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Memorandum: July 21, 2020

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Federal agents confronting Black Lives Matter protesters in Portland, Ore., on Monday.

The image of Federal Border Patrol (sic) troops in Portland, Oregon, above appears in the NYT today in a column by Michelle Goldberg.

Dozens of protesters at the front carry homemade shields made out of materials such as 55-gallon drums.

I regard this awesome photo from NYT as iconic. Observe the dialectic illustrated by the two images. Harbinger?

The elections are about 100 days away. The outcomes focus on the presidency and control of the U.S. Senate. The potential for an ugly process obscures that the national elections play out in this turbulent context.

  • The key battleground states lean now toward Biden, but polls this far out can’t predict well, as 2016 demonstrated. See the Real Clear Politics polling updates. Florida will be essential to Trump, for if he loses FL, he is cooked. So expect GOP Gov DiSantis to engineer mischief beyond suppressing black votes and promoting mayhem.
  • Mayhem favors Trump. Portland shows that. But Trump must excite his base, even mobilize Alt-Right bad boys to pummel in the streets, instigating fights with Antifa groups. Thus, the military join in the turbulence. Alas. Watch Chicago, always a hotbed.
  • Tremor, rumor: Trump might claim without much evidence that election is rigged by mail voting, then contest several states that he could lose, such as Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin. The court battles, as in 2000, must be accomplished to seat the Electors by December 14th, or else the individual congressional delegations decide, one vote per state. This now favors GOP. The real story must focus on voter suppression, however. The backlash will explode into bloody street-fighting engaging policy, military, protestors, and agitators like Proud Boys, Alt-Right (remember Charlottesville), and Antifa, a ragtag bunch.
  • Meanwhile, Congress stuck on another relief bill to subsidize folks and businesses as PPP runs out. Watch for local distress signaled by bankruptcy, shuttering, joblessness, defaults, repossessions, etc. CEOs remain pessimistic. Only inflation appears in corporate equities, especially large-cap growth stocks. Hidden from view: The astonishing explosion of the federal budget deficit. Interest rates and inflation remain low, but Fed contemplates 2%, which means that a 3% rate of real growth means the nominal rate of 6%, subtracting 2% inflation and, say, 1% population growth: This will not happen, thus dreaded long-term stagnation, with surge in inequality and lots of very unhappy citizens.
  • COVID-19 does not abate but rises in Sunbelt: AZ, CA, FL, TX. Trump dons a mask, at last. I am hunkered in NJ. Watch elderly folks catching the virus, a big deal in Miami-Dade — and Florida is key to the election.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement will continue, perhaps energized by the election. Momentum? The upcoming test will be the challenge to federal troops in Chicago. Watch closely and intently.
  • A black life that truly mattered had belonged to the recently departed Congressman John Lewis, an essential connection to the Civil Rights Movement. (BTW, after a speech in Jersey City by Dr. Martin Luther King, he invited me for a chat about my organizing in Jersey City around housing. MLK left JC for Memphis. You know the rest of the tragedy. His hug and cheek-kiss still haunt me.)
  • The cocktail of events that I depict above suggests that as climate change impacts intensify, the response will be thoroughly inadequate. Biden, even if elected with a Democrat Senate, could try to push through policies, but the looming fiscal crisis suggests incremental improvements. Watch for infrastructure investment. I support construction jobs in lieu of the roughly 300,000 industrial jobs lost under Trump.
  • However, folks will look toward self-help and community in the form of alternatives to market-oriented solutions, providing the potential for a bottom-up strategy outside the orthodox monetized economy.

Discussion

Dear Reader, we live in interesting times, an ancient Chinese curse. More to come as the parade of events moves through. I jot these notes spontaneously in the wee hours on-the-fly, so I ask for your forbearance.

A memorandum indicates that the document’s contents should be remembered, as in “lest we forget.” The memorandum thus provides a written record. Sticking to this practice motivates me as I return to this blog. The contents demonstrate that thinking about Integral Ecology must be placed within the context of the maelstrom. My focus on capitalism, not so much as a pejorative but as an analytic outlook, plays to my background in political economy.

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