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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 02 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

Strategic Political Economy

Can Democracy and Billionaires Coexist?

Sam Pizzigati, May 30, 2024 [inequality.org]

…Back in that same 1976, the always helpful World Inequality Database reminds us, the 40 percent of Americans in the nation’s statistical middle held just over a third of America’s wealth, 33.7 percent. The top 1 percent’s considerably smaller share that year: 22.6 percent. Today’s story? Our richest 1 percent hold just about 35 percent of our nation’s wealth, our middle 40 percent less than 28 percent.

The wealthiest of our wealthy, a just-released report from Americans for Tax Fairness points out, are doing their best to keep these good times — for America’s rich — rolling.

“Just 50 billionaire families,” the new ATF report details, “have already injected more than $600 million collectively into the crucial 2024 elections, with that number sure to show accelerating growth in the final six months of the campaign.”….

What can we do to significantly limit how deeply political candidates can feed at the billionaire trough? The Billionaire Family Business — the new Americans for Tax Fairness report — advances two core recommendations.

Off Leash: Inside the Secret, Global, Far-Right Group Chat 

Ken Silverstein, May 30, 2024 [The New Republic]

Military contractor Erik Prince started a private WhatsApp group for his close associates that includes a menagerie of right-wing government officials, intelligence operatives, arms traffickers, and journalists. We got their messages….

All of which makes Off Leash arguably more concerning, because the group can’t be dismissed as merely a collection of harmless cranks. Many of the participants, though not all household names, are wealthy and politically wired—which makes their incessant whining in the group chat about being crushed under the bootheel of the deep state particularly grating—and they will collectively become wealthier and more influential if Trump wins the November election. That’s especially true of the Americans in the group, but the same holds for the international figures because the global right will become immensely more powerful and emboldened if the former president returns to the White House. That prospect is a source of great hope to Off Leash participants. “Trump, Orban, Milei, it’s happening,” former Blackwater executive John LaDelfa posted to the group during a trip to Argentina on December 4, two days after Prince created it. “Around the Globe, we are the sensible, the rational, the majority. Don’t give in to fear. We will defeat the Marxists.”….

Off Leash was launched less than two months after Israel commenced its assault on Gaza following Hamas’s deadly October 7 attack on Israel, and that topic has been one of the group chat’s main concerns since it was established by Prince on December 2….

But Biden was merely a figurehead controlled by “elements that are actually ruling for the Deep State,” he continued. The real problem was that Democrats had been “in cahoots with the Muslim Brotherhood and infiltrated by their proxies and agents, as well as Ayatollah sympathizers” ever since President Bill Clinton’s administration.

With the Democratic Party captured by Islamic terrorists, Marxists, globalists, and other foreign and domestic evildoers, the U.S. was “being destroyed from within,” warned Kasraie, whose fears were shared by many among the Off Leash crew.

 

US Immigration: How many people are coming to the US and where are they coming from?​ 

[Angry Bear, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

 

All Three Sides of the Global Energy Challenge 

[Conversible Economist, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

…Michael Greenstone delivered the AEA Distinguished Lecture on “The Economics of the Global Energy Challenge” in San Antonio in January. It’s now published in the AEA Papers and Proceedings (2024, 114: 1-30). As he explains it: “The global energy
challenge is defined by three often conflicting goals that all societies are pursuing: inexpensive and reliable energy, clean air, and limiting damages from climate change.”

Greenstone emphasizes some basic arithmetic about global energy use. There is a close correlation between energy per capita use and a country’s per capita GDP: to put it another way, there are no counterexamples of a country that has become rich without a dramatic rise in energy use….

An average American uses about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. In comparison, Greenstone writes:

How pervasive is “low” energy consumption? 3.85 billion people live in countries with per capita electricity consumption below 1,500 kWh per capita annually. And 4.36 and 6.83 billion people live in countries with consumption below 2,500 kWh and 5,500 kWh per capita annually, respectively. The point is that there are billions of people who want the higher energy consumption that helps to unlock higher living

 

Global power shift

Strike On Russian Strategic Early Warning Radar Site Is A Big Deal 

[The War Zone, via Naked Capitalism 05-26-2024]

Russo-Ukrainian War: Widening the Front 

[Big Serge Thought, via Naked Capitalism 05-26-2024]

MORE ON TACTICAL NUKE EXERCISES AND RUSSIAN ESCALATORY OPTIONS 

Larry Johnson [Sonar21, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

…The current Russian exercise did not spring out of a black hole nor was it hastily conjured up in a period of a week or two. The planning for this exercise started months ago, and it appears that Russia had it on the shelf ready to go when circumstances dictated. As a result of belligerent, hostile threats by France and the U.K. regarding deploying troops to Ukraine and beefing up Ukraine’s weapons supply with more sophisticated weapons, Russia launched a comprehensive diplomatic and military response three weeks ago. Foreign Minister Lavrov summoned the British and French Ambassadors to the Russian Foreign Ministry for a verbal dressing down. They were warned in stark terms that Russia would respond with all necessary force if such actions occur.

As Lavrov was delivering a diplomatic beatdown, President Putin announced that Russia would conduct a military exercise to test its ability to deploy and launch tactical nukes. So, what are the objectives of such an exercise besides scaring the shit out of the West?…

The first objective is to test the readiness of the units and personnel who load the missiles and drive the launchers….

