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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 9, 2022

by Tony Wikrent

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Expected Financial Crash Is Finally Here 

[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2022]

Today Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism writes about the now Inevitable Financial Crisis….

The second warning comes from ‘Dr. Doom’ Nouriel Roubini….

The central banks have misdiagnosed the reason for the currently high inflation rates. They were caused not only by too much stimulus provided by governments and the central banks but to a large part by the lack of supplies which is to the consequence of the pandemic and the ‘western’ sanctions following the war in Ukraine. By increasing interest rates the central banks fought against the wrong enemy. They made things worse….


New Study: Wall Street Banks Are Doubling Down on Risk by Selling Credit Default Swaps on their Risky Derivatives Counterparties 

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: October 6, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Last Thursday, while news outlets focused on videos of the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian on the southwest coast of Florida, two researchers at the Office of Financial Research published a breathtaking and almost surreal analysis of how the mega banks on Wall Street are once again doubling down on unprecedented risk with derivatives and threatening the financial stability of the U.S. The report was ignored by mainstream business media.

The Office of Financial Research was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010 to make sure that Wall Street mega banks could never again ravage the economy and financial system of the United States — as they did in 2008 – by engaging in reckless derivative trades and toxic bets….


All Eyes Are on Credit Suisse; But Media Blacked Out Data from the New York Fed Suggest Contagion from Nomura Is Another Threat 

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens, October 7, 2022 [Wall Street on Parade]

Nomura Holdings is tiny compared to the mega banks on Wall Street. According to its website, it had just $384 billion in assets as of March 31, 2021. On the same date, JPMorgan Chase had $3.2 trillion in assets. But for reasons that neither the Federal Reserve nor Congress have yet to explain, a unit of Nomura was allowed to borrow trillions of dollars in emergency repo loans from the Fed beginning on September 17, 2019 – months before there was any COVID crisis anywhere in the world. The chart above shows that in the last three months of 2019, Nomura borrowed $3.7 trillion cumulatively under the Fed’s emergency repo loan program, topping the amount borrowed by JPMorgan Chase by $1.11 trillion.


Is This the End of ‘Socialism for the Rich’? 

Yanis Varoufakis [Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-6-2022]

Last Thursday, the International Monetary Fund spooked the markets and surprised the commentariat by chiding the U.K. Conservative government for fiscal irresponsibility…. the IMF’s communiqué went so far as to censure the British government for introducing large tax cuts (now partially canceled after the IMF intervention), because they would mainly “benefit high-income earners” and “likely increase inequality.” Tories loyal to Britain’s beleaguered new prime minister, Liz Truss; America’s feistier Republicans; international economic pundits; and even some of my comrades on the left were briefly united by a common puzzlement: Since when did the IMF oppose greater inequality?


Bill Mitchell — Two diametrically-opposed approaches to dealing with inflation–stupidity versus the Japanese way

Bill Mitchell [Billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 10-6-2022]


We Really Need to Talk Fertilizer 

Michael Smith, October 6, 2022 [Angry Bear, via Mike Norman Economics 10-6-2022]

Based on their research, the cost per acre has increased by $72 just for the chemical fertilizer inputs, which is by far the highest cost inputs, but also comes in conjunction with high seed costs, high equipment costs, and high fuel costs; inflated everything. The 80 some odd millions of acres to be planted multiplied by $72 additional dollars per acre are somewhere in the ball park of $6 billion USD, with the total chemical fertilizer charge for those planted corn rows coming in at just shy of $20 billion, and that’s just fertilizer alone. Chemical fertilizer increases of 40% year over year leaves farmers attempting to pinch another six billion dollars in market sales to offset the increases. Farmers will do one of three things: a)plant and demand higher bushel prices, b)plant and fertilize less, dropping yields and causing supply shortages, or c) plant something else, or nothing at all, also causing supply shortages. The above examples will all play out together. The farmer who mortgages the farm to pay for the inputs will get higher prices because some non-irrigated corn farmer in Kansas will refuse to plant corn in conjunction with an irrigated field in Iowa using less nitrogen and having yield cut by half. The latter two create shortages which makes commodities more expensive, thus thrusting prices up higher so the farmer who mortgages his place can pay for the high input costs. The farmers will be fine, commodities always have a market, it’s the excess costs to downstream processors and consumers that are the true pain points.


Disrupting mainstream economics – Modern Monetary Theory

Currency-Using Governor Seeks Financial Aid from the Currency-Issuer 

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens, via Mike Norman Economics 10-3-2022]

When it comes to hypocrisy and hurricane relief, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is hardly the only lawmaker with a checkered voting record. And while a meme like this might give us a chuckle, there’s a deeply relevant lesson in all of this.

As MMT reminds us, the people and businesses whose properties were ravaged by the storm, the insurance companies bracing for multi-billion-dollar lossescity mayors, and the governor of Florida aren’t like the federal government. Understanding the difference is a central tenet of MMT.

Here’s how I described the difference in my book:

“Only the federal government can issue our currency. Everyone else is merely a currency user. It’s a special power that must be exercised with great care.”

I won’t repeat the arguments here, but much of the book is aimed at disabusing readers of the fallacy of thinking about government finance the way we think of our own personal finances. If more Americans understood the difference, then it would be harder for politicians like Ron DeSantis or Mike Pence to vote against hurricane relief on the grounds that it maxes out “the credit card” or becomes a “catastrophe of debt for our children and grandchildren.”


Disrupting mainstream economics

On the validity of econometric inferences

Lars P. Syll [via Mike Norman Economics 10-7-2022]

This is essentially a recap of Keynes’s criticism of Tinbergen’s approach to econometrics. The basis of the issue is the assumption that the social sciences are sufficiently like the natural sciences to enable use of similar methodology.
Keynes argued that this assumption is wrong. The subject matter of economics is historical and institutional, that is, variable, and in social systems, the data lacks the homogeneity of the natural sciences. See the blog post by Lars, Econometrics: The Keynes-Tinbergen controversy (8 Nov 2018).
We now know much more about systems than was known in the 1930 and 40’s when this controversy began that was sparked by Keynes. The problem that the social sciences, including economics, face is modeling complex adaptive systems, which societies are. This means that not only are there known unknown owing to complexity but also unknown and likely unknowns that are not knowable in advance owing to emergence as a result of adaptation through learning from feedback.
This is a reason that heterodox approaches to economics reject the conventional approach based on formalism. For example, MMT is based on operational analysis of institutional arrangements, specifically the existing monetary system as a general case and the various national systems as specific cases.

