Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 30, 2023
by Tony Wikrent
A rare opportunity to be heard
Antitrust Guidelines and Overthrowing a Corrupt Priesthood
Matt Stoller [BIG, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2023]
Today’s issue is about an obscure but important document on corporate power released this week known as merger guidelines. It is in many ways the overthrow of the corrupt antitrust priesthood…. this particular issue of BIG is important. There aren’t a lot of real actions people can take to influence government, but this one is real, and will make a meaningful difference in whether we truly address corporate power….
Over the past four days, I’ve been watching the business press go crazy about an obscure document that the antitrust agencies put out, known as ‘merger guidelines.’ And like the Catholic Church of the 1500s, or really members of any authoritarian social hierarchy, the antitrust priesthood is very upset.
For instance, Larry Summers, the avatar of Democratic Party economic policymaking under both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, is in a rage, asserting these represent a “war on business.” Biglaw firms are sending out alerts to clients, saying “investors, boards and C-suites should anticipate significant delays and expenses associated with a far broader range of proposed transactions.” And the House Republicans are even trying to defund the very ability of the government to publish this document in their government funding bills.
Why does this document create such anger? The answer is that it is an attempt to return antitrust back to the rule of law, and away from the corporate revolution of the 1980s….
Nearly every major dangerous social trend today, from wage inequality to regional collapse to social despair to the inability to efficiently shift energy sources, is a result of monopolization, and mergers are the primary mechanism through which firms monopolize. In 1890, 1913, 1950, and 1975, Congress passed various laws to deal with it. The current key law on mergers today is called the Clayton Act, and it is still on the books. Unfortunately, because of the Reagan administration, and the ideological acceptance by the Democrats of what Reagan wrought, under-enforcement has been so poor that, well, Ticketmaster….
Now, here’s where you come in. Two days ago, I asked a question to Antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter at a Federalist Society event about the role of public comments in this process, and he said that hearing from the public is incredibly important in helping the agencies understand how markets actually work. Thousands of people chimed in a year and a half ago, including doctors, writers, truck drivers, nurses, and software programmers. Now it’s time to do it again. These guidelines are in draft form, they will be finalized soon.
There are 60 days to give our feedback. The government has set up a site on Regulations.gov where you can tell them about your experience with mergers, or offer thoughts on antitrust law, mergers, big business, or unfair methods of business. It looks like this, click on the comment button in the red circle.
So that’s how you can help. Tell the government about your experience with mergers through this site. There are already over one hundred comments, and you can browse and read them.
Oligarchy — not a republic if you can’t keep it
The Causal Effects of Admission to Highly Selective Private Colleges
Tyler Cowen, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2023]
Affirmative Action for rich kids: It’s more than just legacy admissions
[NPR, via The Big Picture 7-27-2023]
Chetty and his colleagues provide compelling evidence that fancy schools are promoting a kind of neo-aristocracy, with admission programs that help to perpetuate a family’s class privilege from one generation to the next
Climate and environmental crises
Warning of a forthcoming collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation
[Nature, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-25-2023]
“The Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) is a major tipping element in the climate system and a future collapse would have severe impacts on the climate in the North Atlantic region. In recent years weakening in circulation has been reported, but assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), based on the Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP) model simulations suggest that a full collapse is unlikely within the 21st century. Tipping to an undesired state in the climate is, however, a growing concern with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. Predictions based on observations rely on detecting early-warning signals, primarily an increase in variance (loss of resilience) and increased autocorrelation (critical slowing down), which have recently been reported for the AMOC. Here we provide statistical significance and data-driven estimators for the time of tipping. We estimate a collapse of the AMOC to occur around mid-century under the current scenario of future emissions.”
Project 2025’: plan to dismantle US climate policy for next Republican president
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2023]
Anxiety And Depression Are Associated With Limbic Atrophy And Severe Disruption Of Brain Functional Connectivity After Mild COVID-19 Infection (S21.007)
[Neurology, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-25-2023]
N = 254. From the Conclusion: “These findings indicate structural and functional alterations may occur even after mild infection. The combination of anxiety and depression is associated with atrophy of the limbic system and a severe pattern of abnormal cerebral functional connectivity. The magnitude of these changes suggests an association with cognitive dysfunction. Further analyses are necessary to yield specific treatment targets to prevent persistent deficits and improve quality of life.”