There are several problems or tasks each unit must deal with — e.g., Do they have sufficient fuel, water and food? Do they know how to get to the location where they are supposed to deploy and ready the launchers? Do their communications with headquarters command work? Do they know the proper procedures to ready the missile or missiles for launch?

Then comes the moment of truth — either the order to launch is given or they are told to stand down and return to base. The reason the Russians are doing this is to evaluate whether or not they are ready to carry out such a mission. And therein lies the other purpose of the exercise — put the West on notice that Russia is dead-ass serious about using a tactical nuke if the West decides to enter the conflict.

.

Ukraine war: influential Russian think tank proposes a ‘demonstrative’ nuclear explosion 

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 05-30-2024]

Huawei patent reveals 3nm-class process technology plans — China continues to move forward despite US sanctions

[Tom’s Hardware, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

 

Gaza / Palestine / Israel

You Can’t Turn Back the Clock on Genocide: “Easily 200,000 Deaths in Gaza.” 

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 06-01-2024]

Col. Douglas Macgregor: Escalation at Israel’s Borders 

[Judge Napolitano, YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

Macgregor argues this is a Big Deal and states Egyptians on the street are resigned to war.

The New York Times explains how gangsters now govern Israel 

[Pearls and Irritations, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

Nothing Is Off the Table in Netanyahu’s Mafia State of Israel 

[Haaretz, via Naked Capitalism 05-31-2024]

Israeli Minister Threatens to Turn Occupied West Bank Into Ruins ‘Like in the Gaza Strip’ 

Jessica Corbett, May 30, 2024 [CommonDreams]

One advocate responded: “Take this seriously. If extremists like Smotrich get their way they will do to the West Bank exactly what they have done to Gaza.”

Spying, hacking and intimidation: Israel’s nine-year ‘war’ on the ICC exposed 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

For those who actually read the footnotes in the South Africa case with the ICJ, South Africa had first sent multiple diplomatic notes to the ICC asking it to get out of bed with respect to war crimes in Gaza. Then it filed the ICJ case and used the petitioning to the ICC as part of its proof that Israel had been put on notice of the existence of a controversy. Now we know why the ICC was initially unresponsive.

 

Oligarchy

SCREENSHOT: A portrait of the lower strata of the ruling class (“multi-millionaires not the morbidly rich billionaires”)

[via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 05-30-2024]

Chartbook 287: After the verdict: American money and Donald Trump 

Adam Tooze [Chartbook 287, via Naked Capitalism 06-01-2024]

… As Alexandra Ulmer reports at Reuters

“In a flurry of support on Thursday, mega donors including casino billionaire Miriam Adelson and hotelier Robert Bigelow lined up behind Trump, with their donations set to bolster a wave of pro-Trump ads, door-knocking and phone banking in battleground states. The verdict also spurred some longtime Trump donors to boost their financial support for Trump – and, in at least one case, make a big donation to him for the first time.”

Does the felony conviction not put them off you might ask? Perhaps. But most Americans, especially rich Americans, regards the courts, part through experience and part through lore, not as neutral places for the finding of truth or justice, but as arenas of “lawfare”. If Trump lost a battle, it is time to rally around and to make doubly sure that he wins the war.

Then there are the truly heavy hitters. Casino billionaire Miriam Adelson, wife of the late Sheldon Adelson who died in 2021, has anchored very large-scale fund-raising for Trump. Steve Schwarzman the multi-billionaire founder of Blackstone private equity group was an early backer of Trump. He dropped out in 2017 after Trump’s failure to condemn the Charlottesville white supremacist rally. But now Schwarzman is back. According to the FT

“In a statement, Schwarzman cited “the dramatic rise of antisemitism” as part of the reason for returning to Trump’s camp, adding that he believed President Joe Biden’s policies were misguided. “I share the concern of most Americans that our economic, immigration and foreign policies are taking the country in the wrong direction,” Schwarzman said in a statement on Friday. “For these reasons, I am planning to vote for change and support Donald Trump for president.” ”

If we look for people whose businesses are tied up more directly with their support of Trump, it is tempting to look to finance or to big oil and gas interests. An interview with the FT is typical:

The hunches that CEOs are enthusiastic for Trump’s return are not based upon any stated first-hand endorsements from CEOs. I have worked closely with the nation’s top 1000 CEOs for over 40 years. Trump support has plummeted to virtually zero among major CEOs

“A senior corporate lawyer in New York said Trump was also making inroads with disillusioned Democrats on Wall Street.  “The Democratic party’s messaging has been terrible,” said the lawyer, who asked to remain unnamed for fear of criticism from friends and colleagues.  “Wall Street Democrats are still pro-capitalism,” he added. “Unfortunately, you have a lot of far-left folks who have hijacked the party . . . they don’t understand what it takes to win the country.” Trump would be a “no-brainer for our industry . . . we’ll get richer if he wins”, said a private equity executive who manages tens of billions of dollars in the media, tech and retail sectors.  “But I can’t make my views public because I’ll get immediately cancelled . . . many of our customers would immediately start boycotting the services and products sold by our portfolio companies,” the executive added.”

