Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 5, 2023
by Tony Wikrent
Strategic Political Economy
The Great Reordering
Rana Foroohar, October 29, 2023 [Washington Monthly, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-31-2023]
There can be no doubt now that an epochal shift is underway in how the economy—in America and across the globe—is governed. The mystery is how a moderate, conventional politician like Joe Biden engineered it….
The record on that score is unequivocal. His COVID-19 stimulus bailed out people, not banks. His domestic economic policy has been about curbing giant corporations and promoting income growth. His infrastructure bills invested in America in a way not seen since the Eisenhower administration. He has taken commerce back to an earlier era in which it was broadly understood that trade needed to serve domestic interests before those of international markets.
The contrast with the so-called neoliberal economics of recent decades, in which it was presumed that markets always know best, and particularly the Clintonian idea that “free” trade and globalization were inevitable, could not be starker. With a few notable exceptions (Joseph E. Stiglitz, Jared Bernstein), Bill Clinton’s administration, like Barack Obama’s, was filled with neoliberal technocrats who bought fully into the idea of the inherent efficiency of markets. Although they might have occasionally looked to tweak the system, many of the academic economists running policy basically believed that capital, goods, and people would ultimately end up where it was best and most productive for them to be without the sort of public-sector intervention you’ve seen during the Biden administration.
In this world, so long as stock prices were going up and consumer prices were going down, all was well. Monetary policy trumped fiscal stimulus. And if the latter had to be used, it should be, in the words of the economist Larry Summers, “timely, targeted, and temporary.” (The Biden stimulus, by contrast, is designed to be broad based and long term.) In this political economy, outsourcing wasn’t a bad thing. China would get freer as it got richer. Americans should aim to be bankers and software engineers, not manufacturers….
“Rather than speaking to Goldman Sachs, Biden spoke to autoworkers.”
Winning the Anti-monopoly Game
Will Norris, October 29, 2023 [Washington Monthly]
Despite press accounts to the contrary, the Biden administration’s revival of antitrust policy isn’t failing. It’s just getting started.
How the Youth Boom in Africa Will Change the World
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-2023]
Gaza / Palestine / Israel
US Special Operations Forces are in Israel Helping Locate Hostages
[Antiwar, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
Israel pounds Gaza with U.S. “heavy” bunker-busting bombs. Erdogan speaks of a Cross vs Crescent war
Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2023]
US sends forces to Jordan amid buildup in “defense of Israel”
[Electronic Intifada, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2023]
World Plummets into Eschatological Frenzy: Unraveling the Implications
Simplicius the Thinker [via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2023]
The eschatological fervor of the Palestine crisis is reaching a deafening peak. Officials worldwide are dropping their masks, and inadvertently revealing the Biblical strain of the conflict.
At every turn, political figures now soak their proclamations in Biblical reference and allegory. The foremost of which was Netanyahu, who has now invoked an assortment of Biblical prophecies as dogwhistles to stir his people into an eschatological frenzy….
...it’s not the sheer act of Biblical invocation itself that is troubling, but rather the implication that Netanyahu appears to conceive of himself as a messianic figure leading his nation to an eschatological fulfillment, a sort of Judgment Day or Rapture. Naturally, it’s incredibly dangerous for a nation led by a self-styled end-times messiah to be leashing the rest of the somnambulant world along toward WW3….
The fact of the matter is, the American political elite are hardcore Zionists because many of them come from the Southern Baptist and evangelical strain of Christianity which preaches devotion to Israel on account of perceived Biblical rapport.
Independent journalist Lee Fang has trailblazed coverage of this aspect during the current crisis. Here he interviews members of U.S. Congress, one of which states outright that he takes Biblical scripture on Israel very “literally”—those who bless Israel will themselves be blessed….
Israel’s Long-Held Plan to Drive Gaza’s People Into Sinai Is Now Within Reach
[Antiwar (Offtrail), via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
“A Textbook Case of Genocide”
Craig Murray [via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
On the resignation of Craig Mokhiber, Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Israel-Palestine war: Hamas and Israel were ‘inches’ away from deal on hostages
[Middle East Eye, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
“Sources say Qatari-mediated negotiations to release women and children fell through when Israel launched ground operations in Gaza.”
The Questions for Egypt
[Protean Mag, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
...In an effort to deflect responsibility for the bloodshed, Israel and its Western backers have incessantly asked why Egypt is not willing to open its doors for Palestinian refugees from Gaza (the majority of whom are, let’s remember, already refugees)….
