Commentary

Kia 'saves' sea turtles in blatant — and lame — greenwashing commercial

Did you know that if you drive a SUV really fast across a beach that you, too, can save nesting sea turtles? That is, as long as the SUV is a 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro SUV driven by a long-haired, handsome, dark, caring environmentalist.

Quite a 40-second commercial Kia has put together.

Everything in “Beachcomber” is pitch perfect, from the cloying piano soundtrack and the clever driver sweeping the sands free of trash, to the money shot of turtles—adult and their irresistible babies—returning from the ocean to lay their precious eggs.

Let’s set the scene in this classic example of green-washing. The commercial opens on the beach with our hero—for giggles, let’s call him Jake—hard at work assembling a rake-like contraption. The sun is setting and light is golden and lazy, yet Jake is in a hurry. Why? We don’t know yet.

Jake then gets behind the wheel of his shiny new Kia and pounds the pedal to the metal. Our man does donuts in the sand as his clever invention scoops up all the trash on the shore. This begs the question: Why does he need to drive so recklessly? Good question. Perhaps to show how responsive his SUV is in off-road conditions? And what kind of an environmentalist tears up a pristine beach?

As someone who has spent way too much time slouched on the couch in front of a television set watching shows I can no longer remember, let me interject some general observations regarding automobile commercials. SUVs are always driven at breakneck speeds through snow, fragile streambeds and mountain roads with sheer drop-offs and blind corners. Absolutely no one I know does this. Nor should you.

And have you noticed that every single road—in the country or in the city—that these vehicles travel on are empty? Just how does that work in say, rush hour in Chicago or Los Angeles?

Enough overthinking. Back to Jake and his trusty rake. Look at what our man has accomplished. Because he cares more than us deadbeats he has swept up all of the garbage! We witness his commitment to putting an end to pollution as he neatly places the detritus in a plastic (!) bag for dutiful delivery to his local recycling center, where it will probably end up in a landfill somewhere. But let’s not think of that. Instead, let us arrive at the realization with stunning clarity that all of this could only have been accomplished through the selfless endeavors of a committed out-of-control NASCAR-wannabe behind the wheel of 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro SUV. God bless him.

Wait, there’s more! Suddenly it becomes clear why Jake when through all this trouble, perhaps sacrificing his plant-based supper and interrupting his hot yoga class, to do the work that we should be doing…instead of sitting on our double-wides watching this ad.

Cue the sea turtles. As the sun sets in brilliant rays of red and orange over the ocean the terrapins make their way from the water to lay their eggs on, well, the very beach that Jake just combed. What timing, eh? Call it a shell game. Just think: if our man had roared across this habitat just a few minutes later he would have flattened the creatures like so many soda cans on the freeway and his courageous act would have gone for naught.

Regarding automobile commercials: please stop thinking logically. Check your brain at the door and simply bask in the warm emotional glow of ethereal music and soft-lit images. Don’t be a cynical jerk who cannot appreciate SUVs as the antidotes to climate change. I mean, what is wrong with you?

As the turtles slowly plod their way to safe harbor we have the shot of our dreamy pal Jake smiling with the self-satisfaction of a man who knows he has done good for the planet. Look at me he is saying. Am I not pretty special? He sits in a meditative pose watching this miracle of nature unfold spotlighted by the intense LED lighting of his 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro SUV. Can turtles blink?

As the shot pans out over the horizon the slogan “Multi-terrain AWD mode” appears. Get it? Turtles can overcome any terrain because they have all wheel drive. Or something.

Then comes the kicker, the dramatic moment that will compel all of us (those of us who care about the environment, that is) off our Lazy Boys and run to our nearest KIA dealership. Dozens of baby turtles, miraculously on the same day, are now waddling to the ocean to begin their long and perilous life’s journey. As Kia itself says this is a “movement that inspires.”

I don’t know about you, but I feel better already.

Stephen J. Lyons is the author of five books of essays and journalism. His most recent book is "West of East."

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.

'Horrific' and 'heartless' 'pro-life' House Republicans vote against boosting baby formula production

Republicans just voted against two bills to ease the baby formula shortage they have spent weeks falsely trying to pin on President Joe Biden.

In tweets and in floor speeches, Republicans have been attacking President Biden for the nationwide baby formula shortage caused by one manufacturer’s recall and closure of its plant for bacterial infection after two infants died. The shortage has been exacerbated by a trade agreement signed by then-President Donald Trump that makes it extremely difficult and expensive to import formula from other countries, and the fact that 90 percent of baby formula in the U.S. is manufactured by just four companies. Also, hoarding, and price-gouging.

Last week President Biden sat down with manufacturers and retailers to map out a plan to get more formula onto store shelves immediately and directed the Food and Drug Administration to help get the plant reopened. This week he went two steps further: he invoked the Defense Production Act to force manufacturers to produce more formula and produce it ahead of other products and created a program to use federal planes to import baby formula from other countries.

House Democrats last week also opened an investigation into the baby formula shortage.

On Wednesday the House voted on two emergency bills to further ease the shortage.

One example of Republicans falsely attacking President Biden and the left is House GOP Caucus chair Elise Stefanik‘s now-infamous tweet accusing Democrats of having “no plan” as she labeled them “pedo grifters.”

One bill would give FDA $28 million to add staff, work to help get more formula to consumers, and create a long-term strategy, including increased safety inspections so this cannot happen again. The second would dramatically increase supply from foreign sources to consumers using the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

192 House Republicans voted against giving FDA $28 million to help fix the crisis and ensure it does not happen again.

Nine House Republicans voted against making it easier for WIC customers to get access to baby formula.

Many Americans are becoming outraged as the news from last night’s votes is spreading online.

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.

Fox News and GOP leaders understood the 'great replacement' conspiracy theory was dangerous — and pushed it anyway

In the 16 months since Jan. 6, 2021, Donald Trump and the hosts Fox News hosts — especially its top-rated personality, Tucker Carlson — haven't exactly been subtle in approving of what happened and longing to see more right-wing violence. Trump has publicly mused about issuing pardons to the Capitol insurrectionists if he wins back — or rather steals back — the White House in 2024. Like many of the far-right Republicans in Congress, Trump has also made a martyr out of Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon believer who was shot during the Capitol riot when she tried to break into a secure area and quite likely attack members of Congress. Carlson, meanwhile, has been at the forefront of popularizing various often contradictory conspiracy theories, mostly intended to portray the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as noble patriots and lambaste any Republican who dares say otherwise. While these GOP leaders and media personalities are generally careful to avoid direct calls for violence, their overall message of sympathy and support for right-wing terrorism is undeniable.

So Saturday's mass shooting in Buffalo, while horrifying, is really no surprise.

The alleged shooter who killed 10 people and injured three others in a Buffalo supermarket is 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who appears to have target a busy location in a predominantly Black neighborhood. As has become far too common with these kinds of mass murders, Gendron reportedly live-streamed the massacre on video, and apparently also published a manifesto that echoes many of the paranoid right-wing talking points one can hear every day streaming from the mouths of Fox News hosts and Republican politicians: a series of scurrilous lies about "critical race theory," George Soros and the "great replacement."

Now a familiar refrain will commence. No doubt we will be hear a great deal of umbrage in the coming days from Republican leaders and right-wing pundits. "How dare you blame us?" they will proclaim, in almost hysterical terms, acting shocked, shocked, that anyone would suggest that their words have had horrible consequences. The point of this fake outrage will be to make it too emotionally exhausting to hold them accountable, and to reinforce the ridiculous victim complex that fuels the American right as it increasingly slides into fascism. But let's not mince words: These folks share the blame. They have been encouraging violence, and violence is what they got.

The "great replacement" theory has been a favorite of Carlson's for some time now. This particular paranoid hypothesis is deeply rooted in neo-Nazi and other white nationalist circles. A cabal of rich Jewish people, the theory holds, has conspired to "replace" white Christian Americans with other races and ethnic groups in order to gain political and social control. Carlson doesn't actually say "Jews," and generally blames the sinister plan on Democrats, socialists or unspecified "elites," but otherwise has kept the conspiracy theory intact. (Antisemitism remains the mix by singling out individual Jewish people especially Soros, as the alleged ringleaders.) It's not like Carlson only invokes this narrative on occasion. As Media Matters researcher Nikki McCann Ramirez has documented, Carlson is obsessed with this idea that the people he calls "legacy Americans" — a not-so-veiled euphemism for white Christians of European ancestry — are under siege from shadowy forces flying the banner of diversity. He uses anodyne terms like "demographic change" to make the point, but has gotten bolder more recently, using the word "replacement" to make it even clearer that he's borrowing his ideas from the white-supremacist fringe.

Carlson has also explicitly linked this conspiracy theory to the threat of violence, repeatedly "warning" that America faces a new civil war unless these fictional conspirators stop trying to "replace" his cherished "legacy Americans." The GOP base has been getting the message. A poll conducted in December showed that nearly half of Republican respondents buy into the idea that there's a conspiracy to "replace" white Christians with different racial and ethnic groups. That proportion has probably risen since then, as Carlson's deluge has further mainstreamed this delusional and dangerous notion. Unsurprisingly, there has been a concurrent rise in hate crimes, of which this Buffalo shooting is merely the most dramatic recent example.

When called out for stoking a conspiracy theory that is likely to inspire violence, Carlson inevitably plays the victim, accusing liberals of being "hysterical" and characterizing these criticisms as "cancel culture." This only encourage his viewers to embrace the conspiracy theory even more, telling themselves that they (and he) are bold truth-tellers fighting against the forces of liberal oppression. That's why the how-dare-they posturing we will almost certainly see from Carlson and other right-wing pundits in coming days so predictable. This article, for instance, will quite likely be characterized as hysterical name-calling or an attempt to censor bold political speech. But let's understand this feigned outrage for what it is: an attempt to leverage an act of terrorism in a way that leads people to accept it or even condone it.

The "great replacement" theory fits in with the larger pattern of right-wing Republicans (especially our former president and his allies) and Fox News pundits encouraging not just right-wing paranoia, but the inevitable acts of violence that flow from it. The most straightforward example of this, of course, is the relentless rewriting of the history of Jan. 6, which began in the immediate aftermath and continues to this day. Republican leaders in Congress voted down Trump's impeachment only weeks after the riot and have tried to block congressional efforts to uncover exactly how the attempted coup went down.

Over this past winter, Fox News, Trump and other GOP leaders made another big push towards political violence, hyping outrageous conspiracy theories about COVID vaccines and encouraging their audiences toward aggressive acts of so-called resistance. As with Carlson, these threats are often packaged as "warnings," as when Trump declared on Fox News in February, "You can push people so far and our country is a tinderbox too, don't kid yourself." Around the same time, Carlson, Sean Hannity, Carlson and Glenn Beck all started pushed the idea that anti-vaccination fanatics were potentially justified in using violence as "self-defense."

Indeed, as the shooting was unfolding in Buffalo, there was an overt call for right-wing violence at Trump's rally in Austin, Texas, where oock geezer turned gun advocate Ted Nugent told the crowd of 8,000 that he'd "love" it if they all "went out and just went berserk on the skulls of the Democrats and the Marxists and the communists." In his speech afterward, Trump praised Republican politicians in Texas, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who have slavishly proven their loyalty to him.

Many of the people arrested for their actions on Jan. 6 , 2021, have stopped being apologetic about what they did, and are now portraying themselves as martyrs and heroes. Last week, one of the most prominent ringleaders on the insurrection, Tim "Baked Alaska" Gionet, a troll to the very end, dramatically declared at a hearing that he was changing his plea. He had agreed to plead guilty to a lesser offense, but now wants to plead not guilty, even though he filming himself inside the Capitol during the riot and put the evidence online. Other Jan. 6 defendants have also become more confrontational, including pulling a gun on probation officers, acquiring new guns in defiance of a court order, or claiming that their actions on that day amounted to "self-defense." In fairness, why shouldn't they feel emboldened? Most Republican voters, along with the party's leadership, are more interested in making excuses for Trump's coup than holding anyone accountable for it.

And all of the above doesn't even touch on the way Republican politicians and right-wing media have mainstreamed the QAnon conspiracy theory by regularly slurring Democrats, LGBTQ folks and their allies as "groomers." Demonizing political opponents with false allegations of pedophilia is unbelievably slimy, even by Republican standards. It also serves to inspire or encourage potential acts of violence, by dehumanizing their targets and creating a delusional narrative that makes such attacks seem justified.

Perhaps the horror unleashed in Buffalo on Saturday will cause Carlson and his allies to rethink their paranoid, racist and inflammatory rhetoric. That is doubtful, however. After all, this is just the latest in a series of mass shootings inspired by the "great replacement" theory, including the Walmart shooting in El Paso that left 23 dead and the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in which 11 people died. Since those massacres, the "great replacement" theory has only become more popular with Republican voters, largely thanks to Carlson and similar figures on the right. It has also become popular with Republicans, including J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee in Ohio's Senate race. Just this week, the conspiracy theory got another round of hype as Republican pundits and politicians pretended to believe that President Biden was stealing baby formula from Americans to feed "illegals," their slur for refugees applying for asylum. Those who would support deliberately starving babies for racist and xenophobic reasons aren't likely to feel any real empathy for the victims and their families in Buffalo. We cannot legitimately hope that they will be chastened by this latest round of violence, but we can make clear that their hateful rhetoric helped to unleash it.

The Supreme Court guards its privacy. Too bad it doesn't care about yours and mine

To use Justice Samuel Alito's criteria in his recently-leaked draft opinion overruling Roe v. Wade, where is it written in the Constitution that practically everything that happens at the Supreme Court is secret?

