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

Week-end Wrap April 14, 2019

Strategic Political Economy

“Research is vital to the moral integrity of social movements” 
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II [Economic Policy Institute, via Naked Capitalism 4-8-19]
A must-read.

One of the quickest ways for a movement to lose its integrity is to be loud and wrong. We’ve seen too many movements that have bumper sticker sayings but no stats and no depth. Researchers help to protect the moral integrity of a movement by providing sound analysis of the facts and issues at hand. Armed with this information, we’re able to pull back the cover and force society to see the hurt and the harm of the decisions that people are making….

…the prophet Isaiah said to those who were rich, powerful and presumed themselves to be morally superior. “Woe unto those who legislate evil and rob the poor of their rights and make women and children their prey.” Isaiah even went as far as saying that religious activity—worship and prayer—was not a cover for their failure to “loose the band of wickedness.” Wickedness in that text is specific to the issue of not paying people what they deserve and trying to cover it over with a lot of religiosity. He goes on to say that the nation will never be able to repair itself until it ends the wickedness of not paying people what they deserve. Because society’s policies had actually insulated destruction, injustice and inequality could never be resolved without a change of policy.

These statements reflect more than just a difference of opinion concerning the legislation. Rather, such bold and specific statements suggest an analysis of the society which concluded that the legislation was evil in that it was robbing those who were most vulnerable. In other words, Isaiah’s moral authority to criticize policy could be confirmed and validated by research….

The 13 former Confederate states, which only have about 36 percent of this country’s population, decide 178 electoral votes, 26 United States Senate seats and 35 percent of the seats in the United States House of Representatives. That means all it takes to win control of both houses of Congress is 25 Senate seats and 16 percent of U.S. House of Representatives seats available from the other 37 states.

100 million is the number of people that didn’t vote in the 2016 election. 40 million is the number of poor and low-wealth people in this country. The majority of them are in the South and are the key to the transformation of our politics.

All of the close elections we witnessed in the 2018 midterms are a sign that we are right at the tipping point. If there’s ever been a time that we ought to go south and shift the political calculus in this nation for the next 20 to 40 years and beyond, it is in fact right now.

How corporate America invented ‘Christian America’ to fight the New Deal

[ 3-23-16, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-4-19]

The 2016 annual meeting for the Organization of American Historians (OAH) will feature a session focusing upon the provocative book One Nation Under God by Princeton history professor Keven M. Kruse. In One Nation Under God, Kruse argues that the idea of the United States as a Christian nation does not find its origins with the founding of the United States or the writing of the Constitution. Rather, the notion of America as specifically consecrated by God to be a beacon for liberty was the work of corporate and religious figures opposed to New Deal statism and interference with free enterprise. The political conflict found in this concept of Christian libertarianism was modified by President Dwight Eisenhower who advocated a more civic religion of ‘one nation under God’ to which both liberals and conservatives might subscribe….

Arguing that public religion is a modern invention that has little to do with America’s origins, Kruse maintains that contemporary political discourse needs to better recognize the political ideology being perpetuated by the advocates of America as a Christian nation. Needless to say, Kruse’s arguments will antagonize many on the Christian right, as well as many on the left who have employed Christianity as the means through which to implement principles of equality and opportunity as extolled by Jesus of Nazareth, the working-class carpenter.

Drawing upon extensive archival research, the first part of Kruse’s book documents the alliance between religious leaders such as Congregationalist minister James W. Fifield Jr. and businessman J. Howard Pew Jr., president of Sun Oil and a major figure with the National Association of Manufacturers. Working out of his affluent Los Angeles community and congregation, Fifield formed a national organization called Spiritual Mobilization that attracted the support of big business while embracing unfettered capitalist traditions threatened by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. The fertile ground plowed by Spiritual Mobilization and Fifield prepared the way for the influential prayer breakfasts of Methodist minister Abraham Vereide and the crusades of evangelist Billy Graham….

Seeking to mount a conservative movement against the religious establishment, evangelists such as Billy Graham joined forces with the administration of Richard Nixon to promote a religious perspective that would divide rather than unify Americans. Holding White House religious services officiated by leading evangelical ministers and sponsoring events such as the 1970 Fourth of July “Honor America Day,” featuring a religious service at the Lincoln Memorial led by Graham, Nixon attempted to employ religious nationalism as a means through which to brand those opposing his administration or the war in Vietnam as attacks upon American Christian values. Although Kruse includes an epilogue offering an overview of religion and American politics from the 1980s to the Obama Presidency, he assigns Nixon, rather than Ronald Reagan, primary responsibility for using religion to divide rather than bring Americans together.

