Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 12, 2023
by Tony Wikrent
(anti)Republican Drive to Civil War
Trump will implement Martial Law, Shoot Protestors and Prosecute his enemies
Frank Vyan Walton, November 11, 2023 [DailyKos]
Trump has called for the Death Penalty against human traffickers, firing “Radical Marxist Prosecutors”, he has plans to implement right-wing indoctrination in our colleges, he has plans to “Crush the Deep State” (which would be Federal Employees), he’ll criminalize gender affirmation, he’ll try to criminalize the press that criticizes him under the guise of fighting “censorship” and the labeling of false “disinformation” and hate speech, he’ll end all support for Green Energy and Electric Vehicles, he’ll cut off aid to Ukraine and let Russia keep the land they’ve stolen, the guy who has 114 Trademarks in China and Russia says he’s going to “Stop Chinese Espionage” [How? Shut down Mar-A-Lago?] , he's promised to restart failed racist policies like “Stop and Frisk” and much more [such as snake and alligator moats, mass deportation and prison camps for Immigrants.]
Trump and allies plot revenge, Justice Department control in a second term
Isaac Arnsdorf, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, November 6, 2023 [Washington Post, via downwithtyranny.com]
Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.
In private, Trump has told advisers and friends in recent months that he wants the Justice Department to investigate onetime officials and allies who have become critical of his time in office, including his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and former attorney general William P. Barr, as well as his ex-attorney Ty Cobb and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to people who have talked to him, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump has also talked of prosecuting officials at the FBI and Justice Department, a person familiar with the matter said.
In public, Trump has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” President Biden and his family….
Much of the planning for a second term has been unofficially outsourced to a partnership of right-wing think tanks in Washington. Dubbed “Project 2025,” the group is developing a plan, to include draft executive orders, that would deploy the military domestically under the Insurrection Act….
The proposal was identified in internal discussions as an immediate priority, the communications showed….
Why Trump “can't be ripped away” from his followers: Heather Cox Richardson | Salon Talks
[YouTube, November 2, 2023]
Historian Heather Cox Richardson tells Salon about her book “Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America.” The “Letters from an American” writer explains how Republicans from Nixon to Trump have launched an attack on democracy and shares what Americans can do about it. Cox Richardson reflects on why she is still optimistic…
“… the modern day conservative movement — which is not intellectually conservative; it is quite radical and always has been — used language and history to convince Americans to give up on democracy. The Trump years are a bit different; he becomes a strong man quite quickly, and turns that intellectual and rhetorical strategy into a movement….
...People who think Trump happened from nowhere and is the sole cause of our current malaise are completely missing the previous almost 100 years in which there was a concerted movement to overturn the concept that the government should work for ordinary Americans....
[Trump] has become part of their identity, and they cannot be ripped away... Scholars [of authoritarianism] talk about this: once you have started to poison your own soul by buying into somebody who is abusing others, you can't turn away without admitting you're the one who is the problem.
Why 40% of people choose willful ignorance
[Big Think, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
Willful ignorance occurs when someone intentionally avoids information about the negative consequences of their actions. A new meta-analysis found that 40% of people will choose to remain ignorant of how their decisions affect others. The evidence suggests that willful ignorance provides people with a built-in excuse to act selfishly.
[TW: and keep in mind that the central idea of economic liberalism — and neoliberalism — is that the “free market” of everyone following their own selfishness will result in the best allocation of society’s resources. “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness” — John Kenneth Galbraith. Here’s the full quote:
The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income.
— “Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty (13 Dec 1963)
[Also note the effects of the institutionalization of selfishness in the links under “Health care crisis” ]
If you want to be large, larger than life, learn to Give
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2023]
Katharine Hepburn’s childhood, in her own words.
“Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus.Finally, there was only one other family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me. There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. The way they were dressed, you could tell they didn't have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean. The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. By their excitement you could sense they had never been to the circus before. It would be a highlight of their lives.
The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband's hand, looking up at him as if to say, "You're my knight in shining armour." He was smiling and enjoying seeing his family happy.
