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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 28, 2024

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 28, 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Global power shift

Maersk ships in US Navy convoy forced to retreat under Houthi missile attack 

[Trade Winds, via Naked Capitalism 01-26-2024]

As Armchair Warlord noted on X(Twitter): “Lost amid all the other news breaking in the last 24 hours is one particularly disturbing story: the United States Navy lost a battle at sea yesterday.”

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 01-25-2024]


The Reason China Can’t Stop Its Decline

Among specialists who follow China most closely, the two main causes cited for this new conventional wisdom have been known for years. The first is that China’s growth model has been overreliant on policies such as financial repression and extraordinary levels of investment. Here, repression has nothing to do with the usual political usage of the word. It means, rather, that the state controls domestic interest, exchange rates, and capital outflows in such a way that citizens receive little accrual or benefit from their high rates of savings. Instead, these are captured by the state and channeled into industries that are favored or prioritized by bureaucrats, including many that are state-owned.

Some of the problems that might arise from financial repression can seem apparent even to lay people. Bureaucrats tend to know little about business and are unlikely to be in the best position to make the smartest and nimblest economic bets about the industrial future. Some features of this setup may be less than obvious, though. When the state captures and invests the nation’s savings according to its own whims, capital becomes scarcer and more expensive for private investors. This also suppresses the domestic consumption that most mature economies depend on for growth. Finally, as the state channels more and more investment into industries of its choosing, average return on investment falls. China is now at the point where it must invest huge amounts of capital to produce each new dollar of economic growth, and everything points to this continuing to worsen….

[TW: I included this because of its use of the term “financial repression” in an example of clumsy and terribly inaccurate Western analysis of China.  In fact, financial predators are the very reason the USA industrial base was “hollowed out” inevitably resulting in the inability to produce enough ammunition. or to build safe and cost-effective aircraft.]

Why the World Is Betting Against American Democracy

[Politico, via The Big Picture 01-21-2024]

Ambassadors to Washington warn that the GOP-Democratic divide is endangering America’s national security.


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

It May be Genocide, But it Won’t Be Stopped

Chris Hedges, January 26, 2024 [Scheerpost]

…Translated into the vernacular, the court is saying Israel must feed and provide medical care for the victims, cease public statements advocating genocide, preserve evidence of genocide and stop killing Palestinian civilians. Come back and report in a month.

It is hard to see how these provisional measures can be achieved if the carnage in Gaza continues.

“Without a ceasefire, the order doesn’t actually work,” Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s minister of international relations, stated bluntly after the ruling.

Time is not on the side of the Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians will die within a month. Palestinians in Gaza make up 80 percent of all the people facing famine or catastrophic hunger worldwide, according to the United Nations. The entire population of Gaza by early February is projected to lack sufficient food, with half a million people suffering from starvation, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, drawing on data from U.N. agencies and NGOs. The famine is engineered by Israel.

At best, the court — while it will not rule for a few years on whether Israel is committing genocide — has given legal license to use the word “genocide” to describe what Israel is doing in Gaza. This is very significant, but it is not enough, given the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza….

Why There Will Never Be a Two-State Solution

Yves Smith, January 23, 2024 [Naked Capitalism]

…Israel has created facts on the ground that make it impossible, namely settler balkanization of the West Bank. And now a devastated Gaza, even assuming Palestinians survive in meaningful numbers, will require state support to rebuild. That state will be Israel, perhaps with some financial support from the US and EU. It is not hard to foresee that any of what is left of Gaza that is allotted to the Palestinians will be kept at the barely habitable level, so as to encourage them to expatriate….

War on Gaza: Israel’s antiquities director displays stolen artefacts in parliament 

[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 01-24-2024]

Genocide Is Very Serious– And Democratic Voters Understand That, Even If Conservatives Don’t Care

Howie Klein, January 27, 2024  []

…Democrats and left-leaning independents have had it with Israeli’s bad behavior and don’t want U.S. complicity in genocide, ethnic cleansing or apartheid. Between Likud and AIPAC, progressives are much less sympathetic to Israel than in the past and much more likely to see the Palestinians as human beings.

And it isn’t only the party base that’s evolving. A few days ago, Reuters reported that “Forty-nine of the 51 members of the Senate Democratic caucus backed an amendment supporting a negotiated solution to the conflict that results in Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side, ensuring Israel’s survival as a secure, democratic, Jewish state and fulfilling the Palestinians’ ‘legitimate aspirations’ for a state of their own.” This is not the Likud/AIPAC position.