Don’t Confuse Capitalism With Industrialization
Ian Welsh, April 10, 2019 []

Capitalism is part of how many nations industrialized, but industrialization is where the majority of the gains come from. When you replace human labor with machines run by coal and hydrocarbons and some other sources of power, you get most of the gains of capitalism….

Nor is the victory of “capitalism” so clean and clear as people make out. With a very few exceptions, mostly city states, countries industrialized under protectionism, not “free trade” or “free markets”. This is beyond question, it is not open to debate: it is true of America, Japan, China and Britain, among others.

These were very heavily state managed economies in many cases. Germany’s electrical revolution was a result of the German High Command making sure it happened, “Siemens, my good man, go start an electrical company!” (Hall’s “Cities in Civilization” tells this story well.)

Likewise, Japan had massive government involvement…. However capitalism was, and is, a way to distribute resources to do things. It is not the things themselves. It is not, itself, industrialization, and confusing the two is a dangerous intellectual error….

We had better hope that there are ways to use machines and energy that won’t cause environmental catastrophe; that there are other ways to decide who gets resources and what they use them for.

If there aren’t, well, we’re likely to lose our civilization or even go extinct.
We need to stop being nodes in a shitty resource allocation algorithm, and we need to start actually making sane decisions based on group autonomy and welfare.

A Veblen Moment: Thorstein Veblen’s Lessons from the First Gilded Age Even More Relevant Today
Ann Jones [TomDispatch, via Naked Capitalism 4-12-19]

The now commonplace phrase “leisure class” was Veblen’s invention and he was careful to define it: “The term ‘leisure,’ as here used, does not connote indolence or quiescence. What it connotes is non-productive consumption of time. Time is consumed non-productively (1) from a sense of the unworthiness of productive work, and (2) as an evidence of pecuniary ability to afford a life of idleness.”

Veblen observed a world in which that leisure class, looking down its collective nose at the laboring masses, was all around him, but he saw evidence of something else as well. His anthropological studies revealed earlier cooperative, peaceable cultures that had supported no such idle class at all. In them, men and women had labored together, motivated by an instinctive pride in workmanship, a natural desire to emulate the best workers, and a deep parental concern — a parental bent he called it — for the welfare of future generations….

But anthropology also recorded all too many class-ridden societies that saved upper-class men for the “honourable employments”: governance, warfare, priestly office, or sports. Veblen noted that such arrangements elicited aggressive, dominant behavior that, over time, caused societies to change for the worse. Indeed, those aggressive upper-class men soon discovered the special pleasure that lay in taking whatever they wanted by “seizure,” as Veblen termed it. Such an aggressive way of living and acting, in turn, became the definition of manly “prowess,” admired even by the working class subjected by it. By contrast, actual work — the laborious production of the goods needed by society — was devalued. As Veblen put it, “The obtaining [of goods] by other methods than seizure comes to be accounted unworthy of man in his best estate.”

….Such constant “predation,” he suggested, soon became the “habitual, conventional resource” of the parasitical class. In this way, a more peaceable, communal existence had evolved into the grim, combative industrial age in which he found himself: an age shadowed by predators seeking only profits and power, and putting down any workers who tried to stand up for themselves. To Veblen this change was not merely “mechanical.” It was a spiritual transformation…. The leisure class is so sheltered from inevitable changes going on in the rest of society that it will adapt its views, if at all, “tardily.” Comfortably clueless (or calculating), the wealthy leisure class drags its heels (or digs them in) to retard economic and social forces that make for change. Hence the name “conservatives.” That (re)tardiness — that time lag imposed by conservative complacency — stalls and stifles the lives of everyone else and the timely economic development of the nation….

Veblen gave this analytic screw one more turn. Called a “savage” economist, in his meticulous and deceptively neutral prose, he described in the passage that follows a truly savage and deliberate process:
It follows that the institution of a leisure class acts to make the lower classes conservative by withdrawing from them as much as it may of the means of sustenance and so reducing their consumption, and consequently their available energy, to such a point as to make them incapable of the effort required for the learning and adoption of new habits of thought. The accumulation of wealth at the upper end of the pecuniary scale implies privation at the lower end of the scale.”

And privation always stands as an obstacle to innovation and change. In this way, the industrial, technological, and social progress of the whole society is retarded or perhaps even thrown into reverse. Such are the self-perpetuating effects of the unequal distribution of wealth.

