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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 13, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


Heather Cox Richardson, August 12, 2023 [Letters from an American]

In Marion, Kansas, yesterday morning, four local police officers and three sheriff’s deputies raided the office of the Marion County Record newspaper; the home of its co-owners, Eric Meyer and his 98 year old mother, Joan Meyer; and the home of Marion vice mayor Ruth Herbel, 80. They seized computers, cell phones, and other equipment. Joan Meyer was unable to eat or sleep after the raid; she collapsed Saturday afternoon and died at her home.

The search warrant alleged there was probable cause to believe the newspaper, its owners, or the vice mayor had committed identity theft and unlawful computer acts against restaurant owner Kari Newell, but Magistrate Laura Viar appears to have issued that warrant without any affidavit of wrongdoing on which to base it. Sherman Smith, Sam Bailey, Rachel Mipro, and Tim Carpenter of the nonprofit news service Kansas Reflector reported that federal law protects journalists from search and seizure and requires law enforcement instead to subpoena materials they want.

On August 2, Newell had thrown Meyer and a Marion County Record reporter out of a meeting with U.S. Representative Jake LaTurner (R-KS), and the paper had run a story on the incident. Newell had complained on her personal Facebook page,

On August 7, Newell publicly accused the newspaper of illegally getting information about a drunk-driving charge against her and giving it to Herbel. Eric Meyer says the information—which was accurate—was sent to him and Herbel over social media and that he decided not to publish it out of concerns it was leaked to help Newell’s estranged husband in divorce proceedings. Those same concerns made him take the story to local police. Newell accused the newspaper of violating her rights and called Meyer to accuse him of identity theft….

The Marion County Record will sue the city and the individuals involved in the raid, which, the paper wrote in its coverage, “legal experts contacted were unanimous in saying violated multiple state and federal laws, including the U.S. Constitution, and multiple court rulings.” “Our first priority is to be able to publish next week,” Meyer said, “but we also want to make sure no other news organization is ever exposed to the Gestapo tactics we witnessed today. We will be seeking the maximum sanctions possible under law.”

Executive director of the Kansas Press Association Emily Bradbury noted “An attack on a newspaper office through an illegal search is not just an infringement on the rights of journalists but an assault on the very foundation of democracy and the public’s right to know. This cannot be allowed to stand.”


Global power shift

Oil sanctions have failed after budget revenues surge as Russia completes the switch from European to Asian markets

[Intellinews, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

Russia overtakes Germany to become fifth biggest economy in the world in GDP on a PPP basis 

[BNE Intellinews, via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]

China, the fascinating flight of the Dragon


Outras Palavras [Pressenza, via Mike Norman Economics, August 12, 2023]

…almost no one talks about the dragon´s new flight – the one that could inspire the West grappling with multiple crises and besieged by fascism. The elimination of poverty, transformations like the one in Guangxi, new leaps in education and science, or successes in combating pollution and energy transition are not solely due to GDP growth. They derive from a political turn that put China at odds with neoliberal orthodoxy and allowed it to avoid the rentier trap.

From the global financial crisis of 2008 – and especially after Xi Jinping took office four years later – Beijing embarked on a new course in its project. This shift could become, over time, as profound and relevant as the one led by Deng Xiaoping after 1978. But the direction is different. In a formerly state-owned economy, Deng led the opening to market logics, private enterprise, and transnational corporations. This approach saved the country from the collapse that ended “real socialism”. The new turn, on the contrary, reverses the weight of market relations as the driving force of the economy and social relations. Instead, it emphasizes the need to build the Common, based on decisive state action to promote equality and prosperity for all. It establishes innovative mechanisms for planning and economic direction, not based on the bureaucratic statization that characterized the Soviet experience.

Xi’s turn does not entail a radical rupture compared to Deng’s. China does not intend to get rid of foreign capital or private companies. The state continues to attract and stimulate them. But the two main features of the development process are different now. The first is massive public investment focused on the well-being of the majority. It largely overshadows the reproduction of capitalist relations because, unlike these, it produces equality and decommodification of social relations.

It´s easy to understand. When state healthcare policies, for example, rely on private insurance, access to medical services becomes mediated by money and thus unequal. Each individual gets what they can afford – from hospitals with five-star hospitality to precarious popular clinics. But if the same state provides public networks of family doctors and excellent hospitals to all, it guarantees equal access and dismantles private protection – rendering it unnecessary.

Chinese public investment is complemented by new planning – or what authors like Elias Jabbour prefer to call “projetamento“. Even in moments of greater openness, the Chinese state has not ceased to define general conditions for private company operation. But since Xi´s time, this action has become more intense – partly because in a wealthier society, the power of large private groups and capitalist relations grows. Part of the state´s action is defensive. Unlike the West, Chinese Big Tech companies are controlled. In 2021, the Alibaba Group was prevented from launching what could have been its own digital currency, capable of subjecting social relations to its own logic. In 2022, the state shut down the then-widespread and exuberant business of private tutoring. It considered it gave advantages to the children of the wealthier families in accessing the best public educational institutions.

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-2023]

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-2023]

[TW: I’ve always thought the data on US military spending was problematic. My primary concern was that there was no way to factor out the bloat of privatization and rent-seeking by defense contractors. How many tens of billions is now spent in the military budget just for contractors to feed the troops — a job the troops largely used to do themselves?

Second, it’s useful to look at actual force comparisons. The PLA has 975,000 active duty troops and 4,800 main battle tanks compared to 463,000 and 5,500 MBTs for USA. USMC is another 181,000 active duty.

PLA Air Force has 400,000 active duty compared to USAF 329,000. PLA Air Force has 1,215 fighters and 120 bombers compared to USAF 1,511 fighters and 152 bombers.

PLA Navy has 260,000 compared to US Navy 350,000. PLA Navy has 623 ships; USN has 480 ships.

USA has large advantage in helicopters with over 4,000 compared to over 800 for China. And USA has massive advantage in strategic forces with 406 ICBMs and 336 SLBMs compared to 70 ICBMs and 39 SLBMs for China.

So, notwithstanding the large USA superiority in helicopters and nukes, the sizes of the armed forces of the two countries is roughly comparable, and would lead one to expect about similar expenditures.

And keep in mind that the USA officer corps is quite aware of the severe disadvantages now imposed by privatization and contractor rent-seeking. The professional military journals have been for years regularly carrying articles considering how to deal with this problem. And I think the officer corps have implemented some solutions already: the USAF designed and built its next generation (6th generation) fighter prototype, while apparently keeping contractors at arms length. Development time was reportedly less than 24 months. That’s very, very impressive. I’m sure there are Army and Navy officers salivating at the prospect of doing the same thing for armored vehicles and ships.

On the other hand, there is a disturbingly large number of officers who hop on the contractor gravy train when they retire. But I would bet on the active duty officer corps – it’s their lives on the line. Lots of USA history has been rewritten to glorify the “free enterprise system,” including the industrial mobilization for World War 2. In short, there would not have been any Arsenal of Democracy if not for the work of George C, Marshall and other Army officers in the 1920s and 1930s, establishing the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and carefully surveying every production plant and factory in USA. See How America Saved the World: The Untold Story of U.S. Preparedness Between the World Wars, by Eric Hammel, and Destructive Creation: American Business and the Winning of World War II, by Mark R. Wilson. ]


China leads race to modernise global money flows 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]

Biden Warns China’s Economy a ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 8-12-2023]

President Joe Biden blasted China’s economic problems as a “ticking time bomb,” saying during a political fundraiser that the Asian nation was in “trouble” because its growth has slowed and it had the “highest unemployment rate going.” He also blasted Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative as the “debt and noose,” because of the high levels of lending to developing economies associated with the global investment program. “So they got some problems,” Biden said. “That’s not good because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things.” Biden’s comments, which included exaggerations about the extent of China’s woes….

