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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 23, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

How to Prepare for Climate Change’s Most Immediate Impacts 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2022]


Strategic Political Economy

1/25 Live Chat: The Author Of “Davos Man”

David Sirota [The Daily Poster, January 7, 2022]

New York Times reporter Peter Goodman will talk to Daily Poster subscribers about his new book on billionaires conquering the world….

In his new book Davos Man — How the Billionaires Devoured the World, Goodman delivers a searing exposé of how the global billionaire class has engineered a bottom-up transfer of wealth that has transformed 21st-century life and dangerously destabilized democracy. The book lays bare the roots of Trump, Brexit, and anti-democratic movements sweeping the globe, exposing how wealthy executives perpetuated the agony of the pandemic by monopolizing the benefits of COVID vaccines and laying the groundwork for the rise of Omicron.



[Public Citizen, January 18, 2022, via The Daily Poster, January 19, 2022]

A new report finds two-thirds of all “maxed-out” campaign donations to members of Congress came from the richest 10 percent of zip codes across the U.S., and 25 percent of all maxed-out contributions were from the wealthiest one percent of zip codes. The study, authored by consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, also shows that zip codes with mostly white residents gave five times the amount of maxed-out contributions per capita as zip codes with mostly Black residents. “This study confirms that the very wealthiest Americans play an immensely greater role than regular voters in choosing our elected officials, and that members of Congress have a strong incentive to align their positions with wealthy donors’ interests,” said Taylor Lincoln, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division research director and author of the study. The Freedom to Vote Act — one of two federal bills under debate that creates stronger protections for voters — would offer a six-to-one match on political contributions of $200 or less and allow congressional candidates to raise campaign cash without relying on the wealthiest donors, as long as they agree to forgo donations over $1,000.


‘Time for Citizens United to Go’: US Oligarchs Poured $1.2 Billion Into 2020 Elections

Jake Johnson, January 21, 2022 [Common Dreams]

The figure represents a 39-fold increase compared to spending in 2010, the first election held after the widely decried ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.


The Filibuster Is Corporate America’s Kill Switch

David Sirota and Andrew Perez [The Daily Poster, January 19, 2022]

Corporate media pretends Manchin and Sinema are heroes defending honorable principles, while they are actually working to preserve D.C. lobbyists’ best weapon….

Indeed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has publicly opposed filibuster reform for this very reason. Last year, the organization gloated to its members that the rule would prevent Democrats from passing a minimum wage hike or legislation to make it easier for workers to form a union.

“Because of the filibuster, neither can become law as currently written,” the Chamber effused. In a letter to lawmakers, the Chamber expressed concern that without the filibuster, voters could have the power to (gasp!) elect new lawmakers who could actually change public policy….

The Chamber published a memo last year explaining why the filibuster is so important for businesses.

“For example, within two months, the House of Representatives has passed a $15 national minimum wage and a radical rewrite of U.S. labor law known as the PRO Act,” the organization wrote. “Because of the filibuster, neither can become law as currently written. In a world without the filibuster, both might be the law of the land… that is until a Republican unified government repealed them.”


Democracy Alone Will Not Save Democrats

David Sirota [The Daily Poster, January 20, 2022]

Voting rights without economic rights is not democracy, it’s theater – and most Americans know it.

In the new year, Democratic leaders have chosen to steer their ship away from their promised economic agenda and toward voting rights, ultimately crashing into the filibuster iceberg last night. Their decision to shelve economic legislation in favor of a democracy agenda reflects a deeper misunderstanding of what fortifies democratic ideals — and illustrates the Gordian Knot grinding up the gears of their political engine.

The Democratic Party is defined by a contradiction: It simultaneously promises to enrich its corporate donors and solve problems created by those same donors. That impossibility gives us drug pricing policies that would not significantly reduce medicine prices, tax proposals that never actually address inequality, corporate handouts that don’t much help the working class, and health care policy that enriches the insurance companies already fleecing sick people. It also gives us rotating villains who help the party’s rank-and-file lawmakers pull their bait and switch — they get to promise populist legislation they know is already doomed by Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema or some other designated malefactor of the day.


The Whole Ruling Class Has to Go
Laura Smith [, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2022]

Rarely is it so obvious that there are rules only for some in this country—and that there is a class of people who can basically do whatever they want without consequences…. The language, the arrogance, the accents and obvious wealth oozed out of the walls. Elected into Parliament with my very average grades from my very humble background, I honestly thought that I was going to be surrounded by the brightest minds and political operators in the country—and for a while I was worried I’d be out of my depth.

