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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 30, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Mike Davis, California’s ‘prophet of doom’, on activism in a dying world: ‘Despair is useless’ 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

You’ve been organizing for social change your whole life. How do you deal with a future that feels so bleak?

For someone my age who was in the civil rights movement, and in other struggles of the 1960s, I’ve seen miracles happen. I’ve seen ordinary people do the most heroic things. When you’ve had the privilege of knowing so many great fighters and resisters, you can’t lay down the sword, even if things seem objectively hopeless.

I’ve always been influenced by the poems Brecht wrote in the late 30s, during the second world war, after everything had been incinerated, all the dreams and values of an entire generation destroyed, and Brecht said, well, it’s a new dark ages … how do people resist in the dark ages?

What keeps us going, ultimately, is our love for each other, and our refusal to bow our heads, to accept the verdict, however all-powerful it seems. It’s what ordinary people have to do. You have to love each other. You have to defend each other. You have to fight.


Global power shift

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

George Yeo, Singapore Cabinet member for 21 years (!):


Slouching Towards Reverse Colonialism

Yves Smith, , October 27, 2022 [Naked Capitalism]

…it’s not so hard to see how we got here: our feckless leaders, after decades of believing their own PR about Russia, had convinced themselves that the shock and awe sanctions of late February would prostrate Russia, leading to the rapid ouster of Putin and Zelensky and Victoria Nuland toasting each other in Moscow….

The US and EU, having only mediocre hacks in charge, could not admit error and try to find a sanctions Plan B, which could have attempted face saving by being more surgical (“Oh, we really want to pound those evil Rooskies, but these vulnerable populations are suffering too much, so here’s how we are refining the program.”) No, the answer to failed and self-harming sanctions has been even more failed and self-harming sanctions. And the media has evidently done a great job of covering for the sanctions disaster. Even with the start of some public pushback in America, the noise has been about shoveling ever-more taxpayer dollars into the Ukraine money pit and the risk of nuclear war, and not the sanctions debacle….


How the U.K. Became One of the Poorest Countries in Western Europe 

Derek Thompson [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

Britain chose finance over industry, austerity over investment, and a closed economy over openness to the world.


UK’s first Anglo-Asian leader grips a poison chalice 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

But if Sunak, 42, is a poster boy for overcoming racial barriers, he is also representative of the UK’s other social bugbear: classism.

As one of the UK’s 250 wealthiest people, the Oxford graduate and ex-Goldman Sachs banker is certainly a member of the elite, raising allegations that he is out of touch with the lives of the average Nigel and Ella.


A Former Goldman Sachs/Hedge Fund Guy Is the New U.K. Prime Minister

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 25, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Sunak will be terrible, and unless Labour changes tack he could win despite that

Richard Murphy [Tax Research UK, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

Economically, he will deliver austerity. I suspect he will keep Hunt in office. They agree on crushing public spending. Fear for the NHS, education, benefits, pensions, public sector employees and so much else. Destruction is their chosen path for public services.

Fear too for borrowers. These two will not challenge the Bank of England plan to increase interest rates with devastating consequences for millions of households, whether in mortgage or rent payments. Businesses will fail and unemployment will rise. This will be Sunak’s choice.


Russia / Ukraine

Washington’s Plan to Break Up Russia

Mike Whitney, October 27, 2022 [Unz Review]

“Cheney ‘wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.’...The West must complete the project that began in 1991 …. Until Moscow’s empire is toppled, though, the region—and the world—will not be safe…” (“Decolonize Russia”, The Atlantic)

“Given (Russia’s) size and diversity, a decentralized political system and free-market economics would be most likely to unleash the creative potential of the Russian people and Russia’s vast natural resources. A loosely confederated Russia — composed of a European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic — would also find it easier to cultivate closer economic relations with its neighbors. Each of the confederated entitles would be able to tap its local creative potential, stifled for centuries by Moscow’s heavy bureaucratic hand. In turn, a decentralized Russia would be less susceptible to imperial mobilization.” (Zbigniew Brzezinski, “A Geostrategy for Eurasia”, Foreign Affairs, 1997)


Putin: ‘The Situation Is, to a Certain Extent, Revolutionary’

Pepe Escobar [Strategic Culture Foundation, via Mike Norman Economics 10-28-2022]


Lawmakers seek emergency powers for Pentagon’s Ukraine war contracting 

[Defense News, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

“If the language becomes law, the Department of Defense would be allowed to make non-competitive awards to arms manufacturers for Ukraine-related contracts, an idea spearheaded in legislation from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.” Stoller: “Solid work everyone.”


Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipelines? “Russia, Russia, Russia!” 

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

Trade routes, access to energy, and spheres of influence are the stuff that inspires world wars, and the fight over who would get to be the main supplier of European energy is a powerful casus belli. The United States has every right to lobby against the completion of a Russian-German pipeline. To an extent, it even makes some sense that our government would try to dissemble about who’d benefit from sabotage of the pipeline, after the fact.

However, national press going along with the transparent deception is a lot less forgivable. We’re headed toward a major war and not telling the population the reasons for it. New York Times writer David Sanger for instance knows better than to look into a CNN camera and say, hoping to be taken seriously, that it’s “hard to imagine others with a significant motive.” That such an experienced reporter would pretend he didn’t live through ten years of American politicians screeching demands to stop the pipeline tells you the extent to which government and media have merged. There’s no discernible difference now between the Sangers and Chuck Todds of the world and the craggy-faced retired CIA flacks the networks bring on as guests. The media performance on this one was and is as bad as it gets.


“Most fascinating thing about the Ukraine war is the sheer number of top strategic thinkers who warned for years that it was coming if we continued down the same path.” 

Arnaud Bertrand [ThreadReader, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

The epidemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-23-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-29-2022]


Economics as cultural warfare

May God Save Us From Economists 

Timothy Noah, October 25, 2022 [The New Republic]

The Economicist ascendancy helped identify priorities and impose order on the expanding postwar federal government, injecting a welcome dose of rigor. But it also encouraged a retreat from activist government, one that started to firm up under President Jimmy Carter and then snowballed under President Ronald Reagan. The Economism of Republican administrations, influenced by “freshwater” economists like the University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman, was much more conservative than the Economism of Democratic administrations, influenced by “saltwater” economists like the Brookings Institution’s Charles Schultze. But both schools were conservative in their preference for market solutions, their bias against “command and control” regulation, and their distrust of the sort of bold government experimentation that characterized the New Deal….

By 1967, the Economicist army had established a beachhead at the newly created Department of Transportation, where the FHWA and, later, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA, resided. As these agencies developed various iterations of a regulation mandating strengthened underride guards (informally dubbed “Mansfield bars” in honor of Jayne), a succession of presidential administrations subjected them to analyses that weighed the cost to the trucking industry against the benefit in human lives saved. How much was each human life worth? When the Nixon administration addressed this question in 1971, human life was assigned no value at all—wasn’t that what “priceless” meant?—so of course the Mansfield bar flunked. It was, according to one of the principals, the first decision NHTSA ever made using cost-benefit analysis. Today, all major regulations in all departments of government must pass a cost-benefit test.

The Ford administration considered Mansfield bars again in 1974. This time, a human life was valued at $200,000, based mostly on the lost-income model favored by life insurers, and the rule flunked again. The Clinton administration weighed Mans­field bars a final time in 1996. By now, a human life was valued at around $3 million, based mostly on pay differentials between risky and non-risky manual labor and on surveys asking how much people would pay to avoid risk of death. This technique, still in use, was derived from an influential 1968 essay (“The Life You Save May Be Your Own”) by the Harvard game theorist Thomas Schelling. Three million bucks did the trick, and the regulation was finally promulgated. Today, the federal government values a human life at about $10 million….

But Economism isn’t merely a governing tool; it’s become just about the only governing tool. For half a century, economists have had their finger in every conceivable pie. It was economists, led by Friedman and by Walter Oi of the University of Washington, who showed President Richard Nixon how he could fulfill his 1968 campaign promise to end the Vietnam draft, quieting student protests but a generation later rendering feasible a 20-year military stalemate in Afghanistan. It was economists, led by Alfred E. Kahn of Cornell, who persuaded President Jimmy Carter to deregulate the airline industry, reducing prices but also turning legroom into a commodity for which wealthier passengers pay extra. It was economists, like George Stigler of the University of Chicago, whose work led jurists Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit, Robert Bork of the D.C. Circuit, and Lewis Powell of the Supreme Court to eviscerate antitrust enforcement, enthroning the consumer at great cost to the laborer. “I really don’t know one plane from the other,” Kahn cheerfully confessed. “To me they are all marginal costs with wings.” He was chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board at the time.


Bernie is right: Extreme wealth concentration has turned America into an oligarchy.

