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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 5 2024

by Tony Wikrent


Disrupting mainstream economics

Finding the Money OFFICIAL TRAILER

[Finding the Money, YouTube,

Release MAY 3, 2024:

An intrepid group of economists is on a mission to instigate a paradigm shift by flipping our understanding of the national debt — and the nature of money — upside down. FINDING THE MONEY follows Stephanie Kelton, former chief economist on the Senate Budget Committee, on a journey through Modern Money Theory or “MMT,” to inject new hope and empower democracies around the world to tackle the biggest challenges of the 21st century: from climate change to inequality.

Biden’s Economic Adviser Tries and Fails To Explain How Money Works

[Washington Free Beacon on YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 05-03-2024]

[TW: Jared Bernstein is one of the most progressive, pro-labor mainstream economists out there. He is is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and serves  as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. His stupefaction on this question sparked a very interesting and informative discussion in the comments on Naked Capitalism Links 05-03-2024.]


Global power shift

SITREP 4/27/24: U.S. Admits Top Weapons Failures to Superior Russian EW 

[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 04-28-2024]

Another US pilot confirms F-16s in Ukraine are toast 

[InfoBrics, via Naked Capitalism 04-30-2024]


Are the BRICS and Their New Development Bank Offering Alternatives to the World Bank, the IMF?

Eric Toussaint [Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt, via Naked Capitalism 04-04-2024]

The five founding member countries of the BRICS, created in 2011, are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. They account for 27% of global GDP, 20% of global exports, 20% of global oil production and 41% of the world’s population….

 what is the New Development Bank? What is the share of each BRICS country in the New Development Bank and how does it work?.… What is the status of the BRICS Monetary Fund, known by its acronym CRA?

State shipbuilder signs big tanker deal

[China Daily, 2024-04-29]

China State Shipbuilding Corp, one of the world’s largest shipbuilders, has received what it calls the largest single global order of ships from energy industry giant QatarEnergy. The State-owned conglomerate signed a contract with the Qatari company on Monday in Beijing for 18 superheavy liquefied natural gas tankers….

According to a news release from CSSC, the deal has become the largest single procurement of ships in the history of the global shipbuilding sector, though the company refused to disclose the order’s value to maintain confidentiality. The contract is a testimony to CSSC’s rising status in the global market, and also symbolizes China’s rapid advances in the research, development and building of ultralarge LNG tankers, it noted.

China Launches World’s Largest Electric Container Ship 

[Tech, via Naked Capitalism 05-01-2024]



Gaza / Palestine / Israel

The Israel-US game plan for Gaza is staring us in the face 

Jonathan Cook [via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

How a Leading Definition of Antisemitism Has Been Weaponized Against Israel’s Critics 

[The Nation, 2023, via Naked Capitalism 05-02-2024]

Israel’s Far-right Minister Smotrich Calls for ‘No Half Measures’ in the ‘Total Annihilation’ of Gaza 

[Haaretz, via Naked Capitalism 05-02-2024]

Israeli Finance Minister Denounced for Calling for ‘Total Annihilation’ of Gaza

Julia Conley, May 01, 2024 [CommonDreams]

Jewish Anti-Zionists Fight Slander Against Their Pro-Palestinian Advocacy 

[The Maple, via Naked Capitalism 05-02-2024]

“This Militaristic Approach Has Been a Failure”: Meet Hala Rharrit, First U.S. Diplomat to Quit over Gaza 

[Democracy Now, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

Top Ways MAGA and Right Wing Zionism Converge, and Why Smotrich is Embracing Trump 

Juan Cole, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

US finds Israeli military units violated human rights; withholds consequences 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 04-30-2024]

The New “Pro-Israel” Assault on Free Speech

[Robert Wright’s Nonzero Newsletter, May 4, 2024]

…The Antisemitism Awareness Act—passed by a vote of 320 to 91—grounds its authority in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Under Title VI, colleges that tolerate discrimination on their campuses can be punished by the Department of Education via termination of federal funding. Which gives colleges a strong incentive to crack down on any workers or students who practice discrimination.

So what exactly qualifies as discrimination under Title VI? And, in particular, what would qualify as discrimination against Jews? There’s no explanation of that in Title VI itself (which wasn’t originally construed to include Jews as a protected group, since it focuses on racial and national groups and explicitly excludes religious groups). That’s where the Antisemitism Awareness Act comes in. It says that in determining whether Jews face discrimination (which under Title VI includes harassment) the Department of Education should refer to a controversial and sweeping definition of antisemitism—the definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance….

A number of civil liberties and free speech groups—including the ACLU—have noted how various other parts of the IHRA antisemitism definition are problematic from a first amendment perspective. The more of their assessments you read, the clearer it becomes that the Antisemitism Awareness Act is an atrocity.

So how did it come to be? Like Trump’s executive order, it is largely a product of lobbying by “pro-Israel” groups. (I’ll explain the sarcastic quotation marks below.) As the Jerusalem Post reported in February, more than a dozen pro-Israel groups—including AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—have been urging Congress to act on this front.

