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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 31, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 31, 2021
by Tony Wikrent

The Impeachment and Trial of a Former President (PDF)

Congressional Research Service, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]

Here’s the full list of Biden’s executive actions so far

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]

Strategic Political Economy

This is How You Recover From Fascism — and America’s Not Doing Any of It

Umair Haque, January 26, 2021 [Medium, via The Big Picture 1-29-21]

….Fascism always has economic roots. Always. American pundits still don’t want to discuss that, because then they’d have to admit they were wrong about the economy for decades — and they’ll never do that, because then they’ll look like the fools they are.

Think about Germany. How did “it” happens here? Because the Weimar Republic fell into poverty. The average German, expecting a stable and secure life of relative prosperity, instead experiences sudden, sharp, downward mobility. Old racial hatred suddenly resurfaces. The Jews were blamed for the travails of the average good German — they have always been the enemy within. Who else was responsible for all this poverty and despair and ruin — except the hated minorities who had always been poisoning us from the inside?

That’s exactly the story of modern day America, too. The American middle class finally began to implode around 2010, after have a century of stagnating wages, while costs like healthcare and education and food and housing exploded year after year. The average American — the white one — expected the life he or she was promised: a suburban dream of easy, thoughtless prosperity. Instead, what they got was blighted cities, an opioid epidemic, half of all Americans trapped in “low wage service jobs,” trips to the doctor that cost as much as a house. They experienced just what Weimar Germans — sudden, sharp downward mobility. They might have tried to hide it by buying McMansions on credit, but the economic facts tell the true story: the average American by 2015 or so lived in a new underclass, couldn’t raise a tiny amount to pay for an emergency, lived pay check to paycheck, and died in massive debt.

What happened? Americans, like Germans before them, were seduced by old hatreds. And these hatreds weren’t even that old: America was still an apartheid state until 1971. Americans blamed their woes on minorities — Mexicans, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, anyone not in or from the good and pure white majority. All those minorities were scapegoated as animals and vermin and terrorists and so on. The cheerleader of all this hatred was Donald Trump, who rode it all the way to the Presidency.

How do you solve this problem — that fascism has roots in economic stagnation and implosion? You solve it with a Marshall Plan…. American needs a Marshall Plan to recover from fascism. Last time, it was Europe that needed to totally rebuild. This time, it’s America. A land of decrepit, ruined…everything. Schools that look like fallout shelters, hospitals that have closed down, towns that have no transport links, whole communities that can’t access investment, entire regions without decent jobs. America needs a Marshall Plan to rebuild itself, because economic ruin is always what is at the root of fascism, and therefore, taking away the poverty that breeds and rebreeds ancient hatreds is the single truest vaccine against fascism there has ever been.

The Air Force Secretly Designed, Built, and Flew a Brand-New Fighter Jet

[Esquire, via Naked Capitalism 1-29-21]

The important news here is that USAF designed, built and flew it in just a year. I assume this is the culmination of a program begun years ago (which I read about) to advance rapid prototyping and ruthlessly minimize project development time. This is a massive disruption of world aerospace combat capabilities, because it means a constant stream of increasingly advanced aircraft are deployed, instead of one “platform” into which is poured tens of billions of dollars for “life cycle extensions.” The following articles give more background.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that most managers and directors of defense contractors are very unhappy about this, as it obstructs the potential for rent extraction from the defense procurement budget, and places a premium on the development of new science and technology, which now depreciates in value much more rapidly than under the previous rent extraction model of defense procurement.

I hope that there will be more detailed studies of this, because I suspect they will show there has been an inherent conflict between the professional military officer corps, and the defense contractors, who in the final analysis are merely pipelines of rent extraction to Wall Street. It would also tend to confirm my argument that using Veblen’s schema of producer class / industry versus predator class /  business yields better analysis than Marxist class analysis. 

The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet

[DefenseNews, September 15, 2020]

The US Air Force’s radical plan for a future fighter could field a jet in 5 years

[DefenseNews, September 16, 2019]

Why Has the Vaccine Rollout Been So Slow? Answer: Big Pharma Patent Monopolies

Dean Baker [CommonDreams 1-29-2021]

This raises the same issue as the above stories on the new USAF combat aircraft: What if medical professionals were in charge of a national vaccination program, instead of the business managers of the medical-industrial complex? 

The big problem, of course, is that going this route of open-source research and international cooperation could call into question the merits of patent monopoly financing of prescription drug research. After all, if publicly funded open-source research proved to be the best mechanism for financing the development of drugs and vaccines in a pandemic, maybe this would be the case more generally. And, no one in a position of power in American politics wanted to take this risk of a bad example….

The people who have been able to enjoy rising incomes and financial security over the last four decades ostensibly justify their better position by their greater contribution to the economy and society. But when you mess up in your job in big ways that lead to major costs to the economy and society, that claim doesn’t hold water.

We have seen a massive rise in right-wing populism where large numbers of less-educated workers reject the elites and all their claims about the world. When we have massive elite mess-ups, as we now see with vaccine distribution, and there are zero consequences for those responsible, this has to contribute to the resentment of the less advantaged.

It is appalling that we have structured the economy in such a way that the elites can be protected from consequences for even the most extreme failures. The fact so few elite types even see this as a problem (seen any columns in the NYT calling for firing?) shows that the populists have a real case. The economy is rigged against the left behind, and the people that control major news outlets, which include many self-described liberals or progressives, won’t even talk about it.

Leon Black and the American Tradition of Impunity

Jacob Bachrach, The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 1-27-21]

Especially pertinent if you read Umair Haque’s article near the top: recovering from fascism requires justice by holding elites accountable. 

