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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 30 2024

by Tony Wikrent

 

The (anti)Federalist Society assault on the Constitution

[TW: There were a number of articles and videos in which people complained that “this Supreme Court is out of control.” I do not think such framing is useful. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court is very much in control of itself, and is carefully and deliberately implementing the hostile philosophy of government propounded by conservative, anti-republican theorists ever since Thomas Paine clashed with Edmund Burke, after Paine met Burke, and realized Burke may have been sympathetic to the American revolt against corrupt King, Parliament, and ministries, but was actually implacably hostile to the philosophy of self government of civic republicanism.

[Almost all of USA political history includes the background of this clash between the republicanism of Paine and the conservativism of Burke. Conservatism is simply philosophically hostile to the American experiment in republican self government. It is why conservatives argue that the Preamble of the Constitution is a meaningless flourish; that the General Welfare mandate and clause are dangerous mistakes that enable an overpowering “administrative state” and that the powers bestowed by the Constitution on the government are “strictly enumerated” and limited, not broad grants of legitimate power to solve problems not foreseen by the “founding fathers.” The Heritage collaboration with the Center for Renewing America and over 80 other right-wing groups to dismantle the “administrative state” by sharply curtailing government capacity while at the same time misusing executive power to punish political enemies — the infamous Project 2025 plan — is merely the latest development in this centuries-old struggle between conservativism and republicanism.

[There are no Democratic Party leaders I know of — with the notable exception of Representative Raskin (see below) — who discuss these issues of a philosophy for governing. In that sense, all the screaming, hollering, and agonizing over Biden’s awful debate performance is largely meaningless: there is no one in the leadership of the Democratic Party who is even attuned to the conservative / (anti)Republican assault on our government.  ]

‘Gift to Corporate Greed’: Dire Warnings as Supreme Court Scraps Chevron Doctrine

Jake Johnson, June 28, 2024 [CommonDreams]

The high court’s 6-3 ruling along ideological lines in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo and Relentless, Inc. v. Department of Commerce significantly constrains the regulatory authority of federal agencies tasked with crafting rules on a range of critical matters, from worker protection to the climate to drug safety.

The majority’s decision was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

“The weight of human suffering likely to arise from this decision should keep the justices up at night,” said Emily Peterson-Cassin of Demand Progress, a watchdog group that called the decision “a gift to corporate greed.”

“The Supreme Court is threatening safeguards that protect hundreds of millions of people from unsafe products, bad medicines, dangerous chemicals, illegal scams, and more,” Peterson-Cassin added. “By handing policy decisions usually deliberated over by experts to lower level judges, the Supreme Court has set off a seismic political shift that primarily serves only the most powerful corporate interests.”

 

The Supreme Court Upends the Separation of Powers

 

Matt Ford, June 28, 2024 [The New Republic]

Forty years ago, in Chevron v. National Resources Defense Council, the Supreme Court ruled that when a federal agency enforces an ambiguous law, courts must defer to the agency’s interpretation of that law so long as it is “reasonable.” Congress and the executive branch have operated against this backdrop for decades when drafting laws and writing regulations….

Congress writes laws in broad terms. For more than a century, lawmakers have left the precise details of enforcing those laws to a constellation of federal agencies that are staffed by experts and overseen by presidential appointees. The Environmental Protection Agency generally does not need new legislation every time it wants to ban a dangerous air or water pollutant, for example, nor does the Food and Drug Administration need lawmakers’ permission to approve each new drug for medicinal use.

This approach allows federal regulators to respond to new situations as they arise—so long as their actions fall within the original authority granted to them by Congress. So what happens when someone questions the agency’s legal authority to enact a particular rule or regulation? What if an agency enforces its legal authority too broadly in someone’s eyes? The Supreme Court answered that question in the 1984 case that gave “Chevron deference” its name.

Writing for the court, then-Justice John Paul Stevens explained that challenges to an agency’s statutory authority to enact a policy are rarely about statutory questions. Instead, they are often actually challenges to “the wisdom of the agency’s policy.” If the lower courts determine that the agency’s interpretation is “a reasonable choice within a gap left open by Congress,” he wrote, “the challenge must fail.”

Stevens justified this approach in democratic terms. “In such a case, federal judges—who have no constituency—have a duty to respect legitimate policy choices made by those who do,” he concluded, quoting from precedent. “The responsibilities for assessing the wisdom of such policy choices and resolving the struggle between competing views of the public interest are not judicial ones: ‘Our Constitution vests such responsibilities in the political branches.’”

 

Supreme Court strikes down Chevron, curtailing power of federal agencies

Amy Howe, June 28, 2024 [SCOTUSblog]

..The fishermen in both cases were represented at no cost by conservative legal groups, the Cause of Action Institute and the New Civil Liberties Alliance, linked to funding from billionaire and longtime anti-regulation advocate Charles Koch.

 

The Day SCOTUS Became President: The Supreme Court Has Decided They Know More Than Everyone Else About Everything Ever (podcast)

Dahlia Lithwick [Slate, June 29, 2024]

While most everyone was reacting to Thursday’s Presidential debate, we had our eyes trained on the Supreme Court. It was again (surprise!) bad. SCOTUS determined that sleeping outside was illegal in Grants Pass v Johnson. They limited the scope by which insurrectionists could be charged for their actions on January 6, 2021 in Fischer v United States. The unelected robed leaders then laid a finishing blow in Loper Bright Enterprises v Raimondo, overturning the decades-long guidance of the longstanding Chevron doctrine and upending the ways in which government agencies can regulate the things they regulate like; clean air, water, firearms your retirement account and oh, medical care.

This term has signaled something especially troubling. While you can certainly be concerned about Trump or Biden being president once again, you should be more worried about how the justices at the Supreme Court have basically made themselves the end-all-be-all of every legislative matter, regardless who wins presidential contests. It should also come as no surprise who will benefit from these decisions (rich people with yachts).

Host Dahlia Lithwick speaks with Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern and Professor Pam Karlan, co-director of Stanford law school’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic to go over Friday’s rulings and to break down what it means that federal agencies will no longer be able to, you know, do anything reasonable.

 

Who’s Gonna Check the Supreme Court?

