Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 20, 2020


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 20, 2020

Strategic Political Economy

America’s Survival Depends on Bankrupting the Republican Party
Thom Hartmann: [via LA Progressive 12-18-2020]

Large parts of the Republican base now join conspiracists in the misguided belief that vaccine manufacturers are participating in mind-control experiments and that public health measures like masks are “un-American,” while we’re being sickened and dying from the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and death in the developed world.

Republicans on the Supreme Court even say the founders of our republic and the framers of the Constitution would never go along with preventing churches and synagogues from holding superspreader events during a pandemic, but, like so many things GOP, it’s a lie.

In 1798, President John Adams signed the first public health care legislation—it was to pay for medical care and hospitalization not just for the Navy but also for civilian sailors. And both he and President George Washington had participated in quarantine events during epidemics in the summers of 1793 and 1798, and both promoted inoculation against smallpox.

From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. When the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 recurred in 1798, that city’s board of health, with no objections raised by President John Adams or any member of Congress, ordered a block-by-block evacuation of parts of Philadelphia….

Since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have damaged America more in 40 years than our worst enemies could have dreamed of by other means….

They have rigged elections by making it hard to vote, seditiously tried to overturn the 2020 election, promoted racial and religious bigotry and violence, destroyed our public school systems, gutted our unions, and rewritten our tax system to screw the middle class.

Click through to read Hartmann’s proposed six actions that can hasten the GOP’s exit from the stage of world history. 

These Six Steps Can Stop Republican Treason

[Thom Hartmann, December 16, 2020, YouTube]


LA Progressive

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-20]


Marianne Williamson
The more I learn about the current epidemic of white supremacist groups, the clearer it becomes: we’re losing these people as children. Despair among our youth breeds vulnerability to ideological capture by psychotic forces. If our love doesn’t claim them, hate will.
12:50 AM · Dec 15, 2020

“Chris Arnade: Dignity, Poverty, Faith, & Seeking Respect in Back Row America” (podcast)

[The Moral Imagination, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“In the second half of the conversation we discuss faith, redemption, and atonement, and how the front row’s empiricist, cold, secular rationalism scientific doesn’t do justice to the complexities of human life, suffering, and the desire for meaning, dignity, and respect. Arnade argues that ‘atheism is an intellectual luxury that is wrong’ and that ‘front row’ scientism lacks epistemic humility, and has a false view of science and certainty. Arnade shows that each person, no matter our state, is a subject, and not simply an object to be manipulated or problem to be solved. And that many of our deepest problems cannot be solved by technical means alone, but are philosophical and cultural problems—not of the poor—but of the elite.

“How race politics liberated the elites”

[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-20]

“Dropping down a rung or two on the pyramid of power, consider the moral ecology inhabited by the broader gentility: the salaried decision-makers and ideas-managers who service the global arrangement from various departments of the ideological apparatus. They may work in NGOs, the governing bodies of the EU, corporate journalism, HR departments, the celebrity-industrial complex, the universities, Big Tech, etc. They, too, enjoy a kind of freedom, but it is decidedly not that of the high-spirited criminals depicted in Succession. So far from living ‘beyond good and evil’, this broader class of cosmopolitans asserts its freedom through its moralism, precisely. In particular, they have broken free of the claims of allegiance made upon them by the particular communities they emerge from. How does this work, psychologically? The idea of a common good has given way to a partition of citizens along the lines of a moral hierarchy – one that just happens to mirror their material fortunes (as in Calvinism). Instead of feeling bound up in a shared fate with one’s countrymen, one develops an alternate solidarity that is placeless. The relatability across national borders that the gentlefolk feel in one another’s company — the gracious ease and trust, the shared points of reference in high-prestige opinion — has something to do with their uniformly high standing in the moral hierarchy that divides citizen from citizen within their own nations. The decision-making class has discovered that it enjoys the mandate of heaven, and with this comes certain permissions; certain exemptions from democratic scruple. The permission structure is built around grievance politics. Very simply: if the nation is fundamentally racist, sexist and homophobic, I owe it nothing. More than that, conscience demands that I repudiate it.” 

The real history of race and the New Deal: Material benefits trumped FDR's terrible civil rights records
Matthew Yglesias, December 14, 2020

Black Americans started voting for the Democratic Party because FDR’s economic policies were good for them, even though his civil rights policies were rotten. Then once they were there inside the Democratic Party coalition they ended up pushing the party toward racial liberalism. But the switch was driven by economics, which of course would not make sense on the theory that the New Deal was a crypto-racist undertaking.

