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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 19, 2021

In memorium, Ronald Anthony Wikrent

August 8, 1963 – September 16, 2021

Please excuse me for putting this at the top, but I want to remember my “little” brother, Ronald Anthony Wikrent, who finally succumbed after a two year battle with a frighteningly aggressive cancer. He was seven years younger than me, and supported me throughout my life, both materially and spiritually. A few years after I graduated university, Ronnie agreed that he would stay home in Chicago, and support and look after ma, freeing me up to pursue my passion of “trying to save the world.” He built up and ran his own frozen food distribution business, and there were many times when I could have (and perhaps should have) joined him. I certainly would be facing a much more comfortable “retirement” right now, but Ronnie always made sure I was never in real material need of anything. He was constantly thinking of new ways to do business, for me to be financially secure, or to attack political problems. He literally helped feed millions of people in the Chicago area. He delighted in discussing politics and economics with me, and I spent many days each summer staying at his house while in between the special events at which I peddled books on agricultural, industrial and transportation history.

Ronnie, thank you for your love and support over the years. You were the best brother there could be, and I will miss you terribly. 


Strategic Political Economy

Understanding Is Good.

[Reminiscence of the Future, September 14, 2021, via Mike Norman Economics]

Like General John Hyten understands. Especially when talking to such a “think-buggy” as Brookings, known to be a nest of exceptionalist and neocon ideas….Actually, give it up for Hyten–he talks totally common sense things and, what is really important, and I know it for sure, neither Russia nor China want the war with the United States. In fact, his conclusion on modernization of Russia’s nuclear arsenal is spot on–Russia was worried about the US. Russia still worries about the US, this time because of a major clusterfuck the country has become and Russians are keenly aware that bat shit crazy element in US decision-making circuit is still present and one cannot completely exclude a possibility of those people pushing the United States to the brink of unleashing a war of desperation. Good that Hyten speaks to one such institution where neocon ideas are popular due to military ignorance of people exercising those and the words of General Hyten can only be commended. But as I am on record non-stop, the remaining expertise about the outside world rests today primarily, not exclusively, with some segments in the US military, who, by the virtue of their profession, have understanding of a horrendous price if the United States decides to unleash a suicidal war.


Republicans seethe with violence and lies. Texas is part of a bigger war they’re waging.

[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 9-12-2021]

This extremist vigilante abortion law is of a piece with everything else Republicans are doing: overturning democracy itself


he American right has been drunk on its freedom from two kinds of inhibition since Donald Trump appeared to guide them into the promised land of their unleashed ids. One is the inhibition from lies, the other from violence. Both are ways members of civil society normally limit their own actions out of respect for the rights of others and the collective good. Those already strained limits have snapped for leading Republican figures, from Tucker Carlson on Fox News to Ted Cruz in the Senate and for their followers.

We’ve watched those followers gulp down delusions from Pizzagate to Qanon to Covid denialism to Trump’s election lies. And rough up journalists, crash vehicles into and wave weapons at Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist protesters at least since Charlottesville, menace statehouses, issue threats to doctors and school boards testifying about public health, and plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, for imposing Covid-prevention protocols.

The Texas abortion law that the rightwing supreme court just smiled upon, despite its violation of precedent, seethes with both violence and lies. The very language of the law is a lie, a familiar one in which six-week embryos are called fetuses and a heartbeat is attributed to the cluster of cells that is not yet a heart not yet powering a circulatory system.

Behind it are other lies, in which women have abortions because they are reckless, wanton and callous, rather than, in the great number of cases, because of the failure of birth control, or coercive sex, or medical problems, including threats to the health of the mother or a non-viable pregnancy, and financial problems, including responsibility for existing children.But what was new about the Texas bill is its invitation to its residents to become vigilantes, bounty hunters and snitches. This will likely throw a woman who suspects she is pregnant into a hideous state of fearful secrecy, because absolutely anyone can profit off her condition and anyone who aids her, from the driver to the doctor, is liable. It makes pregnancy a crime, since it is likely to lead to the further criminalization even of the significant percentage of pregnancies that end in miscarriage. It will lead women – particularly the undocumented, poor, the young, those under the thumbs of abusive spouses or families – to die of life-threatening pregnancies or illicit abortions or suicide out of despair. A vigilante who goes after a woman is willing to see her die.


Alleging ‘Unprecedented Scheme’ to Thwart Federal Courts, DOJ Asks Judge to Block Texas Abortion Law

[National Law Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-15-2021]


Justice Department seeks injunction to stop Texas’ fetal heartbeat abortion law from being enforced

[Dallas Morning News, via Naked Capitalism 9-15-2021]


Yes, They Are “A Bunch Of Partisan Hacks” The Daily Poster


Lambert Strether: We are living among the remains of some more advanced civilization or a race of alien beings:

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-17-21]


“George Packer’s Center Cannot Hold”

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-15-21]

“Liberalism is not, in fact, in disarray. Indeed, in many senses it’s a thumping success. Only three decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, neoliberalism, which preserves the classical doctrine’s package of liberties and rights while installing the market, rather than government, as the ultimate arbiter of wealth distribution, has established itself as a political state of nature throughout much of the developed world….

Liberalism is ascendant even as it is in crisis. This paradox inhibits rather than frees the liberal imagination: In the eyes of its adherents, liberalism’s success, like the success of the United States itself, means it is always the solution to its own problems. America already is great. A failure to reckon with these complications—to figure out which parts of liberalism have failed and which have worked, to sort the good from the bad—explains much of what’s wrong with the recent crop of Little Liberal Books. Neither genuinely critical nor full-throatedly prescriptive, these books are closer in spirit to catechism. A basic incoherence defines the genre….

Who exactly is this book for? Occasionally, through use of the second person, the answer slips through: Last Best Hope is for people who needed the shock of the pandemic to “realize that the miraculous price and speed of a delivery of organic microgreens from Amazon Fresh to your doorstep depends on the fact that the people who grow, sort, pack, and deliver it have to work while sick.” In other words, it’s for people like George Packer: comfortable, middle-class professionals who have come to a belated understanding of the American economy’s brutalities, but don’t want things to change so much that they lose the country that has made them a success and brings them their microgreens.”


Industrial Policy’s Comeback

Mariana Mazzucato, Rainer Kattel, Josh Ryan-Collins [Boston Review, via Mike Norman Economics 9-15-2021]

Market fundamentalism mmthas failed to improve economic and social conditions. Now, we need a mission-oriented approach to the economy that embraces an active role for government in spurring growth and innovation….

Countries throughout Europe and elsewhere are increasingly turning to the view that governments should use industrial policy to tackle grand challenges. Recognizing this trend, the International Monetary Fund issued a report in 2019 called “The Return of the Policy That Shall Not Be Named: Principles of Industrial Policy.”

Why could this policy “not be named”? The short answer is that industrial policy was one of the many casualties of an international shift in economic policy that began in the 1980s and flourished under the administrations of Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. The emergent sensibility—what we now call neoliberalism—was codified in 1989 in the Washington Consensus, which championed privatization, deregulation, and free trade. Along with these central pillars came an emphasis on low budget deficits, independent central banks focused on low inflation, and the liberalization of trade and foreign direct investment. This outlook was deeply confident in markets and deeply skeptical of government action, beyond the state’s limited role in enforcing property rules and investing in education and defense. “On the basis of an exhaustive review of the experience of developing economies during the last thirty years,” the World Bank summed up in the early 1990s, “attempts to guide resource allocation with nonmarket mechanisms have generally failed to improve economic performance.”


Can American Politics Allow for Long-Run Investment?

[The American Prospect, September 16, 2021]

New programs to finance domestic manufacturing and set off a green boom rely on long-term thinking….

But instead of inking new deals for his virus filter supply company, Cattaneo has just had to tell a dozen clients to wait six months.

