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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 07 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

The (anti)Federalist Society assault on the Constitution

The Weekend at Yale That Changed American Politics 

Michael Kruse [Politico, magazine September/October 2018]

It’s not too extreme to say that one wonky student group founded in 1982 has reshaped the Supreme Court, and the nation. What actually happened at the birth of the Federalist Society? ….

…a few conservative students at elite law schools sensed not anxiety but a moment of opportunity. Inspired by Reagan’s ideology and emboldened by his election, they did something ambitious to the point of audacious. They asked a collection of the country’s most notable right-leaning scholars, judges and Department of Justice officials to assemble at one of the very hubs of liberal orthodoxy, the campus of Yale University. Convened principally by Steven Calabresi, who was at Yale Law, and Lee Liberman and David McIntosh, who were at University of Chicago Law, some 200 people arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, on the last weekend of April for a three-day symposium.

It had a dry title—“A Symposium on Federalism: Legal and Political Ramifications”—and it easily could have been just another set of lectures, of interest only to a small lot of participants and attendees, the kind of higher-ed, corkboard-flyer get-togethers that happen all the time with no broader fanfare or larger lasting consequences. But at this one, as speakers castigated what they viewed as coastal elites and a leftist media and legal establishment and argued for a more “originalist” reading of the Constitution, people present felt a new sort of buzz. In the hallways, between the sessions, the vibe was more than just brainy….

Over the years, the Federalists have honed a disciplined, excessively modest narrative of their origins and purpose—that they are simply a facilitator of the exchange of ideas, a high-minded fulcrum of right-of-center thought, a debating society that doesn’t take overtly partisan, political positions. That narrative is not wrong. It’s just not the whole truth. The full story of that initial weekend—based on interviews with people who were there, as well as the seldom-read words of the speeches recorded in a 1982 issue of the conservative Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy—reveals something different. The effort was, from the get-go, aggressively political. There was a feeling of steeling for a fight….

…Bork, for example, who had been a law professor at Yale and had just become a federal judge, spoke of “the onslaught of the New Deal” and “the gentrification of the Constitution.” Abortion and “acceptable sexual behavior,” he said, should be “reserved to the states.” Pointedly, with Roe v. Wade, he said, the Supreme Court had “nationalized an issue which is a classical case for local control. There is simply no national moral consensus about abortion, and there is not about to be.”….

“Part of Reagan’s policy was to build up forces in battleground nations in order to help topple enemy regimes,” Calabresi told Riehl, “and I thought of us as kind of the same equivalent in law schools.”

At Yale, Calabresi and a couple of conservative law students formed a student group in the fall of 1981. Eating lunch one day, according to a subsequent telling in the journal at Harvard, they batted about possible names. The Ludwig von Mises Society? The Alexander Bickel Society? The Anti-Federalist Society? The Anti-Federalists, after all, were the ones who sought a more decentralized government at the time of the founding of the country. They landed, though, on the Federalist Society, because it invoked the Federalist Papers and the long-running American debate about the appropriate balance of power between the national and state governments….

…They had the beginnings of buy-in. Now they needed arguably an even more important lubricant. Money. Leveraging a recommendation from Scalia, Calabresi contacted the conservative Institute for Educational Affairs to ask. “As Professor Scalia of the University of Chicago Law School mentioned to you last Wednesday on the telephone, we are interested in holding a symposium,” he wrote early that February in a letter archived among Bork’s papers at the Library of Congress. “Professor Scalia said you thought I.E.A. might be quite interested in sponsoring and funding such a symposium.” Calabresi estimated that it would cost “in the neighborhood of $24,000.” It ended up being closer to $25,000. And it worked. IEA wrote a check that covered most of the cost. The rest came from donors, including the John M. Olin Foundation and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute….

In 1987, Bork’s Supreme Court nomination was scuttled by a liberal-led Senate campaign that used Bork’s own words on issues such as Roe v. Wade—issues he had spoken about at the symposium. It angered and motivated members of the Federalist Society, convincing them they needed to redouble their efforts. “It was a galvanizing defeat,” Hollis-Brusky told me, demonstrating to some of them that they had tried to come too far, too fast. It also reinforced the notion that ideological purity wasn’t the only ingredient to transforming the judiciary. Raw politics mattered as well. And nearly two decades later, the Federalists would cement their power by keeping someone off the court. In 2005, they agitated for the withdrawal of George W. Bush’s nominee Harriet Miers, who had no Federalist Society ties (and a conspicuously scant résumé), leading to the nomination of Samuel Alito, who did. The episode affirmed the way in which the society’s influence had grown. Alito joined fellow Federalist Society contributors Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts….

 

Trump’s Far-Right Army Is Threatening Bloodshed. Believe Them.

Thom Hartmann, July 5, 2024 [CommonDreams]

…America has been changed as a result of a series of corrupt rulings by Republicans (exclusively; not one of these rulings has been joined by a Democratic appointee) which have changed America’s legal and political systems themselves.…

First, in a series of decisions — the first written by that notorious corporatist Lewis Powell (of “Powell Memo” fame) — Republicans on the Court have functionally legalized bribery of politicians and judges by both the morbidly rich and massive corporations.

This started with Powell’s 1978 Bellotti opinion, which opened the door (already cracked a bit) to the idea that corporations are not only “persons” under the Constitution, but, more radically, are entitled to the human rights the Framers wrote into the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments).