This particular pro-Israel threat to free speech in America isn’t the first. More than two thirds of America’s states have passed laws that target the BDS movement, which aims to pressure Israel via boycotts, divestments, and sanctions.



[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 04-29-2024]


The Tech Baron Seeking to Purge San Francisco of “Blues”

Gil Duran, April 26, 2024 [The New Republic]

If Balaji Srinivasan is any guide, then the Silicon Valley plutocrats are definitely not OK….

Balaji, a 43-year-old Long Island native who goes by his first name, has a solid Valley pedigree: He earned multiple degrees from Stanford University, founded multiple startups, became a partner at Andreessen-Horowitz and then served as chief technology officer at Coinbase. He is also the leader of a cultish and increasingly strident neo-reactionary tech political movement that sees American democracy as an enemy. In 2013, a New York Times story headlined “Silicon Valley Roused by Secession Call” described a speech in which he “told a group of young entrepreneurs that the United States had become ‘the Microsoft of nations’: outdated and obsolescent.”

“The speech won roars from the audience at Y Combinator, a leading start-up incubator,” reported the Times…. his appetite for autocracy is bottomless. Last October, Balaji hosted the first-ever Network State Conference. Garry Tan—the current Y Combinator CEO who’s attempting to spearhead a political takeover of San Francisco—participated in an interview with Balaji and cast the effort as part of the Network State movement. Tan, who made headlines in January after tweeting “die slow motherfuckers” at local progressive politicians, frames his campaign as an experiment in “moderate” politics. But in a podcast interview one month before the conference, Balaji laid out a more disturbing and extreme vision….

“What I’m really calling for is something like tech Zionism,” he said, after comparing his movement to those started by the biblical Abraham, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism), Theodor Herzl (“spiritual father” of the state of Israel), and Lee Kuan Yew (former authoritarian ruler of Singapore). Balaji then revealed his shocking ideas for a tech-governed city where citizens loyal to tech companies would form a new political tribe clad in gray t-shirts.  ….In addition, the Grays would make an alliance with the police department, funding weekly “policeman’s banquets” to win them over.

“Grays should embrace the police, okay? All-in on the police,” said Srinivasan. “What does that mean? That’s, as I said, banquets. That means every policeman’s son, daughter, wife, cousin, you know, sibling, whatever, should get a job at a tech company in security.”…

Balaji goes on—and on. The Grays will rename city streets after tech figures and erect public monuments to memorialize the alleged horrors of progressive Democratic governance. Corporate logos and signs will fill the skyline to signify Gray dominance of the city. “Take total control of your neighborhood. Push out all Blues. Tell them they’re … unwelcome,” he said. “Just as Blues ethnically cleanse me out of San Francisco, like, push out all Blues.” The idea, he added, is to do to San Francisco what Musk did to Twitter.

It’s Time to Tax the Billionaires 

Gabriel Zucman [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

Should Billionaires Exist? 

Robert Reich [via Naked Capitalism 05-02-2024]

…I’m not arguing against big rewards for entrepreneurs and inventors. But do today’s entrepreneurs really need billions of dollars? Couldn’t they survive on a measly hundred million?

Because they’re now using those billions to erode American institutions. They spent fortunes bringing Supreme Court justices with them into the wild.They treated news organizations and social media platforms like prey, and they turned their relationships with politicians into patronage troughs.

This has created an America where fewer than ever can become millionaires (or even thousandaires) through hard work and actual innovation.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics


[Club de Madrid, via Naked Capitalism 04-28-2024]

A coalition of 65 former heads of state and government, CEOs, artists, business leaders, climate advocates and policymakers have called upon Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature to pass a groundbreaking bill, the Sovereign Debt Stability Act, which aims to significantly lower the economic strain on low- and middle-income countries burdened by unsustainable debt levels.

Organized by Oxfam, a global organization fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice, the open letter demonstrates the substantial international support for the bill and the attention on New York’s legislature from every corner of the globe. The diverse group of signers includes 21 former heads of state….

The proposed legislation would make it more efficient for indebted nations to restructure loans governed under New York laws, and ensure that predatory creditors – also known as ‘vulture funds’ – can no longer abuse the New York court system and take advantage of taxpayers. This change could help poor countries stabilize their economies and make crucial investments that reduce inequality. By passing this bill, New York’s leaders have the chance to ensure New York remains the most important market for sovereign bonds, create a model for other jurisdictions and deliver justice on a global scale….

A water crisis in Mississippi turns into a fight against privatization 

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 04-29-2024]

Ten Years After the Flint Water Crisis, Distrust and Anger Linger

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

A city is forever changed, and so is residents’ relationship with their water. The betrayal of trust by the institutions meant to protect Flint’s residents has made some of them extra cautious as they look to keep themselves and their community safe.

