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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 19, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

From 2010: The Unvarnished Truth About the US

Ian Welsh, June 15, 2022

Twelve years ago I wrote this post. I don’t see anything since then has made it wrong and I think it’s worth reading still, especially for those who weren’t with me 12 years ago:

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time and in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money into the political system, I think it’s time.

Yesterday’s decision makes the US a soft fascist state. Roosevelt’s definition of fascism was control of government by corporate interests. Unlimited money means that private interests can dump billions into elections if they choose. Given that the government can, will, and has rewarded them with trillions, as in the bailouts, or is thinking about doing so in HCR, by forcing millions of Americans to buy their products the return on investment is so good that I would argue that corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to buy out government – after all if you pay a million to get a billion, or a billion to get a trillion, that’s far far better returns than are avaiable anywhere else….

Add to this the US’s complete inability to manage its economic affairs, and its refusal to fix its profound structural problems, whether in the financial system, the education system, the military, concrete infrastructure, technology or anything else and I cannot see a likely scenario where the US turns things around. The US’s problems in almost every area amount to “monied interests are making a killing on business as usual, and ologopolistic markets and will do anything they can to make sure the problem isn’t fixed”.

Even before they had the ability to dump unlimited money into the political system, they virtually controlled Washington. This will put their influence on steroids. Any congressperson who goes against their interests can be threatened by what amounts to unlimited money. And any one who does their bidding can be rewarded with so much money their reelection is virtually secure.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-15-2022]


Ryan Morgan [American Military News, via Mike Norman Economics 6-15-2022]

The West Doesn’t Want The World To Know That Russia Just Saved Brazil’s Crop This Year
Andrew Korybko [One World, via Mike Norman Economics 6-14-2022]


The epidemic

WTO Fails to Promote COVID Vaccines

Robert Kuttner, June 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

… the U.S., despite Biden’s commitment to a waiver of drug company patent rights, sides with Pharma.


A new study claims Medicare-for-all could have saved more than 200,000 lives during the pandemic 

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 6-17-2022]


Disrupting mainstream economics 

Economic Rent and Exploitation

Michael Hudson [On Finance, Real Estate And The Powers Of Neoliberalism, via Mike Norman Economics 6-18-2022]

The academic economics curriculum finds unproductive credit too embarrassing to acknowledge. While I saw the importance of finance and real estate, none of that was discussed in the university’s economics courses at all. The pretense is that money is created by banks lending to investors who build factories and employ labour to produce more. All credit is assumed to be productive, and taken on to finance productive investment in the form of tangible capital formation. Well, that that was the hope in the 19th century, and actually was the reality in Germany and in Central Europe, where you had banking becoming industrialised. But after World War I, you had a snap back to the Anglo-Dutch-American kind of banking, which was really just the Merchant banking. It was bank lending against assets already in place.

I realised that the statistics that I worked on showed the opposite of what I was taught. I had to go through the motions of the PhD orals. and avoided conflict by writing my dissertation on the history of economic thought, because anything that I would have written about the modern economy would have driven the professors nutty. Needless to say, none of the academic professors I had ever actually worked in the real world. It was all very theoretical. So that basically how I came to realise that the 19th century fight for 100 years – we can call it the long 19th century, from the French Revolution, up to World War I, and from the French Physiocrats, to Adam Smith, Ricardo and Malthus, John Stuart Mill, Marx, Simon Patton and Thorstein Veblen – was the value and price theory of classical economics to quantify economic rent as unearned income.

The purpose of value and price theory was to define the excess of market price over actual cost value. The difference was economic rent. The essence of classical economics was a reform campaign – that of industrial capitalism. It was a radical campaign, because the basic cost-cutting dynamic of industrial capitalism was radical. It realised that in order to make Britain, France or Germany, or any country competitive with others, you had to get rid of the landlord class and its demands for economic rent. You also had to get rid of monopolies and their economic rent. You had to get rid of all payments of income that were not necessary for production to take place. The aim was to bring prices in line with the actual cost value of production, to free economies from this rake-off to unproductive investment, unproductive labour and economic rent – land rent, monopoly rent and financial interest charges. Those were the three basic categories of rent on which classical political economy focused.

To translate classical rent theory into practice, you needed a political reform, You had to get rid of the landlord class’s political power to block reform….

Protectionists in America said the way to minimise costs – and it may seem an oxymoron to you – the way you minimise costs is to have high-wage labour. You raise the wages of labour, or more specifically, you want to raise the living standards, because highly paid labour, highly educated labour, well fed labour, well rested labour is more productive than pauper labour. So they said explicitly, America’s going to be a high wage economy. We’re not like Europe. Our higher wages are going to provide high enough living standards to provide high labour productivity. And our higher labour productivity, shorter working day, better working conditions, healthy working conditions, public health, well educated labor will undersell that of countries that don’t have an active public sector….

