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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 23, 2022

By Tony Wikrent

What is happening in the West Bank right now: a full breakdown 

[Mondoweiss, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]

The past few weeks have witnessed a noticeable intensification of Israel’s crackdown on Palestinians in the West Bank, targeting both ordinary civilians in their homes and villages, and armed resistance fighters and groups.

Simultaneously, armed settlers have been terrorizing Palestinian communities across the West Bank, often in the presence and protection of the Israeli military.

The current repression, and the resistance to it, are part of a larger, months-long campaign to quell growing Palestinian resistance, particularly armed resistance, which has seen a resurgence in areas of the West Bank.


Global power shift

Biden’s Tech-War Goes Nuclear 

Mike Whitney [Eurasia Review, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]

“Lots of people don’t know what happened yesterday. To put it simply, Biden has forced all Americans working in China to pick between quitting their jobs and losing American citizenship. Every American executive and engineer working in China’s semiconductor manufacturing industry resigned yesterday, paralyzing Chinese manufacturing overnight. One round of sanctions from Biden did more damage than all four years of performative sanctioning under Trump. Although American semiconductor exporters had to apply for licenses during the Trump years, licenses were approved within a month.

With the new Biden sanctions, all American suppliers of IP blocks, components, and services departed overnight – thus cutting off all service [to China]. Long story short, every advanced node semiconductor company is currently facing comprehensive supply cut-off, resignations from all American staff, and immediate operations paralysis. This is what annihilation looks like: China’s semiconductor manufacturing industry was reduced to zero overnight. Complete collapse. No chance of survival.” — Posted at Jordan Schneider’s Twitter account @jordanschnyc from a translated thread at @lidangzzz


US Chip Sanctions ‘Kneecap’ China’s Tech Industry

[Wired, via The Big Picture 10-19-2022]


Strategic Political Economy

New Jersey Sues Five Oil Companies, Alleging Decades of ‘Concealment’ and ‘Public Deception’ on Climate Change 

[DeSmogBlog, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]


Supreme Court orders the DOJ to explain why it let Chevron prosecute me

Steven Donzinger [via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics


How Corporations “Get Away With Murder” to Inflate Prices on Rent, Food, and Electricity

Hal Singer interviewed by Lynn Parramore [Institute for New Economic Thinking, reposted on Naked Capitalism 10-20-2022]

Singer, who teaches advanced pricing at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and frequently serves as an economic expert in antitrust litigation (often concerning how firms set prices), says that those who hold workers’ wages responsible for inflation are not only wrong but making the problem worse with policies that fail to hit the real mark.

His work shows that among industries dominated by a few mega-companies, bouts of inflation act as a handy cover for price hikes that have little or nothing to do with costs. You, the consumer, end up paying the price for predatory profit-seekers who have little to fear from soft antitrust laws and lax enforcement. Singer argues that when a company is making huge profits and workers’ wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, you can bet that something shady is happening – like collusion and price-gouging….

SINGER. …There’s been a severing of the relationship between wages and prices in so many sectors of the economy, particularly those in which inflation is running rampant. I could go on with many examples. I’m in a hotel in New York City right now. You think they’re charging rates based on the wages of the cleaning crews that come in? Not likely. They’re revenue maximizers. They’re just looking at the demand curve. The only thing that enters the calculus is what economists call demand-side elasticity considerations. In other words, how much you can get away with on the demand side in setting prices. The costs are no longer entering the equation.

One thing that has happened in the current economy is that worker power has been completely demolished. That has been recognized by tons of economists, including those at the Federal Reserve (Fed). That lack of power has broken down the historical relationship between unemployment and inflation. Economists call it the flattening of the Phillips curve [a theory that inflation and unemployment have a stable and inverse relationship]. What it means is that it’s going to be very difficult, if not extremely painful, to arrest inflation by targeting all of our energies at the labor market. If the relationship between wages and prices has been severed by a combination of network effects, superstar firms, monopsony power [when a single firm has all the power to buy labor in a market], then employing this policy is like pushing a rope. We’ll never get to the finish line. Look, inflation is still rampant despite these rate hikes and employees are suffering as firms pull back from hiring or lay off workers. The question is, have we really done anything to arrest inflation? The answer is no….

If firms were simply passing along higher costs, then we wouldn’t expect to see their profits go up. Yet profits are at a historical high right now. That’s telling you that they’re not passing along cost increases. I’m not sure that they have any cost increases. The prices are rising much more quickly that the costs….

Look at rental properties. If an institutional investor bought a bunch of rental properties in a neighborhood in say, Miami or Atlanta, how have their costs been going up? What costs are they facing at the margin, exactly? Are we talking about the clean-up crew? The security guards? The prices are clearly being set on the demand side. There’s no cost to explain why rents are exploding….

LP: How is this behavior of these companies to coordinate on prices legal? Isn’t that anti-competitive?

HS: The antitrust law is soft on this area known as tacit collusion. So firms in concentrated industries kind of feel their way to price hikes tacitly as opposed to via an explicit agreement. They don’t pick up the phone and say “Hey what should we charge our customers today?” but they do it through dynamic interaction over time. I was an expert for plaintiffs in a case involving an antitrust class action against Delta and AirTran for seeking to collude to overcharge for bag fees. A CEO of AirTran told the world during an earnings call that he would never impose the first bag fee, but if Delta were to go first, AirTran would follow with certainty. So he basically made a conditional pledge to a rival over the airwaves. The judge decided that this was not in violation of the anti-trust laws because he saw it more as tacit collusion than explicit collusion….

The Groundwork Collaborative [an economic activist group] has been documenting all the shenanigans that have been taking place during earning calls where rivals are effectively cajoling their compatriots to reduce capacity or raise prices with them. You’ll hear an executive say, “oh, there’s too much capacity in this industry.” Or, “we’re going to take the lead on this.” They’re suggesting that others should follow without explicitly asking for it.


Rent Going Up? One Company’s Algorithm Could Be Why.

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-12-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2022]


A Brief History of How We Got Here and Why (video)

Mark Blyth [YouTube,summer 2019, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2022]

Lambert Strether: From 2019, when Yves hoisted and posted on it. “Worth a listen today”


Leader: The rout of the libertarians 

[The New Statesman, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]

But Ms Truss was merely the useful idiot of greater forces. For decades, a phalanx of free-market commentators and think tanks – the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Centre for Policy Studies, the Adam Smith Institute – have relentlessly ­advocated libertarian policies as the cure for the UK’s ills. For them, the election of Ms Truss, buttressed by a 72-seat Tory majority, was a moment of ideological triumph.

But it took mere weeks for their fantasies to collide with reality. There is no desire among the public, as we have long noted, for a free-market revolution. The day before Mr Kwarteng’s mini-Budget, the British Social Attitudes survey revealed that a mere 6 per cent of voters favour a combination of tax cuts and spending cuts. In a new era of permanent crisis, the public want an active state that protects them against economic shocks.

[Youtube, 10-18-2022, via comments by Basil Pesto on Naked Capitalism 10-21-22]


In Just 44 Days, Liz Truss Has Made the UK Immeasurably Worse

Tristan Cross [openDemocracy, reposted at Naked Capitalism 10-21-22]


Liz Truss’s Government Was Brought Down by a Capital Strike 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]

… But make no mistake: her government was brought down by a revolt of financial capital, of the same kind that would threaten a progressive economic agenda….