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

Capitalism Speculation, usury, rent-seeking

Denis Beau: Between mounting risks and financial innovation – the fintech ecosystem at a crossroads 

[Bank of International Settlements, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]


FX swaps, shadow banks and the global dollar footprint 

[Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, via Naked Capitalism 10-23-2022]

“Despite its partial success in reducing instability due to cross-border financial imbalances, the Fed’s uneven and hierarchical lender of last resort approach cannot sufficiently stabilise global finance to underpin a new era of macrofinancial stability.”


How Binance CEO and aides plotted to dodge regulators in U.S. and UK 

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

A plan to “insulate” itself from the SEC. A backdated document. An exodus of compliance staff. The world’s biggest crypto exchange and its billionaire founder swerved scrutiny by regulators, Reuters found. Now there are signs the strategy is fraying.


The Smash and Grab of Kroger-Albertsons

Matt Stoller [Big, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

The Kroger-Albertsons supermarket deal is uglier than you might expect. The “special cash division” of $4 billion may be intended to get around antitrust enforcers.


The Grain Giants Have Made a Bonanza from Hunger. Time to Take Them Apart

Pat Mooney [openDemocracy, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2022]

For decades, four companies dominated the global grain trade and at least 70% of the market. They are collectively known as ABCD (Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus). China’s state-owned COFCO and a couple of other contenders in Asia are now joining the ABCD to share in booming profits. Cargill reported a 23% increase in revenues to a record $165bn by mid-2022. And during the second quarter of the year, Archer-Daniels-Midland had its highest profits ever.

As food prices skyrocket and hunger rises, and with the prospect of still more supply shortages, such profiteering is clearly unjust and a sign of abject market failure. The price spikes have happened despite abundant public and private reserves of grain. There is no correlation between the grain traders’ outsize profits and what they are delivering in terms of food security or sustainability. The ABCD have failed to meet their basic functions of ensuring food gets to the people who need it, and does so at a stable price.


Big Oil’s Banner Quarter

Jordan Uhl, October 28, 2022 [The Lever]

ExxonMobil posted its biggest quarter ever on Friday, with nearly $20 billion in earnings during the third quarter of this year. This was a 191 percent increase from the $6.75 billion it raked in during Q3 2021.

Chevron reported similarly robust results on Friday. The California-based oil giant’s third-quarter earnings of $11.2 billion were its second-highest quarterly returns ever, nearly double its earnings during Q3 2021.

On Thursday, Shell reported $9.5 billion in earnings over the last three months, more than double the $4.1 billion it earned during the same period last year. In its report to investors, the oil and gas giant announced a $4-billion round of stock buybacks, creating yet another windfall for investors and bringing its total buybacks this year to $18.5 billion.


Disrupting mainstream economics

Universalise Public Services, Fund Job Guarantee, Provide Generous Income Support’ Sowmya Sivakumar interviews — Fadhel Kaboub

[, via Mike Norman Economics 10-23-2022]

In the second and last part of the interview, MMT economist Fadhel Kaboub explains why and how India should urgently work on an alternative framework of development that leaves no one behind….

India has the advantage of having a large internal market, so manufacturing can be scaled up to the point that per unit cost actually reduces. Industries can serve the internal market primarily, without having to rely on finding export markets and competing with other manufacturers globally.

Which means, the role of the government here is to balance the possibility for manufacturers to reach economies of scale and other efficiencies, without creating monopolies or duopolies. And then, of course, you aim for international competitiveness.

Typically, you see any attempt by the government to create new industries is immediately hijacked by pre-existing business elites that are already established in some other sector, and want to take advantage of this new industry, and reinforce their power and influence in politics and in the economy. That is not what we want to see as progress.

So, it is really a question of democracy and democratic processes….

The private sector has certain standards for employment. It will only hire people if it sees profit-making opportunities that require labour to be hired, and at the lowest cost possible. So it’s our responsibility as a society to set the minimum standard in terms of wages, benefits and workplace conditions that we would accept for dignified work in the private sector. If you cannot compete with other firms at that level, then you should be out of business….

The rest of the Indian economy requires food to be priced at a low level. So, you squeeze the farmers and farm workers in order to provide food for the manufacturing sector and people in urban areas, at prices that are acceptable.

This raises another question. Why is it that we require food prices to be so low? It’s because manufacturing workers are underpaid, because they’re competing in the global economy and racing to the bottom. That’s one of the competitive edges for countries in the Global South — to keep their manufacturing and labour costs low. And you cannot underpay workers in the manufacturing sector unless you feed them cheap food….


