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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 18, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

We need the return of the state 

[Tax Research UK, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]

Neoliberalism is built on lies. For decades the deceit at its core has been ignored because it appeared to deliver prosperity. It does not any more. That is why everything is unravelling.

The biggest lie that neoliberalism promotes is that all value is created by private sector business, which claim is contrasted with a claim that government destroys value. So, apparently, a teacher working for a private school adds value. The same teacher in front of the same children in a state school would, apparently, not do so. The idea is obviously absurd, and yet is key to understanding neoliberal’s approach to public services, which is built on this lie.

This neoliberal lie has corrupted public services. Based on this claim it has come to be believed that there is no answer to any question that the state can supply. Instead, it is the private sector that must provide the solution to problems because that sector supposedly knows best.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Base editing: Revolutionary therapy clears girl’s incurable cancer 

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 12-15-2022]

Alyssa, who is 13 and from Leicester, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in May last year.

T-cells are supposed to be the body’s guardians – seeking out and destroying threats – but for Alyssa they had become the danger and were growing out of control. Her cancer was aggressive. Chemotherapy, and then a bone-marrow transplant, were unable to rid it from her body….

The team at Great Ormond Street used a technology called base editing, which was invented only six years ago.

Bases are the language of life. The four types of base – adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T) – are the building blocks of our genetic code. Just as letters in the alphabet spell out words that carry meaning, the billions of bases in our DNA spell out the instruction manual for our body.

Base editing allows scientists to zoom to a precise part of the genetic code and then alter the molecular structure of just one base, converting it into another and changing the genetic instructions.

[TW: The development of base editing was funded by a government entity, the US National Institutes of Health, and put into practice by another, Britain’s national health service. It is government that creates economic progress; that’s why We need the return of the state .]


With historic explosion, a long sought fusion breakthrough

Daniel Clery, December 14, 2022 [Science]

Despite the fanfare, fusion power stations are still a distant dream. NIF was never designed to produce power commercially. Its primary function is to create miniature thermonuclear explosions and provide data to ensure the U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons is safe and reliable. Many researchers believe furnacelike tokamaks are a better design for commercial power because they can sustain longer fusion “burns.” In a tokamak, microwaves and particle beams heat the fuel and magnetic fields trap it. “The challenge is to make it robust and simple,” White says….

If the compression of the fuel is symmetrical enough, fusion reactions begin in a central hot spot and propagate smoothly outward, with the heat from fusion sparking more burning. That self-sustaining burn is what defines ignition, and after more than a decade of effort NIF scientists declared they had achieved that milestone after a shot in August 2021 produced 70% of the input laser energy. But NIF’s funder, DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, set NIF’s goal as an energy gain greater than one—the threshold it passed last week.

Going that extra mile wasn’t easy. After the August 2021 shot, the NIF team found it couldn’t repeat it. Using a smooth diamond capsule turned out to be key: The one from August 2021 had been the most perfectly smooth and spherical they’d made. “We had to learn how to make the capsules better,” Herrmann says. They also made the capsule slightly thicker, which provided more momentum for the implosion but required a longer, more powerful laser pulse. So they tweaked the laser to squeeze out more juice, upping the energy from 1.9 MJ to 2.05 MJ.


Global power shift

The US’ Scorched Earth Policy for Taiwan 

[The Real Politick, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2022]

A new US Defense Department assessment of China’s military capabilities has Washington scared and panicking and considering a “scorched earth” policy for Taiwan.

The Defense Department’s November 29 report “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” reaches the conclusion that Chinese military strength has reached the point where the US can no longer defeat China in a military struggle for Taiwan off China’s coast.


Did Russia and China sign a secret defense pact? 

[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]


Royal Marines have taken part in ‘high-risk’ covert operations in Ukraine, general reveals for first time 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Stiglitz: The Causes of and Responses to Today’s Inflation

[Roosevelt Institute, via The Big Picture 12-13-2022]

Today’s inflation is largely driven by supply shocks and sectoral demand shifts, not by excess aggregate demand. Monetary policy, then, is too blunt an instrument because it will greatly reduce inflation only at the cost of unnecessarily high unemployment, with severe adverse distributive consequences.

Inflation: Everywhere and Always Differential

​​​​​​​Blair Fix [Economics from the Top Down, via Mike Norman Economics 12-15-2022]

Let’s wrap things up. As a rule, your best bet for understanding the real world is to forget what you read in economics textbooks. Instead, pay attention to what the powerful say when they talk amongst themselves.

On that front, CEOs have been explicit that inflation isn’t some exogenous force, driven by the money supply. It’s a game that they actively play.

As a case in point, take William Meaney’s recent comments to investors. Meaney, the CEO of an information management company, claimed that he’s been ‘praying for inflation’ because it’s a good excuse to raise prices:

Where we’ve had inflation running at fairly rapid rates, we’re able to price ahead of inflation.

In other words, forget the money supply. Inflation is a business strategy.


How does the Consumer Price Index account for the cost of housing? 

[Brookings, via The Big Picture 12-13-2022]

Housing represents about a third of the value of the market basket of goods and services that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses to track inflation in the Consumer Price Index. A rise in the price of shelter, the BLS label for housing, contributed to the increase in inflation in early 2022. Measuring changes in shelter costs is more difficult than measuring changes in the prices of, say, apples or tires. How the BLS currently measures changes in the cost of housing for both renters and homeowners.


How the Fed Causes (Model) Apartment Inflation

[The Big Picture 12-13-2022]

Home prices are rising, in part due to a lack of inventory but exacerbated a great deal by rapidly rising mortgage rates. Those rates are driven by the FOMC action. The combination operates to price potential buyers out of the market. But you gotta live somewhere, and so these buyers are forced to stay (or become) renters. There is a simple truism at the heart of sticky CPI inflation readings: Higher Fed Funds & Mortgage Rates = Rising OER & CPI.


The Predictable Resurgence of Fascism and Nazism On Both Sides of the North Atlantic and Its Consequences 

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-2022]

The neoliberal reforms of the 1980s spread throughout the North Atlantic to the extent that the left-wing governments diluted their resistance to them and ended up making them their own. The greater the strengths of these governments, the longer the delay in the application of such policies. The latest and most notorious case has been Sweden, where progressive forces have historically held power, and where the Social Democratic Party was the longest governing. From 1932 to the late 1970s, the Social Democratic Party ruled Sweden supported on average by 48 percent of the electorate. Things began to change in the 1980s, although not until the 1990s and the beginning of the twenty-first century did neoliberal policies reach their maximum influence. The expansion of fascism was a direct consequence of the application of these policies.

