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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 1, 2020

by Tony Wikrent

See something? Report voter suppression and obstacles to voting.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-20]

“State Fact Sheets”

[Georgetown University, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-30-20]

“[F]act sheets for all 50 states explaining the laws barring unauthorized private militia groups and what to do if groups of armed individuals are near a polling place or voter registration drive.”

The Pandemic

Mark Meadows: U.S. ‘not going to control’ COVID-19 as nation adds 83,718 new cases

[UPI, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-20]

“An Oral History of the Day Everything Changed”

Garrett Graff [Wired, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-29-20]

“On March 11, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic seemed to crystallize in the national consciousness. Americans look back on the turning point.” • Interviews with Mark Cuban, Carolyn Maloney, Elise Stefanik, Douglas Brinkley, Scott Van Pelt, Dan Pfeiffer, Claudia Sahm, Peter Tuz. Gabriella Orr, Philip Rucker, Liz Cheney, and Royce Young, among others; PMCs and upwards. However, Our elites obviously don’t read Naked Capitalism:

So, arguably, for the truly alert, March 11 was not the day everything changed, but January 23. (And our elites don’t read Taleb either; Joseph Norman, Yaneer Bar-Yam, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb published Systemic risk of pandemic via novel pathogens – Coronavirus: A note on January 26, 2020.) So the question becomes: Why were our elites so oblivious?

Strategic Political Economy

What’s at stake? A short text on US elections

Branko Milanovic [globalinequality, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-20]

Serbian economist Milanovic originally wrote this for the Toronto Globe and Mail, but “They got what they apparently did not expect and wanted me to revise the text substantially. I am always happy to accept all factual and English-language corrections… But I do not accept changes in content. So I post the original text here.]

What are the stakes in the forthcoming US presidential election? I would put them in one word: “normalcy”. But as I write that word, I feel very uneasy…. The United States prior to Trump could hardly be described as having been in a desirable state of affairs. Not only that: it is that very “normalcy”  that brought Trump to power in the first place. It is useful to refresh one’s memories. Under George W Bush, the  US created endless wars that destabilized the Middle East and killed, according to some estimates, half a million  people. Under the same president, it also produced the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. And then under the next president it bailed out those responsible for the crisis, sowed chaos in Libya, and ignored the decimation  of the American middle class….


But what will “normalcy” bring in “positive” terms–not only what the Biden administration will “not” do? One cannot be  very optimistic. Not only because of Biden’s half-a-century lack-luster record, but because of a narrative that the liberal establishment, which now includes both centrist Democrats and many Republicans,  has become comfortable with. It is a narrative where everything prior to Trump was excellent, and then fell into pieces. That narrative is not only wrong (for the reasons I mentioned above) but would lead to inaction. The United States needs major changes in its distribution of wealth, elitist education system, dysfunctional health care, plutocratic-ruled political system, crumbling infrastructure, declining middle class, unleashed monopolies. Who is going to make all these changes? A new Roosevelt is often invoked. Does Biden fit the role?

“Norman Ornstein on President Biden”

[Persuasion, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-28-20]

“Biden is running as a president who will heal wounds, reach out to adversaries, and prove, as he has said repeatedly on the campaign trail, that there are sufficient Republicans in the Senate to have ‘an epiphany,’ and work with him to find bipartisan solutions to issues from healthcare to climate change to economic recovery. But we know the history here.” • Some of us do, yes. Ornstein’s recommendations: In the first 100, days, Biden should reform the filibuster, pass a stimulus/infrastructure bill, pass the public option, pass a voting rights act, and pass gun control. The concept seems to be that although the 2020 election was the Restoration to power of [genuflects] Obama’s governing coalition, nevertheless Obama’s 2009 approach should be abandoned (without so much as a “mistakes were made”). But even Frank Luntz knows that Democrats lost the 2010 midterns because their response to the Crash, and in particular the foreclosure crisis (where 10 million lost their homes) was piss poor, and not the result of Republican obstructionism, as Ornstein would have it. I don’t see how Democrats can really, truly govern if they have no sense of their own history or, more subtly, mistake their manufactured talking points for history. (This is not snark; I’m genuinely puzzled and concerned.) Oh, and Ornstein says “a public option, à la Medicare.” The essential thing about Medicare is that it’s an eligibility-limited single payer program (albeit one with a bad case of neoliberal infestation). So I don’t know what Ornstein means by “a la,” because a jamming brochure labeled “Medicare” into a multi-payer system only adds complexity, and won’t “bend the cost curve,” which everybody agreed was the Holy Grail, back in 2009l. I spent so much time on Ornstein partly because the “100 days” is a genre we will see a lot more of, and partly because, being such an example of the “airtight consensus,” it was hard to disentangle.

