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

Week-end Wrap, March 10, 2019


Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Seattle General Strike: Labor’s Most Spectacular Revolt

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“On February 6, 1919, Seattle’s workers struck–all of them. In doing so, they took control of the city. The strike was in support of 35,000 shipyard workers, then in conflict with the city’s shipyard owners and the federal government’s U.S. Shipping Board, which was still enforcing wartime wage agreements. The strike rendered the authorities virtually powerless. There was indeed no power that could challenge the workers. There were soldiers in the city, and many more at nearby Camp Lewis, not to mention thousands of newly enlisted, armed deputies—but to unleash these on a peaceful city? The regular police were reduced to onlookers; the generals hesitated. Seattle’s Central Labor Council, representing 110 unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), called the strike. The CLC’s Union Record reported 65,000 union members on strike—a general strike, the first and only of its kind in the U.S. Perhaps as many as 100,000 people participated.”

Wow. Imagine crippling the elites, and all anyone had to do is — just stay home.

[GoErie, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19].

“Wabtec, which absorbed GE Transportation as a wholly-owned subsidiary on Feb. 25, and the union, which represents about 1,700 employees at the Erie plant [which manufactures railroad locomotives], have agreed to a 90-day deal that’s intended to give the two parties time to negotiate a longer collective bargaining agreement. Signs of the strike — tents, burn barrels, piles of firewood and stacks of strike signs — were quickly cleaned up Thursday morning by union workers who had spent nine days patrolling the vast perimeter of the Lawrence Park locomotive plant…. Wages are high on that list. While Wabtec has agreed to continue paying existing workers at their current pay scale — an average of $35 an hour — the company’s earlier proposal called for paying new employees and those called back to work what “a competitive wage scale” of $16.75 to $25 an hour.”

Disrupting Mainstream Economics

The Failures of Neoliberalism Are Bigger Than Politics
Mike Konczal [Roosevelt Institute, via Mike Norman Economics 3-9-19]

Mike Norman: This is a really good article on how neoliberalism brought about the complete opposite of what they said it would. They said that there maybe a bit more inequality, but overall, most people would become better off as companies would be become more innovative and therefore more profitable.

The second was also a sense that if the government took shackles off of business, they would innovate and grow our way out of social problems. Relaxation of antitrust enforcement would lead to more competition and innovation, as was told. Unions would no longer get in the way of businesses. An unleashed financial sector would fund and lead the entire enterprise. The idea of market power, or concentration, were seen as laughable concepts stacked against the disciplining power of markets themselves.
We saw what happened with the financial sector. But there are two broader things that happened alongside it. First, at the level of individual firms, is that firm dynamism has fallen dramatically. The rate of business startups has fallen. In turn, this has shifted the age curve of businesses further out, with firms over 11-years-old accounting for 70 percent of workers in 2000 but 75 percent of workers in 2014. Labor market dynamism has fallen as well, with workers less likely to quit and move their jobs over the past two decades.

But what is most telling is the effect on the economy overall. Tobin’s Q is a measure of equity over the book value of a firm. If it is ever over 1, it means that firms are too profitable and they should invest more to bring it down back to 1. Tobin’s Q has doubled to well over 1 and shows no sign of slowing down. More broadly, there are several other puzzles that, taken together, point to extensive market power in the economy. As economist Gauti Eggertsson and others have summarized, there’s been a sustained increase in markups, a decrease in the real rate of interest, falling by roughly half since 1980, even while the measured average return on capital is relatively constant, and a break in the link between profits and investments. Another way to look at it: Corporate profits remain high, even as real interest rates have declined over the past several decades. That profits remain so high in nominal terms even as interest rates decline has brought economists to discuss a “profit share”that has increased at the expense of both capital and labor share. All of these factors together—high markups and profits, low interest rates, weak investment—point to a significant market power problem that impacts the macroeconomy.

Portugal Dared to Cast Aside Austerity. It’s Having a Major Revival.

[NYT, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]
[Kontrast, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-19]

Considering the booming economy, dropping unemployment numbers and the return of many once-emigrated young Portuguese citizens, it seems Portugal is on the rise. Facing the policies of socialist Prime Minister António Costa, which include properly supporting the welfare state and investing in the public sector instead of austerity measures, right-wing populists don’t stand a chance.

Debunking Deregulation: Bank Credit Guidance and Productive Investment
[Evonomics, 2-19-19, via a reader]

In a new UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) working paper, co-authored with Dutch economists Dirk Bezemer and Lu Zhang and Frank van Lerven, we examine the theoretical, historical and empirical evidence around credit policy and its effects on the allocation of credit.

Our motivation, aside from the crisis, is the remarkable ‘debt shift’ in advanced economies over the past 40 years which has seen banks move away from their primary textbook role of lending to non-financial firms to support productive investment. Whilst total bank credit has roughly doubled relative to GDP since the early 1970s in advanced economies, the share of credit supporting firms has actually fallen, from 60% to 40%. The vast expansion in lending has been mainly to support households to buy houses and, to a lesser extent, consumer goods and the purchase of financial assets.

Mortgage and other asset-market lending typically does not generate income streams sufficient to finance the growth of debt. Instead, the empirical evidence suggests that after a certain point relative to GDP, increases in mortgage debt typically slows growth and increase financial instability as asset prices rise faster than incomes.

These new empirical findings support a much older body of theory that argues that credit markets, left to their own devices, will not optimise the allocation of resources. Instead, following Joseph Schumpeter’s, Keynes’ and Hyman Minsky’s arguments, they will tend to shift financial resources away from real-sector investment and innovation and towards asset markets and speculation; away from equitable income growth and towards capital gains that polarises wealth and income; and away from a robust, stable growth path and towards fragile boom-busts cycles with frequent crises….

The financial liberalisation and deregulation of the 1980s saw the gradual removal of credit guidance and credit control policies which were seen to distort the efficient allocation of capital. This was a key element of the ‘Washington Consensus’ pushed by the World Bank and the IMF to developing countries. Many State Investment Banks were also privatised.

Our empirical investigation of the relationship between credit policy and credit allocation examines two time periods with different samples. Firstly, for the 1973 to 2005 period, for advanced economies, we find that the liberalisation of credit markets and removal of credit guidance is significantly associated with a lower share of lending to non-financial firms, supporting the Schumpeter-Keynes-Minsky hypothesis.

A Look Back at How Reforming Wall Street Failed So Miserably Under Obama
Pam Martens, March 7, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

Dean Baker [via Naked Capitalism 3-5-19]
Pam Martens, March 6, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

When you’ve studied stock market charts for three decades, you can’t help but notice that something very peculiar has been happening to the U.S. stock market in recent years. Rather than taking off at the opening bell and holding an upward bias or a downward bias for the balance of the trading day – the way stock markets historically behave – the Dow Jones Industrial Average frequently spends the morning hours rotating between sharp upward spikes and big drops as if an invisible force (say an algorithm, for example, operating in the futures market) has the controls.