The answer, my worthies, is that it is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Secrecy — or, if you will, privacy — at the court is another one of those invented rights Alito and his pals are so fond of yapping about. The secrecy of that august body is almost absolute: Everything that happens at the Supreme Court, with the exception of its hearings and the publication of its decisions, is secret. The court maintains complete secrecy about how and why it chooses which cases to hear. The conferences held by justices during which they decide cases and record their votes is so secret they don't even allow their clerks inside the doors when they consider the arguments on either side of a case. Most justices demand that their clerks take an oath to keep secret everything they learn while carrying out their jobs.

There are no federal laws which mandate or govern the secrecy enjoyed by the Supreme Court. In fact, whoever leaked the Alito draft opinion cannot even be prosecuted, because he or she broke no law. There is nothing in federal statute or in the Constitution itself, for that matter, which mandates that draft opinions — or any other document produced at the court by the justices or their clerks or anyone else — be kept away from the prying eyes of the press or the public which, by the way, pays the salary of everyone working in that pile of Vermont and Georgia marble located just behind the Capitol.

If you listen to the justices themselves or so-called court-watchers or even members of the bar who practice before the Supreme Court, the reason for all the secrecy is tradition. It's always been that way, and so it should remain. In other words, everything at the Supreme Court is secret because they say so.

The assumption has always been that the court can make its own rules because, well, it's the Supreme Court. It's like saying the court is so supreme, it's the highest law in the land.

Except it isn't. The highest law in the land is the Constitution, and all that document does is establish the existence of the court and mandate that judges be paid a salary and serve lifetime appointments and that they can be removed if they don't maintain "good behavior" and lay out what kinds of cases over which the court has original and appellate jurisdiction. One clause in Article III has been interpreted to say that the Congress has power to regulate the court, such as to write the laws setting the number of justices and of course to pay for the court by using its power to raise taxes and pay for the various parts of the government, of which the court is one.

But the secrecy the court maintains for itself and the way it goes about its business? Nope. Nowhere to be found. What the court keeps to itself and what it makes public is not a matter of law; it's a raw assumption of power it does not statutorily have.

The court does not allow the public to witness its deliberations, which take place within its super-secret conferences of justices, nor does it publish any notes or records of those deliberations. The nine justices could be behind those closed doors trading votes or talking about friends of theirs who have interest in the case before them or doing favors for each other or for powerful interests within the country or even within the political parties or other branches of government, and we would have no way of knowing it. They could be exposing their own prejudices or extolling religious doctrine and beliefs and we wouldn't know about that either.

What little we do know about how the court does its job comes from the papers of a few justices who upon their deaths have donated them to universities or, in the case of Justice Thurgood Marshall, to the Library of Congress. There is no Official Records Act that applies to Supreme Court justices, and because of that gaping hole in the law, they wholly own and control all the records they produce while on the court, and have full freedom to release them or refuse to release them or, as several justices have done, command that their papers are burned upon their deaths. The records of their service on the court are thus private. As citizens, we may pay for those papers with our tax dollars, but they don't belong to us, to the government or even to history. They are the private property of the justices, and by what convention is this so? Because they say so.

Most justices during recent times have donated their personal papers to colleges or universities with restrictions on when they can be released. The most common restriction is that a justice's donated papers may be made public after the retirement or deaths of all the justices who served with him or her, apparently because they don't want their buddies to suffer any embarrassment. The reason for this convention is because of what Justice Marshall did: upon retiring, he donated his personal papers, some 170,000 items in all, to the Library of Congress and allowed them to be released upon his death, which occurred only two years later.

The Washington Post and other news organizations quickly published several series of articles on the inside information about the court revealed in Marshall's papers. His colleagues were sufficiently perturbed by this invasion of their privacy that they prevailed upon the Senate Government Affairs Committee to hold hearings on what should be done to protect judicial papers.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist made it clear that the justices were not pleased by the quick release of Marshall's papers, but the Senate took no action to regulate the personal papers of the justices because, as the committee explained later, "the separation of powers and the traditions that surround the court, it is not clear what, if anything, Congress should do about regulating preservation and access."

We could write this off to typical congressional stasis and inaction if it weren't for the fact that the Congress had no such compunction when, after the Watergate scandal, it passed the Official Records Act, mandating that presidents preserve and keep all their records. It was correctly pointed out at the time that presidential records were the product of work paid for with taxpayer dollars. The same is true of the work papers of Supreme Court justices, of course, but at least until now, the impenetrable mysteries of the court have survived attempts to open up its records and deliberations to more public scrutiny.

The leak of the Alito opinion has changed things a bit, even though it was not technically the first leak of a Supreme Court decision. The original Roe decision, in fact, was leaked to a reporter for Time Magazine in 1972 and appeared in the magazine a few hours before it was publicly announced. That caused a brouhaha that, while now forgotten, created quite a political stir. The Time reporter was roundly attacked from all sides, including the Supreme Court bar and the press corps that regularly covered the court, for his outrageous violation of … well, what did he violate exactly?

Protocol. That's what he violated, and that's what the reporter or reporters for Politico who leaked the Alito draft violated, too. What is protocol? Well, the dictionary defines it as an official set of rules governing affairs of state or other governmental occasions. Protocols can be established by laws, but in the case of the Supreme Court, they aren't. The court's protocols exist because they say so.

The whole thing about the Alito leak is something of a tempest in a teapot containing leaves we're supposed to read about the court. The court has increasingly been seen as politicized in recent years, not least because one of our two political parties, the Republican Party, and the last president did not conceal their intentions to appoint arch-conservative justices who would carry out the will of the party and its adjunct, the Heritage Society, to overturn Roe v. Wade. The hypocritical political machinations gone through by Mitch McConnell to deny Barack Obama his appointment of Merrick Garland to the court — while performing an insta-confirmation on Amy Coney Barrett just a month after she was appointed and eight days before Joe Biden was elected president — have been beaten to death, so I won't go into any of that now. Suffice to say that any claim that the Supreme Court is apolitical (which was always doubtful) has now become ridiculous.

What remains is an uncomfortable truth about the Supreme Court: The justices, the clerks, and everyone who works there are public employees paid with taxpayer dollars. The Supreme Court building itself, constructed with tax funds during the public building surge of the Depression, "is a relatively new addition to its image," having been constructed in 1936, as Politico pointed out in a story following its publication of the leaked Alito opinion. Before that, the court conducted its business out of the Capitol building, where only the chief justice had an office. The other eight justices worked at their homes.

But even back then, the work the Supreme Court did was paid for by the public, and a good argument can be made that the public should have had more access to the court's business, including its hearings, which while technically held in public are almost impossible to attend. It took the COVID pandemic, which forced the court to hold hearings by phone, for the Supreme Court to open itself to live broadcasts. Before that, if a reporter or member of the public wanted to hear the Supreme Court consider one of its cases, they had to stand in line, sometimes for hours or even days, to get one of the prized seats in the court reserved for the public.

The court has consistently resisted calls to televise its hearings, citing bogus reasons, such as fear that lawyers will grandstand for the cameras or that demonstrators may interrupt the court seeking to publicize their opposition to one side or the other in the case being argued. This despite the fact that courts across the nation have opened themselves to televised coverage of trials and other proceedings without any major problems.

In answer to a question in 2018, Chief Justice John Roberts even had the gall to assert, "It's not as if we're doing this in secret. We're the most transparent branch in government in terms of seeing us do our work and us explaining what we're doing." Roberts appeared to be referring to the publication of Supreme Court decisions with their lengthy reasoning. But the court's recent use of the so-called shadow docket to dispose of some of its most controversial decisions — such as an appeal of the recent Texas "heartbeat" anti-abortion law — without publishing opinions or even the individual votes of the justices proves that is just bullshit.

The only law to which Supreme Court justices are subject that even marginally opens them up to scrutiny is the requirement that senior government employees file an annual financial disclosure form. But even that document, while revealing outside income and stocks and bonds held by justices, does not require them to list the amount of money they receive as gifts from corporations or overtly political organizations (such as the Heritage Society) in the form of free flights on corporate jets or stays at luxury resorts in the Caribbean or luxury hotels in Zurich and Rome while they give speeches or receive awards. And Supreme Court justices, like members of Congress and the president, are free to trade stocks and bonds based on information gleaned from the cases they decide. Justices don't have to tell anyone what they're doing because they say so.

Justice Antonin Scalia was notorious for accepting the largess of wealthy individuals, corporations and political organizations. Between 2004 and 2014, he took 258 subsidized trips to places like Hawaii, Ireland and Switzerland, according to the New York Times, without having to list the amounts of money involved in the payments made for his travel, accommodations, meals or anything else. In fact, Scalia died while on a hunting trip at a luxury preserve in Texas owned by John Poindexter, a wealthy industrialist from Houston whose firm had had cases before the Supreme Court while Scalia was a justice. Just before he died, according to the Times, Scalia had been on all-expenses-paid jaunts to Singapore and Hong Kong. Neither he or any other justices are required to list the amounts of free stuff they are given, nor are they required to recuse themselves from cases involving the people who have given them gifts of luxury travel and accommodations at resorts like the Texas hunting preserve owned by Poindexter.

Supreme Court justices officially earn just north of $200,000 a year, but they are able to live like millionaires on weekends and during their annual breaks for Christmas and summer holidays. They own all the product of the work they do, and they can use it to write books or give paid speeches and profit from the work we pay them to do. And they don't have to tell us a thing about it.

Last week, the curtain was pulled back just a bit on all the secrecy and privacy enjoyed by the justices of the Supreme Court when Politico got hold of the draft opinion overturning Roe written by Alito, a longtime abortion foe. Chaos ensued. How can the court be expected to do its job when its right to privacy is invaded in such an outrageous manner? That was the chorus heard from the conservative commentariat and sold-out congresscritters seeking to curry favor with their favorite justices.

What right to privacy? The same right to privacy guaranteed by the 14th Amendment they're about to throw in the trash when they throw out the right to abortion in Roe? It's hard to keep a straight face as I type these words: Like everything else in the Constitution, the right to privacy is a right afforded to the following people, first among them Supreme Court justices. Supreme Court justices enjoy the right to the privacy of their chambers, the privacy of the conferences during which they decide the fates of others on a weekly basis, and the privacy of their personal papers, which they can do with as they please, because they say so.

Everybody else, get in line over there with your hands out, and we'll see what privacy rights you're entitled to. For the time being, you can marry whomever you want, you can practice sodomy in the privacy of your bedroom, you can use contraception to prevent pregnancy, and you can marry or have a relationship with a person of a race different from your own. All of those privacy rights are yours because they say so.

For now.

Meanwhile, stop peeking under our robes. What we're wearing under there is private, don't you understand?

GOP House Chair's 'pedo' tweet a bridge too far: when will Democrats decide that they have had enough?

It’s no secret there is a national baby formula shortage, but many in the GOP and on the right are falsely claiming it is the job of the federal government to ensure the supermarket shelves are stocked with food for infants. Ironically and hypocritically these are the same right-wingers who have been charging everyone on the left with their derogatory slur “socialists,” which is exactly what having the federal government manufacture or supply baby formula would be.

The right isn’t bothering to educate Americans about the problem or its causes, so I will: A small number (4) of multinational conglomerates own the baby formula market, the Trump administration entered into a trade agreement that makes it difficult and expensive to import baby formula, a voluntary recall of reportedly bacteria-contaminated formula after four infants got sick and two of them died, hoarding, and price-gouging.

Instead, they falsely insist, just like the high price of gas, it’s Joe Biden’s fault.

That would be a lie, as would be House Republican Caucus chairwoman Elise Stefanik’s lie-filled tweet that attacks people on the left as “pedo-grifters,” falsely claims President Biden “has NO PLAN,” and is not addressing the problem while “sending pallets of formula to the southern border.”

Let’s take a look at the New York Republican Congresswoman’s false and dangerously fascistic attack.

First, the tweet:

So let’s dissect this.

The White House, in fact, President Joe Biden himself, on Thursday met with baby formula manufacturers and retailers to get them to get more formula on the shelves. No, he didn’t endlessly tweet about it, didn’t create a villain for his base to go after, didn’t hold a ridiculous White House cabinet-like meeting where the invited third party attendees go around the room praising him for his leadership, make ridiculous remarks to ensure it got television coverage.

The President addressed the problem and together with White House aides came up with a plan to address it, which they published on the White House’s website.

That right there makes Congresswoman Stefanik a liar.

Let’s also address the “sending pallets of formula to the southern border.”

First, let’s watch Fox News propagandist Laura Ingraham.

Ingraham Thursday night complained that “illegals” are being flown all across the country, taking Americans’ jobs by “working for under market pay.” It’s clear Ingraham wants undocumented people to be detained – jailed, if you will – for the misdemeanor of illegally crossing the border.

Many are.

And many of those immigrants have children, even infants with them. The U.S. government has a legal (and ethical) obligation to feed them, which is why, like any responsible person with an infant, they are buying baby formula and “sending pallets” of it to the southern border.

Ingraham points to Florida House Republican Kat Cammack’s suspect claim that a border parol agent says “he just took in pallets, pallets, of baby formula for all of the illegals that are crossing the border.”

Obviously, every person crossing the border does not get baby formula, but someone should ask Rep. Cammack how detained immigrants are expected to feed their infants. Because the answer appears to be just like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s appears to be, which is let them starve.

So on the one hand, Stefanik and her ilk are calling Democrats pedophiles and grifters, while ironically assuring us that Republicans are the “pro-life” party – just not for brown people without a passport.

Democrats need to stand up and declare we are the true pro-life party, and Republicans have proven time and time again, that not only are they not pro-life, but they are also the party of sexual misconduct, especially with minors.

