Thom Hartmann

Trump's shadow Cabinet is part of his ongoing coup

Even though the number of dying Trump followers increases daily, his coup rolls on.

Now, in the Trump shadow-universe he's created a shadow-government for his shadow-fans. It's not as wacky an idea as it seems and suggests Trump's solidifying his control over the GOP going toward 2022 and 2024.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

Last November, on election day, I suggested on my radio program that if the Biden ticket were to lose (something we did not expect, but after 2016 who knows what can happen) they should set up a "shadow government" to be a visible and ongoing opposition and alternative to Trump's second term.

Apparently, somebody on Team Trump was listening. Or they copped the idea from the same place I did — the UK, Canada and Australia, all countries where the party out of power assembles a "shadow government" with a "shadow cabinet" that regularly informs voters of how and why they'd run the government differently were they in power.

Friday, Trump's last Chief of Staff, former Tea Party Congressman Mark Meadows, appeared on a fringe rightwing TV internet show and repeatedly referred to Trump's "Cabinet."

"We met with several of our Cabinet members tonight," Meadows said. "We actually had a follow-up ... meeting with some of our Cabinet members."

Referring to Trump as "the president," just as Trump does himself in the daily fundraising emails I receive from him, Meadows added, Trump is "a president who is fully engaged, highly focused and remaining on task."

In other words, the coup rolls on.

Voltaire's old quote, that "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities," is playing out right in front of our eyes.

People are dying for Trump, getting into fights with hospital staff as they're about to be intubated, insisting that Trump was right when he said that Democrats' reaction to the growing pandemic was just their latest "hoax."

Jim Jones, as I noted in an earlier op-ed, was a piker by today's standards: he only convinced 913 people to commit suicide. Trump has convinced millions to expose themselves to a deadly virus, and at least 400,000 who didn't need to die are now no longer with us.

Across America mini-Jim Jones' like Pastor Greg Locke are rising up to preach the gospel that vaccines and masks are the work of the devil and getting sick or dying for Trump is a sure path to heaven.

Meanwhile, the coup rolls on.

Florida, although not alone among Red states and counties in encouraging death and disease, is apparently leading the nation both in megalomaniac preachers and Covid deaths.

Ron DeSantis, who won his election by only 32,463 votes (after his party purged more than 7 percent — over one million — of Florida's voters from the rolls in the preceding 2 years) has now overseen the death of over 39,000 people in his state alone.

And now DeSantis, apparently trying to live up to his moniker of "DeathSantis," has issued an executive order forbidding Florida public schools from requiring schoolchildren to wear masks. Voltaire had nothing on this guy, and he's #2 behind Trump in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

But no matter how many they kill, the coup rolls on.

It also turns out sedition and treason are pretty profitable. Bizarre scam notwithstanding, Trump, DeSantis and the entire Trump contingent in Congress are making big bucks off saying that avoiding Covid is for pansies and that Trump actually won an election he lost by 7 million votes in 2020.

Trump is sitting on over $100 million from his grift just in the 6 months since he lost the election, and DeSantis has raised over $44 million. Marjorie Traitor Greene raked in over $3 million in the first three months of this year while she did virtually nothing in Congress (having lost all her committee assignments for lying to voters) while other "Trumpy" Republicans are rolling in the dough as well.

As they drain their followers of cash, the coup rolls on.

But no part of the Trump scam is as troubling as is its potential to ultimately end democracy in this country (and, eventually, around the world).

A recent CBS News poll found that about half of all registered Republican voters thought rigging elections for their own party was a better idea than promoting ideas that would win elections.

"Almost half of Republicans admit they're ready to ditch democracy" read the ominous headline in The Washington Post.

The rightwing billionaire oligarchs' best bet for eliminating democracy and keeping their regulations and taxes low is to make sure Trump's coup rolls on.

While "shadow" governments in the other three big English-speaking countries are all designed to simply inform voters about the differences between the parties and how the out-of-power party would govern given current circumstances, Trump's shadow Cabinet is part of his ongoing coup attempt.

He began his coup attempt the day after he lost the election, when he publicly repudiated the election results and began harassing the Department of Justice and multiple Secretaries of State and election officials to declare that Biden only won because of "fraud."

All he needed, he told them, was for the DOJ to declare official doubts about the outcome and he and his "R congressmen" would take care of the rest.

"Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen," Trump told then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

Rosen and the DOJ didn't go along, so Trump simply switched strategy from coercion to an outright murder attempt on Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi as his coup rolled on.

The high point of his coup was on January 6th when he encouraged his followers to attack the Capitol to "stop the steal," and refused to mobilize the DC National Guard until long after his terrorists had left the building. (Unlike every other state, the DC National Guard can only be activated by the President because DC has no governor.)

Making sure the coup never ends but keeps rolling on is probably Trump's best chance to avoid going to jail for crimes ranging from rape to bank fraud, sedition and treason. Running for office gives him both some political and legal immunities and access to more cash, so he's going to persist and amp up the volume of his efforts.

But Trump's neofascist coup is no longer limited to himself and his fellow DC insiders.

State after state is being taken over from the ground up by Trump supporters who want to end multiracial democracy in America and turns us back into a white-supremacist ethnostate.

From Oregon to Florida and all across states in between, local school boards are being seized by anti-American supporters of the former reality TV star.

The world watches with horror and our actual president, Joe Biden, finds himself, along with Democrats in Congress, frustrated at every turn by Trump's loyalists and a few Democratic senators who are taking money from the same billionaires who fund the GOP and empower Trump.

Meanwhile, the coup rolls on.

Sen. Josh Hawley has a bill to stop kids from learning the true history of America

Former slave-state Missouri Senator Josh Hawley doesn't want America's white children to be exposed to the simple reality that slavery was not only legal at the founding of our country but was, in several places, written into our Constitution.

And that the rest of America subsidized the slave-owners' states and continues to subsidize them to this day.

Hawley, of course, is the guy who gave a fist-salute to the armed white supremacist traitors who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th to assassinate Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. He hopes to ride his white supremacy shtick to the White House.

Doubling down on the GOP notion that America is a nation exclusively of, by and for white people, Hawley has now proposed a law he calls "The Love America Act of 2021." The bill is only 3 ½ pages long. There's a bit of legalese to make it into legislation, defining what "school" means, etc., but this is what it says:

RESTRICTION ON FEDERAL FUNDS FOR TEACHING THAT CERTAIN DOCUMENTS ARE PRODUCTS OF WHITE SUPREMACY OR RACISM — …[N]o Federal funds shall be provided to an educational agency or school that teaches that the Pledge of Allegiance, the Declaration of Independence, or the Constitution of the United States is a product of white supremacy or racism.

That's it. That's the gist of the entire bill.

In other words, public schools that teach the actual history of our Constitution lose all their federal funds — our tax dollars — and essentially go out of business. It's really just that simple: white supremacist Republicans like Hawley don't want your kids to know the true history of America.

Black children, they say, are old and tough enough to experience racism but white children are just waaay too young and fragile to learn about it.

Hawley's protests notwithstanding, racism and white supremacy were very much a part of our founding documents. Consider "Father of the Constitution" (and slaveholder) James Madison's notes from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.

It was the third week of August and the issue of America taxing "property" (a code word for slaves) got tied to the debate about how many representatives each state should have in the US House of Representatives.

The five slave states wanted all their enslaved people counted toward representation — even though they couldn't vote or enjoy any of the rights of citizenship — but didn't want to pay any "property tax" on them. The eight "free" states vehemently objected both to counting enslaved people to increase the slave states' representation in Congress and to subsidizing them via tax law.

It produced one of the great speeches at the Constitutional Convention, which Madison dutifully transcribed.

Gouverneur Morris ("Gouverneur" was his first name, not his title) represented Pennsylvania, and single-handedly wrote the Preamble to the Constitution. He was 35 years old, a lawyer and a graduate of Kings College (what we now call Columbia University). And he was an ardent abolitionist.

"He never would concur in upholding domestic slavery," Madison wrote, summarizing Morris' speech. "It was a nefarious institution. It was the curse of heaven on the states where it prevailed."

Warming to his topic, Morris began an extended rant about how destructive slavery was to the new nation they were birthing. It illustrates how wrong Hawley is in saying that racism and white supremacy had nothing to do with writing the Constitution.

"Compare the [slave]-free regions of the Middle States, where a rich and noble cultivation marks the prosperity and happiness of the people," Morris said, "with the misery and poverty which overspread the barren wastes of Virginia, Maryland, and the other states having slaves. Travel through the whole continent, and you behold the prospect continually varying with the appearance and disappearance of slavery."

Morris said the enslavement of people was a curse on America that was visible to anybody who simply looked. The free north was prosperous; the south, where people were enslaved, was poor.

"The moment you leave the Eastern [slave] States," he said, "and enter New York, the effects of the institution become visible. Passing through the Jerseys, and entering Pennsylvania, every criterion of superior improvement witnesses the change. Proceed southwardly, and every step you take, through the great regions of slaves, presents a desert increasing with the increasing proportion of these wretched beings."

But the white supremacist slaveholders representing the slave states in the Convention wanted more power in Congress and lower taxes in their own states, much like today's Republicans. The key to that, they believed, was having some or all of their states' enslaved Black people counted toward representation in Congress, even though they were in chains and unable to vote.

In an echo of this very argument last month the white supremacists of the Georgia legislature passed, and Governor Brian Kemp signed into law in front of a painting of a slave plantation, legislation that would give Georgia's Republicans the ability to simply toss out the votes of people in largely Black districts with the excuse that they "suspect," with or without evidence, that "fraud" happened.

Georgia has already begun to purge local voting officials in Black districts, replacing them with safe white Republicans who will make sure elections produce the "right" outcome.

It's such a radical law that the CEO of the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project, Nsé Ufot, bluntly told Politico that unless the law is overturned by ending the filibuster and passing the For The People Act, "we're fucked."

As if we're torn in half through some weird time machine, Madison continued with his transcription of Gouverneur Morris' speech.

"Upon what principle is it that the slaves shall be computed in the representation?" Morris demanded of his colleagues. "Are they men? Then make them citizens and let them vote. Are they property? Why, then, is no other property included [in determining representation}? The houses in this city (Philadelphia) are worth more than all the wretched slaves who cover the rice swamps of South Carolina."

And then Morris nailed down precisely how and why racism and white supremacy were written into the Constitution with the so-called "3/5ths compromise" (among other places) that gave southern states more members in the House of Representatives than their white population would justify.

"The admission of slaves into the representation, when fairly explained, comes to this,—that the [white] inhabitant of Georgia and South Carolina, who go to the coast of Africa, and, in defiance of the most sacred laws of humanity, tears away his fellow-creatures from their dearest connections and damns them to the most cruel bondage, shall have more votes… than the citizen of Pennsylvania or New Jersey, who views, with a laudable horror, so nefarious a practice."

It was all about using racism and white supremacy to increase the power of white people in the South, and then force the rest of the country to subsidize them.

Keep in mind that Democrats in the US Senate today represent 41 million more people than do the Senate's Republicans. And, echoing 1787, Georgia and 17 other Republican-controlled mostly-former-slave-states have now put into law the power for them to deny the vote to Black people or simply refuse to count their votes.

But back to 1787:

Morris paused to gather his thoughts, and then, Madison noted, continued, this time calling out the Southern oligarchs who flaunted their riches made possible by slave labor while asking the northern states to pay for their defense and otherwise subsidize them with northern tax dollars.

"He would add," Madison wrote, "that domestic slavery is the most prominent feature in the aristocratic countenance of the proposed Constitution. The vassalage of the poor has ever been the favorite offspring of aristocracy."

Morris was probably shouting at this point; such language is rarely found in our founding documents and may help explain why Madison kept his "notes" secret until his death nearly 50 years later. Morris pointed out how the south was essentially demanding that the north subsidize them financially, something that continues to this day.

"And what is the proposed compensation to the Northern States," Morris demanded, "for a sacrifice of every principle of right, of every impulse of humanity? … The … tea used by a northern freeman will pay more tax than the whole consumption of the miserable slave...."

Morris lost the argument and the southern slave states got extra representation in Congress along with no federal taxation of their "property." But the GOP sure doesn't want you or your kids to know that.

If Hawley's bill were to become law, any public school that taught Morris' anti-slavery speech would lose all federal funding. This is how white supremacy works today and, indeed, has worked in this nation since our founding.

Their strategy is straightforward: Control history (from Texas editing Martin Luther King out of its textbooks to generations of statues of Confederate generals), suppress the political power of Black people while subsidizing Red states, and do it all with a thin patina of legalese.

Northern states generally make it easy for all people to vote while former slave states do everything they can to suppress the Black vote (along with the votes of young people and older Social Security voters).

Former slave states like Hawley's Missouri represent the overwhelming majority of states to have passed voter suppression legislation. And they're still hustling tax dollars from the rest of us, just as Morris complained about in 1787.

Northern states get back a fraction of every dollar they send to Washington, DC while former slave states get as much as $2 for every tax dollar they send the federal government.

As the AP noted in 2017:

Mississippi received $2.13 for every tax dollar the state sent to Washington in 2015, according to the Rockefeller study. West Virginia received $2.07, Kentucky got $1.90 and South Carolina got $1.71.
Meanwhile, New Jersey received 74 cents in federal spending for tax every dollar the state sent to Washington. New York received 81 cents, Connecticut received 82 cents and Massachusetts received 83 cents.

White supremacy, racism and the rest of America subsidizing Red states weren't just realities in 1787: they're alive and well today.

Hawley and his white supremacist buddies in the GOP want to keep it that way, and their hateful "Love America Act" is just the latest disgusting part of their strategy. We've been tolerating and subsidizing these losers since 1787 and it's time to stop.

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 actual reason why Republicans and their media are discouraging people from getting vaccinated

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a CNN Medical Analyst, said last week, "A surprising amount of death will occur soon..." But why, when the deadly Delta variant is sweeping the world, are Republicans and their media warning people not to get vaccinated?

There's always a reason. People don't do things — particularly things involving a lot of effort and a need for consistency — without a reason. It just doesn't happen. No matter how bizarre, twisted or dysfunctional the reason may be, there's always a reason.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told Jake Tapper on CNN last Sunday, "I don't have a really good reason why this [unwillingness to get vaccinated] is happening."

But even if he can't think of a reason why Republicans would trash talk vaccination and people would believe them, it's definitely there.

Which is why it's important to ask a couple of simple questions that all point to the actual reason why Republicans and their media are discouraging people from getting vaccinated:

1. Why did Trump get vaccinated in secret after Joe Biden won the election and his January 6th coup attempt failed?

2. Why are Fox "News" personalities discouraging people from getting vaccinated while refusing to say if they and the people they work with have been protected by vaccination?

3. Why was one of the biggest applause lines at CPAC: "They were hoping — the government was hoping — that they could sort of sucker 90% of the population into getting vaccinated and it isn't happening!"

4. Why are Republican legislators in states around the country pushing laws that would "ban" private businesses from asking to see proof of vaccination status (they call it "banning vaccine passports")?

5. Why, when President Biden suggested sending volunteers door-to-door into low-vaccination communities to let people know how and where they could get vaccinated, did rightwing media go nuts about "government thugs" coming to your door to "force" vaccines on you?

6. Why are about half of all the Republicans in Congress refusing to say if they've gotten a vaccine or not? For that matter, why do the CPAC speakers who are trashing vaccines refuse to say if they're vaccinated or not?

7. Why would a Newsmax host trash-talk vaccines saying, "I feel like a vaccination in a weird way is just generally kind of going against nature"?

8. Why did Republican Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota downplay the dangers of Covid last week by bragging that she never shut her state down (and Ron DeSantis did) when SD has 230 Covid deaths per 100,000 people while similar low-population states like Vermont and Oregon are at 41 and 66 deaths per 100,000 respectively?

I hope I'm proven wrong on this, but the only possible explanation I can see for all this activity that seems so well-coordinated and largely consistent is that they all think there's something in it for them. And what might that be?

Political power. And, of course, the eventual wealth that often comes with political power, particularly corrupt power. Retired Republicans make a lot of money.

Put simply, I believe these Republicans are trying to promote outbreaks of Covid in America to soften or damage Joe Biden's red-hot economy on the assumption that if the economy tanks then people will vote out Democrats and vote in Republicans in 2022 and 2024.

As Pat Buchanan wrote today: "Are the Democrats headed for their Little Bighorn, with President Joe Biden as Col. Custer? The wish, you suggest, is father to the thought."

They're not just willing to let tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans die just to win the next two elections, they're actively encouraging that outcome.

Death is their electoral strategy.

Is there any other possible explanation?

They're not stupid (although they're banking on their audience being, at least, poorly informed) and most have college degrees (and Lauren Boebert finally got her GED). Even if a few of them fell down the Facebook or YouTube rabbit hole into anti-vaxxer territories, they still have no shortage of actual medical experts and staffers who know how to use Google available to them.

It's remotely possible they just hate and want to damage the US, and a few who are pushing vaccine "hesitancy" like Ron Johnson and John Kennedy recently celebrated the 4th of July in Moscow, but it's unlikely that they'd take the chance of coordinating with a foreign power to kill Americans (even if much of the foreign troll activity on social media is also trashing vaccines to American social media users).

A bizarre faux masculinity could be behind it, the way Trump tried to promote the idea that only wimps wear masks, but, seriously, do you really think these folks are taking fashion/appearance tips from an obese geriatric guy with a huge comb-over who wears absurd amounts of makeup, contacts, men's diapers and false teeth? And what's "masculine" about slowly dying by drowning in your own snot? Or becoming unable to get an erection, as happens to a significant number of men who get Covid?

It's certainly not fear of, or concern about, the vaccine itself; whether they'll admit it or not, virtually all of these Republicans and media stars telling people to be afraid of getting a shot have been secretly vaccinated themselves, just like Trump and his family were in January. As CNN Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, said, "Over 100 members of Congress, all of them GOP members, refuse to tell their constituents whether they have been vaccinated. They've all been vaccinated, every single one of those characters have been vaccinated."

This also has nothing to do with "conservative" ideology. Vaccination has been a part of the American landscape since George Washington ordered his troops inoculated against smallpox during the Revolutionary war, and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower (and his VP, Richard Nixon) had schoolchildren across the nation get the polio vaccine in the 1950s (I was one of them who lined up in school to get it and remember it well).

As California governor, Ronald Reagan oversaw a public school system that required vaccination for admission and conservatives like Bill Kristol and George W. Bush are proudly vaccinated against Covid. Mitch McConnell, who had polio as a child, said, "As a victim of polio myself, I'm a big fan of vaccinations, and if I were a parent who had a child … being subject to getting any particular disease, I would come down on the side of vaccinations." This is not about fearing or not understanding vaccines.

They're certainly not being paid by "big Pharma" to trash vaccines, and you can bet your last dollar that the billionaires who pay for big Republican events are not only themselves vaccinated but have made sure the entire staff of their multiple mansions, from the cooks to the pool boys to the masseuses and the live-in chefs are all vaccinated.

So, what's left?

Politics, and the power and money that derive from it.

The reason why Donald Trump spent much of 2020 desperately encouraging people to keep shopping and working was because he knew that when an economy collapses in the 18 months before an election, the party in power always loses.

In his desperation to get the economy back in shape, Trump even issued an executive order forcing mostly Black and Hispanic meat-packing and slaughterhouse employees back to work under threat of imprisonment.

But, sure enough, the economy tanked anyway and Democrats now control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

Thus, it appears that today's entire GOP strategy of encouraging "vaccine hesitancy" is to try to replicate that dynamic, to tank the economy, only this time in a way that works in favor of Republicans.

Encouraging Americans to die so they can win elections. That's how low today's GOP has sunk.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. 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.




'There is but one remedy': It's time for the Senate to trigger the nuclear option

The US Senate is back in session this week, as Texas Republicans prepare to pass another massive voter suppression bill. The only remedy available to the American people is for the federal government to use its constitutional authority to regulate federal elections to block what President Biden has referred to as the GOP's "Jim Crow in the 21st century."

The House of Representatives passed a law that would block much of the damage done by Texas' and other Red states' laws — the For The People Act (HR1 and SB1). But Republicans in the Senate are blocking it with a filibuster.

But the filibuster is not inviolable.

The Senate has drilled three major holes in the filibuster since 1917, each time citing the Constitution as their rationale, and if they're not able to end this arcane, historically racist device then it's time to drill another "constitutional" hole in it for voting rights.

About those already-passed "constitutional" holes:

The filibuster was made possible by a Senate rule change in 1806, but didn't actually get used as a serious way to block debate on legislation until the arrival of "Father of the Confederacy" John C. Calhoun in the Senate; he began using it aggressively in 1837 to block any discussion of the abolition of slavery. (The year before, in 1836, the House had banned any discussion of slavery at all, a law John Quincy Adams delighted in breaking every day the House was in session.)

When a senator invoked a filibuster, it ground the entire Senate to a halt until the original proposed legislation was withdrawn, causing the near-instant death of numerous attempts by Northern senators to weaken or cripple laws relating to slavery in the South. There was quite literally no way around it, or to continue Senate business, other than to withdraw the proposed legislation.

By 1917, it had mostly been used to block discussion (post-Civil War) of Civil Rights legislation, although with World War I looming and German submarines regularly torpedoing US commercial ships, President Woodrow Wilson wanted Congress to appropriate money to arm some of those Merchant Marine ships with anti-submarine depth charges.

Southern members of Congress, led by House Majority Leader and notorious white supremacist Claude Kitchin (D-NC), opposed the measure because he and his southern buddies were still essentially fighting the Civil War and didn't want to "further enrich Wall Street."

Over a dozen of Kitchin's allies in the Senate declared a filibuster and President Wilson, furious, went to the public.

The March 5, 1917 New York Times front page was filled all the way across the top with the screaming headline: ARMED SHIP BILL BEATEN; PRESIDENT ISSUES A STATEMENT SAYING WE ARE MADE 'HELPLESS AND CONTEMPTIBLE,' WITHOUT REMEDY UNTIL THE SENATE AMENDS ITS RULES; 33 SENATORS ALREADY PLEDGED TO END OBSTRUCTION.

"The Senate of the United States is the only legislative body in the world which cannot act when its majority is ready for action," stormed President Wilson. "A little group of willful men, representing no opinion but their own, have rendered the great government of the United States helpless and contemptible."

The nation erupted.

Filibustering senators were burned in effigy in multiple states and newspapers across the nation called for their defeat in the next election. People were outraged. It was the talk of barbershops and Grange halls and the VFW.

President Wilson demanded action, saying, "The remedy? There is but one remedy. The only remedy is that the rules of the Senate should be so altered that it can act…and save the country from disaster."

To resolve the crisis, Senator Thomas Walsh (D-MT) proposed what he called a "Constitutional Option." His logic was straightforward.

The Constitution:

  • Requires each body of Congress to reset or re-ratify its rules at the beginning of every Congress (every 2 years)
  • Requires Congress to conduct the people's business in a republican fashion (by vote)
  • Requires elections every two years for 1/3 of the Senate, and the newer senators are freshly representing the most recent "will of the people"
  • Therefore anything that can permanently block the Senate from doing any constitutionally-mandated business is blocking republican democracy and thus the will of the people in violation of the spirit, if not the text, of the Constitution itself

Walsh laid it out clearly: "It is because the new members, coming fresh from the people, ought to have the right to be heard and be accorded the opportunity to vote in the light of information gleaned at every stage of the passage of a bill or resolution."

A filibuster that couldn't be overcome, Walsh said, effectively blocked "[t]he sense of the people ... concerning measures passed as well as those proposed."

The Senate re-convened and passed Walsh's "Constitutional Option," putting it into the Senate's rules later that week so, going forward, a 2/3rds supermajority of senators could overcome a filibuster so the Senate could resume business.

In response, Americans stopped burning senators in effigy and America entered World War I the following month.

Over the years since, the 2/3rds requirement was reduced to 3/5ths, senators can now invoke a filibuster with an email, and "two-track" was introduced so filibusters don't slow down other Senate business, but the filibuster remained.

In 1980, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) amended the "Constitutional Option" to exclude taxing and spending legislation from being filibustered.

His rationale was that, because spending money to do the nation's business is a defined responsibility of Congress in Article I of the Constitution, taxing and spending legislation (within limits) could ignore the filibuster and be passed with a simple majority vote.

Today we call this "Budget Reconciliation" or just "reconciliation" and it's been used over 25 times.

The 1917 "Constitutional Option" — that a filibuster could be overcome with a supermajority vote — stands to this day, but using the Constitution as a rationale for blowing holes in the filibuster like the Senate did in 1917 and 1980 got a name change more recently.

Eighteen years ago, in 2003 when Democrats were filibustering one of George W. Bush's judges, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott renamed the Constitutional Option as the "Nuclear Option" and suggested it should be expanded from just Article I work (taxing and spending) to include Article III types of work (approving judges).

Senator Lott didn't get his way; it took Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to include approving federal judges (with the exception of the Supreme Court) under the Constitutional Option/Nuclear Option. On November 21, 2013, after years of Obama's judicial nominations being routinely blocked by Republican filibusters, Reid pushed through a new set of Senate rules that exempted judges from the filibuster.

Approving judges, after all, is also an explicit duty of the United States Senate found in the Constitution.

Mitch McConnell expanded the Constitutional Option/Nuclear Option in April of 2017 when Democrats declared an intent to filibuster Trump's first SCOTUS nominee, Neal Gorsuch, who replaced Merrick Garland as the nominee-in-waiting when President Obama's term in office expired.

Thus, today the Senate has an exclusion to the filibuster so that all the Senate's advise and consent obligations can be performed with regard to judges with a simple majority vote.

Thus, two of the duties of the Senate listed in the Constitution — appropriating and spending money, and ratifying the President's judicial nominees — are today exempt from the filibuster.

It's time to add a third.

The Elections Clause of the Constitution empowers Congress to "make or alter" state regulations with regard to elections.

If the filibuster itself can't be done away with or turned into a "Jimmy Stewart filibuster," then — argues Congressman Jim Clyburn — another constitutional obligation of Congress should be included in the "Constitutional/Nuclear Option" Senate rules, this one to protect citizens' constitutional right to vote.

"We need to get rid of the filibuster for constitutional issues," Clyburn said, "just as we have done for budget issues. If you want to argue about how high a wall ought to be, whether or not you ought to build a wall, those are issues that are political… but you ought not be filibustering -- nobody should filibuster anybody's constitutional rights. We have done it for the budget under reconciliation. And reconciliation is a much better word to apply to constitutional issues than it is to the budget."

Clyburn is right. As Thomas Paine pointed out, the right to vote is foundational to all other rights and is what gives legitimacy to our government itself. In 1795, in his Dissertation on the First Principles of Government, Paine wrote:

"The true and only true basis of representative government is equality of rights. Every man has a right to one vote, and no more in the choice of representatives. … To take away this right is to reduce a man to slavery, for slavery consists in being subject to the will of another, and he that has not a vote in the election of representatives is in this case. The proposal therefore to disfranchise any class of men is as criminal as the proposal to take away property."

Paine was right, as is Clyburn. Senator Schumer, if he can't get his caucus to go along with more forceful actions like eliminating the filibuster altogether, should do what his predecessors Senators Baker (1980), Reid (2013) and McConnell (2017) did: drill another "Constitutional" hole in the filibuster.

The right to vote is far more important than Congress spending money or approving judges. It deserves at least equal treatment, and, like in 1917, the crisis is upon us.

How the Reagan Revolution collapsed America — and the Florida condo

The collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo building in Florida, the deterioration of infrastructure all across America, and our failure to plan for or respond to the threat of climate change all have the same source: greed. And it's killing us.

Prior to the 1980s, Americans understood the need to keep a healthy cash-flow going or set aside reserves to cover the future cost of maintaining things. We had a top personal federal income tax bracket on the morbidly rich of around 74% and an almost-50% top corporate income tax bracket for those corporations that were essentially money machines.

As a result, infrastructure dating all the way back to the transcontinental railroad system built during the administration of Abraham Lincoln were well-maintained and reliable. Roads, schools and hospitals were shiny-new and state-of-the-art; even the older buildings constructed during and before FDR's New Deal were well-maintained. And, although we hadn't yet heard of the need to concern ourselves with climate change, our government was able to fund itself to deal with crises.

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, for example, the US budget deficit stood at a mere $908 billion; we funded things with taxes and mostly maintained a necessary national debt so savers and federal and state agencies would have a safe place to park cash in treasuries.

And we understood that investing in America produced great returns on that investment. When World War II ended and our national debt was 119% of GDP (about where it is now), President Dwight Eisenhower borrowed even more money to build the interstate highway system, which produced such an explosion of economic activity that the added tax revenues paid down the national debt to 60% of GDP by the end of his presidency.

Similarly, the GI Bill that gave 7.8 million mostly young men free college and low-interest home loans proved a fabulous investment.

Since college graduates make so much more than people who only have a high-school education, and higher-income people pay higher tax rates, every $1 invested in the educational part of the GI Bill during its life from 1944 to 1956 produced an additional $7 dollars in tax revenue to our government over the lifetime of those now-well-educated veterans.

Condos have a slightly more checkered history, but it parallels the mentality of the "greed is good" Reagan Revolution. While the idea of condominiums goes back to the 19th century, the first modern condo built in America was Graystone Manor in Utah in 1960.

When a developer builds and then sells condo units, there are two parts to the selling price that buyers take into consideration: the sale price and the HOA (Home-Owners Association) fee. That fee covers maintenance and operation of the condo, from painting and landscaping to replacing carpeting to fixing leaky pipes, and is typically a few hundred dollars a month.

From a buyer's point of view, the monthly HOA fee is mentally added to the monthly mortgage payment to determine how much they can afford to borrow to buy the condo. Thus, the lower the HOA fee, the higher the mortgage the buyer can afford and the higher the initial price the developer can charge — money that the developer walks away with.

Therefore, for most of the 80 years developers have been selling condos, they've ignored long-term maintenance costs when calculating HOA fees to keep them low, making the sale of the condos more profitable to the developer. And, for similar reasons, HOA boards are often reluctant to raise monthly fees to build a reserve for future major maintenance projects because it lowers their own resale values.

The problem comes 20, 30 or 40 years down the road when the condo needs a new roof or major repairs and there's nothing in the reserves to pay for it. Which is why the residents of Champlain Towers South were, just in the past few months, hit with an $80,000-per-unit one-time assessment to pay for the structural deterioration the 2018 survey found.

The developer walks away with the initial cash, previous homeowners got a free ride, and people who bought-in during later years get hit with the costs of major repairs, particularly when HOA boards choose to run the condo with no consideration of the future like Republican's have run the country since 1981.

Which is pretty much the same thing that Reaganomics brought us with the entire nation. The billionaires who owned Reagan didn't want to continue paying a 74% top tax rate, so they got him and Congress to drop that top rate all the way down to 25%.

To deal with the loss of revenue, we essentially stopped maintaining the country while Reagan and the first President Bush subsidized the wealthy by more than tripling the national debt to $2.6 trillion in their 12 years.

Which is why today our rail system can't support a fast train, our water systems are polluted and unreliable, our schools and bridges are collapsing, and our electric grid can't handle a winter storm or summer heat in Texas.

Meanwhile, the billionaires of the fossil fuel industry have known for over 50 years that their product would produce a global climate emergency that would cost trillions (indeed, has already cost America trillions).

Instead of planning to shift to green power over time, though, they funded a multi-decade national campaign to lie about global warming so they could keep churning their profits, leaving future generations — and us, now — to deal with the costs and consequences, including millions of annual deaths worldwide.

Several states have changed their condo rules to either require (Florida has not) or "recommend" that developers write HOA rules that require a reserve fund for future major repairs, although enforcement is rare and these rules simply don't apply for substantial long-term needs in most states. (Hopefully the Champlain Towers South experience will cause some states to wake up and change these laws and rules.)

Similarly, some states (almost exclusively Blue States) have raised state taxes enough over the years to be able to continue to repair and rebuild their states' infrastructure, given that the federal government has largely abdicated that responsibility ever since 1981's Reagan Revolution.

Red states, with their infamously low taxes, have become sacrifice zones when it comes to infrastructure and, ironically, will benefit the most from President Biden's infrastructure proposals.

Looking forward, condo developers should be required to set HOA fees high enough to build long-term reserves, our nation and the world need a carbon tax on the fossil fuel industry, and federal and red-state governments have to raise taxes on wealthy people and corporations back to pre-1981 levels to cover improvements and long-term maintenance.

If we fail to reverse the Reagan Revolution and again plan/build for the future, this 40-year con by wealthy developers, fossil fuel companies, and morbidly rich billionaires who'd rather shoot themselves into space than pay their taxes will continue.

And more people will die.

New COVID wave could be another Trump-caused massacre

J. R. R. Tolkien wrote, "The burned hand teaches best. After that, advice about fire goes to the heart." It's a painful truth that people in red states, and red counties in blue and purple states, are about to learn.

Here comes Donald Trump's Final Massacre.

While multimillionaire well-vaccinated Fox "News" hosts continue to sow doubt about masks and Covid vaccines to jack up the billions in revenue the channel brings in every year for the Murdoch family, the CEO of a hospital chain in Missouri is begging them to tell the truth.

"The Delta variant is in the Ozarks," tweeted Steve Edwards, CEO of hospital chain Cox Health in Missouri. "We have been interviewed by NPR, CBS News, MSNBC, AP, Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, NYTimes but not @FoxNews."

This is a crisis now for Missouri because the Delta variant of the Covid virus is not only far more contagious than previous strains, but also more deadly. As Heather Hollingsworth writing for the AP notes, vaccination rates are very, very low in that state with one county clocking in at 13% and most counties "well short of 40%."

People in red counties across America are reporting on social media the same thing Louise and I saw when we visited a rural town in Oregon last weekend: nobody's wearing masks or practicing social distancing. They believe rightwing media's lies that Covid's "just like the flu" or "vaccines are experimental" or "it's all a Democrat hoax." They're following Trump's notion that masks make men look "weak."

As a result of this, Eric Frederick, the chief administrative officer of Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, tells the AP that they have been "inundated with COVID-19 patients as the variant first identified in India rips through the largely non-immunized community."

And it's not just hitting the elderly. "These patients are also younger," Hollingsworth writes, "than earlier in the pandemic — 60% to 65% of those in the ICU over the weekend at Mercy were under 40, according to Frederick, who noted that younger adults are much less likely to be vaccinated — and some are pregnant."

When the Covid virus first showed up in the United States in January of last year, then-president Donald Trump quietly told reporter Bob Woodward that it was both deadly and airborne.

"This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7th, 2020. "You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flu."

That's not, of course, what Trump and his lackeys told the American people, as they set up the deaths of over 600,000 Americans with more to come this year. "I wanted to always play it down," Trump told Woodward a month later. "I still like playing it down…"

It's a mantra Trump carried on right through his last weeks in office when he got himself and his wife secretly vaccinated in the White House, and, according to research published by the Brookings Institution, killed at least 400,000 Americans (and sickened millions more) who could have avoided infection if they'd listened to doctors instead of Republicans and rightwing media.

But there was a method to Trump's homicidal madness. He knew what every politician who's ever run for president or studied the history of presidential elections knows: when the economy goes into the tank before an election, the incumbent always loses.

Just ask Herbert Hoover; it was over 20 years until Republican Eisenhower retook the White House, and 60 years after the Republican Great Depression before Republicans regained solid control of the House of Representatives for more than a single congressional cycle.

Trump's strategy to keep the economy on track was straightforward: keep people shopping, working and playing so our production and consumption would keep the economy going throughout the election year. No matter how many people died, especially if they were Black.

After giving in to his science advisors for a few months in March and early April, he went right back to downplaying the virus and discouraging people from even wearing masks.

That turnaround came literally the week after the day, April 7th 2020, when the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Fox all led their news with the news that Black people were disproportionately dying from Covid relative to white people.

Suddenly rightwing media was all over the idea we must spread the virus far and wide to achieve "herd immunity," a move Trump and his people thought would largely spare Red state white people but decimate the Black community and Blue states as I documented here.

The virus beat Trump, of course; Joe Biden is now president and Democrats took control of the House and Senate, but the echo of that murderous political strategy is still killing Americans.

And with the Delta variant, which kills unvaccinated people of all ages but only rarely causes illness in people who are fully vaccinated, Covid is about to plunge Trump's devotees into a world of hurt.

As Cox Health CEO Edwards pleaded in his tweet: "Fox is the most popular cable news in our area - you can help educate on Delta, vaccines and can save lives @TuckerCarlson."

While Red states generally ignore the threat, Blue states are doing everything they can to get ready for the onslaught of the Delta variant: New York and California are rolling out digital vaccination certificates people can show on their smartphones to get into restaurants and sports/entertainment events.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, knowing which way the political winds are blown by my colleagues on rightwing talk radio and Fox, went out of his way to say they're not passports.

"I want to make this crystal clear before folks run with it," Newsom told the press. "It's become so politicized — almost everything in the state, nation — that there's no mandates, no requirement, no passports in that respect."

But vaccine passports are what will save us, particularly since the Delta variant has already spawned a new variant of its own, Delta Plus, that's "more transmissible, more easily binds to human cells, and is potentially more resistant to antibody therapy" than even the deadly Delta variant itself.

This is why more than half of Americans surveyed want vaccine passports now, as do many business owners. When it's impossible to know if the person sitting next to you on a plane or in a restaurant is vaccinated or a Trump-humper who's trusting in Jesus or hydroxychloraquine, many people are still reluctant to dine out, vacation, or go shopping the way we did before the pandemic.

Which hurts what is now Joe Biden's economy — which is exactly what Republicans want. But they are playing with fire.

Particularly given how deadly the Delta variant is, and how often it can even create "breakthrough infections" in fully vaccinated people when they're heavily exposed to the virus. As Boston's NBC affiliate Channel 10 TV noted in a recent headline, because of the Delta variant "Nearly 4,000 Breakthrough COVID Infections Have Now Been Reported in Mass." (That's a drop in the bucket, and most don't get very sick, but still…)

The original and early variants of the Covid virus required repeated or sustained exposure to become infected; the new Delta Plus variant can apparently be caught by simply walking past an infected person. A single case in an airport limo driver in Australia shows how it works, reports today's The Washington Post:

"Video footage shows the limo driver infecting strangers at a shopping mall and in a cafe through only fleeting contact, which scientists say proves it is possible to catch the virus simply from sharing the same airspace as an infected person."

The Post article adds, "The cluster began last week with an airport limousine driver and has grown to 36 cases…"

As the BBC reported this week:

"India's health ministry says studies showed that the so-called Delta Plus variant — also known as AY.1 — spreads more easily, binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy, a potent intravenous infusion of antibodies to neutralise the virus."

And Delta and Delta Plus are just the June varieties; there are almost certainly more contagious and deadly varieties to come as evolution continues to work its magic on the virus.

The next few months will hopefully become a "Great Awakening" in America relative to the politicized lies that Trump, Fox and rightwing media have been spewing for over a year about the dangers of Covid. And that will lead to a new wave of mask-wearing and vaccinations.

If not, it'll be the "Great Dying" for Trump followers and Fox viewers.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of 'The Hidden History of American Oligarchy 'and more than 30 other books in print. 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 corruption that overwhelmed the GOP has reached a crisis point — and it's killing people

Texas is showing us all how the corruption that has overwhelmed the GOP has reached a crisis point, and it's killing people.

President Dwight Eisenhower said, "If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power."

Sadly, Eisenhower's Republican Party is now there: they haven't governed to protect or help the people at the federal or state level since the Reagan Revolution. Today, instead, they simply engage in a corrupt form of political performance art while stuffing their pockets with corporate money.

Today's example: Greg Abbott.

Corrupt Texas Governor Greg Abbott is the poster child for corrupt Republicans' sellout to the fossil fuel industry. And the consequence of that will almost certainly kill hundreds of Texans this summer. But Abbott really, really doesn't want you to be thinking about that.

His latest scam to divert Texans' attention away from this malfeasance is to proudly declare that Texas is asserting its rights under the 10th Amendment to reject oversight or even advice from the federal government.

Texas, like most red states, takes in more federal dollars then they send to Washington DC; instead of merely calling Governor Abbott "corrupt" it's probably also time to call him a "welfare queen," a phrase much beloved of Republicans, at least when they apply it to Black women.

But the real "welfare" that Abbott and the whole collection of corrupt Texas Republicans have been living off for decades is the cash the fossil fuel industry and the billionaires it has created pour down their throats every year by way of campaign contributions and dark money support.

For example, back in 2014 the good citizens of Denton County Texas, sick of air and water pollution from fracking, passed a ballot initiative banning it in their county by over 60%.

Texas' sold-out Republicans immediately responded with House Bill 40, which Governor Abbott enthusiastically signed, that "gives the state exclusive jurisdiction over oil and gas operations and prohibits local municipalities from creating ordinances that ban, limit, or regulate oil and gas operations…"

That's the Texas Republicans' motto: "Screw the people; we just do what's necessary to help out the fossil fuel billionaires who own us."

Back in 1999, then-Governor George W. Bush, himself of fossil-fuel multimillionaire, separated almost all of the Texas power grid from those of neighboring states to avoid federal oversight. He put the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in charge of the largely then-privatized grid.

Bush called it, "The nation's most extensive experiment in electrical deregulation."

It turned out to be an extraordinary expensive and deadly experiment, one that burdens Texas to this day.

As The Wall Street Journal noted a few months ago: "Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state's traditional utilities, according to the Journal's analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration."

That money, of course, went mostly into the pockets of wealthy investors, power company CEOs, and filled the campaign coffers of Texas Republican politicians. It certainly didn't do much to reinforce or make the state's power generation systems or distribution grid more robust.

The result was that this past winter when climate change sent a massive cold wave down into Texas, an estimated 800 people died and the state suffered billions in property damage.

Individual Texans and small businesses are now picking up the lion's share of that tab, of course. It's the Republican way, after all: privatize profits, spread them amongst corrupt Republican politicians, and stick the public with the costs.

Now NOAA is forecasting one of the hottest and driest summers in the history of Texas because of the climate crisis, and already, with temperatures this week only in the 80s and 90s, ERCOT and Abbott have had to ask Texans to keep their air conditioners set above 78 to keep the grid from failing.

Abbott — with much pomp and ceremony — issued an executive order banning private and public entities from requiring masks to protect against a deadly pandemic, but he sure seems fine telling people they can't enjoy their air-conditioning so he can keep the fossil-fuel money flowing into Texas' awesomely corrupt Republican Party.

The prospect of enduring brutal heat and facing the probability of massive power blackouts throughout the summer is not endearing Abbott and his Republican cronies to average Texan voters. As a result, Abbott has come up with a flurry of activity to make it look like he's actually doing something.

As mentioned, he just declared the state "sovereign" under the 10th amendment, as if that were a thing. When he announced it on Twitter, he was buried in ridicule and questions from Texans about what this has to do with making sure their lights don't go out this summer.

Burrowing deeper and deeper into the warm embrace of fossil fuel billionaires, the Texas legislature just passed SB 13, which "would require the State of Texas and its entities (including state pension funds and the state's huge K-12 school endowment) to cut ties with companies that refuse to invest in fossil fuels."

That's right. If your company wants to do business with the state of Texas, or have them invest in your company's stocks or bonds, you damn well better make sure that you're throwing money at the fossil fuel industry or at least own a huge pile of their stock.

As Indivisible Texas notes: "SB 13 creates an intricate system of lists, reports, and oversight of companies that prefer not to transact with fossil fuel companies for whatever reason. This bill actually treats business interactions with certain business sectors in the state as it does enemies of the United States!"

Corruption like this is not a joke; it's already cost Texas ratepayers $28 billion and 800 lives, and more is on the way. And the Texas Republican politicians' response is just to make it harder for Texans to vote.

In state after state, Americans are seeing how the GOP has transformed itself from a legitimate political party into an arm of giant corporations and the billionaires they have created, all while rigging the system to keep themselves in office.

In some states the GOP is mostly dancing with the fossil fuel industry that's destroying our climate and poisoning us; in others it's the health insurance or big drug industries they're helping to bankrupt and addict Americans, or the student or payday loan industries that are destroying the American Dream.

The gun industry is making billions while America experiences daily mass shootings that Republicans refuse to do anything about.

In their wake every year are over 30,000 gun deaths, 500,000 bankruptcies because somebody in the family got sick, young people who can't escape debt for decades if ever, and a landscape littered with destroyed lives and suicides.

None of these things are happening in any other developed nation. But no other developed nation has a major political party that has become a serial killer of its nation's people and governs like the Mafia.

The GOP has become, as Eisenhower warned, "merely a conspiracy to seize power." And the tragic result is a weakened, potholed, polluted and impoverished America.

If the party can't reform itself, it needs to go the way of the Whigs and be put out of its misery. The American people — even voters who consider themselves Republicans — deserve better.

How Trump made being a psychopath fashionable

My friend and colleague on SiriusXM radio, Dean Obeidallah, reminded me yesterday when we were chatting on his show that he pointed out last week that "air rage" incidents have exploded this year. He wrote a great op-ed about it for CNN here.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

The FAA says there have been 2900 reports of air rage since the first of the year, and 2200 of those involved people becoming enraged over mask requirements.

And we're not just seeing it on airplanes. Road rage is up, people challenging (and, yesterday, murdering) retail workers is up, even mass shootings are up right now.

Dean correctly points out that a lot of this has to do with wearing masks, and Donald Trump set the tone for the nation in ridiculing them and even ridiculing candidate Joe Biden for wearing one, saying it made him look "weak."

Other commentators point to the confluence of stressors hitting Americans right now ranging from having spent a year in lockdown to fear of illness to a devastated economy that has destroyed the lives of tens of millions of Americans.

These are all excellent points, and all are no doubt highly causal to today's situation.

But what concerns me beyond what may be a transient mask kerfuffle is that Trump didn't just set the tone for defying authority or generally acting like an asshole. The truly deadly thing he did, in and to our society, was to put down the psychopath marker and use it to call together his neurological tribe.

About 1% of Americans are psychopaths, although such people tend to be concentrated in some areas: as many as 12% of major corporate CEOs are believed to be psychopaths, and about 15% of people in prison.

A psychopath, for all practical purposes, believes that he's quite literally the only "true human being" on planet Earth.

Everybody else is an actor of some sort, a prop, in the grand play of the psychopath's life. Everybody else is here to make him happy and meet his needs, and he doesn't have to worry about hurting them or not meeting their needs because they are not "real people" like he is.

The clinical terminology is that psychopaths "lack the ability to feel empathy." Weirdly, this lack of empathy can make them more successful in big business and in criminal and prison environments.

This defines Donald Trump, as numerous mental health professionals have pointed out over the past few years on my show, in numerous books and articles, and across other media.

When Donald Trump was just a corrupt real estate developer in New York his psychopathy only damaged the people in his immediate circle: his family, the people who did business with him, and people he fleeced like students for Trump University or contractors he refused to pay.

But when he became president, he became our nation's "father." This can't be emphasized enough; in the US the president is both head of government (like Prime Minister Johnson) and head of state (like Queen Elizabeth). The president thus sets the tone for the country and establishes the norm for how a person with privilege and power is expected to behave.

And Americans have a history of emulating our presidents, from FDR's enthusiasm to JFK's haircut to Bush's war fever.

It's sort of like how you can generally predict that the kid who cheats at the high school football game, gets caught, and goes off on a loud, profane against the referee is going to have a parent who taught him those behaviors.

Thus, Trump's presidency has massively empowered the psychopaths among us. The people who, if their life had taken just a slightly different turn at some point, would today be a member of a prison gang or a CEO. They recognize themselves in him and are empowered by him.

As president, Trump made being a psychopath fashionable, and his fellow psychopaths across the nation are having a huge coming-out party.

This is how Trump has unleashed a wave of newly-empowered psychopaths who are now rapidly rising up through Republican political and judicial ranks, pushing the non-psychopaths out of the way (as psychopaths are wont to do), and generally terrorizing the American public.

Elderly people who've spent their lives volunteering or working as election workers are getting phone calls telling them that they will soon die a slow and painful death if they don't quit and turn their jobs over.

People who dare have a Biden/Harris bumper-sticker on their car or a Pride flag in their window find themselves the victims of vandals, arsonists and worse.

Asian Americans, including elderly Asian Americans, are increasingly victims of these Trump-psychopathy fueled individuals chanting Trump's racist virus epithet.

Teachers simply trying to explain the simple history of America are on the receiving end of not just death threats, but a loss of livelihood that could leave them homeless and without healthcare.

Trump's tribe of psychopaths are finding each other on social media and coming together in armed groups, plotting their revenge against a society they feel has unfairly tried to constrain their selfish impulses and behaviors.

The last time this happened in a major western nation was 1933, when Adolf Hitler — another high-functioning psychopath — took over leadership of Germany. For a republic, having a psychopath at the top of leadership is extraordinarily dangerous and usually leads to the psychopath so corrupting the political process that democracy is badly damaged or even destroyed and replaced with oligarchy or fascism.

Joe Biden is doing a great job of showing the country what a "normal parent" politician is like, but a large handful of psychopaths with major rightwing media platforms continue to stir Trump's tribe in order to get higher ratings and make money.

And the more money these performers make for their psychopathic CEOs, the more they're rewarded for this insanely destructive behavior.

At some point, hopefully, the fever will break. It will probably take a disaster of some sort, the way it took the 1996 mass shooting in Tasmania to wake up Australians enough to institute rational gun control and re-stabilize their society.

Ideally that scenario can be avoided, but as long as the awesome, multi-billion-dollar radio and TV media infrastructure conservatives have built over the past 40 years continues to crank up the heat, the pot will continue to boil until it explodes.

The dangerous American fascist: Why Fox News claims 'they' are destroying 'white culture'

Why Fox News Claims 'They' Are Destroying 'White Culture'

I'm struggling to explain why a Fox News host would say to the American people, "they're trying to take down the white culture!"

But first, let me back up.

Democracies don't turn into fascist oligarchies by being invaded or losing wars. It always happens from within, and is always driven by an alliance between demagogic, populist politicians and some of the very wealthiest people in society.

Step one for these right-wing politicians and the morbidly rich who support them is to pit one group of people within the nation against others: Marginalize and demonize minorities, deny them access to the levers of democratic power while openly attacking them for trying to usurp the privileges and prerequisites of the majority.

It's played out this way in every democratic country that has fallen to tyranny. 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.

And now Republicans and the oligarchs aligned with them are trying to pull it off here in the United States.

As German industrialist Fritz Thyssen writes in his apologetic 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 and socialists had "stabbed Germany in the back" by secretly participating in negotiations for the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. The Treaty imposed punitive conditions on the country, producing widespread poverty and an economic crisis.

Hitler blamed that crisis on German minorities and Germany's second-largest political party, and the German people believed him. Once the Nazis took power, they changed election laws in such a way that they would never again lose.

Republicans and right-wing billionaires, of course, are trying to do the same thing right now in America.

Standing against them is the Democratic Party, although the Fritz Thyssens of today's America, billionaire members of the Koch network, are doing everything they can to prevent Democrats from ensuring fair and honest elections in 2022 and 2024 by buying off Joe Manchin and others.

Those Republican voter suppression and voter nullification laws being passed by state after state are essential to their final take-down of the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, the billionaire Murdoch family's Fox News is working as hard as it can to make Black people and Democrats 2021's version of Hitler's 1933 Jews and Socialists.

Their top-rated morning show, Fox & Friends, wandered into a discussion Wednesday 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 rant 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!"

This is not America's first brush with oligarchic fascism, as I lay out in my newest book, The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace struggled with it in the 1940s with Charles Lindberg's 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."

History is screaming warnings at us. Will America listen?

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. 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.

3 factions seek to end American democracy – and QAnon gives them the opportunity

There are people in this world who don't like —and even hate — democracy. They're on the move against it, particularly here in America, and the Qanon religion/cult is the glue that's bringing them all together.

One group doesn't like democracy because they don't trust the "ignorant masses" and the "rabble" to choose leaders who can make decisions for an entire country. They're the "Philosopher" opposers of democracy.

They're well-represented in America by a large handful of right-wing billionaires and their "libertarian" think-tanks and front groups working against, for example, HR1/SB1 For The People Act.

Some hate democracy because they're members of the "faction" class that James Madison warned us about in Federalist #10; the special interests. They're the "Thieving Scoundrel" opposers of democracy.

These would be the giant businesses (and the billionaires they produce) that want to keep their profits high by poisoning our air, water and food; running giant monopolies to stomp out small businesses; or otherwise rip off America and Americans…and don't want "we the people" to be able to protect ourselves through government regulation.

And some hate democracy because they're running undemocratic, authoritarian governments outside the US, and if they can destroy democracy in America it'll take a lot of pressure off of them. They're the "Foreign Enemies" of democracy.

All three of these groups have found common cause in a collective takeover of the Republican Party and the embrace of QAnon. And, ironically, they all claim to be "defending democracy" in the process.

Voltaire wrote, "[W]hoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

That was just the first part of the quote; he was speaking specifically of the many absurdities embraced by our various religions. Which now includes QAnon, a pseudo-religion apparently started by an American pig farmer who lives in The Philippines.

It's burrowed so deeply into the bloodstream of conventional American religion that the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention worried out loud on CNN that it's replacing churches as parishioner's primary religion. "[P]astors only have access to people maybe an hour or three hours a day, that's nothing compares to 24 hours a day from Facebook," he told Erin Burnett.

While much of white evangelical Christianity has long tilted Republican, QAnon is not just Republican but anti-democracy, anti-American, pro-oligarch Republican. The Michael Flynn variety of Republican.

One in six Americans, according to a recent PRRI survey, today "believes" in the QAnon conspiracy, including the part about Democrats drinking the blood of children. Given that about a third of Americans are Republicans, and virtually all of those believers identify as Republicans, that suggests that between a third and half of all Republican voters have bought into this new secular religion/cult.

And elected Republicans are, almost to a person, either supportive of this new religion or silent on the issue.

As Voltaire said in the rest of his quote, "If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world."

While religion generally has achieved an uneasy truce with democracy, the three groups mentioned earlier who openly hate and regularly work to destroy democracy have found QAnon and the general gullibility it creates in its "believers" to be extraordinarily useful.

The "Philosophers," "Thieving Scoundrels" and "Foreign Enemies" who collectively want to bring down democracy around the world are actively promoting the various parts of the QAnon religion that each finds most useful.

The "Philosophers" use it to promote doubt about the accuracy and fairness of elections and the democratic process.

The "Thieving Scoundrels" use it to portray government efforts to reduce inequality and poverty, protect citizens from a deadly pandemic, and regulate the activity of toxic, planet-destroying industries as if they were all parts of an "evil conspiracy."

And the "Foreign Enemies" are popping up all over social media and the internet, portraying themselves as "average people" while doing everything they can to use this new religion to stir hatred and division among Americans.

Because if democracy can be taken down in America, the oligarchs and autocrats of the world will find it much easier to bring down elsewhere.

They're already working as hard as they can to bring authoritarian/oligarchic governance to Europe, having established beachheads in Sweden, France, Germany and England and completely taken over Turkey, Hungary and Poland.

Democracy is a fragile flame. While it burned brightly in indigenous societies for over 100,000 years, since the agricultural revolution it has only appeared a few times among what we referred to as "civilized" or "advanced" societies.

It first popped up in Greece about 3000 years ago, then in Rome around 2000 years ago; both times it failed in a few generations. It then made its appearance here in North America about 240 years ago, and now has spread to roughly half of all nations, about a fifth of the population of the world.

From the Republican Party's efforts to rig future elections to General Michael Flynn calling for the violent overthrow of the American government to billionaire-owned or -subsidized media operations openly supporting oligarchy and ridiculing efforts to make a more pluralistic, egalitarian society, the forces that seek to destroy democracy are on the move.

The "Philosophers," "Theiving Scoundrels" and "Foreign Enemies" are having their collective moment.

QAnon believers are now convinced that Donald Trump will return to his throne in the White House this August. Many have sworn to do everything they can to bring that about, making anything from another January 6th to mass murder like Tim McVeigh did possible.

As that recent PRRI poll found, about 1/6th of Americans agree with the statement that "the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation." The New York Times headline reads: QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions.

They believe absurdities, and are prepared to commit atrocities. Democracy in America — and around the world — hangs by a thread.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Oligarchy and more than 30 other books in print. 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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