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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 7, 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Navies are obsolete, but no one will admit it 

[Crooked Timber, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]


Rethinking tanks on the modern battlefield

Stephen Bryen [AsiaTimes 04-02-2024]

…The problem with adding explosive reactive armor (ERA) is that it is heavy. When you already have a 70-ton behemoth, adding another few tons makes its roadworthiness questionable. A key problem for the Leopard and Abrams tanks has been getting stuck in the mud in Ukraine, where they then can be picked off fairly easily….

The US has stopped upgrading the M-1 Abrams tank and canceled the latest modifications. It is clear that, given the new battlefield weapons, even the huge M-1 Abrams is not survivable. A new tank design is needed…. The M1 tank dates back to the period 1972 to 1975, meaning the design is at least 50 years old.


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

‘Lavender’: The AI machine directing Israel’s bombing spree in Gaza 

[972, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

A must-read. Exeptionally nasty.

Two Iranian Generals Killed in Israeli F-35 Strike on Damascus Diplomatic Building: Focus on Air Assassinations Continues 

[Military Watch, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

US opposes Palestine’s bid to become UN member state 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

Israeli F-16s Provide Close Air Support to Turkish-Sponsored Jihadists in Syria’s Aleppo 

[Military Watch, via Naked Capitalism 04-01-2024]

Austin Calls for ‘Rapid Increase’ of Aid Into Gaza Through All Crossings (press release)

[U.S. Department of Defense, via Naked Capitalism 04-05-2024]

“2,000,000 humanitarian aid meals per day” via the pier.



[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 03-31-2024]



Tips for Linking Shell Companies to their Secret Owners

[Global Investigative Journalism Network, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 04-03-2024]

“However, in a solo presentation at the recent 2024 NICAR data journalism summit in the US, Karrie Kehoe, deputy head of data and research at ICIJ, shared several tips, tools, and places to start that almost any reporter can try to track the person at the top of a shady empire — and their overseas assets. Kehoe invited attendees to first ask themselves: What words might appear in paperwork that must be filed for these front companies? And to then experiment with possible variations of those words that could be used in corporate registries and databases. For instance, might the name of a director or owner, like Ian, appear as ‘Iain’?”

70% of the land in Britain is still owned by 1% of the population, largely descended from William the Conqueror’s army 

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


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

India’s Income Inequality Is Now Worse Than Under British Rule, New Report Says 

[Time, via Naked Capitalism 04-01-2024]

Housing ‘affordability has just totally collapsed,’ economist says 

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

Middle Class Americans Are Acting More Like Lower Income Earners 

[Morning Consult, via Naked Capitalism 04-05-2024]

Death of empires: History tells us what will follow the collapse of US hegemony 

Henry Johnston [RT, via Mike Norman Economics, April 3, 2024]

The turn away from expansion, production and trade toward lending and speculation has precipitated decline for centuries….

…revisit the work of the Italian political economist and historian of global capitalism Giovanni Arrighi (1937-2009). Arrighi, who is often simplistically pigeonholed as a Marxist historian, a label far too constricting given the breadth of his work, explored the origins and evolution of capitalist systems dating back to the Renaissance and showed how recurrent phases of financial expansion and collapse underpin broader geopolitical reconfigurations. Occupying a central place in his theory is the notion that the cycle of rise and fall of each successive hegemon terminates in a crisis of financialization. It is this phase of financialization that facilitates the shift to the next hegemon.

Arrighi dates the origin of this cyclical process to the Italian city-states of the 14th century, an era that he calls the birth of the modern world. From the marriage of Genoese capital and Spanish power that produced the great discoveries, he traces this path through Amsterdam, London and, finally, the United States.

Economic Democracy with Pavlina Tcherneva — Scott Ferguson and William Saas interview Pavlina Tcherneva

[Money on the Left — MR Online, via Mike Norman Economics, April 2, 2024]


Predatory finance

Central bank independence as class war strategy 

[Counterfire, via Naked Capitalism 04-05-2024]

Insulated from popular discontent, independent central banks have free reign to undermine workers’ rights and further the neoliberal agenda, argues John Clarke

Remember the Silicon Valley Bank Disaster? 

[Washington Monthly, via The Big Picture 03-31-2024]

A year after the regional bank crisis, Wall Street is still fighting the measures we need to protect the financial system.

Study Finds Wall Street Mega Banks Have Overstated Income for Years on Commercial Real Estate Loans They Sell to Investors

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 2, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

Last August, the Journal of Finance published a study by two finance professors that should have made bold headlines in every major business newspaper in America. It didn’t – suggesting that Americans will eventually learn about Wall Street’s chicanery in commercial real estate the same way they learned about Wall Street’s subprime residential mortgage scams after the 2008 financial collapse: from a movie like The Big Short or Inside Job. Wall Street On Parade only learned about this paper recently from one of our engaged readers. The paper was authored by John Griffin, Professor of Finance at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin and Alex Priest, Assistant Professor of Finance at the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

Jeffrey Epstein’s Island Visitors Exposed by Data Broker 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 04-02-2024]

Jamie Dimon Huddles in Private with Biden Bigwigs as His Bank Faces More Crime Charges

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 1, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

…Biden’s Vice President, Kamala Harris, and his Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients … in mid-March … had a “one-on-one lunch at the White House” with Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of the most crime-riddled bank in the United States, JPMorgan Chase. Zients also separately met with Dimon. That reporting comes courtesy of reporters Joshua Franklin and James Politi of the Financial Times (paywall)….