The Neoliberal Infestation

How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 4-7-19]

I understand neoliberalism as the ideological product of processes in which self-identified liberals, from the interwar period onwards, have attempted to renew liberalism as an ideology that claims to promote societal orders based on free markets and individual freedom. In other words, neoliberalism refers to efforts to construct new liberalisms.

Many of the neoliberals that I study were related to the Mont Pèlerin Society, and they shared the ambition of rethinking how the functions of the state could be redefined to secure a free market and individual freedom. The positive notion of the state — and other political institutions — as the guarantor of a competitive order is crucial to the way in which these neoliberals sought to distinguish their project from the political economy of so-called classical liberalism.

All in the Family Debt: How Neoliberals and Conservatives Came Together to Undo the Welfare State
Nancy Cooper, May 31, 2017 [Boston Review, via Mike Norman Economics]
It is difficult to summarize this adequately, but I think it is crucial to clarifying people’s thinking about why conservatives and neoliberals  joined for the assault on the “welfare state.” It is not a short read but an important one. 

In 1601, as a succession of failing harvests left people jobless and hungry, and vagrants roamed across England, the Elizabethan poor laws were established to reassert control over the population… subject to the principle of familial responsibility… family members would be compelled to provide as much support as they could. “The father and grandfather,” the law stated, “and the mother and grandmother, and the children of every poor, old, blind, lame and impotent person, or other person not able to work, being of a sufficient ability, shall, at their own charges, relieve and maintain every such poor person.” Familial responsibility, it was established, was the first line of defense in combatting poverty and improving social welfare…

…American social welfare policy and ideology has maintained a persistent—and damaging—attachment to that framework. Some ramifications are obvious—such as when legal relationships of spousal support and paternity are enforced without consent from either party—but some are more nuanced. The current crises of tuition costs and college debt, for instance, are the downstream effects of limiting a free public good and reinstating “familial responsibility.”

Indeed, many of the policy reforms after the Reagan revolution can be understood as an attempt to reinvent the imperative of familial responsibility in the new idiom of household debt. As policymakers imposed cuts to health, education, and welfare budgets, they simultaneously identified the family as a wholesale alternative to the twentieth-century social state. And as the responsibility for deficit spending shifted from the state to the household, the private debt obligations of family were defined as foundational to socioeconomic order. The family, not the state, would bear primary responsibility for investing in the education, health and welfare of children.

This return to Elizabethan poor law principles was made possible, in part, because of an unlikely alliance between neoliberals and social conservatives. Despite their differences on virtually all other issues, neoliberals and social conservatives were in agreement that the bonds of family needed to be encouraged—and at the limit enforced—as a necessary counterpart to market freedom. Though it is often overlooked in the literature, economic liberalism is as much concerned with familial responsibility as it is with personal responsibility, and the neoliberal emphasis on familial relations as a substitute for public relief is an unappreciated, but critical aspect of free-market liberalism. More than anything else, this appeal to familial responsibility sealed the working relationship between free market liberalism and social conservatism, very much defining the shape of social welfare in the contemporary era.

…at each historical juncture where the legal obligations of family were somehow weakened or threatened by the generalization of divorce, the waning importance of marriage, or the liberation of slaves who had never been married, the poor laws would be reinforced to punish those who threatened to transfer the costs of their welfare onto the state….

it is fair to say that it crystallized the enormous welfare backlash of the 1970s. It is in this period that you begin to hear the argument that public spending on welfare was making women too independent of presumptive husbands and fathers and thus effectively subsidizing the breakdown of the family. Writing at the end of the 1970s, the Chicago school neoliberal Gary Becker remarked that the “family in the Western world has been radically altered—some claim almost destroyed—by events of the last three decades.” He went on to list a familiar series of ills: from the rapid rise in divorce rates and female-headed families, to the decline in birth rates and the growing labor force participation of married women, which he claimed had “reduced the contact between children and their mothers and contributed to the conflict between the sexes in employment as well as in marriage.” Becker believed that such dramatic changes in the structure of the family had more to do with the expansion of the welfare state in the post-war era than with feminism per se—which could be considered a consequence rather than an instigator of these dynamics…. at different times and in different contexts, each of the key figures of American neoliberalism can be found invoking the idea that the “natural obligations” of family should serve as a substitute for the welfare state, that the “altruism” of the family represents a kind of primitive mutual insurance contract and serves as a necessary counterweight to market freedoms….

