Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 1, 2023
by Tony Wikrent
80 Years Ago Denmark Miraculously Saved 8,000 Jews From Nazi Murder
Harvey Wasserman, September 25, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
Strategic Political Economy
VACCINE SPECIALIST PETER HOTEZ: SCIENTISTS ARE ‘UNDER ATTACK FOR SOMEONE ELSE’S POLITICAL GAIN’
Julian Nowogrodzki, September 21, 2023 [Natue, via Overnight Science News: Politically motivated bullies want to 'tear down the fabric of science', DailyKos 9-23-2023]
The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A Scientist’s Warning, Peter Hotez, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press (2023)….
You prefer to say ‘anti-science aggression’ rather than ‘misinformation’. Why?
Misinformation makes it sound like it’s random junk that appears out of nowhere on the Internet. It’s not: it’s an organized, well-financed, politically motivated campaign that’s meant to tear down the fabric of science. And we have to frame it in that way.
Anti-science rhetoric is not new. What’s changed?
Now, it’s fully embraced by a major political party in the United States, and by authoritarian regimes in other countries such as Hungary and, previously, Brazil. It’s sanctioned by elected leaders in the US Congress. It’s reached a new level of organization and aggression — it’s starting to resemble the 1930s, when Joseph Stalin’s regime in the Soviet Union portrayed scientists as enemies of the state.
How did you see this play out during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Some 200,000 Americans died because of anti-science aggression…. When I went into the more conservative, rural areas of east Texas, essentially everyone I talked to had lost a loved one because they refused a COVID-19 vaccine. In the intensive-care unit, you saw some people deny COVID-19 existed, yet in their dying words feel remorse and advise their friends: ‘Don’t do what I did, get your COVID-19 immunization.’ These are good people. [Anti-science campaigners] took advantage of that….
...I’ve been leading this dual life, having to combat aggression against science and scientists. It’s hit me hard because now I’m a major target of far-right extremists. It’s odd to have [former White House strategist] Steve Bannon call you a criminal on social media. Those [statements] act as dog whistles, and then it’s followed by a wave of threats online and by e-mail, and even physical stalking.
Right now, you’re seeing individual scientists getting picked off by anti-science bullies on the Internet, or getting subpoenaed to testify at show-trial-like hearings. It’s terrible to watch my virology colleagues get paraded on [television network] CSpan as though they’ve done something wrong, when all they did was what I do — science for humanitarian purposes.
And I see the aggression getting worse as we head for the 2024 election.
So how can this be stopped?
This is the hardest question to answer. People in the health sector don’t know what to do; scientific societies discuss it in bland, defeatist language and talk about meeting with social-media companies. But no one seems to be willing to say, as I do, that this is political. As scientists, we are trained to have neutrality, we’re not supposed to talk about Republicans and Democrats or liberals and conservatives. But what do we do when the attacks are partisan?
We’re not seeing vigorous pushback or response, and neutrality favours the tormentor or the aggressor. We’re not hearing from the leadership of scientific societies, from university presidents, to defend science. I think they don’t want to offend donors coming from that political side, or state legislatures or the federal government. But they need to speak out in a forthright way.
[TW: Below is not exactly the other side of the argument, because the dangers Taibbi warns against are all too real:]
Anthony Fauci Was America's Warmup Dictator
Matt Taibbi, September 30, 2023
He institutionalized the purposeful lie, suppressed critics, mastered emergency politics, even sold himself as a sex symbol. Anthony Fauci gave the next monster a playbook
Latest news on the war: these past two days we have advanced considerably to a full-blown Russia-NATO war
Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 9-24-2023]
...This past week Western media broke ranks on the prospects for a Ukrainian victory. It appeared that there is growing consensus that the Ukrainian counter-offensive had failed and there was more talk of Ukraine-fatigue in American political circles. Speculation now turned both in major media and in dissident media on how the United States will respond to a looming defeat in Ukraine. Many decided that Washington would just move on after ‘throwing Ukraine under the bus’ and raise the war cries against China so as to avoid getting bogged down in recriminations over ‘who lost Ukraine.’
However, that was two days ago. Today Washington’s Plan B is becoming clearer. And what I see does not look good for world peace and for our chances of surviving this conflict.
Plan B took the form of the Storm Shadow strike a couple of days ago directly on the General Staff building of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol….
The next troublesome straw in the wind is the reversal of the Biden administration on the question of sending the ATACMS to Kiev. The optimal moment to announce such a decision would have been during Zelensky’s day on Capitol Hill and meetings in the Oval Office. Instead Jake Sullivan told reporters that no decision had been taken as yet by the President.
I believe there is a clear connection between the successful Storm Shadow attack on the general staff building in Sevastopol and the decision to ship ATACMS to Ukraine now. I also note that the decision to supply the American missiles will surely be followed in a few days by the German decision to ship its long-range TAURUS missiles. Both decisions have till now been held back on grounds that they would lead to a Russian escalation of the war. Now it would appear that, facing imminent defeat, the Biden administration is throwing caution to the wind and is ready to risk outbreak of a direct, not proxy Russia-NATO war.
As a further straw in the wind, I point to another deeply troublesome bit of information that you will not find in The New York Times. The Russian news ticker today carries a report from a Russian commander in the field in Ukraine that his unit just destroyed a Leopard tank and found that the entire crew was Germans. Two of them were killed and one injured tank officer was taken prisoner. Those manning a Leopard surely were not soldiers of fortune but genuine Bundeswehr boys. Put in other words, NATO is now directly on the battlefield and not as advisers or instructors. We are headed into very dangerous territory.