Restoring balance to the economy    

Autoworkers at Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz Plant File for a Union Election 

Luis Feliz Leon, April 5, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The announcement is the second UAW election planned in the South this year.

How Everything Changed at Volkswagen in Chattanooga

Mike Elk, March 28, 2024 [The American Prospect]

This union drive by the UAW looks very different from two other attempts in 2014 and 2019.

A Valedictory Recommendation for What Unions Need to Do

Harold Meyerson, April 2, 2024 [The American Prospect]

On stepping down, the president of the nation’s hotel workers union calls for a movement-wide organizing campaign at Amazon.

Last Friday, D. Taylor stepped down as president of UNITE HERE—the union of hotel and casino employees. His nearly dozen years at the helm of one of America’s most member-involved unions saw it become an improbable political powerhouse in a host of swing states and key elections.

If anything, Taylor’s tenure coincided with industry practices that should have made already difficult union-building all the harder. These days, the people working behind the hotels’ registration desks and in kitchen and waitstaffs may well be employed not by the hotel itself but by contractors—a route hotel owners have taken precisely to thwart their workers going union. Despite that, UNITE HERE has continued to unionize hotel and casino workers not only in its Nevada stronghold and in such legacy cities as New York, but also in the otherwise non-union South. During Taylor’s presidency, the union not only organized 140,500 new workers, but fully half of them were in right-to-work states, which most unions shun for fear that workers benefiting from union contracts there would exercise their right not to pay union dues….

Montgomery County has found a way to reinvigorate public housing in America 

[dezeen, via Naked Capitalism 04-02-2024]


Disrupting mainstream economics  

Eurocrats on the Brink: In a world on fire, with corporate and anti-democratic forces rising, why are European policymakers so slow to react?

David Dayen, April  3, 2024 [The American Prospect]

For decades, the [European] Commission’s philosophy on competition policy has followed Robert Bork and the Chicago school’s belief that merger review need only concern itself with consumer welfare and economic efficiency. “It got out of hand, what we did in the 1980s, [saying] ‘Let’s leave it to the experts,’” said Tommaso Valletti, who was chief economist for the European Commission’s directorate-general for competition (DG Comp) from 2016 to 2019.

Valletti has chastised the economics profession for assuming they can precisely excise the bad pieces of a merger and keep the good, when in reality post-merger studies consistently show price increases and other harms. He concluded his remarks at the Brussels conference by asking his fellow economists: “The relevant question for us is do we have anything to say about power, and if we don’t … why should people listen to us?”

A 2004 change to merger review standards (known as Council Regulation 139/2004), inspired by Chicago school thinking that prioritized economic analysis and incorporated potential “efficiencies” from mergers, cut investigations of mergers by more than half compared to the previous 13 years, according to a recent working paper by Brianna Rock. Preventions of mergers also fell by half under the new rules. Of the 6,462 mergers announced from 2005 to November 2023, the EU has only prevented 44….

What is responsible government spending?

Guest post by Scott Baum [William Mitchell — Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, April 3, 2024]

One of the key responsibilities should be to ensure everyone can successfully engage in society. Spending should first and foremost have public purpose. It should lead to a good society.

During the post-war decades governments generally acted with this responsibility in mind and enacted policies accordingly.

There was once a strong notion of this social contract.

According to this Op Ed from social scientist Veronica Sheen (May 2, 2014) – The Commission of Audit wants to rip up Australia’s social contract – it is generally considered that this social contract is the: “the suite of policies, legislation, programs, health care and social services – has served to ensure that every Australian is able to have a basic but decent standard of living.”

Like lots of things the neo-liberal period has gradually worn away these responsibilities replacing them instead with increasing individual responsibility.

Profit Maximization in the Real World 

Steve Keen [via Naked Capitalism 04-02-2024]

Chapter 5 from Rebuilding Economics from the Top Down


Information age dystopia / surveillance state

Apple Got Caught Censoring Its Own Regulator Lina Khan 

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 04-03-2024]

Big Mistake(s) 

[Florida Law Review, via Naked Capitalism 04-05-2024]

From the Abstract: “[T]this Article contends that the contract defense of mistake can be revitalized and adapted to the unique circumstances of user-platform interactions. Specifically, it explores the circumstances under which platform users should be permitted to void their contracts, sidestep provisions that limit access to justice, and seek restitution and other remedies for their data, time, and attention.”

Google to delete search data of millions who used ‘incognito’ mode 

[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

A Vigilante Hacker Took Down North Korea’s Internet. Now He’s Taking Off His Mask

[Wired, via The Big Picture 04-06-2024]

As “P4x,” Alejandro Caceres single-handedly disrupted the internet of an entire country. Then he tried to show the US military how it can—and should—adopt his methods.

AI hustlers stole women’s faces to put in ads. The law can’t help them.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 03-31-2024]

Artificial intelligence is spurring a new type of identity theft — with ordinary people finding their faces and words twisted to push often offensive products and ideas.


Collapse of independent news media

The Washington press corps doesn’t have a freaking clue 

Dan Froomkin [Press Watch, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 04-05-2024]

I’ve been away for nearly two weeks, almost entirely unplugged, and let me tell you, a little distance makes the failure of the American political press even more horrifying and inexcusable.

The nation stands on the edge of a precipice, and our political media is so addicted to neutrality that it is casting both choices — survival or cataclysm — as equally plausible….

