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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 10, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Our Entire Civilization Is Structured Around Keeping Us From Realizing We Can Do This

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 7-9-2022]

Thousands of protesters outraged by the deteriorating material conditions of the nation’s economic meltdown have stormed the presidential palace of Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and I guarantee you the aerial footage as they poured into the building en masse has made every government leader and plutocrat a little uncomfortable today….

If you’ve ever wondered why so much energy goes into keeping everyone propagandized in our society, this is why. If you’ve ever wondered why our rulers work so hard to keep us divided against each other, this is why. If you’ve ever wondered why we’re always being instructed to take our grievances to the voting booth even though we learn in election after election that it never changes the things that most desperately need to change, this is why.

Our entire civilization is structured around preventing scenes like the one we’re seeing in Sri Lanka today. Our education systems, our political systems, our media, our online information. Religions that have been around for thousands of years because the powerful endorsed and promulgated them are full of passages extolling the virtues of obedience, poverty, meekness, and rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. From the moment we are born our heads are filled with stories about why it’s good and right to consent to the status quo and why it would be wrong to take back what has been stolen from us by a predatory ruling class.

This is why we’re always inundated with messaging about the importance of civility and politeness any time people realize that they can simply confront corrupt officials in restaurants or at their homes to push for what they want. The managers of the oligarchic empire which rules over us are terrified that we will one day notice that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them, and that there’s really nothing they could do to stop us if we decided to replace them with a system which benefits ordinary people instead of an elite few.


Introduction. THE POPULIST MOMENT: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America 

by Lawrence Goodwyn, Oxford University Press, 1978.

This consisted of a new way of looking at society, a way of thinking that represented a shaking off of inherited forms of deference. The achievement was not an easy one. The farmers of the Alliance had spent much of their lives in humiliating circumstances; repeated dealings with Southern merchants had inculcated insecurity in generations of farming people. They were ridiculed for their poverty, and they knew it….

In 1884-85, the Alliance began developing its own rhythm of internal “education” and its own broadening political consciousness among leaders and followers. The movement culture would develop its own mechanism of recruitment (the large-scale credit cooperative), its own theoretical analysis (the greenback interpretation of the American version of finance capitalism), its own solution (the sub-treasury land and loan system), its own symbols of politics (the Alliance “Demands” and the Omaha Platform), and its own political institution (the People’s Party). (pp  33-34)


Michael Hudson: From Junk Economics to a False View of History – Where Western Civilization Took a Wrong Turn

[Naked Capitalism 7-8-2022]

Today’s neoliberal economic mainstream has created a fairy tale about civilization existing without any regulatory oversight or productive role for government, and without any need to levy taxes to provide basic social services such as public construction or even service in the military. There is no need to prevent fraud, or violent seizure of property – or the forfeiture of land tenure rights to creditors as a result of debts. But as Balzac noted, most great family fortunes have been the result of some great theft, lost in the mists of time and legitimized over the centuries, as if it were all natural.

These blind spots are necessary to defend the idea of “free markets” controlled by the wealthy, above all by creditors. This is claimed to be for the best, and how society should be run. That is why today’s New Cold War is being fought by neoliberals against socialism – fought with violence, and by excluding the study of history from the academic economics curriculum and hence from the consciousness of the public at large. As Rosa Luxemburg put it, the fight is between socialism and barbarism.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-5-2022]


The Death of the British Imperial State

Craig Murray [via Mike Norman Economics 7-7-2022]

Acres have been written in the mainstream media about Johnson’s lying and personal immorality, but there is very little serious effort to understand why so many in society have been prepared to tolerate this. The answer is that neo-liberalism has succeeded in destroying societal values, to the extent that anti-social and even sociopathic behaviour no longer appears peculiar.

In a society where authority condones, and constructs a system to enable, personal fortunes of US $200 billion or more while millions of children in the same country are genuinely hungry and poorly housed, what values is the socio-political structure telling people to hold? What value is placed on empathy? Ruthless ambition and resource grabbing is applauded, encouraged and held up as the model to be followed.

More and more, you are either part of the elite or you are struggling.


A Key Russian Policy Influencer Confirmed The New Worldview Of His Country’s Elite

[One World, via Mike Norman Economics 7-5-2022]

Summary:  A key part of the Western plan is the overthrow of Putin and his government by the Western-oriented elite. Dmitry Trenin, formerly such a person, says to forget about that. Russia has put the West behind it and is now orienting to the Global South as the global future. Western-led globalism is dead. The other alternative to overthrowing Putin was the oligarchs, until that fizzled. The importance of this reversal cannot be over-emphasized. Now the only hope is “the street,” but polling reveals how much of a long shot that is. Putin’s approval rating is off the charts, while that of Western leaders is tanking.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Save Social Security From its ‘Saviors’ 

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Naked Capitalism 7-3-2022]

Of course, no one ever comes right out and says they want to CUT Social Security. That would be political suicide. Instead, lawmakers—democrats and republicans—describe their positions as well-intentioned and grounded in the harsh reality of budgetary math. They want to SAVE Social Security.

Robert Eisner, who spent most of his career as a professor of economics at Northwestern University, was onto this charade.

In 1998, Eisner published an article called “Save Social Security from its ‘Saviors’.” I strongly encourage you to read the entire thing.

Eisner’s main message was that the obsession with Social Security’s Trust Funds (OASI and DI) is a distraction… The trust funds exist merely as accounting entities. We don’t need them to carry a positive balance—or any balance whatsoever—in order to preserve Social Security for future generations.