In cutting Truss and Kwarteng down, the thin veil of neoliberal economic theory that concealed the entrenched financial interests at the heart of Britain’s political system — and the political parties, schools, and ideologues who pursued it — have been cast aside. Now, international financial capital rules naked, unabashed, and unchallenged in the face of a quisling Labour leadership.

Britain’s finances are to be run by bean-counting accountants obsessed with book-balancing. They likely will see little difference between borrowing to invest in infrastructure, state assets, and services, and Truss’s plans to borrow to shove into the pockets of private interests.


How California’s Bullet Train Went Off the Rails 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 10-19-2022]

America’s first experiment with high-speed rail has become a multi-billion-dollar nightmare. Political compromises created a project so expensive that almost no one knows how it can be built as originally envisioned.


Bankruptcy protects fake people, brutalizes real ones 

Cory Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2022]

From the fall of Rome to the collapse of Weimar Germany and the rise of fascism, the decision to protect creditors’ claims to unpayable debts leads to catastrophe, not repayment. After all: debts that can’t be paid, won’t be paid….

The closest we come to jubilee today is bankruptcy. But not all bankruptcy is created equal. In a new draft paper, “Fake and Real People in Bankruptcy” (forthcoming in Emory Bankruptcy Development Journal) UNC Law professor Melissa B. Jacoby makes a blazing case that bankruptcy exists to punish human beings and to insulate fake people (corporations) from accountability for a multitude of sins — even mass murder….

Fake people don’t have to prove that they are either “honest” or “unfortunate.” Indeed, fake people can use bankruptcy to wipe away liabilities they incurred for being dishonest.

One recent, spectacular example of bankruptcy being used to escape liability for corporate crimes is Johnson & Johnson, who used bankruptcy to duck responsibility for years of knowingly advising women to dust their vulvas with asbestos-laced talcum powder. This resulted in waves of deaths and grotesque maimings….

A human seeking bankruptcy protection must prove that they are “honest but unfortunate.” But a fake person seeking the same protection must only prove that holding them accountable would create “undesirable uncertainty” for its investors, making it harder for that company to reorganize and carry on doing the business (even if that business included illegal acts, including those that resulted in mass deaths).


Wall Street Traders or Washington Officials? Sometimes It’s Hard to Tell

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-2022]

“It’s the kind of rapid-fire trading you see on Wall Street: hundreds of stock-market wagers, sometimes peppered with options and other aggressive trades. But this wasn’t done on behalf of professional traders. The transactions came from about seven dozen senior federal-government officials who disclosed that they or their families each made more than 500 trades from 2016 through 2021. That totals more than 80,000 transactions while these officials worked in government. These officials accounted for roughly a quarter of all transactions while representing less than 1% of filers in a Wall Street Journal review of financial disclosures by federal officials.”


Have Smart People Stopped Writing Books?

[The Honest Broker, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2022]

But I soon encountered these characters more and more often in Silicon Valley. My book-scorning colleague was typical of a personality type I started meeting everywhere. They used their smarts the way a carpenter uses a hammer—as a blunt tool that gets things done, and the faster the better.

Instead of worrying about books, my colleague was obsessed with beating the system. And he knew a thousand ways of doing it. He had a scheme for everything—from maximizing frequent flyer miles (he discovered a loophole, since fixed, to get five times as many miles credited to his account as actually flown) to beating the house at gambling.

Absolutely nothing made him happier than winning.


Ag companies’ loyalty programs unfairly extract profits from consumers

Lina Khan [Des Moines Register, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-2022]

“Last week, the Federal Trade Commission, where I am chair, partnered up with a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general to file a lawsuit against two of the biggest pesticide manufacturers in the world, Syngenta and Corteva, accusing them of illegally blocking cheaper competitors from the market. This forces American farmers to pay many millions of dollars more every year for pesticides than they should, and ultimately raises the price of the food you eat. The scheme starts with patents. Companies like Syngenta and Corteva are in the business of inventing new active ingredients for pesticides. Each time they do, they get to patent that invention. A patent entitles an inventor to a 20-year period where only they are allowed to sell the invention. But there’s a compromise: Once the patent expires, anyone is free to bring a generic version into the market. That’s why when you have a headache, for example, you can choose between Tylenol and generic acetaminophen. When someone holds a patent they can generally charge high prices, given that nobody else can sell that product. But once the patent expires and generics come in, the original patent holder should have to compete with them, including on price. Syngenta and Corteva weren’t satisfied with this compromise. They wanted to keep raking in big profits even after the patents expired. To do that, our lawsuit alleges, each company plotted to cut farmers off from cheaper generic alternatives. In general, manufacturers don’t sell pesticides directly to farmers. They sell to distributors. Syngenta and Corteva realized that these distributors were a potential choke point. So they each launched ‘loyalty programs’ in which distributors who bought their products would receive large payments, styled as a rebate. The catch: If those middlemen distribute too many generic pesticides, they don’t get the money. In other words, distributors get paid to exclude generics.”


How Capitalism Kills Good Software 

Steve Keen [via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]


Restoring balance to the economy

U.S. says seven board directors resigned under antitrust pressure 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2022]

Seven directors on the boards of five companies have resigned because of the U.S. Justice Department’s concerns over the directors holding similar board positions at rival companies, the department said on Wednesday.

Three directors resigned from the board of IT management software company SolarWinds Corp (SWI.N), one because the person was on the boards of both SolarWinds and rival Dynatrace (DT.N) as a representative of the private equity company Thoma Bravo. Two others representing Thoma Bravo on the SolarWinds board also resigned, the department said.


Companies are being forced to reveal what a job pays

[Recode, via The Big Picture 10-18-2022]

It’s a start. New pay transparency laws will help, but they still aren’t enough to eliminate the pay gap.


Employers’ Productivity Standards Are Not Real Science. Here’s How to Push Back

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]


Want to Know What’s Going On in Our Economy? Talk to Workers.

Michael Mitchell, October 21, 2022 [The American Prospect]

And yet the president’s approval numbers continue to lag and many Democrats up for election across the country find themselves trailing their Republican opponents. Why, amid one of the strongest post-recession recoveries in modern history, is such a positive jobs narrative falling on deaf ears?….

Failing to understand what’s actually going on with workers in our labor markets risks having more bad policy decisions in the future. But there’s an obvious solution to this problem: a Worker Sentiment Survey.

A Worker Sentiment Survey would be a nationally representative monthly survey, designed to engage with workers—employed and unemployed—to better understand how they’re feeling about their current employment, the challenges they face on the job, their feelings about the labor market, and their future career prospects and ambitions. A survey of this nature would take a multipronged approach: It would help us understand more about workers’ current employment (What is their current salary? Is their company unionized?); better capture the actual experiences of a worker in their job (Would you feel comfortable asking for a raise? Do you feel empowered to unionize in your job?); and help us understand a worker’s general feelings about their long-term job prospects and those of their employer and industry.


