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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 19, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

Neoliberalism requires a police state

“Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets” 

[Oregon Public Broadcasting, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

“Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off. The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks. Federal Officers Shoot Portland Protester In Head With ‘Less Lethal’ Munitions Federal officers have charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests so far, while others have been arrested and released, including Pettibone. They also left one demonstrator hospitalized with skull fractures after shooting him in the face with so-called “less lethal” munitions July 11. Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC, have been sent to Portland to protect federal property during the recent protests against racism and police brutality. But interviews conducted by OPB show officers are also detaining people on Portland streets who aren’t near federal property, nor is it clear that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity. Demonstrators like O’Shea and Pettibone said they think they were targeted by federal officers for simply wearing black clothing in the area of the demonstration.”

The Border Patrol Was Responsible for an Arrest in Portland
[TheNation, via Naked Capitalism 7-17-20]

 A memo consisting of internal talking points for the federal agency responsible for the arrest, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and obtained exclusively by The Nation provides some answers—and raises even more questions.


Dated July 1, the memo is titled “Public Affairs Guidance: CBP Support to Protect Federal Facilities and Property” and marked “For Official Use Only.” It describes a special task force created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence. That task force, the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), has been tasked not only to assess civil unrest but also to “surge” resources to protect against it.

The Portland arrest of Mark Pettibone, first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, followed several similar arrests involving officers from a Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)—CBP’s equivalent of a SWAT team—as well as the US Marshals Special Operations Group. A CBP spokesman confirmed to The Nation that CBP agents were responsible for the arrest, pointing to authorities under the Protecting American Communities Task Force.

Federal agents arrest Portland protesters in unmarked cars, sparking intense backlash

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]Mayor of Portland to Trump: Get your troops out of the city

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

[Lawfare, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

Strategic Political Economy

Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-20]

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born….

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 – and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100….

Japan’s population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century. Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe. They are two of 23 countries – which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea – expected to see their population more than halve…. China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years’ time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place. The UK is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, and fall to 71 million by 2100.

American Passports Are Worthless Now
India Samarajiva [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 7-12-20]

America is not united anymore and it’s barely a state. They have crashed right through failed state into a plague state, unwelcome across the world. This has been predicted, including here. Now it has come to pass.

Americans have gone from having access to most of the world to being banned from most of it. Today, Americans are only allowed in a few Caribbean islands and the Balkans. An American passport is now worthless. Worse than worthless, it’s a plague. In the absence of a humane government, America is now ruled by COVID-19. Welcome to the Plague States of America….

It’s not that other nations don’t want to welcome Americans, they just can’t. The point of a passport is that a sovereign power vouches for its bearer, but America can’t vouch for the health of their citizens at all. America’s public health regime is far less trustworthy than Liberia’s (which is actually quite good)….

At the same time, you can’t trust Americans. Americans have poor hygiene (low masking rate) and at least 40% of the population can’t be trusted to even believe that COVID-19 exists, let alone to take it seriously. They’re likely to refuse testing, not report symptoms, break quarantine, and generally NOT follow rules. Americans have a toxic combination of ignorance and arrogance that makes them unwelcome travelers.

Predatory Finance

FBI concerned over money-laundering risks in private equity, hedge funds: Criminals use the private placement of funds, including investments offered by hedge funds and private equity firms” to reintegrate dirty money into the legitimate global financial system, according to the bulletin.

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 7-16-20]
[Jacobin, via Avedon’s Sideshow 7-9-20]

Securities and Exchange Commission regulators recently issued a scathing report that reads like a last-ditch plea for help in reeling in private equity billionaires, who have all but free rein to fleece whoever they want, whenever they want. […] In a little-noticed ruling last week, the Supreme Court restricted the SEC’s power to punish private equity firms. With the agency successfully neutered, Trump is now trying to move Clayton into the job of US Attorney, overseeing Wall Street.”

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

“It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus—Our Lives Depend on It” 

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-20]

“It’s time for a new story, one that more accurately captures the reality of how contagions unfold and why. In this story, pandemics would be cast as both a biological reality and a social phenomenon shaped by human agency. And the coronavirus, if cast as any kind of monster at all, would be a Frankenstein’s monster: a creature of our own making. We, after all, created the world in which SARS-Cov-2 evolved, one in which our industry has swallowed up so much of the planet that microbes from wild animals easily slip into livestock and humans. We created the society of overcrowded prisons and nursing homes staffed by underpaid employees who must work in multiple facilities to make ends meet; in which employers force their workers to labor on meatpacking lines even if they’re sick; in which asylum seekers are crammed into detention centers; and in which people living in hard-hit cities like Detroit lack access to clean water with which to wash their hands. A narrative that elevates these realities would compel us to consider a much wider range of policy responses to counter the threat of pandemics.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-20]

Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
“If our industrial base collapses any more, we’ll have to nationalize advanced aviation and maybe other parts of the Air Force that currently are competitive,” said head of Air Force acquisition Will Roper.

US May Need to Nationalize Military Aircraft Industry, USAF Says
[DefenseOne, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-20]

Viral Thread Busts The Myth About Famous Billionaires Starting Out “Poor”

[Bored Panda, via Naked Capitalism 7-13-20]

Financialization: Tackling the Other Virus
[Naked Capitalism 7-13-20]

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to tackle another virus that has spread throughout the world since the 1970s: financialization.

Coronavirus Shows the Dangers of Letting Market Forces Govern Health and Social Care
[Naked Capitalism 7-13-20]

The coronavirus crisis showcases the folly of letting the market determine health and social care: high time for governments to listen,

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]

Gig workers on Target’s delivery app Shipt will strike on July 15 to protest the rollout of an algorithmic pay model that they claim has reduced wages by 30 percent in cities where it has been tested. The striking workers have also asked customers to boycott the app….

While Shipt has framed the new payment model as a benefit to workers, the company’s gig workers have substantial evidence that it will hurt them. In cities such as Philadelphia, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and San Antonio, Texas, where Shipt has already rolled out the new pay model in recent months, gig workers say they’ve seen their wages plummet by between 30 and 40 percent. For years, Shipt has used a clear commissioned-based pay model that ($5 plus a 7.5 percent commission on all orders), but began to roll out the new model in 2019. In some metro areas, workers say their pay dropped by as much as 50 percent….

At other gig economy giants that rely on so-called ‘black box’ algorithmic pay structures, such as Instacart, DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft, workers who rely on the app as a primary source of income have found themselves at the mercy of constant, unexpected tweaks to their pay structure and no guarantee that they’ll make the minimum wage.

NYT Argues Workers Should Get More, but Gets Some Important Facts Wrong

Dean Baker, June 28, 2020 [Center for Economic and Policy Research, via Avedon’s Sideshow 7-9-20]

I hate to be nitpicky when the NYT writes a very strong editorial arguing that we need more money going to ordinary workers and less to the rich, but it is important to get the story right. Unfortunately, the editorial misses much of it. First and foremost, there has not been a major shift from wages to profits during the period of wage stagnation. […] The piece also implies that stock returns have been extraordinarily high through the last four decades. This is clearly wrong. While returns were very high in the 1980s and 1990s, they actually have been well below long-term averages for the last two decades. In this vein, the piece also proposes banning share buybacks as a way to reduce returns to shareholders. It is not clear what it hopes this would accomplish. It is hardly better for workers or anyone else if companies pay out money to shareholders through dividends rather than share buybacks. […] The piece also is very modest in suggesting that the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour. While this is a good near-term target, if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, it would be over $24 an hour today. […] In order to be able to raise the minimum wage back to its productivity-adjusted level from 1968, and not see excessive inflation, we would have to take steps to reduce high-end wages. This would mean things like fixing the corporate governance structures so CEOs could not ripoff the companies for which they work. This would mean they might get $2 million to $3 million a year, instead of $20 million. We would have to eliminate the waste in the financial sector, thereby ending the exorbitant pay in this sector. We would also have to weaken the importance of patent and copyright monopolies, making it less likely that Bill Gates types could get $100 billion. And, we would have to subject doctors and other highly paid professionals to competition, bringing their pay in line with their counterparts in other wealthy countries.”

Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

“Brick and mortar, crumbling: The COVID pandemic has cemented Amazon’s dominant position. What now?”

[Richard Wolff, New York Daily News, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

“During the last few months, huge numbers of smaller stores have closed. Walmarts and Targets have been open and online shopping has become even more widespread, accelerating an Amazonification of America that had already been well underway. What we do about this will largely determine whether we still have functioning public commercial spaces in this country — or whether we fold up our tent and accept that relatively efficient and inexpensive delivery of goods straight to the home will dominate our retail economy for generations to come. The answer matters mightily. Many have forgotten this, but markets are not just places where we go to get goods. They are a defining characteristic of civilization as we know it. Trips to markets became passages into community. Leaving isolation, at least temporarily, people in markets enjoyed interpersonal contacts and socialized activities. They found friends, lovers and partners, and came to discuss and act together to solve shared problems. Their influence went far beyond this function. Villages, towns and cities grew up around markets. People overcame isolation not only by buying from one another. They also brought their workplaces and schools, as well as their homes, nearer to markets both to work and shop more easily and for all the social connections and interactions markets fostered. Modern society has been shaped indispensably by markets and their evolution. It will be deeply affected if real markets mostly vanish, replaced by merely electronic, virtual forms.”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-16-20]

“In a study of customer visits to more than 2.25 million businesses, University of Chicago economists Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson found that traffic fell by 60 percentage points — and that legal restrictions explained only slightly more than one-tenth of that drop. The decline began before stay-at-home orders were in place, was closely tied to the number of virus deaths locally, and showed that consumers were actively avoiding the busier stores, according to the paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. ‘The politicians like to feel like they’re the ones in control of making the decision, but at the end of the day the virus is the boss,’ said Goolsbee, a former aide to President Barack Obama. ‘If the death rate goes back up and people get scared, the economy will get worse. It could easily wipe out the economic recovery that you generated in the short run by getting rid of the order.’ That’s why the key pandemic data-point is the reinfection rate, known as R0, he said: ‘We are going to end up back to the plan which is we have to do everything to get the R0 down so this disease peters out.’”

Progressive Policies into the Breach

The Tremendous but “Secret” Success of Socialist Vietnam
[Dissident Voice, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]

A Producerist Manifesto
B. Duncan Moench, July 14, 2020 [Tablet]

…Like so many in an American left that long ago stopped studying political thought and intellectual history, Moore and Gibbs fail to adequately understand what liberal political economy is—and, what alternatives to it actually endure….

Anarchism, syndicalism, and anarcho-syndicalism remain total vagaries, if not absolute pipe dreams. So is socialism as conceptualized by Marx. No country or even small locality has ever come anywhere close to actualizing a socialist system of economics based solely upon “labor,” which Marx designated as the first stage of his “scientific” path for history. Seeking to remove class and create a hyperefficient economic state where man will “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticize after dinner,” as Marx wished—and many on the left still dream of—is a mirage and a dangerous one.

Seeking “efficiency” over human achievement is the central mistake that got us into this mess to begin with. Efficiency is the language of the machine, a dogged pursuit of it degrades the gift that is earthy existence. Social democracy—what Americans wrongly call “socialism” or now stupidly call “democratic socialism” (because of Bernie)—is just a different, more statist form of liberalism which is still entirely dependent on growth and requires a highly efficient, effective, and noncorrupt state bureaucracy most countries do not possess, and probably are not capable of possessing—including the United States of America….

Before dying of lung cancer in 1994, the prescient intellectual historian Christopher Lasch spent more time than anyone before (or since) subtly singing producerism’s praises. In his last two major works, Lasch frequently pointed to the intrigue of the not-quite-liberal, not-quite-socialist, but uniquely radical (and also somehow conservative) thinking of 19th-century producerists…. Sadly, Christopher Lasch never developed producerism into an economic system, much less a proposal or manifesto. But it is possible to fill in where Lasch left off, utilizing ideas from similar thinkers like Jacque Ellul, William Morris, Lewis Mumford, and Thorstein Veblen.


Disrupting mainstream economics – Modern Monetary Theory

Mark Blyth interviews Stephenie Kelton – Do Deficits Matter (MMT Explained)[Soundcloud, via Mike Norman Economics 7-17-20]

“The Money Printers”
[The Bafffler, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-20]

“Kelton went on to become an adviser to Sanders in his presidential campaign of 2016, and then on his recent campaign for the 2020 nomination. Again, she saw the realities of how America’s finances are discussed in the political spotlight. Time after time, Sanders would be asked how he planned to finance ambitious reforms such as a Medicare for All system. He always noted that in the wealthiest nation on earth, such goals can be attained. Yet he never came out with a direct endorsement of MMT. He didn’t want to scare the public by seeming cavalier about deficit spending. As Kelton notes, Sanders at times ‘has echoed Reagan.’”

The Federal Government Always Money-Finances Its Spending: A Restatement
Nathan Tankus [via Mike Norman Economics 7-16-20]

One of the claims Modern Monetary Theory makes that critics have the most trouble with is the idea that the Federal Government already finances itself through money creation. Today, I’m going to restate this thesis step by step as simply as I can, while using T accounts. Incidentally, Professor Stephanie Kelton already substantiated this thesis in the United States 20 years ago in an article (aptly) entitled “Do Taxes and Bonds Finance Government Spending?”

….when conducting monetary analysis… The case for consolidating the Federal Reserve Board, which determines monetary policy, with the rest of the Federal Government is clear- it is an administrative agency that forms part of the executive branch. The reason the Federal Reserve System is sometimes not consolidated in this fashion is the confusion over Regional Federal Reserve Banks, which are not administrative agencies of the government. These entities are congressionally created corporations which conduct monetary policy at the direction of the Federal Reserve Board.

….Agree or disagree with this set of propositions, this is what Modern Monetary Theorists are arguing and, in my view, it is a coherent (even incisive) argument. Future controversy over the claim that “Taxes and Bonds do not finance federal government spending” should focus on the argument above and the way it analytically uses consolidation of Federal Government agencies, instrumentalities and Congress. Above all, MMT’s argument here is a mixture of legal analysis and macroeconomic accounting. To combat it requires pointing out some flaw in the legal reasoning or in the accounting. I’ve never heard any objections to the accounting from other academics. Instead, the most common ripostes come from economists conducting amateur legal reasoning with… predictable results.

Coronavirus and the economy: Best and worst-case scenarios from Minneapolis Fed president
[CBS, March 22, 2020]

“Is the Fed just going to print money?” Pelley asked.

“That’s literally what Congress has told us to do,” Kashkari said. “That’s the authority that they’ve given us, to print money and provide liquidity into the financial system.”

Then came one of those clarifying moments when an essential but seldom-stated truth about money—and the political economy of the United States—emerged:

Pelley: Can you characterize everything that the Fed has done this past week as essentially flooding the system with money?

Kashkari: Yes, exactly.

Pelley: And there’s no end to your ability to do that?

Kashkari: There is no end to our ability to do that.

Kashkari had come prepared with a message that was clearly meant to calm the jitters of the Wall Street investing class—even though it might sound perplexing or unnerving to the ordinary viewer. The endless printing of money? (Actually, Kashkari said, “We create it electronically.”) Flooding the system? With no limits? It sounded dangerous, unrealistic, hyperbolic.

The Pandemic

Japan has long accepted COVID’s airborne spread, and scientists say ventilation is key”
[CBS, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-20]

“This densely populated country has operated for months on the assumption that tiny, ‘aerosolized’ particles in crowded settings are turbo-charging the spread of the new coronavirus. Large droplets expelled through the nose and mouth tend to fall to the ground quickly, explained Makoto Tsubokura, who runs the Computational Fluid Dynamics lab at Kobe University. For these larger respiratory particles, social distancing and face masks are considered adequate safeguards. But in rooms with dry, stale air, Tsubokura said his research showed that people coughing, sneezing, and even talking and singing, emit tiny particles that defy gravity — able to hang in the air for many hours or even days, and travel the length of a room.