Using that rationale, Powell asserted that corporations, like rich people (from the Buckley decision that preceded Belotti by two years), are entitled to the First Amendment right of free speech. But he took it a radical step farther, ruling that because corporations don’t have mouths they can use to speak with, their use of money to spend supporting politicians or carpet-bombing advertising for a candidate or issue is free speech that can’t be tightly regulated.

Citizens United, another all-Republican decision with Clarence Thomas the deciding vote (after taking millions in bribes), expanded that doctrine for both corporations and rich people, creating new “dark money” systems that wealthy donors and companies can use to hide their involvement in their efforts to get the political/legal/legislative outcomes they seek.

Last week the Republicans on the Court took even that a huge step farther, declaring that when companies or wealthy people give money to politicians in exchange for contracts, legislation, or other favors, as long as the cash is paid out after the deed is done it’s not a bribe but a simple “gratuity.” ….

Finally, in the Trump immunity case, the Court ruled that presidents are immune from prosecution under criminal law, regardless of the crimes they commit, so long as they assert those crimes are done as part of their “official” responsibilities. And who decides what’s “official”? The six Republicans on the Supreme Court.

These actions — corporate personhood, money as speech, ending the Chevron deference to regulatory agencies, and giving the president life-and-death powers that historically have only been held by kings, shahs, mullahs, dictators, and popes — have fundamentally altered the nature of our nation….

 

The Supreme Court Crowns a King, Immunizing Future Criminal Acts Under Project 2025 – a Right Wing Manifesto

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

…U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent. (Scroll down to her dissent at this link.) To drive home the hubris of the majority’s decision, she read her dissent aloud in the courtroom, boldly enunciating her weightiest words. In her dissent, which was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson (who also wrote her own dissent), Sotomayor wrote:

“Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency. It makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of Government, that no man is above the law. Relying on little more than its own misguided wisdom about the need for ‘bold and unhesitating action’ by the President, ante, at 3, 13, the Court gives former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more. Because our Constitution does not shield a former President from answering for criminal and treasonous acts, I dissent.”

Sotomayor adds that “There is a twisted irony in saying, as the majority does, that the person charged with ‘tak[ing] Care that the Laws be faithfully executed’ can break them with impunity.” She underscores her point with this: “The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.” ….

Charles Koch is now effectively functioning as a puppet master in Washington, pulling levers here and there and everywhere. With a net worth that Forbes puts at $59.2 billion, that’s a lot of levers that he can pull.

Senator Bernie Sanders saw the Koch threat more than a decade ago. The video below shows how Senator Sanders warned Americans from the Senate floor about the threat to democracy coming from the Koch brothers and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to billionaires to control U.S. elections through unlimited campaign funding. (Also see our exclusive report from 2011 on the slimy background details involving Charles Koch, Justice Clarence Thomas and the Citizens United decision.)

https://youtu.be/B5tAT6ciJ4s

 

The Debate Disaster and the Supreme Court’s “Chevron” Repeal Have a Money Trail Leading to Charles Koch

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 1, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

…Recently, we learned from Federal Election Commission data that i360 is conducting “surveys” for Americans for Prosperity Action (AFP Action), a Super PAC with longstanding financial ties to Charles Koch. According to FEC data, Koch Industries gave $25 million to AFP Action on May 19 of last year while Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, successor to the Koch-funded Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce (which ceased operations in 2019 after too much press scrutiny) chipped in another $25 million eight days earlier. Alice, Rob and Jim Walton, billionaire heirs of the Walmart retail chain, each gave $5 million to AFP Action last year while former hedge fund titan, Stanley Druckenmiller, chipped in $1.5 million. (For those who have given $1 million or more thus far in the current election cycle, see here.)

Americans for Prosperity is attempting to undermine President Biden while simultaneously attacking incumbent Senate Democrats in hopes of flipping the Senate to right-wing Republicans. See a typical attack ad here.

Another Koch-related front group during the 2016 presidential campaign, Freedom Partners, was able to seamlessly move their staffers into Donald Trump’s administration and control much of his agenda.  In a document titled “Roadmap to Repeal: Removing Regulatory Barriers to Opportunity,” Freedom Partners listed the laws and regulations it expected to be repealed in the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. The Trump administration dutifully followed the prescribed agenda, repealing the Paris Climate Accord; passing tax cuts for the wealthy; while slashing federal regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency.

By the spring of 2018, 12 people who previously worked at Freedom Partners were working in the Trump administration. When we examined the makeup of Freedom Partners in 2018, we found that all but one of Freedom Partners’ 9-member Board of Directors was a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair of Freedom Partners at that time was the same Mark Holden that was the General Counsel of Koch Industries.

In addition, Koch Industries’ law firm, Jones Day, sent 12 of its lawyers to key spots in the Trump administration on Trump’s very first day in office.

With all that as background, consider how the Koch agenda continues to march forward in undermining American democracy because Trump’s three lifetime appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court have bolstered the 6-3 majority that is obediently handing out wins to Charles Koch and his minions….

 

The Dred Scott of Our Time’

Sean Wilentz, July 4, 2024 [The New York Review]

The majority opinion in Trump v. United States, the most sweeping judicial reconstruction of the American presidency in history, secures the monumental historic disgrace of the John Roberts Court. Since last winter, the Supreme Court has intervened directly in the 2024 presidential campaign by effectively shielding Donald Trump from being tried on major federal charges before the November election. No previous Supreme Court has protected a political candidate in this way. Far more ominously, in March the Court in Trump v. Anderson openly nullified the section of the Fourteenth Amendment that bars insurrectionists from holding federal or state office, discarding basic lessons about threats to American democracy dating back to the Civil War. Now, in Trump v. United States, handed down on the last day of its 2023–2024 term, the Court has seized the opportunity to invent, with no textual basis, “at least presumptive” and quite possibly “absolute” presidential criminal immunity for official acts, a decision so broad that it essentially places the presidency above the law.

