Sunday, January 19, 2020

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

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 19, 2020
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Seattle city council bans most political spending by ‘foreign-influenced corporations’
[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-20]

We’re in an age of manufactured nihilism: How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy
(Vox, via The Big Picture 1-17-20]
The issue for many people isn’t exactly a denial of truth as such. It’s more a growing weariness over the process of finding the truth at all. And that weariness leads more and more people to abandon the idea that the truth is knowable. 
I call this “manufactured” because it’s the consequence of a deliberate strategy. It was distilled almost perfectly by Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News and chief strategist for Donald Trump. “The Democrats don’t matter,” Bannon reportedly said in 2018. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” 
...The press ideally should sift fact from fiction and give the public the information it needs to make enlightened political choices. If you short-circuit that process by saturating the ecosystem with misinformation and overwhelm the media’s ability to mediate, then you can disrupt the democratic process.
Too damn bad the Vox author does not realize this is exactly the political process of demagoguery warned about by Hamilton, Madison, Adams and others at the beginning of the republic. And more - they warned that this process was likely to be initiated  by the rich, such as Leon Black (see below).

Green New Deal - An opportunity too big to miss

Can We Tackle Climate Change and Economic Inequality?
Larry Buhl, January 7, 2020 [Capital and Main, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-20]
A September United Nations report endorsed the general framework for an international green new deal as a way of lifting up poor and vulnerable communities. It concluded that “achieving human well-being and eradicating poverty for all of the Earth’s people—expected to number 8.5 billion by 2030—is still possible, but only if there is a fundamental—and urgent—change in the relationship between people and nature.”
Where the Candidates Stand
And at least one labor group is embracing, not fighting, a Green New Deal. In March, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor touted the broad outline of a Green New Deal that would benefit the environment and the economy. “Economic inequality and threats to the environment are deeply intertwined, and a Green New Deal framework is vital to fighting both,” the statement read. “We don’t have time to pit jobs against the environment. We never did.”
A recent report on decarbonizing California’s buildings from the University of California, Los Angeles, Luskin Center for Innovation projected an increase in renewable construction activity, electricity generation and transmission until 2045. In a webinar explaining the study’s findings, author Betony Jones said these new jobs would more than offset losses in oil and gas distribution and production, but it wasn’t yet clear whether they would all be high wage jobs.
Rachel Golden, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Building Electrification program....was the lead author in a recent Building Electrification Plan that would not only lower energy bills and reduce the cost of new housing, but also “create roughly 100,000 new jobs in construction, HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] installation, electrical work, energy efficiency and load-management services.”

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

One in four countries beset by civil strife as global unrest soars
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]

College Degrees Used to Make Families Wealthier. That’s No Longer True
[Worth, via The Big Picture 1-17-20]

Disrupting mainstream economics

How Economists Tricked Us Into Thinking Capitalism Works
[AstuteNews, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-20]

James Galbraith [American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-20] France’s Bourbons, learn nothing and forget nothing; they cast their omens in terms of parables read in textbooks many decades back. To change ideas now would call into question the very foundation of their careers.... 
The Times accurately notes that economists are coming around to the view that even under the best conditions economic growth will remain slow—a position argued at book length by yours truly five years ago, but never mind. Part of my argument in The End of Normal concerned the fourth pessimistic pillar, slow productivity growth. I argued that in our age of technological upheaval capital goods have become cheap, therefore business investment as a share of total output has declined, and so the economy relies more than ever on the strength of consumer demand, bolstered by credit cards and student and automotive debt. The evidence since then bears this out. Alas, this means that otherwise worthy calls for new spending on brick-and-mortar infrastructure and on research and development bear no relation to the supposed problem of low productivity growth.... 
Malinen is a financial economist.... Malinen has a free-market streak, and his main scenario leans toward an Andrew Mellon–style mass liquidation, followed by recovery of the survivors. He would prefer this, for all the carnage, including physical death and destruction, to a “Green-Left fascism, suppressing both individual rights and unpopular economic activities.” Even if it were true that “Nature could be saved … but at the expense of humanity reverting to slavery and oppression.”
And in the next crisis, the United States may finally be moved to free itself from the deadweight of mainstream economic thought, to retire a worn-out generation of policy advisers, and to move on with the great social, economic, and environmental project known as the Green New Deal. There is a history of radical experiment and popular mobilization in this country, from which democracy emerged stronger, not weaker, than it ever was before. And for many Americans, to escape from the debt trap and from domination by bankers and billionaires into a world of work and public purpose would be the very opposite of slavery and oppression. A better word would be liberation, along with a new freedom, and a new hope.
James Galbraith [Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-20]
The rise of finance and technology, disinflation, globalisation, debt peonage and the decline of industry, the rise of bicoastal inequalities, and the rusting away of the Midwest, giving rise first to Clinton and then to Trump – for all of these the course was set by Reagan and Volcker in the early 1980s. And the dogmas too morphed and lived on, shapeshifting zombies reinvented as exportable commodities in the form of the Washington Consensus, inflation targeting and neoliberalism, each eventually squeezed dry of doctrine until only the policy shells remain – tax cuts, central bank independence, fire-sale privatisations, deficit – and debt-aversion, all too useful to require the foundation of thought....