The key defense against aerosols, Tsubokura said, is diluting the amount of virus in the air by opening windows and doors and ensuring HVAC systems circulate fresh air. In open-plan offices, he said partitions must be high enough to prevent direct contact with large droplets, but low enough to avoid creating a cloud of virus-heavy air (55 inches, or head height.) Small desk fans, he said, can also help diffuse airborne viral density.”

“Cloth masks can protect the wearer” 

[ (Tricia Greenhalgh), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-20]

“Unfortunately, many public health bodies still incorrectly claim that there is no evidence that DIY masks are useful at protecting the wearer [WHO, Dr. Fauci, take a bow!]. There’s actually plenty of evidence they can. Effective protection for the wearer of a mask depends on three critical things: 1) Material: does the mask filter particles of the appropriate sizes? 2) Fit: do particles squeeze in through the gaps of your mask? 3)Sanitation: can you clean and re-use the mask?”

And, masks protect others, not just the wearer:
Absence of Apparent Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Two Stylists After Exposure at a Hair Salon with a Universal Face Covering Policy — Springfield, Missouri, May 2020

[Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]

At salon A in Springfield, Missouri, two stylists with COVID-19 symptoms worked closely with 139 clients before receiving diagnoses of COVID-19, and none of their clients developed COVID-19 symptoms. Both stylists A and B, and 98% of the interviewed clients followed posted company policy and the Springfield city ordinance requiring face coverings by employees and clients in businesses providing personal care services. The citywide ordinance reduced maximum building waiting area seating to 25% of normal capacity and recommended the use of face coverings at indoor and outdoor public places where physical distancing was not possible. Both company and city policies were likely important factors in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 during these interactions between clients and stylists. These results support the use of face coverings in places open to the public, especially when social distancing is not possible, to reduce spread of SARS-CoV-2

Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Press release here , via Naked Capitalism 7-17-20]

Collapse of Independent News Media

“Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund, has won the auction to buy the McClatchy newspaper chain”
[Poynter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-20]

“The stage was set for the McClatchy family to relinquish control and put the company into bankruptcy. They chose to do so after failing to get a waiver from the Internal Revenue Service or the PBGC for pension payments due this year that the company would be unable to make. Chatham also controls American Media Inc., which includes the National Enquirer (which it announced in April 2019 had been sold — though the transaction has never closed). It also has a controlling interest in Postmedia, a large Canadian chain. Chatham has managed each with a light hand. And since it has been in a position to influence decisions in McClatchy for some time, my guess is that deep cuts or other radical action once it owns the company are not likely.” • Maybe. Before McClatchy was McClatchy, it was Knight-Ridder, the only “newsgathering” organization that did not support Bush’s WMD scam that helped justifiy the Iraq War (looking at you David Frum). So McClatchy goes under, while the warmongering Washington Post and New York Times go from strength to strength.

[Nieman Lab, via The Big Picture 7-16-20]

Bengani identified five organizations operating these networks, all with conservative political ties. Conservative businessman Brian Timpone founded the Record network in 2004. As disclosed on Record publications, the network is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Timpone also runs Locality Labs/LocalLabs, which operates only in Florida. Franklin Archer, whose CEO is Timpone’s brother Michael, operates a local news network with over 100 sites and a metro business network with 51 sites. Dan Proft, who ran the conservative super PAC Liberty Principles, created the Local Government Information Services (LGIS) network in Illinois in 2016. Metric Media shares privacy policies, servers, and analytics identifiers with the other four networks. Of the conservative sites we’ve mapped, only the four sites that make up the Star News Network are not affiliated in any way with one of these five organizations. However, like many of the others, the Star is not transparent about its funding or the involvement of some staff in political campaigns.

As the map indicates, there are considerably more conservative-leaning sites than liberal-leaning sites. Only 8 of the 429 sites we’ve identified so far are liberal-leaning. This potentially could change as left-wing funders and operatives seek to counteract similar efforts by the right. Courier Newsroom, funded by the progressive nonprofit Acronym, has newsrooms in six swing states and also publishes a politics site for Latinx readers. Others are independent sites founded by former politicians, candidates, and operatives, so we have labeled partisanship based on the founder’s party identification.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Inside America’s Secretive $2 Billion Research Hub

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]

Mitre Corp. runs some of the U.S. government’s most hush-hush science and tech labs. The cloak-and-dagger R&D shop might just be the most important organization you’ve never heard of.

Small Lab Makes Big Breakthrough In Nuclear Fusion Tech

[, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]

Headed by physicist Eric Lerner, who’s considered one of the leading global experts on plasma use in nuclear fusion, the LPPFusion team achieved landmark success in 2016 when its device reached an ion temperature of 2.8 billion degrees, by far the highest temperature achieved on any experiment so far. That came out to be over 200 times hotter than the center of the sun and more than 15 times the projected maximum temperature for the ITER in France.

LPPFusion has raised the bar and is coming close to creating conditions sufficient to achieve net energy generation — which levels out gross electricity generation minus the consumption of power stations’ auxiliary services. So far, that’s been done on a small budget of $7 million that the lab has invested, with the support of a few dedicated collaborators. Lerner and team say they’ve raised the performance of its DPF technology, and are close to creating conditions sufficient for net energy generation — another persuasive argument in gaining support for the technology.

Climate and environmental crises

“New Data Shows an ‘Extraordinary’ Rise in U.S. Coastal Flooding”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

“The increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts since 2000 has been ‘extraordinary,’ the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported, with the frequency of flooding in some cities growing fivefold during that time. That shift is damaging homes, imperiling the safety of drinking water, inundating roads and otherwise hurting coastal communities, the agency said

Disrupting mainstream politics

The Four Centrisms
Benjamin Studebaker [via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]

The 90s consensus is neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is broadly a commitment to four things:

  • Marketization–a preference for market systems over public goods, wherever it is politically possible to impose them.
  • Globalization–a desire to export the market system to every part of the world, whenever it is politically possible to export it.
  • Responsibilization–a tendency to blame individuals for social problems to prevent those problems from becoming political questions. This makes it the individual’s job to deal with the consequences of globalized markets and prevents the individual from holding states and the international system to account.
  • Culture War–a tendency to use group antagonism to distract from the problems created by globalized markets. This means that the conversation is always shifted to race, gender, sexuality, religion, and other cultural touchstones. Culture War combines with responsibilization to produce a cancel culture in which individuals face social and political sanction if they refuse to fight the Culture War, fight for the wrong side, or fight with insufficient vigour.

This should be read in conjunction with Stirling Newberry’s post in June 2009, Three Polar Politics In Post-Petroleum America.

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

“Senate Democrats’ Machine Spent $15 Million To Destroy Progressive Primary Candidates” 

David Sirota [Too Much Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-20]

“With the help of the party, its major donors, and the Senate Majority PAC (SMP) — a super PAC funded by labor unions, corporate interests and Wall Street billionaires — candidates endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have won contested primaries in four battleground states…. SMP is led byformer top staffers at the DSCC. The super PAC has raised a staggering $118 million this cycle, pooling cash from both organized labor and business titans to promote corporate-aligned candidates over more progressive primary challengers…. Overall, the top donor to SMP so far this cycle has been Democracy PAC — a super PAC that’s bankrolled by billionaire George Soros and the Fund for Policy Reform, a nonprofit funded by Soros. Democracy PAC has contributed $8.5 million to SMP.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-18-20]

Marie Fonseca @TheMarieFonseca
Jul 16
Bidens campaign staff is working to unseat
wtf is going on with their so called “unity”

David Shor’s Unified Theory of American Politics

I think going into politics, I overestimated the importance of the personal ideology of people who worked in campaigns for making decisions — which was part of a broader phenomenon of overestimating the extent to which people were making decisions. In 2012, I would see progressive blogs* publish stories like, “The White House is doing a Climate Week. This must be because they have polling showing that climate is a vulnerability for Republicans.” And once you know the people who are in that office, you realize that actually no; they were just at an awkward office meeting and were like, “Oh man, what are we going to do this week? Well, we could do climate.” There’s very little long-term, strategic planning happening anywhere in the party because no one has an incentive to do it. So, campaigns’ actions, while not random, are more random than I realized.