Behind the Scenes, McKinsey Guided Companies at the Center of the Opioid Crisis

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 7-4-2022]

The consulting firm offered clients “in-depth experience in narcotics,” from poppy fields to pills more powerful than Purdue’s OxyContin.


Is McKinsey & Co. the Root of All Evil ? 

[The Big Picture 7-4-2022]

Where ever there has been a financial disaster in the world, if you look around, somewhere in the background, McKinsey & Co. is nearby.


Shareholder Power and the Decline of Labor 

[National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2022]

From the Abstract: “Consistent with theory of the firm based on conflicts of interests between shareholders and stakeholders, we find that establishments of firms that experience an increase in ownership by larger and more concentrated institutional shareholders have lower employment and wages.”


Dehumanization Is a Feature of Gig Work, Not a Bug 

[Harvard Business Review, via The Big Picture 7-7-2022]

What does an increase in gig, freelance, and contract work mean for the identities of people doing those jobs? The author, who drove for Postmates, interviewed other drivers, attended in-person and virtual company meetings, and reviewed and contributed to driver forums on Facebook, Reddit, and other websites, examines the narratives gig workers tell themselves about who they are and what they do.


Disrupting mainstream economics

Is taxation theft? 

[aeon, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-2022]

Here’s where we’re up to: to make sense of the idea that taxation is (moral) theft, we have to make sense of the idea that each person has a moral claim on the entirety of her gross income, and this can be made sense of only if property rights are natural rather than mere human constructions. We need, therefore, to defend a theory of natural property rights. Our next task is to explore philosophical theories of property rights….

Almost all politicians and voters start from the assumption that each citizen has some kind of moral claim on her gross income. In fact, we have seen that making sense of this requires some hefty and highly contentious philosophical theses. It requires accepting the general libertarian commitment to property being natural and not dependent on human laws or conventions. And it also requires denying the Left-wing libertarian claim that each of us has an equal moral claim on the resources of the natural world.

The second requirement – the denial of equal rights over the natural world – is particularly implausible, and something I’ve never seen any justification of from Right-wing libertarians. On the Right-wing libertarian view, it is perfectly morally acceptable for one person to claim a vastly unequal proportion of land and resources for himself, resulting in his propertyless neighbours being forced to work for him to avoid starvation. By what right can the natural world be appropriated in this way? It is one thing to say that one has exclusive natural rights over oneself, but how can we justify exclusive natural rights over the natural world? And if it can’t justify this, Right-wing libertarianism falls at the first hurdle.


It’s Not Your Money

Ian Welsh, September 7, 2011

So let’s run through why, no, it isn’t your money. We’ll start with two numbers. In 2005, the income per capita for the US was $43,740. The income per capita for Bangladesh was $470.

Now, I want you to ask yourself the following question: Are Bangladeshis genetically inferior to Americans? Since not too many of my readers think white sheets look great at a lynching, I’ll assume everyone answered no.

Right then, being American is worth $43,270 more than being Bangladeshi, and it’s not due to Americans being superior human beings. If it isn’t because Americans are superior, then what is it?

The answer is that if it isn’t individual, it must be social….

I could go on and on. I trust the point is obvious: The vast majority of money that an American earns is due to being born an American. Certainly the qualities that make the US a good place to live and a good place to make money are things that were created by Americans, but mostly they were created by Americans long dead or they are created by all Americans working together and are not located in the individual.


Restoring balance to the economy

Laws That Create Countervailing Power: A roundtable discussion with Benjamin Sachs, Kate Andrias, Steve Kest, and Robert Kuttner

[The American Prospect, July 7, 2022]

Benjamin Sachs: The primary idea in our work is that countervailing power is a key strategy for combating political and economic inequality and that law, if structured to this end, can help facilitate the building of countervailing power by poor and working-class people.

Our recent article in The Yale Law Journal opens with the observation that government is responding nearly exclusively to the wealthiest slice of the polity. And that while there have been a number of attempts to deal with this problem, none have been very successful….

Steven Kest: I’ve spent some time over the last year working with tenant and community organizations in New York to explore Ben and Kate’s concept of building tenant organizations. In New York and elsewhere around the country, the tenant crisis has become more and more extreme. It has led to a huge upsurge of tenant organizing and tenant activism, including mass rent strikes. Some of this took the form of politicizing the inability to pay rent, which was the experience for many people during the pandemic. And then on top of that, we’ve seen a corporate consolidation of the landlord class. So, we need some type of organization that has the power to really contest the massive influx of private equity and other corporate owners into the sector, and landlords generally.

There has been a significant increase in legislative activity following the expanded organizing activity and rent strikes. That’s included the rent moratoriums that many states have passed during COVID, plus the federal emergency rental assistance program, which provided $50 billion in federal money to help people pay rents.

There’s been a similar effort to pass laws that address other aspects of the tenant crisis, some of which have been pretty successful. These include rent stabilization laws and the current efforts under way to require good cause for eviction….

There is one interesting example that some of our colleagues in California pursued. San Francisco in April passed an ordinance that compels landlords to bargain with recognized tenant associations. It does so by treating the obligation to bargain as similar to the obligation to provide heat, hot water, and other necessities that landlords are already required to provide. And if a landlord refuses to bargain, tenants are entitled to rent reduction in the same way as if they don’t get hot water.


