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.
Federal agents arrest Portland protesters in unmarked cars, sparking intense backlash 
[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

Mayor of Portland to Trump: Get your troops out of the city 
[Associated Press, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]
[Lawfare, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]

Strategic Political Economy

Fertility rate: ‘Jaw-dropping’ global crash in children being born
[BBC, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-20]
Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations - including Spain and Japan - are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.... 
Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 - and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100....
Japan's population is projected to fall from a peak of 128 million in 2017 to less than 53 million by the end of the century. Italy is expected to see an equally dramatic population crash from 61 million to 28 million over the same timeframe. They are two of 23 countries - which also include Spain, Portugal, Thailand and South Korea - expected to see their population more than halve.... China, currently the most populous nation in the world, is expected to peak at 1.4 billion in four years' time before nearly halving to 732 million by 2100. India will take its place. The UK is predicted to peak at 75 million in 2063, and fall to 71 million by 2100.
American Passports Are Worthless Now
India Samarajiva [Medium, via Naked Capitalism 7-12-20]
America is not united anymore and it’s barely a state. They have crashed right through failed state into a plague state, unwelcome across the world. This has been predicted, including here. Now it has come to pass.
Americans have gone from having access to most of the world to being banned from most of it. Today, Americans are only allowed in a few Caribbean islands and the Balkans. An American passport is now worthless. Worse than worthless, it’s a plague. In the absence of a humane government, America is now ruled by COVID-19. Welcome to the Plague States of America....
It’s not that other nations don’t want to welcome Americans, they just can’t. The point of a passport is that a sovereign power vouches for its bearer, but America can’t vouch for the health of their citizens at all. America’s public health regime is far less trustworthy than Liberia’s (which is actually quite good).... 
At the same time, you can’t trust Americans. Americans have poor hygiene (low masking rate) and at least 40% of the population can’t be trusted to even believe that COVID-19 exists, let alone to take it seriously. They’re likely to refuse testing, not report symptoms, break quarantine, and generally NOT follow rules. Americans have a toxic combination of ignorance and arrogance that makes them unwelcome travelers. 

Predatory Finance

FBI concerned over money-laundering risks in private equity, hedge funds: Criminals use the private placement of funds, including investments offered by hedge funds and private equity firms” to reintegrate dirty money into the legitimate global financial system, according to the bulletin.
[Reuters, via The Big Picture 7-16-20]

[Jacobin, via Avedon's Sideshow 7-9-20]
Securities and Exchange Commission regulators recently issued a scathing report that reads like a last-ditch plea for help in reeling in private equity billionaires, who have all but free rein to fleece whoever they want, whenever they want. [...] In a little-noticed ruling last week, the Supreme Court restricted the SEC's power to punish private equity firms. With the agency successfully neutered, Trump is now trying to move Clayton into the job of US Attorney, overseeing Wall Street."

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

“It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus—Our Lives Depend on It” 
[The Nation, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-20]  
“It’s time for a new story, one that more accurately captures the reality of how contagions unfold and why. In this story, pandemics would be cast as both a biological reality and a social phenomenon shaped by human agency. And the coronavirus, if cast as any kind of monster at all, would be a Frankenstein’s monster: a creature of our own making. We, after all, created the world in which SARS-Cov-2 evolved, one in which our industry has swallowed up so much of the planet that microbes from wild animals easily slip into livestock and humans. We created the society of overcrowded prisons and nursing homes staffed by underpaid employees who must work in multiple facilities to make ends meet; in which employers force their workers to labor on meatpacking lines even if they’re sick; in which asylum seekers are crammed into detention centers; and in which people living in hard-hit cities like Detroit lack access to clean water with which to wash their hands. A narrative that elevates these realities would compel us to consider a much wider range of policy responses to counter the threat of pandemics.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-20]
Matt Stoller @matthewstoller
“If our industrial base collapses any more, we’ll have to nationalize advanced aviation and maybe other parts of the Air Force that currently are competitive,” said head of Air Force acquisition Will Roper.
US May Need to Nationalize Military Aircraft Industry, USAF Says
[DefenseOne, via Naked Capitalism 7-15-20]