Leopard 2 manned by a German Bundeswehr crew destroyed – Russia
[Bulgarianmilitary.com, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-2023]
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-2023]
Twenty Years of Outsourced War
Suzy Hansen [The New York Review, October 19, 2023 issue]
In Uncertain Ground, Phil Klay sets out to determine what twenty-first-century US foreign policy has done to the cocksure American mind.
What You Need To Know About... Azerbaijan, Baku Nagorno-Karabakh & The Republic of Artsakh
Howie Klein, September 30, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
(anti)Republican Drive to Civil War
Trump Floats the Idea of Executing Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley
Brian Klaas, September 25, 2023 [The Atlantic]
Late Friday night, the former president of the United States—and a leading candidate to be the next president—insinuated that America’s top general deserves to be put to death.
That extraordinary sentence would be unthinkable in any other rich democracy. But Donald Trump, on his social-media network, Truth Social, wrote that Mark Milley’s phone call to reassure China in the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was “an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH.” (The phone call was, in fact, explicitly authorized by Trump-administration officials.) Trump’s threats against Milley came after The Atlantic’s publication of a profile of Milley, by this magazine’s editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg, who detailed the ways in which Milley attempted to protect the Constitution from Trump.
And yet, none of the nation’s front pages blared “Trump Suggests That Top General Deserves Execution” or “Former President Accuses General of Treason.” Instead, the post barely made the news. Most Americans who don’t follow Trump on social media probably don’t even know it happened.
Trump’s rhetoric is dangerous, not just because it is the exact sort that incites violence against public officials but also because it shows just how numb the country has grown toward threats more typical of broken, authoritarian regimes. The United States is not just careening toward a significant risk of political violence around the 2024 presidential election. It’s also mostly oblivious to where it’s headed.
Will It Take Bloodshed For Americans To Wake Up To The Danger Trump & His MAGA Movement Pose?
Howie Klein, September 26, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
In 1860 The Freedom Caucus Was Known As The Fire Eaters
On February 4, 1861, the rebel governments of South Carolina, which had seceded in December, 1860, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana (all of which seceded in January) and Texas, which seceded on February 1, sent representatives to Montgomery, Alabama to form the Confederate States of America. This was a month before Lincoln was sworn in as president. Although, officially the first bloodshed was on April 12 at Fort Sumter, there had been blood spilled leading up to all this. Bleeding Kansas (1854-1858) resulted in a few hundred deaths. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in 1859 failed to start a slave rebellion and resulted in Brown and his men being executed. Elements of the federal government tried compromising with the secessionists by guaranteeing slavery (the Citttenden Compromise, December 1860, and an actual constitutional amendment in early 1861, the Corwin Amendment), though both ultimately failed, as did the 1861 peace conferences— akin to today’s Problem Solver’s Caucus. The country was probably already too polarized over slavery and other issues for a peaceful solution. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney, Senators John Calhoun and Jefferson Davis and the members of those days' Freedom Caucus, called the Fire Eaters (like Robert Rhett, Edmund Ruffin, Louis Wigfall and William Yancey) were as divisive and anti-patriotic then as Trump, Marjorie Traitor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Matt Rosendale, Ralph Norman, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and Rick Scott are today.
They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals
JPMorgan’s Settlements Reach $365 Million Over Civil Claims It Banked Jeffrey Epstein’s Sex Trafficking of Minors; Criminal Charges Could Lie Ahead
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, September 27, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
How to Hide a $2 Trillion Antitrust Trial
Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2023]
Here is Stoller’s trial reporting site.
The Selling of America’s Most Controversial Gun
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2023]
“Private equity turned the AR-15 into a big profit-maker and a charged symbol in the debate over gun rights and mass shootings.”
Private Equity’s Slow Carnage Unleashes a Wave of Zombies
[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 9-27-2023]
A historic shakeup is threatening to snare many small, struggling or fading money managers unable to raise fresh funds.
A power grab against private equity threatens the US economy
[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-28-2023]
Lambert Strether summarizes as “A power grab against tapeworms threatens digestion.”
The US is a beacon for global investment and innovation. And private equity plays a vital role in building better businesses, employing millions and delivering strong returns to support the retirements of millions of working Americans. Approximately 85 per cent of private equity investments support small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s regulatory agenda is currently threatening this system, which supports workers and small businesses across the US. Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan used a recently filed healthcare case as an opportunity to take a swipe at it — all in pursuit of a radical new antitrust theory.
Kim Phillips-Fein [The New York Review, October 19, 2023 issue]
Two new books argue that the private equity industry has created an economic order in which getting rich quickly preempts every other value, undermining companies and evading the law.
Plunder: Private Equity’s Plan to Pillage America
by Brendan Ballou
PublicAffairs, 353 pp., $30.00
These Are the Plunderers: How Private Equity Runs—and Wrecks—America
by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner
Simon and Schuster, 383 pp., $30.00
...It is easy to draw parallels between the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century and our contemporary era of inequality, but aside from a penchant for conspicuous consumption, there are important differences between the old-time captains of industry and tycoons like Schwarzman. After all, the Carnegies and Rockefellers made steel and pumped oil; the Morgans (and attorneys like Bradley Martin) financed their endeavors, the building of factories and the laying of railroads. Their wealth was created in a mad rush for the profits to be gained by developing an agricultural country into an industrial urban one. But what does Blackstone do? How does it affect our world, and how has it made its owners so phenomenally wealthy?