By throwing Trump’s federal indictments into doubt, Trump v. United States all but completes the former president’s immunization from legal accountability for the events of January 6, 2021, at least until after the election. But that is only the decision’s narrowest ambit. Its vague distinction between official and unofficial presidential acts gives any president carte blanche to commit crimes up to and including assassination and treason with virtual impunity from criminal prosecution, as long as he can justify those crimes as part of his “official” duties. In effect it invests the presidency with quasi-monarchial powers, repudiating the foundational principle of the rule of law. Trump and his supporters have pledged to wield unfettered executive power and unleash a scorched-earth assault on the “deep state,” which is to say the existing constitutional and institutional order, if he is reelected. In the current crisis, that threat’s most powerful ally is the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Roberts Court has descended to a level of shame reserved until now for the Roger B. Taney Court that decided the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857. Just as that court’s majority sought to suppress the antislavery Republican Party and to help permanently secure the Slave Power’s control over American law and government, so the Roberts Court majority has sought, thus far successfully, to protect Trump from prosecution and to secure radical changes in American law friendly to MAGA authoritarianism….

Until Trump v. United States, no one decision by the Roberts Court carried significance comparable in magnitude to that of Dred Scott. Numerous other shamefully activist rulings—the Dobbs decision on abortion, the Bruen decision on gun regulation, dozens of others—have been just as egregious in their flawed reasoning and transparent political purposes. But Trump v. United States is distinct as a deliberate attack on the core institutions and principles of the republic, preparing the way for a MAGA authoritarian regime much as Dred Scott tried to do for the slavocracy….

…In some respects, arguably, the politicization of the Roberts Court has even surpassed that of the Taney Court. President Buchanan prudently applied his extraordinary pressure on the Court in secret. Today Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a co-conspirator in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, thinks nothing of publicly bidding the Court—“many [of whom] I know personally,” he told Fox and Friends in May—to intervene on Trump’s behalf over his hush-money conviction in a New York state court, assuring the Fox hosts and the MAGA faithful that “this will be overturned, guys, there’s no question about it, it’s just going to take time do it.” ….

Even more grievous, though, than the individual displays of partisanship and dubious ethics has been the majority’s tampering with the Constitution itself. It’s one thing to misinterpret the Constitution in order to reach a predetermined conclusion by contriving fake history, as Taney did and his “originalist” successors have; it’s quite another to use these methods to alter fundamental structures of constitutional government. Yet in the Colorado disqualification case, the Court brazenly gutted Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, inventing the idea that the power to disqualify insurrectionists from office lay entirely with Congress….

Trump v. United States originated in a routine effort by Trump’s lawyers to throw up any motion, no matter how outlandish, to delay Special Council Jack Smith’s prosecution of Trump in the District Court for the District of Columbia …. The presiding district court judge, Tanya Chutkan, denied the motion in December 2023, all but calling its arguments ridiculous, and affirmed the the trial date she had set earlier, March 4 of this year. A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia unanimously upheld Judge Chutkan in February in similar terms, at which point Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to put the Appeals Court panel’s decision on hold to allow them time to petition for the entire Appeals Court to hear the case. But what Trump’s lawyers failed to achieve at the district court and appellate level—postponing the trial long enough to protect their client from prosecution before the election—the Supreme Court did for them….

 

The Supreme Court’s Power Grab

David Cole, July 6, 2024 [The New York Review]

The Supreme Court in its just-concluded 2023–2024 term extended substantial new rights to hedge fund managers, big business, and former president Donald Trump, while denying constitutional protection to homeless people punished for sleeping in public, Black voters in South Carolina, and an American citizen whose noncitizen husband was denied a visa without explanation. This is perverse. We give unelected courts the power they have so that they can defend the rights of those who cannot protect themselves through the political process. Yet the Court flipped the script this term, consistently doing the bidding of the powerful while turning away the claims of the powerless. And it did so, in its most consequential cases, by the same 6–3 vote, with Republican-appointed justices imposing their will less by law than by sheer force of numbers….

[TW: Amos 5: 7-12; 6:3 —

Woe to those who turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness to the ground,

They hate those who reprove at the gate and abhor those who speak with integrity;

Therefore, because you tax the destitute and exact from them levies of grain…

Yes, I know how many are your crimes, how grievous your sins: Oppressing the just, accepting bribes, turning away the needy at the gate….

You who would put off the day of disaster, yet hasten the time of violence! ]

Cole, continued:

…The Trump immunity case garnered most of the public’s attention, but the Court’s most consequential decisions continued its aggressive assault on the administrative state—the executive agencies that govern so much of our lives, including financial markets, agriculture, health care, energy, the airwaves, the environment, and the workplace. At least since the New Deal, it has been self-evident that given the complexity and size of the nation, governing would be impossible without these agencies. Business interests nonetheless favor private power over public control and rankle at regulation. As do the Court’s six conservative justices. A 2022 study by the scholars Lee Epstein and Mitu Gulati found that of the fifty-seven justices who have served over the last century, the six most pro-business are the present six Republican appointees. That’s remarkable, considering that period includes the so-called Lochner era, when the Court invalidated virtually every law that sought to regulate big business….

