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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 6, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


The Pandemic

The Worst Pediatric-Care Crisis in Decades 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


How Republicans Claimed COVID as a Winning Campaign Issue 

[New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

The backlash against pandemic restrictions has become a more potent talking point than the public-health crisis itself.

[TW: For me — because I believe we need to revive civic republicanism and especially its principle of civic virtue — the public hostility to adopting individual measures to protect the public health, is very demoralizing. ]


Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


Beyond financialisation: the longue durée of finance and production in the Global South

[Cambridge Journal of Economics, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]

From the Abstract:

“Seen from the South, we argue that although there has been expansion of financial motives and practices the ‘divorce’ between the financial and the productive economy cannot be considered a new empirical phenomenon having occurred during the last decades and even less an epochal shift of the capitalist system. The tendency for finance to neglect the needs of the domestic productive sector has been the structural operation of finance in many parts of the Global South over the last 150 years.”


No Consequences: Elite impunity has created a crisis of democratic legitimacy

Trevor Jackson,[The Baffler, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“My own research on impunity and financial crises finds that impunity tends to be the result of three problems: culpability, in that elites or heads of state are seldom personally responsible for any crimes; precedent, in that the human imagination for wrongdoing consistently outstrips laws and regulations; and scale, in that most legal systems are better equipped to handle individual crimes instead of social ones. Together, these problems create extralegal or a-legal spaces where social harms are perpetrated on a very large scale, benefiting a very small group of people, but nobody is legally at fault. From the eighteenth century onward, the increasing complexity of economic and political institutions and the increasing abstraction of governance has tended to diffuse impunity from individuals to impersonal forces like “markets.” Moreover, in economic or political contexts, harms are more difficult to assess than in contexts of actual violence, and for that reason, popular perceptions of impunity can be at least as destabilizing as actual instances of lawbreaking without consequences. Since impunity and democracy tend to be incompatible, repeated episodes of elite impunity can sediment over time, eventually producing crises of political legitimacy. Hence the world around us.”


TW: Actually, it’s worse than there being no consequences:

”Ionizer Company Sues Indoor Air Quality Expert”

[Energy Vanguard, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“One of the great things about the pandemic is that so many indoor air quality experts were very public in sharing their knowledge. Dr. Marwa Zaatari is one of those experts. I interviewed her for my article on electronic air cleaners, and she really knows her stuff. She’s publicized a lot of the research on electronic air cleaners that are in the iffy category. Unfortunately, doing so has gotten her in legal trouble with a large company that sells ionizers, one of those electronic air cleaners that I’ve said is best to avoid. Global Plasma Solutions (GPS) is suing her for $180 million. Why? Because she’s been pointing out that independent researchers have found results that don’t support GPS’s claims. This is intimidation, pure and simple. It seems the company would rather keep the results of independent research out of the public eye as much as possible. In addition to suing Dr. Zaatari for $180 million, GPS is also suing Elsevier, one of the largest publishers of peer-reviewed scientific research. Two years ago, Dr. Zaatari was doing her thing and helping a lot of people understand indoor air quality and the effectiveness of different methods to achieve it. Over the last year, she’s gotten very quiet after GPS filed the lawsuit against her.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]


The Week Corporate Power Started to Dissipate

David Dayen, November 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

…For nearly two years, the Biden administration worked to assemble the exact team you would want for an aggressive push against runaway monopolization. They said the right things and made the right decisions. The president signed an executive order outlining a whole-of-government approach to promoting competition across the economy. The agencies sued Facebook and Google, and started a phalanx of investigations.

But things didn’t get immediately better, because antitrust cases take a long time, and the courts have been generally hostile to them for 40 years, and the Federal Trade Commission spent several months with a 2-2 Democratic-Republican split, and probably 19 other factors I don’t know about. Thus you got sharp observers like Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher grumbling back in September that “You can list [FTC chair Lina Khan’s] accomplishments on zero hands right now.”

That wasn’t actually true then. But what our instant-gratification society isn’t equipped to handle is the idea that this sort of persistent effort and preparation, even if it looks like nothing is happening, is what leads to the breakthrough. And this week feels like that breakthrough, ironically coming in the middle of a midterm election climax that will drown it out.

On Monday, U.S. district court judge Florence Pan blocked the merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, which would have narrowed the major book publishers from five to four. Significantly, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, led by Jonathan Kanter, based its argument on the fact that the consolidation would have reduced advances for authors because they would have fewer companies bidding on their services. That’s an argument about the impact of a merger on workers, not consumers, which Robert Bork famously argued was the only thing antitrust enforcement should concern itself with. The Justice Department also claimed that cultural output would be reduced as a result of the merger, another novel (and correct) application of antitrust law.

If that were the only news of the week, it would signal a sea change: the first successful merger challenge that went through a full trial in half a decade. But also on Monday, Kanter announced a guilty plea in a criminal monopolization case under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, the first case of its kind in 45 years. Nathan Zito admitted to monopolizing the niche market of highway crack-sealing services by offering his chief rival $100,000 to split up the country, with Zito’s company taking Montana and Wyoming and his competitor taking South Dakota and Nebraska. Zito faces up to ten years in prison.