[TW: Rather than drifting towards war with China—and Russia—the United States should have agreed to cooperate with China in building the $50 trillion electricity transmission system that would have helped most of the poorer countries begin to develop, while also making a huge impact on reducing the problem of global climate change. China Unveils Proposal for $50 Trillion Global Electricity NetworkChina made the proposal in March 2016. China Wants to Build a $50 Trillion Global Wind & Solar Power Grid by 2050. ]

Visualizing the $105 Trillion World Economy in One Chart 

[Visual Capitalist, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-2023]


Economics as cultural warfare

How Misreading Adam Smith Helped Spawn Deaths of Despair

[Boston Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]


Economists Reconsider Industrial Policy 

Dani Rodrik, Réka Juhász, and Nathan Lane [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]


The Greatest Investment Quotes [That Everyone Should Know]

[Of Dollars and Data, via The Big Picture 8-8-2023]

From guiding principles to words of caution, the timeless wisdom found in them reflects centuries of experience from the greatest investors across space and time….

“Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

-Charles MackayExtraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

“Fear incites human action far more urgently than does the impressive weight of historical evidence.”

-Jeremy SiegelStocks for the Long Run (3rd Edition)

“Your personal experiences with money make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works.”

-Morgan HouselThe Psychology of Money

“There seems to be an unwritten rule on Wall Street: If you don’t understand it, then put your life savings into it.”

-Peter LynchOne Up on Wall Street

“Buying at the bottom and selling at the top are typically done by liars.”

-Bernard Baruch


Health care crisis

Vascular Dysfunctions Contribute to the Long-Term Cognitive Deficits Following COVID-19

[Biology, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-9-2023]

“In summary, the SARS-CoV-2 virus can invade the brain and exert its neurological manifestation through binding to ACE2 on nerve cells and endothelial cells. A sound body of evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 impairs vascular integrity through direct or indirect viral infection, leading to endothelium damage and augmenting vascular penetrability in peripheral vessels, disrupting the [Blood Brain Barrier (BBB)] integrity and the CNS function. Given the evidence, the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen can induce cognitive impairment via vascular dysfunction, disruption of the BBB, interruption of oxygen supply, dissemination of intravascular coagulation, and neuro-inflammation. Taken together, the long-term cognitive consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection, to some extent, may be due to disruption of micro-structural and functional brain vasculatures during COVID-19 illness and in the recovery stages. In addition to the present evidence, future studies are needed to discover the exact long-term cognitive deficits in patients with COVID-19 and their probable mediator mechanisms.”

Long covid has derailed my life. Make no mistake: It could yours, too 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-10-2023]

“I’ve watched in horror as our public institutions have turned their back on containment. The virus is still very much with us, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped reporting on cases. States have shut down testing. Corporations, rather than improving ventilation in their buildings, have pushed for shield laws indemnifying them against lawsuits. Despite the crystal-clear science on the damage covid-19 does to our bodies, medical settings have dropped mask requirements, so patients now gamble their health to receive care. Those of us who are high-risk or immunocompromised, or who just don’t want to roll the dice on death and misery, have not only been left behind — we’re being actively mocked and pathologized. I’ve personally been ridiculed, heckled and coughed on for wearing my N95. Acquaintances who were understanding in the beginning are now irritated, even offended. One demanded: How long are you going to do this? As if trying to avoid covid was an attack on her, rather than an attempt to keep myself from sliding further into an abyss that threatens to swallow my family. The United States has always been a terrible place to be sick and disabled. Ableism is baked into our myths of bootstrapping and self-reliance, in which health is virtue and illness is degeneracy. It is long past time for a bedrock shift, for all of us.”

Lambert Strether: “An absolute moral collapse, at a civilizational level.”

America’s largest hospital chain has an algorithmic death panel 

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

Nurses Fight Godzilla 

Chris Hedges [Scheerpost, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Judy Danella, president of United Steel Workers Local 4-200 — the union that represents Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s more than 1,700 nurses — stands in a church basement before a room full of her union members. Her voice quavers slightly as she delivers grim news. The hospital management, whose top administrators earn salaries in the millions of dollars, has refused to concede to any of the nurse’s core demands. Friday at 7:00 a.m. they will be locked out of the hospital and on strike.

But it is not only the strike that concerns Danella, who is wearing a blue T-shirt that reads: “Safe Staffing Saves Lives.”

“It is 100 percent my belief that the goal is to break the union,” says Danella, who has worked at the hospital for 28 years. “This is about the future of nursing.”

The front line against corporate tyranny is not the ballot box. It is in the desperate struggle by the overworked and underpaid to prevent corporate behemoths from turning everyone into gig workers without health and retirement benefits, job security, sustainable incomes or equitable working conditions. Nurses, battered by the almost inhuman demands put on them during the pandemic, have been especially hard hit. Almost one-third of New Jersey’s nurses have left the profession in the last three years.


More carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Mining Revenues Undermined 

[Challenging Development+, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-2023]

The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development (IGF) and the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) report, The Future of Resource Taxation: 10 policy ideas to mobilize mining revenues, reviews major problems faced by African and other governments trying to greatly increase revenue from mining.

Great expectations, little taxation
Colonial and neo-colonial mining arrangements have rarely delivered the revenue needed by post-colonial governments. Weak governance, overly generous tax incentives, poor fiscal policies, bad contracts, as well as tax avoidance and evasion have all eroded mineral revenues for developing countries.

Resource-rich countries have been rethinking how to benefit more from mining in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, worsening developing country debt crises, and increasingly uncertain government revenues and expenditures.

Mining royalties and taxation have remained largely unchanged for decades, while corporate income tax is hard to collect, vulnerable to profit shifting and often minimized with the aid of tax professionals and corrupt officials.

Improving taxation
Taxing transnational corporations has long posed major challenges. Poor laws and enforcement as well as limited funding and staff mean most developing countries are poorly equipped to apply complex international tax norms, such as the ‘arm’s-length principle’ and ‘double taxation treaties’.

Cash on hand

[Mike Norman Economics, August 8, 2023]

These slugs now getting 5.5% free munnie on $576B from the Biden Fed… $32B annual for doing nothing…  probably a lot tax free in foreign accounts…. Cash on hand:

Apple: $167 billion
Berkshire: $150 billion
Microsoft: $118 billion
Amazon: $65 billion
Meta: $53 billion
Tesla: $23 billion

This is wild 🤯

— Matt Allen (@investmattallen) August 8, 2023



Diversifying Society’s Leaders? The Causal Effects of Admission to Highly Selective Private Colleges

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-2023]

From the Abstract: “We conclude that highly selective private colleges currently amplify the persistence of privilege across generations, but could diversify the socioeconomic backgrounds of America’s leaders by changing their admissions practices.”

