Sunday, November 10, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 10, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – November 10, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Yanis Varoufakis – Capitalism, Democracy and Europe
[Brave New Europe, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]
The first two decades after World War II were the Golden Era of capitalism for a very simple reason: Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was projected onto the rest of the West under the Bretton Woods system. It was a remarkable, though imperfect, system, a kind of enlightenment without socialism. Structures to restrain financial capital were put into place. Banks could not do as they pleased; that’s why bankers hated the Bretton Woods system. Recall that Roosevelt banned bankers from attending the Bretton Woods conference and subjected them to reserve controls and rules against shifting money across international borders. 
The result of the Bretton Woods system was a remarkable reduction in inequality concurrent with steady growth, low unemployment, and next to zero inflation.
Note that this  "Golden Era of capitalism" is never discussed in the same way by conservatives and libertarians, because of their ideological hostility to Roosevelt and the New Deal. 

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

The World Has Gone Mad and the System Is Broken
Ray Dalio [LinkedIn, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-19]
Money is free for those who are creditworthy because the investors who are giving it to them are willing to get back less than they give. More specifically investors lending to those who are creditworthy will accept very low or negative interest rates and won’t require having their principal paid back for the foreseeable future. They are doing this because they have an enormous amount of money to invest that has been, and continues to be, pushed on them by central banks that are buying financial assets in their futile attempts to push economic activity and inflation up. The reason that this money that is being pushed on investors isn’t pushing growth and inflation much higher is that the investors who are getting it want to invest it rather than spend it. This dynamic is creating a “pushing on a string” dynamic.... 
At the same time as money is essentially free for those who have money and creditworthiness, it is essentially unavailable to those who don’t have money and creditworthiness, which contributes to the rising wealth, opportunity, and political gaps. Also contributing to these gaps are the technological advances that investors and the entrepreneurs that I previously mentioned are excited by in the ways I described, and that also replace workers with machines. Because the “trickle-down” process of having money at the top trickle down to workers and others by improving their earnings and creditworthiness is not working, the system of making capitalism work well for most people is broken.

This set of circumstances is unsustainable and certainly can no longer be pushed as it has been pushed since 2008. That is why I believe that the world is approaching a big paradigm shift.
Given the pent-up demand to create and build what the world needs to exit the era of fossil fuels, this situation is insane.

Modern Cities Breed Alienation. Insurgent Urbanists Are Pushing Back.
[TruthOut, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-19]
From a young age, consumerist settings are normalized to pair as social spaces. For millennial children, malls were the place to gather and cause trouble with friends. As people grow older the allure of the mall may wane, but many still socialize in spaces of consumption such as bars, cafes and clothing stores. It can be difficult to find imaginative, urban spaces designed to facilitate connections with others at no cost. 
Urban design that fails to promote community building is one of the many factors that contribute to Americans’ feelings of loneliness. A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Economist found 2 out of 10 Americans often or always feel lonely, and another study revealed an even higher rate. 
But cities are not designed accidentally; urban planning is driven by private and political interests. Political power “often seeks to reorganize urban infrastructures and urban life with an eye to control restive populations,” City University of New York geography professor David Harvey wrote in his book, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
Governments can control the movement of impoverished, homeless populations with “hostile” architecture, such as the installation of lights under bridges and spikes on public surfaces.
[Simple Flying, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-19] 
Named after the utensil used to pierce and handle pickles, pickle forks are the component that attach the plane’s body to its wing structure. These components help to “manage the stress, torque and aerodynamic forces that bend the connection between the wings and the body of the jet”.