The New Usury: The Ability-to-Repay Revolution in Consumer Finance 

Adam Levitin [Credit Slips, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

I have a new article out in the George Washington Law Review, entitled The New Usury: The Ability-to-Repay Revolution in Consumer Finance. The abstract is below:

American consumer credit regulation is in the midst of a doctrinal revolution. Usury laws, for centuries the mainstay of consumer credit regulation, have been repealed, preempted, or otherwise undermined. At the same time, changes in the structure of the consumer credit marketplace have weakened the traditional alignment of lender and borrower interests. As a result, lenders cannot be relied upon to avoid making excessively risky loans out of their own self-interest.

Two new doctrinal approaches have emerged piecemeal to fill the regulatory gap created by the erosion of usury laws and lenders’ self-interested restraint: a revived unconscionability doctrine and ability-to-repay requirements. Some courts have held loan contracts unconscionable based on excessive price terms, even if the loan does not violate the applicable usury law. Separately, for many types of credit products, lenders are now required to evaluate the borrower’s repayment capacity and to lend only within such capacity. The nature of these ability-to-repay requirements varies considerably, however, by product and jurisdiction. This Article terms these doctrinal developments collectively as the “New Usury.”

Survival of the Wealthiest: Joseph E. Stiglitz on the Dangerous Failures of Neoliberalism 

Joseph Stiglitz [Literary Hub, via Naked Capitalism 05-03-2024]


Predatory finance

The tax sharks are back and they’re coming for your home 

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 04-28-2024]

Apollo Accused in Lawsuit of Illegal Human Life Wagering Scheme 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 04-30-2024]

Apple Announces Largest-Ever $110 Billion Share Buyback As iPhone Sales Drop 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

Safe Havens: The UK’s “second empire” of tax-free jurisdictions

Quinn Slobodian [The New York Review, May 23, 2024 issue]

Two recent books, Oliver Bullough’s Butler to the World and Kojo Koram’s Uncommon Wealth, tell a different story: of Britons modernizing their country by boarding first-class overseas flights to distant points to figure out ways to undermine the new economic order. While the US was helping rebuild the devastated economies of Western Europe and construct the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Britain was busy erecting what the City University London economist Ronen Palan calls its “second empire” of low- and no-tax jurisdictions.

Architects of a project parallel to the welfare state that would eventually help to undermine it, they proposed an exchange: if the atlas painted pink to mark imperial possessions was gone forever and Britain’s furnaces and factories would never again lead the world, then at least the empire’s financial core in the City of London could live on. Territorial control of continents would be swapped for the hub and spokes of a financial network. Today roughly half of the world’s tax havens are directly linked to the UK and responsible for a good share of the estimated $8.7 trillion held offshore.
Seeing postwar history through the tax haven helps us understand how empire ended but so little changed. For Koram, a legal scholar, an early turning point between the first and second empires was the overthrow of the Iranian prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 with the help of British and US intelligence after his partial nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The message to Iran, which had never been officially colonized, and to “all people across the world excited by the promise of decolonization” was clear: “Sovereignty is not the saviour you think it is.”

The Pitiful Penalties for Violating Labor Law

Timothy Noah, May 3, 2024 [The New Republic]

A new report details how companies face few consequences for stealing wages, employing children, and obstructing union organizing.


Restoring balance to the economy    

Message to Congress on Curbing Monopolies 

Franklin D. Roosevelt. April 29, 1938 [via Naked Capitalism 05-02-2024]


Information age dystopia / surveillance state

School principal was framed using AI-generated racist rant, police say. A co-worker is now charged. 

[WJZ, via Naked Capitalism 04-28-2024]

FCC Fines AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Almost $200 Million for Illegally Sharing Customer Location Data 

[MacRumors, via Naked Capitalism 04-30-2024]


Climate and environmental crises

Rivers are the West’s largest source of clean energy. What happens when drought strikes? 

[Grist, via Naked Capitalism 04-28-2024]

Measuring the Doughnut: A good life for all is possible within planetary boundaries 

[Journal of Cleaner Production, via Naked Capitalism 05-03-2024]

Microsoft and Brookfield Sign Biggest-Ever Clean Power Deal

[Clean Power Roundup, May 1, 2024]

(Bloomberg) — Microsoft Corp. and Brookfield Asset Management’s green energy arm signed the biggest corporate clean-energy purchase agreement ever announced, as the technology giant ramps up its investment in artificial intelligence.

Brookfield Renewable Partners will provide more than 10.5 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity in the US and Europe starting in 2026, according to a statement Wednesday. That’s comparable to about 10 nuclear power plants and reflects the turbocharged demand for electricity from data centers and artificial intelligence.


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Lithium-Free Sodium Batteries Exit the Lab, Enter US Production

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 05-04-2024]

…Not only is sodium somewhere between 500 to 1,000 times more abundant than lithium on the planet we call Earth, sourcing it doesn’t necessitate the same type of earth-scarring extraction. Even moving beyond the sodium vs lithium surname comparison, Natron says its sodium-ion batteries are made entirely from abundantly available commodity materials that also include aluminum, iron and manganese. Furthermore, the materials for Natron’s sodium-ion chemistry can be procured through a reliable US-based domestic supply chain free from geopolitical disruption. The same cannot be said for common lithium-ion materials like cobalt and nickel….


