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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 21, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Kenneth Mack | The 14th amendment: its radical past (YouTube)

[Harvard Law School, Nov. 16, 2016, via YouTube]

[TW: Law Professor Kenneth Mack chronologically summarizes the terrorizing events that prompted the writing and passage of the 14th Amendment, and the reactions against it, including:

  • the Memphis riot of May 1-3, 1866, in which black Union troops being demobilized were confronted by a white mob that killed 46 local
  • the New Orleans riot of July 30, 1866, in which 34 African Americans were killed and another 119 wounded, by a white mob composed largely of former Confederate soldiers
  • the horrifying ax murder of a black family in rural Kentucky in the summer of 1868, by two white men, John Blyew and George Kennard. When officials in Kentucky refused to prosecute the two white murderers, federal officials tried and convicted them in the U.S. Court for the District of Kentucky. The state of Kentucky then appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court, arguing Kentucky’s laws prohibiting African Americans from testifying against whites invalidated the convictions. The Supreme Court rejected the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and ruled that victims were not entitled to protection from violations of their rights perpetrated under the laws of the “sovereign” states.
  • The massacre of over 100 black militia men by a group of former Confederate soldiers and members of the Ku Klux Klan in Colfax, Louisiana, April 13, 1873. ]


Eric Foner: The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution (YouTube)

[National Constitution Center, November 19, 2019, via YouTube]

“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” What are the privileges or immunities of citizens?  Nobody knows… Bingham [US Representative from Ohio John A. Bingham, who drafted the 14th Amendment] had a clear idea — he said those are the liberties protected in the Bill of Rights. Bingham said what this clause will do is require the states to respect the Bill of Rights. Before the Civil War the prohibitions in the Bill of Rights only apply to the federal government. What are the first words of the First Amendment? “Congress shall make no law…” Look at freedom of speech: try to give a speech against slavery in South Carolina — you can’t, there’s a law against it. Doesn’t that violate the First Amendment? No, because the First Amendment is about the federal government. But now Bingham says the now the states are going to have to abide by it.

There was a tradition of sharp distinctions among different kinds of rights: political rights, the right to vote, but you can be a citizen and not have that  — women were citizens but they couldn’t vote. That’s up to the states to determine who votes, at least before the Civil War. Civil rights, you mentioned a lot of them a minute ago those are the rights that really make it possible to compete in the labor market: the rights of signed contracts, to sue and be sued, to testify in court, have basic equality before the law…. Republicans by this time thought blacks orught to have all of those civil rights that  — that’s what the Civil Rights Act of 1866 says….

33:57 — The language is interesting… citizens have to enjoy these civil rights the same as enjoyed by white persons. That’s a very interesting way of putting it. Before the Civil War, the word “white” in law was a boundary, a barrier: only white people can vote… Now they use whiteness as a baseline: if white people enjoy this right, than everybody else has to enjoy it. So it’s amazing… what’s going on here is a complete rewriting of the legal structure of the United States in terms of race. One of the things I used a tell my students, “you know what they are trying to here,  if you wonder what their original intent is, it’s what we would call today “regime change.” They are trying to change a regime based on slavery into a regime based on freedom.” That’s what they are trying to do in reconstruction, with these laws and these amendments.


Strategic Political Economy

Biden’s Climate Law Is Ending 40 Years of Hands-off Government 

Robinson Meyer [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-2022]

For America to decarbonize, it must reindustrialize….

The era of passive, hands-off government is over. The laws embrace an approach to governing the economy that scholars call “industrial policy,” a catch-all name for a wide array of tools and tactics that all assume the government can help new domestic industries get started, grow, and reach massive scale. If “this country used to make things,” as the saying goes, and if it wants to make things again, then the government needs to help it. And if the country believes that certain industries bestow a strategic advantage, then it needs to protect them against foreign interference.

The approach is at the core of how the IRA seeks to resolve climate change. Democrats hope to create an economy where the government doesn’t just help Americans buy green technologies; it also helps nurture the industries that produce that technology.

This reflects a homecoming of sorts for the United States. From its founding to the 1970s, the country had an economic doctrine that was defined by its pragmatism and the willingness of its government to find new areas of growth.

[TW: This is actually a discouragingly weak article, as it entirely overlooks the rich history of US government support for economic development in the form of science and technology development. It is discouraging because it was the December 1993 issue of The Atlantic Monthly that carried the historic article by James Fellows, How the World Works, resurrecting the the American School of political economy of the nineteenth century:

Friedrich List and his best-known American counterpart, Alexander Hamilton, argued that… Societies did not automatically move from farming to small crafts to major industries just because millions of small merchants were making decisions for themselves. If every person put his money where the return was greatest, the money might not automatically go where it would do the nation the most good. For it to do so required a plan, a push, an exercise of central power.

For example, Meyer discusses the development of aviation technology without mentioning the crucial funding provided by US government airmail contracts, the scientific support of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which became NASA. (For example, the three major developments in aerodynamics in the past 70 years were developed entirely on the government dime at NASA’s Langley Research Center by NASA aerodynamicist Richard Whitcomb. The next link is a bit better at illustrating how the US government has steered economic development.]

What’s the most successful venture capital firm in history?

[No Mercy, No Malice, via The Big Picture 8-20-2022]

Founded in 1776 by General Partners Washington, Jefferson, and Madison, and headquartered today in a Beaux Arts corporate campus in the District of Columbia, the U.S. government is the world’s premier funder of technological and commercial innovation. The Inflation Reduction Act (“IRA”) is being hailed/hated as a climate bill, but it’s really just the most recent investment by Eagle Capital. Opponents of the legislation claim it’s a poor investment. Eagle Cap’s track record suggests otherwise, and we can expect big returns….