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

“Amazing” Hypocrisy: Democrats Make Wreck of Covid-19 Relief Negotiations 

Matt Taibbi, December 14, 2020

Democrats stonewalled all year on a new pandemic relief package. Now they're proposing a new plan that undercuts even Republican proposals, and screws everyone but - get this - defense contractors

The Tax Time Bomb That Congress Can Defuse

David Dayen, December 17, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The headline should be “Tax Bombs,” plural, because there are a number of stunning tax details about the CARES Act that are about to impact the unemployed and others who received emergency assistance in 2020. 

This is significant anti-stimulus at the worst possible time. In effect, the one-time stimulus check and unemployment boost will be offset, for millions of people, by the lack of an expected refund and even tax liability. That blunts the impact of those relief measures.

Mitch McConnell gives away the game: ‘Kelly and David are getting hammered’

[Washington Post, via The American Prospect 12-17-2020]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has now suggested on a private conference call with GOP senators that a key reason for this movement is that the two Georgia Republican senators, both of whom face runoffs in January, are “getting hammered” over Congress’ failure to pass a new rescue bill.

But this news doesn’t just tell us that Republicans are feeling heat from this failure. The likelihood that this played a key role in moving Republicans also underscores how unlikely they are to help the economy and the country next year, if they do retain control of the Senate.

CNN’s Manu Raju reports that on the call with GOP Senators on Wednesday, the Senate Majority Leader said that the lack of stimulus payments has become a big issue in the runoffs

Crawling Toward a Deal on COVID Relief

David Dayen, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The issue in negotiations appears to be eligibility. Millions of mixed-status families did not get a CARES Act payment because of eligibility rules that required everyone in a household to be a U.S. citizen. Democratic leaders are trying to alter this so only one member of a household with a Social Security number makes the household eligible. Meanwhile, almost 9 million non-tax filers who were eligible for a check last time haven’t received one; mechanisms to ensure their participation need to be discussed. And I spoke yesterday with Scott Roberts of Color of Change, which has been highlighting another sub-group that has struggled to get checks: incarcerated people.

There was no language on this in the CARES Act, making incarcerated people eligible. But the IRS tried to block them from receiving payments anyway. State corrections departments were intercepting checks intended for people in prison. A federal judge ordered that these payments get made in September, but that set up an application process. Color of Change has been helping get people through it; of course there are fees associated with flowing money into prison bank accounts, which should be waived….

State and local aid: There is none, but Democrats seem to be trying to plus-up certain earmarked budgets in a way that would stand in for that aid. They’ve asked for $30 billion for governors to control for health care and vaccine distribution; Republicans have rejected that so far. There’s also money given to FEMA for state and local “emergencies,” (isn’t every budget shortfall an emergency?) which the last I saw was $90 billion. But Republicans are also resisting a separate pot of just $1 billion for FEMA, so they’re clearly targeting that.

And on what was reported as the new obstacle Republicans threw up to a deal:

The money cannon: This is frankly the dumbest point of contention. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wants to rescind the authority for the Federal Reserve’s corporate credit facilities, reducing the flexibility for the incoming Biden administration’s Fed to lend to medium-sized businesses or state and local governments. This is now being termed the main stumbling block to a deal.

The Fed has had nine months to use that lending authority, and they’ve done next to nothing with it. The “Main Street Lending Program” is mostly an oil and gas lending program. The state and local lending has yielded two loans, and the Fed leadership appears ideologically opposed (and conflicted with the muni bond industry) to doing more. Furthermore, the Fed has the tools to undertake this lending anyway, through Section 14(2) authority.

Yet Democrats are going to great lengths to paint Steven Mnuchin as a schemer (hey if the shoe fits) bent on sabotaging the next president. Republicans don’t exactly have good intentions here, but the Fed’s actions haven’t really done much for regular people, either. Thanks in part to propped-up asset prices, 45 of the 50 biggest companies made money during the pandemic, laid off workers and leaked cash out to shareholders. Corporate bond-buying has pushed investors to seek high returns, and is facilitating private equity dividend recapitalizations, another extraction tool to loot companies.

