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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 27, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 27, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

THE 50-100 PAY GAP: These 20 Harsh Facts About Income and Wealth Inequality Will Shock You

[Capital & Main, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

Fourteen shocking facts on inequality and working Americans
● Worker hourly compensation increased just 17% from 1979 to 2019, while worker productivity increased more than 72% over the same time period.
● Had the income of the bottom 90% of Americans kept up with GDP growth, they’d have collectively taken home $2.5 trillion more in 2018. Over the 43 years since 1975 combined, the figure is $47 trillion.
● The wealth of the bottom half of families — roughly 64 million families — adds up to only 1% of total U.S. household wealth.
● The median white family has 41 times more wealth than the median Black family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family.
● In 2016, 72% of white families owned their home, compared to just 44% of Black families and 45% of Latino families.
● For the average American consumer, the share of their expenditures spent on health doubled from 1980 to 2018.
● Half of U.S. adults with lower incomes skipped necessary medical care such as doctor visits, recommended tests, treatments, follow-up care or prescription medications in the past year because of the high cost.
● Between 2008 and 2018, the number of states in which health insurance premiums and deductibles consumed at least 10% of median income increased from seven to 42.
● The price of education increased 600% more than incomes from 1980 to 2018.
● One in four Americans have no retirement savings — and those who do aren’t saving enough. The median retirement savings account of $120,000 for those approaching retirement (ages 55 to 64) will likely provide less than $1,000 per month over a 15-year retirement span.
● Social Security benefits have lost 30% of their buying power since 2000.
● Nearly 83 million adults — 34 percent of all adults in the country — reported that their household found it somewhat or very difficult to cover usual expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses or student loans in the last seven days, according to survey research in November 2020.
● Nearly half of Black adults reported it was somewhat or very difficult to pay usual household expenses, nearly twice the rate among white adults and Asian adults (28%). A similar share (47%) of Latino adults reported such difficulties.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2021]


India Walton Poised To Become Buffalo’s First Socialist Mayor

[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2021]

In a stunning upset Tuesday night, political newcomer India Walton appeared set to knock off longtime incumbent Byron Brown in the Democratic primary for mayor of Buffalo. Backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Working Families Party, Walton is on the brink of defeating Buffalo’s four-term mayor and a close ally of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]


China Launches First Electric Train In Tibet Near India’s Border

[Sputnik International, via Mike Norman Economics, June 25, 2021]

India and China are trying to outpace each other in infrastructure development along their disputed Himalayan border. Incidents of threats from villagers have been reported on the Indian side. Villagers have demanded that the Indian government provide them with road, rail and electricity infrastructure; otherwise they will seek Chinese help….

China Starts Production At Massive Deepwater Gas Field — Irina Slav

[Oilpricel, via Mike Norman Economics, June 25, 2021]

China’s CNOOC this week started production from the first deepwater gas field it operates fully, Reuters has reported, adding that the field is expected to yield some 4.39 billion cubic meters of natural gas, representing 2 percent of China’s total output.…

Predatory Finance

“Wall Street Sees Big Wish Granted in Biden’s Infrastructure Deal”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-25-21]

It’s just two words of jargon near the bottom of the infrastructure plan the White House posted Thursday — ‘asset recycling’ — but for a slew of investing titans that longed to see that phrase, it’s reason to rejoice…. “The bipartisan group that put this bill together has been keenly focused on the importance of private investment, including the concept of asset recycling, which has been championed by infrastructure funds for a number of years,” said DJ Gribbin, the former special assistant to the president for infrastructure policy from 2017 to 2018 who is also a senior operating partner at Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners. President Joe Biden’s administration could kick off an asset-recycling initiative with federal government-owned power and generation companies such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bonneville Power Administration, Gribbin said. He added that government-owned dams around the country that generate hydroelectric power and haven’t been well maintained could also be part of the program. Other federally-owned infrastructure that investors have long coveted include the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. Asset recycling — a policy many credit as being coined in Australia — features the sale or leasing of infrastructure such as roads, airports and utilities to private operators.”

Bipartisan Senate Infrastructure Plan Is a Stalking Horse for Privatization

David Dayen, June 21, 2021 [The American Prospect]

But the really scary piece is labeled “Public private partnerships, private activity bonds, and asset recycling.” In the name of building world-class infrastructure, these lawmakers would sell it off in fire sales to private financiers. We have lots of experience with infrastructure privatization that strongly suggests it should be avoided.

There was a time when Democrats did oppose such schemes; it was during the Trump administration. To the extent that Trump had an infrastructure vision, it was rooted in privatization. Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, who would each take high-level jobs in the Trump administration, wrote a paper before the 2016 election outlining their vision: $1 trillion in investment provided by private bond buyers, who would be guaranteed a tax credit to buy the bonds, interest on the debt, and an equity stake with dividends (with up to a 10 percent profit margin). It adds the usual song and dance about how private enterprise is so much more efficient than the public sector, therefore saving money overall….

But let’s call attention to the third item on that list, “asset recycling.” This is an idea imported from Australia, which is really just an enormous shell game. It involves selling off public infrastructure to acquire the resources to build new infrastructure. It’s literally robbing Peter to pay Paul. Naturally the Trump administration was enthusiastic about it, though they never passed legislation on it. That’s fallen to this bipartisan group….

Our experience with privatization has drawn similar criticism, as it’s a triumph of short-term thinking and long-term pain. The city of Chicago sold off 36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group in 2009, taking back $1.15 billion to plug budget holes. Chicago drivers will pay $11.6 billion over the 75-year life of the deal to park, and fees are scheduled to rise as much as 800 percent. When the city shuts down a street for a festival or parade, it has to pay the private company for the parking revenue it loses. And the city cannot make improvements like bike lanes or sidewalk widening on metered streets, again because the privatizers might lose revenue. Indianapolis gave a similar 50-year lease on its downtown parking meters to a subsidiary of Xerox, using the money to build a giant downtown parking garage, a form of asset recycling. The garage on average is 5.5 percent full during the year.

Chicago Parking Meters Hit With Potential Class Action Suit

[Chicago Sun Times, via The Daily Poster 6-26-2021]

“A potential class action lawsuit filed this week against the private company that operates Chicago’s sprawling parking meter system alleges its exclusive contract with the city amounts to an ‘unreasonable 75-year monopoly.’ The complaint, filed Wednesday in federal court in Chicago, holds that Chicago Parking Meters’ lengthy deal with the city has resulted in increased parking rates and restrictions on other forms of travel, like bicycles and ride-hailing.”

Here Come Wall Street Rental Communities: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 24, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

“Top U.S. Officials Consulted With BlackRock as Markets Melted Down”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]

“As Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin scrambled to save faltering markets at the start of the pandemic last year, America’s top economic officials were in near-constant contact with a Wall Street executive whose firm stood to benefit financially from the rescue. Laurence D. Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, was in frequent touch with Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Powell in the days before and after many of the Fed’s emergency rescue programs were announced in late March. Emails obtained by The New York Times through a records request, along with public releases, underscore the extent to which Mr. Fink planned alongside the government for parts of a financial rescue that his firm referred to in one message as ‘the project’ that he and the Fed were ‘working on together.’”

Fed Chair Powell Misleads House Hearing on Wall Street’s Bailout Programs

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 23, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

It’s factually incorrect for the Fed Chairman to say that it can only make emergency loans with the approval of the Treasury. Months before there was any case of COVID-19 anywhere in the world the Fed was making hundreds of billions of dollars a week in emergency repo loans to Wall Street trading houses. The emergency loans started on September 17, 2019 – four months before the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States. By January 27, 2020 the Fed’s ongoing cumulative loans to bail out Wall Street’s hubris tallied up to an astounding $6.6 trillion. (See Fed Repos Have Plowed $6.6 Trillion to Wall Street in Four Months; That’s 34% of Its Feeding Tube During Epic Financial Crash.)

The Fed made these loans without any Congressional approval or oversight. Despite Powell’s promises to the Senate Banking Committee that the Fed would provide a full report on what caused the need for these emergency bailouts to Wall Street banks, the public has yet to see any such report from the Fed.

