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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 24, 2023

by Tony Wikrent


14th Amendment

Why 14th Amendment bars Trump from office: A constitutional law scholar explains principle behind Colorado Supreme Court ruling

Mark A. Graber [The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2023]

“Section 3 then says people can be disqualified from holding office if they ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion.’ Legal authorities from the American Revolution to the post-Civil War Reconstruction understood an insurrection to have occurred when two or more people resisted a federal law by force or violence for a public, or civic, purpose. Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Insurrection, Burr’s Rebellion, John Brown’s Raid and other events were insurrections, even when the goal was not overturning the government. What these events had in common was that people were trying to prevent the enforcement of laws that were consequences of persuasion, coalition building and voting. Or they were trying to create new laws by force, violence and intimidation.”

Donald Trump blocked from appearing on presidential primary ballot by Colorado Supreme Court

[Colorado Sun, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

Chief Justice Boatright: “The framework that (Colorado’s election law) offers for identifying qualified candidates is not commensurate with the extraordinary determination to disqualify a candidate because they engaged in insurrection against the Constitution.” [Boatright] said the plaintiffs relied on the ‘breakneck pace’ required in Colorado’s election laws to pursue Trump’s disqualification and that they ‘overwhelmed the process.’ ‘This speed comes with consequences, namely, the absence of procedures that courts, litigants, and the public would expect for complex constitutional litigation,’ Boatright added.” Justice Samour called the challenge ‘a square constitutional peg that could not be jammed into our election code’s round hole’ and labeled the district court proceedings a ‘procedural Frankenstein’ for not following the strict deadlines in state election law.” Berkenkotter: “Three days to appeal a district court’s order regarding a challenge to a candidate’s age? Sure. But a challenge to whether a former President engaged in insurrection by inciting a mob to breach the Capitol and prevent the peaceful transfer of power? I am not convinced this is what the General Assembly had in mind.”

The Colorado Supreme Court Got It Right

Matt Ford, December 20, 2023 [The New Republic]

Critics of the court’s ruling are breezily dismissing the notion there should be any legal accountability for Trump’s actions on January 6….

Most abhorrent to me is the idea that Trump shouldn’t be disqualified—even if disqualification would be legally and constitutionally valid, as Chait conceded for the purposes of his argument—simply because Trump supporters do not like it. This is precisely the reasoning that got us into this situation in the first place. Trump and a few thousand of his supporters gathered in Washington on January 6, 2021, because they thought their beliefs mattered more than the Constitution.


Other counterarguments have come from the likes of Erickson, a conservative commentator who promised some sort of retribution against Democrats for the Colorado ruling. “A court that did not put the man on trial and who has not been convicted of a crime related to an insurrection,” he wrote on Twitter. “You people will regret this. Kamala [Harris] raised money for BLM activists who burned down cities. It is so obvious where this heads.”….

If the threat here is that Republicans will use false and disingenuous legal attacks on their political opponents, then it’s not really a threat at all. The birtherism that more than a few conservatives indulged in during Obama’s first term already met that threshold. So does the free-floating impeachment inquiry that Republicans are trying to find a reason to open against Joe Biden. So did the Supreme Court lawsuit by multiple Republican-led states to strip Biden of Electoral College votes based on false claims of voter fraud. It’s not a deterrent if you’re going to do it anyway….

But as a civic and political matter, the disqualification question is actually pretty easy. Trump summoned a mob to attack Congress to illegally keep himself in power on January 6. He broke his oath of office and tried to overturn an election by force. When you try to destroy the American constitutional order, Section 3 says that you forfeit the right to hold office under it. I understand why Trump’s supporters might resist those conclusions. What baffles me is when people who think that Trump is a danger to the republic refuse to treat him like one.

[TW: There are a number of “liberals” and anti-Trumpers who profess themselves appalled by the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court. Their opinions are a study in the philosophical inability of liberalism to oppose conservatism, and the authoritarianism conservatism leads to. One prominent line of argument is that Trump has not been convicted of inssurection, so the Article 3 prohibition does not apply.

[To which I respond: Jefferson Davis was never convicted of treason. Are you willing to argue that therefore Davis did not commit treason?

[A reply I actually received:

Did you miss the civics lesson that describes a core principle of American jurisprudence, “innocent until proven guilty?” And the standard is beyond a reasonable doubt?