[TW’s March 2016 article, HAWB 1800s – The Doctrine of High Wages – How America Was Built]

Another element of American GDP is financial services. I called up the Commerce Department where they make the NIPA statistics and asked what happens when credit card companies increase their interest charges. And where do penalty charges for late payments appear? Credit card companies in America make billions of dollars in interest a year and even more billions in fees, late fees and penalties. Most of the income that credit card companies make are actually on these fees and penalties. So where does that appear in that GDP? I was told, in “financial services.’ So the “service” of calculating how far the debtors must pay for falling behind in their payments. They typical charge 29%. That’s all counted as a contribution to GDP. But in reality it is a subtrahend, leaving less to spend on real “product.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

GRAPH Average change in price of raw materials since January 2022

[via The Big Picture 6-15-2022]


Gas prices hit new record high 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


To Fight Inflation, The Fed Declares War On Workers

Julia Rock, June 13, 2022 [The Lever]


How Do We Get a Wage-Price Spiral When Wage Growth Is Slowing? 

[CounterPunch, via Naked Capitalism 6-15-2022]


Hike Until Something Breaks

Brian Romanchuk [Bond Economics, via Mike Norman Economics 6-13-2022]

Finally, I want to emphasise the limited usefulness of mathematical macro theory. The only place where such a theory would have been of use is giving a better inflation forecast in 2021. Given that “transitory” was the base case for central bank economists (as well as being close to a consensus view). it is clear that the conventional models were not entirely helpful. (The growth industry in the next few years will be the rise of people who were inflation bugs last year.)

At this point, worrying about the innards of inflation is a secondary concern relative to the “will anything break?” question. Things blowing up is a balance sheet analysis question, and we need to focus on the weak link entities. This is not an area of strength for aggregated macro models. To what extent they will work, it is because we dodge potential crises.


The Rich Get Richer

Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. [New York Review of Books, June 23, 2022 issue]

Rethinking Securities Law
by Marc I. Steinberg
Oxford University Press, 339 pp., $85.00
…For example, in the 1970s, when most New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) securities were still owned directly by individual shareholders, the average length of time a share of an NYSE company was held by an average investor was about seven years. The average now, in this era of institutional investors, is a mere seven months. Indeed, according to some estimates, about 70 percent of all US securities trading is done by “hyper-speed” traders, who may own a share for just a few seconds. Much of this trading is accomplished by use of mathematical algorithms that are focused on short-term profitability. And even those funds that have a longer-term investment strategy commonly outsource their shareholder voting rights to separate services, so little do they care about exercising their power over management as long as the company returns high profits….

An equally important change has been the shift from public to private financial markets, which are often free of most of the disclosure requirements of federal law. SEC commissioner Allison Herren Lee said in a recent speech:

Perhaps the single most significant development in securities markets in the new millennium has been the explosive growth of private markets…. More capital has been raised in these markets than in public markets each year for over a decade…. The increasing inflows into these markets have also significantly increased the overall portion of our equities markets and our economy that is non-transparent to investors, markets, policymakers, and the public.

While Elites Fret About Inflation and Worker Wages, CEOs Are Robbing Us Blind 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


America’s Inequality Problem Just Improved for the First Time in a Generation 

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 6-14-2022]

The collective wealth of the bottom 50% of households has nearly doubled in two years. Can the fragile gains continue?

[TW: A big bounce, but any bounce looks big when confined to the bottom. And thar is the correct question: can it continue? Not with the hard turn to austerity we’re seeing the elites initiate…]


The Austerity Push Is A Repeat Of History

David Sirota, June 15, 2022 [The Lever]

Twelve years after their “entitlement reform” commission, will Dems again help Republicans try to cut Social Security?


Dire Straits

[New York Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]

Toxic Debt, Josiah Rector’s history of Detroit’s struggles for clean air and water, argues that municipal debt and austerity have furthered an ongoing environmental catastrophe.


Labor Slams Pensions for Burnishing Image of Private Equity

Lee Harris, June 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The chief executive of Washington State Investment Board (WSIB), one of the nation’s largest pension funds, has become a major-league booster for private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts’s Ownership Works, a nonprofit that proposes to help companies distribute equity shares to employees….

At a WSIB board meeting on Thursday, the labor union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) submitted a public comment arguing that there is an apparent conflict of interest in Tucker’s public promotion of Ownership Works.

UFCW, which has long-standing grievances with KKR over its consolidation of the grocery industry, pointed to negative social impacts of the fund’s past investments. It drew attention to WSIB’s investment through KKR Asian Fund III in Cue Group, a firm that allegedly collaborated with a branch of the Chinese surveillance state….

KKR once reveled in its villainous public image, promoting a view of private equity as canny, nimble, and unapologetically capitalist. But as the buyout sector has swelled in size and cemented its place on Wall Street, executives have come to resent their unpopularity.


