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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy –  October 18, 2020

by Tony Wikrent


See something? Report voter suppression and obstacles to voting.

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

The Epidemic

Steps for Reducing COVID Transmission

[GoogleDoc) Cyrus Maher [UCSF, via Naked Capitalism 10-11-20]

Lambert Strether’s intro: “This is the must-read for the week. It’s not only a review of the literature, it’s packed with useful, pragmatic information, and very simply and clearly written. Slide 11: Aerosol FTW; slide 20: the “Swiss Cheese” model; plus a series of slides on preventing exposure, reducing exposure, and improving your odds if you are exposed starting at slide 24; see especially slide 48. (Caveat lector: There is a pitch to enroll in UCSF’s clinical trial.)”

Inside the Fall of the CDC

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism 10-11-20]

Lambert Strether notes: “ the first real explanation, nine months after the fact, of the CDC Covid testing debacle* (originally blamed on contractors, IIRC). My preference for coverage priorities would be: 1) Neoliberal hollowing out; 2) the testing debacle; and 3) political interference, because the first two corrode the clout of the CDC and lead to the third, and this article reverses that order, but it’s nevertheless very good. NOTE * Casting doubt on the ability of the PMC to regulate itself, exactly like the ObamaCare MarketPlace launch debacle. PMC professional associations also have this issue.”

Strategic Political Economy

How Deep Will the Depression Get? – Paul Jay interview of Rana Foroohar and Mark Blyth

[, October 8, 2020, via comments on Ian Welsh 10-12-20]

…do the elites get it? Yeah, they absolutely get it. And let me give you a couple of examples. They get it, and they think they’re going to be able to weather the storm….  But the idea was in their minds that the biggest companies, the Googles, the Facebook’s, the Buydo’s, the Alibaba’s had become so big that they were like the East India Company now. They are sort of sovereign international states that float above the nation-state, . . . and that they actually kind of formed their own consensus… these corporations now have so much control and big tech does have way more control even than big finance did because it can actually influence our behavioral patterns because of surveillance, capitalism, and algorithmic behavioral manipulation….


“. . .I used to do . . . finance conferences with big finance. [so I] have 25 of them in the room, all of . . . the big money in the room and I would say the following, talking about politicians and the quality of political capital, ‘it’s gone down over time, and that’s a big problem’

” ‘So how many of you folks would let the people that you [put in office to] run countries by funding them, run your money and your firm?’ and they would all burst out laughing. And then when the laughter died down, I would say, and now you can tell me what’s funny about that because ultimately your firms are dependent on the governments of those countries, the policies that they provide. And it was almost a moment of shame where they went. . . . this points to something that our Marxists colleagues have known for the longest time that while it’s irrational for any individual capitalist to maximize their short-run interests, it’s collectively suicidal.”

Uber is attempting to colonize the California government (with Prop 22)

Ryan Cooper [The Week, via Naked Capitalism 10-14-20]

Prop 22 is one of the worst ballot initiatives I have ever seen, and that is saying a lot. It would blow a huge hole in California labor law, creating a permanent sub-caste of workers vulnerable to exploitation, and turn over a huge chunk of California’s political sovereignty to ruthless money-torching corporations by requiring a seven-eighths majority in the legislature to amend it. Naturally, it is being sold on lies. For God’s sake, Californians, vote this thing down.

“It’s no wonder hundreds of millions have been spent on Prop. 22. A lot is at stake”

[Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-16-20]

“California has never seen anything like this. Nor has any state — a record $200 million spent on a single ballot measure…. It’s Proposition 22, a ballot initiative bankrolled by Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and the like to override a new state law that requires their ride-hailing and delivery drivers to be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. If the drivers are reclassified as employees, their pay and benefits would increase. But the app-based gig companies say there’d be far fewer jobs because customer fares would rise and demand for rides would fall. The companies probably couldn’t even operate in California, they say.”

Lambert Strether: “So, they should go. We did fine without them, and they’re parasites anyhow, as Huber Horan has exhaustively shown.”


[Twitter below, via Naked Capitalism 10-13-20]


The Town That Went Feral: When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in.

[The New Republic, October 13, 2020]

….Hongoltz-Hetling is an accomplished journalist based in Vermont, a Pulitzer nominee and George Polk Award winner. A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) sees him traversing rural New England as he reconstructs a remarkable, and remarkably strange, episode in recent history. This is the so-called Free Town Project, a venture wherein a group of libertarian activists attempted to take over a tiny New Hampshire town, Grafton, and transform it into a haven for libertarian ideals—part social experiment, part beacon to the faithful, Galt’s Gulch meets the New Jerusalem….

the Free Towners spent years pursuing an aggressive program of governmental takeover and delegitimation, their appetite for litigation matched only by their enthusiasm for cutting public services. They slashed the town’s already tiny yearly budget of $1 million by 30 percent, obliged the town to fight legal test case after test case, and staged absurd, standoffish encounters with the sheriff to rack up YouTube hits. Grafton was a poor town to begin with, but with tax revenue dropping even as its population expanded, things got steadily worse. Potholes multiplied, domestic disputes proliferated, violent crime spiked, and town workers started going without heat. “Despite several promising efforts,” Hongoltz-Hetling dryly notes, “a robust Randian private sector failed to emerge to replace public services.” Instead, Grafton, “a haven for miserable people,” became a town gone “feral.” Enter the bears, stage right….

What was the deal with Grafton’s bears? Hongoltz-Hetling investigates the question at length, probing numerous hypotheses for why the creatures have become so uncharacteristically aggressive, indifferent, intelligent, and unafraid. Is it the lack of zoning, the resulting incursion into bear habitats, and the reluctance of Graftonites to pay for, let alone mandate, bear-proof garbage bins? Might the bears be deranged somehow, perhaps even disinhibited and emboldened by toxoplasmosis infections, picked up from eating trash and pet waste from said unsecured bins? There can be no definitive answer to these questions, but one thing is clear: The libertarian social experiment underway in Grafton was uniquely incapable of dealing with the problem. “Free Towners were finding that the situations that had been so easy to problem-solve in the abstract medium of message boards were difficult to resolve in person.”

Grappling with what to do about the bears, the Graftonites also wrestled with the arguments of certain libertarians who questioned whether they should do anything at all—especially since several of the town residents had taken to feeding the bears, more or less just because they could. One woman, who prudently chose to remain anonymous save for the sobriquet “Doughnut Lady,” revealed to Hongoltz-Hetling that she had taken to welcoming bears on her property for regular feasts of grain topped with sugared doughnuts. If those same bears showed up on someone else’s lawn expecting similar treatment, that wasn’t her problem. The bears, for their part, were left to navigate the mixed messages sent by humans who alternately threw firecrackers and pastries at them. Such are the paradoxes of Freedom…. Caught up in “pitched battles over who was living free, but free in the right way,” the libertarians descended into accusing one another of statism, leaving individuals and groups to do the best (or worst) they could. Some kept feeding the bears, some built traps, others holed up in their homes, and still others went everywhere toting increasingly larger-caliber handguns.

Next Big Shift in Economics Takes Shape Under Covid Shadow

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 10-12-20]

A rare regime-change in economic policy is under way that’s edging central bankers out of the pivotal role they have played for decades.