I assumed that these people were more knowledgeable than me, and that I would be shown up for being the average-achieving poor girl that I always had been… After about a week, I realised the place is full to the brim of entitled idiots with little-to-no concept of the real world that they are supposed to represent. They lack life experience. It is a game to many of them, and one they are rigging.  It is simply not fit for purpose as the instrument of democratic governance for our country….

The truth was the place is full of braying upper-class idiots, lacking life experience, human compassion or any real understanding of the lives of those that they are supposed to represent.

The parliamentary protocol and procedure is all designed to make them feel powerful, insulated and unreachable. Archaic and completely out of touch, the building is a place of beauty but one designed to express elite power rather than the power of the people. They certainly don’t want ordinary people there, and if they do sneak in, the place works its hardest to suck them in or chuck them out—with an incredible success rate, it has to be said.


The “highly skilled” are the enemies of your existence 

[White Hot Harlots, via Naked Capitalism 1-19-2022]

Our Highly Skilled leaders have not figured out how to manufacture paper masks two years into a pandemic. They just let a miles-long stretch of highway sit dormant for 20 hours in freezing cold temperatures. They can’t fathom economic growth that doesn’t involve strip-mining existing, productive industries and/or buying into blatantly false technological promises made by flagrantly moronic charlatans. They can’t win a war in spite of having the largest and most wasteful military in human history. They can’t provide adequate healthcare in spite of spending more than any other nation on earth.

These people despise intelligence and regard integrity as naivety. They revere only savvy and ruthlessness.  They are incapable of neither empathy nor self-reflection.



John Helmer [Dances With Bears, via Naked Capitalism 1-19-2022]

The current generation of Russian leaders was educated to believe that imperialist and capitalist systems like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the United States make  rational and predictable calculations of their self-interest; and that they can count the costs and casualties of warmaking; especially when nuclear weapons are launched with mutually assured destruction of the adversaries.

But Russian leaders find it difficult to accept that the current US leadership, especially Secretary of State Antony Blinken (lead image) and his Under Secretary, Victoria Nuland, are Russia-hating racists committed to a policy of genocide against the Russian state and against Russians wherever they are located in the territories of the old Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, especially in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

“The culture of diplomacy and compromise is all but lost”, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov conceded last week.   “The US line in the international arena is dictated by the awareness of its own exceptionalism. This is not even denied.” “Foaming at the mouth” is as close as Lavrov came to characterising Blinken in person. The new sanctions threat, he added, is “a nervous breakdown of sorts. In the endless assertion of their own greatness, these people have reached a psychological state that is difficult to comprehend.”


The pandemic

Biden Missed His Best Chance To Vaccinate America

Walker Bragman, January 21, 2022 [The Daily Poster]

To supercharge vaccine rollout, the president should have prioritized national health insurance….

Surveys of the unvaccinated have found that they are more likely to be uninsured and have lower incomes. One study from the Kaiser Family Foundation in June found that uninsured Americans were twice as likely to be unvaccinated….

A March 2021 report by the progressive group Public Citizen found that hundreds of thousands of U.S. COVID deaths could have been avoided under a single-payer system, noting that under such a system, hospitals would be better funded and providers better able to coordinate care for patients. Americans would stop skipping doctor visits due to cost or lack of insurance. People of color, in particular, the report notes, “would no longer face disproportionately high rates of uninsurance, reducing an important contributor to racial disparities in access to health care.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The true cost of Amazon’s low prices

[Vox, via The Big Picture 1-22-2022]

This model brings in hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue every year for Amazon, which now has an estimated 40 percent share of the e-commerce market in the United States. The company with the second-largest e-commerce market share, Walmart, has just 7 percent. At the same time, Amazon likes to say it has but a small sliver — 1 percent — of a competitive global retail market. But that’s online and offline combined, and it includes many industries in which Amazon doesn’t sell anything at all. Amazon is also on track to edge out Walmart and become the most dominant retailer, online and off, in the United States as soon as this year.

No company has the kind of ecosystem Amazon built around its retail business beyond Marketplace. Amazon collects tons of data about its shoppers — data it uses to optimize its services and to fuel its burgeoning and increasingly lucrative advertising business. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime and its fast free shipping has not only created an intensely loyal customer base but also compelled Amazon to build up its own shipping and logistics arm, Fulfillment by Amazon, to reduce its reliance on outside services and give it more control over its sellers. Many of Amazon’s rival retailers — namely, Walmart and Target — do some or all of these things to a lesser extent, but they’re just playing catch-up….