…What Patrick Wyman writing in The Atlantic in 2021 dubbed “the American gentry” are a core constituency for Trump:

“The reality of American wealth and power is … banal. The conspicuously consuming celebrities and jet-setting cosmopolitans of popular imagination exist, but they are far outnumbered by a less exalted and less discussed elite group, one that sits at the pinnacle of the local hierarchies that govern daily life for tens of millions of people. Donald Trump grasped this group’s existence and its importance, acting, as he often does, on unthinking but effective instinct. When he crowd about his “beautiful boaters,” lauding the flotillas of supporters trailing MAGA flags from their watercraft in his honor, or addressed his devoted followers among a rioting January 6 crowd that included people who had flown to the event on private jets, he knew what he was doing. Trump was courting the support of the American gentry, the salt-of-the-earth millionaires who see themselves as local leaders in business and politics, the unappreciated backbone of a once-great nation. … These elites’ wealth derives not from their salary—this is what separates them from even extremely prosperous members of the professional-managerial class, such as doctors and lawyers—but from their ownership of assets. Those assets vary depending on where in the country we’re talking about; they could be a bunch of McDonald’s franchises in Jackson, Mississippi; a beef-processing plant in Lubbock, Texas; a construction company in Billings, Montana; commercial properties in Portland, Maine; or a car dealership in western North Carolina. “

…Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of Yale comments in Time magazine:

The hunches that CEOs are enthusiastic for Trump’s return are not based upon any stated first-hand endorsements from CEOs. I have worked closely with the nation’s top 1000 CEOs for over 40 years. Trump support has plummeted to virtually zero among major CEOs

THE REAL ‘DEEP STATE’ — Lobbying firms have disguised their influence so well that it’s often barely visible even to savvy Washington insiders.

Franklin Foer,  May 29, 2024 [The Atlantic]

…A second Trump term would mark the culmination of the story chronicled by the brothers Luke and Brody Mullins, a pair of energetic reporters, in their absorbing new book, The Wolves of K Street: The Secret History of How Big Money Took Over Big Government.

As Trump dreams about governing a second time, he and his inner circle have declared their intention to purge what they call the “deep state”: the civil service that they regard as one of the greatest obstacles to the realization of Trump’s agenda. What they don’t say is that the definition of the deep state—an entrenched force that wields power regardless of the administration in the White House—now fits the business of lobbying better than it does the faceless bureaucracy. This is the deep state, should Trump emerge the victor in the fall, that stands to achieve near-total domination of public power….

Britain’s century long Opium trafficking and China’s century of humiliation (1839-1949) 

[MR Online, via Naked Capitalism 05-31-2024]

 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The first national calculation of mortality of the US homeless population 

[Centre for Economic Policy Research, via Naked Capitalism 05-26-2024]

The Unhoused: Scapegoating Politics and Housing Struggles 

Adolph Reed, Jr., Socialist Project, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

The Rise of Poverty Inc.

Anne Kim, June 1, 2024 [The Atlantic]

How helping the poor became big business….

In his second term, President Ronald Reagan empaneled the President’s Commission on Privatization, which recommended the wholesale transfer of major government functions to the private sector, including Medicare, jails and prisons, public schools, and even air-traffic control. Privatization advocates were heavily influenced by “public-choice theory,” posited by the Nobel-winning economist James M. Buchanan. According to Buchanan, government agencies are as motivated by self-interest as any other entity. Instead of serving the public good, Buchanan argued, bureaucrats act to preserve their own status by maximizing their budgets and job security. Insulated from competition, they become inefficient and detached from the public interest.

Privatization was supposed to pop that bubble of bureaucratic indolence. Instead, it merely shifted it from government agencies to corporate boardrooms.

Amazon, Walmart, and Target finally realize their colossal pricing mistake—now they’re slashing costs to win back customers 

[Fortune, via Naked Capitalism 06-01-2024]

Cash-Strapped Shoppers Are Sending Budget Chains Into Bankruptcy 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 06-01-2024]

 

Predatory finance

You Can Thank Private Equity for That Enormous Doctor’s Bill 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 06-01-2024]

First in a three part series.

Meet the Private Equity Firm Squeezing America for Baseball Stadium Subsidies 

[Boondoggle, via Naked Capitalism 05-26-2024]

CFTC Fines J.P. Morgan Securities — a Fed Primary Dealer — $100 Million for Failing to Surveil Potential Spoofing and High Frequency Trading for Eight Years

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: May 28, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

 

Restoring balance to the economy

Accusing Mercedes of ‘Wanton Lawlessness,’ UAW Seeks New Alabama Vote 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 05-26-2024]

 

Health care crisis

We Know How to Eradicate TB. We Just Need the Will. 

[Governing, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

 

Information age dystopia / surveillance state

YouTube has now begun skipping videos altogether for users with ad blockers

[Android police, via Naked Capitalism 05-28-2024]

Fast-forward to January 2024, and the streaming platform was reportedly testing slowing down video load times for users with ad blockers enabled. Now, likely as part of a new test, YouTube users with ad blockers installed are reporting videos skipping straight to the end upon playback. As shared by 9to5Google, video playback resumes to normal when the ad blocker is disabled.