Constructing Countervailing Power: Law and Organizing in an Era of Political Inequality 

Kate Andrias & Benjamin I. Sachs [Yale Law Journal, January 2021, via The American Prospect, July 7, 2022]


“Ep 5: What’s Ahead for Labor?” (podcast)

Adolph Reed [Class Matters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-5-2022]

“Adolph Reed Jr. talks with Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants/CWA and APWU President Mark Dimondstein about what’s ahead for Labor in this moment that holds out both promise and peril. Worker organizing efforts are underway across the country including at Amazon and Starbucks. Public support for unions is a 57-year high – with polling at 68% in favor.”


Climate and environmental crises

Maryland Limits Male Blue Crab Harvests For The First Time Ever Amid Population Crisis 

[DCistu, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2022]


How heatwaves are creating a pollen crisis 

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2022]

Many of the crops we rely on need to be pollinated to produce food, but extreme heat can destroy pollen. This is a problem in a world facing facing climate change, so scientists are searching for a solution.

Last June, Aaron Flansburg felt the temperature spike and knew what that meant for his canola crop. A fifth-generation farmer in Washington state, north west United States, Flansburg times his canola planting to bloom in the cool weeks of early summer. But last year, his fields were hit with 108F (42C) heat just as the flowers opened. “That is virtually unheard of for our area to have a temperature like that in June,” he says.

Yellow blooms sweltered, reproduction stalled, and many seeds that would have been pressed for canola oil never formed. Flansburg yielded about 600-800lbs (272-363kg) per acre. The previous year, under ideal weather conditions, he had reached as high as 2,700lbs (1,225kg) per acre.

Many factors likely contributed to this poor harvest – heat and drought persisted throughout the growing season. But one point is becoming alarmingly clear to scientists: heat is a pollen killer.

Even with adequate water, heat can damage pollen and prevent fertilisation in canola and many other crops, including corn, peanuts, and rice. For this reason, many farmers aim for crops to bloom before the temperature rises.


How Will Climate Change Affect the Search for a New Black Mecca in the South? Rhiana Gunn-Wright questions what it means for Black Americans to be running toward a new wave of disasters. 

[Capital B, via Naked Capitalism 7-6-2022]

When I first started, environmental policy was described as just for polar bears and solar panels, essentially for elite white people. Then I started to see firsthand how environmental injustice shapes people’s lives. I began to understand why Black people were trapped in a community like mine without access to jobs, overrun with pollution and high asthma rates, and left to fend for ourselves.

Climate change is a result of economic activity and economic policy. The way that our built environment is designed has real impacts on how Black people, especially low-income Black people, can live. Because when your baby has asthma, they’re in the hospital, and you’re working an hourly job, that changes the contours of your life. When the only place you can afford to live is next to an oil refinery that is not controlling its pollution, and suddenly you’re having ‘mysterious’ cancers, that is by design. When you can’t sell your house because no one else wants to live next to the superhighway, of course, you’re going to want to escape.


Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work and Will Never Work 

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 7-4-2022]

If the plastics industry is following the tobacco industry’s playbook, it may never admit to the failure of plastics recycling.


UN Warns of ‘Total Societal Collapse’ Due to Breaching of Planetary Boundaries 

[Defend Democracy Press, via Naked Capitalism 7-3-2022] Original.


The Limits to Growth: Ecosocialism or Barbarism 

[Monthly Review, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2022]


The Infamous 1972 Report That Warned of Civilization’s Collapse (interview)

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2022]

To mark the book’s 50 year anniversary, WIRED sat down with Alvarez Pereira to talk about how that future is shaping up, what’s changed in the half-century since Limits, and how humanity might correct course….

Pereira: But there are also good reasons for optimism of the will. And those reasons are possibly less obvious, less evident, less in the headlines in the media and elsewhere. We definitely think there is an ongoing cultural change often hidden in plain sight. Many are experimenting, often at the community level, trying to find their own pathways towards that balance of well-being within a healthy biosphere. A change that brings hope to me is the change in the status of women, the increasing roles of women. And I would say that if you look at what’s happening with the younger generations, there is a big change as well.

So politically, at the level of corporations, at the official level, things are going pretty much in the wrong direction. Culturally, below the line, my bet is that a lot of things are happening in the good direction. The human revolution is already happening—it’s just that we don’t see it. And maybe it’s good that we don’t see it yet, until the very moment where it makes a lot of things shift.


Total recoverable oil worldwide is now 9% lower than last year, threatening global energy security 

[Rystad Energy, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-2022]


Natural Gas Soars 700%, Becoming Driving Force in the New Cold War 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 7-6-2022]


Health care crisis

Universal healthcare as pandemic preparedness: The lives and costs that could have been saved during the COVID-19 pandemic 

[PNAS, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2022]

From the Abtract: “The fragmented and inefficient healthcare system in the United States leads to many preventable deaths and unnecessary costs every year. Universal healthcare could have alleviated the mortality caused by a confluence of negative COVID-related factors. Incorporating the demography of the uninsured with age-specific COVID-19 and nonpandemic mortality, we estimated that a single-payer universal healthcare system would have saved 212,000 lives in 2020 alone. We also calculated that US$105.6 billion of medical expenses associated with COVID-19 hospitalization could have been averted by a Medicare for All system.”


Exacerbation of COVID-19 mortality by the fragmented United States healthcare system: A retrospective observational study 

[Lancet, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-2022]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Physicists see electron whirlpools for the first time 

[MIT News, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2022]

Though they are discrete particles, water molecules flow collectively as liquids, producing streams, waves, whirlpools, and other classic fluid phenomena.

Not so with electricity. While an electric current is also a construct of distinct particles — in this case, electrons — the particles are so small that any collective behavior among them is drowned out by larger influences as electrons pass through ordinary metals. But, in certain materials and under specific conditions, such effects fade away, and electrons can directly influence each other. In these instances, electrons can flow collectively like a fluid.