After a year of mounting pressure from investors and outside critics, Leon Black, the billionaire chief executive of private equity giant Apollo Global Management, announced on Monday that he would step down later this year. Apparently the revelation that Black gave $158 million to deceased sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein for supposed financial advice was enough to provoke an internal revolt among Apollo’s leadership. According to The New York Times, which previously dubbed Black “the billionaire who stood by Jeffrey Epstein,” a fellow Apollo co-founder wanted Black to step down immediately. Black refused but later agreed to relinquish the CEO seat while remaining chairman of the company’s board. He set his departure date as sometime before July 31, when he turns 70. And in a typical gesture of billionaire contrition for an association he insists was honorable, he’ll donate $200 million to “women’s initiatives,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Leon Black’s not-quite fall from grace is emblematic of what passes for elite accountability in this country. Leaving on his own terms, his fortune intact, relatively untouched by legal concerns, still wielding the chairmanship of the firm he founded—things could hardly be better for a man who maintained a close financial relationship, if not more, with a convicted pedophile. He may lose a few social invitations, perhaps have his name taken off a building he donated to some nonprofit institution, but Leon Black will be just fine. He now belongs in the busy pantheon of American elites who suffered no real consequences for their alleged crimes or disturbing associations. (It goes almost unsaid that Black’s own business history as a vulture capitalist and owner of Constellis, a private military company descended from Blackwater, also deserves scrutiny that will never come.)

Suck It, Wall Street

Matt Taibbi, January 28, 2021 [TK News]

The rally sent crushing losses at short-selling hedge funds like Melvin Capital, which was forced to close out its position at a cost of nearly $3 billion. Just like 2008, down-bettors got smashed, only this time, there were no quotes from economists celebrating the “good news” that shorts had to cover. Instead, polite society was united in its horror at the spectacle of amateur gamblers doing to hotshot finance professionals what those market pros routinely do to everyone else….  just like 2008, trading was shut down to save the hides of erstwhile high priests of “creative destruction.” Also just like 2008, there are calls for the government to investigate the people deemed responsible for unapproved market losses.

“unapproved market losses” — Gotta love Taibbi’s facility with words

Angry Hedge Fund Billionaire Is Mad at GameStop Redditors for “Attacking Wealthy People”

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 1-29-21]

What Is Important About The Reddit Gamestop Short-Squeeze

Ian Welsh, January 28, 2021

And that’s what matters: not what the Redditors have done, which is 100% legal and done all the time, but the institutional response: to bail out rich people who got caught with their pants down.

The markets exist, at this point, for one reason and one reason only: to give money to rich people. It is an insider game, and if you’re on the inside you essentially can’t lose. The exceptions are very rare, the class of insiders is protected at all costs, as it was in 2008 to the tune of 20 trillion or so in the US alone (ignore the Treasury and things like TARP, the real action happens at the Fed.) Other central banks also flooded the system with money, so the end result was probably over a 100 trillion.

Since then central banks have regularly bought up assets simply by printing money. Insiders play various games, but the key is that if they win they get to keep the money; and if they lose, government steps in to make them whole. Since the game is rigged for them to make money in the first place, it’s hard to lose money, but like a gamer who knows that death isn’t real, and they can just restart, they push everything to the max.

The entire game needs to be shut down and re-booted with Glass-Steagall era controls at the very least. Hedge Funds need to be made essentially illegal, private equity needs to go away, and these people need to eat the losses when it is shut down.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-30-21]


The Political Immortality of Billionaires

Sam Pizzigati [Consortiumnews, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-21]

…But Adelson’s $33-billion fortune will live on — and distort our nation’s political life for years to come.

How many years? We can’t, of course, see the future. But we can see how the past impacts our present. Consider, for instance, the current impactful political presence of Timothy Mellon. The 78-year-old Mellon ranks today as one of America’s biggest political donors. In the 2020 federal election cycle, he donated just over $70 million to right-wing political groupings…. Timothy Mellon bears the surname of one of America’s all-time wealthiest. His grandfather, banker and industrialist Andrew Mellon, ranked as one of the nation’s three richest men back in the 1920s.

The final legislation that Congress deposited on President Calvin Coolidge’s desk gave Mellon most everything he wanted: a cut in the top income tax rate down to 25 percent, the repeal of the gift tax and a halving of the estate tax rate. For Mellon personally, the savings would be munificent. Estimates would put his net worth, just over $80 million in 1923, as high as $600 million — over $9 billion in today’s dollars — six years later.

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

“Read My Lips: $2,000 Now”

David Sirota, Andrew Perez, and Julia Rock, January 27, 2021 [The Daily Poster].

“Late last year, at the urging of Bernie Sanders and House progressives, Democrats were forced to break from their proclivity for complexity and issue a simple ‘read my lips’-esque promise to deliver $2,000 survival checks. Even though the proposal was itself means tested, it was still nearly universal and so straightforward that it helped Democrats win two Senate seats in Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold. And yet, despite the fact that the $2,000 checks proposal is enormously popular, the party has almost immediately reverted back to form, slowly but surely trying to complicate the idea to the point where it’s becoming unrecognizable, complex and a proof point for those who believe Democrats refuse to just do what they promise…. On Monday, Biden declared that the once simple proposal is now ‘all a bit of a moving target in terms of the precision with which this goes,’ adding: ‘There’s legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X number of dollars or Y?”… The most exquisitely crafted ‘well, actually’ arguments from Washington know-it-alls, academic experts, smug pundits and emoji-wielding Twitter mobs will not save Democrats from a voter backlash if they fail to deliver on their simple promise — just like George Bush’s technocratic arguments about budgets and taxes didn’t save him from a voter backlash after he issued his simple ‘read my lips’ pledge and then violated it.”