Democrats’ political malpractice

Biden’s Very Trumpian Response to the Peaceful Student Protests 

Alex Shephard, May 3, 2024 [The New Republic]

He’s explicitly demonizing nonviolent demonstrators and implicitly supporting the disproportionate and violent police response.

This Bipartisan Bill Could Give Trump Huge Power Against His Enemies

Kate Aronoff, April 30, 2024 [The New Republic]

On April 15, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill with a title so boring it escaped most people’s attention: “To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to terminate the tax-exempt status of terrorist supporting organizations.” House Resolution 6408 was one of a trio of bills rushed through in response to Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel days before, the premise of which seemed straightforward enough: Organizations that support terrorism should not be exempt from taxes.

In reality, the bill could be used to target a huge number of nonprofits. While clearly imagined by its sponsors as a means of targeting pro-Palestinian organizations, civil liberties organizations warn it could have sweeping consequences for groups working on climate and environmental causes (among several other issues) should the next occupant of the Oval Office choose to use it as a means of attacking his political enemies. And as Democrats and Republicans alike berate university administrators for not cracking down harder on pro-Palestine protests on their campus, even colleges’ tax-exempt status could be threatened….


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

How a Few Secret Donors Are Fueling the New Right-Wing Infrastructure  

Isabela Dias, April 30, 2024 [Mother Jones].

The Bradley Impact Fund helps finance the work of groups led by Michael Flynn and Stephen Miller. Most of the money can be traced to four undisclosed sources, documents show….

Created in 2012, the Bradley Impact Fund is a donor-advised fund (DAF) “aligned” with the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which has a long history of conservative influence…  Over the last few years, the Bradley Impact Fund has experienced massive growth, emerging as one of the key bankrollers of the coterie of organizations and apparatchiks hoping to create institutions that carry out Trump’s ideological agenda. In the process, Bradley fuels the culture wars and undermines faith in democracy by stirring election denialism—all while keeping its donors secret.

More than 75 percent of contributions to the Bradley Impact Fund in 2022 came from just four sources….

This work is being enabled by an extraordinarily small universe of donors. Bradley boasts about cultivating a network of contributors across 44 states. But more than 75 percent of contributions to the Bradley Impact Fund in 2022 came from just four sources, according to an audited financial statement filed with the California Department of Justice that the nonprofit research organization Accountable US shared with Mother Jones.

The Bradley Impact Fund received roughly $108 million in contributions and grants that year, including three donations of $36 million, $20 million, and $18 million, respectively. At least another $12 million came from a different donor-advised fund, DonorsTrust, the “dark money ATM” of the conservative movement. By its own admission, DonorsTrust is a convenient conduit for benefactors wishing to provide “gifts funding sensitive or controversial issues.”

…In the Bradley Foundation’s 2023 annual report, the organization disclosed donations of $250,000 to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, where anti-CRT activist Christopher Rufo is a senior fellow, to “support efforts to combat identity politics,” $30,000 to Leo’s Teneo Network, and $100,000 to the sprawling MAGA “nerve center” known as the Conservative Partnership Institute….

CPI itself has turned into a fundraising powerhouse too, bringing in $36 million in 2022. Much of that money can be traced to a relatively little-known donor, Mike Rydin, the now-retired founder of a Texas-based construction software development company. Rydin has given more than $25 million to CPI since the January 6 invasion of the US capitol, according to the Daily Beast, and offered a “generous gift” to help the organization purchase property on Capitol Hill. In turn, CPI has named one of the townhouses in its expanding real estate “Patriots’ Row” campus for the far-right “The Rydin House,” which Newsmax has since used to film an apologist documentary about January 6 titled Day of Outrage. CPI’s 2,200-acre retreat on Maryland’s eastern shore also goes by “Camp Rydin.”….

Active Clubs: A new far-right threat to democratic elections 

[Al Jazeera, via Naked Capitalism 05-03-2024]

Across North America and Europe, the far-right Active Clubs movement is expanding at an unprecedented pace, presenting new threats to democratic elections and minorities.

With a network of decentralised cells in most states in the United States and European Union member countries, the Active Clubs movement has blended far-right extremism with mixed martial arts (MMA). By presenting a more palatable image to the public and combining its extremist ideology with exercise, fitness and MMA training, Active Clubs have widened their appeal to reach a much broader audience than traditional white supremacist groups whose members are often derided for being “keyboard warriors”….

Launched in 2021, the movement now includes more than 104 known cells across the US, Canada, and Europe, according to a recent Counter Extremism Project report. The unprecedented growth of the movement poses serious public safety risks as the US and many democratic countries approach elections in 2024. With a history of engaging in political violence and intimidation, there is a significant risk that the network’s cells could serve as a violent militia and “brownshirt” organisation interfering in elections and political events across the US over the coming year.

To understand the growth and dangers of Active Clubs, we need to examine how the movement started. First launched in January 2021, the network was the second project started by Robert Rundo, a white American nationalist who spent time in Europe learning from other far-right groups and founded the Rise Above Movement (RAM).

