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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 29, 2019

by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

DC Court: State Secrets Privilege Trumps Any Citizens’ Right To Know Whether Or Not Their Own Gov’t Is Trying To Kill Them

[TechDirt, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-19]The Culmination of Republican Decay
Sean Wilentz [New York Review of Books, October 10, 2019 issue]

Book review of American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump, by Tim Albert

….After Barack Obama was elected president, the Koch brothers and the Donors Trust of dark money funders (to which the Kochs were leading contributors) would mobilize and subsidize the Republican base in the so-called populist revolt they named the Tea Party…. when Trump seized control of the GOP in 2016, he reaped the populist whirlwind that Richard Nixon began sowing nearly half a century earlier and that the Bush administration—their administration—had whipped to hurricane force….

By the time Alberta’s account gets underway, most of the political dynamics behind the events he describes were long established and extremely powerful. Some of the book’s major figures, like former House Speaker John Boehner (who was also one of its principal sources), were remnants from earlier phases of the party’s strife, and developments like the growth of the Tea Party or the uprisings of the House Freedom Caucus make sense only as outgrowths of previous internecine battles. Most importantly, by 2008, the Republican Party had already become what the political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein would call “an insurgent outlier” in American politics: “ideologically extreme… scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.” Alberta has written, in short, a book that is more denouement than drama, detailing the fall of a hollow GOP establishment that, having abandoned normal party politics in favor of relentless polarization, was already teetering. While American Carnage describes the outcome of the party’s radicalization, it completely misses—indeed, fundamentally misunderstands—a major impetus behind Trump’s ascendancy: the destructive presidency of George W. Bush….

[Alberta’s account] cannot explain how Trump could so swiftly capture virtually an entire political party. A plausible answer to that puzzle is hiding in plain sight in Alberta’s book. Although Trump came into office with majorities in both houses of Congress, and although, as Alberta notes, the White House ceded control over domestic legislation to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republicans had terrible difficulty scoring legislative wins. Most galling to Trump as well as the party’s congressional leadership was the failure to repeal Obamacare, one of the GOP’s core campaign pledges since the program began. On two fronts, though, Republicans moved with absolute assurance: the approval by the Senate of right-wing nominees to the federal bench, including Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and, after a brutal, unexpected fight, Brett Kavanaugh; and the rapid approval of a fiercely regressive tax bill in 2017. Control of the courts for the Christian right and the Federalist Society, tax windfalls and deregulation for the donor class: these were the causes that truly stirred the GOP majorities in Congress. It’s not simply that the recumbent Republicans are intimidated by the party base that Trump has captured; they are motivated chiefly by right-wing dogma and their own baseness, which Trump understands and manipulates.

The Problem With Impeachment

Chris Hedges [Truthdig, via Naked Capitalism 9-28-19]

Impeaching Donald Trump would do nothing to halt the deep decay that has beset the American republic. It would not magically restore democratic institutions. It would not return us to the rule of law. It would not curb the predatory appetites of the big banks, the war industry and corporations. It would not get corporate money out of politics or end our system of legalized bribery. It would not halt the wholesale surveillance and monitoring of the public by the security services. It would not end the reigns of terror practiced by paramilitary police in impoverished neighborhoods or the mass incarceration of 2.3 million citizens. It would not impede ICE from hunting down the undocumented and ripping children from their arms to pen them in cages. It would not halt the extraction of fossil fuels and the looming ecocide. It would not give us a press freed from the corporate mandate to turn news into burlesque for profit. It would not end our endless and futile wars. It would not ameliorate the hatred between the nation’s warring tribes—indeed would only exacerbate these hatreds.

Impeachment is about cosmetics. It is about replacing the public face of empire with a political mandarin such as Joe Biden, himself steeped in corruption and obsequious service to the rich and corporate power, who will carry out the same suicidal policies with appropriate regal decorum.

GND – A problem too big to solve, or an opportunity too big to miss?

