Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 3, 2022


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 3, 2022

by Tony Wikrent 

Strategic Political Economy

“America Is Sliding Into the Long Pandemic Defeat”

Ed Yong [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-28-2022]

“In 2018, while reporting on pandemic preparedness in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I heard many people joking about the fictional 15th article of the country’s constitution: Débrouillez-vous, or ‘Figure it out yourself.’ It was a droll and weary acknowledgment that the government won’t save you, and you must make do with the resources you’ve got. The United States is now firmly in the débrouillez-vous era of the COVID-19 pandemic.” We call it “personal risk assessment.” ….

“Across the country, almost all government efforts to curtail the coronavirus have evaporated….. I have interviewed dozens of other local officials, community organizers, and grassroots groups who are also swimming furiously against the tide of governmental apathy to push some pandemic response forward, even if incrementally. This is an endeavor that all of American society would benefit from; it is currently concentrated among a network of exhausted individuals who are trying to figure out this pandemic, while living up to public health’s central tenet: Protect the health of all people, and the most vulnerable especially…. Building a stronger public-health system demands an unfettering of the moral imagination: Americans need to believe that their government should invest in systems that keep everyone safer from disease—and to trust that such systems are even possible.

But throughout his decades-long career, [AIDS activist and Yale epidemiologist Greg] Gonsalves has witnessed social safety nets being repeatedly shredded, leading to ‘a collapse of any faith in the state to do good,’ he told me. That faith eroded further when public institutions buckled during the pandemic, and when two successive administrations failed to control the coronavirus. The resulting ‘pandemic fatigue’ is not just a craving for the status quo, but a deep cynicism over the possibility of something better. In one study, most Americans preferred a better, fairer post-pandemic future, but mistakenly thought a ‘back-to-normal’ one was more popular [a Keynesian beauty contest, but one where the minimizers were given the megaphone by the 1%] —and so more likely>. ‘People can imagine a world with crypto-banking and the metaverse, so why is it so hard to imagine a world with less disease and death?’ Céline Gounder of Kaiser Health News said.”

How Japan Achieved One of The World’s Lowest Covid Death Rates 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2022] 

“If the US had Japan’s death rate, only 82,000 people would have died. Not 1 million+.”

The roots of Trumpism 

Robert Reich [via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2022]

In the fall of 2015, I visited Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, and North Carolina. I was doing research on the changing nature of work in America. During my visits I spoke with many of the same people I had met twenty years before when I was secretary of labor, as well as with some of their grown children. I asked them about their jobs, their views about America, and their thoughts on a variety of issues. What I was really seeking was their sense of the system as a whole and how they were faring in it.

What I heard surprised me. Twenty years before, many had expressed frustration that they weren’t doing better. Now they were angry – at their employers, the government, and Wall Street; angry that they hadn’t been able to save for their retirement; angry that their children weren’t doing any better than they did at their children’s age. They were angry at those at the top who they felt had rigged the system against them, and for their own benefit. Several had lost jobs, savings, or homes in the Great Recession following the financial crisis. By the time I spoke with them, most were back in jobs, but the jobs paid no more than they had two decades before in terms of purchasing power.  

I heard the term “rigged system” so often that I began asking people what they meant by it. They spoke about the bailout of Wall Street, political payoffs, insider deals, CEO pay, and “crony capitalism.” These complaints came from people who identified themselves as Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. A few had joined the Tea Party. Some others had briefly been involved in the Occupy movement. Yet most of them didn’t consider themselves political. They were white, Black, and Latino, from union households and non-union. The only characteristic they had in common apart from the states and regions where I found them was their positions on the income ladder. All were middle class and below. All were struggling. They no longer felt they had a fair chance to make it….

Something very big had happened, and it wasn’t due to Sanders’s magnetism or Trump’s likability. It was a rebellion against the establishment. That rebellion — or, if you will, revolution — continues to this day.

Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush had all the advantages — deep bases of funders, well-established networks of political insiders, experienced political advisors, all the name recognition you could want — but neither of them could credibly convince voters they weren’t part of the system, and therefore part of the problem….

Much of the political establishment still denies what has occurred. They prefer to attribute Trump’s rise solely to racism. Racism did play a part. But to understand why racism (and its first cousin, xenophobia) had such a strong impact in 2016, especially on the voting of whites without college degrees, it’s important to see what drove the racism. After all, racism in America dates back long before the founding of the Republic….

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2022]


It’s a shame more people don’t understand that the entire debate over “solvency” is rooted in a flawed understanding of our monetary system and the mechanics of government finance....