A Mélenchon Government Would Shake the Foundations of Neoliberalism in Europe 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


Should we save capitalism? | Slavoj Žižek, Paul Krugman, Yanis Varoufakis, Shoshana Zuboff, and more [videp]

Yanis Varoufakis [via Naked Capitalism 6-14-2022]


Information age dystopia

Facebook advertising algorithm may have given the GOP a social media edge over the Democratic Party: report 

[Alternet, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


Conti’s Attack Against Costa Rica Sparks a New Ransomware Era 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2022]

For the last two months, Costa Rica has been under siege. Two major ransomware attacks have crippled many of the country’s essential services, plunging the government into chaos as it scrambles to respond. Officials say that international trade ground to a halt as the ransomware took hold and more than 30,000 medical appointments have been rescheduled, while tax payments have also been disrupted. Millions have been lost due to the attacks, and staff at affected organizations have turned to pen and paper to get things done.

Costa Rica’s government, which changed midway through the attacks after elections earlier this year, has declared a “national emergency” in response to the ransomware—marking the first time a country has done so in response to a cyberattack. Twenty-seven government bodies were targeted in the first attacks, which ran from mid-April until the start of May, according to new president Rodrigo Chaves. The second attack, at the end of May, has sent Costa Rica’s health care system into a spiral. Chaves has declared “war” on those responsible.

At the heart of the hacking spree is Conti, the notorious Russia-linked ransomware gang. Conti claimed responsibility for the first attack against Costa Rica’s government and is believed to have some links to the ransomware-as-a-service operation HIVE, which was responsible for the second attack impacting the health care system. Last year, Conti extorted more than $180 million from its victims, and it has a history of targeting health care organizations. However, in February thousands of the group’s internal messages and files were published online after it backed Russia’s war against Ukraine.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

World’s Largest Computing Society Makes Thousands of Research Articles Freely Available; Opens First 50 Years 

[Association for Computing Machinery, via Naked Capitalism 6-18-2022]

CM, the Association for Computing Machinery, today announced that its first 50 years of publications, from 1951 through the end of 2000, are now open and freely available to view and download via the ACM Digital Library. ACM’s first 50 years backfile contains more than 117,500 articles on a wide range of computing topics. In addition to articles published between 1951 and 2000, ACM has also opened related and supplemental materials including data sets, software, slides, audio recordings, and videos.

Making the first 50 years of its publications and related content freely available expresses ACM’s commitment to open access publication and represents another milestone in the organization’s transition to full open access within the next five years.

Collapse of independent news media

A New Muckraking Newspaper From Ralph Nader Takes On Congress and Its Dirty Secrets

[Capital & Main, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


Disrupting mainstream politics

Make Progressive Politics Constitutional Again

Joseph Fishkin and William E. Forbath [Boston Review, May 23, 2022]

Mounting an effective challenge to our conservative juristocracy requires understanding how we got here. It is not just that the right out-organized the left. On the contrary, liberals have contributed to conservatives’ success by imagining constitutional law as an autonomous domain, separate from politics. Liberals have likewise imagined that most questions about how to regulate the economy are separate from politics, best left to technocrats. These two ideas have different backstories, but both were at the center of a mainstream liberal consensus that emerged after World War II. For postwar liberals, constitutional law was best left to the lawyers, economic questions to the economists. These two key moves sought to depoliticize vast domains that had previously been central to progressive politics. Together they tend to limit the role of the people and the representatives they elect….

In the face of massive inequality and a dangerous trend toward oligarchy, progressives today are beginning to reclaim some elements of the democracy-of-opportunity tradition. This essay has only scratched the surface of a few of the areas where that is happening. This nascent revival of anti-oligarchy thinking is more than the sum of its parts. It is not just policy, but constitutional argument. Past generations of progressives understood this; their conservative opponents did too. Indeed, those conservative opponents never stopped understanding it. In preparation for a series of massive confrontations with a far-right court, it is time for progressives to once again mine this rich vein of U.S. constitutional history and constitutional thought.


In Massachusetts, a Limit on Gig Companies’ Deceptions 

Terri Gerstein, June 17, 2022 [The American Prospect]

On Tuesday, the highest court in Massachusetts struck down a ballot initiative that would have come before voters in November. The initiative, funded by such gig companies as Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, sought to designate workers as independent contractors rather than employees….

In short, the court understood what was going on, and decided: The gig is up. In fact, the company-driven ballot initiatives in both California and Massachusetts tried to confuse and mislead people about what was at stake. In rejecting the companies’ effort to jam together multiple subjects in a confusing fashion, the court grasped the core issue: Should companies be able to spend money to confuse voters and ultimately purchase their own set of rules?

….There’s evidence that in California, many people who voted in favor of Proposition 22 didn’t understand what they were doing: An exit poll showed that 40 percent of those who voted “yes” did so because they supported workers’ rights and didn’t understand that the proposal would cement workers in a permanent sub-employee position.