Viral Thread Busts The Myth About Famous Billionaires Starting Out “Poor” 
[Bored Panda, via Naked Capitalism 7-13-20]

Financialization: Tackling the Other Virus
[Naked Capitalism 7-13-20]
The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to tackle another virus that has spread throughout the world since the 1970s: financialization.
Coronavirus Shows the Dangers of Letting Market Forces Govern Health and Social Care
[Naked Capitalism 7-13-20]
The coronavirus crisis showcases the folly of letting the market determine health and social care: high time for governments to listen,

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]
Gig workers on Target’s delivery app Shipt will strike on July 15 to protest the rollout of an algorithmic pay model that they claim has reduced wages by 30 percent in cities where it has been tested. The striking workers have also asked customers to boycott the app.... 
While Shipt has framed the new payment model as a benefit to workers, the company’s gig workers have substantial evidence that it will hurt them. In cities such as Philadelphia, Kalamazoo, Michigan, and San Antonio, Texas, where Shipt has already rolled out the new pay model in recent months, gig workers say they’ve seen their wages plummet by between 30 and 40 percent. For years, Shipt has used a clear commissioned-based pay model that ($5 plus a 7.5 percent commission on all orders), but began to roll out the new model in 2019. In some metro areas, workers say their pay dropped by as much as 50 percent....
At other gig economy giants that rely on so-called ‘black box’ algorithmic pay structures, such as Instacart, DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft, workers who rely on the app as a primary source of income have found themselves at the mercy of constant, unexpected tweaks to their pay structure and no guarantee that they’ll make the minimum wage.
NYT Argues Workers Should Get More, but Gets Some Important Facts Wrong 
Dean Baker, June 28, 2020 [Center for Economic and Policy Research, via Avedon's Sideshow 7-9-20]
I hate to be nitpicky when the NYT writes a very strong editorial arguing that we need more money going to ordinary workers and less to the rich, but it is important to get the story right. Unfortunately, the editorial misses much of it. First and foremost, there has not been a major shift from wages to profits during the period of wage stagnation. [...] The piece also implies that stock returns have been extraordinarily high through the last four decades. This is clearly wrong. While returns were very high in the 1980s and 1990s, they actually have been well below long-term averages for the last two decades. In this vein, the piece also proposes banning share buybacks as a way to reduce returns to shareholders. It is not clear what it hopes this would accomplish. It is hardly better for workers or anyone else if companies pay out money to shareholders through dividends rather than share buybacks. [...] The piece also is very modest in suggesting that the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour. While this is a good near-term target, if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, it would be over $24 an hour today. [...] In order to be able to raise the minimum wage back to its productivity-adjusted level from 1968, and not see excessive inflation, we would have to take steps to reduce high-end wages. This would mean things like fixing the corporate governance structures so CEOs could not ripoff the companies for which they work. This would mean they might get $2 million to $3 million a year, instead of $20 million. We would have to eliminate the waste in the financial sector, thereby ending the exorbitant pay in this sector. We would also have to weaken the importance of patent and copyright monopolies, making it less likely that Bill Gates types could get $100 billion. And, we would have to subject doctors and other highly paid professionals to competition, bringing their pay in line with their counterparts in other wealthy countries."

