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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 11, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Chile rejects new “progressive” constitution

Chile votes overwhelmingly to reject new, progressive constitution 

Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


Chilean voters resoundingly reject a new ‘ecological’ constitution 

[Science, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]

Lambert Strether: Here is the very first sentence from WaPo’s Editorial Board, urging rejection. “Lithium is a key input in batteries that run millions of laptops and upon which the United States is basing its electrified automotive future.” Clarifying!


The Egalitarian Rift Which Doomed The New Chilean Constitution

Ian Welsh, September 6, 2022

….Let’s bring this back to Chile: indigenous people’s have been badly treated and deserve restitution, but to give them permanent rights that others in Chile don’t have based on their ancestry means that some people have rights that they didn’t earn legitimately from an egalitarian point of view….

For this to work it would have to be a legitimate way for people without the ancestry to gain the status, and a legitimate way for people wit the status to lose it.

If it was based on ancestry combined with “you’ve been treated badly”, then the harm would have to be quantified, and the status lost when the harm has been rectified. “The harm has been made substantially whole.” People could join the status by proving similar harm had been done to their ancestors and/or them and was still effecting them.

If, on the other hand, the status is justified by “indigenous people are better stewards of the land” then a duty would have to be set up to take better care of the land, and those who did not do so would lose the status, while those who are willing to do so (and to learn indigenous methods) would be allowed to gain the status.


Strategic Political Economy

What is to be done about the US death crisis? 

[Policy Tensor, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2022]

Adam Tooze and Edward Luce have rightly drawn attention to the unattended health crisis in America. Tooze notes that the Chinese can now expect to live longer than Americans; not just because Chinese life expectancy continues to grow, but more alarmingly because US life expectancy has been falling in absolute terms — an “extraordinary and shameful fact.”….

“Americans live almost five years less than the wealthy country average,” Luce notes. The numbers are so concerning that “even the Pentagon has to sit up.” American elites in general, and its political elites in particular, really do need to pay attention.

Life expectancy contains the strongest signal of the general well-being of a population. It is a vital statistic — akin to an organism’s resting heart rate. Declines in life expectancy outside of wars are glaring signs of a society in deep trouble. Indeed, Emmanuel Todd predicted the imminent fall of the Soviet Union in the early-1970s based precisely on his reading of Russia’s life expectancy. Even the CIA concluded that the Soviets were in trouble from the same vital statistic….

What has gone wrong? Case and Deaton, who uncovered the rise in deaths due to drug overdose, suicides and alcohol poisoning since 2000, agree that the larger structure of the US socioeconomic system since the neoliberal counterrevolution is to blame (although they reserve special blame for the catastrophe of US healthcare in particular). They have shown that the mortality crisis is identical to the crisis of the working class family.


Medically assisted deaths could save millions in health care spending: Report 

[CBC, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2022]


‘It’s Becoming Too Expensive to Live’: Anxious Older Adults Try to Cope With Limited Budgets 

[Kaiser Health News, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2022]


US household wealth fell by a record $6.1 trillion in Q2

[Twitter, via Mike Norman Economics 9-6-2022]


Humanity was stagnant for millennia — then something big changed 150 years ago 

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]

[Interview on] Slouching Towards Utopia: An Economic History of the Twentieth Century, the new magnum opus from UC Berkeley professor Brad DeLong….

Whereas before 1870, technological progress proceeded slowly, if at all, after 1870 it accelerated dramatically. And especially for residents of rich countries, this technological progress brought a world of unprecedented plenty.

DeLong reports that in 1870, an average unskilled male worker living in London could afford 5,000 calories for himself and his family on his daily wages. That was more than the 3,000 calories he could’ve afforded in 1600, a 66 percent increase — progress, to be sure. But by 2010, the same worker could afford 2.4 million calories a day, a nearly five hundred fold increase….

DeLong: …around 1770, the steam engine and textile machinery attained critical mass and the Industrial Revolution begins, which is usually taken as the hinge of economic history, although some people push it back further.

However, you look worldwide and you take my index of technological progress, and it [grows by] less than half a percent per year from 1770 to 1870. That’s based on exploitation of really cheap coal and also on the productivity benefits of falling transport costs that gather all of the manufacturing in the world into the place [the United Kingdom] where it’s most productive and most efficient, because it’s the place where coal is cheapest….

That’s what the pace of progress was, except that we got the industrial research lab, the modern corporation, and then full globalization around 1870. The industrial research lab rationalized and routinized the discovery and development of technologies; the corporation rationalized and routinized the development and deployment of technologies; and globalization diffused them everywhere….

And yet once technological progress starts to hit 2 percent per year, then some people begin to have incomes above subsistence and infant mortality falls. But those changes came remarkably quickly….

Dylan Matthews The highlight of the 140 years you study are the Thirty Glorious Years: roughly from 1945 to 1975, as the US and Europe recovered from World War II. They managed to build economies and welfare states that directed substantial benefits to working-class people while sustaining really fast productivity growth. After the 1970s, that regime broke down.

I finished the book thinking, “How can we get back to those 30 years? How do we get fast growth and equitable growth like that again?” But at the same time, many people you might think sympathetic to that vision are instead questioning the value of economic growth or calling for “degrowth” as a way to manage global warming.

Is it possible to go back to the Thirty Glorious Years? Or do we need degrowth instead?

[TW: this is a good example of how professional academics are failing us. De Long talks about “industrial research labs” and “the modern corporation” but fails to mention the even more important role of government research and support. For example, the profession of mechanical engineering was created after the Civil War by US Navy Admiral Benjamin Franklin Isherwood. It was under Isherwood’s prodding and direction that the Navy, in the 1850s, began to apply scientific rigor to analyzing the performance of steam engine and boiler design, significantly advancing the field of thermodynamics from its rudimentary beginnings. After the Civil War, Isherwood developed a curriculum in steam power to educate and train naval officers at the Naval Academy. It was this program that created the first mechanical engineers in the world, and it was eventually replicated by many other nations. By the turn of the century, almost all the major industrial companies and railroads in USA, such as Westinghouse and General Electric, were led and directed by graduates of Isherwood’s program at Annapolis. A more modern example is our information age: all the technologies of computers and digital communications were created in government labs and government programs, before being deliberately seeded into private corporations. By suppressing knowledge and discussion of the role of government in promoting economic development, the false narratives of laissez faire, social Darwinism, and “free enterprise” are protected and maintained.]

