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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 11, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Inside Operation Warp Speed: A New Model for Industrial Policy

[American Affairs Journal, via The Big Picture 7-5-2021]

Operation Warp Speed was a triumph of public health policy. But it was also a triumph and validation of industrial policy. OWS shows what the U.S. government can still accomplish when it comes to tackling a seemingly unsolvable technological challenge. It demonstrates the strength of the U.S. developmental state, despite forty years of ideological assault.

A nice, timely historical review of one of the apocalyptic horsemen of that forty years of ideological assault. Note the shape-shifting use of political terminology by the horsie set. 

The End of Friedmanomics

The New Republic, June 17, 2021, via Avedon’s Sideshow 6-30-2021]

….All of which makes a contemporary reading of Friedman’s Cape Town lectures a harrowing experience. His first speech was an unremitting diatribe against political democracy—an explicit rejection of, in Friedman’s words, “one person, one vote,” delivered to a nation in which more than half of the population was disenfranchised by race. Voting, Friedman declared, was inescapably corrupt, a distorted “market” in which “special interests” inevitably dictated the course of public life. Most voters were “ill-informed.” Voting was a “highly weighted” process that created the illusion of social cooperation that whitewashed a reality of “coercion and force.” True democracy, Friedman insisted, was to be found not through the franchise, but the free market, where consumers could express their preferences with their unencumbered wallets. South Africa, he warned, should avoid the example of the United States, which since 1929 had allowed political democracy to steadily encroach on the domain of the “economic market,” resulting in “a drastic restriction in economic, personal, and political freedom.”

….That this prescription found political purchase with the American right in the 1960s is not a surprise. Friedman’s opposition to state power during an era of liberal reform offered conservatives an intellectual justification to defend the old order. What remains remarkable is the extent to which the Democratic Party—Friedman’s lifelong political adversary—came to embrace core tenets of Friedmanism. When Friedman passed away in 2006, Larry Summers, who had advised Bill Clinton and would soon do the same for Barack Obama, acknowledged the success of Friedman’s attack on the very legitimacy of public power within his own party. “Any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites,” he declared in The New York Times….

Friedman responded to Brown in 1955 with “The Role of Government in Education,” an essay that called for the ostensibly race-neutral program of privatizing the school system by providing families with education vouchers that could be spent where parents wished. As in his essay on housing nine years before, Friedman appealed to the simple nineteenth-century logic of market competition and equilibrium to make his case. Public schools were a “monopoly” that put private schools at an unfair “disadvantage.” By transitioning from public schools to vouchers, families would enjoy a diversity of education options, and market competition over the quality of education would in time enhance the lot of students everywhere.

It was every bit as neat and tidy as Friedman’s case against rent regulations. But as Leo Casey has detailed for Dissent magazine, Friedman gave away the political game in a lengthy footnote. Though he insisted, “I deplore segregation and racial prejudice,” Friedman nevertheless believed in the right of the private market to develop “exclusively white schools, exclusively colored schools, and mixed schools.”


….“The Role of Government in Education” marks the earliest appearance of what remains Friedman’s most damaging belief—the idea that bigotry and violence could be forced out of public life by the magic of the market. Friedman would insist on this basic proposition again and again throughout his career. In 1972, he would go so far as to suggest that the free market could have put a stop to the war in Vietnam if people had really wanted it to end. Enough chemists would have refused to make napalm that the cost of producing the explosive would have become prohibitively high. This was the appropriate way to stop a war—not the crude “voting mechanism” of “the political system.”

….The financial crisis of 2008 should have demolished this thinking. Markets, the crash made clear, often simply don’t serve the public interest. But the Democratic leaders who ascended to power in the Obama administration had been educated at the height of Friedman’s intellectual hegemony. There simply weren’t many New Deal–style thinkers in the top echelons of the Democratic Party anymore. Obama was as intellectually serious as American presidents get, but his coterie of intellectuals had been working under Friedmanesque assumptions for so long that they could not adapt to the reality that events had discredited those assumptions. Obama ultimately devoted more political energy to reducing the long-term federal budget deficit than to combating economic inequality. A unique historical moment to reclaim political democracy became, instead, the era of bending the cost curve.