Predatory Capitalism in the Time of COVID19

“Brick and mortar, crumbling: The COVID pandemic has cemented Amazon’s dominant position. What now?” 
[Richard Wolff, New York Daily News, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]
“During the last few months, huge numbers of smaller stores have closed. Walmarts and Targets have been open and online shopping has become even more widespread, accelerating an Amazonification of America that had already been well underway. What we do about this will largely determine whether we still have functioning public commercial spaces in this country — or whether we fold up our tent and accept that relatively efficient and inexpensive delivery of goods straight to the home will dominate our retail economy for generations to come. The answer matters mightily. Many have forgotten this, but markets are not just places where we go to get goods. They are a defining characteristic of civilization as we know it. Trips to markets became passages into community. Leaving isolation, at least temporarily, people in markets enjoyed interpersonal contacts and socialized activities. They found friends, lovers and partners, and came to discuss and act together to solve shared problems. Their influence went far beyond this function. Villages, towns and cities grew up around markets. People overcame isolation not only by buying from one another. They also brought their workplaces and schools, as well as their homes, nearer to markets both to work and shop more easily and for all the social connections and interactions markets fostered. Modern society has been shaped indispensably by markets and their evolution. It will be deeply affected if real markets mostly vanish, replaced by merely electronic, virtual forms.”
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-16-20]  
“In a study of customer visits to more than 2.25 million businesses, University of Chicago economists Austan Goolsbee and Chad Syverson found that traffic fell by 60 percentage points — and that legal restrictions explained only slightly more than one-tenth of that drop. The decline began before stay-at-home orders were in place, was closely tied to the number of virus deaths locally, and showed that consumers were actively avoiding the busier stores, according to the paper distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research. ‘The politicians like to feel like they’re the ones in control of making the decision, but at the end of the day the virus is the boss,’ said Goolsbee, a former aide to President Barack Obama. ‘If the death rate goes back up and people get scared, the economy will get worse. It could easily wipe out the economic recovery that you generated in the short run by getting rid of the order.’ That’s why the key pandemic data-point is the reinfection rate, known as R0, he said: ‘We are going to end up back to the plan which is we have to do everything to get the R0 down so this disease peters out.'”

Progressive Policies into the Breach

The Tremendous but “Secret” Success of Socialist Vietnam
[Dissident Voice, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]

A Producerist Manifesto
B. Duncan Moench, July 14, 2020 [Tablet]
...Like so many in an American left that long ago stopped studying political thought and intellectual history, Moore and Gibbs fail to adequately understand what liberal political economy is—and, what alternatives to it actually endure.... 
Anarchism, syndicalism, and anarcho-syndicalism remain total vagaries, if not absolute pipe dreams. So is socialism as conceptualized by Marx. No country or even small locality has ever come anywhere close to actualizing a socialist system of economics based solely upon “labor,” which Marx designated as the first stage of his “scientific” path for history. Seeking to remove class and create a hyperefficient economic state where man will “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, and criticize after dinner,” as Marx wished—and many on the left still dream of—is a mirage and a dangerous one.
Seeking “efficiency” over human achievement is the central mistake that got us into this mess to begin with. Efficiency is the language of the machine, a dogged pursuit of it degrades the gift that is earthy existence. Social democracy—what Americans wrongly call “socialism” or now stupidly call “democratic socialism” (because of Bernie)—is just a different, more statist form of liberalism which is still entirely dependent on growth and requires a highly efficient, effective, and noncorrupt state bureaucracy most countries do not possess, and probably are not capable of possessing—including the United States of America....
Before dying of lung cancer in 1994, the prescient intellectual historian Christopher Lasch spent more time than anyone before (or since) subtly singing producerism’s praises. In his last two major works, Lasch frequently pointed to the intrigue of the not-quite-liberal, not-quite-socialist, but uniquely radical (and also somehow conservative) thinking of 19th-century producerists.... Sadly, Christopher Lasch never developed producerism into an economic system, much less a proposal or manifesto. But it is possible to fill in where Lasch left off, utilizing ideas from similar thinkers like Jacque Ellul, William Morris, Lewis Mumford, and Thorstein Veblen.