Professional Management Class war on workers

“Alabama Paper Mill Workers Want Their Lives Back — And They’re Giving Up $30,000 To Get It”

[The Real News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-2022]

“In the morning of Oct. 1, after a 50-hour voting period, almost 500 union members from three United Steel Workers (USW) locals at WestRock’s Mahrt Mill paper mill in Cottonton, Alabama, voted to reject a second contract offer from the company. The refusal to ratify WestRock’s ‘last, best, and final’ offer came as a result of the company insisting on removing contract language pertaining to what the workers there call ‘penalties’ for long hours. Members resoundingly rejected this contract, even though it included an unheard-of $28,000 ratification bonus—increased from an already staggering offer of $20,000, which workers already rejected on Sept. 21. Members resoundingly rejected this contract, even though it included an unheard-of $28,000 ratification bonus—increased from an already staggering offer of $20,000, which workers already rejected on Sept. 21. The penalties in question include time-and-a-half pay on Sundays (which turns into double time if an employee was already at or above 40 hours for the week), and time-and-a-half pay retroactively applied for one’s whole shift if said shift goes over 16 hours (what’s known as ‘Hog Law’ in the industry).” • Not just the signing bonus; time-and-a-half (!). Commentary:

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-2022]

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-7-2022]


“Railroad executives want to eliminate conductors — and exhausted rail workers are terrified”

[Freight Waves, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-5-2022]

“Norfolk Southern, like most Class I railroads in the U.S., is looking to whittle down crews to one person. Most freight trains in the U.S. currently have a conductor and engineer on board. The conductor typically monitors and stages freight cars, while the engineer monitors the speed and condition of the engines pulling those cars.” One guy running a mile-long train? This is nuts. More: “A recent study commissioned by the AAR explored these cases to show that one-person crews can be safe. Looking at collisions, derailments, and other employee injuries or fatalities, the study concluded that ‘major European operators using single-person crews appeared to be as safe as Class I multiple- person crew operations.’ However, there are key differences between those trains and Class I freight trains that make the latter potentially more challenging to operate with just one worker. Those trains are rarely as long as the ever-expanding Class 1 freight trains. And those trains tend to be far lighter, too — with the average European train around a sixth of the typical weight of a U.S. train.”


The Magic Kingdom Is Tragic for Workers

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

A new film from Abigail Disney, granddaughter of the co-founder of The Walt Disney Company, takes a look at how workers have been crushed by a new corporate philosophy.


Global power shift

OPEC’s body blow to Biden presidency

MK. Bhadrakumar [India Punchline, via Mike Norman Economics 10-8-2022]

Foreign policy was reputed to be Biden’s forte but is turning out to be his nemesis….

The magnitude of what is unfolding is simply staggering. Biden realises belatedly that territorial conquests in Ukraine is not the real story but embedded in it  is the economic war and within that is the energy war that has been incubating through the past 8-month period following the Western sanctions against Russia.

The paradox is, even if Zelensky wins the war, Biden would still have lost the war unless he wins the energy war and goes on to win the economic war as well.

President Vladimir Putin visualised such an outcome as far back as in 2016 when on the sidelines of the G20 Hangzhou summit, the tantalising idea of OPEC+ crystallised between him and then Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

I wrote at that time that “An understanding between Russia and OPEC holds the potential to completely transform the geopolitical alignments in the Middle East… This shift cannot but impact petrodollar recycling, which has been historically a robust pillar of the western financial system. In strategic terms, too, Washington’s attempt to ‘isolate’ Russia is rendered ineffective.” That was 6 years ago. (See Pay heed to the butterfly effect of Putin-Salman oil deal in Hangzhou, Asia Times, Sept. 7, 2016)


Patrick Lawrence: The West—Technocrats, Incompetents, Ideologues 

[ScheerPost, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2022]

A terrible clarity is suddenly upon us. We approach the end of pretend, in my read.

Last Sunday Italian voters went to the polls and backed a populist party of extreme-right persuasions, Fratelli Italia, Brothers of Italy, by a wide margin. When the Italian Senate names party leader Giorgia Meloni premier at the end of October, as is widely expected, Italy will be the first founding member of the European Union to be governed by a vigorously nationalist coalition….

You read a lot about the far-right character of Fratelli Italia and its coalition partners. This is not to be dismissed as a turn in European politics, but I do not think it is what now has Brussels and the policy cliques in Western capitals quaking. It is the euroscepticism Meloni shares with her partners that most distresses political elites on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meloni already signals she will moderate some of the positions that won her the support of voters. She is now O.K. with NATO, which she once spoke against, and she will go along, however reluctantly, opportunistically, briefly, or all three, with E.U. support for Ukraine. She no longer proposes to pull Italy out of the euro, as she once did.

But the E.U.’s prevalent neoliberalism and the austerity policies that reflect it are another matter. Meloni may speak more softly than before on these questions, but it is a leopard-and-spots question: The E.U. now has another voice that will speak out of national interests in the name of voters. The others at the moment are Poland and Hungary, but the Poles and Hungarians are post–Berlin Wall members; Italy is Core Europe, inner circle. Whether or not she intends to do so, Meloni raises the question of the E.U.’s long-term coherence. This is an excellent thing to do.

It is interesting to listen to the think tank inhabitants who reflect the Western orthodoxy as they consider Meloni’s rise to power. They worry that Meloni will “disrupt the policy process in Brussels.” They worry that she will “gum up the works.” Charles Kupchan at the Council on Foreign Relations: “The direction of political momentum is changing. We had a wave of centrism, but now it feels like the political table is tilting back in the direction of the populists on the right. And that’s a big deal.”

Revealed: the secret British plan to keep Italy’s communists from power 

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]

On 7 June 1976, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Panorama reported on the forthcoming Italian general election. Two weeks before the poll, the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI) – the largest communist party in Europe – stood “on the threshold of power”….

….Joy’s interest was not academic. He oversaw a top-secret unit of the Information Research Department (IRD), the covert cold war propaganda arm of the Foreign Office. The IRD’s Special Editorial Unit (SEU) was responsible for the department’s most sensitive operations, running propaganda missions around the world against communists and others deemed to threaten British interests. The unit worked closely with MI6.

Recent investigations by the Observer have revealed how the IRD incited mass murder in Indonesia in the 1960s and ran a secret campaign to smear Oginga Odinga, the leftwing vice-president of Kenya.

Now, newly declassified documents reveal that the IRD ran a campaign with MI6 to “undermine the credibility” of the Italian communist party and influence the 1976 election.


How a New ‘Great War of Africa’ Is Raging Under the Cover of a Media Blackout

[The Telegraph, via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2022]

Ethiopia is becoming “Africa’s world war” with tens of thousands of deaths in the last few months potentially going unreported as Tigrayan rebels battle a coalition of armies and militias in a media blackout.

The conflict now involves hundreds of thousands of troops with both sides claiming the other is using “human wave” tactics to take positions and is likely the “deadliest war in the world”, according to analysts.

Soldiers on both sides told The Telegraph the violence was on a scale they had not seen before even after two years of fighting….

Experts say that the massive conflict has now sucked in many actors from across the region in an explosive situation which could send the Horn of Africa up in flames.

“You have the confirmed presence of forces who either willingly or unwillingly are fighting in this conflict from the neighbouring states: Eritrea, Somalia, and Sudan and now increasing signs that forces from as far away as Chad, Niger and Libya may also be playing a role,” said Mr Hudson.

