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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 3, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 3, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Neoliberalism Tells Us We’re Selfish Souls – How Can We Promote Other Identities?

[Open Democracy, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-19]

“Economics is the method: the object is to change the soul.” Understanding why Thatcher said this is central to understanding the neoliberal project, and how we might move beyond it. Carys Hughes and Jim Cranshaw’s opening article poses a crucial challenge to the left in this respect. It is too easy to tell ourselves a story about the long reign of neoliberalism that is peopled solely with all-powerful elites imposing their will on the oppressed masses. It is much harder to confront seriously the ways in which neoliberalism has manufactured popular consent for its policies.

The left needs to acknowledge that aspects of the neoliberal agenda have been overwhelmingly popular: it has successfully tapped into people’s instincts about the kind of life they want to lead, and wrapped these instincts up in a compelling narrative about how we should see ourselves and other people. We need a coherent strategy for replacing this narrative with one that actively reconstructs our collective self-image – turning us into empowered citizens participating in communities of mutual care, rather than selfish property-owning individuals competing in markets….

In thinking about how we do this, it’s instructive to look at the ways in which neoliberal attempts to reshape our identities have succeeded – and the ways they have failed. While Right to Buy might have been successful in identifying people as home-owners and stigmatising social housing, this has not bled through into wider support for private ownership. Although public ownership did become taboo among the political classes for a generation – far outside the political ‘common sense’ – polls consistently showed that this was not matched by a fall in public support for the idea. On some level – perhaps because of the poor performance of privatised entities – people continued to identify as citizens with a right to public services, rather than as consumers of privatised services. The continued overwhelming attachment to a public NHS is the epitome of this tendency. This is partly what made it possible for Corbyn’s Labour to rehabilitate the concept of public ownership, as the 2017 Labour manifesto’s proposals for public ownership of railways and water – dismissed as ludicrous by the political establishment – proved overwhelmingly popular.

USA and many other countries claim to be republics. Neoliberalism is a direct attack on the basic principles of republicanism. From the chapter “Republicanism,” from Gordon Wood’s 1969 Bancroft Prize winning book, Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787:

 Pages 60-61
“In a republic “each individual gives up all private interest that is not consistent with the general good, the interest of the whole body.” For the republican patriots of 1776 the commonweal was all encompassing—a transcendent object with a unique moral worth that made partial considerations fade into insignificance. “Let regard be had only to the good of the whole” was the constant exhortation by publicists and clergy. Ideally, republicanism obliterated the individual. “A Citizen,” said Sam Adams, “owes everything to the Commonwealth.” “Every man in a republic,” declared Benjamin Rush, “is public property. His time, his talents—his youth—his manhood—his old age—nay more, life, all belong to his country.” “No man is a true republican,” wrote a Pennsylvanian in 1776, “that will not give up his single voice to that of the public.” “

Pages 63-64
In the minds of the most devoted Commonwealthmen it was the duty of a republic to control “the selfishness of mankind … ; for liberty consists not in the permission to distress fellow citizens, by extorting extravagant advantages from them, in matters of commerce or otherwise.” Because it was commonly understood that “the exorbitant wealth of individuals” had a “most baneful influence” on the maintenance of republican governments and “therefore should be carefully guarded against,” some Whigs were even willing to go so far as to advocate agrarian legislation limiting the amount of property an individual could hold and “sumptuary laws against luxury, plays, etc. and extravagant expenses in dress, diet, and the like.”

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

What Protests in Lebanon, France, Chile, and Ecuador Have in Common
Ian Welsh, October 21 2019

In all of these cases, what we have is a revolt against the rich. In all of these cases, we have attempts to raise taxes on the poor and middle class.

All of these protests are economic protests. They are about class, wealth, and income. They are about the fact that all four countries have very rich people, and yet taxes fall harder and harder on the non-rich.

“At Least 20 Billionaires Behind ‘Dark Money’ Group That Opposed Obama” 

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-19]

“A nonprofit group with a bland name, Americans for Job Security, spent $5 million supporting Republicans in the 2010 midterms and $15 million denouncing former President Obama in the 2012 election, but until this week, the group never had to file disclosures showing where its money was coming from…. The biggest individual donor to the group appears to be Charles Schwab, the brokerage titan worth an estimated $7.8 billion. Over the span of three months in 2012, he donated nearly $9 million. Gap cofounder Doris Fisher—along with her sons Robert, John and William—gave another $9 million.”