Had you bothered checking (I take umbrage at being made to do research that the commenter should have made before engaging in assertions), US authorities dithered as to how to charge Jefferson Davis. And Davis thought he has a path to vindication:

President Andrew Johnson’s cabinet was unsure what to do with Davis. They considered trying him by military court for war crimes—his alleged involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln or the mistreatment of Union prisoners of war at Andersonville Prison— but could not find any reliable evidence directly linking Davis to either. In late summer 1865, Attorney General James Speed determined that it was best to try Davis for treason in a civil criminal trial. In June 1866, the House of Representatives passed a resolution by a vote of 105 to 19 to put Davis on trial for treason. Davis also desired a trial to vindicate his actions. His defense lawyer, Charles O’Conor wanted to argue that Davis did not commit treason because he was no longer a citizen of the United States when Mississippi left the United States.[288] The trial was to be held in Richmond, which might be sympathetic to Davis, and an acquittal could be interpreted as validating the constitutionality of secession.

[All true, but the question I posed remains unanswered: Are you willing to argue that therefore Davis did not commit treason? In fact, even if there had been a trial of Davis, AND even if he had been acquitted, it is simply not credible to argue that Davis had not committed treason by acting as president of the Confederacy. An acquittal of Davis of the charge of treason would only be a miscarriage of justice, or the result of fear of possible political repercussions, or fear of a renewal of armed hostilities, or at the very least, a result of bureaucratic and political fecklessness. An acquittal of Davis in an actual trial for treason would not eliminate, an should not be allowed to obviate, the historical record created by Davis’s actions and words. Only Davis would have thought he had been vindicated, and anyone else who thought he had been vindicated, would have ensured that the Union dead had indeed died in vain. Even if there had been a dutiful adherence to “due process,” Davis would have remained unacceptable for filling the post of President of the United States.

[Al Capone was never tried for being a gangster and a murderer. Capone was convicted and jailed for tax evasion. Are we therefore to believe that Capone was never a gangster and a murderer?

[A few days later on the same site, someone else posted the comments of Fox commentator Jesse Waters, Are Democrats hoping to start a second Civil War? [FOX, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

”Five years after the Civil War, pro-slavery Democrats filled the halls of Congress, and 15 years later, pro-slavery Confederates actually flipped the House – 51 former Confederate soldiers or officials were elected into office. Even the vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, an arch secessionist, landed a seat in Congress. Another Confederate rebel, Lucius Lamar – great name – who literally drafted the Missouri secession plan, went on to serve as interior secretary and was later appointed to the Supreme Court. But how is that possible? Because all week we’ve been hearing how the Constitution bans insurrectionists from office. The 14th Amendment. How would Confederate soldiers be allowed to serve in government, but not Donald Trump?”

[According to this second poster, this effectively answers the Jefferson Davis question. I vehemently disagree. In fact, I argue that the historical record of former Confederates being allowed back into positions of power — the failure of Reconstruction, the reestablishment of white supremacy in the Confederate states, and the century-long pain and humiliation of African Americans under Jim Crow — fully vindicates the views and wisdom of intents of the Radical Republicans, who wanted a ruthless application of justice imposed vindictively on all former Confederate leaders.

[I’m not sure why these people are so willing to accept that Henry Kissinger was a war criminal, despite there never having been such finding in a legal proceeding with due process, or that Israel is now engaging in war crimes in Gaza, but are freaking out that Trump is being sanctioned as an insurrectionist. 2 Corinthians 3:6

[The lesson in all this is how difficult it is for a justice system to actually deliver justice. And note that we would not have arrive here if not for the nearly century old campaign by rich reactionaries to roll back the New Deal and the legal protections extended to working people. Abortion was ginned up as a wedge issue by Richard Viguerie to line up christianist evangelical votes for the (anti)Republican Party. So were gun “rights” and the second Amendment. Nearly 90 years of “feeding red meat to the base” and now liberals are squeamish about treating Trump as an insurrectionist. The whole history of the conservative movement is a record of opposing the most basic tenets of the American republic — promoting the General Welfare, mandated as a purpose at the very beginning of the Constitution itself. But “none dare call it treason.”]

Is It Too Harsh A Punishment To Hang High-Ranking Coup Plotters Against The U.S. Government?

