Twigs and branches

by John Quiggin on May 2, 2021

(Overdue again!) Another open thread, where you can comment on any topic. Moderation and standard rules still apply. Lengthy side discussions on other posts will be diverted here. Enjoy!

Note: Unfortunately there appears to be no way to turn moderation off selectively, so the discussion here will be a bit slow. Still looking into options.



nastywoman 05.03.21 at 12:59 am

I think it’s finally time to quote the GREAT Mel Brooks who –
in the NYT quoted ‘A February Economist-YouGov poll’ which asked Americans which statement is closest to their view:

“It’s a big, beautiful world, mostly full of good people, and we must find a way to embrace each other and not allow ourselves to become isolated”
“Our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and our priority should be to protect ourselves.”

And over 75 percent of Biden voters chose “a big, beautiful world while ” Two-thirds of Trump voters chose “our lives are threatened.”
AND THEN 70 percent of ALL Republicans believe that Trump is still Pretzeldent!!!

WHAT are y’all gonna do about that?!!!!


Rapier 05.03.21 at 1:47 am

Elon Musk has grossed $32 billion dollars in his latest stock option grant. That is $32,000 for every Tesla ever made. This is a purely monetary phenomena.

Democrats gave banks the responsibility for controlling the economy with Humphrey Hawkins. Nobody asking if banks can actually control the economy but they were happy to take on the job. Now it just so happens that banks and only banks create money. All money is created by bank lending which incudes the Fed because remember the Fed is a bank. Thus the Law of Instrument came into play. Since the only tool the banks have is money they figured that more money was just the ticket to fix all our problems. No doubt about it, money is popular.

We are now in the greatest monetary expansion, globally, than in any period in history by many orders of magnitude. So Musk can claim $32,000 for ever car Tesla ever made. We can assume Musk will send people to Mars, a dead planet. He’s hot to do this because he says Earth is going to be a dead planet. Am I the only one to detect something absurd in this?


Pat g 05.03.21 at 4:40 am

we won an election after forcing cosmopolitan centers to go back to precarious labor amid a deadly pandemic by letting the 600 plus up to pandemic unemployment payments lapse, changing the payments into 157$s a week.

that didn’t even pay rent for my room, let alone a house, i was given a choice of debt ( future labor with interest and an eventual eviction charge on your credit ) or immediate unsafe labor.

the rational actor there is a super spreader, no?


KT2 05.03.21 at 5:08 am

Rapier said “Am I the only one to detect something absurd in this?”

No. [Betteridges law?]

Musk is a high functioning smart brave foolish madman. I’d love to work with him, but…!

But he says your comment Rapier, is gold.

He also says to die on Mars “sounds pretty good”.

Tax him to Mars please. He contradicts himself as he needs serfs on earth to fund Mars. If he has another lazy $32Bn he can fund -HIMSELF – 640,000 Mars Mad Humans…

EM: “There needs to be an intersection of the set of people who wish to go [to Mars], and the set of people who can afford to go. And that intersection of sets has to be enough to establish a self-sustaining civilisation. My rough guess is that for a half-million dollars, there are enough people that could afford to go** and would want to go.”

Oh, and I’m ordering a Tesla! I’m taking the hyperloop to the dealer. And a Neuralink to control it, and my gtp3 bot. 

** And I’ll be buying an in perpetuity consol to start my serfdom of my family &  grandkids to get to Mars. Elon says no turning back y’all “It’s going to be saving up all your money and selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies” (Such is humanity).

Above quotes by Elon:
“Constantly seek criticism. A well thought out critique of what you’re doing is as valuable as gold”
Elon Musk

“I think if you’re going to choose a place to die, then Mars is probably, you know, not a bad choice… It’s not some sort of Martian death wish, or something. But, yeah, if you’re going to born on Earth, die on Mars, sounds pretty good.” (June, 2016 | Source) ”

“22. There needs to be an intersection of the set of people who wish to go [to Mars], and the set of people who can afford to go. And that intersection of sets has to be enough to establish a self-sustaining civilisation. My rough guess is that for a half-million dollars, there are enough people that could afford to go and would want to go. But it’s not going to be a vacation jaunt. It’s going to be saving up all your money and selling all your stuff, like when people moved to the early American colonies.” (Sep, 2014 | Source)”

C’mon Elon. Relax. you too, in a category astronomically above me,  are burning up the earth quicker with $32bn & Mars within 10yrs.

