Sunday, July 4, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 4, 2021

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 4, 2021

by Tony Wikrent


Strategic Political Economy

Techno-Feudalism Is Taking Over 

Yanis Varoufakis [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2021]

Then, after 2008, everything changed. Ever since the G7’s central banks coalesced in April 2009 to use their money printing capacity to re-float global finance, a deep discontinuity emerged. Today, the global economy is powered by the constant generation of central bank money, not by private profit. Meanwhile, value extraction has increasingly shifted away from markets and onto digital platforms, like Facebook and Amazon, which no longer operate like oligopolistic firms, but rather like private fiefdoms or estates.

That central banks’ balance sheets, not profits, power the economic system explains what happened on August 12, 2020. Upon hearing the grim news, financiers thought: “Great! The Bank of England, panicking, will print even more pounds and channel them to us. Time to buy shares!” All over the West, central banks print money that financiers lend to corporations, which then use it to buy back their shares (whose prices have decoupled from profits). Meanwhile, digital platforms have replaced markets as the locus of private wealth extraction. For the first time in history, almost everyone produces for free the capital stock of large corporations. That is what it means to upload stuff on Facebook or move around while linked to Google Maps.


“Democrats Raise Ethical Concerns Over GOP Donor’s $1 Million Funding of Border Deployment”

[Military.com, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“A billionaire’s $1 million donation to fund a South Dakota National Guard mission to the U.S.-Mexico border has raised questions of whether the military is effectively for hire, and Democrats in the state are investigating the legality of the issue, Military.com has learned. Willis and Reba Johnson’s Foundation, helmed by billionaire Willis Johnson, pledged $1 million to South Dakota to cover the estimated cost of deploying some 50 guardsmen to the border for up to two months, according to a state government email reviewed by Military.com.”

This is exactly why I advocate replacing liberalism with civic republicanism, which is compelling in its clarity and simplicity: the rich are as much a danger to a republic as a standing army.

As James Madison wrote in his notes preparing for the Constitutional Convention: “If the minority happen to include all such as possess the skill and habits of military life, & such as possess the great pecuniary resources, one third only may conquer the remaining two thirds.”

Under liberalism, any individual has the “right” to amass as much property as they can. The rights of the community are decidedly secondary. Under civic republicanism, a properly functioning government breaks up any and all concentrated wealth, precisely because wealth, like power, corrupts, and, as we know too damn well, wealth buys power. Benjamin Franklin observed, “”There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way.” In laying down “good whig principles,” Franklin recognized the insidious nature of concentrated wealth to corrupt politics, and wrote “the poor man has an equal right, but more need, to have representatives in the Legislature than the rich one.”

Remember the liberal reaction to AOC’s comment that all billionaires is a failure of policy? 

The true purpose of taxation in a republic, therefore, is not to fund the government, but to tax away excess wealth, and maintain a semblance of economic equality among the citizens. Under no circumstance is any citizen to be allowed to become so wealthy that he or she feels they can afford a “donation” that determines the deployment of either state or federal military forces. Or steers the destiny of legislation. Or determines the effect of regulation.

Clear and simple.

After all, isn’t that, when you boil it down, what the slavery oligarchy did to drag the country into Civil War? And it’s where the reactionary rich, and their conservative and libertarian movements, are dragging us again.


Can Biden Build Back Better? Yes, If He Abandons Fiscal “Pay Fors" — Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray

[Levy Institute of Economics, via Mike Norman Economics, July 1, 2021]

President Biden’s proposals for investing in social and physical infrastructure signal a return to a budget-neutral policymaking framework that has largely been set aside since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis. According Yeva Nersisyan and L. Randall Wray, this focus on ensuring revenues keep pace with spending increases can undermine the goals internal to both the public investment and tax components of the administration’s plans: the “pay-for” approach limits our spending on progressive policy to what we can raise through taxes, and we will only tax the amount we need to spend.