Progressives push Biden for recurring stimulus checks

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-29-21]

“The Democrats’ Civil War Over the Filibuster Has Barely Begun”

Eric Levitz [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-21]

“[I]f the outlook for filibuster abolition looks dim, Blue America’s civil war over the issue is far from over. For the Democratic Party as an institution, the stakes of enacting major reforms over the next two years are nearly existential. And its leadership appears to understand this, even if its marginal senators do not (and/or care not for their party’s fate). The basic problem facing the Democratic Party is simple: Barring an extraordinary change to America’s political landscape, it will lose control of Congress in 2022 and have a difficult time regaining control for a decade thereafter…. To defy political gravity, and fortify U.S. democracy against the threat of authoritarian reaction, Democrats need to either rebalance the electoral playing field through the passage of structural reforms, or attain a degree of popularity that no in-power party has achieved in modern memory. If the filibuster remains in place, doing the former will be impossible and the latter highly unlikely…. [T]he Democrats’ existential interest in eroding the filibuster remains on a collision course with its moderate senators’ aversion to power. Anyone with a fondness for democracy must hope that, against all odds, the forces of partisanship will prevail.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-26-2021]

Biden Pulls Andrew Jackson’s Portrait from Oval Office

[nativenewsonline, via DailyKos 1-30-2021]

Among American Indians, Jackson is commonly referred to as the “removal president” and the “Indian-killer” because he signed the Indian Removal Act that stole millions of acres of lands from tribes that led to the forced removal from tribal ancestral lands to west of the Mississippi. The harsh removal campaign is commonly referred to as the Trail of Tears….

The Andrew Jackson portrait was replaced with a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.

The symbolism of the portrait swap was observed by Sault Ste. Maire Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment, who also serves as the first vice president of the National Congress of American Indians.

“The symbolism of founder Ben Franklin is not lost on Indian Country. Recall he was one of the intellectual architects of the separation of powers ideology that his writings show originated from the Iroquois Confederacy Great Law of Peace,” Payment told Native News Online.

How to Shut Down ICE Detention in Your Community, a Detention Watch Network Guide

[Teen Vogue, via Naked Capitalism 1-28-21]

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-21]

Forgiving Student Debt Alone Won’t Fix the Crisis

Matt Taibbi [Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 1-26-21]

Biden faces a historic unemployment crisis

[Vox, via The Big Picture 1-25-2021]

The week before Biden took office, 1.4 million Americans filed for unemployment.

“Crew Abandoned for 11 Months Calls for Action Staging a Hunger Strike” [Maritime Executive, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]

“The crew of a bulk carrier abandoned by its owner and flag state is staging a hunger strike to call attention to their plight according to the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Desperate to get their back wages and return home the crew turned to this drastic action. The crew, which consists of Indian, Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Bangladeshi seafarers, has been stuck on the ship, the Ula, abandoned for the past 11 months at the port of Shuaiba, Kuwait. According to the ITF, the hunger strike began on January 7 in their effort to get off the ship and recover more than $400,000 in wages owed to them.”  (See NC here for more on the crew change crisis.)

“Chicago Teachers Union votes to defy district’s reopening plans over coronavirus concerns”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]

“The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to defy Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) reopening plans for teachers and staff due to coronavirus concerns, the union announced on Sunday. The teachers union for the nation’s third-largest school district decided to allow all educators to conduct work remotely starting on Monday, the day that kindergarten through eighth grade staff were expected to return in person. The CTU reported that 86 percent of its 25,000 members participated in the electronic vote on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Seventy-one percent of voting members decided to deny the district’s current plan to come back to in-person learning. ‘So what does this mean?’ a CTU release read. ‘It means the overwhelming majority of you have chosen safety. CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear through threats of retaliation, but you still chose unity, solidarity and to collectively act as one.’”

Restoring balance to the economy

“Inside the End of the Hunts Point Produce Market Strike Produce, pizza, and the power of a union”

[Grub Street, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-28-21].

“One of the most consistent masked faces among the essential workers during the strike was a representative for the South Bronx, Amanda Septimo, who spent her first two weeks in the Assembly providing physical and emotional support for the workers. In between bites of a sandwich that was donated by the DSA, Septimo gave me more info about reported involvement in the contract resolution by Governor Andrew Cuomo. She had asked the union leaders, ‘Tell me what I can do’ to help end this strike, and they responded with an assignment: ‘Call the governor.” Instead of informing them that she didn’t exactly have Cuomo on speed dial, she called “every single person — everyone I ever knew.’ Septimo said the union wanted Cuomo to call the market back to the bargaining table, which she said happened on Wednesday, the night of AOC’s appearance. Septimo said the two parties were back at the table on Thursday. “We wouldn’t be here without that intervention,” she clarified. (I reached out to the governor’s office to confirm this account, and to ask, if it is true, why the governor did not publicly claim credit for the mediation, but I did not receive a response.)”

“Greed in the Suites, From Walgreens to Walmart”

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-28-21]

“At Walgreens, workers start an $10 an hour. No chain store empire employing essential workers pays less. Could Walgreens afford to pay more? Just no way, the company’s flacks would like us to believe. Walgreens was cost-cutting, the excuses go, even before the pandemic hit, announcing plans in 2019 to shut down 200 of its 9,000 local U.S. outlets. The squeeze on Walgreens workers has only deepened over the course of the pandemic. No retail giant in the United States, report Brookings analysts Molly Kinder and Laura Stateler, has given its workers less of a Covid hazard-pay bump than Walgreens, just 18 cents an hour…. Not every major corporate player has treated the pandemic as just another easy greed-grab opportunity. Workers at Costco — who start at $15 an hour, $5 an hour more than workers at Walgreens — have had an extra $2 an hour added to their hazard base rate.”

Cooperative Conversions & Employee Buyouts

For small business owners considering their next steps during the time of COVID-19, or pondering ways to preserve their business legacy as they approach retirement, cooperative conversions – selling a business to its employees – are an increasingly compelling option to retain jobs and keep small businesses in their communities. Baltimore’s nonprofit cooperative lender, The Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy, will lead you through the steps of this process, and answer questions about whether an employee buyout might be right for your business.

What Biden’s EV push could mean for jobs

[Axios, via The Big Picture 1-25-2021]

The U.S. lags far behind the rest of the world in electric vehicle adoption. Catching up will require big investments in EV production — including battery cell manufacturing and mining of raw materials — to avoid dependence on imports and foreign supply chains.

