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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 15, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Your health is in your hands? US CDC COVID-19 mask guidance reveals the moral foundations of public health 

[The Lancet, via Naked Capitalism 5-8-2022]

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) May 28, 2021 guidance, which lifted masking recommendations for vaccinated people in most situations, exemplifies a troubling shift—away from public health objectives that center equity and toward a model of individual personal responsibility for health. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky emphasized that “your health is in your hands”, undermining the idea that fighting COVID is a “public” health responsibility that requires the support of institutions and communities. The social impacts of this scientific guidance, combined with the emergence of new variants, have exposed the fallacy of this approach, with most local mask restrictions lifted and infections rising dramatically among disadvantaged populations. Rapidly rising cases prompted the CDC on July 27th to recommend resuming indoor masking even for vaccinated people in “areas of substantial or high transmission” , but US policy continues to frame the pandemic largely as a matter of individual responsibility—to the detriment of public health. As public health professionals and advocates, we call for a renewed commitment to core public health principles of collective responsibility, health equity, and human rights.

Public health implicates government obligations to realize the health of populations, focusing on “what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy” . Securing public health does not merely reflect the health of many individual persons, rather a collective “public” good that is greater than the sum of its parts. Public health actions protect and promote the health of entire populations through multi-sectoral interventions to address underlying determinants of health.


TSA Covid Infections Have Jumped 50% Since The Mask Mandate Was Lifted 

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-2022]


Public Health Theory and Practice in the Constitutional Design (pdf)
Lawrence O. Gostin [11 Health Matrix: The Journal of Law—Medicine, 265 (2001)]

This article views public health through the lens of constitutional law by exploring government duty and authority, the division of powers under our federal system, and the limits on government power. Part I examines constitutional duties, if any, imposed on government. It observes that the Supreme Court sees the Constitution in negative, or defensive, terms and argues that this provides a sterile, uninspiring vision of government obligation. Part II examines governmental powers under the Constitution. While the Court sees few affirmative obligations, it does acknowledge a broad governmental authority to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the population. This Part reviews the emergence of “new federalism” in Supreme Court jurisprudence, altering the power between the federal government and the states. In particular, it inquires whether the Rehnquist Court, by restricting the scope of national authority, is seriously thwarting public health policy and practice.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Despite the Despair, It Was Great Seeing You

Mark Blyth, May 7, 2022 [Youtube]

At 28:29: It’s absolutely clear that this is not a monetary phenomenon… There’s a thing called the Milton dictum: inflation is always… a monetary phenomena and it’s this case is proving that it’s really not, it’s simply the fracturing of global supply chains.

That’s what’s driving all this, and you could say the pandemic spending, but then you’ve got to say yeah but the pandemic spending wasn’t actually a stimulus it was income replacement because the economy had shut down… The last of those checks went out 12 months ago and were spent nine months ago…that’s not powering the the price of goods anymore….

It’s not the fact that the Fed’s spending all this money because you don’t spend central bank money, you spend money that you get issued through the commercial banking sector. The banking sector’s making money hand over fist because everybody’s buying a bunch of stuff but as inflation goes up that will slow down. So it’s really not clear to me that, you know, let’s raise interest rates, is going to actually do anything about the fact that you’ve got 500 ships parked off of Shanghai and you can’t get any stuff because the city’s in a lockdown.

These things seem to be totally disconnected but as usual we’ve managed to whip ourselves up into a narrative whereby, well it’s inflation, so it must be about money; the Fed must do something and they probably spent too much — look at all that pandemic money. Just ignore the facts of the supply chain stuff you know or mention it but then immediately you know pivot towards a monetary explanation for no reason….



WP 01 Pavlina R. Tcherneva Three Lessons from Government Spending and the Post-Pandemic Recovery 

Pavlina R. Tcherneva [EDI Resources Database, via Mike Norman Economics 5-9-2022]

The central lesson of the COVID-19 fiscal response is that money is not scarce. Without delay, governments around the world appropriated budgets that dwarfed any other postwar crisis policy. In 2020, Japan passed a stimulus package equal to 54.8 percent of GDP, while in the U.S., it was equivalent to 26.9 percent and in Canada to 20.1 percent. Italy, France, and Germany spent 10.1, 10.4, and 10.7 percent of GDP, respectively (Dziedzicki et al. 2021).…


How There’s More to Economics Than the Science of Scarcity 

Nicholas Gruen [Evonomics, via Mike Norman Economics 5-8-2022]

One way economists describe their discipline to themselves has proven beguilingly seductive since it was codified by Lionel Robbins 90 years ago — that economics is the science of scarcity and that it is, therefore, paradigmatically about trade-offs. So ingrained is this approach that my questioning it may come as a shock. But that is my purpose here….