…AIPAC is targeting some of these members for defeat this year, laundering as much as $100 million, they claim, from wealthy Republicans who want to defeat progressives in blue districts where Republicans have no chance. Let’s not let that happen, the way it happened to Andy Levin, Marie Newman, Donna Edwards, Nina Turner and a dozen other progressives last cycle. Please consider contributing to people on AIPAC’s target list here. AIPAC is the enemy of the United States.


It can happen here — and is

Author and scholar John Ganz on how Europe’s interwar period informs the present

Rick Perlstein, January 24, 2024 [The American Prospect]

When Timothy Snyder’s slim volume On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century was rocketing up the best-seller charts in 2017, I noticed an interesting fact: The most illuminating analysts of America’s frightening recent political turn were turning out to be scholars specializing in Europe. When SnyderRuth Ben-Ghiat, or Richard Steigmann-Gall noticed phenomena in America’s past or present that resembled something in the right-wing movements they studied in Germany, Italy, or elsewhere, they just said so—blithely indifferent to what every graduate student in American history learns, and what New York Times reporters shout from the rooftops, that America is supposed to be “exceptional.”

…“We have this image in our heads—and this is really hard to get out of people’s heads—of the fascist rise to power that comes from fascist propaganda,” Ganz explains. The stereotype is thugs marching into the seat of government with truncheons, then marching out having seized state power. “It is much more political than that. It has much more to do with negotiations between established political factions and elites….

Ganz explained how Hitler and Mussolini used their more violent elements to destabilize and intimidate, while they took power through the more normal political channels of forming coalitions in parliament and ascending into leadership roles.

“The constitutional system in Italy always remained intact,” even when Mussolini became dictator, Ganz notes. “There was still the king, there was still a constitutional monarchy; he was prime minister. The fascist state kind of superimposed itself on that.” There was, for a time, even a robust parliamentary opposition: “Antonio Gramsci, head of the Italian Communist Party, famously was elected to parliament after Mussolini rose to power.”

At least as important to the story are the “responsible conservatives” who made their peace with the strongman, believing he could be controlled….

The conceit is similar to what Bill Clinton felt about allowing China into the World Trade Organization: If you bring a radical outlier within the political system, they will act rationally and moderate their worst impulses. Mainstream conservatives in Italy and Germany repeatedly claimed Mussolini and Hitler would turn out to be responsible actors, once they occupied positions of responsibility. American elites followed suit with the absurd refrain, on occasions when Trump managed to act normal for 15 seconds….

One surprise I took away from my conversation with Ganz is that, in a certain respect, Trump is plus fasciste que les fascistes: that is, more incautiously thugocratic than his European antecedents, at least in the beginning of their rises.

“The heads of these movements had to be very careful about how they would use the fascist paramilitaries, and make this implicit promise to the elite that they could be contained,” Ganz says. “It was always something they needed in their back pocket, right? But sometimes it felt like those people were giving [Hitler and Mussolini] more problems than they were worth.”

But Trump always thought differently. After Charlottesville, he called the thugs “fine people.” Asked about the Proud Boys in a 2020 presidential debate, he said: “Stand back and stand by.” I’d always worried that utterances like these were harbingers of things to come. I suspected that Trump never criticized supporters willing to commit violence on his behalf because that willingness might eventually become useful to him. I saw him as playing politics with something far more than votes: that thugs were valuable currency to keep in his back pocket, to send forth whenever that was what it took to keep power.

Then, on January 6th, he did.



Is the Heart and Soul of Trump’s MAGA Base Really the White Working Class? 

Les Leopold, January 16, 2024 [Wall Street’s War on Workers Newsletter; Common Dreams]

The corporate media and all too many politicians are blaming working people for the rise of Trump and MAGA. Yet, if we open our (lying) eyes a bit more, we can’t miss the massive horde of lawyers and businesspeople who serve as Trump’s enthusiastic enablers….

Political scientists Noam Lupu (Vanderbilt) and Nicholas Carnes (Duke) definitively disproved the notion that most of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 were white working class. They showed that only 30 percent of the Trump voters could be considered a part of that group….

The 2018 Primaries Project, at the Brookings Institute, reported that those voting in congressional Republican primaries in 2018 were better educated and richer than the public at large. Again, the white working class formed no more than one-third of the Republican primary base.

What about the January 6th insurrection? Wasn’t that a white working-class riot? Not according to the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats, which analyzed the demographics of the 716 individuals who had been charged with various January 6th crimes, as of January 1, 2022. Fifty percent were either business owners or white-collar workers, and only 25 percent were blue-collar workers (defined as no college degree).