Howie Klein, December 18, 2023 []


Gaza / Palestine / Israel


[MintPress, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2023]

The Cost of Bearing Witness

Chris Hedges, December 23, 2023

Writing and photographing in wartime are acts of resistance, acts of faith. They affirm the belief that one day – a day the writers, journalists and photographers may never see – the words and images will evoke empathy, understanding, outrage and provide wisdom. They chronicle not only the facts, although facts are important, but the texture, sacredness and grief of lives and communities lost. They tell the world what war is like, how those caught in its maw of death endure, how there are those who sacrifice for others and those who do not, what fear and hunger are like, what death is like. They transmit the cries of children, the wails of grief of the mothers, the daily struggle in the face of savage industrial violence, the triumph of their humanity through filth, sickness, humiliation and fear. This is why writers, photographers and journalists are targeted by aggressors in war — including the Israelis — for obliteration. They stand as witnesses to evil, an evil the aggressors want buried and forgotten. They expose the lies. They condemn, even from the grave, their killers. Israel has killed at least 13 Palestinian poets and writers along with at least 67 journalists and media workers in Gaza, and three in Lebanon since Oct. 7….

…the professor and poet Refaat Alareer, who was killed, along with Refaat’s brother, sister and her four children, in an airstrike on his sister’s apartment building in Gaza on Dec. 7. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said that Alareer was deliberately targeted, “surgically bombed out of the entire building.” His killing came after weeks of “death threats that Refaat received online and by phone from Israeli accounts.” He had moved to his sister’s because of the threats.

Refaat, whose doctorate was on the metaphysical poet John Donne, wrote a poem in November, called “If I Must Die,” which became his last will and testament. It has been translated into numerous languages. A reading of the poem by the actor Brian Cox has been viewed almost 30 million times….

I was in a refugee camp in the early 1980s for Guatemalans who had fled the war into Honduras. The peasant farmers and their families, living in filth and mud, their villages and homes burned or abandoned, were decorating their tents with strips of colored paper to celebrate the Massacre of the Innocents.

“Why is this such an important day?” I asked.

“It was on this day that Christ became a refugee,” a farmer answered.

The Christmas story was not written for the oppressors. It was written for the oppressed. We are called to protect the innocents. We are called to defy the occupying power. Atef, Refaat and those like them, who speak to us at the risk of death, echo this Biblical injunction. They speak so we will not be silent. They speak so we will take these words and images and hold them up to the principalities of the world — the media, politicians, diplomats, universities, the wealthy and privileged, the weapons manufacturers, the Pentagon and the Israel lobby groups — who are orchestrating the genocide in Gaza. The infant Christ is not lying today in straw, but a pile of broken concrete.

Chris Hedges: The Death of Israel

[ScheerPost, December 17, 2023]

But by the time Israel achieves its decimation of Gaza — Israel is talking about months of warfare — it will have signed its own death sentence. Its facade of civility, its supposed vaunted respect for the rule of law and democracy, its mythical story of the courageous Israeli military and miraculous birth of the Jewish nation, will lie in ash heaps. Israel’s social capital will be spent. It will be revealed as an ugly, repressive, hate-filled apartheid regime, alienating younger generations of American Jews. Its patron, the United States, as new generations come into power, will distance itself from Israel the way it is distancing itself from Ukraine. Its popular support, already eroded in the U.S., will come from America’s Christianized fascists who see Israel’s domination of ancient Biblical land as a harbinger of the Second Coming and in its subjugation of Arabs a kindred racism and white supremacy….

You don’t have to be a Biblical scholar to see that Israel’s lust for rivers of blood is antithetical to the core values of Judaism. The cynical weaponization of the Holocaust, including branding Palestinians as Nazis, has little efficacy when you carry out a live streamed genocide against 2.3 million people trapped in a concentration camp.

Nations need more than force to survive. They need a mystique. This mystique provides purpose, civility and even nobility to inspire citizens to sacrifice for the nation. The mystique offers hope for the future. It provides meaning. It provides national identity.

When mystiques implode, when they are exposed as lies, a central foundation of state power collapses. I reported on the death of the communist mystiques in 1989 during the revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania. The police and the military decided there was nothing left to defend. Israel’s decay will engender the same lassitude and apathy. It will not be able to recruit indigenous collaborators, such as Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority — reviled by most Palestinians — to do the bidding of the colonizers. The historian Ronald Robinson cites the inability to recruit indigenous allies by the British Empire as the point at which collaboration inverted into noncooperation, a defining moment for the start of decolonization. Once noncooperation by native elites morphs into active opposition, Robinson explains, the Empire’s “rapid retreat” is assured.

All Israel has left is escalating violence, including torture, which accelerates the decline….

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2023]


Would Israel Be Any Different Without Netanyahu? 