Here’s an introductory example of the way in which trade-offs are assumed as necessary when they are anything but. In the 1970s, manufacturers presumed there was a necessary trade-off between cost and quality. Quality improved as one increased spending on tighter tolerances and more inspectors to catch production errors. But Toyota developed a profoundly different approach in which meticulous attention to getting it “right first time” in the production chain dramatically improved quality and lowered cost. Moreover, this set the stage for future productivity growth as production teams strategized and bug-fixed their way to endless design and workflow optimizations. Astonishingly, within two decades Toyota’s labor productivity was four times that of its American rivals. By the mid-1980s, the two car models with the highest build quality were luxury Mercedes Sports (assembled with more inspectors per car than any other) and the Toyota Corolla (assembled without any inspectors at all)!

Is it too much to expect that economics might be fascinated with such phenomena, and obsessed with finding and exploring such “free lunches” and bringing more of them into being? Alas, economics’ all-purpose method discourages curiosity about such things when it’s not altogether assuming them away. Numerous sub-disciplines of economics have emerged in the last generation, but they’ve all emerged from the internal imperatives of the discipline — from innovations in economic theory, econometric method, or data availability. None of these, of any professional significance, has taken its cue from emerging phenomena in the economy itself despite some remarkable developments that have shown us new forms of economic relations….

Particularly since the late 1800s, economics has famously striven to become a science. It was rebuilt around the mathematics of classical physics. It was also given a singular focus — as the science of scarcity. But this method became the master rather than the servant of economic inquiry. Economic life as experienced was increasingly pushed out of view to make the chosen methods work.

TW: I have put forward my argument a number of times that the most important economic activity any society undertakes is the development of new science and technology, which allows that society to overcome the inherent limitations of resources in a finite world. In other words, the most important economic activity is aimed at overcoming scarcity. Yet, most people, and especially ruling elites, have been [mis]educated to believe this hornswoggle scarcity bullshit, which is basically a left over from the ruinous and bloody British empire.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-13-2022]



They’re not capitalists – they’re a criminal predatory class

The Air-Ambulance Vultures 

[New York Magazine, via The Big Picture 5-10-2022]

A search for why my flight cost $86,184 led to a hidden culprit: private equity.


Big Bottle: The Baby Formula Nightmare 

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 5-13-2022]

Baby formula is not just food, but the primary or sole nutrition for a vulnerable person in a stage of life in which very specific nutritional requirements are necessary for growth. Baby formula was created during the 19th century as we developed modern food preservation techniques. Before this remarkable innovation, baby starvation was common if a mother couldn’t breastfeed her infant (which happens a lot). The invention of industrialized formula was one of those creations we take for granted, but like antibiotics and other medical and scientific advances, it was one that fundamentally changed parenthood and the family.


Whistleblower warned FDA about formula plant months before baby deaths 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 5-12-2022]

A former employee alerted senior FDA officials to what he said were “lax practices, including regulatory violations” at the Abbott Nutrition formula plant last October.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-12-2022]



The Smash-and-Grab Economy

[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism 5-12-2022]

Private equity billionaires are looting the country, leaving everyday Americans to clean up the mess—and fight for the scraps….

For a long time, corporations worked in the plain way that you’d imagine they should work: They created a product or provided a service, and if they did a good job of it, they turned a profit. ­Houdaille, for example, grew to be a valuable company by making first-rate car parts. Simple enough.

But a confluence of factors in the 1970s flipped that model on its head. Suddenly, the value of a business was measured less by how well it served its customers, and far more by the profits it reaped for its investors. University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman helped propel this change with a 1970 manifesto in the New York Times. Corporations, he wrote, need not worry about “providing employment, eliminating discrimination, avoiding pollution and whatever else.” They were accountable to the wallets of their shareholders: nothing more, nothing less. “There is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profit,” Friedman added….

Soon, businesses came to be viewed less as productive enterprises and more as bundles of assets to be bought, sold, and endlessly manipulated for financial gain. Rather than doing the hard work of investing in new value—innovative products or fresh approaches to societal problems—financiers began focusing on ­extracting existing value, again, and again, and again.