Being the lead writer for the New York Time’s signature On Politics newsletter is one of the most influential jobs in the industry these days, and the email that popped up in my inbox announcing the latest hire for that job – a Boston Globe reporter named Jess Bidgood who had previously worked for the Times — made it painfully clear that she is absolutely clueless about the topic she is now covering, and intentionally so. Offered an opportunity to explain what she found particularly compelling about the coming election, Bidgood didn’t talk about how the Republican Party has succumbed to the extreme Christian far-right. She didn’t talk about how Trump was a hateful, dangerous demagogue. She didn’t even mention the fate of democracy or the rule of law. Let me be very clear here: Whether or not the country succumbs to fascism is a helluva political story no matter how you feel about it. A Trump victory would profoundly change how government and justice are practiced. If you don’t understand that, you are a wildly incompetent political reporter.”

Chevron owns this city’s news site. Many stories aren’t told. 

[Floodlight, via Naked Capitalism 04-01-2024]


Climate and environmental crises

Atmospheric Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Hit New Record Levels

Brett Wilkins, April 06, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The three most critical heat-trapping gases in Earth’s atmosphere again reached record levels last year, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday, underscoring the inadequacy of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions amid the worsening climate emergency.

NOAA said the three most important human-caused greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide—”continued their steady climb during 2023.”

The Worst Climate Disaster You Haven’t Heard Of Just Got More Deadly 

[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 03-31-2024]

When Mongolia’s extreme weather killed 700,000 livestock in 2018, it was a record. This year, that number is 5.2 million — and could soon quadruple.

Dozens of Ad & PR Industry Directors Have Ties to Heavily Polluting Industries 

[DeSmog, via Naked Capitalism 04-06-2024]

Only 57 companies produced 80 percent of global carbon dioxide 

[Endgadget, via Naked Capitalism 04-06-2024]

Soaring Home Insurance Costs Could Push Homeowners Out of These 10 States

[, via The Big Picture 03-31-2024]

Climate catastrophes are driving insurers and homebuyers out of high-risk areas like Florida, but the American dream of homeownership lives on in less disaster-prone states.

A World Without Insurance: A climate-future look at property values

Thomas Neuburger, April 3, 2024 [God’s Spies]

Polar vortex is ‘spinning backwards’ above Arctic after major reversal event 

[, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

Greenland’s glaciers are melting 100 times faster than estimated 

[LiveScience, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

A 600-Year-Old Blueprint for Weathering Climate Change

Kathleen DuVal [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

During the Little Ice Age, Native North Americans devised whole new economic, social, and political structures….

Siwani was one of many leaders across North America in the 13th and 14th centuries who, in part because of climate change, faced destruction of the civilization they ruled. Beginning in the 13th century, the Northern Hemisphere experienced a dramatic climatic shift. First came drought, then a period of cold, volatile weather known as the Little Ice Age. In its depths, the annual average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere may have been 5 degrees colder than in the preceding Medieval Warm Period. It snowed in Alabama and South Texas. Famine killed perhaps 1 million people around the world.
Native North Americans and Western Europeans responded very differently to the changes. Western Europeans doubled down on their preexisting ways of living, whereas Native North Americans devised whole new economic, social, and political structures to fit the changing climate….
Native North American societies developed a deep distrust of the centralization, hierarchy, and inequality of the previous era, which they blamed for the famines and disruptions that had hit cities hard. They turned away from omnipotent leaders and the cities they ruled, and built new, smaller-scale ways of living, probably based in part on how their distant ancestors lived….
The cities that Native Americans left behind during the Little Ice Age—ruins such as those at Chaco Canyon and Cahokia—led European explorers and modern archaeologists alike to imagine societal collapse and the tragic loss of a golden age. But oral histories from the generations that followed the cities’ demise generally described what came later as better. Smaller communities allowed for more sustainable economies. Determined not to depend on one source of sustenance, people supplemented their farming with increased hunting, fishing, and gathering. They expanded existing networks of trade, carrying large amounts of goods all across the continent in dugout canoes and on trading roads; these routes provided a variety of products in good times and a safety net when drought or other disasters stressed supplies. They developed societies that encouraged balance and consensus, in part to mitigate the problems caused by their changing climate.
To support their new economies, Native North Americans instituted decentralized governing structures with a variety of political checks and balances to prevent dictatorial leaders from taking power and to ensure that all members of a society had a say. Power and prestige lay not in amassing wealth but in assuring that wealth was shared wisely, and leaders earned support in part by being good providers and wise distributors. Many polities established councils of elders and balanced power by pairing leaders, such as the war chief and the peace chief; setting up male and female councils; and operating under family-based clans that had members in multiple towns.

Against the Wind: Climate science deniers, right-wing think tanks, and fossil fuel shills are plotting to foil the renewable-energy revolution.

Rebecca Burns, March12, 2024 [The American Prospect]

That apparent conservation activist was, in fact, an infamous climate change disinformation artist: Marc Morano, who’s done more than perhaps any other person to manufacture doubt about global warming. From his perch at Climate Depot, the blog he’s run since 2009, Morano has elevated fake climate experts, encouraged the harassment of real climate scientists, and promoted the myth of “global cooling.”


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

South Korean ‘artificial sun’ reaches 7 times the Sun’s core temperature 

[Interesting Engineering, via Naked Capitalism 04-01-2024]


Democrats’ political malpractice

Liberals Need to Be Radicals: The agenda for Biden’s next term must go deeper to restore the American dream.