I’ve also fallen toward a consultant theory of change — or like, a process theory of change. So a lot of people on the left would say that the Hillary Clinton campaign largely ignored economic issues, and doubled down on social issues, because of the neoliberal ideology of the people who worked for her, and the fact that campaigning on progressive economic policy would threaten the material interests of her donors.

But that’s not what happened. The actual mechanical reason was that the Clinton campaign hired pollsters to test a bunch of different messages, and for boring mechanical reasons, working-class people with low levels of social trust were much less likely to answer those phone polls than college-educated professionals. And as a result, all of this cosmopolitan, socially liberal messaging did really well in their phone polls, even though it ultimately cost her a lot of votes….

Mitt Romney and Donald Trump agreed on basically every issue, as did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And yet, a bunch of people changed their votes. And the reason that happened was because the salience of various issues changed. Both sides talked a lot more about immigration, and because of that, correlation between preferences on immigration and which candidate people voted for went up. In 2012, both sides talked about health care. In 2016, they didn’t. And so the correlation between views on health care and which candidate people voted for went down.

So this means that every time you open your mouth, you have this complex optimization problem where what you say gains you some voters and loses you other voters. But this is actually cool because campaigns have a lot of control over what issues they talk about.

Non-college-educated whites, on average, have very conservative views on immigration, and generally conservative racial attitudes. But they have center-left views on economics; they support universal health care and minimum-wage increases. So I think Democrats need to talk about the issues they are with us on, and try really hard not to talk about the issues where we disagree. Which, in practice, means not talking about immigration….

Avoiding the issue / problem of neoliberalism at all costs

“Biden’s Wall Street Undertow”

[Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-16-20]

Biden is inundated with Wall Street supporters, who use their influence to assure that he will be another president in the Clinton-Obama mode—liberal-ish on social issues, but not a threat to Wall Street’s toxic business model, which is such a fundamental driver of gross inequality of income and wealth as well as extreme corporate concentration.

Today at 5:30, there is a big, virtual Biden fundraising event by and for Wall Street donors. It was organized by 44 alums* of the Obama and Clinton Treasury Departments. Make a donation, and you too can participate. Lead gifts are $25,000.

Keynote speakers, discussing the future of the American economy, include former Treasury Secretary and OMB Director Jack Lew, and former head of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling. Lew, under Obama, was one of the cheerleaders for budget austerity. Sperling helped negotiate the end of Glass-Steagall.

Lew is now a partner at the private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg, which specializes in leveraged buyouts, one of the curses of the economy that a progressive Biden administration would need to rein in. Budget austerity plus private equity!

Gene Sperling, who runs his own strategies firm, is more of a liberal who genuinely cares about poverty and inequality, but far from a crusader for Wall Street reform. And he will be speaking to a group of Wall Street donors.

‘Almost Indecent’
[The Heisenbert Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]

Last week, I lamented the state of America’s democracy, and suggested that while the election has the potential to usher in four years of stability, a Joe Biden presidency won’t cure what was ailing the country prior to Donald Trump’s tumultuous tenure in the Oval Office.

The point wasn’t to deride Biden. I tried to make that clear at the outset, without much success, judging by some of the feedback. Rather, the goal was to underscore the fact that America’s trust in government was waning prior to 2016, and recent events have exacerbated that crisis of confidence. Without game-changing leadership, the situation will invariably deteriorate further….


Those disparities (figure above) mirror inequities in the economic realm.

For example, the chart below (which I’ve used previously) shows that the vast majority of US stocks are concentrated in the hands of white Americans.

….“At the moment there is [a] sharp contrast between the economic data and stock price levels on the Bloomberg screens and the images and discussions on TV”, Rabobank’s Marey went on to say this week, adding that “both types of protests we mentioned, against COVID-19 measures and against racism, reflect a lack of trust in US institutions that predates the outbreak of the virus”.

Trust in the federal government has been falling for decades in the US, and there is no reason to believe the trend will improve.

Liberals Are Crazy Idiots
Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 7-12-20]

Liberals (or “neoliberals” or “corporate liberals” or “centrists” or whatever word you think everyone should be using for this ideology that nobody can agree on a label for) are just a fake imitation of the thing that actual leftists are. Leftists actually fight for justice, equality, peace, truth and anti-authoritarianism, while liberals are cheerleading Joe Biden and sociopathic intelligence agencies and throwing endless inertia on any movement toward real change. Leftists are the thing that liberals pretend to be.

And that’s why liberals hate the true left: because leftists are a constant reminder that liberals aren’t what they pretend to be. That they are just conservatives wearing a fake plastic mask of justice and sanity. That their lives are a crude crayon drawing of the values they pretend to espouse, a layer of feel-good narratives and podcasts and Hamilton songs wallpapered over a rapacious omnicidal machine of endless war, ecocide and oppression.

The Threat to Civil Liberties Goes Way Beyond “Cancel Culture”

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]

In recent years, there has been a marked and disquieting increase in the willingness of a raft of actors left, center, and right, both in government and in civil society, to engage in a practice and attitude of censorship and to abandon due process, presumption of innocence, and other core civil liberties.

There have been some attempts from different quarters at a pushback against this, but the most recent such effort at a course correction is an open letter decrying the phenomenon appearing in Harper’s magazine. The letter, signed by some 150 public intellectuals, writers, and academics including figures like Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood, and Salman Rushdie, has provoked a polarizing response.

I’m Black and Afraid of ‘White Fragility’

Cedrick-Michael Simmons, June 22, 2020 [TheBellows, via Avedon’s Sideshow 7-9-20]

White Fragility also reinforces the belief that the responsibility for racism lies with individual workers’ attitudes and invisible phenomena including implicit bias rather than the policies and practices authorized by employers. If I were an employer, why wouldn’t I want to hire a specialist to train workers to believe that their own identities and unconscious biases are the main sources of inequality, instead of exploitative workplace practices? Simply put, DiAngelo continues to be paid by schools and firms across the country for the same reason that employers pay any professional or manager: it advances their material interests as opposed to the interests of their personnel.”

The Dark Side

“What 9 GOP Campaign Consultants Really Think About Republicans’ Chances in November”
[Tim Miller, Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-20]

 “I reached out to nine of my former allies and rivals who still consult for Republican candidates at the highest levels of Senate and House races, some who have gone full MAGA and others for whom the president is not their cup of tea. I asked them to speak candidly, without their names attached, to learn about the real behind-the-scenes conversations about the state of affairs. How is the president’s performance impacting their candidate? Are there discussions about either storming the cockpit or gently trying to from Trump? And finally, why in the hell aren’t they more pissed at this incompetent asshole who is fucking up their lives? What I found in their answers was one part Stockholm Syndrome, one part survival instinct. They all may not love the president, but most share his loathing for his enemies on the left, in the media, and the apostate Never Trump Republicans with a passion that engenders an alliance with the president, if not a kinship. And even among those who don’t share the tribalistic hatreds, they perceive a political reality driven by base voters and the president’s shitposting that simply does not allow for dissent. As one put it: ‘There are two options, you can be on this hell ship or you can be in the water drowning.’”


[Political Research Associates and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, , via Avedon’s Sideshow 7-9-20]

We have been tracking reports of paramilitary and other far-right actors who are showing up at or adjacent to protests demanding an end to racist policing and a transformation of our carceral state. This map seeks to right-size the threat of paramilitaries to our social justice movements, neither exaggerating nor minimizing. We have confirmed 136 reported incidents since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, and with new reports daily there are dozens more as of yet unconfirmed incidents to review. Given the variety of groups and factions involved and types of incidents, we have divided the data into a few broad categories of actors/ideologies on the one hand and actions and tactics on the other. In most cases, the underlying data preserves more nuance and can be used to make finer distinctions. “




The Portland Seizures Are the Next Step to Latin American-Style Fascism


The Weirdness of “Coronavirus” Hacking


  1. Joan

    A drop in birthrate (fertility rate sounds strange to me, as if people are impotent or infertile) is absolutely a good thing. This century is the century of fresh water. It’s going to be really ugly for the high birthrate populations that are headed toward water problems, like India and the Muslim world.