The Green New Deal: A Fight for Our Lives
Naomi Klein [New York Review of Books, 9-21-2019]
Adapted from the introduction and epilogue to On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, by Naomi Klein, published by Simon and Schuster.

In scale if not specifics, the Green New Deal proposal takes its inspiration from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s original New Deal, which responded to the misery and breakdown of the Great Depression with a flurry of policies and public investments, from introducing Social Security and minimum wage laws, to breaking up the banks, to electrifying rural America and building a wave of low-cost housing in cities, to planting trees and establishing soil protection programs in regions ravaged by the Dust Bowl.

There are, among emission-reduction experts, long-running debates about which precedents from history to invoke to help inspire the kind of sweeping, economy-wide transformations the climate crisis demands. Many do favor FDR’s New Deal, because it showed how radically both a society’s infrastructure and its governing values can be altered in the span of a decade. More than 10 million people were directly employed by the government; most of rural America got electricity for the first time; hundreds of thousands of new buildings and structures were built; 2.3 billion trees were planted; 800 new state parks were developed; and hundreds of thousands of public works of art were created.

But the failures and limitations are also well known. The New Deal fell short of pulling the US economy out of economic depression, its main goal, and its programs overwhelmingly favored white, male workers. Agricultural and domestic workers (many of them black) were left out, and New Deal relief agencies, particularly in the Southern states, were notorious for their biases against unemployed African-American and Mexican-American families.

In part because of these failures, some insist that the only historical precedents that show the scale and speed of change required in the face of the climate crisis are the World War II mobilizations that saw Western powers transforming their manufacturing sectors and consumption patterns to fight Hitler’s Germany.

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-19].

Only the federal government holds the fiscal tools powerful enough to achieve a just transition.

Accordingly, people who truly want to see a GND in our time should fully embrace the power of the public purse. Instead of focusing on financial returns or relying on failed ideas like public-private partnerships, the GND should be financed through public spending and nothing else.

From the onset, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — one of the GND’s most visible supporters — has demanded our elected officials approach the crisis as straightforwardly as possible, just as policymakers responded to World War II.

The analogy is on point. During the war, Treasury economists learned an important lesson: Ultimately, the US federal government is constrained not by financial resources but by the physical resources (like labor and machinery) that it can marshal with its spending….

…the chief issue is crystal clear: The potential for federal lending and investment — or “indirect” financing — proposals to transform our economy pales in comparison to more direct proposals. Worse, the indirect plans would reorient the GND toward financial rather than social goals.

The Failure of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging

[Kaiser Health News, via Naked Capitalism 9-22-19]US Navy Corruption Levels Put the Third World to Shame
[Checkpoint Asia, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-19]Trump’s Economic Program Has Left Most Americans Worse Off
[Washington Monthly, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-19]

“Income inequality grew in 2018, Census data shows”
[PBS, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

“The gap between the haves and have-nots in the United States grew last year to its highest level in more than 50 years of tracking income inequality, according to Census Bureau figures. Income inequality in the United States expanded from 2017 to 2018, with several heartland states among the leaders of the increase, even though several wealthy coastal states still had the most inequality overall, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The nation’s Gini Index, which measures income inequality, has been rising steadily over the past five decades.” • Everything’s going according to plan.

“Billionaires hurt economic growth and should be taxed out of existence, says bestselling French economist”
[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

“In an interview with the French magazine L’Obs, Thomas Piketty calls for a graduated wealth tax of 5% on those worth 2 million euros or more and up to 90% on those worth more than 2 billion euros…. ‘So no, there won’t be billionaires anymore. How can we justify that their existence is necessary for the common good? Contrary to what is often said, their enrichment was obtained thanks to these collective goods, which are the public knowledge, the infrastructures, the laboratories of research,’ [said Piketty].”

Economics in the real world

“General Motors Co. customers are getting an unwelcome lesson in the fragile nature of supply chains.”
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

“Many vehicle owners turning to GM dealerships for repairs are finding needed replacement parts in short supply… as a strike against the auto maker persists through a second week”… The United Auto Workers walkout has brought production at more than 30 GM factories in the U.S. to a standstill and debilitated the company’s biggest parts warehouse and distribution centers. That’s rapidly affecting repair shops across the country, leaving staffers scrambling to find backup components for repairs and maintenance.”