Climate and environmental crises

“Global Ice Melt Matches Worst-Case Climate Scenario, Study Says”

[Bloomberg, Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-26-2021]

“Melting on the ice sheets has accelerated so much over the past three decades that it’s now in line with the worst-case climate warming scenarios outlined by scientists. A total of 28 trillion metric tons of ice was lost between 1994 and 2017, according to a research paper published in The Cryosphere on Monday. The research team led by the University of Leeds in the U.K. was the first to carry out a global survey of global ice loss using satellite data. ‘The ice sheets are now following the worst-case climate warming scenarios set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” lead author Thomas Slater said in a statement. ‘Although every region we studied lost ice, losses from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets have accelerated the most.’”

Information Age Dystopia

“Bracing for Another E-book Price-Fixing Case”

[Publishers Weekly, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-27-21]

“The suit is being brought against Amazon on behalf of three named plaintiffs and a potential class of consumers who bought e-books published by the Big Five “through a retail platform that competes with Amazon at a price inflated by Amazon and its Co-conspirator Publishers’ price restraint.” The suit was filed by Seattle-based firm Hagens Berman, which filed the first e-book price-fixing lawsuit against Apple and five of the then–Big Six publishers in August 2011. And we remember how that turned out: with a federal antirust suit and claims from 33 states. The publishers ended up settling all claims for a total of $166 million in consumer credits. Apple lost at trial a year later and paid out a $450 million settlement. As to why this suit is happening now, suffice it to say that it feels like the Amazon antitrust train is getting ready to leave the station and Hagens Berman wants on. ”

The Free, Diverse Internet In America Is Coming To An End

Ian Welsh, January 27, 2021

….basically the internet now runs thru a number of major content aggregators: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, etc… (many of these are owned by the same few firms.) Most people go to the major sites and find their media there, and those who don’t use Google as their search engine.

These platforms are private and thus, as we are told over and over again by fools, are not subject to the first amendment, which they seem to think means “it’s not censorship.” But when almost all of the media consumption on the internet goes thru sites owned by five or so large companies, the commons are owned private firms, and all that has happened is that private firms are doing the censoring.

These content aggregators are aggressively banning outlets, and there is effectively no appeal…. This all really took off after 2016, with RussiaGate hysteria and concerns over Cambridge Analytica’s program of targeted propaganda. It is now about to enter a new phase, and sweep internet aggregators of a vast number of independent voices….

The center wants only the discourse they approve of in the media….

Meet the Censored: Status Coup

Matt Taibbi, January 26, 2021 [TK News]

For independent outlets like Status Coup, these questions pose a serious problem. Because they’re dependent financially on platforms like YouTube to reach subscribers, they can’t afford to take the risk of being shut down. But how can alternative media operate if it doesn’t know exactly where the lines are? Also, how can such outlets add value when its one advantage over corporate media — flexibility, and willingness to cover topics outside the mainstream — is limited by the fear of consequences from making independent-minded editorial decisions?

How tech stocks ‘ate’ the stock market

[Fortune / Mirror, via The Big Picture 1-26-2021]

In the past, most corporations had balance sheets full of tangible assets: land, buildings, equipment, and inventory. Now the majority of assets are intangible: patents, brand value, software, and customer data. Look at that shift from 1985 to 1995 as the Internet came online in a meaningful way. The corporate balance sheet of today looks nothing like the one from the 1970s.

Disrupting mainstream politics

“‘Dark Money’ Helped Pave Joe Biden’s Path to the White House”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]

“President Joe Biden benefited from a record-breaking amount of donations from anonymous donors to outside groups backing him, meaning the public will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House. Biden’s winning campaign was backed by $145 million in so-called dark money donations, a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years. Those fundraising streams augmented Biden’s $1.5 billion haul, in itself a record for a challenger to an incumbent president. That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012…. Overall, Democrats in this election cycle benefited from $326 million in dark money, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That was more than twice the $148 million that supported Republican groups. Some of the Democratic groups that relied on dark money in whole or in part spent heavily on early ads attacking Trump in critical battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The groups started spending while Biden’s relatively cash-poor campaign was struggling to raise money for the primaries.”

“In 2009, Pundits Predicted a New Progressive Era. It Never Came.”

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-25-21]

“A look back at the media consensus that prevailed around this time during the very first months of the previous Democratic administration underscores the danger of making bold predictions of a new dawning era of liberalism…,, very little about the media consensus at the time of Obama’s victory, and continuing for a while following his inauguration, was actually borne out in practice. Far from bringing back vigorous activist government, the administration would forgo a large scale overhaul of the financial sector in favor of perfunctory leak-plugging that left the basic contours of Clinton era deregulation intact.”

The Dark Side

In 2 weeks after it called the election, Fox News cast doubt on the results nearly 800 times 

[Media Matters, via The Big Picture 1-24-2021]

Fox News repeatedly aided Trump’s efforts to undermine election results, laying the groundwork to cry foul if Trump lost, echoing debunked theories of fraud, pushing the idea that Democrats are trying to “steal” this from him, and arguing that Trump is justified in pursuing his claims of a rigged election. This pattern of coverage continued in the lead-up to the day of the riots.

Trump couldn’t have incited sedition without the help of Fox News

Max Boot [Washington Post, via The Big Picture 1-24-2021]

There is a whole infrastructure of incitement that will remain intact even after Trump leaves office. Just as we do with foreign terrorist groups, so with domestic terrorists: We need to shut down the influencers who radicalize people and set them on the path toward violence and sedition.

Counter Trumpism By Ending the Conditions That Created It

Caitlin Johnstone, January 24, 2021 []

The way to stem the tide of Trumpism (or fascism, or white supremacism, or Trump cultism, or whatever term you use for what you’re worried about here) is to eliminate the conditions that created it.

Trump was only able to launch his successful faux-populist campaign in the first place by exploiting the widespread pre-existing opinion that there was a swamp that needed draining, a corrupt political system whose leadership does not promote the interests of the people.

Conspiracy theories only exist because the government often does evil things and lies about them with the help of the mass media, forcing people to just guess what’s happening behind the opaque wall of government secrecy.

