Naked Capitalism: Nurturing Our Community of Critical Thinkers During the Pandemic Years…And Some Good News Stories

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

It’s that time of year again: the annual Naked Capitalism fundraiser.

Which I always look forward to, as I get to write one of my favorite posts of the year and thank you, the Naked Capitalism community, for reading my posts, and for your astute and thoughtful comments. The Naked Capitalism commentariat is the best commentariat and it’s a privilege to write for you.

Keeping this community alive and flourishing has become especially important in these dire COVID times. Trust in public institutions has eroded badly since the great financial crisis through the age of Trump. This collapse has accelerated during the pandemic, as the specter of climate disaster looms in the background or appears in the foreground via wildfires or weather calamities. So if you appreciate our efforts to build a community in the face of this decline, you can make your contribution here, via check (we like checks!), debit or credit card, or PayPal.

Much of the mainstream media pushed the line that the return of Democrats – the adults in the room –  to the halls of power would restore some sanity to our national politics. Hah!  Alas, in the public health arena, as in so many others, as Joe Biden famously forewarned, nothing fundamental has changed.

Naked Capitalism has become a go-to spot for unbiased, critical COVID coverage, for two reasons. Yves has assembled a knowledgeable COVID brain trust: IM Doc, GM, Ignacio, and KLG. They call things as they see them and they ask – and try to answer – questions with which neither the World Health Organization (WHO), nor the federal agencies charged with formulating U.S. public health policy have grappled appropriately.

Equally important is the role readers play in shaping the scope of coverage and the discussion of posts. You’ve refused to settle for the poorly reasoned, ill-informed, ideologically-driven COVID coverage that members of the blue and red teams and their media enablers regularly spout. Your interest and engagement have ensured that NC’s COVID posts and Links regularly spark lively, informed debate. Not sloganeering and bullshit.

Now, one thing I’ve learned from IM Doc is that the hysteria that characterizes mainstream COVID coverage is largely misplaced. The pandemic has been awful for the overwhelming majority of us – not to mention the millions world-wide who’ve succumbed to the disease or who’ve ‘recovered’-  but now find themselves suffering ongoing health effects, such as long COVID. But that doesn’t mean a perpetual state of hysteria and panic is a rational response.

And let’s not forget, for big Tech and especially, big Pharma, COVID has been a bonanza. Recent news reports have focused on the billions in profits that Pfizer and Moderna have booked during the pandemic. And they’re not alone. That gravy train won’t stop anytime soon. Our current COVID policy makes no sense unless one views it through less-than-rosy, profit seeking glasses.

For those who seek a sane place to debate COVID that’s neither a haven for red or blue thinking, this is it. But keeping the lights on here requires money. And neither Big Pharma, nor Big Tech, nor their co-conspirators – I’m looking at you, Gates Foundation – is interested in funding reasoned, thoughtful takes on where we are, and where we need to move to next.

So, readers, it’s up to you. Please support our efforts. Every dollar helps. Give whatever you can, whether it’s $5, $50, or $5,000, via our Tip Jar. If you can give a lot, give a lot. if you can only afford to give a little, give a little. If you can’t afford to contribute money, please share and discuss our posts with your friends and family.

Despite being the biggest story of our time, COVID isn’t our only focus here. On the  weekends every fortnight when I DJ the site, I follow an unofficial, personal rule: unless events overwhelmingly dictate otherwise, at least half and usually three of the four original and cross-posts I upload focus on issues other than the pandemic. Of course, the normal ration of Links always includes ample COVID coverage. Yet I suppose I’m not alone in being unable to wallow exclusively in the COVID swamp, a fate which would lead me to go mad. Instead, I try and highlight non-COVID issues in many of the posts I write or feature.

First and foremost, a common NC theme as long as I’ve been reading the site, let alone writing for it, is corruption of the political system. The basic rule here: follow the money. With the replacement of Trump by Biden, the members of the band may be different, but they still sing the same old tunes.  And those who pay the piper call the tunes. Following the money is especially important when analyzing legal and regulatory issues.