Railroads reject sick time demands, raising chance of strike 

[AP, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]


Ukraine, follow the money 

[Le Monde Diplomatique, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]

In 2019, with corruption still worsening, Ukrainians turned to a political novice, comic actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who won 73% of the vote to Poroshenko’s 24%. Zelensky had promised to end the oligarchs’ reign, and his supporters saw him as a saviour; his detractors claimed he was a puppet of oil and media magnate Ihor Kolomoysky.

In September 2021 Ukraine’s parliament passed an ‘anti-oligarch’ law, which defined oligarchs on the basis of four criteria: influence over mass media outlets, control over a business monopoly, participation in politics and a net worth of over $89m. Anyone meeting three of these four was required to declare all their assets and banned from donating to political parties, meeting senior civil servants privately, or acquiring a stake when a state-owned enterprise was privatised.

[TW: Hmmm, so, if Ukraine — which we are being told is a “free liberal democracy”— can pass laws directly targeting the rich to limit their political power, we can do the same thing in USA. Right? ]

Industrial Policy: Now Comes the Hard Part

Robert Kuttner, October 18, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Several surprising legislative victories, notably the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, plus innumerable executive actions, explicitly target vital technologies and industries, and spend public money on a scale unknown since World War II. The IRA spends $370 billion on renewable energy, of which $50 billion is for domestic manufacturing. The CHIPS and Science Act adds another $52 billion for domestic production of semiconductors, including at least $10 billion for research. Even better, these industrial policies are also substantially climate policies. The measures target green technologies, industries, and domestic jobs.

Why did this shift occur? One element is the supply shock caused by COVID-related disruptions and the realization that, both for national-security and economic-security reasons, we needed to bring a lot of this production home.

A related factor is the belated acknowledgment of the economic threat that China presents, both to the U.S. national interest and the entire global system. Xi Jinping has made Biden’s job easier by acting with increasing belligerence on the geopolitical as well as the economic front, destroying Hong Kong’s civic autonomy, making explicit military threats to Taiwan, and enforcing an extreme COVID lockdown policy, further curtailing supply chains reliant on China….

A third element was a long-overdue ideological shift in the Democratic Party, especially its presidential wing. Before Biden, economic advisers to Democratic presidents were free-traders, counseling that the nature and location of production was the proper business of the market, not the state. With Biden, voices long in the wilderness on industrial targeting, such as the labor movement, the Roosevelt Institute, and the Economic Policy Institute, have had the heady experience of actually influencing and making policy.


Disrupting mainstream economics

Price Spiral

[Eschaton, October 19, 2022]

I suppose it takes big brained economists to see prices going up, wages falling in real terms, then declaring it a “wage/price spiral” and demand the Fed tank the economy.

There’s a bit more pushback on this stuff from economists under the age of 60 (somewhat a generational thing if not entirely) now, but in a few years it will be fully acknowledged that destroying investment in the face of rising prices caused by supply constraints and market power was actually insane.

The hippies will be right, once again, but not given credit. As always.

House prices and rents going up? Hike borrowing costs to prevent new home construction. Labor supply tight in certain markets? Hike borrowing costs to prevent investment in new capital and let businesses know this will happen every time so they should never bother investing!

True genius stuff.


Thoughts On Economics: A Short History 

Summary of economics since William Petty in a few paragraphs viewing marginalism as a boondoggle.

Robert Vienneau [via Mike Norman Economics 10-21-2022]


Save Social Security From its ‘Saviors’

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-19-2022]

“The debates have already started, and I expect them to heat up after the midterms. Just think back to what happened after the midterm shellacking in 2010, when a newly-emboldened group of republicans lawmakers joined forces with a group of so-called ‘moderate democrats’ to push for cuts to Social Security as part of a ‘Grand Bargain.’ Of course, no one ever comes right out and says they want to CUT Social Security. That would be political suicide. Instead, lawmakers—democrats and republicans—describe their positions as well-intentioned and grounded in the harsh reality of budgetary math. They want to SAVE Social Security…. The only conceivable problem, as I explained last week, is with the way the enacting legislation was written.1 Congress could “fix” Social Security simply by amending that legislation to grant the Old-Age and Survivor’s Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) programs the same federal backstopping that already guarantees program solvency for the Supplemental Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund.”


There’s a Whole Ideological Package That Goes With Raising Interest Rates: Fadhel Kaboub — Sowmya Sivakumar

[News Click (India), via Mike Norman Economics 10-21-2022]

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is an alternative economic framework that challenges the conservative neo-liberal narrative of ‘free trade’ and ‘competition’ which has held sway for many decades as the way to global prosperity. In simple terms, MMT makes us see that money is completely a creation of the State, and hence, a sovereign government does not need our money (either through taxes or borrowing) in the first place to strategically spend it, that is, without causing inflation. And that frees the ‘fiscal’ constraint to address the most pressing problems of our times: socio-economic inequality, exclusion and climate change.

Fadhel Kaboub, Associate Professor of Economics at Denison University, Ohio (US), and President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, is a leading voice in the global MMT community and among a handful of economists who speaks of MMT’s relevance for emerging countries like India. In this first part of a two-part ilong-distance nterview with independent journalist Sowmya Sivakumar, he explains how MMT is slowly shifting the debate in the US, with important lessons for India and rest of the world.


Health care crisis

The Cash Monster Was Insatiable’: How Insurers Exploited Medicare for Billions

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 10-16-2022]

By next year, half of Medicare beneficiaries will have a private Medicare Advantage plan. Most large insurers in the program have been accused in court of fraud.


Mayo Warns It Won’t Take Most Medicare Advantage Plans 

[MedPage Today, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]

“Medicare Advantage plans have been under increasing scrutiny and investigation because so many of them have been accused by federal agencies of denying care, exaggerating the severity of illnesses to pull billions more from Medicare, and delaying care with lengthy prior authorization requirements.”


A New Doctors’ Union in the South Is a Model for Health Care Organizing 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]


Hospital Monopolies Driving Up the Costs of Healthcare 

[Angry Bear, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]


The pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2022]

First They Got Long Covid. Then, It Made Them Homeless 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 10-16-2022]


Long COVID took their health. Then it took their money. 

[Boston Globe, via Naked Capitalism 10-16-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

The Climate Crisis Is Driving Poorer Nations to Desperate Measures

Kate Aronoff, October 19, 2022 [The New Republic]

The group of 58 climate-vulnerable countries known as the V20 have lost 20 percent of their combined gross domestic product this century due to climate damages, according to a recent report. Meanwhile, these poorer countries also face rising food and commodity costs, the devastating effects of Covid-19, and ongoing vaccine apartheid. As the Federal Reserve moves to raise interest rates in the name of combating inflation, V20 nations appear to be reaching a breaking point. “The climate crisis is the debt crisis,” said Sara Jane Ahmed, finance advisor to the V20.

Ahead of a meeting of V20 finance ministers that began this week in Geneva—scheduled to occur on the heels of International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington—former Maldives President Mohamad Nasheed suggested countries in the bloc might stop making payments on the $686.3 billion they owe, accounting for nearly 30 percent of those countries’ combined GDP. It’s an indicator of just how dire circumstances have become. And it ought to be a wake-up call for rich countries to put serious debt relief back on the table.

