Sunday, May 8, 2022

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 8, 2022

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – May 8, 2022

by Tony Wikrent


Tactics and techniques

“How the White Overalls Beat the Cops with Tactics of Radical Defense”

[Gentleman Bandit, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-5-2022]

From 2020, still germane. “You might have heard about The Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) protesting hard in France for the past few years. There was a comparable movement in the late 90s and early 2000s, which focused on radical group tactics of defense in order to successfully stand up to riot police and other forms of crowd control. That is to say that, unlike the Yellow Vests who actively seek out fistfights and other physical battles with the cops; [the “White Overalls” (Tute Bianche) dreamed up an innovative and highly effective set of tactics to protect themselves from harm so that they could go where they wanted (such as smashing through the outer fence at the G8 Summit in Genoa) and stay there…. Put the whole thing together, and it looks something like this. One or more front lines set up with inner tubes and/or shields, front section backed up by mobile skirmishers, with additional shields and large crowds of people who either perform their own specialized roles or just push.” • With many photographs.


Strategic Political Economy

How London became the dirty money capital of the world | FT Film 

[YouTube, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


The Dollar System in a Multi-Polar World

James K. Galbraith [Brave New World, via Mike Norman Economics 5-5-2022]

The multipolar financial world is here. The United States can survive it – but only with major political and economic changes at home. It’s time to start thinking about what those need to be.…

But the Marshall-Lerner conditions did not hold, and trade balances did not return to equality of exports and imports. Instead, the US issued Treasury bonds, while Japan and Germany accumulated financial assets. And in the Third World, ex China and India, the balance depended largely on the presence or absence of oil. Demand for oil, it turned out, is notably invariant to price. So as prices went up, for producers it was the best of times. And so long as oil importers wished to grow, they were obliged to cover the bill with borrowings from commercial banks, on terms that the bankers controlled, and at rates governed in the final analysis by the policy of the Federal Reserve.

In this way the abolition of the Bretton Woods system set in motion the final defeat of New Deal banking law and of balanced international financial governance, in the end restoring the financiers to the center of American and world economic power. For forty years that genie had been bottled up, internally by regulation, deposit insurance, and the Glass-Steagall Act, so that in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s banks were largely adjuncts to the large industrial corporations and under the fairly-effective discipline of the state. There were, accordingly, no financial crises from 1934 to 1974, when Franklin National Bank failed, followed in 1975 by the “fiscal crisis” – really a bankers’ crisis – of the City of New York. On the international side, capital controls and the IMF had provided (in principle) a similar damper. After 1971 and especially 1973, the currency casinos were open again.


Roe v. Wade — Liberalism, conservatism and the lack of discussion of civic republicanism


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

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The Irrational, Misguided Discourse Surrounding Supreme Court Controversies Such as Roe v. Wade

Glenn Greenwald [via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]

Alito's decision, if it becomes the Court's ruling, would not itself ban abortions. It would instead lift the judicial prohibition on the ability of states to enact laws restricting or banning abortions. In other words, it would take this highly controversial question of abortion and remove it from the Court's purview and restore it to federal and state legislatures to decide it. One cannot defend Roe by invoking the values of democracy or majoritarian will. Roe was the classic case of a Supreme Court ruling that denied the right of majorities to decide what laws should govern their lives and their society.

One can defend Roe only by explicitly defending anti-majoritarian and anti-democratic values: namely, that the abortion question should be decided by a panel of unelected judges, not by the people or their elected representatives.

TW: I’m not very surprised that Greenwald perhaps does more damage than good by not fully understanding and / or explaining the issue. Just reading Greenwald, one can be forgiven to think that the entire USA scheme of government ought be discarded, because ”The Founders wanted to establish a democracy that empowered majorities of citizens to choose their leaders, but also feared that majorities would be inclined to coalesce around unjust laws that would deprive basic rights, and thus sought to impose limits on the power of majorities as well.” And the discomfort becomes especially intense when Greenwald concludes that “If you want to rant about the supremacy and sanctity of democracy and the evils of “unelected judges,” then you will necessarily end up on the side of Justice Alito and the other four justices who appear ready to overrule Roe.”

The palliative lies in the lead article of the 1988 Yale Law Journal issue devoted to republicanism (Volume 97, Number 8, July 1988, online at https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylj/vol97/iss8/1/), Harvard Law Professor Frank Michelman very ably corrects this shortcoming. In his article, “Law’s Republic,” Michelman explained how a proper regard for civic republicanism would dictate an entirely different result in the US Supreme Court decision Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), in which a 5–4 majority upheld the constitutionality of a Georgia law prohibiting sodomy.

