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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 24, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 24, 2021

Strategic Political Economy

Brazilian senators recommend Bolsonaro be charged with crimes against humanity over pandemic

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021]


Brazilian Leader’s Pandemic Handling Draws Explosive Allegation: Homicide

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2021]


Why China’s Lead on EVs Has Been a Long Time Coming

[Bloomberg, via Mike Norman Economics 10-19-2021]

When it comes to green manufacturing, China is now a clean-energy powerhouse. Its market dominance from solar panels to electric vehicles took long-term planning and a level of financial investment only state-controlled banking systems can deliver. By 2030, China will have an outsized influence on this strategic industry, and it’s poised to seize a fair share of the jobs and wealth creation that come with it.


“Far-right Christians think they’re living in a Bible story, and that you are as well” [Flux, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-22-21]

“SHEFFIELD: And I think also that you could say that many moderate or liberal Christians, they’re not aware that this alternative tradition has developed, and really grown as big as it is. And they’re also not aware that that tradition is coming for them. And that it has a power that is very compelling to a lot of people because it’s totalizing. It’s a worldview that encompasses politics, that encompasses religion, that encompasses schooling, that encompasses family. It literally can run your life for you. It can make the decisions. It can make your identity. You can finally be a part of something bigger than yourself. DOUGLAS: They may also lack understanding about what this is because a lot of it is as a kind of craziness that’s outside of their specific church or cultural traditions, but some of it is shame. I think for lots of progressive and thoughtful and intellectual [01:00:00] Christians, to engage with fundamentalist theology and politics is to experience shame. Because it’s not like yours. It’s simplistic and binary and into this sort of Manichean binary of good and evil. It’s not as sophisticated as your own religious tradition. So I think that can oftentimes mean for the moderates and liberal/progressive Christians, there’s an experience of shame. And an attempt to, I think sometimes on the other hand argue that they’re not really Christian at all. Those people are not really Christian, they’re Christian nationalists, who aren’t really in the proper Christian tradition, like we’re practicing it. But that’s a different conversation.”


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

Silencing the Competition: Inside the Fight Against the Hearing Aid Cartel

Matt Stoller, BIG, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2021]


Economists to Cattle Ranchers: Stop Being So Emotional About the Monopolies Devouring Your Family Businesses

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]


“Unhappy with prices, ranchers look to build own meat plants”

[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“Like other ranchers across the country, Rusty Kemp for years grumbled about rock-bottom prices paid for the cattle he raised in central Nebraska, even as the cost of beef at grocery stores kept climbing. He and his neighbors blamed it on consolidation in the beef industry stretching back to the 1970s that resulted in four companies slaughtering over 80% of the nation’s cattle, giving the processors more power to set prices while ranchers struggled to make a living. Federal data show that for every dollar spent on food, the share that went to ranchers and farmers dropped from 35 cents in the 1970s to 14 cents recently. It led Kemp to launch an audacious plan: Raise more than $300 million from ranchers to build a plant themselves, putting their future in their own hands. ‘We’ve been complaining about it for 30 years,’ Kemp said. ‘It’s probably time somebody does something about it.’ Crews will start work this fall building the Sustainable Beef plant on nearly 400 acres near North Platte, Nebraska, and other groups are making similar surprising moves in Iowa, Idaho and Wisconsin. The enterprises will test whether it’s really possible to compete financially against an industry trend that has swept through American agriculture and that played a role in meat shortages during the coronavirus pandemic.”


The Great American Ammunition Conspiracy

[The American Prospect 10-21-2021]

….But due to consolidation within the industry, only a couple of incumbent companies have that ability to make it through low-demand periods. When demand surges, they are no longer forced to produce, but can focus instead on “efficiencies.” They can raise prices and generate shortages, knowing that no one else exists to meet the demand that they cannot or will not fill.

Such refusals to invest in increased capacity can clearly be seen as Vista’s plan over the last few years. According to their annual reports, Vista is focused on “long-term shareholder value,” and when they have influxes of cash, they acquire more companies that “deliver top-line growth … within one year of purchase.” They do not build more plants, even though they project more long-term increased demand; building a plant to increase capacity is a long-term project, one that does not return a profit in a year, much less a quarter….

Remington’s story involves some twists and turns and financial engineering. In 2007, private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management bought the then-thriving Remington, using it as a piggy bank. To execute the buyout, Remington borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars it immediately handed over to Cerberus, which meant that Cerberus would make money on the deal no matter whether Remington succeeded.

Initially, Cerberus made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from Remington, due to high gun sales during the Obama years. But when demand decreased after Donald Trump’s election, Remington was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2018. The firm restructured its debt and continued operating under new creditors, but due to continued mismanagement and lawsuits, Remington filed for bankruptcy again in 2020. Vista Outdoors bought Remington’s ammunition brand later that year.

Winchester’s story is more straightforward. Chemical producer Olin Corporation bought Winchester in 1931 and is now “a leading U.S. manufacturer of ammunition.” Olin’s most recent annual report revealed that Winchester sales increased from $665.5 million in 2019 to $927.6 million in 2020. This increase is reportedly due to “higher commercial and military sales, which included ammunition produced at Lake City, and higher commercial ammunition pricing.” Olin won a $28.3 million, ten-year contract to operate the Department of Defense’s Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in September of 2019. It also won contracts with the Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, and the FBI.

Olin’s management of the Lake City plant illustrates another aspect of consolidation with small arms ammunition. During World War II, the U.S. government owned and operated 84 ammunition plants. Now there are soon to be just 14, and they require extensive modernization. Lake City is the only producer of military-grade small arms ammunition, producing “85 percent of DoD’s small caliber ammunition.”

The extensive restructuring of publicly owned ammunition capacity was done during the Clinton-era “reinventing government” privatization mania.


The pandemic

COVID-19 was the No. 1 killer of Americans age 35 to 54 last month, and No. 2 overall

[The Week, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]


Health Care Crisis

Moderna won’t share its vaccine recipe. WHO has hired an African startup to crack it

[NPR, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2021]


Report: For 20 Top-Selling Drugs, Big Pharma Made Far More From U.S. Sales Than From the Rest of the World Combined .

[Public Citizen, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]


The Great Resignation

The states where the most people are quitting their jobs seem to have 2 things in common

Dartagnan, October 22, 2021 [DailyKos]

So the highest rate of turnover in August—employees quitting or getting hired—was found in the states which had the highest rate of COVID-19 infection for that month. Logically, that seems to make sense. Workers who live in one of those states were also likely to have a governor or, in the case of Kentucky, a Republican-dominated legislature who opposed business closures, even while the delta variant ravaged the state’s population. Such workers were essentially forced by these states policies to return to work if they could not work from home.


John Deere, the Great Resignation, and the Revenge of the Essential Worker

[New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2021]

By some estimates, over 100,000 workers are currently on strike or have recently voted to strike. They include 38,000 Kaiser Permanente health workers, 1,400 Kellogg’s plant workers, and thousands of nurses in Massachusetts and New York. Over the weekend, 60,000 members of the film and television union IATSE narrowly avoided a strike in a last-minute deal, though by some accounts many of those workers didn’t think the contract negotiations went nearly far enough.

The strikers join the 30 million workers who have quit their jobs this year, in what has been termed the Great Resignation but could more accurately be described as the Great Reassessment of Work…. But the pandemic also magnified the lines between professional classes, where one group of workers spent the last year and a half Zooming in sweatpants as another trundled off to do “essential” and dangerous work, often for significantly lower pay. As the striking John Deere workers’ slogan goes: “Deemed essential in 2020, prove it in 2021. Can’t build it from home.”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-21-21]


“Biden Races Clock and Holds Few Tools in Supply-Chain Crisis”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-21-21]

Lambert Strether extracts this “Amazing nugget”:

“Trucking is an industry long beset by grueling hours and declining pay. Few know those hardships better than port truck drivers. Port truckers are typically independent contractors, without the benefits and protections of unionized transport sectors or even major companies with shipping divisions, like Inc. Their jobs require them to line up for hours to pick up cargo, and they’re paid only when they move it. ‘The port truck driver, for decades now, has basically been the slack adjuster in the whole system,” said Steve Viscelli, an economic sociologist with the University of Pennsylvania who studies labor markets and supply chains. The entire system, he said, is built around free labor from truck drivers as they wait for containers. The Teamsters union says Biden should try to encourage organization of port drivers so that they can bargain for better pay and benefits. But the president has instead focused on trying to produce new drivers by streamlining licensing. The White House says an average of 50,000 commercial drivers licenses and learners permits have been issued each month this year, 14% above 2019 and far above 2020 levels, when the pandemic shuttered training programs.” • And then the newly licensed drivers discover they have to work long hours for nothing, and move on, right?


Half a Million South Korean Workers Walk Off Jobs in General Strike

[Truthout, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021]


The John Deere Strike: Organized Labor’s Turning Point?

[Naked Capitalism 10-18-2021]


John Deere Strike: A Union Member Explains How Bad Faith Dealings Produced Today’s Grievances

[Naked Capitalism 10-19-2021]

“A backgrounder from TroyIA, a Naked Capitalism reader and John Deere worker, on what drove union members to strike.”


“Deere wins injunction against Davenport picketers. Deere official says it was needed to ‘provide safe entry and exit’ to Iowa plant”

[North Platte Telegraph, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-21-21]

“Chief Judge Marlita Greve granted the injunction Wednesday, ordering the UAW to limit to four the number of picketers that can be “near” each gate of Davenport Works, banning the use of chairs and barrel fires by picketers and prohibiting harassment and intimidation tactics that at least five trucking companies have said they encountered. Paul Iversen, staff at the University of Iowa’s Labor Center, said it is unusual to see an injunction ban fire barrels and chairs. Typically, items that are banned have to be ‘disruptive’ and ‘intimidating.’ ‘The fact that you have something to keep you warm on a cold day is not usually the subject of an injunction over things that cause harm to Deere,’ Iversen said. ‘It’s hard to see how burn barrels and chairs would cause harm to the company.’ Iversen also said that the Deere injunction’s limitation on picketers is more restrictive than he usually sees. ‘Four is pretty low,’ Iversen said ‘Typically you’ll see six or eight.’ The injunction prohibits picketing or congregating ‘near the Contractor Gate [scab?] entrance,’ which is regarded a neutral gate that cannot be picketed, Deere’s documents state.”


“‘Let’s Put a Wrench in Things Now’: Deere Workers Strike as Company Rakes in Record Profits”

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“Deere is attempting to run the plants with salaried employees—some engineers but many white-collar office workers as well. According to one of these workers, some had to buy steel-toed boots in preparation for their strikebreaking deployment. Just hours into the strike, an ambulance had already been called at the Drivetrain Operations in Waterloo. At the Tractor Cab and Assembly Operations across town, a salaried worker crashed a tractor into a pole on the first day. In Coffeyville, Kansas, members on the picket line reported hearing alarms repeatedly going off in the plant, and it was rumored that a salaried employee attempting to operate the furnace had been calling members and retirees for advice. White-collar Deere workers, who are not union members, have their own gripes. Deere cut hundreds of salaried jobs in 2020 and forced some of the remaining employees into lower pay grades and contractor status, according to salaried workers. Now, hundreds of these workers find themselves working 12-hour days, six days a week, in jobs they are not trained for and did not sign up for. About 650 were reassigned to the Parts Distribution Center in Milan, Illinois. ‘If Deere wanted to piss off all of their employees simultaneously, they’ve done a very good job of doing so,’ one white-collar worker wrote to Labor Notes.” • This is a very, very good round-up, including lots of contract details.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-21


“Overworked and Underpaid: Inside the Kellogg’s Strike”

[The Progressive, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021]

“in 2015, when the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) was negotiating its contract with Kellogg’s, the company threatened to close one of its four plants—either the factory in Omaha, Nebraska; Memphis, Tennessee; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; or Battle Creek, Michigan—if the union didn’t make concessions. With cereal sales declining, Kellogg’s wanted hourly workers to understand the need for compromise. Union members reluctantly agreed to the terms of the contract, which featured a two-tier system, where 30 percent of the workforce was considered transitional—with lower pay and fewer benefits—while the remaining 70 percent was designated as regular, full-time employees. By the time Kellogg’s contract with BCTGM expired in 2020, a lot had changed. Cereal, unlike in 2015, was on the rise. And with a booming cereal market, spurred by pandemic-era lockdowns, came an increased demand on Kellogg’s hourly employees to produce more of its products—including breakfast classics such as Rice Krispies, Frosted Flakes, and Froot Loops. In many cases, employees were pushed to work twelve-to-sixteen-hour days, seven days a week, with no holidays or vacation time. In the current contract negotiations, BCTGM aims to do away with the two-tier system, which the union calls a ‘devious way for employers to slowly, but surely, take power from union members, their contract, and their union.’ Transitional workers make roughly $12 less per hour than regular full-time employees, with higher insurance premiums, less vacation time, and no retirement benefits. When negotiations reached a standstill, nearly 1,400 hourly workers at the four Kellogg’s plants went on strike on October 5.”


“Pitt faculty votes to unionize in landslide election”

[Post-Gazette, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“Faculty at the University of Pittsburgh will be forming a union, capping a five-year organizing campaign with an overwhelming vote in favor of joining the United Steelworkers. The final tally Tuesday showed that 1,511 faculty members, or 71% of those who cast ballots, voted in favor of a union, while 612 members, or 29%, voted against. … Pitt’s faculty union will become the largest new union of any kind in the country this year, organizers said, with more than 3,000 people represented across all five of the university’s campuses. The union includes all full-time and tenured professors, as well as some part-time faculty.


Predatory Finance

Wall Street’s Takeover of Nature Advances with Launch of New Asset Classs — Whitney Webb

Whitney Webb [via Mike Norman Economics 10-20-2021]

A project of the multilateral development banking system, the Rockefeller Foundation and the New York Stock Exchange recently created a new asset class that will put, not just the natural world, but the processes underpinning all life, up for sale under the guise of promoting “sustainability.”


Managers Have More Assets Under Management Than Ever Before — But Alternatives Are Driving the Business

[Institutional Investor, via The Big Picture 10-19-2021]

The largest 500 firms in the world manage $120 trillion. BlackRock is still at the top of list when measured by assets, but Blackstone has the most enviable market cap.


Disrupting mainstream economics

The case for minting a $1tn coin to deal with America’s debt ceiling

Nathan Tankus [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]


We Need to Think Harder About Inflation

Stephanie Kelton [The Lensvia Mike Norman Economics 10-18-2021]

Tom Hickey introduces Kelton: “In my view, the first step in “thinking about inflation” is not thinking about it at all, but rather jettisoning the concept entirely since it is not reducible to simple inputs, as commonly supposed, but rather involves a constellation of factors whose importance varies with conditions affecting both supply and demand on one hand, and institutional factors as well. There is too much investment in what amounts to nonsense like “monetary policy” to redefine the terms so as to fit a realistic model — if that could even be done in a social science whose subject matter is a complex adaptive system.”


Inflation in the 21st Century Taking Down the Inflationary Straw Man of the 1970s

[Cornell Research Academy of Development, Law, and Economics, via The Big Picture 10-18-2021]

Four decades of relative fiscal austerity in the United States, coupled with accelerating globalization and technological development, have produced a disinflationary-to-deflationary tendency – extending from prices to labor incomes – that only substantial amounts of targeted federal spending can restore to equilibrium. With sustained levels of accelerating inflation being very unlikely.


The Supply Chain Story Everyone Is Missing

Robert Kuttner, October 20, 2021 [The American Prospect]

The deeper cause is too much offshoring and too little domestic production…. We cannot fix this crisis by adding to port capacity or working longshoremen and truckers overtime. It is a systemic failure, rooted in too much corporate power and too much faith in markets, deregulation, and hyper-globalism—the cocktail otherwise known as neoliberalism. Bring jobs and supplies home, restore some regulation, and the supply chain crisis goes away.

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

“This Simple Experiment Could Challenge Standard Quantum Theory”

[Scientific American], via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-22-21]

A deceptively simple experiment that involves making precise measurements of the time it takes for a particle to go from point A to point B could spark a breakthrough in quantum physics. The findings could focus attention on an alternative to standard quantum theory called Bohmian mechanics, which posits an underworld of unseen waves that guide particles from place to place. A new study, by a team at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) in Germany, makes precise predictions for such an experiment using Bohmian mechanics, a theory formulated by theoretical physicist David Bohm in the 1950s and augmented by modern-day theorists. Standard quantum theory fails in this regard, and physicists have to resort to assumptions and approximations to calculate particle transit times. ‘If people knew that a theory that they love so much—standard quantum mechanics—cannot make [precise] predictions in such a simple case, that should at least make them wonder,’ says theorist and LMU team member Serj Aristarhov.”


“Researchers make hardened wooden knives that slice through steak”

[, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“‘Cellulose, the main component of wood, has a higher ratio of strength to density than most engineered materials, like ceramics, metals, and polymers, but our existing usage of wood barely touches its full potential,’ [Teng Li, the senior author of the study and a materials scientist at the University of Maryland] says. Even though it’s often used in building, wood’s strength falls short of that of cellulose. This is because wood is made up of only 40%–50% cellulose, with the rest consisting of hemicellulose and lignin, which acts as a binder. Li and his team sought to process wood in such a way to remove the weaker components while not destroying the cellulose skeleton. ‘It’s a two-step process,’ says Li. “In the first step, we partially delignify wood. Typically, wood is very rigid, but after removal of the lignin, it becomes soft, flexible, and somewhat squishy. In the second step, we do a hot press by applying pressure and heat to the chemically processed wood to densify and remove the water.’” And: “The first step requires boiling the wood at 100° Celsius in a bath of chemicals…” And: “After the material is processed and carved into the desired shape, it is coated in mineral oil to extend its lifetime.” • So it might be possible to do this at home?


Jet Fuel Made From This Crop Could Cut Emissions by Up to 68%, New Analysis Proves

[Science Alert, via Naked Capitalism 10-18-2021]

They’re not capitalists – they’re a criminal predatory class

The City of London Is Hiding the World’s Stolen Money

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 10-14-2021]

If there is one country at the system’s heart, it is Britain. Taken together with its partly controlled territories overseas, Britain is instrumental in the worldwide concealment of cash and assets. It is, as a member of the ruling Conservative Party said last week, “the money laundering capital of the world.” And the City of London, its gilded financial center, is at the system’s core.


US elites’ imperial corruption compares to Opium War

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]


The problem with America’s semi-rich

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 10-17-2021]

…a new book by philosopher Matthew Stewart (no relation), The 9.9 percent: The New Aristocracy That Is Entrenching Inequality and Warping Our Culture.

There are some defining characteristics of today’s American upper-middle class, per Stewart’s telling. They are hyper-focused on getting their kids into great schools and themselves into great jobs, at which they’re willing to work super-long hours. They want to live in great neighborhoods, even if that means keeping others out, and will pay what it takes to ensure their families’ fitness and health. They believe in meritocracy, that they’ve gained their positions in society by talent and hard work. They believe in markets. They’re rich, but they don’t feel like it — they’re always looking at someone else who’s richer.