Another topic of great interest to readers: global environmental catastrophe. That means climate change, for sure. But not to the exclusion of other threats: the ubiquity of plastics, a problem that is only worsening as our elites seem to think the recycling fairy alone will fix the mess. Other environmental doomsday scenarios include the loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, and other ways humans continue to degrade the ecosystem, via use of chemicals: pesticides, forever chemicals. glyphosate, phthalates, among others.

Now, whenever I curate Links, I always seek out positive stories, to offset the overwhelming tone of doom and gloom that otherwise predominates. So, in a similar vein, I’ll close by discussing two such positive stories. One thing Noam Chomsky emphasized when I studied with him in the early 1980s was never to succumb to despair. I don’t always succeed in resisting that temptation, especially now as I splash around in the COVID slough of despond. But I try. To those of you who appreciate such efforts, the Tip Jar is over there.

The first issue, which I’ve been covering for a while:  the right to repair. Biden threw his support behind the concept in an executive order this summer, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), led by new chair, Lina Khan, has announced a new aggressive enforcement policy.

Last week, Apple – a noted right to repair opponent – executed a major climbdown, reversing its position that automatically disabled the new iPhone’s facial recognition function unless screen repairs were completed by Apple or special third party repair services. Apple’s original stance threatened the economic survival of non-anointed third party repair services, as screen repair accounts for a big chunk of their revenues. A cynic might say that Apple may merely have read the tea leaves  and realized that its hardline stance was just tempting the FTC to make an example out of it. Or maybe, Apple decided to listen to its customers for a change.

Looking forward, I predict further moves ahead on the right to repair front, which would be a boon for consumers. Why should company anti-repair policies force you to replace goods you own when a simple repair could extend a product’s useful life? Not to mention, prevent you from chucking it, thus contributing to the world’s waste crisis.

During the past year, another area from which good news has emerged is the sports desk. I come from a sports mad family. I’m a proud third-generation New York Yankees fan and I also follow soccer (aka, football), and cricket.  I noticed from the response to sports links I’ve posted that many members of the commentariat have at least a passing interest in sports, with some deeply knowledgeable about such topics.

The mainstream media doesn’t cover the political economy of sports very well, in spite of the huge amounts of money sloshing around the sports universe. Just the other day, I spotted a news item that ranked the top 50 paid state employees, all of whom were either basketball or (American) football coaches at public universities. Sports coverage tends either to praise jocks or lionize management and owners.

Yet sports is one area where a kid, from whatever background, who possesses exceptional gifts (and drive, and is also blessed with luck) – can enter the 1%.  I appreciate that the vast majority of athletes, most of whom don’t even attain the Bull Durham level, never see such levels of riches. (I mention here how Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United and England international footballer, has used his sports fame not merely to enrich himself but to force the UK government to change its food policy for school kids. Kudos!)

States have enacted measures to enable  ‘student athletes’ to benefit from licensing their names, images, and licenses – aka, to make endorsements. The major college administrative organization, the NCAA, has bowed to the inevitable and allowed such licensing to proceed. Further, this June, the current Supreme Court – including the Trump trio – issued a per curiam antitrust opinion, signalling further attention to college sports issues is likely.

The bottom line: the previous status quo – where ‘student athletes’ generated vast revenues for their universities, while seeing little of it themselves – will now change. And that’s a good thing. Or so I think. Yet the devil will be in the details.  Allowing college athletes to ink endorsement deals doesn’t appear to pose a threat to college revenues per se. More fundamental issues of compensation are a different matter entirely. I’ll be closely watching this area to see what the future holds.

So, I close by repeating, the Tip Jar is over there. I look forward to continuing to write for this audience of critical thinkers and to learning from your comments and criticisms. Thanks for your generous support! Long may the Naked Capitalism community flourish.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Thanks for all your hard work over the year, Jerri-lynn. Its always nice to be able to guess who did the links by the type of post chosen – I really like some more lighthearted and less political content.