Michelson shows republicanism is superior to democracy because republicanism demands a regard for inclusivity and pluralism. It is not guaranteed that democracy will have the same regard, because what democracy demands is only what the mobilized active majority — whether ruled by reason or panicked by passion — demands. Yet, ironically, it is exactly the workings of democracy that direct the development of Constitutional law to strive toward a “more perfect union” through what Michelman calls jurisgenerative politics. Michelman quotes another legal scholar to lay the interpretative corner stone: “It is the very purpose of our Constitution … to declare certain values transcendent, beyond the reach of temporary political majorities.” [p1499]

Michelman uses the famous Brown v, Board of Education decision to illustrate his argument: “the Brown Court spoke in the accents of invention, not of convention; it spoke for the future, criticizing the past; it spoke for law, creating authority; it engaged in political argument. [p1525] ….the pursuit of political
freedom through law depends on “our” constant reach for inclusion of the other, of the hitherto excluded-which in practice means bringing to legal-doctrinal presence the hitherto absent voices of emergently self-conscious social groups. [p1529]

Michelman paints a compelling picture of how the republic renews itself, through the constant struggle “to form a more perfect union.” Regarding the fight for civil rights by African-Americans, Michelman writes,

“Does anyone doubt that their impact on the rest of us has reflected their own oppositional understandings of their situation and its relation to our (and increasingly their) Constitution — developed, in part, through conflict within their own community, in a process that both challenged and utilized such partial citizenship as the Constitution granted and allowed them (and left its clear imprint on constitutional law both within and beyond the topical area of race)? Does anyone doubt that the judicial agents of the challengers’ accumulating citizenship drew on interpretive possibilities that the challengers’ own activity was helping to create? [p1530]

This is why struggling to create a clearer understanding and stronger appreciation of civic republicanism is our best way to respond to the conservative / libertarian attempt misinterpret our Constitution, our law, our tradition, and our heritage as a republic, to create their desired exclusive theocracy. As Michelman concludes: 

“The Court helps protect the republican state — that is, the citizens politically engaged — from lapsing into a politics of self-denial. It challenges “the people’s” self-enclosing tendency to assume their own moral completion as they now are and thus to deny to themselves the plurality on which their capacity for transformative self-renewal depends.”

Much of the liberal reaction to the Alito draft also includes the argument that this is an example of how the USA system of government and Constitution are anti-majoritarian and anti-democratic. And in great unconscious irony, many commentators then criticize the Democratic Party for failing to codify Roe v. Wade when Democratic majorities had control of Congress. The “system of government Constitution are anti-majoritarian and anti-democratic” is especially pernicious. First, it is false and conflicts with the actual history of Michelman’s jurisgenerative politics. Second, it ignores or at least obscures the role of entrenched wealth in manipulating, distorting and perverting USA politics by creating, cultivating and promoting the abortion issue as a means of growing and motivating the conservative movement.  --TW

“This Was Always The Plan”

Lyz Lenz [Men Yell at Me, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

“My whole life, I knew the plan. Vote for politicians who’d nominate justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Abortion was murder. I heard this preached in churches; at Sunday dinners over brisket. I heard the plan at rallies for homeschoolers in D.C., where we’d lobby our senators for more rights for families — or so I was told. I heard about the plan when, as a teen, I read fundraising fliers for Christian schools that would turn out a whole new generation of lawyers, lawyers with a Godly worldview, who’d overturn Roe v. Wade. I heard about it again in 2016, when a nice lady from church smiled at me at school drop-off the day after Trump was elected. ‘I didn’t want to vote for him,’ she whispered to me. I was hung over, and sick. ‘But he will put good judges in place to overturn Roe v. Wade.’ Later, when I wrote a book about Christianity and the Midwest, and then another about mythology and motherhood, people at book events, journalists in interviews and editors looking for a hot take would all ask me why people would vote for a candidate like Trump. ‘To overturn Roe,’ I’d say. And they’d scoffNo, no. That can’t be it. But it is. It’s always been the plan. And it’s never been a secret. The plan has been shouted at rallies. Held up on signs. It’s been plotted and spoken of and written about over and over.” 


How Republicans Became Anti-Choice 

Sue Halpern [New York Review of Books, November 8, 2018 issue]

….in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many Republicans were behind efforts to liberalize and even decriminalize abortion; theirs was the party of reproductive choice, while Democrats, with their large Catholic constituency, were the opposition. Republican governor Ronald Reagan signed the California Therapeutic Abortion Act, one of the most liberal abortion laws in the country, in 1967….

Perhaps more surprisingly, the right to abortion was forcefully supported and advanced by the Protestant clergy. The Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (CCSA), which was established in 1967, not only counseled pregnant women about their choices, it enlisted physicians to perform abortions….