“We Failed to Protect Abortion Rights. We Need a Labor-Based Strategy”

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-2022]

“The US right has challenged [Roe v. Wade] for years in the streets and in the courts, state by state. The story of the end of Roe is the story of the most organized, militant, and successful conservative social movement of the past fifty years. In the end, the Democratic Party didn’t stop them. Neither did the reproductive rights and the social justice nonprofits that so many depend on for health care and legal support. Am I angry with the Right? Oh, yes…. But this outcome was entirely expected. As a result, I am now angrier with the abortion rights movement — from leftists to liberal Democrats. Now that Roe is almost dead, I’d like to be clear about why. Seventy percent of the US population supports abortion rights. The fact that we have lost these rights to a minority coalition should prompt self-criticism. It is our responsibility to put together a majority coalition that can safeguard basic reproductive rights. It is our responsibility to frame the issue in a way that challenges culture war narratives with a universalist program that advocates for those rights. We didn’t.”


“AFL-CIO Blocks Debate on Union Democracy Reforms – Amazon Labor Union & Starbucks Workers Excluded from Convention – Shuler Criticizes AFL-CIO Organizing Approach”

[Payday Report, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-15-2022]

“Earlier today, many were unexpectedly locked out of the AFL-CIO convention after the Secret Service closed the doors for the arrival of President Joe Biden. The lockout infuriated activists and delegates who had arrived early to see Biden, but many also saw it as a metaphor for how people are being excluded from the convention as a whole. Shockingly, the AFL-CIO did not invite the Amazon Labor Union, since it’s an independent union and doesn’t belong to the AFL-CIO. Nor did the convention invite members of the SEIU-affiliated Starbucks Workers United. ‘It’s just petty,’ one senior union official told Payday Report. ‘Starbucks and Amazon are two of the most exciting campaigns in recent memory, and we don’t even have anyone here from those campaigns to learn lessons from these campaigns.’ And of course: “Prior to the convention, the Vermont AFL-CIO submitted a motion that would allow for every member of the labor movement to vote on electing the leadership of the national AFL-CIO. Many unions, such as the Teamsters, the UAW, the Steelworkers, and NewsGuild allow their rank-and-file members to vote on leadership. In contrast, the leadership of the AFL-CIO is selected by a body of 500 delegates. The Executive Council blocked the motion from being considered in an open debate. Instead, only motions that passed by unanimous votes were brought to the floor.”


“Unlearning the Language of ‘Wokeness’”

Sam Adler-Bell [New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-13-2022]

“I have had to unlearn many of the ways of speaking I cultivated as a student radical in order to be more convincing and compelling off campus. The obligation to speak to non-radicals, the unconverted, is the obligation of all radicals, and it’s a skill that is not only undervalued but perhaps hindered by a left-wing university education. Learning through participation in collective struggle how the language of socialism, feminism, and racial justice sound, how to speak them legibly to unlike audiences, and how others express their experiences of exploitation, oppression, and exclusion — that is our task. It is quite different from learning to talk about socialism in a community of graduate students and professors.”


Democrats’ political suicide

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-13-2022]


“Latino Democrats vent their fury after foreboding special election loss in Texas” 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-16-2022]

“Republicans blew up more than a century of almost uninterrupted Democratic control in that region Tuesday night, earning a special election win in a heavily Latino border district they had rarely even contested since its creation in 2012 — but where the GOP has made rapid gains in the last few years. That trend has been on Democrats’ minds since former President Donald Trump cut deep into the party’s margins in the Rio Grande Valley in 2020. But national Republicans poured money into the special election in this 85 percent Latino district from the beginning. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its allies, meanwhile, only made a small investment at the end, despite requests from members to get involved earlier.”


“Democrats play with fire in GOP primaries”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-15-2022]

“Democratic groups are buying ads touting some of the most extreme pro-Trump candidates in Republican primaries around the country — meddling in GOP contests to set up more favorable matchups in November. Why it matters: The risky gambit assumes general-election voters will reject candidates who embrace conspiracy theories or lies about the 2020 election. But it could dramatically backfire by vaulting fringe Republicans into national office. Driving the news: Ahead of last week’s primaries, the Nancy Pelosi-affiliated House Majority PAC funded a 30-second TV ad promoting self-declared ‘Trump Conservative’ Chris Mathys against moderate Republican Rep. David Valadao in California’s 22nd District.”


The Premature Narrative on Democrats and Crime

David Dayen, June 16, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Last week, elections were held in California, and media desks were ready. They had a district attorney subject to recall in San Francisco, and a high-profile mayor’s race in Los Angeles turning on the subjects of homelessness and crime. If both races broke right, they could bundle Chesa Boudin’s downfall and Rick Caruso’s triumph and pull off the Holy Grail of political reporting: the election trend piece.

That piece was written, and replicated. “Progressive Backlash in California Fuels Democratic Debate Over Crime,” The New York Times warned. The reckoning was here. Progressive calls to defund and rethink policing were being punished in some of the most left-leaning cities on the West Coast.

But then they kept counting the votes.

East Coast media once again neglected an enduring fact about California elections: Votes are counted slowly and deliberately. All state voters receive ballots via mail, and mail ballots can come into registrar offices up to a week later and still be counted, as long as they are postmarked by Election Day. Hundreds of thousands of votes have been and will be counted after the Times and others wrote their trend pieces. And in just the first week, several outcomes have materially changed….

