'The Lords of Easy Money': How the Federal Reserve enriched Wall Street and broke the US economy

As the Federal Reserve signals it will raise interest rates in March, we talk to Christopher Leonard, author of the new book “The Lords of Easy Money,” about how the Federal Reserve broke the American economy. He details the issues with quantitative easing, a radical intervention instituted by the federal government in 2010 to encourage banks and investors to lend more risky debt to combat the recession. “The Fed’s policies over the last decades have stoked the world of Wall Street,” says Leonard. “It has pumped trillions of dollars into the banking system and thereby inflated these markets for stocks, for bonds. And that drives income inequality.”

"The Lords of Easy Money": How the Federal Reserve Enriched Wall Street & Broke the U.S. Economy www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

Amidst growing concerns about inflation in the U.S., the Federal Reserve announced Tuesday it will start hiking interest rates in March. To look at what this will mean for working people and everyone beyond the 1%, we’re joined by Christopher Leonard, longtime business reporter. His new book is out this week, The Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy.

Welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us, Christopher. If you can start off with a Federal Reserve 101: What does it mean to lift interest rates? And why do you say it’s broken, the American economy?

CHRISTOPHER LEONARD: Yes. Thank you. Great question. And, you know, the Federal Reserve can seem like this very kind of obscure and highly technical institution that only matters to Wall Street, but I really think that’s not the case. It is critical to understand what this central bank does and how it has affected our economy. You know, one of my central preoccupations as a business reporter is trying to understand growing income inequality in the United States and why we live in this sort of funhouse-type economy where we can see stock markets breaking records, corporate debt markets breaking records, while the middle class is really treading water with stagnant wages and falling further behind. What the Federal Reserve has done over the last decade helps explain why this is happening.

So, you know, at the root level, we created the Federal Reserve as the central bank to do one key thing: It creates our currency. The Federal Reserve literally creates and manages our currency. That thing we call a U.S. dollar is in reality a Federal Reserve note. So, the central bank’s job is to make sure that the dollar retains its value. So that’s why you always hear this talk about, you know, the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates today, or it cut interest rates today. What they’re doing is expanding or contracting the supply of money.

So, why does that matter? Well, here’s why. Over the last decade, the Fed has really moved itself to the center of American economic life. The Fed has engaged in an unprecedented series of experiments in printing new money. Let me put it this way: In the first century of its existence, the Fed expanded the pool of base money — you know, what the economists called the monetary base. The Fed expanded that pool of money to about $900 billion. So, that’s a trillion dollars in printing money over a century. But then, after the crash of '08, between 2008, 2014, the Fed prints $3.5 trillion. So that's three-and-a-half centuries’ worth of money printing in a few short years.

Now, that money is not a neutral force. When the Fed creates new dollars, it doesn’t create them in the checking account of normal people, right? It creates new dollars — specifically and by design, it creates new dollars on Wall Street in the bank accounts of 24 select institutions. And they’re the folks you’d suspect: you know, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo. That’s where the Fed is creating these new dollars. So the Fed’s policies over the last decades have stoked the world of Wall Street. It has pumped trillions of dollars into the banking system, and thereby it’s inflated these markets for stocks, for bonds. And that drives income inequality, because, you know, just the tiny 1% at the top of our wealth ladder controls 40% of all the assets, whereas the bottom half of Americans, you know, those of us who earn a living by getting a paycheck rather than by owning assets — the bottom half of Americans only own about 5% of all the assets. So the Fed’s policies have enriched the very rich, the biggest of the big banks, while leaving the middle class behind.

And now we find ourself in this position, that’s really actually quite a dangerous moment, in 2022, where we’re seeing price inflation start to increase dramatically. So, the Fed is being forced to tighten the money supply and to try to back off these stimulus programs it’s created. The real risk here, I think, for everybody in America is that as the Fed does this, as it hikes rates and pulls back on the stimulus, it’s going to cause those asset markets to fall. And, you know, to put that in common parlance, it’s risking creating a financial market crash as the Fed is forced to hike interest rates. And again, to me, one of the key problems with this is that over the decade of these easy money policies, the middle class has really been left out. And once again, it will be the middle class that’s going to have to pay the bill if we see another financial market crash.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Chris, could you respond to what we see everywhere in the media, namely that inflation rates now are almost at 7%, higher than they’ve been since the 1980s? I mean, that level of inflation also impacts the vast majority of Americans adversely. What other steps could be taken to reduce inflation?

CHRISTOPHER LEONARD: So, it’s just fascinating. And one key thing I would really like to point out, that I learned while reporting this book, is that we should, I think, think about two kinds of inflation. There’s inflation of prices, which is what we’re talking about right now, that really sharp increase in the price of food, fuel, television sets, cars. That’s price inflation. But then you’ve got inflation of assets, which is what the Fed has been pushing so hard for decades. So, that’s a rise in the value of homes and stocks and corporate bonds. So we’ve actually had runaway asset inflation for a decade, but we haven’t seen price inflation. And we’re starting to see it now.

And as you point out, price inflation can just, frankly, be devastating for the middle class, if wages don’t keep up with the increase in prices — which, unfortunately, is exactly what we’re seeing now. So, wages are kind of creeping up a little bit, but we’re seeing this runaway increase in prices, which presents us with a terrible dilemma. And to be blunt, the Federal Reserve is responsible for the price inflation, at least to a certain degree, by pumping all of this money into the economy.

So, you know, your question is: How can you fight it, and what can you do?

AMY GOODMAN: We have 30 seconds.

CHRISTOPHER LEONARD: Quite unfortunately, one of the few ways to do this is to hike interest rates, which is going to create damage to our economy. Many other important measures will take a lot of time, such as improving the supply chain or cracking down on monopolies. So, we’re going to see interest rates hiked, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we clearly have to come back to this conversation, Christopher Leonard, business reporter and author. New book out this week, it’s called The Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy.

And that does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. Remember, wearing a mask is an act of love.

The surprising links between Jan. 6 and the 1934 anti-FDR coup plot

We speak to award-winning journalist Jonathan Katz about his new book “Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire.” The book follows the life of the Marines officer Smedley Butler and the trail of U.S. imperialism from Cuba and the Philippines to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Panama. The book also describes an effort by banking and business leaders to topple Franklin D. Roosevelt’s government in 1934 in order to establish a fascist dictatorship. The plot was exposed by Butler, who famously declared, “War is a racket.” The far-right conspiracy to overthrow liberal democracy has historical parallels to the recent January 6 insurrection, says Katz.

"Gangsters of Capitalism": Jonathan Katz on the Parallels Between Jan. 6 and 1934 Anti-FDR Coup Plot www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

As the January 6th House committee and federal prosecutors continue investigation into last year’s deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, we turn to look at a largely forgotten effort to topple the U.S. government in the past.

It was 1934. Some of the nation’s most powerful bankers and business leaders plotted to overthrow President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in order to block the New Deal and establish a fascist dictatorship. The coup plotters included the head of General Motors, Alfred P. Sloan, as well as J.P. Morgan Jr. and the former president of DuPont, Irénée du Pont. The men asked the celebrated Marine Corps officer Smedley Butler to lead a military coup. But Butler refused and revealed what he knew to members of Congress. This is a clip of General Smedley Butler speaking in 1934.

MAJOR GEN. SMEDLEY BUTLER: I appeared before the congressional committee, the highest representation of the American people, under subpoena to tell what I knew of activities which I believed might lead to an attempt to set up a fascist dictatorship.
The plan, as outlined to me, was to form an organization of veterans to use as a bluff, or as a club at least, to intimidate the government and break down our democratic institutions. The upshot of the whole thing was that I was supposed to lead an organization of 500,000 men which would be able to take over the functions of government.
I talked with an investigator for this committee who came to me with a subpoena on Sunday, November 18. He told me they had unearthed evidence linking my name with several such veteran organizations. As it then seemed to me to be getting serious, I felt it was my duty to tell all I knew of such activities to this committee.
My main interest in all this is to preserve our democratic institutions. I want to retain the right to vote, the right to speak freely and the right to write. If we maintain these basic principles, our democracy is safe. No dictatorship can exist with suffrage, freedom of speech and press.

AMY GOODMAN: At the time, Marine Major General Smedley Butler was one of the most celebrated Marine officers in the country, having played key roles in U.S. invasions and occupations across the globe, including in Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Mexico and the Philippines. But Smedley Butler later spoke out against U.S. imperialism, famously writing, “War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. … It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. … It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many,” Butler said.

We’re joined now by the award-winning author Jonathan Katz, author of the new book Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire, also the author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Jonathan. This is a fascinating book. I mean, for people who don’t know about, for example, this attempted coup of 1934, can you talk more about exactly how it unfolded? The parallels to these days are quite interesting, but let’s start with the original story that took place, what, like 90 years ago.

JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah. So, it actually starts in 1933. A representative of a prominent Wall Street brokerage house named Gerald C. MacGuire starts trying to recruit Smedley Butler to — it actually starts out as like kind of an internal plot to get him to speak against Franklin D. Roosevelt taking the dollar off the gold standard at an American Legion conference in Chicago, but it broadens from there. And by 1934, MacGuire is sending Butler postcards from the French Riviera, where he’s just arrived from fascist Italy, from Berlin, and then he comes to Butler’s hometown of Philadelphia and asks him to lead a column of half a million World War I veterans up Pennsylvania Avenue for the purpose of intimidating Franklin Delano Roosevelt into either resigning outright or handing off all his executive powers to a all-powerful, unelected cabinet secretary who the plotters who were backing MacGuire were going to name.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jonathan, didn’t Butler also claim, in addition to these corporate leaders, that there were folks like Prescott Bush involved in this, the father of George Herbert Walker Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush?

JONATHAN KATZ: So, there’s actually a kind of a game of broken telephone going on with his name being involved in this. So, Bush was actually — Prescott Bush was actually too much involved with the actual Nazi Party in Germany to be involved with the business plot. Bush was a partner at Brown Brothers Harriman, which is still a major investment bank based in New York, across the street from Zuccotti Park, their headquarters. And Bush was the — Brown Brothers Harriman was the subject of a different investigation by the same congressional committee, because that committee’s ambit was to investigate all forms of sort of fascist influence and all attempts to subvert American democracy. And because Brown Brothers was part of a separate investigation, they end up sort of in the same folder at the National Archives, and then it ends up sort of getting mixed up in a documentary that came out about 10 years ago. So that’s actually a misunderstanding. Butler never brought up Prescott Bush’s name. But it was because Prescott Bush was too involved with the actual Nazis to be involved with something that was so homegrown as the business plot.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of why they were recruiting Butler, his importance in the early and mid-20th century as a military hero, could you talk about that, as well?

JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah. So, Butler was — you know, he was the Zelig. He was like the Forrest Gump of American imperialism in the early 20th century. He joined the Marines in 1898. He lied about his age. He was 16 years old. And he joined to fight in the Spanish-American War, or the Spanish-Cuban-American War, against Spanish imperialism in Cuba. But from there, he rides a wave of imperial war, and he’s everywhere. He’s in the Philippines. He invades China twice. He helps seize the land for the Panama Canal. He overthrows governments in Nicaragua, in Haiti. He invades the Dominican Republic, etc. He’s also a general during World War I.

And so he had this very, very long and renowned résumé in the Marine Corps — he was twice the recipient of the Medal of Honor — that made him a big star in America. And he was also — he had a reputation as being sort of a Marines general, like he was somebody who had the deep and abiding respect of his enlisted men. And because of that résumé of having overthrown a lot of democracies overseas and also having, you know, the loyalty of so many members of the Marine Corps, that, for the best — the best as we can tell, is why Gerry MacGuire, and probably his boss Grayson Murphy, went to Butler to lead their putsch.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, we want to get into this early history, because it is fascinating. When you, you know, mention the Philippines, when you mention Cuba and Puerto Rico, people are not really aware — most people, I think — of what the U.S. role was. But just on this plot in 1934, what did General Motors and J.P. Morgan have to do with this? What was the Liberty League? And how far did this go?

JONATHAN KATZ: So, the reason why we know about the Liberty League’s involvement is because Gerry MacGuire, who is the representative of this Wall Street firm, tells Butler at this meeting in 1934 that very soon an organization is going to emerge to back the putsch. And he describes them as being sort of the villagers in the opera, that they would sort of be operating behind the scenes. And a couple weeks later, on the front page of The New York Times, this new organization is announced, the Liberty League, and it is started by the du Ponts, Alfred P. Sloan, all of the people that you just mentioned, and is also directly connected to MacGuire, the guy who’s recruiting Butler, because his boss, Grayson M.P. Murphy, who is really, I think, the linchpin of this thing, is the treasurer of the Liberty League.

And what the Liberty League was, was it was basically a consortium of extremely wealthy capitalist industrialists who hated Franklin Roosevelt. They also had the involvement of two former Democratic presidential candidates, Al Smith and John W. Davis, who were anti-New Deal Democrats. And basically, you know, their public-facing goal — and they were very open about this — was to dismantle the New Deal, which FDR was trying to use to save Americans, to put millions of Americans back to work and save Americans from the Depression.

What we don’t know is how far the — maybe the more senior members of the Liberty League, like the du Ponts, had gotten in the planning. And the reason why we don’t know is because the congressional committee that Butler testifies in front of, which is headed by John W. McCormack, who goes on to become the longtime speaker of the House, Samuel Dickstein, who was a Democrat of New York, they cut their investigation short. The only people who testify are Butler, a newspaper reporter who Butler has enlisted in sort of an independent investigation, Gerry MacGuire and the lawyer for one of the maybe lower-level industrialists who’s behind this, the heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune. And so, absent that more detailed investigation, we just don’t know the extent to which the du Ponts, for instance, actually were involved in the planning of the business plot. They may have already been fully involved and just stopped planning once Butler blew the whistle, or it’s possible that Murphy hadn’t got them involved yet. We just can’t say.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what was the reaction of the press at the time to the claims of Butler? It might be instructive, given the things that we’re going through today.

JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah. It was ridicule. So, you know, this was big news at the time. The story ran on the front page of The New York Times, but the Times, you know, they kind of divided it in half, and half of the column inches on the front were just sort of these, like, hilarious denials by the accused. Time magazine, which was owned by Henry Luce, the billionaire son — or, millionaire son of missionaries to China, you know, ran sort of a satirical piece mocking Butler. The Times mocked Butler further in an unsigned editorial. It was basically peals of laughter.

And a couple months later, once the committee had issued its final report — again, they didn’t do a full investigation, but they did enough to say that they were able to, in their words, verify all the pertinent statements made by General Butler and that, you know, something was planned and may have been put into action at such a time as the plotters, however many there were, saw fit. That conclusion got far, far less attention. And to a certain extent, it really — it kind of — you know, it severely damaged, I would say, Butler’s reputation among the establishment, among the American elite. And it sort of helped consign the business plot to maybe not the dustbin, but kind of the forgotten marginalia of American history.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this is critical. I mean, you’re talking about them fighting FDR, calling him a socialist, the New Deal, and then jump forward almost a century to today. Talk about the parallels you see with the Capitol insurrection and beyond that.

JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, the parallels are legion — no pun intended. I mean, so, one clear set of parallels is that Gerald MacGuire, who’s the bond salesman who tries to recruit Butler, one of the places that he went in Europe in 1934 to gain inspiration for this plot — again, it was a totally homegrown thing, but he was looking to fascist movements in Europe for inspiration — was to Paris, where, six weeks before MacGuire arrived in Paris, there was a riot of far-right and fascist groups. They tried to storm the Parliament in Paris to prevent the handover of power to a center-left prime minister. They were animated by a kind of a crazy conspiracy theory, an antisemitic conspiracy theory, that involved somebody who had committed suicide. Sort of, you know, there was a conspiracy that he hadn’t really killed himself. And that group, one of the groups that participated in that riot, called the Croix-de-Feu, or the Fiery Cross, was, in MacGuire’s terms, exactly the sort of organization that he wanted Butler to lead.

You know, you look at that, that is one of the closest historical parallels to what happened on January 6, you know, sort of a motley assortment of groups, some of which hate each other, others were kind of unaligned, but they’re all sort working together in this effort to overthrow a democracy, prevent the transfer of power to a center-left prime minister, who they see as a stalking horse for communism or socialism. And really, I mean, that’s one of the closest historical antecedents. And there are many others, including, I mean, just the fact that it was a fascist coup being plotted in the United States to overthrow American democracy at a time when liberal democracy was seen by a lot of people as being on the way out. And, you know, we see the same things here today.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jonathan, if you could just briefly, in a few seconds, give us a sense of how Butler changed from being a soldier of imperialism to an anti-imperialist? What caused him to have this transformation?

JONATHAN KATZ: Yeah, I mean, so that was really like the central question that I was trying to answer for myself in writing Gangsters of Capitalism. I would say that there wasn’t one single moment. To a certain extent, Butler is kind of returning to his roots. Among other fascinating things about the guy, he’s a Quaker from Philadelphia’s Main Line. And he gets into his first war at the age of 16, fighting against imperialism and tyranny. And to a certain extent, over the course of his career, he sees that the primary beneficiaries of his and his Marines’ interventions are the banks, are Wall Street, are American politicians. And then he sees the ways in which, you know — excuse me — imperialism abroad gets reimported as authoritarianism and fascism at home. And that’s really why he ends up spending the last 10 years of his life decrying the military-industrial complex, writing War Is a Racket, and trying to — ultimately, trying and, of course, failing to prevent the outbreak of World War II and the United States’ entry into it.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you so much, Jonathan Katz, for joining us, award-winning journalist, author. His latest book, Gangsters of Capitalism: Smedley Butler, the Marines, and the Making and Breaking of America’s Empire. His writings appear on TheRacket.news.

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'The Coming Coup': Inside the  Republican effort to steal future elections

Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman warns the Republican Party is laying the groundwork to steal the 2022 midterms and future elections through a combination of gerrymandering, voter suppression and election subversion, that together pose a mortal threat to voting rights in the United States. Republicans, many of whom are election deniers, are campaigning for positions that hold immense oversight over the election process. “What’s really new here are these efforts to take over how votes are counted,” says Berman. “That is the ultimate voter suppression method, because if you’re not able to rig the election on the front end, you can throw out votes on that back end.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden is meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill today for a lunchtime meeting to push for rewriting Senate rules to prevent Republicans from filibustering a pair of major voting rights bills — the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a plan to bring the voting bills to a debate using a parliamentary maneuver, but the move would still leave room for Republicans to block final passage of the bills using the filibuster. Two Senate Democrats have so far refused to support changing the filibuster rules: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

READ: GOP's 'constant self-radicalization' could make majority rule impossible: analysis

Biden heads to Capitol Hill two days after he gave a major speech on voting rights in Atlanta, Georgia. On Wednesday, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted Biden’s remarks.

MINORITY LEADER MITCH McCONNELL: Twelve months ago, this president said disagreement must not lead to disunion. Ah, but yesterday he invoked the bloody disunion of the Civil War — the Civil War — to demonize Americans who disagree with him. He compared — listen to this — a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors. How profoundly, profoundly unpresidential.

AMY GOODMAN: Democrats are increasingly concerned that Republicans will be able to successfully steal future elections, both on the national and state level, if major voting rights legislation is not immediately passed. During his speech in Atlanta, President Biden made reference to efforts by Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the 2020 election.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We’re here today to stand against the forces in America that value power over principle, forces that attempted a coup — a coup against the legally expressed will of the American people — by sowing doubt, inventing charges of fraud and seeking to steal the 2020 election from the people.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Ari Berman, a senior reporter at Mother Jones covering voting rights. He’s the author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. His new piece, out just today, “The Coming Coup: How Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork to Steal Future Elections.”

READ: 'Tyranny of the minority': DC insider torches Brett Kavanaugh

Ari, I want to start off by talking about what this maneuver is — very complex, I’m sure very hard for people to understand — how the Democrats try to plan to get these bills on the floor and voted on in the Senate.

ARI BERMAN: Good morning, Amy.

Well, the plan is that the House is taking a bill, and they are putting the two voting rights bills — the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — in what’s essentially a shell bill. They are going to pass that today and send it to the Senate. And that will allow the Senate to immediately debate the bill without needing 60 votes to get it to the floor. They will still need 60 votes to pass the bill if they don’t reform the filibuster, but this will allow at least the Senate to immediately begin debating the bill, probably Friday or Saturday, and then set up a vote on these bills, and also potentially changing the Senate rules, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

AMY GOODMAN: Which, of course, is Monday. I mean, this is really unusual. It’s a bill completely unrelated, something to do with NASA, that the House will pass. Then they will remove the text of that and put the two bills into it, and it’s called a message, that will be sent to the Senate, as they do this. So, then, what has to happen next? And why are Manchin and Sinema key at the point in the Senate?

ARI BERMAN: Yeah, and it’s important to remember, Amy, these bills have already passed the House. So it’s not like the House hasn’t taken up the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act already. They just have to do this message bill to get it to the Senate to essentially avoid 60 votes on debate. That’s the only way that Schumer will be able to then have a debate on the bills themselves and on the rules changes.

Manchin and Sinema are key because there’s essentially 48 votes for changing the Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation, but they’re two votes short, and the two votes that are short are Manchin and Sinema. And Democrats have been working feverishly, both publicly and behind the scenes, to get Manchin and Sinema to support the rules changes, but they’re not there yet. It’s important to remember, this voting rights bill, the Freedom to Vote Act, this is Joe Manchin’s bill. This is not like Build Back Better, where he doesn’t support the bill. He supports these bills. The question is: Is he willing to change the rules to pass them? And as of now, the answer is no.

AMY GOODMAN: During his speech on Tuesday in Atlanta, President Biden made reference to Strom Thurmond, the longtime segregationist senator who served in the Senate for nearly half a century.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: In 2006, the Voting Rights Act passed 390 to 33 in the House of Representatives and 98 to 0 in the Senate, with votes from 16 current sitting Republicans in this United States Senate. Sixteen of them voted to extend it. The last year I was chairman, as some of my friends sitting down here will tell you, Strom Thurmond voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. Strom Thurmond. … Think about that. The man who led the longest — one of the longest filibusters in history in the United States Senate in 1957 against the Voting [sic] Rights Act, the man who led and sided with the old Southern bulls in the United States Senate to perpetuate segregation in this nation — even Strom Thurmond came to support voting rights. But Republicans today can’t and won’t. Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president to protect America’s right to vote. Not one. Not one.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Ari Berman, it looks like President Biden was trying to cut through all the bureaucracy, as they talk about filibusters and everything else, and just say, “Which side are you on?” Right? Strom Thurmond or John Lewis? Are you on the side of Jefferson Davis or Abraham Lincoln?

ARI BERMAN: Exactly, Amy. He was trying to frame the fight for voting rights in moral terms, much like Lyndon Johnson did when he introduced the Voting Rights Act in 1965, saying, “This is a defining moment in American history, and you have to pick a side.” You can’t just praise Martin Luther King on Martin Luther King Day; you have to live the values that Martin Luther King fought for — namely, the values of the right to vote, which Martin Luther King called “civil right number one.”

And I thought it was really interesting what the president said about Republicans previously supporting voting rights, because the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized four times, and every reauthorization was signed by a Republican president and supported by overwhelming bipartisan majorities in Congress. Now, that didn’t mean every Republican likes the Voting Rights Act. Lots of GOP presidents, like Nixon and Reagan, didn’t want to sign a reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. But there was such a strong bipartisan consensus for these bills that Republicans had no choice but to support them. And that’s really evaporated. And obviously, so much of the attention has been on the Democrats and been on Manchin and Sinema to use their power to pass these bills, but Republicans have sort of gotten a free pass in terms of people really saying, “How come you reauthorized the Voting Rights Act overwhelmingly in 2006 — 390 to 33 in the House, 98 to 0 in the Senate — Mitch McConnell led the effort to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act — and just two decades later, you are completely opposing a bill that you basically supported not too long ago?”

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s go broader, with your piece that was just released as we went to air, “The Coming Coup: How Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork to Steal Future Elections.” You go beyond the issue of actually casting the ballot and how difficult that is — and you can lay that out — around the country, as well, increasingly, 19 states passing, what, more than 30 laws to restrict voting, but then the issue, for example, of gerrymandering and others.

ARI BERMAN: That’s right. I think the big trend over the last year has been the Republican Party’s single-minded focus on instituting an insurrection through other means. They failed to overturn the 2020 election, so they’re doing everything they can to rig and steal future elections through a toxic combination of voter suppression, extreme gerrymandering and election subversion. And they’re really trying to take over every aspect of the voting process. They’ve passed 34 new laws in 19 states making it harder to vote, so they’re making it harder to cast a ballot. They’ve passed all of these extreme gerrymandered maps in places like Texas and Georgia, which entrench the power of anti-democratic politicians. And then they’ve added all of these new election subversion laws that give “Stop the Steal” Republicans unprecedented power in states like Georgia over how elections are run and how votes are counted. And so they’re really trying to take over every aspect of the election process to essentially try to succeed in 2022 and 2024 where they failed in 2020.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Lucy McBath, how you open your piece, a congressmember who we had on for years beforehand, after her son was murdered by a white man.

ARI BERMAN: I think this is really telling. Lucy McBath is a Black member of Congress from Georgia. She ran for the House in Georgia after her son, Jordan Davis, was murdered by a white man. Her victory in 2018 really opened the doors for the victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff two years later. And what Republicans did is they gerrymandered her out of her congressional district. She represents a metro Atlanta area that has become a lot more diverse, a lot more Democratic. And they drew this district to go all the way up to the Appalachian Mountains, and basically took out the most diverse and Democratic parts of her district and added in the most white and conservative parts of the state.

And so, what happened in Georgia is that all of the demographic change was from communities of color, who increasingly lean Democratic. But the maps themselves reduced representation for communities of color, reduced representation for Democrats and targeted Black members of Congress like Lucy McBath. And that is a form of election rigging, because if you can choose who your electorate is, then the elections themselves become essentially meaningless. So, gerrymandering is one of the many tactics Republicans are using to consolidate power going into the midterm elections.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the victory against gerrymandering in Ohio that just happened.

ARI BERMAN: Well, this was really significant because Ohio Republicans drew these flagrantly undemocratic maps where there was a bipartisan constitutional amendment passed by the voters in 2018 to rein in partisan gerrymandering, and then Republicans essentially hijacked this redistricting commission to draw these extreme gerrymandered maps that go exactly against what the voters wanted. And the Ohio Supreme Court struck it down, with one of the Republican judges siding with the Democrats and basically saying that the Legislature not just needs to redraw these maps, but that in the future voters might want to consider taking away the power of politicians to be able to draw their districts in the first place.

So, this was a significant victory, but it’s going to be very hard to uphold these maps in most states. Ohio has a moderate state Supreme Court. North Carolina has a moderate state Supreme Court. But in Texas, in Georgia, in Florida, in other key states, the state supreme courts have moved far to the right. And the federal courts, because of the Supreme Court, have said, “We can’t even review partisan gerrymandering.” So it’s going to be very difficult to fight gerrymandering through the courts writ large.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about something that didn’t get a heck of a lot of attention, the Cyber Ninjas, the company that led that partisan review of the 2020 ballots in Arizona, closing down following a scathing report by election officials and the threat of $50,000 fines a day, the report rebutting almost every claim this company made?

ARI BERMAN: Well, yeah, the entire audit in Arizona was a complete —

AMY GOODMAN: It cost millions.

ARI BERMAN: It cost millions of dollars in taxpayer money. At the end of the day, they reaffirmed Joe Biden’s victory, so they weren’t actually able to find any of the evidence of fraud. But I think they accomplished their job, in the sense that after this review Republicans were even more skeptical of the validity of the 2020 election, compared to less skeptical. So, just by airing all these conspiracy theories, they made the Republican Party more conspiratorial. And these same kind of, quote-unquote, “audits” are happening in other states, like in Wisconsin, where a very radically conservative state Supreme Court justice is threatening to jail election officials, threatening to subpoena the mayors of the largest cities, threatening to disband the state’s election commission.

So, it’s very scary, what’s happening here. And I think what’s really new here is all of the efforts to subvert fair elections. We’ve seen voter suppression before. We’ve seen gerrymandering before. It’s gotten worse, but we’ve seen it before. What’s really new here are these efforts to take over how votes are counted. And that is the ultimate voter suppression method, because if you’re not able to rig the election on the front end, you can throw out votes on the back end. And that is a very, very scary prospect for democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: For example, like in Arizona, Republicans stripped the Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of the power to defend state election laws, and transferred that authority to the Republican attorney general — but only through the 2022 election, just in case the partisan composition of the offices change. I mean, it is truly astounding. If you could comment on that and another key point of your piece, being that Trump and his allies are aggressively recruiting “Stop the Steal”-inspired candidates to take over other key election positions, like secretary of state, and also fiercely intimidating, going after election workers all over the country?

ARI BERMAN: That’s absolutely right, Amy. What we’ve seen is that both Democrats and Republicans who defended the integrity of the 2020 election have been purged from their positions, whether it’s taking away the power of the Arizona secretary of state to defend election lawsuits or removing the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, who stood up to Donald Trump, removing him as chair and voting member of the State Election Board. And The Washington Post had a recent article finding that 163 Republicans who have amplified the big lie are running for statewide positions with authority over elections, so positions like gubernatorial races, attorney general races, secretary of state races. And the Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told me this is akin to giving a robber a key to the bank. You are having people who say falsely the election was stolen running to oversee how elections are run.

And so, this is both a legal mechanism, in that they’re changing the laws in many states to make it easier to subvert elections, but it’s also a political dynamic, in that people who are election deniers are running to take over election operations in all of these key states. And when they get this power, who knows what they will do with it? Because I believe if you are willing to overturn the 2020 election for Trump, you are very likely going to be willing to overturn the 2022 and 2024 election for Republican candidates if it doesn’t go in your favor.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Ari, if the bills are passed, the voting legislation in the Senate, could the U.S. Supreme Court overrule them? I mean, this is the Roberts court, and John Roberts has been opposed to voting rights legislation throughout his career.

ARI BERMAN: Absolutely, it’s possible the Supreme Court could strike down these laws. But I think it’s important to remember that Congress has authority, under both the 15th Amendment and also under the core guarantees of the Constitution, to write the rules of federal elections. So Congress has the power to pass these bills. Could the Supreme Court strike them down? Absolutely. The Supreme Court can clearly do whatever it wants at this point. It’s gone so far.

But I have to say it’s very ironic that Mitch McConnell wants there to be 60 votes to protect voting rights in the U.S. Senate, but he was able to put three justices on the Supreme Court for Donald Trump to take away voting rights with just 51 votes. So there’s a fundamental asymmetry here that Republicans have been able to take away voting rights at both the state level and the federal level with 51 votes, but they want Democrats to have 60 votes to be able to protect voting rights in the U.S. Senate. And that’s the fundamental asymmetry that has to change here.

AMY GOODMAN: Ari Berman, I want to thank you for being with us, senior reporter for Mother Jones. We’ll link to your new cover story, “The Coming Coup: How Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork to Steal Future Elections.” Ari is the author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, speaking to us from New Paltz, New York.

Coming up, “Confessions of a 'human guinea pig.'” Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “On Your Way Down” by the late Allen Toussaint. The New Orleans City Council recently voted to rename Robert E. Lee Boulevard to Allen Toussaint Boulevard.

‘DeSantis is particularly disturbing’: Expert warns states are becoming ‘laboratories of autocracy’

President Joe Biden warned about the looming threat of autocracy during his speech marking the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol attack and denounced his predecessor Donald Trump for inciting the rioters. In a statement responding to Biden’s speech, Trump continued to falsely claim the 2020 election was rigged. To discuss further, we are joined by historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on the psychology of authoritarianism, who says Trump has grown his “personality cult” since his election loss and converted the GOP into “a far-right authoritarian party which has enshrined violence as part of the practice of power.” She also discusses Trump’s recent endorsement of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been recognized by European Union leadership as a threat to democracy, and calls Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a “mini-Trump” who is planning for “an authoritarian system at the state level.”

Biden Warns of “Dagger at the Throat of America”; Fascism Expert Says Trump Personality Cult Growing www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden marked the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol insurrection by denouncing Donald Trump for inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election. In a speech from Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, Biden accused Trump of spreading a “web of lies” and claimed the former president — who he did not name — is placing a “dagger at the throat of American democracy.” This is part of Biden’s address.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Here is the God’s truth about January 6, 2021. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021.
What else do you see? A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol; American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears; fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured.
We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it, quote, a “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the War in Iraq. They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle or deny the hell they were put through?
We saw it with our own eyes. Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the vice president of the United States of America.
But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, the nation’s Capitol under siege.
This wasn’t a group of tourists; this was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people; they were looking to deny the will of the people. They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election; they were looking to overturn one. They weren’t looking to save the cause of America; they were looking to subvert the Constitution.
This isn’t about being bogged down in the past; this is about making sure the past isn’t buried. That’s the only way forward. That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth; they face up to it. Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it. We are a great nation.
My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and, tragically, there are lies, lies conceived and spread for profit and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost. That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward. He has done what no president in American history, the history of this country, has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else. They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes. But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible, because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.
And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be? Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. …
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America, at American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage, not in service of America, but rather in service of one man. Those who incited the mob, the real plotters, who were desperate to deny the certification of this election and defy the will of the voters.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden, speaking Thursday at the Capitol to mark the first anniversary of the deadly January 6 insurrection.

Delaware Congressmember Lisa Blunt Rochester spoke later as part of a day of commemoration on Capitol Hill.

REP. LISA BLUNT ROCHESTER: On the day that I was sworn in to Congress, as many of my colleagues know, I was the first African American and the first woman from the state of Delaware elected to Congress. And I carried this scarf with me. It marked an X that my great-great-great-grandfather used to sign this returns of qualified voter registration of 1867 in Georgia. I also carried it on the day of the insurrection, because it is my proof of what we have overcome, and it is my inspiration for what is yet to be done as we work towards a more perfect union.
I continue to have hope, even when I feel hopeless, because my ancestors would have it no other way, and because Scripture tells us that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. And while I remember a great deal that day, what I remember most is walking back onto the House floor into the chamber that morning to complete our work, the morning when democracy prevailed. Remember, reflect, recommit.

AMY GOODMAN: Delaware Congressmember Lisa Blunt Rochester, speaking Thursday.

We’re joined now by New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She’s an expert on the psychology of authoritarianism and the author of Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall. She also publishes Lucid, a newsletter on threats to democracy.

Can you put what happened yesterday in the context of your study of fascism, the anniversary of what happened a year ago, Professor?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yes. So, Trump was never going to be — he was never a president who resembled either a Republican or Democrat head of state. He ruled as an autocrat. His priorities were autocratic ones: making money off the presidency, spreading hatred and creating a personality cult.

And so, when he lost the election, it was easy to predict, as I did in Strongmen, that he wouldn’t leave quietly, because democratic — with a small D — presidents, they respect the transfer of power, and they think about their legacy, but for somebody like Trump, who needs immunity from prosecution and needs the adulation, it’s like a kind of existential threat to have to leave. And so he tried everything. He tried martial law. He tried electoral manipulation. And then he went with his bespoke, custom army of thugs.

And what’s really so disturbing, that the GOP, which he remade into an authoritarian party, his personality cult one year later is stronger than ever. And very quickly, in the last year, the GOP has come into its own as a far-right authoritarian party, which has enshrined violence as part of the practice of power. That is part of its menu of how you do politics now.

AMY GOODMAN: During his speech, President Biden addressed what he called the president’s three big lies: Number one, Election Day itself was an insurrection; number two, the election results cannot be trusted; and number three big lie, the mob were the true patriots. Put that in the context of the strongmen you have studied.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, a third of my book is on military coups, and which I thought wouldn’t be so relevant for the American reader, and, of course, I was wrong. And every single coup or authoritarian takeover is always justified as a patriotic act against tyranny, against corruption.

And so, Trump had set this up very well, because these big lies only had traction with his followers because he told 30,000 lies before that. And many of those lies, for years, were trying to take away the legitimacy of the electoral system in people’s minds. He started this in 2016, but he won, so he didn’t have to use this. So, we have to think about how what we saw, and what has been going on after January 6 for the last year, is the product of this very successful propaganda strategy.

And so, turning — what you also do is you turn it — I call authoritarianism as the upside-down world. So, Biden’s victory becomes the insurrection, and then January 6 becomes the righting of the wrong. And Trump knows how to tell a story. He’s a reality TV president. And he was very compelling, this idea that he was the hero, the savior of the nation, who had something taken away from him. And that way, January 6 becomes a kind of morally righteous action.

AMY GOODMAN: Just days before the January 6th anniversary, Trump endorsed Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. He released a statement saying, “He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs,” etc. Talk about the significance of President Trump in the world and what 2024 could mean if he were to run again.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, I’ve always seen Trump — of course, we focus on how he came to power to destroy American democracy. That was his goal. But his other agenda was detaching America from the democratic world order and inserting it into what I’ve been calling since 2017 “Axis 2.0,” this kind of far-right autocratic order. A lot of it’s funded by Putin. And Orbán has made Budapest a kind of hub of these far-right networks, which remind me of what I initially studied, was these fascist networks of this fascist internationalism in the 1930s.

Now, Trump really identifies with Orbán, because Orbán is somebody who was a centrist, and then he was voted out, and he spent some years getting back to power. And then he arranged things. He has this electoral autocracy, where you hold elections and then you fix them, so that he doesn’t have to leave, you know, in his mind.

And the GOP has embraced Hungary, and they really see Hungary’s present as America’s future. And so, Tucker Carlson, you know, had whole week of broadcasting there. And even Mike Pence, who’s not the most worldly person, trotted over to Budapest and talked about how he hoped that abortion rights would be taken away soon. So, Hungary is this model of white Christian supremacy, anti-trans, homophobic. It checks all the boxes of what the GOP is actually today.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, we talk about him as a model and him modeling himself on autocrats around the world. But what about him as a model at home for people like Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor? You lay out, in a very chilling piece, this image of DeSantis surrounded by the people he wants to basically deputize as what his opponent in running for governor has talked about as his “secret police.”

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah, Ron DeSantis is an example — so, when you have somebody like Trump who imposes this kind of authoritarian party discipline, the system populates with mini-Trumps. They used to be called mini-Duces and mini-Hitlers, and now we have these mini-Trumps. And so, what we’ve seen is, in places like Texas and Florida, states are becoming laboratories of autocracy.

And DeSantis is particularly disturbing, because, you know, he wants to have his own civilian National Guard. And many states have those, but I discovered, doing research, that he’s also establishing an office for, quote, “election integrity,” which is code speak for election fraud, where it’s going to have its own prosecutors and investigators. So, anybody who — if there’s like an election result in the state that DeSantis doesn’t like, he can have his goons go after them and accuse them of violating election law. And they’ve made what used to be misdemeanors into felonies, so these people could be put in jail. So this is an example of the kind of authoritarian system at the state level that DeSantis has planned.

AMY GOODMAN: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, I want to thank you for being with us, expert on the psychology of authoritarianism and fascism. She is the author of Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall, a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, and she publishes Lucid, a newsletter on threats to democracy.

Coming up, the CDC is predicting 84,000 people will die in the United States of COVID over the next four weeks. We’ll speak with emergency room doctor Craig Spencer. Stay with us.

Fascism expert says Trump’s 'personality cult' is growing -- and warns DeSantis won't be the last 'mini-Trump'

President Joe Biden warned about the looming threat of autocracy during his speech marking the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol attack on Thursday and denounced his predecessor Donald Trump for inciting the rioters. In a statement responding to Biden’s speech, Trump continued to falsely claim the 2020 election was rigged. To discuss further, we are joined by historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on the psychology of authoritarianism, who says Trump has grown his “personality cult” since his election loss and converted the GOP into “a far-right authoritarian party which has enshrined violence as part of the practice of power.” She also discusses Trump’s recent endorsement of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been recognized by European Union leadership as a threat to democracy, and calls Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a “mini-Trump” who is planning for “an authoritarian system at the state level.”



This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden marked the first anniversary of the January 6 Capitol insurrection by denouncing Donald Trump for inciting his supporters to attack the Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 election. In a speech from Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, Biden accused Trump of spreading a “web of lies” and claimed the former president — who he did not name — is placing a “dagger at the throat of American democracy.” This is part of Biden’s address.

READ: Life will dramatically change under brutal American oligarchy

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Here is the God’s truth about January 6, 2021. Close your eyes. Go back to that day. What do you see? Rioters rampaging, waving for the first time inside this Capitol a Confederate flag that symbolized the cause to destroy America, to rip us apart. Even during the Civil War, that never, ever happened. But it happened here in 2021.
What else do you see? A mob breaking windows, kicking in doors, breaching the Capitol; American flags on poles being used as weapons, as spears; fire extinguishers being thrown at the heads of police officers. A crowd that professes their love for law enforcement assaulted those police officers, dragged them, sprayed them, stomped on them. Over 140 police officers were injured.
We’ve all heard the police officers who were there that day testify to what happened. One officer called it, quote, a “medieval” battle, and that he was more afraid that day than he was fighting the War in Iraq. They’ve repeatedly asked since that day: How dare anyone — anyone — diminish, belittle or deny the hell they were put through?
We saw it with our own eyes. Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the vice president of the United States of America.
But what did we not see? We didn’t see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack, sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, the nation’s Capitol under siege.
This wasn’t a group of tourists; this was an armed insurrection. They weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people; they were looking to deny the will of the people. They were looking to uphold — they weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election; they were looking to overturn one. They weren’t looking to save the cause of America; they were looking to subvert the Constitution.
This isn’t about being bogged down in the past; this is about making sure the past isn’t buried. That’s the only way forward. That’s what great nations do. They don’t bury the truth; they face up to it. Sounds like hyperbole, but that’s the truth: They face up to it. We are a great nation.
My fellow Americans, in life, there’s truth and, tragically, there are lies, lies conceived and spread for profit and power. We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie.
And here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
He can’t accept he lost, even though that’s what 93 United States senators, his own attorney general, his own vice president, governors and state officials in every battleground state have all said: He lost. That’s what 81 million of you did as you voted for a new way forward. He has done what no president in American history, the history of this country, has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people.
While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principles of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else. They seem no longer to want to be the party — the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes. But whatever my other disagreements are with Republicans who support the rule of law and not the rule of a single man, I will always seek to work together with them to find shared solutions where possible, because if we have a shared belief in democracy, then anything is possible — anything.
And so, at this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be? Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies? We cannot allow ourselves to be that kind of nation. …
Those who stormed this Capitol and those who instigated and incited and those who called on them to do so held a dagger at the throat of America, at American democracy. They didn’t come here out of patriotism or principle. They came here in rage, not in service of America, but rather in service of one man. Those who incited the mob, the real plotters, who were desperate to deny the certification of this election and defy the will of the voters.

AMY GOODMAN: President Biden, speaking Thursday at the Capitol to mark the first anniversary of the deadly January 6 insurrection.

Delaware Congressmember Lisa Blunt Rochester spoke later as part of a day of commemoration on Capitol Hill.

REP. LISA BLUNT ROCHESTER: On the day that I was sworn in to Congress, as many of my colleagues know, I was the first African American and the first woman from the state of Delaware elected to Congress. And I carried this scarf with me. It marked an X that my great-great-great-grandfather used to sign this returns of qualified voter registration of 1867 in Georgia. I also carried it on the day of the insurrection, because it is my proof of what we have overcome, and it is my inspiration for what is yet to be done as we work towards a more perfect union.
I continue to have hope, even when I feel hopeless, because my ancestors would have it no other way, and because Scripture tells us that weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. And while I remember a great deal that day, what I remember most is walking back onto the House floor into the chamber that morning to complete our work, the morning when democracy prevailed. Remember, reflect, recommit.

AMY GOODMAN: Delaware Congressmember Lisa Blunt Rochester, speaking Thursday.

We’re joined now by New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat. She’s an expert on the psychology of authoritarianism and the author of Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall. She also publishes Lucid, a newsletter on threats to democracy.

Can you put what happened yesterday in the context of your study of fascism, the anniversary of what happened a year ago, Professor?

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yes. So, Trump was never going to be — he was never a president who resembled either a Republican or Democrat head of state. He ruled as an autocrat. His priorities were autocratic ones: making money off the presidency, spreading hatred and creating a personality cult.

READ: This authoritarianism expert warned us fascism was coming — now he says we can survive it

And so, when he lost the election, it was easy to predict, as I did in Strongmen, that he wouldn’t leave quietly, because democratic — with a small D — presidents, they respect the transfer of power, and they think about their legacy, but for somebody like Trump, who needs immunity from prosecution and needs the adulation, it’s like a kind of existential threat to have to leave. And so he tried everything. He tried martial law. He tried electoral manipulation. And then he went with his bespoke, custom army of thugs.

And what’s really so disturbing, that the GOP, which he remade into an authoritarian party, his personality cult one year later is stronger than ever. And very quickly, in the last year, the GOP has come into its own as a far-right authoritarian party, which has enshrined violence as part of the practice of power. That is part of its menu of how you do politics now.

AMY GOODMAN: During his speech, President Biden addressed what he called the president’s three big lies: Number one, Election Day itself was an insurrection; number two, the election results cannot be trusted; and number three big lie, the mob were the true patriots. Put that in the context of the strongmen you have studied.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, a third of my book is on military coups, and which I thought wouldn’t be so relevant for the American reader, and, of course, I was wrong. And every single coup or authoritarian takeover is always justified as a patriotic act against tyranny, against corruption.

READ: Nazi expert: America's Christian fascism crisis is a threat to democracy

And so, Trump had set this up very well, because these big lies only had traction with his followers because he told 30,000 lies before that. And many of those lies, for years, were trying to take away the legitimacy of the electoral system in people’s minds. He started this in 2016, but he won, so he didn’t have to use this. So, we have to think about how what we saw, and what has been going on after January 6 for the last year, is the product of this very successful propaganda strategy.

And so, turning — what you also do is you turn it — I call authoritarianism as the upside-down world. So, Biden’s victory becomes the insurrection, and then January 6 becomes the righting of the wrong. And Trump knows how to tell a story. He’s a reality TV president. And he was very compelling, this idea that he was the hero, the savior of the nation, who had something taken away from him. And that way, January 6 becomes a kind of morally righteous action.

AMY GOODMAN: Just days before the January 6th anniversary, Trump endorsed Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. He released a statement saying, “He has done a powerful and wonderful job in protecting Hungary, stopping illegal immigration, creating jobs,” etc. Talk about the significance of President Trump in the world and what 2024 could mean if he were to run again.

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: So, I’ve always seen Trump — of course, we focus on how he came to power to destroy American democracy. That was his goal. But his other agenda was detaching America from the democratic world order and inserting it into what I’ve been calling since 2017 “Axis 2.0,” this kind of far-right autocratic order. A lot of it’s funded by Putin. And Orbán has made Budapest a kind of hub of these far-right networks, which remind me of what I initially studied, was these fascist networks of this fascist internationalism in the 1930s.

Now, Trump really identifies with Orbán, because Orbán is somebody who was a centrist, and then he was voted out, and he spent some years getting back to power. And then he arranged things. He has this electoral autocracy, where you hold elections and then you fix them, so that he doesn’t have to leave, you know, in his mind.

And the GOP has embraced Hungary, and they really see Hungary’s present as America’s future. And so, Tucker Carlson, you know, had whole week of broadcasting there. And even Mike Pence, who’s not the most worldly person, trotted over to Budapest and talked about how he hoped that abortion rights would be taken away soon. So, Hungary is this model of white Christian supremacy, anti-trans, homophobic. It checks all the boxes of what the GOP is actually today.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, we talk about him as a model and him modeling himself on autocrats around the world. But what about him as a model at home for people like Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor? You lay out, in a very chilling piece, this image of DeSantis surrounded by the people he wants to basically deputize as what his opponent in running for governor has talked about as his “secret police.”

RUTH BEN-GHIAT: Yeah, Ron DeSantis is an example — so, when you have somebody like Trump who imposes this kind of authoritarian party discipline, the system populates with mini-Trumps. They used to be called mini-Duces and mini-Hitlers, and now we have these mini-Trumps. And so, what we’ve seen is, in places like Texas and Florida, states are becoming laboratories of autocracy.

And DeSantis is particularly disturbing, because, you know, he wants to have his own civilian National Guard. And many states have those, but I discovered, doing research, that he’s also establishing an office for, quote, “election integrity,” which is code speak for election fraud, where it’s going to have its own prosecutors and investigators. So, anybody who — if there’s like an election result in the state that DeSantis doesn’t like, he can have his goons go after them and accuse them of violating election law. And they’ve made what used to be misdemeanors into felonies, so these people could be put in jail. So this is an example of the kind of authoritarian system at the state level that DeSantis has planned.

AMY GOODMAN: Ruth Ben-Ghiat, I want to thank you for being with us, expert on the psychology of authoritarianism and fascism. She is the author of Strongmen: How They Rise, Why They Succeed, How They Fall, a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University, and she publishes Lucid, a newsletter on threats to democracy.

Coming up, the CDC is predicting 84,000 people will die in the United States of COVID over the next four weeks. We’ll speak with emergency room doctor Craig Spencer. Stay with us.

WATCH: Noam Chomsky explains how the Republican Party is marching the world to destruction

Noam Chomsky warns the Republican Party is “marching” the world to destruction by ignoring the climate emergency while embracing proto-fascism at home. Chomsky talks about the January 6 insurrection, how neoliberalism is a form of class warfare and how President Biden’s climate plans fall short of what is needed.

Noam Chomsky: Corporate Patents & Rising Anti-Science Rhetoric Will Prolong Pandemic www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we return to our discussion with world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author Noam Chomsky. Nermeen Shaikh and I recently spoke to him. He was at his home in Tucson, Arizona.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, you have called the Republican Party the most dangerous organization in human history. You’ve also called the political leaders a gang of sadists. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this. But also, in all of your 93 years, have you ever seen such an anti-science, anti-fact trend in this country before? And then, if you can talk about how it links up with other such movements around the world and how it should be dealt with?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it’s a fact that there has been a strain of anti-science sentiment in significant parts of the United States for a long time. This is the country that had the Scopes trial. There’s an unusual power in the United States of evangelical, anti-science extremism.
But as a political movement, it’s — has nothing been like what it is in the contemporary period. The Republican Party, under Trump, and his minions — he basically owns the party — they have been in the lead of trying to destroy the prospects for organized human life on Earth, not just unilaterally pulling out of the Paris Agreement, but acting with enthusiasm to maximize fossil fuel use, to dismantle the systems that somewhat mitigated their effects, denial of what’s happening, reaching a huge number of loyal almost worshipers, partly through their media system, in other ways.
When the United States is the most powerful, important country in world history, when it races to the precipice, has an impact on others. Other things that are happening are bad enough, but with the United States in the lead and marching to destruction, the future is very dim. And it’s our responsibility here to control it, to terminate it, to turn the country back to sanity — don’t even like to say “back” — turn it to sanity on these issues, before it’s too late.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Professor Chomsky, you’ve warned of a severe threat from a resurgent proto-fascist right here in the U.S. and spoken out — you’ve spoken out against the general right-wing shift across the political spectrum in the U.S. If you could explain what you think is behind that, and if you see any prospects in the near future for its reversal?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we have been through a 40-year, 45-year assault on the general population within the framework of what’s called neoliberalism. And it’s had a very serious impact. There are even some measures of it. So, the RAND Corporation, super respectable, did a study recently of the, what they politely call, transfer of wealth from the lower 90% of the population — that’s working-class and middle-class — the transfer of wealth from them to the very rich during the last 40 years. Their estimate is on the order of $50 trillion. They call it transfer of wealth. We should call it robbery. There’s plenty more like it, keeps being exposed. The Pandora Papers that came out revealed another aspect of it. That’s not small change. CEO salaries, management salaries have skyrocketed. A large part, probably a majority, of the population by now is basically surviving paycheck to paycheck, very little in reserve. If they have a health problem or something else, they’re in deep trouble, especially with the lack of social support in the country.
Even trivial measures that exist everywhere are very hard to implement in this country. We’re seeing it in Congress right now, measures like maternity leave, which is everywhere. I think there are a couple of Pacific islands that join the United States in not having paid maternity leave. Go to the second-largest country in the hemisphere, hardly a site of enormous progress, Brazil, women have four months guaranteed paid maternity leave, which can be extended a couple of months, paid for by the Social Security system. In the United States, you can’t get a day. And it’s being — it’s right at Congress right now. The Republican Party is 100% rock-solid opposition to this and other measures, including some weak but at least existing measures to mitigate the climate crisis, 100% Republican opposition, joined by a couple of Democrats, the coal baron from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, the leading recipient in Congress of fossil fuel funding, dragging his feet on everything, joining the 100% Republican opposition, Kyrsten Sinema from my state, huge recipient of Big Pharma, other corporate funding, also dragging her feet. Even the simplest things, like what I mentioned, are very hard to get through in a country that’s been poisoned by right-wing propaganda, by corporate power. It goes way back, but it’s expanded enormously in the past 40 years.
You look up “neoliberalism,” the word “neoliberalism,” in the dictionary, you find bromides about belief in the market, trust in the market, fair — everyone’s got a fair shake, and so on. You look at the reality, neoliberalism translates as bitter class war. That’s the meaning of it, everywhere you look, every component of it. The RAND, the $50 trillion robbery is just one sign of it.
When Reagan and his associate Margaret Thatcher on the other side of the Atlantic, when they came in to power, their first acts were to attack and undermine, severely undermine, the labor movement. If you’re going to have a sensible project, if you’re going to carry out a major class war attacking workers in the middle class, you better destroy their means of self-protection. And the great — the major means are labor unions. That’s the way poor people, working people can organize to develop ideas, to develop programs, to act with mutual aid and solidarity to achieve their goals. So that has to be destroyed. And that was the major target of attack from the beginning, many others. What we’re left with is a society of atomized people, angry, resentful, lacking organization, faced with concentrated private power, which is working very hard to pursue the bitter class war that has led to the current disastrous situation.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you how January 6th, how you see it playing out. Do you see it as really not so much the birth but continuation of a proto-fascist movement? You’re in Arizona, the recounts over and over again of the votes, questioning Democratic votes all over the country. Where do you see the U.S. going? And do you see President Trump becoming president again?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very possible. The Republican strategy, which I described, has been successful: Do as much damage as you can to the country, blame it on the Democrats, develop all sorts of fanciful tales about the hideous things that the communists, the Democrats, are doing to your children, to the society, in a country which is subjected to social collapse, to atomization, to lack of organized ability to respond in ideas and actions that can be successful. And we’re seeing it right now. So, yes, it’s very possible that the denialist party will come back into power, that Trump will be back, or someone like him, and then we’ll be simply racing to the precipice.
As far as fascism is concerned, there are some analysts, very astute and knowledgeable ones, who say we’re actually moving towards actual fascism. My own feeling is, I would prefer to call it a kind of proto-fascism, where many of the symptoms of fascism are quite apparent — resort to violence, the belief that violence is necessary. A large part of the Republican Party, I think maybe 30 or 40%, say that violence may be necessary to save our country from the people who are trying to destroy it, the Democrat villains who are doing all these hideous things that are fed into their ears. And we see it in armed militias.
January 6th was an example of — these are people from basically petit bourgeois, moderately affluent Middle America circles, not — there were some militia types among them who really feel that it’s necessary to carry out a coup to save the country. They were trying to carry out a coup to undermine an elected government — it’s called a coup — and came unfortunately close. Luckily, the — and they’re now taking — the Republican Party is now taking sophisticated measures to try to ensure that the next time around, it will succeed.
Notice they are treating the January 6th coup activists as heroes: “They were trying to save America.” These are signs of massive social collapse, which show up concretely in the fact that people literally do not have enough financial reserves to put themselves through a crisis. And, of course, it’s much worse when you go to really deprived communities. Like, household wealth among Blacks is almost nothing. They’re in severe problems. All of this in the richest, most powerful country in the world, in world history, with enormous advantages, unparalleled, could easily lead the way to a much better future.
And it’s not a utopian dream. Let’s go back to the Depression. Happens to be my childhood, can remember it well. Severe crisis, poverty, suffering much worse than today, but a hopeful period. My own family, unemployed, at first immigrant, working-class, were living with hope. They had the unions. My aunts, unemployed seamstresses, had the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, cultural activities, mutual aid. You could go on a week’s vacation. A hope for the future, militant labor actions, other political actions, sympathetic administration led the way to social democracy, inspired what happened in Europe after the war. Meanwhile, Europe moved to fascism, literal, hideous fascism. The United States, under these pressures, moved to social democracy. Now, with supreme and bitter irony, we’re seeing something like the reverse: The United States is moving towards a form of fascism; Europe is barely holding on to functioning social democracy, got plenty of their own problems, but at least they’re holding onto it — almost the reverse of what happened in the past. And we can certainly go back not only to the ’30s, but something much better than that.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Professor Chomsky, could you — you’ve spoken, of course, now about the Republican Party. Could you give an assessment also of the Biden administration so far? You spoke earlier of the climate crisis. Earlier this year, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, issued its report, after a decade, which the U.N. secretary-general called “code red for humanity.” And just days after, as you’ve mentioned, Biden called on OPEC to start increasing production of oil. So, if you could comment on that, Biden’s policies on climate, but also on other issues?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s a mixed story. His domestic programs are, frankly, considerably better than I anticipated. But they’re being — they’ve already been sharply cut back. The Build Back Better bill, that’s now being debated and, without enormous public pressures, not likely to be passed, is a sharply pared-down version of what first Bernie Sanders produced, Biden more or less accepted and cut it back somewhat, now cut back much more sharply, may not even get through in its pared-back form.
As I said, the Republicans are 100% opposed to allowing what their own constituents very much approve of, and managing the propaganda system so that their constituents don’t even know about it. Remarkable results showing up in polls about the Build Back Better bill. If you ask people about their particular provisions, strong support. You ask about the bill, mixed feelings, often opposition, feeling the bill, which contains the provisions they want, are likely to hurt them. Furthermore, turns out they don’t know what’s in the bill. They don’t know that it contains the provisions that they approve of. All of this is a massive successful indoctrination campaign of the kind that Goebbels would have been impressed with. And the only way to overcome it, again, is by constant, dedicated activism.
Take the climate program. Biden’s climate program was not what was needed, but it was better than anything that preceded it. And it didn’t come from above. It was the result of significant activist work. Young activists [inaudible] got to the point of occupying senatorial congressional offices, Nancy Pelosi’s office. Ordinarily, they’d be kicked out by Capitol Police. This time they got support from Ocasio-Cortez, joined them, made it impossible for the police to throw them out, got further support from, as I mentioned, Ed Markey. Soon they were able to press Biden to develop, to agree to a climate program that was a big improvement on anything from before it — in fact, even by world standards, one of the best. Well, the management of the Democratic Party didn’t like that, wasn’t having it. They actually cut it out of their webpage before the election and tried to block it. And it’s been reduced by them and by the solid Republican opposition demanding that we move as quickly as possible towards disaster. Well, it’s now cut sharply back.
You go to Glasgow. Lots of nice words, including from President Biden. Take a look at what’s happening in the world outside of the halls in Glasgow. Different picture. Biden came home from Glasgow and opened for lease the largest giveaway in U.S. history of petroleum fields for exploitation by the energy corporations. Well, his defense is that his effort to stop it was blocked by a temporary court decision, so he had no choice. Actually, there were choices. There were other options. But the message that it sends, stark and clear, is that the institutions of the society, the federal institution, the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judiciary, those institutions are incapable of recognizing the severity of the crises that we face, and are committed to a course which leads to something like species suicide.
The only force that can counter that was actually present at Glasgow. There were two events at Glasgow. There was the pleasant talk but meaningless verbiage inside the halls. There were the tens of thousands of demonstrators outside the buildings, young people mostly, calling for measures, real measures, to allow a decent, viable society to develop, not be destroyed. Those are the two events in Glasgow. The question of which one prevails will determine our future. Will it be heading towards disaster, or will it be moving towards a better, more livable world? Both are possible. The choice is in our hands.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, the 93-year-old world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. When we come back, we’ll talk about Julian Assange, Joe Biden’s foreign policy and U.S.-China relations. Stay with us.

Tea Party Redux: How the Koch network funds and fuels the anti-lockdown movement

A new report titled “How The Koch Network Hijacked The War On COVID” reveals how a right-wing network linked to billionaire Charles Koch has played a key role in fighting public health measures during the pandemic, including mask and vaccine mandates, contact tracing and lockdowns. The groups include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), Donors Trust, the Hoover Institution and Hillsdale College. We speak about the contents of the report with co-author Walker Bragman, who says the right-wing network’s attack on public health is designed to “maintain corporate profit at the expense of human life.”


Mark Meadows trapped himself — and now his ‘situation is quickly worsening’: analysis

The U.S. House voted to recommend the Department of Justice charge former President Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows with criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack. The vote came after the committee released a series of text messages from Republican lawmakers and Fox News hosts to Meadows on January 6 that begged him to convince Trump to tell his followers to leave the Capitol. The messages show that Trump and his inner circle were “in the know” in the plot to overturn the election, says Daily Beast reporter Jose Pagliery.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The House voted to Tuesday to hold former President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Meadows is now the first former congressmember ever held in criminal contempt by Congress and the first held in contempt since 1832, when former Congressman Sam Houston was held in contempt for beating a colleague with a cane.

The vote came after the committee released a second batch of text messages from people begging Meadows to convince Trump to stop the deadly attack. This is Democratic Congressmember Jamie Raskin reading text messages sent to Meadows’ phone by Republicans on January 6th.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN: A whole set of messages that were discovered in asking questions to Mr. Meadows, including Republican lawmakers and others sending frantic messages saying, “We are under siege up here at the Capitol,” “They have breached the Capitol,” “Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol, breaking windows on our doors, rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?” “There’s an armed standoff at the House chamber door,” “We are all helpless.”

AMY GOODMAN: The text messages to Meadows are part of evidence he turned over to the committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. Tuesday’s vote came after the seven Democrats and two Republican committee members voted unanimously to seek contempt charges against Meadows. This is the vice chair of the committee, Republican Liz Cheney, reading private text messages sent to Meadows’ personal cellphone by Fox News hosts on January 6th.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Quote, “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home … this is hurting all of us … he is destroying his legacy,” Laura Ingraham wrote. “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished,” Brian Kilmeade texted. Quote, “Can he make a statement? … Ask people to leave the Capitol,” Sean Hannity urged. As the violence continued, one of the president’s sons texted Mr. Meadows, quote, “He’s got to condemn this [bleep] ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough,” Donald Trump Jr. texted.

AMY GOODMAN: Those were text messages sent to Trump’s former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows by Fox News hosts on January 6th. This was the response Monday on Fox News from Sean Hannity.

SEAN HANNITY: The hyperpartisan, predetermined outcome, anti-Trump January 6 committee just voted 9 to 0 to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to comply with their orders.

AMY GOODMAN: Sean Hannity also had Mark Meadows back as a guest on his show to discuss the vote to hold him in contempt, but Hannity did not bring up the text message he sent Meadows during the Capitol riots.

This comes as the January 6 committee has also voted to cite former White House adviser Stephen Bannon and ex-Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark for contempt of Congress after they refused to testify after receiving a subpoena.

For more, we’re joined Jose Pagliery. He is political investigations reporter at The Daily Beast. He’s been following all of this very closely. One of his latest pieces is headlined “Mark Meadows’ Personal Cell Is Becoming a Personal Hell.”

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jose. So, let’s talk about the significance of this moment. This is the first time in U.S. history a congressmember has been held in criminal contempt and only the second time in, what, almost 200 years, been held in contempt. Talk about these thousands of pages that he himself gave to the committee, or his lawyers did, based on — we don’t even know his official phone, his White House phone, but this was his personal cellphone, thousands of pages, even though he is refusing to cooperate.

JOSE PAGLIERY: Well, good morning, Amy.

I’ve got to say, this is also the first time in history that a former member of Congress has become a chief of staff who tried to help a president stage a coup. And so what we’re seeing here is absolutely new ground, but it’s par for the course.

So, Mark Meadows and his situation is quickly worsening, and to understand it, we’ve got to realize this is the problem that a man creates by himself by only going halfway. He received a subpoena from the committee to turn over documents and to show up for a deposition. And just recently did we discover that this entire time that the committee has been saying that they’ve been engaging with him, what’s actually been going on behind the scenes is that they’ve just been delaying — not the committee; Mark Meadows and his legal team. So, for the past two months they fought off showing up for the deposition. They fought off any document — you know, turning over any documents. It wasn’t until really the end of November, basically, where they started turning over reams of data.

And when they did, what’s curious here is that it didn’t come from the kind of stuff that you’d expect to be at the National Archives, like the things that would be on his official phone or his official computer. What he was turning over was stuff from two Gmail accounts and his personal cellphone. Now, this is where it gets really curious, because, first off, you’re not supposed to have official work on your personal electronics. He would know that. This is one of the top Republicans who went after Hillary Clinton for her emails in her private server. And so he knew that from the beginning.

But in turning over this stuff over to the committee, he was also trapping himself, essentially. One, he was trying to claim executive privilege on some of them, thereby admitting that, essentially, it shouldn’t be in his possession now. And, two, the stuff he was turning over hinted at what could be in the other material that he’s not turning over. Like you said, these text messages between him and Fox News hosts and the text messages that he got from Donald Trump Jr. clearly show that he was in the know on January 6th, in the run-up to and after, on this plot to stop the certification of election results from 2020.

But the trap that’s really going to get him here is the following. It’s three parts. One, if these are official texts, they shouldn’t be on his personal cellphone. Two, if they are official communications for the executive branch, then that phone should not be reimbursed by donors for his congressional campaign, which is something we discovered. And the third point is, if this phone is being reimbursed by his congressional campaign, given that he’s no longer a congressman, they shouldn’t be used in a personal capacity. And so he’s absolutely trapped here.

One of the things that I’ve spoken to about with a former archivist for the United States is that the stuff he’s got on his personal devices needed to have been turned over to the National Archives on his way out the door. The fact that he didn’t do that could also potentially land him problems by being in violation of the Presidential Records Act.

And so, really what we’ve got here is Mark Meadows, for reasons that are yet to be determined, essentially making himself a martyr for the former president and just attracting all this trouble on himself, where, inevitably, what’s going to happen is, if the Justice Department comes after him, he’s facing jail time or huge fines. And this is going to be a problem for him going forward, because this is not escapable.

All of this hinges on the idea about whether or not a former president can claim executive privilege. And that’s something we can talk about, too, because the Trump case right now, that clearly is headed to the Supreme Court, is going to essentially determine the outcome for Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon, as you mentioned, and also Jeffrey Clark, that official at the Department of Justice, who’s since left, but, while he was there, tried to play a central role in essentially turning over the election in 2020.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jose, I wanted to follow up on that latter portion of your remarks there in terms of this issue of the executive privilege eventually — issue going to the Supreme Court. Isn’t the effort of Meadows and the Trump followers to drag this out, to run out the clock past the November elections, when hopefully they can regain control, from their perspective, of Congress and short-circuit this entire investigation?

JOSE PAGLIERY: Well, Juan, that’s certainly the position of the Department of Justice under the Biden administration. I mean, they’ve said in court papers that this is absolutely a delay tactic. I mean, the committee also is accusing this of being such. But while that does appear to be the case, there also seems to be something else at play here.

Reporting that I did last week reflects that Steve Bannon’s legal strategy appears not just to be a manner of delaying this, hoping that maybe if they stretch this out until late next year that we’ve got an election and then things get sort of fuzzy, but also that if there’s a case against Bannon, Bannon’s legal team seems to think that they can then use that as a way to reach into the Department of Justice, reach into the White House and try to seek documents that would purportedly show that this is a political prosecution. And so, this perfectly well fits Bannon’s strategy, right? We know him as this right-wing provocateur who is, frankly, really intelligent and smart at playing games with journalists, but also with messaging, with public messaging. And so, he seems to be trying to turn the tables here and say, “Well, forget the committee’s work for a second. What did the Biden administration do to me?” And in doing so, we can see how three different characters here — four, essentially, actually, if you consider Steve Bannon, Jeff Clark at the DOJ, Mark Meadows and then Trump himself — are trying to essentially not just block the committee’s work but turn it upside down.



All these cases, though — it has to be said, all of these cases and any effort to block the committee’s work claiming executive privilege, it all hinges on Trump’s legal challenge, which deserves a close look, because everyone I’ve spoken to, every legal scholar, everyone who’s really knowledgeable about the Constitution and is currently teaching at a law school, has told me that there is no way that a former president can claim executive privilege that overrides the current president deciding to release those records to Congress. That said, we are also dealing with a Supreme Court that has been packed by that very former president.

And so, it has yet to be determined what exactly is going to come out of this, but at the very least, like you said, Juan, there’s going to be delays. And the problem with delays are at least twofold. One, we can run into the problem where if this stretches on until late next year, then maybe if it goes beyond the election, then there won’t be a Democrat-led committee. Maybe it will be Republican-led. And we all know what’s going to happen there. It’s going to just fizzle and disappear. On the other hand, though, the delay also buys time for people to delete information, to coordinate responses, to essentially drag this out so that the evidence is not as fresh. And that could also be problematic, because in this case, time is absolutely of the essence.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you, in terms of how this is playing in the general public — I mean, we’ve had examples in the past of major scandals in Republican administrations — of course, most famously, Watergate during the Nixon era. But then we had Iran-Contra during the Reagan era. And while this could potentially be more like Iran-Contra, that it drags on for so long, with the people, the public, basically turning off, that even after the conclusions are reached in a congressional committee, that nothing major happens in terms of holding those responsible for what happened. I’m wondering your thoughts on that.

JOSE PAGLIERY: So, it’s a good question. And I’ve spoken with some people who have direct relations with the members of the committee, and they know this could happen. So, there is not — I wouldn’t say a concern, but they see this as a potential outcome. And so, what I’m hearing is that the committee absolutely plans, sometime early next year, to start having some kind of public hearings to garner attention, to lay out all the evidence all at once. The chairman of the committee, Representative Bennie Thompson, sort of hinted at this the other day when he said, “At some point we’re going to lay all the evidence out, but not just yet, not until we have it all put together.” Well, that’s essentially — the reason why they would do that is exactly what you’re saying here, which is that there would be a concern that the public will just get lost with hundreds of headlines. And if they have a few days or a few weeks where they have daily public hearings laying out all the evidence they’ve gathered, that could sort of shore that up.

I mean, look, if we think about what the committee has done so far, it’s a ton of work. They say that they’ve heard from almost 300 witnesses, received tens of thousands of documents — at least 9,000 pages from Meadows himself. And with that amount of information, we’ve got something that, frankly, could be compared to the FBI’s effort on the other end, prosecuting the actual people who tried to storm the Capitol.

I mean, there’s a multi-front sort of effort here that we’ve got to keep track of. One is the committee going after the people who staged this. The other is the FBI going after the people who actually showed up, sometimes armed. But then we’ve got, you know, efforts like what you mentioned on your show just now with the District of Columbia attorney general going after the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers in a civil lawsuit, making them literally pay for what they did, because unless you’ve got this multipronged approach, you’ve got a situation potentially where this could happen again in 2022 or 2024. There are a lot of people who are Trump loyalists, absolutely ticked off. They have guns, and they’re connected. And so, this multipronged approach could be an attempt to prevent this from happening again. The question is whether or not people are going to be paying attention when the January 6th committee actually shows the evidence they’ve got.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to that lawsuit in a minute. But during Monday’s hearing at the House committee investigating the insurrection, Republican co-chair Liz Cheney seemed to suggest the committee could refer former President Trump for criminal charges. This is what she said.

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Mr. Meadows’s testimony will bear on another key question before this committee: Did Donald Trump, through action or inaction, corruptly seek to obstruct or impede Congress’s official proceedings to count electoral votes?

AMY GOODMAN: Jose Pagliery, the significance of what this Republican congressmember is saying?

JOSE PAGLIERY: Yeah. Well, I mean, it seems like she’s — she sounds like a prosecutor speaking to a jury, reading out the U.S. federal criminal code, because this would be obstruction of Congress’s work, which is a crime punishable by jail time. And so, it’s very clear, when she read that, that she is hinting at where this is going: ultimately going after the former president for his central role in trying to stage an insurrection — well, in successfully staging an insurrection, trying to stage a coup and staying in power.

And so, this is — we know where the committee is going here. They’re going after the people who put these rallies together, the people in the White House who knew what was going on and didn’t stop it or egged it on, and the president for, I mean, let’s not forget, literally telling his followers, his rallygoers in front of him, “Go to the Capitol.”

I mean, it can’t be stressed enough just how obvious this was going on in plain sight. And, look, some members of Congress yesterday, when they were debating whether or not to hold Meadows in contempt, were noting the fact that it seems like the weird thing about the last four or five years is that if it happens in plain sight, people sort of shrug. But it can’t be that way.

AMY GOODMAN: I also wanted to go to Congressmember Adam Schiff reading that text message sent January 3rd to Mark Meadows from an unidentified sender — but it’s a congressmember — about the possibility that Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who appeared open to pursuing Trump’s attempts to overturn the election results, would replace Jeffrey Rosen, then the acting attorney General. And this was the text Schiff read: “I heard Jeff Clark is getting put in on Monday. That’s amazing. It will make a lot of patriots happy and I’m personally so proud that you are at the tip of the spear and I can call you a friend.” He’s talking to Mark Meadows. And what about these anonymous texts, which are believed to be congressmembers, and will congressmembers get implicated in this, helping with the insurrection as their fellow congressmembers were being targeted and police were being physically attacked?

JOSE PAGLIERY: This is a really tricky question, because this doesn’t just border on, like, constitutional issues in the U.S. I mean, who’s going to go after a sitting congressmember, right? Are they going to be able to police themselves? I mean, we’ve shown that throughout the past few months, there have only really been two Republicans — Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney — who have actually decided to go along with investigating what happened on January 6th. What’s going to happen when the closest people to Mark Meadows, like Matt Gaetz or Jim Jordan, are revealed, you know, for their role they potentially played in those days? I don’t know that their fellow members are going to hold them accountable. That’s an open question.

But what we do see now that’s very interesting from the committee is that in reading these texts without saying who it is that sent them — because we don’t know who it is that sent them; we just know that, according to them, they’re members of the House, they’re not senators — they’re flexing a muscle here. They’re saying, “We have these communications, and this will keep going.” And it should come to no surprise that nearly every Republican voted against holding Mark Meadows in contempt. They want to hit the brakes on this.

But it’s worth noting, by the way, that Mark Meadows, in the run-up to all of this, was going back and forth with the committee about whether or not he would testify and under what conditions. And one of the things that seems to have absolutely become a wall to those discussions is when the committee sought his private text message and call logs from Verizon. It was then that Mark Meadows just stopped talking to the committee and then sued Nancy Pelosi and the committee members to stop them from getting any more records from Verizon, because it’s clear that that’s where the goods are. What’s curious is, as I mentioned earlier, you know, he’s trapped here, because if the relevant material is in a personal account, then he cannot claim that there is executive privilege over this without essentially saying that he should have turned it over anyway. And that’s a big problem for him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jose, I wanted to ask you: Is there any indication that Mark Meadows was not alone in using private accounts, private phone or email accounts, to conduct government business? Because, after all, as you note, this was one of the major criticisms of Hillary Clinton in the famous email — in the battle over the emails. Is there any indication that there were many other members of the Trump administration doing the same thing?

JOSE PAGLIERY: So, there’s been reporting from others that clearly show that members of the Trump administration didn’t want to let go of their personal devices. I mean, if you remember, at the start of the Trump administration, there was a big issue when his family members and his close advisers were reluctant to use phones that had been secured by the intelligence community here in the country. And so, you know, some of that was deep state concerns, right? But, yeah, when they didn’t want to use government phones and they used personal phones, yes, we had heard about use of Signal and other encrypted apps to do this. And there’s been reporting from others that there may have been a burner phone involved with Meadows in his communication with the rally organizers. And so, there is absolutely that question.

I mean, look, going back, let’s remember that if you go back six or seven years, yes, there was a national debate about whether or not a politician should use a personal device for official work and keep official documents on a personal server. I think there was a resounding response to that, that says, “No, you can’t do that. You shouldn’t do that. You should be held accountable.” The question is: Are Republicans going to hold their own former colleague accountable here, and are they going to hold themselves accountable? Because we clearly see from what the committee has shown so far that these private texts were going back and forth between him and other members. And so there is absolutely an open question as to whether or not you’ve got all these personal devices going around, on official business, that is official business plotting a coup. I mean, let’s not forget what this is really about. This is official business about an insurrection. And that’s going to blow up in their face.

AMY GOODMAN: Jose, maybe this is connected, but I want to end on your pinned tweet. You’re the political investigations reporter at The Daily Beast. Your pinned tweet is from 2019. You wrote, “Sitting in a nearly empty immigration court on Tuesday, the judge called the next case. In walks a 4-year-old Honduran girl, her hair in a dozen braids each with a black bow. She refused to sit in the chair. She preferred to sit next to me in the back. The translator leaned over, telling her about upcoming court dates & the importance of attending — or being subject to a deportation order in absentia. Of course this little darling had no idea what was going on. She blew raspberries my way & giggled the whole time. The first time she responded to the judge was when she asked her age. The girl raised her right hand and four little fingers, then looked at me and smiled. 'Wow,' I whispered to her. 'Tienes cuatro años?' She nodded, and all the bows swung in the air. 'Si!' When it was all over, she didn’t want to get up & leave. She seemed so content just sitting by my side and swinging her legs from the pew. I complimented the rainbow unicorn on her jacket. It’s cold outside & you should really put it on, it’s such a beautiful jacket, I said. The child care center worker held her hand, and they walked out. I have no idea where her mom is. She has no idea where her mom is. I couldn’t stop thinking about little Merolin for the rest of the day.”

We just have 30 seconds. It’s such a heartbreaking story. But if you can connect what happened then, under President Trump in 2019, to his insurrection of January 6th and what he’s doing today?

JOSE PAGLIERY: Well, look, the Trump era was one that really took everything that Americans traditionally considered American values — whether or not they had any right to claim or assert ownership of those values and support them, he took everything that people considered American values, and flipped them upside down. The big question I have had as a reporter covering this has always been: Why have so many people not — you know, not caught that and said, “No, this is wrong. We’re not going to go along with this”?

I mean, when I wrote that, I was at Univision here locally in New York, and I was covering the child separations. I mean, if you take that to the insurrection, what we’ve got is everything that Americans have considered sacred was chucked out the window. The question still is: Are we going to hold people accountable for that? I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: Jose Pagliery, I want to thank you for being with us, political investigations reporter at The Daily Beast.

Next up, the U.S. says it’s preparing alternatives in case it’s unable to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that President Trump withdrew the U.S. from. We will also look at the election in Chile. Stay with us.

A Christian legal army is waging war on America

As the Supreme Court looks poised to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and possibly overturn Roe v. Wade, we speak to The Nation’s Amy Littlefield about her investigation into the Christian legal army behind the Mississippi law as well as anti-trans laws across the country. She also critiques the mainstream pro-choice movement’s failure to center the poor and people of color. “There is a change coming within the movement because of its reckoning with these past missteps including, frankly, the failure to adequately protect Black women and to stand up for the safety of the people whose rights were eroded first,” says Littlefield.

From Abortion Bans to Anti-Trans Laws, a Christian Legal Army is Waging War on America www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We begin today’s show looking at the fight for reproductive rights as the Supreme Court appears set to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and possibly overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion nationwide. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, almost half of U.S. states could rapidly make abortion illegal thanks to so-called trigger laws already in place. For decades, right-wing groups have been waging a war on abortion rights and they appear to be closing in on their goal of overturning Roe due in part to Donald Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. One right-wing group that has played a key role in this movement has been the Alliance Defending Freedom, a self-described “legal army” to fight abortion rights and LGBT rights, especially trans rights.

We are joined now by Amy Littlefield, the abortion access correspondent for The Nation. She has two new pieces out this week, The Christian Legal Army Behind the Ban on Abortion in Mississippi in The Nation and Where the Pro-Choice Movement Went Wrong which was an op-ed piece just published by The New York Times. Amy, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. Can you start off by responding to what happened, what you thought was most important to understand about the oral arguments in the Supreme Court on Wednesday? You were outside.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: In terms of what was most remarkable inside the court, you have Amy Coney Barrett suggesting that the state forcing people to carry pregnancies to term in a country that has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, three times higher for Black women than for white women, that it’s no big deal to force people to give birth because they can just bring the baby to the nearest fire station and give them up for adoption. You have Brett Kavanaugh who was confirmed saying over and over again that Roe was settled law, it was precedent and that was that, then on Wednesday listing off all of the different precedents that the Supreme Court has overturned, and wouldn’t it be a good thing if they did that again. So I think we saw really clearly that the three conservative justices that were appointed by Donald Trump are getting ready to do exactly what they were put on the court to do, which is overturn Roe V. Wade and take away the nationwide right to legal abortion in this country.

I want to say that the biggest evidence, the biggest argument if anyone had any remaining doubt that that is what they intend to do, is not what was going on inside the court but what is going on many miles away in Texas where for three months people in the state of Texas, one of the country’s largest states, have been dealing with this slow-rolling emergency where almost all abortions in the state are banned under a law that empowers anyone to become a bounty hunter and enforce an anti-abortion law against friends, families, abortion funds, abortion providers, anyone who is helping someone get an abortion. The Supreme Court could have stopped that law before it came into effect. They could have stopped it at any point in the last three months.

So I think the writing is really on the wall. That is why I said I think the most important thing that I saw was not what was going on inside the Supreme Court which is sort of confirmation that they’re going to do what the Christian Right has been planning for decades, but what I saw outside was an abortion rights movement that was really emboldened, that was prepared, that was debuting the messaging that is going to be needed to rebuild a mass movement to change the culture and to reshape the fight in the years to come after the right to legal abortion falls.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to what was happening outside just hours before the oral arguments on Wednesday. Activists shouting “Shout Your Abortion” gathered outside the Supreme Court building, chanting “Abortion pills forever” then four of them proceeding to take mifepristone in union, the first medication in a typical two-step self-induced medical abortion.

ACTIVIST: Abortion—
CROWD: Abortion—
ACTIVIST: Pills—
CROWD: Pills—
ACTIVIST: Forever!
CROWD: Forever!
ACTIVIST: Abortion—
CROWD: Abortion—
ACTIVIST: Pills—
CROWD: Pills—
ACTIVIST: Forever!
CROWD: Forever!

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what they were doing.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: These were activists with the group Shout Your Abortion. They gathered outside the court. They had white boxes with mifepristone inside them which they had obtained legally from the group Aid Access which is an organization based overseas that sends abortion medications to people all across the country. The laws vary state to state on that access, but all of these activists were able to obtain that pill legally. It is the first medication that people take in the typical two-step medication abortion regimen which is administered in clinics but it is the same regimen that you can take at home. They took the pill in front of the court. These were four people who had had abortions. Taking mifepristone by itself isn’t going to cause an abortion but they were taking the pill to make the point that as organizer Amelia Bonow told me, Republicans might have the courts, but we are out here having abortions. They can’t stop them. That was the point. They are in open defiance of the court. They are saying you can ban abortion legally, but now that these pills are out there, you can’t actually stop people from having abortion.

The caveat to that, and it’s a huge caveat obviously, is that what the state can do and has done is criminalize people for involvement in self-managed abortion. We are likely to see that even further when Roe falls. But I think this direct action was really part of sending the message and trying to raise awareness about getting these pills into people’s hands, part of the strategy of the movement, figuring out how people are going to take care of each other and take care of those who need abortions in this post-Roe future that is imminently approaching.

AMY GOODMAN: Which sounds exactly like the pre-Roe past, though they might not have had those drugs at the time, but people helping each other.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Exactly. That is the key difference, that those self-support networks are there. That is rising up. That has been there for a long time in states like Texas that have heavily restricted abortion even before this year, but the tools are very different. We’re talking about safe medication, the same medication again that you can get prescribed in a clinic that many people are now accessing in their own homes. The key is that a lot of people don’t know this medication is out there, and so think the activists were really trying to say, “Hey, everyone, pay attention to this. Tell all your friends these pills are available on the internet and there are safer options now than there were before 1973.”

AMY GOODMAN: But of course there is also severe danger, whether people are able to link into those networks. We’re of course also talking about the poorest people in the United States, people who it would not be easy to cross state lines. For anyone, it is difficult, but for people who don’t have the economic means, this will hit especially hard. We are talking about almost half the country, half of states.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Half of states. And it is already happening. Abortion providers and activists in Texas are witnessing this reality every single day of people who can’t afford to travel, who can’t get childcare, who can’t take off work, who are pregnant and they can’t escape their state where abortion is banned except in the earliest weeks of pregnancy. So they are giving up because they have no choice. That is already the reality for Texas, which I think by one measure is home to one in ten women of reproductive age. We are going to see that multiply by potentially—not all states are the size of Texas but we could see 26 states that are either certain or very likely to ban abortion if Roe falls, a dozen that would do it immediately through these trigger bans if Roe falls.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the Christian legal army behind the ban on abortion.

AMY LITTLEFIELD: This is really important. I went back and listened to a recording from 2018 when Alliance Defending Freedom, which is this legal engine behind the Christian Right agenda, at a conference, an ADF attorney named Denise Burke said, “We are going to lay out our plan here to eradicate Roe. It starts with this Mississippi ban on abortion at 15 weeks that was just introduced just this week in Mississippi. We introduced our model bill for banning abortion at 15 weeks and this is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court.” Now at the time, she was saying, “This is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court and then we will come in with a complete ban after we get the ban on abortion at 15 weeks.” There has been a couple of changes since then. They have gotten two more Supreme Court justices. They did not actually have to wait to ask the court to just go ahead and ban abortion outright using this Mississippi law that was developed in 2018. But I thought it was really important to point out that this group was the legal architect of the bill that it now seems is going to be used to reverse Roe v. Wade.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play a clip from that tape that you’re talking about of attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom, or ADF, unveiling this plan, as you said, to eradicate Roe. This is ADF senior counsel Denise Burke speaking at the Evangelicals for Life conference.

DENISE BURKE: We’re not looking at regulation. We are actually looking to enact abortion bans. We are working with allies in a number of states to do that. Our first ban that we are looking at is a 15-week limitation. I’m sure you guys have heard about 21 states have enacted 20-week limitations to this point. The majority of those limitations were never challenged in court. I can speculate as to why the abortion industry did that but I think they didn’t want to get a bad decision. They were concerned that the courts would go along with the 20-week ban. Well, I can guarantee you they’re not going to be able to ignore a 15-week limitation, which is in essence limiting abortion to the first trimester. We are kind of basically baiting them. “Come on! Fight us on turf that we have already set up and established.” I’m happy to say the first 15-week limitation based on our model language was just introduced in the state of Mississippi this week.

AMY GOODMAN: Amy Littlefield, respond to Denise Burke?

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Right. She is very clearly saying, “Hey, guys, this is the plan. We are going to introduce a 15-week ban.” More than a third of states have implemented a 20-week ban. They said, “That wasn’t enough to get the challenge that we wanted and so we are going to go ahead and move the line up to 15 weeks and then once we get that 15-week ban, we will go even further.” So this was part of a carefully orchestrated effort to strike right at the heart of Roe V. Wade.

Mississippi is getting a lot of attention right now. Everyone is talking about Mississippi as if this was a bill that grew organically out of the soil of Mississippi. That is not the case. It was written by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is an organization with a $50 million annual budget that is out there to drive the Christian Right agenda. They write model bills. They work with state lawmakers who are aligned with them to introduce those model bills. Then when the bills get challenged, which in many cases they want them to, they defend those bills in court. They fund the legal cases that they don’t defend themselves.

What I most wanted to get across in this piece is the crucial connection that this organization that wrote the Mississippi law that is before the Supreme Court now is also the same organization that is driving the record number of anti-transgender bills that we’re seeing in state legislatures across the country. This year shattered records for both anti-trans legislation and anti-abortion legislation. We are talking about those issues as if they are two separate things, and really what I wanted to point out is this is the same organization that is driving these efforts as part of their Christian Right agenda, and we have to understand those connections.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Imara Jones. On Thursday, Democracy Now! spoke to the investigative journalist and host of The Anti-Trans Hate Machine podcast about the Alliance Defending Freedom and about how these attacks on reproductive rights, as you’re saying, are connected to the attacks on transgender rights.

IMARA JONES: A key way in which these two movements are linked is, in one way, very simple to explain. It is the same groups and the same groups of people. We know that groups such as the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation and Alliance Defending Freedom have all been on the cutting edge of the anti-abortion movement for decades now. They have just simply taken the tactics that they have learned from the anti-abortion movement and are now applying them to the anti-trans movement. For example, we are seeing doctors who provide gender-affirming care now being targeted by the right with demonstrations outside, with posters, with videos online, being doxxed online, for example.
It is also the case that we have to remember that for them, this is one fight. There is not a separation between the anti-abortion fight and the fight over trans rights. For them, they are essential in the vision of gender that for them is motivated and deeply rooted by the Bible. They feel that the United States is a white Christian nation, that it was ordained that way both by God and by the Constitution, although the founding fathers disagree with them, but facts don’t matter. What they believe is that women having abortion, people being able to express whom they love through sexual orientation and the ability to be able to live your true gender identity are all key elements in undermining white Christian America. So for them, again, this is one fight. This is not the way that progressives view this. They view trans rights as kind of ancillary, as sort of on the margins, as not being an essential fight, as something that may be good or may not be good. But for the right, this is an essential fight.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s investigative journalist Imara Jones. As we begin to wrap up, that also leads into the op-ed piece you wrote for The New York Times this week, Where the Pro-Choice Movement Went Wrong. Can you talk overall about your thoughts on this?

AMY LITTLEFIELD: Yeah. this is a low moment for the movement for abortion rights. We’re potentially about to lose the legal right to abortion. There are ample factors that have led us to this moment that were well beyond the control of anyone in the abortion rights movement, of course, from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the Trump administration to gerrymandering by Republican lawmakers. But what I wanted to do is understand how the abortion rights movement is reckoning with this moment of loss.

I spoke to more than 50 experts, abortion providers, activists, people involved in the struggle in one way or another, and a really important thread that emerged is that basically since Roe V. Wade happened, the white-led groups that have had the bulk of the resources and political capital within the abortion rights movement have often ceded ground and chosen to fight through the courts and fight a more defensive strategy that has really surrendered at many key moments the right of women of color, Black women in particular, poor people, those whose rights and access were sort of the first to disappear in this incremental battle over abortion rights.

That really starts in 1976 with the passage of the Hyde amendment. Representative Henry Hyde who brought it forward said he wanted to restrict abortion for everyone, but alas, all he had was the Medicaid bill and so he would have to just restrict it for poor people on Medicaid. The Hyde amendment, which banned federal funding of abortion and eliminated access to abortion for most people who are on Medicaid in most states, there were attempts to oppose it at the time but really what ended up happening is the Democratic Party and abortion rights groups, a lot of which were white-led at the time, sort of were willing to trade away access for poor people for other political priorities. So the Hyde amendment, the ban on federal funding of abortion sort of became accepted precedent and an accepted and routine part of the budget process for many years.

We are only starting to see that shift now. I think that is because the reproductive justice framework, the movement led by Black women that has always known that Roe was not enough to protect rights for everyone, that has always known the courts are not going to save abortion rights because they haven’t saved the rights of people of color in the past—quite the contrary—those movements are really sort of moving to the center of the frame and becoming more mainstream. We are seeing for the first time in history that both NARAL and Planned Parenthood are led by women of color. So I think there is a change coming within the movement because of it reckoning with these past missteps including frankly the failure to adequately protect Black women and to stand up for the safety of the people whose rights were eroded first.

AMY GOODMAN: Amy Littlefield, I want to thank you for being with us. We will link to your articles in The Nation and The New York Times. Amy is a journalist who focuses on reproductive healthcare and abortion access, correspondent for The Nation. Her new piece for The New York Times is titled “”Where the Pro-Choice Movement Went Wrong”:https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/opinion/abortio.... Amy is a former producer here at Democracy Now!

Amazon workers in Alabama get new shot at union after NLRB rules company broke the law in first vote

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama may soon get another chance to decide whether to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Amazon violated U.S. labor law while waging an aggressive anti-unionization campaign against warehouse workers earlier this year in Bessemer, Alabama. This comes as Amazon workers worldwide from Bangladesh to Germany campaigned on Black Friday for fairer working conditions under the banner, “Make Amazon Pay.” “If Amazon is trying to eat the world, it’s also bringing many disparate sets of workers and activists and communities together to fight against them,” says Alex Press, staff writer at Jacobin.

Amazon Workers in Alabama Get New Shot at Union After NLRB Rules Company Broke the Law in 1st Vote www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, joined by Democracy Now! co-host Juan González in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Hi, Juan.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hi, Amy. Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers across the country and around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: On Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the day after Thanksgiving, Amazon employees worldwide joined in a strike that targeted the trillion-dollar company and its founder, billionaire Jeff Bezos, under the banner “Make Amazon Pay.” They called for the retail giant to raise wages, pay its taxes in full and stop its surveillance of workers.

This comes as workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, may soon get another chance to decide whether to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new election after it ruled Amazon had interfered in the first election in part by pressuring the U.S. Postal Service to install a mailbox outside the warehouse one day before the voting was set to begin. Amazon managers then pressured workers to drop their ballots in the new collection box, casting doubt over the secrecy of the election. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is leading the organizing campaign in Bessemer. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement the new ruling “confirms what we were saying all along—that Amazon’s intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace.” In March, Democracy Now! spoke about the mailbox with Michael Foster, a member organizer with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

MICHAEL FOSTER: Workers just truly believe that something is going on with this mailing box. Why would Amazon want them to bring their ballots from home and bring it to the plant and put it in their mailbox, when they can just literally put it back in their own mailbox? People call me and ask me, “Is Amazon stealing some of the ballots?” Because they have seen people put their ballots in that mailbox. And it’s just really scary. I believe it’s intimidation, so to speak.

AMY GOODMAN: In more news for Amazon workers, New York Attorney General Letitia James sought an emergency court order Tuesday to force the company to implement stricter COVID-19 protocols, saying Amazon has prioritized profit over worker safety during the pandemic and retaliated against employees who raised concerns about their safety. James called for the court to appoint a monitor to oversee worker safety at Amazon’s New York facilities. In another court order, James said Amazon should be required to rehire its employee Chris Smalls who was fired after he spoke out about working conditions.

For more, we’re joined by Alex Press, staff writer at Jacobin and host of a podcast about Amazon workers. Welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you talk about this historic moment where the NLRB is now apparently calling for a second election, saying that Amazon interfered with the first election in Bessemer, Alabama, at their warehouse? Describe what you know at this point and what happened.

ALEX PRESS: Thank you for having me, Amy. This week the regional Director of Region 10, which oversees Bessemer’s election, has ruled that they should rerun that election. The objections were many that the union filed over Amazon’s behavior during the mail-in balloting period. The voting took place in February and March and then when the votes were counted in April, a clear majority of those pallets were against unionizing. The problem was that mailbox specifically. Amazon had gotten USPS to set up a mailbox in the parking lot outside of the warehouse. Amazon had been pushing for an in-person vote but it was the height of COVID and the NLRB had ruled against that, so this mailbox was seen as an attempt to get around that. It was under a tent that had all sorts of anti-union slogans on it. It was within spitting distance of the surveillance cameras.

As the person you spoke to earlier said, the workers themselves felt that they were being surveilled, and the NLRB officer agreed. In the ruling this week they wrote that Amazon had created the impression of surveillance, if not actually in fact surveilled the workers, and also had contravened the authority of the agency and in fact, even more concerning had shown it has control over USPS as well, which was tasked with making sure those ballots were not interfered with. So this was a violation of what the NLRB refers to as laboratory conditions. You can’t have sloganeering at a polling site. You can’t have the employer counting or seeming to count and control the ballots.

So those votes are being set aside and it is likely a rerun will happen in the spring. It is unclear if it will be in person or mail-in again. That is all to be determined. Amazon can request that the board review this ruling again but odds are at this point—the hearing officer in August who had overseen this election recommended a rerun. This week the regional director concurred with that agreement and similarly ordered a reelection. So, the workers were correct. Something was going on. And in fact it’s very concerning for all of us that Amazon could actually pressure a public agency, USPS, to install a mailbox.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Alex, that’s one question I wanted to ask you, whether Amazon has the opportunity to appeal, since this was a regional director’s decision, to the NLRB in Washington and the likelihood of that?

ALEX PRESS: Yes, so they have ten business days to request a review. Then the board can either agree with the existing ruling and reject that appeal and go forward or it can agree to contravene this regional director. I would say odds are that this is not going to change, that there will be an election in the spring. But Amazon does have ten business days to request review and knowing anything about Amazon, we can expect that they will in fact request that review.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Last Friday, Black Friday, Amazon workers in over 20 countries took part in either strikes, a protest. Delivery drivers in Italy, garment workers in Cambodia and Bangladesh, most of these were workers for third-party companies hired by Amazon. Can you explain what happened in these protests and the impact on Amazon of this growing global coalition of its workers?

ALEX PRESS: Yes. The Make Amazon Pay coalition is a global attempt to fight back against Amazon at the level that Amazon operates, which is the global. It might be U.S.-based, but it’s certainly not limited to U.S. borders, its operations. Black Friday has become a day of protest. That started last year for Amazon workers. It spread this year to 20 countries. That’s because Amazon workers hate this day. Their quotas go up, their injury rates go up, they are worked harder than ever during the holiday season while Amazon makes record profits. So they have taken back this fake holiday to stage protests.

This year it was all up and down the supply line, all across borders. As you mentioned, delivery drivers in Italy struck. While they are not directly employed by Amazon, they are an integral part of Amazon’s operations. Amazon gets around the rights and requirements and responsibilities of employing them so it doesn’t have to deal with those problems but in fact is using them to get its goods to customers. They’re pretty central to the operation. There were also garment workers in Bangladesh and Cambodia who continued their campaign to get severance that they are owed of some $3.6 million at this Cambodian factory that shut down and promised them severance, never gave it to them. That factory supplies goods for Amazon. We think of Amazon as sort of a marketplace or a platform for third-party sellers but at this point Amazon produces many of its own goods and sells a lot of them. Those were the garments that were being made in those factories.

The protests also existed at the level of the proposed Africa Amazon headquarters in Cape Town, South Africa. Communities there are concerned about the development project. There was also a protest outside of an oil refinery in Argentina. That is because Amazon Web Services, the backbone of the internet as it were, which makes the majority of Amazon’s profit, they work a lot with big oil. So these concerns are not just about workplace conditions, but they are about Amazon’s impact on the entire planet, the climate, so on and so forth, the lack of taxes being paid.

One of the people who was organizing this event, Casper Gelderblom, who works for the Progressive International, he told me actually he saw a direct comparison between even the Cambodian and Bangladeshi workers and those in Bessemer. He said there have been union-busting campaigns in Bangladesh that Amazon has at the very least turned a blind eye to, which in their form are reminiscent of the struggles we see in Bessemer. So working-class destinies are connected generally but also specifically in this struggle. If Amazon is trying to eat the world, it’s also bringing many disparate sets of workers and activities and communities together to fight against them.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a short video created by the Make Amazon Pay coalition that was released announcing the global Black Friday protests and strikes.

PERSON: Here in Germany, office employees are put under enormous pressure, ignoring labor laws. IT workers, click workers, data labelers and customer service agents are controlled just like their colleagues in the warehouses. The stress is everywhere the same.
PERSON: [translated] The factory fired us in April 2020 and paid me only $700-plus for my 15 years of work.

AMY GOODMAN: So there you have that clip. Alex, as you have written, we are talking about Amazon having a global supply chain and so the protests are global. Let’s talk about the significance of the unionization of this one warehouse in Bessemer, really, for the world, what it means. We are talking about a company, Amazon, that is the second largest private employer in the U.S., around 950,000 workers. What would it mean if the union won?

ALEX PRESS: People might look at this and say, “It’s just one site. It’s a few thousand workers. That’s still a lot of people, but it’s nothing compared to that million that Amazon employs in this country.” But that is not the case. Once workers get a foothold into one workplace, once they get organized, that spreads very quickly. We are actually seeing something similar at Starbucks where several stores in Buffalo are trying to unionize, and the company is going all out. Howard Schultz came and spoke to those workers. The CEOs of Starbucks North America are showing up to sweep the floors at those Starbucks. That is again because employers understand that once workers see that they have power, that spreads very rapidly.

Amazon is completely predicated as a business model on total exploitation of workers, complete dictatorial control over their working conditions. This is what Amazon innovates. It really has driven down the standards, has ramped up surveillance. So if there is any pushback, if workers have any right to push back on that and to negotiate their working conditions, that is in fact an existential threat for Amazon, and they are treating it as such.

One thing we haven’t discussed is that Amazon, while it seems to have broken the law in Bessemer, much of what it did was legal. Spending an unfathomable amount of money on antiunion law firms to come in and train management on how to defeat the union, all of that is legal and Amazon is spending an immense amount of money on that. It has starting doing that again in this past month in the lead-up to this expected ruling from the NLRB. Amazon does not want this. It is not necessarily about it can’t afford maybe higher wages or something like that that the workers would win with a union contract. It’s really about power itself. It is about maintaining that dictatorial control on which it runs, on which it profits.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You mentioned that Amazon Web Services are the most profitable part of the company, but most people are not aware of this aspect of Amazon’s work, these enormous farms of data processing that Amazon has established around the country and the world. Could you explain a little but more about that?

ALEX PRESS: Yeah. It is very hidden. We all see stories about the warehouse workers, maybe some about delivery drivers, but AWS is a complex beast, because it is hidden. These data centers are in fact literally hidden. It is very hard to access them. In fact, again, it’s about us being the product. Our data and our usage of the internet, of every platform you use, most of them are running through AWS. Amazon has this trick in its back pocket in that it is very hard to get any kind of—it is not like warehouse workers can organize those facilities. The Make Amazon Pay coalition was hoping to bring more light to that by protesting the oil refinery and places like that, but this is a complex beast.

Amazon’s whole business model is about becoming infrastructure. It wants to become our infrastructure for how we get goods and services through its warehouses and delivery services. It also has succeeded in becoming infrastructure for the internet, and that is its own problem. There are conversations around breaking Amazon up, antitrust law. It is possible Amazon would spin off AWS to a separate entity from its delivery and warehouse operations. But it is definitely the case that people should talk a lot more about AWS because that is where Amazon gets its bread and butter, it’s where it gets its most profits and it’s where it has really sunk into the marrow of society and it’s very hard to avoid it.

AMY GOODMAN: The Teamsters Union, one of the largest unions in the country, consists of over 1.4 million members, just finished an election last week for a new president and they voted in Sean O’Brien, who has been openly critical about leadership being too timid in Amazon organizing and UPS. Who is Sean O’Brien? How could his Teamster presidency affect union organizing when he takes office in March?

ALEX PRESS: I’m glad you asked because that is a big part of the context when we talk about organizing Amazon, especially in the United States. This is historic. This was a reform slate; that’s who Sean O’Brien was running on. It was backed by the longstanding Reform Caucus in the Teamsters, which is the Teamsters for a Democratic Union. And it is pretty shocking that they finally won. They had been trying to take out the Hoffa slate for a long time. This was the first time that Hoffa Jr. agreed he wouldn’t run again, but he hand-picked his successor.

Sean O’Brien had once been one of the Hoffa guys. In fact, the falling out between him and Hoffa happened during the last UPS negotiations. UPS, that contract, is the largest private-sector contract in the country. There’s about a quarter million people who are covered by it so it’s a huge contract. In the last round of negotiations in 2018, the Teamsters leadership pushed through undemocratically a very bad contract, especially a tiered contract, so there are certain workers who get worse standards than others, which is a death sentence for a union. The majority of the members had voted down that contract but a very obscure rule in the Teamsters constitution allowed the leadership to push it through.

Sean O’Brien was sort of a dissident in that process. He insisted on bringing the opposition into the negotiating room, as it were, and so Hoffa took him off the team. That is when this break happened. So this is a big deal. Sean is not a radical by any means but he is very willing to strike UPS and that was a big part of his campaign was that there needs to be a stronger contract. In fact, that goes hand-in-hand with organizing Amazon. If you have a strong organized UPS workforce, those workers can push for better standards across the industry and they are also in a place to win Amazon workers to a union by demonstrating the benefits of that.

Those planks go hand in hand and really that is the key, because the Teamsters at their convention this year said that they would focus on organizing Amazon. They are putting resources into that. They’re training up rank-and-file workers amongst their membership in how to organize Amazon workers in their community or near their workplaces. Having leadership that’s taking that very seriously is a big deal. I think that is the key for the next couple of years of what organizing Amazon in the United States will look like.

AMY GOODMAN: Alex Press, we want to thank you so much for being with us, staff writer at Jacobin and host of a podcast about Amazon workers.

Next up, as Barbados becomes the world’s newest republic, breaking ties with Queen Elizabeth 55 years after it became an independent nation, calls are growing for Britain to pay reparations for centuries of slavery and colonialism. We will go to Barbados for the latest.

After Rittenhouse acquittal, calls to drop murder charges against Black teen Chrystul Kizer

Since Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted under claims of self-defense for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during racial justice protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, another case in the city is drawing new national attention. Human rights advocates are calling for charges to be dropped in the case of Chrystul Kizer, who faces homicide and other charges for killing her white sex trafficker in 2018 after he drugged her and tried to rape her when she was just 17-years-old. Court records show police knew Randall Volar had a history of sexually abusing underage Black girls. Although the court initially ruled Kizer could not use a self-defense argument, an appellate court reversed the decision and the Wisconsin Supreme Court will now consider the ruling. “It has huge ramifications for her, but it also has a huge potential impact for other victims of trafficking,” says reporter Anne Branigin. “We have a very clear case where we are not receiving the same support, the same outcry from folks who got behind Kyle Rittenhouse to defend this young Black woman,” says Wisconsin state representative David Bowen. “She was trying to defend herself to get out of the sex trafficking she was being abused with.”



Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, Democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. After Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted earlier this month on all five charges he faced from fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during racial justice protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin, another Kenosha case with a claim of self-defense is drawing renewed attention. Human rights advocates are calling for charges to be dropped against Black teenager Chrystul Kizer, who is accused of killing her white sex trafficker in 2018. She was 17 at the time. He had abused her since she was 16.

Court records show Kenosha Police knew the man, Randall Volar, had a history of sexually abusing underage Black girls and was actually under investigation for sex trafficking but he remained free for months. Kizer says she shot and killed Volar in self-defense after he drugged her and tried to rape her. A Kenosha County judge ruled in 2019 that Kizer could not use the self-defense argument but an appellate court reversed the decision and ruled Kizer can argue her actions resulted from being trafficked. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is now reviewing the decision. As her case is pending, Chrystul Kizer was released from jail last year after the Chicago Community Bond Fund and other supporters raised money to post her $400,000 bond.

For more, we go to two guests. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we are joined by David Bowen, Wisconsin state representative running for lieutenant governor, has called for justice in this case. And Anne Branigin, reporter for The Lily at The Washington Post whose latest piece she co-wrote headlined, After Rittenhouse, protesters are asking: What about sex-trafficking victim Chrystul Kizer?. Why don’t we begin with Anne Branigin? Just lay out the facts of this case.

ANNE BRANIGAN: —at the time that she killed her abuser Randy Volar. You are exactly right, this was somebody who was already under investigation for being a child abuser at the time that she killed him. She is now arguing that her crime was a direct result of her status as a victim of trafficking and what she is trying to invoke is a very specific defense. It’s called the affirmative defense and it was made specifically for trafficking victims. The thinking is that their crime is a direct result of that status of being abused or coerced or forced into doing a crime. What is unique about her case is that this is the first time that we are seeing this argument being applied to a homicide charge. She is somebody who has been waiting for trial now for more than two years because this argument has to be decided before the case goes to trial. She killed Volar in 2018 and we are now in 2021 still seeing where the case will go.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the role of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Chrystul’s trial?

ANNE BRANIGAN: Absolutely. They really play a pivotal role. Right now they are deciding whether or not she has access to the affirmative defense as an argument, as a legal remedy. It has never been applied to a case, to a violent crime before, so it has huge ramifications for her but it also has a huge potential impact for other victims of trafficking because this can really dictate in the state of Wisconsin and possibly outside whether or not, if you kill your abuser, whether you can claim affirmative defense, whether you can say that this is a direct result of the abuse that I experienced.

AMY GOODMAN: David Bowen, I want to bring you into this conversation, Wisconsin state representative, why you are spearheading attention on this case. She in fact has been convicted already, but given the Kyle Rittenhouse case, we see a lot of new attention on this case. The police released him even as they knew that he had been sex trafficking and preying on young Black girls. Can you describe further what happened?

REP. DAVID BOWEN: It shows further exacerbation of the situation and the lack of the outcry that you have seen many folks get behind Kyle Rittenhouse and his use of self-defense. He is saying because of his case it shows that self-defense is not illegal, yet what we are crying for out in the streets, out in the community, all over the state with those of us who stand for justice is to say we have a very clear case but we are not receiving the same support, the same outcry from folks who got behind Kyle Rittenhouse, to defend this young Black woman in a very clear situation where there was ongoing abuse and where she was trying to defend herself to get out of the sex trafficking she was being abused with. Yet she is being treated as if it was just premeditated murder and she should not have the right to be able to escape.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain where it stands in the courts. Explain her trial and how this has changed over time.

REP. DAVID BOWEN: This is coming at a very polarizing time in our state. This case, as you have seen in Wisconsin and many communities in Wisconsin become hubs of sex trafficking and training for very young sex trafficking victims. You’ve seen this case become one of the primary reasons why we need to ensure that victims are treated as victims throughout our justice system. So we have called for that. We have even tried to clarify state statute under my leadership in the legislature where I have gone to conservative colleagues to build bridges and to make sure that we could clarify in state statute the defenses that should be there more clearly for victims. I did not get the same amount of cooperation. We did get some folks on the conservative side to join us in that but not nearly enough to get that bill passed.

That was even used and highlighted in her case where the prosecution was trying to deny Chrystul Kizer’s defense of using state statute to protect her and that the clarification that we were advocating for at the time would not be passed. But this essentially still is an issue where we have a few folks on the conservative side to join us and we need a lot more. We need the same outpouring of support that clearly was given for Kyle Rittenhouse.

AMY GOODMAN: To be clear, there has not been a trial yet. She is awaiting trial as they clarify what the charges would be. She has not contested that she killed this man but said she did it in self-defense. I was wondering if you can comment, State Representative David Bowen, on the statistics in Kenosha. You have in this city of Kyle Rittenhouse, the city that sentences and incarcerates Black residents who make up 42% of the state prison population but only make up 6% of the state population according to The Sentencing Project, the highest rate in the country. How does Chrystul Kizer represent this disparity in the legal system?

REP. DAVID BOWEN: Absolutely. You are seeing this injustice across the state as you have the over-incarceration, over-criminalization of communities of color especially in our most diverse areas of the state. Kenosha is no different. You clearly see how much you can have a disparity in the system when a judge in the Kyle Rittenhouse case can act so favorably and lighthearted on a very serious topic to defend a young white man but when it comes to the system trying to provide grace, trying to provide certainty for a young Black woman, how the difference in treatment happens. That is what justice advocates are calling for. We are calling for that to change, and that we can’t have this double standard.

Obviously, you have a number of individuals that claim to support Kyle Rittenhouse yet they are refusing to acknowledge the fact that if a young Black person, a young person of color, period, is facing the same fate and situation, you have an over-effort to try to keep that person incarcerated, to take that person away from their community and to not give them the same grace, the same insight of them acting in their own self-interest. It is so clear that Chrystul was a victim in this case, yet she is being continually treated as a murderer. And she is not.

AMY GOODMAN: Has there been an investigation into the Kenosha Police Department for how they treated this sex trafficker who they themselves had identified because girls, young teenagers had come forward and talked about what he had done? They took him into custody and released him on the same day and said they were investigating him at the time when Chrystul admits that she killed him.

REP. DAVID BOWEN: Exactly, exactly. You also had the prosecution in this case try to keep those facts out of the case. It is so important that we recognize that in the situation, we are talking about a proven history of abuse, a proven history of trafficking and that this situation with Chrystul where she was a minor in the situation not being given the same level of outcry to say that her life matters enough that as a victim, as she’s going through the system, that she is treated in a way where she is a victim and not a premeditated murderer. I cannot stress that enough.

And to focus here on the fact that in Wisconsin, we are seeing cases like this on different levels is also why we are calling for the best practices to be used with our police departments. We want to make sure everybody gets home at the end of the day and that no officer can be judge, jury, and allow the system to be accountable. But it is very clear in the interactions that Chrystul and so many other likely young Black girls are experiencing, they are being treated as less. They are being treated as less than, as they are advocating for help, as they are trying to hold individuals accountable who at that time, they are holding a grown man accountable. And our police departments right there in Kenosha did not live up to their duty to protect and serve.

AMY GOODMAN: Court documents show that there are at least 20 videos that he took of his victims, young Black teenagers. That does it for our show. I want to thank David Bowen, Wisconsin State Representative in Milwaukee and Anne Branigin, reporter for The Lily at Washington Post. We will link to your piece, After Rittenhouse, protesters are asking: What about sex-trafficking victim Chrystul Kizer?.

Happy birthday, Deena Guzder! I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

IN OTHER NEWS: 'Irresponsible!' Kayleigh McEnany erupts in anger over Biden not wearing a mask at Thanksgiving

Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany lashed out at members of the media on Monday www.youtube.com

Here's how Republicans are rigging the next decade of elections

Republicans are set to claim the House majority in next year's midterm elections with help from heavily gerrymandered congressional district maps in states nationwide that could shape politics for the next decade, securing Republican wins even as the party's popular vote shrinks at the national level, says Mother Jones reporter Ari Berman. "The same states that are pushing voter suppression are also pushing extreme gerrymandered maps to lock in white Republican power for the next decade at the state and federal level," says Berman.

Ari Berman: With Extreme Gerrymandering, the Republicans Are Rigging the Next Decade of Elections www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Ari Berman who writes for Mother Jones, is well-known for his book Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. Can you connect the redistricting and what is happening now, a level we have not seen before, with the filibuster and these two bills?

ARI BERMAN: We are seeing the greatest rollback of voting rights since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 and the greatest attempt to reduce the influence and power of voters of color since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, the most extreme gerrymandering efforts since the Voting Rights Act was enacted. If you look at state after state after state, the same states that are pushing voter suppression are also pushing extreme gerrymandered maps to lock in white Republican power for the next decade at the state and federal level, whether it is Texas or Georgia or North Carolina. What Republicans did is they tried to overturn the election, then they tried to rig elections through voter suppression, and now they are rigging elections through gerrymandering. So it's a step-by-step-by-step process to undermine our democracy.

The federal legislation that has been proposed by Democrats and filibustered by Republicans would stop these efforts, would make it easier to vote and would also ban partisan gerrymandering, the extreme gerrymandering we are seeing in places like Texas and North Carolina, in Georgia, where these are 50/50 states but Republicans are proposing to have 60%, 70%, and in some cases 80% of seats for the state legislature for the U.S. House through these gerrymandered maps. Democrats are really running out of time to pass this federal legislation. We are already seeing state after state enact gerrymandered maps. We've already seen them pass voter suppression laws. There hasn't been a Democratic response yet. Republicans have filibustered four different voting rights bills this year, four different filibusters of three different voting rights bills. There really needs to be a sense of urgency to overcome the filibuster to save our democracy or Republicans are going to rig the next decade of elections.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Ari, you write that North Carolina's three largest heavily Democratic counties—Wake, Mecklenburg, and Guilford—will each be split into three different congressional districts to dilute the power of communities of color and enhance the power of white rural areas. Can you talk about this in connection to the—because in previous redistrictings, this would have had to have gone through Justice Department pre-clearance as a result of the Voting Rights Act. The impact of the Supreme Court decision on voting rights that now makes it possible for this kind of gerrymandering, racial gerrymandering in effect, to proceed?

ARI BERMAN: Juan, there has been two disastrous decisions by the Supreme Court for voting rights and redistricting. One was in 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and ruled that states with a long history of discrimination no longer have to approve their voting changes with the federal government. Another was in 2019 where they said that the federal courts can't even review partisan gerrymandering cases. This opened the floodgates to more and more extreme gerrymandering so that states with a long history like North Carolina, they had their maps struck down in 2011 for racial gerrymandering and for partisan gerrymandering.

Now they're doing the very thing that the federal courts and the state courts told him not to do, which is drawing districts in a 50/50 state that will give Republicans upwards of 70% of seats for the state legislature and for the U.S. House, and doing it by diluting the votes and the voices of communities of color by packing them into as few urban areas as possible and then splitting up heavily Democratic areas like Charlotte, like the Research Triangle into as many white rural districts as possible to preserve white Republican power. We have seen that not just in North Carolina, but in Texas and in Georgia and other places where all of the demographic changes are from communities of color. That should benefit Democrats because communities of color are more likely to support Democrats than Republicans, but Republicans are drawing the districts in such a way that maintain Republican power in the face of these big and massive demographic changes.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's go to Georgia. On Monday, the legislature passed a gerrymandered State Senate map giving Republicans 59% of seats in Georgia for the next decade. The map reshapes a district held by Democratic State Senator Michelle Au and makes it lean heavily Republican. This is Georgia State Rep Bee Nguyen responding on the House floor.

REP. BEE NGUYEN: My colleague on the Senate side who currently represents Senate District 48 is the only Asian woman in the Senate, one out of 56 members. It means when six Asian women are brutally murdered in our state, we know there will be at least one woman on the Senate side who can speak about cultural barriers, who can speak about language barriers and who can speak about the fears that plague the Asian American community. just like the senator did from Senate District 48 earlier this year. And here we are, a state—we have added one million Georgians, Asian Americans being the fastest-growing population in our state, and the majority party drew a map that targets the only Asian woman in the Senate, and they did so by diluting the voices of black and brown voters.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Georgia state legislator Bee Nguyen. Ari Berman?

ARI BERMAN: That is really indicative of what Republicans are doing everywhere, which is they are dismantling diverse districts in which African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans are joining together to elect their candidates of choice. All of the demographic changes in Georgia and the South are from those groups, are from communities of color, but instead of having more representation for communities of color because of that population growth, there is actually going to be less representation for communities of color. This is really an effort to dismantle the diversifying new American majority and to maintain white Republican power in the face of these demographic changes.

It is also an attempt to try to take away competitive seats, because Georgia was the most competitive state in the country for the president and for the U.S. Senate. But if you look at the state legislative maps that were passed by Republicans in Georgia, there's almost no competitive districts for the state legislature or for the U.S. House. That's the same thing they did in North Carolina. That's the same thing they did in Texas. I really want people to understand they are rigging the next decade of elections. Election results are basically going to be predetermined for many races at the state and federal level in places like Georgia, Texas, North Carolina because of the maps that are being passed right now. That is how serious of a crisis for democracy this is.

I went to thank you, Ari Berman, Mother Jones journalist, for being with us. We will link to your piece, Republicans Are Erasing Decades of Voting Rights Gains Before Our Eyes and author of Give Us the Ballot.

White supremacy on trial: From Rittenhouse in Kenosha to killers of Ahmaud Arbery -- will they go free?

Kyle Rittenhouse took to the stand on Wednesday before his defense team asked for a mistrial with prejudice in the case. If a mistrial is granted, Rittenhouse cannot be tried again, though the judge did not immediately rule on the request and said jury deliberations could begin on Monday. Now 18 years old, Rittenhouse was 17 when he fatally shot two men and injured one with a semiautomatic rifle during racial justice protests last year in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse is pleading not guilty to six charges, including homicide. While questioned, Rittenhouse broke down in tears, admitting to using deadly force but denying intent to kill his victims, and Judge Bruce Schroeder seemed to side with the defense at a handful of different points during Rittenhouse's testimony. Meanwhile, the judge's cellphone went off while the court was in session and played a ringtone for the song "God Bless the U.S.A." by Lee Greenwood, the opening song played at Donald Trump's rallies. For more on the Rittenhouse trial, as well as the murder trial for the three men who killed Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, we speak with Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for The Nation, and antiracist activist Bree Newsome Bass. Mystal says Judge Schroeder "has pre-judged the trial in favor of Rittenhouse," and "that was obvious before the trial." Newsome Bass says, irrespective of the trials' outcomes, "the legal system itself is an affront to the notion of justice." She adds, "What does justice even mean in a system that was established to strip Black people of their humanity and for the greater part of its history has never really held white people accountable for murdering Black people?"

White Supremacy Trial: From Rittenhouse in Kenosha to Killers of Ahmaud Arbery, Will They Go Free? www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman.

Kyle Rittenhouse's defense team continued to make its case in court Wednesday, calling Rittenhouse himself to testify. Now 18 years old, Rittenhouse was 17 when he went to Kenosha, Wisconsin, during last summer's racial justice protests with his AR-15-style rifle. He faces homicide and weapons charges for fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020. He has pleaded not guilty.

At one point, Kyle Rittenhouse broke down in tears while on the stand. He admitted to using deadly force but claimed self-defense and denied intending to kill his victims during cross-examination from prosecutor Thomas Binger.

THOMAS BINGER: I don't understand. You said you were going to bring the gun to protect yourself. So you thought you were going to be in danger, right?
KYLE RITTENHOUSE: I didn't think I would be put into a situation where I would have to defend myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, trial Judge Bruce Schroeder continued to make headlines after he repeatedly sided with the defense, while excoriating prosecutors. At one point, while the prosecutor questioned Rittenhouse, Judge Schroeder chastised Binger for asking about testimony he said was out of bounds.

MARK RICHARDS: Your Honor, Mr. Binger is either forgetting court's rulings or attempting to provoke a mistrial in this matter. He knows he can't go into this, and he's asking the questions. I ask the court to strongly admonish him. And the next time it happens, I'll be asking for a mistrial with prejudice. He's an experienced attorney, and he knows better.
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: Mr. Binger?
THOMAS BINGER: Personally, Your Honor, this was the subject of a motion. I'm well aware of that. And the court left the door open. This —
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: For me! Not for you!

AMY GOODMAN: When the prosecution tried to show video evidence of Rittenhouse fatally shooting his first victim, the judge appeared to support the defense's attempt to stop him using him a pinch and zoom function, claiming it could insert additional pixels.

JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: This is high risk. And, to me, if — to me, if you insert more data into an area of space — well, you're, what, wagging your head no.
THOMAS BINGER: There's no proof in —
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: Tell me where I'm wrong.
THOMAS BINGER: There's no proof in this record that we're doing that, Your Honor.
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: I didn't say there was proof of it. I said you have the burden of proof. You're the proponent of the exhibit, and you need to tell me that it's reliable.
THOMAS BINGER: The exhibit is already in evidence, Your Honor.
JUDGE BRUCE SCHROEDER: That I know.

AMY GOODMAN: The judge would not allow the pinch and zoom function of the iPad unless an expert testified that pixels weren't being added. Meanwhile, the judge's cellphone went off while the court was in session and played a ringtone for the song "God Bless the U.S.A." by Lee Greenwood, which is the opening song played at Donald Trump's rallies.

COREY CHIRAFISI: And if the court makes a finding that the actions that I had talked about — [phone ringing] — were done in bad faith.

AMY GOODMAN: Rittenhouse's defense team has now asked for a mistrial with prejudice in the case, and if one is granted, Rittenhouse cannot be retried. But the judge did not immediately rule on the request and said jury deliberations could begin on Monday.

One other key point that came up this week during the trial, a pathologist testified that Kyle Rittenhouse's victim Joseph Rosenbaum was shot four times by someone who was within four feet of him. He also testified Rosenbaum was first wounded in the groin and then in the hand and thigh as he faced Rittenhouse, and then was shot in the head and in the back.

For more, we're joined by two guests. In Raleigh, North Carolina, Bree Newsome Bass is with us. She's an artist and antiracist activist. In 2015, after the massacre of eight African American parishioners and their pastor by the white supremacist at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Bree scaled the 30-foot flagpole at the South Carolina state Capitol and removed the Confederate flag. Yesterday she was tweeting the trial nonstop. And with us in New York, Elie Mystal is with The Nation. He's its justice correspondent, author of the magazine's monthly column "Objection!" He wrote about this case in a piece headlined "I Hope Everyone Is Prepared for Kyle Rittenhouse to Go Free."

You wrote that before the trial, Elie. Talk about why you think this is going to be the case.

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah, Amy, I don't have a crystal ball, all right? What I know is the law, and what I know is what white people are willing to do to defend white supremacy. If you look at this judge, if you look at his pretrial motions, if you look at his pretrial decisions in this case — remember, Rittenhouse has been in and around the jail since he shot those people in Wisconsin last summer. So, if you look at all the decisions that Bruce Schroeder has made, they have been heavily balanced and weighted towards Rittenhouse, towards his defense. I see very few neutral decisions in his history. What we have is a judge who, from my perspective, has pre-judged the trial in favor of Rittenhouse and has decided — again, even at the pretrial stage — to use every bit of his power to put his thumb on the scale towards Rittenhouse's side. And that was obvious before the trial started.

I think now that the trial is going on, it's a little even more obvious to people how hostile he is to the prosecution, how much he's taking Rittenhouse's side and how he is slanting the whole case. He's basically not allowing the prosecution to put on its case against Rittenhouse. It's almost like he wants the prosecution to put on a different case against Rittenhouse, and already has determined the man is — that the boy is not guilty. So, that's why I said — that's why I was able to say two weeks ago the boy was going to walk. And nothing that's happened in the trial so far has changed my opinion on that.

AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of not being able to refer to the men who were killed and the other one who was repeatedly shot as "victims," though they could be referred to as "looters" or "arsonists," if the defense proved that?

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah, so, here's the thing, Amy. Any one of his decisions, you could defend, right? Any one of his decisions, if you take it in isolation, makes sense. But this is actually one of the things that racists do, right? It's one of the fights that we always have trying to explain what racism is to people, because if you look at individual decisions, individual decisions, you can say, like, "Oh, well, that wasn't racially biased," or "That decision wasn't racially biased," but when you put them in — when you look at them all together, when you look at the totality of his decisions — right?

So, it's not just saying that these people can't be called victims. Look, legally speaking, they were victims of homicide. That's just a fact. But fine, you want to say they can't be called victims because of the nature of the self-defense? All right, you can kind of defend that decision. But then he says they can be called looters, rioters and arsonists, which is ridiculous. The surviving victim hasn't been charged with looting, rioting or arson. So, calling him a victim is just factually inaccurate — so, calling him a rioter is just factually inaccurate. So, you see what I'm saying?

When you put the one and one together, you end up with two. When you put one plus one plus one plus one plus one together, you end up with five. And that's what Schroeder is. He has made a series of decisions. Each one perhaps may be individually defensible, but, in totality, lead to the impression of a biased, racist judge, with his Trump rally cellphone, that is trying to get Rittenhouse a walk.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me bring Bree Newsome Bass into this conversation. Bree, you were tweeting up a storm yesterday. On Wednesday, you tweeted, "Nothing says 'safety & security' in the USA like a teenage white boy roaming around with an assault rifle. Can't imagine why folks in the street might react to that." Talk about this broader context of why Rittenhouse was in Kenosha, where he doesn't live — he lives in another state, in Illinois — and carrying this AR-15 at the age of 17.

BREE NEWSOME BASS: Yeah, well, this kind of goes back to Elie's point — right? — of who gets to assert victimhood, who gets to assert self-defense. So, we know that, I mean, even apart from the long history of collaboration between police forces, white supremacist organizations and white militias, we have a very recent history of this, as well. We've had situations where police kill someone, there is protesting, and then, in addition to the police presence in the street, which is a problem, we have white militia groups showing up, white supremacist organizations showing up. We saw that in Ferguson, we saw that in Minneapolis, and we saw that in Kenosha. And I think one of the things that is being kind of glossed over here is the fact that that is exactly the element that Kyle Rittenhouse belongs to. I know that it can't be introduced as evidence in the court, but we all know that he was at a bar during this time that he was on release from jail, with Proud Boys buying him drinks as an underaged person, right? So, that is the larger reality.

The other thing that I think is important is that the history of judges who are sympathetic to white supremacists has a very long history, as well. One of the moments that really struck me yesterday was when the prosecutor was questioning Rittenhouse on his knowledge of ammunition and brought up the issue of hollow-point bullets, and the judge actually interrupted and testified. I mean, he — you know, Elie can maybe correct it for me if I'm incorrect — I'm not a legal expert — but it certainly seemed to me like the judge was testifying in Rittenhouse's place and tried to make it seem like the prosecutor was incorrect in the way that he was discussing ammunition. The judge seemed to be trying to downplay the extra lethality of hollow-point bullets. So, that is the larger context.

And I also think that we can't separate — even though the jury has to do so, we, as the public, we, as the larger society, cannot separate what is happening in Wisconsin from what is happening in Georgia with the Ahmaud Arbery case, what is happening in Charlottesville, where residents of Virginia are suing the Nazis and white supremacists who descended on their city in 2017, and doing so through a civil court because they feel like the larger legal system has not really done enough to address what happened there, as well. This is also happening as people storm school board meetings trying to strip Black texts and Black history from the school curriculum. This is happening as there's the attack on voting rights. All of this is a context that is informing what's happening in that courtroom.

AMY GOODMAN: Paul Waldman writes in The Washington Post in an op-ed, "Conservatives quickly raised much of the $2 million for Rittenhouse's bail. After he was released, Rittenhouse went to a bar wearing a T-shirt that said 'Free as F—-,' where he posed for pictures flashing a white power sign and was 'serenaded' with the anthem of the Proud Boys, the violent radical right-wing group." Bree, this isn't being raised in the trial.

BREE NEWSOME BASS: Exactly. And, I mean, again, I think — I'm not a legal expert, I will acknowledge that, but I completely agree, from my observation, that the judge is entirely biased. I don't see how that is not relevant, because if the issue is his state of mind at the time that he is shooting at these people, then I feel like all of these things point to his state of mind. I think that if the jury is aware of that, that's certainly going to place him, you know, breaking down on the stand — I don't know if there were actually tears, but I think that places that in a separate context, because I think, you know, wearing a T-shirt like that, drinking at a bar with white supremacists doesn't really reflect somebody who is remorseful or maybe even feeling trauma from these events. I think all of that is relevant.

AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about not only the Rittenhouse trial but the trial of the three white men who are accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery — father and son. The father in the case was a former police officer and investigator, this happening in Georgia. Elie Mystal, if you can talk about both trials?

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah. So, that trial is going a little bit better, in part because the judge isn't so clearly biased towards the white murderers in that case. Now, I don't think the judge has done everything he could to advance the cause of justice in that case.

In the Arbery situation, there is a jury that is — you know, a jury, so 12 active members, four alternates. That's 16 people. Only one of those jurors is Black. Now, that's weird because in Brunswick, Georgia, where the trial is taking place, that county is 26% Black. The defense attorneys, while excluding — using their peremptory challenges to exclude Black jurors and exclude Black jurors, said that that jury — that what he needed to defend his clients, the people who lynched Ahmaud Arbery, was that his jury needed more bubbas. Bubbas. And he defined "bubbas" as white men over 40 with no college education.

The judge said that he saw evidence of intentional racial discrimination in the jury selection, but denied the plaintiff's motion to — the prosecution's motion to reseat the jury, which was in his power to do, because he said that he was bound to accept the disingenuous answers offered by the defense. He was not bound to do that. He could have — that's why we had the challenge. He could have, in his discretion, resat the jury. But no, no, no, the judge decided that the 15-to-1 jury in a 26% Black county, that that was OK, and let the trial go forward.

AMY GOODMAN: Your final take, Bree Newsome Bass, on the Ahmaud Arbery case? You have the father in the case admitting that he saw Ahmaud Arbery, he did not see him commit a crime, and that he was like a, I think he called it, a trapped rat.

BREE NEWSOME BASS: Again, I think that the overall question here is: Who is entitled to justice? What does justice even mean in a system that was established to strip Black people of their humanity and for the greater part of its history has never really held white people accountable for murdering Black people? Who is entitled to self-defense? I mean, again, was Ahmaud entitled to self-defense? Was he entitled to freedom of movement?

And the fact that we have cases of people being killed on camera or in broad daylight and we're not sure if justice can be carried out because the race of the defendant, because of the dynamics in the legal system, speaks to the larger issue that I think a lot of times people don't want to touch on, because whether the outcome — whether both people are convicted in these cases, Rittenhouse or the McMichaels and Bryan in Georgia, we have not addressed this larger issue of justice. And I think that's the point that myself, that the larger abolitionist movement is constantly raising, that the legal system itself is the affront to the notion of justice, from the policing to the judge to the jury process to the way that the prison system is carried out.

AMY GOODMAN: And also, Elie Mystal, in the Ahmaud Arbery case — and, we have to say, in both cases, you only have one person of color, in both the Georgia case, the Ahmaud Arbery case — he is not on trial, he is the one who was murdered — and in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, one person of color on the jury, and the revelation in Georgia that while the father and son said they were making a so-called citizen's arrest, the police at the scene at the time said they never mentioned anything like that.

ELIE MYSTAL: Yeah. Look, well, first, partially because citizen's arrests aren't a thing. Like, that's somebody who's watched too many movies. There's no such — that's a kidnapping, is what that was called. And so, yeah, when the police actually showed up, they didn't say, like, "Well, we were trying to kidnap the boy, and he ran." Like, because that would — right? But the police let them go, let's not forget, in both of these cases. In both of these cases, the murderers stood over the dead bodies, and the police were like, "Yeah, go home. Good job."

As Bree is saying, the rot goes deep. It's not just these two murderers. It's not just these two lynchers. It's not just these two judges. It's not just these few defense attorneys. It is the entire system that is rotted to its core. And when you try to get people to lock in on that, when you try to get people to dial in and think about real systemic changes to this system to bring justice to more people in the country, they say, "Oh my god! But Toni Morrison's Beloved is, like, in the school. Like, oh my god, I don't want to vote for that." That's where we're at.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think will happen if there are not guilty verdicts?

ELIE MYSTAL: People will be angry for a while, and Black people will protest, and white people will tell us we're protesting the wrong way and hurting our own cause. Sorry, I mean, like that, it's frustrating. What will happen is that there will be protests. There will be anger. We will be told that we're doing it wrong. Nobody will come — no laws will change. Nothing will change. Nothing will happen. And then, later down the line, somebody — after Democrats get curb-stomped in a midterm election, someone will say, like, "Well, it was just those Black Lives Matter protests. That's really what got us." And the cycle will continue.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, let's remember that in the case of Kyle Rittenhouse, he was there and killed the anti-police brutality protesters who were protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake. In this final response, Elie, if you can talk about what has happened to the police officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times?

ELIE MYSTAL: Absolutely nothing has happened to the police officer. He wasn't disciplined by his department. He wasn't charged by the state of Wisconsin. So, the same prosecutors that are — I don't want to say "fumbling," but the same prosecutors that are having a little bit of difficulty convicting Kyle Rittenhouse didn't even try to convict the police officer.

Then, it was — then, the case was reviewed by the Department of Justice, under Merrick Garland — not Bill Barr, not Jeff Sessions, not John Ashcroft; Merrick Garland, Joe Biden's pick to be attorney general — and Merrick Garland decided that no charges should be pressed, there was nothing — no civil rights charges should be pressed against the officer who shot Jacob Blake in the back. So, that man just got away with it. That man is just free — he's back on the force, with his gun, just free to shoot other people in the back that he finds.

AMY GOODMAN: And Jacob Blake is paralyzed. Elie Mystal, I want to thank you for being with us, writes for The Nation. We'll link to your piece — your pieces. We'll link to the one, "I Hope Everyone Is Prepared for Kyle Rittenhouse to Go Free." And Bree Newsome Bass, artist and antiracist activist.

Coming up, we go to the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow to speak with British journalist George Monbiot and British climate scientist Kevin Anderson. Stay with us.

Democrats must deliver on promises or voters will punish the party: The Nation’s John Nichols

We speak with The Nation's John Nichols about key outcomes from Tuesday's election night. In a major blow for Democrats, Republican Glenn Youngkin, who President Biden warned is an extremist in the vein of former President Trump, won the Virginia governor's race against former Governor Terry McAuliffe. Youngkin campaigned for so-called parents' rights — a catch-all phrase adopted by right-wing opponents of vaccine and mask mandates, transgender rights and critical race theory. Tuesday's elections also saw closely watched races in New Jersey, New York City, Buffalo and Boston, where Michelle Wu made history by becoming the first woman and first person of color elected as mayor. Nichols says disappointing results for Democrats are tied to the party's infighting in Washington and the inability to pass major legislation despite holding the White House and Congress: "You can't fail to deliver on your promises and then expect to win elections. And that's a big message for Democrats."

The Nation’s John Nichols: Democrats Must Deliver on Promises or Voters Will Punish the Party www.youtube.com

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In a blow to Democrats, Republicans have won the governor's race in Virginia with the wealthy private equity executive Glenn Youngkin defeating former Governor Terry McAuliffe. Youngkin campaigned in part by vowing to support so-called parents' rights, which has become a catch-all phrase to describe right-wing opposition to vaccine and mask mandates, trans rights for students and the teaching of critical race theory. Youngkin spoke at a victory party in Chantilly, Virginia.

GOV.-ELECT GLENN YOUNGKIN: My fellow Virginians, this is our moment. It's our moment for parents, for grandparents, for aunts, for uncles, for neighbors to change the future of Virginia's children's lives, to change their Virginia journey. It's our time to turn that vision into a reality.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the governor's race is too close to call, as Republican Jack Ciattarelli has a slight lead over incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy.

To talk about the governor's races, we're joined by John Nichols. He's The Nation's national affairs correspondent, author of a number of books, including The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.

So, let's start in Virginia, John. Talk about the significance of the Republican victory for governor, about Youngkin's campaign. And then we'll move to New Jersey, where it's clearly too close to call, though main Democratic strongholds have not been counted yet.

JOHN NICHOLS: That's precisely right, Amy. And thanks for having me.

Let's start in Virginia. And I think that the first thing to point out is, of course, this is an off-year election in which there's clearly an overlay from what's going on in Washington, and Virginia, northern Virginia, in particular, is suburban Washington, so there's a lot of consciousness about where the Biden administration is at and things of that nature.

But once we put that, you know, in its place, then I think it's important to understand what happened in Virginia, and that is that Virginia Democrats chose to nominate what they thought was a very safe candidate, Terry McAuliffe, the former governor. He beat a number of other candidates in the Democratic primary, with most of Democratic leadership saying, "Well, this is the easiest way to retain the governorship." But McAuliffe ran what can best be understood as an unfocused and bumbling campaign, in many instances.

On the other hand, Republicans nominated a candidate who was untested, Glenn Youngkin, but who was very sophisticated, very disciplined in his approach. And what he did was, at once, embrace Donald Trump's constituency — I mean, actually, clearly accept Trump's support and clearly, you know, communicate that he was on board with a lot of where Trump was at — but at the same time, in his overall messaging, seek to identify himself with just enough distance that he could appeal to folks who don't necessarily like Donald Trump.

Now, it's notable, in the exit polls, he got almost one in five of his votes from people who said they don't approve of Trump. So he was getting people who had undoubtedly voted for Joe Biden in 2020 to come over. How did he do that? He did it with a combination of sort of soft messaging about his actually very right-wing proposals and very right-wing stance on the issues, and a dog-whistling use of the issue of critical race theory that the Republicans have developed. And this is obviously an effort to suggest that parents should be far more in control of curriculums in schools and, frankly, that they should be able to dictate a curriculum that doesn't acknowledge much of the history of the United States, or at least soft pedals it. And Youngkin did that in very sophisticated ways. There is simply no question that what he did in Virginia will become a template for Republicans in other states.

But there's also one counsel. While there is a lot of focus on critical race theory and how it was played in Virginia, in school board races around the country, including one in my own state of Wisconsin, where school boards were threatened with recall on critical race issues and on all this, in many cases the school board members won their fights. They weren't recalled. And one of the reasons for that is that, in, for instance, the Wisconsin case, they directly confronted the issue. They said, "You know, look, this is a Republican political strategy. It is an attempt to dog whistle and to exploit." In Virginia, I think the message from the Democrats on that was quite muddled, in many cases. They did try to confront it in some ways, but I don't think that they did very well.

End of the day, if I had to divide up what the impacts were on Virginia, I would say that the quality, the character of the Youngkin campaign did benefit, but also the biggest influence there, in my opinion, is the fact that the Democrats in Washington have seemed extremely chaotic, even dysfunctional, in recent months. And the truth is, they control the White House and the Congress, and you can't fail to deliver on your promises and then expect to win elections. And that's a big message for Democrats.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, John, I wanted to ask you, putting Virginia in context with New Jersey, as well, because I think it's likely that Phil Murphy is going to win the New Jersey race, even though he's slightly behind right now, only because, as Amy mentioned, a lot of the Democratic strongholds, including Camden, which had the lowest returns so far, are likely to push him over. Nonetheless, he was expected to win by much more, if he does become the victor. So, it does seem to me that at least in these races where you essentially had corporate Democrats, in both Phil Murphy and Terry McAuliffe, running, that the ability — their ability to make the race against Trump, rather than for themselves, like, suffered greatly. And I'm wondering your sense of, given the fact that the right-wing populism of Trump is still surging in a lot of parts of the country, what this means for elections next year.

JOHN NICHOLS: I think it means a lot, and I think your analysis is very strong. My sense is that Murphy will win in New Jersey, and I think it's important to note that Murphy ran a much more focused campaign and, frankly, a more progressive campaign, on message and, frankly, on some of his record, than you had from McAuliffe. Ultimately, I think Murphy is probably going to win by a reasonably comfortable margin, not a big landslide or anything like that, but reasonably comfortable, when all the votes are counted. But still, it's much closer than it should be, by any reasonable measure.

And then I'd also throw in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race, a statewide race in a battleground state, where the Republican appears to have prevailed. And so, what you see from a number of states where you've got statewide races, where they really are tests of kind of where people are going to vote and kind of where the pattern is, in each case, the Republicans prevailed.

I think that, again, there's two things in play here. Number one, what you point out, the Democratic Party continues — and they especially did this in Virginia — they continue to reject candidates of the future — and these are women, people of color, progressives — in favor of candidates of the past, candidates who often have held office before or are holding office and are very, very predictable. And at this moment, at this volatile moment, that doesn't work very well.

Secondly, however, you do have this national overlay, and I think it's a big deal. The Democrats have, since midsummer, sent a signal of, "Yeah, we've got lots of big plans. We've got lots of big goals. We control the presidency. We control the House and the Senate. But we're not delivering. We can't get it together. We can't even get our own people together." And it's very easy to blame Joe Manchin and to blame Kyrsten Sinema — and they deserve a lot of blame on this. But there also has to be a recognition that the Biden administration, Democratic leaders in Congress, did not follow the advice of Senator Bernie Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee chair, and of Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, who said, "Look, you need to go out and sell this program. You need to talk about it in big, bold ways across the country so people really know everything that's in this Build Back Better agenda, and they know what's at stake." They didn't do that. They relied on kind of insider, predictable, back-door, behind-the-scenes negotiations. And it didn't work. President Biden flew off to Europe with a framework that Joe Manchin didn't support. And so, at the end of the day, Democrats are in a situation where they've promised a lot, but they have not delivered. And you cannot fail to deliver and expect to win elections.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to turn to some of the mayoral races, several closely watched ones. In Buffalo, Mayor Byron Brown has claimed victory in his write-in campaign against India Walton, who shocked Brown in June by winning the Democratic primary. She was attempting to become the first socialist to lead a big city in decades. Here in New York City — and I want Juan to also weigh in on this — Eric Adams easily won the mayoral race, becoming just the second African American to head the nation's largest city. In Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey is in the lead after the first round of the city's ranked-choice vote. And in Boston, Michelle Wu has made history by becoming the first woman, the first person of color elected as mayor. She spoke Tuesday night.

MAYOR-ELECT MICHELLE WU: We are ready to become a Boston for everyone. We're ready to be a Boston that doesn't push people out but welcomes all who call our city home. We're ready to be a Boston where all can afford to stay and to thrive. And, yes, Boston is ready to become a Green New Deal city.

AMY GOODMAN: "A Green New Deal city," says the new Mayor-elect of Boston Michelle Wu, a protégé of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. John Nichols, the mayoral races around the country?

JOHN NICHOLS: Well, I'm glad you focused on Michelle Wu there. I think her victory is incredibly instructive, and it hasn't been covered enough by much of the national media. Michelle Wu ran as a progressive. She started early. She built a grassroots, multiracial, multiethnic coalition. She focused on big issues, with big messages. And she won big. She did very well in the primary; in the general election, prevailed. I think there's a lot of lessons there as regards our politics, because, remember, Boston is not a city that has had a lot of diversity in its mayors. They've tended to be Irish or Italian, you know, from Irish and Italian backgrounds, for generations. And also, it's a city with some pretty tough, very competitive politics. And so, there you see a Elizabeth Warren progressive prevail, talking about the Green New Deal, talking about economic and social and racial justice, talking about affordable housing. So it's doable, and I think that's an important message.

In the mayoral races in general, Democrats prevailed, but you saw very different types of Democrats prevail, very different messages — some, like Michelle Wu, very progressive; some, like Eric Adams in New York, who have been very critical, at least of Democratic Socialists.

And then, up in Buffalo, you have this situation where — and it's really a notable situation in Buffalo, where India Walton won her primary fair and square. She built a grassroots campaign. She didn't have a lot of money, but she had a lot of message. She is very, very engaged with housing issues and a lot of issues that are vital to Buffalo. She got the nomination. And then two things happened. Number one, the leadership of the state Democratic Party in New York, including the chair of the state Democratic Committee, Governor Hochul and others, failed to endorse her. They failed to come in and give her strong backing. Secondly, a lot of very, very wealthy and powerful interests, in Buffalo and outside of Buffalo, poured money into Byron Brown's campaign. He raised more than $1.5 million — we don't know what the final total will be — flooded the TV airwaves with ads that were, you know, obviously, very supportive of him, but also a lot of messaging that was very negative about India Walton. And you really see a situation here where somebody won the Democratic nomination but didn't get the level of support from the Democratic Party that might have allowed her to prevail.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I wanted to ask you, before we move on, about Eric Adams, someone you have covered for years, police captain, a Brooklyn borough president, a state legislator, and now he has become the second African American who will become mayor of New York, talked about being learning disabled, wept when he went to the polls yesterday holding his mother's picture, who just died, was beaten by police and arrested as a young person, took on the New York Police Department. The significance of his win, though against the defund movement?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I think, as I've said before, I've known Eric Adams since he was just a police sergeant, more than 30 years ago, and I worked with him closely over the years as a reporter. And I think that, you know, his victory — and I'd like to also toss this to John Nichols, in terms of what's happened with India Walton and Minneapolis, what happened with the Minneapolis police referendum, as well — seems to indicate that a lot of African American and Latino voters are not as in sync with the progressive left on issues of police reform. And I think that because the African American and Latino vote is such a big portion of the Democratic Party, I think that folks are going to have to come to some realization of what is possible within a capitalist system and within a situation where corporate Democrats also wield an enormous influence and finances in terms of elections. And I'm wondering, John, whether you see that, with the exception of Michelle Wu, a lot of the results this time around were not only a rebuke of the more corporate Democrats, but also, to some degree, a rebuke of the more left-wing proposals of progressives, as well.

JOHN NICHOLS: Right. You saw a direct test — Minneapolis, where a proposal to really change the policing structure in that city, from a more traditional one with, frankly, a police force very influenced by a very right-wing union to a public safety model, and that lost. It didn't lose by a massive landslide, but it did lose. And so, at the end of the day, I think that there is evidence that there's resistance here.

But I would emphasize — and I think this is important to recognize — that if you look at all of these races, you see an acknowledgment of the need to change policing. It is a debate about how to do so and about how to message that. But I would be careful about saying that, you know, there's a full-on rejection of some of the left's messages about the need for a change in policing. I think there is still a constituency for that and a base for that. It's just I do think that there's going to be some wrestling with it. And Democrats, frankly, are going to have to figure out how to talk about the need to change policing in a way that can build out confidence and build out constituencies.

I will note also, and I think this is —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds.

JOHN NICHOLS: It's just important to note that in New York City, while Eric Adams won big, and for a variety of reasons, that Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, both very, very progressive candidates, won the other two citywide races by equally large margins. And so, I think that we can take many signals from this election. And I do think we should pay attention not just to the top-level wins, but some of those wins down ballot, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you for being with us, John Nichols, The Nation's national affairs correspondent, author of a number of books, including The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.

Next up, we go to Glasgow to the U.N. summit to look at the fight against Big Coal, from South Africa to Puerto Rico, with Kumi Naidoo and Ruth Santiago and leading Filipina youth climate activist Mitzi Tan. Stay with us. Back in 30 seconds.

The Facebook Papers: Docs reveal tech giant's complicity in hate, lies and violence

Thousands of internal Facebook documents leaked to media outlets continue to produce damning revelations about how the social media giant has prioritized its profits over user safety. The Facebook Papers have provided fresh evidence of how the company has let serious problems fester on its platform, including hate, misinformation, and human trafficking, and failed to invest in moderation outside English-speaking countries. The former Facebook product manager who shared the documents, Frances Haugen, is pressing lawmakers to more tightly regulate the company's activities and testified Monday before the British Parliament ahead of scheduled meetings with officials in France, Germany and the European Union. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the leaked documents paint a "false picture" based on cherry-picked evidence, but we speak with UCLA information studies professor Ramesh Srinivasan, who says they confirm what many critics have warned about for years. "This new form of digital capitalism that I believe Facebook is trailblazing is one that is playing with our intimate emotions on every single level."

Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of pages of internal documents leaked by former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower Frances Haugen are now the basis of a damning series of reports called the Facebook Papers being published this week. They show how the company's choices prioritized profits over safety and how it tried to hide its own research from investors and the public. A new story published this morning by the Associated Press finds the Facebook documents show the platform ignored some of its own researchers' suggestions for addressing vaccine misinformation. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg pushed back Monday during an earnings call with investors, calling the reports published, quote, "coordinated efforts to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company," unquote.

But fallout from the Facebook Papers continues to generate political support for increased regulation. After testifying before Congress earlier this month, on Monday Haugen testified for more than two hours before the British Parliament as the United Kingdom and the European Union are both planning to introduce new digital and consumer protection measures. She spoke about the social harm generated when Facebook's platform is used to spread hate speech and incite violence without adequate content moderation in local languages, such as in Ethiopia, which is now engulfed by a civil war.

FRANCES HAUGEN: I think it is a grave danger to democracy and societies around the world to omit societal harm. To give like a core part of why I came forward was I looked at the consequences of choices Facebook was making, and I looked at things like the Global South, and I believe situations like Ethiopia are just part of the opening chapters of a novel that is going to be horrific to read. Right? We have to care about societal harm, not just for the Global South but our own societies, because, like I said before, when an oil spill happens, it doesn't make it harder for us to regulate oil companies. But right now Facebook is closing the door on us being able to act. Like, we have a slight window of time to regain people control over AI. We have to take advantage of this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Frances Haugen's testimony comes as the news outlet The Verge reports Facebook plans to change its company name this week to reflect its transition from social media company to being a, quote, "metaverse" company. Facebook has already announced plans to hire thousands of engineers to work in Europe on the metaverse. In the coming weeks, Haugen is scheduled to meet with officials in France, Germany and the European Union.

For more, we're joined by Ramesh Srinivasan, professor of information studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, where he also directs the Digital Cultures Lab.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! It's great to have you with us, Professor. Can you talk about the significance of what has been released so far in the Facebook Papers?

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: I think that — it's great to be with you, Amy, and great to join you this morning.

I think that what Frances Haugen has done is blow the whistle on Facebook's complicity and its internal knowledge of a number of problematic issues that many of us were alleging that they were engaging with for several years at this time. What Facebook has essentially done, and she has exposed that they were aware of, is play with our emotions, play with our psychologies, play with our anxieties. Those are the raw materials that fuels Facebook's attempts to be a digital empire. And more generally, this is an example of how this new form of digital capitalism that I believe Facebook is trailblazing is one that is playing with our intimate emotions on every single level.

So, these revelations are extremely important. Right now the timing is very, very important for action to be taken to rein Facebook in, but to also, more generally, understand that this is the general face of Big Tech that we're seeing more and more exposed in front of us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor, when Frances Haugen talks about greater people control over AI, what does that mean? What would that look like, and especially in view of the other issue that she raised, which is the disparate impact of these social media platforms on the Global South, on less developed countries, where Facebook is pouring far less resources into moderating its content?

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: Yeah, both are extremely important questions, Juan. I mean, first, to the point about people's relationship to AI, we tend to talk about AI these days as if it's some sort of leviathan, but what we're actually talking about when we're discussing AI are the mechanisms by which various types of technology companies — mind you, which are the wealthiest companies in the history of the world, all of which are leveraging our lives, our public lives, our lives as citizens, even the internet that we paid for — it's basically the mechanism by which they're constantly surveilling us, they're constantly transacting our attention and our data, and they're playing with our psychological systems — our psychology, actually — in multiple ways. They're getting us into fight-or-flight mode to trigger and activate our attention and our arousal, to keep us locked in, and to therefore behaviorally manipulate us. They're also feeding us into groups that are increasingly hateful and divisive. We saw that with January 6th, for example. And the mechanism, the means by which they're able to do that is by playing again with our emotions, taking us to these groups so we can recognize, falsely, that we are not alone in having particular viewpoints, that there are others with more hardcore viewpoints.

So, now if you look at those mechanisms of manipulation, of behavioral manipulation, which are actually quite common across Big Tech, but very specifically egregious in the case of Facebook, now let's look at that when it comes to the Global South. The so-called Global South — we're talking about the African continent, South America, South Asia, Southeast Asia and so on — represent the vast majority of Facebook's users, because here we're talking about users not just of Facebook the technology, but also platforms like WhatsApp and Instagram, as well. Now, in many of these countries, there is not necessarily a strong independent media or a strong sort of journalistic press to rebut or to even actually provide some sort of countervisibility to all the hate and lies that Facebook prioritizes, because we know — and Frances Haugen has confirmed this — that Facebook's algorithm prioritizes divisive, polarizing and hateful content because of algorithmic and computational predictions that it will capture our attention, it will lock in our sympathetic nervous system.

So, if we look at these other countries in the world, we can see consistently, including right now at this very moment, when it comes to the Tigray people of Ethiopia, how hateful content is being prioritized. Facebook's algorithms tend to work very well with demagogue leaders who spew hateful content. And they tend to rebut the voices, as has always been the case over the last several years, of minorities, of Indigenous peoples, of Muslims and so on. So this has real-life effects in terms of fomenting actual violence against people who are the most vulnerable in our world. And so, this represents a profound — not negligence by Facebook, but they recognize they can get away with it. Simply hire a few exploited content moderators in places like the Philippines, who are encountering PTSD, and then, basically, you know, let the game play out in these countries in the world, which represent the vast majority, again, of Facebook's users.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is the impact of all of this on the democratic process? Because, in reality, are we facing the possibility that through algorithms of companies like Facebook we are actually clearly subverting the very process of people being able to democratically choose leadership and the government policies as a result of their being inundated with misinformation and hate?

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: I mean, that is absolutely what's occurring, because all of us — imagine if billions of us — and we're talking about approximately 3.5 or so billion people around the world with some access and engagement with Facebook technologies, recognizing that in many parts of the world Facebook is actually the internet, and WhatsApp is actually the cellphone network. So, what this means is it's actually — we are turning to Facebook to be our media company, our gateway to the world, and to be our space of democratic communication, when it is anything but that, because imagine 3.5 billion people, all with their own screens, that are actually locking — that are unlocking them into a world that is not the public sphere in any sense at all, but is actually based upon polarization, amplification of hate, and, more than anything, the sweet spot, the oil of the new economy, which is people's addiction and their attention. And there's nothing that gets our attention more than being put into fight or flight, getting outraged, getting angry, getting just sort of agonized. And that is exactly what Facebook is doing, because we're all being presented with completely different realities algorithmically on our screen, and those realities are not based on some open sense of dialogue or compassion or tolerance, but based on algorithmic extremism, based on all of this data that's being gathered about us, none of which we have any clue about.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about examples. I mean, you're talking about the privatization of the global commons, because this is where —

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: Precisely.

AMY GOODMAN: — so many people, even with the digital divide, communicate. I mean, you have — the U.S. is 9% of the global population of Facebook, you know, the global consumers, so 90% are outside the United States. But 90% of the protections or 90% of the resources going into dealing with the hate are in United States, Facebook is putting in the United States. And even here, look at what happens. Didn't Facebook set up a young woman — made pretend they were a young woman profile on Facebook, who said they supported Trump; immediately — and this is Facebook, this is a fictional person — saw she was inundated with requests to join QAnon, with hate? And then we see what happened on January 6th. This is when Facebook has poured in all of the so-called protections. Talk about its relation to January 6th, and then talk globally, where they're almost putting nothing in other languages — for example, in Vietnam.

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: That's such an important example, Amy. Thank you for bringing it up. Basically, our mechanisms of sort of engaging with the wider world, even in our country, as you point out, even here in the United States, are all based upon routing us down these algorithmic, opaque rabbit holes that get us more and more extreme — right? — where content that is more extreme is often suggested to us. And it's often, as you alluded to, through the medium of a Facebook group, right? So, any sort of group that has sort of hateful speech associated with it, you know, that expresses outrage, that will activate our emotions — because those are the raw materials of digital capitalism, our emotions and our anxieties and our feelings — that's exactly where they want to take us, because then that basically suggests to us, Amy, that you're not alone: There are other people with viewpoints not necessarily even just like your own, but even more amplified, more radical. So, that ends up, as we saw, generating great amounts of violence and this brutal insurrection.

So, Facebook likes to claim that they are just supporting free speech, you know, that there are some bad actors gaining their platform, when in fact their platform is designed for bad actors to leverage their platform, because they have a highly symbiotic relationship. As we've spoken about in the past here on Democracy Now!, the former president was perfectly symbiotic in his relationship with Facebook. They were very, very good bedfellows. And we see that with demagogues around the world. So, now when we want to talk about the Global South, we can recognize that Facebook can basically say, "Hey, you know, we're just — you know, we have different languages on our platform. Sure, we are talking to a few people in countries like Ethiopia. We talk to a few people in Myanmar, and never mind that they were basically responsible in many ways in fomenting a genocide against the Rohingya. You know, we are talking to people in the Modi government in India, who has said many demagogic things against Muslim minorities," and the Facebook Papers have revealed this, that Frances Haugen has brought out, as well. This actually works very well for them.

Here in the United States, where we have strong enough or strongish independent media, thanks to Democracy Now!, we are able to challenge Facebook in the public sphere to some extent. But in other countries in the world, that doesn't necessarily exist to the same extent. And Facebook can basically say, "Hey, we can just leverage the lives, the daily lives, 24/7/365, of billions of you and basically do whatever we want." And, you know, they don't really have to do much about it. They don't have to actually take really any real steps to resolve the harms that they're causing to many people around the world.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor, you mentioned India, the second-largest population in the world. And the Facebook Papers revealed that Facebook had — some of its managers had done a test of an average young adult in India, who became quickly flooded with Hindu nationalist propaganda and anti-Muslim hate. And one of the staffers who was monitoring this account said, quote, "I've seen more images of dead people in the past 3 weeks than I've seen in my entire life total." Could you talk about the impact of the lack of accountability of Facebook in terms of what its platform is doing in a country like India?

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: And, you know, that hits home personally for me as someone of South Indian descent. I have been also part of WhatsApp groups with various friends or relatives in India that tend to spiral into — you know, going from a stereotype, for example, of a Muslim minority or an Indigenous minority and then quickly amplifying. And I think, in a country like India, which is, you know, in a sense, the world's largest democracy, we see major threats to that democracy aligned with the Hindu nationalist government and also with the growth of Hindu nationalism, which, of course, as has always been the case, vilifies and goes after the Muslim minority, which is just absurd and just makes my stomach churn.

And this is exactly — what you just laid out, Juan, is exactly how the Facebook playbook works. You create an account. You kind of browse around. I mean, we don't really browse anymore these days, but you sort of befriend various people, you look at various pages, and you quickly get suggested content that takes you down extremist rabbit holes, because, we all know, sadly, when we see pictures of dead people, when we see car crashes, when we see fires, we pay attention, because it activates our sympathetic nervous system. Facebook recognizes the easiest way it can lock people in, so it can monetize and manipulate them, is by feeding them that type of content. And that's what we've seen in India.

AMY GOODMAN: So, finally, we just have 30 seconds, Ramesh, but I wanted to ask you about — you have Haugen now testifying before the British Parliament, going through Europe, very significant because they're much more likely to regulate, which could be —

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — a model for the United States. Talk about the significance of this.

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: I think it's fantastic that the European Union and the U.K. want to take aggressive measures. Here in the United States, we have Section 230, which is protecting some of the liability of companies like Facebook from spreading misinformation and hate. We need to actually shift to think about a rights space framework. You know, what are the rights we all have as people, as citizens, as peoples who are part of a democracy, in a digital world? We need to deal with the algorithms associated with Facebook. There should be audit and oversight and disclosure. And more than anything, people need their privacy to be protected, because we know, again and again, as we've discussed, vulnerable people get harmed. Real violence occurs against vulnerable peoples and polarizes and splinters our societies, if we don't do anything to about this. So, let's shift —

AMY GOODMAN: Should Facebook or Meta — perhaps that's what it's going to be called, the announcement on Thursday.

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Should it simply be broken up, like in the past, a century ago, Big Oil?

RAMESH SRINIVASAN: I think we may want to consider that Facebook is a public utility, as well, and we should regulate it accordingly. But more than anything, we need to force them to give up power and put power in the hands of independent journalists, people in the human rights space, and, more than anything, treat all of us, who they are using, constantly using, as people who have sovereignty and rights. And they owe us true disclosure around what they know about us. And we should be opted out of surveillance capitalism as a default.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramesh Srinivasan, we want to thank you for being with us, professor of information studies at UCLA and Digital Cultures Lab director, author of the book Beyond the Valley: How Innovators Around the World Are Overcoming Inequality and Creating the Technologies of Tomorrow.

When we come back, we go to Sudan, where at least 10 protesters have been shot dead following a military coup. Back in 30 seconds.