It was predictable that the fascist movement would grow almost exponentially—and also that the detrimental effects of neoliberal policies would affect the electoral behavior of the social classes who would be most negatively impacted by them. I know Sweden, academically and personally, well. I have written extensively about the Swedish welfare state and part of my family is Swedish. And I predicted in my article “What happens in Sweden?,” Publico (June 9, 2013), that the public policies implemented would lead to the situation that exists today. It was precisely in the 1980s when the social democratic government started applying these policies, led by Sweden’s finance minister. These policies were later expanded by the governing alliance of conservative and liberal parties, a body known as the Bourgeoisie Alliance, and later on, continued by the Social Democratic Party who governed again from 2014 until 2022. These neo-liberal policies included the deregulation of the labor market (which allowed employers to pay workers according to their own criteria, whereby  employers, including the state, began to hire and pay weaker workers less, that is immigrants); the facilitation of immigration, which increased dramatically; the introduction of privatization in the management of public services, such as health and education, including by private profit-seeking companies; and the deregulation of housing prices.


How British colonialism killed 100 million Indians in 40 years 

[Al Jazeera, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2022]

How did British rule cause this tremendous loss of life? There were several mechanisms. For one, Britain effectively destroyed India’s manufacturing sector. Prior to colonisation, India was one of the largest industrial producers in the world, exporting high-quality textiles to all corners of the globe. The tawdry cloth produced in England simply could not compete. This began to change, however, when the British East India Company assumed control of Bengal in 1757.

According to the historian Madhusree Mukerjee, the colonial regime practically eliminated Indian tariffs, allowing British goods to flood the domestic market, but created a system of exorbitant taxes and internal duties that prevented Indians from selling cloth within their own country, let alone exporting it.

This unequal trade regime crushed Indian manufacturers and effectively de-industrialised the country. As the chairman of East India and China Association boasted to the English parliament in 1840: “This company has succeeded in converting India from a manufacturing country into a country exporting raw produce.” English manufacturers gained a tremendous advantage, while India was reduced to poverty and its people were made vulnerable to hunger and disease.


British empire killed 165 million Indians in 40 years: How colonialism inspired fascism 

Ben Norton [Multipolarista, via Mike Norman Economics 12-15-2022]

British colonialism caused at least 100 million deaths in India in roughly 40 years, according to an academic study.

And during nearly 200 years of colonialism, the British empire stole at least $45 trillion in wealth from India, a prominent economist has calculated.

In the report, the scholars estimated that India suffered 165 million excess deaths due to British colonialism between 1880 and 1920.

“This figure is larger than the combined number of deaths from both World Wars, including the Nazi holocaust,” they noted.

They added, “Indian life expectancy did not reach the level of early modern England (35.8 years) until 1950, after decolonization.”….

“According to research by the economic historian Robert C Allen, extreme poverty in India increased under British rule, from 23 percent in 1810 to more than 50 percent in the mid-20th century. Real wages declined during the British colonial period, reaching a nadir in the 19th century, while famines became more frequent and more deadly. Far from benefitting the Indian people, colonialism was a human tragedy with few parallels in recorded history.

“Experts agree that the period from 1880 to 1920 – the height of Britain’s imperial power – was particularly devastating for India. Comprehensive population censuses carried out by the colonial regime beginning in the 1880s reveal that the death rate increased considerably during this period, from 37.2 deaths per 1,000 people in the 1880s to 44.2 in the 1910s. Life expectancy declined from 26.7 years to 21.9 years.”


Henry Carey – Excerpts from The Harmony of Interests: Agricultural, Manufacturing & Commercial (1851)

Chapter V – Why Is It that Protection Is Required

We see thus, that the whole legislation of Great Britain, on this subject, has been directed to the one great object of preventing the people of her colonies, and those of independent nations, from obtaining the machinery necessary to enable them to combine their exertions for the purpose of obtaining cloth or iron, and thus {compelling} them to bring to her their raw materials, that she might convert them into the forms that fitted them for consumption, and then return to the producers a portion of them, burdened with great cost for transportation, and heavy charges for the work of conversion. We see, too, that notwithstanding the revocation of a part of the system, it is still discretionary with the Board of Trade, whether or not they will permit the export of machinery of any description. (pp. 52-53)

The impoverishing effects of the system were early obvious, and to the endeavour to account for the increasing difficulty of obtaining food where the whole action of the laws tended to increase the number of consumers of food and to diminish the number of producers, was due the invention of the Malthusian theory of population, now half a century old. That was followed by the Ricardo doctrine of Rent, which accounted for the scarcity of food by asserting, as a fact, that men always commenced the work of cultivation on rich soils, and that as population increased they were obliged to resort to poorer ones, yielding a constantly diminishing return to labour, and producing a constant necessity for separating from each other, if they would obtain a sufficiency of food. Upon this theory is based the whole English politico-economical system. Population is first supposed to be superabundant, when in scarcely any part of the earth could the labour of the same number of persons that now constitute the population of England obtain even one-half the same return. Next, it is supposed that men who fly from England go always to the cultivation of rich soils, and therefore everything is done to expel population. Lastly, it is held that their true policy when abroad is to devote all their labour to the cultivation of those rich soils, sending the produce to England that it may be converted into cloth and iron, and they are cautioned against any interference with perfect freedom of trade as “a war upon labour and capital.”

Chapter VI – How Protection Affects Commerce

Men are everywhere flying from British commerce, which everywhere pursues them. Having exhausted the people of the lower lands of India, it follows them as they retreat toward the fastnesses of the Himalaya. Afghanistan is attempted, while Scinde and the Punjab are subjugated. Siamese provinces are added to the empire of free trade, and war and desolation are carried into China, in order that the Chinese may be compelled to pay for the use of ships, instead of making looms. The Irishman flies to Canada; but there the system follows him, and he feels himself insecure until within this Union. The Englishman and the Scotsman try Southern Africa, and thence they fly to the more distant New Holland, Van Dieman’s Land, or New Zealand. The farther they fly, the more they must use ships and other perishable machinery, the less steadily can their efforts be applied, the less must be the power of production, and the fewer must be the equivalents to be exchanged, and yet in the growth of ships, caused by such circumstances, we are told to look for evidence of prosperous commerce!

The British system is built upon cheap labour, by which is meant low priced and worthless labor. Its effect is to cause it to become from day to day more low priced and worthless, and thus to destroy production upon which commerce must be based. The object of protection is to produce dear labour, that is, high-priced and valuable labour, and its effect is to cause it to increase in value from day to day, and to increase the equivalents to be exchanged, to the great increase of commerce. (pp. 71-72)

….the school of discords [is] that which teaches to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, and sees great advantage to be gained by reducing the cotton of the poor Hindoo to a penny a pound, careless of the fact that famine and pestilence follow in the train of such a system. The policy that produces a {necessity} for depending on trade with people who are poorer than ourselves tends to reduce the wages of our labour to a level with theirs, and to diminish commerce… By bringing the Irishman here, and enabling him to make his exchanges with us, we raise him to our level as a producer. By exporting our people to Ireland, and compelling them to make their exchanges there, we would sink their wages to a level with those of that country. The policy that brings people here and raises them in the scale of civilization, is that which promotes commerce. That which causes them to return home, and thus arrests the tide of immigration, preventing advance in civilization, is the one which diminishes commerce. (p. 77)


The Political Economy of Effective Altruism

Peter Dorman, December 16, 2022 [AngryBear]

Back in the day, I used to give talks on child labor.  I would always begin by saying that boycotts and shaming of corporations, while understandable as an emotional response, were unlikely to do much for the world’s children….