Early-stage, future-leaning research is riskier and requires large amounts of patient capital. Private industry struggles to justify long-term, mammoth investments in deep science. The most enduring societies have one thing in common: Their governments play the long game. In the 1960s in the U.S., this meant computer and networking technology. At its peak, federal R&D spending approached 2% of GDP. The most cutting-edge work was done by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”), which developed or funded the development of almost every building block technology of our tech infrastructure, from the Internet and the mouse to graphical user interfaces and GPS. More recently, DARPA has been a major funder of AI projects, notably speech recognition — both Dragon and Siri spun out of DARPA. Speech illuminates the difference between government and private R&D: In the 1950s, private Bell Labs (aka the phone company) did pioneering work on speech recognition — but only on phone digits zero through nine….

Double-click on any major tech product or company, and you’ll find government-funded tech. Apple, Intel, and Qualcomm were all beneficiaries of a loan program similar to the one that funded Solyndra and Tesla. Google’s core algorithm was developed with a National Science Foundation grant. Economist Mariana Mazzucato, in her book The Entrepreneurial State, calculates that U.S. government agencies have provided roughly a quarter of total funding for early-stage tech companies, and that in the pharmaceutical industry (a sector requiring immense experimentation and a willingness to fail), 75% of new molecular entities have been discovered by publicly funded labs or government agencies….

The Human Genome Project cost U.S. taxpayers $3.8 billion, was completed under budget and two years ahead of schedule, and has generated $966 billion in economic activity and $59 billion in federal tax revenue. It’s estimated the federal government’s $3.3 billion in annual spending on genetics projects generates $265 billion in economic activity annually. This number doesn’t account for the improved health outcomes and quality of life flowing from genetic breakthroughs — which have an estimated value of $1 trillion per year and growing….

There would be no SpaceX without NASA, its largest customer. Tesla built its Fremont factory with a $465 million DoE loan in 2010, and its first 200,000 cars benefited from tax credit subsidies of up to $7,500. For years the company was able to report profits thanks to the “sale” of emissions credits to other carmakers. All told, the company has accepted an estimated $2.5 billion in government support….

Another outspoken billionaire, Peter Thiel, says the U.S. government is “socialist” and believes we have “much worse outcomes than the Soviet Union in the 1950s.” (His solution is to take up seasteading — i.e., building floating autonomous ocean communities that aren’t subject to regulations or taxes.) But Thiel’s current venture, Palantir, is a government contractor that provides data analytics to the CIA, DoD, and other government agencies — and these contracts make up almost 60% of its revenue. Note: Palantir has lost money every year of its existence. That feels like a Soviet outcome….

We’re on vacation and my kids made $27 from their lemonade stand yesterday. They then spent $29 on Nerds and Airheads candy, and were 100% confident they should have unfettered access to their returns (before/during/after dinner) … as they earned it. The gap in the math was that Dad spent $38 on supplies (table, sign, market, pitcher, cups, lemonade mix, etc.). Take this times a trillion, and you’re starting to get warm re: the relationship between taxpayers, Sand Hill Road, and the innovators they back.


Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, August 16, 2022

Since President Ronald Reagan told Americans, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Republicans have focused on proving that private enterprise is more efficient than government at providing the things Americans need. That argument has depended on preventing the government from legislating or addressing the things that people care about. In his year and a half in office, Biden has demonstrated the opposite: that government can work….

Democrats are demonstrating that the government is working, but for their ideology to make sense, the current-day Republican Party needs chaos. Chaos is what it is currently delivering….

Observers noted that the defeat of Cheney marks the passage of another establishment name from the ranks of Republican Party lawmakers. The Lincoln Project tweeted, “Tonight, the nation marks the end of the Republican Party. What remains shares the name and branding of the traditional GOP, but is in fact an authoritarian nationalist cult dedicated only to Donald Trump.”


The Real Inflation Reduction Acts

David Dayen, August 19, 2022 [The American Prospect]

…the law will have little to no effect on inflation…. it’s another example of Democrats hiding policy preferences behind a flailing attempt to speak to the politics of the moment. If they believe that transitioning away from fossil fuels and creating an industrial policy to make America an export leader in zero-carbon fuels is good for long-term economic prosperity, environmental health, and national security—well, just say so. If they believe that the IRS has been gutted for too long and the drug industry has held too much power, just say so. The policies here are fine, but too much of Democratic political positioning involves concealment, and I think it generates natural but unnecessary skepticism….

The law with the best claim on the name “Inflation Reduction Act” recently is the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA 2022), passed in June and intended to finally crack down on the activities of the ocean shipping cartel. It gives the Federal Maritime Commission authority to scrutinize shipping contracts, prevent price-gouging and extortionate fees, and facilitate exports….

Also this week, the Biden administration secured a lasting reduction to the cost of hearing aids, again by breaking up a cartel. The Food and Drug Administration, five years after the passage of a 2017 law, finalized rules to sell hearing aids over the counter without a prescription. This ends the stranglehold by the four companies that control over 80 percent of the market.

The Trifecta+ Which Will Make The Next 100 Years Hell

Ian Welsh, August 19, 2022

Capitalism is ending. There are a bunch of reasons (follow the prior link), but one big part of it is simply that it’s going to have been seen to have failed and be blamed by everyone for the environmental crisis (it’s not just a climate crisis, ecological collapse is at least as important). Democracy stands a chance of getting it in the neck too.

We aren’t just going to be changing sub-ideologies and swapping hegemonic powers and dealing with an enviro-collapse; we are going to be changing how we fundamentally run our societies, because it is almost certain that you can’t be capitalist and fix the environment, and in any case, again, capitalism will totally be discredited by all the deaths and catastrophes during this era….