According to KOMO News, pickle forks are “designed to last more than 90,000 landings and takeoffs without cracking…and there could be dire results if the system fails”. A former Boeing engineer who asked to remain anonymous tells KOMO that the issue is especially concerning as it was found relatively early in the plane’s service: “It’s unusual to have a crack in the pickle fork. It’s not designed to crack that way at all. Period.”
[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19] 
According to Wikipedia: the "Beeching Axe... were a reduction of route network and restructuring of the railways in Great Britain, according to a plan outlined in two reports, The Reshaping of British Railways (1963) and The Development of the Major Railway Trunk Routes (1965), written by Dr Richard Beeching and published by the British Railways Board." The Wikipedia entry is very detailed and informative, and makes clear that the neoliberal assault on public services began in Britian in the 1950s and 1960s, long before Alfred Kahn convinced President Jimmy Carter and Senator Edward Kennedy to apply the same policies to airlines, trucking, and railroads in USA. 
John Clapham- senior official of Bank of England

The End of Neoliberalism and the Rebirth of History
Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nov 4, 2019 [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 11-8-19] 
The form of globalization prescribed by neoliberalism left individuals and entire societies unable to control an important part of their own destiny, as Dani Rodrik of Harvard University has explained so clearly, and as I argue in my recent books Globalization and Its Discontents Revisited and People, Power, and Profits. The effects of capital-market liberalization were particularly odious: If a leading presidential candidate in an emerging market lost favor with Wall Street, the banks would pull their money out of the country. Voters then faced a stark choice: Give in to Wall Street or face a severe financial crisis. It was as if Wall Street had more political power than the country’s citizens. 
Even in rich countries, ordinary citizens were told, “You can’t pursue the policies you want” – whether adequate social protection, decent wages, progressive taxation, or a well-regulated financial system – “because the country will lose competitiveness, jobs will disappear, and you will suffer.”
....We are now experiencing the political consequences of this grand deception: distrust of the elites, of the economic “science” on which neoliberalism was based, and of the money-corrupted political system that made it all possible.

The reality is that, despite its name, the era of neoliberalism was far from liberal. It imposed an intellectual orthodoxy whose guardians were utterly intolerant of dissent. Economists with heterodox views were treated as heretics to be shunned, or at best shunted off to a few isolated institutions.
Who Owns Silicon Valley 
[San Jose Mercury-News, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19] 
IN A REGION where real estate equals influence, prestige and prosperity, just 10 power brokers — a mix of technology behemoths, commercial and residential developers and one private university — own about $59.2 billion in taxable property, making them the largest landowners in Silicon Valley.... The 10 largest owners alone control more than 11 percent of all the taxable property in the county.... 
The county’s largest property owner is Stanford University, birthplace of some of the valley’s best-known tech companies. The university owns roughly $19.7 billion worth of taxable property, according to the analysis of records for fiscal year 2018. 
Four tech companies join Stanford in the top 10: Apple owns about $9 billion in assessed property and Google has $7.5 billion, primarily in their office campuses in Cupertino and Mountain View, respectively. Google also has recently purchased large swaths of downtown San Jose for a campus expected to include offices, housing and retail. Cisco Systems owns $3.4 billion while Intel’s total is $2.5 billion. 
Those companies trace the evolution of tech in the valley, from industry veteran Intel, the most important of the chip manufacturers that put the silicon in Silicon Valley; to Cisco and Apple, middle-aged firms that build the computers, smart devices and networking infrastructure we rely on every day; to Google, just two decades old and one of the leading companies born of the internet. 
The other five top owners are real estate development companies, all but one with decades-old ties to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. They are San Francisco-based Jay Paul Company and Mountain View-based Sobrato, both of which specialize in commercial real estate; and Prometheus Real Estate Group and Essex Property Trust, both founded in San Mateo, each owning more than a billion dollars worth of apartment buildings, although Prometheus also owns hundreds of millions of dollars worth of office and research properties. 
The only outlier is The Irvine Company, a relative newcomer to this region best known for master-planning the city of Irvine in Orange County. Spotting opportunity in the valley’s boom, the privately-owned company has amassed $5.9 billion in apartments, offices, research and even some manufacturing buildings in Santa Clara County, much of it in the past six years.
Monsanto Wins $7.7 Billion Lawsuit in Brazil – but Farmers’ Fight to Stop its ‘Amoral’ Royalty System Will Continue
[Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]
Monsanto wins $7.7 billion Brazil lawsuit – thus preventing farmers from saving seeds for replanting if the seeds are harvested from Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready soybeans.
[ProMarket, via The Big Picture 11-6-19; Naked Capitalism 11-8-19]
The anecdotal evidence is overwhelming: most full-time full-year workers cannot generate a decent standard of living for themselves, much less for a small family. This indictment is confirmed by the statistical evidence: last year, half of all workers were paid below $18.80 per hour (the median wage), and 20 percent were paid less than $11.91. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, it takes a wage of $14 to $18 per hour for a single full-time worker to cover a basic-needs budget, and between $24 and $32 for a single adult and one child.

While the wage paid for the vast majority of America’s jobs cannot adequately support a full-time worker and her child, wage growth has been explosive at the very top of the wage distribution, leading to an immense four-decade-long increase in wage inequality....
...if the relationship between the number of decent jobs and GDP during the 1980s expansion had been maintained—as GDP grew from $6.4 in 1979 to $16.2 trillion in 2014—there would have been 8.2 million more decent jobs by the first quarter of 2001, 13.9 million more by the fourth quarter of 2007, and 23.5 million more by the fourth quarter of 2014....

Measured by the incidence of lousy-, low- and decent-wage jobs, American job quality has declined substantially since the late 1970s, most disastrously for young workers without a college degree. This decline took place as both productivity and GDP increased. It also took place as educational attainment increased substantially. For example, the share of non-college degree workers with some college increased from 28 to 47 percent between 1979 and 2017.

The collapse in American job quality can be traced back to the late 1970s and then takes off in the early 1980s, the first years of the Reagan administration. The timing is no coincidence. As Angus Deaton explains, the U-turn towards exploding inequality is in large part due to political choices: “In the face of globalization and innovation, many of us would argue that American policy, instead of cushioning working people, has instead contributed to making their lives worse, by allowing more rent-seeking, reducing the share of labor, undermining pay and working conditions, and changing the legal framework in ways that favor business over workers.”

In Deaton’s words, these are “mechanisms of enrichment” that generate inequality “through upward transfers from workers,” a view consistent with the evidence presented here of a profound four-decade shift from decent to low- and lousy-wage jobs.
How Misleading Economic Analysis Is Corrupting Our Democracy
Laurie Macfarlane [openDemocracy, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19] 
The example is Britain, but the idea applies as much to USA.

[Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-19] 
Brilliant!  Click through to see the pics!

[Fast Company, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19] 
“Our map is a comprehensive snapshot of all food flows between counties in the U.S.—grains, fruits and vegetables, animal feed, and processed food items.” 
“China’s design for the electric-vehicle battery supply chain is anything but complicated. 
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19]
"Beijing has been pressuring foreign auto makers to use locally-made batteries in the country, and that business is increasingly funneled through a single manufacturer, Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd., or CATL. …[T]he aggressive effort is aimed at dominating global supply chains for the burgeoning market to supply the power to the world’s growing fleet of electric cars, buses and commercial vehicles.... That’s a concern for U.S. and European policy makers, who are increasingly wary of the Communist Party’s influence over new technologies and products. China has also been seeking to lock up much of the world’s supply chain for cobalt, a vital battery component. The drive has given CATL a commanding role as new technology triggers an upheaval in automotive supply chains, and suppliers elsewhere now are struggling to keep up.”
How mega infrastructure projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America are reshaping development 
[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-19] 

Climate and environmental crises

“Tibet’s Rivers Will Determine Asia’s Future” [The Diplomat, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19] 
“The Tibetan plateau is a rich repository of indispensable freshwater resources that are shared across Asia. After damming most of its rivers, China is now casting its eyes on the major international rivers flowing out from the Tibetan plateau, heralding a new era of damming Tibet’s rivers. Tibet, known as the “Water Tower of Asia,” serves as the source of 10 major Asian river systems flowing into 10 countries, including many of the most densely populated nations in the world: China, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan. China, through its political control over Tibet, has complete upper riparian control over all major rivers flowing out of the Tibetan plateau.”
“The Aral Sea Is Dying, Putting 60 Million People at Risk” 
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]  
“More than 60 million people in six nations—Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—rely on the rivers leading to the Aral. In the decades since the fracturing of the Soviet Union, cross-border competition for water, coupled with rapidly accelerating climate change, has made a bad situation worse. The two rivers that feed the basin, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, carry to the Aral about 10% of the water they did before Soviet industrial projects took hold in the 1960s…. More than 60 million people in six nations—Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan—rely on the rivers leading to the Aral. In the decades since the fracturing of the Soviet Union, cross-border competition for water, coupled with rapidly accelerating climate change, has made a bad situation worse. … The challenges involved in restoring and protecting the Aral’s resources are substantial. While the nations involved vary in their level of development, an overall loss of expertise and technology over the last two or three decades will require the the building of institutions before the problems can even begin to be addressed.”
“The lost river” 
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]  
“The Colorado originates in the Rocky mountains and traverses seven US states, watering cities and farmland, before reaching Mexico, where it is supposed to flow onwards to the Sea of Cortez. Instead, the river is dammed at the US-Mexico border, and on the other side the river channel is empty. Locals are now battling to bring it back to life.”

[Motherboard, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-19]
In her testimony, Namoi Oreskes, a Harvard professor and American historian of science, explained that while ExxonMobil is on trial for deceiving investors about the climate crisis, it’s still unclear how Exxon’s vast disinformation campaign—one facet of a much larger climate denial information apparatus—is funded. 
“I would like to see Congress subpoena the CEOs of leading fossil fuel corporations and their allies, and question them under oath, as Congress did for tobacco,” Oreskes told the Senate Democrats.
Over 1,500 California fires in the last 6 years — including the deadliest ever — were caused by one company: PG&E. Here’s what it could have done, but didn’t. 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-19] 

As Delhi Declares Emergency Over Air Quality, a Look at What Needs to Be Done
[The Wire, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-19]
[Barents Observer, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19]

What the climate’s ‘new normal’ is doing to Lake Superior 
[MinnPost, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19] 
The world’s biggest lake by surface area, Superior happens to hold one-tenth of the fresh water on the face of the Earth. Its volume equals those of Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario combined, plus several more Eries....
Now the lake and its shoreline communities are experiencing a series of climate impacts that run queasily parallel to the problems of saltwater coasts that have become familiar in recent decades: storms of unusual fierceness and destruction, intensifying rainfall patterns, accelerating coastal erosion and infrastructure losses, overwhelmed wastewater treatment systems, icky (and potentially harmful) algal blooms....

Plenty of Minnesotans well remember the so-called “500-year storm” that struck Duluth in June 2012; fewer may connect the dots between that monster and the “1,000-year” event of July 2016 that was roughly centered on Ashland, followed by another “1,000-year” storm in June 2018 that caused havoc from Ashland to Houghton, Michigan.
Matt Hudson, a Northland faculty member who specializes in watershed restoration, pointed out that the Ashland region has been designated as rainfall “hotspots” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – official recognition of current, continuing precipitation patterns far outside historical norms. In Ashland’s case, the volume of rain in heavy storms nowadays is at least 37 percent greater than what was “normal” in the mid-1900s. 
Unfortunately, those obsolete rainfall data are the basis of calculations made by engineers and transportation planners when they design roadbeds and determine the size of culverts needed to channel floodwaters underneath them.... 
Infrastructure being expensive, Hudson said, planners face difficulty in persuading governments to invested in culvert upgrades based on storm volumes that are still supposed to be once- or twice-in-a-millennium occurrences. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency has rules that allow aid for infrastructure replacement but not enhancement, which encourages continued investment in outdated capacities.
[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]
“Here we survey more than 272,000 infrastructure elements in California using an airborne imaging spectrometer that can rapidly map methane plumes…. Methane ‘super-emitter’ activity occurs in every sector surveyed, with 10 per cent of point sources contributing roughly 60 per cent of point-source emissions… Methane point-source emissions in California are dominated by landfills (41 per cent), followed by dairies (26 per cent) and the oil and gas sector (26 per cent). Our data have enabled the identification of the 0.2 per cent of California’s infrastructure that is responsible for these emissions.”

Restoring balance to the economy

[Capital & Main, via Naked Capitalism 11-4-19] 

[Washington Post  11-6-19]

Information Age Dystopia

The physical footprint of the digital world
What's happening:
  • A staggering stat: More than 1.5 million packages are delivered in New York City every day.
  • Per CBRE, a commercial real estate company, demand for smaller warehouses that are closer to cities is rapidly outpacing demand for big properties in more remote parts of the country.
  • Uber and Lyft have admitted their cars are making traffic worse.
  • Restaurants are adding virtual outposts, which are kitchens — without waiters or tables — that exist solely to prepare orders for delivery, per the New York Times.
  • Grocery stores are doing the same, reports CNN Business. Walmart, Albertsons, Stop & Shop and others are propping up "dark stores" that are closed to shoppers and just serve to fulfill online orders.
‘Game-Changer’ Warrant Let Detective Search Genetic Database
[New York Times 11-5-19]
A court order,allowed a detective to access an entire consumer DNA database, including users who had opted out of searches by law enforcement. Privacy experts said it could set a precedent, opening up all consumer DNA sites to law enforcement agencies across the country.

“That’s a huge game-changer,” one expert said. “The company made a decision to keep law enforcement out, and that’s been overridden by a court. It’s a signal that no genetic information can be safe.”
[New York Times 11-5-19]
To detect and stop women who might be pregnant from having abortions. 

“Warehouses Are Tracking Workers’ Every Muscle Movement” 
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-19]
“[E]ach time [Jack] Westley bends too deeply to pick up a box or twists too far to set one down, the device on his chest vibrates to send a warning that his chance of getting hurt is elevated. Westley noticed he’d developed a habit of bending at the waist as he reached far into pallets to pull out boxes. “That might’ve been something they would vibrate on me for, but I started walking around to the sides of the pallets, you know, thanks to the reminder,” he says…. Unions and researchers who study workplace surveillance worry that employers who begin gathering data on workers for whatever reason will be unable to resist using it against them. Productivity tracking is already widespread throughout the industry—and workers can be fired or punished if their performance dips. The opacity of data-analysis tools can make it difficult for workers to fully understand how much employers can see.”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Engineers have figured out how to charge electric car batteries in 10 minutes 
[Fast Company, via The Big Picture 11-5-19]

[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 11-6-19]
Researchers in Sweden say they have a solution that would allow the power of the sun’s rays to be used across a range of consumer applications—heating everything from homes to vehicles.

Scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg have figured out how to harness the energy and keep it in reserve so it can be released on demand in the form of heat—even decades after it was captured. The innovations include an energy-trapping molecule, a storage system that promises to outperform traditional batteries, at least when it comes to heating, and an energy-storing laminate coating that can be applied to windows and textiles.
[Railway Age 11-5-19]
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board used one unanimous vote to clear the way for the electrification of the state’s commuter rail system.... The cost of upgrading the system is yet to be determined, but according to the MBTA’s 2040 Commuter Rail Vision, two alternatives for electrification would cost between $10.6 billion and $28.9 billion. Three pilot programs would cost $1.5 billion.
Hyundai Rotem ships out first Korail EMU-250
[Railway Age] Nov. 4, 2019
Hyundai Rotem has shipped the first 260km/h EMU-250 high-speed train from its Changwon plant to Korean national operator Korail, which ordered 114 high-speed EMUs to operate on new and upgraded lines across the country.
[Changwon, located on the southeast coast of South Korea, has a  population of 1.07 million, making it South Korea's ninth-most populous city. So, no, the South Koreans are NOT importing their high HSR trains from China. Contrary to the beliefs of USA ruling elites, they have found a way to make protectionism work. Actually, they copied it from USA circa 1862. ]

[Machine Design 11-1-19]
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a way to 3D print living skin, complete with blood vessels. The advancement is a significant step toward creating grafts that are like the skin our bodies produce naturally.... 
A significant barrier to that integration has been the absence of functioning vascular blood vessels in the skin grafts. 
Karande has been working on this challenge for several years, and has shown that researchers can turn two types of living human cells into “bio-inks” and print them into a skin-like structure. Since then, he and his team have been working with researchers from Yale School of Medicine to add blood vessels. 
He and his team recently discovered that if they add key elements, including human endothelial cells (which line the inside of blood vessels) and human pericyte cells (which wrap around the endothelial cells), along with animal collagen and other structural cells typically found in a skin graft, the cells start communicating with each other and form a blood vessel network within a few weeks.
The fusion energy dream is inching toward planet-saving reality 
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-19]
....the world’s biggest fusion effort involves a collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. These entities have contributed tens of billions of dollars for a giant fusion experiment in southern France called ITER, with the goal of producing net energy. Construction began on a 103-acre site in 2010. Now, after delays, the device is projected to turn on in 2025, with the first production of net energy plasma — the superheated fourth state of matter — planned for 2035. A major milestone in the construction is scheduled for March, when the nearly 100-foot, 1,370-ton base of the largest stainless-steel high-vacuum pressure chamber ever built will be installed.

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

When Did Democrats Lose the South? 
[Policy Tensor, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]
“If Trump wins re-election while losing by 5 million votes” 
Damon Linker [The Week, via Naked Capitalism 11-5-19]
How could it happen? Trump remains quite competitive in the states that put him over the top in the Electoral College last time — Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Those are states he would likely carry, as he did last time, by a relatively narrow margin. Meanwhile, Trump's extreme and intense unpopularity among Democrats points to a 2020 vote in which the margin of his loss in "blue" states could be enormous. Instead of winning an anemic 31.6 percent of the vote in California, as he did in 2016, Trump might realistically pull in just 25 percent in 2020. If something similar happens in Oregon, Washington state, Illinois, New York, and throughout New England — in other words, if the country's bluest states become even bluer in 2020 than they were in 2016 — then the Democrat's popular vote win could climb quite a bit higher than it was then, with Trump still managing to win the presidency in the Electoral College.

That's when things could really go off the rails.

Democrats would be faced with a truly alarming situation. The president they loathe would be deeply unpopular on a national basis, as he has been for the entirety of his first term. They themselves would know they are favored by millions more voters than he is. And yet they would nonetheless be frozen out of the presidency. Again — for the third time in six presidential elections, and with the gap between the popular vote and Electoral College outcome growing each time....

And it's not just the presidency. Democrats face considerable obstacles to winning majority control of the Senate, too....

....that means Democrats, despite their significantly greater popular support in the country at large, are likely to be denied control of the presidency as well as the Senate for some time to come. And because those branches of government play a decisive role in making lifetime appointments to the judiciary, Democrats could well end up thwarted across almost the entirety of the federal government (with only the lower house of Congress realistically winnable). 
In that case, the will of the majority would not so much be checked, as the Constitution intends, as completely blocked on nearly all fronts — very much including those fronts that enable unpopular institutions (like the Electoral College) to be reformed. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would find themselves trapped in a system in which they possess almost no institutionally legitimate means to reach and exercise meaningful political power. 
That's an untenable situation. There is no democracy in the world that would remain politically stable under such circumstances.

“Shit Neolibs Say: The Democrat to Progressive Translator” 
[Medium, via Naked Capitalism 11-6-19]
A handy-dandy guide to what Establishment Dems say as opposed to what they mean.
  • We don’t need your votes: But we’ll blame your lack of support for our inevitable loss.
  • Medicare for All will never happen: There is no way we’re pissing off our insurance industry donors just to save the lives of the hoi polloi.
  • Let’s just get a Dem in the White House and worry about policy later: We have absolutely no intention of disturbing the status quo.
[Dissent, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19] 
“”Professional-managerial class” (PMC), a term coined by Barbara and John Ehrenreich in a 1977 essay for Radical America, has recently emerged from academic obscurity as a shorthand, of sorts, for technocratic liberalism, or wealthier Democratic primary voters, or the median Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member, depending on who you ask.” 
Lambert Strether adds: "This is a really good interview worth reading in full if you’re interested in the DSA, or in a non-dogmatic history of the ins-and-outs of left organizing from the late 70s on. Ehrenreich is an interesting figure. And some of the incidents ring really, really true to me."

Keynote address by Thomas Frank.  Mellon Advancing Intercultural Studies Conference, University of California - Riverside, March 7, 2019.

Health Care Crisis

[Health Care Renewal, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-19]
As we wrote in 2006… in 1988, Alain Enthoven, an original member and driving force of the Jackson Hole group, published a short manifesto about “managed competition.” (Entoven AC. Theory and Practice of Managed Competition in Health Care Finance. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1988.) This is now not easy to find (but see Amazon here).

In this volume, Enthoven expounded on his scheme to wrest power over health care from physicians and give it to managers and bureaucrats. Enthoven thought of physicians as part of a tightly organized “guild,” that is, an economic alliance. His model for this was a pre-World War II document from a French medical society. Basically, he thought such guilds, which he believed to be in place in all Western democracies except in the UK and Scandinavia, were based on principles that were “not the natural expression of a free market in health care,” (p.33) and furthermore, that the guild model associated with health insurance “makes it very difficult for government or private payors to control cost growth,” (p.41) while they paradoxically “can also produce poor service (p. 42). To combat physicians’ overwhelming economic power, Enthoven called for managers to use “tools they have found to counteract market failure.” (p. 98) Finally, he suggested using a coordinated strategy to “break up the guild,” noting that “overcoming the guild has not been easy in the United States…. However, the guild has broken down.” (P. 122)
It never ceases to amaze me that writers of otherwise excellent articles like this fail to fully research key figures in their story. Alain Enthoven was a premier RAND Corp. nuclear war strategist who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1965, and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, from 1965 to 1969. Body counts in Vietnam? Yeah, that's Enthoven. I remember about two decades ago reading that Enthoven was changing his focus from the military to health care, and physically shuddered in revulsion at the likely consequences. 

Disrupting mainstream politics

A Bipartisan Attack on the Homeless in Texas 
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-19]
From health care to immigration, Democrats must straddle the line between a working-class constituency and the donor class that finances their campaigns. The Democratic Party will side with the poor and the working class, but only when they feel pressure from below or can opportunistically differentiate themselves from the Republican Party. The heavyweights of the Texas Democratic Party like Lloyd Doggett, Beto O’Rourke, Wendy Davis, and Julián Castro may soon take up the mantle of fighting for the houseless poor — a shift that housing organizers should be credited for. But I’m not counting on people in power to hold the line against a Republican Party that fights to win.
Joe Biden: An Anti-Endorsement
The Nation, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-19]
“[W]hile the enduring loyalty of Biden’s black supporters is to his credit, the very tenacity of that loyalty diminishes race as a factor at a time when white nationalism is a growing threat. His early withdrawal might well boost candidates of color into the currently all-white top tier.”
Biden’s long record of poor judgment—on everything from the 1994 crime bill that fueled mass incarceration to his botched handling of Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas to his defense of Bill Clinton’s brutal welfare cuts to his support for the Iraq War to his role as cheerleader for Wall Street deregulation—renders him an even weaker opponent for a president whose reelection poses a clear and present danger to America’s survival as a constitutional republic. Stumbling through the primaries, Biden’s zombie campaign crowds out worthier challengers, handing Trump a free pass on the very issues that should be his Achilles’ heel.

The Dark Side

‘Political Corruption in Real Time’: Viral Video Shows North Carolina GOP Sabotaging Democracy in Effort to Secure Corporate Tax Cuts 
[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 11-3-19]

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