They’re also terrified. While this 9.9 percent drives inequality — they want to lock in their positions for themselves and their families — they’re also driven by inequality. They recognize that American society is increasingly one of have-nots, and they’re determined not to be one of them.


The Hidden Ways the Ultrarich Pass Wealth to Their Heirs Tax-Free

[BusinessWeek, via The Big Picture 10-22-2021]

An inside look at how Nike founder Phil Knight is giving a fortune to his family while avoiding billions in U.S. taxes.


“Weak minds”

[The Scrum, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-19-21]

“If we are to accept Galbraith or Thiel in their respective explanations for decline and their propositions for reversal, then the U.S. has two paths before it: a moderate approach using New Deal Lite economic mechanisms to achieve a slow yet growing economy—this appears to be the Biden administration’s strategy—or a bold, risk-taking approach to governance that relies on the primordial scapegoating mechanism described by René Girard. This could arguably be identified as the Trump administration’s way at our problems. The major issue with Galbraith’s progressive approach is that the solidarity needed to achieve even the slow-growth approach he advocates is notoriously absent… The superior approach is a Thiel/Galbraith synthesis: dispense with the impotent saber-rattling and hostile stance toward the social safety net; instead direct wrath toward a largely parasitic and rent-extracting billionaire class, treat China as a powerful competitor, and concentrate on increasing domestic industrial capacity with an emphasis on the greatest threat to America (and mankind: climate change).”


Progressive Policies into the Breach

A Lenape Tribe Finally Wrests Its Sacred Site Back From Developers

[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021]

And, within sight of Manhattan!


Biden’s radical Treasury nominee in her own words

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-22-21]

As Lambert Strether noted, The Hill’s reaction is instructive as an example of “Conservative aghastitude.” AFAIC (as far as I’m concerned), in an era where we’ve lost the republic to the encroachments of oligarchy put in place by financiers and rentiers, provoking such a reaction is a good sign and deserves more investigation of Omarova. The Wikipedia entry on her certainly is very interesting, for all the right reasons. 

“In an incomprehensible act, President Biden has nominated as comptroller of the currency Saule Omarova — a law school professor who thinks that banks should have their deposit business taken away and transferred to the government, the Federal Reserve should be the monopoly provider of retail and commercial deposits, the Fed should perform national credit allocation, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York should intervene in investment markets whenever it thinks prices are too high or too low (shorting or buying a wide range of investments accordingly), the government should sit on boards of directors of private banks with special powers and disproportionate voting power, new federal bureaucracies should be set up to regulate financial regulators and carry out national investment policy and in general, it seems, has never thought of a vast government bureaucracy or a statist power that she doesn’t like.”


Information Age Dystopia

Public health or private wealth? How digital vaccine passports pave way for unprecedented surveillance capitalism The Gray Zone, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021] Caitlin Johnstone comments: “No normal people want digital identity laws passed. Normal people aren’t sitting around going ‘Man it sure sucks we can’t prove our identity online with a digital ID that contains all our information.’ Only the powerful want this, and for good reason.”


Investors Use AI To Analyze CEOs’ Language Patterns and Tone

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2021]


Mark Zuckerberg Will Be Added as a Defendant in Lawsuit Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal

[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism 10-21-2021]


The rich and famous

Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference

Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò [The Philosopher, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-18-2021]

“Deference epistemology asks us to be less than we are – and not even for our own benefit. As Nick Estes explains in the context of Indigenous politics: ‘The cunning of trauma politics is that it turns actual people and struggles, whether racial or Indigenous citizenship and belonging, into matters of injury. It defines an entire people mostly on their trauma and not by their aspirations or sheer humanity.’ This performance is not for the benefit of Indigenous people, but ‘for white audiences or institutions of power.’ I also think about James Baldwin’s realization that the things that tormented him the most were ‘the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.’ That I have survived abuse of various kinds, have faced near-death from both accidental circumstance and violence (different as the particulars of these may be from those around me) is not a card to play in gamified social interaction or a weapon to wield in battles over prestige. It is not what gives me a special right to speak, to evaluate, or to decide for a group. It is a concrete, experiential manifestation of the vulnerability that connects me to most of the people on this Earth. It comes between me and other people not as a wall, but as a bridge.”


Global Population Control

Boris Johnson [via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2021]

(see also The Telegraph). From 2007, still germane. Johnson:

“How the hell can we witter on about tackling global warming, and reducing consumption, when we are continuing to add so relentlessly to the number of consumers? … This is a straightforward question of population, and the eventual size of the human race.”


Collapse of Independent News Media

Refreshingly Honest Billionaire Says Media Purchase Will Be Used For Propaganda

Caitlin Johnstone [via Mike Norman Economics 10-17-2021]


The Chicago Tribune is being murdered before our eyes

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-2021]

The perp: Alden Capital.”