After the arrest of Rundo and three other group leaders during the 2019 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the hierarchically organised RAM began to disintegrate. Recognising the danger that well-placed arrests could pose to vertically structured organisations, Rundo adopted the model of leaderless resistance, first developed by the white nationalist writer Louis Beam in 1983….

Anti-Choice Fanatics Are Now Targeting Women Who Go To Other States For An Abortion

Howie Klein, May 4, 2024  []

…Early yesterday, Carolina Kitchener reported that Texas’ vigilante law has given us a look at a crackpot Trump lawyer, Jonathan Mitchell, is trying to ruin the life of a woman for having traveled to Colorado for an abortion. The woman’s boyfriend, Collin Davis, hired Mitchell to stop her from leaving the state in late February, threatening to “pursue wrongful-death claims against anyone involved in the killing of his unborn child.”

She had the abortion and Davis and Mitchell are out for blood. “The decision to target an abortion that occurred outside of Texas,” wrote Kitchener, “represents a potential new strategy by anti-abortion activists to achieve a goal many in the movement have been working toward since Roe v. Wade was overturned: stopping women from traveling out of state to end their pregnancies. Crossing state lines for abortion care remains legal nationwide. The case also illustrates the role that men who disapprove of their partners’ decisions could play in surfacing future cases that may violate abortion bans— either by filing their own civil lawsuits or by reporting the abortions to law enforcement. Under Texas law, performing an abortion is a crime punishable by up to a lifetime in prison and up to $100,000 in civil penalties. Women seeking abortions cannot be charged under the state’s abortion restrictions, but the laws target anyone who performs or helps to facilitate an illegal abortion, including those who help distribute abortion pills.”
“…Anti-abortion advocates have tried various tactics to dissuade women from traveling out of state for abortions. Idaho has passed a law making it illegal for someone to help a minor leave the state for an abortion without parental consent— which is currently blocked by the courts— and Tennessee is pursuing similar restrictions. Several Texas cities and counties have passed local ordinances attempting to stop women seeking abortions from using key portions of high-traffic highways.”

How Far Trump Would Go (interview of Trump) 

Eric Cortellessa, April 30, 2024 [Time]

Crime And Punishment— American Style: GOP Xenophobes & Racists Blame Migrants For A Pretend Crime Wave

Howie Klein, May 1, 2024  []

USA Today reporter, Zac Anderson, wrote that amid the heated crime rhetoric roiling American politics, Señor Trumpanzee and his shameless enablers in Congress— plus a media desperate for clicks and views— “are using dire terms to describe crime trends in America.” Objective reality, however, “has been slow to emerge but stands in stark contrast to Trump’s narrative.” Last year, data showed murders declining nationwide, with the U.S. was experiencing a major drop in killings, “one of the fastest rates of decline ever recorded.”

….Yesterday, Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria noted that Trump and has congressional and media allies are pounding away at a “migrant crime wave,” referring to it as a “real bloodbath occurring right now under crooked Joe— Biden’s Border Bloodbath. There’s never been anything like that.” He claims that when he was in the White House, “We had the safest border in history. Now we have the worst border probably in the history of the world. Every day innocent citizens are being killed, stabbed, shot, raped, and murdered because of Biden migrant crime.”…

The big problem… it just isn’t true. Legum and Zekaria wrote that “There are violent crimes committed by undocumented migrants, which are traumatic for the victims, their families, and their communities. That is why the accusation that Biden is responsible for a surge in violent crime by undocumented migrants is so politically potent. There are disturbing anecdotes of crimes that make powerful fodder for attacks during a political campaign. People, understandably, want to feel safe. But is there evidence that, since Biden took office, there has been a surge in violent crime by undocumented migrants?”

Jeff Asher looked at trends for “violent crime across the 14 counties along the Texas border with Mexico.” He found “no evidence of increasing violent crime along the US border with Mexico.”

Howie Klein, April 29, 2024  []

…Two things happened: the “money started pouring in [and In a repudiation of Greene’s inflammatory statements, members of Congress voted to strip her of her committee assignments— traditionally, a lawmaker’s main calling cards for seeking campaign donations— but Greene found that no trouble at all. Instead, she cashed in on the outrage of her fellow-lawmakers by making a torrent of online appeals to MAGA voters. ‘Never before has a Republican been under attack like me since the Democrats tried to impeach and remove President Trump from office,’ one of her fund-raising e-mails declared. ‘And without your support, I have no way of defending myself.’ In the first quarter of 2021, she raised a staggering $3.2 million, with an average donation of thirty-two dollars.”.

