Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 10, 2023
by Tony Wikrent
Strategic Political Economy
The Green Great Game Is This Century’s Space Race
[The Diplomat, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]
The rivalry for access to raw materials to facilitate the energy transition will turn the “Green Great Game” into one of the defining geopolitical features of the 21st century.
The tax extreme wealth to increase funds for government spending narrative just reinforces neoliberal framing
William Mitchell [Modern Monetary Theory, via Mike Norman Economics, 9-7-2023]
Despite the rabble on the Right of politics that marches around driven by conspiracies about government chips in the water supply or Covid vaccines and all the rest of the rot that lot carry on with, the reality is that well-funded Right that is entrenched in the deepest echelons of capital are extremely well organised and strategic, which is why the dominant ideology reflects their preferences. That group appears to be able to maintain a united front which solidifies their effectiveness. By way of contrast, the Left is poorly funded, but more importantly, divided and on important matters appears incapable of breaking free from the fictions and framing that the Right have introduced to further their own agenda. So, the Left is often pursuing causes that appear to be ‘progressive’ and which warm their hearts, but which in reality are just reinforcing the framing that advance the interests of the Right. We saw that again this week with the emergence of the Tax Extreme Wealth movement and with the release of their open letter to the G20 Heads of State – G20 Leaders must tax extreme wealth. This ia the work of a group which includes the so-called Patriotic Millionaires, Oxfam, Millionaires for Humanity, Earth4All and the Institute for Policy Studies. It demonstrates perfectly how these progressive movements advance dialogue and framing which actually end up undermining their own ambitions.
[TW: Proponents of Modern Monetary Theory are edging closer to the argument by civic republicanism that a primary purpose of taxation in a republic is to prevent concentrations of wealth of the rise of oligarchs.]
Teardown of Huawei’s new phone shows China’s chip breakthrough
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]
How Sanctions Failed To Hinder China’s Development
[Moon of Alabama, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]
[TW: All the articles I’ve seen about China’s breakthrough frame the issue as “protectionism doesn’t work." This framing is misleading and historically inaccurate. The early American School protectionist, including Alexander Hamilton, Henry Carey, Friedrich List, and Abraham Lincoln, grounded protectionism as a defense of USA working people against the exploited labor of the British empire. In his 1851 book, The Harmony of Interests: Agricultural, Manufacturing & Commercial, Carey wrote:
...The object of protection is to produce dear labour, that is, high-priced and valuable labour, and its effect is to cause it to increase in value from day to day, and to increase the equivalents to be exchanged, to the great increase of commerce…. .the school of discords [is] that which teaches to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market, and sees great advantage to be gained by reducing the cotton of the poor Hindoo to a penny a pound, careless of the fact that famine and pestilence follow in the train of such a system….
The object sought to be accomplished is the improvement of the condition of man. The mode by which it is to be accomplished is that of increasing his productive power. The more food a man can raise, the more and better food may he consume, and the larger will be the surplus that can be appropriated to the purchase of clothing, to the education of his family, to the enlargement of his house, or to the improvement of his machinery, and the greater will be the amount of leisure that can be appropriated to the improvement of his modes of thought….
In this original view, the goal of protection is NOT to prevent other nations from developing, but to oppose exploitation and impoverishment of a nation’s people, and to support their own internal improvement. ]
Bound to Lose
John J. Mearsheimer [John’s Substack, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
It is now clear that Ukraine’s eagerly anticipated counteroffensive has been a colossal failure. After three months, the Ukrainian army has made little progress pushing back the Russians. Indeed, it has yet to get beyond the so-called “grey zone,” the heavily contested strip of land that lies in front of the first main line of Russian defenses. The New York Times reports that “In the first two weeks of the counteroffensive, as much as 20 percent of the weaponry Ukraine sent to the battlefield was damaged or destroyed, according to U.S. and European officials. The toll included some of the formidable Western fighting machines — tanks and armored personnel carriers — that the Ukrainians were counting on to beat back the Russians.” According to virtually all accounts of the fighting, Ukrainian troops have suffered enormous casualties. All nine of the vaunted brigades that NATO armed and trained for the counteroffensive have been badly chewed up on the battlefield.
Bombshell biography claim: Fearing nuclear war, Musk switched off Starlink to stymie Ukraine attack on Russia
[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]
Dire New Western Reports Call to Ditch NATO Tactics
[Simplicius the Thinker, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
I wanted to do a roundup of the most trenchantly interesting releases from the Western military pundit-sphere regarding Russian tactics and their putative ‘evolution’, as well as outlooks on the conflict’s future.
The first big one making waves is from RUSI (Royal United Services Institute)…. Their latest “special report” gives a considered update on Ukraine’s counteroffensive. They start off with the admission that Ukraine is suffering “from heavy rates of equipment loss” but… “the design of armored fighting vehicles supplied by its international partners is preventing this from converting inot a high number of killed personnel.”
The U.S. and Europe Are Splitting Over Ukraine
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
NATO Chief Openly Admits Russia Invaded Ukraine Because Of NATO Expansion
Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
The Next EU Military Deployment in West Africa
[German Foreign Policy, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]
The EU plans to launch a new military mission in West Africa. According to reports prior to the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Toledo yesterday (Thursday), soldiers and police officers are to be deployed in the northern regions of four countries at the Gulf of Guinea (Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin). Jihadi insurgencies threaten to spread to these regions, against which EU states have been fighting for nearly a decade in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – without any success. The deployment aims at securing an EU military presence in the central Sahel in case France and the EU are forced to withdraw from Niger.