Kashyap Patel, MD, Sees Link Between COVID-19 and Cancer Progression, Calls for More Biomarker Testing
[American Journal of Managed Care, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-25-2023]
“Since March 2020, the longtime community oncologist has seen multiple patients in his Rock Hill, South Carolina, based-clinic with cholangiocarcinoma, and these patients are developing the rare cancer 20 to 30 years earlier than the typical age at presentation, which is usually 65 years or older.1 In the past year alone, physicians in Patel’s practice saw 7 patients with this cancer, and 3 have died. It is not just a single cancer type, either. Patel and his colleagues, both in the United States and those he knows overseas, have seen patients with rapidly progressing cancers of several types, such as breast cancer and renal cell carcinoma. During an interview with Evidence-Based Oncology™(EBO), Patel said several did not even have time to receive treatment and died within weeks of diagnosis…. With COVID-19 added to the mix, Patel now fears a ‘perfect storm’ of factors will trigger inflammatory responses in some patients, causing cancer to arrive years earlier than normal and making it deadlier once it is diagnosed. ‘If you go back and look at the post–COVID[-19] recovery phase—we are coming out of almost like a hibernation—a lot of people don’t know how to deal with the stress,’ Patel said.” Denial helps. More: “‘Combined with the obesity pandemic, people didn’t exercise a lot with the fear of going out in the pandemic, and the alcohol intake has increased. All of this descends down on inflammation, and I think it’s creating a perfect storm between [these] risk factors, and we need to learn how to deal with that.'”
I keep trying to tell y’all that there are many hidden layers to creating the ILLUSION that our leaders “moved on” from Covid, in order to convince people it’s over
Stephanie Tait [Thread Reader, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-25-2023]
“I keep trying to tell y’all that there are many hidden layers to creating the ILLUSION that our leaders “moved on” from Covid, in order to convince people it’s over. They still protect themselves, they just hide it so YOU won’t know you need to as well…. So in the end, the Biden admin didn’t LOOK like they were pulling the same ‘scamdemic’ playbook as Trump, but in reality they had the SAME goals but were just FAR smarter about how to implement them. Remember ‘no more tests, no more cases?’ Look around. 👀 They told you Covid was over, and systematically pushed folks to take more risks & drop all precautions, all while showing you Biden’s unmasked face doing all the things to sell just how safe it is now. If y’all actually understood the reality of what Biden’s admin has done, you’d be rioting in the damn streets. And he CERTAINLY wouldn’t be the candidate for ‘24. He’d be too untenable for them to even THINK about running (let alone without a primary.) It literally keeps me up at night. And people just clearly have NO clue, walking around like everything’s fine. Dystopian as hell. Phew. ”
Enhanced Ventilation and Cleaner Air in Buildings (webcast)
[National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2023]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2023]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2023]
Uber Russia-hawk Victoria Nuland rises to acting deputy secretary of state
[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2023]
The United States Refuses to Play by the World’s Rules
Rebecca Gordon [TomDispatch, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2023]
Global power shift
Huawei to restart 5G mobile chip output as early as this year
[Nikkei, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2023]
...If Huawei succeeds in getting its mobile chips back into production, it would mark a major win for China. Beijing has spent years and millions of dollars attempting to develop a complete domestic chip industry to counter Washington's clampdown on Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, which includes sweeping export controls introduced last October. In a further blow to China's chip ambitions, Japan and the Netherlands recently joined the U.S. in introducing export restrictions on advanced semiconductor equipment.
To make Huawei's chips, SMIC will use 7-nanometer process technology, the most advanced available in China. This is still about two generations behind chips made for global leaders, however, with Apple's iPhone mobile processor produced by Taiwan Semiconduct….
Huawei was once the world's second-biggest smartphone maker, trailing only Samsung in shipments. Last year, however, it had a global market share of only about 2%, mostly in China, Canalys data showed, compared to its peak of 17.6% in 2019.
Why America Is Losing the Tech War with China
[National Interest, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2023]
Vietnam to up annual raw rare earths output to 2m tonnes by 2030
[Nikkei, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2023]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
[American Prospect, via The Big Picture 7-23-2023]
Medical Properties Trust spent billions buying community hospitals in bewildering deals that made private equity rich and working-class towns reel.