These facilities will not be missed. They have almost exclusively fattened the wallets of the investor class, and there’s no reason to think they would suddenly benefit the average worker. Especially when, rhetorically speaking, proceeds from the money cannon are being distributed to people who need it. I can’t think of anything less worth fighting for.

“Senate Proposal Would Retroactively Shield Corporations From All COVID Lawsuits”

David Sirota, Andrew Perez, Julia Rock, December 15, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

“[The bill would] empower the United States Attorney General to deem coronavirus-related lawsuits from workers, customers and attorneys ‘meritless’ and then file civil actions against them as retribution. In order to ‘vindicate the public interest,’ courts would be allowed to fine respondents up to $50,000.” 

Oil & Gas Dominates In "Main Street" Lending Program

[BailoutWatch, December 16, 2020, via The American Prospect 12-17-2020]

Forty-six fossil fuel companies have received Fed-subsidized loans totaling $828 million since the program started in July. The average loan size, $18 million, is nearly double the program’s average loan size of $9.8 million, or $9.2 million excluding fossil fuels. Twelve of the fossil fuel loans were worth $35 million or more, accounting for more than 30% of the program’s loans of that magnitude. See the full list of companies here.

The results contrast starkly with the MSLP’s paltry aid to clean energy companies, which received just nine loans totaling $62 million, for an average size of $6.9 million. Excluding the two bigger loans of $25 million and $22.6 million, clean energy’s seven remaining loans averaged just $2.1 million.

As a portion of the loan portfolio, clean energy comprises 1% after drifting downward most months. Fossil fuels have captured more than 13% of the money, a figure that has increased in every month but one. That disparity raises questions about the Fed’s commitment to fighting the financial risks posed by climate change, which it only began to acknowledge publicly after this year’s election.

The Return of Checks Checks Checks

David Dayen, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

End The Austerity Loop

David Sirota, December 17, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

Democrats are failing to heed the cautionary tale about how their obsession with deficit reduction hurts the economy and harms their political prospects….

The familiar message from Obama to Democratic Party voters is the same one the party’s apologists offer up today: Budget capitulations are not a product of ideological fealty to an austerity agenda, they are only a reflection of political reality — so stop pushing, start falling in line and be pragmatic.

On its face, it is a compelling tale that makes sense if you read nothing else and forgot what actually happened. The problem is, it omits a key detail that collapses the entire story and exposes the austerity ideology at play: In roughly the same time period, Obama and his party congratulated themselves for passing legislation that — in the name of deficit reduction — rescinded the White House’s authority to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help Americans who were being thrown out of their homes.

Called the “Pay It Back Act,” the Democratic bill reduced the size of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) just after it had bailed out the banks, but just before a new president might decide to use the money for what it was originally supposed to do: help homeowners.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]




“How Should We Understand Capital Income Inequality?”

[Matt Bruenig, People’s Policy Project, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-20]

“I think public ownership of capital is one of the most overlooked topics in contemporary discussions of inequality. Unlike labor income, which can only be received by individuals, capital income can be received by anyone or anything. This is because it is completely detached from anything having to do with capital owners. Capital may be productive in some sense, but the people who own it are not, which is precisely why anyone can own it, including everyone collectively through an instrument like a democratically-elected government. For this reason, bringing private capital into public ownership should be considered one of the easiest ways to cut down inequality in society. Building a social wealth fund like the one that Alaska has could quickly trim down wealth inequality in society while also providing new streams of government revenue that could be distributed in a vastly more equal way than capital income is currently distributed. ”

Keeping tax low for the rich does not boost economy (pdf)

[London School of Economics and Political Science, via The Big Picture 12-17-20]

Our research shows that the economic case for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak. Based on data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades, we estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment. We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income.  In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Tax Cuts For Rich People Produce ‘No Significant Economic Effects,’ Says 50 Years Of Data 

[Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-20]

Study of 50 Years of Tax Cuts For Rich Confirms ‘Trickle Down’ Theory Is an Absolute Sham — Kenny Stancil

[Common Dreams, via Mike Norman Economics 12-17-20]

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich (pdf), a working paper published this month by the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics and written by LSE’s David Hope and Julian Limberg of King’s College London, examines data from nearly 20 OECD countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., and finds that the past five decades have been characterized by “falling taxes on the rich in the advanced economies,” with “major tax cuts… particularly clustered in the late 1980s.”

