Russia, Bolivia, and the three BRICS states – Argentina, Brazil and China – will dominate the trade in global lithium. They are already discussing the formation of a collective marketing organisation – a lithium OPEC.

Unless the US can stop them.

In the latest official paper issued by the State Department on July 23, “the bilateral relationship between the United States and Bolivia” is “strained. Despite these challenges, the United States maintains a strong and respectful relationship with the Bolivian people, with whom we work to advance human rights, entrepreneurship, and cultural and educational initiatives…However, the United States remains concerned by anti-democratic actions and the politicization of the legal system.”

This is how the lithium war is starting.

Washington’s version of the world’s lithium table looks like this:


Source: US Geological Survey January 2023

In its footnote to the table, the USGS adds: “identified lithium resources in other countries have been revised to 86 million tons. Identified lithium resources are distributed as follows: Bolivia, 21 million tons; Argentina, 20 million tons; Chile, 11 million tons; Australia, 7.9 million tons; China, 6.8 million tons; Germany, 3.2 million tons; Congo (Kinshasa), 3 million tons; Canada, 2.9 million tons; Mexico, 1.7 million tons; Czechia, 1.3 million tons; Serbia, 1.2 million tons; Russia, 1 million tons; Peru, 880,000 tons; Mali, 840,000 tons; Brazil, 730,000 tons; Zimbabwe, 690,000 tons; Spain, 320,000 tons; Portugal, 270,000 tons; Namibia; 230,000 tons; Ghana, 180,000 tons; Finland, 68,000 tons; Austria, 60,000 tons; and Kazakhstan, 50,000 tons.”

The US is the only country in the table to try to keep secret its production of lithium. “W” in the table, according to the USGS, stands for “withheld to avoid disclosing company proprietary data. — Zero.”  In fact, there are at least three publicly listed US lithium miners, and they are required by law to report their lithium results several times each year.  

Albemarle Corporation, for example, sells its shares on the New York Stock Exchange on release of quarterly production and financial reports from the company’s lithium projects in the US (Silver Peak, Nevada, and Kings Mountain, North Carolina), and in Australia, Chile, and China.  For example, in 2022 the company reports it produced 34,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE); but just 2,000 tons of this aggregate were mined in the US. Because US lithium consumption is so heavily dependent on foreign imports, Albemarle has just announced Pentagon funding for mining equipment to reopen the mothballed Kings Mountain mine in North Carolina.   This follows a US Energy Department grant of a year ago to construct a lithium concentration plant at the mine. Altogether, US Government funding to revive Kings Mountain currently exceeds a quarter of a billion dollars.

According to Vygon Consulting, a Moscow analytical company specializing in rare metals, Russia’s reserves are far greater, exceeding Australia, the US,  and China on the USGS table, with a cost of production for ore deposits that is lower than the Australian and North American mines, and a brine extraction cost comparable to the South Americans.  By 2040, Vygon is projecting annual Russian production of 600,000 tonnes of lithium – a volume which will turn into exports to the global demand market of roughly half the deficit between supply and demand estimated by then.  

This means that for Russia, the strategic defence and security requirement for lithium can be met quickly so that import dependence can be ended by 2025. On the other hand, for the longer term in economic war planning against the US and Australia, there is domestic competition for state support of new projects between the established state combines like Rosatom, Gazprom, and Rosneft; the established oligarch miners like Norilsk Nickel and Alrosa; new commercial enterprises; and between regions from Dagestan in the west to Murmansk in the north and Irkutsk and Yakutia  in the east.

Confidence in defeating the Americans is an open secret in Moscow; who will benefit domestically between the state companies and the oligarchs is a closed secret because it has yet to be decided.

There has been no lithium mining in Russia since 1997 when mining at the Zavitinsky deposit in Krasnoyarsk stopped. The reason is that there has been no demand at a price for the metal to make mining of proven reserves and develop fresh resources profitable enough. Imports were cheap and supply reliable until 2022. Chile and Argentina then stopped exporting to Russia; several African states halted exports of the raw mineral and required processing plants to be established instead.

Lithium is a rare metal, not because it is scarce but because it is widely distributed at low concentrations in various mineral compounds and salts  in the earth’s crust, in seawater, and in oil and gas fields. Because Russia dominates the world in the last of these, its potential capacity for extracting lithium is considerable. Russia’s oil and gas producers have worked this out. So has the US Government.

Low concentration usually means high cost of production. The abrupt surge in price to peak at about $90,000 per tonne in 2022 reflected the dramatic change in international supply, demand and mine profitability calculations. Although the latest investment bank forecasts and stock market projections   indicate  the price in global trade will continue to decline, the cost of production will remain at a level at which new investment in lithium source extraction will be profitable.

The sanctions war against Russia, both to cut off imports and stop exports, leaves no choice for Russia but to restart domestic lithium deposits; create new ones; protect the security and stability of supply from traditional import sources in South America; and develop new methods for trade and price control to defeat US sanctions....