Shock Treatment in the Emergency Room
Maureen Tkacik, July 29, 2023 [The American Prospect]
The Lehman-like collapse of a(nother) private equity–owned ER operator has physicians calling louder than ever for a strike.
Hedge Funds Seek to Cut Off $1 Billion Meant for Opioid Victims
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 7-28-2023]
The Real Problem With Asset Managers
Ryan Cooper, July 26, 2023 [The American Prospect]
The Problem of Twelve: When a Few Financial Institutions Control Everything
By John Coates
Columbia Global Reports
Our Lives in Their Portfolios: Why Asset Managers Own the World
By Brett Christophers
Over the last couple of decades, asset managers have become core to the global financial system, rolling up vast wealth portfolios of perhaps $100 trillion in total. Passive investment firms like BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street have grown explosively over the last 20 years and account for most of the increase. Then there are actively managed firms like Blackstone, KKR, or The Carlyle Group. There is some overlap, as most passive firms have active divisions.
Two new books—The Problem of Twelve: When a Few Financial Institutions Control Everything, by John Coates, and Our Lives in Their Portfolios: Why Asset Managers Own the World, by Brett Christophers—take a hard look at the world of asset managers. They assemble a convincing case that actively managed firms are socially toxic, but leave aside the most interesting questions about passive ones.
Why America’s Largest Tool Company Couldn’t Make a Wrench in America
[MSN, via Naked Capitalism 7-28-2023]
...Stanley Black & Decker built a $90 million factory on the edge of Fort Worth, Texas, intending to burnish the Made-in-the-U.S.A. luster of the Craftsman brand by forging mechanics’ tools with unprecedented efficiency. But the automated system was a bust, and the tools that were supposed to be pumped out by the million are so hard to find that some consider them collector’s items.
In March, 3½ years after breaking ground, Stanley announced it was closing the factory. The property is now being advertised for sale.
The Craftsman plant was a high-profile example of a drive among U.S. manufacturers to bring offshored plants back home.
Barbenheimer Reveals the Drastic Choices of Hollywood Executives
David Dayen, July 27, 2023 [The American Prospect]
The big opening weekend contrasts with everything the studios have been doing for the last couple of decades….
Audiences last week said resoundingly that they didn’t want that. They wanted to experience a common story; they wanted to watch and react and laugh and cry and even argue together. They wanted this even more after years of self-imposed isolation. And they didn’t want the algo telling them what fit their tastes, what they “should” watch. They even took in other films at higher levels over the weekend, suggesting that not just two original openings drove them to the multiplexes, but the experience of moviegoing itself.
In other words, Barbenheimer weekend disrupts the entire project that the studio heads have been building toward, the fusing of Hollywood with Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the consolidation of entertainment. That includes the vertical integration of production with distribution through streaming, the concentrated studio conglomerates dictating theater choices and the similarly concentrated theater chains eagerly agreeing, the end of experimentation in favor of the blockbuster and the algorithm.
Unions Are Trying to Save Hollywood From Its Own Foolish Executives
Ryan Cooper, July 20, 2023 [The American Prospect]
Left to their own devices, the CEOs will ruin the American film and TV industry.
Has the Pentagon Learned from the F-35 Debacle?
[POGO (Project On Government Oversight), via Naked Capitalism 7-28-2023]
Because the government does not control the data rights for the F-35 program, the uniformed maintainers can’t access the technical data needed to do much of the maintenance work for the F-35. Nor can the government provide companies with access to that technical information. As a result, Lockheed Martin has an absolute monopoly on the lucrative sustainment contracts for the program.
Not acquiring the data from the beginning of the program wasn’t an oversight on the part of government contracting officers, but rather a deliberate decision based on an acquisition fad at the time known as Total System Performance Responsibility.