Richard Nixon, under the sway of Pat Buchanan and Charles Colson, plotting an anti-abortion strategy to lure those Catholic voters away from the Democratic Party, or how Gerald Ford and his advisers furthered that strategy, cynically adding pro-life language to the 1976 Republican platform, assuming that it would be a temporary maneuver. Instead, it turned out to be the opening that enabled religious anti-choice advocates to begin to remake the party.

Even more sinister, perhaps, than this ploy by the Republicans were the racist origins of that agenda. As the historian of religion Randall Balmer explains in the film, evangelicals became politically active in the 1970s, when they were thwarted by the courts and the Internal Revenue Service in their efforts to obtain tax-exempt status for “segregation academies” like Jerry Falwell’s Lynchburg Christian School and Bob Jones University that heeded what they believed to be a biblical mandate to keep the races separate. Around the same time, Paul Weyrich, a Republican strategist, recognized the potential political power evangelical voters would have if they were to vote as a bloc, and tried to pull them into the fold with issues he thought might appeal to their moralism, such as the proliferation of pornography, the Equal Rights Amendment, and even abortion—which, prior to Roe, they were largely sympathetic toward and considered a Catholic issue.

Instead, as they began to organize against the government’s refusal to support segregated schools, Weyrich, who in the late 1970s was working on behalf of Reagan, saw his chance, though he understood that he—and they—would need an issue that had more popular appeal than outright racism. As Balmer puts it, “Weyrich says in effect, we’ve found our issue. Abortion is going to work for us as a political issue.”


“THOMAS E. DOBBS, STATE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL, PETITIONERS v. JACKSON WOMEN’S HEALTH ORGANIZATION, FT AL.” (PDF)

[Supreme Court of the Unis3.documentcloud.org/...ted States, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-4-2022]

Lambert Strether adds: “This is Alito’s draft. Appendix A is “contains statutes criminalizing abortion at all stages of pregnancy in the States existing in 1868. The statutes appear in chronological order.”


Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade published by Politico 

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


Louisiana Bill Aims to Charge Women Who Get Abortions With Murder 

[Rolling Stone, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-2022]


WATCH NOW: The Judicial Puppet Master Behind The Roe Disaster [video]

David Sirota, May 6, 2022 [The Lever]

With the Supreme Court preparing to abolish people’s constitutional right to an abortion by striking down Roe vs. Wadeour new video exposes one of the individuals most responsible: Leonard Leo, the anti-abortion zealot and Trump judicial adviser who has spent years moving the court towards this decision using tens of millions in dark, untraceable money. How did Leo pull it off? Watch our new video to find out 


The Roe Disaster — And What To Do About It: Reproductive rights are on the chopping block because of dark GOP schemes and Democrats’ duplicity — but this fight is not over.

Julia Rock, Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Andrew Perez, David Sirota, May 4, 2022 [The Lever]

TW: “What To Do About It” is pretty weak compared to the power and majesty of Harvard Law Professor Frank Michelman’s arguments in 1988 Yale Law Journal article, “Law’s Republic,” but this article is still very useful for summarizing liberals’ and Democrats’ consistent record of inaction and duplicity on reproductive rights.

….For much of the past two decades, the right-wing takeover of the courts was at best ignored, and at worst aided and abetted by Democratic politicians and pundits who sanitized the reputations of radical, right-wing judges. (Of course, you never see a prominent Republican politician or talking head praising pro-choice judges.)

There was Neal Katyal, Obama’s Solicitor General, making the case for “why liberals should back Neil Gorsuch.” There was liberal pundit Noah Feldman declaring that “Amy Coney Barrett deserves to be on the Supreme Court.” ….

In 2009, when Democrats held the presidency and large majorities in Congress, Obama was eager “to straddle the abortion divide,” according to reporting from The New York Times….

After the House passed the bill to codify Roe last fall, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in March joined every Republican senator in voting against it…. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden — who once supported letting states overturn Roe — wouldn’t even endorse ending the filibuster to protect abortion rights, even though he previously endorsed a plan to make an exception to the filibuster to try to pass voting rights….

And while Biden has been intervening in primaries against progressive candidates, he has shown no appetite for using the most powerful office in the world to pressure the corporate holdouts in his party to help him protect abortion rights. That includes anti-choice Manchin, who even recently taped an ad bragging about blocking Biden’s domestic agenda.


Predatory finance

Wall Street Isn’t Ready for the Crackdown Coming Its Way 

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-2022]


A New York law to end to Wall Street’s pension ripoff 

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 5-6-2022] 


What Really Drives Long-Term Interest Rates? 