[Science Daily, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

“The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy to climate change, trade policy and the minimum wage. But is it a good assumption? In a recently-published Science Advances paper, Marco Pangallo, Torsten Heinrich and Doyne Farmer from the University of Oxford, investigate this question in the simple framework of games, and show that when the game gets complicated this assumption is problematic. If these results carry over from games to economics, this raises deep questions about when economics models are useful to understand the real world.”

Strategic Political Economy

What goes up: are predictions of a population crisis wrong?
Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson [The Guardian, via Mike Norman Economics 3-8-19]

Some good news, World population may peak at below 9 billion and then start to go down. As people become urbanized they don’t want so many children. In the field extra hands are useful, in a city an extra child is an extra mouth to feed. And women want careers and less children.

These remarks offer a window on one of the most compelling questions of our time: how many people will fill the Earth? The United Nations Population Division projects that numbers will swell to more than 11 billion by the end of this century, almost 4 billion more than are alive today. Where will they live? How will we feed them? How many more of us can our fragile planet withstand?

But a growing body of opinion believes the UN is wrong. We will not reach 11 billion by 2100. Instead, the human population will top out at somewhere between 8 and 9 billion around the middle of the century, and then begin to decline.

ørgenRanders, a Norwegian academic who decades ago warned of a potential global catastrophe caused by overpopulation, has changed his mind. “The world population will never reach nine billion people,” he now believes. “It will peak at 8 billion in 2040, and then decline.”Similarly, Prof Wolfgang Lutz and his fellow demographers at Vienna’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis predict the human population will stabilise by mid-century and then start to go down.

Strategic 100 Global Infrastructure List (pdf)
[via Railway Age 3-7-19]
A list of the 100 largest infrastructure projects in the world. The list includes projects from 30 countries. Compiled by CG/LA Infrastructure Inc., headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Black Agenda [ADOS – American Descendants of Slavery, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

We demand a New Deal for Black America which includes, but is not limited to:

  • We need set asides for American descendants of slavery, not “minorities”, a throw-away category which includes all groups except white men. That categorization has allowed Democrats to use programs like affirmative actions as “giveaways” to all groups in exchange for votes. The bribery must end. That begins with a new designation on the Census with ADOS and another for Black immigrants. Black immigrants should be barred from accessing affirmative action and other set asides intended for ADOS, as should Asians, Latinos, white women, and other “minority” groups. In addition, ADOS hiring and employment data must be demanded for all businesses receiving tax credits, incentives, and governmental support. As well as all governmental agencies national, state and local. It is our belief that this will show that there are minimal if any ADOS professionals in fields including but not limited to engineering, medical, legal and tech.

Economics in the Real World

Barry Ritholtz, March 8, 2019 [The Big Picture]

The $4 trillion drop in Americans’ net worth in Q4 was the single largest quarterly dollar drop on record. As a comparison, the U.S. bear market losses from 2007-2009 = $11 trillion dollars. Markets are now 4X as large, so a 20% drawdown is a third as large as a the peak to trough GFC drop.

You can get this and all of the details from the Z.1 Financial Accounts of the United States:

“The net worth of households and nonprofits fell to $104.3 trillion during the fourth quarter of 2018. The value of directly and indirectly held corporate equities decreased $4.6 trillion and the value of real estate increased $0.3 trillion.”

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

Lambert Strether: “Obama’s miserably inadequate response to the foreclosure crisis is carefully airbrushed out.”

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

…the country’s third-biggest liner. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. is shrinking its fleet as it faces an estimated $895 million in losses….The company hopes to save $90 million by canceling some container ship charters and trimming its bulk-vessel count, changes that come as the maritime sector struggles with weak freight rates and a capacity glut in major trade lanes. The shipping line also plans to slim its car-carrier network and focus on bigger dry-bulk vessels. “K” Line’s problems stem in part from its stake in Ocean Network Express, the joint venture with Japan‘s two other shipping lines formed to respond to broader shipping industry woes. ONE had a troubled launch last year, and stresses could grow next year as new emissions rules take effect.”

[The Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“Container ships move things as diverse as clothes, food, furniture, electronics and heavy-industry parts. In the years before the 2008 financial crisis, boxships fueled globalization. Demand for ocean trade rose as much as 8% annually and owners spent billions to buy more vessels. This created loads of excess tonnage that, at the current rate of new ship deliveries, will take at least two years to absorb. It also means that on top of higher fuel expenses, freight rates likely will continue to hover way below break-even levels across some of the biggest ocean trade routes. With China’s economy slowing and shipments taking a hit from the evolving trade war between Washington and Beijing, operators are already cutting their full-year forecasts. ‘We see clearly a global economic growth that is declining,’ Soren Skou, chief executive of A.P. Moller-Maersk AS, the world’s top container operator by capacity, told an investor conference call recently. ‘We see weaknesses, in particular, in China and Europe. We expect container demand growth to fall to 1% to 3% this year from 3.7% to 3.8% last year.’”

Climate and Environmental Crises

[Endocrine News, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

In Sicker, Fatter, Poorer: The Urgent Threat of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Our Health and Future … and What We Can Do About, Trasande exposes the chemicals that disrupt hormonal systems and damages human health in irreparable ways. He discusses where these chemicals hide as well as the workings of policy that protects the continued use of these chemicals in everyone’s lives. Drawing on extensive research and expertise, Trasande outlines dramatic studies and emerging evidence about the rapid increases in neurodevelopmental, metabolic, reproductive, and immunological diseases directly related to the thousands of chemicals the average person is exposed to every day. Unfortunately, we are all currently exposed to EDCs to some degree

Insect Apocalypse: New Study Reveals Stunning Decline in Insect Populations
[The Real News Network 3-6-19]

Dr. Francisco Sanchez-Bayo explains that, if current trends persist, insects could be essentially wiped out within 100 years.

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

“The ocean is awash in tiny plastic particles shed by fleece jackets and other garments… highlighting how new concerns over pollutants are growing as production of polyester and other synthetics expands…. Textiles contribute 35% of primary microplastics released into the ocean, and research funded by companies like Hennes & Mauritz AB and Patagonia Inc. found that how the fibers are woven and clothes are washed matters. Prewashing garments before they are sold could capture a big share of pollution. H&M is looking at whether clothes can be designed to minimize shedding and says it’s monitoring the development of biodegradable fibers. Some state regulators are weighing labeling requirements, to the dismay of one industry group that says more study is needed.”

