Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 31, 2022
by Tony Wikrent
Strategic Political Economy
Will elites be allowed to “cull the herd”?
Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]
We’re engaged in a massive social experiment to see whether an elite (ruling + governing classes) can “cull the herd” in six-figure quantities, and still retain hegemony (TINA); the Covid pandemic is only the latest and most obvious example. So far, the answer seems to be yes, or even “Hell, yeah!” Viewed in that light, is “the system” “at risk” at all?
Global power shift as USA and west commit “suicide by neoliberalism”
Philip Pilkington [Macrocosm, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-2022]
What is going on? Simply put, the West is getting poorer. We are seeing two things at once. First of all, policymakers have lost the plot and started intervening heavily into the economy with lockdowns and various other policies that destroy the supply-side of the economy. Secondly, we are seeing an enormous geopolitical shift centered around the war in Ukraine. The old model where the rich West runs large trade deficits with the poorer developing countries in exchange for worthless paper is coming to an end. We are exacerbating this transition by engaging in self-destructive sanctions policies that interfere with markets in everything from energy to fertiliser.
In a few words: the West is in decline and our leaders are greatly accelerating and exacerbating this decline. They can cover this up with redundant arguments about what is and isn’t a recession for so long. But at some point either the inflation will get worse — perhaps by gas shortages in Europe this winter — and/or the unmeployment rate will spike. At that point, the underlying dynamics will become too obvious to ignore. For politicians and the general public anyway. Economists will likely find some other redundant nuance to debate and distract.
M. K. Bhadrakumar [India Punchline, via Mike Norman Economics 7-27-2022]
[Bhadrakumar is a diplomat and former ambassador, retired from the Foreign Service of India.]
Vostok 2018, held exactly four years ago, was the first time such a massive military exercise was held after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. (At the height of the Cold War in 1981 under Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet Union held its last Vostok exercise). In the event, Vostok 2018 turned into a Russia-China gun show.
The Russian Federation put more than 300,000 troops in the field—alongside tens of thousands of tanks, helicopters, and weapons of every sort—for a huge war game in Russia’s far-eastern reaches, and invited the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to play along, which it did.
And a whole new groove in international affairs began appearing, signifying that the interests of Russia and China have once again begun to align — this time around, in response to US military power under a pugnacious president, Donald Trump.
On the sidelines of the exercise, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping had a breakfast of blinis together in Vladivostok. It was a powerful signal that Russia no longer saw China as an adversary but as a potential military ally. It was widely noted internationally as heralding a major shift in the co-relation of forces in world politics.
Patrick Lawrence [Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]
Moscow/Teheran meeting: “[P]art of a long-in-the-making project that will connect Russia, Iran, and India by sea, road, rail, and, eventually, a very significant Iran–to–India oil pipeline.”
As in a Greek tragedy whose protagonist brings about precisely the fate that he has sought to avoid, the US/NATO confrontation with Russia in Ukraine is achieving just the opposite of America’s aim of preventing China, Russia and their allies from acting independently of U.S. control over their trade and investment policy. Naming China as America’s main long-term adversary, the Biden Administration’s plan was to split Russia away from China and then cripple China’s own military and economic viability. But the effect of American diplomacy has been to drive Russia and China together, joining with Iran, India and other allies. For the first time since the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in 1955, a critical mass is able to be mutually self-sufficient to start the process of achieving independence from Dollar Diplomacy..…
David P. Goldman [Asia Times, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-2022]
Drawing out the implications of this article, the US strategy of isolating China and Russia is failing. They are economically dominant in the Global South, especially China. Moreover, the US and Europe are dependent on Chinese exports ("supply chains"). And as we are seeing with sanctions, the US and Europe and also dependent on Russia for materials and also China to a lesser extent (rare earths).The bad news is that as this realization sets in, the remaining option to stem the tide of history from moving East is war. The US "deep state" joined at the hip with the UK "deep state"are preparing themselves and their allies for the coming conflict whose to save neoliberal, neo-imperial and neocolonial "globalization" dominated by the global elite.
Daniel Bessner [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]
[TW: This is symptomatic of why USA is in decline. Former neo-conservative Fukuyama apparently does not even mention the historical alternative to liberalism, civic republicanism (according a search of the book’s text using Amazon’s “Look Inside” facility. And the Jacobin author does not mention civic republicanism either. Socialism is a way to organize an economy, not a polity. Similarly, capitalism is a way to organize an economy, not a polity. Civic republicanism IS a way to organize a polity, and it includes an emphasis on the rights of society and the rights of community as well on the rights of individuals that has important implications for economic organization that liberalism, with its sole focus on individual rights, simply does not. And its inclusion of the rights of society and the rights of community makes civic republicanism quite amenable to socialist organization of major parts of the economy that, it should be clear by now, liberalism is incapable of.]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
Barry Ritholtz, July 25, 2022 [The Big Picture]
A soft landing is now officially RIP.
What I have instead are questions about what the rest of 2022 looks like, and how deep into 2023 any damage persists. Here are five of those questions:
1. Will second-quarter earnings (released this month) disappoint or has the market already moderated expectations?
2. How much will the economy slow in Q3 and Q4?
3. How badly will third quarter earnings be hit?
4. Will the economic slowdown continue into 2023?
5. How much of this is priced into the stock market already?
Ken Klippenstein, Jon Schwarz, July 29 2022 [The Intercept]
The financial behemoth privately fears that regular people have too much leverage.
A Bank of America executive stated that “we hope” working Americans will lose leverage in the labor market in a recent private memo obtained by The Intercept. Making predictions for clients about the U.S. economy over the next several years, the memo also noted that changes in the percentage of Americans seeking jobs “should help push up the unemployment rate.”
[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]
[TW: I include this because FT is a mouthpiece for the City of London, so this is a key indication of what that particular part of the world elite are thinking. For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Volcker “tamed inflation” by placing usury in domination of the industrial economy. This locked in deindustrialization, and destroyed the working class: Everyone loves Paul Volcker. Everyone is wrong.]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]
[TW: In 1970, 80% of 25-34 year olds lived with a spouse. It is now less than half that rate, at 38%. One of the most discomfiting things I’ve ever experienced is listening to someone in their 30s and 40s explaining they have lost all hope of ever being able to afford getting married, buying a house, and starting a family. This is a subject that is not welcome in Democratic Party meetings. And that refusal to understand and empathize is allowing the (anti)Republican Party to pose as friendly to the working class.]
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]
[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]
[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]
Even before the pandemic began, more people here were dying at younger ages than in comparably wealthy nations
Disrupting mainstream economics
Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 7-26-2022]
Restoring balance to the economy
David Dayen, July 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]
A variety of legislative and regulatory actions would make it hard for private equity to stay in business. That should be the goal.
It is genuinely hard to find a more destructive economic force in America today than the private equity industry. It encompasses all of the negative trends that have undermined living standards for the broad mass of citizens since the Reagan era: the escalating share of national income going to finance, the rise of market concentration, the contempt for workers, the yawning gap between rich and poor…
The industry is entrenched in housing and health care and energy and retail and restaurants. It’s involved in far more obscure markets, from Nielsen ratings to Smarte Carts at the airport to voting machines to Plan B, the morning-after pill. As of 2020, companies owned by private equity directly employed 11.7 million employees, comprising roughly 1 out of every 13 U.S. workers. Cheap money issued during the pandemic likely expanded that further, producing a record number of buyout deals.
But the market downturn in 2022, the ebbing power of the industry, and the growing awareness of its perverse impact on the economy present an opportunity to rethink how easy America makes it for predatory financiers to thrive. At every level of the private equity experience—from fundraising to acquisitions to exits—we either subsidize the industry’s business model, facilitate its war chest, or allow firms to separate actions from consequences. If we focused attention on turning off the fire hose of money flowing into the biggest firms, the worst elements of private equity could be a thing of the past. Here’s how….
The tools exist today to stop private equity, in a law written 82 years ago….
If we’re going to achieve broadly shared prosperity, we need to break the cycle of cheap money fueling runaway speculation. The goal should be to follow that money and keep it out of the hands of predators whose self-enrichment doesn’t correspond to society’s benefit.
Eric Blanc [Substack, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]
According to a common analysis — which, for lack of a better term, I’ll call movementism — labor’s gains during the Depression as well as changes in labor law were exclusively the product of militant disruption and organizing from below…. Works that take a movementist approach to the lessons of the 1930s include Howard Zinn’s best-seller A People’s History of the United States and the voluminous writings of Charlie Post as well as associated revolutionary socialists. But the most influential account certainly comes from Michael Goldfield, a prominent political scientist and labor activist.…
But movementists stretch this correct argument beyond what the historical record can justify. As I will show in this analysis of the impact of the early New Deal’s famous legal promise of union rights — Section 7(a), passed in 1933 — there is overwhelming evidence that policy changes did play a major role in encouraging strikes and battles for union recognition. The relationship between legislative change and bottom-up militancy was much more reciprocal than suggested by the widely accepted radical truism that, to quote Charlie Post, “labor-law reform in the United States has followed working-class upsurges, not preceded them.”
Zachary D. Carter, July 29, 2022 [via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]
There are not many positive things that a 21st century Democrat can say about the Democratic Party of 1931. In the South, the party served as the administrative and enforcement mechanism for Jim Crow. Two sitting Democratic Senators were members of the Ku Klux Klan, and five other Democratic Senators had been hand-picked by the Klan over the course of the 1920s, when the Klan also successfully installed five Democratic Governors in states as far-flung as Georgia and Oregon…. In short, in 1931, the Democratic Party was racist, incompetent and controlled by the wealthy – and had been for as long as anyone could remember.
But in 1936, a Democratic candidate for president won more than 60 percent of the popular vote, including majorities in 46 out of 48 states. Democrats found themselves in control of 77 Senate seats and 334 House Seats. Democrats won the Northern vote and the Southern vote, they won majorities of women and men. They won the Catholic vote and the Protestant vote, the Jewish vote and the atheist vote. Most striking of all, Democrats won the Black vote.
Just so we do not overstate this achievement: The Black vote barely existed in the South as a result of Jim Crow. But it should nevertheless stagger us that the Party of Confederate Rebellion managed to win a majority of Black voters in the north, and never really looked back….
The first point I want to emphasize here is that these converts were not stupid. They didn’t have amnesia. They knew exactly what the Democratic Party had been in 1931 and 1921 and 1861. But by 1936, they also knew what the Democratic Party had been in 1933, 1934 and 1935. And they liked that version quite a bit….
But while FDR had plenty of personal charisma, the long-term success of his Democratic Party was built on the economic program he invented, which included much of the economic architecture of everyday American life that we often forget had to be invented at some point. Social Security, the minimum wage, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, affordable housing and public housing, deposit insurance, the SEC, a publicly controlled central bank, and on and on. Even things we have largely ceased to associate with economic policy, like the construction of schools, hospitals and post offices created infrastructure that enabled the rest of the system to work – and did so on a truly epic scale. Studies indicate that New Deal aid to schools prevented the closure of 4,000 schools in Arkansas alone.
This was a comprehensive rejection of both the laissez-faire ideal that had dominated American political discourse and of the elite corporate favoritism that had dominated American policymaking in practice….
In many respects the Democratic Party of 1931 is similar to the Republican Party of 2021. Today’s Democrats spend a lot of time pointing out that Republicans have become hostile to democracy and can’t get a majority behind their lunatic view of the world. That’s true. But they probably could if they changed their economic agenda. If Democrats do not get there first, they will lose much of what is left of the existing Democratic coalition….
Anyone who calls double-digit unemployment a solution to anything does not belong in politics. But the reasoning in play here should simply horrify people who believe in democracy. The most important cost-of-living issue for families this year is housing – in many cities, rent has exploded. Ask yourself: if the goal is lower rent, should we a) build more houses, or b) indiscriminately fire a large number of people from their jobs? The latter is the serious contention of this newly revived austerity brigade.
[National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]
[CNN, July 22, 2022, via Dartagnan, July 23, 2022, via “Gun manufacturers livid after Newsom signs 'bounty' bill curbing illegal firearms' sale” DailyKos]
[Construction Physics, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]
[T&D World, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2022]
Climate and environmental crises
[Joule, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2022]
Final sentence: “Creating better alignment between models and the on-the-ground realities of specific national contexts is key to supporting long-term strategies to achieve emissions reductions goals.”
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
skralyx, July 25, 2022 [DailyKos]
If we heat ceria to a very high temperature (here they used 1,500°C), we can strip off some of its oxygen atoms. Its crystal structure won’t change; we’ll just have vacancies where the dislodged oxygen atoms were. Those oxygen atoms will form O2 gas up off the surface, so we can blow or vacuum that O2 away to keep it from re-reacting with the ceria.
So now, what we’re left with is an angry material that really, really wants its oxygen atoms back. If we spray it with some water vapor, it’ll rip O right off of H2O and give us H2 (hydrogen gas). Or, if we blow some CO2 over it, it’ll likewise yank off an O and give us CO (carbon monoxide). These reactions are so vigorous that they actually produce a lot of heat, so it’s best to let the stripped ceria cool down a bit before going to this step (that is, stop shining sunlight on it). When we’re done, we have good old regular ceria back, and we can keep using it over and over again.
Information age dystopia
Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic].