Ecuador Votes to Keep Yasuní Oil in the Ground in Historic Referendum
[North American Congress on Latin America, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]
In August 20, Ecuador made history with a 59 percent vote in support of a popular referendum to stop petroleum drilling in the Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.
Is the expanded BRICS truly a new international institution or just the Nonaligned Bloc 2.0?
Gilbert Doctorow [via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]
They’re not capitalists — they’re predatory criminals
A JPMorgan Court Filing Shows Another Bank Exec Visited Jeffrey Epstein’s Sex-Trafficking Residences 13 Times – Two More Times than Jes Staley
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, September 5, 2023 [Wall Street on Parade] [Wall Street on Parade]
...Part of the bank’s damage control strategy has been to sue one of its former top executives, Jes Staley, making him a third-party defendant in the same case, and attempting to convince the Judge and the media that Staley is mainly responsible for the bank keeping sex trafficker Epstein as a client for more than 15 years (and perhaps as long as 28 years). The bank says in court documents that it wants to claw back Staley’s $140 million in compensation for his “disloyalty” and “faithless service” to help pay for its legal expenses and $290 million settlement in a related case with Epstein’s victims….
... as early as 2007 and continuing for years, compliance staff were expressing concerns about the sums of hard cash that Epstein was withdrawing. In October 2007, James Dalessio emailed a control group at the Private Bank that Epstein had withdrawn the following cash amounts in just a two-year span: 10 withdrawals of $40,000 year-to-date in 2007; cash withdrawals totaling $914,796 in 2006 consisting of 18 withdrawals of $40,000 in cash; two withdrawals of $60,000 in cash; one withdrawal of $30,000 in cash; and one withdrawal of $25,000 in cash….
While there are certainly plenty of internal emails produced during discovery that connect Staley to Epstein in problematic conversations, there is also the fact that every major Wall Street firm is supposed to have an email monitoring system that prevents sexually-suggestive photos from being exchanged between a client and a banker and to prevent the leak of insider information, both of which appears to have occurred between Staley and Epstein. Clearly, JPMorgan Chase’s email controls failed.
Staley was the head of JPMorgan’s asset management division from 2001 to 2009 and CEO of its investment bank from 2009 to 2013. Staley’s compromised relationship with Epstein points the finger at someone’s failure to supervise Staley. According to the deposition transcript of Jamie Dimon, the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Staley directly reported to Dimon and worked in an office located a few hundred feet from Dimon. So why should the blame for Epstein belong at the feet of Staley, rather than at the feet of the man who was supposed to be supervising Staley. “Failure to supervise” is a key legal argument in winning a case against a Wall Street firm.
Who Are the Names in Jeffrey Epstein’s Calendar?
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-5-2023]
“A multipart investigation by The Wall Street Journal has revealed prominent people who met multiple times with Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein had contacts with an array of powerful people long after he was a registered sex offender. He had pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution. He was arrested again in 2019 on sex-trafficking charges, and died that year in jail awaiting trial.” • Woody Allen (“dozens of dinners”), Ehud Barak (“dozens of times”), Thomas Barrack (“a series of meetings”), Leon Black (“more than 100 meetings”), Leon Botstein (“two dozen meetings”), William Burns (“three meetings”), Sergey Brin, Noam Chomsky (“several meetings”), Vitaly Churkin (“eight meetings”), Joshua Cooper Ramo (“more than a dozen meetings”), Glenn Dubin and Eva Andersson-Dubin, Mary Erdoes (“two trips”), Bill Gates (“one meeting”), Reid Hoffman (“a weekend”), Barnaby Marsh (“two dozen times”), Thomas Pritzker (“several events”), Nicholas Ribis (“several times”), Bill Richardson, Ariane de Rothschild (“more than a dozen”), Terje Rød-Larsen (“dozens of times”), Kathryn Ruemmler (“dozens of meetings”), Lawrence Summers (“more than a dozen”), Peter Thiel (“several”), Mortimer Zuckerman (“more than a dozen times”).
US judge says Argentina owes about $16 billion after YPF payout trial
[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
London retains crown as leading global centre for maritime arbitration, handling 85% of global caseload
[Hellenic Shipping News, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]
The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics
Most Americans have gone years without a raise: survey
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
The housing market is stuck
[Business Insider, via The Big Picture 9-5-2023]
Americans can’t afford homes, investors aren’t buying property, and economists see little relief ahead.
[Twitter-X, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2023]
Staggering figures reveal 1.2MILLION US-born workers lost their jobs last month – replaced by 688,000 foreign-born staff – as Joe Biden allows migrants to flood across the border
[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2023]
Can Facts Reverse the Backlash to Globalization?
[Amos Tuck School, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]
Things got more interesting when respondents instead received information expressing the benefits of trade. When presented with the “Trade Helps Jobs” narrative, there was a rise in the respondents’ overall preferences for trade restrictions. “Even more strikingly,” they write, “exposing participants to either the ‘Trade Helps Prices’ or the ‘Tariff Hurts Prices’ information induces a strong protectionist response: learning that imports from China have contributed to lower prices, or that the recent tariffs on these imports have hurt U.S. consumers, still raises respondents’ propensity to favor more limits on imports.” The researchers gleaned from these responses that people don’t react symmetrically to information that highlights the gains rather than the losses from trade. In other words, learning about the benefits of trade makes some people dislike free trade even more. “That caught us off guard,” Chor says.
