The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 10, 2024

by Tony Wikrent

Global power shift

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 03-06-2024]


Ukraine war and Western system’s fatal flaw 

Alex Krainer, Marck 6, 2024 [substack]

One of the talking points that has been making rounds among the West’s true believers, is that we can outspend Russia by a factor of 10 in military expenditures….

As the New York Times reported last September, Russia is producing at least seven times more ammunition than the US and its Western allies combined, and she is producing it at about 1/10th of the cost of western manufacturers. For example, while the cost per round for a Russian 152 mm round is about $600, NATO must budget between $6,000 and $8,000 per each 155 mm round.

Not only is Russia vastly ahead in terms of sheer production volumes but also in terms of innovation, quality and overall effectiveness. Her arsenal spans a very large array of weaponry from ultra-sophisticated hypersonic precision-guided missiles, world’s most effective air-defense complexes and cheap but deadly drones, to the basic stuff like field artillery and ample ammunition to keep it firing 24/7 for months on end. At the same time, the United States and NATO still rely on legacy weapons systems that were state-of-the art in the 1990s, but are in large part obsolete today.

Purpose-driven vs. profit-driven systems: it’s no match

In a superb and important piece of analysis referencing the recent US Department of Defense National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS), former Marine and military affairs analyst Brian Berletic dissected many of the reasons why the combined West is now clearly losing the arms race, not only against Russia but also against China. He points out the key differentiator: while Russia’s defense industry is purpose-driven, that of the West is profit-driven….

The undiagnosed malignancy

… Even as it endeavors to maintain a dominant geostrategic position in the world, Western powers have cannibalized their own capability to enforce and defend that position. The inescapable conclusion is that there is a deep, systemic flaw in the Western model of governance.

For generations, we’d all been educated to worship at the altar of private capital’s unrestrained pursuit of profit for the greatest benefit of its shareholders, as Milton Friedman argued in his 1970 essay entitled “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits” (PDF). No other considerations can shape the development of production and distribution of goods and services in our economies, else someone will shriek, SOCIALISM! Worse, we’ve even allowed ourselves to become convinced that individuals’ unrestrained pursuit of their own interests can somehow automagically lead to the best possible outcome for the whole society.

As it turns out, those ideas were the owner class’s self-serving delusions that incubated the fatal flaw within their system, rendering it fragile and weak. The flaw has festered as an undiagnosed malignancy because it enabled the interests who own our Military Industrial Complex and other key industries (the big banks, big tech, big ag, and big pharma) to become extremely wealthy. They also became deeply entrenched in society’s power networks. As such they’ve grown and wholly resistant to any curtailment of their extraordinary privileges, even when it becomes clear that they are driving their nations to destruction….

China and Russia, the industrial production superpowers that could win a war 

[bne Intellinews, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]


Threat of World War

How Western Troops Could Be Sent To Ukraine And Not Start World War III 

[1945, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024]

[Lambert Strether:  “Mercs! Yeah, that’s the ticket!” ]


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

JayBat, Mar 07, 2024 [comment on DailyKos]

The population of the Gaza Strip in 2023 was roughly the same as the population of West Berlin in 1948, and there are already sick and starving children in Gaza with no medicine, no food, and no clean water. Nothing short of a seagoing equivalent of the Berlin Airlift level of effort will make a meaningful difference to those children now; if the USA and allies can pull that off in the face of Israeli resistance, they’ll be making movies about it 10 years from now, and (at least some of) the Palestinian people will remember.

Global Supply and Maintenance for the Berlin Airlift, 1948-19491 (pdf)

Department of the Air Force, Air Force Journal of Logistics, October 18, 1999

Tactics and strategy in the war with Hezbollah 

[Jerusalem Post, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]

Israel opts out of Cairo ceasefire talks 

[Business Live, via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]

Cracks widen in Netanyahu’s government as top political rival arrives in US 

[, via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]

Leaked Israel lobby presentation urges US officials to justify war on Gaza with ‘Hamas rape’ claims 

[The Grayzone, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024]



What the billionaires want 

[48 Hills, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]

…But these folks aren’t just rich people trying to make this a better city. They have a real policy agenda—and I think if most San Franciscans understood it, they would realize it’s going to fail, going to make things worse for many residents—and is based on the idea that many people who currently live in this city don’t belong.

Understanding that agenda involves kind of a complicated dive into the politics of the last 45 years and the concept of neoliberalism. But it’s critical if we want to figure out not just who these Big Tech and Real Estate folks are, but why they are putting up so much money to try to control the city.…

The big money coming into SF politics at a level I have never seen in more than 40 years as a journalist comes with an agenda. Let me try my best to explain what it is.

First of all: Most of the very rich people in the US (with the exception of, say, George Soros, who is one of the folks who conspiracy theorists love to link to the left), almost universally refuse to accept the idea that any serious efforts at social, economic, and climate reforms will require them to give up some, even a little, of their wealth, and not through philanthropy (which is tax-exempt) but through taxes.

Some may be socially liberal, and support some good causes. But overall, they agenda they are pushing starts with the idea that the free market is the best way to address almost anything, that government intervention in the market (particularly the regulation of tech and finance) is almost always bad and stifles innovation.