People only get it in their heads that they need a trustworthy strongman to overhaul the system if the system has failed them.

Capitol riot arrests: See who’s been charged across the U.S.

[USAToday, via The Big Picture 1-29-2021]

Federal prosecutors continue to charge participants in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, adding to dozens of arrests that took place in Washington D.C. that day. Included are those arrested on charges federal prosecutors have filed since the riot, and those arrested by Capitol Police and D.C. Metro Police for entering the Capitol or for crimes related to weapons or violence.

Meet the Real Dark Money GOP Donors Who Funded Those Who Voted to Overturn the Election

[Center by Media & Democracy, via CommonDreams, January 28, 2021]

To repeat from Umair Haque’s article near the top: recovering from fascism requires justice by holding elites accountable. There is a LOT of useful information in this article. This list goes on to 124 individuals. The last ones on the list gave $500,000 each.

1. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson: $191.4 million

2. Ken Griffin: $59.8 million

3. Timothy Mellon: $50 million

4. Stephen and Christine Schwarzman: $46 million

5. Liz and Richard Uihlein: $43.4 million

6. Jeff Yass: $33.3 million

7. Reyes Family: $21.5 million

8. Ricketts Family: $18.1 million

9. Charles and Helen Schwab: $17.2 million

10. Bernard and Billi Marcus: $14.7 million


The Long New Right and the World It Made (78 page pdf)

Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld [American Political Science Association, via “Marjorie Taylor Greene’s vile new antics highlight a 50-year GOP story” The Washington Post 1-28-2021]

….traces how what we term the Long New Right fused substance, style, and strategy in service to a vision of electoral majority. An approach to politics centered on a take-no-prisoners mobilization of resentment and defined by a mercenary approach to institutions emerged in the postwar era, coalesced as a project for power in the 1970s, and took over Republican politics by the new century….

…the load star of New Right politics [is] the exploitation of grievance and status resentments—“knowing who hates who,” as Kevin Phillips had put it in 1968. Political institutions, for their part, served in this view not as means to cross-cut or tamp down underlying conflict, but as instruments of power to extend the domination, or to prevent the domination, of some groups over others.

It is important to understand that this Republican / conservative / libertarian view of political institutions is an outright rejection of the fundamental purpose of government, as defined by James Madison in The Federalist Number 10, is to regulate the clash of contending economic interests. It is thus a rejection of what the United States is supposed to be as a republic.

Arizona GOP lawmaker introduces bill to give Legislature power to toss out election results

[NBCNews, January 28, 2021, via DailyKos 1-29-2021]

“The New National American Elite”

Michael Lind

[The Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 1-26-2021]

Forgive me for quoting a great slab of this article: “Progressives who equate class with money naturally fall into the mistake of thinking you can reduce class differences by sending lower-income people cash—in the form of a universal basic income, for example. Meanwhile, populists on the right tend to imagine that the United States was much more egalitarian, within the white majority itself, than it really was, whether in the 1950s or the 1850s. Both sides miss the real story of the evolution of the American class system in the last half century toward the consolidation of a national ruling class—a development which is unprecedented in U.S. history.” Hence Thomas Frank’s “airtight consensus.” More: “That’s because, from the American Revolution until the late 20th century, the American elite was divided among regional oligarchies. It is only in the last generation that these regional patriciates have been absorbed into a single, increasingly homogeneous national oligarchy, with the same accent, manners, values, and educational backgrounds from Boston to Austin and San Francisco to New York and Atlanta. This is a truly epochal development…. More and more Americans are figuring out that “wokeness” functions in the new, centralized American elite as a device to exclude working-class Americans of all races, along with backward remnants of the old regional elites. In effect, the new national oligarchy changes the codes and the passwords every six months or so, and notifies its members through the universities and the prestige media and Twitter. America’s working-class majority of all races pays far less attention than the elite to the media, and is highly unlikely to have a kid at Harvard or Yale to clue them in. And non-college-educated Americans spend very little time on Facebook and Twitter, the latter of which they are unlikely to be able to identify—which, among other things, proves the idiocy of the ‘Russiagate’ theory that Vladimir Putin brainwashed white working-class Americans into voting for Trump by memes in social media which they are the least likely American voters to see. Constantly replacing old terms with new terms known only to the oligarchs is a brilliant strategy of social exclusion. The rationale is supposed to be that this shows greater respect for particular groups. But there was no grassroots working-class movement among Black Americans demanding the use of ‘enslaved persons’ instead of ‘slaves’ and the overwhelming majority of Americans of Latin American descent—a wildly homogenizing category created by the U.S. Census Bureau—reject the weird term ‘Latinx.’ Woke speech is simply a ruling-class dialect, which must be updated frequently to keep the lower orders from breaking the code and successfully imitating their betters.”



Open Thread


Biden Is Determined To Lose Congress In 2022


  1. Thomas Golladay

    Umair Hague is a racist fascist apologist who bootlicks the Establishment Uniparty.

    Trump raised legal and constitutional challenges to a blatantly rigged election designed to stop a populist takeover of the Republican Party. The failure of the courts to step in and uphold the law ensures when the establishment Republicans are primaried out, they will be impeached and removed.

    The Democrats are the real fascists and racists and going out of their way to enshrine permanment war, permanment surveillance, and permanment corporate state.

    If you want to save the US, join the populist right, the left sold out.

  2. Willy

    That confirms it. Thomas is a bot.

  3. KT Chong

    “This is How You Recover From Fascism — and America’s Not Doing Any of It:

    1. The first thing it takes to recover from fascism is justice…

    …America needs a Nuremberg Trials of its own.”

    I don’t know, there is a deep sense among Chinese and Koreans — with good reasons — that Japan has never gotten its due “justice” after World War II, yet Japan has not slipped back to fascism. So, history has shown that “justice” is not really necessary to recover from fascism.

  4. Plague Species

    I guess we can go the Japanese route to ending fascism and have someone nuke us.

    Here’s an excellent article from Politico on the topic.