On the last day of the Court’s term, as everyone was waiting for the Trump immunity ruling, the Court slipped in a third administrative law decision, Corner Post, Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The case concerned the driest of legal questions: when a statute of limitations is initiated for challenging agency regulations. The rule had been that challenges to the validity of regulations had to be filed within six years of their publication. The Court, again dividing on 6–3 lines, determined that the statute of limitations is initiated not by publication of the rule but by its application to a party. Now, in order to challenge an agency regulation, no matter how long-standing, all one has to do is incorporate a business and sue. As Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson pointed out in dissent, “There is effectively no longer any limitations period for lawsuits that challenge agency regulations on their face.” The decision practically invites across-the-board challenges to agency rules that the business community dislikes….

It may seem odd that the Court’s conservative justices are so hostile to administrative agencies yet so enamored of presidential power. The agencies, after all, are part of the executive branch. But conservatives have long objected that the agencies are a fourth branch of their own, at odds with the original tripartite structure of our government, and too independent of the president. More significantly, the president’s ability to regulate the private sector on his own is limited and would be toothless without robust administrative agencies. The conservative justices, it seems, favor a muscular president—as long as he can’t interfere with private capital.

 

The Equal Rights of All: The Great Guaranty and Present Necessity, For the Sake of Security, and to Maintain a Republican Government. Speech in the Senate, on the proposed Amendment of the Constitution fixing the Basis of Representation, February 5 and 6, 1866. Senator Charles Sumner.

… The question, then, returns, What is “a republican form of government,” according to the requirement of the National Constitution ? … these important words were not introduced and unanimously adopted without purpose. They must be interpreted so as to have real meaning. Any interpretation rendering them insignificant must be discarded as irrational and valueless, if not dishonest. They cannot be treated as a phrase only, nor a dead letter, nor an empty figure-head. Nor can they be treated as profession and nothing more, so that the Constitution shall merely seem to be republican… They must be treated as real. Thus interpreted, they become at once a support of Human Rights and a balance-wheel to our whole political system.

…[Reviews Plato, Aristotle, Cicero] And yet there are two principles which all these philosophers teach : the first is justice ; and the second is the duty of seeking the general welfare.

….Men may not have a natural right to certain things, but most clearly they have a natural right to impartial laws, without which justice, being the end and aim of government, must fail. Equality in rights is the first of rights.

Do you ask for the definition of Republic ? Here it is, by patriot lexicographers, whose
authority none of us can question…. The same spirit appears in the National Constitution, which, by its preamble, asserts practically similar sentiments:

“We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” … to “insure domestic tranquillity,” which is vain without justice, to “provide for the common defence,” which is the defence of all, to ” promote the general welfare,” which is the welfare of all, and to “secure the blessings of liberty ” to all the people and their posterity, which is giving to all the complete enjoyment of rights central among which is Equality….

 

Supreme Court strikes down Chevron, curtailing power of federal agencies and Justices rule for Jan. 6 defendant 

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2024]

 

Monopoly Round-Up: What Is Chevron Deference and How Much Does It Matter? 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 07-01-2024]

 

Is It Possible To Be A Worse Chief Justice Than Roger Taney? John Roberts Is Pushing The Envelope

Howie Klein, July 2, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

John Roberts is running up a record that puts him in contention with these moneys as the worst Chief Justice in history:

  • Roger Taney (1836-1864)- a racist scumbag, pro-slavery fanatic and Confederate sympathizer (His Dred Scott decision is considered the worst SCOTUS ruling ever)
  • Morrison Waite (1874-1888)- corporate personhood, anti-civil rights
  • Melville Fuller (1888-1910)- anti-union/pro-business fanatic (best known for Plessy v. Ferguson, which entrenched systemic racism for decades)
  • Edward White (1910-1921)- another overtly racist and anti-union pig
  • William Rehnquist (1986-2005)- weakened the Voting Rights Act, played the pivotal role in stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore and handing it to George Bush based solely on his own far right politics

 

There’s Not Much We Can Do About SCOTUS— Other Than Commit To Never Voting For Any Conservative Ever

Howie Klein, July 2, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

…Jamie Raskin is Congress’ foremost Constitutional scholar. Yesterday, he issued this statement: “Today, the Supreme Court took a bulldozer to the democratic credo that no one—including presidents and former presidents—is above the law.  Three years ago, after Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, Mitch McConnell explained, ‘We have a criminal justice system in this country…  And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable.’  But today, far-right justices embedded with the ‘Stop the Steal’ movement conferred broad immunity on Donald Trump, even going so far as to help him keep evidence of his criminal actions from coming to light in a court of law.  Today’s ruling, postponing any prosecution of Trump until after the election and holding that Presidents are presumptively immune from criminal prosecution for using their office to assassinate political rivals, organize a military coup, or take bribes, is a radical break from the rule of law which underscores how much our democratic values have been eroded and are on the line in November.  Donald Trump has made it clear that, if he wins election, he will use his presidential powers to pardon all his co-conspirators and weaponize the Justice Department by firing career employees and replacing them with an army of sycophants willing to engage in retributive harassment against his political opponents.  All of this would be presumably allowable under today’s horrific decision.”

 

You Might Wish Biden Would Use Absolute Immunity To Jail 6 Justices— But Here’s A Reform To Consider — This Is More Realistic

Jack Hannold [downwithtyranny.com, 7-5-2024]

The right-wing Supreme Court can’t be fixed through impeachment. While a simple majority of the House can impeach an official, it takes a two-thirds majority of the Senate to convict. Democrats now have a slender 51-49 majority in the Senate, and only 10 of the 33 Senate seats at stake in November are now held by Republicans….

