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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 20, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 20, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

America’s Survival Depends on Bankrupting the Republican Party
Thom Hartmann: [via LA Progressive 12-18-2020]

Large parts of the Republican base now join conspiracists in the misguided belief that vaccine manufacturers are participating in mind-control experiments and that public health measures like masks are “un-American,” while we’re being sickened and dying from the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and death in the developed world.

Republicans on the Supreme Court even say the founders of our republic and the framers of the Constitution would never go along with preventing churches and synagogues from holding superspreader events during a pandemic, but, like so many things GOP, it’s a lie.

In 1798, President John Adams signed the first public health care legislation—it was to pay for medical care and hospitalization not just for the Navy but also for civilian sailors. And both he and President George Washington had participated in quarantine events during epidemics in the summers of 1793 and 1798, and both promoted inoculation against smallpox.

From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. When the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 recurred in 1798, that city’s board of health, with no objections raised by President John Adams or any member of Congress, ordered a block-by-block evacuation of parts of Philadelphia….

Since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have damaged America more in 40 years than our worst enemies could have dreamed of by other means….

They have rigged elections by making it hard to vote, seditiously tried to overturn the 2020 election, promoted racial and religious bigotry and violence, destroyed our public school systems, gutted our unions, and rewritten our tax system to screw the middle class.

Click through to read Hartmann’s proposed six actions that can hasten the GOP’s exit from the stage of world history. 

These Six Steps Can Stop Republican Treason

[Thom Hartmann, December 16, 2020, YouTube]

LA Progressive

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-20]

Marianne Williamson
The more I learn about the current epidemic of white supremacist groups, the clearer it becomes: we’re losing these people as children. Despair among our youth breeds vulnerability to ideological capture by psychotic forces. If our love doesn’t claim them, hate will.
12:50 AM · Dec 15, 2020

“Chris Arnade: Dignity, Poverty, Faith, & Seeking Respect in Back Row America” (podcast)

[The Moral Imagination, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“In the second half of the conversation we discuss faith, redemption, and atonement, and how the front row’s empiricist, cold, secular rationalism scientific doesn’t do justice to the complexities of human life, suffering, and the desire for meaning, dignity, and respect. Arnade argues that ‘atheism is an intellectual luxury that is wrong’ and that ‘front row’ scientism lacks epistemic humility, and has a false view of science and certainty. Arnade shows that each person, no matter our state, is a subject, and not simply an object to be manipulated or problem to be solved. And that many of our deepest problems cannot be solved by technical means alone, but are philosophical and cultural problems—not of the poor—but of the elite.

“How race politics liberated the elites”


[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-20]

“Dropping down a rung or two on the pyramid of power, consider the moral ecology inhabited by the broader gentility: the salaried decision-makers and ideas-managers who service the global arrangement from various departments of the ideological apparatus. They may work in NGOs, the governing bodies of the EU, corporate journalism, HR departments, the celebrity-industrial complex, the universities, Big Tech, etc. They, too, enjoy a kind of freedom, but it is decidedly not that of the high-spirited criminals depicted in Succession. So far from living ‘beyond good and evil’, this broader class of cosmopolitans asserts its freedom through its moralism, precisely. In particular, they have broken free of the claims of allegiance made upon them by the particular communities they emerge from. How does this work, psychologically? The idea of a common good has given way to a partition of citizens along the lines of a moral hierarchy – one that just happens to mirror their material fortunes (as in Calvinism). Instead of feeling bound up in a shared fate with one’s countrymen, one develops an alternate solidarity that is placeless. The relatability across national borders that the gentlefolk feel in one another’s company — the gracious ease and trust, the shared points of reference in high-prestige opinion — has something to do with their uniformly high standing in the moral hierarchy that divides citizen from citizen within their own nations. The decision-making class has discovered that it enjoys the mandate of heaven, and with this comes certain permissions; certain exemptions from democratic scruple. The permission structure is built around grievance politics. Very simply: if the nation is fundamentally racist, sexist and homophobic, I owe it nothing. More than that, conscience demands that I repudiate it.”

The real history of race and the New Deal: Material benefits trumped FDR’s terrible civil rights records
Matthew Yglesias, December 14, 2020

Black Americans started voting for the Democratic Party because FDR’s economic policies were good for them, even though his civil rights policies were rotten. Then once they were there inside the Democratic Party coalition they ended up pushing the party toward racial liberalism. But the switch was driven by economics, which of course would not make sense on the theory that the New Deal was a crypto-racist undertaking.

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

“Amazing” Hypocrisy: Democrats Make Wreck of Covid-19 Relief Negotiations

Matt Taibbi, December 14, 2020

Democrats stonewalled all year on a new pandemic relief package. Now they’re proposing a new plan that undercuts even Republican proposals, and screws everyone but – get this – defense contractors

The Tax Time Bomb That Congress Can Defuse

David Dayen, December 17, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The headline should be “Tax Bombs,” plural, because there are a number of stunning tax details about the CARES Act that are about to impact the unemployed and others who received emergency assistance in 2020. 

This is significant anti-stimulus at the worst possible time. In effect, the one-time stimulus check and unemployment boost will be offset, for millions of people, by the lack of an expected refund and even tax liability. That blunts the impact of those relief measures.

Mitch McConnell gives away the game: ‘Kelly and David are getting hammered’

[Washington Post, via The American Prospect 12-17-2020]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has now suggested on a private conference call with GOP senators that a key reason for this movement is that the two Georgia Republican senators, both of whom face runoffs in January, are “getting hammered” over Congress’ failure to pass a new rescue bill.

But this news doesn’t just tell us that Republicans are feeling heat from this failure. The likelihood that this played a key role in moving Republicans also underscores how unlikely they are to help the economy and the country next year, if they do retain control of the Senate.

CNN’s Manu Raju reports that on the call with GOP Senators on Wednesday, the Senate Majority Leader said that the lack of stimulus payments has become a big issue in the runoffs

Crawling Toward a Deal on COVID Relief

David Dayen, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The issue in negotiations appears to be eligibility. Millions of mixed-status families did not get a CARES Act payment because of eligibility rules that required everyone in a household to be a U.S. citizen. Democratic leaders are trying to alter this so only one member of a household with a Social Security number makes the household eligible. Meanwhile, almost 9 million non-tax filers who were eligible for a check last time haven’t received one; mechanisms to ensure their participation need to be discussed. And I spoke yesterday with Scott Roberts of Color of Change, which has been highlighting another sub-group that has struggled to get checks: incarcerated people.

There was no language on this in the CARES Act, making incarcerated people eligible. But the IRS tried to block them from receiving payments anyway. State corrections departments were intercepting checks intended for people in prison. A federal judge ordered that these payments get made in September, but that set up an application process. Color of Change has been helping get people through it; of course there are fees associated with flowing money into prison bank accounts, which should be waived….