    It’s an understandable concern in terms of how a society is going to take care of their old people, and how to keep an economy based on growth going when there’s fewer young laborers. But that’s the transition were are already in, and there’s no getting around it.

    On the first point: old people will not get the posh retirement that upper middle class first-worlders enjoyed for half a century. That ship has long sailed and is not an option from hereon. Take that bar and move it a lot lower; adjust your expectations. I hope that multi-generational households will become more common in the West, that grandchildren will take in their elderly grandparents and great aunts and such.

    On the second point: an economy based on growth is not a viable option for the future, and the sooner a society transitions into something more stable, the better. Having a smaller population is absolutely preferable when there are fresh water shortages coming down the pike. What children *are* born these days should be taught skills that are valuable to their local community, in hopes of weathering the crises to come.

  2. Chipper

    “They all may not love the president, but most share his loathing for his enemies … with a passion that engenders an alliance with the president, if not a kinship.”

    This is what I’m hearing from the Republicans I’m Related To. They think Trump’s handling of the pandemic is appalling, but their hatred for the Democrats is visceral and they would never vote for one. They talk about Trump like disappointed parents but they talk about Biden the way they talk about pedophiles. They need a third option. It’s time to bring back Ross Perot.

  3. different clue


    A question, if I may . . . Did/does your Republican relatives’ hatred for Democrats extend to Bernie Sanders? Or do they share Hillary Clinton’s opinion of Sanders that he is ” not a Democrat” and hence limit their distaste for Sanders and his Marxocialism to the level of mere distaste?

  4. Chipper

    Well one of them was in the “Obama is a socialist” camp so I’d say no difference

  5. Zachary Smith

    Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    After reading the press release at that link I can only conclude The Orange Leader has effectively lobotomized The National Academy of Science in the same way as he has other Federal agencies. The “arguments” put forward in the piece make no sense at all.

    Today the naked capitalism site cited the experience of the South Koreans. A more readable version:
    Older children spread the coronavirus just as much as adults, a South Korea study finds

    The Apartheid state has tried to rush school re-openings, and the results are what you’d expect.

    Israeli Data Show School Openings Were a Disaster That Wiped Out Lockdown Gains

    The youngest person in my immediate family is a 4th grader. She has an ingrained view that the rules don’t apply to her, and will go out of her way to evade them. When she sees an opening, her behavior becomes even more blatant. Kids like this aren’t uncommon. They’re going to become super-spreaders, and their parents will be the first to suffer. But not the last. Those without symptoms will nail neighbors and grandparents and random strangers.

    The more meddling done by our Stable Genius POTUS, the worse things are going to get in this country. Moronic Governors like the twits in Georgia and Florida aren’t helping any, either.

  6. Zachary Smith

    Back in the ending years of the 19th century one of the arguments put forward to limit the number of immigrants to the US was that foreign nations were using us as a dumping ground to get rid of their mentally ill people. Discussion of this isn’t a bit Politically Correct in the year of our Lord 2020, but there appears to be a germ of truth to the claims.

    Recall known (and recent) instances of some US States giving homeless and other ‘undesirable’ people one-way Bus tickets to another state. The small amounts of evidence I can locate makes it appear European Nations realized they could end the eternal costs of housing and feeding their mentally ill (and mentally deficient) citizens by giving them a 1-way boat ticket to the US. The standard procedure was for the ship captains to show up at tiny US ports – like those in the Gulf of Mexico and quietly unload their cargo when nobody was paying any particular attention. Probably the new arrivals would be given enough money to get a train ticket north where they could quickly disappear. Until they started their inevitable misbehavior in their new home.

    Obama was very loud with his proclamations of how the US could do anything it damned well pleased because we USians are so Exceptional. I’m coming around to the notion that one place this description applies is our unusual contrariness – and stupidity.

    Anti-mask protesters’ new weapon: wearing masks that offer no COVID-19 protection
    Face masks made of mesh, crochet (yarn) or lace are now popular items being offered by online retailers.

    I’d welcome a better explanation for this than extreme and widespread dull-wittedness.

  7. different clue


    Thank you for answering my question. ( Sigh . . . ) . . . I realize the implication of your answer is probably correct.

    Still, if it would not risk an unpleasant argument, I wonder if there would be any point in asking them about Sanders by name, given that Hillary fingered Sanders as ” not a Democrat” whereas she fully accepted Obama as being a Democrat, just not one of her favorite Democrats.

  8. bruce wilder

    I was struck by the tension I see in the contrasting views of Democratic Party politics almost alternating in Tony Wikrent’s summary of the week past, beginning with Studebaker’s Four Centrisms.

    A lot of people apparently can not wrap their heads around the reality that Joe Biden is a tool of the same malevolent forces as Trump.

  9. Mark Pontin

    Bruce W. wrote: “A lot of people apparently can not wrap their heads around the reality that Joe Biden is a tool of the same malevolent forces as Trump.”

    A lot of people can’t wrap their heads around the reality that there are no good guys, only bad guys.

    Most people can’t live without hope. It’s definitely a human weakness

    That said, let’s not lose all nuance here: Joe Biden is a tool of *many* of the same malevolent forces as Trump, but not all of them and he has a few malevolent forces backing him all to himself.

  10. someofparts

    Joan – I am living entirely on Social Security these days. If arrangements for geezers will not be this posh in the future, just put us adrift on ice floes and be done with it.

  11. bruce wilder

    You are right, of course Mark, not exactly the same malevolent forces.

    I am actually amazed sometimes that anyone at all backs Trump, but without the least sympathy for the Orange One, I am also astonished by the relentless hostility to Trump evidenced, say, on CNN or in the crusades of Adam Schiff. Still, the absence of scruple in so much of the torrent of scorn, as well as the use of “racism” to the exclusion of any other explanator of Trump’s agenda and rhetoric or popular appeal confirms the malevolence.

    The commenters and analysts Tony Wikrent has linked — some of them — notice and question the reliance on “anti-racism” as the organizing theme of efforts to do something about the rapid plunge toward third-world conditions of economy and politics. That accounts for the tension I noticed, because others writing about “inequality” (that abstractly antiseptic term for predation and corruption and injustice) feel compelled to lead with racial disparity. That is the nuance I am curious to understand.

    What I am loathe to do is give into the bullying from those who remain certain, against considerable weight of evidence, that Biden will bring relief from the “worse excesses” of Trump and restore some semblance of “normal”. I absolutely hate the complaint that Trump is not “normal” politics and ain’t that awful. Those who worry aloud about Trump overstaying his time in office, buoyed by claims of crooked elections, but who remain blissfully unaware of the DNC’s anti-democratic activities piss me off.

    David Shor’s Unified Theory of American Politics was one of Tony’s linked essays that fell into the pattern of tension I mentioned. Shor argues for avoiding immigration issues as a tactic to pull in “non-college-educated whites”. But, I really wanted to tear him a new one for being obtuse about the political agenda and ideologies of campaign staff (at decision-making levels). He is desperate to reassure us and himself that there is a potentially receptive audience among political operatives for this: working-class white authoritarian followers (my terms for Shor’s target) have “center-left views on economics; they support universal health care and minimum-wage increases. So I think Democrats need to talk about the issues they are with us on, “. “With us”!!! He is talking retrospectively about how Clinton’s campaign lost the 2016 election. He cannot see that staff indifference is their ideology and candidate indifference was controlling in any case.

    I am no longer interested in rehashing 2016 or lesser-evilism. I am interested in telling the truth. The Party of Joe Biden is opposed to universal health care and substantial increases in working class wages. At a time (now, now, now) when wages and incomes are being slashed! Cut. Reduced. Hello?! Unemployment rate? Substantial sectors of the economy are heading into liquidation. And idiots want to talk MMT free money, and Dean Baker thinks with a shift of 10% of national income from labor to capital, “profits” are not an issue but the incomes of medical doctors is.