An NYU Law professor, Richard Pildes, told Kirkpatrick that “The more extreme the position taken, the more provocative the stance, the more outrageous the claim, then the more viral attention gets generated. And that in turn unleashes a torrent of small donations.”…. Kirkpatrick explained that “A political economy where controversy means cash is one where Greene— like Trump, her hero and patron— has thrived. Not long after taking office, she hired Ed Buckham, a master at turning aggressive fund-raising into political power, as her chief of staff. Two decades earlier, Buckham had helped Tom DeLay, a Texas  Republican, climb to the role of House Majority Leader. With Buckham as his top adviser, DeLay first made his mark by railing against his party’s leaders from the right, just as Greene does now. Then he and Buckham built the preëminent fund-raising machine of their day. DeLay used campaign money to wield power over his fellow-Republicans, and his hardball tactics earned him the nickname the Hammer. Both men were ultimately tarred by the enormous corruption scandal around the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which helped force DeLay from office in 2006. But neither DeLay nor Buckham were charged with any crime linked to Abramoff. When Greene brought Buckham back to the Capitol, in 2021, she told the Washington Examiner that he ‘has had more experience in the swamp, so to speak, probably than most people working on the Hill right now, and I need that wisdom and experience on my team to achieve what I’m looking to do.’ She added, ‘I’m not afraid of the controversy.’”

Have You Ever Met Any Intelligent, Well-Informed People Who Vote For Trump Or Follow The QAnon Cult?

Howie Klein, April 30, 2024  []

…The classic 1985 study by Vallone, Ross and Lepper, The Hostile Media Phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the Beirut Massacre examined how Americans (both pro-and anti-Israeli) perceive media coverage of politically charged events through the lens of their own biases. Want to read more? Try Stroud’s 2008 study Selective exposure to partisan information, which  investigates how individuals selectively expose themselves to political information online, exploring the role of confirmation bias in shaping media consumption habits.N

NBC didn’t actually get into any of that. Yesterday, Ben Kamisar reported that Trump and Biden supporters get their news from different sources….


The (anti)Federalist Society assault on the Constitution

Choosing Pragmatism Over Textualism

Stephen Breyer [The New York Review, May 23, 2024 issue]

…Words in a statute or the Constitution, textualists say, must be given their “original public meaning.” And unlike those who follow a more traditional, practical method, textualists, such as Justice Scalia, tend to “reject judicial speculation about both the drafters’ extratextually derived purposes and the desirability of the fair reading’s anticipated consequences.” The stricter textualists thus avoid putting any interpretive weight on purposes, consequences, or values…. Textualists typically say that purposes are too difficult to find, and that even if they were not, a statutory phrase may serve multiple, and even opposing, purposes. Textualists further contend that a description of purpose found in committee reports or other legislative history may reflect the views or the language of lobbyists or unelected congressional staff members rather than of elected members of Congress. The traditional examination of purpose, consequences, and values, textualists say, allows unelected, life-tenured judges to substitute their own ideas of what is good for the law itself….

The Constitution presents difficult interpretive problems. It contains multitudes of provisions, requirements, and prohibitions. And it must endure for the ages, even in times unimaginably different from the circumstances of its creation. The document’s abstract phrases, its underlying values, its varying objectives, and its need to endure—all these suggest that there will not be any single tool that, when applied to each of its provisions, can produce satisfactory answers.

In his landmark opinion in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Chief Justice John Marshall suggested just that. The Court had to decide whether the Constitution gave Congress the power to create a national bank. The language of the Constitution said nothing about banks. The Court nonetheless answered the question, “Yes.” Chief Justice Marshall looked at six different considerations….

One might well ask [of textualists]: If the original understanding of the Constitution is of paramount significance, then why not accord the same weight to Chief Justice Marshall’s understanding of interpretive methodology? After all, he was among the leaders of the Virginia Ratifying Convention. Surely his approach to constitutional interpretation should inform an originalist’s views. If not, then how does an originalist approach constitutional interpretation differently from Marshall in McCulloch?

I’ll begin with an important case that produced serious effects: the Supreme Court’s recent application of an “originalist” approach in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen (2022). The case concerned the constitutionality of a New York State law that required citizens to have a license to carry firearms, openly or concealed, in public. Did that law violate the Second Amendment, which says, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”? ….In an amicus brief for Bruen, a group of historical experts told the Court that the Heller dissent was right; and a group of linguistic experts said they had searched more than 120,000 texts written between 1760 and 1799 (as well as thousands of other historical texts) and found that the phrase “bear arms” was overwhelmingly used to refer to “war, soldiering, or other forms of armed action by a group rather than an individual.” …..

To insist upon a static, unchanging reading of legal texts can only make more difficult the task of fitting law to human life. To rely on text to the exclusion of purpose, practice, consequences, and workability will fail to account for the variety and complexity of the human experience…. I believe that an understanding of how law works—including an understanding of how it can protect basic values and enable diverse communities to live together harmoniously, peacefully, and prosperously—is essential to the rule of law itself. What will happen if Americans come to believe that law does not work? That it cannot make their communities—indeed, their lives—better?


Elite impunity

The Culture of the CIA

Thomas Neuburger, April 30, 2024  []

“It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of government.”

—James Angleton, CIA Deputy Director for Operation (1954–1975) to the Church Committee
….To consider the source of CIA culture, one needs to look at two men. The first is OSS officer and later CIA chief Allen Dulles. The other is James Angleton, counterintellingence chief from 1954 to 1975. (See quote above.) More on Angleton later.
Allen Dulles served in the OSS, primarily as Swiss director, from October 1941 to October 1945. After the war, he was recruited into the CIA in 1951 as Deputy Director of Plans (the operations division) and was the fifth Director of the CIA, serving (I hate to use that word) from 1953 to 1961, when John Kennedy forced him out.