Feeling like I had communicated a complex topic persuasively and provided a motivating political spin at the end, I would ask for questions.  Inevitably, the first would be some variation on “What should(n’t) I buy?”  People were so enclosed in a worldview in which only individuals could take action, and “collective action” meant lots of individuals were doing the same thing, that my argument simply couldn’t get through.

Effective altruism is a variation on the same theme, only substitute philanthropy for shopping.  If “what should I buy?” springs from the consumption portion of income, “how should I give?” pertains to  the portion not dedicated to current or future consumption.  The first question would be asked by a citizen of the 99%, the second by a one-percenter….

To put it bluntly, effective altruism allows people to exploit or even defraud others to become rich, so long as they expiate themselves by giving away the surplus portion of their riches in accordance with an approved set of criteria.  Its ideological function is cemented by the criteria themselves, which call for discrete interventions with measurable outcomes; these can be applied to philanthropic donations but not to the more systemic interventions addressable by politics….

The prominence of both consumerist and philanthropic strategies to fix what’s wrong with the world are reflections of an immense political vacuum.  Somehow, and quickly, politics needs to be rebuilt from the ground up: a vision of genuine change that can grapple with the extreme challenges that face us, political movements organized around elements of that vision, and a few victories along the way to give us strength and spirit.  The goal would be to live in a world in which “what should I buy?” and “how should I give?” were no longer regarded as important political questions.


A rigged game? Poultry farmers complain of big debt, unreliable income 

[Charlotte Observer, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-2022]


A $100 Billion Lesson In Why Building Public Transportation Is So Expensive in the US

[Vice, via The Big Picture 12-11-2022]

There’s a plan to spend $100 billion fixing the Northeast Corridor by 2035. Similar countries build entire new rail corridors with dozens of new stations for a fraction of that cost. Why can’t the U.S.? (Vice)


Professional Management Class war on workers

Behind the Key Decision That Left Many Poor Homeowners Without Enough Money to Rebuild after Katrina 

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., presented the biggest obstacle to getting more money, former Powell aide Taylor Beery said. Just days after Katrina, Hastert suggested large parts of New Orleans should be “bulldozed” and said spending billions of dollars to rebuild the city “doesn’t make sense to me.” (He later backtracked, saying he meant the city should be rebuilt in a way that protected residents.)


Labor’s Lost

Michael Lind [The Tablet, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2022]

What was called “the Labor Question” a century ago has returned to the forefront of public debate, thanks to highly publicized attempts to unionize companies as varied as Amazon and The New York Times, and in spite of the efforts of the flacks of the neoliberal left and libertarian right (and the billionaires and corporations who fund them) to keep public attention focused on the culture war instead of the class war.

According to Gallup, 71% of the public approves of labor unions—the highest percentage since 1965—with 90% support among Democrats, 66% among independents, and 47% among Republicans. But because of partisanship and class interests, these views are not translated by the Democratic and Republican parties into support for organized labor. This is largely a result of the increasingly elitist nature of American politics. Both parties have superrich donors who are more or less libertarian—socially liberal and economically libertarian. The Silicon Valley and Hollywood elites who fund the Democrats are as hostile to organized labor as Republican-leaning agribusiness and logistics industries.


“The Evolution Of Union-Busting”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-12-2022]

“Virtually none of the presenters identified explicitly as anti-union agents. Many described themselves or had professional biographies emphasizing their role as DEI experts, developers of ‘human capital,’ and champions of workplace ‘belonging.’ The industry has undergone somewhat of a rebranding, with many labor relations executives now identifying as ‘people experts’ and diversity executives. Even the host of the conference was camouflaged. The conference was organized by a group called CUE, which bills itself publicly as simply ‘a community for positive employee relations.’ But that sunny image belies its true agenda: Founded in 1977 by the National Association of Manufacturers, as part of a sweeping crusade against organized labor, CUE is formally known as the ‘Council for a Union-Free Environment.’ The organization provides research and training for the union suppression tactics, an estimated $340-million-per-year cottage industry of lawyers and consultants who specialize in assisting corporations with mitigating the threat of organized labor. But there was no doubt that they understood how controversial their work can be. Ken Hurley, the vice president of Kellogg’s Co. for human resources and labor relations who presided over the effort last year to replace striking cereal workers, said he did not want participants to share his slide deck, for fear of leaks…. ‘Labor consultant folks converting into DEI folks,’ added [Michael C. Duff, a law professor at the University of Wyoming]. ‘It’s really a wonderful kind of psyops, right, because these people are supposed to be close to employees.’”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2022]


Railroad Union Votes Out Union President – 100,000 UK Nurses Strike – 500 Authors Protest HarperCollins 

[Payday Report, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]

While unions representing the majority of railroad workers voted against the tentative agreement proposed by the railroad, Dennis Pierce, the president of the 28,000-member strong Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, pushed his union to successfully ratify the agreement with only 53% of his union voting in favor.

Today, it was announced that Pierce has lost his re-election to challenger Eddie Hall by a margin of 53% to 47%. The defeat of Pierce could be a warning sign to union presidents, who push tentative agreements that lack popularity.


“I’m a Rail Worker, and Biden Screwed Us”

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-2022]

“A few days have passed since Congress and President Joe Biden foreclosed the possibility of a legal strike by railroad workers. The blood has had a chance to cool from a boil to a simmer. The facts of the situation can be viewed with some measure of detachment, and, despite what you may have read in news sources or seen on TV, this was never just a conflict over the number of paid sick days. About 115,000 workers represented by 13 separate craft unions, who keep 40 percent of the nation’s freight moving, got screwed. The coalition of interests that did the screwing includes: the executive boards of the seven class-1 carriers, most of Congress, and the president. Democratic action is not limited to voting in municipal, state, and federal elections every few years. Democracy also occurs in workplaces, as when a majority of workers come together and vote to engage in a strike after three years of working without a ratified contract with no raises, 10 years of cuts to the workforce through firings or layoffs or furloughs or attrition, and a brutal scheduling regime that forces some workers to choose between health, familial obligations, and unemployment. When the rail carriers, Congress, and the president swiftly came together to force railroad workers to eat another shitty contract, they subverted democracy to do so. All the excuse-making and promises to make good at some undetermined point in the future can’t change that fact. And it won’t change the fact that the carriers will continue to roll in profits, like hogs in mud; that the politicians will continue to speak out of both sides of their mouths from the safety of their offices; or that workers, who keep the freight moving, will go on doing their jobs while having their lives outside of work ground into dust. Wake up with a high fever and puking your guts out? Take the day off, and you can be fired. Your wife goes into early labor? Take the day off, and you can be fired. An elderly parent slips on some ice and needs help around the house? Take the day off, and you can be fired. When the operating directive is to maintain a functioning system with the fewest workers possible, then unscheduled time away from work, paid or not, is treated as a direct attack on company profits.”


Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2022]


The City That Kicked Cops Out of Schools and Tried Restorative Practices Instead 

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-2022]


Predatory Finance

Kathleen Pistor: The Code of Capital

John Emerson [Epigrues, via Mike Norman Economics 12-15-2022]

In the aftermath of the 2007 crash Katharina Pistor“sought to discover what lay behind finance’s stupendous expansion in recent decades, and what accounted for its steep fall”. Her specialty is law, and her book is first of all about how “law has been put at the service of capital”, especially during the last two centuries (and above all in recent decades). Beyond that, she argues that capital is the product of law: “Most observers treat law as a sideshow, when it is the very cloth from which capital is cut.” (Some things in this book remind me of points made in Walter Karp’s 1993 Indispensable Enemies about the role of government in capital creation).
Pistor’s book is pretty demanding, but it was written for a non-specialist public and is one of the best works of “popularization” that I have ever read. It’s well-organized and well-written enough that rather than reviewing it, I just cite key passages in hopes that people will want to read the whole thing….

The fall of FTX shocked everyone. Except this guy

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 12-13-2022]

The world of cryptocurrency is rich with eccentric characters and anonymous Twitter personalities. So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of the early figures who called attention to the problems with Sam Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, is a 30-year-old Michigan psychiatrist who investigates financial crimes as a hobby.


The Roll-Up Economy: The Business of Consolidating Industries with Serial Acquisitions

[American Economic Liberties, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-2022]



While large mergers in concentrated industries make national news and present a serious problem, the focus on headline-making mergers can ignore a potentially more concerning trend: the intentional consolidation of fragmented industries through small, “serial acquisitions.” Long a core aspect of the private equity business model, serial acquisitions are now endemic to American commerce. Whether it is magic mushrooms, youth addiction treatment centers, mobile home parks, nursing homes, comedy clubs, ad agencies, water bottles, local newspapers, or health care practices, many local businesses normally thought of as independent are being swept up in serial acquisition sprees. Today even publicly traded firms and start-ups use this consolidation strategy to pursue higher returns.
However, Section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act sought to prohibit such serial acquisitions with a standard for “incipientmonopolization.” It stated that no firm can acquire the stock or assets of another “where the effect of such acquisition may be to substantially lessen competition between the corporation whose stock is so acquired and the corporation making the acquisition.” The 1950 Celler-Kefauver Amendment bolstered the focus on curbing monopolization in its incipiency by removing loopholes and broadening the standard to block vertical and conglomerate mergers or acquisitions….
However, changes to the legal and regulatory landscape weakened incipiency enforcement since the 1970s, such that, despite their expanding prevalence in many industries, serial acquirers fly under the regulatory radar into an antitrust twilight zone. In addition to generally scaling back merger enforcement, merger filing thresholds under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act (HSR) only require that companies report acquisitions to the FTC if they are valued at over $101 million, so serial acquirers rolling up industries with many small transactions are never seen or reviewed by antitrust enforcers. To give a sense of the potential scale of the problem, in 2021, there were 21,994 total merger transactions in the United States, yet under 20% — only 4,130 — were reported to the FTC. Similarly, in 2020, there was a total of 16,723 transactions, and only 1,637 — under 10% — were reported. While these legal changes primarily served to weaken enforcement against large mergers in concentrated industries, they also had the effect of limiting the scrutiny that smaller serial acquirers face.

The Classical Republicans: An Essay in the Recovery of a Pattern of Thought in Seventeenth Century England

Zera S. Fink, Northwestern University, 1945.

[TW: One of neoliberals’ great lies is the influence of John Locke’s ideas on the creation of USA. Much more important than Locke was Algernon Sydney, and his 1680 masterpiece, Discourses Concerning Government.  Sydney explained the nature of man;]

“Man is of an aspiring nature, and apt to put too high a value on himself. They who are raised above their brethren, though but a little, desire to go farther; and if they gain the name of king, they think themselves wronged and degraded, when they are not suffered to do what they please. In these things they never want masters; and the nearer they come to a power that is not easily restrained by law, the more passionately they desire to abolish all that opposes it.”

Fink continues:

Even when a prince was virtuous and began by desiring nothing more than the power allowed him by law, he was subject to greater temptations to invade the liberty of his subjects than human nature could be expected to withstand. “The strength of his own affections,” Sydney declared, “will ever be against him. Wives, children, and servants will always join with those enemies that arise in his own breast to pervert him; if he has any weak side, any lust unsubdued, they will gain the victory. He has not searched into the nature of man, who thinks that anyone can resist when he is thus on all sides assaulted.”26  Monarchy, in short, by the very constitution of human nature, tended always to degenerate into tyranny. It was a defective form of government because in the most important place of all it was lacking in those adequate restraints on the defects of human nature which all the classical republicans saw as an essential of any well-contrived government.

[TW: After the English monarchy was restored, Sydney was tried and executed for writing Discourses Concerning Government. This persecution of Sydney and other republicans locked in the United Kingdom on its course of bloody imperialism.]


The pandemic

Covid-19 vaccines have saved more than 3 million lives in US, study says, but the fight isn’t over

[CNN, via The Big Picture 12-14-2022]

Without Covid-19 vaccines, the nation would have had 1.5 times more infections, 3.8 times more hospitalizations and 4.1 times more deaths than it did between December 2020 and November 2022. (CNN)


The Race to Save Medical Research 

[Washington Monthly, via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2022]

Most Americans probably aren’t aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, along with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the best and biggest medical research powerhouse in the United States. Millions of veterans have benefited from VA research breakthroughs, including pioneering treatments for PTSD, Agent Orange, and prosthetics.

But it’s not just veterans who benefit. All Americans have profited from VA advances, such as the shingles vaccine, the implantable cardiac pacemaker, and the nicotine patch. The VA is on the frontlines of investigations on the risks of long COVID and studying why prostate cancer is so lethal for Black men.


Information age dystopia

Why Musk’s meltdown matters

[Robert B. Hubbell Today’s Edition Newsletter, via The Big Picture 12-13-2022]

Musk’s tweet was dangerous, ignorant, and insulting to Dr. Fauci and LGBTQ people. Should we care? Why should we pay attention to a man-child who seems to delight in provoking people who care about democracy, truth, and decency? ….

  • 25% of the US male adult population uses Twitter.
  • 55% of Twitter users regularly get news on the platform, amounting to 15% of the US adult population.