Class Warfare

“The MTA Says Immigrant Subway Cleaners are Not Entitled to Prevailing Wages”

[Documented, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

“When Jose Luis Dominguez describes his time working as a subway cleaner for NV Maintenance Services, it’s difficult for him not to get angry. One incident sticks out in his mind in particular; his supervisors found out he was driving his co-workers to work every morning. After warning him not to do that, the company arbitrarily ruled that co-workers were not allowed to arrive to work together. ‘We weren’t allowed to talk to each other. We weren’t allowed to be friends. We weren’t allowed to use our phones,’ he said. ‘At the end, things started to get even worse when we weren’t allowed to ride together to work.’ To make matters worse, workers were required to arrive a half hour early before their shift and would be sent home if they weren’t early, Dominguez and his co-worker Hemer Perez said. They were not paid for that time. They also claim that paychecks often had hours missing and overtime pay was not calculated. Workers were also not paid the prevailing wage of at least $28 an hour plus benefits, instead only being paid $20. Under New York State Labor Law, all contractors and subcontractors must pay their employees the prevailing rate of wage and benefits to all workers under a public works contract. When Dominguez and Perez began speaking up about their conditions they were fired. NV Maintenance Services is one of nearly two dozen cleaning companies that were contracted by the MTA to disinfect subway cars during the height of the pandemic.”


A woman was arrested for feeding homeless people in Arizona. Now she’s suing the city. 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]


Exxon’s Exodus: Employees Have Finally Had Enough of Its Toxic Culture

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

The 140-year-old oil company is making more money than ever. Yet the pandemic exposed deep cultural problems—and talent is fleeing.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

This chart shows just how out-of-control rent has gotten: The typical person has to work 64.2 hours just to pay rent — up from 56 hours just two years ago 

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]


Renters Hit Breaking Point in a Sudden Reversal for Landlords

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

Affordability pressures and inflation are holding back tenants


Fed’s Powell Calls U.S. Economy “Robust” as Personal Savings Rate Collapses to Same Level as in Financial Crisis of 2008

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 27, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

JPMorgan Chase Quietly Settles Whistleblower Case Involving Charges of Keeping Two Sets of Books and Improper Payments to Tony Blair

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 26, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]


Real Estate Industry Spends Big To Crush LA “Mansion Tax”

Aditi Ramaswami, October 28, 2022 [The Lever]

Loss of legitimacy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-25-2022]


A political backlash against monetary policy is looming 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]

“Defenders of independent central banks must think about their democratic legitimacy.”


Europe: Great Public Systems and Eroding Public Confidence

Robert Kuttner, October 26, 2022 [The American Prospect]

…European public systems of all kinds are living off the legacy of the postwar social democratic era, which was one of massive social investment as well as broadly rising living standards for ordinary people. As a result, they have a longer political half-life than ours.

However, the second half of that social bargain has been rescinded. France has been losing jobs at an accelerating rate. Its income inequality is on a trajectory to reach that of the United States.

It doesn’t take long for ordinary people to realize that they are getting screwed. In the next French presidential election, in 2027, Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, is expected to place first in the preliminary round. And with the left and the center-right both fragmented, it’s not at all clear who else will make it into the final. Le Pen could be the next president of France.

The patterns of citizen disaffection are similar throughout the West. Their common source should be no mystery—hyper-capitalism supercharged by globalism displacing everything that makes for a decent society.


Climate and environmental crises

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-24-2022]


Ignore the real economy at your peril

America’s electric utilities facing transformer shortage crisis 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2022]


New York and New England start RATIONING heating oil before winter as stockpiles slump by 70% and fears rise that families will be left in the cold 

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]


Information age dystopia

Epic’s overhaul of a flawed algorithm shows why AI oversight is a life-or-death issue 

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2022]


PayPal reinstates $2,500 misinformation penalty 

[Agence France Presse, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2022]


Japan to citizens: Get a digital ID or health insurance gets harder 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 10-28-2022]


“Scientists rename human genes to stop Microsoft Excel from misreading them as dates”

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

“Excel is a behemoth in the spreadsheet world and is regularly used by scientists to track their work and even conduct clinical trials. But its default settings were designed with more mundane applications in mind, so when a user inputs a gene’s alphanumeric symbol into a spreadsheet, like MARCH1 — short for ‘Membrane Associated Ring-CH-Type Finger 1’ — Excel converts that into a date: 1-Mar. This is extremely frustrating, even dangerous, corrupting data that scientists have to sort through by hand to restore. It’s also surprisingly widespread and affects even peer-reviewed scientific work. One study from 2016 examined genetic data shared alongside 3,597 published papers and found that roughly one-fifth had been affected by Excel errors.” • Thanks, Bill.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-26-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

The Brutal Comedy of the Withdrawn Peace Letter 

Matt Taibb, October 27, 2022  [TK News]

In this context, could anything look worse than this week’s scurrying-roach routine? If you were actively trying to convince the public you didn’t stand for anything, you couldn’t dream up something more devastating than what the CPC members just did to themselves, and their institution.