“This comes on top of an influx of next-generation drones and battlefield munitions from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, Iran and China, as well as previously purchased US military hardware, which has likely made this the bloodiest fight in the world today.”


China drops the gauntlet on NSA’s serial cyberattacks 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]


Decoding the Pentagon’s online war against Iran 

[The Cradle, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]


Russia / Ukraine

How the War in Ukraine Ends 

Benjamin Studebaker [via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2022]

Russia has moved ahead with annexing the occupied oblasts of Ukraine. This is a point of no return for the Putin regime. It is hard for the regime to maintain its legitimacy when it is trying and failing to invade a foreign country. The regime looks weak and incompetent, and with no real possibility of replacing the leadership through an election, there is no easy to way to restore confidence on short notice. But as difficult as that situation is, it is much harder for the regime to maintain its legitimacy when it is trying and failing to defend the territory the regime acknowledges as part of Russia. A Russian president who cannot successfully invade Ukraine is weak. A Russian president who cannot defend Russia is pathetic. The decision to annex the oblasts therefore sends a clear message–the Putin regime will defend the territory it now holds, or it will die trying.


Fifteen Points About the Future of the Ukraine War

Ian Welsh, October 7, 2022

Four: Russia is not fighting just Ukraine. If it was, it would win. It is fighting Ukraine + NATO, and it’s clear that means that NATO officers are doing the majority of the planning and we now know that there are some NATO troops on the ground, we will find out there were more, and that a lot of volunteers were “volunteers.”

Five: Western propaganda has included a lot of declarations that the end-goal is regime change, recapturing Crimea and even breaking up Russia. It has been declared, over and over again, that there will be no negotiated peace with Putin. This means the Russians regard this war as existential.


The War Has Just Begun 

[Big Serge Thoughts, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2022]

In any case, what is far more interesting than the technicalities of the referenda is what the decision to annex these regions says about Russian intentions. Once these regions become formally annexed, they will be viewed by the Russian state as sovereign Russian territory, subject to protection with the full range of Russian capabilities, including (in the most dire and unlikely scenario) nuclear weapons. When Medvedev pointed this out, it was bizarrely spun as a “nuclear threat”, but what he was actually trying to communicate is that these four oblasts will become part of Russia’s minimum definition of state integrity – non-negotiables, in other words.

I think the best way to formulate it is as such:

Annexation confers a formal designation that a territory has been deemed existentially important to the Russian state, and will be contested as if the integrity of the nation and state is at risk.

Those fixating on the “legality” of the referenda (as if such a thing exists) and Medvedev’s supposed nuclear blackmail are missing this point. Russia is telling us where it currently draws the line for its absolute minimum peace conditions. It’s not walking away without at least these four oblasts, and it considers the full range of state capabilities to be in play to achieve that goal.


Developing Developments 

James Howard Kuntsler [via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2022]

Message found in fortune cookie from Panda Take-out reminds us: “The dildo of consequence is seldom lubricated.” Please apply this ancient wisdom to “Joe Biden’s” sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 natgas pipelines. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spun the deed as a “tremendous opportunity” to reduce fuel use in Euroland, and shift its prior dependence on affordable Russian energy to ruinously-priced American liquid natural gas (LNG) — a supposed boon to US producers. Lucky us and them!

Let’s get a few technical matters straight about natgas. Gas pipelines allow for cheap gas, without costly intervening shipping procedures. Flows are continuous from producer to customer. LNG requires compression of the gas at super-cold temperatures and costly-to-build LNG tanker ships to keep that gas cold and compressed in transit. Each tanker can carry only so-much gas and the flow is not continuous. At each end of the energy-losing journey there is a costly LNG terminal to load and unload the gas. Bottom line: Euroland customers can’t afford US LNG, though for now they’ll be getting it good and hard to struggle through the first winter of a permanent depression that will feel more like the forecourt of a new dark age. Also bear in mind that American shale gas is a finite resource; that we need plenty of it ourselves; and that the earliest-developed US shale gas fields are crapping out one-by-one.


Michael Hudson: A roadmap to escape the west’s stranglehold.

[The Cradle, via Mike Norman Economics 10-6-2022]

Interview by Pepe Escobar


The pandemic

Excess Death Rates for Republicans and Democrats During the Covid-19 Pandemic (PDF)

Jacob Wallace, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, and Jason L. Schwartz — National Bureau of Economic Research, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2022]

Political affiliation has emerged as a potential risk factor for COVID-19, amid evidence that Republican-leaning counties have had higher COVID-19 death rates than Democrat- leaning counties and evidence of a link between political party affiliation and vaccination views. This study constructs an individual-level dataset with political affiliation and excess death rates during the COVID-19 pandemic via a linkage of 2017 voter registration in Ohio and Florida to mortality data from 2018 to 2021. We estimate substantially higher excess death rates for registered Republicans when compared to registered Democrats, with almost all of the difference concentrated in the period after vaccines were widely available in our study states. Overall, the excess death rate for Republicans was 5.4 percentage points (pp), or 76%, higher than the excess death rate for Democrats. Post- vaccines, the excess death rate gap between Republicans and Democrats widened from 1.6 pp (22% of the Democrat excess death rate) to 10.4 pp (153% of the Democrat excess death rate).


They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals

‘Not an Easy Villain’: Documentary Tackles Healthcare’s Big Hospital Problem 

[MedPage Today, via Naked Capitalism 10-7-2022]


State Governments Are Colluding With Billionaires to Shield Their Wealth From Taxation

[ Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]


Why We Should All Be Worried About ‘Chokepoint Capitalism’ 

[Time, via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2022]


You Won’t Believe How Crazy CEO Pay Has Gotten Now

Timothy Noah, October 6, 2022 [The New Republic]

CEO pay no longer rises with the stock market; it rises well in excess of the stock market—more than one-third faster, according to a new report by Economic Policy Institute, or EPI, research director Josh Bivens and research assistant Jori Kandra. It’s still true that a typical pay package for the CEO of a major corporation outperforms whatever company the CEO happens to run. But in addition to that, it outperforms the entire frigging stock market.


Why the Florida Fantasy Withstands Reality 

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]


Wall Street is Behind Jackson’s Water Crisis 

Matthew Cunningham-Cook & Ricardo Gomez, October 4, 2022 [The Lever]

In 2018, ratings analysts at Moody’s Investor Service — a credit rating agency with a legacy of misconduct — downgraded Jackson’s bond rating to a junk status, citing in part the “low wealth and income indicators of residents.” The decision happened even though Jackson has never defaulted on its debt.

Moody’s move jacked up the price of borrowing for Jackson, costing the cash-strapped city between $2 and $4 million per year in additional debt service costs — a massive financial roadblock to officials’ plans to fix the municipality’s aging water system….

Alston continued: “I think that term has been used to really vilify local governments who are working with what they have, and are struggling because they’re stuck in a system that has denied them federal support for decades.” The federal government’s share of contributions to water infrastructure fell from 31 percent in 1977 to just 4 percent in 2017.

Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Slight shifts in magnetic field preceded California earthquakes 

[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 10-8-2022]

Researchers studying intermediate to large earthquakes in California have discovered detectable changes in the local magnetic field that occur 2–3 days before an earthquake. In a study now published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, William Heavlin and his team found that the signal of the magnetic field change is faint but statistically significant, and the seismologists hope their technique can be refined to eventually help forecast earthquakes.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2022]


The Disappearing Art Of Maintenance

[NOEMA, via The Big Picture 10-4-2022]

The noble but undervalued craft of maintenance could help preserve modernity’s finest achievements, from public transit systems to power grids, and serve as a useful framework for addressing climate change and other pressing planetary constraints.

Standing around the break room with their arms crossed and ID badges dangling, heads full of train-talk, several maintenance workers took turns explaining the process: Railcars roll off the main tracks into a long rectangular building. The cars are lifted to eye level, inspected and repaired if needed. Most of them get to leave that day — back to work, like the rest of us. But some are moved over to a special track for trickier jobs.

We went for a walk along the service tracks in a big group, everyone chiming in, pointing to the parts that needed repairs or replacing: the truck, the brakes, the AC units. They told me the fleet is split into two camps, one called “legacy,” the other “millennial.” The former were built before 2000, the latter after. The millennial fleet is tougher to repair in some ways because there are more electronics in the cars. Maybe you’ve heard your grandfather complain about this, how engines are too damn complicated these days. Siu Ling Ko, a chief mechanical officer for the train cars, told me the shells may last 40 years. The electronics, though, not so much.

The legacy fleet has its own problems, of course, and is more prone to failures overall. Replacement parts are harder to find; the firms that made them — the Budd Company, Pullman-Standard and Westinghouse — are long gone. Many components are well past their design life, and mechanics have to pluck similar parts from retired vehicles or engineer substitutes. It’s a very ad-hoc, improvisational process that relies on the know-how that long-time employees build up over years….

That’s the difference between maintenance and repair. Repair is when you fix something that’s already broken. Maintenance is about making something last.

By that definition, the MTA is tasked with one of the most difficult maintenance jobs in the country, and its struggles are also a case study in why maintenance is such a tough sell politically. It’s not strictly necessary — or at least it doesn’t seem to be until things start falling apart. It’s chronically undervalued. The MTA is often harassed for its relatively high labor and maintenance costs….

The MTA’s predicament has global implications. The industrial world is aging, and the sheer quantity and geographic extent of transportation, water and energy infrastructure presents an unprecedented challenge at the exact moment that climate change forces us to rethink material use. More robust maintenance practices could help preserve modernity’s finest achievements, from public transit systems to power grids to insulated homes. But first maintenance has to be valued outside of austerity, and right now it’s unclear if our current economic system is capable of that.

I think this article would have been even richer if the author were familiar with Thorstein Veblen’s 1914 book, The Instinct of Workmanship and the State of the Industrial Arts. Veblen scholar Jonathon Larson comments:

…maintenance is a chore. The only solution at a public level is to make maintenance a paid routine. Two years working as a surgical orderly taught me the very high value of organized, institutionalized, maintenance routines. Actually, there is no alternative. Better, good maintenance is the poor man’s way to prosperity. If taking care of your toys makes them last twice as long, you become materially more prosperous….

We live in a culture dominated by lies. They make us hated globally, they have successfully destroyed the greatest human achievement ever—the science-based USA industrial classes, they have turned medicine into an almost wholly corrupt scam, they have reduced education to expensive brain damage, etc. In perhaps the towering Leisure Class achievement in recent academic publishing, a guy by the name of Frankfurt wrote a book where he parses the distinction between lying and bullshitting. Hard to top the Leisure Classes when it comes to elevating vice into chin-stroking scholarship. Mere taxonomy, would snort Veblen.
Which is why I argue that the Industrial Revolution was made possible by the Protestant love for truth. You want to produce interchangeable parts, you must devote considerable time to the harsh mistress called accuracy. To survive in an accurate society, you simply must love truth—at least on the job. And so we see that industrialization in Great Britain was brought to us by the DISSENTING Protestants. It is no damn wonder that Marx never even began to understand industrialization and further muddied the waters by labeling it a branch of “capitalism”.

Information age dystopia

Ex-eBay execs jailed for cyberstalking web critics 

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]


Tech Billionaires are Actually Dumber Than You Think 

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2022]

In fact, ranking multibillionaires is a meaningless exercise that obscures the absurdity of their wealth. This year alone, a number of tech billionaires on Bloomberg’s list lost hundreds of billions of dollars as the gains they made during the early years of the pandemic were wiped out because of a volatile stock market. But, as Whizy Kim of Vox points out, whether or not they’re losing money or giving it away—as Bezos’ ex-wife MacKenzie Scott has been doing—their wealth remains insanely high, and most are worth more today than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are they doing with all this wealth?

It turns out that many are quietly plotting their own survival against our demise. Douglas Rushkoff, podcaster, founder of the Laboratory for Digital Humanism, and fellow at the Institute for the Future, has written a book about this bizarre phenomenon, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires.

In an interview, Rushkoff explains that billionaires worry about the end of humanity just like the rest of us. They fear catastrophic climate change or the next pandemic. And, they know their money will likely be of little value when civilizations decline. “How do I maintain control over my Navy Seal security guards once my money is worthless?” is a question that Rushkoff says many of the world’s wealthiest people want to know the answer to.

How Amazon, Google, and Facebook Helped Fund the Campaign to Overturn Roe 

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 10-2-2022]


Collapse of independent news media

The Problem With Herschel Walker and His Republican Enablers Is Not Their Hypocrisy

Meredith Shiner, October 7, 2022 [The New Republic]

It’s increasingly clear that the morality-neutral media coverage of a political environment that’s been dominated by an amoral political party has wrought substantial collateral damage, engulfing our democracy and its key institutions in an existential crisis. As The Daily Beast’s Matt Fuller noted, about the dual attacks on the U.S. Capitol and democracy on January 6, 2021, “The Real Tragedy of January 6 is That It’s Still Not Over.” The national discourse on how that assault on democracy is still ongoing is, in general, not being pursued with the urgency it demands. To the extent that it does receive coverage, it mostly centers on the various insurgents who are currently being prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

That’s all to the good, but there’s a more critical matter that’s going uncovered. The rise of unqualified-to-serve politicians in Congress, such as Tommy Tuberville—who couldn’t beat Vanderbilt as head football coach at Auburn or name the three branches of government—or potentially Walker, if elected, is also a serious attack on democracy.

People who don’t believe in government are stacking that government with politicians, who at best, boast about not even having the slightest clue about the basics of their job or public policy, and who, at worst, think of public service as the most effective tool for grifting and trolling. Furthermore, this phenomenon has arrived at a moment in which the ability of the political press to provide a check on this slide into illiberalism has atrophied. For too many reporters clustered inside the Beltway, the emergence of comically unqualified candidates—or outright QAnon-pilled seditionists—is just one more interesting moment in American politics; the fuel for bemusement, rather than a clanging alarm.


Altercation: Maggie Haberman’s New Book Puts Trump in Context

Eric Alterman, October 2, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America turns out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s not merely a primary source for future historians but also, as both Sean Wilentz and Joe Klein noted in their respective reviews, a contextually reported story of Trump’s rise that actually helps make sense of Trump, and shows how he bent both the Republican Party and the mainstream media to his will.

I have an imperfect memory from 1985 or 1986 of attending a “Master’s Tea” at Yale, in which Maureen Dowd and another reporter gave a talk and were asked (by me, I guess) about what was then a remarkably generous Times Magazine Trump profile. They did not pretend that the story was accurate in the larger sense. Rather they explained that their subject had ended up getting something of a free pass because nobody had any interest in going on the record about someone so hypersensitive, vindictive, and unrestrained by truth or even the law….

Haberman writes regarding 2016: “The media writ large was unprepared to cover a political candidate who lied as freely as Trump did, on matters big and small. Even those of us who had covered Trump for years struggled with how to handle the gush of falsehoods that dotted his sentences. The word ‘lie’ was infrequently used by mainstream outlets, which tended not to write more than they felt they could glean about a politician’s motivations.”


Democrats’ political suicide

Dem lead with Latinos halved in past decade, poll says 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2022]


Confronting Latino Anti-Black Bias

Yalidy Matos, October 6, 2022 [The American Prospect]

The Latino vote has confounded Democrats who were expecting it not only to grow but also to become a bulwark of a new progressive majority. While a majority of Latinos voted Democratic in the past two presidential elections, the share voting for Donald Trump increased by an estimated eight percentage points between 2016 and 2020. That shift, along with more recent polling data, has prompted scholars and journalists alike to ask why Latinos would support a party whose nominee for president was overtly racist and anti-immigrant.

In Racial Innocence, Tanya Katerí Hernández points to Latino anti-Black bias as one answer to this puzzle. A professor of civil rights law at Fordham University, Hernández draws on legal cases from 1964 to 2021, individual stories, interviews with leaders, educators, and attorneys, and academic research to make the case for openly discussing and confronting anti-Black racism within the Latino community.

As an Afro-Latina herself, Hernández explains how her own family history motivated her interest in the topic. Her mother suffered mistreatment and exclusion even by family members, part of a larger pattern of colorism in the Latin world that affects family relations, public spaces, educational institutions, workplaces, housing, and the criminal justice system.


Churros in the American Dystopia

Jarod Facundo, October 6, 2022 [The American Prospect]

At the Colorado State Fair’s 150th anniversary, Latinos express despondency for their city and country’s future….

The city of Pueblo is half Hispanic. And in 2020, the county joined the roster of Rust Belt counties that voted Obama to Trump and then Biden, who won by 1,500 votes. But if we really are weeks away from the most important election of our lives, or the fate of democracy is truly on the ballot, most people here didn’t catch the message….

Around the corner, near some food trucks, I stopped a group of girls. Danee Aragon, who graduated from the local high school last year, said that she felt belittled by the fact that Latinos are expected to vote Democrat. “My grandma, she’s always coming at me,” she said.

I asked the group what did concern them, but before I could even finish the question, the responses were the economy and the future of abortion rights. Teylor Huaram, another recent high school graduate, said, “Because ultimately, [abortion] is like a two-person decision. But it’s not always a decision at the same time, sometimes it’s forced upon someone, it’s really sad.”

The group of girls talked about how in a previous time, their parents and other family members could pay rent with part-time jobs, even if it wasn’t the most comfortable lifestyle. These days, Aragon said, “you have to work a full-time job that pays over $15 an hour just to get by here.” Huaram added, “Living is fucking expensive. Literally, apartments are like $1,200 [a month]. And we live in a small community. Pueblo is a pretty small place.”

Danee Aragon told me she worked in the service industry, earning below minimum wage. Followed by a nervous chuckle, she said, “People are getting poorer and poorer.”


The Democracy: How the Nation’s Oldest Political Party Learned to Think Small 

Dave Denison  [The Baffler, via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2022]

What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party by Michael Kazin. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 416 pages.

Left Behind: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality
by Lily Geismer. PublicAffairs, 448 pages.

…There were some who saw it coming: they looked beyond the partisan pendulum swings… something fundamental was shifting. A concerted assault on those who favored an expanded, inclusive democracy took hold during the Reagan years. The political system had become friendly to business interests, wealthy cranks, professional liars, and a working alliance between closet racists and open ones. The journalist William Greider described it in his 1992 book Who Will Tell the People?: The Betrayal of American Democracy, which opens with the arresting line: “The decayed condition of American democracy is difficult to grasp, not because the facts are secret, but because the facts are visible everywhere.”

The two parties, in Greider’s view, were collaborating in a slow, grinding debilitation of citizen power and participation. The Republicans were concocting a “rancid populism that is perfectly attuned to the age of political alienation—a message of antipower.” The Democrats were a hollowed-out party, operating “mainly as a mail drop for political money.” Greider reported that when the Democratic National Committee wanted to organize a celebration in 1992, DNC staffers realized the party had no working list of its membership—rich donors, yes, but not party “regulars” serving at the county and precinct levels….

How is it possible that the Republican Party, with each turn of the screw, has made itself more malicious, conspiratorial, gun-crazy, and cultish, and yet still manages to run neck-and-neck with the Democratic Party? …you want to shake your fist at the Democrats and yell, “Can’t anybody here play this game?” ….

Reagan had eight years to argue relentlessly that government action to humanize the economy was un-American. In Left Behind: The Democrats’ Failed Attempt to Solve Inequality, historian Lily Geismer shows how successful Reagan was, portraying the Democratic Party’s conversion to a sort of Reagan-lite politics in the 1990s….

Geismer’s book is not just another account of the endless ideological arguments between the Democratic Party’s centrist and progressive wings. It is a case study of a particular approach to “moral capitalism,” in which the so-called New Democrats believed they could use market-based approaches that would create “win-win” policies, improving the lives of the poor and reducing inequality. They would do it by harnessing the power of credit. That is, banks were going to do more work to spread prosperity as government did less.

The Clintons were especially enamored of ventures they’d learned about in which “microcredit” was used with apparent success by the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. A group of bankers at the ShoreBank in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood had started to experiment with small, targeted loans that bigger banks had no interest in making….

You have to ask whether these people just completely misunderstood American capitalism as it exists in the real world. It does not inspire confidence that the Democratic Party spent so much time, under Clinton and again under Obama, wholly absorbed in a project to invent a softer Reaganism, thinking the voters would reward them for being “smarter” or “nicer” as they sought to end “welfare dependency” and spoke in reasonable, even tones as the “adults in the room.” ….