Lambert Strether adds: “This is why, from a management perspective, union busting and just-in-time manufacturing are two sides of the same coin.”


I toured a huge frozen food processing plant in Salem, Oregon with my students . We saw huge rolls of plastic packaging bearing the names of about 30 different brands. The fruits and vegetables that went into those bags were EXACTLY THE SAME. 


Climate and environmental crises

“The Indian children who take a train to collect water”
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

“As their classmates set off to play after school each day, nine-year-old Sakshi Garud and her neighbour Siddharth Dhage, 10, are among a small group of children who take a 14 km (9 miles) return train journey from their village in India to fetch water. Their families are some of the poorest in the hamlet of Mukundwadi, in the western state of Maharashtra, a village that has suffered back-to-back droughts… They are not alone. Millions of Indians do not have secure water supplies, according to the UK-based charity, WaterAid. It says 12% of Indians, or about 163 million people, do not have access to clean water near their homes – the biggest proportion of any country.”

Trump’s War on California and the Climate

[WikiLeaks, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-19].
Naked Capitalism reader and contributor Chuck L noted: “A 100MB+ PDF document, apparently posted Sunday by WikiLeaks, that’s been suppressed by Trumpstan.”

“Rewilding will make Britain a rainforest nation again” 
George Monbiot [Guardian, via Naked Capitalism WC 9-25-19]

 “Among our missing ecosystems are rainforests. Rainforests are not confined to the tropics: a good definition is forest wet enough to support epiphytes – plants that grow on other plants. Particularly in the west of Britain, where tiny fragments persist, you can find trees covered in rich growths of a fern called polypody, mosses and lichens, and flowering plants climbing the lower trunks. Learning that Britain is a rainforest nation astounds us only because we have so little left. We now know that, alongside keeping fossil fuels in the ground, natural climate solutions – using the mass restoration of nature to draw down carbon from the air – offer perhaps the last remaining chance to prevent more than 1.5C, or even 2C, of global heating. Saving the remaining rainforests and other rich ecosystems, while restoring those we have lost, is not just a nice idea: our lives may depend on it. But in countries like the UK, we urge others to act while overlooking our own disasters. Foreigners I meet are often flabbergasted by the state of our national parks. They see the sheepwrecked deserts and grousetrashed moors and ask: “What are you protecting here?” In the name of “cultural heritage” we allow harsh commercial interests, embedded in the modern economy but dependent on public money, to complete the kind of ecological cleansing we lament in the Amazon. Sheep farming has done for our rainforests what cattle ranching is doing to Brazil’s. Then we glorify these monocultures – the scoured, treeless hills – as ‘wild’ and ‘unspoilt’.”

“The Sanders climate plan can work. Warren’s can’t.”
[Carl Beijer, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-19]

“Warren’s plan is centered around building a green export industry that will develop technologies and products and sell them to poor countries at a profit for US businesses. Sanders’ plan is centered around taxing the rich and global demilitarization to secure the funds and then turning them over to the United Nations. One plan is plainly grounded in Warren’s faith in markets and promoted with the rhetoric of “economic patriotism”. As I noted elsewhere, Warren’s climate plans are also deliberately designed to accomodate US militarism. The other plan expresses Sanders’ skepticism in markets. His is the only plan that even begins to grapple with the magnitude of the international climate finance problem, and he does it, correctly, by positioning militarism and the fight against climate change directly at odds.”

Predatory Finance

Wall Street Bank Stocks Closed in a Sea of Red Yesterday as Fed Pumps in
Another $105 Billion of Liquidity
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 25, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

During the water crisis in Flint Michigan, the EPA estimated that to fix all the similar problems in all USA cities required $385 billion through 2030. Pikers. They could get that from the Fed in less than four days! 