How the United States Handed China its Rare Earth Monopoly

[Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-20]

China didn’t always dominate the Rare Earth (RE) industry. In fact, up until 1980, 99 percent of the world’s heavy REs were a byproduct of U.S. mining operations for titanium, zircon, and phosphate. In fact, it was only because of changes in U.S. regulations, the voluntary transfer of expertise and intellectual property, and the absence of an industrial policy that China has been able to corner this market….

The United States’ downfall as a leader in the RE industry was set in motion in 1980, when the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) amended its definition of source material (broadly, material containing uranium or thorium) for nuclear weapons. Previously, heavy RE byproducts had not been considered source materials, which meant that they could be easily sold and processed into high-value materials. But under the amended definition, they were suddenly placed under extensive licensing, regulatory, disposal, and liability rules. Given the added cost and liabilities, their production and refining was eventually terminated in the United States and other IAEA member states.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How ‘Big Is Bad’ Has Become a Big, Big Deal

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 10-28-20]

A primer on legal scholars, such as Timothy Wu and Lina Khan, who supply the ideas for the new approach to anti-monopoly enforcement. (Bloomberg)

Google’s Guardians: An ecosystem of Google-funded academics, think tankers and hangers-on will fan out to defend the search giant from the Justice Department’s antitrust case.

David Dayen, October 26, 2020 [The American Prospect]

Progressive Policy Institute: This think tank, founded by the Democratic Leadership Council in 1989, sits in the centrist space occupied by Third Way and other groups. It has recently become part of the tech platform defense brigade, and not coincidentally it has received funding from Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Anchoring PPI’s Big Tech coverage is director of technology policy Alec Stapp, a curious hire for a center-left organization. Before joining PPI in January, he worked at the “liberaltarian” Niskanen Center (where he wrote for the conservative outlet National Review), the hardcore libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and the research-oriented International Center for Law and Economics, whose founder Geoffrey Manne is the son of the business conservative movement leader Henry Manne, godfather of the corporate-friendly law and economics discipline. (Back then, Manne ran seminars for judges funded in part by Big Tobacco.)

Fed Is ‘Really’ Out Of Firepower. ‘Only Government Spending’ Can Save Country, Bill Dudley Warns 

[Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-20]

Trump or Biden’s big economic challenge: millions of struggling Americans

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-20]

Common Ownership and the Corporate Governance Channel for Employer Power in Labor Markets (PDF)

Marshall Steinbaum, Antitrust Bulletin, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-20]

Health Care Crisis

How an Algorithm Blocked Kidney Transplants to Black Patients

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-20]

How Much Has The Number of Uninsured Risen Since 2016 — And At What Cost To Health And Life?

[Health Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-20]

Information Age Dystopia

These 6 skills cannot be replicated by artificial intelligence

[World Economic Forum, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-20]

Lambert Strether: “Worth a read. First, they came for the working class…”

Disrupting mainstream politics

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-27-20]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-27-20]


Democrats Have Proven They Can Compete on Small-Dollar Donations Alone: So why does Joe Biden keep doing big-money fundraisers?

Alexander Sammon, October 4, 2020 [The American Prospect]

…According to a recently released quarterly report, Democratic candidates and left-leaning groups raised $1.5 billion through the online campaign donation site ActBlue over the last three months. Biden, predictably, is the beneficiary of a large chunk of that total, after announcing that $203 million of his $383 million haul in September was raised online. That’s by far the most money ever raised for an individual presidential candidate in a month in American history, rivaled only by the totals in October that we don’t have yet. Small-dollar donors, giving in minor installments, have, by themselves, put up enough money to keep pace with the entire Trump fundraising machine, which going into the year was thought to be a daunting and historically high-powered engine….

This begs the question: Why is Joe Biden still bothering with high-dollar fundraisers with Wall Street and Silicon Valley? In the last handful of days, despite an already insurmountable cash advantage, and without many places for additional funds to even be spent, Biden has gleefully taken in $100,000 from former Goldman Sachs president Harvey Schwartz for the Biden Action Fund, the joint fundraising committee with the DNC and state parties. That’s the largest check Schwartz has ever cut. He’s banked $150,000 from Tim Geithner, former Treasury secretary under President Barack Obama and current president of private equity firm Warburg Pincus, while John Doerr, chairman of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, gave over $355,000 to the Biden Action Fund last quarter. In late September, Google CEO Eric Schmidt held a fundraiser for Biden alongside presumptive secretary of defense Michèle Flournoy. At most recent count, Wall Street has contributed $74 million to Joe Biden, even more than they gave to Barack Obama, money he can’t even plausibly claim to need.

