Sunday, March 28, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 28, 2021

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 28, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy


[Brasilwire, via Naked Capitalism 3-22-21]

In January of this year, a study published by the Center for Research and Studies on Health Law at the University of São Paulo, and NGO Conectas, proved that the spread of the coronavirus in Brazil was a government strategy. The same researchers now insist the president should be investigated for genocide.

In May 2020, the far-right president insisted that “only the weak, the sick and the elderly should be worried” about Covid-19. What sounded like denialism a year ago now reads like a candid admission…. No other country on earth had a head of state actively preventing their population from being vaccinated, whilst leaving the poorest unable to protect themselves through isolation.

A recent study in Brazil’s largest city São Paulo shows that those living in its poorest neighbourhoods are 3 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than those in its wealthiest.

A Better Path to Tech Reform? Felony Charges 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 3-24-21]

...there are two options to buy time, neither of which requires congressional action. It merely requires the government to apply regulatory tools that do not get used frequently, namely subjecting business executives to felony prosecution.

The first option is an antitrust case against Google led by the attorney general of Texas that alleges a price fixing conspiracy in digital advertising. The complaint names Facebook as a co-conspirator. Price fixing falls under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, significant because it does not require proof of harm. The attempt itself is a crime. And if, as has been alleged, there is evidence of an agreement for mutual legal defense, there may be a second count. When appropriate, executives can be subject to felony prosecution, punishable by up to three years in prison. Google denies any wrongdoing.

The Biden Justice Department has an opportunity to join the Texas case or to pursue its own case as a felony. DOJ can adds Google and Facebook executives to its criminal antitrust indictments. The situation warrants it, as the harms in question are the result of deliberate business choices. The threat of imprisonment might change the calculus for internet CEOs, creating for the first time an incentive to make the changes to their business model necessary to stop harm to public health, democracy, privacy, and competition….

The events of the past year have exposed structural flaws in the economy, the health care system, the electrical grid, and American politics. Some of these problems may appear to be less acute than the pandemic, but all require attention now. This poses a huge challenge for the Biden administration, which is hamstrung by 40 years of deregulation and underfunding of government institutions. They have to use every available tool.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 21, 2021

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 21, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 3-15-21]


The Dark Money “Ring” of Charles Koch and Leonard Leo Gets an Airing Before the U.S. Senate – Followed by a Mainstream Media News Blackout

Pam Martens and Russ Martens, March 15, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

Last Wednesday, March 10, a Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing of critical importance to every American on the growing tsunami of dark money that is corrupting the U.S court system, up to, and including, the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has written extensively on the corrupting influence of dark money on American democracy, chairs that Subcommittee on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action and Federal Rights….

Had a truly objective Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal taken the time to read the full written testimony of Lisa Graves, President of the Center for Media and Democracy, that was presented at this hearing, there would be no doubt in their minds that the Federal court system in the United States has been obscenely corrupted by dark money, coming predominantly from fossil fuels billionaire Charles Koch and his dark money network….

Graves’ courageous testimony named names and backed up her charges with hard facts. Graves explained the campaign to seat Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court…. Graves writes that Leonard Leo, the Co-Chairman of the Koch-funded Federalist Society “sits at the hub of a secretive scheme to capture the courts and remake our laws, with a cadre of his confidantes and groups.” Graves says that “more than $400 million” was received by this dark money network between 2014 and 2018…. 

Graves explains the motive behind the involvement of the Federalist Society as follows:

“The Federalist Society is also stacked with corporate attorneys whose day jobs are to defend some of the biggest corporations in the world. Through its publications and events, the Federalist Society advances a pro-corporate agenda to limit the ability of Congress and federal agencies to regulate corporations and to thwart the mitigation of climate change under the guise of a merely neutral philosophy.”

Graves also provided written testimony on a memo that was sent by the Koch network to tout its success in getting the Trump administration to enact its agenda. Charles Koch’s late brother and long-time ally, David, had written in the memo: “Our efforts have been aligned with the Trump administration’s efforts to use Executive Orders to direct agencies and departments to dismantle regulatory overreach.”

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 14, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 14, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

Russia turns away from NASA, says it will work with China on a Moon base 

[Ars Technica, via Naked Capitalism 3-10-21]

Brazil's High Court Invalidates Lula's Convictions, Leaving Him Eligible to Run Against Bolsonaro

[, via Naked Capitalism 3-10-21]

….this is increasingly becoming the playbook for neoliberal elites who are angry that the population has defied them by voting for those they oppose. Thwarted by the democratic process, elites now resort instead to subversions of democracy in the name of upholding it. The employ frivolous impeachments to remove the leader whose legitimacy they never accepted, lawfare designed to make governance impossible through endless investigations or even the unjust imprisonment of their political opponents, and a full-scale union with the corporate media which openly and shamelessly ceases to report and instead engages in tawdry political activism to destroy the leaders chosen by the disobedient population. Indeed, the oligarchical Brazilian media so openly and overwhelmingly favored Dilma’s impeachment that the steadfastly apolitical press freedom group Reporters Without Borders dropped Brazil to 104th in its annual press freedom rankings and warned that the Brazilian press’ abandonment of the journalistic function while agitating for Dilma’s removal was so severe that the Brazilian press itself endangered press freedom.

As neoliberalism destroys more and more lives around the world, leaving an endless array of social pathologies in its wake, power centers will seek out tactics to subvert the democratic will. The increasing insistence on censoring the internet and controlling the flow of information is one symptom of elite fear of popular rage and desperation. So, too, is the related attempt by corporate media outlets to regain their monopoly over news and discourse by discrediting anyone or anything which sits in opposition to them. And the playbook that resulted in Dilma’s removal from office less than eighteen months after Brazil elected her, followed by the unjust imprisonment of Lula to ensure he could not run and win again, is reflective of a pattern already emerging in the west: abusing the force of law, propaganda and state processes to destroy those whom the population was not supposed to elect.

The same ruling class fears motivate increasing attacks on anyone who effectively exposes the rot and deceit of their conduct. Just as the U.S. Government has imprisoned Julian Assange and exiled Edward Snowden, the Brazilian government is intent on imprisoning my source, Walter Delgatti, for the crime of exposing the truth (they also tried, unsuccessfully, to criminally prosecute me for the crime of doing the reporting that exposed the fraud of Lula’s prosecution).

The guardians of the ruling neoliberal order know their days are numbered and will become increasingly desperate to cling to power for as long as it can. The playbook used and just exposed in Brazil will be seen with greater frequency as a hated elite seek to weaken that which most threatens their interests: a discourse and a democracy they can no longer manipulate and control.

NYT Fails to Examine Its Participation in Brazil’s ‘Biggest Judicial Scandal’ 

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 3-10-21]

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 7, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – March 7, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

All futurism is Afrofuturism 

Noah Smith [Noahpinion, via Naked Capitalism 3-4-21]

recent paper in The Lancet attempts to model how African population will change as women’s education and access to contraception (the two biggest things other than GDP that we know affect fertility) increase. They predict a population for Sub-Saharan Africa of about 3.4 billion by century’s end — only 0.8 billion lower than the UN median projection. That’s still an absolutely enormous fraction of humanity, and an even larger chunk of the young population.

Thus, the future of Africa is the future of humanity, despite the fact that Africa will experience a normal fertility transition and its population will eventually stabilize rather than explode. I don’t think people in the U.S. (or, probably, other regions) have come to grips with the full import of this.

But what happens to Africa is even more important, relative to the rest of the world, than these population numbers suggest! This is because Africa is still a mostly poor region. Economics teaches us that marginal utility — i.e. the amount life gets better when you get a little richer — is much higher for poor people. And with China and (to some degree) India industrializing successfully and seeing population growth slow, soon most of the extremely poor people in the world will probably reside in Africa.

Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns 

[AP, via The Big Picture 3-3-21]

China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.

Trends in Income From 1975 to 2018 

[Rand Corporation, via Naked Capitalism 2-28-21]

 We document the cumulative effect of four decades of income growth below the growth of per capita gross national income and estimate that aggregate income for the population below the 90th percentile over this time period would have been $2.5 trillion (67 percent) higher in 2018 had income growth since 1975 remained as equitable as it was in the first two post-War decades. From 1975 to 2018, the difference between the aggregate taxable income for those below the 90th percentile and the equitable growth counterfactual totals $47 trillion.