But it would be possible to expand the courts— not just SCOTUS, but the entire federal judiciary— if the Democrats control both the House and the Senate. Legislation to do that can be passed by a simple majority vote in both chambers.

In an email to Howie two years ago yesterday, I suggested how we could expand not only the Supreme Court, but also the appellate courts and district courts, in order to re-balance the entire system. I wrote it nine days after the Dobbs decision. Though it’s two years old, it seems more timely than ever in the wake of Monday’s presidential immunity decision. So here it is for your consideration….
Trump appointed 53 of the 179 judges currently serving on the appeals courts — nearly one-third of them. (In fact, he appointed 54, but one of them was elevated to the Supreme Court in the closing days of his administration, in flagrant violation of the 2016 McConnell Doctrine.)
But before we consider how many new judges we need to balance the appeals courts, let’s look at the 11 current circuit courts—and their populations….

Then, after establishing the 12th Circuit,  we should establish a minimum requirement of one appeals court judge for every 1.5 million people in the circuit.  That would require 19 judges for the rump 9th Circuit and 27 for the new 12th— a total of 46 judges, or 17 more than the 29 on the current 9th Circuit.  It would also require anywhere from one to 13 additional judges on each of the other existing circuit courts.

Those newly appointed, non-Federalist Society judges on the appellate courts would bring much needed balance to the currently Trumpified federal judiciary.  SCOTUS accepts only about 1% of the petitions it receives.  The circuit courts are the final arbiters in most cases. That’s why it’s important to expand them as well as SCOTUS.
And we’d need 14 associate justices on SCOTUS to supervise the 14 appellate courts: the 12 circuits, DC and Federal. (With John Roberts as Chief Justice, it’s just as well that he doesn’t have one.)….

 

The Assassination Hypothetical Isn’t Even the Scariest Part of the Supreme Court Immunity Ruling 

[Slate, via Naked Capitalism 07-05-2024]

 

Strategic Political Economy

The meme that is destroying Western civilisation—Part II: Why both sides of politics sing from the same economics textbook

Steve Keen, July 4, 2024

In the previous post I asked, “why do both sides of politics deliver Neoliberal, austerity-oriented policies when in power? Since they end up being disastrous for them politically, why don’t they offer and try something different?”

The best answer to that question was given by the main architect of mainstream economics, Paul Samuelson. In the foreword to a study guide for lecturers using his textbook Economics, he wrote that:

I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws—or crafts its advanced treaties—if I can write its economics textbooks. The first lick is a privileged one, impinging on the beginner’s tabula rasa [blank slate] at its most impressionable state. (Samuelson 1990)

This was no idle boast: a colleague who worked in the corridors of power—including the office of the then Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating—recounted how, when some crisis erupted, emergency meetings would be held, and everyone would be in a pickle about what to do about it, until someone said something that chimed with what they’d all been taught as undergraduates by a first-year economics textbook.

Suddenly, there was intellectual clarity to the discussion, and the policy that emerged was by and large shaped by an economics textbook. If it wasn’t, then the “errant” policy would be criticized by journalists and think-tanks—who views were also shaped by those textbooks—and revised until it did conform….

The key concept that had been engraved into their minds during their studies, whether they did just a year of economics in a PPE course (“Philosophy, Politics and Economics”), or a full PhD, was what we now call a meme: the “supply and demand diagram” that was first invented by Alfred Marshall. The intersecting lines of supply and demand becomes the prism through which the world is perceived by victims of an education in economics….

This argument is in the minds of both Left-leaning and Right-leaning baby politicians at Universities. Whether they are conscious of it or not, that “supply and demand” meme frames what both sides of politics think is possible. Therefore, both implement Neoliberal policies with an emphasis on cutting government spending and reducing government debt. Politics now is an argument over which side of politics is better at imposing the same policies.

 

The meme that is destroying Western civilisation—Part III

Steve Keen, July 5, 2024

Yesterday’s UK election has repeated the pattern of the last 40 years: a Neoliberal-Heavy Party—the Conservatives—have lost in a landslide to a Neoliberal-Lite Party—Labour. The victor will set about implementing the same economic policies as the party it routed, but more nicely.

Jeremy Corbyn—the previous anti-Neoliberal leader of the Labour Party, who held onto his seat as an independent, after Labour’s current pro-Neoliberal leader Kier Starmer banned him from standing for Labour—put the election result in context when he commented that Labour “has put forward a manifesto that is thin to put it mildly, and doesn’t offer a serious economic alternative to what the Conservative government is doing.”

The root problem, as I noted in my previous post (Substack;Patreon), is that both parties—and almost all of the bureaucracy, the media, and economic thinktanks, as a reader pointed out—have Neoliberalism “embedded in them”. They all think that Marshall’s meme of intersecting supply and demand curves describes how the real-world works. So, despite vast differences between political parties on issues like culture and immigration, when it comes to the economics, all you get is a different brand of the same old breakfast cereal.

It’s the breakfast cereal that is the problem.

The easiest place to prove that supply and demand analysis is false is the area where its application does the greatest harm: the belief, derived from supply and demand analysis, that the government borrows from the private sector when it runs a deficit, and that, therefore, a deficit reduces total savings.

Here’s the way that Mankiw’s Macroeconomics textbook puts it….

…In other words, Mankiw’s textbook (and all other mainstream economics textbooks) moved the supply curve the wrong way: he should have shown that the deficit increases savings….

 

Rising Market Power Has Led to the Rise in Far-Right Political Parties

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

 

The Far Right Is Rising… Will France Fall Under the Heel Of The Fascist Boot?