"Absolute Invariants in Physics and Society"

From the Philosophical Salon:

The Albanian prime minister Edi Rama told the following joke at an international conference: “Russia is considering unifying its time zones because there is a nine-hour difference between one side of the country and the other. Then the Russian Prime Minister went to Vladimir Putin and said: ‘There is a problem. My family was on vacation and I called them to say good night and it was morning and they were at the beach. I called Olaf Scholz to wish him a happy birthday, but he said they would be there the next day. I called Xi Jinping to wish him a Happy New Year, but he replied that they still had the old one…’ Putin replied: ‘Yes, it happened to me too. I called Yevgeny Prigozhin’s family to express my condolences, but his plane has not taken off yet.’” This joke brings us directly to our topic, namely the problem of simultaneity, in which Putin obviously thinks he lives in a block universe where the future (of the bomb exploding on Prigozhin’s plane) already exists now for him as a privileged observer.

It is well known how special relativity theory relativizes the notion of simultaneity of two events: “That no inherent meaning can be assigned to the simultaneity of distant events is the single most important lesson to be learned from relativity.”[i] The basic idea is clear: there is no absolute position in spacetime; every movement is a movement with regard to a certain observer; something moves with regard to the position of this observer. Since there are dozens of sites explaining the paradox this thesis involves, let’s quote a popular description of Einstein’s thought experiment consisting of a moving train with one observer midway in the train and another observer midway on the platform as the train moves past:

“A flash of light is given off at the center of the train just when the two observers pass each other. The observer on the train sees the front and back of the train at fixed distances away from the source of the light flash (since the front, back, and train observer are all in the same inertial frame). According to this observer, the light flashes reach the front and back of the train at precisely the same instant of time—that is, simultaneously. On the other hand, the observer on the platform sees the back of the train moving toward the point at which the flash was given off, and the front of the train moving away from it. This means that the light flash going toward the back of the train will have less distance to cover than the light flash going to the front. As the speed of light is finite, and the same in any direction relative to the platform (regardless of the motion of its source), the flashes will not strike the ends of the train simultaneously. /…/ For both observers, the speed at which the light traveled is constant, but the distance traveled (and thus the time consumed in covering the distance) varies depending on the relative motion of the observer.”

Can we then decide if one observer is right and the other wrong? The conclusion that imposes itself is that “neither one can be shown wrong, and that a simultaneity in one inertial frame need not be true outside that frame.”[ii] Sabina Hossenfelder draws the general ontological consequence of this paradox....


The writer of this piece is Slavoj Žižek, about whom I once wrote:

Sometimes Žižek's writing can be so dense as to be almost impenetrable and because of that we've
only had one post on a fairly interesting guy. From 2011 an antipasto, and then the main course...
On the other hand:
George Soros, the "Chocolate Laxative" of #OccupyWallStreet
We noted the arrival at Zucotti Park of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek in the October 10 post "Ossify Wall Street: Russell Simmons/Kanye West; Richard Trumka, Tim Robbins Swing By; Jesse Ventura only Gets as Far as Minneapolis".

Here's what he said, via the Slovenian Government Communications Office:
...Zizek encouraged the protesters to think about the work ahead of them and not be misled by the festive atmosphere in the park.

Saying that he supported George Soros, he compared the billionaire to a chocolate laxative, as he exhibited an internal contradiction. "First, they take billions from you, then they give back half. And that makes them the world's greatest humanitarians," said Zizek.

He advised the protesters to take the money, but keep fighting against the system.... 

"The world needs cheap electric cars. That spells trouble for big carmakers"

From CNN via Yahoo Finance, September 28:

In 1913, Henry Ford’s moving assembly line transformed carmaking. Ford’s groundbreaking innovation drastically reduced the time it took to assemble a car, enabling mass production and slashing vehicle prices.

More than a century later, carmaking is undergoing a similarly seismic shift. Only this time, Ford Motor Company (F) is scrambling to catch up, rather than leading the charge.

Electric vehicles represent a fundamental shift in the technologies and manufacturing processes that have turned Ford and rivals such as Toyota (TM) and Volkswagen into the biggest car companies on the planet.

Established automakers have been racing to adapt at an enormous financial cost, but are still miles behind Tesla (TSLA) and a crop of new Chinese competitors, including BYD and Xpeng (XPEV).

The world needs affordable EVs more than ever as electric cars will play a big role in hcelping countries cut planet-heating pollution. But can automakers in Europe and the United States — where governments are already planning to ban or limit the sale of new gas and diesel cars — deliver them?

“Ultimately, some of these car companies that have been the cornerstone of how we’ve thought about cars for the last 100 years will be a fraction of their size in future,” said Gene Munster, a managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management.

The EV gap between legacy carmakers and newer rivals is vast. In 2022, Tesla delivered 1.31 million battery EVs. BYD tripled sales from the previous year to reach more than 900,000 (a figure that climbs to almost 1.86 million when plug-in hybrid vehicles are included).

By comparison, the Volkswagen Group, including Audi and Porsche, sold 572,100 battery electric vehicles, while Stellantis (STLA), which makes Chrysler and Jeep, came in at 288,000. Toyota, Ford and General Motors (GM) are even further behind.

New entrants have the jump on technology and the rising Chinese brands boast lower production costs, allowing them to charge lower prices — a huge advantage given that affordability is a major barrier to widespread EV adoption, according to a 2021 survey of EV companies by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Falling behind
In the EV race reshaping the global auto industry, China is speeding ahead. Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States — the dominant players for decades — are lagging behind....