Hassan Ali Kanu, June 29, 2024 [The American Prospect]

“Chevron’s presumption is misguided because agencies have no special competence in resolving statutory ambiguities,” the Court wrote in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Secretary of Commerce.

[TW: It is simply absurd to argue that “agencies have no special competence.” Congress has created agencies specifically so that they become centers of special competence in the areas they are supposed to regulate.” See von Mises’s argument about “exaggerated assumptions about the power of human reason and its ability to guide social institutions,” in the excerpt below from Michael J. Thompson’s book, The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America.]

 

Unfathomably Cruel’: Billionaire-Backed Justices Rule in Favor of Criminalizing Homelessness

Brett Wilkins, Jun 28, 2024 [CommonDreams]

 

Sanders Report Details Plot by Right-Wing Billionaires to ‘Sabotage’ Public Education

Jake Johnson, June 25, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Sen. Bernie Sanders released a report Tuesday detailing how right-wing billionaires are bankrolling coordinated efforts to privatize U.S. public education by promoting voucher programs that siphon critical funding away from already-underresourced public schools.

 

The Supreme Court Just Legalized Bribery

Katya Schwenk, June 26, 2024 [The Lever]

The Supreme Court just gutted a key federal bribery statute, handing down a ruling on Wednesday in an obscure corruption case that allows powerful interests to give gifts to politicians as rewards for favors.

The court’s conservative supermajority ruled 6-3 in Snyder v. United States, overturning the 2019 corruption conviction of an Indiana mayor who pocketed $13,000 from a local business tycoon after ensuring the company got a major town contract. The justices ruled that such bribes were not against the law.

As The Lever reported in March, powerful business groups and conservative think tanks helped engineer the new ruling. The effort was part of a decades-long push by corporate interests to limit the scope of laws prohibiting corruption and bribery.

[TW: In The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787, Gordon Wood writes that

These widely voiced fears for the fate of the English constitution… represented the rational and scientific conclusions of considered social analysis… When the American Whigs described the English nation and government as eaten away by “corruption,”  they were in fact using a technical term of political science, rooted in the writings of classical antiquity, made famous by Machiavelli, developed by the classical republicans of seventeenth-century England, and carried into the eighteenth century by nearly everyone who laid claim to knowing anything about politics. And for England it was pervasive corruption, not only dissolving the original political principles by which the constitution was balanced, but, more alarming,  sapping the very spirit of the people by which the constitution was ultimately sustained. (pages 32-33)

 

The Triumph of Corruption 

Jedediah Britton-Purdy [Dissent, Winter 2015]

[Review of  Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United, by Zephyr Teachout (Harvard University Press, 2014) ]

Corruption today represents not a failure of individual ethics, as the Supreme Court renders it, or a side-effect of poorly designed laws, but an intensifying standoff between capitalism and democracy.

 

The Anti-Corruption Principle (pdf)

Zephyr Teachout [94 Cornell Law Review 341 (2008-2009)]

Abstract: There is a structural anti-corruption principle, akin to federalism or the separation-of-powers principle, embedded in the Constitution. The Constitution was designed, in large part, to protect against corruption. This structural principle – like the other structural principles – should inform how judges “do” modern political process cases. This paper documents the corruption concerns at the Constitutional convention in detail. It then examines how the modern Supreme Courts’ conception of corruption is fractured and ahistorical, and has led to an incoherent jurisprudence. Instead of starting with Buckley v. Valeo, as so many modern cases do, the Court should return to the founding purposes and recognize that corruption has constitutional weight.

 

Trump and the GOP Want to Drown the Middle Class in the Bathtub

Thom Hartmann, June 25, 2024 [CommonDreams]

From Trump to Project 2025 to the speeches of multiple Republican senators and members of Congress, you’ll frequently hear the phrase “post-constitutional” applied. They refer to a “post-constitutional moment” and a Republican “post-constitutional presidency.” But what do they mean by this?

In the five decades after the Republican Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter taught America and the world a great truth: a middle class is not a normal thing, and if a country wants one it must be created by direct government intervention in the marketplace….

In the decades immediately following the Civil War, American government was fundamentally altered. The process was sped up with the 16th Amendment, authorizing the income tax, and the 19th Amendment that allowed women to vote. Along with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, these changes provided the basis for the US government to intervene in the “free market” and create America’s first broad middle class.

FDR imposed a top income tax rate of 90 percent on the morbidly rich, 50% on corporate profits, and passed legislation giving average people the right to unionize, balancing the power equation between management and labor.

The result was that by 1980 well over 60 percent of Americans were in the middle class, the majority with a single household income.

This is the series of events to which Republicans object when they say they want to either “return America to constitutional principles” or enter into a “post-constitutional” era, depending on who’s speaking.

Libertarian billionaires consider any interference in the “magical free market” to be a violation of some sort of natural law that creates Dickensian societies with massive concentrations of wealth at the top, widespread poverty among the working class at the bottom, and a small middle class made up almost entirely of entrepreneurs and professional people like doctors and lawyers….

Republicans want to either “return” to a pre-Civil War understanding of the Constitution (as advocated by Clarence Thomas and Sam Alito) or a “post-constitutional” order in which the last century’s “innovations” (including the income tax, women’s suffrage, “welfare” programs, entitlements, and even free public school and college) are ended.

We see this in the ways Republicans on the Supreme Court have gutted both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, how they’ve stripped most of the teeth out of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, and how they’re working to castrate most regulatory agencies including the EPA, FTC, and even the IRS.

Some of it is simple greed: as the middle class shrinks and poverty grows, the cash stash at the very top of the American economic pyramid grows exponentially. Other American oligarchs follow the teachings of Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, and Ronald Reagan who all argued that a larger-than-50% middle class is a threat to the stability of the nation.

 

Thompson, Michael J., The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America, New York, NY, Columbia University Press, 2007.