“Book Publishing Mega-Merger BLOCKED”

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-2022]

”As I noted back in June, Kanter and Khan have put a bunch of torpedos in the water, and there’s a lag time after the launch of a torpedo and before it rams the hull. It’s easy to think nothing’s happening on the placid surface even as something is churning underneath. Well, one of those torpedos just exploded, in the form of Judge Florence Pan ruling against the merger of two large publishing houses, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, in a case that will reverberate in important ways across the economy. This ruling was front page news in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Financial Times, as well as publishing trade publications. Even seemingly unconnected groups, like the Writer’s Guild West of TV and movie writers, chimed in approvingly.”


The Penguin Random House–Simon & Schuster Merger Has Been Blocked. What Now?

Alex Shephard, November 3, 2022 [The New Republic]


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The inflation narrative is fabricated, as is the response 

[Tax Research UK, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


The Hidden Cause of Economy-Wide Inflation? 

Marshall Steinbaum [The Sling, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]

But the idea that dominant firms generally — and platforms in particular — had market power they weren’t using used to be commonplace. And it’s entirely sensible that if they weren’t using their market power then (so as to accumulate more of it), they would use it now. The strategy of predatory pricing is to set a low price to lock in customers and drive out the competition, then charge high prices later to “recoup” losses. For many decades, the prevailing view has been that predatory pricing is unlikely because charging monopoly prices in the recoupment phase will just attract entry, which will make the initial predatory phase irrational to attempt. As Justice Powell wrote in the 1986 case of Matsushita v. Zenith Radio Corp., “predatory pricing schemes are rarely tried and even more rarely successful.” In the 1993 case Brooke Group v. Brown & Williamson, the court held that there must be a “dangerous probability” of recoupment for a predatory pricing claim to succeed. The DOJ last tried a predation theory against American Airlines in 1999 for its conduct defending its monopoly hub at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. That claim ultimately failed, an underappreciated inflection point in the oligopolization of the airline industry that’s responsible for today’s high prices.


“Fed should make clear that rising profit margins are spurring inflation”

[Financial Times], via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“Broad-based inflation is normally a labour-cost problem. The rule of thumb is that labour costs are around 70 per cent of the price of a developed economy’s consumer prices. If wage increases are not offset by greater efficiency or reductions in other costs, the consumer will pay a higher price for the labour they are consuming. With normal inflation, central banks would need to create spare capacity in labour markets to push wages lower. Wages have been rising but prices have been rising faster, so real wage growth is catastrophically negative. This is far removed from the 1970s-style wage price spiral; apart from the wage and price control debacle of Richard Nixon’s presidency, US real average earnings rose for much of the decade. The US restaurant and hotel sector helps explain why wage costs have played a limited role in today’s inflation. Since the end of 2019, the average earnings of a worker in this sector have risen just under 20 per cent. But the number of employees has fallen over 5 per cent. Paying fewer people more money means that the sector’s wage bill has risen roughly 13 per cent. The real output of the sector has risen 7 per cent. So US restaurants and hotels are paying fewer people more money to work harder. The rise in wage costs adjusted for productivity since the end of 2019 is somewhere between 5 and 6 per cent. Restaurant and hotel prices have risen 16 per cent. This is the current inflation story. Companies have passed higher costs on to customers. But they have also taken advantage of circumstances to expand profit margins. The broadening of inflation beyond commodity prices is more profit margin expansion than wage cost pressures.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]


Nearly 40% of small businesses in the US failed to pay rent in October – with more than HALF saying their prices have been hiked at least 10% over the past six months 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


US Workers Have Gotten Way Less Productive 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]

Yves Smith’s one sentence of snark is worth more than the article: “Right. The productivity decline is due 100% to faffing off workers, as opposed to supply chain issues meaning they can’t complete work on a timely basis, plus co-workers being sick also messing up task/project completion.”


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

Glencore fined $314 million for ‘endemic’ bribery of African oil officials 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-2022]


White-Collar War Crimes and For-Profit Famines

[Current Affairs, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

What should be called ‘white-collar crimes’ could kill more people than combat itself in the Russia-Ukraine war.


Wall Street Strikes Back

Rebecca Burns, November 2, 2022 [The Lever]

This election season, the financial industry is proudly funneling cash and running misleading ads to boost its favorite political lackeys….
“Congress isn’t afraid of bankers,” Roger Beverage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, told American Banker in 2012. “They don’t think we’ll do anything to kick them out of office. We are trying to change that perception.”….

This election season, the group is also trumpeting its role in funneling cash into what it refers to on its website as the midterm’s “three most important races for bankers.” Those races are:

Billionaires Have Spent $881 Million This Election (Mostly on Republicans)

Tori Otten, November 4, 2022 [The New Republic]


In Climate Change-Ravaged Florida, Ron DeSantis’ Insurance Giveaway 

Rebecca Burns, November 4, 2022 [The Lever]

The governor and his GOP colleagues quietly shielded their insurance donors from bad faith lawsuits — at the cost of homeowners facing record levels of property damage.