Nersisyan and Wray propose an alternative approach to budgeting for large-scale public expenditure programs. In their view, policymakers should evaluate spending and tax proposals on their own terms, according to the goals each is intended to meet. If the purpose of taxing corporations and wealthy individuals is to reduce inequality, then the tax changes should be formulated to accomplish that—not to “raise funds” to finance proposed spending. And while it is possible that general tax hikes might be needed to prevent public investment programs from fueling inflation, they argue that the kinds of taxes proposed by the administration would do little to relieve inflationary pressures should they arise. Under current economic circumstances, however, the president’s proposed infrastructure spending should not require budgetary offsets or other measures to control inflation in their estimation.

Biden Classifies Opposition to ‘Capitalism and Corporate Globalization’ As Extremism 

[Naked Capitalism 06/29/2021]


India Walton Is Reviving the American Tradition of Municipal Socialism

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 06-30-2021]


“The Public-Health Calculus Has Shifted”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

The civic republican idea of the rights of the community is an obvious answer to this issue of private liberty versus public health. 

“In April 2020, on assignment from the CDC, I became the senior adviser for public health in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office. My job was to lead the strategy for fighting COVID-19. In that capacity, I spent as much time talking with lawyers and writing affidavits as I did analyzing the latest COVID-19 research. In those days, ‘following the science’ of public health was fairly straightforward: It meant mandating masks and physical distancing, promoting widespread testing and isolation when necessary, and, crucially, restricting the right of businesses and other entities to welcome people from different households indoors. When New York City and New York State ordered such measures, we were sued by restaurants, bars, and gyms. Our successful defense against these suits rested on several facts. First, everyone was at risk from COVID-19. Second, in the absence of a vaccine, the only effective way to reduce the risk of illness was to reduce the risk of exposure, and the only way to do that was for everyone to sacrifice for one another by wearing masks, maintaining distance, and exercising constant vigilance. Third, any indoor gathering of people from different households risked transmission to large numbers of people from different social networks. (Where such gatherings were unavoidable, such as in schools, strict precautions were required at all times.) Finally, and most important, widespread community infection could lead to two existential threats: the collapse of the health-care system, and an extended period of mass death on the scale of what New York experienced in the horrific early phase of the pandemic.” And: “n the United States, public-health agencies often state their overarching mission as maximizing the quality and length of life with a particular focus on reducing inequalities in outcomes. But their legal authority to regulate residents’ civil liberties derives from a narrow source: the responsibility to protect public safety, as delegated to states in the police-powers clause of the Tenth Amendment. Just as average citizens lack the ability to stop a terrorist or extinguish a wildfire, they also lack the expertise and technology to address major health threats. Individuals cannot, for example, identify a product that caused an E. coli O157 outbreak and take it off grocery-store shelves. And yet for public-health agencies to use their authority, expert opinion is not enough. They also need broad community consensus that the government is justified in invoking its police powers. ”


How Beijing humbled Britain’s mighty HSBC 

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism 06/29/2021]

No mention of HSBC’s historical background in the narcotics trade, nor its connections to Brutish intelligence.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

“Young American Adults Are Dying — and Not Just From Covid”

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“In March, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee summed up the current state of knowledge in a 475-page report on “High and Rising Mortality Rates Among Working-Age Adults.” Advances in overall life expectancy stalled in the U.S. after 2010 even while continuing in other wealthy countries, the committee summed up, attributing this mainly to (1) rising mortality due to external causes such as drugs, alcohol and suicide among those aged 25 through 64 and (2) a slowing in declines in deaths from internal causes, chiefly cardiovascular diseases. There are lots of different ways to analyze this disturbing turn of events, and the fact that much attention so far has gone to the plight of the middle-aged makes sense in that middle-aged people are a lot likelier to die than younger adults. The 3.7% increase in mortality from 2010 through 2019 for those aged 55 through 64, for example, amounted to almost four times as many deaths as the 25.2% increase among those aged 25 through 34. Still, a 25.2% mortality increase over nine years amounts to a staggering setback, far worse than any other age group experienced over that period. It was followed up in 2020 with an also staggering 24.5% one-year increase, which made for a 55.8% rise since 2010. ”


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

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Neoliberalism’s Bailout Problem 

Robert Pollin and Gerald Epstein [Boston Review, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]

A good summary of Hyman Minsky’s “Wall Street Paradigm” and why financial and economic crises are inevitable in the absence of firm regulation.  Unfortunately, Pollin and Epstein credit Keynes with the intellectual revolution for active counter-cyclical government intervention. True only in terms of academic history; in terms of political economy, active counter-cyclical government intervention was devised by Franklin Roosevelt’s Federal Reserve chairman Marriner Eccles long before Keynes was well known in USA. Also, most of the panoply of active New Deal programs were based on the ideas of the agrarian populists of the 1870s to 1890s, as described at the beginning of this retrospective by key New Deal adviser Rex Tugwell


The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is a Gift to Wall Street, at the Planet’s Expense 

Kate Aronoff [The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 06/29/2021]


The Dream of Florida Is Dead 

[Slate, via Naked Capitalism 7-1-2021]

….that is what’s causing a panic locally, because there is a shit ton of condo buildings here. And you can’t put off these repairs that need to happen. Part of the reason people buy condos is because they’re cheaper. And as soon as you start throwing in “Well, you need to pay $25,000 into this repair,” that scares the crap out of people. So people have been putting it off.

I can’t overstate how big this wrench that this is throwing into our local and regional and state economy, actually. Condos and the development of condos and the mortgage brokers that help get the financing, the insurers that insure, the realtors who sell, the investors who buy and flip—if Florida has one main driver of industry, this is it. That is what we do. That is the story of Florida. And I think we’re seeing a lot of anxiety about this. This is going to force a wholesale reevaluation of the very places where millions of Floridians live.

Disrupting mainstream economics

“A New Macroeconomics?” (PDF)

Jón Steinsson [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“During the time theory was dominant in macro, much progress was made on the theoretical front. But being so dominated by theory, the field was very exposed to another problem: models in which markets work well are (usually) easier to solve than models in which market work poorly. This simple fact has huge consequences because it imparts a bias on economic theory towards models in which markets work well. Since models in which markets work well are easier to solve, researchers tend to work with such models. The default assumption about a market is typically that it is perfectly competitive. Researcher will often introduce a carefully constructed friction in a critical place in their model and focus their analysis on the implications of this friction. But all other markets in the model are typically modeled as being perfectly competitive for simplicity. The typical researcher is so used to assuming that virtually all markets are perfectly competitive that they are often completely blinded as to the consequences of these assumptions. They take as given certain implications of these perfect markets assumptions as though they were inevitable consequences of logic as opposed to the consequences of obviously false simplifying assumptions that they and everyone they know have made for years and years.” 


Disrupting mainstream politics

Washington Isn’t Used to the Left Setting the Agenda

David Dayen, June 28, 2021 [The American Prospect]

That’s why [Republicans] freaked out over Democrats linking two separate infrastructure bills. But to succeed, the left must also erase privatization from the agenda.

What got Republicans so angry is that Democrats figured out a way to make the two-stage process successful. And it’s so confounding to them because, for the first time in anyone’s memory, the political system in Washington felt more of a need to cater to its left to win votes than to cater to its right.

Biden was merely adopting the same position that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had stated just a few hours earlier. “We will not take up a bill in the house until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill,” Pelosi declared. When Biden was asked specifically if he supported Pelosi’s position, he said, “Yes.” But Biden didn’t link the two bills, Pelosi did, and there’s nothing that anyone in the Senate can do about it.

Pelosi had to make this promise because it was the only way for anything on infrastructure to pass. Progressives, who have enough numbers within the party to block legislation in the House, made it very clear that they didn’t trust moderates enough to follow through on a second bill without a forcing mechanism. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) floated on June 15 that the House should hold the first bill until the second bill passes the Senate, precisely what Pelosi stated would happen days later. AOC’s was just the first public iteration of a position relayed privately to Pelosi previously. Left-leaning members of the Senate unified with that strategy as well and made their stance clear.

Pelosi is pretty cold-eyed when it comes to this stuff. She will engage in whatever strategy it takes to actually get something passed. She’s stating through her actions that the threat of progressives walking away from the first bill in the absence of the second is greater than any moderate revolt on social spending and tax increases.


“Pelosi stands by infrastructure strategy despite pushback”

[CNN, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated on Wednesday that she stands by her assertion that the House won’t take up a bipartisan infrastructure deal until the Senate passes a more sweeping package through budget reconciliation, a position that has drawn criticism from Republicans and caused some anxiety among moderate House Democrats…. The comments from the speaker come after she said last week, ‘Let me be really clear on this: We will not take up a bill in the House until the Senate passes the bipartisan bill and a reconciliation bill.’ Emphasizing the point, she said, ‘There ain’t gonna be no bipartisan bill, unless we have a reconciliation bill.’ Democratic leaders are pursuing a dual track approach to infrastructure, pushing for a bipartisan bill while also setting the stage for the Senate to pass a package that would only require Democratic votes and would include priorities left out of the deal.”


It’s the economic ideology, stupid

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-28-20]

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“Confronting a legacy of scarcity: a plan for reinvesting in U.S. public health”

[STAT, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Decades of chronic underfunding and a failure to invest in the public health workforce, the physical infrastructure of state and local health departments, and critical data systems have left Americans vulnerable to calamities like Covid-19 and other pathogens that lie just around the corner. In the last two decades, funding for public health has been progressively chipped away.” A handy chart

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Restoring balance to the economy

Microcities

[interfluidity, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2021]

Michael Eliason has a great piece (hosted at David Roberts’ substack) describing the kind of experiments with the urban built environment that are common in parts of Europe but unheard of the in United States. Eliason writes:

“It should be noted that these developments are largely the result of urban planning competitions. This is in stark contrast to the US, where we incorporate little to no urban planning and essentially let the market drive development, with no forethought to livability, open space, schools, walkability, and so forth.

Citizen participation is also a major component of these projects. Unlike in the US, this participation isn’t a wasteful exercise whereby local homeowners get to block new homes and preserve the status quo. Rather, these processes allow residents to have a say in what their new district can look like, where things should be located, and what kinds of open space or car-free areas it will have. It is true democratic planning, facilitated by spatial planning policies that are both top-down and bottom-up. We should probably take note.”

But in the United States, don’t new towns just become Levittown or Columbia, Maryland — car-centric, shopping-mall centered, suburban sprawl? By default, yes they do. If you let the market do its thing, the national homebuilders will build out tracts of cul-de-sacs and detached homes in their sleep, hardly even noticing what they’ve done. The “market” is a local optimizer, a risk-averse creature of habit. Even under the best of circumstances the market would build too little, given the asymmetry of social costs of housing scarcity versus overabundance. We want more experimentation than the market would provide, and as Eliason points out, we want planning during which future residents exercise a meaningful franchise. The United States used to be a site of utopian experiments. It ought to be again. We’ll need activist government, some form of social housing, in order to make that happen. 


Climate and environmental crises

The Complex 50-Year Collapse of U.S. Public Transit Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2021]

Does not discuss lack of investment.


Climate Change is Purely a Political Problem, the Tech to Solve the Crisis is Readily Available

DanielEMichelsen [DailyKos June 29, 2021]

Building codes in the US are a joke. In 2009 while studying to be an energy consultant I learned that the best “Energy Star” rated standard in the US did not meet the minimum energy code in Europe. In fact some of our building codes prohibit the best practices available.  The technology exists to build homes that need no heating system anywhere in the continental US. Its called insulation.

While the details can get complicated, in concept it really is that simple. Since heating systems are expensive to install and maintain, much of the added cost of insulation is covered by the elimination of the boiler or furnace and heat distribution ducts or pipes. Once the building shell is efficient enough, the lights appliances and people keep the building warm. During the cold season, if it gets too warm, cooling is free, just bring in some outside air.

This is not to be confused with net zero homes. If you start with a horrible building that guzzles energy and put a big enough solar array on it to cover the use, it qualifies as net zero. Despite the obvious stupidity of this, it is done. The problems are many.

Heat waves cause us to run the AC. This uses power, which for most of us still means producing CO2. Which intensifies the heat wave. The technology to reduce this vicious cycle already exists. It’s called ……. insulation.

Insulation is a fairly new technology. 100 years ago homes were built with hollow cavities. It was not until the 1940’s that home insulation became common place.


How Last Century’s Oil Wells Are Messing With Texas Right Now 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 7-1-2021]

Ranchers and regulators are contending with uncontrolled leaks from thousands of abandoned oil and gas sites that could render some land “functionally uninhabitable.”



“Grocery stores are pulling perishable food, covering aisles in plastic sheets, and running sprinklers on their roofs as they battle a record heat wave”

[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-21]

“Grocery stores in Washington have been forced to pull perishable goods from shelves and turn off entire refrigerated sections as the state experiences record-shattering temperatures…. The weather makes it difficult for refrigerators and freezers to maintain low temperatures. A reporter for a Fox affiliate in Seattle said the heat had caused refrigerators to malfunction at an Albertsons store in Mill Creek, Washington. The grocer was forced to pull several perishable goods from its shelves, including meats, lettuces, and dairy items, the reporter said, adding that the store posted signs telling customers it couldn’t provide several refrigerated foods and cordoned off the empty aisles. Other stores in the state have used similar tactics. Some Fred Meyer stores in Washington put plastic covers over refrigerated goods to keep in the cool air, dozens of posts on social media suggested. A Fred Meyer spokesperson was not immediately available to comment…. Two people said on social media that at least two Fred Meyer locations had turned on roof sprinklers to help maintain air-conditioning and freezer units. People in Washington posted pictures of grocery stores with empty freezer aisles and refrigerators wrapped in plastic. Some people said aisles of Gatorade and electrolyte drinks had been cleared out, while others said they’d seen crowds of shoppers trying to beat the heat.”

 

“Northwest heat wave demonstrates world’s growing cooling needs”

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-2-21]

“What we’re watching: How much of the world’s growing global cooling needs will be met with highly efficient units and buildings, use of heat pumps, low-impact coolants and systems plugged into grids with high amounts of zero-carbon power remains to be seen. A separate IEA report last month, which models a global energy system that achieves “net-zero” emissions by 2050, finds it’s possible to massively expand cooling in an emissions-friendly way. In that scenario, the number of air conditioning units in emerging and developing economies specifically rises by 650 million by 2030 and another 2 billion by 2050. But under their hugely ambitious model — not a prediction! — a basket of clean technologies nonetheless helps to cut CO2 emissions from the world’s buildings by 95% by 2050.” And: “Cities that establish cooling centers, [Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University] said, may not be placing them in the most accessible areas. He noted that in Chicago, about one-third of cooling centers are located in police precincts. ‘Think about that in [the] context of the populations least likely to have air conditioning,’ he said.”


The climate crisis is a crime that should be prosecuted 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2021]

I started saying this a couple years ago: climate denial should be made a crime, like hate speech. You don’t even need to lock up deniers — just make them felons and suspend their voting rights for ten or more years, until after we meet the collective action problem of stopping climate change.  


Even Emergency Measures Won’t Save the West From Megadrought 

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]


Information Age Dystopia

“Amazon Demands One More Thing From Some Vendors: a Piece of Their Company”

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Suppliers that want to land Amazon.com Inc. as a client for their goods and services can find that its business comes with a catch: the right for Amazon to buy big stakes in their companies at potentially steep discounts to market value. The technology-and-retail giant has struck at least a dozen deals with publicly traded companies in which it gets rights, called warrants, to buy the vendors’ stock in the future at what could be below-market prices, according to corporate filings and interviews with people involved with the deals. Amazon over the past decade also has done more than 75 such deals with privately held companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. In all, the tech titan’s stakes and potential stakes amount to billions of dollars across companies that provide everything from call-center services to natural gas, and in some cases position Amazon among the top shareholders in those businesses. The unusual arrangements offer another window into how Amazon uses its market heft to increase its wealth and clout.”


“How Amazon Bullies, Manipulates, and Lies to Reporters”

[Mother Jones, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Almost all of the journalists told me they found that Amazon press relations was either the most or among the most clawing and deceptive corporate communications team that they had dealt with in their work. ‘Amazon is the only company I’ve dealt with that has directly lied to me,” said one tech writer, recalling instances when Amazon boasted of warehouse safety guidelines in ways that journalists who had spoken with rank-and-file employees had found not to be true. ‘They’d often lie about things we had proof of,’ said another reporter, citing times they had visual evidence contradicting the communications teams’ claims. ‘There will be videos of these big walkouts and they’ll say only a few workers participated.'”

Lambert Strether adds: “Just the kind of corporate culture I want to get off-planet and colonize Mars.”


Millions Choose Simple Privacy Protection with DuckDuckGo 

[Spread Privacy, via The Big Picture 6-29-2021]

Growth over the last 12 months: 50M+ app downloads, 55% search traffic increase, #2 search engine on mobile in the U.S., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands & more.


Google’s Antitrust Cases: A Guide for the Perplexed 

[Wired, via The Big Picture 6-29-2021]

The company is facing multiple lawsuits from the Department of Justice and three dozen states. Here’s what you need to know. 


Artificial Intelligence Has Caused A 50% To 70% Decrease In Wages—Creating Income Inequality And Threatening Millions Of Jobs 

[Forbes, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 6-27-2021]

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The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

Biden’s $118million cabinet: Net worth of secretaries revealed – with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and AG Merrick Garland at $20million down to Pete Buttigieg with $750,000

[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2021]


[Twitter,via Naked Capitalism 6-30-2021]

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Dems Launch Proxy War On Medicare For All

David Sirota and Julia Rock, June 29, 2021 [The Daily Poster]


The Handbook of Handbooks for Decentralised Organising

[via Naked Capitalism 6-29-2021]

A mega list of handbooks and toolkits for groups working without top-down management


The Dark Side

“Attorney General Ken Paxton rules ERCOT not subject to Texas Public Information Act”

[Dallas Morning News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 6-29-20]

“Attorney General Ken Paxton finds in a ruling that the Public Information Act would not apply to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, meaning documents, text messages, e-mails, and recorded phone calls about February’s deadly storm will not be released. Following an onslaught of records requests related to the winter storm and the ensuing power grid crisis, ERCOT attempted to limit the amount of information it would have to release. In March, ERCOT claimed it was a public agency, and therefore immune from lawsuits. It also claimed the Public Information Act does not apply because it was not a public entity, which, under Texas law, is required to release records…. Texas’ grid operator is defined as an “independent organization,” certified by the Public Utility Commission of Texas.”


Court upholds Arizona voting restrictions, limits cases under Voting Rights Act 

[SCOTUSblog, via Naked Capitalism 7-2-2021]

Alito declined to provide an “exhaustive list” of what circumstances courts should consider to determine whether a law violates Section 2, but he outlined what he described as “several important circumstances” that, particularly when taken together, strongly suggest that it will be more difficult for plaintiffs to prevail in the future in cases arguing that a voting law violates Section 2. He noted first that the size of the burden imposed by a voting rule is “highly relevant.” “After all,” he wrote, “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort.” “Mere inconvenience,” he added, “cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of” Section 2….

If a voting rule affects some racial or ethnic groups more than others, Alito continued, courts should consider the size of that disparate impact. Just because there is some disparate impact does not, standing alone, mean that everyone does not have an equal opportunity to vote, Alito made clear. “The size of any disparity matters,” and any comparisons should be “meaningful”: “What are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.” ….

The court also reversed the 9th Circuit’s holding that the state had a discriminatory purpose when it enacted the ballot-collection restriction. Alito acknowledged that the catalyst “for the debate over mail-in voting” and the ballot-collection restriction “may well have been provided by one [state] Senator’s enflamed partisanship, but partisan motives are not the same as racial motives” – even when voting preferences of members of a particular racial group “may make the former look like the latter.” The district court in this case, Alito underscored, “found no evidence that the legislature as a whole was imbued with racial motives.”



GRAPH: Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media

[via The Big Picture 6-30-2021]

Mainstream monthly traffic down 18.3 %. 

Far left monthly traffic down 27.3 %.

Far right monthly traffic down 43.8 %.


“The GOP’s Dark Money Court Machine”

Andrew Perez, June 29, 2021 [The Daily Poster]

The conservative dark money group that led the campaign to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat with Amy Coney Barrett received more than $14 million from a single mystery donor in the lead-up to the confirmation fight, according to documents obtained by The Daily Poster.

The Concord Fund is the new parent nonprofit of the Judicial Crisis Network, a secretive dark money group that has been bankrolling campaigns to install GOP judges and funding conservative advocacy campaigns around the country since 2004.

After Ginsburg’s death in September last year, the Judicial Crisis Network immediately started spending millions on ads calling on Senators to ‘ignore the extremists, stick to precedent, and confirm the nominee,’ who had not yet been named. The group then spent millions more to support Barrett’s confirmation after former President Donald Trump selected her to replace Ginsburg.

The Concord Fund’s latest IRS tax return shows the organization raised $20.4 million between July 2019 and June 2020. While the group is not required to publicly disclose its donors, the tax return shows it received $14.3 million — nearly 70 percent of its total revenue at the time — from a single anonymous source….

The Concord Fund is closely tied to top Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo. In early 2020, Leo stepped away from his day-to-day role at the Federalist Society, the national conservative lawyers group, to help steer the Concord Fund. Between mid-2019 and mid-2020, the Concord Fund paid $1.6 million to a company affiliated with Leo called BH Group, LLC….

Leo and his allies rebranded the Judicial Crisis Network as the Concord Fund, turning it into a social welfare organization that fiscally sponsors other organizations. This arrangement creates additional layers of opacity, allowing a nonprofit to host or create new advocacy groups at relatively little cost that simply exist as a trade name. Judicial Crisis Network is now a fictitious name registered under the Concord Fund in Virginia.

Conservative operatives did the same thing with the Judicial Crisis Network’s charitable arm, the Judicial Education Project, renaming it the 85 Fund.

Last week, the 85 Fund and the Concord Fund registered new fictitious names, Free to Learn and Free to Learn Action. A few days later, the Free to Learn Coalition, which Fox News described as an “anti-critical race theory” organization, publicly announced that it had “launched with an initial seven-figure national ad campaign of well over $1 million advocating for classrooms independent from political influence.”


Inside the ‘shadow reality world’ promoting the lie that the presidential election was stolen 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 6-27-2021]

Wealthy allies of former president Donald Trump have spent millions on films, rallies and other efforts to tout falsehoods about the 2020 vote.


Inside the extraordinary effort to save Trump from covid-19

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 6-27-2021]

Trump would have died in office, it seems.

His illness was more severe than the White House acknowledged at the time. Advisers thought it would alter his response to the pandemic. They were wrong….

Trump’s medical advisers hoped his bout with the coronavirus, which was far more serious than acknowledged at the time, would inspire him to take the virus seriously. Perhaps now, they thought, he would encourage Americans to wear masks and put his health and medical officials front and center in the response. Instead, Trump emerged from the experience triumphant and ever more defiant. He urged people not to be afraid of the virus or let it dominate their lives, disregarding that he had had access to health care and treatments unavailable to other Americans.


“SCOTUS to wrongfully accused terrorists: ‘drop dead'”

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 7-1-21]

“Transunion’s secret files on you include a tickbox for ‘suspected terrorist.’ Transunion wrongly accused 8,000 people of being terrorists. It discovered its error and violated its statutory duty to inform the people it had wronged. The Supremes just ruled that those wronged people aren’t allowed to sue Transunion for accusing them of being terrorists and making that judgment available to its customers, including government agencies, employers and landlords.”



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