This is compounded by the fact that end of sub-ideological and ideological eras always occurs with fanatically incompetent elites in charge. The classic western example is the fall of Rome, but look at the Weimar Republic, at Hoover, at Nixon/Ford/Carter and so on. The generations who created the previous system are dead or out of power and their heirs are boobs who don’t know how to repair their system. When the Lost generation, the last generation to remember the 20s, not just the great depression) died, a subset of the GI and Silent generations then destroyed the New Deal, both negatively (unable to deal with the oil shocks) and positively (Reagan/Thatcher/Friedman, etc..)

The people in charge now are radically incompetent at everything except internal power games. They are good at accumulating money and staying in charge and bad at everything else… On top of simple mechanical incompetence, they are also unimaginative: they cannot conceive of different ways of running society.


A Progressive Vision for the Economy: Economist Dean Baker discusses how to make the world a better place.

Jon Schwarz, August 19 2022 []

DB. I came to Washington in 1992, and began working on Social Security — and at that time, I was inclined to have more respect for the economics profession, in the sense that I assumed that the people, at least the leading lights in the profession knew what they’re talking about, that they were smart people….

 I was really obsessed with Social Security, because there are real efforts to cut it. This is, I’m thinking, the early, mid-90s — really it was bipartisan. You have plenty of Democrats, I’m happy to blame Republicans, but there are plenty of Democrats — Daniel Patrick Moynihan was very anxious to cut Social Security; Clinton had gone along with a plan to cut Social Security. So it was really bipartisan. And to my view, it’s a tremendously important program, both because tens of millions of people depend on it, but also because it’s kind of a model, because it’s just a great success. It does what it’s supposed to do. So if you like government, social programs, Social Security is a fantastic model: there is very little fraud, it keeps tens of millions of elderly out of poverty. So it does exactly what it’s supposed to do very efficiently.

So I thought: It’s a great program, we had to protect it. And I was determined to do everything I could to protect it. And in the course of it, I just was kind of amazed…. Anyhow, the fact that I had such a hard time convincing economists at elite universities, that this has to change how we look at the world, how we look at the past, how we look at the future, it was just mind boggling to me… They’re not stupid people, I don’t think any of them are stupid people. But they were so entrenched in their way of thinking and their desire, I’ll say, to cut Social Security, they really, I think, to this day, many of them did not understand you can’t just change the Consumer Price Index, say it’s been overstating inflation by a percentage point, and not have a totally different view of our recent past and what we think about the future….

For people not familiar with Martin Feldstein… he passed on about five or six years ago. But he was a professor at Harvard for many years. And he was also the head, the president, of the National Bureau of Economic Research, which is tremendously important in the economics profession, because if you’re a National Bureau of Economic Research Fellow, that means you could have all your working papers put out by NBR. And they’re circulated to all the top economists or MBR fellows. So it’s an enormous stepping stone. And I’ll just say not getting into details here, you could find good liberal economists who were NBR fellows, but there definitely was affirmative action for conservatives, I’ll just put it that way. And I don’t think that was accidental.

The other thing Feldstein did, which I give him credit for, very devious, he taught the intro econ class at Harvard for decades, and this was the sort of thing most Harvard professors don’t want to do they want to do their research, they don’t want to be bothered with freshmen, sophomores asking stupid questions. Well, it was very clever, because here are all of these bright, ambitious kids at Harvard, and they’re interested in economics. Well, they get Martin Feldstein! And you either stay in economics and you’re likely to do Martin Feldstein-type economics, or as I’ve known many people, they go: That’s disgusting, I’m gonna take sociology, I’m gonna take history — whatever, and he chases them out of the profession.

So it was very clever of him. And he really played an enormous role in shifting the economics profession to the right over the ’80s, the ’90s, and into the first decade of this century….

JS: Yeah. And I think we shouldn’t let this moment go by without also recognizing one of his other accomplishments, which is that he was on the board of AIG, which people may remember was the insurance company that helped destroy the world economy in 2007 and 2008 with credit default swaps. So he was there supervising that as well….

JS: And now I should mention that the same thing that was true with Social Security was also true with the housing bubble in the sense that in 2005, I interviewed a guy named Greg Mankiw, who is a professor of economics at Harvard, just like Martin Feldstein. He is almost as fancy as Martin Feldstein. He had been the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in the George W. Bush administration.

By this point, when I talked to him, he had left. He had gone back to Harvard. And so, again, it’s 2005, the height of the housing bubble. I asked him about that. I asked him if he had any concerns. And he refused to even accept the premise — the idea that there was a housing bubble. And he was outraged at the idea that mere humans could say that there were such things as financial bubbles, that we could disagree with the market, that the market was not providing the correct value for everything. And I mentioned some of the things that you’d written. And he really sputtered and was very, very angry about this….

DB. Can we think of an alternative way to support creative work? And that’s where these artistic freedom vouchers, whatever you want to call tax credits, where that would come in. So we pick some sum, let’s say: $200. We say everyone in the country has $200 that they could use to support creative workers of their choice. They can give it to a local newspaper, they can give it to someone who records blues music, they can give it to an organization that supports the blues music — a condition of getting the money is you’re not eligible for copyrights.