Lee Harris, May 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The financial crisis pulled institutional investors’ interest away from publicly traded stocks and toward private assets promising outsize returns, from venture capital and hedge funds to infrastructure and farmland. Trump’s labor department made it easier for pension funds to invest in private equity, and teams like Salisbury’s would like to go further still, bringing it to individuals.

Not all attendees agreed that Wall Street should push retail investors into private markets. Foundations and endowments have done well by being picky, said Kim Lew, who runs Columbia University’s endowment. Mass entry into those products could kill the possibility of making outsize returns in the sector—and could end up hurting small investors the most….

THE RISING COST OF BORROWING and the tumbling stock market should, in theory, threaten private equity’s business model, which is based on rising asset prices and debt-leveraged buyouts. But top fund managers at the conference insisted that the outlook remains rosy.

Take Renee Noto, the president of Brightstar Capital Partners, a buyout fund focused on midsize business-to-business firms. Noto said current conditions are prime for her strategy: Make an initial acquisition in a “fragmented” sector, buy up and add on smaller companies, and raise prices. For instance, she said, Brightstar owns the second-largest used-vehicle auction platform in the country, and has identified opportunities in “150-plus smaller, independent mom-and-pops.”

It’s important to pick essential sectors, she emphasized. “We own a large fleet maintenance business. It’s a national business. Their customers are all folks you all would know. They deliver many things to your homes. We offer critical business. Families and founders, they don’t like to ruffle feathers with their customers, so raising prices is very difficult. It’s something we can coach managements on.”

Family businesses can be counted on to underprice their product, Noto told the Prospect, since “they have these long-standing relationships.” That gives investment firms an opportunity to mark up prices upon entry.

How Wall Street Is Taking Over Medicare

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, May 11, 2022 [The Lever]

The Biden administration’s recent entrenchment and expansion of the Trump administration’s efforts to privatize Medicare is helping a shadowy set of big-business beneficiaries: private equity firms and major health care companies, including one that previously employed the government official overseeing the privatization plan, a Lever analysis shows….
Wall Street’s encroachment into Medicare is the latest example of private equity’s aggressive expansion into health care, which has ranged from hospitals to ER doctor groups. In 2021, private equity managers deployed $172 billion in capital in the health care sector — nearly four times the total budget of the National Institutes of Health.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-12-2022]



Lessons From the Crypto Crash

Ryan Cooper, May 13, 2022 [The American Prospect]

It’s notable that when The New York Times’ Kevin Roose, a tech reporter who is quite sympathetic to crypto, tried to find a reasonable use case for the stuff, the best he could come up with was … a tiny company that is selling medium-range wireless internet.

Unfortunately, before circling the drain the crypto industry minted several billionaires, who are now becoming major players in politics in an attempt to prevent any of the regulation that should have happened in the first place. Sam Bankman-Fried, the Bahamas-residenced head of FTX, met last night with the Problem Solvers Caucus and promised to max out to any member who showed up. Crypto’s early adopters are now trying to dictate regulatory policy, while those who got in just afterward saw the rug pulled out from under them.

At least this mess does provide a couple of salutary lessons. First, there is practically no limit to what people can believe if it seems it will make them a lot of money fast. Second, libertarian schemes to engineer around the need for government and trust are doomed to failure, always.

Climate and environmental crises

The fossil fuel industry has a trillion-dollar secret weapon to kneecap climate action 

[Grid, via The Big Picture 5-10-2022]

International trade agreements open the door to claims that could slow progress on climate change.


Investor-state disputes threaten the global green energy transition 

[Science, via Naked Capitalism 5-13-2022]

“The high end of our liability estimate ($340 billion) is more than the total level of public climate finance globally in 2020 ($321 billion) (15). Potential litigation risks are even greater if coal mining and midstream fossil fuel infrastructure are considered. We cannot afford to divert such a substantial amount of public finance from essential mitigation and adaptation efforts to compensate investors in fossil fuels.”


‘We Are Living In Hell’: Pakistan And India Suffer Extreme Spring Heatwaves

[The Guardian, via The Lever 5-8-2022]

“As the heatwave has exacerbated massive energy shortages across India and Pakistan, Turbat, a city of about 200,000 residents, now barely receives any electricity, with up to nine hours of load shedding every day, meaning that air conditioners and refrigerators cannot function. ‘We are living in hell,’ said Ahmed. It has been a similar story across the subcontinent, where the realities of climate change are being felt by more than 1.5 billion people as the scorching summer temperatures have arrived two months early and the relief of the monsoons are months away. North-west and central India experienced the hottest April in 122 years, while Jacobabad, a city in Pakistan’s Sindh province, hit 49C on Saturday, one of the highest April temperatures ever recorded in the world.”