Two new books on private equity—Plunder by the federal prosecutor Brendan Ballou and These Are the Plunderers by the journalist Gretchen Morgenson and the researcher Joshua Rosner—aim to shed light on these questions. Ballou adopts a lawyerly, academic tone, while Morgenson and Rosner prefer cliff-hangers reminiscent of a true-crime podcast; both present forceful briefs for regulating the industry. In the take-no-prisoners style of the Progressive Era’s muckraking reporters, each book provides an impassioned rebuke of the men (they’re mostly men) and women who have profited from private equity….
Private equity firms pivot away from traditional buyouts
[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-2023]
Top executives from Apollo and Blackstone were among those laying out the potential for the business, known as private credit, as well as infrastructure investing as thousands of dealmakers and investors gathered this week in Paris at the annual IPEM industry conference.
In a sign of how private equity is rapidly moving beyond its swashbuckling roots in buying large companies, the focus in Paris was squarely on how firms are positioning themselves as an alternative to the traditional banking system, capable of making multibillion-dollar corporate loans.
Jim Zelter, Apollo’s co-president, said that in an era of higher rates there were “unprecedented” returns available in private credit. The New York-based firm is increasingly targeting loans to large companies, according to people familiar with the matter. A recent example includes a €500mn loan to Air France.
Apollo’s private credit unit now manages more than $400bn, dwarfing the $100bn in assets under management in its buyout division, historically the cornerstone of the group’s business.
Citadel Is Ready to Fight With SEC Over WhatsApp Probe
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 9-28-2023]
Ken Griffin’s hedge fund discusses legal plans with peers SEC is investigating money managers’ recordkeeping practices.
Vision insurer VSP accused of market power ‘abuse’ in optometrists’ lawsuit
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-28-2023]
Many of today’s unhealthy foods were brought to you by Big Tobacco
[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-24-2023]
A new study suggests that tobacco companies, who were skilled at marketing cigarettes, used similar strategies to hook people on processed foods.
Crisis in the Bread Basket [Punjab, India]
[Phenomenal World, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-2023]
While industrial growth has been slow for decades, recent indicators suggest that the country may be actively deindustrializing. After two decades of “jobless growth,” a record high unemployment rate suggests that the economy may be actively shedding jobs.
At the same time, agriculture’s share in the country’s GDP has been steadily declining, exemplified by the state of Punjab, where, between 2020 and 2021, protests erupted around three new farm laws that threatened to unsettle the existing agrarian regime. The mobilizations evoked agricultural land as a lifeline of last resort, a source of protection and security when all other ventures failed. Today, Punjab’s political economy is at a crossroads: agriculture is not as stable or profitable as it used to be, and industry is incapable of providing employment and economic diversification.
The trajectory is symptomatic of what the development scholar Subir Sinha has termed a “sustained state of deferral” of “mature,” competitive capitalism in postcolonial India. Defying the conventional development narrative, increased investment in the agricultural sector has not automatically led to industrial development or increased employment.
Why can’t we shake the gloom? It’s more than inflation or higher prices.
Claudia Sahm, Stay-At-Home Macro (SAHM), via Naked Capitalism 9-24-2023]
Well worth a read, including the mechanics of discerning “consumer sentiment.”
Restoring balance to the economy
What the Writers Won
David Dayen, September 29, 2023 [The American Prospect]
The end of the five-month Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike was the most important thing that’s happened in Hollywood in a while, but another important development has been largely overlooked. Amazon has announced that it would start running ads in Prime Video series and movies, which viewers can escape by purchasing a more expensive “ad-free” tier.
With Amazon’s move, pretty much every streaming service now has at least one tier with advertising, from Netflix to Max to Hulu to Peacock to Disney+. It’s just one way in which the streaming model, which has lost enormous amounts of money for virtually every company that has tried it, is slowly but surely turning back into traditional television….
The writers were on strike because the actual entertainment creators were poised to become the only ones to lose out in this transition. As I wrote when the strike began in May, entertainment writing over the past decade has shifted to a gig-economy model, making it next to impossible to earn a living. This was a function of streaming video popping up as a “new” distribution channel, unrestricted by the contractual agreements of broadcast and cable.
The WGA went into the strike to fight that trend, which the contract they’ve won largely does. It will earn writers $233 million more per year than their previous agreement, according to Guild estimates, nearly tripling the offer that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) first made. More important, it begins to add the kinds of protections and revenue-sharing that made the entertainment business so successful for creators for decades. But there is one important caveat that must be spotlighted: Whether writers will get fairly compensated depends on the quality of streaming viewership data.
Hollywood CEOs Thought They Could Wait Out a Writers’ Strike. They Were Wrong.
Sal Gentile, September 29, 2023 [The New Republic]
The Writers Guild of America didn’t just secure a victory for their own membership—they blazed a trail for other workers to follow.
Why the UAW Strike is More Important Than the 2024 Election (and We Need You)
[Status Coup, via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2023]
Over 40 years ago, social Darwinists fueled by Reagan—and aided by Democrats— recognized an important fact: the only lock on the bank vault preventing us from robbing the working class blind was…labor unions. That’s why systematically, with the help of robber barons like the Koch Brothers and the rest of the army of Republican mega-donors and corporations, began attacking labor unions. As their union-busting strategy proved successful, income earned by the working class was literally STOLEN and redistributed to the wealthy.