In 1960s America, both neoliberals and neoconservatives were alarmed by the militancy of the new student left and convinced that it could be explained by rising public spending on the sector, in much the same way that family breakdown could be attributed to increasingly generous welfare programs.

The creation of a generous federal grant and loan system under the Higher Education Act of 1965, along with a system of public universities offering tuition-free education, meant that an entire generation of students were able to go to college without relying on family support. This was also a period in which rising wages and expanding public services allowed young adults to attain financial independence earlier than any other time before or after in American history. Neoliberal and neoconservative observers of the 1960s were convinced that these unheard of economic conditions were responsible for the peculiar kinds of radicalism bubbling up on college campuses around the country. Reporting on conditions in the United States for the Trilateral Commission, the neoconservative Samuel Huntington infamously denounced the “democratic surge of the 1960s” with its “general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private.” In one form or another, he observed, “this challenge manifested itself in the family, the university, business, public and private associations, politics, the governmental bureaucracy, and the military services. People no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” And it was particularly visible on college campuses. “The single most important variable” shaping this dynamic, he ventured, was the democratization of higher education.

From Nancy Cooper, Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism

Predatory Finance

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 4-9-19]

With political scrutiny of stock buybacks growing, Goldman Sachs started assessing an extreme scenario: “a world without buybacks.” The picture doesn’t look pretty.

That’s because corporate demand has far exceeded that from all other investors combined, according to strategists led by David Kostin. Since 2010, net buybacks averaged $420 billion annually, while buying from households, mutual funds, pension funds and foreign investors was less than $10 billion for each, Federal Reserve data compiled by Goldman showed.

“Repurchases have consistently been the largest source of U.S. equity demand,” the strategists wrote in a note Friday. “Without company buybacks, demand for shares would fall dramatically.”

Chuck Schumer Neglected To Name A Democratic Commissioner For The SEC. Now It’S Open Season For Wall Street, Bank Lawyers Crow

David Dayen [via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-4-19]

LAST SUMMER, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump’s term. In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations ‘for the remainder of the current presidential term.’ This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear. The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration’s unprecedented exploitation of this mistake.”

Research Study on Ongoing Crime Spree by Wall Street Mega Banks Gets News Blackout: Here’s Why
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, April 12, 2019 [Wall Street On Parade]

One day before Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee held an historic grilling of the CEOs of the mega banks on Wall Street, the nonprofit watchdog, Better Markets, released an in-depth research report on “Wall Street’s Six Biggest Bailed-Out Banks: Their RAP Sheets & Their Ongoing Crime Spree.” The report detailed facts, figures and this inescapable conclusion:

“[Six Wall Street mega banks] have engaged in—and continue to engage in—a crime spree that spans the violation of almost every law and rule imaginable. Taking the breadth and depth of their illegal conduct as a whole, the six biggest banks in the country look like criminal enterprises with RAP sheets that would make most career criminals green with envy. That was the case not just before the 2008 crash, but also during and after the crash and their lifesaving bailouts…In fact, the number of cases against the banks has actually increased relative to the pre-crash era.”

The six mega banks profiled in the report are: Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo….

Wall Street On Parade, after carefully reading and digesting the report, published an article on its contents the next morning, April 10. Then we began to hear from our outraged readers, who wanted to know why they weren’t reading about this report at major business media outlets. We checked the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg News, Reuters, CNBC, and CNN. We could find no mention of the Better Markets report. (We checked again this morning. There is still a news blackout.)

Economics in the real world

[Sociological Inquiry, via Naked Capitalism 4-10-19]

”The results of the present study found one aspect of the Great Recession, student loan delinquency, contributed to higher suicide rates in the United States. The results support past research that showed economic indicators such as financial debt and foreclosure was associated with negative mental health outcomes… The results of the present study suggest that increasing student loan delinquency during the Great Recession increased the total, male, age 20–24, and age 35–44 suicide rates within states, but had no effect on any type of suicide between states. Thus, unobserved factors not related to variables in the statistical models are needed to explain differences in suicide rates between states. Examples of these factors could be gun availability, culture, and protective resources related to mental health treatment. Nonetheless, the results reported in this study support past theoretical and empirical studies that explain suicide rates as a function of economic frustration related to the inability to achieve desired social and economic outcomes (Durkheim 1951; Henry and Short 1954; Yang 1992). The study establishes an association between student loan delinquency and suicide rates during the Great Recession.”

Lamber Strether: “So maybe all those [glass bowls] snickering at “economic anxiety” can STFU now?”