From 1993 to 1997 I was of some use as Chief Technical Adviser for Macroeconomic Reform and Strengthening Institutions to the State Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China, my advice was largely to steer clear of Western economists and above all, not to open the capital account. Those results speak for themselves.
What Is the Point of Economics?
Matt Stoller, January 10, 2020
And this brings me to the point of economics, which has taken me a long time to understand. There are many economists who focus on trying to uncover important truths about the world, and there are many economists who seek to serve concentrated capital. There are smart ones, and dumb ones. But truth or falsehood, or empirical rigor, is besides the point. The point of economics as a discipline is to create a language and methodology for governing that hides political assumptions from the public. Truly successful economists, like Summers, spend their time winning bureaucratic turf wars and placing checks on elected officials.
Let’s start with a basic question. Is it the job of economists to understand the world accurately? The answer is far from clear. As finance professor Paul Pfleiderer notes, many economists use models that are chameleons, designed to launder political assumptions about the world through such aesthetics as “mathematical elegance, subtlety, [and] references to assumptions being “standard in the literature.” 
More broadly, prominent leading economists just get things wrong, big things, with no impact on their standing in the profession. This indifference to empirical results is mirrored in the indifference offered by economists to the claims and arguments of non-economists outside the profession, whose views are simply relevant....
There are three main problems with economics as a ‘science’ that can guide public policy choices. The first is that it is a post-mortem discipline. Economists often assert we need data before drawing conclusions... And yet, there was no data in 2000 when the U.S. changes its policies vis-a-vis China, because the consequences were in the future.... 
The second is that using economics to make judgments about the world can be extraordinarily costly and exclusionary. This may or may not be a big deal when considering macro-economic forecasting, but when economics becomes a key part of institutional legal arguments it shades who can use the law to protect their rights....
The third is that an obsession with quantifying leads to political control by those who have access to data. A well-known example is famous economist Alan Krueger, who was paid by Uber and then wrote widely circulated scholarship based on internal Uber data about the corporation’s wage setting terms. But it’s broader than just one company, most of the big tech platforms work with economists, giving these powerful corporate entities a measure of political control over lines of research....
The actual goal of economics as a discipline is to embed itself as a governing language in our institutions of power. 
There are four institutions in which this takes place domestically.
(1) The Congressional Budget Office....
(2) The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs....
(3) Federal Trade Commission / DOJ Antitrust Division....
(4) The Federal Reserve....

Predatory Finance

Nobody Makes Money Like Apollo’s Ruthless Founder Leon Black
[Businessweek, via The Big Picture 1-17-20]

Sarah M. Syed
Jan 16

Those with money in Apollo funds were given a disturbing reminder of this in July when Jeffrey Epstein, who’d served on the board of Black’s family foundation and been known to visit Apollo’s offices pitching personal tax strategies, was arrested on federal sex-trafficking charge

Leon Black is a central figure in the story of how finance and banking came to be dominated by organized crime. It is a story that appears unknown to most reporters. And is a story about the influence of criminality in the economy that almost all professional economists are frantically desperate to avoid -- an academic phenomena that savings and loan investigator William Black has written about many times over the past decade, since the financial crashes of 2007-2008.  