    I get what you say, Mark, about people needing hope, but hope is getting in the way of seeing the truth. If they need to lie that badly, there is not much hope.

  12. Joan

    @someofparts, just to be clear, I certainly hope there is a safety net for the elderly in the future, whether that be adequate Social Security and Medicare in the US, or pensions in other countries, etc. I *hope* that is the case, but if wishes were fishes. I currently pay into Social Security with the mindset that I am helping elderly people alive now, but that this program will not exist by the time I turn sixty.

  13. John

    Joan, If Social Security does not exist when you turn 60, it will be a political decision made by the Oligarchs and their enablers. That your wage taxes ‘pay’ for the oldster’s social security is a currently false artifact of the old gold standard economy. Since 1971 we have a fiat money economy. That means any tax simply destroys money. Money is simply created by government fiat in any quantity it wishes for any purpose it wishes. See MMT and consider the recent actions of the Fed, our government’s central bank

  14. nihil obstet

    Centrist Democrats’ reaction to Donald Trump is like the Republicans’ portrayal of George Bush in 2000 and 2004 — Bush is the one you want to drink a beer with. Now the Washington political crew is just horrified and put off by Trump’s crassness and vulgarity. It’s all personal. We’re supposed to believe that Trump is destroying the country, but the Democrats are meekly voting him more power and resolutely refusing to pursue corruption or any real high crimes or misdemeanors.

  15. Ché Pasa

    The situation in Portland continues to evolve. As we know, the media can only focus on one (similar) thing at a time, so for the moment it’s Portland rather than any place else where demonstrations continue — which is much of the rest of the country — whether or not The Feds are involved.

    The federal courthouse in Portland has become a fortress (hint: they were all fortress-ized after the Murrah Building was blown up in OKC in 1995.) protected by volunteers from several federal law enforcement agencies. They’re untrained in crowd control and they’re doing a terrible job protecting anything but themselves from the awful screaming mob of moms and young people and veterans. Nobody’s touched them that I know of, but they’ve caused numerous injuries to protesters, media, and legal observers. And — of course — they’ve pulled the same shit on some of the protesters as CPB and ICE has been doing to immigrants and random brown people for years: grabbing them off the streets and hauling them away to who knows where.

    These feds are roundly despised in Portland for their violence and stupidity among other things. Think about it. They almost make the Portland police and county sheriffs departments look good by comparison.

    The courthouse has been graffitied heavily by some of the protesters and it’s been boarded up and fenced off by the inmates (aka: “protectors”). The fence is torn down by the protesters and used by them to barricade the “Murder Doors” (from which the “protectors” sally) every night. Flash bangs, smoke and teargas grenades and pepper spray, rubber bullets, other assorted impact munitions and exploding balls are shot and thrown at protesters every night, and every night they’re thrown, kicked and otherwise creatively sent back from whence they came.

    It’s a nightly goon show which is thoroughly discrediting to the federal government. Which I assume is the underlying point. Yes, it’s Trump; but it’s more, much more. People around the world see this happening, much as they saw the Paris protests, the Hong Kong protests, and numerous other protests and it’s hard not to think the US is in precipitous decline. It’s all about main force to compel obedience to diktat from above.

    That’s not working so well, is it?

  16. Joan

    @John, thanks for the comment. I guess I should amend my statement to be more along the lines of “I pay into Social Security theoretically” because of course you’re right. The reason I think Social Security won’t exist by the time I turn 60 is because of the likelihood that the program is looted and swiveled into pockets under the guise of budget cuts or whatever else. The end of the story is, if I get a check, I’ll be flabbergasted.

    Economic theory is really not my strong suit. When I read about it, I start to doubt my own literacy because I get to the end of an article and have no idea what I just read. The hypothetical projections make me go cross-eyed, so I make no claims of being well-read on this subject.

    That said, there are concrete challenges we will face this century, and all of them can be eased by having fewer babies. Fresh water is a limited material resource, distributed unevenly according to class and geographical location. It makes sense that some families might see the writing on the wall and decide to have two children instead of three, or three instead of four, etc.

  17. someofparts

    “I’ve noticed a fascinating magical inversion projection-disavowal mechanism whereby the sheer mention of class is now automatically treated as if that means one is trying to downgrade the importance of race and gender. In fact, the exact opposite is the case, as the Vampires’ Castle uses an ultimately liberal understanding of race and gender to obfuscate class. In all of the absurd and traumatic twitterstorms about privilege earlier this year it was noticeable that the discussion of class privilege was entirely absent. The task, as ever, remains the articulation of class, gender and race – but the founding move of the Vampires’ Castle is the dis-articulation of class from other categories.

    The problem that the Vampires’ Castle was set up to solve is this: how do you hold immense wealth and power while also appearing as a victim, marginal and oppositional? The solution was already there – in the Christian Church. So the VC has recourse to all the infernal strategies, dark pathologies and psychological torture instruments Christianity invented, and which Nietzsche described in The Genealogy of Morals. This priesthood of bad conscience, this nest of pious guilt-mongers, is exactly what Nietzsche predicted when he said that something worse than Christianity was already on the way. Now, here it is …”

    Joan – One of the reasons I was so committed to Bernie was because he would have done his absolute best to make sure you would get your Social Security. I want you to have this just like I have, except honestly indexed to cost-of-living so you get more.

  18. DMC

    I was watching a film the other day about solar powered desalinization plants. It described a standard, energy hogging, reverse osmosis plant but next to a field of P\V solar panels. Yet a real passive solar desalinization plant could be built VASTLY cheaper with sunlight vaporizing seawater all day, and a photo thermal field building up a thermal mass to vaporize water all night. It would use almost no electricity save for powering some internal gates and if you built it in the inter-tidal zone, you wouldn’t even need those. This is where state and local governments need to “step up” for there own long term health. We have plenty of ocean front land in this country, it is time to start using it for something besides vacation homes for the opulent.

  19. Joan

    @someofparts, thanks for the comment. I was a big fan of Bernie too.

  20. Mark Pontin

    Bruce W. wrote: ‘What I am loathe to do is give into the bullying from those who remain certain, against considerable weight of evidence, that Biden will bring relief from the “worse excesses” of Trump and restore some semblance of “normal”.’

    As you say.

    ‘If the rule that you followed brought you to this place, of what use was the rule?’ And the Dems brought us to this place — the Trump presidency — in large measure.

    Not least through the criminal complicity of the Obama administration post-2008, which once one does some forensics is arguably the most criminal presidency in this kleptocracy’s history. And that’s saying something.

    I, too, glanced at the Shor piece. I stopped reading it closely when I saw the same old lies about ‘racism, racism, racism did us in.’ No: the U.S. is structurally a racist country and doubtless substantial numbers of American racists exist, but what did the Dems in with enough of the country in 2016 was their overt criminality and corruption.

    Indeed, for a long time one could make the argument that on the evidence the Dems were the greater evil.

    That’s not necessarily the case now. If you look behind the smokescreen, Trump is not the freelance malign narcissist/psychopath that most assume. Trump is owned. And his administration is absolutely and assiduously following the playbook his owners have set out.

    It is *not* the case that Americans will die from COVID19 in the extraordinary numbers that they will have when this pandemic is done simply because — in a world where countries of limited means like Thailand, Vietnam, and New Zealand have gotten on top of it — the U.S. federal government is dysfunctional simply due to Trump’s ego and fecklessness and anti-leadership style.

    It *is* the case that when you see Trump *systematically* trying to shut down contact tracing, money to the CDC, and all Federal government action that might mitigate the pandemic, that what it looks like is what it is. You are seeing what you’re seeing. Trump is *systematically* following a coherent program set out by his owners.