Coffee Prices Have Collapsed, Threatening the Livelihood of Millions Across the Global South

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-19]

Reports of crisis are coming in from Uganda and Rwanda, from Colombia and Brazil. Back in March, 13 organizations in the World Coffee Producers Forum issued an emergency appeal, warning that the price drop is threatening to become a full-blown “humanitarian crisis.” The forum said: “The current pauperization process of coffee producers is destroying the very social fabric in the rural areas of more than 40 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, leading to increased criminality in producing nations, more poverty in the cities, and massive migrations towards the United States and Europe.”

So far, the mainstream Western media are ignoring the crisis, aside from brief, dry accounts buried in the financial pages…. Today, the world price is just a third of what it was eight years ago. Growers here in Honduras say it is actually below their cost of production….

Starbucks did announce in September 2018 that it would donate “up to $20 million” to its smallholder suppliers in Mexico and three Central American nations (not including Honduras) “until the coffee market self-corrects and rises above the cost of production.”…. that $20 million promise does not sound so generous alongside Starbucks’s profits last year, which were $4.52 billion. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz is worth $4.1 billion himself (some of which he considered spending on an independent campaign for president). To Schultz, the global coffee crisis was so insignificant that his recent campaign “autobiography,” From the Ground Up, did not make a single reference to the small farmers who actually grow his coffee….

The latest coffee crisis is the worst since 1999–2003. These drops in the world price have been a central feature in the world coffee trade for more than a century, but two terrible neoliberal policy changes starting in 1989 have made them even more extreme….

[In 1989] with the Cold War nearly over and the threat from Cuba gone, the United States sabotaged the ICO agreement, partly responding to the rise of the “free market” neoliberal ideology that denounced any government interference in the economy. The world price immediately collapsed, and it has mostly stayed low ever since. What’s important to recognize is that the price figures are not adjusted for inflation, so even $1.50 a pound today is actually much less than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-19]

“Manufacturing Is Now Smallest Share of U.S. Economy in 72 Years”
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-19]

“Manufacturing made up 11% of gross domestic product in the second quarter, the smallest share in data going back to 1947 and down from 11.1% in the prior period, a Commerce Department report showed Tuesday…. While manufacturing has added about half a million workers on the whole since Trump took office, states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that helped him win in 2016 are now losing factory jobs amid a persistent trade war with China and a weaker global economy.”

The War on Labor

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-19]

“[A] trio of Silicon Valley sharing-economy companies on Tuesday unveiled a ballot measure to exclude many of those they pay for work from being considered benefits-earning employees. The proposal, which Uber, Lyft and DoorDash intend to qualify for the statewide ballot next November, states that an ‘app-based driver is an independent contractor’ as long as a series of conditions are met by a company. The initiative says drivers will be guaranteed a minimum amount of pay as well as insurance to cover work-related injuries and auto accidents. And it lays out details for healthcare subsidies, protections against on-the-job harassment or discrimination and a system to enforce some workplace rights.”

Lambert Strether: “Uh huh. No problem at all, having Silicon Valley goons write labor legislation.”
Matt Stoller [Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-19]

Central Bank Independence Is a Myth. They Need to Be Democratized.
[Real News Network 11-31-19]

Gerald Epstein discusses his new book, a collection of essays on how central banking is shaped, how it shapes the economy, and how it can be made more responsive to people’s needs.

Fed’s Latest Plan for Bailing Out Wall Street Banks: Let Them Overdraft their Accounts at the Fed
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 31, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

New York Fed’s Repo Loans Are Foaming the Hedge Fund Runways
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 30, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

There is growing evidence that the New York Fed, the Wall Street feeding tube team of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, is using its massive new repo loan operations to securities firms (primary dealers) to foam the Wall Street runways to try to avoid a crash landing as money gushes out of hedge funds by the tens of billions of dollars.

According to a report at eVestment, investors pulled $29.37 billion from hedge funds in the third quarter of this year, bringing the total year-to-date to an eyebrow-raising $76.86 billion. That’s more than twice the amount that was withdrawn in all of last year. Hedge funds are highly-leveraged, so $76.86 billion in withdrawals could translate into hundreds of billions of dollars of liquidations in stock and bond markets. The report further notes that this is the “sixth consecutive quarterly outflow.”