Corporate Power Is On The Ballot In Minnesota

Julia Rock, November 5, 2022 [The Lever]

One of the staunchest consumer protection advocates in America will face off against a corporate lawyer in an election on Nov. 8 that could shape litigation against corporations nationwide.

Incumbent Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) has sued a major private equity landlord for failing to maintain rental units, aggressively prosecuted wage theft, led multi-state actions to lower prescription drug prices, and moved to block a major acquisition by health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group under antitrust law.

His Republican opponent Jim Schultz, meanwhile, has said that if he wins office he will cut resources to the attorney general office’s corporate prosecution division. The 36-year-old hedge fund lawyer has also called Ellison’s lawsuit against oil companies for deceiving the public on climate change “frivolous.”


Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2022]


Here’s How the US Can Stop Wasting Billions of Dollars on Each Transit Project 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-2022]

They recalled finding that in Tokyo, around the same time, the government had implemented a moratorium on subway building because costs had risen too much, to approximately $500 million per kilometer. At the time, New York was building the Second Avenue subway for an estimated $2.5 billion per mile, or well over a billion dollars per kilometer. Paris was building subways for $250 million per kilometer, some 10 times less. The more Levy looked, the more they found New York wasn’t just paying more for subways than every other city, but many times more….

Levy has these answers because after writing about the problem for the better part of a decade on their blog Pedestrian Observations, Levy has, alongside a team of researchers at NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management—including Elif Ensari and Marco Chitti—spent the past three years crunching massive amounts of data, interviewing hundreds of experts all over the world, and conducting in-depth case studies on transit projects in Sweden, Istanbul, Italy, Boston, and New York. The group plans to release its final report this month on what the U.S. and New York in particular can do to start building transit at least on par with the rest of the world. It is part of a growing body of literature—the Eno Center for Transportation launched a similar project around the same time—examining the question of how the U.S. can be more productive with its transportation infrastructure dollars….

The good news is “lower costs can be achieved” without requiring “large-scale legal changes.” the research group concluded. The bad news is it requires “reassessing decision-making processes, institutions, the nuts and bolts of project agreements, and getting key decision makers to support projects rather than delay difficult decisions.” Or, to put it another way, it requires our politicians and their appointees to unite around a common good rather than bicker and intervene to promote their own particular brand of provincialism, itself a reflection of the fact that most voters do not have this issue on their political radar.


Degrowth, deep adaptation, and skills shortages – Part 5 

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 11-5-2022]

This is Part 5 of an on-going series I am writing about the issues facing societies dealing with climate change and other elements which come together as a poly crisis. The series will unfold as I research and think about the topic more through my Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) lens. Today, I am concluding the analysis of the questions relating to the ageing society and the resulting skill shortages, that the mainstream narrative identifies as key ‘problems’ facing governments across the Western world. Like any issue, the way the ‘problem’ is constructed or framed influences the conclusions we come up with. Further, the tools use to operationalise that construction also influence the scope and quality of the analysis and the resulting conclusions. As I explained in Monday’s blog post – Degrowth, deep adaptation, and skills shortages – Part 4 (October 31, 2022) – the use of mainstream macroeconomics fails to deliver appropriate policy advice on these questions. But further, when we introduce multi-dimensional complexity – such as degrowth to the ageing society issue – the mainstream approach becomes catastrophic. MMT is a much better analytical framework for drilling down to see what the essential problem is and what are non-problems and thus creating the questions and answers that lead to sound policy. Today, I show why the existence of skills shortages really provides us with the space to pursue a degrowth strategy while not causing material standards of living to collapse. They are better seen as indicator of what is possible rather than a macro problem….


Some notes on the political economy of central banking 

Nick Johnson, The Political Economy of Development, via Mike Norman Economics 11-2-2022]

I have just finished a very useful collection of some of the papers of economist Gerald Epstein, entitled The Political Economy of Central Banking. Epstein is Professor of Economics and Co-Director in the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the US, which is known for the progressive research agendas of its members.
Rather than write a lengthy review, this post sets out some of the key points made in the book and which stood out for me as being original and important. Epstein’s focus on central banks (CBs) remains especially relevant in today’s world of increased inflation and CB efforts to return it to target rates.…


Professional Management Class war on workers

“Starbucks Union Group Ordered to Turn Over Messages With Reporters”

[Daily Beast, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-31-2022]

“Starbucks Workers United, the organization behind unionizing Starbucks stores in western New York, has been ordered to hand over their messages with journalists to the company. The federal ruling is highly unusual and will give the coffee company access to private conversations as they battle with unionizing groups. Several Starbucks workers have accused the company of union-busting. Starbucks said this ruling will help them uncover ‘misinformation’ the union organizers have dispelled.”