[American Road & Transportation Builders Association, via The Big Picture 4-7-19]
[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 4-8-19]

“That same IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it.” • “There are not very many of the Shing.” And it’s almost as if putting capital under democratic control is the way forward, not changing consumer behavior.

“Stanford energy and environment experts examine strengths and weaknesses of the Green New Deal” (symposium) 

[Stanford News, via Naked Capitalism 4-11-19]

Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program: “Rather than increasing costs, the GND reduces costs substantially. The upfront capital cost of a 100 percent wind-water-solar electric power generation system is about $9.5 trillion. However, this cost is spread out over many years and will pay itself off over time through electricity sales. Further, a wind-water-solar system uses half the energy as a fossil fuel system and also eliminates health and climate costs due to fossil fuels. As such, U.S. consumers will pay only $1 trillion per year in energy costs with the GND, whereas under a fossil fuel system, they will pay $2 trillion per year in energy costs and $600 billion per year in air pollution health costs, and will incur $3.3 trillion per year in global climate costs due to U.S. emissions, for a total economic cost of $5.9 trillion per year. Thus a wind-water-solar system costs society one-sixth that of a fossil fuel system.”

“The Science to Climate Action Network: A New Approach to Urgent Local Needs” 

[Weather Underground, via Naked Capitalism 4-11-19]

“Rather than replace the legally mandated National Climate Assessments, four of which have been released since 2000, the group hopes to see these reports leveraged and built on through an interactive, locally tailored approach. The goal is to draw on constituent feedback, participation, and knowledge in order to develop guidance on climate adaptation and greenhouse gas reduction that’s handcrafted for communities…. Flooding is a textbook example of a risk that’s often heightened by climate change, and one that can be both alleviated and exacerbated by actions at the local scale. In Hamburg, Iowa, for example, community members joined the U.S. Corps of Engineers in 2001 to hastily enhance a levee that was holding back the Missouri River during a massive flood. Although the enhancement was functional, it didn’t meet U.S. Corps of Engineers guidelines for permanent levees, so it was removed. In March, while awaiting a replacement, much of the town was inundated by record flooding along the Missouri.”

Researchers Warn Arctic Has Entered ‘Unprecedented State’ That Threatens Global Climate Stability
[EcoWatch, via Naked Capitalism 4-9-19]

Shell Sued in the Netherlands for Insufficient Action On Climate Change
[Climate Liability News, via Naked Capitalism 4-8-19]

“After a $14-Billion Upgrade, New Orleans’ Levees Are Sinking” 
[Scientific American, via Naked Capitalism 4-12-19]

“The $14 billion network of levees and floodwalls that was built to protect greater New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was a seemingly invincible bulwark against flooding. But now, 11 months after the Army Corps of Engineers completed one of the largest public works projects in world history, the agency says the system will stop providing adequate protection in as little as four years because of rising sea levels and shrinking levees.”

No patient left behind

How to spot the health insurance industry’s favorite Democrats.

Wendell Potter, February 18, 2019 [via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-4-19]

My former colleagues undoubtedly were cheering when they heard Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) come to the defense of private health insurers and trash the idea of improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, which several of the Democratic presidential contenders have endorsed. Bennet, who says he, too, is considering a run for the 2020 nomination, told Chuck Todd that Medicare for All ‘seems like a bad opening offer.’ He prefaced that by saying that, ‘what the (other) Democrats are saying is, ‘If you like your insurance, we’re going to take it away from you,’ from 180 million people that get their insurance from their employer and like it, where 20 million Americans who are on Medicare Advantage, and love it. […] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can’t use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured.

I Felt Americans Needed to Know’: Insurance Industry Whistleblower Gives Glimpse of Effort to Crush Medicare for All

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 4-13-19]

Includes video of Wendell Phillips shredding latest industry ad campaign.

“The business model of for-profit health insurance depends on denying care to people who need it. These corporations can’t be reasoned with, only defeated.”

In an effort to inform the public about the corporate forces working to crush Medicare for All, an employee at the insurance giant UnitedHealthcare leaked a video of his boss bragging about the company’s campaign to preserve America’s for-profit healthcare system. “I felt Americans needed to know exactly who it is that’s fighting against the idea that healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” the anonymous whistleblower told the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein.