....MUCH MORE, they go deep.

Earlier today: 

"The United Auto Workers are winning the battle, but have they already lost the war?"

All is proceeding according to plan. You will own nothing and be happy.
In other words: "Hop on the bus, Gus," "Make a new plan, Stan...."(apologies to Paul Simon) 
"Stellantis unveils low-priced electric vehicles to rival Tesla" (STLA; TSLA)

Stellantis by the way seems to be firing on all cylinders, errrr...cathodes and anodes.
(gonna need a new idiom) 

"The United Auto Workers are winning the battle, but have they already lost the war?"

From Tablet Magazine, September 26:

The strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) may succeed in forcing the Big Three automakers—GM, Ford, and Stellantis—to agree in part or in whole to the union’s demands, and comes at a time when the militancy of organized labor is greater than it has been in decades. But even if the union were to triumph on every one of those issues, it would still not be enough to reverse the decline of organized labor in the American private sector. That is a tragedy for the country, because if private sector unionism cannot thwart the unrelenting efforts of employers to drive down wages, the American middle class will become extinct, with the exception perhaps of unionized public employees.

It is no coincidence that the “30 glorious years” of mass prosperity that followed World War II coincided with the high point of trade union membership and pro-union government policies, in Western Europe as well as the U.S. The U.S. had the bloodiest labor violence of any Western country between the Civil War and the New Deal, with the National Guard, Army, or private detectives commonly used to crush railroad, mine, and factory workers on behalf of corporations. In American courts, meanwhile, unions were often treated as illegal conspiracies.

The prosperity of American industrial workers of the 1950s like those in the automobile industry was not the result of radical technological change. Work on the assembly line was not that different in 1950 than it had been in the 1920s. What workers had in the 1950s that they lacked a generation before was power—the collective power of trade unions, without which isolated individual workers have no leverage in negotiations with giant corporations over wages, hours, and benefits. Between the 1950s, when a third of the American workforce was unionized, and the 1970s, productivity growth was translated into widespread wage growth because unions forced employers to share more of their profits with workers, along with managers and shareholders.

Today, however, only around 6% of the private sector workforce is unionized in the United States. The decline of unions in industries like meatpacking has meant the return of low wages and conditions like those exposed in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1904). Service sector industries like fast food, which can provide decent jobs when they are unionized in other countries, offer poverty wages in America. Low wages and unstable schedules undermine stable family formation and community involvement in sports leagues and religious congregations among America’s 21st-century proletariat, just as they did in the 1800s and early 1900s. Unable to join the middle class through work alone, many workers in post-union America, like those of the pre-union era, work several jobs or turn for income to part-time gigs, which include not only stints for Uber or Lyft but also crime and prostitution (in its high-tech legal form as OnlyFans).

The decline of unions also changes our politics. Without the massed power of organized labor to counterbalance the influence of organized business in politics, the two parties serve rival business lobbies and affluent households. Corporations and banks and wealthy donors, along with nonprofits and the universities that they bankroll, celebrate race and gender characteristics which divide the working class while opposing unionization efforts that transcend those divisions.

Whether most American workers in the private sector in the future become prosperous middle-class citizens or struggling, insecure serfs will depend largely on the power of unions. Unfortunately, a revival of organized labor in the private market faces numerous obstacles, including inadequate federal labor law, transfers of production to American “right-to-work” states or foreign countries, and high levels of unskilled immigration.

Labor Law and Workers’ Rights

The major obstacle to a revival of private sector unionism is American labor law itself. With the exception of rail, transit, and airline employees covered by the Railway Labor Act of 1926, American workers seeking to join a union are governed by the National Labor Relations Act of 1936—the Wagner Act, named after Robert F. Wagner, a U.S. senator from New York. The Wagner Act was actually the second attempt by Congress during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to promote collective bargaining. It was passed in 1935 when the Supreme Court struck down most of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) of 1933 as an unconstitutional delegation of power from Congress to the presidency.

The NIRA and the National Recovery Administration (NRA) that enforced it were not “fascist,” as libertarian propagandists often claim. Rather, the NIRA quite sensibly sought to avoid one-size-fits-all rules for business and labor regulation imposed by government, in favor of a high degree of self-regulation by business associations, which under government supervision would set codes of fair competition. Such self-regulation by industry with a government veto exists to this day with state bar associations, the American Medical Association, and various university accrediting agencies. The NIRA system, in which the government’s role was limited to ratifying sectoral codes, envisioned a more flexible system than the alternative, in which authorities in Washington engage in top-down regulation of all industries and all labor markets.

The most controversial part of the NIRA proved to be Section 7a, a provision guaranteeing workers the right to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions....


The public sector unions on the other hand need to be outlawed.  

It is a completely different situation from that of private sector employees up against "The Man" as they fight for an equitable share of profits. 


"The day that destroyed the working class and sowed the seeds of Trump"

Amazon and Unionization (AMZN)
They're against it.

Like their Silicon Valley tech confreres 700 miles to the south, unionization is the very last thing that Amazon wants.
And like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (he said modestly) I don't think public sector unions are an overall positive for the citizenry,* but as to the private sector, have at it....