Last May, the attorney general of Washington, DC, Karl Racine, sued Amazon for antitrust violations over its treatment of Marketplace sellers. In September, he amended that lawsuit to include the wholesalers, or first-party sellers, from which Amazon buys products before selling them to its customers.

Racine told Recode that he started to wonder what the price of Amazon’s much-touted “customer obsession” was, especially after seeing accusations that Amazon copied popular products on its platform and then sold its own similar products for a lower price. (Amazon says it’s standard practice for retailers to use data about customers’ interests to help determine what to make for their own private labels.)


FedEx Asks FAA to Let It Install Anti-Missile Lasers on Planes 

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism 1-19-2022]


5G goes live in the US and sparks international chaos: British Airways and Cathay Pacific become latest carriers scrambling to change transatlantic flights over safety fears around airports as AT&T and Verizon activate their networks at 90%

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 1-19-2022] Note Japan’s JAL and ANA have also cancelled flights. And:

Delta Air Lines released a statement that the company ‘is planning for the possibility of weather-related cancellations caused by the deployment of new 5G service in the vicinity of dozens of U.S. airports starting as early as Wednesday.’

What’s up with 5G and airplanes?! YouTube (dcblogger). A must watch for understanding the technical issues. Makes clear that the FCC has abjectly what France has done and that France actually tested…with a much safer and lower power 5G implementation than in the US, and that there really is some risk.


Emirates, Air India, and others cancel flights due to AT&T and Verizon’s 5G rollout 

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 1-19-2022]


How Europe Rolled Out 5G Without Hurting Aviation 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 1-20-2022]


TSMC raises the bar with record capital spending. Meanwhile Intel’s CEO begs US Congress to fund the CHIPS Act to lift America’s flagging chip makers

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 1-19-2022]

The world’s largest integrated circuit (IC) foundry and semiconductor contract manufacturer plans to spend US$44 billion in 2022 to upgrade and expand its production capacity. That’s an increase of one-third or more from the $30 billion spent last year.

It also far exceeds the $32 billion and $28 billion that South Korea’s Samsung and America’s Intel are respectively expected to invest this year….


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-20-2022]


Predatory Finance

Poorest countries face $11bn surge in debt repayments 

Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-2022]


Nomura, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs Received a Cumulative $8 Trillion from the Fed’s Emergency Repo Loans in Fourth Quarter of 2019

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 17, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


JPMorgan’s Board Made Jamie Dimon a Billionaire as the Bank Rigged Markets, Laundered Money, and Admitted to Five Felony Counts

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 21, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Yesterday’s headline making the rounds was that JPMorgan Chase’s Board had given its Chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, a pay raise to $34.5 million for 2021 that was 10 percent more than 2020.

That headline provides an instructive lesson in what passes for breaking news today at mainstream media outlets when it comes to Wall Street’s megabanks. The majority of Americans aren’t outraged and demanding that Congress reform Wall Street because mainstream media has overtly decided to keep the public in the dark.

The real breaking news is that despite JPMorgan Chase admitting to five criminal felony counts brought by the U.S. Department of Justice over the past 7 years for rigging markets and laundering money for Bernie Madoff, the financial criminal of the century, the Board of JPMorgan Chase has not sacked Dimon, the man who sat at the helm during this unprecedented crime spree. Instead of sacking Dimon, the Board of the largest federally-insured, taxpayer-backstopped bank in the United States has made Dimon a billionaire.

Restoring balance to the economy

Hope on the Horizon: It’s an ugly moment, but if you look closely, monopolies are beginning to lose a few fights.
Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-2022]


Chicago Public Media will acquire the Chicago Sun-Times

[WBEZ, via Naked Capitalism 1-21-2022]

According to the two organizations, the Sun-Times would join WBEZ as a not-for-profit subsidiary of Chicago Public Media.


“The week in US unions, January 8-15, 2022”

[Jonah Furman, Who Gets the Bird, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-18-2022]