Biden Infrastructure Report Pushes ‘Disastrous Water Privatization Schemes,’ Watchdog Says
[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
President Biden: Don’t Give Wall Street Control of Our Public Water Systems
[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]
More small airports are being cut off from the air travel network. This is why
[MPR, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]
A Huge Threat to the U.S. Budget Has Receded. And No One Is Sure Why.
[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-7-2023]
For nearly as long as Medicare has existed, it has been a notorious budget buster, alarming a wide range of politicians and budget experts. In 1983, Ronald Reagan said: “The need for action now is clear. Health care costs are climbing so fast they may soon threaten the quality of care and access to care which Americans enjoy.” In 1995, the Medicare trustees warned. If the rate of growth had kept up, the dotted line shows how much Medicare would have gone on to spend on each beneficiary. But that’s not what happened. The difference is enormous. And no one is quite sure why.
Class war on labor
Walmart cuts starting hourly pay for some workers in move it says will offer consistency in staffing
[Chicago Tribune, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]
Biden reveals conspiracy with UAW bureaucracy to block auto strike
[WSWS, via Naked Capitalism 9-6-2023]
As Auto Workers Contract Talks Heat Up, Stellantis Threatens to Move South
Luis Felis Leon, September 7, 2022 [The American Prospect]
...Last year, Stellantis indefinitely shuttered its assembly plant in Belvidere, laying off more than 1,300 workers. It moved production to a plant in Toluca, in central Mexico, upending the lives of generations of families dating back to the company’s 1965 roots in Illinois.
That plant, and others in the U.S., are being used as bargaining chips in Stellantis’s negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which has approved a strike authorization if no deal is reached by September 14. Workers involved with the plant believe that the company is holding the plant’s idle status as leverage. “They’re dangling that they can reopen the Belvidere plant if we give up this or that,” Elliston said. “And nobody wants to give up anything—we’ve given up enough!”
“In ongoing contract talks with the Big Three, the union has made Belvidere a centerpiece of its proposals to stop plant closures,” reads a UAW press release. “Those include the right to strike over shutdowns and a Working Family Protection Program that would keep product in the plants and workers on the job.”
The union has asked the Biden administration for investments that help the Big Three retool their plants to encourage electric vehicles. Last week, the Department of Energy announced $15.5 billion in grants and loans for that conversion, which could be used at plants like Belvidere. Higher consideration for the support will go to plants in Belvidere’s condition: where workers have collective-bargaining agreements and a history of experience in vehicle manufacturing.
“Between massive government subsidies for EVs and Stellantis’ record-breaking profits, the money is there to bring good jobs back to heartland towns like Belvidere,” the UAW’s statement concludes….
Autoworkers Have Good Reason to Demand a Big Raise
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 9-8-2023]
Their real wages have fallen 30% over the past two decades. But can the Detroit Three really afford to bring back the old days?
How Eugenics Shaped the U.S. Prenatal Care System
[Sapiens, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]
America’s Surprising Partisan Divide on Life Expectancy
[Politico, via The Big Picture 9-4-2023]
Centuries-old settlement patterns — and the attitudes they spawned about government — are to blame for differences in longevity between red southern states and bluer parts of the country….
Step back and look at a map of life expectancy across the country and the geographic patterns are as dramatic as they are obvious. If you live pretty much anywhere in the contiguous U.S., you can expect to live more than 78 years, unless you’re in the Deep South or the sprawling region I call Greater Appalachia, a region that stretches from southwestern Pennsylvania to the Ozarks and the Hill Country of Texas. Those two regions — which include all or parts of 16 deep red states and a majority of the House Republican caucus — have a life expectancy of 77, more than four and a half years lower than on the blue-leaning Pacific coastal plain. In the smaller, redder regional culture of New France (in southern Louisiana) the gap is just short of six years. So large are the regional gaps that the poorest set of counties in predominantly blue Yankee Northeast actually have higher life expectancies than the wealthiest ones in the Deep South. At a population level, a difference of five years is like the gap separating the U.S. from decidedly unwealthy Mongolia, Belarus or Libya, and six years gets you to impoverished El Salvador and Egypt….
The geography of U.S. life expectancy — and the policy environments that determine it — is the result of differences that are regional, cultural and political, with roots going back centuries to the people who arrived on the continent with totally different ideas about equality, the proper role of government, and the correct balance point between individual liberty and the common good.
Medicare for All, Not Medicare Advantage
[F. Douglas Stephenson, Common Dreams, via Thomas Neuburger 9-8-2023]
Neuburger’s introduction: “An excellent, comprehensive and accessible go-to piece on the evils of Medicare Advantage, in the context of “The Medicare for All Act of 2023,” House bill H.R. 3421 and Senate Bill S. 1655.”
Restoring balance to the economy
Unconditional cash transfers reduce homelessness
[Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]
A core cause of homelessness is a lack of money, yet few services provide immediate cash assistance as a solution. We provided a one-time unconditional CAD$7,500 cash transfer to individuals experiencing homelessness, which reduced homelessness and generated net societal savings over 1 y. Two additional studies revealed public mistrust in homeless individuals’ ability to manage money and the benefit of counter-stereotypical or utilitarian messaging in garnering policy support for cash transfers. This research adds to growing global evidence on cash transfers’ benefits for marginalized populations and strategies to increase policy support. Although not a panacea, cash transfers may hasten housing stability with existing social supports. Together, this research offers a new tool to reduce homelessness to improve homelessness reduction policies.