What Has Frightened Wall Street Banks from Lending in the Repo Market?
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 24, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

Danske Bank Executive Ensnared in Money-Laundering Scandal Found Dead

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]Interest Rate Derivatives Trading Explodes to $6.5 Trillion/Day
Jerri-Lynn Scofield [Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]High Drama in SEC House Hearing Ignored by Mainstream Media
Pam Martens and Russ Martens: September 26, 2019 [Wall Street on Parade]

On Tuesday, September 24, 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Financial Services Committee, chaired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters, held a hearing with all five members of the Securities and Exchange Commission – the first time this has happened since 2007. One of the Commissioners is Hester Peirce, whom we described as a “Koch Fronted Regulatory Hit Woman” in an article we penned on March 17, 2016….

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts questioned Clayton on the plan by some Republican members of Congress to gut the average American stockholder’s ability to bring a shareholder resolution to a publicly traded company. Currently the threshold is that the shareholder own $2,000 worth of the company’s stock. Under one of the plans being floated, a 1 percent share ownership, the shareholder would need to own $3 billion of General Motors stock to bring a shareholder resolution, Pressley explained. Clayton said $3 billion was too much but he wouldn’t commit to what level he thought was appropriate….

Ellen Brown [Truthdig, via Public Banking Institute 9-26-19]

Central bankers are staring down the reality that they have little if any ammunition left in their monetary policy arsenal should a downturn appear on the horizon. In a recent Truthdig article, PBI Chair Ellen Brown analyzes the ideas these technocrats are now floating, including one to issue an international digital currency to break the power of the US dollar as global reserve currency. Ellen points out:

“Allowing the IMF to issue the global reserve currency outright would give unelected technocrats unprecedented power over nations and their money. The effect would be similar to the surrender by European Union governments of control over their own currencies, making their central banks dependent on the European Central Bank for liquidity, with its disastrous consequences. … Better would be to nationalize the Fed, turning it into a true public utility, mandated to serve the interests of the economy and the voting public.”

Restoring balance to the economy

Google Contractors Officially Vote To Unionize

[Motherboard, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-19]Tracking Global Corporate Tax Avoidance

[Big Picture, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-19]

 U.S. multinationals shift comparatively more profits (about 60% of their foreign profits) than multinationals from other countries (40% for the world on average).

“What’s at Stake in the General Motors Strike”

[Portside], via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

“The main problem—a truly existential one—has been the inability of the UAW to make inroads among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who work in the “transplant” parts and assembly plants that Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Kia, VW, Mercedes-Benz, and other foreign-based firms have built in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and elsewhere in the mid-South. Fully half of all U.S. auto production is today non-union… And then there is the corruption scandal that is destroying the credibility of the UAW leadership… But despite all this, the strike is solid and public support is growing. GM has offered a modest wage increase, an $8,000 signing bonus, and $7 billion of investment in existing production facilities.”

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]

“In a plan released Saturday, Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator and presidential candidate, proposes wiping out an estimated $81 billion in existing debt and changing rules around debt collection and bankruptcy. He also calls for replacing the giant credit reporting agencies with a “public credit registry” that would ignore medical debt when calculating credit scores.”

Lambert Strether argues, “Nuking the horrid social credit credit reporting agencies is just as big a story as writing off the debt.”

“Why the Private Health Insurance Industry Faces an Existential Crisis” 

Wendell Porter [Portside, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]

“Our health insurance companies, in contrast, are not essential. They don’t treat anyone. They don’t prevent anyone from becoming sick. They don’t take you to the hospital or make sure you take your pills. They don’t fund or discover medical innovations. They’re simply middlemen we don’t need. And in the industry, we always dreaded the day American businesses and patients would wake up to that reality. That day has come. A majority of America’s small businesses now support Medicare for All. So do a majority of Americans who receive health insurance through their employer. In my 20 years working inside the industry and the 11 years I’ve been watching from the outside, I have never seen such high support among the people who get their coverage through their employers for switching to a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system.”

Information Age Dystopia

The Private Surveillance System That Tracks Cars Nationwide 

[Motherboard, via Naked Capitalism 9-22-19]
[TechDirt , via Naked Capitalism 9-24-19]

Artificial intelligence can improve sales by four times compared to some human employees
[PhysOrg, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-19]

Here’s How We Are Silenced by Big Tech
[Of Two Minds, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

I’ve been shadow-banned and censored without any recourse or opportunity to contest my sentence in the Big Tech gulag. This is how Big Tech silences us, quietly, without any evidence, without any hearing, without any recourse, in secret extra-legal proceedings where we are refused the opportunity to question our accuser and contest the “evidence,” if any.

Big Tech is a privately owned and operated gulag straight out of Kafka. As I have argued before, the only way to dismantle this privately owned and operated gulag, whose sole purpose is to maximize profits from adverts and selling user data, is to turn their services into public utilities that cannot collect any data and cannot target adverts.

Health Care Crisis

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-19]

“A new poll by a firm linked to Joe Biden is testing messages designed to undercut support among Democrats for Medicare for All, one of the most contentious issues splitting the party’s top presidential contenders. The survey, commissioned by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, found that primary voters start off favoring the government-run health care system by a margin of 70% to 21%, but can be persuaded to oppose it. The study showed that Democrats are most swayed by the arguments that the program would impose a heavy cost on taxpayers and threaten Medicare for senior citizens.” • Kelton subtweets:



This is why it’s so important to message M4A correctly. The opposition is waiting to pounce on any misstep. M4A works like a tax cut. It will leave the average family with ~$3,000 MORE to spend every year. It will SAVE you money. Positive messaging!! Every time. Every sentence. 


Creating new economic potential – science and technology

Energy Dept. spearheading battery recycling tech
[Houston Chronicle, via American Wind Energy Association 9-23-19]

The Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory is developing technology that would recycle batteries and help the US source lithium and cobalt, two materials used in battery storage and offshore wind turbines. Most of the US’ installed wind capacity doesn’t reply on rare earth metals, according to the American Wind Energy Association, but the process could help the nation source the materials without relying on China.

These tree-planting drones are firing ‘seed missiles’ into the ground. Less than a year later, they’re already 20 inches tall.
[Megaphone, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-19]

Report: Calif. has port infrastructure suitable for floating wind
[Recharge, via American Wind Energy Association 9-27-19]

California has several ports and harbors that could easily be upgraded for floating offshore wind development, according to Ideol. “California can be closer to the floating wind boom [through infrastructure development and job creation] than they think,” says Ideol executive Bruno Geschier.

Report: Average lifespan of wind farms expands to 30 years

[North American Windpower online, via American Wind Energy Association 9-27-19]

The average lifespan of a wind farm has increased from 20 years in the early 2000s to about 30 years today, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The report attributes the increase to new technology and a better understanding of performance and operations and maintenance.

New York MTA: $51.5 billion Capex Plan
[Railway Age 9-25-18]

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) on Sept. 16 released a proposed $51.5 billion 2020-2024 capital investment plan it describes as “by far the highest in the MTA’s history, increasing spending on infrastructure by 70% over current levels.” MTA plans to invest more than $40 billion in New York City Transit subways and buses as well as make major investments in the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuter rail networks.

Disrupting mainstream politics

Doomed, delusional, divided and corrupt: How the Democratic Party became a haunted house

[Salon, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]

Face to face with what looks an awful lot like the rise of American fascism, the Democratic Party has a historic opportunity — and a historic responsibility. It has repeatedly proven itself to be unequal to the task, to a comic and pathetic degree….  If you tried to design a center-left political party trapped between the traditions of social democracy and classical liberalism, unclear about its core beliefs and equally terrified by both its most vicious opponents and its most ardent supporters — in other words, a party perfectly positioned to capitulate to tyranny with nothing more than a few disapproving whimpers — I hardly think you could do better than the one we’ve got.