Cattaneo usually orders $10,000 worth of membranes for his startup, Artemis Biosystems, but his ordinary supplier now won’t fill an order under $300,000. Finding a contractor who can fit a special casing around the membrane is even trickier, though he thinks he could find a work-around, given enough cash.

But he can’t find a line of credit, he told the Prospect. His bank has been unhelpful, and venture capital firms expect sale potential in the billions of dollars, they have told him. He estimates his total market—the drug developers buying his lab equipment—at around $100 million.


The Pandemic

Mississippi teachers beg for help after more than 18,000 students catch COVID-19 in one month: ‘At what point do we protect children over the economy?’

[Insider, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2021]


The Limits of My Empathy for Covid-Deniers

Tressie McMillan Cottom [NYT, via Naked Capitalism 9-12-2021]

“I still do not understand how we can be in community with people who, by withdrawing from their social responsibility, are actively harming others.”


U.S. judge blocks N.Y. vaccine mandate for healthcare workers

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-15-2021]


How Ivermectin Took Over the COVID Skeptic Internet

[Slate, via The Big Picture 9-12-2021]

Ivermectin: the latest unproven COVID treatment to blow up the internet. It’s an anti-parasitic used to treat things like river blindness and lice in humans and, quite commonly, worms and other parasites in horses, cows, and dogs. While there are some clinical trials examining ivermectin as a potential treatment for COVID-19, none have suggested that it reduces the disease. One analysis that touted it as an effective treatment had to be withdrawn for ethical reasons.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

“Why Americans Die So Much”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-21]

“Before the 1990s, average life expectancy in the U.S. was not much different than it was in Germany, the United Kingdom, or France. But since the 1990s, American life spans started falling significantly behind those in similarly wealthy European countries. According to a new working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Americans now die earlier than their European counterparts, no matter what age you’re looking at…. Why is the U.S. so much worse than other developed countries at performing the most basic function of civilization: keeping people alive?”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-21]


Restoring balance to the economy

“Uber drivers are employees, not contractors, says Dutch court”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-17-21]

“Uber (UBER.N) drivers are employees, not contractors, and so entitled to greater workers’ rights under local labour laws, a Dutch court ruled on Monday, handing a setback to the U.S. company’s European business model. It was another court victory for unions fighting for better pay and benefits for those employed in the gig economy and followed a similar decision this year about Uber in Britain. The Amsterdam District Court sided with the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FNV), which had argued that Uber’s roughly 4,000 drivers in the capital are employees of a taxi company and should be granted benefits in line with the taxi sector.”


You Really Can Fight Poverty With One Weird Trick: Giving People Money

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-21]


U.S. Seeks to Block Bankruptcy Plan That Would Free Sacklers From Opioid Claims

[Angry Bear, September 17, 2021]


Disrupting mainstream economics

The Long, Slow Death of the Free Market

[, via Mike Norman Economics 9-18-2021]

Let’s start with what mainstream economists have to say about social change vis-à-vis consuming more energy. The short answer is that they say very little, since they don’t care much about energy. The long answer, however, is that if we look at the wider body of neoclassical economics, we see that the prime mover of pretty much everything is the ‘free market’.

Want to solve poverty? Use the market. Want less pollution? Use the market. Want economic growth? Use the market. And so on …

Outside the economics discipline, this relentless appeal to the free market is somewhat of a joke. But within the core of economics theory, it’s still taken seriously. The reason is that economists claim to have ‘proved’ something astounding: in a perfectly competitive market, the distribution of resources is ‘Pareto optimal’, meaning no person can be made better off without making another person worse off.

The ‘proof’ is called the first fundamental theorem of welfare economics, and it depends on a host of assumptions, all of which are violated in the real world. But I’m not concerned about that here. Instead, what concerns me is the bigger picture. Basically, what free-market theory tells us is that the route to all social ‘good’ is through individual ‘selfishness’. Stoke individual self interest, the thinking goes, and the invisible hand of the market will maximize social welfare.

By now, there’s a century’s worth of debate about these ideas. And to be blunt, I find much of it not worth reading. The reason is that almost all of the debate has taken place on theoretical grounds, without looking at actual human behavior. Moreover, the debate has disregarded fascinating developments in the rest of science.

Many scientists have realized that complex structure seems to always arise in the same way. It is built using hierarchy. Noting this fact, the polymath Herbert Simon called hierarchy the ‘architecture of complexity’.

If you look at complex structures, you’ll see that they are typically composed by merging simpler components. This nesting behavior is easy to explain. It’s a result of cosmic evolution. As far as we know, the universe started off as a boring place — a homogeneous soup of sub-atomic particles. Everything that followed — galaxies, stars, planets, life, humans — had to be built from this simple starting point. Because the universe began as a simple place, there was no alternative but to build complexity by merging simpler components. Thus, complexity is always hierarchical….

Why do complex organisms turn to hierarchy (and the associated command structure) to organize? The theory of ‘multilevel selection’ gives a possible answer.

If complex organisms are built by merging previously autonomous components, this comes with an inherent problem. The merger creates a tension between units of selection. It’s usually best for individuals with a group to act selfishly, because doing so will increase their relative fitness (i.e. reproduction). But such selfish behavior tends to corrode the group’s cohesion. So we have a dilemma. The behavior that is best for the group is not necessarily what is best for relative fitness within the group. This tension between units of selection means that if complex structure is to evolve, it must suppress selection at lower levels. The hierarchical chain of command seems to be a common solution to this problem.

I find multilevel selection theory fascinating for many reasons, one of which is that it contradicts (in almost every way) what neoclassical economics tells us about society. Ever since Adam Smith, economists have praised the social merits of individual selfishness, claiming that stoking self interest will (paradoxically) maximize social welfare. But if multilevel selection theory is correct, this free-market thinking is bollocks.

Looking at the rest of life on Earth, there’s no evidence for the kind of ‘invisible hand’ theorized by economists. When life becomes complex, it suppresses the autonomy of sub-components. That said, it’s possible that humans are the exception to the rule. With this possibility in mind, let’s look at the evidence.


MMT and the deficit myth

Lars P. Syll [via Mike Norman Economics 9-12-21]

What Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) does is more or less what Knut Wicksell tried to do more than a hundred years ago, when he in 1898 wrote on ‘pure credit systems’ in Interest and Prices (Geldzins und Güterpreise). The difference is that today the ‘pure credit economy’ is a reality and not just a theoretical curiosity — MMT describes a fiat currency system that almost every country in the world is operating under….

Governments can spend whatever amount of money they want. That does not mean that MMT says they ought to — that’s something our politicians have to decide. No MMTer denies that too much government spendings can be inflationary. What is questioned is that government deficits necessarily is inflationary.

Contrary to mainstream theory, finance in the world of MMT — and people like Keynes and Minsky — precedes investment and saving. What is ‘forgotten’ in mainstream theory, is the insight that finance — in all its different shapes — has its own dimension, and if taken seriously, its effect on an analysis must modify the whole theoretical system and not just be added as an unsystematic appendage. Finance is fundamental to our understanding of modern economies​ and acting like the baker’s apprentice who, having forgotten to add yeast to the dough, throws it into the oven afterwards, simply isn’t enough.

All real economic activities depend on a functioning financial machinery. But institutional arrangements, states of confidence, fundamental uncertainties, asymmetric expectations, the banking system, financial intermediation, loan granting processes, default risks, liquidity constraints, aggregate debt, cash flow fluctuations, etc., etc. — things that play decisive roles in channelling money/savings/credit — are more or less left in the dark in modern mainstream formalizations of economic theory.


Yes, We Can! But should we tell the masses?

Stephanie Kelton [The Lens,

For the last quarter-century, MMT economists have emphasized that “finding the money” is never the challenge for governments that issue their own non-convertible—i.e. floating exchange rate—fiat currencies. It has long been our position that mainstream macro, which centers the limits of fiscal policy around the (erroneous) concept of a “government budget constraint,” has led us astray.

Instead of treating governments like revenue-constrained households, MMT economists have pushed for a macro framework that replaces the artificial government budget constraint with a real resource (inflation) constraint….

Here’s Tooze in a recent essay for The New York Times.

“The world discovered that John Maynard Keynes was right when he declared during World War II that ‘anything we can actually do, we can afford.’ The sheer scale of the action was intoxicating. Among the left wing of the Democratic Party, it generated excitement: If money was a mere technicality, what else could be done? Action on social justice, climate change, the Green New Deal, all seemed within reach….

Ezra Klein says this to Tooze:

”I think there’s a lot of fear that if it becomes known. If it becomes believed…that whatever we can do we can afford that that will be used irresponsibly…and create a lot of real problems like runaway inflation… The profession wants to say, ‘No, we knew all this,’ but in fact they haven’t been saying it because they’re a little bit afraid, in my view, of what people will do with these ideas if they get hold of them. If they’re sort of not protected by the responsible economists placing boundaries on what is and isn’t sober-minded policymaking.”

In other words, MMT reveals something that is simultaneously obvious within the economics profession but too dangerous to share with anyone on the outside.


If the critics of modern monetary theory want to be taken seriously they have to get their facts right

[Tax Research UK, via Mike Norman Economics 9-12-21]

Richard Murphy piles on in criticizing the Richmond Fed’s recent article on MMT. It was not only wrong, it was unprofessional.


Economics in the real world

Apartments Built on an Assembly Line

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-14-2021]

The pandemic put a general crimp in housing construction, but made a California factory that churns out prefabricated housing extra busy.

…The longtime Bay Area developer turned a former Naval submarine factory into one that has been doing exactly that. Workers at Factory OS construct apartment building components on Mare Island in Vallejo, Calif., about 40 miles from San Francisco, then transport them on flatbed trucks to their final location. “By the end of the process it goes out the door and it’s a fully formed apartment that you put together like Legos to form a completed building.”

The process can cut the time it takes to build an apartment building in half, to roughly only 11 to 12 months, he said, with multiple parts of construction taking place at once in a controlled environment, which means fewer delays and a more streamlined process in general.

Mr. Holliday, who co-founded the factory with Larry Pace, said doing it this way, versus constructing a building on site, also cuts costs by as much as 30 percent. In the Bay Area, where the price of building a single affordable housing unit is close to $1 million, it can mean the difference between a developer building an apartment or not….

Factory OS’s approach is a 33-step process and, much like building a car, it starts with the chassis, or the underneath part of the apartment block, which is filled with pipes and ducts for plumbing and electrical work. On a recent morning, at least a hundred workers wearing hard hats and masks hammered and sanded away at several long, narrow shells of apartments laid lengthwise like railroad cars. (The factory is roughly the length of three football fields.) It was a loud and dusty scene, but also orderly and efficient.

Some workers fit piping underneath a boxlike structure raised up on a rack so they could more easily reach low areas than at a typical construction site, where they would have to crouch underneath. Nearby, there were arms that could rotate the structures for easy access as well. On another side of the factory, neatly arranged components — from tubing to insulation to kitchen cabinets — sat on shelves.


“The Rapid Increase in Rents”

[Calculated Risk, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-21]

“According to the Census Bureau, it took 6.8 months on average to build a single family home in 2020, and 15.4 months to build buildings with 2 or more units. With the pandemic related supply chain delays, the length of time to build probably increased significantly this year (2021 data will be released in March 2022). Second, if what is driving household formation is a spike in younger adults moving out – and in divorces – that might ease by 2022. So my sense is the rapid increase in rents will not persist.” • Many charts.


“Series of Black Swans Driving up Fertilizer Prices”

[Modern Farmer, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-21]

“Upswing in market prices, a natural disaster and disruptions in trade and logistics have brought increased attention to the fertilizer industry. … Last week, CF Industries put out a force majeure letter for its Donaldsonville, Louisiana facility, saying there would be issues of product coming out of the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. CF Industries has 19 plants at the facility—which includes six ammonia and five urea producing plants. … ‘Our view for the rest of the 2021 calendar year is the world trade flows are tight on phosphate and urea and most every fertilizer out there,’ [Josh Linville with StoneX] says.”


“Record 60 Cargo Ships Wait to Unload at Los Angeles, Long Beach”

[Maritime Logistic Professional, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-17-21]

“A record 60 container vessels are at anchor or adrift in the San Pedro Bay, waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports and another 20 are due to arrive in coming days, a port executive said on Wednesday. With the pandemic still raging around the world, U.S. consumers have not fully resumed previous spending on restaurants and travel, yet they continue to splurge on goods ranging from appliances and home exercise equipment to sweatpants and toys. Volume at the Port of Los Angeles – the busiest U.S. gateway for trade with Asia – is up 30.3% so far this calendar year. The global supply chain has been reeling due to overwhelming demand for cargo;, temporary COVID-19 closures of ports and factories in Asia; shortages of shipping containers and key products like resin and computer chips; and severe weather. Transportation costs have spiked, exacerbating delays and fueling product shortages. ‘Disruptions continue at every node in the supply chain,’ said Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles. Containers are waiting on Port of Los Angeles docks a peak of six days for truck pickup, Seroka said. Containers on chassis are waiting 8.5 days ‘on the street’ for warehouse space or to be returned empty to the port. There are nearly 8,000 containers ready to be whisked away by train, with the wait clocking in at 11.7 days, Seroka said.”


Car and chip makers are establishing closer ties to address global semiconductor shortage

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-14-21]

“Executives from car and chip makers are establishing closer ties to address the global semiconductor shortage and working together to introduce new products. … [I]ntel CEO Pat Gelsinger told an auto industry event in Munich this month that he expects semiconductors to make up a fifth of the materials costs in premium-segment cars by 2030, up from 4% in 2019….”

“That’s a dramatic measure of how technology is resetting automotive supply chains. Car makers have long dealt with chip suppliers indirectly, a structure that contributed to the chip crisis that has crimped production for many car makers this year. Chip makers are counting on auto makers as a fast-growing market, and the closer relations could signal similar moves in other sectors increasingly focused on technology.”


“Tech industry braces for skyrocketing rare earth prices”

[Nikkei Asia, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-17-21]

“Electronic hardware manufacturers are sweating as prices for rare-earth metals surge amid soaring demand and simmering tensions between the U.S. and China, the world’s most important source of these vital materials…. Demand for rare earths has risen sharply due to their increasing use in cutting-edge technologies, including the booming electric vehicle industry, while the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic has fueled demand for electronics. Geopolitics are only making matters worse. China is the only country that has a complete supply chain for rare earths from mining, to refining, to processing. As of last year, it controlled 55% of global production capacity and 85% of refining output for rare-earth elements, according to commodity research specialist Roskill. … Rare earths such as neodymium oxide — a key input for motors and wind turbines — have jumped 21.1% since the beginning of the year, while holmium, which is also used in magnets and magnetostrictive alloys for sensors and actuators, have surged nearly 50% so far this year, according to Shanghai Metals Markets.”


Why an Electric Car Battery Is So Expensive, For Now”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-17-21]

“Largely because of what goes in them. An EV uses the same rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are in your laptop or mobile phone, they’re just much bigger — cells grouped in packs resembling big suitcases — to enable them to deliver far more energy. The priciest component in each battery cell is the cathode, one of the two electrodes that store and release electricity. The materials needed in cathodes to pack in more energy are often expensive: metals like cobalt, nickel, lithium and manganese. They need to be mined, processed and converted into high-purity chemical compounds. At current rates and pack sizes, the average battery cost for a typical EV works out to about $6,300. Battery pack prices have come down a lot — 89% over the past decade, according to BloombergNEF. But the industry average price of $137 per kilowatt hour (from about $1,191 in 2010) is still above the $100 threshold at which the cost should match a car with an internal-combustion engine. Costs aren’t expected to keep falling as quickly, and rising raw materials prices haven’t helped.”