Democrats lost the South because Republicans cynically inflamed racism, yes. But many wounds have been self-inflicted, and many treatments shunned. It was in the labor movement where you’d hear the slogan “Black and white, unite and fight!”—yet the Democrats lost interest in supporting unions with better labor laws, pushing for industry-killing trade laws instead. To keep at least a few rural states in the Democratic coalition, the party needed to tap into authentic American economic populism, but that language was horrifying to Democratic funders and consultants. Young people on the left are expected to vote for Democrats as the default option, but they aren’t embraced by the party. In fact, the entire left wing of the party—rallied by Jesse Jackson in the late 1980s and Bernie Sanders in recent years—is expected to sit quietly on the back benches. The party’s fondest hopes always seem pinned on attracting more fickle suburban independents, who are presumed to fear the left every bit as much as they are made nervous by the right.

The Democrats had eight years of a Clinton administration and eight years of Obama. It seemed never to occur to them that the wheels really could fall off the democratic jalopy, that a “win at all costs” Republican Party would manipulate the undemocratic features of our creaky constitutional machinery. The Democrats spent crucial years misunderstanding actually existing capitalism, underestimating their opponents’ ruthless tactics and rancid populism, and neglecting to build new coalitions across race and class boundaries in the places where it mattered most.


“Why are we so afraid to govern?”

[Worcester Sucks and I Love It, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-2022]

“The vocabulary itself is a buffer against reform. So if I accurately described the demand The Worcester Together Affordable Housing Coalition made at a rally Wednesday—to alter a draft inclusionary zoning ordinance so that the required 10 percent of income-restricted units in new developments would be set to accommodate households making 60 percent of the area median income instead of 80 percent, as it’s currently written—it feels like I’m speaking in some sort of foreign language. The people who stand to gain from the status quo this language perpetuates are quite fluent—the developers, the hedge fund managers, the attorneys and the City Hall people who work with (for?) them. They know what I’m saying! On the other hand, the people who stand to lose—really, anyone who lives here and makes less than $100,000 a year—couldn’t be blamed for having no idea what any of that means. If you’re not a housing advocate or work in public policy or a weird nerd (me), why the hell would you bother to learn this impossibly boring language? Smart policies that would have real popular appeal are thus buried behind a fog of inscrutability. It’s just so hard to craft a compelling message. So I suppose the best way to kick off my attempt at such a message is to quote the only person in history to come up with a good one: Jimmy McMillan, who famously said in no uncertain terms that the rent is just too damn high.”


“Biden administration scales back student debt relief for millions amid legal concerns”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-4-2022]

“The Biden administration is scaling back its debt relief program for millions of Americans over concerns about legal challenges from the student loan industry as well as a new lawsuit from Republican-led states. In a reversal, the Education Department said on Thursday it would no longer allow borrowers who have federal student loans that are owned by private entities to qualify for the relief program. The administration had previously said those borrowers would have a path to receive up to $10,000 or $20,000 of loan forgiveness. The policy change comes as the Biden administration this week faces its first major legal challenges to the loan forgiveness program, which Republicans have railed against as an illegal use of executive power that is too costly for taxpayers. On Thursday, a group of six GOP attorneys general sued to block loan forgiveness. The states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina asked a federal judge to strike down the debt cancellation program, arguing that it’s illegal and unconstitutional.”


“Biden Picked the Worst Possible Moment to Declare the Pandemic ‘Over’”

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-4-2022]

“Yes, we’re in a different place than we were in March 2020. Some parts are better: There are no refrigerator trucks stationed outside hospitals right now, we have incredibly safe and effective vaccines, we have learned how well high-quality masks and ventilation help prevent the spread of all respiratory illnesses. At a moral level, however, some parts are worse: We now know exactly what works to stop the spread, yet we’re not doing it. We know how to save lives, but hundreds of people continue dying every day. ‘We have the tools, and now we’re setting up the entire system so that we cannot use those tools,’ said Esther Choo, professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. ‘We just created this vacuum of information so that we can’t even pivot intelligently as the next surge comes.’ What’s actually ‘over is the funding and sense of urgency for addressing the pandemic…. In June, the Biden administration reportedly discussed how many deaths from Covid are acceptable. That number appears to be more than 200,000 so far this year. One runs out of ways to describe such an intense wave of loss. That’s almost 500 jumbo jets crashing so far this year—almost two every day. It’s more than the entire population of Little Rock, Arkansas, or Salt Lake City, Utah, or Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is nearing half the population of Wyoming. And the year isn’t over yet….. We seem, instead, to have decided that this is an acceptable rate of loss and disruption; this is our new normal. As soon as we leave the acute emergency phase, we believe the crisis has passed. But that means it’s only going to go on longer—and winter is coming.”


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The War for Democracy in America Will Be Lost—or Won—in the States

Nancy MacLean, October 5, 2022 [The New Republic]

States were meant to be “laboratories of democracy.” Instead, they are pioneering new ways to restrict voting and distort representation….

Nancy MacLean is the William H. Chafe Distinguished Professor of History and Public Policy and author most recently of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.


How The GOP Is Suppressing Citizen Lawmaking

Jeff Milchen, October 6, 2022 [The Lever]

As state lawmakers become ever less responsive to the needs of their constituents, citizen lawmaking via ballot initiatives is becoming an increasingly critical tool to counter minority rule and usher in progressive policies — from raising taxes on the wealthy to expanding public health insurance. As the August voter uprising that defeated the Kansas anti-abortion measure makes clear, such direct-democracy efforts will likely prove especially important in protecting abortion rights following the end of Roe v. Wade.

GOP-led states, however, are now waging a three-pronged attack on citizen lawmaking: erecting barriers to keep citizen initiatives off the ballot, impeding these initiatives’ passage, and sabotaging their implementation. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC) discovered a fivefold increase since 2017 in bills that aim to threaten the ballot process. While some of the most egregious proposed restrictions can’t pass without voter approval, many recently-passed laws have made it far more difficult for citizens to use the initiative process….

In Arizona, for example, citizens voted Republicans into control of all state government branches in 2009 and have not wavered since. But when making the law themselves in 2020, Arizonans legalized marijuana and raised taxes on the wealthy to increase teachers’ pay. In response, legislators referred multiple constitutional amendments to this November’s ballot to restrict citizen lawmaking, including one requiring 67 percent, or supermajority support of voters, for any measure that proposes raising tax revenue.


Heather Cox Richardson, October 6, 2022 [Letters from an American]

The Republican narrative that Democrats can win only by cheating began back in 1994, after the Democrats made registering to vote easier with the 1993 so-called Motor Voter Act. In 1994, losing Republican candidates complained their opponents had cheated, and congressional Republicans kept that narrative alive with congressional investigations. Over time, “voter fraud” became the way Republicans explained away the unpopularity of their ideas.


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

US supreme court to decide cases with ‘monumental’ impact on democracy

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2022]


The most terrifying case of all is about to be heard by the US supreme court 

Steven Donziger [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-8-2022]

If the court upholds the rogue ‘Independent State Legislature’ theory, it would put the US squarely on the path to authoritarianism….

It is well-known that intense competition between democracy, authoritarianism and fascism is playing out across the globe in a variety of ways – including in the United States. This year’s US supreme court term, which started this week, is a vivid illustration of how the situation is actually worse than most people understand….