How many 25 to 34-year-old males do you know who read a daily newspaper? Or watch a cable news program? Or watch broadcast news? You get the point: The strong probability is that the young adult males you know hear more frequently from Elon Musk than from any mainstream journalist….

The GOP conspiracy theory about Dr. Fauci’s responsibility for “creating” SARS-CoV-2 involves a deliberate misinterpretation of an NIH letter denying that claim, a deliberate ignorance of virology and related research, and an intense hatred of Dr. Fauci because he refused to support Trump’s buffoonish effort to fool the American people into believing that Covid-19 was “just like a bad flu.” See generally, FactCheck.Org,  Republicans Spin NIH Letter About Coronavirus Gain-of-Function Research.

It is difficult to overstate the harm that such hearings will inflict on the trust of Americans in future efforts by NIH scientists to control new viruses against which we have no natural immunity. By demonizing Dr. Fauci, Republicans will kill tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans in future epidemics by undermining trust in the NIH, CDC, and other federal agencies. We have already seen the effect of weaponized disinformation in the 2023 funding authorization for the US military: The budget explicitly removed mandatory Covid vaccinations for new recruits. See Military TimesMilitary COVID-19 vaccine mandate repealed in defense bill compromise.


The stuff uncovered in the Twitter whistleblower report 

@AvidHalaby [Thread Reader, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]

Twitter didn’t monitor employee computers at all, it was not uncommon for employees to install spyware on work devices…. Twitter does not have separate development, test, staging, and production environments. At least 5,000 employees had privileged access to production systems…. In 2020, Twitter had security incidents serious enough they had to be reported to the federal government on an almost weekly basis. Meanwhile, Parag Agarwal was lying about how secure Twitter was.


“Cory Doctorow Wants You to Know What Computers Can and Can’t Do” (interview)

Cory Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-2022]

“I think that the problems of A.I. are not its ability to do things well but its ability to do things badly, and our reliance on it nevertheless. So the problem isn’t that A.I. is going to displace all of our truck drivers. The fact that we’re using A.I. decision-making at scale to do things like lending, and deciding who is picked for child-protective services, and deciding where police patrols go, and deciding whether or not to use a drone strike to kill someone, because we think they’re a probable terrorist based on a machine-learning algorithm—the fact that A.I. algorithms don’t work doesn’t make that not dangerous. In fact, it arguably makes it more dangerous. The reason we stick A.I. in there is not just to lower our wage bill so that, rather than having child-protective-services workers go out and check on all the children who are thought to be in danger, you lay them all off and replace them with an algorithm. That’s part of the impetus. The other impetus is to do it faster—to do it so fast that there isn’t time to have a human in the loop. With no humans in the loop, then you have these systems that are often perceived to be neutral and empirical. Patrick Ball is a statistician who does good statistical work on human-rights abuses. He’s got a nonprofit called the Human Rights Data Analysis Group. And he calls this ’empiricism-washing;—where you take something that is a purely subjective, deeply troubling process, and just encode it in math and declare it to be empirical. If you are someone who wants to discriminate against dark-complexioned people, you can write an algorithm that looks for dark skin. It is math, but it’s practicing racial discrimination. I think the risk is that we are accelerating the rate at which decision support systems and automated decision systems are operating. We are doing it in a way that obviates any possibility of having humans in the loop. And we are doing it as we are promulgating a narrative that these judgments are more trustworthy than human judgments.”


Collapse of independent news media

The Journalism Business Is Bad, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone

Eric Alterman, December 16, 2022 [The American Prospect]

As mainstream publications cut jobs, heavily subsidized right-wing agitprop is filling the gap….

According to a recent report in The Guardian, we’ve recently seen:

  • Hundreds of workers were laid off at CNN, not including 350 earlier layoffs after it shelved its $100 million streaming platform CNN+ just three weeks after its debut.
  • Gannett laid off 200 employees at the beginning of the month.
  • BuzzFeed announced it would let go of 12 percent of its workforce.
  • Vice will be cutting its costs by 15 percent.

In addition, we learn from The Guardian: “Other companies that have laid off employees include Outside Inc, video news startup The Recount, the Washington Post—which cut the entire staff of its Sunday magazine [with more cuts planned for next year]—and Protocol, a tech-focused publication. NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News and MSNBC, and Disney, which owns ABC News, have both suggested company-wide layoffs will be coming in the near future.”


Democrats’ political malpractice

Joe Biden Has Just Given Wall Street a Huge Win 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-2022]

“When former president Donald Trump paved the way for his private equity donors to skim fees from Americans’ 401(k) retirement accounts, Joe Biden’s campaign denounced the stealth executive action and promised to oppose such changes if he won the presidency. But less than two years later, Biden’s administration just quietly cemented that same policy, delivering a gift to the Democrat’s own finance industry sponsors, even as federal law enforcement officials are warning of rampant malfeasance in the private equity industry.”


Democrats Don’t Have to Settle for Battling to a Draw

Stanley B. Greenberg, December 12, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Over 70 percent of eligible voters do not have a four-year degree, my measure of working-class. And in this midterm election, they were 61 percent of the voters. Over 80 percent of the Black and Hispanic voters were working-class, though that is usually closer to 70 percent in our campaign surveys.

And those voters were mad as hell about the economy. Two-thirds rated it “negatively” in my survey for Democracy Corps and PSG Consulting with 2,000 pre-election and Election Day voters. Two-thirds of voters said the country was on the wrong track. They were also mad as hell about the billions in campaign spending that corrupted politics. They are conscious that the biggest corporations, high-tech companies, and billionaires use their money and lobbyists to rig the game against working people.

They are mad as hell because they really haven’t seen a pay raise in two decades, which is even more true for African Americans and Hispanics. Their frustration was heightened by two decades of spiking growth in incomes and wealth for the top 1 percent and spiking spending on political campaigns.


Fake Populists See A Real Opportunity

David Sirota, December 13, 2022 [The Lever]

And yet, laughing at the GOP’s fake populists as if they are politically irrelevant ignores a significant and dangerous trend: Democrats’ genuflections to their corporate donors — whether breaking a strike, authorizing corporate giveaways, or stalling a $15 minimum wage — have been handing conservatives myriad opportunities to court working-class voters.

And lately, polling data show those voters have been responding.

Since the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans have gained seven points among voters whose annual income is below $50,000, according to exit polls. In this year’s midterm elections, those surveys show the GOP won a plurality of all voters whose income is below $100,000 — also a seven-point gain since the last midterm. Republicans also won 42 percent of union households.


Looming Questions for the Democrats 

Michael Tomasky [The New York Review, December 22, 2022 issue]

Republican control of the House, even by such a narrow margin, will almost surely mean a ceaseless series of investigations into the Biden administration. Probes into the president’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal and his border policies are possible. Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to investigate Nancy Pelosi over January 6—the trials and jailings of the insurrectionists. But at a November 17 press conference, two days after it became clear that they would capture the House, Republicans drew an unmissable bull’s-eye: investigations into Hunter Biden’s Rabelaisian past—his past drug use and sex life, his international business dealings, why his canvases fetch such enviable prices (he’s a painter, favoring large, colorful abstractions that put one vaguely in mind of Klimt and Klee, although the critics’ views are mixed)—will be, they vowed, a “top priority.” The press conference hosts, Jim Jordan of Ohio and James Comer of Kentucky, will chair, respectively, the committees on the judiciary and oversight. And Hunter, they stressed, is not the real target. “I want to be clear,” said Comer. “This is an investigation of Joe Biden, and that’s where our focus will be next Congress.” Not inflation, not the border, but Hunter Biden’s laptop….

Further, it should be noted that while some of Trump’s candidates lost (most of them won, by the way), Trumpism still won to a frightening extent. A large number of election deniers prevailed—as of this writing, The Washington Post estimated that 176 election deniers won statewide races or seats in the House of Representatives. That antidemocratic extremism surely hurt the party at the polls. Alas, it didn’t hurt it enough; Republicans could not pretend even for two days to be interested in the problems actually plaguing the nation….

The ever-restive Freedom Caucus, the hard-right assemblage of forty-plus members who will be demanding an impeachment of Biden from day one, is generally skeptical of McCarthy. To win their support for his speakership, he will surely have to make promises on impeachment, oversight, and investigations.

As for the Democrats, their responsibility these next two years will be to continue, without apology, on the economic path they’ve been pursuing—what Biden calls “middle-out economics.” [2]

[2] My recent book is called The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity (Doubleday, 2022). The phrase “middle-out economics,” as I explain in the book, comes not from Biden but from my friends Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, who coined it in 2011 as an answer to trickle-down economics. Trickle-down says prosperity flows from the top down and thus advocates tax cuts for the rich. Middle-out says prosperity flows from the middle and thus argues for investments (private and public) in the middle class. I and many others have been advocating for the latter for years, and it’s gratifying to see a Democratic president embracing this view


Spanberger’s victory was especially important, as well as telling. The former CIA officer, who became a vocal representative of the moderate faction of Democrats, holds a district that includes some Richmond suburbs but is mostly exurban and rural. It was represented by a very conservative Republican from 2000 to 2014, when he was defeated by an even more conservative Republican.

Spanberger first won in 2018, beating the Republican incumbent by 1.9 percentage points. She was reelected in 2020 by 1.8 points. Virginia Republicans then targeted her in redistricting, making the district less familiar to her and drawing it in such a way that her home was no longer in it. Last year, she distanced herself from Biden, complaining, after Youngkin won the governor’s seat, that “no one elected [Biden] to be FDR.” Then this year, she stood up for the right to abortion and touted improvements to the district that derived from the infrastructure act. It helped her defeat her extremist MAGA opponent by 4 percent….

This needs to be the Democrats’ message: that they are on the side of working people…. In Texas, for example, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who lost to GOP incumbent Greg Abbott by eleven points, won just 19 of the state’s 254 counties; in many of the counties he lost, tiny as they are, O’Rourke won less than 20 percent of the vote (in some, less than 10 percent). A Democrat who could win 35 percent of that vote could win a statewide election in Texas. Demonstrating to those people that the Democrats oppose Big Pharma and the tech monopolies—and in Texas specifically, the beef monopolies—is a path to that 35 percent.


Do Democratic Leaders Really Think Republicans Are Dangerous?

Thomas Neuburger, December 7, 2022 [God’s Spies]

As History professor Kevin Matthews noted in 2020: “All inter-war fascist movements took part in elections with one goal in mind: to destroy democracy and create a one-party state.” (Emphasis mine.)

That’s true today, and it’s probably been true since Nixon’s time in office, when former Attorney General George Mitchell told the Watergate committee that (paraphrasing) the Democratic Party alternative to Nixon so threatened the nation that illegal action was needed. Later, when asked if his group would have committed murder to elect Nixon president, he replied, again paraphrasing, “Senator, you ask a difficult question.”

The “Democrats are traitors” theme goes way back in hardline conservative Republicanism, despite the fact that it was Nixon, the hardline conservative, who  actually betrayed his country.

Thus the question: If Republicans really are the party of fascism and Democratic leaders say so, why don’t they act like they believe it?

The complicity of Democratic leaders with Republicans is puzzling but constant. They confirm Republican judges and Supreme Court justices even when they have the power to oppose them. When Democrats held the Senate, for example, they confirmed Thomas, Roberts and Alito, three of the six who currently bedevil the Court.

About Alito, 19 Democrats voted to end debate, which allowed the nomination to reach the floor, and four Democrats voted for the nomination itself, putting it over the 50-vote threshold. Worse, Barack Obama later announced he regretted joining the filibuster, wishing he would have voted with the 19 Democrats who made the confirmation vote possible.


“Record Turnout in Georgia?? MY A**!”

Greg Palast [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-2022]

“In Sen. Raphael Warnock’s runoff two years ago, the turnout was 4,484,954. This time, the vote plummeted to 3,538,910. Since when is a one-million-vote nosedive a ‘record’ turnout? Mail-in ballots fell off a cliff. Absentee ballots — which Warnock won two years ago by a stunning two-to-one margin — plummeted by a breathtaking 83%, from over a million (1,084,021) in the 2021 runoff to just 191,286 last week…. Two years ago, a 400,000-vote plurality of mail-in ballots delivered the victory margin for Warnock and his running mate, Jon Ossoff, now Georgia’s other Senator. These ‘absentee’ ballots also won the presidential contest for Joe Biden over Donald Trump for Georgia’s electoral votes. A stunned Kemp and his GOP-controlled legislature took note and within mere weeks passed SB202, 98 pages of restrictions that made absentee balloting all but illegal, especially in case of another runoff.”


Democrats plan to spoil Sinema’s reelection, hand seat to the GOP 

Carl Beijer [via Naked Capitalism 12-12-2022]


“Democracy for America on track to shut down”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-2022]

“The organization started in its current form after [Howard] Dean’s unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign, and throughout its history it helped elect more than 1,000 progressive candidates and raised $70 million dollars since it started, staff said. In recent years, it focused on structural democracy reform, ranked choice voting, student debt relief and Medicare for All. Democracy for America endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential primary. Before backing him, it helped organize an unsuccessful campaign to draft Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) into the race. The group also supported Sanders’ run in 2020.”

Lambert Strether: “It took the Democrats a long time to kill it, but kill it they did.”


The Dark Side

Conservatism as an Oppositional Culture: How a sociological concept explains the “Scam Right” 

[Richard Hanania’s Newsletter, via The Big Picture 12-11-2022]

Spend some time consuming conservative media, and you’ll see it’s all just one scam after the other: “commemorative” gold coins, something about refinancing your house, Ben Carson brain pills. Often, there is barely any line between the straight reporting and scams, with the theme of the news coverage blending right into the messages of sponsors, both spatially and psychologically, as can be seen in two recent emails from Breitbart and Daily Caller….