But, according to Hope and Limberg, the vast majority of the populations in those countries have little to show for it, as the benefits of slashing taxes on the wealthy are concentrated among a handful of super-rich individuals—not widely shared across society in the form of improved job creation or prosperity, as “trickle down” theorists alleged would happen.

“Our research shows that the economic case for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak,” Hope said Wednesday. “Major tax cuts for the rich since the 1980s have increased income inequality, with all the problems that brings, without any offsetting gains in economic performance.”...

Predatory Finance

How London grew into a financial powerhouse 

[Financial Times, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

London is a hub for trading currencies and interest rate derivatives. Its location allows traders to catch the end of the Asian day and the opening on Wall Street. The good fortune of geography is underpinned by high-quality tech infrastructure. As a result, London accounts for 43% of the turnover in the $6.6 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market and half of the daily $6.5 trillion traded in interest rate derivatives. Brexit has not dented the UK capital’s dominance in these markets

Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-20]


Information Age Dystopia

How Russian hackers infiltrated the US government for months without being spotted. And why it could take months more to discover how many other governments and companies have been breached. 

[MIT Technology Review, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

Chrome is Bad 

[Chrome is Bad, via Naked Capitalism 12-13-20]

Short story: Google Chrome installs something called Keystone on your computer, which nefariously hides itself from Activity Monitor and makes your whole computer slow even when Chrome isn't running. Deleting Chrome and Keystone makes your computer way, way faster, all the time.

“Google Faces U.S. Antitrust Regulators Who Want More Than Just Fines” [Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“On Thursday, after a barrage of antitrust lawsuits, Google mounted a defense of its most valuable business. The response showed it’s not a Ma Bell breakup Google fears, but being forced to alter its crown jewel—the search engine…. ‘This lawsuit demands changes to the design of Google Search, requiring us to prominently feature online middlemen in place of direct connections to businesses,’ Adam Cohen, Google’s director of economic policy, wrote in a blog post.”

Lambert Strether expands: “For middlemen, read curators, bloggers, content creators, as opposed to algos (and whoever pays the Google for a top ranking). I think that Google should (a) index everything, which it no longer does, (b) roll the engine back to, say, 2008, when search wasn’t crapified, and (c) make the interface a list of blue links. Period. How hard could that be?”

“Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“The giants of the social web—Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram; Google and its subsidiary YouTube; and, to a lesser extent, Twitter—have achieved success by being dogmatically value-neutral in their pursuit of what I’ll call megascale. Somewhere along the way, Facebook decided that it needed not just a very large user base, but a tremendous one, unprecedented in size. That decision set Facebook on a path to escape velocity, to a tipping point where it can harm society just by existing. …. The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see…. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Facebook has enlisted a corps of approximately 15,000 moderators, people paid to watch unspeakable things—murder, gang rape, and other depictions of graphic violence that wind up on the platform. Even as Facebook has insisted that it is a value-neutral vessel for the material its users choose to publish, moderation is a lever the company has tried to pull again and again. But there aren’t enough moderators speaking enough languages, working enough hours, to stop the biblical flood of shit that Facebook unleashes on the world, because 10 times out of 10, the algorithm is faster and more powerful than a person. At megascale, this algorithmically warped personalized informational environment is extraordinarily difficult to moderate in a meaningful way, and extraordinarily dangerous as a result. These dangers are not theoretical, and they’re exacerbated by megascale, which makes the platform a tantalizing place to experiment on people.”


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Driving the Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s first real electric car 

(The Verge, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

Ford looks like it has an unqualified hit on its hands. Its next EV, the electric Ford F-150, is sure to be popular. But Ford needed to show everyone that it could make a powerful electric vehicle that was a blast to drive — and it did.

“U.S. Defense Department looks to bolster domestic chip manufacture with new program”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“The U.S. Defense Department will soon start soliciting proposals for a program to provide incentives to boost semiconductor manufacturing capabilities in the United States, according to a posting on a government contracting site. Major American semiconductor companies such as Apple Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp rely on outside manufacturers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) or Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to fabricate their chips in what are called foundries. Most of those foundries are located in Taiwan or South Korea. While Intel Corp operates U.S. chip factories, they are mostly dedicated to manufacturing its own chips rather than doing work for outside clients. The Defense Department is looking to change that dynamic by providing incentives for the development of chip-related intellectual property and the creation of advanced foundries in the United States, according to a notice posted to the website of the National Security Technology Accelerator, a nonprofit group that works to connect private-sector companies to government contract opportunities.”