  2. GramSci

    Yes, thank you Jerri-Lynn, especially for covering all the non-CO2 pollution we’re swimming in. When we were fighting oil drilling in the Everglades, Floridians had (and still have) their heads in the sand about CO2, but a couple of years later they turned around and delivered a strong state constitutional amendment to fund the protection of water purity. That has been nullified by the Republican state government, but it is one of the few fronts on which one can see any environmental progress.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I used to get to Florida about once a year, to visit my Aunt Stel: my great aunt and godmother. She lived in Bradenton. We spent much of our time together baking, she sharing her personal recipes – poppy seed cake! – and I brought the kielbasa from NYC, as well as recipes of my own. I thought about her when I posted about the Florida red tide in August.

      You’ve given me an idea for a post. I wasn’t aware of Florida’s water purity constitutional amendment, but I will look into that issue, particularly as you say it’s been effectively nullified by subsequent state inaction. As I said above, I learn so much from reader comments. Thanks!

  3. Robert Hahl

    I loved basketball as a five-foot seven-inch teenager, so it was a thrill seeing Wilt Chamberlin’s head float by the window of a mid-town bus. He was walking with some short people (looking up), while others on the bus were gawking too. I remember feeling that being famous might not be so great after all.

  4. The Rev Kev

    Many thanks for all your hard work, Jerri-Lynn. A coupla years ago plastic was just plastic to me but now I recognize it as a clear and present danger. And it is all due to your posts & comments on the topic.

    Since you are into textiles, I will mention a five-part series on the making of pre-modern textile production that I came across on the weekend. Lots of reading with this so I am saving it for a rainy weekend-

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      I went through a similar conversion when I started focusing on the plastics topic. Now we try to ban the stuff from our household. And to spread the word!

      Thanks for the link. I never would have stumbled onto this series but for your recommendation and I too will save further reading for the weekend.

  5. mistah charley, ph.d.

    Jerri-Lynn, your mentioning Noam Chomsky rang a bell of reminiscence for me – Noam and I go back a long way, although not a deep way. In my undergraduate days, during the Vietnam War, I took a course from him, and got an A (it was “Intellectuals and Social Change” – a large lecture course – everybody got A’s).

    On a more personal level, in the early 1970s I worked in Building 20 at MIT, where Chomsky had his office – it was built of wood during World War II, and was still there three decades later (it lasted until 1998). One coffee break time we were both standing in front of a vending machine in the basement, and he asked if I had two nickels for a dime. I did. He acted just like a regular person, not a world-famous celebrity. He and I have not talked since.

  6. Susan the other

    A nice piece on NPR on the flooding in Portland, Maine. No rainstorms necessary, the high water is a high tide event which is now a regular flooding event. Because ocean rise. That pesky moon. So everybody in town is now talking about ocean rise and how to mitigate it. In addition to the wading boots, Maine is also addressing plastic and packaging pollution because it is simply too big a job for recycling and too expensive. They are making the manufacturers responsible for the packaging. Or for paying to process it. It is anticipated that this cost will be passed on to consumers. So imo it’s a little annoying that not only are we spending time sorting our recycling; we are now paying for the producers of this crap to lessen the load… I’ll be interested in what they come up with which will certainly be to their advantage.

  7. John Zelnicker

    I have to agree with PlutoniumKun, Jerri-Lynn.

    Your lighthearted posts on such topics as gardening and cooking have been a valuable addition to Naked Capitalism. It’s rejuvenating to get a break from the very serious threats we are facing in the country and the world.

    In addition, we are blessed with your legal expertise and critical analysis of important court cases, along with your focus on Right to Repair and plastics. Like The Rev Kev, your posts on plastics have made me much more aware and now I’m working to eliminate as much plastic from my life as possible.

    Sadly, it’s a difficult challenge.

  8. Ellery O'Farrell

    Yes, thank you, Jerri-Lynn–and everyone! As many have already said, this is the best site for news and financial analysis on the web. I’ve become dependent on it since I first found it in, I think, 2007.