Friday, September 29, 2023

"How Will the Tech Titans Behind ChatGPT, Bard, and LLaMA Make Money?"

From Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge, September 19:

It seems like anything is possible with generative AI right now. But how will companies profit from those big ideas? Andy Wu breaks down the potentially painful tradeoffs that tech firms might face as artificial intelligence enters its next phase.

The dizzying explosion of generative artificial intelligence platforms has been the big business story of the past year, but how they’ll make money and how smart companies can use them wisely are the questions that will dominate the next 12 months.

“Students and executives are no longer asking whether we should adopt AI—but rather, when and how to do so,” says Andy Wu, the Arjun and Minoo Melwani Family Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.

Wu’s recent case study and background note, AI Wars and the Generative AI Value Chain, offer a crash course in ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI chatbots—as well as the dueling tech titans behind them—and probe the strategic dilemmas ahead for innovators and users. The public's fascination with the human-like aspects of chatbots may be overshadowing more fundamental questions about how companies can profit from AI, Wu says.

“I think the basic economics of a generative AI are being overlooked.”

In an interview, Wu discusses the challenging economics of AI, how business models are likely to differ from traditional software models, and some of the potentially painful tradeoffs ahead for companies such as Google, Microsoft, and others. Wu collaborated on the case study with HBS research associate Matt Higgins; HBS doctoral student Miaomiao Zhang; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student Hang Jiang.

Ben Rand: What did you find most surprising in preparing this case and why?

Andy Wu: I think the basic economics of a generative AI are being overlooked. There are significant unanswered questions in terms of how people will actually make money with this technology. Google and OpenAI and others can't lose money in perpetuity. But it’s not yet obvious to anyone exactly how this will be monetized. At minimum, I can tell you that we are going to need new business models, and the integration of generative AI is going to transform how we monetize software and the business model.

Rand: How so?

Wu: Our notions of fixed cost and variable costs are different here than they were for any other form of computing we've lived through in the past. The key insight is that the variable cost of delivering generative AI to an end user is not zero… which means we can't necessarily be handing out future software-as-a-service applications containing generative AI for free to anyone or even as a paid subscription without usage limits as we are used to today. Usage pricing is going to be much more important.

A second distinction is that a significant portion of the core technology is open source, and a lot of the data being used to train these models is public data and may be copyrighted but is publicly available online. The barriers to entry for AI are not as high as it may seem. So many companies will be in the game, at least for specific vertical AI models and applications....

"Japan's Economy Minister Says Authorities Must Ensure End to Deflation"

 From Reuters via U.S. News & World Report, September 29:

Japan is no longer in deflation but policymakers need to ensure prices do not slide back into contraction, economy minister Yoshitaka Shindo said on Friday, suggesting authorities are still concerned about soggy consumer demand.

Policymakers must closely watch key indicators including the output gap and labour costs before they declare a complete end to deflation, Shindo said....

"Humanitarian Imperialism Created the Libyan Nightmare"

As noted in the introduction to a 2020* post:

Libya: 3000 Camels Evacuated From Tripoli

"A seemingly endless herd..."

I blame David Cameron.
Also assorted Americans.
Maybe a resident of the Élysée, or two.
The events of 2011, across the MENA from Libya to Syria, have yet to play out.
And the history of the U.S. and UK meddling has yet to be written.
I don't think "We came, we saw, he died" is going to be the final word.

From Chris Hedges' substack, The Chris Hedges Report, September 16, 2023:

NATO’s military intervention in Libya in 2011, which overthrew the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, resulted in a chaotic and murderous failed state. Libyans pay a horrific price for this catastrophe

“We came, we saw, he died,” Hillary Clinton famously quipped when Muammar Gaddafi, after seven months of U.S. and NATO bombing, was overthrown in 2011 and killed by a mob who sodomized him with a bayonet. But Gaddafi would not be the only one to die.  Libya, once the most prosperous and one of the most stable countries in Africa, a country with free healthcare and education, the right for all citizens to a home, subsidized electricity, water and gasoline, along with the lowest infant mortality rate and highest life expectancy on the continent, along with one of the highest literacy rates, swiftly fragmented into warring factions. There are currently two rival regimes battling for control in Libya, along with an array of rogue militias. 

The chaos that followed Western intervention saw weapons from the country’s arsenals flood the black market, with many snatched up by groups such as the Islamic State. Civil society ceased to function. Journalists captured images of migrants from Nigeria, Senegal and Eritrea being beaten and sold as slaves to work in fields or on construction sites. Libya’s infrastructure, including its electrical grids, aquifers, oil fields and dams, fell into disrepair. And when the torrential rains from Storm Daniel —  the climate crisis being another gift to Africa from the industrialized world — overwhelmed two decrepit dams, walls of water 20 feet high raced down to flood the port of Derna and Benghazi, leaving up to 20,000 dead according to Abdulmenam Al-Gaiti, Mayor of Derna, and some 10,000 missing. 

“The fragmentation of the country’s disaster management and disaster response mechanisms, as well as deteriorating infrastructure, exacerbated the enormity of the challenges. The political situation is a driver of risk,” said Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization.

Taalas told reporters last Thursday that “most of the human casualties” would have been avoided if there had been a “normally operating meteorological service” which “would have issued the [necessary] warnings and also the emergency management of this would have been able to carry out evacuations of the people.”