The numbers are stark: Fifty-five V20 countries are due to pay back $435.8 billion over the next six years, researchers at Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center have found. The IMF has warned that 60 percent of low-income countries overall are now either in or at high risk of debt distress. Troublingly, the institution also recently predicted that “the worst is yet to come” for the global economy. A separate IMF working paper found that just seven of 29 low-income countries in need of additional financing for climate adaptation have the necessary fiscal space to make those investments.


Global CO2 emissions to grow less than 1% this year thanks to renewables- IEA 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]


Once Cheap, Wind and Solar Prices Are Up 34%. What’s the Outlook?

[Inside Climate News, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Inside the Proton, the ‘Most Complicated Thing You Could Possibly Imagine’ 

[Quanta Magazine, via The Big Picture 10-22-2022]

The positively charged particle at the heart of the atom is an object of unspeakable complexity, one that changes its appearance depending on how it is probed. We’ve attempted to connect the proton’s many faces to form the most complete picture yet.


Information age dystopia

Former WSJ Reporter Says Law Firm Used Indian Hackers To Sabotage His Career 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-18-2022]

Solomon’s suit is the latest in a series of legal actions that follows Reuters’ reporting about hired hackers operating out of India. In June, Reuters reported on the activities of several hack-for-hire shops, including Delhi area-companies BellTroX and CyberRoot, that were involved in a decade-long series of espionage campaigns targeting thousands of people, including more than 1,000 lawyers at 108 different law firms.


It was all downhill after the Cuecat 

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2022]

Last August, philosopher and Centre for Technomoral Futures director Shannon Vallor tweeted, “The saddest thing for me about modern tech’s long spiral into user manipulation and surveillance is how it has just slowly killed off the joy that people like me used to feel about new tech. Every product Meta or Amazon announces makes the future seem bleaker and grayer.”

She went on: “I don’t think it’s just my nostalgia, is it? There’s no longer anything being promised to us by tech companies that we actually need or asked for. Just more monitoring, more nudging, more draining of our data, our time, our joy.”

Today on Tumblr, Wil Wheaton responded: “[T]here is very much no longer a feeling of ‘How can this change/improve my life?’ and a constant dread of ‘How will this complicate things as I try to maintain privacy and sanity in a world that demands I have this thing to operate.'”


That’s what makes the phrase “So easy your mom can use it” particularly awful “Moms” are the kinds of people whose priorities and difficulties are absent from the room when tech designers gather to plan their next product. The needs of “moms” are mostly met by masteringconfiguring and adapting technology, because tech doesn’t work out of the box for them:

(As an alternative, I advocate for “so easy your boss can use it,” because your boss gets to call up the IT department and shout, “I don’t care what it takes, just make it work!” Your boss can solve problems through raw exercise of authority, without recourse to ingenuity.)

….Once we gave companies the power to literally criminalize the reconfiguration of their products, everything changed. In the Cuecat era, a corporate meeting to plan a product that acted against its users’ interests had to ask, “How will we sweeten the pot and/or obfuscate our code so that our users don’t remove the anti-features we’re planning to harm them with?”

But in a world of Felony Contempt of Business Model, that discussion changes to “Given that we can literally imprison anyone who helps our users get more out of this product, how can we punish users who are disloyal enough to simply quit our service or switch away from our product?”

….Then there’s the other problem – the gun on the mantelpiece problem. If we give big companies the power to control their users, they will face enormous internal pressure to abuse that power. This isn’t a hypothetical risk: Facebook’s top executives stand accused of accepting bribes from Onlyfans in exchange for adding performers who left Onlyfans to a terrorist watchlist, which meant they couldn’t use other platforms:

….We didn’t replace tech investors and leaders with worse people – we have the same kinds of people but we let them get away with more. We let them buy up all their competitors. We let them use the law to lock out competitors they couldn’t buy, including those who would offer their customers tools to lower their switching costs and block abusive anti-features.


Collapse of independent news media

Props or People

[Eschaton, October 22, 2022]

I’ve said this before, but I do think a big change over the past 20 years, even if one which happened gradually, is that news gets entirely filtered through “political news.” This is true of cable news (especially), of the major papers, of all of it. A big chunk of the day at CNN used to be just fairly straightforward rip and read style news coverage, now it’s always 8 floating heads discussing What It All Means For Ron DeSantis.

An expanding consequence of this is that filtered through the Both Sides coverage, things that were generally agreed upon as “bad” can no longer be portrayed as such as long as one political party says it’s “Good, Akshually.”

These people have had their life upended by DeSantis, and quite often the coverage just treats them as NPCs in the Politics Game. Ron DeSantis ruins 19 lives, how will this play in Tallahassee? What does this mean for 2024?

If Ron DeSantis straps on an automatic weapon and starts personally gunning down homeless people while flanked by state troopers, would the politics lens be put aside? Would The Two Sides Differ On The Legality dominate, “holy shit, Ron DeSantis just murdered a bunch of people.”

I don’t think this is an absurd example. It isn’t actually in a different category from what he did with these people, just a bit more extreme.


Democrats’ political suicide

Lambert Strether comments [Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-17-2022]: The Democrats have a strong case for the reality of election theft:cCertainly 2020 2000, where Jebbie diddled the voter rolls so that brother W would win. Likely 2004, for anybody who followed the Ohio returns. But the Democrats aren’t making that case, and it shows the difference in operational capability between the two parties: The Democrats are exuding aghastitude and relying on their friends in Big Tech to control the narrative (and potentially the intelligence community to dispute the results). The Republicans are going out and running candidates for office.


“Senate Dems press SEC chair to slow Wall Street rules”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-2022]

“In a previously unreported letter, a dozen Democrats led by Sen. Jon Tester of Montana asked Gensler to give corporate America and the broader public more time to weigh in on the raft of rules the agency is proposing. The SEC’s agenda includes a landmark climate risk disclosure rule for public companies, new transparency requirements for hedge funds and a revamp of the stock market’s plumbing. The Democrats who signed the letter include: Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, Gary Peters of Michigan and John Hickenlooper of Colorado.”


“How the Border Went MAGA”

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-2022]

“‘The Democrats have a really, really big Latino problem.’ It was the morning after Mexico-born Republican Mayra Flores won the June special election for a congressional seat in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, and longtime conservative strategist and co-founder of the Lincoln Project Mike Madrid was incensed by the seeming inattention of Democrats to one of the nation’s fastest-growing demographics. ‘The incompetence and the disregard, it’s infuriating,’ Madrid steamed on an emergency taping of his podcast, The Latino Vote. ‘This district that just flipped has been in Democratic control since 1870,’ he said, before noting it had the second-highest concentration of Latinos of ‘any congressional district in the entire country, okay?’ Losing a district like that constituted ‘a five-alarm fire for the Democrats heading into the November elections.’ Flores is a MAGA acolyte who once suggested the January 6 attack was ’caused by infiltrators’ and has frequently referenced QAnon on her Twitter account. Her election represented the culmination of a years-long trend: Despite Donald Trump’s endlessly hostile rhetoric toward Mexican immigrants — from labeling them ‘rapists’ in his 2016 campaign kickoff to reportedly calling for them to be shot on sight in 2019 — he made major gains across South Texas in the 2020 election, cutting the margin by which Joe Biden won the state’s border counties to 17 percentage points, half of the 33-point margin Hillary Clinton posted in 2016. ‘When you take voters for granted like national Democrats have done in South Texas for 40 years, there are consequences to pay,’ Congressman Filemón Vela told the Texas Tribune at the time; two years later, his retirement opened the door for Flores’s ascension. Trump’s surprising performance in South Texas had major down-ballot implications, including helping Republican Tony Gonzales win the massive congressional district that covers most of Texas’s border with Mexico, from the outskirts of El Paso to Del Rio.”