Federal Reserve Spokesman Explains How It Creates Money Out of Thin Air to Pump Out to Wall Street
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 29, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

“You may wonder how the Fed pays for the bonds and other securities it buys. The Fed does not pay with paper money. Instead, the Fed pays the sellers’ bank using newly created electronic funds, and the bank adds those funds to the sellers’ account. The seller can spend the funds or can simply leave them in the bank. If the funds stay in the bank, then the bank can increase its lending, purchase more assets, or build up the reserves it holds on deposit at the Fed. More broadly, the Fed’s securities purchases increase the total amount of reserves that the banking system keeps at the Fed.

“Whether the Fed’s purchases lead to an increase in the amount of money circulating in the economy depends on what banks do with the new reserves and on what sellers do with the funds they receive.”

The Fed Fears an Explosion on Wall Street: Here’s How JPMorgan Lit the Fuse
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 28, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

Had JPMorgan Chase not spent $77 billion propping up its share price with stock buybacks, it would have $77 billion more in cash to loan to businesses and consumers – the actual job of its commercial bank. Add in the tens of billions of dollars that other mega banks on Wall Street have used to buy back their own stock and it’s clear why there is a liquidity crisis on Wall Street that is forcing the Federal Reserve to hurl hundreds of billions of dollars a week at the problem.

Economics in the real world

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-19]
[OpenEdition, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-19]

“The purpose of this paper is thus to use Heller’s successful attempts to persuade Kennedy as a case study to reinvestigate the interactions between economic knowledge and public reason.”

Information Age Dystopia

Tim Berners-Lee warns internet’s power for good is ‘under threat’ 

[The Bolton News, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-19]

The computer scientist spoke out on the 50th anniversary of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor Len Kleinrock sending the first message on the Arpanet network of computers, which would eventually become the internet.

Twenty years later, Sir Tim created the World Wide Web – first proposed as an information management system while he was working for the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) – which led to the mainstream establishment of the technology.

“It’s astonishing to think the internet is already half a century old. But its birthday is not altogether a happy one,” he said.

“The internet – and the World Wide Web it enabled – have changed our lives for the better and have the power to transform millions more in the future. But increasingly we’re seeing that power for good being subverted, whether by scammers, people spreading hatred or vested interests threatening democracy.”

Opinion: 50 years ago, I helped invent the internet. How did it go so wrong?

Leonard Kleinrock [Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-19]
[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-19]

This spring, a team of engineers at WhatsApp detected a series of suspicious calls on the messaging service’s networks, many of them emanating from phone numbers in Sweden, the Netherlands, Israel, and other countries. At first, WhatsApp wasn’t sure what was happening. Then the engineers, working with their counterparts at Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, realized that the voice and video calls were somehow infecting targeted phones with advanced spyware, using a penetration method that the company had never encountered before. Most disturbing to the investigators was that it appeared many of the targeted phones became infected whether the calls were answered or not—what’s known as a zero-click vulnerability.

The malware then instructed the targeted phones to upload their content to servers owned by Amazon Web Services and other companies, where the stolen data was stored and could be accessed by the intruders. After the malware was loaded on some of the targeted phones, the call logs were wiped. Victims who heard their phones ringing overnight found no evidence of the calls in the morning….

On Tuesday, WhatsApp took the extraordinary step of announcing that it had traced the malware back to NSO Group, a spyware-maker based in Israel, and filed a lawsuit against the company—and also its parent, Q Cyber Technologies—in a Northern California court, accusing it of “unlawful access and use” of WhatsApp computers. According to the lawsuit, NSO Group developed the malware in order to access messages and other communications after they were decrypted on targeted devices, allowing intruders to bypass WhatsApp’s encryption….

NSO Group said in a statement in response to the lawsuit, “In the strongest possible terms, we dispute today’s allegations and will vigorously fight them. The sole purpose of NSO is to provide technology to licensed government intelligence and law enforcement agencies to help them fight terrorism and serious crime. Our technology is not designed or licensed for use against human rights activists and journalists.” In September, NSO Group announced the appointment of new, high-profile advisers, including Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, in an effort to improve its global image.

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-19]

“There’s a tactic spreading across the Web named after treatment usually reserved for criminals: fingerprinting. At least a third of the 500 sites Americans visit most often use hidden code to run an identity check on your computer or phone. Websites from CNN and Best Buy to porn site Xvideos and WebMD are dusting your digital fingerprints by collecting details about your device you can’t easily hide. It doesn’t matter whether you turn on ‘private browsing;’ mode, clear tracker cookies or use a virtual private network. Some even use the fact you’ve flagged ‘do not track’ in your browser as a way to fingerprint you. They’re doing it, I suspect, because more of us are taking steps to protect our data…. Fingerprinting happens when sites force your browser to hand over innocent-looking but largely unchanging technical information about your computer, such as the resolution of your screen, your operating system or the fonts you have installed. Combined, those details create a picture of your device as unique as the skin on your thumb.”