Health care crisis 
NPR, via The Big Picture 6-26-2022]

Wendell Potter [via Naked Capitalism 7-2-2022]

Disrupting mainstream economics

What FDR and Two Former Fed Chairs Understood About Social Security

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 6-30-2022]

I’ve written quite a lot about Social Security over the years. Of course, I come at it from an MMT perspective, which means that I have never worried about the program’s “solvency” the way many other economists do. The fullest expression of my views can be found in chapter 6 of my book, The Deficit Myth, but this Twitter thread provides a decent summary.

When it comes to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, there’s an obsession—not shared by MMT economists—with “program solvency.” It’s always about how much money one expects to bring in—mostly in the form of payroll taxes—relative to how much one expects the government to pay out in the form of benefits. When anticipated revenues fall short of anticipated payouts, nearly everyone frets about looming “shortfalls” and program “solvency.”….

 Unlike all of the other programs, the Trustees tell us that SMI “is adequately financed into the indefinite future because current law provides financing from general revenues” to ensure that any unaddressed “shortfalls” cannot force benefit cuts.

Say what?

This program isn’t just good for the next 75 years, it’s good indefinitely! But how? Easy. It’s because Congress—a legislative body—bestowed special legislative language on this particular part of Medicare.

As the great Northwestern University economist Robert Eisner explained almost a quarter-century ago, Congress could always bestow the same legislative language on Social Security’s trust funds or even dispense with the trust funds altogether. They are, after all, “merely accounting entities.” Instead of fretting over arbitrary numbers on a ledger, Eisner wanted people to understand that “Social Security faces no crisis now or in the future.” It cannot “go bankrupt.” It will be there as long as those who seek to undermine it don’t get their political way….

As I explain in this thread, much of the confusion stems from the way President Roosevelt set up Social Security in 1935….

I suggested that it had been a mistake to levy these taxes in the 1930’s when the social security program was originally [sic] adopted. FDR said, “I guess you’re right on the economics. They are politics all the way through. We put those pay roll contributions there so as to give the contributors a legal, moral, and political right to collect their pensions and their unemployment benefits. With those taxes in there, no damn politician can ever scrap my social security program. Those taxes aren’t a matter of economics, they’re straight politics.”


Stephanie Kelton [via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

The Man Who Broke Capitalism 

by Bob Lefsetz [The Big Picture 6-26-2022]

The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America—and How to Undo His Legacy


Economist Milton Friedman said a corporation’s only obligation was to its shareholders, to make them money. So America became a casino, all the jobs were shipped overseas and the business of many of these companies was finance.

But it gets worse. These companies were making so much dough that they increased dividends and repurchased their shares to make their stock go ever higher. AND THIS IS STILL HAPPENING! That’s right, you cut until you create a cache of cash, and then you distribute it and buy back shares to make your stock go up AND YOU ARE HANDSOMELY COMPENSATED FOR THIS! You’re making money, but the corporation??

But it gets even worse than this, GE was seen as the bedrock of management skills, you wanted a GE titan in charge. So all these corporations brought in GE talent which then employed the exact same recipe. Can you say BOEING?? People died there, but Welch’s protégés ruined one company after another, while they made tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Even Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, he was down with firings too, after all he’s an investor first and foremost!

The Immediate Outlook for the US Economy 

Adam Tooze [via Naked Capitalism 7-2-2022]

Restoring balance to the economy

“Millions of Calif. families to get ‘inflation relief’ stimulus checks of up to $1,050: What we know about whether other states will follow”

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-2022]

“Record high inflation and gas prices have many Americans hoping for financial relief. And in California, that’s exactly what approximately 23 million residents stand to get, thanks to the state’s new budget deal, which is slated to give qualifying taxpayers new direct payments. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders agreed on a $17 billion relief package that includes $9.5 billion in inflation relief funds. Those estimated 23 million California taxpayers will receive between $200 and $1,050 by early next year. ‘Millions of Californians will be receiving up to $1,050 as part of a NEW middle class tax rebate,’ Newsom tweeted on Sunday. ‘That’s more money in your pocket to help you fill your gas tank and put food on the table,’ he wrote.” And: “Other states, such as Maine, New Jersey and New Mexico, have also made efforts to provide direct relief payments to residents… California has more flexibility to send these kinds of payments because its budget is one of the largest in dollar terms and they have the biggest surplus on record of any state, he said. ‘They have a highly progressive tax code that is bringing in a lot of revenue from the profitable corporations and wealthy individuals that are doing the best in this economy right now,’ [Dylan Grundman O’Neill, senior state policy analyst at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy] said.”

FTC Takes Action Against Harley-Davidson and Westinghouse for Illegally Restricting Customers’ Right to Repair 

[FTC, via Naked Capitalism 6-26-2022]

How To Crack Down On Corporate Profiteering

Julia Rock, June 30, 2022 [The Lever]

The Biden administration could investigate whether corporations are illegally colluding when they announce price increases and production limits.