In addition, Powell appeared to be giving the impression yesterday that the Fed’s pandemic bailout programs have ended. While the programs funded with CARES Act money have stopped making new loans, the Fed’s weekly H.4.1 balance sheet as of last week shows that it held the following balances in its various emergency bailout programs: Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, $87.32 billion; Commercial Paper Funding Facility, $8.55 billion; Corporate Credit Facilities, $25.85 billion; Main Street Facilities, $30.56 billion; Municipal Liquidity Facility, $10.73 billion; TALF, $4.76 billion; Central Bank Liquidity Swaps, $500 million.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-25-21]

Why Does Anyone Care What Lawrence Summers Thinks?
Barry Ritholtz, June 25, 2021 [The Big Picture]

…I see a public intellectual and policy wonk whose professional history is a continual series of disastrous decision-making across markets, academia, and public policy.

Yes, yes, we all know he is very smart. It helps to think of him as a PC with a super high-powered CPU processor but very crappy software. Worse decisions faster….

But Harvard is only one of the errors that Summers can take credit for: An even bigger problem was his tenure as Treasury Secretary in the late 1990s for the Clinton administration. Summers embraced much of the radical deregulation favored by senator Phil Gramm and then-Fed chair Alan Greenspan. He was at Treasury when the Travelers Citigroup merger was approved, despite a variety of concerns about antitrust issues. (Who thought forming this behemoth was a worthwhile idea?)

That merger effectively violated the Glass Steagall act; approving it ended its enforcement as a viable regulation….

But that wasn’t the only failure from the Summers era. His endorsement of the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (CFMA) was where things really went off the rails….

Restoring balance to the economy 

“California to Pay off all Past Due Rent Accrued During COVID, Giving Renters Clean Slate”

[Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

“Tech crackdown survives House panel’s marathon slugfest”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]

“The House Judiciary Committee voted in the wee hours Thursday to block the hugest tech companies from buying their competitors and disadvantaging their rivals — part of a series of bipartisan moves, stretching overnight toward dawn, aimed at hobbling Silicon Valley’s reigning powers. Still to come later Thursday is a vote on the panel’s starkest proposal: a bill that could make it easier to break up tech giants like Google and Facebook. Taken together, the package of bills would represent the most significant changes to U.S. antitrust law in decades. But reaction throughout the Capitol to the panel’s tech antitrust legislation showed that the effort faces serious friction from lawmakers of both parties, despite years of growing anger at the industry among Democrats and Republicans in Congress. The most notable pockets of resistance during Wednesday’s and Thursday’s 19-plus-hours-and-counting markup came from lawmakers from California, the home base of Google, Facebook and Apple. One lawmaker not on the committee, Silicon Valley-based Democrat Ro Khanna, separately told POLITICO that he will ask a fellow Californian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to retool the legislation.” • Here is an enormous thread on the markup of the bills:

Why Did Congress Just Vote to Break Up Big Tech?

Matt Stoller, June 25, 2021

Stoller had been a leading proponent of reviving anti-trust enforcement and dismantling monopolies.

Schumer Backs Sanders’ Proposal to Include Dental, Hearing, and Vision Care in Medicare

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

The Pandemic

Covid is already deadlier this year than all of 2020. So why do many in U.S. think the problem’s over?

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 6-24-2021]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How America quietly lost 2,700 ships

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2021]

  • Since 1960, America’s cargo fleet has fallen from 16% of the world’s fleet to 0.2%.
  • It’s thanks to the government slashing support of shipping, and the rise of overseas tax havens.
  • Our domestic snubbing of shipping underlies why we’re in a shipping crisis.

The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Court vs. Farmworkers May Foreshadow Court vs. All Workers

Harold Meyerson, June 25, 2021 [The American Prospect]

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed one of its most venerable traditions: upholding the rights of property over the rights of humans, most particularly humans who happen to be employees….

And then as now, agribusiness’s anger at this affront led them to go after the upstarts who dared put workers on the same footing as owners. I know this because it’s part of a story to which I was particularly privy.

In my younger, pre-journalist days, when we still lit our rooms with kerosene lamps, I was a political consultant for a range of progressive causes and candidates in California. In 1986, I ended up running a statewide campaign on behalf of three California Supreme Court justices, all of whom had been appointed by then-former (and later future) Gov. Jerry Brown, and all of whom, under the state’s quirky election laws, had to stand for “retention” that year. Previously, to the best of my knowledge, no state justice had ever faced an electoral challenge to his or her retention, under which process voters simply voted “yes” or “no,” and if “no,” the governor got to choose a successor. But this time around, Republicans and business interests sensed that Brown’s justices were electorally vulnerable and decided to wage an all-out campaign against their retention.

Corporate Media Camouflages The Corporate Court

David Sirota, June 24, 2021 [The Daily Poster]

The Supreme Court’s transformation into a corporate star chamber is rarely mentioned by an elite media owned by corporations and billionaires — but it is a story The Daily Poster has been reporting on since we launched.

Business-related rulings typically are not framed on a liberal-conservative continuum, and in many cases the bloc of putatively liberal justices are siding with corporations against workers, shareholders, and anyone else in society who is not rich and powerful. Indeed, two of the three aforementioned cases this week were 8-to-1 rulings.

Even the Times admitted that “the court’s three Democratic appointees have voted with the majority 73 percent of the time in divided cases” — although the paper casts this as proof of jurisprudential moderation rather than a reflection of corporate capture or bipartisan conservatism….

Thirty years ago, casino magnate Donald Trump helped create a dangerous legal precedent that made it far harder for investors to sue Wall Street firms when those firms use fine print to mislead them with rosy financial projections and promises. In that case — which revolved around assurances that Trump’s company made to investors before they lost their money — Trump secured a landmark ruling from future Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Two decades later, Goldman Sachs was telling clients in investment documents that it has “extensive procedures and controls that are designed to identify and address conflicts of interest.” But then the firm was exposed for betting against the mortgage investments it was selling its clients. During a congressional hearing on the topic, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) grilled a top Goldman executive about the fact that he had pushed investments on clients that he had referred to in an email to a colleague as a “shitty deal.”

Goldman investors led by Arkansas’ teachers pension fund sued  and this week, the Supreme Court effectively solidified the original Trump doctrine. In an opinion written by Justice Barrett, the high court tossed out the class action lawsuit that aimed to hold Goldman accountable.

The Supreme Court Is Closer to a 9-0 Corporatist Supermajority Than a 3-3-3 Split
Alexander Sammon, June 22, 2021 [American Prospect]

Of course, the notion that the Supreme Court has cleaved into a 3-3-3 split—with Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch making up a hard-right sect; Justices Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts as the sober, center-right moderates; and Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor the counterbalancing liberals—is nonsense, and anyone finding solace in these recent rulings is doing so at great risk. The Court, in its most recent decisions especially and in the entire body of work of the Roberts Court broadly, is much closer to a 9-0 corporatist supermajority than some evenhanded triad. Liberals may be desperately hoping for some conservative wedge that will solve their problems without having to do anything, but that won’t solve the many problems of our unbalanced judiciary.

Information Age Dystopia

Uber and Lyft Donated to Community Groups Who Then Pushed the Companies’Agenda

[The Markup, via Naked Capitalism 6-20-2021]

The ride-hail giants are orchestrating a complex PR scheme to sway public opinion to ensure drivers aren’t classified as employees

The Co-op Movement Is Taking On Big Tech

Amelia Pollard, June 24, 201 [The American Prospect]

Like many co-ops arriving on the market, the Drivers Cooperative is pitched as a more equitable antidote to the notoriously exploitative practices of its competitors, chiefly Uber and Lyft. The Drivers Cooperative’s members are paid a significantly larger commission on each ride, and any profits go straight to the drivers. With 2,500 drivers, the new co-op has already established itself as a force to be reckoned with.

The idea of a cooperative business, or co-op, sounds almost utopian: a shared-ownership model where profits are distributed to various stakeholders as opposed to shareholders only. Instead of an oligarchy—as is the case with Bezosworld, for instance—cooperatives are democratic. The collective group of owners—the workers, consumers, or small-business owners—share the profits and often have a say in the company’s governance.