The Wealthy Are Not Like You and Me–Our Terminally Stratified Society

Charles Hugh Smith [via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]

When we say “The Wealthy Are Not Like You and Me,” most people will assume we’re talking about ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) with $30 million or more in assets or even the hyper-rich worth hundreds of millions or billionaires.
I’m not discussing the tiny class of UHNWIs here, I’m discussing the 8 million households of the top 5% and the 13 million households of the top 10% who own 70% of all assets and almost 90% of income-producing assets such as stocks, bonds, rental properties, etc. Not the uber-wealthy or hyper-wealthy, just the wealthy who own a million or two in assets not counting their primary residence.
A recent survey reports that there are 13.6 million households that have a net worth of $1 million or more (about 10% of the 132 million US households), and about 8 million US households have a net worth of $2 million or more (about 6% of households), not including the value of their primary residence. .
This top 10% collect about 50% of all income and account for about 40% of all consumption.
The topic here is the increasingly impermeable barrier between the top 5% and the bottom 95%, a matter not just of financial inequality but of sociological separation discussed by Christopher Lasch in his 1996 book The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy.

The conflicting role played by education in social mobility and class reinforcement

William Mitchell, August 9, 2023 [Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, August 9, 2023]

Some years ago I read a research report that demonstrated that standard economics programs at our universities breed people with sociopathological tendencies who elevate greed above empathy. There is clearly some self-selection bias because the studies have never really isolated the impacts of the teaching programs from the tendencies of the students going into the programs. But as one who has been through the mill from go to woah (PhD) the standard mainstream curriculum is pretty grim and most students in my years just went along with it. I was thinking about this when I read a Discussion Paper (No. 1938, July 2023) from the Centre for Economic Performance at LSE entitled – Are the upwardly mobile more left-wing?….

The LSE study seeks to understand our “preferences for redistribution” in relation to “individual social standing”.

They find a clear link (duh!) between the social standing of individuals and their parents and how we think about “the allocation of welfare and the structure of taxation”.

So does it matter where one begins (that is, the social standing of our parents)?

What role does social mobility relative to our parents change our “political behaviour and preferences for redistribution”….

They find:

1. “that higher own status and higher-status parents independently produce Conservative voters.”

2. Higher own status leads to “opposition to redistribution”.

3. “individuals with the most Right-wing attitudes (and votes) are then those with high social status whose parents were also of high social status.”

4. A major new insight is that “upwards social mobility attenuates the effect of own status rather than reinforcing it. In other words, the wealthy are more Conservative, but less so when they come from a lower social background.”

5. “upward mobility (controlling for own social status) is associated with more Left-wing voting and preferences. Those who move up in life are on average more pro-redistribution”.


More carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How Yellow’s Downfall Is Rippling Through the Economy

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-9-2023]

“Yellow was a $5.2 billion business as recently as last year when it moved around 50,000 shipments a day in a trucking network that made it a fundamental part of the supply chains of hundreds of U.S. companies.” Well worth a read. Here’s the real estate angle: “Those and other trucking companies may also pick up some of Yellow’s sprawling real estate holdings, including the dozens of truck terminals the carrier has accumulated around the U.S. to move freight. Many of them are in prime locations near population centers and will hit the market at a time when building new trucking facilities faces pushback in communities.”

Yellow Scapegoats Teamsters for Apollo-Led Bankruptcy

Jarod Facundo and Maureen Tkacik, August 2, 2023 [The American Prospect]

When the trucking giant Yellow officially filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday night, most of the headlines understandably revolved around the 30,000 jobs that would evaporate, 22,000 of them belonging to union members. But few managed to read the bankruptcy filing itself, which was even more unusual than Yellow’s chaotic decision to liquidate rather than maintain a business that dates back to 1924.

The filing, penned by a former conservative Republican congressional candidate who has been on the Yellow board for over a decade, spins a wild tale about a plucky little company that was ritually executed by a power-mad union boss. According to these allegations, International Brotherhood of Teamsters President Sean O’Brien “knowingly and intentionally triggered a death spiral for Yellow” to teach a lesson to his more powerful rivals, namely United Parcel Service, with which the Teamsters president spent most of the summer embroiled in negotiations.

“Against the backdrop of the Union’s then on-going negotiations with UPS, where Mr. O’Brien was taking a hard and self-described ‘militant’ line, he used Yellow as a sacrificial lamb in an apparent attempt to gain leverage,” writes Matthew Doheny, Yellow’s handpicked chief restructuring officer (CRO). “Mr. O’Brien’s messaging was clear: he would rather see Yellow destroyed than be perceived as weak in negotiations, even if that meant the sacrifice of more than 22,000 of his own rank-and-file members’ jobs.”….

AS THE PROSPECT PREVIOUSLY REPORTED, Yellow’s finances over the last two decades presaged its eventual bankruptcy. Acquisitions, collapsing revenues from the financial crisis, and debt refinancing efforts all pushed the company into accepting an expensive $600 million loan led by the private equity giant Apollo Global Management.

In its string of acquisitions through the 2000s, Yellow inadvertently pitched subsidiaries it owned to compete with one another. These acquisitions were fueled by additional debt that then needed to be refinanced, increasing the pressure to cut costs, which would be borne on the backs of its mostly Teamsters-represented workforce.

The struggle to stay afloat would result in Apollo successfully lobbying to secure a $700 million loan from the Trump administration’s Treasury Department, which overrode the Pentagon’s recommendations in making Yellow eligible for a pandemic-era program for firms deemed “critical to national security.”

Railroaded: Bring Back Thatcher and Reagan 

Steve Keen [via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]

…When sitting in the modern, high-speed trains, they’d think they were in the UK; and when sitting in the museum pieces slowly vibrating their way forward, they’d think they were in The Netherlands.

As someone who spends a lot of time on both rail systems, I know that the opposite is starkly true. British rail services are antiquated, unreliable, expensive, and slow. Dutch—and most European publicly owned and operated rail services—are modern, reliable, cheap and fast.

So, why did it all go do wrong, Maggie and Ronnie?

The Era of Ultracheap Stuff Is Under Threat 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]

Yves Smith: “Important because “cheap stuff” served to offset stagnant real wages.”

Wall Street has purchased hundreds of thousands of single-family homes since the Great Recession. Here’s what that means for rental prices 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]

Big Tech CEOs Meet with Psychiatry’s Leaders to Decide the Future of Mental Health 

[Mad In America, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-2023]


Climate and environmental crises

Global Boiling 

[The Polycrisis, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

Together with deadly heat came unprecedented rains and flooding, most notably in Delhi and Beijing. It’s not just the carbon cycle but the water cycle that’s been supercharged by fossil-fueled modernity. We should never have called it Earth; ours is an oceanic planet, and most of the extra heat is being absorbed by oceans now hotter than ever before. Their warmed currents have meant that a Mexico-sized chunk of Antarctica failed to refreeze this year.

Increased amounts of water vapor—itself a powerful greenhouse gas—caused by warming on Planet Ocean are in turn turbocharging the vast atmospheric heat engine, causing more extreme weather. Not for nothing has the UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres declared a new era of “global boiling.” Look closely at the chart below: July is more than four standard deviations outside the 1979–2000 mean.

Darning the Planet

[New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]

We’re not dealing with denialists here: they are comparatively unthreatening, for their bad faith is transparent, and they grow more pathetic by the hour despite their corporate bankrolling. Far more dangerous are those like Macron – that is, the overwhelming majority of the world’s political class, irrespective of ideological orientation – who feign concern from their air-conditioned offices and private planes, and then do nothing. Worse than nothing, in fact: for they make the public believe that the problem can be solved with half-measures and palliatives, promoting market solutions for a problem created by the market itself.