GRAPH — When fewer people are in unions, the top 10% capture a much bigger piece of the pie
….Workers from John Deere, GM, Warrior Met Coal, Starbucks, Amazon, Nabisco, Frito-Lay, Kroger, Kellogg’s, Columbia University, Mercy Hospital, and many others began going on strike and/or organizing union campaigns. Just last year, major strike activity surged by 50 percent.
And now, for the first time ever, UAW has gone on strike against all three of the Big Three car companies (who have already made a combined $21 billion in the first nine months of 2023).
Not only has UAW made history striking against all three companies; the union is making history by doing it in a creative, strategic way. UAW is stretching their $850 million strike fund way longer by not going out on strike all at once. Instead, they have begun the strike at three targeted plants with threats to strike at additional plants if the car companies don’t significantly sweeten their contract offers….
Biden on the Picket Line, Trump in the Wings
Harold Meyerson, September 27, 2023 [The American Prospect]
The most pro-labor thing Franklin Roosevelt ever did—I’d argue, the most radical thing he ever did, period—was, precisely, nothing. When San Francisco and Minneapolis were shut down by general strikes in 1934, and when autoworkers barricaded themselves inside General Motors factories in 1936-1937, FDR did what none of his presidential predecessors would have done. He refused to send in the Army (or, as some had demanded, the Navy, to end San Francisco’s waterfront-centered strike). He let these epochal uprisings play out without deploying troops to break the strikes (and strikers’ heads), as his presidential predecessors (including Democrat Grover Cleveland) had routinely done. Privately, Roosevelt and his labor secretary, Frances Perkins, did lean on GM President Alfred P. Sloan, as well as CIO President John L. Lewis, to come to terms.
On Tuesday, Joe Biden raised the bar on presidential pro-labor action by joining a UAW picket line in Michigan and telling workers that their demands were just and necessary if the American middle class were to grow again. (Whether that surpasses Roosevelt’s pro-labor inaction in the annals of our nation’s ever-present class wars, I leave to future historians.) Biden spoke of the sacrifices the union had made—which included abandoning the yearly cost-of-living adjustments that had been a key part of UAW contracts since 1950—when the auto companies faced bankruptcy in 2009 following Wall Street’s implosion. He referenced the immense profits that the companies had made since then, and said it was time that the workers themselves shared in that bounty.
He went, in short, where no president, even FDR, had gone before, and, however brief his remarks, he got to the heart of a lot of what ails the American economy. According to the yearly SEC report, the CEOs of General Motors and Stellantis made in a single day last year what it took their median worker the entire year to make (the ratio between CEO and median worker pay last year at Stellantis was 365-to-1, and at GM 362-to-1)….
I WON’T BE COVERING TRUMP’S EVENT, but in a sense, I’ve already been there and done that. In 1996, I spent a week covering the Republican presidential primary campaign of Pat Buchanan for the L.A. Weekly, as Buchanan swung through Michigan and Illinois in the days before they held their primaries.
Buchanan was Trump avant la lettre. He was the first to proclaim that Republicans should wage a culture war against liberalism, the first to say that Republicans should wave the banner of economic nationalism by opposing NAFTA, and later, the first to argue that Republicans should support the then-new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, because Putin was anti-gay just as they should be. Buchanan lost the Republican nomination that year to Bob Dole, but he routinely won about a third of the primary vote, chiefly from the party’s blue-collar members….
Trump Tells Autoworkers ‘I Don’t Care What You Get’ in Bizarre Nonunion Rally
[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-28-2023]
“Throughout the rally, Trump tried to frame himself as the pro-union candidate for killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership that had the potential to take auto-manufacturing jobs abroad…. At one point during a long diatribe against electric vehicles, he said, ‘I don’t care what you get in the next two weeks, or three weeks, or five weeks,’ referring to the length of the strike. (According to Trump, it wouldn’t matter due to the Biden administration’s support of electric vehicles and the potential for the growing industry to undercut union jobs.) ‘I don’t think you’re picketing for the right thing,’ he added…. As for the Autoworkers for Trump signs in the audience, reporters at the rally found that Trump campaign staffers were passing them out to non-union workers.”
“Go full force”: Autoworkers press for all-out strike, as Biden intervenes to facilitate UAW sellout
[WSWS, via Naked Capitalism 9-26-2023]
Automakers’ Electric Vehicle Lie
Lucy Dean Stockton, September 27, 2023 [The Lever]
...Executives at General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis are pushing back on worker demands by invoking the climate crisis. They say it is impossible to give workers what they want while also making a swift transition to manufacturing electric vehicles.
On September 14, Ford’s CEO Jim Farley said that the union’s demands — higher wages, better hours, an end to tiered employment, and guaranteed job security in a green energy transition — could send the company into bankruptcy. Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, said that the union’s demands are “unrealistic” and would make GM less competitive. Major outlets have echoed these claims, even arguing that the UAW’s strike will harm the environment by stalling EV production.
But these corporate arguments are undercut by the fact that these companies have authorized billions in stock buybacks, special dividends, and executive compensation. The automakers could have invested that money into worker compensation and electric vehicles, but instead steered it toward stockholders….