Robert Kuttner, April 4 2024 [The American Prospect]

Media commentators are mystified about why Joe Biden has not gotten more credit for an improved economy, with inflation down nearly to pre-pandemic levels and job creation setting records. The reason is not hard to grasp. None of the recent improvements have altered the basic situation of most Americans, in which reliable careers are scarce, college requires the burden of debt, health coverage is more expensive and less reliable, and housing is unaffordable.

The American dream of a good job, decent health care, homeownership, college education without crippling debt, and a better life for the next generation was once within reach of most Americans. Now, it’s far harder to attain. Even with a two-income family, the cost of good child care is excessive.

The remedies are all necessarily radical. Biden’s State of the Union address was directionally and rhetorically right. He called for containing Big Pharma to reduce drug prices, raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to finance broad benefits such as housing down-payment subsidies and affordable child care, as well as protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare. But in a second term, and in his campaign to earn a second term, Biden needs to go a lot deeper.

Since Jimmy Carter, mainstream Democrats in the White House and Congress have been complicit in the corporate erosion of the American dream. They agreed to mixed public-private approaches that resulted in systems that were inefficient, lucrative to for-profit players, and impenetrably frustrating to ordinary citizens. Consider four emblematic cases of policy dead ends that now require radical remedies….

Giving Up On Rural Voters Is A Lame Move Far Too Many Democrats Have Mistakenly Made

Howie Klein, April 4, 2024  []

Youth Organizers Launch ‘Protect Our Power’ Campaign to Reelect the Squad

Jessica Corbett, April 05, 2024 [CommonDreams]

…The Squad began with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—younger progressive women of color all elected in 2018. The informal group has since expanded to include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Summer Lee (D-Pa.).

Young progressives in the U.S. House of Representatives recently dubbed “Squad-adjacent” by Slate‘s Alexander Sammon include Reps. Greg Casar (D-Texas), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), and Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.)….

While global condemnation of Israel grows—a genocide case against the country at the International Court of Justice continues to garner support—the dark money affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) plans to spend $100 million trying to unseat congressional critics of the Israeli government this election cycle.

Reporting on those plans led to the recent creation of Reject AIPAC, a coalition of progressive organizations working to take on the group and its affiliated super political action committees (PACs). Members include Justice Democrats, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, IfNotNow, Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement, Democratic Socialists of America, and Gen-Z for Change.

How Republicans Screw Workers 

Robert Kuttner, April 2, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Efforts by Obama and Biden to enforce labor laws have been systematically undermined by right-wing courts and legislators. This should be a prime election theme.


(anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

Christian pastor: In a Christian nationalist America women should lose the right to vote

TheCriticalMind, April 01, 2024 [DailyKos]

House Freedom Caucus Releases List Of Hostages For Baltimore Bridge Funding

[ 04-07-2024]

Louisiana Senate Passes Bill to End State Cooperation with UN and WHO 

[Tenth Amendment, via Naked Capitalism 04-03-2024]

New Video From Far-Right Financier Supporting Trump Should Terrify Everyone

[ 04-07-2024]

3/The important message Trump endorses about himself? “He knows we’re in a war” & “he know how to win.”
Who is the enemy? It’s us. You & me. It’s Democrats. It’s anyone who doesn’t support Trump, anyone who is other. Believe him when he tells us who he is before it’s too late….

The Guardian reported on Klingenstein’s extremism and his donations of millions to the Republican party to fight the so-called “woke communists” back in August of last year.

Team Trump Has Some Plans To Bring Back Jim Crow But They’re Calling It “Affirmative Discrimination”

Howie Klein, April 2, 2024  []

And yesterday Alex Thompson reported that the Trumpists have some pretty blatantly racist plans in mind for a second Trump term, rolling back progress for minorities in a big way. He wrote that if Señor T “returns to the White House, close allies want to dramatically change the government’s interpretation of Civil Rights-era laws to focus on ‘anti-white racism’ rather than discrimination against people of color. Trump’s Justice Department would push to eliminate or upend programs in government and corporate America that are designed to counter racism that has favored whites. Targets would range from decades-old policies aimed at giving minorities economic opportunities to more recent programs that began in response to the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd. Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung told Axios: ‘As President Trump has said, all staff, offices, and initiatives connected to Biden’s un-American policy will be immediately terminated.’ Longtime aides and allies [like neo-Nazi Stephen Miller] preparing for a potential second Trump administration have been laying legal groundwork with a flurry of lawsuits and legal complaints— some of which have been successful.”

Donald Trump Is Not the Victim of ‘Lawfare.’ He’s a Crook.

[New York Magazine, via The Big Picture 03-31-2024]

Republicans used to be very aware of this. One of the reasons Republicans were so reluctant to accept Donald Trump’s nomination in 2016 is that he was quite obviously a crook. “His business record reflects the often dubious norms of the milieu: using eminent domain to condemn the property of others; buying the good graces of politicians — including many Democrats — with donations,” editorialized National Review. Marco Rubio lambasted him as a “con artist.” The Wall Street Journal editorialized about Trump’s deep ties to the mafia and his fulsome praise of its work.

Americans Pay a High Price for the GOP’s Fiscal Irresponsibility

Dan Brook, April 06, 2024 [Common Dreams]

About three-fourths of the entire national debt was accrued under Republican borrow-and-spend presidents.

