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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 10, 2023

by Tony Wikrent

War in Ukraine

Seymour Hersh, Anatol Lieven and the desperate DC gambit to end hostilities in Ukraine while claiming ‘victory’ 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023] Excellent.

Miscalculations, divisions marked offensive planning by U.S., Ukraine 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]

Key elements that shaped the counteroffensive and the initial outcome include:
● Ukrainian, U.S. and British military officers held eight major tabletop war games to build a campaign plan. But Washington miscalculated the extent to which Ukraine’s forces could be transformed into a Western-style fighting force in a short period — especially without giving Kyiv air power integral to modern militaries.
● U.S. and Ukrainian officials sharply disagreed at times over strategy, tactics and timing. The Pentagon wanted the assault to begin in mid-April to prevent Russia from continuing to strengthen its lines. The Ukrainians hesitated, insisting they weren’t ready without additional weapons and training.
● U.S. military officials were confident that a mechanized frontal attack on Russian lines was feasible with the troops and weapons that Ukraine had. The simulations concluded that Kyiv’s forces, in the best case, could reach the Sea of Azov and cut off Russian troops in the south in 60 to 90 days.
● The United States advocated a focused assault along that southern axis, but Ukraine’s leadership believed its forces had to attack at three distinct points along the 600-mile front, southward toward both Melitopol and Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov and east toward the embattled city of Bakhmut.

Dissecting the Washington Post’s “analysis” of Ukraine’s Failed Counter Offensive — Part 1 

Larry Johnson [via Naked Capitalism 12-09-2023]

Establishment Alarmism in Overdrive as Raytheon Lloyd Threatens Congress with War 

Simplicius the Thinker [via Naked Capitalism 12-08-2023]

Lying Was the Only Plan Biden, U.S. Ever Had in Ukraine 

Matt Taibbi [via Naked Capitalism 12-09-2023]


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

The collapse of Israel and the United States 

Thierry Meyssan [via Naked Capitalism 12-09-2023]


Senior US lawmakers review plan linking Gaza refugee resettlement to US aid to Arab countries 

[Israel Hayom, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]

said to have been owned by Sheldon Adelson:

The proposal was shown to key figures in the House and Senate from both parties. Some who were privy to the details of the text have so far kept a low profile, saying that publicly coming out in favor of the program could derail it…. They continue: ‘The neighboring borders have been closed for too long, but it is now clear that in order to free the Gazan population from the tyrannical oppression of Hamas and to allow them to live free of war and bloodshed, Israel must encourage the international community to find the correct, moral and humane avenues for the relocation of the Gazan population.’”

Map, with quotas for relocating 2 million Palestinians to Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Yemen

  • Egypt 1 million
  • Turkey 500,000
  • Iraq 250,000
  • Yemen 250,000

Egypt’s former vice president warns of Gaza depopulation amid growing fear in Cairo 

[The New Arab, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]

Netanyahu’s Goal for Gaza: “Thin” Population “to a Minimum” 

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

How the Biden team is planning for a postwar Gaza Strip

[Politico 12-04-2023]

Biden administration officials have spent weeks quietly drafting a multiphase postwar game plan that envisions a revamped Palestinian Authority ultimately taking over the Gaza Strip.

It’s an imperfect solution, but American officials view it as the best of only bad options….

Officials at the State Department, the White House and beyond have been laying out pieces of the strategy in multiple position papers and interagency meetings since mid-October, according to two U.S. officials, a State Department official and an administration official familiar with the discussions.

But they’ve already run into resistance from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has effectively ruled out a future Gaza role for the Palestinian Authority. Israeli officials for the most part are unwilling to discuss much beyond the current war….

Netanyahu tells Washington no Palestinian rule in Gaza after war 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 12-06-2023]

As Israel Plans Gaza Ethnic Cleansing, US Says No 

[Tikun Olam, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

Israel wants ‘security envelope’, no Hamas on border after war, official says 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-06-2023]


Inside the Pro-Israel Information War 

Lee Fang [via Naked Capitalism 12-08-2023]


Global power shift

Pentagon: US arms industry struggling to keep up with China 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 12-03-2023]

The Most Dangerous Conflict No One Is Talking About 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 12-03-2023]

The South China Sea is perhaps the most contested waterway in the world. China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan all have competing claims there. But no actor has pursued those claims as belligerently as China. The Philippines complains that Chinese forces menace its sailors and fishermen on an almost daily basis, and the government of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos has taken to airing videos, photos, and eyewitness accounts of these encounters. In late October, officials released footage of Chinese vessels twice colliding with Philippines ships.