[Haaretz, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2023]

CIA’s chief spy William Burns emerges as key figure in Hamas hostage crisis 

[Straits Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

[TW: According to the biography on Wikipedia, “Burns allegedly had three scheduled meetings with Jeffrey Epstein in 2014, according to ‘documents’ and ‘calendars’ in their possession. At the time, Burns was deputy secretary of state, and Epstein had already plead guilty to the charge of procuring for prostitution a girl below age 18.” Refer to Ian Welsh, November 22, 2023, Many Politicians Support Israeli Genocide Because They’re Being Blackmailed.  This is the director of the CIA who is stuck in the web. ]

List of Jeffrey Epstein’s associates named in lawsuit must be unsealed, judge rules. Here are details on the document release.

[CBS, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2023]

[TW: I have not seen any discussion of what Israeli and British intelligence did to replace Epstein/Maxwell. I’m sure there still are other om going  operations that serve the same intelligence collecting and blackmail purposes as the Epstein/Maxwell pedophile operation.]

How Many Times Was Trump On Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita Express? Will It Matter To Any MAGAts?

Howie Klein, December 20, 2023 []

One-State Solution 

[Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

Saïd had understood that Oslo was a ploy that would mark “the end of the peace process,” rather than progress toward a Palestinian state. Like I.F. Stone, his unorthodox point of view earned him attacks from his Arab compatriots, supported by President Clinton, whom Saïd described as “a twentieth-century Roman emperor shepherding two vassal kings through rituals of reconciliation and obeisance.”

The Oslo Accords provided no agreement on the status of Jerusalem; no curbs on illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza; no recognition of Palestinian sovereignty. What were the accords for if not for the construction of a weak and corrupt government of seven disconnected enclaves under Israeli stewardship? Arafat ended up banning Saïd’s books in his strongholdsand Saïd ended up adopting I.F. Stone’s ideal: “the one-state solution.”

Absurd? Utopian? Not more so than “the two-state solution,” which has become a cynical trap advocated by hypocrites. No matter what, Arabs and Jews intermingle demographically–there are already 2 million Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. No other practical solution appears to be within sight. Where are the Stones and Saïds of our day to provide us with realistic and principled points of view? Who is there to reach out to across this bloody trench?


Global power shift


Danny Haiphong  [via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2023]

[TW: Ritter details new weapons technologies and the collapse of USA military power beginning around ten minutes after the one hour mark. Especially important is Ritters analysis of how the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have demonstrated that even with carrier groups present, the US cannot protect the Strait of Hormuz from Iran. ]

Chinese scholar Jiang Ping, who helped lay legal foundation for market economy, dies at 93

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2023]

Megatrends: The Collapse of Global Democracy 

[The Issue, via Naked Capitalism 12-23-2023]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Have wages “really” increased since before the pandemic? 

[Angry Bear, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2023]

Wall Street private equity vultures are getting hit by high debt costs 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-2023]

The Robber Barons of Prison Tech

[Slate, via The Big Picture 12-17-2023]

Meet the name-changing, monopoly-holding, profit-raking companies that control what it’s like to be in prison.

Sentenced to Life for an Accident Miles Away

[New Yorker, via The Big Picture 12-17-2023]

A draconian legal doctrine called felony murder has put thousands of Americans—disproportionately young and Black—in prison.

Enshittification: A Monopoly Story 

Cory Doctorow [Real Progressives Substack, via Naked Capitalism 12-17-2023]

Why the U.S. steel industry is dying 

Noah Smith [Noahpinion, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

When economists shut off your water 

[Africa is a Country, via Naked Capitalism 12-17-2023]

Eight Wall Street Mega Banks Have Teamed Up to Run Television Ads in a Bogus Scare Campaign

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 11, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]

During the Sunday, December 10 news program on CNN, “State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash,” a deceptive, scare-mongering TV commercial popped up, warning that federal banking regulators’ proposed plan to require the mega banks on Wall Street to hold more capital against their riskiest trading activities “will increase the cost of mortgages and car payments” and “hurt small businesses, making it harder for them to access credit, meet payroll and run their operations.” The ad featured images of a farmer on his tractor, an auto mechanic, a worried small business owner, and other emotion-packed images. Wall Street On Parade has been warning our readers for weeks about this deceptive campaign by the Wall Street mega banks….