Fiscal policy, which fell out of fashion as an engine of economic growth during the inflationary 1970s, has been front-and-center in the fight against Covid-19. Governments have subsidized wages, mailed checks to households and guaranteed loans for business. They’ve run up record budget deficits on the way — an approach that economists have gradually come to support, ever since the last big crash in 2008 ushered in a decade of tepid growth.

And the public spending that put a floor under the pandemic slump is increasingly seen as vital for a sustained recovery too. When it looks like drying up, as it did in the U.S. last week, investors start to worry…. Fiscal stimulus packs a bigger punch than the monetary kind because it can channel cash directly to households or businesses, and it’s better suited for delivering targeted aid to those who need it most in a crisis, like the unemployed. Central bankers can only inject more spending power into the economy via an indirect channel: the price of borrowing from banks or financial markets.

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

“Inequality in America: Far Beyond Extreme”

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-14-20]

“Of America’s inflation- and population-adjusted increase in wealth between 2006 and 2018, over 87 percent went to the top 10 percent. Over 60 percent went to the top 1 percent. The top .01 percent, a baseball-park-sized group of just 32,669 Americans, grabbed over 23 percent of the country’s increase in wealth. And nearly 10 percent of that increase went to the 400 wealthiest Americans. The 290 million or so unlucky souls who make up the so-called bottom 90 percent, meanwhile, saw just 13 percent of the nation’s wealth gains between 2006 and 2018, not much over half of what went to the top .01 percent. Our bottom 50 percent actually lost wealth over that 2006-2018 period.”

Exclusive: America’s true unemployment rate

Felix Salmon [Axios, via Naked Capitalism 10-16-20]

A person who is looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage — but who can’t find one — is unemployed. If you accept that definition, the true unemployment rate in the U.S. is a stunning 26.1%, according to an important new dataset shared exclusively with “Axios on HBO.”

Why it matters: The official unemployment rate is artificially depressed by excluding people who might be earning only a few dollars a week. It also excludes anybody who has stopped looking for work or is discouraged by a lack of jobs or by the demands of child care during the coronavirus crisis.

GRAPH: True and official unemployment, Jan. 2000 to Sept. 2020

Fix America by Undoing Decades of Privatization

[The Atlantic, October 11, 2020]

Investing in public infrastructure should be at the center of a 21st-century civil-rights agenda…. When I refer to public infrastructure, I mean something much more expansive than roads and bridges; I mean the full range of goods, services, and investments needed for communities to thrive: physical utilities such as water, parks, and transit; basics such as housing, child care, and health care; and economic safety-net supports such as food stamps and unemployment insurance. But under America’s reigning ideology, public infrastructure like this is seen as costly, inefficient, outdated, and low-quality, while private alternatives are valorized as more dynamic, efficient, and modern. This ideology is also highly racialized. Universal services open to a multiracial public are vilified, coded in dog-whistle politics as an undeserved giveaway to communities of color at the expense of white constituents. The result has been a systematic defunding of public infrastructure since the 1970s….

On an economic score alone, massive investments in public infrastructure would pay off. Every dollar invested in transit infrastructure generates at least $3.70 in returns through new jobs, reduced congestion, and increased productivity, without accounting for the environmental and health benefits. For each dollar invested in early-childhood education, the result is $8.60 worth of economic benefit largely through reductions in crime and poverty. A universal health-care system would save Americans more than $2 trillion in health-care costs (even accounting for the increased public expenditure that would be needed) while securing access to life-saving care for more than 30 million Americans. The fact that federal and state governments fail to make these investments is not a matter of limited resources, but rather of skewed priorities. The 2017 Trump tax cuts of $1.9 trillion sent most of its gains to corporations and the wealthiest Americans….

Robert Lighthizer Blew Up 60 Years of Trade Policy. Nobody Knows What Happens Next.

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism 10-14-20]

Lighthizer’s divergence from conservative orthodoxy began in the 1990s, when the Republican Party left him, and embraced the orthodoxy that globalization and national specialization were all to the good.

After leaving government, Lighthizer joined Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom, becoming a heavy-hitting tax lobbyist known for his deep expertise and quick wit. As the tax revision wars wound down, he refocused on trade, representing a coalition of American steel companies charging foreign competitors with benefitting from unfair practices like government subsidies. Lighthizer became known as the unofficial king of “the petitioners bar,” lawyers who argued cases before the government entities that enforce trade rules. It was hardly a glamorous field. Moving plants to cheaper locales all over the world was rapidly becoming the default setting for American companies, and plenty of attorneys were making good money helping them do it.

“The message Bob had was not one that the big business groups were supportive of,” said Terry Stewart, a longtime trade lawyer who worked with Lighthizer. “That led to a failure of the mainstream business community and economists and politicians to recognize the challenges that led to the disenfranchisement of blue collar workers.”

India’s Big Bad Billionaires Are United in Their Arrogance, Entitlement and Disdain for Laws

[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 10-12-20]

News media

Here’s a list of the 10 greatest works of journalism of the past 10 years. Care to argue about it?

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 10-17-20]

There’s a new ranking from the New York University’s Carter Journalism Institute looking at the decade 2010-2019, intended to “honor really great work that has already stood the test of time.

1. Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” the Atlantic.

The judges, 14 outside judges and 24 NYU faculty members, called it “the most powerful essay of its time.” Published in 2014, “it influenced the public conversation so much that it became a necessary topic in the presidential debate.” (Coates is a writer in residence at NYU; he did not participate in the judging.)

The judges called this 2010 book “a masterwork by one of our greatest writers and most diligent reporters. . . . essential reading to understand America.”

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

How Biden Can Jump-Start Recovery Before Becoming President

David Dayen, October 15, 2020 [The American Prospect]

….news outlets have gotten around to reporting what I said a week ago, that Mitch McConnell has given up on the 2020 election, and wants mostly to deny Joe Biden a smooth start to his presidency by immiserating millions of people, as part of a pivot to austerity that would foster a 2022 comeback. Bloomberg catches a GOP advisor making this case, and there’s more from Greg Sargent.

This strategy didn’t exactly work out well for the Republicans of the 1930s, but McConnell did pull it off to an extent after the financial crisis of 2008. So do we have FDR coming into the White House, or Barack Obama? And what can be done for the 8 million people who have fallen into poverty since May and the millions more suffering from food insecurity, in the now-certain absence of an agreement?

McConnell’s “Skinny” Relief Bill Might Not Even Be a Bill

David Dayen, October 16, 2020 [The American Prospect]

In other words, the bill McConnell’s bringing on Monday is likely to be a fake bill. Nothing about his process is sincere, because he doesn’t want to provide an ounce of help to a future Joe Biden presidency, and is indeed seeding the ground for a snap return to austerity and fiscal probity. You don’t need Nancy Pelosi doing whatever Nancy Pelosi does to tell that story.

And just to be clear: Pelosi and the Democrats set the stage for this in March by passing inadequate relief that ended before the national emergency, and giving up their leverage. I get why people are angry that nothing can be done now, but… nothing can be done now.