It’s the economic ideology, stupid. And, racism. So, it’s the racist economic ideology, stupid. 

A Black Scientist’s Retrospective of His Life in Physical Chemistry
William M. Jackson [via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2021]

“Opinion: Is it time to limit personal wealth?”

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-21]

“Instead of debating tweaks at the edges of our tax system, what we should be doing is stretching ourselves to imagine a world where this dissonance is truly incomprehensible — a world where billionaires are impossible. Doing so would require a revised conception of what is good and what is fair, an approach focused less on what is “allowed” and more on what is “enough.” Does that sound far-fetched? Such a philosophy already exists. It’s called limitarianism. As the director of the Fair Limits Project at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, philosopher Ingrid Robeyns argues that it is not morally permissible to have “more resources than are needed to fully flourish in life.” Just as there is a poverty line under which we agree that no one should fall, limitarianism holds that one can construct a “wealth line” over which no one should rise, and that the world would be better off for it. Limitarian thought doesn’t depend on a specific number. The crucial point is to debate not where the line can be drawn, but whether it makes sense.”

Before liberalism triumphed, pretty much the same idea was part of the creed of civic republicanism:

Edmund S. Morgan, “The Puritan Ethic and the American Revolution,” The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan., 1967): 

“The Ethic conveyed the idea of each man’s and woman’s “calling” in life. “The emphasis of [work or labor] was on productivity for the benefit of society. In addition to working diligently at productive tasks, a man was supposed to be thrifty and frugal. It was good to produce but bad to consume any more than necessity required. A man was but a steward of the possessions he accumulated. If he indulged himself in luxurious living, he would have that much less with which to support church and society. If he needlessly consumed his substance, either from carelessness or from sensuality, he failed to honor the God who furnished him with it.”

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

Joe Biden Just Threw Down the Anti-Monopoly Gauntlet—but One Big Question Remains 

Zephyr Teachout [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 7-10-2021]

This executive order is arguably most significant for the economic worldview it represents. If Biden keeps going down this road, it suggests a massive realignment for the Democratic Party and a return to the 1940s–1970s attitude towards corporate concentration….

Biden’s executive order directly blamed monopolization for diminished wages and working conditions, for growing inequality, and for the collapse of small business in America. This exemplified the unique power of the presidential soapbox in action: Biden’s statement today matters not just for the directives but also as a declaration of policy that every state lawmaker can hold up when she is pushing local anti-monopoly legislation, and that federal lawmakers can use to explain why reforming antitrust laws is so important.

However, one key anti-monopoly question still remains for the president: his choice as the assistant attorney general, Antitrust Division. If he chooses someone aligned with FTC Chair Lina Khan, White House Adviser Tim Wu and soon-to-be CFPB head Rohit Chopra, that will clearly signal that he’s serious about taking on the heart of monopolistic abuses using the full power of his administration. The leading candidate who represents this vision is Jonathan Kanter.

Joe Biden Fixes Capitalism In 31 Short Pages

The Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-10-2021]

On Friday, during remarks coinciding with a new executive order aimed at promoting competition across the world’s largest economy, Joe Biden called himself a “proud capitalist.” He added a caveat. “Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism,” he said. “It’s exploitation.”

With apologies to the president, capitalism without exploitation isn’t capitalism either. In fact, capitalism is almost synonymous with exploitation.

Biden fires head of Social Security Administration

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 7-10-2021]

President Biden on Friday fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul, a holdover from the Trump administration, after Saul refused a request to resign from his position….

Biden has named Kilolo Kijakazi as acting commissioner as he searches for a permanent replacement for the position. Biden’s nominee will need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Kijakazi is currently the Social Security Administration’s deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy and previously served as a fellow at the Urban Institute and a policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy….

Other top Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), had warned against removing Saul. Grassley tweeted earlier Friday that Saul “has bipartisan backing” and Biden firing him would be “outrageous.”