Republicans run higher trade deficits than Democrats.

Unemployment is higher under Republican administrations

The stock market does worse under Republican administrations, on average.

Most recessions have begun under Republican administrations, as did the Great Depression.

None of the tax cuts for the rich and corporations that Republicans said would pay for themselves wound up paying for themselves. Instead, they made the wealthy wealthier. That’s also true about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Republicans said would be quick, easy, and would pay for themselves. These wars wound up costing us trillions of dollars, which could have been spent in the civilian sector on infrastructure, education, healthcare, housing, jobs, libraries, and social services, in addition to causing many tragic deaths and injuries.

Antitax Nation

David Kay Johnston, April 5, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America

By Michael J. Graetz

Princeton University Press

Those on the upper rungs of the income ladder made out well from the Reagan Revolution. They enjoyed significant tax savings in 1981 and 1986 as the top rate was slashed from 70 to 28 percent, a reduction twice as big as what Reagan promised. But the magic didn’t work: Under Reagan, economic growth ran slightly below, not above, the postwar average. Ballooning annual deficits more than doubled the federal debt in eight years. And Reagan didn’t shrink the federal government relative to the economy, as promised: The share of our economy paid in federal taxes was the same when Reagan assumed office and when he left.

Why, then, do such proposals continue to flourish? In his eloquent and absorbing new book The Power to Destroy: How the Antitax Movement Hijacked America, Michael J. Graetz argues that “the modern antitax movement is the most overlooked social and political movement” of the past half-century. This movement once existed on the fringes, as we see with conservative criticism of the Reagan plan. But Graetz writes that it has grown “into a powerful force that transformed American politics and undermined the nation’s financial strength.”

Graetz is not the first to explore antitax political culture, as old a concept in America as Fries’s Rebellion, a 1799 Pennsylvania revolt against a new federal levy on enslaved people and land. Dorothy A. Brown’s trenchant 2021 study The Whiteness of Wealth shows how our tax system “impoverishes Black Americans.” Then there’s sociologist Isaac William Martin’s eye-opening 2013 book Rich People’s Movements: Grassroots Campaigns to Untax the One Percent, which focused on semi-con man J.A. Arnold, who 111 years ago created antitax clubs, often led by bankers, that stirred resentment of the newly imposed federal income tax.

Beginning in the 1940s, Martin showed, antitax ideology moved into mainstream conservatism after Robert Dresser, a Harvard-educated lawyer and New England textile heir, deftly blended anti-communist, anti-union, and racist appeals into tax policy. Graetz tells the next chapter in this story, tracing how modern charlatans duped the middle and upper-middle class into helping the rich shed the burden of taxes, while hurting themselves in the process. It’s primarily a tale of ideological marketing—selling the sizzle so smartly that few notice the overcooked meat is rotten….

Marjorie Taylor Greene Has Most Bonkers Response to Upcoming Eclipse

Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, April 5, 2024 [The New Republic]

Between the 4.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked a swath of the Northeast on Friday and the total solar eclipse expected just a few days later, conspiracy theorists are abounding with fodder. But some of the people leading the mass speculation are a little too close to national politics for comfort.

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—who famously claimed that Jewish space lasers were the cause of the California wildfires–got dangerously religious on Friday, posting on social media that the two geological events should be heeded as an omen from God.

The sleeper legal strategy that could topple abortion bans

[Politico, via God’s Spies 04-05-2024]

In Indiana, a group of Jewish, Muslim and other religious plaintiffs sued over the state’s near-total abortion ban. Their argument: that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law in 2015 by then-Gov. Mike Pence. A lower court judge sided with them in December and blocked the state’s ban from taking effect — the most significant win the religious challengers have notched so far.

Why Silicon Valley Reactionaries Love RFK Jr. 

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 04-02-2024]

“Silicon Valley money, often tied to people in the circle of Peter Thiel, has fueled Kennedy’s presidential run. As Axios reported last June, ‘Several of Silicon Valley’s noisiest tech moguls have begun to support the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the vocal anti-vax activist who’s xcvkl;’ for the Democratic Party nomination.” These early backers included Elon Musk as well as venture capitalists Chamath Palihapitiya and David Sacks (a longtime business and ideological ally of Peter Thiel, a Paypal and Facebook tycoon who backed Donald Trump in 2016). Writing about this cohort in The New Republic in 2022, Jacob Silverman noted that a pivotal movement that helped coalesce the group was the successful campaign to recall Chesa Boudin as district attorney of California because of his support for criminal justice reform. Both Shanahan and Sacks contributed heavily to the Boudin recall campaign, which demonstrated that Silicon Valley money could roll back left-wing social movements. Prior to 2022, Shanahan was a typical wealthy Democratic Party donor, giving to figures such as Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden. But in 2022 she joined the anti-Boudin campaign, which connected her with a wider cohort of reactionary tech figures. As Shanahan explained, she didn’t think that criminal justice reform was necessary and ‘Chesa came into a situation that needed to be maintained, in my opinion, not necessarily reformed.’ There’s a pipeline that runs from anti-Boudin sentiment to supporting Robert Kennedy, but law-and-order politics is just one component of Shanahan’s journey. Another key factor was openness to alternative medicine and quack science, defended with the familiar contrarian defense that we need to ask questions. ”


The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Two retracted studies at the Supreme Court this week 

[Your Local Epidemiologist, via Naked Capitalism 03-31-2024]

This week the Supreme Court heard a case about access to the first pill used in most medication abortions in the U.S.: mifepristone. Their decision should come down in June or July.