Information age dystopia

“Hackers could re-create Ever Given grounding in Suez Canal”


[Container News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]

“The Great Disconnect, a report produced by maritime research firm Thetius, maritime cyber risk management specialist CyberOwl and law firm Holman Fenwick Willan, said that it is possible for hackers to penetrate a ship’s navigation system and create havoc as the vessel passes major chokepoints, such as the Straits of Hormuz and the Straits of Malacca. The report stated, ‘Whether through spoofing GPS, or hijacking a ship’s control system, the ability of a nation state to manipulate the movement of maritime vessels can cause billions of dollars of disruption, shock the global supply chain, increase the cost of goods, and even instigate international conflict.’ The grounding of the 20,124 TEU Ever Given in the Suez Canal was not caused by a cyber attack but it stands as an example of the fallout of such an event. For six days, the ship remained wedged into the sides of the Suez Canal. It is estimated to have cost the global economy between US$6 billion and US$10 billion per day in lost trade. The report’s authors pointed to the detention of the UK-flagged products tanker Stena Impero as the result of a suspected case of hacking. On 19 July 2019, Stena Impero transited the Straits of Hormuz to pick up cargo in the Persian Gulf. The ship’s regular course keeps it well within the Oman waters, away from the border with Iran. But on this occasion, the ship’s crew experienced unusual deviations from their voyage plan and had to continuously adjust the vessel’s course to stay on their intended path. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard boarded Stena Impero, accusing it of colliding with a fishing boat and failing to respond to calls. Although Stena Impero’s Swedish owner Stena Bulk said there was no evidence of the accusation, the tanker was detained for two months as part of a diplomatic crisis between Iran and western governments. The detention of the Stena Impero was widely seen as Tehran’s retaliation for the UK detaining an Iranian tanker, Adrian Darya-1, two weeks before the Stena Impero was seized.”


Big Brother is Watching if You Vote 

Matt Taibbi, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]



[Mint Press, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]


Banks detected a record $886 million in ransomware payments in 2021 

[American Banker, via Naked Capitalism 11-2-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


Truth Cops: Leaked Documents Outline DHS’s Plans to Police Disinformation 

[Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


How Google’s Ad Business Funds Disinformation Around the World 

[Propublica, via Naked Capitalism 11-1-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-3-2022]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

How a sand battery could transform clean energy

[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-2022]


Disrupting mainstream politics

Don’t Look Now But Progressives Are About to Expand Their Ranks in Congress

Branko Marcetic, October 31, 2022 [In These Times, via comment by dcblogger, Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-31-2022]

“I think it’s been mis-portrayed as a bad year for progressives by the media,” says Greg Casar, a democratic socialist candidate who won his primary for an open House seat in Texas, and who (like other winning candidates) had the crucial backing of groups like WFP and Justice Democrats. ​“We’ll have a historic number of progressives, true progressives, in Congress.”

According to the Brookings Institution, 50% of all candidates endorsed by Justice for All, Our Revolution, Indivisible, or by Sanders or members of the Squad, won their primaries. Justice Democrats saw three of its five carefully chosen challengers win their primaries, its highest success rate ever. The WFP, meanwhile, saw what it calls its best-ever winning streak, with victories in eight of the 14 non-incumbent House bids it prioritized, a number that doesn’t include incumbent Reps. Omar, Bush and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who won despite stiff challenges.

And while the WFP’s overall win rate in House primaries might be lower this year (57% for non-incumbents vs. 77% in 2020), the group is on track for its best year ever in terms of a more important metric: winning seats in Congress. Rob Duffey says the group invested more heavily in federal primaries in blue districts, rather than winning primaries in red seats that are long shots in the general elections.

In a blow to centrist Democrats, WFP endorsee Jamie McLeod-Skinner ousted Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), the Blue Dog who led the corporate-backed effort in the House to derail the Build Back Better Act, the omnibus climate and social policy bill that was a priority for progressives. Another WFP candidate, Sanders-endorsed Vermont state Sen. Becca Balint, won her primary against Vermont’s lieutenant governor for Vermont’s only House seat, making her a shoo-in for the seat that, 30 years ago, catapulted Sanders to national prominence.


From Countervailing to Prevailing Power

Scott Nakagawa, Dania Rajendra, November 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Progressives should plan our fights against anti-democratic oligarchies with the explicit aim of becoming the dominant political force.

This article is part of Countervailing Power, a joint series by The American Prospect and The Forge: Organizing Strategy and Practice that explores the ways organizers can use public policy to build mass membership organizations to countervail oligarchic power. The series was developed in collaboration with the Working Families Party, the Action Lab, and Social and Economic Justice Leaders.

It’s no secret that 20th-century-style liberal democracy is in real trouble. A preprint of a national survey conducted in 2022 reveals that two-thirds of respondents believe our democracy is seriously threatened, and 50.1 percent believe that “in the next few years, there will be civil war in the United States.” In the midst of this anxiety, 40 percent agreed that “having a strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy,” pointing to a clear opening for authoritarians that is widening as the violence and unrest promulgated by white nationalist formations and paramilitaries increases the appeal of strongman-style leadership.