The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted? He proudly responded, "I'd like to buy eight children's tickets and two adult tickets, so I can take my family to the circus." The ticket lady stated the price.
The man's wife let go of his hand, her head dropped, the man's lip began to quiver. Then he leaned a little closer and asked, "How much did you say?" The ticket lady again stated the price .The man didn't have enough money. How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn't have enough money to take them to the circus?
Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket."
The man understood what was going on. He wasn't begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my dad's eyes, took my dad's hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied; "Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family."
My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 that my dad gave away is what we were going to buy our own tickets with. Although we didn't get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide.
That day I learnt the value to Give. The Giver is bigger than the Receiver. If you want to be large, larger than life, learn to Give. Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get - only with what you are expecting to give - which is everything.The importance of giving, blessing others can never be over emphasized because there's always joy in giving. Learn to make someone happy by acts of giving.”
They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals
WilmerHale’s Plan to Buy Blanket Immunity for JPMorgan for Banking Jeffrey Epstein’s Sex Trafficking Ring Has Backfired Badly
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, November 9, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]
On October 20 we reported that JPMorgan Chase, a serial recidivist when it comes to crime, had paid $1.085 billion in legal expenses in just the last six months. A nice chunk of that money went to the Big Law firm, WilmerHale, which has been representing JPMorgan Chase this year in multiple lawsuits involving the bank’s dark history of financial dealings with child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. (See Related Articles at the bottom of this article.)
When the largest bank in the United States pays big bucks to a law firm with a roster of 1,000 attorneys, it doesn’t expect its $290 million class action settlement with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims to blow up in its face just days before the final Fairness Hearing – a legally required court event to determine if the terms of the agreement are “fair, adequate and reasonable.”….
We had anticipated that WilmerHale might file a respectful response to the Attorneys General objections, perhaps agreeing to change the language in the settlement that the Attorneys General found improper. These are, after all, the highest law enforcement offices in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
We could not have been more wrong. The response from WilmerHale effectively blasted the Attorneys General for sticking their nose where it didn’t belong.
What the Attorneys General are challenging boils down to this: Under the federal law known as the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), Attorneys General have the right to bring claims on behalf of sex trafficked victims. The language in the JPMorgan Chase settlement proposes to extinguish those rights. The State Attorneys General explained it as follows in their filing with the court:
There’s a News Black Out on the Strange Doings in the JPMorgan Chase/Jeffrey Epstein Sex Trafficking Case in Manhattan
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, November 69, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]
Strategic Political Economy
Infant Mortality Rate Rises For 1st Time In 20 Years: See WI Data Mount Pleasant-Sturtevant
[Patch, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
The Bank of Japan is light years ahead in sophistication relative to the West
William Mitchell [Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, November 9, 2023]
On November 6, 2023, the Governor of the Bank of Japan, Ueda Kazuo gave a speech to ‘business leaders’ in Nagoya – Japan’s Economy and Monetary Policy….
The strategy of the Bank of Japan is very different to that of the Western central banks.
The latter have been attempting to scorch the demand-side of their economies with interest rate rises, designed to push up unemployment to reach some ill-defined NAIRU, because they claim that wages growth may break out….
In contradistinction, the Bank of Japan is holding rates around zero and controlling the bond market to keep government bond rates stable across the yield (maturity) curve, exactly because they want to encourage much faster wages growth to underpin a higher stable inflation rate.
In the West, the thought of accelerated wages growth is met with fear and derision from corporate types and government.
In Japan, it is the aim of policy makers….
One man’s (maybe) quixotic quest to revive American manufacturing
[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
Is neoliberalism effectively dead or at least on its way out?
The implications of 40 years of foreign policy have become clear. China is not our friend. Rather than normalizing and entering into the first world order, China’s in many ways become the opposite; more intractable today than it was 40 years ago. There has been a great shift away from China basically providing the U.S. consumer with lots and lots of flat-screen TVs and cheap T-shirts.