Russia / Ukraine

A Marine’s Assessment of Russia’s Military “Operation” in Ukraine (a “Profound Appreciation of All Three Realms in Which Wars Are Waged”) 

Lambert Strether, August 14, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

[TW: This is the same Marine Corps Gazette article that was presented last week by Dr. Leon Tressell at SouthFront. It’s immaterial that the article is made publicly available by Tressell and /or SouthFront. It’s an article in the traditional mouthpiece of the US Marine Corps, and it is therefore safe to assume that there are some people in the USMC, and rather high up, that think it important to beging countering the “Ukraine is winning narrative.” I think this is a piece of evidence that should be combined with two other pieces of evidence: 1) The Atlantic article Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals; and 2) the report that the US Air Force has designed, developed, built, and deployed, a 6th generation fighter by completely bypassing the private defense companies which have previously had a stranglehold on USA military procurement. We should probably add a fourth piece of evidence: that the US Department of Defence has quietly, trying to avoid controversy, institutionalized its responses, and capability to respond, to climate change. Considering these four pieces of evidence in the context of Ian Welsh’s summary of the end of at least three eras [“The generations who created the previous system are dead or out of power and their heirs are boobs … the GI and Silent generations then destroyed the New Deal, both negatively (unable to deal with the oil shocks) and positively (Reagan/Thatcher/Friedman, etc..)”], I think the evidence points to the emergence of a faction within the US military leadership that is conscience of the gross incompetence of national leadership, and is thinking in ways of reacting to that incompetence.]


Russia’s Destruction of the Ukraine Military 

Paul Craig Roberts [via Mike Norman Economics 8-20-2022]

The “Demilitarization” of Ukraine has been precisely the Russian mentality in Ukraine. Their foremost objective, from the very beginning, as explicitly articulated by President Vladimir Putin in his historic speech of February 24, 2022, was to “demilitarize” Ukraine – to destroy its army….

The army the US/NATO built in Ukraine, by the beginning of 2022, had swelled to become the largest and best-armed land force in Europe. By almost every metric, it was more potent than the combined armies of Germany, France, and Italy….

The elimination of this substantial threat on their literal doorstep was understandably viewed by the Russians as an existential imperative….

Everything it did north of Kiev was all for show. They didn’t break down; their troops didn’t run away; they didn’t run out of gas. It was just a big “feint-in-force”….

While potential reinforcements remained idle and immobile in and around Kiev, the powerful force in Mariupol was methodically surrounded and systematically annihilated in an operation I am confident will be studied in war colleges for generations as one of the most impressive prosecutions of urban warfare ever executed.


Russia Buys 1,000 Drones From Iran and Expands the Level of Strategic Cooperation 

Elijah J. Magnier [via Naked Capitalism 8-14-2022]


Turkish Drone Maker Baykar Is Booked for Three Years, CEO Says

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 8-15-2022]



China Threatens The US Empire, Not The US Itself: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 8-15-2022]

(Caitoin puts her finger on the nature of the great game that has been underway for centuries, originating when the US was still a colony.)


The pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]


Disrupting mainstream economics – Modern Monetary Theory

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]


They’re not capitalists – they’re a criminal predatory class

All time best interviews with accused fraudsters 

[Dirty Laundry: AI, Investing & Fraud, via The Big Picture 8-14-2022]


The Strange Case of Nakamoto’s Bitcoin – Part 1 

Sal Bayat [via The Big Picture 8-14-2022]

 In actuality, categorizing the mother of all crypto as Ponzi or pyramid is an attempt to fit a square peg into a round hole. Bitcoin is neither, it belongs to a new genus of fraud. It has several specific qualities that make it unique, and many others that it shares with known forms of investment fraud, notably Ponzi and pyramid schemes. By carefully examining Bitcoin’s construction and observing its relations with other forms of investment fraud, we can better understand the inner workings of the Nakamoto scheme

“Bitcoin is the world’s first case of investment fraud which is a digital network.”


Over 70 Economists Call for Biden Administration to Return Afghanistan’s Central Bank Reserves 

[CEPR, via Naked Capitalism 8-15-2022]


Joe Biden’s Senseless Economic Strangulation of Afghanistan 

Ryan Cooper, August 16, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Stealing its central bank reserves is not going to do anything except starve innocent civilians.


Restoring balance to the economy

80% of US Voters Across Party Lines Support Expanding Social Security 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]

In July, the progressive think tank found that 70% of all voters—including 76% of Independents, 71% of Republicans, and 64% of Democrats—said they had heard “nothing at all” about GOP proposals to “sunset” the program.


Tackling The Housing Crisis With Public Power

Ricardo Gomez, August 15, 2022 [The Lever]

“Rather than letting markets drive housing development outcomes, the public developer model creates a foundation for a housing system not driven by profits.”

In June, Rhode Island passed a $10 million pilot program that will use COVID-19 stimulus money to build mixed-income public housing. By acting as a public developer itself, Rhode Island would be the only state to acquire its own land and build housing directly, cutting out profit-gouging developers — a model approach for the rest of the country amid a housing crisis that has only grown more dire since the start of the pandemic.


The Macroeconomic Effects of Student Debt Cancellation

[Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, February 2018]

The report analyzes households’ mounting reliance on debt to finance higher education, including the distributive implications of student debt and debt cancellation; describes the financial mechanics required to carry out the cancellation of debt held by the Department of Education (which makes up the vast majority of student loans outstanding) as well as privately owned student debt; and uses two macroeconometric models to provide a plausible range for the likely impacts of student debt cancellation on key economic variables over a 10-year horizon.