Obama’s Attack Works Because He Hits Republicans Where They Think They’re Strong

Abdul El-Sayed,November 3, 2022  [The New Republic]

The clip has earned more than 14 million views. The words were important—but it was the delivery that sent it to the moon. This was not an observation delivered in the halting professorial cadence that came to characterize the Obama we knew as president. It was more “truth from the pulpit” than “talking points from the lectern.”

Obama is bringing two qualities to the table that most Democrats aren’t this campaign season. First, he offers Democrats a sort of catharsis for the pent-up frustration that I hear often out on the trail—that Democrats don’t hit back enough. But second, and perhaps more importantly, he demonstrated how Democrats can send a withering message about the economy without apology.



Jurors Can Protect Abortion Access 

Sonali Chakravarti, October 25, 2022 [Boston Review]

Just as abolitionists fought the Fugitive Slave Act, those resisting the criminalization of reproductive health can employ jury nullification….

Jury nullification, also called “conscientious acquittal,” describes the power of jurors to declare a defendant “Not Guilty” for reasons apart from the evidence. In a recent article for the magazine Inquest, legal scholars Peter N. Salib and Guha Krishnamurthi argued for the use of jury nullification as a way for citizens to combat the post-Dobbs legal landscape. They see it as having significant upstream consequences: prosecutors will fear charging people with the most unpopular aspects of the anti-abortion statutes if juries are repeatedly unwilling to convict. I share their interest in this strategy, but believe that as a tool with complex legal and moral ramifications, nullification should be approached with an awareness of its history and purpose. In what follows, I draw on my knowledge as a scholar of juries to explore why jury nullification might be considered a much-needed political and legal tool for the current moment and offer strategies for potential jurors who are contemplating it.

By design, juries are afforded a unique role in the courtroom. The jury is meant to be the “voice of the people.” Juries navigate conflicting accounts of the law and balance the need for uniformity in punishment against the mandate to consider whether the particularities of each case might warrant exceptions. The power of the jury to nullify is the foundation of all jury responsibilities because it most directly captures how the function of jurors differs from that of judges. While judges often seek fidelity to the law, regardless of the potentially perverse outcomes, jurors can and must look beyond the letter of the law to deeper questions regarding the fairness of the outcome. They must consider the ways an enforced law fits with the aspirations of a democratic community to provide liberty and freedom for all while maintaining order….

The first lesson is about the importance of circulating information, not only about the issue at hand, but also specifically about the responsibility of jurors should they be called to serve. The abolitionist movement harnessed the power of mass meetings, print publications, and volunteer organizations to show how the legal apparatus of slavery should be challenged in multiple ways—including through the ballot box, taxation, and in the jury room. These were all aspects of a political (in contrast to a revolutionary) movement for abolition and the campaign gave potential jurors the legal concepts they needed for principled action in the courtroom. Today’s abortion rights activists are using a variety of channels, including protests and social media, to spread awareness about restrictive legislation and opportunities for direct involvement in the cause, including financial and medical assistance, but they might expand their focus to the civic education of jurors. The time has come for widespread public discussion about the considerations jurors should take into account if they are asked to adjudicate an abortion case; including the role of jurors to consider the justness of the law itself, not just the evidence presented in the case.

Such expansive education is necessary for jurors to navigate the process of jury selection. Due to the secrecy and lack of knowledge that currently surrounds the legitimate use of nullification, jurors who are overly enthusiastic about nullification are quickly dismissed by judges and attorneys because they are perceived as unwilling to follow the law. If we instead educate jurors about the history of jury nullification and the dangers of misuse, they would be able to convey an accurate and thoughtful understanding of the concept to the court.


Supreme Court [of Japan] Orders Reparations for Sex Workers Serving US Military 

[The Blue Roof, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]


Guilty Before Innocent 

Jed Rakoff [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-2022]

Review of Daniel Medwed’s Barred: Why the Innocent Can’t Get Out of Prison.

Rakoff is Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York


Democrats’ political suicide

Sen. Manchin asks CEOs: Why don’t you plainly bribe us? Why don’t you spell out the quid pro quo?

RETIII, November 03, 2022 [DailyKos]

….“Quit writing checks to everybody,” he said.

He argued that successful CEOs build good companies because they expect return on their investment, yet too often, they write checks to lawmakers in Washington without expecting anything of real substance in return.

The investments you’ve made in politics from the Democrat side and the Republican side by asking nothing in return is a foolish investment,” he said.  “Why don’t you do this? Tell a politician when they come to you, say, ‘Listen, I’m sorry I don’t give checks, I don’t give a donation or contribution to any politician, but I’m willing to make an investment. What should I expect from you? What are you going to do?’” Manchin advised.


How Governing Can Motivate Politics

Dorothy Slater,Ton Aguilar Rosenthal, October 31, 2022 [The American Prospect]

…If Democrats in Congress had chosen instead to extend the legislative session, or even just to reconvene briefly before Election Day, they could have forced big, headline-making votes on salient issues. Imagine the news cycle before this election being focused on Democrats voting for marriage equality and abortion rights, cracking down on price-gouging, implementing anti-profiteering taxes and raising the minimum wage as methods to protect against inflation, as well as protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare. These votes either would have resulted in exciting, positive policy developments that Democrats could have campaigned on, or would have forced Republicans to vote against extremely popular bills, lending Democrats galvanizing platforms on which to launch opposition campaigns.