A supermajority of six, unelected ultraconservatives justice – five of which were put on the bench by presidents who did not win the popular vote – have aggressively grabbed yet another batch of cases that will allow them to move American law to the extreme right and threaten US democracy in the process. The leading example of this disturbing shift is a little-known case called Moore v Harper, which could lock in rightwing control of the United States for generations.

The heart of the Moore case is a formerly fringe legal notion called the Independent State Legislature (ISL) theory. This theory posits that an obscure provision in the US constitution allowing state legislatures to set “time, place, and manner” rules for federal elections should not be subject to judicial oversight. In other words, state legislatures should have the absolute power to determine how federal elections are run without court interference.


There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory

J. Michael Luttig [The Atlantic, via Heather Cox Richardson, October 3, 2022, Letters from an American]

That as many as six justices on the Supreme Court have flirted with the independent-state-legislature theory over the past 20 years is baffling. There is literally no support in the Constitution, the pre-ratification debates, or the history from the time of our nation’s founding or the Constitution’s framing for a theory of an independent state legislature that would foreclose state judicial review of state legislatures’ redistricting decisions. Indeed, there is overwhelming evidence that the Constitution contemplates and provides for such judicial review.


Equal Protection on the Docket

David Cole, October 3, 2022 [The New York Review]

In its new term, which begins today, the Court has chosen to hear a series of cases that likewise invoke the Constitution as an obstacle to protecting equal rights, even as the country continues to reckon with its many legacies of discrimination….

In a pair of cases that challenge affirmative action, at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, respectively, a group of would-be applicants asks the Court to declare that the Equal Protection Clause precludes any consideration of race in admissions….

Invoking the same principle of colorblindness, in Merrill v. Milligan Alabama has asked the Court to require proof of intentional racial discrimination to establish a violation of the Voting Rights Act—even though Congress explicitly amended the law in 1982 to reject such a requirement, and the Court has since then deemed such a showing unnecessary….

In 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, a Web designer claims that she has a First Amendment right to deny wedding website designs to same-sex couples because she objects to their marriages. Colorado law requires that once a business opens to the public it must serve all people equally. The Supreme Court has on at least five previous occasions rejected First Amendment challenges to such antidiscrimination laws, most recently in the 2018 case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission….

In Brackeen v. Haaland, Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, as well as would-be adoptive parents from those states, argue that the Equal Protection Clause precludes Congress from requiring states to give preference to families and foster homes from federally recognized Indian tribes when placing children associated with those tribes with adoptive families….

Finally, in Moore v. Harper, Republican state legislators in North Carolina invoke the Constitution’s Elections Clause to defeat a state constitutional limit on partisan gerrymandering, the practice by which one party skews district lines to ensure that their supporters are able to elect more representatives than their numbers warrant. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the Republican-controlled legislature’s map violates the state’s constitutional prohibition on partisan gerrymandering by splitting Democratic voters across Republican-majority districts. But the challengers argue that the federal Constitution gives state legislatures essentially unrestrained authority to set the rules for congressional elections, even if in doing so they violate their own state constitutions.


How Banks Are Defending Their Right to Discriminate

Max Moran, October 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Chamber of Commerce v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the latest battle in Wall Street’s long legal war to destroy the CFPB, the government’s watchdog against cheap tricks and consumer abuses in lending. The slew of trade groups bringing the case say the CFPB was wildly out of line when, in March, the agency decided to take it as a given that discrimination is an “unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice” (UDAAP). Now, the bank representatives are using the lawsuit as an opportunity to claim the CFPB itself is unconstitutional and should be defunded.


Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Deft Legal Reasoning Collides With Political Reality

Jess Coleman, October 7, 2022 [The New Republic]

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s newest member, Ketanji Brown Jackson, sent legal Twitter ablaze with the sharp comments she offered during oral arguments in Merrill v. Milliganthe latest conservative effort to gut the Voting Rights Act. As Justice Jackson vigorously debunked the right’s shameless revisionist history of the Fourteenth Amendment, the establishment left rejoiced: The newest liberal justice appeared to be a difference-maker—“mak[ing] waves” and “grab[bing] the spotlight.” One prominent legal journalist predicted that Jackson was surely “going to burn Scalia’s legacy to the ground.” That’s quite a review on her big debut—one that came coupled with conservatives having an utter meltdown over her questions and reasoning….

But it is hardly satisfying to hear that the Republican Party’s brazen hijacking of the nation’s judiciary will be compensated with a mere opportunity to influence the law some small way in the distant future. It’s also noteworthy that the most riveting examples of a dissent eventually becoming influential legal writ—from Clarence Thomas’s once-fringe views on abortion and affirmative action to Antonin Scalia’s pleas to expand executive power—were paired with an aggressive conservative political movement determined to win these ideological wars. As of now, no such movement exists on the political left….

…but the Democratic establishment, prioritizing stability over substantive results, resisted calls for more aggressive institutional interventions, throwing cold water on proposals such as court expansion.


Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s “progressive originalism”

Heather Cox Richardson, October 4, 2022 [Letters from an American]

Today, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson brought an important new philosophy to the law when the Supreme Court heard arguments over Merrill v. Milligan, a voting rights case. This case concerns Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which, as summarized by the Department of Justice, “prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified” in the act.

In 2021, Alabama’s legislature cut the state into seven districts that “crack and pack” Black voters. About 27% of the residents of Alabama are Black, but they are either “packed” into one district or “cracked” among the others, diluting their overall strength.

Registered voters, the Alabama chapter of the NAACP, and the multifaith Greater Birmingham Ministries sued under the Voting Rights Act. A district court of three judges, two of whom were appointed by Trump, agreed that the redistricting violated the law and gave the legislature two weeks to redraw the map to create two Black-majority districts.

The state immediately filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, which was granted, allowing the states to use the original map for this year’s elections.
In today’s arguments, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour Jr. claimed that states must draw districts that are “race neutral.” When Justice Jackson pressed him to explain, he turned to the Fourteenth Amendment, saying it “is a prohibition, not an obligation, to engage in race discrimination.”

Jackson then turned on its head the so-called “originalism” that has taken over the court. “I understood that we looked at the history and traditions of the Constitution and what the framers and founders thought about,” she said, “and when I drilled down to that level of analysis, it became clear to me that the framers themselves adopted the equal protection clause, the 14th Amendment, the 15th Amendment in a race-conscious way.”

She’s right, of course, and while she followed up with more Reconstruction history, she could have gone even farther: when President Andrew Johnson vetoed the 1866 civil rights bill on the explicit grounds that it was not race neutral (among other things), Congress repassed it over his veto and based the Fourteenth Amendment on it.


How Government Ends: Through an assault on administrative agencies, the Supreme Court is systematically eroding the legal basis of effective governance.

Lisa Heinzerling September 28, 2022 [Boston Review].

When, early in Donald Trump’s presidency, senior advisor Steve Bannon promised that the administration would fight every day for the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” most Americans probably weren’t even sure what this meant….