How Gaggle Surveils Every Document, Email, Chat, And Picture That Students Create

[BuzzFeed, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-19]

Horrifying destruction of constitutional rights at industrial scale. I have no doubt that most of these capabilities were developed to serve Chinese Government internal requirements and were then repackaged to pedal here “to protect children”. Once the existence of these capabilities become normalized and the implementation bugs are worked out, it will be pointed to broader and broader constituencies.

GND – An opportunity too big to miss

“De-Growth vs a Green New Deal” 

[New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-19]

Introducing his nlr interview with Daly, Benjamin Kunkel states that ‘fidelity to gdp growth amounts to the religion of the modern world.’A large number of degrowth proponents express similar views. This perspective makes the critical error of ignoring the reality of neoliberalism in the contemporary world. Neoliberalism became the predominant economic-policy model with the military coup of Pinochet in Chile in 1973, and the elections of Thatcher in 1979 and Reagan in 1980. It has been clear for decades that, under neoliberalism, the real religion is maximizing profits for business in order to deliver maximum incomes and wealth for the rich. The financialization of the global economy under Wall Street’s firm direction has been central to the neoliberal project. As is well known, the concentration of income and wealth in the advanced economies has proceeded apace under neoliberalism even while average economic growth has fallen to less than half the rate that was sustained during the initial postwar ‘golden age of capitalism’ that ended in the mid-1970s. If economic growth were really the ‘religion of the modern world’, then its high priests would be concentrating on how to put capitalism back on the leash that prevailed during the ‘golden age’ rather than on consolidating the victories achieved under neoliberalism….

Investments aimed at raising energy-efficiency standards and expanding the supply of clean renewable energy will also generate tens of millions of new jobs in all regions of the world. In general, building a green economy entails more labour-intensive activities than maintaining the world’s current fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure….

The conclusion: “[I]f the left is serious about mounting a viable, global, climate-stabilization project, it should not be losing time seeking to build an all-purpose, broad-brush degrowth movement—which, for the reasons outlined, cannot succeed in actually stabilizing the climate. This is even more emphatically the case when a fair and workable approach to climate stabilization lies right before us, by way of the Green New Deal.”

A radical break with the status quo is the most sensible path forward
[New Statesman, via Public Banking Institute 10-31-19]

“Today, it is quite clear that only a radical break with the past will deliver us from the post-crisis malaise and the climate crisis that has emerged alongside it. … A public banking system must be established as part of this in order to direct capital away from speculation and towards productive, sustainable investment. These plans must be accompanied by greater state and worker ownership so that the returns from growth are not monopolised by a tiny elite. Such a plan would represent a rupture with the economic orthodoxy of the last 40 years. But faced with the threat of another recession, climate breakdown and the rise of the far right, the radical is starting to look ever more sensible.”

Against Malthus
[London Review of Books 10-18-19]

If Malthus was driven by concern for the masses of the future, his sympathy for already existing people seems to have been limited. The temporary suffering of the poor, in Britain and its colonies, was unfortunate but necessary to secure the wellbeing of ‘humanity’ – in whose future they could not be allowed to share. Malthus exhorted rich families to do their civic duty by having fewer children, but didn’t give much weight to the fact that, then as now, the wealthy consume far more than the poor. Or that even without stern clerical rebukes, people tend to have fewer children the richer they get. From a Malthusian perspective, redistribution makes little sense: if there isn’t enough to go round, no system of resource distribution will solve the problem. It’s a convenient view if you happen to be the one with the resources to start with.

In 1805, Malthus took up a post as professor of history and political economy at the East India Company’s college in Hertfordshire, where the sons of merchants and the minor aristocracy were trained for colonial administration. Malthus lectured them on the dangers of overpopulation.

The only flaw with this article is the glaring omission of the American School economists such as Henry C. Carey and Friedrich List, who explicitly, emphatically, and often angrily refuted Malthus. 

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

A one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms laid out in a honeycomb pattern — ultrathin carbon called graphene — is flexible and lighter than paper, yet 200 times stronger than steel.