Such incidents don’t concern only Manila: The Philippines, a former U.S. colony, is America’s oldest ally in the Indo-Pacific, and the two countries have signed a mutual-defense treaty. In fact, of all the world’s conflicts, which today include wars in Ukraine and Gaza, Chinese-Philippine tensions in the South China Sea may be the least remarked on but among the most potentially explosive. Earlier this year, a former high-ranking Chinese military official said that a conflict between the United States and China was more likely to occur in the South China Sea than around Taiwan.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Free trade and debt : the two sides of neocolonialism 

[CADTM, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

The Great American Eye-Exam Scam

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 12-3-2023]

Why is it so difficult to get a new pair of glasses or contacts in this country? It’s easier pretty much everywhere else.

Jeff Bezos-Backed Real Estate Company Is Launching A New Fund To Acquire More Single-Family Homes Across The U.S. 

[Yahoo Finance, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

“Arrived currently operates a fractional real estate investing platform that has attracted nearly half a million retail investors since its launch in 2021. The platform allows these investors to purchase shares of single-family rental properties with as little as $100.”

Wall Street CEOs Want the Line Between a Federally-Insured Bank and a Wall Street Trading Casino Erased; Regulators Want Higher Capital to Prevent That

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 7, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]

An exhaustive debunking of the dumbest myths about Social Security 

Michael Hiltzik [Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

Tallying the Best Stats on US Gun Violence Is Trauma of Its Own 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

Cigna said to be going after Humana to buy its way into Medicare Advantage 

Wendell Potter [via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]


Restoring balance to the economy

Restructuring Bankruptcy Law 

[The Regulatory Review, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

‘We Go Where We Think We Can Have The Most Impact

[Nieman Reports), via The Big Picture 12-8-2023]

Five lessons from successful local news startups.

There’s No Stopping the Newspaper Death Spiral

[Politico 12-028-2023]

About 750 members of the Washington Post Guild staged a one-day strike against the paper on Thursday to publicize their position that management is not bargaining with them in good faith….

According to a Thursday Post piece about the Post strike, labor and management aren’t even talking the same language. Workers have not had a contract for 18 months. The Guild wants a minimum salary of $100,100 for reporters, and management is offering only $73,000. The parties are also separated by annual cost-of-living demands.

Seeing as it’s only money they’re talking about, Bezos could buy every newsroom employee a $4 million home in the Hollywood Hills or thereabouts, give each $1 million in walking around money and make a bonfire on Malibu beach of $1 billion just to celebrate his generosity, and he’d still have $165 billion in his pocket. But that’s not how Bezos thinks. He counts every penny and fights unions hard wherever they appear in his kingdom. Since buying the money-losing Post a decade ago for a mere $250 million, he’s been adamant about not running the paper as a philanthropy. Instead, he invested untold millions to reverse the newsroom headcount decline, expanding it by more than a third and adding new foreign bureaus, too. And miracle of miracles, he succeeded in making the paper profitable as recently as 2019.

Amazon ‘Cannot Claim Shock’ That Bathroom Spycams Were Used as Advertised, Judge Says 

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 12-06-2023]



The 25 Richest Families in the World — 2023

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-08-2023]



Information age dystopia / surveillance state

Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers We asked them about it — and they deleted everything

[Futurism, via The Big Picture 12-3-2023]

After we reached out with questions to the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, all the AI-generated authors disappeared from Sports Illustrated‘s site without explanation. Our questions received no response.

No Laws Protect People From Deepfake Porn. These Victims Fought Back

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 12-3-2023]

A group of young women in a New York City suburb, horrified to learn their photographs had been manipulated and posted online, took matters into their own hands….

No federal law criminalizes the creation or sharing of fake pornographic images in the US. When it comes to fake nudes of children, the law is narrow and pertains only to cases where children are being abused. And Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects web forums, social media platforms and internet providers from being held liable for content posted on their sites.
This legal landscape was problem enough for police and prosecutors when it took time and a modicum of skill to create realistic-looking fake pornography. But with billions of dollars of venture capital flowing into image-generating software powered by artificial intelligence, it’s gotten cheaper and easier to create convincing photos and videos of things that never happened. Tools such as Midjourney and Stability AI’s Stable Diffusion have been used to produce images of Pope Francis in a puffer jacket, actress Emma Watson as a mermaid and former President Donald Trump sprinting from a cadre of FBI agents.
The term “deepfake” was coined on a Reddit forum dedicated to fake porn made with deep-learning models. It’s now in the Oxford English Dictionary, defined as an image digitally manipulated to depict an individual doing something they didn’t. More than 15 billion such images have been created since April 2022, according to Everypixel Group, an AI photo company. The vendors that designed these tools have installed safety filters to ban the creation of explicit images, but because much of the software is open source, anyone can use it, build off it and deactivate the safeguards. Online security experts say more than 90% of deepfakes are pornographic in nature.