An Overheating Planet Requires Extreme Climate Solutions

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 8-8-2023]

Heat is accelerating faster than attempts to counteract it. Here’s how experts at eliminating carbon pollution think we can catch up — and cool down.

Plants find it harder to absorb carbon dioxide amid global warming 

[New Scientist, via Naked Capitalism 8-12-2023]

Experts fear US carbon capture plan is ‘fig leaf’ to protect fossil fuel industry 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-12-2023]

Winter heatwave in Andes is sign of things to come, scientists warn 

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-2023]

One of Europe’s Hottest Cities Rediscovers an Old Cooling Technique

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 8-9-2023]

The structure is a part of CartujaQanat, an architectural experiment in cooling solutions that doesn’t rely on burning more planet-warming fossil fuels. The site, about the size of two soccer fields, includes two auditoriums, green spaces, a promenade and a shaded area with benches. But its star performer remains hidden — the qanat, a network of underground pipes and tubes inspired by Persian-era canals.

Videos denying climate science approved by Florida as state curriculum 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-2023]

The U.S. Plot to Finalize the Theft of Venezuela’s Oil 

[Black Agenda Report, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

Shell Games: A UK court case has big ramifications for climate justice globally 

[SOMO, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-2023]

Is it cheaper to refuel your EV battery or gas tank? We did the math

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 8-9-2023]

In all 50 states, it’s cheaper for the everyday American to fill up with electrons — and much cheaper in some regions such as the Pacific Northwest, with low electricity rates and high gas prices.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

“Room-temperature superconductor” would be a huge deal

[Vox, via The Big Picture 8-10-2023]

The superconductor frenzy, explained.

Floating Solar Panels at The Equator Could Provide Virtually Unlimited Energy

[Science Alert, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

What Does China’s Stimulus Plan Mean For Rare Earths? 

[Oil Price, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

Converting Brown Apartments to Green Apartments

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via The Big Picture 8-10-2023]

The conversion of brown office buildings to green apartments can contribute towards a solution to three pressing issues: oversupply of office in a hybrid-and-remote-work world, shortage of housing, and excessive greenhouse gas emissions. We propose a set of criteria to identify commercial office properties that are are physically suitable for conversion, yielding about 11% of all office buildings across the U.S.


Criminal predations of the management and upper classes

Amazon Says It Doesn’t ‘Employ’ Drivers, But Records Show It Hired Firms to Prevent Them From Unionizing

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-8-2023]

“Amazon hired at least two union-busting consulting firms specifically to prevent its drivers from joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters over the course of 2022, according to six reports filed to the Department of Labor and ob’tained by Motherboard. This is notable because Amazon claims that the drivers who deliver its packages are not its employees. Motherboard reviewed five reports filed to the Department of Labor, which showed that Amazon spent more than $14.2 million total on anti-union consulting in 2022. Of that, $160,595 went to Optimal Employee Relations and Action Resources, who, on their own reports, specifically referred to ‘drivers’ as the target group of their persuasion. Amazon and the contractors it hired are required to file these reports with the government each year. Amazon’s filing references nine contractors hired throughout 2022.”

22 years after the $63 billion Enron collapse, a key audit review board finds the industry in a ‘completely unacceptable’ state.

[Fortune, via The Big Picture 8-6-2023]

Accounting firms have a critical role in verifying the finances of the companies they audit so that those clients can rely on and publish accurate snapshots of their businesses. Lately, a startlingly high number of those audits are filled with errors and other flaws, according to a report released by a congressional watchdog on Monday.

German Council Reprimands Vaccine Makers for Censorship Attempts Revealed in Twitter Files 

Lee Fang [via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]


Death of independent publishing

KKR to acquire Simon & Schuster for $1.62 billion 

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 8-9-2023]


Restoring balance to the economy 

The First Big Antitrust Trial of the Century Is About to Start  

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-2023]

The Local-News Crisis Is Weirdly Easy to Solve

Steven Waldman [The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 8-10-2023]

…Unlike other seemingly intractable problems, the demise of local news wouldn’t cost very much money to reverse. Journalists are not particularly well compensated. Assuming an average salary of $60,000 (generous by industry standards), it would cost only about $1.5 billion a year to sustain 25,000 local-reporter positions, a rough estimate of the number that have disappeared nationwide over the past two decades. That’s two-hundredths of a percent of federal spending in 2022. I personally think this would be an amount well worth sacrificing to save American democracy. But the amazing thing is that it wouldn’t really be a sacrifice at all. If more public or philanthropic money were directed toward sustaining local news, it would most likely produce financial benefits many times greater than the cost.

What do government officials do when no one’s watching? Often, they enrich themselves or their allies at the taxpayers’ expense. In the 2000s, some years after its local paper shut down, the city of Bell, California, a low-income, overwhelmingly Latino community, raised the pay of the city manager to $787,637 and that of the police chief to $457,000. The Los Angeles Times eventually exposed the graft, and several city officials ended up in prison. Prosecutors accused them of costing taxpayers at least $5.5 million through their inflated salaries. These salaries were approved at municipal meetings, which is to say that if even one reporter (say, with a salary of $60,000) had been in attendance, the city might have saved millions of dollars….

A ProPublica investigation into one firm’s questionable mortgage-backed securities prompted investigations by the Security and Exchange Commission, which ultimately assessed $435 million in fines. A review of more than 12,000 entries in the Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards found that about one in 10 triggered fines from the government, and twice as many prompted audits.

In other cases, local-news organizations return money directly to consumers by forcing better behavior from private institutions. MLK50, a local newsroom in Memphis, teamed up with ProPublica to report that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare had sued more than 8,300 people, many of them poor, for unpaid hospital bills. In response, the faith-based institution erased nearly $12 million in debt.

Of course, most journalism does not convert quite so immediately into cash on hand. The impacts may be enormous but indirect. One study of toxic emissions at 40,000 plants found that when newspapers reported on pollution, emissions declined by 29 percent compared with plants that were not covered. The study did not track the ripple effects, but it stands to reason that residents in the less polluted areas would have fewer health problems, which in turn would translate to lower medical costs and less lost work time. Another study, by the scholars Pengjie Gao, Chang Lee, and Dermot Murphy, looked at bond offerings in communities with and without local news from 1996 to 2015. It concluded that for each bond offering, the borrowing costs were five to 11 basis points higher in the less covered communities. That translated to additional costs of $650,000 an issue, on average.

One academic tried to track the economic effects even further downstream. In his book Democracy’s Detectives: The Economics of Investigative Journalism, the Stanford professor James Hamilton looked at a series by KCBS in Los Angeles that uncovered a flawed restaurant-inspection program. The exposé prompted L.A. County to require restaurants to display their inspection scores, which in turn led to a 13.3 percent drop in L.A. County hospital admissions for food poisoning. Hamilton estimated a savings of about $148,000….

Ideally, investment in local news would come from the federal government, which has more freedom to think long-term than cash-strapped states and municipalities do. The Rebuild Local News coalition, of which I am president, supports legislation that would provide a refundable tax credit for news organizations that employ local reporters, and a tax break for small businesses that advertise in local news. A new version of the bill was just introduced in the House of Representatives by the Republican Claudia Tenney and the Democrat Suzan DelBene. Civic-minded philanthropists focused on high-impact donations should also put money into local news, given the likely societal returns….