Restoring balance to the economy

Payday Tracks Its 1,400th Strike as “Retail Worker Rebellion” Grows

[Payday Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-2021]

Campaign to Rein in Mega IRA Tax Shelters Gains Steam in Congress Following ProPublica Report

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-2021]

One Weird Trick to Force Billionaires to Pay Taxes

[The American Prospect, July 8, 2021]

But the emphasis on legislative solutions implicitly assumes that the wealthy are merely doing what the tax code allows them to do, that the fault for this specific problem lies entirely with a broken tax system, rather than with rich tax cheats stretching the law beyond its bounds. That simply isn’t true. Instead, the wealthy have gotten away with zero-dollar tax bills not because that is their true tax liability but largely because of poor enforcement of a little-known component of our tax code called the “economic substance doctrine.”

The economic substance doctrine disallows tax benefits to any “trade or business” (two terms not defined in this section of the tax code) based on any transaction (again, not explicitly defined) that lacks a concrete purpose beyond reduction of tax liability. The doctrine is intended to allow the IRS to charge the wealthy with their proper tax liability, regardless of whatever sophisticated tax planning and arbitrage they undertake.

Health Care Crisis

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-6-21]


“Enrollment Trends in Medicare Options”

[Squared Away, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-6-21]

“Just as important to retirees as paying the bills is the risk of being socked with inordinately high spending on hospital and physician care in a bad year. Levy defines this unpredictability as retirees having to shell out more than 10 percent of income out of their pockets, excluding all premiums. Under this standard, about 23 percent of the retirees in the study with Advantage plans spent more than 10 percent of their income for care – versus 17 percent of Medigap buyers. About 28 percent of those without any coverage outside of Medicare exceeded the 10-percent threshold. More certainty in the Medigap plans is only part of their appeal – at least, for the people who can afford the premiums. The other benefit to retirees is the ability to choose their own doctors, who are required to take Medigap if the practice accepts Medicare patients. Retirees have to decide on the tradeoffs they’re willing to make. ‘That is, after all, how insurance works,’ [Helen Levy at the University of Michigan] said.”


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-6-21]


Who holds the welding rod? James Meek on wind power, green jobs and global capitalism

[London Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 7-10-2021]

Information Age Dystopia

How Amazon Controls Virtually Everything You Watch

David Dayen, July 9, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the market leader in cloud computing services. A large segment of the internet runs on AWS servers (about 32 percent in 2020), and the critical nature of this infrastructure is apparent whenever something goes wrong. When you look just at the digital distribution of video, AWS’s dominance grows even further.

AWS is the back-end provider for NetflixDisney+HuluParamount+PeacockHBO MaxDiscovery+, and of course, Amazon Prime. As of February of this year, that list includes the top six streaming services in the U.S. by subscribers; Discovery+, which is not on that list, is merging with HBO Max, and Paramount+ didn’t launch until March. Just from those top six, 558.8 million U.S. subscribers rely on AWS to get their streaming video. (Yes, this is more people than live in the United States; that’s because, as you doubtless know, many people subscribe to more than one streaming service.)

Another Day, Another Hack Via a Private Equity Owned Software Firm

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2021]

A Banking App Has Been Suddenly Closing Accounts, Sometimes Not Returning Customers’ Money

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2021]

Some locals say a bitcoin mining operation is ruining one of the Finger Lakes. Here’s how.

[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2021]

“The lake is so warm you feel like you’re in a hot tub,” said Abi Buddington of Dresden, whose house is near the plant.

The facility on the shores of Seneca Lake is owned by the private equity firm Atlas Holdings and operated by Greenidge Generation LLC. They have increased the electrical power output at the gas-fired plant in the past year and a half and use much of the fossil-fuel energy not to keep the lights on in surrounding towns but for the energy-intensive “mining” of bitcoins…. The Greenidge plant houses at least 8,000 computers and is looking to install more, meaning it will have to burn even more natural gas to produce more energy.

“The Kaseya Ransomware Attack Is a Really Big Deal”

[Lawfare, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-7-21]