Now, when is my Tesla being delivered?


Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.03.21 at 12:10 pm

I watched a youtube video today, someone named Igor Alabuzhin, the energy analyst.

He says that ‘neo-liberalism’, often discussed on these here pages, may be on its last leg.

‘Green’ is the new religion. Among the postulates of the new doctrine: economic growth is undesirable — nay: impossible, excessive consumption is shameful, spiritual values over material, simpler way of life, and reduction of complexity in everything.

None of this is new, of course, but this time it’ll go mainstream, as the dominant ruling class ideology. If he is right, discussions of ‘neo-liberalism’ are pointless. Soon, it will have been but a transient phase…


nastywoman 05.03.21 at 12:44 pm

‘Now, when is my Tesla being delivered’?

If you believe that “Our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and our priority should be to protect ourselves.” you should ask:

‘When is my tank being delivered’?
and about ‘Musk is a high functioning smart brave foolish madman’

somehow I have to credit him for making e-mobility pretty popular –
(if I can say it as simplistic as that)
I mean – he even made Mercedes-Benz and Porsche and VW – making more e-mobility –
AND as I’m a member of Fridays for Futures and believe that ‘e-mobility’ is pretty important for my chances to live a long and happy live –
(to say it as simplistic as that) –
I’m willing to credit the ‘high functioning smart brave foolish madman’ for…
(without having to dispute that he might be a ‘high functioning smart brave foolish madman’ – AT ALL)


MisterMr 05.03.21 at 5:40 pm


Following the discussion in another thread that Roosevelt said at Yalta: “Stalin doesn’t want anything but security for his country, and I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he wouldn’t try to annex anything and will work with for a world of democracy and peace.”

As far as I know, after Yalta he didn’t actually try to annex other stuff (eastern europe he already had at the time of Yalta), so I think Roosevelt was actually correct in his assessment.

If we compare the USSR in general to imperial Japan, fascist and pre-fascist Italy, and in general imperialist/colonialist european powers before WW1, it seems to me the USSR post Yalta was actually much less imperialist/expansionist.

We can argue why, maybe the USSR just felt overextended, or whatever the reason, but in pratice it didn’t try to expand and the largest expansion in eastern Europe happened chasing back the Germans before Yalta.
So I don’t really understand why Roosevelt’s expectations are supposed to be naive.


nastywoman 05.03.21 at 9:28 pm

‘Green’ is the new religion’.

Please – lets not call it ‘religion’ as somebody who lives ‘Green’ for at least a decade now –
let’s call it –

‘A very pleasant Livestyle’

AND what’s wrong with ‘economic growth’ is – now not ‘undesirable’ —
but highly overvalued?
And what’s wrong with less ‘excessive consumption’ ?
AND what’s wrong with ‘spiritual values over material’?
And what’s wrong with a ‘simpler way of life’ – as I#m currently in Miami – and I tell’ya!
Some ‘reduction of everything’.
-(and especially THE Party might really help?)

And you are ‘right’ –
(besides being very obviously ‘right’)
‘None of this is new, of course, but this time it’ll go mainstream, -(even in my homeland America – and NOT only as ‘the dominant ruling class ideology’ – and I already joked many times discussions of ‘neo-liberalism’ are not ‘pointless’ –
how about:
TOTALLY outdated!


Robespierre 05.04.21 at 3:45 am

Yes, a USSR that had conquered half of Europe, had just lost 20-30 million people and was constrained by another nuclear superpower suddenly became less expansionist. I wonder.


Peter T 05.04.21 at 1:41 pm

If one has to talk about Stalin, the west and Nazi Germany, the overlooked part is the offer by Stalin of a mutual pact guaranteeing existing borders, made to France and the UK in 1939. It was explicitly aimed at Germany and, coupled with UK and French re-armament and financial sanctions on Germany, may well have averted war. It would certainly have given the German generals pause.