“[Administrative agencies] currently number 400 or so departments and offices—from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Food and Drug Administration, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Federal Election Commission—with over 3.5 million civilian and military employees, budgets totaling more than $1 trillion, and legal responsibilities covering the gamut of daily life. These agencies are created, funded, overseen, and given directions by Congress. Anyone who eats food, drinks water, breathes air, drives a car, takes medicine, receives mail, collects retirement benefits, or owns publicly traded stock—to name a tiny set of examples—has crossed paths, even if unwittingly, with the work of an administrative agency….

Since its very first legislative session in 1789, Congress has often chosen to delegate power to administrative agencies in broad terms, imbuing them with particular missions but leaving enough room for discretion to act in light of varied, complex, and changing circumstances.

The Supreme Court long policed these kinds of legislative choices with a light touch, understanding that Congress was in a better position than the Court to identify the appropriate breadth of delegations of authority to agencies and the appropriate degree of political independence for them. But this long period of legislative hegemony and judicial restraint with respect to the powers and structure of federal agencies appears to be coming to an end. Deploying originalist arguments, the conservative justices on today’s Supreme Court have served notice—most recently in West Virginia v. EPA, decided this June—that they are prepared to weaken and restructure contemporary government in order to return us to their vision of our constitutional past. For these justices, the fact that their originalist interpretations of the views of the Constitution’s framers align perfectly with the deregulatory and anti-government program of today’s Republican party is a mere coincidence.”

….The legal arguments being offered in three cases to be heard in the Supreme Court’s upcoming term show how far the Court has already gone in expanding the bounds of acceptable legal argument with respect to the legitimacy of government as we know it. This turning point represents the culmination of the right’s decades-long project to dismantle the administrative state, and nothing less than the future of the effective governance is at stake….


Donald J. Trump v. United States of America

The full application before the USSC [via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2022]




Open Thread


Russia Hits Power Infrastructure


  1. VietnamVet

    The founding dictum of the successful Oligarch’s counter revolt was likely a secret handshake and oath; “Don’t tell anyone on the pain of shunning. Democratic government is done”. The 1970’s energy crises showed that industrial expansion and a working middle class are no longer possible. Industrial – regulated – capitalism was dismantled in order to make money offshore and to exploit humans and the earth’s resources. An Empire of Fake Profits was built on mob gambling and protection money. 73% of Americans are dying in debt. A world war is underway between two dysfunctional Empires that can’t do anything right except make their Oligarch’s richer at the expense of everyone else. The current world is inexplicable unless this is pointed out.

    The 3,000+ years old Chinese Civilization is now the world’s last functioning Empire. The US/UK and Russian Empires are hallowed out. The Red Army is so corrupt it can no longer do maneuver warfare. Starting in 2014, the Ukraine Invasion morphed the ethnic conflict into a world war. Crimea is already under the Russian nuclear umbrella. Sweden and Finland are getting under NATO’s protection. Likewise four Ukrainian Oblasts with a majority of ethnic Russians are being added to Russia.

    An Oligarchy simply cannot win a world war because they are incapable of assembling and motivating a people’s army from the ill, overweight, and broke they’ve scammed. The Overlords will also resist mobilization and taxes to pay for the war. Plus, mercenary armies stop fighting when the pay stops.

    Three of the four natural gas pipelines to Europe were bombed. The Russian Crimea Bridge damaged by a truck bomb. The war is escalating out of control. Europeans will feel the cold and shortages this winter. This is an existential war on all sides, fought by rouge elements and mercenaries, with no way out. If Europeans agree to peace and natural gas to keep warm from Russia, the global hegemony is kaput.

    If there is no armistice and no DMZ built, and tactical nuclear weapons are used as a last resort, escalation to a global nuclear war is assured. Those who got human beings into this catastrophe in the first place aren’t the ones who will back down. Once strategic ICBMs are fired as a first strike or to prevent a first strike, China will have to hope they aren’t targeted too. That is not likely due to the “Samson Nuclear Option”. If a nuclear armed nation is being overrun or a first strike is inbound, the massive retaliatory strike would intentionally include the Southern Hemisphere and non-participant targets, to assure there are no winners from the nation’s destruction. Any surviving Chinese ICBMs and Boomer Submarine missiles, if fired, will only bounce the rubble.

    Denial is an attempt to paint the world as sane, but the 1957 “On the Beach” novel/movie and the 1983 “The Day After” TV show are visions of the afterwards of a nuclear war. Detente, the alternative to survive, is forgotten. Ignored so military contractors will profit this quarter.

  2. Ché Pasa


    As I keep saying, there are powerful elements in and outside of our own and Nato’s foreign policy and military establishments who desire nuclear war. They believe it would be survivable — for them — and that the horrors of nuclear war have been vastly overrated.

    These people have been around from the outset of nuclear weapons development and use. Edward Teller comes to mind. Good God, the man was advocating the use of his
    Supers (hydrogen bombs) against the Soviet Union (or anyone else) from the day of the first test. He wasn’t joking. He wanted them used and was frustrated the government didn’t agree.

    Donald Rumsfeld was another one who seemed to believe that use of nuclear weapons wouldn’t be so bad and an all out nuclear war would be winnable and survivable. (There was a reason he chose to retreat to Taos where he was deeply loathed by the population, but hey, nobody was gonna nuke Taos, right?)

    And of course right now there are terrible people, truly evil people and plenty of their followers in important, decision making positions in the US and Nato countries who love the idea of destroying Russia by any means necessary — including precipitating nuclear holocaust. They share Rumsfeld’s belief that nuclear war would be survivable and winnable — and worth it. For them. Not for us. We don’t matter. I’m not sure we even exist in their formulations.

    We are being conditioned to accept the inevitability of nuclear war — all out or no — as a consequence of the fighting in Ukraine. Russia will start it, so we’re told. Over and over again (repetition being the essential element of propaganda). And “we” will have to respond, swiftly and surely. With finality.

    What did the character say in “Dr. Strangelove”?

    General “Buck” Turgidson : Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops.

    Well there you have it, and that was 1964. It may have been dark comedy then but there was a dark reality behind it. Nothing has really changed, has it? And there are no wiser heads.

  3. Trinity

    Subheading reads: “Creating new economic potential – science and technology”

    Title reads: “Slight shifts in magnetic field preceded California earthquakes”

    Maybe I’m a quibbler, maybe not. But placing everything into an economic/financial context is what THEY do, and everyone (and every other living thing) is suffering because of it.

    The referenced research is fantastic, and I hope it becomes a way to save many people’s lives. And yes, there’s a connection between people and the economy (obvs). But can’t we stop at “saving lives in and of itself is a good thing”?

    And can we ever get back to the way of thinking that says, “Hey! It’s for the good of all countries (aka the world) to share this technology with every country that needs it” instead of the current way of thinking that says, “Hey! How can I become a gazillionaire with this research?”

    Because I think if we can’t (or our children can’t) begin to think more in terms of the former rather than the latter, none of us will be around to correct the mistake.

  4. Trinity

    Loved this quote from the Michael Hudson interview:

    But US policy has created a global state of dependency in which literally ‘There is no alternative but to break away’.

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