[The Intercept, October 22, 2022]

A new book examines why congressional leadership pulled their punches when it mattered most.

IN THEIR NEW book “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump,” reporters Karoun Demirjian and Rachael Bade lay out how Democrats put political self-preservation ahead of a genuine effort to hold President Donald Trump accountable for his abuses of power. The authors join Ryan Grim to discuss the missed opportunities and historical what-ifs of Trump’s two impeachments.


A People-Powered Insurgency Threatened to Reshape the Democratic Party. Then Came AIPAC and Its Allied Super PAC, Democratic Majority for Israel

Ryan Grim, October 16, 2022 [The Intercept]

In a special election to replace Rep. Marcia Fudge in the House after Fudge was named Housing and Urban Development secretary, Nina Turner, a former state senator and surrogate for both of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaigns, was polling some 30 points ahead of the field. Amid the Gaza War, she retweeted a Jewish advocacy group, IfNotNow, that is the bane of right-wing “pro-Israel” groups.

Jewish Insider flagged the post in an article, noting the divergence on the issue between Turner and her leading opponent, Cuyahoga County Chair Shontel Brown. “Advocacy groups such as Pro-Israel America and Democratic Majority for Israel,” reported Jewish Insider, “have also thrown their support behind Brown, who has had to contend with Turner’s substantial warchest with less than three months remaining until the August 3 primary, according to the latest filings from the Federal Election Commission.” Brown would not have to contend with that disadvantage for long.

Two groups — Democratic Majority For Israel, or DMFI, and Mainstream Democrats PAC — began spending millions pummeling Turner on the airwaves. The two were effectively the same organization, operating out of the same office and employing the same consultants, though Mainstream Democrats claims a broader mission. Strategic and targeting decisions for both were made by pollster Mark Mellman, according to Dmitri Mehlhorn, a Democratic operative and Silicon Valley executive who serves as the political adviser to LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, who funds the Mainstream Democrats PAC. DMFI has also funneled at least $500,000 to Mainstream Democrats PAC….

Across the country, progressive candidates who a cycle earlier had been loudly vying for national attention with bold ideas to attract small donors were instead keeping their heads down, hoping to stay under the radar of DMFI and AIPAC.

When Justice Democrats, in the wake of Sanders’s first presidential campaign, began its effort to pull the party to the left by competing in Democratic primaries, the issue of Israel-Palestine was not central to its strategy. But its candidates tended to be progressive across the board, rather than what had previously been the standard, known as PEP, for “progressive except for Palestine.” The insurgency inside the Democratic Party has since produced a counter-insurgency, funded heavily by hedge fund executives, private equity barons, professional sports team owners, and other billionaires and multimillionaires, many of them organized under a “pro-Israel” banner.

“It’s been a radical transformation in the politics of Israel-Palestine and the politics of Democratic primaries,” said Logan Bayroff, director of communications for J Street, which describes itself as a “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization. This cycle, Bayroff helped run J Street Action Fund, an outside spending group designed specifically to counter the influence of DMFI and AIPAC. It spent less than 10 percent the amount its rivals were able to put in the field.


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Next Debt Ceiling Crisis Will Be the Democrats’ Fault

Matt Ford, October 19, 2022 [The New Republic]

That Republicans have some dangerous ideas about the debt ceiling isn’t some obscure fact that’s been hidden from view. While the GOP very dutifully raised the debt limit throughout the Trump presidency, it has made its intention about returning to debt ceiling brinksmanship now that a Democratic president is back in the White House abundantly clear. Under Trump, many GOP lawmakers simply voted to increase the debt ceiling whenever it was necessary without any attendant fuss or alarm. This brief flirtation with responsible governance ended as soon as Biden was sworn in. Over the last two years, leading Senate Republicans like Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn have publicly stated that they would not cooperate with debt ceiling increases unless they had a say in broader budgetary matters.

The Constitution does not require the United States to have a debt ceiling. (Denmark is the only other Western democracy that has one.) There are strong arguments, in fact, that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. But any unilateral attempt to ignore the debt ceiling would likely invite legal challenges from Republicans and their allies, and the Biden administration might be unwilling to risk an adverse ruling from the Supreme Court on the matter….

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, citing congressional rules experts, wrote last month that Democrats could use the lame-duck session to pass a budget outline that raises the debt ceiling to a level that won’t be reached for years to come….

…Contrary to an endless deluge of right-wing propaganda, it does not authorize new debts incurred by Congress. It only limits the Treasury’s ability to pay off existing ones. Republicans know this, but they lie about it because a debt ceiling showdown is their best, likeliest way to enact a blueprint for American social spending that would be otherwise indefensible at the ballot box. The alternative to giving in to their demands is that the world economy will collapse….

Aha, you might say, but why would Republican lawmakers do that? They also participate in society. They have 401(k)s and mortgages and other things that would be affected. They get paid in U.S. dollars. All of that is true. But in recent years, they have shown a propensity not to act in the public’s best interest or even their own. This is the same party that so thoroughly argued against vaccines and masks during a pandemic on ideological grounds that the virus began to disproportionately kill its own voters. This is the same party whose leader, with the tacit or explicit support of other prominent conservatives, almost got Congress killed last year during a coup attempt. Assuming that the MAGA caucus will eventually do the right thing would be, to put it mildly, a mistake.

The Limits of Pro-Worker Conservatism 

Justin H. Vassallo, October 20, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Since Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, a small group of heterodox conservatives has struggled to develop a “pro-worker” politics for the right. New think tanks such as American Compass, headed by former Mitt Romney adviser Oren Cass, have rolled out arguments for industrial policy and family policy, while Compact magazine, a putative vehicle to blend cultural conservatism and social democracy, launched this past spring, expanding the fora for conservative statecraft and right-wing populism….

These institutions and thinkers are united by two premises: that modern liberalism has radically atomized society and that Trump’s attacks on globalism and China were fundamentally correct. But their main apostasy, in the ad-libbed words of Trump’s U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer in a recent speech at the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, is that libertarianism is “a philosophy for stupid people.” Disavowing the neoliberal logic that drove Republican policy from the end of the Cold War until Trump’s election, heterodox conservatives declare they have a developmental agenda that will restore security and prosperity to American workers….

Republicans Are Coming for Your Social Security and Medicare

Ryan Cooper, October 20, 2022 [The American Prospect]

All four GOP representatives running to head the House Budget Committee have promised that they are going to take the debt ceiling hostage to get big cuts. “Our main focus has got to be on nondiscretionary—it’s got to be on entitlements,” said Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA). Specifically, they mentioned increasing the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare, and adding means tests or work requirements. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who will probably be Speaker of the House if Republicans take control, endorsed the strategy. “You can’t just continue down the path to keep spending and adding to the debt,” he said.


