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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 11, 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 11, 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

Israel’s Relentless Bombing Erases Gaza’s Heritage Sites 

[Wide Walls, via Naked Capitalism 02-09-2024]

The war in Gaza is wiping out Palestine’s education and knowledge systems 

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 02-09-2024]

In the past four months, all or parts of Gaza’s 12 universities have been bombed and mostly destroyed.

Approximately 378 schools have been destroyed or damaged. The Palestinian Ministry of Education has reported the deaths of over 4,327 students, 231 teachers and 94 professors.

Numerous cultural heritage sites, including libraries, archives and museums, have also been destroyed, damaged and plundered.


Oligarchs’ war on the experiment of republican self-government

The Republican Party and Their Billionaire Backers’ Plot Against America

Thom Hartmann, February 8, 2024 [Common Dreams]

…The most appealing thing about a dictator is that he can “get things done.”

Dictators don’t have to worry about bureaucracies hindering them, or pesky laws and regulations. They don’t care about local opposition to their projects, or their impact on the environment.

From making the trains run on time to building an autobahn and a car company to go with it, dictators famously “get things done.”

The corollary to that old nostrum is that when things are going well, when things are working smoothly, when the people are getting what they want from their government, there is little interest in putting a dictator into office.

You have to break government pretty badly before people are willing to trade in a normal democracy for a dictatorship, but it’s sure happened before.

Germany wouldn’t have embraced Hitler if it weren’t for the depression the country had slid into because they lost World War I and were hit with fierce sanctions in the Treaty of Versailles.…

One of the most successful ways the forces of autocracy and authoritarianism have risen to power throughout history is by creating or stepping into a crisis and promising to be the “strongman” who will fix things and fix them now.

Which, of course, is why right-wing billionaires and the Republicans they own have been working so hard in the decades since the Reagan Revolution to break our government.

They want a series of terrible crises. And if they don’t happen organically, right wingers are more than happy to create them, as we saw this week when Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to do anything about our southern border or to fund aid to Ukraine and the Palestinians….

Warn Voters About the Radicalism Beyond Trump 

Nancy MacLean, February 8, 2024 [The New Republic]

…Promoters have been methodically lining up authorizations from the states since the 2012 election showed them that most Americans reject the kind of society they seek, even Mitt Romney’s mild version. So strategists concluded that the only way to permanently entrench minority rule by plutocrats and theocrats is to encase it in a dramatically altered Constitution….


If Republicans control Congress, they won’t have to bother with litigation, because it would be up to the majority in control to determine the validity of the applications—and Article V lacks the guardrails to prevent this manipulation.

Seriously? Yes, alas. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who would be in a position to call it, is a longtime ally of COS….

So how exactly would a convention nullify the Democratic agenda, past and current? The six amendments adopted by the Simulated Convention held in Williamsburg, Virginia, on August 4, 2023, would dismantle reforms We the People have won over generations. The centerpiece amendment, entitled “Fiscal Restraints,” is a one-two punch to knock out popular programs such as Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid. By mandating that two-thirds of both houses of Congress would have to agree to any tax increase, it would force annually balanced budgets, while making it all but impossible to raise revenue from the wealth-hoarding ultrarich who back this radical agenda.

Another amendment takes dead aim at all federal regulation since 1937 and civil rights and environmental policies since then. It would obliterate the “administrative state,” the bugbear of the hard-right coalition. The measure would in short order end fair labor standards, antitrust enforcement, environmental protections, safeguards for workers who choose to unionize, civil rights on the job and in public accommodations, and the Affordable Care Act, among other hard-won reforms that ease hardship and protect us from corporate domination.

Still another amendment would allow a simple majority of state legislatures “to abrogate any action of Congress, President, or administrative agencies.” That could stop federal intervention to ensure the equal citizenship rights established in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments….

But this is madness, you will say. These reactionaries could never get away with rewriting the Constitution!

Except they could. First, because the instigators have already adopted a representation scheme for the convention based on one-vote-per-state, chosen by the legislatures; it gives near-empty states like Alaska and Wyoming the same power as California and New York. Second, because by crooked counting (“aggregating”) of ancient authorizations with those recently obtained, planners claim that the threshold needed to call a convention under Article V has already been met: two-thirds of the states. Third, because most of us aren’t even aware that this is happening….

For the American people to realize how much is at stake will require vast and to-the-point popular education. While the right has been tutoring its base in its version of the Constitution for years, the left has dropped this ball badly, particularly on such vital but wonky matters as how interpretation of the Commerce Clause after 1937 enabled all the federal regulations demanded by voters….

If Trump Decides On A National Divorce, How Much Of The Republican Party Will Follow Along?