Deep adaptation, degrowth and MMT

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 9-8-2022]

In Chapter 5 of Jason Hickel’s book he writes:

“… degrowth is not about reducing GDP. It is about reducing the material and energy throughput of the economy to bring it back into balance with the living world, while distributing income and resources more fairly, liberating people from needless work, and investing in the public goods that people need to thrive. It is the first step toward a more ecological civilisation. Of course, doing this may mean that GDP grows more slowly, or stops growing, or even declines. And if so, that’s okay; because GDP isn’t what matters.”

….In fact, a first step in shifting our focus to designing such an agenda is, I would argue, coming to terms with what MMT offers by way of understanding.

An MMT understanding lifts the lid off all the fictions that the mainstream economists use to hide their real purpose – to support the profit-making, extractive system of capitalism.

An MMT understanding is, in my view, an essential part of the solution, because it allows us to construct the possible and avoid falling into traps where our worlds collapse because governments run out of money and have to tax us out of existence and all the rest of the fictions that allow governments and their backers in the financial world to perpetuate a system that is not only moving us towards ‘extinction’ but keeps millions of workers in relative penury as part of the process….

Referring back to the previous comments on GDP measurement, the task is not to reduce ‘growth’ per se but, rather, to reduce energy usage and bring it back into balance with nature.

That is what degrowth is about.

There are many ways in which measured GDP can increase while we achieve lower energy usage.

Building local permaculture community gardens and selling the produce in the local market place would be a boost to GDP but would also help to achieve degrowth.

Global power shift as USA and west commit suicide by neoliberalism

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


Around 70,000 People Protest Against Czech Government, NATO in Prague

[Antiwar, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

Germany’s energy suicide: an autopsy

William Engdahl [via Pepe Escobar, The Vineyard of the Saker, via The Big Picture 9-8-2022]

What the EU Commission and government ministers in Germany and across the EU are carefully hiding is the transformation they have created in how the natural gas price is determined today. For almost two decades the EU Commission, backed by the mega banks such as JP MorganChase or large speculative hedge funds, began to lay the basis for what is today a complete deregulation of the market for natural gas. It was promoted as the “liberalization” of the European Union’s natural gas market. What it now allows is for unregulated real-time free market trading to fix prices rather than long-term contracts.

Beginning around 2010 the EU began to push a radical change in rules for pricing natural gas. Prior to that point most gas prices were set in fixed long-term contracts for pipeline delivery. The largest supplier, Russia’s Gazprom, provided gas to the EU, most especially to Germany, in long-term contracts pegged to the price of oil. Until the last several years almost no gas was imported by LNG ships. With a change in US laws to allow export of LNG from the huge shale gas production in 2016 US gas producers began a major expansion of LNG export terminal construction. The terminals take an average of 3 to 5 years to build. At the same time Poland, Holland and other EU countries began to build LNG import terminals to receive the LNG from abroad.

Emerging from World War II as the world leading oil supplier, the Anglo-American oil giants, then called the Seven Sisters, created a global oil price monopoly. As Henry Kissinger noted during the oil shocks of the 1970s, “Control the oil and you control entire nations.” Since the 1980s Wall Street banks, led by Goldman Sachs, created a new market in “paper oil,” or futures and derivative trading of future oil barrels. It created a huge casino of speculative profits that was controlled by a handful of giant banks in New York and the City of London.


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-10-2022]


Russia to redirect energy resources to Middle East and Africa — Energy Minister

[Tass, via Mike Norman Economics 9-6-2022]


Russia, China, BRICS, World Economy

Tony Norfield [Economics of Imperialism, via Mike Norman Economics 9-6-2022]

Rich countries run the world economy. They are represented mainly by the G7 – the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada – and directly manage all major international bodies or greatly influence how these work. In the process, they set the terms for international trade and investment. Any country that disobeys their US-led ‘rules-based order’ is faced with sanctions, economic isolation and military threats. But the past six months has seen accelerating moves to build a framework outside this web of domination. This article assesses those building blocks for a new world economy.…

Timely assertion of India’s strategic autonomy 

MK. Bhadrakumar [India Punchline, via Mike Norman Economics 9-8-2022]

The Russian Far East is the world’s last frontier, endowed with vast mineral resources. In the prevailing geopolitical conditions, Moscow has prioritised Asian countries for partnership. India gets a fast track both by virtue of its “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership” with Russia as well as the warmth and cordiality in the personal equations between Modi and Putin.

PM was speaking hot on the heels of the G7 decision to endorse the Biden Administration’s latest project to weaken and “erase” Russia by imposing a price cap mechanism on its oil exports. The US hopes to derail Russia’s energy cooperation with China and India, the two big-time  players in the global oil market, given the size of their economies and the staggering scale of their future energy needs. China is refusing to play ball. So should India. That makes the G7 project a non-starter.

The power dynamic works this way: Energy security is all about a country’s economic future and world strategy. Economic strength brings influence and respect in international politics and is a vital component of a country’s strategic autonomy and its capacity to pursue independent  foreign policies. This co-relation is well understood by everyone.

That is why, the Biden Administration inserted a dagger deep into the heart of the thriving 50-year old energy cooperation between Moscow and Western Europe. What better way to reassert the US’ transatlantic leadership that had been on the wane in the recent decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991!


Leisure class (PMC) (mis)leadership

The US has a ruling class – and Americans must stand up to it 

Bernie Sanders [The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2022]


The Obscure Economist Silicon Valley Billionaires Should Dump Ayn Rand For

[Vanity Fair, via The Big Picture 9-7-2022]

He lived almost 200 years ago, but Henry George’s theories might have something to offer people who want to put their money to good use today.


“The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse”

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2022]

They started out innocuously and predictably enough. Bitcoin or ethereum? Virtual reality or augmented reality? Who will get quantum computing first, China or Google? Eventually, they edged into their real topic of concern: New Zealand or Alaska? Which region would be less affected by the coming climate crisis? It only got worse from there. Which was the greater threat: global warming or biological warfare? How long should one plan to be able to survive with no outside help? Should a shelter have its own air supply? What was the likelihood of groundwater contamination? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?” The event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, solar storm, unstoppable virus, or malicious computer hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from raiders as well as angry mobs. One had already secured a dozen Navy Seals to make their way to his compound if he gave them the right cue. But how would he pay the guards once even his crypto was worthless? What would stop the guards from eventually choosing their own leader?

The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers – if that technology could be developed “in time”.

I tried to reason with them. I made pro-social arguments for partnership and solidarity as the best approaches to our collective, long-term challenges. The way to get your guards to exhibit loyalty in the future was to treat them like friends right now, I explained. Don’t just invest in ammo and electric fences, invest in people and relationships. They rolled their eyes at what must have sounded to them like hippy philosophy.

This was probably the wealthiest, most powerful group I had ever encountered. Yet here they were, asking a Marxist media theorist for advice on where and how to configure their doomsday bunkers. That’s when it hit me: at least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2022]


Discount America The new business model is to try to capture everyone who has fallen out of the middle class.

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


Radioactive Waste ‘Everywhere’ at Ohio Oilfield Facility, Says Former Worker 

[DeSmog, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2022]

He said that as a battalion fire chief entering an environment as contaminated as the Austin Master facility appears to be, he would ensure his firefighters were in full hazmat gear with special non-absorbent hazmat boots and gloves and a breathing apparatus with an air supply tank on their back. And he would only allow the firefighters to be inside for 45 minutes at a time; yet Austin Master’s workers are there eight hours a day, week in and week out, without such protections….

Despite the dangers this type of oil and gas waste poses, a 1980 provision enacted by Congress has deemed it non-hazardous and therefore exempt from federal rules that would otherwise apply to hazardous waste. As an EPA spokesperson told DeSmog, “There is no one federal Agency that specifically regulates the radioactivity brought to the surface by oil and gas development.” In a separate exchange, EPA spokesperson Enesta Jones stated: “EPA does not regulate radioactivity in oil and gas production, processing and transport systems.” Jones pointed to state agencies as having the authority to track and regulate oil and gas waste and its radioactivity.


Neoliberalism requires a police state

Comedian Sandy Honig Decided to Barf Outside Of Insurance Company After Treatment Was Denied 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

After Honig visited the offices, she says, police conducted a wellness check at her home. “It was such a lovely surprise to get a visit from two men armed with guns and batons in my own home,” Honig says in the video, which shows two Los Angeles Police Department officers in her living room.

“It’s so nice to know that even if [Anthem] won’t give me the healthcare I need, [they] still care,” Honig said in the video.  

Honig shared with VICE News a photo of a note she says was given to her by the cops; it cites a “poss[ible] 5150”—police code that, in California, allows for a person to be placed into an involuntary psychiatric hold for up to 72 hours—and a “welfare check” on Honig with regard to a “letter written to insurance company.”


Health care crisis

Study raises red flags about corporatization of health care, OHSU investigator says 

[OHSU, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2022]


Restoring balance to the economy

New York City sues Starbucks for firing union-organizing barista 

[The Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2022]


With one week left before potential national rail strike, showdown building between US railroaders and Biden administration 

[WSWS, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2022]

The sentiment for a strike among 100,000 railroaders is overwhelming. In July, engineers voted to authorize a strike by 99.5 percent. But it is not simply a question of what they want. They have no other choice. It is impossible for them to continue to work 80 hours or even 100 hours a week, on call 24/7.

The brutal work regime in the railroad industry, which is more profitable than any other, renders workers strangers to their families and leaves them even without time to schedule doctor’s appointments. Now, they are fighting against the attempts to impose a settlement from a Biden-appointed Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) that does not come close to meeting their demands.

A deadly collision Thursday on the Union Pacific in Southern California was a fresh and tragic reminder of the intolerable conditions workers are determined to end once and for all. Two workers died in the accident, bringing the death toll on Union Pacific alone to three over a 10-day span.


One of the biggest strikes in US history is brewing at UPS 

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


We’re ready to strike’: UPS workers and Teamsters prepare for contract fight 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


Labor Day Was Established After a Deadly Railroad Strike 

[Jalopnik, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


The Fast-Food Empire Strikes Back

Harold Meyerson, September 8, 2022 [The American Prospect]

 One day after sectoral bargaining is signed into California law, the industry announces a ballot measure to repeal it.


The Anti-Monopoly Fight Will Be in the States

Robert Hitt, September 8, 2022 [The American Prospect]

A new task force aims to take on corporate power at the state and local levels….

Today, Fight Corporate Monopolies (FCM), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting antitrust enforcement, announced a task force with an initial cohort of eight elected officials from four states: Delaware, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York. It aims to create a community of anti-monopoly policymakers, provide them with resources for research and messaging, connect them with adversely affected constituents and small-business owners, and even help draft legislation to restrain the power of large corporate actors.

The task force can be seen as a counterweight to conservative organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate-sponsored outfit that supplies model legislation on a host of right-wing causes to state legislatures. In a small way, the FCM task force can do the same for the cause of preventing corporate corruption and monopolization.


Climate and environmental crises

The energy historian who says rapid decarbonization is a fantasy 

Los Angeles Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


Pakistan floods: will rich nations ever pay for climate loss and damage? 

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]


Mississippi’s Dry Run for Eco-Apartheid 

[New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

Longstanding issue and conveniently not noticed. See this Sanders campaign video from Lowndes County, Alabama of a woman living next to a septic field. She has since died of Covid. BTW Lowndes County also has had the highest Covid case and death rate in Alabama.


Want To Win the Climate Fight? Tackle Inequality, Among Others. 

[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

The long road ahead for American-made electric vehicles

[Vox, via The Big Picture 9-5-2022]

The Inflation Reduction Act lays the groundwork for an EV supply that starts in the United States.


How to make EVs without China’s supply chain 

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2022]


Plug-in hybrids can drive us to our fully electric future

[Axios, via The Big Picture 9-6-2022]

Efforts to get Americans to replace their gas-powered cars with EVs are about to run into two stubborn realities: Most consumers aren’t ready to go electric, nor is the battery supply chain prepared to meet a surge in demand. Driving the news: The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law earlier this month, purported to expand EV tax credits.


Beyond Drought: The Coming Water Shortage Is a Threat From Main Street to Wall Street (Barron’s)

[Barron’s, via The Big Picture 9-6-2022]


Baltimore latest among major cities experiencing contamination in water supply 

[ABC, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]


‘All of a sudden it’s undrinkable’: why an entire US city has no clean water.

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 9-4-2022]

Jackson, Mississippi, lost access to safe running water after flooding – but it’s the capstone to years of problems with race a possible factor.


Can you drown government in an empty bathtub? 

Paul Krugman [The Berkshire Eagle, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

On Monday, the water supply to Jackson, the state’s capital and largest city, collapsed…. The immediate cause of the crisis was torrential rains that overwhelmed the city’s largest water treatment plant. But the weather event, while severe, wasn’t a Katrina-level shock; it was a disaster only because the city’s water system was already failing, the result of years of neglect.

This neglect, in turn, was essentially a political decision… Jackson — a largely Black inner-city core whose economy has been hollowed out by white flight — does not. And the state refused to help, even as the coming water crisis became ever more predictable.

But never fear: Back in April, Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, announced that he was making “an investment in Mississippians”; by “an investment,” he meant a tax cut rather than spending on, say, education or infrastructure….

But one thing is for sure: Imagining that tax cuts will bring prosperity to a poorly educated state that can’t even provide its capital with running water is just delusional.

Which brings us to the political trends that lie behind these delusions.

Since Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party has been dominated by anti-government ideology. As anti-tax activist Grover Norquist famously put it, the goal was to shrink government to the point that you could “drown it in the bathtub.” When Donald Trump ran for president, it briefly seemed as if the GOP might make a break with that ideology, accepting the social safety net while focusing on ethnic and racial hostility.

Instead, however, Republicans, believing that they can win elections by riling up the base with social issues like attacks on wokeness, have doubled down on right-wing economics. Congressional candidates are once again talking about repealing Obamacare and privatizing Social Security.

And Republican-run states have gone beyond cutting social programs to eviscerating public services Americans have taken for granted for many generations, services like public education— and drinkable water.

Will this bring a political backlash? I have no idea. But I do wonder: Can you drown the government in a bathtub if you can’t even fill the bathtub?


How to Green Our Parched Farmlands and Finance Critical Infrastructure 

Ellen Brown [CounterPunch, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

Congress has passed two major infrastructure bills in the last year, but imminent needs remain. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law chiefly focused on conventional highway programs, and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) mainly centered on energy security and combating climate change. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), over $2 trillion in much-needed infrastructure is still unfunded, including projects to address drought, affordable housing, high-speed rail, and power transmission lines. By 2039, per the ASCE, continued underinvestment at current rates will cost $10 trillion in cumulative lost GDP, more than 3 million jobs in that year, and $2.24 trillion in exports over the next 20 years.

Particularly urgent today is infrastructure to counteract the record-breaking drought in the U.S. Southwest, where 50% of the nation’s food supply is grown. Subsidies for such things as the purchase of electric vehicles, featured in the IRA, will pad the coffers of the industries lobbying for them but will not get water to our parched farmlands any time soon. More direct action is needed. But as noted by Todd Tucker in a Roosevelt Institute article, “Today, a gridlocked and austerity-minded Congress balks at appropriating sufficient money to ensure emergency readiness. … [T]he US system of government’s numerous veto points make emergency response harder than under parliamentary or authoritarian systems.”

There are, however, other ways to finance these essential projects. “A work-around,” says Tucker, “is so-called off-balance sheet money creation.” That was the approach taken in the 1930s, when commercial banks were bankrupt and the country faced its worst-ever economic depression; yet the government succeeded in building infrastructure as never before.

To Save the Climate, Hire More Civil Servants

Max Moran, September 8, 2022 [The American Prospect]

Either we pay for more people to fix the climate crisis, or we pay for more cleanup after routine natural disasters.


A deeper dive into World Wide Wind’s colossal, contra-rotating turbines 

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2022]

Where conventional large horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) have to support a large mass of motor and generators in a nacelle at the top of their enormous towers, WWW’s design keeps all its heaviest components at the bottom, vastly reducing engineering stresses and materials costs. And where HAWTs need to be anchored right to the sea floor, or mounted on extremely heavy platforms so they won’t tip over, WWW can simply put a float partway up its pole, held in place by tethers, and let its own weight balance hold the turbines up, allowing the whole structure to tilt with the wind rather than fighting to stay upright.

This design, says WWW, fundamentally removes the engineering restrictions that are preventing offshore wind turbines from growing larger to reap the benefits that come with scale. Not that today’s biggest wind turbines are small, by any means – but WWW says it sees a clear path to gargantuan 400-meter-tall (1,312-ft) machines with 40-megawatt capacities, two and a half times as much as today’s biggest turbines can produce, as early as 2029.


Ingenious “Wind Turbine Wall” Could Power Your Entire Home 

[Unofficial Network, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2022]


Hydrogen production from the air 

[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]

“This so-called direct air electrolysis (DAE) module can work under a bone-dry environment with a relative humidity of 4%, overcoming water supply issues and producing green hydrogen sustainably with minimal impact to the environment. The DAE modules can be easily scaled to provide hydrogen to remote, (semi-) arid, and scattered areas.”


American workers need lots and lots of robots 

[Noahpinion, via The Big Picture 9-5-2022]

With the power of automation, our workers can win. Without it, they’re in trouble.


Information age dystopia

Google’s Project Nimbus is the future of evil 

[Android Central, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

Where things get dark and ugly is what Google says about Project Nimbus’ capabilities using the company’s technology:

“Nimbus training documents emphasize “the ‘faces, facial landmarks, emotions’-detection capabilities of Google’s Cloud Vision API,” and in one Nimbus training webinar, a Google engineer confirmed for an Israeli customer that it would be possible to “process data through Nimbus in order to determine if someone is lying”.

Yes, the company that gave us the awesomely bad YouTube algorithms now wants to sell algorithms to determine if someone is lying to the police. Let that sink in. This is a science that Microsoft has abandoned(opens in new tab) because of its inherent problems.

Unfortunately, Google disagrees so much that it retaliates against people in the company that speak out against it.


Collapse of independent news media

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2022]

2/For seven consecutive years, the cable operators have seen subscriber declines for 84 monthsIt’s called in the TV biz, “Cord Cutters”97% of the “Cord Cutters” are under the age of 50The majority of what is left watching cable like we have known, are very very old people….

7/ …In fact between 2008 and 2016, CNN lost 60% of its 50+ audience….

10/Trump came and CNN started to make a shitload of money again by being the “counter” to Fox News but it was based on perception not reality.No one was still watching. Why?While rest of America is out there cutting the cord, Fox News doubled down on old people.And won….

Sep 3 Then the game changed in 2010 with Citizen United’sWe all were killing it before the Citizen United ruling.But that ruling opened up the flood gates exponentially.Every 2 years. $1 Billion would pour into the networks during election cycles.It changed how we did business.

News Networks make more money during the 3 months leading up to mid-terms than they do all year.Imagine candy manufacturers during October leading up to Halloween.Now multiple that by 10x.And a Presidential Year: Fuggetaboutit. Ch-Ching!

What made PACs and campaigns spend money?Was it the coverage in war zones?No way. We saw once we put people like Santorum on the air, liberal groups would pour money into our pockets.But liberal groups took a decade to understand Citizen United….

This is ‘THE’ singular reason why no one in news talks about Citizen United.We made the decision in 2012 when $770 Million was poured into News by CPACs.After that, we told the anchors to stop talking about it….