“UFCW Local 7 took the mantle of organizing the largest strike in the country, when some 8,400 grocery workers walked off the job Wednesday morning, beginning a three-week strike at nearly 80 Kroger-owned King Soopers grocery stores in the greater Denver area. It’s the first of many grocery contract expirations this year, with 100,000 workers covered by the nascent west coast UFCW coalition (a bit of a misnomer – it includes locals in Colorado, Southern California, and Washington). Several thousand could theoretically join the Local 7 strike as contracts expire on a rolling basis over the next few weeks. It’s the largest private sector strike in Colorado since the last time grocery workers struck King Soopers in 1996 (when they also struck Safeway). BCTGM Local 26 members who represent some King Soopers workers in Colorado voted to authorize their own strike as well.” And: “I don’t usually cover non-US unions, but there’s a potentially big development in the Mexican labor movement at a big US-based company that is really worth following. More than 6,000 GM workers in Silao, Guanajuato, Mexico, at one of GM’s most profitable plants, will be voting on February 1-2 on a new union to represent them after they voted to abandon their existing contract in August. The initiative is being driven by autoworkers organizing against the entrenched corrupt/company/protection union that’s a part of CTM, the big politically influential Mexican labor federation, and comes in the wake of new domestic labor law requiring the right to vote on union contracts and to “legitimate” all existing contracts by 2023 (under the assumption that many of these are not actually legitimate union contracts that workers approve of); after a tampered vote in April of last year, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai intervened under the labor provisions of the new USMCA and in a vote last August, the contract was rejected. Now a new independent autoworkers union, SINTIIA, is on the ballot to be an actually representative union bargaining legitimate contracts with GM. The upshot is this could be a big development for independent unionism in Mexico, with all the obvious ramifications for runaway manufacturing and other shops from the US, feeding the international race to the bottom.”

Lambert Strether: “This is a really good weekly round-up, and I recommend you subscribe to it.”


I’m a Longtime Union Organizer. But I Had Never Seen Anything Like This

Vanessa Veselka, January 14, 2022 [New York Time, via The Daily Poster, January 19, 2022]

Horrific details from the staff of a nursing home in western Oregon. 

Legally, private employers are not allowed to interfere with the right to organize. They cannot bribe, threaten, retaliate, surveil, give the appearance of surveilling or fire workers for organizing. My experience is that many employers do all these things. I was taught that to win a “boss fight,” union supporters need to organize underground until at least 70 percent of employees have signed union cards so that they can withstand a 15 percent to 20 percent drop in participation when the employer counter-campaign hits.


Green New Deal – An opportunity too big to miss

How Norway Popularized an Ultra-Sustainable Heating Method 

[Reasons To Be Cheerful)

No other country has more heat pumps per capita, a cheap, highly efficient tool to keep homes warm — and carbon footprints small….

While heat pumps are yet to become widespread globally, Hagemoen says they offer several benefits compared with traditional heating. Low maintenance and cheap to run, they work as both a heating and cooling system, and have a very efficient conversion rate of energy to heat. They’re also light on emissions if the electricity used is renewable. “If you want to be independent of gas, you need other solutions,” says Hagemoen. “And when it comes to electricity, heat pumps are hard to beat.”

Heat pumps, which can operate at external temperatures of -25C (-13F) and provide hot water at 65C (149F), come in several forms. The most common is the air-to-air pump, which looks similar to an air conditioning unit. It sucks in air and distributes it over a system of tubes filled with a refrigerant liquid, which warms and turns into a gas. The pump compresses the gas back into a liquid to release the stored heat, which is spread through radiators or underfloor heating, working like a refrigerator in reverse.


Trains intended for unbuilt Milwaukee-Madison high-speed rail line going to Nigeria

[Wisconsin Public Radio, via Naked Capitalism 1-20-2022]


Collapse of independent news media

Toward a New Political Journalism

[The King’s Necktie, January 12, 2022, via The American Prospect 1-21-2022]

Eric Alterman linked to this, with this introduction: “a fine, big-picture look at the failures of the mainstream media to hold our political system remotely accountable, here is (for me, a self-interested) but thoughtful and thorough analysis of what has and continues to go wrong.”

In June 2016, even before Trump nailed down the GOP nomination, Eric Alterman wrote a piece for The Nation titled “How False Equivalence Is Distorting the 2016 Election Coverage.” In it, he made the sage observation that “The media’s need to cover ‘both sides’ of every story makes no sense when one side has little regard for the truth.” In some ways, that phenomenon has only accelerated since then, but without any necessary adjustment by the already-benighted media.

Arguing that “false equivalence often appears to be the rule rather than the exception,” Alterman offered multiple examples, such as the specious and facile comparisons between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders by highbrow pundits (They’re both outsiders!)…..the WaPo’s coverage of Mitch McConnell’s unconscionable blockade of Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and the Nadia Comaneci-level gymnastics in which it engaged to try to demonstrate some sort of Democratic equivalent…..and The New York Times’s implication that Trump’s use of words like “bimbo,” “dog,” and “fat pig” to refer to women was the moral equivalent of Hillary Clinton alienating the coal industry by her support for clean energy jobs.


