As we describe longer-form in our accompanying kickoff post, it’s getting crazier and crazier in the breakdown lane of late-stage capitalism. Below we recap how we’ve endeavored to make sense of this treacherous terrain over the last 13 1/2 months since our last fundraiser, with the considerable and extremely valuable input of our knowledgeable commentariat.
Crass hint: Since we are late in making our annual appeal, we hope that those of you in a position to be really generous will do so, since you got six weeks more programming than you bargained for in last year’s fundraiser. So please swing by the Tip Jar right now, which tells you how to give via check, cash or debit card, and support our work.
And those of you who are prospering despite (or even due to) Covid-19, another reason to dig even deeper this year is that some of your friends here at the site may not be able to contribute as much as they’d like. The Tip Jar is calling your name.
After all, where else can you find incisive commentary, lively and often funny debate, one-stop news, and cute animal pictures?
What We Did Last Year: Bringing You the Future Early
2021 was tough: More need to stretch our thin resources to keep on top of Covid and health industry developments as important in and of themselves and for the political economy; more and more ideology- and hopium-driven than factual reporting from the mainstream media, making it harder to pull signal out of the noise; vastly more aggressive social media policing for conformity; continued search engine down-ranking of independent sites, making it hard for new readers to find us.
The past year again showed Naked Capitalism to be right and early, just as we were when we launched this site to chronicle the coming financial crisis.
In 2021, an underlying theme for many big stories was the lack of operational competence of large organizations, most visibly governments but also critically important private sector players, ranging from hospital systems and pharmacy benefit managers to electrical utilities to truckers. In the UK, the Government apparently still has not come to grips with the logistical and IT implications of having hard borders. This is a distressing contrast with the financial crisis, where even if you objected strenuously to how Paulson, Bernanke, and Geithner went about addressing the meltdown, they did do an impressive job of delivering on their objectives. And they were sleep deprived and stressed out for months on end; Paulson’s memoir confesses that he regularly threw up. By contrast, I see no evidence of Rochelle Walensky of the CDC or the sainted Dr. Fauci even breaking a sweat despite over 750,000 Americans dying of Covid.
In too many essential arenas, top leaders having grown up as symbol manipulators rather than in complex and breakdown-prone physical production. That has produced diseased managements who hold low-level workers in contempt and tend to think anyone who brings a problem to them must not have been clever enough to solve it. These reflexes have become so widespread that many institutions seem incapable of even mapping the full scope of a problem properly, let alone being able to devise and execute a plan for addressing it.
As Lambert has put it, these critical functions are failing to be Jackpot-ready.
We first discussed the problem of what we called organizational capacity in connection with the Greek bailout negotiations of 2015. We said then for Greece to leave the Eurozone would require a war-level mobilization, something clearly beyond what its austerity-crippled government could do. We made a similar observation about the UK and Brexit. We pointed out last year how Covid tested many systems, such as the ability to produce and deliver tests and PPE, and to manage quarantines and contact tracing, and often found them wanting (cf. Belshazzar’s Feast). The officialdom and business leaders are deer-in-the-headlight mode with widespread and interlocking supply chain failures. And even if the Davos crowd were willing to accept how many rice bowls would have to be broken to prevent a climate disaster, symbol manipulators lack the imagination and the systems-building skills to implement the enormous changes that would need to occur.
We expanded our coverage last year while still keeping our high standards:
Tracking Covid-19. Here, Naked Capitalism, both our writers and our commentariat, showed how powerful vetting information can be. The extensive input of our readers, who have provided links to important studies and news, as well as sightings from their own countries and communities, has given us an information advantage. The most important has been ongoing commentary from our Covid brain trust, Ignacio, IM Doc, GM, and KLG. In addition to IM Doc and Ignacio providing important posts, such as IM Doc calling out the New England Journal of Medicine paper on the Pfizer vaccine as cheerleading, all four have regularly supplied important observations in the comments section. Even more important to Lambert and me, they both provide and react to new papers and articles, helping assure that our takes are well grounded.