Now, physicists at MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science have observed electrons flowing in vortices, or whirlpools — a hallmark of fluid flow that theorists predicted electrons should exhibit, but that has never been seen until now.

“Electron vortices are expected in theory, but there’s been no direct proof, and seeing is believing,” says Leonid Levitov, professor of physics at MIT. “Now we’ve seen it, and it’s a clear signature of being in this new regime, where electrons behave as a fluid, not as individual particles.”

The observations, reported today in the journal Nature, could inform the design of more efficient electronics.


Samsung Electronics starts 3-nanometer chip production ahead of TSMC 

[TechCrunch, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2022]


Information age dystopia


[Center on Privacy & Technology, Georgetown Law, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-2022] From end of May, still important. For instance:

By reaching into the digital records of state and local governments and buying databases with billions of data points from private companies, ICE has created a surveillance infrastructure that enables it to pull detailed dossiers on nearly anyone, seemingly at any time. In its efforts to arrest and deport, ICE has – without any judicial, legislative or public oversight – reached into datasets containing personal information about the vast majority of people living in the U.S.


Predatory Finance

Here Are the Orwellian Details of the U.S. Patent JPMorgan Got Approved for Its Sprawling System of Spying on Employees 

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 8, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

In 2018, Bloomberg reporters Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman, and Jordan Robertson published a stunning expose on how JPMorgan Chase was spying on its employees, including after hours, using as many as 120 engineers from the data mining company Palantir Technologies Inc. According to the Bloomberg report, “It all ended when the bank’s senior executives learned that they, too, were being watched, and what began as a promising marriage of masters of big data and global finance descended into a spying scandal.”

But the surveillance program did not end. The bank simply developed its own proprietary spying system instead. Business Insider reporter, Reed Alexander, has reignited the scandal with the news that the internal surveillance program at JPMorgan Chase is now called “Workforce Activity Data Utility” or WADU.

Wall Street On Parade can now break the news that the surveillance system is even worse than employees imagine. How do we know? We looked up the patent for the system at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Based on the patent information we located, it suggests that this employee surveillance system has been in place inside JPMorgan Chase for more than eight years. The patent was filed on March 13, 2014 and was granted patent number 10,719,799 on July 21, 2020.


Internal Charts Show Treasury Agency Assigned to Measure Risk in U.S. Markets Slept through the Repo Crisis of 2019 and the Fed’s $19.87 Trillion Bailout

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 7, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

The Office of Financial Research (OFR), a unit of the U.S. Treasury Department, was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010. Its job is to prevent, through early warnings, the kind of catastrophic financial crisis that occurred in 2008 when irresponsible and corrupt practices on Wall Street toppled the U.S. economy; brought on the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression; and left the taxpayer and Fed bailing out the Wall Street megabanks that would have otherwise collapsed from their own hubris. Unfortunately, the OFR was savagely gutted under the Trump administration.


Crypto Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried Is Dangling $1 Billion in Political Donations; But He Wants Dangerous Crypto Derivatives Trading in Return

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 6, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Disrupting mainstream politics

Sen. Joe Manchin May Not Be Kingmaker in West Virginia for Long 

[The Intercept, via DailyKos 7-7-2022]

…a grassroots slate of over 50 Democrats took control of the West Virginia Democratic Party after winning a majority of seats on the executive committee and ousting party leadership, thus ending Manchin’s de facto control of the state party apparatus.

Now, after a six-year organizing push, every old guard party apparatchik — save for the treasurer — is out of office, replaced with activists from across the Democratic spectrum….

They did it by flipping the script on the Democratic Party. After Manchin and the Democratic National Committee used the bylaws governing unelected superdelegates to throw West Virginia’s 2016 presidential primary for Hillary Clinton — despite the fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders won every county in the state — activists used the DNC’s own rules to unseat the base of one of its most powerful members. They sowed the seeds of power by demanding that the party make good on its rules governing gender and racial equity in its staffing as well as those governing free, fair, and timely leadership elections.


Democrats’ political suicide

Ending Pandemic Aid Created A Disaster

Andrew Perez & Nick Byron Campbell, July 5, 2022 [The Lever]

“New government data show that after the government terminated pandemic relief programs, millions more Americans began struggling to survive. In all, roughly four in ten Americans say they are having difficulty paying their bills — a nearly 50 percent increase since last spring, according to a Lever review of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. As the suffering has increased, Washington policymakers, Beltway economists, and corporate media personalities have started pressing an austerity agenda, demanding even more pain in the name of taming inflation — even though data suggest inflation is largely being driven by corporate profiteering and supply chain blockages rather than wages or consumer spending.” ….

Financial hardship could continue to climb even further thanks to congressional inaction: Americans on individual health insurance plans will see their premiums spike next year if Democrats fail to extend the subsidies they passed last year. Without an extension, people on these plans will receive notices about new premium increases in October, just before the November midterm elections.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-5-2022]


“A New Conservative Majority on New York’s Top Court is Upending State Law”

[New York Focus, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-2022]

“The Court of Appeals ruled on 98 cases in its most recent term, which ended last month. DiFiore, Cannataro, Garcia and Singas voted in tandem in 96 of those cases. On the seven-member court, a bloc of four that sticks together can dictate the outcome of every case. In the past year, these four judges have used their power to prevent criminal defendants from presenting expert testimony supporting their innocence, bar workers from suing employers for workplace injuries, and make it harder for victims of police misconduct to sue for damages, among other rulings. All of them were nominated by former [Democratic] Gov. Andrew Cuomo and confirmed by the state Senate [controlled by Democrats]. Echoing recent rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court’s new conservative supermajority, Chief Judge DiFiore and her new bloc of associates are making New York law more friendly to law enforcement and powerful economic actors.”