The Dark Side

Trump’s Order Sets the Stage for Loyalty Tests for Thousands of Feds

[Government Executive, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-20]

Administration Rushes Out Guidelines for Ending Civil Service Protections

[Defense One, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-20]

The 6-3, 5-4 Supreme Court

Ian Welsh, October 27, 2020

I do not expect Roe vs. Wade to survive, and I do expect the Court to be used to change laws in an attempt to give Republicans a permanent advantage, to enshrine further rights for the rich, and so on. One can expect civil liberties to be further gutted.

Citizen’s United was the red line “this is now an oligarchy” moment. This is the “rights? You have no rights” moment.

This is what the US conservative movement has been working towards for over 50 years. They have relentlessly had their eye on the prize. The court cases will now go forward, and precedents will fall like dominoes: do not be deceived, they have prepared for this moment and will use it.

If the election is close, the Court will also be used, as in 2000, to award the Presidency to the Republicans. Those who squeal about a possible coup forget that the US already had one in 2000, and that one mattered more: it set the precedent for many things, including that Democrats would just roll over.

Trump’s allies have spent the past year purging the civil service. They haven’t gotten very far, but if they have another four years, they will. By the time a Trump second term is done, the Republicans will have a permanent advantage. (Obama, when he took power, did not replace most of the Republican operatives that Bush had put in place.)

If Biden wins, on the other hand, unless he and the Senate attack the base of Republican power, he will only be an interregnum.

On Monday Night, the Supreme Court Stole at Least 80,000 Votes From Joe Biden in Wisconsin, and There Is More SCOTUS Voter Theft in the Offing

[BuzzFlash, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-20]

Why Not Impeach Clarence Thomas?

[LA Progressive, October 28, 2020]

Since 1988, three federal judges have been impeached and removed on charges involving perjury. The last judge to be impeached was G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, a Clinton appointee who was convicted by the Senate and ejected from office in December 2010 for accepting bribes and, among other derelictions, signing false financial declarations under penalty of perjury.

Thomas, if targeted, would become just the second Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. In 1804, the House charged Associate Justice Samuel Chase with eight articles of impeachment for engaging in arbitrary and oppressive conduct and expressing political bias while serving as a trial judge in certain Sedition Act cases during an era when Supreme Court justices also conducted trials. An outspoken Federalist and supporter of John Adams, Chase incurred the ire of Thomas Jefferson and his Republican allies. Chase was acquitted the following year in a Senate trial presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr. (The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides only in presidential impeachment trials.)

Impeachment of Federalist Society judges will become much easier if we revive understanding of what a republic is supposed to be, and clean up the mess of American history by emphasizing the political economy of those who opposed slavery instead of lumping them together with the oligarchs of the slave South, When they were considering a name for their group, the original founders of the Federalist Society at first considered calling themselves the Anti-Federalist Society, because that’s what they really are. Christian Parenti’s new book on Radical [Alexander] Hamilton is a good first step in sorting out the nation-building economics of Hamilton from the “free trade” “free market” economics of Jefferson and the slave holders, who were explicit in opposing giving the national government the power to build roads and canals because that power also meant that the national government could interfere with slavery. As Ian Welsh writes above, “Citizen’s United was the red line “this is now an oligarchy” moment.” It’s past time to master what makes a republic different than an oligarchy. 

“How to make an election crisis”

Ryan Cooper [The Week, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-29-20]

“Fun fact: With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court now contains as many Republican campaign lawyers who worked for George W. Bush on Bush v. Gore — the decision that amounted to election theft, and was so ridiculously partisan that it said itself it should not be cited as precedent — as it does Democrats…. A big tell in the Kavanaugh screed is found in this aside: “States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.” In fact, as Justice Elena Kagan pointed out in a blistering dissent, until all the votes are counted, there is no result to flip.”

The One-State Election and the Vote Theft Gambit

David Dayen, October 30, 2020 [The American Prospect]

Pennsylvania is most likely to be the “tipping point” state in a close election, the state whose control will determine the outcome. National poll margins don’t matter as much as the poll margin in Pennsylvania, which the 538 forecast puts at about five points. That’s a meaningful lead but not an insurmountable one if the polls are off slightly.

And that’s why we have this unusually open strategy of trying to suppress the mail-in vote in Pennsylvania. It started with trying to suppress the mail, a strategy that has been successful. In Philadelphia, 42 percent of all first-class mail is being delivered in longer than five days, up from 13 percent in January. Central Pennsylvania has seen their service deteriorate as well. As we know, the theory was that Democrats would mail in ballots at higher rates, so a blanket slowdown would be more favorable to nick off some of the Democratic vote at the margins.

