Thom Hartmann

New report details why wealthy people really oppose democracy

Why are America’s plutocrats funding efforts to weaken our democracy and replace it with plutocracy and oligarchy? Is it just about money? Or is there something much deeper that most Americans rarely even consider?

An extraordinary investigative report from documented.net tells how morbidly rich families, their companies, and their personal foundations are funding efforts to limit or restrict democracy across the United States.

In an article co-published with The Guardian, they noted:

“The advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, the powerful conservative think tank based in Washington, spent more than $5m on lobbying in 2021 as it worked to block federal voting rights legislation and advance an ambitious plan to spread its far-right agenda calling for aggressive voter suppression measures in battleground states.”

Their efforts have had substantial success, as you can read in Documented’s article.

This effort, of course, is not unique to the one think tank they called out. From Donald Trump all the way down to the lowest Republican county official, efforts to make it harder for what John Adams called “the rabble” to vote and otherwise participate in democracy are in full swing across America.

But why? Why are some wealthy people so opposed to expanding democracy in America?

Most Americans — and lots of editorial writers — are convinced it’s simply because rich folks want to influence legislation to benefit themselves and keep their regulations and taxes down. I proposed a motive like that in yesterday’s Daily Take.

And surely, for some, that’s the largest part of it. But that’s not the entire story.

I can’t claim (nor would I) to know the exact motives driving the various wealthy individuals funding efforts to reduce the Black, Hispanic, senior, and youth vote. But history does suggest that many are trying to “stabilize” America rather than just pillage her.

They are worried that America is suffering from too much democracy.

The modern-day backstory to this starts in the early 1950s when conservative thinker Russell Kirk proposed a startling hypothesis that would fundamentally change our nation and the world.

The American middle-class at that time was growing more rapidly than any middle-class had ever grown in the history of the world, both in terms of the number of people in the middle class, the income of those people, and the overall wealth that those people were accumulating.

The middle-class was growing in wealth and income back then, in fact, faster than were the top 1%.

Kirk and colleagues like William F. Buckley postulated that if the middle-class and minorities became too wealthy, they’d feel the safety and freedom to throw themselves actively into our political processes, as rich people had historically done.

That expansion of democracy, they believed, would produce an absolute collapse of our nation’s social order — producing chaos, riots, and possibly even the end of the republic.

The first chapter of Kirk’s 1951 book, The Conservative Mind, is devoted to Edmund Burke, the British conservative who Thomas Paine visited for two weeks in 1793 on his way to get arrested in the French revolution. Paine was so outraged by Burke’s arguments that he wrote an entire book rebutting them titled The Rights of Man. It’s still in print (as is Burke).

Burke was defending, among other things, Britain’s restrictions on democracy, including limits on who could vote or run for office, and the British maximum wage.

That’s right, maximum wage.

Burke and his contemporaries in the late 1700s believed that if working-class people made too much money, they’d have enough spare time to use democratic processes to challenge the social order and collapse the British kingdom.

Too much democracy, Burke believed, was a dangerous thing: deadly to nations and a violation of evolution and nature itself.

Summarizing his debate with Paine about the French Revolution, Burke wrote:

“The occupation of a hair-dresser, or of a working tallow-chandler [candle maker], cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively are permitted to rule [by voting]. In this you think you are combating prejudice, but you are at war with nature.”

That was why Parliament passed a law making it illegal for employers to pay people over a certain amount, so as to keep wage-earners right at the edge of poverty throughout their lives.

It was explicitly to avoid too much democracy and preserve the stability of the kingdom. (For the outcome of this policy, read pretty much any Dickens novel.)

Picking up on this, Kirk’s followers argued that if the American middle-class became wealthy enough to have time for political activism, there would be similarly dire consequences.

Young people would cease to respect their elders, they warned. Women would stop respecting (and depending on) their husbands. Minorities would begin making outrageous demands and set the country on fire.

When Kirk laid this out in 1951, only a few conservative intellectuals took him seriously.

Skeptics of multiracial egalitarian democracy like William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater were electrified by his writings and line of thinking, but Republicans like then-President Dwight Eisenhower said of people like Kirk and his wealthy supporters:

Their numbers are negligible and they are stupid.“

And then came the 1960s.

— In 1961, the birth control pill was legalized and by 1964 was in widespread use; this helped kick off the Women’s Liberation Movement, as women, now in control of their reproductive capacity, demanded equality in the workplace. Bra burning became a thing, at least in pop culture lore.

— By 1967, young people on college campuses were also in revolt; the object of their anger was an illegal war in Vietnam. Along with national protest, draft card burning was also a thing.

— The labor movement was feeling it’s oats: strikes spread across America throughout the 1960s from farm workers in California to steel workers in Pennsylvania. In the one year of 1970 alone, over 3 million workers walked out in 5,716 strikes.

— And throughout that decade African Americans were demanding an end to police violence and an expansion of Civil and Voting Rights. In response to several brutal and well-publicized instances of police violence against Black people in the late 1960s, riots broke out and several of our cities were on fire.

These four movements all hitting America at the same time got the attention of Republicans who had previously ignored or even ridiculed Kirk’s 1950s warnings about the dangers of the middle class and minorities embracing democracy.

Suddenly, he seemed like a prophet. And the GOP turned on a dime.

The Republican/Conservative “solution” to the “national crisis” these movements represented was put into place with the election of 1980: the project of the Reagan Revolution was to dial back democracy while taking the middle class down a peg, and thus end the protests and social instability.

Their goal was, at its core, to save America from itself.

The plan was to declare war on labor unions so wages could slide down or at least remain frozen for a few decades; end free college across the nation so students would study in fear rather than be willing to protest; and increase the penalties Nixon had already put on drugs so they could use those laws against hippy antiwar protesters and Black people demanding participation in democracy.

As Nixon‘s right hand man, John Ehrlichman, told reporter Dan Baum:

“You want to know what this was really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. Do you understand what I’m saying?
“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.
“We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

While it looks from the outside like the singular mission of the Reagan Revolution was simply to help rich people and giant corporations get richer and more powerful (and that’s certainly been the effect), the ideologues driving the movement also thought they were restoring stability to the United States, both socially, economically, and — most important — politically.

The middle class was out of control by the late 1960s, they believed, and something had to be done. There was too much democracy, and it was tearing America apart.

Looking back at the “solutions” England used around the time of the American Revolution (and for 1000 years before) and advocated by Edmund Burke and other conservative thinkers throughout history, Republicans saw a remedy to the crisis. As a bonus, it had the side effect of helping their biggest donors and thus boosting their political war-chests.

If working people, women, minorities, and students were a bit more desperate about their economic situations, these conservative thinkers asserted, then they’d be less likely to organize, protest, strike, or even vote. The unevenness, the instability, the turbulence of democracy in the 1960s would be calmed.

— To accomplish this, Reagan massively cut taxes on rich people and raised taxes on working-class people 11 times.

— He put a tax on Social Security income and unemployment benefits and put in a mechanism to track and tax tips income, all of which had previously been tax-free but were exclusively needed and used by working-class people.

— He ended the deductibility of credit-card, car-loan and student-debt interest, overwhelmingly claimed by working-class people. At the same time, he cut the top tax bracket for millionaires and multimillionaires from 74% to 27%. (There were no billionaires in America then, in large part because of FDR’s previous tax policies; the modern explosion of billionaires followed Reagan’s massive tax cuts for the rich.)

— He declared war on labor unions, crushed PATCO in less than a week, and over the next decade the result of his war on labor was that union membership went from about a third of the American non-government workforce when he came into office to around 10% today.

— He brought a young lawyer named John Roberts into the White House to work out ways to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision. His VP brought in his son, George W., to build bridges between the GOP and the most fanatical branches of evangelical Christianity, who opposed both women’s rights and the Civil Rights movement.

— He and Bush also husbanded the moribund 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT, which let Clinton help create the WTO) and NAFTA, which opened a floodgate for American companies to move manufacturing overseas, leaving American workers underemployed while cutting corporate donor’s labor costs and union membership.

And, sure enough, it worked.

— Reagan’s doubling-down on the War on Drugs shattered Black communities and our prison population became the largest in the world, both as a percentage of our population and in absolute numbers.

— His War on Labor cut average inflation-adjusted minimum and median wages by more over a couple of decades than anybody had seen since the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s.

— And his War on Students jacked up the cost of education so high that an entire generation is today so saddled with more than $1.7 trillion in student debt that many aren’t willing to jeopardize their future by “acting up” on campuses.

The key to selling all this to the American people was the idea that the US shouldn’t protect the rights of workers, subsidize education, or enforce Civil Rights laws because, Republicans said, government itself is a remote, dangerous and incompetent power that can legally use guns to enforce its will.

As Reagan told us in his first inaugural, democracy was not the solution to our problems, but democracy — government — instead was the problem itself.

He ridiculed the once-noble idea of service to one’s country and joked that there were really no good people left in government because if they were smart or competent they’d be working in the private sector for a lot more money.

He told us that the nine most frightening words in the English language were:

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, wealthy people associated with Kirk’s and Reagan’s Republicans built a massive infrastructure of think tanks and media outlets to promote and amplify this message about the dangers of too much democracy.

As the reporting from documented.net indicates, they’re working at it with as much enthusiasm today as ever.

It so completely swept America that by the 1990s even President Bill Clinton was repeating things like, “The era of big government is over,” and “This is the end of welfare as we know it.” Limbaugh, Hannity and other right-wing radio talkers were getting millions a year in subsidies from groups like the Heritage Foundation, the group documented.net wrote about yesterday.

Fox News today carries on the tradition, warning almost daily about the danger of “people in the streets” or political movements like anti-fascism and BLM.

When you look at the long arc of post-Agricultural Revolution human history you discover that Burke was right when he claimed that oligarchy — rule by the rich — has been the norm, not the exception.

And it’s generally provided at least a modicum of stability: feudal Europe changed so little for over a thousand years that we simply refer to that era as the Dark Ages followed by the Middle Ages without detail. It’s all kind of black-and-white fuzzy in our mind’s eye.

Popes, kings, queens, pharaohs, emperors: none allowed democracy because all knew it was both a threat to their wealth and power but also because, they asserted, it would render their nations unstable.

These historic leaders — and their modern day “strongman” versions emerging in former democracies like Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, The Philippines, and Russia — are the model for many of today’s conservatives. And not just because they were rich.

Understanding this history gives us clues to how we can revive democracy in America. Step one is to help people realize that instability, like labor pains before birth, is not a bad thing for a democracy but most frequently is a sign of emerging and positive political and social advances.

Hopefully one day soon our vision of an all-inclusive democracy — the original promise of America, to quote historian Harvey Kaye — will be realized. But first we’re going to have to get past the millions of dollars mobilized by democracy’s skeptics.

I believe it’s possible. But it’s going to take all of us getting involved to make it happen. As both Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama were fond of saying: “Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

Tag, we’re it.

Did some of our federal police conspire to overthrow the United States?

Congressman Ron Paul’s former staffer, Elmer Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oathkeepers, was just convicted of seditious conspiracy. But how did he and his merry band get close enough to Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi to present the kind of deadly threat they tried to carry out?

“Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” the Scotland Yard police inspector asked Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Adventure of Silver Blaze.

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time,” Holmes replied.

“The dog,” the inspector said, “did nothing in the night-time.”

That,” replied Holmes, “was the curious incident.”

Why didn’t the “dogs” of our federal police, investigative, and military agencies “bark” when they knew full well in advance that an armed mob was coming to the Capitol to try to overthrow our government, and that many within the mob were armed and willing to kill (and did) to try to accomplish their goal?

Why, afterward, did the Secret Service and the Department of Defense wipe their phones so the data could never be retrieved? Why has there never been a public examination of most of this?

It’s as if a small-town police force was warned that a gang of bank robbers was on their way into town on the following Saturday, and that weekend the entire police force decided to leave their phones off the hook and go fishing. And after the bank was robbed, they all said they didn’t realize they’d really intended to rob the town’s bank. And then destroyed the note warning them the robbers were coming to town.

Why are so few people openly speculating that corrupt individuals — possibly only a tiny handful — within the FBI, Secret Service, and Department of Defense may have participated in a plot led by Donald Trump to overthrow our government?

Is it simply because treason is such an unimaginably heinous act? Does journalistic integrity require them to await “smoking gun” evidence that, at the very least, some people within these organizations were knowing or unknowing participants in Trump’s plot to become America’s last president? Is it fear of losing sources in the agencies?

When I was 13 years old my father gave me a just-published book he’d gotten from a friend in the John Birch Society titled None Dare Call It Treason. It posited that the US State Department was riddled with communist sympathizers, largely based on circumstantial evidence and the “investigations” conducted a decade earlier by Senator Joe McCarthy.

There was no such conspiracy (although there were a few identified as “commies,” mostly just good liberals), but that didn’t stop the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, from frequently and loudly suggesting to the press that there was.

Similarly, from the viewpoint of some of the people working in the FBI and Secret Service on January 6th, it may not have been as absurd as it sounds today to have then believed that Democrats in a half-dozen states had successfully stolen the election from Trump.

After all, the President of the United States was making that claim himself, repeatedly. And dozens of other high-ranking officials, including members of the House and Senate from the various states where the crimes allegedly occurred, were themselves corroborating his claim.

Trump was the boss, and if people in police agencies are anything it’s deferential to the boss. And highly aware of the chain of command. As the old saying goes, if he says, “Jump!” it’s their job to reply, “How high?”

Anybody who’s ever had much contact with members of police and military agencies knows they lean conservative, sometimes to the point of outright support for police-state style fascism. In many instances and circumstances a certain amount of authoritarianism seems necessary to do the job, particularly policing, which is why that kind of work draws authoritarian personalities to it.

It’s also no secret that both police officers and military enlistees vote overwhelmingly Republican, largely for the same reasons (although the GOP also goes out of its way to court those voters).

So, should we be surprised to learn that a handful of members of our federal police agencies — the FBI and Secret Service — and a few most senior officials in the Department of Defense may have conspired — wittingly or unwittingly — with Donald Trump to end democracy in America and institute a Trump-led strongman government?

As the January 6th Select Committee in the House is wrapping up their work and writing their final report, there are more than a few questions around the DOD, FBI, and Secret Service that remain unanswered, particularly about the days and weeks leading up to that fateful day.

The largest question, of course, is why they all stood down, knowing that armed militias were coming to try to overturn an election. And that the militia members were willing to spill blood, which they did, including that of the three police officers killed and over 140 injured, to accomplish their goal.

The attack heading toward the Capitol wasn’t a secret, by any measure. Trump had tweeted an invitation on December 19th saying it would be “wild” and reiterated the invitation multiple times both on Twitter and in other venues.

Rhodes texted to his Oathkeeper members, which included at least one FBI informant:

“We are not getting through this without a civil war. Prepare your mind, body and spirit.”

If that wasn’t clear enough, he also proclaimed:

“We will have to do a bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That's what's going to have to happen.”

Planning was all over right-wing media, Twitter, and Facebook. People were openly discussing violence and plans for violence. There was brazen talk of revolution, of assassination.

Somebody brought and assembled a gallows on the lawn of the capitol building, but somehow nobody stopped the construction or knows the identities of its builders and how or why it was organized.

And we now know that FBI field offices across the country had noticed the boiling calls for violence, and the Secret Service and DOD were also fully aware of it.

But not only did they do nothing: they actively prevented — for days in advance, and for multiple hours during the active armed assault — any rescue of the small contingent of Capitol Police and legislators left to deal with an armed mob of thousands.

The Commanding General of the National Guard, Gen. William J. Walker, has openly complained that he was prevented — for four hours — from helping the Capitol Police that day. AsThe Washington Post reported:

“Walker contends that restrictions placed on him by McCarthy and Trump’s acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, prevented him from sending Guard members to assist sooner.”

How is this an accident?

When Trump took the dais to whip up the crowd before sending them to the Capitol to “hang Mike Pence,” he took the unusual step of speaking from behind a wall of bulletproof glass. Congressman Mo Brooks, among others, wore a bulletproof vest.

They knew what the hell was up.

Hours before Trump’s rally, in the early morning hours, armed people had started showing up near the ellipse; DC police and the Secret Service had reports of an armed person in a tree and others carrying semiautomatic weapons.

January 6th Committee testimony suggests the Secret Service reported this to Trump himself although, weirdly, nobody tried to disarm these people in a city where guns are largely illegal. Instead, apparently there was a debate about whether or not to turn off the metal-detecting magnetometers.

Trump then demanded — in real time, from the stage — that those armed followers be allowed in to hear his speech without having to go through the magnetometers that would have identified their weapons.

Yet somehow his hand-picked FBI Director hadn’t prepared to deal with an armed mob in advance and, on the day of the assault, went fishing or something (his statement to Congress is here).

Whatever he was doing, he was seemingly paralyzed for most of the day and only took direct action, he testified under oath to Congress:

Beginning on the evening of January 6, the FBI surged substantial resources to help ensure the safety and security of the U.S. Capitol complex, members of Congress, and their staff, and the public.” (emphasis mine)

This isn’t to say I think Chris Wray was in on the conspiracy. Unless he’s managed to drag the agency back to the era of J. Edgar Hoover and is blackmailing politicians, his retention by the Biden administration speaks volumes.

Nonetheless, many of us would like to know, “WTF?!??

For similarly unknown reasons Trump’s acting Defense Secretary told the National Guard two days earlier, on January 4th, that they were not, without specific permission from him, allowed to help the Capitol police on January 6th. (His memo is reproduced at the end of this article.)

Meanwhile, as convicted seditionist Stewart Rhodes testified at his own trial, Oathkeepers were fully expecting counter-protestors to show up, people they could identify as “Antifa” and attack. General Mike Flynn was pushing Trump to use that expected battle as the excuse to declare martial law and suspend election activity.

And it now looks like Trump may have been prepared to execute Flynn’s plan, had those counter-protestors actually showed up.

The day before, on January 5th, Trump issued an executive order asserting that “Antifa” was both a domestic terrorist and organized crime group and should be treated as such by the federal government.

“[R]eliable reporting,” the January 5th order notes, “suggests that the movement known as Antifa is directly or indirectly responsible for some of the recent lawlessness in our communities, and has exploited tragedies to advance a radical, leftist, anarchist, and often violent agenda. In fact, Antifa has long used otherwise permissible demonstrations to engage in lawless, criminal behavior to further its radical agenda. …
“Those affiliated with Antifa have also repeatedly threatened violence, including against law enforcement officers. …
“In late September of 2020, individuals in a moving truck distributed riot equipment — including shields, masks, and a sign emblazoned with an Antifa symbol — in Louisville, Kentucky, before riots ensued there. Hours later, the violent situation resulted in the shooting of two police officers. And on October 5, 2020, reported Antifa activists in Portland were captured on video attacking a woman carrying an American flag.
“The Department of Justice has already publicly confirmed that actions by Antifa and similar groups meet the standard for domestic terrorism.”

Over at the Department of Defense then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and his Chief of Staff Kash Patel (formerly of Devin Nunes’ staff) were running the place.

They controlled the Pentagon and our armed forces but, more importantly, they controlled the National Guard, whose troops had previously surrounded buildings in the Capitol area three-deep during the peaceful BLM protests just six months earlier.

The prospect that violence was heading toward the Capitol on January 6th wasn’t a secret to anybody with a Twitter or Facebook account: the nation was awash with threats and planning for violence, much of it in the open. It was discussed on talk radio and podcasts.

This apparently so alarmed Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy that, on January 4th, he reached out to his boss, Trump’s recently-appointed Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, to get permission to send the National Guard to the Capitol building on January 6th to prevent the violence they were seeing being planned all over social media.

Acting Defense Secretary Miller, in the effective role of commander of our entire military just one step below Commander-in-Chief Trump (on whose behalf he acted), then issued a memo on January 4th specifically directing McCarthy and the National Guard that they were:

  • *Not authorized to be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.
  • *Not to interact physically with protestors, except when necessary in self-defense or defense of others.
  • *Not to employ any riot control agents.
  • *Not to share equipment with law enforcement agencies.
  • *Not authorized to use Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets or to conduct ISR or Incident, Awareness, and Assessment activities in assistance to Capitol Police.
  • *Not allowed to employ helicopters or any other air assets.
  • *Not to conduct searches, seizures, arrests, or other similar direct law enforcement activity.
  • *Not authorized to seek support from any non-DC National Guard units.

There’s no coherent theory about why Chris Miller wrote this memo and thus blocked the National Guard from protecting the Capitol and the members of Congress within it.

Some have suggested it was to retain an appearance of “normality at the Capitol,” but that makes no sense when you see their response to things like that summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. That was the new normal.

But something wasn’t normal at all in the Trump administration.

Recall, way back on November 9, 2020, right after his election loss was called on November 7th, the Los Angeles Times wrote:

“President Trump’s decision to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday [the day before the election] raised concerns that he may be planning far-reaching military moves in his final weeks in office — and is putting in place new leadership more inclined to go along.
“Trump named Christopher Miller, director of the national counterterrorism center, to take over as acting Defense secretary, bypassing the normal practice of having the Pentagon’s No. 2 official take charge temporarily if the top job becomes vacant.”

The article also noted that Miller’s predecessor, who’d been through a Senate confirmation and was a “legal” Secretary of Defense (Miller was not), was concerned:

“In an interview conducted before his dismissal but published after he was fired Monday, Esper suggested that his successor might be more willing than he was to go along with Trump’s questionable uses of the military.
“‘Who’s going to come in behind me?’ Esper told Military Times, which covers the armed forces. ‘It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.’”

What did it take for Trump to get Chris Miller to write this memo? Was he duped? Was he an enthusiastic or reluctant participant? Did Donald Trump or his Chief of Staff and apparent co-conspirator Mark Meadows dictate it?

If this isn’t bad enough, on January 6th itself — as armed traitors were attacking police and searching to “hang Mike Pence” — Chris Miller oversaw a mid-afternoon, mid-riot conference call in which Army Secretary McCarthy was again begging for authority to immediately bring in the National Guard.

Then-Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations General Charles Flynn, the brother of convicted/pardoned foreign agent General Michael Flynn (who had been pushing Trump to declare martial law and seize voting machines nationwide) was on the call; both the Pentagon and the Army, it has been reported, lied to the press, Congress, and, apparently, to the Biden administration about his presence on that call for almost a year.

It wasn’t until December, 2021 that it was widely reported that the National Security Council’s Colonel Earl Matthews (who was also on the call) wrote a memo calling both Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen Walter Piatt, the Director of Army Staff, “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their testimony to Congress in which they both denied they’d argued to withhold the National Guard on January 6th.

Then we discovered that the phones and text messages of most of the group, including Chris Miller, Walter Piatt, Kash Patel, and Ryan McCarthy were all wiped of all conversations and text messages they had on and in the lead-up to January 6th.

Most of the communication-based evidence was destroyed. Completely destroyed. By coincidence, they said.

Why is it such a stretch to imagine that at least some of these men believed, as Stewart Rhodes has said he believed, that the battle of January 6th would end with Donald Trump declared the president?

That, once declared, he’d award them all presidential medals and give them promotions and positions of even greater power in his second administration?

That 2016 would be the last election actually determined by the people themselves, and they were all okay with that?

Is it simply true that “none dare call it treason?”

Perhaps I’m missing some critical detail that reduces this speculation to nonsense. Or maybe it’s just that because I’m publishing here on Substack in my own little silo I don’t have to answer to a nervous editor who wants to maintain his publication’s access to the FBI, Secret Service, and DOD.

If you know what I’m missing, please let me know in the comments section below.

If not, please join me in asking this simple question:

“Was there a conspiracy — even if it only involved a handful of people — at the highest levels of our government to end the American Experiment that was only defeated by sheer luck? And, if so, who were the conspirators and who were the unwitting dupes?”

Americans deserve to know why the dog didn’t bark on January 6th and in the days leading up to it. And, if appropriate, to dare to call it treason.

Republicans are giddy about 'owning the libs.' The citizens they govern pay a tragic price

If dying young appeals to you, here's a simple bit of advice: move to a state or county controlled by Republicans.

At first glance, the images below appear to be political maps. And in the most real sense of the word they are: the county-by-county differences shown by the map from Jeremy Ney's brilliant American Inequality Substack newsletter and the state-by-state screen shot from the CDC's NCHS below it.

Both reflect, in large part, decades of regional policy differences.

Long-lived parts of America have generally embraced progressive policies dating back to FDR's New Deal; the early-death parts of our country most often reflect conservative opposition to everything from the working-class wealth that unionization and higher minimum wages bring, to the availability of healthcare through Medicaid expansion.


https://substackcdn.com/image/fetch/w_1456,c_limit,f_webp,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/https%3A%2F%2Fbucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fpublic%2Fimages%2Feb553faf-565e-477b-948f-f746b7480c81_1240x1042.png
Source: American Inequality by Jeremy Ney on Substack

2019 Life Expectancy by State — Source: National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control

To zoom out ever farther, since many conservative policies affect the entire country, consider what happened to the health of our nation in the 1980s with the Reagan Revolution. It's particularly visible when you compare the outcomes of our healthcare system with other developed countries.

Our World In Data lays it out starkly, as you will see below. One of the proudest accomplishments of the neoliberal Reagan Revolution was—following a bill Nixon signed in 1973 that opened the door—overturning laws in state-after-state that required both hospitals and health insurance companies to run as non-profits.

Reagan also, in 1983, ordered the DOJ, FTC, and SEC to essentially stop enforcing anti-trust laws dating back to the 1891 Sherman Act, resulting in the "Mergers & Acquisitions Mania" that characterized the 1980s and inspired the "greed is good" movie Wall Street starring Michael Douglas.

Health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturers all morphed from regional and competitive organizations into giant, monopolistic predators.

Their profits exploded and our lifespans collapsed. Every year now, they spread hundreds of millions of dollars around Washington DC and state capitols to prevent regulation and maintain the status quo.

We are, quite literally, the only country in the world with a corrupt Supreme Court that has legalized this kind of a vicious attack on its citizens by a bought-off political party and their morbidly rich donors.

The Republicans on the Supreme Court call it "free speech" but every other nation in the world knows it's simply naked, criminal, political bribery.


Le vs health exp 2020 version
Source: Our World in Data

As you can see above, the average American spends more than twice as much on healthcare every year as do the citizens of any other developed country in the world. And, as the Reagan Revolution really bit hard in the 1980s and 1990s, our average lifespans collapsed while corporate healthcare profits exploded.

And it's not just death by lack of healthcare that skews these statistics: if you're concerned about being murdered, it's also a good idea to avoid states run by conservatives. As the centrist Third Way think tank noted last month:

  • "In 2020, per capita murder rates were 40% higher in states won by Donald Trump than those won by Joe Biden.
  • "8 of the 10 states with the highest murder rates in 2020 voted for the Republican presidential nominee in every election this century."

It's true of Red cities as well. Again, from Third Way:

"For example, Jacksonville, a city with a Republican mayor, had 128 more murders in 2020 than San Francisco, a city with a Democrat [sic] mayor, despite their comparable populations.
"In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump."

And don't even think about having sex in Red states: they generally lead America in sexually transmitted diseases, presumably because most have outlawed teaching sex education in their public schools.

The five states with the highest rates of Chlamydia infections are Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and New Mexico. The highest rates of Gonorrhea are in Mississippi, Alaska, South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana.

Speaking of schools, the states with the lowest educational attainment in the nation are entirely Red states. Ranked from terrible to absolutely worst, they are: Idaho, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, and West Virginia.

As giddy as Republicans are about "owning the libs," the citizens they govern pay a tragic price for the sport. They are literally dying as conservative politicians revel in their ability to cut taxes for the rich and suppress wages and healthcare for everybody else.

Republicans are about to take over the House of Representatives and begin their "investigations" into, well, anything that will distract from these terrible statistics. In the meantime, Americans, particularly those in Red states and counties, will continue to die at rates considered obscene by the standards of every other developed nation in the world.

Our next chance to put America back on track will be in two years, and we damn well better get ready.

Republicans are attacking the heart of our democracy the same way they did in 1964 — and for the very same reason

Will we be governed by representatives we elect, or people put in office by angry mobs storming capitols?

Nations have to figure out how they are to be governed. Most of recorded history tells the story of kings, popes, priests, lords and barons who ruled through violence and imposed themselves on their people rather than the people selecting them.

That was the great American experiment. Replacing a violent hereditary warlord king with a president and congress elected by the people. Democracy.

But democracy only functions properly when the people trust that its essential mechanism — voting — is honest and true.

And that dependence on trust in elections — that vulnerability of all democracies — is exactly where Donald Trump and his fascist followers are aiming their weapons of mass deception.

But Trump isn't doing it alone: He's following a script that has played out in multiple countries over many tragic years and wars, and is now possible in America (and is spreading around the world) because of a decision a Republican campaign made in 1964.

Our country is also experiencing this deep crisis of democracy because, in large part, the media hasn't been doing their job about this issue of faith in the security of our vote. There's a hell of a history here.

Republicans have been attacking the heart of our democracy right out in the open since 1964 and covering it up by yelling about "voter fraud."

It's a phrase they essentially invented, although it was occasionally used by the Confederacy during its later years when they tried to suppress poor white voters who opposed the oligarchy.

No other developed country in the world worries about "voter fraud" because it's been nonexistent in most modern democracies. It's not a thing anywhere except in the United States, and now Brazil. And it's only a thing here because of this strategy that was developed in 1964.

Most countries don't even have what we call voter registration, because they don't want a system to try to cut back on the number of people who can vote.

If you're a citizen, you vote. You show up with your ID and vote at any polling location you choose; in many countries because you're a citizen they simply mail you the ballot and you vote by mail. Everybody gets one.

After all, what kind of idiot is stupid enough to risk going to prison to cast one vote out of millions? What possible payoff is there to that? And the one time somebody tries to do it at scale — like the Republican scheme a few years ago in North Carolina to buy a few dozen mail-in ballots from low-income people in a trailer park — it gets exposed because it's almost impossible to cover things like that up for any period of time. After all, it would take thousands of votes in most places, sometimes tens of thousands, to alter election outcomes.

In all the intervening years since Republicans began this continuous and relentless attack claiming that this "voter fraud" was happening in Black and Hispanic communities across America, our media has been totally asleep at the switch.

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 program the GOP has used to suppress the vote — to suppress democracy — for 60 years now.

Probably to keep from offending their white audience, and also to prevent Republicans squeals of "liberal media bias," America's news media has historically treated those long lines and other barriers to voting that conservatives have thrown up as if they were simply a bizarre force of nature.

"Who could imagine why this is?" they seem to say, sometimes noting that the poll workers in Black districts are also themselves usually Black — even though they have no say over how many voting machines or polling places their precincts get from the white-controlled state.

The media's message over the past 60 years has been clear: "Black people, apparently, can't even figure out how to vote right."

This assault on the democratic system at the heart of our republic has a long history, stretching back to the era when the Republican Party first began trying to cater to the white racist vote.

The GOP made this transition after Lyndon B. Johnson and his Democrats passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act just five months before that year's November election.

In 1964, Sen. Barry Goldwater — who was running for president on the Republican ticket — openly opposed the Civil Rights Act that Johnson had just pushed through Congress. He was doubly opposed to the Voting Rights Act that Johnson had teed up for 1965 if he was re-elected.

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 — by definition — naked attacks on democracy.

After all, it's not really democracy when a "free and fair" election was held but, in fact, large numbers of people who legally qualified and wanted to vote weren't allowed their voice.

How can that not be a crisis for a nation that calls itself a democratic republic?

By 1964 people across the country were starting to agree with that assessment, which is why the Civil Rights Act was passed, producing a lot of angry and disaffected Dixiecrats.

Republicans decided it was a great time to pry the Southern racist vote away from the Democrats. Their rallying cry would be that Black people were engaging in "voter fraud."

But don't bother looking through newspaper archives to see if the American media exposed this new GOP invention as a fraud itself: They rarely raised the question until the past year or two.

I worked in radio news back in the later 1960s and 1970s and don't recall a single major-story mention of Goldwater's racist vote-suppressing positions and the GOP's sudden use of the phrase "voter fraud" during that era. (And I was paying attention: My dad was an enthusiastic Republican who'd corralled me into going door-to-door with him for Goldwater when I was 13.)