In fact, most of the tough-on-crime narratives told on election night are faltering as votes come in. Authoritarian L.A. sheriff Alex Villanueva is down to 31.86 percent in the first round, a shockingly bad result against no-name challengers. The city attorney race is trending away from the law-and-order candidates in the field, with one reformer likely in the runoff and a second close to it. Progressives are now winning key city council races. Nothing in the actual election results suggests that Angelenos have driven a backlash on criminal justice reform.


“Elephant In The Zoom”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-2022]

“Meltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History.” [Lambert Strether: “This article is a horror story about the internal workings of NGOs, and well worth a read, especially if you like horror stories. But I think the article sums up the issue with NGOs in one sentence”] “The reliance of so many organizations on foundation funding rather than member donations is central to the upheavals the groups have seen in recent years, one group leader said, because the groups aren’t accountable to the public for failing to accomplish anything, as long as the foundation flows continue.”


“The scandal embroiling Washington’s most venerable think tank, explained”

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-14-2022]

“The scandal surrounding Allen’s resignation reveals how foreign and corporate interests have a bigger role in policy-idea production than we tend to realize, and how relatively little scrutiny the capital’s think tanks receive despite their outsize influence in policymaking.” And: “One central question is whether this scandal will prompt any broader reckoning with the way policy ideas are generated in the nation’s capital.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

“Will the Jan. 6 Hearings Change Anyone’s Mind?

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-16-2022]

“The question that hangs over the Jan. 6 hearings is whether the emergence of similarly damning facts or documents would move either the Republican base or its leaders in Congress. The prevailing wisdom says no, and there are plenty of reasons to argue that a strikingly large portion of former President Donald Trump’s base will dismiss any disclosures by the media or members of Congress as ‘fake news.’” Why ignore independents? Or disaffected Democrats? More: “All of this is to say one should be cautious in predicting the effect congressional investigations will have on public opinion. Learning that Trump’s advisers were divided between Team Crazy and Team Normal, and that Team Crazy clearly had the upper hand, might disturb a fair number of voters. I’ve seen congressional hearings change minds, including my own.”


She Helped Create the Big Lie. Records Suggest She Turned It Into a Big Grift.

[Reveal, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht has played a pivotal role in helping drive the voter fraud movement from the political fringes to a central pillar in the Republican Party’s ideology. the Texas-based nonprofit organization has engaged in a series of questionable transactions that sent more than $1 million combined to its founder, a longtime board member romantically linked to the founder and the group’s general counsel.


Steve Bannon and the Politics of Bullshit

[Damonlinker, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]

A profile of the Trump ally on the eve of the January 6 Committee Hearings raises ominous questions about what’s lurking on the rightward fringes of American politics


Trumpism without Trump: Maybe he’s beginning to fade — but the danger to democracy isn’t 

PAUL ROSENBERG, June 12, 2022 [Salon]

Trump’s 2020 “Lost Cause” ideology has taught Republicans how to seize power — and they may not need him anymore….

Republicans like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger successfully defied Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election, and then defeated Trump-endorsed candidates. But it’s important to understand that they’re committed to project of potentially stealing future elections, by repeating, amplifying and acting on a subset of election lies that they’re personally most comfortable with — which of course could always shift again in the future.

That’s precisely what happened with the original Lost Cause, as historian Adam Domby explores in “The False Cause: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory,” which focuses on the unique political culture and history of North Carolina. “The construction of a coherent Lost Cause narrative was not always a deliberate process,” Domby writes. “At times, it was an organic one built on minor exaggerations and fabrications woven into daily life. Some stories were created to serve a specific purpose for an individual, often for monetary gain; others, to garner social capital; and others still to aid in political mobilization.” A similar narrative mishmash was used by many so-called conservatives, first to justify supporting Trump in 2016, then to explain away his 2020 election loss, and now to justify or explain away the Jan. 6 insurrection. In every case, a supposedly conservative, no-nonsense, traditionally-minded population engaged in fanciful, inventive storytelling in order to create a new comfort zone and then inhabit it.

As noted above, the core of the Lost Cause lay in denial about the central cause of the Civil War and in portraying the Confederacy as engaged in an heroic struggle for freedom, not slavery: “freedom” defined as states’ rights to self-determination, thus turning the North into a tyrannical bogeyman. “This allowed Confederates to be recalled not as traitors but as noble patriots fighting to defend a set of principles that survived the war despite defeat on the battlefield,” Domby notes.


[Twitter, via DailyKos, “Judge Luttig explains why he spoke slowly, carefully, exactingly and deliberately on Thursday” June 18, 2022]



Doxxing and death threats against U.S. poll workers intensify as the right wing continues its ‘campaign of fear’ 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]


The Rise of Political Violence in the United States

[Journal of Democracy, via The Big Picture 6-12-2022]

From death threats against previously anonymous bureaucrats and public-health officials to a plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor and the 6 January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, acts of political violence in the United States have skyrocketed in the last five years. The nature of political violence has also changed. The deeper trend: the “ungrouping” of political violence as people self-radicalize via online engagement.