Restoring balance to the economy

YOU LOVE TO SEE IT: A Mayor Takes On Housing Profiteers

Matthew Cunningham-Cook, May 14, 2022 [The Lever]

On May 4, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka announced that he would take aggressive action against investors scooping up homes and driving up the cost of living.

Baraka, who was elected in 2014 with the support of the city’s progressive movement, was inspired to do so by a new report by Rutgers law professor David Troutt entitled, “Who Owns Newark?” The report found that, in Newark, “almost half of all real estate sales were made by institutional buyers.”

….Specifically, Baraka pledged to support municipal legislation that would crack down on aggressive solicitation, bring more transparency to the limited liability companies purchasing the real estate, and raise fees on landlords who increased rent above five percent and put the extra revenue into an affordable housing trust fund.


Maine Took on Big Box Stores, And Won

Pat Garofalo, May 4, 2022 [Boondoggle, via The Lever 5-7-2022]

A Walmart Supercenter in Thomaston, Maine, was causing the town headaches by fighting its property tax bills, using a scam tactic that has spread all across the nation. So the state representative for the area, Democratic Rep. Ann Matlack, set out to do something about it — and won, beating the big box stores and their lobbyists, and securing a major new protection for local communities and taxpayers from corporate tax shenanigans.

At issue is something known as “dark store theory.” I’ve written about this before, but as a quick review for newer readers: Dark store theory is a tactic big box stores such as Walmart, Target, Home Depot, and Lowe’s use to lower their property taxes by arguing that their stores should not be treated as open, thriving businesses for tax purposes, but as empty worthless husks that no one would ever want to use. They also place restrictive contracts into their deeds — such as clauses stipulating that the site can’t be sold to another big box store — and then use those very restrictions to argue for lower property taxes….

In 2019, the Maine Center for Economic Policy surveyed the 25 Maine towns with the highest retail sales, as well as every town with a Walmart, and found big box stores requesting that their property taxes be reduced by about a third, on average. As the Maine Monitor wrote earlier this year, large retailers “are overwhelming assessors and creating a years-long backlog at a state board that hears the cases, as well as costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost tax revenue and legal fees.” Many communities simply give up or settle, rather than wage a long court fight with corporations that have essentially limitless resources.

In response, Matlack proposed and Maine’s legislature passed LD 1129, which was enacted last week without the signature of the state’s governor….

The new law stipulates that assessors must take into account all characteristics of a big box store, including its current income, when assessing the property, and that restrictive sales terms can’t be used to artificially hold down the value of a property.

This is a very big deal, not just in Maine but as a model for the rest of the country. In the states where the dark store tactic first took root — Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Texas, in particular — loads of cases have led to billions of dollars in property tax payments either coming or potentially coming off the local tax rolls.


Fox News deals in Kremlin propaganda. So why not freeze Rupert Murdoch’s assets? 

Nick Cohen [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-2022]

Because it is a media conglomerate, sanctions would be an attack on free speech. I say this plainly because so many writers and political actors pretend that they are not demanding censorship when that is precisely what they are doing. Nevertheless, in this case the threat to freedom is minimal. Murdoch would not be punished for revealing embarrassing truths about the west but for spreading demonstrable lies for a hostile foreign power.

For more background on the Murdoch criminal enterprise:

Altercation: The Times Investigation of Tucker Carlson Was Superb—but …

Eric Alterman, May 6, 2022 [The American Prospect]

…this three-part, multimedia deep dive from Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, also in the Times back in 2019: herehere, and here (with a cheat sheet here). That one illustrated the global machinations of the Murdoch family. It demonstrated the manner in which its members have poisoned political discourse in countless countries simultaneously, increasing racism, promoting violence, destroying any hopes for saving the planet, and worsening life for the most vulnerable people everywhere, purely because it makes the Murdochs more and more money, when they already have more money than any group of people their size could spend in a dozen lifetimes. These pieces are in some ways more remarkable than the Tucker Carlson series because of the (mostly realized) ambition of their reach. These articles should most definitely be treated as prerequisites for the Carlson pieces, the way English 101 is a prerequisite for English 102.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

China’s robot-built 3D-printed dam ready in 2 years: scientists

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-2022]

China is using artificial intelligence to effectively turn a dam project on the Tibetan Plateau into the world’s largest 3D printer, according to scientists involved in the project.