Analyzing Tax Audits Across the Income Distribution
[National Bureau of Economic Research, via The Big Picture 9-8-2023]
We find an additional $1 spent auditing taxpayers above the 90th income percentile yields more than $12 in revenue.
A Potential End to Monopolizing the Rails
Luke Goldstein, September 8, 2022 [The American Prospect]
...The Surface Transportation Board proposed a new rule that would ensure that shippers have competitive options between rail carriers when their cargo orders are routinely delayed. Under the STB’s proposed rule, shippers facing extensive delays for cargo orders can file petitions to enforce what’s called a reciprocal switching arrangement. The policy forces the rail carrier under contract with a shipper to transfer its own tracks to a competitor, allowing the cargo delivery to arrive on time.
The reciprocal switching rule would revive a long-dormant authority previously enforced routinely by the Interstate Commerce Commission until the regulatory body was gutted in the 1990s. (The STB replaced that commission, with weaker authorities.) It would take a significant step toward creating an open-access railroad infrastructure, undercutting rail monopolies’ power. And it might even provide some aid to the recurring safety crisis.
The rule also follows through on the directives delegated to the board in President Biden’s competition order in 2021, which placed significant emphasis on consolidation in railroads.
A reciprocal switching policy would address concerns from shippers across industries, such as corn, chemicals, and other commodity goods, many of which have reported widespread delays since the pandemic. In numerous complaints submitted to the STB, shippers have documented a complete meltdown in service from the tight oligopoly of railroad firms, all while freight rates have increased. Many raised these objections during an STB hearing in 2022 regarding the breakdown in service.
Climate and environmental crises
The climate crisis is a crisis of inequality
[Science, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]
“Historically, the premise that economic growth ‘lifts all boats‘ has justified maximizing growth, which ‘free market’ proponents often interpret as demanding minimal regulation and redistribution. But this growth requires energy, which largely comes from burning fossil fuels, the major cause of the climate crisis. And thus far, markets have largely failed to price the social cost of carbon. Economic and climate inequality are tightly linked, within and across countries, with richer nations and individuals appropriating vastly more fossil fuels while rarely paying the social cost of carbon and often assuming that they can shield themselves from the adverse consequences of their fossil fuel use. Meanwhile, globally, poverty closely corresponds with climate shock sensitivity. The world’s poor are more likely to reside in climate-vulnerable countries and have fewer resources to guard against and recover from climate shocks. Their food and water are threatened by climate breakdowns. Poorer people—those who work outdoors, live in households without air conditioning, or cannot migrate from flood or fire-prone locations—will pay the highest price for climate disruption in even rich nations. Even if those with economic power believe that there may be a hard limit to carbon emissions, they have incentives to act swiftly to appropriate most of those resources, profit from them, and develop their economies, leaving behind those less equipped, creating a vicious circle that increases inequality. Rising inequality undermines democracy as the richest wield considerable influence over politics, which can diminish policy efforts on redistribution, climate regulation, and carbon pricing. This may explain why global oil and coal use and carbon dioxide emissions are at record highs, despite humanity having known for 30 years the potentially disastrous climate impacts of greenhouse gases.”
Climate-changing human activity could lead to 1 billion deaths over the next century, according to new study
[Phys.org, via Thomas Neuburger 9-8-2023]
‘A silent killer’: How saltwater intrusion is overtaking coastal farmland in the US
[Modern Farmer , via Grist.org 9-9-2026]
As hurricanes get stronger, storm surges are bringing saltwater to farmland—and leaving salt there once waters evaporate.
How deep-sea mining for EV materials could wipe out tuna populations
[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
As Hurricane Idalia caused flooding, some electric vehicles exposed to saltwater caught fire
[CBS News, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
China Reaches Peak Gasoline in Milestone for Electric Vehicles
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 9-5-2023]
Earlier this month, Chinese oil giant Sinopec made a surprise announcement that mostly flew under the radar. It’s now expecting gasoline demand in China to peak this year, two years earlier than its previous outlooks.
The main culprit? The surging number of electric vehicles on the road.
How manure blew up the Netherlands
[Mongabay, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
Creating new economic potential - science and technology
How scientists unraveled the mystery of hydrogen fuel for cleaner energy
[worldtimetodays.com, via Clean Power Roundup, American Clean Power 9-7-2023
Penn State University scientists may have just figured out how to make hydrogen a more convenient and effective fuel source.
To understand this, let’s look again at what a hydrogen spillover is. Simply put, it’s like spilling a drink and it flows from one surface to another.
Tiny pieces of metal act as a catalyst and help hydrogen “transfer” to another material.
Researchers have known this to happen for decades, but have been unable to explain why or measure it properly. Thanks to a team led by Professor Bert Chandler, we now have answers.
The team found a way to measure and understand hydrogen spillover using gold bound to a material called titanium oxide. That’s a big deal because understanding the spillover effect can help us better store hydrogen.
Hydrogen storage is currently difficult; It has to be kept extremely cold, which consumes a lot of energy. If we manage the spillover effect, we may be able to store hydrogen more easily and use it to power everything from cars to homes….
What the researchers found was surprising. They realized that it’s not heat that causes hydrogen to overflow, but something called entropy, a measure of disorder or randomness. Put simply, the hydrogens felt “more comfortable” overflowing due to natural randomness than being forced by heat. This is groundbreaking because it challenges what experts thought they knew.
MOXIE, an oxygen generator on Mars Perseverance Rover produced oxygen
[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
A two-year experiment to see if NASA could produce oxygen on Mars ended with scientists creating enough breathable air on the Red Planet to help a small dog survive, scientists said this week.
The device used to create the oxygen, known as MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization) is part of the Mars Perseverance Rover. MOXIE was created to find out if Mars air could produce oxygen and the machine has been running tests and experiments for two years to explore the answer.
The device was made by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) creators to help study future human exploration. According to a press release by NASA, the device has already made 122 grams of oxygen, comparable to 10 hours of breathable air for a small dog. MOXIE produced 12 grams of oxygen per hour at 98% purity, which exceeded NASA's original expectations…
Information age dystopia / surveillance state
Georgia RICO Filing Against 61 Stop Cop City Activists Criminalizes Protest
A sweeping indictment against Atlanta Stop Cop City activists, that a county DA withdrew from, looks intended to chill protests.
Biden administration coerced social media giants into possible free speech violations: court
[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
CIA Still Refuses to Declassify Documents Exposing Its Responsibility for the Betrayal, Arrest and 27-Year Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela
[Covert Action Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]
If You’ve Got a New Car, It’s a Data Privacy Nightmare”
[Gizmodo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]
Docs Offer Glimpse Inside Censorship Industrial Complex
[RealClearPolitics, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]
More telling is the group’s attitude toward what it called “mal-information” – typically information that is true, but contrary to the preferred narratives of the censor. Dr. Starbird wrote in an email, “Unfortunately current public discourse (in part a result of information operations) seems to accept malinformation as ‘speech’ and within democratic norms …” Therein lies a dilemma for the censors, as Starbird wrote: “So, do we bend into a pretzel to counter bad faith efforts to undermine CISA’s mission? Or do we put down roots and own the ground that says this tactic is part of the suite of techniques used to undermine democracy?”
It is chilling that there is no consideration of whether the information is true or of the public’s right to know it. “Democracy” in this formulation is whatever maintains the government’s narrative.
Accordingly, the group discussed recommendations for countering “dangerously inaccurate health advice.” It contemplated the roles of the FBI and Homeland Security in addressing “domestic threats,” and a CISA staffer felt the need to remind the subcommittee “of CISA's limitations in countering politically charged narratives.”
CISA couldn’t censor all the people the advisors wanted. And it could face the same outrage that greeted President Biden’s Disinformation Governance Board, led by singing censor Nina Jankowicz. Americans didn’t want that body deciding what they could say, and Biden shut it down within three weeks. CISA’s advisers were acutely aware their work could be conflated with that of the DGB, and even considered changing the name of the MDM subcommittee. Dr. Starbird noted in an email that she’d “removed ‘monitoring’ from just about every place where it appeared” and made “other defensive word changes/deletions.” Similarly, Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde “cautioned the group against pursuing any social listening recommendations” for the time being.
Google goes to court
Casey Newton [Platformer, via Naked Capitalism 9-8-2023]
Google Tries to Protect Its Monopoly Under Cover of Darkness
David Dayen, September 7, 2023 [The American Prospect]
...Google has said that consumers could always switch the preset option, thereby preserving competition. But as the Justice Department and Judge Mehta have asked, if the outside contracts were so inconsequential, why did Google pay billions of dollars for that privilege? The answer, the Justice Department will argue, can be seen in Google’s close to 90 percent market share in search engines.
One difference in the Google case, which is at the heart of the Biden administration’s competition strategy as it relates to Big Tech, is that this time, the trial might not be able to be the remedy, because Google is trying its best to essentially close down the courtroom to public view.
The company has argued that in an open trial, it would be forced to divulge trade secrets in open court that would be damaging to its business. As a result, there is currently no schedule for a public trial feed, via either audio or video. A limited number of reporters could attend the trial, but any transcript that would come out later could be scrubbed and redacted. And the trial would be closed off completely, including to the press, during certain days of testimony deemed sensitive to Google’s business.
(anti)Republican Party budget charade
The shutdown threat would be off the table, under newly proposed legislation
[Government Executive, via Naked Capitalism 9-7-2023]
The End Shutdowns Act, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer, would create a mechanism by which, if full-year appropriations bills are not enacted by the start of a new fiscal year on Oct. 1, federal agencies would be funded automatically as if Congress had passed a continuing resolution. Funding levels for an agency or program would reflect the amount they received in the previous fiscal year, whether that was authorized by appropriations legislation or a previous continuing resolution.
The bill also aims to ensure Congress still moves promptly to end lapses in appropriations by restricting the types of legislation that the Senate may take up during a shutdown. Any appropriations or continuing resolution bill considered during a lapse in appropriations would automatically be considered “emergency” legislation, allowing it to be considered on an expedited basis.
Democrats' political malpractice
The Cost of Childcare Is About to Explode
Elliot Haspel, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]
On September 30, barring the intervention of Congress, $24 billion worth of pandemic relief funding for childcare will expire. This funding, part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan of 2021, has been used to provide stabilization grants to childcare providers reeling first from enrollment drops and now from staffing shortages. With the relief money drying up, programs have only bad options.
Congress Is on the Verge of Plunging Millions Into Food Insecurity
Grace Segers, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]
Salena Zito: Democrats beware: These Black voters are fed up, and looking for a political home
[Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
Thanks to Biden, the War Party is back
[Responsible Statecraft, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]
“As Robert Kagan, Nuland’s husband and leading neo-conservative pundit, puts it, ‘Superpowers don’t get to retire.’ Kagan asserts baldly what this crew believes: ‘The time has come to tell Americans that there is no escape from global responsibility…the task of maintaining a world order is unending and fraught with costs but preferable to the alternative.’ In reality, the time has come for a brutally honest assessment of the growing costs and increasing perils that come from the militarization of our foreign policy and the relentless effort to police the world. As the Quincy Institute’s Andrew Bachevich puts it, ‘Our actual predicament derives from the less than honest claim that history obliges the United States to pursue a policy of militarized hegemony until the end of time. Alternatives do exist.’ Unfortunately the Biden administration appears committed to the war party’s failed playbook of the past, and the rising costs of a global policy we neither need nor can afford.”
I Was A Young Radical-- Now I'm More Or Less Siding With The Establishment-- And I Don't Like It
Howie Klein, September 9, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
David Lauter has been covering politics for the L.A. Times since 1987. On Friday he described a situation that was awkward for me to think about. One of our parties is ruled by its grassroots who tells the old elites to fuck off. The other party is controlled by its elites and doesn’t care what the grassroots want. My whole life has been dedicated to Door #1. But that’s the MAGA door now and the kind of populism we’re talking about it the same kind of populism Hitler and Mussolini were talking about in the 1930s and that Orban is talking about today.
“It’s hard,” wrote Lauter, “to ignore just how many Americans would prefer not to face another election between President Biden and former President Trump. But ignoring the unhappiness is exactly what the nation’s two major parties seem determined to do: A rematch appears increasingly inevitable.”
There’s a great deal of discontent about the rematch and “how we got to this point says a lot about where power lies in the two parties. On the Republican side, Trump’s grassroots support is overriding the deep misgivings of party leaders. Among Democrats, the reverse is true: Party leaders and elected officials have significantly more enthusiasm for Biden— or concern about the alternatives— than do average voters. Republican leaders see Trump as a loser who will drag the party to defeat, much as they feel he did in 2018, 2020 and 2022. Most of the party’s voters don’t buy that. They see Biden as a sure loser. Beyond that, they also believe Trump is their strongest candidate.” ….
Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War
The Rise of Vivek. The Return of Masters. The College Libertarians Won’t Go Away.
[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism 9-4-2023]
... Blake Masters, who is reportedly planning another run for US Senate in Arizona after losing to Sen. Mark Kelly by five points in 2022.
Masters’ reasons for running again are not altogether obvious. His hard-right Senate campaign last year, which was bankrolled by his mentor and former boss Peter Thiel, defined how Republicans squandered the 2022 midterms by nominating candidates far out of step with voters. Masters called abortion “genocide,” repeatedly responded to news about gay people by saying “not everything has to be gay,” and published unsettling clips of himself shooting guns in the desert. The campaign deeply disturbed former close friends from his private day school and Stanford, who didn’t recognize the man they saw in the ominous videos. (Masters said he was inspired by the aesthetics of Terrence Malick, a director best known for a film about a sociopathic killing spree.)
This is not to say Masters had no fans. Last year, I reported that Masters had once written an email to his vegetarian coop at Stanford in which he called democracy “that miserably peculiar American diety [sic].” In another, he recommended an article that advocated for “the abdication of democracy” and replacing it with a world in which the masses accepted a “natural order” led by a “voluntarily acknowledged ‘natural’ elite—a nobilitas naturalis.”….
Like Masters, Ramaswamy has a “mutual friend” in Thiel, a billionaire who concluded long ago that his version of libertarianism was unlikely to be realized through democracy. Ramaswamy, who co-founded an anti-ESG investment firm with Thiel’s backing, is more optimistic about techno-reactionaries’ ability to gain power through the ballot box. The key is to disdain voters by telling them whatever they want to hear regardless of how much it contradicts reality. It might work and, even if it doesn’t, Ramaswamy will have had fun trying.
Jim Jordan and Wisconsin Republicans Know the Law—They Just Don’t Care
Michael Tomasky, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]
...So let’s be clear about two things going on this week that are direct attacks on democracy. Jim Jordan’s attempt to interfere with Fani Willis’s prosecution of Donald Trump and Wisconsin Republicans’ threat to impeach recently elected state Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz represent blatant efforts to crush law and custom and exert anti-democratic power over duly elected officeholders who happen to be doing things they don’t like.
We start with Jordan, who has repeatedly made clear that all he cares about is power. He recently wrote to Willis demanding that she turn over certain documents relating to her decision to prosecute Trump. His ridiculous letter asserted a federal interest in overseeing local prosecutions. She replied this week with an incendiary letter of her own laying out all the ways in which he’s wrong….
...Jordan is a lawyer. I’d say it’s far more likely that Jordan knows the law and doesn’t care. He’s the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and he has the power to subvert or change the law if he wants to.
Willis enumerates the many reasons why the federal government in all its forms has refrained from interfering in local prosecutions. Again, I would guess that Jordan knows all this. This is the point. He and his staff understand federalism. They just wish to trample it. In this case, that is. If and when defending Donald Trump requires howling about the precious importance of federalism, they’ll do that….
Now, to Wisconsin…. On what basis can the GOP impeach a judge who hasn’t violated any law and hasn’t done anything wrong? And remember, Republicans aren’t accusing her of having done anything wrong. They’re just saying she might make a ruling that might appear to be corrupt. And the reason they’re saying that is that Wisconsin is arguably the most corruptly gerrymandered state in the country. In last year’s midterms, Democratic Assembly candidates won about 200,000 more votes overall, but the Republicans maintained their two-thirds majority in the lower chamber….
That these two events are happening in the same week allows us to reflect on what has become of so-called conservatism. A conservative is someone who, well, conserves. As liberals see social problems and press for change to address them, conservatives say, Hey, wait a minute; let’s stop and think about the consequences of overreaction here, and about what we might be losing if we make the changes liberals want. I don’t agree with that stance and never have. But I acknowledge that it’s a legitimate way to look at the world, and I even acknowledge that sometimes, the conservative impulse can contribute to a decent, balanced outcome (or could, back in the days when there was actual compromise).
But these radicals don’t want to “conserve” anything, except for white people’s political power. They want to destroy. They aren’t just willing to trample law and custom. They are eager to do so. This must be understood. They seek opportunities to hack away at the pillars and foundations of democracy. They used to try to be sneaky and at least a little bit subtle about it. But since Trump, that’s out the window. In late 2018, it was this same Wisconsin Legislature, you may recall, that used its lame-duck session to move, after the election win of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, to limit the incoming governor’s powers.
Fani Willis lays out criminal case against false electors
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]
“On Dec. 14, 2020, the day presidential electors across the nation were required to meet and cast their votes, thereby affirming Joe Biden’s victory, dozens of Trump allies in seven states where Biden was the certified winner convened their own mock elector ceremonies, signing petitions claiming to be legitimate presidential electors and subsequently delivering them to Congress…. Shawn Still, Cathleen Latham and David Shafer — the former chairman of the Georgia Republican Party — were among the Trump allies who signed the false documents in Georgia, and they’ve been charged as part of a sprawling racketeering conspiracy aimed at subverting Georgia’s 2020 election. They’re also charged with false statements, forgery and other related charges. In recent court filings, all three have argued that they believed they were doing Trump’s bidding when they signed the false documents, pointing to the fact that Trump sent a campaign attorney to their Dec. 14 meeting who urged them to sign the documents to keep Trump’s election hopes alive. That attorney, Ray Smith, is also charged in the alleged conspiracy. The false Georgia electors are attempting to “remove” their criminal cases to federal court, where they could attempt to argue that they are immune from the state charges. At the heart of their argument is the claim that they acted at Trump’s behest — and, therefore, became appendages of the federal government. Federal law permits those acting as federal ‘officers’ to remove their cases to federal court if they’re charged with actions that relate to their official responsibilities.”
Want To Know What's Going On With The Impeachment Trial Of Suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton? It's A Fascist vs Conservative Fight To The Death In Texas
Howie Klein, September 9, 2023 [downwithtyranny.com]
….The Hill reported this week that Texas fracking billionaire Farris Wilks, his brother Dan Wilks [fascist campaign sugar daddies] and fellow Christian nationalist ally Tim Dunn have also been Paxton’s biggest benefactors. The three have given nearly $15 million to Defend Texas Liberty, the pro-Paxton PAC, since it was founded in 2020— $3.5 million of it since Paxton’s impeachment in June, as the Tribune reported. That PAC has also given more than $3 million to impeachment judge [neo-Nazi Dan] Patrick since the charges were announced in late June. But the mere fact of Paxton’s impeachment— alongside Tuesday’s failure by the far right to get those charges thrown out— suggests that the threat of the right-wing primary may no longer work to cow the business conservatives. ‘Anyone that votes against Ken Paxton in this impeachment is risking their entire political career, and we will make sure that is the case,’ right-wing activist Jonathan Stickland, who runs the pro-Paxton Defend Texas Liberty PAC, told Steve Bannon in a mid-August interview. Stickland singled out six Republican senators: Kelly Hancock (North Richland Hills), Mayes Middleton (Galveston), Bryan Hughes (Mineola), Charles Schwertner (Georgetown), Charles Perry (Lubbock) and Drew Springer (Muenster). ‘We’re gonna make all these six famous in the days ahead,’ Bannon replied, as Stickland threatened to sponsor primary campaigns against any Republicans who voted against Paxton. But only Hancock, from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, voted to throw out the charges entirely. Two others— Perry of the Panhandle city of Lubbock, and Schwertner, from a conservative suburb of liberal Austin— voted for less-sweeping measures that nonetheless would have effectively ended the trial… By defying Paxton’s supporters, the three dissidents, Middleton, Springer and Hughes, signaled their willingness to run the risk of the most fearsome threat that the Texas right can offer: a contested primary among the famously conservative Republican primary electorate."
A COURTROOM DRAMA ABOUT FEEDING UNHOUSED HOUSTONIANS
[Texas Observer, via Naked Capitalism 9-3-2023]
Cooper is one of many volunteers with Food Not Bombs Houston (FNBH) who is facing trial after the City of Houston began enforcing a decade-old ordinance that makes the group’s food distribution—which has been occurring at the site for about 20 years—illegal.
Houston Police officers have issued at least 63 citations to volunteers around the Central Library branch since Mayor Sylvester Turner declared the ordinance an enforcement priority earlier this year, according to a spokesperson for the municipal courts. The timing seemed strange to volunteers—the ordinance banning food-sharing had been in effect since 2012. The citations, issued for “conduct[ing] a food service event without consent of property owner” carry potential fines ranging from $254 (if volunteers don’t contest the tickets) to as much as $2,000. Rather than eating the fines, volunteers have been opting for jury trials. The ultimate goal is to overturn the ordinance itself.
How Trump’s Election Lies Left the Michigan G.O.P. Broken and Battered
[New York Times, via The Big Picture 9-3-2023]
Infighting between Trump acolytes and traditionalists has driven away donors and voters. Can the Michigan Republican Party rebuild in time for the presidential election?
Some Republicans Worry that a Trump Nomination Could Bring Steep Down-Ballot Losses for the GOP
[The Messenger, via DownWithTyranny, 9-6-2023]
[A] veteran activist cited the ritzy suburb of Atlanta, Johns Creek, as one example where otherwise solid Republicans who soured on Trump after January 6th will probably just stay home this election. “They voted for Biden and (Georgia Gov. Brian) Kemp. They don’t like Biden, but he is less icky (than Trump). But if they don’t have Kemp (on the ballot) maybe they don’t turn out at all.”
…In a side meeting at a “cattle call” of Republican candidates in Atlanta last month, one conservative leader described gathering with other top activists discussing the 2024 playing field. At the outset, nobody mentioned the name of the former president, but once one person did, the worries poured forth: Trump will depress the suburban vote for Republicans. Women will stick with Democrats. Trump’s fired-up base of diehards and populists will keep carrying him over the line in Republican primaries and “normie” Republicans will keep staying home— they won’t vote for Democrats, but they won’t vote Trump either.
All of which could crush other Republicans running, these conservative operatives say.
“We’re worried about Cruz’s re-election chances,” the conservative leader told The Messenger. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will appear on the ballot the same as Trump (most likely) in Texas. The group that gathered in Georgia is concerned that swaths of moderate and center-right voters in the state’s expansive suburbs will take a powder, leaving Cruz and other Texas Republicans hanging.
Another Christian influencer arrested for child abuse: Why conservatives keep falling for these cons
[Salon, via Naked Capitalism 9-9-2023]
Highways are the next antiabortion target. One Texas town is resisting.
[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-3-2023]
A new ordinance, passed in several jurisdictions and under consideration elsewhere, aims to stop people from using local roads to drive someone out of state for an abortion.
Alabama exposes a new constitutional landmine on abortion
[MSNBC, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-2023]
“After the Supreme Court decimated abortion rights last year, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall proclaimed that organizations that helped Alabama abortion seekers access services out of state could face criminal conspiracy charges in Alabama…. Marshall argues that he can prosecute speech that facilitates abortion travel just as he could ‘prevent a mobster from asking a hitman to kill a rival.’ Here, too, it’s hard to predict what Marshall and others like him will be able to get away with. The law on crime-facilitating speech is murky. Some lower courts have held that intentionally or knowingly providing information that might help another commit a crime is not protected by the First Amendment.”
Republicans Want New Term for “Pro-Life” After Losing So Many Elections
Tori Otten, September 8, 2023 [The New Republic]
The Christian home-schooler who made ‘parental rights’ a GOP rallying cry
[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 9-3-2023]
On a private call with Christian millionaires, home-schooling pioneer Michael Farris pushed for a strategy aimed at siphoning billions of tax dollars from public schools.
Judge dismisses 14th Amendment lawsuit against Trump, rules plaintiffs lack standing
[Palm Beach Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-5-2023]
“In her swift dismissal of the case, Judge Robin Rosenberg, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, did not determine the 14th Amendment’s applicability in Trump’s case. Instead, Rosenberg ruled that the plaintiffs, Boynton Beach attorney Lawrence Caplan and two others, lacked “standing” to bring the challenge.”
Could the 14th Amendment keep Trump off the ballot in 2024?
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-6-2023]
“In the traditionally first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, Secretary of State David Scanlan (R) has asked the state’s attorney general to examine the issue and its potential applicability in the upcoming presidential election…. In the battleground state of Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) recently said “there are valid legal arguments being made” for keeping the former president off the ballot and that it’s something she is discussing with election officials in other states. In a recent interview with MSNBC, she said states will ‘likely need to act in concert, if we act at all’ regarding the constitutional challenges and predicted the issue will ultimately be settled in courts…. In Arizona, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) has said that he does not have the authority to bar Trump from the ballot, but that the question about Trump’s eligibility is not settled. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said when asked about Trump and the 14th Amendment that voters ‘deserve the right to decide elections.'” • Interesting that Benson wants to join hands with other Democrats so they can jump off the cliff together. I wonder if anybody is orchestrating that effort.
Lawfare podcast on procedural issues relating to 14th Amendment disqualification
Ned Foley, September 8, 2023 [electionlawblog.org]
Scott Anderson of Lawfare led a thorough and well-organized discussion of the various procedural hurdles and obstacles associated with litigation over section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, with Derek and me as participants. I think it would be particularly useful for those who’d like to follow the ins and outs of this convoluted topic.
Constitutional debate over Trump’s eligibility to run more extensive than realized
[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-7-2023]
“The idea of barring former President Donald Trump from seeking the presidency on grounds that it would violate the 14th Amendment may be an increasingly catchy constitutional argument pushed by a segment of legal scholars and activists. But it turns out election officials have been discussing how to handle it for months. ‘We have been thinking about this in my office for quite some time, before the start of the year, assuming that this will play out,’ Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said in an interview. Underscoring the seriousness with which she has been treating the topic, Griswold noted that ‘there have been conversations among secretaries” about it.”
American Oligarchy: How Warren Buffett’s billionaire son took over a U.S. city and made it his personal playground.
[The Lever 9-5-2023]