Readers have regularly cited Naked Capitalism as having the best coverage of Covid, outdoing the mainstream media. We were early to recognize that the rapid spread in Hubei and the severity of China’s responses meant the risk of global contagion was high. We were early to recognize the danger to front-line workers, particularly in the medical industry. We focused on aerosol transmission instantly, as soon as there was data. We were early to be skeptical that a vaccine would be through clinical trials and in distribution soon enough to prevent severe economic dislocations. We were early to recognize that the PPP loans were stopgaps, and significant failures of small businesses were coming if there wasn’t a second relief package (and the Biden Administration concurred). Thanks to Hubert Horan, we were early to warn of the deep and lasting damage to the airline industry and how it would need more bailouts. Although we initially fell in with CDC and WHO guidance on masks, we were early to reverse course and endorse them.
We were early recognize that the US was putting all of its Covid response eggs in the “magic vaccines” basket, and urged readers to implement other protection strategies, like ventilation and masking, recognizing that the vaccines did not confer durable or sterilizing immunity. We were early to see that Delta was much more contagious than wild type Covid, and it would become dominant in the US as it had in India. As a result, we recognized as soon as it was announced that the CDC’s May “Mission Accomplished” anti-masking approach would fail and would be reversed (but not successfully due to muddied messaging).
We were early to dispute the orthodoxy about children not being contagion vectors. We were early to warn of the dangers besides mortality, like lung and kidney damage, as well as “long Covid.” We were even early, actually alone, in predicting that Rochelle Walensky was not competent to run the CDC. Lambert has been particularly diligent about providing links to and write-ups of important studies and updating his Water Cooler graphs.
Analyzing supply chain crises. Building on Lambert’s keen interest in ships, trucks, and trains, we’ve drilled into the supply chain crisis and strongly believe it won’t resolve quickly or neatly. Fragile, extended and tightly coupled supplier networks are vulnerable to cascading failures. Not only will the US port backlog/trucking mess not resolve itself as quickly as the pundits believe absent concerted Federal action (which we don’t see happening), but high energy costs and off and on factory closures in China due to electricity shortages and Covid shutdowns are creating even more shortfalls for consumers and producers.
We anticipate that supply chain problems alone could sink the already-foundering Biden presidency. Citizens are not taking well to shortages of critical medications, and those are set to get worse. Continuing supply chain problems will also hamstring a weakening economy.
Expanding our geographic and subject reach by adding Nick Corbishley to our team. Nick has broadened our coverage with important stories outside the US, such as Mexico barring glyphosate and GMOs, banking industry woes, such as IT failings, upheaval in Italy, and NHS failings.
Watching Gaia. We have only one planet and we’re very highly adapted to it, even though space-happy squillionaires fantasize otherwise. Fights over limited resources and who bears the cost of pollution and remediation will only become more acute. We continue to provide extensive and often in-depth coverage of events and systems in the biosphere, like species loss (bees, other insects, and birds), soil, rivers, coral, bears, salmon, and bogs, and the larger issue of whether the biosphere can be priced, as well as efforts to reverse or limit damage, like the wars on plastic and fast fashion, the right to repair, and regular highlights in Links of promising technologies.
Scanning for the Jackpot. Although the Jackpot cuts across multiple categories (corrupt and incompetent elites, Covid and pending medical disasters, like the increase of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and accelerating damage to the biosphere), considering it as an emergent phenomenon enables the commentariat to look at political responses and personal/local efforts to minimize damage, like permaculture.
Dogging CalPERS. Even readers who have no interest in public pension funds have become fans of CalPERS as a soap opera of institutional dysfunction, which also provides entertaining insights into California’s oligarchical functionaries.
Following feral hogs. We are leaders in feral hog reporting… although some might confuse that with CalPERS.
Some of our accomplishments are continuing core activities:
Upholding rigorous standards of reporting and analysis in the face of a captured and credulous mainstream media. We challenge you to identify another publisher that does as much as we do with so little. In addition to our Covid-19 coverage, other fresh examples are Nick Corbishley’s analysis of economic and political developments in the Spanish speaking world and Italy, Jerri-Lynn’s reporting on important litigation, such as the opioid settlements and the Texas abortion law, and Hubert Horan outlining why Covid-bled airlines are getting no-strings-attached bailouts.