Unfortunately, Dems didn’t do that….

It’s very easy to message all of these proposals in a way that will excite voters: Just tell them Democrats are cracking down on price-gouging, empowering unions, making workplaces safe, and giving regulators real teeth to fight Big Oil’s pollution. You don’t need to get into all of the jargon and legalisms. You just need to communicate to voters that Democrats want to make America a better place to live, and Republicans don’t.

Democrats could even use a united party front to expand Social Security benefits, supporting struggling seniors who face the challenges of inflation and the ongoing pandemic.

The total failure of laissez-faire capitalism in the 1930s cannot be overstated in creating the context for the rise of the New Deal. As the economist Marshall Steinbaum has argued, “Social democracy grew out of mass enfranchisement, but it did not win until capitalist claims about the origin and just distribution of wealth in an industrial economy were finally put to rest thanks to the discredit of the elite.”


“Democratic Consultants Cash in on AIPAC Spending — Even as It Tries to Hand the House to Republicans”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-4-2022]

“Four major Democratic firms worked with a Super PAC that is now spending $1 million to defeat one of their party’s congressional candidates. The Super PAC for the country’s largest pro-Israel group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, put close to $3 million into the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District — spending that turned into contracts for two of the Democratic consultants to go after a progressive in their own party, state Rep. Summer Lee. Lee, however, prevailed and now the PAC, United Democracy Project, is spending more than $1 million against her in the general election, backing her Republican opponent Mike Doyle.”


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Only the GOP Celebrates Political Violence

[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 11-1-2022]


Why Republicans now believe they can get away with gutting Social Security and Medicare

Dartagnan, November 04, 2022 [DailyKos]


“Judge restricts how right-wing group can patrol Arizona drop boxes”

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-2-2022]

“A federal judge in Arizona imposed new restrictions against a right-wing group after voters complained about aggressive patrols of ballot drop boxes in the state. The judge blocked members of the group, Clean Elections USA, from openly carrying guns or wearing body armor within 250 feet of drop boxes. The judge also banned members from speaking to or yelling at voters who are dropping off their ballots. The group is additionally banned under the order from photographing or filming any voters at the drop boxes or from posting similar images online – which they’ve done in recent weeks.”


The Trump Tapes: 20 interviews that show why he is an unparalleled danger

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

In more than 50 years of reporting, I have never disclosed the raw interviews or full transcripts of my work. But after listening again to the 20 interviews I conducted with President Donald Trump during his last year as chief executive, I have decided to take the unusual step of releasing them. I was struck by how Trump pounded in my ears in a way the printed page cannot capture. In their totality, these interviews offer an unvarnished portrait of Trump. You hear Trump in his own words, in his own voice, during one of the most consequential years in American history: amid Trump’s first impeachment, the coronavirus pandemic and large racial justice protests. (Washington Post)


Election deniers should be disqualified from holding public office 

[Nevada Independent, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-2022]


“What happens when you put ideologues in charge of a university” 

[Popular Information, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

In the United States, tenure has long served as a safeguard for academic freedom. Tenure prevents professors from being fired for discussing controversial ideas. And it’s the tenure system that insulates faculty from undue influence by university donors, administrators, and politicians. That’s exactly why tenure has become a frequent target of right-wing lawmakers and pundits.


The Most Lawless County in Texas

[D Magazine, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

Suzanne Wooten did the impossible and became the first candidate to defeat a sitting judge in Collin County. What followed is the unbelievable, epic tale of the craziest case in the history of jurisprudence.


How the right wing’s delusions went from ‘not normal’ to ‘dangerous’

Review by Amanda Uhle, October 18, 2022

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 10-31-2022]

Weapons of Mass Delusion: When the Republican Party Lost Its Mind

By Robert Draper

Penguin. 400 pp. $29

Draper posits that the 18-month period covered in his book represents the pivot point between “this is not normal” and “this is dangerous and not going away.” The Republican Party “plunged deeper into a Trumpian cult of compulsive dissembling and conspiracy mongering,” he writes. “It fell hostage to the party’s most fevered extremists,” and “the usual partisan differences gave way to an existential call to arms.”

Those of us who assumed that Trump’s return to private citizenry would reestablish normalcy didn’t anticipate the scope of the misinformation and its capacity to delude so many. As Draper shows, figures such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) have carried forward the bombastic, untruthful messages Trump propagated during his term. But the author doesn’t treat Trump as a puppet master. Instead, he carefully reveals the incentives that might inspire each of these public figures. The obvious answers — money, or a desire to be reelected or ascend to a higher position — are only part of the nuanced portraits he paints….

The “big lie” — that the 2020 presidential election was illegitimate — is the central delusion in the book. But it’s part of a tapestry of deceit, from coronavirus misinformation to smaller things, like McCarthy stretching the truth about starting a sandwich shop when he was in his teens. Draper adds color and detail to the myriad ways in which these lies are told… The abundance of deceptions is compelling and adds heft to the author’s ultimate point: that Americans’ combative relationship with the truth has made us vulnerable to any outrageous lie….

