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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 3, 2024

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Amitav Ghosh’s Reckoning With Opium.

Alexander Zaitchik, March 1, 2024 [The New Republic]

His new book, Smoke and Ashes, traces the ravages of British opium on India from the eighteenth century to the present.

[TW: I April 2016 I posted an excerpt from Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization, Versus British Free Trade. Letters in Reply to the London Times, by Henry C. Carey. Philadelphia, Collins, 1876. Though Carey today is rarely mentioned in economics textbooks, he was the leading USA economist of the mid-nineteenth century, a staunch protectionist who was probably the single greatest proponent of what was then called the American School of Political Economy.

[American protectionism was much more than simply a rejection of the concept of comparative advantage. Michael Hudson explains in the Preface to his 2010 book America’s Protectionist Takeoff: The Neglected American School of Political Economy:

The protectionist doctrine that shaped America’s industry and agriculture… went beyond the narrow boundaries of today’s economics discipline by deeming public policy and technology central to economic theorizing, not “exogenous.” Analyzing what was needed to increase productivity, the American School emphasized that wages and prices had to be high enough to sustain rising living and educational standards for labor, and investment in rising energy mobilization by capital.”

[But the American School even went beyond that. Carey and other American School economists always kept in view the ultimate goal of economic policies: the establishment and enhancement of civilization. And unlike the competing British School of Adams, Ricardo, and Mill, a central element of the American School was morality. Note the heavy tone of scorn and sarcasm Carey uses in his fifth letter to the editors of the Times of London, as he reviews and condemns the British opium trade and its disastrous consequences for China. -TW]


Japan’s new births fall to record low as demographic woes worsen 

[ABC Australia, via Naked Capitalism 02-28-2024]


Power in the shadows

CIA, Ukraine Exchange Pre-Divorce Propaganda 

Matt Taibbi, via Naked Capitalism 02-28-2024] Important

The CIA in Ukraine — The NY Times Gets a Guided Tour 

[ScheerPost, via Naked Capitalism 03-02-2024]


Gaza / Palestine / Israel

Netanyahu’s Messianic Coalition Partners Want an All-out Regional War. Gaza Is Just a First Step Ehud Olmert

[Haaretz, via Naked Capitalism 02-25-2024]

Gaza is just the introductory chapter, the platform this gang wants to build as the foundation upon which the real fight they are eyeing will be conducted: the battle for the West Bank and the Temple Mount.

The ultimate aim of this gang is “purging” the West Bank of its Palestinian inhabitants, cleansing the Temple Mount of its Muslim worshippers and annexing the territories to the state of Israel. The way to achieve this goal is blood-soaked. Israeli blood, in the state and in the territories it has been controlling for 57 years now, as well as Jewish blood in places elsewhere in the world. As well as a lot of Palestinian blood, of course, in the territories, in Jerusalem and if there is no alternative – also among Arab citizens of Israel.

This aim will not be achieved without extensive violent conflict. Armageddon. All-out war. In the south, in Jerusalem, in the territories of the West Bank and to the extent necessary also on the northern border. Such a war will bolster the impression that we are fighting for our lives, for our very existence. In a war for survival, it is permissible to do insufferable things, and the hilltop youth are proving daily that among them are many who are capable of precisely that.

This gang of pogromists has been successful in the first stage prior to the uproar and all-out war that they apparently hope will erupt here. They have taken control of the government of Israel and have made the man who heads it into their servant. The possibility that they will dismantle the government and kick the prime minister out of running the matters of state is not outlandish. It is a process that is taking place at this very moment, step by step.

Architects of the Disastrous Iraq War Want a Do-Over in Gaza

Jim Lobe, March 2, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Several key architects of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq 21 years ago are presenting a plan for rebuilding and “de-radicalizing” the surviving population of Gaza, while ensuring that Israel retains “freedom of action” to continue operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The plan, which was published as a report Thursday by the hard-line neo-conservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, or JINSA, and the Vandenberg Coalition, is calling for the creation of a private entity, the “International Trust for Gaza Relief and Reconstruction” to be led by “a group of Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates” and “supported by the United States and other nations….

The task force that produced the report consists of nine members, four of whom played key roles as Middle East policymakers under former President George W. Bush and in the run-up to and aftermath of the disastrous Iraq invasion in 2003.

The group is chaired by John Hannah, who served as deputy national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2001 to 2005 and then as Cheney’s national security advisor (2005-2009), replacing Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who resigned his position after being indicted for perjury. Libby, who was later given a full pardon by former President Donald Trump, is also a member of the Gaza task force.

Another prominent member of the task force is the founder and chairman of the hawkish Vandenberg Coalition, Elliott Abrams, who served as the senior director for Near East and North African Affairs in the National Security Council under Bush from 2002 to 2009 and more recently as the Special Envoy for Venezuela and Iran under Trump. Ironically, Abrams, who also served as the NSC’s Senior Director for Democracy under Bush, played a key role in supporting an attempted armed coup by Hamas’s chief rival, Fatah, in 2007 after Hamas swept the 2006 Palestinian elections. The coup attempt sparked a brief but bloody civil war in Gaza, which eventually resulted in Hamas’ consolidation of power in the Strip.

Amb. Eric Edelman (ret.), a fourth member of the task force, served as Cheney’s principal deputy national security adviser from 2001 to 2003 and then as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon, under Rumsfeld and his successor, Robert Gates, from 2005 to 2009, as U.S. troops struggled to contain the mainly Sunni resistance to the U.S. occupation in Iraq….

What Can the US Do To Bring the Israel-Hamas War to An End?

Josh Marshall, March 1, 2024 [talkingpointsmemo]

…First, why is the U.S. sending arms and munitions to Israel at all? Israel has an incredibly powerful military and huge stockpiles of weapons of all sorts. Set aside the policy or moral questions. Why is it even necessary?

…The U.S. was focused on preventing a broader regional conflict in the whole region. That was always the core U.S. goal and national priority. The U.S. sent two aircraft carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean, a massive show of force, to deter Hezbollah or other Iranian proxies from opening a second front against Israel, which would have triggered massive Israeli retaliation against Lebanon and possibly Iran.

I suspect supplying weapons played a similar role. All Israeli military doctrines hold that Israel’s wars must be rapid and decisive because the country has no strategic depth (geography) and has a mass reserve army which can’t remain long in the field. Above all else that means maintaining the military initiative and not allowing adversaries to choose when conflicts occur.

How does that play out in this case? I suspect U.S. planners envisioned a scenario like this. Israel is fighting in Gaza and perhaps on a more limited level in the North against Hezbollah. It’s keeping its army in the field, reducing its readiness, drawing down its weapons stockpiles. That makes it increasingly vulnerable to escalation from Hezbollah or directly from Iran. With time operating against it like that, and feeling acute vulnerability over October 7th, Israeli military doctrines favor decisive attacks against potential enemies while Israel is still at peak readiness and strength. There’s your regional war which the U.S. sees as its core interest to avoid. That’s why you have the aircraft carrier groups off the cost and the resupply of weapons and munitions: to give Israel the backing that allows them not to default to their strike first/no long wars doctrines.

“Starvation as a weapon of war.” 

[The Floutist, via Naked Capitalism 03-02-2024]

Israeli minister calls for ‘wiping out’ month of Ramadan 

[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 03-02-2024]


[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 02-28-2024]


[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 03-01-2024]


Egypt announces $35bn deal with UAE to buy premium Mediterranean area 

[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 02-25-2024]

Egypt has agreed to a $35bn deal with the United Arab Emirates to develop the area of Ras el-Hekma on its northwestern coast, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced on Friday after weeks of speculations.

Madbouly said at a news conference, which was attended by Egyptian and Emirati officials, that Egypt will receive an advance amount of $15bn in the coming week, and another $20bn within two months.

The deal is the largest foreign direct investment in an urban development project in the country’s modern history, the prime minister said….

[TW: With enough money, Egypt will sell part of Sinai where a Palestinian state can be created.]

Neom continues transformation of Saudi Arabia with lush desert oasis 

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 02-28-2024]

[TW: With enough money, a Palestinian state in Sinai can flourish.]



Kissinger Revisited

Rick Perlstein, February 28, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The former secretary of state is responsible for virtually every American geopolitical disaster of the past half-century….

“Stability”; the “self-regulating mechanism”: These were supposed to be the hallmarks of Kissinger’s diplomatic framework. By setting force against force, perfect equipoise could be achieved, controlled by us, simultaneously achieving America’s desired strategic aims. The opening to China, alongside simultaneous détente with the Soviet Union, was to be this model’s apotheosis. It was supposed to set off a rivalry in which China and the USSR raced to impress America by becoming the first to withdraw their sponsorship of the Communist belligerents in Vietnam, which would in turn allow America to settle the war on militarily favorable terms.

The plan had been gestating in Kissinger’s mind for a long time: “In a subtle triangle with Communist China and the Soviet Union,” as Kissinger wrote for his then-patron Nelson Rockefeller in 1968, “we can ultimately improve our relations with each, as we test the will for peace of both.”

Instead, America lost in Vietnam. Then, the entire region fell to nearly anarchic instability, a genocide and two regional wars within four short years.

Meanwhile, on the China side of the ledger, if you believe the entirety of the American foreign-policy establishment that economic rivalry with China is just about the most dangerous long-term challenge America now faces—well, maybe blame Henry for that, too.…

MSNBC legal analyst says First Amendment makes US ‘vulnerable,’ calls for ‘common sense’ speech restrictions 

[NY Post, via Naked Capitalism 03-01-2024]

[TW: The First Amendment makes US vulnerable so long as the rich can maintain their plutocratic kleptocracy through bribery and have us accept it as “free speech.” We need ‘common sense’ speech restrictions on the rich. We really do. I would prefer these restrictions imposed not by legislating, but by a cultural shift resulting from a revival of civic republicanism and sense of civic virtue (and NOT the civic virtue defined by conservatives and libertarians, which is contorted beyond recognition to preserve the dominance of self-interest, aka selfishness). Too bad “the left” has turned its back on civic republicanism. So here we are….]

Journalist Kara Swisher ‘burns’ Bezos, Gates, tech culture in memoir 

[Seattle Times, via Naked Capitalism 03-02-2024]

Swisher, then a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, was visiting Seattle to tour one of Amazon’s first warehouses in the mid-1990s. Bezos, eager to score prominent coverage of his fledgling company, “skittered around … like a frenetic mongoose,” Swisher recalled in her new book, published Tuesday under the title “Burn Book: A Tech Love Story.”

Bezos was a numbers guy who was more sophisticated, and more performative, than many of the startup founders making a splash at that time, Swisher wrote. Whereas Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were silly, littering their offices with scooters, Bezos was serious. Whereas Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates was “outwardly difficult,” Bezos “kept his bare-knuckled characteristics in public check.”

“Still, from the start, I had no doubt that Jeff Bezos would eat my face off if that is what he needed to do to get ahead,” Swisher wrote.


Heather Cox Richardson, March 2, 2023 [Letters from an American]

…In 1904 the Supreme Court ruled that the Northern Securities Company was an illegal monopoly and that it must be dissolved, and by 1912, Roosevelt had come to believe that a strong federal government was the only way for citizens to maintain control over corporations, which he saw as the inevitable outcome of the industrial economy. He had no patience for those who hoped to stop such combinations by passing laws against them. Instead, he believed the American people must create a strong federal government that could exert public control over corporations.

In a famous speech at Osawatomie, Kansas, in 1912, he called for a “new nationalism.”

“The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being,” he said. He warned that “[t]here can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains…. We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know…whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public.”

Roosevelt had come to believe that a strong government must regulate business. “The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” he said.

After all, he said, “[t]he object of government is the welfare of the people.”


Heather Cox Richardson, March 1, 2023 [Letters from an American]

…This week, a new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a nonprofit think tank that focuses on tax policy, suggested that the cost of tax cuts should be factored into any discussions about the budget deficit.

In 2017 the Trump tax cuts slashed the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and reined in taxation for foreign profits. The ITEP report looked at the first five years the law was in effect. It concluded that in that time, most profitable corporations paid “considerably less” than 21% because of loopholes and special breaks the law either left in place or introduced.

From 2018 through 2022, 342 companies in the study paid an average effective income tax rate of just 14.1%. Nearly a quarter of those companies—87 of them—paid effective tax rates of under 10%. Fifty-five of them (16% of the 342 companies), including T-Mobile, DISH Network, Netflix, General Motors, AT&T, Bank of America, Citigroup, FedEx, Molson Coors, and Nike, paid effective tax rates of less than 5%.

Twenty-three corporations, all of them profitable, paid no federal tax over the five year period. One hundred and nine corporations paid no federal tax in at least one of the five years….

…In June 1889, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie published what became known as the “Gospel of Wealth” in the popular magazine North American Review. Carnegie explained that “great inequality…[and]…the concentration of business, industrial and commercial, in the hands of a few” were “not only beneficial, but essential to…future progress.” And, Carnegie asked, “What is the proper mode of administering wealth after the laws upon which civilization is founded have thrown it into the hands of the few?”

Rather than paying higher wages or contributing to a social safety net—which would “encourage the slothful, the drunken, the unworthy,” Carnegie wrote—the man of fortune should “consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer…in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community—the man of wealth thus becoming the mere trustee and agent for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience, and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.”

“[T]his wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if distributed in small sums to the people themselves,” Carnegie wrote. “Even the poorest can be made to see this, and to agree that great sums gathered by some of their fellow-citizens and spent for public purposes, from which the masses reap the principal benefit, are more valuable to them than if scattered among themselves in trifling amounts through the course of many years.”

Here in the present, Republicans want to extend the Trump tax cuts after their scheduled end in 2025, a plan that would cost $4 trillion over a decade even without the deeper cuts to the corporate tax rate Trump has called for if he is reelected. Biden has called for preserving the 2017 tax cuts only for those who make less than $400,000 a year and permitting the rest to expire. He has also called for higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, which would generate more than $2 trillion.

Losing the revenue part of the budget equation and focusing only on spending cuts seems to reflect a society like the one the late-nineteenth-century industrialists embraced, in which a few wealthy leaders get to decide how to direct the nation’s wealth.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

US millennial women are now more likely to die in their late 20s and early 30s than any generation since the World War II era: report 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 02-26-2024]


Voters Want The Rich To Pay Their Fair Share & Want A Gaza Ceasefire— But Congress Refuses To Budge

Howie Klein, March 2, 2024  []

A new poll from Data For Progress released on the day millionaires and billionaires have reached the $168,600 taxable amount limit and stopped paying into Social Security, shows that most Americans— 69% of Democrats, 60% of Republicans and 57% of independents— want to see Social Security benefits increased. Only 5% think they should be decreased (to reduce the national debt). Asked if increasing taxes on the wealthy is the right way to decrease the national debt, 78% liked the idea— including 93% of Dems, 74% of independents and even 66% of Republicans— while just 18% of our countrymen oppose the idea.

As far as the Republican decision to create a new commission to cut Social Security and Medicare behind closed doors, opposition is strong (70%— including 73% of Democrats, 71% of Republicans and 66% of independents) and just 23% of voters like the idea.

The Origins of Enduring Economic Inequality (forthcoming) (PDF)

[Journal of Economic Literature, via Naked Capitalism 02-26-2024] From the Abstract:

We survey archaeological evidence suggesting that among hunter-gatherers and farmers in Neolithic western Eurasia (11,700 to 5,300 years ago) elevated levels of wealth inequality occurred but were ephemeral and rare compared to the substantial enduring inequalities of the past five millennia. In response, we seek to understand not the de novo “creation of inequality” but instead the processes by which substantial wealth differences could persist over long periods and why this occurred only at the end of the Neolithic, at least four millennia after the agricultural revolution. Archaeological and anthropological evidence suggests that a culture of aggressive egalitarianism may have thwarted the emergence of enduring wealth inequality until the Late Neolithic when new farming technologies raised the value of material wealth relative to labor and a concentration of elite power in early proto-states (and eventually the exploitation of enslaved labor) provided the political and economic conditions for heightened wealth inequalities to endure.

[TW: I believe recreating “a culture of aggressive egalitarianism” is one of the major reasons we should revive the philosophy of civic republicanism.]

Constitutional Clash: Labor, Capital, and Democracy (PDF)

Northwestern University Law Review, via Naked Capitalism 02-26-2024] From the Abstract:

In the last few years, workers have engaged in organizing and strike activity at levels not seen in decades… Viewed collectively, these efforts—”labor’s” efforts for short—seek not only to redefine the contours of labor law. They also present an incipient challenge to our constitutional order. If realized, labor’s vision would extend democratic values, including freedom of speech and association, into the putatively private domain of the workplace. It would also support the Constitution’s promise of free labor… this Article shows that contemporary fights about labor are also inherently fights about constitutional law


Predatory finance

$87 Million Buys This for Jamie Dimon: David Boies Can’t Utter the Words “JPMorgan Chase” in a Jeffrey Epstein Sex Trafficking Case

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, February 18, 2024 [Wall Street on Parade]

On Friday, February 16, ahead of a three-day weekend, JPMorgan Chase quietly filed its 10-K (annual report) with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The document carried the bombshell that the bank had paid an astonishing $1.4 billon in legal expenses in 2023 – a 426 percent increase over the prior year’s legal expenses.

While the bank didn’t break down the names of the law firms that received the lion’s share of those legal expenses, public records can fill in most of the blanks.

Throughout 2023, JPMorgan Chase was paying the expensive lawyers at WilmerHale to defend it against a federal lawsuit brought by the David Boies law firm, Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, on behalf of the raped, assaulted, and sex trafficked underage victims of Jeffrey Epstein. JPMorgan was also paying WilmerHale lawyers throughout 2023 to defend it against Epstein-related charges brought by the Attorney General of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In both cases, the plaintiffs credibly alleged that the bank was actively-engaged in facilitating Epstein’s criminal sex-trafficking enterprise by providing the financial services and hard cash necessary to keep it going while willfully violating its duty to report the cash transactions to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).


This is plutocracy, not capitalism

How Panera Bread Ducked California’s New $20 Minimum Wage Law 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-28-2024]

“Billionaire Greg Flynn, who made his fortune running one of the world’s largest restaurant franchise operations, is getting a new boost from sourdough loaves and brioche buns That’s because a California law that’s about to raise the state minimum wage at fast-food spots to $20 an hour from $16 offers an unusual exemption for chains that bake bread and sell it as a standalone item. Governor Gavin Newsom pushed for that break, according to people familiar with the matter. Among the main beneficiaries is Flynn, a longtime Newsom donor whose California holdings include two dozen Panera Bread locations.”


Restoring balance to the economy    

New Municipal Broadband Networks Skyrocket in Post-Pandemic America As Alternative To Private Monopoly Model 

[ISLR, via Naked Capitalism 02-27-2024]


The New Blue Divide

Jacob S. Hacker. Paul Pierson, February 28, 2024 [Boston Review]

A dramatic transformation has taken place in the U.S. Democratic Party. For several decades it was moving rightward on economic issues, following the same trend as many center-left parties in wealthy democracies. But over the past few years it has made a sharp U-turn, boldly embracing broad and costly economic programs, industrial policy, and active regulation. Indeed, in 2021 Democrats pursued the most ambitious and redistributive economic agenda their party has attempted in more than half a century. Contrary to frequent denunciations of Democratic “wokeness” (whether from the right or the left), economic issues—not cultural ones—have become the core of the party’s agenda.

This shift is surprising because of another striking development: Democrats have simultaneously sought out and won over an increasing share of affluent suburban voters—the very voters who might be expected to oppose bold redistribution and constrain the party’s economic ambitions. Now, more than ever, the Democrats’ racially diverse electoral coalition is a mix of the affluent and economically struggling….

…Democrats are now much less clearly the party of the “have nots.” In 2021–22, they represented twenty-four of the twenty-five congressional districts with the highest median household income—a striking change from the past. (Documentation for most of the statistics in this piece can be found in a recent academic article we wrote with Amelia Malpas and Sam Zacher.) At the presidential level, Democrats now win counties that produce the lion’s share of the nation’s economic output; some 71 percent of GDP came from the 1 in 6 counties that backed Biden in 2020. Indeed Biden won every one of the twenty-four most economically productive metro areas, and forty-three of the top fifty.

The result is a pronounced U-shaped coalition. On one side are voters driving the party’s recent suburban gains: highly educated and mostly white workers thriving in the knowledge economy. On the other side are less affluent denizens of metro America, disproportionately workers of color and their families, who have limited access to high-wage knowledge sectors. These voters struggle with rising metro costs—especially housing costs—even as they are effectively excluded from the wealthiest, highest-opportunity suburbs….

The Biden administration also veered left in important regulatory domains. Perhaps the clearest is its embrace of a more vigorous stance on antitrust issues, signaled by the appointment of Lina Khan to head the Federal Trade Commission. Khan’s ambition to tackle corporate concentration and unequal market power was aided by fellow legal academic Sabeel Rahman, who—as acting head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in 2023—rewrote cost-benefit rules that had tilted the deck against more active regulation in fields as diverse as environmental and climate policy and financial and consumer protection. Khan and Rahman were not outliers in the Biden administration; virtually every regulatory agency was encouraged and empowered to do more….

…As the Democratic coalition reaches into higher income deciles, the party brings in voters who might worry they will have to foot the bill for expensive new programs. Democratic elites clearly recognize this risk. In his 2020 campaign Biden pledged to avoid raising taxes on households with annual incomes below $400,000—a figure significantly higher than the cutoff Obama promised in his 2008 run ($250,000, or around $300,000 in 2020 dollars), and one that essentially ruled out new taxes on all but the richest 2 percent of Americans.

Still, the magnitude of this constraint can easily be overstated. Thanks, ironically, to the incredible concentration of wealth and income in the United States, the revenues needed to pursue an ambitious economic agenda can come exclusively from corporations and the very rich, at least in the short- to medium-term. As a result, Democrats do not have to tax most top-decile households to raise substantial sums, and indeed their 2021 plans—costing more than $4 trillion over ten years in their most expansive form—honored Biden’s $400,000 threshold, with much of their financing linked to repealing 2017 GOP tax cuts. The party’s reluctance to tax all but the very rich has real costs; it makes contributory social insurance programs like Social Security—wildly popular and long the party’s signature—nearly impossible to design, and it will be hard to sustain indefinitely, especially if Democrats manage to reduce inequality. But for now, they can credibly propose more spending for everyone while promising to protect all but the richest voters from higher taxes….


Health care crisis

Scenes From the Bat Cave 

Maureen Tkacik, February 27, 2024 [The American Prospect]

How Steward Health left a Space Coast community hospital in a literal world of shit…

Rockledge is just one of 32 hospitals operated by Steward Health, which the Democratic mayor of Haverhill, Massachusetts, recently described by saying, “I think we are, perhaps, the victims of a Ponzi scheme.” Nurses say the hospital is chronically out of heart valves, urology lasers, Impella catheters, cardiac catheterization balloons, slings for lifting heavier patients, blood and urine test reagents, and most recently, prescription paper. Medical equipment used in lifesaving treatment has been repossessed, as have Pepsi machines and even, according to one account from an alleged longtime employee posted on Reddit, a quantity of Boar’s Head deli meats. And Steward has been sued by dozens of vendors and service providers, from landscaping services to revenue cycle managers to a long list of physician and nurse staffing agencies, for failing to pay its bills.

Even the bills Steward does manage to pay often involve weirdness. The Rockledge cardiothoracic unit recently got a couple of weeks’ worth of supplies delivered after Steward paid off a vendor using five separate $1 million checks. Just over a year ago, the whole nursing staff’s paychecks came from a random hospital in Utah. Until last year, Steward owned five hospitals in Utah; last month, two former minority owners sued the hospital chain for allegedly “sweeping” out more than $18 million, using it on unrelated expenses, and leaving the hospitals with a pile of unpaid bills. A lawsuit filed in December by a large physician staffing agency to which Steward allegedly owes $1.66 million claims Steward executives repeatedly lied about having already transmitted payments owed to the company’s doctors, at one point in August even furnishing photos of two fake checks to “prove” the payments were on their way, 22 days before any promised funds materialized. (Eventually, a check showed up, for less than half the amount Steward said it had paid, which was in turn a fraction of the amount it allegedly owed.)


The effect of health-care privatisation on the quality of care 

[The Lancet, via Naked Capitalism 03-02-2024]


Zoomer Hackers Shut Down the Biggest Extortion Ring of All 

Maureen Tkacik, March 1, 2024 [American Prospect]

…Standing between pharmacies and reimbursement checks for the drugs they dispense include the administrators of managed care programs, the tyrannical triumvirate of dominant pharmacy benefit managers that represent about 85 percent of all health plans, and Change Healthcare, the electronic data clearinghouse—or “switch,” as pharmacists call them—she uses to access the computer ecosystems of these middlemen. Until last week, Witzal viewed Change as one of the least-bad gatekeepers in the pharmacy business, though that was starting to change in the aftermath of its 2022 acquisition by UnitedHealth Group, the $372 billion Minnesota health care leviathan, which axed hundreds of tech and call center employees immediately after closing the deal. “It was getting harder and harder to get someone on the phone,” she says.

Then just over a week ago, Change abruptly shut down for Witzal and 67,000 other pharmacies it services. The company, it turned out, had been attacked by an extortion ring of its own, a hacker UnitedHealth initially identified in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing as a “suspected nation-state-associated cyber security threat actor” but has since emerged as the ransomware gang BlackCat/ALPHV, whose affiliates cybersecurity experts have previously described as native English speakers from predominantly “Western countries” between the ages of 17 and 22.…

Just consider the targets of some of the most disruptive ransomware attacks of recent years. Colonial Pipeline had paid out dividends in excess of its profits to owners like Koch Industries for years leading up to the hack that caused a nationwide run on gas stations. Prospect Medical paid out $658 million in dividends to private equity owners while shirking its ambulance gas bills in the years before its crippling August ransomware attack. The casino conglomerate Caesars and the hospital chain Ardent Health Services were both strip-mined by confederations of private equity firms and real estate investment trusts in the years before their ransomware attacks last fall. The enterprise software company Citrix was taken private in a mind-bending buyout deal so overleveraged the company could not afford to make its first interest payment even after laying off 1,000 workers, just a year before a ransomware gang developed a customized hack called “CitrixBleed,” targeting customers from Comcast to a major mortgage servicer.

Change was strapped for cash when UnitedHealth acquired it, because its owners had been raiding its balance sheet for years. When it went public in 2019, $450 million of its $3 billion in annual revenue was being siphoned off into interest expenses on its massive debt load and pseudo-dividends to its owners, which were called “tax receivable agreements.” UnitedHealth cut still deeper, according to pharmacists and online reports. In October, a trade publication collected ten separate reports of widespread, high-level layoffs at Change’s new parent company Optum, and message boards like Reddit and TheLayoff are full of online accounts suggesting United deliberately conducts rolling, mass layoffs “in secret.”


Information age dystopia / surveillance state 

Julian Assange’s Grand Inquisitor 

[The Chris Hedges Report, via Naked Capitalism 02-29-2024]

Consider the following as one of Assange’s great sins

Thomas Neuburger, March 1, 2024 [God’s Spies @ Substack]

• Vault 7 (Wikileaks via Wikipedia)….

First, from the Wikileaks Vault 7 main page:

“Recently, the CIA lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, malware remote control systems and associated documentation. This extraordinary collection, which amounts to more than several hundred million lines of code, gives its possessor the entire hacking capacity of the CIA. The archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive….

”Vault 7 is a series of documents that WikiLeaks began to publish on 7 March 2017, detailing the activities and capabilities of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to perform electronic surveillance and cyber warfare. The files, dating from 2013 to 2016, include details on the agency’s software capabilities, such as the ability to compromise cars, smart TVs,[1] web browsers including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera,[2][3] the operating systems of most smartphones including Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android, and computer operating systems including Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux.[4][5] A CIA internal audit identified 91 malware tools out of more than 500 tools in use in 2016 being compromised by the release.[6] The tools were developed by the Operations Support Branch of the C.I.A.….

“The Vault 7 release led the CIA to redefine WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”[8] In July 2022, former CIA software engineer Joshua Schulte was convicted of leaking the documents to WikiLeaks,[9] and in February 2024 sentenced to 40 years’ imprisonment.[10]”

The Government Really Is Spying On You — And It’s Legal 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-29-2024]

The Companies Helping Governments Hack Citizens’ Phones: a ‘Thriving’ Industry 

[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 02-27-2024]

Something Went Terribly Wrong With Online Ads.

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 03-02-2024]

The internet has long been clogged with advertising, but something different is happening today. Gone are the days of simple banner ads; even the sponsored Instagram posts invading my feed have started to feel quaint. Now nothing is safe from brands trying to sell us stuff. Open the Uber app mid-ride to check your ETA, and you might first have to wait out a 90-second video. Search for healthy snack in the grocery-delivery app Instacart, and perhaps you’ll see a screen-clogging ad for That’s It bars made of 100 percent fruit. Hotel chains, airlines, pharmacies, and basically every other kind of business are also cashing in on online ads. The end result is an internet adpocalypse that has become impossible to escape.

I Wrote What? Google’s AI-Powered Libel Machine

Matt Taibbi, Racket News, via Naked Capitalism 03-01-2024]

ChatGPT hallucinates an entire news cycle.

If AI Thinks George Washington is a Black Woman, Why Are We Letting it Pick Bomb Targets? 

Matt Taibbi, Racket News, v, via Naked Capitalism 03-01-2024]

The State of the Culture, 2024 

[The Honest Broker, via Naked Capitalism 03-01-2024]

…The fastest growing sector of the culture economy is distraction. Or call it scrolling or swiping or wasting time or whatever you want. But it’s not art or entertainment, just ceaseless activity.

The key is that each stimulus only lasts a few seconds, and must be repeated….

The tech platforms aren’t like the Medici in Florence, or those other rich patrons of the arts. They don’t want to find the next Michelangelo or Mozart. They want to create a world of junkies—because they will be the dealers. Addiction is the goal.


Climate and environmental crises

Botanical gardens can cool city air by an average of 5 °C

[The New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-27-2024]


Democrats’ political malpractice

Biden’s Cold War Nostalgia Is Dooming His Presidency

Jeet Heer [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-28-2024]

“The paradox of the Biden presidency is that he and his foreign policy team (notably Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and White House aide Brett McGurk) are the last Scoop Jackson Democrats, a crew of neoconservatives and liberal hawks who are pursuing a wildly anachronistic policy. This was evident long before October 7, when the Hamas massacre and Biden’s ensuing support for Israel’s devastation of Gaza brought the problem into stark relief. The killing fields of Gaza are only making visible the horrific and ongoing human costs of Biden’s long-standing commitment to an obsolete Cold War liberalism that is completely inadequate to the challenges of the 21st century. Like Scoop Jackson, Joe Biden is an over-eager and uncritical enthusiast for military Keynesianism—the use of arms spending to fuel economic growth. The ideal of Cold War liberalism was to fuse foreign and domestic policy, creating an integrated warfare/welfare state. Jackson, who became known as ‘the senator from Boeing’ for his ardent support for the airplane manufacturer—a major employer in Washington State—was the leading exponent of the idea that lavish government funding of armament production was the best path for creating a large unionized workforce force and a robust domestic manufacturing sector. The logic here is not so much ‘guns and butter’ but that if you manufacture enough guns, you will create enough high-paying jobs that will allow Americans to buy butter. Underlying this project is the brute political reality that it is easier to get bipartisan consensus and elite comity (which Biden, still a man of the Senate in his worldview, always seeks) if you push for defense spending rather than social spending. Further, it is much easier to get funding for social spending (as in the buildup of universities after the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957) if you can make the case that national security depends on it.”


Conservative / Libertarian / (anti)Republican Drive to Civil War

MAGA’s Plan to “Legally” Steal the 2024 Election

Thom Hartmann, February 27, 2024 [CommonDreams]

…Here’s what I’m hearing Republicans are planning in the event Joe Biden wins re-election and Democrats hold the Senate and take the House this November:

First, Republicans need to make sure they’re in control of the House of Representatives on January 6, 2025, when the new president will be certified.

To do that, even though Democrats might have won enough seats to take back the House in the 2024 election, Speaker Mike Johnson will refuse to swear into Congress on January 3 a handful of those Democrats, claiming there are “irregularities” in their elections that must be first investigated.…

Then, regardless of how many votes Biden won by, electoral or popular, the House simply refuses to certify the electoral college votes of enough states that the minimum of 270 isn’t reached. Under the 12th Amendment, like with the election of 1876, that throws the election to the House, where each state has one vote.

While a majority of Americans live in a state run by Democrats, a majority of the states themselves are run by Republicans. Each state gets one vote for president in the House, and right now 26 state delegations are GOP-controlled, meaning that a majority of the House would simply vote to put Trump back into the White House, 26-23 (Pennsylvania’s delegation is 50/50). All totally legal….


Voter Suppression Is the Anti-Abortion Movement’s Secret Sauce

Ana Marie Cox, February 29, 2024 [The New Republic]

Forced-birth advocates know their ideas are broadly unpopular with the public. That won’t matter if the public doesn’t get to have a say.

The Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos are human beings under state law staked out a new ideological claim that threatens the future of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, treatments. This is tragic. What it reminds us about the right’s plans for our future is horrifying. But their trajectory is locked in, as are the means by which they plan on accomplishing their goals: They will continue to pursue policies that few Americans support because their vision is an America in which people who don’t agree with them just don’t get to vote….

…Solidifying minority rule is part of the ugly feedback loop that enables the repression of bodily autonomy, as lack of access to reproductive care just compounds the systemic barriers to fully participate in democracy. Remember, majorities in almost every state—including Texas, Alabama, and Florida—believe that abortion should be legal in “all or most” cases. (Only in seven states do most voters disagree—and even there, the most uneven split is 42–58.) In Ohio, a statewide ballot initiative enshrined the right to an abortion in the Ohio Constitution; Republicans started looking for workarounds a week later, and Republican candidates for the Ohio Senate nomination have come out in favor of a federal ban. States’ rights for thee and not for me, or something.

These subversions of popular will can get wildly granular: The Tennessee state House of Representatives just passed a bill preventing local jurisdictions from sending back to the legislature any lawmaker previously expelled for “disorderly behavior.” The bill is a procedural temper tantrum over the House Republicans’ ineffectual dismissal of two representatives whose pro–gun control activism (and, let’s face it, the fact they were Black) drew conservative ire but who had such solid local support they were both reinstated by district councils (and have now been reelected).

Obviously, the primary method for ensuring minority rule has been to place voting rights under attack. Here, the GOP has proceeded, in recent years, to unleash a well-funded effort to roll back voting rights across the country….


The Führer Next Time

John Ganz, March 1, 2024 [Unpopular Front]

Way back in 1982, Samuel Francis, a former fellow at the Heritage Foundation and legislative assistant to Senator John East of North Carolina, tried to give intellectual shape to a fractious and lumpy New Right coalition that delivered Ronald Reagan to Washington. In an essay called “Message from MARs: The Social Politics of the New Right”—MARs stands for Middle American Radicals, the lower middle class strata that Francis identified as the Republican base—he proposed that the right should abandon its “inertial conservatism,” which centered on “intermediary institutions” like the Congress and the courts . Instead, the New Right should instead pursue what he called “Caesarism” and “favor a populist-based presidency able to cut through the present oligarchical establishment…” of “cosmopolitan” liberalism, using the power of the executive to break the power of the “entrenched elite whose values and interests are hostile to the traditional American ethos and which is a parasitical tumor on the body of Middle America.” Francis was still a little vague on how to do this in concrete terms, but insisted that “only the presidency has the power and resources to begin the process and to mobilize popular support for it.” In any case, the Reagan administration wasn’t really it: the Gipper turned out to be a disappointment for Francis and his fellow hardliners, who’d come to label themselves “paleoconservatives.” Their type of guy wouldn’t come along till much later, long after Francis was dead and buried.

These days, the demand for a “Caesarism” has gone from the cry of a lone voice in the wilderness to having a whole chorus of right-wing supporters. And now we can see very clearly something like what Francis would have wanted in policy terms. Carlos Lozada of The New York Times recently read the Heritage Foundation’s entire 887 page, “Mandate for Leadership,” essentially their plan for a second Trump administration. (Francis, as it so happens, contributed the “Intelligence Community” section for the original Mandate for Leadership.) Here’s what he found:.….


Judges in Trump-related cases face unprecedented wave of threats 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 02-29-2024]

“As the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – and a defendant in four criminal cases alleging 91 felonies – Trump has fused the roles of candidate and defendant. He attacks judges as political foes, demonizes prosecutors and casts the judicial system as biased against him and his supporters. These broadsides frequently trigger surges in threats against the judges, prosecutors and other court officials he targets, Reuters found. Since Trump launched his first presidential campaign in June 2015, the average number of threats and hostile communications directed at judges, federal prosecutors, judicial staff and court buildings has more than tripled, according to the Reuters review of data from the Marshals Service, which is responsible for protecting federal court personnel. The annual average rose from 1,180 incidents in the decade prior to Trump’s campaign to 3,810 in the seven years after he declared his candidacy and began his practice of criticizing judges.”


The Gun Death Cult Takes On the Administrative State

Ryan Cooper, February 29, 2024 [The American Prospect]

The conservative movement is outraged that Donald Trump did too much in response to the Las Vegas mass shooting.


The conservative victimhood complex has made America impossible to govern

Ryan Cooper, May 14, 2020 [TheWeek]

…For conservative zealots and media figures, the pandemic is quickly becoming just another culture war battleground — an axis of postmodern symbolic conflict, another vent for bottomless grievance, and fuel for a screeching victimhood complex. The practical effect will be to fuel infection and hamstring economic recovery. It’s a stark obstacle before fixing this or any other crisis.

Let’s take mask-wearing. As research about the coronavirus has developed, the effectiveness of masks in slowing the spread of the disease has become clear, above all in confined indoor spaces. Studies have found that being outdoors is relatively low-risk, and most infections happen when people are in proximity to each other indoors for a long time — but also that masks can drastically reduce the possibility of infecting others if you happen to be contagious…. Yet a developing narrative on the right holds that masks are a sign of weakness and cowardice….