Egypt is currently facing a historic debt crisis; Bloomberg Economics ranked Egypt as second only to Ukraine in terms of countries most vulnerable to defaulting on debt payments. The Egyptian debt crisis has been little-discussed in the West, but it is a daily reality for Egyptians, who continue to face mounting inflation and unparalleled price hikes as a result of Egypt’s complete reliance on international lending from the IMF and wealthy Gulf states. Such reliance circumscribes Egypt’s range of action, making it difficult and unlikely for it to act independently from U.S. interests—including on foreign policy.
This wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. has used the prospect of debt forgiveness as a tool to bring Egypt in compliance with its policy demands. Most recently, in 1991, the United States and its allies forgave half of Egypt’s external debt ($11.1 billion USD, out of $20.2 billion) in exchange for Egypt’s participation in the second Gulf War in the anti-Iraq coalition….
Egypt is ready to sacrifice millions of lives to protect its land from invasion: PM
[Middle East Monitor, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
Egypt Is Playing an Extremely High-Stakes Game in Gaza That Could End in Genocide
Andrew Korybko [via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
The Math of Murder
Dennis Kucinich [via Naked Capitalism 11-04-2023]
Why Israel Slept
[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 11-03-2023]
...The shift began behind closed doors in The Venetian Resort, a neon nirvana on the Las Vegas strip. In a back conference room not far from the imitation Italian gondolas and the faux St. Mark’s Square, attendees of the June 2015 conclave were instructed to avoid leaks. “All proceedings,” they were told, “shall remain strictly confidential.” The invitation warned that that they must agree “not to discuss the events of the conference with media before, during and after” the meeting….
There was a reason the Adelson task force formally demanded pledges of secrecy before, during, and after the meeting. Once they closed the door at the Venetian, they opened the door to potential criminal prosecution as agents of a foreign power, a very serious offense punishable by up to a decade in prison. According to 18 USC § 951: “Whoever, other than a diplomatic or consular officer or attaché, acts in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both…. For purposes of this section, the term ‘agent of a foreign government’ means an individual who agrees to operate within the United States subject to the direction or control of a foreign government or official.”
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-04-2023]
Brisbane Lecture on US Grand Strategy
John Mearsheimer [via Naked Capitalism 10-31-2023]
[X-Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 11-04-2023]
Tank production grows sevenfold in Russia
[RT, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
As Ukraine Loses More And More Of Its Best Leopard 2 Tanks, It’s Turning Back To Old T-72s
[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
Russia says it will shoot down all F-16 fighter jets promised to Ukraine in 20 days
[Anadolu Agency, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
American Weapons Leftover in Afghanistan After U.S. Forces Withdrew Fell Into Hands of Terrorist Organizations and Are Now Surfacing in Israel, Kashmir and Pakistan
[CovertAction Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
Restoring balance to the economy
Uber and Lyft to Pay New York Drivers $328 Million Following AG Wage Theft Probe
[The City, via Naked Capitalism 11-04-2023]
Universal Basic Income: If it Works for Billionaires’ Children, Why Not the Poor?
Thom Hartmann, November 1, 2023 [DailyKos]
How Autoworkers’ Democratic Tactics Reversed a Humiliating Loss
Lee Harris, November 2, 2023 [The American Prospect]
As part of the UAW’s tentative agreement with Stellantis, an idled factory in Belvidere, Illinois will restart production….
It is rare that a contract negotiation in any industrial manufacturing sector leads to the reopening of a shuttered plant. In addition, the UAW negotiated a clause that could stop such closures in the future, by giving the union the right to strike any of the Big Three companies across its facilities if a plant is closed.
Several longtime Belvidere workers, including Frantzen, attributed the reopening to the democratic leadership and tactics of the Unite All Workers for Democracy reform slate led by Fain, who has reshaped the union since assuming office in March.
Autoworkers’ Historic Victory Is a Turning Point in the Climate Culture War
Liza Featherstone, November 3, 2023 [The New Republic]
By ensuring electric vehicles produce high-wage union jobs, Shawn Fain has robbed the GOP of some of its talking points.
Health as a Human Right: A Position Paper From the American College of Physicians
[Annals of Internal Medicine, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
Federal jury verdict on broker fees rocks real estate industry
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
A federal jury in Kansas City on Tuesday found the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and some of the largest real estate brokers in the country guilty of colluding to inflate real estate commissions.
Chicago Is Considering Opening a Municipal Grocery Store
Matt Bruenig [Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-2023]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
Africa vs Colonialism: Why Does the Continent’s Struggle for Self-Sufficiency Remain so Difficult?
[Internationalist 360, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
The Secretive Industry Devouring the U.S. Economy
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-30-2023]
“The publicly traded company is disappearing. In 1996, about 8,000 firms were listed in the U.S. stock market. Since then, the national economy has grown by nearly $20 trillion. The population has increased by 70 million people. And yet, today, the number of American public companies stands at fewer than 4,000. How can that be? One answer is that the private-equity industry is devouring them. … In 2000, private-equity firms managed about 4 percent of total U.S. corporate equity. By 2021, that number was closer to 20 percent. In other words, private equity has been growing nearly five times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole…. Most careful academic studies find that although private-equity funds slightly outperformed the stock market on average prior to the early 2000s, they no longer do so. When you take into account their high fees, they appear to be a worse investment than a simple index fund.”
The Haunted House of Labor
[proteanmag.com, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
...This very moment, when enthusiasm for labor’s future has reached a fever pitch, is the perfect time to call forward the spirits of those who came before and ask ourselves what they might think of what we’ve accomplished in their absence….
The Culture of Corporate Criminal Impunity Continues
Ryan Cooper, November 20, 2023 [The American Prospect]
At Public Citizen, Rick Claypool has written a report demonstrating that corporate prosecutions have not increased at all relative to the Trump years. On the contrary, there were slightly more of them in 2017 and 2019 than in either 2021 or 2022, though neither of those are close to the peak years of the Bush or Clinton administrations. Once again, Attorney General Merrick Garland is simply not cutting the mustard.
Strep cases in hospitals jump as antibiotic supply runs low
[Becker’s Hospital Review, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
Children's hospitals scattered around the U.S. are reporting a significant increase in strep throat cases amid a monthslong shortage of amoxicillin, NBC News reported Oct. 28…. The rise in infections is facing a shortage of amoxicillin, which fell into shortage in October 2022. Currently, 48 solutions of the popular antibiotic are in low supply, and eight are available, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
U.S. cancer patients face nationwide shortages of life-saving chemo drugs as ‘race to the bottom’ makes their production unprofitable
[Fortune, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2023]
Removing cap on bankers’ bonuses will fuel ‘greed is good’ culture, says TUC
[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
New Normal or No Normal? How Economists Got It Wrong for 3 Years
[New York Times, via The Big Picture 10-29-2023]
Economists first underestimated inflation, then underestimated consumers and the labor market. The key question is why.
Climate and environmental crises
Hurricane Otis smashed into Mexico and broke records. Why did no one see it coming?
[Science, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-2023]
‘Nightmare Scenario’: Extreme Storms Now Breach The Worst-Case Scenario
[Science Alert, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
The world’s largest waterfall is actually underwater
[ZME Science, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
The world’s largest waterfall is actually underwater, located in the Denmark Strait, between Iceland and Greenland. Towering at more than three kilometers high, it is three times taller than Angel Falls. Every second, more than three million cubic meters of cold, dense water emanates from the strait.
The Denmark Strait’s underwater waterfall — known as the Denmark Strait cataract — plays a pivotal role in the intricate dance of the Atlantic’s thermohaline circulation, which influences our planet’s climate on a global scale. The journey begins in the Arctic, where surface water cools and gains density, causing it to sink and flow toward lower latitudes.
In 4 years, India lost over 30 million hectares of healthy land to degradation: UN data
[Down to Earth, via Naked Capitalism 10-29-2023]
A Tangle of Rules to Protect America’s Water Is Falling Short
[New York Times, via The Big Picture 11-04-2023]
The Times asked all 50 states how they manage groundwater. The answers show why the country’s aquifers are in trouble.
The Water Wars Deciding the Future of the West
Kyle Paoletta, October 30, 2023 [The New Republic]
From conservation to importing water from the Pacific, Democrats say they have all the answers to historic drought. The one thing no one wants to talk about: stopping the sprawl….
