Experts blame Rupert Murdoch for 'moral decay' of America — and issue warning on future

Rupert Murdoch‘s announcement he is stepping down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. circulated rapidly Thursday morning, with critics celebrating the exit of the billionaire media mogul some are blaming for the “intellectual and moral decay of our society.”

Murdoch created Fox News, which he launched in October of 1996. His massive empire also includes the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, along with dozens of other media outlets in the U.S. and around the world.

“I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News,” his letter, addressed to “Dear Colleagues,” reads. One of his sons, Lachlan Murdoch, “will become sole Chairman of both companies.”

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“My father firmly believed in freedom,” Murdoch adds, “and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,” he claimed.

The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake was among the many who pointed to Murdoch’s “elites” remark.

“Murdoch in his letter: ‘Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,'” Blake writes, before pointing to court documents from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit Fox News settled for $787 million. “Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world [Donald Trump] by telling the truth.”

Author, editor and professor of international relations, Nicholas Grossman, also focused on Murdoch’s “elites” remark.

READ MORE: 'Hot mess': Report reveals Rupert Murdoch’s state of 'denial' about Dominion voting settlement

“Rupert Murdoch’s parents had the titles of Sir and Dame. He’s a multi-billionaire, and very influential, owning prominent news outlets in the US, UK, and Australia. The notion that Murdoch, of all people, is not elite, and not in cahoots with media, is ridiculous, absurd, insane.”

Although Murdoch’s move is not effective until the shareholders’ meeting in November, his announcement comes just one day after a Vanity Fair interview with author Michael Wolff: “Murdoch Chronicler Michael Wolff Foresees the Fall of Fox News: ‘It Will Cease to Exist in Its Present Form.'”

“Now, with The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, Wolff has directed his poison pen back to a topic that helped make his name,” Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo writes.

Wolff’s focus is on what happens to Fox News after the 92-year old Rupert Murdoch dies, and how his more liberal son James might impact the media empire.

READ MORE: Joint Chiefs of Staff chair warns Trump will 'start throwing people in jail' in 2025 — himself included

“I think it will cease to exist in its present form,” after Murdoch’s death said Wolff. “I think it will go into a radical transition in which, either James Murdoch will take over and change it into something else, or they will sell it. Fox has existed in its present state just for one reason: It’s controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who is the one man who can stand up, or has been able to stand up, to the political and social opprobrium at a fierce, fierce level, and to do this for the sake of making enormous amounts of money. But when he departs, that changes very clearly and very quickly.”

Wolff added he thinks the “logical” decision will be to sell off Fox News.

“I think it’s more logical, at any rate, to sell the whole damn thing. And I think the position that cable television news is not going to get more valuable, it’s only going to get less valuable, is persuasive.”

Wolff Thursday morning re-posted this photo:

READ MORE: 'Trump was the gateway drug': How conservatives became a 'decisive' part of the Democratic coalition

Political and journalism experts, like foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, on Thursday cheered the Murdoch news and denounced his reign.

“On this happy day on which Rupert Murdoch has announced his retirement, let us reflect on the fact that no single individual has done more damage to Western democracy or more for the intellectual and moral decay of our society during the past half century than Rupert. Good riddance,” wrote Rothkopf.

“I believe one could accurately argue that Rupert Murdoch did more to corrode American democracy and fuel division than any other individual in modern history,” wrote veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers. “His departure from Fox News leaves a wake of public distrust, violence, and a nation in a cold civil war.”

Author and former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob adds, “Millions of Americans are more ignorant and less loyal to our democracy because they got their’news’ from Rupert Murdoch.”

READ MORE: 'A sign of weakness': WSJ editorial board slams Trump for declining second GOP debate

MSNBC’s Medhi Hassan wrote: “As Rupert Murdoch announces his ‘retirement’, a reminder that some of the worst things we have had to experience in recent years – the Iraq war, the rise of Trump, the Big Election Lie – are all thanks to him and to Fox.”

Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone served up this warning:

“Lachlan Murdoch is worse than Rupert Murdoch, so you’ll basically just get a more malevolent version of Fox that will also be even more chaotic since Lachlan is both a less competent leader and Fox is facing an especially turbulent period that Lachlan has no idea how to navigate.”

With an eye to the future, veteran journalist Kara Swisher offered this on Lachlan Murdoch: “Prediction: It will be a short reign of the crown prince — after the old man goes, the other siblings will have the con and it will all be sold off (Elon? Right leaning PE firm or media org?).”

READ MORE: House Republicans pile on 'dead dog' Kevin McCarthy as shutdown draws closer

Media Matters’ Madeline Peltz also glimpsed into what the future might look like under Lachlan’s leadership.

“Lachlan Murdoch is now the sole chairman of his family’s media empire. He is a dangerous ideologue who unwaveringly backed Tucker Carlson’s white supremacy on the network,” Peltz said, referring to the now-former top Fox News host. She added: “Murdoch was the number one champion of Tucker Carlson, even as he cost Fox News millions in ad revenue and spread dangerous extremism that inspired acts of right-wing terrorism around the world.”

See the social media posts above or at this link.

Joint Chiefs of Staff chair warns Trump will 'start throwing people in jail' in 2025 — himself included

During Donald Trump's four years in the White House, he clashed with a long list of Republicans in his administration — from former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Even former Attorney General Bill Barr, once considered a Trump loyalist, fell out with Trump in the end.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back against Trump as well. And according to The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, Milley believes that Trump will try to have him incarcerated if he is elected president in 2024.

In an article published on September 21, Goldberg explains, "Along the way, Milley deflected Trump's exhortations to have the U.S. military ignore, and even on occasion commit, war crimes. Milley and other military officers deserve praise for protecting democracy, but their actions should also cause deep unease. In the American system, it is the voters, the courts, and Congress that are meant to serve as checks on a president's behavior, not the generals."

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Milley, Goldberg notes, was the first Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman to deal with a president who "would try to foment or provoke a coup in order to illegally remain in office."

Goldberg points out that Milley has warned that if Trump wins in 2024 and returns to the White House in January 2025, "He'll start throwing people in jail, and I'd be on the top of the list."

READ MORE:Revealed: Trump's Project 2025 agenda aims for 'total control' of the federal government

Read Jeffrey Goldberg's full article for The Atlantic at this link (subscription required).

'Trump was the gateway drug': How conservatives became a 'decisive' part of the Democratic coalition

During the 2020 presidential election, a long list of well-known conservatives endorsed or supported Democratic now-President Joe Biden over MAGA Republican Donald Trump — including GOP activist Cindy McCain (the late Sen. John McCain's widow), former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Washington Post columnist George Will, ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, The Bulwark's Charlie Sykes, and former GOP strategists who include The Bulwark's Tim Miller and The Lincoln Project's Rick Wilson.

That isn't to say that they don't have policy differences with the Biden Administration. But as Never Trump conservatives see it, Trump and his MAGA movement pose an existential threat to U.S. democracy.

In an article published by The New Republic on September 21, journalist Ben Jacobs describes Never Trump voters as a small yet important part of the Democratic coalition.

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"This tranche of voters is not huge, but they may be decisive," Jacobs reports. "In 2020, 16 percent of self-identified moderate or liberal Republicans voted for Biden, according to an analysis by Pew — twice the share that did so in 2016. This, even as Biden won a narrow Electoral College victory by a combined margin of just under 43,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin."

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary views Never Trumpers as a good fit for his party's moderate/centrist wing.

McCrary told The New Republic, "I think Donald Trump was the gateway drug that has drawn a lot of otherwise pretty standard Republicans to the Democratic Party over the last eight or nine years. And a Never Trump Republican in 2016, two or three cycles later, turns into a pretty conventional Democrat up and down the ballot."

READ MORE:'Political suicide': Conservative salutes Georgia Republicans who paid 'a steep price' for rejecting Trump's Big Lie

Read The New Republic's full article at this link.

'Hot mess': Report reveals Rupert Murdoch’s state of 'denial' about Dominion voting settlement

New York Magazine on Wednesday published a sprawling account of the lead-up to former Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s ouster from the network, detailing Rupert Murdoch’s state of “denial” surrounding the $787.5 million dollar settlement his company was forced to pay to Dominion Voting Systems.