“Under DMCA 1201, it is a felony to “traffick” in tools that bypass DRM. Doing so can land you in prison for five years and hit you with a fine of up to $500,000 (for a first offense). This clause is so broadly written that merely passing on factual information about bugs in a system with DRM can put you in hot water. Here’s where we get to the existential risk to all computer users part. As a technology, DRM has to run as code that is beyond your observation and control. If there’s a program running on your computer or phone called “DRM” you can delete it, or go into your process manager and force-quit it. No one wants DRM. No one woke up this morning and said, “Dammit, I wish there was a way I could do less with the entertainment files I buy online.” DRM has to hide itself from you, or the first time it gets in your way, you’ll get rid of it. The proliferation of DRM means that all the commercial operating systems now have a way to run programs that the owners of computers can’t observe or control. Anything that a technologist does to weaken that sneaky, hidden facility risks DMCA 1201 prosecution – and half a decade in prison. That means that every device with DRM is designed to run programs you can’t see or kill, and no one is allowed to investigate these devices and warn you if they have defects that would allow malicious software to run in that deliberately obscured part of your computer, stealing your data and covertly operating your device’s sensors and actuators. This isn’t just about hacking your camera and microphone: remember, every computerized “appliance” is capable of running every program, which means that your car’s steering and brakes are at risk from malicious software, as are your medical implants and the smart thermostat in your home. A device that is designed for sneaky code execution and is legally off-limits to independent auditing is bad. A world of those devices – devices we put inside our bodies and put our bodies inside of – is fucking terrifying.”
Peter Krapp [Counterpunch, via Mike Norman Economics 7-25-2022]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2022]
Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]
If you want a motto for the current economic situation, a touchstone to check in on whenever you hear about a new business model or a new depredation, I suggest Michael Hudson’s bedrock claim: “Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid.” 40 years of wage stagnation, combined with spiraling health, housing and education costs have produced a mountain of unpayable debts. Our society is organized around a small number of creditors extracting rents from an ever-growing pool of debtors whose ability to pay is eroded by every penalty and every emergency triggered by the lack of a cushion: Enter the digital arm-breaker. Networked, digital objects make arm-breaking cheaper and more effective than ever, transforming the artisinal, personal craft of terrorizing debtors into a mass-scale industrial activity. Miss a car payment? Maybe that car has a second, remote-controlled stereo that blares angry demands at you wherever you go. Or maybe the dealer can immobilize it, disabling the ignition system. Or maybe it’s a Tesla, which will lock and immobilize itself and signal the dealer, then, when the repo man arrives, will flash its lights, honk its horn and back out of its parking place to ease repossession. Algorithms can automate the arm-breaker’s creative sadism.” • A must-read.
[PetaPixel, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]
(Wirecutter, via The Big Picture 7-26-2022]
Private browsing (aka incognito mode) is a great way to prevent your web browser from saving what you do. But to call it privacy-focused is a stretch, and while your browser or device doesn’t log your movements in its history and cookies, that doesn’t mean the sites you visit don’t clock your behavior. Despite its name, you’re not really incognito, and you may want to dial back your confidence in what these modes really do.
Democrats’ political suicide
David Dayen, July 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]
An 18-month odyssey culminates in a smaller-than-promised, bigger-than-expected agreement to lower health care costs, tax corporations, and protect the planet….
There is no such thing as a genuine surprise in Washington—usually. This was a genuine surprise. I had been talking to people this week who would or should have known that talks between Manchin and Schumer, thought to be moribund, were taking place. The closest I got to foreknowledge was one source saying that they just didn’t believe it. An army of reporters, lobbyists, and hangers-on didn’t know this was happening.
The reveal was made a few hours after the Senate cleared the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill that offers semiconductor manufacturers subsidies for reshoring and boosts science programs. Mitch McConnell had threatened that bill, something highly cherished by Schumer, if Democrats persisted with a party-line bill that raised taxes and boosted clean energy. When Manchin walked away from negotiations with Schumer just two weeks ago over those two items, McConnell let his guard down and allowed a vote on CHIPS, which was popular with many of his Republican colleagues. Schumer and Manchin waited until that cleared the Senate before announcing a reconciliation deal with taxes and climate back in.
If you told me a cosmic ray hit Washington and flipped everyone’s brains, giving Schumer the Machiavellian cunning of a Republican and giving McConnell the guileless approach of a Democrat, that might be a more plausible explanation for this display than the truth. It’s a near-legendary turn of events that infuriated McConnell so much he took hostage a bill to give dying veterans exposed to toxic burn pits medical care, something Republicans passed overwhelmingly just a few weeks ago (it needed a technical fix). The combination of the revival of the Biden agenda and red-faced Republicans making terrible choices on highly popular legislation is one for the ages….