Howie Klein, February 9, 2024  []

A few days ago I saw an interesting substack by Thomas Zimmer about the far right secession fantasy, which he worries is more serious than “just silly, pathetic cosplay from a bunch of grifters, buffoons, and lost souls…The trucker convoy fiasco also doesn’t change the fact that the border standoff is acting as a catalyst for the pervasive lusting for civil war and ubiquitous fantasizing about secession on the Right. This isn’t confined to extremist online fringes either. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, for instance, fabulated we would ‘have a war on our hands were president Biden to federalize National Guard troops. Kevin Stitt, the Republican Governor of Oklahoma, argued that the Texas National Guard was merely ‘protecting their homeland’ from the federal government. And Representative Clay Higgins posted on Ex-Twitter that ‘the feds are staging a civil war, and Texas should stand their ground.’ These aren’t just outlier voices. Texas, with the explicit support from 25 .…

:[A]ll this secessionist fantasizing has been flanked by an increasingly violent political rhetoric— and open endorsement of political violence. In the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene campaigned on the idea that “Democrats want Republicans dead and they have already started the killings.” If someone were to truly believe that the president of the United States, the party in power, and the forces dominating a sinister “deep state” are engaged in a campaign to murder all members of the opposition party— what are they supposed to do? Just last week, Greene’s fellow Georgia Representative Mike Collins casually called for an extrajudicial killing styled after a foreign authoritarian regime’s terror campaign: “Or we could buy him a ticket on Pinochet Air for a free helicopter ride,” Collins posted on Ex-Twitter, referring to a man who had allegedly been involved in an attack on New York City police officers. This was a reference to the authoritarian military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. After overthrowing the democratically elected Allende government in September 1973, the Pinochet regime persecuted dissidents and “disappeared” them. One way of doing that was to throw them out of aircraft, usually into the ocean. The practice of “disappearing” people had been a key tactic of the military dictatorship in Argentina; it was the focus of an international human rights campaign against Chile in the 1970s. “Make Leftists Disappear Again” has been a meme on the Far Right for several years— you’ll see it on t-shirts that sport the slogan plus the silhouette of a helicopter. That’s what this translates to: Let’s kill those “leftist” enemies here in America, like Pinochet did in Chile.

”The line between far-right extremism and the power center of conservative politics was always, at best, a permeable membrane. Now it has been completely eviscerated, to the point where no one should be surprised that a GOP congressman is openly propagating such ideas. The Republican Party doesn’t just tolerate such extremist figures in an attempt to appease the fringe— this isn’t simply a matter of acquiescence out of cowardice. This sort of radicalism is widely seen as justified on the Right. The GOP has abandoned and is now actively assaulting the foundations of democratic political culture. Accepting the legitimacy of the political opponent and denouncing the use of political violence: Republicans are delighting in crossing those essential lines.”

The Supreme Court’s Big Chevron Case Could Hamstring Federal Government. Here’s How It Got Started

Kate Aronoff, February 9, 2024 [The New Republic]

…Bright, Reichle, and Axelsson’s case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, as well as a companion case before the court called Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce, ostensibly challenges a requirement that fishing boat owners pay for the federal observers who ensure companies aren’t overfishing. The government abandoned that requirement last year and reimbursed fisherman who had paid observer fees. The Supreme Court took these two cases anyway, so as to rule on a much broader question: whether to overturn a long-standing legal precedent known as the Chevron deference, wherein courts defer to the expertise of federal agencies to interpret congressional statutes. If they succeed in killing Chevron, this will be a massive victory for corporations looking to evade regulation….

The group is being represented pro bono by lawyers at the Cause of Action Institute, as well as by Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general and conservative legal activist. Ryan Mulvey—part of the plaintiffs’ legal team—serves as both counsel for Cause of Action Institute and policy counsel for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the education and research arm of the Koch brothers–backed lobby group Americans for Prosperity. Two other attorneys representing the plaintiffs, Eric Bolinder and James Valvo, who serve as counsel and executive director, respectively, at the Cause of Action Institute, also work for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. According to the foundation’s most recently published Form 990 tax filing, it granted $200,000 to the Cause of Action Institute in 2022.


Global power shift

The Competition Between West And The Rest Is Already Over

​​​​​​​Ian WelshFebruary 10, 2024

This is what people refuse to get: the West has already lost. It’s over. It’s done. There’ll be some shooting, but it doesn’t matter.

China has the world’s largest economy by all statistics that matter. It has by far and away the most manufacturing. It has way more shipbuilding capacity than the entire West.

China is the premier trade power. Most of the global “South” would rather trade with it: it gives better deals and it interferes less with internal politics. This will continue….

 It’s over. We lost without most of us even realizing we’d lost. When we decided to send our industry to China in exchange for some of our elites getting richer faster for three decades, we decided to give up our centuries old hegemony.

This isn’t to say all is woe, or that Western countries who are smart can’t maintain good standards of living. But we can only do so if we stop pretending we’re , the hegemonic civilization and everyone else has to kiss our asses or else….

…decay always begins at home. We gave our lead away, deliberately and as policy…. our elites need to be defenestrated as a class if the rest of us are to have any chance at decent lives.

The Newer World Order 

Aurelien [via Naked Capitalism 02-10-2024]

…We therefore face a problem which is, I think, unique in western history. It can be summarised as follows. A shallow and incapable ruling class and its parasites are confronted with a series of subtle changes in the way the international political and economic system works, some linked, some not, that require the sort of careful analysis and thoughtful reactions of which they are inherently incapable. At the same time, the machinery of politics and economics in their own countries is breaking down, and they have no idea why, or what to do about it. These two points—the inability to imagine alternatives and the incapacity to understand even what is going on in front of their eyes—are the two themes I want to develop in the essay….

…Likewise, the conviction of “unipolarity” or “hegemony” replacing the “bloc-to-bloc” logic of the Cold War seems to be very deeply ingrained now in the strategic mind. This hegemony is sometimes attributed to the West, sometimes to the United States alone, by critics as much as by proponents, and is assumed now to be the natural order of things. It is indirectly derived from the (dominant) Realist and Neo-realist schools of international relations theory, which postulate an anarchic international system with endless conflict of different sorts among states, and, naturally enough, strong states controlling weaker ones. And if you believe that the US now “rules the world,” in a system like this, and that the structure of the system itself is natural and will endure, then the only alternative you can imagine is another global hegemon….