​​​​​​​It is the entrenchment of liberalism—and its elective affinity with modern capitalism—that has produced the broad acceptance of economic inequality as a just aspect of modern American social organization…. Even at their most radical, Americans rarely moved away from their liberal economic ethic and the emphasis on individual labor as the sole criterion for the accumulation of property…. (pp. 142-143)

These shifts were not simply a matter of a change in economic structure; they were also attributable to the political and cultural change that occurred during the final decades of the twentieth century.8 The retreat from political life and the erosion of the public sphere that has marked the past quarter century in America is a symptom of this change. In American history, as I have shown in preceding pages, economic inequality has always been critiqued, fought against, and denounced from the sphere of politics, but this was a politics of equality premised on equality not as an end in itself but as a quality of freedom, the annihilation of hierarchy, privilege, and servitude. This political vision held that the economy was a set of power relations and was therefore political. The emphasis on economic equality was therefore the outgrowth of the insight that any economy and society marked by social atomism, individualism, and inequality would constitute a movement away from the ideals of political and individual freedom that had always been seen as the heart of America’s republican project. The rise of a consumer society and the erosion of political participation and the public sphere more broadly therefore constitute a cultural component that has found an elective affinity with certain structural elements of the modern American economy…. (p. 146)

…the acceptance of capitalism as a way of organizing society has replaced the older egalitarian ideas upon which American political thought and culture had rested for almost two centuries. (p. 147)

Well before the ideas of thinkers like Friedman and Hayek were to have influence, the ideas of economists like John Bates Clark and Frank Knight were laying a groundwork for what would become a libertarian economic and ethical framework that would overturn the legacy of the political ideas of a “socialized democracy.” For Clark, the key insight was that each factor of production—be it capital or labor—would, under the conditions of an unregulated and freely operating market, receive the proper and just returns to its input….

In the early 1920s, in Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit, Knight put forth a comprehensive theory of laissez-faire with the business entrepreneur at its center. Knight held that individuals in society are unable to have absolute knowledge and information about the world and, therefore, about economic processes. Knight’s epistemological assumptions about subjective knowledge were central to his ethical justification for laissez-faire, and they allowed the doctrine as a whole to regain ascendancy in American economics and, in time, in political and social thought as well. Knight saw that the crucial flaw in the arguments for political intervention in the economy revolved around the concern with uncertainty. Progressive and, in time, New Deal thinkers were arguing for the socialized management of the economy in order to limit what they saw as the excesses and inefficiencies of the market. But for Knight, their policies were plagued by what he viewed as their unscientific and, therefore, potentially damaging nature, namely their idea of the relation between society and individual.  (p. 147)

Knight’s ideas were reflected in Europe with the rise in Vienna of the Austrian School of marginal utility. Thinkers like Carl Menger, August Böhm-Bawerk, Mises, and Hayek would be the most important names to emerge from this school…. (p. 151)

But it was the emphasis on a new synthesis, that of liberalism and unrestrained capitalism, that would make the ideas of thinkers like Mises and Hayek so tempting to Americans and come to change the trajectory of American political thought on the subject of economic inequality in the late twentieth century. It was Mises who, writing as early as 1927 in his book Liberalismus, made one of the first arguments for collapsing liberalism and capitalism into a unified system:
“A society in which liberal principles are put into effect is usually called a capitalist society, and the condition of that society, capitalism. . . . [O]ne is altogether justified in calling our age the age of capitalism, because all that has created the wealth of our time can be traced back to capitalist institutions. It is thanks to those liberal ideas that still remain alive in our society, to what yet survives in it of the capitalist system, that the great mass of contemporaries can enjoy a standard of living far above that which just a few generations ago was possible only to the rich and especially privileged.” (pp. 151-152)

Classical liberalism—as opposed to what Mises saw as the distortion of liberal doctrines of equality that existed at the time, what he ironically termed “neoliberalism”—was therefore at one with capitalism since capitalism was simply the economic system that resulted from free labor, markets, and private property. The illusion of equality outside of the legalistic conception of the individual and his right to property and free labor was not only an absurdity in terms of empirical fact, it was also economically regressive. Mises’s argument in defense of economic inequality would become the standard credo, one that continues to dominate what we today refer to as “neoliberalism” in quite a different context. For Mises, inequality was a social good specifically because it created a dynamic, productive, and creative society: “Only because inequality of wealth is possible in our social order, only because it stimulates everyone to produce as much as he can and at the lowest cost, does mankind today have at its disposal the total annual wealth now available for consumption.” (p. 152)

…. This was at the heart of Hayek’s economic theory and his social philosophy as well. Just as Mises had argued in Liberalismus, Hayek saw that “true” liberalism needed to be recovered, and this meant, first and foremost, a recovery of the idea of the individual, or what Hayek would refer to as “true” individualism. By politicizing the economic sphere, the “social liberals” and social democrats—let alone socialists and communists—of the 1930s and 1940s had made exaggerated assumptions about the power of human reason and its ability to guide social institutions.16 Hayek’s claims therefore would take Knight’s ideas about uncertainty and use them to justify a more comprehensive laissez-faire doctrine. In his reading of Western thought, Hayek wanted to show that thinkers such as Adam Smith, Bernard Mandeville, and David Hume constituted an intellectual tradition that emphasized an essential truth of liberal individualism, namely, that there exists “a constitutional limitation of man’s knowledge and interests, (p. 154)

…the rise of the new doctrine can be seen as the re-suit of the shift from political to economic preoccupations. Mainstream economics had become, with its methodological modernization and its turn toward a new degree of scientific rigor, a discipline that was no longer concerned with how economic systems distributed power. The economic egalitarian tradition in American political thought had always linked economic power with political power, and it was one of the crucial moves of thinkers such as Mises, Friedman, and Hayek that they shifted discussion of power back onto the state and its monopoly on power and coercion. Perhaps even more remarkable was the way in which they seemingly ignored the growing concentration of monopoly capital as American capitalism continued to centralize and make competition in many industries—such as technology, chemicals, and heavy production—increasingly scarce. (p. 169)

 

Jamie Raskin’s Battleplan for Liberals in the War Over the Constitution

Simon Lazarus, June 26, 2024 [Washington Monthly]

In May, Representative Jamie Raskin, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, lead manager in the second impeachment of Donald Trump in 2021, a member of the January 6 Select Committee, and a prolific constitutional law scholar participated in an interview with Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick. The Democrat’s pointed questioning and coiled energy in Congress and on television have made him, arguably, his party’s pointman on legal issues, and his conversation with Lithwick, a veteran legal journalist, merits wide circulation and focused attention from liberals, especially the Maryland congressman’s fellow politicians. Raskin’s remarks—summarized here and streamed here—drew a roadmap for liberals in the war over the Constitution. They should listen to the 61-year-old, who understands that the game is no longer about individual legal issues like abortion or regulation. It is about combatting a movement whose leader has “chosen to set [himself] at war against the Constitution itself.” Raskin counsels that demonizing “originalism,” the banner held high by conservative jurists, is not the best tactic for liberals, however apoplectic they feel in the face of a scandal-prone, super-majority of rightist justices given to incinerating rights and trashing laws.

Instead, Raskin sketched an originalist vision more persuasive than the legally spurious one offered by the right: “If you read the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights and the subsequent amendments the way I do, the vast majority of those seventeen amendments have been democratizing amendments.” The Constitution is not the document proposed by the 1787 convention, Raskin argues, but the entire document, including the “Second Founding” Reconstruction amendments, which abolished “involuntary servitude,” guaranteed U.S. citizenship to all persons born in America or naturalized, guaranteed “equal protection of the law” to all persons (not just citizens), and banned racial barriers to the ballot. It includes the Progressive Era amendments that empowered a national welfare state by validating federal income taxation, mandated popular election of senators, and barred voting discrimination “on account of sex.” Reading the Constitution as a seamless garment means that amendments are on equal footing with prior provisions. “Later generations of constitutional amenders reconfigure the system,” Akhil Amar of Yale Law School has observed.

Amar was among the first of the current generation of liberal originalist academics. (His predecessors include earlier liberal originalists such as the late U.S. Senator and Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and Yale Law professor Charles L. Black). These liberal originalists’ most important contribution may be the insight that constitutional decisions are not made just by judges and lawyers but forged in what Amar has called a “constitutional conversation” and others have labeled “popular constitutionalism.” Reva Siegel and Robert Post of Yale Law School observed that whatever its philosophical or theoretical merit, the “originalism” label has proven a powerful weapon, one that “inspires political mobilization and engagement, [with an] uncanny capacity to facilitate passionate political participation.”

 

Christian Nationalism ‘On the March’: Oklahoma Mandates Bible Teachings in Public Schools

Julia Conley, Jun 28, 2024 [CommonDreams]

“It’s not just happening in Oklahoma; we’re seeing it from Texas to West Virginia, from Florida to Idaho,” said one church-state separation advocate.

 

Strategic Political Economy

The falling birthrate threatens a disaster so costly no politician dares think about it 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 06-25-2024]

[TW: Sigh — the usual establishment pablum, hopelessly lost in a miasma of neo-malthusian misunderstanding and ignorance. ]

 

Global power shift

Southeast Asia has its reasons for pivoting to BRICS 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 06-29-2024]

 

India-Iran makeover dovetails into Iran’s ties with Russia 

[Indian Punchline, via Naked Capitalism 06-29-2024]

 

Ukraine / Russia

U.S. CROSSES REDLINE AND RUSSIA IS NOW READY TO RESPOND WITH FORCE 

Larry Johnson, [A Son of the New American Revolution, via Naked Capitalism 06-24-2024]

 

Gaza / Palestine / Israel

‘Intense phase of war with Hamas about to end,’ focus to shift to Lebanon border, Netanyahu says 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 06-24-2024]

 

Exclusive: Israeli documents show expansive government effort to shape US discourse around Gaza war 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 06-27-2024]

 

C­o­m­p­a­n­i­e­s P­r­o­f­i­t­i­n­g f­r­o­m t­h­e G­a­z­a G­e­n­o­c­i­d­e 

[American Friends Service Committee, via Naked Capitalism 06-29-2024]

 

Oligarchy

‘A paedophile’s playground’: Inside the scandal at King Charles’s old school 

[Telegraph, via Naked Capitalism 06-25-2024]

 

The Corporate Power Brokers Behind AIPAC’s War on the Squad

Branko Marcetic, June 3, 2024 [inthesetimes.org, via downwithtyranny.com 6-24-24]

 

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

It’s (not just) the economy, stupid: Why Trump may win

Hunter, June 26, 2024 [DailyKos]

…But the more substantive reasons for my wariness are structural.

The news media is substantially more right-wing than it was in 2016….

Above all, the “free press” seems utterly unconcerned with the growth of a political movement that relies primarily on misinformation. That suggests that we do not actually have a “free press” at all, and not because they are not “free.” It is because they are not “press.”

The wealthy are coalescing behind Donald Trump because they are garbage people who would support Satan himself for a ten dollar tax cut. There is no need to elaborate on this, other than to note that we all saw it coming. Corporatism is seen as more important than democracy, because democracy is the thing that keeps getting in corporatism’s way….

But my biggest reason for believing that the seditionist felon could well retake the White House is because in twenty years, I have never seen a more flaccid, less energized liberal movement. I have never seen a Democratic base that is less engaged with what their leaders are doing, or should be doing….

The policies presented in this election cycle will be that Donald Trump is bad, and that if you vote for the Democratic Party then you’ll get Not That. Not anything else in particular, mind you, just Not That. Abortion rights will not be restored, they just might not go away quite as fast. We’ve solved health insurance and taken an enormous step towards hardening our infrastructure, and next we will be doing not a damn thing, really, because the other side is completely out of its mind and the possibilities for bettering America in any capacity are, in the near term, close to zero.…

Voters don’t want to hear that the economy is good or the economy is bad. They want to know that whatever they’re aggrieved about will, at some point, get better. The seditionist felon Donald Trump is bellowing that by God he will make everything better, and it’ll happen because he’s going to be jailing people, and deporting people, and the rest will all be goddamn magic. It’s all lies, but lies already won him one term in office and not even the “seditionist felon” part appears to be a dealbreaker for the Americans still enamored with him….

If the town is aggressive to the point of being pissy about it they might be able to shake loose the lots for a little more housing instead. The dirty not-secret is that national chains don’t want to piece together properties to be rolled up into a new site unless they have to. New construction tends to take place on the outskirts of town, where the orchards and vineyards and hayfields are or were, because that’s where you can build much bigger boxes with much bigger parking lots and the town will build a brand-new road that goes right to your driveway, if you’re planning a big enough box.

