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.