All posts by Tony Wikrent

Sen. Fetterman, the Senate dress code, and Conspicuous Consumption


I think the best way to handle the never ending conservative and (anti)Republican obsessive screaming fits over this or that is to poke fun at them. But, if between chuckles and guffaws, you are seriously wondering, wtf are these people so freaked out about Senator Fetterman not wearing a suit in the Senate, then, as the ad says, America, this one’s for you. 

Ok, how to explain this? How to introduce this? I suppose most Kossacks don’t need much convincing that mainstream economics is mostly bunk. But there is a school of American economics, called the institutionlists, centered on the work and writings of perhaps the biggest gadfly ever among American professional economists, Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). Veblen is famous for coining the phrase “conspicuous consumption.” It was the title of the fourth chapter of his 1899 book, The Theory of the Leisure Class

The title of Chapter Seven in that book is, “Dress as an Expression of the Pecuniary Culture,” and it is here that Veblen explains how the Leisure Class — basically, the rich and their hangers on, and the various elites of the different parts of society — creates and enforces standards of taste and culture (the pecuniary culture) that reinforces and perpetuates their dominant role in society.  

Quite simply, elites dress in such a way as to make clear they do not have to do any work in order to exist. This signifies their status, position, wealth, and power as superior to everyone else. 

So, the working and lower classes are expected to wear hoodies and shorts. Senators, Congresspeople, bankers, lawyers, and so on, are expected to wear suits, damn it. You do want to fit in, don’t you? 

And, if you have achieved an elite position (or been admitted into an elite institution) and you refuse to conform to the expected pecuniary culture, you are marked as a potential troublemaker who may disrespect — or even worse, overturn — the accepted social order. Which of course threatens their status, position, wealth, and power. 

This is the hidden meaning of the virulence behind the “dirty hippie” label. But you kind of knew that already. Right? 

OK, I’ve explained what I think Veblen is writing here. Just asking people to read Veblen is not very effective, because, well, Veblen is hard to read, though I swear if The Theory of the Leisure Class were required reading in high school (highly improbable, I admit), the republic would be in much better shape. I will say this: Veblen is far superior to Marx, because using Marx’s ideas and frames of analysis, you cannot explain how socialist countries end up under the control of authoritarian hierarchies. Using Veblen, you can explain how that happens to both capitalist and socialist countries.

I’ll leave it to you to wonder why mainstream economics teaches that the only alternative to private enterprise and capitalism is Marx.

Excerpts from Thorstein Veblen, Chapter Seven, “Dress as an Expression of the Pecuniary Culture”

...Other methods of putting one’s pecuniary standing in evidence serve their end effectually, and other methods are in vogue always and everywhere; but expenditure on dress has this advantage over most other methods, that our apparel is always in evidence and affords an indication of our pecuniary standing to all observers at the first glance. It is also true that admitted expenditure for display is more obviously present, and is, perhaps, more universally practiced in the matter of dress than in any other line of consumption….

But the function of dress as an evidence of ability to pay does not end with simply showing that the wearer consumes valuable goods in excess of what is required for physical comfort. Simple conspicuous waste of goods is effective and gratifying as far as it goes; it is good prima facie evidence of pecuniary success, and consequently prima facie evidence of social worth. But dress has subtler and more far-reaching possibilities than this crude, first-hand evidence of wasteful consumption only. If, in addition to showing that the wearer can afford to consume freely and uneconomically, it can also be shown in the same stroke that he or she is not under the necessity of earning a livelihood, the evidence of social worth is enhanced in a very considerable degree. Our dress, therefore, in order to serve its purpose effectually, should not only he expensive, but it should also make plain to all observers that the wearer is not engaged in any kind of productive labor… The pleasing effect of neat and spotless garments is chiefly, if not altogether, due to their carrying the suggestion of leisure exemption from personal contact with industrial processes of any kind… It not only shows that the wearer is able to consume a relatively large value, but it argues at the same time that he consumes without producing....

...Conspicuous waste and conspicuous leisure are reputable because they are evidence of pecuniary strength; pecuniary strength is reputable or honorific because, in the last analysis, it argues success and superior force….

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 17, 2023


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 17, 2023

by Tony Wikrent

Civic republicanism

The Pedagogy of Power

Chris Hedges, September 10, 2023 []

The ruling classes always work to keep the powerless from understanding how power functions. This assault has been aided by a cultural left determined to banish "dead white male" philosophers…. It is not that the criticisms leveled against these philosophers are incorrect….

What can these philosophers say to the issues we face — global corporate domination, the climate crisis, nuclear war and a digital universe where information, often manipulated and sometimes false, travels around the globe instantly?  Are these thinkers antiquated relics?….

But the study of political philosophy, as well as ethics, is different. Not for the answers, but for the questions. The questions have not changed since Plato wrote “The Republic.” What is justice? Do all societies inevitably decay? Are we the authors of our lives? Or is our fate determined by forces beyond our control, a series of fortuitous or unfortunate accidents? How should power be distributed? Is the good statesman, as Plato argued, a philosopher king — a thinly disguised version of Plato — who puts truth and learning above greed and lust and who understands reality? Or, as Aristotle believed, is the good statesman skilled in the exercise of power and endowed with thoughtful deliberation? What qualities are needed to wield power? Machiavelli says these include immorality, deception and violence. Hobbes writes that in war, violence and fraud become virtues. What forces can be organized to pit the power of the demos, the populace, against the rulers, to ensure justice? What are our roles and duties as citizens? How should we educate the young? When is it permissible to break the law? How is tyranny prevented or overthrown? Can human nature, as the Jacobins and communists believed, be transformed? How do we protect our dignity and freedom? What is friendship? What constitutes virtue? What is evil? What is love? How do we define a good life? Is there a God? If God does not exist, should we abide by a moral code?….

“It is indeed difficult and even misleading to talk about politics and its innermost principles without drawing to some extent upon the experiences of Greek and Roman antiquity, and this for no other reason than that men have never, either before or after, thought so highly of political activity and bestowed so much dignity upon its realm” Arendt writes in “Between Past and Future.”….

If we cannot ask these fundamental questions, if we have not reflected on these concepts, if we do not understand human nature, we disempower ourselves. We become political illiterates blinded by historical amnesia. ….

The Orphan Among Revolutions

Lynn Hunt [The New York Review, October 5, 2023 issue]


Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848–1849

by Christopher Clark
Crown, 873 pp., $40.00

...Judgments of the multiple eruptions of 1848 have not strayed all that far from Marx’s fuming disillusionment. In 1922 the British historian G.M. Trevelyan rendered the verdict that is still cited: “The year 1848 was the turning-point at which modern history failed to turn.” The “military despotisms” of Central Europe survived the challenge, he concluded, thereby laying the groundwork for the “misfortunes of European civilisation in our own day.”  In other words, the ultimate defeat of the Central European revolts of 1848 made it possible for Germany and Austria to follow the disastrous policies that led to the carnage of World War I.

In his new book, Revolutionary Spring, Christopher Clark, the Regius Professor of History at Cambridge, wants to counter these negative views by emphasizing the many beneficial outcomes of the insurrections, but like others who have tried to put a more positive spin on the events of those years, he faces a daunting task. His likening of 1848 to the Arab Spring of 2010–2011 suggests the difficulty, since these recent uprisings largely failed to produce lasting democratic reforms. If anything, the Arab Spring seems to have reinforced the lesson taught by 1848 that divisions within revolutionary and democratic coalitions offer an opening to autocratic leaders, whether those already in power or those waiting in the wings for their opportunity.

Restoring balance to the economy

Can the UAW Transform America Again?

Timothy Noah, September 15, 2023 [The New Republic]

But while a 35 percent pay hike may sound audacious, under the current contract, starting pay—at $18 per hour—is about 36 percent below where it would be if the 2007 starting wage had kept up with inflation. Regardless, pay packages for the Big Three’s chief executives all rose 40 percent over the past decade. Fain’s ambitious wage target appears to be having the desired effect. It pushed Ford’s offer up from a 9 percent wage hike to 20 percent, GM’s from 10 percent to 18 percent, and Stellantis’s from 14.5 percent to 17.5 percent. Still, Fain said on Facebook Wednesday night, “their proposals don’t reflect the massive profits that we generated for these companies.”….

Since 2013, profits at the Big Three have risen 92 percent, according to the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute. During that time period, the companies paid out nearly $66 billion in dividends and stock buybacks, $14 billion of that in this year alone. One of the UAW’s more creative demands is that workers receive $2 in profit sharing for every million dollars the Big Three spend on stock buybacks and dividends. That would mean at least $28,000 per worker this year.

[The Lever, September 12, 2023]
The Big Three car companies have authorized $5 billion in stock buybacks over the past year….

On top of the stock buybacks, the Big Three have reported $21 billion in profits in just the first six months of 2023. Despite the enormous gains, the companies have cried poverty in response to union demands for wage increases to make up for decades of pay stagnation.

UAW Workers Explain Why They’re Ready to Strike 

[The Real News, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-2023]

[TW: includes a good list of links]

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-12-2023]



‘Are you out of your f—ing minds?’: Dems recoil at Biden’s approach to labor standoff 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

Shawn Fain, head of the United Auto Workers, has privately expressed his frustration with Joe Biden, wanting the president and other Democratic lawmakers to come out more aggressively in support of his union, which launched a strike Friday against the so-called Big Three automakers….

“The companies and the media want to use fear tactics about how we’re going to wreck the economy. We’re not going to wreck the economy. The truth is we are going to wreck the billionaire economy. Working people are not afraid. You know who’s afraid? The corporate media is afraid. The White House is afraid. The companies are afraid.”….

White House aides spent the last several weeks in close contact with both union leaders and carmaker executives in hopes of brokering a “win-win” deal and avoiding a strike, engaging both parties but being careful not to intervene. Many lawmakers saw that position as reasonable given the economic consequences of such a shutdown. But now that the strike is in motion, the union and its progressive supporters believe Biden needs to play a more assertive role in rallying the public to the workers’ side.

There is also a sense among some Democrats and labor officials that Biden’s team miscalculated the standoff and hasn’t understood the severity of labor’s frustration or concerns. Even the news this week that the Biden administration was considering providing aid to auto suppliers rankled some in the union world, who thought it could undermine the strike and saw it as evidence that there are always funds available for companies, but not workers….

But some progressives are still beginning to gradually ramp up pressure on Biden to take a stronger stand.

Without naming the president, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) issued a statement hours before Biden was planning to make remarks on the contract negotiations.

“It’s time to decide what side you’re on,” he declared. “Are you on the side of the Big 3 CEOs who made a combined $74 million last year, and are now claiming … they cannot afford to pay their workers? Or are you on the side of the UAW workers who bust their ass every day, the people who build the American cars and trucks we Pennsylvanians drive?”

‘Abandoned by the Democratic Party’: Behind the UAW’s frustrations with Biden 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-2023]

...The United Auto Workers’ criticisms of Biden’s handling of his electric car and truck subsidies have become a frequent theme for the 150,000-member union as it prepares for a possible strike against the major U.S. automakers this week. That means a key part of the president’s trillion-dollar-plus climate and infrastructure agenda, a centerpiece of his argument for reelection, faces friction with a major source of Democratic political muscle in states like Michigan.

Labor supporters say the roots of the conflict date back decades, to Democratic presidents who pursued pro-business or free-trade policies that the union blames for hollowing out protections for American workers. Now Biden is facing the blowback from that era, even as he pursues energy policies that he pledges will reverse that tide and rebuild U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Half a Million California Workers Get a Raise—and a Seat at the Table

Harold Meyerson, September 13, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In a remarkable reversal of fortune, the state’s fast-food worker movement, created and steered by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has compelled the giants of the fast-food industry (both national stalwarts like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, and Starbucks and local legends like In-N-Out) to withdraw their opposition to raising their workers’ wages and establishing a statewide labor-business board to deal with industry issues.

Last year, after the legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that established such a council to raise those wages, the industry announced it would put $200 million behind a ballot measure it had devised to overturn that law. “This was just three frickin’ days after the bill was signed into law,” says SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “It was a gut punch.”

The industry was following in the footsteps of Uber and Lyft, which had spent hundreds of millions to persuade state voters to overturn a law that would have required them to pay at least minimum wages to their drivers. They saturated the media with ads telling Californians that a yes vote on their measure would increase drivers’ incomes, and thus misinformed, voters approved the measure. (To keep that from happening again, the legislature just passed and Newsom signed a new law under which voters will be asked not to vote yes or no, but whether to “keep the law” or “overturn” it.)….

The deal that has emerged will give the state’s roughly 550,000 fast-food workers a raise, taking full effect in April, from an hourly wage of $15.50 to $20. It guarantees the workers an annual wage adjustment of either 3.5 percent or the increase in the cost of living, whichever is lower. With minor adjustments, it preserves the labor-management council that the law passed last year established. The nine-member council will consist of two franchise owner-operators, two representatives from the fast-food mega-corporations, two union representatives, two rank-and-file fast-food workers, and one public member. It will work alongside the state’s Department of Labor, which could monitor and enforce violations the council can highlight.

NLRB Complaint Calls a Noncompete Agreement an Unfair Labor Practice 

David Dayen, September 14, 2023 [The American Prospect]

The complaint against an Ohio spa follows General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s memo seeking these kinds of cases….

The [National Labor Relations Board]’s action adds another dimension to the Biden administration’s assault on noncompetes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed a ban on most noncompete agreements earlier this year.

In May, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, in a memo to regional directors, stated her view that noncompete provisions violate the NLRA, and sought complaints along those lines. Noncompetes “could reasonably be construed by employees to deny them the ability to quit or change jobs by cutting off their access to other employment opportunities that they are qualified for,” Abruzzo wrote.

American workers are demanding almost $80,000 a year to take a new job 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 9-11-2023]

‘Corporate Media Will Always Side With CEOs’: Sanders Rips Coverage of Looming UAW Strike 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

Fox Sued by New York City Pension Funds Over Election Falsehoods

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-13-2023]

“New York City’s pension funds sued the Fox Corporation and its board on Tuesday, accusing the company of neglecting its duty to shareholders by opening itself up to defamation lawsuits from the persistent broadcasting of falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election. The lawsuit, filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery, is the most significant shareholder action since Fox settled a blockbuster defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems in April for $787.5 million. The city’s five pension funds represent nearly 800,000 current and retired workers and are worth $253 billion. ‘We are shareholders at a company that, unfortunately, has a longstanding practice of allowing conspiracy theories that its executives and its board know are false to be repeated over and over and over again, despite the very clear and present risk of defamation lawsuits eroding shareholder value,’ said Brad Lander, New York City’s comptroller, who oversees the pension funds. ‘And there has been no effort to make governance reforms.'”• Hmm. I wonder who the expert witnesses about CT will be.

Professional management class war on workers

Catch Us if You Can

Maureen Tkacik, September 14, 2023 [The American Prospect]

The mysterious firing of Amazon’s most ruthless union-buster from his new job underscores the monopoly’s insidious stranglehold over shopping.

For nearly a quarter-century, Clark was the rare human embodiment of the dark side of a company that seems to outsource most of its dirty work to robots and algorithms.… But in spite of his reputation as a penny-pincher among Amazon’s worker army, Clark was also famously extravagant when it came to expanding and protecting the company’s retail monopoly. He spent billions on planes and ships and warehouse robots, even custom manufacturing proprietary shipping containers. More than perhaps anyone at Amazon save Jeff Bezos himself, Clark embraced burning cash as a long-term strategy for making Amazon the shipper to the world, the gears behind and the toll collector for every transaction in the economy. In 2021, the FTC ordered Amazon to repay its Flex drivers $61 million in stolen tips; the previous year, it spent a staggering $61 billion on shipping alone.

Democrats' political malpractice

Ohio’s working class felt deserted by Democrats. Can Biden win them back? 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-11-2023]

“Ohio Democrats have been energised by the size of the victory and turnout in last month’s referendum on a Republican attempt to make it more difficult to amend the state constitution. The move was aimed at making it harder for voters to enshrine access to abortion in the constitution in another ballot in November. But it was defeated by 57% to 43% on an exceptionally high turnout for a ballot vote in August, reflecting what Democrats see as a major electoral issue in their favor after the US supreme court struck down constitutional protections last year.” But will abortion be on the ballot in 2024? More: “Kim McCarthy, the Democratic chair in Greene county, which includes part of eastern Dayton, said her party struggles to shake the perception that, at a national level, it is not interested in working people. ‘It’s not a secret that our country is run by corporate USA Inc. I feel that limitation stops Democrats from fighting for things that would bring people over to their side, like universal healthcare,’ she said. McCarthy said that remained a good part of the reason for Trump’s continuing support in her county. ‘The appeal of Trump ultimately is that people recognise that our federal government is failing us as a society, as a nation. I’m from Australia and I think one of the most profound things that I’ve realised over my 25-odd years of living here is that the US government doesn’t care about me and my life,’ she said.”  

Newsom throws South L.A. under the broadband bus 

[Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-11-2023]

“More than two years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom approved what was then the nation’s largest-ever investment in public broadband. The $6-billion spending plan was supposed to finally bridge the digital divide that has left too many households and businesses in low-income and rural communities without fast, reliable internet access. But last month the Newsom administration cut projects in some of the neediest, most disconnected communities in the state, including South and Southeast Los Angeles and East Oakland, while adding projects in some of the most affluent, tech-connected communities, including Beverly Hills and Culver City.”

[Lambert Strether: “The whole piece is worth reading. Apparently, “bad maps” are at the root of the misallocation. And if you the think the maps are bad by accident, I have a bridge to sell you. Then again, Newsom’s only servicing his real constituency, and what’s wrong with that?”]

AOC HECKLED by furious New Yorkers over migrant crisis 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

Is Obama Running a Shadow Government from His Mansion in Kalorama, Washington DC?

Lambert Strether, August 13, 2023 [Naked Capitalism]

Pentagon-Funded Study Warns Dementia Among U.S. Officials Poses National Security Threat 

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 9-15-2023]

Sens. Mitch McConnell and Dianne Feinstein, who have access to top-secret information, recently had public health episodes.


The hard lessons from Ukraine’s summer offensive 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

[TW: Noteworthy as among first reflections of reality in Western mainstream media]

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]



Is NATO Learning About Its Future in Ukraine? 

Stephen Bryen [via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

What could be the reasons for the Western delay in hypersonic weapons? 

[Cf2R, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

...Let us note then that at the end of the Cold War, we find ourselves in a rather strange situation at first glance. The West pushed electronics and computing much further than the Soviet Union. It did not occur to anyone that the latter had held up without this and we were content to think, here, that its equipment was obsolete and ineffective. The Ukrainian conflict demonstrated the opposite!

However, those who worked on equipment opposing the collapse of the Berlin Wall know very well that the “enemy” of the time had implemented treasures of thought to precisely make the equations speak and understand what was really in-game without having to go through computer calculations. This was the case, for example, with so-called “ionic” space propulsion engines.

Meanwhile, at home, we relied more and more on software. They constituted a black box over which we had no control and we “swallowed” the results, whatever they were, as if they were the naked truth coming out of the well….

Today, engineering schools, in full agreement with companies, want people who are efficient in handling various IT tools: Catia, etc. If in fact the latter, at the time they were designed, brought great progress for those who were used to thinking, they only “Taylorized” the real profession by degrading it enormously, leading to the incremental improvement which tomorrow will be the prerogative of artificial intelligence. On the other hand, from my point of view, replacing the Soviet physicists and engineers of the time with AI would absolutely not be possible.

So this is where we are and until our scientists are able to make the equations speak, it seems very unlikely that the West will be able to make hypersonic missiles worthy of the name…. 

Hypersonic Missiles Are Game-Changers, and America Doesn’t Have Them

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 9-16-2023]

The U.S. military is pouring resources into the superfast weapons but has struggled to develop them. China and Russia are far ahead. 


The September 11 Legacy of Forever Wars, the Patriot Act, and Loss of Legal Rights 

[Black Agenda Report, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-2023]

A Day that Never Ended 

Matt Taibbi [Racket News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-12-2023]

“It’s forgotten, but Barack Obama was sent to the White House in what a lot of the voting public at the time considered a referendum on the security state. The genteel Obama played up ‘constitutional lawyer’ credentials, announcing in a national security address at the Wilson Center in 2007 his opposition to the ‘color-coded politics of fear’ and ‘a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized.’ Candidate Obama added it was time to ‘turn the page’ with more peaceful means of ‘drying up’ support for terrorism, a strategy that hurtled him past favored Hillary Clinton in primary season. Privately however he’d already met with people like Richard Clarke, who told him, ‘As a president, you kill people.’ This is who Obama would actually be in office, an ‘idealist without illusions’ who expanded the buildup, institutionalized the ‘kill list,’ and in one of his last major acts, created a new counter-disinformation authority that helped birth the censorship state.”

Global power shift

Russia And China Channeling Hamilton

Mark Wauk [Meaning in History, via Mike Norman Economics, September 12, 2023]

... it seems that what the Russians, Chinese and others are working on is similar to what the United States itself did in the early 19th century, when it wanted to become less dependent on Great Britain. Then they had the American system. Again, they had these three pillars. They wanted the manufacturing industry, developed transportation infrastructure, and of course the National Bank. These three pillars. And you see that this is kind of the foundation that the Russians and Chinese are working on, as well as much of Eurasia. They want this first pillar of technological autonomy--this industry is decoupled from the US. They want the second, which is trillions of dollars into this Belt and Road initiative with new transportation corridors not vulnerable to the US, and of course third would be the financial aspect. We see this BRICS Development Bank, the SCO trading in their own currency by de-dollarizing, reducing reliance on Swift. So there's this shift in the economic system. The entire opportunity to reject the hegemonic world order, which has seen us being encapsulated by this rules-based international order, which is to a large extent a challenge to international law. [Russia has made this point, repeatedly, that the US has substituted its own rules for International Law.] I think this is why the Ukraine crisis has become so problematic. It's a symptom of a wider challenge to the entire world order, the geo-economic infrastructure….

Biden finds himself on the defensive after G20 leaders fail to rally around Ukraine 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 9-11-2023]

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 9-11-2023]



7 countries, EU sign memorandum of understanding for trade corridor linking Europe, Middle East and India Anadolu 

[Agency, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

Data to oil, gas to goods: What is the announced sea-rail corridor from India to Europe? 

[Indian Express, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

In Vladivostok, the Russian Far East rises 

Pepe Escobar [The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics, September 31, 2023]

...The development possibilities of what is in effect Russian Asia, and one of the key nodes of Asia-Pacific, are literally mind-boggling. Data from the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Arctic - confirmed by several of the most eye-catching panels during the Forum - list a whopping 2,800 investment projects underway, 646 of which are already up and running, complete with the creation of several international Advanced Special Economic Zones (ASEZ) and the expansion of the Free Port of Vladivostok, home to several hundred small and midsize enterprises (SMEs).  

Green New Deal - An opportunity too big to miss

World Needs $2.7 Trillion Annually for Net Zero Emissions by 2050-Wood Mackenzie

Nina Chestney, September 15, 2023 [Offshore Engineer]

Global investment of $2.7 trillion a year is needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and avoid temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees Celsius this century, a report by consultancy Wood Mackenzie said on Thursday….

Wood Mackenzie said to decarbonize the energy sector investment of $1.9 trillion a year is needed, and this must increase by 150% – or $2.7 trillion a year – to limit global warming to 1.5C. Three-quarters of that investment is needed in the power and infrastructure sectors. 