All The News That’s Fit To Spin

Andrew Perez, David Sirota, Walter Bragman [The Daily Poster, October 20, 2021]

Companies are using D.C.’s tip sheet industry to supercharge the corporate media crusade against climate, health care, and anti-poverty legislation…. In the rip-and-read world of news and politics, these newsletters are the talking points torn out by pundits, TV bookers and lobbyists and then turned into newspaper columns, to-camera diatribes and pitches to lawmakers. They are, in other words, the prefabricated scripts distributed throughout news industry superstructure, wrapped in the veneer of objectivity, and then blasted out to the general population under the banner of corporate media mastheads.


Democrats en Deshabille

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-22-2021]


“Democrats’ months of dithering are sandbagging Biden’s popularity”

Ryan Cooper [The Week, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-21-21]

“When a political party confidently seizes the initiative to pass a strong agenda, its party rank and file is emboldened and encouraged, and it takes on an air of success and vision. Of course, it’s possible to go too far with bad ideas (see: the Trump tax cuts), but if the policy is good — like the ARP — a positive momentum begins to build. All that is doubly true in times of crisis, when the public is confused, afraid, and looking for leadership…. But if a party looks like a pack of feckless, timid cowards who can’t even agree if they want to do anything, let alone what to do precisely, the base is demoralized. The party takes on an air of weakness and failure…. If Biden’s approval numbers don’t improve, Democrats will be wiped out in the 2022 midterms. They’ll be locked out of power for a decade, at least. The quickest way to reverse the damage would be to stop screwing around and pass the Biden agenda, but it remains to be seen whether party leaders can manage it. Their weakness will self-perpetuate if it doesn’t end soon.”

Lambert Strether adds: “I think Cooper needs to look on the bright side. When “Build Back Better” passes, and its a fifteen-foot ladder while voters are in a thirty-foot hole: (1) The “progressives” are put firmly in their place (see Parliamentary Labour), as are (2) their programs. while (3) liberal and “centrist” Democrats retain control of the party and (4) lose the midterms and then 2024 and don’t have to govern, (5) while still raking in the bucks. What’s not to like? (I’m not saying this is all a cunning plot, just that this is the way the various pieces of Democrat machinery interact to produce a result.) To be fair, a legacy of reporting every $600 transaction to the IRS is something every Democrat can feel proud of.”


“Kyrsten Sinema Fought For Seniors”

Julia Rock [The Daily Poster, October 20, 2021]

The insurance industry is bankrolling misleading ads and lobbying to derail Democratic legislation that would expand Medicare benefits and cut into their profits….

“One of the reasons why they are so focused on Medicare Advantage is they are finding that the commercial insurance market, private side, is not growing,” said Potter, the former insurance executive. “It hasn’t been growing for years. The unsustainable increase in premiums year after year and their constant shifting of out-of-pocket costs, is making health insurance unaffordable for businesses, so there is no growth there.”

Ahead of the current open enrollment period for Medicare plans, which began on October 15, major insurers including UnitedHealth GroupHumana, and Aetna announced new expansions into the Medicare Advantage space.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-2021]


How Sen. Manchin just Positioned Chinese Firms to dominate the Green Energy Markets of the 21st Century, Leaving the US in the Dust

Juan Cole [via Mike Norman Economics, October 21, 2021]

By 2025, unsubsidized solar power with battery storage everywhere in China will be cheaper than coal. Indeed, solar plus battery is already cheaper than coal in 3/4s of the country. Especially given drops in the cost of battery storage, the paper concludes that China can get 43% of its total power from solar at less than 2.5 cents a kilowatt hour by 2060, making the Communist Party’s current plans for decarbonization by then plausible. Coal is usually figured at 5 cents a kilowatt hour, and solar plus battery is already less than that.


What If Build Back Better Builds Back Worse?

David Dayen, October 19, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Joe Manchin’s prescriptions for the Biden bill in some cases even fall short of the status quo…. Once winnowed down by Manchin, what’s left of Biden’s proposal? Manchin is “less interested” in paid family and medical leave, or elder care, according to Axios. There’s enough opposition to the drug pricing reform from Democrats other than Manchin to potentially sink it, and typically, it’s the savings from health care–related items that fund other health care advances. In other words, no drug pricing piece could mean no Medicare expansion, Obamacare subsidies, or fix of the Medicaid coverage gap. Biden has acknowledged that his plan for two years of tuition-free community college is likely gone. The immigration measures were bounced out by the Senate parliamentarian, and the PRO Act unionization measures could face the same fate. The housing proposal might have the broadest support of all—AOC and Josh Gottheimer signed the same letter supporting it—and yet that looks to be threatened, too.