Leisure class (PMC) (mis)leadership

U.S. gov’t body plots to break up Russia in name of ‘decolonization’ 

[MR Online, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

Ukraine Is The Latest Neocon Disaster 

Jeffrey Sachs [Tikkun, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2022]

The war in Ukraine is the culmination of a 30-year project of the American neoconservative movement. The Biden Administration is packed with the same neocons who championed the US wars of choice in Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Syria (2011), Libya (2011), and who did so much to provoke Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The neocon track record is one of unmitigated disaster, yet Biden has staffed his team with neocons. As a result, Biden is steering Ukraine, the US, and the European Union towards yet another geopolitical debacle. If Europe has any insight, it will separate itself from these US foreign policy debacles.  

The neocon movement emerged in the 1970s around a group of public intellectuals, several of whom were influenced by University of Chicago political scientist Leo Strauss and Yale University classicist Donald Kagan. Neocon leaders included Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan (son of Donald), Frederick Kagan (son of Donald), Victoria Nuland (wife of Robert), Elliott Abrams, and Kimberley Allen Kagan (wife of Frederick).

The main message of the neocons is that the US must predominate in military power in every region of the world, and must confront rising regional powers that could someday challenge US global or regional dominance, most importantly Russia and China. For this purpose, US military force should be pre-positioned in hundreds of military bases around the world and the US should be prepared to lead wars of choice as necessary. The United Nations is to be used by the US only when useful for US purposes. This approach was spelled out first by Paul Wolfowitz in his draft Defense Policy Guidance (DPG) written for the Department of Defense in 2002. The draft called for extending the US-led security network to the Central and Eastern Europe despite the explicit promise by German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher in 1990 that German unification would not be followed by NATO’s eastward enlargement. Wolfowitz also made the case for American wars of choice, defending America’s right to act independently, even alone, in response to crises of concern to the US. According to General Wesley Clark, Wolfowitz already made clear to Clark in May 1991 that the US would lead regime-change operations in Iraq, Syria, and other former Soviet allies.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2022]


Mike Pompeo’s Revealing Hudson Institute Speech

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 6-30-2022]

Former CIA director and secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave a speech at the Hudson Institute last week that’s probably worth taking a look at just because of how much it reveals about the nature of the US empire and the corrupt institutions which influence its policies.

Pompeo is serving as a “Distinguished Fellow” at the Hudson Institute while he waits for the revolving door of the DC swamp to rotate him back into a federal government position. The Hudson Institute is a neoconservative think tank which has a high degree of overlap with the infamous Project for the New American Century and its lineup of Iraq war architects, and spends a lot of its time manufacturing Beltway support for hawkish agendas against Iran….

A think tank is an institution where academics are paid by the worst people in the world to come up with explanations for why it would be good and smart to do something evil and stupid, which are then pitched at key points of influence in the media and the government….

But there are a couple of things Pompeo says which have some real meat on them.

“By aiding Ukraine, we undermined the creation of a Russian-Chinese axis bent on exerting military and economic hegemony in Europe, in Asia and in the Middle East,” Pompeo says.

“We must prevent the formation of a Pan-Eurasian colossus incorporating Russia, but led by China,” he later adds. “To do that, we have to strengthen NATO, and we see that nothing hinders Finland and Sweden’s entry into that organization.”

That’s all the major international news stories of today are ultimately about, right there. Underlying all the smaller news stories about conflicts with nations like Russia, China and Iran, there’s one continuous story about the US power alliance trying to secure planetary domination by relentlessly working to subvert any nation which refuses to align with it, and about the nations who oppose that campaign working against it with steadily increasing intimacy.

This is all the Russia hysteria from 2016 onward has been about. This is all the phony, hypocritical hand-wringing about Taiwan, Xinjiang and Hong Kong have been about. This is all the staged histrionics about human rights in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba have been about. It’s all been about manufacturing international consent for an increasingly dangerous campaign to secure unipolar global hegemony at any cost.

China Built Your iPhone. Will It Build Your Next Car? 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]


“Potato chips, computer chips, what’s the difference? A hundred dollars of one or a hundred dollars of the other is still a hundred dollars.” 

— George Bush Sr.’s chair of Council of Economic Advisors Michael Boskin, 1992

Collapse of independent news media

How Spooks and Establishment Journalists Are Circling The Wagons 

[Mint Press News, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

Although Russia’s ban provoked a predictable, self-righteous backlash from the U.K. media – and was adduced as further evidence of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian tendencies – Moscow was, in fact, mirroring earlier bans by the British authorities and the European Union on Russian state-sponsored media. None of the British journalists now barred from Russia raised their voices in protest at the banning of the English-language broadcasts and the websites of RT and Sputnik.