Democrats’ political suicide

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-18-2022]


“Eric Adams, the Mayor of Big Real Estate”

[Ross Barkan, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-18-2022]

“Close the door” was the message Eric Adams had for the City of New York after its deadliest fire in 30 years. Fire safety, Adams argued, comes with personal responsibility. Since malfunctioning doors allowed the fire to spread, along with space heaters that sparked the blaze, Adams believes a public education campaign can ensure 17 people don’t die of smoke inhalation in an apartment building ever again. It was no accident Adams refused, even when pressed by reporters, to hold the building owners of Twin Parks North West in the Bronx accountable. One of them, Rick Gropper, was a member of his transition team, offering advice on housing issues. Adams said on Thursday he had not spoken to Gropper since the fire tore through the Bronx building.


Manchin’s Coal Corruption Is So Much Worse Than You Knew 

[Rolling Stone, via DailyPoster 1-16-2022]

“The truth is, Manchin is best understood as a grifter from the ancestral home of King Coal. He is a man with coal dust in his veins who has used his political skills to enrich himself, not the people of his state. He drives an Italian-made Maserati, lives on a houseboat on the Potomac River when he is in D.C., pals around with corporate CEOs, and has a net worth of as much as $12 million. More to the point, his wealth has been accumulated through controversial coal-related businesses in his home state, including using his political muscle to keep open the dirtiest coal plant in West Virginia, which paid him nearly $5 million over the past decade in fees for coal handling, as well as costing West Virginia electricity consumers tens of millions of dollars in higher electricity rates…  Virginia Canter, who was ethics counsel to Presidents Obama and Clinton, unabashedly calls Manchin’s business operations ‘a grift.’ To Canter, Manchin’s corruption is even more offensive than Donald Trump’s.”


The dark side

Voter fraud and election fraud

Heather Cox Richardson, January 17, 2022 [Letters from an American]

TW: This is an excellent summary of what is known so far about Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election worth reading in full and saving. 

…as the contours of what happened on January 6, 2021, are becoming clearer, they appear to show a number of different schemes to overturn the election through fraud. At least one of those schemes appears to have been a coordinated attempt by members of the Trump administration and sympathizers around the country to overturn our government by committing election fraud.

As early as November 6, 2020, three days after the presidential election but before it had been decided, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who handled communication with the president, texted with a member of Congress about appointing alternate electors in certain states. Meadows told the lawmaker: “I love it.”

….at the Department of Justice, the freshly appointed acting head of the civil division, Jeffrey Clark, circulated a draft letter written to officials in Georgia, dated December 28, 2020, claiming falsely that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the State of Georgia.” ….Clark circulated the draft letter to Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, asking them to agree to it.…

Several days later, Donoghue responded: “There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this.” He rejected Clark’s allegations: “[T]he investigations that I am aware of relate to suspicions of misconduct that are of such a small scale that they simply would not impact the outcome of the Presidential Election.” Later, Rosen wrote “I confirmed again today that I am not prepared to sign such a letter.”

In early January, Clark talked to Trump, who decided to fire Rosen and put Clark into Rosen’s place as acting attorney general. The remaining leaders in the Justice Department promised to resign all together if he did any such thing, and Trump backed down.


Read the never-issued Trump order that would have seized voting machines

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 1-22-2022]


Heather Cox Richardson, January 21, 2022 [Letters from an American]

The order told the secretary of defense to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records” from the election. It gave the defense secretary power to call up the National Guard to support him and told the assistant secretary of defense for homeland security to provide support from the Department of Homeland Security.


Protecting voting rights isn’t enough to save democracy 

[Vox, via The Big Picture 1-17-2022]

Election law expert Richard L. Hasen on the problem of election subversion — and what can be done to stop it.


Before ‘Fixing’ Election Results, There Was ‘Fixing’ Census Results

Eric Alterman [The American Prospect 1-21-2022]

Tom Edsall quotes the Brookings political scientist Thomas Mann, explaining, “Trump has transformed the Republican Party so that membership now precludes having ‘a moral sense: honesty, empathy, respect for one’s colleagues, wisdom, institutional loyalty, a willingness to put country ahead of party on existential matters, an openness to changing conditions.’” Alas, given the lack of outrage that Trump and the Republicans’ march to fascism has inspired, one can easily say that that same lack of outrage characterizes a significant percentage of journalists as well.


Seven ways Republicans are already undermining the 2024 election 

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 1-16-2022]

The next attempted coup will not be a mob attack, but a carefully plotted and even technically legal one. Instead of costumed rioters, the insurrectionists are men in suits and ties.