According to his interview with Politico last night, it took him all of four days after killing the deal to ask Schumer to restart it. What happened in that time? Manchin was clearly bothered by being blamed, by everyone, as the man who let the Biden agenda die and the planet burn. The very next day, he went on local radio and insisted he hadn’t ended anything, that he just wanted to see the July inflation numbers (which won’t be out for a couple more weeks). He was attacked, in op-eds that detailed “What Joe Manchin Cost Us” (written by a lead technical adviser to the Democrats on climate policy), in news stories that made very clear who was responsible. Green groups and particularly blue/green labor/environment groups were insistent. Larry Summers told him in a meeting that his rationale that climate investment and tax increases were inflationary was nonsense.
Julia Rock, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez & Aditi Ramaswami, July 29, 2022 [The Lever]
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a fraction of the size and ambition of the agenda spending package that Democrats debated for much of last year, thanks to the efforts of corporate lobbyists, conservative Democrats, and pundits who have blamed government aid to families during the pandemic for inflation — rather than the supply chain crisis or corporate profiteering. While the legislation would make important investments in clean energy and health care, it simultaneously props up the fossil fuel industry chiefly responsible for the climate crisis.
The Democrats original climate and social spending proposal, a $6 trillion package pitched by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.) last June, included major investments to address infrastructure, affordable housing, and the climate crisis. Democrats eventually settled on a $3.5 trillion package that Sen. Manchin ultimately spiked late last year. The latest proposal totals $700 billion in investments.
Carl Beijer [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-28-2022]
“Whenever we get a new clip of some Democratic official, journalist, social media poster, cartoon character, guy from another country, Republican, etcetera saying something woke, an avalanche of pundits make the same point: this is why Democrats can’t win. So when Kamala Harris gave us her pronouns and described what she’s wearing at a meeting on disabilities, it was only a matter of time until guys like Kinzinger above made the same point. And whenever I see this, I always think the same thing. Does anyone really believe that if Democrats were providing Medicare for All, universal childcare, UBI, free college, and so on — that voters would throw all that out the window because Kamala Harris talked about her blue suit? If you could have real economic security, would you actually trade that away because a politician said ‘birth giver’ instead of ‘mother’? Socialists have long insisted that workers are not going to accept egalitarian rhetoric and gestures as a substitute for real economic gains, and that Democrats are going to lose working class voters if they proceed otherwise. The right loves this point; they’ve been so aggressive about co-opting it in recent years that I doubt many of them even remember where they first heard it. But there’s a second half of this critique that you almost never hear: if you give voters real material security, people who get annoyed about wokeness will still support you.”
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 2-26-2022]
[Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 2-26-2022]
“Under the new regime, a significant portion of the decisions that, until recently, would have been considered subject to democratic procedure have instead been turned over to experts, or purported experts, who rely for the implementation of their decisions on private companies, particularly tech and pharmaceutical companies, which, in needing to turn profits for shareholders, have their own reasons for hoping that whatever crisis they have been given the task of managing does not end. Once again, in an important sense, much of this is not new: it’s just capitalism doing its thing. What has seemed unprecedented is the eagerness with which self-styled progressives have rushed to the support of the new regime, and have sought to marginalize dissenting voices as belonging to fringe conspiracy theorists and unscrupulous reactionaries. Meanwhile, those pockets of resistance—places where we find at least some inchoate commitment to the principle of popular will as a counterbalance to elite expertise, and where unease about technological overreach may be honestly expressed—are often also, as progressives have rightly but superciliously noted, hot spots of bonkers conspiracism. This may be as much a consequence of their marginalization as a reason for it. What ‘cannot’ be said will still be said, but it will be said by the sort of person prepared to convey in speaking not just the content of an idea, but the disregard for the social costs of coming across as an outsider. And so the worry about elite hegemony gets expressed as a rumor of Anthony Fauci’s ‘reptilian’ origins, and the concern about technological overreach comes through as a fantasy about Bill Gates’s insertion of microchips into each dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile we are being tracked, by chips in our phones if not in our shoulders, and Fauci’s long record of mistakes should invite any lucid thinker to question his suitability for the role of supreme authority in matters of health.”
Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War
How They Did It: Overturning Roe, Pt. 1 (w/ the 5-4 podcast)
Matthew Sitman, May 28, 2022 [Know Your Enemy]
Robert Kuttner, June 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 27, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]
Mainstream media has been abuzz over the past two days that Marc Short, the Chief of Staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, has testified under subpoena before a grand jury convened by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has now broadened its investigation of the January 6 attack on the Capitol to the masterminds. But is that really the headline?
We think the real headline is that Marc Short was previously an executive at the fossil fuels conglomerate Koch Industries, a private company run by billionaire Charles Koch who has been setting up political front groups for four decades. Short went on to become President of a Koch-related dark money group called Freedom Partners from 2011 to 2016. Freedom Partners plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into political operations in an effort to put fossil fuel friendly pawns in Congress and the White House.
Freedom Partners has shuttered its stealthy operations but when we looked at its Board of Directors in 2018, all but one of its 9-member Board was a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair at that time was Mark Holden, who served in the dual capacity as General Counsel of Koch Industries.
Dozens of individuals connected to Koch and/or Freedom Partners took up key positions in the Trump administration. That includes the 12 Jones Day lawyers who took their place in the Trump administration on his very first day in office. Jones Day had been outside counsel to Koch Industries. According to Public Citizen, two of the main hires from Jones Day, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Ann Donaldson, Chief of Staff to McGahn, both previously represented Freedom Partners….
The Vice President of M/O Strategies is Danielle Cleveland, whose bio indicates that “Most recently, she served as Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).” RAGA’s dark money arm, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, was one of the “Coalition Partners” that turned out the hordes of people at the Capitol on January 6. According to IRS filings made by RAGA, it has received $511,400 from Koch Industries and a subsidiary since 2014. (See our in-depth report: The Money Trail to the Siege at the Capitol Leads to Charles Koch and Koch Industries.)
Let’s hope that the U.S. Department of Justice peels this onion all the way to its corrupt core – the unbridled Koch money machine — something that the January 6 House Select Committee has yet to do
[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2022]
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]
“Members of the House Jan. 6 committee are divided on whether to condemn the growing trend of Democrats meddling in GOP primaries to boost pro-Trump election deniers — a tactic designed to secure more favorable matchups in the general election. The committee has spent the last year warning that former President Trump and his allies — including candidates running in this year’s midterms — are endangering American democracy by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election…. Public backlash intensified yesterday when it emerged that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is boosting an election denier in his primary against Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) — one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot…. ‘The DCCC is playing with fire. It undercuts the great work of the Jan. 6 committee and makes us look like hypocrites,’ one Democratic member of Congress told Axios.”
Laura Clawson, July 26, 2022 [Daily Kos Staff]
... It’s in line with the movement of the Republican Party nationwide, but everything is faster, harder, crueler. And, CNN reports in an eye-opening deep dive, much of it is coming from two billionaire donors who have relentlessly pushed Texas Republicans to the right, enabled by a Texas law allowing unlimited contributions to state-level candidates.
Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks made their fortunes in oil and fracking. Dunn and his wife have plowed $18 million into Texas politics in the past decade, while Wilks and his wife have spent $11 million. The message to Republican state legislators is clear: Embrace Wilks’ and Dunn’s positions, or they will fund a primary challenge. As a result, “They dragged all the moderate candidates to the hard right in order to keep from losing,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy told CNN.
A Republican state legislator who hasn’t fallen in line with Dunn and Wilks put it in stark terms. “It is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple," state Sen. Kel Seliger said. "Really, really wealthy people who are willing to spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it—and they get it.” Seliger took money from Dunn in 2004, but since split with the Dunn/Wilks line over education: Seliger continues to support the existence of public education, while Dunn and Wilks want to essentially dismantle public education and replace it with vouchers—vouchers that can be spent at private religious schools.
A Republican activist who couldn’t go along with that extreme agenda on education said of Wilks, “The goal is to tear up, tear down public education to nothing and rebuild it.” And, lest it is unclear, the plan is not just to rebuild it: “And rebuild it the way God intended education to be.”
[TW: there has to be a way to apply the tenets of civic republicanism that effectively place cultural limits on what military officers can say and do politically, to place similar cultural limits on the rich.]
Thomas B. Griffith, J. Michael Luttig, Michael W. Mcconnell, Theodore B. Olson, Benjamin L. Ginsberg, and Dave Hoppe [National Review, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]
“Continuing allegations that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ are roiling our politics and dividing our country. Indeed, now a significant percentage of the American public doubts the legitimacy of our system. That caused us, political conservatives who have spent most of our careers working to uphold the Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it is based, to delve deeply into those charges and gauge their accuracy. All of us have either worked in Republican Party politics at multiple levels and in various capacities or worked in the government as a result of Republican appointments. Indeed, one of us, Theodore B. Olson, successfully represented George W. Bush in a Supreme Court case that ended Al Gore’s unmerited challenge to the results of the 2000 presidential election. We have no affiliation with the Democratic Party…. Because allegations of fraudulent and rigged elections are so seriously affecting public opinion, especially among Republicans, we conducted an open-minded examination of the many claims by former president Trump and his supporters and allies who agree with him about the 2020 election and attempted to act on their beliefs. We take such claims seriously…. Therefore, we painstakingly surveyed each of the 187 counts in the 64 court cases brought on Trump’s behalf contesting the results of the 2020 election, the state recounts and contests brought in the name of the former president, and the post-election reviews undertaken in the six key battleground states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) to determine whether there is any fire amidst all the smoke. Our review has led us to conclude that there is simply no evidence of fraud in the 2020 presidential election of the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, not even a single precinct’s outcome was reversed.” • Their report. It is not, however, clear that the Republican Party in which these individuals were grandees even exists anymore.
[Grid, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2022]
“The heart of the plan is derived from an executive order known as ‘Schedule F,’ developed and refined in secret over most of the second half of Trump’s term and launched 13 days before the 2020 election…. As Trump publicly flirts with a 2024 comeback campaign, this planning is quietly flourishing from Mar-a-Lago to Washington — with his blessing but without the knowledge of some people in his orbit. Trump remains distracted [or not, right?] by his obsession with contesting the 2020 election results. But he has endorsed the work of several groups to prime an administration-in-waiting. Personnel and action plans would be executed in the first 100 days of a second term starting on Jan. 20, 2025. New presidents typically get to replace more than 4,000 so-called ‘political’ appointees to oversee the running of their administrations. But below this rotating layer of political appointees sits a mass of government workers who enjoy strong employment protections — and typically continue their service from one administration to the next, regardless of the president’s party affiliation. An initial estimate by the Trump official who came up with Schedule F found it could apply to as many as 50,000 federal workers — a fraction of a workforce of more than 2 million, but a segment with a profound role in shaping American life. Trump, in theory, could fire tens of thousands of career government officials with no recourse for appeals. He could replace them with people he believes are more loyal to him and to his ‘America First’ agenda. Even if Trump did not deploy Schedule F to this extent, the very fact that such power exists could create a significant chilling effect on government employees. It would effectively upend the modern civil service, triggering a shock wave across the bureaucracy. The next president might then move to gut those pro-Trump ranks — and face the question of whether to replace them with her or his own loyalists, or revert to a traditional bureaucracy.”
[Compact, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-28-2022]
“The people who really run the United States of America have made it clear that they can’t, and won’t, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again…. Anti-Trump hysteria is in the final analysis not about Trump. The regime can’t allow Trump to be president not because of who he is (although that grates), but because of who his followers are. That class—Angelo Codevilla’s “country class”—must not be allowed representation by candidates who might implement their preferences, which also, and above all, must not be allowed. The rubes have no legitimate standing to affect the outcome of any political process, because of who they are, but mostly because of what they want. Complaints about the nature of Trump are just proxies for objections to the nature of his base. It doesn’t help stabilize our already twitchy situation that those who bleat the loudest about democracy are also audibly and visibly determined to deny a real choice to half the country.”
[TW: Then why do they keep giving him money?]
[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2022]
“[Thiel] doesn’t see restoring middle-class aspiration as a matter of returning to the past, but of seeking new real-world advances in science and technology. Along with Thiel’s own investments, which include many futuristic projects such as biotech and space exploration, the principal vehicle for his efforts to drive this change is the nonprofit Thiel Foundation, which promotes science and innovation. Its programmes include the Thiel Fellowship, which gives 20-30 young people aged 22 or under $100,000 each, every year, to drop out of college and work on an urgent idea. Graduates include Austin Russell, who founded Luminar and is the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, and Vitalik Buterin, who co-founded the cryptocurrency Ethereum.” Oh. Crypto. Gee, thanks. Interesting interview, though. Less cray cray in zeritgeist-level diagnosis than I expected, way more cray on cure: “Failing other options, Thiel thinks even bleak or apocalyptic visions are better than no vision at all. The picture of European climate catastrophe associated with Greta Thunberg is, as he sees it, one of only three realistic European futures; the other two are ‘Islamic sharia law’, and ‘Chinese Communist AI’. He views the social-democratic models typical of contemporary European politics as variations on the theme of stagnation: ‘a sort of eternal Groundhog Day’. And while Greta’s vision is ‘in some ways too apocalyptic, in some ways not apocalyptic enough’, it is at least ‘a very concrete picture’, and represents the least worst of the three alternatives to stagnation.”