GM and other auto manufacturers are making the same mistake again. During the pandemic, profits at the Big Three spiked by 65 percent, as they used the supply-chain shortage to raise prices. Instead of reinvesting these profits in EV technology or workers — with the exception of mild boosts in profit-sharing — the companies authorized $5 billion in buybacks in 2022, a 1,500 percent increase from the year prior.
In February of this year, Ford announced a record $2.6 billion special dividend on top of its typical quarterly dividend of about $600 million. All told, Ford has spent over $4.3 billion on dividends since November of last year. Stellantis has issued about $4.1 billion in dividends this year, while GM is set to distribute half a billion in dividends to its shareholders.
Union workers hardly benefit from buybacks and excessive dividends. At the Big Three automakers, CEO salaries have gone up by 40 percent in the four years since the last UAW contract. Ford CEO James Farley received nearly $21 million in total compensation in 2022, a 21 percent increase over the $17.4 million then-CEO Jim Hackett received in 2019. Farley’s package last year included $15.1 million in stock awards….
A Union of Their Own: How a culture of gross sexism in the airlines created America’s most militantly feminist union
Robert Kuttner, September 28, 2023 [The American Prospect]
The first thing to appreciate about the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) is that it was born feminist. Its feminism and its militance have nourished each other. The second thing to appreciate is that AFA is among the most democratic of American unions. Every officer comes from the ranks of working flight attendants, so there is no gap between the lived experience of the rank and file and the union bureaucracy….
The Last Gasps of American Labor
Michael Lind [The Tablet, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-28-2023]
“The major obstacle to a revival of private sector unionism is American labor law itself…. [T]he Wagner Act was designed with a flaw. As amended by later law and court interpretations, it requires “enterprise bargaining”—that is, the unionization of each worksite, not each company, unless a company agrees otherwise. This was not a problem in the case of integrated, consolidated steel or automobile factories. But it means that each Amazon warehouse must be unionized one at a time. This presents a huge obstacle to unionization efforts of companies with many worksites. Unionization can also be thwarted by franchise organization, and by the replacement of full-time employees with contractors.
Sorry, You Matter Too Much to Make a Living Wage
[OK Doomer, via Naked Capitalism 9-29-2023]
...Everyone thinks it's vulgar for you to ask for money. Your job is too important for that. Instead of giving you a raise, they want to talk about how valuable you are. They want to talk about how much you sacrifice for some noble, greater good. They want to make movies about you.
There's a term for this.
It's vocational awe.
Fobazi Ettarh introduced the term in 2018. She was talking about the way everyone praises librarians for how much they sacrifice while simultaneously expecting them to keep doing it, despite the long hours and low pay and atrocious work conditions. Since then, the idea has caught on with teachers and other essential workers. It got a little bit of attention during the early days of the pandemic, but it deserves more.
You see, vocational awe serves a central function in our grotesque work culture. It's a cornerstone of predatory capitalism. If your boss doesn't want to pay you more, they distract you with praise. They puff up your ego by talking about how essential you are to their mission. The culture surrounding public education has done this for decades to quell dissent.
Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers Jumps 30% to $20 Per Hour in California
Michael Shedlock [via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2023]
Why Denmark’s Housing Market Works Better than Ours
[Aziz Sunderji, via The Big Picture 9-25-2023]
Danish borrowers can buy back their loans at market prices.
FTC files a massive antitrust lawsuit against Amazon
[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-26-2023]
“‘Our complaint lays out how Amazon has used a set of punitive and coercive tactics to unlawfully maintain its monopolies,’ FTC Chair Lina Khan said in a statement Tuesday. ‘The complaint sets forth detailed allegations noting how Amazon is now exploiting its monopoly power to enrich itself while raising prices and degrading service for the tens of millions of American families who shop on its platform and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on Amazon to reach them.’… The suit targets the parts of Amazon’s business that service consumers and sellers, according to an FTC press release. Specifically, the agency is accusing Amazon of punishing sellers who offer lower-priced products on different platforms and restricting which sellers are eligible for Prime shipping benefits. The agency is also targeting Amazon’s ability to bias its search results in favor of the company’s own products.”
The [REDACTED] Case Against Amazon
Maureen Tkacik, September 27, 2023 [The American Prospect]
...the agency nevertheless felt compelled, at least at the outset, to drown its case against the “superstore” in (my fast-depleting supply of) black toner. Similar to a complaint the agency filed last week against a private equity firm, this case against Amazon was scrubbed of virtually every number meant to quantify the company’s epic scope and sweep: the unit number of orders fulfilled by Amazon in 2020; the unit number of orders Amazon fulfilled, per resident of the United States, in 2020; the dollar value of goods sold through the Amazon store in 2021; the number of countries with a gross domestic product smaller than the dollar value of Amazon’s gross 2021 sales; the number of subscribers to its ubiquitous Prime service; the internally calculated percentage share of the gross merchandise value sold in 2021 by a redacted internally maintained list of a redacted number of competitors, and so on and on….
Monopolist Secrecy Demands Are Overwhelming—and May Be Illegal
Like Goldstein, September 29, 2023 [The American Prospect]
One anti-monopoly group contends that withholding basic financial information violates federal securities laws.