Western regime-change, carried out in the name of human rights under the doctrine of R2P (Responsibility to Protect), destroyed Libya - as it did Iraq - as a unified and stable nation. The flood victims are part of the tens of thousands of Libyan dead resulting from our “humanitarian intervention,” which rendered disaster relief non-existent. We bear responsibility for Libya’s prolonged suffering. But once we wreak havoc on a country in the name of saving its persecuted — regardless of whether they are being persecuted or not — we forget they exist. 

Karl Popper in “The Open Society and Its Enemies” warned against utopian engineering, massive social transformations, almost always implanted by force, and led by those who believe they are endowed with a revealed truth. These utopian engineers carry out the wholesale destruction of systems, institutions and social and cultural structures in a vain effort to achieve their vision. In the process, they dismantle the self-correcting mechanisms of incremental and piecemeal reform that are impediments to that grand vision. History is replete with murderous utopian social engineering — the Jacobins, the communists, the fascists and now, in our own age, the globalists, or neoliberal imperialists.

Libya, like Iraq and Afghanistan, fell victim to the self-delusions peddled by humanitarian interventionists — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power and Susan Rice. The Obama administration armed and backed an insurgent force that they believed would do the bidding of the U.S.  Obama in a recent post urged people to support aid agencies to alleviate the suffering of the people of Libya, a plea that ignited an understandable backlash on social media....

*The last three lines were first used as the introduction to 2019's "Libya’s Looming Contest for the Central Bank"

The events of 2011, across the MENA from Libya to Syria, have yet to play out.
And the history of the U.S. and UK meddling has yet to be written.
I don't think "We came, we saw, he died" is going to be the final word.

Here at Climateer Investing we recycle!

Some of our Libya posts:

January 2018
Mr. Obama, Mr. Cameron, About that Libya Thing

March 2016
"Libya Threatens to Open Migrant Floodgates Into Europe"

January 2016
US-Russian Marines Set Up Bridgehead in Eastern Libya for Campaign Against ISIS
Following up on yesterday's "Tony Blair Calls For Ground Troops Pretty Much the Across Middle East"....

August 2013
I Don't Think U.S. Middle East/North African Policy is Working So Well: "Libya on the Brink of Chaos"
Either the U.S. backing of the "Arab Spring" was a deliberate attempt to set the MENA on fire or we are governed by idiots....

May 2020
"Turkey warns Libya's Haftar of military escalation"
What the hell is Turkey doing in Libya?
I seem to recall something about "We came, We saw, He died"
And a U.S. Predator drone hitting Gaddafi's escaping convoy and then the French Air Force came screaming in.
And then the British SAS-advised NTC rebels caught Gaddafi and sodomized him with a bayonet and Leading from Behind jokes made the rounds in D.C. and David Cameron joined the Council on Foreign Relations and tried to raise a $1 billion UK-China fund but proved he's no Tony Blair in the money game but
What the hell is Turkey doing in Libya? 

Chips: The Machine At The Center Of The Effort To Keep Moore's Law On Track

 From IEEE Spectrum, July 29, 2023:

The next trick to tinier transistors is high-numerical-aperture EUV lithography

Over the last half-century, we’ve come to think of Moore’s Law—the roughly biennial doubling of the number of transistors in a given area of silicon, the gains that drive computing forward—as something that just happens, as though it were a natural, inevitable process, akin to evolution or aging. The reality, of course, is much different. Keeping pace with Moore’s Law requires almost unimaginable expenditures of time, energy, and human ingenuity—thousands of people on multiple continents and endless acres of some of the most complex machinery on the planet.

Perhaps the most essential of these machines performs extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) photolithography. EUV lithography, the product of decades of R&D, is now the driving technology behind the past two generations of cutting-edge chips, used in every top-end smartphone, tablet, laptop, and server in the last three years. Yet Moore’s Law must march on, and chipmakers continue to advance their road maps, meaning they’ll need to shrink device geometries even further....


Supervisors At World's Largest Copper Deposit Will Go On Strike

We normally don't relay this type of mining company news because the employees, the companies and probably most importantly the national governments, have huge incentives to keep the product flowing.

In this case however, the copper market is so finely balanced on the supply/demand knife-edge that the reality and the perception of the reality will have an impact on prices.

From Reuters via Yahoo Finance, September 29:

The union of supervisors at Chile's Escondida mine is gearing up to strike at the world's largest copper deposit and is almost certain to reject a contract offer from mine owner BHP, the union's president said on Friday.

Though the sprawling Escondida mine could continue to operate even if supervisors walked off the job, a strike could lead to production bottlenecks or slowdowns.

"I have no doubt that the strike will win," union head Alexis Barrera said in an interview, adding that nearly all members have already cast their votes.

Voting on a proposal from BHP, a multinational miner, closes on Friday afternoon. There was no immediate comment from BHP.

The government could launch a five-day mediation process that can be extended another five days if the parties come close to reaching a deal....


If interested our last comment on copper supply/demand was the outro from September 26's "Germany: Copper theft hits crucial infrastructure, business". 