We have seen this at work since 1981. Neoliberalism, which was considered something of a joke before the 1970s, has been the economic law of the land since Reagan’s election—under both Democrats and Republicans.

We have, as they say, data on this.

The explosion in homelessness—which really didn’t exist in most major cities in the 1970s—and the opioid epidemic, which comes in part from Big Pharma but also in significant part from economic desperation, are the results of what I sometimes too optimistically call late-state neoliberal capitalism.

In 1960, the effective tax rate on corporate profits was 50 percent. The marginal tax rate on very high incomes was 80 percent. That left the government with money to fund social programs like the Great Society and the War on Poverty (and free college education in California). But it also put a cap on riches; there weren’t a lot of billionaires or even millionaires….

IRS chief: Tax evasion by millionaires and billionaires tops $150 billion a year

[CNBC, via The Big Picture 03-03-2024]

The nation’s millionaires and billionaires are evading more than $150 billion a year in taxes, according to the head of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS, with billions of dollars in new funding from Congress, has launched a sweeping crackdown on wealthy individuals, partnerships and large companies, Commissioner Danny Werfel told CNBC. “We have to make investments to make sure that whether you’re a complicated filer who can afford to hire an army of lawyers and accountants, or a more simple filer who has one income and takes the standard deduction, the IRS is equally able to determine what’s owed,” he said.

The Plutocrats’ Plot To Control America 

Amos Barshad, March 5, 2024 [The Lever]

Under the banner of voting reform, a tycoon’s plan could give the rich even more power to buy elections….

Troiano fronts an organization that has spent more than $70 million since 2019 pushing through electoral reforms. Unite America’s core demands are open primaries, meaning one non-partisan primary open to all candidates, and ranked-choice voting, where voters rank all eligible candidates in order of preference.

When these reforms are passed, Unite America contends, they boost moderate candidates that appeal to an “exhausted majority” of centrist voters alienated by current modes for extremism within the Democratic and the Republican parties. While the reforms may sound anodyne, Unite America is not humble in its aims: To Troiano, this is about nothing less than the salvation of our nation.

America has a “partisan polarization problem” that has become a “threat to our democracy itself,” Troiano says.…

But critics fear that reforms like the ones pushed by Unite America are, in actuality, a path to possible plutocracy. Opponents say that under the guise of saving democracy, Unite America wants to mute the power of political parties altogether, and what that may leave is a playing field ostensibly open to all but in reality quickly dominated by the ultra-rich. Lee Drutman, Senior Fellow at the left-of-center think tank New America, has argued that under open primaries, parties “become brands anybody can purchase for enough money.”

One of Unite America’s most prominent boosters is the co-chair of its board: Kent Thiry, a Three Musketeers obsessive and the former CEO of DaVita, the Denver-based dialysis giant that has paid out nearly $1 billion in settlements since 2012 in lawsuits alleging everything from Medicare fraud to wrongful deaths….

America’s Super-Elite Disconnect 

[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]

Last month came a fascinating new report from the institute of Scott Rasmussen, founder of the famed Rasmussen Reports polling center. Its aim was to, for the first time, quantitatively define the true ‘elite’ of society, which control most of our social narratives, politics, and general ‘orthodoxy’.

Power in the shadows

For years, I suspected MI5 interfered in the miners’ strike. The truth was even more shocking than I thought 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 03-09-2024]

…buried in the National Archives at Kew is a secret document that casts new light on Rimington’s account of MI5’s role during an industrial dispute that represented the most serious challenge to Margaret Thatcher’s premiership….

Stamped “Secret and Personal”, the document was a memo by Robert (later Lord) Armstrong, the then cabinet secretary, sent to Thatcher in February 1985. I discovered the report while working on a Channel 4 series about the miners’ strikes, which threatened the British state as nothing had since the second world war. I always suspected MI5 had played a more interventionist role, but coming across this document was a revelation.

Armstrong detailed a series of secret meetings in Whitehall with an unnamed MI5 officer. Their conversation did not concern foreign spies, subversion, national security or official secrets. The agenda was how to find the funds and assets of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). A lawsuit – orchestrated by David Hart, the machiavellian political adviser to Thatcher – had succeeded in declaring the dispute illegal because a national ballot had not taken place. When the NUM refused to call off the strike, the high court found the union guilty of contempt of court and issued a £200,000 fine. And when the NUM refused to pay up, a judge ordered its funds to be seized by the court-appointed sequestrator.

In anticipation of the court order, the NUM had transferred the union’s £8.7m through seven countries before it ended up in banks in Dublin, Zurich and Luxembourg. It was a covert and deliberately convoluted operation involving NUM officials taking private flights from Jersey to obscure banks in Luxembourg.

At first, the complex scheme to hide the miners’ cash was successful. The accountancy firm Price Waterhouse, in charge of the investigation, could not trace the movement of the money. And so its senior partner Brian Larkins asked the government for help.