In turn this is because the US is an extreme case of a political reality found everywhere: it is better to be wrong with the majority than right on your own. After all, given western control of media discourses (reducing markedly in fact) who is going to remember who was right and who was wrong in five years time, or even necessarily what the question was? More than any other major capital, Washington resembles a closed box made of mirrors where people talk entirely to each other, and where what matters is whether you have the right opinions, and can win battles against your peers. The rest of the world, I sometimes think, is just another lobby group, and reality just another factor to be taken into account. After all, you can have a Doctorate in Political Science theory with a brilliant reinterpretation of Leo Strauss, decide to specialise in Iran, and go on to a distinguished and lucrative career in think-tanks and universities with stints in government and NGOs, all without having visited Iran or speaking Farsi, because the public you can appeal to in your own country is so large.

Most countries suffer from at least a diluted version of this problem. But the West, and within the West the United States particularly, seems these days to be incapable of long-term thinking, or of sustaining any memory of even the relatively recent past. This means that almost any unexpected event is destabilising and inexplicable, because nobody has been studying long-term trends. Such disparate examples as the Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, or the rebuilding of the Russian defence industry over the last fifteen years, were prepared and undertaken in plain sight: it’s just that nobody was paying attention to them until their irruption into the news cycle made them unmissable. Likewise, nobody in the West can really analyse their long-term consequences properly, because we no longer have the capability or the inclination to do long-term thinking.

The result is panic and confusion, and the search for simple explanations, because the myopic western system cannot accommodate the almost infinite complexity of the real world….

What we have seen in the West over that period, and to some extent in other areas of the world as well, is not a conspiracy or a centrally directed programme, but the result of a common purpose, itself drawn from strong similarities in education, and interactions, and shared life experiences and social and economic circumstances, among a small but powerful group of people. The widespread trend towards highly educated professional politicians from comfortable backgrounds, with economically and socially liberal ideas, has created what I usually refer to as the Party, which has effective power in most of the world today. Through privatisation of public assets, the movement of capital and jobs around the world, the consolidation of media empires and many other factors, the Party’s members are just as likely to be found in business, the media or NGOs as in political life: indeed, it would not be inappropriate to describe them as a Communist Party-style nomenklatura. Highly educated, travelling and living internationally, they see only each other, and imbibe the same ideas. Reading the same newspapers and internet sites, attending the same conferences and workshops, lunching, dining and of course working together, they hear only the same opinions they themselves hold.

Less obvious is the impact of the small “pro-western” class found in many countries of the Global South today. These are people who have often been educated in the West, work for western-funded organisations, speak western languages and have assimilated dominant western Liberal ideas, either because they genuinely believe them, or because it is expedient for them to do so. In many cases they occupy important positions in politics, government, the media and business. The West fools itself into the belief that such people are representative of their societies, and is serially confused and disappointed when this proves not to be the case….

The Russians and Chinese, along with many other nations, are not looking to dominate the world, but rather to a world where different sorts of power are diffused in different ways, and decisions are taken by discussion and bargaining between groups that are much more equal. We do not have to assume that the leaders of such countries are animated by the highest moral sentiments: they see national advantage in moving towards a world where power is more dispersed, that’s all. But the process as a whole is likely to be uncomfortable for the West, stuck as it is with rigid and often unsophisticated assumptions about how the system works now, let alone what it is likely to evolve into. Dealing with that change is going to be a massive challenge for the political systems of the West. I’m not sure they are necessarily up to it.

Will the Hegemon Ever Accept a New Westphalian World Order?

Pepe Escobar, February 1, 2024 [Strategic Culture Foundation, via Mike Norman Economics, January 17, 2024]

Pepe Escobar reviews Prof. Glenn Diesen’s new book, The Ukraine War & The Eurasian World Order….

Poviding context, Diesen needs to engage in an obligatory detour to the basics of the Great Game between the Russian and British empires. What stands out is how Moscow already was pivoting to Asia all the way to the late 19th century, when Russian Finance Minister Sergei Witte started to develop a groundbreaking road map for a Eurasia political economy, “borrowing from Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List.”

Witte “wanted to end Russia’s role as an exporter of natural resources to Europe as it resembled ‘the relations of colonial countries with their metropolises’”.

And that implies going back to Dostoyevsky, who argued that “Russians are as much Asiatics as European. The mistake of our policy for the past two centuries has been to make the people of Europe believe that we are true Europeans (…) It will be better for us to seek alliances with the Asiatics.” Dostoyevsky meets Putin-Xi.

Diesen also needs to go through the obligatory references to Mackinder’s “heartland” obsession – which is the basis of all Anglo-American geopolitics for the past hundred and twenty years.

Mackinder was spooked by railway development – especially the Trans-Siberian by the Russians – as it enabled Moscow to “emulate the nomadic skills of the Scythians, Huns and Mongols” that were essential to control most of Eurasia.

Mackinder was particularly focused on railways acting “chiefly as feeders to ocean-going commerce”. Ergo, being a thalassocratic power was not enough: “The heartland is the region to which under modern conditions, sea power can be refused access.”

And that’s what leads to the Rosetta Stone of Anglo-American geopolitics: to “prevent the emergence of a hegemon or a group of states capable of dominating Europe and Eurasia that could threaten the dominant maritime power.”