That’s just how things are, and that’s fine, right? That’s what the future holds for us, I’m sure. We will all sprawl out more, and the box stores will get bigger and will become the near-entirety of commerce, and there’s no fire insurance to be had for any price because the insurance companies have looked at recent fires and predicted future temperatures and don’t want anything to do with it. And that’s what a good economy looks like, that’s all.

 

Bring Back Capitalism 

Matt Taibbi, June 24, 2024 Racket News].

Seeing Chase CEO Jamie Dimon issue a smiling clarion call in Fortune for higher taxes and massive government intervention via a ‘Marshall Plan for America’ was a major tell that something even worse than what he called ‘free-for-all capitalism” was being contemplated. Dimon’s pledge was in line with outgoing World Economic Forum chief Klaus Schwab’s ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ which purports to end the idea of corporations existing to ‘maximize their profits,’ and make business leaders ‘trustees of society,’ leading efforts to address ‘social and environmental challenges.’

For those who aren’t fluent in rich-person bullshit, what Schwab and Dimon (and a long list of others, like Apple CEO Tim Cook and BlackRock’s Larry Fink) were proposing was that we take the same people who spent the last twenty years devouring Fed rescues and converting the savings of the middle class into Jackson Hole villas, and instead of hurling them off cliffs, put them in charge of society. They would additionally like taxpayers to fund a big enough safety net to guarantee the next generation of customers for, say, a depository bank. As in: ‘We screwed things up so badly, you need to give us even more leeway to make things right.’ It’s enough to make the most mild-mannered person reach for something sharp….

It’s phony competition, but real profits are extracted. Winners preserve gains under mazes of incomprehensible tax shelters, then retire to wealth archipelagoes in the Hamptons or the Vineyard or Davos or any of a dozen other places where failing schools, immigration, crime, poverty, and other issues make no appearance. It’s infuriating and people absolutely should be outraged, but make no mistake: it isn’t “capitalism,” at least not exactly.

I’ve often been asked what should have been done after the 2008 crash, a question that usually contains the implication that Fed chief Ben Bernanke’s Nobel-winning strategy of cash infusions to the insolvent banks that caused the mess turned out well. It didn’t turn out well. The Bernanke strategy of using the Fed to remove hundreds of billions in terrible investments from the books of key firms excused companies like Citigroup and Bank of America and, yes, JP Morgan Chase (which bought Bear Stearns at a discount after the Fed swallowed billions of its “illiquid” assets) from capitalism’s one functional regulatory mechanism: failure. Selectively removing the fangs of the market made unfairness an indelible feature of American life, and made these companies and their idiot leaders permanent parasites on the neck of society. In hindsight, they needed big, healthy doses of good old-fashioned capitalist failure.

Clogging the toilet of the market to keep those bad actors afloat has had disastrous consequences….

 

As Republican Policies Destroy Their Lives, Rural Voters Are The Heart Of The MAGA Movement

Howie Klein, June 25, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

In his new book, Feeding A Divided America: Reflections Of A Western Rancher In The Era Of Climate Change, Giles Stockton, among other things, looks at the neoliberal policies that have plagued agriculture since the 1970s, allowing monopolies to take over food production and squeeze out family farmers and ranchers. “The financial crisis of the early 1980s,” he wrote, “weighed heavily on rural America. Farm foreclosures and suicides were constant. Farmers and ranchers tended to blame themselves as failures; they had not worked hard enough, made bad financial decisions and let their families down. By the time the farm crisis of the eighties was over, the era of the independent family farm was also over… [M]any ag economists and politicians continue to repeat the zombie idea that lower crop prices will allow US farmers to increase (or at least maintain) their share of U.S. corn, soybean complex, and wheat markets.” That’s been a colossal bust and a catastrophe for family farms.

Stockton noted that “The 1996 Farm Bill, dubbed the Freedom to Farm Act, (and, by farmers, Freedom to Fail) was lauded as a way to eliminate the need for subsidies. Up until then, subsidies were based on a supply-management system that allocated how many acres of each crop farmers were allowed to plant. The Freedom to Farm Act opted for what they termed flexibility, the assumption being that if farmers were allowed the flexibility to plant the crops they wanted—not just corn, soybeans or wheat— farm subsidies would no longer be needed. Instead of receiving checks directly from the government, farmers were required to buy crop insurance to cover losses due to weather. After all, the thinking went, what could be more market efficient than insurance. The premium for the crop insurance is, however, heavily subsidized by the government and the costs for the taxpayers have gone up steadily. One reason for this increase in farm subsidy costs is that private insurance companies are now able to siphon off a stream of taxpayers’ money for administering the program, money supposedly meant to support rural America.”
In March Barn Raiser published an interview they did with Stockton. He quickly changed the topic of the interview to say that “We’re not going to solve the major issues until we decide to enforce antitrust laws. It was done in 1921 with the Packers and Stockyards Act, which sought to protect farmers and ranchers from monopoly power. And that was very effective for almost 50 years. But then things began to change in the 1980s when the courts narrowed the ability to enforce the Act. Now we’ve got a global cartel controlling the industry. And at the same time, we have a cartel of retailers and grocers….

 

Behind the Deadly Unrest in Kenya, a Staggering and Painful National Debt 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 06-29-2024]

 

Inside FICO and the Credit Bureau Cartel 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 06-23-2024]

 

Supermarket Economics 

[Phenomenal World, via Naked Capitalism 06-28-2024]

An interview with John Marshall of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Locals 324 & 3000

 

Predatory finance

The Fed Posts Historic Operating Losses As It Pays Out 5.40 Percent Interest to Banks

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, June 13, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

According to Federal Reserve data, for the first time in its history, the Fed has been losing money on a consistent monthly basis since September 28, 2022. As of the last reporting date of June 19, 2024, those losses add up to a cumulative $176 billion. As the chart above using Fed data shows, the losses thus far in 2024 have ranged from a monthly high of $11.076 billion in February to a low of $5.674 billion in May….