Why most gas stations don’t make money from selling gas

With gas prices climbing up, you may think station owners are getting greedy. But the economics behind the pump tell a different story.


[The Hustle, via The Big Picture 9-15-2021]

Manufacturing: “Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 20. Production site and facilities”

[Leeham News and Analysis, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-15-21]

“Last week, we looked at the Rig design and manufacture for ground and flight testing. We are now at the stage in our program (Figure 1) where we shall have scouted and deliberated over our Final Assembly production site (Violet bars). We now need to decide on the site and what facilities we need to build and/or hire.”  (Also explains what any country goes through to get an aircraft industry off the ground.)


Manufacturing: “A Deeper Dive into Semiconductor Foundries”

[Deep into the Forest, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-15-21]

“In last week’s issue, we learned about the core machines that populate a semiconductor foundry. In this week’s issue, we will dive deeper into the construction of a foundry and learn about the actual physical edifice itself. Semiconductor foundries are large factories that place considerable burden on the surrounding community and infrastructure. We will learn more about locations that can support a foundry, the noise and architectural considerations needed, and analyze some trends for the future of semiconductor manufacturing.”

“Miners race for nickel as electric car revolution looms”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-15-21]

“Demand for nickel, which is used in more powerful electric-car batteries and will be key to bigger vehicles such as electric trucks, is set to grow 19-fold by 2040 if the world meets the Paris climate goals, according to the International Energy Agency. Yet most of the increase in supply this decade is set to come from Indonesia, a market overwhelmingly powered by coal-fired electricity where Chinese companies are building nickel processing projects. That has prompted a race to secure new sources of supply as companies in rich nations are forced to drastically reduce their carbon footprints.


Climate and environmental crises

Burned trees and billions in cash: How a California climate program lets companies keep polluting

[Phys.Org, via Naked Capitalism 9-18-2021]


Information Age Dystopia

“The Revolt Against the 30% Mafia”

Moe Tkacik [The Marker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-15-21]

“Starting in San Francisco, American cities and later whole states began enacting extremely simple regulations designed to soften the financial blow of a malign force choking America’s most vulnerable businesses with extreme commissions…. they were such obvious no-brainers that copycat bills eventually passed in some 73 municipalities, in the end saving probably thousands of merchants from financial ruin… The laws were the delivery app fee caps, which for the most part placed 15% limits on the commissions DoorDash, Uber, and Grubhub could charge restaurants during the pandemic. These laws cut restaurants’ delivery app bills in half in the cities that passed them… But the caps also represented the start of a grassroots revolt against the 30% Mafia, an unimaginative label I’ll use for the increasingly unimaginative syndicate of Silicon Valley gatekeepers who’ve made a business model of charging businesses from booksellers to hotels 30% of their top-line revenues for the privilege of existing on the internet…. I can’t find many examples of middlemen that commanded that kind of take during the 20th century; Sotheby’s is an exception, as was the actual Mafia, at least according to Rudy Giuliani, who told the producers of the Netflix mob series Fear City he grew up hearing stories about how Mafia thugs arrived at his grandfather’s barbershop one day demanding 30% cut of his income…. Alas, Steve Jobs raised no such flags when he founded the 30% Mafia upon debuting the iPhone, when he elected to round the 27% he used to charge record labels for selling iTunes up to an even 30% for developers who wanted to sell iPhone software applications in the official App Store. At the time, he euphemistically referred to it as the ‘agency model’ — which might have been accurate if his cut had been 15%. More evocatively, a Dallas restaurateur named Omar Yeefoon last fall likened the 30% commission to the revenue sharing arrangement enjoyed by ‘pimps,’ writing on Facebook that his vegan restaurant was ‘being trafficked.’”


“Facebook sure looks like it’s getting into the debt collection business”

[Mashable, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-15-21]

“Dubbed Facebook Invoice Fast Track, the program works by buying up a company’s outstanding invoices and quickly forking over the owed cash. When payment comes due, the customer with the outstanding bill then must pay Facebook directly. ‘The program provides affordable, immediate cash for pay that your customers owe you,’ the announcement explained. Facebook said it will take a ‘one-time low fee’ of one percent of the invoice value. Notably, Facebook intends for the program to focus on businesses that are ‘majority-owned, operated and controlled by racial or ethnic minorities, women, U.S. military veterans, LGBTQ+ people or individuals with disabilities.’ We asked Facebook if it intends collects any fees other than the stated one percent. We also asked who, exactly, will be doing the collecting — is it a Facebook team, or a third party? — and what happens when a bill inevitably goes unpaid. We received no immediate response.”


A key legacy of 9/11? The way conspiracy theories spread online.

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-13-2021]

In our pandemic moment, in the aftermath of a presidential administration that weaponized accusations of “fake news” against its political enemies while promoting egregious falsehoods, this is no small matter. A recent report in The Washington Post underscores how concentrated and deadly the dissemination of false information has become: A vast amount of anti-vaccination content is generated by just 111 (out of billions of) Facebook accounts.


An Epic Takedown Appears to Be in the Works

[Little Green Footballs, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-21]

Summarizes WSJ series Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. It Got Angrier Instead. WSJ


It’s getting harder for people to believe that Facebook is a net good for society

[Recode, via The Big Picture 9-17-2021]

A new series of reports from the Wall Street Journal, “The Facebook files,” provides damning evidence that Facebook has studied and long known that its products cause measurable, real-world harm — including on teenagers’ mental health — and then stifled that research while denying and downplaying that harm to the public. Perhaps the latest Facebook scandal might stick. (Recode)


The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

“How a key Biden tax idea got crushed”

[Full Stack Economics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-16-21]

“President Joe Biden came into office planning to tax intergenerational wealth more heavily. He had several policy ideas to do this, and the most intellectually defensible of these was to change a capital gains tax provision called ‘step-up basis. ‘Under current law, when you sell an asset, you pay capital gains tax on the amount the asset appreciated. The appreciation is calculated by subtracting the acquisition price—known as the basis—from the sale price. However, there is an exception when you inherit an asset: the basis is the value of the asset at the time you inherited it, not the value at the time it was originally acquired. The capital gains between acquisition and inheritance are lost to the income tax system, as the Treasury Department explained in a recent report supporting Biden’s plan. Biden had hoped to address this issue in upcoming legislation. But that plan is now in shambles after a public revolt and a decisive push from lobbyists like former senator Heidi Heitkamp. Step-up repeal has been entirely removed from the latest plans released by House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal. ‘Frankly this is a humiliating climbdown from the administration’s posture,’ Capital Alpha Partners’ James Lucier told the Financial Times.”

Lambert Strether adds: “Man oh man, the Massachusetts Democrats really did Biden a solid by smearing Alex Morse so Richie Neal would keep his seat, good job.”


How the Budget Rules Hobble the Progressive Imagination

Robert Kuttner, September 14, 2021 [The American Prospect]

It’s time to repeal pay-as-you-go requirements, a throwback to the austerity economics of the Clinton-Obama era.


Infrastructure Summer: A Surprisingly Radical Housing Bill

[The American Prospect, September 15, 2021]

Practically all the solutions to diminishing the high cost of housing, from nudges to public options, are present in the housing piece of the reconciliation bill….

That dollar value pales in comparison to the money allocated for public housing. This $80 billion pot represents such a substantial investment that it could nearly, though not entirely, make up the funding deficit that has plagued the country’s major public-housing authorities for years. That $80 billion is allocated in an interesting and unusual way, with $66 billion of it under the direct discretion of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. As Paul Williams, a fellow at the Jain Family Institute, writes, the standard formula for allocating public funding money has sharply underserved public-housing authorities in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. Secretary Fudge will now have the opportunity to remedy the most acute shortfalls those cities are experiencing.