The Message of the Republican Party: Don’t Tread on Me. I Tread on You.

Ethan Gray, June 15, 2022 [Medium]

That’s why when you use that same appeal—“pro-life”—when you ask Republicans to do something about gun violence in schools, it doesn’t work. Because you are now in the position of telling Republicans what to do. That’s precisely why they don’t want to do anything about it.

Anyway, gun violence in schools is not a problem, but their children having to wear masks in schools is. Because somebody is telling their children what to do. Dead children don’t bother them, but telling their children what to do? Only *they* should do that.

They claim to be for “small government”, but that really  means a government that tells them what to do should be as small as possible. But when the Republican Party recognizes it has an opportunity to tell people what to do, the government required for that tends to be large….

What you didn’t understand from the very beginning is that Democrats should not ultimately be in the position to tell anyone what to do. Only Republicans should be in the position to tell people what to do….

The whole point of an arrangement where you can tell people what to do, but you can’t be told what to do, is precisely to avoid having to consider others. This is why this is their ideal arrangement: so they don’t have to do that.



Open Thread


Lithuania, Kaliningrad, and NATO Article Five


  1. VietnamVet

    Today’s headlines lay out the future. “NATO warns of a long war in Ukraine.” “Germany to fire up coal stations as Russia squeezes gas supply”.

    The basic reason for this is indicated in this Week-end Wrap — the compound financialization of a finite world. American education and healthcare are now financed with debt that cannot be paid off even in death. No growth is possible only a Debt Jubilee. All that is left for money managers is the financialization of the world. For example, micro-loans to the improvised 3rd world women.

    Since 2014 the Queen of Insiders, Hillary Clinton, has been trying to have a war with Russia. She succeeded. Clearly, Insiders are nuts.

    They provoked a proxy world war because there is no more expansion in Europe or North America. There are no new resources. North America is energy independent. Inducing shortages allows profiteering from the sale of US Liquid Natural Gas to Europe. Indeed, the Kremlin must be overthrown to continue the growth of their wealth. They will never agree to an armistice and a new Iron Curtain to cutoff Russia and China from the West. It would mean the end of the current western exploitative political economic system.

    The third world war can only end with the use of all of the deployed nuclear weapons just like the second in1945. If somehow the Insiders avoid killing themselves and everyone else, they are simply incapable of addressing climate change any more than they are able to give peace a chance.

  2. bruce wilder

    The whole point of an arrangement where you can tell people what to do, but you can’t be told what to do, is precisely to avoid having to consider others.

    I have no doubts that this gets to the core of several kinds of conservative, typically Republican politics. The business politics of anti-union, employment-at-will — the politics of “independent contractor status” when it is convenient to the wage-stealing employer — this has always been about not having to negotiate with the precariat. Workers should accept low-wage employment gratefully.

    I am not so sure, however, that on subjects like public health policy or immigration or guns and violence, Ethan Grey is not projecting from the narcissistic, delusional self-righteous politics of the Democratic politics. Ethan tells us he used to be a Republican. Well, I used to be a Democrat. I can think of lots of reason why a conservative might abandon the theocratic Republican Party. I cannot think of any reason to cling to the war-mongering, deeply corrupt Party of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and Barack Obama, unless it is to masquerade on Twitter as an insightful, caring person.

    The whole psychological structure of partisan personal identity and differentiation on display in the U.S. is both a social sickness and, by design, disconnected from the politics of actual government policy.

    One of Grey’s concerns is public health policy and masking, particularly in schools. But, his point is only that Democrats have the superior attitudes, the virtue of social consciousness. Not that a Democratic Administration pursued better policy — it did not in any respect, at any time and yes, it managed to achieve a higher death toll in the country with the highest death toll in the world.

    Another concern is climate change. Again, it is very, very hard to see much policy difference between the Reps and the Party of President Manchin.

    One theme of Grey is that Republicans are racist. Racists who are gaining Hispanic votes rapidly, but never mind. Another is that Republicans are anti-science and promote hoaxes. Like Russiagate?

    Partisan politics is broken. Dysfunctional in that policy opposition never turns into policy change or reform. But, more than that it leverages social atomism to promote contempt for others and largely baseless slanders against the character of vast numbers of fellow citizens. Are we really supposed to believe that Republicans in general simply do not care about children killed in mass shootings? What kind of dumbass argument is that?

  3. StewartM

    “The Democrats” want to either amend, or limit, the filibuster. It’s just Seminamanchin who’s been paid off to make sure it doesn’t happen. This is not some “choice” the bulk of the Democratic party has made.

    And Seminamanchin both know what they’re doing, and will get paid handsomely for it post-career.

  4. Willy

    Bruce, plutocrats have most of the discretionary money which they are spending to buy anybody from public officials to impoverished voters, for the sole purpose of avoiding to have to consider others. A great way to do this has been to persuade (or covertly brainwash), anybody into believing that the preamble of the American Constitution works best when one never has to consider others.

    This would explain south Texas, where voting latinos can be persuaded that Dems want nonvoting latinos to come and take their jobs away from them.