The research for my book, Wall Street’s War on Workers, provides new data that confirms the white working class does not in any way pour into Hillary Clinton’s “basket full of deplorables.” In fact, most white working-class voters have become decidedly more liberal on divisive social issues over the last several decades, including LGBTQ+ rights, immigration, and racial discrimination….

Why Blame the White Working Class?

The attacks on working-class populism have been around for more than 140 years. Corporate owners and their newspapers viciously denounced the populist movement of the late 19th century, which aggressively challenged financial and corporate power. To counter that increasingly successful movement, newspapers, as well as pro-corporate politicians, depicted the populists as ignorant bomb-throwing radicals and worse….

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 01-21-2024]


Greedflation’ caused more than half of last year’s inflation surge, study finds, as corporate profits remain at all-time highs 

[Fortune, via Naked Capitalism 01-21-2024]


Daniel Levitas, November 29, 2001 [Intelligence Report i(SPLC)

…Long before the so-called “common-law courts” of the 1990s handed down their edicts threatening government officials, Porth drafted homespun “arrest warrants” to be used against bureaucrats who allegedly violated the Constitution. But it was his 1967 conviction and subsequent prison sentence that made Porth’s battle with the IRS a cause célèbre on the radical right.

Among those who campaigned for Porth’s freedom was William Potter Gale, who would become the founder of the Posse Comitatus in 1971. Gale used the newsletter of his California-based Ministry of Christ Church — a church espousing the racist and anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity — to promote Porth and the early tax rebellion movement….

Attacks on the income tax were often couched in vague antigovernment, pro-Constitution rhetoric, but anti-Semitism always played a large role in the conspiracy theories and arguments that reinforced the anti-tax message.

And sometimes that message was explicitly racist: “The Negroes in the United States are increasing at a rate at least twice as great as the rest of the population,” warned the American Mercury in 1967, asserting that the tax burden posed by blacks “unquestionably doomed … the American way of life.”

….Fifteen years after Kahl murdered the three lawmen, a bipartisan and overwhelming majority in Congress lent credibility to the claims of right-wing activists regarding IRS abuses. Repeating some of the same themes heard in Sen. Arlen Specter’s 1995 probe into the events in Ruby Ridge and Waco, Republican-sponsored hearings in the House and Senate in 1997 and 1998 focused attention on supposed commando-style raids by armed tax inspectors wearing flak jackets.

No testimony was heard about the sharp decline in audit rates for wealthy Americans and large corporations as a result of deep cuts made to IRS spending by the same Congress in 1995, however.

Instead, lawmakers chose to emphasize the image of a menacing federal agency out of control — an image long cultivated by the patriarchs of tax protest and other ideologues of the radical right.

“The I.R.S. is too big and too mean,” said then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas in November 1997. Swept up in heady antigovernment rhetoric, the House voted 426 to 4 to overhaul IRS collection practices and the Senate followed, 97 to 0….

Naming Names: Professor Exposes the Banking Cartel that Has Hijacked U.S. Democracy

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 23, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

Gerald Epstein is Professor of Economics and a Founding Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A book he has spent the past decade researching and writing comes out today from the University of California Press: Busting the Bankers’ Club: Finance for the Rest of Us….

Other key members of the Bankers’ Club according to Epstein are the politicians (particularly on key committees in Congress) who have sold out to the Bankers’ Club in exchange for funding of their political campaigns; bank regulators who have one foot on government soil and the other foot heading toward the revolving door and a much bigger paycheck; Wall Street’s outside lawyers from Big Law who sneak language favoring the Bankers’ Club into legislation; a swarm of dozens of lobbying groups working on behalf of Wall Street banks in the corridors and offices of Congress; and even members of his own profession – economists – who promote unsound ideas purporting to show that Wall Street mega banks serve the interests of the public and that more regulation is inefficient and negatively impacts economic growth.

In each of the categories above, Epstein names names. A member of Big Law, the Senior Chair of Sullivan & Cromwell, H. Rodgin (Rodge) Cohen, makes the following appearance in Busting the Bankers’ Club:

“…The dean of Wall Street lawyers, H. Rodgin Cohen, chair of the Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell, had his hand in virtually all the key legal and enforcement actions promoting financial deregulation during this period. The work of these lawyers dovetailed with the lawyers and economists who developed the field of ‘law and economics,’ which, in a powerful alliance with the economists I mentioned earlier, provided a theoretical legal-economic basis for deregulation and a less interventionist state….”