For the second and third time in the last couple months copper futures have declined to the $3.62 - 3.64 area and bounced:

 Copper Chart Daily


While at the same time setting a series of lower highs, usually a bearish sign.
It can get confusing.  

"Parasite in Baltimore-area drinking water may harm elderly, children, immunocompromised"

From the Baltimore Banner, September 28:

Those with compromised immune systems should filter or boil water before drinking, officials said

Low levels of the parasite Cryptosporidium were discovered in Druid Lake Reservoir, one of two open-air reservoirs that feed into the water supply for parts of Baltimore City and Baltimore County, as well as Howard County, the city Department of Public Works informed the public Thursday.

Cryptosporidium, or crypto for short, is known to cause gastrointestinal problems, especially among those with compromised immune systems, as well as the elderly and children, according to a release from the department.

Those with weakened immune systems and “other sensitive populations” are advised to drink bottled water, boil water for one minute before using, or filter tap water. People should discuss with their health care provider whether children and older adults should take these same precautions if they have concerns, said Dr. Tamara Green, chief medical officer for the Baltimore City Health Department.

According to Baltimore City’s advisory, people with compromised immune systems include those with HIV/AIDS, inherited diseases that affect the immune system, or cancer, and organ transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs.

Green said the current low level of contamination in the water supply means the risk of developing symptoms of cryptosporidiosis — the disease caused by a crypto infection — is low for the general population with healthy immune systems. The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include stomach cramps, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever or weight loss. People who are infected may not experience symptoms....


Maintaining a clean safe water supply is one of the basic functions of municipal government. And it is pretty important; there was a cryptosporidiosis outbreak in Milwaukee (thanks to the all-knowing one, Wikipedia) that killed 69 people and cost over a half-billion dollars to ameliorate.

In other basic functions of government news:

Baltimore mayoral candidate reacts to alarming state test results: 40% of city high schools show zero proficiency in math

As noted in our Independence Day 2023 post:

In Virginia 84 percent of Black students lack proficiency in mathematics and 85 percent of Black students lack proficiency in reading skills.
The teachers unions and the rest of the educational-industrial complex have achieved what the slave codes and anti-literacy laws could not....


If interested, here is Virginia's 1831 amendment to the existing slave laws:

6. Be it further enacted, That if any white person, for pay or compensation, shall assemble with any slaves for the purpose of teaching, and shall teach any slave to read or write, such person, or any white person or persons contracting with such teacher so to act, who shall offend as aforesaid, shall, for each offence, be fined at the discretion of a jury, in a sum not less than ten, nor exceeding one hundred dollars, to be recovered on an information or indictment.

The South Carolina Act of 1740:

Whereas, the having slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it enacted, that all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe, in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money”

And many, many more. Pure History has a chronological list of the slave codes, laws and acts of the various slave states.

[Black man reading newspaper by candlelight]

[Black man reading newspaper by candlelight] ca. 1863, U.S. Library of Congress

  • Title: [Black man reading newspaper by candlelight]
  • Creator(s): Stephens, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1824-1882, artist
  • Date Created/Published: [ca. 1863]
  • Medium: 1 drawing : watercolor.
  • Summary: Man reading a newspaper with headline, "Presidential Proclamation, Slavery," which refers to the Jan. 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
  • Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ds-16192 (digital file from original) CaLC-USZC4-2442 (color film copy transparency) CbLC-USZCN4-285 (color film copy neg.) CcLC-USZCN4-311 (color film copy neg.)
  • Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
  • Access Advisory: Restricted access: Materials in this collection are often extremely fragile; most originals cannot be served.
  • Call Number: CAI - Stephens (H.L.), no. 1 (A size) [P&P]
  • Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Amazon's Zoox to spend $12,000,000.00 to expand into new space in Hayward California.

 From Intelligence360, September 25:

According to state and local development sources, Zoox plans to invest $12,000,000.00 to build out new space in Hayward. The company plans to occupy the new space at 25810 Clawiter Rd in Hayward, on or about July 1, 2024. According to the company website Zoox was founded to make personal transportation safer, cleaner, and more enjoyable for everyone. To achieve that goal, the team created a whole new form of transportation. Zoox will provide mobility-as-a-service in dense urban environments...


The San Francisco Business Times added:
...Among Hayward Exchange’s other tenants is Amazon Web Services, which pre-leased some 275,000 square feet of space there for a data center in 2022....

"Tesla sued for ‘severe’ racial harassment at its California factory, again"

From The Verge:

Black employees were subjected to repeated and pervasive racial slurs and racist imagery while working at Tesla, a civil rights agency claims in its lawsuit. 

Tesla subjected Black employees at its California factory to “severe or pervasive racial harassment” and helped perpetuate a hostile work environment for employees of color, according to a lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Racist slurs and epithets and race-based stereotyping “permeated Tesla’s Fremont Factory subjecting Black employees to racial hostility and offenses,” the agency alleges. Black employees were also fired or subject to retaliation after raising complaints about their treatment, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit includes a lot of the language that was alleged to be used at Tesla’s factory and has also been echoed by former Black employees of the company in their own lawsuits. The EEOC said:

Slurs were used casually and openly in high-traffic areas and at worker hubs. Black employees regularly encountered graffiti, including variations of the N-word, swastikas, threats, and nooses, on desks and other equipment, in bathroom stalls, within elevators, and even on new vehicles rolling off the production line.

Black employees described the prevalence of racist imagery as “frequent,” “constant,” “a regular thing,” and occurring “too many times to count,” according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks “compensatory and punitive damages, and back pay for the affected workers, as well as injunctive relief designed to reform Tesla’s employment practices to prevent such discrimination in the future.”....

....MUCH MORE, including the complaint 

See also:

"DOJ, SEC Investigate Tesla Over Secret Glass House Project"

"Biden administration SUES Elon Musk's SpaceX for 'only hiring US citizens' and 'discouraging' asylum seekers and refugees from applying for jobs

"Investigation of Musk’s Neuralink targets federal oversight of animal testing

It's time to look into The Boring Company and xAI

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Scandal: "Winklevoss twins secretly withdrew $280M in assets before crypto firm collapsed: sources" (plus Bankman-Fried faces long sentence and Patty Smyth comments)

 From the New York Post, September 27:

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss secretly withdrew more than $280 million held by their crypto company’s bank — mere months before the firm’s collapse left the twins’ customers unable to access their deposits, The Post has learned.

The Winklevoss twins, best known for their bitter feud with former Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg over control of Facebook, have lately been embroiled in another nasty legal battle — this time with billionaire Barry Silbert, whose company Digital Currency Group owns the now-bankrupt crypto bank Genesis.

The twins are cofounders of Gemini, a once-rising digital currency exchange that has been plagued this year by layoffs and plunging trading volume.

Some $900 million in Gemini customer deposits were frozen last Nov. 16, after Genesis was exposed to the meltdown of disgraced Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX empire and forced to suspend withdrawals.

The feud between the Winklevoss twins and Silbert is centered around Gemini Earn — an interest-bearing account program that they billed to customers as a way to earn 8% annual interest on their digital currency deposits....


Also in Scandal:

Sam Bankman-Fried warned by judge he may face ‘very long sentence’ if convicted   

Sam Bankman-Fried, the indicted founder of now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, may face a “very long sentence” if convicted at his fraud trial starting next week, the judge overseeing the case said Thursday.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s comments came just before he denied the 31-year-old former billionaire’s request to be released from jail temporarily during the trial to better help his lawyers mount his defense case. Kaplan said Bankman-Fried was a flight risk.

“Your client in the event of conviction could be looking at a very long sentence,” Kaplan said in a hearing in Manhattan federal court. “If things begin to look bleak … maybe the time would come when he would seek to flee.”....


And fronting Scandal, Ms Smyth:

"Nvidia offices raided by French competition authority" (NVDA; WTAF)

From The Verge, September 28:

Nvidia’s France offices were raided by the country’s competition authority over concerns about anti-competitive practices, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Nvidia’s France offices were raided by the country’s competition authority this week, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. While the French agency doesn’t mention Nvidia by name, it confirms it carried out a raid over concerns about anti-competitive practices in the graphics cards industry.

Sources tell the WSJ that French authorities specifically targeted Nvidia, which has seen demand for its chips skyrocket in recent months. Several companies, including Microsoft and OpenAI, have purchased thousands of the company’s high-end AI chips to power large language models.

That massive demand resulted in a lot more money for Nvidia. The chipmaker reported earning a record revenue of $13.51 billion in its latest report, marking a 101 percent increase at the same time last year. Nvidia’s valuation briefly crossed the trillion-dollar mark in May as a result of the AI boom....


And the post immediately below:
"Billionaire Xavier Niel Invests €200 Million in French AI Push"
  • The tycoon plans a future research lab to be located in Paris
  • His cloud group partners with Nvidia for supercomputing power

"Billionaire Xavier Niel Invests €200 Million in French AI Push"

 From Bloomberg, September 26:

  • The tycoon plans a future research lab to be located in Paris
  • His cloud group partners with Nvidia for supercomputing power

Billionaire Xavier Niel is investing €200 million ($212 million) in artificial intelligence, split between a future research lab to be located in Paris, cloud supercomputing capabilities powered by Nvidia Corp. hardware, and funding for startups.

The effort aims to lure top French AI engineers — who left to work for big tech firms — back to their home country, where they can build AI products to rival the likes of OpenAI, Niel said in an interview.

The race for AI dominance has intensified geopolitical rivalries as countries seek to harness the technology’s potential for economic growth and influence. Policymakers have rushed to intervene to ensure that their countries aren’t sidelined in the process.

“We don’t want our cloud and AI to be based on algorithms or machines localized in other countries,” Niel said. The danger is being dominated by American or Chinese technology “because they have the means,” he said.

The telecom tycoon believes there is still room for disruption coming from Europe in the AI space. “When you get rich and big, you’re slow, and that’s why startups always kill big companies,” he said.

Half of the investment will be allocated to an independent research lab in Paris, run by a nonprofit foundation. Codenamed “Sphere,” it will bring together top AI researchers and will be supported in part by Niel’s telecommunications group Iliad, parent of cloud-computing firm Scaleway, according to people familiar with the plan.

“When you go to any AI lab in the world, you’ll find that there are always researchers from French schools,” such as top universities Polytechnique and ENS, Niel said. “Our challenge is how to make them stay here, or come back if they are abroad.”....