President Biden Is Not Cutting the Mustard 

Ryan Cooper, July 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

President Biden’s approval rating just keeps sinking and sinking—down to a low of just 39 percent in the FiveThirtyEight poll average, or about three points below where Donald Trump was at a similar point in his term. Unlike Trump, Biden’s poor numbers are mainly thanks to weak support among his own base. Where Trump commanded virtual lockstep loyalty among Republicans, Biden is staggeringly unpopular among wide swaths of Democrats—particularly young folks. Americans aged 18–29 have gone from +37 approval at the beginning of his term to 11 points net disapproval today….

About 60 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in most cases, including 80 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of people 18–29 years old. Protecting reproductive rights is a central tenet of the Democratic coalition, and it was therefore vital for the party to have some plan to do that after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

But the Biden administration was, impossibly, caught flat-footed, about which Democratic Party insiders dished brutal details to CNN recently. Biden’s team had no immediate plan—even on the day of the ruling, White House counsel Dana Remus assured staff that it wouldn’t be released. Now, two weeks after the Dobbs decision, top aides are still squabbling over what the administration should do. A conference of Democratic governors was arranged last Friday, so late that none could attend in person and some declined to do it at all.


After string of Supreme Court setbacks, Democrats wonder whether Biden White House is capable of urgency moment demands

[CNN, via The American Prospect, July 7, 2022]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Fresh Hell Of Depending On Your Employer For Abortion Access

[In These Times, via The Lever 7-3-2022]

“Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling that struck down federal protections for abortion rights, major companies, including a number of Silicon Valley giants, publicly broadcast their intention to assist their workers in traveling out of state to obtain an abortion… But this response opens up another door to hell: The reality that workers will be even more reliant on capricious and self-interested employers to provide basic, necessary health care, handing bosses even more power, while giving workers one more thing to fight tooth and nail to protect.”


FDR’s Lesson About The Supreme Court Rampage

David Sirota, July 8, 2022 [The Lever]

Democrats have almost certainly also internalized the tale told about the party’s greatest president… FDR got greedy, tried to pack the court with his ideological allies, but a court-loving public saw it as a crass power grab and unacceptable violation of norms, dooming the initiative and preserving equilibrium…. This cartoon has become the key cautionary tale designed to deter any challenge to a court that has been one of the establishment’s last lines of defense. But here’s the inconvenient fact: The story is bullshit….

In truth, Roosevelt did not succeed in packing the court — but his court expansion initiative did succeed in taming the court, which is exactly what Democrats must do right now….

Smithsonian Magazine wrote that the Supreme Court in that time “struck down more significant acts of Congress — including the two foundation stones, the [National Recovery Act] and the [Agricultural Adjustment Act], of Roosevelt’s program — than at any other time in the nation’s history, before or since.” The magazine noted that one decision “destroyed FDR’s plan for industrial recovery” and another “annihilated his farm program.”

Soon after he was reelected in 1936, Roosevelt decided that a direct confrontation with the court was the only way to realize his agenda. He didn’t pretend that the court was some apolitical bastion of dispassionate integrity — he saw it for what it was: a political weapon literally run by a former Republican nominee for president.

In 1937, Roosevelt unveiled his plan to expand the court by allowing presidents to add new justices when any current justice declined to retire after age 70…. In history books and modern punditry, this story then simply ends with the plan dying in Congress… However, a study of public opinion and the court’s moves tell a much different tale of a president and his party losing a closely fought battle but winning a larger war.

The analysis from Ohio State University political scientist Gregory Caldiera shows that Gallup polls found the public was hardly enamored with the court — on the contrary, voters were closely divided on the expansion idea when Roosevelt first proposed his legislation….

More important: Public support for Roosevelt’s expansion initiative only truly cratered when the court’s conservative majority suddenly halted its attempts to block the New Deal. In particular, the court’s surprising decisions to uphold a state minimum wage and then the pro-union Wagner Act deflated public support for court expansion, as did the subsequent retirement of one of the court’s most conservative justices. The court soon after declined to block Social Security….

Buried on the Social Security Administration’s website is an accurate summary of what really happened: “The debate on this [expansion] proposal was heated, widespread and over in six months. The president would be decisively rebuffed, his reputation in history tarnished for all time. But the court, it seemed, got the message and suddenly shifted its course… the court would sustain a series of New Deal legislation, producing a ‘constitutional revolution in the age of Roosevelt.’”

As Roosevelt himself put it after the fight was over: “We obtained 98 percent of all the objectives intended by the court plan.”

He was also overwhelmingly reelected to a historic third term a few years after the battle.

Five times Congress overrode the Supreme Court 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2022]


10 ways to fix a broken Supreme Court 

[Vox, via The Bog Picture 7-4-2022]


Clarence Thomas’ Latest Guns Decision Is Ahistorical and Anti-Originalist

[Slate, June 24, 2022, via The Big Picture 7-5-2022]

One of the most remarkable features of Justice Stephen Breyer’s trenchant dissent in Bruen is his frank assessment of the appalling quality of the history being pedaled by his colleagues. Calling out the justices for engaging in “law office history,” a degraded form of legal analysis that warps history to fit the desired ends favored by a judge or justice, is something scholars have criticized the courts—including the Supreme Court—for practicing with some frequency.