Howie Klein, July 1, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

France’s version of Rupert Murdoch, multi-billionaire Vincent Bolloré, has thrown his media empire against democracy and in favor of a fascist France, embittered after it came out that he had basically bought former President Nicolas Sarkozy. Bolloré pushes fascist politicians and their agenda at every opportunity and is getting much of the blame for precipitating a rightward shift in French politics.

 

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: “We Are In A War For Our Future And We Should Behave That Way”

Howie Klein, July 4, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

Sen. Whitehouse: Our current situation should give Dems a rejuvenating chance to focus better on fixing what’s gone wrong in America. We face three huge threats: persistent internal attacks on our democracy, unbridled climate upheaval, and a captured Court with some deeply corrupt justices.

Behind each threat is dark money; massive anonymous political spending by special interests who hide their identities from the public.

The political class has reoriented itself to this new reality, pivoting to the big secret spenders. Voters notice they’re not so important anymore.

An entire dark-money ecosystem has been spawned, with front groups, ‘Donors Trusts,’ coordinating 501c3s and c4s, and superPACs.

This whole filthy bestiary of influence is new (or refocused and expanded) since Citizens United.

It didn’t used to be this way; it doesn’t have to be this way. Democrats keep voting to get rid of dark money, and Republicans keep voting to protect dark money, but voters have no idea. We basically haven’t told them….

Republicans are complicit in all this because the dark money behind these schemes is also the dark money billions behind their political operations.

It’s a trifecta; dark money is behind climate denial, Court capture and corruption of Congress— one crew, one plan, one cancer in the body politic. …

 

Global power shift

Putin ‘is prepared to SHARE Crimea with Ukraine according to new peace plan that has been presented by Russia to the US’ 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 07-05-2024]

 

Gaza / Palestine / Israel

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 07-03-2024]

Amidst Gaza’s famine crisis, Israeli occupation forces have razed the last food basket for Gaza by destroying around 500 agricultural acres of greenhouses northwest of Rafah.

 

The Samson Option: Israel’s Plan to Nuke Its Opponents 

[The Progressive, via Naked Capitalism 07-04-2024]

 

An Annihilation Discourse Has Taken Over Israel 

[Haaretz, via Naked Capitalism 07-04-2024]

 

Oligarchy

To Woo Trump, VP Contenders Show Off Their Rich Friends

Michael Bender and Theodore Schleifer [New York Times, via downwithtyranny.com 7-1-2024]

Tom Cotton of Arkansas, for example, became a top contender late in the selection process after persistent lobbying from Steve Wynn, the billionaire former casino mogul [a sex predator like Trump] who is close to Trump. Wynn has also played a role in persuading some other donors, such as Elon Musk, to be more supportive of the campaign.

Many vice-presidential hopefuls, including some outside contenders wise to the financial dynamic, have responded, boasting— and sometimes exaggerating— the amount they could raise for the ticket. The posturing, in some cases, has drawn sneers from some Republican donors, who feel like they are being used as pawns in internecine warfare.

But the most successful financial jockeying has come from the three contenders who are, as of now, viewed as the top candidates for the job: Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

Burgum, a former software executive who sold a company to Microsoft, has an estimated net worth of at least $100 million, according to Forbes, suggesting he could inject some of his fortune into the race. He spent more than $10 million on his own short-lived, long-shot presidential bid last year.

He has also sought to demonstrate his fund-raising potential for Trump by luring wealthy first-time donors to the president’s corner. On Tuesday, Burgum hosted a video conference with donors where the campaign charged $10,000 merely to join the call, and $25,000 to participate in a question-and-answer session, according to a copy of the invitation….

 

Crypto-Criminals Eat Capitol Hill— Law Enforcement Is Nowhere To Be Seen

Howie Klein, July 6, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

 

Agreeing to Our Harm 

Marilynne Robinson [The New York Review, July 18, 2024 issue]

…my subject is the rage and rejection that have emerged in America, threatening to displace politics, therefore democracy, and to supplant them with a figure whose rage and resentment excite an extreme loyalty, and disloyalty, a sort of black mass of patriotism, a business of inverted words and symbols where the idea of the sacred is turned against itself. I will suggest that one great reason for this rage is a gross maldistribution of the burdens and consequences of our wars. If I am right that this inequity has some part in the anger that has inflamed our public life, in order to vindicate democracy we must acknowledge it and try to put it right.

It is taken to be true that the Trump phenomenon reflects the feeling in a large part of the population that they are “left behind.” This view is obviously too smug to deserve the acceptance it enjoys. Why does this movement have no vision of a future, beyond the incarceration of whomever Trump chooses to vilify? Why have its members proposed no reforms to narrow the economic divide? Why is there no response to the ambitious investments President Biden has made, designed to stimulate the economies of struggling areas? A “populism” whose lieutenants have an impressive number of Yale Law degrees and whose idol is a Manhattan moneyman is not to be understood as a flaring up of aggrieved self-interest….

 

Wealth at Birth and its Effect on Child Academic Achievement and Behavioral Problems 

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 07-02-2024]

 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Congolese Fight for Their Own Wealth 

Vijay Prasad [Tricontinental, via Naked Capitalism 07-03-2024]

…Cobalt, lithium, and coltan: these are the minerals needed to advance the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) accounts for around 71% of the total production of cobalt in the world and 35% of its coltan.1As long as these minerals exist in the Congo, there will be forces seeking to destabilise the country. But the minerals are not the source of the problem: capitalism is. What is the difference between Norway, for instance – a resource-rich country with lucrative oil reserves – and the DRC? The DRC has been placed low down on the capitalist chain of production, its resources exploited while violence is allowed to continue unfettered.

While the DRC is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of its resources, it has one of the poorest populations. The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that the DRC has untapped mineral reserves worth US$24 trillion as well as half of Africa’s water resources, half of Africa’s forest cover, and 80 million hectares of arable land that have the capacity to feed the entire continent. In 2022, two metals – copper and cobalt – were exported for a combined total of US$25 billion, equal to over a third of the Congo’s GDP that year. Despite this enormous natural resource wealth, the people of the DRC struggle to survive. In the same year, the World Bank found that around 74.6% of the DRC’s population lives on less than US$2.15 a day, and about one in six Congolese live in extreme poverty….

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 07-01-2024]
[Where’s Your Ed At?, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 07-02-2024]
“[I]t was the Shareholder Supremacy movement that created the nebulous creature known as ‘management’ — a figurehead that exists to increase company value and make speeches rather than have any kind of domain expertise or bonafides, someone with just the ability to move numbers around and point at people to ‘get things done,’ even if ‘things’ might mean ‘make something worse as a means of cutting costs.’ In the eyes of the Shareholder Supremacist, the CEO of a tech company isn’t someone that builds, invests in, or proliferates technologies, but a stage-magician-accountant hybrid that uses a combination of sleight of hand and vague promises to convince those around them that a company is ‘the future,’ with the occasional result being that the company might develop technology at some point. Yet it took decades for the damage to really set in, when, in 1960, a horrible little man called Jack Welch would join General Electric….”

Predatory finance

Grand Jury Transcript in Jeffrey Epstein Case Is Released, Raising Questions about Epstein’s Darkest Secrets Being Protected in JPMorgan Cases

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 3, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

 

Disrupting mainstream economics

Hayek, the Accidental Freudian 

Corey Robin [The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2024]

[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 07-02-2024]

Soon China will be delocalising production to Europe to exploit local low-wage labor.

 

.

Health care crisis

The maddening saga of how an Alzheimer’s ‘cabal’ thwarted progress toward a cure for decades 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2024]

 

CEO in Major Health-Advertising Fraud Gets 7.5-Year Prison Sentence 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2024]

 

Disrupting mainstream politics

The UK Left Sent Labour a Message on Austerity and Palestine

Martin Williams, July 6, 2024 [CommonDreams]

…Since the last election in 2019, Labour has increased its overall share of the vote by less than two points. Polling expert John Curtice says this was “entirely as a result of a 17-point increase in support in Scotland,” following a collapse in SNP support.

Starmer’s victory, Curtis explains, was not so much due to a rise in support for the party, but “largely on the back of a dramatic 20-point decline in Conservative support.”….

At the last election, no independent candidates won a seat. This time around, independents secured an impressive share of the vote and inflicted a series of major blows to Labour, winning in five constituencies in England. Many such candidates had stood on pro-Palestine platforms, highlighting Starmer’s support for Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

Independent Shockat Adam defeated Labour shadow cabinet minister Jon Ashworth in Leicester South, which was meant to be a safe seat; Ashworth had won by more than 22,000 votes in 2019….

Meanwhile, Corbyn—who also stood as an independent after being forced out of the party—won his seat in Islington North by more than 7,200 votes. This was despite Labour pouring significant support into the constituency, including visits from party grandees like Tony Blair’s former chief adviser, Peter Mandelson, and former deputy leader Tom Watson….

 

Climate and environmental crises

How to create a ‘world without waste’? Here are the plastic industry’s ideas. 

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 07-03-2024]

In the time it takes you to read this sentence — say, four seconds — the world produces nearly 60 metric tons of plastic, almost entirely out of fossil fuels. That’s about 53,000 metric tons an hour, 1.3 million metric tons a day, or 460 million metric tons a year. Those numbers are fueling widespread and growing contamination of Earth’s oceans, rivers, and the terrestrial environment with plastic trash.

In March 2022, the United Nations’ 193 member states got together in Nairobi, Kenya, and agreed to do something about it. They pledged to negotiate a treaty to “end plastic pollution,” with the goal of delivering a final draft by 2025. The most ambitious vision espoused by member states in the negotiating sessions that have taken place so far would require petrochemical companies to stop making so much of the darn stuff by putting a cap on global plastic production….

So what exactly do plastic-producing companies want from the treaty? To answer this question, Grist sifted through dozens of public statements and policy documents from five of the world’s largest petrochemical industry trade organizations, as well as two product-specific industry groups. These documents included press releases reacting to treaty negotiating sessions and longer position statements detailing the industry’s desired pathway to a “world without waste.”

….What we found is that, although they fall far short of what so-called “high-ambition” countries and advocacy groups would like to get out of the treaty, industry groups’ proposals to bolster recycling and waste collection could cause a significant reduction in mismanaged plastic waste — even in the absence of a cap on plastic production. According to a policy analysis tool developed by researchers at the University of California, the elements of the treaty that industry groups support, cobbled together, could cut global plastic pollution by 43 million metric tons annually by 2050 — a 36 percent reduction below business-as-usual estimates….

 

Democrats’ political malpractice

The State of the State

Thomas Neuburger, July 2, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

Can those who sold the public that Biden was “sharp as a tack” go back and undo the damage of last week’s awful debate? Let’s look at that question in two ways.