Health Care Crisis

“Here’s What Medicare For All Supporters In Congress Can Actually Do”

David Sirota, December 13, 2020 [The Daily Poster].

“Over the weekend, there has been a raging debate on social media, in which some progressive critics began demanding that lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use their votes in the upcoming House Speaker election as leverage to get a commitment for a floor vote on Medicare for All legislation…. However, only asking for that performative vote — rather than also asking for things that might change the structural power dynamic — would be a waste, and yet another instance of progressives reverting to a feckless tradition of prioritizing spectacles rather than the wielding of actual power. They could additionally condition their vote for Pelosi on a commitment that she: 

– Remove the Medicare for All opponent who chairs the key committee [Richard Neal]

– Schedule a vote on existing legislation to let states create single-payer health care systems

– Schedule a vote on a resolution demanding Biden use executive authority to expand Medicare

– Include provisions in year-end spending bills that create a presidential commission charged with crafting a Medicare for All program

– Author a discharge petition to force a vote on Medicare for All

Climate and environmental crises

“The costs of tackling climate change keep on falling”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-14-20]

“In 2006, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change foresaw a cost of 1 per cent of global GDP to reduce global fossil fuel-related emissions from 25 gigatonnes to 18 Gt by 2050, with zero emissions only achieved after 2075. A recent report from the Energy Transitions Commission suggests a cost below 1 per cent to achieve net-zero emissions globally by mid-century. This is a trivial sum to save the world from catastrophic climate change.”

Lambert Strether: The cost is trivial today, and was trivial in 2006. Cost, then, is not the issue.

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-14-20]



Joe Biden Is Unhappy About the Day One Agenda

David Dayen, December 16, 2020 [The American Prospect]

Since we put out the Day One Agenda last September, and added to it during the transition period, other news outlets and commentators have followed with their own suggestions for how the Biden administration can make meaningful changes that will help people without having to wait for a permission slip from Mitch McConnell. At the Prospect, we have written over three dozen articles on the subject, and identified as many as 277 distinct actions that Biden can take by invoking his executive power, independent of what Congress may or may not do, all referenced in the Biden-Sanders unity task force document from this past summer.

Apparently, Biden isn’t thrilled about the trajectory of this discussion. On a call with civil rights leaders leaked to the press last week, Biden flashed some anger at the idea that he has the ability to make great strides for the American people even if Congress balks. “There’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden acknowledged, stating that he would “use it to undo every single damn thing this guy [Donald Trump] has done by executive authority.” But, he quickly added, “executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds … Not within the constitutional authority. I am not going to violate the Constitution.”

….Absolutely nothing in the Day One Agenda would violate constitutional authority. In fact, the agenda adheres directly to the Constitution’s Article II powers. A president’s job function is, by and large, to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Everything in our coverage refers to actual laws the president has the authority to implement….

Student debt cancellation, for example, is derived from the Higher Education Act of 1963. Lowering prescription drug prices comes from using provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, or Section 1498 of the U.S. Code. Effectively legalizing marijuana is achieved through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Biden can alter the measurement of poverty because it’s an administrative function, and several laws tie federal benefits to that poverty calculation. Biden can shape federal procurement policy thanks to the 1974 establishment of a dedicated White House office for that purpose, and requiring contractors to pay living wages or proper benefits can meaningfully improve the lives of millions of workers.

“Inside the Left’s New, ‘Mature’ Political Strategy”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

Interview with Justice Democrats co-founder Saikat Chakrabarti.

“‘The Justice Democrats have 10 members in Congress, and the House Democrats have — I think it’s a six-seat majority,’ says Chakrabarti. ‘Now they can negotiate as mature partners at a table. They have real power.'” 

“Senate Democrat: Party’s message to rural voters is ‘really flawed'”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-20]

“Tester argued the party could strengthen its performance in rural areas by emphasizing its infrastructure policies, particularly in relation to broadband expansion. ‘And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education,’ he said. ‘That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana.’… [The New York Times] noted that former President Obama won some rural areas by more than 20 points in comparison to President-elect Joe Biden this year. Tester responded by pointing to Obama spending the Fourth of July in 2008 in Butte, Mont. ‘He showed up. Now, he didn’t win much in it, but he did a hell of a lot better than people thought he was going to do because he showed up,’ Tester said.”