“People know it’s better than the winner-take-all extractive economy that we’re in,” says Greg Brodsky.

McGill: The Disinformation Dozen
Barry Ritholtz, June 20, 2021 [The Big Picture]

If you prefer to listen rather than read, here are all of the related Masters in Business interviews with all of your favorite Psychologists & Behavioral Economists. It is a full semester’s worth of material, and you should earn about 12 college credits for listening to all of it….

Last, a short excerpt about Vaccine disinformation on social media from that McGill report I referenced is after the jump.

The Disinformation Dozen are responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content.”

“At the outset of this research, we identified a dozen individuals who appeared to be extremely influential creators of digital anti-vaccine content. These individuals were selected either because they run anti-vaccine social media accounts with large numbers of followers, because they produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or because their growth was accelerating rapidly at the outset of our research in February.

Full profiles of each are available at the end of this report:

1. Joseph Mercola
2. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger
4. Sherri Tenpenny
5. Rizza Islam
6. Rashid Buttar
7. Erin Elizabeth
8. Sayer Ji
9. Kelly Brogan
10. Christiane Northrup
11. BenTapper
12. Kevin Jenkins

“On Booksellers And ‘Fair Trade’”

[The American Conservative, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-24-21]

“Recent issues of TAC have contained lamentations about the disappearance of independent booksellers and Amazon’s near-emerging monopoly on bookselling, with its cancellation of works praising Justice Clarence Thomas and questioning transgender orthodoxy. The usual remedy proposed is voluntary patronage of the few surviving independent booksellers. But it may surprise readers to know that there was once, and still is in many parts of the world, a legal regime, not dependent on government, that accords authors and publishers the means to assure a level playing field in bookselling. That regime is resale price maintenance, once called “fair trade,” that allows publishers to set and enforce firm resale prices for the works they publish. This right does not eliminate competition among booksellers. It curtails price competition to be sure, but diverts it to competition in inventory, pre-sale advice, delivery and other services, and in amenities including social events, book fairs, and book talks.”

With Bezos at the Helm, Democracy Dies at the Washington Post Editorial Board

[Mint Press News, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-2021]

“Internal Amazon documents shed light on how company pressures out 6% of office workers”

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

“Amazon systematically attempts to channel 6% of its office employees out of the company each year, using processes embedded in proprietary software to help meet a target for turnover among low-ranked office workers, a metric Amazon calls “unregretted attrition,” according to internal company documents seen by The Seattle Times. The documents underscore the extent to which Amazon’s processes closely resemble the controversial management practice of stack ranking —in which employees are graded by comparison with each other rather than against a job description or performance goals — despite Amazon’s insistence that it does not engage in stack ranking. The documents also highlight how much of Amazon’s human resources processes are reliant on apps and algorithms, even among the company’s office workforce. And they provide the most detailed picture yet of how Amazon uses performance improvement plans to funnel low-ranked employees out of the company. The company expects more than one-third of employees on performance improvement plans to fail, documents show. Amazon has previously said that its performance improvement plans aren’t meant to punish employees. The policies described in the documents reviewed by The Seattle Times apply to the company’s office workforce, who comprise a minority of Amazon’s roughly 950,000 U.S. employees. Amazon’s warehouses replace workers much more frequently, The New York Times has reported: Before the pandemic, annual turnover rates at Amazon warehouses reached 150%”

“Amazon’s Greatest Weapon Against Unions: Worker Turnover”

[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

“[T]he National Employment Law Project… found that the turnover rate in the local warehouse industry increases significantly when Amazon comes to town. Warehouse churn more than doubled in several California counties after Amazon facilities opened, averaging more than 100%. The Seattle Times conducted its own analysis of Amazon’s workforce data last year, putting the company’s turnover at 111% during the pandemic. A New York Times investigation published this week put the figure even higher, at 150%, showing that Amazon was shedding 3% of its workers every week before the pandemic began…. Under a turnover rate of 100%, every theoretical position inside the warehouse would turn over once in a year, on average. That has huge implications for organizing. …. At an Amazon warehouse, high turnover means a union would be losing cards every day as workers leave and new employees unfamiliar with the campaign replace them. Even if the union manages to win an election, high turnover could hurt its position at the bargaining table if some of the most active organizers have quit or been fired. And churn could even help the employer purge the union from the facility by convincing newer workers to decertify it.”

How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you 

[MIT Technology Review, via The Big Picture 6-124-2021]

Researchers at Northwestern University are suggesting new ways to redress this power imbalance by treating our collective data as a bargaining chip. Tech giants may have fancy algorithms at their disposal, but they are meaningless without enough of the right data to train on.

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Finland Might Have Solved Nuclear Power’s Biggest Problem

[The B1M, via Naked Capitalism 6-23-2021]

While burying nuclear waste might sound alarming and may cause concern to environmental groups, the process at Onkalo is so much more than simply burying the problem.

Based on a Swedish disposal method known as KBS-3, irradiated material is placed into boron steel canisters and enclosed within corrosion-resistant copper capsules before being buried in individual holes and backfilled with bentonite clay – entombing it forever.

Once buried, no further mechanical or human intervention is required to contain the radioactive payload, essentially eliminating one of the biggest barriers many countries have when it comes to adopting nuclear power.

With the capacity to accommodate the last 50 years’ worth of Finland’s accumulated spent fuel and the needs of its existing reactors until at least 2120 – at which time the facility will be permanently sealed – Onlako appears to provide a viable long-term solution to dealing with nuclear waste.

Institutionalists = Obstructionists

The Man Who Controls the Senate

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

Manchin, not Schumer

Manchin’s feud with progressive Democrats centers on a basic difference in their assessment of the Republican Party. To many of his colleagues, the G.O.P. has become an overt enemy of democracy, by perpetuating Trump’s lies about his loss in 2020 and rewriting state laws in ways that could allow them to overturn future elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated plainly, “One hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration,” an echo of his comment, in 2010, that “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.” McConnell, in that view, will never coöperate, because doing so could allow Democrats to win the next elections by claiming policy achievements and a breakthrough in partisan gridlock. Harry Reid, a senator from Nevada for three decades and the Democratic Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015, told me that Manchin underestimates the change in D.C. culture. “We’ve never had it like this before,” he said. “When Lyndon Johnson was Majority Leader for six years, he overcame two filibusters. In my first six years as Leader, I had to face and overcome more than a hundred filibusters. I think that you cannot expect the Senate to be a place where it’s kind of ‘Kumbaya,’ where you hold hands and sing.”

But, when Manchin looks at today’s Republican Party, he sees, almost literally, his neighbors and friends. Since 2000, the congressional delegation of West Virginia has gone from all Democrats to all Republicans—except for him. The state has voted for a Republican in each of the past six Presidential elections, and in 2014 the state legislature flipped to Republican control for the first time since 1931. On January 6th, when word circulated on the Senate floor that Trump supporters had stormed the Capitol, Manchin did not initially assume the worst. “I’ve always been for a good protest,” he recalled. “My instinct was, Let them in! They’re raising all kinds of hell and hollering. Let them in! Let’s talk!” Soon, he glimpsed the horror of it—“Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine our form of government being attacked,” he said—and, during the impeachment trial, he voted to convict. But Manchin never broke faith with the Republican Party, and he was determined to work with it again.

Corporate Lobbyists Declare War On Nina Turner

[The Daily Poster, June 21, 2021]

Corporate Dems and lobbyists for Big Oil, Big Pharma, Fox News and Wall Street are fundraising for Turner’s primary opponent Shontel Brown in the Ohio congressional race.

Progressives Alarmed by Privatization Dub Infrastructure Deal a ‘Disaster in the Making’

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-2021]

“What happened to Glenn Greenwald? Trump happened – and put the left’s priorities to the test”

[Jonathon Cook, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

The problem with characterising Trump as a supremely evil figure is that all sorts of authoritarian political conclusions flow from that characterisation – precisely the political conclusions we have seen parts of the left adopting. Robinson may not expressly share these conclusions but, unlike Greenwald and Taibbi, he has largely ignored or downplayed the threat they present.