Over the course of the twentieth century, tens of billions of federal dollars were used to move water across the vast Colorado River Basin, which encompasses Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Colorado itself. The transformation of the basin began in the 1930s with the construction of the Hoover Dam, which created Lake Mead, and ended in 1993 with the completion of the Central Arizona Project, the 336-mile aqueduct system that conveys water from the Colorado to Phoenix and Tucson. All that infrastructure has made it possible for the river system to theoretically supply water to more than 40 million people and five million acres of farmland. But the basin’s stability depends less on dams and reservoirs than on rainfall and snowpack, and it has been shaken by a so-called megadrought that set in just over two decades ago. Climate scientists now believe the dry conditions are reflective of a trend toward more permanent aridification. Their research also shows that water scarcity is only made worse by the region’s triple-digit summers—especially brutal this year—given the link between high temperatures and groundwater depletion.
When Idiot Savants Do Climate Economics
Christopher Ketcham, October 29 2023 [The Intercept]
How an elite clique of math-addled economists hijacked climate policy.
U.S. Crude Production Breaks Records
[OilPrice, via Naked Capitalism 11-01-2023]
Information age dystopia / surveillance state
Here’s a rare look at Google’s most lucrative search queries
[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
YouTube crackdown leads to ‘hundreds of thousands’ of ad blocker uninstalls
[9to5Google, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-03-2023]
“After a few months of testing, YouTube has opened the floodgates to its blocking of ad blockers, and that’s led to a wave of uninstalls – but not of YouTube. YouTube’s crackdown on ad blockers started earlier this year in a limited capacity and slowly ramped up to affect more and more users. As of this week, the practice was in full swing, affecting virtually anyone using an ad blocker around the globe. YouTube says that using an ad blocker violates the platform’s policies. As Wired reports, this rollout has led to ‘hundreds of thousands’ of uninstalls, not of YouTube but of ad blockers. The figures apparently come from various ad-blocking companies, where October saw a ‘record number’ of people uninstalling ad blockers. Meanwhile, it also led to a record number of new installs, as many users looked to switch from one blocker to another in an effort to keep blocking ads. One ad-blocking company, Ghostery, shared that 90% of users who completed a survey when uninstalling their ad blocker cited YouTube’s changes as the reason.”
Facebook Finally Puts a Price on Privacy: It’s $10 a Month
[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 11-02-2023]
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
World’s smallest particle accelerator is 54 million times smaller than the Large Hadron Collider — and it works
[Space, via Naked Capitalism 10-30-2023]
Disrupting mainstream politics
“The Hidden Tribes of America” (PDF)
[More in Common, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-02-2023]
From 2018, still relevant; from page 117:
America’s tribal politics, from social media trolling to debates in the halls of Congress, are repelling a majority of Americans. The Exhausted Majority is uncomfortable with the ideological conformity and the outrage culture that have taken hold in the most highly engaged tribes. Americans in the Exhausted Majority are often hesitant to weigh in for fear of saying the wrong thing. This contributes to the detachment of the 41 percent of Americans who belong to the Passive Liberal and Politically Disengaged tribes. Public issues have always engaged some individuals more strongly than others. What is striking now is the widening gulf between those who are highly engaged in America’s polarized political debates and the Exhausted Majority of Americans, who find the relentless ideological conflict dispiriting. They feel unrepresented in today’s polarized politics. The views of the Exhausted Majority are grounds for hope as well as concern. On the one hand, they reject ideological purity and recognize the necessity of compromise in politics as in all areas of life. On the other hand, their detachment (and the media’s preference for conflict) allows the opposing wings of the spectrum to dominate public debate. This contributes to the misperception that America is made up of just two groups who are hell-bent on defeating each other at all costs. A new understanding of the American political landscape is needed, one that no longer airbrushes this Exhausted Majority out of the picture, but puts them in the center.
How the GOP Became the Party of Tax Cheats
Thom Hartmann, November 3, 2023 [DailyKos]
House Speaker Mike Johnson’s Long Crusade Against Birth Control
[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 10-31-2023]
Virginia restores 3,400 to voting rolls, but questions remain
[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-31-2023]
“Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has restored the voting rights of nearly 3,400 residents who were wrongly taken off the state’s voting rolls…. ‘We have no way to know if that 3,400 is actually correct,’ [Shawn Weneta, a policy strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia,] said. ‘When they acknowledged the mistake, they said it was only 270 people. Well three weeks later, they say it’s more than 10 times that number.’… Critics of Youngkin still have questions about how the voter purge happened and what they call a lack of communication from the governor’s office.”