My favorite story in the genre of conservative scams is how Newt Gingrich after he left Congress would ask businesses to pay an annual $5,000 fee for him to name them an “Entrepreneur of the Year.” This would pop up in the news when the awards would occasionally go to a strip club or adult video store, at which point they would be kicked out of the club and refunded their money. During the Obamacare debate, Gingrich repurposed the scam so that for $5,000 doctors would get a plaque declaring them a “Champion of Medicine.” Potential recipients were told by fax that they were among an elite 100 physicians selected, without informing them that hundreds, if not thousands, got the same message. None of this mattered when Gingrich ran for president in 2012 and ended up with the fourth most delegates in the Republican primary. The best reporting on conservatives scamming their own supporters is, of course, published by liberals.


SBF’s “dirty money” 

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 12-14-2022]

Bankman-Fried gave tens of millions to Democratic candidates and groups this cycle. He has said he also made large contributions to Republican political candidates, but did so in a way that hid the donations.

  • “All my Republican donations were dark,” Bankman-Fried said in an interview last month.
  • “[R]eporters freak the f**k out if you donate to a Republican because they’re all super liberal. And I didn’t want to have that fight, so I just made all the Republican ones dark.”
  • Bankman-Fried estimated he was actually the “second or third biggest” Republican donor in the country during the 2022 midterms but that he was able to shield those donations from public view.

How the Right Turned “Freedom” Into a Dog Whistle

Eric Herschthal, December 8, 2022 [The New Republic]

A new book traces the long history of cloaking racism in the language of resistance to an overbearing federal government.


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“Oklahoma takes ‘momentous’ step to allow taxpayer-funded religious schools” 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-2022]

“Oklahoma’s departing attorney general just took a big step toward achieving a conservative education milestone. A state law that blocks religious institutions and private sectarian schools from public charter school programs is likely unconstitutional and should not be enforced, Attorney General John O’Connor and Solicitor General Zach West wrote in a non-binding legal opinion this month. Their 15-page memo leans on a trio of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that favored religious schools and won rapt attention from conservative school choice advocates and faith groups. Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said the advisory opinion ‘rightfully defends parents, education freedom, and religious liberty in Oklahoma.’ Newly-elected state Superintendent Ryan Walters called it ‘the right decision for Oklahomans.’ Now it’s time to see if faith-based Oklahoma institutions successfully apply for taxpayer support to create charter schools that teach religion as a doctrinal truth just like private schools do today, and if legislators will push to change state law. Legal authorities in other Republican-led states could also pen similar opinions.”


Leonard Leo’s Latest Supreme Court Play

Andy Kroll, Andrew Perez & Aditi Ramaswami, December 14, 2022 [The Lever]

As ProPublica and The Lever detailed in August, Leo was gifted a $1.6 billion fortune last year by a reclusive manufacturing magnate, Barre Seid. The newly revealed tax documents cover last year, just as Leo was in the process of receiving that enormous donation.

The Supreme Court case involving a Colorado-based website designer who refuses to work for same-sex couples provides a window into Leo’s strategy.

At least six groups funded by Leo’s network have filed briefs supporting the suit, which seeks to overturn Colorado’s anti-discrimination law. The Ethics and Public Policy Center, which records show received $1.9 million from Leo’s network, submitted a brief supporting the web designer. So did Concerned Women for America, which has received at least $565,000 over the past two years from the Leo network, as well as an organization called the Becket Fund, which got $550,000 from a Leo group.

Leo’s network has also been the top funder of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which spends money to elect GOP attorneys general and serves as a policy hub for the state officials. Twenty Republican attorneys general have also filed a brief in support of the case. One Leo group donated $6.5 million to RAGA during the 2022 election cycle, according to the association’s federal filings.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Preparing for the Worst

Brynn Tannehill, December 12, 2022 [The New Republic]

Since January 20, 2021, when President Joe Biden was sworn in, there has in some respects been a creeping sense of normalcy to American politics, seemingly maintaining a status quo seen since the 1990s: a center-left Democrat in the White House and a Republican Party that has gone off the rails while out of power, whether it’s Newt Gingrich, the Tea Party, or today’s MAGA crowd. This is an illusion, however. The Republicans in power today have every intention of ending democracy via voter suppression, gerrymandering, and simply abusing their power to overturn election results they don’t like. Three grim scenarios for America’s future cannot be dismissed. The first two put us back in the post-Reconstruction era. The second is a threat we’ve never seen before: the functional end of our democracy for generations. The closest analogy is 1860, with the difference that the South had somehow managed to game the system into overturning the election of Lincoln and installed John Breckinridge as president.

Unless voters wake up—and Democrats wake them up—we’re on the verge of permanent, minoritarian, single-party rule, and few seem to realize what that would look like, much less the consequences. Once we reach that point, there’s a limited number of potential outcomes. This article explores how we might reach each of them, and what they would look like. Spoiler alert: None of them are good….

The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson has made it clear that only rights specifically enumerated in the Constitution will be upheld, such as religion and access to guns. All other rights are at the whim of whoever is running the state. Republicans have ensured through gerrymandering, voter suppression, nonproportional representation, and the ability to overturn elections that they will always be calling the shots….

A cursory examination of Florida, Texas, and other conservative states gives a clear idea where this is going in the long run. The most obvious is the potential bans on abortion in roughly 26 states. Given that white evangelicals are most likely to favor laws with no exceptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother, and the lack of political competition in general elections, politicians in those states will pass ever more draconian anti-abortion laws. This includes fetal personhood bills and laws that allow for prosecuting women who get abortions and preventing women from leaving the state for the purposes of getting an abortion.

Similarly, the demise of Roe means the likely end someday of Griswold v. Connecticut (which overturned laws forbidding married people to obtain birth control) and Eisenstadt v. Baird (which extended Griswold to unmarried couples) as well. Conservative state officials are already lining up to pass laws that target certain types of birth control that they consider abortifacients, such as Plan B and IUDs. The result of these sorts of bills will be higher maternal mortality, more poverty, higher infant mortality, more child abuse, and more child neglect, as people who can’t afford children, shouldn’t have children, or don’t want children are forced to have them in states with absolutely no intention of providing a social safety net….

Nor will racial and ethnic minorities fare any better. Schools in minority neighborhoods are already underfunded. So are health care systems. The private school system as we know it was largely a result of white evangelicals trying to dodge desegregation efforts after Brown v. Board of Education and other rulings. Southern states already have some of the highest levels of infant and maternal mortality. They also have among the lowest life expectancies, with Mississippi falling behind Honduras, Nicaragua, or Vietnam. Texas is seeking to overturn Plyler v. Doe (which requires states to provide education to residents). A Supreme Court that ceases to care about disparate impact or outcomes clears the way for these disparities to only get worse….