History, the Supreme Court, and Dobbs v. Jackson: Joint Statement from the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians (July 2022) 

[American Historical Association, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2022]

The American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians have jointly issued a statement expressing dismay that the US Supreme Court “declined to take seriously the historical claims of our [amicus curiae] brief” in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. “Instead, the court adopted a flawed interpretation of abortion criminalization that has been pressed by anti-abortion advocates for more than thirty years. … These misrepresentations are now enshrined in a text that becomes authoritative for legal reference and citation in the future. The court’s decision erodes fundamental rights and has the potential to exacerbate historic injustices and deepen inequalities in our country.”


The Supreme Court’s Conservatives Have Asserted Their Power 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-2022]

In a single week in late June, the conservative Justices asserted their recently consolidated power by expanding gun rights, demolishing the right to abortion, blowing a hole in the wall between church and state, and curtailing the ability to combat climate change. The Court is not behaving as an institution invested in social stability, let alone in the importance of its own role in safeguarding that stability. But what if its big and fast moves, eviscerating some constitutional rights and inflating others, are bound for collision? As people harmed by one aspect of its agenda look to other aspects of it to protect them, the Court may not be altogether pleased with where that process leads.

Shortly before the Court, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overruled Roe v. Wade, a synagogue filed suit in a Florida court, challenging, under the Florida constitution, the state’s new law criminalizing pre-viability abortions. Among the plaintiff’s claims is that the abortion ban violates the right of Jews “to freedom of religion in the most intimate decisions of their lives.” The suit states that Jewish law stipulates that life begins at birth, not before, and “requires the mother to abort the pregnancy” if there is a risk to her “health or emotional well being.” Thus, the plaintiff argues, the abortion ban infringes on Jewish free exercise of religion.


How the Founders Intended to Check the Supreme Court’s Power 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 7-5-2022]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

North Carolina Republicans want the state to destroy free EV charging stations

April Siese [Daily Kos Staff, July 8, 2022]

The bill was sponsored entirely by Republicans: Reps. Keith Kidwell, Mark Brody, George Cleveland, Donnie Loftis, and Ben Moss. It requires businesses to disclose the percentage of what they’re charging customers that is “the result of the business providing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at no charge.” ….

The bill also requires publicly-funded EV charging stations on state-leased or state-owned property to come with free gas and diesel pumps. The same goes for county and city property. And if anyone in those groups with EV charging stations on their property can’t adhere to those terms, the bill requires the Department of Transit to develop a system to disperse $50,000 for the sole purpose of using that money to dismantle EV charging stations.

DeSantis signs bill requiring survey of Florida students, students, professors to register political views with state

[Salon, June 23, 2022]

Public universities in Florida will be required to survey both faculty and students on their political beliefs and viewpoints, with the institutions at risk of losing their funding if the responses are not satisfactory to the state’s Republican-led legislature.

The unprecedented project, which was tucked into a law signed Tuesday by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, is part of a long-running, nationwide right-wing push to promote “intellectual diversity” on campuses — though worries over a lack of details on the survey’s privacy protections, and questions over what the results may ultimately be used for, hover over the venture.


Withering Indictment of the Entire GOP

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 7-4-2022]

Perhaps the case against Trump presented by the January 6 committee and previous Trump loyalists—by now so overwhelming as to be unquestionable—will cause some members of Congress, academics, and “public intellectuals” in the right-wing infrastructure to distance themselves from Trump. Of course, until now Trump has crossed no ethical line, has shattered no norm that caused them to say “Enough!” Instead we’ve heard whataboutism and strained-to-the-breaking-point excuses.

However this plays out, this needs to be said: For the past half-dozen years, the Republican Party and the American right—with a very few honorable exceptions— stood with Trump, defended him, and attacked his critics. Some went silent in the face of his indecency and lawlessness; many others gleefully promulgated his lies and conspiracy theories. Together they attempted to annihilate truth on his behalf, in his name, for their party, to seize and to hold power….

Every Trump supporter has his story to tell, his defense to offer, his reasons why he did what he did. Massive cognitive dissonance—in this case individuals and a political party that have historically championed law and order, “traditional values,” high ethical ideals, moral leadership in political leaders, and a healthy civic and political culture defending at every turn a person who was indecent, cruel, vindictive, demagogic, unstable, and ultimately deranged—can produce some very creative justifications.

No matter; the die is cast when it comes to the Trump presidency and those who made it possible. The events of January 6 were, in their own twisted way, a fitting denouement for the Trump presidency. It was so obvious, for so long, that this wouldn’t end well. Trump was the primary architect of the attack on the citadel of American democracy. But he had a lot of help along the way.

Hutchinson’s testimony was a withering indictment of America’s 45th president. But it was also, if less directly, an indictment of his party, his supporters, his acolytes, those who went silent and those who spoke up on his behalf. He and they are ever twinned.


“The Right’s Big Score”

John Ganz, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-2022]

“[T]he conservative elite made essentially the same bet as those did in Europe when faced with Hitler and Mussolini, except for our conservatives its paying off. This is in so small part because Trump was not Hitler or Mussolini: he lacked the tightly-organized party structure that was ready to step in and replace key sections of the state, organs of effective propaganda, and direct control over paramilitaries to constantly terrorize their opponents, etc. All in all, he was a pretty weak and ineffective fascist, more akin to the failed fascisms that dotted Europe in the interwar period, and were smothered by more conventional authoritarian conservatives, episodes we been forgotten at our peril. The conservatives were able to use this premature and disorganized version of fascism as a battering ram—they got their Court, their most coveted goal—and now may be in the process of deftly leaving it to the side. They prefer to stifle democracy the old fashioned way: not through dramatic coups, but in the courts and on the state level. We often note the cowardliness of Republicans in the face of Trump, but we should also note their political daring and flexibility: they have been really willing to play with fire.”


