Sunday, November 14, 2021

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

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

by Tony Wikrent

Strategic Political Economy

China files 2.5 times more patent applications than U.S. in 2020

[Xinhua, via Mike Norman Economics 11-8-2021]

China's intellectual property (IP) office led the world in 2020 by reporting 1.5 million patent applications, 2.5 times more than the United States, which ranked second, the World

Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said on Monday....Industrial design is another area where China has taken the lead, followed by the EU, South Korea, the United States and Turkey.…

Civic republicanism and the looming civil war

“Madison Saw Something in the Constitution We Should Open Our Eyes To” 

[Jamelle Bouie, New York Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-12-2021] This is very good. The scene-setting:

Not content to simply count on the traditional midterm swing against the president’s party, Republicans are set to gerrymander their way to a House majority next year…. It is true that Democrats have pursued their own aggressive gerrymanders in Maryland and Illinois, but it is also true that the Democratic Party is committed, through its voting rights bills, to ending partisan gerrymandering altogether…. The larger context of the Republican Party’s attempt to gerrymander itself into a House majority is its successful effort to gerrymander itself into long-term control of state legislatures across the country. In Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states, Republicans have built legislative majorities sturdy enough to withstand all but the most crushing ‘blue wave.’ And in the age of Donald Trump, they are using their majorities to seize control of election administration in states all over the country, on the basis of an outlandish but still influential claim that the Constitution gives sovereign power over elections to state legislatures…. 

In Article IV, Section 4, the Constitution says, “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

In this vision of the Guarantee Clause, the touchstone for “a republican form of government” is political equality, and when a state imposes political inequality beyond a certain point, Congress or the federal courts step in to restore the balance…. Still, a broad understanding of the Guarantee Clause might be a potent weapon for Congress if a Democratic majority ever worked up the will to go on the offensive against state legislatures that violated basic principles of political equality.

“An Open Letter in Defense of Democracy”

Todd Gitlin, Jeffrey C. Isaac, and William Kristol]

The Bulwark, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-12-2021]

“Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger. The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump’s defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.”

Lambert Strether: If you take Bouie’s article above seriously, this is not true. It takes a long time to take control of state legislatures, and it also takes time to seize control over election administration. Again, it’s not an issue of personality. It’s a party movement that began before Trump, and would continue if (say) Chris Christie ran and won in 2024.

Federal appeals court issues stay on vaccine rule for U.S. companies 

[Axios, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2021]

The Guarantee Clause regarding a republican form of government is a subject I have discussed in a few times in the past year or two, including links to some very good law journal articles on the Guarantee Clause.

My read at this point is that we are in a pre-civil war situation, with conservative and libertarians just itching to get on with killing the liberals (just like sothorons were itching, by spring of 1860, for a war to begin killing Yankees). This is the true context in which to view the conservatove / libertarian push for “open carry” gun laws, the Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, and county sheriffs around the country deputizing vigilantes to avoid mask mandates. The drift into a second civil war should properly be understood as the end result of the past 90 years organizing by rich reactionaries against the New Deal, and their attempt to restore the preponderance of power to capital versus labor. For all the short termism of a financialized economy, the rich reactionaries have had  a stunning long game in mind, and the most insidious and damaging part is probably going to be the creation and propagation of “law and economics” and seizure of control of the judiciary by the (anti)Federalist Society

The drift into a second civil war is also the context in which to view the "left's" demands for censorship, which Taibbi, Greenwald, and a few others have assailed repeatedly and, imho, unwisely. We must build the cultural capacity to limit the free speech of the rich, in much the same way the there are cultural limits on speech by military officers. It bears repeating that the ascendancy of the reactionaries, who are now poised to deploy the authoritarians they have cultivated within the population, has been a 90 year project (For example, repentant Nixonite John Dean’s Conservatives without Conscience (New York: Viking Adult) was published almost 15 years ago).

At various points, severe penalties and a cultural disapprobation of free speech would have avoided the present drive to war. For example, after they were convicted, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North should never have been allowed to become stars of right-wing TV and talk radio.

And, a subject of the British crown, Rupert Murdoch, should never have been allowed to have control of major American media. The case of Murdoch points to the real vulnerability we face: there is no understanding of what a republic is, and how a republic must be defended. Hence, Madison writing about “aristocratic or monarchial innovations” (in the excerpts used by Bouie) sounds very strange to us today. But Ganesh Sitaraman, in his excellent book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution: Why Economic Inequality Threatens our Republic (2017), points out that Americans were culturally hostile and suspicious of aristocracy and monarchy up until World War Two and the Cold War, when the new foe to be guarded against became fascism, then communism.

This lack of republican culture allows Gitlin, Isaac, and Kristol, in their  “An Open Letter in Defense of Democracy,” to purvey a series of frauds on public opinion. They write, ““Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse.” This is certainly not untrue, but what they omit is crucial. First, this is supposed to be a republic, not a democracy. While a republic should have a democratic form of government, a republic is differs from a democracy because a regard for the General Welfare must be balanced against individual freedoms. In classic civic republican ideology, this is concept of public virtue: citizens are expected to abandon their self-interests when they conflict with the public good. For example, in a pandemic, citizens should be expected to wear masks, obey vaccine requirements,  and abide by other public health measures intended to protect the community at large. Any refusal or disobedience should be properly seen selfish, and as an assault on the republic.

Second, in a republic, there is a positive requirement to do good. The exemplar of this is Benjamin Franklin, and the various organizations he helped create: a fire company, a library, a hospital, the American Philosophical Association, and so on. All of these resulted in the network that fought the Revolutionary War, then attempted to codify republicanism in the Constitution. But the compromise with slavery was a fatal flaw.

President John Quincy Adams, in his first annual message to Congress, summarized this positive requirement to do good: 

“The great object of the institution of civil government is the improvement of the condition of those who are parties to the social compact, and no government, in what ever form constituted, can accomplish the lawful ends of its institution but in proportion as it improves the condition of those over whom it is established. Roads and canals, by multiplying and facilitating the communications and intercourse between distant regions and multitudes of men, are among the most important means of improvement. But moral, political, intellectual improvement are duties assigned by the Author of Our Existence to social no less than to individual man.”

Law journal articles on the Guarantee Clause:

Arthur E. Bonfield, “The Guarantee Clause of Article IV, Section 4: A Study in Constitutional Desuetude”, [On the Constitutional guarantee of the federal government that each state shall have a republican form of government]
46 Minnesota Law Review 513 (May, 1961)

Erwin Chemerinsky, “Why Cases Under the Guarantee Clause Should Be Justiciable,” 
65 University of Colorado Law Review 849-880 (1994)

The Yale Law Journal
Vol. 97, No. 8, Jul., 1988
Symposium: The Republican Civic Tradition
[12 articles on republicanism]

Inflation scare

“United States Inflation Rate”

[Trading Economics, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2021]

“The annual inflation rate in the US surged to 6.2% in October of 2021, the highest since November of 1990 and above forecasts of 5.8%. Upward pressure was broad-based, with energy costs recording the biggest gain (30% vs 24.8% in September), namely gasoline (49.6%). Inflation also increased for shelter (3.5% vs 3.2%); food (5.3% vs 4.6%, the highest since January of 2009), namely food at home (5.4% vs 4.5%); new vehicles (9.8% vs 8.7%); used cars and trucks (26.4% percent vs 24.4%); transportation services (4.5% vs 4.4%); apparel (4.3% vs 3.4%); and medical care services (1.7% vs 0.9%). The monthly rate increased to 0.9% from 0.4% in September, also higher than forecasts of 0.6%, boosted by higher cost of energy, shelter, food, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles.”