The Climate Denier Enablers
[The Real News Network 3-6-19]

Are the leaders of the Democratic Party paying lip service about climate change and creating conditions for a climate denier President to ignore the crisis? – with Jacqueline Luqman, Eugene Puryear, Norman Solomon and host Paul Jay.

No patient left behind

A First Look at Pramila Jayapal’s “Medicare for All Act of 2019”, HR 1384
Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

Dem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag ‘a little scary’

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-19]

“The House Democrats’ new campaign chief on Tuesday poured cold water on the progressive Medicare for All plan, dismissing it as just ‘one idea’ out there and warning that its estimated $33 trillion price tag was ‘a little scary.’ ‘The ‘Green New Deal’ is an idea. ‘Medicare for all’ is an idea. But there are many others that are out there,’ Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said in an interview with The Hill.”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 3-7-19]
Lambert Strether: I ran this when it appeared in November 2018, but with HR1834 out, it’s worth a second look:

“‘We’re all focused on 2020,’ Lauren Crawford Shaver, a partner at Forbes-Tate who is helping to manage the [Partnership for America’s Health Care Future] campaign, recently told the National Association of Health Underwriters in a podcast produced by the group. Shaver, a former top staffer for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign explained to the group that she is working to peel support away from the ‘Medicare for All’ bill sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.”

Restoring Balance to the Economy

[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-19]

If you have a cell phone, a credit card, or even if you just have a job, there’s a very good chance that you’ve been forced to sign away your right to sue your cell phone company, bank, or boss. Indeed, under the Supreme Court’s forced arbitration cases, your boss may order you to sign away your rights under penalty of termination.

On Thursday, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced legislation called the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act, which seeks to eliminate many forms of forced arbitration. Though versions of this bill have kicked around Congress for more than a decade — often under the name “Arbitration Fairness Act” — the FAIR Act stands out because of the broad coalition of lawmakers who now support it…. According to the Economic Policy Institute, workers and consumers are significantly less likely to prevail before an arbitrator than before a real judge, and they are awarded significantly less money when they do prevail.

[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“Thanks to a new Vermont law requiring companies that buy and sell third-party personal data to register with the Secretary of State, we’ve been able to assemble a list of 121 data brokers operating in the U.S. It’s a rare, rough glimpse into a bustling economy that operates largely in the shadows, and often with few rules…..”

“All that data can be used to target you with ads, classify the riskiness of your lifestyle, help determine your eligibility for a job. Like the companies themselves, the risks can be hard to see. Apart from the dangers of merely collecting and storing all that data, detailed (and often erroneous) consumer profiles can lead to race or income-based discrimination, in a high-tech version of redlining. Piles of personal data are flowing to political parties attempting to influence your vote and government agencies pursuing non-violent criminal suspects. Meanwhile, people-search websites, accessible to virtually anyone with a credit card, can be a goldmine for doxxers, abusers, and stalkers. (The National Network to End Domestic Violence has assembled a guide to data brokers.)”

Barry Ritholtz, March 6, 2019 [The Big Picture]

Facebook’s new move isn’t about privacy. It’s about domination

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]
Spencer Soper, March 7, 2019 [Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

The abrupt cancellation of orders prompted panic this week at the ShopTalk retail conference that drew more than 8,000 retailers, brands and consultants to Las Vegas. Some attendees said Amazon stopped submitting routine orders last week for a variety of products, often without explanation. The drought continued this week, affecting more vendors and leaving them frustrated about the lack of communication from Amazon.
One vendor who has been selling products to Amazon for five years said he got a canned response when he inquired why his routine weekly purchase order never came through. The response gave him no clarity about his standing as a vendor, he said.

Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google and Facebook
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

“The proposal was greeted with a cheer from New York State Sen. Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialist ally of freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a vocal opponent of New York’s deal to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Queens… The plan would pose existential threats to the business models that turned certain giant tech firms into money spigots…. Separating Google’s ad business from its Search function, for example, would make Google ads — on which the company depends for nearly all of its revenue — much less valuable. So would requiring Google to divest DoubleClick, the company it acquired in 2008 that vastly expanded the reach of its advertising network.”

Warren’s actual proposal:
Here’s how we can break up Big Tech
Elizabeth Warren [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps: First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform… Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers….

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 3-9-19]

Her proposal threatens to put a spotlight on those companies and their business practices, one that could expose them to reputational harm.

Moreover, it represents an attempt to gain support for a rethinking of antitrust policy, one in which regulators scrutinize the effects of concentrated corporate power on things other than just consumer prices.

Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet’s power looks benign if viewed only from the lens of consumer prices.

Their power looks much worse if its broader effects are taken into account.

[The Economic Times, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

In its draft National E-Commerce Policy, India has proposed regulating cross-border data flows, locating computing facilities within the country to ensure job creation and setting up a dedicated ‘data authority’ for issues related to sharing of community data.  It has asserted that the data generated in the country is a national asset, and citizens and the government have a sovereign right over it.

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 3-9-19]
[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

Gutmanis recalls that dealing with the malware at the petrochemical plant, which had been restarted after the second incident, was a nerve-racking experience. “We knew that we couldn’t rely on the integrity of the safety systems,” he says. “It was about as bad as it could get.”

In attacking the plant, the hackers crossed a terrifying Rubicon. This was the first time the cybersecurity world had seen code deliberately designed to put lives at risk. Safety instrumented systems aren’t just found in petrochemical plants; they’re also the last line of defense in everything from transportation systems to water treatment facilities to nuclear power stations.

Triton’s discovery raises questions about how the hackers were able to get into these critical systems. It also comes at a time when industrial facilities are embedding connectivity in all kinds of equipment—a phenomenon known as the industrial internet of things. This connectivity lets workers remotely monitor equipment and rapidly gather data so they can make operations more efficient, but it also gives hackers more potential targets.

Those behind Triton are now on the hunt for new victims. Dragos, a firm that specializes in industrial cybersecurity, and where Gutmanis now works, says it’s seen evidence over the past year or so that the hacking group that built the malware and inserted it into the Saudi plant is using some of the same digital tradecraft to research targets in places outside the Middle East, including North America. And it’s creating new strains of the code in order to compromise a broader range of safety instrumented systems.

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

[Houston Chronicle (tiered subscription model), via American Wind Energy Association 3-5-19]

Renewables are increasing as states like California, New Jersey, Texas and Massachusetts continue to meet and increase their renewable energy targets, L.M. Sixel writes. Texas, for example, surpassed its 1999 goal to have 10,000 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity by 2025 in 2009.