[Science Times, via The Big Pictue 10-31-19]

[CNBC, via American Wind Energy Association 11-1-19]

The US added 1,927 megawatts of new installed wind capacity in the third quarter, bringing the nation’s total capacity to more than 100 gigawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association. “Wind now supplies clean and efficient power to the equivalent of 32 million American homes, sustains 500 U.S. factories, and delivers more than one billion dollars a year in new revenue to rural communities and states,” says AWEA President and CEO Tom Kiernan.

[Into the Wind blog, via American Wind Energy Association 11-1-19]

US wind power has just achieved a major milestone: 100 gigawatts of installed capacity. American innovation, a pioneering spirit, and the hard work of the country’s 114,000 wind workers made this progress possible. Let’s take a moment to reflect on how we got here, and what this has meant for the country.

Disrupting mainstream politics

Dangers and Possibilities in the Chile Protests
Ian Welsh, October 28 2019

In my original post on the Chile protests, I noted that burning down the metros was stupid. It seems that the protestors agreed, and actually set up guards to make sure that no more of them were damaged.

This leads to a second issue:

Social movements like this can ignite very quickly. But the risk is always that they cannot burn for a long time. People have to go back to work, and after a while, they want things to return to normal. I do think it’s a risk that this movement has such little institutional form. In my view, unless its demands are taken forward by the Left it could result in no real change in the long term.

The problem here is that elites can generally out-wait protesters. They have more resources after all, and the revenue they are losing in a general strike is something they can absorb in a way that poor people can’t absorb losing wages.

Protests which do not really hurt or scare elites thus tend to fail. They either need to genuinely fear for themselves, or be in so much pain they will capitulate to make the problem go away. You saw this in a mild form in the US when the gays went after Obama for opposing gay marriage (yes, he did, this is a memory hole issue). They got personally in his face, they crashed fundraisers held by his wife and screamed. They made his family’s life hell.

It worked.

As I noted about rioting, or even inconvenient peaceful protesting, you need to do it where the elite live, so they can’t avoid it. You need to take away their feeling of safety, of invulnerability–violate their sense that they can wait it out.

If you don’t have a strategy to make the lives of elites miserable, or make them scared, why shouldn’t they just wait you out?

Democrats Lost the States. A New Book Says Activists Are Fighting Back.
Sarah Jones [New York magazine, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-19]

Do you think that big liberal donors, in comparison to big right-wing donors, perceive their roles and perceive power differently?

Institutions on the right have an incentive to give because they’re going to get a return on their investment. If you are the Koch brothers and you spend a million dollars on lobbying, you’re going to get tenfold the amount of money back by pushing a piece of legislation because you’re going to get a tax break or you’re gonna get to drill oil, whatever you want. Where liberal donors, compared to Democrats at large, tend to be more socially liberal and economically conservative. And because of a bunch of complicated campaign-finance laws that I won’t go into now, there’s a lot of incentive for them to give to interest groups.

That is quite different than sustaining long-term organizing that unifies people across issues and creates an economically driven social movement, which I think ultimately could be more successful in uniting people across demographics, across the culture wars. People like Tom Steyer don’t have an incentive to give money to a bunch of people who are now disenfranchised and who, if they actually had power, would change his tax code and take away a lot of his social status.


I want to close with a question about journalism. Private equity is gobbling up local newspapers, which have historically been the source of a lot of statehouse reporting. Those jobs are disappearing. Do you think that helps explain why state bills and campaigns often don’t receive much national attention?

I’m so glad you asked about that. Because if you didn’t, I was going to just insert it myself. So here is my paraphrase of the problem. Most of these state-based campaigns are synchronized and nationalized. And what do I mean by that? I mean, for example, like an anti-union bill or an anti-LGBTQ bill. Anti-abortion bills. Gun bills. It’s all cookie-cutter legislation passed around the country. Interest groups are using states to push a national agenda.

But there’s no platform to adequately show that these are multipronged, synchronized national agendas and strategies that are working. There are hundreds of statehouse reporters who are overworked and underpaid and are upholding a crucial lever of our democracy. National reporters, as we know, cover these bills when it’s too late, when they are being decided by the Supreme Court. What else do we hear about them in the national press? Maybe The Daily Show will make a joke about it if a state lawmaker says something especially absurd.