Gerald Friedman [USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 4-12-19]

“There is an instinct among political pundits to confuse caution for practicality — an assumption that those who advocate for incremental change are being reasonable, while those pushing for bold reforms aren’t…. Time to get real. As an economist who has spent decades studying our health care system, I can tell you that Medicare for All advocates are the only ones who are being reasonable, because theirs is the only plan that will control health care costs while finally achieving universal coverage. The problem with incremental plans, whether they are public options, buy-ins to Medicare or Medicaid, or pumping more money into subsidies in the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace, is that they preserve the private health insurance system weighing down our health care. This may be why pundits and centrist politicians view those plans as ‘reasonable,’ but it means that they are leaving the main reason for our system’s dysfunction in place: the multipayer, for-profit financing model.”

Enemy Actions
How federal, state, and local governments used law and policy to segregate every city in USA
[Economic Policy Institute 4-13-19]

“Segregated by Design,” a short film based on The Color of Law by EPI distinguished fellow Richard Rothstein, examines the forgotten history of how federal, state, and local governments used law and policy to segregate every major metropolitan area in the U.S. The film illustrates how racially explicit, unconstitutional policies created patterns of residential segregation that persist today, driving Rothstein’s conclusion that we are obligated to remedy it. “Segregated by Design” premiered at the American Documentary Film Festival on March 29 in Palm Springs, California.

Black unemployment is at least twice as high as white unemployment at the national level and in 14 states and the District of Columbia
[Economic Policy Institute 4-13-19]

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 4-8-19]

Ten years ago, the tax agency formed a special team to unravel the complex tax-lowering strategies of the nation’s wealthiest people. But with big money — and Congress — arrayed against the team, it never had a chance.

Restoring balance to the economy

Restraining the power of the rich with a 10 percent surtax on top 0.1 percent incomes
[Economic Policy Institute 4-13-19]

Progressive tax reform requires a healthy IRS
[Economic Policy Institute 4-13-19]

Information Age Dystopia

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 4-11-19]

“Artificial intelligence efforts lack long-term vision, and it may be a structural problem. Worse yet, the direction of AI — and future of corporate decision-making — is now concentrated in a relatively small handful of global companies…. AI is being shaped by nine companies, all in the US or China: Alibaba, Amazon, Apple, Baidu, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Tencent.”

“The big tech companies are smothering small start-ups” 

[Financial Times (DL), via Naked Capitalism 4-11-19]

“There are no simple answers, but one option is to categorise the digital platforms as “essential networks”, and impose the common carriage rules that have been applied to every essential network in US history (railways, utilities and so on). Those rules require networks to carry goods and information on a first-come, first-served basis, and to charge everyone the same price for the same service. They also prohibit networks from competing with businesses that rely on them to get to market.”

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

The space race is dominated by new contenders

[Economist, via Naked Capitalism 4-12-19]
From 2018, but interesting charts.

Reaction Engines Pre-Cooler Passes Mach 3.3 Test
Guy Norris, April 8, 2019 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]

It has been decades in the making but finally, on March 25 in rural Colorado, Reaction Engines achieved what could prove to be a pivotal moment in the advancement of air-breathing, high-speed propulsion when its pre-cooler technology was successfully tested at conditions representative of over Mach 3….  an innovative engine cycle concept to enable access to space and hypersonic air-breathing flight from a standing start.

The lightweight heat exchanger (HTX) forms one of the main building blocks of the company’s novel operating cycle and is designed to significantly reduce compressor delivery temperature (T3). This delays the onset of the T3 limit to a higher Mach number, maintaining sea-level conditions in front of the compressor over a very wide range of speeds, thus maximizing net thrust even at high speeds.

The HTX is designed to chill air in the inlet of high-speed turbojets for hypersonic vehicles and, ultimately, will form the basis for the company’s Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (Sabre) for low-cost repeatable access to space. In this role, the engine is designed to efficiently extract oxygen for rocket combustion from the atmosphere. In the fully integrated Sabre, the chilled air will be passed from the HTX to a turbo-compressor and into the rocket thrust chamber where it will be burned with sub-cooled liquid hydrogen fuel.

DoE Builds Large-Scale Quantum Network Testbed
[Machine Design Today 4-12-19]

The first quantum communication network in the world will feature entangled photon sources, portable quantum memories, and operable repeaters….

The Brookhaven-testbed features portable quantum memories that operate at room temperature. Such memories, engineered for quantum networking on a large scale, have been a longtime “pet project” for Eden Figueroa, a joint appointee with Brookhaven’s CSI and Instrumentation Division and a Stony Brook University professor who leads its Quantum Information Technology group. He serves as lead investigator of the quantum networking testbed project.