We’ve lost our ability to make a lot of critical things, so there’s been a resilience impact as well. It’s kind of insane that we had to go to a T-shirt manufacturer in a panic as the federal government and say, we need you to convert [because] we couldn’t make medical gowns. We couldn’t make medical masks. That has really started to hit policymakers in the face, almost unavoidably so.
The most interesting thing about the Trump-Clinton  election cycle was all of the energy in the electorate was with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, both of whom were getting at this deep sense of malaise among working-class Americans and this intuitive understanding that we fucked things up over the last 40 years.
[Phenomenal World, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
There is a growing awareness that all nations use industrial policy on an ongoing basis, whether or not they acknowledge it as such. Many conventional policy measures—from public investment allocations and trade measures to environmental regulations and public procurement rules—influence which industries and production methods thrive and decline, which economic (and social) actors win and lose power, who creates value, and who captures it. Therefore, whether or not policymakers frame such policy measures as industrial policy, that is precisely what they are….
Today, the existential threat of climate change and environmental degradation, rooted in a system of production that has been unambiguously diagnosed as terminally self-destructive from a range of scientific perspectives, necessitates a similarly ambitious transformation of the production systems that make up the American economy. The emerging US industrial strategy recognizes climate change as a central problem, but the full scope of existential threats we face (e.g. biodiversity loss, soil depletion, and water pollution) have yet to be integrated as priorities.
Labor Unions Are Industrial Policy
Lee Hepner [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
...Those strikes weren’t just about better wages and working conditions for auto workers, which are important on their own. What caught my eye is that the labor unions were able to affect corporate decision-making on a more structural level, as I’ll discuss below. Indeed, Shawn Fain, the head of the UAW, is now the single most important business leader in America, a generational figure who is, ironically, like the reverse image of transformational anti-union General Electric icon Jack Welch.
So today’s issue is about the significance of that shift, and how labor unions and antitrust are being used to wrest control over critical corporate investment decisions from financiers, to empower workers, and to teach Americans how to build again....
Biden touts billions for northeast US rail corridor
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
Gaza / Palestine / Israel
Far-right minister: Nuking Gaza is an option, population should ‘go to Ireland or deserts’
[The Times of Israel, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
Israel minister suspended after calling nuking Gaza an option
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
Israel’s ‘Total War’ Strategy in Gaza
[Tikun Olam, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
Disease, Thirst and Hunger Spread In Gaza / How Erdogan Could Help
Ian Welsh, November 9, 2023
...If Turkish President Erdogan is sincere about wanting to help, there’s a simple way to do it. Send a squad of military cargo planes with pallets to drop (ie. with parachutes) into Gaza. Tell Israel that if they are shot down, it’s an automatic declaration of war: pass a bill saying that before the planes go.
Meanwhile, the real part of the genocide has begun. It was never about killing them all with explosives, most will die from disease, hunger and lack of water.
[New Left Review, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
...eager to complete the ‘pivot to Asia’ initiated in the early 2010s, the US has sought to partially disentangle itself from the region. Its goal is to establish a model that would replace direct intervention with oversight from a distance. To contemplate any real reduction in its presence, though, it first needs a security settlement that would strengthen friendly regimes and constrain the influence of nonconforming ones. The 2020 Abraham Accords advanced this agenda, as Bahrain and the UAE, by agreeing to normalize relations with Israel, joined a wider ‘reactionary axis’ spanning the Saudi Kingdom and Egyptian autocracy. Trump expanded arms sales to these states and cultivated connections between them – military, commercial, diplomatic – with the aim of creating a reliable phalanx of allies who would tilt towards the US in the New Cold War while acting as a bulwark against Iran. Obama’s nuclear deal had failed to stop the Islamic Republic from projecting its influence….
‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’ Day 29: Israel hits hospitals, ambulances, and schools across Gaza
[Mondoweiss, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
Al-Aqsa Storm Heralds the Rise of Non-state Special Operations
[War on the Rocks, via The Big Picture 11-06-2023]
What Israel missed is the growing democratization of technology, which is rapidly providing new and dangerous capabilities to non-state actors. Stephen Biddle, in his book Nonstate Warfare, argues that this is allowing violent non-state actors to achieve military capabilities that had previously been reserved for states. When carefully integrated into hybrid military-terror campaigns, these can challenge states that insist on maintaining dated misperceptions of their foes. Our research finds non-state actors are increasingly developing special operations capabilities, which are creating strategic and political effects beyond their tactical use.
The ICC must investigate the crime of genocide in Gaza
Jeremy Corbyn [Aljazeera, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
[Yves Smith notes: “So it appears no Western outlet of consequence would run the op-ed.”]
Israel-Palestine war: How Hamas sees the Gaza conflict unfolding – and why it thinks it can win
[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
Good overview. On the tunnels:
“A source close to Hamas’s political leadership says the group believes it can defeat Israel but acknowledges the heavy price being paid by those on the ground.”…
While Hamas did not foresee an Israeli response on this scale, it has an extensive network of tunnels, which run for “many hundreds of kilometres”, MEE was told by another source.
The idea that Hamas would cease to operate if it lost Gaza City, which the Israeli forces are trying to encircle, is therefore less likely.
‘Dead man walking’: How Yahya Sinwar deceived Israel for decades
[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
“The Hebrew-speaking Hamas leader in Gaza is the man Israel holds most responsible for the October 7 attacks.”
Israeli journalist and author Gideon Levy explains the mass psychology of Israelis
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
Netanyahu says Israel will take ‘overall security responsibility’ of Gaza after war
[Arab News, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
Global power shift
China tightens controls over rare earth exports, imports of key commodities including crude oil, iron ore
[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
VW and Stellantis Show the Script Has Flipped With China’s Carmakers
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2023]
“Western automakers are paying up for minority stakes in Chinese EV companies to gain access to their technology.”
Inflection Point: How to Reverse the Erosion of U.S. and Allied Military Power and Influence
[RAND, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
U.S. Coast Guard Reduces Active Cutter Fleet Due to Personnel Shortage
[Maritime Executive, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
The $2 Million Coal Mine That Might Hold a $37 Billion Treasure
[Wall Street Journal, via The Big Picture 11-10-2023]
Wyoming discovery could be America’s first new source of rare-earth elements since 1952.
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
How many in the U.S. are disabled? Proposed census changes would greatly decrease count
[Science, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2023] Jiggering the numbers.
Big Tech’s “attention rents”
Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 11-05-2023]
Why Banks Are Suddenly Closing Down Customer Accounts
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
How to Spot Corporate Bullshit
[Current Affairs, via The Big Picture 11-05-2023]
The Secretive Industry Devouring the U.S. Economy
[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 11-04-2023]
Private equity has made one-fifth of the market effectively invisible to investors, the media, and regulators.
GRAPH Cost of US Debt Pile Surges: Estimated annualized US debt payments
[Bloombergvia The Big Picture 11-09-2023]
Information age dystopia / surveillance state
Google Pays $21B for Search Monopoly: How “Free” Tech Markets Repress
[Tutanota, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
AI Search Is Turning Into the Problem Everyone Worried About
[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
Andreessen Horowitz would like everyone to stop talking about AI’s copyright issues, please
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 11-09-2023]
[Lambert Strether: “IOW, AI cannot function as a business without the theft of intellectual property, on a positively grandiose scale, to create its training sets. That sounds rather like “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall,” to me.” ]
Big Brother is Flagging You and The Tragic Victimhood of “Disinformation Experts”
Matt Taibbi, Racket News
Amazon Execs Intentionally Made Site Shittier to Rake in More Profit, Quotes from FTC Lawsuit Show
[Vice, via The Big Picture 11-09-2023]
Former CEO Jeff Bezos instructed executives to “accept more defects,” an internal term for irrelevant ads. (Vice)
Health care crisis
Face masks ward off covid-19, so why are we still arguing about it?
[NewScientist, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]
How lawmakers in Texas and Florida undermine Covid vaccination efforts
[NBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2023]
The death of public health: Scientific advisors used for political preferences, Derelicts at the helm and More!
The Covid-Is-Not-Over Newsletter, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2023]
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2023]
I Set Out to Create a Simple Map for How to Appeal Your Insurance Denial. Instead, I Found a Mind-Boggling Labyrinth.
[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2023]
Childhood Vaccine Exemptions Reach Highest Level Ever — Upping Risk For Outbreaks Of Polio, Measles And More
[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 11-10-2023]
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
What is quantum entanglement? Part 7: What does it all mean?
[Skulls in the Stars, via Naked Capitalism 11-06-2023]Lucid and readable.
The quest to re-create nature’s strongest material
[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 11-07-2023]
Daniel Immerwahr [The New York Review, November 23, 2023 issue]
A recent book contends that the global economy has a new geography of special zones, islands, and enclaves that benefit the world’s wealthiest residents.
Crack-Up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy
by Quinn Slobodian
Metropolitan, 336 pp., $29.99
Citizens United has Destroyed America: Why Is Nobody Talking About It?
[Hartmann Report, via The Big Picture 11-04-2023]
If America is to recover any semblance of meaningful democracy in our country, we must cut out the cancer of big money in our political system by overturning Citizens United….
Republicans on the Supreme Court having legalized political bribery (and, thus, functional ownership) of judges and legislators, both federal and state.
In 1976, in response to an appeal by uber-rich New York Republican Senator James Buckley, the Court ruled that wealthy people in politics couldn’t be restrained from using their own money to overwhelm their political opponents. They then went a step farther and struck down other limitations on billionaires using their own money to “independently” promote the campaigns of politicians they like.
In other words, for morbidly rich people to have “free speech,” they must be able to spend as much money on politicking as they want. If you don’t have millions or billions, your free speech is pretty much limited to how loud you can yell: this was a decision almost entirely of, by, and for the morbidly rich.
Two years later, in 1978, four Republicans on the Court went along with a decision written by Republican Lewis Powell himself in declaring that corporations are “persons” entitled to human rights under the Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), including the First Amendment right of free speech.
And free speech, as they’d established two years earlier, meant the ability to shovel money into political campaigns. Effective in April of 1978, elections could go to whoever spent the most money….
Prior to the Court’s Citizens United decision, for example, there was a bipartisan consensus in Congress that climate change was caused by burning fossil fuels and that we should do something about it, as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse so eloquently documents….
Clarence Thomas, actively groomed for decades by fossil fuel and other billionaires, became the deciding vote in Citizens United, legalizing not only his own corruption but that of every Republican in Congress.
Once the fossil fuel industry could pour unlimited money into either supporting — or, perhaps more importantly, destroying — the candidacy of any Republican politician, every Republican in the House and Senate began to say, “What climate change?”
As Senator Whitehouse said on the floor of the Senate:
“I believe we lost the ability to address climate change in a bipartisan way because of the evils of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Our present failure to address climate change is a symptom of things gone awry in our democracy due to Citizens United. That decision did not enhance speech in our democracy; it has allowed bullying, wealthy special interests to suppress real debate.”
Something is amiss in Iowa
Art Cullen [via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2023]
...Consolidation is killing us.
Meatpackers used to make twice as much, in real terms. Now we make half as much in Storm Lake as someone in Illinois, which we like to scoff at as corrupt. Who owns Iowa? Koch Enterprises and Bayer. How do you fix pollution in the river? You don’t. You tell yourself it is the price of feeding starving children in Gaza with No. 2 yellow corn. Or it is the price of us not being involved in Middle East wars. You put up with the stench near Iowa Falls because Iowa Select is the only game around, so you play that game. We could have open markets but we elect politicians who let them lock up.
You should be damn glad for your $50,000 in median household income. Your kid doesn’t really need to go to college. So few jobs around here call for it. Yeah, we used to make twice as much, relatively speaking, but we sure are glad to be free of the union dues. The best you can hope for is a tax cut, even though you barely make enough to pay tax….