    The administration must make clear, say experts, there is no quarter for insurrectionists in the American body politic, or for those who would abet their anti-democratic violence. “The quicker you say, ‘There’s a line you can’t cross,’ the better,” Simpson said. “That’s armed resistance to the operations of government and its institutions. You can’t cross that line. ‘And if you do, we’ll come down on you like you won’t believe.’” And until that is understood — and enforced, to the fullest extent of the law — there can be no room for healing, or for unity. “That’s what I think Biden has to understand,” Simpson continued. “You need to demand accountability and justice before you reach out and say, ‘Now, let’s heal”’

  5. Ché Pasa

    Fascism — in the sense of Leader Worship, extreme nationalism, race/ethnic based xenophobia, scapegoating minorities, one party rule/rule by decree, government/corporate amalgamation, etc. — is in my view an inherent property of most governments, regardless of their democratic or republican or other pretenses.

    KT suggests that Imperial Japan somehow got over its fascist era without “justice,” and I’d suggest that’s a gross misreading of what happened to turn Japan’s government fascist and what sort of “justice” was administered to Japan’s people and its leadership during and after WWII.

    We’ve seen much of Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union (eg: Ukraine among others) reverting to fascist-lite or strong-fascist rule and fascist elements are currently in fashion all over the world, including the United States. It’s not going away easily or soon.

    The argument that “economics” is the reason why we see so much rightist populism and fascism these days is only partially correct. People can be persuaded to accept the elements of fascist rule under almost any condition. Almost all it really takes is a charismatic leader — elected or not — and a general willingness to follow that leader through thick and thin whatever comes. The US is by no means immune and has already experienced several fascist periods. We’re still in one now.

  6. Bob Hertz

    Glad you are still with us, Ian!

    Great articles here, except for the piece by Lydia Depillis stating that an eviction moratorium would have saved 40% of covid deaths.

    First off, at least one third of covid deaths have been in nursing homes. None of these persons had been evicted.

    Most remaining deaths were of persons over age 60. This group can of course be evicted, but they are not the majority of evictions.

    Finally, there was an eviction moratorium that some landlords got around, but most landlords complied with.

    There are probably no hard statistics on this issue, but the assertions by Ms Depillis do not feel right.

    Thanks for all your work, Ian. I used to be in the insurance business when you were at Manulife.

    Bob Hertz

  7. NR

    Thomas just keeps repeating the same lies about the election, over and over and over and over and over and over and over, and it really makes the comments at this blog pretty shitty, to be honest.

  8. different clue


    God made a scroll button.

    It is not God’s fault if you would rather read Thomas Golladogdoo’s comments than use the scroll button which God made.

  9. Hugh

    You want to stop fascism? Teach people what their responsibilities and rights are as citizens, provide the basics for a good life to all citizens, limit wealth inequalities, make government responsive to citizens. It’s not hard to understand what to do. As the last 230 years of US history show, almost all our energy is spent on finding excuses for not doing it.

    I looked up covid deaths by age at the CDC. I don’t know why they put their tables together in the stupid way they do. Anyway under provisional covid death counts by sex, age…, 67,923 under 65ers have died versus a total of 359,352 deaths all ages. So those under 65 account for 18.9% of covid deaths in the US.

    Those 75 and older account for 215,025 covid deaths or 59.8% of all covid deaths in the US.

  10. NR

    different clue:

    If Thomas were just trolling, scrolling past would be a perfectly fine option. But he isn’t just trolling. He’s deliberately pushing a lie about the legitimacy of the election in order to boost the fascist movement he supports. It’s deliberate propaganda, and there are countless examples as to why it’s a bad idea to let propaganda go uncountered. Thomas’s lies and propaganda have already gotten people killed, and ignoring them is not going to prevent that from happening again.

    And I should note that if Ian wants to allow right-wingers to post lies and propaganda here, this will become known as a place where right-wing lies and propaganda are welcome. Given what he’s shared about his outlook on the world, I wouldn’t think that that’s what he would want for his website, but we shall see, I suppose.

  11. nihil obstet

    Fraudulent vote counts are not receiving the attention they should. One of Trump’s dubious achievements is to cement a belief among many otherwise reasonable people that we have fair elections. 20 years ago I was attending meetings about the vulnerability of U.S. elections, as people realized that proprietary electronic voting machines were subject to manipulation. There are frequent errors in vote counting — minor and accidental, or significant and deliberate? I think there are almost certainly both. There are enough of them to provide excuses for those who believe Trump won. Sneering at them is another example of elite dismissal of people’s concerns.

    I’m a firm believer in paper ballots counted in public. Both parties are firmly opposed. One wonders why.

  12. NR

    There is nothing “elite” about dismissing claims of election fraud when there is absolutely no evidence that it happened. Trump and other right-wingers lost over 50 court cases related to the election, and despite their lies on the subject, many of those courts did, in fact, examine the evidence presented and found that it did not support Trump’s allegations of fraud.

    Now if you want to talk about methods to improve vote counting and election security, I am more than happy to have that conversation. But it has to start with everyone involved acknowledging the reality that the 2020 election was not fraudulent and that right-wingers are lying on the subject. Only then can an actual honest debate about how we conduct our elections be had.

  13. Willy

    I’ve heard that Japanese schoolchildren don’t know much about the nature of their own national involvement in WW2.

    I’m sure most know about the hibakusha, but it’s common folklore that they’re fairly unfamiliar with what their own people did to “the other” in WW2. I’m guessing that more Japanese kids know about the US internment of Japanese-Americans, than they do about twice that number of Chinese civilians being massacred by Japanese troops in the city of Nanjing, alone.

    As a youth I knew a Pilipino who’d witnessed the massacre of Manila. He couldn’t believe that a people he’d admired as being so culturally advanced, polite and civilized, could be a part of all that. In hindsight it’s obvious why those Japanese troops didn’t just abandon Manila as they’d been ordered. They’d been brainwashed into believing that nothing was more shameful than surrender and they collectively knew they were going to die. So why not have a bit of wilding fun before dying? They tortured and mass-murdered tens of thousands of unarmed innocents, rationalized that they were loyal to “the other”. That’s some sociopathically warped shit.