Inflation has taken away all the wage gains for workers and then some 

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2021]

Wages Are Heading Up, But They’re Not Pushing Inflation 

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 11-11-2021]

“The Main Driver of Inflation Is a Murderous Maniac in Riyadh”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-12-2021]

“In June 2018, heading into the midterms, Trump requested that Saudi Arabia and its cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, lower energy prices by increasing output, and the kingdom complied. Prices bottomed out in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and usage sank to record lows. Prices surged once the pandemic waned and the economy reopened, and Biden in August 2021 requested that OPEC again increase output. This time MBS refused, angry at having yet to be granted an audience with Biden and contemptuous of the U.S. pullback from the war in Yemen. As one of his first pieces of business, Biden had ordered the end of American support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’s war, though caveated it by barring only the backing of ‘offensive operations.’ Saudi Arabia nevertheless received it as a grievous blow. Ali Shihabi, a Saudi national who is considered a voice for MBS in Washington, made that clear in October, tweeting, ‘Biden has the phone number of who he will have to call if he wants any favours.'”

Robert Reich gives THE talking points on inflation

[The Guardian, via DailyKos 11-12-2021]

But there’s a deeper structural reason for inflation, one that appears to be growing worse: the economic concentration of the American economy in the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices.

If markets were competitive, companies would keep their prices down in order to prevent competitors from grabbing away customers.

But they’re raising prices even as they rake in record profits. How can this be? They have so much market power they can raise prices with impunity.

Restoring balance to the economy

California legislation targets Amazon, but all warehouses would be impacted

[Modern Shipper, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2021]

On the surface, the changes in warehouse operations that would be required under AB 701 do not seem overly onerous. But the reaction to them from opponents of the bill, seen through various public commentaries, is fierce….

“The bill essentially sets down two key rules and then builds mechanisms around them to make sure they are enforceable,” the Judiciary Committee’s report said.

Quotas are at the root of the “key rules.” One rule in AB 701 is that when a worker is hired, the employee must be given a “written description of all the work quotas to which the worker will be subject, as well as what the consequences will be if the worker fails to meet those quotas,” according to the Senate committee summary.

With that list in hand, another key rule can be invoked: that employees can’t be expected to meet quotas whose demands would prevent the workers from being able to comply not just with occupational safety rules in general but with permitted rest and meal breaks.

Portugal makes it illegal for your boss to text you after work in ‘game changer’ remote work law 

[Euronews, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2021]

Cargill Union Strike Plan Imperils 40% of Canada Beef Supply 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2021]

‘We’ll Never Be in This Position Again’: Striking Deere Workers Hold Out for Better Deal 

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2021]

The vote was closer than on the first tentative agreement, which was rejected by 90 percent of members. This time, 55 percent voted no.

It came as a shock to many analysts, given the concessions workers had been able to wring out of Deere during their first two weeks on strike. The agreement included immediate 10 percent raises—double what was in the first TA—plus two more 5 percent raises and three 3 percent lump sum payments during the six-year contract. It killed the “third tier” Deere had proposed, preserving the option of a traditional pension for all new hires. It restored a cost-of-living adjustment that workers had lost in the last contract. And it boosted existing pensions and added retirement bonuses. To sweeten the deal, Deere offered an $8,500 ratification bonus.

But for a majority of Deere workers, that wasn’t enough. They’re pushing for a deal that includes retiree health insurance (currently offered only to workers hired before 1997), shores up the incentive pay system, fixes a broken grievance system, and brings real wages up to pre-’97 levels, taking Deere’s record profits into account.

They feel like it’s now or never. “If we don’t get caught up [on wages] now, we’ll never be in this position again,” said Brad Lake, a member of UAW Local 838 in Waterloo, Iowa. “We will always be playing catch-up, because these contracts are six years.”

Class war and economic disequilibrium

“Deere executive says increased overseas production possible as UAW strike continues

[Des Moines Register, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-9-2021]

“A Deere & Co. executive said Monday that the manufacturer will be able to shift some production to its overseas sites as the 10,100-employee strike affecting plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas continues. Cory Reed, president of the company’s Worldwide Agriculture & Turf Division, told the Des Moines Register that Deere executives still want to reach an agreement with the striking United Auto Workers members, but that company leaders have pulled levers to keep some products flowing since the strike began Oct. 14. The striking workers represent about 13% of all Deere employees, including workers at plants in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India and Mexico. Reed said executives routinely consider whether to increase production at foreign factories as part of their ‘normal, continuous operations.’ ‘Sometimes that means bringing parts in from one of those operations from around the world,’ he said. ‘And by the way, (Deere’s international factories) employ thousands of employees in each of those places, too, that step up and step in and help us continue to deliver the parts and components that we need.'” Ugh. More: “A Barclays report based on cell phone location tracking found that Deere actually increased the number of workers at parts fulfillment centers by 60% in the weeks after the strike began, compared to the same period in 2019 and 2020. Meanwhile, the number of workers at Deere’s agricultural equipment factories was down 34%, while the number of workers at the construction and forestry plants in Davenport and Dubuque was down 62%, Barclays reported. The drop in workforce at the factories could explain why dealerships are waiting longer for parts.” 

Now the GOP Is Coming for John Deere Workers 

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2021]

So much for the party of workers.

The GOP is coming for the 10,000 John Deere workers who’ve been on strike at John Deere since last month, blaming them for supply chain problems and attempting to pit workers against farmers, while slamming a Democratic Senate hopeful who’s backing the strike.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-12-2021]



America’s Judges Are Putting My Life on the Line 

Sara Nelson [New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2021]

America needs more judges who understand and support the rights of workers. For too long, the courts have sided with corporations over labor, fundamentally and perniciously reshaping American law, life and liberty. Today, they are doing their part to unravel the American dream — and the social contract that has been in place since the 1940s, offering the working class a good life if they spend 40 hours on the job, the means to enjoy it in off hours and a secure retirement.

In one stark example, a judge in Alabama in October barred union mineworkers from picketing within 300 yards of mine entrances, even as the authorities there have failed to charge the drivers of vehicles that struck lawful picketers. In a more common infringement of free speech, a judge in Iowa limited United Auto Workers picket lines outside a John Deere plant in Davenport last month to just four people at each entrance to the plant….

This didn’t happen by accident. Republican presidents have stacked the federal courts with judges who hail from elite law schools, white-shoe law firms and corporate boardrooms. (More than a quarter of all federal judges on the bench in January had been appointed by Donald Trump.) As a result, the corporate win rate in American courts is sky-high.

This is especially true in cases heard by the Supreme Court, which has sided with the Chamber of Commerce 70 percent of the time since 2006. A study published in 2013 ranked Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas among the five most-corporate-friendly members of the court since 1946, and the pro-corporate voting rate of its conservative wing is only growing. According to one recent report, the court agrees with the Chamber of Commerce more now than it had at any other time in recent history….

This isn’t just an academic question, or even an economic one — it’s often a matter of life and death. Before he joined the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, voted to allow the firing of an employee who abandoned an unheated company truck in a blizzard to avoid freezing to death. This is just one example of the judicial callousness toward workers that has put our livelihoods and lives in real danger.

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

[New York Times, October 6, 2021, via The Big Picture 11-7-2021]

Rich countries contribute an average of $14,000 per year for a toddler’s care, compared with $500 in the U.S.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

General Electric Breaks Up, Symbolizing Decline of American Manufacturing and the High Price of Financialization 

Yves Smith, November 10, 2021 [Naked Capitalism]

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 11-10-2021]

General Electric Co. has unraveled. The onetime icon of American industry suffered its biggest annual stock decline of the modern era as it was booted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Broken chain of supply

We chartered a boat with a logistics expert to look at port congestion up close and saw how American greed is leading to shortages and empty shelves 

[Business Insider, via The Big Picture 11-7-2021]

A second tour of the The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. “‘I blame 150 years of supply chain optimization,’ Nathan Strang, Flexport’s director of ocean trade lane management, told Insider of why ships are still steaming towards Los Angeles and Long Beach. ‘It’s a sign of their success, that’s causing the congestion.'” 

….the ports can't just stack up the containers until a driver comes to pick them up: "There's no space," Rice said…. "A lot of the congestion is due to the fact that there's nowhere to put the empty containers." Flexport's Strang said. "Having some way to get those empties stored and off the chassis so that we can pick up live containers, that would actually go very far."


How American leaders failed to help workers survive the ‘China Shock’ 

[NPR, via The Big Picture 11-7-2021]

But most economists, like most American leaders, had believed that workers would adapt somewhat smoothly to economic change and that they would find solid places to work in other sectors. "We had this notion that the American economy is this incredibly dynamic place," says Hanson, an economist at Harvard Kennedy School. "We create millions of jobs every year, and we destroy millions of jobs every year. We thought we could handle moving a couple of million manufacturing workers from one sector to another."

Autor, Dorn and Hanson's first peer-reviewed papers from their China Shock saga were published in 2013. The economists found that between 1990 and 2007, trade with China killed about 1.5 million American manufacturing jobs, or about a quarter of all manufacturing jobs lost during that period. But what was even more startling: These losses were heavily concentrated in small- and medium-size communities dotting America's heartland — and workers who lost their jobs in those areas struggled to find other work. The China Shock created what looked like miniature Great Depressions in these places.

Standard economic theory said that the non-college-educated workers who lost their jobs would move or retrain and find work in other places or sectors. But they didn't. Most stayed put and were never fully employed again. "It ended up creating these pockets of distress," Hanson says. "That was the surprising part. That's what we economists didn't know was going to happen."

As Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1791: 

Experience teaches, that men are often so much governed by what they are accustomed to see and practice, that the simplest and most obvious improvements, in the [most] ordinary occupations, are adopted with hesitation, reluctance and by slow gradations … To produce the desirable changes, as early as may be expedient, may therefore require the incitement and patronage of government…

Too bad Hamilton is not required reading for economics students…

Bill Mitchell — When labour shortages just signal management caprice

[via Mike Norman Economics 11-9-2021]

I have been researching the so-called labour shortage that business types are talking about relentlessly as part of their on-going strategy to undermine the conditions of work and make more profit. In the course of that enquiry, I came across an interesting juxtaposition between two US companies that illustrate a lot of what we have known about for years but have allowed this relentless, neoliberal, race-to-the-bottom to obscure. Well-paid workers with job security, work better and are happy workers. Companies that pursue the ‘race-to-the-bottom’ strategy and seek to build profits by trashing the conditions they offer workers eventually struggle to prosper because their bad reputation undermines their ability to attract productive workers. In the case we discuss today, the so-called ‘labour shortage’ is really just a signal of management caprice. Rather than being a shortage of workers, there is a shortage of workers who will tolerate the indignity of low wages, onerous conditions and capricious management. It is also a union versus non-union type of discussion where the unionised work places generate high productivity and worker attachment, while the non-unionised workplaces find it hard to attract reliable staff and blame it all on ‘labour shortages’....

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

Secret real estate purchases are a driving force behind the offshore economy 

[International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, via Mike Norman Economics 11-10-2021]

The Corporate Most-Wanted List

David Dayen, November 12, 2021 [The American Prospect]

A new report identifies 20 major corporate recidivists, with rap sheets that should be in the sights of the Justice Department’s new approach to white-collar crime.

Wall Street Is Not Only Rigging Markets, It’s Also Rigging the Outcome of its Private Trials

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 12, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

Jerome Powell and Jamie Dimon Met Privately on September 30. Weird Stuff Followed.

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 10, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

New Fed Report Shows High Leverage Poses Threat to U.S. Financial Stability: From Life Insurance Companies to Hedge Funds

Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 9, 2021 [Wall Street on Parade]

As for leverage at hedge funds, yesterday’s Fed report had this to share:

“Hedge fund leverage remained somewhat higher than its historical average in the first quarter of 2021, according to the most comprehensive available measures. On-balance-sheet leverage at hedge funds, based on confidential data collected by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), decreased in the first quarter to a level close to its historical average. Gross leverage at hedge funds—based on the same source but including off-balance-sheet derivatives exposures—continued to be above its historical average in the first quarter.”

One needs to carefully parse the above paragraph. Why does the Federal Reserve, which has bank examiners in every mega bank that owns a trading house on Wall Street, need to ask the SEC for data about hedge fund leverage? The prime brokerage operations of those mega banks are the ones making those highly leveraged loans to hedge funds. (See our report: Archegos: Wall Street Was Effectively Giving 85 Percent Margin Loans on Concentrated Stock Positions – Thwarting the Fed’s Reg T and Its Own Margin Rules.)

Climate and environmental crises

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-12-2021]



Climate change is becoming less a battle of nations than rich vs poor

[Financial Times, via Tweet above] 

The fight to protect the planet is shifting in ways that could soon exacerbate conflicts within countries, particularly between social classes. Or, to put it bluntly, between the rich and the rest. The top 1 per cent by income of the world’s population account for about 15 per cent of emissions, according to UN data. That is more than double the share of the bottom 50 per cent.

This 1985 Video Of Carl Sagan Warning Congress About Climate Change Is Sobering To Watch In 2021 

[Digg, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2021]

We Already Have the Tools We Need to Beat Climate Change 

[Slate, via The Big Picture 11-10-2021]

The challenge is not identifying the solutions, but rolling them out with great speed.

“Air-scrubbing machines: are they a serious tool in fighting climate change?”

[South China Morning Post, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-11-2021]

“The Iceland plant, called Orca, is the largest such facility in the world, capturing about 4,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. But compared to what the planet needs, the amount is tiny. Experts say 10 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide must be removed annually by mid-century…. Leading scientific agencies including the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that even if the world manages to stop producing harmful emissions, that still won’t be enough to avert a climate catastrophe. They say we need to suck massive amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air and put it back underground – yielding what some call “negative emissions”… As dire warnings have accelerated, technology to vacuum carbon dioxide from the air has advanced. Currently, a handful of companies operate such plants on a commercial scale, including Climeworks, which built the Orca plant in Iceland, and Carbon Engineering, which built a different type of direct air capture plant in British Columbia. And now that the technology has been proven, both companies have ambitions for major expansion. At Climeworks’ Orca plant near Reykjavik, fans suck air into big, black collection boxes where the carbon dioxide accumulates on a filter. Then it’s heated with geothermal energy and is combined with water and pumped deep underground into basalt rock formations. Within a few years, Climeworks says, the carbon dioxide turns into stone.”

“The Most Detailed Map of Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution in the U.S.”

[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-11-2021]

“ProPublica’s analysis of five years of modeled EPA data identified more than 1,000 toxic hot spots across the country and found that an estimated 250,000 people living in them may be exposed to levels of excess cancer risk that the EPA deems unacceptable. The agency has long collected the information on which our analysis is based. Thousands of facilities nationwide that are considered large sources of toxic air pollution submit a report to the government each year on their chemical emissions. But the agency has never released this data in a way that allows the public to understand the risks of breathing the air where they live. Using the reports submitted between 2014 and 2018, we calculated the estimated excess cancer risk from industrial sources across the entire country and mapped it all.”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

World’s Largest Hydro-Floating Solar Farm Goes Live in Thailand 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 11-9-2021]

Inside the machine that saved Moore’s Law 

[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism 11-11-2021]

Simple, low-cost, high volume distiller removes salt from seawater using solar energy 

[Brighter Side, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2021]

Information Age Dystopia

Securing your digital life, part one: The basics 

[ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 11-13-2021]

Collapse of Independent News Media

The Thumb On The Scale

David Sirota [The Daily Poster, November 8, 2021]

This morning, the New York Times published a screed from pollster Mark Penn and former New York City lawmaker Andrew Stein demanding Democrats abandon their promised agenda ahead of the midterm elections. The massive 1,500 word op-ed — designed to define the political news cycle for the coming week — echoes a house editorial from the newspaper making much the same argument, and it mirrors previous Penn diatribes that the Times has platformed in the past.

In the process, this essay offers a rare glimpse of how corporate media imperceptibly puts its thumb on the scale for a particular ideology that is decidedly neither centrist nor objective.

The Times’ original headline on Monday’s piece (which has since been changed) read “A Way Forward for Biden and the Dems in 2022 & 2024.” It argues that President Biden should “listen to centrists (and) push back on the left” and insists Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema “are in fact the very heart of the Democratic Party.”

It’s a hot take that might be mildly interesting, if it came from voices who genuinely had the Democratic Party’s best interests in mind. However, the Times decided to not tell readers that Penn is a private equity mogul with myriad connections to the corporate world that’s looking to kill the Democratic legislative agenda that the op-ed seeks to curtail. The paper doesn’t mention Penn’s ties to No Labels, a dark money group funded by big donors that’s been vilifying Democrats’ reconciliation bill. The paper also declines to mention that Penn advised President Donald Trump during his first impeachment, nor does it mention that Stein is the guy who literally ran Democrats For Trump.

Institutionalists = Obstructionists

How Buffalo News Helped Keep a Socialist out of City Hall 

[FAIR, via Naked Capitalism 11-12-2021]

New Dem Paid Leave Plan Eliminates Eligibility for the Lowest Earners 

[People’s Policy Project, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2021]

Paragraph 3 is the work history requirement. Instead of making paid leave universal in the way many of our peer countries do, paragraph 3 restricts eligibility to people who had any amount of earnings in the last 7 months, 8 months, or 9 months, depending on when precisely they take their leave.

This work history test was designed to exclude around 1 in 3 new mothers, including those who are still in education, disabled, or who have had a recent spell of unemployment….

In the new version, we still have paragraph 3, which requires that you record some kind of earnings in the period immediately preceding your leave. But now we also have paragraph 4, which requires that you have earned at least $2,000 in the prior two years.

Democrats Quietly Nix Biden’s $100B for School Modernization From Infrastructure Package 

[US News, via Naked Capitalism 11-7-2021]

“A 2020 report the Government Accountability Office released just at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic found that 41% of districts required HVAC system upgrades or replacements in at least half of their schools.” So much for fixing ventilation, good job.

Disrupting mainstream politics

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology Even in a polarized era, deep divisions in both partisan coalitions.

[Pew Research Center, via The Big Picture 11-13-2021]

Commonsense Solidarity: How a Working-Class Coalition Can Be Built, and Maintained

[Jacobin, November 9, 2021]

In the last five years, a rejuvenated progressive left has established itself as a potent force in American politics. Inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential run, progressive Democratic challengers have mobilized donors and volunteers around a boldly egalitarian economic platform, winning an impressive array of local, state, and congressional races. The relative electoral success of this new left is one of the major political stories of our moment.

And yet, for the most part, these progressive triumphs have been concentrated in well-educated, relatively high-income, and heavily Democratic districts. Even when progressives have won primaries in working-class areas, they have generally done so without increasing total turnout or winning over new working-class voters. And in races outside the friendly terrain of the blue-state metropolis, the same progressive candidates have largely struggled. Overall, progressives have not yet made good on one key promise of their campaigns: to transform and expand the electorate itself.

This poses a major challenge to any hope for a national political realignment on progressive terms. Recent events suggest that left-wing candidates may continue to replace moderate Democrats in demographically favorable urban districts, which could lead to more progressive policies at the municipal or state level. But the national picture is less promising. There are simply not enough districts of this kind to win control of the US House of Representatives, never mind the Senate. For the kind of majority necessary to pass Medicare for All or any of the other big-ticket items on the social democratic agenda, progressive candidates will need to win in a far wider range of places. Until they do, their political leverage will remain sharply limited at the local, state, and national levels.

The dark side

“Reuters unmasks Trump supporters who terrified U.S. election officials”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 11-10-2021]

“In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept. In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die. ‘This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,’ the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. ‘Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.’ The three had much in common. All described themselves as patriots fighting a conspiracy that robbed Donald Trump of the 2020 election. They are regular consumers of far-right websites that embrace Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods. And none have been charged with a crime by the law enforcement agencies alerted to their threats.” • This is bad. At the same time, as I keep saying, Republicans are more “serious” about their politics than Democrats. All the Democrats do complain and look for the refs. And there are no refs.

A chilling Washington Post account of the January 6th insurrection — Before, During and After — it was much worse than we realized, and came closer to succeeding than anyone imagined

[via The Big Picture 11-7-2021]

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