Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 30, 2022
by Tony Wikrent
Strategic Political Economy
Yuan overtakes yen in global transaction volume
[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-2022]
Chas W. Freeman, Jr. [Naked Capitalism 1-27-2022]
How Supply-Side Reaganomics is linked to the slave holding Confederacy
Heather Cox Richardson, January 27, 2022 [Letters from an American]
On January 21, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained to the World Economic Forum that the Biden administration rejected Republican supply-side economics, ushered in during the Reagan administration. That system relied on tax cuts and aggressive deregulation to spark private capital—the supply side—to drive the economy. Supply-side economics has not increased growth, Yellen said, while it has failed to address climate change and has shifted money upward as it moved the burden of taxes from capital and put it on workers.
Biden’s economic policy, Yellen explained, rejected this philosophy in favor of what she calls “modern supply-side economics.” This term appears to be intended to suggest a middle ground between the supply-side economics of the 1980s, which focused on putting money in the hands of the wealthy, and the post–World War II idea that the government should manage the economy by investing in infrastructure and a social safety net.
Biden’s plan, Yellen explained, has focused on “labor supply, human capital, public infrastructure, R&D, and investments in a sustainable environment.” Rather than focusing on putting money into the hands of the “demand side” of the economy—consumers—it focuses on developing a strong labor force in a strong democracy to create growth through hard work and innovation.
In its emphasis on education and access to resources, the Biden administration’s economic policy echoes the ideology Abraham Lincoln articulated in 1859. Wealthy southern enslavers insisted the government should simply defend the property rights of the wealthy, who would amass wealth that they would then put to its best use to develop the country. But Lincoln argued that the government should nurture the country’s laborers, who were the nation’s true innovators and hardest workers and who, if properly supported, would move the country forward much faster than a few wealthy men would.
[Indignity, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-2022]
“Across this large and otherwise fractious country, in its famous “blue states” and “red states” alike, the United States is converging on an ever-more-clearly articulated answer to the coronavirus pandemic: the pursuit, in defiance of most of the rest of the world, of a nationwide Unlimited Covid policy….. But the movement for Unlimited Covid has a uniquely American character. It represents an informal yet powerful collaboration between the country’s two mutually hostile political parties, across two different presidential administrations. The country’s pandemic response was initially defined by Trump, who chose to deny the risks of the virus, to suppress testing to keep official case counts low, and to delay any mobilization to produce tests or protective equipment. Facing a reelection campaign, and encouraged by a party line that the disease would be no worse than seasonal influenza, Trump and the Republican Party counted on allowing the virus to spread freely, generating natural herd immunity, after which they hoped it would subside on its own. Joe Biden and the Democratic Party took power at the beginning of 2021, claiming a mandate to change the way the country handled the pandemic. In line with the party’s technocratic spirit, and with the benefit of the newly available vaccines, Biden quickly launched a mass immunization program. That same technocratic outlook, however, led the administration to pursue what it hoped could be the most narrowly efficient strategy against the coronavirus—a domestic vaccination program only, rather than promoting international immunization, and without trying to catch up with the sort of testing, tracing, and targeted suppression that other countries had deployed. When the virus kept mutating and proved itself able to spread even among vaccinated people, the Biden administration had not stockpiled tests or masks with which to respond to new waves. Caught up in its promise of a return to normalcy, and unable to narrowly tailor closures to meet specific problems, the administration failed to bring the country to a pandemic-fighting footing and allowed economic relief measures to expire. In the end, the country settled on a contest between the original Republican program of counting on the unchecked virus to produce national herd immunity and a Democratic program of counting on a combination of vaccines and infections to produce national herd immunity. Although the details of it played out as partisan conflict—right-wing commenters went so far as to obfuscate their own vaccinations, to undermine Biden’s efforts—the result either way was Unlimited Covid. By redefining its failure to control the coronavirus as a success, the United States has rewritten its social contract and reshaped the expectations of its people.”