Then there’s the effort to stop absentee votes from being counted before Election Day, which is more of a narrative device to allow Trump to say he’s ahead in the count that night. This proved useful in 2000 to George W. Bush, as being able to say he was ahead in Florida allowed him to paint Gore as a sore loser for wanting all the votes to be counted. Delaying the absentee count is state law in Pennsylvania, and despite the large numbers of such votes this year nothing has been changed on that front. Local officials can’t even open the envelopes until the morning of November 3.

Facing Gap in Pennsylvania, Trump Camp Tries to Make Voting Harder

[New York Times, October 29, 2020]

“The intensity of the Trump campaign’s efforts in Philadelphia stems in part from the man running its Election Day operations nationwide: Michael Roman, a native Philadelphian who cut his teeth in city politics before running a domestic intelligence-gathering operation for the conservative Koch brothers. Like his boss, Mr. Roman has persistently made public statements undermining confidence in the electoral process.”
A reminder to centrist Democrats: Bill Clinton’s administration chose to ignore the Kochs’ repeated and flagrant violations of environmental laws and regulations, even as dissident Koch brother Bill won a whistle blower lawsuit in December 1999 that found Koch Industries guilty of making 24,587 false claims to agencies of the US government. An aggressive government prosecutor probably could have put David and Charles Koch in jail, for RICO violations based on these findings. For details, see Chapter 4 in Jane Mayer’s 2016 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

Unfortunately, Krugman fails to make the essential connection between Ayn Rand, the brand of Republican politician that dominates now in so many state houses, and Charles Koch – the man who has been leading the billionaire network that has been funding this anti-government, anti-regulation movement for more than forty years.

This movement has very little to do with individual freedom and everything to do with Charles Koch’s freedom to have a net worth of $44.9 billion, achieved by polluting the air we breathe with his fossil fuels and chemicals empire called Koch Industries, while financing the political campaigns of people who will make sure he retains those rights.

Because we still understand that a standing military is by nature a danger to the democratic government of a republic, military officers are expected to be very circumspect in making public statements about politics and policy. Is it possible we can develop that same sort of cultural norms to limit the public voice of the very wealthy, which has clearly overwhelmed governance of our republic today? Americans used to understand that oligarchy and monarchy were inherent enemies of the United States. This was interrupted by World War Two and the Cold War, when USA developed a “special relationship” with the United Kingdom to flight the new threats of fascism, then communism. 

Why the NSA Told Henry Kissinger to Drop Dead When He Tried to Cut Intel Links with Britain

[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-20]

[DailyBeast, October 31, 2020, via Twitter]
President Donald Trump tweeted his support late Saturday for the MAGA caravan that reportedly tried to run a Biden campaign bus off the road in Texas, causing the former vice president to cancel a planned event in Austin. “I LOVE TEXAS!” Trump tweeted along with a video of the incident.

Feds say far-right group coordinated attack on Minneapolis police precinct during protest

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-20]


“Will The System Work” & Open Thread


The Day Before The US Election


  1. Stirling S Newberry

    One of the points of blogs is the real-time nature of it. We have lost this, but we have not lost the real-time nature of reality.

  2. bruce wilder

    I know many anticipated that blogs would be a near-contemporaneous commentary, but experience has taught us that what people need amidst the onslaught of narrative propaganda is some reminder that the past is permanent, no matter how malleable may be the tale in the subsequent telling.

    What is needed is a critique of narrative scripts used to manipulate. And building some barrier to resist the endless waves of counterfactual speculation and projection used to obscure events and facts. That seems to require reflection and memory.

  3. mm

    I want Trump to win. Americans deserve Trump.

  4. StewartM

    From what I’ve read about Biden:

    The best thing about Biden may be–Obama the Clintons didn’t think much of him. Ya, know, he didn’t go to the “right schools” like they did (Obama grew to like Hillary while is own advisors snickered at dumb ole Joe). They did things right by the conventional ‘wisdom’ of what they did in school (which is why we had what Jon Walker of FDA called ‘the teacher tax’ in the ACA; neoliberalism all the way) , while Biden was used to making deals and shaking hands in Congress, like an LBJ.

    The worst think about Biden may turn out to be–because of the above, he reportedly has something of the spurned child syndrome. He really wanted to earn Obama’s respect. I fear that means he’ll just want to continue Obama’s policies to get Obama’s approval. Not saying he’ll be a great president or even a good one, but he’d be better off trusting his own instincts.

  5. different clue

    I want China to conquer the world. “mm” deserves Shih Jin-Ping.

  6. different clue


    Wouldn’t it be great if Biden had some inner rage and hate to get in touch with? And got in touch with it? And decided to have a little revenge on the Obamazoids and the Pink KKK Democrats? ( Pink KKK stands for Pink Kitty Kap Klintonites).

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