If Trump poses a unique danger to democracy, then to avoid any recurrence:

  • We are obligated to rally uncritically, or at least very much less critically, behind whoever was selected to be his opponent. Following Trump’s defeat, we are dutybound to restrain our criticisms of the winner, Joe Biden, however poor his performance, in case it opens the door to Trump, or someone like Trump, standing for the presidency in four years’ time.
  • We must curb free speech and limit the free-for-all of social media in case it contributed to the original surge of support for Trump, or created the more febrile political environment in which Trump flourished.
  • We must eradicate all signs of populism, whether on the right or the left, because we cannot be sure that in a battle of populisms the left will defeat the right, or that leftwing populism cannot be easily flipped into rightwing populism.
  • And most importantly, we must learn to distrust “the masses” – those who elected Trump – because they have demonstrated that they are too easily swayed by emotion, prejudice and charisma. Instead, we must think in more traditional liberal terms, of rule by technocrats and “experts” who can be trusted to run our societies largely in secret but provide a stability that should keep any Trumps out of power.

Yellen: US “out of money!” in August

[Mike Norman Economics, ​​​​​​​June 26, 2021]

Sigh…. they’re beginning to resort to deficit scare again. Yellen needs — desperately needs — to read Mark Blyth’s 2013 book Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea. Or at least watch the damn video…

I know a lot of people — including, ironically, Blyth — are suspicious of Modern Monetary Theory, but, seriously, is there a more effective riposte to deficit scare mongering than MMT? The only criticism I have of MMT so far is that it has yet to incorporate one of the central tenets of civic republicanism: one key duty of government is to actively promote the doing of good. The Constitutional mandate to Promote the General Welfare is what sets the USA as a republic apart from and above all the monarchies, aristocracies, oligarchies, and dictatorships that came before i, and are coming after it — including the corporatist oligarchy that has now replaced the USA republic. 


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-22-21]

Lambert Strether adds this insight: “I think the 1619 Project maps to reparations, and reparations is what the PMC believes will save capitalism. Reading between the lines:”

The Dark Side

Biden DOJ Is Suing Georgia Over Voter Suppression Law, UPDATES Included

poopdogcomedy, June 25, 2021 [DailyKos]

Good collection of Twitter threads, most of which were posted real-time.

Tip of the spear’: Texas governor leads revolt against Biden

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 6-22-2021]

“We are the tip of the spear, we are on the front of the battle lines, no question,” said James Dickey, the former chair of the Texas Republican Party. “With the federal government entirely abdicating their responsibility, that leaves us on the border needing to take up the fight, and Governor Abbott is clearly doing that.”

In part, raising the Texas flag is a return to form for Abbott, who made a political career out of suing the Obama administration. As state attorney general, his posture toward Washington was so hostile that he said of his job in 2013, “I go into the office in the morning. I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.

But in restoring Texas to its place as Washington’s chief antagonist, Abbott is also doing something more revealing: Facing criticism from Republican activists for the mask mandate and business restrictions he imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, he is covering his right flank, while re-elevating immigration and border security — a major concern to Republican base voters — as a national issue. Just as important, he is carving out a distinct lane in the GOP’s presidential sweepstakes at a time when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is beginning to rise in stature among the party grassroots.

“They Seemed Like Democratic Activists. They Were Secretly Conservative Spies.” [New York Times].

Reactionary billionaires hired spies to infiltrate Democratic Party

What the effort accomplished — and how much information Mr. Seddon’s operatives gathered — is unclear. Sometimes, their tactics were bumbling and amateurish. But the operation’s use of spycraft to manipulate the politics of several states over years greatly exceeds the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.

It is also a sign of how ultraconservative Republicans see a deep need to install allies in various positions at the state level to gain an advantage on the electoral map. Secretaries of state, for example, play a crucial role in certifying election results every two years, and some became targets of Mr. Trump and his allies in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

This is a good example of what the true purpose of taxation in a republic should be: to tax large concentrations of wealth punitively enough that such anti-democratic operations cannot be easily funded. There are no circumstances in a republic in which a person with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars is not a potential threat to self-government by millions of other citizens not possessing similar wealth.

As James Madison wrote in April 1787, preparing for the Constitutional Convention in Vices of the Political System of the United States,

“If the minority happen to include all such as possess the skill and habits of military life, & such as possess the great pecuniary resources, one third only may conquer the remaining two thirds.”

This is the age-old problem of oligarchy, and it is exactly what we confront in the Republican Party and runaway economic inequality today. It is exactly why high taxes on the rich are required so that they simply cannot afford to undertake or even contemplate such anti-democratic covert actions, or even massive political organizing and lobbying.  

The real purpose of taxation in a republic is to prevent the emergence of oligarchy. Once you realize this, you can easily see why the conservative / libertarian / Republican dogma of low taxes is always inherently a threat to democratic government.

The Price of No Consequences for Trump

[Slate, via The Big Picture 6-20-2021]

Joe Biden and Merrick Garland are acting like Donald Trump was a crazy dream. But the threat to American democracy will only get worse the longer we ignore it.

Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 6-20-2021]

Election officials and their families are living with threats of hanging, firing squads, torture and bomb blasts, interviews and documents reveal. The campaign of fear, sparked by Trump’s voter-fraud falsehoods, threatens the U.S. electoral system.

Former NRA President Tricked Into Speaking At Fake High School Graduation

[Buzzfeed News, via The Daily Poster 6-26-2021]

“Without realizing it, Keene was actually addressing his comments to thousands of empty chairs set up to represent the estimated 3,044 kids who should have graduated high school this year and instead were killed by gun violence.”

Why The Two-Party System Is Effing Up U.S. Democracy

[FiveThirtyEight, via The Big Picture 6-20-2021]

There’s no shortage of plausible explanations for why U.S. politics has become so polarized, but many of these theories describe impossible-to-reverse trends that have played out across developed democracies, like the rise of social media and the increased political salience of globalizationimmigration and urban-rural cultural divides. All of these trends are important contributors, for sure. But if they alone are driving illiberalism and hyper-partisanship in the U.S., then the problem should be consistent across all western democracies. But it isn’t.…

What’s happening in the U.S. is distinct in four respects.

First, the animosity that people feel toward opposing parties relative to their own (what’s known as affective polarization in political science) has grown considerably over the last four decades. According to a June 2020 paper from economists Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, the increase in affective polarization in the U.S. is the greatest compared to that of eight other OECD countries over the same time period….

Third, more so than in other countries, Americans report feeling isolated from their own party….

Fourth, and perhaps most significant, in the U.S., one party has become a major illiberal outlier: The Republican Party. Scholars at the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have been monitoring and evaluating political parties around the world. And one big area of study for them is liberalism and illiberalism, or a party’s commitment (or lack thereof) to democratic norms prior to elections. And as the chart below shows, of conservative, right-leaning parties across the globe, the Republican Party has more in common with the dangerously authoritarian parties in Hungary and Turkey than it does with conservative parties in the U.K. or Germany.

No mention of the crucial role of rich reactionaries in creating and funding the modern conservative movement, which is a repudiation of the Enlightenment, the concept of classic civic republicanism that citizens’ responsibility to community is as important as individual liberty, and the USA republic’s Constitutional mandate to promote the Geberal Welfare. 


Open Thread


Reminder: Prepare for the Forest Fire/Smoke Season


  1. different clue

    There are some self-styled “progressive” DemParty officeholders in the House and maybe even in the Senate.

    The bidenpartisan infrastructure bill is our big chance to find out if the “progressive caucus” members are human progressive humans . . . . or subhuman Democrat subhumans. It is also ” the rest of ours'” chance to see if the particular constituent voters in the particular areas the self-styled “progressive” Democrats come from are prepared to torture and terrorise the self-styled “progressive” Democrats into defeating and killing the privatisation bill, or if they aren’t .

    Ideally, the self-styled “progressive caucus” would all unanimously lie to their DemParty leaders in the House and Senate and trick them into believing that they will vote Yes on the bidenbill. That way, the Majority and Minority Leaders in the House and Senate will not have an accurate picture of what votes have to be traded and tricked around which way. Their designated villains and heroes game will not work if they have fake numbers to base their games on.

    Then the self-styled “Progressive Caucus” would have to vote unanimously all of them aGAINST the bidenbill in order to make very sure that it is very defeated.

    If they do that successfully, then it is fair to call the human progressive humans. If they allow the bidenbill to pass, then they are just more subhuman DemParty subhumans like the rest of the subhuman Democrat subhumans.

    And we will have to work out our own separate personal survival in the radioactive social-economic wasteland which the subhuman “progressive” Democrat subhumans will have co-conspired with the rest of the subhuman Democrat subhumans to have bequeathed us.

  2. bruce wilder

    “Fourth, and perhaps most significant, in the U.S., one party has become a major illiberal outlier: The Republican Party. ”

    1,2,3 were all about how rotten the Democratic Party is (also) but it rarely stops anyone preaching about political polarization from blaming only the Republicans as if the Democratic Party was not pushing the very same policies to enrich the rich and build a fascist state.

  3. bruce wilder

    The Jonathan Cook essay on Robinson v Greenwald is very strongly written.

    The idea that Greenwald and Taibbi have turned to the Right is a way of hiding from the authoritarian and corporate hijacking of the left. It is ugly and says a lot about how useless much of the elite left has become.

  4. bruce wilder

    Resale price maintenance is a terrible practice and ought to be illegal. Rationalizing it as protecting the small retailer is sophistry.

    You want to protect the small, independent retailer, enforce Robinson-Patman Act.

    Don’t have the political power? Ah, that is problem, isn’t it?

  5. Ché Pasa

    Political polarization is all about marketing and believing that the Only Real Problem is the Other Guy.

    Thus the situation in which many believe that Greenwald and Taibbi (among others) have veered Hard Right (which from appearances they have) in order to try to mainstream fascistic Republican power mongering while attempting to destroy the Democrats as The Worst Political Party In All History.

    You get the same sort of thing from “Yves” and “Lambert” at NC, too. I think few observers understand that they are occupying a marketing niche — the virulently anti-Democrat niche that’s been around since the conception of the Intertubes. Sure, it’s unbalanced and polarizing as it’s meant to be. It satisfies a deep contrarian need while at the same time pretending to be objective — when it’s not. Not at all.

    The excuses for Greenwald’s endless anti-Democrat rantings and seeming rightist transformation — Taibbi’s too, but he’s a much better writer — run the gamut from “other people criticize Republicans” to “spreading the word — that I hate Democrats! (?)– among people who otherwise wouldn’t hear it” (on Fox? That’s all they hear, 24/7)

    It doesn’t take long for this sort of thing to become a parody of itself.

    Jonathan Cook’s defense of Greenwald is interesting because I don’t think they got along. But time heals all wounds….

    For one thing, Cook claims that there’s some sort of “new industry” asserting Greenwald has become some sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing doing the Right’s bidding. Uh. No. This is not new at all.

    Greenwald essentially lost whatever cred he had maintained among the so-called “left” with his poorly argued but insistent defense of the abominable Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of corporate funding of politicians and political campaigns. This was quite a long time ago now, no? And we’ve seen the results, haven’t we? Over and over again.

    He never tried to regain a “leftist” audience. He’s veered corporatist and rightist ever since, in part because “that’s where the money is.” That’s where the power is. That’s where he’s been welcomed and curried and made to feel strong and important and well “loved.”

    It’s made him very rich as well.

    There are practical considerations after all.

    Most of the rest of Cook’s defense of Greenwald and Taibbi does little more than reinforce a narrative of Intrepid Journalists against the Titans of Media, ie: the all powerful Other — it’s essentially bullshit, but what the heck? It’s part of The Business. An objective view would see it for what it is, but that isn’t the game being played. No, it’s all about enhancing polarization for power. Power, it seems, is fully corporatist and rightist these days. The meaner and nastier, the better.

  6. Astrid


    What’s there of the American left anyways? As Bruce said, it’s just a bunch of corporate MIC compromised authoritarians with the memory capacity of mayflies and can’t build a coalition to build anything constructive (but great for dogpiles against anyone they perceived as damaged goods). Why would Greenwald or Taibbi or Dore or Joe Rogan care about the sensibilities of the “mainstream” “left”?

    Still, I’m not sure where you’re seeing this right bent by Taibbi, or even Greenwald. Greenwald had always had bad opinions on lots of things, but seem to have enough courage and smarts to break some of the biggest stories in our times. I regularly read Taibbi and listen to “Useful Idiots” and I don’t detect any sort of right wing shift, only justifiable disgust for what Democrats have become.

  7. js

    The problem is much of what we get from the Dem party is bad. So it needs someone hitting that hard, where everywhere strictly partisan and pro-Dem won’t, which is much of the (not strictly right wing) media.

    But the other problem is many who would critique that refuse to see any evil from the Republican party. So the actual niche that needs filling, the reality based community haha, isn’t filled for the most part. Nor does almost anyone have a plan for action to try to improve things. It’s not even that I expect some miracle plan. It’s just that action is NEVER talked about. There’s just a lot of cynicism going round in round in an ever smaller information bubble. And sure it helps the right, because if they aren’t so bad afterall, and no action can be taken anyway …

  8. Ché Pasa

    It’s rightist for the same reason defending Citizens United is corporatist/rightist, for the same reason serving corporatist interests (which Greenwald and Taibbi most certainly did as Omidyar’s …mmm… pets?) is rightist, for the same reason appearing on rightist media over and over again to trash Democrats (fairly or not) and reinforce rightist narratives is objectively rightist.

    Same reasons Robinson is getting into in his piece that Cook is criticizing.

    Does that mean either Greenwald or Taibbi are politically rightist themselves? I honestly don’t know whether they are or not and don’t much care. They share a libertarianism that is sometimes neutral/antagonistic about the two major American parties (both suck, both serve the same masters, both are bad) but Greenwald, Taibbi, and a few others function as rightist cheerleaders by adopting rightist tropes, believing (or appearing to believe) and advancing rightist narratives, and using their platforms to criticize only Dems, essentially ignoring the many (R) elephants in the room and especially their corporate sponsors.

    In the media marketing context they are niche contrarians. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but it doesn’t make them objective nor are their observations and opinions necessarily less partisan and polarizing than those they oppose.

  9. nihil obstet

    On resale price maintenance — the powers that be appear to be adopting the principle that all value should be owned by the upper class. The lower classes have no right to ownership of anything. Anything used by the lower classes is regarded as rental. The bought Congress and the lickspittle courts have extended copyright beyond any of our lives, allowed the patenting process to be gamed by those with resources, and tried to eliminate our right to repair what we think we own. We are serfs on the lords’ world.

  10. Astrid


    The cost of detaching completely from corporate interests is that you become a Jonathan Cook or Ian Welsh, or maybe a Julian Assange. The MSM and the mainstream left “unpersons” you and your suffering will go unnoticed but by a diminishingly few. I don’t expect that level of personal sacrifice and martyrdom to respect another person. It is enough for me that they occasionally tell important truths and acts in a generally principled way. I think Greenwald and Taibbi meets that threshold, even if I agree with Greenwald on very little beyond decay of MSM and procedural due process in the US.

    As for Taibbi. He’s definitely not a right-winger and nowadays, is not shilling for any corporation. He’s assumptions might be more liberal than mine, but his positions always seems reasonable and just. You should try reading some of them before you dismiss him it of hand.

  11. NR

    Greenwald, Taibbi, and a few others function as rightist cheerleaders by adopting rightist tropes, believing (or appearing to believe) and advancing rightist narratives, and using their platforms to criticize only Dems, essentially ignoring the many (R) elephants in the room and especially their corporate sponsors.

    Indeed, I lost whatever little respect I had left for Greenwald when he said nothing about Trump’s pardon of Evan Liberty and the rest of the Blackwater war criminals. War crimes is something that he used to care passionately about (or at least he wrote as if he did), and if GW Bush or Obama had done the same thing, Greenwald would have (rightly) raked them over the coals for it and he would have talked about it extensively for months. But Trump does it, and… silence.

    That was when all doubt was removed that Greenwald is anything but a right-wing hack these days.

  12. NR

    It is enough for me that they occasionally tell important truths and acts in a generally principled way.