    The Emperor, after seeing the firebombed Japanese cities, the destruction of the Imperial navy and air force, a couple of cities getting nuked… that same Emperor who most Japanese were committed to dying for, finally spoke up in favor of unconditional surrender. He’d had enough of his people killing innocents and suiciding themselves and getting Japan burned to the ground all in his name.

    When the Americans took Okinawa, half of the entire Okinawan civilian population either died being forced to fight the invaders, or from suicide. And this after knowing full well they were going to conquered no matter what they did. That is some seriously messed up group-think.

    Wasn’t the Marshall Plan supposed to be the opposite of punishing and humiliating German reparations post WW1? Instead of making Japan give away, say Kyushu, to China as war crimes reparation, economic aid was given to Japan to avoid another fascism rising. Once you humiliate a nation by conquering it’s misguided ass, you have to get them focused on peaceful acquisition of prosperity ASAP lest they try to do the same thing again. I’m sure allowing Hirohito to carry on as a humble spokesman for peace and the folly of militarism helped as well.

    My point once again, involves the susceptibility which most humans seem to have to being brainwashed by self-serving sociopathy about “the other” being the cause of all their problems, instead of something more realistic.

  14. different clue


    How many Ian Welsh readers do you think Tom will convert to his line?

    I think Ian Welsh counts on the commentership to provide its own immune system against MAGA trolls. So as long as Tom does not insult the host, I doubt he will be banned. Someone named Peter had to write a whole paragraph of sewage-quality personal insults against Ian Welsh before he finally got banned.

    So you will probably have to work out your own response to Tom the MAGA. So far your response has been to bite the baited hook every time Maga Tom chums the water.

    My response remains: God made a scroll button.

  15. bruce wilder

    Maybe Thomas Golladay is like some imaginary Antifa engaging in a false-flag operation to immunize Umair Haque’s article from criticism.

    One thing I do suspect from reading Haque’s whole essay and scanning his recent oeuvre is that Umair Haque is a tool.

    What good is hysterical righteousness, if you are going to pair your anger with ignorance and stupidity?

    “Fascism always has economic roots.” OK. So, who sowed the seeds? Do we dare ask? Do we hold those responsible, responsible? Because one of the chief architects of the implosion of the middle class that Umair Haque identifies as creating the conditions for “fascism” is now President of the United States. NOW! as in “right now!”

    There is a classic moment in horror pictures after the heroine seems to have chased the monster from her home, locking the doors and windows to bar re-entry, when she realizes that she has locked herself inside the house with the monster. Umair is not there yet, but give him time.

  16. nihil obstet


    I’m very interested in accurate and secure voting and vote counting. I firmly believe that Trump was defeated. But the “we can’t address the issues of election security until we’ve gotten the doubters to scream uncle” does not itself scream good faith.

    The meetings addressing weak election security that I attended 20 years ago had nothing to do with Donald Trump. After those meetings in 2004, the Verified Voting Foundation was founded.

    If you want people to trust a proceeding, you have to go to some efforts to make the proceeding trustworthy. Concerns that have now lasted at least 20 years point to problems with that. Trump’s silliness is now moot, so there’s no reason to refuse to address the issues, unless you just like maintaining the anger.

  17. Jim

    I would hold off on drawing ANY conclusions regarding this supposed new fighter aircraft designed, built, and flown in one year, until the Emperor proves it is wearing clothes. Who, exactly, built this purported aircraft? Surely not Boeing, whose management has flown a once-great engineering and manufacturing company nose-first into the ground. Lockheed-Martin? Some unknown, maybe a con artist like Elon Musk, whose Tesla products suffer from all sorts of reliability problems?

    It’s a nice story. But that’s all it is. The proof is in the pudding. Given the decades long financialization/deindustrialization campaign that has hollowed out the capabilities of the United States to actually MAKE STUFF, I have serious doubts.

    What you are projecting here implies some incredible turnaround, appearing out of nowhere, involving some of the most complicated projects there are. Color me skeptical.

  18. Hugh

    Some states use paper ballots machine counted. They report fast, and a sampling of precincts are audited to ensure that the machine-counting was legit. I have no problem with this. I also like mail-in voting. A new voting rights act to combat voter suppression. And election day being a national holiday.

    Hirohito’s surrender speech has a real Monty Python quality to it where he insists that it was far from Japan’s intention “to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations” and the classic assessment that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”

  19. Hugh

    Until we know things like its cost, mission, and characteristics, or our need for it, a “new” fighter is a fairly meaningless concept.

  20. Golloday – The right will never be palatable for a majority of people because it venerates power and money. At its extremes — such as Ayn Rand’s objectivists — it openly argues that selfishness is a virtue.

    The American republic was explicitly founded on the principles of civic republicanism as a project of the Enlightenment — that men and women can use reason to investigate and understand the patterns and laws of society, and use that understanding to create and maintain a system of government with check and balances to guard against the fallibility and frailty of human nature. Above all else, the purpose of government is to place constraints on selfishness.

    The problem with most people on the left is that they believe human nature can be made perfect by changing or eliminating property relations. This is a chimera. Human nature is malleable, but not changeable. Good government not only constrains selfishness, but also actively promotes “the better angels of our nature.” This is why, as one example, public education.

    The left, at least, wants to help people. The right wants “liberty” to fuck over people. Both are deeply flawed, but it’s extremely easy to choose the left and oppose the right.

    And, as has been discussed here periodically and repeatedly, “left” and “right” is a very flawed schema. I identify first and foremost as a civic republican not as a liberal and certainly not as a conservative or a Republican.

  21. Willy – you raise some very important points, using the example of occupied Japan.

    However, I think it should be pondered: what if the occupation of Japan had been managed by McKinsey consultants, instead of the US Army?

    And, of course, the US Army of the 1940s is not the same as the US Army of 2021.