Uncommon wealth 

[Times Literary Supplement, via Naked Capitalism 01-26-2024]

What Jesus did not say was “The rich ye will have always with you”. It was not simply that the rich had no more chance of getting to heaven than a camel had of getting through the eye of a needle; their presence on earth was an irksome embarrassment too. At most times in history plutocrats throwing their weight about have been perceived as a threat to the social order and an affront to our sense of fairness. Aristotle, in his Politics, records with approval how democratic societies ostracized those oligarchs who “seemed to predominate too much through their wealth”, for “the encroachments of the rich are more destructive to the state than those of the people”. Plato, in the Laws, says that the lawgiver shall allow a man to possess up to four times as much as the allotment to the poor (what we might call “the poverty line”), but that any surplus he acquires above that is to be forcibly handed over to the state – in effect the first super-tax.

The Rise of the American Oligarchy 

Tim Murphy, January-February issue [Mother Jones]

When the US targeted Russia’s oligarchs after the invasion of Ukraine, the trail of assets kept leading to our own backyard. Not only had our nation become a haven for shady foreign money, but we were also incubating a familiar class of yacht-owning, industry-dominating, resource-extracting billionaires. In the January + February 2024 issue of our magazine, we investigate the rise of American Oligarchy—and what it means for the rest of us. You can read all the pieces here.

Chasm of inequality: the future as seen from Davos 

[Counterfire, via Naked Capitalism 01-22-2024]

MAGA Cultists Are Delighted To Turn Out For Their Cult Leader– Others… Not So Much

Howie Klein, January 25, 2024  []

Yesterday, I noticed that the Financial Times had dug up the same photo that we had of robber baron/bankster, putative Democrat Jamie Dimon with Trump that I had. Ed Luce’s story, though, wasn’t about robber barons per se. It’s about Wall Street selling out America, once again, this time in a deal with Señor T. “The Financial Times,” wrote Luce, “had only nice things to say about Benito Mussolini in a June 1933 supplement entitled ‘The Renaissance of Italy: Fascism’s gift of order and progress’. Trains were running on time, investment was humming and friction between capital and labor was a thing of the past. Wrote the FT’s special correspondent: ‘The country has been remodeled, rather than remade, under the vigorous architecture of its illustrious prime minister, Signor Mussolini.’”

No one on Wall Street cared about the “pacification of Libya,” during which almost half of the non-Italian population was killed….
“The 1930s,” continued Luce, “ought to have buried the idea that business is a bulwark against autocracy. Today’s America offers a reminder. After Donald Trump’s attempted putsch on January 6 2021, U.S. business leaders lined up to condemn the storming of Capitol Hill. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan, issued a statement calling for a peaceful transition of power. ‘This is not who we are as a people or a country,’ he said. In Davos last week, Dimon had changed his tune. Trump did many good things when he was in office, Dimon said. Business was ready for either Joe Biden or Trump: ‘My company will survive and thrive in both.’”
Yesterday, a team of NY Times reporters drilled down [an inch] into why some business executives are excited about Trump. “Many forecast a drastic pullback in regulation,” they wrote, “particularly in antitrust, and a swing in support from clean energy businesses back to fossil-fuel producers….

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How Britain Invented Modern Torture 

Kit Klarenberg [via Naked Capitalism 01-22-2024]


[CADTM, via Naked Capitalism 01-24-2024]

Reports Expose Deep Harms of Corporate Tax Cuts and ‘Trickle Down’ Ideology 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 01-24-2024]

Two new reports published Tuesday by the Roosevelt Institute argue that robust corporate taxation is key to creating a strong economy and improving the well-being of families and children—objectives that have been undermined in the decades since the Reagan era by regressive tax cuts enacted on the false premise that benefits would “trickle down” to the rest of society.

The first report, A Mapping of the Full Potential of U.S. Corporate Taxation to Enhance Child and Family Well-Being, examines what the authors describe as the understudied notion that “increasing corporate taxation will necessarily help children and families by providing additional revenue for essential public services.”….

The decades-long decline in corporate tax rates has severely undermined the federal government’s ability to finance critical public goods, from education to childcare.

“Since regressive corporate tax cuts don’t significantly increase earnings for working families (through either wage or employment increases), but they do reduce the government’s ability to fund family income and care supports, childcare costs—which are already rising—can become a relatively more expensive line item in working parents’ household budgets,” reads the Roosevelt Institute’s first report, authored by Emily DiVito and Niko Lusiani.