A common demand that recurs across challenges to corporate power, from union strikes to antitrust cases, is forcing companies to “open the books” and unspool their webs of financial secrets for the public to see. In the U.S. v. Google trial, the government’s efforts to pull back the curtain on key company documents critical to its case have been especially difficult. Google’s legal defense team has obstructed at every turn, objecting to the unsealing of documents and pushing for closed-court sessions, which choke off public access entirely. At the outset of the trial, Google was even in hot water for tampering with evidence by deliberately turning off its chat history, which drew a sanction from a California court but not yet from the D.C. district court….
US FCC chair to seek reinstating net neutrality rules rescinded under Trump
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-26-2023]
“U.S. Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel plans to begin an effort to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules rescinded under then-President Donald Trump, sources briefed on the matter said Monday. The move comes after Democrats took majority control of the five-member FCC on Monday for the first time since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021 when new FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez was sworn in. The FCC is set to take an initial vote on the net neutrality proposal in October, the sources added.”
Randomly Chosen Panel Should Guide Airport’s Future, Officials Say
[Santa Monica Lookout, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-27-2023]
“The future of Santa Monica Airport should be hammered out — not by the usual community activists and civic volunteers — but by randomly selected ‘everyday people,’ City officials told the City Council Monday. The information item from top Public Works officials proposes using a democratic lottery to ‘engage new residents through a randomized selection process,’ instead of relying on ‘the same self-selected individuals.’ After meeting in person for six weekends over the course of some nine months starting next fall, the panel would make recommendations to the Council for the 227-acre site that under a 2017 agreement with the FAA would cease to operate as an airport at the end of 2028. The panel will be charged with what City officials have said ‘is likely to be the most transformative urban planning event of the century for the City’ (‘Airport Plan Takes Off,’ January 25, 2023). The lottery system — which is not common in North America — ‘would result in a panel that demands broad demographic representation, and minimizes the influence of special interests,’ said the report from Public Works Director Rick Valte.”
Information age dystopia / surveillance state
Forget Collusion. Was “Interference” Also Fake News? and Timeline: DARPA and the DNC Hack
Matt Taibbi [Racket News, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2023]
iPhone 15 Teardown Reveals Software Lockdown
[iFixIt, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2023]
“To effectively repair these models, you have to procure parts within Apple’s sphere and validate the repairs. Without calibration, the parts either don’t work at all, or have compromised functionality and incessant warnings.”
“We’re sick and tired of new technologies:” Avolon CEO
[Leeham News and Analysis, via Naked Capitalism 9-28-2023]
Norway wants Facebook behavioral advertising banned across Europe
[The Register, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-29-2023]
“Norway has told the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) it believes a countrywide ban on Meta harvesting user data to serve up advertising on Facebook and Instagram should be made permanent and extended across Europe. The Scandinavian country’s Data Protection Authority, Datatilsynet, had been holding back Facebook parent Meta from scooping up data on its citizens with the threat of fines of one million Kroner (about $94,000) per day if it didn’t comply. In August, it said Meta hadn’t been playing ball and started serving up the daily fines. However, the ban that resulted in these fines, put into place in July, expires on November 3 – hence Norway’s request for a ‘binding decision.’ The July order came after a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling [PDF] earlier that month stating Meta’s data processing operation was also hauling in protected data – race and ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation etc. – when it cast its behavioral ads net. Norway is not a member of the EU but is part of the European single market, and the CJEU, as Europe’s top court, has the job of making sure the application and interpretation of law within the market is compliant with European treaties (this part would apply to Norway) as well as ensuring that legislation adopted by the EU is applied the same way across all Member States.”
Collapse of independent news media
How Rupert Murdoch Outfoxed American Media
[Forbes, via The Big Picture 9-28-2023]
As the 92-year-old billionaire steps down as chairman of his empire, a look back at how he changed the landscape of newspapers, TV, movies and politics—and the coming fight over, yes, succession.
His malign influence isn’t going anywhere
[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 9-26-2023]
The truth is, of course, that it’s hopelessly premature to declare as dead and done the impact Murdoch has had on newspaper and cable journalism, and on American politics generally. The DNA he injected into the American bloodstream is a hardy virus indeed.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: How Rupert Murdoch Decided to Dump Tucker Carlson
[New York Magazine, via The Big Picture 9-29-2023]
Climate and environmental crises
Portuguese youth bring ‘unprecedented’ climate case to European rights court
[France24, via Naked Capitalism 9-28-2023]
Getting to $30,000: The Cost of EV Industrial Policy vs. Adoption
[Macro Polo, via Naked Capitalism 9-25-2023]
Now, while advanced economies like the United States are preoccupied with EV industry building, China boasts an increasingly integrated supply chain and scale efficiencies that can drive down the cost of EVs. And bending that cost curve rapidly matters a lot for EV adoption, because industry consensus suggests that mass adoption requires EVs to reach a sweet spot of $30,000 and 300 miles of range.
That’s why we created the Vantage, an “everyman EV,” to make the EV supply chain tangible and to understand how cost might inform consumer decisions on going electric. The bottom line is that, at the moment, China appears to be the only major EV manufacturer that can produce EVs around $30,000, about the same price as an entry level Honda Accord.
German Auto Makers Are Pouring $406 Billion Into EVs. The Race Is On.
[Barron’s, via The Big Picture 9-27-2023]
While the U.S. Big Three grapple with a revived United Auto Workers union, German counterparts Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz Group, and BMW have troubles of their own—trailing badly in the race toward the electric vehicle future. U.S.-based Tesla and rising Chinese star BYD racked up more than a third of global EV sales between them in the first half of this year, according to Clean Technica. Volkswagen was No. 3 and fading with 7%.