[Twitter below, via Naked Capitalism 10-13-20]


Predatory Finance

New Book Proves U.S. Is Living Under a Disastrous Banking Model from a Century Ago
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 13, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

….Written by Arthur E. Wilmarth, Jr. and titled Taming the Megabanks: Why We Need a New Glass-Steagall Act, the book brilliantly takes the reader through a riveting guided tour covering the past century and the resurrection of this same disastrous U.S. banking model in 1999…. We can envision it becoming one of the most important works of this century in providing the impetus for Congress to finally restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the 1933 to 1999 law that mandated the separation of stock trading and stock underwriting firms from federally-insured, deposit-taking banks. That legislation protected the U.S. financial system for 66 years. It took just nine years after its repeal for the universal banks on Wall Street to blow up the financial system in a replay of 1929….

If You’re Baffled as to Why JPMorgan Chase’s Board Hasn’t Sacked Jamie Dimon as the Bank Racked Up 5 Felony Counts – Here’s Your Answer
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 12, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

For years we’ve been trying to figure out why JPMorgan’s Board of Directors hasn’t sacked its Chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, as the bank racked up two felony counts in 2014 for its failure to alert U.S. regulators to glaring red flags in the bank account it held for Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme; one felony count in 2015 for rigging foreign exchange markets; and two more felony counts just last month for rigging the precious metals and U.S. Treasury market. (The bank admitted to all five counts.) In addition, the bank came under another criminal investigation in 2012 and 2013 when it lost $6 billion of its bank depositors’ money gambling in credit derivatives in London (the London Whale scandal).

Turns out Jamie Dimon has been taking very good care of the Directors on his Board and they have been taking very good care of Dimon – turning him into a billionaire, notwithstanding the worst criminal record of any major  bank in the history of the United States.

The JPMorgan Chase Board of Directors has a stunning number of incestuous conflicts of interest, few of which have not been properly spelled out to shareholders. Others have never been mentioned to shareholders.

Take the case of Stephen Burke, the current Chairman of NBCUniversal and former CEO of NBCUniversal from 2011 to 2019. Burke has sat on the Board of JPMorgan Chase since 2004 as a fixture on the bank’s Compensation and Management Development Committee which has turned Dimon into a billionaire despite the trail of felony counts, criminal fines and scandals under his “leadership.” Also for the past 16 years, Burke has sat on the Board’s Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee and is currently its Chair.

Information Age Dystopia

The Man Who Speaks Softly—and Commands a Big Cyber Army

[Wired, via The Big Picture 10-17-20]

Meet General Paul Nakasone. He reined in chaos at the NSA and taught the US military how to launch pervasive cyberattacks. And he did it all without you noticing.

“Thousands of Mathematicians Join Boycott Against Police Collaboration” [Shadowproof, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-14-20]

“Over 2,000 mathematicians have signed a letter agreeing to boycott all collaboration with police, and insisting their colleagues do the same. They are organizing a wide base of mathematicians in the hopes of cutting off police technologies at their source. The letter’s authors cite ‘deep concerns over the use of machine learning, AI, and facial recognition technologies to justify and perpetuate oppression.’ Predictive policing is one key area where some mathematicians and scientists have enabled the racist algorithms now animating broken-windows policing, which tell cops to treat specific areas as “hotspots” for potential crime. Activists have long criticized the bias inherent in these practices. Algorithms trained on data produced by racist policing will reproduce that prejudice to ‘predict’ where crime will be committed and who is potentially criminal. ‘The data does not speak for itself, it’s not neutral,’ explains Brendan McQuade, author of Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision. Police data is ‘dirty data,’ because it does not represent crime, but policing and arrests. ‘So what are its predictions going to find? That police should deploy their resources in the same place police have traditionally deployed their resources.’”

Climate and environmental crises​​​​​​​

In Mexico, Cross-Border Fight Over Water Erupts 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-15-20]

The farmers armed themselves with sticks, rocks and homemade shields, ambushed hundreds of soldiers guarding a dam and seized control of one of the border region’s most important bodies of water.

The Mexican government was sending water — their water — to Texas, leaving them next to nothing for their thirsty crops, the farmers said. So they took over the dam and have refused to allow any of the water to flow to the United States for more than a month.

“This is a war,” said Victor Velderrain, a grower who helped lead the takeover, “to survive, to continue working, to feed my family.”

The standoff is the culmination of longstanding tensions over water between the United States and Mexico that have recently exploded into violence, pitting Mexican farmers against their own president and the global superpower next door.

“Over Half of the People Who Used to Grow Crops Here Can’t Do It Anymore”

[The New Republic, October 16, 2020]

Canyon de Chelly, part of Navajo Nation lands in Arizona, has been suffering from worsening droughts.

Disrupting mainstream politics

Why Are Democrats So Afraid to Say Fracking Is Bad?

[The New Republic, October 8, 2020]

I Note the Absence of a Quorum: Three Republican Senators in quarantine due to COVID-19 gives Democrats some new options.

David Dayen, October 3, 2020 [The American Project]

Dayen explains how the Senate rules requiring a physical quorum would allow the Democrats to completely shut down all Senate business — if they really wanted to. 

Why Liberals Pretend They Have No Power

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-11-20]

This tension underscores a deeper paradox of liberalism that has arguably reached its apex in the Trump era. Since the president’s election four years ago, the political and intellectual leaders of America’s supposedly reform-minded opposition have issued warnings about the existential threat that Trump poses to democracy. Amid it all, senior Democrats have mostly maintained both the regular operation of government and a standard of congressional etiquette that connotes normalcy more than it does any state of exception: applauding the president’s speeches, approving his military budgets, awarding him new domestic spying powers, and even fast-tracking his judicial nominees. A line from one 2019 CNBC report detailing the overwhelming House approval of Trump’s marquee NAFTA renegotiation sums up the absurdity of this posture: “Democrats also wanted to show they can work with Trump only a day after they voted to make him the third president impeached in American history.” Determined opposition to Trump has sometimes been so nonexistent that Democratic partisans have had to invent it, as when an image of Pelosi during the 2019 State of the Union address went viral on the entirely spurious grounds that the speaker had intended for her clapping to look sarcastic….

The contradictory posturing of today’s most powerful liberals is not fully attributable to the shock and disorientation brought about by the 2016 election; its roots go back to the Clinton era at least—the period (not incidentally) when Democratic leaders formally abandoned their commitment to the New Deal and absorbed key parts of a Republican agenda.

Trump’s America Remains Stuck in the Shadow of Reagan

[Boston Review, via Naked Capitalism 10-11-20]

….Trump’s most enduring deformation of U.S. political life may derive from his slavish devotion to unchecked corporate power and his work in further consolidating power in the hands of a few billionaires. As Christian Lorentzen recently wrote in Bookforum, the Republican Party under Trump should primarily be understood as “an electoral entity that reliably obtains tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulation for big business, increased budgets for the military, and little of anything else for anyone else.”

How did the United States end up here? How did a country that prides itself on the opposing concentration of power—on extensive checks and balances—end up generating a corporate autocracy so complete that it is nearly impossible to imagine its end? Any attempt to understand and dismantle this current regime must begin with an appreciation of how it evolved in the first place. On this front, historian Rick Perlstein’s new book, Reaganland: America’s Right Turn 1976–1980 (2020), provides invaluable context, alongside a timely reminder that this political development is still quite new.