“Under normal circumstances, automatic software deployment, especially in the context of software updates, is a good thing. But here this feature was turned on its head. Russian-based criminal gang REvil hacked into Kaseya’s management system and pushed REvil software to all of the systems under Kaseya’s management. From there, the ransomware promptly disabled those computers and demanded a cryptocurrency payment of about $45,000 per system to set the machines free… Supply chain attacks such as these are the proximate technical cause of many of cybersecurity’s “greatest” hits, including NotPetya and SolarWinds. The NotPetya attack in June 2017 did about $10 billion or so of damage globally…. If this is not yet enough to catch your attention, three further observations will. First, supply chain compromises, such as these, are very often indiscriminate; everyone who installs a malicious update gets the malware…. The second, and perhaps scariest, observation is that the software vendors used in malicious update compromises thus far have, in the grand scheme of things, been relatively small. MEDoc, SolarWinds and Kaseya are, of course, important to their respective customers, but none was a household name before their respective incidents. Far bigger software vendors exist. Some are central to the basic functioning of modern computing… The final observation is that defensive remediation of ransomware deployed through automatic updates is pathological to the cybersecurity industry itself in a way that is qualitatively different from other categories of cybersecurity incidents…. In short, software supply chain security breaches don’t look like other categories of breaches. A lot of this comes down to the central conundrum of system security: It’s not possible to defend the edges of a system without centralization so that defensive resources can be pooled. But this same centralization concentrates offensive action against a few single points of failure that, if breached, cause all of the edges to fail at once.”

The Oncoming Ransomware Storm

Stephen Diehl [via Naked Capitalism 7-9-2021]

The singular reason why these attacks are even possible is due entirely to rise of cryptocurrency. Consider the same situation on top of the existing international banking system. Go to your local bank branch and try to wire transfer $200,000 to an anonymous stranger in Russia and see how that works out. Modern ransomware could not exist without Bitcoin, it has poured gasoline on a fire we may not be able to put out.

When you create a loophole channel (however flawed) for parties to engage in illicit financing of anonymous entities beyond the control of law enforcement, it turns out a lot of shady businesses models that are otherwise prevented move from being impractical and risky to perversely incentivized….

This battle cannot and will not be won on the technology side alone. The tech industry can’t solve this. It requires legislation and intervention in the financial system at only the level nation states can act.

That last sentence must be excruciatingly painful for the ideologues at the Reason Foundation to admit.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-21]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-6-21]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How Intel Financialized and Lost Leadership in Semiconductor Fabrication

William Lazonick and Matt Hopkins [Institute for New Economic Thinking, reposted in full on Naked Capitalism 7-8-2021]

Why has Intel fallen behind TSMC and SEC in semiconductor fabrication, and why is it unlikely to catch up? The problem is that Intel is engaged in two types of competition, one with companies like TSMC and SEC in cutting-edge fabrication technology and the other within Intel itself between innovation and financialization. The Asian companies have governance structures that vaccinate them from an economic virus known as “maximizing shareholder value” (MSV).[16] Intel caught the virus over two decades ago. As we shall see, with the sudden appointment of Gelsinger as CEO this past winter, Intel sent out a weak signal that it recognizes that it has the disease….

As Table 2 shows, Intel’s distributions to shareholders have been far greater than those made by either SEC or TSMC….

Innovation requires a social condition we call financial commitment to sustain technological transformation and market access until the generation of a higher-quality, lower-cost product can result in financial returns.[19] The foundation of financial commitment is retained earnings. In the case of Intel, as shown in Table 1 above, in recent years the company has made substantial allocations to P&E and R&D, even as it has distributed almost all its profits to shareholders.[20] But Intel has been able to tap other cash flows to make, simultaneously, large-scale productive investments and shareholder payouts. For the decade, 2011-2020, these other cash flows included depreciation charges of $87b., long-term debt issues of $45b., and stock sales (mainly to employees in stock-based compensation plans) of $12b.

Given the availability of these sources of funds, the vast sums that Intel has wasted on buybacks have not thus far imposed a cash constraint on its investments in semiconductor fabrication.

Rather, it has been a deficiency in organizational learning—the essence of the innovation process—that has hampered Intel’s implementation of process technology. The generation of high levels of productivity from P&E and R&D expenditures requires, as a second social condition of innovative enterprise, organizational integration, working in combination with financial commitment. Organizational integration mobilizes the skills and efforts of large numbers of people in a hierarchical and functional division of labor into the collective and cumulative learning processes required to transform technologies to generate a higher-quality product and, then, access markets to attain economies of scale.

The root of Intel’s failure in organizational integration lies in the financialized character of a third social condition of innovative enterprise, strategic control. Accepting stock yield as the measure of enterprise performance, in recent years Intel’s senior executives who exercise strategic control have lacked both the incentive and, increasingly we would argue, the ability, to implement innovative investment strategies through organizational integration.