In popular imagination, cultivated jointly by Western establishment media and Western intelligence agencies, both outlets are staffed by Russian spooks strong-arming a few impressionable Westerners with Stalinist tendencies. The reality is very different. RT wants to have influence in the West, and the only way to achieve that is by recruiting credible Western journalists who have trenchant criticisms of the Western national-security state and its war industries but cannot – for that very reason – find a platform in the establishment media at home. RT might not be the best place to get a neutral view of what Russia is up to, but it had attracted a growing audience in the West by providing an outlet for disillusioned Western journalists who are ready to paint a realistic picture of the failings of their own states.

One of RT’s journalists, for example, was Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He has had a long and distinguished journalistic career and has won major journalism awards. Nonetheless, six years of his Emmy-nominated “On Contact” programme for RT America – interviewing major public figures – was erased from Youtube’s channel overnight.

In part one, we considered the cases of two celebrated British journalists – Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr – who were revealed to be covertly colluding with Western intelligence services. Not only that, but they had used those contacts to try to harm other journalists who have been taking on the British and U.S. security states. They had been effectively recruited – or in Mason’s case, possibly recruited himself – to a covert, and dirty, information war. The paradox is that, while Cadwalladr and Mason have been accusing – without evidence – journalists in the West of colluding with foreign intelligence agencies, they themselves have been colluding with their own intelligence services to smear other reporters.

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

FOCUS- ‘Off the charts’ chemical shortages hit U.S. farms 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

Fertiliser shortage hits African farmers battling food crisis 

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

Major Aluminum Manufacturer Shuts Down 

[Manufacturing Business Technology, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2022]

...the plant is its largest U.S. smelter and the largest producer of high-purity aluminum in North America. The aluminum is used extensively in the defense industry as well as in aerospace applications. For example, it's used in F16s, naval war vessels, Boeing 747s and even the International Space Station.

As recently as last week, the company was increasing production and hiring, but power problems brought everything to a halt.

Will the bullwhip do the Fed’s job on inflation? 

[Freight Waves, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

According to the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, the bullwhip effect “is defined as the demand distortion that travels upstream in the supply chain from the retailer through to the wholesaler and manufacturer due to the variance of orders which may be larger than that of sales.”

The best way to think of this in terms of COVID is that in the early part of the cycle, the Federal Reserve was pouring trillions of dollars into the economy to ensure that the market didn’t collapse. Consumers went out and spent all of that money on physical goods. At the same time, production in China and the U.S. was shut down or limited. The combination – stimulating consumption but limiting production – caused the American consumer to burn through almost all inventory.

Retailers ordered more goods based on the inflated demand at that time. Upstream to them, wholesalers and manufacturers did the same. Along that chain some even ordered bumper stock.

When the orders didn’t arrive as planned, they ordered more. And upstream to them, vendors also ordered more for the same reason. As orders flowed upstream, everyone started to produce at unprecedented levels.

Consumers, flush with excess cash and bullish due to high employment and a roaring economy, continued to order physical goods. Then the products started flowing, and in spite of delays, they poured in.

Earlier this year, consumers pulled back… at first just slightly. But all of those products kept pouring in, along with buffer stock. Warehouse inventories piled up. And now consumers have shifted away from consuming physical products and have started to consume services and experiences once again. Meanwhile, all of that inventory keeps coming….


They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class

McKinsey, Consiglieri of the Opioid Crisis 

Cory Doctorow ​​​​​​​[Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-2022]

McKinsey gives very bad management advice, and they suck at marketing, but they're really good at figuring out how to break the law and hide it from the public, then foil regulators and investigators when it comes to light. Nowhere is this clearer than in the opioid crisis….

Even as the Sacklers' family business Purdue Pharma was raking in billions from Oxycontin sales, the family went to enormous lengths to keep their names separate from the overdoses and misery their deliberate misselling of their product led to. I got a taste of this myself, when a lawyer for a firm with a history of intimidating journalists (motto: "The First Amendment guarantees a free press – not a consequence free press") threatened me on their behalf. The same firm went on to silence many #MeToo claimants and bragged about killing stories accusing powerful men of abuse:


McKinsey was deep into the Sacklers' business. They pioneered many "innovative" programs for the drug company, like paying distributors a bounty to reward them for every overdose in their territory:


McKinsey's successes in pharma regulation cheating were not limited to opioids. The company was hired by Abvie/Abbott to help with stagnating profits resulting from a long period of failed R&D projects. They devised a strategy: simply raise prices on existing drugs, especially those that people couldn't stop without risking their lives.