Brett Palatiello and Philip Pilkington [Naked Capitalism


“Matlack bill to protect property tax payers now law”

[Penobscot Bay Pilot, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-2-2022]

“In recent years, some large corporations have begun using this appeal process to advocate for property values that are significantly less than municipalities have determined their value to be. Referred to as the ‘dark store’ theory, big box retailers appeal their assessed property value based on comparisons with stores that have closed and sold for much less than their previous value. ‘Large corporations are taking their newly built properties and comparing their value to closed down and abandoned stores,’ said Matlack. ‘This puts hundreds of thousands of property tax dollars at stake. These big box stores want the benefits of municipal services, such as police and fire protection, sewer and water services and well-maintained roads, while shifting their share of the cost onto the rest of the property tax payers. This law ensures that local assessors have the tools they need to support their determination of just value for these properties.’ Written in consultation with Maine assessors, LD 1129 gives Maine municipalities the ability to clarify what makes a similar property comparable.”


The epidemic

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]

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“CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate): Tests, interpretation and sizing” (Google Doc)

[Fluid Mechanics Group / LIFTEC] (currently, Joint Center of Univ. Zaragoza and CSIC, Spain), via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-5-2022]

“CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) is related to total flow rate and filter efficiency: CADR=(Air flow rate)x(Filter efficiency). So, a possible method to evaluate CADR of a portable air filter (also of filtered air in HVAC systems) consists in measuring the air flow rate through the filter and applying a correction to account for actual filtration efficiency.” • With many many tests and recommendations.


Health care crisis

Major Insurers Are Scamming Billions from Medicare, Whistle-Blowers Say

[Bloomberg, via The Big Picture 5-1-2022]

Billing for illnesses that don’t exist, like prostate cancer in a woman.


The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

The Death of Neoliberalism Has Been Greatly Exaggerated 

[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 5-1-2022]


The Aerospace Industry Is Grappling With A Titanium Supply Shortage 

[OilPrice, via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]


The Left/Right distinction is as relevant as ever as corporations gouge profits out of pushing inflation

Bill Mitchell [billy blog, via Mike Norman Economics 5-1-2022]

Apparently, the Left/Right Paradigm is dead. This narrative keeps coming back. In the 1980s, when governments, coopted by corporate lobby groups, went on a privatisation spree, which transferred billions of dollars worth of public assets into the hands of private wealth holders, and enriched lawyers, management consultants etc into the bargain, we were told that we are all capitalists now because our pension funds bought the assets. Joke. Anyway, I keep reading and being told that there is no longer any meaningful distinction between Left and Right, with both falling into the hands of totalitarian discourse. Even so-called progressives advocate that the traditional Left should partner up with the traditional Right (and far Right) to keep ‘centrists’ out of power or to stop governments taking basic actions to protect public health. It is the ultimate victory for the neoliberals to have persuaded the Left that they have more in common with the Right than ever before. This is another example of how duped the Left has become.…



Elon Musk Isn’t a Threat to Society’s Health. All Billionaires Are 

[Mint Press News, via Naked Capitalism 5-1-2022]

Money is power. The fact that our societies have allowed a small number of individuals to accumulate untold riches means we have also allowed them to gain untold power over us. Debates, like the current one about the future of Twitter, are now rarely about what is in the interests of wider society. Instead, they are about what is in the interests of billionaires, as well as the corporations and institutions that enrich and protect this tiny, pampered elite.…

Some are more “philanthropic” than others, using the wealth they have plundered from the common good to buy themselves today’s equivalent of an indulgence – a ticket to heaven once sold by the Catholic Church for a princely sum. These “philanthropists” very publicly recycle their riches, while quietly claiming tax exemptions, to make it look as if they deserve their fortunes or as if the planet would be worse off without them….

But one thing the super-rich are not open to is the idea that billionaires should be a thing of the past, like slavery or the divine right of kings. Instead, they are all equally committed to their own ongoing power – and whatever planet-destroying economic model is required to sustain it.

And they are committed, too, to the idea that they should have much more power than the general population because they are supposedly the winners in a global meritocracy race. They believe they are better than the rest of us – that natural selection has selected them.


Disney stiffs writer

Cory Doctorow [Pluralistic, via Naked Capitalism 5-1-2022]


“How some big grocery chains help ensure that food deserts stay barren”

[The Counter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-6-2022]

“Restrictive covenants are provisions written into deeds and lease agreements that govern how a piece of property can or cannot be used, sometimes indefinitely. Grocery chains have been using them at least since the 1950s as a way to make sure that if they’ve built out a large and costly brick-and-mortar supermarket—a store’s footprint can sprawl for 5,000 square feet or much more—no other supermarket will threaten its profits. As Kang wrote in a paper that she recently delivered at a Yale Law School grocery conference, “It’s self-evident from these restrictions that [grocery companies’] tactic is solely and wholly intended to hinder competition.’ A restrictive covenant might work like this: Stop & Shop, which is owned by Dutch conglomerate Ahold Delhaize, builds a supermarket in a community that needs it. Great news! However, if Stop & Shop eventually decides it no longer wants to keep this store open, it might lease the space to another retailer. Only, it can add a clause to the lease that disallows the new retailer from opening another grocery store in the space—or even a bodega, a farm stand, or any kind of food vendor.”