THE MOST PATHETIC MEN IN AMERICA: Why Lindsey Graham, Kevin McCarthy, and so many other cowards in Congress are still doing Trump’s bidding

Mark Leibovich, July 7, 2022 [The Atlantic]

Bottom line, Trump is an extremely tedious dude to have had in our face for seven years and running. My former New York Times colleague David Brooks wrote it best: “We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.”

Better objects of our scrutiny—and far more compelling to me—are the slavishly devoted Republicans whom Trump drew to his side. It’s been said before, but can never be emphasized enough: Without the complicity of the Republican Party, Donald Trump would be just a glorified geriatric Fox-watching golfer. I’ve interviewed scores of these collaborators, trying to understand why they did what they did and how they could live with it. These were the McCarthys and the Grahams and all the other busy parasitic suck-ups who made the Trump era work for them, who humored and indulged him all the way down to the last, exhausted strains of American democracy….

Consider again the doormat duo—McCarthy and Graham. I’ve known both men for years, at least in the weird sense that political reporters and pols “know” each other. They are a classically Washington type: fun to be around, starstruck, and desperate to keep their jobs or get better ones—to maximize their place in the all-important mix. On various occasions I have asked them, in so many words, how they could sidle up to Trump like they have. The answer, basically, is that they did it because it was the savviest course; because it was best for them. If Trump had one well-developed intuition, it was his ability to sniff out weakness in people—and, I suppose, in major political parties. Nearly all elected Republicans in Washington needed Trump’s blessing, and voters, to remain there. People like McCarthy and Graham benefited a great deal from making it work with Trump, or “managing the relationship,” as they say.


Woke Corporations? That Ain’t What the Numbers Show.

Harold Meyerson, July 5, 2022 [The American Prospect]

study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) tracked the partisan voter registrations of CEOs and other top executives at the S&P 1500 over the past decade and a half and found that the percentage of Republicans had risen from 63 percent in 2008 to 68 percent in 2020…. More interestingly, it found that the partisan composition of corporate leadership teams had become significantly more uniform since 2008: Firms with Republican leaders contained fewer and fewer Democrats in the leadership team over the course of those years, while firms with Democratic leaders contained correspondingly fewer Republicans.

“Winning: An Interview with Christopher Rufo” (interview)

[IM—1776, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-5-2022]

[TW: Rufo is the conservative operative who formulated the scare about Critical Race Theory.]

Mark Granza: Getting parents to unite in order to achieve political goals is an unusual strategy. Where did you get that idea? Christopher Rufo: It happened, again, by accident. I did a series of reports on [Critical Race Theory (CRT)] in education that sparked a lot of discussion and then I started noticing these incredible clips circulating on social media of parents speaking it at school board meetings. It was totally spontaneous at the beginning. Then I put together a Critical Race Theory Briefing Book and worked on model policies, which gave people the language they needed to succeed and a template for policymaking at state legislatures. The secret to good activism is not mass, but leverage. The narratives about CRT sparked an immense public response and politicians, who are always looking at the intensity of voter sentiment, started to deliver laws that protected their constituents and protected families from indoctrination. The GOP then adopted a smart frame — ‘parental rights,’ ‘the parents’ party’ — that created a set of policies and connotations that is very appealing to families. In the most recent generic ballot polling, parents with children in the home support Republicans by a 28-point margin. This is a political sea change. It drove the success of Glenn Youngkin and school choice initiatives across the country. The impact is undeniable.”



Open Thread


How To Think Clearly About Political and Social Issues


  1. darms

    f*** – i’m a long-time lurker but that Caitlin Johnstone item forced me to ask – in your opinion is the situation in Sri Lanka anything similar to what went down in D.C. on 1/6/2021? IMHO no, i think most of the 1/6er’s were cosplayers who got out of hand as they all left when the cops/troops/police with lots of guns showed up. Not that they did not break numerous laws and not that they should not be prosecuted and not that they should not be punished if convicted but it appears to me that the Sri Lankans are serious as they are not leaving.

  2. bruce wilder

    If we are getting down to cases and how Republican political activists like Rufo manage to exploit “leverage” to elect the likes of Virginia governor, Youngkin, I think we ought to read that dinosaur of the interwebs, the Daily Howler, Bob Somerby. When Republicans find what we used to call a “hot button” to press, the practice of the Democrats is to hurl accusations of “racism” and the like against large swathes of the American population. Condescendingly dismissing “Critical Race Theory” as a non-issue does not help to understand why parents might get hot and bothered in the first place.

    Cause célèbre? There were at least two incidents that affected the election campaign for Governor.

    One involved a trans student who used access to the girls’ bathroom to perpetrate sexual assaults at two different schools (the student was transferred after the first incident was alleged).

    The other was a years old case that highlighted parental desire that high school student could be excused from reading certain controversial books, in particular the Toni Morrison novel, Beloved. Quoting Daily Howler: “Youngkin has aired a campaign ad featuring a parent, Laura Murphy, who challenged the assignment of Beloved to her son when he was a high school senior back in 2012.” (Yes, 2012! This should have been ridiculous.)Terry McAuliffe, pretty much self-destructed with what Daily Howler labeled a “gaffe”: [McAuliffe:] “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and take books out and make their own decision. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Do we credit Rufo for political acumen for this?