Information age dystopia / surveillance state

How fraudsters are exploiting and retraining large language models 

[American Banker, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-2023]

Detroit Woman Sues City After Being Falsely Arrested Due To Facial Recognition 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]

Authors Reject New Literary Database 

[Today in Books, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-8-2023]

“We are going to need some court to rule on what counts as fair use when it comes to AI, LLMs, and copyrighted work. Fast. The latest accelerant is called Prosecraft, and it bills itself as the first large linguistic database for literature. It has sucked in the work of more than 12,000 authors so that it can spit about speciously useful info like how “”vivid”” something is. It also says it can analyze passive voice, but whoever made this doesn’t know what passive voice actually is. And how are authors whose work has been fed into this thing feeling about it? Not terribly enthused.”

Lambert Strether: “Outright theft, to produce bullshit, wrecking the livelihoods of producers. That’s AI in a nutshell. Silicon Valley, too.”

Say hello to Downfall, another data-leaking security hole in several years of Intel chips 

The Register.

How to Quickly Get to the Important Truth Inside Any Privacy Policy 

[The Markup, via Naked Capitalism 8-7-2023]


(anti)Republican Party

American Carnage

Sean Wilentz [The New York Review, August 17, 2023 issue]


Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism

by Jeffrey Toobin
Simon and Schuster, 418 pp., $29.99
Jeffrey Toobin’s book about Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing traces the path from Ronald Reagan’s antigovernment ideology to today’s radicalized right….
A major turning point in the Republican Party’s rightward radicalization… came during the fall and winter of 1994, culminating in the spring of 1995. Much to the shock of Republicans who assumed that Reagan had created a national coalition that would last for decades, a Democrat, Bill Clinton, won the presidency in 1992. Republican strategists shifted their attention to Congress, and in November 1994, led by the firebrand Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the party captured the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years. Rewarded with the speakership, Gingrich dominated the news cycle with slash-and-burn denunciations of “sick,” “corrupt,” “anti-flag” Democrats. Advised by the political consultant Frank Luntz, he adopted his poll-tested vocabulary of demonization, published in a private memo entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control”: “anti-child,” “decay,” “welfare,” “traitors.”….

McVeigh thought it would take a grandiose act of targeted terror to arouse what he only sensed was an immense army of like-minded militant patriots. Today’s extremists not only know with certainty that the army exists; they are in contact with it and are counting on its triumph, whether in the Storm or the boogaloo or some other revolutionary apocalypse. And with the Clinton assault weapons ban a distant memory, they are armed to the teeth.

But while it warns about the present danger, Homegrown also illuminates and bids us to reckon with the larger history of what happened in 1995. Not only do today’s distempers date back well before Trump or the Tea Party; they originated well before the inflamed mid-1990s, taking their modern form during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who encouraged them with his denunciations of the federal government as a malevolent force.

And there is an even longer history behind that. The great revolutions in American history—from the nation’s founding through Emancipation, Reconstruction, the Progressive Era, and the New Deal—have been predicated on the idea, inscribed in the Constitution, that it is the nation, the more perfect Union striven for in 1787, that is best equipped to secure the common good and the general welfare. Counterrevolutionaries in their various forms—nullifiers, Confederates, so-called Redeemers overthrowing Reconstruction, anti–New Deal Liberty Leaguers—have fought that idea, never more successfully than in the long counterrevolution begun under Reagan. Though resisted and even halted from time to time, that reaction, steadily radicalized, has now turned a substantial number of Americans against their own government, and they are ready and willing to use violence for their retribution. In the process, large and influential elements of the party of Abraham Lincoln—a party that fought against one such counterrevolution—have become captive to that subversive rage.

The Claremont Institute: The Anti-Democracy Think Tank

Katherine Stewart, August 10, 2023 [The New Republic]

…Most of us are familiar with the theocrats of the religious right and the anti-government extremists, groups that overlap a bit but remain distinct. The Claremont Institute folks aren’t quite either of those things, and yet they’re both and more. In embodying a kind of nihilistic yearning to destroy modernity, they have become an indispensable part of right-wing America’s evolution toward authoritarianism…. Claremont represents something new in modern American politics: a group of people, not internet conspiracy freaks but credentialed and influential leaders, who are openly contemptuous of democracy. And they stand a reasonable chance of being seated at the highest levels of government—at the right hand of a President Trump or a President DeSantis, for example….

There is a story you hear from the podiums at gatherings like NatCon and CPAC, and if you go to enough of them, it will sound as familiar as a classic rock song. It goes something like this: The sum of all our problems—and the greatest threat that the American republic has ever faced—is the rise of the “woke” elite. Cosmopolitan, overeducated, gender-fluid, parasitic, and anti-Christian—the leaders of this progressive cabal worship at the shrine of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion offices, which they use to elevate undeserving people of color and crush hardworking “real” Americans. They control “the regime,” or so the song tells us: “the administrative state,” the institutions of culture, law enforcement, even the military. Any and all means to annihilate the power of the woke, up to and including political violence and overturning elections, must be seriously considered if we (right-thinking Americans) are to “save our country.”

It’s not just the NatCon types who are humming this tune; it has permeated other sectors of the American right. In the run-up to the 2023 Road to Majority Policy Conference, an annual gathering of religious right activists, strategists, and politicians that took place in Washington, D.C., in June, seasoned Christian right strategist Ralph Reed sent out a fundraising email asserting, “Woke culture and anti-Christian, anti-American radicals drive our public life further and further from the Light of God’s Word.” From the main stage of the conference, Ron DeSantis railed against the “woke mind virus”; Vivek Ramaswamy took a swipe at the “administrative state”; and Josh Hawley asserted that “woke corporations” and “Marxists in the C-suite” are “pushing relentlessly this Marxist agenda, pushing relentlessly this religion of woke.” At the gala dinner, Trump delivered a rambling attack on his political opponents in the Democratic Party, whom he accused of “trying to impose their blasphemous creed of woke communism.”….

The Claremont Institute’s seeming embrace of political violence against the government of the United States is not limited to Eastman’s efforts to whip up the mob that gathered at the Ellipse in preparation for the assault on the Capitol, nor can it be excused as mere metaphorical excess in the war of ideas. “Given the promise of tyranny, conservative intellectuals must openly ally with the AR-15 crowd,” argues author Kevin Slack, a professor at Hillsdale College, in a lengthy book excerpt published in Claremont’s online magazine, The American Mind. “Able-bodied men, no longer isolated, are returning to republican manliness in a culture of physical fitness and responsible weaponry. They are buying AR-15s and Glock 17s and training with their friends, not FBI-infiltrated militias or online strangers but trustworthy lifelong friends to build a community alongside.”