How The Left Became Cheerleaders for US Imperialism 

[Mint Press, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]


Civic republicanism

Forrest Nabors: “Reconstructing America: Republicanism, Oligarchy, and the Constitutional Order”

[University of Notre Dame, Constitutional Studies and the Tocqueville Program, YouTube, October 17, 2019

[TW: By insisting on a manichean view of US history which ignores the history of protracted political and actual military combat between republicans and oligarchs for control of the USA polity and economy, the “left” is shooting itself in the head.]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The Historian’s Case Against the Independent State Legislature Theory (pdf)

Rosemarie Zagarri, October 12, 2022 [Boston College Law Review, March 2023 (forthcoming), via]

This Essay explores historical evidence from the Founding Era underlying Art. 1, Sec. 4 of the US Constitution (and related clauses) that delegate certain powers to state legislatures in making federal election laws. The article shows that far from empowering the state legislatures, the US Constitution was meant to curb state legislative supremacy and confirm the subordination of state legislatures to the checks and balances embedded in the individual state constitutions. It shows that the Independent State Legislature Theory is contrary to both the theory of constitutional government and the practices of state legislatures in making federal election laws….

The Essay proceeds in three parts. Part I shows how early states considered but ultimately rejected legislative supremacy, subordinating their legislatures to the state constitutions. Part II unearths evidence from the framing and ratification of the U.S.
Constitution that is inconsistent with the ISLT. Part III turns to the practice of legislatures during the first federal elections, which confirms that no state interpreted the term “Legislature” in the federal election clauses to empower the legislatures to act as
independent bodies, free from the constraints of their individual state constitutions, when passing the first federal election laws.


Ballot box vigilantes and the “redemption” of Arizona

Heather Cox Richardson, October 23, 2022 [Letters from an American]

[Last] weekend, the Maricopa County Elections Department announced that two people, both armed and dressed in tactical gear, stationed themselves near a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona…. The presence of armed vigilantes outside of voting places is a scene directly out of the 1876 “redemption” of the South.

White southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors to keep them from voting. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers and calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan tried to stop southern Republicans—both Black and white—from voting in favor of the new state constitutions. They killed nearly a thousand Unionists before the 1868 elections, terrorizing their neighbors and undercutting democracy in the South.

Even more effective than Ku Klux Klan ropes and clubs and bullets in the long run, though, were the new tactics to which white Democrats turned when they realized that the violence of the Ku Klux Klan simply hardened Republican resolve. They insisted that government policies promoting black equality were simply a redistribution of wealth as poor men—especially poor Black men—voted for lawmakers who would agree to fund roads and schools and hospitals with tax money. In the postwar South, the people most likely to own taxable property were white men.

Black voting, they insisted, was “Socialism in South Carolina.”

In 1876, “Redeemers” set out to put an end to the southern governments that were elected in systems that allowed Black men to vote. “Rifle clubs” held contests outside Republican political rallies, “Red Shirts” marched with their guns in parades.

Their intimidation worked. Democrats took over the South and created a one-party system that lasted virtually unbroken until 1965.


Inside Steve Bannon’s ‘disturbing’ quest to radically rewrite the US constitution

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

By taking over state legislatures, Republicans hope to pass conservative amendments that cannot be electorally challenged….

Backed by billionaire donors and corporate interests, it aims to persuade state legislatures to call a constitutional convention in the hope of baking far-right conservative values into the supreme law of the land.

The goal is, in essence, to turn the country into a permanent conservative nation irrespective of the will of the American people. The convention would promote policies that would limit the size and scope of the federal government, set ceilings on or even abolish taxes, free corporations from regulations, and impose restrictions on government action in areas such as abortion, guns and immigration.
“This is another line of attack strategically,” Bannon told his viewers last month. “You now have a political movement that understands we need to go after the administrative state.”