Getting a national pundit on cable news is cheaper, faster, and easier than the laborious, long work of figuring out what’s happening with synchronized political campaigns across the country. It’s a market problem. It’s a collective-action media problem. And I understand to a certain extent that a lot of these media companies feel that they have their backs against the wall because of what’s happened to the industry. But on the other hand, so many of these major news networks and publications are really complicit in not explaining to the American public what’s actually happening.


Sanders (D)(4): Stoller is correct [via Naked Capitalism 10-31-19]:
Then let’s get different lawyers.
View image on Twitter
Twitter Ads info and privacyLambert Strether: Maybe not from Yale? Or Harvard? Imagine the screaming!

[Below, Twitter link to New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-19]:

New: IOWA poll shows Warren with a slim lead, with Bernie (steady), Buttigieg (rising) and Biden (fading) knotted close behind herA defining feature of the race is a generational divide in what Dem voters want in a nominee – tons of details here

Mr. Biden remains the favorite candidate of older voters, but only 2 percent of respondents under 45 years old said they currently plan to caucus for him. The caucuses are Feb. 3….

An ideological gulf, running along generational lines, is a major feature of the Democratic race. Two-thirds of voters under 30 favored either Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders, while a smaller majority of people over 65 favored either Mr. Biden or Mr. Buttigieg.

An overwhelming 85 percent of voters under 30 said they preferred a nominee promising fundamental change over one seeking to restore normalcy in Washington. Among voters more than 65 years old, 7 in 10 preferred a candidate who would bring back normalcy.

“Voting machines pose a greater threat to our elections than foreign agents” 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-19]

“In August, North Carolina became the latest casualty. Voters and representatives from good-government groups pleaded with the state board of elections to adopt the type of voting system almost unanimously supported by election security experts, one that uses hand-marked paper ballots. They asked the board to reject ballot-marking devices that use barcodes and argued that hand-marked paper ballots are more secure, less expensive and less likely to create long lines at the polls. Nevertheless, Democratic chair Damon Circosta reached across the aisle to join two Republican commissioners in opening the North Carolina market to a barcode ballot-marking system. The vote presents a setback to a multi-year effort to provide secure, accurate elections for North Carolina voters.”

Lambert Strether draws the obvious conclusion no one is supposed to articulate: “In other words, both parties are in favor of having the capacity to steal elections.”

[McSweeney’s, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-19]

”A house divided against itself sounds expensive to rebuild.” — Abraham Lincoln, 1858

The Dark Side

The Market for Voting Machines Is Broken. This Company Has Thrived in It.

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-19]

A ProPublica examination of ES&S shows it has fought hard to keep its dominance in the face of repeated controversies. The company has a reputation among both its competitors and election officials for routinely going to court when it fails to win contracts or has them taken away, suing voting jurisdictions, rivals, advocates for greater election security and others….

ES&S’ lawsuits and threats of lawsuits have helped delay or thwart progress toward better voting technology even when the litigation is unsuccessful, more than two dozen election officials and voting technology experts said in interviews….

Dan Wallach, a computer science professor at Rice University who studies election systems and has testified in many such lawsuits. “These companies’ litigiousness creates a barrier to competition that becomes a barrier to improving our elections.”

ES&S is owned by the McCarthy Group, a private equity firm, and thus its financial records — revenue, profits, salaries — are not public.



Open Thread


Alberta’s Alienation from Canada


  1. Z

    The NY Fed absolutely must be taken down. They provide the lifeblood to our current power structure, always there to make sure the markets behave just the way our rulers want them.


  2. Z

    Thanks Tony for taking the time to do this every week. It’s nice to have a summary of the week’s most important articles that are outside the censorship of our rulers’ media.


  3. Z

    It’s getting to the point that I can’t be in the same room with people that think that Obama was a great president. I can’t. I see them as a big problem, just as I did the idiots that defended the Clintons. Hopelessly self-absorbed and therefore so easily manipulated. Political fans. Their selfishness and arrogance make them inevitable enemies. Eventually you will have big problems with them.

    I used to rail against Clintons and all those morons that defended them. I have my doubts that anyone did it more viciously than I did from the day I got on the internet until maybe 2012 or so. Here mostly. But on Corrente, until I got kicked off by Lambert Strether after a week. Open Left. Naked Capitalism. Firedoglake. Plenty in public too. And I’m fairly certain that I didn’t change one of those fools’ minds. Even after the carnage of the Financial Crisis of 2008 pointed straight to all the Wall Street deregulation during his reign as a prime cause of it. And the labor damaging trade treaties. And China. All that came to roost and they excused it all with parakeet defenses that the Clinton Administration semanticists hand fed them. “What didn’t you like? The peace or the prosperity?” No, I didn’t like the obvious auction on the future that Billy Boy bidded out. The carnage from the Clinton Administration mostly took place after the Clintons walked out the White House door and towards their hundreds of millions of dollars in backdoor bribes.