Massachusetts Wakes Up to a Hospital Nightmare

Maureen Tkacik, January 26, 2024 [American Prospect]

…For ten years, the hospital chain, which originated as an agglomeration of nun-operated Boston-area neighborhood hospitals known as Caritas Christi, was owned by the private equity firm Cerberus, which extracted more than $800 million in excess of its investment out of the hospitals, then left during the pandemic. Company founder de la Torre was left to “finish the job,” which took more than three years because de la Torre, despite his penchant for mega-yachts and private jets, kept getting new bailouts from an Alabama real estate investment trust called Medical Properties Trust. Last year, MPT finally started to run out of cash—in part because most of its other tenants were not a whole lot more solvent than Steward—and the Justice Department sued Steward for violating the Stark Law against physician kickbacks, the flouting of which appears in hindsight to have been the entire underlying premise of Steward’s business model, back when he pretended to have one. As it stands, the company hasn’t had so much as a chief financial officer in more than a year, though its president identified himself as the company’s CFO in a court filing in October.

Indeed, the mystery here is not “how Steward got in this situation” but what in God’s name took the state of Elizabeth Warren and Maura Healey so long to notice the brazenness at work in their proverbial backyard.

Did Stock Buybacks Knock the Bolts Out of Boeing? 

Les Leopold [via Naked Capitalism 01-24-2024]

Finding the money for stock repurchases inevitably leads to cost-cutting. Most often, the first move is to lay off as many workers as possible. But other more subtle strategies include cutbacks in preventive maintenance and environmental controls, the outsourcing of work to lower-wage firms, skimping on health and safety protections, and underfunding quality-control. The goal is to become lean and mean, skating out to the very edge of cost reductions without jeopardizing the product. Or, well, at least not harming it too much.

You’d think that Boeing would not compromise on safety, given that one small production error or software glitch could down a plane worth hundreds of millions of dollars while killing hundreds of people in one blow.  But you’d be wrong.

Boeing is a world leader in stock buybacks.  Between 1998 and 2018, the plane manufacturer also manufactured a whopping $61.0 billion in stock buybacks, amounting to 81.8 percent of its profits. Add in dividends and Boeing’s shareholders received 121 percent of its profits. (Data compiled by William Lazonick and The Academic-Industry Research Network, from Boeing 10-K SEC filings.)

How much is that really?  Well, according to Lazonick and Mustafa Erdem Sakniç, writing in The American Prospect in 2019, Boeing facing the obsolescence of its 737 planes, could have created an entirely new airplane from scratch with fully modern technology. Instead the company decided to re-engineer the older model, name it the 737 MAX, and save $7 billion dollars. Perhaps not coincidentally, the $7 billion dollars “saved” is the amount of the stock buybacks Boeing made each year between 2013 and 2019.

When It Comes To Billionaires, What Does “Pay Their Fair Share” Mean To A Democratic Candidate?

Howie Klein, January 24, 2024  []

I’m interviewing a lot of candidates this week, more than usual in just one week. They all agree that the super-rich should be “paying their fair share.” I don’t even have to bring it up most of the time. But when they do, I ask them how much “fair share” translates to. Everyone has tried to avoid answering and no matter how much I press no one has a response. In fact, sometimes I feel some negativity directed towards me for asking.

When they try to worm out of it by pretending I’m talking about a person from the upper-middle class, I’ll clarify by saying I’m talking about people who are billionaires or people with $100 million. Still no responses. I didn’t realize it was such an uncomfortable question. I’m getting the impression that none of them understand that the American glory days— from the late ‘40s into the mid-’60’s– saw marginal income tax rates over 90% for people with incomes of $400,000 and above (the equivalent of today’s millionaires)….
I just got off the phone with one candidate and I should have brought up the new Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act that Bernie introduced, along with Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Chris Van Hollen in the Senate and Barbara Lee and Rashida Tlaib in the House. I didn’t because I knew from what she had already said that she would never support anything like it. The legislation is meant to take on corporate greed by raising taxes on companies that pay their top executives at least 50 times more than the pay of a typical worker. Bernie: “The American people understand that today we are moving toward an oligarchic form of society where the very rich are doing phenomenally well, while working families continue to struggle to put a roof over their heads, feed their families, and pay for the basic necessities of life. The American people are sick and tired of CEOs making nearly 350 times more than their average employees while over 60 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, the American people are demanding that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes and treat their employees with the dignity and respect they deserve. That is what this legislation will begin to do.”

“The Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act would impose tax rate increases on companies with CEO to median worker ratios above 50 to 1. If the CEO did not receive the largest paycheck in the firm, the ratio will be based on the highest-paid employee. The tax penalties would begin at 0.5 percentage points for companies that pay their top executives between 50 and 100 times more than their typical workers. The highest penalty would kick in for companies that pay top executives over 500 times worker pay. These rates, if current corporate pay patterns continue, would raise around $150 billion over 10 years. If the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act had been in effect in 2022:

  • Walmart would have paid up to $754 million more in taxes.