    Speaking of largely baseless slanders against the character of vast numbers of fellow citizens, have you ever debated with a die-hard conservative? I’m trying to understand your antidote to the “dumbass argument” of shaming Republicans who’ve bought into believing that one never has to consider others. We just witnessed that good guys with guns, hell even nineteen good well trained good guys with guns, aren’t going to be the heroes these Republicans claimed they would be, but will instead do exactly as our plutocrats are trying to get us to believe.

  5. StewartM

    Bruce Wilder

    One of Grey’s concerns is public health policy and masking, particularly in schools. But, his point is only that Democrats have the superior attitudes, the virtue of social consciousness. Not that a Democratic Administration pursued better policy — it did not in any respect, at any time and yes, it managed to achieve a higher death toll in the country with the highest death toll in the world.

    That’s just nonsense. The time to best deal with Covid was during Trump’s tenure, and Trump so deliberately bungled Covid by the time Biden was president it was largely a lost cause–largely because of the opposition of Republicans even to the admittedly insufficient measures Biden was taking. It’s hard for me to see how one could have done much better given the politics.

    Even what Trump did do good–like the $2000 checks–was only because the Democrats were willing to vote for it. If they had done what Republicans usually done, they would have blocked it for political advantage.

    Another concern is climate change. Again, it is very, very hard to see much policy difference between the Reps and the Party of President Manchin.

    You’re right–the Party of Manchin. Because two senators with Ds beside their name, who do not represent in any way the party consensus (and as I’ve said repeatedly, Biden’s not even proposing enough) are blocking it all. But don’t blame their blocking on generic “Democrats”.

  6. Willy

    The Bully’s Philosophy: I’m free to do whatever I want to you and you’re free to try and get me to stop.

    Republicans have been telling me for years that The Bully’s Philosophy is an unfortunate, but inevitable part of American liberty.

    But what Grey is saying, is that this was always just a ruse. Republicans couldn’t care less about any Bully’s Philosophy, because it allows freedom. Republicans don’t want freedom because their plutocratic sugar daddies and pimps don’t want us to be free.

    The actual Republican majority philosophy: I shall be free to do whatever I want to you and you shall not be free to get me to stop. Current events seem to agree with this.

    Sure, there are the Michael Steeles, the Liz Cheneys, the Lincoln Projects, etc. But these rational actors with their non-progressive but loyal-opposition takes on American governance are only making up at best, one quarter of modern conservatism these days. The remaining ¾ aren’t behaving like reasonable people who’ve been backed into some defensive corner by those baselessly slanderous Democrats. They’re behaving as if they alone own the USA and that nothing the Dems say (or anybody really), makes any difference whatsoever to their thinking.

    Maybe the reason why Biden doesn’t make full use of his Executive authority, or Manchin is Manchin, or that Obama whined about “political realities” to then buy an estate right next to the rising seas is that they too, have been bought by these very same plutocratic sugar daddies and pimps? Now that might make sense.

    So what motivates our favorite plutocrats? How about Elon Musk? Some say the Dems have hurt his feelings. Elon got more specific, citing Democratic Party “trial lawyers and unions”. Such meanies.

    I have a different theory. Elon’s days of selling Teslas at inflated prices to liberal elites for green status points are coming to a close. Not to mention all that corporate socialism at taxpayer expense. He’s about to face extreme competition. Hell, even the all-electric F-150 has so much macho-manly torque that macho-manlies everywhere are spouting erections ya’ll. Since many here say Elon isn’t the genius he’s cracked up to be, he’s going to have to get creative. Politically creative methinks. Good thing he’s got a mindless echo chamber mob that wants to go along for the macho-manly joyride. And so here we are.

  7. Z

    So glad that the Lead Stiff of Weekend at Biden’s still consults with Voracious Larry Summers after all Larry’s gotten wrong over the years that has made Larry and the top 0.01% of the country filthy rich and left the bill for hundreds of millions of innocent others to pay.

    It tells you who runs the country, and for whom, when they keep getting things “wrong”, getting rich from it, damaging the vast majority of the country in the process (and world, in Larry’s case), and yet are still consulted on decisions that affect all of us. And he’s not even in Biden’s cabinet!


  8. Trinity

    “Racists who are gaining Hispanic votes rapidly, but never mind.”

    There was an article in the last week or so detailing exactly what Repugnants are doing to capture Hispanic votes. Lying about almost everything works almost every time. It’s also possible to do this “for your party” while still remaining a racist piece of doo-doo. These aren’t exclusive.

    Massachusetts found out that Uber, Lyft, etc., were deliberately misleading voters, and have managed to uncover this activity, and block them. Their research shone a bright light on what happened in California, where voters there thought they were supporting workers’ rights (Prop 22?) but instead made it possible for Uber, Lyft, etc. to keep their gig workers enslaved. They lie, full stop. They literally do anything as noted by the twitter author to make sure they can do whatever they want, and everyone else can’t do anything about it.