Europe’s AI Crackdown Doomed by Silicon Valley’s Lobbying Power 

Scott Dylan, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

Ego, Fear and Money: How the A.I. Fuse Was Lit 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

McKinsey Sees AI Adding Up To $340 Billion To Wall Street Profit 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 12-06-2023]

The first humanoid robot factory is about to open

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-05-2023]

“A factory planning to pump out 10,000 two-legged robots a year is taking shape in Salem, Oregon — the better to help Amazon and other giant companies with dangerous hauling, lifting and moving. Agility Robotics says that its RoboFab manufacturing facility will be the first to mass-produce humanoid robots, which could be nimbler and more versatile than their existing industrial counterparts. China seems to think so: Beijing recently announced a goal of mass-producing humanoid robots by 2025. Agility Robotics, which makes a bot named Digit that’s being tested by Amazon, plans to open RoboFab early next year, inaugurating what CEO Damion Shelton calls ‘the world’s first purpose-built humanoid robot factory.’ ‘We’ve placed a very high priority on just getting robots out there as fast as possible,’ [CEO Damion Shelton], who’s also a co-founder, tells Axios. ‘Our big plan is that we want to get to general-purpose humanoids as soon as we can. There’s a growing backlog of orders for Digit, which the company says is the first commercially available human-shaped robot designed for warehouse work. Agility has produced about 100 robots since its founding in 2016.”

Boffins devise ‘universal backdoor’ for image models to cause AI hallucinations

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]


Climate and environmental crises

Future of fossil fuels sparks fiery debate at COP28 climate summit 

[Upstream, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]

In a first, a major airline will cross the Atlantic without fossil fuels

[, via DailyKos GNR Newsroom 12-4-2023]

A Virgin Atlantic flight taking off this week from London to New York City will last about eight hours, span around 3,500 miles — and emit only a fraction of the planet-warming gases associated with a typical transatlantic flight.

On Tuesday, the British airline is set to pluck a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from its fleet and run the two powerful engines on 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, during the journey from Heathrow Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport. If all goes to plan, Virgin Atlantic will be the first commercial airline to fly a passenger plane across the Atlantic Ocean by burning only fossil-free jet fuel, marking an important milestone for the CO2-intensive industry.

America’s first ​‘enhanced’ geothermal plant just got up and running

[, via DailyKos GNR Newsroom 12-4-2023]

A next-generation geothermal plant backed by Google has started sending carbon-free electricity to the grid in Nevada, where the tech company operates some of its massive data centers.

On Tuesday, Google and geothermal developer Fervo Energy said that electrons began flowing from the first-of-a-kind facility earlier this month. The 3.5-megawatt project, called Project Red, is now supplying power directly to the Las Vegas–based utility NV Energy.

Orsted Powers Up America’s First Major Offshore Wind Farm 

[Heated, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]

I’m a Climate Scientist. I’m Not Screaming Into the Void Anymore.

[New York Times, via DailyKos GNR Newsroom 12-4-2023]

Something has changed in the United States, and not just the climate. State, local and tribal governments all around the country have begun to take action. Some politicians now actually campaign on climate change, instead of ignoring or lying about it. Congress passed federal climate legislation — something I’d long regarded as impossible — in 2022 as we turned in the first draft.

And while the report stresses the urgency of limiting warming to prevent terrible risks, it has a new message, too: We can do thisWe now know how to make the dramatic emissions cuts we’d need to limit warming, and it’s very possible to do this in a way that’s sustainable, healthy and fair. The conversation has moved on, and the role of scientists has changed. We’re not just warning of danger anymore. We’re showing the way to safety.

I was wrong about those previous reports: They did matter, after all. While climate scientists were warning the world of disaster, a small army of scientists, engineers, policymakers and others were getting to work. These first responders have helped move us toward our climate goals. Our warnings did their job.

To limit global warming, we need many more people to get on board. This will be hard: It will require large-scale changes in infrastructure and behavior as well as removing carbon from the atmosphere. And not everyone is on board yet. In particular, the fossil fuel industry is still ignoring the science.

