Autocrats of Trade

If we will not endure a king as a political power we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life. If we would not submit to an emperor we should not submit to an autocrat of trade, with power to prevent competition and to fix the price of any commodity.

– Senator John Sherman, author of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890

This week’s featured post is “How Ominous Were Tuesday’s Elections?“.

This week everybody was talking about last Tuesday’s elections

That’s the topic of the featured post.

and the bipartisan infrastructure bill

which finally passed Friday. The bill passed the Senate back in August, but it had been stuck in the House while negotiations on the parallel Build Back Better bill continued. BBB is still stuck, but Tuesday’s disappointing election results convinced Democrats that they needed to ring up an accomplishment quickly.

The $1.2 trillion bill really is a BFD for Biden, and it’s important that the bill not get overshadowed by what’s not in it. Trump talked endlessly about what a great builder he is, but he couldn’t get this done and Biden did.

We also shouldn’t let the bill fall victim to what Jay Rosen has dubbed the “cult of savviness” in the mainstream media. The important thing is not the play-by-play of the congressional process, it’s what the bill does. The short version: fixing run-down roads and bridges, bringing broadband internet to rural areas, upgrading public transit and cross-country rail, improving ports and airports, modernizing the electrical grid, and upgrading water systems by, for example, getting the lead out of water pipes.

and the pandemic

US case numbers had been going down since mid-September, but that trend has flattened at around 72K cases per day, or 22 per 100K people. Deaths continue to fall, but we’re still losing about 1200 people a day.

Something I find ominous is the way high-case counties are clustered in the far north, like Coos County, NH (125 cases per 100K), Baraga County, MI (122), Blaine County, MT (135), and the whole state of Alaska (82). Even Vermont, which until now has consistently had low case-counts and high vaccination rates, is up to 49. All are low-population areas where it doesn’t take many cases to push the numbers up, but they also all have borders with Canada. Which makes me wonder: Is this a seasonal outbreak that will drift south in the coming weeks?

Pfizer announced a new anti-Covid drug, Paxlovid, that it claims cuts deaths by 89%. Like Merck’s recently announced Molnupiravir, Pfizer’s drug is a pill that can be taken at home.

The partisan gap in Covid deaths continues to grow.

Starting today, US border checkpoints will let fully vaccinated travelers enter.

I have zero sympathy for police who refuse to get vaccinated or police unions that fight against vaccine mandates. The simple reality is that you aren’t allowed to socially distance from the police, if they decide to get in your face. That puts the responsibility on them to minimize the risks they bring to the job.

I completely agree with John Oliver, including the expletives:

This all sums up the American police problem in miniature. The constant refrain we hear from cops every time they kill an unarmed, Black person is, “They should have complied with commands.” Because as long as you comply, things will supposedly go well. But that only seems to work one way. Because when officers are asked to follow simple rules or face consequences, a not insignificant amount of them flip their shit.

So if an officer wants to quit over this, fucking let them. Let the individuals who clearly don’t care about public safety stop being in charge of public safety. It is really that simple.

Dr. Ashish Jha of Brown University draws a parallel:

There is a viral disease where most infections are mild, asymptomatic. With a very low fatality rate. And large age gradient: kids are even lower risk than adults. And less than 1% of kids have any serious complications at all.

Yup. Polio. And we vaccinate against it

but I want to talk about a book

Senator Amy Klobuchar has written a much meatier book than you typically get from a politician: Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power From the Gilded Age to the Digital Age. (That’s where I got the Sherman quote at the top of the page.) It is as engagingly written as a book with this many footnotes can be, and does two things: tells the story of American antitrust law, and advocates for updating the laws to handle the particular problems of monopoly and monopsony in the current era.

Klobuchar turns out to have an antitrust background. Early in her career as a lawyer, she represented MCI as it tried to break into the telephone market then dominated by AT&T. Today, she is on the Senate Commerce Committee.

In addition to her specific proposals — the book has many of them — Klobuchar wants to take the anti-monopoly movement back from the lawyers (even though she is one). Antitrust has become a complex legal specialty that in many ways is far removed from the popular movement that spawned it in the 19th century. Leaving it to the lawyers might be fine if the laws on the books solved the problem and only needed enforcement. But monopolistic practices keep evolving while the law stands still — or even backtracks, as our big-business-friendly Supreme Court interprets antitrust laws in ways that make them ever harder to apply.

That situation will only change if there is political pressure. And since the big money is lined up against such change, the only place it can come from is people.

and you also might be interested in …

I am a former fan of Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has broken NFL Covid protocols and deceived the public about his vaccination status. When asked by reporters weeks ago, Rodgers said he had been “immunized”, which to him meant something different from vaccinated.

The public found out about the deception this week when he tested positive for Covid. The NFL requires unvaccinated players to isolate from their teams for ten days after a positive test, and they finally decided to enforce the rules on the league MVP, causing him to miss Sunday’s loss to Kansas City.

AP summarizes the NFL protocols and who is responsible for enforcing them. The Atlantic’s Jamele Hill provides commentary.

But the stunning news of Rodgers’s COVID-19 diagnosis has been compounded by what else it revealed: Rodgers had lied about his vaccination status, and his team had likely provided cover for his deception. Both the Packers and the league itself have stood idly by as the reigning NFL MVP apparently violated safety protocols and jeopardized the health of others around him.

Throughout the season, Rodgers has been seen maskless many times at indoor press conferences. Per the NFL’s coronavirus protocols, unvaccinated players are required to wear masks at all times inside club facilities, submit to daily PCR testing, and avoid being within six feet of other unvaccinated players while traveling or eating meals. … Rodgers has put the NFL’s credibility in jeopardy. The situation raises the obvious question of whether other teams have been covering for unvaccinated key players.

It got worse from there. Rather than apologize, Rodgers lashed out at the “woke mob” and “cancel culture” in an interview where he

rattled off a Bingo card’s worth of anti-vaxx catchphrases: Ivermectin, “politicized,” “my own research,” a Martin Luther King Jr. quote applied wildly out of context (“You have a moral obligation to object to unjust rules”), “monoclonals,” “sterility,” and more.

“I’m not some sort of anti-vaxx flat-earther. I am somebody who’s a critical thinker. I march to the beat of my own drum. I believe strongly in bodily autonomy, and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something.”

That “crazed group of individuals” includes his employer, who has paid him $263 million during his 17-year career.

His main sponsor, State Farm Insurance, is standing by him publicly, but has reduced his appearances from 25% of their commercials to under 2%.

I’m glad to hear the Justice Department link the Texas abortion law to what a blue state could do against gun rights.

A state might, for example, ban the sale of firearms for home protection, contra District of Columbia v. Heller, or prohibit independent corporate campaign advertising, contra Citizens United v. FEC, and deputize its citizens to seek large bounties for each sale or advertisement. Those statutes, too, would plainly violate the Constitution as interpreted by this court. But under Texas’ theory, they could be enforced without prior judicial review — and, by creating an enforcement scheme sufficiently lopsided and punitive, the state could deter the exercise of the target right altogether.

To the disappointment of Q-Anon faithful who gathered on Dallas’ famous grassy knoll Tuesday, JFK Jr. did not return from his apparent death (faked 20 years ago, according to the theory) to become the VP of a restored Trump administration. So it’s on to the next crazy prediction.

and let’s close with a love story

Hubert and Kalissa were a bonded pair of lions described as “inseparable” by the Los Angeles Zoo curator of animals. Both 21 years old, they had far outlived a typical lion lifespan of 14-17 years. Suffering from a variety of age-related infirmities that had “diminished their quality of life”, the two were euthanized together so that neither would have to be alone.

The couple met at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, and in 2014 were transferred to Los Angeles where “They quickly became favorites among LA Zoo guests and staff and were known for their frequent cuddles and nuzzles.”

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