    I’d like to toss a little good news into New Yorkers’ pot: starting next April, we’ve cut the time for suing on a debt in half, from six years to three. And neither making a partial payment nor affirming the debt (even in writing) extends the time. On top of that, starting next May the procedures for suing on a debt will be tightened.

    Need to do some digging, but as far as I can tell this applies to mortgages as well as any other debt that’s being sued on in a New York court. Of course, since this hasn’t taken effect yet, much less been tested in court, we don’t know whether it will be as good as it sounds.

    But it sounds like very good news.

    1. Ellery O'Farrell

      I’ve already thought of some dodges lenders, particularly mortgage lenders, might use to weaken this law. Oh, well.

      It’s still good news. Just not as good as I initially hoped.

  9. Basil Pesto

    Many thanks and warm regards J-LS and I hope you continue to post longer reads on food, and links on football, cricket and literature (and on the nexus of all three of those things I’ll quote, hopefully accurately, the great American writer Harry Mathews, who was reflecting on tennis iirc: “why ever hesitate to recognize the beauty of athletes?”)

    I would add that, with a couple of exceptions in the guardian football deck (from David Conn in particular), I agree about the MSM coverage about the political economy of professional sport. A few months ago I sent this link, don’t remember if it was featured, about the trillion dollar gambling game in world football, which I thought was very good (I’m familiar with the writer, Auclair, from the Arsenal scene). One thing I find interesting is to compare the pitchside and jersey advertising over the years. Broadly: from none, to local businesses, to multinationals and some blue-chips, to esoteric east asian Bonkers corps of an apparently grifty disposition. It’s fascinating. Anyway, I’ve since marked Josimar as a site to keep an eye on.

    Also now seems like the right time to share before I forget: though I didn’t get around to watching it, I saw the film ‘The Grand Bizarre’ synopsised on Mubi, and thought it sounded right up your street:

    A playful trip around the world, through its fabrics and textiles and their place in a busy international market.

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      Thanks for the recommendations. The film does indeed sound right up my street and I’m always on the lookout for interesting reads on sporting issues.

  10. Brunches with Cats

    Jerri-Lynn, seeing your byline on the links always makes me smile, knowing we’re in for a treat, something different, something unexpected. I didn’t realize how deliberate this was on your part, so thank you for the explanation — and for the great links and colorful birds. They always remind me of brightly colored fabrics. How you manage to keep finding new ones is impressive.

    Your observation that NC has become the “go-to spot for unbiased, critical COVID coverage” is spot on, and thanks for mentioning IM Doc, GM, Ignacio, and KLG. The second fundraising goal was met so fast that I missed the window to leave a comment to the effect that no discussion about the commentariat would be complete without acknowledging their contributions — along with the many valuable insights and on-the-ground reports from others in the NC community who work or have connections in the healthcare field.

    Most of all, I appreciate your coverage of micro-plastics, especially as they relate to fast fashion and the overall crapification of clothing. Wherever I go anymore where clothing is sold — whether it’s speeding through Walmart or perusing the racks at the local thrift store — your reports and commentary are spinning in my mind.

    Regarding the fundraiser … last year, I was lamenting not being being able to give more, when a comment popped up by another reader in similar financial straits who said that $60 wasn’t within their means, but they could absorb $5/month. I took that idea to heart and set up a recurring $5/month donation via PayPal, scheduled near the first of the month after the disability check arrives. I didn’t set an end date, because I figured I could cancel it at any time if I had to. I just logged into PayPal and saw that the recurring donations have totaled $70 to date. Honestly, I’ve never missed it. Since Social Security is set for a whopping 5.9% cost-of-living increase in January — the biggest since 2008 — I wanted to send an additional buck a month (a 20 percent increase, woo-hoo), but I couldn’t figure out how to edit the payment or to replace it with an updated one. The “help” feature was absolutely useless. If anyone knows how, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll just leave the current setup in place and donate a few extra bucks here and there as I can.

    One last big THANK YOU to Yves, Lambert, Jerri-Lynn, guest writers, and to JULES. It might seem like you’re invisible, but your presence is felt.

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