Executive stock-based pay, in the form of stock options and stock awards, has created incentives for Intel’s CEOs to do large-scale buybacks to give manipulative boosts to the company’s stock price. Table 3 documents the total compensation, including realized gains from stock options and stock awards, of Intel’s CEOs over the past three decades.

The Tech Cold War’s ‘Most Complicated Machine’ That’s Out of China’s Reach

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-7-2021]

The machine is made by ASML Holding, based in Veldhoven. Its system uses a different kind of light to define ultrasmall circuitry on chips, packing more performance into the small slices of silicon. The tool, which took decades to develop and was introduced for high-volume manufacturing in 2017, costs more than $150 million. Shipping it to customers requires 40 shipping containers, 20 trucks and three Boeing 747s….

Manufacturers can’t produce leading-edge chips without the system, and “it is only made by the Dutch firm ASML,” said Will Hunt, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, which has concluded that it would take China at least a decade to build its own similar equipment….

study this spring by Boston Consulting Group and the Semiconductor Industry Association estimated that creating a self-sufficient chip supply chain would take at least $1 trillion and sharply increase prices for chips and products made with them.

Three months, 700 steps: Why it takes so long to produce a computer chip

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-9-2021]

The U.S. Senate has set aside $52 billion in hopes of increasing the U.S. share of semiconductor manufacturing. A visit to a chip fab in Upstate New York shows why that might not be enough.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-8-2021]


Predatory Finance

State Attorney General Files Suit Charging Wall Street Mega Banks with “Multi-Year Bid Rigging and Price Fixing” Conspiracy in Credit Default Swaps Market
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 7, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

Last week the New Mexico Attorney General’s office filed a breathtaking, 128-page anti-trust lawsuit in federal court in New Mexico on behalf of the state’s $31 billion investment fund, the New Mexico State Investment Council. The Council manages a permanent endowment along with money for 23 state agencies.

The lawsuit alleges, backed by striking evidence, that the following banks have engaged in a 16-year conspiracy of “bid rigging and price fixing” in the Credit Default Swap (CDS) market: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch; Barclays; BNP Paribas; Citigroup; Credit Suisse; Deutsche Bank; Goldman Sachs; JPMorgan Chase; Morgan Stanley; and RBS.

The lawsuit also names a swaps trade association, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), as a defendant, noting that a “majority of ISDA’s board members” are employed by the bank defendants. The lawsuit characterizes ISDA as a “front organization.” Two other companies involved in the allegedly rigged Credit Default Swap protocol are also named: Creditex and Markit. The lawsuit draws attention to the fact that “Until mid-2014, Markit was majority-owned and controlled by a consortium of approximately 16 investment banks,” including each of the bank defendants (along with HSBC and UBS) who sat on its board of directors.

As fascinating as the details of the alleged price fixing are in the lawsuit, equally fascinating is the name of the outside law firm that is representing the plaintiff, the New Mexico State Investment Council. That law firm is Kirby McInerney, which has a history of representing whistleblowers in frauds committed by Wall Street miscreants. The law firm’s name jumped out at us because the extremely intimate and comprehensive details of how this alleged fraud was conducted, as outlined in the lawsuit, sounds uncannily like the work of an insider who is now blowing the whistle.

Court Documents Reveal that JPMorgan Chase Was Entangled in Another Giant Ponzi Scheme at the Same Time It Was Propping Up Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 6, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

“The Cantillon Effect: Why Wall Street Gets a Bailout and You Don’t”

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-6-21]

“There’s a ‘monetary bazooka’ aimed at the economy. And yet there’s a puzzle. If there’s money for the entire economy, why is that normal people and small businesses can’t access unemployment insurance and lending programs? To put it another way, why is the money meant for everyone only showing up in the stock market? The reason is because money has to travel through institutions, and right now, the institutions for the powerful function well, and those for the rest of us are rickety and broken. So money gets to the rich first. Eventually, some money will get to the rest of us, but in the interim period before that money fully circulates, the wealthy can use their access to money to buy up physical or financial assets. An 18th century French banker and philosopher named Richard Cantillon noticed an early version of this phenomenon in a book he wrote called ‘An Essay on Economic Theory.’ His basic theory was that who benefits when the state prints a bunch of money is based on the institutional setup of that state. In the 18th century, this meant that the closer you were to the king and the wealthy, the more you benefitted, and the further away you were, the more you were harmed. Money, in other words, is not neutral. This general observation, that money printing has distributional consequences that operate through the price system, is known as the ‘Cantillon Effect.’”