“How the states have become “Laboratories of Autocracy” — and why it’s worse than you think” (interview)

David Pepper [Salon, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-19-2022]

“I’ve been fighting the voting rights battle in Ohio for a number of years. The worst is still the purging of voters, but to have a secretary of state intentionally cause long traffic jams for the form of voting that he knew minorities and Biden voters were using, and lying over and over again about what the law actually, was such a troubling thing. And this was not your right-wing, Trump-type secretary of state. He had held himself out as more moderate. So I tell the story because you look at the traffic jams that his one-drop-box-per-county policy created, and anyone with a commonsense response would say, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ But in a world of ‘laboratories of autocracy,’ as I tell in the story, the state legislature of Ohio, seeing those jams, began pushing for bills to have traffic jams forever by making that not just a policy decision, but state law. And what do we see at the same time? States around the country looked at those traffic jams and saw the effect on — let’s be clear — Black voters waiting in long lines. So now we have the same effort in other states to minimize drop boxes and to do what happened here: Put the drop boxes where people are already voting early in person, which creates the maximum congestion possible. So it’s a great example of how they behave as laboratories against democracy.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-21-2022]


“New Filings Reveal Another Billionaire Behind the Big Lie”

[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-21-2022]

“It’s usually the images of a violent mob attacking the U.S. Capitol that are associated with the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election. But as more financial records become public, another image is emerging—of billionaires in MAGA gear writing large checks. And one billionaire in particular. Among the ranks of ‘dark money’ groups and anonymous megadonors who bankrolled the effort is a familiar name in GOP fundraising circles: Dick Uihlein, founder of the multinational Uline shipping company. According to tax disclosures first published online by the Center for Media and Democracy, Uihlein’s nonprofit—the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation—poured millions of dollars in 2020 into a sprawling number of groups connected to efforts to challenge Joe Biden’s victory and reimagine election law, as well as other right-wing extremist organizations, including ones designated as hate groups. And the money is pure Uihlein—the foundation’s $16.8 million in 2020 donations came exclusively from Dick Uihlein himself. And over the course of that pivotal year, the organization gave it all away.”


Disrupting mainstream politics

The Real Threat to Democracy is Corrupting Wealth Inequality
Charles Hugh Smith, 
January 15, 2022 [Bill Totten’s Weblog]


“A Radical Revolution Of Values” — Remembering Dr. King’s speech that the power elite want us to forget.

David Sirota, January 17, 2022 [The Daily Poster]

I encourage you to go here and listen to the Riverside Church speech — it is a reminder of both uncomfortable truths and the courage we need in this moment of peril.


Should the Left PRIMARY Joe Biden? w/ Chris Hedges & Kshama Sawant

[Bad Faith, with Briahana Joy Gray, January 17, 2022, via YouTube]

34.30 Hedges describes the obstacles the Democratic Party threw in the way of Ralph Nader as an outsider, and Dennis Kucinich as an insider, and notes that a determination to crush third parties has been “a fully bipartisan effort… since Ross Perot.”

41:28 Hedges: “The problem with running as a Democrat is that the working class is fully aware that the greatest betrayal they have endured has come from the Democratic Party, and in particular the Clinton administration.” Hedges then describes his experiences, before the 2016 election, in Anderson, Indiana, where the General Motors factories that comprised the economic base, were, after NAFTA, literally dismantled and shipped to Mexico. “I talked to the old UAW leadership, and they were never going to vote for Clinton. They are not unaware of who did this to them.” So, after they voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, they voted for Trump in the general election. 


Marianne Williamson on CHALLENGING Biden from the Left, Andrew Yang, Reparations & Healing America

[Bad Faith, with Briahana Joy Gray, January 17, 2022, via YouTube]

1:35 “What should be seen as extremists are the people who are withholding a living wage from tens of millions of people. What should be considered extremism is a willingness to tolerate tens of millions of hungry children.”

22:04 Williamson describes how audiences of white people come to see reparations as necessary when she gives a simple factual history of slavery, emancipation, reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the economic hardships and inequities imposed by racism. 

31:14 “If we actually allowed democracy to do what democracy could do, we would be fine. The problem is not with the consciousness of the American people… look at issue after issue… The majority want Medicare for all. The majority want fifteen dollars an hour. The majority want free college… The problem is not with the American people. The problem is with the duopoly… corporate backed, that suppresses democracy.”


Open Thread


The Psychological Difficulty of Radicalization


  1. different clue

    I notice that hardly anyone is leaving “surviving hard times” comments on the “surviving hard times” thread. So it is hardly growing at all. I wonder if this might be part of the reason that Ian Welsh has not hauled it up to the top of the screen once a week lately. If that is so, then people are going to have to start adding relevant information to it in order to demonstrate that it is still worth hauling up to the top of the screen once a week.