[TW: In November 2014 I posted my first online article explaining the world needs a $100 trillion crash program to stop global climate change by switching the world economy from dependence on fossil fuels, to totally sustainable renewable energies. I wanted to achieve two things by putting the “shocking” $100 trillion front and center. First, the entire political discussion was being held back because talking in terms of trillions was unthinkable for most people and all politicians and economists. Second, the fact is that a trillion bucks, let alone $100 trillion, IS a massive amount of money, and it would force most people to ask, “where’s that much money going to come from?” Which of course opened the door to explaining the crucial questions of how money is created and who gets to create it. As I concluded that 2014 article:

Remember, $100 trillion really isn't too much to wrap your mind around: it's less than ten percent of world economic activity each year over the next 15 years. And, it's less money than Wall Street and the Chicago futures market shuffle around every month.  Wall Street and the Chicago futures market are not doing anything socially useful with all that money. We have much better uses for it. So give me $100 trillion.

Besides, we can create money out of thin air any time we want. That's what the real fight is about: Who controls, and who benefits, from the creation and allocation of new money and credit? ]

The $100tn path to net zero 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]

On any reasonable estimate, the scale of funding required to hit net zero is vast. In 2021, the International Energy Agency calculated that annual investment would need to rise from an annual $2tn to almost $5tn, or 2.5 per cent of global GDP, by 2030. It would still total $4.5tn in 2050.

Lord Nicholas Stern, chair of the London School of Economics’ Grantham institute and a former World Bank chief economist, estimates(opens a new window) an extra $3tn a year is needed, totalling $100tn over 30 or 40 years, to boost renewable energy, electrify transport systems, decarbonise the heating and cooling of buildings, and foster green hydrogen. 

Economists broadly agree that most of this investment has to come from the private sector. “Some estimates on climate change transition are in the stratosphere,” said Mahmood Pradhan, head of global macroeconomics at Amundi Institute. “The demands of net zero are just too high [to come from governments alone] — they have to come from the private sector.”

[TWNear the bottom of the page, you will find the FT editors’ great fear encapsulated, viz:]

The Return of Big Government

This is the second part of a series on how advanced economies are shifting back to using fiscal policy to drive interventions

Climate and environmental crises

Direct Solar Power: Off-Grid Without Batteries

[Low Tech Magazine, via The Big Picture 9-16-2023]

Using solar panels without backup infrastructure makes renewable energy production much more affordable, efficient and sustainable.  

US Behind More Than a Third of Global Oil and Gas Expansion Plans, Report Finds 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

California Lawmakers Approve Nation’s Most Sweeping Emissions Disclosure Rules for Big Business 

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

Predatory finance

Finance hits back against US regulator’s rulemaking spree 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-11-2023]

“Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler’s ambitious regulatory agenda is igniting fierce opposition from the financial industry, which is challenging what it views as egregious overextension of the securities watchdog’s legal authority. In recent months, the SEC has been targeted in lawsuits from the US Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby, over a rule expanding stock buyback disclosures, and a coalition of private equity, venture capital and hedge fund groups last week sued to block sweeping new rules for private fund managers adopted by the SEC last month. Its crackdown on the crypto industry has also encountered resistance, as the company backing the Ripple digital token challenges an SEC civil lawsuit on the basis that it goes beyond the agency’s power to regulate securities.” • Stuck pigs squeal.

Grab an Easy Chair and Watch 21 Experts Explore the Path from the Collapse of Lehman Brothers to This Spring’s Banking Crisis to the Urgency of Defanging the Mega Banks

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, September 12, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]

The Better Markets webinar will feature a number of people who are familiar to readers of Wall Street On Parade. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a long-term critic of Wall Street mega banks and a strong voice on the Senate Banking Committee, will deliver the opening remarks. For the lonely investigative role that Senator Warren has been forced to play on numerous occasions, see our report: The Senate Banking Committee Has Subpoena Power; So Why Has Senator Elizabeth Warren Been Left to Investigate on Her Own?

Art Wilmarth, the author of the seminal work on the dangers facing the U.S. financial system from the Wall Street mega banks, will also be participating in the Better Markets webinar. Wilmarth wrote the critically-important Taming the Megabanks: Why We Need a New Glass-Steagall Act, which is essential to any hope of understanding the historic underpinnings of how the banking system landed in the mess it’s in today.

Two men who worked in the bowels of Wall Street and then exposed its dark underbelly as authors will also be participating: Frank Partnoy and William Cohan.

Partnoy, now a law professor at UC Berkeley School of Law, has the unique knowledge base of a Wall Street veteran. Partnoy worked in the 90s as a derivatives structurer at Morgan Stanley and CS First Boston and wrote the Wall Street classic, F.I.A.S.C.O.: Blood in the Water on Wall Street. Another essential read from Partnoy is Infectious Greed: How Deceit and Risk Corrupted the Financial Markets.

William Cohan is a former investment banker at multiple Wall Street firms, including JPMorgan Chase. He wrote Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World and House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street, along with numerous other books, newspaper and magazine articles dissecting Wall Street. Cohan is certain to have interesting things to say about today’s situation.

Another man who has warned about the fragility of the banking system for decades and will be participating in the webinar is Thomas Hoenig, the former Vice Chair of the FDIC from 2012 to 2018 and President of the Kansas City Fed from 1991 to 2011….


[, September 13, 2023]

Credit card debt collection 

[Bits About Money, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-2023]

[TW: this is a lengthy article, but there is a lot of information, including some that you can use in any dispute with a debt collector. I have added bolding to a few points.]

...A small percentage of borrowers, carefully tracked and generally oscillating between 2.5% and 5% depending on the overall health of the economy, will go delinquent on credit card debt. (Some issuers specialize in certain parts of the credit spectrum and, as a result, will have sharply lower or sharply higher delinquency rates. American Express, for example, specializes at the high end and typically has delinquency close to 1%. Capital One made its name in so-called subprime credit cards, though it has diversified since, and typically tends towards the high end among banks whose names you know. There is a largely hidden ecosystem of banks you don’t know that issue very expensive products to poor people; you can accurately predict their default rates exceed anything mentioned above.)….

Most defaults are small. This fact drives everything about debt collection; it has to be done scalably, by the cheapest labor available, with a minimum of customization or thoughtful weighing of competing interests. The average defaulted credit card debt is on the order of $2,000, the median is between $500 and $1,000. These are processed like McDonalds burgers, not like grant proposals.

Debts are sold as part of a portfolio, where (typically) thousands of relatively similarly situated debts in a cohort are sold as a packet. The value of portfolios is a huge discount to the face value of the debts; at the point where a lender has only worked it themselves and the debt is a few months delinquent, portfolios generally fetch about 5 cents on the dollar….

The debt collection industry is... among the most odious hives of scum and villainy as exists in the United States. The business is sordid and virtually immune to reform, despite decades of trying. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was passed in 1978! It is older than me!….

This is not because of a lack of virtue or a lack of laws; the structure of the industry colliding with the socioeconomic reality of defaulting debtors basically ensures that it will be a miserable place populated by miserable people who will project leveraged amounts of misery into the outside world in the hopes of collecting a tiny sliver of defaulted debts.

Debts are conveyed to the debt buyers as large CSV files with minimal supporting documentation….

The former advocate in me will observe that the single most effective method for resolving debts is carefully sending a series of letters invoking one’s rights under the FDCPA (and other legislation) to a debt collector who is operationally incapable of respecting those rights, then threatening them with legal or regulatory action when they inevitably infringe upon them in writing, leading to them abandoning further attempts at collection.

This effectively makes paying consumer debts basically optional in the United States, contingent on one being sufficiently organized and informed. That is likely a surprising result to many people. Is the financial industry unaware of this? Oh no….

The FDCPA and state legislation provides for automatic damages for illegal behavior from collectors, the incidence of illegal behavior is extremely high, and a debt collector with a high school education and three months of experience will frequently commit three federal torts in a few minutes of talking to a debtor then follow up with a confirmation of the same in writing. (You think I am exaggerating. Reader, I am not. “If you don’t pay me I will sue you and then Immigration will take notice of that and yank your green card” contains three separate causes of action: (frequently) a false threat to file a suit where that is not actually a business practice of the firm, a false alleged affiliation with a government agency, and a false alleged consequence for debt nonpayment not provided for in law.)

As a result, private companies compiled databases of (public in the U.S.) court filings and organized them by Social Security number, address, and similar to allow debt collectors to identify which debtors are aware of their legal rights. In principle, a debt collector could do anything they wanted with that fact, like being extra careful to follow the law in contacting them. But the economics of debt collection do not counsel careful, individualized consideration of credit card debt.

I will bet you that, in practice, they simply avoid collecting against anyone who demonstrates ability and financial resources to enforce their rights. This is one for the history books of borked equilibriums. We devoted substantial efforts to pro-consumer legislation to address abuse of (mostly) poor people. We gated redress behind labor that is abundantly available in the professional managerial class and scarce outside of it, like writing letters and counting to 30 days. (People telling me they were incapable of doing these two things is why I started ghostwriting letters for debtors.) We now have literal computer programs exempting heuristically identified professional managerial class members from debt collection, inclusive of their legitimate debts, so that debt collectors can more profitably conserve their time to do abusive and frequently illegal shakedowns of the people the legislation was meant to benefit….

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Businesses keep complaining about shoplifting, but wage theft is a bigger crime

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 9-10-2023]

The other side of the coin on workplace crime is wage theft. That’s been estimated as high as $50 billion a year by the Economic Policy Institute, which extrapolated from a 2008 survey of low-wage front-line workers in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. 

Why furniture got so bad

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-10-2023]

Furniture used to last generations. Now it barely survives a move. Industry insiders explain.

Generic Drugs Should Be Cheap, but Insurers Are Charging Thousands of Dollars for Them 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

Information age dystopia / surveillance state  

Silicon Valley’s vision for AI? It’s religion, repackaged. 

[VOX, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

The Tyranny of the Marginal User 

[Nothing Human, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-2023]

“How is it possible that software gets worse, not better, over time, despite billions of dollars of R&D and rapid progress in tooling and AI? What evil force, more powerful than Innovation and Progress, is at work here? In my six years at Google, I got to observe this force up close, relentlessly killing features users loved and eroding the last vestiges of creativity and agency from our products. I know this force well, and I hate it, but I do not yet know how to fight it. I call this force the Tyranny of the Marginal User. Simply put, companies building apps have strong incentives to gain more users, even users that derive very little value from the app. Sometimes this is because you can monetize low value users by selling them ads. Often, it’s because your business relies on network effects and even low value users can help you build a moat. So the north star metric for designers and engineers is typically something like Daily Active Users, or DAUs for short: the number of users who log into your app in a 24 hour period. What’s wrong with such a metric? A product that many users want to use is a good product, right? Sort of. Since most software products charge a flat per-user fee (often zero, because ads), and economic incentives operate on the margin, a company with a billion-user product doesn’t actually care about its billion existing users. It cares about the marginal user – the billion-plus-first user – and it focuses all its energy on making sure that marginal user doesn’t stop using the app… [I]n practice, the design of popular apps caters almost entirely to the marginal user. But who is this marginal user, anyway? Why does he have such bad taste in apps? Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together about the marginal user. Let’s call him Marl. The first thing you need to know about Marl is that he has the attention span of a goldfish on acid. Once Marl opens your app, you have about 1.3 seconds to catch his attention with a shiny image or triggering headline, otherwise he’ll swipe back to TikTok and never open your app again. Marl’s tolerance for user interface complexity is zero. As far as you can tell he only has one working thumb, and the only thing that thumb can do is flick upwards in a repetitive, zombielike scrolling motion…. By contrast, consumer software tools that enhance human agency, that serve us when we are most creative and intentional, are often built by hobbyists and used by a handful of nerds. If such a tool ever gets too successful one of the Marl-serving companies, flush with cash from advertising or growth-hungry venture capital, will acquire it and kill it. So it goes.”

[Lambert Strether: “The enshittification cycle seen from the inside?”]

In Missouri v. Biden Internet Censorship Case, a Win and a Loss 

Matt Taibbi [Racket News, via Naked Capitalism 9-11-2023]

Three Simple Rules for Protecting Your Data 

[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

How I stay reasonably anonymous online 

[Mellow Root, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-2023]

California Legislature Passes Delete Act Regulating Data Brokers 

[Association of Privacy Professionals, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

Google To Pay $155 Million In Settlements Over Location Tracking 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

Car Hackers Are Out for Blood 

[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

As part of the move toward electric cars, most automakers are copying Silicon Valley’s playbook and making drivers pay monthly or yearly fees to unlock new features. Sometimes those features are fairly basic, like a remote starter; in other cases they’re more advanced, like autonomous parking assistance….

There is another explanation for the pivot to subscriptions. Although subscription features aren’t exclusive to electric cars, they are inextricably tied to the EV revolution. Developing and building EV batteries is staggeringly expensive—less a “shift” and more a total reinvention of the industry costing hundreds of billions of dollars. And because EVs generally have far fewer mechanical components than gas cars, they require very little maintenance, meaning that car makers, suppliers, and dealers are poised to lose a significant amount of revenue made from selling parts for repairs. One Hyundai executive told me earlier this year that the company wants 30 percent of future profits to come from software, downloadable features, in-car entertainment, and other subscription features.

China-Linked Hackers Breached a Power Grid—Again 

Wired, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

Google Chrome pushes ahead with targeted ads based on your browser history 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-12-2023]

“Google has been gradually rolling out Chrome’s ‘Enhanced Ad Privacy.’ That’s the technology that, unless switched off, allows websites to target the user with adverts tuned to their online activities and interests based on their browser histories. A popup announcing this functionality has been appearing for some folks since the July release of Chrome 115, which included support for Google’s Topics API, which is part of the tech titan’s Privacy Sandbox project. It would appear more and more people are now seeing this popup as those not keen on Chrome mining their browsing histories to support Google’s advertising profits have been speaking up. We understand a small percentage of Chrome’s users are being pulled into the Topics API regime at a time, so you may not have noticed or been offered or alerted to anything. And how the Chocolate Factory asks you to agree to or accept the ad targeting depends on where you live, or rather, the laws of where you live…. Topics essentially works like this: rather than using cookies to track people around the web and figure out their interests from the sites they visit and the apps they use, websites can ask Chrome directly, via its Topics JavaScript API, what sort of things the user is interested in, and then display ads based on that. Chrome picks these topics of interest from studying the user’s browser history.” • Guess I’m gonna have to look more seriously at Arc. It’s wicked fast, but I need to open a boatload of tabs at the same time, and that’s the one thing Arc doesn’t do well (though it probably also tries to do too much, but that’s another story

The AI-Powered, Totally Autonomous Future of War Is Here 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

Top US Spies Meet With Privacy Experts Over Surveillance ‘Crown Jewel’ 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2023]

Lithuania Was the Country That Secretly Wiretapped the World for the FBI 

[404Media, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2023]

(anti)Republican Party

How the Other Half Votes: The United States, Part One  

[Sabato’s Crystal Ball, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-2023]

“Just about 150 of the nation’s more than 3,100 counties cast half of the nation’s presidential vote in 2020.  As we typically see at the state level, the more vote-rich counties are more Democratic, while the thousands of smaller counties that make up the bottom half are more Republican. This political gulf has widened. Despite similar overall national presidential margins in 2012 and 2020, the difference between the top and bottom halves expanded about 10 points from 2012 to 2020. Joe Biden won 126 of the 151 top half counties, while Donald Trump won 2,548 of the remaining 2,960 counties in the bottom half. Trump’s wins among the top half counties were concentrated among the smaller pieces of that group — Biden won all but one of the nearly 50 counties that cast 500,000 votes or more.”

COVID lockdowns saved millions of lives — so of course Ron DeSantis is angry about them

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 9-10-2023]

There’s a lot there to unpack, but let’s start with the most fundamental point: In the early months of the COVID pandemic, before vaccines became widely available, lockdowns worked. Combined with other “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs) such as masking and social distancing, they slowed the spread of the disease, saving millions of people from falling ill, landing in the hospital, or dying. Absent these measures, hospitals, which already were overrun with patients in dire condition, would have fared even worse. 

[TW: Obvious to place Ian Welsh’s post next, to show how criminally wrong DeSantis is. Why do people keep voting for someone trying to kill them?]

Ten Simple Facts About Covid (With Bonus Fact!)

Ian Welsh, September 15, 2023

COVID booster warning from Florida surgeon general, who advises people not to get new vaccine 

[Fox, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-2023]

Anti-Vaccine Dog Owners Could Bring Back Rabies 

[RealClearScience, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2023]

We’re progressing, but backwards:

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-11-2023]



Vivek Ramaswamy says he’ll deport children of undocumented immigrants born in the U.S. 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

Why You Are Probably An NPC 

[The Prism, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

NPC = “Non-Player Character.”

The Wisconsin G.O.P.’s Looming Judicial Attack 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2023]

Elon Musk has Massively Transformed Politics and Media to Help the Right 

[Town Hall, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2023]

Strategic Political Economy

The Big Myth About “Free” Markets That Justified History’s Greatest Heist

Jon Schwarz, August 4 2023 [The Intercept]

In 2020, the RAND Corporation, a think tank in Santa Monica, California, released a study with the humdrum title “Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018.” ….  Incredibly enough, this dreary-sounding paper describes what might be the largest material theft since human civilization began. It examines a simple question: If U.S. income inequality had remained at its 1975 level through 2018, how much more money would the bottom 90 percent of Americans have made during these 43 years? Put another way, how much additional wealth flowed to the top 10 percent during this time, thanks to increased income equality?

If you have a butt, you should hold onto it, because the answer is 47 TRILLION DOLLARS….

This raises an obvious question. Traditionally, this kind of upward concentration of wealth has required mass slaughter. How did America’s elites pull this off without needing to mow thousands of us down in the streets?

The answer can be found in the new book “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market.” It was written by Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard, and Erik M. Conway, a historian at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory….

As Oreskes and Conway explain, “The Big Myth” grew out of their previous book. While writing “Merchants of Doubt,” they discovered that the groundwork of global warming denialism had been laid in the 1980s by prominent scientists who understood the reality of the situation quite well. However, these scientists were convinced believers in what Oreskes and Conway call “market fundamentalism” (borrowing from George Soros, one of market fundamentalism’s loudest critics). This is a system of belief that holds that political and economic freedom are indivisible. They quote the physicist Fred Singer, who wrote that “if we do not carefully delineate the government’s role in regulating … dangers there is essentially no limit to how much government can ultimately control our lives.”

In other words, government interventions in the economy — such as laws removing lead from gas, carbon taxes, or mandated cooling-off breaks for people working in 100-degree heat — not only make us all poorer, but also put us on the road to Stalinist tyranny. Hence it’s crucial to head them all off at the pass, even if that requires a vast misrepresentation of observable fact….

Finally, there’s the historical fact that no country has ever gone communist gradually, starting with minimum wage laws and ending up with gulags. Rather, it happened in various fell swoops in places with glaring injustices and vicious capitalistic inequality, and even then generally has required contemporary wars. As the renowned Soviet expert George Kennan put it in 1946, “communism is like malignant parasite which feeds only on diseased tissue.” Therefore, Kennan believed, “every courageous and incisive measure to solve internal problems of our own society” was a victory over communism.

Capitalist wants government to drive up unemployment by 40-50 per cent and inflict more ‘pain in the economy’ on workers

William Mitchell [Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, September 13, 2023]

At a ‘Property Summit’ in Sydney yesterday (September 13, 2023), one such developer waxed lyrical about how government must force a 40-50 per cent rise in unemployment to force workers into submission…. 

“We need to see unemployment rise. Unemployment has to jump 40-50 per cent …

“In my view, we need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around … When there’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them as opposed to the other way around … it’s a dynamic that has to change. We’ve got to kill that attitude.

“That has to come through hurting the economy. Which is what the whole global … Governments around the world are trying to increase unemployment to get back to some sort of of normality.

“There is definitely massive layoffs … and we are starting to see less arrogance in the labour market and that has to continue because that will cascade across the cost balance.”

[TW: The next three posts report on the comments of a rich Australian real estate developer who called for a massive increase in unemployment to force working people to be more subservient to capital and “the markets.” Contrast this to the civic republican doctrines of high wages and the General Welfare, which Benjamin Franklin explained in the context of the economic significance in Europe of the American Revolution: HAWB 1783 - Benjamin Franklin on the Augmentation of Wages Occasioned by the American Revolution - How America Was Built.]

CEO Honesty About Wanting High Unemployment

Ian Welsh, September 15, 2023

This is also a pure example of “job creator” ideology. “We the big bosses create the jobs. All the good things come from us. Without us people wouldn’t have jobs. They should be grateful and obedient and subservient because they are worth something only when being used by us.”

This is specific example of what’s common in almost all eras: the people who have the most power believe that means they are also the best people. “The GodKing makes the rains the flow and the sun rise. All bow to the GodKing.”

Wealthy Capitalist Accidentally Makes Great Argument For Revolution

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics, September 13, 2023]

Recent comments from a wealthy Australian property developer named Tim Gurner are going viral on social media right now for the unusual frankness with which he discusses the inherent conflicts of interest between the working class and employers, saying workers who’ve grown lazy and arrogant during Covid need to experience economic pain in the form of unemployment to rein them in and put them in their place.

Gurner, who with a net worth of $912 million is ranked by the Australian Financial Review as the 154th richest person in Australia, made the remarks at the Australian Financial Review Property Summit on Tuesday.

“You know, tradies [Australian slang for tradesmen] have definitely pulled back on productivity,” Gurner said. “They have been paid a lot to do not too much in the last few years. And we need to see that change. I think the problem that we’ve had is that we have people who decided they didn’t really want to work so much anymore through Covid.”

Confessions of a McKinsey Whistleblower

Garrison Lovely [The Nation]

...McKinsey made the prescient decision to avoid credit for its work, keeping its client and project lists secret. In practice, this has insulated the company from the disasters it was party to, such as the collapse of Enron. (This secrecy also serves to deter nearly all current and former McKinsey employees from speaking to reporters, meaning that, despite my best efforts, some of the details in this piece are based solely upon my own recollections.)….

“The firm does execution, not policy,” Elder said. This was a common refrain at McKinsey. At Rikers, I had asked my team about the possibility of eliminating cash bail, which would have reduced the number of people passing through the jail at the time by roughly 45,000, or well over half, and was told that ideas like this were “out of scope” because the firm “doesn’t do policy.”

If we just do execution, I asked, what would have stopped us from helping Nazis more efficiently procure barbed wire for their concentration camps? In response, I recall Elder muttering about McKinsey being a values-based organization. (Elder has not responded to requests for comment.)….

In December 2018, I met some of my former colleagues for dinner in New York. One of them had landed his “dream job” and signed a lease for a ridiculously expensive apartment. When the talk turned to politics, I remember him drunkenly proclaiming, “All I know is my life is amazing, and I want nothing to change.” People chastised him, but I appreciated the honesty—I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else at the table who postured as a progressive had gone on to work at a private equity firm or a hedge fund….

McKinsey won’t truly reform itself, because it neither needs to nor wants to. As the world’s largest private partnership, it can’t be taken over by shareholder activists. All it needs to sustain itself is its client base and its recruiting pipeline from elite universities. The past few years of critical attention have done little to affect either. In 2021, then–managing partner Kevin Sneader told the Financial Times that the firm had lost “very, very, very few clients” and just had its “best recruiting year ever.”….