[Twitter below, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-12-20]


Amy Coney Barrett: Republicans cross the Rubicon for final assault on republicanism

“Amy Coney Barrett’s Judicial Neutrality Is a Political Fiction”

[Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-13-20]

“Barrett is hardly unique in selling herself as a disinterested umpire. Justices both left and right have offered the Senate similar avowals of judicial modesty. But as a self-described ‘originalist,’ Trump’s nominee puts exceptional weight on her supposedly disinterested adherence to the ‘original public meaning’ of the U.S. Constitution.”

Lambert Strether summarizes: “This is a good assult on originalism by Levitz. What I don’t see is why Democrats don’t have ideological litmus tests for nominees. They will focus on cases (Roe) but never on judicial philosophy. The baseline attitude is: If you’ve got the credentials, you’re good to go. Why is it not possible to say (for example) “I will never vote for a member recommended by the Federalist Society, because their jurisprudence is antithetical everything I think this country should be about”? One imagines today’s Democrats, at Roger Taney’s confirmation hearings, making sure he went to the right school, but never asking him about slavery.”

Senator Whitehouse Named Names in Dark Money Tutorial at Amy Barrett’s Confirmation Hearing

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 14, 2020 [Wall Street on Parade]

The Whitehouse tutorial was a summation of a 29-page treatise by Whitehouse that appeared earlier this year in the Harvard Law School Journal on Legislation. That article provides an in-depth look at how dark money has plied its corporate agenda to steal representative government from the American people.

If you are searching for answers as to how America arrived at this perilous moment in time and how to change the future course for our nation, we strongly encourage you to watch the video below, then read the full article by Whitehouse.

In Whitehouse’s presentation yesterday, he called out the Judicial Crisis Network, saying it had received two anonymous $17 million donations to put right wing justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. Noting that the funds could have come from the same individual, Whitehouse said: “Someone spent $35 million to influence the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court – tell me that’s good.”

Whitehouse repeatedly invoked the name of Donors Trust as well as its affiliated Donors Capital Fund, two dark money groups that allow the super wealthy to peddle influence anonymously.




Climate Denial Is Disqualifying

David Sirota, October 16, 2020

To understand how judges’ views about science can shape their rulings, consider the precedent-setting 2007 ruling Massachusetts v. EPA.

In that case, environmental groups backed by the state of Massachusetts asked the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate automobiles’ greenhouse gases. George W. Bush’s EPA countered that it lacked authority “to regulate new vehicle emissions because carbon dioxide is not an ‘air pollutant,’” and it asserted that plaintiffs had no standing to even bring such climate cases in the first place.

The court’s ruling for Massachusetts was anchored in its acceptance of science. The majority ruled that yes, climate change has “resulted from a significant increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases.” The majority then declared that the state has standing in court because “EPA’s steadfast refusal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions presents a risk of harm to Massachusetts.”

This angered Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who had advocated limiting environmental groups’ access to the courts since the 1980s. In the Massachusetts v. EPA case, he issued his own dissenting opinion that employed climate denial to try to argue that Massachusetts had no standing.

Republicans Have Already Packed the Courts. It’s Up To Democrats How To Rebalance Them.

David Atkins, October 10, 2020 [WashingtonMonthly, via Naked Capitalism 10-12-20]
It is Republicans who have spent the last six years “packing” the courts. Republicans in the Senate mounted a historic blockade of President Obama’s judicial nominees during the final two years of his second term, resulting in shortages on federal benches and backlogs in cases, all in the hopes of leaving them open for a Republican president. Republican Senate Leader McConnell has been laughing about it for years, considering it finest accomplishment. Most crucial was the refusal by McConnell to even allow a hearing for Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland….
The result of the Republican strategy has been a historic packing of the courts by ultra-conservative activist judges. As of this writing, Trump and the Republican Senate have confirmed an astonishing 218 federal judges, mostly conservative white men, many of them deeply unqualified far-right activists with little judicial experience. These judges have altered the balance not only of the Supreme Court, but also myriad lower circuit courts. These judges are not just temperamentally and philosophically conservative: most are committed Republican partisans, approved by the arch-right Federalist Society, and subscribe to a view of the Constitution in Exile premised on the belief that essentially every progressive reform since the New Deal and even Teddy Roosevelt has been an unconstitutional infringement on corporate and property rights. It is a degree of far-right judicial radicalism that most Americans barely begin to appreciate, only because the cases challenging long settled law have only just begun to wind their way through the courts.
The left is ideologically and philosophically incapable [see pdf by Philip Mirowski “Hell Is Truth Seen Too Late”] of dealing with this cultural warfare by the right. There must be a clear explanation of the philosophy of government – what should government do, and how should government do it? Socialists and Marxists generally believe that once private property is abolished, and it is no longer possible to exploit other people through property relations, there will be no need for government anymore. So, the Chicago boys, Ayn Rand acolytes, the Koch libertarians, have simply demolished the left in the political combat of the past half century. As Mirowski, Corey Robin, and just a few others have tried to expIain, neoliberals do NOT envision the complete subordination of the state to the market economy; rather, they very sneakily redefine the role of the state as the enforcer of the market economy. I have concluded that the ideas and principles of classical republicanism must be revived, especially that any concentration of wealth and economic power is dangerous and must be dismantled, and the idea of civic virtue – that a citizen has a civic duty to set aside their own self interest when it conflicts with the General Welfare.
“The radical mysticism of identitarian reductionism”
[Carl Beijer, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-12-20]
“It is hard to overstate how historically and ideologically bizarre — how breathtaking in its counterintuition and metaphysical ambition — this doctrine of identitarian reductionism actually is. This is not just the usual identitarian claim that there are causal forces in our politics that cannot, ultimately, be traced back to the material economy. This is a second declaration: that somehow, the material economy is not also playing a role in our politics. At all. The fear, misery, and bitterness of poverty; the anxiety over one’s precarious standing in the so-called middle class; the insular luxury and jealous ambition of wealth; the concentration of wealth, the evaporation of jobs, and so on — none of this, evidently, plays any role whatsoever in the emergence of demographic tribalism, in interpersonal attitudes, in voting behavior, and so on. This is obviously not the socialist position, but it is not even an ordinary capitalist position.”
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-12-20]

The Dark Side

The Crisis of Conservatism 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 10-12-20]

John Micklethwait is editor in chief of Bloomberg, and Adrian Wooldridge is the political editor of the Economist, so this is an interesting look at the current state of mind of leading “conservative” functionaries of the financial oligarchy. Yeah, it sucks, but it is good practice to know what you’re enemy is thinking. 

The right has been the natural party of government in America and Britain for four decades. Now it needs to reinvent itself….

Will a new conservatism emerge? Perhaps, but only once it comes to terms with the two great themes of our age. The first, equality and fairness, is often tough territory for the right. The left’s call to punish the rich is a powerful one, particularly in an age of monopolistic tech tycoons and tax-dodging hedge funders. But conservatives can argue that the best way to include those who had been left behind is to grow the economy, and that the best way to advance non-discrimination is through meritocracy and equality of opportunity rather than affirmative action and equality of results.

Trump Built His Swamp In A Marsh Of Legalized Corruption

David Sirota, October 12, 2020

Trump’s corruption illustrates the kleptocratic system created by a judiciary that would become even worse with Amy Barrett on the Supreme Court….

The Times says that this is “the swamp that Trump built” — but the insinuation is a bit off. Yes, Trump certainly built his own egregiously rancid bog that needs to be drained in this election. However, he built it inside a giant wetland of graft that was constructed by a series of court rulings and enforcement policies that have effectively legalized corruption.