Stalin was of course conducting parallel negotiations with Germany, but there is no reason to think the offer was not genuine. The UK and France made some desultory gestures and then declined, after which Stalin made a deal with Germany. The alternative was to face Germany alone.

The notion that, after a war which had cost the USSR over 25 million dead and left most of western Russia in ruins, that Hungary and Romania – active participants alongside Germany – be left to go their way, seems naive from a political if not moral standpoint.


MisterMr 05.05.21 at 6:33 am

@Robespierre 9

You are wondering about what? You are basically saying that I’m right.


Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.05.21 at 10:01 am

@nastywoman “AND what’s wrong with ‘spiritual values over material’?”

Nothing. Just as nothing’s obviously wrong with ‘Opportunity, Prosperity, Success’, and suchlike. Or ‘Cadres Decide Everything’. Things change, ideological zig-zags come and go, we have no control over it.


Tm 05.05.21 at 4:58 pm

re 10, do you have any sources from the historical literature? I’m asking because the only source I could find for this statement is the Daily Telegraph.


Tm 05.05.21 at 6:31 pm

Fun fact: Stalin has just been elected chief minister of Tamil Nadu.


nastywoman 05.05.21 at 9:46 pm

and about:
‘Things change, ideological zig-zags come and go, we have no control over it’.

Yes! –
WE do –
as ‘we’ already have managed to elect a ‘GREEN’ Ministerpräsident for Germany’s nearly utmost prosperous ‘State’ Baden-Württemberg –
A State so full of ‘Opportunity, Prosperity and Success’ that it makes (nearly) every American – who comes and visited nearly –
of envy.


Peter T 05.06.21 at 4:30 am

Tm – first read of it in AJP Taylor’s Origins of the Second World War (I don’t buy his whole argument, but he was a first-rate diplomatic historian). Donald Cameron Watt follows it in some detail in How War Came (1989).


MisterMr 05.06.21 at 3:31 pm

@Tm 13

For what is worth, when I was in hgh school I also studied that Stalin had the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact after failed negotiations from the allies for a pact against Germany.

I checked on wikipedia and in fact the italian wikipedia says that in 1939 Stalin attempted to have a defensive pact with France and UK against Germany, but this didn’t work because of reciprocal suspicions.

Italian wikipedia also says that Stalin offered to defent Czechoslovakia against a german invasion, but Czechoslovakia refused because they feared Stalin. This part is marked as lacking source on italian wikipedia.

None of this appears on english wikipedia, so I don’t know where to check for other sources.


MisterMr 05.06.21 at 3:39 pm

Segue from my previous comment, the link to the relevant page of italian wikipedia:'Unione_Sovietica

and a google-translated version of the relevant part of the text (as you can see, there are some [citation needed] tags):

Franco-British negotiations with the Soviet Union

Franco-English policy was frowned upon by the Soviets for several reasons: during 1938 the Soviet government had unsuccessfully offered to defend Czechoslovakia in the event of a German invasion, but the latter, as well as other countries in the area, had doubts about the real intentions of Moscow and had preferred to rely on Western powers. The first Soviet Secretary Stalin, who had not been invited to the Munich conference, began to believe that France and Great Britain were acting in agreement with Hitler in the interest of putting a stop to communism, or even wanting to set an increasingly powerful Germany against him. . Moreover, it was not a completely new impression: Stalin had already suspected a certain lack of interest on the part of the West towards an ever-advancing fascism [no source], exemplified by the events of the Spanish civil war.

The negotiations of the spring of 1939 undertaken by the Soviet Union and the France-United Kingdom duo to face the German danger came to a halt: the main cause of this failure was mutual suspicion. The Soviet Union sought guarantees against German aggression and the recognition of the right to interfere against “a change of policy favorable to aggression” in the nations along the western border of the USSR: even though none of the nations involved had formally requested the protection of the Soviet Union (some nations such as Finland, Romania, the Baltic republics and Turkey considered the Soviet Union more dangerous than Germany itself), the Soviets announced “guarantees for the independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania , Romania, Turkey and Greece “.

Britain and France feared that this would allow Soviet intervention in the internal affairs of neighboring nations, even in the absence of an immediate German threat. With Germany demanding territorial concessions from Poland, and in the face of Polish opposition, the threat of war was growing. But even though there was an exchange of telegrams between Soviets and Westerners (no later than the beginning of April), a military mission sent by ship by Western powers did not arrive in Moscow until 11 August. A thorny point was undoubtedly the attitude of Poland, a state which had resumed only after the First World War and which was now halfway between Germany and the Soviet Union: the Polish government feared that Moscow would seek the annexation of regions of eastern Poland claimed by the Soviet Union.

These were the territories east of the Curzon line, incorporated into Poland in 1920, considered by the Soviets as “unredeemed” (western Ukraine and western Belarus). The Soviet territorial claims were founded not so much on the aspirations of the inhabitants of these territories but on the objective finding that the majority of the population was not Polish-speaking; there was rather ethnic correspondence between these territories and those of Ukraine and Belarus [cited].

On August 15, 1939, the Soviet Union, in an attempt to lure Britain and France into an anti-Nazi alliance, proposed during a meeting with several British and French officers to send 120 infantry divisions of around 19,000 troops each, 16 cavalry divisions, 5 000 pieces of heavy artillery, 9 500 tanks and about 5 500 fighter planes and bombers on the border of Germany in case the Nazis attacked in the west. The meeting was attended, on the Soviet side, by Marshal Kliment Vorošilov and the Chief of Staff of the Red Army Boris Šapošnikov, while on the British side by Admiral Sir Reginald Drax. The British and French representatives did not respond to the Soviet offer. [4]

Poland refused to allow the Soviet army a military intervention on its territory in case of German aggression, feeling strong enough thanks to the guarantees of protection given by the British and French; thus, in the third week of August the negotiations stopped: by now the Soviets suspected that they would enter into a conflict limited to them and the Germans. [citation needed]


tm 05.07.21 at 9:20 am

MisterMr: It seems pretty obvious that what was at issue in these negotiations was Stalin’s hardly veiled intention to annex the neighboring nations that had emerged out of the breakdown of the csarist empire; intention which the Western allies couldn’t accept at the time, which of course he did put into action after the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, which then became recognized by the Western powers in Yalta, and which became undone after the Soviet breakdown in 1990.

In hindsight, we obviously read these conflicts with the events and outcome of WWII in mind. But, moral judgment apart, what stands out is how badly both the Western allies and Stalin misjudged the German capacity and willingness to ruthless expansion. It has been argued that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was a move of political realism by Stalin to protect Soviet interests, and he had few other choices. But subsequent events show that the partition of Poland did nothing to protect the Soviet Union from German attack. According to the wikipedia article (which again cites the Telegraph as source), Stalin in August 1939 “offered” to send the Red Army “on the border of Germany in case the Nazis attacked in the west”. Of course, the Soviet Union didn’t have a common border with Germany, so Stalin was offering to invade Poland. When Stalin did invade East Poland, he could of course have sent enough troops to prepare for a further German advance, and apparently didn’t. According to Timothy Snyder in Bloodlands, Stalin was even in 1939 more concerned about Poland, the new old enemy, than about Germany. “the Soviets suspected that they would enter into a conflict limited to them and the Germans”, citation needed indeed, because Stalin more likely did not expect, or at least not adequately prepare for, such a conflict.


MisterMr 05.07.21 at 3:04 pm

@tm 19

“how badly both the Western allies and Stalin misjudged the German capacity and willingness to ruthless expansion” and “the Soviets suspected that they would enter into a conflict limited to them and the Germans”

Hitler did state explicitly that he wanted to expand in the USSRin Mein Kampf:

“And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago. We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze toward the land in the east. At long last we break off the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-War period and shift to the soil policy of the future. If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states”

I think that Stalin understood clearly what Hitler wanted, he just believed that after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Hitler wasn’t going to attack so fast, IMHO.

I’m not trying to make a sort of pro Stalin argument, but it seem to me that there is a large degree of revisionism in the direction of fascists and comunists being reat pals, that simply wasn’t the case historically.

There is a problem of perspectives too: westerners feared a possible expansion of the USSR, and the USSR also feared westerners. Both of them were justified in hindsight, the approach where we see western fears of the USSR as justified but soviet fears about the west as imaginary or just a pretence is just bs.

I mean, the fact that SDtalin was a tyrant doesn’t make the fact that Hitler wanted to conquer space in Russia or the fact that all western powers hated the USSR much more than they hated, e.g., fascist Italy, false.


Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.07.21 at 9:42 pm

It appears that in 1936 he expected that Poland would let German troops pass through its territory, to attack the Soviets:
” Stalin : History shows that when any state intends to make war against another state, even not adjacent, it begins to seek for frontiers across which it can reach the frontiers of the state it wants to attack, Usually, the aggressive state finds such frontiers.

It either finds them with the aid of force, as was the case in 1914 when Germany invaded Belgium in order to strike at France, or it “borrows” such a frontier, as Germany, for example, did from Latvia in 1918, in her drive to Leningrad. I do not know precisely what frontiers Germany may adapt to her aims, but I think she will find people willing to “lend” her a frontier. ”

That’s before the Munich. After the Munich, strategies of all actors became unmistakably evident; Molotov-Ribbentrop was a genius counterplay.


J-D 05.07.21 at 10:51 pm


KT2 05.08.21 at 6:33 am

Silly q maybe yet – who would you rather have cracking quantum information processing – Musk or Bezos?

In the article “Minuscule drums push the limits of quantum weirdness” it states “Amazon recently announced that it was investigating the possibility of using vibrating crystals to encode and process quantum information.”


hix 05.08.21 at 2:44 pm

Based on his donation patterns, Musk is a Republican. Not that any other part of that Musk is bad thus Democrats bad rant makes any more sense, but why bother when the prior is wrong.


MisterMr 05.08.21 at 11:14 pm

@ Gorgonzola 21
”Molotov-Ribbentrop was a genius counterplay.”

It didn’t work all that well in the end


Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.09.21 at 9:29 pm

It did, arguably. It won time, and expanded the controlled territory to the west, creating a physical buffer space. That, plus the neutrality of Japan, were the major factors leading to failure of Barbarossa.


Tm 05.10.21 at 9:18 am

MisterMr 20: “There is a problem of perspectives too: westerners feared a possible expansion of the USSR, and the USSR also feared westerners.”

You are quite correct that the Soviet Union, the Western allies and Poland had all good reasons to be suspicious of each other. If Poland and the SU had been friends or at least not hostile, history would have turned out differently.

21, 26 When the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is redefined as an element of anti-fascist resistance, that is precisely the kind of revisionism that makes it hard to take Stalin-sympathetic revisionist arguments seriously.


Gorgonzola Petrovna 05.10.21 at 4:18 pm

It wasn’t “anti-fascist resistance”; I never said it was. It was a brilliant geopolitical move, splitting the Western coalition, formed in 1938 in Munich (see also Bonnet-Ribbentrop pact signed later in the same year).


KT2 05.11.21 at 12:54 am

Musk’s disruptions will disrupt Musk’s own ventures. Great links in article.

“Is Tesla the Future of the Auto Industry?
by Fabio Tollon

“Elon Musk. Either you love him or you love to hate him. He is glorified by some as a demi-god who will lead humanity to the stars (because if it’s one thing we need is more planets to plunder) and vilified by others as a Silicon Valley hack who is as hypocritical as he is wealthy (very). 

“Perhaps the culmination of all of hubris this is Musk’s Vegas Loop mega tunnel built by The Boring Company. The idea is to reduce above-land traffic and have a high-speed subway system in which passengers are transported in autonomous Tesla cars. Again, though, we must ask the question, why do we even want or need autonomous vehicles in such a setting? Although there are plans to couple the cars with a monorail and public bus system, it once again seems that Tesla’s pursuit of electronic vehicles is not really about changing the way we travel and reducing our carbon footprint, but rather about attempting to make money by selling an idea. Unfortunately, we need more than just ideas.”


Tm 05.11.21 at 8:22 am

“a brilliant geopolitical move”
Two congenial brilliant minds mass murderers doing what they are best at.


onastywoman 05.11.21 at 3:15 pm

and how in the world
could you guys
about ‘the elected chief minister of Tamil Nadu’?

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