On the Alex Jones Verdict: The Very, Very Lucrative World of Lying 

Zeynep Tufecki [Insight, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2022]

It’s become so easy to lucratively lie to so many people, and we have few realistic and effective defenses against the harms of deceptions like these, not just to individuals but to our society.

“Good speech” isn’t going to push out lies when viewership is so fragmented, nor is the solution “fact checks” of various levels of quality by institutions already not trusted by many.

There have been campaigns to get major social media platforms to act more aggressively to get rid of liars, but why should we trust them to decide who should be banned? What if political winds shift?

What’s the solution? No society can be constantly pulled at its seams like this and escape unscathed. The recent Jones verdict certainly did some damage to the industry of lucrative lying, and perhaps few are as deserving of this result than he is. But laws written for a different era cannot resolve the problems of our current media ecology.

There are no easy, quick solutions, but perhaps a starting point would be to make it harder and less lucrative to lie to huge audiences. Rather than pursuing legally dubious and inadvisable efforts to ban speech or define and target misinformation, regulations should target the incentives for and the speed with which lies can be spread, amplified and monetized.

Budd Got Loans And Cash And Boosted Bank Merger — Before Mass Layoffs

Rebecca Burns, October 18, 2022 [The Lever]

The North Carolina GOP Senate nominee, Ted Budd, helped clear the way for a controversial 2019 bank merger, then took hefty campaign cash and loans from the resulting financial behemoth.


Ted Budd Aided Donors Trying To Bypass Predatory Lending Laws

Julia Rock, October 17, 2022 [The Lever]

Documents show Ted Budd, the North Carolina GOP Senate candidate, pressed regulators to let his Wall Street donors get around predatory lending laws.


How to Make a Semi-Fascist Party: The hostile, paranoid, and increasingly authoritarian path ahead for American conservatism

Jonathan Chait, October 12, 2022 [New York Magazine, via The Big Picture 10-16-2022]

In mid-September, I attended the National Conservatism Conference in Miami, where Republican politicians, right-wing thought leaders, and various party apparatchiks had gathered to articulate their vision of the conservative movement’s future….

And while every political conference has points of disagreement and speakers harping on their chosen hobbyhorse, this one was striking in its unified view of the world the participants face and the response they believe is necessary. Almost every speaker repeated a version of the following: The “woke” revolution has captured the commanding heights of American education, culture, and even large businesses, from which positions it is spreading and enforcing a noxious left-wing ideology. This poses an existential threat to conservatism, culturally and politically. Conservatives must therefore fight back by using state power to crush their enemies on the left — a notable break for a movement that, in the pre-Trump days, had at least pretended to stand against “big government.”

It was not so much that they had changed their policy goals or even their political strategy as that they had lost faith in the potential for normal politics to function. Every one of them demanded extraordinary measures — what Trump has called iron-fisted rule — as the only alternative to political extinction.

A few samples of the rhetoric from the stage give the overall flavor. Rachel Bovard, the senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute: “Wokism is not a fever that will pass but a cancer that must be eradicated. And the free market won’t do it.” She added that “in this new reality, the only institution with the power to contend with and conquer the Woke Industrial Complex is the government of the United States.” Conservative lawyer and former Human Events publisher Will Chamberlain: “We’re not in a peaceful environment with the Democratic Party,” and the key objective must now be “the willingness to use government power to achieve conservative ends.” Senator Scott: “The militant left wing in this country have become the enemy within.”….

Two models for the emerging right-wing state came up repeatedly. The first was the DeSantis governorship. Attendees were entranced by his war on the left and particularly admired his retaliation against Disney for having criticized his restrictions on LGBTQ+ discussions in schools (which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law). DeSantis had had the guts to punish one of the state’s most powerful firms and, the conferees believed, shown how all of corporate America could be brought to heel.

The other model was Orbán’s Hungary….

That Orbán and DeSantis are both colorless functionaries ought to drive home the fact that this movement is not, as its critics often jeer, a personality cult. Many of the conference members retain an affection for Trump, but they are not hung up on him personally so much as they are mobilized to wage war on his enemies. The appeal of semi-fascism in Hungary, and its incipient version in Florida, lies not in the men but in the systems they have built, which can be replicated.

One apparent paradox of this movement is that, even as it labels its political rivals as domestic enemies and dreams of using the power of the state to humiliate and destroy them, it does not view itself as authoritarian. Seen from the inside, fascist movements historically feel encircled and vulnerable, and the same holds true for today’s semi-fascist right.…

And while their narrative of oppression may be deeply delusional, their strategy follows from those assumptions in a completely rational way. They have identified the elements of the conspiracy that, they believe, destroyed Trump: woke corporations, election fraud, the deep state, and the media. And they have devised plans to neutralize them all.

The National Conservatives often speak disdainfully of corporations and libertarianism, which has fed into a belief that they have broken with the party on its traditional agenda of low taxes for the wealthy, deregulation, and opposing social-transfer payments. Ross Douthat posited hopefully in the New York Times that the National Conservatives might finally force the Republicans to abandon their opposition to taxing the rich.

But this misunderstands what the National Conservatives find objectionable about corporations and markets. The National Conservatives’ statement of principles is vague on economics, denouncing socialism while attacking “transnational corporations” for “showing little loyalty to any nation,” damaging “public life by censoring political speech, flooding the country with dangerous and addictive substances and pornography, and promoting obsessive, destructive personal habits.” This is a moral critique, confined to a trivial percentage of businesses — very few of which, after all, are engaged in content moderation or the sale of drugs or pornography — and implies very little change to the traditional Republican pro-business stance….

Major corporations played an important role in civil society’s backlash against Trumpism — declaring boycotts of donations to election deniers, denouncing voting restrictions, and making statements in favor of rights for women and minorities. While liberals often rolled their eyes at these measures, conservatives took them as a deadly threat. Republicans are determined to regain the whip hand and ensure pushback like this never happens again….

The National Conservatives consider the military to be the most important target for political purification. Speaker after speaker lambasted the Pentagon as a hive of social liberalism. “We might be thankful that the generals at the Pentagon are such low-IQ incompetents,” sneered Darren Beattie, a former Trump speechwriter who was fired in 2018 for attending a conference with the founder of an anti-immigration site. “A powerful new ideology, commonly called wokeness, has conquered every institution in American life, including the military,” asserted Dreher….

The comparison sounded hyperbolic, even absurd, until the next day, when a DeSantis adviser detailed these methods and even embraced the same comparison. Christina Pushaw, whose official title is director of rapid response for the governor but whose role could be more accurately described as minister of propaganda, held forth at a panel on marginalizing independent media. The challenge, she explained ruefully, is that many older Americans, such as her parents, still give some credence to old-line outfits like the New York Times. This reputation, she believes, comes from the perception that they have access to both parties, so the correct response by Republicans is to freeze out the mainstream media. “If they have no access to any Republican elected officials, they are seen for what they are,” she proposed. Pushaw stressed that Republicans should not even concede that reporters are journalists at all. She instructed the audience to call them “activists.”

“We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives.”