Leon Black's father, Eli M. Black was chairman of United Brands Company (formerly called United Fruit in the 1960s and earlier), which ran much of the illegal narcotics trade in the Caribbean and South America, usually with the knowledge, and sometimes assistance, of the CIA. United Fruit corporate assets were used for moving Israeli-procured arms into covert wars throughout Latin America, which blew up into the Iran-Contra scandal of 1987, nearly taking down the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It thus makes entire sense that it is now being reported that Leon Black was tied to rich pedophile pimp Epstein, who has been identified as an asset of Israeli and British intelligence. 

Eli M. Black “fell” to his death from the 44th floor of Manhattan’s Pan Am Building in 1975. Within two years later, Leon Black emerged as head of mergers and acquisitions and co-head of corporate finance at Drexel Burnham Lambert, working closely with Michael Milken to seize control of industrial companies by burdening them with their own debt. In other words, what "private equity" does today. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, January 16, 2020 [Wall Street On Parade]

Here’s How the Fake Unemployment Number Was Created to Subdue Anger Against Wall Street
By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: January 17, 2020 [Wall Street On Parade]
Not just under Trump -- Okun's Law

Restoring balance to the economy

California Bill Would Raise Taxes on Corporations With Large CEO-Worker Pay Gaps
Sarah Anderson [, via Truthout 1-17-20]
The California proposal is similar to legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress last November by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Representatives Barbara Lee and Rashida Tlaib, and 18 other House members. 
Under the California bill (SB 37), the wider a company’s gap between CEO and median worker pay, the higher their state corporate tax rate. An estimated 2,000 corporations with annual profits in the state of $10 million or would be subject to the tax, with revenue projected at as much as $4 billion per year....
The California hearing foreshadowed the coming debate over a similar proposal at the federal level — the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act (H.R. 5066/S. 2849). While the two legislative models’ objectives are the same, they have some differences in design.
Starve the Beast: CEOs now make 361 times more than the average worker.
Jen Sorensen [Truthout January 1, 2019]

“Strikes Are Hard Work”
[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-20]
“Some kind of movement is developing. Perhaps, after decades of lethargy, workers across industries are ready to once again leverage our power to disrupt—by withholding our labor—and win. Certainly, workers are learning from each other, and the strikes are opening up a renewed understanding of what’s possible when we activate the full force of our power. In a recent conversation we hosted about the educators strike in Chicago, some listeners wanted to know when we would talk about a national strike. Big wins in tough times can inspire us to think bigger. But when we hear about successful strikes, we don’t always fully listen to the work it took to get there. Members of the Chicago Teachers and school employees in SEIU Local 73 developed contract action teams and community coalitions to confront a powerful mayor. It took years to build the relationships, trust, and collective power that sustained them through a difficult fight. A national strike will involve a protracted struggle. It will take serious preparation. It will take serious power. It’s something to build towards—one step at a time. One-day strikes that flex our muscles will bring new people into the struggle. That’s great. But we want more than participation; we want transformation. And what transforms us isn’t the highs of excitement and inspiration. It’s keeping on when the struggle gets tough—discovering within ourselves the reservoirs of courage, fortitude, commitment, and rock-solid solidarity. It’s sharing the work of organizing each day, and the next day, and the next.” 
Lambert Strether: "So, we are far away from being able to do what France has done?"

Understanding France’s General Strike in the Context of the Yellow Vests and Global Class Warfare
[Counterpunch, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-20]

“The Teamster Revolt Against the Hoffa Era” 
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]  
“Willie Ford listened to the conference call in disbelief from the cab of his tractor trailer on I-95 as the Teamster election monitor announced the results of the contract vote covering 250,000 workers at UPS. Ford, a leader of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), and rank-and-file activists like him, had spent months organizing the UPS Teamster United campaign to win contract improvements. But UPS management and top Teamster officials agreed to givebacks, including a two-tier wage scale for drivers, and spent millions on a coordinated campaign to promote and push through their concessionary deal. Now was the moment of truth. In a monotone voice, the election official announced the results. By a 54 percent majority, UPS workers rejected the givebacks. Dissident Teamster activists had done the impossible. Their Vote No campaign had won. But it wasn’t over yet. The very next speaker on the conference call reversed the rank-and-file victory. Citing an obscure loophole in the Teamster Constitution, Denis Taylor, the union’s chief negotiator at UPS, declared the contract ratified. Just like that, two-tier concessions at the largest union contract in the United States were imposed over the no vote by the members.”

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics - Boeing

Boeing’s tough challenges as civilian aircraft maker 
Marshall Auerback, January 11, 2020 [Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-20]
Boeing’s new CEO, David Calhoun, is unlikely to solve these multifold problems. Having spent 26 years at General Electric, stripping aviation talent out and replacing real engineering with financial engineering, Calhoun eventually became a director at Boeing in 2009. In 2014, he joined the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm that, as Matt Stoller points out, “is a vector for financializing corporations” as well as being a company well versed in creative accounting shenanigans that enable corporate entities like Boeing to mask their extensive cash-flow problems. 
During his tenure as a Boeing board member, Calhoun has been a party to a series of decisions whereby financial machinations of the company’s managerial class have taken precedence over safety culture. Despite many years of affiliation to the aviation industry, then, Calhoun himself is merely another financial “Master of the Universe,” representative of a caste that specializes in outsourcing and stripping out talent, all the while championing practices such as dressing up the balance sheet in a manner that is legal, but has distorted the underlying profits position of the company....
At this point, no one can credibly promise anyone anything, whether we’re talking about Boeing, the FAA or the overall system itself. There is zero empathy in the system, and zero empathy translates into total entropy. Wall Street does not understand this because Wall Street does not understand how to quantify empathy and trust other than in the crude human instrument of goodwill.
“Boeing posts negative commercial airplane orders in 2019 for first time in decades” 
[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-20]  
“For all of 2019, Boeing lost orders for 87 commercial airplanes, meaning it had more cancellations than new purchases, the company said Tuesday. The final tally included the cancellation of three orders in December when customers changed plans to buy 787 Dreamliners. A Boeing spokesman said he wasn’t sure when the company last lost commercial plane orders for the year, but ‘it definitely has not happened in the last 30 years.’ The negative number is especially painful when compared with European rival Airbus, which logged orders for 768 new planes for 2019.”
How Boeing Lost Its Way: Shareholder value eclipsed safety as a top priority, with catastrophic consequences. 
[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 1-17-20]
For decades now I've read so many articles by apologists for free trade and neoliberalism in which the writer pointed proudly to Boeing as an example of an industry USA was unsurpassed in. Aerospace was the "crown jewel" of American industry. But, like everything else touched by these idiot savants, it's turned to shit.

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

Their makeshift neighborhood of tarps and tents is built on one of thousands of public spaces across California where people have set up camp. The state’s homeless population has ballooned in recent years; in 2019, there were more than 150,000 homeless people in California, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 72% of them did not have shelter. A range of health concerns has spread among homeless communities. A few years ago, hepatitis A, spread primarily through feces, infected more than 700 people in California, most of them homeless. Ancient diseases such as typhus have resurged. Homeless people are dying in record numbers on the streets of Los Angeles. 
Communities up and down California, increasingly frustrated with the growing number of homeless people living on public property, have tasked police and sanitation workers with dismantling encampments that they say pollute public areas and pose serious risk of fire, violence and disease. The roustings and cleanups have become a daily occurrence around the state, involving an array of state and local agencies. 
But the response from officials has prompted a public health crisis all its own, according to interviews with dozens of homeless people and their advocates. Personal possessions, including medicines and necessary medical devices, are routinely thrown away. It’s a quotidian event that Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, described as a “cruelty” that she hadn’t seen in other impoverished corners of the world.... 
Chris Herring, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of California-Berkeley, has embedded himself in San Francisco’s homeless community on and off for years, including spending nine months in 2014 and 2015 living on the street and a year studying the police, public health and sanitation workers tasked with cleaning encampments.... 
Others have lost ID cards and prescriptions, a setback for making appointments or receiving benefits, according to one of the lawyers on the case, Osha Neumann.
Caltrans workers say they hate doing the cleanups. “It’s like 100 times worse than it was just a few years ago,” said Steve Crouch, director of public employees for Local 39 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, which represents Caltrans workers. “One of the biggest gripes they have is having to clean up the homeless encampments. It’s a nasty job.” 
The sweeps also cause psychological damage. Ciha and his neighbors talk about how horrible it is when people driving by throw garbage at them. Herring said the trauma of living on the streets is so intense he hasn’t yet figured out how to write about it in his academic work. “[The city will] say we’re just asking people to move, but if you’re being asked that over and over and you have nowhere to go, and people are acting like you’re worthless or they’re scared of you, that affects you fast,” he said.

Health Care Crisis

California considers selling its own generic prescription drugs 
[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 1-12-20] 

“Taiwan’s single-payer success story — and its lessons for America” 
[Vox, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-20] 
“In Taiwan, everybody is covered. The Taiwanese health care system is built on the belief that everyone deserves health care, in Xiulin just as much as anywhere else. The costs to patients are minimal. In the 1990s, Taiwan did what has long been considered impossible in the US: The island of 24 million people took a fractured and inequitable health care system and transformed it into something as close to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s vision of Medicare-for-all as anything in the world.” 

“A Healing Place” 
Nathan J. Robinson [Current Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-20] 
“Bad experiences at hospitals are incredibly common. A close relative of mine called me today having just been released from the hospital, and having had to fill out papers while in horrible pain, then sitting for hours in a harshly lit room being ignored. What’s strange to me about the bad experiences people have is that they are some of the easiest possible things we could change about medicine. You can’t cure cancer, but you can certainly cure paperwork. You can cure depressing architecture. You can cure indifference and bureaucracy and discomfort. The problems with hospitals are strange, because they violate the first principles we would use to design a ‘healing place.’ The first thing you should do when designing a place to make people feel better is to make sure they suffer no unnecessary stress or confusion or unpleasantness there. In fact, there is apparently hard evidence that this can make a difference to patient outcomes, which is why sensible hospitals have gardens. I’d like to suggest, though, that ‘first person experience’ needs to be put at the center of every single discussion of healthcare.” 
Michael Mann, Newsweek, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]  
“There was a full court press by the Murdoch media machine, including The Australian, described by Sourcewatch as a paper that “promotes climate change denial in a way that is sometimes…so astonishing as to be entertaining”, The Herald Sun, and Sky News television network in Australia, and Fox News in the U.S., to promote the false claim that the massive bushfires engulfing Australia were primarily a result of “arson”. The distortions were so egregious that a whistleblower from within Newscorp, named Emily Townsend, came forward, condemning the organization for waging a ‘misinformation campaign’ consisting of ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’ coverage of the current unprecedented bushfire crisis. And in a late-breaking development, Rupert Murdoch’s son James Murdoch is now blasting his father’s media empire, indicating that he is ‘particularly disappointed with the ongoing denial among the news outlets in Australia given obvious evidence to the contrary.'”
I don't know about you, but when I look at the visualizations of an entire continent on fire and see footage of children fleeing into the ocean to escape encroaching flames, I think to myself, how could both parties have let the national debt get so out of hand in my lifetime?

Lake Chad: A War Fueled By Global Warming 
[Der Spiegel, via Naked Capitalism 1-18-20]

“Europe Could Lead Way in $10 Trillion Fossil Fuel Capex Ban, UBS Says”
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-20] 
“A $10 trillion ban on fossil fuel capital spending could hold the key to net-zero emissions by 2050, according to UBS Group AG. To achieve such a freeze on emissions, there would need to be enough global restrictions to reduce cumulative fossil capex by two-thirds of the current amount, or about $10 trillion, UBS analysts led by Sam Arie wrote in a note assessing the outlook on energy and climate change. Europe will likely be the starting point for such a move, according to them. ‘We expect to see increasing legal and financing restrictions on fossil capex — taking effect more quickly than any moves towards a global carbon tax, and inevitably accelerating convergence of the energy and utilities sectors,’ the analysts wrote.”
For the first time, the Alarmed are now the largest of Global Warming’s Six Americas 
[Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, via The Big Picture 1-17-20]
Our prior research has categorized Americans into six groups – Global Warming’s Six Americas – based on their climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. The “Alarmed” are the most worried about global warming and the most supportive of strong action to reduce carbon pollution. In contrast, the “Dismissive” do not think global warming is happening or human-caused and strongly oppose climate action. [A short “Six Americas” quiz is publicly available online.] 
Our latest survey (November 2019) finds that the Alarmed segment is at an all-time high (31%). The Alarmed segment has nearly tripled in size since October 2014.

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-20] 
“Imperial Oil, Exxon’s Canadian subsidiary, is a household name in Canada thanks to its ubiquitous Esso gas stations. Exxon owns 70 percent of the company… The cache of documents shows that as far back as the 1960s, Imperial had begun hiring consultants to help them manage a future public backlash over its environmental record, as well as conducting surveillance on its public critics. The documents also show that, as the company began to accept the implications of a warming planet, instead of acting decisively to change its business model, it began considering how a melting Arctic might open up new business opportunities.”

Information Age Dystopia

[Slate, via The Big Picture 1-16-20]
Slate sent ballots to a wide range of journalists, scholars, advocates, and others who have been thinking critically about technology for years. We asked them to tell us which tech companies they are most concerned about, and we let them decide for themselves what counts as “concerning.” We told them to define the category of technology companies as narrowly or broadly as they liked, which is how, say, Exxon Mobil made the list. Each respondent ranked as many as 10 companies—subsidiaries counted as part of parent corporations—with more points going to the choices they placed at the top. Then we added up their votes and got this. 
What did we find? While the major U.S. tech companies topped the vote—read on to find out which came in at No. 1—our respondents are deeply concerned about foreign companies dabbling in surveillance and A.I., as well as the domestic gunners that power the data-broker business. No one thinks Twitter is the worst thing that could happen to a planet, but a lot of people worry about it a little. Companies with the potential to do harm can be as distressing as those with long records of producing it. Privacy people care a lot about misinformation, but misinformation people might not be so worried about privacy. Almost everyone distrusts Peter Thiel. And some people don’t have a problem with Amazon or Apple or even Facebook at all—which is why we included dissents for many of the top companies on our list.
Amazon topped the list -- "It’s everything" -- followed by Facebook, Alphabet (formerly Google), Palantir Technologies, Uber, Apple, and Twitter.  More on Amazon: 
“While other companies may be guilty of some of these, Amazon has: 1) contributed to the death of local stores, services, journalism, music, community, etc. around the world; 2) focused on precarious and deskilled labor, with reportedly terrible working conditions; 3) supported police surveillance with its Ring doorbells and surveillance more generally with Alexa devices; 4) racked up a massive carbon footprint with rapid shipping as well as AWS cloud-based computing; 5) contributed tech to military and intelligence agencies with dubious human rights records, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection operations separating families at our own border; 5) failed to moderate what is on its platform, resulting in a glut of dangerous fakes such as easily broken counterfeit car seats for children; 6) has a famously hostile workplace culture, which has been shown to contribute to harassment of women and minorities; and 7) evaded taxation with shady categorization of assets and offshore tax havens.”
‘Techlash’ Hits College Campuses
[NYT, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-20]
The share of Americans who believe that technology companies have a positive impact on society has dropped from 71 percent in 2015 to 50 percent in 2019, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey....

... a 19-year-old sophomore at Yale, which sends about 10 percent of each graduating class into tech, said that taking a job in Silicon Valley is seen as “selling out,” no different from the economics majors going into consulting who are “lovingly and not-so-lovingly called ‘snakes.’”
Blackout Bug: Boeing 737 cockpit screens go blank if pilots land on specific runways
[The Register, via Naked Capitalism 1-13-20]
Although full technical details were not given in the airworthiness directive, the FAA said that the seven runways had "latitude and longitude values" that "triggered the blanking behaviour", suggesting some kind of memory interaction between onboard computers causing the screens to stop displaying any information until a different runway was selected in the flight plan. 
The bug affects 737-600, -700, -700C, -800, -900 and -900ER model aircraft, which are running Common Display System Block Point 15 (CDS BP 15) software for their display electronic units (DEUs) together with flight management computer (FMC) software version U12 or later.... 
Commercial jet airliners are far from immune to software bugs. Infamously, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner needed power cycling every 248 days to prevent the aircraft's electronics from powering down in flight, while Airbus' A350 was struck by a similar bug requiring a power cycle every 149 hours to prevent avionics systems from partially or even totally failing to work. 
Human error with electronics can also cause problems for commercial aviation: a typo in GPS co-ordinates left an Air Asia Airbus A330's navigational system thinking it was 11,000km away from its true position, while the captain of another airline's A330 found out the hard way that hot coffee and electronic hardware really do not mix.
Silicon Valley Abandons the Culture That Made It the Envy of the World 
[The Atlantic, via The Big Picture 1-16-20]

The case for … making low-tech ‘dumb’ cities instead of ‘smart’ ones Guardian. Important and interesting, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Team builds the first living robots 
[Techxplore, via Naked Capitalism 1-14-20]
Now a team of scientists has repurposed living cells—scraped from frog embryos—and assembled them into entirely new life-forms. These millimeter-wide "xenobots" can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient)—and heal themselves after being cut.
"These are novel living machines," says Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont who co-led the new research. "They're neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal. It's a new class of artifact: a living, programmable organism." The new creatures were designed on a supercomputer at UVM—and then assembled and tested by biologists at Tufts University.

Chinese to build and operate first Bogota LRT line
[Railway Age 1-14-20]
China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CECC) has won a Pesos 3600bn (US$1.1 billion) contract to design, build, operate and maintain a 39.5km commuter light rail line linking Bogotá with Sabana de Occidente....

CECC, which was the only bidder, submitted a bid which was Pesos 166bn below the budget set for the RegioTram West project. CECC will be responsible for financing the project, studies and design, and environmental management, construction, operation, and maintenance of the entire project including the rolling stock and rail systems. The operation and maintenance element of the contract is for 21 years.
A progressive foreign policy for USA would focus on helping countries around the world build $100 trillion worth of new industries, and energy and transportation systems for a Global Green New Deal. One big problem, though, is that USA has simply lost the ability to build a lot of stuff. Note that no USA companies submitted a bid. The sad fact is that there are no USA companies left that can design and build urban passenger rail systems (see page 8). 

Disrupting mainstream politics

I flipped my Aunt from voting for Biden to Bernie by asking her to read this article by @ninaturner. 

While Bernie Sanders has always stood up for African Americans, Joe Biden has repeatedly let us down
Nina Turner, January 12, 2020 [The State (Columbia SC), via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20] 

“A Guide to the 2020 Democratic Candidates You Should Not Vote For” 
[Medium, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]
This is from June 2019, but the documentation is devastating. Harris and ORourke are already out, but this is great oppo to use against Biden and Buttigieg.

A Progressive’s Guide to Choosing Between Bernie and Warren
[Medium 12-31-19]
Sure seems to me that if Democrats really want to win back voters who went for Trump, Sanders is the obviously the candidate with the most electibility.
Bernie receives far more donations from the working class, Trump’s key demographic, than Warren, whose numbers are more in line with Pete Buttigieg’s. This is further illustrated by Bernie out-raising Trump in five states, including battleground state Wisconsin, while Warren only out-raises Trump in her home state of Massachusetts. Bernie leads amongst the 206 counties that flipped from Obama to Trump as well, earning over 3x the donations in them as Warren.
AOC Is Actually Serious About Building Progressive Power
Ian Welsh, January 13, 2020
The Democratic party is a conservative centrist party (centrist in American terms, conservative in its ideology.) Independents are more left-wing than Democrats are, which is why Sanders did better with them than with Democrats in 2016. Those Democrats who whined about this are right: Sanders isn’t a Democrat, because he’s a left-winger and Democrats aren’t.
So for years, Democrats have constantly put their muscle and money behind centrist candidates and attacked left-wingers. The cry of the old Netroots was “More and better Democrats!” By this we meant, “more left-wing Democrats,” but the party was fanatically hostile to that and eventually crushed the insurgency–with a great deal of help from Obama.
Now another generation is taking their shot, and I’m glad to see they aren’t playing nice. The fight for the Democratic party is a fight, and to the victors goes the policy. People like Pelosi want to sell that policy to Wall Street and so on, people like Sanders and AOC want to use it to help ordinary people. It isn’t more complicated than that, and while tactical alliances can be made against Republicans, Pelosi and Biden have nothing in common with AOC or Sanders. They aren’t friends, they’re enemies.
Ocasio-Cortez creates PAC to push back on the Democratic Party’s ‘blacklisting’ rule”
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-20]
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced she had formed a political action committee on Saturday to help raise funds for progressive primary candidates. The congresswoman has been a vocal opponent of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s policy to “blacklist” vendors and firms that work with candidates mounting primary challenges against Democratic incumbents. Ocasio-Cortez has also not paid her dues to the DCCC during this campaign cycle and said she did not plan to pay. The funds are traditionally provided to the DCCC by House members to redistribute among other important races.”
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New PAC Is Already Raising Big Money”
[Huffington Post, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-20]
“Ocasio-Cortez launched Courage to Change to support both progressive incumbent Democrats and primary challengers whose positions are close to her own. (She has thus far endorsed progressives taking on conservative Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Dan Lipinski of Illinois.)…. In two fundraising emails and a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign framed the PAC explicitly as an alternative to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is House Democrats’ official campaign fundraising arm.”
[Electronic Intifada, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]

Wow. Just wow.

This is a brilliant, nuanced answer from @BernieSanders on how tens of millions of people who sincerely feel abandoned by the political establishment were then easy prey for Donald Trump.
Click here to view Bernie Sanders schooling the staff of the New York Times.

CNN’s Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]

“Bernie Sanders Believes in Mass Politics — Something the New York Times Can’t Wrap Their Minds Around”
In this era of resurgent left electoral activity, the conflation of left and right populism is one of the preferred tactics of the elite political center.

Enemy Actions

“Trumpism After Trump”
[Harpers, via Naked Capitalism 1-16-20]
A long and very informative report on the National Conservatism Conference.
“They were here because of one undeniable fact: Donald Trump was going to die. Trump might be ejected from office or lose the election or win the election—but he was, also, definitely going to die. And Trumpism needed to survive. It was just getting started. If Trumpism were snuffed out with Trump, Republicans would fall back into march with the party lemmings in hock to their donors (hardly any Republican voters agreed with the donors about anything, as Trump had intuited), who would connive with liberals to contaminate the country with more immigration, more Big Tech treason, more “free” trade, more endless wars, more slouching toward nihilism. The ancien régime was threatening to reconstitute itself. Someone had to stand up for Trumpism in the noble abstract.”
....Fox News might well fall into conniptions at the notion, but what was needed was “class warfare”—or perhaps more precisely, a war within the elites—to ensure that the future remained Trumpian and did not revert to the globalist highway to nowhere.
This is a long article, but extremely useful for providing details of what important conservatives and neoconservatives, such as Peter Thiel and Christopher DeMuth, are doing to promote and exploit Trump's political success for their own benefit. 
....the war to win was within the elite. It was a question of who would exploit the amour propre of the professional-managerial class and enlist it in a battle against the top 1 percent—or top .1 percent. Up until this point, the billionaire class had operated in near perfect conditions, with a Democratic Party that swooned over them and a Republican Party that was so conveniently repulsive to the top 10 percent that it drew their energy away from revolutionary rumbles. Much as the Bernie Sanders strategists wondered about how many Warrenites they could attract to socialism before she embarked on an inevitable voyage back to the center, so Krein and his cadre wanted to make National Conservatism a viable alternative for a new, more politically responsible elite that would not shy from war with the globalists.
“‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals”
[WaPo, via Naked Capitalism 1-17-20]
This article is adapted from “A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America,” which will be published on Jan. 21 by Penguin Press.
[During a meeting in "The Tank" of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon]
Trump’s first complaint was to repeat what he had vented about to his national security adviser months earlier: South Korea should pay for a $10 billion missile defense system that the United States built for it. The system was designed to shoot down any short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from North Korea to protect South Korea and American troops stationed there. But Trump argued that the South Koreans should pay for it, proposing that the administration pull U.S. troops out of the region or bill the South Koreans for their protection. 
“We should charge them rent,” Trump said of South Korea. “We should make them pay for our soldiers. We should make money off of everything.”
[A few weeks later, at a meeting in the Situation Room in the White House]
But there Trump was, struggling to come up with a new Afghanistan policy and frustrated that so many U.S. forces were deployed in so many places around the world. The conversation began to tilt in the same direction as it had in the Tank back in July. 
“All these countries need to start paying us for the troops we are sending to their countries. We need to be making a profit,” Trump said. “We could turn a profit on this.”

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