  • Google would have paid up to $3.07 billion more in taxes.

  • Home Depot would have paid up to $840 million more in taxes.

  • JPMorgan Chase would have paid up to $1.04 billion more in taxes.

  • Nike would have paid up to $233 million more in taxes.

  • McDonald’s would have paid up to $92 million more in taxes.

The opposition to fair taxes, however you want to define “fair”:

If companies increased annual median worker pay to just $60,000 and reduced their CEO compensation to $3 million, they would not owe any additional taxes under this plan.”

Original co-sponsors in the House include Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Chuy García (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY).

Climate and environmental crises

China dominates renewable energy and coal power forecasts 

Clyde Russell, January 11, 2024 [Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 01-22-2024]

China’s status as the colossus of renewable energy is set to be cemented in the next five years, with the world’s second-biggest economy adding more capacity than the rest of globe combined.
The International Energy Agency said in its Renewables 2023 report, released on Thursday, that China will account for 56% of renewable energy capacity additions in the 2023-28 period.
China is expected to increase renewable capacity by 2,060 gigawatts (GW) in the forecast period, while the rest of the world will add 1,574 GW, the IEA data showed.

Information age dystopia / surveillance state

A ‘Shocking’ Amount of the Web Is Already AI-Translated Trash, Scientists Determine 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 01-21-2024]

iPhone Apps Secretly Harvest Data When They Send You Notifications, Researchers Find 

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism 01-26-2024]

In India, an algorithm declares them dead; they have to prove they’re alive

[Al Jazeera, via Naked Capitalism 01-25-2024]

HP CEO evokes James Bond-style hack via ink cartridges

[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-24-2024]

“Our long-term objective is to make printing a subscription.”


Democrats’ political malpractice

It’s Not Just Biden

Joe Klein [Sanity Clause, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-23-2024]

“the Republican base is about ideology and the Democratic base is about identity. The Republicans are coherent, even if the ideology is a repulsive right-wing populism. The Democrats are an amalgam of identity groups, with varying agendas and beliefs. You can aim a message at black activists—on say, reparations, as the ever-foolish Jamaal Bowman did this week—and a fair number of Latinos will be turned off. You can try to stroke Latino activists on immigration, and a fair number of blacks—to say nothing of middle-class Latinos (and the rest of us, for that matter)—will wonder why on earth you can’t act to shut down the southern border…. The Democrats’ ethnicity problems have multiplied in recent years as the identity groups have become more complicated. There is a black middle and professional class now; it holds different views from academic blackdom and from the black underclass. It was middle- and working-class blacks, angry about crime, who elected Eric Adams over the lawyerly MSNBC darling Maya Wiley for mayor of New York…. This has been a disaster for Democrats. They made a terrible mistake emphasizing identity over community fifty years ago. It was one of the great flubs in American political history. And now the coalition is fraying, for the very best of reasons. The “protected” groups are assimilating into the American mainstream (often to the dismay of the activists like Ibram X. Kendi, who would be forced to look for honest work absent his imagined apocalypse of grievance). There are multiple black and Latino agendas now; the most important have nothing to do with identity—but with education, crime and inflation.”

The Inside Story Of Barack Obama’s 2024 Campaign Calculations

Hunter Walker and Luppe B. Luppen, January 22, 2024 [Talking Points Memo]

As we report in our new book, The Truce, which will be published on Tuesday, Obama left office stung by Hillary Clinton’s defeat and obsessed with how Democrats could rebuild the unity her long battle with Bernie Sanders had cost the party. He has been especially focused on youth engagement in the years since. Shortly after Democrats took back the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterms, Obama met with the Democrats’ incoming House freshmen at a donor’s mansion in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C. to share his thoughts on the party’s direction and the ideal strategy for taking on Trump. While the meeting was previously reported, much of what Obama said behind closed doors was not known.

We obtained Obama’s remarks, and we learned that the former president offered a diagnosis of young voters’ role within the Democratic Party, and the party’s uneven success at keeping them engaged. “When we lose them, it’s because they don’t feel seen and they don’t feel heard,” Obama said of young voters and activists.


(anti)Republican Party

“‘Our System Needs to Be Broken, and He Is the Man to Do It’”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-22-2024]

“‘They’re afraid as hell, because this time around he’s going to take the DOJ, he’s going to take the bureaucracy of the FBI, the CIA, all the stupid intel agencies that don’t do shit, and he’s going to upset the apple cart,’ he said. I referred to the argument Trump is now making over and over that he’s going to go after them because he says they’re going after him but really they’re going after you — his supporters. ‘That’s exactly the way I feel,’ Johnson said. ‘Did you feel like that before he said that,’ I said, ‘or did he say that and you said yes?’ ‘He said that, and I said yes,’ he said. ‘And trust me, the guy’s a pig, he’s a womanizer — arrogant a—–e,’ Johnson said of Trump. ‘But I need somebody that’s going to go in and lead, and I need somebody that’s going to take care of the average guy.’ ‘But is taking care of the average guy and breaking the system the same thing?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Because they’re all in it for themselves.’ ‘And if you break the system, what does that look like?’ ‘Accountability,’ he said.”