    What was principled about Greenwald’s silence regarding Trump pardoning literal war criminals?

  13. Astrid

    Greenwald is a journalist, not a politician or professional pundit. He doesn’t have to opine on everything. Silence does not mean agreement and even agreement to bad positions doesn’t mean the person is incapable of good actions. I judge Greenwald based his publication of big, important stories, stories that likely wouldn’t see the light of day but for him. The other stuff is just fluff and his opinions wouldn’t have changed anything, just as Democratic Kabuki and wet noodle slaps never changed anything for the better.

  14. Astrid

    Democrats supported illegal wars in Syria and Yemen, voted for right wing judges, against minimum wage raise or M4A, far greater betrayals of their base than anything Greenwald might have owed his readership.

    As to why some on the left focus their criticism on the Dems rather than GOP. Might it be because we never voted GOP because they are freaking evil. But the Democrats betrayed our trust and gaslights us at every turn, and is functionally just as evil as Republicans. Why does that not justify additional scorn for their hypocrisy and lies?

    For anyone still defending the Democrats at this point, even if just relative to Republicans, I hope you will consider how much of your identity is coming from “we’re not them” and how much is from actually wanting to win something real.

  15. NR

    Sorry, but “Greenwald doesn’t have to opine on everything” is an incredible copout. He has no problem on opining on every little thing Democrats do and shitting on them at every single opportunity (which, to be fair, there are a lot of). But war crimes are probably the single thing Greenwald has written most about over the years, and Trump’s pardon of the Blackwater war criminals was a huge story when it happened. His silence on the matter was absolutely deafening.

    There was no “principle” behind Greenwald’s silence over Trump pardoning literal war criminals. Only the calculation that if he went after Trump, it would mean the end of his Fox News consulting gigs and loss of a lot of $$$ from his right-wing Substack subscribers.

  16. js

    I really don’t think the defense of “oh I vote for Dems and not Reps, that’s why I’m hard on Dems” makes any sense in the realm of being a public commentator, even if it was true that one only votes Dem. It’s getting all wrapped up in the egoism of your vote (omg my vote, MY precious vote was wasted!!!) rather than even trying to parse out the big picture of what goes on in politics. I mean I vote and all that but … really.

  17. Ché Pasa

    A) Greenwald is not “left” and never has been. Like plenty of libertarians, he doesn’t mind being marketed as a big ol’ Leftist, but he is not, and usually doesn’t say as much. (Sometimes in the past he or his familiar Mona would say so, but not as far as I know recently.)

    B) The reaction to his defense of the Citizens United decision more than a decade ago was swift and severe and lost him what had been up to then a decent sized if shrinking “left” audience. His criticisms of Obama had already diminished the number of his fans he had gained from his earlier anti-Bush/Cheney phase.

    C) But his defense of Citizens United was very pleasing to corporatists and rightists, so, being ambitious and no fool, he did what anyone in his position would do: went with what would pay him well and where he would be lionized/respected. He obviously doesn’t need a so-called “leftist” audience, so fuck ’em, right? Ah, but the rightists present him as a “leftist”, no? It’s bullshit.

    D) What, exactly, did the Snowden revelations of mass surveillance and government lies and coverups result in? It was his big prize-winning get, after all. Has surveillance decreased? Has the NSA been shuttered? Have the perpetrators of all this surveillance been punished? Nah. By all objective standards, surveillance has increased and become more pervasive. He never had any idea what to do about it, claiming it wasn’t his job to do something about it; he was just a simple reporter 😉 living in Brazil.

    E) From what I’ve seen, he’s done some good work in Brazil (good for him), but nothing like it in the US. I remember some of his readers telling him to focus on where he was, Brazil, because he clearly had no idea what was going on in the US.

    Just don’t let his marketing image fool you.

  18. Astrid

    My understanding is that Greenwald is focused on coverage of war crimes, rather than the crimes themselves. Trump’s pardoning of war criminals was big news and not lacking for coverage, so why is Greenwald responsible for weighing in and as you say, upset his applecart? I didn’t say he was a saint, just keeping mum on a peripheral matter that doesn’t discredit him in my eyes or make him less effective in his core competency. Why should he immolate himself on his remaining platforms for reaching a mass audience, to please people who would hate him no matter what he does and who dismisses him despite Snowden troves (yes, there definite issues with what didn’t get published, that’s my biggest concern with Greenwald) and lava jato.

    Also, can you point me to where Greenwald received payment for his Fox appearancesir consulting work? I didn’t find any evidence of this and did find a 2019 tweet where he expressly denied talking payment.

  19. Plague Species

    Greenwald is a journalist.

    No, he is not, despite what Twitter says or you say. He’s an opportunistic huckster. Pasa is spot on.

    The meme and narrative that is currently being played for all its worth by faux anti-establishment Alt Media Rebels is censorship. They’re whining they’re being censored. And yet they’re making out like bandits. Their audiences are burgeoning. Glenn Greenwald, for example, consistently plays the victim card. He cries a river he’s being censored on the one hand, and yet on the other he has garnered a large enough audience, he boasts of $500,000 in subscription revenue yearly on Substack.

    Censor me, please. I could really use $500,000 yearly. It would help me get my sorely-needed knee operation and my wife would be able to see a gynecologist and hopefully catch ovarian cancer early before it’s too late.

    Also, Glenn has the vaunted Twitter check indicating he is a somebody. The way I view the Twitter check is, aliens are occupying our planet and they have designated those who will live, and those who will die. Those who will live, for now at least until the great culling is complete, receive Twitter checks. They are the influencers chosen by the aliens to pacify the population until the culling is complete.

    Glenn, like Obama and Biden and Hillary and Bill, is one of the Chosen Ones. He’s been chosen by the alien overlords to deliver you lock, stock and two smoking barrels to the metaphorical gas chambers and crematoriums and he’s getting rich doing it and feeding his massive ego at your expense in every way.

  20. NR

    Why should he immolate himself on his remaining platforms for reaching a mass audience, to please people who would hate him no matter what he does and who dismisses him despite Snowden troves (yes, there definite issues with what didn’t get published, that’s my biggest concern with Greenwald) and lava jato.

    You were the one who was just saying Greenwald was principled. A principled person would do the right thing regardless of the potential consequences they would face. And the fact that you said Greenwald would have been “immolating” himself by calling out Trump’s pardoning of war criminals means I guess you acknowledge the fact that most of his readers are right-wingers who would not tolerate even the slightest criticism of Trump, so I’m curious as to why you feel such a need to defend him.

    And I never said he gets paid directly for his appearances on Fox News. But appearing on Fox News makes him more visible to right-wingers who will think “hey, this guy hates Democrats just like I do, I’m going to subscribe to his Substack.” He makes a lot of money from Substack; PS’s link indicates he admits to $500k per year, but I’ve seen estimates that it could be as high as $2 million per year. I guess Greenwald decided that that much cash trumps having principles.

  21. Astrid

    Fox News watchers’ idea of leftie isn’t exactly coherent. Then again, neither are those of the American left these days. But Greenwald had been pretty consistent about what he is and what he believes, he didn’t sell me on lies about what he is and is not. I don’t agree with him a lot of times, but I don’t see ball hiding or fudging information, as is common in MSM. Admittedly I don’t normally follow him closely. I don’t care about his opinion on things outside of his expertise. I care that he picked up the lava jato story and hopefully Brazil will have a left wing government soon.

    As for why I care about the lies of Democrats more than lies of Republicans. It’s the same reason why I care more about what the US government is doing than what “dictators” in Venezuela, Iran, China, Russia, Syria (though it’s really unfair to lump these rational state actors with Republican crazies) are doing. It’s because I can’t and shouldn’t be expected to control the other side, but the fact that those supposedly on my team are, for all intents and purposes, just as bad and twice as dishonest, that is deeply upsetting to me and I feel probably many younger left leaving people who have seen through the blind.

  22. NR

    The only thing Greenwald believes in these days is raking in tons of cash by pandering to a right-wing audience. At least when it comes to American politics.

    And if Democrats and Republicans both lie, but you only attack Democrats for it, it just enables Republicans to lie more. Wrong is wrong and should be criticized regardless of who’s doing it.