“The Democratic Party is suffused with wretched cowardice”
[Ryan Cooper, The Week, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]

“In the run-up to the 2018 midterms, a major element of Democratic Party messaging was that the party would serve as a check on President Trump and the Republican Party [lol]…. There’s just one problem: Great swathes of the Democratic structure are permeated to their very marrow with moral rot and cowardice, unwilling to do anything but the most superficial acts to check the GOP — and indeed often conspiring with them to preserve Republican dominance, as Democrats in the North Carolina state legislature did Monday….

For years now, activists and civil rights groups have been pursuing expensive legal action to overturn the egregious Republican gerrymandering of the state’s district boundaries (at both the state and federal level). They recently succeeded with a state Supreme Court ruling tossing out the current maps and asking the legislature to draw new ones. Then Monday night Republicans proposed a new gerrymander only somewhat less bad than their previous effort — and about half the state’s Democratic senators voted for it…. If America is to survive as a democratic republic into the medium term, these tepid dishwater Democrats have to go.”

Support For Biden Is An Irresponsible Gamble With Our Future
Luke Savage and Nathan J. Robinson [Current Affairs, via Avedon’s The Sideshow 9-17-19]

There’s nothing pragmatic or safe about a Biden nomination… […] Even putting aside the inadequacy of his politics, Biden’s inability to articulate a clear or legible Democratic message—even on his own terms—means that he cannot be put forward as a candidate against Donald Trump. The stakes are simply too high. […] This magazine warned in February of 2016 that Trump had unique advantages against an ‘establishment’ candidate like Clinton, because he could run simultaneously to her right and to her left, criticizing her over her record on the Iraq War and Wall Street. Because these criticisms were accurate, they proved difficult to respond to. The same dangers apply to a Biden candidacy. Biden is not well-positioned to attack Trump on Trump’s plutocratic agenda, given his own ties to the banking industry, which Trump will not hesitate to bring up. Nor will Biden be able to effectively criticize Trump’s reckless foreign policy when he himself helped agitate for the single most reckless and deadly policy decision of the 21st century. Trump is excellent at preying on personal weaknesses (e.g., mocking Elizabeth Warren’s silly ancestry claim) and will not hesitate to portray Biden as senile and out of touch. Unless Biden becomes far more energetic and cogent than he has thus far been, his responses will only confirm the charge.”

“Which 2020 Democrats get the most campaign cash from wealthy donors?”
[Open Secrets, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]

“South Bend, Ind., Mayor and top-tier fundraiser Pete Buttigieg is the most popular among CEOs, consultants, realtors, accountants and physicians, among others. Former Vice President Joe Biden gets the most from investors, presidents, attorneys and chiropractors. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) wins with executives and entrepreneurs.”

“Wall Street Democratic donors warn the party: We’ll sit out, or back Trump, if you nominate Elizabeth Warren”
[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-19]

“In recent weeks, CNBC spoke to several high-dollar Democratic donors and fundraisers in the business community and found that this opinion was becoming widely shared as Warren, an outspoken critic of big banks and corporations, gains momentum against Joe Biden in the 2020 race. ‘You’re in a box because you’re a Democrat and you’re thinking, ‘I want to help the party, but she’s going to hurt me, so I’m going to help President Trump,’ said a senior private equity executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of retribution by party leaders. The executive said this Wednesday, a day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would begin a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump.”

“You Can Have Brandeis or You Can Have Debs”
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism WC 9-25-19]

“Warren is a regulator at heart who believes that capitalism works well as long as fair competition exists; Sanders is a class-conscious tribune who sees capitalism as fundamentally unjust. Warren frames her most ambitious reforms as bids to make capitalism ‘accountable‘; Sanders pushes legislation called the ‘Stop BEZOS Act‘ and denounces ceos for exploiting workers. Warren seeks a harmonious accord between workers and employers; Sanders encourages workers to fight back…. Warren’s political tradition is the left edge of middle-class liberalism; Sanders hails from America’s socialist tradition. Or, to put the distinction in more personal terms: Warren is Louis Brandeis, Sanders is Eugene Debs.”