Saving MAGA Mike? Think Of What He Stands For– Christian Nationalism, Homophobia, Anti-Choice…

Howie Klein, January 26, 2024  []

…Trump has reasserted control over Congress and he wants to call all the shots himself. Last night, Annie Karni reported how Trump torpedoed the border-Ukraine aid deal. She noted that Trump “is wielding a heavier hand than any time since leaving office over his party’s agenda in Congress. His vocal opposition to the emerging border compromise has all but killed the measure’s chances in a divided Congress as he puts his own hard-line immigration policies once again at the center of his presidential campaign… His ‘America First’ approach [that’s typical NY Times misnomer— it’s a Trump First approach, not an America First approach] to foreign policy already helped to sap GOP support for sending aid to Ukraine for its war against Russian aggression, placing the fate of that money in doubt. That led Republicans to demand a border crackdown in exchange for any further funding for Kyiv, a compromise that Trump has now repudiated. He frequently consults with the inexperienced Speaker Mike Johnson, weighing in on policy and politics. And his uncompromising approach has emboldened copycat politicians in Congress, like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Matt Gaetz of Florida, who are helping to drive an ongoing impasse over government spending. For a Congress that has struggled for more than a year to do the bare minimum of legislating, Trump’s dominance among Republicans is yet another drag on the institution’s ability to function in an election year when his name is likely to be on the ballot.”

Republicans Turn on Their Impeachment Chairman: ‘Parade of Embarrassments’

Stephen Neukam [, via downwithtyranny 1-25-2024]

“House Republicans are increasingly disenchanted with Comer, saying his leadership of the Biden impeachment inquiry has become a ‘clueless investigation’ at best and— at worst— ‘a disaster.’ Less than 10 months away from the 2024 election, his impeachment investigation is barreling toward its conclusion, with no smoking gun to bring the president to his knees. Only one thing is clear: Comer, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has lost the trust of some in his own party. ‘One would be hard pressed to find the best moment for James Comer in the Oversight Committee,’ one House Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to maintain internal relationships, told The Messenger. ‘It’s been a parade of embarrassments.’”


(anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

25 Republican governors back Texas in escalating border standoff with US government 

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 01-26-2024]

The Meaning of Invasion Under the Compact Clause of the U.S. Constitution (PDF)

[Texas Public Policy Foundation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-26-2024]

“It should first of all be highlighted that, as only entry plus enmity constitutes invasion, the unlawful entry of people into the United States cannot be construed as an invasion. Nor, for the same reason, can the prospect of further illegal entry in the imminent future be so construed…. The phrase ‘actually invaded’ in the Compact Clause refers to the presence of flesh-and-blood enemies on the soil of the invaded state. The phrase ‘imminent danger’ in the same clause refers to the possibility of such enemies coming to be present soon.” • The Texas Public Policy Foundation, if you look at the About page, isn’t exactly composed of bleeding heart liberals.

[TW: The State of the Union address is coming up. Biden needs to condemn Abbott as a treasonous nullifier.]

Eagle Pass is today’s Fort Sumter. Biden must federalize the Texas National Guard. 

Will Bunch [Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism 01-26-2024]

Revealed: far-right figures try to create Christian nationalist ‘haven’ in Kentucky

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 01-22-2024]

“The move is the latest effort by the far-right to establish geographical enclaves, following in the footsteps of movements like the so-called ‘American Redoubt‘, which encourages rightwingers to engage in “political migration” to areas in the interior of the Pacific north-west. But the underlying finances of land offerings associated with the ‘Highland Rim Project’ (HRP) in Kentucky suggest that buyers will pay a steep premium for living in a remote ideological enclave, while the scheme’s promoters are set to collect tidy profits after making few apparent improvements to the land…. [Joshua] Abbotoy offered few details on how the community would be run beyond saying: ‘Most of the leadership is going to be led by Protestant christians.’”


Will Israel Invade Lebanon? Will They Win If They Do?


The US & Nine Other Nations Now Helping Israel Starve Gazans


  1. bruce wilder

    I do not know what good is accomplished in the world when Democrats and Progressives wear their empathy on their sleeves, feeling morally superior for doing so, if their candidate for President is Genocide Joe.