Louisiana saltwater intrusion declared a federal emergency
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2023]
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
Desalination system could produce freshwater that is cheaper than tap water
[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2023]
‘We are just getting started’: the plastic-eating bacteria that could change the world
[The Guardian, via The Big Picture 9-30-2023]
When a microbe was found munching on a plastic bottle in a rubbish dump, it promised a recycling revolution. Now scientists are attempting to turbocharge those powers in a bid to solve our waste crisis. But will it work?
Democrats' political malpractice
Watch Which Democrats Call For Menendez To Resign-- And Which Democraps Stand By One Of Their Own—Corruption Runs Very Deep In The DC Establishment
Howie Klein, September 26, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
Menendez is Defiant. It Probably Won’t Matter
Josh Marshall, September 26, 2023 [Talking Points Memo]
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2023]
The biggest donor group in Democratic politics privately moves against No Labels
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-28-2023]
“A powerful network of liberal donors is joining the push to stop No Labels’ threatened plan to launch a third-party presidential run — warning major political funders to stay away from the group. The donors club, Democracy Alliance, shared its thinking about the bipartisan organization’s operation exclusively with POLITICO. Democrats have grown increasingly concerned that an independent No Labels ticket would function as a spoiler and help former President Donald Trump or another Republican candidate defeat President Joe Biden in 2024. ‘No Labels has no chance of winning the 2024 election. But it has a very real chance of tipping that election to Donald Trump and catapulting our country into MAGA authoritarianism,’ said Pamela Shifman, president of the Democracy Alliance. ‘They want to splinter the coalition of voters who banded together to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.'”
WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE WESTERN POLITICAL CLASS?
Gaius Baltar [via Naked Capitalism 9-26-2023]
American Democracy Requires a Conservative Party
Tom Nichols [The Atlantic]
...Slightly more than a year ago, I tried to think through what being a conservative means in the current era of American politics. I have not been a Republican for several years, but I still describe myself as a conservative: I believe in public order as a prerequisite for politics; I respect tradition, and I am reluctant to acquiesce to change too precipitously; I think human nature is fixed rather than malleable; I am suspicious of centralized government power; I distrust mass movements. To contrast these with progressivism, I think most folks on the left, for example, would weigh social justice over abstract commitments to order, be more inclined to see traditions as obstacles to progress, and regard mass protests as generally positive forces….
In What's A Fascist? What's A Conservative? What's A Republican... A Democrat? What's A Progressive? Howie Klein responded:
“We have a conservative party... It’s the Democratic Party. And the other one, for ex-conservative party he’s so worried about, is now a fascist party. What I’m worried about is not that we’re missing a conservative party— or at least a corporate party of careerists that doesn’t prioritize the aspirations of the working class— but a progressive party.”
[TW: The fundamental flaw — and danger — of conservatism is that the universe we are part of is always changing; therefore a philosophy opposed to change is simply in conflict with the very nature of the universe. Resources are used and depleted to sustain and reproduce life, so new resources must be found, as well as technologies to use known resources more efficiently and with less waste. Our understanding of the universe also is always changing, requiring new thinking and new approaches to old problems. In Christian doctrine, humans are understood to be imperfect being who nonetheless are capable of striving for perfection, and expected to do so. This is reflected in the Preamble of the US Constitution, with its phrase “to establish a more perfect Union.”]
How the U.S. Created Its Own Reality
[Heather Cox Richardson, Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2023]
[After the collapse of the Soviet Union], Republicans set out to vanquish the liberal consensus once and for all. As anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “For 40 years conservatives fought a two-front battle against statism, against the Soviet empire abroad and the American left at home. Now the Soviet Union is gone and conservatives can redeploy. And this time, the other team doesn’t have nuclear weapons.”
In the 1990s, movement conservatives—who wanted to gut the liberal state that had been in force since 1933 and rely instead on market forces—turned their firepower on those they considered insufficiently committed to free enterprise. Their enemies included traditional Republicans who agreed with Democrats that the government should regulate the economy, provide a basic social safety net, promote infrastructure, and protect civil rights.
Their first public victim was President George H. W. Bush, who had come to office from the traditional wing of the Republican Party and set out during his presidency to repair the holes cut in the country’s fabric by Reagan’s supply-side economics….
Their primary target, though, was Democrats, who had frustrated movement conservatives once again in 1992 by putting former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton into the White House. James Johnson, a jurist from Arkansas who had stood fervently against the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, called Clinton a “queer-mongering, whore-hopping adulterer; a baby-killing, draft-dodging, dope-tolerating, lying, two-faced, treasonous activist.” Surely such a man was not a legitimate president. In 1996, the Fox News Channel debuted on cable television, joining right-wing radio talk show hosts to feed the idea that their political opponents were socialists trying to destroy the country….
How Synonymous Are Trumpism And Violence?
Howie Klein, September 25, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
This afternoon, a quintet of NY Times reporters took on the increasingly threats of violence emanating from the MAGAts in light of Trump’s prosecutions. Judges, FBI agents’ families, prosecutors are being threatened by violent Trumpists. “As the prosecutions of Trump have accelerated,” wrote Michael Schmidt, Adam Goldman, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush, “so too have threats against law enforcement authorities, judges, elected officials and others. The threats, in turn, are prompting protective measures, a legal effort to curb his angry and sometimes incendiary public statements, and renewed concern about the potential for an election campaign in which Trump has promised ‘retribution’ to produce violence.”