David Sirota, October 12, 2020

Inside the Republican Plot for Permanent Minority Rule: How the GOP keeps cheating its way into power—and may get away with it again in 2020

[The New Republic, October 15, 2020]

“There Are Mechanisms to Move Him Out”: Biden’s Campaign Is Prepping For Worst-Case Scenario: Trump Refusing to Concede”

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-20]

“Though Biden’s polling lead has stayed constant, internal numbers showing a tight race have kept anxiety high.”

“Trump in trouble? Rank-and-file Republicans are as confident as ever of victory”

[McClatchy, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-15-20]

“Far outside the political media centers of Washington, D.C. and New York, the Trump voters who propelled the reality TV star to a shock victory in 2016 once again see him on a glide path to victory that will stupefy only a hostile media and out-of-touch elites. The frenzied crowds he’s attracting as he returns to the trail and the Trump banners flying in their neighborhoods measure enthusiasm that can’t be accurately tracked by surveys, they argue. The cascade of negative stories from his downplaying of the pandemic to his private insults of military service members are shrugged off or disbelieved. And remember how wrong many of the state-based polls were last time? They certainly do… An alarmingly visceral and hardened distrust of the media among Republicans has created a parallel political universe around the country: One where a Trump defeat is almost unfathomable, especially when that possibility is perpetuated by sources they have viewed as hostile for the last four years.”

“These 3 White Women Voted for Trump in 2016—Here’s Why They’ve Flipped” [Vogue, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-15-20]

“Vogue spoke with three white female voters—a young professional, an executive approaching retirement, and a wife and mother in a conservative military community, all of whom requested anonymity—about why they voted for Trump in 2016…. Over the past four years, this is going to sound weird, because it goes against what I said previously, he really embarrassed me to be an American on a national and international stage. I traveled a lot for work. America used to be the biggest world power. Now we’re a laughingstock….. I already voted for Joe Biden. My husband is high-risk, so we did absentee ballots. It felt really good. It wasn’t a party issue. It was, “I got to vote for somebody who’s not a bad guy.” It’s starting to feel like a dictatorship, where the guy living in the big house on the hill is just going to do what he wants to do. No matter what, this is a democracy…. Yes, I do like the economy piece, but I also care about professionalism. I care about the bedside manner. I care that when my president speaks, he’s not offending masses of marginalized people. I couldn’t even listen to Trump. He just was so ugly and not what I think of when I think of a leader, someone like Barack Obama or even George Bush. • Worth reading in full; there’s a lot to unpack. (The women are social media manager, an HR executive, and an engineer.)

“Government Of, By, and For the Elite” (interview)

[Chris Arnade and J.D. Vance, American Compass]. Interviewer: Oren Cass, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-15-20]

This one nugget from Arnade is interesting: “I think of Michael Lind’s book [The New Class War] talking about how populism basically fails because it doesn’t have people to staff it. The machine—I don’t want to use the term “deep state” because I don’t think that’s fair, but—our ruling bureaucracy embraces free markets and austerity and all those things that drove people toward Trump. The irony is, Trump is a politician who defines himself by what he’s against, and he was very fortunate to have Jeb Bush as his opposition in 2016, so that he could run against that consensus. Then the reality is, four years later, he ends up being basically a Jeb Bush conservative in how he legislates. So if he loses, I think that’s why: He didn’t deliver; he didn’t fight the consensus, certainly not economically. I think that really matters. I want to keep emphasizing this because it’s just something that it’s really hard for me to communicate, how disinterested a lot of people are in this whole process because they don’t really see a difference. The only difference they see is cultural, and that’s why it’s very frustrating.”

Lambert Strether adds: “I think Sanders would have faced what Trump faced: A professional services strike by the PMC. I suppose one way to look at 2020 is that the PMC achieved class consciousness — in and through the Democrat Party — in reaction to Clinton’s defeat in 2016 (I use the word reaction quite deliberately). The interview as a whole is interesting, but both Arnade and Vance treat politics as bipolar — and it is, it is! — by confusing the Left and liberals.



Open Thread


Bolivian Socialists Sweep To Power


  1. edmondo

    See something? Report voter suppression and obstacles to voting.

    The biggest obstacle to voting is that fact that we have to choose crazy or demented. Fuck them both.

  2. js

    Because the only thing up for reelection is the top of the ticket? I don’t think so.

  3. Hugh

    Various takes:

    Libertarianism is and always has been a scam. They get 99.99% of who and what they are from society, and then they turn around and act like they did it all themselves and owe nothing back.

    The Fed bails out the rich with endless free money and then throws up its hands and cries, “Fiscal policy would be a very good nonstarter,” because they don’t have to do it, “for the rest of us.”

    Unemployment is another instance of a BS stat. It does not mean or measure what we think it does, but oh yes, some of us have been saying this for years. I do agree that Americans have no idea of just how far beyond extremely they have been looted and that much of our economy would be run better and more cheaply if corporations were broken up, run as public utilities or outright socialized.

    McConnell would give a $100 billion to the rich just because, but he wouldn’t waste a dime on ordinary, therefore by definition undeserving, Americans. That’s the essence of that vicious malicious gobbler.

    The American Southwest is going to burn up. Fire and drought were predicted years ago, very little is new or surprising, except it’s happening faster.

    Amy Coney Barrett is another extremist corporatist reactionary, another non-surprise. She would have refused to affirm that two plus two equals four if conservatives denied it.

    For Trump, coming to Washington was like going home. He’s been a crook all his life and DC’s corruption, both legal and illegal, is like mother’s milk to him.

  4. Willy

    Speaking of flipping voters, I just read yet another article saying that Trump is so far-gone narcissistic that his only possible strategy is: Votes, shmotes. Adulation at MAGAA rallies is all that matters. And maybe a little: Lock her up. Hell, lock anybody up, so I don’t have to get locked up.

  5. bruce wilder

    Lambert Strether’s viewpoint is strongly felt.

    I cringe sometimes at his enthusiasm for MMT, but mostly I admire his consistent contempt for the smug, insulated self-regard of liberal professionals and the pundits and politicians who cater to their prejudices on behalf of billionaires.

    It is said that we recall philosophers, not philosophies and maybe that’s true: I like his persona, his voice (hand?) There are only a few among the dinosaur blogs I still follow.

  6. Thomas B Golladay

    Combined with actual scientific polls and Norpoth’s Primary Model, Trump has this in the bag. People realize the Governors are more to blame than Trump for the fuckups in fighting Covid-19 and Biden has no energy and can’t gin up enthusiasm.

    It’s over, Trump has won.

  7. Chiron

    Bannon is trying to destroy Biden just right now, how well connected he his? He has support of some intelligence agencies it seems.

  8. Stirling S Newberry

    Super conductor. Room temp. So claimed.

  9. Are you high, Thomas, have you been drinking? Sniffing hillbilly heroin?

  10. Zachary Smith

    Pretend for a moment you are a paid troll, and must produce some kind of “output” to keep the getting paid. What else could you do but adopt some kind of “pollyanna” attitude and stick with it?

    BTW, the wiki for that Helmut fellow says his 91% Trump victory prediction was published March 2, 2020, and repeated in July.