    I have made a gesture in that regard by going to the “surviving hard times” thread and writing a comment there highlighting the ” How to prepare for Climate Change” article, including its link, from this Weekly Wrap Up. Maybe if enough other people resume bringing information to that thread, it might earn its way back to weekly re-elevation again.

  2. different clue

    A phrase which John Helmer might well use for the current DC FedRegime policy elite exemplified by Blinken and Nuland, but numbering hundreds of more people just like them, might be ” antirussianitic racist antirussianites” which would show the exact psychological identicalness between American Exceptionalists of today and the Germanazi Hitlerians of yesterday.

    I wonder how responsible the antirussianitic racist antirussianite Zbigniew Brzezinski might be for making that particular racism so very front and center to the DC FedRegime.

    The only way I can think of to get the DC FedRegime racist antirussianites like Blinken and Nuland to redirect their hatred away from Russia and back towards the American people themselves would be if every major city in the Clinton Archipelago, most especially New York, New York and Washington DC were to see million-plus demonstrations in the streets looking the way I will now describe: picture a million or more silent marchers all wearing Eastern Orthodox style Black Cassocks and many of them carrying 40 foot high ikons bearing the portraits of Putin andr Lavrov, and also bearing the portraits of Blinken and Nuland with the difference that the Blinken and Nuland portraits would have the circle-slash symbol over their faces. Picture that many people dressed that way and carrying those ikons all marching as collectively silently as a church on Monday morning and lasting for several hours.

    Would that force the DC Fed Regimesters to “look homeward, Devil?”

    If John Helmer somehow hears about this phrase and decides he likes it, he has my total permission to use this hereby copylefted phrase. And so does anyone else who likes it. If no one does, I suppose it will die in a ditch somewhere.

  3. hickory

    Ian, in the past you’ve mentioned believing that climate change will affect China in a really dramatic way before it affects the US. Could you elaborate on what you’ve seen that indicates this, and the sources?


  4. Ian Welsh

    I don’t have sources on tap, I’m afraid, I’d just be using a search engine.

    The issue is food and water. China is vulnerable on both fronts. A lot of their water comes from the Himalayas. Much of their food is grown in the south, and as it heats up even further it’s going to lose agricultural capacity faster than it grows in the north. They have also, like everyone else, vastly over-used their aquifers.

    China also has issues with needing a lot of imported raw resources, and the supply network being easily interdicted (plus, as we’ve seen, when it really matters, you often can’t buy what you need.) They’re taking steps on this, and the Russian alliance is a HUGE help to them, but it’s still a big issue. We see it in their current energy/coal issues.

    I don’t see China as dramatically before the US (I see India as), but I do think they have MORE stuff that matters which is vulnerable earlier.

    On the other hand, the US is vastly more dysfunctional in other ways, so it may be that it’ll collapse first anyway. We’re long past the point where I think “betting on the USA” is wise for anything beyond short term plays.

  5. bruce wilder

    The complete absence of any kind of organized left populism, save perhaps for a very few nascent or vestigial labor unions, is the political reality undergirding extremes of economic inequality as well a political system that refuses to govern in anything like a public or national interest.

    Atrios at Eschaton:

    . . . it is impossible to stare down even the trivial forces that impose large burdens on the rest of us.

    I mean, “we” can’t even fix spam calls.

    The vast resources and organized bases aiding the oppressions and exploitations of the rich and powerful can be catalogued week-after-week with no result, if the litany of associated grievance can never call forth a remedy, can never induce political organization among the 90% to oppose the .01% or the 10%

    Where is the political activity of the 90%? If there are faint stirrings somewhere or anywhere, how are those stirrings so effectively subverted?

    Dare we look at such sad and pathetic glow as may be thrown off by the faint, dying embers of democracy?

  6. Ché Pasa

    “Democracy”. Huh.

    Every time I hear or read “We must save Our Democracy” (from the fascists), I have to stifle a laugh. No, it’s one branch of the fascists contending with another branch in a struggle that’s already lost.

    “Our Democracy” has been a very bad joke for a very long time.

    Most Americans don’t participate in politics in any meaningful way because it’s useless. Politics does not protect and defend the interests of the majority of people — politics doesn’t even acknowledge they have interests most of the time. So what’s the point?

    I will grant that Trump and the GOP pretend to defend the interests of the underclass against the depredations of the rich and swaggering powerful, but it’s nothing but pretense. The Dems, to their everlasting discredit, don’t even bother with the pretense. They see the Lower Orders as exploitable resources, and that’s pretty much it. Sometimes those resources have to be taken care of, but it’s not in the interests of the underclass. It’s in the interests — always — of the Overclass.