About Dulles’ time in Switzerland, the historian (and fabulous story-teller) David Talbot wrote this:

“There was nothing undercover about Allen Dulles’s wartime exploits in Switzerland. Afterward, he made much of his espionage adventures, with a sympathetic press and then equally credulous biographers dutifully repeating his beguiling tales. But, in truth, there was little daring involved—for a very simple reason. Dulles was more in step with many Nazi leaders than he was with President Roosevelt. Dulles not only enjoyed a professional and social familiarity with many members of the Third Reich’s elite that predated the war; he shared many of these men’s postwar goals. While serving in his Swiss outpost, Dulles might have been encircled by Nazi forces, but he was also surrounded by old friends.”



Open Thread


Why Technocratic Elites Aren’t Trusted (Sam Altman Edition)


  1. VietnamVet

    Once before, in 1892, Glover Cleveland, ex-President, defeated the sitting President Benjamin Harrison. Apt since today is a replaying the Robber Baron Era. The Trump Administration was bad — not cancelling flights from Europe and Italy in particular in March 2020. But the Biden Administration is worse. More have died with coronavirus since 2021 and American life expectancy is plunging. In addition, the Biden Administration prodded Russia into an escalating the proxy WW3 with NATO in Ukraine.

    The Gaza Genocide continues. Both Administrations so far have avoided a war with Iran. But, mainly because it is clear that the West cannot even defeat Iranian proxy forces in Yemen; let alone, Eurasia. Both Admistrations are worse than any other one-term Presidencies in my lifetime. There is no choice in 2024. This is why nerves are frayed in the Biden White House that is down by 10 points to Trump.

    If Biden wins, the red states will set up border controls on pregnant women and migrants before a nuclear war erupts that ends it all. If Trump wins, the economies of Europe’s and North America collapse from inflation and devaluation of the US dollar with the withdrawal of overseas troops back home and hopefully avoiding a nuclear mistake.

    Western civilization simply cannot withstand the assault of exploitation and general incompetence of greed driven, amoral, neo-liberalism.

  2. Purple Library Guy

    Modern Monetary Theory is interesting. I don’t find it all that interesting as an economic theory, just because it’s a very restricted kind of thing–it’s probably not that bad at explaining what it claims to explain, but that is a very limited sub-field of economics. It says nothing about wages, or trade, or the efficiency or otherwise of markets, or how firms work, or what profit is, or yadda yadda yadda. And the consequences are a lot smaller than it would seem at first glance, too–I won’t say they’re talking about distinctions without a difference, but the differences are not that big. So for instance, to MMT deficit spending can still cause inflation, it just does so under slightly different conditions and to a slightly different degree than conventional wisdom would have it.

    But MMT is interesting in that it’s kind of an edge case that shows the characteristics of the media and institutional system. The mainstream has a hostility to it because it looks like it might make it harder to keep butchering the remnants of the welfare state. But it seems like it’s not quite dangerous enough to completely block from the public eye or banish the practitioners from the academy, like what happens to most left wing economic thinking. It’s just ideologically neutral enough not to be quite beyond the pale, and I think some with power feel that it allows some tools that might need using in an emergency–like, you never know when you might suddenly need a justification for spending a bunch of money. So it’s been kept out of the mainstream but allowed to hang around looking sort of semi-legitimate, as a just in case insurance policy.

  3. bruce wilder

    Jared Bernstein is one of the most progressive, pro-labor mainstream economists out there. He is is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and serves as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. His stupefaction on this question sparked a very interesting and informative discussion in the comments on Naked Capitalism Links 05-03-2024.]

    Really, how informative did you find it? There was some speculation about the cognitive after-effects of COVID with no evidence of Bernstein having had COVID.

    Here are a few NC comments that tried to answer the question posed to Bernstein:

    Why do “we” have to issue bonds that pay interest to banks, etc. when “we” can just print as much as is needed? Uh… “but we issue bonds,” QED.

    . . . my understanding of the answer is that the primary function within current arrangements of Treasury bond issuance is not to “obtain money”, but to soak up reserves in the banking system (that are created by ongoing Federal spending) in order to allow the Central Bank to control the short-term interest rate.

    It’s the same reason that the Fed Gov issued bonds during the civil war when the US was issuing greenbacks, which was a true asset backed currency. In theory, the Fed Gov could have kept printing greenbacks and issued no bonds, simply letting the banks and other winners hoard the greenbacks. I think they were smart enough to know two things:
    1) they needed to swap bonds for surplus currency, so the hoarders could hoard the bonds instead and at least get a yield
    2) by swapping bonds for currency, that allowed them to put a lid on how much greenbacks they were printing into the economy. There was a lid on the “float”.

    One of my problems with MMT is that they get coy about answering the question they posed to Bernstein. And, as these comments illustrate, followers of MMT are left to kind of make up their own answers.