Kevin Phillips., American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (2005, New York, Viking)

p. 132
“The primary duty of southern ministers and editors in 1865 and 1866 was to convince themselves and their congregations that God had not deserted the South: the righteousness of the southern cause, the Justice of God, and Confederate dead could and would be reconciled. Even before the war ended, some ministers were developing a framework within which they could accommodate both the assurance of God’s continued favor and the military defeat of the South.” —Daniel W. Stowell, Rebuilding Zion: The Religious Reconstruction of the South, 1863-1877, 1998

p. 146
Paul Harvey, a historian of southern religion, explained how “white southerners after the war created their own civil religion, featuring its own theology, myths, rituals and saints. . . . According to the tenets of Lost Cause theology, God’s chosen people (white southerners) had been baptized in the blood of suffering and thus had been chastened and purified.”

p. 147.
By the mid-1870s northern denominations and missionaries looking to reconstruct Dixie religiously knew they faced defeat. “In the contest for white Christians,” by one assessment, “the southern churches won an overwhelming victory as they grew far more rapidly than the northern churches [proselytizing] in the South. 1151 Recruitment by northern denominations among whites was successful only in bitterly divided eastern Tennessee and another dozen counties elsewhere in southern Appalachia. Overall the centrality of the religious factor suggests a second informal ballot conducted in church pews: on whether southern “theopolitik” would sustain its antebellum hold. By and large, the southern clergy prevailed, effectively employing their pulpits, church media, and educational institutions. In the eyes of southern true believers, a defeated country recast itself as righteous republic.

p. 139
…. in the civil rights debate of the 1950s and 1960s, the old racial and sectional mistrust burst into flames again, blazing across decades that pundits and scholars have called a second conflict or Reconstruction…. “To its northern and southern supporters,” wrote Isserman and Kazin, “the civil rights movement was a ‘second Civil War,’ or a ‘second Reconstruction.’ To its southern opponents, it was a second ‘war of northern aggression.’ Civil rights demonstrators in the South carried the stars and stripes on their marches; counter-demonstrators waved the Confederate stars and bars.”….

During the 1970s two veterans of sixties activism on the left, Kirkpatrick Sale and Carl Oglesby, published the books Power Shift and The Yankee and Cowboy War, respectively, portraying the Dallas-to-Watergate period as a desperate struggle between the Yankees of the northeastern Establishment and the Sun Belt cowboys of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, John Connally, and Ronald Reagan.22
Attention to the South’s importance was also growing. John Egerton, a southern writer, began a new genre in 1974 with his book The Americanization of Dixie: The Southernization of America. Describing how southern culture, especially populism and evangelical religion, was beginning to influence the rest of the country, Egerton argued that Billy Graham “has taken the old-time religion of his native South out into the nation and the world. . . . In doing so, he has firmly established himself as the single most influential figure in what can fairly be called the Southernization of American religion.

How Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard Fund Hate Groups 

Alex Kotch, August 9, 2023 [The New Republic]

Charities affiliated with major investment banks allow anonymous donors to give millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ and racist groups—and get a tax break for it.

Here’s the Intelligence Assessment of Donald Trump that the Government Can’t Write

Donell Harvin [Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-7-2023]

“[H]omeland security officials** are also trained to be apolitical [lol], so here’s what they can’t tell you: Donald J. Trump poses a significant threat to homeland security… I do not issue this assessment lightly. Such statements are considered blasphemy in domestic intelligence circles and will undoubtedly draw the ire of many both inside and outside of the profession. To name a political figure, or any prominent U.S. person, in a domestic intelligence assessment is taboo. Intelligence analysts and the agencies that oversee them are taught to not politicize threat assessments. To do so would potentially run afoul of civil rights and civil liberties and the First Amendment. But times have drastically changed since the Trump presidency began. Even as the homeland security profession has resisted involving itself in politics, politically motivated violence has emerged as a major threat to our homeland [“our democracy,” “our homeland”]. This has led to the rise of stochastic terrorism, which occurs when prominent figures demonize, marginalize or openly target a specific group or individual and violence ensues***

Jonah Goldberg Tells CNN: Small Donors ‘One Of The Biggest Problems For Democracy’

[ZeroHedge, via Mike Norman Economics, August 11, 2023]

Now small donors are one of the biggest problems for democracy, for the GOP. Because small donor — large donors actually have a strategic view about moderation, who can win, who can’t. Small donors really are just venting their spleen with their credit card, and they lock candidates into positions that can hurt them in the general election,” he continued.

The comments came days after NBC News reported that former President Donald Trump has “an important asset that none of his rivals appear to possess: a massive, renewable pool of small-dollar donor money.”

Republicans Are Pissed That Merrick Garland Did Exactly What They Asked

Tori Otten, August 11, 2023 [The New Republic]

Republicans have been demanding for months that the Department of Justice appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s taxes. And now the department has, the GOP is…throwing a fit.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that he has appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss as special counsel in the probe. Weiss was already overseeing the investigation and had negotiated a plea deal that Republicans hated. Republicans alleged that the Justice Department impeded Weiss’s investigation into Hunter Biden by refusing to give him special counsel status.

But in response to Garland giving a Trump-appointed attorney independent operating power, Republicans are now arguing that the whole thing is a cover-up.

How Nancy Pelosi’s Long Game Led to Trump’s Indictment 

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]

Trump criminal charges go to heart of KKK Act 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 8-8-2023]

The latest charges leveled against former President Donald Trump were brought under Reconstruction-era laws. And though those laws were written to combat the Ku Klux Klan, they are precisely applicable to his brazen attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump is charged under Section 241, which is part of a series of statutes known as the Enforcement Acts (also referred to as the KKK Acts), that were enacted in 1870-1871 to protect newly freed Black Americans and their allies from “conspiracies against civil rights.”….

The law was used to prosecute some of the most infamous crimes that were part of the backlash to the 1960s civil rights movement.

That includes the “Mississippi Burning” case against more than a dozen law enforcement officers and Klan members for conspiring to murder three civil rights workers in Neshoba County in June 1964. The law was also used to prosecute several Klansmen for the murder of a Black veteran, Lemuel Penn, in July 1964, and just days after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Those cases concerned the rights to due process of law and to travel freely, but the statute’s main purpose is to prosecute the sort of offenses Trump is alleged to have committed in the indictment — conspiracies to hinder the right to vote, according to a 1993 law review article by Adam Safwat, now an attorney at Nelson Mullins. The Supreme Court acknowledged that point in a 1884 ruling that affirmed the conviction under Section 241 of several KKK members in Georgia for plotting to beat up a Black man in order to prevent him from voting.

Prosecutions of conspiracies against “the right to have one’s vote counted” fairly were permitted under Section 241 as early as 1915. In United States v. Mosley, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the law allowed the indictment of county election board members in Oklahoma who agreed to omit votes from certain precincts from their count…..

Why Georgia might beat the feds at holding Trump accountable

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-9-2023]

“You might be tempted to see these criminal proceedings in state courts as a superfluous sideshow to Trump’s federal indictment on charges related to overthrowing the 2020 election. In fact, these parallel cases are essential to protecting American democracy in three ways. [First,] even a newly inaugurated President Trump could not fire Fani Willis, the Georgia district attorney investigating his crimes in that state — or any other state official [and] state crimes are not subject to pardon by the president…. Second, Trump is not the only person who allegedly engaged in election subversion in 2020 and 2021, and the states are likely to be the most promising path for holding the others accountable too…. Finally, the state prosecutions remind us that American elections are decentralized and that the safeguarding of our democracy cannot just be the responsibility of the federal government.”

DeSantis Says Trump Rigged the 2020 Election for Biden 

Ed Kilgore [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-8-2023]

“The Florida governor’s new departure is to blame Trump rather than the evil Democrats for the alleged voting irregularities that made the election suspect: ‘[H]ere’s the issue that I think is important for Republican voters to think about: Why did we have all those mail votes? Because Trump turned the government over to Fauci,’ DeSantis said, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. ‘They embraced lockdowns. They did the CARES Act, which funded mail-in ballots across the country.’ So there you have it: DeSantis is suggesting that Trump is as much a perpetrator as a victim of the rigged election of 2020. Not only does this provide an elegant solution to the problem of validating stolen-election schemes without exonerating Trump, but it also nicely meshes with DeSantis’s strategy of running to Trump’s right. Trump’s alleged empowerment of devil figure Anthony Fauci has been one of DeSantis’s most consistent targets.”