  2. VietnamVet

    It is true that Democrats (since dumping the New Deal) rely on identity politics and Republicans are ideologues. Identity is fickle. It can change with circumstances, hormones, and age but ideology is an unchanging world view. Christian conservatives are imposing their belief that the human soul comes into existence at conception upon educated women who want control over their biology. In 25 Red States, women have lost control over reproduction. This is impossible to compromise unless support is given to women to raise unexpected children which is the last thing radicals want. They need power over families. The larger the congregation the greater the influence.

    Joe Biden is keeping the southern border open in support of oligarchs who need warm bodies to do manual work and to import cheap foreign educated professionals since the US public health system has collapsed. 1.2 million Americans died with COVID and nine million more are partially or completely incapacitated with Long COVID. But the President will close the border if he gets the funds to pay the war profiteers to continue the wars in Eastern Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.

    In reality, there is only one political party – the Five Eye War Mongers – who will get the funding until they don’t anymore. WW3 will be lost by the West because they are agreement incapable and they off-shored its industry over the last 40 years. Simply put, Neo-feudal Oligarchs who are in control are unable to plan for a better future since they exist solely to get rich at the expense of others and to gain ever more power (i.e. Donald Trump or Elon Musk).

    Only sovereign nations can sign armistices, build strong borders, and live in peace in accordance to international laws.

  3. bruce wilder

    Sovereign nation-states living peaceably may have been a system tried and found wanting in some details. Those repulsive populists aspiring to lead same have ideas about what is in the interests of said states, while the neoliberals have so much faith in universal ideals floating high above the global metropole that they scarcely touch the earth long enough to consider such notions as the interests of a particular people. (Sounds racist!)

  4. Oakchair

    “They need power”

    Right, and convincing the masses that abortion, Mexicans, and what is the proper pronoun to use facilitates the oligarchs accumulation of power.

    How can the masses counter the oligarchs when they are all foaming over a Mexican walking across a border? How can we solve the fact our air, water, food, and bodies are being slathered and filled with poison when everyone is too busy panicking over whether we need to call someone a her or a him?

    “Identify politics” has become a ploy adopted by oligarchs. It used to be called the “Southern strategy”. Divide the masses with social identity while the oligarchs plunder it all.
    Is there any point where “conservatives” stop blaming their ill health, shit life and low income on distractions? Is there any way “liberals” can recognize they’ve fallen into a trap?

  5. Adam Eran

    “When the state captures and invests the nation’s savings according to its own whims, capital becomes scarcer and more expensive for private investors. This also suppresses the domestic consumption that most mature economies depend on for growth. ”

    This is called “crowding out” and it presumes state spending keeps productive (private) resources from the people who would use them best. It’s a zero-sum game. If the state employs people, the private sector won’t have them to employ. But what if the state is mobilizing idle resources, for example employing the unemployed? The whole rationale for this “crowding out” collapses.

    The neoliberal, neoclassical economic justification for austerity and deregulation falls apart once crowding out is dismissed as the baloney it is.

    Nevertheless, Wikipedia’s “Government Spending” article features crowding out prominently. Try to change that and you’ll be consigned to the “talk” tab of that article, and be banned from any edits. Crowding out is an article of religious faith, apparently.

  6. My understanding is that Walker and Luppen in “The Truce,” purport to describe how the loving, respectful collaboration between the Bernie wing and the establishment wing of the Democratic Party, the one that now produces so much embarrassing treacle within the party, came to be.

    Ah, the Democratic Party’s dilemma with young voters; how to make them feel seen and heard, while mercilessly crushing the candidates they favor, and resolutely preventing the economic policies they need to survive?
    Perhaps the next time the Senate Parliamentarian is recruited to produce a stream-of-consciousness masquerading as reasoning showing that raising the minimum wage is beyond their power, Obama could personally lead an emoting session with some people who would have been helped if it had passed?

  7. somecomputerguy

    Disclaimer; I haven’t read “The Truce”, I am reacting to articles and reviews that describe it’s message.

    So, “The Truce” is book describing a non-existent event; the end of the Democratic Party establishments war on the New Deal wing of the party.

    During the period in which the book alleges that war was suspended, that war was actually escalated, one example being new campaign spending by AIPAC to defeat progressives.

    That escalation was carried out in the wake of the complete surrender by the House Progressive Caucus, to the party establishment.

    So, Pelosi, Jeffries and co. secured the abject surrender of the New Dealers in the House, and now are enthusiastically executing them.

    Who is this book written for? And why?

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