Sunday, October 25, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 25 2020

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy –  October 25 2020

by Tony Wikrent


See something? Report voter suppression and obstacles to voting.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-20

Strategic Political Economy

The Enemies Briefcase
Andrew Cockburn [Harpers, November 2020, via Wall Street on Parade 10-18-20]

At some point in the first term, however, experts surmise that an even more secret briefing occurs, one that has never been publicly acknowledged. In it, the new president learns how to blow up the Constitution.

The session introduces “presidential emergency action documents,” or PEADs, orders that authorize a broad range of mortal assaults on our civil liberties. In the words of a rare declassified official description, the documents outline how to “implement extraordinary presidential authority in response to extraordinary situations”—by imposing martial law, suspending habeas corpus, seizing control of the internet, imposing censorship, and incarcerating so-called subversives, among other repressive measures. “We know about the nuclear briefcase that carries the launch codes,” Joel McCleary, a White House official in the Carter Administration, told me. “But over at the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department there’s a list of all the so-called enemies of the state who would be rounded up in an emergency. I’ve heard it called the ‘enemies briefcase.’ ”

These chilling directives have been silently proliferating since the dawn of the Cold War as an integral part of the hugely elaborate and expensive Continuity of Government (COG) program, a mechanism to preserve state authority (complete with well-provisioned underground bunkers for leaders) in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Compiled without any authorization from Congress, the emergency provisions long escaped public discussion—that is, until Donald Trump started to brag about them. “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,” he boasted in March, ominously echoing his interpretation of Article II of the Constitution, which, he has claimed, gives him “the right to do whatever I want as president.” He has also declared his “absolute right” to build a border wall, whatever Congress thinks, and even floated the possibility of delaying the election “until people can properly, securely, and safely vote.”


Rochester AFL-CIO Calls for General Strike if Trump Steals Election 

[Payday Report, via Naked Capitalism 10-19-20]

Evo Morales’s Party’s Massive Victory Is a Rebuke to US Elites Who Hailed the Coup 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 10-20-20]

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 18, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy –  October 18, 2020

by Tony Wikrent


See something? Report voter suppression and obstacles to voting.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-20]

The Epidemic

Steps for Reducing COVID Transmission 

[GoogleDoc) Cyrus Maher [UCSF, via Naked Capitalism 10-11-20]

Lambert Strether’s intro: “This is the must-read for the week. It’s not only a review of the literature, it’s packed with useful, pragmatic information, and very simply and clearly written. Slide 11: Aerosol FTW; slide 20: the “Swiss Cheese” model; plus a series of slides on preventing exposure, reducing exposure, and improving your odds if you are exposed starting at slide 24; see especially slide 48. (Caveat lector: There is a pitch to enroll in UCSF’s clinical trial.)”

Inside the Fall of the CDC 

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism 10-11-20]

Lambert Strether notes: “ the first real explanation, nine months after the fact, of the CDC Covid testing debacle* (originally blamed on contractors, IIRC). My preference for coverage priorities would be: 1) Neoliberal hollowing out; 2) the testing debacle; and 3) political interference, because the first two corrode the clout of the CDC and lead to the third, and this article reverses that order, but it’s nevertheless very good. NOTE * Casting doubt on the ability of the PMC to regulate itself, exactly like the ObamaCare MarketPlace launch debacle. PMC professional associations also have this issue.”

Strategic Political Economy

How Deep Will the Depression Get? – Paul Jay interview of Rana Foroohar and Mark Blyth

[, October 8, 2020, via comments on Ian Welsh 10-12-20] the elites get it? Yeah, they absolutely get it. And let me give you a couple of examples. They get it, and they think they’re going to be able to weather the storm….  But the idea was in their minds that the biggest companies, the Googles, the Facebook’s, the Buydo’s, the Alibaba’s had become so big that they were like the East India Company now. They are sort of sovereign international states that float above the nation-state, . . . and that they actually kind of formed their own consensus... these corporations now have so much control and big tech does have way more control even than big finance did because it can actually influence our behavioral patterns because of surveillance, capitalism, and algorithmic behavioral manipulation….

“. . .I used to do . . . finance conferences with big finance. [so I] have 25 of them in the room, all of . . . the big money in the room and I would say the following, talking about politicians and the quality of political capital, ‘it’s gone down over time, and that’s a big problem’

” ‘So how many of you folks would let the people that you [put in office to] run countries by funding them, run your money and your firm?’ and they would all burst out laughing. And then when the laughter died down, I would say, and now you can tell me what’s funny about that because ultimately your firms are dependent on the governments of those countries, the policies that they provide. And it was almost a moment of shame where they went. . . . this points to something that our Marxists colleagues have known for the longest time that while it’s irrational for any individual capitalist to maximize their short-run interests, it’s collectively suicidal.”

Monday, October 12, 2020

Nerdgasm—Thoughts on Tesla's Battery Day

Like many, I was looking forward to what Elon Musk would say about what is easily the most critical and expensive part of building an electric vehicle—the batteries. The presentation was literally breath-taking. Several times I found myself holding my breath as I tried not to miss any important details. Musk and company had gone to great lengths to simplify their descriptions of what they were attempting. Unfortunately for me, I hadn't taken a Chemistry course since 1966 so I found myself fishing in some forgotten waters. Fortunately, it was easy to watch repeats on YouTube so eventually the requisite understanding returned. (I needed four tries ;-)

There is really no sustainable energy future without effective storage. Anyone who has ever lost their electricity knows that life gets extremely difficult VERY fast. Yes, I know humans survived without electricity in hazardous places such a North Dakota in winter. But those people were unusually hardy, strong, and clever. Even so, preparations for winter began the first days of spring. If you had trees, you chopped wood. Trees are stored energy. Unfortunately, there aren't many trees in North Dakota. Fortunately, there are energy sources that will sustain human life up there—lignite coal and then after the 1950s, oil and natural gas. Now that burning fossil fuels has become a big no-no, North Dakota also has abundant wind power but harnessing it as a practical matter requires storage.

Energy storage has been the big scary boogieman since the invention of fire. We like to treat the problem socially the same way we treat hauling out the trash and for many of the same reasons—it is UGHLEE. Clear-cut forests, oil refineries and tank farms, and the like smell funny and in myriad ways are offensive if not serious health hazards. Storage is especially tricky when the energy is electricity. Electricity moves at roughly the speed of light. With tiny exceptions, therefore, electricity must be used the instant it's produced. While this nearly instantaneous speed is easily electricity's most useful characteristic, it seriously hampers more widespread adoption of renewable energy.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 11, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy –  October 11, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Dear Readers — I had no choice but to abandon Blogger this past week. The workaround to the miserable new version of Blogger, suggested by a reader two weeks ago, simply would no longer work. So, sorry that this post comes a good bit later in the day than past posts.  


See something? Report voter suppression and obstacles to voting.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-20]

Strategic Political Economy

“Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti of The Holy Father Francis On Fraternity And Social Friendship”

[The Vatican, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-7-20]

From the section “Re-envisaging the social role of property”:

119. In the first Christian centuries, a number of thinkers developed a universal vision in their reflections on the common destination of created goods.[91] This led them to realize that if one person lacks what is necessary to live with dignity, it is because another person is detaining it. Saint John Chrysostom summarizes it in this way: “Not to share our wealth with the poor is to rob them and take away their livelihood. The riches we possess are not our own, but theirs as well”.[92] In the words of Saint Gregory the Great, “When we provide the needy with their basic needs, we are giving them what belongs to them, not to us”.[93]

120. Once more, I would like to echo a statement of Saint John Paul II whose forcefulness has perhaps been insufficiently recognized: “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone”.[94] For my part, I would observe that “the Christian tradition has never recognized the right to private property as absolute or inviolable, and has stressed the social purpose of all forms of private property”.[95] The principle of the common use of created goods is the “first principle of the whole ethical and social order”;[96] it is a natural and inherent right that takes priority over others.[97] All other rights having to do with the goods necessary for the integral fulfilment of persons, including that of private property or any other type of property, should – in the words of Saint Paul VI – “in no way hinder [this right], but should actively facilitate its implementation”.[98] The right to private property can only be considered a secondary natural right, derived from the principle of the universal destination of created goods. This has concrete consequences that ought to be reflected in the workings of society. Yet it often happens that secondary rights displace primary and overriding rights, in practice making them irrelevant.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 27, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 27, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Slouching toward denouement 

Capitulation Will Not Halt Trump’s Coup
David Sirota, September 24, 2020
An important review of political events last week. Yoy may not agree with Sirota's interpretation, but his analyses has proven correct repeatedly. Remember that Sirota accurately outlined the future course of American politics in his 2008 book, The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington
After Democrats spent the weekend signaling surrender on the Supreme Court vacancy and suggesting they have no appetite to fight over the judiciary or threaten to expand the court, Trump on Wednesday declared that he may not agree to a peaceful transfer of power, and he openly admitted that he is trying to rush through a judicial nominee so that the court can give him a second term. He suggested that he will “get rid of the ballots” and “there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."
....Amid this onslaught, Democrats are behaving as if you can stop a coup merely by telling people to vote in an election where their ballots might get thrown out.  But the lesson here is the converse: Democrats’ culture of learned helplessness is no match for authoritarianism.
If opposition party [Democratic Party] lawmakers don’t stop imagining a return to normalcy and brunch — and if millions of Democratic voters don’t start immediately demanding that their party’s leaders begin fighting to stop Trump’s court pick right now — then whatever is left of American democracy is probably finished....
The Crescendo Of The GOP’s War On Democracy
What we see in this sequence of events is the simultaneous and horrifying culmination of the different kinds of “by any means necessary” pathologies that define each party. On the Republican side, this pathology is a relentless amoral quest for power that originally led the party into the realm of voter suppression and that now has resulted in a GOP president openly working to end democracy.

There is no pretense. There is no deception. This is a right-out-in-the-open attempt to destroy the system that lets voters choose their governmental leaders — and that initiative is happening not only in Washington, but in the states.

“According to sources in the Republican Party at the state and national levels, the Trump campaign is discussing contingency plans to bypass election results and appoint loyal electors in battleground states where Republicans hold the legislative majority,” The Atlantic reported yesterday....
The Democrats’ Learned Helplessness
This pathology has been long in the making. For years now, Democratic politicians have come to know that a generation of liberals raised on The West Wing and MSNBC roundtables has been inculcated to not merely tolerate selling out — but to laud it as an act of political savvy. If abandoning, say, pledges to support unions and helping the GOP grind workers into the dust theoretically helps a Democrat outmaneuver a Republican in a swing-state election, the Democratic voter is led to believe that this move must be Good, Smart and worthy of applause. Respect for institutions, bipartisanship and manners is more important than outcomes. 
Ironically, this capitulation-lauding mindset that prioritizes winning hasn’t actually won much — it has corresponded with some of the largest Democratic electoral losses in modern history, allowing the rise of the Republican fascism that now threatens to destroy our country.
David Sirota, September 20, 2020

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 20, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 20, 2020
by Tony Wikrent 

  If this is the last Wrap for a while, this is the reason: “Google, nobody asked for a new Blogger interface”  [TenFourFox Development, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 9-17-20]  
“I’m writing this post in what Google is euphemistically referring to as an improvement. I don’t understand this. I managed to ignore New Blogger for a few weeks but Google’s ability to fark stuff up has the same air of inevitability as rotting corpses…. 
When I copy and paste an entire post, such as from RealEconomics (where I write it using Blogger) to IanWelsh or into email for distribution ALL THE LINKS ARE DESTROYED ! ! ! !  They still appear as links, but the URLs all go to the Blogger page I am writing on. HOW DID THIS MAJOR PROBLEM GET THROUGH QUALITY CONTROL? Is there any Quality Control? This is beyond crappification. This renders the new Blogger useless! 

Strategic Political Economy

Frederick Soddy’s Debt Dynamics [Economics from the Top Down, via Naked Capitalism 9-13-20]
In the field of ecological economics, Frederick Soddy looms large. Born in 1877, Soddy became a chemist and eventually won a Nobel prize for work on radioactive decay. Then he turned his attention to economics. Between 1921 and 1934, Soddy wrote four books that looked at how money relates to the physical economy. For his ground-breaking work, Soddy was rewarded with deafening silence.... Like a good natural scientist, Soddy insisted that human society is constrained by the laws of physics. Humans survive, he noted, by consuming natural resources. Exhaust these resources and we’re done for.
Think of humans (and our economy), says Soddy, like a machine. We transform energy into physical work. Like all machines, we’re bound by the laws of thermodynamics, which say that you can’t get something for nothing. Energy output requires energy input. That means humans are forever dependent on natural resources.
Now comes the problem. Our biophysical stock of resources — what Soddy called ‘wealth’ — is bound by the laws of thermodynamics. But money — which Soddy called ‘virtual wealth’ — is bound only by the laws of mathematics. Money can grow forever. Natural resource extraction cannot. This mismatch, Soddy claimed, is the root of most economic problems.

Monday, September 14, 2020

The People, NO—Thomas Frank's new book on anti-Populism

Thomas Frank is a brave man. He has decided to discover how the political movement of Populism has been degraded into a term of slander. This is a project long overdue because only a tiny fraction of those who use the term populism have any idea that this was once a fiercely debated set of ideas passionately believed by many people struggling to solve extremely difficult problems. In my experience, most people worldwide with a university education believe that a populist is an ignorant hick who is terrified of learning and modernity—a bad person to be shunned.

Like Frank, I believe that is a terrible, historically inaccurate, lie. Unfortunately that's the conventional "wisdom". Correcting this terrible ignorance requires far more patience than I have. When confronted with people with fancy degrees from name colleges who wrongly use the word populism to demonstrate their intellectual horsepower, I find it difficult to contain my rage. The reason is that their definitions of Populism bears almost zero relationship with the historical movement that invented the term. Frank got a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago so believes that these rotten examples of useless protoplasm can be reasoned with. The People, NO doesn't pull many punches. It is lovingly crafted—a graceful result of thousands of hours of hard work. Whether that is enough to change any minds...we'll see. But we can hope because real Populism is probably the only system of organized thought that has any chance of addressing the serious problems facing humanity these days.

Waiting for packages was a well-practiced skill of my youth. It was an unavoidable hazard of my small town life. I wanted to read Thomas Frank's latest book on the history of Populism, The People, NO, badly enough to go through the rituals of preordering and I still had a five-week wait. The reasons I wanted a first crack at this book include:
  • I have tried to read everything Frank has written ever since I got hooked by reading his The Conquest of Cool. Frank's writing is graceful, accurate, nuanced and complex without lapsing into pretentiousness. In Conquest, he tries to explain how and why the political and cultural passions of the 60s quickly faded into a costume show. As a survivor of the antiwar movement, I had seen multiple examples of exactly that phenomenon including in myself—long hair, bell-bottomed jeans, Red Wing work boots, army surplus shirts, etc. I was especially impressed when he wrote, "If I got it wrong, remember, I wasn't there." Yes, but he still got it very right. There's a lot to be said for diligent research.
  • Kansas is Frank's home. Over the years he has reminded us that historically, the Sunflower State can lay legitimate claim to having birthed the People's Party. And even though I have spent most of my life in Minnesota, Kansas has played an out-sized role in developing my own Populist inclinations. My father came from Kansas and his father farmed his whole life. My great grandfather came to Kansas from Sweden in 1873, the very year the USA would return to the gold standard after the Civil War—triggering the nasty agricultural depression that would essentially last until the outbreak of WW I. But he had two years of horticultural studies at the University of Lund so he not only survived, but had six 160 acre farms to distribute to his children after my great grandmother died during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. Meanwhile, my mother's parents were struggling to keep their tiny farm alive in central Minnesota. This grandfather was a voracious reader and spent a significant fraction of his meager disposable income buying the Appeal to Reason and later, the Little Blue Books, both published in Girard Kansas.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 13, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 13, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Some graphs and comments for LABOR DAY
Tony Wikrent September 7, 2020 [Real Economics]

Industrial Revolutionaries: To understand how to revitalize our economy, you only have to look back to the founders.
Ganesh Sitaraman, September 10, 2020 [The American Prospect]
As policymakers discuss what industrial policy should look like today, the four traditions in American industrial policy offer important lessons. First and foremost, any public policy that shapes or structures a sector of the economy is an industrial policy, even the Jacksonian approach, which rejects strategic planning in any coherent sense. The choice to let powerful individuals and corporations pursue the industries they want, structure them how they want, and lobby government for ad hoc policy changes is just as much of an industrial policy as anything else, albeit not a very good one. Indeed, the “return” of industrial policy is better described as a rejection of the Jacksonian tradition.
For those who advocate for a new industrial policy, the Hamiltonian tradition offers a natural starting point. But the risks inherent in the Hamiltonian approach should be particularly concerning at this moment. There is already a pervasive view that the system is rigged, captured and corrupted by the powerful. Industry concentration in sector after sector is at an apex, bringing economic and geographic inequality with it. Applying the Hamiltonian approach in narrow areas, like determining supply chain needs or the production of public-health materials in a crisis, is both inevitable and desirable. But the agenda for contemporary Hamiltonians must be more than advocating for industrial policy; it must also be designing policies to prevent regulatory capture, whether as a function of lobbying, the revolving door, or personal friendships and elite culture. Failure to do so threatens greater inequality of wealth and power, and with it, the possibility of oligarchy or another populist backlash. 
The Madisonian and Franklinian traditions, meanwhile, are in serious need of revival. Massive public spending in research and development, a public option for broadband and postal banking, and network infrastructure regulation, from tech platform rules to net neutrality, could provide a new foundation for discoveries and commerce. At the same time, antitrust enforcement and the revival of separation-of-function regimes in tech, telecom, banking, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and other sectors will revitalize competition, enhance innovation, reduce the power of rent-seeking lobbyists, and ensure a more equitable economy through all regions of the country. These two traditions also work together as a system: Government-funded research and regulated network infrastructure provide the foundation and keep the country investing in a longer-term future; a competitive ecosystem sits atop that base, pursuing innovation in a manner that doesn’t concentrate wealth or power. 
The challenge for Madisonians and Franklinians is that their traditions have been deliberately attacked for decades by Jacksonians, so much so that they are largely forgotten, and if remembered, much maligned.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Some graphs and comments for LABOR DAY

For Labor Day today, David Sirota wrote:
if we hope to ever rebuild an economy that works for everyone, we’re going to need many more workers in unions and a much stronger labor movement.
and posted this graph:

Sirota continued:
This graph comes from the Economic Policy Institute — it shows the relationship between union density and the percentage of national income going to the richest 10 percent of Americans. As you can see, the larger the share of the American workforce that’s unionized, the lower the share of national income goes to the super-rich — and vice versa.
I would like to reinforce Sirota's point by adding a graph from Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century, page 24.

Clearly, there are four shifts that occur:
  • Around 1928, when income inequality stops rising;
  • Around 1940, when income inequality begins to be overcome; 
  • Around 1945, when this improvement ends and income inequality remains about the same for the next three decades; and
  • Around 1980, when income inequality suddenly begins to worsen.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 6, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 6, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

RIP David Graeber

David Graeber, Caustic Critic of Inequality, Is Dead at 59
[New York Times 9-4-20]

Anthropologist David Graeber, the man behind ‘We are the 99%’ slogan, dead at 59
[RT, via Mike Norman Economics 9-3-20]

Graeber's 2001 book, Debt: The First 5000 Years, ruthlessly slaughtered one of the most sacred cows of mainstream economic orthodoxy -- that barter was the first means of economic transactions. Graeber conclusively marshaled the archaeological and anthropological evidence that debt older than both barter and cash. Unsurprisingly, orthodox economists have ignored Graeber's work to this day. 

R.I.P. David Graeber
Ian Welsh, September 5, 2020
At age 59, he had probably another 10 years and two or three books, possibly important, in him. 
De Gaulle quipped that “the graveyards are full of indispensable (people)” and mostly he’s right, most people’s deaths don’t matter much to anyone who didn’t know them. Someone will replace them who will do about as good a job. But an intellectual or artist worthy of the name is, in some sense, indispensable. There are works they will not do, and if they don’t do them no one will. 
I didn’t know Graeber, and I can’t claim to be personally sad. But he had important work still to be done, and no one will do it now. And without him to defend Debt from its attackers, it will lose luster and importance (because it’s the sort of book which must be destroyed by status-quo defenders, as it suggests capitalism is not what it claims to be.)
Manners, Deference, and Private Property: Or, Elements for a General Theory of Hierarchy
pdf, by David Graeber, 2007

Strategic Political Economy

Oligarchy and Democracy From the Civil War to the Present
Bill Moyers interview of Heather Cox Richardson, August 3, 2020 [CommonDreams]
Yes, the Civil War brought an end to the slave order of the South and the rule of the plantation oligarchs who embodied white supremacy. But the Northern victory was short lived — Southern ideals spread quickly to the West.
HEATHER COX RICHARDSON: And in that West, they discover a land that is already susceptible to the idea of racial and gendered hierarchies, because it has its own history of them. And it’s a place out there where the new American system happens to be a really fertile ground for the Confederate ideology to rise again. And that’s exactly what happens with the extractive industries in the West that encouraged the heavily capitalized cattle markets, for example, or mining industries, or later oil, or even agribusiness. You have in the West a development of an economy and, later on, a society that looks very much like the pre-Civil War South. And over the course of the late 19th century, that becomes part of the American mythology, with the idea that you have the cowboy in the West who really stands against what Southerners and Northern Democrats believe is happening in Eastern society, that a newly active government is using its powers to protect African Americans and this is a redistribution of wealth from taxpayers to populations that are simply looking for a government handout. That’s language that rises in 1871, and that is still obviously important in our political discourse.... 
But the image that has obtained in our textbooks and in our popular culture is the American cowboy, who is beginning to dominate American popular culture by 1866. And that cowboy — a single man, because women are in the cowboy image only as wives and mothers, or as women above the saloons in their striped stockings serving liquor and other things — is a male image of single white men. Although, again, historically a third of cowboys were people of color. It’s a single white man working hard on their own, who don’t want anything from the government. Again, historically inaccurate. The government puts more energy into the American plains than it does any other region of the country. But– 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 30, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 30, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Articles of impeachment drawn up against Gov. Mike DeWine over coronavirus orders
[, via Naked Capitalism 8-26-20]
A key principle of republicanism is public virtue: if your self-interests conflicts with the general welfare, you have a duty to not oppose the general welfare. Clearly, the principle of republicanism is dead in this country, hence, it is no longer a republic. Some of the most discomfiting passages from the speeches and writings of the foundering era of USA dealt with the issue of a people becoming unfit to govern themselves.

Another key principle of republicanism is that citizens must not be dependent on anyone else if they are to be able to judge public affairs with sufficient disinterestedness to make the general welfare their major concern. This principle created major problems, however, as it was used to justify restricting the vote on "men of means" only. This created an opening for ruling elites to establish oligarchy, especially in the South. In practice, it meant white supremacy. As Dayen writes below: "The way you control labor is that you don’t pay enough to ever have workers be comfortable."

The Logic of the Boss
David Dayen, August 27, 2020 [American Prospect]
The absolute last person you should ever ask about a labor action connected to racial justice is Jared Kushner. So of course CNBC did just that this morning. Kushner told Andrew Ross Sorkin: "The NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially." 
There’s an implicit logic of the boss embedded in here. The way you control labor is that you don’t pay enough to ever have workers be comfortable. You keep people reliant on the boss so they never get crazy ideas in their head like using their power for positive change, for themselves or the society at large. 
In the 1960s, cheap college tuition and a lower cost of living gave space to young antiwar radicals to devote themselves to sustained protest. The diminishing of higher-education support and the rise of student loans weren’t exactly responses, but it was a nice side benefit. The cleaving away of labor from productivity, the skyrocketing of inequality, the breaking of the labor movement, a federal minimum wage that hasn’t increased since the second Bush administration—this all snuffs out personal agency and the ability to speak out. Keep someone dependent on their paycheck, and their health insurance too, and you’ve put a lid on mass action. 
The NBA is leading the way together, and Jared Kushner wants to keep people afraid and alone.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 23, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 23, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

The Pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-20-20]
Estimated cost of recent epidemics/pandemics:
SARS (2003) - $40 billion
H5N1 (2006) - $40 billion
H1N1 (2009) - $45 billion
Ebola (2014) - $55 billion
COVID-19 (2020) - $8.8 TRILLION
Investing in public health preparedness is FAR cheaper than the economic impact of a pandemic.
3:57 PM · Aug 19, 2020
Something Remarkable Just Happened This August: How the Pandemic Has Sped Up the Passage to Postcapitalism
Yanis Varoufakis, August 22, 2020 [Lannan Foundation, via Naked Capitalism]
Following the crash of 2008, capitalism changed drastically. In their attempt to re-float the crashed financial system, central banks channelled rivers of cheap debt-money to the financial sector, in exchange for universal fiscal austerity that limited the middle and lower classes’ demand for goods and services. Unable to profit from austerity-hit consumers, corporations and financiers were hooked up to the central banks’ constant drip-feed of fictitious debt. 
Every time the Fed or the European Central Bank or the Bank of England pumped more money into the commercial banks, in the hope that these monies would be lent to companies which would in turn create new jobs and product lines, the birth of the strange world we now live in came a little closer. How? 
As an example, consider the following chain reaction: The European Central Bank extended new liquidity to Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank could only profit from it if it found someone to borrow this money. Dedicated to the banker’s mantra “never lend to someone who needs the money”, Deutsche Bank would never lend it to the “little people”, whose circumstances were increasingly diminished (along with their ability to repay any substantial loans), it preferred to lend it to, say, Volkswagen. But, in turn, Volkswagen executives looked at the “little people” out there and thought to themselves: “Their circumstances are diminishing, they won’t be able to afford new, high quality electric cars.” And so Volkswagen postponed crucial investments in new technologies and in new high quality jobs. 
But, Volkswagen executives would have been remiss not to take the dirt-cheap loans offered by Deutsche Bank. So, they took it. And what did they do with the freshly minted ECB-monies? They used it to buy Volkswagen shares in the stock exchange. The more of those shares they bought the higher Volkswagen’s share value. And since the Volkswagen executives’ salary bonuses were linked to the company’s share value, they profited personally – while, at once, the ECB’s firepower was well and truly wasted from society’s, and indeed from industrial capitalism’s, point of view....
My difference with fellow lefties is that I do not believe there is any guarantee that what follows capitalism – let’s call it, for want of a better term, postcapitalism – will be better. It may well be utterly dystopic, judging by present phenomena. In the short term, to avoid the worst, the minimum necessary change that we need is an International Green New Deal that, beginning with a massive restructuring of public and private debts, uses public financial tools to press the oodles of existing liquidity (e.g. funds driving up money markets) into public service (e.g. a green energy revolution).

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 16, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 16, 2020
by Tony Wikrent 

The pandemic

Do Masks Work Or Not?? Proving Whether Masks Stop Covid-19 Transmission with Uncle Rob [YouTube, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-11-20] 
If you know someone who insists wearing masks does not work, or COVID is a hoax, get them to watch this, And remind them they have responsibilities, not just free-dumbs.   

Lee Nackman, August 13, 2020
Lee Nackman is president of the Progressive Caucus of the North Carolina Democratic Party
This is a two-step proposal to save America: (1) Defeat the virus by a serious lockdown and (2) help people through it by giving them plenty of money to meet their needs (and possibly more) during the lockdown.

It gives money directly to the people and it gives every working-age person the same amount regardless of whether or not they “need” it. This keeps the program simple, free of excessive bureaucracy, and fair. It costs a lot but delivers a lot. It puts decision-making about what businesses to support in the hands of the people who know best, not in the hands of lobbyists and campaign contributors. Both Democrats and Republicans should like parts of it.

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-12-20] 
“Farmers routinely make changes to their acreage intentions as the calendar advances, substituting in different crops if the weather mucks up their original plans. But leaving the ground bare is new territory for U.S. farmers who typically plant fencerow to fencerow, trying to squeeze profit out of every available acre. The most recent acreage data from the government showed corn and cotton plantings in particular were far below initial expectations, with corn seedings in June dropping the most from March in 37 years. The coronavirus pandemic caused many farmers to give up on their corn crop before it was even in the ground.”

“How The Pandemic Humiliated Critics Of Medicare for All” 
[Walker Bragman, Too Much Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-14-20] 
 “When the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States, it spurred on remarkable message discipline among America’s political class. The consensus that emerged on both sides of the aisle dictated that no matter what happened, Americans ought to be glad they do not live in a country with socialized medicine…. [N]ow, just a few months later, these arguments completely and utterly fail. New infections are still surging in the U.S. while countries with national health care programs have long since gotten a handle on the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more new COVID cases in a single day than Italy, France, and the U.K. reported last month combined, and roughly 45 percent of their total deaths.”

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 9, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 9, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Kansas Should Go F— Itself 
Matt Taibbi, August 2, 2020
Review of Thomas Frank’s new book The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism 
Frank published What’s the Matter with Kansas? in 2004, at the height of the George W. Bush presidency. The Iraq War was already looking like a disaster, but the Democratic Party was helpless to take advantage, a fact the opinion-shaping class on the coasts found puzzling. Blue-staters felt sure they’d conquered the electoral failure problem in the nineties, when a combination of Bill Clinton’s Arkansas twang, policy pandering (a middle-class tax cut!) and a heavy dose of unsubtle race politics (e.g. ending welfare “as we know it”) appeared to cut the heart out of the Republican “Southern strategy.”

Yet Clinton’s chosen successor Al Gore flopped, the party’s latest Kennedy wannabe, John Kerry, did worse, and by the mid-2000s, Bushian conservatism was culturally ascendant, despite obvious failures. Every gathering of self-described liberals back then devolved into the same sad-faced anthropological speculation about Republicans: “Why do they vote against their own interests?”

Frank, a Midwesterner and one of the last exemplars of a media tradition that saw staying in touch with the thinking of the general population as a virtue, was not puzzled....

Frank ripped the political strategy of Clinton Democrats, who removed economic issues from their platform as they commenced accepting gobs of Wall Street money in a post-Mondale effort to compete with Republicans on fundraising. Gambling that working-class voters would keep voting blue because “Democrats will always be marginally better on economic issues,” New Democrats stopped targeting blue-collar voters and switched rhetorical emphasis to “affluent, white collar professionals who are liberal on social issues.”.... Perceiving correctly that there would be no natural brake on this phenomenon, since the executive set was able to pay itself more and more as the country grew more divided, Frank wondered, “Why shouldn’t our culture just get worse and worse, if making it worse will only cause the people who worsen it to grow wealthier and wealthier?”

When I was first sent out to cover the Donald Trump campaign years later, I assumed the editorial concept would be simple: mockery. New York’s infamous “short-fingered vulgarian” had taken over national headlines in the summer of 2015 with a foul-mouthed stream-of-consciousness rap, organized around an impossible Pharaonic wall project and scare tales about rape-happy Mexicans – the Diceman doing Pat Buchanan. If this was taking over the Republican Party, there wasn’t much to report. The enterprise was doomed, and journalism’s only mission was to make sure the silliest bits were captured before being buried under the sands of history.

Twenty minutes into my first Trump campaign event, I knew this was wrong, and was seized by a sinking feeling that really hasn’t left since. Trump in person sounded like he’d been convinced to run for president after reading What’s the Matter with Kansas? His stump act seemed tailored to take advantage of the gigantic market opportunity Democrats had created, and which Frank described. He ranted about immigrants, women, the disabled, and other groups, sure, but also about NAFTA, NATO, the TPP, big Pharma, military contracting, and a long list of other issues.

America Is About To Feel Like A 3rd World Nation 
Ian Welsh, August 7, 2020
America’s about to make a double digit percentage of its population homeless. Something like 20 to 30%, or more of American small businesses have or will shut down by the end of the pandemic. The jobs won’t all come back and those that do will pay worse and feature worse treatment than the ones before (which were mostly not well paid and featured routine meanness.) We’re talking about 30 million to 60 million homeless.... 

America is “undeveloping.” It is moving from being a developed nation to being an undeveloped nation.

“A Historian of Economic Crisis on the World After COVID-19” (interview with Adam Tooze)
[New York Magazine, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-7-20]

Why has the balance of power between governments and bondholders shifted so dramatically? Or was the figure of the “bond-market vigilante” — who would punish states for excessive spending by dumping their debt — always a bogeyman in the developed world? 

To be honest, I think we’re all still struggling to figure this out. To offer a definitive answer would not only be conceited on my part; it would fail to capture the slightly shocking historical novelty of the situation. I feel like we’ve all just stumbled out of a cave into this wide-open space and are still blinking in the sun.

But if you ask me to put my finger on it, I would point to three elements. One is the political economy of inflation: the notion that democratic politics tend toward inflation. That was at the core of the entire complex of thinking around both central-bank independence and this idea of aggressive capital markets that defend the interests of wealth-holders against publics that are always trying to take that wealth away, whether through taxes or inflation. But the engine of this political economy was class antagonism. And that’s gone now because — as Warren Buffett has said — the class war is over, and his side won. And that changes the entire game.
The sense of flux is quite something. And I think it’s characteristic of this moment. The single thing that is most different from the ’90s is that orthodoxy just doesn’t seem very strong right now. We’re in a state of ferment. Much more so than in 2009, when people were just so panicked; they’d never seen quantitative easing before, and it was all a bit strange and weird. And then we kind of regressed to sadly conventional fiscal policy by 2010. Which could happen again. But at least in intellectual terms, the current moment is quite different from what it was in 2008.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 2, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 2, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

How to hide from a drone – the subtle art of ‘ghosting’ in the age of surveillance
[Tech Explore, via Naked Capitalism 7-29-20]

Strategic Political Economy

Chinese Banks Urged To Switch From SWIFT And Drop USD In Anticipation Of US Sanctions
[Reuters, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-20]
China should prepare for potential U.S. sanctions by increasing use of its own financial messaging network for cross-border transactions in the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, according to a report from the investment banking unit of Bank of China...

Foreign Affairs — It Is Time to Abandon Dollar Hegemony–Issuing the World’s Reserve Currency Comes at Too High a Price
[Foreign Affairs, via Mike Norman Economics 7-29-20]
Time to resurrect Keynes (and E. F. Schumacher's) bancor proposal made at Bretton Woods but rejected in favor of using the US dollar as the global reserve currency? President Nixon famously ended the Bretton Woods agreement when he closed the gold window, ending dollar convertibility into gold at a fixed rate. This set the world on a floating rate monetary system with the USD remaining the reserve currency.
The War Nerd: Amateurs Talk Cancel, Pros Talk Silence
[Exiled, The War Nerd, via Naked Capitalism 7-27-20]
Victorian Britain carried out several of the biggest genocides in human history. It was also a high point of virtuous literature.
Because they were smart about language. They didn’t rant about the evil of their victims or gloat about massacring them, at least not in their public writings. They wrote virtuous novels, virtuous poems. And left a body count which may well end up the biggest in world history.
Open genocidal ranting is small-time stuff compared to the rhetorical nuke perfected by Victoria’s genocidaires: silence. The Victorian Empire was the high point of this technology, which is why it still gets a pass most of the time. Even when someone takes it on and scores a direct hit, as Mike Davis did in his book Late Victorian Holocausts, the cone of Anglosphere silence contains and muffles the explosion. Which is why Late Victorian Holocausts is Davis’s only book that didn’t become a best-seller. 
Davis was among the first historians with the guts and originality to look hard at some of the Victorian creeps who killed tens of millions — yes, tens of millions — of people from the conquered tropics: 
The total human toll of these three waves of drought, famine, and disease could not have been less than 30 million victims. Fifty million dead might not be unrealistic.” 
An English radical of the Victorian Era, William Digby, saw the scope of the horror: “When the part played by the British Empire in the nineteenth century is regarded by the historian fifty years hence, the unnecessary deaths of millions of Indians would be its principal and most notorious monument.”
....Let’s take a far more serious case: Eric Hobsbawm, still revered as canonical Marxist historian of the UK. As Davis notes, Hobsbawm does “mention” the Irish Famine, but — and if any phrase ever deserves to be written in all-caps, this phrase from Late Victorian Holocausts does: “Hobsbawm…makes no allusion in his famous trilogy on nineteenth-century history to the worst famines in perhaps 500 years in India and China.” 
There are no excuses for this. There are reasons, but as the song says, “It doesn’t make it all right.” Still, once the rage passes and you stop clenching your jaw ’til it aches, there are reasons. Most of all, there’s a deep Imperial skill in the trope of silence. The stupid Nazis ranted and raved and lasted 13 years, then got completely destroyed. The Empire kept its rants for private letters, passed on to a guild of coopted historians, pundits, and publishers—and has never been called to account.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Reality is disrupting the ideology of today’s Republican Party -

This is from the blog of Heather Cox Richardson, author of the recently released How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. In this book, Richardson describes how the ideology and ideas of Confederates were spread into the far west after the Civil War, eventually leading to the rise of anti-government ideologues such as Barry Goldwater Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich, and the Republican Party's complete betrayal of its founding principles and the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. This is history that demolishes the worldview of deluded centrists such as Joe Biden who still believe in "bipartisan" governance.

by Heather Cox Richardson
July 26, 2020

Reality is disrupting the ideology of today’s Republican Party.

For a generation, Republicans have tried to unravel the activist government under which Americans have lived since the 1930s, when Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and invested in infrastructure. From the beginning, that government was enormously popular. Both Republicans and Democrats believed that the principle behind it—that the country worked best when government protected and defended ordinary Americans—was permanent.

But the ideologues who now control the Republican Party have always wanted to get rid of this New Deal state and go back to the world of the 1920s, when businessmen ran the government. They believe that government regulation and taxation is an assault on their liberty, because it restricts their ability to make money.

They have won office not by convincing Americans to give up their own government benefits—most Americans actually like clean water and Social Security and safe bridges—but by selling a narrative in which “Liberals” are trying to undermine the country by stealing the tax dollars of hardworking Americans—quietly understood to be white men—and redistributing them to lazy people who want handouts, not-so-quietly understood to be people of color and feminist women. According to this narrative, legislation that protects ordinary Americans simply redistributes wealth. It is “socialism,” or “communism.”

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 26, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 26, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

“Biden Just Made A Big Promise To His Wall Street Donors” 
[David Sirota, Too Much Information].
“....Biden told his Wall Street donors that actually, he is not proposing any new legislation to rein in corporate power or change corporate behavior — and this was reported exactly nowhere, even as his campaign blasted it out to the national press corps.”
Perhaps the kindest way to explain Biden is that he is an institutionalist, and just can't walk away from his belief that nothing needs to "fundamentally change." The problem is, that all institutions are failing, spectacularly. And this is a potentially large vulnerability for the Democrats, if the pandemic slows down enough to allow Trump to invoke right-wing populist attacks: 

Whose century?
Adam Tooze [LRB, via Naked Capitalism 7-24-20]
“In 1949, ‘Who lost China?’ was the question that tortured the American political establishment. Seventy years later, the question that hangs in the air is how and why America’s elite lost interest in their own country. Coming from Bernie Sanders that question wouldn’t be surprising. But it was more remarkable to hear William Barr, Trump’s attorney general, describe American business as ‘part of the problem’ because its corporate leaders are too focused on their stock options and have lost sight of the ‘national view’ and the need to ensure that ‘that the next century remains a Western one’. He warns corporate executives lobbying for China that they may be treated as foreign agents.”

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 19, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 19, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Neoliberalism requires a police state 

“Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets” 
[Oregon Public Broadcasting, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20] 
“Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least July 14. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off. The tactic appears to be another escalation in federal force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and President Donald Trump have said they plan to “quell” nightly protests outside the federal courthouse and Multnomah County Justice Center that have lasted for more than six weeks. Federal Officers Shoot Portland Protester In Head With ‘Less Lethal’ Munitions Federal officers have charged at least 13 people with crimes related to the protests so far, while others have been arrested and released, including Pettibone. They also left one demonstrator hospitalized with skull fractures after shooting him in the face with so-called “less lethal” munitions July 11. Officers from the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and Customs and Border Protection’s BORTAC, have been sent to Portland to protect federal property during the recent protests against racism and police brutality. But interviews conducted by OPB show officers are also detaining people on Portland streets who aren’t near federal property, nor is it clear that all of the people being arrested have engaged in criminal activity. Demonstrators like O’Shea and Pettibone said they think they were targeted by federal officers for simply wearing black clothing in the area of the demonstration.”
The Border Patrol Was Responsible for an Arrest in Portland
[TheNation, via Naked Capitalism 7-17-20]
 A memo consisting of internal talking points for the federal agency responsible for the arrest, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and obtained exclusively by The Nation provides some answers—and raises even more questions.

Dated July 1, the memo is titled “Public Affairs Guidance: CBP Support to Protect Federal Facilities and Property” and marked “For Official Use Only.” It describes a special task force created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence. That task force, the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), has been tasked not only to assess civil unrest but also to “surge” resources to protect against it.
The Portland arrest of Mark Pettibone, first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, followed several similar arrests involving officers from a Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC)—CBP’s equivalent of a SWAT team—as well as the US Marshals Special Operations Group. A CBP spokesman confirmed to The Nation that CBP agents were responsible for the arrest, pointing to authorities under the Protecting American Communities Task Force.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 12, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 12, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Supreme Court Rules That About Half Of Oklahoma Is Native American Land
[NPR, July 9, 2020]
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that about half of the land in Oklahoma is within a Native American reservation, a decision that will have major consequences for both past and future criminal and civil cases. 
The court's decision hinged on the question of whether the Creek reservation continued to exist after Oklahoma became a state. "Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of fed­eral criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion. The decision was 5-4, with Justices Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in the majority, while Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.  
The ruling will have significant legal implications for eastern Oklahoma. Much of Tulsa, the state's second-largest city, is located on Muscogee (Creek) land. 
For Oklahoma Tribe, Vindication at Long Last
[New York Times, July 11, 2020]
After decades of betrayals and broken treaties, the Supreme Court ruled that much of Oklahoma is their land, after all.
Why We’re Still Fighting the South: The irrepressible conflict continues to be 
between oligarchy and democracy.
[The American Prospect, July 10, 2020]
How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, by Heather Cox Richardson (Oxford University Press)
...A present-day Jeremiah, Richardson laments the betrayal of the nation’s soul, first by the slaveholders whose secession from the Union in 1861 convulsed the nation in civil war; and second, by the “movement conservatives” in the 1950s who challenged the “liberal consensus” behind desegregation and paved the way for the Republican Party of today....

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 5, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 5, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Pitchfork-wielding protesters descend on wealthy Hamptons estates
[Page Six, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-20]
More than 100 drivers and about 200 marchers paid a visit to the homes of some of the world’s wealthiest people, including ex-New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. 
“Tax the rich, not the poor!” the protesters chanted outside Bloomberg’s $20 million Southhampton mansion, with some calling the failed presidential candidate a “looter.”
Protesters, several of whom came in from the Big Apple, demanded that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo raise taxes on the state’s 118 billionaires to make up for a steep revenue shortfall amid the coronavirus pandemic. 
The group is taking issue with Cuomo’s pitch to cut 20 percent in state funding from schools, hospitals and housing agencies. They noted that while the virus outbreak has deeply impacted low-income people and communities of color, the wealth of US billionaires has surged.
“Enough is enough — it’s time for New York state to raise taxes on the rich instead of cutting services for working people,” said Alicé Nascimento, director of policy and research for New York Communities for Change, which helped organize the action. Organizers also included the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, with about 40 medallion cabs taking part. The cabbies were already in a debt crisis before the virus emerged, and have been hit hard by the pandemic.
“Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion at the ballot box”
[Oklahoman, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-20] 
“State Question 802 passed by 6,488 votes, making Oklahoma the fifth state expand Medicaid through a ballot initiative. The question will enshrine Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma’s constitution — effectively preventing Oklahoma’s GOP-controlled Legislature or Republican governor from limiting or undoing the expansion.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 28, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 28, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

The Epidemic

What To Look For In A Face Mask, According To Science
[, via Naked Capitalism 6-25-20]
Different researchers have set up devices that spray tiny droplets at fabric and then measured how much of it comes through the other side, while also measuring air flow to determine breathability. What they’ve found is that it’s less about the type of fabric — cotton, linen, silk — and more about the quality of fabric, according to Segal. Higher quality fabrics have a tighter weave and thicker thread that do a better job of blocking droplets from passing through.
But you also want the fabric to be breathable, according to Taher Saif, a mechanical engineer at the University of Illinois who has been researching face mask material. Saif said if breath can’t get through the mask, it will find another way out, allowing respiratory droplets to spread.
.... Segal offered a rule of thumb: hold the material up to a bright light. “Look at the light coming through the fabric,” Segal said. “If it outlines individual fibers and you can see the light through fabric, it’s probably not as effective. The less of that you can see, the better the filter.”
“Data map reveals the 23% of US counties that are currently seeing an uncontrollable growth in COVID-19 – as new model predicts Phoenix alone could see 28,000 new infections a DAY by July 18” [Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-26-20]
“Twenty three percent of counties across the United States are now seeing an uncontrollable growth in new COVID-19 infections, according to a data map... Phoenix could see 28,000 new cases a day by July 18.... large parts of the South and Southwest are showing an ‘epidemic trend’ or ‘spreading trend’ for new coronavirus infections…. Of the 3,141 counties across the country, 745 are currently experiencing an epidemic outbreak and 1,232 are seeing spreading trends, according to the data map. Nearly 670 counties are currently seeing a controlled trend in new coronavirus cases. According to the map, the entire state of Arizona is seeing either epidemic or spreading trends. ”  
A link to the map

The unintended impact of COVID-19 on cancer
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 6-21-20]
In April 2020, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science published a report that shined a light on the unintended impact of our response to the treat of COVID-19. According to the report, it is estimated that the delay in 22 million cancer screening tests will result in an increased risk of delayed or missed diagnoses for 80,000 patients.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Prod the Federal Reserve to save state and local governments

Many state and local governments have a fiscal year ending this month AND are required to have balanced budgets. This means that a tsunami of government layoffs is about to hit, and drive the entire economy deep into an economic depression. (The layoffs have already started – 1.5 million state and local government employees have been let go in the past two months).
This economic catastrophe will strike in the next few weeks as state and local governments struggle to balance budgets while experiencing an unprecedented collapse in revenues. Many states are reporting an expected drop in tax receipts of as much as 25 percent. County governments are also reporting the same size negative impact on their revenues. With state and local governments accounting for 14 percent of US GDP, we are about to see three to four percent of the national economy wiped out.
The Federal Reserve has the power and authority to head off this catastrophe in one 8 hour workday, as David Dayen explained in “The Federal Reserve Can End the State Fiscal Crisis Today.”  In the CARES Act, Congress authorized the Fed to establish a $500 billion Municipal Lending Fund (MLF). The Fed has used that MLF authority only once – to provide a $1.2 billion loan to the state of Illinois.
Moreover, the Fed can structure the MLF in any way it wants. It can effectively turn all loans to state and local governments into grants by eliminating the interest rate, indefinitely rolling over principal payments, or make them optional; or extend the maturities to 100 or 200 years, or any period selected.
On June 16, 2020  in “Growing Pressure on the Fed to Save State and Local Governments,”  David Dayen described a campaign now underway to create grassroots pressure on the Fed to provide large-scale emergency funding to state and local governments to avert this looming budget catastrophe. This campaign invokes the Federal Reserve’s legal mandate to maximize employment.
“Letters are being distributed among city and state officials right now urging the Fed to either fix the MLF or move to a 14(2) swap line with indefinite rollovers. This is an active and extremely worthy fight. The Fed is designed to protect employment and prevent recessions. State and local funding is the biggest threat out there. The Fed needs to do its job, not trifle with asset inflation.”
The full text of the letter was written by Cornell University Law School professor Robert Hockett, who has served as an adviser to Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Hockett’s six-page letter is addressed to Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, and goes into minute detail about the Fed’s authority, how it has structured the Municipal Lending Fund (MLF) so far, and what changes the Fed can make to immediately solve the looming catastrophe to state and local government budgets. Hockett’s letter was printed in full in Forbes magazine on June 14, 2020, as “Optimize Community QE – An Open Letter to Fed Chairman Powell.”

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 21, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 21, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Countering the surveillance state 

IF YOU’RE TAKING to the streets to demand justice for the victims of police brutality and homicide, you may want to leave your phone at home. No matter how peaceful your behavior, you are at risk of getting arrested or assaulted by police. Cops might confiscate your phone and search it regardless of whether or not they’re legally allowed to, or they might try to break it, especially if it contains photos or video of their violent or illegal actions.\ 
At the same time, it’s a good idea to bring a phone to a protest so you can record what’s happening and get the message out on social media. Filming police is completely legal and within your rights, and it’s one of the few tools citizens have against police brutality. It’s also important to be able to communicate with others in real time or to find your friends in case you get separated....
If this is too expensive for you, you may have other options: If you have an old phone collecting dust in a drawer, as long as it still works and the battery still holds a charge, you can use this as your burner phone rather than buying a new one. You just need a new SIM card, like one that comes with prepaid cell service. Make sure to factory reset the phone before getting ready to protest....
The Markup published some good steps to take before bringing your primary phone into a protest, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a good guide as well.
How Police Infiltrate, Create Violence and Target Journalists 
Lee Camp [via Naked Capitalism 6-20-20]

Where most of the world's people live...

After Violent Clash, China Claims Sovereignty Over Galwan Valley for First Time in Decades 
[The Diplomat, via Naked Capitalism 6-17-20]

The writer of the New York Times article on this clash (which I do not link to) made no attempt to explain why this remote area with hardly any inhabitants would be disputed by the India and China. First, the glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau are the source of Asia's major rivers: Indus and Satluj of Indus river water system, Arun, Ghaghra and Gandak of Ganges river water system, Manas and Brahmaputra of Brahmaputra river water system, Yellow River, Yangtze, Mekong and Salween rivers.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 14, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 14, 2020
by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” -- Frederick Douglass
[via WallStreetonParade, June 1, 2020]

“America’s Moment of Reckoning”: Cornel West Says Nationwide Uprising Is Sign of “Empire Imploding”
[DemocracyNow, June 1, 2020]
The catalyst was certainly Brother George Floyd’s public lynching, but the failures of the predatory capitalist economy to provide the satisfaction of the basic needs of food and healthcare and quality education, jobs with a decent wage, at the same time the collapse of your political class, the collapse of your professional class. Their legitimacy has been radically called into question, and that’s multiracial. It’s the neofascist dimension in Trump. It’s the neoliberal dimension in Biden and Obama and the Clintons and so forth. And it includes much of the media. It includes many of the professors in universities. The young people are saying, “You all have been hypocritical. You haven’t been concerned about our suffering, our misery. And we no longer believe in your legitimacy.” And it spills over into violent explosion.
And it’s here. I won’t go on, but, I mean, it’s here, where I think Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer and Rabbi Heschel and Edward Said, and especially Brother Martin and Malcolm, their legacies, I think, become more central, because they provide the kind of truth telling. They provide the connection between justice and compassion in their example, in their organizing. And that’s what is needed right now. Rebellion is not the same thing in any way as revolution. And what we need is a nonviolent revolutionary project of full-scale democratic sharing — power, wealth, resources, respect, organizing — and a fundamental transformation of this American Empire
“A Left Critique of the Current Protests” 
[Benjamin Studebaker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-9-20] 
 “As long as we have millions of alienated, armed Americans, the police will never be abolished. Calls for their abolishment will instead result in privatisation. The Democratic mayors who run our cities want to avoid responsibility for the killings that are the result of decades of their own negligent policy. Privatising the police divests them of culpability. Privatised police will be even less accountable than publicly run departments. They’ll probably kill even more people. But when it happens, the cities can blame it on the contractors. They can simply fire one outfit and hire another. The anarcho-capitalists have wanted this for ages. They are chomping at the bit to use these protests to make it happen… Sadly, our organizations are inferior to the organizations of the anarchists and the woke neoliberals, and for this reason they will continue to hasten the victory of the right nationalists, much to our chagrin.”
An excerpt of an excerpt form Thomas Frank's new book on elites' opposition to populism
“The Pessimistic Style in American Politics” 
Thomas Frank [Harpers, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-11-20] 
This essay is excerpted from The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, which will be published next month by Metropolitan Books. 
“Populism” is the word that comes to the lips of the respectable and the highly educated when they perceive the global system going haywire. Populism is the name they give to the avalanche crashing down on the Alpine wonderland of Davos. Populism is what they call the mutiny that may well turn the supercarrier America into a foundering wreck. Populism, for them, is a one-word evocation of the logic of the mob: it is the people as a great rampaging beast....
So goes the wail of the American leadership class as they endure another year of panic. They know on some level that what has happened in Washington isn’t due to majority rule at all, but to money and gerrymandering and the Electoral College and decades of TV programming decisions. But the anxiety cannot be dislodged; it is beyond the reach of reason. The people are out of control....
This is the core assumption of what I call the Democracy Scare: if the people have lost faith in the ones in charge, it can only be because something has gone wrong with the people themselves. As Jonathan Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing writer at The Atlantic, put it in the summer of 2016: “Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around.”
In basing our civilization on the consent of the plain people, it suddenly seemed, our ancestors had built on a foundation of sand. "Democracies end when they are too democratic," blared the title of a much-discussed essay by Andrew Sullivan in which the author applied his grad school reading of Plato to the 2016 campaign. Around the same time, an article in Foreign Policy expressed it more archly: it’s time for the elites to rise up against the ignorant masses....
In the 1880s.... something profound took place. The farmers—men and women of society’s commonest rank—figured out that being exploited was not the natural order of things. So they began taking matters into their own hands. In Kansas and a few other Western states, members of the group went into politics directly, and the People’s Party was born.
The Populists were the ones who blasted those smug assumptions to pieces, forcing the country to acknowledge that ordinary Americans were being ruined by an economic system that in fact answered to no moral laws.
From the very beginning, then, “populism” had two meanings. There was Populism as its proponents understood it: a movement in which ordinary working people demanded democratic economic reforms. And there was Populism as its enemies characterized it: a dangerous movement of groundless resentment in which demagogues led the disreputable.