My time at McKinsey led to the Current Affairs essay that launched my journalism career. It also led to the piece you are reading now. If I ever crawled back to the corporate world, McKinsey would be the credential that most validates me as a “smart, competent person” to a recruiter. Some of them would likely see it as a promising sign of my ruthlessness—always a prized asset in the pursuit of profit…. We will know things have improved only when the name “McKinsey” on a résumé becomes what I learned it should be: a source of shame.

The Chilean coup just one link in a complicated right-wing economics agenda to empower capital

William Mitchell [Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, September 13, 2023]

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the overthrow of the Salvatore Allende’s democratically-elected government in Chile by the US CIA and there local puppets under the leadership of General – Augusto Pinochet. I have also been following a trail of the antecedents of the Powell Manifesto (thanks to Jonathan for a tip), which helps understand how the neoliberals infested every institution in the US and beyond. And the Chilean coup d’état in 1973 was followed by – Operation Condor – which together with the coup demonstrated the principle terrorist organisation in the world has been the US government and its agencies. Tracking the Powell trail also took me to old research about the so-called ‘Manne Programs in Economics for Federal Judges’ – which was a program mostly taught by Chicago School economists that indoctrinated US judges into free market economic thinking and has distorted US judicial decisions ever since. And the circle closes when we investigate the role played by the so-called – Chicago Boys – who were Chilean PhD graduates from that school, who went back to Chile and ravaged the prosperity of the people with their extreme neoliberal ideas.

A Doctrine in Name Only — Strengthening Prohibitions against the Corporate Practice of Medicine 

NEJM, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-2023]

Texas fracking billionaire brothers fuel rightwing media with millions of dollars

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 9-10-2023]

Farris and Dan Wilks’ deep pockets fund climate denialism education, conservative politicians and pro-fossil fuel projects.  

In Poland, Testing Women for Abortion Drugs Is a Reality. It Could Happen Here. 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-2023]

The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Court blocks Jack Smith’s access to many of Rep. Scott Perry’s contacts about 2020 election

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-2023]

“A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that prosecutors’ effort to access the cellphone communications of Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) with colleagues and executive branch officials violated his immunity under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause, which shields members of Congress from legal proceedings connected to their official duties. ‘While elections are political events, a Member’s deliberation about whether to certify a presidential election or how to assess information relevant to legislation about federal election procedures are textbook legislative acts,’ Judge Neomi Rao wrote in the opinion issued last week. The decision breaks new ground in a decadeslong tug-of-war between Congress and the executive branch. For the first time, an appeals court has held that lawmakers’ cellphones are subject to the same protections as their physical offices. And it is the first significant legal setback for Smith in his bid to obtain evidence about involvement by allies of then-President Donald Trump in his effort to subvert the 2020 election. It’s unclear whether Smith will appeal the decision to the full bench of the D.C. Circuit or to the Supreme Court. His office declined to comment, as it did last week when the court released an order broadly outlining the outcome of the fight.”

‘Shady and Corrupt’: Add Barrett Real Estate De​al to List of Supreme Court Ethics Scandals

[Common Dreams, via The Big Picture 9-10-2023]

The right-wing justice sold a home to a religious freedom group that has filed numerous briefs in cases before the court. 

The Court’s Conservative Constitutional Revolution 

Noah Feldman [The New York Review, October 5, 2023 issue]

This conservative constitutional revolution at the Court is ongoing, but it has reached the end of its beginning. Now it feels possible to identify its structure and strategy. This is an essential step in predicting where it will go next—and in formulating an appropriate liberal response.

The Court launched this revolution by reversing a series of precedents that date back to the Burger Court (1969–1986). These were not, to be clear, grand pronouncements on fundamental rights of the kind favored by the Warren Court (1953–1969). They were compromise rulings, characterized by pragmatic accommodation of conflicting judicial positions.

These Burger Court decisions—on abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973), affirmative action (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978), separation of religion and government (Lemon v. Kurtzman, 1971), campaign finance (Buckley v. Valeo, 1976), and beyond—emerged from a Court more evenly divided than today’s. The Burger Court’s liberals wanted to extend progressive values further than the Warren Court had, and conservatives wanted to curtail or reverse that extension. No one in the judiciary or the legal academy much loved those compromises. They typically featured tortured logic and sometimes verged on incoherence. But they nonetheless provided the building blocks of constitutional law for nearly a quarter of our nation’s history.

Today’s constitutional revolution proceeds by taking the views expressed in the conservative dissents in these Burger Court cases and making them law. What we are seeing is revolution by hit list, a hit list created by the conservative legal movement and particularly by the Federalist Society, founded in 1982 to put smart young conservative lawyers into a pipeline leading to the judiciary. The justices who came to the Court through this pipeline—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—know what decisions to reverse but often lack a clear sense of what legal regime should replace them….

Once the remaining items on the to-do list have been crossed off, however, the conservative majority of the Court is going to find itself at a crossroads. The most extreme legal conservatives (Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and sometimes Gorsuch) will push for even more radical decisions that implement not constitutional conservatism so much as political outcomes sought by conservatives. They would like to weaken the courts’ supervisory authority over elections and voting rights even more than has already been done, to exempt religious groups from complying with civil rights laws, and to dismantle as much of the modern administrative state as possible by holding that Congress cannot constitutionally delegate lawmaking power to executive-branch agencies.

Those efforts have already been met with mild skepticism by the very-conservative-but-perhaps-not-entirely-off-the-deep-end justices like Chief Justice John Roberts, Kavanaugh, and sometimes Barrett. These conservatives are committed to checking off the items on the inherited hit list, but they do not want to upend the entire edifice of constitutional law. In short, they want a revolution, not a descent into doctrinal anarchy. Which faction prevails, and to what degree, will have major implications for the future of our constitutional democracy….

in the new Supreme Court term that begins in October, the conservatives’ most immediate target is Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council (1984), a classically flimsy, quasi-constitutional Burger Court compromise decision that granted administrative agencies broad leeway to interpret federal laws. The Court will hear oral arguments in a case that asks it to overrule Chevron. The most important real-world stakes relate to the ease with which judges can overturn environmental regulations.

[TW: Feldman is a Professor of Law and the Chair of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, so his apparent ignorance of the actual history of USA economic development in not unexpected, and certainly emblematic. I am referring here to the mistaken belief that the “administrative state” began under Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. In fact, Congress delegating regulatory power to  executive branch agencies began at the very outset of the new federal government. The United States Revenue Cutter Service was created by Congress (1 Stat. 175) on 4 August 1790. There were immediately a complex of papers and documents that had to be generated for the Cutter Service and for Customs. By another Act of Congress on 31 December 1792, ship owners were required to obtain a Certificate of Registry, issued by a customs district, containing the vessel name, the names of the owners and master, a physical description of the vessel, and the  name, location, and qualification of the shipbuilder. 

A new Registration and a Register Bond was required whenever the vessel was physically altered (re-rigged, new deck house, etc.), or when her ownership changed. Permanent Registrations could only be secured at the vessel’s official hailing port, although temporary certificates were issued when needed, by other customs districts. Registers, and Enrolment Certificates, were made out in triplicate. One copy was given to the master for use aboard the vessel. A second copy was kept by the collector at the customhouse, while the third was sent to the treasury

The Coasting Permit was a customs document required to be carried by shipmasters of vessels transporting certain previously imported goods from one U.S. port to another.

They were generally small, undecorated forms, and carried the signature of the issuing customs official. Coasting Permits were authorized by 1790 and 1793 legislation that dealt with licensing and enrollment of American vessels, but these permits were valid for one voyage only, and were used in addition to these other documents.

[In 1789, the Congress created the United States Lighthouse Establishment and placed it under the Department of the Treasury. The USLE imposed standards for design, construction, maintenance, and operation of all lighthouse in USA, as well as other aides to to navigation as they were developed. 

[As steam engines and in particular steamboats proliferated in the 1820s and 1830s, boiler explosions and deaths mounted to such a degree that Congressmen were forced to enact new laws and delegate more regulatory authority, including the Steamboat Act of 1838, the Steamboat Act of August 30, 1852, and the creation of the Steamboat Inspection Service in 1871. Among the new documents required were, Boiler and Engine Inspector’s Certificates,Hull & Boiler Inspection Certificate, and Steamboat Pilot’s Certificate. (See John G. Burke, Bursting Boilers and the Federal Power (pdf)Technology and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Winter, 1966), pp. 1-23.)

[Finally, there is the creation of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and its creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

[And Feldman is wrong to focus on the “compromise rulings” of the Burger Court and ignore the clear anti-Federalist, neo-confederate ideology of today’s conservative and libertarian movements.]

The Stealth Attack on the Power to Tax

Robert Kuttner,  September 12, 2023 [The American Prospect]

The Supreme Court has accepted a sleeper case for review that could cost the Treasury seven trillion dollars over a decade if the justices agree with the most extreme constitutional claims about limiting the government’s power to tax. This is the latest front in the war to kill the modern administrative state by “starving the beast” for revenue.

The case, Moore v. U.S., challenges one of the few provisions in Trump’s massive 2017 tax cuts for the rich that actually collected revenue to offset some of the losses. The offset provision, known as the Mandatory Repatriation Tax, ended the unlimited deferral of foreign earnings from U.S. taxation when investors or corporations kept profits offshore.

At the time, tax avoidance schemes had accumulated about $2 trillion outside the U.S. With the closing of this loophole. the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that this new provision would increase federal revenues by $338 billion in the ten fiscal years from 2018 to 2027….

To put this in perspective, the Biden budget for FY2024 is $6.9 trillion. The amount of revenue lost over a decade in the worst-case scenario is almost exactly that. In the immediate terms, an extreme Supreme Court ruling would reduce revenue by something like 10 percent, increase the annual deficit by that amount, and create massive pressure for spending cuts. Such a ruling would also prohibit progressive proposals for some kind of wealth tax, because that would be yet another tax on unrealized gains.

Top Dems Press Supreme Court To Block Billionaire Tax

Julia Rock, September 13, 2023 [The Lever]

Obama’s former acting Solicitor General and a senator-turned-lobbyist are helping a dark money group pressure the high court.

The former Supreme Court lawyer for the Obama administration and a Democratic senator-turned-lobbyist are pressuring justices to block Congress from ever instituting a wealth tax on the superrich, according to court filings reviewed by The Lever.

Former Obama acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal recently submitted an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Moore v. United States on behalf of the group Saving America’s Family Enterprises (SAFE). That anonymously funded group — whose board includes corporate lobbyists — has spearheaded campaigns against Democrats’ efforts to tax the inheritances and wealth of millionaires and billionaires.



Too Much of Not A Lot 

Aurelien [Trying to Understand the World, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-2023]

[Long read, but well worth the time]

Politicians are obviously a reflection of the society they come from, and the talent pool which is available. Changes in society necessarily imply that those who go into politics will bear the imprint of these changes, and problems and weaknesses: falling education standards, for example. It’s certainly true that the frivolous and frenetic atmosphere of western popular culture today is very different from the serious world in which Macmillan or De Gaulle practiced politics. But then again, research shows that in most western countries the political class is more privileged and more ingrown than ever. Its members generally come from higher-income families, and have had long and expensive educations at prestigious institutions, as well as benefitting from powerful family and professional networks. So they are on average better educated and prepared than their forbears fifty years ago: they have no excuses. Compare that with cases such as Ernest Bevin, one of Britain’s greatest foreign secretaries, and the man who as much as anyone created NATO, was born into poverty, had scarcely any formal education and made his career in the Trades Union movement. Yet he impressed everyone, including Oxbridge diplomats, with his native intelligence and capacity for hard work, as well as his concern for his staff.

Another factor is precisely this ingrown nature of the political class. A quick survey of major political figures up to about 1990 or so displays a wide variety of backgrounds, education and life experiences. In all major western parliaments until fairly recently there were politicians who had begun life as manual workers. These days there are effectively none. The decline of mass political parties, especially on the Left, has drained the reservoir of those who came up the hard way, often through strikes and pickets and the fierce internal politics of the trades unions, and whose convictions were overwhelmingly shaped by experience….

But there are two other, linked, characteristics of political, systems today that have more importance in my view, even if they are less obvious. One (a consequence of this “professionalism”) is that political careers are made today almost exclusively within the apparatus of the political party of which you are a member. An obvious, if perverse, corollary, is that your enemies are in the first instance members of your own party, rather than others.

A New JFK Assassination Revelation Could Upend the Long-Held “Lone Gunman” Theory 

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2023]

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 10, 2023


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 10, 2023

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

The Green Great Game Is This Century’s Space Race 

[The Diplomat, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]

The rivalry for access to raw materials to facilitate the energy transition will turn the “Green Great Game” into one of the defining geopolitical features of the 21st century.

The tax extreme wealth to increase funds for government spending narrative just reinforces neoliberal framing

William Mitchell [Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, 9-7-2023]

Despite the rabble on the Right of politics that marches around driven by conspiracies about government chips in the water supply or Covid vaccines and all the rest of the rot that lot carry on with, the reality is that well-funded Right that is entrenched in the deepest echelons of capital are extremely well organised and strategic, which is why the dominant ideology reflects their preferences. That group appears to be able to maintain a united front which solidifies their effectiveness. By way of contrast, the Left is poorly funded, but more importantly, divided and on important matters appears incapable of breaking free from the fictions and framing that the Right have introduced to further their own agenda. So, the Left is often pursuing causes that appear to be ‘progressive’ and which warm their hearts, but which in reality are just reinforcing the framing that advance the interests of the Right. We saw that again this week with the emergence of the Tax Extreme Wealth movement and with the release of their open letter to the G20 Heads of State – G20 Leaders must tax extreme wealth. This ia the work of a group which includes the so-called Patriotic Millionaires, Oxfam, Millionaires for Humanity, Earth4All and the Institute for Policy Studies. It demonstrates perfectly how these progressive movements advance dialogue and framing which actually end up undermining their own ambitions.

[TW: Proponents of Modern Monetary Theory are edging closer to the argument by civic republicanism that a primary purpose of taxation in a republic is to prevent concentrations of wealth of the rise of oligarchs.]

Teardown of Huawei’s new phone shows China’s chip breakthrough 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]

How Sanctions Failed To Hinder China’s Development 

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]

[TW: All the articles I’ve seen about China’s breakthrough frame the issue as “protectionism doesn’t work." This framing is misleading and historically inaccurate. The early American School protectionist, including Alexander Hamilton, Henry Carey, Friedrich List, and Abraham Lincoln, grounded protectionism as a defense of USA working people against the exploited labor of the British empire. In his 1851 book, The Harmony of Interests: Agricultural, Manufacturing & Commercial, Carey wrote:

...The object of protection is to produce dear labour, that is, high-priced and valuable labour, and its effect is to cause it to increase in value from day to day, and to increase the equivalents to be exchanged, to the great increase of commerce…. .the school of discords [is] that which teaches to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, and sees great advantage to be gained by reducing the cotton of the poor Hindoo to a penny a pound, careless of the fact that famine and pestilence follow in the train of such a system….

The object sought to be accomplished is the improvement of the condition of man. The mode by which it is to be accomplished is that of increasing his productive power. The more food a man can raise, the more and better food may he consume, and the larger will be the surplus that can be appropriated to the purchase of clothing, to the education of his family, to the enlargement of his house, or to the improvement of his machinery, and the greater will be the amount of leisure that can be appropriated to the improvement of his modes of thought….

In this original view, the goal of protection is NOT to prevent other nations from developing, but to oppose exploitation and impoverishment of a nation’s people, and to support their own internal improvement. ]


Bound to Lose 

John J. Mearsheimer [John’s Substack, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

It is now clear that Ukraine’s eagerly anticipated counteroffensive has been a colossal failure.[1] After three months, the Ukrainian army has made little progress pushing back the Russians. Indeed, it has yet to get beyond the so-called “grey zone,” the heavily contested strip of land that lies in front of the first main line of Russian defenses. The New York Times reports that “In the first two weeks of the counteroffensive, as much as 20 percent of the weaponry Ukraine sent to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed, according to U.S. and European officials. The toll included some of the formidable Western fighting machines — tanks and armored personnel carriers — that the Ukrainians were counting on to beat back the Russians.”[2] According to virtually all accounts of the fighting, Ukrainian troops have suffered enormous casualties.[3] All nine of the vaunted brigades that NATO armed and trained for the counteroffensive have been badly chewed up on the battlefield.

Bombshell biography claim: Fearing nuclear war, Musk switched off Starlink to stymie Ukraine attack on Russia 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]



Dire New Western Reports Call to Ditch NATO Tactics 

[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

I wanted to do a roundup of the most trenchantly interesting releases from the Western military pundit-sphere regarding Russian tactics and their putative ‘evolution’, as well as outlooks on the conflict’s future.

The first big one making waves is from RUSI (Royal United Services Institute)…. Their latest “special report” gives a considered update on Ukraine’s counteroffensive. They start off with the admission that Ukraine is suffering “from heavy rates of equipment loss” but… “the design of armored fighting vehicles supplied by its international partners is preventing this from converting inot a high number of killed personnel.”

The U.S. and Europe Are Splitting Over Ukraine 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

NATO Chief Openly Admits Russia Invaded Ukraine Because Of NATO Expansion 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

The Next EU Military Deployment in West Africa 

[German Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]

The EU plans to launch a new military mission in West Africa. According to reports prior to the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Toledo yesterday (Thursday), soldiers and police officers are to be deployed in the northern regions of four countries at the Gulf of Guinea (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin). Jihadi insurgencies threaten to spread to these regions, against which EU states have been fighting for nearly a decade in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – without any success. The deployment aims at securing an EU military presence in the central Sahel in case France and the EU are forced to withdraw from Niger.

Ecuador Votes to Keep Yasuní Oil in the Ground in Historic Referendum 

[North American Congress on Latin America, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]

In August 20, Ecuador made history with a 59 percent vote in support of a popular referendum to stop petroleum drilling in the Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. 

Is the expanded BRICS truly a new international institution or just the Nonaligned Bloc 2.0? 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]

They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

A JPMorgan Court Filing Shows Another Bank Exec Visited Jeffrey Epstein’s Sex-Trafficking Residences 13 Times – Two More Times than Jes Staley

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, September 5, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade] [Wall Street on Parade]

...Part of the bank’s damage control strategy has been to sue one of its former top executives, Jes Staley, making him a third-party defendant in the same case, and attempting to convince the Judge and the media that Staley is mainly responsible for the bank keeping sex trafficker Epstein as a client for more than 15 years (and perhaps as long as 28 years). The bank says in court documents that it wants to claw back Staley’s $140 million in compensation for his “disloyalty” and “faithless service” to help pay for its legal expenses and $290 million settlement in a related case with Epstein’s victims….

... as early as 2007 and continuing for years, compliance staff were expressing concerns about the sums of hard cash that Epstein was withdrawing. In October 2007, James Dalessio emailed a control group at the Private Bank that Epstein had withdrawn the following cash amounts in just a two-year span: 10 withdrawals of $40,000 year-to-date in 2007; cash withdrawals totaling $914,796 in 2006 consisting of 18 withdrawals of $40,000 in cash; two withdrawals of $60,000 in cash; one withdrawal of $30,000 in cash; and one withdrawal of $25,000 in cash….

While there are certainly plenty of internal emails produced during discovery that connect Staley to Epstein in problematic conversations, there is also the fact that every major Wall Street firm is supposed to have an email monitoring system that prevents sexually-suggestive photos from being exchanged between a client and a banker and to prevent the leak of insider information, both of which appears to have occurred between Staley and Epstein. Clearly, JPMorgan Chase’s email controls failed.

Staley was the head of JPMorgan’s asset management division from 2001 to 2009 and CEO of its investment bank from 2009 to 2013. Staley’s compromised relationship with Epstein points the finger at someone’s failure to supervise Staley. According to the deposition transcript of Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Staley directly reported to Dimon and worked in an office located a few hundred feet from Dimon. So why should the blame for Epstein belong at the feet of Staley, rather than at the feet of the man who was supposed to be supervising Staley. “Failure to supervise” is a key legal argument in winning a case against a Wall Street firm.

Who Are the Names in Jeffrey Epstein’s Calendar? 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-5-2023]

“A multipart investigation by The Wall Street Journal has revealed prominent people who met multiple times with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein had contacts with an array of powerful people long after he was a registered sex offender. He had pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. He was arrested again in 2019 on sex-trafficking charges, and died that year in jail awaiting trial.” • Woody Allen (“dozens of dinners”), Ehud Barak (“dozens of times”), Thomas Barrack (“a series of meetings”), Leon Black (“more than 100 meetings”), Leon Botstein (“two dozen meetings”), William Burns (“three meetings”), Sergey Brin, Noam Chomsky (“several meetings”), Vitaly Churkin (“eight meetings”), Joshua Cooper Ramo (“more than a dozen meetings”), Glenn Dubin and Eva Andersson-Dubin, Mary Erdoes (“two trips”), Bill Gates (“one meeting”), Reid Hoffman (“a weekend”), Barnaby Marsh (“two dozen times”), Thomas Pritzker (“several events”), Nicholas Ribis (“several times”), Bill Richardson, Ariane de Rothschild (“more than a dozen”), Terje Rød-Larsen (“dozens of times”), Kathryn Ruemmler (“dozens of meetings”), Lawrence Summers (“more than a dozen”), Peter Thiel (“several”), Mortimer Zuckerman (“more than a dozen times”). 

US judge says Argentina owes about $16 billion after YPF payout trial 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

London retains crown as leading global centre for maritime arbitration, handling 85% of global caseload 

[Hellenic Shipping News, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Most Americans have gone years without a raise: survey 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

The housing market is stuck

[Business Insider, via The Big Picture 9-5-2023]

Americans can’t afford homes, investors aren’t buying property, and economists see little relief ahead.  

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2023]



Staggering figures reveal 1.2MILLION US-born workers lost their jobs last month – replaced by 688,000 foreign-born staff – as Joe Biden allows migrants to flood across the border 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2023]

Can Facts Reverse the Backlash to Globalization? 

[Amos Tuck School, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]

Things got more interesting when respondents instead received information expressing the benefits of trade. When presented with the “Trade Helps Jobs” narrative, there was a rise in the respondents’ overall preferences for trade restrictions. “Even more strikingly,” they write, “exposing participants to either the ‘Trade Helps Prices’ or the ‘Tariff Hurts Prices’ information induces a strong protectionist response: learning that imports from China have contributed to lower prices, or that the recent tariffs on these imports have hurt U.S. consumers, still raises respondents’ propensity to favor more limits on imports.” The researchers gleaned from these responses that people don’t react symmetrically to information that highlights the gains rather than the losses from trade. In other words, learning about the benefits of trade makes some people dislike free trade even more. “That caught us off guard,” Chor says.

Biden Infrastructure Report Pushes ‘Disastrous Water Privatization Schemes,’ Watchdog Says 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

President Biden: Don’t Give Wall Street Control of Our Public Water Systems 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]

More small airports are being cut off from the air travel network. This is why 

[MPR, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]

A Huge Threat to the U.S. Budget Has Receded. And No One Is Sure Why.

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-7-2023]

For nearly as long as Medicare has existed, it has been a notorious budget buster, alarming a wide range of politicians and budget experts. In 1983, Ronald Reagan said: “The need for action now is clear. Health care costs are climbing so fast they may soon threaten the quality of care and access to care which Americans enjoy.” In 1995, the Medicare trustees warned. If the rate of growth had kept up, the dotted line shows how much Medicare would have gone on to spend on each beneficiary. But that’s not what happened. The difference is enormous. And no one is quite sure why.