At the center of this case, the plaintiff argued that the FDA ignored safety concerns when it eased restrictions on the use of mifepristone. The defendants relied heavily on a few studies that claimed the abortion pill was unsafe.

However, in a stunning turn of events, the publisher of these scientific studies (SAGE) retracted them last month due to methodological and ethical concerns.

Why were these retracted? (What does that even mean?) And what are the implications?

Retractions are very rare

A retraction is the removal of a published article from a scientific journal. This is a big deal as it doesn’t happen because of some small error.

Trump Is Accidentally Exposing Aileen Cannon’s Shady Pro-MAGA Game

Greg Sargent, April 6, 2024 [The New Republic]

When Judge Aileen Cannon handed down her latest ruling in the prosecution of Donald Trump for stealing classified documents, many legal observers immediately understood the shady gamesmanship lurking behind it. She did, technically, rule against Trump by refusing to dismiss the case—but actually made it easier for herself to kill the case later, or to steer a jury toward an acquittal.

Clerking For Judge Cannon: A Behind-The-Scenes Look A tale of two clerkships: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

[Original Jurisdiction, via The Big Picture 03-31-2024]

Uganda Cited Dobbs in an Anti-LGBTQ Crackdown. Americans Should Worry Too.

[Mother Jones 04-04-2024

The ripple effects of Dobbs continue to emerge in unexpected places—and to threaten other civil liberties.

Yesterday, Uganda’s constitutional court, the country’s second-highest judicial body, cited the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade in its ruling to uphold the majority of a sweeping anti-gay law that criminalizes homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and allows for convictions of up to life in prison and the death penalty in some cases.

The sleeper legal strategy that could topple abortion bans

[Politico, via God’s Spies 04-05-2024]

In Indiana, a group of Jewish, Muslim and other religious plaintiffs sued over the state’s near-total abortion ban. Their argument: that it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law in 2015 by then-Gov. Mike Pence. A lower court judge sided with them in December and blocked the state’s ban from taking effect — the most significant win the religious challengers have notched so far.


Civic republicanism

Christianity Was Always for the Poor

David Bentley Hart [Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 04-01-2024]

From the Sermon on the Mount through the Apostolic Age, the first Christians preached against wealth….

Most modern (and especially most American) Christians are quite accustomed, for instance, to thinking of Christianity as a fairly commonsensical creed as regards the practicalities of life. On the matter of wealth, they take it as given that, while the New Testament enjoins generosity to the poor, it otherwise allows the wealthy to enjoy the fruits of their industry or fair fortune with a clean conscience. Common sense tells them that it is not wealth as such that the New Testament condemns, but only a spiritually unhealthy preoccupation with it — the idolatry of riches, wealth misused, wealth immorally gained; riches in and of themselves, surely, are neither good nor bad. But in fact, one thing in startlingly short supply in the New Testament is common sense, and the commonsensical view of the early church is invariably the wrong one. In point of fact, the New Testament, alarmingly enough, condemns personal wealth not merely as a moral danger, but as an intrinsic evil. Actually, the texts are so unambiguous on this matter that it requires an almost heroic defiance of the obvious to fail to grasp their import….

Certainly, Jesus condemned not only an unhealthy preoccupation with riches, but the getting and keeping of riches as such. The most obvious example of this, found in all three synoptic Gospels, would be the story of the rich young ruler who could not bring himself to part with his fortune for the sake of the Kingdom, and of Christ’s astonishing remark about camels passing more easily through needles’ eyes than rich men through the Kingdom’s gate. But one can look everywhere in the gospels for confirmation of the message. Christ clearly means what he says when quoting the prophet Isaiah: he has been anointed by God’s Spirit to preach good tidings to the poor (Luke 4:18). To the prosperous, the tidings he bears are decidedly grim: “But alas for you who are rich, for you have your comfort. Alas for you who are now replete, for you will be hungry. Alas for those now laughing, for you will mourn and lament” (Luke 6:24–25).

He not only demands that his followers give freely to all who ask from them (Matthew 5:42), and to do so with such prodigality that one hand is ignorant of the other’s largesse (Matthew 6:3); he explicitly forbids storing up earthly wealth — not merely storing it up too obsessively — and allows instead only the hoarding of the treasures of heaven (Matthew 6:19–20). He tells all who would follow him (as he tells the rich young ruler) to sell all their possessions and give the proceeds away as alms, thereby supplying that same heavenly treasury (Luke 12:33), and explicitly states that “no one of you who does not bid farewell to all his own possessions can be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). It is truly amazing how rarely Christians down the centuries have failed to notice that these counsels are stated, quite decidedly, as commands. Certainly the texts are not in any way unclear on the matter. After all, as Mary says, part of the saving promise of the Gospel is that the Lord “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:53)….

And then there was John Chrysostom (c. 349–407 CE), some of whose pronouncements on wealth and poverty make Mikhail Bakunin and Karl Marx sound like timid conservatives. According to him, the chief cause of poverty is the dispersion of goods in private holdings, which produces both prodigality and parsimony. The rich are thieves, even if their property comes to them legally through enterprise or inheritance, since everything belongs to all as part of the common human estate. Those who think they work honestly by acquiring money, conducting business, and guarding their belongings are actually just corrupt idlers, recreants from the true work of charity. All we possess actually belongs to everyone, and no Christian should ever utter the words “yours” and “mine.” And he said much of this in sermons while he was Archbishop of Constantinople (which won him few friends among the rich and powerful).