Reported on or not, back in 1964 Goldwater and his Republicans wanted to keep Black people from voting. And the media was fine going along with them: After all, this was a time when the only Black faces on TV were portrayed as criminals, minstrels or buffoons. The advertising money that paid the salaries of television executives was only interested in a white audience.

But Republican efforts in 1964 were complicated by the civil rights movement and its leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. African Americans and their allies were marching across the country for their right to vote, and had acquired a strong affinity for and loyalty to the Democratic Party that had just put civil rights into law.

Panicked, consultants on Goldwater's team realized they needed a justification for an ongoing and even amped-up campaign to block the Black and Hispanic vote.

So they came up with a story that they started selling during the 1964 election through op-eds and letters to the editor, in political speeches, and on right-wing radio and TV programs like Joe Pyne's (Buckley would pick it up on his PBS "Firing Line"show three years later and promote it till the day he died).

This 1964 story was simple: There was massive "voter fraud" going on, exclusively in America's cities, where mostly Black people were voting more than once in different polling places and doing so under different names, often, as Donald Trump said in 2019, "by the busload" after Sunday church services.

In addition, the Republican story went, "illegal aliens" living in the United States were using stolen Social Security numbers to vote by the millions.

None of it was true, but it became the foundation of a nationwide voter suppression campaign that the GOP continues to use to this day: a campaign based on a lie of "voter fraud" that the media was more than happy to amplify. This lie to disenfranchise Black and brown people was the original sin that has brought us to today's crisis.

After all, "if it bleeds it leads" and this GOP assertion that Black and Hispanic people were voting illegally was a juicy scandal that the white electorate ate up.

For six decades, partisan Republican pundits have shown up on TV news programs at election time to opine about America's "crisis" of voter fraud.

For six decades, Republican-controlled states have worked to make it more difficult to vote and easier to throw people off the voting rolls in Democratic parts of the state.

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 Hispanic and Black voters 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 U.S. Supreme Court, and was elevated in 1986 by President Reagan to chief justice, a position he used to stop the Florida Supreme Court's 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, and gave "Beerbong Brett" a lifetime position as a federal judge in 2006.)

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 in 1964. As the New York Times noted on Oct. 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.

Keep in mind, this was novel back then. Nobody had been talking about "voter fraud" outside of a few Southern states for about a century. Certainly not in national news. The Times article continued:

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."

But that was about it for the media taking on this particular Republican lie. In the 58 years since then, with the exception of the past year or two, no major American news media has seriously challenged the Republican excuses for blocking Black voters or purging voting rolls the way, for example, Brian Kemp has just done in Georgia this election and last.

And now the GOP has extended its campaign against Democrats voting by making it harder for students to vote (allowing, for example, gun licenses as voter IDs but not state college ID cards) and culling huge numbers of mail-in votes through "exact signature match challenges."

Millions of votes are expected to be challenged this year by the tens of thousands of Republican election volunteers, and in most states those ballots will never be counted unless the voters show up at the secretary of state's office to prove that their signature is still theirs.

With the blessing of five Republicans on the Supreme Court in 2017, they've also doubled down on caging and voter roll purges, stripping the right to vote from millions just this year alone.

And, as I noted in "The Hidden History of the War on Voting," the GOP has expanded its suppression efforts to women:

Those [Republican controlled] states, specifically, are the places where "exact match" and similar ALEC-type laws have been passed forbidding people to vote if their voter registration, ID, or birth certificate is off by even a comma, period, or single letter. The impact, particularly on married women, has been clear and measurable. As the National Organization for Women (NOW) details in a report on how Republican voter suppression efforts harm women:

"Voter ID laws have a disproportionately negative effect on women. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, one third of all women have citizenship documents that do not identically match their current names primarily because of name changes at marriage. Roughly 90 percent of women who marry adopt their husband's last name. That means that roughly 90 percent of married female voters have a different name on their ID than the one on their birth certificate. An estimated 34 percent of women could be turned away from the polls unless they have precisely the right documents."

MSNBC reported in an article titled "The War on Voting Is a War on Women" that "women are among those most affected by voter ID laws. In one survey, [only] 66 percent of women voters had an ID that reflected their current name, according to the Brennan Center. The other 34 percent of women would have to present both a birth certificate and proof of marriage, divorce, or name change in order to vote, a task that is particularly onerous for elderly women and costly for poor women who may have to pay to access these records." The article added that women make up the majority of student, elderly and minority voters, according to the Census Bureau. In every category, the GOP wins when women can't vote.

Again, these Republican crimes against our democracy are laying around in plain sight but rarely mentioned in news stories about elections and election outcomes.

The GOP has to do this today for the same reason they did in 1964: Republican positions both then and now are not generally popular.

Who'd vote, after all, for more tax cuts for billionaires, more pollution, banking and media deregulation, privatizing Medicare, gutting Social Security, shipping jobs overseas, keeping drug prices high and preventing workers from forming unions?

On the other hand, corporate America — including the massive corporations that own most of our media — love the GOP for the same reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Which may have something to do with why our media almost never discusses these Republican efforts beyond vaguely quoting Democratic outrage about ambiguous "voter suppression" charges.

This is one dimension of a much larger nationwide campaign of Republican assaults on our democracy executed through the phony excuse of trying to stop "voter fraud."

This year, and particularly in 2024, they're reviving Operation Eagle Eye to have armed white militia men and Ron DeSantis' dystopian "election police" confront people in their own neighborhoods on Election Day, all in a craven attempt to discourage minority voting.

Doubling down on that effort, they're also stepping up the rate at which they close polling places in largely Black communities to further stretch out lines and discourage voters.

And they're putting up billboards across the dozen or so states with anti-felon voting laws warning that under some circumstances voting is a crime that can land them in prison.

Other states have criminalized registering people to vote; the smallest error can now land you in prison in several Republican-controlled states. These laws have killed multiple voter registration drives in those states; the League of Women Voters recently had to stop their registration efforts in Florida, for example.

When Donald Trump started squealing about the 2020 election being "stolen" after his wipeout 7 million-vote loss and being crushed in the Electoral College, the media treated it like a joke for more than a year.

As a result, it's now an article of faith among over 70 percent of Republicans, driving one of them to attack Nancy Pelosi's husband in an attempt to assassinate the speaker of the House; thousands of other people who have believed this Republican lie of voter fraud were whipped into a frenzy by Donald Trump to attack the U.S. Capitol.

This situation has reached today's crisis point because our media has almost entirely ignored the truth about this Republican scam for almost 60 years. Even today, about the only network that covers the work of people like Marc Elias (disclosure: I donate to Democracy Docket) is MSNBC, and even then only occasionally.

Mark Twain is sometimes quoted (probably apocryphally) as saying, "A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on." Social media has given the saying a whole new meaning, but in this case an updated version may be: "When a lie is ignored by the media for decades it becomes a believed 'truth' that the liars can then use to pass legislation destructive of democracy itself into law and through the courts."

No democracy anywhere in the world can work if its citizens don't believe their votes are legitimately counted, as we can see today in Brazil. This lie that was merely a convenience around the edges in 1964 is now a harpoon pointed right at our elections, what Thomas Paine called "the beating heart" of our republic.

If it's not debunked and destroyed, it could well signal the end of democracy in America and the beginning of a Putin/Orbán-style fascism.

It's beyond time for our media to do their damn job and point out the evil lie the Goldwater campaign buried deep in our collective psyche way back in 1964, before it succeeds in killing American democracy altogether.

The United States should buy out the fossil fuel industry to save the planet

Back on October 13th, I wrote an article here titled When Will the Victims of Oil Companies' Lies Get Their Day In Court? detailing how Big Oil has been deceiving Americans—and, thus, killing Americans and our climate—for more than a half-century. Their model, "Doubt is our product," was borrowed from the tobacco industry and weaponized against us.

Suing the big oil companies like we did the tobacco companies is a good start, but we need more to get our climate-destroying emissions under control.

And the industry is doing everything they can to make sure we never hold them accountable. Taxpayers for Common Sense documents how the industry fielded over 700 lobbyists just last year, spending almost $120 million to buy legislators across Washington, DC.

They're also not just lobbying intensely at the federal level, but have gotten they're toadies appointed to boards that oversee state climate policy, as is happening in New York State right now.

They're even making their pitch to voters. As InfluenceMap, which tracks online advertising spending, noted:

This research found 25,147 ads from just 25 oil and gas sector organizations on Facebook's US platforms in 2020, which have been seen over 431 million times. This indicates the industry is now using social media to directly reach a vast audience and influence public opinions on climate change and the energy mix. These ads had a spend of $9,597,376.

And the ads weren't backing up actual efforts the industry is taking to clean up their act, most likely because such efforts are insignificant relative to the industry's profits, which were over $90 billion last year and have already surpassed $100 billion this year.

'Crucially,' InfluenceMap writes, 'many of these ads either contained misleading content or present information that was misaligned from the science of climate change according to both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's and the International Energy Agency's reports on reaching net zero by 2050.'

On top of that, if the oil and gas industry were to take seriously the pledges they've made and the prescriptions of the IPCC to avoid climate disaster, they'll end up with hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of "stranded assets": oil and natural gas that simply has to be left in the ground and thus taken off the companies' books.

That process could trigger the largest bankruptcy in the history of the world, which is probably why they're doing everything they can, PR-wise, to prevent the kind of accountability that may force them to change their behavior.

So, instead of trying to regulate or engage in a protracted and expensive PR battle with these companies, or bail them out when they go down in flames, why don't we just buy them now?

The entire market capitalization of ExxonMobil, the largest US oil company, is a mere $451 billion, and we could purchase a controlling interest in the company for a fraction of that. Even if we splurged and bought 51% of shares in the open market (far more than necessary), that would only be a $230 billion expense.

Remember, we poured $6 trillion into keeping our economy afloat during the Covid pandemic year of 2020.

Just the stimulus checks that showed up in our mailboxes totaled $804 billion, we passed out an additional $567 billion in unemployment checks, and gave over a trillion dollars to American corporations, most of which will never be paid back (particularly the millions the Trump family and their buddies got).

We put $331 billion into our healthcare system to deal with the crisis, and delivered $254 billion to states and cities. Our schools and colleges got another $231 billion, and just the airline industry itself took home $73 billion. Rent subsidies, childcare support, and nutrition assistance added up to $166 billion.

Covid was bad, but we're talking here about the survival of human civilization over the short term and the death of most life on Earth over longer time horizons if we don't stop the fossil fuel companies from interfering with our nation's and international efforts to transition to renewable energy.

And interfere they are.

Every single member of the Republican Party, so far as I can find, is in the bag for them: all are either blocking any actions to deal with greenhouse gasses, denying even the existence of global warming, or both.

"Conservative" radio and TV networks, shows, and hosts are also recipients of the industry's largess to the point that they also deny the crisis our nation and world are experiencing right now.

So we can pick up ExxonMobil for roughly what we spent just keeping our schools viable for a year and a half. The second largest oil/gas company operating in the US, Chevron, has a market capitalization of $342 billion, Shell is $195 billion, and Conoco Phillips is $161 billion.

Acquiring controlling interest in the entire bunch of them could cost less than we spent just on unemployment checks during the Covid crisis.

And if ever there was an industry that merited our buying it out and eventually retiring it to pasture—nationalization, essentially—the fossil fuel industry is it.

They manipulate prices to both enhance profits and swing elections, bribe their way through the halls of Congress, and pump out a steady stream of lies about climate change. All while pouring hundreds of billions into the money bins of their morbidly rich CEOs, shareholders, and senior executives.

America has a long and proud history of taking on companies that put profits over the public good during a time of crisis. For less than a quarter of the cost of Trump's billionaire tax cuts we could move a long way toward saving our nation and the world from climate destruction.

But is it even possible? Does our federal government actually know how to run nationalized companies? Is there a precedent for anything even remotely like saving our nation and the world through this sort of process?

Turns out that history says an emphatic, "Yes!"

During the crisis of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized the country's railroads, phone companies, and telegraph operators. He did the same with the nation's radio networks and radio stations. All were returned✎ EditSign to private ownership after the war, but that temporary nationalization helped get America through the crisis.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same during World War II, nationalizing airplane manufacturers, gun manufacturers, over 3,300 mines, the nation's railroads, dozens of oil companies, Western Electric Co., Hughes Tool Co., Goodyear Tire and Rubber, and even one of the nation's largest retail outlets, Montgomery Ward. He also nationalized✎ EditSign 17 foreign companies doing business in the US.

After FDR died, President Harry Truman continued seizing companies that were using the war as an excuse to jack up profits to the detriment of the nation. He nationalized meatpacking facilities across the country, the Monongahela Railroad Company, the nation's steel mills, and hundreds of railroad companies.

Like with Wilson's nationalizations, nearly all were returned to the private sector after the war was over, although it took until 1965 before all were re-privatized. Many had had their boards of directors and senior management replaced with people who would put the interests of the nation ahead of their greed for profits.

In the 1970s, in the wake of the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad, President Richard Nixon oversaw the voluntary nationalization and transfer of 20 railroads into the newly created National Rail Passenger Corporation, now known as Amtrak.

In 1974 Congress created another nationalized entity to deal with freight rail, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which absorbed dozens of failing rail companies. Conrail was government held until 1987, when it was privatized in the then-largest IPO in American history.

In 1984, when the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company was in a crisis, President Ronald Reagan's administration oversaw the FDIC nationalizing it by acquiring an 80 percent ownership share in the company; it wasn't re-privatized until 1991, and was bought by Bank of America in 1994.

Also in the 1980s, after Reagan recklessly deregulated the Savings & Loan industry, banksters made off with billions leaving the wreckage of crushed S&Ls all across the nation.

When the government agency that insured them, FSLIC, went bankrupt itself in 1987, Reagan and Congress created an umbrella agency—the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC)—to nationalize over 740 of America's S&Ls with combined assets of over $400 billion.

Their assets were sold back into the private market in 1995 as the RTC shut itself down, having averted a 1929-style banking crisis through temporary nationalization.

When George W. Bush was handed the White House by 5 Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, the nation's airline security system was entirely in private hands.

The airlines' minimum-wage security screeners failed miserably on 9/11, so Bush didn't even bother with the normal acquisition process that would protect the hundreds of small contractors running security at airports across the nation.

Instead, Bush simply nationalized the entire system and created a government agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to take over airport and airline security.

President Bush also partially nationalized the nation's airlines, creating the Air Transportation Stabilization Board that traded around $10 billion in loans to airlines in crisis (air traffic collapsed after 9/11) in exchange for company stock.

We (through our government) ended up holding 7.64 million shares in US Airways, 18.7 million shares of America West Airlines, 3.45 million shares in Frontier Airlines, 1.47 million shares in American TransAir, and 2.38 million shares in World Airways.

Congress had deregulated the nation's banks in 1999 when Newt Gingrich's Republicans pushed through an end to the Glass-Steagall Act and Bill Clinton signed it into law.

The resulting banking system crash in 2008 forced the Bush administration to nationalize the country's two largest mortgage lenders (they held about 40% of all US mortgages), Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The Bush administration then additionally nationalized a 77.9% share in AIG, a 36% share of Citigroup, and a 73.5% share of GMAC, forcing out GM's CEO Rick Wagoner, who'd been a particularly terrible manager of that company and was actively lobbying against what Bush thought were America's interests.

As President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of collapse. His administration created a new company, NGMCO, Inc., that nationalized the assets of GM and was 60.8% owned by the federal government.

GM was finally fully re-privatized by the Obama administration in 2013. Chrysler went through a similar process, although both the UAW and the Canadian government were part owners when it was temporarily nationalized.

Thomas M. Hanna, Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, compiled most of the data above in a brilliant paper titled "A History of Nationalization in the United States 1917-2009."

Toward its end, he summarizes brilliantly the case for nationalizing—perhaps only temporarily—America's largest oil and gas companies:

In such times of political and economic crisis, policymakers of all ideological persuasions in the United States have never been hesitant to use one of the most powerful tools at their disposal: nationalization of private enterprises and assets.
"This included the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who nationalized railroads, and the telephone, telegraph, and radio industries (among others), and the Republican Ronald Reagan, who nationalized a major national bank; the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who nationalized dozens of mining and manufacturing facilities, and the Republican George W. Bush, who nationalized airport security and various major financial institutions; the Democrat Barack Obama, who nationalized auto manufacturers, and the Republican Richard Nixon, who nationalized all passenger rail service.

Today's climate crisis dwarfs the threat of Nazism in the 1940s, Bin Laden's 9/11 attack, the massive bank robberies that took place during the Reagan and Bush administrations, or even the Covid crisis. It literally threatens all life on Earth.

Yet the fossil fuel industry continues to fund climate denial and to lobby against any meaningful solutions, as we saw when every Republican in the Senate along with Joe Manchin killed the $500 billion investment in clean energy the Biden administration proposed in their Build Back Better legislation.

Squeals of "socialism!" and "Venezuela!" aside, we know how to nationalize industries that are working against our nation's interests and we have done it before, repeatedly.

This time it's not just about saving our banks, keeping our schools intact, or fighting a war. This time, it's about saving the world.

Buy out the fossil fuel industry!

This is the election you get for 9 billion bucks

The polls are tightening up right now, and the media is treating it like it’s some mystical force of nature causing people to shift their concerns from abortion, guns, climate, democracy, and the survival of Social Security over to gas prices, Black crime, banning books, and trans kids playing sports.

The media, of course, knows what’s going on. They’re the secondary recipients of it, right behind the politicians, because they’re making billions conveying the GOP message to America. Which, of course, is why they won’t tell you what the real game is here or how it’s being played.

In the early 1970s, I was a partner with the late Terry O’Connor in a small Michigan advertising agency, Ter Graphics, and a copywriter for another, Barden-Durst, run by the late Bob Strand. Our biggest clients were Kellogg’s and Michigan National Bank, and I learned the business from these men and from in-person instruction by the legendary Joe Sugarman, to whom I’m grateful to this day.

Later in the ’70s, I taught marketing and advertising in cities around the world for the American Marketing Centers and in 1989 started the Atlanta advertising agency Chandler, MacDonald, Stout, Schneiderman & Poe, named after my favorite writers and my best friend, which Louise and I sold in 1997 to retire to the mountains of Vermont. CMSS&P primarily did business as The Newsletter Factory, and our clients included more than 100 of the Fortune 500 companies at that time, as well as government agencies from the US Army to the NSA and the CIA.

I’ve also been hosting what is today the #1 progressive talk show in America for 19 years, and worked in radio news for 7 years before that.

I say all this not by way of bragging but hopefully to convince you that I know something about media and the advertising and marketing business. And if there’s anything I know deep in my gut, from decades of observation and experience, it’s that advertising works when it’s done big and done repeatedly.

While creativity and “production values” in advertising are important, they’re both subordinate to frequency when it comes to producing results. Even a poorly crafted message for a mediocre product will convince people to act the way you want them to if it’s repeated frequently enough.

In a variation on the 80s cliché about toys, whoever ends the campaign having spent the most money typically wins.

Multiple studies have been done about money in politics over the past few decades and the results are always within a few points of each other: between 80 and 95 percent of the time the biggest spender in a political race wins, with the average biggest spender winning around 91 percent of the time.

Which is why new analyses of campaign spending in the 2022 midterm race should concern every American.

OpenSecrets has found that more than $4.4 billion has been spent so far just on electing members of the US House and Senate (and 2/3rds of Senators are not even up for re-election), with an expected $9.3 billion to go to radio, TV, social media, and other forms of advertising by election day.

NPR found, based on data from the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, that in just a dozen Senate races over $1.6 billion has been spent “with $3 out of every $4 being spent in six states — Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and Ohio…”

“Most of that money,” NPR reports, “is coming from dark money outside groups with little-to-no donor transparency — and Republicans are getting a huge boost from them.”

Of the nearly $1 billion in unregulated “outside” money that’s been spent so far just to elect Republicans to the Senate, NPR notes:

“Eighty-six percent of the money going toward pro-GOP TV ads is coming from these outside groups, compared to 55% for Democrats. Put simply: If it weren't for these outside groups, Republican candidates would be swamped on the airwaves.”

This is not how a democratic republic is supposed to work, and it would have represented a federal felony just 12 years ago.

That was when 5 corrupt Republicans on the US Supreme Court blew open the doors to billionaires and massive corporations taking ownership of the GOP and much of the American political process with their poisonous Citizens United decision.

Simply put, the elections are “tightening” because rightwing billionaires and giant corporations are pouring billions of dollars into advertising. And, as noted earlier, advertising works. To quote the 2014 Washington Postheadline: “91% of the time the better-financed candidate wins. Don’t act surprised.”

On top of their advertising dominance, though, the GOP has a second tool for repeating their message so frequently that listeners are hearing it in their dreams: billionaire oligarch Murdoch’s Fox “News,” two additional rightwing television networks, over 200 television stations regularly carrying rightwing editorials and right-tilted newscasts, and over 1500 radio stations carrying rightwing hate radio, almost 300 of them in Spanish.

Nothing like this massive rightwing/Republican media operation — carefully built at the cost of billions over a 4-decade period — exists on the Democratic side, and it provides a massive, 24/7/365 boost to the GOP that’s worth tens of billions a year in “earned media” (aka “free advertising/promotion”). It even makes money for its owners, rather than costing anybody anything!

When George W. Bush was president, he used to invite talk radio hosts to broadcast live from the lawn of the White House every summer; Obama killed the practice, in part because there are only a handful of nationally syndicated or even local progressive hosts in the country and in part because the Democratic Party has never taken seriously the power of talk radio.

(You can read the whole sorry tale in an article I wrote two years ago for The Nation and in a 2018 open letter I wrote to billionaire Tom Steyer when Clear Channel was up for sale.)

If Republicans retake the House, the Senate, or both this November after the Dobbs decision, their naked attempt to overthrow our government, their promises to end Social Security, and their playing footsie with Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, it will be entirely because of the billions in dark money that supports them.

And who can blame the billionaires and corporations behind this corruption? First off, it’s been fully legalized by the Supreme Court. Second, it’s a fantastic investment, as they saw in 2016: pour $7 billion into an election and within the first year get almost $2 trillion in tax breaks and another trillion in forgivable loans with few strings attached.

Billionaires win, corporations win, corrupt politicians win: the only losers are democracy and the American people. And, let’s be frank: the billion-dollar corporations that own our media and our politicians don’t really give a rat’s ass about either democracy or the American people as long as we keep buying the products and voting for the politicians advertised on their networks.

As CBS’s then-CEO, Les Moonves, said back in 2016:

“Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS. The money's rolling in and this is fun. I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

Big money in politics and a democracy that works for the majority of the people of a nation are incompatible: just ask any Russian. Or their victims in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, both Republicans and the media will point out that, “Democrats are getting dark money, too!” as if that means everything is equal. But what the rightwing billionaires know is:

  1. If they flood the zone with too much money it’ll get noticed, so they’re careful to just match — and then only slightly surpass — the money Democrats can raise.
  2. This prevents widespread political outrage and lets Republicans win “close elections” as if everything was still “normal” and our democracy was working as it should. (Thus, the “closing gap” stories we’re reading right now.)
  3. But they know in a pinch they can always just dump another few million or billion dollars when a race is essential to their interests. Plus, having a few Democrats like Manchin and Sinema in their pockets is their ultimate ace-in-the-hole.

Republicans on the Supreme Court have, with their bizarre “money is free speech” decisions, put America on the fast track to oligarchy, authoritarianism, and ultimately tyranny.

There are multiple ways to overcome or overturn Citizens United and the other corrupt SCOTUS decisions that have handed our nation’s elections over to their billionaire patrons: I wrote an entire book about it (The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America).

If people power beats big money in this election, Democrats must focus as much of their and their donor’s efforts as possible on overturning these democracy-destroying decisions while starting the long project of building out a media infrastructure so the rest of America can hear their message every day, year-round.

Otherwise, the rightwing billionaires will simply toss $20 or $30 billion — or whatever it takes — into the 2024 election and President Trump or President DeSantis will make sure it’s the last honest political race in American history.

We’ve watched this movie play out in Russia (and a few other countries) over the past four decades: let’s not allow it to happen here, too.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: GOP election spending in very blue districts has Democrats concerned: report

Are SCOTUS Republicans in on a plot to end Democratic presidencies forever?

The Supreme Court may be within a few months of ending democracy in the United States and turning the White House over to a group of billionaires who’ve already funded the GOP takeover of multiple state legislatures.

But don’t just take my word for it. Consider these sources:

And Moore v Harper is just the latest in a long string of naked assaults on American democracy and the rights of average American citizens, particularly when they conflict with the rights of billionaires and giant corporations.

So, how the hell did we end up here?

Of the six-vote hard-right majority on the Supreme Court, only one of them was appointed by a president who actually won his election (Thomas: Bush Sr.). The other five were appointed by George W. Bush (lost in 2000 by about a half-million votes) and Trump (lost in 2016 by over 3 million votes).

The urgency and ferocity with which they’re ripping our Constitution to shreds seems driven by their knowledge of their own illegitimacy.

Republican appointees across our federal court system are trying to “deconstruct the administrative state” of America, to quote Steve Bannon. Most recently, the majority-Trump-appointed 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding mechanism is unconstitutional. That case will appear at the Supreme Court soon, in all probability.

The most concerning case right now, however, is Moore v Harper which considers the bizarre theory Trump was pushing Pence to accept, that voters don’t determine who becomes president via the Electoral College but that individual state legislatures can simply award their Electoral votes to whichever candidate strikes their fancy.

It’s loosely based on language in the Constitution, but defies two centuries of precedent and turns pretty much every part of elections over to state legislatures with no oversight whatsoever by either governors or the people, and can’t be appealed to any court, including the Supreme Court.

Judge Michael Luttig — the famous and credible conservative judge, the Edmund Burke of this era — has joined the team fighting the potential outcome of this decision.

Luttig suggests this theory, if adopted by the Court, could very well signal the end of Democratic presidents so long as more than 25 of our 50 states have Republican-controlled legislatures (and their governors can’t even veto their legislatures, according to this theory). Today 30 states’ legislatures are fully under GOP control, up from 14 in 2009.

Luttig, the elders among us may remember, personally ran Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearing and worked for years side-by-side with John Roberts in the Reagan Justice Department. He’s friends with both men and is considered one of the top conservative judges in contemporary America.

The “Independent State Legislature theory” at the core of Moore v Harper is, according to Luttig:

[A]ntithetical to the Framers’ intent, the text, and the Constitution’s fundamental design and architecture.

But that’s just the beginning of the out-of-control and dangerous behavior of the far-right radicals on today’s court. Since there’s been a conservative majority on the Court it has, among other things:

  • *Handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush
  • *Radically cut back the rights of unions to organize and represent workers
  • *Declared that billionaires buying politicians is merely “free speech”
  • *Gutted the power of the EPA to regulate planet-destroying carbon pollution
  • *And ripped the heart out of both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

In just the past year this Court, now stacked with 3 new and deeply unqualified (but young!) hard-right Trump-humping activists, has already ruled to:

  • *End the 6th Amendment right of prisoners to challenge convictions when their lawyers were demonstrably corrupt or incompetent (Shinn v Ramirez✎ EditSign). In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “The Court’s decision will leave many people who were convicted in violation of the Sixth Amendment to face incarceration or even execution without any meaningful chance to vindicate their right to counsel.”
  • *Further gut Americans’ right to vote. In 3 separate cases, Merrill v Milligan✎ EditSign, Wisconsin Legislature v. Wisconsin Elections Commission, andArdoin v. Robinson the six rightwing justices endorsed three separate Republican gerrymanders and voting maps in Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Alabama that were each unabashedly based on efforts to enhance the electoral power of white voters.
  • *Remove from US citizens who move to (or live in) Puerto Rico the right to receive certain Social Security benefits in their US v Vaello-Madero case. Whacking the rights of over 300,000 Americans living in PR, the six crazies on the Court ruled that only Congress could fix the damage they themselves were doing. The problem with that, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out in her dissent, is that because PR isn’t yet a state and has no member of Congress to fight on their behalf the Court was simply “punishing disparities suffered by citizen residents of Puerto Rico under Congress’ unequal treatment.”
  • *Take away your Miranda rights to remain silent, avoid self-incrimination, and know you have access to a lawyer. Americans cannot, the 6 “conservatives” on the Court ruled in Vega v. Tekoh, sue police officers who fail to tell them their Miranda rights.
  • *Eliminate many non-citizens’ rights under the Constitution when abused by the federal government. While the Constitution refers to “persons” rather than “citizens” in most critical places (like the 14th Amendment guaranteeing equal protection under the law), the Court decided in two cases, Garland v. Gonzalez and in Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez, that noncitizens often are not entitled to bond hearings or class-wide injunctive relief when screwed by the feds.
  • *Rip away 4th Amendment privacy rights against unreasonable search and seizure for all persons living within 100 miles of an ocean or our borders with Mexico or Canada (that’s two out of three American citizens – even here in Portland, I’m within 100 miles of the Pacific Ocean). In Egbert v Boule, the six rightwingers on the Court ruled that border patrol and other federal officers can search you, your home, or your vehicle for any old reason they want because you live in the vicinity of a border or ocean and they consider you suspicious. No warrant necessary anymore.
  • *Give police officers who use excessive force immunity from accountability. In Rivas-Villegas v. Cortesluna and City of Tahlequah, OK v. Bondthe Court upheld its own invention, the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” that makes it almost impossible to sue cops when they wail on you or even kill you (in the Tahlequah case they killed a man in his own garage) for little or no reason.
  • *Kill the power of the EPA under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon pollution or protect communities from having their water supplies poisoned by industry seeking profits. West Virginia v EPAended that agency’s power to regulate carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, and Louisiana v American Rivers handed polluters, overturning 50 years of precedent, the power to overrule states’ and tribes’ rules against pollution of their waterways.

That was last year, and apparently it was just a warm-up:

Virtually every one of these decisions are or will be based on the power the Court gave itself to overturn laws passed by Congress and signed by the President in its 1803 Marbury v Madison case.

That case caused such a backlash that the next time the Court ruled on a major constitutional issue was in 1856 with Dred Scott v Sanford, which arguably kicked off the Civil War and President Lincoln refused to recognize.

From the founding of our republic until the post-Reconstruction era, the Court rarely ruled to strike down or modified laws based on their reading of Constitution. Mostly it just did its job as the final court of appeals; after all, the buck has to stop somewhere.

That’s how it’s designed in the Constitution: when different judges disagree or cases go back-and-forth on appeal, the Supreme Court makes the final decision about who wins and who loses.

Back in the early days of the republic the Court was sometimes referred to as the “chickens and dogs court” because so many cases had to do with disputes between farmers (most of America was agricultural at the time).

The idea of deciding cases on the basis of the Constitution was considered exotic or bizarre, and the idea of striking down laws made by Congress and signed by the president was so unthinkable it was only done twice in major cases during the first century of this nation’s history.

When the Court voted in 1803 to give itself the power to claim the Constitution as its excuse to overturn Congress’ laws, then-President Jefferson reflected the outrage of the nation.

There is literally nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the exclusive right to decide what the Constitution says or means and impose it on the other two branches of government, or on the rest of America. That is a power the Supreme Court took onto itself in that 1803 decision of its own, Marbury v Madison.

It was such a radical step that it drove then-President Jefferson to declare:

[O]ur Constitution…has given — according to this opinion — to one of [the three branches of government] 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.

The popular outrage was so intense that, after that 1803 Marbury decision, the Supreme Court only ruled twice between the founding of our nation 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.

A generation later, President Abraham Lincoln chose to explicitly ignore the Supreme Court’s expansion 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.

Instead of putting the Supreme Court in charge of American laws, the Framers of the Constitution did the opposite: they put Congress in charge of the Supreme Court.

As they wrote in Article 3, Section 2 of the Constitution:

[T]he Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

Republicans know this well. When John Roberts worked as an attorney for Ronald Reagan, he suggested that both Brown v Board and Roe v Wade could be overturned by Congress by simply stripping from the Court the power to decide on issues of race or abortion (as I detail in The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America).

Most recently, in the wake of the Obergefell gay marriage decision, Republicans in Congress offered a law stripping from the Court its power to rule that gay people could get married. The Marriage Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives on July 22, 2004 but failed in the Senate, explicitly says:

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.

While this sort of court-stripping is likely to meet resistance both from Congress and from the Supreme Court, a much easier step is to simply reduce the power of the Court to go off on these wild excursions based on their mind-reading of the Founders.

That could be accomplished by Congress creating an “regulation” for the Court that says all decisions involving Constitutional matters must be decided by consensus (the most strict) or with no fewer than 7 out of 9 notes.

Other options include expanding the size of the Court, term-limiting the Court, or — what FDR had proposed — moving all over-70 justices (Alito, Thomas, and Roberts in 3 years) to “emeritus” status so they can continue to participate in deliberations but lose their vote (or all the emeritus members’ votes are consolidated into one when there’s consensus).

Republicans are already talking out loud about state legislatures legally handing the 2024 election to Trump or DeSantis regardless of who wins, no insurrection necessary this time, because they’re assuming the Court will rule their way.

So, with Moore v Harper and even more toxic and democracy-hobbling or even democracy-destroying decisions coming before the Court, what can we do?

At the very least, Congress should mandate that the Court abide by the same ethics rules that every other federal court and judge must follow, and that all arguments and decisions be televised. This would increase the power of dissenters on the Court and raise the integrity-focusing power of the spotlight of public opinion.

All of these options are within the power of Congress, should it choose to end the filibuster and exercise that power.

Whatever strategy Democratic leadership and the Biden administration choose, America is today in the midst of a severe constitutional crisis and action is needed right now or, at the very least, in the weeks immediately after this November’s election.

If we fail, 2024 may be this nation’s last election for president.

'God's gonna cut you down': How Republicans conspire with churches for power

For Republicans, the purpose of religion is — as it has been for authoritarians since Old Testament days — political and social control. It’s not about spirituality: it’s all about raw, naked, taxpayer-subsidized power and the wealth associated with it.

A Michigan county Republican Party just posted a video showing picture after picture of that state’s Democratic politicians, starting with Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who right-wing terrorists have already tried to kidnap and murder.

Under each picture — including a picture of George Soros representing, presumably, the “International Jews” who Republican politicians suggest wield space lasers and secretly are trying to control the world — reads the death threat, in bold, all-caps:

“GOD’S GONNA CUT YOU DOWN!”

The wealthy pastors of at least four Republican-aligned megachurches in Georgia have invited Hershel Walker to campaign, in clear violation of their tax-exempt status.

Across the nation, white evangelical churches brazenly push their parishioners to vote for Republican candidates: they’ve been getting away with breaking the law since the 1980s and don’t show any inclination to stop now.

As the University of Chicago Divinity School noted five months ago:

“In January, Walker spoke at Free Chapel in Gainesville, the congregation led by former Trump evangelical advisor Jentezen Franklin. In late February, Walker spoke during a worship service at First Baptist Atlanta. And in March, he spoke at Sugar Hill Baptist Church, where he made controversial comments questioning evolution. In each sanctuary, the pastors interviewed Walker on stage and offered their support for his candidacy in ways that appear to violate IRS rules prohibiting 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofits from engaging in partisan campaign activity.”

It’s time for average Americans to stop being forced to subsidize politically radical religious leaders and their institutions.

Back during Trump’s second impeachment trial, Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and heir to the multimillion-dollar Graham fortune, publicly said that the 10 Republicans voting to impeach Donald Trump in the US House of Representatives were like Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.

“And these ten, from [Trump’s] own party, joined in the feeding frenzy,” he wrote. “It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

Franklin Graham is a multimillionaire in large part because neither he nor his family have to pay any taxes on their family’s business’ income or even pay property taxes on the land and buildings their business owns and in which they live.

Instead, you and I and the taxpayers of his town and state pay extra taxes to subsidize Graham and his “ministry,” as we do thousands of other politically active “preachers.”

There’s a history to this political-religious-financial complex.

Franklin Graham is a multimillionaire in large part because neither he nor his family have to pay any taxes on their family’s business’ income or even pay property taxes on the land and buildings their business owns and in which they live.

Instead, you and I and the taxpayers of his town and state pay extra taxes to subsidize Graham and his “ministry,” as we do thousands of other politically active “preachers.”

There’s a history to this political-religious-financial complex.

Into this firestorm stepped Senator Lyndon Johnson, who proposed in 1954 that it was fine if churches wanted to engage in politics or argue that Jesus would have been against racial integration, but if they chose to preach and practice racism and politics the rest of America shouldn’t be forced to subsidize them.

It passed Congress that year and was signed into law by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since the Reagan era, however, the law has been largely ignored. As The Washington Post noted in a 2016 editorial:

“Indeed, more than 2,000 mainly evangelical Christian clergy have deliberately violated the law since 2008 as a form of protest against it; only one has been audited by the IRS, and none punished…”

When preachers push politics instead of religion on Sunday morning, the so-called Johnson Amendment said, their church should lose its tax-exempt status.

As the IRS notes:

“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Churches could still participate in non-partisan political activities like a voter registration drive or organizing buses to take people to polling places, but when they took a position on candidates or political issues they lost their right to force all the rest of us pay for their roads, police, fire, and all the other public services that taxes fund.

But ever since George HW Bush brought his son George W. Bush into his 1988 campaign to reach out to white evangelical churches, many evangelists, televangelists, and churches across America have been ignoring this law.

They not only regularly preach rightwing hate, completely inconsistent with Jesus‘s message, but they raise hundreds of millions of dollars — all tax-exempt — to inject into political campaigns.

This is not how the Framers of our Constitution thought America should operate.

At the founding of our republic, “Father of the Constitution” James Madison was worried about government influencing and corrupting churches as had happened in Massachusetts before the Revolution.

On the other hand, his mentor, Thomas Jefferson, was worried that churches and their religious leaders could corrupt politicians and government itself.

It turns out both were right.

Their solution was written into Article VI of the Constitution, which says:

“[N]o religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

They doubled-down on it with the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Thomas Jefferson later referred to this as a “wall of separation between church and state” that would keep both our republic and our churches independent of each other.

When he became our fourth President, James Madison’s first veto was to reject a piece of legislation that would’ve given a federal subsidy to a church in Washington DC to feed needy people.

No American government should be giving money to churches, he said, regardless of purpose, and the proposed law he vetoed would “be a precedent for giving to religious societies as such a legal agency in carrying into effect a public and civil duty.”

Sadly, and particularly since the Reagan Revolution, we’ve badly backslid on this principle. Churches have figured out hundreds of ways to get their hands on government money, and deeply embedded themselves in the business of lobbying and politics.

It’s hard to find a successful televangelist or major evangelical pastor who is not now a multimillionaire, presiding over a multi-million or even billion-dollar empire within America’s multi-billion-dollar-a-year religious industry. And they got there, in part, because you and I are subsidizing them.

Modern history, particularly since 1954, proves the wisdom of Madison and Jefferson‘s concern.

If rightwing religious leaders want to tell their followers how to believe, how to behave, and how to vote, that’s fine. That’s their right in a nation that celebrates both free speech and freedom of — and freedom from — religion.

Churches, after all, have been telling their members how to behave since the beginning of organized religion. Social and political control exercised through religion is nothing new: it’s at least as old as the Bible.

But you and I shouldn’t be forced to subsidize their political control over their followers through our tax dollars.

It’s time for the IRS to tighten up their enforcement and cut these freeloaders off their free lunch of tax exemption when they engage in politics.

What if Donald Trump's conspiracy was even bigger than we thought?

There was, it increasingly appears, a conspiracy involving some in the most senior levels of the Trump administration to end American representative democracy and replace it with a strongman oligarchy along the lines of Putin’s Russia or Orbán’s Hungary.

This would be followed, after the January 20th swearing-in of Trump for a second term, by a complete realignment of US foreign policy away from NATO and the EU and toward oligarchic, autocratic nations like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary.

As the possibility of this traitorous plan becomes increasingly visible, the GOP, after a frantic two weeks of not knowing what to say or do, has finally settled on a response to Trump’s theft of classified information: “Hillary did the same thing, and she didn’t go to jail!” I heard the comparison made at least a half-dozen times this weekend on various political shows.

(For the record, Hillary did nothing whatsoever even remotely close to Trump’s theft of classified materials. Among the 50,000+ personal emails on her server, Republicans found three that had markings indicating they were at one time classified, none had to do with espionage or compromised national security in any way, and all three were clearly there because she had replied to somebody using the wrong account in error. But we can expect this to be the distraction line coming from Trump and the GOP all this week.)

So, what did Trump do, and why did he do it? And who helped him and why?

There’s little dispute that on January 6th, 2020, an armed mob incited by Donald Trump and led by members of several white supremacist militias tried to murder the Vice President and Speaker of the House to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s 7-million-vote victory in the November 2020 election.

Evidence is growing, however, that the leadership of this conspiracy to end our form of government and replace it with a Putin-style strongman oligarchy wasn’t limited to Trump, Stone, Giuliani, and a few dozen militia members.

While, at this moment, most of the evidence is circumstantial, collectively it paints a damning picture for which it’s hard to find any other possible explanation.

This article’s opening sentence describes the worst-case scenario that the media seems to be going out of its way not to even get close to mentioning. Again, this is, at this moment, still speculation, in large part because the alleged conspirators have been so successful at destroying much of the evidence that might have implicated (or cleared) them.

If Trump was truly planning not just to hang onto the presidency but to concurrently seize every lever of power in Washington — the way coups conducted from “inside of government” (like Putin and Orbán did) typically happen — he’d need some help, particularly from the military and the senior levels of federal law enforcement. So let’s start there.

Over at the Department of Defense, then-acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and his Chief of Staff Kash Patel (formerly of Devin Nunes’ staff) were running the place.

They controlled the Pentagon and our armed forces but, more importantly, they controlled the National Guard, whose troops hadpreviously surrounded buildings in the Capitol area three-deep during the peaceful BLM protests in the summer of 2020.

The prospect that violence was heading toward the Capitol on January 6th wasn’t a secret to anybody with a Twitter or Facebook account: the nation was awash with threats and planning for violence, much of it in the open.

This apparently so alarmed Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy that, on January 4th, he reached out to his boss, Trump’s recently-appointed Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, to get permission to send the National Guard to the Capitol building on January 6th to prevent the violence they were seeing being planned all over social media.

Acting Defense Secretary Miller, in the effective role of commander of our entire military just one step below Commander-in-Chief Trump (on whose behalf he acted), then issued a memo (attached at the end of this article) on January 4th specifically directing McCarthy and the National Guard that they were:

  • Not authorized to be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons, or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.
  • Not to interact physically with protestors, except when necessary in self-defense or defense of others.
  • Not to employ any riot control agents.
  • Not to share equipment with law enforcement agencies.
  • Not authorized to use Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets or to conduct ISR or Incident, Awareness, and Assessment activities in assistance to Capitol Police.
  • Not allowed to employ helicopters or any other air assets.
  • Not to conduct searches, seizures, arrests, or other similar direct law enforcement activity.
  • Not authorized to seek support from any non-DC National Guard units.

If this isn’t bad enough, on January 6th itself — as armed traitors were attacking police and searching to “hang Mike Pence” — Chris Miller oversaw a mid-afternoon, mid-riot conference call in which Army Secretary McCarthy was again asking for authority to immediately bring in the National Guard.

Then-Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations General Charles Flynn, the brother of convicted/pardoned foreign agent General Michael Flynn (who had been pushing Trump to declare martial law and seize voting machines nationwide) was on the call; both the Pentagon and the Army, it has been reported, lied to the press, Congress, and, apparently, to the Biden administration about his presence on that call for almost a year.

It wasn’t until December that it was widely reported that the National Security Council’s Colonel Earl Matthews (who was also on the call) wrote a memo calling both Charles Flynn and Lt. Gen Walter Piatt, the Director of Army Staff, "absolute and unmitigated liars" for their testimony to Congress in which they both denied they’d argued to withhold the National Guard on January 6th.

Most recently — just in the past few weeks — we discover that the phones and text messages of most of the group, including Chris Miller, Walter Piatt, Kash Patel and Ryan McCarthy, were all wiped of all conversations they had on January 6th.

ICE, whose plainclothes agents were sent by Trump to Portland to beat up and kidnap protesters off the street and used, essentially, as his private militia was also instructed by the Trump Administration to wipe all their phones after January 6th.

If they were involved in a plan to help Trump take over and run the government — as usually happens when coups involve senior levels of the military — it’s going to take a lot of digging to find out, since this coverup of their activities and conversations on January 6th was apparently in place for almost a full year before it was discovered.

Similarly, if Trump was planning to install himself in power in a way that echoed and aligned him with Putin, he’d need the active help and support of his palace guard, the Secret Service.

Here, again, we discover that the evidence is not only missing but that Trump appointees — still in government — knew about it for over a year and concealed that information from the January 6th Committee, Congress, and the media.

This was at the same time that Trump was maintaining possession of documents for which foreign governments would be willing to spend billions. In fact, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China and others have spent billions of dollars on acquiring secrets and documents of that sort, via their annual intelligence budgets.

Trump would also have needed the support of several foreign governments if he was planning to end American democracy and re-align our nation with oligarchies run along the lines he and Putin were possibly envisioning.

Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia would logically be at the top of that list because of their military, oil, and financial power, followed by Turkey, Hungary, and Egypt because of their strategic locations.

And lest you think that even Trump wouldn’t be so audacious as to solicit help from a foreign government to hold power, please remember that he was impeached for exactly that: his attempted extortion of Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to smear Joe Biden.

A couple of events from last year might highlight the echoes of those plans to end American democracy and re-align our government with Russia/China/Saudi Arabia. If Trump was coordinating with foreign governments, suddenly a lot of seemingly disparate and inchoate events make sense.

First, throughout 2020 and in January of 2021, Trump removed from the White House to Mar-a-Lago hundreds of Top Secret (and above) documents that, according to multiple news reports, contained information that could reveal the identities and locations of America’s spies and agents.

Trump and Kushner already had a history of illegally sharing Top Secret “human intelligence” information with Saudi dictator Mohammed Bin Salman dating back to when MBS staged his own coup/takeover of the Saudi government.

As The Jerusalem Post reported on March 23, 2018:

Kushner, who is the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, and the crown prince had a late October meeting in Riyadh.

A week later, Mohammed began what he called an ‘anti-corruption crackdown.’ The Saudi government arrested and jailed dozens of members of the Saudi royal family in a Riyadh hotel – among them Saudi figures named in a daily classified brief read by the president and his closest advisers that Kushner read avidly….

According to the report, Mohammed told confidants that he and Kushner discussed Saudis identified in the classified brief as disloyal to Mohammed.

The day before, CBS and The Intercept quoted MBS as gloating that Kushner was “in his pocket.”

The Washington Post noted that:

Recently ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster expressed early concern that Kushner was freelancing U.S. foreign policy and might make naive mistakes, according to ­people familiar with their ­reactions.

… [National Security Advisor] McMaster was concerned there were no official records kept of what was said on the calls.

Tillerson was even more aggrieved, they said, once remarking to staff: ‘Who is secretary of state here?’

Meanwhile, throughout his presidency, Donald Trump was having secret phone conversations with Russia’s President Putin (over 20 have been identified, including one just days before the 2020 election).

The Moscow Project from the American Progress Action Funddocuments more than 270 known contacts between Russia-linked operatives and members of the Trump Campaign and transition team, as well as at least 38 known meetings just leading up to the 2016 election.

The manager of his 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, who previously worked on behalf of Vladimir Putin, has recently admitted that he was regularly feeding inside campaign information to Russian intelligence. There is no known parallel to this behavior by any president in American history.

The Washington Post, just yesterday, reported that Trump had a habit of carrying top-secret information that could damage our national security, intentionally leaving it in hotel rooms in hostile nations:

Boxes of documents even came with Trump on foreign travel, following him to hotel rooms around the world — including countries considered foreign adversaries of the United States.

The Mueller Report identifies ten specific instances of Trump trying to obstruct the investigation, including offering the bribe of a pardon to Paul Manafort, asking FBI Director Comey to “go easy” on General Flynn, and directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit Mueller’s ability to investigate Trump’s connections to Russia.

As the Mueller Report noted:

The President launched public attacks on the investigation and individuals involved in it who would could possess evidence adverse to the President, while in private the President engaged in a series of targeted efforts to control the investigation.

For instance, the President attempted to remove the Attorney General; he sought to have Attorney General Sessions un-recuse himself and limit the investigation; he sought to prevent public disclosure of information about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russians and campaign officials; and he used public forums to attack potential witnesses who might offer adverse information and to praise witnesses who declined to cooperate with the government.

It adds, detailing Trump’s specific obstruction of justice crimes:

These actions ranged from efforts to remove the Special Counsel and to reverse the effect of the Attorney General’s recusal; to the attempted use of official power to limit the scope of the investigation; to direct and indirect contacts with witnesses with the potential to influence their testimony.

Viewing the acts collectively can help to illuminate their significance. For example, the President’s direction to McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed was followed almost immediately by his direction to Lewandowski to tell the Attorney General to limit the scope of the Russia investigation to prospective election-interference only—a temporal connection that suggests that both acts were taken with a related purpose with respect to the investigation.

There are, after all, credible assertions that when Trump was elected, members of Russian intelligence and Putin’s inner circle were literally partying in Moscow, explicitly celebrating a victory they truly believed they helped make happen.

In his first months in office, Trump outed an Israeli spy to the Russian Ambassador, resulting in MOSAD having to “burn” (relocate, change identity of) that spy. That, in turn, prompted the CIA to worry that a longtime US spy buried deep in the Kremlin was similarly vulnerable to Trump handing him over to Putin.

As CNN noted when the story leaked two years later:

The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.

According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.

The CIA concluded that the risk Trump had burned the spy was so great that, at massive loss to US intelligence abilities that may have helped forestall the invasion of Ukraine, we pulled the spy out of Russia in 2017.

Similarly, when they met in Helsinki, Trump and Putin talked in private for several hours and Trump ordered his translators’ notes destroyed; there is also concern that much of their conversation was done out of the hearing of the US’s translator (Putin is alsofluent in English and German) who may have been relegated to a distant part of the rather large room in which they met.

Things were picking up in 2019, as Putin was planning his invasion of Ukraine while Trump was preparing for the 2020 election.

  • On July 31, Trump had another private conversation with Putin. The White House told Congress and the press that they discussed “wildfires” and “trade between the nations.” No droids in this car…
  • The following week, on August 2nd, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reported that Trump had just asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a list of all its employees (including all our “spies”) who had worked there more than 90 days, and the request had intelligence officials experiencing “disquiet.”
  • Within a year, The New York Timesran a story with the headline: “Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants.” The CIA then alerted spies around the world that their identities had probably been compromised, apparently by Donald Trump himself.

Also in 2019, when the international press verified that Putin was paying the Taliban a bounty to kill American service members in Afghanistan (and 4 had died as a result), Trump refused to demand the practice stop, a possible sign that Putin ran him, not the other way around.

As The New York Times noted at the time:

Mr. Trump defended himself by denying the Times report that he had been briefed on the intelligence... But leading congressional Democrats and some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that, according to officials, the administration has yet to authorize.

Instead of stopping Putin, Trump shut down every US airbase in Afghanistan except one (there were about a dozen), crippling incoming President Biden’s ability to extract US assets from the country in an orderly fashion.

In July 2019, Trump had conversations with five foreign leaders during and just before a visit to Mar-a-Lago; they included Putin and the Emir of Qatar.

In one of those conversations, according to a high-level US Intelligence source, Trump made “promises” to a “world leader” that were so alarming it provoked a national security scramble across multiple agencies.

As The Washington Post noted in an article titled “Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress":

Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint [against Trump] was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of ‘urgent concern,’ a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

Along his journey toward converting America into a full-blown oligarchy (as I detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class), Trump has picked up quite a few democracy-skeptical allies.

As early as 2018, for example, Senator Rand Paul made a solo trip to Moscow to personally hand-deliver a private note from Trump to Putin. Its contents are still unknown.

Senator Paul has also consistently taken Trump’s side with regard to the 2020 election and, when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago this month, responded with a call for the repeal of the Espionage Act. Perhaps he had ambitious plans for a role in the Trump administration after the planned end of American democracy?

With that backstory, consider more contemporary events to see if they fit together.

In January of last year Trump stole and moved to Florida information that, multiple sources assert, would reveal the identities of many of our spies, as well as our nuclear plans and capabilities.

Three months later, in March of 2021, Jared Kushner filed papers showing that his brand new investment company — against the advice of the Saudi government but at MBS’s order — had received over $2 billion from the Kingdom.

It’s still unknown if or how much money the Kingdom gave to Trump himself, presumably through the dark offshore accounts common among billionaires like Trump.

This was not the first time Kushner had apparently altered US foreign policy or shared valuable US secrets with Middle East players in exchange for large quantities of cash that flowed directly to him or other members of the Trump family.

As investigative reporter Vicky Ward notes in the most recent post on Vicky Ward Investigates on Substack:

Kushner was struggling with the ticking time bomb of a $1.8 billion mortgage on 666 Fifth Avenue that would come due in February of 2019—a debt no domestic buyer was interested in. Not even the Chinese or Qataris wanted it. … Kushner desperately needed a bail-out for his troubled building…and the clock was ticking.

Then, in the spring of 2018, two things happened within weeks. First, the U.S. withdrew their support of the blockade of Qatar, leading the Saudis and Emiratis to lift it.

Then, Brookfield, a Canadian real estate investment trust whose largest outside shareholder is the Qatari government, bailed out the Kushners in a deal that has real estate moguls rolling their eyes to this day: A 99-year lease paid upfront on a building that was bleeding money.

Which brings us back, again, to last year, just after Trump’s failed January 6th attempt to overthrow the US government.

About six months after the Saudis gave Kushner that second batch of billions, we learned that for several months “dozens” of American spies and agents had been “captured or killed” around the world. As The Washington Post reported on October 5, 2021:

Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.

Is it possible that all these different data points are part of one whole?

  • That Trump had a plan, worked out with Putin, MBS, a few dozen high administration officials, and a large handful of Republicans in the House and Senate, to overthrow our government and establish an oligarchic system like what is currently in place in Russia and that Fox “News” showcased in Hungary?
  • That once that overthrow was completed under the gimmick of six Republican-controlled states “discovering voter fraud” and changing their Electoral College votes, the plan was that Trump and his GOP allies (including the 11 Republican senators who, this May, voted against aid to Ukraine) would quickly move to re-align America away from NATO/EU and toward Russia/Saudi Arabia?
  • That, as soon as he was sworn in for a second term, he’d invoke his October 21, 2020 Executive Order 13957 that would instantly fire 50,000 senior Civil Service employees encompassing the management of every federal agency including the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DHS, and allow Trump to replace all of them with nakedly political loyalist appointees?
  • That as soon as that transformation of America and our alliances was complete, Trump would use a national state of emergency to suppress dissent and seize control of voting systems across the nation to insure he and the Republicans loyal to him would continue in power for the long run?
  • And that the deaths of our spies, the Saudi-driven explosion in oil prices when Biden came into office, Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine, and even Xi’s cranking up his aggression against Taiwan were all just the echoes of Trump’s failed plan?

After all, it’s not like we’ve never had a coup attempt before in this country: wealthy industrialists tried to kidnap or kill President Franklin Roosevelt 91 years ago and turn America into an Italian/German-style fascist state “friendly to capitalism.” Not a single one of those conspirators were ever arrested or tried; why not try again?

While, as noted, some of this is just speculation right now, every day we get more information that seems to validate it. After all, if you’re going to try to overthrow your nation’s government and anoint yourself dictator for life, wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to guarantee your success? Why just do half-measures?

The only “innocent” explanation I can come up with for Trump stealing spy-level documents and squirreling them away in Florida is what I noted in my Saturday Report last weekend:

Trump is simply mentally ill with a condition common among billionaires: hoarding syndrome. If he hadn’t been born rich, he’d be living in an apartment filled with newspapers and old tin cans from floor to ceiling; instead, he hoards money and anything else he thinks has value that gets close enough to grab.

This is ‘normal’ among kleptocrats like Idi Amin or Baby Doc Duvalier: they think that they are the state, so everything the state owns is their property. Supporting this premise are over 3,000 former contractors and employees (including attorneys) who’ve sued Trump because he’s refused to pay them over the years.

Even if that’s the extent of it — which I believe is extremely unlikely — we appear to have dodged a huge bullet here.

Was there a high-level conspiracy in the Trump administration, done in concert with one or more foreign countries, to end democracy in America?

Did they intend to seize control of our government on January 6 and never let go?

Was their next plan to realign us with autocratic nations like Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary?

Given how effectively it appears much of the evidence including emails, phone calls, and text messages (that could exonerate as well as convict) has been destroyed, much of that destruction apparently done by Trump himself while in office (toilets, papers being burned, etc.) and, more recently, by Trump appointees still in our government, we may never know.

But even the possibility — that the question can be credibly raised given the evidence laid out here (which only scratches the surface) — should give every American pause.

The challenge going forward is now to repair the damage — both foreign and domestic — that this traitor and his colleagues in the GOP did to our nation, and then to make sure no Trump wannabee can ever repeat his attempt.


How a serial killer set the stage for the modern GOP

Last weekend Senator Pat Toomey went on Jake Tapper’s State of the Union to try to clean up Republican sabotage of a bill to provide healthcare to millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. He didn’t do himself or his party any favors as he tried to weasel out of responsibility; America knows that after the bill was defeated Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley fist-bumped in celebration of screwing our vets.

How is it that Republicans can casually embrace such cruelty? Why have 12 GOP-controlled states refused to this day to expand Medicaid for their 30 million minimum-wage working people when the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost?

Why are Republicans so committed to destroying Medicare and Social Security? Why do they go so far as to use the disrespectful slur “democrat party” when there’s no such thing in America and never has been?

Why are Democratic members of Congress having to armor their own homes, having received over 9000 death threats so far this year, virtually all of them from domestic terrorists who Republicans refuse to repudiate? The FBI today is looking for a Matt Gaetz supporter who threatened to murder Gaetz’s Democratic opponent: why are these people attracted to the GOP?

It turns out this is not just politics; the roots of this brutal movement in today’s GOP run from a 1927 child murderer, through a greedy real-estate lobbying group, to Ronald Reagan putting both of their philosophies into actual practice and bringing morbidly rich right-wing billionaires into the GOP fold.

As a result, Republican policies over the past 40 years not only gutted America’s middle class and transferred $50 trillion from the middle class to the top 1 percent, but also led straight to the Trump presidency and the attack on the Capitol on January 6th that he led.

The Libertarians

Reporter Mark Ames documents how, back in the 1940s, a real estate lobbying group came up with the idea of creating a new political party to justify deregulating the real estate and finance industries so they could make more money.

This new “Libertarian Party” would give an ideological and political cover to their goal of becoming government-free, and they developed an elaborate pretense of governing philosophy around it.

Their principal argument was that if everybody acted separately and independently, in all cases with maximum selfishness, such behavior would actually benefit society. There would be no government needed beyond an army and a police force, and a court system to defend the rights of property owners. It was a bizarre twisting of Adam Smith’s reference to the “invisible hand” that regulated trade among nations.

In 1980, billionaire David Koch ran for vice president on the newly formed Libertarian Party ticket. His platform included calls to privatize the Post Office, end all public schools, give Medicare and Medicaid to big insurance companies, end all taxation of the morbidly rich, terminate food and housing support and all other forms of “welfare,” deregulate all corporate oversight while shutting down the EPA and FDA, and selling off much of the federal government’s land and other assets to billionaires and big corporations.

Reagan, who won that 1980 election, embraced this view in his inaugural address, saying, “[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” He then doubled down on the idea by beginning the systematic process of gutting and crippling governmental institutions that historically had supported working people and the middle class.

The child-killer who inspired a movement

Reagan wasn’t just echoing the Libertarian vision; he was also endorsing Ayn Rand’s “objectivist” view of the world, which traces its roots to a murderous sociopath in 1927.

Back in 2015, Donald Trump told USA Today’s Kirsten Powers that his favorite book was Ayn Rand’s raped-girl-decides-she-likes-it novel, “The Fountainhead.”

“It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions,” he told Powers. “That book relates to … everything.”

Ayn Rand’s novels have informed libertarian Republicans like former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current Fox News board member Paul Ryan, who required interns to read her books when they joined his staff.

Powers added, “He [Trump],” told her that he “identified with Howard Roark, the protagonist who designs skyscrapers and rages against the establishment.”

Rand’s hero Roark, in fact, “raged” so much in her novel that he blew up a public housing project with dynamite.

Rand, in her Journals, explained where she got her inspiration for Howard Roark and the leading male characters in so many of her other novels. She writes that the theme of The Fountainhead, for example, is, “One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one’s way to get the best for oneself.”

On Trump’s hero Howard Roark, she wrote that he “has learned long ago, with his first consciousness, two things which dominate his entire attitude toward life: his own superiority and the utter worthlessness of the world. He knows what he wants and what he thinks. He needs no other reasons, standards or considerations. His complete selfishness is as natural to him as breathing.”

It turns out that Roark and many of her other characters were based on a real person. The man who so inspired Ayn Rand’s fictional heroes was named William Edward Hickman, and he lived in Los Angeles during the Roaring Twenties.

Ten days before Christmas in 1927, Hickman, a teenager with slicked dark hair and tiny, muted eyes, drove up to Mount Vernon Junior High School in Los Angeles and kidnapped Marion Parker — the daughter of a wealthy banker in town.

Hickman held the girl ransom, demanding $1,500 from her father — back then about a year’s salary. Supremely confident that he would elude capture, Hickman signed his name on the ransom notes, “The Fox.”

After two days, Marion’s father agreed to hand over the ransom in exchange for the safety of his daughter. What Perry Parker didn’t know is that Hickman never intended to live up to his end of the bargain.

The Pittsburgh Pressdetailed what Hickman, in his own words, did next.

“It was while I was fixing the blindfold that the urge to murder came upon me,” he said. “I just couldn’t help myself. I got a towel and stepped up behind Marion. Then, before she could move, I put it around her neck and twisted it tightly.”

Hickman didn’t hold back on any of these details: he was proud of his cold-bloodedness.

“I held on and she made no outcry except to gurgle. I held on for about two minutes, I guess, and then I let go. When I cut loose the fastenings, she fell to the floor. I knew she was dead.”

But Hickman wasn’t finished. “After she was dead I carried her body into the bathroom and undressed her, all but the underwear, and cut a hole in her throat with a pocket knife to let the blood out.”

Hickman then dismembered the child piece-by-piece, putting her limbs in a cabinet in his apartment, and then wrapped up the carved-up torso, powdered the lifeless face of Marion Parker, set what was left of her stump torso with the head sitting atop it in the passenger seat of his car, and drove to meet her father to collect the ransom money.

He even sewed open her eyelids to make it look like she was alive.

On the way, Hickman dumped body parts out of his car window, before rendezvousing with Marion Parker’s father.

Armed with a shotgun so her father wouldn’t come close enough to Hickman’s car to see that Marion was dead, Hickman collected his $1,500, then kicked open the door and tossed the rest of Marion Parker onto the road. As he sped off, her father fell to his knees, screaming.

Days later, the police caught up with a defiant and unrepentant Hickman in Oregon. His lawyers pleaded insanity, but the jury gave him the gallows.

To nearly everyone, Hickman was a monster. The year of the murder, the Los Angeles Times called it “the most horrible crime of the 1920s.” Hickman was America’s most despicable villain at the time.

Ayn Rand falls in love with a “superman”

But to Alissa Zinovievna Rosenbaum, a 21-year-old Russian political science student who’d arrived in America just two years earlier, Hickman was a hero.

Alissa was a squat five-foot-two with a flapper hairdo and wide, sunken dark eyes that gave her a haunting stare. Etched into those brooding eyes was burned the memory of a childhood backlit by the Russian Revolution.

She had just departed Leninist Russia where, almost a decade earlier, there was a harsh backlash against the Russian property owners by the Bolsheviks. Alissa’s own family was targeted, and at the age of 12 she watched as Bolshevik soldiers burst into her father’s pharmacy, looted the store, and plastered on her Dad’s doors the red emblem of the state, indicating that his private business now belonged to “the people.”

That incident left such a deep and burning wound in young Alissa’s mind that she went to college to study political science and vowed one day she’d become a famous writer to warn the world of the dangers of Bolshevism.

Starting afresh in Hollywood, she anglicized her name to Ayn Rand, and moved from prop-girl to screenwriter/novelist, basing the heroes of several of her stories on a man she was reading about in the newspapers at the time. A man she wrote effusively about in her diaries. A man she hero-worshipped.

William Edward Hickman was the most notorious man in American in 1928, having achieved the level of national fame that she craved.

Young Ayn Rand saw in Hickman the “ideal man” she based The Fountainhead on, and used to ground her philosophy and her life’s work. His greatest quality, she believed, was his unfeeling, pitiless selfishness.

Hickman’s words were carefully recounted by Rand in her Journals. His statement that, “I am like the state: what is good for me is right,” resonated deeply with her. It was the perfect articulation of her belief that if people pursued their own interests above all else — even above friends, family, or nation — the result would be utopian.

She wrote in her diary that those words of Hickman’s were, “the best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I ever heard.”

Hickman — the monster who boasted about how he had hacked up a 12-year-old girl — had Rand’s ear, as well as her heart. She saw a strongman archetype in him, the way that people wearing red MAGA hats see a strongman savior in Donald Trump.

As Hickman’s murder trial unfolded, Rand grew increasingly enraged at how the “mediocre” American masses had rushed to condemn her Superman.

“The first thing that impresses me about the case,” Rand wrote in reference to the Hickman trial in early notes for a book she was working on titled The Little Street, “is the ferocious rage of the whole society against one man.”

Astounded that Americans didn’t recognize the heroism Hickman showed when he proudly rose above simply conforming to society’s rules, Rand wrote, “It is not the crime alone that has raised the fury of public hatred. It is the case of a daring challenge to society. … It is the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatever for all that society holds sacred, with a consciousness all his own.”

Rand explained that when the masses are confronted with such a bold actor, they neither understood nor empathized with him. Thus, “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy [was] turned [by the media] into a purposeless monster.”

The protagonist of the book that Rand was writing around that time was a boy named Danny Renahan. In her notes for the book, she wrote, “The model for the boy [Renahan] is Hickman.” He would be her ideal man, and the archetype for a philosophical movement that would transform a nation.

“He is born with the spirit of Argon and the nature of a medieval feudal lord,” Rand wrote in her notes describing Renahan. “Imperious. Impatient. Uncompromising. Untamable. Intolerant. Unadaptable. Passionate. Intensely proud. Superior to the mob… an extreme ‘extremist.’ … No respect for anything or anyone.”

Rand wanted capitalism in its most raw form, uncheck by any government that could control the rules of the market or promote the benefits of society. Such good intentions had, after all, caused the hell she’d experienced in the Bolshevik Revolution.

Ayn Rand, like Hickman, found peace and justification in the extremes of her economic, political, and moral philosophy. Forget about democratic institutions, forget about regulating markets, and forget about pursuing any policies that benefit the majority at the expense of the very rich — the petty political rule-makers and rule-enforcers could never, ever do anything well or good.

Libertarianism and Ayn Rand set the stage for Trumpism

Only billionaires should rule the world, Trump has suggested.

And he tried to put it into place, installing a billionaire advocate of destroying public schools in charge of public schools, a coal lobbyist representing billionaires in charge of the EPA, an billionaire-funded oil lobbyist in charge of our public lands, and a billionaire described by Forbes as a “grifter” in charge of the Commerce Department. Trump’s chief of staff said that putting children in cages and billionaire-owned privatized concentration camps (where seven so far have died) would actually be a public good.

As Ayn Rand might say, “Don’t just ignore the rules; destroy them.”

Welfare and other social safety net programs were, as Rand saw it, “the glorification of mediocrity” in society. Providing a social safety net for the poor, disabled, or unemployed, she believed, were part of a way of thinking that promoted, “satisfaction instead of joy, contentment instead of happiness… a glow-worm instead of a fire.”

Sociopaths of the world, unite!

Rand, like Trump, lived a largely joyless life. She mercilessly manipulated people, particularly her husband and Alan Greenspan (who brought a dollar-sign-shaped floral arrangement to her funeral), and, like Trump, surrounded herself with cult-like followers who were only on the inside so long as they gave her total, unhesitating loyalty.

Like Trump, McConnell, Stefanik and their billionaire backers, Rand believed that a government working to help out working-class “looters,” instead of solely looking out for rich capitalist “producers,” was throwing its “best people” under the bus.

In Rand’s universe, the producers had no obligations to the looters. Providing welfare or sacrificing one nickel of your own money to help a “looter” on welfare, unemployment, or Social Security — particularly if it was “taken at the barrel of a gun” (taxes) — was morally reprehensible.

Like Trump saying, “My whole life I’ve been greedy,” for Rand looking out for numero uno was the singular name of the game — selfishness was next to godliness.

Later in Rand’s life, in 1959, as she gained more notoriety for the moral philosophy of selfishness that she named “Objectivism” and that is today at the core of libertarianism and the GOP, she sat down for an interview with CBS reporter Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes.

Suggesting that selfishness undermines most truly American values, Wallace bluntly challenged Rand.

“You are out to destroy almost every edifice in the contemporary American way of life,” Wallace said to Rand. “Our Judeo-Christian religion, our modified government-regulated capitalism, our rule by the majority will… you scorn churches, and the concept of God… are these accurate criticisms?”

As Wallace was reciting the public criticisms of Rand, the CBS television cameras zoomed in closely on her face, as her eyes darted back and forth between the ground and Wallace’s fingers. But the question, with its implied condemnation, didn’t faze her at all. Rand said with confidence in a matter-of-fact tone, “Yes.” (4:20 in the clip)


Ayn Rand Mike Wallace Interview (Part 1) 1959www.youtube.com

“We’re taught to feel concern for our fellow man,” Wallace challenged, “to feel responsible for his welfare, to feel that we are, as religious people might put it, children under God and responsible one for the other — now why do you rebel?”

“That is what in fact makes man a sacrificial animal,” Rand answered. She added, “[Man’s] highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness.”

Rand’s philosophy, though popular in high school and on college campuses, never did — in her lifetime — achieve the sort of mass appeal she had hoped. But today Ayn Rand’s philosophy is a central tenet of the Republican Party and grounds the moral code proudly cited and followed by high-profile billionaires and three former presidents of the United States.

Ironically, when she was finally beginning to be taken seriously, Ayn Rand became ill with lung cancer and went on Social Security and Medicare to make it through her last days. She died a “looter” in 1982, unaware that her promotion of William Edward Hickman’s sociopathic worldview would one day validate an entire political party’s embrace of a similarly sociopathic president.

The result so far is over a million dead Americans from Covid, an epidemic of homelessness, and the collapse of this nation’s working class.

While the ideas and policies promoted by the libertarian wing of the Republican Party have made CEOs and billionaire investors very, very rich in recent decades, it’s killing the rest of us.

A return to sanity

In the 1930s and 1940s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower put America back together after the Republican Great Depression and built the largest and wealthiest middle class in the history of the world at the time.

Today, 40 years of Ayn Rand’s ideas being put into practice by libertarian Republicans from Reagan to Bush to Trump have gutted the middle class, made a handful of oligarchs wealthier than any kings or Pharos in the history of the world, and brought a whole new generation of criminals, hustlers and grifters into the GOP.

Three men in America today own more wealth than the entire bottom 50 percent of the country, a level of inequality never before seen in the modern developed world.

When America was still coasting on FDR’s success in rebuilding our government and institutions, nobody took very seriously Rand’s or Koch’s misguided idealist efforts to tear it all down.

Now that libertarians and objectivists in the GOP have had 40 years to make their project work, we’re hitting peak libertarianism and it’s tearing our country apart, pitting Americans against each other, and literally killing people every day.

If America is to survive as a functioning democratic republic, we must repudiate the “greed is good” ideology of Ayn Rand and libertarianism, get billionaires and their money out of politics, and rebuild our civil institutions.

That starts with waking Americans up to the incredible damage that 40 years of Rand’s writings and libertarian “Reagan Republicans” have done to this country.

It will succeed if President Biden can overcome the cynicism and greed celebrated by McConnell, Cruz, and Hawley, reclaim the mantle of FDR, and put America back on the upward trajectory the middle class enjoyed before the Reagan Revolution.

The Reagan Revolution changed America’s values to 'greed is good.' How can we take them back?

Many Americans, looking at the GOP’s position on the issues, find themselves confused.

Why would the party claiming to be the last bastion of reverence for “life” in America also be the party that supports 50,000 American gun deaths every year, the leading cause of death among children and more than every other developed country in the world combined? Why would they support anti-abortion laws that don’t even contain exceptions for the life of the mother? Why do they fight so hard to keep healthcare out of the reach of so many Americans (12 GOP-controlled states still refuse to offer Medicaid — 90% paid for by the federal government — to their low-income working people)?

Why would the party that claims patriotism and the flag as their logos work so hard to make it difficult for people to vote? Why would they vote against supporting our veterans during their time of need? Why would they support authoritarian Russia and vote against aid to democratic Ukraine? Why do they celebrate an autocrat and fascist like Viktor Orbán and invite him to speak at their CPAC convention when he’s openly taking Russia’s side in its conflict with Europe and Ukraine; has shut down independent newspapers, TV, and radio in Hungary; and now preaches against the dangers of “race mixing”?

Why would the party that claims to stand up for the “average American” and “the little guy” work so hard to prevent working people from having union representation in the workplace? Why do they support giant monopolistic corporations that force the average American to pay more than $5000 a year over citizens of Europe or Canada for everything from airfare to cell service to pharmaceuticals to access to the internet? Why do they constantly try to reduce taxes on the morbidly rich while only throwing the smallest of bones to average working people and sticking our children with the debt?

New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell recently put together a “Republican Vote Tracker” that’s become a meme across the internet. He points out that the Republican vote totals just during this congressional session tell their own story:

0% of Republicans voted for cheaper gas
0% voted for cheaper insulin
0% voted for child tax credits to help out young families
0% voted to end gerrymanders
0% voted for the Voting Rights Act
1% voted to fight domestic terrorism
4% voted for background checks to buy assault weapons
6% voted for more baby formula
13% voted to stop domestic violence
16% voted for veteran’s cancer care
23% voted to keep gay marriage legal
32% voted to uphold the 2020 election

Why?

When you do a deep dive into the guts of the GOP’s policy operations, the answer to all these questions becomes crystal clear: the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s was a revolution in the truest sense of the word.

It was a revolution in values as much as in economic and political policy.

Prior to Reaganism (aka neoliberalism), Republicans believed that their job and the work of our government they controlled was to serve the needs of the American people and keep our country united around a common set of values and goals. My dad’s GOP of the 1950s supported community and working class people.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, for example, continued the work started by Republican President Teddy Roosevelt back in 1901 and his distant cousin Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s.

Teddy started the break-up of the most egregiously giant corporate monopolies, made it a felony for corporations to fund political candidates for federal office, and Franklin raised taxes on the morbidly rich to a 91% bracket on income over around $3 million a year in today’s dollars.

Eisenhower embraced those anti-trust and anti-corruption laws and the egalitarian American values they reflected. He kept the top tax rate at 91% for individuals and around 50% for the very most profitable corporations, expanded GI bill benefits, supported free college, maintained and strengthened regulation of banks, built the interstate highway system, encouraged unionization, and funded brand new hospitals, schools, and airports from one end of the nation to the other.

Eisenhower also embraced public education: after Sputnik went up in 1957, his Education Department helped jump-start programs for gifted kids across the country (I was in one throughout elementary school), producing a generation of engineers and scientists who revolutionized the world with the transistor, integrated circuit, and lasers.

He subsidized the development of what ultimately became personal computers and the internet, and funded research that revolutionized medicine with new classes of antibiotics, cancer drugs, and imaging technologies.

When Eisenhower’s rightwing brother Edgar wrote him a letter in 1954 worrying that all this support for working people and government funding for science was “socialist,” President Eisenhower was blunt in his response:

“[T]o attain any success it is quite clear that the Federal government cannot avoid or escape responsibilities which the mass of the people firmly believe should be undertaken by it. The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon ‘moderation’ in government.
“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

By the third year of his first term, 1955, Eisenhower’s popularity rated by Gallup was between 68 and 79 percent. When he ran for re-election in 1956, his platform was explicit:

“Under the Republican Administration, as our country has prospered, so have its people. This is as it should be, for as President Eisenhower said: ‘Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country—they are America.’
“The record of performance of this Republican Administration on behalf of our working men and women goes still further:
*The Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers.
*Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6 1/2 million.
*The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers.
*There have been increased workmen’s compensation benefits…
*All workers have gained and unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.”

By the mid-1960s, however, rightwing oil barons like the Hunt brothers had gained ascendance in the Republican Party. They believed that greed should be the central focus of the GOP, that great wealth should be celebrated, and that working people and their unions must be marginalized.

In 1964, Republican activists at the party’s convention booed and shouted down New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller when he called for Eisenhower’s “moderation,” electing instead an acolyte of Milton Friedman, Barry Goldwater, who declared that “extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

Goldwater’s buddy Friedman had a novel idea that he called neoliberalism, as I lay out in The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Guttered America; in 1981 it became the basis of the Reagan Revolution. In its essence, it said that one of the Seven Deadly Sins — greed — wasn’t actually a sin at all. Greed, Friedman said, wasn’t even a base human impulse that had to be controlled lest it destroy society.

Instead, Friedman preached, greed was good. It animated business and drove consumers. If the economy and the government could just be turned over to those who were the most aggressively greedy, Friedman and his neoliberal colleagues argued, the result would be prosperity for all.

By 1980, the Republican Party had swallowed neoliberalism hook, line, and sinker.

Reagan truly believed that greed alone could power America to success and prosperity. When Michael Douglas made his famous “greed is good” speech in the 1987 movie Wall Street, he was merely echoing the Reagan Republicans of the day.

Thus, greed has become the animating principle that drives the entire Republican Party of today. The only function of government, in their minds, should be to help the greediest in America make a buck.

Public schools don’t promote greed or make anybody money, Republicans note, so they should be destroyed to pave the way for profitable private schools. This is why Republicans across the country are attacking schools and school boards.

Similarly, Social Security and Medicare don’t make money for anybody so they must be privatized. George W. Bush’s invention of the Medicare Advantage scam has already privatized about half of Medicare: Senator Rick Scott has made it clear that when the GOP regains federal power they’ll end Social Security within five years.

Even government service, for Republicans, is a way of getting rich: just look at multimillionaire Paul Ryan. Or multimillionaire Newt Gingrich. They’ve drilled campaign finance laws so full of holes (with help from 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court) that politicians can now keep most of the dark money they raise, even when they leave office. Donald Trump turned this into an art-form: he’s raised and pocketed three-quarters of a billion dollars just since he left office.

So why would Republicans support an autocrat and racist like Viktor Orbán? Why are they pushing guns on the American people while denying women and girls the right to an abortion? Why do they embrace homophobia, racism, and work so hard to further destroy our biosphere with fossil fuels?

Again, when you understand that greed is the single animating principle in the modern Republican Party — a principle they publicly embrace without shame — it all makes sense.

The average American doesn’t believe greed is good: most of us still consider it a sin or at least a character flaw that must be regulated to prevent damage to society. Although Reagan was successful at convincing many in the generation coming up in the 1980s that greed was good (particularly economists like Stephen Moore and Larry Kudlow, who show up on Fox), since then Republicans have learned to keep the pro-greed rhetoric to themselves.

Why? Because they want to win elections so they can have the political power to continue to play the greed game with the wealthiest and greediest people in America. And, because most Americans still think greed is a moral failing, that requires coalition politics.

They already have the support of the small number of ideologues who agree with Friedman and think the neoliberal failures of Chile and Russia were just anomalies. But that’s not enough to win elections.

So they reached out to the white racists, which got them another dozen or so percentage points. The homophobes added even more people to their coalition. Toss in the gun freaks and forced birth crowd and you have enough — with the help of massive cash infusions from fossil fuel billionaires — to win elections and further deconstruct the America built by the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson.

Viktor Orbán is a twofer for them. He’s already transformed Hungary into an authoritarian neofascist state with one-party rule; every major industry (including the media) is now owned by his oligarch cronies: it’s the model Republicans have been pursuing for 42 years.

Hungary is now (along with Russia) the world’s leading exemplar of the doctrine that greed should be the organizing principle of government, a system I detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.

Orbán’s openly harnessed the power of racism to help him stay in power, and is bringing it to a GOP conference in America next month with his warnings against “race mixing.”

The Republican Party has become a rotting corpse, politically, infested with bigoted maggots and defended by wealthy vultures. It has only one single true principle, greed, and is determined to reinvent America in greed’s image.

Will they succeed and complete the Reagan Revolution, turning America into an English-speaking version of Orbán’s Hungary?

That will depend on whether American voters continue to tolerate the breathtaking levels of corruption and cynicism that Republican politicians are so proud of — or if Americans show up in large enough numbers this November to turn them out of office and convince the GOP to go back to its Eisenhower roots.

Stay tuned.

[Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly claimed that the spouses of military veterans were allowed to obtain teaching certificates in Florida without a bachelor’s degree.]

The Supreme Court is laying the groundwork to pre-rig the 2024 election

Six Republicans on the Supreme Court just announced—a story that has largely flown under the nation's political radar—that they'll consider pre-rigging the presidential election of 2024.

Republican strategists are gaming out which states have Republican legislatures willing to override the votes of their people to win the White House for the Republican candidate.

Here's how one aspect of it could work out, if they go along with the GOP's arguments that will be before the Court this October:

It's November, 2024, and the presidential race between Biden and DeSantis has been tabulated by the states and called by the networks. Biden won 84,355,740 votes to DeSantis' 77,366,412, clearly carrying the popular vote.
But the popular vote isn't enough: George W. Bush lost to Al Gore by a half-million votes and Donald Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by 3 million votes but both ended up in the White House. What matters is the Electoral College vote, and that looks good for Biden, too.
As CNN is reporting, the outcome is a virtual clone of the 2020 election: Biden carries the same states he did that year and DeSantis gets all the Trump states. It's 306 to 232 in the Electoral College, a 74-vote Electoral College lead for Biden, at least as calculated by CNN and the rest of the media. Biden is heading to the White House for another 4 years.
Until the announcement comes out of Georgia. Although Biden won the popular vote in Georgia, their legislature decided it can overrule the popular vote and just awarded the state's 16 electoral votes to DeSantis instead of Biden.
An hour later we hear from five other states with Republican-controlled legislatures where Biden won the majority of the vote, just like he had in 2020: North Carolina (15 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10), Michigan (16), Pennsylvania (20) and Arizona (11).Each has followed Georgia's lead and their legislatures have awarded their Electoral College votes—even though Biden won the popular vote in each state—to DeSantis.Thus, a total of 88 Electoral College votes from those six states move from Biden to DeSantis, who's declared the winner and will be sworn in on January 20, 2025.Wolf Blitzer announces that DeSantis has won the election, and people pour into the streets to protest. They're met with a hail of bullets as Republican-affiliated militias have been rehearsing for this exact moment and their allies among the police refuse to intervene.
After a few thousand people lay dead in the streets of two dozen cities, the police begin to round up the surviving "instigators," who are charged with seditious conspiracy for resisting the Republican legislatures of their states.After he's sworn in on January 20th, President DeSantis points to the ongoing demonstrations, declares a permanent state of emergency, and suspends future elections, just as Trump had repeatedly told the world he planned for 2020.

Sound far-fetched?

Six Republicans on the Supreme Court just announced that one of the first cases they'll decide next year could include whether that very scenario is constitutional or not. And it almost certainly is.

Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution lays out the process clearly, and it doesn't even once mention the popular vote or the will of the people:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress... [emphasis added]
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons … which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President…

It's not particularly ambiguous, even as clarified by the 12th Amendment and the Electoral Count Act of 1887.

Neither mentions the will of the people, although the Electoral Count Act requires each state's governor to certify the vote before passing it along to Washington, DC. And half of those states have Democratic governors.

Which brings us to the Supreme Court's probable 2023 decision. As Robert Barnes wrote yesterday for The Washington Post:

The Supreme Court on Thursday said it will consider what would be a radical change in the way federal elections are conducted, giving state legislatures sole authority to set the rules for contests even if their actions violated state constitutions and resulted in extreme partisan gerrymandering for congressional seats.

While the main issue being debated in Moore v Harper, scheduled for a hearing this October, is a gerrymander that conflicts with North Carolina's constitution, the issue at the core of the debate is what's called the "Independent State Legislature Doctrine."

It literally gives state legislatures the power to pre-rig or simply hand elections to the candidate of their choice.

As NPR notes:

The independent state legislature theory was first invoked by three conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices in the celebrated Bush v. Gore case that handed the 2000 election victory to George W. Bush. In that case, the three cited it to support the selection of a Republican slate of presidential electors.

That doctrine—the basis of John Eastman and Donald Trump's effort to get states to submit multiple slates of electors—asserts that a plain reading of Article II and the 12th Amendment of the Constitution says that each state's legislature has final say in which candidate gets their states' Electoral College vote, governors and the will of the voters be damned.

The Republicans point out that the Constitution says that it's up to the states—"in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct"—to decide which presidential candidate gets their Electoral College votes.

But the Electoral Count Act requires a governor's sign-off, and half of those states have Democratic governors. Which has precedence, the Constitution or the Act?

If the Supreme Court says it's the US Constitution rather than the Electoral Count Act, states' constitutions, state laws, or the votes of their citizens, the scenario outlined above becomes not just possible but very likely. Republicans play hardball and consistently push to the extremes regardless of public opinion.

After all, the Constitution only mentions the states' legislatures—which are all Republican-controlled — so the unwillingness of the Democratic governors of Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to sign off on the Electoral College votes becomes moot.

Under this circumstance DeSantis becomes president, the third Republican president in the 21st century, and also the third Republican President to have lost the popular vote election yet ended up in the White House.

This scenario isn't just plausible: it's probable. GOP-controlled states are already changing their state laws to allow for it, and Republican strategists are gaming out which states have Republican legislatures willing to override the votes of their people to win the White House for the Republican candidate.

Those state legislators who still embrace Trump and this theory are getting the support of large pools of right-wing billionaires' dark money.

As the highly respected conservative Judge J. Michael Luttig recently wrote:

Trump and the Republicans can only be stopped from stealing the 2024 election at this point if the Supreme Court rejects the independent state legislature doctrine … and Congress amends the Electoral Count Act to constrain Congress' own power to reject state electoral votes and decide the presidency.

I take no satisfaction in having accurately predicted—in March of 2020—how Trump and his buddies would try to steal the election in January of 2021. Or how the Supreme Court would blow up the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump's January 6th effort failed because every contested state had laws on the books requiring all of their Electoral College votes to go to whichever candidate won the popular vote in the state.

That will not be the case in 2024.

As we are watching, the Supreme Court — in collaboration with state legislatures through activists like Ginny Thomas — are setting that election up right now in front of us in real-time.

We damn well better be planning for this, because it's likely coming our way in just a bit more than two short years.

How Donald Trump's 'secret' plan to steal the presidency has its roots in the messy 2000 election

Today’s January 6th Committee’s hearings are about the pressure campaign on Mike Pence to hand the election of 2020 to Trump. Official Washington and the media are shocked — “Shocked, I tell you!” — that John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump had come up with the “bizarre” idea that Vice President Pence could toss the election to the House, thus keeping Trump in office.

They’re amazed when they reference five states having submitted two slates of electors each, the “real” Biden ones and the “phony” Trump ones that Giuliani and Eastman conspired with Republicans to create.

But this was neither bizarre nor new.

I was hearing rumblings about this in the spring of 2020 — a full eight months before the election that Trump lost — and wrote an article for Alternet.org on March 13, 2020 laying out Trump’s coming strategy.

It turns out that Trump was merely planning a repeat of something Republicans had already done — when the Republican President Pro Tempore of the Senate (typically the Vice President, that that year the VP was dead) overturned the election of 1876 that Democrat Sam Tilden had won — and gave the White House to the loser, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes.

My article even pointed out how right-wingers on the Supreme Court had prepared the ground for this strategy (think Clarence and Ginny Thomas).

I think you’ll find it fascinating, and it will help you understand both what Eastman/Trump/Giuliani were thinking (and why) as well as why and how so many other Republicans (who have not yet been outed, but hopefully will be) thought it could work. Here’s that article in full:

We need to plan now in case Trump loses in November — but refuses to leave the White House

The Constitution provides a couple of mechanisms for Trump to lose the 2020 election—both the popular vote and the Electoral College—and still hold the office of president for a second term.

It’s keeping historians and constitutional scholars up at night and, based on offline conversations I’ve had with D.C. conservatives I know, is something the GOP and partisans within the Trump administration are already discussing.

Bill Maher and I have been repeatedly asking a question on the air that the rest of America’s media seemingly thinks is too far out to even consider: What if Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is right, and after losing the 2020 election Trump refuses to leave office?

The Constitution provides a couple of mechanisms for Trump to lose the 2020 election—both the popular vote and the Electoral College—and still hold the office of president for a second term.

It’s keeping historians and constitutional scholars up at night and, based on offline conversations I’ve had with D.C. conservatives I know, is something the GOP and partisans within the Trump administration are already discussing.

Bill Maher and I have been repeatedly asking a question on the air that the rest of America’s media seemingly thinks is too far out to even consider: What if Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is right, and after losing the 2020 election Trump refuses to leave office?

While that sounds like good news, with Democrats controlling the House today, each state’s delegation only gets one vote—50 votes from 50 states determine the president. And a majority of the states are Republican-controlled, so this remedy would put Trump into office regardless of how badly he lost the popular vote, the electoral vote, or both.

So, how did we get here, and what are the scenarios the Republicans I know are considering?

First, some background.

Swing States’ Legislatures Decide (and Trump Wins)

Article II (the Executive Branch), Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution (and the 12th Amendment, which revises it) gives solely to the legislature of the states the power to control the electors who will decide the presidential election.

It does not say that the people of the states shall vote for their choice of president and then that vote shall be reflected in the states’ electoral votes. It’s entirely up to the legislature (without any input from the governor). “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…” is how it appears in Article II of the Constitution.

Every state’s legislature generally directs all their electors to vote for the candidate who won the majority in the state (Maine and Nebraska are the exception, allowing for split decisions), a system we call “winner takes all,” but a state’s legislature (its combined house or assembly and senate, where each member has one vote) can, by simple majority vote, direct its electors to vote for any candidate they want, even over the objections of their governor.

In the 2000 election, for example, when the Florida Supreme Court had ordered a complete recount of the vote for president in that state, Republicans were concerned that a full, statewide recount would give Al Gore the presidency.

(And, indeed, that’s what would have happened, as a consortium of newspapers including the New York Times discovered a year later when they fully recounted the Florida vote and found that Al Gore won Florida—a fact largely buried by the papers because it was published just two months after 9/11 and no newspaper wanted to challenge the legitimacy of Bush’s presidency during one of the nation’s most severe times of national crisis since Pearl Harbor.)

Thus, had the U.S. Supreme Court not intervened to stop the Florida recount, the Republicans in the Florida legislature fully intended to hand the Florida electoral college vote—and, thus, the White House—to George W. Bush, even if a recount showed that Al Gore actually won the vote.

The 2000 Dress Rehearsal

As David Barstow and Somini Sengupta wrote for the New York Times on November 28, 2000:

“The president of Florida’s Senate said today that Gov. Jeb Bush had indicated his willingness to sign special legislation intended to award Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes to his brother Gov. George W. Bush of Texas even as the election results were being contested.”

Barstow and Sengupta added that “talk of a special legislative session continued unabated here today as local Republicans fretted about the possibility that the justices on the Florida Supreme Court, all appointed by Democrats, might uphold the challenge by Vice President Al Gore [for a statewide recount], ultimately awarding him the state’s electoral votes.”

Bluntly, they noted, “The driving force behind the calls for a special session is the Republican desire to use the Legislature to trump the state’s Supreme Court, should the need arise.” In other words, should the recount discover that Gore had actually won.

If the Florida legislature, then firmly in GOP hands, had voted to require all their electors to cast their votes for Bush (or appoint new ones who would), the recount would have been irrelevant; the Constitution gives that power exclusively to the state’s legislatures.

Which includes purple states with Democratic governors and a majority of Republicans in the combined House and Senate of the state, as with Michigan, Pennsylvania, and—most significantly because in 2020 it’ll probably play the role Florida did in 2000—Wisconsin.

Thus, through simple brute force, if Trump, Fox News and Limbaugh, et al, were to loudly claim that there was “voter fraud” in any or all of those states and succeed in casting doubts about the integrity of an election that would put a Democrat in the White House, the manufactured conflict could be resolved and the election given to Trump by one or more state legislatures as Florida threatened to do in 2000.

The GOP and right-wing radio and TV have been preparing this ground for the better part of two decades, constantly harping on non-existent voter fraud by undocumented Hispanics and African Americans who, as Trump alleged, go from polling place to polling place by bus to double- or even triple-vote.

While there’s absolutely no evidence for any of this—despite the Bush administration spending tens of millions of dollars, enlisting all 93 U.S. attorneys nationwide, and examining over 840 million votes and finding fully 35 examples of illegal votes nationwide (and none by “illegal Hispanics”)—this “voter fraud” fantasy is widely believed among the Republican electorate and could be used by a state’s legislature to flip a close vote.

The U.S. House of Representatives Decides (and Trump Wins)

Another way Trump could lose both the popular vote and the uncontested electoral vote is found in the election of 1876.

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

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes not only lost the popular vote but had only 163 electoral votes.

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.

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 that 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.”

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, 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 essentially 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, but only by selling out Southern Black people for the next hundred years.

Congress Empowers Electoral Challenges

In the wake of the election of 1876, Congress passed the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to resolve things should such a situation recur. The law (now codified as 3 U.S. Code § 15) specifies that after the president of the Senate opens and reads all the electoral votes as specified in Article II and in the 12th Amendment, then “the President of the Senate shall call for objections, if any.”

If a single member of each house of Congress (just one from the House and one from the Senate) objects to the results, then both houses of Congress shall go back to their respective chambers and decide how to resolve the conflict. The objection “shall be signed by at least one Senator and one Member of the House of Representatives” is how the law reads.

I was recently in Seattle speaking at Town Hall with Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State. She told me the story of how, in the election of 2016, some Democrats were concerned that Republicans or possibly even Russians had manipulated the votes in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

She was willing to be the “objector” from the House but couldn’t find a single senator to sign onto her objection. She said she repeatedly asked Vice President Biden, who as president of the Senate, had the job of opening and certifying the electoral votes, to hold up the certification of Trump’s election win, and Biden repeatedly told her no.

The president of the Senate in 2020 will be Mike Pence, and if Trump loses the electoral vote but he and Fox are asserting fraud in some of the states, all it takes is one member each of the House and Senate to throw the issue into debate.

If this is resolved before the first week of January when the House and Senate are sworn in and, like in 1876, the House is Democratic-controlled and the Senate is still run by Republicans, the outcome will likely be a deadlock, which takes us back to the 12th Amendment’s remedy that the Democrats were afraid to use in 1876.

On the other hand, if the Democrats take the Senate and hold the House in 2020 and the dispute drags out into the next Congress, it’s possible (barring Supreme Court intervention) a united House and Senate could reject disputed votes and put the Democrat in the White House.

If, before the new session or if Democrats fail to take the Senate, the GOP or the Supreme Court could force that vote in the House (or Democrats, unwilling to let a new Civil War break out, were to cave in), because there are more states whose legislatures are controlled by Republicans than Democrats, Trump would become president regardless of the popular or the electoral vote.

If you doubt that the Supreme Court might think that the individual state legislatures should each cast a single vote for president and keep Trump in office, consider what Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas wrote in their separate concurrence to the Bush v. Gore decision that gave Bush the White House, when a majority of the states’ legislatures were similarly controlled by Republicans.

Speaking of the possibility that the House may have to vote for the president, with each state having one single vote (which would have given 2000 to Bush, too), they wrote:

“[T]here are a few exceptional cases in which the Constitution imposes a duty or confers a power on a particular branch of a State’s government. This is one of them.”

For emphasis, they added:

“In McPherson v. Blacker (1892), we explained that Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, ‘convey[s] the broadest power of determination’ and ‘leaves it to the [state] legislature exclusively to define the method’ of appointment. A significant departure from the legislative scheme for appointing Presidential electors presents a federal constitutional question.”

Democrats Need to Plan

I’ve had discussions around each of these scenarios over the past few years with conservatives and Republicans I got to know during the seven years I lived and worked in Washington, D.C.

The GOP, I believe, is seriously gaming out all of these possibilities.

Meanwhile, Trump is preparing his base for this.

During the 2016 primary and general election, Trump repeatedly said that the vote was “rigged” for Democrats and Hillary Clinton. A few weeks after he won, on November 27, he tweeted:

“Serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California—so why isn’t the media reporting on this? Serious bias—big problem!”

In January of 2017, USA Today reported that:

“On Jan. 23, the new president told congressional leaders that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Trump won the election with a convincing victory in the Electoral College, even as Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes.”

In April of 2018, he said to a group of supporters and reporters:

“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times—you’ve probably heard about that. They always like to say ‘oh, that’s a conspiracy theory’—not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people.” He added that Democrats wanted “sanctuary cities” because “they think they’re going to vote Democrat.”

The week after the 2018 midterm election, Trump alleged massive voter fraud in Florida, tweeting:

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of [Republicans] Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged.”

On January 27, 2019, he tweeted:

“58,000 non-citizens voted in Texas, with 95,000 non-citizens registered to vote. These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. All over the country, especially in California, voter fraud is rampant. Must be stopped.”

In August of 2019, Trump told reporters:

“New Hampshire should have been won [by Trump] last time, except we had a lot of people come in at the last moment, which was a rather strange situation. Thousands and thousands of people, coming in from locations unknown. But I knew where their location was.”

In early 2020, Trump told a New Hampshire rally:

“Remember last time? We won the primary tremendously. We should’ve won the [general] election, but they had buses being shipped up from Massachusetts, hundreds and hundreds. And it was very close, even though they did.”

This is just a scattering of his statements on the issue; it’s a frequent refrain in his rallies and press statements, and a line repeated constantly on Fox News.

This is no accident; these people are preparing the public for the claims they’ll use to contest the 2020 election as described earlier.

There are two possible long-term solutions to this problem, which is caused by the existence of the Electoral College.

The first is to simply repeal the Electoral College itself with a constitutional amendment, something that was last seriously tried in the 1970s when Senator Birch Bayh led the effort in Congress. It hit the two-thirds needed in the House but fell short in the Senate. Now that the last two Republican presidents have been elected exclusively with the electoral vote, the GOP has dug in its feet and is resisting any effort to eliminate it.

A second option is to go around the Electoral College. Because the Constitution gives the state legislatures the entire power to determine how their state’s electoral votes are allocated, the second way to solve the problem is for enough state legislatures to equal 270 votes (the threshold to win the electoral vote) to pass laws directing their electors to give all of their votes to whatever candidate wins the national popular vote.

There’s an interstate compact to do this (in the legislatures of California, Colorado, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), but that’s only 196 electoral votes. So long as red and purple states continue to have legislatures with a majority of Republicans, it faces an uphill fight.

But neither of these solutions will be in place this year.

Democrats need to get ready for the Republican plans to hold onto the White House when Trump loses by explaining now to the American people, repeatedly and loudly, how there’s no such thing as “voter fraud” but that the GOP’s main tool now to win elections is to pretend there is in order to justify voter suppression and election theft.

They also need to point out that the Republicans are, right out in the open and in front of us, trying to pull off a preemptive version of the 2000 Florida “Brooks Brothers riot,” when GOP staffers flew in from D.C. and pretended to be Floridians, loudly protesting outside vote-counting places and demanding that the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court be stopped and Bush be made president.

Get it into the media and repeat it over and over again:

“The GOP plans to claim ‘Democratic voter fraud’ in this election to steal the election for themselves, and they’re already getting people primed for it!”

Then, when the GOP starts screaming that some states where Trump lost “are in doubt” because of “voter fraud,” it’ll be seen as the scam that it is.

If the economy tanks, thank Ronald Reagan

The CEO of America's largest bank is worried, and for good reason.

This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.

Yesterday the Fed started something it hasn't done for quite a while. It started dumping bonds.

The Fed has been goosing the economy steadily since the Bush Crash of 2008, buying US and corporate bonds with money it creates out of thin air (only the Fed can "print money" like this by simply willing the dollars into existence).

By purchasing and holding those bonds over the past 14 years, the Fed has created and then flushed into our economy $8 trillion in liquid cash. This is how the Fed stimulates an economy in crisis: pouring newly-created money into the system.

As a result, our economy has been running on high-octane sugar-high stimulus (free money from the Fed, as you can see above) ever since 2008.

Several trillion of that came in the last year of the Trump presidency. While Republicans scream about spending for social needs that might also stimulate the economy, they and Trump were quite happy to see that money from the Fed.

But now the Fed and it's Trump-appointed Republican Chairman, Jerome Powell, are backing off.

Yesterday the Fed started selling those bonds, reversing the process after 14 years and now sucking money out. Instead of stimulating the economy, they're trying to slow it down in the hope that will cool off inflation.

When they receive the money back from those sales they'll simply drop it into the same Schrödinger's Cat-box from which it came: it'll vanish into the icy, dark depths of fiscal interstellar space, never to be seen again. What the Fed creates, the Fed can dissolve.

This month the Fed expects to "retire" $47.5 billion from its balance sheet — retire that amount from our economy — rising to $90 billion a month by the end of the summer.

While these aren't huge sums in the grand scheme of things, the very fact that the Fed has gone from pumping created-from-nothing money into the economy to pulling that money back out is a Very Big Deal.

Add that to its plan to continue increasing interest rates, which also slows the economy, and we're looking at a potential Category 5 event.

Thus, the Financial Times was the bearer of the predictable bad tidings yesterday. Just from that day's FT's (digital) front page's "Live News Updates" column, these were some of the headlines:

  • Ford forecasts car industry consolidation as capital becomes constrained
  • Treasuries and US stocks slip as investors gird for monetary policy tightening
  • Bank of Canada prepared to 'act more forcefully' after latest rate rise
  • European stocks enter June on a muted note after turbulent month
  • German retail sales fell 5.4% in April
  • UK house price growth slows in May
  • China's manufacturing sector activity shrinks for third consecutive month
  • Government bonds sell off as eurozone inflation hits record high
  • JPMorgan chief says 'hurricane' is bearing down on economy

In that last article, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who a week ago had predicted "storm clouds" on the economic horizon, became far more blunt yesterday.

'I said they're storm clouds, they're big storm clouds here,' Dimon said, adding, 'It's a hurricane.'

Elaborating that the war in Ukraine and Europe's disconnection from Russian fossil fuel markets could drive oil as high as $175 a barrel, Dimon worried out loud:

That hurricane is right out there down the road coming our way. We just don't know if it's a minor one or Superstorm Sandy . . . And you better brace yourself.

So, how did we get here?

Between the Republican Great Depression of 1929-1937 and Reagan's inauguration in 1981, the United States experienced a few recessions, but nothing as severe as Republican President Herbert Hoover oversaw back on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929.

Hoover's crash was set up by the election of 1920, when Republican Warren Harding convinced Americans to abandon the trust-busting, high tax, progressive policies of Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson in favor of that generation's version of neoliberalism or what we today call Reaganomics.

Harding referred to it as "Horse and Sparrow Economics" — it was the early 20th century version of what Reagan later reinvented as "trickle-down economics."

If the horses (rich people and big business) were fed more oats (through deregulation and tax cuts), more of those oats would pass undigested into the horse manure that then littered the streets of American. The sparrows (working class Americans) could then pick the extra oats out of the manure.

In 1920, Warren Harding won the presidency on a campaign of "more industry in government, less government in industry" — privatize and deregulate — and "a return to normality," his promise to drop the top tax bracket from its then-91 percent rate down to 25 percent.

Harding kept both promises, putting the nation into a sugar-high spin called the Roaring '20s, where the rich got fabulously rich and working-class people were being beaten and murdered by industrialists when they tried to unionize. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (the three Republican presidents from 1920 to 1932) all cheered on the assaults, using phrases like "the right to work" to describe a union-free nation.

In the end, the result of the "horses and sparrows" economics advocated by Harding was the Republican Great Depression (yes, they called it that until after World War II).

FDR's response to Hoover's Depression was to raise the top income tax bracket back up to 91% and impose stiff regulations on banks and Wall Street, creating the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and putting Joe Kennedy in charge of it.

Gloria Swanson, who knew Kennedy well and intensely disliked him (he'd robbed and exploited her), told me over one of our many dinners in her New York apartment that FDR knew, "It takes a crook to catch a crook." And FDR was going after the crooks.

High taxes on the morbidly rich and aggressive government enforcement of banking and securities rules prevented another large-scale crash for a half century until Reagan came along and repeated Harding's mistakes in the 1980s.

After Reagan finally dropped the top tax rate from the 74% he inherited when he came into office to 28% there was a one-day 22% stock market crash — Black Monday on October 27, 1987 — that rivaled 1929's Black Tuesday for the first time.

When Reagan deregulated the Savings & Loan industry the banksters stole so much money they crashed S&Ls across America, the first serious bank panic since the Republican Great Depression.

We're still living in Reagan's neoliberal deregulated economy. It brought us two financial crises while he was President, the dot-com bubble-bust of 1999/2000, the Bush Crash of 2008, and arguably the trillion-dollar-heist of 2020 when Trump passed out money to his fat-cat buddies without controls (we're still trying to figure out where all that money went).

Now, if Dimon is right, hang onto your hat for another "event."

The core tenet of both Harding's and Reagan's versions of neoliberalism is that the economy is essentially a force of nature. It's why Harding did away with regulations on stock speculation and why Reagan deregulated everything he could as fast as he could.

The economy "operates according to its own rules," they'd tell you, and anything government does to interfere with it will simply produce a bad outcome.

In actual fact, the opposite is true.

Players in the top reaches of finance, banking, and speculation are much like players in boxing or football: they're engaged in a competitive high-stakes game defined by very specific rules, and when they know they can get away with breaking those rules, they'll often do it.

The difference is that instead of winning or throwing a football game or boxing match, when bankers and speculators violate the rules they can take down the entire economy.

The financial speculators, of course are rarely injured in the process. We bailed out the banksters and speculators in the 1980s, 1999/2000, 2008, and 2020 to the tune of trillions of dollars. Senior executives and shareholders took home hundreds of billions of those dollars, looting the system they themselves had crashed.

Since 2008, most of that money was created out of thin air by the Fed. Now the Fed wants it back, but the banksters and speculators have already stashed it in their offshore tax havens. As a result, working class Americans and small- and medium-sized businesses will largely foot the bill.

Dimon and the purveyors of doom may be wrong about a crisis at this particular moment, but the system is still shaky and fraud is rife across banking, brokerage and finance, as Elizabeth Warren and Katie Porter continually remind us.

As I lay out in The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America, it's probably going to take another 1929-type event to shake Americans up enough to reject Reagan's vision of a deregulated economy and put the nation back on the course of the stable and steady Keynesian growth that FDR gave us from 1933 to 1981.

Now, in addition to an economy held together with the baling-wire of Fed stimulus (that's coming to an end), both the US and the world are facing a wild spectrum of assaults that could have huge economic impacts.

And Republicans are committed to doing everything they can to cripple our economy, refusing to pass much of Biden's economic agenda, in their belief that a Crash will help them in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Between the worldwide food and oil crises the Russian invasion of Ukraine are provoking, billions in climate change damage and millions of climate change refugees, Republican intransigence, and the Fed's claiming back that $8 trillion they gave our banksters and speculators, a real crisis may be at our doorstep sooner than any of us would like.

Brace yourself.

Dear Republicans: We tried it your way and it does not work

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The 1970s were a pivotal decade, and not just because it saw the end of the Vietnam War, the resignation of Nixon, and the death of both the psychedelic hippie movement and the very political (and sometimes violent) SDS. Most consequentially, the 1970s were when the modern-day Republican Party was birthed.

Prior to that, the nation had hummed along for 40 years on a top income tax bracket of 91% and a corporate income tax that topped out around 50%. Business leaders ran their companies, which were growing faster than anytime in the history of America, and avoided participating in politics.

Democrat Franklin Roosevelt and Republican Dwight Eisenhower renewed America with modern, state-of-the-art public labs, schools, and public hospitals across the nation; nearly free college, trade school, and research support; healthy small and family businesses; unions protecting a third of America’s workers so two-thirds had a living wage and benefits; and an interstate highway system, rail system, and network of new airports that transformed the nation’s commerce.

When we handed America over to Ronald Reagan in 1981 it was a brand, gleaming new country with a prosperous and thriving middle class.

The seeds of today’s American crisis were planted just ten years earlier, in 1971, when Lewis Powell, then a lawyer for the tobacco industry, wrote his infamous “Powell Memo.” It became a blueprint for the morbidly rich and big corporations to take over the weakened remnants of Nixon’s Republican Party and then America.

They then moved on to infiltrate our universities, seize our media, pack our courts, integrate themselves into a large religious movement to add millions of votes, and turn upside down our tax, labor, and gun laws.

That effort burst onto the American scene with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan.

By 1982 America was agog at the “new ideas” this newly-invented GOP was putting forward. They included radical tax cuts, pollution deregulation, destroying unions, and slashing the support services the New Deal and Great Society once offered people (because, Republicans said, feeding, educating, or providing healthcare to people made them dependent).

Their sales pitch was effective, and we’ve now had 42 years of the so-called Reagan Revolution.

It’s time to simply say out loud that it hasn’t worked:

Republicans told us if we just cut the top tax rate on the morbidly rich from the 74% it was at in 1980 down to 27% it would “trickle down” benefits to everybody else as, they said, the “job creators” would be unleashed on our economy.

Instead of a more general prosperity, we’ve now ended up with the greatest wealth and income inequality in the world, as over $50 trillion was transferred over 40 years from the bottom 90% to the top 1%, where it remains to this day. The middle class has gone from over 60% of us to fewer than half of us.

Republicans told us if we just deregulated guns and let anybody buy and carry as many as they wanted wherever they wanted it would clean up our crime problem and put the fear of God into our politicians.

“An armed society is a polite society” was the bumper sticker back during Reagan’s time, the NRA relentlessly promoting the lie that the Founders and Framers put the 2nd Amendment into the Constitution so “patriots” could kill politicians. Five Republicans on the Supreme Court even got into the act by twisting the law and lying about history to make guns more widely available.

Instead of a “polite” society or politicians who listened better to their constituents, we ended up with school shootings and a daily rate of gun carnage unmatched anywhere else in the developed world.

Republicans told us that if we just ended sex education in our schools and outlawed abortion, we’d return to “the good old days” when, they argued, every child was wanted and every marriage was happy.

Instead of helping young Americans, we’ve ended up with epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and — now that abortion is illegal in state after state — a return to deadly back-alley abortions.

Republicans told us that if we just killed off Civics and History classes in our schools, we’d “liberate” our young people to focus instead on science and math.

Instead, we’ve raised two generations of Americans that can’t even name the three branches of government, much less understand the meaning of the Constitution’s reference to the “General Welfare.”

Republicans told us that if we cut state and federal aid to higher education — which in 1980 paid for about 80% of a student’s tuition — so that students would have what they told us was “skin in the game,” we’d see students take their studies more seriously and produce a new generation of engineers and scientists to prepare us for the 21st century.

Instead of happy students when, we cut that 80% government support down to around 20% (with the 80% now covered by student’s tuition), our nation is groaning under a $2 trillion dollar student debt burden, preventing young people from buying homes, starting businesses, or beginning families. While students are underwater, banksters who donate to Republican politicians are making billions in profits every single week of the year from these bizarrely non-negotiable loans .

Republicans told us that if we just stopped enforcing the anti-monopoly and anti-trust laws that had protected small businesses for nearly 100 years, there would be an explosion of innovation and opportunity as companies got bigger and better.

Instead, we’ve seen every industry in America become so consolidated that competition is dead, price gouging and profiteering reign, and it’s impossible to start or find small family-owned businesses anymore in downtowns, malls, and the suburbs. It’s all giant chains, many now owed by hedge funds or private equity. Few family or local businesses can compete against such giants.

Republicans told us that if we just changed the laws to let corporations pay their senior executives with stock (in addition to cash) they’d be “more invested” in the fate and future of the company and business would generally become healthier.

Instead, nearly every time a corporation initiates a stock buyback program, millions and often billions of dollars flow directly into the pockets of the main shareholders and executives — while workers, the company, and society suffer the loss.

Republicans told us that if we just let a handful of individual companies and billionaires buy most of our media, a thousand flowers would grow and we’d have the most diverse media landscape in the world. At first, as the internet was opening in the 90s, they even giddily claimed it was happening.

Now a small group of often-rightwing companies own our major media/internet companies, radio and TV stations, as well as local newspapers across the country. In such a landscape, progressive voices, as you can imagine, are generally absent.

Republicans told us we should hand all our healthcare decisions not to our doctors but to bureaucratic insurance industry middlemen who would decide which of our doctor’s suggestions they’d approve and which they’d reject. They said this will “lower costs and increase choice.”

In all of the entire developed world — all the OECD countries on 4 continents — there are only 500,000 medical bankruptcies a year. Every single one of them is here in America.

Republicans told us if we just got rid of our unions, then our bosses and the companies that employ them would give us better pay, more benefits, and real job security.

As everybody can see, they lied. And are working as hard as they can to prevent America from returning to the levels of unionization we had before Reagan’s Great Republican Experiment.

Republicans told us if we went with the trade agreement the GHW Bush administration had negotiated — NAFTA — and then signed off on the WTO, that we’d see an explosion of jobs.

There was an explosion; lots of them, in fact, as over 60,000 American factories were torn down or left vacant because their products were moved to China or elsewhere. Over 10 million good-paying jobs went overseas along with those 60,000 factories.

Republicans told us global warming was a hoax: they’re still telling us that, in fact. And therefore, they say, we shouldn’t do anything to interfere with the profits of their friends in the American fossil fuel industry and the Middle East.

The hoax, it turns out, was the lie that there was no global warming — a lie that the industry spent hundreds of millions over decades to pull off. They succeeded in delaying action on global warming by at least three decades and maybe as many as five. That lie produced trillions in profits and brought us the climate crisis that is today killing millions and threatens all life on Earth.

And then, of course, there’s the biggest GOP lie of them all: “Money is the same thing as Free Speech.”

Five Republicans on the Supreme Court told us that if we threw out around 1000 anti-corruption and anti-bribery laws at both the state and federal level so politicians and political PACs could take unaccountable billions, even from foreign powers, it would “strengthen and diversify” the range of voices heard in America.

It’s diversified it, for sure. We’re now regularly hearing from racists and open Nazis, many of them elected Republican officials, who would have been driven out of decent society before the Reagan Revolution. American political discourse hasn’t been this filled with conflict and violence since the Civil War, and much of it can be traced straight back to the power and influence of dark money unleashed by five Republicans on the Supreme Court.

The bottom line is that we — as a nation, voluntarily or involuntarily — have now had the full Republican experience.

And now that we know what it is, we’re no longer listening to the Republican politicians who are continuing to try to sell us this bullshit.

We don’t want to hear Republicans sermonizing about deficits (that they themselves caused).

Or welfare (that they damaged and then exploited).

Or even whatever they’re calling “faith” these days, be it the death penalty, forcing raped women to give birth at the barrel of a gun, or burning books.

We’re over it, Republicans. A new America is being birthed from the ashes of the Reagan Revolution and you can’t stop it much longer.

Former psychotherapist explains why Trump-loving Americans are drinking deep from Orban’s fascist well

Republicans believe that Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán has figured out the "secret sauce" to turn a republic into a hard-right oligarchy, and today they're in Budapest drinking deep from his insights on the fine points of destroying democracy.

In two speeches this week, Orbán laid out his Hungarian version of the racist American "Great Replacement Theory," trashed Jewish financier George Soros as a proxy for Jews around the world, reiterated the importance of having friendly rightwing billionaires seize control of a nation's media, and attacked societies that allow gay marriage and tolerate trans people as engaging in "gender madness."

Orbán's Fidesz Party and the GOP in most Red States have become virtually indistinguishable, from cronies owning the media, to packing the courts, to rigging elections through purging voters and gerrymanders, to putting polluting businesses in charge of regulatory agencies.

Now both have their sights set on the American federal government. Seriously, both. Orbán is now inserting himself into American Republican politics in a big way.

Steve Bannon celebrated Orbán as "Trump before Trump," and Casey Michel on the NBC News site Think noted: "From targeting migrants to inflaming an ethnonationalist base, from attacking the press to whipping up nativist conspiracies, from ushering in unprecedented corruption to tearing down basic democratic protections, Trumpism is increasingly indistinguishable from Orbánism."

In August of 1989, my best friend Jerry Schneiderman and I spent the better part of a week sitting in outdoor cafes on the Buda side of the Danube River, eating extraordinary (and cheap!) food, staying in a grand old hotel, and generally exploring Budapest.

Two months earlier there had been massive pro-democracy demonstrations involving hundreds of thousands of people demanding that the Soviet Union let Hungary go. The summer we were there, over a quarter-million showed up in Heroes' Square for the reinterment of the body of Imre Nagy, a hero of the ill-fated 1956 rebellion against the USSR.

The final speaker was 26-year-old Viktor Orbán, a rising politician who would soon be a member of Parliament. To an explosion of enthusiastic cheers, Orbán defied the Soviets (the only speaker to overtly do so) and openly called for "the swift withdrawal of Russian troops."

Nine months later, in March of 1990 and with the approval of Mikhail Gorbachev, Hungary held its first real elections since 1945; in 1999, it joined NATO; and in 2004, it became a member of the European Union.

For 20 years, Hungary was a functioning democracy; today, it's a corrupt neofascist oligarchy.

In the few short years after he was elected in 2010, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, now fabulously wealthy by Hungarian standards and an oligarch himself, succeeded in transforming his nation's government from a functioning European democracy into an autocratic and oligarchic regime of single-party rule.

Republicans now want to do the same here, which will also promote the end of democracy around the rest of the world.

Orbán took over the Fidesz Party, once a conventional "conservative" political party like the GOP, with the themes of restoring "Christian purity" and "making Hungary great again." His rallies regularly draw tens of thousands.

He campaigned on building a wall across the entirety of Hungary's southern border to keep out the "rapists and murderers" fleeing Russian violence in Syria, a promise he has largely kept.

He altered the nation's Constitution to enable what we'd call gerrymandering and voter suppression in much the same way Republicans now do across Red State America, ensuring that his party, Fidesz, would win a majority of the votes in pretty much every election well into the future.

He's packed the courts just like Trump and McConnell did, particularly Hungary's equivalent of the Supreme Court, so thoroughly that even the most serious legal challenges against him and his party go nowhere.

Last year Hungary passed laws requiring "conservative" sex education in schools ("gay is bad" and "abstinence only") and banning any positive portrayal of LGBTQ people on TV. In public campaigns they've conflated homosexuality with pedophilia. The latest anti-gay law passed the Hungarian Parliament by a vote of 157 to 1.

Republicans are trying to do the same here.

Orbán's party railed against teaching multiracialism and racial tolerance, instead rewriting elementary school textbooks to proclaim that refugees entering the country are a threat because "it can be problematic for different cultures to coexist." Using this logic, he has locked up refugee children in cages with the enthusiastic support of Hungarian white supremacists.

When the Helsinki Committee said Hungary's "indefinite detention of many vulnerable migrants, including families with small children, is cruel and inhuman," Orbán said the influx of Syrian refugees seeking asylum "poses a security risk and endangers the continent's Christian culture and identity." He added, in true GOP style, "Immigration brings increased crime, especially crimes against women, and lets in the virus of terrorism."

Five years and one week before Trump applauded "Jews will not replace us" American Nazis who rallied in Charlottesville and murdered Heather Heyer, a group of some 700 right-wing "patriots" held a torchlight parade that ended in front of the homes of Hungary's largest minority group, chanting "We will set your homes on fire!"

Orbán's police watched the thugs, laughing and refusing to intervene, as Roma families fled their homes in terror. In 2013, Zsolt Bayer, one of the founders of Orbán's party, had called the Roma "animals… unfit to live among people." Orbán refused to condemn him or the violence, and life has become more and more difficult for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. Not only are they routinely excluded from job markets, but are also frequently subject to violence at the hands of all-white "militias."

Orbán has handed government contracts to his favored few, elevating an entire new class of pro-Orbán businessmen (it appears all are men) who have now seized almost complete control of the nation's economy, as those who opposed him have lost their businesses, been forced to sell their companies, and often fled the country.

Virtually all of Hungary's press is now in the hands of oligarchs and corporations loyal to Orbán, with hard-right talk radio and television across the country singing his praises daily just like rightwing media here. Billboards and social media proclaim Orbán's patriotism.

He told the American CPAC conference in Budapest this week they should do the same in America when Republicans seize control of the US government:

"Have your own media," he said. "It's the only way to point out the insanity of the progressive left. The problem is that the western media is adjusted to the leftist viewpoint. Those who taught reporters in universities already had progressive leftist principles."

He added:

"Of course, the GOP has its media allies but they can't compete with the mainstream liberal media. My friend, Tucker Carlson is the only one who puts himself out there. His show is the most popular. What does it mean? It means programs like his should be broadcasted day and night. Or as you say 24/7."

After his speech, many American media outlets were banned from attending CPAC in Budapest this week. As Vice News reported:

"Besides VICE News, journalists from Rolling Stone, Vox Media, and the New Yorker were turned away from the conference on Thursday, despite repeated assurances from the American Conservative Union that access would be provided. Journalists from other non-Hungarian media outlets, including the Guardian and Associated Press, tweeted that they had also been denied accreditation, despite months of requests."

His media allies are now reaching out to purchase media across the rest of Europe and inviting American rightwing groups to Hungary to help spread his racist, right-wing message. Tucker Carlson and Fox recently took him up on his invitation, broadcasting his poison directly into American homes from his presidential palace.

Orbán recently began dismantling the Hungarian Science Academy, replacing or simply firing scientists who acknowledge climate change, which, like Trump and the GOP, he has called "left-wing trickery made up by Barack Obama."

The world, in particular the EU, has watched this rolling political nightmare with increasing alarm, and even the EU's 2015 and 2018 attempts to essentially impeach Orbán have backfired, increasing his two reelection margins as his handmaids in the Hungarian media proclaimed him a victim of a European "deep state" and meddling foreigners, particularly Jewish financier George Soros (who, ironically, once paid for young Orbán to attend college in Britain).

In May 2020, the same month Rudy Giuliani said he had a former Ukrainian prosecutor willing to testify that Joe Biden was corrupt, Donald Trump invited Orbán to the White House for a state visit; Orbán became one of Trump's two primary sources of lies about how Ukraine's Zelensky allegedly tried to sabotage the U.S. president.

Orbán has helped wannabee theocrats fully reinvented Christianity in Hungary, embracing a hard-right movement within the Catholic Church and among protestant evangelicals. He recently reshaped Hungary's abortion laws to make it extremely difficult for a woman to terminate a pregnancy (and generally requiring a man's consent/signature to perform the procedure).

The Central European University fled Hungary in the face of growing threats of violence against progressive religious organizations, a ban on classes, and the tight embrace of rightwing churches by the government. Its rector, Michael Ignatieff, said, "There's just no doubt that this is organized as a way of saying that 'Christianity' means 'white conservative Europe'. It's a trope. Say the world 'Christian' and it says everything else that you want to say."

Thus, Trump told Orbán, "You have been great with respect to Christian communities…and we appreciate that very much."

In a rally three months before his White House meeting, Orbán said that countries that accept non-Christian or non-white refugees are producing "mixed-race nations," a trope frequently used in American rightwing media today.

Women in Hungary have been marginalized since Orbán came to power, both in business and in government. As the Hungarian Spectrum notes: "According to him, Hungarian politics is built on 'continual character assassination,' which … 'women cannot endure.'" As noted in The Guardian in 2018: "Orbán's Fidesz party and its coalition partners the Christian Democrats have 133 MPs between them, of whom just 11 are women."

Orbán is now ruthlessly using his own nation's diplomatic and criminal justice systems to aid foreign criminal oligarchs, having installed his own versions of corrupt senior officials like Bill Barr and Mike Pompeo. He has increasingly turned Hungary into a place of refuge for corrupt oligarchs and neofascists from other nations, most famously granting "asylum to convicted felon, oligarch, and former Prime Minister of Macedonia Nikola Gruevski" in 2018.

Orbán is the only leader of an EU nation to refuse to condemn Putin for his slaughter in Ukraine, saying he doesn't want to get "between the Ukrainian anvil and the Russian sledgehammer." He refers to those in Hungary who support American and European efforts to stop Russian aggression as "warmongers," and refuses to participate in the EU embargoes of Russian fossil fuels.

Orban has now largely crushed dissent in Hungary, arresting opposition politicians, "troublemakers," and members of the independent press, much to the delight of American Republicans who hope to do the same here.

As Zach Beauchamp writes for Vox, "At dawn on a Tuesday in May, the police took a man named András from his home in northeastern Hungary. His alleged crime? Writing a Facebook post that called the country's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, a 'dictator.'"

Orbán's hard-right party is also reaching out to other white supremacist parties in Europe to forge alliances to overthrow the "liberal order" of the EU. Conservatives in America are taking notice and writing glowing pieces about him, as rightwing movements across the world draw inspiration from both Orbán and Putin.

Orbán's speeches this week raise the question: Is he teaching the American GOP through his example, or are Republicans teaching him through their "replacement theory" and new laws banning books and classes on American history and civics?

Increasingly it appears that the answer is: "Putin's teaching them both."

This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.

Neofascist minority rule by the GOP is laying waste to the United States

Minority rule is killing America. This is most obvious in our Senate and Supreme Court, although it’s also hurt the credibility of the presidency and is damaging many of our states.

It’s happening because of two issues dating back to the founding of our republic, which brought us the Electoral College and unequal representation in the US Senate.

First, here’s how the Electoral College came about, stripped of all the mythology (hint: it mostly had to do with avoiding somebody like Donald Trump ending up in the White House):

After the Revolutionary War, the nation was abuzz about one of that war’s most decorated soldiers, Benedict Arnold, once considered a shoo-in for high elected office, selling out to the British in exchange for money and a title.

Arnold‘s name had been floated for president, and it raised the question of how we could make sure that a stooge working for a foreign government — or just for his own enrichment — didn’t end up in the White House.

Back then, America was so spread out it would be difficult for most citizen/voters to get to know a presidential candidate well enough to spot a spy or traitor, Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 68. Therefore, the electors — having no other governmental duty, obligation, or responsibility — would be sure to catch one if it was tried.

“The most deadly adversaries” of America, Hamilton wrote, would probably “make their approaches [to seizing control of the USA] from more than one quarter, chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

A hostile foreign power influencing public opinion or owning a senator was nothing compared to having their man in the White House. As Hamilton wrote:

“How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy [presidency] of the Union?”

But, Hamilton wrote, the Framers of the Constitution “have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention.”

The system they set up to protect the White House from being occupied by an agent of a foreign government was straightforward, Hamilton bragged. The choice of president would not “depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes.”

Instead, the Electoral College would be made up of “persons [selected] for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment” of president.

The electors would be apolitical because it would be illegal for a senator or house member to become one, an injunction that is still in the Constitution.

Hamilton wrote:

“And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors.”

This, Hamilton was certain, would eliminate “any sinister bias.”

Rather than average but uninformed voters, and excluding members of Congress who may be subject to bribery or foreign influences, the electors would select a man for president who was brave of heart and pure of soul.

“The process of election [by the electoral college] affords a moral certainty,” Hamilton wrote, “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Indeed, while a knave or rogue or traitor may fool enough people to even ascend to the office of mayor of a major city or governor of a state, the Electoral College would ferret out such a con man or traitor.

Hamilton wrote:

“Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence” of the men in the Electoral College who would select him as president “of the whole Union. . .”

Hamilton’s pride in the system that he himself had helped create was hard for him to suppress. He wrote:

“It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.”

Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out that way (as we can see with Trump still clinging to his loyalty to Putin and refusing to condemn Russia’s attack of Ukraine).

By the time the telegraph was in widespread use in the late 19th century, the Electoral College had long outlived its usefulness. And now in the past few decades we have seen two terrible presidents, Bush and Trump, put into the White House over the objection of the majority of American voters.

The Senate is also profoundly unequal in its representation of the American people; this is mostly because different states have different sizes and resource bases.

While this was a small problem at the nation’s founding, today, for example, California’s vast resources (unknown in 1787 — Lewis and Clark were still children and thus hadn’t even hit the Pacific yet) have turned it into a such an economic powerhouse that if it were independent it would be the sixth richest nation in the world.

California alone contains 39 million people, almost nine percent of the entire population of the United States, larger than Canada’s 37 million people, with an economy larger than Russia’s.

And yet it is represented by only two senators, the same as Wyoming which has only a half-million citizens (the size of Micronesia), a tiny economy, and few natural resources.

These inequalities have been exacerbated over the past 40 years both because of these 18th century structural errors built into our Constitution, and because, over the past 40 years, a campaign has been undertaken to exploit them by a small group of rightwing billionaires and religious fanatics, with the Powell Memo as their polestar.

They’ve used the wealth and power they’ve inherited or accumulated to manipulate and seize control of our lawmaking institutions at the federal level and in nearly every state.

And Americans have noticed that fair competition has died:

Neither of the last two Republican presidents, for example, was elected by the majority of Americans; the Senate is massively out of balance; and almost every House seat has been gerrymandered to the point where it is no longer in play.

Which is creating a crisis for our nation.

Humans, like most animals, are wired for fairness. Give five toddlers a cookie each and everything is fine; give one of them an extra five cookies and all hell will break loose.

Democracy is in our genes, as is the case with virtually every other animal species on Earth.

When fish swim, bees swarm, or birds migrate it seems like their actions are coordinated telepathically. In fact, each wingbeat or tail twitch left-or-right is noticed as a “vote” by those around them. When more than 50% of the group are twitching to the left, for example, the entire school, swarm, or flock veers to the left. Democracy.

When a mob showed up at the US Capitol threatening to murder the Vice President and Speaker of the House, it was because they genuinely believed Donald Trump’s lie that the majority of Americans had voted for him. People will put their lives and their freedom at risk to right such a perceived minority-rule wrong.

Minority rule almost always ends up producing unfair results that are resented by the majority. We’re seeing this today with a Supreme Court dominated by four rightwing justices who were appointed by presidents who lost the majority vote and who were confirmed by Republican senators who represent 41.5 million fewer Americans than the Senate’s Democrats.

Minority rule has taken over the White House:

We saw it when Bush and Cheney lied us into the war in Iraq after being put in the White House by five Republicans on the Supreme Court, despite having lost the vote to Al Gore by a half-million votes. It provoked the largest demonstrations against a presidential action in the history of the world at the time.

Similarly, when millions protested Trump’s inauguration it was motivated in large part by the widespread knowledge that he’d lost the 2016 election by nearly 3 million votes. Unfairness infuriates people, and rightly so.

Minority rule has taken over our Supreme Court:

A small group of wealthy ideologues spent millions to pack our courts, and we’ll see the backlash in our streets this weekend as people across the nation come out to protest Alito’s assertion that Sir Matthew Hale’s 1670 interpretation of British witchcraft laws should determine the fate of America’s 21st century women.

Minority rule has taken over Congress:

Democrats in the Senate represent 41.5 million more Americans than do Republicans. Yet that minority of Republicans, using the filibuster, have been able to stop everything from voting rights to healthcare to rebuilding our nation from the damage of 40 years of Reaganomics’ neoliberalism.

A total of 77.3 million Americans voted in 2020 for Democrats for the House of Representatives; only 72.8 million voted for Republicans.

Multiple states where the statewide vote is within a point or three of 50/50 (including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Wisconsin) send far more Republicans than Democrats to the US House than their votes would dictate because of Republican gerrymanders.

This fall things will get even worse because of 2021 gerrymanders, meaning that when over half of Americans again (if history and polling holds) vote for Democrats for the House, the GOP will nonetheless likely take control of that body.

Minority rule has taken over multiple states:

Most of the states listed above suffer from the same problem in their own legislatures. In statewide elections, because most voters choose Democrats, all but two of those states ended up with Democratic governors; nonetheless, even though only a minority voted for Republicans, their legislatures are still Republican-controlled because of gerrymandering.

Whenever a minority rises up and tries to rule over a majority, particularly if that rule violates basic principles of fair play and empathy, the result is conflict.

In most minority rule situations, that conflict is managed with the power of guns and jail cells: nations that were once democracies — like Russia, Turkey, Egypt, the Philippines, Hungary, Venezuela and others — become police states where dissent and political activity are not tolerated.

We saw Donald Trump, who lost the majority vote in 2016, try this when he ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper to have our military shoot protestors in the streets of Washington, DC.

We humans, like most animals from the simplest to the most complex, are wired by evolution for majority-rule to make the decisions that will best serve our immediate interests as well as preserve our species.

The principal idea of democracy is that there is wisdom in numbers. That the majority is more often right than any minority. As Aristotle wrote in his Politics, “[I]t is possible that the many, though not individually good men, yet when they come together may be better, not individually but collectively…”

If we want to preserve this nation, we must try actual representative democracy.

Whoever wins the majority vote becomes president, as 15 states and the District of Columbia — representing 195 electoral votes — have chosen (states representing another 75 votes are needed to end the Electoral College).

Expanding and unpacking the Supreme Court would restore fairness and balance to the head of that branch of government, and adding Washington, DC and Puerto Rico as states would help ease the unfairness of representation in the Senate.

And Congress must pass a federal mandate that every state cease gerrymandering and use nonpartisan redistricting commissions like California and several other Democratic-controlled states have already done to insure fairness and equal representation.

Republicans not only cling to minority rule, they now want to go to the next step and impose a neofascist Taliban-style government on America run by the morbidly rich and fanatically religious.

If the Democratic Party is serious about preserving America as a constitutional republic, they must put democracy at the top of their priority list.

Nothing spells 'big government' better than GOP 'Big Lie' embrace of martial law

Some say the Republican Party has gone nuts. In reality, they’ve simply reached the endpoint toward which they’ve been moving for 62 years: fascism.

Republican politicians since Barry Goldwater’s 1960 campaign have trash-talked “big government” in the United States. Like Reagan’s assertions that cutting taxes on rich people would “trickle down” benefits to poor people, or his claim that destroying labor unions would increase take-home pay for working people, this one’s just another lie.

Since the 1980s, in fact, the GOP has been the ultimate “big government” party. And now we’re learning that Republicans in Congress were, just three days before Joe Biden was to be sworn in as president, calling for the ultimate big government power: martial law to prevent Biden‘s inauguration.

There’s no provision in either the Constitution or US law for a president to specifically invoke martial (or, as Marjorie Taylor Green calls it, “Marshall”) law, although a series of statutes under Sections 251-255 of Title 10, passed between 1792 and 1871 and generally referred to collectively as the Insurrection Act, can produce the same result.

They give the president extraordinary powers, allowing him to shut down or seize control of communications systems like cell phone providers or social media companies, freeze or seize the assets of individual citizens or organizations including nonprofit corporations like political parties, and to create a federal police force he can deploy nationwide that is answerable only to himself.

(If all of this sounds familiar, it’s almost step for step what Hitler did; we remember its most famous artifact, the Schutzstaffel or SS.)

And that’s exactly what members of the GOP’s Insurrection Caucus in Congress were asking President Trump to do as recently as January 17th, 2021, all to keep Trump in power for another four years.

Making it all even more shocking, this newly-revealed coup attempt happened months after Joe Biden won the election, the states and Congress had certified that win on January 6th, and the world was preparing to welcome Biden to the White House at noon, January 20th.

The Big Lie isn’t just that Trump had an election stolen from him: the GOP has been running a longer con, preparing the ground for Trump, for three generations.

When they started, it was just another grift. But now it has built a strong foundation for martial law and fascism in the United States should another Trumpy Republican win the White House.

It was 58 years ago that Barry Goldwater proclaimed:

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take everything you have.”

I remember this ad playing on my parents’ black-and-white TV during that 1964 election contest between Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson:

The GOP’s proclaimed opposition to “big government” was a lie then, and it’s a lie now. They’re quite happy to both expand and use government, so long as it’s used to benefit themselves and their rich friends.

It’s been, however, a very useful lie for Republicans:

  • When their donors from the fossil fuel and chemical industries wanted to keep pumping poisons into our air and water rather than pay to dispose of them properly, Republicans claimed shrinking the role of government through pollution deregulation was the solution.
  • When their donors in the lumber industry wanted to continue to rip out old-growth forests and achieve maximum profits by clear-cutting everything else, “limiting government overreach” became a useful canard.
  • When their donors in the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital industries wanted to use their power of life-or-death over Americans to extract maximum prices and profits, “Keep your government hands off my healthcare!” became the GOP mantra.
  • When their donors in the banking and finance industry wanted to use depositors’ money to gamble with stocks and mortgages, “ending oppressive big government regulations” that were “suppressing innovation” was the Republican rallying cry.
  • When their billionaire friends wanted to monopolize media and put over 1500 rightwing radio stations on the air to flip the politics of an entire generation toward tax cuts for the morbidly rich, “ending limits on free speech” through the Fairness Doctrine and media ownership rules was going to “restore fairness.”
  • When Big Airlines, Big Ag, Big Pharma, and dozens of other giant industries wanted to either buy out or crush their smaller competitors, Republicans stepped up to the plate to end enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust and other anti-monopoly laws in 1983, leaving the rest of us with the bill.

Small government was never the goal of the Republican Party or the conservative movement. It was always all about raw political power and the wealth that comes with it.

The Trump presidency finally and for all time pulled the mask off their “we oppose big government” lie. There is no conceivable way a government could be “bigger“ than for it to establish martial law.

The truth is that Republicans only oppose “big government” when it restricts their ability to make obscene amounts of money at the expense of working people. Or when government tries to help out the environment, those who’re down on their luck, or the victims of historic discrimination.

Republican advocates of “small government,” in addition to trying to pull the ultimate big government trigger of martial law in January of 2021, now also brag that they want to use the power of the governments they control to:

  • Narrow your right to vote
  • Imprison women seeking abortions
  • Ban books
  • Block efforts to green our energy sector
  • Harass gay and trans kids
  • Prevent minorities from having full representation in Congress
  • Turn school boards into inquisitors
  • Let utilities rip off solar customers
  • Trash public health
  • Put more guns in the hands of deranged mass shooters
  • Purge voting rolls of Democrats and minorities
  • Preempt local communities from protecting their own environment
  • Reduce the accountability of police for violent behavior
  • Ban gay marriage
  • Allow state legislatures to overturn the will of the voters in elections
  • Keep students in debt
  • Hand Medicare over to the big insurance companies
  • Increase hundreds of billions of dollars a year in taxpayer subsidies to the fossil fuel industry
  • Terrorize refugee children
  • Eliminate or turn most national parks into drilling and mining sites
  • End environmental protections
  • Thwart enforcement of food safety laws
  • Destroy workers’ rights to union representation

And now we find that a sizable number of congressional Republicans actually wanted Donald Trump to end democracy in America once and for all, replacing our system of checks-and-balances with a strongman oligarchy.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, texted Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that she’d talked with other members of Congress and they agreed that:

“[T]he only way to save our Republic is for Trump to call for Marshall [sic] law” and the President should pave the way for her and her colleagues, who’d already incited an insurrection, to now “go after Biden and anyone else!”

And Republican Congressman Scott Perry was calling on Trump to replace the attorney general with a toady who would void the election by declaring it fraudulent.

All this was still going on just three days before Joe Biden was to be sworn into office and move into the White House with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

At the same time the Sedition Caucus was doing their work, the Trump Administration itself was outright refusing to participate in handing government agencies over to incoming Biden administration officials.

Over at the Pentagon — the agency Greene and her colleagues wanted Trump to use to overthrow our government — Trump loyalist Kash Patel was reportedly blocking the normal handover processes that precede a new president taking over.

As Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee reported for NBC News a month before the constitutionally scheduled January 20th transition:

“A Trump loyalist who was recently appointed as Pentagon chief of staff is controlling the Biden transition's team access to Pentagon officials, even blocking some career officials and experts from giving information about key defense issues to the transition team and telling political appointees to take the lead instead, say two current and two former U.S. officials.”

As you can see, Trump and his fascist followers have no problem breaking both custom and law to seize and hold power. They nearly got away with it in 2020, and might have if they had been able to follow Marjorie Taylor Greene’s advice.

Such an order by Trump may have provoked demonstrations, incited riots across America, or possibly even triggered a civil war.

In the end, a group of patriotic Americans, most of them Republicans, succeeded in blocking Trump’s plans. We’ll be learning more about them as the January 6 hearings go public this summer.

Trump- and insurrection-supporting Republicans should be in court for sedition, rather than pontificating about “big government” on Sunday talkshows.

But the GOP still has the plan in place, and could easily use this fascist “big government” strategy to seize control of our government to declare martial law in the future, unless Congress acts.

As the past six years have shown the entire world, Republicans won’t be satisfied until the American government is big and oppressive enough to keep them in power indefinitely.

And that’s regardless of how elections go, regardless of who tries to vote, and with the ultimate power — if future elections don’t go their way — to simply sic the US Army on the people using the martial law powers Representative Greene was so enthusiastic about on January 17TH.

Congress must act.

Republican neofascists are playing a dangerous game that will rip America apart

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has declared war on Disney, while his colleague in Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott, is on a jihad against the parents of trans children.

This is how fascism progresses through its later stages toward tyranny.

Democracies typically don’t turn into fascist oligarchies by being invaded or losing wars. It usually happens from within, and is driven by an alliance between demagogic politicians, corrupt religious leaders, bigoted street brawlers, and some of the wealthiest people in society.

First, fascists identify groups of people they believe are both vulnerable and sufficiently powerless that they won’t be able to fight back. Typically, these are racial, religious, political or gender/sexuality minorities.

Enormous efforts go into demonizing the people the fascists have identified; members of the group who’ve committed crimes are heavily publicized, while “think tanks” and fascist allies in the media identify malicious “reasons” for those folks’ “deviance.”

Efforts by members of the demonized groups to achieve parity or equality in society are characterized as a “theft” of privilege and assets from the majority, legitimizing both verbal, legal, and physical attacks on members of the group.

For example, the billionaire Murdoch family’s top-rated morning show, Fox & Friends, recently wandered into a discussion about white people being “marginalized” by the possibility of our public schools teaching the actual racial history of America.

“[T]hey are not only trying to raise up minorities and make sure the playing field is even,” Brian Kilmeade said, “they’re trying to take down the white culture!”

Kilmeade, in full “White people are the victims!” mode, went on:

“Why are we being marginalized on a daily basis…? And it’s not even subtle! It’s actually out there! It is written in black-and-white!”

It’s played out this way in every democratic country that has fallen to tyranny from within. It’s how it happened in the 1930s in Italy, Germany, Japan and Spain, and today in Hungary, Poland, Egypt, Russia, The Philippines, and Turkey, among others.

More recently, Swanson Food Heir Tucker Carlson went on a rant about the Great Replacement Theory.

After identifying targeted minorities — for today’s GOP that includes Black people, trans kids (and their parents), pregnant women, and Democrats — and encouraging legal and physical violence against them, fascists move to the second major step: seizing enough economic and political power that they can reshape society itself.

This requires bringing in morbidly rich people and enlisting the aid of big business.

So, first, they go after the biggest businesses. One of the biggest businesses in Florida is Disney, so Ron DeSantis tried to get them on his bigoted side. They didn’t go along with it, so now, in typical strongman fashion, DeSantis feels he has to destroy them to save face.

As German industrialist Fritz Thyssen writes in his book I Paid Hitler, he pressured German President von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, and then lobbied the Association of German Industrialists, that country’s and era’s version of the US Chamber of Commerce, to donate 3 million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party for the 1933 election. It brought Hitler to power.

Hitler’s sales pitch to the German people was that Jews, gays, and socialists had “stabbed Germany in the back” and were trying to “strip” good white Christian Germans of their “rights” and twist society to conform with their “perverted” ideas and lifestyles.

Hitler blamed the 1933 economic crisis on German minorities, Jews and gays, and accused Germany’s second largest political party of complicity with them; the German people went along with him. Once the Nazis took power, they changed election laws in such a way that they would never again lose.

Republicans and rightwing billionaires, of course, are doing much the same thing right now in America. One wonders if they’ll have the retrospective angst that haunted Thyssen until the day he died. He wrote about it in I Paid Hitler:

“I am not a politician, but an industrialist, and an industrialist is always inclined to consider politics a kind of second string to his bow — the preparation for his own particular activity. In a well-ordered country, where the administration is sound, where taxes are reasonable, and the police well organised, he can afford to abstain from politics and to devote himself entirely to business.

“But in a crisis-ridden state, as Germany was from 1918 to 1933, an industrialist is drawn, willy-nilly, into the vortex of politics. After 1930 the aspirations of German industry may be summed up in one phrase: ‘a sound economy in a strong state.’ This was, I remember, the slogan of a meeting of the Ruhr industrialists in 1931. …“I, too, approved this slogan, 'To surmount the crisis it was necessary to reinforce the authority of the state.’ … I believed that by backing Hitler and his party I could contribute to the reinstatement of real government and of orderly conditions, which would enable all branches of activity — and especially business — to function normally once again.”

Unlike Thyssen, who volunteered to support Hitler’s rise to power with massive financial and business backing, Disney is pushing back against DeSantis’ efforts to remake society in an American neofascist mode.

Unless they soon cave in, Disney’s executives probably won’t one day write in their memoirs, as Thyssen did in his:

“But it is no use crying over spilled milk. The strong state of which I then dreamed had nothing in common with the totalitarian state or, rather, caricature of a state, erected by Hitler and his minions.

“Not for an instant did I imagine that it was possible, one hundred and fifty years after the French Revolution and the proclamation of the Rights of Man, to substitute arbitrary action for law in a great modern country, to strangle the most elementary rights of the citizen, to establish an Asiatic tyranny in the heart of Europe, and to foster anachronistic aspirations of conquest and world dominion.”

This is not America’s first brush with oligarchic fascism, as I lay out in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace struggled with it in the 1930s with Charles Lindberg’s infamous Nazi-aligned America First movement.

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way.”

As if he had a time machine and could see the “conservative” media landscape today, Wallace continued:

“The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

But Disney refused to use their media platform to advance the fascists’ agenda. It has only, however, slowed them down a bit.

Ultimately, as fascists gain more power and grow bolder, nothing is off the table. This is the threshold we’re approaching today, where they don’t just trash minorities and march through the streets displaying weapons and huge flags, but began asserting justification for violence and even murder.

Alleging crimes against the majority’s children is a fascist favorite, as Hitler charged with his repeated attacks on Jewish teachers, leading 15% of the nation’s teachers and professors (including a guy named Albert Einstein) to flee the country when he began his attacks on education in 1933.

Fascist politicians start alleging the most vile of crimes by the groups they hope to destroy: words like “grooming” roll off their lips with a smarmy ease.

Soon vigilante groups set out to destroy those accused, sometimes politically, sometimes physically.

German Nazis were particularly fond of accusing people they intended to destroy or kill of sexual “crimes.” As Thyssen wrote:

“General von Fritsch’s affair is also a good sample of the peculiar methods used by the Hitler regime. Fritsch was to be ‘liquidated.’ To achieve this, it is said, the head of the Gestapo personally reproached him with practising homosexuality.

“Fritsch, who denied this from the very start, was ordered to call at the chancellery of the Reich, where he was to be unmasked in the presence of the Supreme Leader. … It seems certain that General von Fritsch has subsequently committed suicide. I can at least say that whatever the actual circumstances of his death may have been, he was anxious to die.”

While history usually sides with the victims of fascists, as we’re seeing today with the people Putin is starving to death in Mariupol, that’s small comfort as they confront terror and death.

DeSantis, Abbott and the other Republican neofascists are playing a dangerous game, using Disney as a proxy for the racial and gender minorities they want as whipping boys. It’s a high-stakes political game that has torn societies apart and destroyed millions of lives in the past.

Standing against them are their victims and the Democratic Party, albeit hobbled in their efforts by the perfidy of Manchin and Sinema. This autumn’s elections may well be the last chance for people of good will who believe in American values and eschew fascism to rise in opposition.

Make sure everybody you know is registered to vote, regularly double-check your own registration to make it through a voter purge if you live in a Republican-controlled state, and volunteer to help out inside the Democratic Party or through any of the great groups fighting for a more just America.

Time is short, as Fritz Thyssen and Vice President Wallace would tell you were they alive today.

'It’s about saving the world': Thom Hartmann calls on POTUS to 'nationalize the fossil fuel industry'

If you want to trigger a conservative, just suggest nationalizing the US gas and oil industry. “Venezuela!” they’ll scream hysterically, perhaps adding a few, “Iran!” squeals. (Somehow, they always forget to yell about Norway…)

Within minutes they’ll be croaking about that time back in 2008 when Maxine Waters — a Black woman with power and therefore the most terrifying thing Republicans can imagine — threatened oil industry CEOs who were giving Congress deliberately deceptive and incomplete answers with “socializing… taking over and the government running all your companies.”

Immediately, Fox “News” was all over it, as were dozens of rightwing sites.

In that, they’ve completely ignored (or never knew) the long American history of taking over industries during a time of national crisis.

And, as we re-enter a cold war with Russia and face unprecedented human death and property damage from climate change, it’s hard to claim we’re not in the midst of a national crisis that has fossil fuels at its foundation.

We’re at least 40 years behind where we should be in dealing with the fossil fuel/global warming crisis because giant oil companies have run massive disinformation campaigns while funding the political careers of hacks in Congress willing to lie to the public for them.

President Jimmy Carter, for example, declared a national crisis in 1979 and proposed legislation to create “this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000.”

FDR had sold bonds to the public to fund a government corporation that would develop synthetic rubber for fighter jet tires back in the day, and Carter wanted to do the same to end our dependence on fossil fuels:

'Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II,' Carter said, 'so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war.'

In that same July 15, 1979 speech, he proposed the government issue bonds that would fund:

[T]he creation of an energy security corporation to lead this effort to replace 2-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day by 1990. The corporation will issue up to $5 billion in energy bonds, and I especially want them to be in small denominations so that average Americans can invest directly in America’s energy security.

It all came crashing down 42 years ago this coming January when the fossil fuel industry’s candidate, Ronald Reagan, replaced Carter, killed the solar bank and the bond program, and even took Carter’s solar panels off the roof of the White House.

If ever there was an industry that merited nationalization, the fossil fuel industry is it. They manipulate prices to both enhance profits and swing elections, bribe their way through the halls of Congress, and pump out a steady stream of lies about climate change. All while pouring hundreds of billions into the money bins of their morbidly rich CEOs, shareholders, and senior executives.

America has a long and proud history of taking on companies that put profits over the public good during a time of crisis. And we could acquire controlling interest of the nation’s three largest fossil fuel players — ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — for, according to Robert Pollin writing at The American Prospect, fewer than a half-trillion dollars.

For less than a quarter of the cost of Trump’s billionaire tax cuts we could rapidly move a long way toward saving our nation and the world from climate destruction. But is it even possible? Turns out that history says an emphatic, “Yes!”

During the crisis of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson nationalized the country’s railroads, phone companies, and telegraph operators. He did the same with the nation’s radio networks and radio stations. All were returned✎ EditSign to private ownership after the war, but that temporary nationalization helped get America through the crisis.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt did the same during World War II, nationalizing airplane manufacturers, gun manufacturers, over 3,300 mines, the nation’s railroads, dozens of oil companies, Western Electric Co., Hughes Tool Co., Goodyear Tire and Rubber, and even one of the nation’s largest retail outlets, Montgomery Ward. He also nationalized 17 foreign companies doing business in the US.

After FDR died, President Harry Truman continued seizing companies that were using the war as an excuse to jack up profits to the detriment of the nation. He nationalized meatpacking facilities across the country, the Monongahela Railroad Company, the nation’s steel mills, and hundreds of railroad companies.

Like with Wilson’s nationalizations, nearly all were returned to the private sector after the war was over, although it took until 1965 before all were privatized. Many had had their boards of directors and senior management replaced with people who’d put the interests of the nation ahead of their greed for profits.

In the 1970s, in the wake of the collapse of the Penn Central Railroad, President Richard Nixon oversaw the voluntary nationalization and transfer of 20 railroads into the newly created National Rail Passenger Corporation, now known as Amtrak.

In 1974 Congress created another nationalized entity to deal with freight rail, the Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which absorbed dozens of failing rail companies. Conrail was government-held until 1987, when it was privatized in the then-largest IPO in American history.

In 1984, when the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company was in a crisis, President Ronald Reagan’s administration oversaw the FDIC nationalizing it by acquiring an 80 percent ownership share in the company; it wasn’t re-privatized until 1991, and was bought by Bank of America in 1994.

Also in the 1980s, after Reagan recklessly deregulated the Savings & Loan industry, bankers made off with billions leaving the wreckage of crushed S&Ls all across the nation.

When the government agency that insured them, FSLIC, went bankrupt itself in 1987, Reagan and Congress created an umbrella agency — the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) — to nationalize 747 of America’s S&Ls with assets of over $400 billion. Their assets were sold back into the private market in 1995 as the RTC shut itself down, having averted a 1929-style banking crisis through temporary nationalization.

When George W. Bush was handed the White House by five Republican appointees on the Supreme Court, the nation’s airline security system was entirely in private hands.

They failed miserably on 9/11, so Bush didn’t even bother with the normal acquisition process that would protect the hundreds of small contractors running security at airports across the nation: he simply nationalized the entire system and created a government agency, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to take over airport and airline security.

President Bush also partially nationalized the nation’s airlines, creating the Air Transportation Stabilization Board that traded around $10 billion in loans to airlines in crisis (air traffic collapsed after 9/11) in exchange for company stock. We (through our government) ended up holding 7.64 million shares in US Airways, 18.7 million shares of America West Airlines, 3.45 million shares in Frontier Airlines, 1.47 million shares in American TransAir, and 2.38 million shares in World Airways.

Congress had deregulated the nation’s banks in 1999 when Republicans pushed through an end to the Glass-Steagall Act and Bill Clinton signed it into law. The resulting banking system crash in 2008 forced the Bush administration to nationalize the country’s two largest mortgage lenders (they held about 40% of all US mortgages), Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The Bush administration then additionally nationalized a 77.9% share in AIG, a 36% share of Citigroup, and a 73.5% share of GMAC, forcing out GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner, who’d been a particularly terrible manager of that company and was actively lobbying against what Bush thought were America’s interests.

As President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, GM and Chrysler were on the brink of collapse. His administration created a new company, NGMCO, Inc., that nationalized the assets of GM and was 60.8% owned by the federal government.

GM was finally fully re-privatized by the Obama administration in 2013. Chrysler went through a similar process, although both the UAW and the Canadian government were part owners when it was temporarily nationalized.

Thomas M. Hanna, Director of Research at The Democracy Collaborative and author of Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States, compiled most of the data above in a brilliant paper titled “A History of Nationalization in the United States 1917-2009.”

Toward its end, he summarizes brilliantly the case for nationalizing — perhaps only temporarily — America’s largest oil and gas companies:

In such times of political and economic crisis, policymakers of all ideological persuasions in the United States have never been hesitant to use one of the most powerful tools at their disposal: nationalization of private enterprises and assets.
This included the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who nationalized railroads, and the telephone, telegraph, and radio industries (among others), and the Republican Ronald Reagan, who nationalized a major national bank; the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who nationalized dozens of mining and manufacturing facilities, and the Republican George W. Bush, who nationalized airport security and various major financial institutions; the Democrat Barack Obama, who nationalized auto manufacturers, and the Republican Richard Nixon, who nationalized all passenger rail service.

Today’s climate crisis dwarfs the threat of Nazism in the 1940s, Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack, or the massive bank robberies that took place during the Reagan and Bush administrations. It literally threatens all life on Earth.

Yet the fossil fuel industry continues to fund climate denial and lobby against any meaningful solutions, as we saw when every Republican in the Senate along with Joe Manchin killed the $500 billion investment in clean energy the Biden administration proposed in their Build Back Better legislation.

Squeals of “socialism!” and “Venezuela!” aside, we know how to nationalize industries that are working against our nation’s interests and have done it before, repeatedly.

This time it’s not just about saving our banks or fighting a war. This time, it’s about saving the world.

Nationalize the fossil fuel industry!

Thom Hartmann says Democrats need to demand that Clarence Thomas 'resign and his wife be prosecuted'

In 1969, Richard Nixon and congressional Republicans took down the Supreme Court’s most liberal member, Abe Fortas, threatening to send his wife to prison. There’s a lesson here for today’s Democrats and Clarence Thomas.

Some Democrats are calling on Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from decisions involving Trump’s conspiracy to overthrow our government.

They should be calling on him to resign and his wife to be prosecuted.

It appears that Ginny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, participated in a plot to overthrow the government of the United States. Which is astonishing in and of itself.

But then her husband was the sole vote on the Court to help that same seditious conspiracy:

When Donald Trump sued to block President Joe Biden from passing presidential papers to the January 6th Committee, the only vote on the Court to support Trump’s efforts to hide his crime was that of Clarence Thomas.

Which raises the question: what will Congress and the Justice Department do about these crimes?

Fifty-four years ago, Republicans went nuts over an “ethics scandal” involving a Democratic-appointed member of the Court, and their effort produced so much pressure that he resigned.

Will Democrats similarly force a Thomas resignation, giving Biden another SCOTUS nominee?

Is that possibility the reason why Lindsey Graham just “hinted” that if the Senate flips Republican in this fall’s 2022 election the GOP will block all Biden appointees to the Court up to and through the 2024 election?

To understand the possibilities, it’s essential to know the precedent, how Republicans pulled it off back in 1968/69:

Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas didn’t resign until President Richard Nixon’s campaign manager and Attorney General, John Mitchell, threatened to bring felony corruption charges against Fortas’ wife.

But I get ahead of myself. It’s a truly amazing story that most people alive today know nothing about. It started with “dirty movies” being shown in the US Capitol.

I remember the “Fortas Film Festival” because, when it started in the summer of 1968, I was a teenage boy and curious about the movies that Senator Strom Thurmond was showing to his male peers in that meeting room in the Capitol.

Most people in America were probably also curious; the Supreme Court had recently legalized pornography, but watching it back then meant sitting in a sleazy theater in a sleazy part of town with a bunch of sleazy characters.

But the infamous segregationist Senator Thurmond was on a roll in 1968, playing dirty movies back-to-back for any Senator or aide who wanted to show up. TIME Magazine did a feature on it, noting:

Day after day last week, Thurmond buttonholed his colleagues to watch the films in darkened Senate offices. One aide of Richard Nixon called it ‘the Fortas Film Festival.’ The Senators were not titillated but shocked, and they left the showings in a grim mood. The screenings apparently swayed some votes away from Fortas. Senators know that middle-class opposition to pornography is rising, and the subject—like the Supreme Court itself—has become a symbol of what is wrong in the U.S.

The newspapers loved it, as similar “film festivals” popped up on campuses across the country. Yale, for example, got into the act, holding their own “Fortas Film Festival” featuring the same movies Thurmond had shown to the Senate. As The New York Timesnoted at the time:

The main feature of the night was ‘Flaming Creatures,’ seen [months earlier] by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee during their debate on Justice Fortas’ nomination as Chief Justice. … In the audience was John T. Rich, editor of the Yale Law Journal. ‘I figured if Senator Strom Thurmond could see this movie, so could I,’ he said.

So…what provoked the Fortas Film Festivals?

It was, purely, a burning desire by conservatives to shift the Supreme Court to the right, amplified by Richard Nixon’s vigorous campaign that year to become president in the November election.

It started in the last year of LBJ’s presidency.

In June of 1968, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren — a liberal who’d been appointed by Dwight Eisenhower — decided to resign from the Court so that President Lyndon Johnson would have a full six months to replace him with another liberal.

LBJ proposed elevating the only Jewish member of the US Supreme Court to become the new Chief Justice (and Homer Thornberry to fill Warren’s empty seat), but racist and antisemitic “conservatives” like Thurmond — and presidential candidate Richard Nixon — saw the upcoming hearings as a grand opportunity.

They postponed Thornberry’s nomination, front-loading the hearings about putting Fortas in charge of the Court, and then ran an inquisition into Fortas over a $15,000 speaking fee he’d taken to address a college group. (Clarence Thomas has also taken $15,000 speaking fees, for the record.)

With that “scandalous” payment — and his vote on the Court to legalize pornography — as the excuses, Republicans and Southern “conservative” Democrats like Thurmond arrayed a Senate filibuster to block the liberal Fortas’ elevation to Chief Justice.

It dragged out for months; on October 2, 1968 it became obvious the filibuster couldn’t be broken and Fortas withdrew his name from consideration for Chief Justice, although he planned to remain on the Court as an Associate Justice like his peers.

By then it was too late for LBJ to elevate another liberal to Chief Justice (Warren stayed on the Court for another half-year to provide continuity) and also too late for LBJ’s nominee Thornberry to even be considered to replace Warren’s empty seat before the presidential election four weeks later.

But that was just the beginning.

Once Nixon came into office on January 20, 1969 he put ending the Court’s “liberal” bent at the top of his agenda. That meant not only replacing Warren (who stayed on until June 23, 1969), but, to tip the Court conservative, getting rid of it’s most liberal member, Abe Fortas.

Attorney General John Mitchell ordered the Justice Department to begin an investigation into Fortas’ wife, Carolyn Agger, who was a lawyer with the DC firm that had previously employed Fortas.

Rightwing media had claimed — without evidence — that documents that might be found in a safe in her office might prove she was involved in a tax-evasion scheme.

There was never any evidence whatsoever, either of Fortas or his wife being corrupt. It was and is not illegal to take a speaking fee: members of the Court do so routinely today. And there was nothing incriminating in her safe.

But Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, and Abe Fortas knew the old legal saw: “A grand jury can indict a ham sandwich.”

Mitchell had also dredged up another payment that Fortas had earned, this one $20,000 a year for serving on the board of a charitable foundation (not uncommon for high-end DC lawyers then or now).

This was also totally legal (and nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars Ginny Thomas has taken from rightwing groups since her husband was put on the Court) but Fortas gave back the money anyway.

Not only did that not help: his returning the money was, Nixon charged, proof that it was corrupt in the first place!

Mitchell then announced he was going to have a Justice Department lawyer named William Rehnquist convene a grand jury to look into the “crimes” that right-wingers were claiming Fortas and his wife had committed.

As Nixon’s White House Counsel John Dean, who was there and knew the players, wrote in his book on the era (The Rehnquist Choice):

Did the Justice Department have the goods on Fortas? Not even close. Mitchell’s talk was pure bluff. … Lyndon Johnson’s Justice Department had investigated this question [back when Fortas was nominated for Chief Justice in 1968] and found nothing improper…. Reopening of the matter by Richard Nixon’s Justice Department was purely a means to torture Fortas.

But faced with the possibility of his wife being dragged through the mud and both of them spending years and a fortune defending themselves, Fortas threw in the towel. He resigned from the Supreme Court five months into Nixon’s presidency on May 14, 1969.

With their mission accomplished, Mitchell immediately dropped the threat of the grand jury. As John Dean noted:

The Fortas resignation meant that Richard Nixon now had two seats to fill on the Court: Earl Warren’s center seat and the seat of Associate Justice Abe Fortas, who was leaving the Court at fifty-nine years of age. It also meant that two of the Court’s most liberal justices were gone.
Nixon’s aggressive posture toward the high court was paying off in a big way, with the help of John Mitchell and his hard-nosed team at the Justice Department, Rehnquist among them.

So, how will it all play out this time?

  • Will the Biden administration or Congress make referrals of Ginny and Clarence Thomas’ participation in a seditious conspiracy to the Justice Department?
  • If they do, will Merrick Garland pick it up like John Mitchell did in 1969?
  • Will Congress take Representative Ilhan Omar’s advice and begin impeachment proceedings against Thomas?
  • Will the media amplify Democrats’ charges against both Ginny and Clarence the way they went after Abe Fortas for months?
  • Will Clarence Thomas gracefully resign his position like Fortas did?
  • If he does, will Republicans block any more Biden nominees to the Court to replace Thomas?
  • Or will the media amplify the voices of Republicans who’re saying it’s really no big deal, trying to overthrow the government, and that Thomas should stay on the Court?

Stay tuned…this show is just getting started…

Commentary: SCOTUS becoming an 'irredeemable partisan muck of corruption'

So now, as expected after decades of taking big bucks for her right-wing work on behalf of America's oligarchs, we learn that the wife of Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Ginny Thomas, was in Trump's January 6th "rally" up to her eyeballs.

Let's just say it right out loud: the US Supreme Court is corrupt. And Americans know it.

No other federal court in the nation would allow a defendant in a case before them to fly a judge on a private Gulfstream luxury jet to a luxury hunting retreat in Louisiana and then, a week later, watch as that judge rules in that defendant's favor.

But Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia did exactly that when Dick Cheney was sued for allegedly lying about his secret "energy group" that was planning the seizure and sale of Iraq's oil fields as he and Bush lied us into the war that opened those oil fields up to exploitation.

No other federal court would allow a judge to give a speech before a group that was funding a case before them and then rule in favor of that group's openly stated goal, but that's exactly what Neal Gorsuch did when he addressed the Fund for American Studies, itself funded by the Bradley Foundation that was helping fund the Janus v AFSCME case that gutted union protections for government workers.

No other federal court would allow a judge to swear revenge against a particular nonprofit corporation (in this case the Democratic Party), saying in his confirmation hearings that, "What goes around comes around," and then rule in cases directly affecting that organization (like voting rights) but Brett "Beerbong" Kavanaugh did just that.

No other federal court would allow a judge to rule on a case where he owned a half-million dollars worth of stock in the company presenting amicus arguments before the court—it's illegal in many states—but John Roberts did just that in the ABC v Aereo case. As did Roberts, Bryer and Alito in 25 of 37 other cases where they owned stock, according to the good-government group Fix The Court.

No other federal court would allow a judge's wife to openly interact with and advocate for the interests of dozens of litigants before the court over decades, and take nearly a million dollars from a group regularly helping bring cases before his court but Clarence Thomas and his wife have done both, as recently revealed in a shocking New York Times profile.

And now the Court is on the verge of gutting the EPA—the agency Justice Gorsuch's mother infamously ran into the ground before resigning in disgrace during the Reagan administration—using Gorsuch's own BS "textualist" rationale to go after the agency today.

In addition, these Republican appointees are openly shooting down Democratic efforts to fight gerrymandered maps while supporting GOP efforts to impose them on states.

Is there no way, to paraphrase Shakespeare, to rid ourselves of this Court's corrupt behavior? Turns out, Congress has that power—although they haven't used it since Ulysses Grant was president and reorganized the Court.

Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal court system, and gives to Congress itself the power to create the lower federal courts. It also says that Supreme Court judges may only serve on the court if they behave themselves:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour….

It also requires Congress to regulate the Supreme Court. Article III, Section 2 says:

[T]he Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.

The issue of the Supreme Court needing regulation from the "first among equals" legislative branch (Congress), as specified by the Founders and Framers of the Constitution, has been with us for 101 years.

Most people remember William Howard Taft as the one-term progressive Republican president who followed Teddy Roosevelt into the White House in 1909 and was beaten for re-election by Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

But after his retirement from the presidency, Taft became the first former president to serve as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1921. He was our 27th president and 10th Chief Justice.

In 1921, it came to the attention of the nation and to Chief Justice Taft that US District Judge Kenesaw Landis was taking five times his annual salary as a judge from what was then called "Organized Baseball"—five years after ruling in their favor.

The scandal provoked Congress to pass, in 1922, a law creating a body that would provide advice and oversight to the federal judiciary. It came to be known as the Judicial Conference of the United States.

The scandal also prompted Chief Justice Taft to accept the unpaid chairmanship of The American Bar Association's (ABA) newly formed commission to write ethics rules for federal judges.

Taft's commission wrote, in 1923, the first Canons of Judicial Ethics, which included 34 categories of judicial conflicts and misbehavior that would either disqualify a judge or require their recusal from cases before them. They included conflicts of interest, personal financial investments, and even behavior in the courtroom itself.

Taft, in delivering the Canons, made it clear they should apply to all federal courts, including his own Supreme Court. Within a decade, every state in the union had adopted the Canons for their own courts.

The Canons, however, had no enforcement mechanism, particularly when it came to the Supreme Court. After all, who would judge the highest court in the land? That opened the door for literally a century of the Supreme Court ignoring Taft's work.

The issue came to the fore again in 1969 when Republicans went nuts when it was revealed that Justice Abe Fortas—a very liberal (Republicans called him a communist) LBJ appointee—had taken $15,000 for a summer teaching post, was receiving time-delayed payments from a law former client, and, worse of all, was secretly advising President Johnson.

Under massive incoming fire from Republicans and their friendly media, Fortas resigned from the Supreme Court on May 14, 1969. Over the next three years, the ABA put together a new commission to update Taft's original Canon on judicial ethics.

That commission released their new Code of Judicial Conduct in 1972, and it was adopted by the Judicial Conference of the United States, in 1973. The Supreme Court, however, chose to ignore it, arguing that they were above such considerations.

By that time the Supreme Court had made itself, as I lay out in detail in The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, the most powerful of the three branches of government, asserting the power to second-guess both Congress and the President.

Ironically, in his 2011 annual report about the state of the judiciary, Chief Justice John Roberts made lengthy and effusive reference to former Chief Justice Taft and his work with the ABA's commission on judicial ethics. His report, however, conveniently omitted the fact that Taft had loudly and publicly asserted it should apply to the Supreme Court.

Instead, Roberts noted rhetorically, "Some observers have recently questioned whether the Judicial Conference's Code of Conduct for United States Judges should apply to the Supreme Court."

I'll spare you extended quotes from Roberts' report, which you can read here, but the bottom line is that in his opinion the Court can tell the 1923 ethics recommendations, and the subsequent ones from 1973, to go screw themselves. The Supreme Court, in his mind, is answerable to nobody but itself.

As Sam Alito said, "I'm not aware of problems on the Supreme Court itself…we would not sit back. We would take action that's appropriate."

Back when Roberts was a young lawyer working for Reagan and trying to come up with a way to overturn Brown v Board and Roe v Wade, he was fond of quoting Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution.

This gave Congress the power, Roberts wrote, to simply overturn both Brown and Roe by passing a law creating an "exception" that the Supreme Court couldn't rule on issues of race or abortion (his lengthy writings for Reagan are in my book on the Court).

But now that he, himself, is in charge of the Court there's nary a peep from Roberts—in his 2011 Report or anywhere else—about Congress' power to regulate the Court.

In recent years multiple laws have been proposed to pick up the slack Roberts left to his fellow justices. Louise Slaughter proposed legislation in the house in 2015 that would require the Court itself to come up with its own code of ethics.

It went nowhere, and, besides, it would violate the basic premise of law dating back to Publius Syrus in 50 BC, cited by John Locke in the 17th century, and finally quoted by Madison in Federalist 10 that "no man shall be the judge in his own case."

President Biden's commission on the Courts recently recommended that the Supreme Court adopt an "advisory" code of behavior, but Roberts didn't even bother to comment.

Most recently, Senator Chris Murphy introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act that would seek to regulate the Court's out-of-control politicking and conflicts of interest. Predictably, it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Public outrage is building: the Court's approval rating is now around 40 percent, a historic low. Congress needs to act, requiring them to adopt and conform to the federal code of judicial ethics at the very least, and expand the Court at best, before an entire branch of government sinks into an irredeemable partisan muck of corruption.

Revealed: New GOP plan to raise taxes on working people and end Social Security

They’re at it again: Republicans want to raise taxes on poor and working-class Americans, end Social Security and Medicare, jack up pollution and corporate profits, all while continuing to pamper their billionaire donor base.

This time it’s the guy in charge of getting Republican senators elected and re-elected, Florida’s Senator Rick Scott.

You may remember him as the guy who ran the company convicted of the largest Medicare fraud in the history of America, who then took his money and ran for Governor of Florida, where he prevented the state from expanding Medicaid for low-income Floridians for all the years he ran the state.

Now he’s the second-richest guy in the senate and, IMHO, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2024. And, true to form, he’s echoing the sentiments of the richest guy in the Senate, Mitt Romney, the last guy before Trump to have that nomination.

“There are 47 percent who are with him,” Romney said of Obama voters back in 2012, “who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. These are people who pay no income tax.”

Low income working people in America generally pay a higher percentage of their income as taxes than do most of our billionaires and multi-multi-millionaires. They pay Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, taxes in the form of fees for everything from a driver’s license to road tolls to annual car inspections.

As Romney pointed out, though, about 47 percent of Americans in 2012 made so little money that, after applying the standard deduction, they paid no income tax.

This doesn’t just reveal how few people pay taxes, though. To the contrary, it reveals how many Americans are living in or on the edge of poverty.

The simple reality is if you want more people to pay income taxes, all you have to do is raise working people’s pay. We saw this in a big way between 1950 and 1980, when Keynesian economics reigned and labor unions helped wages — and the taxes they paid — steadily rise for working people.

But Republicans don’t like the idea of what they call “wage inflation.” They’d rather just squeeze working people harder, while continuing their subsidies of the lifestyles of the morbidly rich “donor class.”

More than half of Americans make so little money from their employment that they can’t deal with an unexpected $1000 expense like a car accident or medical bill. And it’s these very people who Rick Scott and the GOP believe need to be further taxed so they’ll have what Scott calls “skin in the game.”

In the early years of the Reagan administration, before his neoliberal “trickle down” and “supply side” policies started to really bite Americans, only 18 percent of Americans were so poor that their income didn’t qualify to be taxed.

As “Right to Work for Less” laws spread across America and Republicans on the Supreme Court made it harder for unions to function, more and more working people fell below the tax threshold.

Today it takes two working adults to maintain the same lifestyle that one worker could provide in 1980, so an estimated 61 percent of working Americans this year will make so little pay that their income isn’t subject to taxation.

Rick Scott and the GOP’s solution to this situation isn’t to raise the income of working-class people. Quite to the contrary, they’re suggesting that low-income people should be hit with their very own income tax — in addition to the dozens of other taxes they’re already paying — all so multimillionaires and billionaires like Scott and his friends can hope to see their own taxes go down a tiny bit.

Doing his best imitation of Newt Gingrich, Scott has rolled out his 11-point-plan to soak the American middle class, lock down elections, destroy consumer protections, increase pollution and climate change, and squeeze a few more dollars out of every family, no matter how tight their budgets may already be.

Scott calls that “rescuing America.” And it may be true, if you’re morbidly rich and made your money spewing pollution or hustling opioids.

His plan not only calls for a 50 percent cut in the IRS workforce, presumably to end all audits of rich people like Scott, but also demands all federal legislation to “sunset” within five years. That would almost certainly end Social Security and Medicare, programs that have been in the crosshairs of Republicans since Reagan’s day.

Realizing how “raising taxes on 60% of American voters” will play in campaign ads, Mitch McConnell has backed away from Scott’s bizarre proposal. But Fox “News” is all over it, inviting Scott on repeatedly to hawk his plan and prepare the ground for his candidacy. After all, billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and his family need their tax breaks!

As Sean Hannity told Scott during a recent appearance, “I want to applaud you. I'd like to see the House and the Senate come together on these issues, make these promises to the American people, get elected and then fulfill those promises.”

No doubt multi-millionaire Hannity was speaking his own truth. But for the majority of Americans who are so poor they barely have to pay income taxes, Scott’s plan is just the latest in a 40-year barrage of assaults and insults coming from the GOP.

Revealed: New GOP plan to raise taxes on working people and end Social Security

They're at it again: Republicans want to raise taxes on poor and working-class Americans, end Social Security and Medicare, jack up pollution and corporate profits, all while continuing to pamper their billionaire donor base.

This time it's the guy in charge of getting Republican senators elected and re-elected, Florida Sen. Rick Scott.

You may remember him as the guy who ran the company convicted of the largest Medicare fraud in the history of America, who then took his money and ran for governor of Florida, where he prevented the state from expanding Medicaid for low-income Floridians for all the years he ran the state.

Now he's the second-richest guy in the senate and, IMHO, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2024. And, true to form, he's echoing the sentiments of the richest guy in the Senate, Mitt Romney, the last guy before Trump to have that nomination.

"There are 47 percent who are with him," Romney said of Barack Obama's voters back in 2012, "who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. These are people who pay no income tax."

Low income working people in America generally pay a higher percentage of their income as taxes than do most of our billionaires and multi-multi-millionaires. They pay Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and taxes in the form of fees for everything from a driver's license to road tolls to annual car inspections.

As Romney pointed out, though, about 47 percent of Americans in 2012 made so little money that, after applying the standard deduction, they paid no income tax.

This doesn't just reveal how few people pay taxes, though. To the contrary, it reveals how many Americans are living in or on the edge of poverty.

The simple reality is, if you want more people to pay income taxes, all you have to do is raise working people's pay. We saw this in a big way between 1950 and 1980, when Keynesian economics reigned and labor unions helped wages — and the taxes they paid — steadily rise for working people.

But Republicans don't like the idea of what they call "wage inflation." They'd rather just squeeze working people harder, while continuing their subsidies of the lifestyles of the morbidly rich "donor class."

More than half of Americans make so little money from their employment that they can't deal with an unexpected $1,000 expense like a car accident or medical bill. And it's these very people who Rick Scott and the GOP believe need to be further taxed so they'll have what Scott calls "skin in the game."

In the early years of the Reagan administration, before his neoliberal "trickle down" and "supply side" policies started to really bite Americans, only 18 percent of Americans were so poor that their income didn't qualify to be taxed.

As "Right to Work for Less" laws spread across America and Republicans on the Supreme Court made it harder for unions to function, more and more working people fell below the tax threshold.

Today it takes two working adults to maintain the same lifestyle that one worker could provide in 1980, so an estimated 61 percent of working Americans this year will make so little pay that their income isn't subject to taxation.

Rick Scott and the GOP's solution to this situation isn't to raise the income of working-class people. Quite the contrary: They're suggesting that low-income people should be hit with their very own income tax — in addition to the dozens of other taxes they're already paying — all so multimillionaires and billionaires like Scott and his friends can hope to see their own taxes go down a tiny bit.

Doing his best imitation of Newt Gingrich, Scott has rolled out his 11-point-plan to soak the American middle class, lock down elections, destroy consumer protections, increase pollution and climate change and squeeze a few more dollars out of every family, no matter how tight their budgets may already be.

Scott calls that "rescuing America." And it may be true, if you're morbidly rich and made your money spewing pollution or hustling opioids.

His plan not only calls for a 50 percent cut in the IRS workforce, presumably to end all audits of rich people like Scott, but also demands all federal legislation to "sunset" within five years. That would almost certainly end Social Security and Medicare, programs that have been in the crosshairs of Republicans since Reagan's day.

Realizing how "raising taxes on 60% of American voters" will play in campaign ads, Mitch McConnell has backed away from Scott's bizarre proposal. But Fox News is all over it, inviting Scott on repeatedly to hawk his plan and prepare the ground for his candidacy. After all, billionaires like Rupert Murdoch and his family need their tax breaks!

As Sean Hannity told Scott during a recent appearance, "I want to applaud you. I'd like to see the House and the Senate come together on these issues, make these promises to the American people, get elected and then fulfill those promises."

No doubt multimillionaire Hannity was speaking his own truth. But for the majority of Americans who are so poor they barely have to pay income taxes, Scott's plan is just the latest in a 40-year barrage of assaults and insults coming from the GOP.

Donald Trump cannot be let off the hook

Violent behavior on airplanes has reached such epidemic proportions that the President of Delta Airlines last week asked the Department of Homeland security to allow the airlines to submit passengers who have terrified or otherwise abused flight crews for placement on the government’s no-fly list.

This is a symptom of the much deeper problem: Donald Trump has planted authoritarianism across America like some kind of bizarre Johnny Appleseed, and only his humiliation and conviction will pull it out by the roots.

Eight Republican senators have now come forward to defend the air-crew abusers, as astonishing as that may seem. In doing so, they’re making common cause with thousands of authoritarian followers who’ve adopted Donald Trump as their behavioral role model.

Why would eight GOP senators support abusers on airplanes? Because these senators also view Trump as their own personal role model and believe they draw power, prestige and safety from their association with him. They, like the people abusing flight crews, are authoritarian followers.

This explosion of “air rage” is a symptom of a much larger problem in contemporary America, one we may be on the edge of resolving.

A June, 2021 Morning Consult poll found that about 26 percent of Americans now embrace authoritarian leanings, about twice the proportion found in other democratic nations. The reason, I believe, is that Donald Trump has socially encouraged and authorized their behavior, resulting in a nationwide acceptance and amplification of antisocial activities.

Were it not for Trump, most of these people would have simply taken out their authoritarian tendencies in smaller and often unnoticed ways on their dog, spouse, employees/co-workers or neighbors. Trump’s example elevated them, in their minds, to actors on the national stage so now they’re acting out in a variety of public venues, including on airplanes.

We’ve always had authoritarians among us. These are people who paradoxically love to submit to an authority figure above them while at the same time desperately need to assert their own authority over others “below them” in order to feel safe.

They see the world in binary terms: there are those in control and those who are controlled, those who lead and those who follow, those who dominate and those who are dominated. And when a severe authoritarian leader has significant success in society, authoritarianism becomes, essentially, a contagious mental and cultural illness.

Our airline crews, politicians and teachers now find themselves on the front lines, seeing that illness play out in their own work and lives.

While the vast majority of authoritarians are authoritarian followers, a small percentage are authoritarian leaders. They exist together with their followers in a symbiosis like pilotfish and shark, gang leader and gang, alpha dog and pack.

When authoritarian leaders emerge and are celebrated in the broader society authoritarian followers are drawn to them, realigning their worldview, value system, and behavior to mirror those of the authoritarian leader.

Authoritarian followers submit to control by their chosen leader because it makes them feel like they’re drawing power (and, thus, authority) from that person.

They’re often drawn to hierarchical and violent professions where they can both submit to their own leaders while also routinely assert their own authority over those they view as beneath them. Thus authoritarians are over-represented in professions like policing, while only rarely seen among similarly public-service jobs like becoming firefighters.

In their personal lives, authoritarian followers are constantly on the lookout for people they can assert their own power over, particularly people they think should either serve them (like a restaurant server or flight attendant) or should simply defer to them because they think they have higher social status (whites going off on people of color, tyrannical bosses, husbands beating their wives and/or children).

Authoritarian follower Michael Cohen described his relationship with Donald Trump in stark terms. “He’s very much like a cult leader,” Cohen told Joy Reid, adding, “When you’re in his good grace, you believe that you have this enormous amount of power…”

Authoritarian followers crave that feeling of power, often seizing it by acting out violently as so many do daily on airliners, in Uber cars, and at school board meetings.

In a society where more than half of all families would be devastated by an unexpected $1000 expense, where a single illness can force a family into homelessness, a justified and all-pervasive feeling of powerlessness is rampant.

Forty years of Reagan’s neoliberalism have gutted the American middle class; while around two-thirds of us were middle class when Reagan came to power in 1981, today that number is well below half of us, a milestone noted by NPR in 2015 in an article titled The Tipping Point: Most Americans No Longer Are Middle Class.

The loss of economic security translates into a loss in social status and economic power; when fifteen percent of 330 million people experience an economic and social loss like that, about 50 million people become far more vulnerable to authoritarian leaders who glibly tell them that petty authority figures like flight attendants, election workers and unionized teachers are the ones really responsible for their fate.

Authoritarianism, like its sibling of violent physical abuse, tends to run in families. The abuse of flight attendants is simply a symptom of a larger cancer within our society: the elevation of an authoritarian leader to the presidency, becoming the father figure of our national family.

Trump is now facing accountability for exploiting the power he had as an authoritarian leader, both in his business, his family and our nation.

Like all authoritarian leaders, he’s not handling it well. Hitler, for example, committed suicide rather than submit to the Allied authorities.

Mussolini being shot and then hanged upside down shows the most extreme fate of authoritarian leaders who lose their power and thus their authority over their followers. Most will, therefore, use every last lever they have to escape the loss of the status, prestige or actual legal power that lets them hold their followers in thrall.

As Trump’s various crimes and grifts are exposed, he is right now fading in status and prestige. That translates directly into a loss in power, as we’re seeing with Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and a handful of other Republicans feeling safe enough to openly rebuke him.

As his power fades, so will his grip over all but the most fanatical of his followers. If history is any guide, that will translate into a drop in air rage incidents, murders, spousal abuse and trashing of public servants like teachers and election workers.

That 2021 Morning Consult study mentioned earlier found that 25.6 percent of Americans now score high on tests that tease out highly authoritarian worldviews and behaviors. But this isn’t a reflection of humanity at large.

The same study found that authoritarianism at its most virulent levels ran only 13.4% in Canada, 12.9% in Italy and Australia, 10.7% in France, 10.4% in the UK, 9.2% in Spain and a mere 6.7% in Germany, the country with the deepest and most personal living memory of the damage an authoritarian leader can do to a nation.

The bad news, as the old saying goes, is that America is experiencing an authoritarian moment, and that’s a brutal experience for any society (for the most extreme example of how this plays out, look at countries once dominated by ISIS).

The good news is that when Trump and his immediate circle are finally held to account and stripped of their status, prestige and power the authoritarian movement in America will similarly lose much of its reach and power.

The testosterone-like fuel of affiliation with Trump will no longer drive air rage and all the other symptoms of a society that’s been, like Germany, Italy and Spain in the 1930s, temporarily dominated by an authoritarian leader.

It seems bleak at the moment, with authoritarian followers forming armed militias, stalking and harassing people both online and on airplanes, and trying to seize local positions of power on school boards and elections commissions, all while authoritarian followers already in positions of power use the authority they now have to thwart good-faith efforts to return America to normal.

But this season of madness — if Garland, James and others in a position to hold Trump to account succeed at doing their jobs — will pass. Then begins the real work of rebuilding our republic and fortifying it against the next authoritarian leader aspiring to the highest office in the land.

The outrageous story about the Postal Service too many know nothing about

The Republicans are about to win a major battle in their war on electric vehicles, this time with the second largest vehicle fleet in America owned by the US Postal Service. It's an outrageous story that most Americans don't know a thing about.

Transportation, after all, is the single largest source of global warming emissions from the United States. And the Post Office once thought they could do something about it.

To understand what's going on with the Post Office right now, you first must know the backstory that, it seems, most media outlets aren't interested in discussing. It's an issue that's hitting millions of Americans right now.

One of our kids, for example, recently became the first member of our family to buy a fully 100% electric car. She was so excited and has loved it driving around Portland…until she had to drive to another state for a conference, when she discovered what a problem America not having an electric charging infrastructure causes.

The way to solve this problem, of course, is to have a substantial and massive increase in electric vehicles and that's exactly what the Post Office set out to jump-start back in 2006.

Transportation, after all, is the single largest source of global warming emissions from the United States. And the Post Office once thought they could do something about it.

Things were going well for the Post Office in 2006.

They were making money and had a surplus. They were therefore seriously considering replacing a large part of their fleet—the largest fleet of civilian vehicles in the nation—with electric and hybrid vehicles.

It would be a mighty boost for the electric car, and a huge slap in the face of the fossil fuel barons who had an outsized say in the Republican Party.

On May 17, 2006 Walter O'Tormey, the Post Office's Vice President, Engineering, unveiled a new hybrid gas/electric mail delivery vehicle in Boston to an audience of "nearly 100 industry representatives, environmentalists, and Postal Service employees," saying:

"As an agency that delivers mail to 145 million businesses and households six days a week, drives approximately 1.1 billion miles a year, and consumes more than 125 million gallons of motor fuel annually, we are in a unique position to demonstrate to the public and other businesses the growing viability and positive environmental and energy-savings benefits of alternate-fuel technologies."

In their 2006 annual report the Postal Service openly bragged about their ambition to move away from relying entirely on fossil fuels:

"With more than 216,000 vehicles, the Postal Service has the largest civilian fleet in the United States. We continue to evaluate various fuel types and alternative fuel vehicles including hybrid trucks, hydrogen fuel cell vans, electric step vans and liquid natural gas delivery vehicles."

If the Post Office pulled off a massive transition away from fossil fuels, it would jump-start the then-new electric, hybrid and fuel cell technologies, paving the way for wider use, a large national electric "refueling" infrastructure, and a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses.

Americans were excited by the possibility. Speaking on behalf of a coalition of mayors from all parts of the country to the World Congress on Information Technology annual conference in Austin on May 6, 2006, Austin Mayor Will Winn proudly announced:

"Transitioning the Postal fleet to plug-ins would serve as a springboard for the commercial production of delivery vehicles that could be extended to a wide variety of delivery services across America.
"The commercial market would also provide the economic certainty needed by automakers to make the production investments necessary for the mass production of plug-ins.
"The plug-in technology is available right now and represents a realistic near-term solution to the serious problems of over-reliance on foreign oil, out of control gasoline prices, as well as greenhouse emissions."

Given that postal vehicles typically have a 30-year lifespan, this would produce a huge tilt in the balance of alternative-versus-fossil-fuel vehicles on the road.

But the possibility of that transition happening to the nation's largest vehicle fleet was, in a word, intolerable to the morbidly rich rightwingers who'd made their fortunes drilling, refining, shipping and selling fossil fuels, particularly oil, diesel and gasoline.

The Post Office had to be stopped, and Republican Congressman John McHugh (NY) was just the man to do it. He'd been a member of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and was deeply in the pocket of right-wing interests.

As Wikipedia notes in an exercise of gentle understatement:

"[McHugh] was chairman of the Oversight Committee's Postal Service Subcommittee for six years and worked to pass legislation to significantly reform the U.S. Postal Service for the first time since it was demoted from a Cabinet-rank department with passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (Pub.L. 109–435) in 2006."

ALEC, which writes corporate-friendly legislation and relies on its membership of Republican lawmakers around the nation to pass that legislation, just happened to have a model 2006 bill known as the Unfunded Pensions Liabilities Act, which called on state governments to account for exactly how they plan to fund future retiree benefits.

Adapting that ALEC concept to the Post Office, McHugh's bill was passed by a voice vote in a Republican Congress and signed by Republican President George W. Bush. There is no record whatsoever of who voted or how they voted on the legislation.

It was preceded, however, by a virtual waterfall of op-eds and PR efforts by groups affiliated with the Koch network including the Reason Foundation, the National Taxpayer's Union, and the CATO Institute.

What the law did was ram a poison pill down the throat of the Post Office.

It required the USPS to pre-fund its Retiree Health Benefits Fund for seventy years into the future, forcing the Post Office to take the money they planned to spend on electric vehicles and set it aside for the health benefits of future retirees who weren't even born yet (and should be eligible for Medicare, anyway).

It's an obligation that no other private business or government agency has ever had to comply with before.

Costing the Post Office $5 billion a year, it succeeded in stopping their plan to electrify their fleet dead in its tracks.

And it set it up more cleanly for eventual privatization, once enough infrastructure like postal drop boxes and million-dollar high-speed sorting machines was destroyed—a process Reagan called "Starve the Beast"—that "customers" were complaining about the service and public opinion finally agreed the Post Office would work better in private hands.

Reagan had tried to do the same thing to Social Security and the IRS, and Trump doubled down on that plan, offering tens of thousands of staffers early retirement to gut both agencies; they're now so hobbled by underfunding and worker shortages that Social Security disability claims can take two years, and extremely wealthy people are no longer generally audited at all because of the cost and manpower needs determined by their complexity.

Which brings us to Louis DeJoy.

The Post Office is finally on the verge of getting out from under that $5 billion-a-year prefunding burden so they can now start buying that new fleet they proposed in 2006.

Postmaster General DeJoy was strongly encouraged by the Biden administration to give the contract to a company that would manufacture electric and electric/hybrid vehicles.

But DeJoy essentially told Biden to go screw himself: he's going to buy fossil-fuel vehicles for 90% of the fleet instead.

The Washington Post laid it all out in the open to an article last week titled: Biden Officials Push to Hold Up $11.3 Billion USPS Truck Contract, Citing Climate Damage, noting:

"The Biden administration launched a last-minute push Wednesday to derail the U.S. Postal Service's plan to spend billions of dollars on a new fleet of gasoline-powered delivery trucks, citing the damage the polluting vehicles could inflict on the climate and Americans' health.
"The dispute over the Postal Service's plans to spend up to $11.3 billion on as many as 165,000 new delivery trucks over the next decade has major implications for President Biden's goal of converting all federal cars and trucks to clean power."

And it's not just the White House that's outraged. CNN reported yesterday:

"Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, called for DeJoy's resignation.
"'Postmaster General DeJoy's plan to spend billions on brand new gas-powered vehicles is in direct contradiction to the stated goals of Congress and the President to eliminate emissions from the federal fleet,' Connolly said in a statement. 'If Mr. DeJoy won't resign, the Board of Governors has got to fire him -- now.'"

Because Republican senators are holding up confirmation of Biden's Postal Board of Governors' appointees, DeJoy can't be fired by the current Trump-appointee-dominated board, a fact that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out last week, demanding the Senate move the Democratic nominees forward over GOP objections.

But DeJoy is itching to sign the contract for all those gas and diesel vehicles, and he still has the power to do so.

So, now that the possibility of electrifying the nation's (now second) largest fleet of vehicles is pretty much dead and they're planning to go ahead with fossil fuels, Republicans in Congress are fine with eliminating the retirement prefunding dead weight on the Post Office.

The vote in the House this week was 342-90 to end the prefunding requirement and give DeJoy the money to buy the gas-powered vehicles. Now it goes to the Senate, where the AP noted:

"Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he expects his chamber to 'move quickly' on the measure. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he's planning a vote before a recess that starts after next week. The bill has 14 GOP sponsors and, with strong Democratic support expected, seems on track to gain the 60 votes most bills need for Senate passage."

When asked Wednesday night on MSNBC why Congress had crippled the Post Office with that bizarre prefunding requirement in the first place, Senator Peters—one of the truly good guys in the US Senate—answered that he had no idea.

As is the case with most members of Congress; the pre-funding was essentially slipped into the bill at the behest of the fossil fuel industry and, at the time, got virtually no publicity. Thus, I tweeted him:

It was incomplete on my part to miss the privatization bonus in the tweet, and the vendor will supply gasoline vehicles as well, but you get the point.

Like so many other weirdnesses in American politics, when you pull back the veil you find the hands of a fossil fuel industry that values profits and right wing ideology over the future of our children, our nation and the planet.

The next Republican to occupy the White House will probably also try to end our democracy -- unless Congress acts

“Precedent” sounds boring and wonky. In reality, it’s the way past criminal Republican presidents have taught those who followed them to break the law.

This is the shocking story of how Republican presidents taught each other to break the law, and how — if Trump isn't prosecuted — the next Republican president will try to end democracy in the USA.

Trump has broken multiple past presidential precedents and established entirely new ones that — unless they’re punished and outlawed — provide a template for the next Republican president who wants to turn America into a strongman oligarchy like Hungary or Turkey.

And given the rhetoric coming out of the GOP’s front-runners for 2024, we should be seriously concerned about that as a future near-certainty.

Precedents are critical things, and, when they’re established, they quickly become norms unless they’re stopped cold:

  • No president of the United States has ever tried to overthrow our government.
  • No president has ever gotten away with open, overt, in-the-public violations of campaign finance laws and the Hatch Act by using the White House for political events, rallies, and to sell products.
  • No president has ever conspired with armed militias to maim and kill police officers.
  • No president has ever tried to overturn an election by asking the DOJ, DHS and DOD to seize voting machines and/or ballots.
  • No president has ever sent unmarked federal police into American cities to kidnap and detain citizens in broad daylight, like Trump did here in Portland.
  • No president has ever had the FBI establish 10 credible charges of criminal and prosecutable obstruction of justice against him, as Mueller’s investigation did against Trump.
  • No president has ever tried to have his own vice president assassinated.
  • No president has ever publicly asked a hostile foreign power for help getting elected.
  • No president has ever publicly praised a hostile foreign intelligence service while trashing his own intelligence and police agencies.
  • No president has ever lied to the American people about American soldiers being injured in an attack by Iran, a pandemic, or just made stuff up in press conferences and speeches, including 30,000+ other documented lies, destroying Americans’ faith in the political process.
  • No president has ever told the American people that our election systems are corrupt and shouldn’t be trusted.

Instead, every American president except Trump has looked to past presidents for precedents about how to behave in office, and in almost all cases have followed those precedents, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

The first and most famous precedent was set by George Washington who, after two terms in office, voluntarily surrendered the office rather than bowing to the then-popular sentiment that he should stay in office until he died.

Every president thereafter followed that precedent and voluntarily left office after two terms, until Franklin D. Roosevelt was dealing with the twin crises of the Republican Great Depression and World War II and chose to ignore President Washington’s precedent.

When FDR ran for that third term in 1940, Republicans howled about how he’d “broken precedent”; it was a scandal and an outrage, they said, totally “un-American,” but he defied precedent and got elected anyway.

When FDR ran for a fourth term in 1944, the GOP acted like they thought the republic was going to end. I still remember my Republican father solemnly telling me, when I was a kid in the 1950s, how FDR had “tried to establish a one-man dictatorship in America.” It was an article of faith in the GOP, and still is in many circles.

Thus, when Republicans took control of Congress in the election of 1946, the 1947 Congress put forward the 22nd Amendment to prevent any future president from breaking the “George Washington Precedent.” It became law after 3/4ths of the states ratified it in 1951.

Lying America into a war was a precedent that, as Abraham Lincoln angrily pointed out, was established by President Polk with the War against Mexico in 1846. President McKinley continued the tradition by lying us into theSpanish-American war in 1898 with a little help from William Randolph Hearst.

President Lyndon Johnson lied us into a war in Vietnam, and Richard Nixon followed the precedent by lying about his “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney doubled down, feeling safe they could get away with it now that the precedent was so well established, by lying us into a war in Iraq.

On the other hand, when Bill Clinton tried to establish the precedent of a president lying to a grand jury and getting away with it, both the criminal and political systems of this country called him to account. He had his law license suspended for five years, paid a $25,000 fine, and was impeached.

That precedent hasn’t stood, which may come to haunt Trump.

Precedent is, to use a Bidenism, a BFD. Once a president breaks precedent, he’s establishing an entirely new standard for presidential behavior, and the country can either accept that as the “new normal” or, like Republicans did in 1998 and 1947, push back and punish the president or cement the earlier precedent into law.

Donald Trump has spent six years now breaking American political and legal precedents, from trashing captured veterans to inciting racial and political violence to embracing autocrats while metaphorically pissing on our allies.

No president has ever done such things, at least not out in the open. And when past presidents have broken precedent in secret, there have been serious and destructive consequences for our democracy.

For example, Nixon cut what LBJ and Senator Everett Dirksen called a “treasonous” deal with the South Vietnamese to blow up the 1968 peace agreement LBJ had worked out, because Nixon that year was running against LBJ’s vice president, Hubert Humphrey, and the peace deal was going to be the cornerstone of Humphrey’s campaign.

America didn’t learn about Nixon’s treason until the LBJ library released their tapes of Johnson, Dirksen and Nixon’s phone discussions in 2008, but apparently the Reagan campaign knew of it.

In 1980, according to the then-president of Iran, Reagan’s campaign pulled the same trick, promising the Iranians military spare parts and missiles if they’d just ignore President Carter’s efforts to negotiate a hostage return until after the election. The Iranians took the military hardware and released the hostages on January 20, 1981 as Reagan was putting his hand on the bible to be sworn in as president…to the minute.

Trump continued that precedent of Republican presidents coordinating with foreign governments to win elections when he publicly invited Russia to hack the DNC’s and Hillary Clinton’s servers.

Precedent is a big friggin’ deal. It matters. Unless punished or made illegal, criminal precedent in the White House reshapes American politics and the nature of our country itself.

Imagine if Nixon’s crime had been revealed and he’d been outed as a traitor before 1980; Reagan’s campaign manager (and CIA Director) Bill Casey would almost certainly not have even considered the Iran/Contra deal. Carter would have recovered the hostages, guaranteeing his own re-election.

At the very least, America wouldn’t have turned hard right, we’d still have millions of union jobs and 60,000 now-gone-to-China/Mexico factories, taxes on billionaires would’ve stayed at 74 percent, and neither Scalia nor O’Connor would have been on the Supreme Court to hand the 2000 election to George W. Bush even though he lost by over a half-million votes and Florida was far from certain.

There’s a strong urge among Democrats in Washington to avoid open conflict with Republicans, a dangerous tendency that’s apparently also infected the Department of Justice.

Perhaps it’s because we watched for four years as Trump got away with not only breaking the law but cutting a break to his co-conspirators and cronies (unless they cooperated with authorities).

  • Not only was Trump impeached twice for breaking precedent (and the law) by trying to bribe a foreign leader and then trying to overthrow our government, but Republicans in Congress told him and the world that it was all A-OK with them.
  • Michael Cohen got a stint in federal prison for giving Stormy Daniels an illegal hush-money check that was authorized and signed by Trump. Nobody’s even talking about prosecuting Trump for it.
  • Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, made a living working with multiple murderous oligarchs and was busted for trying to hide the blood money they paid him. Trump pardoned him.
  • His national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was busted and convicted of taking money from and working for a foreign government while guiding our intelligence services from the White House. Trump pardoned him.
  • Trump is now promising pardons to any January 6th co-conspirators who similarly keep their mouths shut.

This is the very smallest tip of an iceberg of corrupt precedent-breaking that almost certainly will now be normalized and followed by the next Republican president, unless Trump is punished like Clinton was, and legislation is passed to put former precedents into law, as Congress did in 1947.

After all, they all now know how far they can go before they’ll suffer any blowback or consequences. Trump’s precedents have been established and, unless challenged, are an irrevocable part of the history and the foundation of our political future.

Just look at the numbers to see how having two bribe-taking criminals in the White House (Nixon/Agnew) established an entirely new standard for Republican presidential behavior before Trump even came to office:

The Nixon administration saw 55 criminal indictments and 15 prison sentences. Reagan’s had 26 criminal indictments and 8 prison terms. George W. Bush’s administration had 16 indictments and 9 prison terms. (Carter’s had 1 indictment and 0 prison terms; Clinton’s 1 and 2; Obama’s 0 and 0).

If you’re noticing a trend toward presidential criminality in one of our two political parties, that’s the point.

Since the Nixon precedents were set, criminality and a flagrant disregard for democratic norms have run like an underground river through the GOP, and have now flowed from federal to state Republican politicians as well.

As you’re reading these words, Republicans are preparing to openly steal elections in more than a dozen states and fifty corrupt Republicans in the US Senate just helped them in their effort.

We’re learning, through the efforts of the January 6th Committee, that a small handful of people, perhaps a few dozen, succeeded in stopping Donald Trump from ending democracy in America.

The next Republican president bent on becoming America’s first strongman autocrat will have learned from this, and bring along with him or her enough willing toadies to get the job done this time.

We must stop this madness before it goes any farther. The Department of Justice and Congress must act.

A disparate group of billionaires, Republicans, televangelists and white supremacists has found common cause

The moral panic currently sweeping America about Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been covered ad nauseum by the press and commentators across the political spectrum. That’s what typically happens with moral panics (more on that in a moment).

What nobody is talking about, though, is the why of this particular issue at this particular time. As a result, we’re mistaking the tool for the goal.

Moral panics, when driven by politicians, are usually just tools. This CRT moral panic is a tool being used by a coalition of interests to achieve their own goals, none of which have anything to do with teaching or not-teaching the history of race in America.

Here’s how it works:

  • Imagine you’re part of a group of libertarian billionaires who don’t believe in public education and who see any such sort of taxpayer-funded effort to improve “the underclasses” as an absurd waste of the tax dollars you “worked so hard to earn” and the “gummint” now wants to take away from you “at the barrel of a gun.”
  • Imagine you’re a leader in the Republican Party who’s seeing the average age of the Fox audience — 70 — as a threat to your own political longevity because old white people don’t go into politics and you need 30- and 40-year-olds to learn their basic political skills locally (like on a school board) so you can groom and propel them up into state or federal politics.
  • Imagine you’re a multimillionaire white evangelical preacher who’s looking for an issue you can use to more tightly bind your congregation — your donors — to you by portraying yourself as a crusader who’s going to save their children from a horrible fate.
  • Imagine you’re a white supremacist militia leader who’s looking to expand his base by bringing in white middle-class adults and therefore you need an issue to get yourself into the headlines “taking on authorities” but that won’t also end with you going to jail.
  • Imagine you’re a Republican politician who’s looking at a serious challenge in the upcoming primary elections and you need an issue that’ll be both popular and energizing for your base voters, even if the larger population doesn’t much care, because base voters are all you care about in the upcoming primary.

These are the goal-oriented “crisis actors” who’ve brought us the moral panic around Critical Race Theory that has now morphed into a book-banning frenzy.

It has deep roots.

  • The movement to entirely privatize public education in America began in a big way after the 1954 Brown v Board Supreme Court decision that ended legal racial segregation in our public schools. Entire counties shut down their schools and a new industry of all-white “Christian academies” popped up all over the country.
  • Talk radio in the 1970s (I was in the business then) was often dominated by arguments against unionized public schools funded by property taxes, with the mantra of “I understand about paying taxes for police and fire, but I don’t have kids so why should I pay?” or “My kids are grown now, why should I pay?”
  • The Charter School industry evolved out of this with Reagan’s encouragement and in some parts of America now dominates the education scene. And a moral panic about CRT is made-to-order to take down what’s left of our taxpayer-funded unionized-teacher-run public schools.
  • This is now big business. In Washington, DC, for example, there are now as many charter schools making profits for their investors as there are public schools. The continuing existence of free public education represents a lost profit opportunity.

As billionaire former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos recently wrote for Fox “News,” it appears she believes the best solution is just to kill off unionized public education because it can never be reformed:

“Because wokeness is the left’s religion, ‘banning’ critical race theory or the 1619 Project won’t fix the problem. The liberal education establishment will simply rename, rebrand, or repackage these insidious ideas to get around so-called bans.”

These are the very simple and easily identified goals of the Republican movement to “ban Critical Race Theory.”

The tool they’re using is a new moral panic.

  • If you’re old enough to remember the 1980s, you can recall when Tipper Gore and James Baker’s wife Susan were worried that song lyrics were going to corrupt a generation of Americans (tell that to Ari Melber). Or the McMartin pre-school satanic ritual abuse hysteria, that ran for much of the decade.
  • In the 1990s, after a young British girl died of an ecstasy overdose, there was a moral panic around “Rave Culture,” and much of the multi-million-dollar advertising campaign that kicked it off was funded by alcohol companies that saw the upswing in drug use by young adults as a threat to their bottom lines.
  • Since then we’ve seen national panics that just happened to politically or financially (or both) benefit Republican politicians ranging from Islamophobia to Trump’s Birther claims against Obama to Southern border caravans to the “bathroom hysteria” directed against trans schoolchildren just a few years ago.

In this context, we can understand how a disparate group of billionaires, Republican politicians, televangelists, media outlets and white supremacist militias might find common cause around a new and exciting moral panic.

Thus, today’s Critical Race Theory hysteria.

Each group wins something substantial — particularly the billionaires and Republicans, as is usually the case — and the only losers are Black people and schoolkids. And, of course, objective real history, which is just a throwaway casualty to the people funding and promoting the hysteria.

Because “history” and schoolkids don’t vote, and Republicans have figured out how to make it very, very hard for Black voters to overcome everything from being purged off voting rolls to having to stand in line for hours to being given “provisional ballots” that are never counted.

By December of 2024 — and maybe December of this year — the elections will be over and the whole freak-out around reinventing American history will have gone away, the same way nobody today is seriously working to push “bathroom bills” in state legislatures.

But don’t worry: it’ll be replaced by a brand new Republican moral panic that targets another convenient and vulnerable group.

Will it be Hispanics (race)? Sikhs (religion)? Lesbians (gender/sexuality)?

You can bet that today’s version of Newt Gingrich/Frank Luntz is focus-grouping it right now.

Trump's confession shows why we must abolish the Electoral College and throw him in jail

So Donald Trump is now telling us that having Mike Pence overturn the electoral college result would have been “perfectly legal.”

He’s dead wrong, both factually and conceptually, and his admission should lead him straight to a jail cell.

The electoral college wasn’t put in place so that a president and vice president could randomly choose to extend their own power forever. If anything, it was the opposite.

America’s Founders and Framers thought they could use the Electoral College to prevent somebody like Donald Trump from ever becoming president. Unfortunately, they were wrong, and now we’re paying the price.

Given how the Electoral College hasn’t protected us from getting a president beholden to a (or multiple) foreign power(s) as president, it’s time to do away with it.

Most people have a pretty limited understanding of the Electoral College, but they know that it works against the democratic notion of the public electing its chief executive. There are organizations and a smattering of political figures who say as much. Recent polling indicates this, too.

READ: Maddow's bombshell: MSNBC host reveals suspicious link between Republicans’ ‘forged’ election documents

What is not as well understood is the history of why it was chosen as the way to select a president.

It’s often said that the Electoral College was brought into being to perpetuate or protect the institution of slavery, and, indeed, during the first half-century of America, it gave the slave states several presidents who wouldn’t have been otherwise elected.

This is because there’s one elector in the College for every member of the House and Senate (and three for the District of Columbia). When the three-fifths compromise was in effect (until just after the Civil War), slave states had more members in the House of Representatives than the size of their voting public “deserved.”

This is why when Madison proposed the Electoral College, the Framers seized on it as a compromise/solution after weeks of drawn-out and often angry debate on how to select a president.

READ: These GOP candidates signed fake Electoral College documents in states that Biden won: report

But, according to the Framers of the Constitution themselves, the real reason for the Electoral College was to prevent a foreign power from placing their stooge in the White House.

Today we’re horrified by the idea that Donald Trump may actually be putting first the interests of foreign governments, and that money and other efforts from multiple foreign entities may have helped him get elected.

It’s shocking, something we never even really took seriously when, for example, the movie “Manchurian Candidate” came out back in the day. What a cute idea for a movie, we thought; that could never happen here.

But this was actually a big deal for the founding generation. One of the first questions of any candidate for president during that era was, “Is he beholden in any way to any other government?”

At the time of the Declaration of Independence, it’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of all citizens of the American colonies favored remaining a British colony (Jimmy Carter’s novel The Hornet’s Nest is a great resource); there were spies and British loyalists everywhere, and Spain had staked out their claim to the region around Florida while the French were colonizing what is now Canada and Louisiana. Foreign powers had us boxed in.

READ: Why legal experts are so disturbed by a Trump lawyer's 6-point plan to overturn the 2020 election

In 1775, the year the Revolutionary War unofficially started, virtually all of the colonists had familial, friendship or business acquaintances with people whose loyalty was suspect or who were openly opposed to American independence.

It was rumored that Ben Franklin was working as a spy for British intelligence (and, it turns out, evidence shows he was, only against France when he lived in Paris). Federalists, in particular, were wary of Franklin’s “internationalist” sentiments.

Jefferson was living in France when the Constitution was being written, and his political enemies were, even then (it got much louder around the election of 1800), whispering that he had, at best, mixed loyalties. In response, he felt the need to protest to Elbridge Gerry that, “The first object of my heart is my own country. In that is embarked my family, my fortune, and my own existence.”

When John Adams famously defended British soldiers who, during an anti-British riot on March 5, 1770, shot and killed Crispus Attucks and four others, he was widely condemned for being too pro-British, an issue that recurred in 1798 when, as president, Adams pushed the Alien and Sedition laws through Congress over Vice President Thomas Jefferson’s loud objections. British Spy Gilbert Barkley wrote to his spymasters in London that Quakers and many other Americans considered Adams an enemy to his country (Geoffrey Seed, "A British Spy in Philadelphia," PMHB, 85:21–22 [Jan. 1961]).

When Adams blew up the XYZ Affair and nearly went to war with France that year, it was rumored among his political opponents that he was only doing it to solidify his “manly” and “patriotic” credentials. Historian and author John Ferling in his book A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic notes that Adams’ anti-British rhetoric worked at changing the perception of him: “By mid-1798 he was proclaimed for his ‘manly fortitude,’ ‘manly spirited’ actions, and ‘manly independence.’”

And after the Revolutionary War, the nation was abuzz about one of that war’s most decorated soldiers, Benedict Arnold, once considered a shoo-in for high elected office, selling out to the British in exchange for money and a title.

So it fell to a fatherless man born in Bermuda to explain to Americans that the main purpose of the Electoral College was to make sure that no agent of a foreign government would ever become president.

Back then, America was so spread out it would be difficult for most citizen/voters to get to know a presidential candidate well enough to spot a spy or traitor, Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist 68. Therefore, the electors — having no other governmental duty, obligation, or responsibility — would be sure to catch one if it was tried.

“The most deadly adversaries” of America, Hamilton wrote, would probably “make their approaches [to seizing control of the USA] from more than one quarter, chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”

Influencing public opinion or owning a senator was nothing compared to having their man in the White House. As Hamilton wrote, “How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy [presidency] of the Union?”

But, Hamilton wrote, the Framers of the Constitution “have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention.”

The system they set up to protect the White House from being occupied by an agent of a foreign government was straightforward, Hamilton bragged. The choice of president would not “depend on any preexisting bodies of men, who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes.”

Instead, the Electoral College would be made up of “persons [selected] for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment.”

The electors would be apolitical because it would be illegal for a senator or House member to become one, Hamilton wrote:

“And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust, all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office. No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the numbers of the electors.”

This, Hamilton was certain, would eliminate “any sinister bias.”

Rather than average but uninformed voters, and excluding members of Congress who may be subject to bribery or foreign influences, the electors would select a man for president who was brave of heart and pure of soul.

“The process of election [by the electoral college] affords a moral certainty,” Hamilton wrote, “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”

Indeed, while a knave or rogue or traitor may fool enough people to even ascend to the office of mayor of a major city or governor of a state, the Electoral College would ferret out such a traitor.

Hamilton wrote, “Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence” of the men in the Electoral College who would select him as president “of the whole Union. . .”

Hamilton’s pride in the system that he himself had helped build was hard for him to suppress. He wrote, “It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.”

Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out that way.

Because of the three-fifths compromise that gave more electors to the slave states than their voting population would indicate, the Electoral College handed the White House to four Virginia slaveholders among our first five presidents. Since that compromise has been eliminated, it continues to wreak mischief in putting George W. Bush and Donald Trump into office.

Hamilton never envisioned a day when a man so entangled in financial affairs with foreign governments as is Donald Trump could even be seriously considered, because, in his mind, the electors would carefully investigate the candidate. That hasn’t happened in over a century, so, by his standards, the electors totally failed in their job in the 2016 election.

The Electoral College was a compromise designed to keep the president above political considerations, and sold to the public as a way to prevent an agent (witting or unwitting) of a foreign power from becoming president. It has failed on both counts.

And it was never intended to allow the vice president to manipulate it in a way that reverses the outcome of a free and fair election.

Through the arc of time since her founding, America has constantly — albeit in fits and starts — expanded democracy. From expanding the vote to include racial minorities and women, to amending the Constitution to allow for citizens to vote for U.S. senators rather than having them appointed by often-corrupted state legislatures, average citizens of all races and genders have been brought into the decisions around who will lead us.

But in the past two decades, the Electoral College has brought us two presidents (George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote by 500,000 and Trump, who lost by 3,000,000) who were rejected by a majority of Americans. This is fundamentally undemocratic.

It’s time to take another step forward in fine-tuning our republic and abolish the Electoral College.

But first, now that he has openly confessed to trying to manipulate the electoral college system to change America from a democracy into a dictatorship, it’s important that we clear the record about the college’s history and put Donald Trump in prison.

Do you get more crime if a criminal becomes president?

Years ago when Nextdoor.com rolled out, Louise signed up to see what was happening in our neighborhood; back then it was mostly people offering kittens, trying to find their lost dogs, or begging neighbors to take piles of zucchini. Today, in many parts of the country, it’s become a running list of assaults and burglaries.

Crime is up and people are noticing. Which means it’ll get political, and fast.

Republicans are planning to make crime a big issue this fall for the elections: Newt Gingrich just pointed out on Fox how well it worked for Glen Youngkin in Virginia and they see it as a template for November.

It’s a scheme rich with irony. On the other hand it will probably work for them: Democrats need to get ready now.

So where is this crimewave coming from?

Part of it, no doubt, is associated with people being out of work or out of school, and may resolve itself as people get back to work and back to school.

Part of it is probably associated with how the pandemic exacerbated the homelessness crisis.

And numerous studies over the years has shown a clear association between increases in crime following increases in economic inequality, which has gone up in America over the past few years because of the Trump tax cuts and four decades of neoliberal economic policies.

But it would be impossible to discuss the pervasiveness of crime today without talking about the criminal who occupied the White House.

After four years of America having a professional, lifelong criminal as our president, is it any wonder that crime is up?

Criminality — like morality — flows from the top down.

Remember Enron? A professional corporate criminal named Ken Lay started the company in 1985, during the Reagan “greed is good” heyday of corporate crime. Hundreds of charges and indictments later, America found that Lay had succeeded in corrupting not only his company’s own employees, but also corrupted and thus destroyed the Arthur Anderson accounting firm, one of the five biggest in the nation.

Pandemic binge-watchers may be more familiar with the storylines of the streaming shows Billions, Yellowstone or Succession. All show the power of culture being defined by a ruthless rule-breaker at the top.

Or perhaps you heard about a small-time hustler named Rodrigo Duterte who ran the Philippine town of Davao for 22 years, bringing it fame as the place with the highest murder rate and the second-highest rape rate in all of the Philippines.

When Duterte became president in 2016, murders and rapes exploded across the country: he authorized and oversaw so many crimes — including thousands of politically motivated killings — that he’s now being pursued by the International Criminal Court.

These examples show how a culture of criminality — be it corporate or political — flows from the top down.

When a criminal is in charge, he sets the tone and becomes the role model for the company or country, just like parents set the moral tone for families.

Put a criminal in charge and you get more crime. It’s really that simple.

It may take a few years for the criminal culture to permeate the entire organization or society, or for young people marinated in the leader’s criminality to come of age and begin acting out, but the number one way to increase crime in a company or society is to put a crook in charge.

Which is why it’s ironic that Newt Gingrich says Republicans should use the issue of today’s “crime wave” as a cudgel against Democrats in the elections coming up this fall.

For four long years, we had a rapist, tax cheat, embezzler, fraudster, mob associate and criminal as President.

Is it any wonder that America’s criminal class has been emboldened?

Or that young people who came of age during his presidency are choosing crime as a way to make a quick buck?

They watched, after all, as Trump tried his best to make it easier for other criminals of his ilk, gutting the IRS and promoting hundreds of unqualified hacks to the federal courts, even as he got away with committing the 10 prosecutable instances of blatant obstruction of justice that the Mueller investigation revealed.

Trump’s Secretary of Commerce was called a “professional grifter” by Forbes magazine; his Secretary of the Treasury was known as the “Foreclosure King” after allegedly hiring people to illegally robo-sign thousands of fraudulent documents and using them to make millions by evicting over 30,000 California residents from their homes.

Trump’s kids were convicted of running a fraudulent “charity” and are allegedly tied into hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of never–prosecuted tax and bank fraud schemes.

His “fixer” and lawyer, Michael Cohen, went to federal prison for a campaign finance scheme that Trump not only oversaw but signed the checks for, but still seems to have gotten away with.

Five of his Cabinet Secretaries were referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution by their own agencies’ Inspectors General: Trump’s morally challenged crony Bill Barr killed the prosecutions.

And Trump tried to overthrow the government of the United States right out in the open, and over 1000 Republican officials who had taken an oath to uphold the public trust chose to cooperate with his criminal scheme.

Given all that, how can any anybody be astonished that criminality has crept into the broader American culture?

The danger we all face now is that Republicans could succeed in convincing America that this Trump-inspired “crime wave” is best solved by electing more Republicans in his mold.

“Law and Order” has been a dog-whistle signature of theirs for decades, since the notorious criminal (treason, bribery and hiring a burglary) Richard Nixon put it at the center of his 1968 and 1972 elections.

George HW Bush had his agents set up a Black high school student to sell them cocaine across the street from the White House so Bush could wave the bag of white powder on national TV. Bush got a powerful campaign commercial; teenager Keith Jackson got a 10-year prison sentence. The judge who reluctantly sentenced Jackson said of President Bush, “He used you, in the sense of making a big drug speech.”

Crime is powerful stuff. Being the victim of crime is to experience genuine trauma. As the famous psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out, when a person is experiencing a threat to their own safety pretty much all other considerations go out of mind.

Getting Medicare For All passed would be nice, but if somebody is breaking into your house or driving your car down the street it quickly becomes a secondary or tertiary consideration.

Crime is visceral and there’s nothing else that hits us so deeply at the level of survival, the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.

Democrats must both put forth bold initiatives to solve this problem and prepare for the coming political onslaught.

“Defund the police” has been used against Democrats with success in numerous races since the Black Lives Matter marches in protest of George Floyd’s murder. The GOP distorted and amplified the original outraged message, and the press played their typical role, bringing exaggerated Republican talking points about Democrats wanting to “get rid of the police” into every home in America.

Democrats must find and promote “reform the police,” “community policing,” and other crime-reducing success stories from Democratic-run cities to promote, similar to the way Republicans nationwide held up Rudy Giuliani’s “no broken windows” and “stop and frisk” policies with so much political success back in the day.

Giuliani’s policies were mostly cosmetic and appealed to racist impulses; Democrats must highlight actual success stories that can be replicated in communities of all sizes coast-to-coast.

Republicans have also succeeded in characterizing “crime” as something that’s done mostly by poor people and minorities, a meme reinforced by decades of TV shows and movies.

But Trump’s white collar class of corporate crime costs Americans more money and leads to more deaths. And the Republican Trump administration brought us an absolute corporate crime spree.

As Michael Hobbes documented at Huffington Post’s Highline:

“Since 2015, criminal penalties levied by the Justice Department have fallen from $3.6 billion to roughly $110 million. Illicit profits seized by the Securities and Exchange Commission have reportedly dropped by more than half. In 2018, a year when nearly 19,000 people were sentenced in federal court for drug crimes alone, prosecutors convicted just 37 corporate criminals who worked at firms with more than 50 employees. …

“In 2017, researchers estimated that fraud by America’s largest corporations cost Americans up to $360 billion annually... That’s roughly two decades’ worth of street crime every single year.”

A single billionaire family recently appears to have gotten away with an estimated $10 billion while causing more American deaths than all shootings, muggings, murders and carjackings combined over the past thirty years.

Our regulatory agencies that should be catching corporate criminals have been gutted since the Reagan era, when “deregulation” became a Republican religion and corporate crime began to explode.

Reframing “policing” and “the definition of crime” are just two examples: this is fertile ground for Democratic strategists and policy planners. There are a whole range of others.

Donald Trump launched a one-man crime spree run out of the Oval Office, and the GOP is now planning to paint Democrats as criminal-coddlers.

In reality, Democrats are not anti-cop or opposed to laws being enforced in a fair and orderly society:

New York City just elected a Democratic former police chief as their mayor. A former cop in Florida, now a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, may well take on Senator Marco Rubio in the next election.

Democrats need to get ahead of this issue of crime — both perception and policy-wise — before it buries them.

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 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 Countyv. 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.

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