    I am suspicious of MMT for not having an explicit answer. The movie’s implicit answer is that issuing bonds seems to be to create a vehicle for financial savings. And, like taxes, borrowing diverts demand from possibly inflationary pressure on resources and production capacity. (Again, not far off a mainstream answer.)

    Not-answering means that MMT does not have to appraise the economic functions of a marketable national debt and a central bank to make the market in sovereign securities. I don’t know why they don’t embrace that theoretical opportunity — maybe it is too much of an intellectual lift? (It is not like the Mainstream features an answer, either.)

    I want to like MMT. I am there cheering when Kelton goes after the likes of Krugman for espousing the indefensible “Loanable Funds” doctrine. I fear that we are being set up to be even stupider about public policy economics than we already are.

  4. Adam Eran

    Puzzling comments about MMT.

    First, one says MMT says nothing about wages. Really? What’s that job guarantee (at a living wage with benefits) thingy? You have to work pretty hard to ignore that. MMT’s Pavlina Tcherneva actually wrote a book about it. JFYI, the US has a job guarantee, but it’s been weaponized–just sign up for the military.

    Then there’s this: “One of my problems with MMT is that they get coy about answering the question they posed to Bernstein. [Why does a government that creates all the legal dollars have to borrow them?]”

    Again, really? Warren Mosler is very clear about this. To summarize, the “conventional” statement is that government fiscal policy is “tax and spend,” but that’s impossible. Where would taxpayers get the dollars to pay taxes if the monopoly provider of legal dollars [government] didn’t spend them first.

    So…it’s got to be “spend first, then retrieve some dollars in taxes.” The tax revenue does not and cannot fund that spending since none have been collected yet. Taxes do, however, create the demand for dollars…so they’re important, just not for the typically described reason.

    And what do we call the dollars spent, but not retrieved in taxes? You know…the ones in your wallet. What do we call those dollars? Answer #1: the dollar financial assets of the population. Answer #2: national debt. They are identically the same.

    This is double-entry bookkeeping, not exotic economics. It’s like your bank account. That’s your asset, but the bank’s liability–the bank owes you the money. Marching down to the bank to demand they reduce their debt is at least not sensible. It would make your account smaller if that happened. MMT economists point out that the large reductions in national debt are 100% of the time followed by deep recessions. See this from Randall Wray:

    So ALL DOLLARS ARE DEBT. It **says** so on the dollar. It’s a “Federal Reserve Note.” “Note” is legalese for IOU. The Fed owes the holders of its notes something. It used to owe them a lump of gold, but in the world of fiat money, it now owes them relief from an inevitable liability–taxes. The idea that national debt is something owed by tax payers to anonymous bondholders or Chinese exporters is a ridiculous lie told in service to “labor discipline”–that’s the message that you had better take whatever crappy job is on offer or suffer the indignities of poverty, even homelessness or starvation…and if you’re extra rebellious we’ll put you in a cage… And the US is the world’s champion at incarceration. And…heavens to Betsy!…we can’t afford healthcare of job guarantees! (But we can afford unlimited weapons for overseas wars we’ve provoked)

    Dollars are like checks made out to “cash” in fixed amounts, so…related to a “checking account.” Bonds are the equivalent of savings accounts, and they provide a safe place to park money that bears interest–something dollars, equally debt, don’t do. They can also reduce the number of dollars in circulation, something taxes do as well. MMT fan J.D. Alt has written about this.

    The only legitimate quibble about MMT I’ve found is Mark Blythe’s reminder that sovereignty is all very well and good when you have a large, largely self-contained economy, but if you’re a small country that’s heavily dependent on imports you need to reassure your international trading partners that the money you print is valuable.

    Most of the worries in those large, largely self-contained economies, that inflation results from too much money “printing” are overblown. The Cato institute’s study of 56 historical hyperinflations demonstrates this. The inflation typically stems from shortages of goods–true of Zimbabwe [food] and Weimar Germany [industrial goods] and the US in the 70’s [petroleum]

    Milton Friedman, the evil gnome….er, I mean conventional monetarist economist’s statement that inflation is always a monetary phenomenon is just baloney. Nevertheless, Brandolini’s law reminds us that it takes orders of magnitude more energy to debunk baloney than to create it in the first place. (For a full debunk of Friedman, see his student Elton Rayack’s “Not So Free to Choose”….Friedman really appears to have only opened his mouth to lie.)

  5. Curt Kastens

    Adam, that is a slam dunk. you hit the nail on the head.
    And if I remember correctly MMT addresses the situation of small countries dependent of imports as well. Correct me if I am wrong. As I hazily remember it, these small countries need to implement capital controls to prevent people from moving large amounts outside of the country, as a method to defend the value of their currency. But of course any country that does that will be attacked for “attacking freedom”, by the people refered to as neo libs or neo cons depending upon the background of the speaker. I am Just not sure capital controls are sufficient.
    I could look it up all again. But the numbers 1.66 and 427 make such an effort for me to strenuous. I prefer to watch Wesen with Vipers on Grimm Fairey Tails.

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