    Lots and lots of unnecessary graves have been dug since then.

    But the fact remains the True Believers are still being fed a diet of optimistic pablum. This Red State story is dated October 13!

    Truly amazing stuff.

  11. S Brennan

    File Under: RUSSIA, RUSSIA, RUSSIA, or how lefties became the USA’s warmongering morans
    Yes, The Hunter Biden Emails Are Authentic by Larry C Johnson

    This is the story of an American patriot, an honorable man, John Paul Mac Isaac, who tried to do the right thing and is now being unfairly and maliciously slandered as an agent of foreign intelligence, specifically Russia. He is not an agent or spy for anyone.

    This story is very simple–Hunter Biden dropped off three computers with liquid damage at a repair shop in Wilmington, Delaware on April 12, 2019. The owner, John Paul Mac Isaac, examined the three and determined that one was beyond recovery, one was okay and the data on the hard drive of the third could be recovered. Hunter signed the service ticket and John Paul Mac Isaac repaired the hard drive and down loaded the data. During this process he saw some disturbing images and a number of emails that concerned Ukraine, Burisma, China and other issues. With the work completed, Mr. Mac Isaac prepared an invoice, sent it to Hunter Biden and notified him that the computer was ready to be retrieved. Hunter did not respond. In the ensuing four months (May, June, July and August), Mr. Mac Isaac made repeated efforts to contact Hunter Biden. Biden never answered and never responded. More importantly, Biden stiffed John Paul Mac Issac–i.e., he did not pay the bill.

    When the manufactured Ukraine crisis surfaced in August 2019, John Paul realized he was sitting on material that might be relevant to the investigation. After conferring with his father, Mac and John Paul decided that Mac would take the information to the FBI office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mac walked into the Albuquerque FBI office and spoke with an agent who refused to give his name. Mac explained the material he had, but was rebuffed by the FBI. He was told basically, get lost. This was mid-September 2019.

    Two months passed and then, out of the blue, the FBI contacted John Paul Mac Isaac. Two FBI agents from the Wilmington FBI office–Joshua Williams and Mike Dzielak–came to John Paul’s business. He offered immediately to give them the hard drive, no strings attached. Agents Williams and Dzielak declined to take the device.

    Two weeks later, the intrepid agents called and asked to come and image the hard drive. John Paul agreed but, instead of taking the hard drive or imaging the drive, they gave him a subpoena. It was part of a grand jury proceeding but neither agent said anything about the purpose of the grand jury. John Paul complied with the subpoena and turned over the hard drive and the computer.

    In the ensuing months, starting with the impeachment trial of President Trump, he heard nothing from the FBI and knew that none of the evidence from the hard drive had been shared with President Trump’s defense team.

    The lack of action and communication with the FBI led John Paul to make the fateful decision to contact Rudy Giuliani’s office and offer a copy of the drive to the former mayor. We now know that Rudy accepted John Paul’s offer and that Rudy’s team shared the information with the New York Post.

    John Paul Mac Issac is not responsible for the emails, images and videos recovered from Hunter Biden’s computer. He was hired to do a job, he did the job and submitted an invoice for the work. Hunter Biden, for some unexplained reason, never responded and never asked for the computer. But that changed last Tuesday, October 13, 2020. A person claiming to be Hunter Biden’s lawyer called John Paul Mac Isaac and asked for the computer to be returned. Too late. That horse had left the barn and was with the FBI.

    John Paul, acting under Delaware law, understood that Hunter’s computer became the property of his business 90 days after it had been abandoned.

    At no time did John Paul approach any media outlet or tabloid offering to sell salacious material.

  12. S Brennan

    “Lefties” & D’s continue to gaslight the proles to the delight of the .01%
    ‘The Emails Are Russian’ Will Be The Narrative, Regardless Of Facts Or Evidence

    Fight it all you want, but there’s nothing you can do. “The emails are Russian” is going to be the official dominant narrative in mainstream political discourse, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Resistance is futile.

    Like the Russian hacking narrative, the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, the Russian bounties in Afghanistan narrative, and any other evidence-free framing of events that simultaneously advances pre-planned cold war agendas, is politically convenient for the Democratic party and generates clicks and ratings, the narrative that the New York Post publication of Hunter Biden’s emails is a Russian operation is going to be hammered and hammered and hammered until it becomes the mainstream consensus. This will happen regardless of facts and evidence, up to and including rock solid evidence that Hunter Biden’s emails were not published as a result of a Russian operation.

    “It’s not really surprising at all, this was always the play, but still kind of head-spinning to watch all the players from 2016 run exactly the same hack-leak-smear op in 2020. Even with everyone knowing exactly what’s happening this time,” – tweets MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.

    “How are you all circling the wagons instead of being embarrassed for peddling Russian ops 18 days before the election. It’s not enough that you all haven’t learned from your atrocious handling of 2016 — you are doubling down,” – D Party think tanker Neera Tanden tweeted in admonishment of journalists who dare to report on or ask questions about the emails.

    Virtually the entirety of the Democratic Party-aligned political/media class has streamlined this narrative of Russian influence into the American consciousness with very little inertia, despite the fact that neither Joe nor Hunter Biden has disputed the authenticity of the emails and despite a complete absence of evidence for Russian involvement in their publication.

    This is surely the first time, at least in recent memory, that we have ever seen such a broad consensus within the mass media that it is the civic duty of news reporters to try and influence the outcome of a presidential general election by withholding negative news coverage for one candidate. There was a lot of fascinated hatred for Trump in 2016, but people still reported on Hillary Clinton’s various scandals and didn’t attack one another for doing so. In 2020 that has changed, and mainstream news reporters have now largely coalesced along the doctrine that they must avoid any reporting which might be detrimental to the Biden campaign.

  13. Hugh

    It’s like the whacks never think that we can use the google too.

    So this is how Larry C. Johnson’s wiki begins.

    “a former analyst at the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He is the co-owner and CEO of BERG Associates, LLC (Business Exposure Reduction Group). He is best known for spreading a hoax in 2008 that Republican operatives had a videotape of Michelle Obama complaining about ‘whitey’.”

    And the Michelle Obama thing was just one of a string of his fictional efforts.

  14. S Brennan

    Facebook and Twitter’s Intervention Highlights Dangerous New Double Standard:

    The decision to ban a New York Post expose about Hunter Biden flies in the face of years of “hack and leak” stories – Matt Taibbi

    On Wednesday, the New York Post released what they claimed was “smoking gun” evidence of corruption involving Hunter Biden, troubled son of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

    …a laptop belonging to the younger Biden…it contained a treasure trove of Republican oppo…emails from a Ukrainian businessman pleading with Hunter to use connections to help the corrupt energy firm Burisma escape a shakedown. Later, the Burisma exec appeared to thank the younger Biden for an introduction to his father. The Post strongly suggested that these emails, in conjunction with the well-known tale of Joe Biden demanding the ouster of then-General Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, represented a misuse of influence.