Class war on labor

Walmart cuts starting hourly pay for some workers in move it says will offer consistency in staffing 

[Chicago Tribune, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]

Biden reveals conspiracy with UAW bureaucracy to block auto strike 

[WSWS, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2023]

As Auto Workers Contract Talks Heat Up, Stellantis Threatens to Move South

Luis Felis Leon, September 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

...Last year, Stellantis indefinitely shuttered its assembly plant in Belvidere, laying off more than 1,300 workers. It moved production to a plant in Toluca, in central Mexico, upending the lives of generations of families dating back to the company’s 1965 roots in Illinois.

That plant, and others in the U.S., are being used as bargaining chips in Stellantis’s negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has approved a strike authorization if no deal is reached by September 14. Workers involved with the plant believe that the company is holding the plant’s idle status as leverage. “They’re dangling that they can reopen the Belvidere plant if we give up this or that,” Elliston said. “And nobody wants to give up anything—we’ve given up enough!”

“In ongoing contract talks with the Big Three, the union has made Belvidere a centerpiece of its proposals to stop plant closures,” reads a UAW press release. “Those include the right to strike over shutdowns and a Working Family Protection Program that would keep product in the plants and workers on the job.”

The union has asked the Biden administration for investments that help the Big Three retool their plants to encourage electric vehicles. Last week, the Department of Energy announced $15.5 billion in grants and loans for that conversion, which could be used at plants like Belvidere. Higher consideration for the support will go to plants in Belvidere’s condition: where workers have collective-bargaining agreements and a history of experience in vehicle manufacturing.

“Between massive government subsidies for EVs and Stellantis’ record-breaking profits, the money is there to bring good jobs back to heartland towns like Belvidere,” the UAW’s statement concludes….

Autoworkers Have Good Reason to Demand a Big Raise

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 9-8-2023]

Their real wages have fallen 30% over the past two decades. But can the Detroit Three really afford to bring back the old days? 

How Eugenics Shaped the U.S. Prenatal Care System 

[Sapiens, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]

America’s Surprising Partisan Divide on Life Expectancy

[Politico, via The Big Picture 9-4-2023]

Centuries-old settlement patterns — and the attitudes they spawned about government — are to blame for differences in longevity between red southern states and bluer parts of the country….

Step back and look at a map of life expectancy across the country and the geographic patterns are as dramatic as they are obvious. If you live pretty much anywhere in the contiguous U.S., you can expect to live more than 78 years, unless you’re in the Deep South or the sprawling region I call Greater Appalachia, a region that stretches from southwestern Pennsylvania to the Ozarks and the Hill Country of Texas. Those two regions — which include all or parts of 16 deep red states and a majority of the House Republican caucus — have a life expectancy of 77, more than four and a half years lower than on the blue-leaning Pacific coastal plain. In the smaller, redder regional culture of New France (in southern Louisiana) the gap is just short of six years. So large are the regional gaps that the poorest set of counties in predominantly blue Yankee Northeast actually have higher life expectancies than the wealthiest ones in the Deep South. At a population level, a difference of five years is like the gap separating the U.S. from decidedly unwealthy Mongolia, Belarus or Libya, and six years gets you to impoverished El Salvador and Egypt….

The geography of U.S. life expectancy — and the policy environments that determine it — is the result of differences that are regional, cultural and political, with roots going back centuries to the people who arrived on the continent with totally different ideas about equality, the proper role of government, and the correct balance point between individual liberty and the common good.

Medicare for All, Not Medicare Advantage 

[F. Douglas Stephenson, Common Dreams, via Thomas Neuburger 9-8-2023]

Neuburger’s introduction: “An excellent, comprehensive and accessible go-to piece on the evils of Medicare Advantage, in the context of “The Medicare for All Act of 2023,” House bill H.R. 3421 and Senate Bill S. 1655.”

Restoring balance to the economy

Unconditional cash transfers reduce homelessness 

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]

A core cause of homelessness is a lack of money, yet few services provide immediate cash assistance as a solution. We provided a one-time unconditional CAD$7,500 cash transfer to individuals experiencing homelessness, which reduced homelessness and generated net societal savings over 1 y. Two additional studies revealed public mistrust in homeless individuals’ ability to manage money and the benefit of counter-stereotypical or utilitarian messaging in garnering policy support for cash transfers. This research adds to growing global evidence on cash transfers’ benefits for marginalized populations and strategies to increase policy support. Although not a panacea, cash transfers may hasten housing stability with existing social supports. Together, this research offers a new tool to reduce homelessness to improve homelessness reduction policies.

Analyzing Tax Audits Across the Income Distribution

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via The Big Picture 9-8-2023]

We find an additional $1 spent auditing taxpayers above the 90th income percentile yields more than $12 in revenue.

A Potential End to Monopolizing the Rails

Luke Goldstein, September 8, 2022 [The American Prospect]

...The Surface Transportation Board proposed a new rule that would ensure that shippers have competitive options between rail carriers when their cargo orders are routinely delayed. Under the STB’s proposed rule, shippers facing extensive delays for cargo orders can file petitions to enforce what’s called a reciprocal switching arrangement. The policy forces the rail carrier under contract with a shipper to transfer its own tracks to a competitor, allowing the cargo delivery to arrive on time.

The reciprocal switching rule would revive a long-dormant authority previously enforced routinely by the Interstate Commerce Commission until the regulatory body was gutted in the 1990s. (The STB replaced that commission, with weaker authorities.) It would take a significant step toward creating an open-access railroad infrastructure, undercutting rail monopolies’ power. And it might even provide some aid to the recurring safety crisis.

The rule also follows through on the directives delegated to the board in President Biden’s competition order in 2021, which placed significant emphasis on consolidation in railroads.

A reciprocal switching policy would address concerns from shippers across industries, such as corn, chemicals, and other commodity goods, many of which have reported widespread delays since the pandemic. In numerous complaints submitted to the STB, shippers have documented a complete meltdown in service from the tight oligopoly of railroad firms, all while freight rates have increased. Many raised these objections during an STB hearing in 2022 regarding the breakdown in service.

Climate and environmental crises

The climate crisis is a crisis of inequality 

[Science, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]

“Historically, the premise that economic growth ‘lifts all boats‘ has justified maximizing growth, which ‘free market’ proponents often interpret as demanding minimal regulation and redistribution. But this growth requires energy, which largely comes from burning fossil fuels, the major cause of the climate crisis. And thus far, markets have largely failed to price the social cost of carbon. Economic and climate inequality are tightly linked, within and across countries, with richer nations and individuals appropriating vastly more fossil fuels while rarely paying the social cost of carbon and often assuming that they can shield themselves from the adverse consequences of their fossil fuel use. Meanwhile, globally, poverty closely corresponds with climate shock sensitivity. The world’s poor are more likely to reside in climate-vulnerable countries and have fewer resources to guard against and recover from climate shocks. Their food and water are threatened by climate breakdowns. Poorer people—those who work outdoors, live in households without air conditioning, or cannot migrate from flood or fire-prone locations—will pay the highest price for climate disruption in even rich nations. Even if those with economic power believe that there may be a hard limit to carbon emissions, they have incentives to act swiftly to appropriate most of those resources, profit from them, and develop their economies, leaving behind those less equipped, creating a vicious circle that increases inequality. Rising inequality undermines democracy as the richest wield considerable influence over politics, which can diminish policy efforts on redistribution, climate regulation, and carbon pricing. This may explain why global oil and coal use and carbon dioxide emissions are at record highs, despite humanity having known for 30 years the potentially disastrous climate impacts of greenhouse gases.” 

Climate-changing human activity could lead to 1 billion deaths over the next century, according to new study 

[, via Thomas Neuburger 9-8-2023]

‘A silent killer’: How saltwater intrusion is overtaking coastal farmland in the US 

[Modern Farmer , via 9-9-2026]

As hurricanes get stronger, storm surges are bringing saltwater to farmland—and leaving salt there once waters evaporate.

How deep-sea mining for EV materials could wipe out tuna populations 

[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

As Hurricane Idalia caused flooding, some electric vehicles exposed to saltwater caught fire 

[CBS News, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

China Reaches Peak Gasoline in Milestone for Electric Vehicles 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]

Earlier this month, Chinese oil giant Sinopec made a surprise announcement that mostly flew under the radar. It’s now expecting gasoline demand in China to peak this year, two years earlier than its previous outlooks.

The main culprit? The surging number of electric vehicles on the road.

How manure blew up the Netherlands 

[Mongabay, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

How scientists unraveled the mystery of hydrogen fuel for cleaner energy 

[, via Clean Power Roundup, American Clean Power 9-7-2023

Penn State University scientists may have just figured out how to make hydrogen a more convenient and effective fuel source.

To understand this, let’s look again at what a hydrogen spillover is. Simply put, it’s like spilling a drink and it flows from one surface to another.

Tiny pieces of metal act as a catalyst and help hydrogen “transfer” to another material.

Researchers have known this to happen for decades, but have been unable to explain why or measure it properly. Thanks to a team led by Professor Bert Chandler, we now have answers.

The team found a way to measure and understand hydrogen spillover using gold bound to a material called titanium oxide. That’s a big deal because understanding the spillover effect can help us better store hydrogen.

Hydrogen storage is currently difficult; It has to be kept extremely cold, which consumes a lot of energy. If we manage the spillover effect, we may be able to store hydrogen more easily and use it to power everything from cars to homes….

What the researchers found was surprising. They realized that it’s not heat that causes hydrogen to overflow, but something called entropy, a measure of disorder or randomness. Put simply, the hydrogens felt “more comfortable” overflowing due to natural randomness than being forced by heat. This is groundbreaking because it challenges what experts thought they knew.

MOXIE, an oxygen generator on Mars Perseverance Rover produced oxygen 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

A two-year experiment to see if NASA could produce oxygen on Mars ended with scientists creating enough breathable air on the Red Planet to help a small dog survive, scientists said this week.

The device used to create the oxygen, known as MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization) is part of the Mars Perseverance Rover. MOXIE was created to find out if Mars air could produce oxygen and the machine has been running tests and experiments for two years to explore the answer.

The device was made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) creators to help study future human exploration. According to a press release by NASA, the device has already made 122 grams of oxygen, comparable to 10 hours of breathable air for a small dog. MOXIE produced 12 grams of oxygen per hour at 98% purity, which exceeded NASA's original expectations…

Information age dystopia / surveillance state

Georgia RICO Filing Against 61 Stop Cop City Activists Criminalizes Protest

Naked Capitalism

A sweeping indictment against Atlanta Stop Cop City activists, that a county DA withdrew from, looks intended to chill protests.

Biden administration coerced social media giants into possible free speech violations: court 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

CIA Still Refuses to Declassify Documents Exposing Its Responsibility for the Betrayal, Arrest and 27-Year Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela 

[Covert Action Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]

If You’ve Got a New Car, It’s a Data Privacy Nightmare” 

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]

“[Mozilla’s *Privacy Not Included project] found that every major car brand fails to adhere to the most basic privacy and security standards in new internet-connected models, and all 25 of the brands Mozilla examined flunked the organization’s test. Mozilla found brands including BMW, Ford, Toyota, Tesla, and Subaru collect data about drivers including race, facial expressions, weight, health information, and where you drive. Some of the cars tested collected data you wouldn’t expect your car to know about, including details about sexual activity, race, and immigration status, according to Mozilla…. The worst offender was Nissan, Mozilla said. The carmaker’s privacy policy suggests the manufacturer collects information including sexual activity, health diagnosis data, and genetic data, though there’s no details about how exactly that data is gathered. Nissan reserves the right to share and sell ‘preferences, characteristics, psychological trends, predispositions, behavior, attitudes, intelligence, abilities, and aptitudes’ to data brokers, law enforcement, and other third parties.”

Docs Offer Glimpse Inside Censorship Industrial Complex 

[RealClearPolitics, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]

More telling is the group’s attitude toward what it called “mal-information” – typically information that is true, but contrary to the preferred narratives of the censor. Dr. Starbird wrote in an email, “Unfortunately current public discourse (in part a result of information operations) seems to accept malinformation as ‘speech’ and within democratic norms …” Therein lies a dilemma for the censors, as Starbird wrote: “So, do we bend into a pretzel to counter bad faith efforts to undermine CISA’s mission? Or do we put down roots and own the ground that says this tactic is part of the suite of techniques used to undermine democracy?”

It is chilling that there is no consideration of whether the information is true or of the public’s right to know it. “Democracy” in this formulation is whatever maintains the government’s narrative.

Accordingly, the group discussed recommendations for countering “dangerously inaccurate health advice.” It contemplated the roles of the FBI and Homeland Security in addressing “domestic threats,” and a CISA staffer felt the need to remind the subcommittee “of CISA's limitations in countering politically charged narratives.”

CISA couldn’t censor all the people the advisors wanted. And it could face the same outrage that greeted President Biden’s Disinformation Governance Board, led by singing censor Nina Jankowicz. Americans didn’t want that body deciding what they could say, and Biden shut it down within three weeks. CISA’s advisers were acutely aware their work could be conflated with that of the DGB, and even considered changing the name of the MDM subcommittee. Dr. Starbird noted in an email that she’d “removed ‘monitoring’ from just about every place where it appeared” and made “other defensive word changes/deletions.” Similarly, Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde “cautioned the group against pursuing any social listening recommendations” for the time being.

Google goes to court 

Casey Newton [Platformer, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]

Google Tries to Protect Its Monopoly Under Cover of Darkness

David Dayen, September 7, 2023 [The American Prospect]

...Google has said that consumers could always switch the preset option, thereby preserving competition. But as the Justice Department and Judge Mehta have asked, if the outside contracts were so inconsequential, why did Google pay billions of dollars for that privilege? The answer, the Justice Department will argue, can be seen in Google’s close to 90 percent market share in search engines.

One difference in the Google case, which is at the heart of the Biden administration’s competition strategy as it relates to Big Tech, is that this time, the trial might not be able to be the remedy, because Google is trying its best to essentially close down the courtroom to public view.

The company has argued that in an open trial, it would be forced to divulge trade secrets in open court that would be damaging to its business. As a result, there is currently no schedule for a public trial feed, via either audio or video. A limited number of reporters could attend the trial, but any transcript that would come out later could be scrubbed and redacted. And the trial would be closed off completely, including to the press, during certain days of testimony deemed sensitive to Google’s business.

(anti)Republican Party budget charade

The shutdown threat would be off the table, under newly proposed legislation 

[Government Executive, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]

The End Shutdowns Act, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer, would create a mechanism by which, if full-year appropriations bills are not enacted by the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1, federal agencies would be funded automatically as if Congress had passed a continuing resolution. Funding levels for an agency or program would reflect the amount they received in the previous fiscal year, whether that was authorized by appropriations legislation or a previous continuing resolution.

The bill also aims to ensure Congress still moves promptly to end lapses in appropriations by restricting the types of legislation that the Senate may take up during a shutdown. Any appropriations or continuing resolution bill considered during a lapse in appropriations would automatically be considered “emergency” legislation, allowing it to be considered on an expedited basis.

Democrats' political malpractice

The Cost of Childcare Is About to Explode

Elliot Haspel, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]

On September 30, barring the intervention of Congress, $24 billion worth of pandemic relief funding for childcare will expire. This funding, part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan of 2021, has been used to provide stabilization grants to childcare providers reeling first from enrollment drops and now from staffing shortages. With the relief money drying up, programs have only bad options.

Congress Is on the Verge of Plunging Millions Into Food Insecurity

Grace Segers, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]

Salena Zito: Democrats beware: These Black voters are fed up, and looking for a political home 

[Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

Thanks to Biden, the War Party is back  

[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]

“As Robert Kagan, Nuland’s husband and leading neo-conservative pundit, puts it, ‘Superpowers don’t get to retire.’ Kagan asserts baldly what this crew believes: ‘The time has come to tell Americans that there is no escape from global responsibility…the task of maintaining a world order is unending and fraught with costs but preferable to the alternative.’ In reality, the time has come for a brutally honest assessment of the growing costs and increasing perils that come from the militarization of our foreign policy and the relentless effort to police the world. As the Quincy Institute’s Andrew Bachevich puts it, ‘Our actual predicament derives from the less than honest claim that history obliges the United States to pursue a policy of militarized hegemony until the end of time. Alternatives do exist.’ Unfortunately the Biden administration appears committed to the war party’s failed playbook of the past, and the rising costs of a global policy we neither need nor can afford.”

I Was A Young Radical-- Now I'm More Or Less Siding With The Establishment-- And I Don't Like It

Howie Klein, September 9, 2023 []

David Lauter has been covering politics for the L.A. Times since 1987. On Friday he described a situation that was awkward for me to think about. One of our parties is ruled by its grassroots who tells the old elites to fuck off. The other party is controlled by its elites and doesn’t care what the grassroots want. My whole life has been dedicated to Door #1. But that’s the MAGA door now and the kind of populism we’re talking about it the same kind of populism Hitler and Mussolini were talking about in the 1930s and that Orban is talking about today.

“It’s hard,” wrote Lauter, “to ignore just how many Americans would prefer not to face another election between President Biden and former President Trump. But ignoring the unhappiness is exactly what the nation’s two major parties seem determined to do: A rematch appears increasingly inevitable.”

There’s a great deal of discontent about the rematch and “how we got to this point says a lot about where power lies in the two parties. On the Republican side, Trump’s grassroots support is overriding the deep misgivings of party leaders. Among Democrats, the reverse is true: Party leaders and elected officials have significantly more enthusiasm for Biden— or concern about the alternatives— than do average voters. Republican leaders see Trump as a loser who will drag the party to defeat, much as they feel he did in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Most of the party’s voters don’t buy that. They see Biden as a sure loser. Beyond that, they also believe Trump is their strongest candidate.” ….

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Rise of Vivek. The Return of Masters. The College Libertarians Won’t Go Away. 

[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]

... Blake Masters, who is reportedly planning another run for US Senate in Arizona after losing to Sen. Mark Kelly by five points in 2022.

Masters’ reasons for running again are not altogether obvious. His hard-right Senate campaign last year, which was bankrolled by his mentor and former boss Peter Thiel, defined how Republicans squandered the 2022 midterms by nominating candidates far out of step with voters. Masters called abortion “genocide,” repeatedly responded to news about gay people by saying “not everything has to be gay,” and published unsettling clips of himself shooting guns in the desert. The campaign deeply disturbed former close friends from his private day school and Stanford, who didn’t recognize the man they saw in the ominous videos. (Masters said he was inspired by the aesthetics of Terrence Malick, a director best known for a film about a sociopathic killing spree.)

This is not to say Masters had no fans. Last year, I reported that Masters had once written an email to his vegetarian coop at Stanford in which he called democracy “that miserably peculiar American diety [sic].” In another, he recommended an article that advocated for “the abdication of democracy” and replacing it with a world in which the masses accepted a “natural order” led by a “voluntarily acknowledged ‘natural’ elite—a nobilitas naturalis.”….

Like Masters, Ramaswamy has a “mutual friend” in Thiel, a billionaire who concluded long ago that his version of libertarianism was unlikely to be realized through democracy. Ramaswamy, who co-founded an anti-ESG investment firm with Thiel’s backing, is more optimistic about techno-reactionaries’ ability to gain power through the ballot box. The key is to disdain voters by telling them whatever they want to hear regardless of how much it contradicts reality. It might work and, even if it doesn’t, Ramaswamy will have had fun trying.

Jim Jordan and Wisconsin Republicans Know the Law—They Just Don’t Care

Michael Tomasky, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]

...So let’s be clear about two things going on this week that are direct attacks on democracy. Jim Jordan’s attempt to interfere with Fani Willis’s prosecution of Donald Trump and Wisconsin Republicans’ threat to impeach recently elected state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz represent blatant efforts to crush law and custom and exert anti-democratic power over duly elected officeholders who happen to be doing things they don’t like.

We start with Jordan, who has repeatedly made clear that all he cares about is power. He recently wrote to Willis demanding that she turn over certain documents relating to her decision to prosecute Trump. His ridiculous letter asserted a federal interest in overseeing local prosecutions. She replied this week with an incendiary letter of her own laying out all the ways in which he’s wrong….

...Jordan is a lawyer. I’d say it’s far more likely that Jordan knows the law and doesn’t care. He’s the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and he has the power to subvert or change the law if he wants to.

Willis enumerates the many reasons why the federal government in all its forms has refrained from interfering in local prosecutions. Again, I would guess that Jordan knows all this. This is the point. He and his staff understand federalism. They just wish to trample it. In this case, that is. If and when defending Donald Trump requires howling about the precious importance of federalism, they’ll do that….

Now, to Wisconsin….  On what basis can the GOP impeach a judge who hasn’t violated any law and hasn’t done anything wrong? And remember, Republicans aren’t accusing her of having done anything wrong. They’re just saying she might make a ruling that might appear to be corrupt. And the reason they’re saying that is that Wisconsin is arguably the most corruptly gerrymandered state in the country. In last year’s midterms, Democratic Assembly candidates won about 200,000 more votes overall, but the Republicans maintained their two-thirds majority in the lower chamber….

That these two events are happening in the same week allows us to reflect on what has become of so-called conservatism. A conservative is someone who, well, conserves. As liberals see social problems and press for change to address them, conservatives say, Hey, wait a minute; let’s stop and think about the consequences of overreaction here, and about what we might be losing if we make the changes liberals want. I don’t agree with that stance and never have. But I acknowledge that it’s a legitimate way to look at the world, and I even acknowledge that sometimes, the conservative impulse can contribute to a decent, balanced outcome (or could, back in the days when there was actual compromise).

But these radicals don’t want to “conserve” anything, except for white people’s political power. They want to destroy. They aren’t just willing to trample law and custom. They are eager to do so. This must be understood. They seek opportunities to hack away at the pillars and foundations of democracy. They used to try to be sneaky and at least a little bit subtle about it. But since Trump, that’s out the window. In late 2018, it was this same Wisconsin Legislature, you may recall, that used its lame-duck session to move, after the election win of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, to limit the incoming governor’s powers.

Fani Willis lays out criminal case against false electors  

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]

“On Dec. 14, 2020, the day presidential electors across the nation were required to meet and cast their votes, thereby affirming Joe Biden’s victory, dozens of Trump allies in seven states where Biden was the certified winner convened their own mock elector ceremonies, signing petitions claiming to be legitimate presidential electors and subsequently delivering them to Congress…. Shawn Still, Cathleen Latham and David Shafer — the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party — were among the Trump allies who signed the false documents in Georgia, and they’ve been charged as part of a sprawling racketeering conspiracy aimed at subverting Georgia’s 2020 election. They’re also charged with false statements, forgery and other related charges. In recent court filings, all three have argued that they believed they were doing Trump’s bidding when they signed the false documents, pointing to the fact that Trump sent a campaign attorney to their Dec. 14 meeting who urged them to sign the documents to keep Trump’s election hopes alive. That attorney, Ray Smith, is also charged in the alleged conspiracy. The false Georgia electors are attempting to “remove” their criminal cases to federal court, where they could attempt to argue that they are immune from the state charges. At the heart of their argument is the claim that they acted at Trump’s behest — and, therefore, became appendages of the federal government. Federal law permits those acting as federal ‘officers’ to remove their cases to federal court if they’re charged with actions that relate to their official responsibilities.”

Want To Know What's Going On With The Impeachment Trial Of Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton? It's A Fascist vs Conservative Fight To The Death In Texas

Howie Klein, September 9, 2023 []

….The Hill reported this week that Texas fracking billionaire Farris Wilks, his brother Dan Wilks [fascist campaign sugar daddies] and fellow Christian nationalist ally Tim Dunn have also been Paxton’s biggest benefactors. The three have given nearly $15 million to Defend Texas Liberty, the pro-Paxton PAC, since it was founded in 2020— $3.5 million of it since Paxton’s impeachment in June, as the Tribune reported. That PAC has also given more than $3 million to impeachment judge [neo-Nazi Dan] Patrick since the charges were announced in late June. But the mere fact of Paxton’s impeachment— alongside Tuesday’s failure by the far right to get those charges thrown out— suggests that the threat of the right-wing primary may no longer work to cow the business conservatives. ‘Anyone that votes against Ken Paxton in this impeachment is risking their entire political career, and we will make sure that is the case,’ right-wing activist Jonathan Stickland, who runs the pro-Paxton Defend Texas Liberty PAC, told Steve Bannon in a mid-August interview. Stickland singled out six Republican senators: Kelly Hancock (North Richland Hills), Mayes Middleton (Galveston), Bryan Hughes (Mineola), Charles Schwertner (Georgetown), Charles Perry (Lubbock) and Drew Springer (Muenster). ‘We’re gonna make all these six famous in the days ahead,’ Bannon replied, as Stickland threatened to sponsor primary campaigns against any Republicans who voted against Paxton. But only Hancock, from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, voted to throw out the charges entirely. Two others— Perry of the Panhandle city of Lubbock, and Schwertner, from a conservative suburb of liberal Austin— voted for less-sweeping measures that nonetheless would have effectively ended the trial… By defying Paxton’s supporters, the three dissidents, Middleton, Springer and Hughes, signaled their willingness to run the risk of the most fearsome threat that the Texas right can offer: a contested primary among the famously conservative Republican primary electorate."


[Texas Observer, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]

Cooper is one of many volunteers with Food Not Bombs Houston (FNBH) who is facing trial after the City of Houston began enforcing a decade-old ordinance that makes the group’s food distribution—which has been occurring at the site for about 20 years—illegal.

Houston Police officers have issued at least 63 citations to volunteers around the Central Library branch since Mayor Sylvester Turner declared the ordinance an enforcement priority earlier this year, according to a spokesperson for the municipal courts. The timing seemed strange to volunteers—the ordinance banning food-sharing had been in effect since 2012. The citations, issued for “conduct[ing] a food service event without consent of property owner” carry potential fines ranging from $254 (if volunteers don’t contest the tickets) to as much as $2,000. Rather than eating the fines, volunteers have been opting for jury trials. The ultimate goal is to overturn the ordinance itself.

How Trump’s Election Lies Left the Michigan G.O.P. Broken and Battered

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-3-2023]

Infighting between Trump acolytes and traditionalists has driven away donors and voters. Can the Michigan Republican Party rebuild in time for the presidential election?  

Some Republicans Worry that a Trump Nomination Could Bring Steep Down-Ballot Losses for the GOP

[The Messenger, via DownWithTyranny, 9-6-2023]

[A] veteran activist cited the ritzy suburb of Atlanta, Johns Creek, as one example where otherwise solid Republicans who soured on Trump after January 6th will probably just stay home this election. “They voted for Biden and (Georgia Gov. Brian) Kemp. They don’t like Biden, but he is less icky (than Trump). But if they don’t have Kemp (on the ballot) maybe they don’t turn out at all.”
…In a side meeting at a “cattle call” of Republican candidates in Atlanta last month, one conservative leader described gathering with other top activists discussing the 2024 playing field. At the outset, nobody mentioned the name of the former president, but once one person did, the worries poured forth: Trump will depress the suburban vote for Republicans. Women will stick with Democrats. Trump’s fired-up base of diehards and populists will keep carrying him over the line in Republican primaries and “normie” Republicans will keep staying home— they won’t vote for Democrats, but they won’t vote Trump either. 

All of which could crush other Republicans running, these conservative operatives say.
“We’re worried about Cruz’s re-election chances,” the conservative leader told The Messenger. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will appear on the ballot the same as Trump (most likely) in Texas. The group that gathered in Georgia is concerned that swaths of moderate and center-right voters in the state’s expansive suburbs will take a powder, leaving Cruz and other Texas Republicans hanging.

Another Christian influencer arrested for child abuse: Why conservatives keep falling for these cons 

[Salon, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]

Highways are the next antiabortion target. One Texas town is resisting.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-3-2023]

A new ordinance, passed in several jurisdictions and under consideration elsewhere, aims to stop people from using local roads to drive someone out of state for an abortion.  

Alabama exposes a new constitutional landmine on abortion  

[MSNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-2023]

“After the Supreme Court decimated abortion rights last year, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall proclaimed that organizations that helped Alabama abortion seekers access services out of state could face criminal conspiracy charges in Alabama…. Marshall argues that he can prosecute speech that facilitates abortion travel just as he could ‘prevent a mobster from asking a hitman to kill a rival.’ Here, too, it’s hard to predict what Marshall and others like him will be able to get away with. The law on crime-facilitating speech is murky. Some lower courts have held that intentionally or knowingly providing information that might help another commit a crime is not protected by the First Amendment.”

Republicans Want New Term for “Pro-Life” After Losing So Many Elections

Tori Otten, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]

The Christian home-schooler who made ‘parental rights’ a GOP rallying cry

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-3-2023]

On a private call with Christian millionaires, home-schooling pioneer Michael Farris pushed for a strategy aimed at siphoning billions of tax dollars from public schools. 

14th Amendment

Judge dismisses 14th Amendment lawsuit against Trump, rules plaintiffs lack standing 

[Palm Beach Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-5-2023]

“In her swift dismissal of the case, Judge Robin Rosenberg, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, did not determine the 14th Amendment’s applicability in Trump’s case. Instead, Rosenberg ruled that the plaintiffs, Boynton Beach attorney Lawrence Caplan and two others, lacked “standing” to bring the challenge.”

Could the 14th Amendment keep Trump off the ballot in 2024?  

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]

“In the traditionally first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, Secretary of State David Scanlan (R) has asked the state’s attorney general to examine the issue and its potential applicability in the upcoming presidential election…. In the battleground state of Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) recently said “there are valid legal arguments being made” for keeping the former president off the ballot and that it’s something she is discussing with election officials in other states. In a recent interview with MSNBC, she said states will ‘likely need to act in concert, if we act at all’ regarding the constitutional challenges and predicted the issue will ultimately be settled in courts…. In Arizona, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) has said that he does not have the authority to bar Trump from the ballot, but that the question about Trump’s eligibility is not settled. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said when asked about Trump and the 14th Amendment that voters ‘deserve the right to decide elections.'” • Interesting that Benson wants to join hands with other Democrats so they can jump off the cliff together. I wonder if anybody is orchestrating that effort.

Lawfare podcast on procedural issues relating to 14th Amendment disqualification

Ned Foley, September 8, 2023 []

Scott Anderson of Lawfare led a thorough and well-organized discussion of the various procedural hurdles and obstacles associated with litigation over section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, with Derek and me as participants. I think it would be particularly useful for those who’d like to follow the ins and outs of this convoluted topic.

Constitutional debate over Trump’s eligibility to run more extensive than realized   

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-2023]

“The idea of barring former President Donald Trump from seeking the presidency on grounds that it would violate the 14th Amendment may be an increasingly catchy constitutional argument pushed by a segment of legal scholars and activists. But it turns out election officials have been discussing how to handle it for months. ‘We have been thinking about this in my office for quite some time, before the start of the year, assuming that this will play out,’ Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said in an interview. Underscoring the seriousness with which she has been treating the topic, Griswold noted that ‘there have been conversations among secretaries” about it.”


American Oligarchy: How Warren Buffett’s billionaire son took over a U.S. city and made it his personal playground.

[The Lever 9-5-2023]

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 3, 2023


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 3, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


Escaping Attrition: Ukraine Rolls the Dice 

Big Serge Thought, via Naked Capitalism 8-30-2023]

“Ukraine may not be interested in a war of attrition, but attrition is certainly interested in Ukraine.” Grab a cup of coffee, this is an excellent read. 

The US Proxy Warriors Remove Their Masks 

Brad Pearce [via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

The Western policy class appear to have believed, initially at least, that money and fancy equipment would be enough to win the war, as we went from one weapons mania to another. The reality turned out to be that equipment such as Leopards did, in fact, burn like all the rest, just as Putin said it would… It is typical of the US policy class to believe spending and technology will solve all of their problems, despite that they apply this strategy to everything and it never works.…

Reportedly, the Western policy class knew Ukraine didn’t have the weapons or training necessary for success but hoped they would somehow triumph anyway. Now, with failure all but inevitable, after a year and a half of lionizing the Ukrainians, the brazen depravity of the Western scribbling class is on display for all to see: they have blamed the failure on Ukraine being too “casualty averse.” This implies, I suppose, that Ukraine should be casualty casual, and care about the lives of their troops even less than they have up to this point. Old men hiding behind walls and desks are mad that Ukrainians will not make themselves human de-miners. It was already well established that the Western proxy warrior class were monsters, but they have rarely exposed themselves as clearly as while talking about the young men they’ve just led forward to pointless deaths in Ukraine’s failed summer 2023 offensive….

We are also watching an incredible phenomenon unfold whereby Russia is fighting a real war, but NATO thinks what Ukraine needs to win is support on the internet. Granted, global public opinion does matter a fair amount more to Ukraine. They are a ward of the “international community” which is largely made up of nominally democratic states, so the public does need to be on side. Alternately, Russia primarily relies on itself and people and states who are used to opposing what you could call the liberal internationalist mainstream, so they are much less at the mercy of public whims….


The Economics of Global Rearmament: How Allies are Supplying the Ongoing Defense of Ukraine and Managing its Growing Costs

[Apricitas Economics, via The Big Picture 8-31-2023]

Global power shift

A ‘Desperate’ Nuland in Africa 

[Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 9-1-2023]

When U.S. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland traveled to South Africa on July 29, her reputation as a blunt instrument of Washington’s hegemonic interests preceded her.

According to a veteran South African official who attended meetings with the senior U.S. diplomat in Pretoria, however, Nuland and her team were demonstrably unprepared to grapple with recent developments on the African continent — particularly the military coup that removed Niger’s pro-Western government hours before she launched her multi-stop tour of the region.

“In over 20 years working with the Americans, I have never seen them so desperate,” the official told The Grayzone, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Making sense of the coup in Gabon 

[An Africanist Perspective, via Naked Capitalism 9-1-2023]

View from Turkey: In a New Order, China and Russia are the dominant poles 

[International Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

Prior to the summit, 22 states filed official applications to join the BRICS. In addition, the meeting was scheduled to discuss a new common currency that will respond to the growing expectations of de-dollarization in the non-Western world.

President Putin was unable to attend the summit in person, but he delivered a speech in the spirit of anticipation, declaring "a new multipolar world order that would take into account the sovereign interests of states and open up opportunities for various development models, helping to preserve the diversity of cultures."

One of the main items on the agenda of the BRICS summit was the expansion of the group through new members. Prior to the summit, China, Russia and South Africa were believed to support new members, while Brazil and India were skeptical of expansion. As a result of talks between the leaders they decided to accept Argentina, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Ethiopia, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as full members from January 1, 2024. Thus, the number of BRICS member countries has grown to 11.


Problems of Capitalism: Power Accumulation

Ian Welsh, August 30, 2023

Capitalism has a lot of problems, a lot of ways it can go wrong. But power accumulation is baked in. Capitalism is the centralization of capital in a few private hands. This is justified in the ideological literature (mostly economics), because it allows for scale, and thus economies of scale, and allows for development. If capital doesn’t accumulate in a few hands it is hard to build factories, huge mines, and so on. (This is the theory, there are obviously other ways to do large scale tasks.)

Now, power accumulation is a problem in all systems. You need some to get things done, but doing too much always leads to dysfunction….

The problem is that capitalism is a money accumulation system. Unless the tendency is carefully checked, money flows to the top, and so does power. Whatever secondary system is in control, be it representational democracy or the CCP, they stop making decisions based on democratic or party principles and start making them based on money.

But capitalism, to the extent it works, works because of good price signaling and semi-competitive markets. For markets to deliver, no one must have market power except a government which is acting out of motives other than profit motives….

So capitalists on winning want to change the rules so that markets aren’t competitive.

They also want to expand capitalism into areas it should not control: roughly anything that is a natural monopoly (all of which should be run by government) or a fundamental welfare service (health, education, etc…) or which runs better when vastly dispersed.

So capitalism becomes a cancer: not only does it grow further than it should, it destroys the proper functioning of markets and of anything else it takes over which should never be part of capitalism….

So the general rule for capitalism is that the rich have to be kept poor, which is a specific instance of the general rule across all society types that the powerful must be kept weak if the people are to prosper.

The Supreme Stupidity of the “End of History” And Its Consequences

Ian Welsh, August 31, 2023

...This is what elites wanted to hear after the fall of the USSR and Francis was the one to tell them. He was considered a great intellectual, made lots of money and elites proceeded to act as if he were right.

There were a lot of knock on consequences but there two were most important. The first was that without a competing model, western elites felt free to really rev up the immiseration train started by Reagan and Thacher. Post-war elites had been genuinely scared of Communism, in the “we could wind up dead” way and that had driven a lot of their acquiescence to cutting ordinary people a good deal. (A lot, not all. Much of it was just that the Great Depression cut their legs out from under them, and FDR then broke their kneecaps.)

The shipping of industry to allies and to the third world did not start at the end of the Cold War, but it did go into overdrive… Now, however, the offshoring and outsourcing train traveled to China. Deng had opened up markets and privatized a large chunk of the economy, and Fukuyama had said that capitalism lead to democracy, so by shipping all that industry to China, well, the West would make them into a democracy.

The Chinese Communist party, in this storyline, were a bunch of suckers, who were inviting in the very forces which would overthrow them.

The line in poker is that if you don’t know who the sucker at the table is, it’s you, but the real danger is when you think someone else is the sucker, and they aren’t.

The CCP had understood Americans and the West very well. Ironically they were aided in this by Marxism and their belief that capitalists were blinded by greed. They offered Western elites cheap labor and high profits and dangled the dream of access to a market of a billion people….


How the kleptocrats and oligarchs hunt civil society groups to the ends of the Earth 

Cory Doctorow, via Naked Capitalism 8-28-2023]

...a new, timely scholarly paper by Alexander Cooley, John Heathershaw and Ricard Soares de Oliveira: "Transnational Uncivil Society Networks: kleptocracy’s global fightback against liberal activism," published in last month's European Journal of International Relations:

The authors document how a collection of institutions – some coercive, others organized around good works – allow kleptocrats to take power, keep power, and use power. This includes "wealth managers, company providers, accounting firms, and international bankers" who create the complex financial structures that obscure the klept's wealth. It also includes "second citizenship managers and lawyers" that facilitate the klept's transnational nature, both to provide access to un-looted, prosperous places to visit, and boltholes to escape to in the face of coup or reform. It includes the real-estate brokers and other asset facilitators, who turn whole precincts of the world's greatest cities into empty safe-deposit boxes in the sky, while ensuring that footloose criminal elites always have a penthouse to perch in when they take a break from the desiccated husks they've drained dry back home.

Of course, it also includes the PR managers and philanthropic ventures that allow the klept to launder their reputation, to make themselves synonymous with good deeds rather than mass murder. Think here of how the Sacklers used charity to turn their family name into a synonym for culture and fine art, rather than death by opioid overdose:

Transnational Uncivil Society Networks: Kleptocracy’s Global Fightback Against Liberal Activism 

Alexander Cooley, John Heathershaw and Ricard Soares de Oliveira [European Journal of International Relations, via Naked Capitalism 8-28-2023]

What is the global social context for the insertion of kleptocratic elites into the putatively liberal international order? Drawing on cases from our work on Eurasia and Africa, we sketch a concept of ‘transnational uncivil society’ which we contrast to ‘transnational activist networks’ (Keck and Sikkink, 1998). While the latter denotes the liberalising practices of global civil society, the former suggests a specific series of clientelistic relations across borders which open space for uncivil elites. This distinction animates a growing line of conflict in global politics. These kleptocrats eject liberal activists from their own territories and create new spaces to whitewash their own reputations and build their own transnational networks. To do so they hire political consultants and reputation managers, engage in public philanthropy, and forge new relationships with major global institutions. We show how these strategies of reputation-laundering are neither illicit nor marginal, but very much a product of the actors, institutions and markets generated by the liberal international order. We compare and contrast the scope and purpose of civil and uncivil society networks, we explore the increasing globalization of Eurasian and African elites as a concerted strategy to distance themselves from associations with their political oppression and kleptocracy in their home countries, and recast themselves as productive and respected cosmopolitans.

The New Gatekeepers: How Disney, Amazon, and Netflix Will Take Over Media

Writers Guild of America West, August 2023 [via Cory Doctorow]

Over the past decade, deregulation and the growing dominance of streaming video have laid the groundwork for a media landscape where just three companies—Disney, Amazon, and Netflix—are poised to be the new gatekeepers. This report from the WGAW details how these three companies have amassed power through anticompetitive practices and abusing their dominance to further disadvantage competitors, raise prices for consumers, and push down wages for the creative workforce. Pay and working conditions for writers have become so dire, and media conglomerates so unresponsive, that 11,500 writers went on strike in May 2023. Without intervention from antitrust agencies and lawmakers, consolidation will continue to snowball, leaving the future of media in peril. The report concludes with policy recommendations to protect creativity and diversity of choice in content.

Read the report
Read the executive summary ​​​​​​​

Bagmen for the Transnational Oligarchy 

Nina Illingworth [Dot Com, via Naked Capitalism 8-28-2023]

“Every Door You Open Ultimately Leads To Blackstone”

August  28, 2023 [The Lever]

The Lever’s founder David Sirota is featured in a new docuseries scrutinizing one of the world’s most powerful billionaires… 

 we’re excited to unveil David Sirota’s work in The Ruling Class, a new docuseries by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney that profiles members of the social and business elite who use their outsized influence to manipulate the world around them.

David joins the series for its episode “American Buyout,” which explains the rise of Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, the world’s largest private equity firm.

We’ve been detailing Schwarzman and Blackstone’s dirty dealings for years — from their role in the student housing crisisskyrocketing evictionschild labor exploitation, and the destruction of the planet, to how the firm bankrolled insurrectionistsfascists, and wannabe fascists. This episode connects the dots to illustrate how Schwarzman has become one of the most powerful and diabolical forces in the country.

Barbara Lee Introduced A Solid American Wealth Tax That Makes Sense

Howie Klein [ August 1-2023]

Late this July, Rep. Barbara Lee, a candidate for the Senate, proposed a much better version, the Oligarch Act, that she introduced on July 26 with Summer Lee (D-PA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (R-MI). Other co-sponsors include Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Cori Bush (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Valerie Foushee (D-NC), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

This bill would mandate a 2% tax on all wealth between 1,000 and 10,000 times median household wealth, 4% on all wealth between 10,000 and 100,000 times median household wealth, 6% on all wealth between 100,000 and 1,000,000 times median household wealth and 8% all wealth over 1,000,000 times median household wealth. Additionally, because the richest households are the most likely to evade taxes, the bill includes a requirement for at least a 30% audit rate on oligarch households and establishes penalties for substantial valuation understatements.

Dear Public Officials: Stop falling for the myth of an irrational incompetent panicked public 

Chloe Humbert [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“Officials often fail to warn the public properly, and actually impede citizens from actually responding in an emergency when the officials become more concerned with controlling people’s potential reactions than actually helping people and providing clear communication. Some people in charge have ridiculously patronizing and wrong ideas about how other people will react in an emergency. They believe in pseudoscience and outdated paranoid notions of ‘mobs’ panicking on a hair-trigger, seemingly based on ridiculous tropes in monster movies they watched as kids, but that are fiction and unrepresentative of reality. It’s time for people in charge to educate themselves about the true problem: Elite Panic! This is the phenomenon described by James B. Meigs in an article from May 2020: ‘When authorities believe their own citizens will become dangerous, they begin to focus on controlling the public, rather than on addressing the disaster itself.’ Or as described in the 2002 documentary Toxic Sludge is Good for You, the corporate culture is such that PR firms promote crisis management where the ‘first move is not to deal with the actual problem, but to manage the negative perception caused by that problem.’ Lee Clarke points out in the article ‘panic: myth or reality?’ that blaming panic is a way of blaming the victim when things go wrong because of structural or management failures, and that people recognize this and learn to mistrust those who deflect this way. The article ends with the statement: ‘Our leaders would do well to see us as partners in recovery rather than as a “”constituency”” to be handled.'” • Lots of linky goodness here, and at the accompanying podcast page.

Health care crisis

We Need a Revolution in Clean Indoor Air  

[The Tyee, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“Thousands of engineers and physicists who understand air chemistry now support better indoor air filtration and ventilation as our way out of relentless viral waves and chronic hospitalizations. One environmental engineer, Richard Corsi, who has spent his life trying to improve indoor air quality, even designed a $60 box fan that draws circulating air through filters as a pandemic fighter. Thousands of citizens have built them. And yes they work.” They do. More: “Unfortunately, the prescription to cleaner air has been overshadowed by too much faith in drugs and the rapid development of vaccines (a historical first) as the true way out of the pandemic. There is no doubt that vaccines, particularly boosters, have dramatically lowered the death toll, but they have not stopped viral transmission, viral evolution, waning immunity or vaccine hesitancy. But when it comes to pandemics, history shows that they largely perform as a backup squad. Dramatically lowering transmissions remains a key goal because of the certainty that some who contract and survive the virus will have debilitating long COVID, and allowing the virus to circulate freely speeds its mutation. Beyond cholera, more historical examples aren’t hard to find.” And: “Physical changes in how we eat, dress, house and interact with the world can dramatically alter disease patterns and even end pandemics. Examples given are yellow fever, typhus, and the Black Plague. Speculative, but interesting: “The Black Death started reshaping Europe in the 1300s and showed up every decade or so after over the next 300 years. So why did deadly outbreaks caused by a bacterium carried by fleas, lice and black rats roll on for three centuries? Historians are still debating the plague’s demise but engineering may have made a key contribution. Quarantines and isolation probably played an important role as well as changes in climate, clothing and human nutrition. But society also changed the nature of home construction. A 14th century dwelling was typically covered by a thatched roof which provided ideal living conditions for black rats and fleas. Eventually, after a wave of monstrous fires visited many European cities in the 17th century, homes of that sort were replaced by brick structures and slate roofs. At the same time an invasion of brown rats, which prefer sewer living, displaced Europe’s black rats. So actual changes in the conditions of living probably brought an end to the Black Death by eradicating its most fertile conditions.” • Vax-only has been such a debacle (unless you believe, as I would speculate a large proportion of capital does, that society is a teardown and there’s no point investing in it. Rents from vax > health from engineering). Anyhow, the article is well worth a read. The Tyee cites to this article–

Public Health is a Job for Engineers (abstract)  

[Mechanical Engineering, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“Physicians Can Cure Diseases, but Mechanical Engineers Build Defenses To Ward Off Pathogens Before They Infect.” The Abstract: “Instead of waiting to fight diseases inside the human body, engineering can establish lines of defense further out by either intercepting and neutralizing the pathogens before they reach humans or diluting them so much that they can’t build up an infective load. Good engineering can create robust public health.”