Some users on Reddit have also reported no audio in YouTube videos when using an ad blocker, while others said that their videos get stuck when loading. Again, the problem disappears when the user disables their ad blocker. Reddit user SDHD4K showed what YouTube’s latest tactic looks like:

Secrets from the Algorithm: Google Search’s Internal Engineering Documentation Has Leaked

Mike King [iPullRank, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 05-28-2024]

“What I’ll do here is contextualize some of the most interesting ranking systems and features (at least, those I was able to find in the first few hours of reviewing this massive leak) based on my extensive research and things that Google has told/lied to us about over the years. ‘Lied’ is harsh, but it’s the only accurate word to use here. While I don’t necessarily fault Google’s public representatives for protecting their proprietary information, I do take issue with their efforts to actively discredit people in the marketing, tech, and journalism worlds who have presented reproducible discoveries.” I’m pressed temporally, so I don’t have time to go into the weeds on this, but here is one snippet: “It’s been a long-running conspiracy theory that Google’s status as a registrar feeds the algorithm. We can upgrade to a conspiracy fact. They store the latest registration information on a composite document level.”

 

Climate and environmental crises

The ugly truth behind ChatGPT: AI is guzzling resources at planet-eating rates 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 05-31-2024]

German Minister admits ruinous home heating ordinances were merely a “test” to determine “how far society is prepared to go in terms of climate protection” 

[eugyppius, via Naked Capitalism 05-28-2024]

Pakistan temperatures cross 52 C in heatwave 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 05-29-2024]

 

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

The Green-Energy Revolution Shows What Real Innovation Looks Like 

Ryan Cooper, May 30, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Pushing the ball forward in energy and manufacturing is a lot more difficult than selling software.

…a truly enormous economic sea change—on par with the Industrial Revolution itself—is unfolding within America’s (and the world’s) energy system. Fossil fuel power is on its way out, replaced by renewable energy so cheap that it’s catalyzing spectacular innovations in all manner of long-established industries. It doesn’t get a tenth of the attention of the AI bubble, but this is what real innovation looks like.

For instance: Here’s a company with a plan to replace fossil fuel industrial heat—which accounts for about a quarter of all energy use—with “hot rocks” heated with renewable power. Here’s a company building two green steel plants in Mississippi and Ohio, the first of their kind in the U.S., thanks to a federal grant. Here’s another company selling power line monitoring devices that can allow the grid to transmit up to 40 percent more electricity. And here’s a company proposing to use green energy to create iron out of the toxic “red mud” by-product of aluminum refining—while cleaning up the mess in the process. And those are just a few among thousands of examples.

Importantly, nearly all these developments were catalyzed or directly caused by government policy. The Inflation Reduction Act, CHIPS and Science Act, and bipartisan infrastructure law have directed a flood of subsidies at green energy and manufacturing, building on decades of federal support for green tech. Many of today’s breakthrough technologies reaching commercialization were originally developed in government labs, or with government grants. The Loans Programs Office in the Department of Energy is directing hundreds of billions of dollars in loans to the most promising green companies.

These stories should cast some doubt on the innovation narrative behind even the most successful tech industry businesses. Facebook remains useful as a sort of telephone directory, I guess, but at the cost of devouring half the journalism industry and driving innumerable baby boomers toward conspiracy theories and extremism….

 

Democrats’ political malpractice

2024’s Young Voters— Even Smarter Than They Look: Trouble For Democrats Who Count On Them

Howie Klein, May 31, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]
It’s worth looking at this through another spectrum— the way a poll finds young voters seeing U.S. politics: A dying empire led by bad people. Shelby Talcott reported yesterday that “Young voters overwhelmingly believe that almost all politicians are corrupt and that the country will end up worse off than when they were born, according to new polling from Democratic firm Blueprint obtained exclusively by Semafor. The sour mood points to potential trouble for Joe Biden, who is struggling with Gen Z and younger Millennials in polls compared with 2020, and needs to convince them he can be relied on to improve their lives… 49% agreed to some extent that elections in the country don’t represent people like them; 51% agreed to some extent that the political system in the US ‘doesn’t work for people like me’; and 64% backed the statement that ‘America is in decline.’ A whopping 65% agreed either strongly or somewhat that ‘nearly all politicians are corrupt, and make money from their political power’— only 7% disagreed.”

‘A dying empire led by bad people’: Poll finds young voters despairing over US politics

[Semafor, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 05-31-2024]

“As part of the online poll of 943 18-30-year-old registered voters, Blueprint asked participants to respond to a series of questions about the American political system: 49% agreed to some extent that elections in the country don’t represent people like them; 51% agreed to some extent that the political system in the US ‘doesn’t work for people like me;’ and 64% backed the statement that ‘America is in decline.’ A whopping 65% agreed either strongly or somewhat that ‘nearly all politicians are corrupt, and make money from their political power’ — only 7% disagreed. ‘I think these statements blow me away, the scale of these numbers with young voters,’ Evan Roth Smith, Blueprint’s lead pollster, told Semafor. ‘Young voters do not look at our politics and see any good guys. They see a dying empire led by bad people.’” Importantly: “The data also found the COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting, bad taste in the mouths of young voters: 51% of those polled said they were happier before the COVID-19 pandemic, 77% said that the event changed the country for the worse, and 45% said they feel less connected to friends and acquaintances compared with five years ago.”