After the 2024 election, especially if the Democrat wins it but the Republicans steal it, the devolution into two Americas is a near certainty. Republicans have reshaped the Supreme Court in their own image and no longer care if their social goals are deeply unpopular, because they are governing purely for their base. The question is, will Republicans be successful in asserting national control? And if they are, what comes next? Will blue states like California simply ignore federal laws and Supreme Court rulings? Will they make this independence official? Alternately, will they quietly acquiesce and pretend that there is a way to recover from a descent into competitive authoritarianism if everyone just gets out and votes? The most terrifying question is what happens if some substantial portion of the left decides violence is the only path back to self-determination. When a population collectively realizes that peaceful change at the ballot box, or by petitioning their leaders, is no longer possible, and when there are competing ideologies and lots of guns available, history shows that the result is often years of political violence: not necessarily outright civil war, but assassinations, mass shootings, arson, bombings, and so on.


One Nation Under Guns: How this year’s Supreme Court ruling on Second Amendment rights is changing everything

Ryan Busse, December 14, 2022 [The Atlantic]

Less than two years after the appointment of President Donald Trump’s third pick for the U.S. Supreme Court created a 6–3 conservative supermajority, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. BruenThe Court could have issued a narrow decision and directed New York to be more lenient in issuing concealed-carry permits. But as in the Dobbs v. Jackson decision on abortion, which came a day after Bruen this year, the conservative majority seized an opportunity not to adjust precedent incrementally, but to destroy it completely.

For public safety and gun policy, the Bruen opinion is proving nothing short of seismic. Even as the nation struggles with yet another series of mass shootings, courts across the country are rushing to deal with a spate of lawsuits and motions that will create regulatory chaos over firearms. Many of these cases are tailored to produce appeals that may ultimately go up to a Supreme Court predisposed to the broadest possible interpretations of Second Amendment rights.

In the Bruen opinion, Thomas made clear that, henceforth, the Court’s conservative majority would judge all firearms regulations by a new originalist standard: If there is no historical proof of a gun law linked to 1791 or 1868—the years when the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively, were ratified—then any modern law restricting firearms is liable to be ruled unconstitutional.


Heather Cox Richardson, December 14, 2022 [Letters from an American]

But, also in June, the Supreme Court handed down the sweeping New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen decision requiring those trying to place restrictions on gun ownership to prove similar restrictions were in place when the Framers wrote the Constitution. Already, a Texas judge has struck down a rule preventing domestic abusers from possessing firearms on the grounds that domestic violence was permissible in the 1700s.


Heather Cox Richardson, December 16, 2022 [Letters from an American]

…at the request of the Department of Justice, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell unsealed an opinion she wrote in June, in which she determined that a number of communications between Representative Scott Perry (R-PA), lawyer John Eastman, and Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark, who tried to take over the attorney general’s job and use the Justice Department to overthrow the 2020 presidential election, and his aide Ken Klukowski were not privileged….

But the material does show that department lawyers have had access to Clark’s inside account of a couple of key moments: Trump looking at the letter Clark drafted incorrectly telling Georgia legislators the department thought the results of the election were tainted—there is evidence Trump knew this was false—and the key January 3, 2021, meeting in which Trump was stopped from putting Clark in power only when the rest of the Justice Department’s leadership threatened to resign.
Clark’s information came in the shape of an outline for an autobiography. That he set out to write such a document suggests that those involved in trying to overthrow our government saw themselves as heroes in the making: the reason we have so many diaries from Confederates in the early 1860s is that they imagined they were the Founders of their own new nation.
The autobiography also appears to reveal a direct connection between the attempt to overthrow the United States government and the toxic individualism of the Movement Conservatives who took over the Republican Party in the 1990s. Movement Conservatives based their ideology in the idea from the Reconstruction years that Black voters would elect leaders who promised them roads and schools and hospitals that could only be paid for with taxes on property owners. In the post–Civil War South, that primarily meant white men. Thus, in this construction, minority voting meant a redistribution of wealth from white men to Black people.
In the twentieth century, international communism meant government takeover of the means of production. But in the United States, “socialism” and “communism” were defined in the 1870s by those opposed to Black voting, who insisted that letting Black men have a say in their government would create a racial redistribution of wealth that would destroy America.



Open Thread


Life In The Absence of Coercion


  1. VietnamVet

    Combine NCIS Jethro Gibbs’ Rule #39: “There is no such thing as a coincidence” and Neoliberal’s belief #1: “Profits over life”; the result is this Week-end Wrap.

    A couple of examples that didn’t make the cut:
    1) Union Pacific Railway, one of two railroad companies that haul coal out of the Powder River Basin, is under fire for embargoing shipments to customers, including power plants. The failure to meet customer coal demand has resulted in less coal-fired power generation and higher costs to ratepayers for natural gas purchases to replace coal power.
    2) Sportsbook gambling operations spending on TV advertisement jumped 281% this year. Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings performed greatest comeback in NFL history.

    Terms that describe this are “profiteering” and “corruption”. Propaganda mislabels it as “inflation”. If reality isn’t addressed, a western economic collapse and a hot world war with Russia/China and NATO are on the table.

    The next months will show if the economic re-opening of China with only their vaccines as the primary public health measures like the USA and its mRNA vaccines will reduce the projected number of dead Chinese with COVID from 12.6 (USA 3) million down to 4.2 (USA 1) million. When the death of millions is a statistic, human civilization is in jeopardy.

  2. marku52

    The “vaccines prevented 3 million deaths” post doesn’t pass the smell test. At one million dead, the US is already leader in deaths per capita in the developed world. These authors believe that without the vaccines, that result would be 3X worse? Sorry not buying it.

    These vaccines may have had some effect against the original strain, but they are useless against the latest ones. Open any Worldometer graph, and try to point out where the vaccines made a dent in the progress of the pandemic. There is even data out of Israel showing that vaccine effectiveness is *negative* after 70 days. That’s right, the vaccination makes it more likely you will be infected.

    And the vaccines are harmful as well. Dr Malhotra, who was very supportive of vaccination initially, now is convinced there is more harm than good. Look in about 15 minutes in this vid. Myocardiits is his concern, but “excess deaths” from many causes appeared synchronously with the vaccine rollout.

    See the “Lausen data” graph about half way down in this link.

    malhotra vid

    This story isn’t over yet.

  3. Let’s look at that Covid study and remove the bias inherit in Vaccine discussions to see if we actually think it is quality science. To do this let’s use the same study design and simply replace “Covid” with tax cuts for the rich.

    A study made a model which assumed tax cuts for the rich cause economic growth, reduce deficits and spur innovation. This study showed that the Trump tax cuts reduced the deficit by tens of billions yearly, caused hundreds of billions in economic growth, and spurred technological advances via stimulating innovation. Does anyone find this to be an evidence based, logical and scientific statement? Because the above is an exact replica of the Covid vaccine saved lives study.

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