Draper’s diligent reporting occasionally takes us outside the halls of Congress, introducing us to people who say the Capitol riot was carried out by antifa leftists donning MAGA gear, or who conveniently believe that electoral malfeasance was present in 2020 but not in 2016. Most fascinating is his reporting on individuals like Guy Reffitt, the first Jan. 6 insurrectionist convicted at trial. Reffitt was a member of the This Is Texas Freedom Force who wore tactical gear and brought firearms and plastic wrist restraints to Washington. Draper writes that five days after Jan. 6, Reffitt “told his eighteen-year-old son and sixteen-year-old daughter that he needed to delete the contents of his helmet camera. Warning them not to tell anyone, the two children would recall to the FBI that their father said to them, to ‘Choose a side, or die,’ and ‘Traitors get shot.’ ”

….No one, including Draper, has a solution for the funhouse of warped truths we’re all navigating now. Absent a resolution to this calamitous state of affairs, we have an urgent mandate to shine a light on these horrifying lies, to document them with fairness and authenticity, to elbow our way into the morass, demand to know how we arrived at this dark place and, crucially, listen deeply to what we hear. Fighting falsehood is all that matters if democracy is to survive, and Draper comes with the fiercest weapon yet: the truth.


How the Republican Fringe Became the Mainstream

Jacob Heilbrunn, October 30, 2022 [washingtonmonthly]

Conspiracy theorists and far-right fanatics have long been present in the GOP. Now, they’re running it.

At most, he intimates in his introduction that in writing about the Republican Party over the past two decades, he may have been overly influenced by the example of his late father—a former Marine, capitalist, family man, and lifelong Republican—to view the party with a degree of respect it has not merited. Such an upbringing has only augmented Draper’s current consternation at the GOP’s conversion from a party into a Trumpian cult….

Why hy did the GOP sink to these depths? Draper offers some useful reminders of the lengths to which party elders went to connive at Trump’s criminal actions during his presidency, granting enough legitimacy to some of the earlier grifts and effectively ensuring that they were powerless to stop later ones. Consider Liz Cheney. It was none other than Cheney who spearheaded the defense of Trump as the Republican Conference chair during his first impeachment trial over Ukraine. She might have disapproved privately of Trump’s attempt to suborn Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as part of his scheme to win reelection, but she focused her fire on the Democrats, who Cheney stated “will be held accountable by history for what they are doing.” According to Draper, Cheney’s “condemnation of the Democrats was thoroughly consonant with Trump’s insistence that he was the victim of ‘the greatest witch-hunt in American history.’ ” It was Trump’s cavalier handling of the coronavirus pandemic, followed by his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election, that prompted her to break with him. But the damage was already done….

Draper recounts that the morning after Michigan Representative Fred Upton voted to impeach Trump over January 6, he had breakfast with Arthur C. Brooks, the former president of the American Enterprise Institute. “You know, Fred,” the perennially optimistic Brooks said, “former presidents tend to fade away. It’s going to happen with Trump too.” Upton responded, “No, it’s not. Not with this guy. I still think he’s going to be our next nominee.”


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“Originalism Is Intellectually Indefensible”: Eric Foner on the Enduring Myth of the Colorblind Constitution 

[Balls and Strikes, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-2022]

Heather Cox Richardson, November 1, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Republican leaders have also called for policies that threaten Social Security and Medicare. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which funds senatorial campaigns, issued an eleven-point plan to “Rescue America” that called for—among other things—sunsetting all laws five years after passage and reauthorizing the ones that lawmakers wanted to keep. (Scott later added a twelfth point to the plan: cutting taxes.)

When challenged that his plan would threaten Medicare, Scott has repeated a talking point that Politifact, the Washington Post Fact Checker, CNN, and have all called false: that Democrats are threatening Medicare because they “cut $280 billion out of Medicare.” In fact, the Inflation Reduction Act saves the government—and therefore taxpayers—somewhere between $237 billion and $288 billion by permitting it to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies; it does not cut services. In other words, Scott is lying that reduced government spending on Medicare thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act—savings the Republicans want to end—is the same thing as calling to sunset the program in five years.


Heather Cox Richardson, November 3, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Penalties appear to be mounting for those breaking the law for Republican election victories. Republican operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl pleaded guilty in October to a felony charge of telecommunications fraud for robocalls to depress the Black vote in Cleveland in 2020 and are facing fines and up to a year in prison. And earlier this week, a judge ordered two leaders of True the Vote, a right-wing organization pushing the voter fraud conspiracy theories at the heart of the debunked film 2000 Mules, to jail for contempt of court. An election logistics software company they have publicly accused of stealing the election for Biden has sued them for defamation; they claim to have evidence of election fraud but have refused to produce it.


Heather Cox Richardson, November 3, 2022 [Letters from an American]

House Republicans today released a 1050-page “report” laying out their priorities for what they expect will be their takeover of the House….