Trump picks up backing from two major GOP donors
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2023]
“Robert Bigelow, one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) most prominent donors, said he is switching his support from the Florida governor to Trump. Bigelow, owner of the Budget Suites of America and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that DeSantis is ‘not strong enough,’ nor is he the commander in chief the U.S. needs…. Top GOP donor and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus also announced his endorsement of Trump on Thursday, arguing the former president is the ‘simple choice’ in a high-stakes political world…. The support comes on the heels of the third GOP presidential primary debate, which Trump notably did not attend. Despite his absence from the past GOP debates and his ongoing legal battles, the former president continues to hold a strong lead over his rivals.”
Inside Peter Thiel’s powerful Silicon Valley network which started with a student paper
[Fortune, via The Big Picture 11-07-2023]
The conservative student newspaper cofounded by Peter Thiel in 1987 has been riling up the left-leaning Stanford community for more than three decades. But it’s also quietly become one of the surest paths to an enviable job in Silicon Valley. Here’s a look at the extensive network of tech investors and founders who got their start writing for the Review
Are we really going to let Pa.’s richest man buy a state Supreme Court seat?
Will Bunch [Philadelphia Inquirer, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-06-2023]
“the real high-stakes players — like Jeff Yass from the Philadelphia suburbs, whose bets that started with his college poker game and led to a major investment in TikTok have made him the richest man in the state — know where the real action is: state courts. The power wielded in places like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — over important things like drawing congressional maps, funding schools, punishing polluters, rewarding tax evasion, or crimping worker power — is enormous. And those justices are elected here, as in other key states…. I doubt that Yass cares much about the issue making the most noise in this election — abortion rights — but I imagine he cares quite a bit about having a court that won’t rule for organized labor or against Big Oil and Gas. ProPublica recently chronicled how Yass aggressively fought to lower his taxes by an estimated $1 billion, even suing the IRS in federal court. If Yass’ tax strategies are ever litigated in Harrisburg, does he really desire judges “who apply the law as written” — or something else?”
A think tank funded by a far-right billionaire wrote a bill to weaken child-labor laws in Florida, records show
[Seeking Rents, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-08-2023]
“A conservative think tank funded by a far-right billionaire wrote a controversial new bill in Florida that would weaken the state’s child-labor laws, according to records obtained by More Perfect Union. The records show that representatives for the Foundation for Government Accountability wrote the original draft of the Florida legislation, which would allow employers in the state to make 16- and 17-year-old teenagers work the same schedules as adults — including overnight shifts on school nights. ‘Attached is draft language on the Youth Worker Freedom issue that Rep. Chaney expressed interest in to FGA,’ a lobbyist for the FGA’s advocacy arm wrote in an Aug. 28 email to an aide to Rep. Linda Chaney, a Republican legislator from St. Pete Beach, which More Perfect Union obtained through a public-records request.'”
When Voters Reject The GOP Agenda-- The GOP Comes Up With Novel Ways To Change The Rules
Howie Klein, November 11, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
Annie Karni and Katie Edmondson reported [in the New York Times] that GOP congressional leaders— safe on their gerrymandered red districts— haven’t gotten the message….
“Tuesday’s election results drove home to some Republicans in Congress what they already know and fear— that their party has alienated critical blocs of voters with its policies and message, particularly on abortion. And the results stiffened their resolve to resist such measures, even if it means breaking with the party at a critical time in a high-stakes fight over federal spending… In the House, however, gerrymandering has made most Republican seats so safe that lawmakers routinely cater to the far-right wing of their party, and a slim majority has given hard-right lawmakers outsized influence. The result has been that House Republicans continue to draft legislation that is out of step with a vast majority of voters, including some of their own constituents, on social issues.”