Building a Giant: Mapping UnitedHealth’s consumption of our health care system—from the ’70s to today

Krista Brown, Sara Sirota,  December 20, 2023 [The American Prospect]



The Rich Have all the “Excess” Cash Now (excerpt)

[The Overshoot, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

Billionaires Turn to Legal Bribery in Quest to Build Utopia 

[The Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

The University of Phoenixification of Elite Education 

Maureen Tkacik,  December 22, 2023  [American Prospect]

Under Apollo’s stewardship, the University of Phoenix shut down 80 associate degree programs and closed, sold, or made plans to shutter all but one of its more than 200 physical campuses and mini-campuses worldwide. It whittled its full-time faculty to just 127 full-time instructors for 96,000 students. It agreed to pay Donald Trump’s Federal Trade Commission $191 million to settle a deceptive practices lawsuit, and was the subject of more than 3,000 consumer complaints to the FTC between 2017 and the beginning of 2021, along with over 73,000 borrower defense to repayment claims to the Department of Education. It appointed its third president in a single year after the DOE launched an investigation into the role of its newly appointed president in the collapse of his last online university. And it reported a six-year graduation rate of 26.2 percent.

But for Rowan, the University of Phoenix overhaul was a glorious success. The Apollo fund that acquired the online school extracted about $1 billion in dividends during the first four years of its investment, despite the unprecedented tens of billions of dollars in student loans the Biden administration has canceled on behalf of students of virtually every shady for-profit online college other than University of Phoenix. Apollo then brokered the aforementioned lucrative agreement to double its initial investment by selling the school to the University of Idaho, though state attorney general Raúl Labrador has sued to block that purchase, arguing the deal was hashed out in secret meetings that violated state law. (The university has demanded $2,400 from a local education website to comply with open records requests it filed to learn more about the transaction.)

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2023]



[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2023]


How a well-timed legal assault unraveled Mississippi’s stellar record in vaccinating kids 

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2023]

“Mississippi was forced to grant religious exemptions from vaccines.”


Restoring balance to the economy

The Billionaires Tax Is Back: Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has a plan to make the ultrarich pay.

Grace Segers, December 21, 2023 [The New Republic]

New Merger Guidelines Quietly Reshape the Business Landscape: It just got much harder for companies to buy up their competitors.

Luke Goldstein, December 19, 2023 [The American Prospect]

This week, the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission released the final version of the new Merger Guidelines, first announced earlier this summer.

The legal document amounts to a new corporate charter for American commerce that sends a clear message: In order to grow, companies will have to focus on investing in product, innovation, and job quality instead of relying on acquiring competitors through mergers and acquisitions. It is a significant accomplishment for antitrust regulators that restores their ability to enforce the laws as originally intended by Congress, which had been hemmed in by previous versions of the guidelines….

Specifically, the guidelines outline several new categories of anti-competitive harms that hadn’t previously been a primary focus of antitrust reviews. Those include vertical mergers where a firm acquires companies that are not direct head-to-head competitors in order to integrate operations across multiple lines of business. Vertical integration in health care, for example, has been a common practice where insurers, hospitals, and pharmacies are all owned by the same conglomerate.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Tiny biobots surprise their creators by healing wound 

[FreeThink, via Naked Capitalism 12-20-2023]

Tiny “biobots” made from human windpipe cells encouraged damaged neural tissue to repair itself in a lab experiment — potentially foreshadowing a future in which creations like this patrol our bodies, healing damage, delivering drugs, and more.

The Sahara Desert Used To Be a Green Savannah and New Research Explains Why 

[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 12-21-2023]

This greening of the Sahara didn’t happen once. Using marine and lake sediments, scientists have identified over 230 of these greenings occurring about every 21,000 years over the past eight million years. These greening events provided vegetated corridors which influenced species’ distribution and evolution, including the out-of-Africa migrations of ancient humans.

These dramatic greenings would have required a large-scale reorganisation of the atmospheric system to bring rains to this hyper-arid region. But most climate models haven’t been able to simulate how dramatic these events were.

As a team of climate modellers and anthropologists, we have overcome this obstacle. We developed a climate model that more accurately simulates atmospheric circulation over the Sahara and the impacts of vegetation on rainfall.

We identified why North Africa greened approximately every 21,000 years over the past eight million years. It was caused by changes in the Earth’s orbital precession – the slight wobbling of the planet while rotating. This moves the Northern Hemisphere closer to the sun during the summer months.


Information age dystopia / surveillance state  

The coming dystopia will be a robust public-private partnership 

WaPo, via Naked Capitalism 12-22-2023]

Google to pay $700 million to US states, consumers in app store settlement

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-19-2023]

“Google has agreed to pay $700 million and make several other concessions to settle allegations that it had been stifling competition against its Android app store — the same issue that went to trial in another case that could result in even bigger changes. Although Google struck the deal with state attorneys general in September, the settlement’s terms weren’t revealed until late Monday in documents filed in San Francisco federal court. The disclosure came a week after a federal court jury rebuked Google for deploying anticompetitive tactics in its Play Store for Android apps. The settlement with the states includes $630 million to compensate U.S. consumers funneled into a payment processing system that state attorneys general alleged drove up the prices for digital transactions within apps downloaded from the Play Store. That store caters to the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones. Like Apple does in its iPhone app store, Google collects commissions ranging from 15% to 30% on in-app purchases — fees that state attorneys general contended drove prices higher than they would have been had there been an open market for payment processing. Those commissions generated billions of dollars in profit annually for Google, according to evidence presented in the recent trial focused on its Play Store.”

Rite Aid banned from using facial recognition software after falsely identifying shoplifters

[TechCrunch, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-2023]

2024’s public domain is a banger

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-2023]

“They stole something from you. For decades, they stole it. That thing they stole? Your entire culture. For all of human history, works created in living memory entered the public domain every year. 40 years ago, that stopped. First in 1976, and then again in 1998, Congress retroactively extended copyright’s duration by 20 years, for all works, including works whose authors were unknown and long dead, whose proper successors could not be located. Many of these authors were permanently erased from history as every known copy of their works disappeared before they could be brought back into our culture through reproduction, adaptation and re-use (copyright is “strict liability,” meaning that even if you pay to clear the rights to a work from someone who has good reason to believe they control those rights, if they’re wrong, you are on the hook as an infringer, and the statutory damages run to six figures). Works that are still in our cultural currents 50 or 70 or 90 years after their creation are an infinitesimal fraction of all the works we create as a species. But these works are – by definition – extraordinarily important to our culture. The creators who made these works were able to plunder a rich public domain of still-current works as inputs to their own enduring creations. The slow-motion arson attack on the public domain meant that two generations of creators were denied the public domain that every other creator in the history of the human race had enjoyed.”


Democrats’ political malpractice

John Fetterman Exits the Progressive Coalition 

[Political Currents by Ross Barkan, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-20-2023]

”Fetterman is in the first year of a six-year term. He has time to repair relations with progressives or sever ties altogether. At this point, the latter is rapidly happening anyway. For the Pennsylvania activist class, Fetterman is increasingly persona non grata. Since he also needs to appeal to centrists and Israel-supporting Jews in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas, he might not care at all. If he does go down this path, though, he’ll have to find a new way to raise cash and wrangle volunteers. There are many young people who showed up to canvass for Fetterman 2022 that will not bother for Fetterman 2028. They’ll have long memories—and other heroes by then.”

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-21-2023]


Biden said to be increasingly frustrated by dismal poll numbers

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-19-2023]

“After pardoning a pair of turkeys, an annual White House tradition, Biden delivered some stern words for the small group assembled: His poll numbers were unacceptably low and he wanted to know what his team and his campaign were doing about it. He complained that his economic message had done little to move the ball, even as the economy was growing and unemployment was falling, according to people familiar with his comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation…. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), who is running for the state’s open Senate seat, has expressed concern to allies that she may not be able to win her race if Biden is at the top of the ticket, according to people familiar with the conversations. A spokesman for Slotkin’s campaign said she “ooks forward to running with President Biden.’” Slotkin is, of course, a CIA Democrat. Hmmm. More: “‘The Republican primary could end quickly, and the general election could begin in weeks, not months,’ said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist. ‘Given Trump’s noisiness and his ability to bully his way through the daily information wars, I think it’s really important that the Biden campaign move into general election mode as soon as possible. We’re not where we want to be. Some of our coalition is wandering and we need to go get them back.’”

The Alarming Calm of the Biden Campaign

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-19-2023]

“Early this fall, [Jim] Messina, who talks regularly with members of Biden’s inner circle, distributed a 22-slide deck that he hoped would send a message to concerned Democrats — or, as he termed them to Politico, the ‘f*cking bed-wetters.’ He acknowledged that the race would be close but looked to ratchet nerves down by arguing that Biden has at least four credible avenues to victory in the Electoral College. One is simply to replicate the 2020 map for 303 electoral votes. This was not easy to do the first time around and may be harder to pull off again; Biden flipped Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan and became the first Democrat to win Arizona and Georgia in decades. A second path is narrower: Biden could win exactly the necessary 270 by carrying those midwestern ‘blue wall’ states — even if he concedes Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada. A third route is the reverse of the second one, a ‘Sunbelt strategy’ that would net 275. The fourth option calls for replicating 2022’s Senate-race results, dropping Wisconsin and North Carolina but winning the other battlegrounds for 293. The hard part is that no two of these states require the same winning formula, not even the ones that tend to swing together or that look demographically similar from afar.”