How the GOP Could Win Its Long War Against Social Security

Richard (R.J.) Eskow, October 25, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Social Security is “the third rail Republicans can’t stop touching,” in the words of a Politico headline. “Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular,” Politico notes. “So why do GOP Senate candidates keep talking about privatizing them?” But the Republican Party has been waging war on Social Security since its inception. This war, sometimes open and sometimes covert, may soon end in victory.

It began as Congress was debating the Social Security Act of 1935. Republicans attacked the program with rhetoric as extreme as that of today’s right. Rep. James W. Wadsworth (R-NY), for example, said the bill would create “a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants.” Republican Daniel Reed of New York said, “The lash of the dictator will be felt.”

…. Goldwater’s 1960 book, The Conscience of a Conservative, said these programs would give “unlimited political and economic power … as absolute … as any oriental despot” while turning each recipient “into a dependent animal creature.” Goldwater said programs like Social Security would erode personal freedom “later on—after its beneficiaries have become its victims, after dependence on government has turned into bondage and it is too late to unlock the jail.”

….As for Politico’s question: Why? Why would Republicans pursue such a major and unpopular change in the social contract? Why would they want to cut or privatize Social Security? Because they’ve wanted to do it for 87 years. Because, despite its unpopularity, their ideology and self-interest demand it.

[ TW: “Their ideology demands it.” Again, the importance of a philosophy of government. In his great 1866 speech defining republicanism—as the Congress was wrestling with the question of how to “reconstruct” the former slave states.–Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner declared that the two great principles of a republic are justice, and a commitment to the General Welfare. Take note that conservatives, libertarians, and (anti)Republican Party members today believe that the General Welfare clause ought to be deleted from the Constitution. This is why the effort to call a Constitutional Convention — lavishly funded, be it noted, by rich reactionaries — is so dangerous.]


Stochastic terrorism

Heather Cox Richardson, October 28, 2022 [Letters from an American]

The attack on Mr. Pelosi comes after right-wing figures have so often advocated violence against the House speaker that the rioters on January 6 roamed the U.S. Capitol calling for her in the singsong cadences of a horror movie. Before she ran for Congress, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said Pelosi was a “traitor” and told her listeners that treason is “a crime punishable by death,” and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) once “joked” about hitting Speaker Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel if he becomes speaker himself, prompting laughter from his audience.

Whipping up supporters against a perceived enemy to create a statistical probability of an attack without advocating a specific event is known as “stochastic terrorism.”….

Late yesterday, Twitter’s board completed the $44 billion sale of the company to billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk…. Patel notes that to attract advertising revenue, Musk will have to protect advertisers’ brands, which means banning “racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total a**holes.” And that content moderation, of course, will infuriate the right-wing cheerleaders who “are going to viciously turn on you, just like they turn on every other social network that realizes the same essential truth.”

….Today, racist and antisemitic content rose sharply as users appeared to be testing the limits of the platform under Musk…. In the first 12 hours after Musk acquired the site, the use of the n-word increased nearly 500%.

Christian conservative conference attended by Eric Trump and Mike Flynn gets really, really weird

Aldous J Pennyfarthing, October 22, 2022 [Twitter, via DailyKos]


Neo-Nazi ‘Building White Ethnostate’ in Maine Now Working With Local Extremist Group 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

A neo-Nazi and ex-Marine coordinating an online movement to turn Maine into an all-white ethnostate, is building a property there—while also working with a violent extremist group in the region, VICE News has learned.

Christopher Pohlhaus, 35, who goes by his online alias “The Hammer” and is a significant player in the broad universe of neo-Nazi Telegram, once commanded thousands of followers and a chat group that he called “The Camps.” Besides the Maine migration plan, he coordinated a nationwide racist counterprotest on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, explained to followers how to hypothetically dismantle the food-supply chain through sniper attacks on truckers, and was linked to the Jan. 6 attacker who allegedly stole a Nancy Pelosi staffer’s laptop.


How to prevent an anti-government revolution 

[High Country News, via Naked Capitalism 10-27-2022]

On Jan. 2, 2016, armed anti-government extremists led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon’s Harney County. They’d hoped to ignite a national uprising against federal land management, but after 41 days, they accomplished little beyond creating a $2 million mess of trash and trenches. After the Bundys were acquitted of conspiracy and weapons charges, Ammon led an attack on the Idaho Statehouse in 2020 and urged his followers to travel to Washington, D.C., for the rally that preceded the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Now he’s running for governor of Idaho.