    Soon after the story was published, we were hit with a stunner: two major tech platforms, Twitter and Facebook, took third-world style steps to limit the distribution of the story. Facebook announced that it was slowing the article’s spread on its news feed via a tweet from Andy Stone, a Facebook employee whose previous jobs included handling communications for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and for Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer:

    Twitter’s response was more extreme. It allowed the story to reach #3 on its list of Trending topics before blocking it as “potentially unsafe,” preventing anyone, even the author of the piece, from sharing it. It then took the extraordinary step of locking the account of the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McInany…

    The near-universal reaction among mainstream press outlets, meanwhile, was to denounce the Post story as dangerous, and probably foreign, misinformation. The expose “rings all the foreign-disinformation alarms in the book,” said Axios. “[Rudy Giuliani] and the New York Post Are Pushing Russian Disinformation,” sneered Mother Jones, the publication which introduced the raunchiest parts of the unverified Steele Dossier to the American public. “B.S. Ukraine Smear,” chirped Salon.

    “Since 2016,” he wrote, “lawmakers, researchers and journalists have pressured these companies to take more and faster action to prevent false or misleading information from spreading on their services.”

    Roose neglected to mention that the “stolen emails” in 2016 were real, and not “false or misleading misinformation.” That they may have damaged the Democratic Party was not great for them, but as Bill Clinton-appointed federal judge John Koeltl ruled in the Democrats’ failed lawsuit against Wikileaks, the Trump campaign, and Russia, those documents were of “public concern” and therefore protected by the First Amendment…

    The only thing that should matter, when it comes to stories like this, is whether or not the material is true and in the public interest. This disturbing new confederation of media outlets and tech firms is rewriting that standard.

    The optics of a former Democratic Party spokesman suddenly donning a Facebook official’s hat to announce a ban of a story damaging to Democrats couldn’t be worse. Moreover, the Orwellian construct described in papers like the Times suggests that for tech executives, pundits, and Democratic Party officials alike, the lines between fake news and bad news, between actual misinformation and information that is merely politically adverse, have been blurred. It’s no longer clear that some of these people see a meaningful distinction between the two ideas.

    Facebook says the New York Post story must be kept out of sight until verified, the standard for, say, the Steele dossier was and is opposite. In that case, we were told “raw intelligence” should be published so that “Americans can make up their own minds” about information that, while “salacious and unverified,” may still be freely read on Twitter and Facebook, reported on in the New York Times and Washington Post, and talked about on NBC, so long as it has not been completely “disproven.”

    As Erik Wemple of the Washington Post points out, even that last point is no longer true, but the Steele dossier and plenty of other products of what Axios calls “hack and leak” journalism continue to be embraced and freely distributed. The obvious double-standard guarantees that the tech platforms will henceforth be viewed by a huge portion of the population as political censors…

  15. Ché Pasa

    Aaron Maté should be next with essentially the same statements — if he hasn’t done it already — regarding the Hunter Biden scandal. And it will circulate round and round in a tight little bubble between Greenwald, Johnston, Maté, Q, the Trumps and the rightist outrage farms, and it will all be debunked by People Who Matter and then it will be ignored and nobody will care. Just watch.

    This is politics. Nasty business. Ultimately, what does it matter?

  16. Ten Bears

    Regular dope-den down here. The desperation is starting to stink.

  17. different clue

    “Resistance” may be futile, but Sullen Rejection is still possible. People who have better sense than to accept the Russia Cubed narrative can form thousands of affinity-cells scattered all over everywhere to keep the flame of Superior Intelligence through Sullen Rejectionism alive against the day when Mainstream Society may decide it is so disappointed by the results of following the Russia Cubed crowd that they are ready to give the knowledge preserved by the Sullen Rejectionist Monks through our current Dark Age a fresh look.

  18. S Brennan

    Ten Feathers, isn’t that the guy who declared:

    “Gabbard is a Russian stooge” -Ten Feathers – October 20, 2019

    Yeah, that’s the guy alright. Even a streetwalker have more dignity.

  19. Hugh

    Russia is the fount of all things good, dontcha know? Putin gave Moses those tablets. How you gonna argue against that? Yet still for some reason most people treat progressives who believe these things like goofs. So sad.

  20. Willy

    Donald Trump, Wile E. Coyote supergenius of policy-schmolicy fame, shows us what’s effective by always going straight for the ad hominem. He did make POTUS after all.

  21. bruce wilder

    The Enlightenment is on the ropes, not for the first time in the roughly 330 years since the Glorious Revolution and the publication of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, but I think it might survive even Hugh’s Putin-phobia and the love Diane has for Lindsey.

  22. Hugh

    Yes, I would think that the Enlightenment is on the ropes if Putin is put on par with Newton. Apparently Putin can’t be judged by the same standards as other dictators. Instead he gets special treatment from progressives who have no interest in consistency or their own credibility. Why progressive Putin-philes are so obsessed with promoting their own irrelevance, dishonesty, and untrustworthiness is mystifying but around here we see examples of it all the time.

  23. bruce wilder

    progressive Putin-philes are . . . obsessed with promoting their own irrelevance, dishonesty, and untrustworthiness

    People who have better sense than to accept the Russia Cubed narrative can form thousands of affinity-cells scattered all over everywhere to keep the flame of Superior Intelligence through Sullen Rejectionism alive against the day when Mainstream Society may decide it . . . they are ready to give the knowledge preserved by the Sullen Rejectionist Monks through our current Dark Age

    Aaron Maté should be next with essentially the same statements — if he hasn’t done it already — regarding the Hunter Biden scandal. And it will circulate round and round in a tight little bubble between Greenwald, Johnston, Maté, Q, the Trumps and the rightist outrage farms, and it will all be debunked by People Who Matter and then it will be ignored and nobody will care. Just watch. . . . Ultimately, what does it matter?

    It matters that it does not matter.

    The truth ought to matter. Matt Taibbi thinks journalists ideally ought to care about the objective truth. He knows most do not. But, he draws attention to their indifference to truth.

  24. Hugh

    If you can’t bother to apply the same standard to Putin that you would to anyone else, then that is a serious deficiency. It says the truth does not matter to you. Instead of expecting your comments to be reasoned and thought through, I expect the opposite.

    I expect Trump thinks anything he says is objective truth as well.

  25. nihil obstet

    I’m not sure what the same standards are for people in different situations. I even tend to spend more time on the virtues and vices of people whose actions I might be able to affect (silly me, looking at American elected officials) rather than those who have no reason to give a rat’s rear end about what I think (even though I do still send my Amnesty International billets doux to dear Vlad asking him to release some political prisoner or other, same as I’ve done to recent American presidents).

    To illustrate, could you run a same standards comparison on Putin vs. Obama or Putin vs. Trump?

  26. Hugh

    nihil obstet, it’s called false equivalence. Obama and even Trump are pretty horrible. They abuse our civil institutions, but those still have an autonomous existence. That’s still are light-years different from Putin for whom Russian civil institutions exist to serve him, or else.

  27. nihil obstet

    Hugh, I interpret your false equivalence here as what I mean by different situations, and I tend to weigh outcomes more. The false equivalence description was first raised (if I remember correctly) by right wing nationalists that wanted international laws and agreements from which the USA was exempt. They said, you cannot criticize the U.S. Other countries torture because they’re evil. The U.S. tortures because it is necessary. The whole Russian civil service exists to serve Putin. The whole U.S. civil service has an autonomous existence. Really? And if true, how does that make Putin better than Obama and Trump, both of whom have used the powers available to them to deal horrors to political enemies. Ask Chelsea Manning or Julian Assange.