Restoring balance to the economy

ER Docs Sue Employer, Say They Were Told To Work Sick, Avoid Covid Tests

[Kaiser Health News, via Naked Capitalism 5-2-2022]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

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“House Lawmakers Demand More Labor Board Funds As Workplace Organizing Spreads”

[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

“More than 140 members of Congress are calling on House leaders to end eight years of flat funding for the National Labor Relations Board, saying the agency isn’t equipped to handle a surge in workplace organizing at companies like Starbucks and Amazon. In a letter to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, the 149 lawmakers warned that a “dramatic increase in labor activity” could swamp the underfunded board, which has lost roughly 30% of its staff since 2010 due to attrition and a lack of money. All but four of the members who signed are Democrats. They called for a labor board budget of $368 million next fiscal year, a vast increase from the current level of $274 million, which hasn’t budged since 2014. The stagnant funding in recent years means the agency’s budget has gone down in real dollars. A similar letter with the same $368 million proposal has been circulating in the Senate, led by Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.).” A little late. More: “The NLRB oversees private-sector union elections and referees disputes between labor groups and employers. The agency’s general counsel says election petitions have increased 57% so far in fiscal year 2022 compared to the previous year. It has also seen a 17% jump in “unfair labor practice” charges, or allegations of lawbreaking. A sizable chunk of the swell in election petitions comes straight from Starbucks, where workers are waging one of the most notable organizing campaigns in decades. So far, 30 of the coffee chain’s stores have voted to unionize, and more than 200 overall have filed petitions to hold elections.” And: “A push for more board funding could set up a fight with GOP members in both chambers, who seem to have drawn a red line on giving the agency any more money. The labor board has a statutory mission to promote collective bargaining, and many Republican members seem happy to let it wither.” • As were Democrats, until workers took action.


“Audio: Kellogg’s Executive Described Union as “Terrorists” Emboldened by Social Media”

[The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-2-2022]

“In hushed tones, [Ken Hurley, the vice president of human resources and labor relations at The Kellogg Co.] described the tactics employed by activists during a nearly 10-week cereal plant strike last fall. The strike prevented concessions from workers and forced Kellogg’s to back off a plan to expand its two-tier wage system. ‘In my view,’ Hurley said, ‘the union leadership at the bargaining table were behaving more like terrorists than partners.’…. On Saturday, Kellogg’s plant managers called workers at the plant in Battle Creek, Michigan, to personally apologize for Hurley’s remarks. Hurley, the vice president of human resources and labor relations at Kellogg’s, is no longer with the company following publication of this piece. ”


“‘Add Personal Story Here’: Starbucks Anti-Union One-on-Ones Fall Flat”

[Labor Notes, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-5-2022]

“Starbucks corporate decided to skip to the next tactic in its playbook: “one-on-one” meetings between one barista and a manager—or multiple managers. The idea seemed to be that separating us would break our solidarity and make it easier to lie to us. But once again they found Hopewell baristas ready to see through their lies, push back, and support each other. For our first round of one-on-ones, these meetings were framed as ‘reviewing our benefits.’ Basically, they intended to tell us how great our benefits are—and that they could take them away. They want us to think we stand to lose all these ‘incredible’ benefits if we unionize. We know we wouldn’t actually, but they genuinely think we’re dumb enough to fall for thinly veiled threats. … During my own one-on-one, our manager began by saying she couldn’t find the paper she had her written questions on. Throughout the meeting she mentioned this repeatedly, and kept pausing to think. It was such odd behavior I had to assume it was some tactic the union-busting experts had taught her. What else could it be? I was wrong. I later found out that she actually had lost her questions, because she’d accidentally handed the sheet corporate had given her to the barista in the meeting before mine. This sheet had detailed guidelines on how to run a one-on-one, automating heartwarming moments through directions like, ‘Add a personal story here,’ ‘Share your favorite Starbucks memory,’ and ‘Help barista set up a benefit they showed interest in.'” 


Beyond GDP: Time to measure inclusive wealth and change economics 

[ScienceBlog, via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]


Climate and environmental crises

“We Don’t Need Nickel From Russia”

[CleanTechnica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

“There’s another potential source of nickel, not as well known yet plentiful, lying at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. See my previous interviews with The Metals Company CEO, Gerard Barron, if you missed our pieces on this option. Formerly known as DeepGreen, the company is focused on literally scooping up nodules from the seafloor — in a manner that is far less environmentally impactful than other nickel mining methods. The company isn’t Russian. It’s Canadian, eh, and it has the largest undeveloped nickel project on the planet. The company offers a true alternative to both Russian and Chinese-controlled nickel supplies.” 