Meanwhile, in Harney County, the work of conserving the refuge and its surrounding rangelands has continued almost uninterrupted. Here, locals consider the occupation a mere bump in the road — though its failure was no accident, according to political ecologist Peter Walker, whose book, Sagebrush Collaboration, tracks the refuge takeover from start to fizzle. Thanks in large part to a land-management strategy that local ranchers, conservationists and federal employees developed 15 years before the Bundys arrived, the community was largely inoculated against their simplistic solutions and fiery but empty rhetoric. Through years of homegrown collaboration led in part by the nonprofit High Desert Partnership, the community was already tackling many of the issues that inspired the Bundys to take up arms: fences, water access, poverty. To many locals, these were not ideological struggles, but tangible problems they were solving together.


“In Nevada, election deniers prepare to sabotage the midterms” 

Dana Milbank, October 22, 2022 [Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 10-23-2022]

The election supervisors in 10 of the state’s 17 counties have already quit, been forced out or announced their departures. Lower-level election workers have quit in the face of consistent abuse. The state’s elections staff has lost eight of its 12 employees.

The (Republican) secretary of state, who vigorously defends the integrity of the 2020 election, is term-limited, and the GOP nominee to replace her, Jim Marchant, leads a national group of election deniers running for office. Marchant is on record saying that if he and his fellow candidates are elected, “we’re going to fix the whole country, and President Trump is going to be president again.”


“Pro-Trump conspiracy theorists hound election officials out of office”

[Reuters, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

“Businessman Robert Beadles claimed he had found evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. Then he went on the attack, targeting a 48-year-old woman who runs elections in Nevada’s Washoe County. ‘Now, let’s talk about treason. That’s right, treason,’ Beadles told a Feb. 22 county commissioners’ meeting in Washoe, the second-largest county in this election battleground state. The Republican activist falsely accused the registrar of voters, Deanna Spikula, of counting fraudulent votes and told commissioners to ‘either fire her or lock her up.’ After the meeting, Spikula’s office was flooded with hostile and harassing calls from people convinced she was part of a conspiracy to rig the election against former U.S. President Donald Trump. On March 2, a caller threatened to bring 100 people to the county building to ‘put this to bed today.’ Spikula, under severe stress, stopped coming into the office. A post on Beadles’ website said she was ‘rumored to be in rehab.\ That was false, she said; she was at home, working on a state elections manual. By late June, fearing for her family’s safety, she’d had enough and submitted her resignation. Beadles’ campaign in Washoe is part of a wave of efforts by pro-Trump activists to gain control of voting administration by replacing county government leaders with election conspiracy theorists. Some are spending big money. In Nevada, Beadles has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns targeting opponents of Trump’s false rigged-election claims and backing Republicans who believe them. The goal: to profoundly change how U.S. elections are run. Right-wing activists want to eliminate voting machines and return to hand-counting of paper ballots, which experts say would make elections more prone to fraud, not less. Trump allies have also targeted the ballot drop boxes and mail-in voting that Democrats embraced in the 2020 election.”


“Trump Plans to Challenge the 2022 Elections — Starting in Philly”

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-25-2022]

“Trump has been briefed on plans in multiple states and critical races — including in Georgia. But Pennsylvania has grabbed his interest most keenly, including in the Senate contest between Democrat John Fetterman and the Trump-endorsed GOP contender Mehmet Oz. If the Republican does not win by a wide enough margin to trigger a speedy concession from Fetterman — or if the vote tally is close on or after Election Night in November — Trump and other Republicans are already preparing to wage a legal and activist crusade against the “election integrity” of Democratic strongholds such as the Philly area. Trump’s focus on Pennsylvania, however, seems to be more about his own political future than about party allegiance or fealty to his celebrity endorsee. As he hosts meetings on possible 2022 election challenges, he’s also been laying the groundwork for a run in 2024 — where Pennsylvania again promises to be critical and competitive. As one source who has spoken to Trump several times about a potential post-election-day legal battle over the Oz-Fetterman race puts it, Trump views a potential midterm challenge as a ‘dress rehearsal for Trump 2024.’ Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 and then lost it to Biden in 2020 by more than 80,000, and if the two candidates rematch in 2024, it could well be the state that picks the next president.”


Five investigations House Republicans are plotting if they win majority 

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 10-23-2022]


Republicans’ Secret Swing-Seat Weapon? Dozens of Rich Nominees.

Austin Ahlman, October 28, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Over half of the Republican nominees in competitive House races have dipped into personal fortunes to fund their campaigns.


A short history of how the Democratic and (anti)Republican parties switched sides

Heather Cox Richardson, October 29, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Rather than focusing on party names, it makes more sense to follow two opposed strands of thought, equality and hierarchy, as the constants.