State and local aid: There is none, but Democrats seem to be trying to plus-up certain earmarked budgets in a way that would stand in for that aid. They’ve asked for $30 billion for governors to control for health care and vaccine distribution; Republicans have rejected that so far. There’s also money given to FEMA for state and local “emergencies,” (isn’t every budget shortfall an emergency?) which the last I saw was $90 billion. But Republicans are also resisting a separate pot of just $1 billion for FEMA, so they’re clearly targeting that.

And on what was reported as the new obstacle Republicans threw up to a deal:

The money cannon: This is frankly the dumbest point of contention. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wants to rescind the authority for the Federal Reserve’s corporate credit facilities, reducing the flexibility for the incoming Biden administration’s Fed to lend to medium-sized businesses or state and local governments. This is now being termed the main stumbling block to a deal.

The Fed has had nine months to use that lending authority, and they’ve done next to nothing with it. The “Main Street Lending Program” is mostly an oil and gas lending program. The state and local lending has yielded two loans, and the Fed leadership appears ideologically opposed (and conflicted with the muni bond industry) to doing more. Furthermore, the Fed has the tools to undertake this lending anyway, through Section 14(2) authority.

Yet Democrats are going to great lengths to paint Steven Mnuchin as a schemer (hey if the shoe fits) bent on sabotaging the next president. Republicans don’t exactly have good intentions here, but the Fed’s actions haven’t really done much for regular people, either. Thanks in part to propped-up asset prices, 45 of the 50 biggest companies made money during the pandemic, laid off workers and leaked cash out to shareholders. Corporate bond-buying has pushed investors to seek high returns, and is facilitating private equity dividend recapitalizations, another extraction tool to loot companies.

These facilities will not be missed. They have almost exclusively fattened the wallets of the investor class, and there’s no reason to think they would suddenly benefit the average worker. Especially when, rhetorically speaking, proceeds from the money cannon are being distributed to people who need it. I can’t think of anything less worth fighting for.

“Senate Proposal Would Retroactively Shield Corporations From All COVID Lawsuits”

David Sirota, Andrew Perez, Julia Rock, December 15, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

“[The bill would] empower the United States Attorney General to deem coronavirus-related lawsuits from workers, customers and attorneys ‘meritless’ and then file civil actions against them as retribution. In order to ‘vindicate the public interest,’ courts would be allowed to fine respondents up to $50,000.”

Oil & Gas Dominates In “Main Street” Lending Program

[BailoutWatch, December 16, 2020, via The American Prospect 12-17-2020]

Forty-six fossil fuel companies have received Fed-subsidized loans totaling $828 million since the program started in July. The average loan size, $18 million, is nearly double the program’s average loan size of $9.8 million, or $9.2 million excluding fossil fuels. Twelve of the fossil fuel loans were worth $35 million or more, accounting for more than 30% of the program’s loans of that magnitude. See the full list of companies here.

The results contrast starkly with the MSLP’s paltry aid to clean energy companies, which received just nine loans totaling $62 million, for an average size of $6.9 million. Excluding the two bigger loans of $25 million and $22.6 million, clean energy’s seven remaining loans averaged just $2.1 million.

As a portion of the loan portfolio, clean energy comprises 1% after drifting downward most months. Fossil fuels have captured more than 13% of the money, a figure that has increased in every month but one. That disparity raises questions about the Fed’s commitment to fighting the financial risks posed by climate change, which it only began to acknowledge publicly after this year’s election.

The Return of Checks Checks Checks

David Dayen, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

End The Austerity Loop

David Sirota, December 17, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

Democrats are failing to heed the cautionary tale about how their obsession with deficit reduction hurts the economy and harms their political prospects….

The familiar message from Obama to Democratic Party voters is the same one the party’s apologists offer up today: Budget capitulations are not a product of ideological fealty to an austerity agenda, they are only a reflection of political reality — so stop pushing, start falling in line and be pragmatic.

On its face, it is a compelling tale that makes sense if you read nothing else and forgot what actually happened. The problem is, it omits a key detail that collapses the entire story and exposes the austerity ideology at play: In roughly the same time period, Obama and his party congratulated themselves for passing legislation that — in the name of deficit reduction — rescinded the White House’s authority to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help Americans who were being thrown out of their homes.

Called the “Pay It Back Act,” the Democratic bill reduced the size of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) just after it had bailed out the banks, but just before a new president might decide to use the money for what it was originally supposed to do: help homeowners.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]




“How Should We Understand Capital Income Inequality?”

[Matt Bruenig, People’s Policy Project, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-20]

“I think public ownership of capital is one of the most overlooked topics in contemporary discussions of inequality. Unlike labor income, which can only be received by individuals, capital income can be received by anyone or anything. This is because it is completely detached from anything having to do with capital owners. Capital may be productive in some sense, but the people who own it are not, which is precisely why anyone can own it, including everyone collectively through an instrument like a democratically-elected government. For this reason, bringing private capital into public ownership should be considered one of the easiest ways to cut down inequality in society. Building a social wealth fund like the one that Alaska has could quickly trim down wealth inequality in society while also providing new streams of government revenue that could be distributed in a vastly more equal way than capital income is currently distributed. ”

Keeping tax low for the rich does not boost economy (pdf)

[London School of Economics and Political Science, via The Big Picture 12-17-20]

Our research shows that the economic case for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak. Based on data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades, we estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment. We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income.  In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Tax Cuts For Rich People Produce ‘No Significant Economic Effects,’ Says 50 Years Of Data

[Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-20]

Study of 50 Years of Tax Cuts For Rich Confirms ‘Trickle Down’ Theory Is an Absolute Sham — Kenny Stancil

[Common Dreams, via Mike Norman Economics 12-17-20]

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich (pdf), a working paper published this month by the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics and written by LSE’s David Hope and Julian Limberg of King’s College London, examines data from nearly 20 OECD countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., and finds that the past five decades have been characterized by “falling taxes on the rich in the advanced economies,” with “major tax cuts… particularly clustered in the late 1980s.”

But, according to Hope and Limberg, the vast majority of the populations in those countries have little to show for it, as the benefits of slashing taxes on the wealthy are concentrated among a handful of super-rich individuals—not widely shared across society in the form of improved job creation or prosperity, as “trickle down” theorists alleged would happen.