The Carlson/Putin Interview

Ian Welsh, February 9, 2024

Whatever you think of Putin, at least he’s educated and speak in complete sentences and has a historical understanding (whether you agree with it or not.) He makes Trump and Biden look like the idiots they are.

In fact, Putin makes almost every Western leader look like an ill-educated moron….

Tucker Carlson interview with Putin: what went wrong? 

Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 02-10-2024] A marked contrast from the fawning over Tucker on some sites. Some very astute observations.

In The Middle East The U.S. Has Reached The End Of Its Abilities 

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 02-06-2024]

America’s displacement anxiety and the decade of living dangerously 

[Warwick Powell, Pearls & Irritations, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]

Ukraine SitRep: A Hated New Commander – Critical Lack Of Infantry 

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 02-10-2024]

Democrats Are Demented Genocidal War Sluts 

Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]

US Trade Deficit in 2023 Dropped 19%, as Goods Deficit with China Plunged 29%: Imports & Exports of Goods & Services 

Wolf Richter [via Naked Capitalism 02-10-2024]



Mass Disabling Event Denial

Nate Bear [Do Not Panic!, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-09-2024]

“In 2022 scientists said covid was likely to be a mass disabling event. Mass media articles covered this forecast widely at the time…. Four years later, these forecasts are becoming our reality. The number of long-term sick in the UK was revised upwards this week to a record high of more than 2.8 million after falling consistently until 2020…. In the US the numbers are skyrocketing. On current trends the number of Americans registered as having a disability will top 10 million sometime next year. In Canada 27% of people now have a registered disability. The same thing is being seen in countries around the world. All since 2020. The mass disabling event we were warned of is here. But instead of headlines warning us that yes, indeed, those forecasts we wrote about are becoming reality, something strange is happening. The very same media and politicians who warned about the threat of covid as a mass disabling event are now blaming everything other than the virus for the mass disability.”

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-06-2024]


What Works and For Whom? Effectiveness and Efficiency of School Capital Investments Across The U.S. 

National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]

From the abstract: “Spending on basic infrastructure (such as HVAC) or on the removal of pollutants raises test scores but not house prices; conversely, spending on athletic facilities raises house prices but not test scores.”

Clean Air Delivery Rate Is All That Matters!

Joey Fox [Medium, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-05-2024] :

A clean air delivery rate (CADR) is the measurement of how quickly air that is free of a pollutant is supplied to a space. It is specified as a volume of air per unit of time. For example, it can be measured as cubic feet of clean air per minute (CFM), or liters of clean air per second (lps), or cubic meters of clean air per hour (m³/h). Because the amount of air supplied and removed from the space are the same, the CADR can also be thought of as the dirty air removal rate. Despite many marketing claims, the CADR is the only relevant measurement of air cleaner effectiveness. Unfortunately, not just air cleaner salespeople, but even academics and health experts are often mistaken on this issue. It needs to be addressed once and for all….. ‘The dose makes the poison.’ It’s a simple enough concept. Anything in quantities too low is harmless. Anything in quantities too high can be lethal. The same is true for air pollutants…. Reduce the dose by reducing the concentration. Reduce the concentration by increasing the removal rate. It’s that simple. When assessing the risk of the space from an air quality perspective, all that matters is the CADR.”



Decabillionaire Dynasties: These Are The Richest Families In America

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-08-2024]


[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-08-2024]

Choice as an act of meaning: The case of social class.


Could a Rogue Billionaire Make a Nuclear Weapon?

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-05-2024]

“It would take as little as a billion dollars’ investment and five years to produce the first bomb, the [Office of Net Assessment] study concluded [in 2018]

Predatory Finance

Jamie Dimon Has Spent $117 Billion Propping Up JPMorgan’s Share Price with Buybacks in 10 Years; He’s Counting on Trump’s MAGA Crowd to Rescue Him

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, February 5, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

…Running to the aid of Dimon in his battle to stop the proposed new capital rules by federal regulators – which would impact just the 37 banks (out of 4,600) in the U.S. that hold $100 billion or more in assets – is the MAGA-controlled House Financial Services Committee. Its website is so brazenly pro-Trump that yesterday it featured under a heading of “Latest on Twitter” a 2020 Tweet heaping praise on Trump along with a photo of Trump in the Oval Office. (See screenshot to the right.)

On January 31, the MAGA-dominated House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the proposed new capital rules under the biased title: “Rules Without Analysis: Federal Banking Proposals Under the Biden Administration.”

Bank Fraud Enters a New Era: Bank-to-Bank Wire Transfers Loot Customers

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, February 2, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

‘Enshittification’ is coming for absolutely everything

Cory Doctorow, FT, via Naked Capitalism 02-08-2024]

Last year, I coined the term “enshittification” to describe the way that platforms decay. That obscene little word did big numbers; it really hit the zeitgeist. The American Dialect Society made it its Word of the Year for 2023….
So what’s enshittification and why did it catch fire? It’s my theory explaining how the internet was colonised by platforms, why all those platforms are degrading so quickly and thoroughly, why it matters and what we can do about it….
But in case you want to be more precise, let’s examine how enshittification works. It’s a three-stage process: first, platforms are good to their users. Then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers. Finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, there is a fourth stage: they die….
When a whole bunch of independent entities all change in the same way at once, that’s a sign that the environment has changed, and that’s what happened to tech. Tech companies, like all companies, have conflicting imperatives. On the one hand, they want to make money. On the other hand, making money involves hiring and motivating competent staff, and making products that customers want to buy. The more value a company permits its employees and customers to carve off, the less value it can give to its shareholders.
The equilibrium in which companies produce things we like in honourable ways at a fair price is one in which charging more, worsening quality and harming workers costs more than the company would make by playing dirty. There are four forces that discipline companies, serving as constraints on their enshittificatory impulses….


Is capitalism dead? Yanis Varoufakis thinks it is – and he knows who killed it 

[The Fifth Estate, via Naked Capitalism 02-08-2024]

Traditional capitalists, he proposes, have become “vassal capitalists”. They are subordinate and dependent on a new breed of “lords” – the Big Tech companies – who generate enormous wealth via new digital platforms. A new form of algorithmic capital has evolved – what Varoufakis calls “cloud capital” – and it has displaced “capitalism’s two pillars: markets and profits”….

Does Techno = Fascist? How Much Of It Does And How Inevitable Is That?

Howie Klein, February 4, 2024  []

I’ve been experimenting with Bard, Google’s AI interface, and I’ve come to the conclusion that between 70 and 80% of questions that require research, result in wrong answers. That’s a lot of wrong answers. I got into a discussion with it yesterday about why there are more wrong answers now than there were 6 months ago. The response was mostly more bullshit: “I deeply apologize for my repeated irrelevant responses and understand your frustration. There is something wrong with my ability to process this specific topic, and I am working on identifying the issue… It appears there is still an issue with my ability to properly process this specific topic and provide relevant information. I am currently undergoing evaluation and troubleshooting to identify and fix the root cause of these errors.” Later in the discussion, it added “I appreciate your offer to speak directly with my programmers, but unfortunately, I don’t have direct access to them and wouldn’t be able to facilitate a call. However, I’m taking your feedback very seriously and it will be relayed to the appropriate teams working on improving my abilities.”

I spoke with a Member of Congress today who told me several hours of his life were consumed by a tech company’s customer service department. “Growing up,” he told me, “who would have ever imagined in one day you’d speak to someone in the Philippines, two people in India and one in Uruguay? In just the course of a few hours?” He was very frustrated and his problem remains unsolved….

Adrienne LaFrance’s Atlantic feature The Rise of Techno-Authoritarianism is not about a crazed club dj playing RazorMaid remixes all night. No, it’s about what LaFrance referred to as Facebook being a “digital imperialist superpower” and Zuckerberg’s mantra “Company over country.”

LaFrance wrote that “Facebook (now Meta) has become an avatar of all that is wrong with Silicon Valley. Its self-interested role in spreading global disinformation is an ongoing crisis. Recall, too, the company’s secret mood-manipulation experiment in 2012, which deliberately tinkered with what users saw in their News Feed in order to measure how Facebook could influence people’s emotional states without their knowledge. Or its participation in inciting genocide in Myanmar in 2017. Or its use as a clubhouse for planning and executing the January 6, 2021, insurrection. (In Facebook’s early days, Zuckerberg listed “revolutions” among his interests. This was around the time that he had a business card printed with ‘I’m ceo, bitch.’) And yet, to a remarkable degree, Facebook’s way of doing business remains the norm for the tech industry as a whole, even as other social platforms (TikTok) and technological developments (artificial intelligence) eclipse Facebook in cultural relevance.”….

The new technocrats are ostentatious in their use of language that appeals to Enlightenment values— reason, progress, freedom— but in fact they are leading an antidemocratic, illiberal movement. Many of them profess unconditional support for free speech, but are vindictive toward those who say things that do not flatter them. They tend to hold eccentric beliefs: that technological progress of any kind is unreservedly and inherently good; that you should always build it, simply because you can; that frictionless information flow is the highest value regardless of the information’s quality; that privacy is an archaic concept; that we should welcome the day when machine intelligence surpasses our own. And above all, that their power should be unconstrained. The systems they’ve built or are building— to rewire communications, remake human social networks, insinuate artificial intelligence into daily life, and more— impose these beliefs on the population, which is neither consulted nor, usually, meaningfully informed. All this, and they still attempt to perpetuate the absurd myth that they are the swashbuckling underdogs.

No More Fairy Tales: Why the United States Needs a Whole New Operating System 

[In These Times, via Naked Capitalism 02-08-2024]

“Because corporations have constitutional ​”rights,” if a community makes a decision to stop a bad project that has been permitted by the state or federal government, a corporation has the ability to sue the community to force its project into the town. There’s no self-government at work here.”

The Dirty Business of Clean Blood 

[BIG, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024] by Matt Stoller

Hungry for profits 

[SOMO, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]

“How monopoly power tripled the profits of global agricultural commodity traders in the last three years.”

Over 2 percent of the US’s electricity generation now goes to bitcoin 

[ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]


Health crises

How the nursing home lobby uses it’s political prowess to kill would-be regulations and line the industry’s pockets 

Wendell Potter [via Naked Capitalism 02-06-2024]

Republicans Are Planning to Totally Privatize Medicare if Trump Wins 

Andrew Perez [Rolling Stone, via downwithtyranny 02-06-2024]

Last year, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans eligible for Medicare were on privatized Medicare Advantage plans. If Republicans win the presidential race this year, the push to fully privatize Medicare, the government health insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities, will only intensify. Conservative operatives have already sketched out what the GOP’s policy agenda would look like in the early days of a new Donald Trump presidency. As Rolling Stone has detailed, the proposed Project 2025 agenda is radically right-wing. One item buried in the 887-page blueprint has attracted little attention thus far, but would have a monumental impact on the health of America’s seniors and the future of one of America’s most popular social programs: a call to ‘make Medicare Advantage the default enrollment option’ for people who are newly eligible for Medicare.…

Such a policy would hasten the end of the traditional Medicare program, as well as its foundational premise: that seniors can go to any doctor or provider they choose. The change would be a boon for private health insurers— which generate massive profits and growing portions of their revenues from Medicare Advantage plans— and further consolidate corporate control over the United States health care system. …

Under traditional Medicare, enrollees are free to visit any doctor who accepts Medicare (nearly all physicians do). Medicare Advantage plans, by contrast, often have limited networks of doctors that patients can choose from, and many providers have stopped accepting the private plans because they so often deny the prior authorization requests they require before patients can receive services.

Bernie Sanders Isn’t Thankful for High Drug Prices

David Dayen, February 8, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Sen. Sanders has a different view. He noted that Johnson & Johnson and Bristol Myers Squibb, two of the companies participating in today’s hearing, spent more on stock buybacks, dividends, and executive compensation in 2022 than on research and development. Moreover, their innovation often goes to “me-too drugs,” where, as Sanders said, “they are trying to make minor alterations to get another patent and maintain their monopoly.” Indeed, the HELP Committee report found that Merck put 168 different patents on Keytruda, 64 percent of them after it received FDA approval. These “patent thickets” are designed to extend the exclusivity period.

Two of the three drugs in the crosshairs of Sanders’s investigation—Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Eliquis—are among the first ten drugs selected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for price negotiation in Medicare. Both companies have filed suit against the U.S. to block the price negotiation, which is the crown jewel of the drug reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act. Other reforms for Medicare beneficiaries include a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs (down to $3,300 this year and $2,000 in 2025), a $35-per-month cap on insulin, and a rebate from drug companies on price increases that exceed the rate of inflation.


Restoring balance to the economy      

AI Cannot Be Used To Deny Health Care Coverage, Feds Clarify To Insurers 

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 02-10-2024]


Report: Arlington’s [Virginia] first guaranteed income pilot boosted quality of life for poorest residents 

[ArlNow, via Naked Capitalism 02-08-2024]

Parents with children under 18, earning less than $46,600 annually, reported that the additional $500 monthly helped them obtain better-paying jobs, address basic needs and improve their overall well-being, according to a new report by the Arlington Community Foundation (ACF), the local nonprofit that oversaw the pilot.

Moreover, the monthly payments enabled individuals to invest in certifications and educational advancement and tackle their medical bills, credit card debt and student loans.

Between September 2021 and last December, ACF provided the monthly stipend to families earning 30% of the area median income so they could continue living in Arlington, which is known for having some of the highest living costs in the nation.


The Corporate Crooks Who Got Caught Stealing Workers’ Wages

Jason Linkins, February 10, 2024 [The New Republic]

…Back in September, I highlighted a blockbuster report from ProPublica, who, working in a partnership with Documented New York, dug through federal and state databases and uncovered a staggering degree of wage theft: From 2017 to 2021, “more than $203 million in wages had been stolen from about 127,000 workers in New York.”

​​​​​​​But the best thing about all that reporting is that it’s been put to very good use. As ProPublica reported this week, New York state lawmakers have proposed a battery of bills that will bring the hammer down on wage thieves by allowing state agencies to strip scofflaws of their ability to do business.

One bill, centered on the restaurant industry—where workers in New York had $52 million stolen from them between 2017 and 20201—would allow the “New York State Liquor Authority to suspend liquor licenses for bars and restaurants that the Department of Labor has determined owe more than $1,000 in back wages to their workers.” The second bill “would enable the Department of Labor to place a stop-work order on any business that has a wage theft claim of at least $1,000”; this has been an effective punishment in other cases. Finally, the third bill “allows the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to suspend a business’s certificate of authority—which allows it to collect sales tax and conduct business—in cases where wage theft exceeds $1,000.”


Judges Who Were Consumer or Worker Advocates? Not Many.

Ramenda Cyrus, February 6, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Indeed, according to an Alliance for Justice report, Biden’s nominations have been 75 percent women and more than 60 percent people of color. But even with the administration’s commitment to diversifying the bench, professional diversity remains scarce. Judges typically come from private law firms, or from a past profession of litigating corporate issues, or having worked as a prosecutor. Rarely have nominations come from what Alliance for Justice calls the “economic justice” side of the legal system, or from civil rights lawyers, or public defenders.

Biden’s record on professional diversity has been marginally better than his predecessors’, as he has nominated more public defenders and civil rights lawyers than the norm. Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden nominated and saw confirmed as the first Black woman Supreme Court justice, came from a public defender background. As Alliance for Justice noted, Jackson had been one of five public defenders appointed to the appeals circuit under Biden.

This nearly doubled the number of former public defenders on the appeals courts, and marked the first Supreme Court Justice to have worked as a public defender,” the report stated. The report, “Economic Justice, Judges, and the Law,” found that while the bench has been diversifying, there is still a lack of judges with “economic justice” experience, which AFJ categorizes to include consumer protection and union-side labor law. Overall, the report found that just 6 percent of judges had economic justice experience, while more than 80 percent had experience representing corporations. In 2022, just 11 of 171 federal appellate judges had economic justice experience.

A School Bought Solar Panels And Saved Enough To Give All Its Teachers Raises

[, via Avedon’s Sideshow, 01-28-2024]

The Sun Is Going To Be Shining Anyway, So Why Not Cash In On That?’ A rural school district in Batesville, Arkansas generated enough solar energy to give every teacher a raise, CBS News reports. Salaries were only averaging around $45,000 at the Batesville School District, with many teachers leaving as a result. It was also proving difficult to attract new teachers to the town of just 10,000 people. But then the school district, which included a high school and five other education centers, turned an unused field into a solar energy farm back in 2017. It also covered the front of the high school in 1,500 panels. After installing the solar array and investing in other new energy infrastructure, Climatewire reports that the district turned a $250,000 annual budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus — enough, according to CBS, to give every teacher a raise of up to $15,000.”


Climate and environmental crises

Jury awards climate scientist Michael Mann $1 million in defamation lawsuit 

[Orlando Sentinel, via Naked Capitalism 02-09-2024]

New Report Sheds Light on Rapid Expansion of Arctic Shipping 

[gCaptain, via Naked Capitalism 02-08-2024]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

NASA’s JPL Lays Off Hundreds of Workers

[Universe Today, via Naked Capitalism 02-10-2024]

It’s Confirmed! Laser Fusion Experiment Hit a Critical Milestone in Power Generation 

[ScienceAlert, via Naked Capitalism 02-07-2024]

Scientists Have 3D Bioprinted Functioning Human Brain Tissue 

[Popular Science, via Naked Capitalism 02-07-2024]

Democrats’ political malpractice

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-06-2024]



Conservative / Libertarian / (anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

Abbott’s Border Standoff Fueled by a Climate Crisis He Helped to Create 

[Texas Observer, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]

Ron DeSantis has been dreaming of complete military power for three years. Florida lawmakers may finally give it to him. 

[Seeking Rents, via Naked Capitalism 02-04-2024]

[TW: One thing that particularly stuck me in reading about the years leading to the Civil War, is how the slaveholding states quietly raised, armed, and prepared their state militias, while no such activity was occurring in the northern states. Not surprisingly, when the shooting actually began, the Confederate states were more effective on the field of battle. On the other hand, these pre-war preparations for war helped fuel the delusions of Confederate leaders that they could militarily defeat the north. As historian and World War 2 war correspondent Fletcher Pratt pointed out, eventually the socially stratified southern society was completely unable to replace its military leadership, while after some initial stumbling the north relentlessly turned out swarms of highly trained and capable combat leaders. ]

Feds ‘All F—king Tied Up in Knots’ Over How to Handle Election Threats

JESSICA CORBETT, February 09, 2024 [Common Dreams]

Just nine months away from the U.S. general election, reporting published Friday by CNN suggests the federal government is poorly prepared to respond to “nightmare scenarios,” from violence at the polls to disinformation created with artificial intelligence.

One U.S. official familiar with a previously unreported meeting at the White House Situation Room in December told CNN‘s Sean Lyngaas that in terms of a coordinated federal response to an election-related threat, “we’re all f—king tied up in knots.”

Citing four unnamed sources, Lyngaas reported that leaders from the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and departments of Homeland Security and Justice gathered for a first-of-its-kind drill featuring two simulations: “What if Chinese operatives created a fake AI-generated video showing a Senate candidate destroying ballots? And how should federal agencies respond if violence erupts at polling stations on Election Day?”


14th Amendment

Disenfranchisement and Chaos’: The Supreme Court Hears Pivotal Case on Whether Trump Is Eligible to Run for President

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-06-2024]

“The 14th Amendment bans insurrectionists from serving as a ‘Senator or Representatives in Congress,’ ‘electors of President and Vice President,’ or in ‘any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State.’ There is no direct mention of the presidency. It applies to anyone who took the oath of office to defend the Constitution, including anyone who was “an officer of the United States.” One camp of legal scholars argues that it would be nonsensical and inconsistent with the intent of those who drafted the amendment to say that it excluded the presidency…. Other scholars say the omission of the presidency from the 14th Amendment is so glaring that it can be read as an intentional decision. ‘It’s very strange to name the Senate and House but not the president,’ said Derek Muller, a Notre Dame law professor, characterizing this position. ‘If you list a bunch of things and you omit one thing, you probably did it on purpose.’” And: “In an amicus brief in the Trump v. Anderson case, Hasen, Ohio State law professor Ned Foley and longtime Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg lay out a chilling scenario in which the court deferred to Congress [via Section Five] on the question of Trump’s eligibility. If Trump were to win the presidential election and Democrats were to win control of Congress, then those Democratic lawmakers could, in theory, vote to disqualify Trump in January 2025 if they believe he engaged in insurrection, as many Democrats have said they do. ‘What would it mean for a Democratic Congress to say, ‘Donald Trump can’t serve even though he won?” Hasen said. ‘To me, that’s a recipe for potential political violence.’”