“Democratic Child Care Plan Will Spike Prices for the Middle Class by $13,000” [Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“Under the Democratic child care plan, child care worker wages will increase to the wages currently received by elementary school teachers. The median child care worker is currently paid $25,460 per year while the median elementary school teacher is currently paid $60,660 per year. Thus, this mandate will increase child care worker pay by 138 percent. If we increase the salary cost from the CAP estimate above by 138 percent, the unsubsidized price of child care goes from $15,888 per year to $28,970, an increase of $13,082 per year. And this is not the only thing the bill does that will increase the cost of care…. But in the first 3 years of the program, families with incomes that are just $1 over 100% of the median income (year one), 115% of the median income (year two), or 130% of the median income (year three) will be eligible for zero subsidies, meaning that they will be on the hook for the entire unsubsidized price, which as discussed above will now be at least $13,000 per year higher than before.” • It’s like they looked at the ObamaCare bubble and said “That was great! Let’s do it again!” On the bright side, at least we don’t have Bronze Child Care, Silver Child Care, Gold Child Care, and Platinum Child Care. Perhaps that would have been a little to on-the-nose?


“Neera Tanden named staff secretary for President Biden”

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-22-21]

“Neera Tanden was named the next White House staff secretary on Friday morning, putting her in the nerve center of the building charged with overseeing the paper flow for President Biden, according to a White House official briefed on the move…. The staff secretary, who reports to the chief of staff, traditionally plays the role of both traffic cop and honest broker in the White House, with control over the documents that make it to the president, whether they be briefing books or decision memos laying out the arguments on major decisions…. The White House staff secretary has often served as a steppingstone for other roles in government. Former White House counsel Harriet Miers, Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh and former White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, a mentor for Tanden, have all previously held the job.”


The Dark Side

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]


“A Salaried John Deere Employee Reportedly Hit A Striking UAW Member With A Car” [Jalopnik, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“However, according to Jonah Furman, a journalist covering the strike on the ground, the driver was a salaried Deere employee. Thankfully, Furman says the UAW member wasn’t seriously injured or killed…. As Furman points out, though, this isn’t a one-off incident. It’s happened several times at different strikes so far this year. It’s horrible any time someone attempts to murder someone else with their car, but it sounds like workers participating in the the Warrior Met Coal strike in Alabama have been targets of this particular type of violence. According to journalist Kim Kelly, there have been five separate car attacks that sent multiple people to the hospital.”


“Iowa Democratic Party chair reports lynching threat after writing op-ed critical of Donald Trump”

[Des Moines Register, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-20-21]

“Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn received multiple threats, including one of lynching, after he penned an opinion piece critical of former President Donald Trump, he told the Des Moines Register…. After the essay’s publication, Wilburn said he received two threatening phone messages and one threatening email to his legislative email address, which all made reference to what he wrote in the article…. ‘I’m concerned about this type of escalation of comments, including violent references, that are happening, even down to some of the school board meetings and elections that are coming up,’ he said. ‘… If anyone’s ever subject to these types of threatening actions, I encourage them to don’t just sit by and take it. Report it.’” • Wilburn is saying, in essence, that the threats were “inappropriate,” which indeed they are; at some point, somebody’s gonna get whacked, or a building blown up. But the way I read this is that conservatives are more serious about their politics; they would prefer to be the ones to whom things are reported, rather than doing the reporting. At some point, probably when it’s too late, the Democrats will discover that they needed a militant wing. But who on earth would defend them, and why?


“Capitol Rioters in Jail’s ‘Patriot Wing’ Have Their Own Rituals and a Growing Fan Base”

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-22-21]

“At 9 p.m. every night, inmates in the so-called Patriot Wing of the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility reportedly stand at attention and sing The Star-Spangled Banner. You can even listen, if you want, to an alleged recording of it on the website called The Patriot Freedom Project. Inmates had also started their own handwritten newsletter and passed it from cell to cell, one detainee told NBC 4. Part of a letter from one inmate, Guy Reffitt, and signed “The 1/6 -ers,” was published by ProPublica earlier this year and entered into evidence in the court. It reads like a manifesto on behalf of the Capitol rioters. ‘We have been labeled the enemy, yet clearly we see tyranny as the enemy,’ they wrote. ‘While our lawyers do our bidding and the judges do their duties, we remain resolute, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem all in unison, loud and proud most every day. All because we are us, we are you, we are all Americans and in here, we have no labels.’ The ‘Patriot Wing’ houses the most hardcore perpetrators of the January 6 riot, roughly 40 men in all.”




Open Thread


Periods of Popular Political Change Happen When…


  1. Ché Pasa

    “I am sick because the world is sick”
    –Bodhisattva Vimalakirti c. 500 BCE

  2. Hugh

    In politics, fascism, and in economics, neoliberalism, say lots of things that are patently false and don’t work, and none of this matters as long as what they do is profitable for the few, and not us.

  3. different clue

    Here is a website which is more suited to “economic combat” than to “surviving hard times”, so I think the Weekly wrap-up is a better place to bring it.

    It explains itself and its mission, and also offers many links to various thinky-pieces and also some links about how to live greenishly in such a way as to deny revenue and support to the Upper Class Enemy Economy. ( Perhaps we could mash “enemy economy” into ” enemyconomy”.)

    Here is the website.

  4. If anybody wants to learn more about Bohm-ian quantum mechanics, and, more generally, questions in the foundations of physics, they can read a free 500+ page book on the subject by Antony Valentini and Bacciagaluppi: Quantum Theory at the Crossroads: Reconsidering the 1927 Solvay Conference, arxiv dot org/abs/quant-ph/0609184

    I’m so glad that some physicists kept at this, even though they’d smugly be accused of pursuing philosophy, or otherwise being over the hill. Some famous physicists, like Steven Weinberg and Gerard ‘t Hooft, have at least been vocal about pursuing a deeper theory. I’ll also mention that Paul LaViolette, who has a bachelor’s degree in physics, has a more fundamental theory called “subquantum klinetics”, that he claims many experimental verifications of (I question at least one of these). See starburstfound dot org/predictions-part-2/

  5. Trinity

    So, the push back has begun in earnest. This is part of that “cyclical” nature of the universe, first one group seizes power and ascends, then other groups push back against that ascension. Nature pushes back, too, and demands that what does up must also eventually come down. Unfortunately for us and future generations, it’s going to be quite awhile before global average temperatures come down. I attended a climate science presentation by the NAS last week, and they said we’ve pushed back the next ice age by hundreds of thousands of years. Maybe that sounds good until you realize what that says about how long it’s going to be until things start to cool down again.

    The twitter feed with the alternative perspective of empty shelves was great. Sad, not surprising, but great because it informs. No problem is a solitary problem or exists in isolation, there is no single cause for every effect, everything really is connected to everything else. If one day we come out of this by acknowledging/accepting this as truth, a universal truth, we will finally be doing the future some good.

    There is no one simple answer for the problems we collectively face. And the single biggest problem we face are the threats to all living things embodied in a single group currently in power. But eliminating their power, however that occurs, won’t change the future unless we also accept the basis for all life, that everything is connected to everything else, amid the cyclical nature of the universe. We need to work within natural cycles, instead of thinking the rules don’t apply to us. The problem with greed isn’t just its immorality, greed also isn’t sustainable, can never be sustainable, at any scale.

  6. official data

    in the UK, the ratio of per capita covid deaths of fully vaccinated / unvaccinated rose from 1.94/7.73 to 1.96/5.28 (from 9/11-9/17 to 10/2-10/8)

    or .25 -> .37 or 48%

    in Massachussetts, from 9/5 to 10/20 (approx), the percentage of hospitalized covid patients who were vaccinated rose from 25% to 35%, or a 40% increase.


    looking again at the UK numbers, the delta for unvaccinated was 7.73-5.28 = 2.45. Another 10 weeks of such drops will put the per capita vaxxed deaths above those of the unvaxxed.


    Unfortunately, such facile comparisons are less useful than they were, previously, as the vaccines wear off and you need boosters, at a certain point. Even if you’re doubly vaxxed, that becomes irrelevant, at some point.


    I went looking for current Israeli data, after writing the above. I found an article strongly supportive of the efficacy of continuing vaccination (i.e., boosters) against covid hospitalization and death. See “Unvaxxed 10% of Israelis Are 73% of Serious Cases, 65% of Deaths ” at haaretz dot com.

    I still think it’s an incredibly stupid idea, except for edge cases. Forget, for a moment, the true number of people killed and disabled by the vaccines, the non-sterilyzing nature of the vaccines, the increasing risk of ADE, the selection pressure for proliferation of variants, the fact that the vaccinated are perfectly capable of spreading the virus (and some cohorts are more prone to infection than the unvaccinated), the lack of mucosal immune protection, etc.

    Instead, just consider the large grain effect of death from covid amongst the vaccinated. From “serious antibody drop after vaccine” at the highwire dot com, you can see a graph at 7:23 which shows significant negative ‘protection’ for part of the population, at 7+ months after the 2nd dose.. While this looks like an edge effect (given a presumed median of 55.6% vaccine effectiveness) for whatever people found on the bottom side of that line, they in a sense MUST get boosters, presumably “forever”. That’s because they are becoming more susceptible to covid, after the 7 month mark after 2nd dose of vaccination, than if they had not been vaccinated, at all.

    I don’t know if this constitutes evidence of ADE, or not. However, if you’re one of the unfortunates on the bottom of that line, you have more to fear from covid than if you had not been vaccinated, save endlessly exposing yourself to the risk of boosters.

    NOTE: “some cohorts are more prone to infection than the unvaccinated” evidence is graphed in the same highwire video, at 8:26

  7. different clue


    The best way to learn about living within the permission-zone of eco-biophysical cycles is to learn about it from people who already knew it and lived it, and/or still remember it and live it as best as they can today in the teeth of anti-sustainability oppression and persecution.

    As to those who will not learn, we need to get powerful and numerous enough to where we actually can cut them loose and let them live out the meaning of their refusal to learn all by themselves, without compromising survival for the rest of us.

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