    And here one of my standards is “Who launched wars of aggression?” Remember what Robert Jackson said about that at the Nuremberg trials.

  28. bruce wilder

    Hugh, you say you are rejecting “false equivalence”. I am not sure what or who you imagine I am drawing into “equivalence” with Putin.

    What I object to is what I perceive to be the flat and simple-minded assertion “Putin is a thug and a dictator (and that’s all you need to know, shut up now and stop thinking)” as if “thug” or even “dictator” were some narrowly-defined categories that also contain all the information one needs to assess the role or performance of a world leader.

    I know enough about Russian politics and history to know 1.) there’s plenty I am not situated to understand or appreciate and 2.) the dominating voices of authority in the West are, at this time, singularly untrustworthy narrators of the West’s relationship with Putin.

    2.) looms very large indeed in my reluctance to embrace two-dimensional caricatures of Putin and his policies.

    With regard to 1.), my views, even if I had the time and inclination to absorb much more information about Russian politics (or Russian foreign policy) would tend to be irrelevant, because I am unimportant. But, what I do know tends to make me extremely suspicious about 2.) The narratives put out by most Western authorities are not credible. I instinctively resist any narrative that embraces either their moral certainty or their selection of real and imagined facts.

  29. Hugh

    bruce, you have no problem with your own moral certainty about Putin. At the same time, you make it sound like it is just too hard to do the research to even arrive at the obvious, that Putin is a thug and dictator. So enjoy your delusions but do not expect that some of us who live in a more complicated world will share them.

  30. Hugh

    “Who launched wars of aggression?”

    Crimea, eastern Ukraine, North Georgia, what’s your point?

  31. Zinsky

    The “Steps for Reducing COVID Transmission” presentation was excellent. Very good information presented in a very easy-to-read and informative format. I shared it with several of my colleagues and all felt that is among the best resources for the layman about this terrible disease, in terms of understanding and taking tangible steps to reduce transmission. Thank you!

  32. Zachary Smith

    Crimea, eastern Ukraine, North Georgia, what’s your point?

    After the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO has been moving in on Russia. Putting military bases right on the Russian borders. The agitation in Ukraine appears to have been the final straw:

    Yes, Russia has rebuilt its military, very successfully if their operations in Syria are an example. But this was done with NATO being the aggressor pact, moving its boundaries right up to the Russian border in certain areas, and certainly much closer by several hundreds of kilometres in spite of Clinton’s (Bill) lie that NATO would not move into Eastern Europe after the reunification of Germany. NATO (and this includes Canada and the U.S.) demonstrated their capabilities for violent and destructive use of force in Libya as the prime example, but also aided the U.S. in Afghanistan, and more recently in the rather lame attacks on ISIS in Iraq/Syria. Lame in comparison to the major successes that the small Russian forces had after they entered the fight against ISIS.

    As a further sign of aggression, the U.S. has moved nuclear capable missile sites into Poland and Romania. These are described as defensive, but considering the west’s history of military attacks against Russia (from Napolean through the Bolshevik revolution to Hitler) the Russian perspective can hardly see these as defensive, especially against Iran, the latter being a non-nuclear capable country. Oh sorry Rosie, your MSM talking points probably tell you differently.

    Saying “we want to prevent conflict that is what we are doing” is the same as Andrew Bacevich (“The United States War for the Greater Middle East.” Bacevich, Random House, 2016) saying the U.S. position is to have the biggest military and threaten anyone who doesn’t agree with them in order to have peace – in other words, we’ll threaten to bludgeon you and kill you if you do not agree to our imperial hegemony. And it’s not as if the U.S. has stopped developing and rebuilding nuclear and other forces – oh by the way did I mention the F-35 – that billion dollar boondoggle that Canada insists on buying into?

    Russia annexed Crimea much to the consternation of the U.S. who were hoping to grab the Sevastopol military base and establish their NATO presence there as another piece of the puzzle in which to encircle and deconstruct Russia as an independent sovereign state. Read your history folks – this territory has centuries long association as a part of Russia. And what about the UN’s right of self-determination? The Crimeans voted clearly to ask to be annexed by Russia which the Duma accepted.

    Russia has also intervened in Obama’s War To Destroy Syria for the Apartheid state. There is a measure of stability in Syria now – at least until President Biden takes office.

    Regarding Ukraine, the eastern part of that nation is filled with ethnic Russians, and the Ukraine Nazis were beginning to slaughter them. The “rebels” there suddenly got a lot of military help. IMO Ukraine is not going to be allowed to murder the Russian-speaking people on its western border – the Russians will use as much force as necessary to prevent this.

  33. nihil obstet

    “Who launched wars of aggression?”

    Crimea, eastern Ukraine, North Georgia, what’s your point?

    Yes, I asked who launched wars of aggression. Is America sending troops and bombs into Iraq and Russia sending troops into Crimea false equivalence? What’s your point?

  34. bruce wilder

    Hugh to me: you have no problem with your own moral certainty about Putin. At the same time, you make it sound like it is just too hard to do the research to even arrive at the obvious, that Putin is a thug and dictator. . . . some of us who live in a more complicated world

    I do not feel morally certain about Putin. And, I feel like a voice arguing for complexity, subtlety and nuance. I feel like Hugh throws pejoratives like thug and dictator into the conversation with the intent of shutting down any interpretation of Putin’s political role and performance that goes beyond the simplicity of those two labels. Putin who has been in power for twenty years wields enormous authority as President of the Russian Federation. “Dictator” as a synonym for highly centralized authority and concentrated power fits, but is not necessarily fully informative.

    The use of pejoratives evokes and mirrors the favored narratives of the intelligence agencies and the foreign policy blob, narratives, as I have said, I resist. I think it is worthwhile to acknowledge Putin’s very real achievements for Russia as well as a foreign policy that is careful, restrained and seeks rules-based accomodation.

    I think I am willing to see Putin as embodying complicated and even contradictory qualities. Is Hugh?

    There are a lot of things about Putin and Russian politics that I know I do not know. I have seen it asserted that Putin is enormously rich, which is not the official story certainly. I have never seen objective evidence for enormous personal wealth. I think it is an interesting projection that Americans would see Russia as being afflicted by billionaire oligarchs when America is even more a land of predatory billionaires. That Putin has created a structure of state capitalism in key sectors as a counter to oligarchic domination is something that ought to be noted by observers.

  35. marku52

    I remember Kevin Drum bloviating about ‘Assad the Butcher”. Really? I think Assad might have a ways to go to keep up with GWB the Butcher (300,000 to one million Iraqis)? The Butcher HRC (destroyed the country with the highest UN quality of life in N Africa, now they have slave auctions). The Butcher Albright (300,000 dead Iraqi kids were just “a price we had to pay. Lets not even get started on Kissinger.

    So calling someone a “butcher”, a “dictator” is just code words for “shut down the conversation. Unless you are happy to include the US nominees.

    “Oligarch” is another one. Russia has lots of them, strangely, Adelson, who virtually controls US FP WRT Israel, is not an “Oligarch”? Nor is Zuckerberg, now Koch? Nor any of the other Silicon Valley billionaires?

    My son asked me what I thought about Putin. I said “I think he has played a weak hand extremely well”. His foreign policy guy Lavrov calls the US “Not agreement capable”. Got that right.

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