The authors find that cancellation would have a meaningful stimulus effect, characterized by greater economic activity as measured by GDP and employment, with only moderate effects on the federal budget deficit, interest rates, and inflation (while state budgets improve). These results suggest that policies like student debt cancellation can be a viable part of a needed reorientation of US higher education policy….

p. 17 The pattern of racial disparity in student debt is especiallyinjurious because, as the engine of social mobility, higher education is supposed to be the solution to disparities in background and family wealth. But what we are seeing now with thestudent debt crisis repeats the themes that came to light duringthe housing crisis and the Great Recession. Financing the purchase of an asset with debt as a supposed mechanism of socialmobility is a facile policy for closing racial gaps when it fails toaccount for disparities in access and quality. As with housing, sowith higher education: a mythology associated with its value asan agent of social mobility gives rise to policies that encourageborrowing to finance its acquisition. When the asset turns outto be worth much less than promised, it is those who began atthe greatest disadvantage who are left holding the most burdensome debts and who struggle to pay them off….

p. 39 Figure 3.1 shows the total contribution of the cancellationto real GDP (in 2016 $ billions) over 10 years in all four simulations—the Fair model, the Fair model with the Fed’s reactionfunction turned off (reported in this and subsequent figures as“no Fed” for both models), the Moody’s model, and the Moody’smodel with no Fed reaction function. For the Fair model, thecancellation creates $943 billion in total inflation-adjusted GDP(or $94 billion per year, on average) “with the Fed,” which risesto about $1,083 billion total (or $108 billion per year, on average) when the Fed is turned off. For the Moody’s model, withthe Fed the cancellation results in an additional $252 billiontotal inflation-adjusted GDP (just under $25 billion per year, onaverage), which rises to $861 billion total when the Fed is turnedoff (just under $86 billion per year, on average).


Gavin Newsom’s plan to save the Constitution by trolling the Supreme Court

[Vox, via The Big Picture 8-18-2022]

A new California gun law should force the Supreme Court to confront the enormity of its worst decision in decades.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law on Friday modeled after Texas’s anti-abortion law SB 8 — the Texas law which uses private lawsuits to target abortion providers. But there’s one important difference between the two state laws: California’s new law sends these litigious bounty hunters against gun dealers who sell certain guns, including assault weapons and weapons with no serial number.

It’s a high-stakes gambit that will test whether the Supreme Court actually meant what it said in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson (2021), which held that because of SB 8’s unique style of enforcement, it was immune from meaningful judicial review — and thus would take effect despite very strong arguments that the law was unconstitutional at the time.

Shortly after Jackson was decided last December, Newsom announced that he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s conclusion that states can dodge judicial review of unconstitutional laws. But Newsom also said that, if the Court’s Republican-appointed majority would give this power to states, then he would use it to limit access to firearms.


Socialists on the Knife-Edge 

Hari Kunzru [The New York Review of Books, August 18, 2022 issue]

From early utopian communities to the leftist resurgence today, the history of American socialism is deeper than its meager successes….

American socialism predates Marx. Early experiments in communal living and working included intentional communities such as New Harmony, Indiana, founded by followers of the Welsh social reformer Robert Owen in 1825, and Utopia, Ohio, founded by disciples of Charles Fourier in 1844. The word “socialist” is usually held to have entered the English language in 1827, when it appeared in the pages of the Owenite Co-operative Magazine. By the 1830s “socialism” had been brought into conceptual opposition with “individualism,” creating the basic contours of our contemporary political landscape.

Owenites started the first American labor party, the Working Men’s Party, which put a carpenter into the New York State Assembly in 1829, and they became involved in abolitionism and campaigns for public control of land. Owen’s famous demand for a shorter workday became a rallying cry for the American labor movement, under the slogan “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what you will.” The bumper sticker reminder that “if you enjoy your weekend, thank a union” speaks out of a political tradition that is two hundred years old.

After the failure of the European revolutions of 1848, many German “forty-eighters” fled to the US, exposing Americans to currents of European socialist thought. They became Republican legislators, land reformers, and Union soldiers in the Civil War. As Dorrien writes, figures like Friedrich Karl Franz Hecker, the cofounder of the Illinois Republican Party, and Herman Kriege, who as part of the Communist League had commissioned Marx and Engels to write the Communist Manifesto, joined a “stew of radical liberals, radical democrats, humanists, Christian evangelicals, socialists, feminists, disaffected Whigs, and formerly enslaved neo-abolitionists.”

By 1886 this mixture had grown into a movement that was able to mobilize 350,000 people in a nationwide May Day strike for the eight-hour workday. In Chicago, police fired on strikers, and at a subsequent protest in Haymarket Square a bomb was thrown at police, who fired indiscriminately on the crowd, killing at least four people. A wave of repression culminated in hundreds of arrests and the hanging of four men on flimsy evidence.


Information age dystopia

The Espionage Act Gets An Instant Makeover 

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 8-14-2022]

“A law reviled by liberalism ten minutes ago is now Savior to All.”


New documents reveal ‘huge’ scale of US government’s cell phone location data tracking 

[TechCrunch, via Naked Capitalism 8-14-2022]


Robot Dog With RPG Strapped to Its Back Demoed at Russian Arms Fair 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

Amid Warnings of ‘Catastrophic Collapse,’ Feds Cut Colorado River Water Use in Arizona, Nevada

[Common Dreams, via Mike Norman Economics 8-17-2022]


Rhine River at Kaub, Germany drops below transit levels

[The Watchers, via Naked Capitalism 8-15-2022]


France’s river Loire sets new lows as drought dries up its tributaries 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-2022]


China’s Yangtze river shrinks as heatwave, drought threaten crops 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 8-15-2022]


Panama Canal grapples with climate change threat 

[Hellenic Shipping News, via Naked Capitalism 8-15-2022]


Climate change is making hundreds of diseases much worse 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 8-15-2022]


Children Living Close to Fracking Sites Have Two to Three Times Higher Risk of Leukemia 

[DeSmogBlog, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-2022]


Can farmers fight climate change? New U.S. law gives them billions to try 

[Science, via Naked Capitalism 8-17-2022]


The Inflation Reduction Act’s Quiet Revolution on Public Power 

Ryan Cooper, August 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Here’s how utilities will be decarbonized over the next decade….