Getting first dibs on Michael Hudson’s posts. Michael Hudson graciously and regularly gives NC the first publication opportunity because he likes you! Or at least most of you :-)
Maintaining expanded Links and overall writer effort. Due to increased news and noise flow, we increased the coverage of our daily Links feature during the Trump era from a former maximum of 45 articles and tweets to 55 to 60. This represents a significant extra effort, day in, day out. We have been able to maintain, and even increase, our level of original reporting and the range of our original posts by increasing our level of staffing, not just bring Nick Corbishley on board but also having Lambert take on more Links coverage and having Jerri-Lynn contribute more often.
We also continue to feature posts from our regular guest writers: Tom Neuburger, Hubert Horan, and John Siman, and this year, we’ve also been showcasing Jared Holst.
Fostering the best commentariat. Naked Capitalism depends on its commentariat. And with general stress levels high and more and more upset about censorship and hard-to-justify-as-public-health-service Covid mandates, dialogue all over the Web, including here, has gotten even more fractious. We’ve reluctantly put in more tripwires, and appreciate that most of you have borne getting caught in moderation with good humor.
Having more comments to check puts even more of a load on our already overstretched comments DJ Jules Dickson. We had hoped to bring a second person on board but that has not yet come to pass. Keep your fingers crossed that we will be able to revive that plan.
And we did this all despite my going two titanium hips towards becoming a bionic woman, having a 93-year-old mother who is getting more feeble and sadly has been diagnosed with early stage dementia, and Jerri-Lynn having a couple of medical emergencies of her own.
How This Fundraiser Works
Please give whatever you can. $5, $50, or $5000 are all appreciated. If you can only afford to give a little, then give a little. If you’re doing well, then please give more. If you are prospering from the stock market and real estate booms, we hope you’ll include us in your good fortune.
We’d like to get broad-based participation from the Naked Capitalism community. Our target is 1100 donors for this fundraiser. Some have told us they are in tough shape now and can’t give but hope to contribute when their finances recover. So if you are having a good year, can you dig deeper and give more to make up for loyal readers who can’t participate in this fundraiser?
It will all even out in the end. Everything you do – reading, commenting, giving, and sending us information and antidotes – is essential to making this community work. You can help right now by following this link to make a donation.
Our accompanying kickoff post gives a high-level view of what we’d like to do. Over the course of the fundraiser, we identify specific things that your donations will fund and tell you when we’ve hit each of these monetary goals.
The first goal is funding for digital infrastructure essentials.
This plumbing may not seem very sexy, but imagine what happens when your water is cut off or your power fails! This is a critical foundation for this site, so please help us keep it sound.
We are behind on tech tasks. For instance, only now are we transitioning off Feedburner for our AM e-mails despite Google “deprecating” it as of July. Even more important, we need to find a new web host! We are the only client of our terrific and overqualified host Keith and minding only one site has negative economies. Unfortunately, we have a pretty hard list of criteria to fill. We are allergic to “cloud” hosting (we want our data on specific racks that we know where they live). We need a host that can handle “2%” WordPress (our frequency of refresh of our very large comments database puts us in a difficulty range similar to much bigger WordPress sites like HuffPo). All things being equal, we’d prefer to be hosted in a more journalist/publisher-protective country like Iceland.
We expect our new host to be more costly. So our first target is $21,000. Once we’ve hit that, we’ll let you know what our next item is.
How to Give
There are multiple channels for donating, and you will see them all when you go to our Tip Jar. To give by check (which saves us PayPal/credit card fees), please make it out in the name of “Aurora Advisors Incorporated” and send it to:
Aurora Advisors Incorporated
164 Peachtree Circle
Mountain Brook, AL 35213
At the same time, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the headline “Check is in the mail” (and just the $ amount in the message) so we can count your contribution in the total number of donations.
Thanks again for your interest and generous support!