DNV GL: New logistics solutions needed to support bigger turbines

[North American Windpower online, via American Wind Energy Association 3-8-19]

Larger turbines are driving down costs and improving wind farm productivity, but new logistical solutions in terms of infrastructure and transportation are needed to ensure the industry maintains a low levelized cost of energy nationwide, says DNV GL. On-site manufacturing, segmented blades that can be transported easier and new transit options via air, rail and the road are areas for improvement, it says.

AWEA’s Kiernan: A clean energy economy is within reach

[The Hill via American Wind Energy Association 3-7-19]

Falling costs and technology put the US in a position to move toward a clean energy economy powered by wind and solar now — not years down the road, writes American Wind Energy Association President and CEO Tom Kiernan. He calls on Congress to support transmission grid updates that will enhance reliability and help the cities and states that need wind most access it.

Duke University won’t allow a portion of a proposed 7.7-mile light-rail line to pass through its campus. The decision effectively kills the project. GoTriangle is tasked with building the $3.3 billion line that would link UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, downtown Durham and N.C. Central University.

Tom Enders, March 5, 2019 [Aviation Week & Space Technology]

In the mid-1990s, European horizons ended at national borders. Industrial consolidation on a national level was well underway—but cross-border cooperation was limited to joint ventures in the fields of missiles, satellites and helicopters. This changed with the big consolidation wave in the U.S., prompted by the “Last Supper”—the U.S. government’s call for restructuring following the drastic decline in U.S. defense budgets after the end of the Cold War. Boeing’s acquisition of McDonnell Douglas sent shockwaves through Europe’s aerospace boardrooms…. Fortunately, Europe’s response was decisive, with the full merger of three “national champions”—France, Germany and Spain—and the transformation of Airbus into a real corporate entity….

The key challenges of the next 25 years will be fundamentally different:

  • There will be unprecedented changes in technology that have already started to hit us: digitalization, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and biotech. Data will play at least as important a role as propulsion or aerodynamics. The future competitiveness of European aerospace will be determined by our ability to harvest and utilize this data.
  • Aerospace companies must adapt to tectonic shifts in the competitive landscape as powerful new players emerge, especially in China but maybe also from other industries. Aerospace is already on the agenda of daring billionaires in the Silicon Valley. What if one of the West Coast giants teams or merges with our biggest competitor?
  • People will become even more important. In the era of globalization, competition for the best and brightest—already a scarce resource today—will intensify. And a whole generation of aerospace engineers is about to retire: 30% of Airbus’ workforce will leave in the next 10 years.
  • We must speed up our transition toward sustainable flight. Air passenger growth is expected to keep doubling every 15 years. This is a great business prospect, but it is an even more important responsibility.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo Departs Space Station
Irene Klotz, March 8, 2019 [Aerospace Daily & Defense Report / Aviation Week and Space Technology

SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon, nearing the end of an unmanned, six-day demonstration mission, undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on March 8, aiming for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean

Though cargo Dragons have successfully returned from low Earth orbit 17 times since 2010, the new Dragon 2, which is designed to ferry astronauts, has a different, asymmetrically shaped backshell to accommodate eight SuperDraco engines that serve as the capsule’s launch escape system.

Record-breaking device uses sunlight to produce hydrogen at 15% efficiency 

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-19]

Scientists at KU Leuven in Belgium have developed a device that combines incoming solar energy and water vapor from the surrounding air to produce a record-breaking daily average of 250 liters (66 gal) of hydrogen throughout the year. According to the researchers’ estimations, an array of 20 such panels paired with an underground pressurized tank could provide the totality of a household’s entire electricity and heating needs for a modest price….

Commercial solar panels can easily surpass that figure, often reaching 18 or 20 percent, but the advantage of this approach is that large amounts of hydrogen can be stored in an underground pressurized tank (at a pressure of approximately 400 bar) without the inevitable losses in capacity that come with battery technology. Using fuel cells, the reserves from the tank can then be converted at will into heating, electricity, or fuel for a hydrogen-powered car with a 90 percent conversion efficiency.

The panel generates a record 250 liters (66 gal) of hydrogen per day and could be used to provide local electricity and heating on the cheap.

Researchers 3D Print Mechanical Logic Gates
[Machine Design Today 3-5-19]

Engineers and scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California, Los Angeles are 3D printing mechanical logic gates, the basic building blocks of computers that can performing any kind of math calculations.
These 3D-printed logic gates could be used to build just about anything, researchers said, embedded into any type of architected material and programmed to react to its environment by physically changing shape without the need for electricity. This would make them useful in areas of high radiation, heat, or pressure…. The gates could be useful in rovers sent to hostile environments such as Venus, as well as in low-power computers intended to survive nuclear or electromagnetic pulse blasts.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists and engineers combed mechanical computing with 3D printing to create “sentient” materials that respond to changes in their surroundings, even in extreme environments.

Researchers Gauge Cell Stiffness in Search of Disease
[Machine Design Today, 3-6-19]

Though it is a private, not state, university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded as part of the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act.

A cell’s stiffness or elasticity can reveal much about its health. Cancer cells, for instance, are known to be softer than normal, while asthma-affected cells are rather stiff.

This led researchers at MIT to theorize that determining a cell’s mechanical properties of cells may help doctors diagnose and track the progression of certain diseases. Current methods to do this involve directly probing cells with expensive instruments, such as atomic force microscopes and optical tweezers, which make direct, invasive contact with the cells.

Now MIT engineers have devised a way to assess a cell’s mechanical properties simply by observation. The researchers use standard confocal microscopy to zero in on the constant, jiggling motions of a cell’s particles—telltale movements that can be used to decipher a cell’s stiffness. Unlike optical tweezers, the team’s technique is noninvasive, running little risk of altering or damaging a cell while probing its contents.

[Haaretz, , via Naked Capitalism 3-7-19]

Groundbreaking research shows that when a zebrafish sleeps, so do its nerve cells – freeing them to focus on repairing their DNA

Disrupting Mainstream Politics

James McAuley [New York Review] March 21, 2019
Twilight of the Elites: Prosperity, the Periphery, and the Future of France
by Christophe Guilluy, translated from the French by Malcolm DeBevoise
Yale University Press

First few paragraphs have the details on how a handful of people, with no knowledge of each other, protesting through social media, sparked the gilets jaunes protests in France in November 2018.

The gilets jaunes are more than a protest. This is a modern-day jacquerie, an emotional wildfire stoked in the provinces and directed against Paris and, most of all, the elite…..

Many have said that the gilets jaunes are merely another “populist movement,” although the term is now so broad that it is nearly meaningless. Comparisons have been made to the Britain of Brexit, the United States of Donald Trump, and especially the Italy of Cinque Stelle. But the crucial difference is that the gilets jaunes are apolitical, and militantly so. They have no official platform, no leadership hierarchy, and no reliable communications. Everyone can speak for the movement, and yet no one can. When a small faction within it fielded a list of candidates for the upcoming European parliamentary elections in May, their sharpest opposition came from within: to many gilets jaunes, the ten who had put their names forward—among them a nurse, a truck driver, and an accountant—were traitors to the cause, having dared to replicate the elite that the rest of the movement disdains….

On the whole, the gilets jaunes are not the poorest members of French society, which is not surprising. As Tocqueville remarked, revolutions are fueled not by those who suffer the most, but by those whose economic status has been improving and who then experience a sudden and unexpected fall. So it seems with the gilets jaunes: most live above the poverty line but come from the precarious ranks of the lower middle class, a group that aspires to middle-class stability and seeks to secure it through palliative consumption: certain clothing brands, the latest iPhone, the newest television….

There is an aspect of entitlement to the gilets jaunes, who are also protesting what the French call déclassement, the increasing elusiveness of the middle-class dream in a society in which economic growth has not kept pace with population increase. This entitlement appears to have alienated the gilets jaunes from immigrants and people of color, who are largely absent from their ranks and whose condition is often materially worse….

The gilets jaunes have no substantive ideas: resentment does not an ideology make. They remain a combustible vacuum, and extremist agitators on the far right and the far left have sought to capitalize on their anger. Both Marine Le Pen of the recently renamed Rassemblement National and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the left-wing La France Insoumise have tried hard to channel the movement’s grassroots energy into their own political parties, but the gilets jaunes have so far resisted these entreaties….

The intellectual void at the heart of an amorphous movement can easily fill with the hatred of an “other.” That may already be happening to the gilets jaunes….

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“The majority of America’s largest companies are incorporated in Delaware, and its Supreme Court chief justice, Leo E. Strine, Jr., is a highly influential and outspoken voice on corporate law…. ‘When people talk Bernie Sanders as if he’s a communist, they show a profound ignorance’ of the market and of history, Strine said. He added that while he doesn’t agree with all of Sanders’ proposals, they’re not actually radical from a historical or global perspective. Per Strine, Sanders is actually a centrist by the standards of some of our closest and most prosperous European allies.”

[Law and Political Economy, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

“A generation of organizers and activists who have come of age post-Occupy are articulating visions for transforming the United States, including the relationship of the state to its constituents, and of human communities to each other and the planet. We should all—politicians, professionals, students, engaged community members—embrace the challenge posed by social movements rather than seek to deflect it, as Feinstein did in the meeting with her young constituents. For too long, the agendas of politicians on the center-left have been dominated by top-down, expert-driven, single issue forms of lawmaking supported by sporadic popular mobilization. Think of the Center for American Progress or as the prototypical institutions oriented toward liberal legislative action in the last two decades. This was the approach used by the Obama Administration to pass its two historic legislative achievements, the Affordable Care Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That formula—supported in part by corporate donors to the Democratic Party— tamps down anger with the way things are and prevents people from calling out their enemies in the new American oligarchy. The D.C. “policy-industrial complex” co-opts popular sentiment, demands specific policy proposals, embraces and internalizes public austerity values, and advances their own non-universal half-measures that do not threaten donor interests on Wall Street or in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, for example.”

Lambert Strether: “Note that “prevents people from calling out their enemies in the new American oligarchy” and “bringing the country together,” a la Gillibrand et al., are diametrically opposed.”

What Does the Radical Left’s Future Look Like?

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]
Interview with historian Michael Kazin

What’s promising about this moment, by contrast, is that the left seems to be finding a way to focus on economic issues — enlarging the welfare state, making it more egalitarian — goals that can reach a wider circle of people, while still maintaining connections to the fragments, practitioners of so-called identity politics, which obviously represent the desires and needs of millions of people.

You’re saying DSA has proved itself more adept at wedding identity-based movements to a broad economic message than SDS was?
Yes. I also think, in terms of electoral politics, they’re a lot more practical. Not all members of DSA, of course. Some are unwilling to support Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders and other self-proclaimed socialists when they run as Democrats. But I think most are. And other DSA members have run for local and state offices. Some have done well, some haven’t. But they’re definitely more electorally pragmatic than Students for a Democratic Society was, when I was in it. Of course, it was a different Democratic Party back then in many ways. Democrats were prosecuting a horrible, near-genocidal war in Indochina, so it was difficult to convince radicals to run as Democrats or support Democrats. Harder than it is now.

If Bernie hadn’t run as a Democrat in 2016, most Americans would never have heard of him and he wouldn’t be in a position to mount the kind of campaign he’s going to run. I think the left cannot just be a movement outside the party structure, looking askance at the party and thinking that somehow it can win real reforms and transform American society without engaging with the party. You’ve got to be both radical and Democratic with a capital D.

A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it’s time to give democratic socialists a chance

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“[Brad] DeLong, who served as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy in the Clinton administration, [is] is one of the market-friendly, ‘neoliberal’ Democrats who have dominated the party for the last 20 years. Yet DeLong believes that the time of people like him running the Democratic Party has passed. ‘The baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left,’ DeLong wrote. ‘We are still here, but it is not our time to lead….’”

“Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney’s health care policy, with John McCain’s climate policy, with Bill Clinton’s tax policy, and George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy,’ DeLong notes. ‘And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not.’”

Chicago’s next mayor could face emboldened, progressive City Council
[Chicago Tribune, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“Critics often malign Chicago’s City Council as a rubber-stamp body, slamming its members for advancing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s agenda often absent any rigorous debate…. [P]olitical organizations and activists are working to change that narrative, pushing to elect a wave of progressive leaders on the City Council … In last Tuesday’s election, the groups succeeded in electing three new progressive aldermen, thumping two incumbents criticized for their ties to Emanuel while replacing a retiring council veteran. Two members of the Democratic Socialists of America won seats outright, and three members of DSA advanced to the April 2 runoff election.

Bernie Sanders Still Doesn’t Pass the Commander-in-Chief Test .
[Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-19]
The view of the professional class running US foreign relations is constrained, to say the least. The obvious foreign policy program for any truly progressive USA administration is to scrap WTO and the various “free trade” agreements, and begin cooperating with other nations to build the New Green Deal worldwide. $100 trillion over 15 years is about a nine percent boost in world economic output each year, which would ignite the largest boom of economic prosperity in human history. The New Green Deal is not a program too big to fund, it is an opportunity too big to miss. 

Trump’s Election and Brexit Proved “Revolt of the Public” Prophetic (interview)

[The Intercept (B), via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

Former CIA analyst Martin Gurri: “The year 2011 proved to be the moment of phase change, when digital anger passed over into political action. That year saw the Arab insurgencies, but also the “indignados” movement in Spain, the ‘tent city’ protests in Israel, and dozens of Occupy movements in the U.S. All these political insurgencies began online. The public we first glimpsed when I was with CIA has since toppled dictators, smashed political parties, and of course elected outlandish populists to high office.”

Lambert Strether: Interesting, but the quoted generalization is incorrect, at least for Tahrir Square, which began with Egyptian organizers (who also had a shadowy color revolution connection via OTPOR). Similarly, capital “O” Occupy in the US was preceded by a distinctly non-online series of state capital occupations. And the Carré Rouge movement in Quebec in 2012, which might be viewed as the “last gasp” of the Occupy “phase change,” began on the ground in Montréal with students rightly ticked off at tuition hikes. Substitute “became visible to CIA analysts” for “began,” and I would agree. But Gurri mistakes the pointing finger for the moon. As digital triumphalists will do. NC readers are, of course, familiar with all this, because we covered it at the time.

The Democrats’ Dilemma 
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

“The Minnesota congresswoman, along with the likes of Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, represent the unapologetic new guard of progressivism, pushing the party’s establishment to embrace tactics and positions that have heretofore been considered outside of the mainstream. Yet they face resistance not just from party elders but from many of their fellow freshmen, centrists who campaigned as fixers not firebrands, moderates who are watching warily as the Democrats’ brand is being hijacked by the far left. One of these members is Omar’s neighbor in Minnesota: Dean Phillips, a wealthy businessman who represents the 3rd District.”

Lambert Strether: Well worth a read. More: “Fifty years old and fabulously wealthy, with black-rimmed glasses and waves of toffee-colored hair swept neatly back and behind his ears, Phillips looks the part of an industry mogul. His family is corporate royalty in the Twin Cities, with a liquor distilling empire that he took over after finishing his MBA and various properties scattered across the metro area.” Omar, on the other hand…

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

As Dan Backer, a campaign finance expert, put it to Fox Business, “Biden represents a process Wall Street knows how to manage.”

Dismantling oligarchy’s first line of defense

Jane Mayer [The New Yorker, Flipboard, 3-9-19]

Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of “Messengers of the Right,” a history of the conservative media’s impact on American politics, says of Fox, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.”

…. “Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base—it’s raising the temperature,” she says. “It’s a radicalization model.” For both Trump and Fox, “fear is a business strategy—it keeps people watching.” As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.”

….Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House. Kristol says of Shine, “When I first met him, he was producing Hannity’s show at Fox, and the two were incredibly close.” Both come from white working-class families on Long Island, and they are so close to each other’s children that they are referred to as “Uncle Bill” and “Uncle Sean.” Another former colleague says, “They spend their vacations together.” A third recalls, “I was rarely in Shine’s office when Sean didn’t call. And I was in Shine’s office a lot. They talked all the time—many times a day.”

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 3-8-19]

[Washington Monthly, via Naked Capitalism 3-6-19]

Walker Bragman@WalkerBragman
In 2017, billionaire Laurene Powell Jobs inadvertently summed up why the super-rich buying media outlets is awful for journalism: “It was obvious that if we could be part of the creation of cultural narrative, that would enhance and amplify all the work that we’re doing.”
132 people are talking about this
[Snopes, via Naked Capitalism 3-8-19]

“On 6 February 2017, a website of uncertain origin named ‘The Tennessee Star’ was born. At the time, it was unclear who funded or operated this ‘local newspaper,’ which was largely filled with freely licensed content from organizations tied to conservative mega-donors. After some prodding by Politico in early 2018, the Tennessee Star revealed its primary architects to be three Tea Party-connected conservative activists: Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill, and Christina Botteri. Now, a Snopes investigation reveals in detail how these activists used the appearance of local newspapers to promote messages paid for or supported by outside or undisclosed interests…. But this story is about more than just the Tennessee Star. Leahy, Botteri, and Gill have been expanding their version of journalism to other battleground states in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. They are, they say, co-founders of a new, Delaware-registered company, Star News Digital Media, Inc., whose explicit strategy is to target battleground states with conservative news. So far, Leahy, Gill, and Botteri have added The Ohio Star and The Minnesota Sun to their network of purportedly local newspapers. These papers are effective carbon copies of the Tennessee Star.”


“They Are Not All Going to Be Able to Raise Enough”: Elizabeth Warren’s Rookie Mistake Foreshadows a 2020 Money War

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-19]

The competition for key Democratic campaign staff has been ferocious, and it sets the stage for the life-and-death battle for campaign cash that will unfold over the next several months, winnowing the field even before anyone caucuses in Iowa next February. The money primary already seems to have one provisional casualty: Elizabeth Warren. She appears to have made a rookie mistake by hiring a relatively large campaign staff, followed by a sluggish fund-raising start….

The length of the campaign, and the lack of a dominant early front-runner, will further squeeze resources. And digital fund-raising is reshaping the primary calendar in more subtle ways. The candidates who survive until the end of 2019—by raising money early and establishing sustainable revenue streams—will live on longer in 2020 than they could have in previous years. “It used to be that if you lost Iowa or New Hampshire, your money dried up and you were dead,” says Joe Trippi, strategist for Howard Dean’s 2004 bid, which set a then-record by raising $59 million. “Well, there are gonna be four or five candidates, maybe more, who through low-dollar, online money-raising have enough to go the whole way in the primaries before we even get to Iowa. A lot of these candidates are gonna last longer than their vote support.”

Booker: “What is the ‘Jim Clyburn model?’ It’s the foundation of Cory Booker’s SC strategy”

[McClatchy, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-19]

“During his first visit to South Carolina last month as an official Democratic candidate for president, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker didn’t spend all his time in the cities with the largest media markets. He didn’t make public appearances with South Carolina’s best-connected Democratic “gatekeepers” — such as Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin or former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler — who are often called upon to introduce candidates to voters in the “First in the South” 2020 primary state. Instead, the New Jersey lawmaker held forums at rural high schools and colleges, tailoring a national policy platform to people in the room who were worried about access to hospitals, clean drinking water and reliable Broadband.”

Trump’s Judicial Nominees Aren’t Just Ideologues. They’re Really Young.

[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 3-5-19]

Senate Republicans voted Monday night to advance the nomination of Allison Jones Rushing, yet another of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees who is troubling for a number of reasons.

Rushing worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has argued that there were “moral and practical” reasons for banning same-sex marriage.

But it’s her age that may be most notable: She is 36. If she gets confirmed this week, as expected, she will be the youngest federal judge in the country. She has practiced law for only nine years, and her career has focused on defending corporations. She has tried just four cases to verdict or judgment….

Rushing, who is a partner at the D.C.-based law firm Williams & Connolly, is not the only exceptionally young judicial nominee getting a Senate vote this week. McConnell has teed up votes for U.S. circuit court nominees Eric Murphy and Chad Readler, who are 39 and 46, respectively.

All three have the ideological bent that Trump is looking for in his court picks. Murphy, the solicitor general of Ohio, has fought to make it easier to disenfranchise voters, argued against marriage equality in the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case before the Supreme Court and argued against reproductive rights. Readler, who is Trump’s acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, filed a brief in favor of striking down the Affordable Care Act, defended efforts to weaken voting rights and defended Trump’s banon transgender people serving in the military.

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-19]

A motion to recommit is a privileged motion for the House minority — Republicans, these days — giving them an opportunity to amend a bill on the House floor when they otherwise have very little influence in the majoritarian chamber. The minority usually does offer such a motion whenever a bill comes up for a vote on the floor, but they historically almost always fail because the majority will vote the motion down.

The procedural arcana has escalated into a major story for two reasons, it seems: Republicans are being very aggressive and a little clever in the motions that they make, and green House Democrats have gotten mixed signals from leadership about how they should vote on these motions….

The problem had already been simmering for weeks. Politico reported earlier this month these procedural votes were becoming a headache for Pelosi; Democrats kept losing some of their members to the Republicans on them. Democrats actually decided to support one Republican motion en masse, condemning anti-Semitism on an otherwise unrelated bill a few weeks ago, the first successful motion to recommit since 2010.
One handy chart, from Catholic University professor Matthew Green, shows the escalating problem:

The Senate’s rules will make it really hard to pass Medicare-for-all
[Matthew Yglesias, Vox, via Naked Capitalism 3-3-19]

“Medicare-for-all has plenty of obstacles standing in its way — the price tag, tax hikes, American aversion to disruptive change [like, you know, the Civil War or the Sixties or…] — but none might be as intractable as the Senate’s procedural rules…. I’ve spoken with former and current Senate aides, academics who follow congressional procedure, and a former Senate parliamentarian over the past few weeks, and this was the unavoidable conclusion: The rules attached to budget reconciliation would make it nearly impossible to pass the Medicare-for-all bills being proposed by Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Reconciliation comes with serious fiscal constraints, and the provisions in those single-payer bills that prohibit private insurance and that expand the services covered by Medicare may not be allowed under the rules that govern the process.”

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Liberals and the Left Fail to Notice – and Celebrate – the Intellectual Death of Conservatism


Are Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Harbingers of the Turning of the Tide


  1. Z

    From the Vanity Fair article on Wall Street on Biden:

    “Gaffes aside, Biden’s bat signal has grown progressively louder in recent weeks. The former V.P. has reportedly reached out to Hill allies and major donors, blanketing allies with calls over the holidays. As one Democrat recalled to The New York Times, Biden’s assessment was blunt: “If you can persuade me there is somebody better who can win, I’m happy not to do it . . . But I don’t see the candidate who can clearly do what has to be done to win.””

    Of course Bernie can beat Trump, he polled better against Trump than Clinton and Clinton barely lost to him. But that is ignored, and here is a man beholden to Wall Street trying to make sure that Bernie doesn’t become president more than anything all the while dressing it up like he is saving us. That of course is the perfect epitome of the mainstream democratic politicians: preventing us true representation while pretending to save us from something worse.

    Biden is another very horrible human being. But hey, what a nice smile …

    It’s going to be interesting to see how deep the Pope of Hope will get involved in trying to prevent Sanders from winning the nomination. He can be pretty aggressive when it comes to trying to thwart the left, majority or not; remember it was his administration’s boot print all over the federally coordinated Occupy crackdowns, something that Obama has never been asked to explain, as far as I know. It will be interesting to see how much of his ugly face that hides behind his smile he will be willing to show to thwart Sanders and the party becoming a party that more truly represents the wishes of its voters.

    He’s very out of touch too. He just gave a speech to some business leadership conference, which you’d imagine he got paid for. He’s already got a ton of money, it’s only his sick greed that leads him in this direction, but like a like a dog on a bone he is reflexively drawn to the money. He is unaware of how damaging that is to his reputation, which really a sane person would be more concerned with by now being that he is unfathomably rich already.

    If he didn’t get paid for it, that actually even makes it worse because that means that with all the positive things he could get involved in, he’d rather spend his time giving a speech to a business leadership conference.


  2. Hugh

    Z, Biden is the candidate of the Establishment. Trump’s election win and Hillary’s electoral loss were a rejection of that Establishment. As I have often said, it is not so much that the Establishment made up of the elites in service to the rich and corporations failed the rest of us. They actively betrayed us. So with investigations mounting against Trump and with a majority of Americans solidly opposed to him, Establishment types are positively salivating at the prospect of returning to full power (since most of them never went away). You see this a lot on MSNBC where Sanders is routinely ignored or trashed. Anyone who is not a pragmatic, bipartisan moderate, i.e. a corporate conservative like they are is radicalleft (one word as radical and left are inseparable in their rhetoric). They love themselves those who are Establishment like they are. And Biden is as Establishment as it gets. They remind me of what Talleyrand said about the Bourbons after the restoration of the French monarchy: They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing (Ils n’ont rien appris, ni rien oublié). So they are already touting candidates and policies which drove voters to Trump in the first place.

  3. DC

    Careful when praising Portugal for beating austerity. Yes, wages are being corrected and unfreeze (public workers had their wages frozen for almost 10 years and had them slashed between 2011 and 2015), minimum wage is finally increasing, unemployment is lower but wages haven’t recovered to pre-crisis years (there’s way more minimum wage jobs) and private debt has increased again to levels similar to those before the crisis. There’s public spending in critical areas and other areas that had lots of captivations with health and education being the areas most affected by it. Health services suck just like in the troika years.
    IMO, none of the fragilities of the economy has been corrected. A new international crisis is looming and I’m almost certain that Portugal is no way prepared for it.

    PS: Despite the name, the socialist party (PS) is anything but. When PS has a parliament majority, they behave just like any typical centrist party – privatizations, fiscal conservative policies with just a hint of social policies as to not betray the “socialist” part. The parties to the left of PS are to be acknowledged in this recovery. PS had a parliament minority and had to compromise a lot with the 2 left-wing parties (one of them the communist party) to be able to form a government.

  4. Joan

    Where’s Ian?

  5. Anthony K Wikrent

    Joan, and all dear readers and friends:

    Ian has been in less than good health for quite some time, but now describes his health as “recovering.”

    I have no intention or desire of taking over from Ian. I expect that upon reading this thread, he will post a comment or new diary with further details.

    To put your mind at ease, allow me to relate how it came to be that Ian has hosted two of my posts consecutively. I spent nearly a month cogitating and writing “Liberals and the left fail to notice – and celebrate – the intellectual death of conservatism.” Since I believed that it was the correct way to address the current political-economic issue of what we need to do to transform our economy so that it does not benefit only a small elite, but all people, I was anxious to place it before as large an audience as possible. Especially since I consider both the right absolutely wrong, and the left mostly wrong on this issue. Essentially, I wanted to refute the premise that USA was designed to be capitalist, and ensure that the debate included the concepts of republicanism and civic virtue in order to create ideological room for bringing in the best of both capitalism and socialism.

    Accordingly, I emailed Ian a link to “Liberals and the left fail to notice – and celebrate – the intellectual death of conservatism” and asked for his thoughts. I was delighted when he replied a day or so later that he would post it. In the course of our email exchange, Ian revealed that he has some concern about being able, given his health, to maintain a steady stream of content. Whereupon I offered him the weekly wrap of political economic news, which I compile in an attempt to build a strong economics action team in the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party. (I like to believe that my efforts so far have facilitated the creation of an upcoming speaking tour of our state by Les Leopold, author of Runaway Inequality, including at the quarterly State Caucus state meeting in early May.) I’m going to write the wrap one way or another, and if Ian can use it also, all the better.

    Also, I have high regard for Ian’s readers, who consistently post some of the best, most incisive comments on the tubez in my areas of interest.

    Having wrote that, allow me to encourage y’all to suggest other links of worth and note throughout each week. I may not use them all – I am already at the point that I am shortening the wrap I send by email to about 100 people, because some recipients have told me the length was simply overwhelming.

    And, I should add, what Ian posted was the full sized wrap, which I post first on Real Economics. And, that the email recipients include a handful of NC state legislators, a couple state party officials, most of the progressive members of the Party State Executive Committee, and all the county commissioners of the county I reside in, which is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    If anyone wants to copy the wrap and send it to whoever they want, you have my full permission. If someone wants to dig up an open source statement I can include with each wrap, please do. I think it’s called open commons or something.

  6. Anthony K Wikrent

    By the way, I believe it is the case that contributions from his readers constitute Ian’s sole means of support. I do not know for certain if that is that case, but if, for example, he is now drawing a pension, or Social Security, that would be a fact which would lessen my concern on his behalf. And, I have been explicit with Ian, and he with me, that I cannot expect and will not accept any remuneration from him for using my content.

    So, go ahead, make his day! Start chucking barrel fulls of lucre through his windows!

  7. Z

    Another lie perpetuated by the establishment dems is that a contentious primary hurts the party because it opens up lines of attacks that the reps can take advantage of, like those attacks are completely unknown and unimaginable until they see the light of day during the dem primary and would remain so if the dems were more polite to each other.

    There’s little that the dems find about each other that the reps don’t already know or can’t afford to find out through opposition research. There was nothing that Trump came up with against Clinton that wasn’t already well known before the dem primary. It was all there.

    How the dem primary hurt Clinton was that it wasn’t legitimate, it was heavily slanted in her favor and was not a fair, democratic process – much worse than usual with the Obama-Clinton adderall liberals in the dnc rigging the process. That rightfully pissed off the Sanders backers and some of them refused to vote for her and continue to support the corruptness of the party.

    So, what the establishment dems are really saying when they say be civil to each other is that all of you “fringe” candidates … fringe by their definition and not the voters … be polite and civilly participate in the show while we work behind the scenes and make sure the nomination falls to one of our chosen ones, and then go to the polls and dutifully vote for the person we have chosen.


  8. ponderer

    A very nice selection of links. On the 1919 general strike:

    Wow. Imagine crippling the elites, and all anyone had to do is — just stay home.

    This can not be overstated. Our society is intrinsically fragile. On one hand we have lost the self sufficiency that we had when a large portion of the population was employed in farm work. On the other we’ve become dependent on each other for basic survival needs. A few well placed worker strikes could cripple our economy and turn all that money into insignificant bits in a database.
    The only defense the oligarchy has against it is the political (and propaganda) systems designed to divide us on mostly trivial issues. The surveillance state is only a deterrent if the number of dissidents is low enough to control. I think its become essential to keep people desperate enough that they don’t do that. The growing disconnect between productivity improvements and worker salaries is evidence of more than just greed. Paradoxically, it makes the likelihood increase over the long term. It would be interesting to see the divisions between the two political parties and how well their members balance out the interests of other members internally. I’m thinking like the Democrat party and a split between coal miners (working class) and global warming or environmental voters. In the Republican party a split like traditional conservatives (small government) versus neocons (no regulations, huge government – military). I suspect generally this has allowed establishment candidates to win their parties nomination. Trump is one exception. Hopefully the Democrats will soon produce another.

  9. Pam Martens says that, “Dodd-Frank accomplished two good things. It created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) which did play a major role in exposing and disciplining companies that abuse consumers in areas like credit cards, auto loans, student loans, and mortgages. Dodd-Frank also created the Office of Financial Research (OFR) in the U.S. Treasury Department.”

    She then contradicts herself by pointing out that those “two good things” were as useless as the rest of the bill by adding that, “Those two accomplishments, however, were easily dismantled under the Trump administration which simply gutted the leadership of the agencies.”

    Had the “two good things” been done properly, with Congress creating the rules which the CFPB would then enforce for instance, they could not have been “dismantled” by an executive order from a subsequent administration.

  10. Ian Welsh

    I’ve been distracted. Tony’s been on my list of people I’d be happy to have write whenever they want to for a long time. Because I can’t pay contributors but do fundraise, I don’t feel that I should solicit writers since I’d be getting money on their backs without paying them. That said, when a writer and thinker like Tony wants to write and is ok with that, I’m very happy to have him here.

    The wrap-ups will likely become a regular weekly event for as long as Tony wants to write them.

    (I also expect, starting this week, to be writing much more frequently myself.)

  11. Hugh

    Also the $4 trillion loss in American’s net worth reminds me of the difference between a median and an average. Jeff Bezos walks into a bar and the average wealth among the clientele suddenly is measured in billions while their median wealth remains unchanged and in the thousands. Those trillions are what Frederick Soddy called virtual wealth. Such wealth isn’t real. It disappears and the rest of us go, “So what?” But at the same time, virtual wealth can distort the economy by influencing the decisions corporations make.

  12. anon y'mouse

    i am very sorry to hear about your illness. i hope you have a speedy and more-than-full recovery.

    crossing my fingers that you have a few friends who drag around a casserole or two per week, since i don’t live anywhere near you to do so.

    be well~

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