Lambert Strether adds: “The ruling class will have slaughtered a million Americans and gotten away clean. It’s a remarkable achievement. These impressive numbers are, well, let’s be polite and say “world historical.”
Health Care Crisis
Shkreli’s infamous 4,000% price hike gets him a lifetime pharma ban
[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 1-23-2022]
A federal court on Friday banned convicted fraudster Martin Shkreli from ever working in the pharmaceutical industry again in any capacity and ordered him to pay back $64.6 million in profits from his infamous scheme that raised the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim more than 4,000 percent.
US District Judge Denise Cote issued the lifetime ban after finding that Shkreli engaged in anticompetitive practices to protect the monopoly profits of Daraprim.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission and seven states—New York, California, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—Shkreli, his former pharmaceutical company Vyera (formerly Turing), and former Vyera CEO Kevin Mulleady created a "web of anticompetitive restrictions to box out the competition" in 2015 after they bought the rights to Daraprim.
The Nursing Home Slumlord Manifesto
Maureen Tkacik, January 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]
In a surreal new lawsuit, New York nursing home owners say they make nearly a billion dollars a year understaffing homes and shortchanging patients.
Could California Actually Pass Single-Payer Health Care?
[Economy for All, via LA Progressive 1-29-2022]
...Assembly Bill 1400… introduced by State Assemblyman Ash Kalra in early January and sponsored by the California Nurses Association, would establish a publicly funded system in California guaranteeing free-of-charge health care to all residents, including immigrants. The system, dubbed CalCare, would cover medical, dental, and vision care, as well as mental health care. There would be no monthly premiums, co-pays or deductibles. Health care providers would simply bill the state government rather than insurance companies or patients….
In spite of the barrage of anti-single-payer propaganda that we are steeped in, support for a bill like AB 1400 remains strong. A May 2021 poll found 60 percent public support in California. Imagine how much bigger that number would be if Californians weren’t constantly exposed to the sort of misleading analysis that corporate media outlets like the Los Angeles Times print.
On January 20, the Assembly Appropriations Committee passed AB 1400, clearing the way for a floor vote on the bill by the end of the month. In spite of the California Democratic Party’s stated support of single-payer health care on its platform, not all Democratic Assembly members support AB 1400 (predictably California Republicans strongly oppose it). Most worryingly, California’s Democratic governor Gavin Newsom, who campaigned on single-payer health care, is wavering. Grassroots supporters like the California Nurses Association and Public Citizen are campaigning to push state lawmakers and Newsom to do the right thing.
Newsom’s Big Choice: Single Payer Or His Insurance Donors?
[The Daily Poster, January 28, 2022]
California’s governor is caught between his campaign pledge and the health care companies that bankroll him.
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
The Billionaire Side Hustle That Neoliberalism Created
[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 1-24-2022]
….billionaire hedge fund manager Daniel Ochs just made a cool $100 million in the following manner: In 2019, he bought a sprawling Central Park South penthouse apartment for $93 million, and then he let a couple of years go by (presumably enjoying his nice apartment from time to time), and now he has sold that same apartment for $190 million.
What does this enraging little class war story tell us about America in 2022? It tells us that we have created an economic environment in which the ultra-rich can essentially print themselves money simply by buying rare luxury assets coveted by other ultra-rich people, and flipping them. This applies not just to penthouse apartments, but to art, and to rare jewelry, and to anything else with both an extremely high entry price, limited quantity, and high demand. Daniel Ochs is not even in the real estate business, but he just made more money than your family will make in three generations by doing nothing except sitting on his ass for a remarkably short period of time and watching the price of his rare asset inflate.
How Inequality Leads to Industrial Feudalism
[Originally published at The Institute for New Economic Thinking website, via Naked Capitalism 1-25-2022]
The paring down of welfare provision since the 1980s has coincided with asset price inflation. In the United States, Great Britain, and numerous other countries where residential real estate markets emerged, the housing market came to be relied upon for emergency credit, and cash flow to pay school fees and for private medical care. This has alienated the property-owning middle class from a welfare state for which that class pays but does not need because it can generate cash flow from property.