Murdoch on Thursday announced he was stepping down as chairman of Fox and News Corp.

Dominion Voting Systems successfully sued Fox News for defamation after the network accused the company of rigging voting machines to steal votes from former President Donald Trump during the 2020 presidential election. In April 2023, Fox News agreed to pay Dominion $787.5 million and acknowledged, in a statement, “the court’s rulings finding certain claims about Dominion to be false."

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The suit, Wolff notes “was far and away the largest defamation award ever made, outside of Alex Jones.”

Writing for New York Mag, Wolff reports that after a Delaware Superior Court judge in June 2022 "ruled that the suit could also extend to Fox News’ parent company, Fox Corp,” a visitor to the billionaire’s Montana Ranch found Murdoch “absolutely unwilling to consider any view in which Fox could be at fault.

Wolff writes:

Murdoch, the visitor discovered, was stuck in a place far from the real world. The Dominion suit had somehow become an attack on him and on his long career. He seemed angrily trapped in the company’s desperate and preposterous logic: that it was just airing the newsworthy opinions of important political figures.

“Why don’t you just settle?” asked the visitor. This provoked a Murdoch rant, lots of it hard to follow but leaving the visitor with the sense that Murdoch had found himself alone, up against all those who wanted him to settle, and that he, if no one else, was going to stand up for free speech. And at any rate, it wasn’t Fox’s fault. It was Donald Trump’s fault. He wasn’t going to pay for what Donald Trump did. Sue Donald Trump. The visitor came away wondering how this famously cold and analytic business mind had become such a hot mess.

According to Wolff, while Rupert Murdoch remained static in his denial leading up to the settlement, CEO Lachlan Murdorch — who was named chairman and CEO of Fox News in 2019 — “began telling people that Fox was going to focus on Dominion and get it resolved.”

READ MORE:Republicans in disarray as government shutdown fight looms: report

“But Rupert Murdoch wasn’t having it — he seemed to double down on a desire to punish Trump rather than resolve Dominion. Dominion wasn’t the problem — Trump was,” Wolff writes.

As Wolff reports, Murdoch’s refusal to settle with Dominion bucked the two main rules “of libel law for a media company” — 1) “never to go before a jury,” and 2) “avoid discovery.”

“On Monday, April 17, the day the jury was supposed to be seated and opening statements begun — before a day’s delay was declared — Murdoch told Carlson Dominion was holding to a demand of a billion dollars in damages,” Wolff reports. “For Murdoch, this was a nonstarter: He would not endure the humiliation and defeat of paying a ten-figure settlement in the case. It would be not only a record-shattering sum but also tremendous fodder for his enemies (like the Times) when it came to writing headlines.”

But the company did settle, announcing the following day that it was “pleased to have reached a settlement of our dispute with Dominion Voting Systems.”

READ MORE: 'A sign of weakness': WSJ editorial board slams Trump for declining second GOP debate

“We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues,” Fox News said in a statement.

Read Wolff’s full account at New York Magazine.

Rupert Murdoch stepping down as News Corp chair

From the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit settlement to Tucker Carlson's departure, 2023 has been a tumultuous year for Fox News. And on Thursday, September 21 came another Fox News-related bombshell: Rupert Murdoch, according to the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, is stepping down as chairman of News Corp.

The 92-year-old Murdoch announced that his oldest son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become News Corp's sole chair.

In his official announcement, Rupert Murdoch said, "Our companies are in robust health, as am I. Our opportunities far exceed our commercial challenges. We have every reason to be optimistic about the coming years."

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Rupert Murdoch announced that he will hold the title "chairman emeritus" at News Corp.

"In my new role," he announced, "I can guarantee you that I will be involved every day in the contest of ideas."

READ MORE:Fox's Rupert Murdoch pushing a new candidate to beat Trump

'A sign of weakness': WSJ editorial board slams Trump for declining second GOP debate

The Wall Street Journal editorial board on Thursday published list of questions Donald Trump will “eventually” have to answer after the former president scheduled a speech before Detroit union auto workers in lieu of participating in the second Republican primary debate.

Trump advisors on Monday told the New York Times Trump is once again “skipping” the GOP debate “to instead hold his own counterprogramming.” Trump also skipped the first primary debate last month in Milwaukee.

For the Wall Street Journal editorial board, the former president and current Republican frontrunner, “is acting as if he has already won.”

“After skipping the first GOP debate, he is also planning to blow off the second one, scheduled for next week at the Reagan Presidential Library in California,” the board notes. “Instead Mr. Trump will give a speech to union workers in Detroit.”

“Is he worried he’d look his age at 77 next to younger candidates?” the Wall Street Journal editorial board wonders. “To state the obvious, Mr. Trump is running to be President and leader of the free world. Voters deserve to hear him defend his record and his platform.”

On abortion, the editorial board writes, Trump “refuses to explain where in pregnancy he’d draw the line, saying vaguely that ‘we’ll come up with a number.’”

Mr. Trump owes a serious answer,” the board insists. The same goes for his record on Covid, trade and tariffs.

“John Bolton wrote in his book that Mr. Trump signaled privately he wouldn’t defend Taiwan if China invaded,” the editorial continues. “Is that what he thinks now?”

“And did Mr. Trump really try to delete the security tapes at Mar-a-Lago to hide his classified files, as the strongest indictment against him alleges,” the WSJ demands.

Of Trump’s current refusal to face off with his opponents, the board argues “that’s a sign of weakness, not strength.”

“He’ll have to answer those questions eventually,” the board adds.

Read the full op-ed at the Wall Street Journal.

House Republicans pile on 'dead dog' Kevin McCarthy as shutdown draws closer

With a federal government shutdown looming, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) has been frantically trying to work out some type of funding agreement with members of his caucus. But talks with far-right House Freedom Caucus Republicans haven't been going well, and it is looking more and more like a shutdown will not be avoided.

In an article published by Politico on September 20, journalist Matt Berg describes the chaotic environment within McCarthy's caucus — including ongoing attacks on the speaker from fellow House Republicans.

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana), for example, attacked McCarthy in a September 20 statement, saying, "It is a shame that our weak speaker cannot even commit to having a commission to discuss our looming fiscal catastrophe. Our founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves to see how this institution is betraying our Republic for personal political ambitions and our children will be ashamed of another worthless Congress."

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Tensions between McCarthy and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), Berg notes, aren't letting up. And Gaetz has accused McCarthy of "lying like a dead dog."

Berg also points out that Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) has criticized McCarthy for not holding individual votes on spending bills.

READ MORE:Republicans in disarray as government shutdown fight looms: report

Read Politico's full article at this link.

'Republicans don’t care about balancing the budget': Morning Joe lifts the veil on GOP grandstanding

The frustration of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is evident as he continues to negotiate with members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus in the hope of avoiding a federal government shutdown. But Freedom Caucus members are being stubborn, and a shutdown appears likely.

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough lambasted those far-right Republicans during the September 21 broadcast of "Morning Joe." The former GOP congressman and Never Trump conservative accused far-right House Republicans of empty grandstanding that they hope will fire up their fundraising.

Scarborough told "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski, "This is not about balancing the budget. Republicans don't care about balancing the budget, and they haven't for the last 20 years.....But now, it's about making money so they can raise hell..... It's all gesture."

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The Never Trumper stressed that voters will blame Republicans — not Democrats — if a shutdown occurs and predicted that House Republicans in swing districts will be the ones who suffer politically.

Scarborough argued, "(Moderate Republicans) are the ones who are going to lose in 2024......This is what happens, Democrats will say, when you put Republicans in charge."

READ MORE:Republicans in disarray as government shutdown fight looms: report

Watch the video below or at this link.


Some House Republicans know they'll 'get the blame' for 'stupid' government shutdown: report

Hoping to avoid a federal government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is still trying to work out some type of funding agreement with members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. But negotiations haven't been going well, and a shutdown appears likely.

In an article published by Politico on September 21, journalists Katherine Tully-McManus and Adam Cancryn stress that some House Republicans fully expect their party — not Democrats — to be blamed if a shutdown occurs.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told Politico, "We always get the blame. Name one time that we've shut the government down and we haven't got the blame."