“The Billionaire Playbook: How Sports Owners Use Their Teams to Avoid Millions in Taxes”

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-8-2021]

“These revelations are part of what ProPublica has unearthed in a trove of tax information for the wealthiest Americans. ProPublica has already revealed that billionaires are paying shockingly little to the government by avoiding the types of income that can be taxed. The records also show how some of the richest people on the planet use their membership in the exclusive club of pro sports team owners to further lower their tax bills. The records upend conventional wisdom about how taxation works in America. Billionaire owners are consistently paying lower tax rates than their millionaire players — and often lower even than the rates paid by the workers who staff their stadiums. The massive reductions on personal tax bills that owners glean from their teams come on top of the much-criticized subsidies the teams get from local governments for new stadiums and further deplete federal coffers that fund everything from the military to medical research to food stamps and other safety net programs.”

Disrupting mainstream economics

Bill Mitchell — Intergenerational Report – the past is catching up with the government and the game is up

[Bill Mitchell – billy blog, July 7, 2021, via Mike Norman Economics]

Today, I provide some brief comments on my response to the Federal government’s latest – 2021 Intergenerational Report – which is one of the ridiculous, smokescreen-creating exercises that allow the government to avoid political responsibility for its fiscal surplus obsession. They come out every five years and are usually jam-packed with scaremongering about unsustainable fiscal deficits and the need for spending cuts. The only difference this time is that the damage caused by the years of following the austerity path – to health care, to aged care, to skills development, etc, have changed our attitudes. We have also seen that the government can spend what it likes without taxes going up and without bond markets declaring the government insolvent. We have now lived with large deficits as a result of the pandemic and the game is up on the deficits are bad and the sky will crash down story line. Our changing view on what we now demand from the Government is reflected in this latest effort….

Collapse of Independent News Media

The Horrifying Rise Of Total Mass Media Blackouts On Inconvenient News Stories
Caitlin Johnstone

Institutionalists = Obstructionists

The empire strikes back: Mainstream Dems try to crush the left in Buffalo and Cleveland

[Salon, via Naked Capitalism 7-4-2021]

Lambert Strether adds: “Waiting for Obama to parachute into Nina Turner’s race, now that Clyburn has fired an initial barrage to soften up the terrain.”

Disrupting mainstream politics

How May Edwards became the forgotten whistleblower

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-10-2021]

Edwards is largely unknown and mostly forgotten. She is scheduled to report to the Bureau of Prisons in August, and no celebrities are clamoring about the injustice on Twitter. She is one of the most important whistleblowers of our era, and yet hardly anyone remembers her name.

“Varieties of Black Political Philosophy”

[The Sooty Empiric, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-7-21] ” I decided to categorise some of the tendencies of black political thought that I often encounter, and share that here. Each group is not much more than a loose affinity group, united by a theme. But I tend to think I can recognise instances of members of these groups when I see them – by what they stress, how they argue, what sort of things they think possible or impossible, or relevant or irrelevant. So I have tried to briefly summarise the thematic links I am picking up on, and then link some examples of each tendency to give the reader an idea of the sort of work or theorising I would expect from each group.” • Afropessimism, Liberalism, Black feminism, Conservatism, Culturalism, and Socialism. More: “These then are the strands I most often encounter. My sense is that black liberalism is very much dominant in the academy, but there are pockets where it would be highly unwelcome. The strand I have labelled conservative, on the other hand, is by and large unpopular in both the academy and broader black life – but it is an old and very well established vein of thought in black political thought, and the persistence of its base of support suggests it is not going anywhere. I would have thought the socialist tradition is moribund, but perhaps the Corbyn and Sanders campaigns will in the long run breathe more life into it. The culturalists will always have their place, given what I mentioned about black arts. But vim, such as it is, belongs to the black feminists and the Afropessimists. That’s where youth energy is found right now, and they are the ones shaking up the wider cultural dialogue.”

The Dark Side

Whether Republicans Get Vaccinated Has A Lot To Do With If They Watch Fox News … Or OANN

[FiveThirtyEight, via The Big Picture 7-9-2021]

Republicans who got their news from OANN or Newsmax were generally more extreme in their beliefs around QAnon and in their refusal to get vaccinated than those who got their news from Fox News. Meanwhile, Fox News Republicans were often more in line with Republicans who got their news from other mainstream outlets.

These are the type of statistical markers that can be used in a “Brandeis brief” to prove in court that certain media outlets actively harm the education of a republic’s citizens. 

The GOP’s main voter bloc is shrinking — David Faris

[The Week, via Mike Norman Economics 7-6-2021]

new deep dive into the 2020 electorate by Pew Research contains mostly bad news for Republicans, whose approaching demographic doom is less racial than it is generational. While it shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point that young voters are a solidly blue voting bloc, the more worrisome developments for the GOP are the unexpectedly elderly nature of the party’s coalition and the unyielding Democratic lean of younger voters as they age. If Pew’s numbers are to be believed, the only solidly Republican age demographic last year was 75 and over….

But Pew also broke the survey down into not just age groups but generational cohorts. And it’s here where you’ll find the most terrifying information for the GOP. According to Pew, Trump won a decisive majority only with members of the “Silent Generation,” those born between 1928 and 1945 (and the extremely tiny number of living people older than that).



Open Thread


Understanding Your Control Over Climate Change


  1. different clue

    So , the Republican Party’s voter-base core-demographic is shrinking?

    The Free Trade Clintobamacrat DemParty LeaderLords will read that and think they just have to keep waiting and DemParty officeholder-majority status will fall like a ripe fruit into their hands. And they can remain loyal servants of the International Free Trade Conspiracy for ever after.

    And they will be correct, unless some groupload of people can figure out how to craft a genuinely better, more pro-America anti-Free Trade party to exterminate the Clintobama Shitocratic Party with. And win all those other groups over to it for legitimate reasons.

    Free Trade is the New Slavery
    Protectionism is the New Abolition.

    American Exceptionalism doesn’t work any more. It’s an idea whose time is gone.

    I! am an American Okayness Ordinarian.
    America Okay!
    We’re Number Whatever!

  2. Plague Species

    The ProPublica reporting on owning sports teams as a tax avoidance scheme is excellent by the way.

  3. Hugh

    Of course Milton Friedman believed in the wisdom of the free market because it doesn’t exist and so he could prove anything by invoking it. There is a whole lexicon of words, like free markets, efficiency, or competition (that you have Biden lauding), when you hear them, run, because the next thing you are going to hear is going to be a lie.

    Limiting individual wealth is part of any healthy society. It is the antithesis of libertarians like Friedman and today’s dominant neoliberalism.

    American finance should be RICO’d out of existence. JPMorgan is a criminal enterprise. And is it just me that sees the humor of JPM and investment banks price rigging the CDS that did so much to blow up the financial system back in 2008? And that collapse didn’t stop them from continuing the practice as long as they could after it.

    Stoller is usually more on the ball. Money goes to the rich, period. If it goes to the rest of us, it is treated as a crime against nature. You can usually tell when this happens. Mitch McConnell’s spluttering about wasteful government spending, that is on ordinary Americans, can be heard for miles.

    Speaking of the rich, just to throw it out there, the rich have essentially all the money already. Even with all the tax laws and tax breaks they write for themselves, even with Jeff Bezos paying no tax at all, the 1% pay 40% of federal income tax; the top 5% pay 60% of them; and the top 10% pay 70% of them. Most Americans can’t begin to comprehend how screwed they are by the rich.

    And the Republican party has been a minority party for 30 years. That’s why voter suppression, the antidemocratic Senate where Mitch resides, the electoral college, and an unelected judiciary are so important to them.

  4. Trinity

    We keep hearing “the end of this” and “the end of that” but what is really ending is the ability to sustain all life as we have known it.

    And it’s ending faster than anticipated.

    Eff the bees, right? Because we have robots that can dance AND pollinate.