Rising asset prices generate a more unequal distribution of wealth by increasing the value of wealth that must be acquired to secure a position in the next wealth class. At the same time, the growing credit possibilities of rising asset values reinforce the floor preventing demotion into a lower social class. In light of asset price fluctuations, diversity and stability of the wealth portfolio, and the credit practices associated with such portfolios, thus have a defining role in both upward and downward movements across classes.
The Texas Electric Grid Failure Was a Warm-up
[Texas Monthly, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]
One year after the deadly blackout, officials have done little to prevent the next one—which could be far worse.
US 5G roll out ignores concerns for Air Transport safety
[Leeham News, January 18, 2022, via Naked Capitalism 1-23-2022]
In 2020 the RTCA (Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics) did tests that established the risk of 5G Base stations affecting the critical Radio Altimeters needed for bad weather landings as real. After FAA issues a 2021 December 23 AD (Airworthiness Directive) about the danger, airlines must now decide what flights must be canceled during bad weather spells on affected airports….
Since the FCC decision, FAA and the FCC have argued the issue, with FCC and the wireless industry arguing there have been no problems in other countries. For Europe, this is because the frequency separation is three times the US at 600MHz (5G stops at 3.6GHz). FAA and the airline industry argue air safety is not about “it hasn’t been a problem elsewhere “, only extensive verification and tests can decide if it’s safe or not.
A Government Study Shows that Wall Street Megabanks Have Dramatically Shifted their Derivative Exposure to Corporations
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 27, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]
The last thing a volatile stock market needs right now is more surprises from the dark corners of Wall Street. Unfortunately, we can guarantee you that more surprises are coming in the way of uncleared derivatives blowing up on the balance sheets of publicly-traded corporations….
A Bug in Early Creative Commons Licenses Has Enabled a New Breed of Superpredator
Cory Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 1-25-2022]
[Folding Ideas, YouTube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-24-2022]
TW: This is over two hours long, but one of the best summaries of the financial and economic derangements resulting from Obama’s catastrophic refusal to allow Great Financial Crash of 2008 to destroy its rich instigators. There is a Chapter 0, which focuses on the GFC. Lambert Strether added in his introduction, “every interaction I’ve ever had online with crypto and NFT enthusiasts fully matches what is described here; the nature of the web3 “community” is important to understand. Well worth a listen, as scam after scam after scam is unraveled.” So, the best way to understand the cryptocurrency craze is as a financial mental disorder resulting entirely from the policy failure of not addressing the causes of the GFC.
Neoliberal economics requires injustice and a police state
Chevron’s Prosecution of Steven Donziger
The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 1-28-2022]
Exxon is using an unusual law to intimidate critics over its climate denial
[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-26-2022]
America’s largest oil firm claims its history of publicly denying the climate crisis is protected by the first amendment.
Stephen Breyer’s Legacy of Destruction
Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 1-27-2022]
“President Clinton has been misled into making a grave mistake in nominating to the Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer,” wrote former FTC official Charles Mueller, the then-editor of the Antitrust Law and Economics Review in 1994, on the eve of Breyer’s confirmation. “On the basis of his antitrust record, he is an unjust man. He is also one who is intellectually and politically committed to a set of ‘economic’ theories that are demonstrably false and that will callously reduce the standard of living of the average American family in the decades to come.”
There were a host of unanimous decisions following Trinko that gutted antitrust law. There was Weyerhaeuser Co. v. Ross-Simmons Hardwood Lumber, which privileged big businesses who wanted to drive their competitors out of a market by overpaying for supplies in high fixed capital industries (which is one reason there are shortages today!). There was Pacific Bell Telephone Co. v. linkLine Communications, Inc, in which monopolists were allowed to use a tactic called a ‘price squeeze’ in which they exploited control over a vital resource to destroy competition. It got so bad that Breyer served as the Democratic leader in what the New York Times came to call Supreme Court Inc, for its favoratism to big business. (If you want a full rundown of some of Breyer’s decisions on corporate power, this blog post is good.)
Even Breyer’s ‘good’ decisions are a mess, because his faith in complex theoretical economics is overwhelming. Law professors joke about Breyer’s arbitrary ‘five part tests’ and weird attempts to clarify the law, which almost always makes things more complicated. In Actavis, for instance, Breyer wrote an opinion on whether pharmaceutical companies are allowed to pay competitors to stay off the market so they can keep their drug prices high, what is known as ‘pay for delay.’ Rather than just writing “No that’s a bribe and it’s a violation of antitrust law,’ Breyer said that every case had to be judged individually using an economic analysis of whether that particular arrangement might have some sort of efficiency benefit. It’s ridiculous, bribing someone to stay off the market should be the definition of an antitrust violation. Instead, Breyer’s sloppiness and unwillingness to state the obvious led to a decade of messy litigation, billions of extra costs in higher drug prices, and bitter unresolved Congressional debates.
A Brief History of Stephen Breyer Enabling Corporate Power
[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-2022]
“From October; still germane.”
Another Supreme Court Corporatist Would Be A Disaster
David Sirota [The Daily Poster, January 26, 2022]
Sixteen years ago, the Chamber [of Commerce] launched its campaign to own the Supreme Court with a bang: It got its own former lawyer, John Roberts, a seat on the panel during confirmation hearings that predictably focused on social issues and largely ignored the nominee’s record as “the go-to lawyer for the business community.”
Since then, the Chamber and conservative dark money groups have placed several Roberts clones on the court, and the putatively liberal minority has routinely acquiesced to the Chamber’s demands. Save for an occasional anomaly, the Roberts Court has typically delivered rulings that favor capital over labor, retirees, the environment and any other priority seen as an obstacle to private profit.
Data from the Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) tell the story of a seismic transformation in American jurisprudence: Whereas Chief Justice Warren Burger’s court sided with Chamber amicus briefs just 43 percent of the time, the Roberts Court has sided with the Chamber 70 percent of the time — including 83 percent of the time in the most recent session….
...Roberts knows how to play the game: He occasionally offers the occasional non-lunatic decision on a high-profile social issue that gets tons of headlines, all while his extremist economic rulings are either depicted as “moderate” or aren’t part of the media discourse at all.
Union Membership Numbers Reflect Broken Labor Laws
[AFL-CIO, January 20, 2022, via NC State AFL-CIO 1-20-2022]
Today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) annual report on union membership makes it clear that American labor laws are unquestionably broken. While the report indicates a 0.5% drop in union membership from 2020–2021, the data is not representative of the greater union trends taking place across the country. These statistics highlight the urgent need for the passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act….
The BLS report also shows promising data for communities of color. Black workers continued to have the highest unionization rate in 2021, with 12.9% membership. According to an EPI study, Black union workers are paid 13.7% more than their nonunionized peers.
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, union approval is at its highest level in over 50 years, with 68% of Americans supporting organized labor, including 77% of young people. An MIT study found that 60 million Americans would join a labor union if they could, underscoring the need for changes to labor laws.
Latest data release on unionization is a wake-up call to lawmakers
[Economic Policy Institute, January 20, 2022]
...The share of workers who do not but would like to have a union at their workplace is far higher than the share who had union representation in 2021 (11.6%). While more recent data are unavailable, an analysis of 2017 survey data showed almost half of nonunion workers polled (48%) said they would vote to create a union in their workplace tomorrow if they could. That figure is up substantially from about one-third (32–33%) of nonunion, nonmanagerial workers asked similar questions in 1977 and 1995 (Kochan et al. 2018; EPI 2021)….
