Krystal and Saagar discuss the Chicago live show, Liz Truss resigning, Russia-Ukraine war, energy geopolitics, midterm races, FBI raiding an ABC Producer, landlord cartel, & systematic corruption!
Timestamps: Truss: 0:00 – 9:02 Live Show: 9:03 – 12:45 Ukraine: 12:46 – 30:46 Energy: 30:47 – 43:15 SPR: 43:16 – 53:43 Midterms: 53:44 – 1:13:28 FBI: 1:13:29 – 1:18:45 Krystal: 1:18:46 – 1:27:51 Saagar: 1:27:52 – 1:38:33
10/20 NEWSLETTER: Liz Truss Resigns, Russia vs Ukraine, Energy Policy, Midterm Elections, Corruption, & More!
Welcome to the October 20th, 2022 Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar newsletter. The flagship show with Krystal and Saagar is back after taking off Monday and Tuesday. After the live show in Chicago, the hosts had a Spotify podcaster summit to attend so Ryan Grim and Emily Jashinsky filled in. Check out both of their Counter Points special episodes and the Chicago live show footage in your inbox! Thank you for making the Chicago show possible and I am proud to have played a role in it.
The next live show dates and locations will be announced soon. We are working on delivering refunds for the Chicago show to the lifetime subscribers.
British Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss has resigned from her post after only 45 days on the job. Her tenure is the shortest for any PM in the history of UK politics and she will officially leave her position when the party decides on a new leader. A large, unfunded tax cut proposed in her budget sent financial markets in free fall and has brought a political crisis to the Tory party. Walking back the proposal and firing top officials could not stop the destruction of her political career, so now Truss has resigned.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared martial law
in the occupied Ukrainian territories annexed by Russia. He said the order would become official today and did not announce specifics of what might come next. Law enforcement agencies have three days to submit proposals and create territorial defense forces in the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. Travel restrictions, vehicle checks, economic mobilization
, limits on public gatherings, tighter censorship, and expanded law enforcement authority are expected to take place under the new system. It reflects an escalation by Russia in response to their military failures against Ukrainian forces and rising tensions domestically. Relatedly, Putin is expanding the powers given to Russian Governors to impose draconian restrictions throughout Russia. New restrictions imposed in Russia could be similar to those in Ukrainian territory and pave the way for martial law in Russia. The efforts to streamline Russian military mobilization have been extended to a council run by Putin’s prime minister to coordinate the flow of equipment and monitor logistics. Kremlin officials have downplayed the new restrictions by referring to de facto military law in Ukraine and the refusal to tighten border security as Russian men continue to flee the country. There has been noticeably less men
visible in Russian social gatherings due to conscription of men and mass fleeing by those who did not want to fight in the war.
In the region of Kherson, Ukrainian forces have continued to gain ground towards the city itself. Russians claim authorities have been evacuating residents from the western side of the region in preparation for further gains by Ukraine around the Dnipro river. But the Ukrainians say this is disinformation and the pretext of Ukrainian strikes is being used to carry out mass deportation and blame Ukraine for destruction in the city. The new Russian military commander Sergei Surovikin admitted
his side has been losing ground
in Kherson despite heavy bombing and targeting civlian infrastructure. Moscow has begun relying
on military support from Iran in the form of drones rebranded by Russia to conceal their origins. Reports indicate Iranian officials have promised to provide Russia with more drones and surface-to-surface missiles. Separately, an influx of Russian troop presence in Belarus suggests the country might succumb to Russian pressure and play a larger role in the conflict. The small slavic nation borders Ukraine from the north and shares borders with multiple NATO allies. Moscow had used Belarus as a staging ground during the initial invasion but Belarusian strongman Lukashenko had resisted greater cooperation. In the past few days, his rhetoric against Ukraine and the west has escalated and he reiterated his support for the Russian campaign. At the height of protests against Lukashenko in 2020, the Russians provided financial and military support for his regime. If Belarus does get pulled into the war, it’s unclear if their weak military capabilities will have any significant effects beyond the symbolic escalation by Russia.
Ukrainian President Zelensky and his government are preparing for the nation’s electrical grid
to fail after being targeted by Russian attacks. Contingency plans are being made for the disabling of Ukraine’s electrical grid entirely as the nation faces rolling blackouts. According to Zelensky, 30% of the grid has been destroyed
as of Tuesday, causing some hospitals to run on backup generators. Nations across Europe are facing a similar level of precarity with their energy systems. In preparation for winter blackouts in the UK, the BBC network has prepared secret scripts
to be read on air designed to reassure the public. This doomsday scenario posits that a major loss of power would cause internet access, mobile phone networks, banking systems, traffic lights, and other forms of communication to fail. Civilians would resort to radio stations in order to receive emergency broadcasts.
Swedish journalists have obtained underwater drone captured images and video
from the Nordstream pipeline explosion. These were taken after divers from the Swedish government examined the site and potentially removed evidence. The journalists were quick to caution online experts and media from jumping to conclusions about what happened. Much speculation has implicated Russia, the US, Ukraine, and other possible culprits of the attack. It’s unknown who carried it out and for what purpose.
Domestically, President Biden announced
15 million more oil barrels will be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is the final tranche of SPR barrels from the White House’s spring program designed to release 180 million barrels from US reserves into global markets. Officials will consider releasing more barrels in the winter and are planning on replenishing the SPR by purchasing barrels at their current prices. All tools are on the table for the Biden administration, including proposed limits on oil exports by US companies. They have not released any specifics on what the limits would be in practice. Critics of the Biden administration’s energy policies have accused them of depleting American oil reserves for political gain. In a press conference, Biden responded
to his critics by noting the need for gas to be stabilized at home. Recent midterm polling data has shown to be correlated with fluctuations in gas prices
that have occurred in the past few months.
Midterm elections are less than three weeks away. Candidates in crucial swing state elections are hitting the home stretch of the campaign trail and early voting is taking place. Georgia observed record levels
of midterm turnout, nearly doubling the figures from last time around. A trend of higher turnout was shown in the primary elections and appears to be manifesting in the general election cycle. The numbers in Georgia were closer to totals seen in presidential elections when turnout is significantly higher because of the presidency. Closely watched senate and gubernatorial contests in Georgia could be a contributing factor. Whoever wins between Republican Herschel Walker and Democrat Raphael Warnock could determine which party controls the senate. High profile scandals involving Herschel Walker’s family life could have an effect on the swing voters
who will play a central role in the race. Lesser known scandals on Warnock’s side came up during debate but have not received significant media attention outside of right wing sources. Another important senate race is happening in Pennsylvania between Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz. Voters were gathered in a town hall to explain their voting choices which highlighted the national currents and particular factors in the race.
Progressive Democrats are fearing the worst for their party come election night. Bernie Sanders is going stumping
for progressive candidates across eight states in the coming weeks. He will try to push the party to focus more on economic messaging and ensure progressive voters come out for Democrats. In characteristic fashion, Sanders believes Democrats need to do more to court working class voters and distinguish themselves on the economy. He thinks the party should be targeting large corporations, billionaire tycoons, and the Federal Reserve in their plans to address the economy. Party leaders are already pointing fingers
and looking for scapegoats ahead of high expectations for Republicans this cycle. Former President Barack Obama criticized Democrats and progressives for being buzzkills and focusing too much on victimhood. Younger Democratic leadership has tried to distance itself from President Biden in their calls for generational change. Progressives backed Sanders’ insistence on an economic focus instead of talking solely about abortion.
FBI agents raided the home
of star ABC News producer James Gordon-Meek who has not been seen since the operation. He specialized in national security investigations and terrorism stories. Indications are that the heavily armed agents discovered classified information on Meek’s computer, something Meek’s attorney claims he was unaware of. Allegations that spurred the raid came inside the federal government, his attorney told Rolling Stone. This has the potential to implicate government officials in illegal conduct by leaking details about an investigation. Meek’s whereabouts are unknown and he resigned from his position abruptly according to the network.
In her monologue, Krystal examines the current inflationary environment and the rent market more specifically. We are in a time of 6.6% core inflation, the highest since 1982, and the Fed raising interest rates in an attempt to get inflation under control. So far it does not seem to be working and the negative economic effects will be felt by workers. The central bank has no control over energy prices being buffeted up by the Ukraine war, US sanctions, OPEC cuts, and other energy problems. They cannot deter corporate profiteering happening because of the ability for inflation to enable companies to jack up prices. Congresswoman Katie Porter made this point
in a viral congressional hearing.
The housing market is seeing a very specific example of corporate profiteering and collusion driving inflation. ProPublica
has exposed an exploitative landlord cartel working to drive up prices of rent by utilizing an algorithm called YieldStar to determine prices. It is run by a company called Realpage that was founded by a man convicted for airline price fixing. Executives at the company have bragged about their role in raising prices and making it easier for landlords to jack up rents as much as possible. The landlords are saved the emotional burden of how price hikes will affect people’s lives by deferring to an algorithm. YieldStar’s strategy is to raise rent beyond what the market can bear, making it necessary to remove the emotional barriers. The algorithm generates rent raises that generate enough profits to make up for increased vacancies across local markets. The software takes into account specific conditions but so many landlords use it that it ends up setting prices across the board. A Seattle neighborhood where YieldStar is widely used is a case study of what the algorithm is doing.
This model is morally bankrupt and might be illegal. YieldStar has turned into a monopoly due to a Trump administration merger between Realpage and its strongest competitor. Firms have used the algorithm to collude via technology and at in person events designed to share information. The Fed cannot do anything about this and what’s needed is to crush the companies exploiting our people.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar remark on how nobody knew about this algorithm and what it has been doing to rent prices around the country. A rentier cartel has formed where limited housing stock, skyrocketing rents, and higher vacancies generate huge profits and put people at the mercy of landlords. People basically cannot buy a house right now and they are getting squeezed farther and farther down. Corporate profiteering and monopolies exist beyond the real estate market because of the bipartisan consensus around it for the past generation. They have the control to raise prices and the cover of inflation to do it.
In his monologue, Saagar inspects the corruption of former military personnel making money off foreign governments. America is in a time of extremely low trust of existing institutions and the easier path is to criticize them and capitalize for yourself instead of fixing it. One vital way to restore faith is to call out pervasive corruption in our institutions beyond Congress and the other ones people hate. Well respected institutions where corruption lurks deep deserve to be called out for capitalizing off their reverence. No longer do we have genuine national heroes
like General Norman Schwarzkopf. Political leaders used the credibility of the military to advocate for war and lie to the American people. Like the other liars in Washington, the generals have traded their cache and elite media standing to the highest bidder. Generals have walked straight from military positions to defense contractors, but now their corruption is at a whole new level.
The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock revealed in a new investigation that hundreds of former military higher ups are actively working
for Saudi prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
Most egregious of them all is former Obama National Security Advisor Jim Jones, who worked to bolster the capability of the Saudi campaign in Yemen. Jones recruited four other generals to his project and all of them increased their work after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Generals are using their cache to work for a barbarous regime connected to 9/11 and other immense human suffering. Another glaring example is former 4 star general and NSA head Keith Alexander, who built a college of cyber security for the kingdom. His work has enabled the Saudis to conduct cyber warfare. Both Jones and Alexander received approval from the US government and the military, which fought the WaPo in court about obtaining necessary information. After Saudi Arabia stabbed Biden in the back, they responded
to criticism by touting their promotion of Jihad around the world. America’s role in propping up their regime, covering up 9/11 secrets, selling them weapons, and buying their oil is apparently not enough. The Saudis are terrible allies and yet, their money leads us to looking the other way. Corruption in the system is so deep that our generals are willing to sell out
and still get perceived as unbiased members of the foreign policy establishment.
After the monologue, Krystal and Saagar ponder the difficulty of calling out generals selling out their country because of the military service they provided. Criticizing a general’s current role is separate from commenting on their military service. America is addicted to profit at any cost even if it undermines security or being a traitor. Rhetoric about human rights is all fake and if you put that aside, our alliances are not serving American interests. All of this corruption is approved by the US government and it’s completely acceptable in Washington. Selling out is so part of the culture people do not even realize the problem to begin with.
Thank you for reading the latest Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar newsletter. We will have more Counter Points tomorrow and other weekend content! See you all on Monday.