Stefanik’s attack has caused #EliseStarvefanik to trend:

Lastly, some responses to Congresswoman Stefanik’s libelous, fascistic attack:

Right-wing religious extremism is the only excuse Republicans have in opposing abortion

The Senate is going to take a vote today to codify Roe. Preview coverage has it pretty much right. The bill won’t pass, not in the form anyway, that was sent over by the House. But passage isn’t the point.

The point is showing who among the Republicans – and who among the GOP-adjacent Democrats – will go on record as being against the enshrinement in statutory law of privacy rights, equal standing in society, individual liberty and abortion. Where do senators stand?

When that becomes clear, the Democrats will turn to the American people to decide what should happen next. If you want Roe to be federal law, vote for a Democrat. If you don’t, vote for a Republican.

(I don’t see a third way. Five Republican justices on the Supreme Court will almost certainly strike down Roe. According to a report by Politico, they are not considering other draft opinions. Alito’s opinion, which hints at voiding other civil liberties in the future, is likely the final one.)

Given the debate over abortion will have passed through the court and the Senate on its way to the midterms in this fall, perhaps now’s a good time to rethink abortion in terms that seem to have been left behind.

Liberals and other champions of abortion used to deploy a vocabulary that was appropriate in the years before 1973, when Roe was decided.

That vocabulary was religious, even cross-denominational. Abortion’s most likely opponents were canonical Catholics. Otherwise, most people most of the time saw abortion as part of religious liberty. Here’s what the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service said in 1973:

If the state laws are now made to conform to the Supreme Court ruling, the decision to obtain an abortion or to bring pregnancy to full term can now be a matter of conscience and deliberate choice rather than one compelled by law. Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.

Remember, abortion did not become a religious issue until the late 1970s when GOP operatives realized that it was an effective vehicle for achieving unrelated political goals. For instance, reducing business taxes and regulation but mostly for getting the federal government off private religious schools built on a foundation of white supremacy.

Since then, the debate over abortion has been increasingly distilled so that on one side, you had religious believers in “the sanctity of life” while on the other, you had secular believers in the ultimate moral agency of women. A religious argument for abortion was prominent before Roe. Afterward, that movement turned to other injustices.

It’s a good time to revive the spirit of that movement. Its focus might be on a question most abortion champions don’t bother answering.

IS an embryo a child? Really? I mean, seriously?

Abortion champions would rather talk about privacy and the freedom to choose. They would rather leave religion out of the debate, because the other side has so thoroughly colonized that terrain. I get that.

But I also think most people most of the time don’t know much about politics, much less a nuclear issue like abortion. Most people avoid conflict. They don’t try to understand it fully. Instead, they rely on instinct. Instinct is informed by a variety of religious experiences.

As long as Roe is law, there’s no need for a religious counterpoint. Things are going to be different in June, though. If you want voters in the midterms to decide whether Roe should be federal law, it would be useful, even necessary, to undermine the dominating religious view.

Is an embryo a child?

No, an embryo is an embryo.

An embryo is no more a child than a tire is a car, a room is a house, a politician is a government. It’s no more a child than the big toe on your left foot is you. A part of a thing is not the same thing as the whole of a thing. Asking us to believe that an embryo is a child is asking us to inhabit a reality that’s upside down, backwards and prolapsed.

To be sure, religions often ask us to inhabit such realities.

But what kind of religion asks us to do that?

Not a moral one.

Not a religion steeped in tradition or scripture or the common law. Traditionally, scripturally and legally, life began at some point on a spectrum between the child’s first kick to the child’s first breath.

Asking us to believe an embryo is a child is a newfangled idea – which is to say, an idea fully fabricated for political expediency – that used to have currency, and still does, for a specific strain of Christianity.

Asking us to believe an embryo is a child is asking us to be Catholic. (Most lay Catholics support a women’s ultimate moral agency, though.)

At this point in the argument, things can go two ways. One, it’s now about religion, specifically a good religion versus a bad religion. Abortion wouldn’t be the cause of conflict. It’s a symptom of it.

Two, it’s about taking seriously an amoral, ahistorical and illogical religious argument. Should we? Should we continue respecting a bad religion? Or should we fight it vigorously on equally religious grounds?

As I said, I get it. Most champions of abortion would rather talk about privacy and the freedom to choose. They would rather cede religion to the religious. In doing so, however, I think they make a strategist error.

They allow the press corps, no stranger to misogyny, to depict the liberal view of abortion as being the same as the conservative view.

The rights of one person (a woman) are equal to the rights of another “person” (an embryo). This is the framing most people most of the time encounter. Naturally, they privilege “the baby” over “the bad mother.”

We need to upend that frame – as well as preempt future attempts b y Republicans to endow embryos with “personhood.” In addition to a choice should come a religious argument reviving the spirit of the old multi-faith movement for the advancement of aborton rights.

The strongest asset among anti-abortionists is the belief that an embryo is a person only a religious movement can save from death.

There is no counter to that in secular terms. Indeed, the more we focus on a woman’s right to choose, the more selfish she appears to be among most people most of the time who will vote on Roe’s fate.

The only counter is religious. Those asking us to believe an embryo is a person are radicals from a bad religion unmoored from history, scripture and law. They ask us to believe nonsense. A good religion is not crazy-making. It stands on the rock of truth, justice and faith.

It understands an embryo is an embryo.

A baby is a baby.

And bullshit is bullshit.

Will the House January 6th panel hold complicit lawmakers accountable?

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, recently tweeted: "We now have evidence to support the story of the worst presidential political offense against the Union in American history."

OK, good. Bring it. Please.

In terms of holding onto power, this may still be a country for old men, but it should be no country for insurrectionists. The committee plans to present its case to the American people at last, with at least eight public hearings, starting on June 9.

More than 800 citizens (many also full-time denizens of the Confederacy and QAnon) have been arrested for their actions that day at the Capitol, and about 250 have pleaded guilty so far. The FBI has video and photos of other suspects, many of which are so clear one wonders how it can be that they have not yet been identified. But there are other suspects — far more culpable for what occurred that day — and we can see them walking in and out of Congress every day.

The highly placed "public servants" who instigated the insurrection — the Insurrection Elite, as it were — have been allowed to slide so far, and keep on defending the deadly attack or obfuscating what happened. Republican leaders first claimed that it might be a "false flag" operation, in which members of some imaginary anti-fascist group dressed down as Trump supporters; then a GOP congressman from Georgia suggested that the attack wasn't really so bad, but more like "a normal tourist visit." After that, some gleefully claimed that the whole thing was Nancy Pelosi's or President Biden's fault.

The most popular guy on Fox News has quipped that the day when the president of the United States and members of his cult nearly succeeded in a violent subversion of the peaceful transition of power "barely rates as a footnote" in history.

Was someone talking about the "elite" and their privilege? Here, their confidence about getting away with anything and everything is so great that they blithely change the narrative of things we all saw with our own eyes.

Nearly a year and a half after 140 Capitol and Metropolitan police were injured, some grievously, by the stun guns, chemical sprays, clubs, batons, poles, sharpened shafts and other makeshift weaponry brought by Trump followers — who engaged in a kind of hand-to-hand combat likened by police to "a medieval battle" — the public is learning how planned out the day really was, and how duplicitous and shameless the Republican leadership is.

The Jan. 6 committee has done an exhaustive study of the events of the day and the planning that led up to it. In a lengthy, rambling speech to his crowd of supporters on the Ellipse that day, Trump insisted they must "stop the steal," claimed he had won by a landslide, said that many Republicans were weak, and told the crowd they should march to the Capitol and "fight like hell" or else they would not have a country anymore. Of course he skipped the march himself and repaired to the White House to gleefully watch on television as they rampaged at the Capitol. During the siege, Republican members of Congress, including Kevin McCarthy, along with Fox News personalities and his own family members were calling and texting Trump, begging him to call things off. (We don't know who Trump spoke with for most of that day because there is a gap of more than seven hours in the official White House phone logs.)

Beyond that clear example of hiding or destroying evidence, indulge me in a list of the things that most stand out:

  • Trump had been setting up his Big Lie for months before the election, saying at rallies that if he lost it could only be because of voter fraud. He did the same thing before the election in 2016, and even when he squeaked out an Electoral College victory then (losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million), he complained, with no evidence, about "voter fraud."
  • After the 2020 election, Trump told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" him 11,780 votes, and then started suggesting various things he had heard "that may or may not be true" about ballots being destroyed in various ways. (It's worth listening to that again, if only to be reminded how pathetic it was and how much pressure he put on Raffensperger.)
  • Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani repeatedly cut a ludicrous figure — even without that press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia — as he endlessly claimed he had evidence of voter fraud but declined to offer any of it in court, where there happen to be rules against making things up.
  • Nothing came of any of the recounts in any of the disputed states — including the "audit" performed by the so-called Cyber Ninjas, hired by the Republican-led state Senate in Arizona to audit the votes in Maricopa County. That audit actually found more votes for Biden but kept the Republican base roiled up about voter fraud for months on end, which was the entire point. Then the company went belly-up rather than turn over their records to officials.
  • The only instances of voter fraud uncovered in the past year or so were by Republicans, including Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who lives and votes in Virginia but also registered to vote in North Carolina, at a remote rural trailer he has probably never visited.
  • Speaking of Meadows, the 2,319 text messages he turned over to the Jan. 6 committee were so revealing, historian Heather Cox Richardson wondered what could possibly be in the 1,000-some other messages he has fought to withhold.
  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, lawyer John Eastman, Giuliani, and many others were concocting a strategy to keep Trump in office and working the phones in their "war room" on Jan. 5 at the Willard Hotel. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone was also there, "protected" by a group of Oath Keepers.
  • Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, raised money for, and attended, the "Stop the Steal" rally. She also sent numerous emails to Meadows begging him to do whatever was necessary to keep Trump in office. (Here's a quick and illuminating history by Greg Olear of that Washington power couple.)
  • MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, an endless font of conspiracy theory, was allowed access to the Trump White House. In a mildly sensible age, that fact alone would be damning enough to keep Trump from holding any position of responsibility in the future.
  • As we now know, both Mitch McConnell, at the time Senate majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy, House minority leader, recognized what Trump had done and said so in the moment. To his credit, McConnell did so in public (later, characteristically, retreating into serving himself and his party), while McCarthy privately said he would tell Trump to resign — and then did not. And then lied about it.
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene can't remember a gosh-darned thing. If the republic survives, perhaps that will be a sing-song phrase that school children will learn. In any case, someone with that level of memory loss would appear unfit for public office.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., that anti-elitist champion of the common man (and graduate of Stanford and Yale Law School) not only betrayed his country but betrayed the high emotions of his fellow conspirators on Jan. 6, when he couldn't help himself from raising his fist in solidarity with the roiling mob. That he and multiple GOP members of Congress who appear to have engaged in planning to stop the certification of electoral votes are still allowed anywhere near the Capitol boggles the mind.

Near the end of Joel and Ethan Coen's 2007 Academy Award­–winning film "No Country for Old Men," adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, two older lawmen are ruminating about how the culture — and criminals — have changed. Speaking of the relentless killer-for-hire Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), El Paso sheriff Roscoe Giddens (Rodger Boyce), shakes his head and says to Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones): "Strolls right back into a crime scene. Who would do such a thing? How do you defend against it?"

It appears to many of us that quite a few insurrectionists walked right back into the scene of the crime, the U.S Capitol, or "the People's House," as they like to call it — as if they had some special claim on it and could do whatever they like with it — and have been lying and stonewalling about their roles ever since. One hundred and forty-seven Republicans voted against certifying the electoral votes, even after the riot by Trump's supporters, after chaos had come to the Capitol and people had died. Why persist at that point? Well, because some of them were in on the plan and still thought it might succeed. Some were apparently asking for presidential pardons in real time.

The People's House is not theirs to destroy. And the people who live in my house want any traitor to this country out of office and banned from even running for dogcatcher. The third section of the 14th Amendment may have been written with members of the Confederacy in mind, to disqualify them from holding office, but who doesn't see that we have a new Confederacy standing tall and defiant in front of us? It wasn't for nothing that the rest of us had to suffer seeing the Confederate flag carried into the Capitol.

Thinking of another scene from the film, it could be that I'm just an old man who doesn't know what's coming. But I think I see it clearly — and the mainstream press is finally seeing it, too. And it won't be the United States of America anymore — my country, and presumably yours — if the small but relentless gang of white nationalists and religious right zealots that Trumpism let loose prevails in the end.

Mother's Day is gaslighting

It wasn't until I became a mother than I realized how true the saying is: Moms make the magic. For holiday joy, I would be responsible, usually alone, for cooking treats, decorating homes inside and out, shopping for and wrapping presents, remembering parties — responsible even for my own holiday: Mother's Day.

I used to believe my dislike of Mother's Day stemmed from the fact that I was a single mother, my now ex-husband leaving our family shortly after our child was born. Few people think of single moms on Mother's Day. It became simply easier to let the day pass unremarked upon, just another day in which I parented alone, like every other day. No need to make extra work for myself. But in the last two years, my longtime partner moved in with my son and me and has become a constant, dependable fixture in my son's life. I no longer have to buy my own present, to bake any treat I might eat, to clean up a festive house alone.

I still hate Mother's Day. And many other mothers I know do too, in large part because it feels like slapping a smiley sticker on a gaping wound. There is simply a disconnect between the way we talk about mothers in this country and the way we treat them, a gulf too wide to be remedied by a day.