The Doom Loop: Insurance markets and climate risk

[Phenomenal World, via The Big Picture 12-3-2023]

Rising insurance prices and the credible threat of insurer divestment from higher-risk areas will constrain investment in both homes and businesses across vulnerable communities. Yet more people are moving into higher-risk areas, and some politicians fear backlash if they let insurance companies deny these communities coverage. In response, state leaders in California and Florida have sought to prevent divestment by directing their insurance commissioners to adjust pricing regulations, invite competition in insurance markets, or derisk insurers by imposing disaster-risk fees on all insurance purchasers regardless of risk.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Scan of 27 million compounds finds one that outdoes pain medications

[, via DailyKos GNR Newsroom 12-4-2023]

Brain Study Suggests Traumatic Memories Are Processed as Present Experience

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 12-4-2023]

Traumatic memories had their own neural mechanism, brain scans showed, which may help explain their vivid and intrusive nature.

Commercial companies to collaborate for DARPA’s new lunar economy study 

[TechCrunch, via Naked Capitalism 12-07-2023]

Democrats’ political malpractice

‘She got so mad at me’: book on the ‘Squad’ details AOC-Pelosi clashes 

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-06-2023]

“[AOC and Pelosi’s] first ‘live meeting’, [Ryan] Grim says, came in July 2018 at a restaurant in San Francisco, which Pelosi represents. Then 76, Pelosi had been in Congress since 1987, Democratic House leader since 2003 and speaker from 2007 to 2011. The older woman spoke for nearly the entire lunch, dishing out her trademark looping, run-on sentences to her bewildered companions. ‘She just keeps talking; it’s a fascinating thing,’ Saikat Chakrabarti, then AOC’s chief of staff, recalls. ‘We were eating, and she just talked the entire time without even taking a break. And I wasn’t sure exactly what she was saying, but I was like, ‘Huh, OK.” ‘Getting Pelosi’s unfiltered thoughts was both eye-opening and disturbing,’ Grim writes. ‘Ocasio-Cortez, who had made the slogan ‘Abolish Ice’ [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] central to her challenge to Crowley, was particularly perplexed to hear Pelosi say that the phrase had been injected into American political discourse by the Russians and that Democrats needed to quash it. ‘AOC wondered, ‘This is how the leader of the party thinks?’”

Voters Deserve More Than A Choice Between A Lesser And A Greater Evil– And They Know It

Howie Klein, December 4, 2023 []

Les Leopold, executive director of the Labor Institute, has a new book coming out, Wall Street’s War on Workers: How Mass Layoffs and Greed Are Destroying The Working Class And What To Do About It. In an essay for yesterday, he wrote that the Democrats must choose between Wall Street and the working class. “The Democrats,” he wrote, “want it both ways. The Party of the New Deal claims to be still championing the working class while it is also working to enrich Wall Street. The obvious goal is to secure campaign cash from the wealthy while, at the same time, attract working-class votes. After all, the thinking goes, working people don’t have any place else to turn politically. Certainly not to the Republicans, the historic party of the bosses. But this thinking is wrong, and this approach hasn’t worked. And it’s still not working. The more the Democrats have supported Wall Street over the past four decades, the more the working class, especially the white working class, has drifted away. Even after the anti-civil rights southern Dixiecrat exodus from the Democratic Party in the Nixon years, white working-class support for the Democrats remained strong. Jimmy Carter in 1976 gathered a solid 52.3% of the white working-class vote. Bill Clinton in 1996 received 50.0 percent, again a strong showing. But by 2012, Barack Obama won only 40.6 percent. And in 2020, Joe ‘Six-Pack’ Biden stumbled to a meager 36.2 percent of the white working-class vote. And it’s not just the white members of the working class who are defecting. Recent polling reveals that Black and Latino working-class voters also show declining support for Democratic candidates.”