In circumstances of strict secrecy, Armstrong introduced an MI5 officer to Larkins in the cabinet office. Larkins did not know his name or which agency he worked for – only that he would receive secret intelligence that would trace the miners’ funds. In exchange, Larkins agreed to provide information to MI5 that might help the agency identify any foreign backers of the NUM.

Suddenly, Price Waterhouse was able to track down obscure NUM bank accounts and freeze the assets, sometimes without the union even realising. Bankers were mystified.…

The answer is contained in Armstrong’s secret memo to 10 Downing Street: MI5 leaked confidential details of NUM bank accounts and the movements of union officials to Price Waterhouse, seemingly based on covert surveillance and phone tapping….

The Enemy Within – MI5 and the miners’ strike

03 March 2016  [, via Naked Capitalism comments 03-09-2024]


[Foundation to Battle Injustice, via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]

Juan Cole, How Washington’s Anti-Iranian Campaign Failed, Big Time 

Tom Engelhardt [via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

When The Music’s Over … Turn out the lights.

AURELIEN, March 6, 2024 [comment on Naked Capitalism 03-06-2024]

The Political Effects of Neoliberalism 

[LPE Project, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]

Power Outage: On the thermodynamics of history. 

Lewis Lapham [via Naked Capitalism 03-04-2024]

It’s now significantly more deadly to be homeless. Why are so many people dying? 

[Cal Matters, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]


Predatory finance

Wall Street Mega Banks Have Created a Circular Firing Squad with Credit Derivatives and Capital Relief Trades – with the Fed’s Blessing

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, March 06, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

On June 11, 2015, the Office of Financial Research (OFR) released a sobering report on how banks were reducing their requirements to hold adequate capital against potential losses by engaging in non-transparent “capital relief trades” with potentially questionable counterparties….

Buried in the June 2015 OFR report was a bombshell. When JPMorgan Chase was initiating hundreds of billions of dollars in risky derivative trades in London in 2012, using deposits from its federally-insured bank in the U.S., it was attempting to engage in tricked-up capital relief trades. The insanity of this gamesmanship resulted in $6.2 billion in losses at the bank; an investigation by the FBI; embarrassing Senate hearings; a scathing 300-page report by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; charges of engaging in “unsafe and unsound” banking practices by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; and the payment of $920 million in fines to its regulators.

Credit derivatives are frequently used in capital relief trades. In an effort to curb the trillions of dollars in credit derivatives that the Wall Street mega banks are using for non-transparent purposes with non-transparent counterparties, on July 27 of last year the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Federal Reserve released a proposal to require higher capital levels at banks with $100 billion or more in assets; (only 37 banks would be impacted). Community banks will not be impacted at all by the new proposals according to the federal regulators.

On September 12, 2023, the banking cartel made its anger and intention to push back known in a 7-page letter. The cartel demanded that the three federal agencies turn over all “evidence and analyses the agencies relied on” in making the proposal….

Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury Secretary/Foreclosure Kingpin, Joins with Hedge Fund Guys to Grab a Teetering, Federally-Insured Bank for $2 a Share

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, March 07, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

Why private equity has been involved in every recent bank deal 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024]

The $1 billion-plus injection that New York Community Bank announced Wednesday is the latest example of private equity players coming to the need of a wounded American lender.

Led by $450 million from ex-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s Liberty Strategic Capital, a group of private investors are plowing fresh funds into NYCB. The move soothed concerns about the bank’s finances, as its shares closed higher on Wednesday after a steep decline earlier in the day.

That cash infusion follows last year’s acquisition of PacWest by Banc of California, which was anchored by $400 million from Warburg Pincus and Centerbridge Partners. A January merger between FirstSun Capital and HomeStreet also tapped $175 million from Wellington Management.

[TW: One fundamental point in the political economy of civic republicanism is that concentrations of private economic power are always dangerous and unacceptable. Therefore, a revival of civic republicanism involves a suppression of private equity and the blocking of most corporate mergers and acquisitions. ]


Disrupting mainstream economics  

Soul-searching by a soulless discipline: Chapter 2 from Rebuilding Economics from the Top Down

Steve Keen [via Naked Capitalism 03-09-2024]

…At a Festschrift for another economics “Nobel” recipient, Joseph Stiglitz, Solow delivered a dismissive judgment on micro-founded macroeconomics, in a paper provocatively entitled “Dumb and Dumber in Macroeconomics”.11F He began with the question of “So how did macroeconomics arrive at its current state? The answer might provide a lead as to where it ought to go”. He continued:

“The original impulse to look for better or more explicit micro foundations was probably reasonable… What emerged was not a good idea. The preferred model has a single representative consumer optimizing over infinite time with perfect foresight or rational expectations, in an environment that realizes the resulting plans more or less flawlessly through perfectly competitive forward-looking markets for goods and labor, and perfectly flexible prices and wages.

“How could anyone expect a sensible short-to-medium-run macroeconomics to come out of that set-up?” (Solow 2003. Emphasis added)

He also disparaged the assumption of equilibrium through time—which is imposed on a model that in fact has an unstable equilibrium—stating that “This choice between equilibrium and disequilibrium thinking may be a false choice”. He continued with the colourful metaphor that:

“If I drop a ripe watermelon from this 15th-floor window, I suppose the whole process from t0 to the mess on the sidewalk could be described as some sort of dynamic equilibrium. But that may not be the most fruitful—sorry—way to describe the falling-watermelon phenomenon.” (Solow 2003)


Restoring balance to the economy    

UAW’s Southern Strategy: Union Revs Up Drive To Get Workers Employed By Foreign Automakers To Join Its Ranks

Bob Bussel, March 9, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

A Strategic Cross-Border Labor Alliance 

[NACLA, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]

The Most Important Labor Story Right Now Is in Minnesota—It Might Be the Model We All Need 

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]

A major network of unions and community groups in Minneapolis and St. Paul lined up bargaining processes for new contracts—and in some cases, strike votes—around a March 2 deadline, deliberately set in order to maximize their leverage and win collectively-determined community demands around four key issues.

“I worked in banking. This is how to get the wealthy to pay more tax” 

[efinancialcareers, via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]

America’s most powerful union leaders have a message for capital FT, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024]


Information age dystopia / surveillance state

How to Defend Yourself Against the Powerful New NSO Spyware Attacks Discovered Around the World 

[Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 03-05-2024]

Did Google, Facebook, and Amazon Endorse Jim Crow? 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 03-03-2024]

How a Small Iowa Newspaper’s Website Became an AI-Generated Clickbait Factory

[Wired, via The Big Picture 03-03-2024]

When two former Meta employees dug into why the website of Iowa’s Clayton County Register was spewing dubious posts about stocks, they uncovered a network of sites slinging seemingly AI-made content.

AI pervades everyday life with almost no oversight. Colorado and other states are scrambling to catch up 

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024]

Wherever you encounter a PMC gatekeeper operating off a checklist (and maybe interviews), that gatekeeper’s position is a candidate for replacement by an AI. Bad as the current systems are, imagine trying to reach a human and never being able to.


Collapse of independent news media

My Robotic Doppelganger Is The Grim Face of Journalism’s Future! 

Spencer Ackerman [ForeverWars, via Naked Capitalism 03-09-2024]

As journalism endures catastrophic financial collapse, I watch software seize my long-lost archives, erase my name—or attribute my work to a fake person.

“The Locusts Of The Newspaper World”: How Fortress Investment Group Decimated Newspapers Before Gutting 

[Vice Defector, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024] Well worth a read on private equity.


Climate and environmental crises

‘Uncharted territory’: February was ninth straight month of record-breaking heat worldwide 

[France24, via Naked Capitalism 03-07-2024]

Democrats’ political malpractice

Donor Cash Went In, Antitrust Budget Cut Came Out 

Freddy Brewster, March 6, 2024 [The Lever]

Companies facing antitrust scrutiny funneled big money to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen before her aides tried to defund regulators’ budget.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s aides quietly drafted legislation that would gut federal antitrust enforcers’ budget — a move that could benefit some of the lawmaker’s major finance, weapons, and health care industry donors whose industries are facing the prospect of tougher scrutiny from those antitrust regulators.

Some of those donors’ companies have been actively lobbying Congress on antitrust issues in the lead-up to Shaheen’s proposed cut, according to federal disclosures reviewed by The Lever.

Shaheen aides slipped the budget-cutting provision into a must-pass 1,050-page bill to keep the government open. The language would strip the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division of nearly $50 million, or roughly 18 percent of its resources….

Conflicts of Interest Surround the DOJ Antitrust Budget Cut 

David Dayen, March 7, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which struck the deal to cut the Antitrust Division’s budget, has a revolving-door problem.

On Tuesday, 31 members of Congress in two different letters registered strong opposition to the appropriations package provision that cuts $45 million in funding to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and undermines a law increasing premerger filing fees that overwhelmingly passed Congress in 2022. And the anger boiled over onto the Senate floor.…

Currently, the Antitrust Division is funded in part by filing fees from companies seeking to merge. But the appropriations package caps DOJ Antitrust’s budget at $233 million, forcing all fees above that number to go into the DOJ’s general fund, permanently reversing a process that has been in place since 1989. This could cost the division hundreds of millions of dollars over time. The division currently operates with fewer employees than they had in 1979, when the economy was about a third as large as it is today….

Joe Biden’s Last Campaign

[The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 03-05-2024]

“Unsurprisingly, Biden’s aides reject the idea that the White House is insular or dismissive of reality. Zients, who succeeded Ron Klain as chief of staff last year, pointed to Biden’s reputation for soliciting opinions from critics. ‘Just the other day, he picked up the phone and called Larry Summers,’ Zients said. As outreach goes, it was relatively safe; Summers, despite his critical comments, is a longtime adviser to Presidents. Biden’s other occasional calls range from the columnist Thomas Friedman to the Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. ‘That’s how you pressure-test decisions,’ Zients said.”

[TW: Larry Summers? ! ? Borrowing Douglas MacArthur’s phrase: old oligarch fellators never die, they just fade away.” Not fast enough, in Summers’ case. And not at all balanced by meeting with Senator Sanders (see below), because bad economic ideas are always bad economic ideas despite the appearance of political equilibrium.]