“Our research shows that the economic case for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak,” Hope said Wednesday. “Major tax cuts for the rich since the 1980s have increased income inequality, with all the problems that brings, without any offsetting gains in economic performance.”…

Predatory Finance

How London grew into a financial powerhouse

[Financial Times, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

London is a hub for trading currencies and interest rate derivatives. Its location allows traders to catch the end of the Asian day and the opening on Wall Street. The good fortune of geography is underpinned by high-quality tech infrastructure. As a result, London accounts for 43% of the turnover in the $6.6 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market and half of the daily $6.5 trillion traded in interest rate derivatives. Brexit has not dented the UK capital’s dominance in these markets

Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-20]


Information Age Dystopia

How Russian hackers infiltrated the US government for months without being spotted. And why it could take months more to discover how many other governments and companies have been breached.

[MIT Technology Review, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

Chrome is Bad

[Chrome is Bad, via Naked Capitalism 12-13-20]

Short story: Google Chrome installs something called Keystone on your computer, which nefariously hides itself from Activity Monitor and makes your whole computer slow even when Chrome isn’t running. Deleting Chrome and Keystone makes your computer way, way faster, all the time.

“Google Faces U.S. Antitrust Regulators Who Want More Than Just Fines” [Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“On Thursday, after a barrage of antitrust lawsuits, Google mounted a defense of its most valuable business. The response showed it’s not a Ma Bell breakup Google fears, but being forced to alter its crown jewel—the search engine…. ‘This lawsuit demands changes to the design of Google Search, requiring us to prominently feature online middlemen in place of direct connections to businesses,’ Adam Cohen, Google’s director of economic policy, wrote in a blog post.”

Lambert Strether expands: “For middlemen, read curators, bloggers, content creators, as opposed to algos (and whoever pays the Google for a top ranking). I think that Google should (a) index everything, which it no longer does, (b) roll the engine back to, say, 2008, when search wasn’t crapified, and (c) make the interface a list of blue links. Period. How hard could that be?”

“Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“The giants of the social web—Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram; Google and its subsidiary YouTube; and, to a lesser extent, Twitter—have achieved success by being dogmatically value-neutral in their pursuit of what I’ll call megascale. Somewhere along the way, Facebook decided that it needed not just a very large user base, but a tremendous one, unprecedented in size. That decision set Facebook on a path to escape velocity, to a tipping point where it can harm society just by existing. …. The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see…. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Facebook has enlisted a corps of approximately 15,000 moderators, people paid to watch unspeakable things—murder, gang rape, and other depictions of graphic violence that wind up on the platform. Even as Facebook has insisted that it is a value-neutral vessel for the material its users choose to publish, moderation is a lever the company has tried to pull again and again. But there aren’t enough moderators speaking enough languages, working enough hours, to stop the biblical flood of shit that Facebook unleashes on the world, because 10 times out of 10, the algorithm is faster and more powerful than a person. At megascale, this algorithmically warped personalized informational environment is extraordinarily difficult to moderate in a meaningful way, and extraordinarily dangerous as a result. These dangers are not theoretical, and they’re exacerbated by megascale, which makes the platform a tantalizing place to experiment on people.”


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Driving the Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s first real electric car 

(The Verge, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

Ford looks like it has an unqualified hit on its hands. Its next EV, the electric Ford F-150, is sure to be popular. But Ford needed to show everyone that it could make a powerful electric vehicle that was a blast to drive — and it did.

“U.S. Defense Department looks to bolster domestic chip manufacture with new program”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“The U.S. Defense Department will soon start soliciting proposals for a program to provide incentives to boost semiconductor manufacturing capabilities in the United States, according to a posting on a government contracting site. Major American semiconductor companies such as Apple Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp rely on outside manufacturers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) or Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to fabricate their chips in what are called foundries. Most of those foundries are located in Taiwan or South Korea. While Intel Corp operates U.S. chip factories, they are mostly dedicated to manufacturing its own chips rather than doing work for outside clients. The Defense Department is looking to change that dynamic by providing incentives for the development of chip-related intellectual property and the creation of advanced foundries in the United States, according to a notice posted to the website of the National Security Technology Accelerator, a nonprofit group that works to connect private-sector companies to government contract opportunities.”

Health Care Crisis

“Here’s What Medicare For All Supporters In Congress Can Actually Do”

David Sirota, December 13, 2020 [The Daily Poster].

“Over the weekend, there has been a raging debate on social media, in which some progressive critics began demanding that lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use their votes in the upcoming House Speaker election as leverage to get a commitment for a floor vote on Medicare for All legislation…. However, only asking for that performative vote — rather than also asking for things that might change the structural power dynamic — would be a waste, and yet another instance of progressives reverting to a feckless tradition of prioritizing spectacles rather than the wielding of actual power. They could additionally condition their vote for Pelosi on a commitment that she:

– Remove the Medicare for All opponent who chairs the key committee [Richard Neal]

– Schedule a vote on existing legislation to let states create single-payer health care systems

– Schedule a vote on a resolution demanding Biden use executive authority to expand Medicare

– Include provisions in year-end spending bills that create a presidential commission charged with crafting a Medicare for All program

– Author a discharge petition to force a vote on Medicare for All

Climate and environmental crises

“The costs of tackling climate change keep on falling”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-14-20]

“In 2006, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change foresaw a cost of 1 per cent of global GDP to reduce global fossil fuel-related emissions from 25 gigatonnes to 18 Gt by 2050, with zero emissions only achieved after 2075. A recent report from the Energy Transitions Commission suggests a cost below 1 per cent to achieve net-zero emissions globally by mid-century. This is a trivial sum to save the world from catastrophic climate change.”

Lambert Strether: The cost is trivial today, and was trivial in 2006. Cost, then, is not the issue.

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-14-20]



Joe Biden Is Unhappy About the Day One Agenda

David Dayen, December 16, 2020 [The American Prospect]

Since we put out the Day One Agenda last September, and added to it during the transition period, other news outlets and commentators have followed with their own suggestions for how the Biden administration can make meaningful changes that will help people without having to wait for a permission slip from Mitch McConnell. At the Prospect, we have written over three dozen articles on the subject, and identified as many as 277 distinct actions that Biden can take by invoking his executive power, independent of what Congress may or may not do, all referenced in the Biden-Sanders unity task force document from this past summer.

Apparently, Biden isn’t thrilled about the trajectory of this discussion. On a call with civil rights leaders leaked to the press last week, Biden flashed some anger at the idea that he has the ability to make great strides for the American people even if Congress balks. “There’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden acknowledged, stating that he would “use it to undo every single damn thing this guy [Donald Trump] has done by executive authority.” But, he quickly added, “executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds … Not within the constitutional authority. I am not going to violate the Constitution.”

….Absolutely nothing in the Day One Agenda would violate constitutional authority. In fact, the agenda adheres directly to the Constitution’s Article II powers. A president’s job function is, by and large, to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Everything in our coverage refers to actual laws the president has the authority to implement….

Student debt cancellation, for example, is derived from the Higher Education Act of 1963. Lowering prescription drug prices comes from using provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, or Section 1498 of the U.S. Code. Effectively legalizing marijuana is achieved through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Biden can alter the measurement of poverty because it’s an administrative function, and several laws tie federal benefits to that poverty calculation. Biden can shape federal procurement policy thanks to the 1974 establishment of a dedicated White House office for that purpose, and requiring contractors to pay living wages or proper benefits can meaningfully improve the lives of millions of workers.

“Get Biden Elected Then We’ll Influence Him From The Left”

Ian Welsh, December 17, 2020

Biden is one of the architects of the neoliberal order. It’s really impossible to overstate how he was there all the way, doing all the worst things. The way the world and America runs is his legacy, why would he listen to his political enemies, the people he helped destroy in the 70s and 80s, who he drove into the political wilderness with his allies who followed the so-called Third Way? (Reaganism for a different set of nasty rich people.)…. Biden doesn’t want to do most progressive or left wing things. He doesn’t agree with them…. Biden’s career is about destroying left-wingers, even very mild left wingers, then bulldozing over their bodies in the New Deal mass grave he helped created. That’s who he is, that’s his legacy and he believes in it.

“Inside the Left’s New, ‘Mature’ Political Strategy”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

Interview with Justice Democrats co-founder Saikat Chakrabarti.

“‘The Justice Democrats have 10 members in Congress, and the House Democrats have — I think it’s a six-seat majority,’ says Chakrabarti. ‘Now they can negotiate as mature partners at a table. They have real power.’”

“Senate Democrat: Party’s message to rural voters is ‘really flawed’”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-20]

“Tester argued the party could strengthen its performance in rural areas by emphasizing its infrastructure policies, particularly in relation to broadband expansion. ‘And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education,’ he said. ‘That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana.’… [The New York Times] noted that former President Obama won some rural areas by more than 20 points in comparison to President-elect Joe Biden this year. Tester responded by pointing to Obama spending the Fourth of July in 2008 in Butte, Mont. ‘He showed up. Now, he didn’t win much in it, but he did a hell of a lot better than people thought he was going to do because he showed up,’ Tester said.”

“Why Did Obama Forget Who Brought Him to the Dance?”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“But there’s a strange lacuna in A Promised Land, a missing thread that I kept looking for but never found. That thread is his popular base…. But as is by now well known, once Obama entered office, he abandoned this army and staked his presidency on the inside-the-Beltway strategies of his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel…. So as I read A Promised Land, I kept looking for hindsight about cardinal political error. Obama offers none. The words ‘Organizing for America’ don’t appear anywhere in the book.”

The Establishment Strikes Back

Alexander Sammon, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

But in a surprise, last-second Steering Committee meeting on exclusive committee assignments Thursday, which was scheduled at 10 p.m. the night before, centrist Democrats put on a show of support for Rice and against AOC, in what looks to have been a process-defying attempt to keep AOC out of the seat. Fellow New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries came out in support of Rice, contra Nadler, as did Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL).

Most vocal in his opposition to Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy was Texas’s Henry Cuellar, the caucus’s most conservative member. After Ocasio-Cortez was nominated and seconded, Cuellar opposed, commenting: “I’m taking into account who pays their dues and who doesn’t work against other members whether in primaries or in other contexts,” according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. After Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) called for a vote on the two candidates came an unusual outcome: Rice crushed AOC 46-13.

Lawrence Wilkerson on Biden’s pro-war cabinet” (podcast)

[Pushback with Aaron Maté, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

Wilkerson: “I don’t see a different kind of administration being formed. And it disturbs me because it just means more of the same — a little more calmness, a little more serenity, which lulls everyone into thinking that things are better, when in fact they’re not.”

The Dark Side

2020 was the year that American science denial became lethal

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 12-14-20]

It’s hard to pinpoint when the Republican Party’s long-cherished hostility to scientific facts went, shall we say, viral. Was it when President Trump started promoting antimalarial pills as a treatment for COVID-19? Or when he mused openly about using bleach or bright light to kill the virus inside the body? Or when he became the standard-bearer for the notion that wearing masks was a sign of unmanly weakness and shunning them a test of conservative political faithfulness?

The Sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service Is a National Security Matter
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 16, 2020 [Wall Street On Parade]

Among the growing list of priorities for the incoming Biden administration is a comprehensive investigation of the efforts to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service.

In August, Aaron Gordon, reporting for Vice’s Motherboard, published a leaked internal document from the U.S. Postal Service showing that management was planning to eliminate hundreds of high-speed sorting machines in the midst of a pandemic. Sources inside the Postal Service that spoke with Gordon told him that they had “personally witnessed the machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster.”

Documents reviewed by Gordon also “laid out detailed plans to reroute mail to sorting facilities further away in order to centralize mail processing even if it moves the mail across further distances.” Gordon reported that a union official wrote on the document: “This will slow mail processing.”

When this news swept across mainstream media, it was characterized as an effort to interfere with mail-in ballots and boost the chances of a Trump election win. But the slowdown at the U.S. Postal Service continues, making it look more like an all-out effort to sabotage a government mail program in order to destroy its reputation for timely delivery and boost the fortunes of private mail shippers…

How do we hold the traitors to democracy accountable?

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-15-20]

Not too surprisingly, the Bezos Post concludes there really is no way to hold them accountable; we can only scold them, subjecting the miserable poltroons to a good tongue lashing by Madame Speaker Pelosi. But I argue that if we don’t rock the boat now, it will definitely capsize later, when an administratively competent authoritarian replaces a Biden administration sunk by clinging to the disastrous nostrums of bipartisan neoliberalism. 

“Former Houston police captain charged with attacking man falsely accused of voter fraud”

[NBC News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“According to the district attorney’s office, [former Houston police captain Mark Anthony] Aguirre said he conducted ‘surveillance’ on a [local repairman] for four days in the belief that he had 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck. Authorities alleged that he ran his SUV into the back of the man’s truck and forced the man to the ground at gunpoint, which was captured on an officer’s body camera.”

Lambert Strether comments: “It has occurred to me that conservative Republican embubblement culminates in assaults on material objects or persons — the repairman, here, or a pizza parlor — whereas liberal Democrat embubblement consists in symbol manipulation. Now ask yourself which is more important and effective for warmongering….”



Open Thread


Fundraising Finale


  1. Hugh

    I remember a long time ago, before covid or even impeachment, I was discussing Trump with someone and I was saying that no matter how oddly or outrageously, or inexplicably by normal means, Trump acted he could be understood by a single word –pathology. I think the guy I was talking with was looking for something more dramatic, but it remains nonetheless true.

    Trump has a personality disorder, his narcissism. This does not mean he has an outsized ego or exaggerated opinion of himself. Lots of people do. It means it interferes with and prevents him from functioning not just in his personal life but, more importantly to the rest of us, in the office of the Presidency. Trump was born into wealth and this has protected him and enabled his narcissism. Without it, he would have spent his adult life cycling in and out of prison for running scams. Starting rich meant he could sell himself as the great business man despite a succession of bankruptcies. Trump is quintessentially the anti-American dream, someone who was born on top and without intelligence, hard work, or merit has stayed there and even failed further upward. This has only reinforced his narcissism, even as his narcissism leads as it always does to his next inevitable failure.

    Now as his Presidency, which was as unexpected as it was disastrous, draws to a close, I am starting to see more reporting on Trump’s mental state. It just seems so late to me. This is not some surprising, unexpected discovery. It is and has been the story of Trump’s life for more than fifty years. It would have helped people to understand what has been going on, that we have not had a President but his disease in office for the last four years.

  2. Joan

    Thanks for this as always Tony.

  3. Purple Library Guy

    The third article down strikes me as a massive straw man and deeply misguided.
    “In the second half of the conversation we discuss faith, redemption, and atonement, and how the front row’s empiricist, cold, secular rationalism scientific doesn’t do justice to the complexities of human life, suffering, and the desire for meaning, dignity, and respect. Arnade argues that ‘atheism is an intellectual luxury that is wrong’ and that ‘front row’ scientism lacks epistemic humility, and has a false view of science and certainty.”
    Excuse me? I am both an atheist and a believer in science, and I work on a university campus (well, normally), and interact with people who are in the sciences and read things scientists write. I, and they, are not remotely subscribers to some kind of “cold, rationalist scientism” that ignores the complexities of human life etc. There may be some people at Google and other bits of silicon valley who are a bit like that–but even they aren’t really; rather than “cold, rationalist scientism” it’s kind of “enthusiastic gee-whiz technologism”. But aside from that . . . scientists aren’t coldly rationalist and they don’t ignore human factors. They’re passionate and humanist as a rule.
    Elite technocrats may ignore the humans they’re technocratting, but it’s not because they’re atheists (some no doubt are, but many are religious, and the religious ones are as bad or worse) or because they believe in some kind of scientism (they don’t, they believe in bogus business school management “theories” which have nothing to do with science). No, it’s because of class, and because of distance between the technocrats and their interests from those of the people they’re arranging the lives of. Period. Neither science nor lack of religion have a bloody thing to do with it, and blaming them is kind of like all those rednecks blaming blacks and immigrants for the actions of billionaires.

  4. Hugh

    “Major tax cuts for the rich since the 1980s have increased income inequality, with all the problems that brings, without any offsetting gains in economic performance.”

    Well, duh.

    Supply-side economics, Reaganomics, Say’s law, “job creators,” libertarianism, the main job of economics over the last 40 years has been the advancing of spurious rationales to justify tax cuts for the rich and defend increasing levels of already extreme wealth inequality.

  5. bruce wilder

    From the Financial Times, linked in OP
    by Jonathan Adair Turner, Baron Turner of Ecchinswell, a British businessman and academic, Chairman of the Financial Services Authority until its abolition in March 2013, a former Chairman of the Pensions Commission and the Committee on Climate Change, as well as a former Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry.

    In 2008 the UK Climate Change Committee, which I then chaired, estimated that reducing Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050 would cost 1-2 per cent of gross domestic product in that year. In its latest report, it reckons a 100 per cent cut will cost just 0.5 per cent of 2050’s GDP.

    Global cost estimates have also collapsed. In 2006, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change foresaw a cost of 1 per cent of global GDP to reduce global fossil fuel-related emissions from 25 gigatonnes to 18 Gt by 2050, with zero emissions only achieved after 2075. A recent report from the Energy Transitions Commission suggests a cost below 1 per cent to achieve net-zero emissions globally by mid-century. This is a trivial sum to save the world from catastrophic climate change.

    As the world continues recklessly on the Wile E Coyote path past the cliff’s edge, this sort of glad talk had seemed to me to be fading into obscurity, but here it is again. In the pages of the Financial Times no less, whose readership surely knows better than Adair Turner what means “cost”.

    Are we really still so stupid that this tripe makes a lick of sense? Must be is all I can think. For some unthinking fools.

    Of course, the “cost” of radically reducing carbon emissions from energy use, properly speaking, has “fallen” in the sense that “the alternative” of doing nothing is increasingly and unmistakeably recognized with near-certainty to be fabulously more costly, entailing as it does, ecological collapse and mass extinctions, which would be catastrophically costly, not even considering the implications of, say, micro-plastics pollution or over-use of pesticides and antibiotics or light pollution.

    Adair Turner of course does not refer to “cost” in the economist’s sense of opportunity cost or alternative counterfactuals. He’s talking funny-money financials. A world in hock, in other words. What could be more glorious?

  6. Stirling S Newberry

    Basically, someday we will have to restate growth with the externalities factored in. At that date we will find out we’ve been in a long recession.

  7. Stirling S Newberry

    Oh look, the Democrats gave in. Imagine that:

  8. bruce wilder

    Basically, someday we will have to restate growth with the externalities factored in. At that date we will find out we’ve been in a long recession.

    Yep. As a species overgrowing its planetary petrie dish, we may eventually notice the accumulation of our own waste is accelerating and congestion bites.

  9. js

    Yea Dems “gave in”. The key issue seems to be the Fed, which has been bailing out Wall Street since before Covid 19 was a pandemic, but apparently will not be used henceforth for cities and states. What Dems got in return for that? Nothing, a “stimulus” at all I guess.

  10. Chicago Clubs

    Chris Arnade had a single halfway clever idea for a just-so metaphor four years ago and his previous life as a Wall Street trader has permitted him to parley that into an ongoing media presence, where he has belabored this single metaphor beyond all reason. I don’t think he has anything really worthwhile to say.

  11. Temporarily Sane

    @Purple Library Guy

    You believe in science? Very interesting. Treating science like a religion that competes with religious faiths for people’s belief is absolutely bizarre but it’s so common these days there is even a word for it, Scientism.

    This might not apply to you personally but there are plenty of people who think continental philosophy, literature, sociology, political science and the arts and humanities generally are a useless waste of time and that STEM subjects provide all the answers humans need to run complex societies. Steven Pinker and Sam Harris are two well known evangelists for this worldview.

    Science isn’t a believe system it’s a method of inquiry. It tells us nothing about how to organize a society, what kind of government works best, whether abortion and the death penalty are morally justifiable, how to live one’s life etc. That’s what the humanities are for. The clue is in the name.

    A society of technocrats who are deluded enough to believe that “science” is a panacea that objectively explains the universe is going to be extremely dehumanizing. Guys like Harris, Pinker, Dennet and their ilk have turned “science” and materialism into a religion and think humans are nothing but pre-programmed meat computers that run DNA like a computer runs code. Consciousness, to them, is just a byproduct of physical processes in the brain that isn’t interesting or worth studying. It’s no wonder that Harris flirts with eugenics.

    A neoliberal capitalist society is dehumanizing enough without being deeply influenced by “science” worshipping nutcases who shit on the humanities*, believe humans are machines and that they are learned wisemen who’ve figured out objective reality. Believers in Scientism are not that different from fundamentalist preachers. They both block out or simply deny anything they can’t shoehorn into their dogmatic and lopsided belief systems.

    *I am no fan of the “woke” critical theory nonsense that has infected the humanities in western countries, but to say that this means the humanities as a whole are outdated and useless is crazy.

  12. bruce wilder

    Chris Arnade’s contribution is simply that he looks and sees. He is a photographer.

    Too much of the educated liberal (and conservative) upper middle-class can scarcely imagine how things are, for much of the population, and refuse to do anything more than imagine.

    I suppose the front-row, back-row metaphor is a product of trying to meet the demand for an imagined, abstract account from the class of symbol manipulators Arnade is addressing.

    That demand for abstraction, for an idea of what life is like for people without careers and possibilities, is fundamentally shallow and is met in a way by a shallow metaphor, one that makes more sense to “a front-row kid” than to anyone else, who did not identify with their distance from the teacher. It says more about Arnade’s target audience than about Arnade has to offer, which is often particular and specific and not a metaphor of anything.

  13. Hugh

    Science and the humanities is not an either/or. They used to be the basis of a liberal arts education. The corporatization of universities favoring the production of cogs for the private sector rather than informed citizens probably has largely done away with it, which is a loss to us all.

    At the same time, logic and philosophy which are part of the humanities tradition are also foundational to science: the scientific method, how knowledge and data are organized. And science has contributed to the humanities. To name a few, it has brought us relativity and quantum mechanics in physics, and revolutions in genetics and medicine that have fundamentally changed our conception of our universe and who we are.

    Science can not choose the society we want to have but it can tell us which ones are likely to work and can be a major aid in getting us to the one we choose. Personally, I think the outline for such a society given what we have learned from our civilization over the last few thousand years is not that hard. Our society should be both equitable and sustainable. We should guarantee to each other the the basics for a decent and meaningful life. We should be steadfast in our social duties and responsibilities and tolerant of people in their private lives. This is doable, but we need to cut through a lot of noise to do it. We have to be ready to commit to the work and more importantly to each other. People across the board want to believe in something. Why don’t we should something worthwhile this time?

  14. Hugh

    “Why don’t we should something worthwhile this time?” should read “Why don’t we choose something worthwhile this time?”

  15. Willy

    It’s a shame economics is neither science nor humanities, but a business, increasingly a religion.

  16. Purple Library Guy

    @Temporarily Sane
    That’s a cute gotcha you’re building castles on, but it’s awfully flimsy to support all that. Yeah, I shouldn’t have to say I “believe” in science, and in some ways it’s a category mismatch if you want to be a pain about it. Whatever, bloody sue me–unfortunately it’s something that DOES need to be said because there are massive hordes of miseducated, propagandized Americans and Canadians who DON’T believe in science. At a time when millions of people are saying they’ll refuse to be vaccinated because they think scientists are all out to get them, nonsense like this Arnade is talking is not helpful.

    Although in this case I was just characterizing myself as broadly one of the people this Arnade person is apparently critiquing so as to point out that I have direct experience of how such people actually are, which is not remotely like his characterization. Well, if he’s critiquing any kind of real phenomenon at all. Because really, a few people like Pinker do not a social phenomenon make. I’d never heard of Dennett . . . looking over his Wikipedia entry he doesn’t sound particularly demonic, or like someone trying to run anything, for that matter. He’s just someone studying consciousness and coming to some conclusions; I have no idea whether I agree with any of them, but that’s the kind of thing I’m pleased enough to see people doing. And far from being all about “scientism”, his approach seems to be quite involved with philosophy and the philosophy of science. So like, people with different conclusions can argue with him, and he can argue with them, and that’s how it’s done, but why get hysterical? I’ve still never heard of Harris, because I really doubt googling the name “Harris” is going to reliably get me the right person.

    And Dawkins–yeah, he’s an outspoken atheist. Well, sure, personally I think it’s uncool to bug people about atheism, just as I think it’s uncool to bug people about religion. But there’s a bit of a double standard about that in the world. Religion has all these hundreds, thousands, who knows how many shitloads of people whose JOB is to bug people about religion, go on TV and yack about religion and how you’re a horrible, terrible person if you don’t have one (theirs in specific), and to convince people already in religions that they’re horrible, terrible people if they don’t indoctrinate their children while they’re too young to resist the brainwashing, and so on. It’s expected, it’s considered normal–they’re SUPPOSED to stand up on their pulpits and tell everyone what to think. Then one guy starts talking somewhat the same way from an atheist standpoint and it’s the end of the frigging world all of a sudden . . . yeah, whatever, you can bitch about Dawkins after you’ve gotten all those bloody semifascist televangelists off my cable.
    It’s also true that there is an undercurrent of politics I don’t like intertwined with Dawkins’ particular brand of atheism. But then, I’m a radical leftist, and radical leftists have been losing their battles with the powers that be for most of history since at least the Peasants’ Revolt. Almost every public figure there is has politics I don’t like; it doesn’t have much to do with whether they’re a scientist or not, or an atheist or not.

    The idea that the top dogs beating us all up in the class struggle are doing bad things because they’re a bunch of atheists who believe in “scientism” is bankrupt. They’re doing bad things because it makes them wealthier; it’s all about the structure of capitalism. Trying to blame it on some mostly-invented intellectual fashion is a misleading, a mystification, and my comparison to the right wing being pointed at the racial other was very deliberate–it is a whole lot like that. A conspiracy theory that carefully sidesteps the realities and implications of political economy in favour of an invented enemy. If you happen to be religious, a very convenient invented enemy–blame everything on the atheists.

  17. Ten Bears

    Trouble with atheists is theists define the debate. Dawkins took the bait.

    So too so-called “scientism”, letting the no-science define the debate.

    Else, 2020 is 2/100th of 1° cooler than the hottest year on record.

    It is what it is. Or not, as it may, or may not, be. Over-easy.

  18. anon y'mouse

    Arnade—still talking down to us proles and defining our meaning and existence for those of his own kind.

    “interpreters” should go back to their own world and try to figure IT out. at least they have some vague reference for understanding.

    he reads patronizing in the extreme, all without meaning to. he cannot explain us except in terms of lesser-than and yet “deserving of human dignity”. he thinks our salient points are our “faith” and search for meaning. hilarious!

    it’s like someone who continually points out that a particular black person in articulate, or a woman rational. like the listener automatically expected the opposite.

    oh, and “back row kids”, while having a certain ring to it, is still explaining the class system in a way that makes it seem “natural”. way to be a eugenicist, Chris!

  19. Chicago Clubs

    Perhaps Arnade has something to *show*, although I think his photography is not notable for much. Stylistically it is amateur and it is certainly not like nobody else ever photographs poor people and their environs. It is purely on the basis of what he *says* that his work gets play, and while it’s also a judgement on his audience (the editors who publish him) I see no reason why he ought to escape reproach, because he’s the one saying it!

  20. Willy

    Scientism: If you don’t believe like us, then we won’t believe in you.

    Weren’t scientists originally folks like alchemists and little German watchmakers who learned that by standing on the shoulders of clearly spelled out physical rules, that they could discover and/or make cool stuff that might make em rich and famous? It seemed things went well for those scientists until Galileo got his ass slapped around by The Church for his science. Was that the start of this “scientism” of which we speak? I’ll admit it’s a shame that God never shows himself in some meaningful way. Hell, even “dark” stuff like atoms and gravity have consistently observable characteristics. God quit doing floods and leprosy healings long ago.

    I’m open to stuff which resides outside our five senses, but until I see the face of Jesus in my pancake or George Burns shows up at my door with a suitcase full of cash, I’ll have to be as skeptical as our scientism-tists. All of the unconsciously evil prosperity Christians I’ve run into in my travels have tainted my religion.

    But maybe I misunderestimate. Is this actually a critique of cold hard robotic meritocracy because the humanities aren’t as rich or famous anymore?

  21. Stirling S Newberry

    The trouble with atheists is they do not understand logic and want to fit Aristotelean logic where Boolean logic does not agree with the central premise and the creeps into scientism where do not have to. You can not prove the is absolutely no supernatural force but there is where the smart money is betting. You can show that anyone who believes in such falderal has to prove it for any legal purpose (which will not happen.) Infinite versus finite logic applies.

    Remember, you only have to show that some particular form is nonsense (finite) not prove that any form is nonsense (infinite.) It does mean that the absolute form of atheism is unprovable but it means that you can act as if it is the most reasonable hypothesis.

  22. Hugh

    In the college I went to we had to take a couple of religion courses. One had a paper with it,. So I took one of St. Anselm’s arguments for the existence of God and showed that not only did God exist but that he was a blue dwarf. I got a C on the paper. I asked the professor about it. He said there was no particular problem with the paper. He just didn’t like it because it didn’t accord with his religious views. The experience taught me that “my way or the highway” is the model for religious discussions.

  23. bruce wilder

    perhaps you would prefer Arnade dismiss his subjects as “deplorable” or pathetic and leave it that?

    of course, what he says by way of “captioning” is what makes his observations interesting. the thing I was trying to get at by emphasizing his role as a photographer is that he is observing much more than he analyzing or theorizing. I think his sociology is as amateurish in some ways as his photography, but he is a more trustworthy observer as result of his relative artlessness.

    I am also trying to say that fault with the abstractness of the “theory” is a fault with the social class that buys his books, their detachment from their own predatory and/or preachy role in this inhumanity.

  24. Thomas B Golladay

    On January 6th Michael Pence must make a choice. If he follows the Constitution, the 7 states with dueling electors will be resolved by accepting the ones with legislature stamp (Trumps) which the Democrats stupidly didn’t object to.

    He can follow the electors act, and simply throw those states out, thus forcing a contingent election and the establishment uses it to elect Pence President.

    Or he gavels down all objections, declares Biden the winner and civil war breaks out, because the evidence of election rigging is overwhelming and indisputable and the failure of the courts to step up and enforce the laws by hiding behind unconstitutional Standing concept to avoid hearing the cases so evidence can be presented, means civil war is likely.

    As it stands, Trump has the guns and the support of those in the military that matter. He just needs to know where Pence stands. After which there will be a reckoning with the establishment and populism will be the driving force of politics instead of the pro-corporate duopoly.

  25. js

    “Chris Arnade had a single halfway clever idea for a just-so metaphor four years ago”

    I think the metaphor is largely stupid and pretends America is a meritocracy in way it’s simply not, I’m not speaking of his writings in general, but the metaphor. That we all went to the same classroom right but some good at school kids sat in the front but those not so inclined to academics sat in the back.

    In what actual existing reality now, and even decades ago though it has gotten worse, is this so? Better off families send their kids to better off schools via private schools or expensive housing in “better school districts”, whereas poorer families don’t and can’t afford to. They almost never go to the same schools. There goes the metaphor. There is NO equality of opportunity, an impossible idea anyway, but not one we even sincerely pretend to practice.

    But the economically well off like to pretend it is so? Perhaps, perhaps they are really good at cognitive dissonance, while they obsess about “good school districts” for their own children or private school etc.. In the way that Trump might pretend he “earned” his wealth I suppose.

  26. Lex

    The problem with “scientism” isn’t science per se. People who do science in some way or another generally don’t suffer from it. Scientism is mistaking the technological products of science for the process of science. To denigrate the religious or mystical is a social signal of being intellectually “elite”. It often has very little relationship to the actual intellectualism of the atheist/scientism adherent.

    But using academics to gauge anything is troublesome. Their socialization is both perverse and damaging. For the most part, getting a PhD is submitting to intellectual torture by your superiors for the sake of tradition. And a social group that mostly has never left the confines of formal education ends up retaining the mean girls, clique-centric social structure of school. Undergrads might get nourished and encouraged, but the minute there’s a progression to grad school most are tortured because it happened to faculty so they get to do it to others. One must earn one’s silly hats. Academia is literally medieval and proudly so (with rapacious grifters I’m admin overlayed on that).

  27. Hugh

    I looked up some of Arnade’s photos to get a feel for his work. It came across as pretty ordinary, no eye, simple static composition. I had a brother-in-law who did event photography professionally. I did more street photography, unprofessionally. Both different but with their own requirements. Arnade’s stuff struck me as half a step up from what I call family photos. You know the kind, someone pointing their camera or phone in the general direction of something they have a vague idea of wanting a picture of. Maybe I missed his really good shots but I don’t think so.

  28. Seattle Resident

    Re the stimulus deal and the dems giving in, the dems at the very least got the corporate liability shield taken out of the deal. Sucks that they didn’t get aid for the cities and the states, but when you have minority party status in the Senate and vichy dems backstabbers like Manchin and Warner and similar congresspeople who outnumber the progressives, it’s hard to get good legislation passed.

  29. Willy

    Atheists define atheism as “a lack of belief in a god” and not the worship of there being no gods.

    It’s not the same as climate change denial.

    All the atheists I know have said that if any god ever shows up, that they’ll certainly believe in that god. Sadly for Christians, this includes Zeus or Vishnu. And I think that Christians will have to invent a new word for scientists, like Zeuslover or Vishnut.

  30. different clue

    If the two Dem Sen wannabes get elected in Georgia, Manchin will vote with the Republicans every single time. If any Repub Sens vote ” the other way”, the Dem Sen leadership will find more Dem Sens to vote “Republican”.

    If that isn’t sufficient to maintain Republican control of the Senate, then Manchin will switch to Republican if the Republicans pay him enough. If that happens, will Sanders overcome his own self-image as “independent” to switch to Democrat? If he does, the Warner will switch to Republican if the Republicans pay him enough. Then it becomes up to Angus. Will Angus set aside his own strutting pride in his ” INdePENdent” status to become Democrat? If he does, then the Repub Sens will try finding yet another Dem Sen to switch to Repub if they pay him enough.

    About ” finding Harris” in the Yahoo brand “google” . . . . let’s see how long it takes if I yahoo the two-word search term ” Harris atheist”. Well . . . it took me 3 seconds. Two seconds to type in the words ” Harris atheist” and another second for this to come up . . . So there you go.

    Anway, atheism is a religion. Atheism is the religious belief and faith in the non-existence of God or gods or any sort of deity or supernatural force. Marxism, for example, is a religion.
    The Russian author Sergei Bulgakov once wrote a book about that . . . Marx As A Religious Type.

  31. Hugh

    Lex, I remember a conversation I had once with a couple of professors and grad students. I remarked that universities were some of the least intellectual places I had ever seen. What was funny was that the grad students were telling me no, no, universities were really intellectual. Look at all the people with degrees. Only one of the older professors got what I was saying, and agreed. Knowledge isn’t thought.

    For much the same reason, universities are a leadership desert. I don’t know where we get the idea of established professors wisely guiding and training the next generation of scholars, but in the humanities most grad students were on their own. In the sciences, it was signing up to work in some autocrat’s lab, do the work, and publish a few articles with said autocrat getting the credit as lead author, then taking the articles tying them together with a couple of paragraphs and calling it a thesis. As you say, it struck me as medieval, and not in a good way.

  32. Ten Bears

    I disagree, Willy, it is the theists who define atheism. That’s the problem.

    The first problem. The second is it’s not an accurate definition. As theism is religion, atheism is simply no religion. Nothing about gods or frogs or porcelain toilets, just No Religion.

    As typical is, well, typical, normal, everyday, run-of-the-mill; atypical is not.
    As symptomatic is symptomatic, displaying symptoms, it shows; asymptomatic does not.
    As political and partisan are political and partisan; apolitical, apartisan are not.
    As one muses, contemplates, gives thought too; amuse skitters about like a fool.
    Germain to the topic at hand moral, self-explanatory; and amoral, that’s right, not moral.
    And my favorite caudal, having a tail; and acaudal, no tail. Atheism is No Religion.

    The Way that can be described is not the Way, the name that can be spoken not the name. It is not on me, Stir, to prove the world is not flat, is not six thousand years old.

    Fourteen point seven pounds per square inch.

  33. different clue

    @Thomas B Galladay,

    I notice that many conservatives are agitating for civil war under cover of pretending to warn about the possibility of it.

    When you say “civil war”, I assume what you mean are Interahamwe-style political genocides all over states, cities, localities where the majority of inhabitants are suspected of supporting Biden. Am I wrong about that?

    I was raised by liberals. My experience of Liberals is that they are basically non-violent and pacifist. Pacifist non-violent sub-humans will be as easy to kill as cockroaches. Will black people and latinO people and etc. be as easy to kill as cockroaches? Or are they more human, more heavily armed, and more “ready for you” than you are expecting? Just wondering . . .

  34. nihil obstet


    The front row – back row split is about class, not merit or interest in school. A fairly small town is not likely to have either private schools or jobs that pay enough to send their kids to private schools. The teachers and the local professional and business owners know each other. The children of the professional and business owners know the teachers and are comfortable sitting up front.

    This helps create a clientele for charter schools and for school vouchers.

  35. Stirling S Newberry

    Tonight is the night of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. It is visible in Boston right now.

  36. drumlin woodchuckles

    @nihil obstet,

    Persistent underfunding of slum-ghetto area schools creates another clientele for charter schools. Parents in the slug-ghetto area neighborhoods who have decided that the Power Structure-Lords will never ever permit improvement-to-sufficiency of their neighborhood schools and who therefor seek a means of escape for their children.

    ( The basket-of-crabs mentality practiced against some of the desiring-higher-and-better kids who want to study by who persecute them for “acting white” also leads the parents of those kids to seek a means of escape. This is insufficiently admitted-to in polite company).

  37. Ten Bears

    Cleared up just in time, aeh? I had made plans to do so so when things started clearing up we drove out onto Nut Island for a glimpse across the bay. Fumbled the camera, though, as is my wont.

  38. Seattle Resident


    This was likely a bigger problem for middle class black families in the past, but many of them would end up getting stuck with the ghetto slug schools in those neighborhoods due to redlining, racist real estate steering, and, in some cases, racist terrorism when moving into a neighborhood with better schools, i.e., predominantly or totally white.

  39. NR

    It seems ol’ Thomas B Golladay has been reading too much Facebook.

    The Republican “electors” who cast alternate votes on Monday were not designated by any state official and don’t currently have any legal status.

  40. NR

    Oh, and by the way, officials in Pennsylvania did finally find a case of a dead person voting–and it was a Republican pretending to be his dead mother to vote for Trump.

  41. anon y'mouse

    “back row kids” in my experience were no less intelligent than their opposite numbers. just had a different set of priorities and different interests.

    when the task is to explain that people different from you have human dignity, the moral battle might already be lost.

    it is still a pitying, “the poor ye shall always have with you” approach to others, instead of viewing them as full equals. i have no idea what the intentions are, other than to induce charitable actions from a still falsely exalted status, which is pure ego-serving.

  42. Creigh Gordon

    I’m at a loss to explain why Taibbi thinks Democrats have been holding up Covid relief. The weird sausage in the (5,500 page!) bill? Sure, it’s an omnibus.

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