    Trump’s owners intend to permanently instill in the minds of the American populace the belief that the Federal government is dysfunctional and incapable of action that benefits the mass of people. Indeed, Trump’s owners intend to abolish the Federal government except as it serves their interests. Trump’s owners — mega-billionaires all — will then have the unregulated, Ayn-Randian, libertarian-corporate rule by billionaires that they have long labored to create in America.

    Bruce W. : “Hope is getting in the way of seeing the truth. If they need to lie that badly, there is not much hope.”

    No argument here, because that was my point. Americans need to stop believing lies and lying to themselves. Things are bad. There are real, powerful monsters in the U.S. and they’re nearer now to succeeding in all their aims than possibly they’ve ever been.

  21. nihil obstet

    Let’s not get too carried away by the thought of desalinization or electric plants built in the intertidal zones. Those are essential ecological systems.

  22. Seattle Resident

    Mark P: Indeed, for a long time one could make the argument that on the evidence the Dems were the greater evil.

    Granted you got serious deregulation of finance from the Clinton Administration, but have we ever gotten evil judges like Rehnquist, Roberts, Alito, and Scalia from a democrat? Not to mention some bad near misses – Carswell (Nixon) and Bork (Reagan). While Presidents from both parties select pro-corporate judges, the republican ones never fail to get the ones that are the most anti-civil liberties, anti-civil rights, and anti-voting rights for people of color that they can find.

    And while cowardly Obama went along lock stock and barrel with the warrantless surveillance program, it was a republican administration that initiated it.

    Yes, we’re going on a sh*tslide to fascism, but while the democrats drove the car 50 mph toward fascism, the republicans (with some big help from Trump) push the gas petal to the floor, driving 100mph.

    @Joan, I’m less than a decade out from Social Security and if they take it away or dramatically reduce it, this reclusive commentor will get out in the streets to fight for it. We worked our butts off for it, we’re entitled.

  23. Mark Pontin

    @ Seattle Resident —

    With all respect, you are clueless. For a couple of instances of the Democrats’ extraordinary criminality —

    {1} The Obama administration was actively complicit in assisting the banks in *forging* chain of title to somewhere between one and one and a half million homes that pre-2008 had been put through the MERS system so the banks could trade tranches of CDOs written against them (and with no clear chain of title the banks had also happily evaded paying municipal/country taxes when properties went into foreclosure pre-2008).

    This arrangement went south for Wall Street in 2008, however. When the GFC arrived, no clear chain of title existed for more than a million homes when the banks needed to foreclose. Pre-2008, Obama had received more funding than any presidential candidate in history from Wall Street to ensure there’d be no repeat of a Roosevelt-style New Deal when the GFC arrived. (Ben Bernanke, with his expertise on quantitative easing and the Great Depression, had also been moved into position at the Fed in 2006. The smart money on Wall Street knew what was coming and had prepared.)

    Thus, when the crisis arrived, Obama put Eric Holder — who knew where all the bodies were buried because he wasn’t just some affirmative action hire, but one of the primary legal architects of CDOs back when he’d been at Covington Burling during the 1990s — in as U.S. Attorney General. Along with Tim Geithner at Treasury and Lanny Breuer at Justice, Holder ensured that those forged foreclosures went through.

    Though this was referred to as “robosigning’ in the corporate media and pushed under as much as possible, it would be *forgery* or *fraud* or *illegal transfer of title* if you or I did it, and if we were caught in even one such case we’d spend decades in jail.

    To repeat: the Obama administration actively worked with the banks to forge somewhere between a million and a million-and-half home ownership documents. That’s a staggering level of criminality.

    In some cases, furthermore, foreclosed-on homeowners had paid off their mortgages and owned their homes free and clear. Nevertheless, when bureaucracies are working at that scale, mistakes are made: people who owned their homes legally were foreclosed on and dispossessed of them.

    That’s four centuries of Anglo-American property law that the Obama administration and the Dems flushed down the toilet. And it gets worse ….

    [2] About two trillion dollars worth of drug cartel money washes through the global economy annually. In 2012, HSBC paid a $1.9 billion fine in 2012 for laundering drug money. Ever wondered why HSBC thought it could get away with it?

    HSBC thought it could get away with it because post-GFC Holder and Geithner had indicated to the five TBTF U.S. banks that those banks would be allowed the leeway to repair their balance sheets by any means necessary. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find documentation that all five U.S. TBTFs were laundering drug cartel money after 2008.

    Nor has this necessarily ended. Once banks get their snouts into an income stream, they don’t easily give it up. From July of last year, this —

    “Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of the Wall Street mega bank, JPMorgan Chase … is back in the news for owning a massive container ship which was seized last week in the Philadelphia seaport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection following the discovery of 20 tons of cocaine located in containers on the ship on June 17. The cocaine is estimated to have a street value of $1.3 billion.

    “The container vessel is the MSC Gayane and was being operated by the global shipping firm, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC). The vessel is the largest ever to be seized in the 230-year history of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to the CBP’s publicly issued statement.”

    Jamie Dimon, registered Democrat.

    Let me make one last point. The Americans consuming those drugs were in no inconsiderable measure the people in flyover country who saw 4 and a half million jobs disappear — the “deaths of despair” people — to China and elsewhere after the Clinton administration pushed through GATT in the 1990s, and were then handsomely paid off by Wall Street and the corporations.

    Make no mistake. The Democrats are vermin.

  24. Joan

    @Seattle Resident, that’s great to hear. I think preserving Social Security is something that can and should cross partisan lines.

  25. S Brennan

    Mark Pontin, that is an excellent recounting of Obama’s role in impoverishing Americans…particularly Eric Holders largely unknown role in the 90’s.

    Trump did not get into office because of a resurgence of racism, not because he was a Russian spy, not because Hillary was/is despicable, all those stories are horseshit for those who’s ignorance was achieved through great study.

    Trump got into office because all three* of the preceding Presidents were vile, self-interested people who subordinated the nation’s interests to those in the uppermost class. Regardless of Trump sins, both perceived & real, the voters in the nation gave both the RNC & DNC their middle finger with Trump. That is why it is so important to vilify Trumps every single move, 24/7/365…the DNC & RNC need to create a lot of smoke to cover their trail of treasonous crimes and in this matter the RNC & DNC are working hand in glove…

    Just look at last weeks vote to prevent Trump from withdrawing from Afghanistan. Since good “liberals” hate everything Trump, they supported the congressional move to stop Trump, to make sure the kids from the lower classes will still be dying in that Asian heap of rocks until Biden can “Surge” one more time. That is disgusting…that’s why I laugh at people who call themselves “liberal”..”progressive”..”left”…if you can’t cross party lines to support withdrawing troops from a 20 year war with no end in sight, you are not a liberal, you are not a progressive, you are not a lefty, no, you are just a virtue signalling hypocrite…nothing more than that.

    *Clinton/Bush[the 2nd]/Obama:

  26. Mark Pontin

    S. Brennan wrote: ‘Trump got into office because all three* of the preceding Presidents were vile, self-interested people who subordinated the nation’s interests to those in the uppermost class.’

    Sure. And the Democrats are vermin.

    Unfortunately, Trump’s owners — because he is a glove puppet — are actually even worse.

    As I said earlier: When you see Trump *systematically* trying to shut down contact tracing, money to the CDC, and all Federal government action that might mitigate the pandemic, what it looks like is what it is. Trump is *systematically* following a coherent program set out by his owners.

  27. Seattle Resident


    Your analysis leaves out the fact that the Republicans are vermin as well.

    Yes Trump has owners, but all the preceding republicans and dems presidents had owners as well.

  28. S Brennan

    [sarcasm-on] Your right, I don’t criticize Trump enough..why? How come Trump does not get criticized here [hah..hah..hah], why is he immune [hee..hee.hee]? Why don’t I dare to criticize Trump and oppose the endless praise heaped upon him here..huh? [sarcasm-off]

    Because Trump has been trashed for things he did and did-not do so often by the “serious” people of this blog who need to keep up their bona fides and virtue signaling that anything I have to say would only add to the endless criticism…a mindless, meaningless cacophony of Bush/Romney Republicans* and Clinton/Obama/Biden Democrats*.