(anti)Republican Party 

Melissa Gira Grant, December 20, 2023 [The New Republic]

look to Johnson’s membership in the Council for National Policy, an influential conservative group regarded as a kingmaker. Members of CNP are forbidden from telling anyone outside the group that they are a member. Their executive director recently told The Washington Post that the group doesn’t “do anything.” Its aim, as laid out in its vision statement, is to create a “united conservative movement” that can “[restore] religious and economic freedom, a strong national defense, and Judeo-Christian values under the Constitution.” Journalist Anne Nelson, author of the book on the Council for National Policy, Shadow Network, has described them as “the secret hub of the radical right.” She has also described Johnson as their “creation.”

Leaked CNP membership lists have included a who’s who of the far- and farther-right: anointer of conservative judges Leonard Leo; Clarence Thomas’s conspiracy theorist spouse, Ginni Thomas; and longtime Christian-right leadership figures like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Michael Farris of Alliance Defending Freedom (that’s the group that had employed Johnson, where he could put his “legal ministry” to work). Such members reportedly meet in secret three times each year, often in Ritz-Carlton hotels. They are joined by lesser-known members too, some who have been current or former leadership in the John Birch Society, the neo-Confederate group League of the South, and the violent anti-abortion group Operation Rescue. Josh Duggar, of the fundamentalist reality television–starring Duggar family, has been a member, while working for the Family Research Council. Mike Johnson was photographed with Duggar at a 2014 campaign event. In 2021, Duggar was convicted of possessing child sexual abuse material.

Texas’s Middle Finger to the Federal Government—and the Constitution

Matt Ford, December 21, 2023 [The New Republic]

Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill this week declaring that the state will enforce federal immigration laws within its own borders. Even the Supreme Court may find that to be a bridge too far.

Billionaire Gifts To Thomas: Generosity Or Taxable Income?

[The Lever, December 22, 2023

If billionaires’ largesse was designed to keep the justice on the high court, experts say the money could be considered a taxable payment.



Open Thread


Merry Christmas


  1. Curt Kastens

    The US Constitution is a document written by criminals for criminals to serve criminal purposes.

  2. bruce wilder

    It’s not a deterrent if you’re going to do it anyway….

    Was this said about Tweedle-Dee (D) or Tweedle-Dum (R)?

    I really don’t understand how Democrats can fail to understand that they have been contributing mightily and aggressively to this destabilizing dynamic since 2016. Democrats are not innocent. Democrats have not restrained themselves out of respect for democracy or the law or the Constitution at any recent step in this downward spiral.

    At the end of a political struggle within the framework of a republic, assuming you win and you win by some means other than simply exterminating your opponents (not very (small-r) republican to do that and a republic is unlikely to survive such measures), you have to get their grudging acceptance of the legitimacy of what you have done. I see very little evidence that Democrats are at all concerned with making a case that their opponents might be forced by their own principles to accept.

    The tit-4-tat has a longish history by now and if Republicans with their cynical determination to abolish by misuse the precedent of independent prosecutors and Watergate and to escape consequences for the criminal recklessness of Iran-Contra, sinned grievously and often in the long ago of stains on blue dresses, the Democrats have caught up and surpassed their rivals in feigned righteousness.

    It has been close to a quarter-century since hanging chad and the Brooks Bros riot in Florida and neither Party has championed genuine reform to vote-counting. My home county of Los Angeles has a fancy “electronic” voting system immune to audit. Suspicion and doubt have been cultivated by disingenuous claims as well as conspiracy theories.

    Jefferson Davis and Andrew Stephens were not prosecuted for the treason they committed; they wrote memoirs arguing a states rights theory of how they were really misunderstood patriots disputing a point of constitutional law. That’s what grudging acceptance by the loser looks like. The winners changed the Constitution to remove the cause of the conflict and the losers conceded that the Constitution had to be changed to remove the cause of the conflict (without, of course, the plain-speaking that characterized their antebellum rhetoric).

    The winners — whoever that turns out to be — will change something to seal the deal.

    Taking voting and fair-minded adjudication off the menu of republican strategies to resolve conflict does not leave the body politic much to work with it.