    So what’s the point of politics in this context? Why should we care who rules us when the rulers are always and forever exploiters, despoilers, and bastards?

    We see and hear pseudo-revolutionary energy among the petit bourgeois insurrectionists, but of course their goal is simply to make things better for themselves — a tiny fraction of the population — and worse, much worse, for everyone else. Not that different than the ambitions and goals of the hated PMC, is it? And there is no greater hatred for the PMC than the self-loathing among the class members themselves.

    There is no clear path forward at this point. Every option and no option has its downside.

    Maybe the longed for Giant Asteroid is the answer?

  7. Astrid

    The Chinese certainly doesn’t have anything like the per capita natural resource allocation of an American or Russian, but they do have a lot of experience and knowledge o coping with hard times.

    One part of China’s mitigation is building out Eurasia with Russia and Iran.
    That was a gift given by the non-agreement capable Americans. Another part is their push to industrialize and build infrastructure to inland regions. These activities are costly and do not give good immediate financial returns but the Chinese government prioritize them because they are actively trying to spread out their risks.

    The Chinese have always been (rightfully) paranoid about invasions and crop failures. Dynasties typically fall due to one or the other and usually a combination of the two. The CPC moved much of their heavy industry into remote mountainous areas during the 1950s and 1960s, at great financial and human costs, to put them out of the range of foreign invaders (I know of a few engineers who had the misfortune of moving to the boonies with their factory and spent their entire working life away from their family including spouse and kids). The Nationalists hung on against the Japanese for 12 years because they could retreat to the mountainous Southwest.

    For food security, a key state function for the past 2,000 years is to store grains for crop failure years. Not a forever solution but does buys them some time for responding to immediate crises. The food would be distributed through state rationing, further strengthening state control during a time of stress. For something that permanently shifts their agricultural production (and for the record, I see desertification in the north as a bigger immediate climate change concern than heat/flooding in the south), they’ll have to hope they can secure supplies from abroad, especially South America, Canada, and Russia.

    The traditional Chinese diet is also practically vegetarian. Dairy was never part of the traditional Han diet. Meat availability tended to be seasonal (winter). Honestly given the skyrocketing incidents of pulmonary disease and diabetes, it would be a lot healthier if they ate less meat and dairy.

  8. Astrid

    The Ukrainian stare down seems to be functioning as a stupidest timeline Seldon crisis. The Americans are intentionally removing sane options from the table until what?

  9. Trinity

    My immediate reaction to this week’s wrap up was “omg, this is absolute chaos”.

    When I started my present job, I had a great deal to learn about how things work. Not subject matter knowledge, but knowledge about how things actually work at my work, the unspoken (and mostly undocumented) processes and procedures you need to follow to get things done. During that same period, I described myself as one of those clowns spinning plates on thin sticks, jumping from one stick (project) to the next, one after the other, to keep all the plates (project outcomes) from falling and breaking. The jumps between plates were when I needed to figure out the undocumented stuff that everyone else already knew, to keep the next plate spinning.

    That’s what this post, in an overall sense, reminds me of, except it’s the oligarchs who are the clowns spinning plates on sticks, jumping from plate to plate, trying to keep their wretched philosophy afloat. We, their captured slaves, just jump right along behind them, but we can’t touch the plates. The problem isn’t that they are keeping the plates spinning, it’s that no matter what they do, the plates will eventually succumb to entropy, and fall down. Many of them will also break when they do.

    That’s what this post, in a general sense, reminds me of: oligarchic clowns spinning plates on thin sticks, jumping from one plate to the next to keep them spinning, and thinking they are the star of the show.

  10. bruce wilder

    clowns spinning plates, while not understanding how the world can work or that plates can and do break

    for me it is the obliviousness that constantly amazes me — do they really not live on the same plane of reality?

    climate change driven by fossil fuel use — sure, accelerate oil and gas permits.

    lose a war? oh well, start another

    never, ever actually solve a problem

  11. Astrid

    These people have never deal with the outcome of their failures. Even when they are punished by proles like Hillary Clinton in 2016, they can get their followers to make up fairytales about being wronged by nefarious others. There is zero discipline or responsibility for being wrong or evil. You are only punished for deviating from orthodoxy,

    And the orthodoxy for their entire professional lives is destroy everything for high-minded sounding reasons. They fool themselves every bit as much as the dying unwashed, denying the existence of Covid as they desperately gasp for air. The belief in their righteousness is more important than their life. Without it they’re nothing.

  12. Astrid

    Also, parasites do not think about the welfare of their host. It’s not in their nature.

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