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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 15, 2023

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 15, 2023

by Tony Wikrent

[TW: Dear readers: I was on the road much of this past week, so had limited time and access. If this wrap seems a bit short and abbreviated, it’s because it is. Should be back to normal this coming week.]

Life Lessons from 1,000 Years

[Curiosity Chronicle, via The Big Picture 1-13-2023]

I asked a number of 90-year-olds a simple question: “If you could speak to your 32-year-old self, what advice would you give?” In total, there was over 1,000 years of lived experience captured. The responses were…incredible. They range from fun, playful, and witty to deeply moving. I’d encourage you to read through them with your loved ones and reflect on those that hit you the hardest.


Global power shift

Why the CIA attempted a ‘Maidan uprising’ in Brazil 

[The Cradle, via Naked Capitalism 1-11-2023]

A former US intelligence official has confirmed that the shambolic Maidan remix staged in Brasilia on 8 January was a CIA operation, and linked it to the recent attempts at color revolution in Iran.

On Sunday, alleged supporters of former right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Brazil’s Congress, Supreme Court, and  presidential palace, bypassing flimsy security barricades, climbing on roofs, smashing windows, destroying public property including precious paintings, while calling for a military coup as part of a regime change scheme targeting elected President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva.

According to the US source, the reason for staging the operation – which bears visible signs of hasty planning – now, is that Brazil is set to reassert itself in global geopolitics alongside fellow BRICS states Russia, India, and China.

That suggests CIA planners are avid readers of Credit Suisse strategist Zoltan Pozsar, formerly of the New York Fed. In his ground-breaking 27 December report titled War and Commodity Encumbrance….


India tops Japan to become world’s No. 3 auto market 

[Nikkei Asia, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-2023]


The Deglobalization We Need 

[Compact, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]

…There is no clearer sign of emerging elite skepticism of a borderless capitalist economy than Rana Foroohar’s new book, Homecoming: The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World. The author, a Financial Times columnist, celebrates the dawn of a new age of economic localization….

The other big winner of globalization, alongside Western corporations, was China. As Foroohar rightly recalls, although we tend to associate neoliberalism with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, the push towards hyper-globalization truly started with Bill Clinton in the ’90s. That’s when a series of trade deals, culminating in the entry of China into the World Trade Organization in 2001, took the guardrails off the global economy. “It’s amazing but true,” Foroohar writes, “that when it came to trade, Democrats in the ’90s were far less protectionist than the Republicans who came before them. Indeed, they supported the WTO rules that, by 2000, made it nearly impossible for countries to craft their own trade policies.”


America Will Lose Its Scientific Ascendance To China & When Disruptive Science Will Recover

Ian Welsh, January 11, 2023

We’re mostly living off the legacy of a past civilization now (because yes, the civilization of the late 19th and early to mid 20th centuries are dead). We haven’t made a lot of fundamental discoveries since, or if we have they haven’t been followed up. Even really fantastic stuff like quantum computing is mining that same vein discovered a century ago.

Further, we have refused to really change our physical plant, beyond the widespread telecom/computer revolution….

Physical plant changes demand new solutions, but we’re still running on hydrocarbons and even our “alternative energy” is old. Solar panels were invented in 1883. Windmills are ancient and windmills producing electricity are essentially as old as electricity itself. Our advances in batteries are impressive, but they are extensions.

We don’t really want to change anything fundamental. Computers and telecom were adopted wholesale not because they improve productivity (it doesn’t show up in the macro data), but because they allowed people in charge more control. But in the face of known catastrophes we have done essentially nothing.


The Risks of the Biden Escalation false choice has been set up between neoliberal globalization and economic rearmament.

BY Lee Harris, January 11, 2023 [The American Prospect]


Strategic Political Economy

Engineers on brink of extinction threaten entire ecosystems 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 1-10-2023]

The graph [Intel] showed at the latest VLSI Symposium, however, was a real shocker.

While computer science course take-up had gone up by over 90 percent in the past 50 years, electrical engineering (EE) had declined by the same amount. The electronics graduate has become rarer than an Intel-based smartphone.


Disruptive’ science has declined — and no one knows why

[Nature, via The Big Picture 1-10-2023]

The proportion of publications that send a field in a new direction has plummeted over the past half-century. (Nature)


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]


Your stuff is actually worse now: How the cult of consumerism ushered in an era of badly made products.

[Vox, via The Big Picture 1-9-2023]

[TW: blaming crapification on consumerism? It’s supposed to be a demand-driven market economy; I don’t see how consumers are “demanding” crap.]


8 Grocery Shortages You Can Expect to See in 2023

[Eat This, Not That, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


USDA Now Says The U.S. Lost 1.6 Million More Acres Of Corn In 2022, Where Did They Go? 

[AgWeb, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-2023]



America’s Theater of the Absurd 

[The Chris Hedges Report, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]

Governance exists. But it is not seen. It is certainly not democratic. It is done by the armies of lobbyists and corporate executives, from the fossil fuel industry, the arms industry, the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street. Governance happens in secret. Corporations have seized the levers of power, including the media. Growing obscenely rich, the ruling oligarchs have deformed national institutions, including state and federal legislatures and the courts, to serve their insatiable greed. They know what they are doing. They understand the depths of their own corruption. They know they are hated. They are prepared for that too. They have militarized police forces and have built a vast archipelago of prisons to keep the unemployed and underemployed in bondage. All the while, they pay little to no income tax and exploit sweatshop labor overseas. They lavishly bankroll the political clowns who speak in the vulgar and crude idiom of an enraged public or in the dulcet tones used to mollify the liberal class.


In This House We Prey: Managing family wealth for dynastic power 

[The Baffler, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]


The Ultrarich Are Getting Cozy in America’s Tax Havens 

[Portside, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]


How Big Pharma Actually Spends Its Massive Profits

Julia Rock, January 6, 2023 [The Lever]

Between 2012 and 2021, the 14 largest publicly-traded pharmaceutical companies spent $747 billion on stock buybacks and dividends — substantially more than the $660 billion they spent on research and development, according to a new study by economists William Lazonick, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts, and Öner Tulum, a researcher at Brown University.

But that hasn’t stopped drug companies and their lobbying groups from using the cost of innovation as a key argument in their campaign to keep Medicare from being able to negotiate lower drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry has spent at least $645 million on federal lobbying over the past two years.


Elitist Corporate Media Attacks Populism, Briahna Joy Gray on Dem v. GOP Dissent

[Rumble, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-10-2023]


Climate and environmental crises

Assessing ExxonMobil’s global warming projections 

[Science, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-2023]

“Our results show that in private and academic circles since the late 1970s and early 1980s, ExxonMobil predicted global warming correctly and skillfully.”


Texas ag agency says climate change threatens state’s food supply 

Texas Tribune, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


‘Holy grail’ wheat gene discovery could feed our overheated world 

Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


The golden fuel: Asia’s rise to economic power and food security has been powered not by rice but by American maize, the ultimate flex-crop

[aeon, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-10-2023]


Loss of Hinman Glacier, North Cascade Range 1958-2022 

[American Geophysical Union, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

The key lesson to learn from science’s greatest debate

[Big Think, via The Big Picture 1-11-2023]

In 1920, astronomers debated the nature of the Universe. The results were meaningless until years later, when the key evidence arrived.


Oregon Follows California, Bans Combustion New Car Sales By 2035 

[Motor1, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


China clean energy giants unveil world’s largest wind turbines 

[Bloomberg, via American Clean Power 1-11-2023]

Ming Yang Smart Energy Group Ltd. unveiled the world’s largest wind turbine, an offshore behemoth whose more than 140-meter-long blades will sweep across an area larger than nine soccer pitches.


Arlington County’s government is running literally everything on clean energy now 

[WAMU 88.5, via American Clean Power 1-9-2023]

Arlington County, Virginia reached a milestone in its efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions: 100% of county government operations are now powered by renewable electricity….

Most of that electricity – some 80% – is coming from a sprawling solar farm in rural Pittsylvania County, Va. The facility covers 1,500 acres of what used to be crop land, producing 120 megawatts of power. That’s enough to power roughly 30,000 homes.

Arlington County is purchasing about one-third of the power generated at the solar farm, while Amazon is buying the rest.


Information age dystopia


[The Real News, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


Seattle Public Schools sues TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and others, seeking compensation for youth mental health crisis 

[GeekWire, via Naked Capitalism 1-9-2023]


Democrats’ political malpractice

Democrats Don’t WANT To Stop Fascism

[Youtube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-9-2023]


The Right Played Hardball in Congress. The Left Should Take Notes 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]

Democrats to Labor: You’re On Your Own 

[Compact, via Naked Capitalism 1-8-2023]


(anti)Republicans’ political malpractice

“Unpacking the House GOP’s new rules: A handy guide to the changes”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-10-2023]

“Republicans have killed Democrats’ “pay-as-you-go” rule, often shorthanded as PAYGO. It had required legislation that would add to the deficit to be offset with tax increases or spending cuts. The GOP has replaced PAYGO with what it’s calling CUTGO, which requires mandatory spending increases to be offset only with equal or greater decreases in mandatory spending — no new taxes allowed. The GOP last put this into place in the 112th Congress. That doesn’t mean that deficit-increasing tax cuts are off the table. The CUTGO rule only requires offsets if bills would increase mandatory spending within a five-year or 10-year budget window. For example, Republicans could pass extensions of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, some of which have set to expire in 2025 (while others already have).”

[TW: If this had been USA policy from the get go in 1789, we’d still have mud trails instead of interstate highways. Conservatives obviously never stop to wonder why there hasn’t been one unending series of financial meltdowns over the past two and a half centuries, since the national debt has gone from $75 million in 1791 to $31.42 trillion now.]


‘87,000 IRS agents’ is the zombie falsehood setting the House agenda

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 1-11-2023]

We call these “zombie claims” because they keep rising from the dead no matter how often they have been fact-checked. But we haven’t before witnessed such a roundly criticized claim set the agenda for a new Congress.


“Pfizer gives $1 million to Republican Party of Kentucky to expand its headquarters”

[Kentucky Lantern, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-9-2023]

“A report filed by Republican Party of Kentucky Building Fund last week with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance listed the $1 million from Pfizer along with five other big corporation contributions in the final quarter of 2022 totalling $1.65 million. That is an extraordinarily large haul for the fund which had raised only $6,000 during the first three quarters of 2022.”


Illinois becomes latest US state to ban assault weapons

[ABC, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-2023]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Will SCOTUS Revoke the Right to Strike?

Miles MOGULESCU, January 13, 2023 [The American Prospect]

This week, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union 174. Should SCOTUS rule in favor of the employer in this case, the right to strike could be significantly suppressed. The case has come at a time when, in response to growing economic inequality, union organizing and strikes are growing at the fastest pace in recent history. Corporations fear this trend, and a politicized right-wing Supreme Court majority could help them slow it.


A Chicago Attorney Is Getting Justice For Hundreds Of Wrongfully Convicted People All At Once

[Buzzfeed, via The Big Picture 1-14-2023]

Josh Tepfer has helped exonerate 288 people, many of whom were convicted based on patterns of misconduct by corrupt police or officials.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Inside the Jan. 6 committee’s massive new evidence trove

[Politico, via The Big Picture 1-8-2023]

The panel’s evidence provides the clearest glimpse yet at the well-coordinated effort by some Trump allies to help Trump seize a second term he didn’t win.


The Jan. 6 committee’s final report says some key questions remain unanswered. Here are 8 of them

[Grid, via The Big Picture 1-8-2023]

They include how pipe bombs got to the DNC and RNC headquarters, and how much Trump and his allies knew ahead of the attack.


“The Failures of the January 6 Report”

Jeet Heer [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-13-2023]

“But the report issued by the committee also has a broader purpose: to establish a convincing account of the coup attempt that can shape public memory. Harvard historian Jill Lepore, writing in The New Yorker, offered a scathing critique of the report, convincingly portraying it as a narrowly focused indictment of Donald Trump that ignores broader political forces that created the coup. In 2016, Donald Trump ran on the boast ‘I alone can fix it.’ The January 6 report merely flips the script by saying Trump alone can break it…. A truer account of the origins of January 6 that tried to move beyond Trump could find genuine bipartisan responsibility if it focused on shared policy failures. The Clintonian embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s wreaked economic havoc on the working class that made Trump’s demagoguery more persuasive. Bipartisan support for the Global War on Terror after 9/11 helped legitimize the xenophobia that Trump would come to exploit and created a nation fearful of the world. The failure of the Obama administration to push for a strong stimulus in 2009 and 2010 ensured a lost economic decade, again driving desperation. Lepore doesn’t address any of these salient issues of policy. Her focus is on blaming partisan rhetoric and social media.”



Open Thread


Fundraiser Ends Friday


  1. different clue

    So . . . California and Oregon ban combustion new car sales by some future date, eh?

    I can think of a workaround. Businesses in neighboring states could arrange to keep buying and using ( or causing to be used) combustion vehicles after that date. And use them just enough that they could be designated legally “used” instead of legally “new”.

    And then sell them to “used” ( heh heh) combustion car buyers in California and Oregon after the “no new combustion cars” date. Exquisitely legal. And if the whole electric car concept proves itself to be utter crap to the point of having aroused mass customer hatred, then the neo-“used” car business will be a very good business.

  2. Trinity

    Yeah, the declining product quality definitely is not consumerism, it’s private equity and hedge funds. I love it when these “alternate reality” (propaganda) articles come out, blaming the scapegoats (us, the public) for a problem they created. It makes me think they are a little worried, and when they feel a need to (attempt to ) redirect our growing anger through their media mouthpieces, that’s a good thing.

    I come from a long line of engineers (although I am not one) so I read the article about the crapification (oops, I meant the computerization) of everything. I also had a nice chat with my son (who is one), and told him about how my brothers and my father could repair pretty much anything when I was growing up. My son explained to me that everything is now a computer or controlled by a computer, which I had never thought about but realized it’s true. All the more reason to switch to non-digital as much as we are allowed to, because there is no way that this switch is sustainable. Great article, with implications way beyond the lost art of repairing electronics.

  3. Trinity

    Clarification: I mean the switch to everything controlled by computers is unsustainable.

  4. CH

    Why the CIA attempted a ‘Maidan uprising’ in Brazil 

    This right here is one the reasons I chose to abandon to paranoid, reactionary Left. Last week the CIA was literally a wing of the Democratic Party which allegedly ran and controlled Twitter to get Joe Biden elected president. THIS week that very same CIA organized a coup in Brazil to install…Jair Bolsonaro?!? WTF???? (and what the heck is “The Cradle” anyway? Do you even investigate sources?). Are these the same people who claimed January 6 was a false flag?

    I mean, can you people not see what you’ve become? You’re no different than the Trumpist Right at this point. Or have Taibbi & Greenwald completely melted your brains?

  5. VietnamVet

    The hardest concept to grasp, if wed to identity politics, is that the left and right are now merging in Steve Bannon’s proverbial horseshoe. When class concerns merge then divide and conquer rule by the global, noble caste no longer works.

    There is more to life than money. Except “Benjamins” are what drives the West hither and thither with no planning beyond this quarter’s profits and manager bonuses. Spending taxes on public health, education, utilities and transportation is currently verboten. Reality hidden by lies.

    No one comments that the trench warfare in Ukraine is a replay of WWI that caused the 1917 revolution. This is what the deep state wants in Moscow just like Germany earlier shipped Vladimir Lenin to Petrograd. Except, the Unchosen have already stormed the US Capitol and Brasilia.

    When the BRICS nations establish an alternative gold based currency this is “fini” for fiat, debt based, global, US dollar. The West will suffer Weimar Republic hyperinflation unless everyone lives within their means. This is why the Ukraine proxy world war keeps escalating and the sending UK’s main battle tanks will never be enough. If a global nuclear war is avoided (a big if) and a multi-polar world is established, the Western Empire will splinter apart into ethnic neo-feudal sick, hungry, “statelets” unless democratic republics are restored. Those with military bases armed with nuclear weapons and secure borders, unlike Ukraine, will avoid invasion.