  3. VietnamVet

    Will a second US Civil War and/or World War 3 sweep across North America?

    WW3 is underway in the Balkans and the Arabian Peninsula. In both cases, deterrence failed. Mainly because the current global rulers are getting rich from war profiteering. The corporate-state partners want endless wars. Only a new UN Armistice and functional DMZs can restore a stalemated peace like the first Cold War. Otherwise, the wars will keep escalating, pandemics spreading, and inflation soaring. If there is no peace movement, humankind will see if there are still enough functional western ICBMs to destroy the northern hemisphere. North Korea has become the Eurasia Axis arms dealer of choice – designer and builder of new ICBMS that can reach the US West Coast. The Boeing 737 Max has been re-certified by China to fly there but the company is still unable to fly its Starliner Space Capsule with astronauts.

    At the beginning of this century the road that went past the Pentagon and down south to Richmond Virginia was called “Jeff Davis Highway”. This was no coincidence. The 19th and 20th century USA needed the South integrated into its North American Empire. Bases were built and named after Southern Generals. The Grand Compromise restored the Southern Aristocracy without them owning humans, but their land was farmed by sharecroppers. Today, radical Christian beliefs on the creation of the soul at conception are being imposed on secular America. The Charlottesville Virginia statue of General Robert E Lee (who surrendered at Appomattox and prevented an American guerrilla war) has been melted down. The bottom 90% of the US population are debt serfs.

    Since November 22, 1963, descendants and followers of plantation oligarchy (neo-liberal capitalism) have ruled the Western Empire. They started the Vietnam War to avoid losing any territory to the communists and kicked Dick Nixon out when he ended the war. Since 9/11 the Holy War on Terror has transferred the West’s middle class’s wealth upwards and drags on in Syria and Iraq and is on the brink of going regional and closing energy and global logistic choke points there.

    Democracy and secular good government died. Corruption is pervasive. The divide and rule Imperial War Party took over. To keep the charade going, Democrats became the minority party and Republicans false populists. Without democracy, good government and equality, corporate globalism is in a terminal dive.

    Chaos will prevail unless there is a new Western Reformation that ends this Neo-dark Age.

  4. Chuck Mire

    Scottish actor Brian Cox reads final poem of Palestinian scholar and poet Refaat Alareer:

    The Palestine Festival of Literature published a video on Wednesday of Scottish actor Brian Cox reading “If I Must Die”, the final poem by Palestinian scholar and poet Refaat Alareer.

    Alareer was killed by an Israeli air strike on 7 December along with his brother, sister and four of her children.


    If I must die,
    you must live
    to tell my story
    to sell my things
    to buy a piece of cloth
    and some strings,
    (make it white with a long tail)
    so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
    while looking heaven in the eye
    awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
    and bid no one farewell
    not even to his flesh
    not even to himself—
    sees the kite, my kite you made,
    flying up above
    and thinks for a moment an angel is there
    bringing back love
    If I must die
    let it bring hope
    let it be a tale.

  5. bruce wilder

    From NC, a substack that makes the case that Dems are engaged in a dangerous escalation of anti-democratic strategies:

  6. “There are a number of “liberals” and anti-Trumpers who profess themselves appalled by the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court. Their opinions are a study in the philosophical inability of liberalism to oppose conservatism, and the authoritarianism conservatism leads to.”

    The only way to stop right wing authoritarianism is left wing authoritarianism, eh? Brilliant! This is the same logic as destroying a village to save it. Under this logic, it will be authoritarianism no matter what, with the only choice being the color of the uniforms. Count me out.

    I am appalled at the Colorado Supreme Court decision. You beat the leader of the opposition party in the election, not through bullshit lawfare. If you can’t win in the election you do not deserve to win. Disqualification of political opponents, especially of the leading opposition is banana republic stuff.

  7. Curt Kastens

    Elections are good for nothing other than showing who the better con-team is.

  8. J. Davis was never convicted of treason. He was certainly guilty, but without the conviction, he is still *legally* innocent and not subject to governmental penalties.

    Sedition is not illegal. The First Amendment puts very tight constraints on what speech can be prohibited. States cannot be allowed to decide who gets to be on their ballots based on their speech or what they are thought to have done. They do not have the authority to decide guilt without trial. That would lead to a nightmare of oppression by both parties.

    Seditious conspiracy is illegal. Convict him of seditious conspiracy or insurrection in Federal Court then he won’t be on ANY ballots. Just be prepared for the blowback.

    You don’t get to skip due process just because his politics are screwy.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén