Sunday, August 29, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 29, 2021

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – August 29, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy
Chamathe Palihapitiya - Everyone is WRONG About China 

[Youtube, via Mike Norman Economics, August 23, 2021]

This is extremely informative on two levels. First, former Facebook executive provides his assessment of the short term and long term in China. Short term, the CCP has unambiguously demonstrated that it is firmly in control and that “we will decide how money is made, and who makes it.” Long term, China’s current population of 1.4 billion people is expected to fall by half to 700 million people by 2200. Palihapitiya says that the CC’P’s response to this demographic “time bomb” is to reinforce socialism — which is similar to the argument I make that increasing automation, robotics, and AI in USA and other countries will require more and more “social spending” to support people who simply do not, and cannot, have the means to earn a decent income. Secondly, is to contrast the composure and temperament of Palihapitiya, who clearly sees that the CCP is exerting control over “markets” in a way not thinkable in USA and the West, with that of Palihapitiya’s interlocutor, who is so enmeshed in “free market” theology that he is flipping out over what the CCP is doing. 



Who Has the Cure for America’s Declining Birthrate? Canada.

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 8-24-2021]

Over the last century, two moments that transformed America and positioned it as the global economic leader were the post-World War II economic boom and the I.T. revolution of the 1990s. In both cases, America tore down many forms of discrimination and other barriers to harness the talents of marginalized groups in the country and to welcome new ones, injecting demographic vitality into the economy. To continue America’s upward trajectory in the 21st century, the country must reverse its current demographic decline.

That last sentence especially shows that the writer is locked into the mainstream economic idea that declining population necessarily means a loss of national wealth. This thinking is based on the ideas of feudal mercantilism, which Alexander Hamilton overthrew by his design of the USA economy: “To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted;” and, “the intrinsic wealth of a nation is to be measured, not by the abundance of the precious metals, contained in it, but by the quantity of the productions of its labor and industry….” Mercantalism is zero-sum. What one nation gained in trade, another lost. But Hamilton’s emphasis on machinery and the inventive genius of the human mind meant that the real wealth of a society is based on its technology, and the application of that technology to the processes of production, transportation, and communication.

The U.S. could be on the verge of a productivity boom, a game-changer for the economy 

[Washington Post, via The Big Picture 8-23-2021]

Rapid adoption of robots and artificial intelligence during the pandemic combined with a rebound in government investment is making some economists optimistic about a return of a 1990s economy with widespread benefits.

Neither WaPo writer or Ritholtz asks what should be an obvious question: If we can produce so much more with so many less workers, why do people need to work? In a republic, the ability of society to provide for human needs must be distributed in such a way that all citizens are guaranteed to decent life, with the material conditions needed for each to make their own, unique contributions. 

50th Anniversary of Powell Memorandum: Neoliberalism Has Wrecked Its Hosts 

Yves Smith, August 23, 2021 [Naked Capitalism]

The Whole Country is the Reichstag 

Adolph Reed [via Naked Capitalism 8-24-2021]

It’s time to be blunt.1 The right-wing political alliance anchored by the Republican party and Trumpism coheres around a single concrete objective—taking absolute power in the U.S. as soon and as definitively as possible. And they’re more than ready, even seemingly want, to destroy the social fabric of the country to do so.


Afghanistan Was Always About American Politics 

James K. Galbraith [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2021]


[Diplomatic Courier, via Naked Capitalism 8-22-2021]

The Taleban’s rise to power: As the US prepared for peace, the Taleban prepared for war 

[Afghanistan Analysts Network, via Naked Capitalism 8-23-2021] 

The War in Afghanistan Is What Happens When McKinsey Types Run Everything 

Matt Stoller [via Naked Capitalism 8-28-2021] 

The Epidemic

Would It Be Fair to Treat Vaccinated Covid Patients First? 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 8-23-2021]

How the U.S. vaccination drive came to rely on an army of consultants 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 8-23-2021]

“Why Hospitals and Health Insurers Didn’t Want You to See Their Prices”

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21]

”This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers. The insurers’ trade association had called the rule unconstitutional and said it would ‘undermine competitive negotiations.’ Four hospital associations jointly sued the government to block it, and appealed when they lost. They lost again, and seven months later, many hospitals are simply ignoring the requirement and posting nothing.” Oh. More: “But data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-27-21]



The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Perverse Reason It’s Easier to Build New Highways Than New Subways 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 8-22-2021]

In July, the Eno Center for Transportation published a study on the problems with American mass transit construction. The analysis of 180 projects here and abroad found that U.S. projects cost 50 percent more and take 18 months longer to conclude than similar projects abroad. (If you so much as include projects in the New York region, the nation’s largest transit ridership hub, the premium for underground building rises to 250 percent of our peers’.)

Democracy for Sale: Examining the Effects of Concentration on Lobbying in the United States (PDF)

[American Economic Liberties Project, via Naked Capitalism 8-26-2021]

“Guy on Rocks: Copper supply crunch ‘to end all supply crunches’ is coming” [Stockhead, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21]

“here are some interesting statistics on copper showing declining grades (figure 4) and reserves (table 1). Looks like a supply crunch to end all supply crunches is on its way.” 

“Senior DOJ antitrust lawyer heads to Paul Hastings”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-24-20]

“Michael Murray, a senior U.S. Department of Justice antitrust lawyer has joined Paul Hastings as a partner, the firm announced Monday, adding another lawyer to its growing antitrust practice…. Murray cited the ‘new’ and ‘exciting’ antitrust environment in the U.S when discussing his reason for moving to private practice. He said Paul Hastings’ antitrust practice is ‘humming’ and ‘still growing,’ and he trusts the vision of the firm.”

Lambert Strether adds: “Lina Kahn seems to be cleaning house. Though in general I deprecate depicting one’s political opponents as vermin, rats leaving the sinking ship isn’t the right metaphor. Perhaps cockroaches scuttling toward the darkness?”

It’s essential that the trained incapacity of such ideologies as “free trade is always good” be cleaned out. The problem is the people pried away from the levers of power still have capacity to obstruct and harm.

Climate and environmental crises

Farm Belt withering under a drought and blistering heat

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21]

“The Farm Belt is withering under a drought and blistering heat that is cutting yields for key U.S. cash crops. Extreme temperatures are baking much of the Midwest and…. North Dakota and Minnesota are being particularly hard hit, with near-record lows in soil moisture. That has wilted many crops planted this spring….”

“Federal forecasters are scaling back expectations for U.S. crop production, driving up prices and pushing stocks of corn, wheat and soybeans down to their lowest levels since 2013. The weather concern is spreading around the world, with forecasts for crop production in countries including Brazil and Russia also being slashed. Farm shipments in U.S. supply chains have been turning downward this summer, with agriculture loads on railroads down 8.5% in July and grain shipments tumbling at a double-digit pace so far this month, according to the Association of American Railroads.”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Open-Source Insulin: Biohackers Aiming For Distributed Production 

[Hackaday, via Naked Capitalism 8-24-21]

Simple New Way to Desalinate Water Using Solar Energy

[SciTechDaily, via Mike Norman Economics 8-23-2021]

Ural Federal University (UrFU) power engineers have developed a new desalination technology. It will significantly reduce the cost of desalination and quadruple the volume of production. The results of the research are published in the journal Case Studies in Thermal Engineering.…

“We created a desalination technology by using a rotating hollow cylinder inside the solar distiller to accelerate water evaporation in the vessel by forming a thin film of water on the outer and inner surface of the cylinder, which is constantly renewed with each turn. To increase the temperature of water under the cylinder we use a solar collector,” said the head of the department Nuclear power plants and renewable energy sources UrFU Sergei Shcheklein.

As part of the experiment, the rotation speed of the cylinder inside the solar distiller was 0.5 rpm. This intensity and time are enough to evaporate a thin film of water from the surface of the cylinder. Experimental tests were held in Ekaterinburg, Russia for several months (June-October, 2019) and showed high efficiency and reliability of the developed device. In addition, the researchers noted that the relatively high intensity of solar radiation and low ambient air temperature also contributed to the performance of water distillation.

“The performance improvement factor of the created solar distiller, compared to traditional devices, was at least 280% in the relatively hot months (June, July, and August) and at least 300% and 400% in the cooler months (September and October). At the same time, the cumulative water distillation capacity reached 12.5 l/m2 per day in summer and 3.5 l/m2 per day in winter,” said Alharbawi Naseer Tawfik Alwan, a research engineer at UrFU and an employee of Northern Technical University (Iraq).

Information Age Dystopia

The All-Seeing “i”: Apple Just Declared War on Your Privacy 

Edward Snowden  [via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21]

Institutionalists = Obstructionists

“Republican support for Mayor Byron Brown’s ‘Buffalo Party'”

[WGRZ, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-23-21]

“Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, a lifetime Democrat, has signaled his willingness to accept Republican support for his write-in campaign against Democratic nominee India Walton in the Nov. 2 general election. And he’s got it. The independent nominating petition he turned in to the Erie County Board of Elections on Tuesday tells the tale: Among those gathering signatures last week in an effort to get Brown’s name on a ballot were suburban Republican Party officials, Conservatives, and at least one member of the region’s robust community of right-wing extremists. In fact, nearly one-third of the signature pages Brown turned in Tuesday were carried by members of right-leaning parties — most of them Republicans, most of them residing outside the city.” • Wow, I’d expect the state and national Democrats to come down on Brown like a ton of bricks. Party loyalty and all that.

“Dem Obstructionists Are Bankrolled By Pharma And Oil”

[Daily Poster, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-24-21]

“The small group of conservative Democratic lawmakers that has been threatening to help Republicans halt Democrats’ budget package have raked in more than $3 million from donors in the pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industries that could see reduced profits if the plan passes. As the House reconvenes today to tackle the budget reconciliation process, nine Democrats legislators have been promising to kill their party’s $3.5 trillion budget bill until Congress first passes a separate, smaller infrastructure spending measure, which has garnered some Republican support… In the narrowly divided House, obstructionism from these conservative Democrats could decouple the infrastructure and budget measures from one another. Many believe that would kill the latter by letting conservative Democrats in the Senate such as Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) get the infrastructure bill they want without having to provide the votes necessary to enact the much larger and more progressive budget measure.” • This is the House Pelosi built….

“The Democrats Are Freaking Out About the 2022 Midterms. Good!”

[The New Republic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-25-21]

“At that grave meeting, New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (pictured above), with ‘new polling that showed Democrats falling behind Republicans by a half-dozen points on a generic ballot in battleground districts’ in hand, called on Democrats to ‘course-correct’ before 2022 by better promoting of the Biden agenda (which, we’re told, ‘polls strongly’). Democrats plan to respond to these headwinds with a ‘messaging blitz’ that will highlight the White House’s ‘ambitious plans to juice the economy’ and ‘better explain what Democrats have been doing to help the Covid-ravaged’ country.”

The Dark Side

The January 6 corporate accountability index 

[Popular Information, via The Big Picture 8-22-2021]

After a violent mob stormed the Capitol building in January, hundreds of corporations pledged to make changes to their political giving. Some corporations pledged to withhold PAC funding to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election, setting the stage for the riot. Other corporations said they were suspending all PAC activity and others promised to reevaluate their giving criteria in light of the violence. Popular Information’s January 6 corporate accountability index is the first resource that comprehensively monitors these pledges. It tracks which companies have kept their promises, which ones violated their promises directly, and which ones fall somewhere in between. 

The full picture of Trump’s attempted coup is only starting to emerge 

[CNN, via The Big Picture 8-22-2021]

President Donald Trump — back in the final days of his presidency — didn’t exactly make a secret of his effort to overturn the election he’d just lost and so it’s very easy to get tired of thinking about it, now that he’s out of office and his official powers have been clipped. But in addition to the lies he was spreading all along, we continue to learn new and disturbing details about his obstinate and pernicious efforts to poison the system from within, which included an “Apprentice”-style showdown between two top Justice Department officials at the White House and threats of resignation.

Trump raised millions but spent none of it on audits and GOP candidates 

[Politico, via The Big Picture 8-22-2021]

A review of election filings from Make America Great Again PAC, Save America PAC, and the Save America Joint Fundraising Committee show that not a single penny was transferred or contributed from those Trump-affiliated entities to GOP candidates or committees involved in the midterm elections. Nor did Trump’s various groups write a check to support the audit in Arizona that he has repeatedly praised in statements and suggested would lead to the overthrowing of the 2020 election results. 

“‘Profound abuse’: Judge disciplines pro-Trump lawyers over election lawsuit”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21]

“In a highly anticipated written ruling, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit said the pro-Trump lawyers, including Powell and prominent litigator Lin Wood, should have investigated the Republican former president’s voter fraud claims more carefully before filing what Parker called a ‘frivolous’ lawsuit. Parker, who dismissed the Michigan suit last December, formally requested that disciplinary bodies investigate whether the pro-Trump lawyers should have their law licenses revoked. The judge also ordered the lawyers to attend classes on the ethical and legal requirements for filing legal claims.”

“The precinct captain’s guide to protecting the ballot”

Alice Marshall [Medium, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-23-21]

“I think we can look forward to more Brooks Brother’s riots in the 2022 mid-terms, perhaps even in this year’s elections in Virginia, NJ, and California. Ideally the Democratic National Committee and all the state parties would be putting plans into place to prevent this. But, judging from the fact that Senate Democrats have failed to abolish the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation, they will take zero steps to protect the count. So now what? First do not worry about those things you cannot control, focus on what you can do. Above all, do NOT believe national leadership or even candidates when they tell you not to worry, they have that covered. Just make sure that YOUR precinct is organized to cope with a violent mob attempting to block the vote count. In my book I talk about procedures for election night, either you, the precinct captain, or someone reliable, goes to witness the vote count. Under normal circumstances merely sending a witness is enough to deter misconduct on the part any election officer unworthy of their office, and assure your party that the count was done properly. But we do not live in normal times. The best way to protect the ballot in our current time is the way the Filipinos did in the snap election, through people power. You need to recruit a large well disciplined crowd to calmly stand before the polling site while you send in a designated witness to watch the vote count. It will be necessary to train your volunteers, at the very minimum watch the deescalation videos on YouTube.”

“Lawsuits over voting maps have become a strategy for challenging political power, study finds — plus, 3 tips for covering redistricting”

[The Journalist’s Resource, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21] 

“Lawsuits challenging changes to voting district maps often claim officials have moved district boundaries in a way that diminishes the political power of minority groups or unfairly gives one political party an edge. But new research that examines redistricting lawsuits across six decades surmises the real reason behind them might have less to do with correcting an unjust imbalance and more to do with pushing out the party in power.” No! More: “Earlier this month, the U.S. Census Bureau provided states with data from the 2020 census. As officials review district maps and debate changes, researcher James G. Gimpel points out that redistricting disputes are most prevalent in so-called ‘purple’ states, where voters support Republicans and Democrats at similar rates.Litigants tend to file legal challenges in places where a favorable court ruling could tip the political scale, says Gimpel, a political science professor at the University of Maryland who is the lead author of the new paper, ‘The Geography of Law: Understanding the Origin of State and Federal Redistricting Cases,’ published in Political Research Quarterly.”

“Arizona judge orders Cyber Ninjas to preserve all records in 2020 election audit” [The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21] 

“An Arizona judge on Wednesday ruled that Cyber Ninjas, the company leading the GOP-backed election audit in Arizona, must preserve all records from their process so they can be released to the public, the Arizona Republic reported. The order was made in a case brought forward by the Republic. There are currently two lawsuits seeking the release of these records, with another brought forward by the group American Oversight, which is suing the Arizona state Senate. Cyber Ninjas had argued that records connected to their audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County are not subject to Arizona’s Public Records Law which would require them to be disclosed. The Republic is arguing that since the audit is being conducted under the orders of the state Senate, the records must be made public.”

“‘Profound abuse’: Judge disciplines pro-Trump lawyers over election lawsuit”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 8-26-21] 

“In a highly anticipated written ruling, U.S. District Judge Linda Parker in Detroit said the pro-Trump lawyers, including Powell and prominent litigator Lin Wood, should have investigated the Republican former president’s voter fraud claims more carefully before filing what Parker called a ‘frivolous’ lawsuit. Parker, who dismissed the Michigan suit last December, formally requested that disciplinary bodies investigate whether the pro-Trump lawyers should have their law licenses revoked. The judge also ordered the lawyers to attend classes on the ethical and legal requirements for filing legal claims.” 

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