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Similarly, Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) told Politico, "I think the governing majority, which is presiding at the time the government shuts down, probably is going to bear a lot of the blame. And we're the ones with the gavel … It's our job to run the government."

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, an ex-GOP congressman and Never Trump conservative, has been warning that Republicans in swing districts will pay a price politically if there is a shutdown. And a prominent Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, is — just as Scarbrough warns — arguing that House Republicans are showing their inability to govern.

Hoyer told Politico, "I think the American public basically believes that shutting down the government is a dumb thing to do and a costly thing to do. What a stupid thing to do in terms of knowing full well that you're probably going to reimburse people for not working."

READ MORE:Republicans in disarray as government shutdown fight looms: report

Politico's full report is available at this link.

The point is smearing the president

With a slim majority and a number of members representing districts carried by Joe Biden, it’s doubtful that the GOP has the votes to impeach Biden. Trump doesn’t care, the point is to announce the investigation.

The House Republicans will hold their first impeachment hearing for Joe Biden next week, a non-event that even backers admit will present no new evidence.

The extreme rightwing of the GOP caucus is in open rebellion against Speaker Kevin McCarthy. So, as a sop to the insurgents, McCarthy agreed to allow impeachment hearings. However, McCarthy had to use a procedural trick because he would have lost a vote on the issue.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

Even the most vocal proponents of impeaching Joe Biden admit that there’s no evidence that he was involved in any of his son’s influence-peddling schemes. Given that the Republicans have been investigating Hunter Biden’s messy business dealings and turbulent personal life for years, it seems unlikely that the extra subpoena power that impeachment proceedings allow is going to generate any new leads.

After the mind-wipe of the pandemic and the betrayal of January 6, it’s easy to forget that Donald Trump was first impeached for trying to strong-arm Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden’s time on the board of the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified that Trump didn’t care whether the investigation actually happened. All he wanted was the announcement of an investigation ahead of the election. “He had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland explained during Trump’s first impeachment.

Trump’s goal was to tarnish Biden before the election. Now, Trump’s threatening House Republicans with immediate primary challenges if they don’t vote to impeach the president. With a slim majority and a number of members representing districts carried by Joe Biden, it’s doubtful that the GOP has the votes to impeach Biden. Trump doesn’t care, the point is to announce the investigation.

The repeatedly debunked allegation is that as vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor who was looking into corruption at Burisma. Biden did indeed push for Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin to step aside. Trump and his allies alleged that Biden was freelancing to benefit his son. In fact, pushing the prosecutor to step down was official US policy. Far from shaping US policy to benefit his son, Biden was executing the Obama administration’s anti-corruption agenda. Furthermore, the Shokin inquiry had already been shelved by the time Biden tried to force him out and its scope never extended to Hunter’s time on the board anyway.

The Republicans have tried to keep the furor alive by hyping the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop. Vish Burra, a Republican operative from New York, bragged that he spent nearly two months holed up in a hotel room with Steve Bannon trying to create “an October Surprise” with the data from Biden’s laptop. Burra said they called their effort “the Manhattan Project because we were essentially creating a nuclear political weapon.”

The October Surprise largely flopped because the mainstream media and social media giants recognized the laptop dump for what it was – a transparent attempt by the Republicans to manipulate the election with a fake scandal, just as Trump had tried to do in Ukraine.

Operatives like Burra and Bannon have done their best to spin conspiracy theories about Biden’s involvement in Ukrainian biolabs, Chinese intrigues and imaginary sex-trafficking schemes. But none of these allegations have gained traction outside the Republican fever swamps, most likely because Hunter Biden was a sad dude who dined out on his family name like countless Washington failsons, but who didn’t actually convince his father to intervene on behalf of his clients. As Hunter’s former business partner Devon Archer put it, Hunter sold “the illusion of access.”

By opening impeachment hearings with zero evidence of wrongdoing by president Biden, the GOP is running a tired Trumpian play. It doesn’t matter whether an investigation uncovers anything, all that matters is that the investigation be announced.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Democrats unleash on GOP over government shutdown chaos

Religious Trauma Syndrome: Former Christian explains how organized religion can lead to mental health problems

At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia. When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister. “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said. “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.

But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia. I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Area. She is also the daughter of Pentecostal missionaries. This combination has given her work an unusual focus. For the past twenty years she has counseled men and women in recovery from various forms of fundamentalist religion including the Assemblies of God denomination in which she was raised. Winell is the author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion, written during her years of private practice in psychology. Over the years, Winell has provided assistance to clients whose religious experiences were even more damaging than mine. Some of them are people whose psychological symptoms weren’t just exacerbated by their religion, but actually caused by it.

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Two years ago, Winell made waves by formally labeling what she calls “Religious Trauma Syndrome” (RTS) and beginning to write and speak on the subject for professional audiences. When the British Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Psychologists published a series of articles on the topic, members of a Christian counseling association protested what they called excessive attention to a “relatively niche topic.” One commenter said, “A religion, faith or book cannot be abuse but the people interpreting can make anything abusive.”

READ: A panel of mental health experts warn about the likely effects of a Trump comeback: 'Beyond our current worst nightmares'

Is toxic religion simply misinterpretation? What is religious trauma? Why does Winell believe religious trauma merits its own diagnostic label? I asked her.

Let’s start this interview with the basics. What exactly is religious trauma syndrome?

Winell: Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a set of symptoms and characteristics that tend to go together and which are related to harmful experiences with religion. They are the result of two things: immersion in a controlling religion and the secondary impact of leaving a religious group. The RTS label provides a name and description that affected people often recognize immediately. Many other people are surprised by the idea of RTS, because in our culture it is generally assumed that religion is benign or good for you. Just like telling kids about Santa Claus and letting them work out their beliefs later, people see no harm in teaching religion to children.

But in reality, religious teachings and practices sometimes cause serious mental health damage. The public is somewhat familiar with sexual and physical abuse in a religious context. As Journalist Janet Heimlich has documented in, Breaking Their Will, Bible-based religious groups that emphasize patriarchal authority in family structure and use harsh parenting methods can be destructive.

READ: These 5 historical truths suggest Jesus Christ may have never existed

But the problem isn’t just physical and sexual abuse. Emotional and mental treatment in authoritarian religious groups also can be damaging because of 1) toxic teachings like eternal damnation or original sin 2) religious practices or mindset, such as punishment, black and white thinking, or sexual guilt, and 3) neglect that prevents a person from having the information or opportunities to develop normally.

Can you give me an example of RTS from your consulting practice?

Winell: I can give you many. One of the symptom clusters is around fear and anxiety. People indoctrinated into fundamentalist Christianity as small children sometimes have memories of being terrified by images of hell and apocalypse before their brains could begin to make sense of such ideas. Some survivors, who I prefer to call “reclaimers,” have flashbacks, panic attacks, or nightmares in adulthood even when they intellectually no longer believe the theology. One client of mine, who during the day functioned well as a professional, struggled with intense fear many nights. She said,

I was afraid I was going to hell. I was afraid I was doing something really wrong. I was completely out of control. I sometimes would wake up in the night and start screaming, thrashing my arms, trying to rid myself of what I was feeling. I’d walk around the house trying to think and calm myself down, in the middle of the night, trying to do some self-talk, but I felt like it was just something that – the fear and anxiety was taking over my life.

Or consider this comment, which refers to a film used by Evangelicals to warn about the horrors of the “end times” for nonbelievers.

I was taken to see the film “A Thief In The Night”. WOW. I am in shock to learn that many other people suffered the same traumas I lived with because of this film. A few days or weeks after the film viewing, I came into the house and mom wasn’t there. I stood there screaming in terror. When I stopped screaming, I began making my plan: Who my Christian neighbors were, who’s house to break into to get money and food. I was 12 yrs old and was preparing for Armageddon alone.