Bernie Sanders’s private warning to Biden about the 2024 campaign

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 03-07-2024]

“In the roughly hour-long meeting, Sanders urged Biden to affirm the public’s frustration over the economy and focus on identifying the political opposition to enacting the president’s agenda — such as big businesses and pharmaceutical firms — rather than convince the public they should be pleased with current circumstances. Sanders also quoted to Biden a line from a 1937 address by Roosevelt, still two years from the end of the Great Depression: ‘I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.’ Sanders has personally reiterated the message multiple times since then, including in another meeting at the White House with top officials last week, the people said.”

AIPAC uncorks $100 million war chest to sink progressive candidates 

[POLITICO, via Naked Capitalism 03-04-2024]


State of the Union address

Biden’s Best Possible State of the Union Is a Populist Street Fight

Michael Tomasky, March 4, 2024 [The New Republic]

[TW: President Biden’s State of the Union address was exactly what was needed. The problem remains that some Democrats still want bipartisanship. Even worse, too many Democrats still believe the economic neoliberalism of Clinton and Obama, and fail to see that President Biden has an entirely different, much better, economic philosophy. So, even though Tomasky’s article was posted the day before Biden delivered his State of the Union address, it is the best article I’ve seen so far explaining thet the importance of the speech goes far beyond showing that Biden is not senile, but quite combative and eager to bring the fight to the Trump and his gang of (anti)Republicans.]

Biden is in a near-disaster zone with working-class voters, it’s true…. It’s maddening because middle-out economics—the economic theory that Biden embraces and promotes—is entirely about shifting wealth from the top back to the middle and working classes. The whole idea in a nutshell is that growth comes not from cutting rich people’s taxes and waiting for them to invest, but from making private and public investments, financed in part by rich people’s money, directed toward the middle and working classes so that these people have a fair shot at fulfilling their potential and living better and more secure lives. Throw in his passionate support of labor unions [like the railroad workers], and Biden is more on the side of working-class people than any president since arguably Harry Truman. But the fact that he’s not getting a lot of credit is not puzzling, because either (a) nobody knows about this wealth transfer or (b) they kind of know it, but they don’t really believe it. There are reasons for this: First, Biden has not been a very effective salesman for his ideas and accomplishments. He also suffers for the fact that his party, writ large, isn’t entirely on the same page.

GOP Stunned To Discover It’s Not Running Against A Cadaver In 2024

David Kurtz, March 8, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]


Conservative / Libertarian / (anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

Inside A Secret Society Of Prominent Right-Wing Christian Men Prepping For A ‘National Divorce’

Josh Kovensky, March 9, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

A secret, men-only right-wing society with members in influential positions around the country is on a crusade: to recruit a Christian government that will form after the right achieves regime change in the United States, potentially via a “national divorce.”

It sounds like the stuff of fantasy, but it’s real. The group is called the Society for American Civic Renewal (the acronym is pronounced “sacker” by its members). It is open to new recruits, provided you meet a few criteria: you are male, a “trinitarian” Christian, heterosexual, an “un-hyphenated American,” and can answer questions about Trump, the Republican Party, and Christian Nationalism in the right way. One chapter leader wrote to a prospective member that the group aimed to “secure a future for Christian families.”….

Group members hold a distinct vision of America as a latter-day ancient Rome: a crumbling, decadent empire that could soon be replaced by a Christian theocracy. To join, the group demands faithfulness, virtue, and “alignment,” which it describes as “deference to and acceptance of the wisdom of our American and European Christian forebears in the political realm, a traditional understanding of patriarchal leadership in the household, and acceptance of traditional Natural Law in ethics more broadly.” More practically, members must be able to contribute either influence, capability, or wealth in helping SACR further its goals.

“Most of all, we seek those who understand the nature of authority and its legitimate forceful exercise in the temporal realm,” a mission statement reads.

Once in the group, the statement says, members can expect perks: “direct preferential treatment for members, especially in business,” and help in advancement “in all areas of life” from other members.

Warning: The Great GOP Voter Purge of 2024 Is Underway

Thom Hartmann, March 07 2024 [CommonDreams]

…Alexandra Berzon and Nick Corasaniti wrote for last Sunday’s Times:

“A network of right-wing activists and allies of Donald J. Trump is quietly challenging thousands of voter registrations in critical presidential battleground states, an all-but-unnoticed effort that could have an impact in a close or contentious election.”…there’s virtually no evidence of voter fraud in any of the states targeted by this new group, which is run by “former Trump lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, and True the Vote, a vote-monitoring group with a long history of spreading misinformation,”….

Election Truthers Learn A Lesson From ‘Stalin’ As They Look Toward November

John Light, March 7, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

Like a movie villain pausing to explain in detail his evil plan just before lowering the hero into the shark tank, election truthers keep talking and talking about their efforts to make sure they are happy with the results of the 2024 election. The scheme, in short: They want to be the ones counting the votes.

It’s Official: Abraham Lincoln’s Political Party Died Today 

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, March 8, 2024 [The New Republic]

The Republican National Committee elected a pair of new leaders on Friday and, surprise surprise, they were both hand-selected by Donald Trump. Their introduction to the higher echelons of conservative fundraising stands as a marking point: Trump’s takeover of the party is now complete.