A Pair Of Louisiana Reactionaries Are Steering The Country Towards A Government Shutdown Next Week: MAGA Mike & Scalise Are In Safe Gerrymandered Districts
Howie Klein, November 9, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
“The House Republican leadership had to pull two critical spending bills this week. Neither would’ve become law, yet both illustrated the divides in the House Republican Conference and members’ complete unwillingness to bridge them. Both moderate New York Republicans and hardline conservatives were unmoved by the leadership’s entreaties on the Transportation-HUD spending bill. New York Republicans were peeved that the bill cut too much from Amtrak and public transit, while hardliners thought it didn’t cut enough. On Thursday, the GOP leadership abruptly pulled the Financial Services-General Government spending bill when both conservatives and moderates revolted. Conservatives didn’t like that the legislation failed to explicitly ban funding for a new FBI headquarters. Moderates opposed the repeal of a provision that prohibited D.C. companies from discriminating against employees who get an abortion. Johnson and party leaders lobbied their members for two days to back the FSGG measure, only to come up short. In fact, the leadership was bested by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who whipped conservatives against the FSGG bill. ‘Us pragmatic conservatives— the guys in Biden districts— we felt like we were walked on for nine months,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) noted. He added: ‘What you’re seeing is the pragmatic conservatives, the common sense conservatives, say we’re not going to get run over anymore. It’s probably a bigger challenge for Mike— Speaker Johnson— to overcome. But we’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens.’ This dynamic is about to become much more important. The federal government will shut down in a week and Johnson has yet to unveil how he plans to fund agencies beyond Nov. 17. Other GOP leaders have been kept in the dark. Rank-and-file Republicans have been frustrated with the lack of information.
20 Not-Fun Facts About Speaker Mike Johnson
New York Magazine, via The Big Picture 11-04-2023]
Here are some not very fun facts we’ve learned about the guy Republicans barely know, but decided to make leader of the House and second in line to the presidency….
1. He masterminded Trump’s election coup.
If you’ve learned one unsavory fact about Johnson in recent days, it’s probably that he was a key architect of Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 election. As New York’s Jonathan Chait explained, Johnson’s work on this front is actually the “primary source of his leadership claim and the central reason he has managed to unify the party.” After publicly flirting with Trump’s voting-machine conspiracy theories, Johnson honed in on the idea that the widespread use of mail ballots during the pandemic gave the House GOP an opportunity to make Trump president….
3. He worked for the conservative legal group behind the case that ended Roe v. Wade….
6. He also blamed abortion for Social Security and Medicare cuts.
While serving as chair of the Republican Study Committee from 2019 to 2021, Johnson proposed trillions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. He said these cuts wouldn’t be necessary if forced birth were the law of the land….
8. He fought to make taxpayers fund a Noah’s Ark theme park….
9. He fought to ban same-sex marriage in Louisiana….
Inside Mike Johnson’s Ties to a Far-Right Movement to Gut the Constitution
Laura Jedeed, November 10, 2023 [Poltico, via downwithtyranny.com]
For the last 10 years, the “Convention of States” movement has sought to remake the Constitution and force a tea party vision of the framers’ intent upon America. This group wants to wholesale rewrite wide swaths of the U.S. Constitution in one fell swoop. In the process, they hope to do away with regulatory agencies like the FDA and the CDC, virtually eliminate the federal government’s ability to borrow money, and empower state legislatures to override federal law.
As far-fetched as this idea might sound, the movement is gaining traction — and now, it believes, it has a friend in the speaker of the House.
“Speaker Mike Johnson has long been a supporter of Convention of States,” Mark Meckler, co-founder of Convention of States Action (COSA), told me when I asked about Johnson’s ascension. “It shows that the conservative movement in America is united around COS and recognizes the need to rein in an out-of-control federal government which will never restrain itself.”