[TW: Incredibly, the article does not mention that in the past few years, the US Air Force has designed, developed, built, and deployed a 6th generation fighter, and did so by completely bypassing the private defense companies which have previously had a stranglehold on USA military procurement. And the USAF development time was reportedly less than 3 years. So the answer appears to be “Yes, the Pentagon has learned from the F-35 Debacle.” Though the important question, which is raised at the beginning of the article, is: “the basic premise of a manned fighter in the age of long-range precision fires and integrated air defense networks.” ]
Birth, Death, and Wealth Creation
[Morgan Stanley, via The Big Picture 7-26-2023]
“Professor Hendrik Bessembinder, studying results from 1926-2022, documented that nearly 60 percent of the stocks of U.S. public companies failed to earn returns in excess of Treasury bills and that only 2 percent created more than 90 percent of the aggregate wealth.”
Billions of Dollars Are Flowing, But Money Alone Can’t Fix US Infrastructure
[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 7-24-2023]
Biden’s urge to claim political dividends from public works projects is running headlong into a local group’s efforts to rebuild lost neighborhoods in Ohio.
We Can Solve Homelessness (If We Want To)
[In These Times[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-2023]
An extensive study of the [California]’s struggle with homelessness by the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) paints a detailed picture of the problem, and it’s not pretty. Homelessness is thriving at the intersections of racism, sexual violence, overpolicing, and more….
But there is no shortage of housing in the nation. There is a shortage of affordable housing and as long as moneyed interests keep buying up housing, building more won’t be a fix.
Since at least 2008, hedge funds have been buying up single-family homes and rental units in California, throwing a bottomless well of cash at a resource that individuals need for their survival and pushing house prices and rents out of reach for most ordinary people. This too is a nationwide phenomenon, one that was extensively outlined in a 2018 report produced by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Americans for Financial Reform, and Public Advocates.
That report makes it clear that Wall Street hedge funds see housing as the next frontier in profitable investing. Once these funds buy up homes and apartments to rent out, they cut the labor and material costs associated with maintenance, and routinely raise the rents.
Cigna Sued Over Algorithm Allegedly Used To Deny Coverage To Hundreds Of Thousands Of Patients
[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2023]
They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals
Court Filing: JPMorgan Chase “Actively Participated in Epstein’s Sex-Trafficking Venture”
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 26, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]
...The U.S. Virgin Islands’ attorneys have clarified to the court that they plan to show in a trial scheduled for October that JPMorgan Chase not only facilitated the sex trafficking of underage girls by Jeffrey Epstein but that the bank “actively participated in Epstein’s sex-trafficking venture from 2006 until 2019.”
That is a very explosive assertion. For starters, it throws up a giant red flare as to why the American public has heard nothing from the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice about a criminal case against the bank for laundering money for Epstein. The case brought by the U.S. Virgin Islands is a civil case.
The U.S. Virgin Islands filed hundreds of pages of new court documents on Monday and Tuesday. Most of the exhibits have been filed under seal. A Memorandum of Law arguing for partial summary judgment in the case, however, is only lightly redacted and makes the following points:
NYS Regulator Fined Deutsche Bank $150 Million Over Ties to Jeffrey Epstein but Says It Doesn’t Have a Scrap of Paper on JPMorgan and the Sex Trafficker
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 27, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade]
On July 5, Wall Street On Parade filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS), the state agency that investigates and penalizes financial institutions for engaging in illicit activities. We were curious as to why the DFS had fined Deutsche Bank upwards of $150 million on July 7, 2020 for its illicit dealings with the sex trafficker of underage girls, Jeffrey Epstein, but had remained silent on any investigations or fines against JPMorgan Chase.
Our curiosity was heightened by the fact that Deutsche Bank had only a 5-year banking relationship with Epstein, from 2013 to 2018, while JPMorgan Chase had a 15-year banking relationship with Epstein, from 1998 to 2013….
...with the mountain of evidence against JPMorgan Chase that has been developed in the three separate Epstein-related lawsuits that have been filed in federal court in Manhattan, why hasn’t the U.S. Department of Justice brought criminal charges against the bank for money laundering? The DOJ brought two criminal felony counts against JPMorgan Chase in 2014 for laundering money for Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Why the hesitation now?