  23. Astrid

    You certainly implied it by saying Fox News consulting and time it into a sentence about money.

    I mean immolate as in, when the only major media outlet you have access to is Fox News, you don’t burn your access to that outlet on a pointless gesture like criticising Trump for something that everyone already knows he’s doing. Greenwald’s departure from The Intercept show he is willing to sever his ties to lucrative relationships when he thinks there’s a sufficiently important principle at stake. Antagonizing Fox News in a way that doesn’t widen or deepen the public’s knowledge about Trump, but could very likely result in reduced ability to publicize future stories and positions, would be foolish. Again. Greenwald’s interest is in the secrecy and illegality of war crimes, not Donald Trump’s constitutionally given right (yes, morally reprehensible, but scolding Trump wouldn’t change his mind and is an absolutely empty gesture) to pardon start sanctioned murderers.

    As for my definition of principled, it means being largely honest and forthright about what he’s doing. It means being largely consistent and not having a track record of retractions and lies. It doesn’t mean agreeing with me on everything or martyring himself on every liberal cause, especially when liberals will hate him anyways (and perhaps justifiably so, Citizens United is a horror).

  24. someofparts

    Astrid – Well, my hat is off to you for making good-faith arguments here.

    Hope you saw Rogan’s two-hour emergency podcast with Bret Weinstein and Dr. Pierre Kory. It includes a link to a list of sources for purchasing Ivermectin. I plan to get it to protect myself from the mRNA vaccinations I’ve already had.

    The funny thing is that I still mask when I go out to shop, even though I’m vaccinated. I always explain it by saying that I just don’t trust anything our public health officials are telling us and everyone, absolutely everyone I say that to agrees with me.

    When people that I have never trusted tell me not to listen to people who do seem reliable, well the choice there is a no-brainer to me. It’s like Greenwald said, that with some people, if they tell me the sun is shining, I check outside to be sure.

    And now, having posted this, I expect to get some practice keeping my scrolling-past-tendentious-nonsense skills sharp.

  25. Astrid

    You seem very fixated on what liberal critical comedians, podcasters, and substack writers make, rather than focus on the substance and truthfulness of their products. Are you as upset about the revolving door between politics, think-tanks, MSM, and FIRE? Or that perhaps that revolving door and campaign funding in this country is why all US politicians betray 99% of their electorate 100% of the time?

  26. Astrid

    I have specifically address why I and many others are not interested in equal time on criticizing both sides. I already know GOP is evil, I don’t need to waste more of me time wallowing in their specific evilness. Did that 2001-2008, wasted way too many hours of my youth on liberal sites that tore down their masks as soon as Obama was installed.

    What’s alarmed me until the last a few months is constantly learning that the Democrats are more flawed, incompetent, conflicted, etc. than I imagined. Until I just realized that they’re exactly as evil and unredeemable as Republicans. Somehow this realization had brought me a sense of peace.

  27. Trinity

    No better way to divide and conquer a populace than to be very unclear about your values. It leads to endless discussions about who is on who’s side, who is right and who is wrong. And makes some people with shifting value systems very rich. And speaking of shifts, it gets difficult to even understand the new meanings now assigned to old phrases.

    “Nor does almost anyone have a plan for action to try to improve things.” This is the real problem, not what some rich guy says or said. I wish we actually had a (real) plan to talk about.

    But I can’t see how Brazil is improving in any way, shape, or form. I may have missed something important, because my perspective is ecological, usually.

  28. NR

    It means being largely consistent

    But that’s just it–Greenwald is not consistent at all. He had a strong and admirable stance against war crimes committed under GW Bush and Obama, but when Trump pardons actual war criminals, he has no problem with it. That isn’t even remotely consistent.

  29. Ché Pasa

    Not only that, Trump encouraged His Generals to commit war crimes and some complied. As usual, since it had to do with Trump, Glenn was silent — as were, it must be said, all Republicans and most Democrats.

  30. Astrid


    If Greenwald made his name covering war crimes and not just the reporting and concealment of war crimes, then perhaps there is more moral impetus to speak. I don’t remember this but I haven’t closely followed Greenwald’s early career so perhaps I missed this. It seems like he went off to find Intercept Brasil in 2016 and went off my radar until the lava jato reporting.

    In the example you have given, you were condemning him for failure to performatively condemn Trump in a meaningless way, and in a manner that may jeopardize his primary mass media platform. I see no reason why he should have to fall on his sword to appease liberal sentiments, when they don’t demand it of their politicians and pundit class.


    Yes, much of the time, I look at a situation like Gaza or India or Venezuela and think how much it’s going to matter if climate change catches up with us. But then, my husband and I are still working and putting money aside in our retirement fund. We don’t know when the next cliff will be. It*might* be less bad than we think even if that seems unlikely. In any case, a left government might enable relatively better lives for more people for a few years. That reduction of suffering is worth something in itself.


    All offensive wars, especially those against countries half way around the world who never posed a threat to the US, are crimes. They’re all guilty. Trump embraced the ugliness, but they’re all ugly and rotten inside, all of them.

  31. Astrid


    Yep, we’re vaccinated but are wearing N95 for shopping trips and no indoor dining for the foreseeable future. I am glad to have the opportunity to stock up on N95 masks as I plan to wear them when I have to go back to the office.

  32. bruce wilder

    Thank you, Astrid for carrying the torch. Good job.

    Jonathan Cook, in his essay, was particularly good on Russiagate and the political dynamic it represents and helped implement.

  33. NR

    In the example you have given, you were condemning him for failure to performatively condemn Trump in a meaningless way, and in a manner that may jeopardize his primary mass media platform.

    It would have been no more or less meaningless than anything else he’s ever said. And for him to prioritize keeping his primary mass media platform over doing the right thing is pretty much the exact opposite of being principled.

  34. someofparts

    Thankyou to all of you who can do what is so valuable that I could never do – Astrid, Bruce, Ian, Taibbi, Greenwald, Krystal and Saagar.

  35. Astrid


    Well, we’re just going to have to disagree. I care about results. I don’t care about Greenwald wasting his limited leverage condemning Trump for something that’s there for all to see and decide for themselves, to uphold some standard of conduct that I don’t see as central to his persona. I don’t care about him at all except for Snowden’s story about government surveillance, his story about behavior of his colleagues at The Intercept, and Lava Jato. I care that his stories are accurate and impactful. I care that he is one of the remaining voices consistently critiquing the hypocrisy and lack of consistent standards in the MSM and US government. If he can do that, I think he’s overall a good thing and I really don’t care what he say and don’t say on Fox, as long as he’s not lying and spreading falsehoods that destroy lives and start wars like Rachel Maddow and NYT.

  36. Astrid

    Now if Greenwald or Taibbi joins Bellingcat, then I would absolutely wash my hands of them and be suspicious of anything they publish. But for merely appearing on Fox shows when the rest of the MSM shun them? Or pointing out that Democrats do shitty things without performatively criticizing Republicans each time? I really don’t care.

  37. someofparts

    I just read the Jonathan Cook post again, including watching the video. At the end of it, where Greenwald is talking to Krystal Ball, she makes a point that gets to the heart of things for me.

    She said that even allowing that all of us agree that we want to make sure Trump never becomes President again, abusing and banning anyone who disagrees with us is not the way to do it.

    While her critic was freaked out that she gave her right-wing podcast co-host credibility by doing a show with him, she pointed out that it works the other way too. Right-wing people who only know liberals as these scary boogeymen from their media start to be more open to left-wing thinking when they have a chance to see her.

    Speaking as someone old enough to have grown up in the Jim Crow South, I can testify that this is exactly how it works. The first step I took out of raacist thinking came when I worked beside black people for the first time. After that, the kind of offhand racist talk I grew up around became intolerable.

  38. Stirling Newberry

    The People United Will Never be Defeated… if you say so…

  39. Plague Species

    …abusing and banning anyone who disagrees with us is not the way to do it.

    That’s rich coming from you and your friends here. The hypocrisy is so stark you need a chainsaw to cut through it.

    The “t” word is the new “n” word. Once a racist, always a racist in one form or another.