CHART — The Fall and Rise of the U.S. Top 1 Percent

Barry Ritholtz [The Big Picture]

Ten Ways Billionaires Avoid Taxes on an Epic Scale 

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2022]

Climate and environmental crises

Heatwave [graph]

[The Big Picture 6-26-2022]

Climate change targets achievable by keeping global emissions to COVID levels, scientists say 

[ABC Australia, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

Greenhouse Emissions Rise to Record, Erasing Drop During Pandemic 

[International Monetary Fund, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

Sri Lanka runs out of fuel, suspends sales for two weeks 

[The Hindu, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

Environmentalism in One Country

[Palladium, via The Big Picture 7-2-2022]

Japan and Korea had both gone through periods of intense deforestation in the 18th and 19th centuries. The hills of Japan and Korea had both been stripped bare. When the Japanese set about trying to figure out why their civilization had fallen behind the West, they learned that this had been an error. Japanese scholars returning from Europe brought back the ideas of silviculturists and foresters, seeing the link between national strength, racial vitality, and the health of forests. The preservation of forests and wild spaces, European silviculturists had argued, was a necessity for civilization. 

Tesla is killing off coal and gas plants with its giant battery projects.

[Quartz, via The Big Picture 7-1-2022]

Megapacks are utility-scale batteries, meaning a power company can use them as a backup to store electricity for hundreds or thousands of customers. Each Megapack battery can store three megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, enough to power about 100 US homes for a day. Tesla’s biggest battery installation involves 256 Megapack battery units with a combined storage capacity of 730 MWh, enough to power about 25,000 US homes for a day or nearly 600,000 homes for an hour. 

The Biden Administration Screwed Over the Solar-Panel Industry 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 6-26-2022]

But solar companies subsequently paused hundreds of in-development power projects, the New York Times reported in April, leading states like Indiana—facing rising energy costs because of inflation and the war in Ukraine—to kickstart coal plants that were to be phased out in favor of renewable energy.

The Rise and Precarious Reign of China’s Battery King 

[(Wired, via The Big Picture 6-29-2022]

Zeng Yuqun is China’s most prolific battery billionaire. His ascent has major implications for a world increasingly reliant on electric vehicles.

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Molecular Mechanisms Behind Learning and Memory Identified 

[Neuroscience News, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

How Parents’ Trauma Leaves Biological Traces in Children 

(Scientific American, via The Big Picture 6-28-2022]

Adverse experiences can change future generations through epigenetic pathways.

After the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, in a haze of horror and smoke, clinicians at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan offered to check anyone who'd been in the area for exposure to toxins. Among those who came in for evaluation were 187 pregnant women. Many were in shock, and a colleague asked if I could help diagnose and monitor them. They were at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD—experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness or other psychiatric symptoms for years afterward. And were the fetuses at risk?

My trauma research team quickly trained health professionals to evaluate and, if needed, treat the women. We monitored them through their pregnancies and beyond. When the babies were born, they were smaller than usual—the first sign that the trauma of the World Trade Center attack had reached the womb. Nine months later we examined 38 women and their infants when they came in for a wellness visit. Psychological evaluations revealed that many of the mothers had developed PTSD. And those with PTSD had unusually low levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, a feature that researchers were coming to associate with the disorder.

Surprisingly and disturbingly, the saliva of the nine-month-old babies of the women with PTSD also showed low cortisol. The effect was most prominent in babies whose mothers had been in their third trimester on that fateful day. Just a year earlier a team I led had reported low cortisol levels in adult children of Holocaust survivors, but we'd assumed that it had something to do with being raised by parents who were suffering from the long-term emotional consequences of severe trauma. Now it looked like trauma leaves a trace in offspring even before they are born.

China says it has photographed all of Mars from orbit 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

Information age dystopia

Anti-Abortion Centers in US Find Pregnant Teens Online, Then Save Their Data 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

Abortion Seekers Must Protect Themselves—and Their Data

Ramenda Cyrus, July 1, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Incessant Big Tech data collection means that anyone using electronic communication to obtain an abortion puts themselves at risk.

When Security Locks You Out of Everything 

Bruce Schneier [via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2022]

Democrats’ political suicide

Roberts Started A Revolution, Dems Enabled It 

David Sirota, June 30, 2022 [The Lever]

TW: Sirota reminds us of Democratic Party “curiosities” such as Biden’s refusal to oppose the nomination of Clarence Thomas to SCOTUS, and Obama’s arguments against blocking Roberts.

As The Lever’s reporting has shown, today’s cataclysmic ruling (though slightly narrower than it could have been) is part of a larger judicial coup fueled by dark money that has bought both sides of the justice system — the petitioners and the arbiters.

This coup — which has received far less attention than the January 6 plot — features a cadre of unelected judges appointed by popular vote losers now commandeering control of the government. It has resulted in the evisceration of protections for voterswomenworkersconsumersretirees, and now every living thing on the entire planet.

All of that was engineered by the coup's puppetmaster Roberts, a former U.S. Chamber of Commerce lawyer and Bush 2000 election thief who enjoys incessant corporate media billing as a thoughtful moderate — even as his rulings legalizing corruption made this rampage possible, and even as he now threatens to considerably expand the carnage.

And yet, Roberts, Leonard Leo, and the other real-life House of Cards operatives of the American right are not the only reason this happened.

They were enabled by a Democratic Party and its own cast of West Wing characters, who in the name of bipartisanship, comity, and manners started surrendering right when the putsch began. At precisely the moment Roberts began his crusade, these Democrats constructed an entire religion of normalism — the worship of norms, institutions, and etiquette above every other principle or inalienable right.

“Opinion The fall of Roe is the culmination of the Democratic establishment’s failures”

Perry Bacon, Jr. [Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-30-2022]

Biden, Pelosi and the group of political and policy strategists who perpetually hold top jobs in Democratic politics have presided over disappointing results for more than a decade, setting the stage for the fall of Roe and the other struggles of 2021-2022 — most notably, the wipeout of Democrats in 2010 and 2014; Donald Trump’s victory in 2016; the narrower-than-expected Democratic win in 2020…. Pelosi, Biden and other Democratic leaders of course don’t sit on the Supreme Court or in state legislatures. But too many of them have been major players in the party over the past two decades as it has failed to create an apparatus of media, think tanks and other institutions to rival what exists on the right. They have been deeply involved in bland Democratic campaigns and candidates who often lose key races to Republicans, even as the GOP has much less popular policy goals…. it’s not that the Republican establishment has done better — it has lost half the time, too. The critical difference, though, is that there have been several different Republican establishments over the past two decades, allowing the party to test out different strategies. In contrast, the Democratic leadership has aggressively blocked fresher faces from having much of a role in the party’s decision-making. Instead, we have watched over the past 18 months as Democrats made many of the same strategic mistakes that they did in 2009 and 2010, with some of the same people involved in the foibles… No matter what happens this election cycle, their previous defeats, lack of new strategies and open disdain for the party’s activists is too much to allow this group to remain in charge.” 

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-28-2022]



More than 1 million voters switch to GOP in warning for Dems 

[AP, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2022]

Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

More Guns, More Unintended Consequences: The Effects of Right-to-Carry on Criminal Behavior and Policing in US Cities 

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

We analyze a sample of 47 major US cities to illuminate the mechanisms that lead Right-to-Carry concealed handgun laws to increase crime. The altered behavior of permit holders, career criminals, and the police combine to generate 29 and 32 percent increases in firearm violent crime and firearm robbery respectively. The increasing firearm violence is facilitated by a massive 35 percent increase in gun theft (p=0.06), with further crime stimulus flowing from diminished police effectiveness, as reflected in a 13 percent decline in violent crime clearance rates (p=0.03). Any crime-inhibiting benefits from increased gun carrying are swamped by the crime-stimulating impacts.

Indiana police set as state handgun permit requirement ends

[Associated Press, via Eschaton7-2-2022]

Scott County Sheriff Jerry Goodin said his department is ready to enforce the law but noted that the change will make their jobs more difficult.

"There's going to be a lot of changes in Indiana because of the law," he said. "A guy can stand out there — or a girl or whoever with a rifle, an AR-15 or a handgun — and stand there on a sidewalk looking at the school. The difference is this: We can't even stop and ask them what they're doing because of this law."

‘It Was All Just a Show’: Confessions of a Republican Campaign Hit Man 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-2022]

Ron DeSantis and the Rise of Incoherent Folk Libertarianism 

[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

“Why Ron DeSantis Can Beat Trump in 2024”

[Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-28-2022]

“If you want to get a sense of which way the Republican Party is headed in 2024, here are two straws in the wind. First, Gary Fineout reported that Ron DeSantis might not seek Donald Trump’s endorsement in his reelection contest for governor — a risk DeSantis can probably afford, given the Republican tidal wave that will be at his back in November. Second, a poll of likely Republican-primary voters in New Hampshire found DeSantis edging out Trump 39 percent to 37 percent. If you still think DeSantis is only floating a presidential campaign in the hopes Trump will back out, think again. DeSantis is building a campaign to take on Trump. And he can win. … [DeSantis] is the beneficiary of a concerted effort by Republican elites to promote his candidacy. The coordination behind DeSantis is reminiscent of how the party coalesced behind George W. Bush in 1999. What had begun as a wide-open race with multiple contestants winnowed very quickly as the word got out that Bush was the pick. Something very much like that is occurring with DeSantis. DeSantis is hoovering up cash from the party’s donor class, including the support of at least 42 billionaires. The most telling fact about the New Hampshire poll is that while DeSantis leads Trump by just two points overall, he leads among Fox News watchers by 14 points and among conservative radio listeners by 16 points. Republicans who consume conservative media are getting the message. The voters who are not yet tuned in to conservative media may still name Trump in polls, but they are likely to follow.”

“John Eastman’s long, strange trip to the heart of the Jan. 6 investigation”

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-28-2022]

“Eastman remains a senior fellow at the [Claremont Institute], which, after decades on the geographical and intellectual fringes of the right, found new prominence during the Trump years. The think tank’s embrace of upheaval and crisis as necessary to usher in America’s renewal aligned neatly with the norms-busting president. Claremonsters, as they call themselves, use apocalyptic rhetoric to convey the staggering stakes, as they see them, or to at least get people’s attention. That cataclysmic viewpoint spilled into the Jan. 6 hearings, when former White House lawyer Eric Herschmann said in a deposition that he had warned Eastman his scheme to have the vice president invalidate the election would ’cause riots in the streets.’ ‘And [Eastman] said words to the effect of, ‘There has been violence in the history of our country, Eric, to protect the democracy or protect the republic,’ Herschmann said. Eastman was so committed to this line of thinking that he continued to seek avenues to overturn Trump’s loss, even in the immediate aftermath of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. He unsuccessfully sought a pardon from Trump and now finds himself potentially in criminal jeopardy. ‘Unfortunately, he drank the Kool-Aid that President Trump was selling — that the election was a fraud,’ [John Yoo, a former lawyer in George W. Bush’s administration and a tenured professor at UC Berkeley] said.”

Meet the Billionaire and Rising GOP Mega-Donor Who’s Gaming the Tax System  

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 6-26-2022]

Susquehanna founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass has avoided $1 billion in taxes while largely escaping public scrutiny. He’s now pouring his money into campaigns to cut taxes and support election deniers.

“The Other Cancel Culture: How a Public University Is Bowing to a Conservative Crusade”

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-30-2022]

“Across the country, elected officials in red states are seeking to impose their political views on public universities. Even as they decry liberal cancel culture, they’re leveraging the threat of budget cuts to scale back diversity initiatives, sanitize the teaching of American history and interfere with university policies and appointments…. Perhaps reflecting such tensions, the average tenure of public university presidents has declined from nine years to seven over the past two decades, and they are increasingly being fired or forced to resign, according to data prepared for this article by Sondra Barringer and Michael Harris, professors of higher education at Southern Methodist University. Between 2014 and 2020, 29% of departures by presidents of NCAA Division 1 public universities were involuntary, up from 19% between 2007 and 2013, and 10% between 2000 and 2006. Moreover, based on media reports and other sources, micromanaging or hyperpartisan boards were responsible for 24% of involuntary turnover at such universities in red states from 2014 to 2020, a rate more than four times higher than in blue states, Barringer and Harris found.”

“State education board members push back on proposal to use ‘involuntary relocation’ to describe slavery”

[Texas Tribune, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-2022]

“A group of Texas educators have proposed to the Texas State Board of Education that slavery should be taught as ‘involuntary relocation’ during second grade social studies instruction, but board members have asked them to reconsider the phrasing, according to the state board’s chair. ‘The board — with unanimous consent — directed the work group to revisit that specific language,’ Keven Ellis, chair of the Texas State Board of Education said in a statement issued late Thursday.” That’s a mercy. Here is the real story: “The working group of nine educators, including a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is one of many such groups advising the state education board to make curriculum changes. This summer, the board will consider updates to social studies instruction a year after lawmakers passed a law to keep topics that make students ‘feel discomfort’ out of Texas classrooms. The board will have a final vote on the curriculum in November.” 

The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

America is in the grip of a right-wing minority 

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 7-1-2022]

Republicans and conservatives are fond of the shibboleth that “America is a republic, not a democracy.” Boiled down to its essence, the phrase is a justification for awarding a strong voice in government to minority political views.

We are now at a stage where the minority is taking over. Worse, it’s an extremist minority that has exploited imperfections in our system of government to impose retrograde policies on the rest of the country.

The Supreme Court’s gun ruling sets a disturbing new precedent: Ignoring scientific evidence 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 6-28-2022]

The partisan 6-3 decision rules out “any means-end test” in concealed-carry laws, eschewing scientific evidence of the dangers of firearms. 