Direct pay in the IRA, by contrast, now means these non-tax-paying entities can receive the credit as a cash payment—basically turning the ITC and PTC into a grant for them. It’s similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit for individuals, in which the working poor receive a “tax refund” even though they may not pay anything in federal income tax.

The new ITC base rate is 6 percent, while the PTC is 2.6 cents per kilowatt-hour produced (though you can only claim one). However, if a producer complies with wage and apprenticeship requirements, both credits are multiplied by a factor of five—a very strong motivation indeed to provide good jobs.


The search for an AC that doesn’t destroy the planet

[Recode, via The Big Picture 8-15-2022]

The AC is about a century old. What comes next?


Scientists Think They’ve Found a Shockingly Simple Way to Degrade ‘Forever Chemicals’ 

[ScienceAlert, via Naked Capitalism 8-20-2022]


Money Won’t Solve America’s Power Grid Problems 

[OilPrice, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]


Why Solar Power Is Failing Amid Record-Breaking Heat

[OilPrice, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]

…soaring temperatures may be hindering solar power production as solar panels work optimally at around 25oC and start becoming less efficient when the heat goes above this.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

China is beating the U.S. in clean energy. Can America catch up? 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 8-19-2022]

The race in five charts. China is the world’s biggest polluter — but also the biggest investor in clean energy.


Scientists Discover ‘Uncontaminated Extraterrestrial Materials’ In Ancient Asteroid Sample

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 8-16-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

Sinema took Wall Street money while killing tax on investors 

[AP, via Naked Capitalism 8-14-2022]


“Joe Biden’s Best Week Ever”

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-16-2022]

The event that triggered the turnaround was the decision by five Republican Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade. In so doing, the Court’s right wing disregarded the advice of its more cautious chief justice, John Roberts, who reportedly tried in vain to steer his colleagues toward an incrementalist strategy that would avoid a backlash. Roberts’s fears have been vindicated. One reason midterm elections almost always punish the president’s party is that the public has an instinct to curtail the powers of those in power. The Dobbs decision inverted that calculation, creating a context in which Republicans were responsible for dramatic social change and Democrats could stand for the restoration of the status quo.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Defamation Suit About Election Falsehoods Puts Fox on Its Heels

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 8-18-2022]

The suit, filed by Dominion Voting Systems, could be one of the most consequential First Amendment cases in a generation. (New York Times).


The New Era of Political Violence Is Here 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 8-17-2022]

The danger is not organized civil war but individual Americans with deep resentments and delusions….

What makes this situation worse is that there is no remedy for it. When people are driven by fantasies, by resentment, by an internalized sense of inferiority, there is no redemption in anything. Winning elections, burning effigies, even shooting at other citizens does not soothe their anger but instead deepens the spiritual and moral void that haunts them.

Donald Trump is central to this fraying of public sanity, because he has done one thing for such people that no one else could do: He has made their lives interesting. He has made them feel important. He has taken their itching frustrations about the unfairness of life and created a morality play around them, and cast himself as the central character. Trump, to his supporters, is the avenging angel who is going to lay waste to the “elites,” the smarty-pantses and do-gooders, the godless and the smug, the satisfied and the comfortable.

I spoke with one of the original Never Trumpers over the weekend, a man who has lost friends and family because of his opposition to Trump, and he told me that one of the most unsettling things to him is that these same pro-Trump family and friends now say that they believe that Trump broke the law—but that they don’t care. They see Trump and his crusade—their crusade against evil, the drama that gives their lives meaning—as more important than the law.


How Did Fighting Climate Change Become a Partisan Issue? 

[New Yorker, via The Big Picture 8-17-2022]

Last week, even as Kentucky’s two Republican senators—Rand Paul and the Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell—were voting against the I.R.A., rescuers in their state were searching for the victims of catastrophic floods caused by climate-change-supercharged rain. Meanwhile, most of Texas, whose two G.O.P. senators—Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—also voted against the bill, was suffering under “extreme” or “exceptional” drought.

How did caring about a drowned or desiccated future come to be a partisan issue? Perhaps the simplest answer is money. A report put out two years ago by the Senate Democrats’ Special Committee on the Climate Crisis noted, “In the 2000s, several bipartisan climate bills were circulating in the Senate.” Then, in 2010, the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United decision, ruled that corporations and wealthy donors could, effectively, pour unlimited amounts of cash into electioneering. Fossil-fuel companies quickly figured out how to funnel money through front groups, which used it to reward the industry’s friends and to punish its enemies. After Citizens United, according to the report, “bipartisan activity on comprehensive climate legislation collapsed.”


The City of London dislikes Trump

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, August 16, 2022

Edward Luce of the Financial Times observed today: “I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous & contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.”


The Case for Going After Trump

John Ganz [Unpopular Front, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-17-2022]

“It’s time to stop fucking around. All of the savvy political wisdom of the preceding years got us here: with a half-lunatic trying to shake down the country to call off his followers. Trump doesn’t care about precedents: as soon as he’s able, he will use whatever tool he’s able to use against his opponents. This is why his supporters like him. They openly say so. The first time around, he didn’t really know how to wield the power of the state or the most violent core of his supporters, but most likely he will will learn. The Federal oath of office begins, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If that means anybody in the history of the country, that must mean Trump. He cannot be allowed to hide behind his supporters or try to use them to manipulate the U.S. government. Is it possible that this will lead to bad outcomes? Sure, anything is possible. But treating Trump like he’s got special powers has lead us here…. A political class that can’t defend the constitutional order and the rule of law is worse than useless: it’s actually conspiring with its enemies. Trump attacked the very heart of our system of government. If the system can’t respond to that forcefully it doesn’t deserve to exist anymore. Let’s stop pretending Trump is anything but a mobster and a would-be tyrant. In this case, prudence demands action.”