“The demonstration aims to combine entanglement with compatible atomic quantum memories,” Figueroa says “Our quantum memories have the advantage of operating at room temperature rather than requiring subfreezing cold. This makes it natural to expand the test to principles of quantum repeaters, which are the technological keys to quantum communication over hundreds of kilometers.”

Absorption Turns Heat into Energy for Cooling
[Machine Design Today 4-11-19]

New research finds a promising match between metal organic frameworks and refrigerants…. what if you could cool things down by using heat itself instead of electricity? That’s the idea behind adsorption cooling, which does its job without a power-hungry compressor. Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are developing new materials that can boost the efficiency of adsorption coolers.
Such coolers depend on a solid adsorbent and refrigerant which transform heat into energy for cooling when they interact. This process can be driven by waste heat from an industrial plant, for example, or heat from the sun, but the compatibility of the adsorbent and refrigerant determines how well it works.

Wind costs declined 69% from 2009 to 2018, says AWEA

[Power Magazine, via American Wind Energy Association 4-12-19]

Technological innovations drove the levelized cost of wind energy down 69% from 2009 to 2018 and will likely result in further cost reductions and growth over the next several years with support from the wind energy Production Tax Credit phaseout, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Wind generation hit record levels in “every regional transmission organization and independent system operator at some point in 2018,” says CEO Tom Kiernan.

AWEA Annual Market Report: Top 11 wind power trends in 2018
[Into the Wind blog, via American Wind Energy Association 4-9-19]

The American wind power industry emerged from 2018 stronger than ever, now able to power 30 million American homes after 8 percent capacity growth last year. The newly released U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, Year Ending 2018 reveals that U.S. wind power supports a record 114,000 American jobs, over 500 domestic factories, and more than $1 billion a year in revenue for states and communities that host wind farms.

Sanders touts wind energy in 2020 presidential campaign video
[Newsweek, via American Wind Energy Association 4-10-19]

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has released a video for his 2020 presidential campaign highlighting the benefits of wind energy and criticizing President Donald Trump’s cancer remarks. “The fact is that Iowa gets about 35% of its electricity from wind turbines all over the state, which by the way provides revenue to farmers who desperately need that revenue,” Sanders says.

Editorial: Wind could be an important economic driver for North Carolina
[Winston-Salem Journal (N.C.), via American Wind Energy Association 4-9-19]

A bill under consideration in North Carolina that would ban wind development in 39 counties due to military concerns is unwarranted as the military is already involved in the siting process, writes the editorial board of the Winston-Salem Journal. Projects such as the Amazon wind farm provide rural communities with a critical source of revenue and must be encouraged, the board adds.

Disrupting mainstream politics

[WaPo, via Naked Capitalism 4-8-19]

Centrists Are Using Calls for Civility to Silence the Left

Robert L. Borosage [The Nation 3-25-19, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-4-19]

‘We should not eat our own,’ cautioned David Brock, which is rich coming from a professional hatchet man servicing both sides of the aisle at different points in his career. In reality, the ones doing the eating are primarily centrist pundits using high minded postures to skewer Bernie. Sanders has been assailed by a former Clinton staffer for using private planes while stumping for Hillary in 2016. He’s been attacked for hiring David Sirota, a respected left-leaning journalist who got his start in Sanders’s House office twenty years ago. (Sirota was raked over last week for supposedly hiding his conflict of interest while at The Guardian, a claim that turned out to be simply false). Tomasky presumptuously issued a ‘personal plea’ to Bernie to rein in his supporters, while saying nothing about the Clinton advisers publicly vowing to unleash their oppo research from 2016 on Sanders….”

“Clinton and her supporters consider Sanders’s repeated criticism of the hundreds of thousands she pocketed for speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks an “aspersion” on her integrity. But the corruption of big-money politics and the unholy alliance with the financial sector is at the center of the failure of the establishment of both parties. Trump made the corruption of politicians—Republican and Democratic alike—the central theme of his campaign in 2016….”

Alexander Cockburn [Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 4-8-19]

“[T]here is not the slightest sign that Biden used his influence to encourage pursuit of the financial fraudsters [after the Crash]. As he opined in a 2018 talk at the Brookings Institution, ‘I don’t think five hundred billionaires are the reason we’re in trouble. The folks at the top aren’t bad guys.’”