“The real cause of working-class defections from the Democratic Party has been (and still is) mass layoffs. Working people got fed up with losing their jobs again and again, and they saw that the Democrats, who claimed to represent them, did little or nothing to stop the carnage. Since 1996, approximately 30 million of us have gone through a mass layoff (defined as 50 or more workers let go at one time.) Many more than once. Our research demonstrates clearly that in the key ‘Blue Wall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, when mass layoffs go up the Democratic vote goes down.
“…Why aren’t Democrats giving “more of a damn?” Because if they really helped working people meet these economic challenges, they would lose favor with the barons of Wall Street and their corporate cronies.
It’s not a win/win game. Mass layoffs are part and parcel of how corporate executives and hedge funds extract billions of dollars in profit. Those mass layoffs are very often used to finance stock buybacks, a legalized method of stock manipulation that was severely restricted by the Securities and Exchange Commission until 1982. Since corporate executives get most of their pay in stock incentives, jacking up the price of shares through stock buybacks is the quickest path to great wealth. The same goes for the Wall Street stock-sellers who force their way onto corporate boards and then demand massive stock buybacks to enrich themselves. Today nearly 70 percent of all corporate profits go to stock buybacks.
“…Most of the Democratic Party, unfortunately, has drunk the corporate Kool-Aid. They believe that placating Wall Street and large corporate interests will strengthen the economy, improve the U.S. position in the global economy, and produce better paying jobs at home. That’s understandable when you view the economy through the elite lens of high salaries, growing 401(K)s, and the stock market, which seems to go up and up and up. But good luck selling that vision to laid-off workers.
Those workers remember that the Democrats eagerly supported the massive deregulation of Wall Street during the Clinton administration. They also remember Democrats pushing trade deals like NAFTA and China’s admission into the WTO, which led to millions of manufacturing jobs rushing to Mexico and China. And that the Obama administration refused to punish and remove the Wall Street executives who crashed the economy in 2008-09 with their reckless gambling, enabled by deregulation championed by both political parties. Instead, the Obama administration bailed out Wall Street while distressed homeowners got nothing. That’s 16 years of Wall Street coddling by Democratic administrations.”

Disrupting mainstream politics

An exhaustive debunking of the dumbest myths about Social Security

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 12-3-2023]

The roughly 2,000-word piece contained so many misconceptions, inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and flat-out lies about the program that I almost gave up counting. That said, it’s perhaps worthwhile to have a one-stop shop for all these sophistries, if only for the purpose of debunking them en masse.

How America Ends and Begins Again 

Sherrilyn Ifill [The New York Review, December 21, 2023 issue]

Because so much of what we have come to expect of our country is unraveling, we have an opportunity to build it anew….

Finally, we need to pursue power, and when we have power we need to be prepared to make transformative change. I hope we’ll see this in the coming years. We must be prepared to leave behind traditions and policies that have not served us as a democracy, whether that means reforming long-standing rules that inhibit effective representation in the Senate, or adding seats to the Supreme Court, or reimagining public safety to address police brutality and racism, or adopting a guaranteed national income, or pursuing new models of public education.

Progressive people often seem averse to the pursuit of power. It is as though we think “power” is a bad word. We think it unseemly. We worry, perhaps appropriately, about how power can corrupt and harm. But that is what happens when people abuse their power. It is not power’s natural tendency. We must believe enough in our own integrity to trust ourselves with power. “Power without love is reckless and abusive,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, and

love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

We must pursue power to implement the demands of justice, and the justice that we seek must correct that which stands against love.

The Trump-Populist-MAGA Revolution Is Just Taking Shape… And Biden Won’t Know How To Combat It

Howie Klein, December 3, 2023 []

Trump Is Playing To Win, Not To Be Constrained By Unpopular, Stale GOP Positions….

What I’ve been more interested in is that Trump is quite capable of announcing plans for the most popular possible policies that will win him the election. Example: he has announced that he will replace ObamaCare, a very flawed— can I say crappy— program, with something better. The Democrats immediately lit their hair on fire and ran around screaming that he wants to repeal ObamaCare and end coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But that isn’t what Trump said at all. He said he would replace ObamaCare with something better. There could be many ways to do that, although not if you were going to adhere to Republican orthodoxy. Trump has zero interest in Republican orthodoxy… so, presumably, he’s busy looking for the perfect way to garner him the most votes through a replacement. Maybe he’ll come up with something else but the obvious way would be to expand Medicare. Dare I say, “single payer” or “Medicare-For-All?”

Would that win him the election? I think so– if he can persuade people he means it this time. Yesterday, my old friend from Amsterdam, Toon Janssen, updated us on the recent election in Holland, where a Trump-like character, Geert Wilders, an authoritarian, Islamaphobic populist saw his cult-like party win more seats than any other party. The platform he ran on did not sound like some conservative or right-wing appeal at all. Aside from raising the speed limit on the highways, some of Wilders’ more popular promises included lowering the age for pensions (conservatives having raised it), abolishing the sales tax on food, lower rents and higher rental subsidies, increasing the minimum wage, smaller school classes, including dental care in the basic healthcare package, lower home heating and electricity bills.