Here’s how 2 sentences in the Constitution rose from obscurity to ensnare Donald Trump

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-06-2024]

“In the summer of 2020, Gerard Magliocca, like many during the coronavirus pandemic, found himself stuck inside with time on his hands. A law professor at Indiana University, Magliocca emailed with another professor, who was writing a book about overlooked parts of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. He decided he would research the history of two long-neglected sentences in the post-Civil War addition that prohibit those who ‘engaged in insurrection or rebellion’ from holding office. Magliocca posted a copy of his research — which he believed was the first law journal article ever written about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — online in mid-December of 2020, then revised and re-posted it on Dec. 29. Eight days later, President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to prevent the certification of his loss to Joe Biden. Magliocca watched as Republicans such as Sens. Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney described the attack as an ‘insurrection.’ That night, Magliocca composed a quick post on a legal blog: ‘Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,’ he wrote, ‘might apply to President Trump.’… Once she had dried her tears after watching rioters storm the Capitol, Norma Anderson sat down with one of the multiple copies of the Constitution she keeps around her house in the Denver suburbs and reread the 14th Amendment. ‘I made the connection,’ Anderson, now 91, said in an interview. Anderson is a former Republican leader of Colorado’s General Assembly and state Senate, and eventually would become the lead plaintiff in the case now before the Supreme Court… Anderson didn’t yet have the chance to spread the word beyond her own circle, but in the days after Jan. 6, thanks to scholars such as Magliocca and the University of Maryland law professor whose book project had inspired him, Mark Graber, Section 3 started its slow emergence from obscurity…. It took months before the first mention of Section 3 in a public document. Free Speech For People, a Massachusetts-based liberal nonprofit, sent letters to top election officials in all 50 states in June 2021, warning them not to place Trump on the ballot should he run again in 2024 because he had violated the provision.”



The Competition Between West And The Rest Is Already Over


Open Thread


  1. somecomputerguy

    To explain the Democratic Party’s strange reaction to Gaza (incredibly unpopular and steadfast), I would like to offer a full-on tin-foil hat speculation; I don’t think it’s about Israel at all, I think its about about the AIPAC destroying Democratic Party progressives.

    Israel gets the bombs, the Democratic Party gets someone to make war on the tiny number of actual civil servants left in the Party.

  2. Hypothesis 1 is that Covid causes a portion of the population to develop “long covid”. The null hypothesis is that there is no statistical cause and effect. Rather “long covid” is a reporting misattribution whereas people label their poor health as “long covid”.
    Poverty is strongly associated with reporting “long covid” in a dose dependent manner. We know of multiple mechanisms for how poverty causes poor health outcomes.

    Who benefits from proper science not being done and instead just blaming the effects of poverty on “long covid”?

    According to Pfizer’s released clinical trial data the first round of vaccination increased your chance of dying or having any severe adverse event by 24% and 60% respectively. Who benefits from all that illness being blamed on “Long covid”?

  3. VietnamVet

    The West is a fraud. Boris Johnson denies that he nixed a March 2022 Russian Ukraine peace deal that would have saved half a million lives. The Western Empire is strictly a money-making mob of oligarchs and corporations. There is no Left, left. To get on top, Republicans have turned to fake populism. The Democrats use Identity Politics to divide and rule. Politicians revert to propaganda to proclaim the neo-liberal best of all possible worlds. The top 1% get as rich as they can by stealing from 90% of the population with the help of professional overseers. Wealth is power. By denying venal greed, Westerners have lost touch with reality.

    Apparently, the Houthis have knocked British Frigate HMS Diamond out of the Red Sea convoy duty. The USA/UK have lost the Last Crusade. AIPAC has successfully eliminated progressive US Congress Critters. NATO has already lost the war with the Taliban. The loss of cheap Russian energy has sickened German industry. Withdrawal of US troops from Syria and Iraq is next. Unless Israel is brought to heel, a regional Arab conflict together with the endless Euro-Russia WW3 are a given.

    The closure of the Strait of Hormuz and loss of Middle East energy will crash the global economy. The US military is incapable of defeating the proxy forces fighting for their families and God that are supplied with AK-47s, IEDs, cheap drones and ballistic missiles. The ocean shipping choke points are closing one by one.

    To survive, a new Western Reformation is needed to restore sovereign democratic republics that govern for the greater good; not to enrich a very select few. End the corruption. Rebuild Fortress America with strong borders and an effective Navy and conscript Army. Assure that there is a new America that lives within its means and which provides free education, healthcare, and shelter now and for generations to come.

  4. different clue

    @Vietnam Vet,

    Occupy Wall Street began by suggesting a class-money-power division of society between the One Per Cent and the Ninety Nine Per Cent below them. ” We! Are! the Ninety Nine Per Cent!”

    I like your further clarification of the Top One Per Cent and the Bottom Ninety Per Cent . . . . suggesting that the Professional Overseers are the ” Next Nine Per Cent”.

    As in . . . the One Per Cent, the Next Nine Per Cent, and the Bottom Ninety Per Cent.

    If the Next Nine Per Cent were to switch their class loyalty away from the Top One Percent and towards the Bottom Ninety Per Cent, then that would form an effective Ninety Nine Per Cent which could maybe win an internal lower class rebellion IF all the police forces and private security forces and all parts of the armed forces were to identify as part of the Bottom Ninety Nine Per Cent and all agree on jointly eliminating the Top One Per Cent from physical existence.

    Then what? Mayyyybe something bad? Mayyybe something good? Unless and until the Next Nine Percent joins the Bottom Ninety Per Cent, we will never find out. What might prompt the Next Nine Percent to join the Bottom Ninety Per Cent? If the Top One Per Cent were to start a policy of mass jobicide against the Next Nine Per Cent, using internet outsourcing, artificial intelligence, etc., that could do it.

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