North Carolina GOP Chairman Michael Whatley was elected to replace outgoing RNC Chair (and expired Trump favorite) Ronna McDaniel, while the former president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, was selected as co-chair….

…Even though the RNC typically functions to back campaigning officials all the way down the ballot, the co-chair has already sworn the RNC’s cash will help cover the presumed GOP presidential nominee’s legal woes….

“There will be zero money available for any candidates down ballot. Zero,” Liz Mair, a Republican strategist, told USA Today. “All of it will be funneled into the presidential, and despite what (Trump aide) Chris LaCivita says, I’m pretty sure as much of it as can be will actually be funneled into covering Trump lawsuit costs.”


(anti)Republicans’ commitment to cruelty 

House GOP Advances ‘Death Panel’ for Social Security in Election Year

Jessica Corbett, March 08 2024 [CommonDreams]

Florida Legislature Approves Law Banning Water Breaks and Cooling Measures for Workers

Julia Conley, March 08 2024 [CommonDreams]

Displaying “punitive cruelty” toward Florida residents who work outdoors, the Republican-controlled state House on Friday approved a bill that would ban local governments from requiring that workplaces provide water breaks and other cooling measures.

The state Senate passed the measure on Thursday, with Republicans pushing the bill through as Miami-Dade County was scheduled to vote on local water break protections. If signed into law by the Republican governor, the proposal will preempt the county’s vote.

Roughly 2 million workers are expected to be affected by the legislation in Florida, where parts of the state experienced record-breaking heat last year. Meteorologists found that last month was the hottest February ever recorded globally, and the ninth straight month to set such a record….

Migrant Drownings in Pacific Soared 3,200% After Trump Raised Border Wall: Study

Brett Wilkins, March 08, 2024 [CommonDreams]
…The study—published in JAMA, the American Medical Association’s journal—found that 33 people drowned while trying to swim across the southern border between 2020-23, compared with just one death in the previous four years. Researchers tied the soaring fatalities to the Trump administration’s decision to raise the height of the border wall from 17 feet to 30 feet as part of its “zero tolerance” immigration agenda.
Greg Sargent, March 8, 2024 [The New Republic]
…Trump and his GOP allies in the MAGA movement have pulled off a truly monumental scam. They’ve managed to persuade large swaths of our media and political elites that their primary concern on the issue is with border security, which has served as cover for a different, more politically extreme preoccupation: the impact of migrants on the demographic makeup of the country….
Here’s the bottom line: All this does not amount to a position that prioritizes “border security.” It’s a position that prioritizes ensuring that far fewer migrants settle in the country. Trump and Republicans rejected the prospect of a more secure border because the means of achieving it wouldn’t sufficiently slash orderly and legal immigration.
Gabrielle Gurley, March 1, 2024 [American Prospect]

By the end of March, Americans will be able to walk into drugstores, supermarkets, and other retailers that carry contraceptive products and purchase the birth control pill known as Opill without a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration’s green light for the brand-name drug containing the hormone norgestrel means new conveniences that release people from doctors’ visits and prescription refill calendars. But the debut of over-the-counter birth control pills raises new fears: If abortion and in vitro fertilization are already under attack, can an all-out war on birth control be far behind?

In the two years since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Ohio, Kansas, and Kentucky voters have tossed out proposals to further restrict abortion. Vermont, California, and Michigan voters added constitutional protections for abortion. Alabama Supreme Court justices tethered in vitro fertilization to a “theologically based view of the sanctity of life” (expanding on Dobbs’s reliance on medieval and 17th-century English jurists), and the impacts have reverberated far beyond the Deep South.

…specific contraception rights only exist in 13 states. New state proposals bear watching. Last week, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that would protect the right to obtain and use contraception, and also allows the attorney general and private individuals to pursue civil actions against any law, regulation, or policy that violates this new plan. The House of Delegates saw some Republicans join Democrats to pass the bill. The Senate, however, where Democrats have a two-seat majority, hewed to party lines. A second bill that would require health insurance companies to cover the cost of contraceptives and related devices passed by healthier bipartisan margins.

Both bills now sit on Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s desk. He has 30 days after the end of the session on March 9 to sign or veto the contraception access bill, but he must act on the health insurance coverage bill by 11:59 p.m. on March 8. Youngkin’s decision may tell Americans quite a bit about how prominent, ambitious Republicans plan to proceed on contraception.

Some states are about to unleash more chaos. An Oklahoma Republican has proposed a ban on birth control that is not provided by a doctor. The original target is emergency contraception options like Plan B, but that raises questions about the new class of birth control pills. In Tennessee, a bill that would have clarified that the state’s current abortion regulations do not encompass IVF or contraceptives never made it out of a House committee….

The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts shreds the 14th Amerndment
[The Originalism Blog, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 03-07-2024]
“The Supreme Court opinion says that nothing in the Constitution delegates to the states the power to disqualify federal candidates. But this is obviously mistaken under the original meaning. The Constitution says that ‘each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.’ This provision allocates to the states the power how to run their presidential elections. State legislatures could decide not to hold elections at all but could assign their electoral votes to the candidate of their choosing. States have broad authority to structure their presidential elections. While this authority might be subject to other constitutional limitations, the Court does not point to any such limitation here…. It is true that presidential elections have come to be viewed as national elections. This view has led many people to view the electoral college as inconsistent with such national elections and to argue for a national popular vote method instead. But that is not the system that the Constitution establishes. Instead, the Constitution grants significant authority to states over presidential elections. That is the original meaning.”
Matt Ford, March 4, 2024 [The New Republic]

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Anderson is a disaster for the American constitutional order. It paves the way for insurrectionists to run for and hold federal office despite the Constitution’s categorical language that disqualifies them. It decides questions that weren’t before the justices in this case in the first place, and the answers they gave will only immunize these and future insurrectionists from potential consequences. It blatantly twists text and history to reach a preferred outcome….

Then the court’s five male conservative justices went even further to insulate Trump from the clause’s language. They held that federal candidates and officeholders can only be disqualified if Congress passes a law to affirmatively enforce the clause. That would appear to forestall disqualification by other means—if, for example, a Democratic-led Congress refuses to count Trump’s electoral votes next January because he is disqualified….

“Although federal enforcement of Section 3 is in no way at issue, the majority announces novel rules for how that enforcement must operate,” Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in their joint concurring opinion. “It reaches out to decide Section 3 questions not before us, and to foreclose future efforts to disqualify a Presidential candidate under that provision. In a sensitive case crying out for judicial restraint, it abandons that course.”

… to avoid disqualification for Trump, the Supreme Court effectively rewrote the clause and ignored how the rest of the Constitution works. Here’s how it normally works: The Constitution gives states the power to hold elections for House and Senate seats. State legislatures are also empowered to hold elections to decide their state’s slate of presidential and vice presidential electors in the Electoral College. In some early presidential elections, state lawmakers simply chose electors without public input.

As part of that process, the states are also empowered to disqualify candidates who can’t hold the offices that they seek. States can and have excluded would-be presidential candidates who don’t meet various age requirements and who aren’t natural-born citizens, for example. The Colorado Supreme Court logically concluded that participating in an insurrection or rebellion was another one of these requirements and acted accordingly….



On The Use of Clubs


Open Thread


  1. Z

    A concerned parent to the President of the U.S.:

    Seeing you tonight all hopped up on Adderall is such a bad example for our children.
    They noticed it…
    Had to sadly explain to my children we have a drug addict president.
    WHY did you do that tonight????


  2. Curt Kastens

    It is now Monday in Moscow and there was no major terrorist attack in Moscow.

    But tommorrow there will be a giant terrorist attack in Paris. No one in Paris should go to work tommorrow. Everyone should spend the day with their children. I am sorry that this warning is comming so late Paris time. But it comes in time for French speaking Quebecers to call their distant relatives in Paris and wake them up or to call them at 6am Paris time tommorrow morning.
    I can not give any more specific details about where or when the attack will take place because I do not know.
    I do not think that any French children will be hurt. But if they are I will not have a shred of symphathy for the French parents of those children because everyone is someone’s child and French people have been in Russia killing Russian Children for 10 years now. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
    Ok some of those French parents may actually support the Russians. But friendly fire casualties is one of the tradgedies of war. And the blame for any French people that die in the comming attack is on the NATO leaders as they have been waging war against Russia since the Warsaw Pact was dissolved.

    ps If the attack takes place on London do not blame me for not giving a warning that an attack was going to take place in London. As far as I know that is not the case. But people can change their mind on a moments notice if they get access to new information.

  3. Eric Anderson

    Re: America’s Super-Elite Disconnect
    Really struggling with this one. Simplicius seems a little out of his lane.
    For example: How do you get from 150k per year to the 1% ?
    For example: Sanders voters? But, the example of Hillary Clinton and the deplorable statement?
    For example: how precisely are these 150k+ 1% living in the Upper East Side?

    Has to be the single most incoherent piece I’ve read this year. A better explanation for Rasmussen’s findings??? Rasmussen is the 1% and he’s running cover for himself — that’s the story.

  4. bruce wilder

    Jaybat (DailyKos): “Nothing short of a seagoing equivalent of the Berlin Airlift level of effort will make a meaningful difference to those children now; if the USA and allies can pull that off in the face of Israeli resistance, they’ll be making movies about it 10 years from now, and (at least some of) the Palestinian people will remember.”

    That remark embodies so much of the effects of the reality-distortion field that has long enveloped DailyKos that it ought to be memorialized. If you click thru, you see that Jaybat is perfectly aware that the Israeli’s have as many opportunities and excuses to “interfere” portside as at the Rafah Gate or anywhere else on the internal boundary. But, he can’t resist MSNBC fantasy league genocide, where Biden is a good guy, capable of doing the right thing.

    Genocide Joe from MBNA hasn’t done “the right thing” in public policy voluntarily in fifty years. Viewed objectively, his Administration shows few signs it will start now in foreign policy. Can we just stop with the political fantasy?

    And, for the thousandth time, could someone show a tiny sliver of outrage about Zionist interference in American politics?

    not a craven, corrupt, pissant sucking up to the Zionists and trying to manipulate the electorate in the U.S.

  5. NR


    I’m no fan of Biden’s, but I do find it funny that all the narratives that right-wingers have been pushing about him for the past three years went up in flames last week and they’re now scrambling to come up with new ones.

  6. Purple Library Guy

    On the article “How Western Troops Could Be Sent To Ukraine And Not Start World War III” . . . so, basically, the author’s answer is “We send the NATO troops, but have them pretend they’re NOT NATO troops.”
    I’m not clear whether his point is that Russia wouldn’t figure it out, or that it would be dirty pool for Russia not to pretend it believed the deception. But either way, wow, pretty insane.
    Even more insane than it seems, perhaps. I mean, say you send in a bunch of NATO troops, under the banner of some semi-private organization, and then Russia tac-nukes them. What does NATO get to say about it? Wasn’t an attack on NATO.

  7. Willy

    …too many Democrats still believe the economic neoliberalism of Clinton and Obama, and fail to see that President Biden has an entirely different, much better, economic philosophy.

    I’d predicted this direction way back when Sanders was being allowed into more prominent positions, instead of getting subjected to the usual DC kompromat assholery. Maybe Sanders has nothing to blackmail him with. Now if we could just figure out what dirt Netanyoohoo has on Biden.

    Sanders urged Biden to affirm the public’s frustration over the economy and focus on identifying the political opposition to enacting the president’s agenda — such as big businesses and pharmaceutical firms — rather than convince the public they should be pleased with current circumstances.

    Again, as I’d predicted 3 years ago. You all should be worshipping me as a prognosticatory god (ignore the giant shoulders I’m standing on), way smarter than the dupes who were talking up Tulsi back then.

  8. Swamp Yankee

    Curt Kastens,

    I find your comment about a terrorist attack on Tuesday in Paris opaque and concerning. I’m genuinely not sure what you’re talking about; but if you do have some kind of inside knowledge of an upcoming terror attack in Paris, I suggest you report it to relevant public authorities.

  9. different clue

    About that Rasmussen article : I noticed that same disconnect in my own way.

    That article was about re-animating the good old hate object of the ” limousine liberal” , the ” effete elites” so fondly behated by Spiro Agnew, etc. It is about cleverly diverting public attention away from the brute force power-money elites who rule us and dominate us and diverting it onto the well-ish paid head butlers and head valets and head coachment who merely serve them.

    ” The cossacks work for the Czar”. Yes, the cossacks are a problem, but the Czar they work for is a greater problem in the wider scope and the longer run. And anyway, $150,000 isn’t all that much in many parts of the country and has been reduced to mere stylish luxury subsistence in some parts of the country. What kind of house, if any, will $150,000 per year let you buy in the Silicon Sh!thole which Big Digital Tech has turned San Francisco into and which Big Digital Tech is turning the entire Bay Area into?

  10. Chuck Mire

    A ChatGPT poem about Senator Katie Britt


    Write a parody poem about Senator Katie Britt, a grown woman with the mind of a child:

    In the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill,
    There roams a senator, with quite the thrill,
    Her name is Katie Britt, so they say,
    But her mind, alas, seems to stray.

    A woman grown, yet childlike in mind,
    Her antics leave the Senate behind,
    She twirls and giggles, without a care,
    In her world, there’s no need to beware.

    With crayons in hand, she scribbles away,
    Signing bills with a childish display,
    Her speeches, oh so simple and sweet,
    But lacking substance, they fail to compete.

    “Let’s play pretend!” she shouts with glee,
    As she envisions a world where all is free,
    But in the world of politics, oh so complex,
    Her innocence is often met with perplex.

    She dreams of unicorns and rainbows bright,
    While her colleagues debate with all their might,
    Her policies, like fairy tales spun,
    Leave experts scratching their heads, one by one.

  11. Curt Kastens

    Swamp Yankee,
    My comment was related to the articles the western press that there was going to be a terrorist attack launched by “extremists” in Moscow this past weekend and that people in Moscow should avoid large public gatherings.

    I really thought those reports from the western press showing their concern for the people of Moscow were so sweet.. So I decided to reply in kind by claiming that giants are among us and that they are going to launch an attack on Monday in Paris. Therefore people who work in Paris should not go to work on Monday

    Now that claim that giants walk among us is certainly contraversial, because the giants are invisible. But it is not at all contraversial that there are large numbers of pissed off Arabs in France and large numbers of pissed of Muslims in England. A major attack, which from my point of view would be more than morally justifiable, against the European populations for the support that their governments have given to Israel should not come as a surprise to anyone.

    Of course the leadership of the west would also welcom such a thing as it would give them more ammunition to demonize the Palestinian anti imperialistic cause. But people who fall for such propoganda and much of the european population has deserve no sympathy for any tradgedy that befalls them, whether if be from a giant or a man.

    No point in giving my inside knowledge to the relevent authorities in Europe and North America and Japan and Australia, as the relevent authorities are THE terrorists of the first order.

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