How Jeffrey Epstein Captivated Harvard
Michael Massing [The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2023]
“According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, Summers—a former president of Harvard and the current Charles W. Eliot University Professor and director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School—had more than a dozen meetings scheduled with Epstein from 2013 to 2016. In April 2014, Summers sent Epstein an e-mail seeking ‘small scale philanthropy advice’ regarding his wife, Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard. ‘My life will be better if i raise $1m for Lisa,’ he wrote. ‘Mostly it will go to make a pbs series and for teacher training. Ideas?’ Summers invited Epstein to dinner, and they made plans to meet at a restaurant in the Boston suburb of Brookline. In 2016, a foundation linked to Epstein donated $110,000 to New’s nonprofit, which produced video content about poetry. After Epstein’s second arrest, in 2019, New—deeply regretting the grant—made a contribution in excess of that amount to an organization working against sex trafficking. The Summers-Epstein relationship opens a window into the interlocking of intellectual and financial elites in our era of bloated capital accumulation. The perks and privileges that the superrich can offer make their company and resources hard to resist. Top universities, in turn, entice the tycoon class with a mix of academic prestige, intellectual stimulation, and social legitimation. And no university has more to offer in this regard than Harvard. The school has come to have a mesmerizing effect on the American public, especially its most mercantile tier, for which it is a honeypot. Though Epstein’s ties to Harvard have received considerable attention, a full narrative account shows how this singularly [oh?] depraved individual without a college degree was able, by using a mix of philanthropy, charm, and personal favors, to captivate the nation’s top institution of higher learning, thus helping to burnish his image and conceal his long history of predatory behavior.”
Former Anti-Abortion Leader Arrested on Child Sex Abuse Charges
[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2023]
Information age dystopia / surveillance state
People are getting fed up with all the useless tech in their cars
[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2023]
‘Thorny Questions”: New York Times Ponders Whether “Misinformation” is Protected Speech
Jonathan Turley, via Naked Capitalism 7-23-2023]
Pew Research: Democrats Value Free Speech Far Less Than Republicans
[RealClearPolitics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-25-2023]
“Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are much more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to support the U.S. government taking steps to restrict false information online [70% vs. 39%]. There was virtually no difference between the parties in 2018, but the share of Democrats who support government intervention has grown from 40% in 2018 to 70% in 2023. A large majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners [81%] support technology companies taking such steps, while about half of Republicans [48%] say the same.”
Support for using violence to ‘coerce’ members of Congress nearly doubled over the last 6 months — even more so among Democrats — according to a study
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2023]
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-26-2023]
Democrats' political malpractice
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2023]
The impending pro-war Democratic Party takeover of Pacifica Radio
[The Grayzone, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-27-2023]
“Although Pacifica Radio established its pro-peace bona fides largely by countering efforts to promote imperialist wars and regime change operations, when it came to Syria, different considerations seemed to be at play. Instead, [Sonali] Kolhatkar represents a new generation of Pacifica hosts who enthusiastically embrace establishment media narratives. A faction within the Pacifica audience and its elected governance structure put forth Kolhatkar and another Pacifica host, Ian Masters, as prominent endorsers on their website, New Day Pacifica. If New Day wins the internal elections, listeners are likely to hear a lot more of them at the five major metropolitan stations (KPFA-Northern California, KPFK-Los Angeles, KPFT-Houston, WBAI-New York City, WPFW-Washington, D.C) in the run-up to the 2024 US presidential election.” Kolhatkar enthusiastically quotes spook cutout Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat, for example. More: “According to a Pacifica manager who preferred to remain anonymous, New Day Pacifica ‘are aiming at having Pacifica be an adjunct of the Biden re-election campaign by as early in 2024 as possible.'” • Lots of lurid detail.
MAGA-fied GOP Wants Little to Do With the Chamber of Commerce
[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 7-25-2023]
The business lobby finds the policy interests of corporate America are less important to an increasingly populist Republican Party...
One of the most urgent items this year for the US Chamber of Commerce
was championing a deal between the Biden administration and House Republican leaders to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a government shutdown. So the nation’s largest business lobby went into overdrive, huddling with 150 members of Congress and flying state and local chamber officials to Washington to bolster its case with lawmakers.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minnesota) wishes the chamber hadn’t bothered. It was his job in early June to round up support for a debt-ceiling bill negotiated by GOP leaders, and he says the chamber’s involvement made this more difficult.
“That probably cost us numerous votes,” he says. “It should have had 218 Republicans voting for it. Instead we got 149. All the chamber did by trying to weigh in was convince them that it was a bad idea. So, yeah, they had influence. Unfortunately it wasn’t the influence they think they had.”
NC’s reckless school voucher program is about to get a lot of money
Justin Parmenter, July 25, 2023 [Charlotte Observer, via North Carolina Education Roundtable]
Opportunity Scholarship was first implemented in school year 2014-15 and doled out a mere $4.6 million in taxpayer funds
that year. School year 2022-23 saw nearly $134 million distributed, the vast majority to private schools. The new legislation would take that figure north of a half a billion dollars a year by school year 2032-33.
You’d think the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility would want to ensure that taxpayers are getting a good return on an investment of more than a half a billion dollars a year.
You’d be wrong.
Republican legislators have created one of the country’s least accountable voucher system
in North Carolina. Not only do voucher-accepting schools have no requirements for teacher licenses, accreditation or standard curriculum, but these schools have no requirement to participate in the state’s end of year testing program. That means we have no way of knowing whether any student who has left a traditional public school for a voucher school is getting better academic outcomes or not.
Republicans’ anything-goes approach to voucher management means abundant opportunities for fraud by unscrupulous, profit-driven actors, and the school privatization space is filled with them.
Small-town GOP officials are torn over Biden’s clean energy cash
[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 7-29-2023]
This emphasis on rural areas puts local GOP officials in the position of overseeing massive amounts of development funded by Biden’s law. Of the approximately $70 billion in new clean energy investment dollars announced since the climate law passed, roughly $51 billion — or 70 percent — is in counties won by Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, according to Jack Conness, a policy analyst at Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology, a nonpartisan think tank.
A Major Polling Company Is Throwing Its Weight Behind Huge Conspiracy Theories
[Huffpost, via The Big Picture 7-23-2023]
Rasmussen Reports is polling — and pushing — election denialism and COVID-19 vaccine skepticism. Can they still be the Walmart of pollsters?
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2023]
Conservatives Have a New Master Theory of American Politics
Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine].
“Earlier this year, I was introduced to a Republican at a small gathering. I asked him what he made of the new theory sweeping the right, which held that radical leftists had conducted a ‘long march through the institutions,’ seizing control of American culture, education, and business, and thus forcing Republicans to use government to dislodge their power. This theory has largely been associated with the new, Trumpier factions of the right that have risen up as alternatives to traditional conservatism. Since the man I met was exactly the sort of Republican the Trumpists are plotting to displace from power — (Jewish coastal elitist, donor, mortified by Donald Trump, vocally pro–gay marriage yet intrigued by Ron DeSantis, etc.) — I assumed he would express either ignorance of the long-march theory or else outright opposition. Instead, to my surprise, the only portion of my account he questioned was the word ‘theory.’ To his mind, the long march and its grim implications for the party’s strategy were simply an obvious truism.”
The (anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts
Alito says Congress has ‘no authority’ to regulate Supreme Court
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-2023]
Leonard Leo’s Slippery Trick for Dodging the Scrutiny of Congress
Matt Ford, July 27, 2023
Leonard Leo, the éminence grise of the conservative legal movement, said on Tuesday that he won’t cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ethics investigation into some members of the Supreme Court. In a seven-page letter sent by his lawyers, he claimed the committee’s attempt to learn more about his interactions with some of the court’s conservative members “infringes two provisions of the Bill of Rights.”
Alabama defies Supreme Court order for additional majority-Black district
[The Week, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2023]
Republicans think it's okay to ignore Supreme Court rulings they don't like
Dartagnan, July 28, 2023 [DailyKos]
Justice Department sues Texas over floating barrier in Rio Grande River
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 7-25-2023]
Mexico requests reopening of lawsuit against US gun manufacturers
[Mexico News Daily, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-2023]
How Harlan Crow Slashed his Tax Bill by Taking Clarence Thomas on Superyacht Cruises
[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 7-23-2023]
In lavishing gifts on the Supreme Court justice, the billionaire GOP donor may have violated tax laws, according to tax experts.
The Radical Makeover of the Israeli Supreme Court Has Nothing to Do With Democracy
Jess Coleman, July 28, 2023 [The New Republic]
Israel’s contentious move to begin curtailing the powers of its Supreme Court presents a potentially uncomfortable dynamic for progressives in the United States: Don’t the critiques leveled by the Israeli right mimic calls by the left to reform the U.S. Supreme Court? Following the so-called judicial reforms passed by the Israeli parliament, the far-right minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, argued, “Israel will be a little more democratic, a little more Jewish, and we will be able to do more in our offices.” Echoing that sentiment, another minister claimed the move will “restore … more proper checks and balances between the Knesset, the government, and the justice system.”
Democracy, accountability, checks and balances: Isn’t that precisely what reform-minded liberals in the United States—who have advocated for everything from stripping the federal courts of their jurisdiction to outright packing the Supreme Court with numerous liberal justices—are after? Michael Dreeben argues in Just Security that the eerie similarities between the rhetoric of the U.S. left and that of the Israeli right should give us pause: “The mass protests in the streets in Israel,” he writes, “should be a warning sign to all those who would alter the structure and independence of our courts because of outrage over what the current Court decides.”
But Dreeben’s is a glib and facile argument. The similarities at hand, after all, are merely superficial. The right’s attempt to neuter the Israeli judiciary bears little resemblance to the situation in the U.S., and it’s important for our leaders to understand why. Rather than falling into the familiar traps of defending the supremacy of the judiciary in order to harmonize critiques of the Israeli right, progressives in the U.S. should unapologetically characterize Israel’s judicial coup for what it is: a brazen, right-wing power grab.
Climate and environmental crises
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-24-2023]
The Philosophy of Design for Disassembly
Jon Larson, Dec 21, 2009
SEE ALSO: Elegant Technology--Chapter Eleven
New (anti)Republican drive to impeach Biden
Inside McCarthy’s sudden warming to a Biden impeachment inquiry
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-26-2023]
“Speaker Kevin McCarthy in recent weeks has heard similar advice from both a senior House Republican and an influential conservative lawyer: prioritize the impeachment of President Joe Biden over a member of his Cabinet. Part of the thinking, according to multiple sources familiar with the internal discussions, is that if House Republicans are going to expend precious resources on the politically tricky task of an impeachment, they might as well go after their highest target as opposed to the attorney general or secretary of homeland security… Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, McCarthy signaled that Republicans have yet to verify the most salacious allegations against Biden, namely that as vice president he engaged in a bribery scheme with a foreign national in order to benefit his son Hunter Biden’s career, an allegation the White House furiously denies. But he said that launching an impeachment inquiry would unleash the full power of the House to turn over critical information, mirroring an argument advanced by House Democrats when they impeached then-President Donald Trump in 2019. ‘How do you get to the bottom of the truth? The only way Congress can do that is go to an impeachment inquiry,’ McCarthy said Tuesday, stopping short of formally moving to open such a probe…. As another senior GOP source put it: “When you’re going deer hunting, you don’t shoot geese in the sky.'”
Biden’s Relentless Lawfare Against Trump Could Backfire
[Tipp Insights, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-25-2023]
“What we have seen over the years is that every time the Deep State [sic] tries to hurt President Trump, his poll numbers rise, and he is able to fund-raise even more than before. It is an inexplicable reaction that frustrates Democrats, who fail to understand that most Americans are honest, ethical, and busy individuals, committed to caring for their families, attending church, and being active in the community. Most voters do not understand the complexities of national security laws. Nor do they believe that Trump committed felony violations by participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. Voters may not remember their civics classes, but they know that Trump has always cared about America’s standing in the world. From the moment he descended the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015, Trump’s brand is that he wants America to win. Even in television interviews in the late 1980s and 1990s, Trump’s single-most consistent grievance against American officials was that they let foreigners take advantage of America and get ahead at the nation’s cost. For Trump watchers, the Make America Great Again campaign started more than 30 years ago. So how could such an individual wilfully bring harm to America? It is a question that baffles the average voter, and Jack Smith’s attempts to prove that Trump obstructed justice ring hollow. On the contrary, voters examine recent history and conclude that the Deep State obstructed justice against Trump in every instance since 2015. Russia-Russia-Russia proved to be a hoax. The first impeachment based on the Trump-Zelenskiy call was another hoax now that stories are being uncovered that Burisma executives allegedly paid the Biden family nearly $10 million in bribes. Trump’s request to Zelenskyy was to investigate those corruption charges – and the average voter would retort: Trump was right, after all.”