First, if Biden stays in the race — which he has said he will do, a course which his family is urging — can he recover his standing and win?
Second, can the non-Right Wing press, which for years has been telling us Biden is exactly as sharp as he needs to be, ever convince us they’ll tell us the truth again? In service of their non-journalistic goal — keeping Trump out of office — have they ruined their ability to fulfill their journalistic goal, reporting the facts?
Both of those questions matter. Let’s look at them dispassionately, and one at a time.

Corporately-Funded Conservative Democrats Want Their Own Project 2025… Of Course

Howie Klein, June 30, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

…This is the board of directors of Third Way, basically a cabal of banksters and one of the most destructive forces from inside the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. Meet the scumbags: 

John Vogelstein, Chairman- Chairman of New Providence Asset Management, LLC and Senior Advisor to Warburg Pincus, LLC.
Jonathan Cowan, President- Andrew Cuomo’s ex-Chief of Staff
David Heller, Vice Chairman- formerly the Global Head of Equity Trading for Goldman Sachs
Bernard Schwartz, Chairman Emeritus- former Chairman of the Board and CEO of Loral Space and Communications Inc., now the Chairman and CEO of BLS Investments, LLC.
William Budinger- founder and former chairman and CEO of Rodel, Inc.
David Coulter- Managing Director and Senior Advisor at Warburg Pincus, formerly chairman of J.P. Morgan & Chase Co.
[and many more….}
Lewis Cullman- engineered the very first leveraged buyout (LBO)— with $1,000 cash, he and a friend bought Orkin Exterminating Company for $62.4 million.
William Daley- Prior to being appointed Chief of Staff by Obama, he was Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Midwest for JPMorgan Chase

Governing in the Political Twilight Zone 

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 07-03-2024]

 

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

Project 2025 Architect Signals Bloodshed If Left Opposes Trump-Led ‘Revolution’

Jake Johnson, July 3, 2024 [CommonDreams]

 

‘Screaming the Quiet Part’: Trump Advisers Say He’s Ready to Embrace King-Like Powers

Jake Johnson, July 2, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump … is reportedly preparing to exploit the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Monday that current and former presidents are entitled to sweeping immunity from criminal prosecution.

Citing unnamed advisers to the former president, Axiosreported Tuesday that if Trump is reelected in November, he “plans to immediately test the boundaries of presidential and governing power, knowing the restraints of Congress and the courts are dramatically looser than during his first term.”

 

My unsettling interview with Steve Bannon 

David Brooks, New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 07-03-2024]

[TW: An oblivious conservative who still can’t see the destructiveness of his own ideology, is horrified by talking to a fully self-aware conservative who revels in that destructiveness. God help us…. ]

 

With Attention on Presidential Contest, GOP Goes on Austerity Rampage

Jake Johnson, July 6, 2024 [CommonDreams]

With much of the public’s attention on the looming presidential election and high-stakes jockeying over who will take on Donald Trump in November, congressional Republicans in recent weeks have provided a stark look at their plans for federal spending should their party win back control of the presidency and the Senate.

The appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2025, which begins in October, is currently underway, with congressional committees engaging in government funding debates that are likely to continue beyond the November elections.

In keeping with their longstanding support for austerity for ordinary Americans, Republicans in the House and Senate have proposed steep cuts to a wide range of federal programs and agencies dealing with educationenvironmental protectionSocial Securityelection administrationnational parksnutrition assistanceantitrust enforcementglobal health, and more—all while they pursue additional deficit-exploding tax giveaways for the rich.

“Some of the most concerning policy riders in the House Fiscal Year 2025 budget bills include mandates for new oil and gas leasing, prohibitions on the establishment of important protected areas for wildlife and natural ecosystems, and limitations that hinder federal agency ability to regulate polluters, putting water quality, air quality, and the climate at risk,” the Surfrider Foundation noted in a statement earlier this week.

“Two of the key federal agencies that administer these programs are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), yet the House budget bills call for a 20% funding cut to the EPA, and a 12% funding cut to NOAA,” the group added….

 

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2 Comments

  1. Mark Level

    Viz the Howie Klein header, ROTFLMAO!!

    “There’s Not Much We Can Do About SCOTUS— Other Than Commit To Never Voting For Any Conservative Ever”.

    Sadly, Howie is too stupid to understand that that would mean never voting for 99%–100% of Dems either (99% in local politics, 100% in Congress, Senate & Presidency). . . Is AOC remotely left, when she will signal that the protests against the Gaza Genocide have an “anti-Semitic” context? Chuck Schumer, Wall Street Critter-Criminal? Etc., etc. John (“Exterminate those Palestinians!! AIPAC, Baby!”) Fetterman?

    Actually, the ONLY politician I know who has EVER stood up for freedom in the current Congress is a Republican from the South, Blake Masters, a Free Speech Absolutist, the only one who voted against the “Protesting Gaza on college campuses is Anti-Semitism, we must arrest them all” bill. Even Ilhan Omar had a cowardly vote of “present”.

    They speak with ONE voice. I guess either Howie thinks we should only vote for Blake Masters, or that we should vote for every crooked fascist (Adam Schitt, Henry Cuellar, Bob “Gold Bar” Menendez, a Dem. & AIPAC tool)? Alright, it’s the latter.

  2. Adam Eran

    One bit of interesting information about Charles Koch. His father (Fred Koch) built oil refineries all over the world. He hated Stalin’s USSR, but loved Hitler’s Germany. In fact, he hired a German nanny to help raise his kids.

    When I say that nanny was a Nazi, I’m not speaking of her disciplinary style. She was a member of Hitler’s party. Fred himself helped found the John Birch society and many conservative think tanks.

    For more such tidbits, see Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money” biography of the Kochs.

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