The Woman Who Bought a Mountain for God: The country’s fastest-growing Christian movement helped fuel Trump’s rise—and is gearing up for spiritual battle

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 8-6-2023]

House GOP 2024 strategy memo: We have to win in blue states 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-9-2023]

“Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC aligned with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, has identified that about one-third of swing seats are in traditionally blue states. Republicans hold just a four-seat majority in Congress and will have to defend 13 seats in deep blue New York and California for the best chance to hold on to power in 2024. To aid in that effort, CLF is launching a ‘Blue State Project’ to compete in traditionally blue states…. Republicans in blue states will have a disadvantage when it comes to party infrastructure. CLF said it must create its own infrastructure focused on reaching ticket-splitting voters, building field programs to reach voters and investing in early voting, which Republicans have advised against in past cycles. The memo also told donors that CLF will need early funding to reserve television time in these comparably more expensive markets during the presidential year, which will also drive up rates. In addition to defending GOP gains in deep blue states, the Congressional Leadership Fund also identified offensive opportunities that it plans to invest in, starting with the open seats currently held by Democrats Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. It also said it plans to support challengers in the five seats held by Democrats that Donald Trump won in 2020.


The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Clarence Thomas’s $267,230 R.V. and the Friend Who Financed It 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 8-6-2023]

On Clarence Thomas’ lavish vacations.

August 10, 2023 Heather Cox Richardson

“Good Lord, Who Among Us Hasn’t Paid For A Clarence Thomas Vacation?” David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo asked this morning. Kurtz was reacting to a new piece by Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski in ProPublica detailing Justice Thomas’s leisure activities and the benefactors who underwrote them.

Those activities include “[a]t least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.” The authors add that this “is almost certainly an undercount.”

Thomas’s benefactors, Murphy and Mierjeski noted, “share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence.” That ideology made Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who has been in the news for the release of his December 6, 2020, memo outlining how to steal the 2020 presidential election, speculate that Thomas was the Supreme Court justice the plotters could count on to back their coup. “Realistically,” Chesebro wrote to lawyer John Eastman, “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas—do you agree, Prof. Eastman?”

Last Saturday, Republican leaders in Alabama illustrated that their ideology means they reject democracy. After the Supreme Court agreed that the congressional districting map lawmakers put in place after the 2020 census probably violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a lower court ruling that required a new map went into effect. But Alabama Republican lawmakers simply refused.

Historic Supreme Court case could imperil the entire US tax code 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 8-11-2023]


Democrats’ political malpractice

Why Did Biden Elevate CIA Director William Burns to His Cabinet? 

[Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-9-2023]

“Moving Burns into the cabinet should therefore be understood not as giving the CIA ‘a credibility boost,’ as The New York Times put it, but as a further normalization of the agency’s emergent role as a policy actor. Sanctioning and highlighting the agency’s political role poses a danger to its longtime mission of providing the president with clear, unbiased information and analysis. It is also dangerous for the American public, which faces an increased risk from a powerful foreign intelligence bureaucracy that is being positioned as an actor within the domestic sphere. Before 9/11, the CIA director could plausibly serve in the cabinet—as a representative from an outside agency providing data to the White House—without also assuming the more political role of serving on the president’s team. But while the formal ban on CIA involvement in domestic affairs remains, it has become all but empty of significance. The post-9/11 doctrine of interagency “”intelligence sharing”” and the formation of the now 18-member intelligence community means the CIA can and does hand off domestic intelligence it gathers and formulates to the FBI. The CIA-led intelligence community remains wounded and publicly compromised, moreover, by the insistence of so many eminent former intelligence chiefs in the days before the 2020 election that the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop was a Russian information operation, and thus a legitimate cause for both social media censorship and a journalistic blackout. Burns was not complicit in this now-infamous episode, but neither has he attempted (or been allowed) to acknowledge or apologize for it. If President Biden is in fact concerned with restoring the CIA’s credibility, he would do better to keep it outside his cabinet rather than brazenly welcoming it in.”

Young people’s anger fuels far-right populist as Argentina’s election nears 

[OpenDemocracy, via Naked Capitalism 8-10-2023]


Thomas Frank on Populism, Anti-Populism, Third Parties, and 2024

Lambert Strether [Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-7-2023]: “Frank initially talks about hegemon-busting “social movements,” but the discussion segues into a discussion of the wonderful and brutal Listen, Liberal! (published March 15, 2016, that is before Trump was elected). Frank tells how he did a world tour on the strength of that book: France, New Zealand… And in the United States? Frank was blackballed by the press. No more MSNBC, no more Wall Street Journal. Frank was personal non grata. This shows that the liberal Democrat lust to censor was in full force at least seven years ago, even if that lust had not recruited the service providers among the spooks and social media that came to constitute the Censorship Industrial Complex. Frank held up a mirror. Democrats smashed the mirror, and ostracized Frank.”

[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-9-2023]


AIPAC steps up efforts to oust anti-Israel lawmakers

[Jewish Insider, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-10-2023]

“In recent months, AIPAC has stepped up its recruitment efforts to challenge Democratic incumbents who have clashed with the pro-Israel establishment, pushing the activist left into a defensive crouch as it prepares for a potentially bruising primary cycle. The bipartisan pro-Israel group has been actively courting a slate of House candidates to oppose marquee members of the ‘Squad,’ including Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN), according to multiple sources familiar with AIPAC’s outreach who spoke with Jewish Insider on Tuesday. The recruitment efforts have come amid a surprise shake-up at a leading progressive group, Justice Democrats, which laid off nearly half of its staff last month. The embattled group has claimed a few major victories over pro-Israel Democrats in previous primaries, but has otherwise struggled to raise money after an expensive election cycle in which several progressive candidates were defeated by establishment Democrats. While AIPAC quietly opposed Omar last cycle by contributing $350,000 to a separate group created to boost a top Democratic primary challenger, its latest efforts point to a new and potentially more expansive direction for the group, whose affiliated super PAC, launched in late 2021, has largely engaged in open-seat races rather than challenging incumbents.”

[TW: I think the ill effects of AIPAC’s influence in the Democratic Party the Democratic National Committee in May 2011, are embodied in Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She chaired the Democratic National Committee from May 2011 until July 2016, when she resigned after leaked emails showing that she and other members of the DNC staff had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primaries to help Hillary Clinton win. Then, there is the nearly total collapse of the Florida Democratic Party in the 2020 election. As a Congressperson, Wasserman Schultz is presumably one of the top leaders of the Florida Democratic Party. ]




Open Thread


Why Positive Emotions Towards Difficult People And Things Can Be Good


  1. bruce wilder

    Tori Otten, The New Republic:

    Attorney General Merrick Garland . . . appointed Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss as special counsel in the probe. Weiss was already overseeing the investigation and had negotiated a plea deal that Republicans hated. Republicans alleged that the Justice Department impeded Weiss’s investigation into Hunter Biden by refusing to give him special counsel status. . . . Republicans are now arguing that the whole thing is a cover-up.

    The war of narratives, fake outrage and fake principles that fills political media is conducted with all the sophistication of the playground taunts of third-graders.

    How is it that Republicans should not be expected to criticize Garland for giving special counsel status to the guy who negotiated the sweetheart plea deal that could have deep-sixed any further attempt to investigate or prosecute Hunter Biden?