The biggest hypocritical media story of the 2020 election was the cable networks shaming the social media giants not to accept political ads leading up to the election while they ran Trump/Biden and Citizen United protected Ads up to midnight on election night.

+ It was greatest sales job ever. Do you understand that these Campaigns MUST SPEND THE MONEY by election night or they’ll get in big trouble….


How the decline of local news exposes the public to lies and corruption

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 9-4-2022]

What’s important is their consequences. The effects of the spread of “news deserts” on social and political cohesiveness in America, and the vacuum it has left to be filled by fringe ideologues, political mountebanks and corporate PR departments — “misinformation engines,” in the words of Steve Waldman, co-founder of Report for America, an organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on local issues.


The Historic Collapse of Journalism 

Patrick Lawrence [Consortium News, via Naked Capitalism 9-10-2022]

Rhodes gave Samuels a more structured analysis of this arrangement:

“All the newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what is happening in Moscow or Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”

….Rhodes described a White House press corps comprised of post-adolescents thoroughly dependent on the geese-feeding arrangement, especially when they reported on national security questions: “They literally know nothing.”


Should We Save Newspapers from Google? 

Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]

Today’s issue is on how Australia saved its newspapers from Google and Facebook, and whether Congress will follow suit in the United States….

A common explanation is, well, the internet killed the news. And yet, ad revenue for newspapers peaked in 2006, which was more than 10 years after the internet became a commercial medium. A different explanation for the decline of news publishing is that, starting in the mid-2000s, Google and Facebook built market power in ad markets, directing revenue away from newspapers and towards themselves. One very clear indication that the market power story has merit is that last year, the Australian government made a significant change to policy to undo part of big tech’s bargaining leverage. If ‘the internet killed the news,’ then changes to ad markets wouldn’t matter. But the result of the new law was a *massive* increase in journalism.

In fact, in Australia today, it is hard to recruit interns at newspapers because there are so many full-time jobs available


President Biden Spoke the Truth About Trump. Corporate Media Threw a Fit.

Eric Alterman, September 9, 2022 [The American Prospect]

When they reported on the speech, the networks amplified the Trump cult’s hypocritical whining about how mean and hurtful the president had been. The most egregious offender, at least on network television, may have been Martha Raddatz of ABC News’s This Week program, who both encouraged and then participated in what turned out to be a veritable propaganda video for lies in the service of the Trump Republicans’ feigned outrage. Speaking to the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, Raddatz falsely insisted that Biden called every Trump voter a threat to democracy when, in fact, he specifically insisted that “to be very clear—very clear up front: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.”

Raddatz then gave free rein to McCaul to purposely mislead the program’s millions of viewers. After quoting Trump uncritically terming the FBI and the Department of Justice “vicious monsters,” she invited McCaul’s meandering into whataboutism: “I think the perception is what a lot of Republicans I know see on the heels of the Russian investigation, the Steele dossier. There’s a certain ‘distrust but verify’ attitude when it comes to the Department of Justice and the FBI,” McCaul said. Next came a completely nonsensical and dishonest defense of Trump’s clear crimes: “I have lived in the classified world most of my professional career, I personally wouldn’t do that. But I’m not the president of the United States. But he has a different set of rules that apply to him. The president can declassify a document on a moment’s notice.” As numerous people have pointed out, while the notion is ridiculous, it would have been far worse if Trump had, somehow, declassified these supersecret documents (which include details of a foreign country’s nuclear program), because they would then be available to anyone through a Freedom of Information Act request. Nobody should know that better than the ranking Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. (Do I even need to type the words “But her emails …”)


Internet Archive Opposes Publishers in Federal Lawsuit 

[Internet Archive, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2022]


Democrats’ political suicide

“The Democratic Party Shouldn’t Be a Gerontocracy”

[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-8-2022]

Dianne Feinstein is 89. Steny Hoyer is 83, Nancy Pelosi and Pat Leahy are 82, and Bernie Sanders is 80. Ben Cardin is 78, Richard Blumenthal is 76, Jeanne Shaheen is 75, Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden are 73; Debbie Stabenow is 72 and Chuck Schumer is 71…. In total, 46 percent of Senate Democrats and 40 percent of Democrats in the House are 65 or over…. Who will take charge then, if younger people have not been brought in and prepared? And by younger, I don’t mean sixtysomethings. Half the US population is under 40. With the best will in the world, someone born during the Truman administration can barely grasp what life is like for them…. When I was young, rent was cheap, college was (more) affordable, and you could live in New York City with a part-time job and not need five roommates to survive. It isn’t easy for my generation to understand the very different economic conditions of people in their 20s and 30s.

Would a younger set of Democrats put more energy into doing something about student loans, housing costs, or the astronomical child care costs that keep mothers at home when they want go to work? Very likely—it was young people who pushed Biden to announce student loan forgiveness. Would a new crop of Democrats be less likely than their elders to hope for fellowship and compromise across the aisle, which existed in Pelosi’s and Biden’s early years in politics but is a pipe dream today? That seems likely too. They’ve never known a time when Republicans were sane.

It was shocking to see Dianne Feinstein praise the tepid Amy Coney Barrett hearings as “one of the best” she’d participated in, which left her with “some ideas perhaps of good bipartisan legislation we can put together.” Not to mention that she followed these remarkably clueless statements by hugging Lindsey Graham….

[TW: I think the Democratic Party’s diversity quotes should be expanded to include age and income levels. A Congress in which just a fifth or a sixth of its members made less than $60,000 a year before being elected would be a whole different, much more democratic and empathetic institution.]


DNC Faces Vote On Dark Money 

David Sirota, September 6, 2022 [The Lever]

As anonymous cash buys Democratic primaries, party officials will be forced to declare which side of the democracy crisis they’re on….

The measure is sponsored by Nevada Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer and 30-plus other DNC members. Whitmer last year led a takeover of Nevada’s Democratic Party apparatus, in a battle pitting progressive activists against former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s political machine.

The 2022 Democratic primary season has been defined by dark money groups pouring big money into pivotal races. Last month, for instance, a dark money group helped a billionaire heir defeat progressive candidates in a contested Democratic primary in New York. ​​Likewise, OpenSecrets and The Intercept reported that one dark money group dumped nearly $600,000 into Democratic primaries in New Jersey, Illinois, and Nevada. In Michigan, a dark money group intervened in a primary to crush Democratic Rep. Andy Levin, the sponsor of legislation to force corporations to disclose their political spending.


The September Issues: ​​​​​​​Congress still has some work to do before the midterms.

David Dayen, September 6, 2022 [The American Prospect]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Michigan Supreme Court orders board to place abortion protections, voting rights on November ballot

Hunter [Daily Kos Staff, September 08, 2022]

In a just-released ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court has ordered the Board of State Canvassers to certify for the ballot the Reproductive Freedom For All petition intended to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution. “It is undisputed that there are sufficient signatures to warrant certification,” notes the court, while shooting down arguments over “sufficient space between certain words.”

Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers refused to certify the ballot measure a week ago despite a record number of signatures presented, claiming missing spaces in one version of the petition was an invalidating flaw. The state’s Supreme Court rejected that argument, with Chief Justice Bridget McCormack noting that “the challengers have not produced a single signer who claims to have been confused by the limited-spacing sections in the full text portion of the proposal” and calling the decision of the Republican board members a “sad marker of the times.”


How DeSantis manipulates the media 

[Popular Information, via The Big Picture 9-4-2022]

DeSantis’ press strategy is to (1) make a splashy announcement with a simple, misleading narrative, (2) generate heaps of media coverage based on that misleading narrative that benefits him politically, (3) count on the media (and the public) to lose interest as the truth slowly trickles out.


Politico Owner Asked Execs to Pray for Trump’s Reelection: Report 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2022]


The US could lose the right to vote within months’

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 9-4-2022]

Top official warns on threat to democracy: Jena Griswold urges Americans to pay attention to crucial but often overlooked races for secretary of state.


How a Billionaire’s “Attack Philanthropy” Secretly Funded Climate Denialism and Right-Wing Causes 

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2022]

New reporting by ProPublica and The Lever, based on emails and interviews with people who know Seid, sheds light on one of the country’s least-known megadonors, revealing how the intensely private billionaire has secretly used his wealth to try to influence the lives of millions….
Seid has funded climate denialism as well as a national network of state-level think tanks that promote business deregulation and fight Medicaid expansion. He’s also supported efforts to remake the higher education system in a conservative mold, including to turn one of the nation’s most politically influential law schools into a training ground for future generations of right-wing judges and justices.

Last month, The Lever and ProPublica as well as The New York Times detailed how Seid secretly handed a $1.6 billion fortune to a key architect of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority that recently eliminated federal protections for abortion rights….

Steven Baer, a longtime friend and former adviser to Seid, said the businessman has long been “the major patron” for the Heartland Institute, a small Chicago-area think tank which for decades has attacked mainstream climate science. A top executive at Seid’s former company, Tripp Lite, served as the chairman of the group. Among the recent claims on the institute’s website: “U.S. Temperature Readings Are Junk, Negating Climate Science” and “96 percent of U.S. Climate Data Is Corrupted.”

Seid has also funded the State Policy Network, a group of influential state-level think tanks that push for deregulation and tax cuts, according to an email written by a friend of Seid’s. The head of the group once compared it to IKEA, The New Yorker reported, offering state think tanks a “catalogue” of successful projects, including opposing health care subsidies and imposing new voting restrictions. The network has also opposed efforts to expand Medicaid coverage.


Lance Gooden wants to make privateering great again 

[Texas Signal, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2022]

Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican who represents Texas’ 5th District, has introduced legislation that would allow U.S. citizens to seize the yachts, jets, and other property belonging to Russian oligarchs who have been sanctioned in response to the invasion of Ukraine. In other words, privateering….

Gooden’s bill would require President Biden to issue letters of marque to seize yachts and other assets belonging to sanctioned Russian citizens. Gooden’s office even says that letters of marque could be issued to hackers to go after Russia in cyberspace. “Putin’s inner circle have planes and yachts sitting at airports and harbors all over the world,” Gooden said in a statement. “If President Biden refuses to act quickly, then it is time Congress and American citizens take matters into their own hands.”

[TW: this might not be all bad. When we eventually get over the current obsession with scary Russians, there will be that matter of $10 trillion or so stashed in the Caymen Islands….]


“Michigan GOP leaders encourage rule breaking at poll worker training session”

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-8-2022]

“The evening before Michigan’s state primary, Wayne County GOP leaders held a Zoom training session for poll workers and partisan observers — warning them about “bad stuff happening” during the election and encouraging them to ignore local election rules barring cell phones and pens from polling places and vote-counting centers. ‘None of the constraints that they’re putting on this are legal,’ former state senator Patrick Colbeck told trainees on the August 1 call. As far as cell phones, ‘I would say maybe just hide it or something, and maybe hide a small pad and a small pen or something like that because you need to take accurate notes’ Cheryl Costantino, the GOP county chairwoman and host of the call, told participants. Some participants raised concerns about being tossed out if they broke the rules. ‘That’s why you got to do it secretly,’ Costantino replied.” … During the Wayne County training call, obtained by CNN, the presumption that Democrats cheat [*** cough *** Iowa 2020 ***cough***] — thus justifying Republican rule-breaking — permeated the discussion. It offers a snapshot of one of the ways Trump-backing, MAGA-minded conspiracy theorists are intervening in the election process across the country, sometimes encouraging poll workers or volunteer observers to violate election rules in hopes of finding evidence that Democrats might be doing the same.”


The Long Unraveling of the Republican Party

Kim Phillips-Fein [The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 9-8-2022]

When Trump first surfaced as a 2016 presidential candidate, his dizzying ascendance, seemingly out of nowhere, fueled the sense that he was hijacking a GOP theretofore rooted in the confident optimism that had come out of the Reagan era. Historians have considered Ronald Reagan’s presidency, and the adoption by the Democratic Party (especially under Bill Clinton) of Reagan’s end-of-big-government-and-big-labor-and-high-taxes ideology, as the formative development of the last quarter of the 20th century—the vision that laid out the parameters for American politics in the new millennium.

Yet the recent trajectory of the Republican Party, and its turn against many of the key precepts of Reaganism, calls for a reassessment of this perspective. That is precisely what the historian Nicole Hemmer offers in Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s. She is joined in rethinking the evolution of conservatism by two journalists who approach the subject from different places on the political spectrum. Dana Milbank, the author of The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party, is a liberal Washington Post columnist. Matthew Continetti, the author of The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism, arrived at The Weekly Standard as a 22-year-old in 2003 and is now a Never Trumper at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to National Review. All three books portray a conservatism that was fraught with tensions long before Trump’s emergence. Their goal is to explain why the current incarnation of the GOP shouldn’t come as a surprise. In showing the deep roots of our present crisis, their analyses also suggest the limits of any politics focused on a dream of salvaging the Republican Party.


It Didn’t Start with Trump: The Decades-Long Saga of How the GOP Went Crazy

David Corn [Mother Jones, September-October 2022 issue]

In May, during an Aspen Institute conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the audience, “I want the Republican Party to take back the party, take it back to where you were when you cared about a woman’s right to choose, you cared about the environment…This country needs a strong Republican Party. And we do. Not a cult. But a strong Republican Party.” Her comments echoed a sentiment that Joe Biden had expressed during the 2020 campaign: If Donald Trump were out of the White House, the GOP would return to normal and be amenable to forging deals and legislative compromises.

Both Pelosi and Biden have bolstered the notion that the current GOP, with its cultlike embrace of Trump and his Big Lie, and its acceptance of the fringiest players, is a break from the past. But was the GOP’s complete surrender to Trumpism an aberration? Or was the party long sliding toward this point? About a year ago, I set out to explore the history of the Republican Party, with this question in mind. What I found was not an exception, but a pattern. Since the 1950s, the GOP has repeatedly mined fear, resentment, prejudice, and grievance and played to extremist forces so the party could win elections. Trump assembling white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Christian nationalists, QAnoners, and others who formed a violent terrorist mob on January 6 is only the most flagrant manifestation of the tried-and-true GOP tactic to court kooks and bigots. It’s an ugly and shameful history that has led the Party of Lincoln, founded in 1854 to oppose the extension of slavery, to the Party of Trump, which capitalizes on racism and assaults democracy.


Biden’s speech

Biden’s Philly Speech Will Be a Turning Point for America — And the World

umair haque [9-2-2022]

Last night, Joe Biden gave a speech that’s going to change America — and the world. Yes, really. You’re used to hearing me full of doom and gloom — but that’s not for effect. I call it like it is. And this speech? It was a pivotal moment in the history of the 21st century. History will remember it in a certain way: as a turning point, that altered the grim political trajectory the world was — until this moment — helplessly on….

Across every corner of the globe, nationalist movements arose — and then quickly metastasized into worse…. And these movements of hate and spite and violence all looked up to one country as a leader: America. Because there, things had gone so far that full blown neo-fascism now occupied the Oval Office. Back in those days — now the mid to late 2010s — seasoned observers warned that we were beginning to see the growth of genuine fascism.…

The world had lurched hard, hard to the right — just like during the 1930s. Because just like the during 1930s, it had suffered a cataclysmic financial crisis the decade before. But the 2010s were different, too, from the 1930s in one key respect. We should have learned something. Something from the 1930s. About the sequence of nationalism, ultra-nationalism, fascism, violence, brutality, coup, collapse. Where it comes from, why it happens, and crucially, to stop it….

Our leaders simply vanished at the time we needed them most, and that was true across the globe. Not a single leader of note anywhere in the world, really, did the necessary job the moment required. Of describing the plight the world was facing, in stark, serious terms — warning people of collapse at the hands of fascists, lunatics, violent fanatics.

Not one. They all backed down. I’m going to stress this point, because it’s really important for everyone to get, to understand just why Biden’s speech is going to be a turning point for America and the world. In Britain? The opposition backed down from challenging the xenophobic vitriol of the right, which drifted so far right that by now, it was hating Europeans. Meanwhile, in Europe, old world leaders offered half-baked excuses and apologias, or tried politely to ignore the fact that, quickly, fanatics and extremists were making deep inroads politically, socially, and culturally.


The Big Philly Shell Game

Francesco Rizzuto [Medium 9-3-2022]

Why is the Philly speech another exercise in smoke and mirrors?

….Nothing in either Biden’s or VP Harris’ resume tells us that either are here to save the world, never mind resolve any of the very serious problems plaguing the USA today….

  • No plan to curb wealth inequality that continues to grow exponentially.
  • No plan to curb a hostile, right-wing court system.
  • No plan to cope with growing racial hostility.
  • No solution to the phenomenon of young white men attracted to ad hoc militias or the teenage pseudo-commandos who shoot up elementary schools and bomb churches….

Does Biden Qualify as a FASCIST? (w/ Cornel West)

[Bad Faith Podcast, via YouTube 9-9-2022]



Liberalism, conservatism and the lack of discussion of civic republicanism

Can’t We Come Up with Something Better Than Liberal Democracy?

Adam Gopnik [The New Yorker, September 12, 2022 issue]

Adam Gopnik, writer at New Yorker since 1986, author of “A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism.”

[TW: I really don’t know how to adequately critique an essay on “alternatives to liberal democracy” that does not even mention republicanism. This is just a complete failure intellectually, no matter how great the writing is.]

Liberals underestimate (or are fatally disingenuous about) the real role of money in bourgeois representative politics; politics in America, in particular, has been wholly “colonized” by capital. Our legislative assemblies are filled with rich people who mainly talk to other rich people. Reagan and Thatcher, or their financiers, brought about an era of plutocratic planetary rule, which hasn’t been reformed since. Blair and Clinton were mere handmaidens of the market, neoliberals making their peace with globalization and its inequality….

The dead wasteland of a procedural liberalism managed by an élite, Purdy believes, has produced a crisis that only true politics—a popular belief in the possibilities of common purpose—can solve. For the worst form of capitalist depredation is exacted in the realm of the political imagination: “It has to do with whether we believe that we can decide the shape of our shared world.” He is angry at the élites who supervise the bureaucratic capitalist state on behalf of their overlords while keeping up an elaborate masquerade of equality of opportunity….

[TW: The problem of the rich corrupting society and pushing it toward despotism is a central feature of civic republicanism as a body of thought: 

‘What writers and thinkers within the economic egalitarian tradition sought to emphasize was the way that the growing disparity of economic power would form the groundwork for distortions in political and social power. New forms of economic life would foster not individual liberty and independence but a new form of economic dependence of working people on others (namely owners) and the erosion of social and political freedom. At the root of the American economic egalitarian tradition is the notion that economic divisions lead inexorably to political and social inequalities of power; that the essence of any real sense of political equality could only be guaranteed by a sensibly equal distribution of property and wealth. This meant that political and economic life were in fact inseparable and that social power was a function not only of political power but of the ways that individuals had the power over their own economic life and the ability to direct their lives independently of others—whether political tyrants or factory owners. Historically, Americans were reacting against the memories and vestiges of aristocracy and feudalism. This formed part of a political-historical consciousness that militated against class divisions. The fear of the aristocracy and the destruction of America’s republican experiment were therefore at the core of early American ideas about inequality. The political moment was therefore always explicit, and this is something that has been lost in contemporary American attitudes toward economic power and class inequality.