 

The Left Is Not Joe Biden’s Problem. Joe Biden Is.
Hamilton Nolan [How Things Work, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

…Beutler writes as though there is some enormous group of highly engaged left wing activists who personally command large numbers of votes and who are making a tactical choice to boycott the election in order to try to exert leverage on Biden administration policy. In reality, this is just not true. Yes, there are some left wing activists who will not vote for Biden. Is this group going to throw the election to Trump? No. What Biden needs to worry about is not highly engaged activists making some considered calculation not to vote for him, but instead millions of regular ass people who will not vote for him because they don’t feel excited about him. They will stay home because he has not given them an inspiring thing to vote for. That is approximately one thousand times more likely as a scenario for Biden to lose than “left wing activists marshal millions to stay home as negotiating leverage.” Obama excited people. So they turned out to vote. In 2020, people hated Trump so much that they were excited to turn out to vote. Now, Biden is the incumbent and he owns what the government is doing and he has achieved the nifty trick of actively supporting a crime against humanity and isolating himself on the world stage and thereby causing deep moral revulsion within the left wing of his party at the exact same time that he needs them to rally to support him during election season. This is not a problem of miscalculation of leverage; it is a problem of doing something horrible and turning off his political allies right when he is supposed to be pulling them into his coalition. I think that most of the left, including me, will end up voting for Biden, because he is better than Trump. (Polls show Biden winning overwhelmingly among Democratic-leaning swing state voters who pay attention to the news, a group that includes left wing activists. This is not the group that will lose him the election.) But they will not be excited about it, because Biden himself has made that impossible. And that lack of excitement in the Democratic Party’s base will sap the Biden campaign of the energy it needs to turn out voters more broadly….

The pernicious thing about these preemptive lectures to the left about the (obvious) fact that Trump is bad is that they serve primarily to build plausible excuses in the event that Biden loses. If you write enough “Dreamy lefties need to get real and vote for Biden!” essays in the six months before Election Day, the narrative of “the left abandons Biden” will be established, and then if Biden loses, you have your culprits already. (Indeed, this very same thing happened when Hillary Clinton lost, and when Al Gore lost.) But have you correctly identified the culprit? No. If Joe Biden loses, will it be because of the lost votes of highly engaged progressive activists who decided to stay home to exert leverage? No. Not even close! It will be because the totality of Biden’s actions during his first term was not sufficient to excite more than 80 million Americans enough for them to get up and troop to the polls for him. And—maybe I missed it—are pro-Palestinian progressive activists running the White House? Are left wing activists in charge of the Biden reelection campaign? Are left wing activists in charge of the State Department? Are left wing activists setting Biden administration policy right now, which voters will then judge him on in November? No. They are not. If you are worried that Biden is going to lose you better look at Steve Ricchetti, not Ilhan Omar.

 

Juries Rule: The Donald Trump verdict is a lesson that ordinary people doing their civic duty can break the cycle of elite failure to hold people accountable.

David Dayen, May 31, 2024 [The American Prospect]

…There was a time during the running crime wave that has characterized the 21st century, amid unpunished torture and public corruption and financial fraud, where it was expressed that juries were simply too unsophisticated for the difficult business of holding criminal activity accountable. This was an excuse particularly fitted for the financial crisis, with its collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps. Juries couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of modern finance, let alone modern law; their eyes will glaze over and the prosecution will lose….

We’re at a stage with our criminal justice system where dispassionate application of law has to be celebrated. Too many prosecutors fear the consequences of losing a case as a higher priority than the job description of ensuring that crime has consequences. Too many judges, living in the same neighborhoods and going to the same schools as the white-collar defense lawyers in nice suits before their court, reason themselves out of delivering accountability. Media elites didn’t even want the Trump hush-money case to be filed; it wasn’t serious enough to rise to some Aaron Sorkin conception of bringing the mighty low.

It took jurors, those untutored jurors of varied backgrounds and classes, to pay attention, follow instructions, and issue a verdict. They were the only ones not marinated in the strange courtesies and protocols of the legal system, the only ones not concerned with their good standing in the eyes of their peers (I don’t mean peers as in jury members, but only those in their legal rarified air). The people who seem to be most serious about the law are not the ones who view it more as a debating society, but the ones who actually hear the evidence and reach conclusions….

Public disquiet about the state of the nation as “a dying empire led by bad people,” in the words of one pollster, is in my view connected to this ingrained belief that who you are matters more than what you did, that there are different justice systems for different people depending on their power and influence. At least some Americans simmering about that fact sit on juries, and get to have a voice in shaping that outcome, at least in their own sphere. I don’t beatify the jury, so much as I do a system that allows the facts of law to be worked through outside of the realities of privilege.

 

(anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

“Make Them Pay”—The Far Right Responds to Trump’s Conviction

Kiera Butler [Mother Jones 05-31-2024]

Fox ‘Constitutionalist’ Demands SCOTUS Void Trump Convictions 

NewsHound Ellen, Jun 1st, 2024 [crooksandliars.com]

If Trump Is Guilty, Does It Matter If the Prosecution Was Political?