“Elephant in the room”: Clean energy’s need for unsustainable minerals

[Ars Technica, via The Big Picture 5-7-2022]


“Enough nickel, lithium for 14 mln EVs in 2023 – European climate group”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

“In a study based on BloombergNEF data on global maximum volumes of EV battery-grade nickel and lithium, [Transport and Environment] said that in 2025 there would be enough to make 21 million EVs globally. Excluding Russian nickel, T&E said there should be sufficient raw materials for 19 million EVs in 2025. Global EV sales more than doubled to 4.2 million vehicles in 2021 from just over 2 million in 2020.”



Felicity Bradstock [Oilprice, via Mike Norman Economics 5-7-2022]

Rare Earths Supply Is About To Get Much Tighter 

[Ag Metal Miner, via Mike Norman Economics 5-5-2022]

  • China may be looking to tighten its rare earth export control laws, and that could make supply even scarcer.
  • The regulations, which have been loosely enforced over the past two years, are in line with the “total national security outlook” policy of President Xi Jinping.
  • The United States is racing to ramp up domestic rare earth supply to help ease its dependence on Chinese resources.


Climate change means 1 in 25 homes could become uninsurable by 2030, report warns 

[ABC Australia, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


Horn of Africa ravaged by worst drought in four decades 

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

A Portable Wind Turbine “About the Size of a 1-Liter Water Bottle” 

[Core77, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


Renewable electricity powered California just shy of 100% for the first time in history 

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


California says it needs more power to keep the lights on 

[Yahoo, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-2022]


How the Thames went from being ‘biologically dead’ to one of the world’s cleanest rivers in 60 years 

[Scroll, via Naked Capitalism 5-2-2022]


Information age dystopia

In the dark: Seven years, 60 countries, 935 internet shutdowns: How authoritarian regimes found an off switch for dissent.

[Rest of World, via The Big Picture 5-1-2022]



PayPal’s IndyMedia Wipeout 

Matt Taibbi [via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]


AI research is a dumpster fire and Google’s holding the matches 

[The Next Web, via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]


Apple, Google, and Microsoft want to kill the password with “Passkey” standard 

ars technica, via Naked Capitalism 5-7-2022]


How Democracies Spy on Their Citizens 

[New Yorker, via The Big Picture 5-4-2022]

NSO Group is perhaps the most successful, controversial, and influential firm in a generation of Israeli startups that have made the country the center of the spyware industry. The inside story of the world’s most notorious commercial spyware and the big tech companies waging war against it. 


Time Columnist [Charlotte Alter] Denounces Free Speech as a White Man’s “Obsession”

Jonathan Turley [JonathanTurley.com, via Mike Norman Economics 5-1-2022]

Every Bay Area House Party 

[Astral Codex Ten, via The Big Picture 5-7-2022]

Barry Ritholltz: “Hilarious discussion of what’s going on in Silicon Valley the past few years.”


Institutionalists = Obstructionists

“The Institutionalist’s Dilemma”

[Alex Pareene, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-4-2022]

“One of the more consequential contradictions of the Democratic Party is that the vast majority of its staffers, consultants, electeds, and media avatars, along with a substantial portion of its electoral base, are institutionalists. They believe, broadly, in The System. The System worked for them, and if The System’s outputs are bad, it is because we need more of the right sort of people to join or be elected to enter The System. But when the party does manage to win majorities, it depends on support from a substantial number of anti-system people. Barack Obama defeated the Clintons with this sacred knowledge, before he started reading David Brooks. Institutionalists, in my experience, have trouble reaching an anti-system person, because they think being against The System is an inherently adolescent and silly mindset. But believing in things like “the integrity of the Supreme Court” has proven to be, I think, much sillier, and much more childish…. I think some people in the White House have some sick hope that the end of Roe will galvanize the midterm electorate. Something like that may indeed happen. But if they wish to understand why the president has been bleeding youth support for the last year they should try to imagine these young people (and “young”, at this point, has expanded to like 45) not as the annoying and hyper-engaged freaks they see on Twitter every day, but as ones they don’t see anywhere, because, having been urged to pay furious attention by people in the party, they discovered that those people had absolutely no realistic plans to overcome entrenched, systemic obstacles to progress. Maybe some of those voters went back to brunch. I suspect many of them went back to work brunch.”


How The White House Correspondents Dinner Broke The Democratic Party 

Meredith Shiner [Rolling Stone, via The Lever, 5-1-22]

“When I was a political reporter in Washington, I used to loathe the White House Correspondents Dinner. I hated how it portrayed Beltway journalism as a game. How it reduced the project of government accountability to performative antagonism practiced daily by reporters in White House press briefings — a performance exposed annually at a dinner where the most powerful people in the world would rub elbows and yuck it up about funny ‘inside jokes’ like George W. Bush’s bungling of the Iraq War and the media’s culpability in helping him do it. Maybe because I was a reporter at the time, I always considered the dinner’s rottenness from the perspective of the relationship between the media and politicians, lamenting that images from the Washington Hilton of the press mingling with administration officials in black tie undercut the public’s faith in an independent media. But the further away I’ve gotten from the experience… the more I’ve considered how the dinner contributed in other, significant ways to the brokenness of our current political moment.”


“The company men behind Biden’s foreign policy ‘Blob’”

[Asia Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-5-2022]

...the White House of Joe Biden, an ardent Catholic, might be said to be dominated by three Cardinals: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti and deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed. Klain, despite a career littered with high-profile failures, including overseeing the 2000 Florida recount for the Gore campaign, has had an unerring ability to make himself in demand…. Klain also has a reputation in Washington for not knowing what he does not know, a perhaps common trait among those who inhabit the top tier of political operatives and publicists who run Washington. Joining Klain at the top of the White House organizational chart is long-time Biden consigliere Steve Ricchetti, a veteran of the DC revolving door, including a controversial stint as a health care industry lobbyist. Ricchetti handles White House relations with Capitol Hill. Such is his pull inside the Oval Office that three of his own children have been appointed to positions inside the administration, including his son J J Richetti, who serves as special assistant in the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Treasury. Of the three, Bruce Reed is said to be the in-house policy wonk. No friend of progressive politics, Reed came up through the ranks as a centrist policy adviser to Senator Al Gore in the 1980s then as domestic policy advisor to President Bill Clinton…. 

Just slightly down the White House food chain, economic and foreign policy are handled by what is said to be a collegial tandem of two young Obama administration alumni: National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and the Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese.

What these top players all have in common is that they are company men with ties to the Democratic establishment going back years if not decades. They represent, in their careers and outlook, the mainstream of the Democratic Party; hawkish on foreign policy, moderate on domestic policy and sensitive to the concerns of corporate America, they are wedded to old ideas and ways of doing business that go back to the Clinton administration….

The irony of America’s current predicament is that Biden’s cast of utterly conventional, decidedly buttoned-down establishmentarians who brook no deviation from the bipartisan foreign policy orthodoxy of the post-Cold War era are the very opposite of the sort who are needed to find an off-ramp from this, the most perilous moment of East-West confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Democrats’ political suicide

The Means-Test Con: Limiting student debt relief is cynicism masquerading as populism — and it will just enrage everyone.

David Sirota and Andrew Perez, May 2, 2022 [The Lever]

This rancid form of bullshit was a staple of Buttigieg’s campaign — like “Medicare For All Who Want It” — but he and copycats like Amy Klobuchar were just pushing the larger lie that is now the foundation of economic policy debates. Call it the means-testing con — the idea that social programs should not be universal, and should instead only be available to those who fall below a certain income level. It is a concept eroding national unity and being carried forward by wealthy pundits and a Democratic Party that has discarded the lessons of its own universalist triumphs like Social Security, Medicare, and the GI Bill.

This break from universalism popped up this week when the Biden administration tore a page from Buttigieg 2020’s assault on the higher education discourse: The White House leaked that it is considering finally following through on Biden’s promise to cancel some student debt, but not the $50,000 pushed by congressional Democrats, and only for those below an income threshold. That’s right — as Biden’s poll numbers plummet among young people, his administration is considering limiting and means-testing debt relief for federal loans that were already effectively means-tested through need-based eligibility requirements.


The Democrats’ self-immolating fetish for means-testing: How to lose an election…and a nation.

Cory Doctorow [Medium.com, via David Dayen, The American Prospect, 5-5-2022]

Biden campaigned on universal student debt reduction, but now wants to add a means-test; a layer of bureaucratic formalities to identify the “deserving poor.” The neoliberal fetish for red-tape is on the march, and the consequences will be the 2022 mid-terms, and maybe the future of the nation.

Means-testing is the kind of technocratic make-work beloved of the McKinsey set, thus it was no surprise that Buttigieg campaigned against universal free college because it would be “free even for the kids of millionaires.” This talking point has been oft-repeated in the debate over debt erasure, even though it’s empirically untrue. If college was free in America, only 1.4% of the benefit would accrue to rich children….

Means-testing, then, is just another regressive tax: a way to disproportionately burden poor people with time- and cash-intensive obligations. It’s a way to turn users of universal programs into “burdens on society” instead of participants in it. It’s a way to discourage the Democratic base and ensure low turnouts in elections, especially midterms, where the turnouts are low to begin with.

As Sirota points out, we don’t hear about means-testing for corporate tax-cuts and subsidies, or for bank bailouts — just for universal programs that primarily benefit poor people (who, in America, are disproportionately Black and brown people)….


Means-Testing Student Debt Relief: Big Hassle, No Results

David Dayen, may 5, 2022 [The American Prospect]

There are also indications that this forgiveness will be means-tested, with an ineligibility threshold between $125,000 and $150,000 for individuals and $250,000 to $300,000 for couples. New college graduates generally don’t make that kind of money, and nor do the 40 percent of student debt holders who dropped out of college. But all of them will have to navigate the often punishing bureaucracy of confirming their earnings level. It means a massive headache for millions to cut out a minuscule proportion of borrowers. And if the history of means testing in America is any guide, bureaucratic snarls will prevent vulnerable populations from receiving relief to which they are entitled….

Ultimately, means testing denies relief to the deserving, and doesn’t necessarily shut out the “undeserving,” by whatever shifting definition of the word. It just erects the architecture that makes people hate the federal government, and makes relief programs more likely to be disfavored by the public.



[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-3-2022]

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“Why Aren’t Democrats Supporting This Pro-Choice Candidate in Texas?”

[Vice, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-5-2022]

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday that the leaked draft opinion of a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade is ‘a sweeping and severe restriction of Americans’ rights,’ one that if issued, ‘would pave the way for Republicans to obliterate even more of our freedoms.’ But in a crucial Democratic primary runoff in South Texas, Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders are backing anti-abortion Rep. Henry Cuellar as he tries to fight off 28-year-old immigration lawyer Jessica Cisneros’ second challenge from the left… Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn have all endorsed Cuellar. Pelosi donated $4,000 to Cuellar’s campaign in December and reiterated her support for him following the March 1 primary, and Clyburn is set to campaign with Cuellar at an event in San Antonio on Wednesday. A Clyburn spokesperson told VICE News in an email that Clyburn ‘is still planning to be with Cuellar’ Wednesday. Cisneros, who finished roughly 1,000 votes behind Cuellar in the primary out of nearly 50,000 cast, told VICE News that it’s been ‘frustrating’ seeing the Democratic leadership stand behind Cuellar—even as he’s opposed Democratic agenda items such as the bill to make Roe’s protections a federal law, as well as the PRO Act, a monumental package of labor law reforms to empower workers.” 


The Ohio Model for Purging Progressives

David Dayen and Alexander Sammon, May 3, 2022 [The American Prospect] 

A Democratic establishment victory in a House race last year has emboldened big money to upend this primary cycle….

But the race in the 11th District saw the first successful counterattack to this strategy, from a group of outside donors who represented the old-guard establishment. Though Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) was active in campaigns prior to 2021, including supporting Joe Biden and the ultimately losing campaign of former House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel, OH-11 is where they made their stand, getting behind Shontel Brown in a race against former Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner…. Funding for this effort largely came from a collection of oil company executives, investment fund managers, and the former chairman of multilevel marketing firm Rodan + Fields. And DMFI’s vendors also work for Democratic Party groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and Senate Majority PAC….

Like a scout team checking for favorable battlefield terrain, DMFI’s success gave way to much bigger and deeper-pocketed groups flooding House primaries, overwhelming the progressive small-donor strategy. If Turner had held off Brown, maybe the corporate money train would have been seen as a losing proposition. But Brown’s victory gave the establishment proof of concept and major momentum, and as the primary season heats up in the next few months, outside money is likely to be the defining feature of Democratic politics in this cycle.


The dark side

Will Trump Face a Legal Reckoning in Georgia? 

[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 5-3-2022]


Conservative / Libertarian Drive to Civil War

Who Bankrolled Ginni Thomas as She Sought to Overthrow the 2020 Election? 

[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 5-4-2022]


The (Anti)Federalist Society Infestation of the Courts

“What happens when the public loses faith in the Supreme Court?”

[Vox, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 5-6-2022]

“Political scientists who study the sources of Court legitimacy generally find that it stems from the perception that the Court is not a political body. The idea that justices are interpreting the law to the best of their abilities, rather than simply finding a justification for imposing their political preferences, is fundamental to the public’s faith in the institution as a whole. For decades, this belief has been fairly widespread in the American public, allowing the Court to weather some very controversial rulings. In 2000’s Bush v. Gore, for example, the Court divided along transparently partisan lines to elevate George W. Bush to the presidency, infuriating pretty much the entire Democratic Party. But the damage was not permanent: A 2007 study found that ‘the Court seems as widely trusted today as it was a decade ago,’ with no significant divisions by partisan affiliation. The single best predictor of faith in the Court was not party, but an individual’s ideological commitment to the rule of law.”

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