    Objectively, a Virginia Governor is pretty far removed in his authority and responsibility from either of these controversial “issues”, and I wonder to myself how either could be made divisive “red v blue” “leverage”. But, Rufo had help, from bad journalism as Daily Howler (whose issues are journalistic partisan malpractice and education policy) demonstrates in the posts linked above and other related posts.

  3. VietnamVet

    Caitlin Johnstone and Craig Murray are correct.

    Similar to earlier Holy Inquisitions; the Supreme Court imposing Catholic human reproduction beliefs on others and allowing coerced Christian prayer ended the US Constitution’s separation of the church and state. The reigning ideology of the supremacy of the individual over society has overwhelmed republican democracy. With western government flushed down the toilet; public health, public education, and public safety are terminated. A third American revolutionary war is likely. The sniping has begun.

    The neoliberal Overseers’ Faustian Bargain is coming due. There are around nine ethnic groups in North America. If humans survive the collapse of the Western Empire (like the breakup of the Soviet Union) a dozen or so new nations will be formed in North America.

    Those in the bubble haven’t seen the profound changes to the USA. The Democrats blame Russia for the unrest. Not their delusions. On in a finite earth, shortages and inflation are inevitable without government planning and taxes to address the profiteering (i.e. the Insulin Racket) and serving their citizens’ needs. Sri Lanka shows what happens when the bills come due. The ongoing NATO Russia proxy world war in Ukraine can only end with an armistice or a nuclear holocaust.

  4. Z

    One sick war …

    It looks like the Ukrainian internal security forces probably armed themselves well with all those weapons the West has sent. They’re not only being used to fight the Russians, but also to force the citizenry to fight the Russians.

    This is turning into one of the most evil, bizarre wars ever and you could even end up with a civil war within this war.

    The stakes are being raised by drugged up leaders such as Biden and Zelenskyy and every escalation leads us to one of these two ends, or both: a game of nuclear chicken between Russia and the U.S. or hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian deaths.


  5. Ché Pasa

    Re: the Sri Lanka uprising vs the Capitol riots in the US.

    I’ve noticed that some observers go out of their way to say that J6 was nothing at all like the Storming of the Winter Palace (1917) or an insurrection/coup/what have you, and all you have to do is look at the crowds storming the presidential palace in Colombo to see the difference.

    In fact, if you look at the Storming of the Winter Palace in Eisenstein’s film “Октябрь” or the seizing of the presidential palace by the crowd in Colombo, it’s the similarities with the J6 action at the Capitol that stand out. The difference is that the Capitol rioters were only temporarily successful and did not hold the Capitol for more than a few hours whereas the Bolsheviks took over the government from the Provisionals, and it’s still not entirely clear what the upshot of the Sri Lankan revolt will be. It appears there has been a strategic retreat by the failed government but we all know that can quickly be reversed.

    The J6 action was confusing to many because it was not intended to overthrow the government and install a new one; it was intended to preserve, protect and defend the Trumpian government in place, in support of a self-coup, an autogolpe by preventing the Congressional count of Electoral College votes which would confirm the victory of Joe Biden as president.

    The rioters withdrew after several hours’ occupation of the Capitol. There were almost no arrests. But the rioters also claimed victory. Even though the object of the self-coup, Mr. Trump, would be replaced with Mr. Biden on J20. And the Congress would be nominally dominated by hated/loathed Democrats.

    Where’s the “victory”? Well, we see it day by day, don’t we? It’s not solely the Supreme Court behaving badly, it is the whole of government very much captive of the Trumpian faction and almost entirely unable to break free of the thrall.

    In many respects, Mr. Biden may as well be Mr. Trump. The Congress may as well be Republican controlled. Nothing fundamental has changed, and what has changed has made things worse for the discontented masses.

    I’d say J6 was remarkably successful.

  6. Z

    The production team, and heroic pharma team, of Weekend at Biden’s are having a difficult time keeping their lead stiff standing up straight on his strings …

    Some excerpts:

    “managing the schedule of the oldest president in American history presents distinct challenges.”

    “Polls show many Americans consider Mr. Biden too old, and some Democratic strategists do not think he should run again.”

    “They acknowledged Mr. Biden looks older than just a few years ago…”

    “His energy level, while impressive for a man of his age, is not what it was, and some aides quietly watch out for him. He often shuffles when he walks, and aides worry he will trip on a wire. He stumbles over words during public events, and they hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe.”

    “His speeches can be flat and listless. He sometimes loses his train of thought, has trouble summoning names or appears momentarily confused. More than once, he has promoted Vice President Kamala Harris, calling her “President Harris.””


  7. Z

    I’d bet that there are folks in some of the U.S. intelligence agencies who aren’t willing to risk human extinction over The Lead Stiff of Weekend at Biden’s ego and this has led to 4chan getting their hands on the contents of Hunter Biden’s iPhone.


  8. different clue

    Always remember, and never forget, that President Biden was Obama’s particular gift to the nation and the world. Clyburn’s gift, too.

    Sanders was Obombed and Clyburned to abort his takeoff in the primaries. It did not help that Sanders lacks the taste for biting the throats out of his enemies which successful politics requires. He demonstrate his fatal personality flaw in that regard by his pathetic performance in his televised debate with his “good friend” Biden. it would have been oh-so-easy for Sanders to merely ask Biden a question full of dependent and subordinate clauses and requiring the mastery of voluminous particular details of which Biden was by that time utterly incapable. Biden would then have delaminated into his separate senile pieces right there on TV. If Sanders believed in “WINNING!” . . . he would have done that. Trump would have done that, if brain-capable his own self.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén