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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 11, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 11, 2019

This post is by Tony Wikrent

[, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-28-19]

“The phrase is code for elites being pressured in ways they don’t like, and is often a shield against legitimate criticism of corruption or dependence on corporate power.”

Strategic Political Economy

[Ian Welsh, May 10, 2019]

You cannot have a good economy, where executives plan for the future, unless they need their companies to continue to do well. That means high progressive tax rates on income, on capital gains AND on unrealized capital and wealth, with no loops.

Taxes on unrealized capital gains and wealth are necessary because if you don’t do that rich types don’t cash out capital, instead they use loans to pay their bills. When you’re worth 500 million or even just a 100 million, banks are happy to lend, at under 2%.

And this week, the perfect example of how a republic that does not throttle the rich has its economic policy severely distorted: 

“How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country” 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-19]

“At the heart of their effort is a network of activists who use a sophisticated data service built by the Kochs, called i360, that helps them identify and rally voters who are inclined to their worldview. It is a particularly powerful version of the technologies used by major political parties*. In places like Nashville, Koch-financed activists are finding tremendous success. Early polling here had suggested that the $5.4 billion transit plan would easily pass. It was backed by the city’s popular mayor and a coalition of businesses. Its supporters had outspent the opposition, and Nashville was choking on cars. But the outcome of the May 1 ballot stunned the city: a landslide victory for the anti-transit camp, which attacked the plan as a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.”

High Speed Rail– A Much Greener Way To Travel Than Airplane Or Auto… And Some Special Interests Opposing It
[DownWithTyranny, May 11, 2019]

Yesterday CNBC carried a very interesting piece on high peed rail– and why the U.S. has fallen so woefully behind other nations. Jeniece Pettitt and Adam Isaak compared the U.S. to other countries: “China has the world’s fastest and largest high-speed rail network– more than 19,000 miles, the vast majority of which was built in the past decade. Japan’s bullet trains can reach nearly 200 miles per hour and date to the 1960s. They have moved more than 9 billion people without a single passenger casualty. France began service of the high-speed TGV train in 1981 and the rest of Europe quickly followed… When the high speed rail between Madrid and Barcelona in Spain came into operation, air traffic just plummeted between those cities and everyone switched over to high speed rail which is very convenient. People were happy to do it; they weren’t forced to switch. They did it because it was a nicer option to take high speed rail.

‘World’s fastest bullet train’ starts test runs in Japan

Nikkei Asian Review, via Naked Capitalism 5-11-19]

The 360 kph [224 mph] top speed bests the 320 kph of E5 series shinkansen currently running in Japan and TGV bullet trains in France.  [In USA, top speed of Amtrak is 241 kph = 150 mph – for only 34 miles of the Northeast Corridor].

Until neoliberal policies came to dominate a half century ago — leading to deindustrialization — USA was the world leader in railroad technology. For the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, Union Pacific is running the famous 4-8-8-4 UP Big Boy steam locomotive from Union Pacific’s Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyo., to Ogden, Utah, the site of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point.
[youtube link from Jon Larson; Railway Age, 5-10-19]

Germany Open Its First eHighway System for Trucks

[Interesting engineering, via Naked Capitalism 5-11-19]

Developed by the German industrial company, Siemens, the electrification system went into effect on 10 km (6.2 miles) of autobahn, allowing trucks with the necessary equipment mounted to their roof to use the electrified cables to travel at speeds up to 90 kph (56 mpm) without needing to burn any diesel fuel, converting back to diesel-powered internal combustion once they leave the electrified stretch…. The stretch of highway is part of an artery from the Frankfurt airport to a nearby industrial park which has a lot of diesel-powered truck traffic, so that even if the system doesn’t take off elsewhere, it could help reduce more carbon emissions than on your normal stretch of highway.

Siemens also emphasizes that truck operators can save €20,000 ($22,370) over 100,000 km (62,137 miles) on fuel costs using their system on top of the emissions reduction from electrifying freight vehicles.

Restoring balance to the economy

“Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019” would safeguard our freedom to join together
[North Carolina AFL-CIO 5-10-19]

The $100 trillion question: What to do about wealth?
Robert J. Samuelson, May 5, 2019 [Washington Post]

‘Moneyland’ Reveals How Oligarchs, Kleptocrats And Crooks Stash Fortunes

[NPR, via The Big Picture 5-5-19]

Sanders presidential campaign agrees to historic first union contract with campaign workers
[via Naked Capitalism 5-8-19]
Sanders’ conspicuous support for labor and labor strikes is making conservative unionists’ support for Trump and Republicans increasingly untenable. No other Democratic candidate comes close to Sanders in outspoken support for ongoing strikes. 

Bernie Sanders’s campaign staff just signed a historic union contract. Here’s what’s in it.[North Carolina AFL-CIO 5-10-19]

On Saturday, the Sanders campaign emailed a petition to sign urging Delta Airlines “to stop trying to undercut workers’ right to form a union and negotiate for better wages.”

Delta told workers to spend on video games and beer instead of union dues. It didn’t go well.
[North Carolina AFL-CIO 5-10-19]

Delta’s Anti-Union Propaganda Came From PR Shop Busted for Posing as Journalists for ExxonMobil

[North Carolina AFL-CIO 5-10-19]
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-19 – with interspersed comments by Lambert Strether]

I’m glad to see AOC back in the fray, but shouldn’t that decimal point be moved one digit right left? As in 1.5%? But more importantly: “The two self-identified democratic-socialists are set to propose legislation on Thursday capping rates on credit card and other consumer loans and letting post offices offer low-cost basic financial services, such as loans and checking and savings accounts.” • Awesome!!!! And stealing Elizabeth Warren’s issue, too. (Plus I can see AOC demolishing the usual yammering about the Post Office and big gummint with a video about how much she loves the Post Office (maybe while sending a package). I see nothing wrong with the Post Office that funding won’t cure; it’s obviously an enormously tough and effective institution. Oh, and put a WiFi antenna on top of every Post Office building so there’s free municipal WiFi. Why not?

These Two Charts Show the Shocking Truth Behind the Sanders/AOC Plan to Cap Credit Card Interest Rates
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 10, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

New report: North Carolina is not doing right by working people with disabilities

[North Carolina AFL-CIO 5-10-19]
America’s Growing Gender Jail Gap
Jacob Kang-Brown and Olive Lu [New York Review of Books 5-9-19]

Almost two out of every three women in jail have not been convicted of a crime.

Climate and environmental crises

A Call to Action for a Climate Conservation Corps

Gov. Jay Inslee (Washington, Dem., also candidate for President) [Data for Progress, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-19]

“How Carbon Farming Can Help Stop Climate Change in Its Tracks”

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-19]

“‘How do we get greenhouse gases out of the air?’ Masters asks the people at this workshop. Our host, a rancher named Steve Charter, answers, ‘Photosynthesis.’ ‘Right,’ she says. Plants not only take in carbon dioxide but also create ground cover—and this gets carbon back in the soil… Soil microbes eat sugar. And feeding these soil microbes builds soil and sequesters atmospheric carbon in the ground ‘at a rate previously thought impossible.’”

“The Green New Deal Costs Less Than Doing Nothing” 

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-19]

“[T]he Democrats aren’t doing enough [lol] to hammer home how expensive the Republican alternative to the Green New Deal really is. Here’s how much it will cost America to do nothing about the climate crisis.” Lots of studies, then: “The Republican plan to do nothing, then, means America would be double-charged for its inaction: The country would lose trillions in missed opportunities for growth, and many trillions more due to a growing catastrophe. Passing a Green New Deal, or something like it, may sound expensive up front, but Republicans should see it for what it is: a sound investment that will generate the greatest returns imaginable—a livable planet.”

“Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending” 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-19]
“The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year was $599 billion.” • How ya gonna pay for it?
[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-19]

“But, on balance, lawns are awful for the planet. Our addiction to lawns means that grass is the single largest irrigated agricultural “crop” in America, more than corn, wheat, and fruit orchards combined. A NASA-led studyin 2005 found that there were 63,000 square miles of turf grass in the United States, covering an area larger than Georgia. Keeping all that grass alive can consume about 50-75 percent of a residence’s water.

“New database: Water sources in 43 states contain potentially unsafe chemical levels” 

[McClatchy, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-19]

“More than 610 drinking water sources in 43 states contain potentially unsafe levels of chemical compounds that have been linked to birth defects, cancers, infertility, and reduced immune responses in children, according to a new database compiled by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University. Using Pentagon data released last year and recently obtained public water utility reports, the researchers now estimate that more than 19 million people are exposed to water contaminated with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS.”

“AirPods Are a Tragedy”

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 5-8-19]

For roughly 18 months, AirPods play music, or podcasts, or make phone calls. Then the lithium-ion batteries will stop holding much of a charge, and the AirPods will slowly become unusable. They can’t be repaired because they’re glued together. They can’t be thrown out, or else the lithium-ion battery may start a fire in the garbage compactor. They can’t be easily recycled, because there’s no safe way to separate the lithium-ion battery from the plastic shell. Instead, the AirPods sit in your drawer forever.… AirPods are a symbol of wealth. They’re physical manifestations of a global economic system that allows some people to buy and easily lose $160 headphones, and leaves other people at risk of death to produce those products. If AirPods are anything, they’re future fossils of capitalism.” • Well worth a read, especially if you want to understand product design at Apple (ugh).

Unfortunately missing is a reference to Veblen’s classic explanation of conspicuous consumption by the predatory leisure class.

U.S. Energy Use in 2018 Sets a Record
[Machine Design Today 5-7-19]

Americans used more energy in 2018 than in any other year, according to the most recent energy flowchart released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

FERC: US added 2.17 GW of wind, solar Q1
[Renewables Now (Bulgaria) (tiered subscription model) [American Wind Energy Association 5-9-19]

Wind farms and solar projects with a combined capacity of 2.17 gigawatts came online in the US in the first quarter, putting the nation’s total installed capacity beyond 136 GW, according to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission.

IEA: Global renewable energy additions were flat in 2018
[Gizmodo/Earther, via American Wind Energy Association 5-7-19]

Countries worldwide added 177 gigawatts of new installed renewable energy capacity in 2018, showing a relatively flat increase compared to 2017, says the International Energy Agency. The world needs to expand the sector more quickly to tackle climate change, says Executive Director Fatih Birol.

AWEA’s Kiernan praises proposed Clean Energy for America Act
[Daily Energy Insider, via American Wind Energy Association 5-7-19]

The Clean Energy Act for America introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., “includes an innovative technology-neutral tax credit that would move national tax policy in the right direction to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create long-term stability for businesses to make new investments in American energy production,” says American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan. “Congress should seize this opportunity to have a thoughtful conversation about specific policies, like Sen. Wyden’s bill, that can meaningfully address climate change.”

Energy Dept. to spend $8M on wind turbine generator R&D
[North American Windpower online, via American Wind Energy Association 5-7-19]

The Energy Department has launched an $8 million project to develop new drivetrain technologies for land-based and offshore wind turbines that could lower wind costs by 10% to 25%. ABB, WEG Energy and two other companies will receive up to $400,000 each for a design, and the winning bid will receive as much as $6.4 million to develop its proposal.

Gov. Inslee calls for 100% clean energy in 10 years

[CBS News, via American Wind Energy Association 5-7-19]

Presidential candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday introduced a plan to switch to 100% clean energy within 10 years known as the “100% Clean Energy for America Plan.” “This has to be the No. 1 priority for the next president of the United States,” Inslee says.

[National Geographic, via Naked Capitalism 5-11-19]

No patient left behind

Freedom-Loving Americans Should Demand Universal Healthcare
[Current Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-19]

With experience living in three other countries with universal health care, an Irish Brit looks at the USA health care system from the perspective of cherished American beliefs, and finds a number of contradictions. This approach raises the issue of what I call cultural warfare: changing a culture and a society by appealing to or changing the basic socioeconomic doctrines people believe.

“Huge Racial Disparities Found in Deaths Linked to Pregnancy” 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-8-19]

“African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women die of pregnancy-related causes at a rate about three times higher than those of white women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday. The racial disparity has persisted, even grown, for years despite frequent calls to improve access to medical care for women of color. Sixty percent of all pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented with better health care, communication and support, as well as access to stable housing and transportation, the researchers concluded.”

They Want It to Be Secret: How a Common Blood Test Can Cost $11 or Almost $1,000

[New York Times,  via The Big Picture 5-5-19]

[via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-28-19] Matt Stoller tweets: “This is potentially the most disturbing merger I’ve ever seen. Roche, which makes an very expensive treatment for hemophilia, is trying to buy Spark Therapeutics, which has a very promising potential cure for hemophilia. I wonder if there are conflicts.”

New NAFTA Will Lock in High Drug Prices (op-ed by NCARA member Ann Young)

[North Carolina AFL-CIO 5-10-19]

Right to Choose

Texas Bill Prohibiting Male Masturbation Moves Closer To Becoming Law:

[Patheos, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-28-19]

A proposed bill in Texas that would impose a fine for male masturbation is making its way through the state’s legislature. House Bill 4260, called the ‘Man’s Right to Know Act,’ would punish male masturbation with a $100 fine, and require men who want Viagra to be subject to a rectal exam. The bill, filed earlier this year by Texas legislator Rep. Jessica Farrar (D), was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. By focusing on male masturbation, the proposed legislation is an obvious attempt to satirize and draw attention to the unreasonable and dangerous policy proposals concerning women’s reproductive freedom coming from the Republican Party.”

[Economic Policy Institute, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-19]
  • Average weekly wages of public school teachers (adjusted for inflation) decreased $21 from 1996 to 2018, from $1,216 to $1,195 (in 2018 dollars). In contrast, weekly wages of other college graduates rose by $323, from $1,454 to $1,777, over this period.
  • For all public-sector teachers, the relative wage penalty (controlling for education, experience, and other factors known to affect earnings) has grown substantially since the mid-1990s. The teacher weekly wage penalty was 5.3 percent in 1993, grew to 12.0 percent in 2004, and reached a record 21.4 percent in 2018….
[San Francisco Chronicle, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-19]

“We can no longer accept a situation in which a tiny handful of Americans become extraordinarily wealthy by paying their workers starvation wages. Today, the median worker at these ride-booking services makes between $8.55 and $10 an hour. And yet in 2017, Lyft’s CEO made more than $41 million and Uber’s CEO was paid $45 million last year. Additionally, Uber executives this week are expected to become instant millionairesfrom the company’s multibillion-dollar initial public offering on Wall Street… And now, shock of all shocks, President Trump — the man who campaigned as a champion of workers — is actively helping companies rip off workers…. Trump’s administration not only rescinded previous rules designed to classify gig economy workers as full-time employees, his Labor Department just this past week issued a ‘get out of jail free card’ to employers such as Uber and Lyft to let them keep classifying their workers as ‘independent contractors.’ That makes it harder for these workers to join unions, and harder for workers to sue when they are being fleeced.”

“Former Boeing Engineers Say Relentless Cost-Cutting Sacrificed Safety” 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-19]

The failures of the 737 Max appear to be the result of an emphasis on speed, cost, and above all shareholder value.

Predatory Finance

The Ruthless, Secretive, and Sometimes Seedy World of Hedge Fund Private Investigators Institutional Investor, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-19]

Judge Issues Scathing Rebuke of DOJ and Law Firm, Paul Weiss
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, May 7, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

If you needed more proof that the United States is heading in the direction of a dystopian authoritarian state, it arrived last Thursday, May 2, when the Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote a decision finding that the U.S. Justice Department had outsourced a criminal investigation to the target of the investigation – Deutsche Bank – and Deutsche Bank’s outside law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Making the matter all the more interesting, the Chief Judge who wrote the decision, Colleen McMahon, formerly worked for Paul Weiss for 19 years, rising to the rank of partner. She remains, according to this profile, close friends with a number of former and current Paul Weiss lawyers.

Judge McMahon’s takedown of the government’s cozy relationship with Deutsche Bank and Paul Weiss has to be causing a lot of buzz in the Big Apple. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is where most major Wall Street fraud cases end up and Paul Weiss is a big player in that arena, particularly as defense counsel for the serially charged Citigroup. (See our previous article: Meet the Lawyer Who Gets Citigroup Out of Fraud Charges.)

The case is U.S. v Connolly (16-cr-00370) and involves Libor-rigging charges against two former employees of Deutsche Bank.

Information Age Dystopia

A Facebook cofounder has written a blistering New York Times op-ed arguing that Mark Zuckerberg’s social network should be torn apart

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-19]
[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-19]

Another source that provided government secrets to The Intercept has been uncovered and indicted by the U.S. government.

The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The online magazine is financed by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, who’s is known for many shady connection to Obama administration and for promoting various regime change efforts.

“The Tenants Fighting Back Against Facial Recognition Technology” 

[CityLab, via Naked Capitalism 5-8-19]

“Last year, residents of Atlantic Plaza Towers, a rent-stabilized apartment building in Brooklyn, found out that their landlord was planning to replace the key fob entry system with facial recognition technology. The goal, ostensibly, was to modernize the building’s security system… Last week, lawyers representing 134 concerned residents of the building filed an objection with the state housing regulator. It is the first visible opposition in New York City to the deployment of such technology in the residential realm.”

Disrupting mainstream politics

How ‘I got a plan’ became a thing: Warren nerds out and the crowds go crazy
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-19]

[NRO, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-19]

Obama’s Original Sin
Eric Rauchway, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-28-19]

A new insider account reveals how the Obama administration’s botched bailout deal not only reinforced neoliberal Clintonism, but also foreshadowed an ongoing failure to fulfill campaign promises.

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 5-5-19]

Obama tried to keep his cool in the weeks afterwards and texted his speechwriter Ben Rhodes: ‘There are more stars in the sky than sand on the earth’. But soon he was unable to contain his rage which escalated after he met Trump in the Oval Office….

As the weeks went by Obama went through ‘multiple emotional stages’, at times being philosophical and other times he ‘flashed anger’. He also showed a rare self-doubt and wondered if ‘maybe this is what people want’, Baker writes….

In a stinging passage Baker writes: ‘To Obama and his team, however, the real blame lay squarely with Clinton. ‘She was the one who could not translate his strong record and healthy economy into a winning message.

Bernie and the Racists

[Advice Unasked, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-28-19]

It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South. From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: ‘Sister Soljah,’ ‘superpredators,’ and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors. I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most? Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I’m writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it.”

Elizabeth Warren in 2004 interview, warning of coming financial crash
[via Naked Capitalism 5-8-19]

“Alan Greenspan, our national economic leader, stood up for the last 4 years and told Americans ‘borrow against your house.’ What frightens me is millions of Americans have taken that advice”

Wendell Primus, The Most Powerful Staffer In Congress, Represents A Generational Divide On The Left – David Dayen also talked about this with Sam Seder, The Top Pelosi Aide Aiming to Kill Medicare For All w/ David Dayen – MR Live – 4/17/19.
Avedon’s Sidehow:

The saddest thing is that Primus really thinks he’s defending what’s left of the New Deal by behaving this way. Getting into a defensive crouch has really been the strategy of the Democratic Party since the ’70s, but they really seem to have frozen in time once Reagan got into office.

From the article:

Primus serves as Pelosi’s sharp elbows, particularly on health policy. He is working directly with the Trump White House on watered-down drug-pricing legislation that differs from a bill favored by House liberals. And as The Intercept has reported, Primus reassured insurance executives last December, shortly after the Democratic takeover of the House, that party leadership would not favor a Medicare for All plan. He also lashed out at Medicare for All on tape, at a little-noticed health care conference in Irvine, California, in February, homing in on regional differences in provider reimbursement rates as a signature obstacle….

Among other criticisms, Primus explained to insurers that “stakeholders are against” single payer, therefore leadership is too. This rationale for policy opposition — stakeholders are against virtually anything that would damage their interests, regardless of whether it benefits the public — represents Primus’s worldview in one phrase. You could call him the last of the loser liberals, desperate to maintain the last few scraps of the welfare state rather than forward anything more bold. The mindset views younger progressives as people to protect leadership from, and anti-government conservatives as people to bargain with. They strive not to make the world a better place, but to make it less bad than Republicans want….

Primus and those who think like him have a well-established mindset and a narrow viewpoint on policy debates, one beaten into them by the Reagan years. They want to preserve benefits for the poor and needy, without too many painful cutbacks. They are deficit hawks who want to use resources they consider scarce to barely cover what we have today. They generally seek to protect the handful of programs that managed to survive the conservative revolution, because they believe that’s all government can do….

We are now in a different era than even a few short years ago. Progressives, responding to decades of stagnant wages, sinking economic mobility, and soaring income and wealth inequality have proposed structural changes across the board. This goes well beyond the “pity-charity liberalism” that grants some minor alms for society’s losers, rather than broad agency or power for the working class.

“The Democratic Party Just Ticked Off Its Youngest Organizers”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-19]

“Sixty-eight chapters of the College Democrats are urging voters not to donate to the party’s congressional-campaign arm after it instituted a new policy to protect incumbents from primary challenges. The protesting students say that the change will deter young candidates and people from historically marginalized communities from running for office. Their outrage isn’t just noteworthy because they represent younger voters in the electorate—these young people are also some of the party’s key organizers and activists. ‘As College Democrats, we did a lot of work to build the new Democratic majority,’ says Hank Sparks, the 20-year-old president of the Harvard College Democrats, which is spearheading the boycott. ‘This is a policy that’s going to silence a lot of voices like ours.’ They did do a lot of work: College Democrats help form the backbone of the party’s organizing infrastructure.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Is Facing A Primary Challenge:

Rachel M. Cohen [Intercept, via Avedon’s Sideshow 4-28-19]

MCKAYLA WILKES, a 28-year-old administrative assistant, part-time student, and mother of two, has had enough. In late March, she announced that she was mounting a bid for Maryland’s 5th Congressional District, aiming to unseat one of the oldest and most powerful Democratic members, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wilkes is running on a host of progressive policies, but plans to put particular focus on Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and affordable housing. A student of political science, Wilkes hasn’t formerly been involved in politics before, but thinks the moment is too urgent to wait. She wants more ‘relatable people’ in Congress and is fed up with Hoyer’s record, which she says does not adequately represent the needs of those living in his district. ‘We need someone who will be a voice for us, who knows what we go through as daily constituents, and Steny Hoyer has been in office so long he’s never really had to be a regular constituent,’ she said. Hoyer, who is 79 years old, was first elected to Congress in 1981.” That’s not actually the problem with Hoyer, though – he’s always been like this. But it would be cool if McKayla Wilkes could do to Hoyer what Donna Edwards did to Al Wynn.

“Biden Thinks Trump Is the Problem, Not All Republicans. Other Democrats Disagree” 
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-19]

“Mr. Biden’s singular focus on the president as the source of the nation’s ills, while extending an olive branch to Republicans, has exposed a significant fault line in the Democratic primary.

For why — if this is correct — Biden’s thinking about Trump is so threatening to survival of USA as a republican democracy, see George Packer, The Corruption of the Republican Party [The Atlantic, December 14, 2018]. Packer catalogs the Republican Party’s

institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means… There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, a representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries.* But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing…. The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.

….Taking away democratic rights—extreme gerrymandering; blocking an elected president from nominating a Supreme Court justice; selectively paring voting rolls and polling places; creating spurious anti-fraud commissions; misusing the census to undercount the opposition; calling lame-duck legislative sessions to pass laws against the will of the voters—is the Republican Party’s main political strategy, and will be for years to come.

Biden raising money from Republican millionaires:
[via Naked Capitalism 5-5-19]

Here’s invite to Biden event in Vegas hosted by MGM’s Jim Murren, a Republican, and his better half; ex-GOP st. Sen./ex-US Atty Greg Brower and his wife; online betting giant William Hill CEO Joe Asher and his wife, other W. Hill execs; longtime atty Randall Jones and his wife.

“Jeff Berman’s delegate strategy helped make Barack Obama president”
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-19]

“The low-profile Democratic lawyer who played a central role in Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s election campaigns, and who literally wrote the book on the obscure and crucial art of delegate selection, has gone to work for Beto O’Rourke… The hire of the detail-oriented, fastidious Berman also indicates that O’Rourke plans to emulate Obama in building a technical campaign machine under the surface of what he hopes will feel like a movement.”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-19]

An outside group supporting President Trump intends to spend $250 million in six battleground states as part of a major effort to boost his chances of being reelected in 2020… America First Action super PAC is preparing to pour resources into states with expensive media markets and high numbers of electoral votes. By doing so, it hopes to clear space for Trump’s reelection campaign to spend its money in other key states with cheaper markets.

The states identified by America First are Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia, none of which has fewer than 15 electoral votes. The group’s leaders believe a Trump victory is virtually guaranteed in 2020 if he wins all six.

Here is the OpenSecrets webpage showing the largest contributors to America First Action. Las Vegas gambling squillionaire Sheldon Adelson gave $10 million in 2017-2018. 91-year old British actor Geoffrey Dyson Palmer gave $4 million. Cherna Moskowitz, widow of California hospital consolidator and gambling owner Irving Moskowitz gave $2 million.


It Is Impossible to Control Corporations Without 90%+ Progressive Tax Rates


Say Goodbye to Permafrost (And Civilization)?


  1. Trent

    Banks should only be able to charge what they pay on a corresponding money market fund of equal size. For example 1,000$ mm pays one percent, 1,000$ credit card limit charges one percent.

  2. Hugh

    I always think “whore” when I hear Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, well really anytime, or corporate media types getting on their high horses and telling us why we can’t have nice things and railing against boogeyman socialism. So when a bunch of political whores start lecturing me about political purity, I just don’t take it seriously.

    Delta? the airline that beats up its passengers? engaged in backhanded union busting? Say it ain’t so.

    I was pretty much done with Glenn Greenwald when he started up the Intercept with Omidyar’s money. More recently they moved to shut down the Snowden files. I always thought that was a question of when, not if. Throwing whistleblowers under the bus from time to time just seems like standard operating procedure for them.

    Depraved Republicans? Who knew? Thank goodness we have stand up Democrats like Nancy Pelosi who never met a fight she didn’t avoid or a progressive idea she didn’t take off the table.

    Re Obama, –who?

  3. Hugh

    Credit card companies make money from both cardholders and vendors. So the Fed discount rate is currently 3%. The prime rate is currently 5.25%. Given what credit card companies make off vendors, it’s not real clear to me why the credit card interest rate should be that much more than the prime, certainly no more than 1 or two percent.

  4. nihil obstet

    Credit card companies make money from both cardholders and vendors.

    I’d rather see virtually free electronic financial transfers than extremely low interest rates. That is, if I pay cash, there’s no charge. If I pay with a credit card, there’s the fee charged to the vendor. A place where I’d like to see “big government” is that government should have an electronic payment system free to users just as it pays the costs of printing and coining money. It would also allow vendors to charge the credit card fee for use of a credit card, something credit card firms do not currently allow.

    This would eliminate the desirability of each company running its own credit card in order to avoid the fees. Instead of the “rewards” credit card systems, the buyer could just get cheaper goods. This removes an advantage of the large sellers who can run their own credit cards. It would also make rather small donations possible. A small internet donation to your community cause or the web news site that you support is likely to involve 30% in financial fees.

    For people who want to use credit cards to borrow money, I’m not averse to a 15% to 18% annual interest rate on an unsecured loan. But that rate should include all charges to the borrower — no additional late fees.

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