— Michael J. Thompson, The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012) ]


Education and Indoctrination 

Jeffrey Aaron Snyder [Point Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2022]

The late educational philosopher Kieran Egan observed that we use the term indoctrination whenever children are taught ideas, beliefs and values that conflict with our own. It’s a pattern with a long history, reaching back to the emergence of “common schools” in the 1840s. Horace Mann—first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education—and other leaders of the common school movement were terrified by the prospect of sectarian religious divides and partisan politics blowing up what was a fragile new experiment in universal education at public expense….

This war of words between Catholics and Protestants on the subject of public schools exploded into real violence in Philadelphia in the spring of 1844. Allegations that Catholic residents wanted to remove the King James Bible from the city’s schools led to widespread rioting, with pitched battles between Protestants and Irish Catholics on the streets of Philadelphia featuring stones, torches, sabers and muskets. At least fifteen Philadelphia residents died in the fighting. Dozens of homes and two Catholic churches were razed to the ground. Two months later, at the Fourth of July parade, Protestants marched with banners proclaiming “Foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of a Republican Government” and “The Bible is the basis of Education.”

Religion was not the only divisive topic in public education during this period. In Southern schools, abolitionism was also a massive bugaboo. Politicians and public school leaders in the South alleged that teachers and schoolmasters from the North were poisoning the minds of their children with abolitionist teachings. These “itinerant ignoramuses” were so full of “guile, fraud, and deceit,” according to the Richmond Examiner, that “the deliberate shooting of one of them … should always be deemed perfectly justifiable.” Why, a commentator wrote in DeBow’s Review, should the next generation be “taught doctrines which are in direct conflict with what we now believe?”

This question—why parents and taxpayers should support public schools that teach content that conflicts with their most cherished beliefs—has reverberated across the decades, sometimes registering only as a faint echo and sometimes, such as today, resounding at top volume.

In different times and places, parents and citizens of all backgrounds and political orientations have accused public schools of indoctrinating their children. In the past century, however, white religious conservatives have been the loudest, most well-organized contingent. You can track this conservative culture wars movement from opposition to the teaching of evolution in the 1920s and campaigns against “Un-American” textbooks in the 1950s to crusades against sex education in the 1970s and today’s anti-CRT campaigns….

Conservatives and other skeptics have portrayed antiracism in the Kendi mold as ideological, dogmatic nonsense. They are—alas—spot-on….

This academic year, let’s imagine that my son’s seventh-grade math teacher will be following “A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction,” a recently published antiracist toolkit for teachers, funded in part by the Gates Foundation. Embarking on her “antiracist journey,” my son’s teacher will have learned that standard mathematics instruction is plagued by “the toxic characteristics of white supremacy culture” such as “perfectionism,” “worship of the written word” and “objectivity.” In math classrooms, the workbook explains, white supremacy culture manifests whenever “math is taught in a linear fashion,” “rigor is expressed only in difficulty” and grading practices “center what students don’t understand rather than what they do.” To “dismantle” white supremacy in collaboration with her students, my son’s teacher must “identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views”; and “expose students to people who have used math as resistance.”….

Kieran Egan, the educational philosopher I mentioned before, said that what distinguishes education from indoctrination is “openness of inquiry.” So here is the diagnostic test: when teachers present ideas, beliefs and values as unquestionable truths, that’s a good sign indoctrination is at work….

Conservative politicians have hit dizzying heights of hypocrisy in responding to indoctrination—real or perceived—in public schools. While railing against cancel culture, nineteen red states have passed anti-CRT laws or regulations that directly restrict what can be said in a classroom. As outlined in a report published by UCLA earlier this year, these laws are creating a “newly hostile environment for discussing issues of race, racism, and racial inequality.” How can public schools possibly serve as training grounds for citizenship if teachers have to avoid “controversial” questions about public policies and current events?

An especially corrosive feature of these bills is how they erode trust in public education itself. The bills introduced this year, as PEN America documents, have been “strikingly more punitive,” including “heavy fines or loss of state funding for institutions” and “termination or even criminal charges for teachers.” This is bad news, to put it mildly, for those of us who see public education as the cornerstone of our democracy. The assault on public education by some on the right only reinforces my belief that liberal critiques of public schooling must be constructive—we can air our concerns, while simultaneously supporting teachers and championing public education as an essential public good.


[TW: Nothing worth posting on the passing of Queen Elizabeth. I will only note my sorrow that so many fellow citizens of this republic admired her and completely overlooked the fact that she was an oligarch; in fact, the director of the largest holdings of real estate in the world. ]

Thomas Paine Was History’s Greatest Hater of the British Crown

Ryan Zickgraf [Jacobin, 9-10-2022]

The American Revolution was inspired by ruthless criticism of the British monarchy. Why stop now?



Putin’s Personal Interests and the Interests of Russia Have Diverged & The Divergence Is Running The Ukraine War


China “To Those Who Have Everything”

1 Comment

  1. VietnamVet has the best discussions on the Russian Ukraine War and the underlying political/economic systems that caused it. To me it is clear that Russia has ignored what won WWII for them, mass mobilization and maneuver warfare. It has to be intentional because of their system, too, is intent on increasing their oligarch’s wealth which would be decimated by a mobilization and rationing. Not to mention, a hot world war would end their profiteering.

    If Ukraine holds its recently seized territory, it is a spike in Russia’s hand and makes Odessa unreachable without a full-blown war. Yet the West is in an identical situation. Antony Blinken and Victoria Nuland are reported to be in Kiev. Joe Biden’s and Boris Johnson’s aim is taking down Vladimir Putin. They and their corporate/state staff (State Department, Five Eyes intelligence Agencies and contractors) are willing to impose a new Dark Age on Europe to do it. They are lucky that corporate propaganda has kept this intent quiet. The WaPo today has a wishy-washy look over the cliff at a European winter energy shortage without Russian natural gas. The western plutocracy can only grow its wealth with Russian resources. Western Europe and North American are on the down side of the energy depletion curve. A world war with China is about to erupt over who controls Eurasian energy, food supplies and raw materials.

    The USA has stopped production of F-35s because each one has hundreds of pounds of rare metals from China’s monopoly. Mining and refining enough rare metals elsewhere is required before the production line can reopen. This will take years, if not decades, or maybe never. If computer chips imported from Taiwan stop, so does IT and communication sales and auto assembly, to name a few industries that will be impacted. A ginormous economic depression engulfs the world if somehow a global nuclear war is avoided.

    The hubris and stupidity are so great that this all is ignored

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