In addition to anxiety, RTS can include depression, cognitive difficulties, and problems with social functioning. In fundamentalist Christianity, the individual is considered depraved and in need of salvation. A core message is “You are bad and wrong and deserve to die.” (The wages of sin is death.) This gets taught to millions of children through organizations like Child Evangelism Fellowship, and there is a group organized to oppose their incursion into public schools. I’ve had clients who remember being distraught when given a vivid bloody image of Jesus paying the ultimate price for their sins. Decades later they sit telling me that they can’t manage to find any self-worth.

After twenty-seven years of trying to live a perfect life, I failed. . . I was ashamed of myself all day long. My mind battling with itself with no relief. . . I always believed everything that I was taught but I thought that I was not approved by God. I thought that basically I, too, would die at Armageddon.
I’ve spent literally years injuring myself, cutting and burning my arms, taking overdoses and starving myself, to punish myself so that God doesn’t have to punish me. It’s taken me years to feel deserving of anything good.

READ: When American debate about abortion was sane and why that changed

Born-again Christianity and devout Catholicism tell people they are weak and dependent, calling on phrases like “lean not unto your own understanding” or “trust and obey.” People who internalize these messages can suffer from learned helplessness. I’ll give you an example from a client who had little decision-making ability after living his entire life devoted to following the “will of God.” The words here don’t convey the depth of his despair.

I have an awful time making decisions in general. Like I can’t, you know, wake up in the morning, “What am I going to do today? Like I don’t even know where to start. You know all the things I thought I might be doing are gone and I’m not sure I should even try to have a career; essentially I babysit my four-year-old all day.

Authoritarian religious groups are subcultures where conformity is required in order to belong. Thus if you dare to leave the religion, you risk losing your entire support system as well.

I lost all my friends. I lost my close ties to family. Now I’m losing my country. I’ve lost so much because of this malignant religion and I am angry and sad to my very core. . . I have tried hard to make new friends, but I have failed miserably. . . I am very lonely.

Leaving a religion, after total immersion, can cause a complete upheaval of a person’s construction of reality, including the self, other people, life, and the future. People unfamiliar with this situation, including therapists, have trouble appreciating the sheer terror it can create.

My form of religion was very strongly entrenched and anchored deeply in my heart. It is hard to describe how fully my religion informed, infused, and influenced my entire worldview. My first steps out of fundamentalism were profoundly frightening and I had frequent thoughts of suicide. Now I’m way past that but I still haven’t quite found “my place in the universe.

Even for a person who was not so entrenched, leaving one’s religion can be a stressful and significant transition.

Many people seem to walk away from their religion easily, without really looking back. What is different about the clientele you work with?

Winell: Religious groups that are highly controlling, teach fear about the world, and keep members sheltered and ill-equipped to function in society are harder to leave easily. The difficulty seems to be greater if the person was born and raised in the religion rather than joining as an adult convert. This is because they have no frame of reference – no other “self” or way of “being in the world.” A common personality type is a person who is deeply emotional and thoughtful and who tends to throw themselves wholeheartedly into their endeavors. “True believers” who then lose their faith feel more anger and depression and grief than those who simply went to church on Sunday.

Aren’t these just people who would be depressed, anxious, or obsessive anyways?

Winell: Not at all. If my observation is correct, these are people who are intense and involved and caring. They hang on to the religion longer than those who simply “walk away” because they try to make it work even when they have doubts. Sometime this is out of fear, but often it is out of devotion. These are people for whom ethics, integrity and compassion matter a great deal. I find that when they get better and rebuild their lives, they are wonderfully creative and energetic about new things.

In your mind, how is RTS different from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Winell: RTS is a specific set of symptoms and characteristics that are connected with harmful religious experience, not just any trauma. This is crucial to understanding the condition and any kind of self-help or treatment. (More details about this can be found on my Journey Free website and discussed in my talk at the Texas Freethought Convention.)

Another difference is the social context, which is extremely different from other traumas or forms of abuse. When someone is recovering from domestic abuse, for example, other people understand and support the need to leave and recover. They don’t question it as a matter of interpretation, and they don’t send the person back for more. But this is exactly what happens to many former believers who seek counseling. If a provider doesn’t understand the source of the symptoms, he or she may send a client for pastoral counseling, or to AA, or even to another church. One reclaimer expressed her frustration this way:

Include physically-abusive parents who quote “Spare the rod and spoil the child” as literally as you can imagine and you have one fucked-up soul: an unloved, rejected, traumatized toddler in the body of an adult. I’m simply a broken spirit in an empty shell. But wait…That’s not enough!? There’s also the expectation by everyone in society that we victims should celebrate this with our perpetrators every Christmas and Easter!!

Just like disorders such as autism or bulimia, giving RTS a real name has important advantages. People who are suffering find that having a label for their experience helps them feel less alone and guilty. Some have written to me to express their relief:

There’s actually a name for it! I was brainwashed from birth and wasted 25 years of my life serving Him! I’ve since been out of my religion for several years now, but i cannot shake the haunting fear of hell and feel absolutely doomed. I’m now socially inept, unemployable, and the only way i can have sex is to pay for it.

Labeling RTS encourages professionals to study it more carefully, develop treatments, and offer training. Hopefully, we can even work on prevention.

What do you see as the difference between religion that causes trauma and religion that doesn’t?

Winell: Religion causes trauma when it is highly controlling and prevents people from thinking for themselves and trusting their own feelings. Groups that demand obedience and conformity produce fear, not love and growth. With constant judgment of self and others, people become alienated from themselves, each other, and the world. Religion in its worst forms causes separation.

Conversely, groups that connect people and promote self-knowledge and personal growth can be said to be healthy. The book, Healthy Religion, describes these traits. Such groups put high value on respecting differences, and members feel empowered as individuals. They provide social support, a place for events and rites of passage, exchange of ideas, inspiration, opportunities for service, and connection to social causes. They encourage spiritual practices that promote health like meditation or principles for living like the golden rule. More and more, nontheists are asking how they can create similar spiritual communities without the supernaturalism. An atheist congregation in London launched this year and has received over 200 inquiries from people wanting to replicate their model.

Some people say that terms like “recovery from religion” and “religious trauma syndrome” are just atheist attempts to pathologize religious belief.

Winell: Mental health professionals have enough to do without going out looking for new pathology. I never set out looking for a “niche topic,” and certainly not religious trauma syndrome. I originally wrote a paper for a conference of the American Psychological Association and thought that would be the end of it. Since then, I have tried to move on to other things several times, but this work has simply grown.

In my opinion, we are simply, as a culture, becoming aware of religious trauma. More and more people are leaving religion, as seen by polls showing that the “religiously unaffiliated” have increased in the last five years from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. It’s no wonder the internet is exploding with websites for former believers from all religions, providing forums for people to support each other. The huge population of people “leaving the fold” includes a subset at risk for RTS, and more people are talking about it and seeking help. For example, there are thousands of former Mormons, and I was asked to speak about RTS at an Exmormon Foundation conference. I facilitate an international support group online called Release and Reclaim which has monthly conference calls. An organization called Recovery from Religion, helps people start self-help meet-up groups

Saying that someone is trying to pathologize authoritarian religion is like saying someone pathologized eating disorders by naming them. Before that, they were healthy? No, before that we weren’t noticing. People were suffering, thought they were alone, and blamed themselves. Professionals had no awareness or training. This is the situation of RTS today. Authoritarian religion is already pathological, and leaving a high-control group can be traumatic. People are already suffering. They need to be recognized and helped.

—- Dr. Marlene Winell is a human development consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of Leaving the Fold – A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion. More information about Marlene Winell and resources for getting help with RTS may be found at Journey Free. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of Her articles can be found at

'No vision': Disillusioned GOP consultant believes 'anger' has overtaken 'ideas' among conservatives

As the founder and president of Dyce Communications — a GOP consulting firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina — Alfredo Rodriguez III has been involved in conservative politics for a long time.

But in an op-ed published by North Carolina's Herald-Sun on September 20, Rodriguez makes it clear that he is feeling very disillusioned with the GOP — which he believes has lost its way.

"In the simplest of terms," Rodriguez argues, "conservatism used to represent the ideals and principles encouraging personal freedom and responsibility, Judeo-Christian morals, innovation and entrepreneurship, American sovereignty, defense of our nation and its citizens, and democracy over totalitarianism."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

Rodriguez goes on to stress that the GOP's "values" of the past "have been corrupted and abandoned in many instances."