The structure of that system proves the importance of Secretary Fudge’s appointment for progressives. While Fudge herself wanted to head up Agriculture, not HUD, the appointment of a former Congressional Progressive Caucus member to a Cabinet position in the Biden administration now has a chance to pay huge dividends for housing advocates nationwide, who have an ally empowered with significant funding. For the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), for example, which sports a $40 billion shortfall in its funding, Secretary Fudge could nearly close the gap in one fell swoop.


The Dark Side

“State Election Officials on Rich Donors’ Radar, Thanks to Trump”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-16-21]

“The once-obscure state-level job of overseeing elections has emerged as a prime target for wealthy donors and national organizers from both parties seeking an edge in the 2022 midterms that could shift control of Congress away from Democrats. Republicans are backing secretary of state contenders who echo Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through voter fraud, with donors including Richard Uihlen. Democrats have also seen an exponential increase in the amount of money they’re raising for the role, which is often sought as a stepping stone to higher statewide office….. [The] amounts pale in comparison to what is spent on national campaigns, but it is a lot for second-tier state offices.”


[Twitter, via Common Dreams, Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe, September 18, 2021]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

Abort the Illegitimate Court: End the Filibuster and Pack it

[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-21]


The Roberts Court is Dying. Here’s What Comes Next.

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 9-16-21]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-14-21]


The Supreme Court launches a ‘political torpedo’ right at the Biden administration 

[AlterNet, via Avedon’s Sideshow 9-4-21]

On Tuesday night, the Supreme Court announced a consequential decision that amounted to an aggressive assertion of judicial authority against President Joe Biden. In a four-sentence order, the justices left in place a lower court’s injunction preventing the Biden administration from ending Donald Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, which left many asylum-seekers unable to enter the United States as their cases proceed through the long and arduous process. Essentially, the court is saying Biden has to continue to Trump’s policy because he didn’t end it in the right way. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by Trump, had previously ordered Biden to continue the policy on the grounds that the decision to reverse it was ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ The Supreme Court has upheld that procedural move, which is now expected to stay in place as the litigation proceeds. The initial ruling and the injunction were highly criticized when they came down, with many critics arguing that they represented extreme overreach by a conservative judge trying to undermine a politically opposed administration. Vox’s Ian Millhiser said Judge Kacsmaryk didn’t even understand the law he referenced […] Now, the Supreme Court’s conservatives have said that the judge’s injunction will remain in place, fulfilling Milhiser’s fears. All three liberal justices on the court dissented from the decision, though there was no written opinion of the court nor any dissents. ‘Absolute insanity. SCOTUS’ conservative majority repeatedly cleared away lower court injunctions so that Trump could implement his immigration agenda. Now it lets a single district court judge dictate foreign policy for the Biden administration. This is beyond outrageous,’ said Slate’s Mark Joseph stern. Many critics echoed the point that the court was generally deferential to the Trump administration on immigration and foreign policy. It left in place Trump’s ban on migrants from Muslim countries, despite clear evidence that it was inspired by racist animus.”
Vox: “The decision upends the balance of power between the elected branches and the judiciary. It gives a right-wing judge extraordinary power to supervise sensitive diplomatic negotiations. And it most likely forces the administration to open negotiations with Mexico, while the Mexican government knows full well that the administration can’t walk away from those negotiations without risking a contempt order. With this order, Republican-appointed judges are claiming the power to direct US foreign policy — and don’t even feel obligated to explain themselves.


Cultural Warfare

Luther’s 1527 Plague Pamphlet Shows How Much Today’s Christianity Has Been Manipulated

greatlyconcerned [DailyKos, September 12, 2021]

In 1527, Martin Luther had a lot to say about the responsibilities of Christians during the plague to themselves, their neighbors, and their communities. He has plenty to tell us about our analogous COVID-19 pandemic, suicidal and murderous Christian behavior, and even people, like Senator Ted Cruz….

Here’s where murder comes in. Luther said of people, like Ted Cruz running away in a crisis, instead of helping people (bolding my emphasis): “Anyone who does not do that for his neighbor, but forsakes him and leaves him to his misfortune, becomes a murderer in the sight of God.”

Christian anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers should take heed here (bolding my emphasis):

“They are much too rash and reckless, tempting God and disregarding everything which might counteract death and the plague. They disdain the use of medicines; they do not avoid places and persons infected by the plague, but lightheartedly make sport of it and wish to prove how independent they are. They say that it is God’s punishment; if he wants to protect them he can do so with-out medicines or our carefulness. This is not trusting God but tempting him. God has created medicines and provided us with intelligence to guard and take good care of the body so that we can live in good health.”

Anti-masker and anti-vaxxer Christians are not trusting God, according to Luther….


Into the Fairy Castle: The Persistence of Victorian Liberalism
by Samuel Biagetti

In the later 2010s, as left-leaning populists gained footholds in American and British politics, debates between the center and the Left, not only in the political press but also in everyday conversation and social media, increasingly resembled Borgen. Left-leaning proposals met with a battery of objections that served to shift the terms of discussion away from the policy’s material effects in favor of questions of perception: “it will scare swing voters,” “it won’t make it through Congress,” “it’s too ambitious,” and so on. Programs that are evidently popular among the wider public, such as single-payer health care in the United States or renationalization of the Royal Mail in Britain, received a preemptive death sentence, often on the grounds of some prospective line of attack that conservatives would use against them. In this way, moderate critics fled from the field of policy debate to that of armchair punditry, from politics to metapolitics.

The terrain has shifted only slightly since the pandemic crisis. Although the new Biden administration, influenced by progressive pressure or by traditional Keynesian logic, has embraced proposals for massive public spending funneled through private contracts, it still adamantly resists any calls for permanent new institutions or programs that would impinge upon the for-profit market. Even scaled-down versions of the same proposals, such as a public option, which Biden claimed to support, languish in the purgatory of committees and subcommittees, ironically forgotten amidst the pandemic.  When these ideas occasionally resurface in public discourse, moderate critics in the United States again shift into the mode of punditry, arguing that leftist policies are impractical because of the Senate’s even partisan split.

Although  these metapolitical arguments appear to have succeeded in muting criticisms from left-populist politicians, they are irrelevant to the question of whether the policies at issue constitute worthwhile aims. Therefore, to invoke them in the context of ordinary political debate among laypeople is a non sequitur, sure to leave one’s interlocutors either flummoxed or infuriated. Anyone who has undertaken a project knows that the natural sequence of action is first to formulate one’s goals and then to take stock of the possible obstacles that one might meet, either adjusting course or strategizing in advance as to how to defeat them. To collapse the distinction between a policy’s desirability and the ease with which it will be achieved is not “prag­matic” or “realistic,” but logically confused, like the proverbial man who searches for a lost key on a busy sidewalk rather than in the alley where he dropped it because the sidewalk is better lit. Likewise, to say that a policy platform is unlikely to be delivered as proposed, and that compromise will be necessary, is merely to state the obvious, and in no way denigrates the platform; as anyone who has engaged in business negotiation knows, opening with a higher asking price only makes it more, rather than less, likely that one will ultimately realize a gainful sale.

In sum, the familiar centrist and liberal deflections of left-wing arguments fail to persuade anybody—but that is not their main pur­pose. Their principal aim is to change the subject, shifting the conversation away from discussion of concrete policies (and by extension, the negotiation of conflicting material interests) and reframing it as a contest between personalities at disparate stages of development: condescension is the underlying constant.


The Lie of Nation Building

Fintan O’Toole [New York Review of Books, October 7, 2021 issue]

From the very beginning, the problem with the US involvement in Afghanistan lay essentially in the deficits in American democracy.