Benjamin Franklin’s Vision of a Republican Political Economy for America,” Drew R. McCoy
Source: The William and Mary Quarterly , Oct., 1978, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 605-

Benjamin Franklin’s Vision of a Republican Political Economy for America

Author(s): Drew R. McCoy

Source: The William and Mary Quarterly , Oct., 1978, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 605-62

[TW: Drew. R. McCoy focused on American political and intellectual history, and is the author of The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (University of North Carolina Press, 1980). Like The Elusive Republic, I found this essay on Franklin titillating, but not fulfilling. McCay is far ahead of almost all other scholars in discussing civic republican political economy, but has not escaped the insularity of the academy which ignores the actual historical record of how massive government programs and projects created new technology that was then developed and commercialized by private companies and industries.

[So, McCoy is able to remind us that economic inequality was a major concern from the very beginning of the republic; that the USA economy was not based on British imperial political economy; and that public virtue was seen as crucial to the success of a republic. But, he is unable to inform us of perhaps the most important element of civic republican political economy, which is the expectation that each individual will contribute to the building of society – not just the economy – by “doing good.” This failure is particularly perplexing in this case, because Franklin, of all the Founders, was the most explicit about “doing good.” ]

Franklin’s concern with “virtue” was a dominant motif of his life and thought. From the early days of Poor Richard’s Almanack to the writing of his Autobiography in later years, he marshaled his energy in the cause of inculcating industry and frugality in his countrymen. This matter became intertwined with the success of the republic, for as Franklin characteristically remarked in 1787, “only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” [p. 606]

[The Revolution] went beyond a repudiation of British monarchical government; it entailed a passionate rejection of the British form of political economy….

During the turbulent years of the Anglo-American crisis, Franklin came to hold a bitterly negative view of British society. His bitterness arose from a growing recognition that more was involved in the British dilemma than the natural consequences of population pressure on the supply of land, for he held that England’s social pathology was exacerbated by its political system. A society could grow old naturally, through the inexorable biological pressure of population growth, but it could also be pushed into further decay, and its predicament aggravated, by the machinations of a mercantilist government that embraced faulty economic principles and catered to the demands of privileged groups and special interests….

Since the poverty and hard labor of the working classes were thought necessary to underwrite national power and opulence, this mercantilist mentality sanctioned a highly uneven distribution of wealth. As a popular eighteenth-century proverb put it, “the Labour of the Poor, is the Treasure of the Rich.”

[TW: Most historians argue that mercantalism formed the basis of early USA economic policies. What they fail to note is that “the demands of privileged groups and special interests” were supposed to be constrained by the general sense of public virtue, and by the Constitutional mandate to promote the General Welfare.]

John Locke regarded the propertyless poor as less than fully human and hardly entitled to full political rights…. Moreover, these indigent wretches, who by some contemporary estimates composed half of England’s population, could never legitimately or realistically aspire to a higher station, but were always to be inured early to lives of menial labor and strict austerity

[TW: McCoy relies on Franklin’s regurgitation of these arguments in his April 1768 essay, “On the Laboring Poor.” But by the 1780s, Franklin’s views had changed dramatically, and he made a point of defending those compelled to sell their labor against those who purchased that labor as a means of exploitation.]

In late 1771 he made a tour of Ireland, Scotland, and the English textile-producing regions, where he found social conditions appalling. Writing to Dr. Joshua Babcock in January 1772 he commented at length on the great disparities of wealth that marked British society, and contrasted the wretched condition of the common people there with the comfortable independence and self-sufficiency of New England freeholders…. [p. 614]

Franklin’s critique of mercantilist England thus culminated in the logic of independence. His image of Britain suggested that America, by contrast, was the theater for a dramatically different social and moral order—a republican order in which men would continue to be relatively equal in wealth, status, and power, and, above all, independent as individuals. This faith rested principally on Franklin’s belief that America was a young society that had not yet reached, and would not soon reach, that final corrupt stage of social development with a dense population, extreme inequality, and widespread poverty and dependency…. [p. 616]

In its purest form, classical republicanism stipulated that republics had to be simple, precommercial societies free from any taint of the wealth and luxury that spawned corruption. Corruption usually involved the encroachment of power on liberty, an insidious process most likely to occur in advanced societies where great wealth and inequality promoted avaricious behavior and dangerous dependencies. If the weak and unpropertied were naturally subject to exploitation by the strong and privileged, as most republicans assumed, then a society of relatively equal, independent citizens was the necessary antidote to corruption. Here, precisely, was the appeal of Franklin’s vision: inequality and moral decay were unlikely in a predominantly agricultural society, where growth was conceived more as expansion across space than as development through time….

[TW: I explain below that by the 1780s, Franklin had developed a quite different vision of the new republic which included manufacturing as an important source of national wealth.]