Conservative media probably just can’t help itself. The entire “perpetual misinformation machine,” as Alex Pareene calls it, runs on whipping elderly white conservatives into a frothing rage over whatever is happening. Plus today, the president and half of the Republican congressional caucus are themselves eager right-wing propaganda addicts, forming a perfectly-sealed loop of insanity. It was likely inevitable that the pandemic would get sucked into the hysteria industrial complex, because that’s what right-wing media does with everything.

Ken Cuccinelli and the Persuasive, Pervasive Politics of Cruelty

Chris Lewis, February 23, 2024 [The American Prospect]

Over the past 15 or so years, the far-right faction of the Republican Party has fully taken over the party, and in the process managed to center the conservative political imagination on gleeful, vindictive cruelty. Back in the early Obama years, the so-called Tea Party rose to prominence supposedly as an angry backlash to his hesitant attempts to rescue Detroit and underwater homeowners—but the “birther” conspiracy theory claiming Obama was not a real citizen indicated deeper, more visceral roots of their grievance.

The rise of Donald Trump removed any pretext. As journalist Adam Serwer pointed out in his essay “The Cruelty Is the Point,” Trump and his supporters rejoiced in the utter depravity of his actions. Very often, this meant altering the Emma Lazarus poem to institute “merit based” immigration or a plan to end the Constitution’s promise of birthright citizenship.

Aside from Trump himself, there is no greater example of conservatives wallowing in cruelty for its own sake than former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

From his humble beginnings as a Fairfax-area state senator, known for his belief that LGBTQ folks were trying to “get education about homosexuals and AIDS in public schools,” to his stint as the state’s top cop working to prevent same-sex marriage, to his callous response to the deaths of a migrant father and daughter, time and time again Cuccinelli engaged in the politics of cruelty and was rewarded for it. These days, Cuccinelli is back in the news for his role at the Trump-aligned Center for Renewing America (CRA). At CRA, he has egged on the intensifying Texas border disputes, after originally concocting the idea of using the National Guard to wage war against migrants in 2021. It’s worth looking back at how Cuccinelli became a trailblazer for today’s distinct flavor of cruelty politics.

The Cruelty Is the Point 

Adam Serwer, October 3, 2016 [TheAtlantic]

President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear.

[TW: I decided to include these links on the [anti]Republican Party’s cruelty because that cruelty — especially its cultivation and deployment for political gain — contrasts so sharply with the American School economists discussed near the beginning of this wrap, who “always kept in view the ultimate goal of economic policies: the establishment and enhancement of civilization.” Note the intended effects of some of the guidelines Benjamin Franklin articulated for his Philadelphia group of friends in the 1730s, which the called “the Junto”, below/ Note especially how these guidelines are fundamentally at odds with a society ruled by elites chosen by bloodline, not merit : ]

Standing Queries for the Junto, 1732

Printed in Benjamin Franklin, Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces, ed. Benjamin Vaughan, (London, 1779), pp. 533–6; also draft: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

In the fall of 1727 Franklin “form’d most of my ingenious Acquaintances into a Club for mutual Improvement, which we called the Junto.” An important inspiration for it was the deep influence which Cotton Mather’s Essays to do Good had had on Franklin.3 Mather had proposed voluntary associations to promote religion and morality; he outlined their nature and form and even suggested an order of business.4 Franklin took the suggestion, secularized it, gave it a practical and specific purpose….

1. Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable, or suitable to be communicated to the Junto? Particularly in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge….

6. Do you know of any fellow citizen, who has lately done a worthy action, deserving praise and imitation? or who has committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid? ….

11. Do you think of any thing at present, in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind? to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?1

12. Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you heard of? and what have you heard or observed of his character or merits? and whether think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?2

13. Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?

14. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws of your country, [of]3 which it would be proper to move the legislature for an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?

15. Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?….

…Any person to be qualified, to stand up, and lay his hand on his breast, and be asked these questions; viz.4

1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.

2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general;5 of what profession or religion soever? Answ. I do.

3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name or goods, for mere speculative opinions, or his external way of worship? Ans. No.

4. Do you love6 truth for truth’s sake, and will you endeavour impartially to find and receive it yourself and communicate it to others? Answ. Yes.7

Also note how uncongenial these Junto guidelines are to somebody like Jeff Bezos,  whom Kara Swisher (in a link above) characterized thus: “I had no doubt that Jeff Bezos would eat my face off if that is what he needed to do to get ahead,” — TW]


Tennessee Republicans Have a Devious New Plan to Kick Out Democrats

Tori Otten, February 27, 2024 [The New Republic]

The Tennessee House of Representatives has passed a bill prohibiting local governments from reappointing lawmakers who were expelled for “disorderly behavior,” a clear jab at two Democratic representatives in particular.

House Bill 2716 passed the Republican-dominated chamber Monday by a vote of 69-22. The measure, which now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate, states that if a local legislature needs to elect a successor for a vacant seat in the state General Assembly, “and the vacancy was created due to the expulsion of a member for disorderly behavior, then the local legislative body shall not elect the expelled legislator to be the successor to fill the vacant seat.”


The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Supreme Court Disappoints

Joyce Vance, February 28, 2024 [substack]

This afternoon, the Supreme Court told us that it will hear Trump’s presidential immunity appeal. After sitting on it for two and a half weeks, they’ve issued a brief grant of certiorari, scheduling argument for the week of April 22. It’s a major disappointment for people who believe justice can be done and presidents are not above the law. And understand, this is not about politics. This is not about using a criminal prosecution in an unfair way against a candidate for office. This is about seeking justice and accountability, the core functions of our criminal justice system….

What does the Supreme Court’s decision mean? It’s increasingly unlikely we’ll have a trial, let alone a verdict in this case, before the election….

This isn’t a hard case. The substantive argument Trump makes—that presidents are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for anything they do in office and more specifically, for trying to steal an election—has to be a loser. As we’ve discussed before, if it’s not, our claim to be a democracy is no longer viable….

Here’s where the Supreme Court has left us: People in some of the key states are likely to be finalizing decisions about who to vote for while a trial is still ongoing or perhaps even before it begins. A verdict could happen only after some or all of the country votes. The Supreme Court’s message to us is, “Hey voters, we’re leaving this up to you.”

 [TW: What I have concluded is along the lines indicated, but not fully discussed, by Vance. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court may dislike Trump’s theory that a President has unlimited immunity, but they also dislike the prospect of increasing popular discontent with the Supreme Court. So, they will refuse their role of preserving Constitutional guard rails, and let the voters go first. If the election is a Trump win, and even close enough as Bush v. Gore in 2000, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will go along with Trump’s theory of unlimited immunity. If the election is a clear majority rejection of Trump, the Supreme Court will brace themselves for another four years of undermining the republic by shifting the philosophy of government in a conservative / reactionary direction. After all, the (anti)Federalist Society has succeeded in stuffing the judiciary full of conservative / reactionary ideologues. ]



No Mass Rapes By Hamas On October 7th/Open Thread


Quick Takes Nine


  1. different clue

    Here is an article from Naked Capitalism which seems in line with the Haaretz article about how ” Netanyahu’s Messianic Partners want all-out war . . . ”
    It is titled ” Israel may have just torched its relationship with Russia, promising to supply Ukraine with ‘early-warning systems’ ”
    Here is the link.

    I suspect the person who made this decision wants to drive the RussiaGov into the sort of anti-Israel posture which the Messianic Partners will use to “desperationize” the Israeli public further faster in order to bring their Messiah War about sooner stronger.

    The American Rapturists and Armageddonists who are part of Trump’s base want an Armageddon War throughout the Middle East and probably beyond so that Christ will come again and establish His Thousand Year Kingdom on Earth. They want Biblical Prophecy and Book of Revelation Prophecy as they understand it to be fulfilled. Do the Gilead Republic Evangelicals also want this? I am not sure about the nuances of theological difference among that end of the American Christian Community. I think some of the Christian Extremist Evangelicals believe that the Kingdom of Righteousness has to be achieved first and enforced for a thousand years before Christ will be satisfied enough to then return. I think that would be the position of the Seven Mountains Dominionists, the Biblical Inerrancy Literalists, and so forth. But if someone knows better, they can correct me on that.

    At any event, the American Christian Right, Far Right and Farther Right have been specifically and selectively supporting the Israeli Right, Far Right and Farther Right in order to create ” pre-Armageddonary” conditions in and around Israel. Their goal is to get Israel to start a World War of Armageddon which will result eventually in Christ’s Triumphant Return to Earth. The Likudists and Right-of-Likudists who accept and solicit this support think that they are smarter than the Evangelicals, Rapturaniacs and Armageddonists who they think they have lured into supporting them. I think that the Evangelicals, Rapturaniacs and Armageddonists have tricked the Rightists and Righterists in Israel into thinking that they have tricked the Es,Rs and As into supporting them. Actually, they are smarter than the Israelis are, and they are playing a longer game to get Israel exterminated as per prophecy, and to get Christ to return. Israel has them right where they want it, as the saying might go.

    If the Israel Lobby we currently know centered around AIPAC and its family of friends loses favor and power, the Gilead Evangelicals and the Rapturgeddonites will stand up a new Israel Lobby based on groups such as the 700 Club, CUFI, etc. Actually, it would be a Rapturegeddon Lobby.

  2. Z

    No surprise that Robfather Rubin was the first to invite and welcome Jeffrey Epstein to the White House and it was almost immediately after the Big Corporate Lapdawg Clinton’s inauguration.

    While Maxwell’s trial was going on last December, the Daily Mail revealed through a FOIA request that Epstein had visited Clinton’s White House at least seventeen times, his first visit in February 1993 coming through an invitation from “Rubin”, most likely Robert Rubin, the Wall Street banker who later became Treasury secretary and helped engineer the 2008 financial crisis.

    Wonder how that first conversation between Clinton and Epstein in the White House might have went:

    JE: Wow, it’s been a while, Bill … I mean President Clinton.
    BC: Yes, it has Jeffrey. Yes, it has.
    JE: Look at you now, huh?
    BC: (Chuckle)
    JE: Haven’t seen you since the summer of ’90, I’d imagine.
    BC: Might a been. Might a been.
    JE: Wild times, huh?
    BC: Well, fun times, I’d call them.
    JE: Hey, remember Sally from that summer.
    BC: No. Nope, don’t think I do.
    JE: Oh yeah, you do! Sallllllly! (Cups his hands beneath his chest and wiggles his shoulders)
    BC: No, I don’t honestly believe I recall her.
    JE: Okay, fine. Well anyways, she remembers you, all right.
    BC: Hmmmm.
    JE: She told me to tell you “hello”.
    BC: Okay, well Jeffrey I’ve got to be getting to …
    JE: Yeah, she’s doing pretty well. She just had her eighteenth birthday last month.

    Then, coincidentally perhaps, the last time Epstein visited the White House during The Robfather Rubin I Administration, often errantly referred to as the Clinton Administration, was shortly after The Robfather got named Secretary of Treasury in January 1995.

    White House visitor logs obtained by the Daily Mail show that the late sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein stopped by at least 17 times during President Bill Clinton’s tenure. Epstein’s first visit was in February 1993, just after Clinton’s inauguration, and his last recorded visit was in January 1995. The vast majority of his visits were to the West Wing.

    Again, who knows? It could have just been a coincidence that Epstein last visited the White House after Robfather Rubin, who was the first to invite and welcome him to the White House, became Secretary of Treasury. The Robfather was, by the way, hardly a long-shot for the position as he served in the White House as Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and, in that capacity, directed the National Economic Council, which Bill Clinton created after winning the presidency.

    But one could certainly imagine a world that obeys the laws of physical nature, as we know them, where the Big Corporate Lapdawg Clinton trying to assert some semblance of power and leverage over The Robfather, however flimsy and false it was, insisting that he stop inviting his pal Jeffrey Epstein into the White House as a condition of Clinton nominating The Robfather for the position.


  3. Z

    The Uncrowned Queen of Ukraine Victoria Kagan-Nuland is now openly threatening Russia with nasty surprises in 2024, aka terrorism, or asymmetric warfare, if you will.


  4. Z

    One of our rulers’ tactics to keep the heat off of them, if and when Western society collapses, which could happen via rebellion and/or the collapse of the dollar and hence the Western financial system the U.S. dollar girds, is to invite a slew of immigrants, most of which are illegal, into the country which thereby opens a two-front war on their subjects where the more immediate threat to their subjects is the immigrants (instead of our rulers), people who are often desperate and poor and possess no strong political beliefs or sophisticated understanding of the power structure of the country they are invading and therefore primarily are a danger to our rulers’ subjects’ economic and physical security while posing little threat to our rulers as long as our rulers can keep them out of their gated neighborhoods, which often are secured by armed guards.

    I’d also add that the immigrants, through proximity, are more accessible to us than our rulers and therefore an easier target for us to vent our frustrations and fears upon.


  5. Z

    This woman cracks me up …

    This one apparently is a conversation between Ukraine, the U.S., and Germany about military aid:

    This one is about the EU foolishly playing hardball with Russia over sanctions:

    This one about different countries’ propaganda operations for the Ukraine-Russia war:


  6. VietnamVet

    Media Moguls forbid mentioning it but it is quite clear that rich individuals can do whatever they want since the oligarchy was reestablished in the 1990s by radical conservatives, the new Democrat Coalition and the European Union. With the Iraq Invasion in 2003, the Western Empire commenced its endless wars for profit. The Empire does what is in the best interests of corporations not the people.

    The problem which rich families running things is that they are psychotic, amoral, and greedy (that’s how they’ve added wealth to their inheritances). Some are driven by religious fanaticism. A multi-polar world of sovereign nations needs to be reestablished with strong borders and the return of international laws and treaties before the plutocrats destroy civilization and themselves as they always have done before except for the Chinese. With nuclear weapons, pandemics, and climate change, this time, if western civilization collapses, it will kill the rest of humanity along with itself.

  7. Richard Holsworth

    This messianic vision that Olmert reveals, is supported by many in power here in the United States.
     “The message we heard in church was that end-times prophecy was unfolding in front of our eyes and God needed our help to speed up the process,” creator of the film Praying for Armageddon.”

    ‘Through our investigations in Praying for Armageddon, it becomes shockingly clear that there are many powerful political, religious, and military leaders ready to pull the trigger on a “holy war” that could be devastating to our global civilization.’

    The revelations by Olmert are devastating. But, one mustn’t forget his history as the war criminal who Israel during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009. It was under his leadership that the Dahiya Doctrine, the Doctrine itself merely a restatement of practices employed by Zonists since the beginning.
     Israel’s Gaza onslaught is the next stage of the Dahiya Doctrine
    Fareed Zakaria Interview with Ehud Olmert 
    Zakaria:”From the start the [Biden] administration urged the Israelis to consider proportionality in their response to Hamas. Israel heard it and went ahead with one of the most extensive bombing campaigns in this century against a population of about 2.2 million people that by Israel’s own estimates contained about 30,000 Hamas militants. By one January estimate, more than half of buildings across Gaza have been damaged or destroyed.”


    Olmert: ”I am absolutely, absolutely, without any doubt in favor of fighting terrorists and if necessary neutralizing them, killing them when they are trying to kill me.

    But I’m against the vicious, brutal, aggressive attitude to the majority of the Palestinians living in the territories.”
    During the 2006 war with Lebanon, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Palestinians need to understand that “the master of the house has gone mad.” Olmert, who presided over Cast Lead as PM, said: “We’ve said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response.” And, of course, Olmert’s “master of the house” mantra was more widely echoed last year as the election slogan of the far-right Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is now the Minister of National Security in Netanyahu’s government.

  8. different clue

    I am not sure that the ongoing carpet bombing of Gaza is intended as merely a next stage of the dahiya doctrine. I have a feeling that Smotrich/ benGvir actively want a total war with all Israel’s neighbors and perhaps with the whole Muslim world, in order to get God to send the real literal Messiah, end this cycle of time and begin the next cycle of time. I get the feeling that Olmert thinks so too, which is why he wrote his article. I suspect he considers the ongoing genocide in Gaza to be a dahiya too far. I suspect he considers it an effort to troll Egypt and Jordan into going to war against Israel.

    And the Rapturegeddon-seekers want this war in order to lead to an even bigger world war which will bring the literal return of Christ to rule over His Kingdom of Righteousness for a thousand years.

    So when Mondoweiss says that the Gaza Onslaught is ” merely the next stage of the dahiya doctrine” , I don’t think Mondoweiss really understands what some of these Messiah Movement people really want. Of course, I could be wrong about that. If Mr. Mondoweiss has written about the Rapturegeddon power structures in America in any of his columns, then maybe he does understand it.

    I think maybe the National Christianist Evangelicals and etc. could be thought of as a sort of Christian Taliban in goals and outlook. And the Rapture-Armaggedon people could be thought of as a sort of Christian ISIS in goals and outlook. I wonder how much some of our foreign friends and onlookers really understand some of the unusual kinds of Christians we have here.

  9. Z

    Well, The Uncrowned Queen of Ukraine Victoria Kagan-Nuland has submitted her resignation to the State Department. One can only hope, though I have my doubts, that the root cause of this was some sort of rebellion by the sane in the Deep State, perhaps by someone who is looking forward to the daughter’s wedding this autumn or is hopeful of winning their fantasy football league this coming winter or perhaps just sees it as a tad unfair that some unhinged madwoman and her continual escalations with a nuclear power is in a position to potentially place all life on this planet within a misunderstanding and/or mistake from extinction.

    Goodbye to this wicked witch and the broom she rode in on! Plenty have paid with their lives for her titanic-sized ego and selfishness; we can only hope that the toll doesn’t ultimately include all life on earth.


  10. Mark Level

    I cannot wait for Ian’s coverage of the insane Biden admin finally getting one thing right & forcing the genocidal failure Vicki Nuland out!! It’s a clear recognition that Project Ukraine has failed, Russia has won the civilizational war against the Nazi Revival cult that was Azov, Right Sector, etc.

    The Zelensky Bishop is off the Board now. How long until the Israeli Rook falls?

  11. Chuck Mire

    WCNSF: The Most Haunting Acronym the World Has Produced:

    “There’s an acronym used in Gaza, WCNSF: ‘Wounded child with no surviving family.”

  12. Ian Welsh


    hadn’t noticed that. Not sure if I’ll cover it, BUT excellent catch. Couldn’t happen to someone who deserved it more, just a pity it didn’t happen before she arranged for war and mass death.

  13. Mark Level

    Yes. And some analysts think she quit because she realized it’s failed, just wants a cushy Wingnut Welfare/ lobbyist sinecure like they all get. And to be absented (somewhat) from blame when it all crashes down. We’ll see!!

  14. Let’s look at the Michigan study on vaccines and long Covid (cited in Ian’s quick takes).

    Conflicts of interest:
    The study was funded by 6 organizations that not only recommended the Covid vaccines, but forced people to take them. Several of these organizations such as the CDC also have vaccine patents and make billions yearly selling vaccines

    The authors all worked for these organizations and declare that being employees of organizations that sell vaccines and forced people to take the vaccines are not conflicts of interest.

    Method section:
    “vaccinated (completed an initial series ≥14 days before COVID-19 onset)”
    No honest assessment cherry picks the data. In the clinical trials a month after the first dose the vaccine increased Covid infections. The clinical trials excluded this data because that was the only way they could meet the FDA’s standard to be approved. This study is not of a vaccine group verse unvaccine group but compares “vaccinated people with the best outcomes” verse “all unvaccinated people.”

    “accounting for differences in age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, employment, health insurance, and rurality/urbanicity”

    A honest retrospective assessment on the impact of a an intervention on health outcomes would consider prior health factors of the groups.

    The full study is behind a paywall, so sadly we can’t go look at the authors “estimates” and “weights to account for sociodemographic differences”, full methods, and full results, and differences between the groups.

  15. somecomputerguy

    Re. Japan;
    The only crisis caused by this gradual population drop is greater bargaining power for social recognition (i.e. wages, status), for the least powerful.
    All real estate becomes more affordable.
    In WWII women and minorities were recruited for jobs they were previously barred from.
    After the plague, wages went up and didn’t go down for centuries.
    That is what is happening in Japan right before our eyes.

  16. Z

    The Navalny death (which was blamed on Putin, though he very likely had nothing to do with it for he had no reason to fear Navalny, who was in jail and was no political threat to Putin), The Uncrowned Queen of Ukraine Victoria Kagan-Nuland resigning recently, the supposed assassination attempt on War Pimp Zelensky in Odessa yesterday (which I also don’t believe Russia had anything to do with), the Israelis recently going all in on supporting Ukraine and naming Russia their enemy, and now talk about “”extremists” that have “imminent plans” to target “large gatherings” over the next 48 hours in Russia’s capital” ( have me thinking that our rulers are going to try to take out Putin and want to blame it on Russia’s internal politics in order to try to keep their fingerprints off of it and portray it as an internal affair. That was my suspicions behind “The Coup” as well: that our rulers wanted to use it as cover to kill Putin and then blame it on an internal power struggle in Russia.

    Desperate measures for a desperate and dying empire. Nothing but escalation from our assh*le rulers who can’t take “no” for an answer to any of their demands. Mind you what happens if Ukraine is forced to surrender: Putin will declare all those contracts regarding the Western ownership of Ukrainian land voided so that he can give ownership of Ukraine’s resources to the Ukrainian people as a goodwill gesture and to push our meddling rulers out of Ukraine. That also means that Larry’s and Stanley’s Asset Inflation Factory BlackRock’s “investments” in Ukraine would largely become wasted ink and paper from the Fed’s money printer.

    I hope I’m wrong about this and I hope Putin doesn’t get harmed if our rulers do try to take him out. It could potentially lead to a nuclear war.

    Nuland on CNN on February 22nd, a week or so before her retirement announcement:

    NULAND: Well, first of all, it depends what kind of country you want to build, right? If you want to build a country where a thousand of your young men a day are sent across the front lines to be put into a meat grinder and you want to tell their mothers what happened to them, then you can have Putin’s Russia.

    If you want to have a situation where you’re about to have an election in less than a month, which is frankly no more than a selection because you’ve killed off or imprisoned or silenced any serious opponent, that’s Putin’s Russia. If you want to deny the next generation, the technology, the education, the investment in their future, that young Russians want, then that’s Putin’s Russia.

    So, you’re right, Christiane, he’s turned the entire country into a bloody war machine. And by the way, deepened its dependence on neighbors like China. Deepened its dependence on pariah states like Iran and North Korea.

    I sympathize with Zhenya Albats because that is not the Russia that she wanted. It’s not the Russia that, frankly, we wanted. We wanted a partner that was going to be westernizing, that was going to be European. But that’s not what Putin has done.

    And as desperate and awful a situation this is for Ukraine, Putin’s also destroyed his own country through all of this. And we will continue to tighten the noose on him and force his choices to be — to come to the table in a serious way or live with the Russia that he’s wrought, which is not the Russia he promised his people.


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