Thom Hartmann

The Republican Party's new insidious invention: Election police

Republicans have been committing election fraud right out in the open since 1964 and covering it up by yelling about “voter fraud.”

Remember the hours-long lines to vote we’ve seen on TV ever since the 60s in minority neighborhoods? Those are no accident: they’re part of a larger election fraud program the GOP has used to suppress the vote for sixty years now.

This election year Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is raising the stakes: he’s planning to put together a force of “election police” under his personal command to travel the state intimidating voters while pretending to look for “voter fraud.”

As The Washington Post reports:

DeSantis is asking the GOP-controlled legislature to allocate nearly $6 million to hire 52 people to ‘investigate, detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation’ of election laws. They would be stationed at unspecified ‘field offices throughout the state’ and act on tips from ‘government officials or any other person.’

Meanwhile, the GOP in Texas is quietly recruiting 10,000 white volunteers “courageous” enough to go into Black and Hispanic polling places and confront people trying to vote. As Jessica Corbett reported for Common Dreams:

Common Cause Texas on Thursday shared a leaked video of a Harris County GOP official discussing plans to ‘build an army’ of 10,000 election workers and poll watchers, including some who ‘will have the confidence and courage’ to go into Black and Brown communities to address alleged voter fraud that analyses show does not actually exist.

These efforts to intimidate voters are part of a much larger Republican campaign of widespread and systemic election fraud that the party has been running since the days of Barry Goldwater. Democrats need to start calling it that.

Individual “voter fraud” doesn’t affect elections in modern America. Every election year we hear about a handful of people busted for trying to vote twice or in the name of a deceased relative, but it’s so rare it has absolutely no impact on elections and hasn’t at any point in my 70 years on this planet.

Voter fraud, in other words, isn’t real. But election fraud is very much real and alive, and that’s exactly what DeSantis and the Texas GOP are proposing, right out in the open.

This has a long history, stretching back to the era when the Republican Party first began trying to cater to the white racist vote.

In 1964, Senator Barry Goldwater — who was running for President on the Republican ticket — openly opposed the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts that President Lyndon Johnson was then pushing through Congress.

At the time:

  • 35.5 percent of the citizens of Mississippi were Black but only 4.3 percent were able to register to vote.
  • Alabama was 26% Black: 7% could vote.
  • South Carolina was nearly one-third Black (29.2%) but only 9% of that state’s African Americans could successfully register to vote.
  • Alabama was 26% Black but the white power structure made sure only 7% could vote.

These were not accidents: from poll taxes to jellybean counting to constitution-interpreting requirements, most Southern states had erected massive barriers to Black people voting.

These elections where only white people were allowed to vote in large numbers were fraudulent elections.

After all, isn’t it a fraud to say that a “free and fair” election was held when, in fact, large numbers of people who legally qualified and wanted to vote weren’t allowed their voice?

How can that not be a fraudulent election?

And back in 1964, Goldwater and the Republicans wanted to keep it that way.

But as the issue of voting rights was showing up on the nightly news and people were marching across the country for their right to vote, Republicans on Goldwater’s team realized they needed a justification for the status quo.

So they came up with a story that they started selling in the 1964 election through op-eds, in speeches, and on the news. This story was simple:

There was massive “voter fraud” going on, where mostly Black people are voting more than once in different polling places and doing so under different names, often, as Donald Trump recently said, “by the busload” after Sunday church services. In addition, the Republican story went, “illegal aliens” living in the United States were voting in the millions.

None of it was true, but it became the foundation of a nationwide voter suppression campaign that the GOP continues to promote to this day.

A campaign of actual “election fraud” based on the lie of “voter fraud.”

William Rehnquist, for example, was a 40-year-old Arizona lawyer and Republican activist in 1964, when his idol, Barry Goldwater, ran against Lyndon Johnson for president.

Rehnquist helped organize a program called Operation Eagle Eye in his state to challenge the vote of every Hispanic and Black voter and to dramatically slow down the voting lines in communities of color to discourage people who had to get back to work from waiting what would become hours in line to vote.

As Democratic poll watcher Lito Pena observed at the time, Rehnquist showed up at a southern Phoenix polling place to do his part in Operation Eagle Eye:

“He knew the law and applied it with the precision of a swordsman,” Pena told a reporter. “He sat at the table at the Bethune School, a polling place brimming with black citizens, and quizzed voters ad nauseam about where they were from, how long they’d lived there—every question in the book. A passage of the Constitution was read and people … were ordered to interpret it to prove they had the language skills to vote.”

Rehnquist was richly rewarded for his activism; he quickly rose through the GOP ranks to being appointed by President Nixon, in 1972, to the US Supreme Court, and was elevated in 1986 by President Reagan to Chief Justice, a position he used to stop the Florida State Supreme Court-mandated vote recount in 2000, handing the White House to George W. Bush.

(Interestingly, two then-little-known lawyers who worked with the Bush legal team to argue before Rehnquist that the Florida recount should be stopped were John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh. Bush rewarded Roberts by putting him on the Court as Chief Justice when Rehnquist died. Roberts was also the tie-breaking vote to allow Ohio to continue its voter purges in 2017, and he wrote the 5–4 decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013.)

Rehnquist’s Arizona arm of Operation Eagle Eye was one of hundreds of such formal and informal Republican voter suppression operations that exploded across the United States that year. As The New York Times noted on October 30, 1964:

“Republican officials have begun a massive campaign to prevent vote fraud in the election next Tuesday, a move that has caused Democrats to cry ‘fraud.’

“The Republican plan, Operation Eagle Eye, is designed, according to party officials, to prevent Democrats from ‘stealing’ the 1964 election. Republicans charge that the election was stolen in 1960.

“The Democratic National Chairman, John M. Bailey, has criticized the Republican plan as ‘a program of voter intimidation.’ He has sent a protest to all 50 state Governors and has alerted Democratic party officials throughout the country to be on their guard.

“’There is no doubt in my mind,’ Mr. Bailey wrote the state chairmen yesterday, ‘that this program is a serious threat to democracy as well as to a Democratic victory on Nov. 3rd.’”

Republican positions both then and now are not generally popular. Who’d vote, after all, for more tax cuts for billionaires, more pollution, banking deregulation, gutting Medicare, privatizing Social Security, shipping jobs overseas, keeping drug prices high, and preventing workers from forming unions?

The GOP’s sweet spot, however, is scaring white people about “crime” by minorities, particularly African Americans and Hispanics. Which is why Donald Trump told Congress that “three to five million fraudulent” votes were cast in the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton.

And when they can’t clamp down enough on ID laws or close enough polling places in Black neighborhoods, they fall back on “election police,” the 2022 version of Operation Eagle Eye.

As the conservative Town Hall site notes about the special election just held in Virginia that saw that state’s governor’s office flip to a Republican:

“Not only did the RNC indeed have ‘a robust poll watching operation,’ involving 50 election integrity trainings with over 3,200 attendees, but such an operation produced results. In the 37 [many minority] target Virginia counties, poll watchers covered 100 percent of polling locations, the November memo confirmed.”

This is one dimension of a much larger, nationwide campaign of Republican voter suppression election fraud, using the phony excuse of trying to stop “voter fraud.”

They’ve already started, in numerous states, seizing control of election systems in minority neighborhoods, aggressively purging voter lists, outlawing mail-in voting or making it far more difficult, and closing polling places by the hundreds.

This year, and particularly in 2024, they’re reviving Operation Eagle Eye to have armed militia volunteers and “election police“ confront people in their own neighborhoods on election day, all in a craven attempt to discourage minority voting.

Now that neither the Supreme Court nor Congress are willing to stop them, we must, like Paul Revere, awaken the American people to this long-term strategy that’s worked so well for the GOP since 1964, usually producing widespread disenfranchisement and hours-long lines to vote in minority neighborhoods.

The struggle for democracy in our republic is far from over, and the next battlefield will be the election this November. Republicans are doubling down on every tool they’ve ever used to suppress the vote.

Spread the word.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The Jesus of the Bible taught one thing — and Trump does the opposite

A listener called into my program yesterday and asked, “Is Donald Trump the Antichrist?”

I passed on drawing a conclusion, but then the lines lit up with a steady stream of people over the next few hours offering their “proofs” that Trump was, in fact, the Evil One come to ravage the Earth. That first caller clearly hit a nerve.

It’s a fascinating question, however, whether put literally or metaphorically.

Asking the question literally requires a belief in the actual reality of a Son-of-God Christ figure and of an Antichrist opponent of nearly equal but opposite power. This sort of thing fills the Bible, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

But first consider the question from the secular perspective, which argues these two terms represent, at their core, metaphors for the embodiment of good and evil.

In this context, then, a more accurate question is: “Is Donald Trump an Antichrist?”

In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke in the plural when he predicted “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”

After warning that grifters and con artists (in secular terms) would try to exploit His followers, He said, “by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Trump’s “fruits” are pretty obvious:

  • More than twenty women have accused him of rape and sexual assault.
  • Hundreds of contractors, customers and employees have accused him of stealing from them or refusing to pay them (or both), as have members of his own family
  • Throughout his presidency, he lied over 30,000 times
  • He pit Americans against each other by race, religion and region in an effort to tear our country apart and thus weaken opposition to his authoritarian rule
  • He openly encouraged violence against unarmed people at multiple rallies and encourage state violence at a speech to chiefs of police
  • He tried to overthrow and end our democracy
  • He embraced murderers, kleptocrats and “strongman” rulers while ridiculing western democracies and their elected leaders
  • He tried to damage or dismantle political and military systems designed to keep peace in the world, including the UN, NATO and the Iran JCPOA
  • He reaches out to Jesus’s followers and then directs them toward bigotry, violence and hatred
  • As an object of admiration and a role model, he’s replaced Jesus in many white evangelical congregations
  • He delighted in tearing children from their parents and putting them in cages
  • He tried to end Americans’ access to lifesaving medical care by killing Obamacare and privatizing Medicare
  • He watched on TV, like a delighted child, as his followers killed a police officer, sent 140 others to the hospital, and tried to murder the Vice President and Speaker of the House
  • He lied about Covid (after disclosing the truth to Bob Woodward in February, 2020), causing more disease and deaths in America than any other nation in the world

The main reason many Christians freak out about an antichrist is that following him will get you banned from heaven or even cast into hell.

But what did Jesus — the guy Trump’s white evangelical followers claim as their savior — say was necessary to get into heaven?

Back in 1998 I had a private audience with Pope John Paul II at his invitation; a person close to him had read one of my books. Louise and I sat through an open-air concert with him and about 30 VIPs, including the leader of Germany’s Bundestag, for more than an hour, surrounded by the splendor of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer palace on the rim of an extinct volcano overlooking lake Albano.

When we spoke privately after the concert, His Holiness’s forceful comments reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25. It’s an amazing 2,000 year-old story that tells us everything we need to know about today’s “Christian” politics:

Jesus’ disciples had gathered around him in a private and intimate setting.

Finally, they thought, they could ask him, straight up, the question that had been haunting them, particularly now that the Roman authorities were starting to talk about punishing or even executing them: How they could be sure to hang out with him in the afterlife?

Jesus told them that at the end of days he’d be sitting on his throne separating the sheep from the goats “as a shepherd divideth.”

The nations of “sheep” would go with him to heaven, the “goats” to hell.

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me food,” he told his disciples he would say to the sheep. “I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

At this point, his disciples — who had never, ever seen Jesus hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick or naked — freaked out. Whoa! they shouted. We’re screwed!

“When saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee?” they asked, panicked. “Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”

“Verily I say unto you,” Jesus replied, reassuring them, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This is the only place in the Bible where Jesus explicitly tells his disciples what acts they must perform, in their entirety, to get into heaven.

Feed the hungry, care for refugees, house and clothe the homeless, heal the sick, have compassion on those in prison.

That’s it.

And it’s a list that is quite literally the opposite of everything that Donald Trump advocates, stands for, and has done in his career.

While biblical scholars are split about who the actual “Beast” was that John referenced in his Revelation, many consider it to have been a politically-necessary cloaking of the identity of Roman Emperor Nero.

It was clearly a political figure, who represented the antithesis of the values and works Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount and in Matthew 25.

A leader whose actions unleashed “a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”

Caller after caller yesterday offered their own proofs of Trump being the Beast or the Antichrist:

  • “MAGA” means “magic” or “sorcerer” in Latin and multiple other languages
  • His grandfather’s name when he emigrated to America to start a whorehouse in the Pacific Northwest was “Drumpf,” which he changed to Trump. John in German is “Johann.” Therefore, his “actual” name is Donald Johann Drumpf — each name having six letters. (Weirdly, the same is true of Ronald Wilson Reagan.)
  • He armed the Saudis for their merciless bombing war against Yemen which has five million people facing famine as the Saudi military blocks food arrivals.
  • His family owns 666 Fifth Avenue.
  • He fooled millions of evangelical followers of Jesus, just as the Beast was supposed to do.
  • He put his own red-hat MAGA mark on their foreheads.
  • He consorts with “whores” and criminals.

It was an interesting exercise and conversation, and I was surprised by how many people are actually religiously freaked out about Trump.

But for me, all the proof I need that Trump, if not the biblical Antichrist, is at least a political one, is what he says and does.

His “fruits” tell us all we need to know about who he really is.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

We let psychopaths get away with murder — as long as they're wearing suits

Alfred Ruf poisoned his wife as part of a scheme to get rich off her life insurance. So did Dr. Gregory “Brent” Dennis, who was looking at a $2 million payout. Joshua Hunsucker poisoned his wife for a mere $250K in life insurance money, $80,000 of which he used to buy a boat. David L. Pettis poisoned his wife for $150,000.

I don’t know the names of the men who poisoned and killed my father and my brother Stan, who died last Thursday, but I know where they worked and why they did it: just like Ruf, Dennis, Hunsucker and Pettis, they intentionally and knowingly took actions they knew would result in death when they sold asbestos to my dad’s employer and got my brother addicted to tobacco.

The asbestos industry knew as early as the 1890s, and got definite confirmation in the 1940s that their product caused mesothelioma, a particularly brutal lung cancer that killed my father. Even today, their executives are trying to avoid responsibility for it: Johnson & Johnson is playing bankruptcy games to avoid paying for cancers caused by their asbestos-laced talcum powder, and not a single executive is even slightly worried about going to jail for all these dead people.

Same deal with the tobacco industry whose top CEOs lied to the faces of members of Congress in 1994 at the same time their industry has been killing over 400,000 Americans a year every year of my lifetime.

Like those four wife-killers, they all did it for the money. A hell of a lot more money than Ruf, Dennis, Hunsucker and Pettis could ever imagine.

Ruf, Dennis, Hunsucker and Pettis are all in prison. The decision-makers who today are still promoting tobacco and using bankruptcy laws to avoid paying for asbestos deaths are enjoying the pandemic from their mansions and yachts.

And this only scratches the surface. In just the past weeks, hundreds of Americans have been killed and thousands rendered homeless by climate change-driven weather that men in the fossil fuel industry knew fifty years ago would happen as the result of their selling their products. For money.

And then there is the American “health insurance” industry, unlike any other in the world, that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year by destroying their lives with debt (over $1 trillion right now) or forbidding services to them when they’re uninsured and cannot afford them.

Ever since our nation’s founding, capitalism in America has been played in ways that protect stone-cold killers. Psychopaths in suits. But it’s gotten particularly bad since Big Tobacco was outed in the 1990s.

There was a time when we used to prosecute them.

In the 1980s, Reagan deregulated the Savings & Loan industry; predictably, within a few years, a handful of executives had made themselves multimillionaires while hundreds of thousands of families across America were wiped out. The Justice Department stepped in and prosecuted 1100 banksters, 839 were convicted, and over a hundred went to prison.

When the so-called “Dot-com Bubble” burst around the turn of the century, dozens of bigshot executives from Enron, WorldCom, Qwest and Tyco, among others, were prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned. We were still occasionally sending executives to prison as late as 2005.

Not anymore.

After Glass-Steagal was repealed in 1999, banksters spent the next decade lying to investors around the world about the value of their “Collateralized Debt Obligations” and other recently legalized “exotic” financial instruments that were packed full of “liar loans” and bad mortgages.

That led straight to the Bush Crash of 2008, when guys like Steve Mnuchin (who threw over 30,000 California families out of their homes) and Jamie Dimon got fabulously richer. America bailed out the Wall Street banksters to the tune of over a trillion dollars.

But only one guy went to jail for the thousands of lies, frauds and outright crimes that occurred during the Bush years and led to the Bush Crash. He was a mid-level banker born in Egypt (who grew up in Michigan), has brown skin, and his name was Kareem Serageldin.

The judge in his case said right out loud that Serageldin’s role in hiding a mere $37 million of the $2.1 billion in bad mortgages his employer, Credit Suisse, had concealed from other banks and regulators was “a small piece of an overall evil climate within the bank and with many other banks.”

But Bush talked to his Justice Department and federal prosecutors and California Attorney General Harris decided to give Mnuchin and the other banksters a pass. Dozens of banks and hundreds of banksters had done far worse than Serageldin, but none were even indicted. Serageldin spent almost 3 years in a federal prison hell hole.

When Ralph Nader revealed in 1966 that automakers were knowingly selling defective cars and trucks but that fixing them would have cut profits more than paying out death benefits to settle lawsuits, America was outraged and Congress acted, creating the NTSB and establishing federal regulations.

The following decades saw hundreds of white collar criminals imprisoned across dozens of industries: between 1995 and 1997 alone white collar crime was 17.6 percent of federal prosecutions. But by 2012 it was down to 9.4 percent and, while the numbers are difficult to know for sure because of Trump administration obstruction and incompetence, appear to have significantly collapsed from there since.

Partly this has been the result of post-1980 Supreme Court decisions making it easier for prosecutors to ignore sentencing guidelines for white collar crimes (unless they’re committed by Brown executives, apparently).

Partly it was every major industry in America taking advantage of the Court’s Citizens United decision to legally purchase and own politicians in both parties, guaranteeing political pressure on prosecutors who might even think about going after corporate criminals.

Partly it was a relentless focus by several administrations on street crime (“superpredators” and “stop and frisk”), pulling resources away from prosecutors’ offices that might have otherwise been directed to the snakes in suits.

And part of it was a massive lobbying campaign by some of America’s most powerful CEOs to insert mens rea” (Latin for “state of mind”) language into the recent criminal justice reform act, so it would become almost impossible to convict a senior executive of a crime he directed his company to do.

This new law now requires prosecutors to prove that not only did the CEO know that he could cause a particular John Doe in, say, Wheeling, West Virginia to die from the product, but it was his intention to specifically kill that man or someone just like him. In other words, prosecuting CEOs is now all but impossible.

The morbidly rich in America are immune from taxes: most pay less than 3 percent in income taxes. They’re similarly immune from prosecution for very real criminal decisions that destroy the lives of and regularly kill very real human beings.

In America today if you poison and kill your wife to make $150,000 in life insurance money, you’ll probably end up in prison. But if you poison and kill hundreds of thousands of people so you can take home a multi-million-dollar paycheck, you get to buy a new yacht.

This has to end.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The completely shocking things Trump and his followers now believe

This story first appeared on The Hartmann Report.

With the Republican Party turning to Trumpism, and the Democratic Party returning to their progressive roots, will we have an honest debate this election year in our media?

“What you see is what you get” is an old cliche, but it’s endured all these centuries because there’s so much truth in it. “Don’t listen to what people say, instead look at what they do” is another truism we can apply to inform us about today’s politics.

The past forty years have seen three Republican and three Democratic presidencies, and the modern priorities and values of each Party are now quite clear.

On the Republican side, Reagan laid the foundation for Bush and Trump to hand over $10 trillion in tax cuts to billionaires and giant corporations while spending an equal amount on senseless, unwanted and unwinnable wars, leaving us with a $20 trillion national debt.

Trump has since merged the Grand Old Party with the anti-democratic, oligarchic and male/white-supremacist values of the pre-Civil War South, leading his followers to proudly fly Confederate flags and strut around with as many large guns as they can carry.

On the Democratic side, there’s been a steady revival of the progressive movement, along with its efforts to lift up working class and poor Americans while cleaning up the environment and protecting the social safety net.

While the Democratic Party embraced neoliberalism for a while, from 1992 until 2016, the majority of elected Democrats today are committed to extending the benefits, freedoms and privileges of citizenship to all Americans, regardless of race, religion or gender identification.

There’s an uncredited meme that’s been floating around the internet in various forms for a while, generally titled “Shocking Things Liberals Believe” that summarizes:

  • People who work full time shouldn’t live in poverty
  • Homelessness shouldn’t exist in the richest country in the world
  • Women deserve both equal rights and equal pay
  • Corporations and rich people shouldn’t be able to legally bribe politicians
  • Trashing the planet for profit is wrong and must stop
  • Every American should have world-class healthcare at little or no cost
  • Free higher education (and quality public schools) unlock human potential which benefits the entire country
  • Children should learn the true racial history of America so they can empathize with their peers who are still experiencing these problems and grow up to become well-informed adults
  • Women should make their own medical decisions, not politicians
  • Massively profitable industries, from oil/coal/gas to Walmart and Amazon, shouldn’t get billions in subsidies and tax breaks
  • Children shouldn’t fear getting shot at school
  • When Wall Street banksters steal from us all, they should be imprisoned instead of bailed out
  • No CEO is worth $100,000 an hour ($20 million a year) or more

It’s actually a pretty reasonable summary of the perspectives and positions of most Democrats who’d describe themselves as liberal or progressive today and, while not descriptive of every elected Democrat, shows the direction the Party is moving.

But it immediately provokes the counter-question: Now that Trumpism has taken over the GOP, what do they believe?

Since the Party stopped publishing a Platform or clear positions on issues after the 2016 election, we pretty much have to look at their behaviors, but those, at least, have been consistent. Here’s what’s obvious, based on “what they do”:

  • “Free and fair elections” are for suckers
  • White men should run the country and the world
  • Violence is a legitimate tool in politics
  • Conspiracy theories like the one suggesting Democrats drink children’s blood as an “elixir of youth” are probably real
  • Rich people and their kids shouldn’t have to pay taxes
  • More guns means less crime and fewer deaths
  • The darker your skin, the more likely you’re a criminal
  • Leadership is about instilling fear, not vision
  • Women are men’s property
  • Climate change and evolution are tricks to take away our freedoms and ruin religion
  • Education makes people stupid
  • Going into politics is the ticket to riches and fame
  • Rich people should make a buck off everything the government does through privatization
  • Helping people who’re going through a rough patch is a waste of time
  • The “rule of law” only applies to minorities and the poor
  • Money and power are the only truly important things in life
  • Teaching the true racial history of America is a plot to make white children feel sad
  • LGBTQ people don’t deserve respect or rights
  • Wealth is proof of goodness; poverty is proof of moral failure
  • “Giving” citizens things like healthcare, education, family leave, etc. are all “socialism” and will destroy “the American way of life”
  • Government has no right to regulate pollution or protect consumers
  • “Fiscal responsibility” is a phrase that can justify just about anything

Both are obviously partial lists, an attempt to define our political parties based on their behaviors instead of just their words.

This is an election year, and these differences should be the basis of our national conversation about who leads the country in 2023 and beyond.

Is our “reality TV” news media up to the task of comparing and contrasting the two political parties, and judging the most likely outcomes of the directions they’ve chosen?

It’s going to be a challenge as long as Republicans keep spewing crap like John Kasich saying on CNN yesterday, when discussing the January 6th attack, that “we have seen hatred on both sides.” Or Joe Manchin grandstanding, using long-discredited “but the deficit!” and “but the filibuster!” GOP talking points, every time a camera shows up on Capitol Hill.

On the other hand, if enough of us are active in holding our Fourth Estate to account, particularly on social media, and can amplify truthful messages of compassion, clarity and sanity to our friends and neighbors, perhaps we can actually have a meaningful election year.

Tag, you’re it!

Corporate America's crimes against humanity must not go unpunished

Most recently, 100 mph winds swept grass-fires through Colorado, leaving thousands homeless. It was 116 degrees here in Portland last summer, as wildfires and drought ravage the West. The Gulf Coast, South and Eastern Seaboard are now annually torn apart by superstorms, while the Midwest faces mile-wide tornadoes never before seen with this ferocity and frequency.

Climate change has gone from the theoretical to slapping us in the face.

From drought and fires that killed hundreds in California, to massive tornadoes ripping apart Kentucky, to sea-level rise and flooding cities, America is being hammered and Americans are dying. Right now.

And it’s expensive. Individual families (and their insurance companies) are bearing the brunt of the burden right now, but as climate disasters continue to scale up it’s going to not only cost more and more American homes and lives, it’s also already costing the country hundreds of billions — soon to be trillions — every year.

So, who’s going to pay for this?

If an arsonist lit your house on fire, in addition to sending him to jail you could also sue his estate for damages.

In this case, we have corporations and individuals who intentionally lied to us for half a century about the impact of their fossil fuels on global warming just to enrich themselves.

Now they’re standing back with their hands in their pockets shrugging and whistling while people die and our homes are frozen, flooded or destroyed by tornadoes.

Those who perpetrated the lies that led to this must be held to account, both financially and with the force of criminal law.

On top of that, now that climate change is here and walloping us, we must harden our nation’s infrastructure and relocate both vulnerable people and those who lost their homes and communities to wild weather, drought, and floods.

Shouldn’t the fossil fuel companies and the millionaires and billionaires they’ve created pick up that bill, too?

We’ve been having a similar conversation around other 20th century corporate crime for decades, and generally we’ve screwed it up.

America is pock-marked with mansions and estates owned by families enjoying multi-generational wealth that came from their ancestors or parents lying to the American government and the public in ways that killed people.

For example, in 1943 Samac Laboratory told the nation’s largest asbestos producer, Johns-Manville, that asbestos exposure definitely and predictably caused the excruciatingly painful and always-fatal lung cancer called mesothelioma. The company’s executives made the corporate decision to cover the science up and then lied about it to their employees, customers and the government for two generations.

That was eight years before my father dropped out of college in 1950 and went to work in a Grand Rapids steel mill because Mom got pregnant with me; he was surrounded every day with a cloud of asbestos dust that his bosses told him was “safe.” Dad died of mesothelioma in 2006.

One of the best known of the many fabulously rich heirs to the Manville fortune was Tommy Manville, who became famous for marrying eleven blonde 20-something showgirls thirteen times. Seriously. The first paragraph of his obituary in The New York Times reads: “Tommy Manville, who took 11 wives in 13 marriages and was heir to the Johns-Manville asbestos fortune, died of a heart attack yesterday at his estate in Chappaqua, N.Y. He was 73 years old.”

To this day, no asbestos fortunes have been attached and none of the criminal liars went to prison: we missed that opportunity a generation ago.

Similarly, thousands of million-dollar estates across our country are owned by heirs or current executives of the tobacco industry, which also knew their product killed Americans and lied to us. We missed that chance to do right, too: none of these wealthy executives have ever gone to prison, even though their product continues to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

When it finally came out a few years ago that Roundup causes cancer, none of the multimillionaire heirs to the Monsanto fortune lost their mansions and none of Monsanto’s executives went to jail.

Neither did the owners of chemical companies that left behind deadly Superfund sites like the one that caused birth defects and stillbirths at Love Canal; others do so to this day across the nation.

When it came out that the Sackler family decided to lie that their new Oxycontin drug was less addictive than normal opioids they walked away with billions; none have seen the inside of a jail cell for even an hour.

Owners and operators of mining operations across the country lied to communities for generations that they’d clean up their poisonous waste: instead, they routinely bankrupt their companies and walk away with millions, leaving behind moonscape-like devastation.

Even banksters like “Foreclosure King” Steve Mnuchin, who reveled in “earning” around $200 million by throwing over 36,000 of California families out of their homes while his Wall Street buddies stole trillions of dollars, continues to troll us with his twitter pontifications like he’s some kind of elder statesman worthy of our respect.

As Honoré de Balzac noted in 1834 (in slightly less compressed language), “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime”:

Historically, the only corporate criminals we hold to account are those who rip off rich people: Ken Lay, for example, defrauding his Enron investors, and Bernie Madoff scammed millions from Wall Street oligarchs.

On the other hand, if you can make billions exploiting, poisoning, misinforming, or ripping off working-class Americans you’re generally guaranteed a soft landing.

We have to change the rules.

We’re now confronted with a crisis that goes far beyond this routine orgy of corrupted capitalism: climate change isn’t just killing a few Americans; it’s threatening civilization itself and perhaps even the future of the human race.

Fossil fuel companies have known for two generations that their products would at the least disrupt society and at worst produce a great extinction on the order of what killed off the dinosaurs.

Not only did they cover it up: they actively funded climate change “disinformation” campaigns with front groups and bought-off scientists openly lying in the press and before Congress.

And now, like with asbestos, tobacco, and dozens of other known-as-deadly products, the bill is coming due.

In the face of this fossil-fueled climate change we need immediate and expensive action: America needs to harden its infrastructure, and fast.

If high-tension power lines had been buried underground in California and Colorado, for example, the worst of the wildfires would have been avoided, as they were caused by wind-downed wires.

Cities from Miami to New York are regularly crippled by sea-level-rise flooding and therefore must spend hundreds of billions on levees, pumps and reconfiguring water, power, mass transit, and sewage systems.

So many American homes have been destroyed by global-warming-worsened fires and freezes (see: “Texas”) that building materials have exploded in price and fireproof “intumescent” house paint is the hot new product.

The bad guys should be paying for this. We’ve certainly established a legal framework for it.

Before my dad died, he joined an asbestos lawsuit that, after lawyer fees, got his estate around $40,000 which eased life for my mom. Similarly, states have received compensation from tobacco companies for their costs treating lung cancers and the federal government steps in to remediate old mines and superfund sites.

While the majority of people injured by the kind of raw capitalism we practice in this country never see a penny, there is precedent for holding lying industries responsible for the harms they intentionally and knowingly cause.

At the very least, this could take the form of a carbon tax, with the revenue going to reimburse victims and harden our infrastructure.

But given how egregious these companies have behaved — and how many are still, to this day, funding climate denial and lobbying against green energy — Congress should extract restitution and recompense from the companies and punish the psychopathic executives who oversaw their campaigns of deadly lies.

This goes way beyond garden variety crime, even dwarfing the damage caused by asbestos or tobacco. These are quite literally crimes against the American people and crimes against our larger humanity.

It’s time to hold the perpetrators to account and make them pay.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The message of 'Don't Look Up' is a warning about climate change — but also so much more

My wife and I recently watched on Netflix the brilliant Don’t Look Up! starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, written and produced by Adam McKay and David Sirota.

It’s being lauded as a metaphor for how we’re dealing with climate change in the face of petrobillionaire- and corporate-funded disinformation campaigns, but it’s so much more than that:

“Conservatives” on the Supreme Court don’t want Americans to look up at how they legalized political bribery with their 1970s Buckley and Bellotti and 2010 Citizens United decisions that have turned politicians into shills for the same billionaires and giant industries that spent millions putting them on the Court.

“Small government” freaks don’t want you to look up at how trust in our government has fallen from over 80% in the 1960s to fewer than 30% today, or how that’s the direct result of Reagan’s “government is not the solution to your problems, it is the problem” hustle that led to Trumpism and is today tearing America apart.

Republican governors don’t want their citizens to look up at how they continue to use racist tropes and dog-whistle appeals to frighten and thus hang onto a majority of the white vote.

Those governors and legislators don’t want you to look up at how they’re rewriting history and threatening teachers, passing laws that either outright ban teaching the actual history of race relations, slavery, and the Civil War, or, as in Florida, empower parents to sue teachers who mention a word about race.

Giant monopolistic corporations don’t want you to look up and realize the average American family pays $5,000 a year, on average, more than Canadians or Europeans for everything from cell phone and internet service to airfare and drugs — all because Reagan stopped enforcing the anti-trust laws in 1983 and no president since has brought them back.

Big Ag doesn’t want you to look up and see that you and your children are being poisoned by chemicals ranging from pesticides and herbicides to hormone-bending plasticizers used in food packaging, thousands of them outlawed in Europe.

Republicans don’t want Americans to look up at how they gifted a handful of billionaires and GOP-donor corporations $2 trillion in tax cuts in 2017 at the same time that America is the only country in the developed world where young people carry almost $2 trillion in student debt.

The NRA doesn’t want you to look up at how, over just the past two years, 17 million more people — including 5 more million children — now have easy access to guns in their own homes as the result of a Trump-driven explosion of weapons purchases.

They don’t want you to look up at how, as a consequence, our US homicide rate went from 6 per 100,000 to 7.8 per 100K during that same short period of time, what CNN labeled “the highest increase recorded in modern history” beating records going all the way back to 1904 when we started keeping them.

Coal baron legislators don’t want us to look up at the poverty across America as they drive their Maseratis and tell us that young West Virginia families will use the child tax credit to “buy crack.”

Big pharma executives don’t want us to look up at how they rip us off, as Americans struggle to pay $500 for the same insulin that Canadians can buy for $25

The Sakler family of drug pushers don’t want us to look up at how they just walked away with billions and not a single person in the family went to jail over the death of 600,000 Americans from opioids.

Republican secretaries of state don’t want us to look up at how they’ve purged over 17 million people, more than 10 percent of all of America’s active voters, off the voting rolls just between 2016 and 2018.

North Carolina’s GOP doesn’t want you looking up at how, immediately after five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, they permanently closed 158 polling places in the 40 counties with the most African American voters just before the 2016 election, producing a 16 percent drop in the Black vote in that state.

Trump and his Trump-humping toadies in Congress don’t want America to look up at the treason they incited their followers to commit on January 6th, invading the Capitol with Confederate flags and Christian fascist crosses while trying to assassinate Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi.

Giant “health insurance” banksters don’t want seniors to look up at how they’ve already privatized over 40% of Medicare through the “Medicare Advantage” scam George W. Bush gifted them, increasing their profits by tens of billions.

Billionaires don’t want Americans to look up at how they’re paying less than 3% in income taxes while the rest of us foot the bill for the country.

Religious hustlers don’t want us to look up at their mansions and private jets as they run ads for “prayer lines” on TV and push parishioners to vote for politicians who will help them keep their rich lifestyles going as they break the law with no taxes or oversight.

And, of course, the fossil fuel industry doesn’t want us to look up at the remote but very real possibility that the global warming they are causing could free ancient methane trapped in permafrost and undersea clathrate beds and trigger a mass extinction event (as DiCaprio and I pointed out in this short video):

DiCaprio, Lawrence, McKay and Sirota’s new Don’t Look Up! movie is funny, entertaining, and sure to provoke useful conversations with friends and family.

It accomplishes this by cleverly satirizing a crisis turned into a disaster by the corrupt power of big money bribing government, amplified by the banality of the infotainment “news” culture Reagan gifted us when he destroyed the Fairness Doctrine as the Murdoch clan came to town.

If ever there was a time when we all need to look up, it’s now!

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

This 232-year-old power has never been used by Congress — but it could save the republic

The Founders of this nation, and the Framers who wrote our Constitution, created (as Ben Franklin famously said) a constitutional republic: a government “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed” through citizens’ (then white men) right to vote.

They referred to this as “republicanism” because it was based on the Greek and Roman republics (then thousands of years in the past but still remembered and idealized), and when put into law they called it “a Republican Form of Government.”

Today that form of government in crisis in America, as that core right to vote that defines republicanism is under attack by Republican legislators in red states across our nation.

“In emergency, break glass” is the almost-never-used option available should a building catch fire or otherwise be in crisis. There’s a similar alarm and safety valve built into the US Constitution that, like that glass in so many buildings, has never before been used to protect our republic.

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It’s called the Guarantee Clause, and it’s the basis of the Right To Vote Act that has passed the House and is stalled by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

The Guarantee Clause, however, has never been used as a part of our everyday politics or law: most people, in fact, have never heard of it.

It’s never been used or adopted as law by the courts so it’s essentially “potential power,” a powerful but tightly coiled force quietly waiting for a real emergency, buried deep in our Constitution for 232 years.

But it comes alive when Congress activates it for the first time, which could be right now because the Freedom to Vote Act does just that, explicitly firing it up by name.

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Joe Manchin is one of its co-sponsors, although it’s mostly an effort by Senators Klobuchar (its main sponsor), Kaine, King, Merkley, Padilla, Tester, and Warnock. On the Republican side, it appears to have support from Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

And when you understand the background of the Guarantee Clause, the urgency and the consistency of The Right To Vote Act with the Framer’s vision about the possibility of this political moment is unmistakable:

July 18, 1787

It was a brutally hot summer in Philadelphia that year, and a week and a day after a mob chased down Mrs. Korbmacher on the streets outside Independence Hall (then the seat of the Pennsylvania legislature) and beat her to death for witchcraft.

Inside the Hall, the delegates were writing the Constitution for a new nation, and the question had come up whether the new US government should have the power — or the obligation — to “guarantee” that no state could so change its laws as to deprive its citizens of a “Republican Form of Government.

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This was particularly important, as British law at the time specifically outlawed republicanism: only monarchy was allowed, and citizens had to swear fealty to the king. Nowhere in the “civilized world” of 1787, in fact, was it legal for a nation to elect their own representatives and live under their own laws, all made and enforced “by the consent of the governed” through “a Republican Form of Government.”

At the end of the long, intense day, James Madison wrote a short letter to Thomas Jefferson, who was then the US envoy to France and living in Paris, assuring him he was taking “lengthy notes” but couldn’t fill his mentor in on the details because he was “still under the mortification of being restrained from disclosing any part of their proceedings.”

In fact, those notes taken during the Convention wouldn’t see publication for another roughly 50 years, after all the men in the Hall were dead, a concession to numerous delegates who’d essentially sold out their wealthy acquaintances by ensuring a republican democracy or allowing slavery to continue (there were compromises on both sides, some of which, like the electoral college and setup of the 2-votes-only-regardless-of-population Senate, cripple us to this day).

Before them for debate that day was proposed constitutional language: “That a republican constitution and its existing laws ought to be guarantied to each state by the United States.”

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An immediate objection came up from both New York’s Gouverneur Morris and New Jersey’s William Houston, because that language would allow the new states to keep laws that some delegates thought weren’t “republican” in nature.

Morris, in particular, was an outspoken abolitionist and (from the left) wanted slavery phased out, and also opposed (from the right) laws like the one Rhode Island’s legislature was then debating that would have equalized all wealth in that state every 13 years. That “Jubilee” idea was a prescription for chaos, Morris believed, and thus a threat to the new republic.

The judgment of history weighed on Morris. Madison later recounted that, “He came here as a representative of America; he flattered himself he came here in some degree as a Representative of the whole human race; for the whole human race will be affected by the proceedings of this Convention.”

Thus it was no surprise when Morris rose to object that the proposed language could keep terrible state laws in place.

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“Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS thought the resolution very objectionable,” Madison wrote. “He should be very unwilling that such laws as exist in Rhode Island should be guarantied.”

New Jersey’s William Houston, a mathematics professor and abolitionist who served as a Captain in Washington’s army, concurred — although he was more concerned with not wanting to encourage laws that maintained slavery and debt peonage.

“Mr. HOUSTON,” Madison noted, “was afraid of perpetuating the existing constitutions of the states. That of Georgia was a very bad one, and he hoped would be revised and amended.”

At which point several men rose to point out they were debating the power of the federal government to “guarantee a Republican Form of Government” to all the states — but what if power-hungry people in a particular state were to rise up in rebellion and seize control of that state’s government, thus ending statewide republicanism and creating a minor dictatorship or cult?

And then, what if that state then threatened other states’ ability to have a government reflecting the will of the people?

Or tried to take them over either by corrupting them from within or invasion? (This was not an idle fear: both happened just 74 years later in 1861.)

Massachusetts’ Nathaniel Gorham was particularly outspoken about this, given how there had been attempts by both rich landowners and Pilgrim clergy in his state over the past century to turn the state into a dictatorial theocracy (leading Roger Williams to flee and split off Rhode Island in the 1670s).

If such a thing were to happen again and succeed, Gorham wondered, shouldn’t the federal government have the power to intervene so it could guarantee the states around Massachusetts and its residents a republican form of government where those with political power had to answer to “the people” rather than just the clergy or the rich? What if a wealthy oligarch declared himself a monarch?

“Mr. GORHAM thought it strange that a rebellion should be known to exist in the empire,” Madison wrote, “and the general government should be restrained from interposing to subdue it. At this rate, an enterprising citizen might erect the standard of monarchy in a particular state; might gather together partisans from all quarters; might extend his views from state to state, and threaten to establish a tyranny over the whole,—and the general government be compelled to remain an inactive witness of its own destruction.” [emphasis added]

In response, Pennsylvania’s James Wilson, a scholar of Greek democracy and an abolitionist, suggested different language for the Fourth Section of the Constitution’s Fourth Article:

“[T]hat a republican form of government shall be guarantied to each state; and that each state shall be protected against foreign and domestic violence.”

That did the trick.

“This seeming to be well received,” Madison noted, “Mr. MADISON and Mr. RANDOLPH withdrew their propositions, and, on the question for agreeing to Mr. Wilson’s motion, it passed, nem. con.” The convention then adjourned for the day and Madison went home to write his letter to Jefferson.

That day’s debate is what gave us Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

It’s an amazing sentence, that could be as sweeping in its power as the Commerce Clause (which JFK and LBJ used to force integration of the South), but has never really been used in any meaningful way since it was written on that hot summer day in 1787.

The first time this “Guarantee Clause” came before the Supreme Court, slavery was the law of the land and Chief Justice Roger Taney, a former slaveholder, was determined to keep it that way by bottling up that Clause’s power.

Seven years before he tried to cement slavery into the law of every state in the union with his Dred Scott decision, Taney ruled in Luther v Borden (1849) that his Supreme Court would never be allowed to interfere with state’s rights on the basis of the Guarantee Clause.

“Under this article of the Constitution,” Taney wrote, “it rests with Congress to decide what government is the established one in a state.”

In other words, Taney said: The definition of what a ‘Republican Form of Government’ actually means isn’t yet laid out in the law or previous interpretations of the Constitution: therefore, it’s politics. And politics is the province of Congress, not the Supreme Court, which must limit itself to law.

On that foundation, later Supreme Courts repeated Taney’s assertion that the question was political and not one to be decided by the courts: instead it was up to the politicians in Congress if they were going to “guarantee a Republican Form of Government” to — or within — any particular state at any point in the future.

Taney was quoted “lucidly and cogently” in Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph v Oregon (1912) and Chief Justice John Roberts noted in 2019 that, “This Court has several times concluded that the Guarantee Clause does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim.”

Thus, to this day, it’s up to Congress, not the Court, to decide what a “Republican Form of Government” is and how Congress will guarantee it to and/or within every state.

Which brings us to today, and how Congress can end partisan gerrymanders, dial back the power of money in politics, and guarantee the right of every American citizen to vote without undue difficulty.

The opening of the Freedom To Vote Act lays it out clearly:

“Congress also finds that it has both the authority and responsibility, as the legislative body for the United States, to fulfill the promise of article IV, section 4, of the Constitution, which states: ‘The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a “Republican Form of Government.”’” [emphasis added]

The proposed law even notes as justification for its existence how the Supreme Court has dropped — or laid down — the ball and therefore Congress must pick it up:

“Congress finds that its authority and responsibility to enforce the Guarantee Clause is clear given that Federal courts have not enforced this clause because they understood that its enforcement is committed to Congress by the Constitution.”

The Freedom To Vote Act ensures a “Republican Form of Government” in America by providing:

  • Automatic voter registration and online registration for 16 year olds who will be 18 and thus eligible to vote in the next election
  • Same day voter registration nationwide
  • Ends partisan gerrymandering
  • Limits campaign contributions to a maximum of $10,000
  • Criminalizes “pass through” groups to get around campaign finance laws
  • Requires companies to fully and rapidly disclose all election spending over $10,000
  • Requires all websites (like Facebook) with more than 50 million users to create a publicly available and publicly searchable archive of political ads
  • Brings web-based election expenditures under the same disclosure rules as TV
  • Makes it a federal crime to prevent a person from registering to vote
  • Requires 14 consecutive days for early voting, at least 10 hours each day
  • Requires easy access to polling places for rural and college campus voters, and easy access to voting for all voters by public transportation
  • Guarantees that all voters, nationwide, can vote by mail with no excuses necessary
  • Guarantees that all voters can put themselves on a permanent vote-by-mail list and automatically receive a ballot in the mail
  • Requires states to give voters the ability to track their mail-in ballots to be sure they’re counted or contest any challenge to their ballot
  • Forbids states from forcing mail-in voters to have their ballots witnessed, notarized or jump through other onerous hoops
  • Requires secured and clearly labeled ballot drop boxes in all jurisdictions
  • Requires the Post Office to process all ballots on the day they’re dropped off and without postage
  • Requires states to keep voting lines shorter than 30 minutes in all cases and places
  • Allows people waiting in line to vote to receive food or water from others
  • Gives the right to vote to all felons who have served their sentences, in all states
  • Prohibits voter “caging” where failure to return a postcard gets you purged
  • Prohibits states from deleting voters from the rolls because they haven’t recently voted
  • Empowers voters to sue in federal court any state or local officials who interfere with their right to vote
  • Criminalizes intimidating, threatening or coercing any election official or election worker
  • Requires federal prosecution of anybody who tries to harm or undermine public officials by doxxing the personal information of an election worker or their immediate family
  • Makes it a federal crime to publish or distribute false information about elections (when, where, etc.)
  • Increases federal penalties for voter intimidation or otherwise interfering with your absolute right to vote
  • Keeps partisan “poll watchers” at least 8 feet from voters in all circumstances, including while voting
  • Requires paper ballots in all cases and all elections (there are exceptions for disabled voters)
  • Requires post-election audits
  • Provides criminal penalties for any candidate or campaign that fails to fully and immediately report any interactions with foreign governments
  • Gives lower income individuals $25 they can use to give to candidates in $5 or more increments

The Freedom To Vote Act is more urgently needed with every passing day, as multiple Republican-controlled states openly (and ironically) tear down actual “republican principles” of representative government by continuing to pass laws that pre-rig election outcomes.

Some have even gone so far as to introduce laws that authorize their legislatures to ignore or reject votes they don’t like, in anticipation of the 2024 election.

Passing this law must now be the Senate’s first priority because, “It’s a republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.”

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The Constitution provides a simple solution to the Democrats' Supreme Court problem that everyone is ignoring

Our democracy is in a crisis, with many thoughtful and not-prone-to-hysteria commentators wondering out loud if the Republican embrace of Trumpism has gone so far that it may take the entire country over the edge.

A brilliant recent analysis is Thomas Edsall’s article in yesterday’s New York Times, How to Tell When Your Country Is Past the Point of No Return, bookended by Barton Gellman’s shocking piece in The Atlantic, Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun.

Both deal with the immediate crisis brought to us by the six years that Trump has dominated the American political scene and his takeover of the Republican Party.

But neither is addressing the core problem America is facing that helped bring us Trump, but goes deeper than him: money.

Specifically, money — bribery — in politics that has been legalized and expanded by reactionary “conservatives” on the Supreme Court.

But what if Congress could tell the Supreme Court it disagrees that bribery of politicians should be legal, constitutional, and takes its own steps to solve that problem?

The majority of Americans, for example, want their drug prices to be reasonable like they are in Canada or Europe: the reason we pay as much as 10 times more than citizens of those countries is because the Supreme Court made it legal for the big drug companies and their lobbying groups to bribe our federal politicians.

The same is true for a wide variety of issues where federal law is wildly at odds with what the public wants fixed:

  • almost $2 trillion in student loan debt
  • strengthening Social Security and Medicare
  • bankster bailouts
  • health insurance ripoffs
  • billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry
  • billionaires paying 1% to 3% in income taxes (and corporations paying nothing) while average folks get soaked
  • 60,000+ factories moved offshore (along with tens of millions of good-paying jobs)
  • employers like Amazon and Kellogg’s engaging in blatant union-busting
  • internet companies tracking your every move and every keystroke and then selling that information without your permission
  • climate change

Every single one of these problems continues to exist in the face of overwhelming public disapproval because one or another industry or group of rightwing billionaires has been empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to bribe politicians.

Americans watch with their jaws on the floor as Senator Sinema and the “corporate problem solvers” in the House take obscene piles of cash from Big Pharma and then refuse to vote to stop drug-price ripoffs.

There was a time in America when this was a crime called “bribery” and the overall process was called “political corruption.”

In particular, after the 1970s scandals involving both President Nixon and Vice President Agnew taking outright bribes, Congress put laws into place to stop elected officials from putting donor interests above those of voters and the nation.

But that was then and this is now.

Five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court gutted those laws with their 2010 Citizens United decision, over the loud objections of their four colleagues.

Democrats in Congress need to reverse that bizarre and nation-destroying decision with a new law declaring the end to this American political crime spree, and re-criminalize bribery of elected officials.

And they need to do it in a way that defies the Court’s declaration that money is “free speech” and corporations are “persons.”

That defiance requires something called “court stripping.“

Republicans understand exactly what I’m talking about: they tried to do the same thing most recently in 2005 with the Marriage Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives on July 22, 2004.

That law, designed to override Supreme Court protections of LGBTQ people, contained the following court stripping paragraph:

“No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C or this section.”

In other words, Congress wrote that this law is consistent with the Constitution and that they are deciding that…and the Supreme Court, with regard to the Marriage Protection Act, has no say in the matter.

This assertion that each of the three branches should have its own opinions about a law’s constitutionality, is consistent with a view of the Supreme Court expressed at various times by both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, among numerous others of the Founders.

There is literally nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the exclusive right to decide what the Constitution says: that is a power the Supreme Court took onto itself in 1803 in a decision, Marbury v Madison, that drove then-President Jefferson nuts. He wrote:

“[O]ur Constitution…has given — according to this opinion — to one of them alone the right to prescribe rules for the government of the others; and to that one, too, which is unelected by and independent of the nation… The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.“

Court stripping when it came to constitutionality was how this country operated for its first 70 years, including when all the men who wrote the Constitution were alive and in our government.

The Supreme Court only ruled twice between the 1789 signing of the Constitution and the 1860s on a constitutional issue, and in each case both Congress and the president at the time ignored the ruling.

The first was President Andrew Jackson when the court ruled the Second National Bank was constitutional and Jackson shut it down anyway, claiming it wasn’t. He said:

“The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others… The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both.”

And then President Abraham Lincoln chose to explicitly ignore the Supreme Court’s confirmation of chattel slavery in its 1856 Dred Scott v Sanford decision, as did Congress, and even went on to free enslaved Americans before the Court could weigh in again.

In the year before his presidency when campaigning for office, Lincoln even mocked his opponent, Stephen A. Douglas (during the first Lincoln-Douglas debate) to “Roars of Laughter” for “respecting” Judge Taney and saying he’d go along with the Dred Scott decision if elected president.

When Republicans were pushing court stripping from the 1950s until they recently lost control of Congress, they constantly cited this long history of the practice.

The Marriage Protection Act died in the Senate, but it’s one of over a hundreds of pieces of court stripping legislation introduced — almost all by Republicans (House Whip Tom Delay was the master of this) — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Brown v Board and Roe v Wade, tried to use court stripping to dial back the Court’s efforts to protect women and racial or gender minorities.

If it was worth trying for Republicans — and drew wide public support while having a strong influence, causing the Court to change its position on issues from guns to abortion — why wouldn’t it work for Democrats?

This process of “court stripping” is based in Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution, which says:

“…the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Regulations? Exceptions?!?

Turns out the Constitution says Congress can Regulate the Court by setting the number of their members, determining if their hearings have to be public/televised, or if they must live by the Judicial Code of Conduct (among other things).

And Congress can create “Exceptions” to the things the Court can rule on.

It defines a process where Congress decides what is constitutional and then informs the Court through legislation. In today’s crisis, Congress could say, “Supreme Court, you may no longer rule on whether money in politics is ‘free speech.’ We’re taking that power because the Constitution gives it to us and you have screwed it up so badly.”

And, it turns out, Congress has already gone there, most recently creating exceptions to what our courts may do in a law that was passed and signed by President Bush the very next year: The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.

That law explicitly strips from federal courts — including the Supreme Court — most of their power to hear appeals against the Bush administration detaining, torturing, imprisoning in Guantanamo, or even killing suspected Muslim terrorists.

It says: “[N]o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba…”

And that’s just the beginning. There’s even, as the Brennan Center notes, a court stripping provision in the PATRIOT act of 2001.

As you can read in the book excerpt below if you’re interested in the history and John Roberts’ gory details, the Supreme Court has recognized this congressional limitation on their own power virtually from the beginning of our republic.

And that’s what got Ronald Reagan and the GOP so excited in the 1980s.

If there had been enough public outrage about the Supreme Court to go along with them, they believed they could overturn both Brown v Board and Roe v. Wade, bringing back “Blacks only” schools, pools and water fountains, while putting women back in the kitchen. (As you can see, this idea can cut both ways.)

The guy who really brought court stripping to the fore during the Reagan administration was a young lawyer named John Roberts, who compiled a huge history of case law and precedents that could be used by Congress to justify overturning Brown and Roe. (see book excerpt below for details)

Today, he’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and his background in researching court stripping for Reagan may be why he worried out loud — after the Texas Abortion Vigilante law arguments —that the Court’s credibility and power are now at risk like never before.

The problem, specifically, was that the Texas law is just the newest wrinkle in court stripping.

Instead of forbidding the Supreme Court from ruling on its constitutionality, the Texas abortion law simply uses its vigilante provision as a way around the Court altogether: an innovative new form of court stripping.

And to add insult to injury, this time it wasn’t the United States Congress that was stripping the Supreme Court or any other lower court of its power, it was a state legislature!

“If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments,” Roberts wrote last week, “the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery. The nature of the federal right infringed does not matter; it is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake.”

After all, the Supreme Court has no police force to enforce its edicts, no army to facilitate its decisions, nor even control over its own budget, which is in the hands of Congress. It draws its legitimacy, and thus its power, from the agreement of the other two branches and the public.

Odds are small that any legislation reimposing limits on money in politics that directly contradicts Citizens United would today become law — there are just too many bought-off politicians now, from virtually the entire GOP to a large handful of Democrats — but taking it seriously and making it high profile would stir public debate.

It may even cause the Court to reconsider Citizens United.

After all, the last time their authority and credibility was seriously challenged was by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 when they threatened to declare Social Security unconstitutional. FDR threatened to replace all five justices on the Court over 70 years old — instant term limits — and most of the public was with him.

He backed them down, stirred up nationwide outrage, and they changed their mind (it was called “the switch [of opinion] in time that saved nine [justices]”), allowing Social Security, child labor, unemployment insurance and other progressive laws to go ahead, positions that hold to this day.

History shows that the Court does respond to pressure, and particularly fears loss of their own power and credibility.

As Tom Delay said back in the days of his court-stripping Marriage Protection Act: “Judges need to be intimidated” and “Congress should take no prisoners in dealing with the courts.”

Putting forward such a law would highlight how Citizen United’s “SCOTUS-legalized political bribery” is at the core of our political dysfunction, as rightwing oligarchs and giant corporations have taken total control of the entire GOP and corrupted more than a few Democrats, while polluting our public discourse with their think tanks and media outlets.

Congress needs to stand up for what’s right and consistent with widely-believed American values, and legally bribed politicians isn’t that. It’s time to end the bribery and get something done for the people, for a change.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The scam of the Reagan-era neoliberalism is crumbling — and there's a battle for its replacement

Do we stand on the edge of a grand new progressive era, with good wages for all, racial and gender equality and justice, and a reduction of the political power of reactionary forces in America? Or will the next president gleefully overthrow American democracy, shutter the free press, and imprison those who object?

When Mussolini put Antonio Gramsci, the founder of Italy’s Communist Party, in prison in 1927, Gramsci wrote from his prison cell that, “[T]he old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Two forces in American politics are similarly on a collision course today: neoliberalism and progressivism. In the friction zone between the two, the “morbid symptom” of Trump’s white-power neofascism is claiming territory and has largely seized the power structures of the GOP.

Whether American history goes in cycles, as Strauss and Howe posit in The Fourth Turning, or merely “rhymes” as in the apocryphal quote from Twain, we can identify periods when a particular political and economic philosophy holds court — and the periods when that philosophies or regimes begin to collapse.

The Fourth Turning posits roughly 80-year cycles in American history, each ending with an economic crash and a war, then each rebooting into a new progressive era: the Depression of the early 1770s and the American Revolution, the Panic of 1856 and the Civil War, the 1930s Republican Great Depression and World War II.

It’s been about 80 years since the end of that war, indicating, if this theory is right, that a crash and war may be around the corner.

Another way of looking at the cycles of American history is through the lens of “regimes,” as articulated by Stephen Skowronek in his 1993 book The Politics Presidents Make and recently revived in The New York Times by Professor Corey Robin.

“The Jeffersonian regime lasted from 1800 to 1828,” Robin writes, “the Jacksonian regime, from 1828 to 1860; the Republican regime, from 1860 to 1932; the New Deal order, from 1932 to 1980.”

The Reagan order is thus now almost certainly in its calcification stage, becoming brittle, more fragile, and less vigorous as inevitably happens with every turn of regimes.

In my opinion, the progressive movement — for example the unionization effort where Kellogg’s fired their workers and irate young people crashed their job-application server — is the ascendant group that will soon take power and hold the country for another turn of history.

Unless, of course, Trump’s neofascists succeed in closing off that option by utterly destroying our system of government.

Evidence abounds that the Reagan era or regime is rapidly disintegrating; that the Trump neofascist movement isn’t strong or broad-based enough to replace it (although they can cause considerable violence and distress); and, like in the 1930s and 1960s, that a young progressive movement is rapidly acquiring and consolidating political power.

If I’m right and that’s what’s happening, it’s almost certainly because Americans are realizing that Reagan’s neoliberalism regime (which was carried on by the following five presidents) was largely a scam designed to disempower the working class while enriching the already well-off.

All its vaunted rhetoric about “fiscal responsibility” and “conservative values” was just a smokescreen to hide naked theft, racism and misogyny.

In overthrowing FDR’s New Deal politics and economics, Reagan’s era:

  • Destroyed most of the American labor movement
  • Shifted trillions in both income and wealth from the middle class to the top 1 percent
  • Consolidated business and the wealth it creates into the hands of monopolies in every sector of our economy
  • Moved over 60,000 factories and tens of millions of good-paying jobs to low-wage countries
  • All while fattening the money bins of the morbidly rich with the Reagan, Bush and Trump tax cuts.

Reagan, of course, had what he thought was a good rationale: he was holding back a growing tide of social change that intimidated wealthy older white men like himself and, he believed, threatened “The American Way.”

It started back in 1951, when Russell Kirk electrified a small coterie of conservatives like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater with his prediction that the middle class was growing too rich, and the inevitable result would be massive and widespread social upheaval in this country.

This little band of conservatives predicted that if the middle class continued to gain income and wealth faster than the top 1% (which was the case in 1951), soon “the rabble” of working class people would be so wealthy that they’d feel safe challenge the institutions and social norms of America.

Racial minorities would demand parity with white people, these conservatives warned us, women would disobey their husbands and leap into competition in the nation’s workplaces, and young people would openly defy their elders.

The result, they predicted, would be social chaos and out of that chaos would come a new and perhaps even communist — certainly more socialist — America, unrecognizable to the John Wayne-loving white men of America.

Few in America took Kirk’s warnings seriously at the time, as I laid out in detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. Buckley was sidelined to public broadcasting and Goldwater lost the 1964 election in an historic landslide.

But then came Jane Fonda, Tim Leary and the Beatles:

  • By 1968 the birth control pill was in widespread use and the women’s movement was well underway.
  • Martin Luther King was leading marches across America even as cities kept erupting in violence in response to white police beating and murdering unarmed Black people (which triggered literally every single one of the “race riots” of the ’60s and ’70s).
  • And young people were smoking pot, exploring spirituality, joining SDS, and refusing to go to Vietnam.

Suddenly, every conservative in America was reading Russell Kirk, as right-wing foundations and billionaires were rushing to fund “conservative think tanks“ and groups to influence the media and the courts.

Richard Nixon rode the white fear of this change into office that year and set the stage for the 1971 Powell Memo and the rise of Reagan ten years later. Reagan then brought to a screeching halt much of the forward motion of those three movements, along with the gay rights movement, by stripping working-class people of wealth and political power while demonizing gays around AIDS.

But nothing stays the same. Circumstances change, failures are exposed, new generations acquire power as old generations pass away. If there’s a constant to politics it is this: every new cycle is eventually rejected and replaced as time moves forward.

When Mussolini used state violence to imprison the progressive workers’ movement that was then sweeping both America and Europe, Gramsci wondered out loud: “Will the interregnum, the crisis whose historically normal solution is blocked in this way, necessarily be resolved in favor of a restoration of the old?” Or, will this “lead in the long run to widespread skepticism and a new ‘arrangement’”?

After all, Gramsci noted, that “new arrangement” would require “a reduction of the highest superstructures” of politics and society, “in other words, the possibility and necessity of creating a new culture.”

And, indeed, it appears that’s just what’s happening today in America.

Starbucks just got their first unionized American store in their 50 years of existence. Kellogg’s is engaging in extreme union-busting, firing and replacing striking workers, while Amazon is facing a renewed effort to unionize their warehouses.

Much like with Mussolini’s state violence, the only reason there’s not been a widespread and successful wave of unionization efforts in America is because multiple Supreme Court decisions since the 1960s have eroded union rights in this country so severely, tilting state power against workers.

While last-gasp-reactionary states like Texas are fighting to put women back into the bedroom and kitchen, progressive states like California are preparing for a post-Roe America by expanding and institutionalizing women’s rights to healthcare, contraception and abortion.

Progressive states like Oregon have decriminalized all drugs and provide terminally ill people with a “right to die with dignity,” while reactionary Red states are doubling down on their death penalties and Nixon-era anti-drug laws.

Bifurcation, a splitting apart, appears to be the current state of America, but significant social change always happens just as “opposite” forces like these battle for the approval of the larger culture and its media, to soon be followed by its voters.

Corey Robin points out in The New York Times how “regimes grow brittle” and, much like the way the Reagan regime replaced FDR’s New Deal regime, we may be at the end of our generation’s 40-year neoliberal experiment (my phrase, not his).

For this to actually happen, though, is going to take not just a cultural shift but an actual change in the political and legal structures Reagan’s neoliberalism and its reactionary predecessors erected.

It will require, as Robin notes, ending the filibuster, overcoming the resistance of a small handful of sold-out Democrats in Congress (from Sinema/Manchin in the Senate to the “corporate problem solvers” in the House), expanding voting rights while ending partisan gerrymanders, and returning to an explicit right to unionize. I’d add overturning Citizens United and breaking up corporate monopolies to Robin’s list.

All of these are within our grasp and, for the first time in over 50 years, are supported by the administration in power and the Democratic Party overall.

The question is whether the forces arrayed against such change, from corporate media (and social media) to packed courts to cranky billionaires, can be overcome.

In a brilliant little (63 page) book (The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born) whose title came from Gramsci’s famous quote, Nancy Fraser argues that progressive populism is today on the verge of replacing neoliberalism in its several forms.

She makes a strong argument, although notes candidly that it will take all of us, particularly requiring a widespread mobilization of the young people who will face the worst outcomes, from the ravages of climate change to the rise of neofascist bullies, if we fail.

We stand on the verge of major social and political change.

The GOP has embraced the oligarchic strong-man police-state values that reigned in the South between 1830 and 1865.

The Democratic Party is returning to its progressive and populist roots more rapidly than anybody would have thought possible just five years ago.

As the old cliché goes, we face a moment of great danger, but also one of great opportunity.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The Democratic Party is missing a big opportunity to learn from FDR's success

There was a time when Democrats called their party “the Party of Freedom.”

Largely because of the horrors of the Republican Great Depression, Americans realized that, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1944 State of the Union address, “Necessitous men are not free men.”

You can’t disentangle economics from liberty. Which is why Democrats have proclaimed since the 1930s that:

  • If you’re hungry and don’t have access to food, you’re not free.
  • If you can’t afford decent housing and therefore don’t have a safe place to live, you’re not free.
  • If you’re out of work and can’t support yourself or your family, you’re not free.
  • If you’re sick and can’t afford medical treatment, you’re not free.
  • If you live in fear of right-wing terrorism because of your religion or the color of your skin, you’re not free.
  • And if you have the inherent capability to be a scientist or union electrician but can’t afford college or trade school to reach your potential, you’re not free.

Instead, as FDR said in the next sentence of that speech:

"People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

It’s time for the Democratic Party to begin messaging like FDR did.

The debates today around infrastructure, Build Back Better, voting rights and ending the filibuster are not separate things: they all represent Democratic efforts to expand freedom that has been eroded by forty years of “conservative” policies.

And, indeed, historians tie Reagan’s gutting of union rights and impoverishing the American middle class directly to the upsurge of today’s hateful white supremacist movement. For two generations now, Republican politicians have promoted the lie that working white people weren’t getting poorer because of Reagan’s tax-cuts-for-the-rich and “free trade” policies, but because of the “Great Replacement Theory” Tucker Carlson promotes that claims Jews are helping “Black immigrants and illegals” take white people’s best jobs.

For most of our history conservatives have promoted the interests of slaveholders, big property owners, big business, and big money, while progressives have promoted the interests of freedom for average working people.

With the 1920 election Warren Harding won the presidency on a platform of tax cuts for the rich (from 90% down to 25%), deregulation of business, and privatization of government functions. All of which led directly to the Crash of 1929 and the Republican Great Depression.

Thus, when FDR took the White House in the GOP’s economic wreckage in 1933, he positioned the Democratic Party solidly in the progressive camp and proclaimed a new era of freedom in America.

Virtually every program of the New Deal from labor rights to Social Security, was, Roosevelt said, designed to protect and expand American freedoms.

By 1936, FDR had succeeded in completely rebranding the Democratic Party as the “Party of Freedom.” When he accepted the Party’s nomination for a second term in Philadelphia, he laid it out clearly.

“That very word freedom,” he thundered to the giant hall, “in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power.
“[I]t was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought.”

But, FDR pointed out, with the industrial revolution came a massive accumulation of wealth and political power in the hands of a very, very few. And that meant the freedom of average working people was now under attack by a new type of American tyranny.

“Since that struggle, however, man's inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution - all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.”

The rise of big business — he called them “economic royalists” — and their alliance with the Republican Party was, FDR said, a challenge that required a frontal assault on behalf of freedom for working class Americans.

“For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital — all undreamed of by the Fathers — the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service. …
“Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.”

While fascism was rising in Europe, another type of tyranny was overtaking America, driven by bankers and industrialists who controlled vast wealth and political power.

If you lived under the thumb of an employer who refused decent pay and benefits, and you lacked the legal political power to join a union, you were not free.

“Liberty requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.
“For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor — other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.”

Which is where most Americans found themselves under the ravages of raw, unregulated capitalism. We had lost our freedom, and the Democratic Party was taking an explicit stand to restore it.

“Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair,” FDR said, calling out the morbidly rich oligarchs of his day and the Republican politicians who sucked up to them.

Like Nikki Hailey calling Democrats “socialists” on Twitter this weekend in a pathetic effort to ingratiate herself with rightwing billionaires, Republican politicians in the 1930s and 1940s called FDR everything from a socialist and a communist to an all-out tyrant.

But he threw it right back into their faces. His agenda, he said, was freedom.

“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power.
“In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.”

When the GOP accused Roosevelt of being that day’s equivalent of a “bleeding heart liberal,” he proudly wore that badge. After all, in the finest American tradition, he and his Democratic Party were fighting for the freedom of all Americans:

“We do not see faith, hope, and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.”

It was under the banner of “freedom” that FDR accomplished so much of his agenda. Democrats today must do the same.

  • Build Back Better enhances the freedom of working-class Americans by providing a floor through which they won’t fall as they strive for economic success.
  • Ending or changing the filibuster to put voting rights into place ensures democracy — the essential bulwark of freedom — to citizens of every state, even those that Republicans are trying to turn into rightwing oligarchies.
  • Cancelling student debt and providing low-cost healthcare to all Americans frees young people from crushing financial burdens that are not experienced by the citizens of any other developed democracy in the world.
  • Vaccine and mask mandates slow or even (when fully implemented) stop the spread of this Covid pandemic, and thus are an explicit part of a “freedom agenda”: the freedom to take your kid to school, go to a restaurant or theater, or shop for groceries without fear of death and disease.

There are, of course, elected Democrats who oppose many of these things. Given the stakes of today, it’s not hyperbole to call them traitors to the Democratic Party specifically and the cause of freedom in America more generally.

In 1940, a faction that today we’d call “corporate problem solver Democrats” tried to hijack the party and force FDR to repudiate progressive Henry Wallace for a more “moderate” VP in the election that year. He was having no part of it.

“In the century in which we live,” FDR wrote, “the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.”

After all, if they were the party of freedom then how could they possibly sell out to the “economic royalists” who were making common cause with the GOP?

You’re either a progressive party, FDR said, or you’re not: you can’t be both, and when you try to straddle that fence you will lose elections more often than not.

"The party has failed consistently,” he wrote to his party’s leaders, “when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.”

If the Democratic Party is not all about freedom, he said, it can’t be distinguished from the GOP, which actively fights against freedom for all but the wealthy, and will fail.

“Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.”

Summarizing, FDR wrote to his party leaders:

“It is best not to straddle ideals. … It is best for America to have the fight out here and now. … The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.”

In the name of triangulation, political strategy, and big-tent-ism the modern Democratic Party has seen itself repeatedly sabotaged from within.

First it was Bill Clinton’s embrace of Reagan’s corporate “free trade” and his proclaiming “an end to welfare as we know it” while killing off the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program put into place in 1936 by FDR.

Then came Joe Lieberman’s taking over a million dollars from the insurance industry to gut Obamacare of a public option during the single 74-day window Obama had with a filibuster-proof senate in his entire presidency.

And, of course, there’s today’s crisis with Manchin and Sinema blocking filibuster reform and the so-called “corporate problem solvers” caucus in both the House and Senate working like termites to undermine or co-opt any successful progressive legislation.

If the Democratic Party is to once again be the party of freedom, its leadership must take a stand like FDR did in 1940 when he defied the power-brokers and wealth-toadies in his own party.

Its members must sign onto the freedom crusade, and the party must actively work, through the upcoming primaries, to purge itself of those who are only in office to get rich or enjoy their moment of fame.

And, most important, the Democratic Party must reclaim “freedom” as its banner. For Americans, freedom is not only a sacred right and duty, but it’s also the ultimate political marketing tool…and it’s past time for Democrats to take it back and claim it as their own.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The real reason the GOP has become the party of death

This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.

They're doubling down on death as a political strategy, a process Trump began the week of April 7, 2020 (as I documented in damning detail eight months ago).

If Meadows' book is right and Trump was willing to infect then-77-year-old Biden at the debate, we have one more data point in the evil Trump/GOP Death Cult's plan to leverage the Covid pandemic as a political weapon.

And now they're accusing Dr. Fauci of behaving like the notorious Nazi death camp doctor, Josef Mengele. Seriously: former "real news" reporter Lara Logan laid out that unhinged rant on Fox News this week using the old "people are saying" rhetorical trick propagandists so love.

"This is what people say to me," Logan told an audience of millions, "that he doesn't represent science to them. He represents Joseph Mengele, the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War and in the concentration camps. And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this…"

Over 800,000 Americans are now dead from Covid, as we track daily at TrumpDeathToll.org.

Multiple studies suggest as many as a third of the roughly 50 million Americans who've contracted Covid are now disabled by having had the disease, many for life. These mostly unvaccinated people are now crippled with "long Covid" conditions ranging from chronic exhaustion to dementia to life-shortening heart and kidney disease, which can't be helping the labor shortages across key sectors of our economy.

Dr. Fauci has been working for two years to try to reduce that death toll, and on Fox they're calling him Dr. Mengele? As the Auschwitz Memorial museum tweeted after Logan's comments:

"Exploiting the tragedy of people who became victims of criminal pseudo-medical experiments in Auschwitz in a debate about vaccines, pandemic and people who fight for saving human lives is shameful. It is disrespectful to victims & a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline."

It's also a huge distraction from a very real tragedy that could largely have been avoided if Trump had merely encouraged people to wear masks and social distance before the vaccine was available, and pushed his followers hard to get inoculated after the vaccine was available.

But the GOP math is simple. When economies sag, voters choose the other party to take over: it's worked that way for 200+ years in American politics. So in 2020 Trump pushed Americans to ignore the virus and keep things "normal," leading to tens of millions of infections.

Trump was apparently even willing to infect his 77-year-old opponent in the 2020 election: his Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, writes in his new book that Trump tested positive for Covid three days before his debate with Joe Biden and lied about it after getting a second, negative test. Thankfully, Biden kept his distance from Trump throughout the debate, as Trump would be in the hospital with Covid within two weeks.

When that didn't work, Biden survived, and Trump lost anyway, starting the week that Biden was inaugurated Trump and his followers began discouraging people from getting vaccinated.

And that's their strategy now: if they can keep America sick and on-edge, that'll keep the economy soft, which will work to Democrats' disadvantage in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

While Democrats treat public health emergencies as serious issues, Republicans see them as a way to gain political advantage.

Remember when President Obama let an American with Ebola into the country to receive treatment? The GOP went totally hysterical, some even calling for his impeachment.

One conservative commentator wrote, "Today, his ambition to be a hero to Africa is undermining common sense approaches to protecting Americans from the Ebola virus." Republican Senator Joni Ernst called for Obama's impeachment for behaving like a "dictator" and railed against him over Ebola.

My old debating opponent, Phyllis Schlafly, proclaimed:

"That was the purpose of Ellis Island—to have a waiting place where it was decided whether people were healthy enough or responsible enough to come into our country. The idea that anybody can just walk in and carry this disease with them is just an outrage, and it is Obama's fault because he's responsible for doing it."

And now, as Mark Sumner reports at Daily Kos, four Trump-appointed federal judges have put a hold on President Biden's July efforts to make sure even hospital workers are fully vaccinated through OSHA workplace mandates:

In July, President Joe Biden issued a series of rules requiring that federal workers, and workers at companies that receive federal contracts, must be vaccinated. That included health care workers who work for hospitals that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments.
However, earlier this month, a three-judge panel in Texas blocked the implementation of the mandate for many large companies. Now, as The Washington Post reports, a federal district judge in Missouri has acted to block even the mandate for health care workers.

All are Trump judges, and the most recent decision from Trump-appointed District Court Judge Matthew Schelp quotes extensively from lies told almost daily on Fox and other right-wing media.

His decision claimed that there's such widespread opposition to vaccination that: "The loss of [vaccine-refusing hospital] staffing in many instances will result in no care at all, as some facilities will be forced to close altogether."

It's another lie, designed to keep the pandemic going in America. It completely ignores the success that vaccine mandates have had from United Airlines to the New York Police Department to the largest hospital chain in Houston. In every case, a tiny minority of people yelled and squealed and then got vaccinated.

As a result of these GOP lies and a steady campaign in right-wing media and among Republican politicians casting doubt on vaccines, however, we have the worst Covid numbers and the highest Covid death toll in the developed world.

And we're all forced to interact with 60 million people who refuse to get vaccinated or even wear masks because they either are willing to lay down their lives and health to help the GOP or were simply suckered into false beliefs by "friends" on social media.

As David Leonhardt documents at The New York Times:

"In October [2021], 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened."

Every one of those deaths was a loss to a family, a human tragedy. And the majority of them were preventable — if only Republican politicians had decided that human lives were more important than political power.

Instead, they chose the classic tactic of tyrants throughout history: lie to the people no matter how many die as a result.

The GOP now stands for trolls, vigilantes, death

The Rittenhouse verdict sent a shudder through America as terrorists and vigilantes celebrated: one right-winger called for wholesale slaughter of Democrats saying on Telegram, "The left won't stop until their bodies get stacked up like cord wood."

On Facebook, right-wing sites celebrating the verdict were the most popular nationwide by a factor of 9 to 1.

The parents of Anthony Huber, who Rittenhouse killed as Huber tried to disarm him, put out a public statement that said, in part:

Today's verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.

A right-wing militia group in New York celebrated in the streets and then put a punctuation mark on their disdain for the law and simple rules of a civil society by entering the NY subway system through the emergency exit, bypassing the toll booths. "Rules don't apply to us!" they seemed to be shouting, along with, "You can't stop us!"

Trump wannabees in public office who are still trying to capture the white supremacist and white nationhood vote have doubled down on his strategy of fear, hate, and vigilantism.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for example, recently signed into law legislation that gives legal protections to people who drive their cars into protesters in the street and defines everybody in any protest as a criminal felon if anybody in that protest breaks a window or engages in other illegal activity.

With DeSantis and other Republican governors pre-exonerating people like the driver who viciously killed Heather Heyer and vigilante protest shooters like Rittenhouse, many are worried that we're entering a new era where vigilante shooters and drivers-into-crowds will become as normalized and accepted as Amy Vanderpool documents how normalized daily mass shootings have become in America.

Laws similar to Florida's have been passed or are pending in numerous Republican-controlled states, presumably in anticipation of citizen protests when those states use their newly passed laws to overturn the will of voters in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Object to your politicians handing an election they lost to themselves? You go straight from the streets to the jail, just like in tinhorn dictatorships.

There's always been a fringe movement of violent white supremacist vigilantes in America, particularly since the end of the Civil War, but they've never before been embraced by or succeeded in capturing a political party. Today, astonishingly, that's the case in our country.

So, what's motivating today's vigilantes and the police who often aid and support them, as in the Rittenhouse case?

Centuries ago, as white people fanned out across this continent to occupy land stolen from Native Americans, it usually took years or decades for stable government institutions to be created, including local police forces. Therefore, communities would organize their own forces, called "vigilance committees" whose job was to be "vigilant" to protect their own homes and communities.

That sort of "classic vigilantism" pretty much completely disappeared in the US after the Civil War, however, when the southern-state slave patrols were merged into those states' militias (what we call the National Guard) and professional police forces, state and local, took over.

Modern post-Civil War violent vigilantism, therefore, doesn't usually emerge because the government is failing to protect citizens, and communities field their own equivalent of police forces.

Instead, these days it's almost always a conservative response to cultural change that creates a vigilante backlash.

Virtually the dictionary definition of "conservative" is "opposed to rapid change in society." That's why, as America becomes more diverse and states like Texas have become less than 50% white, racist "conservative" factions that have had a home in the GOP since 1968 are turning to violence to try to maintain the absolute dominance of straight white men in American society.

When the US Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, for example, those who were opposed to that change in our society, symbolized by the Roe v Wade decision, organized vigilante groups that threatened women outside abortion clinics, followed and harassed women getting healthcare and people who worked in the clinics, and murdered multiple doctors and bombed multiple clinics across the nation.

In the 1980s, conservative billionaires who supported Reagan helped impose neoliberal austerity on America, so for forty years the country has been on a steady decline as jobs went overseas, wages fell so badly the middle class sagged below 50% of Americans by 2015, and a general rage began to build across the country.

Much of that rage was channeled into "anti-government" movements that were encouraged by Reagan, who told us that government was the problem and not the solution. Neoliberal billionaires backed Republican politicians who kept their taxes low while openly and proudly obstructing any government efforts to help working class people.

The GOP also revived Nixon's "Southern Strategy" in 1980 using open appeals to racism with Reagan warning about "strapping young bucks" and Black "welfare queens" taking white people's tax dollars. George HW Bush put it on steroids in 1992 with his "Willie Horton" television advertisements against Michael Dukakis, charging the Democrat wasn't doing enough to protect Massachusetts from violent Black criminals.

By this time the GOP had totally embraced neoliberalism and stopped proposing any sort of policies that would lift up America. Instead, their efforts went to subsidizing billionaires with tax cuts, and increasing profits for polluting industries via deregulation.

Working class white people continued to fall behind, particularly in rural areas, as wealthy CEOs and trust-fund billionaires made out like bandits, pouring their surplus cash into the campaigns of politicians because five rightwingers on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery with Citizens United in 2010.

The Republican answer to the growing white angst in the country was to start a movement against affirmative action in the 1980s and 1990s, calling it "reverse racism," reviving the old saw from the 1950s that "Black people want to take your job!"

Women, since the 1970s, have also been successfully competing for jobs formerly held by white men, building misogynous frustration and rage among lower-income and lower-education white men, and turning incels murderous.

Much of this white male rage was channeled in the 1990s into the fringe "white nationalist" movement, which got their martyrs with Ruby Ridge (1992) and Waco (1993), where heavily armed white supremacists shot it out with the feds and lost terribly.

That provoked Tim McVeigh to follow The Turner Diaries "create a race-based civil war by provoking the government to seize guns so we can fight back" script and blow up the federal building in Oklahoma City on the anniversary of Waco in 1995, killing 168 and injuring 860.

He, however, was condemned by both political parties and ultimately put to death by a Republican president. The GOP had not yet fully turned toward embracing fascists, vigilantes and terrorists in the 1990s.

Modern race-based vigilantism with the support of the GOP took a big step forward after 9/11, when multiple Republican leaders used that crime as an excuse to vilify Muslims specifically and brown-skinned Arabs more generally. Most famously, Donald Trump perpetrated the lie that Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating in the streets the afternoon of 9/11.

George W. Bush took that anti-Muslim energy and amplified it as he pushed a revenge-based war against Afghanistan and Iraq, another Muslim country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

Following Bush's presidency, a Black man whose middle name was Hussein became our president, creating a frenzy of bizarre conspiracy theories on the Fox Propaganda Channel and across right-wing internet and social media outlets.

Was Obama a "real" American? Was he really a secret Kenyan Muslim sleeper agent? Was he trying to flip America communist with his radical Obamacare program? Trump and Republicans were asserting that those were all true claims.

With the hard right now empowered by these conspiracy theories on Fox and talk radio, in 2014 Cliven Bundy challenged the authority of the Obama administration to restrict him from grazing his cows on public federal land without paying a grazing fee; Obama flinched and backed down, giving Bundy and armed, anti-government white men a huge national PR victory (as well as getting his cows back).

Two years later his son, Ammon Bundy, attacked and occupied another federal facility, this time the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon near the Idaho border. His armed vigilantes pointed their weapons at federal officers on live television, and, again, the Obama administration backed down.

Bundy's 2016 "victory" animated white supremacist vigilantes across the nation and made him enough of a media figure that he's now running in the GOP primary for governor of Idaho.

Things really stepped up throughout the Trump administration when the new president openly welcomed white nationhood militias and neo-Nazis into the GOP and praised them from the presidential pulpit, something no president had done since Woodrow Wilson hosted the debut of the Klan recruiting film Birth of a Nation at the White House in 1915.

Trump invited vigilantes to the southern border to "help" with the problem of brown-skinned refugees trying to enter the country, and sucked up to police, encouraging them to be even more brutal with (presumably minority) criminal suspects.

His presidency marked a turning point for American politics, with the GOP abandoning any pretense of caring about policy debates to full-on embrace fear and hate of racial, religious, and gender minorities as their core political position and strategy going forward.

As a result, NBC News chronicles, threats against federal officials reported to Capitol Police have about tripled since Trump's first year in office, reaching over 9,000 incidents so far this year.

When we've seen these kinds of things happen in other countries, we've historically called them out as naked assaults on democracy; now Trump and his armed Republican faction have turned America's moral and political standing in the world on its head.

International observers have issued repeated alarms about the state of democracy in America since Trump's 2016 election. In 2017, we were downgraded by The Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit: instead of being a "full democracy," we are now a "flawed democracy." The international think tank IDEA just reported that we're now a "backsliding democracy."

Today, while the Democratic Party is working hard to secure benefits to all Americans, the Republicans have only two responses: block legislation and support armed white nationhood vigilantes.

All the Republican Party has left, now that they've abandoned any pretense over the past 40 years of supporting working people or even rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, is hate, fear and death.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1933 inaugural address about an earlier generation of Republican obstructionists: "They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish."

And if we don't return to sanity, our democracy could perish as well.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

It really is time for a debate about taking weapons of war off the streets

This article was first published by The Hartmann Report.

Expect the gun control debate in America to really get hot over the next 12 months as Beto O'Rourke runs for governor of Texas. O'Rourke said, when running for president in 2019, "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47!"

And it's entirely time for this debate. America has just a bit more than 4 percent of the world's population, but, with more guns than people in our country, we have more than 40 percent of all the guns in civilian hands in the world.

Specifically, as a Swiss-based research group found, there are "approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms in the world's 230 countries and territories" and, as ABC News points out, in America there are "over 393 million firearms in civilian possession" as of 2017. About ten million more have been sold in the US since then: we are the only nation in the world with more guns than people.

When asked recently if Beto O'Rourke stands by his position that, at the very least, we should get weapons of war off our streets like every other developed country in the world has already done, his answer was straightforward.

"Look," he said, "We are a state that has a long, proud tradition of responsible gun ownership. And most of us here in Texas do not want to see our friends, our family members, our neighbors shot up with these weapons of war. So, yes, I still hold this view."

Expect millions to be spent by the gun manufacturers and Beto's Republican opponents on TV ads depicting "jackbooted government thugs" breaking down doors to confiscate guns. (Beto suggested a gun buy-back program like Australia and Canada have done, but since the Supreme Court legalized both political bribery and unaccountable money in elections, all bets are off when it comes to truth in political advertising.)

For every 100 people in America, there are 120 guns. Among developed nations, next highest on the list is Canada, at 34 per 100 people, and all other developed countries are lower down the list than that: South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, for example, all clock in at less than one gun per 100 people.

America not only leads the world in gun ownership but, predictably, we also lead the world in gun deaths. As an exhaustive study of gun deaths in the world's 23 wealthiest countries published in The American Journal of Medicine found:

"US homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher. For 15- to 24-year-olds, the gun homicide rate in the United States was 49.0 times higher. Firearm-related suicide rates were 8.0 times higher in the United States... Unintentional firearm deaths were 6.2 times higher in the United States. The overall firearm death rate in the United States from all causes was 10.0 times higher."

Astonishingly, they added, ninety percent of all women killed by firearms in these 23 countries are in the United States, as well as 91 percent of all children killed by firearms. Fully 82 percent of all the human beings living in the world's wealthy countries killed by firearms lived in the USA.

Only ten percent of the wealthy world's firearms deaths occurred in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland combined.

Other countries have gotten their gun violence under control by simply reducing the number of guns in circulation and requiring gun owners to do two of the three things we do across America for car owners: be licensed and register your weapon. I'd add that we should include mandatory liability insurance, like we do for cars: the insurance companies would then sniff out the "high risk" gun owners and refuse to insure them, thus preventing them from owning a gun.

But Beto, at least in this case, is merely asking that we take weapons of war off the streets and out of our homes. We've already banned fully-automatic weapons, shoulder-fired missiles, sawed-off shotguns and a variety of other things typically only used to kill other human beings: it's not a stretch to join the rest of the developed world and ban Rittenhouse's AR15 and Russian AK47s.

Gallup found last year that 57 percent of Americans, and 85 percent of Democrats, want stricter gun laws in America.

On the other hand, Republican politicians are moving in the opposite direction: Madison Cawthorn said after the Rittenhouse verdict that Republicans should "be armed and dangerous," while Marjorie Traitor Greene said, "[G]un rights are the only thing holding back the Communist Revolution the Democrats are waging."

Because neofascists like these in the Republican Party continue to try to push America toward armed civil war, gun control appears to be an issue that animates Republicans—enthusiastic about seeing Democrats and people of color die at the hands of vigilantes—far more than Democrats.

That recent Gallup poll found "a drop in support [for gun control] among Republicans, from 36% in 2019 to 22% in 2020."

This may complicate things for Beto O'Rourke and other Democrats who are running on the entirely rational position of taking weapons of war off our streets to save American lives.

Republicans' newfound enthusiasm for the murder of Democrats and people of color, as seen splashed across conservative media after the Rittenhouse verdict, could cause an increase in GOP voter turnout when primed with a gun-control debate without a similar increase on the Democratic side.

And that—unless Democrats begin to engage with the gun control debate in a big way—could make both Beto's job of creating a less deadly Texas far more difficult.

Can Beto and other Democrats trying to save American lives through even the most minimal gun control succeed in turning this debate around? Time will tell…

The GOP's new 'Southern Strategy' evokes civil war and bloodshed — but it has a fatal flaw

On Wednesday, all but two Republicans in the House of Representatives went on record saying it's okay to openly encourage the assassination of one of their own, a person of color and elected Member of the House.

That part about Representative Ocasio-Cortez not being white was no coincidence, by the way. It was really at the core of the issue: Republicans now openly refer to her and the women of color who call themselves "the Squad" as the "Jihad caucus." As in "Muslim terrorists," as in "the Other."

Earlier in the day, known antisemite and racist Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called for her followers to prepare for war because "Joe Biden didn't win the 2020 election" and "the only way you get freedom back after you've lost it is with the price of blood."

We heard this rhetoric, too, many years ago when a much earlier generation of white supremacists tried to gin up bloodshed in America.

"The time for war has not yet come," Stonewall Jackson said in a speech to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in March, 1861, "but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard."

Jackson and his ilk frequently tried to pretend the Civil War was about some high principle instead of just being a naked defense of legal enslavement, but their own proclamations of secession betrayed them.

No matter how much Republicans — and some white Democrats — want to try to pretend that the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties today isn't primarily about race, it is. And it's only a small part of a much larger Republican political strategy that, itself, is also all about race.

There was a time in America when straight white people lived in nice, comfortable white bubbles. I grew up in one of them in the 1950s; the most "exotic" people in our lower-middle-class Lansing, Michigan neighborhood were Jewish, and I didn't even realize that distinction until I was a teenager.

The only people of color we saw were on TV; even the milkman, mailman and delivery people were white. And the non-white folks we saw on TV were always, always depicted as either criminals or buffoons. And gay people? Even discussing Liberace's sexuality was a no-no.

Mom was in the kitchen or pregnant, and knew her place. One white man with a union job could raise a family without debt beyond a mortgage and car payment. People of color need not apply for the American Dream.

This is the straight white world today's Republican Party wants to take America back to. They're all but shouting it with slogans like "Make America Great Again!"

When the GOP went nuts about six Dr. Seuss books being dropped by the author's family from publication, it was — no coincidence — the six books in which Seuss had drawn racist caricatures. And he wasn't violating the norms of his day: caricatures of buck-toothed Asians, swarthy gun-toting mustachioed Mexicans, and big-lipped Black people were all over the cartoons we watched as children in the 1950s. They are shocking today, but they were normal and common then, and the GOP wants to go back to that.

When we studied American history in elementary school the 1950s, we learned that Christopher Columbus was a great man who defied conventional wisdom and monsters at the "edge of the earth" to discover this golden land, just waiting for white people to show up and tame it. (A woman around my age who called into my program yesterday noted that she was "really pissed off" when, in her first year of college, she took a history course and discovered Columbus was actually a rapist, child-trafficker and a slaver.)

We also learned that most slave-masters (particularly the Founding Fathers) were really, really nice and thoughtful people who took good care of the poor, uneducated, primitive folks they "had under their care." To this day, there are still some textbooks in America that emphasize how slaveholding white people generously provided not only housing, food and clothing but also medical care for their charges.

Republicans today want to go back to that type of history for their children. They dress it all up with fancy language about "Critical Race Theory" but the bottom line for these white people is that they don't want their kids to grow up knowing that Black people and other people of color are just like them but with a different amount of pigment in their skin. They want that pigment difference to be THE defining characteristic, and they want teachers, police, and other authority figures to enforce segregation based on it.

In the years after the Brown v Board decision in 1954, entire public school systems shut down to avoid racial integration; one Virginia county went five years without a public school opening.

There was an explosion of "religious schools," from private elementary and high school "academies" to centers of higher education like Bob Jones University that were explicitly and entirely whites-only. Promoting these types of functionally all-white schools continued from the 1950s right through Betsy DeVos's time as Trump's Secretary of Education.

When white people show up at school board meetings shouting that "We know where you live!" and leaving death threats on people's home phones, it's not because they're flipped out by historic and legal nuances having to do with past discrimination: it's because they want their safely segregated schools back.

And they're getting them: American schools are more racially segregated now than they were in 1968.

And when those schools are almost entirely "whites only" (the school districts where we're seeing the majority of these "protests"), those "parents" want them purged of anything that might shatter for their white children the idea held by white people in this country for 400 years that everybody who's not white — from genocidally slaughtered Native Americans to Africans brought in chains to Mexicans whose land we also stole to Asians we once excluded from immigration — are all basically sub-human.

This is how these Republican white supremacists think, and if that sounds outrageous simply check out their literature and behavior. A good starting point is with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The news media sanitized the Virginia election, saying that Republican Youngkin won "on education issues." That's patently false: he won on racism. And it's damn well time that the media start pointing it out. It took them three years to start calling Trump's lies "lies" — how long will it take to call Republican racism "racism"?

When I went into the job market in the 1960s, the headings in the "Help Wanted" part of the newspaper were "Help Wanted – Men" and "Help Wanted - Women." There was no "Help Wanted – Black People" because everybody knew there was a very, very narrow range of jobs for which Black people could be hired. Like in much of America then, Black people (and most other minorities) were limited in where they could work, get a mortgage, live, and even walk or drive; if they pushed the boundaries, they risked violence and a horrible, painful death at the hands of police or vigilantes.

When I was a kid, Richard and Mildred Loving were rousted from their wedding bed by police for the crime of getting married; he was white and she was Black. They were sentenced to a year in prison: interracial marriage was a crime in parts of America until 1967.

When I got my first job in 1965 as a teenage hamburger-flipper in an all-white burger joint, there were large parts of Lansing where Black people simply couldn't go. I still remember my parents taking me to a fancy downtown hotel's restaurant for some celebration in the mid-1950s and there was a sign off to the side of the door that pointed toward the rear of the building and said, "Colored Entrance." That, at the time, was considered enlightened: at least the hotel let Black people into its public areas.

But race has always permeated politics, and voting is at the foundation of the political process.

In 1993, no state in the union required ID to vote, even though Paul Weyrich (co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and then with the Reagan campaign) said right out loud that, "I don't want everybody to vote. … As a matter of fact, quite candidly, our leverage in the elections goes up as the voting populace goes down."

But then Democrats in Congress pushed through the 1993 "Motor Voter" law that required states to let people register to vote when they got their drivers' licenses. Republicans went insane, charging that "millions" of brown-skinned "illegals" would now get drivers' licenses, get registered to vote in the process, and begin flipping elections toward Democrats.

We then used signature-matching to confirm identity (you showed ID to register to vote, and your signature was kept on record), which is the most secure form of identity confirmation easily available. You can buy a reasonably good fake ID for $50, but try forging somebody else's signature while an election official is watching you: it's pretty much impossible. Signatures are called "biometric markers" and they're even more secure than ID.

But Republicans were so certain that hoards of Brown people were going to show up at the polls that they passed laws in state after state to require ID at the polls on top of comparing the voter's signature. It's a pathetic and futile effort: those "illegals" never showed up. Virtually all of the extremely rare "voter fraud" that happens in America is done by white people (most Republicans, based on those busted after 2020) or ex-felons who didn't realize they couldn't vote in their state.

As I lay out in The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote and How to Get It Back, the past thirty years have seen a grotesque orgy of laws, regulations and policy changes designed specifically to make it easier for white suburban voters — and harder for college students, Black city dwellers, and social security voters — to cast a ballot.

Using the political power they get from skewing elections, Republicans want schools to help their children to grow up like many in my generation did, thinking at some unconscious (and often conscious) level that those racist caricatures were depictions of reality and only white people could be thoughtful, intelligent, peaceful problem-solvers like Dad on Leave It To Beaver or Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon or Superman. Or members of Congress or presidents.

White is good, they want their kids told: everybody else is weird, odd, comical, dangerous or "one of them." Or a Democrat.

The last Democrat running for president who won a majority of white people in his election was Lyndon Johnson.

While it's sometimes mentioned tangentially that Carter, Clinton, Obama and Biden all lost the white vote, a sort of parenthetic footnote to election results, it's the foundation of the entire Republican strategy and has been since Nixon invented it with his "Southern Strategy."

When LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964/1965 he left the white racists who'd supported the Democratic Party since before the Civil War without a home. Nixon prepared one, Reagan fluffed up the pillows, and Trump stood out front with a bullhorn and a "whites only" sign.

As it's becoming increasingly obvious to these "racially apprehensive" white people that America as a whole is never returning to the Leave It To Beaver era, they're falling back on their old intimidation and segregation strategies. Red counties in Oregon, for example, are teaming up with white voters in next-door Idaho and won nonbinding ballot measures to secede from Oregon. That sort of thing is popping up all over the country.

It won't work, any more than liberal fantasies of avoiding the armed and angry racists by having California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii split off into their own country will work.

Red/Blue rhetoric aside, America is one country. The Mike Flynn's and Donald Trump's of the world realize this and are calling for straight white people to rise up and take over by force, imposing a single religion, rigid gender roles, putting women "back in their place," and re-marginalizing all nonwhite minorities.

The "battle for the soul of America" so often highlighted, headlined, and bemoaned by the media is real, but they almost always miss the real story, the signal, for all the noise (to paraphrase Steve Bannon). It's actually a battle between a vision of America that's once again entirely under the thumb of straight white people versus one where everybody has an equal voice and an equal chance.

There are a hell of a lot of white racists out there; enough to put Trump in the White House, put race-baiting Republicans in the House and Senate, and secure control over thirty states.

But culture is inexorably changing. People from a multitude of hues and gender identities are showing up in media and business, and their numbers are growing. White supremacist school board assaults aside, educators and their students are teaching and learning the true racial history of America. (It's increasingly hard to avoid!)

No matter how much people like Marjorie Taylor Greene talk up civil war and bloodshed, they can't stop progress. They may win for a short while, maybe even a few years or election cycles, but time and history run against them.

The fight for democracy and humanity will continue, no matter how many people vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse or the cops kill, no matter how many racist white Republicans threaten the lives of their nonwhite colleagues.

Genuinely patriotic Americans who want a country that pulls together for the good of all — an E Pluribus Unum ("Out of Many, One") America — are on the ascent across America, even as the GOP has gone insane.

Nonetheless, it will take a lot of involvement and work to overcome both our racist history and the forces (both domestic and foreign) that seek to exploit racial divisions in this country.

Racism and violence are the GOP's brand these days, and if the media doesn't start calling them out explicitly for it, things are going to continue to get worse.

A new poll by the Marquette Law School found that while the GOP is largely united behind a 2024 Trump run for the White House, only 28 percent of all Americans agree. Seventy-one percent of Americans want Trump to leave our politics alone and go back to being a billionaire grifter.

Racist Republicans are the outliers, but they are motivated and well armed with significant white billionaire backing.

If we want democracy and decency to ultimately prevail, we have an enormous amount of political and restorative work to do before we rest. Don't lose faith: as Winston Churchill famously said, "Never give up!"

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The media must refuse to be complicit in another Republican attempt to steal the presidency

We're demonizing the wrong people.

This is not a call to "understand" or "have compassion" for Trump voters. Instead, it's a call for a wholesale political and social indictment of Trump's Big Lie, along with every elected Republican politician or media member who knows Trump lost but keeps perpetuating that Lie.

If we fail, history may repeat itself and — this time — the result will be far worse than Bush's lying us into two wars and privatizing Medicare.

That, in part, is because numerous Republican-controlled states are passing laws and gaming out scenarios that could enable a repeat of a variation on the election of 1876: if GOP-controlled swing states submit multiple slates of electors denying either candidate 270 uniquely certified Electoral College votes, the election could again get thrown to the House of Representatives (as was the election of 1800, too), where Trump (or another neofascist Republican) would win.

Democrats tend to forget that Donald Trump received about 10 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. It's why he's still a potent political force in America and around the world.

Although Biden got around 7 million more votes than Trump and overwhelmingly won the popular (and Electoral College) votes, Trump's raw-numbers electoral popularity actually went up at the end of the 4 years of his presidency.

Those Trump voters — from the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th to the folks who just quietly showed up at the polls and never mentioned anything political to neighbors, friends or relatives — believed he was the best guy for the presidency.

And today, about three-quarters of them (76%) also now believe that his presidency was stolen from him in 2020.

Consider, for a moment, if the tables were reversed:

It's 2024 and President Biden and Donald Trump just faced off in the election. Biden wins the popular vote by over 10 million, but the Electoral College vote is up in the air because of a weird constitutional technicality.

Just like in the election of 1876, several swing states in the midst of political turmoil have submitted dueling slates of electors, one (based on the popular vote) for Biden and another (reflecting the will of the state legislature) for Trump. And, just like in 1876, when you exclude the "contested states" neither candidate hits the 50%-plus-one electoral votes needed (now 270) to win the White House.

Under the 12th Amendment, as John Eastman pointed out in his 2020 memo to Trump (and echoed by Jenna Ellis and Mark Meadows), that throws the election to the House of Representatives, where each state has one single vote, that vote being decided by each state's legislature back home. Thirty states are Republican-controlled and submit their 30 votes for Trump, with Biden receiving the remaining 20: the House declares the election goes to Trump.

Democrats immediately sue before the Supreme Court, but — for the second time in history — the Court awards the presidency to the Republican who lost the popular vote amid a contested Electoral College vote.

Trump, say the Republicans in Congress and on the Court, is to be sworn in as president a few weeks after the votes are certified on January 6th, 2024.

But President Biden calls a press conference to tell the nation that the states that submitted dual ballots were behaving with corrupt intent just to allow this very scenario to play out.

"Trump and his Republican allies used a technicality in our Constitution and law to claim they won an election they very clearly lost," Biden says. "Americans shouldn't stand for this!"

All across the country, people begin pouring into the streets. Pitched battles break out between Trump and Biden supporters, as cities are set afire and hundreds die from gunshots.

What do you do?

This would be, after all, the fourth time Republicans have tried to use this same strategy to bring a presidential election around to themselves on their own terms, and the first two out of three times they were successful.

How Republicans Pulled It Off In 1876

The first was the election of 1876, when the Republican who lost that election (both popular and Electoral College), Rutherford B. Hayes, was nonetheless installed as president by the House of Representatives in March, 1877.

Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote nationwide but, with 184 electoral votes, was one vote short of the then-necessary 185 electoral votes to become president.

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes not only lost the popular vote but had only 163 uncontested electoral votes. (He was sold to voters as an antidote to the Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens who'd worked so hard to bring formerly enslaved people into politics. White supremacists were rising again…in both parties.)

Ohio's Republican Congressman James Monroe (not related to the president of generations earlier of the same name) wrote the definitive summary of that election and how it played out in Congress, a narrative he published in the Atlantic in October 1893.

Pointing out that "the votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina, with an aggregate of 22 electors" would turn the election to either Hayes or Tilden, Monroe (who was there) wrote, "From the States just named there were two sets of returns, one favorable to General Hayes, the other to Mr. Tilden."

The dispute had to do with three of those four states then being occupied by the Union Army (this was just 11 years after the Civil War ended, and Reconstruction was in full swing). At the same time, the Klan was riding high in all four states and ran much of Oregon's politics as a "utopian all-white frontier."

Formerly enslaved African Americans were trying to turn out large numbers of voters for the Republican candidate, but there was also widespread Klan activity suppressing that Black vote. On the other side, Democrats in Congress charged that Union soldiers had intimidated Southern Democratic voters, suppressing their vote.

Monroe wrote the Democrats charged "that these returns [in those four states for Republican Hayes] were a product of fraud and dishonesty; that, in preparing them, the vote of whole precincts, parishes, and counties had been thrown out in order to secure Hayes electors… [and] they did not represent the people of those States, but were themselves the product of fraud and corruption, and were kept in place only by what was called the 'moral influence' of Federal bayonets."

The nation nearly exploded, wrote Monroe:

The feeling of mutual hostility had been greatly intensified by party leaders, orators, and presses. In some of our cities it took all the terrors of the police court to keep Democrats and Republicans from breaking the peace.

The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, had a simple solution to the problem of neither candidate winning a majority of electoral votes. "[I]f no person have such majority," the 12th Amendment says, "then… the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote…"

Because all the Southern states had now been re-admitted to the Union, a majority of the House of Representatives that year were controlled by Democrats, as were a majority of the states. With each state's delegation having only one vote, the Democratic-controlled House representing a Democratic majority of states would end up making Democrat Tilden the president, something the Republicans wouldn't go along with.

Republicans added that because the 12th Amendment also says that "The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the [electoral] votes shall then be counted…" that the president of the Senate should be the one to make the call as to which state's contested votes were legitimate.

The Constitution provides that the vice president shall be the president of the Senate, but President Ulysses Grant's veep, Henry Wilson, had died the previous year and Grant hadn't replaced him; the president of the Senate in 1876 was Senator Thomas Ferry of Michigan, a Republican.

"[I]t would have been as unsatisfactory to Republicans to have the vote declared by the House," wrote Monroe, "as it would have been to Democrats to have it declared by the President of the Senate."

"The situation was serious," Monroe wrote. "Some thoughtful men felt that perhaps the greatest peril that the Republic had encountered was not that of the Civil War" but that "within a hundred days, people would be cutting each other's throats."

Of Senator Banning of Ohio, "My colleague," Monroe wrote, "declared in a speech, that, if the Republicans should attempt to carry out their theory of the election, and if a part of the army with eighty rounds of ammunition, and the navy, should be ordered to support them, then the people would put them all down."

In response, Virginia's Congressman Goode stood up and loudly asked his colleagues if they were willing to restart the Civil War.

"A shout of 'Yes' went up from the Republican side of the House," wrote Monroe.

Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and both sides worked out a compromise that gave the GOP the White House but only on the condition that the newly minted President Hayes would remove Union troops from the Southern states, ending Reconstruction.

The republic was saved and the Republicans took the White House, but only by selling out Southern Black people for the next hundred years.

How Republicans Pulled It Off in 2000

In the 2000 election, Texas Governor George W. Bush and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, appear to have worked together to rig the Florida outcome. Because it all came out after Bush was already sworn in a month earlier, the American media largely ignored the story when the BBC broke it on February 16, 2001.

Greg Palast did the report for the BBC, which has a transcript on their website. They note:

Did Governor Jeb Bush, his Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and her Director of Elections, Clayton Roberts, know they had wrongly barred 22,000 Black, Democrat voters before the elections? After the elections did they use their powers to prevent the count of 20,000 votes for the Democrats? The Democrats say the answers to both questions are yes.

Jeb Bush, Palast found, had paid an outside vendor $4 million to take a felon list supplied by Texas and compare its names against the entire Florida voter database, using loose matches that didn't always involve middle names or dates of birth.

As a result, at least 22,000 Florida voters, most Black men with similar names to Black felons in Texas, were purged from the voting rolls just before the election. (His report for the BBC is at the bottom of this article.)

While the American public was largely unaware of this aspect of the 2000 election, the Florida Supreme Court approved an appeal from Florida Democrats and ordered a recount of that state's vote.

Roger Stone claims he helped organize the so-called "Brooks Brothers Riot" in which staffers for multiple Republican lawmakers went to Florida and, along with local GOP activists, demanded that the State Supreme Court-ordered recount be stopped. It got nationwide news coverage, although it was presented merely as average Floridians expressing outrage.

Piggybacking on the apparent GOP outrage in Florida, five Republican appointees on the US Supreme Court stopped that then-already-ongoing recount of the Florida vote, something that had never before happened in US history.

In the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision in 2000 that stopped the Florida recount — and thus handed George W. Bush the presidency — Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his opinion:

The counting of votes … does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [George W. Bush], and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election.

Apparently, denying the presidency to Al Gore, the guy who actually won the most votes in Florida and won the popular vote nationwide by over a half-million, did not constitute "irreparable harm" to Scalia or the media.

And apparently it wasn't important that Scalia's son worked for a law firm that was defending George W. Bush before the high court (with no Scalia recusal).

Just like it wasn't important to mention that Justice Clarence Thomas's wife worked on the Bush transition teambefore the Supreme Court shut down the recount in Florida — and was busy accepting resumes from people who would serve in the Bush White House if her husband stopped the recount in Florida…which he did. (No Thomas recusal, either.)

More than a year after the election a consortium of newspapers including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today did their own recount of the vote in Florida — manually counting every vote in a process that took almost a year — and concluded that Al Gore did indeed win the presidency in 2000.

As the November 12th, 2001 article in The New York Times read:

If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won.

That little bit of info was slipped into the seventeenth paragraph of the Times story so that it would attract as little attention as possible because the 9/11 attacks had happened just weeks earlier and journalists feared that burdening Americans with the plain truth that George W. Bush actually lost the election would further hurt a nation already in crisis.

How Republicans Tried To Pull It Off a Third Time in 2020

The third time wasn't the charm.

Roger Stone and his friends pulled together another "stop the steal" event on January 6th to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president, using the same sort of rhetoric about "sore loser Democrats" that had worked so well for them in Florida 20 years earlier.

Blowing up his scheme, the Supreme Court refused to intervene this time and the election went to Biden. But Trump continued — as President of the United States — to insist the election had been stolen from him.

In 2000 the mainstream American media had largely turned against Al Gore, as the five rightwingers on the Supreme Court had given an aura of legitimacy to Bush's selection as president.

In 2020, by contrast, the Court said "No," so mainstream media clearly saw and reported that Biden had won the election.

Multiple rightwing media outlets, however, including 1,500 rightwing English-language radio stations, several hundred Spanish-language rightwing radio stations, and three rightwing television networks, picked up Trump's claim of a stolen election and echoed and amplified it as if it were true. Facebook's algorithm pushed Trump's false claim into millions more American homes.

The result was the most massive polarization of the American electorate since the Civil War, and an open and armed assault on the US Capitol.

Which brings us back to 2024.

If the media chooses their 2020 course, Biden may prevail.

If they follow their 2000 script, though, ignoring election irregularities and outright fraud that benefits Republicans, Trump will probably be installed in the White House.

And the Supreme Court may again play an illegitimate role in it all.

So, what will Democrats do? Will we be in the streets? Will protest even be possible?

Will second-term President Trump succeed in mobilizing the military — as he unsuccessfully tried to do in 2020 — to violently put down protests like tinhorn dictators do, and again begin snatching people off the streets in unmarked vans like he did in Portland last year?

And, thinking of the scenario in these terms, consider what it teaches us about how we should deal with the "stolen election" dynamic Trump is now promoting.

It depends in large part on Republicans continuing to believe Trump's Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

The best way to stop this nightmare before it happens is for both elected Democrats (and the few semi-sane Republicans left, like Cheney and Christie) and the nation's media to not only call out Trump's lie, but also call out the media that keeps it alive.

And fixing our broken Electoral College by revising the 1877 Electoral Count Act that followed the election of 1876 couldn't hurt (taking the Electoral College out of the Constitution altogether, the best solution, is an unrealistically big lift for today).

Otherwise, we may well be facing that terrible question that Trump true believers faced last year: what do we do?

It's time to stop this before it goes any farther. Winter is coming...

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The mounting evidence of extreme danger posed by the QAnon doomsday cult

A significant number of Qanon followers, according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, believe the end-point of their religion will be reached when Donald Trump takes back control of America, unleashes police to mass-arrest elected and other high-profile Democrats, and Qanon followers then engage in an orgy of violence and murder against Democratic Party-aligned neighbors, friends and family.

Already, one believer has murdered two of his children, saying they had "serpent DNA" and had to be killed to save humanity. There's evidence that a majority of the people who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th, leading to more than a half-dozen deaths and nearly overthrowing our republic, were solidly within the Qanon cult.

This isn't quite as weird as it sounds; mass death or even murder of unbelievers, often for political or "End of Days" rationales, is a familiar trope within multiple world religions.

Over the years I've spent a lot of time in Israel, which is frequently the target of evangelists trying to convert Jews in anticipation of the End Times.

Many of these evangelists are quite upfront about their belief that in the end times, in preparation for the return of Jesus, all but 144,000 of the roughly 7 million Jews in Israel must die. And those who survive will all be converted to Christianity and "wear the names of the Father and Son on their foreheads throughout eternity." When that happens, Jesus comes down from the sky.

It's a belief that millions of Christians — and a solid majority of white Evangelicals — fervently hold, and one of the reasons why there's so much support for Israel among the Republican white Evangelical movement: that's where the mass death has to happen to bring back Jesus.

Jim Jones and David Koresh were proponents of such End Times beliefs, among others, and Hitler leaned heavily on Christian themes and prophecy to justify his slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and gays.

"In defending myself against the Jews, I am acting for the Lord," Hitler said. "The difference between the church and me is that I am finishing the job."

There are similar death-cult movements within Sunni Islam, most famously offshoots of the Wahabism that's as widespread in Saudi Arabia as Evangelical Christianity is in the United States.

In both cases, the death-cult aspect of these religions has emerged in just the past two centuries; the most spectacular unveiling of Wahabism's willingness to kill was seen by the world on September 11, 2001 at the former World Trade Center in New York City.

The genocide of Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority (mostly promoted via Facebook, which has been accused of complicity in the slaughter) was justified, they said, by the religion of Buddhism, which is generally considered one of the more peaceful among the world's great faiths.

Much like the "Old Testament" documents numerous slaughters called for or approved by G-d (particularly in the Book of Joshua), the Hindu Vedas detail multiple, sometimes genocidal wars, both as metaphors for the "battle for inner peace and enlightenment," and as actual historical stories.

So what are we to make of the apparent reality that several million Americans — many sucked into this by Facebook and other social media, just like the killers in Myanmar — are followers of a religion that either predicts or calls for the murder of Jews and Democrats?

So far they've racked up an impressive record, by American cult standards. They include, as reported by Lois Beckett at The Guardian:

All, apparently, in the name of Qanon, the religion that has now become the core of their lives.

And that doesn't include the better-known instances, like the guy who shot up a pizza joint near DC looking for the basement where Hillary Clinton hid children whose blood she was going to drain to obtain adrenochrome.

Or the fellow who blew himself up in front of the AT&T building in Nashville to stop the lizard people.

One theory is that a "tribe of the mentally ill" are finding each other through Facebook and other social media and being led by Donald Trump, himself a case study in mental illness.

The University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism notes that 68 percent of the open Qanon followers arrested at the US Capitol on January 6th who had also committed crimes before or after that coup attempt "have documented mental health concerns, according to court records and other public sources."

Their psychological issues included "post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy."

The "Qanon Shaman" of so many iconic 1/6 pictures has now pleaded mental illness as his reason for showing up at the Capitol, as have two others who "were found to be mentally unfit to stand trial and were transferred to mental health care facilities."

Of the six women arrested on 1/6 who'd also committed crimes before or after the coup attempt, the researchers note, "all six…have documented mental health concerns."

But that's probably far too glib an explanation: tens of millions of Americans are members of odd cults, many that believe in the end times, and most mental health professionals would be reluctant to call them all mentally ill.

Mainstream Christians teach their children about a guy who has flying reindeer, after all, and most Americans profess to believe in a Jewish guy 2000 years ago who rose from the dead after walking on water and turning water into wine.

Another theory is that Qanon is meeting some deep social or psychological need for people who otherwise feel marginalized in society. A year of lockdown from Covid could certainly exacerbate this loneliness and search for community and belonging.

Or maybe it's just the power of Facebook's algorithm and new "group" system. At the very least, it's been mobilizing Qanon-friendly/aligned white people across small-town America.

Last summer on a warm Sunday night in the small Oregon town of Klamath Falls about 200 locals showed up downtown with guns, baseball bats, and whatever other weapons they could find around the house to fight off the busloads of Black Antifa marauders who they believed Jewish billionaire George Soros had paid to put on a bus in Portland and was sending their way.

Of course, George Soros had done no such thing and there were no busloads of Black people. But the warnings were all over the Klamath Falls Facebook group, and, it turns out, similar Facebook groups for small towns all over America.

Literally, from coast to coast, that weekend white residents of small towns showed up in their downtown areas with guns, rifles, hammers, and axes prepared to do battle with busloads of Black people being sent into their small white towns by George Soros.

Nobody's sure whether these messages, which activated frightened white people across the nation, came from local white supremacist groups trying to gauge if they could actually kick off a second American Civil War, or whether they came from some foreign government trying to tear America apart.

But they worked.

In the tiny town of Falls, Washington, frightened white people brought out chainsaws and cut down trees to block the road leading to their town.

In South Bend, Indiana police were overwhelmed by 911 calls from frightened white people wanting to know when the "Antifa buses" were arriving.

And in rural Luzern County, Pennsylvania, the local neighborhood social media group warned people that busloads of Black people were "organizing to riot and loot."

Similar stories played out that week from Danville, California to Jacksonville, Florida, as documented by NBC News.

Facebook announced they were banning Qanon groups from the platform, but if their history banning right-wing extremism and Covid lies is any indication, it has little impact.

So what do we do about cult-aligned neighbors who are fantasizing about killing Jews and Democrats?

The FBI has already designated the group as a domestic terrorism threat, although the laws against domestic terrorism are somewhere between weak and non-existent.

And for good reason: if you're a progressive, for example, would you want the force of the federal government coming after you for "domestic terrorism" during a Trump or Josh Hawley administration? That's exactly what's happening in Russia, Hungary and Turkey at this moment, by way of taking down political opponents of those authoritarian regimes.

Deprogramming cult members is a terribly weak game of whack-a-mole. One of my closest friends worked with Ted Patrick back in the 1980s deprogramming cult members who'd been kidnapped or lured away from their cults. It was the tiniest of drops in the bucket, although the deprogramming industry may re-emerge as Covid wanes.

Or are most of these people just so deeply craving social connection and meaning in their lives that Qanon is, for the moment, meeting those needs?

If so, and that was probably the case with many of the cults that were widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, odds are as the cult is discredited they will fall away and join organizations that offer a healthier outlet for their social and activist needs.

That's certainly what happened in the 1980s around the McMartin Preschool "ritual satanic child abuse" allegations that bear such a striking resonance to Qanon's assertion that Democrats are drinking children's blood in new Satanic rituals.

Given that millions of Americans are now members or followers of Qanon, it's also possible the religion will undergo the same kinds of transformation that many of today's smaller but mainstream religions have.

The Seventh Day Adventists, for example, started out as a doomsday cult and are now a healthy and respectable Christian sect. Ditto for the Mormons, the Salvation Army, and, some would argue, the Jehovah's Witnesses.

On the other hand, if the emerging leadership in Qanon continues to center the religion around deifying Trump and fantasizing about killing Jews, Democrats and elected officials, it'll continue to evolve more and more in the direction of being a political hate group like the Klan, which has its own set of Christian-align and antisemitic theories.

To that end, the FBI is now tracking the movement.

It's not surprising that America — which has been an incubator for weird cults for much of our history, particularly in the 1600s and the late 19th century — has come to this place with this newest cult, which is now spilling over worldwide.

And there are still open questions about how much of the Q activity in this country is being incited or driven by foreign actors.

Over time, Qanon will probably either become more of a mainstream religion/social club with a gradually normalizing belief set, or will continue down the antisemitic and racist rabbit hole and shrink in size as their willingness to condone violence becomes more problematic.

However this all shakes out, if a member of your circle of friends or family has fallen into the cult, cutting them off altogether may be the least useful strategy: it will just drive them deeper into the cult, seeking a replacement for lost friends and family and affirmation of their new worldview.

If they're hoarding weapons and talking about killing Jews and/or Democrats, though, it's a good idea to flag family members and let someone in the law enforcement community know.

Freedom of religion is one of America's top values and deserves respect. Terror groups, on the other hand, have no place in a civilized society.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The infrastructure bill could help launch a solar power revolution — but industry will fight it

This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.

Electric vehicle (EV) sales are booming in Oregon: we've gone from around 300 sold a decade ago to over 12,000 sold in our tiny state last year. And EV owners are saving a ton of money on their daily commutes — as much as half the cost of gasoline — by just plugging into their homes every night to recharge.

But what if that home's electricity wasn't generated by a faraway dam or power plant, but from each car owner's own home's roof? The savings and convenience would be revolutionary.

And there's a way to get there, as the technology is already mature and in use in other countries like Germany: we simply shift from a central-power-plant system to a locally-generated-rooftop-system where the utilities, rather than just supplying power, are instead using "smart grids" to keep the entire community up and running even when individual homes have system failures.

It's even possible that some of the $73 billion allocated for grid upgrades in the BIF infrastructure bill passed last Friday could make it happen, although the for-profit utilities are, you can bet, working frantically right now to figure out how to prevent that from happening.

In September, 2009 I was invited to join German Member of Parliament Herman Scheer to give presentations at a conference (page 11) put on at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona in Spain.

Almost a decade earlier, Scheer had shepherded his "100,000 Rooftops" program through the German Parliament and was eager to talk about how it worked and could work in Spain.

We talked at length about his program (his presentation was brilliant), which, in his original idea (which was only partially implemented; there were tons of compromises) was elegantly simple.

By the late 1990s, Germany was facing an energy crisis of sorts: people were freaked out about the nation's nuclear plants and wanted them shut down. For good reason, it turns out.

Back in 1986 on my birthday, May 7th, I flew into Frankfurt to finalize my work visa to move my family to Germany for the following thirteen months (we moved in June). It was a gray, rainy day when I walked out of the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in downtown Frankfurt to walk a block or two to my favorite hotel.

I was shocked to see the city I'd visited so many times completely empty of pedestrians and nearly drained of cars.

At the hotel, the clerk was frantic to take my wet hat and raincoat and send them to the hotel's laundry. "Chernobyl melted down two weeks ago," he told me, "and the cloud with the radiation is right above us now. You must go take a shower immediately!"

As I learned living in rural northwest West Germany for the rest of that year and most of 1987, all of Germany was as flipped out as the hotel clerk.

I'd brought a hand-held Geiger counter with me when we moved, and walking through the rural supermarkets it'd occasionally click rapidly, particularly when I passed local mushrooms or meat. That would always draw a crowd (and dirty stares from the shopkeepers)!

And I wasn't the only one walking around with a Geiger counter: the German government had to change the acceptable standard for radiation in milk, and people were constantly finding "hot" radioactive particles from Chernobyl in the nearby forests.

Germans wanted to get rid of their nuclear power, but how? They didn't want to revert to more coal or oil power; that's why they'd gone to nuclear in the first place.

So Scheer's original proposal, as he laid out the concept to me, was simple and elegant.

Banks would loan people the money to put rooftop solar on their houses at a super-low interest rate, with defaults backstopped by the government.

Power utilities would buy surplus power from those homes at a "feed-in tariff" rate that was higher than the retail price of electricity until their bank loans were paid off (typically 5-10 years).

The tariffs were set so, for example, if the monthly payments on your loan for your rooftop solar system were $100, the local utility would be paying you (or reducing your normal electric bill) by around $100 a month as that "feed in tariff." The tariff payments would last until your loan was paid off: you'd get the solar system, which will last for decades, for free.

As more and more homes came online, the power that was then being generated by nuclear plants would be replaced by electricity from the "100,000 rooftops" and the extra expense to the utilities for the feed-in tariffs would still cost less than building a new power plant, be it nuclear or fossil fuel-powered.

Everybody wins economically, the government handles the risk by backstopping the banks and utilities (and it's a minor expense for a national government), and Germany gets off its growing nuclear power addiction.

Scheer got the feed-in tariffs passed in 1999 as part of his 100,000 Rooftops program, followed by the German Renewable Energy Act of 2000. It wasn't implemented as simply and elegantly as I've described here and as he shared with me over lunch in Barcelona (politics intervened, of course), but it got a long way there.

Other countries around the world copied parts of his program, although some of Germany's for-profit and regional utilities were committed to sabotaging it and have had some successes in that effort since his untimely death at age 66 in 2010.

And in most parts of the world — and most all of the USA — solar works even better than in Germany, which is the cloudiest country in Europe and at the same latitude as Calgary. The science proving this can work even better in the US is both solid and irrefutable.

Today, as a result of Scheer's visionary leadership two decades ago, over a million German homes have both solar panels and battery storage, and the country is upgrading their system to a "smart grid" to handle it all. There's an absolutely amazing collection of charts and graphs explaining it all here.

Additionally, they're shutting down their last nuke next year, and beginning the process of phasing out coal (although slowdowns on renewables are causing them to have to default to natural gas in a few places).

As the MIT Technology Review notes: "The country avoided pumping about 74 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2009. The German environment ministry also touts a side benefit: nearly 300,000 new jobs in clean power."

In a way, this is just taking the future back to the past.

It used to be that every home in America had its own power-plant to produce heat and lighting. If we're committed to reaching zero emissions, we must return to that goal of local self-sufficiency, this time with free power from the sun and wind instead of clear-cutting forests, producing radioactive waste, or burning fossils.

First, some history to put the situation in context.

From the early 1600s right up until the 1880s, every home in the United States had its own power plant, generating its own heat and light, mostly from wood and whale or vegetable oil. Houses were small and often built so only a few rooms were heated in the winter.

A big technological leap happened in 1742 when Ben Franklin dramatically increased the efficiency of wood heat by inventing the "Franklin Stove" technology, still in use today. Franklin both baffled the base of the chimney at the top of the stove to extract more heat, and sealed the firebox, which reduced the amount of warmed air that was drawn out of the room and wasted up the chimney, a huge problem with open fireplaces and early wood stoves.

The 1880s saw coal begin to replace wood in a big way across America, as both coal mines and railroads were coming online. If you're a real estate aficionado, you know that it was around that decade that Americans started building larger, multi-story and multi-bedroom homes, particularly in remote northern areas like New England where the land had, by then, been largely stripped of trees and turned over to hardscrabble farming and sheep and cattle grazing.

It's why the huge forests of Vermont and New Hampshire, for example, are almost entirely made up of trees fewer than 150 years old. By the 1880s both states were almost entirely denuded because of the need for wood for heat in the winter. Starting that decade, as coal became widely available, forests began to regrow and people began building larger houses.

The era from the 1890s to the 1930s saw the development of the first central electric power generating stations, with the first coal-powered one brought online by Thomas Edison in 1882 on Pearl Street in Manhattan and George Westinghouse's electrification of the city of Buffalo with the Niagara Falls power station that came online in 1896.

Utilities were largely confined to large cities where it was convenient for them to electrify people's homes, even when the utilities were city-owned. In 1935, FDR created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) and the following year Congress created a backstop program offering up to 25-year ultra-low-interest loans for rural utilities and to electrify individual homes and farms, and state and local governments.

By 1943 over 380,000 miles of power lines had been installed, bringing electricity to over a million people; by 1960 over 97 percent of Americans had electric power supplied either by privately owned for-profit utilities or electric power companies owned by their customers (electric co-ops) or local or state governments (publicly-owned utilities).

Around the world, roughly 71 percent of utilities are owned by "the people" rather than private, investor-owned for-profit corporations. In the US, though, the shift to neoliberal "free market" policies that accompanied Reagan's abandonment of FDR's Keynesian New Deal policies led, in the 1980s and 1990s, to a massive consolidation of electric generating capacity in the hands of for-profit companies.

Reagan's neoliberal power policies blew up in the nation's face early in the George W. Bush administration with the 2001 Enron scandal, where that for-profit power company intentionally browned-out large chunks of California to both increase its own profits and to politically destroy Gray Davis, the then-California governor who had initiated multiple investigations into the company and publicly called for its executives to go to jail.

Today, while over 2000 American communities have power from publicly owned entities and over 800 electric co-ops operate to their homeowners' benefit, although, sadly, over half of the electric utilities in America are run as for-profit corporations that put investor returns above serving their communities (as Texas learned last year).

That for-profit ownership will be the biggest obstacle to returning power from central generation back to local production, because it will require a restructuring of the business model utilities use from "generation" to "generation and management" of the new smart grids. But it's entirely possible.

The Biden White House points out that we can do the same as Germany here, and probably at a much larger scale since the cost of both solar and wind power are now less than a tenth of what they were in 1999 when Germany began the process; they've fallen by another 89 percent in just the past decade.

As Bloomberg points out: "It's now cheaper to build and operate new large-scale wind or solar plants in nearly half the world than it would be to run an existing coal or gas-fired power plant."

"As the recent Texas power outages demonstrated," they note, "our aging electric grid needs urgent modernization. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually."

These are real costs and also cause real hardships every time a climate-change-caused weather, drought or wildfire disaster cuts homes off from the electric grid for days or weeks at a time.

And the impacts aren't just economic: people die from loss of power. Just in Texas during the two weeks Ted Cruz fled with his kids to Cancun when the state's antiquated for-profit grid failed in a snowstorm, at least 111 people died.

The Biden administration says they're committed to fixing that:

"The deal's $73 billion investment is the single largest investment in clean energy transmission in American history," the White House notes. "It upgrades our power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy.
"It creates a new Grid Deployment Authority, invests in research and development for advanced transmission and electricity distribution technologies, and promotes smart grid technologies that deliver flexibility and resilience."

The challenge now is going to be directing that money to actual renewable programs that localize energy generation at the home, neighborhood, and town or city level.

If the Biden administration and Congress can resist the pressure from the for-profit utility lobby and create a truly green-committed "Grid Deployment Authority," we may one day soon see millions of American homes generating their own power just like my German friends do, including enough to charge their cars and get themselves to work.

That would truly be a new day in America.

Let your politicians know that you want this money to be truly renewable, not just a gift to for-profit utilities and their aging power plants and long-distance transmission systems.

Are Trump and his cronies guilty of mass murder?

All across America this past year-and-a-half 700,000 people have died an agonizing, terrifying, drowning-in-their-own-fluids death, their relatives helpless, saying goodbye using Zoom or FaceTime. Families broken and shattered; husbands, wives, children and grandchildren left bereft; doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants dying along with them or holding their hands as they draw their final, tortured breath. Many of those deaths were absolutely unnecessary.

They happened because of decisions made by a small group of people led by Donald Trump.

If you or I made any decision, grounded in the desire to gain a political or other type of benefit, that caused even one single person to die we'd be on our way to prison. Look at people who simply decide to text while driving…and then kill a pedestrian. Prison.

Trump not only caused over 130,000 Americans to die unnecessarily (according to Dr. Deborah Birx's sworn testimony before Congress last week), but there's a pile of evidence — which I'll lay out below — that he did it because he believed the virus was hitting Blue states and Black people the hardest.

If this is true (and I'm building a case here that it is), it's called second-degree murder, which, to use the definitions of the State of Florida where Trump lives (there is no federal homicide law) constitutes:

"The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life…"

From the first case in the US on January 20, 2020 until the week of April 7th of last year, for four months Trump and his team were actually trying to do something about the Covid pandemic.

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.

By March 7th, US deaths had risen from 4 to only 22, but that was enough to spur federal action. Trump's official emergency declaration came on March 11th, and most of the country shut down or at least went partway toward that outcome that week.

The Dow collapsed and millions of Americans were laid off, but saving lives was, after all, the number one consideration. Jared Kushner put together an all-volunteer taskforce of mostly preppie 30-something white men to coordinate getting PPE to hospitals.

They even had a plan for the Post Office to distribute 650 million masks — 5 to every American household — to stop the pandemic.

But 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 that day, and it was heavily reported on cable news and the network news that night. Most of the non-elderly people dying from Covid, the report found, were Black or Hispanic, not white people.

White 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."

It didn't take a medical savant, of course, to figure out why, and it had nothing to do with the biology of race: it was purely systemic racism. 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, all on April 7th, echoed across the rightwing media landscape like a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Tucker Carlson, the only prime-time Fox "News" host who'd previously expressed serious concerns about the dangers of the virus, changed his tune the same day, as documented by Media Matters for America.

Now, Tucker 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 if we're going to get Trump's economy back on track in time for the upcoming election!

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

Only 12,677 Americans were dead by that day, but now that Trump and his rightwing media 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.

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 filled with white people 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.

NBC News, when they'd gotten hold of April emails from within the White House, ran the headline: "Trump Administration Scrapped Plan to Send Every American a Mask in April, Email Shows."

When Rachel Maddow reported on meat packing 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 white community; they were mostly Hispanic and Black.

The conservative meme was now well established.

Then came news that the biggest outbreaks were happening in prisons along with the meat packing 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 working-age white people, particularly affluent white people (who were less likely to be obese, have hypertension or struggle with diabetes), 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, it was exclusively Blue States that were then hit hard by the virus: Washington, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Former Attorney General 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.'"

At year's end, the United States was ranked 5th worst in the world in our response (behind Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Iran); we have about 20% of the world's Covid deaths, but only 4.5% of the world's population.

Why? Apparently, because Trump and his Republican enablers and co-conspirators were just fine with Black people dying, particularly when 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.

How could anybody think this was anything other than negligent homicide at best and intentional murder at worst?

Even Sweden has put together a commission to look into their government's response to the pandemic, and it's already reporting its result.

In Brazil, their Senate has compiled a 1000+ page report, detailing the mistakes and malicious actions President Bolsinaro took — very much like Trump did — that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, and they're recommending he be prosecuted under Brazilian and international law.

It's astonishing that there's no major, national commission or special prosecutor looking into what happened here in the US, particularly when so much of the evidence of the Trump administration committing murder is publicly available.

If a half-million people had died — unnecessarily — under Obama as president, you know how the GOP would react.

After all, they spent millions to hold 4+ years of multiple hearings across several congressional committees over 4 American deaths in Bengazi, taking thousands of hours of testimony, including an 11-hour day from Hillary Clinton.

During the Clinton presidency, Republicans gave Ken Starr and his assistant Brett Kavanaugh four years and $70 million to uncover the democracy-ending crime of Bill Clinton getting a BJ from a consenting adult. (Seriously: Newt said it endangered "the survival of the American system of justice.")

In this case, there are actual dead bodies, and a hell of a lot more than four of them.

Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer must appoint select committees in the House and Senate to investigate this crime, and Attorney General Merrick Garland must appoint a special prosecutor with a grand jury.

Americans deserve to know why their friends and relatives died such a terrible death when every other country in the world (except Brazil) took strong and effective action to limit infections and fatalities.

And if it can be proven that Trump and his buddies like Scott Atlas let all these Americans die because they thought it would help them politically, people need to go to prison.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

Excerpts: The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America

Today I'm starting a new feature for the Hartmann Report. Every week I'll publish an excerpt from one of my books, trying to pick ones that are particularly relevant to the issues of the day. The entire excerpt will be available to our paid subscribers, who can also comment on it. Our free subscribers will get at least the first third and optimally the first half of the excerpt.

Today's excerpt is from The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America.

Part One: The Hidden History of Judicial Review

To understand the Supreme Court, one must understand the zeitgeist of the Founding Fathers' generation and the philosophical history that led the founders and framers to create the Court itself.

Part 1 of this book looks at the founders' intents and concerns—and how quickly the Court seized the power of judicial review to become a nearly despotic branch of government. The conclusion of part 1 explores how one man sparked a right-wing movement to seize control of the American government—including the outsized power of the Supreme Court.

The Founders' Vision

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

—James Madison

In May 1787, a group of men in Philadelphia began to gather to debate and discuss what would become the template for the new United States of America: a new constitution. The youngest was New Jersey's 26-year-old Jonathan Dayton (although James Madison was in his 30s, as were several other delegates), and the oldest was Pennsylvania's Ben Franklin, who at 81 was so infirm that he had to be carried to and from the meetings.

Five men who were not in the room influenced the convention tremendously. Thomas Jefferson was stationed in Paris as the US envoy to France; John Adams was in London as our envoy to the UK. But even more important, Thomas Hobbes was 108 years dead, John Locke had been dead for 83 years, and Baron de Montesquieu had been dead for 32 years.

Thomas Hobbes tutored King Charles II and wrote Leviathan, which triggered the earliest stages of the Enlightenment, and also the big split away from monarchy and toward liberal democracy.

Hobbes's ideas, with their faith in hierarchy and patriarchy, also formed a basis for today's conservative movement. He believed that the essential nature of humans was evil (because, the Bible tells us, we're all "born of woman") and that man's "original state" was a life of continual warfare and fear: "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe . . . [they have no] arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

The only escape from our brutish and fearful existence in the state of nature, according to Hobbes, was under the iron-fisted institutions of church or state.

This is still the primary conservative narrative: without the restraining force of church or state, human life will devolve into chaos. A strong father figure, the story goes, is necessary, both in the form of leaders and rulers, and in the form of a tutelary (to use Alexis de Tocqueville's word) state.

This view also led to the formation of the Supreme Court.

The Glue That Binds Us Together

Two generations after Hobbes, in the 1600s, King James II's tutor, John Locke, saw things differently. He saw balance and democracy in nature and believed that humans could live in the then-modern world without submitting to some "dear leader." Instead, he wrote that humans could live "in society." He described it as the collection, both biological and voluntary, of people living in proximity and united for a common goal with a shared philosophy of social organization.

Locke's Two Treatises of Government tore the "divine right" argument1 for ruling to pieces in 1690, making Locke famous and vaulting him to the front of the philosophers who were arguing for something more egalitarian to replace royalty.

His Second Treatise laid out the basis of democracy, as he saw it, and set the stage for today's modern liberal democracies and the overall arc of the US Constitution.

Locke argued against the king's supreme power over person and property, declaring, "Man being born, as has been proved, with a title to perfect freedom . . . hath by nature a power . . . to preserve his property, that is, his life, liberty and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men."

Nearly a century later, Locke's language informed Thomas Jefferson's drafting of the Declaration of Independence. Because Locke conceived of law as being above any individual (such as a king), his argument called for a court system.

Another towering figure who influenced the creation of the Supreme Court was Charles-Louis de Secondat, aka the Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu. Long gone but still well remembered, he was simply referred to by the founders and framers as Montesquieu.

Montesquieu argued in his 1748 The Spirit of Laws that egalitarian, democratic societies could work,2 and Jefferson wholly embraced Montesquieu's ideas about the separation of powers within a government.

One could argue that Montesquieu was the godfather of the Supreme Court.

A Bold Experiment

Delegates also considered the form of democratic government held by the Iroquois Confederacy, as evinced by Ben Franklin, who wrote to his partner in the publishing business in New York, James Parker:

It would be a very strange Thing, if six Nations of Ignorant Savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union, and be able to execute it in such a Manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble; and yet that a like Union should be impracticable for ten or a Dozen English Colonies, to whom it is more necessary, and must be more advantageous; and who cannot be supposed to want an equal Understanding of their Interests.3

The Iroquois had a court system that, in some ways, also inspired our Supreme Court.

Jefferson knew the Indians of Virginia well; as a young boy and early teen, he had traveled from remote tribe to tribe with his father, who spoke several of their languages, while his father was mapping the state. In his 1785 Notes on Virginia, Jefferson vigorously defended the Iroquois, and the Native Americans in general, against those Hobbesians who argued that they were uncivilized brutes.

Jefferson dismissed the racist rhetoric of the day, explaining, "In short, this [uncivilized] picture is not applicable to any nation of Indians I have ever known or heard of in North America." Favoring history over racist myths, Franklin and Jefferson each looked to aspects of the Iroquois Confederacy to inform our own Constitution.

At the time, most of the contemporary "civilized" world still operated with the assumption of the divine rights of kings: the idea of private ownership of property as a normal thing for white working men was only about a century old (and wouldn't appear for women until the 20th century).

After the failure of the Articles of Confederation to hold the nation together, the framers knew that there were lessons to be learned from scholarly Western sources, such as the ancient Greeks and Romans, but also from more novel sources, including the Iroquois elders they invited in for the opening days of the Convention.

These men were embarking on a bold experiment.

Debating the Supreme Court

From the founding of our republic in 1789 until 1803, the Supreme Court was only the final court of appeals. After all, the buck had to stop somewhere.

In 1788, when James Madison and Alexander Hamilton published a long series of newspaper articles promoting to the American people the idea that they should ratify the Constitution (which happened in 1789), Hamilton took on the job of selling Article III, which created the court system, including the Supreme Court.

In that sales pitch, Hamilton, on May 28, 1788, wrote in a newspaper article we today call the Federalist, no. 78, that the courts, including the Supreme Court, were the weakest of the three branches created by the Constitution.

"[T]he judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power," he wrote, adding in the same sentence that "it can never attack with success either of the other two [branches]."

He even footnoted that sentence with a quote from the famous French judge Montesquieu, who had first clearly articulated the idea of a separation of powers between governmental branches as a check and balance. Hamilton's footnote read, "The celebrated Montesquieu, speaking of them, says: 'Of the three powers above mentioned, the judiciary is next to nothing.'"

He explained why the Court's judges had lifetime appointments and the judiciary had its own section of the Constitution, writing in the Federalist, no. 78, "[F]rom the natural feebleness of the judiciary, it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches."

The lifetime appointments and Montesquieu's "separation of powers" would insulate the Court from being "overpowered, awed, or influenced" by the president or Congress.

But some Americans (and many of the newspapers of the day) weren't convinced; the idea of lifetime appointments and being a branch of government independent from the other two sounded too much like the European monarchies that the colonists had just fought a revolutionary war against.

"What would prevent the Supreme Court from rising up and taking over the country?" they asked. "You're concentrating too much power in one branch!" others essentially said.

So, a month later, in June 1788, Hamilton published what is now known as the Federalist, no. 81, answering directly their objections, again arguing that the Supreme Court couldn't make laws and couldn't strike down laws.

Exposed: The insidious cancer at the core of democracy that could take down Biden

This story was first published at The Hartmann Report.

If President Biden's Build Back Better plan goes down in flames, you can blame the US Supreme Court. Their Citizens United decision, in fact, is destroying both American politics and the planet.

Case in point: Oil industry executives testified before Congress this week, suffering a barrage of questions, including particularly intense ones from Reps. Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Katie Porter.

The CEOs exhibited the same sort of arrogant insolence Mark Zuckerberg displayed in July of last year when he was hauled before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. It was, basically, a smug, "Screw you, Congressperson."

Why were the representatives of Big Oil and Big Tech unafraid of the power of Congress?

Because, at the end of the day, they own that power. The Supreme Court gave it to them with their poisonous Citizens United decision.

It turns out that Big Oil has spent, just over the past decade, over $450 million lobbying the federal government. We used to call this political corruption or even bribery until the Court ruled in Citizens United that money in politics isn't money: it's "free speech."

And, the Court added, corporations aren't corporations: they're persons, complete with a First Amendment right to free speech.

Representative Khanna repeatedly asked the CEOs of Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, and BP America if they'd stop funding advertising and PR efforts that are filled with outright lies about climate change. Pretty much every time he asked, he was met with a "screw you" silence.

These CEOs effectively own multiple members of Congress, as the world could see when it was the turn of the meek and obeisant Republican members to ask questions that mostly amounted to, "May I fluff the pillow you're sitting on, sir?"

And it's not just Big Oil. Every industry in America laughs at Congress.

Our elected representatives are there, in the minds of corporate America, to hand out subsidies and tax breaks, but if they take the smallest step toward protecting the American people from giant corporations or predatory billionaires they're simply brushed aside like troublesome lint.

The majority of Americans don't want Medicare privatized: but we're more than 40% of the way there through Bush's "Medicare Advantage" scam.

The majority of Americans don't want our Post Office gutted: Congress sucked tens of billions out of its budget in 2006 after the PO said they were going to electrify their fleet of cars (the largest in America) and DeJoy is using that as an excuse to cut service and raise prices.

The majority of Americans would like debt-free college like every other developed country in the world: the $1.5 trillion student loan industry just makes a few phone calls and the effort dies.

The majority of Americans want a national healthcare system that actually works at little cost to citizens: the health insurance industry hands Joe Lieberman over a million dollars and he kills the public option so we're left with an entirely corporatized Obamacare with $5000 annual deductibles.

The majority of Americans want something done about high drug prices: Big Pharma calls up Kurt Schrader, Scott Peters, Kathleen Rice, Kyrsten Sinema and a few other wholly owned members of Congress and that's the end of that.

The majority of Americans want their banks to stop hitting them with absurd fees for the smallest errors and would like some occasional customer service: Big Banking pulls a few strings and Senators are dancing like marionettes.

The majority of Americans want something done about climate change before our planet becomes uninhabitable: Big Coal and Gas light a fire under Joe Manchin and the entire GOP and that's the end of that.

The majority of Americans would like open and transparent elections and for their democracy to work like in other countries, without barriers to voting or bought-off politicians: neofascist rightwing billionaires will have the final say on that and it's not looking good.

The majority of Americans would like net neutrality and for corporations to stop spying on them: Big Tech just leans on the members of Congress they own and that effort comes to an abrupt halt.

The majority of Americans would like well-funded public schools that teach things like civics and critical thinking skills: the multi-billion-dollar Charter School industry gets last word.

The majority of Americans would like to be free of gun violence in our homes and streets: the gun industry gets final say here.

The majority of Americans would like good union jobs: the nation's giant employers have paid off politicians to gut union protections.

The majority of Americans would like a food supply free of toxic chemicals that harm children and cause cancer: giant fast- and processed-food companies laugh at us while their buddies in the chemical industry hold their beer.

Hell, the President of the United States would like all these things and a few more. He will almost certainly not get them because the Supreme Court gave corporations and rightwing billionaires final say over every single piece of legislation that goes through Congress.

We're ripped off left and right, from airline tickets to cell phone service to cable TV and the internet: citizens of Europe, South Korea and Japan pay, on average, about half of what we do because they all enforce competition and don't allow monopolies.

Here, every industry is now dominated by 3-5 major corporations that function as a monopoly or oligopoly, which is why the average American family pays around $5000 a year more for everything as I documented in The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream.

The US Supreme Court brought us all of this with the vile Citizens United decision and its progenitors, Boston v Bellotti, Buckley v Valeo, and Santa Clara County.

Thus, we now face a real crisis.

The Court gave control of Congress over to billionaires and their companies, and only Congress can overrule the Court (Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution). But how does Congress do that when none of the corporations or billionaires who now own Congress want it to happen?

There is only one force that can make this happen now: citizen outrage.

People are genuinely disgusted by this corruption, and they're voting with it in mind.

Even Donald Trump was elected on a promise to "drain the swamp" of big money corruption in DC. He claimed that he knew how the game was played because he played it himself, buying off politicians whenever necessary.

During the August 2015 GOP primary debate, he called out all the other Republicans on the stage, saying: "I gave [money] to many people, before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And do you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them, they are there for me."

In September he ran that line again at the next primary debate, saying: "The donors, the special interests, the lobbyists have very strong power over these people," as he waved at the other Republicans on stage. "I am not accepting any money from anybody. Nobody has control of me other than the people of this country."

Sadly, enough Americans believed that professional grifter to get him into the White House (with a little help from Russian oligarchs), but the principle remains: even Republican voters are disgusted by this crisis of corruption the Supreme Court has foisted upon us.

More than a decade ago I did a fundraiser for the Congressional Progressive Caucus with its then-chair, Rep. Raúl Grijalva. It was a small affair with a half-dozen politicians and around 100 activists.

Because of citizen outrage with how corrupt and bought-off our politics have become since the Supreme Court rewrote the rules of politics, today almost 100 members of Congress have been elected on "no corporate PAC money" pledges and become members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Today we're watching an epic battle to rebuild America being fought valiantly by progressives like Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Mark Pocan, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They may lose this one battle, but the path they're on is steadily upward.

This is the only way we can now claw back our democratic republic from the corrupt billionaires and corporations.

We have to get money out of politics and the only way to do that is to get more people in office who are not addicted to or corrupted by money.

There's an election coming up in a year, and primaries will be conducted in the months ahead. We must do everything we can to identify, elect and support politicians who openly and sincerely pledge never to sell their souls to the devil of Big Money.

Conservatives and billionaires want to make 'welfare' a dirty word and undermine the social safety net

Senator Joe Manchin, echoing the rightwing billionaire's think-tanks' PR and every Republican in Congress, recently said his objection to free college for students and eyeglasses for seniors was that such things created an "entitlement society," a slur that means "a nation of welfare recipients."

In that, he displays a fundamental ignorance about what governments do and how societies work, as well as the difference between what we usually call the "social safety net" and things people should expect simply as a "right of citizenship" in a first-world country. He also misunderstands the difference between expenses and investments.

A "social safety net" is there to catch you when you fall. Unemployment insurance keeps you from becoming homeless when capitalism has one of its periodic hiccups. Food stamps tide you over in rough times. FEMA programs provide mobile homes and a stipend to keep people rendered homeless by natural disasters like hurricanes, forest fires, and floods alive and well.

These are the sorts of things that we generally refer to as "welfare." They're there to "catch us" and keep us from falling through society's "floor."

They also prevent people from "breaking" when they fall, whether it's a temporary hiccup in capitalism (recession, depression), a natural disaster, or a region that's failed to invest in itself so long that there are simply no jobs available. We know, for example, that inequality, along with the poverty and mental illness it causes, drive up costs to society that can be covered with these kinds of help.

So these shorter-term programs (or, in some cases, even longer-term for already-wounded people) keep society stable. Finland, for example, is providing free housing for all their homeless; it's cheaper than the police, hospital and mental health services that houseless people otherwise use. But these are still programs to "catch" people and regions who've fallen or been injured by life, not to grow and expand society.

A "citizenship right" is something altogether different. It's what nations provide as rights of citizenship to keep a society functioning on a normal plane, and to help that society grow and improve socially and economically.

As citizens of America, for example, we expect good public schools, decent roads, police and fire protections, and a functioning government funded by tax dollars to keep it all going. We expect as citizens that when we pay into Social Security and Medicare our entire lives, those systems will be maintained in a way that can keep us healthy, productive, and out of poverty when we retire.

While the "safety net" protects us from personal, family or community disasters, the "rights of citizenship" provide the foundation for society itself.

The physical infrastructure of a nation makes possible normal life, and the more sophisticated and functional that infrastructure is, the more vibrant a nation's economy will be.

This was the core rationale for Republican President Dwight Eisenhower building the interstate highway system: it not only made it easier to visit grandpa and grandma, it also made it easier to transport goods and thus facilitated commerce leading to the economic boom of the 1950-1980 era.

Ditto for an advanced air traffic system, quality public transportation, and a national high-speed rail system like in every other advanced country.

The same is true for the "human infrastructure" of a nation.

The more citizens a country has who are college-educated, the more competitive and prosperous that nation becomes. The better the health of a country, the more reliable and efficient its workforce. When government helps young parents care for their children, it frees them up to more fully participate in the commercial and civic life of the country.

Thus, infrastructure — be it physical or human — is not welfare. It doesn't produce an "entitlement society." Instead, it's the core foundation on which a functional society rests, the soil in which business can root itself, and the launching pad for a horizon-free future.

Another way to think of it is through the lens of economics and accounting.

"Welfare" is an expense. It doesn't make things better: when appropriately funded it simply keeps them from becoming worse. It pays dividends in that it keeps people alive and functional, but just barely. The "return on investment" to the government is minimal outside of its moral duty.

"Rights of citizenship" like infrastructure, on the other hand, are investments. They pay returns and dividends. Invest "x" and over years or decades you'll get multiples of "x" in return. Even police and fire, when run right, keep neighborhoods crime-free and facilitate commerce, growing the local economy. New transportation, education, and healthcare infrastructure build prosperity and attract investment in the larger community.

Not understanding this simple distinction is the major failure of neoliberal and "conservative" politicians, guided, in large part, by so-called "think tanks" and pundits funded by rightwing billionaires who, frankly, don't care about either "welfare" or "rights of citizenship/infrastructure."

After all, being morbidly rich billionaires, they don't need either.

They can afford the best healthcare in the world with their pocket change; they travel on private jets outside of public airports (never even having to go through security); and they send their kids to the best private schools in the world regardless of the local tax base.

And since welfare and infrastructure are both are funded by tax dollars — which the morbidly rich go to great lengths to avoid paying — pushing politicians to reject both only adds more dollars to their money bins that otherwise would have gone to taxes.

While Joe Manchin's understanding of these fundamental, high-school-civics differences in government programs is disappointing, it shouldn't be surprising. He was born into wealth and is, himself, a multimillionaire coal baron, living on the largest yacht at my old home, the Capital Yacht Club (among his other homes).

But Joe Biden — who spent his life traveling home from DC to Delaware every weekend on public transportation via Amtrak — understands this at a gut level. New roads, bridges, and broadband infrastructure are investments that will return dividends to both society and our economy. He knows that strengthening our infrastructure strengthens our nation.

Biden understands that replacing fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure with made-in-America renewables like solar and wind both reduce our dependence on brutal foreign oligarchs like Saudi Arabia's murderous MBS while producing power for generations with little more than simple maintenance.

He knows that sending young people to college at no or little cost — as is done in every other advanced democracy in the world — is a simple investment in our nation's families and intellectual infrastructure that will pay dividends for generations into our future.

Progressives working on his legislative agenda realize that providing people with a robust and low-cost healthcare system is an investment in our ultimate infrastructure: our people. Without healthy workers there is no reliable economy; with healthy workers an economy becomes ever-more vibrant, which is why every other developed country in the world except the US provides free or low-cost universal healthcare and takes care of all their seniors' medical needs.

Rightwing billionaire propaganda aside, these are not "welfare" or "entitlements," and they don't cause people to "become lazy" or "refuse to work." As we strengthen and "Build Back Better" our physical and human infrastructure, we simultaneously strengthen our nation while moving us into a cleaner, safer, and more reliable future.

In every other developed country in the world, these things are simple rights of citizenship. They should be here, too, if we want to compete in the 21st century and improve our (slipping) status as a First World nation.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

How right-wing media outlets kill people who take their advice

It happened three times yesterday, and I only watched or half-watched a few hours of TV news. It happens every day, it seems. Somebody wonders out loud (yesterday's most prominent was Alex Witt with Dr. Anthony Fauci) why over 60 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated are still refusing — including hospital workers in some parts of the country.

Everybody treats it like it's a confounding question with no easy answer. The actual answer, though, is pretty straightforward: the psychopaths running the rightwing media ecosystem dominated by Fox "News" and social media, and echoed by 1500 radio stations across the country, have decided people dying and being disabled is both profitable and politically advantageous to them.

When Joe Biden was elected president the Republican Party and their joined-at-the-hip rightwing media did a sudden about-face from praising Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" to encouraging their followers to remain unvaccinated so President Biden would struggle to get the economy back on sound footing.

That, they figured, was their best bet to take back Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024, and they've stayed on-message ever since Biden took office on January 20th. As I noted in considerable detail back in July, death is their political strategy.

And now, as if to put a punctuation point on it, the headline at Raw Story warns: Fox News host uses Colin Powell's death to launch anti-vax rant: "Fully-vaccinated are dying of Covid."

Almost 750,000 Americans have died of Covid and recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that at as many as half of the 45 million Americans who've been diagnosed with the disease will suffer long term consequences, the main ones being dementia, exhaustion and damage to the heart and kidneys.

It used to be in American business that you knew where the psychopaths were: tobacco. It's an industry producing a product that, when used as directed, kills around a half-million Americans every year.

Being able to comfortably fall asleep every night knowing that the product of your workday had killed another 1,300 people is a rare competence that typically requires the mental illness of psychopathy.

About 1% of Americans are psychopaths, although such people tend to be concentrated in some areas: as many as 12% of major corporate CEOs are believed to be psychopaths, and about 15% of people in prison.

A psychopath, for all practical purposes, believes that he's quite literally the only "true human being" on planet Earth.

Everybody else is an actor of some sort, a prop, in the grand play of the psychopath's life. Everybody else is here to make him happy and meet his needs, and he doesn't have to worry about hurting them or not meeting their needs because they are not "real people" like he is.

The clinical terminology is that psychopaths "lack the ability to feel empathy." Weirdly, this lack of empathy can make them more successful in big business and politics, as well as in criminal and prison environments.

Thus, the CEO of Fox "News" — the network that daily spreads vaccine misinformation leading to deaths that are tearing apart American families — tells the Hollywood Reporter that she sleeps "well at night." Just like the tobacco CEOs.

Meanwhile, people who watch Fox and all its imitators across various media are taking the implicit advice of Fox's primetime hosts and avoiding vaccination…and getting sick and in some cases dying.

They're embracing quack cures promoted on the network and across rightwing media, including hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin, giving their viewers the false sense of security that if they get sick with this awful disease there's a ready cure at hand…so there's no need to get vaccinated.

Even worse, consumers of this media are doing their best to disrupt rational public health efforts like mask and vaccine mandates by harassing public health officials, school boards, and elected representatives across the country — all leading to even more disease and deaths.

When Americans realized, mostly as the result of massive lawsuits in the 1990s, that the CEOs of the tobacco industry were knowingly killing people (and even reaching out to addict children) we took action.

We limited access to this death-dealing product, from outlawing television advertising to limiting placement of cigarette vending machines and strict enforcement of age-limited retail sales. We also required that the product be honestly labeled: "Tobacco kills."

This isn't an option for media, and rightly so because of our First Amendment protections of the press (including this article). And nobody wants to take those freedoms and protections away.

But the most important and effective campaign our nation embarked on to cut tobacco use was the nationwide campaign to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use. We taught adults and schoolchildren alike how the industry was trying to addict them and showed them the consequences of using that deadly product.

Now that rightwing media has arguably caused more Americans to die in the past year than has tobacco, it's time to consider a similar strategy to balance the lies and misinformation streaming out of them every day.

If we can't rely on the news and social media industries' content producers or executives to stop spreading death-dealing misinformation, we can at least wake people up to the dangers of their products.

#RightwingMediaCausesDeath

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The sinister story of Kyrsten Sinema's turn to conservatism and political corruption

When Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime in the early 1960s, one of the things he learned was that the Mafia had a series of rituals new members went through to declare their loyalty and promise they'd never turn away from their new benefactors. Once in, they'd be showered with money and protection, but they could never leave and even faced serious problems if they betrayed the syndicate.

Which brings us to the story of Kyrsten Sinema.

For a republican democracy to actually work, average citizens with a passion for making their country better must be able to run for public office without needing wealthy or powerful patrons; this is a concept that dates back to Aristotle's rants on the topic. And Sinema was, in the beginning, just that sort of person. But I'm getting ahead of myself…

After the Nixon and Agnew bribery scandals were fully revealed with a series of congressional investigations leading to Nixon's resignation in 1974, Congress passed and President Jerry Ford signed into law a series of "good government" laws that provided for public funding of elections and strictly limited the role of big money in campaigns.

Just like the 1/6 attack on the Capitol produced a "select" committee to investigate the anti-democracy crimes of Donald Trump and his cronies, Congress authorized the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to look into Nixon's abuses and make recommendations.

The committee's 100-page report documented how Nixon had taken bribes (most notably $400,000 from ITT to squash an antitrust lawsuit); used "dark" money from wealthy friends and corporations to set up astroturf "citizens committees" (an early version of the Tea Party) to make it appear he had widespread support among the American public; and used off-the-books money to both support loyal Republican politicians whose help he needed as well as to pay for his "opposition research" surveillance which included the Watergate break-in of the DNC's headquarters.

In response to the report, Congress passed an exhaustive set of new laws and regulations, most significantly creating from scratch the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), outlawing secret donations to politicians while providing for public funding of federal elections to diminish the power of big money. (Jimmy Carter was the only presidential candidate to win using such public funding.)

Over the years since, conservatives on the Supreme Court have repeatedly gutted provisions of the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), most famously in 2010 with their notorious Citizens United decision.

With that stroke, over the loud objections of the four "liberals" on the Court, corporations were absolutely deemed as "persons" with full constitutional rights, and billionaires or corporations pouring massive amounts of money into campaign coffers was changed from "bribery and political corruption" to an exercise of the constitutionally-protected "right of free speech."

Into this milieu stepped Kyrsten Sinema, running from a seat in the Arizona Senate for the US House of Representatives in 2012 as an "out" bisexual and political progressive. The campaign quickly turned ugly.

Following the Citizens United script, the Republican she confronted in that race (Vernon Parker) used corporate and billionaire money to carpet-bomb their district airwaves with ads calling her "a radical left-wing activist promoting hatred toward our country, our allies, and our families" and warning people that she "engaged in pagan rituals."

The district was heavily Democratic (Obama handily won it that year) but the race was close enough that it took six full days for the AP to call it for Sinema. And that, apparently, was when she decided that if you can only barely beat them, you'd damn well better join them.

Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who'd followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called "Problem Solvers" caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group "No Labels."

Quietly and without fanfare, she began voting with Republicans and the corporate- and billionaire-owned Democrats, supporting efforts to deregulate big banks, "reform" Social Security and Medicare, and make it harder to for government to protect regular investors or even buyers of used cars from being ripped off.

She voted with the Chamber 77 percent of the time in her first term; in return, political networks run by right-wing billionaires and the US Chamber of Commerce showered her with support. In her first re-election race, in 2014, she was one of only five democrats endorsed by the notoriously right-wing Chamber.

She'd proved herself as a "made woman," just like the old mafiosi documented by RFK in the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused, to get into and stay in the good graces of the large and well-funded right-wing syndicates unleashed by Citizens United.

So it should surprise precisely nobody that Sinema is parroting the Chamber's and the billionaire network's line that President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan is too generous in helping and protecting average Americans and too punitive in taxing the morbidly rich. After all, once you're in, you leave at your own considerable peril, even when 70 percent of your state's voters want the bill to pass.

And this is a genuine crisis for America because if President Biden is frustrated in his attempt to pass his Build Back Better legislation (that is overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the political spectrum) — all because business groups, giant corporations and right-wing billionaires are asserting ownership over their two "made" senators — there's a very good chance that today's cynicism and political violence is just a preview of the rest of the decade.

But this isn't as much a story about Sinema as it is about today's larger political dysfunction for which she's become, along with Joe Manchin, a poster child.

Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court's betrayal of American values, it's become impossible for people like the younger Sinema to rise from social worker to the United States Senate without big money behind them. Our media is absolutely unwilling to call this what even Andrew Jackson would have labeled it: political corruption. But that's what it is and it's eating away at our republic like a metastasized cancer.

A guest on Brian Stelter's CNN program yesterday pointed out that there are today more autocracies in the world than democracies and, generally, democracies are on the decline. This corruption of everyday politics by the rich and powerful is how democracies begin the shift to autocracy or oligarchy, as I document in gruesome detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class.

While the naked corruption of Sinema and Joe Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what's far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court.

In Justice Stevens' dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn't even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first ten amendments in 1791, including the First which protects free speech.

"All general business corporation statues appear to date from well after 1800," Stevens pointed out to his conservative colleagues on the Court. "The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans they had in mind.

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it…. Unlike natural persons, corporations have 'limited liability' for their owners and managers, 'perpetual life,' separation of ownership and control, 'and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets….' Unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled."

Noting that corporations "inescapably structure the life of every citizen," Stevens continued: "It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Even worse than the short-term effect of a corporation's dominating an election or a ballot initiative, Stevens said (as if he had a time machine to look at us now), was the fact that corporations corrupting politics would, inevitably, cause average working Americans — the 95 percent who make less than $100,000 a year — to conclude that their "democracy" is now rigged.

The result, Stevens wrote, is that average people would simply stop participating in politics, stop being informed about politics, and stop voting…or become angry and cynical. Our democracy, he suggested, would be immeasurably damaged and ultimately vulnerable to corporate-supported demagogues and oligarchs. Our constitutional republic, if Citizens United stands, could wither and could die.

"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices," Stevens wrote in 2010, "there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate 'domination' of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy.

"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing.

"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders 'call the tune' and a reduced 'willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.' To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled." (Emphasis mine)

As if he were looking at Kyrsten Sinema facing a tough choice about her own political survival leading up to the 2014 election, Stevens added:

"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation."

And, again looking into his time machine to today, the now-deceased Stevens pointed to the frustration of average Americans with Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

"On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,' and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"

Stevens and his fellow "liberals" on the Court were both prescient and right.

They warned in their dissent that foreign money would corrupt our elections and we saw that in a big way in 2016. There's apparently no way of knowing how much of today's political turmoil — from school board to election commission to hospital and airplane violence — is being orchestrated and amplified by foreign players on social media masquerading as Americans to weaken our country.

They warned that because of the Citizens United decision Americans would become cynical and reactionary; that's happening today. Armed militias are in our streets, people are regularly assaulted for their perceived politics, and right-wing media demagogues make millions (literally) promoting hate and fear.

And, they warned, it could doom our republic, something that's now within our sight.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

Angela Merkel governed Germany to the left of Bernie Sanders — so why don't Americans know?

The headline at Fox "News" blares: "German Elections: Big Setback for Merkel's Conservatives as Center-Left Party Comes Out on Top." In a single sentence, it summarizes everything wrong with how American media and the American public understand what "conservative" means.

In America, conservatives don't want women to get abortions and some conservatives are even proposing the death penalty for women who succeed in aborting a zygote or fetus. Angela Merkel's "conservatives" offer abortions to women in the first three months of pregnancy at no cost (if low-income) and with no excuses. A woman must meet with a state-approved "counselor" to essentially get a prescription for the abortion, a remnant of Germany having outlawed abortion in 1871 and doubled-down during Hitler's time, but that's it. And the meeting to get the prescription, the law says, must be, "An open-ended consultation that encourages the woman to keep the child while at the same time not persuading her." No ultrasound wand rapes, no gory movies to watch, no multiple visits, no bounties on people who help.

In America, conservatives don't want the government to be funding or directly providing any sort of healthcare, saying that should be left to the "free market." Healthcare is a privilege in America, but a right in Germany guaranteed by the government (Germany got the world's first single-payer system in 1884). Angela Merkel's "conservatives" give free health insurance to anybody not able to pay, and those who can pay for health insurance do so according to a sliding scale based on income (like with progressive taxes). Nobody in Germany is uninsured; nobody goes broke or becomes homeless because a member of their family got sick.

In America, conservatives don't think unions should exist with any government protections and employers should be able to destroy them at-will, which is why only a bit more than 5 percent of the US private workforce is unionized and we're still fighting to maintain a 40-hour workweek. Angela Merkel's "conservatives" run a country where every company with over 1000 employees is required to have members of their board of directors made up of "works council" representatives and, although the deindustrialization of the country as a result of neoliberal "reforms" in the 1980s-1990s led to a huge loss of manufacturing jobs to outsourcing, unions and works councils still have great power and represent 97+ percent of all workers in large (1000+ employee) firms. For example, IG Metall, the nation's largest union, recently "won its key demand that workers have the right to reduce their working week from 35 to 28 hours for a period of up to two years in order to care for family members." Wait: did somebody say, "a 35-hour workweek with full-time pay" is normal in Germany?

In America, conservatives have fought any sort of mandatory paid vacation time so effectively that we're the only fully developed country in the world that doesn't require employers to offer it. "Conservative" Merkel's Germany requires a minimum of 24 workdays of paid vacation per year and 9-12 paid public holidays (depending on the state); most employers offer 5 or 6 weeks plus paid holidays. Merkel, of course, is just fine with that; her government employees are required to take their vacations and holidays, and she does, too, to set a good example if for no other reason.

In America, conservatives have successfully fought so hard against every attempt to put paid sick days into labor law that just going to work or visitng a restaurant during flu season is risky; you never know if your co-worker or the guy cooking or delivering your food just sneezed on it because he can't afford to take the day off. We're the only developed country in the world that doesn't mandate paid sick leave. In Merkel's "conservative" Germany, employers are required by law to pay 100% of salary for up to six weeks when employees get sick (the employer can ask for a doctor's slip after 3 days) and, if the person is disabled by their illness or injury, must pay a minimum of 70% of salary for up to 78 weeks.

In America, conservatives say we shouldn't take tax dollars from rich people to pay for a high-quality public transportation system that reduces carbon pollution and makes it easy for low-income people to get to work or go grocery shopping. Merkel's "conservative" Germany has one of the best, most modern and clean public transportation systems in the world. In five cities, the country has been experimenting with free public transportation to encourage people to leave their cars behind to hit European air-quality standards.

In America, conservatives hate the idea of high-income people paying taxes to provide healthcare, education, housing or anything else for average people. In Merkel's "conservative" Germany, wealthy people paying a top 50.5 income tax rate is considered a social obligation…although you don't have to file a tax return unless you think you're entitled to a refund or have underpaid. The government does all the math. (We could do that here, but the tax preparation industry makes billions a year off us and buys off politicians…) Anyhow, as I reported here on HartmannReport.com back in May:

Back in 2011, I was up late one night watching, as I recall, Bloomberg News on a hotel TV. The American host was interviewing a very wealthy German businessman at a conference in Singapore.

Amidst questions about the business climate and the conference, the host asked the German businessman what tax rate he was "suffering under" in his home country. As I recall, the businessman said, "A bit over 60 percent, when everything is included."
"How can you handle that?" asked the host, incredulous.
The German shrugged his shoulders and moved the conversation to another topic.
A few minutes later, the American reporter, still all wound up by the tax question, again asked the businessman how he could possibly live in a country with such a high tax rate on very wealthy and successful people. Again, the German deferred and changed the subject.
The reporter went for a third try. "Why don't you lead a revolt against those high taxes?" he asked, his tone implying the businessman was badly in need of some good old American rebellion-making.
The German businessman paused for a long moment and then leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees, his clasped hands in front of him pointing at the reporter as if in prayer.
He stared at the man for another long moment and then, in the tone of voice an adult uses to correct a spoiled child, said simply, "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country."

In America, conservatives say if you're poor that's because you're a moral failure and deserve whatever happens to you, including living on the streets. The Constitution of "conservative" Angela Merkel's Germany requires all citizens live with grundgesetz or "dignity" which includes the government doing whatever is necessary to ensure all citizens have a home, food, clothing, toiletries, furniture, transportation, and enough money to cover the minor expenses of life. They have a basic allowance (we'd call it direct-cash-welfare) program that gives cash to all poor people to meet those minimal necessities.

In America, conservatives fight like hell to keep out immigrants and refugees who are not white or Christian. "Conservative" Angela Merkel stunned the world when she invited over 1.5 million mostly Syrian Muslim refugees into Germany all at once; she gave a speech saying that Germany had rebuilt after WWII and made it through reunification with the former East Germany. "We can do this!" she said to cheers, openly defying German white supremacists. With her example, people across the country met arriving trains with open arms, flowers, toys and applause. With a population of 83 million in Germany, that's the equivalent of an American president saving the lives of and welcoming 6.1 million non-white non-Christian refugees into the United States…in less than a year.

In America, conservatives have fought for years to make people spend longer and longer times in prison for their crimes on the theory that "punishment" will deter crime. Prison is also free labor (the 13th Amendment says slavery is still legal in the US — today — "as a punishment for crime") and most former slave states have Jim Crow-era laws that prevent a former convict from being able to vote for the rest of his life, both being further incentives for conservatives to increase imprisonment rates, particularly for Black Americans. As a result, we have 810 people in prison out of every 100,000 of us. In Merkel's "conservative" Germany, imprisonment is seen (outside of the most heinous crimes) as an opportunity for rehabilitation and reintegration into society, so their incarceration rate is 78 per 100,000. Prison doesn't seem to work to deter crime here, either: our crime rate is twice that of Germany and they also have a multiracial, multicultural society.

In America, conservatives say there shouldn't be any minimum wage and "the market" should determine all wages. If there must be a minimum wage, they say, keep it at $7.25 an hour. "Conservative" Chancellor Merkel took over a country in 2005 that didn't even have a minimum wage because unions and wage councils has been so effective at maintaining a high standard of living. Nonetheless, as cheap Chinese import caused union membership to fall, her ruling coalition pushed through a minimum wage law in 2014 that is now set at about $11/hour which, with free healthcare, subsidized housing, a monthly up-to $1377/month "pension for low-income and retired workers," and free education all the way up to a PhD or MD, can be a living wage in many parts of the country.

In America, conservatives say that paying for college should be on you or your parents; it's not the responsibility of the country to get you educated. In 2014, "conservative" Chancellor Merkel helped push through a complete and total abolition of all public college and university tuition — even for foreign students (there are now over 380,000 foreign students taking them up on this). Nobody, in this "conservative" country, has student debt…unless they decide to attend a fancy private university or fly over here to go to school.

In America, conservatives fight like hell against free pre-K education for low income families. "Conservative" Merkel pushed through, in 2013, a new law guaranteeing 7 hours a day of free daycare/education for 3-6 year-olds and in many parts of the country the minimum age to qualify is 1 year old (790,000 kids under three attend these). Some schools are allowed to charge for the lunch they feed the kids, but that's it.

In America, conservatives say that if you can't afford a place to live, you can always live on the streets, a local "skid row," or a homeless encampment as do more than half a million Americans. In "conservative" Merkel's Germany, housing is a right and all Germans and legal residents are entitled to housing/rent assistance. (Nonetheless, there is a small homeless population there, a problem across the developed world that only Finland seems to really have in hand.)

In America, conservatives have aggressively fought for the "right" to own and openly carry not just handguns but actual semiautomatic weapons of war; as a result we have the highest rate of gun deaths in the developed world. Thus, there were 19,379 gun deaths and 611 mass shootings in the US last year. Germany, with one of the highest gun ownership rates in Europe, had 815 gun deaths (including suicides and accidents) in 2018. Owning a gun in Germany is like owning a car in the US: you must pass both proficiency and written tests, get a license, and register the gun every year with the government, proving you are safely storing it. And assault weapons of war are banned.

In America, conservatives fought to deregulate internet service providers (ISPs) so, since Trump killed net neutrality in 2017, they can not only watch and record everything you do online and sell your browsing history and activities for a profit, but they can also charge you whatever they can get away with (averaging around $61/month for 140 Mbps). "Conservative" Chancellor Merkel runs a country where it's a felony for ISPs to snoop on you or sell your information and competition is mandated, so the average cost of a high-speed 250 Mbps connection is around $30/month.

In America, conservatives have fought any regulation of drug prices, even opposing letting Medicare negotiate their prices, which is why Americans pay more than twice as much for pharmaceuticals than citizens of any other country in the world. In Angela Merkel's "conservative" Germany, the government negotiates wholesale prices for the whole nation and the federal law says, "The pharmacy sales price for prescription drugs is determined by adding a margin of 3 percent to the wholesale price, plus a fixed pharmacy service compensation of 8.35 Euros, and the value added tax."

In America, conservatives have fought for years to allow the chemical, pesticide and herbicide industries to use you, me and our kids and grandkids as guinea pigs for their new compounds, then pull them off the market when we get cancers, birth defects and childhood brain damage. It's why there are over 60,000 untested chemicals in our homes and workplaces today. In "conservative" Germany, they employ the "precautionary principle," meaning that new chemicals have to prove their safety before they're dumped into consumer products, toys, German bodies, or the environment.

If Angela Merkel has governed Germany for 16 years as a "conservative," there are probably a heck of a lot of Americans ready to adopt the label.

The fact is that — by American standards — Merkel has governed to the left of Bernie Sanders for nearly all her time as Chancellor, and even moved her country farther toward a comprehensive and effective social safety net over the past decade. These policies have made her one of Germany's and the world's most beloved politicians.

Somehow, though, that never makes it through to American news viewers and readers.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

These GOP grifters will be the death of this republic

This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.

Trump just unleashed an unhinged, barely coherent rant about the possibility President Biden might reveal what was going on in the White House on January 6th, the day Trump tried to finally end, once and for all, any possibility of governmental oversight of his ongoing criminal career. He believed he could follow in the footsteps of grifters before him who've taken control of and then drained dry countries from Hungary to Russia, Brazil to Turkey and The Philippines.

Thus it surprises nobody to discover that when Donald Trump and the people around him learned, in mid-November of 2020, that there was absolutely no meaningful voter fraud in that month's election, they chose, instead of acknowledging the truth, to go ahead with a plan to raise over $200 million dollars (and counting). That even today "President Trump" is sending out one or two fundraising emails a day, each one with the tiny "make this a recurring donation" box pre-checked.

Grifters occupy a unique niche in the world of criminals: they avoid direct violence, but live and act only to enrich themselves, whether it's with money, sex, power or all three. They're typically high-functioning sociopaths who sneer at the rules of civilized society the rest of us take seriously.

Republican appointees on the US Supreme Court cracked open the door for professional grifters in 1976 when, for the first time in American history, the Court redefined politicians taking money from billionaires away from being "political corruption" and "bribery"—what such behavior had been called since the beginning of the republic—to instead say it was a mere "exercise of free speech" on the part of the morbidly rich.

Two years after the Buckley decision, in 1978, Justice Lewis Powell (author of the infamous 1971 Powell Memo) pushed the door even farther open when he wrote for the Republican majority a decision granting giant corporations the same "free speech right" to own politicians in Boston v Bellotti.

And in 2010, with Citizens United, Republican appointees on the Court didn't just blow the doors open; they tore down the entire building of "good government" in America, reaffirming that any billionaire or corporation that wanted to own their very own pet politician—or, if rich enough, own an entire political party—was totally legal and not at all corrupt.

Which is why Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974, was one of the last Republican politicians who actually believed that politics in America had something to do with governing the nation (even if he did it poorly). Ever since then, the GOP has been composed almost exclusively of professional grifters (which is a somewhat different type of cat from an ordinary criminal like Nixon who just took bribes, blackmailed people and lied about it all).

Grifters occupy a unique niche in the world of criminals: they avoid direct violence, but live and act only to enrich themselves, whether it's with money, sex, power or all three. They're typically high-functioning sociopaths who sneer at the rules of civilized society the rest of us take seriously. They combine the not-uncommon skill set of being charming and great salesmen and storytellers, but have no conscience or respect for the truth.

Grifters believe they're the only "real" people in the world and all the rest of us are here for their entertainment, satisfaction or to pluck clean of whatever we have that they want. They view us as cardboard cutouts; their pains and loves and desires are real while ours are merely background noise.

And the entire Republican Party has become one giant in-crowd of professional grifters, most all of them getting rich, getting famous and/or getting laid in the process.

Ronald Reagan grew up during the Great Depression, became a Democrat who loved FDR, and once believed in government and that hard work and talent would get him ahead. Then Nancy Davis introduced him to her wealthy father, who let Ronnie in on the grift. Shill for General Electric and the GOP and he could marry Nancy, get rich, and might even have a bright political future. He was the first professional grifter president of the modern era.

Newt Gingrich was primed for the grift, screaming about Bill Clinton having an affair with Monica while porking Calista down the hall and fending off calls from his then-second wife. He got into the grift in a big way when he rolled out his "Contract With America" that was almost entirely tax cuts for giant corporations and the morbidly rich. Hell, he's still in on it; I'm getting an email almost every week from Trump with Gingrich's picture and signature asking for money.

Paul Ryan pimped tax cuts for the obscenely rich his entire career, knowing when he left office there's be massive paychecks waiting for him the rest of his life.

Dick Cheney knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein not only had nothing to do with 9/11 but actively hated and hunted down Bin Laden's Al Qaeda operatives so he could imprison or kill them. But Cheney had run Halliburton into trouble, betting that if he picked up Dresser Industries on the cheap that the Clinton administration would cover their asbestos liability. When he lost that bet and Halliburton was in trouble, a nice war with billions in no-bid contracts for the oil-company-turned-defense-contractor was just the grift he needed to both bail him out and make him fabulously rich.

Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia both knew that if any other federal judge were to go quail hunting with a defendant before the Court three weeks before trial or allow his spouse to take hundreds of thousands a year from a think tank with business before the Court, there would be hell to pay. But they were in on the grift and simply exempted themselves from the Federal Code of Judicial Conduct. Hell, they helped write the grift with Citizens United.

Since Citizens United the Republican grift has fully gone party-wide and even picked up a few Democrats along the way.

Some members of Congress get rich with money from Big Pharma, others choose to make their money with Big Oil or Big Coal, others are deeply in the pockets of airlines, telcom companies, the tobacco industry, banks, insurance companies or the food and hospitality monopolies.

Some Republicans even ran day-trading operations on insider information out of their offices until then-Democratic Congressman Brian Baird tipped off the world on my show and Air America's Majority Report 14 years ago.

They all believe, as Bob Dylan famously sang, "You've gotta serve somebody." And the "somebody" they all choose to serve are always the ones who pay the most.

Which is why it only makes sense that the Republican Party would put up a lifelong grifter as their nominee for president in 2016. And that he'd surround himself with grifters like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who Forbes magazine said would, by any measure, "rank among the biggest grifters in American history," having scammed business partners out of at least $120 million.

Everybody in the GOP is either stuffing their "Leadership PACs" with money they can dip into after they leave office, living high on the hog, using their position to become famous or get into the pants of underage girls, or preparing for their well-feathered-nest after leaving politics.

I've been running a contest on my radio show since it started in 2003 offering a prize to anybody who can identify even one single piece of legislation that was originally sponsored by a Republican, passed Congress with a Republican majority, and was signed into law by a Republican president that primarily helped average working people or poor people instead of the rich or giant corporations.

Nobody has ever won the prize, and I'm betting nobody ever will.

This is not to say the Democratic Party doesn't have its share of grifters (two publicity-hungry senators come to mind). After all, when the Supreme Court legalized political grifting they didn't limit it to one party or the other.

But the single largest caucus in the Democratic Party is the Congressional Progressive Caucus (co-founded by Bernie Sanders) and its members generally refuse corporate PAC money and don't usually hang out with lobbyists. Former co-chair of the Caucus, Representative Mark Pocan, has joked on my show that "they say there are three Big Pharma lobbyists for every member of Congress, but I have no idea who mine are."

While Democrats are trying to legislate around the corrupting landmines laid by conservatives on the Supreme Court, Republicans are expanding on Donald Trump's "voter fraud" and "antifa" grifts to raise money and consolidate their own power in the face of an American electorate that's starting to figure out their game.

Trump and a handful of his grifter buddies who were up for full-out treason thought they could pull off the ultimate grift and seize the trillions in assets of the entire country. They only failed, we're learning, by a whisker.

Next time we may not be so lucky. Congress must grift-proof our politics by getting billionaire and corporate money out of politics, as Democrats tried to do when the House of Representatives passed the For The People Act that arguably Democratic grifters Manchin and Sinema are blocking in the Senate.

Perhaps the 2022 election will bring Democrats a large enough progressive majority that they can work around their own grifters. Or maybe it'll signal the death knell of the republic.

To an extent largely unprecedented in American history, that decision will be in the hands of activists and voters like you and me. We have a big job ahead of us.

The real criminals General Milley exposed? Every Republican in the US Senate

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley stepped outside the realm of his constitutional power to prevent Donald Trump from starting nuclear war with China or Iran. It was definitely unconstitutional and probably illegal. But he's not the true villain in this story; the true villain is almost never mentioned in the press.

Trump's advisors aren't the villains, either, although Trump was just the latest Republican president advised by Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, whose partner in the years after they advised Nixon, Lee Atwater, had passed away from brain cancer after making a public apology for all the damage he did to our nation in the service of Nixon's party and, later, George HW Bush (Willie Horton, et al).

American media needs to put the blame for that squarely where it belongs: fifty Republicans in the US Senate who chose their own self-interest over our county when Trump's impeached fate was in their hands.

And Nixon, too, presented such a threat to world peace and democracy in America that his own Defense Secretary, James Schlesinger, took actions remarkably similar to Milley's, as was revealed by the Washington Post on August 22, 1974. Schlesinger and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs George S. Brown (who'd just taken that post on July 1, 1974), the Post wrote, "kept a close watch to make certain that no orders were given to military units outside the normal chain of command."

Specifically, Schlesinger and Brown were worried that Nixon would start a nuclear war to stay in power as he became increasingly under siege in the Watergate scandal. Congress relieved them of that burden when Barry Goldwater walked over to the White House and informed Nixon that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate were going to vote to impeach and remove him from office if he didn't resign immediately.

Which highlights the true villains in the General Mark Milley story who are almost always overlooked in the press: 50 Republicans in the US Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, who twice refused to remove Trump from office after the House had impeached him.

It's not like these senators didn't know that Trump was an unstable narcissist who had both loyalties and financial ties to autocrats in Russia, Turkey and multiple other foreign countries. They not only knew but were informed in great detail during the first opportunity they were given to remove Trump from office in December of 2019.

The impeachment managers laid out in excruciating detail the evidence that Trump had repeated for the 2020 election what he and his children had tried to do with Russia in 2016: solicit foreign interference in a US election, this time by trying to bribe the president of Ukraine with the promise of American weapons. At any other time in American history that would have been prosecuted as outright treason.

For example, in the election of 1800, then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson benefitted from what we'd today call a tabloid journalist, James Callender, publishing stories about the XYZ Affair that explicitly suggested his opponent, then-President John Adams, had provoked the cold naval war with France that came out of the scandal just to help his reelection chances. The charges of treason hurt Adams badly in that election, helping hand it to Jefferson.

While Adams almost certainly hadn't committed treason to stay in office, Trump almost certainly did, or something close to it. But the Republicans in the Senate were apparently unconcerned.

They knew by then that Trump and his family had both openly and secretly solicited and received Russian help in the 2016 election, that he'd trashed American intelligence agencies while elevating Russia's in a public meeting with President Putin in Helsinki way back in July of 2018, and that he'd tried to strong-arm the president of Ukraine to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden.

Compared to Richard Nixon paying to bug the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex and then lie about it afterwards, Trump's behaviors were monstrous. But Republicans gave him a pass on his criminal behavior. Twice.

If even a bit over a dozen of them had had the courage of the senate Republicans in 1974, Milley never would have been in a position to worry that an American president might start a nuclear war just to hang onto power and thus avoid prosecution.

But Senate Republicans are proudly lacking in courage, patriotism or any sense of loyalty to our nation or its ideals; their only loyalties are to their own power and the billions their donors use to seduce and control them.

Milley (and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper) shouldn't have had to take actions that may well have saved the republic if Trump had played out what he was considering.

And the American media needs to put the blame for that squarely where it belongs: fifty Republicans in the US Senate who chose their own self-interest over our county when Trump's impeached fate was in their hands.

The symptoms show American culture ia transitioning into a violent oligarchy

I'm sitting in my home office working on the next morning's Daily Rant when I hear what sounded like a man in my driveway yelling, at the top of his voice, "You f*cking c*nt!" and other female-specific obscenities. Walking to the window, I saw a guy in his 40s, red-faced, giving my wife the finger with both hands and cursing her out as he climbed into his car and squealed out of the driveway.

Louise, it turns out, had invited a local contractor to give us a bid on some repairs and she'd (very nicely) asked him, before letting him into the house, if he was vaccinated. He exploded and marched back to his car screaming curses at her.

In all her years on this planet, including as CEO of three different companies, that was the first time in her life a man had behaved like such an ass toward her.

In Tennessee a high school student testifies to a school board meeting that his grandmother has just died of Covid and he begs his school to mandate masks so his other grandmother isn't next; he's shouted down, laughed at and heckled by smirking, unmasked adults.

On Jet Blue what's become a new rite of passage for flight attendants blows into life as a man screams obscenities when asked to leave the plane because he refused to properly wear his mask.

In Tacoma, Washington a group of thugs goes looking for a fight when "antifa" fails to show up for the brawl the "Boys" had advertised. Undeterred, they march around town with clubs, flags and baseball bats looking for people to pick fights with until a local (not-antifa) man, apparently disgusted and feeling threatened by their behavior, finally pulls out a gun and shoots one of them in the foot (the story is still evolving; it's possible the guy shot himself in the foot).

In Ft. Collins Colorado a man harasses a group of women suntanning on the beach for wearing "pornographic" bathing suits, refusing to leave when they ask him to go away because, he says, "This is America!"

Across the nation, hundreds of poll workers and election officials endure daily death threats and violent harassment just for doing their civic duty. And school boards are under daily assault in similar fashion.

And these are just the stories from the past week.

This continuous and increasing use of violence and threats of violence has become an epidemic across America since 2016 and it's not because of frustration with the pandemic.

This is what happens in every country when it begins making the transition from being a democratic and generally polite and respectful culture into one that embraces authoritarianism or fascism.

And it always starts from the top down: leadership sets the initial tone in countries, just like in companies and families.

In our case, these people are imitating Donald Trump; our best hope is that President Biden's reasonable and compassionate example can help the nation turn against it, although Trump-imitating governors and other elected officials are making it very difficult.

The Republican leadership of Texas, for example, just legally embraced vigilantism against women, and a dozen GOP-controlled states are planning to follow suit this month. This is how it starts.

In Hungary, roaming bands of thugs with torches threatened to burn the homes of Roma people as Viktor Orbán rose to power a bit over a decade ago.

In The Philippines, President "Little Donald Trump" Duterte praised vigilantes roaming the streets with clubs and guns looking to beat or kill people "linked to drugs" including "more than 150 judges, mayors, lawmakers, police and military personnel" he viewed as political opponents. Duterte told his followers: "Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun - you have my support."

In Russia roaming bands attack and kill suspected-LGBTQ people as the government's leadership ramps up otherizing language against its own citizens. Across former Soviet states advocates for democracy or gay rights are routinely hunted, beaten and often killed.

As Mussolini came to power in Italy in the early 1920s his civilian vigilantes, known as Blackshirts for their garb of that color, took to the streets regularly. Historian Michael R. Ebner writes: "Thus, life for labor leaders became terror-filled, especially because Fascists did not limit their attacks to the public sphere. Nowhere was safe. Late at night, 10, 30, or even 100 Blackshirts, as these squad members became known, sometimes traveling from neighboring towns, might surround a home, inviting a Socialist, anarchist, or Communist outside to talk. If they refused, the Fascists would enter forcibly or threaten to harm the entire family by lighting the house on fire."

In Germany in 1921 Hitler organized a volunteer, unpaid civilian militia he called the Sturmabteilung (Storm Unit) who roamed across Germany looking for labor leaders, gays and Jews to beat up.

In Brazil today roaming bands of thugs called "militias" beat and kill people they believe are political enemies of strongman and Trump imitator President Jair Bolsonaro. According to reporting in The Intercept and The Guardian, they're led by Bolsonaro's eldest son Flávio.

In every case, around the world and throughout history, regular citizens were first surprised, then shocked, then intimidated, and finally dominated by the emerging authoritarian or neofascist movements led or encouraged by ambitious politicians in their nation.

In every case, everyday interactions like traveling on a train, bus or airplane, hiring a contractor, or just walking through town became a minefield filled with unpredictable eruptions of threat, intimidation and violence.

As Chicago reporter Milton Mayer wrote after returning from Germany just after World War II: "If I - and my countrymen - ever succumbed to that concatenation of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly no army would be able to protect us from harm."

We are witnessing today in America the symptoms of a culture going through the early stages of transition from pluralistic democracy to violent oligarchy, as I lay out in far more detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.

It quite literally starts with "average people" randomly exploding and behaving like asses while political demagogues promote self-styled militias, lawlessness and vigilantism.

We ignore or minimize them at our own peril.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

It's time to end the Medicare Advantage scam

Over 100 Democratic lawmakers last week introduced legislation to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60. There is one small problem that needs fixing, though: so-called "Medicare Advantage."

This week my new book, The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Sickness Bankrupts You and Makes Others Insanely Rich is officially available in bookstores nationwide and online. Here's a chapter excerpt I think you'll find interesting, particularly after all those awful TV ads with former football and sitcom stars we've had to endure the past few years…

The "Advantage" War against Medicare

Medicare Advantage is a massive, trillion-dollar rip-off, of the federal government and of taxpayers, and of many of the people buying the so-called Advantage plans.

It's also one of the most effective ways that insurance companies could try to kill Medicare For All, since about a third of all people who think they're on Medicare are actually on these privatized plans instead.

Nearly from its beginning, Medicare has allowed private companies to offer plans that essentially compete with it, but they were an obscure corner of the market and didn't really take off until the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress rolled out the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. This was the GOP's (and a few corporatist Democrats') big chance to finally privatize Medicare, albeit one bite at a time.

That law created a brand known as Medicare Advantage under the Medicare Part C provision, and a year later it phased in what are known as risk-adjusted large-batch payments to insurance companies offering Advantage plans.

Medicare Advantage plans are not Medicare. They're private health insurance most often offered by the big for-profit insurance companies (although some nonprofits participate, particularly the larger HMOs), and the rules they must live by are considerably looser than those for Medicare.

Even more consequential, they don't get reimbursed directly on a person-by-person, procedure-by-procedure basis. Instead, every year, Advantage providers submit a summary to the federal government of the aggregate risk score of all their customers and, practically speaking, are paid in a massive lump sum.

The higher their risk score, the larger the payment. A plan with mostly very ill people in it will get much larger reimbursements than a plan with mostly healthy people. After all, the former will be costly to keep alive and healthy, while the latter won't cost much at all.

Profit-seeking insurance companies, being the predators that they are, have found a number of ways to raise their risk scores without raising their expenses. The classical strategies of tying people to in-network providers, denying procedures routinely during first-pass authorization attempts, and having very high out-of-pocket caps are carried over from regular health insurance systems to keep costs low and profits high.

But with Medicare Advantage, the big insurance companies have invented a whole new way to rip us all off while padding their bottom lines.

For example, many Medicare Advantage plans promote an annual home visit by a nurse or physician's assistant as a "benefit" of the plan. What the companies are doing, though, is trying to upcode their customers to make them seem sicker than they are to increase their overall Medicare reimbursement risk score.

"Heart failure," for example, can be a severe and expensive condition to treat . . . or a barely perceptible tic on an EKG that represents little or no threat to a person for years or even decades. Depression is similarly variable; if it lasts less than two weeks, there's no reimbursement; if it lasts longer than two weeks, it's called a "major depressive episode" and rapidly jacks up a risk score.

The home health visits are designed more to look for illnesses or codings that can increase risk scores than to find conditions that require medical intervention. They're so profitable that an entire industry has sprung up of companies that send nurses out on behalf of the smaller insurance companies.

In summer 2014, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) published an in-depth investigative report titled Why Medicare Advantage Costs Taxpayers Billions More Than It Should.

They found, among other things, that one of the most common scams companies were running involved that very scoring of their customers as being sicker than they actually were, so that their reimbursements were way above the cost of caring for those people.

Here are a few quotes from the report:

  • "Risk scores of Medicare Advantage patients rose sharply in plans in at least 1,000 counties nationwide between 2007 and 2011, boosting taxpayer costs by more than $36 billion over estimated costs for caring for patients in standard Medicare."
  • "In more than 200 of these counties, the cost of some Medicare Advantage plans was at least 25 percent higher than the cost of providing standard Medicare coverage."
  • The report documents how risk scores rose twice as fast for people who joined a Medicare Advantage health plan as for those who didn't.
  • Patients, the report lays out, never know how their health is rated because neither the health plan nor Medicare shares risk scores with them—and the process itself is so arcane and secretive that it remains unfathomable to many health professionals.
  • "By 2009, government officials were estimating that just over 15 percent of total Medicare Advantage payments were inaccurate, about $12 billion that year."
  • Based on its own sampling of data from health plans, the report shows how CMS has estimated that faulty risk scores triggered nearly $70 billion in what officials deemed "improper" payments to Medicare Advantage plans from 2008 through 2013.
  • CMS decided, according to the report, not to chase after overcharges from 2008 through 2010 even though the agency estimated through sampling that it made more than $32 billion in "improper" payments to Medicare Advantage plans over those three years. CMS did not explain its reasoning.
  • The report documents how Medicare expects to pay the health plans more than $150 billion this year [2014, the year the study was published].

Companies are almost never nailed for these overcharges, and when they are, they usually pay back pennies on the dollar.

For example, when the Office of Inspector General, Health and Human Services (which oversees Medicare), audited six out of the hundreds of plans on the market in 2007, they found that just those six companies "had been overpaid by an estimated $650 million" for that one year. As the Center for Public Integrity states, "CMS settled five of the six audits for a total repayment of just over $1.3 million."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also, in 2012, decided to audit only 30 plans a year going forward. As CPI noted, "At that rate, it would take CMS more than 15 years to review the hundreds of Medicare Advantage contracts now in force." And that's 15 years to audit just one year's activity!

Things haven't improved since that 2014 investigative report from CPI. In September 2019, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and five Democratic colleagues sent a letter to President Donald Trump's CMS administrator, Seema Verma.

"The recent HHS Payment Accuracy Report exposes that taxpayers have overpaid Medicare Advantage plans more than $30 billion dollars over the last three years," Brown wrote. "This report comes on the heels of a 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report and a 2013 GAO report on [Medicare Advantage] plan overcharges and the failure of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to recoup billions of dollars of improper payments from MA plans."

Meanwhile, during the four years of the Trump administration, CMS went out of their way to illegally promote Medicare Advantage plans (which typically cost CMS far more than a regular Medicare plan).

A February 2020 report in the New York Times stated, "Under President Trump, some critics contend, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers Medicare, has become a cheerleader for Advantage plans at the expense of original Medicare."

The report pointed to the draft release of the 2019 Medicare & You handbook, which is mailed every year to all enrollees and posted online. "Advocates and some lawmakers criticized language describing Advantage as a less expensive alternative to original Medicare."

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) compared Medicare Advantage with traditional Medicare and found the Advantage programs to be mind-bogglingly profitable: "MA insurer revenues are 30 percent higher than their healthcare spending. Healthcare spending for enrollees in MA is 25 percent lower than for enrollees in [traditional Medicare] in the same county and [with the same] risk score."

At the same time, Medicare Advantage often screws its customers. According to the NBER study, people with Medicare Advantage got 15 percent fewer colon cancer screening tests, 24 percent fewer diagnostic tests, and 38 percent fewer flu shots.

Speculation is rife as to why CMS would allow—much less promote—privatized plans that cost Medicare far more than original Medicare to rip off taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars a month.

One possibility is regulatory capture—people working in CMS know that if they go along and get along, very well-paid jobs are waiting for them at for-profit insurance companies after a few years of government service. This is a chronic problem at other regulatory agencies, particularly those overseeing pollution, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, and banking.

Another answer is that the Bush administration—where Medicare Advantage started—was so enamored of the idea of privatizing Medicare to eventually destroy the program (George W. Bush campaigned extensively from the late 1970s through his presidency to privatize both Social Security and Medicare) that they turned a blind eye to abuses.

The Obama administration had other priorities, as they were trying to push through the Affordable Care Act and didn't want to upset the apple cart. And when Trump came into power, his folks saw anything that drained resources out of Medicare and into the pockets of multimillionaire health insurance executives—a group notoriously generous when it comes to making political contributions—as a plus.

You Are Locked in to Medicare Advantage

A fellow I'd known decades ago recently bubbled back into conversation among a few of us who'd hung out together in New York back in the 1970s. Sam, I'll call him, had turned 65 and hadn't had employer-provided health insurance in years. He spent a few hours trying to figure out how to sign up for Medicare and then gave up, totally confused, figuring he'd try again in a few months.

Unfortunately, his prostate intervened. When Sam started experiencing pain urinating, he visited a local "doc in a box" urgent care clinic, where they gave him a PSA test. The result was shocking: his PSA was so high that it was a virtual certainty he had prostate cancer, and possibly it had even metastasized, a situation that is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men.

Telling him that he'd be facing hefty doctor and hospital bills regardless of the outcome, the urgent care clinic signed him up for a Medicare Advantage plan offered by an affiliate that almost certainly paid them a commission for the sign-up. Sam was excited, though, because he now had insurance, and it was a "no dollar" plan that didn't cost him a penny.

Sam then got on the phone to find a urologist who specialized in cancer. He found that the best worked out of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and, telling them he was "on Medicare," he made an appointment to see one of their top docs. A month later, when his appointment finally opened up, the person who was checking him into the system told him that he'd have to pay cash because his Advantage plan didn't include Sloan Kettering.

In fact, more than a third of all Medicare Advantage plans nationwide do not include any of the National Cancer Institute centers, and none of the Advantage plans offered in the New York City area include the nation's most famous one, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Shocked, Sam contacted Medicare to see if he could transfer from Medicare Advantage to regular Medicare. This all happened in fall 2020, so they told him that he could make the change during the "open enrollment period" of October 15 to December 7. He made the change and called Sloan Kettering back.

This time, they wanted to know what Medigap policy he'd signed up for to fill in the 20 percent of billing that Medicare doesn't cover. That sent Sam back to the internet and, ultimately, to an insurance agent, who told him that while Medigap plans can't refuse you because of preexisting conditions when you first sign up when you turn 65, if you shift from Medicare Advantage back to traditional Medicare after that first enrollment, particularly if you're older or sick, they can simply refuse to cover you.

Reporter Mark Miller wrote for the New York Times in February 2020 about Ed Stein, a 72-year-old man with bladder cancer and a Medicare Advantage plan that didn't cover the cancer docs in his area who specialized in his type of cancer. He tried to shift back to traditional Medicare to cover what promised to be complex and expensive surgery and chemotherapy. As Miller wrote, "That was when he ran up against one of the least understood implications of selecting Advantage when you enroll in Medicare: The decision is effectively irrevocable."

As of this writing (November 2020), my friend Sam still hasn't seen a doctor. This is the state of healthcare in America as it's been sliced and diced by the multibillion-dollar insurance industry.

Meanwhile, every fall, Americans are inundated with hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of TV, direct mail, and internet advertising for Medicare Advantage plans. And where does the money come from to pay for that advertising?

It comes from the same place that provided over $1 billion in wealth to the former CEO of United Healthcare, and over $100 million a month in compensation to senior executives in the largest health insurance companies: denying claims while collecting risk adjustment claims from your tax dollars and mine.

The simple solution to the Medicare Advantage problem is to kill off the program. It was just a Trojan horse to privatize Medicare, and its presence will make Medicare for All even harder to implement. At the same time, the 20 percent hole that the GOP insisted on for skin in the game with real Medicare needs to go, too.

A comprehensive Medicare for All program will eliminate both of these problems.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The myths and lies about Afghanistan's role in 9/11 live on — and Bush and Cheney escape justice

The big question in the media today is, "Will Afghanistan again become a 'breeding ground' for terrorists who may again attack America?" It's the wrong question.

We've all heard that question asked, in a dozen variations, probably a hundred times in the past few months in the media. And it's not just the wrong question: it strengthens the GOP frame that lets George W. Bush off the hook for many of his worst failures and crimes.

Afghanistan had little to nothing to do with 9/11.

It's time to put this tired and deceptive canard to bed. The 9/11 attacks were not planned, hatched, developed, funded, practiced, expanded, worked out or otherwise devised in Afghanistan. That country and its leadership in 2001, in fact, had pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.

But wasn't Bin Laden running a "terror training camp" in Afghanistan? Yes, he was, but, again, it had little to nothing to do specifically with 9/11. It was more like the backwoods training camps that various US rightwing militias run, teaching low-level soldier-wannabee grunts (with the money to pay) how to use weapons and get into physical shape.

But an operation as detailed, well-funded and sophisticated as 9/11 had nothing to do with those yahoos. Bin Laden, who we generously funded during the Reagan administration to help evict the Soviets from Afghanistan, was running Al Qaeda at the time, and while he wrote the checks to pay for 9/11, the actual planning and management of the operation was done out of Pakistan and Germany by Khalid Sheik Mohammed.

Even the 9/11 Commission Report notes that one of the German plotters, Zakariya Essabar, became the courier to update Bin Laden that the attack was imminent. "Shortly before the 9/11 attacks, he would travel [from Germany] to Afghanistan to communicate the dates for the attacks to al Qaeda leadership" notes the Commission report on page 165.

From Germany, the plotters moved to Florida, where they organized the final plans and Mohammed Ata and others trained and received their pilots' licenses. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudi citizens, 2 were citizens of the UAE (that funded Jared Kushner), and one each were from Egypt and Lebanon. None were Afghans.

Further, none of the money came from the government of Afghanistan or Afghan nationals; Bin Laden had a substantial family fortune, and the Reagan administration had given him additional millions of dollars. And, increasingly, it appears that some of the funding may have come from Bin Laden's native Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan had nothing to do with it.

But doesn't Afghanistan hate America?

But, the "Afghan connection" press will ask, didn't "they" hit us on 9/11 because the Taliban hated American "values"?

First, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11 other than tolerating Bin Laden's presence in their country, something for which some corrupt officials were apparently well compensated. They really didn't care much at all about "American values" as long as we stayed the hell away from their country.

They'd just driven out the Soviets, and done so to the British, Greeks, Mongols and Persians in the centuries before that. They just wanted to be left alone. (This is the big battle between the Taliban and ISIS-K right now: the former wants to run Afghanistan while the latter wants to become a regional/international caliphate.)

It was all about sacred Saudi soil!

Bin Laden, though, was upset with the United States in September of 2001; it was because we were defiling the holy land of his home country, Saudi Arabia, a leftover from pappy Bush's "little war" in Iraq.

GHW Bush had put US soldiers on the ground in Saudi Arabia for the first time in generations to stage the invasion of Iraq, and those soldiers stayed long after pappy Bush's 3-day war was long over.

That infidel men, US soldiers who were Christian or Jewish were watching porn and drinking alcohol on holy Saudi soil was intolerable to Bin Laden and his fellow fundamentalists. And the fact that "loose" American women were also there, showing their elbows and driving cars in clear violation of Saudi law and customs, was doubly infuriating.

As early as 1998, Bin Laden threatened to strike America if we didn't withdraw Bush's troops and stop "defiling" Bin Laden's native holy land, Saudi Arabia. On September 2, 1996, he publicly threatened to "launch a guerrilla war against American forces and expel the infidels from the Arabian Peninsula."

As he told a reporter for The Guardian in 1998: "We believe that we are men, Muslim men, committed to defend the grandest house in the universe. The Holy [Saudi] Kaaba [land] is an honour to die and defend. So this is our aim—to liberate the lands of Islam from the sinners."

In a "letter to America," Bin Laden wrote: "Your forces occupy our countries; you spread your military bases throughout them; you corrupt our lands, and you besiege our sanctities, to protect the security of the Jews and to ensure the continuity of your pillage of our treasures."

This was, he said repeatedly, the reason why he ordered America struck in what we now refer to as the 9/11 attacks. He wanted us to remove daddy Bush's troops from the Bin Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia.

George W. Bush gave Bin Laden what he wanted.

As a result, Bush Jr. withdrew US those troops soon after 9/11: he was no dummy. Again, it had nothing to do with Afghanistan.

George W. Bush was warned multiple times that 9/11 was coming. Richard Clark told me, live on the air, that he told Condi Rice; he also said that he knew Al Gore had told Cheney and Bill Clinton had told Bush that Bin Laden was coming after us if we didn't pull out of Saudi Arabia.

Bush put Cheney in charge of a task force to follow up on the warnings, but Cheney was so busy planning his attack on Iraq and dividing up its oil fields among international buyers in anticipation of that 2003 invasion and oil-well-theft that his Al Qaeda task force never met until late August of 2001—and then did nothing.

But after 9/11 Bush and Cheney had to do something!

America had suffered a big bloody nose, an attack even more audacious than Pearl Harbor, and admitting that they'd ignored the intelligence warnings—particularly at a time a majority of Americans had doubts about the legitimacy of Bush's Supreme Court-appointed presidency itself—would have been politically disastrous.

And Bush and Cheney were seriously interested in getting re-elected in 2004, and Bush had told his biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, back in 1999 that being a wartime president with an active war going on at the time was the very, very best way to get re-elected.

Afghanistan was, at that time, the second poorest country in the world, with an average per-person income of around $2 per day. Their entire GDP was less than $2 billion a year. Their army was a joke, their air force almost non-existent, and their alliances were frazzled; in short, they were a sitting duck for a US president looking to make a name for himself on the cheap.

Which is exactly what Bush did. He sold us the fiction that 9/11 was planned and executed out of Afghanistan (much easier than attacking Hamburg, Germany or Venice, Florida), lied that it was funded by Afghans (much easier than biting the Saudi hand that fed the Bush family and Al Qaeda), and said that a revenge strike there by the world's largest military force would satisfy America's need for "closure."

Bush and Cheney ignored (indeed, they actively ridiculed) the threat Bin Laden presented to the US; then, after 9/11, they directed blame away from their friends in Saudi Arabia and toward the dysfunctional Taliban government of Afghanistan.

That Afghan Taliban government, hit hard with our initial bombing, then offered to arrest Bin Laden and turn him over to a third country for prosecution but, as The Washington Post's 9/15 headline noted, "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer On Bin Laden."

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney wanted a war and they got it.

For Bush, it ended speculation about his Supreme Court-assisted illegitimate claim to the White House. For Cheney, it meant hundreds of billions in no-bid contracts for his failing Haliburton company, which he had formerly led and was heavily invested in.

The war was over in less than three weeks when the Kabul government fell, and then began a 20+ year occupation that's just now coming to an end, another important distinction almost never mentioned in the media.

It's time to end the fiction that poverty-ridden failed states run by throwbacks to Bronze Age versions of modern religions were or are the source of well-funded and sophisticated attacks on fully developed countries like the United States.

It all goes back to Pappy Bush's "Gulf War"

Had George HW Bush not lied us into the first Gulf War as a failed 1992 re-election stunt (there were no babies being thrown from incubators: that was a lie told to Congress by a daughter of the Kuwaiti royal family at the suggestion of a US PR firm) and stationed US troops in Saudi Arabia to prosecute his "little war" (much like Reagan's "little war" in Grenada) Bin Laden never would have had the least concern with us.

It's said that nations that don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

We should have learned from LBJ lying us into Vietnam that false wars and long occupations never work out well. Hell, we should have learned that from the Mexican American War and the Spanish American War, both also conflicts American presidents lied us into.

But we hadn't learned any of that as of 9/11, and news coverage today suggests we still haven't learned the clear lessons of our own history.

As a result, the reputations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are enjoying a revival and those two and their defense contractor friends are laughing all the way to the bank.

Our media need to start asking the right questions:

  • How did Bush and Cheney get away with lying us into a war and 20-year occupation with Afghanistan—and nearly that long in Iraq—without political or historic consequences?
  • Why did the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, all knowing these occupations were a lost cause and a waste of American blood and treasure, not get us out before now?
  • And what can we do in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world, if that is our goal, to promote peace, modernity and democratic values without using warplanes, drones, soldiers and bombs?

This article, which appears here with permission, was first published on The Hartmann Report.

Ron DeSantis and the for-profit medical death trap

It has to be a scurrilous lie. Seriously: nobody is that evil.

Although it is the sort of thing that we've come to expect because our unique-in-the-world, for-profit health insurance system leaves Americans financially vulnerable to sickness but offers huge profits to companies and CEOs in the system.

Some cynical people are suggesting that the reason Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is forcing teachers and children to sit for hours every day in classrooms with unmasked children is because he wants them all to get infected with Covid…to make money for a friend of his.

Seriously. There's that theory out there, and it's almost too evil to believe it could be true.

That DeSantis is intentionally trying to expose children, families and public-school teachers to a deadly disease simply because it'll make a few million extra dollars for his largest donor, billionaire Ken Griffin, whose fund is one of the biggest stockholders in the company that makes the only available monoclonal antibody drug approved to treat Covid.

And, of course, it might also take out a few hundred unionized teachers, a bonus in any Republican's book.

But it can't be true that DeSantis is spreading disease just to goose healthcare profits, can it?

After all, when the federal government offered to give Florida billions of dollars to expand their Medicaid program to provide free healthcare for the state's working poor, Governor Rick Scott and later Governor DeSantis said a firm "no."

Even though all that money coming into the state to pay for healthcare could have goosed up the profits of any number of hospitals and health operations Griffin could invest in, DeSantis still refused to expand Medicaid statewide. (He did eventually sign an expansion of Medicaid for new moms, but it's a pittance and arguably a shout-out to the forced-birth crowd.)

Far more likely is that DeSantis just wants to win the Republican primary for president in 2024 and thinks having the Trump "base" and Fox "News" on his side will get him there.

After all, having hundreds of thousands of Floridians suffer disability or die — bankrupting family after family — just to score points with Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson demonstrates all the manly cred he'll need. Right?

It's another danger of having a for-profit health insurance system that doesn't cover everybody, so when a corrupt governor like DeSantis uses death and disease for political manipulation families end up ill, broke and desperate — as are millions of American families right now because of Covid.

Whatever's going on with DeSantis, we're not Brazil and we really do need to get past behaving like a third-world country where the boss-man plays games with deadly diseases for political gain.

And the best way to do that is to finally join pretty much every other developed country in the world and put into place a single-payer healthcare system like Medicare For All.

When this pandemic started, America had 87 million uninsured or underinsured citizens. As a result, a FamiliesUSA study found:

  • Nationally, roughly 1 out of every 3 COVID-19 deaths are linked to health insurance gaps.
  • More than 40% of all COVID-19 infections are associated with health insurance gaps.
  • By February 1, 2021, 10.9 million infections and 143,000 COVID-19 deaths may have been associated with health insurance gaps.

A national healthcare program that extended to all Americans would keep state governors from grandstanding on healthcare issues. Even better, like every other developed country in the world, it would provide a nexus for health data and a single point of advocacy for health consumers, something sorely lacking today.

And it would keep America healthy. As Public Citizen noted, "For every 10% increase in a county's uninsured rate, the researchers found a 70% increase in COVID-19 infections and nearly a 50% increase in deaths from COVID-19."

Uninsured people often live paycheck-to-paycheck and have no paid sick days, so they have little choice but to show up sick if they want to pay the rent and provide food for their families. It's well known that's how and why flu and other communicable diseases are transmitted by desperate low-wage workers and it's one of the strongest arguments for a national healthcare system.

Individual health is public health, and vice-versa.

Our failure to put into place a Medicare For All type of health insurance system causes uninsured or poorly insured people to postpone medical care early in the course of a disease, hoping to make it through without incurring medical expenses.

This is particularly dangerous with Covid: monoclonal antibody treatment works to cut the severity of the coronavirus infection, but only if given when first symptoms appear and before people are so sick they need hospitalization; after that point it's useless.

In a pandemic, a national health insurance and healthcare system becomes critical to keeping the public safe.

I open my new book, The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Sickness Bankrupts You and Makes Others Insanely Rich, with the story of how Taiwan used the national database from their single-payer system to quickly put together a testing-and-contact-tracing system that kept the coronavirus at bay through the first year of the pandemic until vaccines became available.

Here, by contrast, our for-profit health insurance system is so corrupt that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently had to go after multiple insurance companies with the threat of huge fines for refusing to pay for all or part of Covid testing, even though paying for it was mandated by federal law.

When a single health insurance CEO — like "Dollar Bill" McGuire of UnitedHealth — can walk away with over a billion dollars, you know something is seriously screwed up.

Administering a health insurance system is one of the easiest, most banal and straightforward processes in the world, which is why most developed countries (and even small countries like Costa Rica) have the government perform that function with single-payer instead of letting for-profit leeches skim billions off the top.

The Covid pandemic has shown how well single-payer and other national systems work in countries like Canada and across Europe, where medical bankruptcies are largely unknown. It's similarly exposed how corrupt and dysfunctional the American patchwork-quilt for-profit system has become.

Medicare For All, like Canada has, would save most American families thousands of dollars every year and do away with the 500,000+ annual bankruptcies in this country that happen only because somebody in the family got sick.

But it would kill the billions every week in profits for the half-dozen corporate giants that dominate the health insurance industry and throw millions every year at politicians and PACs. So expect DeSantis and the Republican Party to continue to fight it tooth and nail.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

The final act of George W. Bush's deceptive reelection strategy is playing out before us

Let's never forget that what we are watching happen right now in Afghanistan is the final act of George W. Bush's 2004 reelection strategy.

After 9/11 the Taliban offered to arrest Bin Laden, but Bush turned them down because he wanted to be a "wartime president" to have a "successful presidency."

The Washington Post headline weeks after 9/11 put it succinctly: "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer On Bin Laden." With that decision not to arrest and try Bin Laden for his crime but instead to go to war, George W. Bush set the US and Afghanistan on a direct path to today.

More recently, Trump and Pompeo gave the Taliban everything they wanted — power, legitimacy and the release of 5,000 of their worst war criminals — over the strong objections of the Afghan government in 2019 so Trump could falsely claim, heading into the 2020 election, that he'd "negotiated peace" in Afghanistan when in fact he'd set up this week's debacle.

"The relationship I have with the Mullah is very good," Trump proclaimed after ordering the mullah who yesterday named himself President freed from prison over the furious objection of Afghan's government, which Trump had cut out of the negotiations.

Now Trump and the GOP are scrubbing the record of that betrayal of both America and Afghanistan and embrace of the Taliban from their websites, as noted here and here.

And the UK is coming right out and saying that Trump's "rushed" deal with the Taliban — without involvement of the Afghan government or the international community — set up this disaster. "The die was cast," Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC, "when the deal was done by Donald Trump, if you want my observation."

Trump's sabotage notwithstanding, President Biden, the State Department and the Pentagon should have anticipated this week's debacle in Afghanistan. The fact that they didn't speaks volumes about how four administrations, the Pentagon and our defense contractors covered up how poorly the Ashraf Ghani government was doing there. Just like they did with Vietnam. It's on all of them.

And this isn't the first time a president has lied us into a war.

  • Vietnam wasn't the first time an American president and his buddies in the media lied us into a war when Defense Secretary Robert McNamara falsely claimed that an American warship had come under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin and LBJ went along with the lie.
  • Neither was President William McKinley lying us into the Spanish-American war in 1898 by falsely claiming that the USS Maine had been blown up in Havana harbor (it caught fire all by itself).
  • The first time we were lied into a major war by a president was probably the Mexican-American war of 1846 when President James Polk lied that we'd been invaded by Mexico. Even Abraham Lincoln, then a congressman from Illinois, called him out on that lie.
  • You could also argue that when President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 leading to the Trail of Tears slaughter and forced relocation of the Cherokee under President Buchanan (among other atrocities) it was all based on a series of lies.

Bush's lies that took us into Afghanistan and, a bit over a year later into Iraq, are particularly egregious, however, given his and Cheney's apparent reasons for those lies.

In 1999, when George W. Bush decided he was going to run for president in the 2000 election, his family hired Mickey Herskowitz to write the first draft of Bush's autobiography, A Charge To Keep.

Although Bush had gone AWOL for about a year during the Vietnam war and was thus apparently no fan of combat, he'd concluded (from watching his father's "little 3-day war" with Iraq) that being a "wartime president" was the most consistently surefire way to get reelected and have a two-term presidency.

"I'll tell you, he was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," Herskowitz told reporter Russ Baker in 2004.

"One of the things [Bush] said to me," Herskowitz said, "is: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of (Kuwait) and he wasted it.

"[Bush] said, 'If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"

The attack on 9/11 gave Bush his first chance to "be seen as a commander-in-chief" when our guy Osama Bin Laden, who the Reagan/Bush administration had spent $3 billion building up in Afghanistan, engineered an attack on New York and DC.

The crime was planned in Germany and Florida and on 9/11 Bin Laden was, according to CBS News, not even in Afghanistan: "CBS Evening News has been told that the night before the Sept. 11 terrorists attack, Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan. He was getting medical treatment with the support of the very military that days later pledged its backing for the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan." When the Obama administration finally caught and killed Bin Laden, he was again in Pakistan, the home base for the Taliban.

But attacking our ally Pakistan in 2001 would have been impossible for Bush, and, besides, nearby Afghanistan was an easier target, being at that time the second-poorest country in the world with an average annual per-capita income of $700 a year. Bin Laden had run terrorist training camps there, unrelated to 9/11, but they made a fine excuse for Bush's first chance to "be seen as a commander-in-chief" and get some leadership cred.

Cheney, meanwhile, was in a world of trouble because of a huge bet he'd made as CEO of Halliburton in 1998. Dresser Industries was big into asbestos and about to fall into bankruptcy because of asbestos lawsuits that the company was fighting up through the court system. Cheney bet Dresser would ultimately win the suits and had Halliburton buy the company on the cheap, but a year later, in 1999, Dresser got turned down by the courts and Haliburton's stock went into freefall, crashing 68 percent in a matter of months.

Bush had asked Cheney — who'd worked in his father's White House as Secretary of Defense — to help him find a suitable candidate for VP.

Cheney, as his company was collapsing, recommended himself for the job. In July of 2000, Cheney walked away with $30 million from the troubled company and the year after that, as VP, Halliburton subsidiary KBR received one of the first no-bid no-ceiling (no limit on how much they could receive) multi-billion-dollar military contracts.

Bush and Cheney both had good reason to want to invade Afghanistan in October 2001:

Bush was largely seen as an illegitimate president at the time because his father's appointee on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, had cast the deciding vote that made him president; a war gave him legitimacy and the aura of leadership.

Cheney's company was in a crisis, and Afghanistan War no-bid contracts helped turn around Halliburton from the edge of bankruptcy into one of the world's largest defense contractors.

Even Trump had to get into the "let's lie about Afghanistan" game, in his case to have bragging rights that he'd "ended the war in Afghanistan."

In 2019, Trump went around the Afghan government (to their outrage: he even invited the Taliban to Camp David in a move that disgusted the world) to cut a so-called "peace deal" that sent thousands of newly-empowered Taliban fighters back into the field and drew down our troops to the point where today's chaos was absolutely predictable.

Trump's deal was the signal to the 300,000+ Afghan army recruits that America no longer had their back and if the Taliban showed up they should just run away. Which, of course, is what has happened over the past few weeks.

As The New York Times noted: "The Taliban capitalized on the uncertainty caused by the [Trump] February 2020 agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, between the militant group and the United States calling for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some Afghan forces realized they would soon no longer be able to count on American air power and other crucial battlefield support and grew receptive to the Taliban's approaches."

Jon Perr's article at Daily Kos does a great summary, with the title: "Trump put 5,000 Taliban fighters back in battle and tied Biden's hands in Afghanistan." Trump schemed and lied to help his reelection efforts, and the people who worked with our military and the US-backed Afghan government are and will pay a terrible price for it.

As President Biden said Friday:

"When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies' Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

America has been lied into too many wars. It's cost us too much in money, credibility and blood. We must remember the lies.

When President Ford withdrew US forces from Vietnam (I remember it well), there was barely a mention of McNamara's and LBJ's lies that got us into that war. Similarly, today's reporting on the chaos in Afghanistan almost never mentions Bush's and Cheney's lies and ulterior motives in getting us into that war in the first place.

We can't afford to let this one go down the memory hole, too. We must learn from our mistakes.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

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

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