MAGA-Mike Thinks Social Security & Medicare Is An Unfair Burden On Wealthy Americans
Howie Klein, November 7, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
As if their abortion hubris wasn’t bad enough, House Republicans are literally bringing up Social Security and Medicare again. Rather than get behind Democratic proposals to make the rich pay their fair share to keep the programs rolling, the rich— and their pawns in Congress— want to fight the battles they lost for the last 80 years: ending Social Security and Medicare. And MAGA Mike is leading the charge by reviving Paul Ryan’s failed deficit commission. MAGA-Mike’s “fervent support for trillions of dollars in cuts,” reported Nathaniel Weixel, “during his time as chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) could be a blueprint for GOP budgets if the party wins control of the government… Johnson promised to establish a bipartisan debt commission ‘immediately,’ and indicated at a press conference this past week that he was close to naming members. The idea for a 16-member debt commission that would examine Social Security and Medicare solvency was initially floated by McCarthy as part of debt limit negotiations… Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid currently make up nearly half of the entire federal budget, with a total annual price tag of $2.7 trillion.”
As Republicans embrace theocratic authoritarianism, the political media is tongue-tied:
[Press Watch, via The Big Picture 11-04-2023]
Corporate media seems to lack the vocabulary to accurately describe the modern Republican Party. The latest example, of course, is the election of a new Speaker of the House: Mike Johnson, an insurrectionist anti-gay right-wing extremist Trump proxy. Those words accurately describe the little-known congressman from Louisiana. In fact, they’re quite restrained. It would be even more accurate to call him a bigoted Christofascist member of the Trump cult willing to end democracy as we know it.
The real reason Republicans aren’t winning swing voters
[FOX, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2023]
“Another election night in which the Republicans had to put away those champagne bottles they had on ice and keep them for perhaps another day. It wasn’t a disaster for them, but it also wasn’t the results they were expecting to hear from the voters, either. What is the message the voters are sending? A lot has been written about how the abortion issue is backfiring on the Republicans, and it is. But that’s not really the reason they are failing to win over swing voters unhappy with the economy and other issues. What voters are saying is that they want more personal freedom. Abortions over the last several decades have been greatly declining in numbers, down about two-thirds from their peak numbers. People don’t really want more abortions, as today most women have access to and use contraception — but they do want the personal freedom of having the choice of abortion — hence the very name ‘pro-choice.'”
The Harlan Crow—Clarence Thomas connection no one saw coming—RealPage
April 18, 2023, James M. Nelson
In October 2022, ProPublica broke a story about a little-known company, RealPage, which was artificially increasing rental rates on apartments. Later that month, lawsuits were filed against RealPage alleging price-fixing and market manipulation. In November 2022, the Department Of Justice opened an investigation into them. This is all based on the research of James M. Nelson, ‘The Man Behind the RealPage lawsuit’. But Who is RealPage and why is this connection important for you to understand?
He is the son of the late development tycoon Trammell Crow (1914 – 2009), the creator of the Trammell Crow Company (TCC). Trammell is recognized as the grandfather of the “speculative building” industry, which he began in 1948. Forbes in 1971 and The Wall Street Journal in 1986 called TCC the largest landlord in the US, and by 1993 they had also become the nation’s largest developer.1
Harlan Crow wields his inherited wealth and politics with great power. In 1999 he co-founded the ultra-conservative Club for Growth, that amongst other achievements, claims to be the driving force behind Citizens United, which opened the door for unlimited dark money in politics. They also invested over $20 million with 42 congress members who voted to invalidate the 2020 election.
In the forthcoming book, the New Landlord, we read: In 2005, at the beginning of the 2008 Great Recession and the ensuing chaos, the Crow Empire was at the center of the financial crash. Crow had violated their own strict policy of not investing in speculative residential land. In the blink of an eye, one of the oldest and largest real estate empires, known as the grandaddy of the construction industry, the titan of Wall Street—the Crow Empire, collapsed financially alongside the non-banking giant Lehman Bros. The collapse would send shock waves throughout the industry resulting in the industry spiraling into the financial abyss.…
Harlan Crow’s influence over the rental housing industry is powerful. Greystar CEO Bob Faith detailed that over the decade’s Crow has formed a tight-knit group of managers that now dominate the industry. Just how powerful is that reach? Our concentration study concluded that half of all rental units in the metro Seattle area are priced by a small group of 13 managers who all originated from–the ‘Crow Empire.’