Heather Cox Richardson, October 20, 2022 [Letters from an American]

In The Federalist, senior editor John Daniel Davidson announced, “We Need To Stop Calling Ourselves Conservatives.” “The conservative project has failed,” he wrote, “and conservatives need to forge a new political identity that reflects our revolutionary moment.” Western civilization is dying, he wrote, and to revive it, those on the right should “start thinking of themselves as radicals, restorationists, and counterrevolutionaries. Indeed, that is what they are, whether they embrace those labels or not.”

They should, he said, stop focusing on the free-market economics and supply-side principles of the Reagan years and instead embrace the idea of wielding government power as “an instrument of renewal in American life… a blunt instrument indeed.”

Davidson embraces using the power of the government to enforce the principles of the right wing, bending corporations to their will, starving universities that spread “poisonous ideologies,” getting rid of no-fault divorce, and subsidizing families with children. “Wielding government power,” he writes, “will mean a dramatic expansion of the criminal code.” Abortion is murder and should be treated as such, parents who take their children to drag shows “should be arrested and charged with child abuse,” doctors who engage in gender-affirming interventions “should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked,” “teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.”

“The necessary task is nothing less than radical and revolutionary,” he writes.


The Sorting Hat And Fascism

[Eschaton, October 20, 2022]

A minor problem with the upper ranks of liberalism (as many things) being dominated by people who went to fancy schools, many of whom are very invested in the sorting hat aspect of fancy schools, is that a deep belief in this version of meritocracy isn’t too far from a basic conservative/fascist view of The Natural Order Of Things.

No I’m not saying that “liberals are the real fascists,” just that peaking when you’re 20, combined with ageing out of relevance and the associated midlife crisis, explains the small but real liberal-to-fash-curious pipeline.

I deserve my success, and people should know their place.


What Will Happen to America if Trump Wins Again? Experts Helped Us Game It Out.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 10-16-2022]


What Republicans Really Thought on January 6 

[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-18-2022]

[TW: Useful summary of attempts by both Democratic and (anti)Republican leaders in Congress to get the Defense Department to send National Guard troops, and to persuade Trump to call off the rioters.]


This Is Uncharted Territory

[Atlantic, via The Big Picture 10-20-2022]

If one of two major political parties no longer believes in free and fair elections, how can democracy still function?



Melissa del Bosque, October 12 2022 [The Intercept]

Officials in rural Kinney County, Texas, are pushing Gov. Greg Abbott to take ever more extreme action against migrants and asylum-seekers.

Like other residents in the border county, Hassard said she’s grown tired of Operation Lone Star and fearmongering by local elected officials like Smith, who paint the region as being under invasion. Over the last year, the formerly quiet ranching community has become a backdrop for Fox News and far-right media to promote the idea that states can declare an invasion under the U.S. Constitution and use force against migrants seeking refuge as if they were a hostile foreign power.

The attention has thrust Smith, Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, and County Judge Tully Shahan into the national spotlight. The three have led the charge in Texas, working to push Abbott, who is up for reelection in November, even further to the right. After Shahan and Smith declared a state of disaster last year due to “illegal aliens invading Kinney County,” Abbott quickly followed suit, issuing a broader disaster declaration that granted him emergency powers usually reserved for responding to events like hurricanes or floods. Instead, Abbott used the declaration to tap into state and federal funding and deploy thousands of state police and National Guard members to the border under Operation Lone Star, which has already cost more than $4 billion. But that wasn’t enough for the Kinney County officials.

This past July, the trio held a press conference to declare their 16 miles of border with Mexico under invasion. They called on Abbott to make a statewide declaration and exercise his authority under the Texas and U.S. constitutions to immediately “remove all persons invading the sovereignty of Texas and that of the United States.”

The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

The Conservative Stalwart Challenging the Far-Right Legal Theory That Could Subvert American Democracy 

Jane Meyer [The New Yorker, via The Big Picture 10-21-2022]

J. Michael Luttig is opposing Republican groups in one of the most momentous cases that the Supreme Court is considering this term.


CFPB Funding Method Found Unconstitutional by Federal Appeals Court 

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2022]


Conservative Judicial Ruling Threatens Functioning of Daily Life

David Dayen, October 21, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The conservative legal movement’s strategy to kneecap the administrative state continued its march yesterday, with a ruling that calls into question the operation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). While bad enough on its own terms, if ultimately successful, this ruling would lead to significant collateral damage that the gleeful destroyers of consumer protection haven’t thought through.

The case, where the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found the funding mechanism for the CFPB unconstitutional, could throw nearly all consumer financial markets into upheaval. Separately, it could potentially toss aside every agency and federal program that is not funded through discretionary congressional appropriations—threatening senior health care, retirement security, food and drug safety, and all kinds of other actions. The unintended consequences of the ruling would drive the U.S. government into near-total paralysis.



Open Thread


The Inflationary Consequences of Friendzoning and Decoupling


  1. Jason

    Thank you Tony.

    From the Cory Doctorow article:

    Debts are inescapable.

    Oh? In whose interest is that statement made?

    In order to provide a society with its necessities — food, shelter, energy — producers need the inputs (seed, fertilizer, materials, tools) before they have the means to buy them.

    In order to produce, producers must borrow.

    Actually, this seemingly inevitable problem wasn’t in fact a problem for the vast majority of human history. It simply didn’t exist.

    Why has such a wide chasm developed between ‘producers’ and those with ‘inputs’?

    Why must one always remain viable to lenders?

    I think the churches must get back to straight “USURY IS SIN” messaging. Enough of their cutesy slogans on their signs. People are starving and dying, and the church food pantries aren’t nearly enough.

  2. somecomputerguy

    How capitalism kills good software.
    I was hoping to read something less incoherent.

    Starts with saying that the market weeds out bad software products, unlike socialism.
    Then gives the example of Microsoft Access weeding out Dbase. This is similar to the way MS Word weeded out WordPerfect.

    I haven’t checked that status of MySQL, the open source, free, semi-socialist provided database program in some time.

    At the time MySQL was acquired by Oracle, I thought MySQL was on the whole, the best database program in the world.

    The only reason Oracle would be interested such a purchase is to engage in some ‘weeding’ similar to the above.

    Good software, like any other useful artifact that humans create, is begun and written to meet a need or solve a problem.

    Under capitalism, when someone creates a valuable product, that product makes money. That money attracts the attention of investors. Investors take control, and from that moment onward, that firm is no longer in the business of making software or airplanes, and is no longer concerned with how good those airplanes or software is.

    That firm is now in the business of making money. Any value that is not transferred to investors is thievery. Product functionality, to the extent that is costs money to produce, is value violently ripped from the investors.

    The idea that a capitalist firm should waste money correcting a deficiency, let alone improving a product, when that product is already selling perfectly well, is an evil, communist idea. Altruism at it’s worst.

    It is the moral imperative of every employee to transfer money from any aspect of operations that it is possible to do so, to the rightful owners of that money, the stockholders, and to be grateful for the privilege.

    The easiest and best place to start is safety. That is because firing safety personnel puts the money from their paycheck into your pocket immediately. if ‘something happens,’ that money stays in your pocket, even if some commie makes you rehire them back.

    It is much better of course, never to waste money on them in the first place. That has been the status of security auditing in the software industry for most of it’s history.

  3. VietnamVet

    The computer chip war with China and the World War between Ukraine/NATO and Russia have brought the whole neo-liberal façade crashing down. Behind it are war mongers and profiteers.