The great question of America’s twenty-year war in Afghanistan was not whether the Afghans were fit for democracy. It was whether democratic values were strong enough in the US to be projected onto a traumatized society seven thousand miles away. Those values include the accountability of the people in power, the consistent and universal application of human rights, a clear understanding of what policies are trying to achieve, the prevention of corrupt financial influence over political decisions, and the fundamental truthfulness of public utterances. In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, the American republic was fighting, and often losing, a domestic battle to uphold those values for its own citizens.

It is grimly unsurprising that the US could not infuse them into a very foreign country. While the political system of the US was approaching the crisis that culminated in the presidency of Donald Trump and the Capitol riots, its most enduring external adventure could not avoid moving in tandem toward the grim climax of the flight from Kabul. Afghanistan became a dark mirror held up to the travails of American democracy. It reflected back, sometimes in exaggerated forms, the weaknesses of the homeland’s political culture. Critics of the war argued that the US could not create a polity in its own image on the far side of the world. The tragic truth is that in many ways it did exactly that.


The rot in the (anti)Republican Party began long before Trump:

Heather Cox Richardson, September 8, 2021 [Letters from an American]

Rather than being chastised by Watergate and the political fallout from it, a faction of Republicans continued to support the idea that Nixon had done nothing wrong when he covered up an attack on the Democrats before the 1972 election. Those Republicans followed Nixon’s strategy of dividing Americans. Part of that polarization was an increasing conviction that Republicans were justified in undercutting Democrats, who were somehow anti-American, even if it meant breaking laws.

In the 1980s, members of the Reagan administration did just that. They were so determined to provide funds for the Nicaraguan Contras, who were fighting the leftist Sandinista government, that they ignored a law passed by a Democratic Congress against such aid. In a terribly complicated plan, administration officials, led by National Security Adviser John Poindexter and his deputy Oliver North, secretly sold arms to Iran, which was on the U.S. terror list and thus ineligible for such a purchase, to try to put pressure on Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorists who were holding U.S. hostages. The other side of the deal was that they illegally funneled the money from the sales to the Contras.

Although Poindexter, North, and North’s secretary, Fawn Hall, destroyed crucial documents, enough evidence remained to indict more than a dozen participants, including Poindexter, North, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, and four CIA officials. But when he became president himself, Reagan’s vice president George H.W. Bush, himself a former CIA director and implicated in the scandal, pardoned those convicted or likely to be. He was advised to do so by his attorney general, William Barr (who later became attorney general for President Donald Trump)….

Yesterday, a 67-year-old Idaho man, Duke Edward Wilson, pleaded guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers. He faces up to 8 years and a $250,000 fine for assaulting the law enforcement officers. And he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for obstruction of an official proceeding.

This law was originally put in place in 1871 to stop members of the Ku Klux Klan from crushing state and local governments during Reconstruction.

If Wilson is facing such a punishment for his foot soldier part in obstructing an official proceeding in January, what will that mean for those higher up the ladder? Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) has sued Trump; Donald Trump, Jr.; Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL), who wore a bullet-proof vest to his speech at the January 6 rally; and Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who also spoke at the rally, for exactly that: obstructing an official proceeding….

At the end of the Civil War, General U.S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln made a decision similar to Ford’s in 1974. They reasoned that being lenient with former Confederates, rather than punishing any of them for their attempt to destroy American democracy, would make them loyal to the Union and willing to embrace the new conditions of Black freedom. Instead, just as Nixon did, white southerners chose to interpret the government’s leniency as proof that they, the Confederates, had been right. Rather than dying in southern defeat, their conviction that some men were better than others, and that hierarchies should be written into American law, survived.

By the 1890s, the Confederate soldier had come to symbolize an individual standing firm against a socialist government controlled by workers and minorities; he was the eastern version of the western cowboy. Statues of Confederates began to sprout up around the country, although most of them were in the South. On what would become Monument Avenue, the white people of Richmond, Virginia, erected a statue to General Robert E. Lee in 1890, the same year the Mississippi Constitution officially suppressed the Black vote. Black leaders objected to the statue, but in vain.

Today, 131 years later, that statue came down.


Does America Hate the “Poorly Educated”?

Matt Taibbi [TK News, via Naked Capitalism 9-18-2021] .


Open Thread


The Age Of Assassination


  1. NR

    Condolences about your brother.

  2. bruce wilder

    Sorry to hear about your brother. Sounds like an amazing person.

  3. Joan

    RIP Ronnie, my condolences. Thanks for sharing him with us Tony; he sounds like a good guy.

  4. bruce wilder

    I’ve been preaching that “market economy” is a Big Lie for a very long time, so I naturally read the piece, headlined Disrupting mainstream economics The Long, Slow Death of the Free Market with great interest.

    Blair Fix, though writing in an academic mode, covers a great breadth of implications that fall out of a realization that neoclassical economics is in denial about the reality of the way modern economies are structured and work and have developed.

    He offers a plausible hypothesis for why neoclassical economics and its ideological stepchild, neoliberalism, have persisted in their politically dominant roles in modern politics. And his hypothesis is that neoclassical economics is (my term is Big Lie) an elaborate fiction, precisely to make the growth of hierarchy palatable to society at large as well as agreeable to those who benefit most from these arrangements.

    He correctly, imho, links the growth of hierarchy to increases in the use of energy as well as the general rise in social and political “complexity”. The connection between hierarchy and energy is not a new idea; Weber, in his famous valediction, linked bureaucracy to fossil fuels more than a century ago. As we face the consequences of the industrial revolution in climate change, and the increasing imperative to restructure the global economy around constrained use of energy, the idea that civilization may collapse because we can neither deliberately manage a retreat from complexity and fossil fuel use nor make bureaucratic complexity work to solve the problems manifesting from climate change and ecological collapse.

    He barely glances at these global existential issues — these are connections I picked up — but I think he is well aware of the connections when he wields “energy” and “complexity” in his aerial survey of the growth of bureaucracy in the modern economy.

    He does not address directly identification of the economic function of hierarchy in applying energy to organizing and managing specialization and trade in production and distribution. I am not saying he should have; that would be another essay or set of essays entirely. But, hierarchy does apply additional resources and adds to complexity, so what does it “economize”? Answering that question is critical to thinking through the design and architecture of political economy, a task currently blocked by the academic and cultural dominance of neoclassical economics.

    The IPCC reports on climate change — not ironically the product of bureaucracy — scream alarm and explain “the science” but not the economics, because there is no competent economics to apply to the problem. We have the Big Lie of a global economy organized “by markets” and economists for the full thirty+ years of the neoliberal era have prescribed “market price” solutions — carbon taxes or cap-n-trade — with no effect except ineffectual delay. And, the tech-faithful, with their fantasy economics, regularly assure us that solar panels are cheaper and cheaper, again with no discernible impact on carbon concentrations in the atmosphere. The absence of both a shared understanding of how the political economy is organized and a cadre of experts with actual expertise, is driving the human race off a cliff.

    I am still not convinced that very many people, centre or left at least, are even slightly interested in how the actual political economy works, or ready to reject the vocabulary and frameworks of “market economy” cant. The Long, Slow Death of the Free Market may end up being the long not-nearly slow-enough death of the planet at the rate we are going.

  5. Ché Pasa

    Tony — What a wonderful tribute to your brother. So many of us take so much for granted (mea culpa) and forget how connected and dependent we are on others. Thanks for sharing that eulogy with us.

  6. nihil obstet

    My greatest respect for your brother and my deepest sympathy to you.

  7. Hugh

    Sorry that you lost your brother.

    I’m not sure there are many foreign policy adults in the Pentagon, or Moscow or Beijing.

    The take-home is always the same. The Democrats govern badly, and the Republicans don’t govern at all. The Republicans are staging a rolling fascist coup. They don’t need elections, or majorities, or black or brown people.

    The Supreme Court has been a ghastly, anti-democratic, hack-filled scam for almost all of its 230 year history, minus perhaps the 20 years between Brown in 1954 to Roe in 1973.

    Always good to see articles on industrial policy. Free markets don’t exist. They are just an excuse, a justification for looting by the rich and elites. “See it wasn’t us. It was those free markets over there.”

    As for MMT, finance precedes everything economic, except society precedes finance. Oops. Also real resource constraint is not a synonym for inflation. At most, it relates to one particular type. Speculation, QE, monopolistic pricing, artificial resource constraint fall entirely outside it. Oops again. As usual, MMT ignores the upward movement of wealth.

    Martin Luther rebelled against his upside down world. We live in ours, where any lie is at least as good as any truth.

  8. Mark Pontin

    @ Tony —

    Sorry to hear about your brother. Far too young an age to go.

  9. Trinity

    Tony, very, very sorry to hear about your brother. And I loved the CCC article at the beginning. I grew up near a national park where their work was both still relevant (1970s), still useful, and very well-regarded. A classmate of mine (1970s) worked for them one summer and said she had a wonderful time. Beautiful stone walls, hiking trails, access to nature is how I think of them, so it was nice to learn more about them. And both cases, your wonderful brother and the CCC, are a gentle reminder of what really matters, what endures, what nourishes us.

    For the rest of the articles, it starts to overwhelm. I’m beginning to think that the endless discussions via (seemingly endless) outlets that the internet provides both unintentionally water down the issues and the discussions focused on them, because scale is almost never addressed, only perspective. (Scale of a process, scale of the effects, usually mismatched and/or inappropriate.)

    And secondly because the best (relevant, truthful) discussions don’t necessarily bubble to the top except through the efforts of human aggregators like Tony. And Tony’s job is monumental.

    (Please note that I’m not referring to the discussions that happen on this blog, which are valuable for many reasons. I’m referring to the endless stream of articles that appear every day discussing the endless number of issues we face. This is about how difficult it is to determine truth or best actions.)

  10. Trinity

    Well said, Bruce. I’m with you on every single word.

  11. someofparts

    what Trinity said

  12. nihil obstet


    I am still not convinced that very many people, centre or left at least, are even slightly interested in how the actual political economy works, or ready to reject the vocabulary and frameworks of “market economy” cant.

    We’ve all been taught that people learn by finding out what works best for them on an individual level. When I was in college, the students in Psych 1 learned that it’s a universal principle — even pigeons learn what gets each of them a treat. That’s the atmosphere we all swim in.

    The locus at which all the theorizing and development of theories of political economy occur is particularly swathed in the individualized ideology. If you’re working on political economy, you’re almost certainly ensconced in a university faculty or a think tank. And you are therefore involved in a hierarchy that aims not to produce a product, but to establish status and benefits. This leaves you lacking experience and interest in replacing the autonomous individual that shops in markets or works in think tanks.

    I should be more hesitant to comment on a book I haven’t read, but you got me interested. I’m generally interest in the roadblocks that keep us from imagining the society we want.

  13. Jim Harmon

    Your brother will be missed. (He already is.)

  14. Ché Pasa

    Could the attempt to revive the Confederacy (again) be in alignment with the attempted revival of the Anglo-American Imperial project? They seem to be co-terminus and have a similar, sometimes identical, cast of characters and have a similar purpose: forcing the majority to yield to the will of a small and shrinking minority.

    On the surface, it’s not going well for either the neo-Confederates or the neo-Imperialists, and yet… both are able to wield power over others who are suffering and to maintain that power despite the odds and the overall destructive nature of what they are doing. No one forces them to back down. They — a very small minority — force everyone else to do their bidding, follow their lead, or sit quietly and take their abuse. Their failures are “strategic” — lose the battle here, win the whole world over there.

    Simply by forcing their will on others — sometimes only threatening to –they are able to succeed, have their way, or as in the case of the January 6 riots, expose the utter weakness and hollowness of the seat of US government. How easy it would be to seize it, discredit it, destroy it.

    I pondered these things, parallel trends, while reading Heather Cox Richardson’s piece on the Nixon pardon and collateral damages to the USofA’s experiment in constitutional self-government, an experiment nearing (or possibly past) its conclusion. The Confederacy has always been the counter to the unified nation, and a drive to empire has long animated a certain segment of domestic politics. The nation itself, after all, is an imperial construct — which some are eager to undo.

    The global quest to restore Anglo-American imperial authority over vast swaths of territory and enormous numbers of people appears to be falling apart. Yet power and authority is still projected, not always militarily. The financial and economic power of the imperial project has continued and been enhanced even as some of the military and territorial efforts have failed. That power gets concentrated in fewer and fewer hands by design.

    Tony’s Hamiltonian civic republicanism may be revived, but I would ask by whom and to what object? Those few who would rule for their sole advantage?

  15. Willy

    Wish I’d had a brother like that. Or even a sister. I know far too many families which are only Easter and Christmas together, as long as the religion and politics is prohibited. And others much worse. It’d be interesting to examine why the better families function as we’d hope that families should, even the poorer ones.

    Bruce, from the Phoebus cartel to the tobacco cartel to the energy hegemony it seems that not much has changed. Hell, you might as well take that one all the way back to the building of the pyramids. Why have just one tombstone when a couple million will do? Power players have always conquered the power to control the narrative while not giving a shit about the impacts their power has on the rest of us.

    The reality is that happiness can be achieved by most average folks even if they determine that their happiness isn’t owned by the quantity of their consumption. Beyond basic sustenance that is. But the PTB can’t ‘feel’ that because they’re not wired that way. It’s a cultural thing. But then, as you’ve implied before, we’d have to gain control of that narrative, wouldn’t we?

  16. Hugh

    Self-government is a fiction. As I point out from time to time, the 26 states with the least population would form a majority in the Senate (52) but contain only 17.6% of the population. 9 states contain the majority of the population (51.2%) and get 18 Senators. The minority get 82. Throw in voter suppression, gerrymandering, a politicized judiciary, ignoring elections altogether. We don’t have a democracy. Only shams stacked on shams.

  17. Z


    Sorry that your brother passed away. I hope eventually that the pain peels away and only the good memories remain. Sounds like that’s what he’d want.


  18. Being that the rapid collapse of protection of the Pfizer vaccine is known from Israeli data, I was surprised that the FDA nixed boosters, as has already been started in Israel. It had crossed my mind that some people recruited by the FDA might have had their consciences sufficiently pricked, perhaps because of the risk to young males of things like myocarditis.

    However, 7 hours ago, Dr. Robert Malone tweeted out a link to:

    FDA experts reveal the Covid-19 Vaccines are killing at least 2 people for every 1 life they save as they vote 16 – 2 against the approval of booster shots

    From the article:

    “Four experts did analysis using completely different non US data sources and all of them came up with approximately the same number of excess vaccine related deaths, about 411 deaths per million doses. That translates into 115,000 people have died (due to the Covid-19 vaccines).”

    I haven’t read the transcripts of the FDA meeting, so not sure what to make of this estimate. However, a whistleblower reported that VAERS is undercounting by at least a factor of 5, so vaccine deaths should be at least 45,000. (this came out some weeks or months, ago.) When I projected US figures onto Israeli data, I came up with a guesstimate that deaths from the vaccine, itself, added to covid deaths of the vaccinated, indicated that the vaccines were not saving any lives, even in the short term. The probability was about the same as covid deaths amongst the unvaccinated. So, in that light, this new report seems plausible.