    It is also possible to be a registered Democrat while actively not supporting Biden, Pelosi, et al. (For the record, I am not registered currently, and in the past was always registered as an independent.)

    I found that twitter thread to be extremely enlightening. It’s not just about power, or even just “power over” it’s also about negating all power for everyone else. This is important because problems cannot be solved until they are clearly defined and fully understood.

  9. bruce wilder

    The time to best deal with Covid was during Trump’s tenure, and Trump so deliberately bungled Covid by the time Biden was president it was largely a lost cause–largely because of the opposition of Republicans even to the admittedly insufficient measures Biden was taking. It’s hard for me to see how one could have done much better given the politics.

    Apparently, it is hard for you to see at all. That is what partisan identification does: rots the brain and distorts reality. I am not interested in recounting the misguided course of COVID-19 policy and propaganda during the Biden Administration, just so you can play your game of the “Republican devils made him do it!” What you refuse to see is not my problem to solve and I am not going to be baited into unpleasantness.

  10. Astrid

    I call bullshit on that nothing could be done. Biden could have pushed for a firm lengthy lock down with financial support and build up a track and trace corp. Could have forced China style quarantine at the borders. Could have asked for international cooperation and broke the vaccine patents (not that it really mattered since the patents we’re worthless for spread). Could have fired Fauci. Could have kept up mandatory masking and distributed free N95 masks everywhere. Could have helped the homeless and imposed rent control and eviction control. Could have worked on a commission to support effective remote schooling and safer in-person schooling. Could have increased minimum wage. Could have mandated federally paid out sick leave for Covid testing and quarantine. Could have actually made peace with China, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Syria (refugees being a known vector for spread of disease through movement and crowded living conditions).

    Instead, it was down to forcing people to take one of two minimally tested, experimental, non-sterilizing vaccines, and then say “get back to work or starve.”. And couldn’t even market that properly despite lying and gaslighting on that front.

    Biden would do any of the right things because of who he was and who owns him. But someone else, with the bully pulpit of the presidency, could have emphasized the dangers of long covid and variant proliferation. Could have issued executive orders and worked on international cooperation. Could have used every lever available and pushed hard for something better. That person might be impeached or assassinated for their troubles, but it would have been the right thing to do and it was doable for a country with the resources of the United States. Not doing so and not even trying was mass murder by the US governing class. That’s on Trump and Biden and pretty much everyone above a GS-12 and their private sector counterparts in DC.

  11. Astrid

    “would” should be “wouldn’t”, obviously.

  12. Willy

    But we tried being milquetoast Centrist, all big-tent uniter-not-divider aisle-reachie consensus-builders. Then we woke to see angry workers voting for nutjob demagogues.

    When I tried to get others to be woke I got called a pedophile groomer, plus a Marxist. And everybody knows that Marxists aren’t big-tent uniter-not-divider aisle-reachie consensus-builders.

    But at least I’m not a RINO in congress. I’d probably be getting death threats by now.

  13. marku52

    Bungling Biden had one real job to do–Kill the pandemic. He completely abdicated. He took the vaccines that Trump-to his credit,-created in record time-and did nothing else. In fact he had his CDC start doing all kinds of un-science based messaging “You are vaccinated, you can throw away your mask”. Spent no effort with test and trace. Spent no effort on data collection (the best data now comes from Walgreens! Insane)

    No, he has been worse than Trump . More USians have died under Biden than Trump.

    Having failed at that, his idiots at State went and started a war with Russia. Give me Trump back. Dog help us.

  14. different clue


    Semi-tangential, but here is another possible emerging source of sales-competition for Musk’s Tesla.

    I heard about this from an amateur analog-technophile at my place of work. Apparently the Apterists are starting from a business model-strategy similar to Musk’s . . . sell a very unusual car to early adopters to raise enough money to sell a more conventional-seeming sort of car to larger numbers of people. If the Apterists are less swindle-based than Musk, then they will try to make their product more technically- and- executionally realized and perfected before they roll it out. If they become successful enough that how they treat their workforce will even matter in the long term, then that will be a very important thing to pay attention to.

  15. different clue


    You are correct in all you say. Biden and the CDC etc. went out of their way to make it even worse.

    The problem is that Trump and his creatures turned “covid response” into a culture war battlefield. I live in Michigan. I remember how armed gangs of screaming MAGAtard Trumpanon filth physically threatened various public health officials for trying to maintain spread-slowing mask regimens. I remember Trump making a loud and proud point of refusing to wear a mask while touring a Ford Plant here in Michigan.

    I remember the armies of radioactive human waste Republican garbage making “no mask freedom” a badge of visible manhood.

    Of course Biden did not even bother to even try trying to overcome all that, but it would have been very hard to overcome.

    That Biden adopted a deliberate policy of spreading covid to every single American on purpose makes it even worse. But the Trumpazoids shaped the political battlespace in order to make “let her rip” into the path of least resistance.

    I too would like something better than any Democrat we will be offered.

    But I don’t want the Trojan Trump Horse back when I consider the millions of Christian Sharia Law Gilead Republicans hiding inside it.

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