David A. Graham, May 31, 2024 [The Atlantic]

…“This is a politically motivated sham trial,” said Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

They have a point, but it’s not the condemnation they believe. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is an elected prosecutor who ran as a Democrat in a heavily Democratic city. Trump also received more scrutiny from prosecutors after he became a political figure than he’d ever experienced before. But none of this has any bearing on whether Trump actually committed the crimes with which he was charged.

The bar for convicting any defendant in the American justice system is extremely high: It requires a unanimous decision by 12 citizens who deem a crime to have occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. A prosecutor may well have political motivation, but his motivation isn’t what determines a verdict; he must prove his charges in court, through an adversarial process. Despite the yelps that Trump was tried in a kangaroo court, his lawyers had every opportunity to challenge jurors, introduce evidence, question prosecution witnesses, and call their own.

After his lawyers had done that, jurors swiftly found that Trump had falsified 34 business records. The questions that these Republicans ought to answer, as the journalist David S. Bernstein writes, are: Do you believe this should be legal? And if not, which of these acts do you believe Trump didn’t commit? Because what none of Trump’s would-be vindicators is willing to argue is that he didn’t try to hide a payment to Stormy Daniels to prevent her from talking about their sexual encounter. The more important question is not what motivated the charges, but whether they were justified and proved to a jury’s satisfaction….

“If they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” Trump said at a press conference this morning. Indeed, that’s the point of equal justice under the law.

What Would Life In America Be Like If The Republicans Had Their Way?

Howie Klein, May 27, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

This past week, Louisiana— virtually a one-party state, where all the statewide offices are held by Republicans and where Republicans dominate the legislature 27-12 in the Senate and 71-33 in the lower chamber— became the first state in the union to classify abortion pills (mifepristone and misoprostol) as controlled substances, like heroin. Florida, probably the state most vulnerable to Global Warming, is also heading towards one-party state status and last week the governor signed 3 delusional anti-Climate bills.

The brand new Washington state Republican Party platform includes a very MAGA anti-democracy plank. And the Texas Republican Party includes passing unconstitutional laws to require the Bible be taught in public schools as well as a cockamamie constitutional amendment that would require statewide elected leaders to win the popular vote in a majority of Texas counties. Most people live in just 10 counties….

The party confab in San Antonio over the weekend also includes planks to push public funds into private schools, to deport legal residents of the U.S. who are arrested for participating in protests and making it illegal for non-citizens to own real estate. The delegates spent time chastising Speaker Dade Phelan (who skipped the event) and who’s in a runoff election tomorrow. There are about half a dozen mainstream conservatives in runoffs against fascists backed by the dominant fringe right of the party.

“Other proposed planks of the 50-page platform [of Texas Republican Party], wrote Robert Downen and Renzo Downey “included proclamations that ‘abortion is not healthcare it is homicide’; that gender-transition treatment for children is ‘child abuse’; calls to reverse recent name changes to military bases and ‘publicly honor the southern heroes’; support for declaring gold and silver as legal tender; and demands that the U.S. government disclose ‘all pertinent information and knowledge’ of UFOs.”

No water, no shade: How homebuilders, farming companies and construction firms got politicians to reject heat rules for outdoor workers in Florida 

[Seeking Rents, via Naked Capitalism 05-27-2024]

 

We Must Face Down the Expanding Anti-Reality Industry

Bryn Nelson, May 24, 2024 [Scientific American, downwithtyranny.com 5-25-2024]

Exposing the antiscience playbook reveals the antiregulatory motives of its deep-pocketed bankrollers…

“With the presumptive Republican presidential nominee falsely calling climate change a ‘hoax’ invented by China, a former tobacco and coal lobbyist brazenly lying to Fox News viewers that last summer’s dense wildfire smoke posed ‘no health risk,’ and an Alabama court redefining frozen embryos as ‘children,’ the consequences of indulging decades of antiscientific agitprop are clear. Conservative think tanks and lobbying groups have spent tens of millions to push false messaging and draft restrictive laws around abortion. The false messaging has included lies about its prevalence, basic biology and reality in women’s lives. To energize far-right voters, these groups have attacked transgender health care with the same playbook, yielding more than 400 anti-trans laws in 2024 alone. They’ve demonized vaccines and masks, minimized harms from tobacco and wildfire smoke, and denied the realities of climate change and COVID. In the classroom, where many anti-reality crusaders have long fought against the teaching of evolution, they’ve expanded to banning books about race, sexual orientation and gender identity, while attacking global warming education.

 

The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

How the Supreme Court Is Undermining Voting Rights: Your Questions Answered

May 15, 2024 [Bolts]

Few institutions affect our elections as much as the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently led by John Roberts, who burst onto the political scene in the 1980s hell-bent on weakening the Voting Rights Act, the Court has continually chipped away at U.S. democracy in recent decades. A new book coming out this week reconstructs that history.

Written by election law expert Joshua Douglas, The Court v. the VotersThe Troubling Story of How the Supreme Court Has Undermined Voting Rights dives into nine landmark cases in which the court undercut U.S. democracy. These include Citizens United, which struck down campaign finance regulations, and Rucho, which shrugged away partisan gerrymandering.

The country is now approaching an election in which the Supreme Court is poised to play an unusually large role, with uncertainty around what will be left of the VRA, what congressional maps will be used, and how justices will respond to lawsuits around the presidential results….

Kansas Constitution does not include a right to vote, state Supreme Court majority says

[Associated Press, via DailyKos, June 01, 2024]

…Justice Caleb Stegall, writing for the majority, said that the dissenting justices wrongly accused the majority of ignoring past precedent, holding that the court has not identified a “fundamental right to vote” within the state constitution.

“It simply is not there,” Stegall wrote.

LEONARD LEO BUILT THE CONSERVATIVE COURT. NOW HE’S FUNNELING DARK MONEY INTO LAW SCHOOLS.

Shawn Musgrave, May 29 2024 [The Intercept]

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9 Comments

  1. Curt Kastens

    Trump has not been held responsible for anything yet. His guilty verdict only stands temporarily. It might be permanent after the appeals process is finished. When is that?
    Who will decide ? Will it be before or after he leaves office? Will it be before or after the collapse of industrial civilization? Will it be before or after the next US war with Iran/North Korea/Russia/China?

  2. different clue

    I still watch Beau of the Fifth Column videos, just as before. Not many, because I don’t have my own computer at home, or a smartphone, or anything like that. So I have to ration scarce computer face-time resources, and they mostly can’t go to Beau because then I couldn’t read or hear other things.

    Still and all, he makes lots of predictions. After I am retired, if someone wants to pay me a hundred dollars an hour to watch every video Beau ever made, and count up the ones where he makes a prediction, and then see what percent of those predictions came true; I would do that for a hundred dollars an hour.

    He has made a prediction just today and we will see if it comes true. He has noted that Boss Trump has decreed that every Republican Senate seat-seeker must condemn the verdict or lose Boss Trump’s support and therefor the MAGA vote. Beau predicts that in competitive-race states, this will result in some Republican seat-seekers getting defeated. That’s the kind of prediction which can be proven true or false.

    Here is the link.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Xa5xvAwBhk

    ( I notice that in one of Tony Wikrent’s referrenced articles, various rich and super-rich people who felt well-served by the ClintoBamacratic Party leadership have voiced displeasure over ” far leftists” hijacking the DemParty with their “opposition to Capitalism” and all. These business and rich people would consider me a “far leftist” for being the New Deal Reactionary that I am. These people consider Bernie Sanders to be a “far leftist”. These people would have considered Fritz Mondale to be a “far leftist”. These people consider Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur to be “far leftists”.
    If Beau’s prediction comes true, these people may be a little disappointed in some election results).

  3. VietnamVet

    The basic failing is that humans construct an abstract hologram to describe reality. When the world is different than what the brain perceives, we simply do not see it. It gets worse the older you get.

    The USA from 1963 to 2003 was converted from a constitutional republic to the plutocratic Western Empire. The 2024 election is a sham. The flailing hegemon embarked on the proxy WW3 with Russia verses NATO and now also the Gaza Genocide to avoid the crash of the global US dollar reserve currency.

    The closest thing to an election is the Senate race in Maryland between the establishment black Democrat woman against a white former Republican Governor. I would have to break my 2003 vow never to vote for a Republican which I am inclined to do except for his support of Israel. Instead of the contradictions being acknowledge and fixed, each tribe, Red and Blue, will believe its own beliefs, and secede to around seven ethnic regional North American corporate states (cartels); each with a nuclear armed military.

    The alternative is to end corporations being people, tax income at around 75%, eliminate immigration, and restore the fairness doctrine to rebuild the middle class. Since neither side (nor other nation states) communicate with each other or are willing to end the endemic corruption; the Third World War like the Second will end with the use of nuclear weapons.

  4. Mark Level

    Hey Diff Clue– if you watch too much of Beau’s Piss Column, I hope you don’t end up like Alex in A Clockwork Orange. I’m not masochistic enough to harm myself that way.

    I did support him (smallest amount on offer) for maybe 2 years on Patreon, he came across as left, but it is only socially left, he is a Vet & is not only an open supporter of the MIC that Eisenhower wrote about, he is at this point (I strongly suspect) a paid lobbyist for Northrop-Grumman, whose political power he has praised & hyped openly when the (R)s pretended they were going to turn the Taxpayer money tap off for them, saying their lobbying would keep the Benjamins for Death coming in.

    When he really lost me was some months after Russia’s SMO started– It was after the early Ukraine “victories”– e.g. tricking Putin into withdrawing from Kiev’s outskirts as a good will gesture in March, maybe mid-summer Beau did an utterly bullshit take on who would prevail–

    As the Wagner group was grinding away at Ukraine in Bakhmut, he compared the fighting to “two seasoned fighters in the ring, bashing each other but no TKO yet”. (PS– I am only paraphrasing from memory, but my memory is clear– these are not word for word quotes.) This is (mostly) fair enough to this point, but here’s where he started outright lying: He started a series of half-truths about history & military history: “Usually, in a war like this the defenders have the advantage, and will kill the attackers who have to take territory.” (So, Ukraine will win?) The West has lots of resources so Ukraine can hang in there. (Well, Germany hung in there quite awhile in WWI, but by November 1918 they couldn’t anymore). Etc., etc.

    So he didn’t fully STATE that Ukraine would win but he used 3-4 more similar claims to strongly imply that the Azov people he admires so much will prevail. I realized I had to unsubscribe from him immediately as he makes bad faith arguments, essentially sheepdogs his “Left” (ROTFLMAO, supporting the MIC and outright Nazis isn’t remotely Left) audience into “As long as it takes.”