    The article continues:

    “We were led to believe that the vaccines were perfectly safe but this is simply not true, for example there are four times as many heart attacks in the treatment group in the Pfizer 6 month file report, that wasn’t just bad luck. VAERS shows heart attacks happen 71 times more often following these vaccines compared to any other vaccine,”

    I’m also having trouble digesting this claim. 6x heart attacks amongst Pfizer vaccinees sounds kind of plausible, but if it’s 71x other vaccines, doesn’t this imply that “other vaccines” are protective against heart attacks?

  19. I started reading the comments to the Malone tweet. The “2 killed for every 1 saved” was not made by an FDA expert, but was somebody’s public testimony (Steve Kirsch)

  20. Hugh

    Looking at their wikis, Malone thinks the Pfizer and Moderna (mRNA) vaccines are dangerous. Kirsch thinks they affect fertility. Sometimes it is hard to keep all these kooks straight.

  21. Number of randomized studies showing Covid vaccines save lives: 0
    Number of randomized studies showing ivermectin saves lives: 10+

    In fact the Randomized Pfizer study data had 7% higher death rates in the vaccine group (supplementary appendix, table s4 page 12).

    People who actually care about saving lives don’t respond with insults and logical fallacies. That is what trolls do.

  22. “6x heart attacks amongst Pfizer vaccinees sounds kind of plausible” should be

    “4x heart attacks amongst Pfizer vaccinees sounds kind of plausible”

  23. There are headlines in right wing outlets, like, about the Project Veritas release, yesterday, of hospital insider information (incl. from Dr. Maria Gonzales) about how covid is be treated and reported to VAERS. It’s damning, but meager and – at least what saw – not well edited.

    However, I just started watching a similar video of Deborah Conrad, on rumble (“Rumble — “THESE PATIENTS DESERVE TO BE HEARD” -VAERS WHISTLEBLOWER”). It’s far superior to the Project Veritas video I saw, yesterday.

    Conrad makes the point that releasing an emergency use authorization product onto the general public should demand increased vigilance and focus on VAERS, instead of a laissez-faire attitude (at best) by hospital administrators.

    The same point has been made about the complete lack of government funding for autopsies of covid vacinees who were likely done in by the vaccine. (see

    There’s no end to the degree of dysfunction and points of failure. This is old news, to me, having listened to Gary Null for over 35 years. It’s not just elected officials. It’s the administrative state, it’s the medical boards, it’s the hospital administrators, and it’s also doctors who may want to do the right thing, but are afraid. As are scientists (see )

    Unfortunately, I don’t see continuous teaching and reporting on this systemic failures throughout the medical/regulatory/media system. I’m not sure people have wrapped their heads around this. It’s likely they haven’t.

    Some man on the street polling is called for, along the lines of “what entities do you consider responsible for the suppression of cheap, effective drug treatments for covid, as well as the misleading pro-vaccine messages, that don’t mention side effects, or the fact that tons of data regarding side effects are not being reported to VAERS?”

    We should also be researching, in a serious way, just how ignorant people are about the length and breadth of this systemic failure

    Reading garbage articles linked to by Wikrent, and garbage comments, by the likes of hugh, do nothing to enlighten the electorate about how rotten the system is; and thus, what a large task fixing all this mess would entail. Comments like mine may help, but fixing such a systemic failure requires much more provocation than my meager voice can accomplish.

  24. Astrid

    My condolences Tony, your brother sounds like a blessing to everyone who knew him, taken far too soon.

  25. Hugh

    Let’s see, I tried to track down Maria Gonzales through the HHS, NIH, and CDC, and came up with nothing.

    Deborah Conrad is apparently a PA (physician’s assistant) which basically means that anything outside her immediate expertise has no more authority than anyone else’s opinion. But as some of us have been saying from the beginning, there is no mechanism for a national response to covid in the US because we have responses by state and a fractionated for profit healthcare system.

    Myocarditis appears to be a very low frequency side effect mostly in young men with some of the vaccines but much less than the damage done by covid. Naturally, metamars cherrypicks whatever he wants from whomever he wants and forgets the rest.

    Good to see, Oakchair come out from under his bridge. His link is to a meta-study of a bunch of small studies pushing ivermectin. Hilarious.

  26. Like with the “climate change” brainwashed, who can’t even bother disambiguating the completely non-controversial subject of “climate change” with “AGW induced climate change”, the spewers of covid related nonsense never seem to be bothered about data that could easily be taken, but isn’t. And what this makes superficially more plausible. This is quite convenient, because it allows for more obfuscation, thus making their narrative-spinning seem less laughable.

    The lack of integrity of such people is nauseating.

    Chris Martenson, early on in the pandemic, called out the lack of data problem.

    Martenson was talking about hard data with regard to treatment performance, and patient demographics. But he could also have said the same about “cultural” data, and other meta aspects. E.g., who is taking data on how many hospitals have told doctors affiliated with them that the use of ivermectin for covid will get their hospital privileges revoked? Who is taking data on what percentage of physicians won’t give ivermectin because they are afraid of having their medical licenses revoked? Who is taking data on what percentage of physicians have prophylaxed with ivermectin, but do not prescribe it for their patients? Who is asking physicians “On a scale of 1 to 5, how afraid are you to prescribe early treatment, e.g., as recommended by the FLCCC?”

    I started the bad_science_culture sub-reddit because I know it’s impossible to understand just how dysfunctional science and medicine are without looking into the sociological (etc) and financially corrupting background under which these are conducted.

    So, OBVIOUSLY, extensive data should be taken to determine the level of intimidation applied to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistant to obscure vaccine damage. Because, of course, the medical culture needs fixing, not just dysfunction within it related to covid. The lack of such meta data doesn’t mean we can’t point to whistleblowers like Deborah Conrad and suggest or imply that she is the tip of an iceberg. Since nobody made a strong claim in this vein, to call it “cherry picking”, which normally means picking a subset of data and drawing conclusions from it contrary to what one would conclude without the cherry picking, is yet another example of hugh’s verbal diarrhea.

    It is the hugh’s of this world who exhibit zero curiosity about the gross dysfunction pointed to by the testimony of a Deborah Conrad, or Project Veritas witnesses. That’s because they are not interested in the truth. They are, instead, interested in spinning a narrative. I would welcome large scale investigations into determining the extent of the climate of fear and intimidation amongst medical professionals. The hugh’s of this world are only interested in their bubble of memes which are fraught with lies and half-truths. They would probably be horrified if such research was done, since it carries the potential of making their obfuscations considerably more laughable. Which is a high bar, isn’t it?

  27. Hugh

    There are always going to be people who believe whatever it is they believe no matter how kooky. It just seems that nowadays it has become more commonplace. Some may occasionally throw an actual fact into the mix but out of context and only if it is in the service of the overall conspiracy narrative. Others will misread, distort, and re-assemble a bunch of facts in an effort to give their conspiracy the appearance of pseudo-scientifical legitimacy. It’s a miasma in which grifters and the credulous abound. And it’s nihilist. If anyone can defend their conspiracy with their made up facts, then everyone can, and reality, knowledge, science become just other “conspiracies” among so many others, to be easily dismissed by the true believers.

  28. different clue

    Ooh! Ooh!

    “Like with the “climate change” brainwashed, who can’t even bother disambiguating the completely non-controversial subject of “climate change” with “AGW induced climate change”, . . .

    See what metamars did there?

    Gish gallop rides again.

  29. different clue

    In my comment just above, I see I used an incorrect phrase incorrectly. “Gish gallop” is not the phrase I should have used.

    So let me re-write my last sentence in the above comment . . . . .

    Velcro Tarbaby rides again.

  30. Hugh

    I had not come across Gish gallop before. Wiki says it is an attempt to overwhelm an opponent by an excessive number of arguments without regard for the strength and accuracy of those arguments. I would throw in their relevance too. I also came across Brandolini’s law which says that it takes a lot more time and energy to refute BS than it does to produce it.

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