Since July 27 of last year, or one month shy of a year, the Fed has been paying 5.40 percent interest on reserve balances held by banks at the Fed. A significant part of that generous payout has been going to megabanks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. The graphic below, taken from BankRate.com this morning, shows that these megabanks aren’t passing along that generosity to their customers’ savings accounts, since those savings accounts continue to pay the preposterously low rate of 0.01 percent interest, despite 11 rate hikes by the Fed since 2022.

A detail that goes missing in mainstream media reports on this generous payout by the Fed is that the Fed and banking system were able to survive for 95 years without the Fed paying any interest on bank reserves. The Fed began paying interest on reserves at a time when the megabanks on Wall Street were in the process of imploding during their self-inflicted financial crisis of 2008 and needed every handout they could conjure up from the Fed. The Fed explains the origination of this policy as follows on one of its website pages from 2008….

 

Tech Firms Prey on Poor Under Guise of Expanding Access to Financial Services 

[Truthout, via Naked Capitalism 06-24-2024]

 

Restoring balance to the economy

Transforming Mexico 

[New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 06-27-2024]

Claudia Sheinbaum won a landslide in the Mexican presidential elections on 2 June. With close to 60% of the vote, the magnitude of her victory exceeded that of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018… Three things are particularly striking about the results. First, the clarity of the mandate: an anomaly in Western democracies, which are increasingly accustomed to marginal contests and political stalemates. Second, the particularities of Morena’s constituency: a voting bloc anchored in the working classes yet capable of folding in parts of the middle strata. Third, the sense that a new political regime is emerging, founded on a post-neoliberal social pact….

Sheinbaum’s main competitor was Xóchitl Gálvez, leading the coalition of the PRI, PAN and PRD. Gálvez helmed an erratic campaign, representing the interests of big business sprinkled with lite social liberalism. Unable to run on an outwardly neoliberal agenda – the term has become toxic in Mexico – she opted instead for identity politics….

A recent Gallup poll suggests that the majority of Mexicans are, in fact, deeply invested in the political process. Not only does AMLO have an approval rating of 80%; there is also an increasing ‘confidence in national government’, which has jumped from 29% to 61% during Morena’s time in office: the highest in the twenty years since Gallup began asking the question. As of 2023, 73% of Mexicans felt their living standards were ‘getting better’, and 57% said the same about their local economy. Before AMLO, ‘confidence in the honesty of México’s elections’ averaged just 19%; during the past six years it rose to 44%. The Pew Research Center has likewise shown that ‘Mexicans’ satisfaction with their democracy’ has risen 42 percentage points since 2017. The number of people who identify as Morena party sympathizers has grown by 10 points since 2018, now reaching 34%, compared to 8% for both the PRI and PAN. Morena’s organizational power was on full display in 2022, when it turned out over three million people to elect delegates for its National Party Congress. In an age of generalized dissatisfaction with the party form and the well-storied hollowing out of mass politics, AMLO’s effect on national political culture is impressive.

[TW: I doubt Democratic Party leaders will see the clear lesson of AMLO’s policies of economic populism, which restored the Mexican peoples’ confidence in their society. I simply don’t expect Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama, Jim Clybourn and all the other “wise old” people to admit they were wrong, and Bernie Sanders and AOC were correct. ]

 

Denver gave people experiencing homelessness $1,000 a month. A year later, nearly half of participants had housing. 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 06-26-2024]

 

The NLRB Is Testing Out a New Tool to Stop Union Busting 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 06-24-2024]

 

Information age dystopia / surveillance state

Zero Progress on Zero Days: How the Last Ten Years Created the Modern Spyware Market (PDF)

[Nebraska Law Review, via Naked Capitalism 06-28-2024]

 

Lawsuit Claims Microsoft Tracked Sex Toy Shoppers With ‘Recording In Real Time’ Software 

[404media, via Naked Capitalism 06-29-2024]

 

Press Freedom Gets WikiLeaked

Jean Yi, June 29, 2024 [The Lever]

Since Assange had been facing up to 175 years in prison over his publication of secret and classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, organizations like the International Federation of Journalists said that allowing Assange to go free helps prevent the criminalization of journalism.

The Obama administration declined to prosecute Assange for publishing classified documents because that would threaten many other reputable news sites like the New York Times or the Guardianaccording to Justice Department officials. However, in 2019, the Justice Department went after Assange on 18 counts related to espionage and illegally soliciting classified information, drawing immediate condemnation from a wide range of advocacy organizations supporting free speech, civil liberties, and government transparency.

[TW: Definite pattern here:

Obama (Democrat): declines to prosecute

Trump (anti-Republican): prosecutes

Biden: (Democrat): ends prosecution ]

 

The Wild Story Behind the Assange Plea Deal 

[Spytalk, via Naked Capitalism 06-26-2024]

 

Assange is Free, But Never Forget How the Press Turned on Him (excerpt)

Matt Taibbi [Racket News, via Naked Capitalism 06-26-2024]

 

Publishers’ lawsuit leads to removal of 500,000 books from Internet Archive 

[Techspot, via Naked Capitalism 06-23-2024]

 

Collapse of independent news media

Assange Is Free, But US Spite Will Chill Reporting for Years 

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 06-27-2024]

 

Climate and environmental crises

The New Climate Denial Is Based on These Six Terms 

Genevieve Guenther, June 24, 2024 [The New Republic]

The new obstructionist approach doesn’t say global warming isn’t happening. Instead, it argues we don’t need to phase out oil and gas….

The truth is that solar power and storage actually maintains grid reliability in extreme weather. In both the 2022 and 2023 Texas heat waves, grid operators needed to pause fossil energy generation so that coal and gas plants could cool down; what kept the lights on and lifesaving air conditioning units humming was solar power, both generated directly and stored in batteries. And dozens of scholars at European universities and American institutions like Stanford and Princeton have modeled how to supply all of our nation’s power with 100 percent renewable energy.

 

Miami entering a state of unreality: Adaptation to climate change can’t fix the city’s water problems

[Floodlight, via Naked Capitalism 06-23-2024]

 

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

The world is farming more seafood than it catches. Is that a good thing 

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 06-28-2024]

 

The Promise of Precision Agriculture Is Slowly Coming to Fruition 

[Undark, via Naked Capitalism 06-28-2024]

 

Democrats’ political malpractice

Ever Hear This One? “The Republicans Have No Principles; The Democrats Have No Spine”?

Howie Klein, June 29, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

The NY Times identified 11 possible replacements— 10 neoliberal politicians and one who’s never been involved with politics except as a politician’s wife:

  • Kamala Harris- mediocre prosector, mediocre senator, mediocre extremely unpopular vice president
  • Gavin Newsom- mediocre mayor, mediocre governor
  • Gretchen Whitmer- who?
  • JB Pritzker- grossly over-weight hereditary billionaire, mediocre governor
  • Josh Shapiro- who?
  • Pete Buttigieg- slimy consultant, small time mayor, mediocre Transportation Secretary
  • Cory Booker- mediocre senator
  • Amy Klobuchar- aggressively mediocre senator
  • Andy Beshear- who?
  • Michelle Obama- someone’s wife, not interested
  • Hillary Clinton- God save us all!
….Not on the list: anyone definitively better than Biden, particularly not any  popular progressives… like Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, Jamie Raskin or Jeff Merkley.
Howie Klein, June 28, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]
Howie Klein, June 28, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

Florida’s Reverse Robin Hood Tax Code

-by Ben Braver

we have a regressive tax structure where the hardest working, poorest people in Florida pay the most in taxes while the richest pay the least. In fact, the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy showed that Florida has the single most regressive tax system in the country….

GRAPH: Total Florida taxes as share of family income

The bottom 20% of our state, those making less than $20,000 a year, have to spend well over one tenth of their income on taxes while people making over $735,700 spend less than 3%. After taxes the poor person has only $17,400 of purchasing power a year, the rich person will still have $716,000. But what’s really important aren’t the numbers, as absurdly unbalanced as they are, but the men, women, and children behind them. To a person making only $20,000 a year, 13% is not just a bad statistic; it is the difference between having a bed to sleep in or going unhoused. It’s the difference between eating or seeing their children go hungry. It’s the terrible choice between buying medicine or paying the water bill. The rich person who pays less than 1 tenth of what the poor person does will still have gotten enough money to buy two homes… in cash.

One thing I’ll give the Republican party is they are great at marketing. Florida’s tax code is terrible economics, downright sadistic public policy, but it sure does sound good to people who don’t have all the information. They say we have no income tax, only a sales tax, which sounds fantastic. But all taxes are income taxes; just taken out at different times. All taxes are income taxes; just aimed at different people. A sales tax still taxes your income, just when you are spending it rather than when you receive it….

 

The Battle for Our Future: Why We Must Flip Congress After Last Night’s Debate Debacle

Howie Klein, June 28, 2024  [downwithtyranny.com]

It’s more important than ever to flip Congress. There’s a page called Flip Congress, take a look. These are 8 candidates that have something in common: each is running against a rotgut conservative incumbent who deserves to be replaced. And each of these candidates would go a long way towards making Congress a better and less dysfunctional body, one that would stand up to tyranny and oppression. We may need that even more than ever.… With the GOP sure to win the open West Virginia Senate seat, they’re just one seat away from a majority. The House may be the only firewall against what we all fear.

.

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9 Comments

  1. somecomputerguy

    Any talk about replacing Joe Biden, fails to grapple with the fundamental values and principles of American society and the modern Democratic Party.

    Larry Summers once said; “Where ever you end up in the economy, it’s pretty much because that’s where you deserve to be.” The reason they rule is because they put in the work. The hard, hard work. There is no harder work than being an elected official or getting a graduate degree. The Foreign Legion is a vacation by comparison.
    That is why so many drop out of Harvard, for the easy living offered by Marine Corps. Those who survive are the deserving, meritorious elites.

    If the American People don’t like their choices, they are always free to take to the streets as a deplorable passion-ruled mob, that should be ignored. If they fail to, that is an endorsement. That is how we voted for global warming and to destroy the New Deal. We didn’t rise as one and stop them. That is exactly the same as voting for it.

    Joe Biden isn’t going anywhere, and if the ignorant, ungrateful American People don’t like it, they can “vote for the other guy”. Because that’s how democracy works. They are dedicated, hard working geniuses. That is why they are in control. That is why they are paid the big money. They make the hard choices.

    Unless the choice is too hard. Then, clearly, they aren’t paid enough for this shit. Then, it is the American peoples’ problem.

    If the elites’ choice seems disastrous, as David Frum points out, it is the American Peoples’ responsibility to save the country by working however hard it takes to insure that choice prevails, despite it’s disastrousness.

    Obviously, the American People rising as one to make sure the choice prevails is easier and more practical than re-choosing the choice.

    Re-choosing the choice would be the hardest decision-making ever performed. Harder than unsmashing an crystal goblet. Harder than unscrambling an egg. Harder than Sophie’s choice.

    Literally, dozens of elites would be required too act. Their projected career trajectory might be effected! Some would face disappointment! Obviously, they aren’t paid enough for this shit.

    100,000,000 people self-organizing to drag the existing choices’ limp body over the finish line is child’s play by comparison.

  2. Mark Level

    Mr. Wikrent does an excellent job of curating the mostly deeply depressing politics & economic dreck that is being thrown at those of us who aren’t in the Elites. I will call bullshit on this however:

    Summing up Assange’s “freedom” after 14 years of forced confinement and torture in a Hellhole British prison, demonization by the MSM etc. in such an absurdly simplistic way:

    [TW: Definite pattern here:

    Obama (Democrat): declines to prosecute

    Trump (anti-Republican): prosecutes

    Biden: (Democrat): ends prosecution ]

    Now let’s get real– Biden has spat in the face of the Dem base & underperformed insanely– I among others have shared long lists of Trump policies that his admin continued or even accelerated. I mean, c’mon, picking the criminally convicted for perjury Republican Elliot Abrams (for genociding Central Americans in the 80s) as a foreign policy guy, to mention one of the most egregious cases . . . I think the first comment by SomeComputerGuy is clearly correct.

    The Elites don’t care, we can “choose” what is on offer: The 99.6% Arsenic Sandwich that is Joe Biden or the 99.8% that is Trumpism. . . now as to “Biden” (who didn’t make the decision) punting & choosing not to finally openly drive Assange to death, so they cast off one liability (of literally 100s) they throw down at the Dem. base. I’m not about to give Genocide Joe a Nobel Prize nomination for sparing one white journalist (had he been black, it probably wouldn’t have happened, I suspect), garbage is garbage, Genocidal garbage that spared one life is a small step up on the Ladder of Infamy from pardoning a Thanksgiving Turkey.

    I’ll take the “win” & hope that Mr. Assange can recover both physically & mentally from the horrors they put him through. But the calculation made was purely pragmatic, bloodless, & had not a single drop of morality or integrity associated with it. It’s a one-time anomaly & they are still hurtling the rest of the world & US into the Abyss. Nothing to celebrate here, relief is enough.

  3. Willy

    Given the conservative penchant for employing dirty tricks, bragging about ‘taking head shots’, and confessing their sins via accusations, I’m submitting this for your approval. Sometime before the debate Biden was slipped a mickey. Or something like one.

    Now I know what you’re thinking. No Willy, it was the old psychopath psych out. They keep repeating a lie about you until everybody’s looking at you funny and then even you get subliminally hypnotized into unconsciously believing the lie. Plus Biden’s old.

    But they just gave magic scientific expertise to unelected unimpeachable supreme court justices. Their AIPAC drowned Bowman in historic amounts of primary cash, when it wasn’t even their primary. You think Netanyahoo or Putin don’t have axes to grind and the secret services to throw them around with? And if Microsoft can track sex toy shopping and hide that the vast majority are being bought by religious conservatives, then anything’s going to be possible in this day and age.

    I’m thinking that openly progressive candidates need to be doubly cautious these days.

  4. bruce wilder

    Assange was “convicted” by plea agreement of publishing true facts. So, Biden is on record criminalizing journalism.

    The rest is just brand management.

  5. bruce wilder

    Willy: I’m thinking that openly progressive candidates need to be doubly cautious these days.

    Little late to be cautioning an already extinct species to be careful.

    Besides, most people, including the professional political operatives and opinion-havers seem to think American politics as presented and conducted on teevee and social media is some kind of video game, a virtual reality of highly elastic, multifarious storylines and conspiracy theories, where you, if you choose to “participate” by sharing your opinions and projecting back the products of your own speculative imagination onto the virtual screen of the game, you get to feel like you have agency, while enjoying the entertainment values of the game, such as they may be.

    The simple concept that Joseph R. Biden is, in reality, an elderly man succumbing to a common neurodegenerative disease is causing a glitch in virtual reality. It is like the moment in the Truman Show, when our hero notices tears in the backdrop. Or in the Matrix, when Cypher expresses his despair with reality and wishes he was someone important “like an actor”.

    I know what you’re thinking, ’cause right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually, I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here: Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill?

  6. somecomputerguy

    Just read the Spytalk story about the Assange plea deal.

    I am afraid reasons given for giving up Assanges’ prosecution don’t make any sense.

    Why would unexecuted rendition plans effect anything?
    First I don’t understand why it would be relevant, why his lawyer would be allowed to talk about.

    Or the Justice Department could just erase that stuff the same way it erases weak or non-existent evidence; the National Security Exception.

    Or, more easily, it can just say the evidence doesn’t exist. Or the CIA can just destroy it, if it hasn’t already.

    Justice tossed Jose Padilla into a military brig and tortured him, and had no problem with continuing it’s prosecution.

    I would like to offer an alternative explanation. I could be wrong, but it is something that has been on my mind throughout;

    Justice dropped the prosecution, because they didn’t have a snowballs chance in hell of getting an American jury to convict him. Not a prayer. That is because they had no case. It had nothing to do with ‘mistakes’. This was a frivolous prosecution from the start.

    All his lawyer would have had to do is point out to any jury that Assanges credentials in journalism are identical to anyone else’s, that the Washington Post does what Assange did on a daily basis.

    The governments only hope was to keep Assange away from a jury as long as they could, under the most horrible living conditions they could, in hopes of coercing him into a guilty plea for something. Which is pretty routine for criminal prosecutions generally.

  7. Willy

    bruce wilder,

    The debate had two players. both displaying common neurodegenerative diseases. But the nicer one, who actually has accomplished nicer things (with much help from his staff), in contrast to the meaner one where every other statement was an obvious lie and is clearly ruining what’s left of American progressivism (with much help from entitled plutocrats), is the one getting hammered. Criticize the asshole for being obviously corrupt and unfit, and “OMG TDS!” (bodysnatched Matthew Bennell point and hiss)

    Strange how that works.

    Saddled with accepting Trump the first time, I resigned myself to accepting that maybe he’d have just one job that I wouldn’t mind him doing, to control illegal immigration (see the next post about the effects on the UK). His first two years he had control of both his houses, the governor of the state through which the overwhelming majority of illegals enter, and both their houses. In other words, no excuses. The result? A little performative nonsense bullshit which the suckers and losers accepted instead of any Big Beautiful Wall. He had just one job to do and he failed. Badly. Because conservatives actually crave the cheap labor.

    But I’m not whining about the ruthlessness of “them” or the weakness of “us”. I’m bemoaning the reason why humanity can’t ever have nice things. Not for very long. The majority of humans will unconsciously, intrinsically, always accept, and even prefer the tough-minded lying asshole to be leading them, over any geekish wonk. Only after things have hit bottom for them does this behavior take a pause.

  8. bruce wilder

    @ Willy

    in this world, you can pretend Biden is nice

    enjoy your illusions, I guess

    I fear illusions are not all we will get in the end.

  9. DMC

    For people who are able to to pretend that Biden is anything less than the most corrupt president since Warren G Harding, I have one question: What do you suppose that Hunter has been doing for the last 20 years, globetrotting around the world,taking meetings with the rich and powerful? The same guy the president of Bursima(the Ukrainian Gas company that put him on the board of directors for$600,000 a year) described as ” stupider than my dog”. The same guy whose two largest expenses over the last 20 years have been hookers and blow?

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