The Supreme Court’s EPA Decision Is One More Win for Charles Koch’s Dystopian America 

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 1, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Now add this to the list, the taxpayer-funded federal agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), can no longer protect the environment and the planet from greenhouse gases, thanks to Koch front groups that maneuvered a case to the U.S. Supreme Court, even though it wasn’t ripe for review, and got precisely the decision they wanted yesterday in a 6-3 decision handed down by justices installed by groups backed with Koch money.

The Glue that Connects Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Ginni Thomas, and the Guy Who Was Air-Dropped into the DOJ, Is Charles Koch’s Money

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 28, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

In September 1999 the U.S. Department of Justice filed racketeering charges against the major tobacco companies and two of their front groups. The court filings in that case carefully pieced together a half century of conspiratorial conduct and lies that gravely harmed the health of the American people, while lining the pockets of the tobacco industry, its lawyers and its paid shills.

The January 6 Select House Committee has that same, once-in-a-lifetime power in its hands. But that window of opportunity will close soon. The January 6 Committee can connect all the dots of the attempted coup leading to the doorstep of Charles Koch and expose his four decades of establishing front groups to shill for the fossil fuels industry and anti-climate change groups, or it can present a false and narrow view that this was all about the ego and narcissism of Donald Trump.

Supreme Court Stages a Coup Against Government Regulation

[The American Prospect, July 1, 2022]

The Court’s ruling is really scary. It almost guarantees that the U.S. will not fulfill its Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, and makes it more likely that substantial portions of the Earth will become unlivable.

And it’s scary for another reason, too. By ignoring Chevron deference and invoking a new and expanded “major questions doctrine,” the Court goes a long way toward crippling the federal government from doing just about anything.

Roberts Is The Man Behind The Curtain

David Sirota, June 28, 2022 [The Lever]

...it started with the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision equating money with speech. That ruling created the special class of “issue ads” that front groups still swamp the airwaves with today. One group operating in this space is the conservative dark money network led by Leonard Leo, former President Donald Trump’s judicial adviser, that built the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative supermajority.

However, the normalization of corruption did not accelerate until the court was taken over by Roberts, who previously represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the organization that converts corporate money into government policy.

Under Roberts’ leadership, the court has issued four landmark rulings declaring that the purchase of “influence and access embody a central feature of democracy” (that’s a direct quote from the court).

It started with 2010’s Citizens United. That ruling officially prohibited limits on so-called “independent expenditures,” which not only triggered record amounts of cash flooding into elections, but also narrowed the legal concept of corruption.

Under the new precedent, illegal corruption is now only cash stuffed in an envelope and exchanged for explicit favors — but not most soft forms of purchased influence and access. Industries can use super PACs and “independent expenditures” to effectively bankroll the campaigns of compliant legislators — as long as the quid pro quo is not explicitly written down.

“That [donors] may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that these officials are corrupt,” the majority stated. “Independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy… Ingratiation and access, in any event, are not corruption.”

It’s Hard to Overstate the Danger of the Voting Case the Supreme Court Just Agreed to Hear

[Slate, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

Moore v. Harper, an ‘independent state legislature’ theory case from North Carolina.”

The ‘Independent State Legislature Theory,’ Explained 

[Brennan Center, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2022]

The Supreme Court’s Legitimacy Is Already Lost

[Slate, via The Big Picture 6-28-2022]

Regardless of Roe falling, the leaks, and the court’s disregard for the public it is supposed to serve, have already gone too far.

Women Declare Themselves Corporations to Force Supreme Court to Grant Them Rights as People 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 6-28-2022]

Ten Thoughts On Abortion 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 6-27-2022]

Justice Clarence Thomas visits Harvard Law School (2013) VIDEO


TW: Note the courtesy, camaraderie, and especially the complete lack of confrontation



Heather Cox Richardson: Supreme Court assault on the 14th Amendment is a resurrection of "states rights”

[YouTube, June 30, 2022]


...fundamentalists who believed that any attempt to replace the system of a patriarchal family and of church-based charity as means of social control was a blow not only at the stability of their families, but also at christianity. So those groups came together to... put control of the country in the states — despite the fact that therehad been a civil war over that, and that in 1868 we added to our constitution the 14th amendment to the constitution which took that issue on deliberately. [The 14th amendment] said you couldn't pass laws in states that
created hierarchies of our citizens; ...it defined american citizens at a national level for the first time; and made sure it included black Americans so no american citizen could be discriminated against at the state level. 


Heather Cox Richardson: Why the June 6 insurrection was so dangerous 

[YouTube, June 28, 2022]


... people never back a dictator. Dictators do not rise from a mature majority backing. Dictators rise when a very few, a small minority of people, get behind an individual because they're mediocre and they want power and the majority is so divided and so unlikely to take that crazy dictator seriously that they don't
organize to push back against that small faction.


Heather Cox Richardson: Much more at stake than individual right to abortion