Predatory finance

Crypto Scores Landmark US Legal Win With Grayscale ETF Ruling  

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-1-2023]

“Grayscale Investments LLC won a key legal fight in its push to launch a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, bringing the crypto industry to the precipice of tapping billions of dollars from everyday investors. The firm’s court victory over the US Securities and Exchange Commission in a three-judge appeals panel in Washington represents a watershed moment for the largest cryptocurrency. Advocates say an ETF based on spot Bitcoin prices would result in a gush of retail cash. The SEC, which has thus far only allowed crypto ETFs based on futures because it says they are safer, is reviewing the decision. The agency could still fight the ruling, either by asking a full slate of judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, or the US Supreme Court to review the decision. Meanwhile, the decision injects significant momentum into Grayscale’s yearslong push. It’s also a stinging rebuke of Chair Gary Gensler’s bid to clamp down on the industry. Investors welcomed the news. The Grayscale Bitcoin Trust rallied as much as 21% and Bitcoin surged by as much as 8.3%. Grayscale has said converting to an ETF would help it unlock billions of dollars in value for investors in its $16.2 billion trust by making it easier to create and redeem shares. The trust’s closed-end structure doesn’t allow for investors to redeem shares when prices fall, causing it to trade at steep discounts to its underlying Bitcoin. As an ETF, it could create and redeem shares to keep up with changing demand. Tuesday’s ruling is the second recent high-profile court defeat for the SEC over its stance on crypto. The agency is fighting a federal judge’s ruling that offerings of Ripple Labs’ XRP token were not securities when sold to the general public. Grayscale’s win may have the most sweeping impact yet. Some of the biggest and most established names in finance have recently filed applications with the SEC to launch Bitcoin ETFs.”

Free Speech Challenges to the Inflation Reduction Act 

[JAMA, via Naked Capitalism 8-31-2023]

Private funds sue to stop ‘unlawful’ SEC disclosure rules 

[Financial Times , via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

JPMorgan reported $1 BILLION of Jeffrey Epstein’s transactions as ‘suspicious’ to feds – but only AFTER the sex predator’s death, US Virgin Island claims in court 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

Ships Going Out… the relatively unknown history of Americans who traded in slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

James Oakes [The New York Review, September 21, 2023 issue]


American Slavers: Merchants, Mariners, and the Transatlantic Commerce in Captives, 1644–1865

by Sean M. Kelley
Yale University Press, 479 pp., $35.00

Between the late sixteenth and early nineteenth centuries, hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to North America. The history of Africa is also essential to understanding that process, and no scholar has made this point as effectively as Sean M. Kelley, a historian at the University of Essex and the author of an excellent study that traced the voyage of a single slave ship as it sailed around the Atlantic from its home port in Rhode Island.

Kelley has now, in American Slavers, surveyed the history of the Americans who traded in slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Straddling several continents over hundreds of years, it is a work of impressive breadth, deep research, and evenhanded analysis. 

Over the course of nearly 350 years, more than 12 million Africans were enslaved and sent across the Atlantic as laborers for the mines, ports, and plantations of European colonies in the Americas. Because a relatively small percentage of these people—some 388,000—disembarked in North America, general histories have tended to slight the African slave trade to the colonies that became the United States. American Slavers—at once social, political, economic, and military history—goes a long way toward filling that gap….

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Nearly two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, study finds 

[Fortune, via Naked Capitalism 9-1-2023]

US consumer bust shrinks world trade 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-28-2023]

How the War on Poverty Stalled

Kim Phillips-Fein, August 28, 2023 [The New Republic]

The study of poverty has flourished in recent decades. Why haven’t the lives of the poor improved?

Mortgage Rates at 7% Are Making Everything Worse for US Homebuyers

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 8-31-2023]

Small Multifamily Homes Were Disappearing. Now States Are Scrambling to Revive Them

[CityLab, via The Big Picture 8-28-2023]

Construction of low-density housing like duplexes hovers near record lows, as states pass zoning reform to tackle the affordable housing crisis. 

If the U.S. economy is doing well, why do so many Americans say it’s terrible?

[Popular Information, via The Big Picture 8-29-2023]

The leading economic indicators show the U.S. economy is performing well, but most Americans still believe economic conditions are extremely poor — as if the country was mired in a deep recession. What explains this discrepancy? 

Alienation Under Capitalism and the Conspiracy Pipeline 

[Agonas, via Naked Capitalism 8-30-2023] 

Misled by the Phillips Curve: How Inflation Predictions Went Wrong

[Employ America, via The Big Picture 9-2-2023]

In a recent Barron’s article, I examined why last year’s predictions that fighting inflation would require an increase in the unemployment rate went so wrong. The flaws in these predictions can be traced back to three ideas: first, that vacancies are a good measure of labor market tightness; second.

American Steel’s Succession

Luke Goldstein, Jarod Facundo, September 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]

In early August, the 122-year-old U.S. Steel was presented with an unsolicited $7.3 billion bid from another of the industry’s giants, Cleveland-Cliffs. For most of the company’s history, Cliffs was North America’s largest iron-ore pellet supplier. But a string of vertical acquisitions in the last three years has added to the company’s reach; it’s now also North America’s top producer of flat-rolled steel.

If it acquires U.S. Steel, Cleveland-Cliffs would become the largest steel conglomerate in the United States and a top-ten steel producer in the world, competing against Chinese steel producers that have dominated global markets for decades.

Cliffs’ apparent hostile takeover was issued with the emphatic stamp of approval from the United Steelworkers, which has a heavy footprint across the vast majority of both Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel’s plants….

In a letter to shareholders, U.S. Steel has said it has received several offers besides Esmark. But the Steelworkers are adamant that the union can block any buyer other than Cleveland-Cliffs, citing a “successorship” clause from its most recent labor agreement with the company. According to the USW, the clause empowers the union with a de facto veto over merger and acquisition activity. If U.S. Steel breaches the agreement, the union is within its rights to draw the deal out in arbitration, where it has found success before. To further ramp up pressure on U.S. Steel to approve the deal, the USW transferred its bidding rights, granted by the contract, over to Cleveland-Cliffs….

On the labor market side, in the remaining regions of the country where steel operations continue, Cleveland-Cliffs would effectively become the industry’s sole employer. The USW has swallowed this trade-off, in part because of the likelihood that an alternative buyer of U.S. Steel would be a non-union employer. That would put pressure on Cleveland-Cliffs, which would in that scenario be a unionized steel company in a field of mostly non-union competitors paying lower salaries. That is a palpable fear for USW and its membership.

Political scientists confront real world politics dealing with hotel workers strike

Danielle Kaye, August 31, 2023 [NPR]

The American Political Science Association, or APSA, is holding its annual meeting in Los Angeles this weekend, despite calls from striking hotel workers for conferences to stay away from the city. About 6,000 people were expected to attend.

But the JW Marriott, where the conference was initially set to be held, is one of the dozens of hotels where workers have been staging rolling strikes for weeks. APSA has room blocks at other strike-ready hotels. Thousands of workers at downtown Los Angeles hotels walked off the job on Wednesday, just before the start of the APSA event.

Restoring balance to the economy

Labor unions are pushing hard for double-digit raises and better hours. Many are winning 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 8-30-2023]

Biden Administration Seeks to Expand Overtime Pay to Millions of U.S. Workers 

Marcus Barum, August 31, 2023 [The American Prospect]

If you earn less than $55,000 a year and work more than 40 hours a week, you could be eligible for time and a half.

“”Now We Can Begin””: Annotated 

Crystal Eastman [JSTOR, via Naked Capitalism 8-30-2023]

To mark the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, activist Crystal Eastman described the path to full freedom for American women.

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Chandrayaan-3: What has India’s Moon rover Pragyaan been up to since landing? 

[BBC, via The Big Picture 8-31-2023]

Exactly a week ago, India set down a robotic probe on the Moon, becoming the first country to land near the lunar south pole.  

Japan startup aims to tackle Asia’s traffic jams with EV sky trams 

[Nikkei, via Naked Capitalism 8-29-2023]

Climate and environmental crises

Young people feel like they have no future due to climate change; we need to change the narrative

[Sustainability In Numbers, via The Big Picture 8-30-2023]

More than half of young people think “humanity is doomed” due to climate change. We need to reframe the narrative from doom and sacrifice, to one of opportunity.

What Your Insurer Is Trying to Tell You About Climate Change

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 8-29-2023]

Insurers are trying to send a message. The government is trying to suppress it.

Rising Insurance Costs Start to Hit Home Sales

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 8-29-2023]

Vulnerable areas on coasts are first to feel impact of higher premiums

America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-2-2023]

Overuse is draining and damaging aquifers nationwide, a New York Times investigation found.

‘Worthless’ forest carbon offsets risk exacerbating climate change 

[, via Naked Capitalism 8-27-2023]

Carbon emissions found to cost the world’s economies 4 times as much as they did 10 years ago 

[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 8-29-2023]

The Myth of Global Grain Shortages 

[Business & Finance, via Naked Capitalism 8-27-2023]

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-29-2023]


Hospitals are killing patients because they don’t feel like doing infection control

[The Gauntlet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-29-2023]

“I can’t believe I have to say this, but infection control is not something that can happen part time, in some cases, or only during surges. As with gloves for bloodborne or hand washing for fomite transmission, protocols for airborne infection control are a set of practices implemented permanently and consistently to protect patients and healthcare workers alike. We don’t stop hand washing because norovirus cases are down. We don’t stop wearing gloves because HIV cases are down. As a doctor, if you’re arguing that you should be able to expose patients to COVID because infection control annoys you, you should not be a doctor. Find a new career. I bet you’d love denying insurance claims. I bet you’d be a natural. Making this picture even more hair-tearingly frustrating for disabled people avoiding healthcare settings is that the counter-argument for proper airborne infection control really is nothing beyond “”don’t wanna.”” There is no logical argument for allowing the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings. There is no scientific debate about the ways in which COVID is spreading. There is no risk analysis which shows that cancer patients or people who’ve just had heart attacks should consider a COVID infection to be no big deal. There is literally no excuse for this bizarre, unscientific mistreatment of patients other than gross incompetence, institutional negligence, and systemic ableism.”

[Youtube, via Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-29-2023]



Tracking Orwellian Change: New Meanings of “Deep State” and “Working Class” 

Matt Taibbi [Racket State, via Naked Capitalism 8-30-2023]

Ralph Nader’s Newspaper Is a Salvo Against D.C. Media 

The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 8-28-2023]

The Capitol Hill Citizen. PDF only

Information age dystopia / surveillance state    

GoFundMe, Go To Hell 

Matt Taibbi [Racket News, via Mike Norman Economics, August 31, 2023]

The online crowdfunding site GoFundMe just shut down a fundraising initiative for The Grayzone, a left-leaning, antiwar site led by Max Blumenthal and Aaron Maté. Citing what they euphemistically termed “external concerns,” the site froze $90,000 Grayzone raised from 1100 contributors to pay for the reporting of Kit Klarenberg, Wyatt Reed, and Alex Rubenstein.

The fundraiser has since moved to a new destination, SpotFund, and already surpassed the amount frozen by GoFundMe. The damage however has been done. GoFundMe is now officially the poster child for politicization of economic services. They prevented a parents group from renting a billboard to publicize Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage, froze nearly $8 million in donations to the “Freedom Convoy” Canadian Trucker movement, even wiped out two fundraisers for MintPress. This Grayzone incident is perhaps most loathsome, lacking even a patina of necessity or justification, while serving as a depressingly obvious preview of things to come.

Elon Musk’s X now wants your biometric data, as well as your job and education history, for ‘safety, security, and identification purposes’ 

[Fortune, via Naked Capitalism 9-1-2023]

X, formerly known as Twitter, will collect user biometric data, job and education history 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

MIT Economist Daron Acemoğlu Takes on Big Tech: “Our Future Will Be Very Dystopian” 

[Der Speigal, via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

The end of the Googleverse 

[The Verge, via The Big Picture 8-31-2023]

For two decades, Google Search was the invisible force that determined the ebb and flow of online content. Now, for the first time, its cultural relevance is in question. 

Democrats' political malpractice

The Evolution of A.O.C. 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-1-2023]

The congresswoman from New York says she’s different from when she first took office. But she’s not ready to call herself an insider. 

Feinstein is a silent character in her sad and messy final chapter 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 8-31-2023]

Hackers Shut Down 2 of the World’s Most Advanced Telescopes 

[Space, via Naked Capitalism 8-31-2023]

Former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin accuses Joe Biden, Hunter and Burisma of corruption and claims he was POISONED twice by enemies trying to silence him 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 8-27-2023]

‘Desperate’ Democrats are urging Michelle Obama to run for president: Report  

[WION, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“RadarOnline[dot]com has reported that secret back-channel talks have started within the Democratic Party to convince former first lady Michelle Obama to run for president. The news report has said that numbers suggest Michelle Obama would have greater approval ratings (48 per cent) than Biden (36 per cent) if she declared right now that she would be running for president. ‘If Michelle announced, the election would go immediately from a hotly contested footrace to a landslide,’ a Democrat source reportedly said… Obama reportedly held a low-key meeting with bigwigs in the Democratic Party at his Washington DC office recently. ‘Barack recognizes the gravity of the situation with Joe’s disappointing poll numbers,’ said a source as quoted by RadarOnline. ‘He had hoped that the president would have rallied and come into his own at this point, but that clearly hasn’t happened.’ ‘With 2024 growing closer and closer, he had to act since he apparently fears Joe is getting too old and frail to win.’ ‘While Barack has already endorsed Biden, he’s reneged in private and will publicly throw Joe overboard in a heartbeat if he thinks that the election is on the line,”” said another source as quoted by RadarOnline.” 

Like It or Not, the Left Can’t Get Away From the Democrats 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

(anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

Inside the GOP’s plot to wreck the U.S. government

[email from [The New Republic, Sep 2, 2023]

The right-wing Republican brain trust is now laying out detailed plans to implement one of Donald Trump’s most destructive goals—to gut agencies across the executive branch and replace civil servants with Trump loyalists and right-wing activists.

The GOP’s favorite think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and 50 other conservative organizations have authored an 887-page policy playbook, “Project 2025,” detailing what to do if Trump wins reelection. One of its centerpieces is a plan to reinstate “Schedule F”—Trump’s late-term executive order reclassifying many federal workers as at-will employees to make them easier to fire. As policy analyst James Goodwin recently wrote in The New Republic, the danger of Trump “abusively deploying federal law enforcement resources to harass or punish political opponents is simply too real to ignore.”

Who will replace all these federal workers after their mass firing? The Associated Press reports that the Heritage Foundation is assembling “a government-in-waiting for the former president’s return.” At the Iowa State Fair in August, Heritage staffers were on the ground building a potential employee database, signing up hundreds of volunteers and encouraging them to train in government operations.

If Trump wins in 2024, the GOP already has the playbook and ground operations to make the federal government bend to its will and its Dear Leader—instead of serving the American people. “The president Day One will be a wrecking ball for the administrative state,” Russell Vought, a former Trump administration official, told AP News.

The Shocking GOP Plan to Dismantle the American Government Revealed

Thomhartmann, August 31, 2023 [DailyKos]

...Now the partly-billionaire-funded Heritage Foundation has laid out a second-stage plan for the next Republican administration, whether it’s Trump or somebody else, whether it’s next year or in future presidential election cycles.

They call it Project 2025. With it, they intend to finally and fully seize control of and transform America. With it, they will rule….

Donald Trump wanted to functionally end the Civil Service and replace the top levels of the nation’s 2.7 million federal workers with people loyal exclusively to himself. He did this through an October 21, 2020 executive order, Schedule F, (which Biden reversed on his first day in office) that reclassified those workers out of their Civil Service jobs and into political appointee positions doing the exact same work.

The next Republican administration will almost certainly put Schedule F back into force, reestablishing the 1829 spoils system for the federal government. As Paul Dans, director of Project 2025’s “Presidential Transition Project” and a former Trump administration official, told the Associated Press:

“We need to flood the zone with conservatives.”

Next up, Project 2025 proposes to kill off federal efforts that may inhibit the profits of the fossil fuel industry and the billionaires it’s created who are helping fund both the GOP and Heritage.

A right-wing sheriffs group that challenges federal law is gaining acceptance around the country 

[Associated Press, via The Big Picture 8-27-2023]

“Leaf is on the advisory board of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, founded in 2011 by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack. The group, known as CSPOA, teaches that elected sheriffs must “protect their citizens from the overreach of an out-of-control federal government” by refusing to enforce any law they deem unconstitutional or “unjust.”

Violence Is Coming? Sorry, It’s Already Here—and Getting Worse.

Brynn Tannehill, August 31, 2023 [The New Republic]

...right-wing ideologies are behind the vast majority of politically motivated shootings. The Anti-Defamation League has tracked more than 450 politically motivated murders over the past decade. Right-wing extremists were responsible for 75 percent, and left-wing extremists were only responsible for 4 percent (which works out to three out of four, and one out of 25, respectively). These things are not the same, and attempts to equate them are among the worst of bothsidesism. (The remaining 21 percent is Islamic terrorism—18 percent—and uncategorized—3 percent.)

However, Republican leaders have convinced much of their base that it is in fact leftists who are responsible for the majority of politically motivated murders. Forty-seven percent of Republicans believe that the left is responsible for most political violence, when in reality it runs almost 19-to-1 in the opposite direction. To do this, they bend reality to their own ends, refusing to say things were racially motivated when they were, claiming that the shooters’ views weren’t aligned with the GOP as a whole, or engaging in fake whataboutism….

The right-wing campaign to make our kids dumber

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 8-27-2023]

For reasons that may not be too hard to understand, Republicans and conservatives seem to be intent on turning their K-12 schools, colleges and universities into plantations for raising a crop of ignorant and unthinking students. Donald Trump set forth the principle during his 2016 primary campaign, when he declared, “I love the poorly educated.”

The Hostile Takeover of Blue Cities by Red States

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 8-31-2023]

GOP legislatures are increasingly imposing their economic and cultural priorities on left-leaning municipalities like Nashville. 

A shiny scheme is draining- retirement accounts. Right-wing media enables it

[MSNBC, via The Big Picture 8-27-2023]

We’ve been following these companies for years. And the picture that emerged from our research was alarming.  

How right-wing news powers the ‘gold IRA’ industry

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 8-27-2023]

Ads for gold coins have become a mainstay on Fox News, Newsmax and other conservative outlets, even as regulators have accused some companies of defrauding elderly clients.  

Why Is Nobody Doing Anything About Mitch McConnell?   

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“For the second time in about a month, the heavy gears and winches that drive Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s brain seized up in front of news cameras. While taking questions from reporters on Wednesday in Covington, Ky., and asked about running for reelection in 2026, the top Republican powered down for 30 seconds as if an unseen hand had removed the lithium ion battery from his chassis. Attempts by an aide to reboot him seemed to succeed as he muttered, “”OK,”” and gave brief answers before retiring from the scene… If McConnell were a bus driver or broadcaster or teacher engaged in any other occupation that, like serving as a legislative leader, demands real-time responses, he would have been benched pending a medical examination. Instead, Mitch’s verbal stoppage has been met with paralysis by the political order, which seems incapacitated by his condition. …  Things aren’t fine in the U.S. Senate. Nobody should be considered irreplaceable, even if it causes a political mess. And the preferred means of departing the Senate shouldn’t be feet first. To insist otherwise is yet another symptom of lightheadedness.” • Or post-Covid neurological damage?

Trump Is Top Choice for Nearly 60% of GOP Voters 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-2-2023]

The Fourteenth Amendment Fantasy 

David Frum [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-1-2023]

“[Eminent jurists] argue that language in the Fourteenth Amendment, adopted after the Civil War, should debar the coup-plotting ex-president from appearing on a ballot for any office ever again. Their learning is undisputed. Their conclusions are another story. The project to disqualify Trump from running for president is misguided and dangerous. It won’t work. If it somehow could work, it would create problems worse even than Americans already face. In an ideal world, Trump’s fellow Republicans would handle this matter by repudiating his crimes and rejecting his candidacy for their presidential nomination. Failing that—and it certainly seems as if that hope is failing—opponents of Trump must dig deep and beat him at the polls one more time. There is no cheat code to win this game.” • I hate to find myself in agreement with Frum, but needs must. Regardless of what the text of the Constitution states, giving election officials of one party to power to remove candidates from the other party from the ballot line based on a judgement call is a change to the Constitutional order (albeit an unwritten portion of that order). The “eminent jurists” have pointed to the Rubicon and said, “Yep! Let’s cross it. What could go wrong?”

The Constitutional Case for Barring Trump from the Presidency

J. Michael Luttig [The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-1-2023]

Luttig explains the “self-executing” aspect of the Fourteenth Amendment, giving the example of the age requirement. The Constitution requires that a President be 35 years old. Therefore, election officals must stirke their name from the ballot. But: “here is vastly more judgment entailed in determining whether, for instance, the former President engaged in an insurrection or rebellion than in determining whether a candidate was thirty-five years old. That doesn’t relieve the obligated election official from making that determination. The process for placing individuals on the ballot varies from state to state. But, under our reading of the Fourteenth Amendment, an individual election official could make that decision himself or herself. As a practical matter, is that likely to occur? It would depend, I think, on the office of the election official. If it were the secretary of state who was charged with placing individuals on the ballot, then I believe that decision by the duly appointed state official would suffice. But, in all events, whoever makes the qualification or the disqualification decision and whether they make it, that decision will be immediately challenged, probably by the former President himself. And that challenge would go directly into court—either state or federal—and it would eventually make its way to the Supreme Court of the United States.” • However, the point of entry is a disqualification by an election official at the state level. Suits by individuals are frivolous.

A Trump Victory Would Create a Constitutional Crisis 

David Atkins [Washington Monthly, via Naked Capitalism 8-27-2023]

Is Trump disqualified for the N.H. primary? The secretary of state is seeking legal advice. 

[Boston Globe, via Naked Capitalism 8-27-2023]

This idea was further popularized in The Atlantic a week ago, and it’s been discussed widely since, including during this week’s Republican presidential debate. Here in New Hampshire, the GOP’s 2020 nominee for the first congressional district, attorney Bryant “Corky” Messner, said in a radio interview Monday that he read about the legal theory and is now thinking about suing to ensure that Scanlan enforces the Constitution against Trump.

“Someone needs to take some action legally so this thing can get in front of the Supreme Court sooner rather than later to interpret this section,” he said.
There are, of course, differing views. Some legal scholars say the Trump-is-already-disqualified camp overlooks relevant legal precedent. And even some who agree that Trump is disqualified argue that “advancing this argument in a legal challenge is a terrible idea” that “could end up further imperiling our already fragile republic.”
Scanlan said the former president — who faces four criminal indictments, including two that pertain to his attempts to subvert democracy after the 2020 election — is entitled to due process. And he said judges are better equipped than he currently is to determine whether the campaign that culminated in violence at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, triggers the 14th Amendment.

The Constitution Prohibits Trump From Ever Being President Again

J. Michael Luttig and Laurence H. Tribe [The Atlantic]

Liberal groups seek to use the Constitution’s insurrection clause to block Trump from 2024 ballots   

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“Two liberal nonprofits pledge court challenges should states’ election officers place Trump on the ballot despite those objections. The effort is likely to trigger a chain of lawsuits and appeals across several states that ultimately would lead to the U.S. Supreme Court, possibly in the midst of the 2024 primary season. The matter adds even more potential legal chaos to a nomination process already roiled by the front-runner facing four criminal trials…. ‘There’s a very real prospect these cases will be active during the primaries,’ said Gerard Magliocca, a law professor at Indiana University, warning that there could be different outcomes in different states before the Supreme Court makes a final decision. ‘Imagine you have an opinion that says he’s not eligible and then there’s another primary where he’s on the ballot.’ Though most litigation is unlikely to begin until October, when states begin to set their ballots for the upcoming primary.” And: “In 2021, the nonprofit Free Speech For People sent letters to the top election official in all 50 states requesting Trump’s removal if he were to run again for the presidency. The group’s legal director, Ron Fein, noted that after years of silence, officials are beginning to discuss the matter.” So Democrats have been working this for awhile; in fact, since the events of January 6, ariot immediately framed by them as “insurrection.” More: “It’s critical that the high court settle the issue before the general election, said Edward Foley, a law professor at The Ohio State University. His fear is that if Trump’s qualifications are not resolved and he wins, Democrats could try to block his ascension to the White House on Jan. 6, 2025, triggering another democratic crisis.” • Many examples of election officials considering this issue.

“Donald Trump ineligible for presidency because of role in insurrection, new lawsuit claims” 

[Chicago Tribune, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-31-2023]

“The lawsuit, citing Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, wants the federal courts to enforce the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, added after the Civil War to prevent people who engaged in rebellion against the United States from holding office again…. ‘Realistically, it’s not a Hail Mary, but it’s just tossing the ball up and hoping it lands in the right place,’ said Charles Zelden, a professor of history and legal studies who specializes in politics and voting at Nova Southeastern University. ‘It’s hopefulness that we can make the problem that is Trump simply go away. And I’m sorry, Trump is too big a problem to simply go away. He’s too much of a challenge to the system.’ ‘It’s kind of one of those ideas that only a law professor could love,’ Zelden said.”

Here is the case (pdf)

The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Clarence Thomas Acknowledges Undisclosed Real Estate Deal With Harlan Crow and Discloses Private Jet Flights  

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 9-1-2023]

Civic republicanism

An Overabundance of Virtue 

Erin Maglaque [The New York Review, September 21, 2023 issue]


Political Meritocracy in Renaissance Italy: The Virtuous Republic of Francesco Patrizi of Siena

by James Hankins
Harvard University Press, 430 pp., $55.00

The Sienese political theorist Francesco Patrizi wrote in 1471 that a republic’s strength was in its numbers: a popular government can “see with many eyes, work with many hands, and stride with almost numberless feet.” But whose eyes, whose hands, whose feet were to be involved in the work of governing? A Portuguese visitor to Siena was fined in 1451 for insulting the republic, saying that it was ruled by “grocers, tanners, shoemakers and rustics”—plebs, in a word, who together formed un reggimento di merda (a government of shit). Everyone in fifteenth-century Italy, from shoemakers to princes, had their own ideas about what separated a good government from a shitty one. But Renaissance Italy also had a professional class of political thinkers: humanists like Patrizi who undertook an expansive program of scholarship that advanced their vision of a better political society.

The humanist movement of moral and political reform is what James Hankins, a Harvard historian and the foremost scholar of Renaissance Italian humanism and political thought, has termed “virtue politics.” In the vast lost continent of Renaissance Latin literature—not only little-read political treatises but poetry, satire, comedy, commentaries on ancient texts, orations given at graduations and funerals, historical writing, marriage tracts, and the voluminous correspondence among scholars spanning Italy—Hankins has discovered generations of men dedicated to the renewal of virtue in their own corrupted and factional society. He argues in his landmark book Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy (2019) that humanist scholars sought to inculcate justice, goodness, prudence, and modesty in the ruling class through a moral and political program of liberal education.

With Virtue Politics, Hankins departed significantly from the decades-long consensus on what humanism was and what united its many participants. Historians of the Renaissance have long considered it to be a movement of literary style; the common denominator was said to be an interest in a particular set of philological and textual methods aimed at recovering and restoring the literary heritage of antiquity. By contrast, for historians of political thought such as Eugenio Garin, J.G.A. Pocock, and Quentin Skinner, humanism meant republican humanism: the elaboration of a genealogy of liberty, an ideal that historians could trace from Tacitus to the Renaissance republican city-states and its culmination in early American republican thought.

Hankins rejects both arguments—that humanism was either a kind of literary antiquarianism or a one-note republican political philosophy. The movement was grander and nobler in its common purpose to revive virtue through education. Although humanists were united in their moral and political vision, they undertook a hugely varied program of writing, not just in lots of genres but across a dizzying number of subjects: one of Hankins’s objections to the Pocock and Skinner school of thought is that humanists didn’t write only about liberty but also about topics like citizenship, immigration, wealth and inequality, laws and the legal profession, moral character, corruption, marriage and gender relations, and, critically, what it means to pursue a liberal education.

Two conflicting ideas of political economy

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, September 2, 2023

On March 4, 1858, South Carolina senator James Henry Hammond rose to his feet to explain to the Senate how society worked. “In all social systems,” he said, “there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life.” That class, he said, needed little intellect and little skill, but it should be strong, docile, and loyal.

“Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization and refinement,” Hammond said. His workers were the “mud-sill” on which society rested, the same way that a stately house rested on wooden sills driven into the mud.

He told his northern colleagues that the South had perfected this system by enslavement based on race, while northerners pretended that they had abolished slavery. “Aye, the name, but not the thing,” he said. “[Y]our whole hireling class of manual laborers and ‘operatives,’ as you call them, are essentially slaves.”….

He warned that it was only a matter of time before workers took over northern cities and began slaughtering men of property.

Hammond’s vision was of a world divided between the haves and the have-nots, where men of means commandeered the production of workers and justified that theft with the argument that such a concentration of wealth would allow superior men to move society forward….

On September 30, 1859, at the Wisconsin State Agricultural Fair, rising politician Abraham Lincoln answered Hammond’s vision of a society dominated by a few wealthy men. While the South Carolina enslaver argued that labor depended on capital to spur men to work, either by hiring them or enslaving them, Lincoln said there was an entirely different way to see the world.  

Representing an economy in which most people worked directly on the land or water to pull wheat into wagons and fish into barrels, Lincoln believed that “[l]abor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed—that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence they hold that labor is the superior—greatly the superior of capital.”

A man who had, himself, worked his way up from poverty to prominence (while Hammond had married into money), Lincoln went on: “[T]he opponents of the ‘mud-sill’ theory insist that there is not…any such things as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life.” ….

In such a worldview, everyone shared a harmony of interest. What was good for the individual worker was, ultimately, good for everyone. There was no conflict between labor and capital; capital was simply “pre-exerted labor.” Except for a few unproductive financiers and those who wasted their wealth on luxuries, everyone was part of the same harmonious system.

The protection of property was crucial to this system, but so was opposition to great accumulations of wealth. Levelers who wanted to confiscate property would upset this harmony, as Hammond warned, but so would rich men who sought to monopolize land, money, or the means of production. If a few people took over most of a country’s money or resources, rising laborers would be forced to work for them forever or, at best, would have to pay exorbitant prices for the land or equipment they needed to become independent.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since Lincoln’s day, but on this Labor Day weekend, it strikes me that the worldviews of men like Hammond and Lincoln are still fundamental to our society: Should our government protect people of property as they exploit the majority so they can accumulate wealth and move society forward as they wish? Or should we protect the right of ordinary Americans to build their own lives, making sure that no one can monopolize the country’s money and resources, with the expectation that their efforts will build society from the ground up?

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 27, 2023


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 27, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


Economic Warfare Is Cruel and Useless 

Daniel Larison [via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

Economic warfare can cause destruction and dislocation, but it doesn’t deliver the political and policy goods that sanctions advocates promise. Even if one accepts the twisted ends-justifying-the-means logic of using the economic weapon on an entire country, sanctions policies almost never reach their stated goals. When supporters of economic warfare claim that sanctions “work,” all that they mean is that it causes harm to the targeted economy.

Yes, it obviously does that, but that is not what anyone, including sanctions advocates, used to think of as sanctions success. If economic warfare can’t compel any desired changes in the targeted regime’s behavior, it doesn’t work except as the crudest bludgeon. It is a measure of how useless sanctions are that this is what their defenders are reduced to arguing.

Global power shift

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 8-25-2023]



[TW: Just a matter of time until Nigeria and Venezuela are invited to join BRICS (expanded). 

Lavrov Explained How Russia Envisages BRICS’ Global Role

[Andrew Korybko's Newsletter, via Mike Norman Economics, August 21, 2023]

This is Russia’s most direct debunking of the Alt-Media Community’s false perceptions about BRICS thus far. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov published an article in South Africa’s Ubuntu Magazine on the eve of the 15th BRICS Summit that’ll be hosted in that country. Titled “BRICS: Towards a Just World Order”, he explained how Russia envisages its global role and built upon the efforts earlier this month by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to clarify false perceptions of BRICS. This includes the Alt-Media Community’s (AMC) most popular one imagining that it’s driven by de-dollarization and is resolutely anti-Western.

Lavrov began by describing the global systemic transition to multipolarity, particularly its economic-financial dimensions, so as to set the context within which this week’s BRICS Summit is taking place. Of pertinence, he mentioned that “not only Russia, but also a number of other countries are consistently reducing their dependence on the US dollar, switching to alternative payment systems and national currency settlements.”

The abovementioned trend isn’t de-dollarization like the AMC understands it to be in the sense of advancing a political decision aimed at phasing out the use of that currency in totality. Rather, it can more accurately be described as diversification from the dollar in order to hedge against forex and other risks posed by dependence on it. While they might appear identical to the average member of the AMC since both goals decrease the dollar’s share in the economy, their motivations are entirely different....

Does India’s disruption of the global rice market pose new threat to food security? 

[East Asia Forum, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-2023]


“Rubbing Shoulders: Class Segregation in Daily Activities”  (PDF)

[Maxim Massenkoff, Nathan Wilmers, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-23-2023]

The Abstract: “We use location data to study activity and encounters across class lines. Low-income and especially high-income individuals are socially isolated: more likely than other income groups to encounter people from their own social class. Using simple counterfactual exercises, we study the causes. While some industries cater mainly to low or high-income groups (for example, golf courses and wineries), industry alone explains only a small share of isolation. People are most isolated when they are close to home, and the tendency to go to nearby locations explains about one-third of isolation. Brands, combined with distance, explain about half the isolation of the rich. Casual restaurant chains, like Olive Garden and Applebee’s, have the largest positive impact on cross-class encounters through both scale and their diversity of visitors. Dollar stores and local pharmacies like CVS deepen isolation. Among publicly-funded spaces, libraries and parks are more redistributive than museums and historical sites. And, despite prominent restrictions on chain stores in some large US cities, chains are more diverse than independent stores. The mix of establishments in a neighborhood is strongly associated with cross-class Facebook friendships (Chetty et al., 2022). The results uncover how policies that support certain public and private spaces might impact the connections that form across class divides.”

How Do the Rich Become and Stay Wealthy? 

[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-23-2023]

“Ozkan noted that, on average, the wealthiest individuals began their careers significantly richer than other households in the same cohort. For example, the richest 0.1% of households at ages 50 to 54 owned about 120 times the economywide average wealth, which was $437,000 in 2015. When these same households were in their late 20s, they already possessed, on average, 20 times the economywide average wealth, Ozkan pointed out. Ozkan also noted that the wealthiest households at ages 50 to 54 were heavily invested in equity, particularly private businesses, starting at a young age. For instance, he pointed out, the wealthiest individuals held 85% to 90% of their wealth in equity, whereas below-median households held 90% of their total assets in housing. Consequently, the wealthiest earned markedly higher returns. ‘It follows, then, that equity income, including capital gains, provided the main source—83%—of total lifetime income for the wealthiest 0.1%. In contrast, households in the bottom 90% of the wealth distribution earned 80% to 90% of their lifetime income from labor services,’ Ozkan wrote. ‘Interestingly, inheritances (accrued between 1994 and 2014) constituted a negligible fraction of resources for all wealth groups, including the top wealth owners.’ The richest households were also significant savers. Ozkan noted that the wealthiest 0.1% of households had saved 70% of their gross income over the study period.” • Hmm. If the rich began their careers “significantly richer,” and yet “inheritances constituted a negligible fraction of resources for the top wealth owners,” then how was the “primitive accumulation” done? A “great crime“?

How Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andreessen—Four Billionaire Techno-Oligarchs—Are Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality

[Vanity Fair, via The Big Picture 8-26-2023]

In an excerpt from his new book, The End of Reality, the author warns about the curses of AI and transhumanism, presenting the moral case against superintelligence.  

1.2% of adults have 47.8% of the world’s wealth while 53.2% have just 1.1%

[Michael Roberts Blog, via Mike Norman Economics, August 22, 2023]

Strategies of kleptocrats and their enablers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, experts warn 

[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

Philanthropy rather than politics is increasingly being used to change the image of countries and individuals.

Global corruption rankings don't recognize the structured use of wealth managers, accounting firms, and international bankers, as well as citizenship managers, brokers, lobbyists, PRs and lawyers.

The study describes this era of reputation laundering as 'transnational uncivil societies'. The aims of transnational uncivil societies extend beyond personal benefits to political aims and to further authoritarian and kleptocratic power. TUSNs act against transnational activists through private investigators, the issuance of INTERPOL warrants, regional policing mechanisms and the courts.

The study, by Alexander Cooley from Barnard College, John Heathershaw from the University of Exeter and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira from the University of Oxford, is published in the European Journal of International Relations.

They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

New Court Documents Suggest the Justice Department Under Four Presidents Covered Up Jeffrey Epstein’s Money Laundering at JPMorgan Chase

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 21, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]

Gary Gensler’s SEC Is Drawing a Dark Curtain Around Child Sex Trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, His Money Man Leslie Wexner and Their Ties to JPMorgan 

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, August 25, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]

The CEOs Who Are Robbing You Blind

Jason Linkins, August 26, 2023 [The New Republic]

...Fortunately, we have the Institute for Policy Studies keeping watch over executive excess. And their 2023 report on what they term the Low-Wage 100—the 100 firms listed on the S&P 500 Index that had the lowest median worker pay levels in 2022—casts a riveting light on some real highway robbery.

Among the companies in the Low-Wage 100, the gap between average workers and the executives who govern their lives continues to be grotesquely wide. When one of the few good things you can say about the CEO-worker pay gap at these firms is that it dropped from a staggering 670-to-1 to a slightly less stratospheric 603-to-1, you are still facing a thoroughly baked-in state of affairs….

Lowe’s, which has become something of a bête noire on the IPS’s annual report, topped all-comers with respect to stock buybacks. According to the IPS, in 2022, the company spent “more than $14.1 billion on buybacks—enough to give every one of its 301,000 U.S. employees a $46,923 bonus.” Collectively, stock buybacks have allowed the CEOs of the Low-Wage 100 to cart off quite a pile of boodle—the IPS estimated that these executives’ “personal stock holdings increased more than three times as fast as their firms’ median worker pay.”

But perhaps one of the most galling things about these corporations is how many of them are using our taxpayer dollars to add to these CEOs’ kitties. According to the IPS, 51 of the Low-Wage 100 “received federal contracts worth a combined $24.1 billion during fiscal years 2020–2023.” Additionally, “The average CEO pay in this low-wage contractor group stood at $12.7 million, 56 times as much as the salary of a Biden administration cabinet secretary” and “438 times their $34,550 median worker pay.” The firm that stands out among those fattening themselves off the taxpayer teat is Amazon, which has taken in nearly $10.4 billion in federal contracts, according to the IPS. As The New Republic contributor Sandeep Vaheesan recently reported, Amazon’s broad universe of contract work is one factor that makes it hard for antitrust regulators to bring the firm to heel.

Surveillance state

Tracking Orwellian Change: The Aristocratic Takeover of “Transparency” 

Matt Taibbi [via Naked Capitalism 8-21-2023]

Helicopter Footage From Mass Arrest Reveals State Trooper Surveillance Capabilities, Tactics, and Communications 

[Unicorn Riot, via Naked Capitalism 8-26-2023]

NSA Orders Employees to Spy on the World “With Dignity and Respect” 

[Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 8-26-2023]

Dangerous threats to local press freedom 

[Columbia Journalism Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-23-2023]

Climate and environmental crises

How Kids Pulled Off a Climate Sneak Attack in Montana

Molly Taft, August 25, 2023 [The New Republic]

...Last week, the judge in Held v. Montana handed down a victory for the 16 young plaintiffs, who argued that the state’s continued production of fossil fuels violated their constitutional rights. Advocates say the landmark ruling could have broad ramifications for future climate litigation. But it’s also clear that Montana was woefully unprepared to face climate science on trial.

Part of the reason this case was so unique—and one of the reasons that its outcome is so extraordinary—is that it’s the first climate case brought by young people to go to trial, and one of the rare times that a case concerning climate has actually had its day in court. That’s partially by design, says Karen Sokol, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Polluters, and the states that sympathize with them, have developed a heretofore reliable strategy to stop climate litigation: Get cases thrown out before they even go to trial….

It’s not unreasonable, Sokol told me, to assume that fossil fuel sympathizers are taking notes about what happened here. In addition to the various kids’ cases, which tend to be filed against governing bodies, there are around two dozen lawsuits brought by cities, states, and counties against multiple private oil companies, which are working their way through various courts. The industry has long shared tactics to fight lawsuits; given the close relationship between some states’ attorneys general and oil and gas interests, it wouldn’t be surprising if those strategies are also making their way into state legal briefs….

Still, even if oil companies and their allies are taking careful notes from Montana’s flop, it might not make much difference.

“What the defendants are realizing, and are going to have to come to terms with, is that climate in the courts is no longer exceptional,” she said. “It’s going to become increasingly ordinary because that’s our reality. Courts deal with facts and reality. It’s going to become harder and harder to stop that from happening.”

How Quebec won the world’s first ban on oil and gas extraction 

[The Breach, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-2023]

Quarter of global population faces extremely high water stress each year 

[Down to Earth, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-2023]

Water, not lithium, is the resource Latin America should worry about 

[Rest of World, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-2023]

Does The Ocean Floor Hold The Key To The Green Energy Transition? 

[NOEMA, via The Big Picture 8-25-2023]

Abundant minerals at the bottom of the ocean could be vital for renewable energy infrastructure. But what harm will be caused by mining them?  

Learning how to garden a forest 

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-2023]

For over a century, the American environmental movement has been animated by an intuitive and simple idea: Protecting trees means leaving forests alone. This stance — championed by men like John Muir and based on their belief that any alteration, including thinning or intentional burning, of wilderness harms it — was once key to stopping timber companies from wiping out old-growth forests entirely. And it was an approach that I embraced; for most of my life, I was categorically opposed to felling trees.

But that ethos created an unintended outcome: An expanding body of research shows that the West’s overgrown forests are fueling unnaturally severe wildfires that can cause irreparable ecological damage and massive economic loss. Living in rural areas during this period of catastrophic fires driven in no small part by climate change has forced many people — myself included — to look at tree cutting, and forests, differently.

My perspective began to shift in August 2020 when I attended a class led by Clint McKay, the Indigenous education coordinator at Pepperwood Preserve, a research station in eastern Sonoma County on the traditional homeland of the Wappo people. That summer, the region reached a record 115 degrees Fahrenheit, and two devastating wildfires, which together killed six people and destroyed 1,491 homes, came within a few miles of my home. I joined McKay’s popular Indigenous forest stewardship class expecting to master the use of prescribed burns to defend the forest. Instead, he spent much of our time explaining why people must become more comfortable with cutting down some trees — a necessary intervention in many dense forests before beneficial fires can be reintroduced safely.

4 takeaways from the grid’s record-breaking summer 

Jason Plautz, 08/25/2023 []

Grid monitors issued dire warnings ahead of the summer that Americans could face blackouts during an extreme heat wave — but so far, that hasn’t happened. Why?

….A heat dome continues to scorch the Midwest and Southeast. The grid operators Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which covers parts of 15 states, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) issued alerts this week signaling tight conditions. On Thursday, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) covering the central U.S. announced an emergency event requiring generators to take additional steps to meet demand but didn’t institute rolling blackouts.

Mark Olson, manager of reliability assessments at the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC), a national grid watchdog, said the lack of widespread power outages or brownouts so far amid conditions he called “uncharted territory” doesn’t mean that the U.S. grid is fully ready for the onslaught of climate change.

“We’re seeing the grid operating at the outer limits of its capability,” said Olson. “Fortunately the operators are able to get through, but we’re seeing the creaks and groans. We should all take these signals to heart.”

With hotter summers predicted for the future, additional factors could come into play, such as climate conditions that hinder wind and solar output and spiking power demand from more use of electric vehicles and appliances.

Here are four questions answered about the U.S. grid’s performance this summer: ….

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Hard sail test hits the high seas, aiming to reduce cargo ship emissions by 30 percent 

[Endgadget, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

Agrivoltaics Is Making Friends Across Partisan Lines, Thanks To Farmers 

[CleanTechnica, via Naked Capitalism 8-25-2023]

We are not empty: The concept of the atomic void is one of the most repeated mistakes in popular science. Molecules are packed with stuff

[Aeon, via The Big Picture 8-26-2023]

Misconceptions feeding the idea of the empty atom can be dismantled by carefully interpreting quantum theory, which describes the physics of molecules, atoms and subatomic particles. According to quantum theory, the building blocks of matter – like electrons, nuclei and the molecules they form – can be portrayed either as waves or particles.  

‘Historic’: Ecuador voters reject oil drilling in Amazon protected area 

[Al Jazeera, via Naked Capitalism 8-21-2023]

Tracking the EV battery factory construction boom across North America

[TechCrunch, via The Big Picture 8-21-2023]

Here’s where the US stands on EV battery production, 1 year after the Inflation Reduction Act was signed.  

Inside the Slow, Yet ‘Incredible’ Installation of a $78,000 Tesla Solar Roof

[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 8-21-2023]

Long Island homeowner Winka Dubbeldam describes a tedious process that in the end helped lower her electric bill while maintaining the appearance of her Cape Cod-style  home. 

Renewables Are Both Necessary for Carbon Reduction and Cheap

Ramenda Cyrus, August 25, 2023 [The American Prospect]

New research shows that renewable power like solar and wind is now affordable enough to shut down the debate over cost.

We Did Not Evolve to Be Selfish—and Humans Are Increasingly Aware We Can Choose How Our Cultures Can Evolve

April M. Short [Prezensa, via Mike Norman Economics, August 22, 2023]

The good news is that humans evolved often as cooperative and “prosocial” beings, so looking to the past and better understanding our cultural evolution as a species might help illuminate the best ways forward across the board. This is the basis of a paper published in April 2023 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) titled, “Multilevel Cultural Evolution: From New Theory to Practical Applications.” Rather than focusing on the genetic code and physical evolution of humans, the paper explores the advanced and groundbreaking—but seldom discussed—field of cultural evolution.


What Stone-Carving Robots Tell Us About the Architecture of the Future

[Slate, via The Big Picture 8-25-2023]

...Monumental Labs, based in Mount Vernon, New York. Founder Micah Springut similarly wants to bring cut rock to the people, but his goals are loftier. “Monumental Labs is developing the infrastructure to build highly ornamented classical structures on a mass scale,” the mission statement reads, “and to create extraordinary new architectural forms.”

Springut’s thesis is that we have lost the ability to build the kind of buildings people like best—ornate ones. Think the Lincoln Memorial or the Tribune Tower. The creation of these kinds of structures largely halted a century ago, when industrial materials like steel and concrete entered the scene. Buildings became flatter, sleeker. Less was more. By reducing the cost of chiseling, Springut reasons, architects can once again embrace the decorative flourishes of carved stone. His firm’s first project, the restoration of an 1880s hotel facade, is underway in New York City now.