[TruthOut, , via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-4-19]

Biden’s potential candidacy comes at a time when the U.S. debt crisis is reaching unprecedented levels across all consumer sectors…. Student debt broke $1.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2018 according to the Federal Reserve, outstripping auto loan ($1.1 trillion) and credit card debt ($977 billion) significantly, with 1.1 million people owing over $100,000 for their educational expenses. Twenty percent of student borrowers default on their loan payments. Similarly, almost one in five Americans’ credit reports feature delinquent medical debt. Bankruptcy from growing insurance and prescription costs is also affecting Americans at a precipitous rate. Studies vary widely, but generally between 26 to even 62 percent of bankruptcies cited medical debt as a contributing or even primary factor. A harrowing figure from the October 2018 American Journal of Medicine showed that 42 percent of new cancer patients exhaust their life savings within two years of treatment, with an average loss of $92,098….

In 1997, the National Bankruptcy and Review Commission, formed under the direction of President Clinton, advised that student loans be made dischargeable again like any other private, consumer debt. Once again, however, Biden favored the industry professionals’ view and limited bankruptcy protection to those who could prove their failure to pay sprang from “undue hardship.”

…Biden pushed legislation in 2001 that would have stripped bankruptcy protections not just from government-backed or nonprofit loans, but also from loans from private industry. This bill was eventually defeated, but a changing Congress allowed the bill to be revived and passed by George W. Bush in April 2005…. Of the 18 Democratic senators who ultimately contributed to the major 2005 bankruptcy bill’s passage, none were as consistent or deep in their support of the lending industry as Joe Biden.

[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 4-12-19]
One of the least known aspects of the Bush Dubya administration was the extent to which it was completely under the domineering influence of Israeli prime minister and dark lord Benjamin Netanyahu, channeled through leading American neoconservatives Richard Perle, Meyrav and David Wurmser, and Douglas Feith. See Chapter Ten, “Ripe for the Plucking,” in Craig Unger’s 2007 book, The Fall of the House of Bush. In college, I looked to the Jewish socialists who had established the state of Israel as great men and women. A few fellow students went to work on kibbutzim and came back with idyllic stories of helping make the desert bllom. That sense of wonder and accomplishment has been replaced by a sense of loss, dismay, and wonder at how conservative and reactionary Israel has become. 

The only obstacle on the horizon – a set of corruption indictments against Netanyahu, announced by the attorney-general during the campaign – is certain to be swept away once Netanyahu has been formally installed as head of the next government by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners are already insisting on the passing of special “immunity” legislation – which would make it impossible to indict a sitting prime minister – as a condition for their support….  Netanyahu’s own voters have demonstrated that they care not a whit whether he is corrupt, as long as he continues to promote a Jewish supremacist agenda.

…the most shocking result is the diminishment of the Labor Party, which founded Israel and ruled it for decades, to just six seats. That turns it into a marginal, special-interest party. Combined with the four seats of the dovish Meretz party, that reduces what is commonly referred to in Israel as the “centre-left” to just 10 seats. According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, only about 12 percent of Israeli Jews are still prepared to describe themselves as left-wing.


Eat the Young: Student Loan Version


The Forbidden Truth About Analog Technology


  1. E

    Ernest Gellner neatly demolished the neoliberal stance by pointing out that it demands that market prices be made society′s sole criterion for valuing things. But the market prices of things aren′t sent down on stone tablets, they arise from the value society puts on those things in the first place, so to say that society′s valuations should be grounded in them is circular.

  2. Hugh

    I’ll have to add “civility” to my words which indicate a Democratic candidate is conservative/Establishment. Other indicators are descriptors like centrist, bipartisan, pragmatic, fiscally responsible (as in you can’t have nice things), public option, no to GND. Buttigieg, btw, in his positions is mainline conservative, which no doubt explains why MSNBC is doing so much to play him up.

    We used to call Biden the Senator from MBNA. His work on the bankruptcy bill and his preventing witnesses corroborating Anita Hill from testifying in the Clarence Thomas hearings should be disqualifying.

    Big tech smothering startups has been going on for decades now. Gates and company turned it into an art form back in the 90s and aughts.

    Same thing goes for black unemployment rates. They have been double that of whites since I have been looking at economic data.

    Medicare for All and dealing with climate change, the Green New Deal, make economic sense, actually save money, but they are things we cannot afford not to do.

    Notre Dame burned. It looks like a lot of the stone structure was saved. Hope it is structurally sound. I remember seeing Notre Dame for the first time as a kid before it was cleaned when it was still grayish-black from all the soot from the nineteenth century and the centuries before.

  3. Chiron

    The Japanese are still widely using fax machines.

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