Disrupting mainstream economics - Modern Monetary Theory

Mark Blyth interviews Stephenie Kelton - Do Deficits Matter (MMT Explained)[Soundcloud, via Mike Norman Economics 7-17-20]

“The Money Printers”
[The Bafffler, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-20]
“Kelton went on to become an adviser to Sanders in his presidential campaign of 2016, and then on his recent campaign for the 2020 nomination. Again, she saw the realities of how America’s finances are discussed in the political spotlight. Time after time, Sanders would be asked how he planned to finance ambitious reforms such as a Medicare for All system. He always noted that in the wealthiest nation on earth, such goals can be attained. Yet he never came out with a direct endorsement of MMT. He didn’t want to scare the public by seeming cavalier about deficit spending. As Kelton notes, Sanders at times ‘has echoed Reagan.'”
The Federal Government Always Money-Finances Its Spending: A Restatement
Nathan Tankus [via Mike Norman Economics 7-16-20]
One of the claims Modern Monetary Theory makes that critics have the most trouble with is the idea that the Federal Government already finances itself through money creation. Today, I’m going to restate this thesis step by step as simply as I can, while using T accounts. Incidentally, Professor Stephanie Kelton already substantiated this thesis in the United States 20 years ago in an article (aptly) entitled “Do Taxes and Bonds Finance Government Spending?”
....when conducting monetary analysis... The case for consolidating the Federal Reserve Board, which determines monetary policy, with the rest of the Federal Government is clear- it is an administrative agency that forms part of the executive branch. The reason the Federal Reserve System is sometimes not consolidated in this fashion is the confusion over Regional Federal Reserve Banks, which are not administrative agencies of the government. These entities are congressionally created corporations which conduct monetary policy at the direction of the Federal Reserve Board.
....Agree or disagree with this set of propositions, this is what Modern Monetary Theorists are arguing and, in my view, it is a coherent (even incisive) argument. Future controversy over the claim that “Taxes and Bonds do not finance federal government spending” should focus on the argument above and the way it analytically uses consolidation of Federal Government agencies, instrumentalities and Congress. Above all, MMT’s argument here is a mixture of legal analysis and macroeconomic accounting. To combat it requires pointing out some flaw in the legal reasoning or in the accounting. I’ve never heard any objections to the accounting from other academics. Instead, the most common ripostes come from economists conducting amateur legal reasoning with… predictable results.
Coronavirus and the economy: Best and worst-case scenarios from Minneapolis Fed president
[CBS, March 22, 2020]
“Is the Fed just going to print money?” Pelley asked. 
“That’s literally what Congress has told us to do,” Kashkari said. “That’s the authority that they’ve given us, to print money and provide liquidity into the financial system.” 
Then came one of those clarifying moments when an essential but seldom-stated truth about money—and the political economy of the United States—emerged: 
Pelley: Can you characterize everything that the Fed has done this past week as essentially flooding the system with money? 
Kashkari: Yes, exactly. 
Pelley: And there’s no end to your ability to do that? 
Kashkari: There is no end to our ability to do that. 
Kashkari had come prepared with a message that was clearly meant to calm the jitters of the Wall Street investing class—even though it might sound perplexing or unnerving to the ordinary viewer. The endless printing of money? (Actually, Kashkari said, “We create it electronically.”) Flooding the system? With no limits? It sounded dangerous, unrealistic, hyperbolic.

The Pandemic

Japan has long accepted COVID’s airborne spread, and scientists say ventilation is key”
[CBS, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-20]
“This densely populated country has operated for months on the assumption that tiny, ‘aerosolized’ particles in crowded settings are turbo-charging the spread of the new coronavirus. Large droplets expelled through the nose and mouth tend to fall to the ground quickly, explained Makoto Tsubokura, who runs the Computational Fluid Dynamics lab at Kobe University. For these larger respiratory particles, social distancing and face masks are considered adequate safeguards. But in rooms with dry, stale air, Tsubokura said his research showed that people coughing, sneezing, and even talking and singing, emit tiny particles that defy gravity — able to hang in the air for many hours or even days, and travel the length of a room.
The key defense against aerosols, Tsubokura said, is diluting the amount of virus in the air by opening windows and doors and ensuring HVAC systems circulate fresh air. In open-plan offices, he said partitions must be high enough to prevent direct contact with large droplets, but low enough to avoid creating a cloud of virus-heavy air (55 inches, or head height.) Small desk fans, he said, can also help diffuse airborne viral density.”
“Cloth masks can protect the wearer” 
[ (Tricia Greenhalgh), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-14-20] 
“Unfortunately, many public health bodies still incorrectly claim that there is no evidence that DIY masks are useful at protecting the wearer [WHO, Dr. Fauci, take a bow!]. There’s actually plenty of evidence they can. Effective protection for the wearer of a mask depends on three critical things: 1) Material: does the mask filter particles of the appropriate sizes? 2) Fit: do particles squeeze in through the gaps of your mask? 3)Sanitation: can you clean and re-use the mask?”
And, masks protect others, not just the wearer:
Absence of Apparent Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from Two Stylists After Exposure at a Hair Salon with a Universal Face Covering Policy — Springfield, Missouri, May 2020 
[Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]
At salon A in Springfield, Missouri, two stylists with COVID-19 symptoms worked closely with 139 clients before receiving diagnoses of COVID-19, and none of their clients developed COVID-19 symptoms. Both stylists A and B, and 98% of the interviewed clients followed posted company policy and the Springfield city ordinance requiring face coverings by employees and clients in businesses providing personal care services. The citywide ordinance reduced maximum building waiting area seating to 25% of normal capacity and recommended the use of face coverings at indoor and outdoor public places where physical distancing was not possible. Both company and city policies were likely important factors in preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 during these interactions between clients and stylists. These results support the use of face coverings in places open to the public, especially when social distancing is not possible, to reduce spread of SARS-CoV-2
Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic 
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Press release here , via Naked Capitalism 7-17-20]

Collapse of Independent News Media

“Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund, has won the auction to buy the McClatchy newspaper chain”
[Poynter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-20]
“The stage was set for the McClatchy family to relinquish control and put the company into bankruptcy. They chose to do so after failing to get a waiver from the Internal Revenue Service or the PBGC for pension payments due this year that the company would be unable to make. Chatham also controls American Media Inc., which includes the National Enquirer (which it announced in April 2019 had been sold — though the transaction has never closed). It also has a controlling interest in Postmedia, a large Canadian chain. Chatham has managed each with a light hand. And since it has been in a position to influence decisions in McClatchy for some time, my guess is that deep cuts or other radical action once it owns the company are not likely.” • Maybe. Before McClatchy was McClatchy, it was Knight-Ridder, the only “newsgathering” organization that did not support Bush’s WMD scam that helped justifiy the Iraq War (looking at you David Frum). So McClatchy goes under, while the warmongering Washington Post and New York Times go from strength to strength.
[Nieman Lab, via The Big Picture 7-16-20]
Bengani identified five organizations operating these networks, all with conservative political ties. Conservative businessman Brian Timpone founded the Record network in 2004. As disclosed on Record publications, the network is owned by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Timpone also runs Locality Labs/LocalLabs, which operates only in Florida. Franklin Archer, whose CEO is Timpone’s brother Michael, operates a local news network with over 100 sites and a metro business network with 51 sites. Dan Proft, who ran the conservative super PAC Liberty Principles, created the Local Government Information Services (LGIS) network in Illinois in 2016. Metric Media shares privacy policies, servers, and analytics identifiers with the other four networks. Of the conservative sites we’ve mapped, only the four sites that make up the Star News Network are not affiliated in any way with one of these five organizations. However, like many of the others, the Star is not transparent about its funding or the involvement of some staff in political campaigns.
As the map indicates, there are considerably more conservative-leaning sites than liberal-leaning sites. Only 8 of the 429 sites we’ve identified so far are liberal-leaning. This potentially could change as left-wing funders and operatives seek to counteract similar efforts by the right. Courier Newsroom, funded by the progressive nonprofit Acronym, has newsrooms in six swing states and also publishes a politics site for Latinx readers. Others are independent sites founded by former politicians, candidates, and operatives, so we have labeled partisanship based on the founder’s party identification.

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Inside America’s Secretive $2 Billion Research Hub 
[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]
Mitre Corp. runs some of the U.S. government's most hush-hush science and tech labs. The cloak-and-dagger R&D shop might just be the most important organization you've never heard of.
Small Lab Makes Big Breakthrough In Nuclear Fusion Tech 
[, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]
Headed by physicist Eric Lerner, who’s considered one of the leading global experts on plasma use in nuclear fusion, the LPPFusion team achieved landmark success in 2016 when its device reached an ion temperature of 2.8 billion degrees, by far the highest temperature achieved on any experiment so far. That came out to be over 200 times hotter than the center of the sun and more than 15 times the projected maximum temperature for the ITER in France.
LPPFusion has raised the bar and is coming close to creating conditions sufficient to achieve net energy generation — which levels out gross electricity generation minus the consumption of power stations' auxiliary services. So far, that’s been done on a small budget of $7 million that the lab has invested, with the support of a few dedicated collaborators. Lerner and team say they’ve raised the performance of its DPF technology, and are close to creating conditions sufficient for net energy generation — another persuasive argument in gaining support for the technology.

Climate and environmental crises

“New Data Shows an ‘Extraordinary’ Rise in U.S. Coastal Flooding” 
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 7-18-20]
“The increase in high-tide flooding along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts since 2000 has been ‘extraordinary,’ the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported, with the frequency of flooding in some cities growing fivefold during that time. That shift is damaging homes, imperiling the safety of drinking water, inundating roads and otherwise hurting coastal communities, the agency said

Disrupting mainstream politics

The Four Centrisms
Benjamin Studebaker [via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]
The 90s consensus is neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is broadly a commitment to four things:
  • Marketization–a preference for market systems over public goods, wherever it is politically possible to impose them.
  • Globalization–a desire to export the market system to every part of the world, whenever it is politically possible to export it.
  • Responsibilization–a tendency to blame individuals for social problems to prevent those problems from becoming political questions. This makes it the individual’s job to deal with the consequences of globalized markets and prevents the individual from holding states and the international system to account.
  • Culture War–a tendency to use group antagonism to distract from the problems created by globalized markets. This means that the conversation is always shifted to race, gender, sexuality, religion, and other cultural touchstones. Culture War combines with responsibilization to produce a cancel culture in which individuals face social and political sanction if they refuse to fight the Culture War, fight for the wrong side, or fight with insufficient vigour.
This should be read in conjunction with Stirling Newberry's post in June 2009, Three Polar Politics In Post-Petroleum America.

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

“Senate Democrats’ Machine Spent $15 Million To Destroy Progressive Primary Candidates” 
David Sirota [Too Much Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-15-20] 
“With the help of the party, its major donors, and the Senate Majority PAC (SMP) — a super PAC funded by labor unions, corporate interests and Wall Street billionaires — candidates endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have won contested primaries in four battleground states…. SMP is led byformer top staffers at the DSCC. The super PAC has raised a staggering $118 million this cycle, pooling cash from both organized labor and business titans to promote corporate-aligned candidates over more progressive primary challengers…. Overall, the top donor to SMP so far this cycle has been Democracy PAC — a super PAC that’s bankrolled by billionaire George Soros and the Fund for Policy Reform, a nonprofit funded by Soros. Democracy PAC has contributed $8.5 million to SMP.”
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-18-20]
Marie Fonseca @TheMarieFonseca
Jul 16
Bidens campaign staff is working to unseat
 wtf is going on with their so called “unity”

David Shor’s Unified Theory of American Politics
I think going into politics, I overestimated the importance of the personal ideology of people who worked in campaigns for making decisions — which was part of a broader phenomenon of overestimating the extent to which people were making decisions. In 2012, I would see progressive blogs* publish stories like, “The White House is doing a Climate Week. This must be because they have polling showing that climate is a vulnerability for Republicans.” And once you know the people who are in that office, you realize that actually no; they were just at an awkward office meeting and were like, “Oh man, what are we going to do this week? Well, we could do climate.” There’s very little long-term, strategic planning happening anywhere in the party because no one has an incentive to do it. So, campaigns’ actions, while not random, are more random than I realized.
I’ve also fallen toward a consultant theory of change — or like, a process theory of change. So a lot of people on the left would say that the Hillary Clinton campaign largely ignored economic issues, and doubled down on social issues, because of the neoliberal ideology of the people who worked for her, and the fact that campaigning on progressive economic policy would threaten the material interests of her donors.
But that’s not what happened. The actual mechanical reason was that the Clinton campaign hired pollsters to test a bunch of different messages, and for boring mechanical reasons, working-class people with low levels of social trust were much less likely to answer those phone polls than college-educated professionals. And as a result, all of this cosmopolitan, socially liberal messaging did really well in their phone polls, even though it ultimately cost her a lot of votes....
Mitt Romney and Donald Trump agreed on basically every issue, as did Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. And yet, a bunch of people changed their votes. And the reason that happened was because the salience of various issues changed. Both sides talked a lot more about immigration, and because of that, correlation between preferences on immigration and which candidate people voted for went up. In 2012, both sides talked about health care. In 2016, they didn’t. And so the correlation between views on health care and which candidate people voted for went down.
So this means that every time you open your mouth, you have this complex optimization problem where what you say gains you some voters and loses you other voters. But this is actually cool because campaigns have a lot of control over what issues they talk about.
Non-college-educated whites, on average, have very conservative views on immigration, and generally conservative racial attitudes. But they have center-left views on economics; they support universal health care and minimum-wage increases. So I think Democrats need to talk about the issues they are with us on, and try really hard not to talk about the issues where we disagree. Which, in practice, means not talking about immigration....

Avoiding the issue / problem of neoliberalism at all costs 

“Biden’s Wall Street Undertow” 
[Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-16-20]
Biden is inundated with Wall Street supporters, who use their influence to assure that he will be another president in the Clinton-Obama mode—liberal-ish on social issues, but not a threat to Wall Street’s toxic business model, which is such a fundamental driver of gross inequality of income and wealth as well as extreme corporate concentration.
Today at 5:30, there is a big, virtual Biden fundraising event by and for Wall Street donors. It was organized by 44 alums* of the Obama and Clinton Treasury Departments. Make a donation, and you too can participate. Lead gifts are $25,000.
Keynote speakers, discussing the future of the American economy, include former Treasury Secretary and OMB Director Jack Lew, and former head of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling. Lew, under Obama, was one of the cheerleaders for budget austerity. Sperling helped negotiate the end of Glass-Steagall.
Lew is now a partner at the private equity firm Lindsay Goldberg, which specializes in leveraged buyouts, one of the curses of the economy that a progressive Biden administration would need to rein in. Budget austerity plus private equity!
Gene Sperling, who runs his own strategies firm, is more of a liberal who genuinely cares about poverty and inequality, but far from a crusader for Wall Street reform. And he will be speaking to a group of Wall Street donors.

‘Almost Indecent’
[The Heisenbert Report, via Naked Capitalism 7-16-20]
Last week, I lamented the state of America’s democracy, and suggested that while the election has the potential to usher in four years of stability, a Joe Biden presidency won’t cure what was ailing the country prior to Donald Trump’s tumultuous tenure in the Oval Office.
The point wasn’t to deride Biden. I tried to make that clear at the outset, without much success, judging by some of the feedback. Rather, the goal was to underscore the fact that America’s trust in government was waning prior to 2016, and recent events have exacerbated that crisis of confidence. Without game-changing leadership, the situation will invariably deteriorate further....

Those disparities (figure above) mirror inequities in the economic realm. 
For example, the chart below (which I’ve used previously) shows that the vast majority of US stocks are concentrated in the hands of white Americans.
....“At the moment there is [a] sharp contrast between the economic data and stock price levels on the Bloomberg screens and the images and discussions on TV”, Rabobank’s Marey went on to say this week, adding that “both types of protests we mentioned, against COVID-19 measures and against racism, reflect a lack of trust in US institutions that predates the outbreak of the virus”.
Trust in the federal government has been falling for decades in the US, and there is no reason to believe the trend will improve.

Liberals Are Crazy Idiots
Caitlin Johnstone [via Naked Capitalism 7-12-20]
Liberals (or “neoliberals” or “corporate liberals” or “centrists” or whatever word you think everyone should be using for this ideology that nobody can agree on a label for) are just a fake imitation of the thing that actual leftists are. Leftists actually fight for justice, equality, peace, truth and anti-authoritarianism, while liberals are cheerleading Joe Biden and sociopathic intelligence agencies and throwing endless inertia on any movement toward real change. Leftists are the thing that liberals pretend to be.
And that’s why liberals hate the true left: because leftists are a constant reminder that liberals aren’t what they pretend to be. That they are just conservatives wearing a fake plastic mask of justice and sanity. That their lives are a crude crayon drawing of the values they pretend to espouse, a layer of feel-good narratives and podcasts and Hamilton songs wallpapered over a rapacious omnicidal machine of endless war, ecocide and oppression.
The Threat to Civil Liberties Goes Way Beyond “Cancel Culture”
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 7-14-20]
In recent years, there has been a marked and disquieting increase in the willingness of a raft of actors left, center, and right, both in government and in civil society, to engage in a practice and attitude of censorship and to abandon due process, presumption of innocence, and other core civil liberties.
There have been some attempts from different quarters at a pushback against this, but the most recent such effort at a course correction is an open letter decrying the phenomenon appearing in Harper’s magazine. The letter, signed by some 150 public intellectuals, writers, and academics including figures like Noam Chomsky, Margaret Atwood, and Salman Rushdie, has provoked a polarizing response.
"I'm Black and Afraid of 'White Fragility'
Cedrick-Michael Simmons, June 22, 2020 [TheBellows, via Avedon's Sideshow 7-9-20]
White Fragility also reinforces the belief that the responsibility for racism lies with individual workers' attitudes and invisible phenomena including implicit bias rather than the policies and practices authorized by employers. If I were an employer, why wouldn't I want to hire a specialist to train workers to believe that their own identities and unconscious biases are the main sources of inequality, instead of exploitative workplace practices? Simply put, DiAngelo continues to be paid by schools and firms across the country for the same reason that employers pay any professional or manager: it advances their material interests as opposed to the interests of their personnel."

The Dark Side

“What 9 GOP Campaign Consultants Really Think About Republicans’ Chances in November”
[Tim Miller, Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-13-20]
 “I reached out to nine of my former allies and rivals who still consult for Republican candidates at the highest levels of Senate and House races, some who have gone full MAGA and others for whom the president is not their cup of tea. I asked them to speak candidly, without their names attached, to learn about the real behind-the-scenes conversations about the state of affairs. How is the president’s performance impacting their candidate? Are there discussions about either storming the cockpit or gently trying to #WalkAway from Trump? And finally, why in the hell aren’t they more pissed at this incompetent asshole who is fucking up their lives? What I found in their answers was one part Stockholm Syndrome, one part survival instinct. They all may not love the president, but most share his loathing for his enemies on the left, in the media, and the apostate Never Trump Republicans with a passion that engenders an alliance with the president, if not a kinship. And even among those who don’t share the tribalistic hatreds, they perceive a political reality driven by base voters and the president’s shitposting that simply does not allow for dissent. As one put it: ‘There are two options, you can be on this hell ship or you can be in the water drowning.'”

[Political Research Associates and the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, , via Avedon's Sideshow 7-9-20]
We have been tracking reports of paramilitary and other far-right actors who are showing up at or adjacent to protests demanding an end to racist policing and a transformation of our carceral state. This map seeks to right-size the threat of paramilitaries to our social justice movements, neither exaggerating nor minimizing. We have confirmed 136 reported incidents since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, and with new reports daily there are dozens more as of yet unconfirmed incidents to review. Given the variety of groups and factions involved and types of incidents, we have divided the data into a few broad categories of actors/ideologies on the one hand and actions and tactics on the other. In most cases, the underlying data preserves more nuance and can be used to make finer distinctions. "

No comments:

Post a Comment