"Today, anger about everything, immovable thinking and rationale, conspiratorial theories and extreme skepticism, hatred of the opposition, and a lukewarm defense of democracy are considered by many Republicans as conservative standards," Rodriguez observes. "It possesses no vision, optimism or ideas. It offers nothing. Our republic cannot exist under these emotions."

Rodriguez laments that former President Donald Trump has "corrupted conservatism for his own benefit."

Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, leading second-place candidate Ron DeSantis by 47 percent in an Emerson College poll released on September 20. But Rodriguez is hoping that ultimately, Trump won't be the nominee.

READ MORE:Republicans in disarray as government shutdown fight looms: report

"We must abandon Trump and his conspiracies and anger," Rodriguez writes. "The 2024 election provides conservatives this opportunity."

READ MORE:'Trump without the guardrails': Journalist warns that Trump 2.0 would be a 'much more radical prospect'

Read Alfredo Rodriguez III's full op-ed for the Herald-Sun at this link.

White House mocks GOP with 'worst person you know' meme after Matt Gaetz blames McCarthy for shutdown

In a rare move the Biden White House on Wednesday mocked House Republicans with a popular internet meme to highlight remarks made by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz that show how the Florida Republican is blaming the impending, likely shutdown of the federal government on Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Congressman Gaetz specifically says “We cannot blame Joe Biden” and “We cannot blame House Democrats” for it.

Gaetz, who did not vote to hand McCarthy the gavel back in January, for weeks has increasingly been targeting the House Speaker. Last week he threatened he would get McCarthy removed as Speaker, going as far as to say he was “out of compliance.” On Tuesday a reporter found a resolution with links to Gaetz declaring the Office of the Speaker “vacant” on a baby changing table in a House restroom.

Fox News’ Liz Elkind reported on Gaetz’s comments via social media, “MATT GAETZ pins shutdown on McCarthy: ‘We will have a government shutdown and it is absolutely Speaker McCarthy’s fault. We cannot blame Joe Biden for not having moved our individual spending bills. We cannot blame House Democrats. We can’t even blame Chuck Schumer in the Senate.”

READ MORE: ‘Brazen and Misguided’: Schumer Decimates Tuberville’s ‘Act of Desperation’ – and Threatens to Hold Senators in DC

The White House reposted them, and the “worst person” meme, known as the “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made A Great Point.” The meme was published in 2018 by Clickhole. a satirical website.

The federal government will shut down in 10 days if Speaker McCarthy cannot pass legislation to keep the government funded after September 30. That legislation will need to be acceptable to the Senate, and President Joe Biden. House Republicans, intent on stripping funding for Ukraine, defunding Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigations, along with the Dept. of Justice and FBI, are digging in their heels amid “chaos” and “infighting.” Some have called it a GOP “civil war.”

See the White House’s post below or at this link.

Pro-Trump attorney Lin Wood is a 'witness for the state' in Georgia prosecution

On Wednesday, September 20, there was a new revelation in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' prosecution against former President Donald Trump and 19 of his allies. The Messenger's Adam Klasfeld reports that far-right attorney Lin Wood is a witness for the State of Georgia in Willis' case.

Wood was among the Trump supporters who, in late 2020, promoted the debunked conspiracy theory that the presidential election as stolen from Trump.

Klasfeld reports that "Willis told a judge" on September 20 "that at least six attorneys for former President Donald Trump's co-defendants may have conflicts of interest in the sprawling racketeering case."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

Read Adam Klasfeld's report at this link.

'Brazen and misguided': Schumer decimates Tuberville’s 'act of desperation'

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took strong action on Wednesday, slamming U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, vowing to get several officers in the U.S. Armed Forces confirmed to top posts, and threatening that if the Georgia Republican lawmaker who has blockaded well over 300 military promotions does not release his holds he will hold Senators in D.C. over the weekend.

“In an act of desperation, Sen. Tuberville is trying to use a procedural step to overcome his own holds,” Majority Leader Schumer wrote on social media Wednesday afternoon, before delivering a floor speech. “You read it right. His own holds.”

“He is trying to make himself the gatekeeper of which officers are promoted or languish,” Schumer added. “We can’t allow this to continue. We’re taking action.”

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

On the floor of the Senate he added: “We cannot allow Senator Tuberville to decide which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted and which get to languish. Which military families are able to settle in their new posts, and which must remain in limbo. We cannot we should not allow that to be the case.”

“So I have just filed cloture on the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Army Chief of Staff. These men should have already been confirmed. They should already be serving in their new positions,” Schumer said. “The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator.”

“But this is where we are. In the end, the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to overcome Senator Tuberville’s blockade of these three nominees by voting for cloture then the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to confirm them,” he vowed. “And these three honorable men will finally be able to assume their positions and the abortion policy that Senator Tuberville abhors will remain in place. Senator Tuberville will have accomplished nothing.”

It is rare for a Senate Leader to target one member of the body, and even more rare to do so by name, but Senator Tuberville’s blockade, which he began in February, has harmed military readiness, according to multiple top Pentagon officials and former officials.

READ MORE:Revealed: Trump's Project 2025 agenda aims for 'total control' of the federal government

Tuberville has said he has blocked at least 319 military promotions, which require Senate confirmation, in response to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members who need to travel out of state to obtain abortion health care services. Many GOP-majority states have imposed abortion bans, forcing out-of travel.

But Schumer’s reference to “gatekeeper,” and later, in his floor speech saying, “which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted,” may also refer to Tuberville’s unprecedented personal attacks on individual officers awaiting promotion.

Last month the Georgia freshman Republican Senator targeted over 20 individual U.S. Military officers, promoting an attack on their remarks supporting diversity and equity programs, or even, in one case, blasting one officer for their “celebration” of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Tuberville, who denied holding up hundreds of promotions is having a damaging effect on the military and morale, also has said he is blocking these promotions because the Biden administration is “woke.”

READ MORE: 'Trump lost the United States Senate in 2020' — and there’s 'no evidence' he’s changed: Ex-NRSC chair

Recently, Tuberville told Bloomberg News each military officer’s promotion takes two hours of voting by the Senate, which could take them up individually despite his block. Tuberville falsely said voting on all the promotions would take “no time at all” to complete.

Watch Majority Leader Schumer below or at this link.

John Fetterman teases GOP 'jagoffs' that he will save democracy with a unique plan

Amid several days of right-wing, Republican, and Fox News outrage targeting U.S. Senator John Fetterman after Senators were told they may now wear casual attire on the floor, the Pennsylvania Democrat is promising to "save democracy by wearing a suit," but he has two conditions.

Senator Fetterman stands at least six feet eight inches tall and weighs in at 270 pounds, according to The Washington Post, which attempted this week to debunk right-wing conspiracy theories that he has a "body double."

He is known for wearing Carhartt sweatshirts and shorts more often than suits and ties, and after he was elected last year many in the media worried how he would transition to the more formal restrictions expected of sitting U.S. Senators. As it turns out there is no actual "dress code" that applies to Senators, and some, like Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), have taken advantage of that fact on occasion.

Some, like one menswear editor, have taken the opportunity to mock other unique dress aspects of some political figures.

READ MORE: ‘Leopards Eating People’s Faces Party’: McCarthy and Far Right Republicans Mocked as GOP Divide Grows Even Greater

On Tuesday Sen. Fetterman mocked his detractors, including Fox News, which has aired at least several segments on his casual attire while suggesting the relaxed enforcement of the already non-existent "dress code" in the nation's top deliberative body is an example of the “decline of standards in everything.”

One of Fetterman's detractors has been having her own challenges this week: U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), caught vaping, taking photos, and allegedly engaged in sexual groping during a performance of a family-friendly musical.

READ MORE: ‘Knock It Off’: Matt Gaetz Thinks Merrick Garland Should Tell the President to Not Allow Hunter Biden at State Dinners

In response to a Fox News social media post that claimed "People are furious after the Senate dropped its dress code requirement," Sen. Fetterman said: “I figure if I take up vaping and grabbing the hog during a live musical, they’ll make me a folk hero.”

On Wednesday, Fetterman continued his colorful remarks, while mocking his critics – namely, House Republicans – who, he suggested, feel sweats are the end of the American republic.

The House is currently mired in "chaos," a word Reuters, Fox News, MSNBC, The Hill, Axios, The Washington Post, and others have used to described the state of Speaker Kevin McCarthy's conference just eleven days before what appears to be a likely shutdown of the federal government. It appears less and less likely Republicans will be able to pass legislation that will keep the government open after September 30, and continue funding Ukraine's defense against Russia.

"If those jagoffs in the House stop trying to shut our government down, and fully support Ukraine, then I will save democracy by wearing a suit on the Senate floor next week," Sen. Fetterman wrote.

READ MORE: ‘This Is Stupidity’: House Republican Slams McCarthy and His ‘Clown Show’ of ‘Lunatics’ as Clock Ticks Toward Shutdown

See the social media at this link.

The shutdown is the two Santa Clauses scam rearing its ugly head again

As the United States barrels toward a GOP-caused fiscal disaster and government shutdown, House Republicans have laid out their vision for the future of America.

In a budget document they released yesterday, the legislators proposed dramatic $9 trillion cuts to Social Security, food stamps, aid to women and children, Medicare and Medicaid, along a new round of tax cuts for America’s billionaires. Their argument is that we need to “balance the budget now!”

This is the classic Two Santas strategy that the GOP has been running ever since 1981. In addition to showing the hypocrisy and depravity of these politicians who are happy to live on the largesse of rightwing billionaires but see no benefit in feeding hungry children, it also shows that Jude Wanniski’s grand plan, adopted by Reagan in 1981, is alive and well.

It’s no accident or coincidence that the threat of a failure to pay the nation’s bills or fund an upcoming year never once happened during the presidencies of Reagan, Bush, Bush, or Trump. Or that it did happen every single time during the presidencies of Clinton, Obama…and, now, Biden.

You could even call it a conspiracy: there’s an amazing backstory — with a unique name — here. And it all started with a guy named Jude Wanniski, who literally transformed American politics with a plan that the American mainstream media, astonishingly, continues to ignore.

Here’s how it works, laid it out in simple summary:

To set up its foundation, Wanniski’s “Two Santas” strategy dictates, when Republicans control the White House they must spend money like a drunken Santa and cut taxes on the rich, all to intentionally run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible.

They started this during the Reagan presidency and tripled down on it during the presidencies of Bush and Trump with massive tax cuts for billionaires and increases in spending across-the-board.

Those massive tax cuts and that uncontrolled spending during four Republican presidencies produced three results:

They stimulated the economy with a sort of sugar high, making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy;

They raised the national debt dramatically (it’s at $33 trillion today, almost all of which tracks back to Reagan’s, Bush Jr.’s, and Trump’s massive tax cuts and Bush’s two illegal off-the-books wars);

And they made people think that Republicans are the “tax-cut Santa Clauses.”

Then comes part two of the one-two punch: when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans must scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how “our children will have to pay for it!” and “you must cut spending to solve the crisis!”

The “debt crisis,” that is, that they themselves created with their massive tax cuts and wild spending.

Do whatever it takes, the “Two Santas” strategy goes. Tie up legislation, deny a quorum, filibuster, shut down the government, whatever.

Which is why, following Wanniski’s script, Republicans are again squealing about the national debt and saying they will refuse to fund the government, possibly crashing the US economy.

And, once again, the media is preparing to cover it as a “Debt Crisis!” rather than what it really is: a cynical political and media strategy devised by Republicans in the 1970s, fine-tuned in the 1980s, and since then rolled out every time a Democrat is in the White House.

Politically, it’s a brilliant strategy that was hatched by a fellow most people have never heard of: Jude Wanniski.

Republican strategist Wanniski first proposed his Two Santa Clauses strategy in The Wall Street Journal in 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and the future of the Republican Party was so dim that books and articles were widely suggesting the GOP was about to go the way of the Whigs.

There was genuine despair across the GOP, particularly when Jerry Ford couldn’t even beat an unknown peanut farmer from rural Georgia for the presidency.

Wanniski argued back then that Republicans weren’t losing so many elections just because of Nixon’s corruption, but mostly because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal of the 1930s as the “Santa Claus party.”

On the other hand, the GOP, he said, was widely seen as the “party of Scrooge” because ever since the 1930s they’d publicly opposed everything from Social Security and Medicare to unemployment insurance and food stamps.

The Democrats, he noted, had gotten to play Santa Claus for decades when they passed out Social Security and unemployment checks — both programs of FDR’s Democratic New Deal — as well as their “big government” projects like roads, bridges, schools, and highways that gave a healthy union paycheck to workers and made our country shine.

Even worse, Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for all that “free stuff” — and Democrats’ 91% top tax rates on the morbidly rich didn’t have any negative effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up until the Reagan Revolution, in fact).

It all added, Wanniski theorized, to the public perception that the Democrats were the true party of Santa Claus, using taxes on the morbidly rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class.

Americans loved the Democrats back then. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.

Therefore, Wanniski concluded, the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too.

But because Republicans hated the idea of helping working people, they had to come up with a new way to convince average voters that the GOP, too, had the Santa spirit. But what?

“Tax cuts!” said Wanniski.

To make this work, the Republicans would first have to turn the classical world of economics — which had operated on a simple demand-driven equation for seven thousand years — on its head. (Everybody then understood that demand — “working-class wages” — drove economies because working people spent most of the money they earn in the marketplace, producing “demand” for factory-output goods and services.)

To lay the ground for Two Santa Clauses, in 1974 Wanniski invented a new phrase — “Supply-Side Economics” — and claimed the reason economies grew and became robust wasn’t because people had good union jobs and thus enough money to buy things (“demand”) but, instead, because business made things (“supply”) available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money.

The more products (supply) there were in the stores, he said, the faster the economy would grow. And the more money we gave rich people and their corporations (via tax cuts) the more stuff (supply) they’d generously produce for us to think about buying.

At a glance, this 1981 move by the Reagan Republicans to cut taxes while increasing spending seems irrational, cynical, and counterproductive. It certainly defies classic understandings of economics. But when you consider Jude Wanniski’s playbook, it makes complete sense.

To help, Arthur Laffer took that equation a step further with the famous “Laffer Curve” napkin scribble he shared with Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld over lunch. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would magically go up!

Neither concept made any sense — and time and our $33 trillion national debt have proven both to be colossal idiocies — but if Americans would buy into it all, they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.

Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to fully embrace the Two Santa Clauses strategy.

He told the American people straight-out that if he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, those “job creators” (then a newly-invented Republican phrase) would use their extra money to “build new factories” so all that new stuff “supplying” the economy would produce faster economic growth.

George HW Bush — like most Republicans in 1980 who hadn’t read Wanniski’s piece in The Wall Street Journal — was initially horrified. Ronald Reagan was proposing “Voodoo Economics,” said Bush in the primary campaign, and Wanniski's supply-side and Laffer’s tax-cut theories would throw the nation into debt while producing nothing to benefit average Americans.

But Wanniski had done his homework, selling “Voodoo” supply-side economics to the wealthy elders and influencers of the Republican Party.

Democrats, Wanniski told the GOP, had been “Santa Clauses” since 1933 by giving people things. From union jobs to food stamps, new schools to Social Security, the American people loved the “toys” and “free stuff” the Democratic Santas brought every year, as well as the growing economy the increasing union wages and social programs produced in middle class hands.

But Republicans could stimulate the economy by throwing trillions at defense contractors, oil companies, and other fat-cat donor industries, Jude’s theory went: spending could actually increase without negative repercussions because that money would “trickle down” to workers from the billionaires and corporate CEOs buying new yachts and building new mansions.

Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people’s taxes!

For working people, the tax cuts would only be a small token — a few hundred dollars a year at the most — but Republicans would heavily market them to the media and in political advertising. And the tax cuts for the rich, which weren’t to be discussed in public, would amount to trillions of dollars, part of which they knew would be recycled back to the GOP as campaign contributions from the morbidly rich beneficiaries of those tax cuts.

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again.