The 180 metre (590 feet) high Yangqu hydropower plant will be built slice by slice – using unmanned excavators, trucks, bulldozers, pavers and rollers, all controlled by AI – in the same additive manufacturing process used in 3D printing.

When completed in 2024, the Yangqu dam will send nearly 5 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year from the upper reaches of the Yellow River to Henan, the cradle of Chinese civilisation and home to 100 million people.


Scientists discover eyes from organ donors can be brought back to life in breakthrough that questions whether death is ‘truly irreversible’ 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 5-13-2022]


Black hole at the centre of our Galaxy imaged for the first time 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 5-13-2022]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The New Abortion Battleground (PDF)

[Columbia Law Review, via Naked Capitalism 5-8-2022]

From the Abstract:

Judges and scholars have long claimed that abortion law will become simpler if Roe is overturned, but that is woefully naïve. Overturning Roe will create a novel world of complex, interjurisdictional legal conflicts over abortion. Some states will pass laws banning their citizens from out-of-state abortions while others will pass laws insulating their providers from out-of-state prosecutions. State legislatures are already introducing and drafting bills to this effect. The federal government will also stake a claim. Beyond promoting access to medication abortion, federal regulations may preempt state abortion bans and federal land could provide shelter for abortion services. Ultimately, once the constitutional protection for pre-viability abortion disappears, the impending battles over abortion access will transport the half-century war over Roe into a new arena, one that will make abortion jurisprudence more complex than ever before.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-8-2022]




This Pill Tells Your Doctor if You Didn’t Take It. But Whom Is It Really For?

[Slate, via The Big Picture 5-10-2022]

The first-ever medication with an embedded chip – an “ingestible event marker,” or IEM, which sends a signal when it reacts with stomach acid. That signal is picked up by a patch users wear, which connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone app that can also measure users’ steps and rest, and allows users to record their self-reported moods or reasons for not taking medication. (Slate)


“Jan. 6 committee opens a Pandora’s box of retaliation”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-13-2022]

“The Jan. 6 committee’s decision to issue five major subpoenas Thursday — two targeting potential House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan — is likely to open a Pandora’s box of retaliation. The GOP was already plotting revenge, and now the minority feels more emboldened than ever, Republican lawmakers tell Axios. Prepare for committee removals, retaliatory subpoenas and even impeachments should the midterms go as polls — and history — predict…. There’s no clear path to ensuring the subpoenaed lawmakers comply.”


“The Scourge of Sentimentality Politics”

John Ganz [Gawker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-10-2022]

“For 50 years, conservatives have worked tirelessly towards the repeal of Roe v. Wade. While calling for ‘strict constructivism,’ ‘judicial restraint,’ and denouncing ‘judicial activism,’ they trained and deployed cadres of lawyers as right-wing activists. They gradually took over institutions and then the key institution: the Supreme Court. This required them to adopt Machiavellian means: most of the justices in question swore up and down at their confirmation hearings that they had no designs on Roe, that it was the settled precedent. They were lying. In a certain way it’s a brilliant feat of political will and organization that should be studied. But while the conservative movement has pumped out loyal foot soldiers who understood that the cause was the main thing, liberals have gotten caught up in the hagiography of their leading functionaries, making everyone involved forget that they are part of a larger movement and not the ends in themselves. A perfect example of this is the pathetic and embarrassing cult of Ruth Bader Ginsberg — the “Notorious RBG” T-shirts, the inane interest in the details of her workout regimen, the literal votive candles — part of that political tribe’s tendency to worship bureaucrats and officials as saviors, a process replicated in Comeyism (his trashing of Clinton’s electoral chances was quickly forgotten after he became a vocal Trump critic), Muellerism, and Faucism…. Republican voters are much less sentimental: when a figure betrays them or just insufficiently serves their interests, they turn on them, ruthlessly destroy their reputation, and cast around for better instruments. They are no respecters of persons. When they got the sense that they were being cheated by their establishment who would just collect checks, pal around in Washington D.C., and not deliver anything, they unleashed Trump to menace them. Their entire apparatus is a kind of grotesque vision of ideal democracy: an unruly mob terrifying and disciplining the elite. ‘Don’t get out of line, we will come for you.’”


The Real Origins of the Religious Right 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-2022]

…it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools….

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero….

On June 30, 1971, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued its ruling in the case, now  Green v. Connally (John Connally had replaced David Kennedy as secretary of the Treasury). The decision upheld the new IRS policy: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, properly construed, racially discriminatory private schools are not entitled to the Federal tax exemption provided for charitable, educational institutions, and persons making gifts to such schools are not entitled to the deductions provided in case of gifts to charitable, educational institutions.”

Paul Weyrich, the late religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw his opening….

For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. “I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990….

Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House….

But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale.

By the late 1970s, many Americans—not just Roman Catholics—were beginning to feel uneasy about the spike in legal abortions following the 1973  Roe decision. The 1978 Senate races demonstrated to Weyrich and others that abortion might motivate conservatives where it hadn’t in the past. That year in Minnesota, pro-life Republicans captured both Senate seats (one for the unexpired term of Hubert Humphrey) as well as the governor’s mansion. In Iowa, Sen. Dick Clark, the Democratic incumbent, was thought to be a shoo-in: Every poll heading into the election showed him ahead by at least 10 percentage points. On the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-life activists, primarily Roman Catholics, leafleted church parking lots (as they did in Minnesota), and on Election Day Clark lost to his Republican pro-life challenger.

In the course of my research into Falwell’s archives at Liberty University and Weyrich’s papers at the University of Wyoming, it became very clear that the 1978 election represented a formative step toward galvanizing everyday evangelical voters. Correspondence between Weyrich and evangelical leaders fairly crackles with excitement. In a letter to fellow conservative Daniel B. Hales, Weyrich characterized the triumph of pro-life candidates as “true cause for celebration,” and Robert Billings, a cobelligerent, predicted that opposition to abortion would “pull together many of our ‘fringe’ Christian friends.”  Roe v. Wade had been law for more than five years….

The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-10-2022]



John Roberts Losing Internal Supreme Court Political Battles With Right Wing 

Charles P. Pierce, May 9, 2022 [Esquire, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-2022]

….Alito borrows an argument from Justice Amy Coney Barrett that not only was empirically bizarre on its face, but also is phrased in the draft opinion in a way barely recognizable as human thought.

”Nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.”

“The domestic supply of infants” is the kind of phrase that stays with a fella. Not that I’m a professional strategist, but, were I working for a Democratic candidate this fall, I’d spend a big chunk of my ad revenue tattooing “domestic supply of infants” to the forehead of every Republican candidate running. Not that we’re saying there’s a Soylent Green scenario playing out here in the GOP, but it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Jesus, these really are the mole people.

These Texas DAs Will Refuse to Prosecute Women if “Roe” Is Overturned 

[Nation, via Naked Capitalism 5-10-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

Obama and Liberals Killed Abortion Rights 

[Black Agenda Report, via Naked Capitalism 5-12-2022]

As a presidential candidate in 2008 Obama promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act , which would have codified abortion rights into federal law. But once in office he never pushed congress to pass it. In typical Obamaesque fashion he would claim to believe that women had the right to choose abortion, but that he didn’t want to demonize the opposition, and he wanted to find consensus on the issue. After his usual routine “on the one hand this, but on the other hand that” on April 29, 2009 he finally said out loud what was clear. “The Freedom of Choice Act is not my highest legislative priority.” It wasn’t even his lowest legislative priority. Obama never lifted a finger to get it passed, even in his two years in office when he had majorities in the House and the Senate.


Information age dystopia

Apple, Google, and Microsoft will soon implement passwordless sign-in on all major platforms

[The Verge, via The Big Picture 5-10-2022]

If you don’t have a cell phone, looks like you’re s.o.o.l.


“Appeals court rules Texas social media law can proceed”

[Protocol, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-12-2022]

“Despite no prior history of courts and lawmakers treating social media as “common carriers” the way phone companies are, and the clear Supreme Court precedent arguing against government interference with internet content, some conservatives have increasingly argued for treating platforms that host user-generated content similarly.”


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The case against the Supreme Court of the United States

Ian Millhiser  May 3, 2022 [Vox, via The Big Picture 5-8-2022]

The Court was the midwife of Jim Crow, the right hand of union busters, and the dead hand of the Confederacy, and is now one of the chief architects of America’s democratic decline….

If the Court does what Alito proposed in his draft opinion, and overrules Roe v. Wade, that decision will be the culmination of a decades-long effort by Republicans to capture the institution and use it, not just to undercut abortion rights but also to implement an unpopular agenda they cannot implement through the democratic process.

And the Court’s Republican majority hasn’t simply handed the Republican Party substantive policy victories. It is systematically dismantling voting rights protections that make it possible for every voter to have an equal voice, and for every political party to compete fairly for control of the United States government. Justice Alito, the author of the draft opinion overturning Roe, is also the author of two important decisions dismantling much of the Voting Rights Act.

This behavior, moreover, is consistent with the history of an institution that once blessed slavery and described Black people as “beings of an inferior order.” It is consistent with the Court’s history of union-busting, of supporting racial segregation, and of upholding concentration camps.


Justice Alito’s Bad-Faith Appeals to Majority Rule

[The American Prospect, May 9, 2022]

While superficially appealing, these appeals to democracy and majority rule are stunningly disingenuous. The Court is about to overrule a very popular and well-established precedent, yet its desire to defer to “the people and their elected representatives” is, to put it mildly, selective. And because of various counter-majoritarian aspects of American constitutionalism—some pre-existing and exploited by Republicans, others actively created by them—the result will be policies on abortion that are far more restrictive than what a majority of voters want. What Republicans want is a world in which raw power rather than voter persuasion carries the day….

The fact that the Court does not have the public behind it can be seen in the general lack of candor Republicans have about their goals whenever a Supreme Court nomination is at stake. (The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has seamlessly pivoted from assertions that a Republican-controlled Court would not overrule Roe to assertions that the sweeping condemnation of the logic underlying all of the Supreme Court’s precedents on sexual autonomy in Alito’s draft opinion should not be taken seriously or literally.)….

To choose from a countless array of possible examples, Alito has joined and in some cases authored multiple opinions completely destroying the Voting Rights Act, based on constitutional and/or statutory arguments that are monuments to bad faith. Most of the Republican-controlled states that are reasonably or potentially competitive in statewide elections have with the Supreme Court’s (and Alito’s) blessing created legislative maps so egregiously gerrymandered that Republicans have essentially permanent control, irrespective of the will of the voters. Alito also wrote the opinion creating a constitutional right for people to get the benefits of collective bargaining without sharing the costs. This was intended to weaken the power of unions, a countervailing force in economic and political life, weakening the power of citizens to work together “to persuade one another.”

Meanwhile, the Court routinely intervenes in decisions made by elected officials. Alito shamelessly cited in his draft opinion the increased availability of health insurance for maternal care, while neglecting to note that he voted multiple times to strike down the Affordable Care Act based on embarrassingly weak arguments. Many poor people still don’t have health insurance because the Court decided to ineptly rewrite the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. The Roberts Court has also rewritten the Federal Arbitration Act to preempt a wide array of consumer protections passed by state legislatures, creating arbitrary rules with no foundation whatsoever in the text, purpose, or structure of the act itself. It has used unreasoned orders on its “shadow docket” to replace the Biden administration’s actions with policies it prefers, on matters as weighty as the nation’s response to a historic pandemic. And it appears poised to substantially eviscerate the power of the administrative state based on a doctrine whose “deep roots” extend to two opinions dealing with one statute decided a few months apart in 1935. There are countless other possible examples; this Court can be called many things, but modest or restrained are at the bottom of the list.


Oligarchs’ war on the experiment of republican self-government

The National Security State: 75 Years of Unaccountable Failure 

Joe Costello [Life in the 21st Century, via Naked Capitalism 5-9-2022]

Where history places the start of the decline of the American republic will be fodder for endless discussion. One act for certain will bear plenty of fault; the establishment of the National Security State (NSS) in 1947. Instead of the great World War II American war machine being dismantled, a permanent war budget was established, and the CIA and National Security Council were instituted, all without a shred of republican accountability.

History will perceive the establishment of the National Security State as a novel creation, an unprecedented instituting of unchecked executive power. What will likely bemuse future historians is the National Security State’s 75 years of failure. A process by which unaccountable power was allowed to make mistake after mistake with zero institutional or personal consequence.