(anti)Republican Party

Is Corporate America Betting on Trump? 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-07-2023]

“A few well-connected contacts in the big tech world told me early on they were quite confident it would be a reversion to Obama era antitrust, that Kamala Harris would take care of them. Were they ever wrong! Biden appointed aggressive enforcers to both the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and to the Federal Trade Commission, and issued a meaningful executive order on competition. The net effect is a massive deterrent against mergers, especially large ones, with deal volume down 16% this year alone. There’s also a lot of litigation where judges have to start dealing with antitrust. From the book industry to health insurance to Google and Amazon to prescription routing networks to virtual reality to video games to semiconductors to sugar to health-specific adtech to pharmaceutical patents and private equity health care providers to airlines to pipelines to meat to pesticides, the antitrust world has been busy. And that’s unlikely to slow. The JetBlue-Spirit trial is ending, which could go to appeal. The IQVIA merger trial is ongoing, as is the first Google antitrust search trial. Another Google trial starts early next year, as does an FTC trial against Facebook. My guess is there will be more challenges, potentially against the supermarket combination of Kroger-Albertsons, the design software merger of Adobe and Figma, and/or pharma giant Pfizer’s purchase of Seagan. But what’s interesting is that over the past few months, the deterrent effect seems to be waning, as there have been some major announcements of big mergers.” What I don’t get: If Biden’s going to do all this, why isn’t he selling it, instead of Bidenomics™? More: “[W]hat’s happening is that deal-makers think that Trump could win.”

Behind the Curtain — Exclusive: How Trump would build his loyalty-first Cabinet

[Axios,, December 8, 2023]

  • Steve Bannon said this week on his “War Room” podcast that Patel would “probably” be CIA director in a second term.
  • Patel told Bannon: “One thing we learned in the Trump administration the first go-round is we’ve got to put in all of our compatriots from top to bottom. And we’ve got them for law enforcement … [Defense Department], CIA, everywhere. … Yes, we’re going to come after the people in the media who lied about American citizens.”….

Jamie Dimon: Trump is open to a few more mainstream picks if they bring celebrity or pizzazz. For example, Trump would consider JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, a Democrat, to head Treasury. “He wants a big name,” a source close to the campaign said. “And he loves billionaires.”….

Sen Tom Cotton (R-AR): a former Army infantry officer known for his hard edge, and who wrote a New York Times op-ed in Trump’s first term supporting use of the Insurrection Act against civil disorder— would be considered to head the Pentagon….

Would You Want To Live In A Country Where Most Voters Pick Trump? Don’t Worry Too Much

Howie Klein, December 7, 2023 []

[In] Ron Brownstein’s new essay for The Atlantic, A War On Blue America… he warns that “in a second term, Trump would punish the cities and states that don’t support him.” What Brownstein doesn’t say, but only hints at, is that is exactly what Trump’s zombified MAGAts want. He wrote that “During his term in the White House, Donald Trump governed as a wartime president— with blue America, rather than any foreign country, as the adversary. He sought to use national authority to achieve factional ends— to impose the priorities of red America onto Democratic-leaning states and cities. The agenda Trump has laid out for a second term makes clear that those bruising and divisive efforts were only preliminary skirmishes. Presidents always pursue policies that reflect the priorities of the voters and regions that supported them. But Trump moved in especially aggressive ways to exert control over, or punish, the jurisdictions that resisted him. His 2017 tax bill, otherwise a windfall for taxpayers in the upper brackets, capped the federal deductibility of state and local taxes, a costly shift for wealthy residents of liberal states such as New York and California. He moved, with mixed success, to deny federal law-enforcement grants to so-called sanctuary cities that didn’t fully cooperate with federal immigration agents. He attempted to strip California of the authority it has wielded since the early 1970s to set its own, more stringent pollution standards.”

Democracy Is in Peril, Just Not the Way We Thought

Sam Rosenfeld, November 29, 2023 [The New Republic]

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt explained “How Democracies Die.” Then they decided to look even deeper.….

Two norms in particular were pivotal. Mutual toleration entailed “recognizing that our political rivals are decent, patriotic, law-abiding citizens” and thus accepting their legitimacy as power-seeking actors in the system. And forbearance required deliberately restraining oneself from maximizing the exercise of institutional power so as not to destabilize the system as a whole. The modern GOP, increasingly prone to demonizing its opponents and ever more ruthless in the deployment of escalatory hardball for power, had discarded both of those codes of conduct, eroded its own capacity to police internal boundaries against extremism, and so forged a path to power for the man on the escalator.