    The oligarch counter-revolt cemented in place by Bill Clinton instituted government by and for corporations and dismantled functional western democracies. The Western Empire stood alone at the top of the heap. Around the turn of the century sovereign nations were replaced with EU type trade pacts whose goal is the free movement of people, capital, services and goods. During the Trump Administration, western oligarchs split into antagonistic globalists and nationalists groups.

    Russia was intentionally poked and prodded to have a regime change so the West could gain access to its energy and resources due to its rising costs and resource depletion. But Russia invaded Ukraine. Adding war to the global coronavirus pestilence. This has allowed the Western Deep State to reign in Elon Musk, Tim Cook and sideline Bill Gates, globalists all. The World War let loose war profiteering autocrats and the Diasporas’ hatreds. But the fall of UK’s head of lettuce shows who is really in charge, the Bank of England. Without functional governments, rationing, and mobilization winning the World War is impossible (just like mitigating coronavirus failed except for China). There is absolutely no attempt to give peace a chance. The West cannot win WWIII without governments guided by and working for the people.

    State Operatives (perhaps Poland, Ukraine with UK supervision and a Deep State wink and nod) took out 3 of the 4 Nord Stream natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany. This is direct attack on the energy supply of Europe. Will Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase, bring the West back from the brink like the Financial Overlords did for the City of London? Identifying exactly who attacked the EU and/or the GOP taking control of Congress could trigger the real crazies to go for it all. A Ukraine false flag or the real thing (nuclear explosion(s) and/or radioactive dispersion) could be enough to declare martial law. WWII ended with the use of nuclear weapons, WWIII too?

  4. Jason

    just like mitigating coronavirus failed except for China

    China hasn’t mitigated coronavirus. The psychopaths in China have used the lab-crafted coronavirus (they just crafted another one up in Boston evidently) and the subsequent pandemic to usher in the tyrannical Central Bank Digital Currency that the Western psychopaths are also attempting to cement in their own populace’ psyche as the only alternative going forward.

    Fancy that.

    They know that the younger generations’ across much of the world – east and west, north and to a lesser degree south – have been brought up in and taught an ethos of over-efficiency, speed and instantaneity of all transactions. They know this because they created this ethos: There is no alternative, remember?

    They are using both the “conditions on the ground” that they’ve created and mass psychology through the organs of the media they control to both establish in peoples’ psyches – and then to further create “conditions on the ground” – where there will be “no alternative” to a CBDC.

    Central Bank Digital Currency: A DYSTOPIAN NIGHTMARE (from Jerome Powell to one guy’s view on the street in China, who seems to think it will be inevitable because he sees how it’s changing his own attitude. He shows prescience in this regard, but there is no sign of resistance)

    BIS – Cash vs CBDC to ‘permission’ how your money will be spent, to track & enforce this aspect:

    The BIS has also said it intends to fund the “green revolution” throughout Asia.

    Listen to them when they tell you and show you who they really are.

  5. Z

    Milley: “Our fight against Russia in Ukraine is to protect the rules based order”.


  6. Willy


    I was never a “software guy”, but I had to work with software all the time, sometimes doing programming to help fill in the gaps of repetitive tasks until real software guys did that for me. I’m old enough to remember asking a software guy why our UNIX mainframe system was so bug-n-virus free compared to the new up-and-coming MS-DOS network which seemed a mess. “Capitalism at its finest” he said. I went home to investigate online and found all kinds of Microsoft hater sites detailing all the hows and whys of Gates “success”. There were even places claiming you could disassemble MS-DOS to find all the CP/M markers inside.

    Other markers of late stage capitalism: astroturfed populism, political pop-branding of stuff like “manly indivdualists being victimized into incels”, pop music entertainment morphing from uniquely creative garage bands into so many virtually identical Vegas-style dance revues, “billionaire geniuses” quoting anti-semitic gibberish (as well as general gibberish), and ignoring “top voter worry” polls to declare that the only thing that matters anymore is Ukraine. Sad times indeed.

  7. different clue

    ” The Western Empire stood alone at the top of the heap. ”

    It would be well to realize that the Western Peoples and their Western Nation-States are just a part of the heap which the Western Empire stood alone at the top of. If the Western Peoples can bring themselves to realize that, then they might decide that their own survival interests are better served by dispersing the Western Empire’s heap into a lot of little separate sovereign heaplets.

    What if someone in America were to create a Lower Class Majority Party? If the majority of Americans who are lower class got over their shame at admitting they are lower class, they might join such a party and make it the Majority Party. Then what?
    Do something political-economic with it? Maybe.

  8. Z

    So, House Progressives have finally come to the conclusion that it is better to speak out against the president who belongs to their precious political party and his deplorable Ukraine escalation strategy rather than risk nuclear annihilation for themselves and the rest of humanity.

    Well, better late than never … hopefully.


  9. Mark Level

    2 brief comments– 1. I will read “Z”s link above; it’d be shocking and good news to me, if true, but I am a little incredulous. At this point I think “the Squad” has been exposed to some variant of that old Bill Hicks joke about the new president being shown the JFK assassination video “filmed from the Grassy Knoll” just before their inauguration. They seem to be all-in on the Imperial project, AOC falsely portraying anti-imperialism as “ableist” & “violence.” To be fair, they may have been threatened, but I’ll be shocked if they break ranks as AOC in particular seems to revel in her current Ruling Class Met Gala/ Vogue magazine acceptance. 2. I had to laugh at the WaPo’s “if one party doesn’t accept it, isn’t democracy over?” headline. Clearly the Dimmies believe in the public vote as little as the (R)s/ Trump Cult, given cheating Bernie of the Dem Pres. nomination twice during the primaries, right out in the open, making sure the Green Party cannot get on ballots, etc. As the old joke says, “If voting mattered, it’d be illegal.”

  10. Z

    Show this fool where the exit is before his Titanic sized ego sinks us all …


  11. multitude of poors

    Jason, re:

    Thank you Tony.

    From the Cory Doctorow article:

    Debts are inescapable.

    Oh? In whose interest is that statement made?


    I think the churches must get back to straight “USURY IS SIN” messaging. Enough of their cutesy slogans on their signs. People are starving and dying, and the church food pantries aren’t nearly enough.


    Listen to them when they tell you and show you who they really are.

    I hear and feel you, Jason.

    Hugs to you and yours; and many reading and commenting here, but not all.

    gotta run….

  12. Z


    If I had to rate the two countries most likely to have purposely deployed COVID it would be 1. Israel and 2. United States (which, coincidentally, happens to be the order of importance that the majority of U.S. politicians place on the two countries).


  13. Mark Level

    Yes, Z, thank you for the update!! As shown above, I was incredulous when the House faux “Progressives” mildly backed up from full on Imperial “Support the Ukro surrogates” cheerleading, and Jayipal backed down and disavowed it all (kicking down and blaming “staff” look a good PMC striver) as soon as they got any push-back from the combined Chicken Hawks & Neocons. Entirely expected, we all know the script by now, they don’t even hide who (Raytheon, McDonnell-Douglas) they work for any more!! Gotta respect the brazen disrespect for voters, & the love of violence for violence’s sake by such a bunch of groveling weaklings and collaborators.

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