  40. Ché Pasa

    Part of the problem is that Greenwald is not the image presented of him on either the mainstream rightist or mainstream “leftist” media. At least in the past, he was aware of this, sometimes played into it, other times tried to correct it. He’s not a “leftist,” he’s not a liberal, he’s not a progressive, and he’s not a Democrat. He’s not an ogre either, although I have witnessed some of his abusive behavior. He’s not a skilled writer, he’s not (much) of a journalist. He is a fierce debater and opinionator who is able, like any lawyer, to argue any side of an issue, but who chooses for whatever reason to argue the side that is contrary to “conventional wisdom” and “norms.”

    These days, that means he argues against Democratic candidates, office holders, policies, platforms and actions as well as any media on their side or seeming to be on their side, and he defends pretty much anything which goes against them. Including Trump, Republicans and rightist-corporatists.

    That’s classic contrarianism. There is a market for it — as we see right here in comments. Greenwald is exploiting that market. Bless his heart.

    He did not leave the Intercept because he was being censored. He left, he said, because Betsy wanted his work to be edited. Throughout his writing career refused to be subject to editors and there are claims there was a contract that prohibited editing his work at the Intercept. If so, it’s surprising he just up and left rather than sue. But soon enough it became clear that Substack had made him an offer he’d be a fool to refuse. Sic transit and all that. I suspect by that point, Pierre was tired of him anyway.

    I think some people confuse him with some of the people he’s defended like Assange and Manning. He hasn’t really focused on coverage of war crimes himself, but he’s defended some of those who have brought war crimes to light and he’s excoriated media and military and government officials who have lied about or covered up war crimes and who have prosecuted/persecuted those who have brought them to light. To his credit, during his anti-Bush/Cheney phase, he also criticized media as well as Republican and Democratic politicians who went along with the lies and crimes of the Bush/Cheney regime.

    Over time, that changed, and his criticism became almost exclusively focused on Democrats and “liberal” media to the point where he became an active enabler of rightist-authoritarian politicians (like Trump) and their media boosters. That’s where he’s found a loyal and consistent audience, and he’s stuck with it.

    Astrid’s defenses of Greenwald echo the usual defenses of him I’ve seen throughout his post-attorney career. He’s principled — that’s a matter of opinion. He’s consistent — really? He’s a truth-teller — he lies, fabricates, and fantasizes too. He gets his message (“bad media, bad Democrats”) where it needs to be heard (ie: Fox) from a “lefty-liberal” — which is simply false; he’s nothing of the kind.

    I was close enough to one of the stories he was flogging (albeit some years back) to see how one-sided, sometimes false, and ultimately unhelpful his tirades, lashing-out, and bullshit was. In other words, he made things worse, not better, and throughout, he made it a point to inject poison. When it was pointed out what he was doing wasn’t helping, he didn’t care. He was on a mission/crusade. Some of us were convinced he was drugged up or had lost his mind. That’s when I backed away. There was nothing positive about what he was doing.

    On the other hand, I thought his interviews with Lula and Dilma in Brazil were outstanding, and his work to expose the corruption of the Lavajato investigations and the Bolsonaro regime was essential.

    With Greenwald, it’s a mixed bag.

  41. Plague Species

    I really don’t care.

    That is plainly obvious.

    The Alt Media hucksters like Greenwald and Dore could be issue focused versus Dem-slamming, but they choose the latter. They choose the latter, because that’s where the money is. It feeds their audience. It’s what their audience wants. That’s hardly objective and informative.

    Healthcare is an excellent topic and issue. It is ripe for critical analysis. Always has been. And that critical analysis indicts both sides of the same political coin.

    The ACA is a flawed approach to healthcare. Universal healthcare is the way to go. The Canadian model, in fact. But the ACA has been better than nothing, despite all its failings. McDonald Trump and the Republicans want us to have NOTHING. There is a difference even though both offerings are shit. One offering is NOTHING and the other offering is NEXT TO NOTHING. The Republicans and McDonald Trump especially have tried to undermine the ACA from the get-go just as the Republicans set out to undermine the New Deal once it was policy 70 years prior. McDonald Trump stopped funding the Cost Sharing Reduction subsidy that allowed low income folks to truly have affordable insurance that wasn’t catastrophic coverage. As a result of eliminating the subsidy, insurance companies fled the exchanges and now, once again, low income folks do not have access to affordable policies but instead are forced to take part in a scam where the federal government pays exorbitant advance tax credits to Centene for what is effectively ridiculously expensive catastrophic coverage that will not be used except in the case of a life-threatening illness because of the ridiculously high deductibles.

  42. Plague Species

    Greenwald especially has picked up where Hitchens left off. Hitchens carved out a niche for himself that kept him relevant and paid his burgeoning bar tab. I’ll never forget Hitchens subjecting himself to waterboarding after marginalizing it and claiming it wasn’t torture and everyone who was saying it was, was a pussy.

    I’m waiting for Glenn to pull a similar stunt and put his fortune where his mouth is.

  43. Astrid


    Thanks for sharing your insight. In my view, your experience is far more damning of Greenwald’s character than his participation on Fox News or his failure to make ritualistic condemnations. That’s especially the case if he’s been dishonest in his reportage in order to make the facts fit his narrative or makes himself look better. It may be that he’s just a run of the mill asshole who just broke a few big stories the right way, and I’m only judging him based on those big stories.

  44. js

    There is absolutely nothing performative whatsoever with criticizing Republicans when they are actually the one’s in power as in the Trump years. In fact not criticizing them when they hold the power seems hopelessly out of touch.

  45. different clue

    About disappointment with Greenwald and stuff . . .

    To paraphrase what Donald Rumsfeld once said . . . .” You go to brainwar with the journalists you have, not the journalists you wish you had or would prefer to have at some later time.”

  46. different clue


    If a Brazilian majority removes Bolsonaro and the Bolsonaranons from power, and restores Lula or some other Lulaform officeholder to power, Lula or that other Lulaform officeholder might try restoring the lulaform pro-ecology policies that Bolsonaro removed.

    And that could have an ecological impact.

  47. different clue

    I will copy-paste a comment from a NaCap thread which makes it look like Pelosi-of-the-House might save us from the Yeltsin Bidenbill for various reasons unknowable to me. If I am interpreting this comment correctly, this would be a case of a bad person doing a good thing, even if for bad reasons or totally by accident.

    If it looks like Pelosi really will contracept and abort the Senate’s Yeltsin Bidenbill, then those of us who want to obstruct Biden’s privatization agenda should support and encourage Pelosi every way we can in her rejection of the Yeltsin Bidenbill.

    ” Katniss Everdeen
    June 26, 2021 at 11:20 am
    The “lefties” in congress???

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw cold water on the notion that the House of Representatives would take up the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure deal Thursday — unless the Senate also passed the Democrats’ reconciliation bill.

    “Let me be really clear on this,” she began, “We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill. If there is no bipartisan bill, then we’ll just go when the Senate passes a reconciliation bill.

    If it was a prize fight….. “

  48. different clue

    By the way, I have decided to offer a new acronym in case anyone is interested.

    SDSS. Stands for Subhuman Democrat Scum Subhumans. SDSS.

    And if Pelosi ends up getting the House to assassinate the Senate’s SDSS Yeltsin Bidenbill, then I will exempt her for a while from that dishonorific.

  49. Astrid


    It’s absolutely performative if they complain and fund raiser on bad Republicans, then support people who vote in for bad Republican legislation and bad Republican judges. Or just memoryhole Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian income. Greenwald taking a position on Trump pardons wouldn’t have made any difference in anybody’s mind about Trump, but could get him kicked off of Fox News and make it harder for him to publicize the lava jato story, which *might* actually matter for the future of Brazil.

    In a perfect world, I would like my public figures to all be as personally blameless as Jeremy Corbyn and as effective as FDR, and maybe as good de-Kulakization as Stalin, Mao, and Castro. In this world, I’ll settle for people who occasionally do actual good once in a while. Greenwald meets this criteria at a 10,000 foot level.

  50. Astrid

    Though, Castro was too merciful. The Baptistas in Florida did great harm to the Cubans in Cuba after the breakup of the USSR.

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