Only the first 50 pages of the report are new prose. Kate Riga of Talking Points Memo read the rest and noted that about 1000 of the pages simply reprint letters Republican representatives have sent to members of the Biden administration, including 93 copies of a 5-page letter they sent to U.S. attorneys.
The House Republicans’ plan was apparently to grab headlines with an apparently big “report” and make people uneasy about the Biden administration. The document makes it clear that their priorities if they take the House will be to investigate Hunter Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the evacuation of Afghanistan, immigration policies, and, perhaps above all, Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice (DOJ). But the report is a self-own in that it makes clear that the Republicans have no intention of actually trying to deal with inflation and are instead going to push the investigations that keep their grievances before the media and feed their base.



Open Thread


Election Discussion Open Thread


  1. VietnamVet

    Everyday something on the internet documents that the western corporate/state created reality is getting farther and farther away from the real world. Russia’s spy chief said on their TV that British PM Truss texted US Secretary of State Blinken minutes after the Nord Stream explosions “It’s done”. To get into the positions of power to sign off on the attack on Europe’s cheap energy supply from Russia, one must believe their own propaganda. To get that mansion on Martha’s Vineyard, the ex-President must believe it when he says to Americans just before the November mid-term elections: “Do you want to go back 50 years?” Actually for a lot of people the answer is yes; but, not for him. In 1972 he had just returned to Honolulu from staying with his stepfather in Indonesia.

    What this world war’s propaganda never mentions is that today is a lot like 1914 – high caste oligarchs profiting from the exploitation of others. A hierarchy incapable of doing what is right for its people. It could be true that Russia and Ukraine have lost each as many casualties in eight months of war as the USA did in a decade in Vietnam (around 60,000 dead). The USA is currently losing 11,000 lives per month with COVID. Six months at the current plateau are more dead than in Vietnam.

    Russia has yet to conduct a successful maneuver warfare campaign to breakthrough Ukraine’s trench defenses. Ukraine has and recaptured significant portion of the land lost at the beginning of the war. Russia’s invasion triggered Ukrainian’s human tribal innate need to defend one’s family and home from attack by outsiders.

    The neo-conservatives (The Cheney & Kagan clans) are going after nationalists, Donald Trump, and global neo-liberals, Elon Musk. A house divided cannot stand.

    The corruption, the failure of public health, is so horrible that a million Americans are dead; yet, this is being totally ignored. Western civilization can’t survive another four year world war; even if, by some miracle, a nuclear global holocaust is avoided. The Western profiteers do not want peace despite the fact that the world war is almost certain to destroy them if an armistice isn’t sign soon.

  2. marku52

    On Obama: After 8 years of his lies about “Yes we can” and ” No I can’t be bothered” He has the credibility of soaking wet cardboard. I’d instinctively believe the opposite of anything he says.

    On public health. 30 years of “Greed is Good” (Oops, I typed “God”, that’s almost better!) and YOYO, of course the people have no concept of doing anything for anyone else. No one is doing anything for them, after all…..

  3. Trinity

    Thought since this sort of sums up everything, I would post it here.

    “The future could be very big,” according to Mac­Askill. “It could also be very good—or very bad.” The good version, he argues, requires us to maintain and accelerate economic growth and technological progress, even at great cost, to facilitate the emergence of artificial intelligence that can, in turn, scale growth exponentially to fuel cosmic conquest by hyperintelligent beings who will possess only a remote ancestral relationship to homo sapiens.

    With its blend of wild-eyed techno-optimism and utopianism, longtermism has emerged as the parlor philosophy of choice among the Silicon Valley jet-pack set.

    So, these people have gone completely nuts. Lovely.

    It does explain a lot of so-called “stupid decisions” being made by our owners.

  4. Jason

    Tony, thank you for including the Mint Press article on Israeli Spies.

    Grant Smith at IRMEP has spent over twenty years generating FOIA requests and cataloguing the massive infiltration of the United States by Israeli operatives.

    There has been a lot of talk over the years around NAFTA and how it destroyed the United States industrial capacity which simultaneously destroyed the prevailing capital-labor wage relation in this country.

    NAFTA was enabled by the previous bilateral “trade deals.” If these are even mentioned in polite company, the one you will hear about is the 1988 U.S.-Canada bilateral “free trade” deal. But the first bilateral was the 1985 Israel-U.S. “free trade” deal. This “deal” was opposed at the time by the entirety of the powerful California agriculture industry, as well as the majority of the mighty U.S.-based multinationals. The reason? It was so lopsided in favor of Israel.

    Despite all the opposition from the vaunted U.S. heavyweights, Israel and its lobby won.

    Perhaps even more importantly than the dollar figures is the fact that this opened the door to the giveaway of U.S. trade secrets and security information. to Israeli companies.

    Today, Israel doesn’t need any Jonathan Pollards running around stealing things. It’s all done “legally.” Without any quid-pro-quo on the part of Israel, of course.

    The way Zionists see it, Israel will have open access to the world. But what Israel does is none of the world’s damn business.

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