Let’s keep in mind this pretty dire warning from yesterday: “Trump’s racism is linked to his willingness to deploy violence in order to foster identification. Trump’s lies became the vehicle for bringing together large numbers of people who would have liked to lash out but didn’t have the courage. He made them feel that their anger and contempt [especially toward people of color]— whatever its source— was legitimate. And, very importantly, he convinced people viscerally that the norms of civilized society were part of a rigged system.”
Judge rules Donald Trump defrauded banks, insurers while building real estate empire
[AP, via Naked Capitalism 9-27-2023]
The End of Trump Inc.
[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 9-29-2023]
The courts are finally catching up to a man who has long behaved as though there would never be any consequences for his deceptions.
Fire and Fury and the First Amendment: How Trump Tried to Censor His Critics
[Literary Hub, via The Big Picture 9-29-2023]
John Sargent on the Furious Publication Journey of Michael Wolff’s Tell-All Book.
The Origins of the Socialist Slur
Heather Cox Richardson, September 26, 2023 [The Atlantic]
Reconstruction-era opponents of racial equality popularized the charge that protecting civil rights would amount to the end of capitalism.
Ever Since Fascism Became A Thing, "Respectable" Mainstream Conservatives Have Enabled Them — And They're Still Doing That Today
Howie Klein, September 24, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
I saw this article by Greg Bluestein in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which he quoted Georgia’s mainstream conservative governor Brian Kemp, who is often held out— along with Arizona and Virginia governors Doug Ducey and Glenn Youngkin— as conservative opponents of Trump….
Conservatives may fight fascists for a (very short) while, but in the end, they unite against any kind of working class agenda. Bluestein’s Kemp quote yesterday:
“Despite all of that, despite all of his other trials and tribulations, he would still be a lot better than Biden. And the people serving in the administration would be a lot better than than Joe Biden. And it has nothing to do with being a coward. It has everything to do with winning and reversing the ridiculous, obscene positions of Joe Biden and this administration that literally, in a lot of ways, are destroying our country.”
With no opposition in the room, a rural Texas county makes traveling for an abortion on its roads illegal
[Texas Tribune, via Naked Capitalism 9-30-2023]
The Right Doesn’t Understand How Our Constitutional Government Works
Robert Schlesinger, September 28, 2023 [The New Republic]
...compromise long ago became a dirty word on the right—a sign of personal weakness, if not venal corruption. When NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist asked Americans in December whether they prefer compromise or principled stands, a supermajority (74 percent) favored compromise, but Republicans (66 percent) lagged well behind independents (78 percent) and Democrats (82 percent). Similarly, 58 percent of Democrats told Gallup in January that they want Biden to work to compromise with Republicans, even if it disappoints some of his voters. Only 34 percent of Republicans said the same of working with Biden, with nearly twice as many, 64 percent, saying that the GOP ought to stand up to the president—even, as the poll put it, if doing so makes it “harder to address critical problems.”
The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts
Justices Have Financial Interest In Major Tax Case
Julia Roack, September 27, 2023 [The Lever]
According to a review of public company documents and judicial financial disclosures, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito together own shares in 19 companies that could see combined tax relief of more than $30 billion if the court issues a broad ruling in the Moore v. United States tax case and strikes down a one-time corporate tax imposed in 2017.
“In Moore, the Roberts Court could decide with the stroke of a pen to simultaneously forgive big business decades of tax dues in the billions; increase the federal deficit; jeopardize future public revenue and essential social programs; aggravate the disadvantages facing domestic, taxpaying competitors; escalate these multinational companies’ already sizeable after-tax profits; and further enrich their shareholders,” notes a new report from the Roosevelt Institute and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which conducted the analysis of Roberts and Alito’s financial interests in the case.
There’s a Trump Era/Charles Koch Big Law Firm Behind the Supreme Court Case that Hopes to Gut the Federal Agency that Fights for the Little Guy
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, September 28, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade] [Wall Street on Parade]
Next Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case that could have far reaching effects on the legislative ability of Congress to have flexibility in how it funds regulatory agencies, as well as place in jeopardy the survival of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a government watchdog for the little guy, elderly, young, poor and unsophisticated against goliaths on Wall Street and other financial predators.
The case arrives at the Supreme Court as a result of a decision handed down in October by a three-judge panel at the right-wing 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. All three judges on the panel (Don Willett, Kurt Engelhardt, and Cory Wilson) were appointed by former President Donald Trump. The 5th Circuit effectively ruled that the CFPB’s funding system, legislated by Congress, was unconstitutional.
The shadow of Trump and the invisible hand that had an outsized role in setting the agenda for his administration, fossil fuels billionaire Charles Koch, and his corporate law firm – Jones Day – have their footprints all over this case. On Trump’s first day in office, January 20, 2017, Jones Day announced that 12 of its law partners were moving into the Trump administration. Among the 12 was Noel Francisco, who became Trump’s Solicitor General. Francisco is now one of the five Jones Day lawyers representing the opposing side at the Supreme Court attempting to gut funding for the CFPB.
Gutting the funding and power of federal regulatory agencies is something that Charles Koch and his myriad front groups have been attempting to do for the past 40 years.
How the Supreme Court could alter the way Americans interact on the internet
[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 9-24-2023]