Chuck Todd: How elected officials are gaslighting America

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-07-2023]

“Among Republicans nationally, just 26% believed Joe Biden’s victory was legitimate. Among former GOP members of Congress, a whopping 82% believe he won legitimately…. It’s obvious that members of Congress too often give in to the belief systems of their (sometimes overly whipped-up) constituents out of fear of losing their jobs. What’s less clear is exactly the price those self-preservation decisions cost us….. I’ll never forget a conversation I had, when Trump was first elected, with a prominent Republican senator who pulled me aside while getting off of a plane and promised to stand up to Trump. They were the guardrail, they swore, against Trump’s running roughshod over the system and the Constitution. Needless to say, that senator’s pledge lasted less than a year….. As has been said numerous times, authoritarians usually don’t take power, they are handed it, and the elected GOP class has gotten more comfortable handing power to Trump with every year that has gone by since he burst onto the scene in 2016.”.

We Didn’t Drive Old Dixie Down Deep Enough… And Now We Have Trump Threatening Our National Unity

Howie Klein, December 5, 2023 []

…Yesterday, the New Yorker publshed an essay by Jill Lepore, What Happened When The U.S. Failed To Prosecute An Insurrectionist Ex-President, looking how leniency towards Jefferson Davis could hold lessons we need consider in regard to a more recent national traitor….

She began by describing how a spy and fit 58 year old Davis hobbled into court pretending to be a feeble, broken and sickly man, which he wasn’t all. Outrageously, Davis, who had been arrested in Georgia (in drag, trying to escape)— after issuing a proclamation encouraging the MAGAts of the day to continue the Civil War— got away with his treason, never tried, even though the House voted 105-19 to try him for treason. He spent the rest of his life bitter and unreconciled that Blacks were allowed to vote.

Lepore wrote that today, “The American Presidency is draped in a red-white-and-blue cloak of impunity. Trump is the first President to have been impeached twice and the first ex-President to have been criminally indicted. If he’s convicted and sentenced and— unlikeliest of all— goes to prison, he will be the first in those dishonors, too.” She ties that to Davis’ lack of historical accountability. “If Davis had been tried and convicted, the cloak of Presidential impunity would be flimsier. Leniency for Davis also bolstered the cause of white supremacy….

Then as now, what one half of the country thought best for the country the other half thought worst. In February, 1868, the House impeached Johnson, having investigated him for, among other things, intentionally derailing the Davis prosecution. Lieber favored impeachment, not least for the precedent that it would establish. “As to history, it will be a wonderful thing to have the ruler over a large country removed for the first time without revolution,” he wrote. The same hesitancy that derailed the Davis prosecution derailed the Johnson impeachment: so grave a thing, to try a king….

Yes, They’re Pro-Confederacy. But They’re Just the Nicest Ladies. 

Anna Venarchik, December 5, 2023 [The New Republic]

…“The time has come when the South, the true home of the Anglo-Saxon race, which has stood for truth and honesty and righteousness in the past, should come back to the faith and principles for which their forefathers stood.” This 1925 call to make Dixie Confederate again came from Mildred Lewis Rutherford, a prominent historian general of the UDC. A decade prior, a Daughter published The Ku Klux Klan, or Invisible Empire, a children’s textbook that exonerated the Klan. The “heroes” protected white women from “ignorant and vicious negroes” who “considered freedom synonymous with equality” and only wanted “to marry a white wife.” The UDC pledged to disseminate the book to schools and libraries….


The (anti)Federalist Society assault on the Constitution

Justices to review novel bankruptcy maneuver in public harms litigation 

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism 12-04-2023]

‘Plain historical falsehoods’: How amicus briefs bolstered Supreme Court conservatives 

[Politico 12-04-2023]

A POLITICO review indicates most conservative briefs in high-profile cases have links to a small cadre of activists aligned with Leonard Leo.

…That this questionable assertion is now enshrined in the court’s ruling is “a flawed and troubling precedent,” the Organization of American Historians, which represents 6,000 history scholars and experts, and the American Historical Association, the largest membership association of professional historians in the world, said in a statement. It is also a prime example of how a tight circle of conservative legal activists have built a highly effective thought chamber around the court’s conservative flank over the past decade.

A POLITICO review of tax filings, financial statements and other public documents found that Leo and his network of nonprofit groups are either directly or indirectly connected to a majority of amicus briefs filed on behalf of conservative parties in seven of the highest-profile rulings the court has issued over the past two years.