To most American political thinkers in 1776 the essence of republicanism was this heightened concern with the moral integrity of the individual. As Montesquieu had explained, the forms of government and the manners and spirit, or character, of a people were dynamically interrelated. Since the elimination of a king reduced the traditional restraints of force and fear, the citizens of a republic had to exhibit an extraordinary morality of self-control in order to secure an orderly and just society. Classical republicanism stipulated that public virtue, or disciplined devotion to the common good, could not exist without private virtue, exemplified by the character traits of temperance, frugality, and rigorous self-restraint. [p. 618]

Since industry and frugality were Franklin’s “Way to Wealth,” it followed that virtuous men were always “necessary in a Nation for its Prosperity.  Righteousness, or justice, Poor Richard once explained, was the most fundamental virtue and “the surest Foundation on which to erect and establish a new State,” but the two “humbler Virtues, Industry and Frugality,” tended “more to increase the Wealth, Power, and Grandeur of the Community, than all the others without them. [p. 619]

Franklin’s emphasis on a virtuous independence had agrarian overtones. He never envisioned, however, a hermetic economy of self-sufficient farmers who had no interest in foreign commerce. The Revolutionaries somehow had to adapt the anticommercial spirit of classical republicanism to their extensive and necessary involvement in commerce. Few of them went as far as Alexander Hamilton, who stepped confidently and unequivocally into modernity; most of them, still caught up in the tensions between classical republicanism and modern commercial society, struggled instead to define and implement a viable synthesis. [p. 621]

[TW: McCoy and many other scholars ignore the many “improvement societies” which were organized in towns and cities all across USA in the 1780s and 1790s. These local-based groups, such as the Philadelphia County Society for the Promotion of Agriculture and Domestic Manufactures established in early 1789 were explicitly devoted to encouraging and disseminating knowledge of new methods and new tools to improve agriculture, skilled crafts, and manufacturing. See Peskin, Lawrence A., Manufacturing Revolution: The Intellectual Origins of Early American Industry (Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003)

[For example, in 1743, at 37 years of age, Franklin set forth a plan to establish learned societies in the colonies, in “A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge among the British Plantations in North America,” Franklin proposed

That the Subjects of the Correspondence be, All new-discovered Plants, Herbs, Trees, Roots, &c. their Virtues, Uses, &c. Methods of Propagating them, and making such as are useful, but particular to some Plantations, more general. Improvements of vegetable Juices, as Cyders, Wines, &c. New Methods of Curing or Preventing Diseases. All new-discovered Fossils in different Countries, as Mines, Minerals, Quarries, &c. New and useful Improvements in any Branch of Mathematicks. New Discoveries in Chemistry, such as Improvements in Distillation, Brewing, Assaying of Ores, &c. New Mechanical Inventions for saving Labour; as Mills, Carriages, &c. and for Raising and Conveying of Water, Draining of Meadows, &c. All new Arts, Trades, Manufactures, &c. that may be proposed or thought of. Surveys, Maps and Charts of particular Parts of the Sea-coasts, or Inland Countries; Course and Junction of Rivers and great Roads, Situation of Lakes and Mountains, Nature of the Soil and Productions, &c. New Methods of Improving the Breed of useful Animals, Introducing other Sorts from foreign Countries. New Improvements in Planting, Gardening, Clearing Land, &c. And all philosophical Experiments that let Light into the Nature of Things, tend to increase the Power of Man over Matter, and multiply the Conveniencies or Pleasures of Life.

[TW: Franklin’s 1743 proposal led to the creation of the College of Philadelphia, which became the University of Pennsylvania, and the American Philosophical Society. FTracing back to members of these institutions, Franklin is linked to

  • the foundry that built some of the first steam engines in USA,
  • the creation of the Franklin Institute, which coordinated the organization of steam engine building into the science of thermodynamics, and the creation of the profession of mechanical engineering,
  • the creation of the Pennsylvania Railroad,
  • and the creation of the U.S. steel industry. ]

The Civil War never ended

Jill Filipovic [The New Statesman, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 04-03-2024]

“The pre-Civil War South was not a democracy, nor did it aspire to be. It was, and wanted to continue being, a harshly authoritarian state…. As Jamelle Bouie wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2019, one of the men dedicated to upholding this system, John C Calhoun, vice president from 1825 to 1832, ‘was an astute politician, but he made his most important mark as a theoretician of reaction: a man who, realising that democracy could not protect slavery in perpetuity, set out to limit democracy.’ Liberty, said Calhoun, was ‘a reward to be earned, not a blessing to be gratuitously lavished on all alike – a reward reserved for the intelligent, the patriotic, the virtuous and deserving… not a boon to be bestowed on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable… of enjoying it.’”

Servants of the Mafia State

Sarah Kendzior [via God’s Spies 04-05-2024]

Trump is a career mafioso trained in the arts of blackmail and bribery by his mentor, Roy Cohn. He and his backers continually threaten physical violence against anyone in their way….

Trump knows what crimes the US government carried out because he and officials in his orbit abetted them or witnessed them. These servants of the mafia state would not intervene even when public safety was at grave risk. The longer they waited, the more power Trump accumulated.

As a career criminal with deep ties in business, media, and organized crime as well as access to classified information, Trump now has more leverage over the American government than they do over him….



Israel’s Gunning To Lose US Support


The End Of Zoom & Video Evidence

1 Comment

  1. different clue

    About servants of the mafia state . . . if Trump is that dangerous to that many people, I wonder why he hasn’t been Epsteined. For the same reason that Ghislaine Maxwell hasn’t been Epsteined?

    Or could Trump actually have enough “people” trained in the craft of suiciding people and reaching out and touching the powerful that they are actually afraid to Epstein him, fearing that his people will Epstein a lot of them in return?

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