All enemies, foreign and domestic

The Federalist Society Says It’s Not an Advocacy Organization. These Documents Show Otherwise [Politico, via Avedon’s The Sideshow 9-17-19]

Despite what appears to be an obvious political valence, the Federalist Society and its high-profile members have long insisted the nonprofit organization does not endorse any political party ‘or engage in other forms of political advocacy,’ as its website says. The society does not deny an ideology—it calls itself a ‘group of conservatives and libertarians’—but it maintains that it is simply ‘about ideas,’ not legislation, politicians or policy positions. Federalist Society documents that one of us recently unearthed, however, make this position untenable going forward. The documents, made public here for the first time, show that the society not only has held explicit ideological goals since its infancy in the early 1980s, but sought to apply those ideological goals to legal policy and political issues through the group’s roundtables, symposia and conferences.”

The Seven Stages of Establishment Backlash: Corbyn/Sanders Edition” 
Glenn Greenwald [The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 9-23-19]
Lambert Strether writes: “From 2016, still germane. I think we are well into Stage 4. In other words, you ain’t seen nuthin yet.” 

STAGE 4: Smear the candidate and his supporters with innuendos of sexism and racism by falsely claiming only white men support them (you like this candidate because he’s white and male like you, not because of ideology or policy or contempt for the party establishment’s corporatist, pro-war approach).

STAGE 5: Brazen invocation of right-wing attacks to marginalize and demonize, as polls prove the candidate is a credible threat (he’s weak on terrorism, will surrender to ISIS, has crazy associations, and is a clone of Mao and Stalin).


Open Thread


Hunter Biden’s Corruption


  1. nihil obstet

    On the choice of food brands — years ago, a study showed that one of the things about convenience stores that people liked was lack of choice. In a supermarket, shoppers feel a pressure to be a “smart shopper” which involved comparing brands, taking time. A convenience store relieved that time-wasting pressure. So much of political advertising sells choice, when in fact, I suspect that most of us would prefer less choice on a wide range of things. I’d prefer a public utility to telecom to the ones I get to choose from, a national health service rather that a big choice of insurance companies.

    What we want in those areas is personal autonomy, not some consumer choice.

  2. StewartM

    Yeah, what nihil obstet said.

    The question I’d want to see “Benny” answer is — is “choice” all about having something on the label marked being marked differently with a different color , when the actual content on the inside is the SAME? That sums up the “choices” we get in our economic system, it’s more window dressing than content.

  3. Hugh

    Various takes. Sorry for the length,

    SCOTUS has always accepted a national security exception when it comes to the Bill of Rights. The endless war on terror has turned these inalienable rights into something far more conditional.

    I disagree with Chris Hedges. I don’t think anybody believes that impeachment is a cure-all. It is, however, a necessary first step.

    “Ultimately, the US federal government is constrained not by financial resources but by the physical resources (like labor and machinery) that it can marshal with its spending” Some of us have been saying this for years. Money is a medium to move resources. It is not an end or the final measure of a society or its economy.

    “The Failure of Establishment Neoliberal Economics” We have been saying too that it isn’t about failure. Establishment neoliberalism is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. The rich and elites, the Establishment and neoliberals, haven’t failed us. They are actively betraying us.

    Been saying too that billionaires and large concentrations of unproductive wealth are indications of a a deeply sick society.

    India/South Asia is already gone due to climate change and overpopulation.

    Most of Warren’s plans are either aspirational or more of the same with a few tassels thrown in.

    The $105 billion that the Fed made available to banks shows that the Greenspanput is still very much in place. It also shows how there is no such thing as a safe derivative, and that netting is and has always been a lie.

    Private healthcare insurance is a form of rentier capitalism. So of course, “Bought by the banks and credit card companies” Biden is going to be for it and against MedicareforAll.

    Great articles on the Democrats. They stand for nothing and fight for nothing unless it is for the rich who own them.

    The Federalist Society is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization (i.e. a charity). So it will maintain that it is non-partisan since if it didn’t, it would lose its tax-exempt status. As per the IRS, “501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Similarly, they can’t lobby for legislation, or big loophole, not much. They can, however, wink, wink, provide so-called “educational” materials. It is all a scam. Everyone knows it’s a scam, but no one does anything about it.

  4. edmondo

    “….Warren is Louis Brandeis, Sanders is Eugene Debs.”

    We seem to forget that FDR – arguably one of the best presidents ever – ran on a platform of balanced budgets and attacked Hoover for sending too much aid to the states for Depression relief. It wasn’t until AFTER he was elected that the stealth candidate became the progressive president.

    Bernie is more like Huey Long. It’s all about Bernie. No one is going to vote for a revolution, especially one lead by Bernie. If you think that they will, then you haven’t been hanging around America long enough.

  5. Dan

    I’m sure Benny was hoping he’d find the Cuban supermarket shelves empty, like a 1980’s Soviet grocery, and had to improvise and come up with something to complain about.

  6. Hugh

    “It’s all about Bernie.” Seriously? Pushing programs so that no one has to be afraid of getting ill, that everyone will get the care they need and won’t go bankrupt in the process; eliminating student debt so that no one has to be afraid of going into life-long debt to get an education; embracing the green New Deal so that we do our part to fight climate change and save the planet? If this is selfishness, we need a hell of a lot more of it.

  7. Comparing Sanders to Debs is a stretch, at best, and a fairly accurate measure of the quality of the commentary. With the schoolyard “Benny” “Bernie” bullshit name calling, the maturity as well.

  8. ponderer

    Chris Hedges is correct that impeaching Trump won’t help our larger structural issues. He misses the ones that will be worse. Our relationship with Russia and Iran could be worse and the borg think (probably correctly) that they can manipulate other candidates more readily into making it so. In that sense it’s not just about cosmetics. It’s about the ability to start more hot wars and prevent any investigation of the already Treasonous behavior of the borg. The democrats are the ones who prefer a suave tyrannical dictator that terrorizes “other” or “non” people. They were fine with Obama, Clinton, and even Biden according to the pols. So what he is really saying is that the things his tribal group should be caring about won’t change much. He totally leaves out the intelligence agencies assailing the Democratic process (though I think an actual impeachment will shine the most light on that as it will be a matter of survival to declassify the darkest parts). The international relations that will sour due to more Russiagate conspiracies, not to mention the further breakdown of our societal bonds.
    Bernie, like FDR, will be willing to give voters a slightly bigger slice of the pie while keeping the standard empire (atrocity) machine chugging right along. Eugene Debs went to prison for Peace. I like Bernie, but he’s no Debs.

  9. Hugh

    Hot outside today. Deep state borg must be behind it. What deep state conspiracy theorists never seem to get is the essential contradiction between an all powerful deep state and its inability to keep even a bumbling fuck like Trump from becoming President.

    As for relations with Iran getting worse if Trump is impeached, it is Trump who trashed the Iran nuclear treaty, increased sanctions, put troops in Saudi Arabia and bombers in Qatar, and generally saber rattled. And relations with Russia are going to be bad no matter who is in office as long as a thug like Putin is around.

  10. Re: Cuba. Unlike here, where we have a whole ten firms controlling everything on our supermarket shelves:


  11. Jeff Wegerson

    @Hugh. Well really not just Putin but any Russian leader no matter how goody two shoes who attempts to chart a course independent of empire America. Don’t you think?

  12. Hugh

    Putin’s goal is an imperial one. He wants to re-establish the Soviet Union. Another Russian leader could choose a different course. The idea that the US is the only bad actor in the world is simply wrong.

  13. Ten Bears

    The idea the Russia is the only player in this game is simply as wrong.

  14. Robotpliers

    It would be nice to somehow fuse Sanders and Warren together, plus add a dash of someone with a vision of the geopolitical realignments/conflicts that are likely to occur in the next decade or two.

    At least two generations of political dominance is just sitting there for the taking.

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