Chuck Grassley tells constituents he supports $35 insulin cap, days after voting against it 

[Independent, via Naked Capitalism 8-19-2022]


Tom Emmer Is the Republican Party’s Stealth Bomber 

Patrick Caldwell, August 16, 2022 [The New Republic]

Back in Minnesota, Emmer made his name as a fringe firebrand. Now head of the NRCC, he’s learned to mute his rhetoric—mostly—and is quietly climbing the ladder of House Republican leadership….

Emmer inherited Michele Bachmann’s old congressional seat in 2014 with predictions that he’d replicate her style; but he came to Washington and quietly kept his head down, focusing on the policy and fundraising tactics that allow one to stealthily move up party leadership instead of being mocked on cable news….

His tenure was defined by pushing far-right policy: proposals that Minnesota should chemically castrate sex offenders, impose strict voter ID laws, and outlaw abortion in all instances (as well as proposals that would also potentially outlaw certain forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization). He questioned evolution and was one of the loudest, most influential opponents of same-sex marriage. And despite two earlier DUI infractions, Emmer put forth bills to lessen penalties for drunk driving, which became fodder for opponents in later political campaigns.

Another of Emmer’s obsessions was pushing cockamamie ways that Minnesota could nullify federal laws. He was one of three co-authors of a 2010 proposal for a state constitutional amendment that would have required the governor and a two-thirds vote by legislators to approve a federal law before it could be enforced in Minnesota. “Citizens of Minnesota are sovereign individuals, subject to Minnesota law and immune from any federal laws that exceed the federal government’s enumerated constitutional powers,” Emmer’s would-be amendment read. (The idea went nowhere.)


Disrupting mainstream politics

Understanding Why the Deep State Is Terrified of trump’s Documents 

[A Son of the New American Revolution, via Mike Norman Economics 8-15-2022]

Cognitive biases and brain biology help explain why facts don’t change minds

Keith M. Bellizzi [University of Connecticut, via Mike Norman Economics 8-16-2022]


Open Thread


Weberian Meaningful Action & Why It Matters


  1. Trinity

    Talking about and writing about how Big Tech got a HUGE boost from publicly-funded technology advances should be written about and talked about more often than it is. Because they are using it to surveil us, because they are charging us ginormous amounts of money which they then use against our betterment, because they knew it was addictive because they created it to be addictive, because it’s a huge carbon source not a sink, because it’s been wielded as a weapon by every other Big Monopoly against us, because it’s being directly wielded as a weapon against us, and because the money they’ve made from the original publicly funded technology is also being used against us through the courts, through the political system, causing harm to all of us and all of life on earth. We paid for it, and they profit from, stalk us, and kill us with it.

    I remember getting along just fine without a computer for years. And I also remember buying my first computer in the 1980s, and the first time I accessed the internet in the 1990s. And after all these years all it has done is that everything has gotten progressively worse every year since, while they continue to get wealthier and squeeze us, mine us, until we drop dead.

  2. different clue

    ” To decarbonise, America must re-industrialise . . . ”

    That will not be possible in a Free Trade environment. Whatever domestic industry America tries to restore on a less-emissive basis than the emission levels of those equivalent industries located in production-aggression platform countries; as long as America remains under Free Trade jurisdiction and control, those foreign production-aggression countries will always dump their carbon super-polluting production into our economy to exterminate every industry we try to rebuild here on a less carbon emissive basis.

    People don’t have to believe me about that. They can watch what happens to every single attempt to down-emissionise by reshoring some of our industry-held-hostage in foreign countries. Every single such attempt will be destroyed by our carbon-dumping trading enemies. Events will prove me right or wrong about that. And since the Upper Class Occupation Government regime which rules us will remain committed to keeping America trapped on the Corporate Globalonial Free Trade Plantation, I am confident that the Upper Class Occupation Government will make my prediction come true.


    Since I don’t own a computer or a smart phone or a cell phone or have any Facebook or TikTok or any other Social Surveillance Media thing, I might be (only partially) escaping the worst of the digital enslavement system. I use desktop computers at work or at the public library to read sites and blogs and such. And of course they track every footprint and keystroke involved in every bit of my reading and commenting. That is just a fact.

    Has the computer-internet matrix made my life totally worse with no positive side-effects? I am not so sure. It does allow me to find interesting little blogs and sites with interesting information in the oddest little corners of the internet. This information could have actual value to me if I were to do something about it.

    Here is an example: by typing in the collected images search phrase “zapalote chico corn image” I get a bunch of images with URLs attached. I can click on every image to see if its URL seems interesting to look into. I can go url-diving in places I would never have dreamed existed. Here is the link to those images.;_ylt=AwrNPcQnjwJjwLIjRu9XNyoA;_ylu=Y29sbwNiZjEEcG9zAzEEdnRpZAMEc2VjA3Nj?p=zapalote+chico+corn+image&fr=sfp

    Repeated url-diving revealed this URL . . . leading to a lone single semi-am/semi-pro corn breeder living/working near Knoxville, Tennessee. I learned a lot about some corn breeding history on that blog, plus he sometimes offers very promisingly interesting corn-breed seed for sale from time to time. Here is the link:

    I would not have been able to find that before the computer internet era.