  22. KT Chong

    The GME thing is about to blow up. An engineer on r/WallSteetBets did some math and research, and found out the numbers of GME shares that should exist vs. being bought/sold do not add up. There are way more GME shares being reported than actually exist… seems to be some serious Wall Street shenanigan going on.

    Short version: A review of the ‘strategic fails–to–deliver’ data indicates that institutional insiders may have counterfeited a massive number of GameStop shares, which is why they tried to stop retail investors from buying more shares on Thursday.

    There are are 71 million shares of GME that have ever been issued by the company. Yet institutions have collectively reported to the SEC via 13F filings that they own more than 102 million shares (including the 13% of GME stock is owned by Ryan Cohen). That is 30 million shares more than what actually exist.

    On top of the shares reportedly owned by institutions, retail investors may currently hold 50+ million shares (counting both long holdings and call options – both ITM and OTM.)

    Once you include call options, retail investors may already hold more than 100% of GME, (not just 100% of the float, more than 100% of the actual company.) This would be definitive proof of frauds and illegal activities at the highest levels of the financial system.

    Here is his hypothesis: “I think the hedge funds, clearing houses, and DTC executed a coordinated effort to put Game Stop out of business by conspiring to create a gargantuan number of counterfeit shares of GME, possibly 100-200% or more of the shares originally issued by Game Stop. In the process, they may have accidentally created a bomb that could blow up the entire system as we know it and we’re seeing their efforts to cover this up unfold now.”

    Here is the link: — with more links to sources, numbers and research.

    This is likely not the first time Wall Street has done this to a company: counterfeiting shares for shorting, trading shares that do not actually exist. However, this is first time retail investors and a short squeeze we created is gonna expose it because now they won’t be able to coordinate and cover it up.

  23. KT Chong

    BTW, I did not even know shares can be “counterfeited”. Then again, it makes sense: if money could be counterfeited, both physically and electronically, then so could shares.

    Given that trading had be an exclusive insider game on Wall Street until a year ago, (and they had been playing with taxpayers and other people’s money,) and they have always been able to get away with any financial including the ones in 2008, it makes sense that they would be brazen enough to be counterfeiting and trading fake shares.

    Seems like the public is about the find out that counterfeiting shares, making up/trading/shorting fake shares, is actually a thing on Wall Street.

  24. GlassHammer

    “The right will never be palatable for a majority of people because it venerates power and money. At its extremes — such as Ayn Rand’s objectivists — it openly argues that selfishness is a virtue.” – Tony Wikrent

    I am 90% certain that the reason the right can’t get a majority is because it is anti-utilitarian not because it venerates money, power, and selfishness. (Oh it has those vices in spades but so does the left.)

    No, the line of demarcation is “can all people be made maximally useful and thus they require a large society to provide the resources make them useful” or… “only some can be made useful and only to the extent of a barely existent society with little to no resources to make the useful and a great many must be entirely excluded”.

    Where you fall on this dividing line is based primarily on whether or not you benefitted from (or were captured by) regional power, regional culture, and regional economies. If those small regions within the U.S. claimed you then you are probably on the right politically if for no other reason than those regions demand exclusionary elements and very little imposition of a larger society. Obviously the political left and the utilitarian proponents of a greater society are at odds with regional hegemonic power.

    So, are you pro “regional feifdoms ruled by local barons with their preferred culture and economic order combined with weak federal power” or are you pro “national level rule by market arrangements and a half functioning representative system that is open to any culture or individual who is both useful and capable of growing/maintaining the system”.

  25. Chicago Clubs

    >This is likely not the first time Wall Street has done this to a company: counterfeiting shares for shorting, trading shares that do not actually exist.

    It’s called naked shorting and it’s both illegal and common.

  26. Feral Finster

    I won’t speak to fascism in other countries, but Ukraine is one case that I know well.

    I don’t recall any charismatic leader, Poroshenko certainly wasn’t, but they certainly have no shortage of fascists and Nazis in power.

    With American help. It all started when a bunch of students thought that EU association mean that they would be able to emigrate, even thought that was never on the table.

  27. John

    The omission Umair Haque makes in talking about poverty in Weimar is implying that all Germans fell into poverty equally. The problem was that life for the upper classes was pretty good while the working class suffered the poverty and deprivation.
    Hitler made economic promises that he sort of kept in building the Nazi war machine. The feckless Weimar governments could never figure out how to alleviate the poverty. They had a threadbare safety net but it wasn’t enough for people living on potato peel soup.

  28. Hugh

    Naked shorting was banned after the 2008 meltdown. The settlement date for a stock trade should he T + 2, or two business days after the trade. So for trades made last Friday the settlement date would be tomorrow Tuesday. That is the buy part, the money, would have been finalized on Friday and the sell part, the stock, its transfer in ownership would be final on Tuesday.

    There is no reason why, with everything being digital, these trades couldn’t be finalized at the end of each business day, except that it allows traders more wriggle room to play the market. With GME, the float, the number of stocks available for trading, was grossly and deliberately underestimated. It seems to be predicated on the notion that no major play would occur like the squeezing the short we are seeing (reducing or eliminating the float and that the price of GME stock would fall/collapse and lots of people would be selling their GME stock, thus increasing the float and allowing brokers to balance out their trades.

  29. Hugh

    “underestimated” should be “overestimated” They underestimated the number of shares they needed to be available and overestimated the number of shares that actually were available for trading.

  30. bruce wilder

    @ GlassHammer

    Except there is no national interest — what the centre and soi disant centre-left offer us as an alternative to the rump right of local and regional oligarchies nurturing local and regional sub-cultures is globalization and most especially global financialization married to perpetual war and decorated with superficial race-and-gender hustling.

    And, frankly, the core of the Democratic Party, now that it has collapsed down to representing the financialized, globalized professional and managerial classes, is, if anything, even smaller as well as more regionally concentrated than the Republican base of philistine corporate managers and small business people, certain that paying $15/hour will be the end of the Republic.

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