[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]
The FRC, a staunch opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights, joins a growing list of activist groups seeking church status, which allows organizations to shield themselves from financial scrutiny.
The Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida, featured a number of speakers, including former President Donald Trump. During his speech, Trump promoted the idea that a belief in God was requisite to truly be a part of the nation, disregarding the millions of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated or agnostic.
“We are Americans and Americans kneel to God, and God alone,” Trump said.
[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-27-2022]
After Trump helped revolutionize Claremont from a minor academic outfit to a key Washington player, the think tank is facing blowback for standing by lawyer John Eastman after he counseled Trump on overturning the 2020 election.
Charles Pierce [Esquire, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2022]
After all these months, it’s strange to see it in black and white. Even after the case that the House select committee laid out so plainly in its public hearings, it’s strange to see it in black and white. Even after all the dogged reporting out of Washington, and Georgia, and Arizona; after four years of a chaotic and periodically insane presidency, and an even more chaotic and constantly insane post-presidency, it’s strange to see it set out so plainly and so starkly in print. The Department of Justice is investigating the former president* of the United States on suspicion of organizing a criminal cabal of second-rate ratfckers to overthrow the United States government, with a violent attack on the Capitol as its last overt act.
[Hartmann Report, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]
[(The Guardian, via The Big Picture 7-24-2022]
As mistrust and alienation from democratic institutions peaks, researchers explore how willing Americans are to commit violence
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2022]
“Both candidates described a country that was not merely in trouble, but being destroyed by leaders who despise most Americans — effectively part of a civil war. In both swing states and safe seats, many Republicans say that liberals hate them personally and may turn rioters or a police state on people who disobey them.”
[Mondoweiss, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2022]
[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2022]
[Gawker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2022]
“The belief that society doesn’t exist, or shouldn’t, is a rejection of neighborliness and trust, a democratic civic culture, and the possibility of encountering those unlike yourself on equal ground….. The conservative assault on society can also be seen in their attempt to turn our public spaces into zones of armed conflict — extending the privileges of defending your home or property to, well, almost anywhere. An armed society is not a polite society, as the trite bumper sticker asserts, but something closer to the state of nature, the war of all against all… But if society can be attacked and weakened, it also can be supported and strengthened. Democrats, at least in the past, knew how to do the latter. One of the most striking emphases of historian Eric Rauchway’s excellent recent book, Why the New Deal Matters, is that Franklin Roosevelt and his administration understood that despair could be countered and democracy fortified by a kind of social infrastructure. So they built public libraries at time when, as Rauchway observes, Nazis were burning and banning books. They built theaters and public pools and commissioned murals to beautify public spaces. My favorite detail from Rauchway’s book is how many sidewalks the New Deal helped build: throughout the 1930s and into the 1940s, workers hired by the Work Projects Administration laid about twenty-four thousand miles of new sidewalks and improved another seven thousand more. Some of this, certainly, was meant to give people jobs during the Great Depression. But they were also public goods that brought people together, and were ways of making communities easier to feel a part of and entertainment and culture enjoyable for more than the rich. It is no accident that, in the wake of such efforts, the rightwing in America was, if all too briefly, pushed to margins of our political life.”
We read over and over in accounts and journals of that time period that the men that went out into the frontier usually went out in in groups it went out in parties as it were groups of men 3, 6, 9, 12 men at a time maybe more. And early on they went out in hunting parties, they went out to survey the land, to explore it, to hunt, to bring back hides, to have an idea about what there was but they didn't do that alone.
The people in the communities of small towns in America in the 18th century... had to live together tightly interwoven. They had to rely on one another for everything, really everything. So if we look at Matthew Patton's diary, we see him having commercial interactions with all of his neighbors, basically everyone around town, and it almost seems very, very purposeful that he wants to connect with each and every person. Because he knows he might have to rely on any of these people, so he wants to make sure he uses the services of all the different people. If there is more than one grain mill in town, he's going to use both of those grain mills. He's going to make sure to order flour from both of those different ones. He needs them both to be in business, because one may not work and he needs to go to the other one. If there are multiple stores in town, a place where he needs to go and shop to order different thing,s pick up different items, he's going to be doing business with all of them. A little business here, a little business there. Matthew Patton is using all of his neighbors for different kinds of food, so he will purchase things or sell things to each one of his neighbors, sort of in turn in a sense. So they're always relying on him, and he's always relying on them.