    North America and Europe will send the undervalued remaining resources and horded gold to China for the few goods that they can still afford.

  6. Trinity


    Instead, they could build sustainable (and resilient) public transportation for the majority of city/large town dwellers, many of whom won’t even need to own a car, and who could rent an EV for that vacation to Yosemite (if it still exists).

    And then build an inter-city public transportation for the rest of the state, connecting major destinations to minor destinations, and minor towns and cities to major employment centers, reducing commutes from the hinterlands while facilitating innovation, trade, and boosting employment opportunities.

    Who knows what might happen, but this is probably unlikely. For something “public” to get built (such as a brand new sports stadium) someone has to make a huge profit by getting the public to pay for it, and then letting private interests take all the profit (and the rent).

  7. Trinity

    Wyoming, on the other hand, wants to ban EVs:

    EVs aren’t any more sustainable than gas cars, in terms of necessary but scarce minerals.

  8. multitude of poors

    I agree Trinity re:

    … the switch to everything controlled by computers is unsustainable.

    And now that near everything has switched to digital, all of the finely made analog things, like wind up watches, are only affordable to the horrid millionaires and billionaires who instituted that switchover. I was repulsed to read Jaron Lanier* (a main founder of ghastly virtual reality headsets, before Mark Zuckerf_ck was even 1 or 2 years old; still at Microsoft (from 2006), despite his highly touted tech criticisms; still playing finely made, likely unaffordable, ACOUSTIC instruments) admit that the switch to digital music which he was actually a part of—in CIA subsidized, Palo Alto California—was so lacking in quality.

    I was also repulsed, but not surprised (never liked him) to read that Steve Jobs much preferred vinyl records and a turntable.

    *From his book, You Are Not A Gadget; the first and last time I’ve bought, or will bother reading, a book by him. I was so excited to buy it when it first came out, I felt totally violated. Never again, I wouldn’t even check one out at the library.

    As to Ukraine, if i see that commercial to help feed an elderly Ukrainian woman in her home one more time—when increasingly, seniors here can’t afford even a room and are dying of hypothermia, other ailments, or suicide™ white gloved murder by fentanyl, on the sidewalks—I’ll scream.

    Ian, I hope you make your fundraising goal, sorry I can’t give.

    All: Happy Martin Luther King Day

    Really gotta run… as usual, I should be working on many things which totally throw me into an endless pit of despair which no amount of deep breathing resolves.

  9. Adam Eran

    The key to not needing vehicles, internal combustion or not, is in land use planning. California (finally!) has made generated commuting (vehicle miles implied by property arrangements) part of what it requires for new development, and now requires pedestrian-friendly streets (“Complete Streets”) for any new development.

    Pedestrian-friendly, mixed use (commerce, residences, offices, even light industry in the same neighborhood) can reduces VMT (vehicle miles traveled) between 1/3 and 2/3.

    That said, California Counties have ignored this for 30 years.

  10. bruce wilder

    Last week the CIA was literally a wing of the Democratic Party which allegedly ran and controlled Twitter to get Joe Biden elected president. THIS week that very same CIA organized a coup in Brazil to install…Jair Bolsonaro?!? WTF????

    You really must keep up, CH. “Build back better” is now $40 billion plus for a losing war in Ukraine. The liberals who brought us Russiagate ushered in the beginnings of WWIII and COVID deaths rose 44% last week!

    This is not your grandfather’s Democrat Party anymore than the loyal (to whom?) opposition the party of Lincoln. Greatness has left the building along with Elvis and the building is owned by private equity, awaiting foreclosure.

  11. Willy

    Vote progressive. Or if the GOP floats your boat, vote sanity. Speaking of Sinema, we must be better at discerning who really is progressive, least able to be corrupted by corporate greed.

    Speaking of Larry Summers, supergenius, who like Jack Welch, another supergenius, who imply: “But it’ll be the deadwood who gets unemployed anyways, right?” I think of still another supergenius, Elon Musk. Ever notice how we never see them in the same room as actual geniuses, for purposes of debating stuff like progressivism and who it is that actually gets the boot?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén