Thom Hartmann

Trump’s racism kills 1 in 1,000 Americans

Covid has now killed 1 in 1000 Americans in less than a year.

How is it that in Australia it's 3 out of every 100,000 people, and in New Zealand it's 1 out of every 200,000 people, but here in America we're dropping like flies?

Chalk it up to Republican racism and a libertarian indifference to the notion of society.

Trump's official emergency declaration came on March 11th, and most of the country shut down or at least went part-way toward that outcome. The Dow collapsed and millions of Americans were laid off, but saving lives was, after all, the number one consideration.

Trump put medical doctors on TV daily, the media was freaking out about refrigerated trucks carrying bodies away from New York hospitals, and doctors and nurses were our new national heroes.

And then came April 7th.

I remember that week vividly; it was as if a light switch had been flipped, and I commented on it on my radio show at the time (and many times since).

April 7th was the day that America learned that the majority of the people who were dying from COVID19 were either elderly, black or Hispanic. Not so many white guys, after all.

Exactly one month earlier, on March 7th, Trump had played golf at his club in West Palm Beach, met with Brazilian strongman Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago, and visited the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Over the previous week, US deaths had risen from 4 to 22.

In March, Jared Kushner even put together an all-volunteer task force of mostly preppie 20-something white men to coordinate getting PPE to hospitals.

Then came April 7th, when the New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline: Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States. Other media ran similar headlines across the American media landscape, and it was heavily reported on cable news and the network news that night.

As the New York Times noted that day: "In Illinois, 43 percent of people who have died from the disease and 28 percent of those who have tested positive are African-Americans, a group that makes up just 15 percent of the state's population. African-Americans, who account for a third of positive tests in Michigan, represent 40 percent of deaths in that state even though they make up 14 percent of the population. In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died are black, though only a third of that state's population is."

American conservatives responded with a collective, "What the hell?!?"

Limbaugh declared that afternoon that "with the coronavirus, I have been waiting for the racial component." And here it was. "The coronavirus now hits African Americans harder – harder than illegal aliens, harder than women. It hits African Americans harder than anybody, disproportionate representation."

Claiming that he knew this was coming as if he was some sort of a medical savant, Limbaugh said, "But now these — here's Fauxcahontas, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris demanding the federal government release daily race and ethnicity data on coronavirus testing, patients, and their health outcomes. So they want a database to prove we are not caring enough about African Americans…"

It didn't take a medical savant, of course. African Americans die disproportionately from everything, from heart disease to strokes to cancer to childbirth. It's a symptom of a racially rigged economy and a healthcare system that only responds to money, which America has conspired to keep from African Americans for over 400 years. Of course they're going to die more frequently from coronavirus.

But the New York Times and the Washington Post simultaneously publishing front-page articles about that disparity with regard to COVID19, both on April 7th, echoed across the rightwing media landscape like a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Tucker Carlson, the only primetime Fox News host who'd previously expressed serious concerns about the death toll, changed his tune the same day, as documented by Media Matters for America.

Now, he said, "we can begin to consider how to improve the lives of the rest, the countless Americans who have been grievously hurt by this, by our response to this. How do we get 17 million of our most vulnerable citizens back to work? That's our task."

White people were out of work, and black people were most of the casualties, outside of the extremely elderly. And those white people need their jobs back!

Brit Hume joined Tucker's show and, using his gravitas as a "real news guy," intoned, "The disease turned out not to be quite as dangerous as we thought."

Left unsaid was the issue of to whom it was "not quite as dangerous," but Limbaugh listeners and Fox viewers are anything but unsophisticated when it hearing dog-whistles on behalf of white supremacy.

Only 12,677 Americans were dead by that day, but now that we knew most of the non-elderly were black, things were suddenly very, very different. Now it was time to quit talking about people dying and start talking about getting people back to work!

It took less than a week for Trump to get the memo, presumably through Fox and Stephen Miller. On April 12th, he retweeted a call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci and declared, in another tweet, that he had the sole authority to open the US back up, and that he'd be announcing a specific plan to do just that "shortly."

On April 13th, the ultra-rightwing, nearly-entirely-white-managed US Chamber of Commerce published a policy paper titled Implementing A National Return to Work Plan.

Unspoken but big on the agenda of corporate America was the desire to get the states to rescind their stay-home-from-work orders so that companies could cut their unemployment tax costs.

When people file unemployment claims, those claims are ultimately paid by the companies themselves, so when a company has a lot of claims they get a substantial increase in their unemployment insurance premiums/taxes. If the "stay home" orders were repealed, workers could no longer, in most states, file for or keep receiving unemployment compensation.

The next day, Freedomworks, the billionaire-founded and -funded group that animated the Tea Party against Obamacare a decade earlier, published an op-ed on their website calling for an "economic recovery" program including an end to the capital gains tax and a new law to "shield" businesses from lawsuits.

Three days after that, Freedomworks and the House Freedom Caucus issued a joint statement declaring that "[I]t's time to re-open the economy."

Freedomworks published their "#ReopenAmerica Rally Planning Guide" encouraging conservatives to show up "in person" at their state capitols and governor's mansions, and, for signage, to "Keep it short: 'I'm essential,' 'Let me work,' 'Let Me Feed My Family'" and to "Keep [the signs looking] homemade."

One of the first #OpenTheCountry rallies to get widespread national attention was April 19th in New Hampshire. Over the next several weeks, rallies had metastasized across the nation, from Oregon to Arizona, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and elsewhere.

One that drew particularly high levels of media attention, complete with swastikas, confederate flags and assault rifles was directed against the governor of Michigan, rising Democratic star Gretchen Whitmer.

When Rachel Maddow reported on meatpacking plants that were epicenters of mass infection, the conservative Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court pointed out that the virus flare wasn't coming from the "regular folks" of the surrounding community; they were mostly Hispanic and Black.

The conservative meme was now well established.

About a third of the people the virus killed were old folks in nursing homes. Which, commentators on the right said, could be a good thing for the economy because they're just "useless eaters" who spend our Medicaid and Social Security money but are on death's door anyway.

For example, Texas's Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick told Fox News, "Let's get back to living... And those of us that are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves."

A conservative town commissioner in Antioch, CA noted that losing many elderly "would reduce burdens in our defunct Social Security System…and free up housing…" He added, "We would lose a large portion of the people with immune and other health complications. I know it would be loved ones as well. But that would once again reduce our impact on medical, jobs and housing."

Then came news that the biggest outbreaks were happening in prisons along with the meatpacking plants, places with few white people (and the few whites in them were largely poor and thus disposable). Trump's response to this was to issue an executive order using the Defense Production Act (which he had refused to use to order production of testing or PPE equipment) to order the largely Hispanic and Black workforce back into the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.

African Americans were dying in our cities, Hispanics were dying in meatpacking plants, the elderly were dying in nursing homes.

But the death toll among white people, particularly affluent white people in corporate management who were less likely to be obese, have hypertension or struggle with diabetes, and more likely to work from home was relatively low. And those who came through the infection were presumed to be immune to subsequent bouts, so we could issue them "COVID Passports" and give them hiring priority.

As an "expert" member of Jared Kushner's team of young, unqualified volunteers supervising the administration's PPE response to the virus noted to Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban, "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

It was, after all, exclusively Blue states that were then hit hard by the virus: Washington, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Robert F. Kennedy's grandson Max Kennedy Jr, 26, was one of the volunteers and blew the whistle to Congress on Kushner and Trump. As Jane Mayer wrote for The New Yorker, "Kennedy was disgusted to see that the political appointees who supervised him were hailing Trump as 'a marketing genius,' because, Kennedy said they'd told him, 'he personally came up with the strategy of blaming the states.'"

So the answer to the question of why, at year's end, the United States has about 20% of the world's Covid deaths, but only 4.5% of the world's population, is pretty straightforward: Republicans were just fine with Black people dying back in April, particularly since they could blame it on Democratic Blue-state governors.

And once they put that strategy into place in April, it became politically impossible to back away from it, even as more and more red-state white people became infected.

Everything since then – right down to Trump's December 26th tweet ("The lockdowns in Democrat-run states are absolutely ruining the lives of so many people - Far more than the damage that would be caused by the China Virus.") – has been a double-down on death and destruction, now regardless of race.

Thom Hartmann is America's number one progressive talk-show host and the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. His online writings are compiled at HartmannReport.com. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

America's survival depends on bankrupting the Republican Party

It's time to defund the GOP, and there's precedent and strategy for the effort.

The need to cut the party's access to both private and government money is seen in the reaction by some extremist Republicans to news like a New York State lawmaker's proposal to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory. Predictably, the far right is freaking out. "Freedom!" they scream as they run around maskless, assaulting their fellow citizens with potentially virus-laden breath.

Large parts of the Republican base now join conspiracists in the misguided belief that vaccine manufacturers are participating in mind-control experiments and that public health measures like masks are "un-American," while we're being sickened and dying from the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and death in the developed world.

Republicans on the Supreme Court even say the founders of our republic and the framers of the Constitution would never go along with preventing churches and synagogues from holding superspreader events during a pandemic, but, like so many things GOP, it's a lie.

In 1798, President John Adams signed the first public health care legislation—it was to pay for medical care and hospitalization not just for the Navy but also for civilian sailors. And both he and President George Washington had participated in quarantine events during epidemics in the summers of 1793 and 1798, and both promoted inoculation against smallpox.

From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia was the nation's capital. When the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 recurred in 1798, that city's board of health, with no objections raised by President John Adams or any member of Congress, ordered a block-by-block evacuation of parts of Philadelphia.

Most signers of the Declaration and Constitution were still alive, and many were in Congress and on the Supreme Court. None opposed the lockdown. Churches not only couldn't meet; a few in the quarantine areas were closed down entirely for much of the year in America's capital city.

From their bans on teaching sex education and evolution in our schools, to denying climate change, to this latest campaign against public health, far-right Republicans' fight against science has damaged America's standing in the world and destroyed the lives of millions.

Thomas Paine, in his time, wrote about "The Age of Reason." Today we have "The Age of Intentional Republican Stupidity." And they don't just embrace it for themselves; they're hell-bent on imposing it on every American, from schoolchildren on up.

They have rigged elections by making it hard to vote, seditiously tried to overturn the 2020 election, promoted racial and religious bigotry and violence, destroyed our public school systems, gutted our unions, and rewritten our tax system to screw the middle class.

Since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have damaged America more in 40 years than our worst enemies could have dreamed of by other means.

These Republicans are not patriots; they're traitors to reason, science, education, human rights, democracy and now, unbelievably, public health. They're traitors to humanity itself.

The only way to deal with a death-dealing cult is to end it; thus, we must embark on a campaign to defund the Republican Party.

Back in 1981, the Republican Party decided to defund the Democratic Party, and actually pulled it off.

While the Republican Party had principally been funded by rich people and big business since the 1920s, the Democrats were largely reliant on the labor unions. So Ronald Reagan, as part of his "Reagan Revolution," figured the best way to destroy the Democratic Party was to destroy America's unions.

His first shot was to destroy PATCO, the air traffic controllers' union, and he did it in less than a week in August of 1981. He, along with Republicans in Congress and conservatives on the Supreme Court, then embarked on a campaign to eliminate unions from the American landscape, thus gutting the Democratic Party's ability to win elections.

It worked, and by 1992, American union membership, and union's ability to fund elections, had collapsed so severely that Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party turned to giant corporations and billionaires to win that election year.

Reagan's plan not only kneecapped the Democratic Party for the next 40 years but also changed the party at its core, turning it from President Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society party into Bill Clinton's corporate-friendly Democratic Leadership Council/New Democrats, now in bed with big banks, insurance companies, etc.

Defunding the Republican Party may even force it to start focusing on the needs of regular people rather than just billionaires and corporations, which only adds to the urgency of the job. There are just a few steps through the process, which include:

  • End "Red State Welfare." Kentucky gets $2.41 for every dollar they send to Washington, D.C. Most other red states are similarly "taker" states, so let's fight for a law limiting states to no more than, say, $1.50 for every buck they sent to D.C. in tax revenues. Call it welfare reform!
  • End corporate welfare that gets recycled to GOP politicians. This includes $700 billion a year to fossil fuel companies, and nearly $1 trillion a year we give to Big Pharma, as well as support for insurance companies (like subsidies for the "Medicare Advantage" scam) and "Big Ag."
  • End corporate monopolies. Break up giant corporations and make America safe again for small businesses while rejuvenating local economies. From airlines to tech to banking and retail, giant monopolies rip off working-class Americans and use some of that money to fund the GOP.
  • Bring back Eisenhower's 91 percent top tax rate, or at least something north of 50 percent. America's strongest economy was during the 30 years from 1950 to 1980, with a top tax rate of 91 percent to 74 percent. Progressive taxation on the super-wealthy was openly supported by Republican presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford. With that tax revenue, we built highways, schools and hospitals, and put men on the moon, while the best way CEOs could avoid the tax was to use the money to pay their workers better wages. Reagan cut that top rate to less than 30 percent, and the billionaires it produced now pour money into the GOP to keep it that way.
  • Follow Europe's example and impose a wealth tax on great fortunes. Average Americans pay a wealth tax every year—the property tax on their largest store of wealth, their homes. Billionaires should pay a similar annual tax on their money bins.
  • End campaign contributions from corporations, end super PACs, and limit billionaires' ability to skew our politics with their money. We did this in the 1970s after the Nixon bribery scandals, but the Supreme Court blew it up. There are multiple ways around that, and the Democratic Party should make this job one.

These simple "Progressive Contract with America" steps, along with restoring the ability of American workers to unionize, will not only revive the Democratic Party, but also restore America to economic greatness and give us a far more honest political system.

Thom Hartmann is America's number one progressive talk-show host and the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. His online writings are compiled at HartmannReport.com. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Mitch McConnell is holding your community hostage until corporations are able to kill you without consequence

Probably the most under-reported story of the year has been how Mitch McConnell is holding Americans hostage in exchange for letting big corporations kill Americans without any consequence.

Mitch took you and me hostage back in May, when the House of Representatives passed the HEROES act that would have funded state and local governments and provided unemployed workers with an ongoing weekly payment.

Mitch refused to even allow the Senate to discuss the HEROES Act until or unless the legislation also legalized corporations killing their workers and customers. To this day, he refuses to let it even be discussed in the Senate.

We've seen companies fire people for refusing to take their lives in their hands, executives organize betting pools on which employees are going to die first, and companies lying openly to their workers and customers about the dangers of Covid-19.

Mitch McConnell wants to protect them all. Even worse, his immunity can extend well beyond the pandemic and sets up a process that could put corporations above the law permanently, across every community in America, in ways that state and local governments can never defy.

While Republicans have fought against raising the minimum wage or letting workers unionize for over 100 years, what McConnell is doing now is giving corporations the ultimate right: the right to kill their employees and customers with impunity.

And McConnell's holding your local police and fire departments, public schools, and state healthcare programs hostage in exchange for his corporate immunity.

This is beyond immoral. This is ghastly, and should have been at the top of every news story in America for the past six months. But many of the corporations that are looking forward to complete supremacy over their workers include the giant corporations that own our media.

America has suffered for over 40 years under Reaganism's neoliberal mantra, picked up from Milton Friedman, that when corporations focus exclusively on profit an "invisible hand" will guide them to do what's best for people and communities. It's a lie.

This is an assault on workers' rights, but, even greater, it's a corporate assault on human rights. McConnell is saying that a corporation's right to kill its workers and customers is more important than the lives of human beings.

As unemployment benefits are running out, evictions loom, small businesses are dying left and right, millions of families have been thrown into crisis and more than 10 million Americans have lost their health insurance, McConnell continues to hold us all hostage.

It's time to fight back. If corporate media continues to refuse to discuss McConnell's blackmail, we must individually speak up among friends and communities, and also let our lawmakers know what we think. It's time to raise some hell.

Yes, the election was rigged -- but by the Republicans

It turns out that Donald Trump was right: the election was rigged. He would know, of course, because he and Louis DeJoy were the ones who rigged it.

Historically, "conservative" (e.g. "white racist") efforts to rig the vote were almost entirely focused on preventing people of color from voting. For almost a century, this involved literacy tests, guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar, and other low-tech, blatant strategies.

In the 1960s, William Rehnquist and friends launched "Operation Eagle Eye" in the Southwest where they would send "poll watchers" to threaten and intimidate Native American, Hispanic and Black voters.

By the 1980s, Republicans had rolled out "caging," where they'd send a postcard to voters and if it wasn't returned they'd remove you from the voting rolls; the Democratic Party got a restraining order against caging that just expired a few years ago.

In 2000, George and Jeb Bush, the governors of Texas and Florida, used the Texas felon list to purge mostly Black and Hispanic people from the Florida voter rolls. Jeb knocked 90,000 African-Americans off the rolls, just in time to steal the 2000 election for George.

Kris Kobach turned this into a system, called Interstate Crosscheck, and took it nationwide over the last 15 years, comparing states' voting rolls in ways that would largely disenfranchise Asians, Blacks and Hispanics.

Finally, in 2020, Trump came up with a new scheme that benefited from the Covid virus, and the worse the virus got, the better his scheme worked.

Letting the pandemic run wild while telling his supporters they should only vote in person, Trump and DeJoy dismantled over 600 multimillion dollar high-speed mail sorting machines, hitting swing states the hardest, so mailed ballots would arrive too late to count.

Recent reporting suggests that if the courts had not intervened when and how they did, the mail would have been so slowed in several critical swing states that Trump would've been declared the winner. We were saved by a federal judge.

Now the scam Republicans are promoting is to challenge the signatures on the outside of mail-in ballots from big cities, and this has helped them throw out literally millions of ballots just this month.

Nobody is sure what the next conservative scheme will be to disqualify votes in American cities, but you can bet they're working on it. Which is why we need a law or Constitutional amendment that unambiguously asserts a "right to vote."

If Governor Brian Kemp wants to take away the home of a person who lives in Atlanta, he has to go to court and prove his case: our property rights are intact.

If Governor Ron DeSantis wants to take away a gun from a person who lives in Miami, he has to go to court and prove his case: the Supreme Court has recently affirmed Americans' right to own a gun.

But if any governor wants to take away your vote, they don't even have to tell you, they just kick you off the voting rolls, because right now voting is not a right in America, it's merely a privilege.

America needs to join the rest of the developed world and put the right of citizens to vote into law. Since everything from pandemic relief to education to foreign policy flows out of the democratic process, this must be Job One in the new Congress.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the War on Voting and more than 30 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This election proves the need for a right to vote

America needs an absolute right to vote, like most other major democracies.

One legacy of slavery is that our Constitution does not contain an absolute right to vote for all citizens who have achieved the age of majority.

Our property rights are totally intact. If the government wants to take away your house or your car because, for example, you didn't pay your taxes, they have to go to court to do it.

Our gun rights are strong. If the government wants to take away your guns, they have to go to court and prove their case in front of a judge.

Our marriage rights are solid, at least until Amy Coney Barrett weighs in on the Supreme Court. If a government official tries to deny you a marriage license, that person can be sued or, in some states, even go to jail.

Our free speech rights have been so expanded that the Supreme Court has ruled that if billionaires want to buy politicians, that is totally legal and considered "free speech."

Our right to due process is still respected in America. If the government wants to put you in jail, they have to go before a jury of your peers and prove their case.

Voting, however, is not and never has been a right in America. Which is why the largest part of the Republican election strategy this year has been to prevent people from voting, and to try to block their vote from being counted after it's been cast.

Because we do not have a right to vote, the Postmaster General can delay your ballot without worrying about going to jail, and Republican politicians across the country can pass laws making it harder and harder for you to vote or have your vote counted.

Taking away our votes should be as tough a job for Republicans as taking away our homes or our guns.

America needs a 28th Amendment that establishes an absolute right to vote for all citizens who've achieved the age of majority. While we're working on that, we need laws that assert the right to vote in such emphatic language that courts can enforce it and reverse decades of Republican voter suppression.

Only then can America call itself a functioning democratic republic.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream; The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America; and more than 25 other books in print.

Was April 7, 2020 the day that sealed America's fate?

On April 18, Bob Woodward recorded Jared Kushner saying that Trump had taken control away from the doctors and was going to open the country back up. So what might have provoked that? What was happening right around that time?

Trump's official national emergency declaration came on March 11, and most of the country shut down or at least went partway toward that outcome. The economy crashed and millions of Americans were laid off, but saving lives was, after all, the number one consideration.

Trump put medical doctors on TV daily, the media was freaking out about refrigerated trucks carrying bodies away from New York hospitals, and doctors and nurses were our new national heroes.

And then came April 7, 2020, when the New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline: "Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States."

Across the American media landscape, similar headlines appeared at other outlets, and the story was heavily reported on cable news and the network news that night. White American conservatives responded with a collective, "What the hell?!?"

Rush Limbaugh declared soon after that "with the coronavirus, I have been waiting for the racial component. ... The coronavirus now hits African Americans harder—harder than illegal aliens, harder than women. It hits African Americans harder than anybody, disproportionate representation."

It didn't take a medical savant, of course, to figure out that would be the case. African Americans die at disproportionately higher rates from everything, from heart disease to strokes to cancer to childbirth.

It's a symptom of a racially rigged economy and a health care system that only responds to money, which America has conspired to keep from African Americans for more than 400 years. Of course they're going to die more frequently from coronavirus.

But the New York Times and the Washington Post simultaneously publishing front-page articles about that disparity with regard to COVID-19, both on April 7, echoed across the right-wing media landscape like a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Tucker Carlson, the only primetime Fox News host who'd previously expressed serious concerns about the death toll, changed his tune the same day, as documented by Media Matters for America.

Now, he said, "we can begin to consider how to improve the lives of the rest, the countless Americans who have been grievously hurt by this, by our response to this. How do we get 17 million of our most vulnerable citizens back to work? That's our task."

White people were out of work, and Black people were most of the casualties, outside of the extremely elderly. And those white people need their jobs back!

Brit Hume joined Carlson's show and, using his gravitas as a "real news guy," intoned, "The disease turned out not to be quite as dangerous as we thought."

Left unsaid was the issue of whom it was not "quite as dangerous" to, but Limbaugh listeners and Fox viewers can hear dog-whistles.

More than 12,000 Americans had died from coronavirus by April 7, but once we knew that most of the non-elderly victims were Black, things were suddenly very, very different. Now it was time to quit talking about people dying and start talking about white people getting back to work!

It took less than a week for Trump to get the memo, presumably through Fox and Stephen Miller. On April 12, he retweeted a call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci and declared, in another tweet, that he had the sole authority to open the United States back up, and that he'd be announcing a specific plan to do just that "shortly."

On April 13, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a policy paper titled "Implementing a National Return to Work Plan."

Unspoken but big on the agenda of corporate America was the desire to get the states to rescind their stay-home-from-work orders so that companies could cut their unemployment tax losses.

On April 14, Freedomworks, the billionaire-founded and -funded group that animated the Tea Party against Obamacare a decade earlier, published an op-ed on their website calling for an "economic recovery" program including an end to the capital gains tax and a new law to "shield" businesses from lawsuits.

Three days after that, Freedomworks and the House Freedom Caucus issued a joint statement declaring that "it's time to re-open the economy."

Freedomworks published their "#ReopenAmerica Rally Planning Guide" (pdf) encouraging conservatives to show up "[i]n-person" at their state capitols and governors' mansions, and, for signage, to "Keep it short: 'I'm essential,' 'Let me work,' 'Let Me Feed My Family'" and to "Keep them homemade."
One of the first #OpenTheCountry rallies to get widespread national attention was April 18 in New Hampshire. Over the next several weeks, rallies had metastasized across the nation, from Oregon to Arizona, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and elsewhere.

One that drew particularly high levels of media attention, complete with swastikas, Confederate flags and assault rifles, was directed against the governor of Michigan, rising Democratic star Gretchen Whitmer.

When Rachel Maddow began reporting on meatpacking plants that had become epicenters of mass infection, the conservative Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court pointed out that the virus flare wasn't coming from the white "regular folks" of the surrounding community.

The conservative meme was now well established: the risk to white people was small, so let's get back to work.

It came to Trump's attention that the biggest outbreaks were happening in prisons and meatpacking plants, places with few white people (and the few whites in them were largely poor and thus seen as disposable).

Trump's response to this was to issue an executive order using the Defense Production Act (which he had hesitated to use to order the production of testing or PPE equipment) on April 28 to order the largely Hispanic and Black workforce back into the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.

While April 18 was the day Woodward recorded Jared Kushner bragging about how they were going to start ignoring the doctors, April 7 was the date that sealed the fate of America.

It's time to unpack the court

Donald Trump was bragging a week or so ago that Obama had "left me 128 judges to fill" as if Obama was just sloppy. The actual number was 105, but Obama didn't "leave" them; he'd appointed genuinely qualified people, many women and minorities, to fill every single one of those judicial slots, and Mitch McConnell simply blocked them in the senate for the last two years of the Obama presidency.

McConnell even blocked Obama's appointment of a brilliant Black attorney, Myra Selby, to the Seventh Circuit Court just to keep the seat open for Amy Coney Barrett, who now occupies that stolen seat in her first job as a federal judge.

McConnell also blocked Obama's appointment of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court nearly a year before the election so rightwing hack Neil Gorsuch could get the seat instead, as soon as Donald Trump was sworn in.

As a result, Trump and McConnell have gotten over 200 federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices through the Senate, meaning over a quarter of all federal judges have been packed into our court system by Trump and virtually 100% of them have been straight and white, the overwhelming majority men.

This is court-packing on a scale that is nearly unprecedented, and refusing to even hold hearings on Judge Garland is totally unprecedented.

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln wanted to get a solid vote on the court against slavery, so he and his Republican colleagues who controlled the Senate and the House increased the number of Supreme Court justices all the way up to 10.

Two years later, when Lincoln was assassinated and slaveholder Andrew Johnson became president, Congress reduced the size of the Court specifically to deny Johnson an opportunity to appoint any justices.

After Johnson left office, Republican President Ulysses Grant oversaw Congress increasing the size of the Supreme Court back up to nine.

Similarly, after the brutal "Revolution of 1800" election, President Thomas Jefferson increased the size of the Court so that he could put a new justice on it after former President John Adams, during the lame duck session, had packed the federal judiciary on his way out of office.

During times of national crisis, changing the composition of the Court by changing the number of justices has been done repeatedly.

Court packing and unpacking have a long tradition in America.

Mitch McConnell has been packing the federal courts for six years now, and, as a result, the nation is calling out for rebalancing. Biden and Harris need to stop avoiding the question and point out that six years of unprecedented partisan actions by Mitch McConnell have left our courts, particularly our Supreme Court, badly out of balance.

There are a variety of ways to restore that balance, and all need to be examined, including blocking the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett and increasing the size of the Supreme Court.

The GOP is pursuing a strategy of public slaughter

People are acting shocked—shocked, I tell you!—that the Trump/GOP strategy on coronavirus is essentially one of promoting herd immunity with the possible downside of as many as 2.5 million dead Americans.

We shouldn't be surprised. It's simply the logical extension of conservative policies on pretty much everything for the past 90 years—policies that have killed a hell of a lot more than just 2.5 million people.

Republicans simply don't believe it's part of the job of government to provide for the "general welfare" of the American people; instead, government—in their minds—should only run the police and the military, while maintaining a stable currency so business can function. Here are some other beliefs driving Republican policies:

  • Government shouldn't help the elderly avoid poverty—Social Security should only go to those who set aside money during their working years, and be run by private insurance companies, as George W. Bush told us in 2005. Republicans have tried to cripple, privatize or destroy Social Security year after year ever since the 1930s when it was created.
  • Government shouldn't pay for health care anywhere, anytime because that should come out of people's own pockets. If they want protection from serious illness or accidents, they can buy private insurance. Republicans have tried to cripple, privatize or destroy Medicare and Medicaid since the 1960s when these programs were created.
  • Government shouldn't protect citizens from being poisoned by industrial pollution or protect our rivers, lakes, oceans or air; these are all the jobs of private industry. Since 1920 when Republican Warren Harding successfully ran for president on the platform of "Less government in business and more business in government," GOP politicians have championed deregulation and privatization as the solution to almost all problems.
  • Government shouldn't provide education, according to conservative theology. As the late billionaire David Koch put into his platform when he ran for vice president in 1980 on the Libertarian ticket, "We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended." Today, billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos continues Koch's work.
  • Reflecting conservative philosophy dating back to the 1920s, Koch even called for "the abolition of the governmental Postal Service," "the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency," and "the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration."

After the Republican Great Depression struck in 1929 and about a third of Americans lost their jobs, homeless exploded, and hunger stalked the land, Republican President Herbert Hoover's treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, famously argued that saving the economy and American workers was the duty of the private sector, not government. Instead of helping out working people, Mellon's advice was just to let everything crash, and the very, very rich (like himself) would eventually pick up the pieces and start over.

"Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate," Mellon said. "Purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down… enterprising people will pick up the wrecks from less competent people."

Back in 2000, when Mike Pence was running for Congress, he laid out clearly a more modern version of the same philosophy. About 340,000 Americans died that year from smoking-related illness, but, Pence wrote, "Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn't kill."

Instead, much like Trump saying that most people who get COVID-19 don't die from it and that lots of Americans die from the flu, Pence added, "In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer."

Instead, Pence—the man who today is heading up our coronavirus effort—said we should be wary of "Government big enough to protect us from our own stubborn wills."

After all, Pence pointed out, "[A] government of such plenary power, once conceived will hardly stop at tobacco. Surely the scourge of fatty foods and their attendant cost to the health care economy bears some consideration. How about the role of caffeine in fomenting greater stress in the lives of working Americans? Don't get me started about the dangers of sports utility vehicles!"

Which should remind us that Republicans even fought against seat belt laws and other car safety regulations, as well as nutrition labeling on children's cereals and baby food, and country-of-origin labeling on any foods. And they continue to block action on climate change, which is killing Americans from coast to coast via floods, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and heatstroke.

If Mike Pence was just fine with hundreds of thousands of Americans dying from an entirely preventable tobacco addiction, why would he fret about a mere quarter-million who have died so far from a novel virus?

Republicans simply don't believe that protecting the people of America is a legitimate function of government. And they're strengthened and disciplined in that belief by the hundreds of millions of dollars industry and hard-right billionaires shower on them every year at every level of elected politics.

We're literally the only developed country in the world where this bizarre belief is held by about half of the nation's politicians, and much of that can be traced to the influence of Libertarian billionaires like the Kochs and their network, but it is what it is.

So let's stop being "amazed" that Trump, Pence and their GOP allies refuse to mandate or even federally facilitate widespread testing and contact tracing, or have the Postal Service deliver five masks to every American, or pick up the medical or burial costs of people infected because of this administration's lack of action.

This is nothing new; it's what Republicans always do.

Thom Hartmann is America's number one progressive talk-show host and the New York Times bestselling author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The only winner of last night's 'debate' was dictatorship and oligarchy

What we saw last night was the dictator's playbook.

Tell violent white supremacist racists to "stand by" and encourage them to show up at polling places to intimidate voters.

Bully, bluster and threaten like Mussolini did, promoting your brand as "tough guy" when in fact you're a lazy coward.

Claim that the other side is evil, like Hitler did, setting up excuses for state-run police violence and vigilante brutality.

Trash-talk democratic institutions, including the vote, like Hungary's Victor Orban and and Saudi Arabia's dictator Mohammed bin Salman do.

While millions of Americans are struggling with loss of jobs, lack of healthcare during a pandemic, and an absolutely gutted social safety net after 40 years of Reaganomics, all Trump did was brag, yell, and threaten.

This is classic dictator's playbook.

The only winner of last night's "debate" was dictatorship and oligarchy.

Russia, China and authoritarianism around the world were the big winners last night. America was the loser.

Thom Hartmann

Here are 8 reasons COVID is so much worse than the skeptics think

America's first COVID death was on February 29 of this year, roughly 200 days ago. In that time, more than 200,000 Americans have died of the disease, the equivalent of 1,000 people a day.

That's how many people would have died if between February 29 and today three fully-loaded jumbo jets had crashed every single day, even on weekends, for 200 days.

Now that we've passed this grim milestone and are still losing around 1,000 people a day, and Donald Trump acknowledged—bragged—to Bob Woodward last winter that he knew COVID is both deadly and airborne, many Trump-lovers are starting to look for factual information about the virus.

With this handy list, you can help them out.

Here are the facts about this virus with links to the various scientific sources, already well-known to most of the rest of the world but mostly absent from Fox News. I'm writing this as a reporter, not a physician or scientist, so it's written mostly in plain English.*

COVID Can Damage Your Heart

A group of researchers in Germany did follow-up studies on people who were, on median, 71 days out from their diagnosis, with a mean age of 49 years old and who considered themselves recovered from the infection.

They reported in the American Medical Association's peer-reviewed journal JAMA Cardiology that 78 percent of "recovered" patients had heart damage that was visible on MRIs and other scanning technologies.

Even more alarming, fully 60 percent still—months after their illness—had "ongoing myocardial inflammation" (inflammation of the heart muscle).

Because the virus has never before infected humans and we're less than a year into it, nobody knows if this heart damage and ongoing heart inflammation will be lifelong or if people will heal from it at some point.

COVID Damages Young People's Hearts Even When They Don't Have Symptoms

As colleges started pulling their athletes back onto campus late this summer, Ohio State University found 26 students—football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and track—who tested positive for COVID.

Fourteen never had any symptoms and a dozen had "mild" symptoms. None had been so sick they required hospitalization or even oxygen or drug support. All believed they had fully recovered, some as many as 53 days out from their positive test.

Out of an abundance of caution—and some curiosity—the university asked those 26 elite athletes to pop themselves into an MRI machine so they could check out their hearts.

Fully 15 percent of them had ongoing "signs of inflammation to the heart muscle" (myocarditis).

Over at Penn State, the football team's doctor, Wayne Sebastianelli, said of the Big Ten athletes who'd tested positive for COVID that "30 to roughly 35 percent of their heart muscles" showed evidence of myocarditis. "[W]e really just don't know what to do with it right now," he added.

The New York Times pulled together a startling collection of stories of athletes who have been devastated by COVID infections.

For example, take the story of former college football player and current Ironman triathlete Ben O'Donnell:

"[H]e needed a walker just to go out to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. In his first attempt to exercise, two days after he left the hospital, he walked for seven minutes at a speed of 1.2 miles per hour using supplemental oxygen. He has been trying to add a minute of time, and a bit of speed, each day."

COVID Can Damage Your Brain and Even Produce Dementia

About half of symptomatic COVID patients report "headaches, confusion and delirium," the New York Times reports, suggesting the virus is acting on the brain, according to new research published in the neurological journal Brain.

Another study reported in the British medical journal Lancet found that 62 percent of symptomatic COVID patients studied "presented with a cerebrovascular [blood vessels of the brain] event." It also found that of the COVID patients British doctors had evaluated and referred to an inter-physician database between April 2 and April 26, 2020, 74 percent "had an ischemic stroke" and 12 percent had "an intracerebral hemorrhage" (bleeding in the brain).

Of the patients who hadn't had a stroke or brain-bleed, 59 percent "presented with altered mental status [that] fulfilled the clinical case definitions for psychiatric diagnoses as classified by the notifying psychiatrist or neuropsychiatrist," and 92 percent of those "were new diagnoses."

These included "new-onset psychosis" (43 percent), "neurocognitive (dementia-like) syndrome" (26 percent), and an "affective [mood-distorting] disorder" (17 percent).

Of the patients with an "altered mental status," 49 percent were younger than 60 and 51 percent were over 60.

New York Times reporter Apoorva Mandavilli reached out to University of California, San Diego, neuroscientist Alysson Muotri to get her take on that study and other, previous research showing that COVID can infect the brain and cause brain-cell (synapse) death through a mechanism that still isn't fully understood.

"Days after infection," Dr. Muotri said, "we already see a dramatic reduction in the amount of synapses. We don't know yet if that is reversible or not."

Mandavilli noted that COVID "exploits the brain cells' machinery to multiply, but doesn't destroy them. Instead, it chokes off oxygen to adjacent cells, causing them to wither and die."

Months After COVID Infection, You Can Still Lose Your Taste and Smell

And it appears to be worse for women and children. As 11-year-old Aviva Epstein noted, two months after recovering from a mild COVID infection, "I couldn't eat anything." She described her new life: "I would run to the garbage, gag, and spit out anything I would eat. I would eat pasta. I love it. It tasted gross, like rotten beef or rotten pork."

Michael Rothschild of Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine notes that nobody knows if about a third of patients who've lost their sense of smell will ever recover.

Reporter Melissa Russo with New York's Channel 4 NBC affiliate noted, "He says ordinarily, about two thirds of patients will recover fully, but because COVID-19 is new, it's difficult to predict how long these symptoms will last and if the rate of recovery will be the same."

Many Get Chronic Fatigue—and Nobody Knows How Long It Will Last

One of the more common problems people experience after recovering from even a mild case of COVID is deep, debilitating fatigue.

The COVID virus is a variation on the original SARS coronavirus that erupted back in 2003 and the SARS-type MERS virus that ravaged the Middle East (27 countries) starting in 2012. (It is not an influenza or "common cold" virus.)

Dr. Rashid Chotani, vice president of medical affairs at CareLife Medical in Fairfax, Virginia, said in an interview with health writer Sarah Ellis that in previous studies of SARS and MERS survivors, they sometimes showed signs of fatigue and muscle weakness for years afterward.

"What we know is that SARS survivors had poorer exercise capacity and health status and had chronic fatigue symptoms 3.5 years after being diagnosed," he told Ellis. "So, one possible long-term effect is chronic fatigue syndrome."

Fiona Lowenstein, an American writer who wrote about her experience for the New York Times and started an online support group for COVID survivors, told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reporters, "I thought I had fully recovered a couple of weeks ago, then I relapsed into some old symptoms, chills and sweats. And this intense feeling of fatigue."

She added, "It almost feels like I've been hit by a truck at 4:00 pm each day."

She's not alone. Deep, debilitating, "crushing" fatigue is one of the most common conditions experienced by people who never really recovered and thus call themselves "long-haulers." After writing about her own difficult recovery, Lowenstein said, "My inbox was flooded."

You Can Damage Your Fingers and Toes, and Even Lose Your Legs

Physicians who specialize in feet (podiatrists) have reported extensively on a condition apparently caused by the tendency of COVID to inflame even the tiniest of blood vessels while increasing levels of clotting factors in the body.

The symptoms of "COVID toe" include "finger/toe cyanosis [blue skin], skin bullae [large blisters] and dry gangrene [green or black skin due to low blood supply] to the digits" along with a loss of sensation or excruciating pain, apparently depending on how extensively the virus attacks the nerves.

Canadian ER physician Dr. Dina Kulik told Canadian TV, "It looks like frostbite [with] red or purple or brown discoloration around the feet, could be on the underside of the foot, the top of the foot, on the toes, and sometimes there's cracked or dry looking skin as well."

In the press, most of the attention went to children getting "COVID toes," although it shows up in adults as well. For example, Broadway actor Nick Cordero—the 41-year-old father of a 1-year-old child and an athlete in excellent shape—first had his leg amputated in the hospital when what appeared to be such a COVID-caused inflammation and clots blocked blood to it, and subsequently died from his COVID infection.

A study published July 16, 2020, in the medical journal Radiology, titled "Lower Extremity Arterial Thrombosis Associated with COVID-19 Is Characterized by Greater Thrombus Burden and Increased Rate of Amputation and Death," compared hospitalized COVID patients with blood clots in the blood vessels (thrombosis) of their legs to those who had leg clots but didn't have COVID.

The study concluded, "All patients with COVID-19 infection undergoing lower extremity CTA had at least one lower extremity clot (100%) while only 69% of controls had clots (p=0.02)."

Even worse, it noted, "Adjusted for history of peripheral vascular disease, death or limb amputation was more common in patients with COVID-19 infection (odds ratio 25, p<0.001)."

The conclusion of the study's abstract noted that "the incidence of death and amputation is significantly more common in COVID-19 patients…"

You May Think You're Getting Better, and Then It Kills You

There are several stages to a COVID infection. The first and most common involves the throat, nose and respiratory tract with the familiar cough and sore throat, along with a loss of smell.

About 10 percent to 15 percent of people who get these "mild-to-moderate" symptoms go onto a more "severe" form of the disease, and of the people who are "severe," about 15 percent to 20 percent become "critical."

Often there is a period between the mild symptoms and the severe symptoms where the body has largely fought off the disease, but then, after a few days, it returns with a roar. The transition from mild to severe can happen "very, very quickly," according to an expert from WHO.

The CDC says the median time from a COVID-caused pneumonia diagnosis to death is typically 13 days.

You May Not Even Know You Have It—Until You Infect Somebody Else

While more than 1,000 health care workers in America have died from COVID, a recent study of such workers who tested positive for the infection found that about half (44 percent) had such light or nonexistent symptoms that they didn't realize they had a disease, a statistic that generally reflects the asymptomatic percentage of infected people among normal, healthy adults.

However, asymptomatic people with COVID can still pass the disease along to others. And infected children—without symptoms—may be even more contagious than adults, according to data published in the American Medical Association's journal JAMA Pediatrics.

"Here, we report that replication of SARS-CoV-2 in older children leads to similar levels of viral nucleic acid as adults," the researchers reported, "but significantly greater amounts of viral nucleic acid are detected in children younger than 5 years."

America is just beginning a giant experiment in how effectively children can contract and spread the disease—usually with no apparent symptoms—but this peer-reviewed and published research should give pause.

"Thus," they conclude their study, "young children can potentially be important drivers of SARS-CoV-2 spread in the general population, as has been demonstrated with respiratory syncytial virus [which causes common colds], where children with high viral loads are more likely to transmit."

America: The Great Experiment

Most countries have engaged one of two quite different strategies to deal with COVID.

Countries like Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and most of Europe have chosen to try to rid themselves of the virus, using extensive testing and contact tracing, as well as prevention measures for social distancing, mask-wearing, and lockdowns.

With a few notable exceptions, poorer countries lacking high-quality health care infrastructure or resources have done little to nothing to stop or slow the spread of the disease and have put much stock in the hope that, unlike the common cold coronavirus, this particular type of SARS coronavirus doesn't mutate in ways that make vaccines ineffective.

Because the Trump administration has been all over the map on these two strategies, embracing a testing/tracing strategy in March and early April, then shifting course rapidly in the direction of not taking COVID as seriously after the April 7 revelation that Black, Hispanic and Native Americans were dying at higher rates than white Americans.

While on the campaign trail in June, Trump even suggested America "slow the testing down" so the case rates would appear lower. And he has repeatedly underestimated the dangers of the virus, dismissed science-backed prevention methods such as mask-wearing in favor of dangerous and unproven ones, claimed the virus would "miraculously" disappear in warm weather, and admitted to "playing it down" when he knew it was "deadly."

If America doesn't shut down the virus fairly quickly, it may become so widespread that a testing and contact-tracing strategy is impossible, leaving the next president with an unrecoverable disaster to deal with. Nobody knows for sure how many cases it'll take to bring this about, but the UK going into a second lockdown because they flirted with herd immunity for several months should be a warning.

*To be technically accurate, SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus, and COVID-19 is the umbrella name for the various manifestations of its infection (i.e., the disease). For simplicity, I've combined them in this article under the popularly-understood rubric of "COVID."

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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