...A key contributor to the decline of unions is fierce corporate opposition to union organizing. It is now standard, when workers seek to organize, for employers to hire union avoidance consultants to coordinate intense anti-union campaigns. A recent EPI analysis concluded that private-sector employers spend nearly $340 million per year hiring union avoidance advisers to help them prevent employees from organizing (McNicholas et al. 2019). And though the National Labor Relations Act makes it illegal for private-sector employers to intimidate, coerce, or fire workers in retaliation for participating in union-organizing campaigns, the penalties are grossly insufficient to provide a meaningful disincentive for such behavior (Oliver 2021). The persistence of illegal retaliation is evident in a review of federal records: Employers are charged with violating federal law in 41.5% of all union election campaigns and one out of five union election campaigns involve a charge that a worker was illegally fired for union activity (McNicholas et al. 2019). And these data do not include the veiled threats and other legal ways that employers can thwart unionizing efforts, thanks to weak labor laws (Lafer and Loustaunau 2020).
Kroger Goes To Washington: The grocery behemoth taps Washington’s tipsheet industry to spin away the headlines about striking workers and poverty wages.
Andrew Perez [The Daily Poster, January 27, 2022]
Revealed: the Flint water poisoning charges that never came to light
[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]
The former criminal prosecution team investigating the Flint water crisis was building a racketeering case against state officials. Then the team was dismantled (The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]
IMPUNITY in WC 1-26
The Folly of Pandemic Censorship: As the latest anti-Substack campaign shows, more and more people are forgetting why free speech works
Matt Taibbi, January 27, 2022 [via Naked Capitalism 1-29-2022]
People know authorities lie, which is why the more they clamp down, the bigger their trust problem usually becomes. Unfortunately, censors by nature can’t help themselves. Our official liars are always trying to learn from their errors. For instance, film of wounded, suffering, or dead American boys, as well as of the atrocities we committed, not only resulted in pressure to end the Vietnam War, but probably prevented future invasions of countries like Nicaragua, as voters recalled the sickening “quagmire.”
Military officials saw this, and when they finally got to go to war again, they banned the filming of coffins and instituted an embed system that closed off the bulk of adversarial reporting. Of course, that was not enough, because organizations like Wikileaks found ways to sneak out forbidden pictures. So, the powers that be imposed much tougher penalties on whistleblowers going forward. Instead of letting the Daniel Ellsbergs of the world write books and give lectures, the new reality for people like Julian Assange or Edward Snowden is permanent exile or imprisonment. The jailers seem quite proud of this, but the unofficial pseudo-ban on Assange coverage has only added to the impression of a not-free, certainly not trustworthy system of media.
Instead of seeing the root causes of this atmosphere of rapidly declining trust, officials keep pushing for even more sweeping campaigns of control, most recently seeking to make platforms like Google and Twitter arbiters of speech.
Green New Deal - An opportunity too big to miss
Idaho Is Sitting on One of the Most Important Elements on Earth
[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 1-26-2022]
The clean-energy revolution is unleashing a rush on cobalt, reviving old mines—and old questions—in a remote forest.
What Does a Gas Country Do Without Gas? The Dutch Can Answer
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 1-26-2022]
The Netherlands is retrofitting pipelines to transport hydrogen — a risky strategy given the fuel isn’t expected to be cost-competitive before 2030
In a First, an ‘Atomic Fountain’ Has Measured the Curvature of Spacetime
[Scientific American, via The Big Picture 1-25-2022]
The atom interferometry technique uses the effects of time dilation to reveal subtle changes in gravity’s strength
Information age dystopia
“Is it already too late to say goodbye?”
[Jonathan Cook Blog, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-24-2022]
“My blog posts once attracted tens of thousands of shares. Then, as the algorithms tightened, it became thousands. Now, as they throttle me further, shares can often be counted in the hundreds. “Going viral” is a distant memory. No, I won’t be banned. I will fade incrementally, like a small star in the night sky – one among millions – gradually eclipsed as its neighbouring suns grow ever bigger and brighter…. But this isn’t really about one small light being snuffed out. This isn’t just about our relationship coming to an end. Something bigger, and more disturbing, is taking place. Journalists like me are part of an experiment – in a new, more democratised media landscape. We have developed new reader-funded models so that we can break free of the media corporations, which until now ensured billionaires and the state controlled the flow of information in one direction only: to speak down to us. The corporate media need corporate advertising – or their owners’ deep pockets – to survive. They don’t need you, except as a captive audience. You’re both their prisoner and their product. But the lifeblood of a reader-funded journalist, as the name suggests, are readers. The more of you we attract, the better chance there is that we can generate donations and income and make the model sustainable. Our Achilles’ heel is our dependence on social media to find you, to keep reaching you, to offer you an alternative from the corporate media. If Facebook (sorry, the Meta universe) and Twitter stop independent writers from growing their readerships by manipulating the algorithms, by ghosting and shadow-banning them, and by all the other trickery we do not yet understand, then new voices cannot grow their funding base and break free of corporate control. And equally, for those like me who are already established and have significant numbers of readers, these tech giants can whittle them away one by one. Ostensibly, I have many tens of thousands of followers, but for several years now I have been reaching fewer and fewer of you. I am starved of connection. The danger, already only too obvious, is that my readership, and funding model, will slowly start to shrivel and die. Joe Rogan, Russell Brand and a handful of titans of the new media age are so big they can
Democrats’ political suicide
How Biden's Wasted Year & GOP Obstruction Will Hurt for the Foreseeable Future Nomiki Konst interview of David Dayen, January 25, 2022 [YouTube]
The case for a better way to poll
(Grid, via The Big Picture 1-24-2022]
“In recent years, progressives have invested heavily in crafting a narrative which holds that all or almost all of their main policy ideas are overwhelmingly popular with the public…. But is it really true? After all, if Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of liberal policies, how are Republicans winning elections roughly half the time?… American public opinion is a conflicted jumble of progressive and conservative impulses with limited knowledge of the details of the issues, mixed feelings about the parties, and a preference for divided government and compromise. What’s interesting about polling on party trust is it reveals the enduring significance of this old conventional wisdom even in an era of polarization, presidential tweets, media fragmentation and whatever else has changed about the political system. It’s common for Democrats to deliberately seek out coverage of their proposals as ‘sweeping’ or ‘transformational’ as if the mass public’s biggest concern about the party is that it’s not left-wing enough. But there’s no evidence that it’s true of the public at large.”.
“Joe Manchin sank Biden’s agenda. Democrats are lucky to have him.”
James Carville [Vox, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-28-2022]
“Just look at how Democrats organize and spend money. For Christ’s sake, [South Carolina Democrat] Jaime Harrison raised over $100 million only to lose his Senate race to Lindsey Graham by 10 points. Amy McGrath runs for Senate in Kentucky and raises over $90 million only to get crushed by Mitch McConnell. They were always going to lose those races, but Democrats keep doing this stupid shit. They’re too damn emotional. Democrats obsess over high-profile races they can’t win because that’s where all the attention is. We’re addicted to hopeless causes. What about the secretary of state in Wisconsin? Or the attorney general race in Michigan? How much money are Democrats and progressives around the country sending to those candidates? I’m telling you, if Democrats are worried about voting rights and election integrity, then these are the sorts of races they should support and volunteer for, because this is where the action is and this is where things will be decided. You know who is paying attention to these races? The Republican Party. Last I checked, Republicans raised $33 million for secretary of state races around the country. The Democrats had until recently raised $1 million. I think it’s now up to $4 million. That’s the story, right there. That’s the difference, right there. Bitching about a Democratic senator in West Virginia is missing the damn plot.” • James Carville is… a liberal Democrat. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his nuts and bolts. (What he doesn’t mention is that Charles Booker almost beat Amy McGrath in the primary, and for whatever reason, liberal Democrat donors weren’t all “not a dry seat in the house” mode about him. One can only wonder why.)
The dark side
Revealed: The Billionaires Funding the Coup’s Brain Trust
[Rolling Stone, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]
Conservative mega-donors including the DeVoses and Bradleys are pumping big money into the Claremont Institute think tank that fueled Trump’s election-fraud fantasies.
Gingrich threatens jail for Congressmen investigating January 6 insurrection
Heather Cox Richardson, January 25, 2022 [Letters from an American]
Also on Sunday, on the Fox News Channel, former Republican representative from Georgia Newt Gingrich attacked the January 6 committee as a lawbreaking lynch mob and said that when the Republicans retake the house and the Senate in fall 2022, the committee’s members will face “a real risk of jail.”
It’s Long Past Time to Prosecute Phony GOP Electors
[The Bulwark, via The Big Picture 1-23-2022]
The individuals who signed and transmitted fraudulent Electoral College ballots claiming their states voted for Donald Trump must be held to account.
Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 Republicans say they will not vote for any candidate who admits Biden won 'fair and square'
[Yahoo News, via Heather Cox Richardson, January 28, 2022 [Letters from an American]
A recent poll shows that 57% of Republicans say they will not vote for any candidate who admits Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 election, a result which explains why presidential hopefuls continue to talk about election crimes.
TW: This is not the result of Trump’s influence; it is the result of half a century of [anti]Republican politicians “throwing red meat to their base” and stoking hatred, fear, and suspicion of Democratic politicians and voters.
Pennsylvania court strikes down state’s mail-in voting law
Reuters L 1-29
“Jailed Oath Keeper’s Estranged Wife Shares Snaps of ‘Escape Tunnels’ Dug Into Backyard”
[Daliy Beast, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-2022]
“When a federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed pending his trial for conspiracy charges on Wednesday, they cited testimony by Rhodes’s estranged wife, who alleged that he installed “elaborate escape tunnels” in his backyard. On Wednesday, she posted the receipts. Tasha Adams shared several snaps on Twitter appearing to show Rhodes snugly tucked into a muddy hole and wrote in a separate tweet: “Folks if you ever feel tempted to rent a backhoe and dig escape tunnels in the backyard of your rental house, keep in mind it may back to haunt you if you later attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.” Rhodes is arguably the highest-profile person charged for his involvement int he Capitol riot.” • I’m trying to think of a successful revolutionary who dug tunnels in his backyard, but I’m coming up empty.
National Butterfly Center in Mission, TX closed due to right-wing terror threats
xaxnar, January 28, 2022 [Daily Kos]
The email from the Center makes it clear that the grounds themselves are in direct danger from conference attendees who intend to form a “rolling car protest,” described as a ’Trump Train’-style “caravan to the border” that will likely make a stop at the National Butterfly Center. The Center’s location just minutes away from the Rio Grande has made it a hotbed of conspiracy theories and rumors, which claim it’s a hub of drug smuggling and human trafficking. Many of these rumors are pushed by Brian Kolfage, the leader of an eight-figure fundraising effort to privately build Trump’s border wall.
Kolfage, who has called the Center’s employees “butterfly freaks” running a “sham” sanctuary devoted to profiting off human misery, has pushed the theories hard, including sharing doctored photos of rafts at a dock outside the Butterfly Center. He’s also spammed Wright with violent threats over Twitter, eventually resulting in his account being suspended. Kolfage himself is not speaking at the event, presumably because he’s currently under indictment for wire fraud and tax evasion due to allegedly stealing from the We Build The Wall nonprofit he founded….
“...By late 2019, conspiracy theorists were circulating memes falsely accusing the National Butterfly Center of being a front for sex traffickers. Wright and colleagues faced in-person threats from members of militia groups like the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, as well as threatening phone calls and emails from a man who was revealed to be a Texas police officer.”
Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War
“Warnings of ‘Civil War’ Risk Harming Efforts Against Political Violence”
[War on the Rocks, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-2022].
“The emerging cottage industry of speculation and alarm specifically about a civil war in the United States worries us. The shape and content of this debate — covered in venues as mainstream as NPR — risks mis-framing an urgent problem for non-specialist audiences. Rather than asking whether the United States will have a new civil war, commentators ought to be asking: What kinds of risks for political violence does the United States face? What forms might that political violence take? Who might perpetrate this violence, and which communities will be most affected by it? Retraining our focus on political violence allows us to consider the real risks ahead for the country, to work alongside the many groups already actively trying to push back illiberal violence, and to protect its most likely victims. Scholars of civil war typically understand the concept as one specific manifestation of violence among many. Although researchers may disagree on the particulars, they agree broadly that civil wars are conflicts within a country between the ruling government of that country and named, politically motivated armed groups that commit violence against one another above some threshold of battlefield casualties. For expert audiences, civil war violence is not one-sided violence — where an armed group targets civilians or the government with no organized retaliation — nor is it simply one-directional state repression. It is not indiscriminate terrorism aimed at the population, or even systematic, targeted campaigns of violence against minorities or specific groups. Rather, to be categorized as a “civil war,” violence must be part of a meaningful contest over the central government of the country, or a meaningful effort at secession. Civil war scholar Barbara Walter, who has been a prominent voice in this debate, has been careful to note she wants to avoid “an exercise in fear-mongering.” When she warns of a civil war, she points not to something akin to the U.S. Civil War — still the most destructive war in the country’s history — but rather to something with the intensity of Northern Ireland’s Troubles or Italy’s Years of Lead. ‘The next war is going to be more decentralized, fought by small groups and individuals using terrorism and guerrilla warfare to destabilize the country,’ Walter told Vox’s Zack Beauchamp, adding that ‘We are closer to that type of civil war than most people realize.’ In our own work, we have researched political violence that can occur in the absence of civil wars, or alongside them. Our concern with the frame Walter and others offer — and with the attached ‘civil war or not‘ headlines — is that it misses the wide array of other kinds of political violence the United States has not only historically experienced, but is currently experiencing. Crisp scholarly definitions belie the lived experience of political violence, which can be pervasive without ever rising to the level of civil war.
America’s Asymmetric Civil War
Michael Lind [The Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-2022]
“There are no red states or blue states. Instead, there are blue urban cores floating in a sea of red. Even the exurbs and rural areas in blue states like California and New York tend to be overwhelmingly red and Republican…. The big divide is within metro areas, between the blue downtowns and their inner-ring suburbs that are home to the American oligarchy and its children and retainers, and the red exurbs; outer-ring suburbs tend to be battlegrounds between the Democratic and Republican coalitions. This geographic concentration hurts the Democrats in the Senate and the Electoral College…. The Democratic coalition is an hourglass, top-heavy and bottom-heavy with a narrow middle. In addition to hoovering up the votes of college-educated Americans, the Democrats are the party of the Big Rich—tech billionaires and CEOs, investment banking houses, and the managerial class that spans large corporate enterprises and aligned prestige federal agencies like the Justice Department and the national security agencies. This mostly white and Asian American group cannot win elections without the overwhelming support of Black Americans, and smaller majorities of Hispanic and Asian American voters, clustered in the downtowns and inner suburbs. The high cost of living in Democratic hub cities forces out the multiracial middle; the exceptions tend to be civil servants like police and first responders and teachers who can (sometimes) afford to live in or near their downtown jobs. The social base of the Democrats is neither a few liberal billionaires nor the more numerous cohorts of high-school educated minority voters; it is the disproportionately white college-educated professionals and managers. These affluent but not rich overclass households dominate the Democratic Party and largely determine its messaging, not by virtue of campaign contributions or voting numbers, but because they very nearly monopolize the staffing of the institutions that support the party—K-12 schools and universities, city and state and federal bureaucracies, public sector unions, foundations, foundation-funded nonprofit organizations, and the mass media. By osmosis, professional and managerial values and material interests and fads and fashions permeate the Democratic Party and shape its agenda. While the liberal Big Rich cluster in silver apartments and offices in trophy skyscrapers in the inner core of blue cities, the elites of the outer suburbs and exurbs tend to be made up of the Lesser Rich—millionaire car dealership owners, real estate agents, oil and gas drilling equipment company owners, and hair salon chain owners. This group of proprietors—the petty bourgeoisie, to use Marxist terminology, compared to the Democratic haute bourgeoisie and its professional allies—forms the social base of the Republican Party, despite efforts by Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Marco Rubio of Florida, and others to rebrand the GOP as a working-class party.”