“Why Did Obama Forget Who Brought Him to the Dance?”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“But there’s a strange lacuna in A Promised Land, a missing thread that I kept looking for but never found. That thread is his popular base…. But as is by now well known, once Obama entered office, he abandoned this army and staked his presidency on the inside-the-Beltway strategies of his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel…. So as I read A Promised Land, I kept looking for hindsight about cardinal political error. Obama offers none. The words ‘Organizing for America’ don’t appear anywhere in the book.”

The Establishment Strikes Back

Alexander Sammon, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

But in a surprise, last-second Steering Committee meeting on exclusive committee assignments Thursday, which was scheduled at 10 p.m. the night before, centrist Democrats put on a show of support for Rice and against AOC, in what looks to have been a process-defying attempt to keep AOC out of the seat. Fellow New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries came out in support of Rice, contra Nadler, as did Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL).

Most vocal in his opposition to Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy was Texas’s Henry Cuellar, the caucus’s most conservative member. After Ocasio-Cortez was nominated and seconded, Cuellar opposed, commenting: “I’m taking into account who pays their dues and who doesn’t work against other members whether in primaries or in other contexts,” according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. After Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) called for a vote on the two candidates came an unusual outcome: Rice crushed AOC 46-13.

Lawrence Wilkerson on Biden’s pro-war cabinet” (podcast)

[Pushback with Aaron Maté, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

Wilkerson: “I don’t see a different kind of administration being formed. And it disturbs me because it just means more of the same — a little more calmness, a little more serenity, which lulls everyone into thinking that things are better, when in fact they’re not.”

The Dark Side

2020 was the year that American science denial became lethal 

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 12-14-20]

It’s hard to pinpoint when the Republican Party’s long-cherished hostility to scientific facts went, shall we say, viral. Was it when President Trump started promoting antimalarial pills as a treatment for COVID-19? Or when he mused openly about using bleach or bright light to kill the virus inside the body? Or when he became the standard-bearer for the notion that wearing masks was a sign of unmanly weakness and shunning them a test of conservative political faithfulness?  

The Sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service Is a National Security Matter
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 16, 2020 [Wall Street On Parade]

Among the growing list of priorities for the incoming Biden administration is a comprehensive investigation of the efforts to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service.

In August, Aaron Gordon, reporting for Vice’s Motherboard, published a leaked internal document from the U.S. Postal Service showing that management was planning to eliminate hundreds of high-speed sorting machines in the midst of a pandemic. Sources inside the Postal Service that spoke with Gordon told him that they had “personally witnessed the machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster.”

Documents reviewed by Gordon also “laid out detailed plans to reroute mail to sorting facilities further away in order to centralize mail processing even if it moves the mail across further distances.” Gordon reported that a union official wrote on the document: “This will slow mail processing.”

When this news swept across mainstream media, it was characterized as an effort to interfere with mail-in ballots and boost the chances of a Trump election win. But the slowdown at the U.S. Postal Service continues, making it look more like an all-out effort to sabotage a government mail program in order to destroy its reputation for timely delivery and boost the fortunes of private mail shippers...

How do we hold the traitors to democracy accountable? 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-15-20]

Not too surprisingly, the Bezos Post concludes there really is no way to hold them accountable; we can only scold them, subjecting the miserable poltroons to a good tongue lashing by Madame Speaker Pelosi. But I argue that if we don’t rock the boat now, it will definitely capsize later, when an administratively competent authoritarian replaces a Biden administration sunk by clinging to the disastrous nostrums of bipartisan neoliberalism. 

“Former Houston police captain charged with attacking man falsely accused of voter fraud”

[NBC News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“According to the district attorney’s office, [former Houston police captain Mark Anthony] Aguirre said he conducted ‘surveillance’ on a [local repairman] for four days in the belief that he had 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck. Authorities alleged that he ran his SUV into the back of the man’s truck and forced the man to the ground at gunpoint, which was captured on an officer’s body camera.” 

Lambert Strether comments: “It has occurred to me that conservative Republican embubblement culminates in assaults on material objects or persons — the repairman, here, or a pizza parlor — whereas liberal Democrat embubblement consists in symbol manipulation. Now ask yourself which is more important and effective for warmongering….”