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

RNC Sues Google Over Spam Email Filters 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 10-25-2022]


Garvey v. City of New York

[via Naked Capitalism 10-26-2022]

Order by New York Supreme Court, which confusingly is its lowest trial court. City ordered to reinstate employees fired over vax mandate with back pay.


America’s Trumpiest court just declared an entire federal agency unconstitutional

[Vox, via The Big Picture 10-25-2022]

The Fifth Circuit’s opinion in Community Financial v. CFPB is completely incoherent.

[TW: what’s at stake here? Heather Cox Richardson answers [October 26, 2022 , Letters from an American]

Last month, President Joe Biden asked all agencies to find ways to cut “junk fees,” the hidden fees, charges, and add-ons that hit consumers on everything from airline and concert tickets, to hotels, to banking services and cable bills. These include the “service fees” on concert tickets, “family seating fees” on airlines, “termination fees,” and so on, and they account for tens of billions of dollars a year of revenue for corporations.

Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) warned banks that surprise overdraft fees and depositor fees for customers who deposit a check that bounces are “likely unfair and unlawful under existing law.” The CFPB is also looking into credit card fees. The Federal Trade Commission has started a rule-making process that addresses surprise fees for event ticketing, hotels, funeral homes, and so on; earlier this year, it brought actions against junk fees in the auto industry that are awaiting finalization.


The GOP Fights To Preserve Predatory “Junk Fees”.

Jordan Uhl, October 26, 2022 [The Lever]

But Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee — four of whom are up for re-election — are fighting to preserve such overdraft charges and other “junk fees” that are generating tens of billions each year for their big bank donors at the expense of the country’s most desperate.

All Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee signed on to a letter sent to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) last month that strongly objected to the agency’s stance that it should more tightly regulate overdraft fees….



Open Thread


The Rules Based International Order is the Minority


  1. bruce wilder

    Derek Thompson [The Atlantic]

    “Britain chose finance over industry, austerity over investment, and a closed economy over openness to the world.”

    Which of these three does not fit?

    Britain chose finance, austerity, and an open economy (under the EU) and it did not work out for most. But the attempt to steer a alternative course with Brexit has been predictably sabotaged.

    The important thing to note is that anyone writing for Mrs Steve Jobs’ hobbyshop will lie soothingly as readily as they breathe. These people, in all their PMC righteousness cannot be counted on to work at understanding anything, let alone report on it.

  2. DMC

    Right-wing activists want to eliminate voting machines and return to hand-counting of paper ballots, which experts say would make elections more prone to fraud, not less.

    What experts say that? Hand marked paper ballots counted by hand are the gold standard of voting security. They leave a paper trail and cannot be hacked as such. It’s not just reactionaries that have their doubts about voting machines in the hands of possibly dishonest election officials at whatever level. On the other hand, calling the very integrity of the elections into question seems to be a strategy of the Right, perhaps leading to call for a government of Popular Will(Duce! Duce! Duce!) to supersede the supposedly illegitimate sitting government.

  3. BC Nurse Prof

    Caitllyn Johnstone is horrified by the sudden, coordinated all-hands-on-deck push for simultaneous war with China, Russia and Iran. She quotes many recent publications.

  4. different clue

    The right-wing activists who say that legal paper ballots marked by hand and counted by hand are the potentially least fraudulent method of electioning are correct by accident.

    ” By accident” because they are not concerned with being correct. They are concerned with de-legitimizing the concept of elections so they can “Ducefy” the government when they are strong enough. It is unfortunate that the non-right-wing activists are psychologically or financially invested in inherently defraudable digital voting methods whose fraud cannot even be detected if it is cleverly carried out.

    ” Hand marked legal paper ballots counted by hand” is the most securable method even though right-wing activists say it is.

  5. bruce wilder

    The three-wars-we-cannot-win-are-best crowd have had their way because there is no effective opposition. Like a lot of our political problems the roots are in the utter collapse of the liberal and social democratic left.

    The Progressive Caucus declared moral bankruptcy this week on Ukraine, which underlines a forty-year development.

    It has gotten so extreme that the Right has begun taking over issues long discarded by the now-defunct left. Tucker Carlson, with his America First isolationism and cynicism, makes a lot of sense and enjoys a monopoly on such sense unchallenged by anyone of the erstwhile left. Marjorie Taylor Greene was tweeting for Julian Assange a few weeks back — with no mainstream journalist or liberal competing.

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