It is the first comprehensive review of amicus briefs that have streamed into the court since Trump nominated Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, solidifying the court’s conservative majority. POLITICO’s review found multiple instances of language used in the amicus briefs appearing in the court’s opinions.



Open Thread


Russia Is An Imperial State While America Is A Plutocratic Oligarchy


  1. StewartM

    Example: he has announced that he will replace ObamaCare, a very flawed— can I say crappy— program, with something better. The Democrats immediately lit their hair on fire and ran around screaming that he wants to repeal ObamaCare and end coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But that isn’t what Trump said at all. He said he would replace ObamaCare with something better.

    OH PLEASE stop with the BS! Trump had plenty of opportunity to do the ‘leftist’ things he campaigned on in 2016, but once in office, governed largely as Reagan with a stronger streak of ‘the cruelty is the point’. I have lost all patience with ‘progressives’ who, like Lucy with the football, claim that *the next time* will be different.

    The only way to make a better America is to 1) first consign Trumpism (and the current R party); then 2) once we have only one viable party (the Dems) it will split between its current progressive and (mildly socially progressive) Wall Street wings. This would recreate the US’s political dynamics before Goldwater, of FDR Democrats vs Eisenhower Republicans (of which the Clintons, Obama, Manchin, etc are part). That solves the problem of the current Democratic party too.

    But first we have to defeat our would-be Nazis. Right? Lest you forgot, I can show you all sorts of ‘working class friendly’ Nazi verbiage but when they actually got into power, they crushed unions and real worker pay fell as the Nazis had to pay off the business interests that helped fund them. So why would Trumpism be different?

  2. VietnamVet

    With the failure of the Ukraine summer offensive, it is clear that the West should have signed the armistice that Boris Johnson nixed back on March 2022. Except the same reasons why it was not possible then still exist today. It means the return to the 1970s multi-polar world of sovereign nations and strongly guarded borders/DMZs with the West deeply in debt and with just enough energy just to get by and ruled by arrogant nincompoops. The termination of globalization and Europe and North America sinking into backwater dysphoria is assured. A nuclear holocaust is one mistake away.

    The longer WW3 continues, the more likely that destroying the Others’ women and children becomes the new normal in the endless wars across the globe including North America where right now the True Believers are triumphantly imposing their religious beliefs on the secular women. The abortion of a fetus with a lethal diagnosis is being prevented by law in Texas at risk to the woman’s health and future fertility.

    The skirmish to prevent the return of the charismatic plutocrat to the White House, parallels how JFK and Dick Nixon were sidelined at the founding of the Empire.

    Only a truly democratic election in the USA in 2024 without Joe Biden and Donald Trump would avoid a second U.S. Civil War. Government by and for people is needed to survive — not the current corrupt one that only facilitates the transfer of public monies to private partners which inevitably will result in succession and chaos.

  3. bruce wilder

    Two norms in particular were pivotal. Mutual toleration entailed “recognizing that our political rivals are decent, patriotic, law-abiding citizens” and thus accepting their legitimacy as power-seeking actors in the system. And forbearance required deliberately restraining oneself from maximizing the exercise of institutional power so as not to destabilize the system as a whole.

    The Democrats have been assaulting these norms with vigor since 2016 with absolutely no self-awareness and that is a serious political problem.

    Is there an antonym for “news”? The Democratic Party chose Wall Street and Big Tech over the working class a long, long time ago. It has long since stopped being a live possibility that the Democratic Party could be a vehicle for representing working class interests. They are simply not credible. If they were credible, Trump could not get so much traction with his cons.

  4. StewartM

    Bruce Wilder

    The Democratic Party chose Wall Street and Big Tech over the working class a long, long time ago.

    Because much longer ago than that, the white working class chose the Rs over the Ds because of the social issues/culture wars issues that people like Thomas Frank decry, particularly those involving race. The Dem pivot to the professional, educated, classes which was a delayed reaction to that. This pivot didn’t happen immediately, it took multiple cycles of white working class Americans voting against their own economic interests to kick ‘the other’. Remember, Clinton probably won some of their votes in 1992 when he kicked Sister Souljah, which was intentionally done to distance himself from Jessie Jackson, whose policies would have actually benefited most of those working-class whites.

    How soon (and conveniently) people forget. Please remember, the horse goes *before* the cart next time?

    (Shout out to the late Normal Lear, who accurately depicted this with the “Archie Bunker” character as it was happening).

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén