Sunday, October 10, 2021

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 10, 2021

 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – October 10, 2021

by Tony Wikrent

Google Is About To Turn On Two-Factor Authentication By Default For Millions of Users 

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism 10-6-2021]

Strategic Political Economy 

China’s Central Bank Governor Vows More Fintech Crackdown

[Bloomberg News, via Mike Norman Economics 10-8-2021] 
Sounds like a plan, especially now with the implosion of RE speculation. The bottom line seems to be controlling systemic risk. Second is addressing sources of economic rent extraction, monopoly in particular. It appears they have thought this through and it is not a knee-jerk reaction.

“Economic war crimes.” 

Marshall Auerback and Patrick Lawrence [The Scrum, via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2021]

Kneecapping China seems the best Biden can do…. 

There are fundamental social values and philosophies reflected in these different economic models. Understood properly, all economic institutions and structures—tax regimes, stock markets, regulatory environments, labor laws, and so on—reflect the values of the societies in which they exist. This is a problem for the U.S. in our time. We find that free markets and a weak state sector put Americans at a critical disadvantage next to models such as China’s. The problem is compounded because our religious devotion to supposedly free markets prevents us from even recognizing our circumstance.

We cannot compete, in short—we with our radical individualism, our free-for-all economy, and our countless social and economic casualties. And now we come to Gina Raimondo’s home truth: Because we cannot compete, we will do our best to cripple the nation against which we cannot compete.

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

“Many cities and states have spent no American Rescue Plan funds: report”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-5-21]

“As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states had yet to use any of the funding they received as part of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan, according to The Associated Press. More specifically, no initial spending was reported by over half of the states and two-thirds of the 90 largest cities, the AP said. After reviewing spending reports required by the law, the AP found that states had spent 2.5 percent of the funds they initially received, and large cities spent 8.5 percent of the money.”

“Department of Education: Florida missed deadline for $2.3B in federal aid”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-7-21]

“After failing to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) for how Florida would use federal funding for its schools, the state will forgo $2.3 billion in COVID-19 relief money. On Monday, the DOE sent a letter informing Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran that he had missed the deadline to submit a plan and obtain American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) money…. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) office responded to the letter, saying that Florida school districts still have money from the first round of aid to use.” • So we have a sclerotic system, at the very best. More: “[Jared] Ochs [of the Florida Department of Education] said that Florida the state “communicated well in advance” of the June deadline that it would require additional time to create a plan. He added that his department plans to submit its plans for how to use the third batch of funding in October 2021.”

Disrupting mainstream economics

The Radically Changing Labor Market

Barry Ritholtz [The Big Picture, October 8, 2021]


...have a look at the chart from Bank of America’s Haim Israel. Automation is inexorably driving huge numbers of jobs away. I suspect workers have figured for themselves they want to skip taking positions that will eventually be automated anyway. As we discussed back in July, the CARES Act monies flowed to people who recognized this — and so they learned new skills, got degrees online, trained themselves for new careers.

These days, the labor market is even more unusually dynamic than usual. It is not an exaggeration to suggest it is in the midst of a radical transformation.

The problem is not that economists cannot predict it; rather, it’s that they do not understand it.

“United States Non Farm Payrolls”

[Trading Economics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-21].

“The US economy added a meager 194K jobs in September, of 2021, the lowest so far this year and well below forecasts of 500K. Job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality (74K), professional and business services (60K), retail trade (56K), and transportation and warehousing (47K). Meanwhile, employment declined sharply in public education (-161K) and in health care (-18K).”

Lambert Strether puts this in proper context: “Interesting that “essential workers” in health care and education would leave the workforce. I wonder why? Some angst over this one:’

The Great Inflation Debate: Watching the inflation-watchers

Adam Tooze, October 5, 2021 [via The Big Picture]

“Nobody Really Knows How the Economy Works” ran the New York Times headline a few days ago. Might this be the opening for a new and better type of analysis? I would not presume to answer that question. But this is a moment to orientate ourselves. Once again, it is a moment for second-order observation, a moment to watch the inflation-watchers.

Why is this moment producing so much controversy and debate?

First there are the issues with the data themselves. When economic disruptions happen, they unleash adjustments that make the disruptions hard to measure. 

We have no theory of inflation Inflation is the biggest debate in macro. The models don’t work.

[Value Added, via The Big Picture 10-6-2021]

Nobody Really Knows How the Economy Works. A Fed Paper Is the Latest Sign

[Upshot, via The Big Picture 10-4-2021]

Many experts are rethinking longstanding core ideas, including the importance of inflation expectations. It is vivid evidence that macroeconomics, despite the thousands of highly intelligent people over centuries who have tried to figure it out, remains, to an uncomfortable degree, a black box. The ways that millions of people bounce off one another — buying and selling, lending and borrowing, intersecting with governments and central banks and businesses and everything else around us — amount to a system so complex that no human fully comprehends it. (Upshot)

Building a Predistributive Democracy on the Ruins of Market Justice

[Economic Sociology and Political Economy, via Mike Norman Economics 10-8-2021]

An insightful chapter by Margaret R. Somers “Toward a Predistributive Democracy: Diagnosing Oligarchy, Dedemocratization, and the Deceits of Market Justice” is one of the key contributions to this project. Using conceptual tools derived from a Polanyian perspective, Somers — an eminent scholar of Karl Polanyi’s thoughtmarket fundamentalism and citizenship — elaborates on the logic of “free / natural / autonomous markets” where the notion of freedom typically means loosening of state role and democratic mechanisms in protecting citizens from social and economic disparities, poverty, and exclusion:

“The political economy of capitalism is that of market naturalism – the claim that the economy operates according to natural internal laws and regularities, symmetrical to the laws of nature, which tend toward maximum efficiency when left autonomous from government and politics. Market naturalism bestows moral privilege on market outcomes on the grounds of its alleged neutrality, voluntarism, and freedom from power and human bias. In fact, it rests on a market economy that is anything but natural and nonpolitical, but one constituted by a phalanx of predistributive mechanisms of political and legal engineering. Claims that the market economy is free from government power are thus utterly fictitious. Freedom from the power of democracy, however, has been a structural constant of capitalism from its inception.” (Somers 2021: 57).

Michael Hudson — On Finance, Real Estate And The Powers Of Neoliberalism
3rd Edition: Super-Imperialism

[via Mike Norman Economics 10-8-2021]

The updated and expanded 3rd edition of Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire is now available.

This highly respected study of U.S. financial diplomacy explores the faults built into the core of the World Bank and the IMF at their inception. Forensic detail reveals how the world’s core economic functions were sculpted to preserve US financial hegemony. Difficult to detect at the time, these problems have since become explicit as the failure of the international economic order has become apparent; the IMF and World Bank were set up to give aid to developing countries, but instead many of the world’s poorest countries have been plunged into insurmountable debt crises.

The book became famous for detailing how the removal of the gold standard left the world’s central banks with only one alternative vehicle: to hold their international reserves in U.S. Treasury securities.

The result was a self-financing circular flow of U.S. military spending and the investment takeover of foreign economies. The larger America’s balance-of-payments deficit grew, the more dollars ended up in the hands of central banks and sovereign wealth funds. Machiavelli could not have planned it better. By participating in this circular flow, nations in effect financed their own economic and military encirclement.

Hudson’s critique of the destructive course of the international economic system provides important insights into the real motivations at the heart of these institutions – and the increasing tide of opposition that they face around the world....

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-7-21]


The Price of money remains at 5000-year lows [Graph]

[Bank of America Merrill Lynch, via The Big Picture 10-7-2021]

The Pandemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 10-9-2021]



The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

How Other Nations Pay for Child Care. The U.S. Is an Outlier. 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 10-7-2021]

Naked Capitalism reader commented: “Once not a fetus, you’re on your own, get a job.”

GOP governors who ended unemployment benefits failed to spur job growth: September numbers

Jon Skolnik [AlterNet, via Mike Norman Economics]

The September jobs numbers released on Friday suggest that the GOP governors who decided to end federal unemployment payments failed to accomplish their goal of jumpstarting the economy out of its pandemic-era mire — something experts predicted months ago.

According to the Bureau of Labor, employers reported 194,000 new jobs, a far cry from the 500,000-plus expected by analysts….

Last month, Axios reported that states that discontinued benefits saw roughly half the job growth enjoyed by states that maintained the program. Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent for The New York Times, this week echoed a similar sentiment, citing "no surge in participation in the labor force" despite the "labor shortage woes that many business groups" have pushed.

In a Friday analysis, Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project, pointed out the wide discrepancy in the number of people who lost their unemployment benefits in September (about 8 million) and the number of people who acquired work (about 194,000).

"194,000 jobs is equal to less than 3 percent of the people who were removed from the UI rolls in September," Breunig said. "At this rate, it would take 3.5 years for jobs-added to equal the number of people who lost their pandemic UI benefits."

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-7-21]

“The fact that people raised on neoclassical econ can't tell the difference between "addressing a distributional problem" and "making it worse but also letting rich people buy their way out of it" is basically the core problem with the world today.”






They're not capitalists - they're a criminal predatory class


[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 10-7-2021]

Pandora papers: biggest ever leak of offshore data exposes financial secrets of rich and powerful 

[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2021]

Pandora Papers: Secret tax havens of world leaders, celebrities revealed 

[Deutsche Welle, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2021]

More Than Half of America’s 100 Richest People Exploit Special Trusts to Avoid Estate Taxes 

[ProPublica, via The Big Picture 10-3-2021]

Secret IRS records show billionaires use trusts that let them pass fortunes to their heirs without paying estate tax. Will Congress end a tax shelter that has cost the Treasury untold billions?

South Dakota Is Turning Into a Tax Haven for the Global Elite 

[Vanity Fair, via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2021]

People with higher socioeconomic status have lower emotional intelligence, especially at high levels of inequality 

[PsyPost, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2021]

A series of studies published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people of higher socioeconomic status (SES) score consistently lower on tests of emotional intelligence, especially when they perceive high levels of inequality in their community. The researchers suggest that high SES and high subjective inequality promotes increased self-focus and less motivation to attend to others’ emotions.

Previous studies have explored the link between social class and emotional intelligence, generating mixed findings. Some researchers have suggested that people with higher SES are more self-sufficient since they have a greater share of the resources in their community and are less likely to turn to others for support. Accordingly, they have less of a need to relate to others and should have lower emotional intelligence. Anita Schmalor and Steven J. Heine proposed that this link between higher social class and lower emotional intelligence should be especially strong among those who perceive higher inequality because greater inequality should make the effects of SES even more consequential.

Economics in the real world

In Deep Ship: What's Really Driving The Supply-Chain Crisis

Michael Every and Matteo Iagatti of Rabobank [via Zero Hedge, via Mike Norman Economics 10-3-2021]

….Crucially, in the shipping sector, consolidation and concentration has achieved levels that few other sectors of the economy reach.

In the last five years, carriers controlling 80% of global capacity became more concentrated, with fewer operators of even larger size (figure 7). However, this is just the most obvious piece of the puzzle….

In our opinion, the real change started in 2017, when the three main container alliances (2M, THE, and Ocean) were born. This changed horizontal cooperation between market leaders in shipping. The three do not fix prices, but via their networks capacity is shared and planned jointly, fully exploiting economies of scale that are decisive to making a capital-intensive business profitable and efficient. Unit margins can stay low as long as you move huge volume with high precision, and at the lowest cost possible.

To be able to move the huge volumes required by a globalized and increasingly e-commerce economy at the levels of efficiency and speed demanded by operators up and down supply chains, there was little other options than to cooperate and keep goods flowing for the lowest cost possible at the highest speed possible. A tight discipline of cost was imposed on carriers, who also had to get bigger.

This strategy more than paid off in the Covid crisis, when shippers demonstrated clear minds, efficiency in implementing capacity control, and a key understanding of the elements they could use to their advantage: in other words – how capitalism actually works.

Carriers did not decide on the lockdowns or port closures; but they exploited their position in the global market when the pandemic erupted. In a recent report, Peter Sands from BIMCO (the Baltic and International Maritime Council) put it as follows: “Years of low freight rates resulting in rigorous cost-cutting by carriers have left them in a great position to maximise profits now that the market has turned.”

Climate and environmental crises

“Climate Change Is the New Dot-Com Bubble”

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-21]

”I made a list of all the interesting climate startups, around 2,000 of them, and turned it into an ebook so I could read it on my phone at night…. Sometimes, as I scrolled down the list, a big investment would catch my eye—$60 million for a company that promises to take carbon dioxide out of the air, $68 million for one that will turn it into fuel and materials. But the funding thins out quickly. It’s easy for investors to get distracted; there are just so many butter knives we could wield against the dragon of global collapse…. I began to feel a strong sense of déjà vu. I couldn’t place it until, one night, in the glow of the e-reader, I realized: It’s Web 1.0 all over again. We are in the era of climate. The comedy of the technology industry is playing again as a kind of Ibsenian tragedy: Scientists and academics told everyone about this thing for decades, and almost everyone ignored them. But then enough people got interested, and now there’s a market. And as a result there are a million business models, a million solutions, huge promises of the change to come: We’ll pour everything we have into green-energy infrastructure. We’ll transact in carbon marketplaces. We’ll pull a trillion tons of CO2 out of the air every year. Never mind that today we can do about 0.0005 percent of that, which rounds to nothing…. There are good VCs being venturesome with their capital. There are funds that are investing in green things. But—and God help me for wishing it—there’s no Google, no Apple or Microsoft, no monster in the middle taking its cut. There isn’t one carbon market; there isn’t one set of standards to follow; there are dozens of options, which means there isn’t really anything at all. Whole careers are dedicated, wonderful people, great science, online carbon calculators, but for right now it rounds to nothing. Amazon Web Services hosts open climate data, but I wish there were an AWS for climate. I wish I could tell you what it should do. I assume that the money will come. There are too many hot days for it not to. And obviously I want things to go differently this time. But I don’t know how you bootstrap a globe-spanning bureaucracy yesterday. I can’t even tell you what infrastructure we need, just that in general infrastructure evolves, slowly, in response to tragedy. Worse, if my déjà vu is accurate and history repeats itself—if the internet was the last big thing, and climate is the next big thing (or the last big thing)—then we aren’t at the precipice of a new era. We’re at the beginning of a bubble. The trillions in investment have to go somewhere. By the time all the money is spent, the companies in my ebook will probably be gone, save for a few dozen.”

“Billionaires Won’t Save the World”

[, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-21]

Jeff Bezos is the latest billionaire to pledge a cash sum to 'protect the environment' – but capitalism's climate breakdown can't be solved by throwing money at the status quo....

“The billionaire class which profits exorbitantly from the exploitation of workers and the plunder of nature have really taken to throwing breadcrumbs at the environmental movement – no surprise, given how consistently lauded they are for it by the mainstream press…. What ties these billionaire philanthropic initiatives together? As mentioned, they are all modest sums of money relative both to that which nation states are able to mobilise and to the billionaires’ own wealth. Additionally, they are usually constructed as a prize. … The focus also tends to be on sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, rather than developing technologies that would allow us to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Finally, these prizes are heavily PR-driven. As the beneficiaries of global inequality and ecological collapse, it’s not surprising that billionaires may be conscious of their public reputation. What better way to rehabilitate their brand than by whipping up fawning media attention over your efforts to save the world?”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Slowed canonical progress in large fields of science 

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, via Naked Capitalism 10-8-2021]

Abstract: “Examining 1.8 billion citations among 90 million papers across 241 subjects, we find a deluge of papers does not lead to turnover of central ideas in a field, but rather to ossification of canon. Scholars in fields where many papers are published annually face difficulty getting published, read, and cited unless their work references already widely cited articles. New papers containing potentially important contributions cannot garner field-wide attention through gradual processes of diffusion. These findings suggest fundamental progress may be stymied if quantitative growth of scientific endeavors—in number of scientists, institutes, and papers—is not balanced by structures fostering disruptive scholarship and focusing attention on novel ideas.”

Nanofiber Membrane Filters 99.9% of Salt from Seawater within Minutes 

[Interesting Engineering, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2021]

Flash-heating efficiently recycles precious metals from e-waste 

[New Atlas, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2021]

The team says that this process can recover over 60 percent of gold in a sample, and over 80 percent of silver, palladium and rhodium. It also removes toxic heavy metals like chromium, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, which can leach into the environment from e-waste in landfill.

Importantly, the researchers say that the process is energy efficient and scalable. It consumes about 939 kWh per ton of material processed, which is one 80th the amount consumed by commercial smelting and one 500th that of furnaces.

Machine learning and high-powered microscopes provide detailed snapshots of cells’ inner machinery 

[, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2021]

Neuroscientists Roll Out First Comprehensive Atlas of Brain Cells 

[ScienceDaily, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2021]

A slew of new studies now shows that the area of the brain responsible for initiating this action -- the primary motor cortex, which controls movement -- has as many as 116 different types of cells that work together to make this happen.

The 17 studies, appearing online Oct. 6 in the journal Nature, are the result of five years of work by a huge consortium of researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health's Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative to identify the myriad of different cell types in one portion of the brain. It is the first step in a long-term project to generate an atlas of the entire brain to help understand how the neural networks in our head control our body and mind and how they are disrupted in cases of mental and physical problems.

"If you think of the brain as an extremely complex machine, how could we understand it without first breaking it down and knowing the parts?" asked cellular neuroscientist Helen Bateup, a University of California, Berkeley, associate professor of molecular and cell biology and co-author of the flagship paper that synthesizes the results of the other papers. "The first page of any manual of how the brain works should read: Here are all the cellular components, this is how many of them there are, here is where they are located and who they connect to."

Individual researchers have previously identified dozens of cell types based on their shape, size, electrical properties and which genes are expressed in them. The new studies identify about five times more cell types, though many are subtypes of well-known cell types. For example, cells that release specific neurotransmitters, like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) or glutamate, each have more than a dozen subtypes distinguishable from one another by their gene expression and electrical firing patterns.

While the current papers address only the motor cortex, the BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network (BICCN) -- created in 2017 -- endeavors to map all the different cell types throughout the brain, which consists of more than 160 billion individual cells, both neurons and support cells called glia. 

A ‘Historic Event’: First Malaria Vaccine Approved by W.H.O. 

[New York Times, via The Daily Poster 10-9-2021]

“The world has gained a new weapon in the war on malaria, among the oldest known and deadliest of infectious diseases: the first vaccine shown to help prevent the disease. By one estimate, it will save tens of thousands of children each year.”

Information Age Dystopia

The Shady $12 Billion Industry Tracking Your Every Move 

[Hello World, via Naked Capitalism 10-3-2021]

Life’s better together when you avoid Windows 11 

[Free Software Foundation, via Naked Capitalism 10-6-2021] 

Why Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp All Went Down Today 

[Wired, via Naked Capitalism 10-5-2021]

Forget the Wired article and focus on Lambert Strether’s comment: “When Wired writes the “Facebook family of apps,” they are genteelly failing to mention that Facebook, a ginormous monopoly, purchased the firms that created those apps. Then Wired writes: “The fundamental issue… is that Facebook has withdrawn the so-called Border Gateway Protocol route that contains the IP addresses of its DNS nameservers.” No. What’s “fundamental” is Facebook assimilating Instagram and WhatsApp. The technical failure is a mere artifact of Facebook doing business. Obviously, if Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were three separate firms, Facebook couldn’t bring the other two down.”

Facebook Is Weaker Than We Knew 

[New York Times, via The Big Picture 10-4-2021]

Facebook is in trouble.

Not financial trouble, or legal trouble, or even senators-yelling-at-Mark-Zuckerberg trouble. What I’m talking about is a kind of slow, steady decline that anyone who has ever seen a dying company up close can recognize. It’s a cloud of existential dread that hangs over an organization whose best days are behind it, influencing every managerial priority and product decision and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to find a way out. This kind of decline is not necessarily visible from the outside, but insiders see a hundred small, disquieting signs of it every day — user-hostile growth hacks, frenetic pivots, executive paranoia, the gradual attrition of talented colleagues.

“Facebook’s backup argument to toss FTC case is public policy pickle”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-21]

“A back-door argument in Facebook Inc’s new motion to dismiss an amended antitrust complaint by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission presents a real policy conundrum. Do we want federal agencies to be led by experts who have developed and expressed strong views about companies they oversee? Or are agencies ultimately undermined when their leaders’ decisions are open to accusations of partiality?… Facebook contends that FTC Chair Lina Khan staked out such antagonistic positions toward the company in her previous work as a public policy analyst, law professor and Congressional investigator that she should have stepped aside when the commission voted to authorize the FTC’s amended complaint…. The FTC chair, Clark said, didn’t just take an ideological or industry-wide stance on tech companies and monopolistic behavior. She expressed specific views about Facebook’s conduct. ‘Would a disinterested person believe (Khan) was impartial with respect to Facebook?” Clark said. “I think there’s a good chance Facebook’s argument will succeed.'”

“Google files document production demand against one of its biggest public critics”

[The Verge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-21]

“Late Monday night, Google filed for a court order to produce documents from longtime Google critic Luther Lowe, as part of its ongoing federal antitrust case, US vs. Google…. As vice president of public policy at Yelp, Lowe has long been a prominent voice pushing for antitrust action against Google, even launching an email newsletter called “This Week In Google Antitrust” to track support for action against the search giant. In public statements, Lowe has particularly focused on the search neutrality case against Google, alleging that the company uses the power of Google Search to co-opt and overwhelm subject-matter directories like Yelp. This isn’t the first time Google has used the antitrust proceedings to compel document production from rivals.”

“Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the BBC stage a very British coup to rescue our data from Facebook and friends”

[The Register, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-21]

“BBC R&D discovered it too didn’t much like the way personal data was in the hands of the wrong people. That got in the way of creating better public value from the internet, and the BBC worries about these things. Public service broadcasting in the 21st century means public service internet. So, in 2017 it started a project called Databox with Nottingham University, using ideas kicked off by some cat called Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who’s apparently got some track record here. Two years later, work started on prototypes and last week BBC R&D put out a report on what the first testers thought of it all… The idea is simple. You keep your personal data stored on an edge device you control. This can be a phone app or an actual appliance. It implements the three strands of what’s called Human Data Interaction, HDI, the philosophy at the heart of it all. These three ideas are: legibility, agency and negotiation…. The researchers say that the test audience that has used the system – young people who don’t spend much time on the BBC particularly – was positive. Audience members liked the control and visibility it gave them; they understood the need to manage personal data but didn’t understand how to do it. This unlocked that door. … We do need a revolution that puts the power in the hands of the people, but we probably don’t want to shoot the Czar and his family. A more equitable sharing of power and value, more transparency and accountability, and the ability to say “no” will be disruptive, but in the right way. It’s about time we made Google read our terms and conditions – and the world’s finest public service broadcaster is on our side. Be rude not to.”

iPhone Apps No Better For Privacy Than Android, Oxford Study Finds 

[Tom’s Guide, via Naked Capitalism 10-9-2021]

Progressive Policies into the Breach

The End of Forced Arbitration?

Susan Antilla, [The American Prospect]

Persistent advocates and new strategies have led some companies to relent on blocking access to courts. But there’s a long way to go….

With a newfound movement of sexual harassment and discrimination victims, advocates, and innovative legal experts forcing the issue, several high-profile tech companies have dropped their requirement that sexual harassment cases be heard behind closed doors. Amazon even ended arbitration for customer complaints. And numerous legislative and administrative efforts are pushing to go even further.

“I think we may be seeing the beginning of the end” of mandatory arbitration, said George Friedman, who spent 37 years running dispute resolution programs at the American Arbitration Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which is Wall Street’s self-regulator….

American companies have fought long and hard for the power to hijack the public’s right to sue them. Not only do forced arbitration agreements bar individuals from filing their own court claim, they often forbid litigants from pursuing any group claims, whether in court or in a private arbitration forum. If you get fired because you’re Black, or you lose money at the hands of a corrupt stockbroker, you could wind up telling your sorry story to a couple of 60-something white arbitrators at the local Holiday Inn. And you’ll probably lose.

USPS Begins Postal Banking Pilot Program

David Dayen, October 4, 2021 [The American Prospect] 

“The United States Postal Service (USPS) has taken the most dramatic step in a half-century to re-establish a postal banking system in America… The move puts the USPS in direct competition with the multibillion-dollar check-cashing industry, which operates storefronts to allow unbanked or underbanked residents to cash their paychecks.” We have the American Postal Workers Union to thank for the move: The postal banking pilots came out of a 2016 collective bargaining agreement that the postal workers union negotiated with the USPS.

Los Angeles Takes Key Step Towards Establishing Public Bank 

[Los Angeles Times, via The American Prospect 10-9-2021]  

“After a long hiatus, the movement to establish a public bank in Los Angeles is once again inching forward. The City Council voted Tuesday to begin a process to study the viability of forming a city-owned bank and to create a business plan for doing so. Proponents say a public bank would allow the city to save money on banking fees, increase credit access for small businesses in underserved areas and help finance affordable housing and green energy programs.”

How Rep. Pramila Jayapal Turned The Progressive Caucus Into A Powerful Force 

[Huffington Post, via The American Prospect 10-9-2021

“Normally, conservative Democrats, who are typically more willing than progressives to let legislation die, are the most adept at using hardball tactics to dictate the party’s agenda. But a unique confluence of events, plus years of organizing, prepared the [Congressional Progressive Caucus] to become an influential bloc on par with any other faction in the party.”


[via The Daily Poster, Octover 7, 2021]

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), which represents film, TV, and other entertainment workers, voted overwhelmingly on Monday to authorize a strike, marking the first potential nationwide industry strike in the 150,000-member union’s 128-year history. “This vote is about the quality of life as well as the health and safety of those who work in the film and television industry,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb. The move towards a strike is a response to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ failure to work with the union to address excessive working hours and unlivable wages, issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Institutionalists = Obstructionists

bama Legacy A Company Family: The Untold History of Obama and the CIA 

[Covert Action Magazine, via Naked Capitalism 10-8-2021]

“They Pick The One” — How Big Pharma flipped Kyrsten Sinema, who’s now threatening to be their key obstructionist.

Andrew Perez and David Sirota, October 8, 2021 [The Daily Poster]

“The pharmaceutical lobby is very savvy,” Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said earlier this week during Daily Poster live chat. “They pick the one or two people they need to block things, on the relevant committees or at the relevant time."

“It may differ from congress to congress,” explained Khanna, who is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “We try to get 90-95 percent [of the caucus]. They are focused not on 90 percent, but the blockers.”



Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

The New Abortion Vigilantism 

[New York Review of Books, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2021]

“During Civil Rights Era, Native American Communities in the South Armed Themselves Against the Klan”

[Scalawag, via Naked Capitalism 10-4-2021]

“Cole did not heed the sheriff’s warnings. That night, about 50 Klan members drove to Hayes Pond and circled their cars; Cole set up a small generator, a PA system, and a lamp. Most of Robeson County’s Klan members stayed home; the 50 Klan members, women, and children at the rally were part of Cole’s following from South Carolina. Soon they were surrounded by 500 Indian men, many of whom were U.S. military veterans, and about 50 Indian women. Many were armed with rifles, shotguns, pistols, and knives.” 

Special Report: How AT&T helped build far-right One America News 

[Reuters, via The DailyPoster 10-10-2021]

“A Reuters review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic. OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives… Since then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show.”

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-7-21]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-6-2021]



Thomas Neuburger [God's Spies, via Mike Norman Economics 10-7-2021]

'This Is a Battle Between What People Need & What Money Wants.' How's That Going to End?

Without a revolutionary approach, one that clean-slates the leaders of whoever holds power in government, there will be no meaningful change.

There will be change, and it will be meaningful in the margins, like better mileage standards for gas-burning cars, and meaningful for some or many groups, like DREAMers, perhaps, or working families in need of child care.

But there will be no meaningful change, change that solves the unsolvable for everyone. We will never get off the carbon economy, for example, because the masses, our rulers think, can always be kept at bay by advertising disinformation, constant PR to the contrary, and doomed-to-fail efforts to pretend to try. All because the rich, who rule us so completely that their control of government is virtually unchallengeable by normal electoral means, will never leave power absent being dragged from it.

As I said above, there’s always a choice, even if it’s not the one we’d rather have. We just haven’t taken it yet.

A Whiff of Civil War in the Air 

[The Dispatch, via The Big Picture 10-8-2021]

Malice and misinformation are driving national division. A recent poll that should shock exactly no one who closely follows American politics and culture. A majority of Trump voters (52 percent) and a strong minority of Biden voters (41 percent) strongly or somewhat agree that it’s “time to split the country.” (The Dispatch)

A New Confederacy: Trump and the Republicans have already seceded

[Salon, October 9, 2021, via DailyKos]

Now they’re preparing to fight a new civil war. In fact, they're already doing it in all but name….

All of the states that refused Medicaid expansion and have passed restrictions on voting and abortion are controlled by the Republican Party. Many of those same states have also passed bans on mask and vaccine mandates, and nearly all of them have endured more cases per capita of COVID-19, more hospitalizations and more deaths from the virus. In effect, without any states (yet) seceding from the Union, we already live in two Americas.

One of those countries-within-a-country, in the words of the esteemed lawyer and Harvard professor Laurence Tribe, "has no set of constraints, no belief in the norms, no commitment to the Constitution or the rule of law, while the other side is trying to observe the rules." He said this on Wednesday night on "All in With Chris Hayes" on MSNBC, while discussing the challenges we face going into the 2022 and 2024 elections....

This is what I mean when I say that Republicans have already seceded. They're a white party and they're forming a white country with white laws and white companies and white jobs where white votes count and others don't. They can live in the states that comprise that country, but they can't survive there without our money. It was the same way with the South before the Civil War. They lived in their states with slavery, but they couldn't survive without the economy of the North, so they started a war. They never intended to "secede." They intended to win, and run the new country, which would be the South writ large, with slave-owners in power and slavery everywhere.

Collapse of Independent News Media
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 10-8-21]

Lambert Strether: “Who knew, trust is not an infinitely renewable resource, so the elites can’t just strip mine it:”


Altercation: What Takes the Place of Local News Ain’t News

Eric Alterman, October 8, 2021 [The American Prospect]

Right-wing propaganda that looks like local papers is flooding America’s towns.

A catastrophic failure of U.S. journalism

Northwestern University Journalism Professor Steven Thrasher [via The Daily Poster 10-7-2021]

“A catastrophic failure of U.S. journalism and politics is that something like Biden's 10-year, $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill is not called a $350 billion annual bill… but the Pentagon's budget, which will exceed $7.5 trillion over a decade, is called a $750 billion annual bill” 

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