We'll just rework the phrase "Go big or go home" into "Go big and come home."

Previously on French AI:

July 17, 2023:  "...Big Tech Alumni building AI startups in Paris"
June 18: "France makes high-profile push to be the A.I. hub of Europe setting up challenge to U.S., China"
June 11: "Report: France's Macron Seeks Seat at AI Table"

And back into the mists of time (well, the twenty-teens):

"French government officials advocate for a €500m investment in blockchain technology"
The country might be better served adding to the €1.5 billion that President Macron has pledged for research in Artificial Intelligence.
But I might be biased....
France: "For Emmanuel Macron, AI is more than a technological revolution. It is a political revolution of hope in an increasingly dystopian future"
"The Race is On for European AI Research"
Profit From The Global Riot Control Industry
"The Top-10 French Artificial Intelligence Startups"
The Creator of the iPod and the iPhone Seeks to Dethrone Tech’s Giants
It’s a crisp January morning in Paris’s 13th Arrondissement, and outside Station F, the former freight terminal that is the epicenter of France’s startup scene, twentysomethings climb out of cars hailed using iPhone apps.
Tony Fadell’s Next Act? Taking on Silicon Valley—From Paris

"‘The Disruptors’ — Unique insight into Europe’s 1,600 AI startups (Part 2)"
I was about to headline this link "The 1600 AI Startups you must know" to play off the "672 thought leaders you must follow on Twitter" or the "37,000 young people who want to take your job" articles but then realized our wary-yet-intrigued readers are not the type of people who respond well to someone saying they 'must' do anything.

"US Shale Giant Agrees With JPMorgan: Oil Headed For $150" (plus a huge tell on the market)

 From ZeroHedge, September 27:

Slowly but surely, the market is waking up to a jarring realization: the price of oil is now higher than where it was a year ago, and also where it was right before the start of the Ukraine war, but in the meantime the Biden administration has drained 240 million barrels of oil in pursuit of short-term popularity gains. Alas, those gains are now all gone, as are the oil price declines, but the SPR is down to half of where it was at its peak.

What happens next is even less pleasant.

As JPM discussed last week when it predicted the return of the oil "supercycle", crude is about to rise much higher as a result of what JPM sees as a staggering 7mmb/d deficit by 2030...

... but also other factors as follows:

  • higher for longer rates tempering the flow of capital into new supply,
  • higher cost of equity driving elevated Cash Breakevens of >$75/bbl Brent (post buybacks) as companies return structurally more cash to shareholders, in turn, pushing the marginal cost of oil higher,
  • Institutional and policy led pressures driving an accelerated transition away from hydrocarbons and peak demand fears. Taken together, their corollary is a self-reinforcing ‘higher-for-longer’ energy macro outlook as the industry struggles to justify large investments beyond 2030.

JPM also upgraded global energy equities to overweight for the following reasons:

  1. More positive macro outlook (preference is oil over gas owing to the former’s structurally positive characteristics and lower OPEC-mitigated volatility),
  2. in-the-money corporate cash breakevens (vs the forward strip), implying ~12% ‘24 FCF yields rising to ~15% at $100/bbl,
  3. Upside risks to EPS (we are ~10% higher than the street in 2024 (on MTM basis) having been ~10% below in January),
  4. Attractive valuations relative to the market underpinned by cash return yields >30%,
  5. In the event that global inventories continue to fall and a rising oil price environment, OPEC is likely to add in the next 12 months. Historically, this has been supportive for energy equities as it typically indicates improving underlying fundamentals (demand) – we show energy equities tend to outperform and positively decouple to oil on production adds (we note that although oil prices are up 30% since June when Saudi initiated the 1mb/d cut, equities have lagged, only up ~10% i.e. negatively decoupled).

While there was much more in the full note (read here), the bank's thesis could be summarized in a simple price target: $150 oil. But the largest US bank is not the only one expecting oil to soar by more than 50% from its current price.

Continental Resources, the shale driller controlled by billionaire Harold Hamm, agrees that oil is headed as high as $150 a barrel unless the US government does more to encourage exploration, 

Crude output in the Permian Basin will one day peak as it already has in rival shale regions such as the Bakken region of North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas, Continental Chief Executive Officer Doug Lawler said during an interview with Bloomberg TV. Without new production, “you’re going to see $120 to $150” oil, he said.

“That’s going to send a shock through the system,” he said. Without policies encouraging new drilling, “you’re going to see more pressure on price.”....


In October 2022 we posted "Something Very Important Happened In The Oil & Gas Business This Week" Skipping past the intro:

....So, with that rather longer than usual introduction we see this brief little note at Reuters, October 17, 2022:

Founder Harold Hamm clinches deal to take shale producer Continental private

Continental Resources Inc (CLR.N) said on Monday it had agreed to a sweetened offer from founder Harold Hamm to take the U.S. shale oil producer private at a valuation of about $27 billion.

Hamm, a legendary oilman who once called the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries a "toothless tiger," said in June that he wanted to take the company private because public markets have not supported the oil and gas industry.....


We'll have more on this and what it might mean for oil & gas and for the wider markets but this post is already lengthier than I had intended.

Sorry 'bout that.