Republicans work to square election integrity with new early voting push
[Washington Examiner, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-03-2023]
“Republicans across the country are looking to snag wins in state and federal elections in 2023 and 2024, and they’re embracing early and absentee voting like never before to do it. But the party’s base also becomes increasingly skeptical of election security and results, namely the 2020 presidential election, leading to intensifying calls for ‘election integrity.’ The two goals can appear competing, as Republicans have criticized vote by mail and practices such as ballot harvesting for years. And as the party continues its significant early voting push, prominent Republicans deride the practice. In former President Donald Trump’s pitches in favor of voting early, he still mentions his concerns over its security and distaste for the method. ‘I will secure our elections, and our goal will be one-day voting with paper ballots and voter ID,’ he said in Iowa earlier this month. ‘But until then, Republicans have to compete, and we have to win.’ At a separate New Hampshire event, the former president told his supporters they don’t need to worry about voting at all because he has ‘plenty of votes.'”
Trump Is Assembling His Second-Term Legal Wrecking Crew
Matt Ford, November 2, 2023 [The New Republic]
...The New York Times, writing this week about a rift between Trump and the Federalist Society, shed some light on the legal minds that Trump might turn to in a second term. Foremost among them is Jeffrey Clark, who tried to engineer his own rise as acting attorney general after the 2020 election when other Justice Department personnel refused to endorse Trump’s election myths. (He too is facing racketeering charges in Georgia but hasn’t yet flipped on Trump.)
As the Times noted, Clark wrote an essay in May that was simply titled, “The U.S. Justice Department is Not Independent.” For ethical and political reasons, most attorneys general since the Watergate crisis have tried to insulate the department’s prosecutorial decisions from the White House to avoid abuses of power or allegations of corruption. Clark argues, in what alternates between personal partisan grievances and constitutional analysis, that this state of affairs must end.
“Either the Constitution is properly amended to make DOJ independent or it is improperly amended through an attempt at legislation like that proposed in the wake of Watergate and then subsequently blessed by the Supreme Court,” he incoherently argued. “Under the constitutional system as it stands, however, DOJ independence does not exist and influencers on the Left of all stripes (as well as those on the Center-Right like Professor [Jack] Goldsmith) should stop claiming that it does. They are misleading the people.”
It is a fascinating project by Clark and others in Trump’s orbit. On one hand, they try to argue that the Justice Department should be subject to the president’s whims as a normative matter. In the same breath, they also claim that Biden’s supposed targeting of Trump and his allies for prosecution is corrupt and unacceptable. “No Attorney General should allow himself to be used as a tool to persecute the President’s political enemies,” Clark wrote without a hint of irony. “And no President should order his Attorney General to do so.”
The Shadowy Right-Wing Think Tank Pushing Transphobia
Jack McCordick, October 25, 2023 [The New Republic]
The American Principles Project has lost election after election but its influence in the GOP is still growing….
...In 2013, five months after the 2012 presidential election failed to deliver a stinging rebuke to Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, the Republican National Committee released a 100-odd-page postmortem that became known as the “RNC autopsy.” The memo insisted a rebrand was needed: It was past time for the Grand Old Party to become more “welcoming and inclusive” on issues like gay marriage and immigration.
The autopsy set off an internecine war within the conservative movement. One of the objectors was a nascent organization called the American Principles Project, or APP. The APP, with the help of a pollster named Kellyanne Conway, put together a rejoinder dubbed the “Autopsy of the Autopsy.”
This assessment was echoed by a real estate mogul and reality TV star who had briefly reached second place in GOP 2012 primary polling, despite never formally entering the race. “@RNC report was written by the ruling class of consultants who blew the election,” tweeted Donald Trump in March of 2013. “Does @RNC have a death wish?”
A decade and one Trump presidency later, the APP has turned into an electoral juggernaut, pouring many millions of dollars into political races around the country on the theory that social conservatism, even at its most unhinged, is the key to unlocking electoral majorities for the GOP….
Why the Right’s Bud Light Boycott Worked
[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 10-30-2023]
After 2020, brand politics moved left—and some consumers revolted.
Supreme Court Chief Hudson asks if court should disqualify Trump — even if it can
[Star-Tribune, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-03-2023]
“Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Natalie Hudson posed a basic question Thursday at the outset of oral arguments on a petition seeking to use the U.S. Constitution’s insurrection clause to disqualify former President Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot. If the court’s justices agree that they have the ability to bar Trump, ”Should we’ is the question that concerns me most,’ the chief said. She raised the prospect of chaos if 50 state courts decide differently on Trump’s eligibility. ‘So, should we do it?’ she asked. The question went to Ronald Fein, lawyer for a bipartisan coalition including the national nonprofit Free Speech for People, former Secretary of State Joan Growe and former Supreme Court Justice Paul H. Anderson. Hudson noted that prior cases on ballot disqualification gave mixed guidance on the issue. ‘Doesn’t that suggest we use caution and some judicial restraint and maintain the status quo?’ she asked. Fein countered that there is ‘ample authority’ to disqualify Trump and that the constitutional directive to the court is that it shall disqualify Trump.” Hudson is asking if indeed Section Three is “self-executing” (and implicitly contemplated an absurd result if it is so interpreted. I don’t think Fein is really answering that, at least as reported. More: “The court knows that time is critical. Arguing briefly for Simon, Assistant Attorney General Nathan Hartshorn took no position on Trump’s eligibility, but asked the court to rule no later than Jan. 5 so county election officials have time to prepare for the presidential primary before absentee voting begins Jan. 19.” • Good reporting. Worth reading in full.
The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts
Salvaging Voting Rights Long After ‘Shelby’
Gabrielle Gurley, November 20, 2023 [The American Prospect]
Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones found that Georgia’s state and federal legislative maps crafted after the 2020 census violated the Voting Right Act. He ruled that the state lawmakers should have created one additional majority-Black congressional district in metro Atlanta and five majority-Black state legislative districts. He ordered a legislative do-over. Gov. Brian Kemp has called lawmakers back for a special session on November 29 to begin that process.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was right. The late Supreme Court justice warned a decade ago that preclearance, a key federal review tool implemented to put the brakes on discriminatory voting practices, should not be abandoned just yet. “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes,” she wrote in her 2013 Shelby County v. Holder dissent, “is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
But in Shelby, the majority did just that, declaring that voting discrimination had ebbed significantly and that federal oversight was no longer required. To the surprise of no one who has been carefully observing the actions of Southern legislatures, some of the states that had been subject to federal preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act are now trying to respond to court orders to correct voting maps expressly designed to disadvantage African American voters.
Clarence Thomas’ Problems Just Got Worse
[Newsweek, via The Big Picture 11-04-2023]
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas appears to be facing growing problems following a new report by Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee about the financing for his luxury motor home. Thomas, the present Court’s longest-serving member and most senior conservative failed to repay most if not all of a $267,230 loan from a wealthy friend, according to the committee.
Why This Gift to Clarence Thomas is the Worst
Steven Lubet, November 2, 2023 [Washington Monthly]
Revelations of Justice Clarence Thomas’s extravagant gifts from plutocrats seem to surface almost every week, to the point that some readers may be tempted to roll their eyes and move on to the sports section. That would be a mistake. The latest story of how he acquired his gilded motorcoach and hid it from the public differs from the others—because, in this case, there is simply no excuse for nondisclosure. …
Thomas bought the 40-foot-long Prevost Le Mirage XL Marathon with a $267,230 loan from Anthony Welters, a healthcare entrepreneur he had known since they served together in the Reagan administration. According to documents obtained from Welters by the Senate Finance Committee, the loan’s original term was five years with an arm’s length interest rate of 7.5 percent. The underlying promissory note and security agreement provided that Thomas was to make only annual interest payments for the length of the loan, with the full principal due at maturity. A later addendum extended the loan for another ten years under the same terms. The Senate committee obtained a check from Thomas to Welters for $20,042.23, which would have been the interest due for one year.
It appears, however, that Thomas (and his wife Virginia, who cosigned for the loan) made at most only nine annual interest payments through 2008, and perhaps fewer. Only one canceled check is known to exist. In a handwritten note dated December 21, 2008, Welters informed Thomas that no further payments were necessary because the interest payments had already exceeded the amount of the original loan. (In fact, even nine years of interest payments would have totaled only a little over $180,000, about $87,000 less than the loan amount.)
As the Senate Finance Committee summarized the situation, “Anthony Welters forgave a substantial amount, or even all of the principal balance of his loan to Clarence Thomas, constituting of the forgiveness of approximately $267,230.00 of debt owed by Justice Thomas.”