TW: Very unfortunate that Costello does not mention that the 1947 Act was heavily influenced by and modeled on the British Committee of Imperial Defense


The Prophet of the Revolt: Martin Gurri and the ungovernable public

[The Pull Request, via The Big Picture 5-8-2022]

“Sometimes, by sheer luck, you are in a high place and can see the shape and character of the approaching trouble, while those in the flatlands have no idea of what’s coming. That was me at the global media analysis section of CIA. And I was not alone. A group of us were obsessed with the same drama. We watched the digital tsunami tear its way around the world, and we observed, amazed, a tremendous spike in social and political turbulence behind it. We all asked the same question: Why? What does information technology have to do with politics?


How a billionaires boys’ club came to dominate the public square 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 5-8-2022]

The information that courses through legacy publications and social media networks is increasingly shaped by billionaires and other wealthy dynasties.


“Gavin Newsom – Oligarch Valley”

Yasha Levine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-11-2022]

“‘Philanthropists’ is an interesting way for the Governor of California to describe one of the most powerful forces in farming in the state — a billionaire family that owns something like 300 square miles of Oligarch Valley land, has its own toxic corporate farm worker town, and, from their ridiculous mansion in Beverly Hills, has been on a destructive quest to eviscerate the state’s river system and plunder its aquifers, helping fuel a mass extinction in the San Francisco Bay Delta…all so they can grow and export pistachios, a fringe snack food that people around here barely eat. But then calling these rapacious oligarchs “philanthropists” is exactly the point. Governor Gavin was going out to Pasadena to do some public relations work: to lend his name and image and the respectably of his public office to Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s ongoing effort to rebrand themselves as do-gooders and environmentalists, rather than the industrial-scale destroyers of the environment that they are. Their latest ploy is this $750 million ‘Resnick Sustainability Center’ that they’re building at Caltech — a joke considering that the Resnick’s entire business model is based on unsustainably terraforming the land and plundering resources to the maximum. But then it’s not so funny what you realize that what the Resnicks probably have in mind with all this ‘sustainability’ talk is making sure their own industrial plunder will be sustained as long as possible without any serious political challenges. It looks like that’s what their Caltech investment is about….. Speaking of supply chains. Gavin’s not just doing this for kicks. This is about duty and honor. The Resnicks have long been backers of his political career, going back to when he was mayor of San Francisco. Most recently, they threw $250,000 into his anti-recall campaign. And the governor himself’s no stranger to California’s tight-knit oligarchic politics. He’s essentially part of the extended Getty clan…and that family, as well as a few others, provided crucial backing to get his political career off the ground.


“Pro-Israel Lobby Spends Big to Defeat Progressive Summer Lee”

[ReadSludge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-10-2022]

“Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), fresh off its victory in helping defeat progressive Democratic challenger Nina Turner in Ohio, has begun throwing money behind corporate attorney and former Republican congressional staffer Steve Irwin in Pennsylvania. Irwin is facing progressive State House Rep. Summer Lee in the Democratic primary for the state’s 12th Congressional District, a solidly Democratic seat that is being vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle. The group’s super PAC recently put $305,000 behind TV ads and $95,000 behind internet ads backing Irwin, according to new FEC filings. DMFI is closely tied to the pro-Israel lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It was founded in 2019 by Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster and former AIPAC consultant, and several of its board members have recently held positions with AIPAC and its affiliated groups. Many of its donors have also been affiliated to AIPAC. For example, Stacy Schusterman, the chairman of oil and gas company Samson Energy who is DMFI PAC’s top donor this year with $2.5 million given, is a former AIPAC board member. Irwin co-leads the government relations and securities groups as a partner with the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl law firm.”


Liberal Interventionists and Neoconservatives Dominate US Foreign Policy

Philip Giraldi [The Unz Review, via Mike Norman Economics 5-11-2022]



Open Thread


Who Wins and Loses Because of the Ukraine War?

1 Comment

  1. different clue

    When Walensky says ” your health is in your hands” in order to trick people into blaming themselves for the covid they get, she is saying it as part of a government-wide psychological operation against the inhabitants in order to divert their attention away from the basic fact that the government’s Prime Covid Directive is to spread covid everywhere, to everyone, on purpose, over and over again.

    Walensky is one of the many people in authority, or the public face of authority, who would be convicted and put to death if the armed American majority could somehow run amok all at once and exterminate so many of the Covid-Engineer class’s physical bodyguards that the armed American majority could actually reach and exterminate the Covid Engineers themselves. Preferrably all nice and legal with Covid Nuremberg Trials.

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