    But at least I called their defenders out for the fools they were and destroyed the intellectual shallowness of their arguments they used to support the Clintons so they were able to infect less others. That’s the way I think about it even though I can prove no net benefit by any of it. But I sincerely can’t see how any open-minded human being could have read the things I wrote and seen the Clinton presidency the same way after I eviscerated his defenders and laid out the damage he’d done and how he’d done it. I gave them no respect because they deserve none. I did it with vehemence because I deeply hate the Clintons. They’re still a huge problem. Their power block is still punishing this country for their own benefit and working hard to maintain the current corrupt power structure of the party. They are fighting for themselves, that’s all they ever fight for.

    And I especially despised those fools that defended Bill Clinton with the intellectually dishonest arguments about his role in some of the most damaging bills that passed his pen by saying that he had a veto-proof majority in Congress and trying to use that to give him a pass. The Clinton Administration shaped those bills, they rallied support in Congress for them, and they came out largely just as they wanted them as Rahm Emanuel started building the corrupt corporate financial pipelines in the democratic party by facilitating the play-and-pay between the party and Wall Street and other corporate interests. Selling raw political power to corporate America is what he did.

    The Clintons, and I’ll count them both together, have done tremendous damage to this country. They are to be despised. And though I did not vote for either Trump or Clinton, if I had to choose, I would have undoubtedly voted for Trump. I would today too. I strongly believe that we are headed to a better place faster, and time is of the essence, with a Trump Administration than what most likely would have been 8 years of Hillary Clinton. I would have voted for political instability. I would have voted for Trump.

    I’ll make an exception for African-Americans in regards to Obama though. I respect their defense of him more. Was he any worse than the others, they might say? Most would say no. I think he was though in very critical ways. He deceived the American public into thinking he was going to change things at a time when people were clamoring for it. He courted that discontent and then fought hardest to keep the things just as they were on the most fundamental things concerning the power balance in the country.

    He was The Head PR Man of the One Percent. That’s what he did. He provided them with cover and comfort, and even greater power. His presidency was more focused on maintaining the power order than anything else. He fought hardest for the same interests that he said he’d fight hardest against.

    If Obama would have helped African-Americans out and did what he did to the rest of us, I would have infinitely more respect for him. I would have thought that at least he thought of somebody and something beyond himself. And African-Americans finally got a break. They got boosted. I could accept that and even be happy with it. Ain’t it time for them to get a break over the rest of us?

    But, of course, he didn’t do anything for them. You could strongly make the case that relatively speaking he treated them the worse. I can understand their emotions though, even if they are completely irrational. At least with them I feel that they defend him for reasons beyond themselves. I can respect that.

    But, as for the others, their support of him screams to me how shallow they are, that they are merely feeding their ravenous self-indulgence, in keeping the fairy tale of the beautiful Obama presidency alive. The only reason they love Obama too much is because they love themselves too much too.


  4. Hugh

    Neoliberals shovel all kinds of propaganda at us. If we are selfish, then we can’t blame the rich for being so too. Markets solve all problems or come up with the best “possible” solution no matter how ghastly, obviously rigged, and unfair that solution may be. The rich have earned their wealth and so are entitled to it. Competitiveness and efficiency are good when applied to workers, even if this means keeping wages low, eliminating benefits, de-unionizing, offshoring jobs, or using immigrants, legal and illegal, to fill them. However, competitivity and efficiency are terrible when applied to corporations because they would reduce profits and prevent them fro turning into monopolies.

    What they don’t want us to talk about is that we have social commitments to each other to support each other –because this would mean the rich would also have these commitments and this might even raise the issue that the rich never earned their fortunes, that they could never have accumulated their wealth without us, and that it is legitimate to ask and determine how much wealth any of us really need or how much, given our social responsibilities to each other, we can afford and are willing to tolerate.