    Tori Otten is trying to paint the Republicans as inconsistent, by giving a false reading to Republican talking points. She’s milking her own reading incomprehension to produce a non-insight. Does Hunter Biden smell any better?

    Re: the despicable Debbie Wasserman Schultz

    It is worth remembering that the email leaks of 2016 also revealed a circumvention of campaign finance law designed to divert bundled donations that should have gone to the state Parties into the hands of the Clinton campaign.

  2. different clue

    There is a theory held by only a few so far that certain members of the elite have their doubts about Biden’s re-electibility and so they would like to put some roller skates under his easy chair and gracefully slide him out the side door and find another DemPrez nominee. This theory has it that the longer he refuses to “retire gracefully” to “spend more time with his family” or some such thing, the more embarrassing material will get leaked and then flooded to the media about Hunter, and then about maybe even about Big Guy himself if that is what it takes to get Big Guy to retire gracefully before the election.

    Its just a theory held by a few. We will see if it has any predictive power.

  3. VietnamVet

    It is simply not a coincidence that the Maui wildfires wiped out Lahaina as the Camp Fire destroyed Paradise CA earlier. In 2016 the last sugar cane plantation closed and the crop growing areas became untended. Tourism is the largest economic sector on the island. With the rise of neoliberalism and rentier finance, industry in North America and Europe was offshored and public functions privatized. Planning, fire breaks, land management, zoning, building fire standards and the changing climate are all ignored because any solution must be funded by taxes and solved by conservation and regulations. Just as a million mostly elderly Americans died from COVID-19, hundreds and then thousands will die from wildfires. Life expectancy will continue to fall. This is simply of no concern to the ruling western elite – the Corporate/State Supra-Empire.

    During the New Deal era there was a conscious effort to unify the United States through public education and the US military planned for WWII. With Reagan/Thatcher counter revolt, the USA is now a house divided — a globalist colony. Grift is public policy. WWIII has started and Washington DC denies it.

  4. bruce wilder

    @ VietnamVet

    The TikTok videos of Geoff Cygnus on Maui are quite informative and interestingly he complains that he is being pressured by “powerful people” to shut up and let the msm handle the narrative with its 30-second clips.

    We will see, but I can’t help but think this will be like New Orleans in the end.

  5. StewartM

    I think Charles Hugh Smith is overstating the case:

    When we say “The Wealthy Are Not Like You and Me,” most people will assume we’re talking about ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) with $30 million or more in assets or even the hyper-rich worth hundreds of millions or billionaires.

    I have the data. The net worth of the 95th percentile is $2,584,130.26 for 2020, the most recent data (a new set will be released in September 2023). The 90th percentile is $1,219,126.46. Both figures include home values. Even if they did not, if all the 90th percentile’s wealth would be in liquid assets, that would only generate some $48,000 of income, which is less than the median income (2021 value of the 50th percentile is $67,463). Moreover, most of this wealth is held in the form of retirement accounts, whose withdrawals are taxed the same as wages. I know people in this wealth range, and they as a rule don’t live in exclusive or gated communities isolated from the less-wealthy.

    But I *do* think it happens at some higher value, say 98 %. The income of the 98 % in 2021 dollars is about $387,000; that of the 99 % is $504,000. The wealth for both groups is c. $6.5 million and $11 million respectively. Not only would this wealth easily generate $250,000 to $440,000 of income, if it is held in brokerage accounts instead of retirement accounts, that is taxed not only at lower rates but the first $80,000 is *not taxed at all!!*

    Even then, someone with $11,000,000 while very comfortably wealthy, is not able to give enough largesse to politicos to distort our politics. If a mere 400 individuals own half the wealth in the US, then that slice of the 1 % distorts politics far more than the average in the 1 %. It was said that Sheldon Alderson was toying with the idea of spending $400 million to defeat Obama in 2012, and such an expenditure would be like an ordinary American spending say, $100; well–that gives you the right idea.

    Finally–you have to be careful using IRS income data, as then you fall into conservative talking points. The uber-wealthy are NOT among the top income earners in the US by IRS data; that is more the domain of well-paid athletes and movie stars and not (paradoxically) the sport team owners and the CEOs of movie studios. That’s because the uber-rich can tweak their taxable income highly. Jeff Bezo only makes $80,000 of taxable income according to his IRS filings, but can afford to buy super-yachts with that.

  6. different clue


    We need a word or phrase or acronym to capture what you are describing here. Unfortunately, the only phrase is the extremely clunky and ungraceful ” one percent of one percent”.

    One could give that an acronym which could work if enough millions of people learned to recognize it on sight and decided they liked it and would use it.

    OPOOP. For ” One Percent Of One Percent.” The OPOOP.

    And OPOOPOOP . . . for ” One Percent Of One Percent Of One Percent.”

    And I suppose the 100 or so richest megabillionaires in the entire world would be . . . .

  7. GrimJim

    So far my model of collapse has included two major factions, regional Christofascist Militia-based tribes and Mexican Cartel-based tribes, both equivalent to the various migrating Germanic and Hunnic tribes of Rome or the Arabs and Moors of Byzantium.

    I’d not really considered urban or properly settled factions before, as frankly, urban areas in the US are, barring modern technology, little more than wasteland in the making.

    I figured the post-Collapse US would be even more of a howling wilderness than was Western Europe after the fall of Rome and the ascension of the migrating tribes.

    But some form of urbanity, on a microcosm scale compared to modern cities or even Migration Era cities, might survive around a few core locales, well removed from modern cities and towns.

    A lot of hyper rich folks are buying up vast swaths of land, mostly for investment and to hold water rights. But there might remain enough of a kernel of civilization in some of those locales, where they still have water and minimal storms, to allow a sort of “manor-house” society to survive.

    The same can be said for some of these religious cults buying swaths of land for their compounds. If they also are built sustainably, they might survive as a sort of monastic society, supplying the more mobile Christofascist tribes with leadership and training in return for protection.

    Neither would be properly civilized — one a Randian neo-Feudalist society, the other a radical Christofascist monasticism — but perhaps something more than pure nomadic savagery will survive, for a time.

  8. Curt Kastens

    Money is certianly an important resource is allowing for moral corruption. But one should not forget that information is just as important. An information pymarid is just as obvious as a wealth or income pyramid in our global society.
    This simple point allows me to conclude that it not the über wealthy that are in the world’s driver seat. Do the world’s über wealthy think that they are in control? That is a question that I can not answer.

  9. StewartM

    Curt Kastens

    But one should not forget that information is just as important. An information pymarid is just as obvious as a wealth or income pyramid in our global society.

    Trust me, having a boatload of spare cash *does* allow one to (Steve Bannon’s words) “flood the airwaves with shit”. I think there is more disinformation now going on than there was earlier in my life, and possibly more than any point in US history save possibly the antebellum period before the Civil War (Southern newspapers screamed untruths such as ‘Abraham Lincoln is running for President in 1860 on a platform of freeing all the slaves and having them marry white women’). And possibly, given the ability of technology to amplify a desired message, more than even the antebellum period.

    (This kiddies, is what happens when you cut taxes on the rich and deregulate capitalism, creating a billionaire class. You can’t have billionaires and maybe centi-millionaires and keep democracy, as—and the US Founders imagined–our political discourse should be centered around established facts, and not deliberate falsehoods promoted for the gain of ‘factions’. And when these con artists like James O’Keefe get proscecuted, their legal bill is picked up by the billionaire class).

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