In 1914, then President Woodrow Wilson made Mother's Day a national holiday in America, building upon a memorial started by Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, whose mother had organized women's groups and other service programs in her home of West Virginia. Jarvis had intended the day to be one of reflection, honor and service, and grew dissatisfied with the increasing emphasis on buying gifts and commercialism, even trying to abolish the holiday toward the end of her life.

Manufactured holidays love capitalism, though. As historian Katharine Antolini told the BBC "the floral industry, greeting card industry and candy industry deserve some of the credit for the day's promotion." The Mother's Day industrial complex is a big deal, with people predicted to spend $31.7 billion on the holiday in 2022, up 13% from last year, according to a report published by Forbes, dropping money on gift sets, beauty products, mail subscriptions, chocolates, fragrances, home goods and flowers.

"What do mothers really want for Mother's Day?" is the single most popular PR pitch I've received in my email inbox for the past few weeks. Stand down, publicists. I can answer that question myself. What moms really want is much more than a day. And we certainly want more than gaslighting.

Surviving birth — which many people in America, the developed country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, do not, especially not Black women — is only the start of the battle.

The toxic, mixed messages around motherhood start early. The elevation of motherhood is perhaps one of America's greatest tricks. To be a mother — that's the world's most important job say the empty platitudes from church groups and politicians. Strange that the world's most important job doesn't pay anything. It also comes with extreme risks and diminishing returns.

New mothers are ostracized, isolated with the encompassing reality of caring for a newborn which some moms, like me, must do totally alone, often not by choice. The food train from the neighbors only lasts for so long, and childless friends are less sympathetic when you're still dealing with sleep deprivation six months on. "Most new moms experience postpartum "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping," writes the Mayo Clinic. But over 30% of moms experience postpartum depression, a figure that some experts believe could actually be double that. Risk factors vary but can include traumatic birth. Researchers have realized that some mothers endure birth experiences so physically and emotionally difficult, it can led to post-traumatic stress disorder, different from postpartum depression.

But surviving birth — which many people in America, the developed country with the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, do not, especially not Black women — is only the start of the battle. Last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 10 million mothers living with children in the U.S. were not actively working jobs, an increase of 1.4 million more than the previous year.

The pandemic is to blame for the increase, with mothers expected to sacrifice their employment — in many cases, to completely leave the workplace — in order to become ad hoc teachers for their children. COVID set back women's gains in the workforce to the lowest levels since 1988. While many parents worked from home, 71% of fathers reported a "positive outcome" of remote work while only 41% of mothers did, according to a 2021 study, perhaps because mothers were still expected to do it all while working their jobs from home: to cook, clean and be the one whose meetings are interrupted, the one expected to entertain children or keep them on school task.

Fatherhood allows many men to get ahead at work, giving them a perceived advantage.

Even before the pandemic, mothers were less likely to be promoted at work. As reported in a UK study, "only 27.8% of women were in full-time or self-employed work three years after childbirth, compared to 90% of new fathers." Motherhood is seen as interfering with work in a way that fatherhood does not, and mothers are treated differently. According to Psychology Today, "Not only are working mothers often seen as lacking the determination to get ahead, they may also be regarded as violating social norms by failing to be 'ideal mothers,' i.e., putting their work ahead of their children." (Hell, even this "Fox & Friends" host just voiced his opposition to the Department of Homeland Security hiring a pregnant woman.)This attitude of childbirth and childrearing disrupting work does not extend to fathers. On the contrary, fatherhood allows many men to get ahead at work, giving them a perceived advantage: "Men with children typically receive higher starting salaries and are held to lower performance standards than nonparents."

We know that women, particularly women of color, are paid less than men, but mothers specifically are punished financially more than fathers, which some experts call the "Motherhood Penalty." Single moms are punished most of all. As reported by the National Women's Law Center, mothers earn 75 cents for every dollar paid to fathers — which ends up being a loss of $15,300 yearly — and single mothers earn only 54 cents for every dollar paid to married men.

As if the drastic gap in income and lack of promotions weren't bad enough, mothers also don't have enough support: in some cases, not enough childcare to even work. Columbia University describes the childcare crisis as "a threat to our nation," holding not only mothers back from employment, financial gains and advancement, but holding children back from educational and social development. In Denver, Colorado, childcare was described in 2022 as costing as much as a second mortgage. And that's if you can find a place. The burden of childcare, providing it or finding it, still falls overwhelmingly on mothers.

My country loves mothers, but only as an idea.

My name never budged on the childcare waitlist I put my son on when he was a newborn. When he finally went to all-day, public kindergarten, I sold and published two books within two years of each other, with a third forthcoming. I finally had the time to think, the space to get my work done. Before that, I stayed up until 2 or 3 in the morning most nights. I worked in my car, writing against the steering wheel while my child napped in his car seat. I wrote my dissertation one-handed, while he slept in a sling on my chest. That's no so unusual. That's what moms do. Because we have to.

The determination of mothers cannot be overstated, but our reward for getting things done no matter what is fewer jobs and promotions, lower pay and abysmal medical care. The latest attack is the most dire, with the Supreme Court predicted to reverse Roe V. Wade, which has permitted legal abortion for 50 years. Since the pandemic, it's hard not to feel like we're sliding swiftly backward when it comes to the advancement of mothers, an advancement that had never budged very far in the first place.

My country loves mothers, but only as an idea. The concept of motherhood as selfless, all-consuming and noble is outdated, and the notion that we celebrate mothers for one day out of the year while doing everything in our power to keep them down all other days is pathological. Tell me again why a greeting card is enough?

A day can't fix the way America treats mothers. Keep your day, your carnations and your breakfast in bed. What I want is change.

The Democrats have a secret sauce to win the midterm elections

The beginning of May before midterm elections signals the official start of primary season and the kickoff of fall campaigns. Because midterms are usually referendums on a president’s performance, the conventional view now is that Democrats are in deep trouble because Biden’s approval ratings are in the cellar.

But the conventional view doesn’t account for the Trump factor, which gives Democrats a fighting chance of keeping one or both chambers.

According to recent polls, Trump’s popularity continues to sink. He is liked by only 38 percent of Americans and disliked by 46 percent. (12 percent are neutral.) And Trump continues to slide: Among voters 45-64 years old – a group exit polls show Trump won 50% to 49% in 2020 – just 39 percent now view him favorably and 57 percent unfavorably. Among voters older than 65 – 52 percent of whom voted for him in 2000 to Biden’s 47 percent – only 44 percent now see him favorably and more than half (54%) view him unfavorably. Importantly, independents hold him in even lower regard. Just 26 percent view him favorably and 68 percent unfavorably.

Republican lawmakers had hoped and assumed that Trump would fade from the scene by the 2022 midterms, allowing them to engage in full-throttled attacks on Democrats.

But Trump hasn’t faded. In fact, his visibility is growing daily.

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The media is framing the May Republican primaries as all about Trump. The Ohio primary was a giant proxy battle over him, in which Republican candidates outdid each other trying to sound just like Trump – railing against undocumented immigrants, coastal elites, “socialism,” and “wokeness,” and regurgitating the Big Lie.

Trump’s April 15 endorsement of JD Vance made the difference – as could his backing of Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania’s Mary 17 primary and Hershel Walker in Georgia’s May 24 primary. But whether Trump’s bets pay off in wins for these candidates is beside the point. Trump is making these races all about himself —and in so doing, casting the midterms as a referendum on his continuing power and influence.

June’s televised hearings of the House January 6 committee will likely show how Trump and his White House orchestrated the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and rekindle memories of Trump’s threat to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Ukrainian president Zelensky came up with dirt on Biden.

Here again, the real significance of these hearings won’t be seen in Trump’s approval ratings but in Trump’s heightened visibility in the months before the midterms – and its almost certain shift in voters’ preferences toward the Democrats.

Also likely in June (according to leaked documents) is a decision by the Supreme Court to uphold Oklahoma’s near ban on abortion and reverse Roe v. Wade – courtesy of Trump’s three Court nominees whom Trump explicitly nominated in order to reverse Roe.

The high court’s decision will green-light other Republican states to enact similar bans, and spur Republicans in Congress to push for national legislation to virtually bar abortions across the country. Republicans believe this would ignite their base, but it’s more likely to ignite a firestorm among the vast majority of Americans who believe abortion should be legal. Score another one for Trump.

There is also the distinct possibility of criminal trials over Trump’s business and electoral frauds (such as his brazen attempt to change the Georgia vote tally). Again, their significance for the midterms is less about whether Trump is found guilty than about their continuing reminders of his lawlessness.

Meanwhile, America will be treated to more Trump rallies, interviews, and barnstorming to convince voters the 2020 election was stolen from him, along with his incessant demands that Republican candidates reiterate his Big Lie.

Somewhere along the line, also before the midterms, Elon Musk will allow Trump back on Twitter. The move would be bad for America, but it would remind voters of how whacky, racist, and dangerously incendiary Trump continues to be.

Oh, and don’t forget the antics of Trump’s many surrogates – Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Steven Bannon, Madison Cawthorn, and others – who mimic Trump’s bravado, bigotry, divisiveness, and disdain for the law. All are walking billboards for Trumpism’s heinous impact on American life.

All will push wavering voters toward Democrats in November.

I’m not suggesting Democrats seeking election or reelection should center their campaigns around Trump. To the contrary, Democrats need to show their continuing commitment to average working people. Between now and November, they should provide help with childcare, cut the costs of prescription drugs, and stop oil companies for price gouging, to take but three examples.

If they do this, they can count on Trump to remind Americans of the hatefulness and chaos he unleashed. The combination – Democrats scoring some additional victories for working people, and Trump being Trump – could well reverse conventional wisdom about midterms and keep Dems in control of Congress.

Republican lawmakers and sedition supporters are irate that the end of Roe was leaked in advance

You might have expected that Republican lawmakers would have been giddy last night with the leaked news that the newly far-right Supreme Court is on the cusp of granting their half-century-old dream, the dream of erasing abortion rights that was the very reason the party began putting forth those new archconservative nominees to begin with. Nope. Republican lawmakers were and continue to be absolutely furious, alleging that the rare (but hardly unprecedented) leak from the court is an outrage that must not be allowed to stand.

And so a parade of willing seditionists, defenders of corruption, and those who keep voting to block investigations into any of it in order to advance Republican power have spent the last 24 hours screaming about the norms while saying little to nothing about the raw cruelty of Alito's leaked far-far-right opinion, or its hints that the Trump-packed court intends to use the Alito framework to undo rights ranging from LGBT marriage to contraception to anti-"sodomy" laws.

No, the Republican Party that both mounted an attempted coup and is still working, to this day, to block the investigations into who organized the effort and who they had help from—they're very mad about the Alito-written draft opinion getting leaked. It didn't even take an hour for that to become The Talking Point.

The Senate’s two most visible insurrection backers weighed in, of course. Sen. Ted Cruz was outraged by the “blatant attempt to intimidate the Court through public pressure rather than reasoned argument,” which you know is bullshit because insurrection. At the same time, Sen. Josh Hawley immediately went weird conspiracy crank because apparently not even history-shaking reality is as exciting as the theories in his own head.

There’s no part of that that makes sense, which is how you know Josh Hawley wrote it himself. He also has a solution: The Libs Made Me Fascist Harder!

Elsewhere in Team Active Sedition, we find that same “intimidating,” coupled with a “radical left.” It’s not attempting to overthrow the U.S. government or packing the courts with unqualified hardliners that’s radical; it’s some clerk or technical worker inside the Supreme Court leaking the end of abortion rights in this nation before Team Sedition’s justices have fully crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.

The man who broke the court himself, Mitch McConnell, repeats the notion that the real “mob rule” is a random leaker inside the Supreme Court. “Escalation,” “radical left,” “attack,” and “intimidate” are all used, giving the impression of coordinated violence akin to, say, insurrection to describe reporters getting a leaked document from an unknown government source.

What’s important here, however, is to remember that McConnell is the most prolific liar in all of government now that Trump is gone. He literally gives speeches like this on a daily basis, all explaining that “the left” are the real radicals and that he is a man of high principle who would never do the things he just did. Mitch McConnell invented new rule after new rule to make sure the Supreme Court slid to the current archconservative dismantlers even as America continued to vote for Democratic presidents to undo it. There’s nobody who’s been more radical; a press leak may be embarrassing, but it’s neither an insurrection nor a spate of new laws blocking Americans from their ballots.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. Alito’s hyper-cruel opinion must be hidden from the public lest Alito feel vulnerable about it. Every theocratic fascist is secretly a wilting flower, which is why we’re getting all these new laws banning books that make people like Sam Freaking Alito feel bad.

OH MY GOD I’m just going to start filtering out any tweets or news stories that so much as mention Susan Collins’ name. Susan Collins could be replaced with a potted plant and it would make absolutely no difference in anyone’s lives, ever. Imagine basing a whole political career on the theme of being the single most gullible person in America—and getting reelected for it.

But the talking point is the talking point, and it’s still going.


Hey, it’s Guy Who’s All About Projecting Dignity While His Party Collapses Into Fascism:

Also Sen. Lindsey Graham said something, and I don’t even care. Lindsey saved his top career meltdown for the purpose of railroading a serial sex predator through the confirmation process rather than abide testimony against him. We all already know what he thinks about the “dignity” of our court systems.

Instead, here’s another reminder that this other guy remains neck-deep in the attempt to nullify an American election rather than recognize the right of Americans to pick non-Republican winners:

What a toad this guy is. But the notion that “a Supreme Court leak is the real insurrection” has gotten a lot of traction among the people who … don’t think actual insurrections are bad.

All right, that one’s simply amazing. It should come with its own theme song.

There is a distinct link between the curtailing of abortion rights and rising fascism, by the way.

There are two things to note that make Team Sedition’s posturing here even more grotesque than it first appears—aside from the uncanny link between restricting reproductive justice and authoritarianism/fascism. The first is that we sincerely don’t know who could have leaked this opinion or why, and we probably won’t know for a long time. There’s just as much reason to expect a conservative abortion opponent inside the court leaked the document to blame a secret liberal inside the court; if conservative justices were feeling uneasy about the sheer magnitude of what Alito intends to unravel, leaking the document would paint a target on whichever conservative justices were threatening to back out.

So it’s yet again the case that the Republicans insisting that their enemy, “the left,” are responsible for the latest crimes against Washington decency are basing those claims on fictions inside their own heads. They don’t know who leaked any more than the rest of us do, and they don’t know why.

The other detail that Republican outrage is conveniently ignoring is that while Supreme Court leaks are rare, they’re far from unprecedented. And leaking about Roe, in particular, is quite precedented!

Unlike an attempt by House and Senate Republicans to nullify an American presidential election based on false claims and party-pushed hoaxes, leaks from the Supreme Court are not, in fact, unprecedented assaults on our democracy.

One can even make the case that our Supreme Court justices might behave a bit better if there were more leaks into how they arrive at their decisions, given this new court’s unwillingness to even issue written explanations of some of their most radical orders. Perhaps we would learn more about why the wife of a Supreme Court justice felt so confident about her own role in an attempted pro-Trump coup, and why that justice voted to block further evidence from coming to light. Perhaps we would learn why the court is currently pretending, very very hard, to be confused over whether constitutionally protected rights can be scrubbed out by any state willing to hire private bounty hunters to do it for them.

Perhaps we’d learn why Alito’s opinion leans so heavily into arguments that not just abortion rights need to be erased, but that civil rights legislation needs to be rolled back by several generations—back to the days when American women couldn’t open bank accounts without their husband’s permission, much less have control over their own human selves. Perhaps, though, we’d just learn that the current Supreme Court is just as devoted to forcing Republican rule onto the rest of us as the Josh Hawleys of the party are. They just don’t have to explain themselves when they do it.

Biden Democrats are deer in the headlights against dishonest GOP onslaught: Ralph Nader

There is something about entrenched bureaucracies that transcend nations and cultures. When bureaucracies are confronted with unanticipated or new challenges, they freeze – like a deer facing headlights.

Sears, Roebuck and Company saw Walmart coming out of Arkansas for years and spreading all over the country, but the Sears bosses could not adjust to deal with this swarming business model. Sears, once the premium retail and mail order company in the nation, is now almost gone.

The lumbering General Motors (GM) had years to confront the electric car challenge of Tesla. Tiny Tesla took on giant GM, which built electric cars as prototypes long before Elon Musk was born. GM launched the much-troubled Chevrolet Volt and other converted model brands, but Musk isn't losing any sleep over competition from GM or the other giant auto manufacturers. He just reported last quarter sales of over 300,000 electric vehicles, which means expected sales of well over one million dollars in 2022 or 50% over the previous year. Tesla's profits are skyrocketing as well, as more Tesla manufacturing plants open. The GM bureaucracy, under CEO-engineer Mary Barra, just can't put it together no matter its bold promises to convert to all electric vehicles.

Similarly, the national Democratic Party bureaucrats are inept or bewildered. With its record-setting campaign fundraising, the Party can't seem to figure out how to go on the offensive against the overtly lying, cruel, corrupt, law-breaking, Wall Street over Main Street, Trumpian Republican Party. GOP fictions are fabricated and reinforced with wild falsifications – e.g., critical race theory being taught in elementary schools, Democratic politicians wanting to defund the police, Democrats being "socialists," and the latest, that Democrats support teaching gay rights and gay lifestyles to early elementary school children. These accusations have left the Democratic apparatchiks tongue-tied. They can neither come up with easily pummeling rebuttals, exciting slogans, nor even authentic boasting about delivered and proposed social safety net and infrastructure programs that provide necessary assistance. How hard is it to boast about the $300 per month to over 60 million children cut off by GOP Congressional callousness? Or a $15 minimum wage? Or good-paying jobs repairing and expanding public services for all workers also opposed by the GOP?

Article after article in the mainstream media depicts the Democratic Party as depressed, discouraged and predicting their own defeat in the November election. They are searching for effective "messaging" by looking over each other's shoulders.

Bear in mind that many of their Republican opponents are political crooks, law violators and voter suppressors. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), who is in charge of the Senate November campaigns, wants to tax 100 million low-income Americans and sunset Social Security and Medicare. (See, Senator Scott's An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America).

Democratic political operatives are frantic and down in the dumps. Yet they cling to their corporate-conflicted consultancies that are making it worse for themselves. Facing their self-fulfilling prophecies of November doom in the Senate and the House, they are still not welcoming the advice and know-how of the civic community, which fifty years ago worked with the Democratic Party to enact the fundamental consumer, environmental and worker safety legislation.

GOP strategists mock the Democrats regularly as not having a clue as to what ordinary Americans want. Unfortunately, whether it is arrogance, stupidity or historical ignorance, the Dems rarely return calls of civic leaders who know how to connect with Americans where they live, work and raise their families.

Of course, it doesn't help that the mainstream media has excluded the activities and reports by these national and state organizations. They gave coverage to the work of these groups in the past.

Can, at the very least, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and its network of related federal and state committees, pollsters, fundraisers and consultants learn from Harry S. Truman in his underdog 1948 presidential campaign against the former prosecutor and New York Governor Thomas Dewey? Pollsters and pundits described Truman as a sure loser and a has-been. Southern segregationists or Dixiecrats walked out of the Democratic nominating convention and formed their States' Rights Party.

These setbacks just got "Give-Em Hell Harry" underway. He called Congress back into session so he could show the public the differences between his policies and the retrograde Republicans. As related in Robert Kuttner's new book, Going Big, Truman pushed "…legislation on housing, aid to education, a higher minimum wage, development and reclamation programs for the South and West, increased Social Security, and expanded public power." With these popular hammers, Truman provoked the fierce opposition of what he repeatedly called, the "do-nothing 80th Congress," controlled by Republicans, and set the stage for highlighting sharp differences with the GOP in his presidential campaign.

Come September 1948, Truman spent 33 days covering 21,928 miles on the railroad campaign trail, attacking the Republicans and their "big money boys." In Dexter, Iowa, Kuttner reports, "he told a crowd of some ninety thousand people" (outdoors):

"I wonder how many times you have to be hit on the head before you find out who's hitting you? …These Republican gluttons of privilege are cold men. They are cunning men…They want a return of the Wall Street dictatorship…I'm not asking you to vote for me. Vote for yourselves."

This was the language of class warfare that still resonates as well in 2022 as it did in 1948 or in 1933. The Democrats can even quote mega-billionaire Warren Buffett who candidly said there is class warfare in America, "…but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

The Democrats have memories of many inept races for the White House and the Congress that they should have won handily over the last 25 years. What they should remind themselves of now is how the FDR, Truman and LBJ Democrats won their elections against much more tame Republicans than the now vicious, snarling, anything goes GOP candidates that have turned themselves into Trumpian lackeys.

Is the U.S. in a proxy war with Russia? Sergey Lavrov and Lloyd Austin seem to think so

With heavy weapons like first-line tanks, multiple rocket launchers, 155mm howitzers, attack helicopters and updated anti-aircraft systems flooding into Ukraine and beginning to reach the battlefield, the only thing missing from an all-out war between NATO and Russia are allied soldiers.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to the upsurge in weapons shipments this week when he said, "NATO is, in essence, going to war with Russia through a proxy and arming that proxy." Lavrov accompanied that with some nuclear saber-rattling, and then said that NATO and the U.S. were running the risk of turning the war global and involving nuclear weapons: "The risk is serious, real. It should not be underestimated," he said Monday night on Russian state television. "Under no circumstances should a third world war be allowed to happen. There can be no winners in a nuclear war."

No shit, Sherlock. Sixty-four days after Russia invaded Ukraine, it's finally dawning on the billionaires in charge over there that they might have made the proverbial mistake of biting off more than they can chew. On the same day reality appeared to slap Lavrov in the face in Moscow, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, at a meeting with more than 40 NATO and non-NATO defense officials in Germany, announced a new American strategy intended to degrade Russia's military so that it cannot threaten other nations with war in the future. "We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine," Austin told reporters.

President Biden backed up the new strategy by announcing that his administration is seeking $33 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, far more than the U.S. has committed so far in the conflict. "We either back Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities," Biden said at the White House on Thursday. The Washington Post reported that administration sources confided that the new spending package "is meant to not only defend Ukraine but to weaken and deter Russia in a conflict that shows few signs of ending. U.S. leaders are increasingly open about their hopes that the conflict will result not just in Ukraine's survival, but also in a significantly weakened Russia."

The new strategy reflects what has already happened on the ground. Russia's attack on Ukraine has been crippled by clever tactics and counterstrikes by the much less well-equipped and smaller Ukraine military forces. An all-out assault on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv was turned back, sending Russian forces retreating into safe havens on Russian and Belarus soil where they had massed earlier in the year before their late February attack. According to Ukrainian drone footage seen by the Daily Mail, fields that surveillance photos once showed lined with row after row of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers and supply vehicles are now littered with burned-out skeletons of the same military hardware.

Ukraine's military reported last week that it had destroyed 839 Russian tanks, more than 2,000 armored personnel carriers, a mix of 393 self-propelled and towed howitzers, 108 multiple rocket launchers and 76 fuel tankers. Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Thursday that 187 Russian military fixed-wing aircraft and 155 combat helicopters had been destroyed, along with 215 drones the Russian military had been using for surveillance and as missile launch platforms. Not to mention the Russian missile cruiser Moskva, now at the bottom of the Black Sea.

Russia has been using older T-72 tanks but has also fielded some newer, more high-tech and expensive T-80s. The T-72 tank, in service since the 1970s, cost about $2 million apiece when new. The T-80 tanks, also in service since the mid-1970s but upgraded since then, cost about $3 million. Russian armored personnel carriers (APCs) cost about $500,000. All those photos you've seen of blown-up and burned-out low-slung tracked vehicles that don't have large-caliber turreted guns are APCs. No matter who's counting, the Russian military appears to have lost thousands of them.

Forbes reported this week that the initial Russian invasion force in February involved 120 battle tactical groups (BTGs), composed of 85 armored vehicles each, about 12,000 armored vehicles total. Forbes assesses that Ukrainian numbers for Russian battlefield losses are "optimistic," and cites the open-source intelligence website Oryx as probably more accurate. Relying entirely on photographic evidence of destroyed, damaged or captured vehicles, Oryx on Tuesday reported that Russia had lost 562 tanks and 1,200 armored personnel carriers for a total of 1,762.

Taking an average of figures reported by Ukraine, Oryx and the Pentagon, Forbes concluded that Russia has lost somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 of its armored fighting vehicles, meaning that 20 to 25 percent of the entire military force Russia initially put on the battlefield in Ukraine has been knocked out. Relying on the same sources, Forbes estimates that Russia has suffered 15,000 battlefield deaths. Every soldier who is killed has to be replaced, and training soldiers costs real money. According to the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), it currently costs about $200,000 to recruit and put one U.S. soldier through basic training. All soldiers continue their training in advanced courses, and some take as long as two years to fully qualify certain specialties, making the real cost of taking a citizen from civilian life to being ready for combat much more expensive, no matter which country is spending the money.

No matter whose numbers you accept, Russia is suffering heavy, expensive and potentially unsustainable battlefield losses in Ukraine.

No matter whose figures you accept, Russia is suffering heavy and very expensive battlefield losses in Ukraine. "Some units are much more devastated than others. We've seen indications of some units that are literally, for all intents and purposes, eradicated," a senior U.S. defense official said at a background briefing of reporters earlier this month. "There's just nothing left of the BTG except a handful of troops, and maybe a small number of vehicles, and they're going to have to be reconstituted or reapplied to others."

So the degradation of Russia's military is already happening on the battlefield in Ukraine. With $20 billion of the new Ukraine aid package earmarked for combat equipment, ammunition, resupplies, military rations and other battlefield gear, the U.S. seems to be employing a rope-a-dope strategy with Russia: Lure them into throwing as much of their military forces as they can muster into Ukraine and then spend them into the ground, much as the U.S. did during the Cold War, when our military advances and expenditures ended up bankrupting the Soviet Union by exploding its defense budget.

That strategy also depends on how well Western sanctions work against Russia. Every Russian tank, helicopter, fighter jet, rocket launcher and drone lost in Ukraine has to be replaced. All modern military weapons make heavy use of computers, which need chips, and as we all know, computers break and parts need to be replaced. Technology import restrictions have been imposed on Russia under sanctions approved by the U.S., NATO and other countries. Russia will doubtlessly try to figure out ways around the restrictions, but that will cause delays, shortages and problems repurposing dual-use computer hardware and software imported from countries that have not joined the sanctions. There are no timeouts in war. Enemies on the attack don't wait.

If the U.S. is in a proxy war with Russia, it's a war of attrition that will last a while. "Degrading" Russia's military capability means slowing down its ability to equip and man its forces. Vladimir Putin is learning a truth that has endured through the centuries: If you take too big a bite on the battlefield, you die. There are no Heimlich maneuvers in war.

Medical debt is sickening -- and Dr. Oz doesn't seem to care

Never addressed in the 2020 primary was the extent of medical debt, despite a presidential race in the middle of a once-a-century pandemic hospitalizing people for days, weeks and months. The cost was astronomical. Medical debt has accrued exponentially since.

Every candidate had a plan to revamp our broken healthcare system during the 2020 Democratic primary. They ranged from Medicare for All (Bernie Sanders) to expanding the Affordable Care Act (Joe Biden).

Elizabeth Warren said a significant number of Americans got their health insurance from their employers. Pandemic lockdowns meant millions lost it. Kamala Harris touted a variation of Medicare for All. Amy Klobuchar pushed for lowering the age for Medicare to 50.

The debate suggested whoever won the general would dedicate to fixing the system many have tried restructuring – including Hillary Clinton, who attempted in 1993 to institute a universal healthcare initiative – until the GOP ended the possibility of passage.

In 2010, Speaker Nancy Pelosi shepherded the Affordable Care Act into law – which then-Vice President Biden called a “big fucking deal” after President Obama signed it. What the ACA did – Sarah Palin dubbed Obamacare – was set up a healthcare marketplace to buy insurance plans with different levels of coverage and affordability.

The ACA also expanded Medicaid to the working poor. It allowed dependent children to stay on their parents plans until they were 26. It forced insurance companies to charge men and women the same rates, instead of overcharging women for being female. The ACA addressed preexisting health conditions, forbidding companies from rejecting applicants on the basis of their prior health status.

The ACA was the most sweeping healthcare initiative since Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965. Thus Democrats did not expect pushback from Republicans on a law allowing millions of uninsured Americans to buy coverage.

Republican governors rejected Medicaid expansion. Some sued to deny adoption in their states. This meant millions of Americans in those states remained uninsured and vulnerable to medical debt.

Never addressed in the 2020 primary was the extent of medical debt, despite a presidential race in the middle of a once-a-century pandemic hospitalizing people for days, weeks and months.

The cost was astronomical.

Medical debt has accrued exponentially since.

A new study finds that healthcare is now the country’s largest source of debt. One in 10 Americans carry medical debt ranging from $250 – more than a week’s wages for a minimum wage worker – to $10,000.

That latter number is most common. According to healthcare.gov, a three-day hospital stay – the average – costs more than $30,000.

These medical debts are largest in states run by Republican governors who refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Moreover, many households can’t pay cost-sharing in private health plans. That means they’re unable to pay for deductibles, copays and coinsurance like prescription plans. This makes it less likely for people to buy health insurance, even from the healthcare marketplace.

An investigation conducted and published by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that “an estimated 17.8 percent of individuals in the US had medical debt in collections in June 2020.”

That’s well above what was previously thought.

The JAMA investigation was conducted before the true costs of the pandemic had been accrued and analyzed. Yet even without those numbers, the amount of medical debt was staggering at $140 billion.

To put that in perspective, the total 2020 US State Department budget – including USAID – was $52 billion. The total US Department of Justice budget was $35 billion. Medical debt is nearly twice that.

Members of Congress, among them the House Progressive Caucus, frequently take to Twitter to call for student loan debt relief.

But what about medical debt?

According to a new study from the American Journal of Public Health, crowdfunding isn’t an answer. Researchers found that the funding acquired was “highly unequal, and success was low, especially in 2020.” A mere 12 percent of campaigns met their fundraising goals.

Moreover, crowdfunding raised far less money throughout 2020 in states that had more medical debt, higher uninsured rates and lower incomes – notably states controlled by Republican governors.

These states also have the highest percentage of people of color who are significantly more likely to have medical debt than their white peers and who were disproportionately impacted by the covid.

At a GOP debate in Pennsylvania on April 25 for what is arguably the most-watched Senate, five candidates railed against “lockdowns” and “mandates.” Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and celebrity medical TV personality, was the most strident. He claimed his son was being forced in medical school to wear a mask against his will.

No one discussed the impact of the pandemic on the healthcare system nor on the debt being carried by average Americans.

Who will pay for their care? How do we end medical debt?

With the 2024 presidential election looming, it’s a question future candidates on both sides of the aisle must prepare to address.

A New Deal 2.0 must be better than the original

FDR’s program was a case study in how to use facially neutral policies to cause racial discrimination.

PQ If we are serious about another New Deal, it must not only ensure there are no discriminatory loopholes, but also include targeted protections and redress for the historical harm done to Black people.

Roosevelt’s New Deal is often held up by the left as the gold standard in social welfare programs. Many call for a similar attempt from the Biden administration to rebuild the social safety net and address widening economic inequality.

Unfortunately, without a lot of effort, a “New” New Deal could be repeating the past mistakes of policy that seemed universal but really had built in loopholes to expand the racial disparity in wealth, homeownership and labor protections.

While the New Deal did many important things, it’s also a case study in how to use facially neutral policies to cause racial discrimination.

It is fairly well accepted among historians that the particular exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from New Deal labor protections was a race-neutral proxy for excluding Black people, an exclusion that is still part of many of these programs today.

Before passing the National Recovery Act of 1933, which gave the president authority to set wages and prices and was overturned by the Supreme Court, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) conducted hearings to determine regulations for each industry.

During these hearings, many southerners argued for rules that would include explicit racial differentials to allow for paying Black workers less than white workers.

Not only were southern industries dependent on a large underpaid Black workforce, but they argued that it was actually better for Black people to not be paid at the highest wage.

While the explicitly racially discriminatory regulations were not adopted, their intent was accomplished through geographic and industry specifications that resulted in Black workers often being paid less than white workers.

Even though the law was overturned, the debates are indicative of a racially discriminatory intent through out many New Deal programs.

It was advantageous to exclude Black people from New Deal programs as over half of Black people lived in the South in the 1930s where they were economically and politically disenfranchised and Roosevelt was trying to placate southern Democrats to support New Deal policies.

Minimum wage and overtime pay were eventually guaranteed in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, but the act still excluded many jobs that were disproportionately held by Black workers.

Hearings on the law included desires for racially explicit exclusions in order to keep Black people in their place and apparently not further inflame race relations in the South. Instead the Congress relied on their race-neutral proxy exclusions of agricultural workers.

While many changes have been made to the FLSA since 1938, farm workers and “informal” care workers are still exempt from its protections.

The Social Security Act of 1935 established a program to use payroll taxes to address poverty among those too old to work. It also implemented unemployment insurance. Later iterations established disability payments as well as medicaid and medicare.

While this program significantly helped people retire, and survive through unemployment, many professions were left out of the program despite the initial plan to include them.

Without mentioning race once, the choice of professions to exclude, such as agricultural and domestic workers, ultimately left out 65 percent of Black workers and only 27 percent of white workers.

The public historian for the Social Security Administration argues that this was a result of administrative feasibility, not racism, but it’s hard to ignore the impact of the law, especially in the context of the period and other New Deal programs.

New Deal programs outside of labor also promoted racial disparities in wealth. Home ownership is one of the best ways for a family to create generational wealth and economic stability in this country. Unfortunately, this was an avenue that was particularly difficult for Black Americans to access.

After the Civil War de jure segregation pervaded the South and de facto segregation was rampant in the North. Many neighborhoods ensured Black people wouldn’t move in through “restrictive covenants” which forbade the sale of property to Black people, and sometimes other groups, including Jews.

This segregation practices meant even when Black people were able to buy property, it would not appreciate as an investment because they were not in “desirable” neighborhoods.

When the federal government passed the National Housing Act of 1934, which created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to make housing more affordable and increase access to mortgages, it again used its power to exclude Black people.

Rather than discouraging restrictive covenants, the FHA promoted attaching restrictive covenants to property under the justification of protecting people’s investments.

Additionally, mortgage applications got higher ratings for homes in white neighborhoods or if the home already had a restrictive covenant attached. The language of the act did not include any explicit discrimination, but the clear policy of the FHA was to promote segregation and deny access to homeownership to Black people.

Restrictive covenants were eventually ruled unconstitutional in Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948, but it remained policy to deny mortgages to Black people. Between 1934 and 1962, 98 percent of FHA mortgages were issued to white applicants.

Many of the programs passed during the New Deal have been updated since the 1930s but there are still discriminatory practices that haven’t been fixed from these laws today.

The persistent exclusion of Black people from homeownership and labor protections means the Black community has not had the opportunity to build generational wealth.

Even if we fix every discriminatory loophole in these programs, we can’t fix decades lost in building investments.

If we are serious about another New Deal package, it must not only ensure there are no discriminatory loopholes, but also include targeted protections and redress for the historical harm done to Black people.

FDR’s program was a case study in how to use facially neutral policies to cause racial discrimination.

If we are serious about another New Deal, it must not only ensure there are no discriminatory loopholes, but also include targeted protections and redress for the historical harm done to Black people.

Roosevelt’s New Deal is often held up by the left as the gold standard in social welfare programs. Many call for a similar attempt from the Biden administration to rebuild the social safety net and address widening economic inequality.

Unfortunately, without a lot of effort, a “New” New Deal could be repeating the past mistakes of policy that seemed universal but really had built in loopholes to expand the racial disparity in wealth, homeownership and labor protections.

While the New Deal did many important things, it’s also a case study in how to use facially neutral policies to cause racial discrimination.

It is fairly well accepted among historians that the particular exclusion of agricultural and domestic workers from New Deal labor protections was a race-neutral proxy for excluding Black people, an exclusion that is still part of many of these programs today.

Before passing the National Recovery Act of 1933, which gave the president authority to set wages and prices and was overturned by the Supreme Court, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) conducted hearings to determine regulations for each industry.

During these hearings, many southerners argued for rules that would include explicit racial differentials to allow for paying Black workers less than white workers.

Not only were southern industries dependent on a large underpaid Black workforce, but they argued that it was actually better for Black people to not be paid at the highest wage.

While the explicitly racially discriminatory regulations were not adopted, their intent was accomplished through geographic and industry specifications that resulted in Black workers often being paid less than white workers.

Even though the law was overturned, the debates are indicative of a racially discriminatory intent through out many New Deal programs.

It was advantageous to exclude Black people from New Deal programs as over half of Black people lived in the South in the 1930s where they were economically and politically disenfranchised and Roosevelt was trying to placate southern Democrats to support New Deal policies.

Minimum wage and overtime pay were eventually guaranteed in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, but the act still excluded many jobs that were disproportionately held by Black workers.

Hearings on the law included desires for racially explicit exclusions in order to keep Black people in their place and apparently not further inflame race relations in the South. Instead the Congress relied on their race-neutral proxy exclusions of agricultural workers.

While many changes have been made to the FLSA since 1938, farm workers and “informal” care workers are still exempt from its protections.

The Social Security Act of 1935 established a program to use payroll taxes to address poverty among those too old to work. It also implemented unemployment insurance. Later iterations established disability payments as well as medicaid and medicare.

While this program significantly helped people retire, and survive through unemployment, many professions were left out of the program despite the initial plan to include them.

Without mentioning race once, the choice of professions to exclude, such as agricultural and domestic workers, ultimately left out 65 percent of Black workers and only 27 percent of white workers.

The public historian for the Social Security Administration argues that this was a result of administrative feasibility, not racism, but it’s hard to ignore the impact of the law, especially in the context of the period and other New Deal programs.

New Deal programs outside of labor also promoted racial disparities in wealth. Home ownership is one of the best ways for a family to create generational wealth and economic stability in this country. Unfortunately, this was an avenue that was particularly difficult for Black Americans to access.

After the Civil War de jure segregation pervaded the South and de facto segregation was rampant in the North. Many neighborhoods ensured Black people wouldn’t move in through “restrictive covenants” which forbade the sale of property to Black people, and sometimes other groups, including Jews.

This segregation practices meant even when Black people were able to buy property, it would not appreciate as an investment because they were not in “desirable” neighborhoods.

When the federal government passed the National Housing Act of 1934, which created the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to make housing more affordable and increase access to mortgages, it again used its power to exclude Black people.

Rather than discouraging restrictive covenants, the FHA promoted attaching restrictive covenants to property under the justification of protecting people’s investments.

Additionally, mortgage applications got higher ratings for homes in white neighborhoods or if the home already had a restrictive covenant attached. The language of the act did not include any explicit discrimination, but the clear policy of the FHA was to promote segregation and deny access to homeownership to Black people.

Restrictive covenants were eventually ruled unconstitutional in Shelley v. Kraemer in 1948, but it remained policy to deny mortgages to Black people. Between 1934 and 1962, 98 percent of FHA mortgages were issued to white applicants.

Many of the programs passed during the New Deal have been updated since the 1930s but there are still discriminatory practices that haven’t been fixed from these laws today.

The persistent exclusion of Black people from homeownership and labor protections means the Black community has not had the opportunity to build generational wealth.

Even if we fix every discriminatory loophole in these programs, we can’t fix decades lost in building investments.

If we are serious about another New Deal package, it must not only ensure there are no discriminatory loopholes, but also include targeted protections and redress for the historical harm done to Black people.

#ProfessorsofTikTok: Influencer culture is everywhere — even in academia

The number of prefixes one can affix to "-fluencer" knows no bounds. Among the "side hustle" hyphenates making headlines in recent weeks: pharma-influencers, ag-influencers, doctor-TikTokers, and fin-fluencers (a portmanteau of financial advisor and influencer). By some accounts, these professionals-turned-internet personalities are fulfilling a laudable public service mission. More often, they are denigrated as shallow, performative, and — at times — unscrupulous.

Such narratives confirm the wider public's contempt for social media self-promotion and the career exemplars it has born: YouTubers, TikTokers, Instagrammers, and the like. Influencers are especially vulnerable to "stars-behaving-badly-esque" fame-shaming, replete with barely concealed gender bias. It's not incidental that pop culture's caricature of the influencer—the one shilling products at Coachella, demanding comped meals, and preening for her Instagram boyfriend—is unequivocally feminine. But instead of mocking those with the pluck and luck to fashion a career on social media, we might fruitfully turn the critical focus on our own activities.

Several years ago, while writing a book on social media labor, I noticed how the accounts furnished by aspiring YouTubers and Instagrammers resonated deeply with my experiences as a then-junior academic. These social media hopefuls had an acutely perceived need to remain "on brand" and an unabashed pursuit of metrics. As an academic, this felt all too familiar. Their media kit was my tenure dossier, except "likes" and "views" were swapped out for Google Scholar citations and h-indexes--two indices of our "impact." I felt compelled to be eminently visible — not unlike the pressures on influencers to "game" the algorithms or ratchet up their engagement.

In the persistent wake of the pandemic, the pressure for scholars to self-promote has only intensified. Starved for opportunities to share our latest findings at in-person conferences, we take to Twitter, Instagram, or perhaps our email signature to hype our new books and articles. Some have even joined the ranks of #ProfessorsofTikTok or more discipline specific communities like #twitterstorians.

These social media hopefuls had an acutely perceived need to remain "on brand" and an unabashed pursuit of metrics. As an academic, this felt all too familiar.

Of course, the directive to self-promote extends well beyond academia. Earlier this year, after Steven Perlberg chronicled the ascent of "influencer-journalists," a fierce debate broke out on Twitter. And it seems that nary a week goes by without a business feature prodding executives to burnish their self-brands-albeit authentically.

The question then, is why so many of us feel compelled to emulate influencer practices—even while wringing our hands about it.

Labor precarity is, for many, a driving impetus. To be sure, the uncertainty we glibly associate with work in the era of COVID was set into motion well before March 2020. But the pandemic exacerbated job insecurity as employers hemorrhaged resources and social safety nets went from fraying to threadbare. Widespread unemployment has been compounded by a continued gig-ification of nearly all professional sectors, including higher education. The side hustle as a strategy of risk containmentnamely staving off unemployment—makes sense in this context.

But crude labor market statistics tell only part of the story. Changes wrought by work-from-home culture — especially the demand to be "always on" and mechanisms of surveillance from the metonymic "algorithmic boss" — have prompted a rising tide of worker dissatisfaction. Given the state of the conventional labor market in my students' lifetimes, it's no small wonder that these so-called Gen Zers find the bootstrapping career of a YouTuber or live-streamer much more appealing than a proverbial 9-to-5. The lure is less about unadulterated fame than we give them credit for. More often, they desire the autonomy and flexibility that a self-enterprising career promises—if only superficially.

For those gainfully employed, the quest for social media visibility likely has a different impetus, namely claim-staking in our expert domains. Both misinformation and disinformation are rampant online, and declining trust in public institutions is both a symptom and consequence of this din. Expert-influencers — particularly in the realms of medicine, science, and health — are thus important arbiters within decentralized knowledge networks. While the efforts of digitally enabled thought leaders may be in the lofty spirit of public engagement, they are also in thrall to employer- and funder-demands. Jefferson Pooley has, for instance, described how academia is increasingly configured by a "'metric tide' imposed from above," by which he means that the obsession with metrics that signify engagement has trickled down from employers to employees.

But crucially, academic researchers and scientists who "put themselves out there" are — much like influencers — ready-made targets for criticism, hate, and harassment. As Tressie McMillan Cottom has argued, the thin line between visibility and vulnerability is particularly tenuous for women, scholars of color, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Perhaps not surprisingly given his questionable history, members of marginalized communities are especially daunted by Elon Musk's recent acquisition of Twitter, a platform that, as Jean Burgess recently argued, is an "essential infrastructure for journalists and academics."

The incessant push to be visible has another catalyst, too — one that far too often fades into the background: the charge from platform companies. These companies, which harness the content and free labor of users under the guise of connectivity, depend on experts, educators, and entertainers in various domains. And so, the more the corporate mouthpieces of Meta and TikTok compel us to orchestrate influencer-level self-promotion campaigns, the more data and attention they have in their arsenals. As Nancy Baym compellingly argues in her book on labor and promotion in the music industry, "the money in social media flows between sites' owners, investors, and advertisers" much more than between creators and audiences.

It's easy to blame glib narcissism for a marketing-orientation that has configured nearly every professional domain (yes, even religion). And there are no doubt individuals seduced by the glittering promise of social media fame. Naive exuberance may distract them from the rigged nature of the creator economy, including staggering social inequity. But more often, the charge to social media promotionalism is imposed upon us and appears, to many, to be the best worst option for exposure, opportunity, and meaningful engagement.

Rick Scott's loony-tunes 11-point plan reveals way too much about what Republicans want

Why do I consider Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the wealthiest person in the U.S. Senate, so thoroughly dreadful? Is it his background in defrauding the American taxpayer? His penchant for spreading disinformation? His smarmy habit of getting all Jesus-y, even in the face of a public health crisis?

It was indeed very Christian of Scott to release his new plan to "save" America — but I don't mean that as praise. At least he's honest: The gentleman from the Sunshine State openly advocates for dismantling the federal government, undoing all federal laws and regulations and effectively transforming our democracy into a white male Christian theocracy.

OK, not in so many words, but that's the idea. For some reason Scott dispensed with a hyphen in the title of his "11 Point Plan to Rescue America" — is punctuation "woke" now? It's so hard to keep up — which might better be described as a Christian-right reboot of the Ten Commandments (plus one).

Before we discuss Scott's plan to save the country, it's worth mentioning that as founder of Columbia Healthcare and then CEO of the merged hospital corporations Columbia/HCA, Scott was in charge in 1997 when the company was fined $1.7 billion for overbilling and defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, at the time the largest health care fraud in U.S. history. He was forced to resign and said he took "responsibility" for the fraud, said responsibility apparently requiring him to invoke the Fifth Amendment some 75 times while under oath.

Scott kept his chin up, however, and walked away with a huge financial package, including some $300 million in stock. An earlier excursion in business at Solantic, a Florida chain of walk-in urgent care clinics, resulted in several lawsuits around discriminatory hiring practices. Randy Schultz, in an opinion piece for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, wrote that Scott "built his political career with a fortune based on fraud.

Florida voters, in their wisdom, elected this guy twice as governor and then sent him to the Senate in 2018. Lately he's been given to calling Democrats "the enemy within," and now he wants to tell us how the country can be "saved."

Salon's Heather Digby Parton thinks that Democrats should shine as much light as possible on Scott's plan, since it is "batshit lunacy" yet has been embraced by many Republicans. As she recently put it:

Much of it is the usual right-wing cant about work and family and law and order. But there is some stuff in this thing that will make for some beautiful ads if the Democrats can find it in themselves to get off the defensive and tell the American people about it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparently horrified that Scott's plan was published (remember, the Republican Party refused to have platform for the 2020 presidential campaign), but Scott himself fearlessly and correctly observes that "Americans deserve to know what we will do when given the chance to govern."

One might note here that Republicans always have a chance to govern — every single day — by choosing to work with members of the other party to find suitable compromises, rather than by employing scorched-earth tactics against their "enemies"— but, you know, whatever The oddly cherubic yet spiteful Newt Gingrich — who long ago took Rush Limbaugh's admonition to treat the opposition as your enemy and ran with it — is smiling somewhere in the opulence that negative life work too often brings. He very much likes the plan.

I'm tempted to winnow these down to a few highlights, the way comedian George Carlin famously did with the Ten Commandments, which he got down to just two (along with a third he added himself).

On Scott's Point 1, "Education": I have no problem with the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, even if it's a bit odd, given their insurrectionist bent and love for foreign despots, for Trumpists to demand that children prove their loyalty to the country. Let's compromise: We'll leave in the mention of God, which was added to the pledge in 1954 in an attempt to thwart "godless communism," and then we outlaw the use of the U.S. flag as an advertising vehicle, flying enormously over used-car lots and the like. To avoid making the flag meaningless (if not noxious) with overuse, let's fly it only over public buildings, like the public schools you are trying to destroy with your "classical" charter schools, and, as desired, on private residences.

Scott's Point 7, "Fair Fraud-Free Elections," is just out-and-out projection. With these guys, every accusation is an admission (which is deeply troubling when it comes to their recent focus on pedophilia). In this Toddler Nation of ours, even senators — men and women who are said to cool the passions of House members — are given to the schoolyard taunt: "No, you!" One thinks of candidate Trump's "No puppet, no puppet! You're the puppet!" when Hillary Clinton said that if he were elected, he'd be cavorting at the end of Vladimir Putin's strings. We know how that worked out.

Scott's Point 10, "Religious Liberty and Big Tech," clearly has a special resonance for the evangelical component of his audience. "Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives" is in boldface type, and OK, that appears reasonable enough. As always, the devil is in the detail. Scott goes on to reveal that what he means by "all aspects" is that the personal religious beliefs of people like him should be pushed into public policies that affect all of us, which is a form of government known as theocracy. What he means, but does not quite say, is that certain Americans will be free to welcome their idea of God into all aspects of other Americans' lives.

Last, but perhaps not best, comes Point 11, "America First," where Scott informs us, "We are Americans, not globalists." Yeah, OK — but so what? Who says that being American and having a global consciousness are incompatible? Most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, and the world is proving to be a surprisingly small place.

Enough with my sniping. (Scott cleverly anticipates how his plan will be mocked by "the wokes.") If you read it for yourself, be sure to delve into the details. No matter what Mitch McConnell says, this appears to be an accurate reflection of what the GOP wants to do if or when they take full control in Washington again: Dismantle the federal government and its "deep state" of experts; have a do-over on all federal laws and regulations (someone seems to be still smarting from that federal charge of fraud); force all Americans to pay taxes, even the poor (so they have "skin in the game"); end all public discussion of race and gender; and force schoolchildren to pledge their allegiance to a nation whose history has been whitewashed and sanitized by right-wing Christians.

In an opinion piece in the Orlando Weekly, Jeffrey C. Billman notes that the plan is "Scott's attempt to marry the anti-tax, pro-austerity wing [of the GOP] with Trump's populist, authoritarian wing." Billman writes that the plan is largely a familiar litany of grievances from white male conservatives who are worried about losing their leg-up in society:

From start to finish, this is an authoritarian document dressed up in the language of freedom. Like all variants of right-wing populism, it focuses the grievances of its target demo (a loss of cultural primacy) at scapegoats (the wokes).

I will mention again that Scott, supposedly a devout Christian, has taken to calling his political opponents the enemy, which, it hardly needs to be pointed out, is a precursor to violence and even genocide. When it comes to a holy war against the secular, socialistic, "woke" enemies of America, I guess all bets are off. It's disturbingly similar to the language of Putin and his official mouthpieces in describing Ukrainians and Russian dissenters as "scum" and "traitors," likening them to gnats that must be spat out of one's mouth.

In Carlin's famous Ten Commandments routine, he holds off a while from commenting on the Fifth Commandment. Those who call themselves religious, he observes, have never had that much of a problem with murder: "More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason….The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable."

Scott's Point 10, which attempts to pit religious liberty against the "wokeness" of big tech, ends with an implicit threat of violence: "Remember – the Second Amendment was established in order to protect the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment."

That's like killing two birds with one stone tablet: Scott is willing to encourage violence against his political opponents while simultaneously grossly misrepresenting the meaning of the first two amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Honestly, we owe Scott a debt of thanks for setting this out in plain type. Let me try to repay that with my own 11-point plan to save America, in a spirit of give-and-take and constructive debate, which is sometimes necessary even with one's "enemies":

  1. In a democracy, you should not lie or spread misinformation — or trust anyone who does. Democracy depends on reality-based information and the best reporting of what is known right now. Let's make it illegal for any corporate entity to willfully disseminate false information.
  2. You should not treat people who are different from you — in race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or anything else — as second-class citizens. America's not-so-secret strength has always been in its diversity.
  3. Your religious freedom is not a license to harass others with your personal beliefs. Your faith is no doubt a strength for you; hold it close and know that many of us envy the solace you derive from it. But keep your faith out of our bodies, our relationships, our libraries and our critical scientific research. As historian Garry Wills put it, the separation of church and state is the one unique, genius thing in our Constitution.
  4. You likely have your hands full with your own love life. Don't pass judgment on the consenting activities of other adults. Get your business out of everyone else's business (see #3). In a world reeling with hate, why would anyone attack love?
  5. You should not ban books (unless you want to see them on the bestseller list). You say you believe in the free market and in free speech. Stop being outrageous flaming hypocrites on this stuff.
  6. You should be careful in picking your populist pals. The "elite" are not always who you think they are. Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton all went to Ivy League schools, no matter what dialect they affect when they sidle up to you to talk self-serving nonsense.
  7. Your culture wars are an attempt to divide and distract Americans. They are pushed down your throats by unscrupulous politicians and true enemies of America, like Vladimir Putin and his lapdog Donald Trump. They should be ignored.
  8. Your freedom of speech is not under attack. You can say pretty much anything you want, at home as well as in the public square. But other people have every right to respond, and even to challenge what you say. Threatening the lives of election administrators, public health officials or school board members, however, is a crime, and goes way beyond what you call "cancel culture." Banning novels and the teaching of real history makes it seem like you are canceling culture for real.
  9. You should not elect obvious grifters to public office. America does best when it is not led by sociopaths and criminals.
  10. You should bear in mind that we need each other. When Americans come together in mutual effort — supporting each other after natural disasters, or coming to the aid of Ukraine — it's a beautiful, powerful thing. We have far more in common than we are led to believe.
  11. We all need to get out more often — to walk in nature, see a play, hear some music and, most of all, stop thinking about our political disagreements. We could all stand to gain some perspective on the world and each other. What Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg about the "unfinished work" of American democracy will always be true. To continue that work, we could use a break. People of good faith are not relentless, but we need to show endurance against the unceasing attack on democracy.

Many Republicans see Putin as a rugged individual guided by the Ayn Randian philosophy of self-interest

As the war in Ukraine drags on, it becomes increasingly apparent that one of the major parameters is disinformation. For example, the attitude inside Russia seems to be that Vladimir Putin's military operations are justified because Putin is protecting "the fatherland" from neo-Nazis. Pro-Putin propaganda has been disseminated throughout the world; It has infected Republican legislators.

Russia: In the United States, a narrative has circulated suggesting the war will end when Russians rise up and depose Putin. Nonetheless, Russian opinion polls suggest that Putin is very popular because the average Russian believes that Putin is protecting "the fatherland." A recent Levada poll discussed in Newsweek "Showed that approval of Putin's actions increased from 69 percent in January to 83 percent in March." (Statista confirms that within Russia, Putin has strong approval ratings.) Nonetheless, a recent academic study discussed in the Washington Post indicates that Putin's ratings are fragile: "These findings suggest that much of Putin’s support is based on perceptions that he is popular. Without that perception, Putin’s popularity fades."

The Russian media has a consistent message: "Ukraine is a threat to 'the fatherland' and Vladimir Putin is a strong president who is protecting Russia." The monolithic Russia media is also dismissing reports that the initial Russian effort was unsuccessful or that Russian troops have committed war crimes.

If this seems familiar, it is similar to the situation in Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II. Hitler was very popular in Germany and disliked in most of the rest of the world. One of Hitler's lieutenants, Joseph Goebbels, ran the ministry of propaganda. He succeeded in convincing most Germans that Adolph Hitler was the right person to protect their country.

Europe: Russia's distorted view of Putin isn't an isolated phenomenon. Throughout the world, there are many countries where the Russian actions in Ukraine are viewed more sympathetically than US citizens would believe. For example, "In polls on several Chinese websites, generally about 40 percent of Chinese people remain neutral, about 30 percent support Russia, and about 20 percent support Ukraine."

While most of the NATO countries have strong support for Ukraine in the war, and equally strong dislike of Putin, there is a different attitude among Europe's far-right parties. This is seen in Hungary with the government of Viktor Orban. It is also a feature of the current French election which pits centrist Emmanuel Macron against right-wing Marine Le Pen.

Al Jazeera recently observed: "French opposition leader Marine Le Pen, the de facto spokesperson of the European far-right, has been rising in the polls despite her ongoing support and admiration for [Putin] ....In 2014, Le Pen endorsed the Kremlin’s referendum in the Russian-annexed Crimea as legitimate and has been accused of being a Putin stooge. In 2015, reports in the French press based on hacked Kremlin records showed that Le Pen may have lent her support to Putin’s annexation in return for a nine million euro ($9.9m) loan from a Russian bank – although the allegations of a quid pro quo have never been proved."

On April 24, Macron and Le Pen will vie for the French presidency. Le Pen is close despite her long-time support for Putin. The Washington Post noted: "A National Rally campaign leaflet distributed this year depicted her shaking hands with the Russian president, and the party funded itself with a 9 million euro loan from a Russian bank in 2014. Ms. Le Pen’s long-standing hostility to NATO is well-known; she is promising to withdraw the French military from the alliance’s command structure."

United States: Donald Trump's admiration for Vladimir Putin is well known. On February 27, Trump said: "Yesterday, I was asked by reporters if I thought President Putin was smart. I said, 'of course he's smart... The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he is smart, but the real problem is that our leaders are dumb."

But Trump wasn't the only Republican leader to admire Putin. "Putin's high-profile admirers include alt-right agitator Steve Bannon and former White House communications director and presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Prominent television host Tucker Carlson spoke out in support of Putin just one day before Russia invaded Ukraine, questioning whether Putin was the enemy liberals painted him to be: 'Why do Democrats want you to hate Putin? Has Putin shipped every middle-class job in your town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked your business? Is he teaching your kids to embrace racial discrimination?'"

Late in January, a Yahoo/YouGov poll found "more than 6 in 10 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents (62 percent) now say Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a stronger leader” than Joe Biden."

50 days into the war, most Republicans have changed their tune. According to the latest Pew Research Poll "69% of Republicans [describe] Russia as an enemy." (Only 6 percent express confidence in Putin.) Nonetheless, there are huge partisan divide on the conduct of the war; for example, like Marine Le Pen, most conservative Republicans do not have confidence in NATO.

The latest Pew Research poll indicates that Americans are divided on the Biden Administration's handling of Russia's invasion of Ukraine: 47 percent strongly approve and 39 percent strongly disapprove. Opinion is divided along partisan lines: 69 percent of Democrats strongly approve and 67 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove.

Analysis: Note that since Russia invaded Ukraine, most Republicans have become negative on Putin and Russia, but have not rallied around President Biden. We're at war with Russia but unlike the situation in previous wars, Republicans have not rallied around the commander-in-chief.

There are two connected explanations for this. One is that many Republicans like Putin because he reflects their world view. Putin is a racist misogynistic bully. Many conservatives see him as a rugged individual guided by the philosophy of self-interest popularized by Ayn Rand (BTW: She was born Alisha Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.) In other words, Vladimir Putin is not woke. He has a very simple moral philosophy; the ends always justify the means. Writing in the New Statesman Emily Tamkin opined: "The far right – or at least the Trump-aligned far right – is already too deep into conspiracy theories to break with Russia, or at least to side cleanly with Ukraine..."

The other explanation for the undue influence that Putin has had on US politics is that we have allowed Russian money to have undue influence in US politics. Since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign, there have been indications that Russia funneled money to the Republican Party. The Mueller investigation reported that Russia "interfered" in the 2016 election and there were troubling links between the Trump campaign and Russian actors including Russian Oligarchs; see for example, this article by professor Ruth May.

Summary: Recently, CNN host Jim Acosta pointed out that Tucker Carlson (Fox News) was repeating Russian talking points about Ukraine: " Last week Tucker Carlson tried to imply that some of what you are seeing [about Russian atrocities] has been fabricated and amplified by news organizations. That sounds a lot like what we heard from Putin’s spokesman who said bodies lining the streets were, quote, a forgery, aimed at denigrating the Russian army.” Prominent Republican members of Congress like Marjorie Taylor Green and Josh Hawley are also repeating Russian talking points.

It's time to call out the ongoing Russian-sponsored disinformation campaign for what it is: a national security threat.

It's time to call out Republicans, who praise Putin and denigrate Biden, for what they really are: traitors. It's time to brand Tucker Carlson as a traitor.

We are at war with Russia. We don't have to put up with Republican craziness any longer.

The New York Times just discovered that Fox News has a Russia problem

You have to credit the Gray Lady: this is really quite the scoop. And I hesitate even to point it out, lest my mild criticism that follows be misinterpreted. So let me be clear, I’m all for American media outlets policing each other. I think it’s perfectly OK for one media outlet to call out another for bias or dissimulation. That’s what makes journalism such an integral part of our democracy, so much that its inherent value is literally enshrined in the Constitution. “Keeping them honest” should be the watchword governing all journalism.

That being said, you may wish to remain seated, because this is guaranteed to make you faint with shock. Hold onto your hats — here it comes.

As reported by the New York Times’ Stuart A. Thompson:

The narratives advanced by the Kremlin and by parts of conservative American media have converged in recent months, reinforcing and feeding each other. Along the way, Russian media has increasingly seized on Fox News’s prime-time segments, its opinion pieces and even the network’s active online comments section — all of which often find fault with the Biden administration — to paint a critical portrait of the United States and depict America’s foreign policy as a threat to Russia’s interests.

When I read that I was stone-cold flummoxed. Who could have possibly imagined? Oh, wait!

And it seems that Tucker Carlson is a Kremlin favorite. Can you believe that? They even cite examples!

“The U.S. baselessly accused Russia of spreading disinformation about biolabs in Ukraine because they later actually confirmed their existence, TV presenter Tucker Carlson told Fox News,” Radio Sputnik wrote in an article summarizing Mr. Tucker’s lengthy segment for a Russian audience.

But there’s more!

Mentions of Fox News in Russian-language media grew 217 percent during the first quarter of this year compared with the final quarter of last year, as news coverage of Ukraine increased, according to an analysis by Zignal Labs, a media tracking company that reviewed social media posts, broadcast media and online websites. CNN, which has about three times the global viewership of Fox News, according to the tracking company Similarweb, was mentioned more often but grew less, by 71 percent.

And the Times really put their nose to the grindstone to break this, having “reviewed nearly 500 Russian-language articles mentioning Fox News between July and late March, sourced from the two largest state news agencies in the country — RIA Novosti and TASS — along with dozens of articles from other Russian-language media.” Talk about due diligence!

The Times has even broken it down by category! They’ve determined that Russia now highlights Fox News stories that tend to “Blame NATO expansion,” “Buttress Conspiracy Theories” (can you imagine???) “Question the West’s goals,” and — get this — “Criticize President Biden.”

I am shocked, shocked, I tell you.

In all seriousness, we didn’t have to wait nearly two months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to be told they were making use of Fox News for propaganda purposes. That fact has been a staple in the media for well over a month, if not longer. More importantly, as this article, one of literally dozens from Media Matters, gamely points out, the relationship between Fox and Vladimir Putin has long been a two-way street, going back well into the Trump administration, with Fox echoing Putin’s policy on a fairly repeated basis.

But you won’t find a single word about that in the Times article. No, it’s as if Russia just suddenly discovered it had its own propaganda outlet all along.

And probably even more importantly, Mr. Thompson, for all his analytical skill, doesn’t devote a single sentence to asking why that is. Why did Fox News spend the last five years amplifying Putin talking points?


Exploring that question would be serious journalism. Exploring the uncomfortable question of why the Times ignored something this important, and obvious, for so long, letting relatively small, niche outlets like Media Matters do all the heavy lifting, would be even more serious journalism.

But simply reporting the data without context -- which is all the Times article really does — is not.

WI brewery sues school boards for indulging 'Tucker Carlson-watching zombies' and ignoring science

WI brewery sues school boards for indulging 'Tucker Carlson-watching zombies' and ignoring science Fox News // Tucker Carlson

Blame Biden for higher prices -- but then what?

No subject inflames political passions more than the powerful inflationary pressures that now squeeze every working family -- and nobody likes to talk about inflation more than Republicans, who have reason to believe that rising prices will lift their political boats next November. Polls show that Americans furious over the costs of gasoline, food, housing and nearly everything else blame President Joe Biden, just as Republican leaders insist they should.

When playing this blame game, the Republicans like to keep things simple. The price hikes must be Biden's fault, because he is president while they are going up. And the way to bring them down is to elect congressional Republicans in 2022 and a Republican president, perhaps Donald Trump again, in 2024.

The problem with this simple-minded approach is that, like most economic analysis focused on a snapshot, it eliminates all the important facts and context. It is like saying that the COVID-19 pandemic -- not the response, but the contagion itself -- was Trump's fault because he was president when it occurred.

According to the Republicans, inflation's principal cause was Biden's spending on the American Rescue Plan, which pumped too much liquidity into the economy at a moment when production could not keep up. Fewer goods chased by more money inevitably made prices rise. But if that's true, then those same Republicans must explain why prices have risen at nearly the same rate across the developed world -- and much more rapidly in some countries.

Across Europe, the current year-on-year inflation rate is 7.5%, or roughly 1% lower than in the United States, which clearly has nothing to do with Biden or his spending policies. The main causes behind this round of inflation are the supply-chain disruptions caused by the global pandemic, which are affecting every country, and the Russian war against Ukraine.

Would we be happier if we were living with Europe's inflation rate? Not much -- and we would be coping with much higher unemployment. Whatever else is said about the Biden economic plan, he has succeeded in driving unemployment down to the lowest level in 50 years, at roughly 3.6%. That is an historic jobs boom, resulting in higher wages for the lowest-paid workers in our economy.

Meanwhile, unemployment across the European Union is now around 6.2%. Higher prices harm working families, but buying the necessities is far more challenging when the family's breadwinners are out of work.

So perhaps 1% or a little more of the present inflation rate can be attributed plausibly to the American Rescue Plan. But that spending did nothing to raise gas or food prices, both vulnerable to the effects of pandemic and war. And when Republicans complain about the inflationary impact of Biden's economic program, someone should ask what they plan to do about the problem if and when they regain power. They appear to have no answer.

In fact, Sean Hannity, Trump's favorite Fox News host and fanboy, had the temerity to pose that question to the former president last week. "If you're president, what would you do?" asked Hannity, after framing his query with a damning denunciation of Biden and the economy.

"So what you're saying sounds all very easy and sounds very simple, not actually that simple," Trump began, careening into a long, indeed very long reply that was full of self-praise but empty of an actual answer to his fanboy's question. He had no answer.

Now, Trump rarely offers any coherent response on policy issues, which is one of the reasons that he abolished the Republican platform altogether in 2020. What about his fellow partisans on Capitol Hill, whose midterm campaign rides on voter anger over inflation? Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, recently released an 11-point program that mostly consists of hollow culture war rhetoric rather than concrete proposals. (One of his brilliant ideas is to complete the border-wall boondoggle, at enormous cost, and name it after Trump.)

Scott has no answer to inflation -- which his program doesn't even mention -- but he does want to raise tax rates for working families that earn too little to pay federal income taxes now. And then there's Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, another leading Republican voice, who has clogged up border crossings with a "truck inspection" stunt. He wanted to make a point about immigration, but only succeeded in driving up the price of food imported from Mexico and harming industries in his own state.

No, the Republicans only have one idea: Scream about Joe Biden, and hope voters don't realize they have no plan and no clue until after Election Day.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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