    “This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.”
    —TS Eliot

  5. different clue

    TS Eliot redone for the Age of Global Warming.

    “This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang or a whimper but with a hisssss of steam escaping.”

  6. Willy

    Dancing robots? First they creep the hell out of New Yorkers with that robotic dog and now they’re trying out cutesy dance routines PR. If they really want to replace American workers, they need to paint Chinese faces on these robots.

  7. bruce wilder

    Hugh: There is a whole lexicon of words, like free markets, efficiency, or competition (that you have Biden lauding), when you hear them, run, because the next thing you are going to hear is going to be a lie.

    Yep. Because “free markets” do not exist, cannot exist — it is a Big Lie.

    Biden talking up “competition” in tech while ignoring the concentration of power in a very giant banks is just whistling a happy tune while an inflation driven by financialization of all business gathers force. How many times do we have to hear every evil trend in business tied to “private equity” and that some billionaire or some immensely profitable is paying no income tax?

    The liberal response is to talk airily of a guaranteed income and unspecified mechanisms to limit top incomes. What is needed is some concern for how to structure an economy that does not require homelessness and tax-cuts for billionaires — a just system that does not produce billionaires.

  8. Plague Species

    If they really want to replace American workers, they need to paint Chinese faces on these robots.

    Uyghur Chinese or Han Chinese? I say Uyghur so the Uyghur can be preserved for posterity before they disappear entirely to the applause of washed up, braindead so-called “leftists.”

  9. Astrid

    Liberals hating on Chinese/Russian/Iranian/Syrian oppression = Republicans hating on immigrants”stealing” their jobs. Anything to distract you from what the people you voted for are doing to you right now.

  10. M.

    My question is this: why do we need bullet trains? Subways, absolutely — particularly in the dense cities like NYC, Toronto, and Philly.

    But if you live in a country with affordable-ish airfare where airlines are required to refund tickets in case of bumping/inclement weather/etc., why would you care about bullet trains? In China, airlines keep your airfare if you get bumped and you have to buy a new ticket out of pocket. That’s why everyone uses trains, and that’s why their bullets are a significant improvement, particularly for holiday travel. But I’ve never met a Canadian, American, or anyone from a country following similar common carriage laws with who gives a ****. Flying post-9/11 may be a PITA, but it’s still cheaper and faster than any transcontinental bullet train could ever be.

    Moreover, the tone and focus of press coverage almost exactly mirrors the coverage I’ve seen in the Chinese press, which also focuses on how it means China’s a first world country and America isn’t. Interestingly, not a word about Canada or Australia or any other number of countries that don’t have bullets and just don’t care.

    On a somewhat tangential note, I feel like this is yet another example of how the English-language internet is starting to resemble the Chinese and Russian internet more and more each day, even down to which stories are blacked out (Assange) and promoted (bullet trains). While Westerners haven’t really seen cancel culture before, those of us who have lived in China or Russia have — and we know 21st century communist censors operate with sex pic extortion and social media mobs. It’s like a policy planner somewhere got angry about the brain drain, realized it’s because the graduates “thought the air is better” over here and decided to try to make the English language Internet resemble theirs as much as possible so that they’d come back home after graduating from Western colleges.

  11. Astrid


    Nobody uses passenger train service in the US because it’s not available for case majority of trips in North America. The only reasonable use case is in the north east corridor where it does get some use but are often not price/time competitive with buses and car trips, especially if it’s not a city center to city center trip. Flying is terrible and pretty much eats up an entire day since you have to manage transportation in both ends, show up hours early to get to the terminal 30 minutes ahead of the flight take off, and if you’re stuck on a connection flight, you can get really stuck. I don’t bother flying for any trip that takes less than 10 hours of driving to get to.

    In Europe, where flights are cheap and easy ( really too cheap) but good train system exists, trains are very competitive because you can go city center to city center in a few hours.

    Not sure what your point on China’s internet censorship is, but pretty sure the Chinese state media has mentioned both Assange and bullet trains. If you’re making a general point about how mob mentality exists everywhere on the internet, then I really don’t think it’s the presence of Chinese educated English speaking Chinese is the source. It’s been around for 20 years and it keeps getting worse and worse everywhere, in corners where I’m pretty sure the Chinese are not lurking.

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