Every time a Democrat was in the White House, they’d be forced into the role of Santa-killers if they acted responsibly by raising taxes; or, even better, they’d be machine-gunning Santa by cutting spending on their own social programs.

Either one would lose them elections, and if Republicans executed the strategy right, they could force Democrats to do both!

Reagan took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars when he was elected in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today.

Republicans embraced Wanniski’s theory with such gusto that Presidents Reagan and George HW Bush ran up more debt in twelve years than every president in history up until that time — from George Washington to Jimmy Carter — combined.

Surely this would both “starve the beast” of the American government and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks.

Bill Clinton, the first Democrat they blindsided with Two Santas, had run on an FDR-like platform of a “New Covenant” with the American people that would strengthen the institutions of the New Deal, re-empower labor, and institute a national single-payer health care system.

A few weeks before his inauguration, however, Wanniski-insiders Alan Greenspan, Larry Sommers, and Goldman Sachs co-chairman Robert Rubin famously sat Clinton down and told him the facts of life: Reagan and Bush had run up such a huge deficit that he was going to have to both raise taxes and cut the size of government programs for the working class and poor.

Clinton buckled under the threat of a government shutdown: he raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous social programs. He declared an “end to welfare as we know it” and, in his second inaugural address, an “end to the era of big government.”

Clinton shot Santa Claus, and the result was an explosion of Republican wins across the country as GOP politicians campaigned on a “Republican Santa” platform of supply-side tax cuts and pork-rich spending increases.

Democrats had controlled the House of Representatives in almost every single year since the Republican Great Depression of the 1930s, but with Newt Gingrich rigorously enforcing Wanniski’s Two Santa Clauses strategy with brutal threats to shut down the government, they finally took it over in the middle of Clinton’s presidency.

State after state turned red, and the Republican Party rose to take over, in less than a decade, every single lever of power in the federal government, from the Supreme Court to Congress to the White House.

Newt had done his job in the House of Representatives. Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999, Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:

“We of course should be indebted to Art Laffer for all time for his Curve... But as the primary political theoretician of the supply-side camp, I began arguing for the ‘Two Santa Claus Theory’ in 1974. If the Democrats are going to play Santa Claus by promoting more spending, the Republicans can never beat them by promoting less spending. They have to promise tax cuts...”

Ed Crane, then-president of the Koch-funded Libertarian CATO Institute, noted in a memo that year:

“When Jack Kemp, Newt Gingrich, Vin Weber, Connie Mack and the rest discovered Jude Wanniski and Art Laffer, they thought they’d died and gone to heaven. In supply-side economics they found a philosophy that gave them a free pass out of the debate over the proper role of government. ... That’s why you rarely, if ever, heard Kemp or Gingrich call for spending cuts, much less the elimination of programs and departments.”

Two Santa Clauses had fully seized the GOP mainstream.

Never again would Republicans worry about the debt or deficit when they were in office; but they knew well how to scream hysterically about it and hook in the economically naïve media as soon as Democrats again took power.

When Jude Wanniski died, George Gilder celebrated the Reagan/Bush adoption of his Two Santas “Voodoo Economics” scheme — then still considered irrational by mainstream economists — in a Wall Street Journal eulogy:

“Unbound by zero-sum economics, Jude forged the golden gift of a profound and passionate argument that the establishments of the mold must finally give way to the powers of the mind. ... He audaciously defied all the Buffetteers of the trade gap, the moldy figs of the Phillips Curve, the chic traders in money and principle, even the stultifying pillows of the Nobel Prize.”

Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski’s work. Using the “fiscal responsibility” argument — essentially Two Santas in drag — Republicans have forced two Democratic presidents, and are about to try to force a third, to gut-shoot the Democratic Santa established by FDR.

Using this strategy, Republicans held power for forty years, transferred over $50 trillion from working class families into the money bins of the top one percent, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around a third of workers when Reagan came into office to around 8 percent of the non-governmental workforce today.

Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in America’s national debt in all of our history until Trump.

There was nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it and to this day claim Reagan presided over a “great” economy.

When five rightwingers on the Supreme Court gave the White House to George W. Bush in 2000, he immediately reverted to Wanniski’s “Two Santa” strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding several trillion in borrowed money to pay for his two tax cuts for billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $8 trillion.

There was not a whisper about that debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans; in fact, Dick Cheney — who knew Wanniski personally — famously said, amplifying Wanniski’s strategy:

“Reagan proved deficits don’t matter. We won the midterms. This is our due.”

Bush and Cheney’s tax cuts for the rich raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (and additional trillions in war debt that wasn’t be put on the books until Obama entered office, so it looked like it was his).

Then came Democratic President Barack Obama, and suddenly the GOP was hysterical about the debt again.

So much so that they convinced a sitting Democratic president to propose a cut to Social Security (the “chained CPI”). Obama nearly shot the Democrats’ biggest Santa Claus, just like Wanniski predicted, until outrage from the Democratic base stopped him. And then we got the “sequester” out of it: a freeze on Democratic spending and political power along with automatic cuts to social programs if certain terms weren’t adhered to. It was a successful hostage-taking exercise that is still largely in place.

Next, Donald Trump raised our national debt by over $8 trillion, and the GOP funded the government without a peep every year for the first three years of his administration, and then suspended the debt ceiling altogether for 2020 (so, if Biden won, he’d have to justify raising the debt ceiling for 2 years’ worth of deficits, making it even more politically painful).

And now Republicans are using the renewal of government funding for fiscal year 2024 to drop their Two Santas bomb right onto President Joe Biden’s head. After all, it worked against Clinton and Obama and the media never caught on. Why wouldn’t they use it again?

This time they’re planning on adding the Newt Gingrich twist of shutting the government down and damaging the economy just as the Democratic president heads toward an election.

And if the GOP’s failure to fund the government crashes the economy, all the better. Republicans can just blame Biden: it’ll increase the chances of Republican victories in 2024!

Americans deserve to know how we’ve been manipulated, and by whom. Sadly, although I and others (it’s even detailed on Wikipedia!) have been calling out Wanniski’s scheme for decades, none of the national media have ever seriously examined this 40+ year GOP strategy.

As House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington told reporters Tuesday, Republicans are anxious to get back to Reagan’s phony “fiscal responsibility” scam, aka Two Santas:

“Our muscle as Republicans for fiscal responsibility has atrophied over the years, and we’re trying to rebuild that. And so it’s like going back into the weight room when you haven’t been there in a long time.”

Hopefully this time Democratic politicians and our media will, finally, call the GOP out on Wanniski’s and Reagan’s Two Santa Clauses scam and put an end to it once and for all.

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The trouble with fighting domestic terrorism

Some of the most prominent members of the Proud Boys, a far-right militant group that functions more like a street gang than a militia, have been sentenced to long terms in federal prison for their roles in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Experts declare that these successful prosecutions by the U.S. Justice Department will not only discourage far-right groups but also deter people from joining them and engaging in future criminal activity.

Group chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison after being found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Group leaders Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl were also found guilty of seditious conspiracy and sentenced to 18, 17 and 15 years, respectively. Dominic Pezzola, a Proud Boys member who breached the Capitol building with a stolen police riot shield, was found not guilty of seditious conspiracy but was convicted of a variety of felonies, including assaulting a police officer, robbing government property and obstructing an official proceeding – and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

But despite the lengths of those sentences, prosecutors had asked U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly to impose even harsher ones, claiming the offenses were related to terrorism. Kelly, however, ruled that claims of terrorism overstate the conduct of the Proud Boys sentenced.

That fits with our analysis of the Proud Boys. As scholars who study street gangs and far-right groups, we see that the larger law enforcement community continues to focus – we believe mistakenly – on the belief that, like terrorist groups, white supremacists are coordinated in ideology and intent. Evidence shows that perception actually diverts local police agencies’ attention from identifying and managing these groups.

Gangs are generally defined as durable, street-oriented groups whose own identity includes involvement in illegal activity. We believe that if police had treated Proud Boys as members of a street gang from the group’s inception in 2016, the events of Jan. 6, 2021, might have been avoided, or at least reduced in severity.

The trouble with fighting domestic terrorism

The United States lacks explicit laws banning domestic terrorism, in part because they are constitutionally controversial and may target unintended groups.

That problem has arisen with other criminal laws, such as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was designed to specifically target organized crime groups, like the Italian Mafia. The application of RICO, however, has been adapted and used aggressively against Black, Latino and Indigenous groups and political protestors.

Nevertheless, some have suggested that passing laws defining and outlawing domestic terrorism would be the best way to deal with the threats posed by the Proud Boys and other far-right extremists.

But when Canada and New Zealand designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist organization, that did not eliminate white supremacists from those countries. It merely forced them to rebrand themselves with a new name and logo. Treating Proud Boys solely as members of a terrorist organization does not actually stamp out white supremacy groups.

Instead, this perception hurts local law enforcement’s ability to recognize local, disorganized, far-right groups as street gangs and not terrorist groups. Police discretion is immense. Time and again, police have been documented ignoring Proud Boys violence and intimidation. Failing to arrest members explicitly observed in criminal infractions has only encouraged future acts of violence. Furthermore, local law enforcement’s history of failing to investigate and arrest members of far-right groups forces the federal government to be solely responsible for prosecuting them.

Two men stand in an open space inside a building.

Proud Boys member Dominic Pezzola, center with police shield, was among those who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Once a gang, always a gang

From the very start, Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes explicitly declared the group a “gang.” Local police across the U.S. actively investigate and prosecute gangs, especially those whose members are Black, Latino and other people of color.

Proud Boys are predominantly white men who also intimidate and threaten communities around the U.S. with disorderly conduct, public harassment and more serious violence, including battery, assault, murder, rioting and hate crimes. This “cafeteria-style” offending is quite common among gang members participating in a range of criminal activities.

But, perhaps because of the Proud Boys’ claims to be just a “western chauvinist” men’s club, local law enforcement agencies have tended not to treat the Proud Boys and other far-right groups as street gangs. Such increased scrutiny by police of their criminal activities would have produced a much greater deterrent effect. Instead, the lack of acknowledging the Proud Boys’ violent criminal behavior only emboldened them further.

In fact, police have either remained idle or even consorted with Proud Boys members at recent protests, even giving them high-fives, as observed in Columbus, Ohio, at a demonstration against the “Holi-drag” story time event. This type of police engagement is just one element of how police ignore the threat of white supremacy and its followers.

Broadening the concept of gangs

Many Proud Boys fail to exhibit remorse for their actions. Pezzola declared “Trump won!” as he exited the federal courtroom after his sentencing. Tarrio is now positioning himself as a political prisoner to rally support from the GOP.

This raises our concerns that Proud Boys members will continue to be active and violent. Research finds it is effective for police to systematically monitor and target groups that exhibit violent behavior and that doing so deters future acts of violence.

Sometimes, new laws can help. In Alabama, for instance, a law enacted in June expands the legal definition of groups police might be concerned about. Instead of using a specific term like “street gang,” as most states do, the Alabama law defines a “criminal enterprise” as any group of three or more people who engage in a pattern of criminal activity. Such an approach aids in removing the bias in law enforcement that street gangs are composed only of urban youth.

We hope that police will collect and share information about far-right groups’ criminal acts with other agencies to help identify people who are active in various areas of a state or even around the country. But in the end, the evidence shows that the Proud Boys, like any street gang, remain primarily localized groups that are best dealt with by local police, not federal agents.The Conversation

Matthew Valasik, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Alabama and Shannon Reid, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of North Carolina – Charlotte

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Bruising shutdown battle shows House Republicans’ willingness to eat each other alive: report

Earlier this year, the U.S. economy dodged a major bullet when President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) reached a debt ceiling agreement and the country avoided defaulting on its debt obligations.

But the U.S. is now facing another economic battle as McCarthy struggles to work out a funding agreement with members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. A government shutdown appears likely.

In a biting report published on September 20, The New Republic's Grace Segers stresses that talks between McCarthy and far-right House Republicans have hardly been a friendly debate. And they show, according to Segers, how quick the GOP's extremists are to turn on more "mainstream" or "pragmatic" conservatives.

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

The New Republic interviewed some of the Republicans Segers describes as "pragmatists," and they are clearly frustrated with the "hardliners."

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Arkansas) told The New Republic, "This is beginning to appear to be more than just a fight about doing 12 appropriations bills, or what the top-line number is. It's more about angling for a fight with the speaker — and nobody wins."

GOP consultant Liam Donovan told The New Republic that for far-right House Republicans, "All hell breaking loose is their happy place."

Similarly, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Nebraska) told The New Republic, "I just don't think it serves the conference well to do the same things that they're doing. We want to be team players and sit at the table and make the best deal."

READ MORE:Republicans in disarray as government shutdown fight looms: report

The New Republic's full report is available at this link.

'Like a wolf closing in on its prey': Cassidy Hutchinson accuses Giuliani of groping her on Jan. 6

Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, infuriated many MAGA Republicans when she became a key witness for the January 6 Select Committee in 2022. Never Trump conservatives, however, applauded her for speaking out.

Hutchinson is the author of a new book titled "Enough," due out September 26. The Guardian has obtained a copy and reports that in "Enough," Hutchinson alleges that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani groped her on January 6, 2021.

Hutchinson, according to The Guardian, compares Giuliani to "a wolf closing in on its prey."

POLL: Should Trump be allowed to hold office again?

The former Meadows aide writes, "I feel his frozen fingers trail up my thigh. He tilts his chin up. The whites of his eyes look jaundiced. My eyes dart to (Trump adviser) John Eastman, who flashes a leering grin. I fight against the tension in my muscles and recoil from Rudy's grip…. Filled with rage, I storm through the tent, on yet another quest for Mark."

"We must abandon Trump and his conspiracies and anger," Rodriguez writes. "The 2024 election provides conservatives this opportunity."

READ MORE:Rudy Giuliani loses defamation case filed by Georgia election workers

The Guardian's full report is available at this link.

Matt Gaetz wants Garland to tell the president not to allow Hunter Biden at state dinners

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) challenged the Attorney General of the United States on Wednesday, wanting to know if he has ever told the President of the United States to “knock it off” and stop allowing his son, Hunter Biden, to come to the White House and attend State Dinners. The Florida Republican made his remarks during a House Judiciary Committee on alleged politicization and weaponization of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

“I guess I’m just wondering, Mr. Attorney General, has anyone at the Department told President Biden to knock it off? With Hunter?” Congressman Gaetz, a far-right Republican rumored to be weighing a run for governor of Florida, asked Merrick Garland.

“I mean, you guys are charging Hunter Biden on some crimes, investigating him on others, you got the President bringing Hunter Biden around to State Dinners,” charged Gaetz, who is currently pushing for the House to defund the FBI, Special Counsel Jack Smith, and to remove Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. “Has anyone told him to knock it off?”

READ MORE: Trump Worried He Will Lose Secret Service Protection and Have to Wear ‘One of Those Jumpsuits’ if He Goes to Jail: Report

Attorney General Garland, a former federal appeals court judge and chief judge, replied, “Our job in the Justice Department is to pursue our cases without reference to what’s happening in the outside world –” before Gaetz cut him off.

“Just yes or no: have you done that?” Gaetz demanded to know.

“That is what –” Garland began, before Gaetz again interrupted.

“So it’s a no?” the Congressman asked.

“No one that I know of has spoken to the White House about the Hunter Biden. case –” AG Garland replied before again being interrupted.

On social media observers lambasted Rep. Gaetz.

READ MORE: ‘This Is Stupidity’: House Republican Slams McCarthy and His ‘Clown Show’ of ‘Lunatics’ as Clock Ticks Toward Shutdown

“This exchange is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of DOJ,” said one user on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Gaetz seems to believe that DOJ is the President’s attorney. Garland correctly understands that this is not DOJ’s role and further understands that DOJ doesn’t exist to tell a President how to parent.”

Another wrote: “This is why impeachment is a loser for the Republicans. Attacking a father who has buried two children to abandon a third child is something most Americans will find repugnant, regardless of Hunter’s crimes, and R’s will look heartless rather than judicially-minded.”

Watch below or at this link.

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