  5. Herman


    What amazes me is how so much of this propaganda has spread among ordinary people. My uncle lives on disability but he is always ranting against socialists, unions, liberals, immigrants, minorities, welfare cheats and all of the other usual suspects. Of course, all of his information comes from Fox News or talk radio or Breitbart or right-wing books. He always goes on about how biased the news media is against Trump (which is true to a certain extent) but doesn’t seem to think his own news diet is biased in favor of Trump and the GOP. In his mind they are all 100 percent factual sources with no bias.

    I know we like to bash the neoliberal Democrats on here (and they deserve it) but whenever I visit with my conservative relatives or friends I am reminded of just how virulent some of their opinions are. I can understand why rich people might hold right-wing views but it always amazes me to see ordinary working people and even poor people run down people in their own class. Also, I have noticed that many people love the rich as long as they are not “Hollywood liberals.” Trump is what many regular Americans aspire to be like. Of course, for most of them it will always be a fantasy not a reality.

  6. Interesting reporting on coffee. I’ve been given to understand with rapid encroachment of the climate crisis coffee is one of those things to be enjoyed while it’s still around. I’m not a coffee drinker so no impact, but I do enjoy Mexican style chocolate, likewise not long for this world.

    Be better off to rip all those coca and coffee plants out and plant tomatoes.

    Or Hemp.

  7. nihil obstet

    We think that the world as we experience it is a given, without wondering how it comes about. A significant part of the population no more thinks about how their world is created and maintained than most of us think about how we can see in 3-D when our eyes have a flat, 2-dimensional surface. We just can. That’s how the world works.

    To the significant part of the population, ongoing, low-intervention government programs are just part of the world. When you’re disabled, you get disability. You just do. That’s how the world works. If you say to a disabled person who’s railing about those others who are ripping us all off, that he’s talking about the program that sends him his check every month, he’s outraged. He thinks you’re saying that he isn’t disabled, because that’s the only reason he wouldn’t get a check. It’s not a government program; it’s just how the world works. That’s how the actor Craig Nelson could say that he had been on welfare and food stamps, and nobody helped him. It’s how people could say “Keep government out of my Medicare.”

    This is a stunning victory on the part of the neoliberals. They’ve convinced people that government is something that intervenes in your life in bad ways. You have to go to DMV and wait in long lines. You have to fill out, or pay to have filled out, time-consuming forms for IRS and then pay a lot of money every year. That’s government. The means for you to live with dignity like Social Security and Medicare if you’re old or disability if you’re disabled isn’t government. It’s just there, like a visual 3-D world that you don’t question.

    There are a number of lessons from this. One big one for now — don’t create complex high intervention government programs and expect people to like you for it!!! They’ll see the hassle and not the benefit.

  8. anon y'mouse

    while it may be true that people see government programs as the pre-existing background, and “The Government” as an unwanted intrusion, the meat of it is that -their- disability payments, SSI and things are things that they both “paid for” and “deserve” because they are truthfully disabled. while everyone else outside of their acquaintance is somehow getting theirs illegitimately and sponging off the system, which makes them lazy.

    that is the real snowjob: what i have, i earned, and maybe some of the people i know, but i also know “slackers” who get stuff they didn’t earn, thus nearly everyone else is some kind of low-grade ripoff artist who deserves to be kicked out on their tuckus into homelessness and destitution, until they learn how to “earn”.

    more self-reflection would indicate that very few of us get what we “deserve”, either good or bad. i didn’t “deserve” to be born in the U.S. and have all of the benefits and surpluses that accrue, as well as the numerous but sometimes difficult to see disadvantages that come from this position. i could well have been born in Africa and had to walk miles to get usable water supplies, have no infrastructure (even poorly maintained), etc.

  9. moslerfan

    “Bernie Sanders wants ‘criminal’ CEOs locked up, but lawyers say that’s unlikely.”

    The wrong people are making the rules.

  10. Gunther Behn

    It would appear that a Neoliberal future would possess technological Marvels (for most), and citizens who work towards a “common good” and so are “less selfish”.

    Businesses too, when not turning out the next app or convenience or Marvel, will appear wise, beneficent and kind (just look at their beautiful advertisements, with images of ocean and forest and happy, carefree, youthful citizens), working for humankind’s improvement and the public good.

    The businesses in this wonderful Neoliberal world will be owned and influenced by the same strata of hereditary, technocratic, and noveau riche wealth which own them today. The difference between Now, and Then, is the reduced level of populations to be able to perceive how they are led to keep them where they are, and the elite where they have always been — and the difference between the lives each class leads is like the distance between us and the Moon.

    Not like this hasn’t been said already…

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