    I’ve checked up on him a couple times since then & it gets worse. When the US authorized sending depleted Uranium munitions (White Phosphorous also I think, never discussed), he did a piece admitting openly (to his credit) early on that using DU on a battlefield IS a war crime under international law. BUT it’s okay because (a) The Evil Putin will do the same, or already is, & (b) The Ukro military is very “cautious” & “reasonable” in battle!!

    Really!! Azov Ethno-Nationalists are cautious and reasonable? Assumes facts not only not in evidence, but regularly contradicted by actual facts. Just one recent example– Zelensky 3-4 months back started losing his shit & did a rant about how when Ukraine “wins” (when pigs fly), he’s going to jail (or kill) all of Putin’s children, grandkids, etc. Yes, Beau, you’re right, very “reasonable” people . . .

    I don’t know if Beau is dumb enough to have the kind of fan-boy Zelensky worship that, say, Sean Penn is known for. More likely it is a grift for stupidly chauvinist Shit-Libs who can’t acknowledge that the NeoCons have lost every war since the 9/11 provocation they got and want. Plenty of money to be made, Beau might as well get on the gravy train.

  5. different clue

    @Mark Level,

    I don’t watch very much of his column because of screentime constraints. Choices must be made. So I think at my current level of watching the risk I run is fairly small.

    Now, if indeed someone were to offer me a hundred dollars an hour to watch his entire body of work and study it for percent predictions coming out right, then the risk you warn me of could be rather higher and I would have to watch out for that. But I think the chances of such an offer being made to me are rather low. So I expect I will continue watching Beau in small doses. And on the rare occasions where I think a Beau column offers something useful to me and my fellow layfolk ( such as a column he did on staying warm for several days in winter if your power goes out) I will continue offering links to such.

    I agree that the ultimate outcome in Ukraine versus Russia will prove him wrong in the longest run on that subject. I haven’t watched enough Beaucasts to see if he confuses the Ukranormal majority with the Ukranazi minority in that country. If he is valorizing the Azovs, the Svobodas and the Pravy Sektors in particular; that is a bad choice of people to valorize. But again, I would have to watch every single Beau video on Ukraine to see if he is making that confusion. And the only way I could watch all those videos is after I am retired and have the time . . . and if someone offered me a hundred dollars an hour to watch them all.

    Meanwhile, here is something very completely and totally different . . . ” Akhima’s Cornfield” . . . a video on dry-farming Hopi White Corn in the Hopi semi-desert.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U_I_M-5dsw
    (This is an example of the sort of thing where “choices must be made”. If there is only time to watch a Beau video or an Akhima video, I will have to choose the Akhima video).

  6. Willy

    Beau predicted a Ukrainian capitulation to Russian victory and Zelensky submission to their terms within the first couple months, followed up by Russia being worn down by rebellion, mostly guerrilla and terroristic. It’d be Afghanistan Part 3 he said.

    He was obviously wrong. Nobody predicted that this would be lasting this long.

    But I’m still curious about the 4-D chess strategy de jour which Putin supporters always offer up. My latest fave is that Putin is only going to make Ukraine submit after all potential rebellion has been played out, because he wants to be honorable by keeping it all on the battlefield. Plus all those videos and photos of Ukrainian residences getting bombed are CGI fakes, obviously.

  7. NR

    the Azov people he admires so much

    I haven’t watched very much Beau, but it so happens I have watched enough to know that this statement is false. Beau has openly called the Azov battalion fascists.

  8. different clue

    @Willy,

    Now that you remind me, I think that , yes, Beau predicted a fast Russia conquest-occupation of Ukraine followed by years of Ukra-guerilla weardown. That is what the NATO-EUFUKUS governments also wanted.

    But it looks like the RussiaGov also read the manuals and did some thinking. I think the RussiaGov’s initial losses were real ones, but after that the RussiaGov has decided to not invade and conquer the whole country on purpose, not because of “not being able to”. My feeling is that the Russia goal is to keep fighting just hard enough to inspire the Ukraine side to keep fighting too. The goal is to get the combined forces of Ukra-NATO-EUFUKUS to keep feeding NATO weapons stocks and Ukrainian soldiers into the wood chipper until they have no food left for the wood chipper at all.
    The end-goal is a Ukraine so depopulated and destroyed that it can not be a threat to Russia or a help to NATO for several decades to come.

    If Putin is sly and cynical enough, he will let the westermost end of Ukraine survive and emerge as a National Banderazov Republic of Galiciastan. Such a Galiciastan and its Banderazovi shock-terror partisan forces will devote itself to bombing, arson, assassination and other terror actions all over EUrope to get revenge for EUrope not having supported Ukraine hard enough.

  9. Willy

    I’d think there are three “wood chippers” operating there, with the third one being of the ‘get out of Russia/Ukraine young smart man’ variety. If NATO nations are being cunning, I’d think they’d be trying to take advantage of the ongoing demographic crisis from both. Not that places like Iran, Syria and North Korea aren’t getting their own crack at acquiring these capable men. And women. Sadly, since I’m unaware of Beau having made a video about this, I may have to wait for this particular “just a thought”.

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