At the core of Springut’s operation is a modern technique known as CNC milling—the 3D, computer-programmed drilling that produces countless components for automobiles, hospitals, and industry. The difference here is that a seven-axis industrial arm is working on materials that haven’t been considered very useful since the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The robot arm is impressively good at work once reserved for skilled craft artisans, though it’s not quite ready to replace them; a human still carves the finishing touches….

Steve Webb, the director of the London-based firm Webb Yates Engineersconvinced me that stone is at once elegant, beloved, and environmentally sound, and—with a little technological razzmatazz—can fulfill many of the structural functions today assigned to steel or reinforced concrete. “The building industry is grinding through millions of tons of coal to make cement, when we’re surrounded by mountains of rock,” Webb laments. He says that post-tensioned stone—blocks strung through with steel cable, like beads on a necklace—can be structurally and economically competitive with steel or concrete. Stone is also considerably better for the environment, since it is sitting in enormous quantities right beneath our feet.

Health care crisis

Health care CEOs hauled in $4 billion last year as inflation pinched workers, analysis shows 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-21-2023]

“The health care industry didn’t just provide a safe haven for jittery stock investors in 2022, a year defined by inflation and higher interest rates. It also provided a stable stream of wealth for top executives, who collectively pocketed billions of dollars in what was otherwise a rough patch for the economy. By almost every measure, 2022 was a bad year for the stock market. But health care stocks fell significantly less than other companies as the amount of care received and prescriptions filled returned closer to pre-pandemic norms. As a result, the CEOs of more than 300 publicly traded health care companies combined to make $4 billion in 2022, according to a STAT analysis of financial filings. That amount of money could buy Costco memberships for more than 66 million people, and it’s equivalent to the entire economic output of Sierra Leone. That CEO haul was down 11% from the $4.5 billion recorded in 2021. But the sizable paydays highlight how every niche of health care — from Covid-19 vaccines and obscure technology to orthopedic implants and providing coverage to the nation’s poor — continued to supply its leaders with substantial sums of money even as more people struggled to afford food, housing, and, yes, health care. ‘No matter how you slice it, the people at the top — the CEOs of these companies — are making enormous gains every year compared to ordinary Americans,’ said John McDonough, a health policy professor at Harvard who has studied health care for nearly four decades. ‘This is the bitter fruit that we [who?] reap from telling the health care industry to act more like a business.'”

Doctors Must Pay for Privilege of Getting Paid 

[Newser, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

End Predatory Private Medicare “Advantage” Plans Now

[ 8-23-2023, via Rick W,]

Gainesville, Florida (Special to Informed Comment) — Wendell Potter, a New York Times bestselling author, highly respected health care and campaign finance reform advocate, authority tackling corporate and special interest propaganda, alerts us to the dangers of Medicare Advantage plans now offered by the private health insurance industry.

“In just a few weeks”, says Potter, “we’re once again going to be bombarded with ads featuring healthy and happy-looking seniors playing tennis and telling us how wonderful their Medicare Advantage plan is and how much of a no-brainer it is to shun traditional Medicare and opt instead for a plan operated by a big corporation like Humana and Cigna. We’ll hear insurers’ shills tell us about the extra benefits we’ll get, like discounts on gym memberships, $900. for groceries and some coverage for dental, vision and hearing. They’re short on details of course, and we never hear that coverage for those extra things can be pretty meager”….

U.S. political and oligarch support for privatization of health insurance is grounded in the philosophy espoused by University of Chicago economist, the late Milton Friedman. Friedman said “the corporations should not take into account the public interest” and added that “the government itself should not take into account the public interest. The job of the government is to simply let everybody make as much money as they can, however they can”.

Whipping Egg-Whips: Retirees Are Winning Battles Against Medicare Advantage

Kay Tillow, August 25, 2023 [Common Dreams, via Rick S.]

In a country inundated with ads falsely praising the benefits of MA plans, it is amazing that grassroots organizations have cut through the gibberish, exposed the lies, and are fighting to keep their traditional Medicare with promised supplementary coverage.

Millions Sick and Untreated, Thanks to Medicaid “Unwinding”

Eve Ottenberg, August 25, 2023 [CounterPunch, via Rick S.]

During the pandemic, poor people did not have to renew their Medicaid annually. Now that covid is supposedly over, that has changed. Unwinding, in normal parlance called ending, Medicaid continuous coverage began on April 1. That was after the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023 terminated the Medicaid continuous enrollment provision on March 31. As a result, by the end of July, roughly four million indigent people lost their health care coverage. They’ve started rationing medicines or skipping them. And as the months pass, more people will lose access to a doctor and to prescriptions. Way to go, Washington! And way to go, Joe “I Would Veto Medicare for All” Biden. The transformation of the U.S. into a “shithole” nation just picked up the pace.

So why are all these people losing their medical coverage? And why does this happen when we already have 27.6 million people without health insurance? Well, it happens mostly, and most infuriatingly, for bureaucratic reasons, not because patients become ineligible. These cutoffs, according to the Washington Post July 28, are due to “renewal notices not arriving at the right addresses, beneficiaries not understanding the notices, or an assortment of state agencies’ mistakes and logjams.” And states quite obstinately keep people off Medicaid, even if they were dropped for one of these flimsy “procedural” reasons. Arkansas, the new Mecca for child labor, is one of the worst, while Texas, of course, followed by Florida, natch, has severed the most people, hundreds of thousands.

Arkansas GOP governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, one of the nation’s leading far-right fanatics when it comes to pitching her constituents back into deliquescent, early 19th century social conditions, said in a May Wall Street Journal op-ed, “I’m proud Arkansas is leading the nation in getting back to normal.” Normal being booted off life-saving medical care. “It’s time to get [Arkansas residents] off the path of dependency.” The brave new world of astronomical premiums and high-priced medicines on Obamacare, or simply no care at all, awaits!

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Credit card debt collection

[Bits About Money, via The Big Picture 8-20-2023]

One core waste stream of the finance industry is charged-off consumer debt. Debt collection is a fascinating (and frequently depressing) underbelly of finance. It shines a bit of light on credit card issuance itself, and richly earns the wading-through-a-river-of-effluvia metaphor.  

Dollar Tree said theft is such a problem it will start locking up items or stop selling them altogether

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-24-2023]

“Dollar Tree had a miserable quarter, and company management is chalking it up to a mix of factors: changing consumer demands on top of higher prices for fuel and electricity … and theft…. Dollar Tree CEO Richard Dreiling and CFO Jeffrey Davis blamed a surprisingly large drop in gross profit margin — tumbling to 29.8% last quarter from 32.7% a year earlier — on ‘shrink,’ the industry term for inventory losses due to theft, damages and other causes. Davis said the company has taken steps to fix the problem, but the shrink issue is getting worse — and ‘definitely advanced a little further than what we had anticipated.’ In response, Dreiling said Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores, which the company also owns, will take more drastic measures in the coming months. ‘We are now taking a very defensive approach to shrink,’ Dreiling told analysts Thursday. ‘We have several new shrink formats that we’ll introduce in the back half of the year, and it goes everything from moving certain SKUs to behind the check stand. It has to do with some cases being locked up. And even to the point where we have some stores that can’t keep a certain SKU on the shelf just discontinuing the item. So we have a lot of things in the works.'” 

Reactions to Fed Chair Powell's Speech

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics, August 25, 2023]

The Campaign To Keep Electric Bills High

Andrew Perez, August 24, 2023 [The Lever]

As voters in Maine decide whether to buy the state’s electric utilities, Democratic consultants rake in corporate cash while residents face shut-offs….

In November, Mainers will decide whether they want to put those power companies out of business and take control of the state’s electric grid, when they vote on a ballot initiative to create a nonprofit power company that would buy and operate the utilities’ transmission lines and facilities.

Supporters say it’s the most important climate election in the United States this year, and a win could inspire activists elsewhere to try to take control of their own utilities in order to limit their states’ dependence on fossil fuels.

Information age dystopia

hahaha we live in hell 

[gravis again, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

No app, no entry: How the digital world is failing the non tech-savvy 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

Tech’s broken promises: Streaming is now just as expensive and confusing as cable. Ubers cost as much as taxis. And the cloud is no longer cheap. 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

Open challenges in LLM research

[Chip Huyen, via The Big Picture 8-26-2023]

[Large Language Models] Never before in my life had I seen so many smart people working on the same goal: making LLMs better. After talking to many people working in both industry and academia, I noticed the 10 major research directions that emerged. The first two directions, hallucinations and context learning, are probably the most talked about today. I’m the most excited about numbers 3 (multimodality), 5 (new architecture), and 6 (GPU alternatives).  

Apple’s treatment of small games developer makes a textbook antitrust case 

[9to5Mac, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-23-2023]

“Apple has voraciously denied accusations that the App Store has monopolistic control over iPhone apps, yet the company’s ability to unilaterally close developer accounts without explanation forms a textbook antitrust case. One small games developer had its Apple Developer Program (ADP) account terminated without explanation, was unable to appeal as it hadn’t been told what accusations it needed to address, took Apple to court – and then had its account reinstated after five months of lost sales, still without explanation or apology…. Some five months after Digital Will had its apps pulled from the App Store, and two months after it sent a lawyer’s letter to Apple, the Cupertino company reinstated the account. No explanation was offered. The company estimates that its total losses and costs exceed $765k, and is seeking damages from Apple.” • One for Stoller. Pocket change for Apple; life-changing for a small developer.

Government Stupidity Is By Design 

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 8-25-2023]

John Pilger: Silencing The Lambs (How Propaganda Works)

John Pilger [Eurasia Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-2023]

Restoring balance to the economy

Companies That Try to Union-Bust Will Be Forced to Recognize Union, NLRB Says

Tori Otten, August 25, 2023 [The New Republic]

The National Labor Relations Board issued new rules Friday that will make it easier for workers to form unions—and much more difficult for companies to stop them.

The new unionization process framework is part of a decision in a case between Cemex Construction Materials Pacific and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. If a majority of workers ask a company to recognize their union, under the new rules, the company must now immediately either recognize the union or petition the NLRB to hold a union election.

“However, if an employer who seeks an election commits any unfair labor practice that would require setting aside the election, the petition will be dismissed, and—rather than re-running the election—the Board will order the employer to recognize and bargain with the union,” the NLRB said in a statement announcing the ruling.

If You Stiff Your Workers, New Jersey Will Shut You Down

Harold Meyerson, August 22, 2023 [The American Prospect]

The state’s labor department ordered 27 Boston Market outlets to stop work after they violated minimum-wage laws.

Long-Awaited Rules on Private Equity Mostly Involve Disclosure 

David Dayen, August 25, 2023 [The American Prospect]

The industry watered down some of the tougher prohibitions. But it’s a start.

The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Supreme Court is taking a wrecking ball to the wall between church and state

[Vox, via The Big Picture 8-20-2023]

Mass shootings spur divergent laws as states split between gun rights and control

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-22-2023]

“[F]ellow Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law making Illinois the eighth state to roll back legal protections for firearms manufacturers and distributors. The new law bans firearms advertising that officials determine produces a public safety threat or appeals to children, militants or others who might later use the weapons illegally. Pritzker signed the bill alongside attendees of an annual conference hosted by the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety. The group said 2023 has been ‘a historic year for gun safety in the states.’ In addition to Illinois, Democratic-led legislatures in Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington all passed multiple gun control provisions this year.”

(anti)Republican Party

House Freedom Caucus rolls out demands to avoid shutdown 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-2023]

Republicans’ Border Policy Proposals Are Sadistic and Would Lead to Chaos 

Brynn Tannehill, August 24, 2023 [The New Republic]

Are we really going to shoot on sight people merely suspected of smuggling drugs? Their “proposals” are solely about appealing to the base’s worst instincts.

The Video That's Worth 10,000 Words: Republicans Would Rather "Own The Libs" Than Save The Planet

Patrick Toomey [ 8-25-2023]

Here’s what happened when a Faux News moderator asked 8 GOP presidential candidates whether they believed that human behavior was causing climate change…. That’s right, not ONE of them raised his/her hand in response….

This moment also confirms the fact that Donald J. Trump is merely a symptom of the GOP’s much more toxic disease. The rot goes far deeper than 1 man. There are SO many issues on which the GOP is so wrong in so many ways, but none of them threaten the very concept of the continued existence of what passes for human civilization the way that climate change does. Upper-bracket tax cuts pay for themselves, the 2d Amendment confers an individual right to assemble an armory in your garage, market-oriented “solutions” always work best, Ronald Reagan single-handedly brought down the Berlin Wall with his bare hands—those myths are all bad enough, but they don’t pose the existential threat that climate change poses.

The Dems’ approach on climate change is a mixed bag at best, but at least they acknowledge that a problem exists. Like an alcoholic in deep denial, the GOP won’t acknowledge this worsening crisis. Pretending that they’re a legitimate opposition party with which you can find common ground only enables their denial. Trying to meet utterly crazy halfway makes one, at best, half sane.

We Fact-Checked Republicans’ “Biden Corruption” Timeline. And It’s Bad.

Tori Otten, August 24, 2023 [The New Republic]

...The House Oversight Committee has spearheaded the probe into the Bidens. Last month, the committee published a timeline going back as far as 2013 that supposedly shows the extent of the Bidens’ influence peddling overseas. But if you look closely, the timeline is riddled with errors. An analysis by The New Republic found at least 19 mistakes or misleading details—from mixed-up dates to messages and meetings that never happened. And nowhere does the timeline show actual wrongdoing by the president….

The timeline is sloppy work done by a party on a political vendetta. Republicans have already admitted multiple times that they have no proof of wrongdoing by the president. They have said they don’t know whether the information on which their accusations are based is even legitimate. They have also admitted they don’t really care.

Two Months in Georgia: How Trump Tried to Overturn the Vote

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 8-20-2023]

The Georgia case offers a vivid reminder of the extraordinary lengths Mr. Trump and his allies went to in the Southern state to reverse the election.  

How Donald Trump tried to undo his loss in Georgia in 2020

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 8-20-2023]

Nowhere was the effort more acute than in Georgia, where all of their strategies came together in a complex and multilayered effort that unfolded against the hyperpartisan backdrop of two ongoing U.S. Senate races.  

The Flaw in Trump’s Georgia Indictment 

[The Messenger, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2023]

Georgia indictment and post-Civil War history make it clear: Trump’s actions have already disqualified him from the presidency

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-22-2023]

“We believe the Georgia indictment provides even more detail than the earlier federal one about how Trump’s actions have already disqualified him from office, and shows a way to keep him off the ballot in 2024.”

Law Professors, Legal Punditry, Donald Trump, and What’s an Academic to Do?

[Dorf on Law, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-24-2023]

“In lay terms, both the removal statute and the doctrine of supremacy clause immunity require the defendant to have engaged in official conduct and, for removal, have a colorable federal defense defined quite loosely. Both issues will likely come down to whether Trump was engaged in official conduct ensuring the fairness of federal elections or whether he was a candidate trying to steal an election (or perhaps both). Were I writing a law review article on the subject, I would say these are issues of first impression, they impact our country tremendously, and my read of the law and facts is that Trump should lose but, of course, lower court judges and eventually SCOTUS may well come to a different conclusion. I expressed those thoughts publicly, which got me in trouble with some on the left who wanted no part of any uncertainty. The party line is Trump must and will lose these motions and why provide the other side with even the slightest ammunition to make their case stronger. This pushback gave me significant pause…..  I could have said last week something like, ‘well Trump should easily lose on both issues because the law and facts are against him and here’s why.’ I agree with that sentence but it is not even close to the entire truth. For one thing, predicting what appellate judges and SCOTUS will do in legally easy cases with a liberal/progressive political valence is fraught with danger, given the 6-3 conservative court (not to mention that half of the active judges on the 11th Circuit were nominated by Donald Trump). Second, it is crucial that Trump be treated the same way we would want future Presidents to be treated, and the line between candidate and federal officer may well be blurrier than many people think. And, third, the reality is that these are all issues of first impression with enormous implications for our country and maybe we should just slow down and take some time before pronouncing that Trump should definitely lose on both removal and immunity. But the media wait for no one. …. But here’s the rub. My ability to get others to recognize both my academic work and my punditry (there’s nothing else to call a five-minute segment on CNN or a 1500-word essay in SLATE) absolutely depends today on full participation in non-legal media of all kinds. That reality may not be true for folks teaching at elite schools, who by virtue of their Ivy League credentials may be able to garner exposure in other ways (such as hobnobbing with other elites). But for those of us without those credentials teaching at less elite schools, the path to career success these days is through social media much more than through 30,000-word law review articles and even books (but of course one also must produce such traditional scholarship).” • Hegemony in action. Dorf doesn’t want to “end up like Bill Black.”

The Constitution Prohibits Trump From Ever Being President Again

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 8-24-2023]

The only question is whether American citizens today can uphold that commitment. (The Atlantic)

Trump’s Last Two Indictments Complement Each Other Perfectly

[Slate, via The Big Picture 8-23-2023]

Jack Smith’s federal document filed in Washington was spare almost to the point of being an inky line drawing, whereas Fani Willis’ Georgia filing is rich and detailed and pointillist. Smith targeted one defendant only, whereas Willis went after 19 defendants on 41 counts. Smith mentions a handful of co-conspirators; Willis notes 30 unindicted co-conspirators. As Norm Eisen and Amy Lee Copeland point out, Smith’s case will likely be blacked out for television and audio audiences, whereas Willis’ suit will most likely become must-see TV for weeks on end. 

Attorney Sues Trump, Claims He is Constitutionally Ineligible for Presidency 

[The Messenger, via Naked Capitalism 8-26-2023]

The Conservative Call to Disqualify Trump is a Trap 

GSPotter, August 25, 2023 [DailyKos]

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

As Trump Surrenders in Georgia, Groups Warn of Continued Threat to Democratic Institutions

Julia Conley, August 25, 2023 [CommonDreams]

Government watchdogs Common Cause and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on Thursday released a report titled Donald Trump: Threatening Courts and Justice, warning of the threat that is posed to the nation's court system by the outgrowth of the so-called "Stop the Steal" movement, which emerged after the 2020 election and led the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The groups noted that a document titled "1776 Returns" was uncovered by prosecutors as they investigated the perpetrators of the January 6 attack. The document detailed a plan to "seize and occupy the Supreme Court and other government buildings to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and force federal officials to overturn election results."

"It's unclear exactly why these attacks did not fully materialize, but the lack of a specific call to action could have played a part," reads the report. "This is in contrast to Trump's specific call for his followers to come to Washington, D.C. on January 6th for a 'wild' event at the Capitol. Given the continued incendiary, anti-democratic rhetoric toward government institutions and officials coming from extremist groups and leaders, it is not inconceivable that Trump or a future anti-democratic leader could incite another mob to attack a different government institution."

US Careening Towards the Abyss of Fascistic Violence and Civil War as Election 2024 Approaches 

[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 8-23-2023]

Heather Cox Richardson, August 24, 2023 [Letters from an American]

At last night’s Republican primary debate, all the candidates except former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (polling at 3.3%) and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (polling at 0.7%) pledged they would support Trump as the 2024 Republican nominee even if he’s convicted. 

In the 1960s, Republicans made a devil’s bargain, courting the racists and social traditionalists who began to turn from the Democratic Party when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to make inroads on racial discrimination. Those same reactionaries jumped from the Democrats to create their own party when Democratic president Harry S. Truman strengthened his party’s turn toward civil rights by creating a presidential commission on civil rights in 1946 and then ordering the military to desegregate in 1948. Reactionaries rushed to abandon the Democrats permanently after Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, joining the Republicans at least temporarily to vote for Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, who promised to roll back civil rights laws and court decisions. 

The 1965 Voting Rights Act was the final straw for many of those reactionaries, and they began to move to the Republicans as a group when Richard Nixon promised not to use the federal government to enforce civil rights in the states. This so-called southern strategy pulled the Republican Party rightward. 

In 1980, Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan appeared at the Neshoba County Fair near Philadelphia, Mississippi, a few miles from where three civil rights workers had been murdered in 1964 for their work registering Black Mississippians to vote, and said, “I believe in states’ rights.” Reagan tied government defense of civil rights to socialism, insisting that the government was using tax dollars from hardworking Americans to give handouts to lazy people, often using code words to mean “Black.” 

Since then, as their economic policies have become more and more unpopular, the Republicans have kept voters behind them by insisting that anyone calling for federal action is advocating socialism and by drawing deep divisions between those who vote Republican, whom they define as true Americans, and anyone who does not vote Republican and thus, in their ideology, is anti-American. 

From there it has been a short step to arguing that those who do not support Republican candidates should not vote or are voting illegally (although voter fraud is vanishingly rare). And from there, it appears to have been a short step to trying to overturn the results of an election where 7 million more Americans voted for Joe Biden, a Democrat, than voted for Trump and where the Electoral College vote for Biden was 306 to 232, the same margin Trump called a landslide in 2016 when it was in his favor. 

The Republicans on stage last night have abandoned democracy, and in that they accurately represent their party. It is no accident that in addition to the Georgia party chair indicted for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Wisconsin Republican Party chair Brian Schimming was also mentioned in the Georgia indictment as part of the conspiracy for his role in the scheme to use false electors to steal the election for Trump, though he was not charged; former Arizona Republican chair Kelli Ward is in the crosshairs for her own participation in the scheme in Arizona; and in a different case, former Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddoch has pleaded not guilty to eight felony charges for her part in the attempt to steal the White House.

Heather Cox Richardson, August 25, 2023 [Letters from an American]

After the Selma attack, President Lyndon Baines Johnson called for Congress to pass a national voting rights bill. By a bipartisan vote, it did so, and on August 6, 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act authorizing federal supervision of voter registration in districts where African Americans were historically underrepresented. 

The federal protection of minority voting was a game changer, and and opponents fought it. Since Reconstruction, reactionary racists had maintained that Black voters would elect lawmakers who would give them benefits that could only be paid for through tax levies on those with property, which generally meant white men. Black voting, they insisted, would lead to a redistribution of wealth and thus was essentially socialism. 

As the Democratic Party under Johnson moved away from its historic racism, those who insisted that Black voting was socialism and segregation should be the law of the land began to swing behind the Republicans, whose opposition to government regulation of business and provision of a basic social safety net made them take a stand against a powerful federal government. 

Once entrenched in the Republican Party, the idea that minority voting meant a redistribution of wealth led party leaders both to whittle away at federal power and to insist that Black and Brown voters were illegitimate. By 1986, Republicans talked of cutting down Black voting with a “ballot integrity” initiative, and they bitterly opposed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, more popularly known as the Motor-Voter Act, which Democrats passed to make it easier to register to vote at certain state offices. The following year, losing Republican candidates argued they had lost because of “voter fraud,” and in 1996, House and Senate Republicans launched yearlong investigations into elections that they insisted, without evidence, Democrats had stolen thanks to illegal voters. 

By 2013 the quest to purge minority voters led to the Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder decision gutting the provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required the Department of Justice to sign off on changes to voting in states with histories of racial discrimination.
Ultimately, in late 2020, Republicans led by then-incumbent president Donald Trump organized to deprive Americans, overwhelmingly minority Americans in places like Fulton County, Georgia, and Detroit, of their vote. As the federal indictment for his attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election reads, he and his co-conspirators tried “to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate one or more persons in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States—that is, the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”