  3. somecomputerguy

    The military that just fought a 20-year war with cave-men, and lost, while leading the most lavishly funded military in history, is making contingency plans, to deal with incompetence of civilian leadership?

    Will they start by explaining that they are only doing so, because they themselves should have been fired at least a decade ago?

    They’d better watch it; those are 20th century pols.

  4. VietnamVet

    Without a policy change, the proxy Ukraine-Russia World War will continue to escalate. Russia itself has been touched by the chaos. Europe is dried up and facing energy shortages that the political/economic system is incapable of managing except by raising natural gas and electrical bills, one by one, until big chunks of the infrastructure stop working. The current western corporate/state due to its beliefs in always increasing quarterly profits and management bonuses cannot ration or prioritize shortages. The propaganda simply ignores this. Also, human beings have imprinted biases, experience and education that navigate us through life. When the ruling ideology becomes dysfunctional and separated from reality; individual, family and societal collapse is inevitable.

    I am nostalgic for regulated capitalism and the feedback that democracy gave to American leaders. A political restoration, an armistice to the war, and DMZs could mitigate the breakdown of the new world order. But, like the failed coronavirus pandemic response, doing what is in the people’s best interest is so out of date. Only money matters. That, along with life, will be gone, much too soon, without a new Western Reformation.

  5. The Colby Jewels

    The next great REAL war will not be between America and China or America and Russia, but rather it will be between China and Russia over Siberia and it will be within a decade. That war will truly be the war to end all wars.

  6. Trinity

    I understand the desire by many to “fix” the myriad problems we face by “adjusting” the current system. We’ve now endured thousands of years of “adjustments” here in the West , and no one seems to be able to “get it right”.

    The problem is the current system and its historical antecedents. There is no fix that will remake the current system into something better, because the system today (and the same system a thousand years ago) is based on (and has precedent for) racism, inequality, and a bunch of other harmful ‘isms and ideologies. Sure, you can put lipstick on the pig for forty-odd years, but it’s still a pig, and will always revert to piggish ways. Capitalism in any costume du jour is still a pig.

    Two thousand years ago the ancients (on different continents) understood that getting ultra rich ruins society and is a direct threat to all civilizations. Each dealt with it differently: some demanded the extra be buried in the ground and left, some outlawed allowing children to inherit it, some redistributed it, some prevented the accumulation entirely (communal property over individual property). While Michael Hudson rightly talks about debt and debt jubilees (because at the end of the day he is an economist and focused on the money system), no one (that I know of) talks about the fact that the main problem is the massive compilation of wealth, and that the West has repeatedly ignored the ancients’ wisdom about the problems these activities create. And I would note that the accumulation of wealth (and therefore power) is not new in the West. Not at all.

    So the choice is to build a society that will “regulate” wealth until something bad happens (something bad always happens) and oops! Someone accumulates massive wealth again, and things once again turn to shit (lather, rinse, repeat).

    Or, we can choose a society that demands that it never accumulate in the first place. We would have a police enforcing this rule instead of guarding rich peoples homes only? And a government also enforcing this rule, and ensuring/enforcing equality across the population? Can you imagine that world? Because that’s what it’s going to take to ever have a stable civilization for any length of time.

  7. bruce wilder

    from Mrs. Steve Jobs’ The Atlantic:

    “The danger is not organized civil war but individual Americans with deep resentments and delusions….

    What makes this situation worse is that there is no remedy for it. When people are driven by fantasies, by resentment, by an internalized sense of inferiority, there is no redemption in anything. Winning elections, burning effigies, even shooting at other citizens does not soothe their anger but instead deepens the spiritual and moral void that haunts them.”

    I cannot help but reflect that there is a strong element of self-deception involved in supposing that the political resentments of those turning to Trump are not basically and foundationally “real”. The contempt for “fantasies” and “inferiority” is really extraordinarily arrogant. Most Americans, Trumpers included, think “the system is rigged against them” not because of baseless paranoia, but because the system is in fact rigged against them, and administered by the kind of people who read The Atlantic with approval of that publication’s expression of a worldview cum new class ideology.

  8. Willy

    What makes this situation worse is that there is no remedy for it.

    That’s the wrong attitude in a nutshell.

    I had no problem with Trump saying what needed to be said. Then I got clear evidence that he was the kind of personality disorder who could never actually care about what he was saying, was just saying what the people wanted to hear, with a strong dose of bullshit anti-leftism, that he would just ride the wave of rigged-system inferiorities and fantasies for his own pleasure, and only his own pleasure. I don’t vote for Pedro just so he can make all his own wildest megalomaniacal dreams come true. Or those of white supremacists and crazed evangelicals.

  9. Ché Pasa

    Tony’s weekly compilations of news and notes on the political economy are becoming ever darker. I’m sure he notices how the zeitgeist in general has lost any sunny gloss at all. Things are bad for very many — even if superficially they’re “fine” — and getting worse all around the world, and not solely because of climate change. The band aids being applied here and there are cancelled out by the increasingly ludicrous governmental and private sector actions to deliberately make things worse.

    Europe is about to enter its darkest period since WWII, Russia continues battering Ukraine, starvation haunts the poor everywhere. The US lumbers along like the aimless juggernaut it is. What did we do to deserve this?

    It’s more what we didn’t do and now likely can’t do, isn’t it? We sold ourselves out, “they” didn’t have to take our future from us. Too many happily gave it away — and that’s the source of so much of the anger now. They were fools who didn’t listen to the warnings, didn’t care, and now are on the edge of the precipice with hundreds of millions behind them happy to give them a little push.

    Tony’s Chronicles should be giving us a sense of how badly things have been done by people who should know better — but don’t. And we should admit that this isn’t what we had in mind.

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