    Okay Mark, here’s a little reality to go with your delusional conjecture that Trump serves “the man”.


    “Congress historically has tried to force presidents to bring troops home. But in the last three years, lawmakers have repeatedly tried to make laws to do the opposite. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers who want to stop President Donald Trump from pulling U.S. troops from military conflicts and overseas bases are using a once-unusual tactic that has in the last three years become Congress’ go-to tool…

    …Beginning on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump has made no secret of his desire to remove U.S. troops from American bases around the world, both in active conflict zones and permanent stations designed to project U.S. force into Asia and Europe. In December 2018, he shocked Congress with an abrupt announcement that he would withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops fighting in Syria.

    The House version of the annual defense policy bill, scheduled for a vote next week, would ban the administration from lowering troop levels in Germany below their current benchmark of 24,50…The same bill places similar restrictions on cutting troops in Afghanistan below 8,000 without certifying that a withdrawal “will not increase the risk for the expansion of existing or formation of new terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan”…

    …Lawmakers in the Senate also passed nonbinding legislation in 2019 calling on the Trump administration to certify the “enduring” defeat of ISIS and other Islamist terror groups before any embarking on any significant withdrawal from Syria or Afghanistan…

    …others question the enforceability of these measures. But…it might also give the administration [officials who quietly oppose Trump] the opportunity to stall any withdrawal efforts…

    There are some constitutional concerns with the tactic, however, [congressional leaders assure that], the tactic is confined to White House-Hill relations during the Trump administration. In a more conventional presidency, it’s likely the use of the tactic would fade. “Supposing Trump loses and [presumptive Democratic nominee Joe] Biden is in office, Biden is part of this mainstream and I think the problem would go away”

    So there you have it, “liberals”, “Progressives” “D’s” and “lefties” agree with right-wing [R] nut-jobs, Trump evil, war good, must keep war going ’till Biden takes office, then we can return to the USA’s regularly scheduled programs…of war eternal.

    *neocolonialist/neoliberalist halves of the same coin.

  29. John Standovitch

    Absolutely bizarre link to the article that states the US May Need to Nationalize Military Aircraft Industry.

    The US has a \”Nationalized Military Aircraft Industry\” already. It\’s just not legally nationalized.
    To see how propaganda works, take note of the comments section where the posters are arguing about whether weapons actually work (\’cause then they\’d be worth every penny) and whether they are better than what our \”enemies\” got (\’cause then they\’d be worth every penny).

    These two huge lies (and others) support the most important implementation of Communism the world has ever known: The DOD. Since this is the way to the brass ring, the elites in the so-called enemy countries depend on the same lies to promote their own hugely lucrative defense industries. or they wish they had one.

    Hey, if people are able to buy mansions, send their kids to private schools and all the good things in life, this defense spending thing should increase to the point where we can help the homeless.

  30. Stirling S Newberry

    Another record for earliest formation of ATS storm Gonzalo.

  31. Mark Pontin

    Seattle Resident wrote: “Yes Trump has owners, but all the preceding republicans and dems presidents had owners as well.”

    I’ve no argument with this and nothing I’ve said here would indicate otherwise. Do you have any larger point?

    S. Brennan wrote: “liberals”, “Progressives” “D’s” and “lefties” agree with right-wing [R] nut-jobs, Trump evil, war good”

    So killing 140,000 Americans (so far) in a war on the US Federal government instead of killing 500,000 brown people overseas in regime change wars (a la Clinton) makes Trump a good guy?

    This seems to be your position. Enough with the binary non-logic.

    Stirling N: “Another record for earliest formation of ATS storm Gonzalo.”

    An Atlantic tropical storm, Hurricane Gonzalo, occurred back in 2014. Care to explain any connection with current events?

  32. S Brennan

    Mark, clever of you and I mean very clever of you to dodge the factual data presented by replying with a new, wholly unrelated accusation…I mean that is such an original tactic it’s got me on my back heel…good for you[!] your writing teacher would be proud at your defense. But, in fairness to the few who still shuffle through with genuinely liberal educations, it is you who are being binary my friend, my opposition to modern day Republicans is well documented. Indeed, let me bring forth a criticism of one such scum sucking [R] person…Dick Cheney’s Daughter:

    House Democrats, Working With Liz Cheney, Restrict Trump’s Planned Withdrawal of Troops From Afghanistan:

    “Last night, the House Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment — jointly sponsored by Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado and Congresswoman Cheney of Wyoming — prohibiting the expenditure of monies to reduce the number of U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan below 8,000 without a series of conditions first being met…The Crow/Cheney amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last night passed by a vote of 45-11. The NDAA was then unanimously approved by the Committee by a vote of 56-0…President Trump throughout the year has insisted that the Pentagon present plans for withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan prior to the end of 2020. Last week, reports indicated that “the Trump administration is close to finalizing a decision to withdraw more than 4,000 troops from Afghanistan by the fall.” Trump’s plan “would reduce the number of troops from 8,600 to 4,500 and would be the lowest number since the very earliest days of the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001.” In February, Trump announced an agreement with the Taliban to end the war completely. Shortly after those plans were reported, an anonymous set of intelligence officials leaked a series of claims to the New York Times regarding “bounties” allegedly being paid by Russia to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops Liz Cheney, along with GOP Congressman Mac Thornberry, cited those NYTimes reports in a joint statement on Monday to suggest troop withdrawal would be precipitous…by an overwhelming vote of 49-7, the Armed Service Committee approved an amendment to the NDAA that “bans the administration from lowering troop levels below current levels until 180 days after Pentagon leaders present a plan to Congress and certify it will not harm U.S. or allied interests…

    …There were elements of the progressive left and the pro-Trump right who supported these withdrawals. Yesterday on Twitter, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, the former co-chair of the Sanders campaign, and GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, traded mutual support and vows to work together to defeat the Crow/Cheney amendment…But this left-right anti-war coalition is no match for the selective, illegal leaks to sabotage any plans to reduce the U.S. military presence around the world…Democrats are increasingly merging with and being led by the Bush-era neocons and other Bush/Cheney operatives in creating such jingoistic and militaristic messaging campaigns as the beloved-by-liberals Lincoln Project, and that Biden is clearly trying to run to Trump’s right on foreign policy with ads accusing him of being too soft.

  33. Curious George

    So why is it that no one calls it what it is.

    A few weeks back Mr. Trump crossed the Rubicon so to speak by deploying regular armed forces to Washington (not National Guard to Ohio) and now in Portland and soon other cities in the USA found himself a Schutzstaffel to help out and do as he asks.

    Considering that today is the 21 July one wonders on where the USA might be be 1 October. All it would take is one more spark, and then what….

  34. Mark Pontin

    Curious George wrote: ‘So why is it that no one calls it what it is?’

    One reason might be that some of us actually remember the co0rdinated Federal and state LE suppression of the Occupy movement by the Obama administration.

    I lived twenty blocks away from Occupy Oakland when that was ongoing and witnessed the two or more helicopters hanging over the protesters’ camp every night, the state troopers, National Guard, and LE brought in all around California.

    By comparison to the Obama administration’s full-blown repression of Occupy, Trump’s efforts in that line look like the amateur WWE wannabe fascist cosplay they are. As you say, all it will take is one more spark to light the fire; Trump will stupidly provide it.

  35. S Brennan

    Exactly Mark;

    “By comparison to the Obama administration’s full-blown repression of Occupy, Trump’s efforts in that line look like the amateur WWE wannabe fascist cosplay they are.”

    Obama certainly was a more professional despot than Trump

    Hate Trump all you want, fine but, he is, for a variety of reasons, less evil. Should Trump be re-elected [very unlikely], REAL DEMOCRATS* would have a shot in 2024 but, if Biden wins 2020 [likely], REAL DEMOCRATS* won’t have any shot at it until 2032 and more likely 2036.

    Following the DNCers “lessor of two evils” policy has gotten us to this point and yet…most D’s still buy the “past it’s shelf life” ruse.


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