'Ghostbuster' Bill Barr was the 'Who Ya Gonna Call?' guy for 3 treasonous GOP presidents

The Manchurian Candidate was apparently more than just a movie.

A Russian agent in the employ of one of Putin’s oligarchs was paid millions to run Trump’s campaign and was passing secret campaign information to Russian intelligence that they used to target specific groups of American voters via Facebook and Twitter.

When this treachery was referred to the FBI, the lead agent there was later, it turns out according to The New York Times, also in the employ of Putin’s oligarchs.

And his bosses’ boss, Bill Barr — who has a new book out and is on what New York Times columnist David Firestone refers to as a “desperate salvage operation for what’s left of his legal and ethical reputation” — apparently tried to cover up much of it.

The depth and breadth of Bill Barr’s possible crimes against democracy while Attorney General for Trump are just now coming into clearer focus. We shouldn’t be surprised: like Ghostbusters, Bill Barr has been the “Who ya gonna call?” guy for Republican presidents committing treason for 30 years.

Most people know that when the Mueller investigation was completed — documenting ten prosecutable cases of Trump personally engaging in criminal obstruction of justice and witness tampering to prevent the Mueller Report investigators from getting to the bottom of his 2016 connections to Russia — Barr buried the report for weeks while lying to the American people about its content.

But what’s coming out now is far more sinister: the Trump campaign and Paul Manafort were working with Russian oligarchs Oleg Derapaska and Konstantin Kilimnik to prevent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who they believed was an anti-Putin hardliner — from becoming president. Their combined efforts succeeded and Barr, when he learned about it, appears to have helped cover it up.

It’s now well documented that Donald Trump both solicited and welcomed help from Putin to seize the White House in 2016. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had also been in the direct employ — paid tens of millions of dollars (and then working for “free” running Trump’s campaign) — by Putin’s oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

(You may remember Deripaska was also the oligarch who helped Mitch McConnell win the 2020 election by announcing he was going to build a $200 million “many-new-jobs” aluminum operation in Kentucky — that was then cancelled after McConnell won reelection. McConnell helped get sanctions lifted, apparently so Derapaska could help his campaign, earning him the “Moscow Mitch” nickname.)

And Trump was in tight with the Russians throughout the election: the week before the 2016 election, unbeknown to American voters, Trump even signed a letter of intent with the Putin administration to build a Trump Tower in Moscow if he lost the race for president.

When the FBI got wind of the Trump campaign’s deep ties to Putin, they referred the case to the New York FBI field office, which handles spies and intelligence operations.

But on October 4, 2016, one month before Election Day, the FBI had named Charles McGonigal special agent in charge of the FBI counterintelligence division in New York City.

Apparently nobody realized at the time that McGonigal would also end up in the employ of Deripaska, just like Manafort. McGonigal, who was arrested last week, apparently deep-sixed the investigation, hiding the whole sordid story.

As reporters Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner at The New York Times reported in a bombshell article last week:

“Mr. Trump would repeatedly portray the Mueller report as having found ‘no collusion with Russia.’ The reality was more complex. In fact, the report detailed ‘numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,’ and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.”

As an apparent result of McGonigal clearing Trump, and Manafort working with Deripaska and Putin to keep Russian interference rolling along to help the Trump campaign, 8 days before the 2016 election (right after Comey had announced he was looking into Hillary’s emails again) — The New York Times ran a bizarre and extraordinarily misleading story exonerating Trump with the headline:

“Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”

Knowing that he was running for office with the help of a hostile foreign power — something close to treason — Trump had reason to be paranoid. Once in office he did and said everything he could to discredit claims he was a Putin stooge.

His most effective effort in that regard was bringing Bill Barr in as Attorney General, heading up the Justice Department and overseeing the FBI.

Barr loudly claimed that the Clinton campaign and the FBI itself had been “spying” on Trump, and appointed special prosecutor John Durham to get to the bottom of the nefarious crime.

Durham, after spending $6 million over 4 years investigating the case, found nothing to implicate either Clinton’s campaign or the FBI. He and Barr did, however, during a trip the two took to Italy, find criminal activity by Donald Trump himself, which they then proceeded to bury so deep it’s still only partially known.

But we know of other instances that are troubling.

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

As CNN noted when the story leaked two years later:

“The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
“According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.”

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

Similarly, when they met in Helsinki in July of 2018, Trump and Putin talked in private for several hours and Trump ordered his translators’ notes destroyed; there is also concern that much of their conversation was done out of the hearing of the US’s translator (Putin is fluent in English and German) who may have been relegated to a distant part of the rather large room in which they met.

Things were picking up for our Manchurian Candidate in 2019, as Putin was planning his invasion of Ukraine while Trump was preparing for the upcoming election. In February of that year Trump put Barr in charge of the Justice Department and the FBI.

Once again, reports of Trump’s treasonous activities were apparently deep-sixed by Charles McGonigal in the FBI and his boss’s boss, Bill Barr.

— On July 31, 2019 Trump had another private conversation with Putin. The White House told Congress and the press that they discussed “wildfires” and “trade between the nations.” No droids in this car…

— The following week, on August 2nd, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reported that Trump had just asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a list of all its employees (including all our spies and overseas intelligence officers) who had worked there more than 90 days, and the request had intelligence officials experiencing “disquiet.”

— Within a year, The New York Times ran a story with the headline: “Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants.” The CIA then alerted spies around the world that their identities had probably been compromised, apparently by the president himself.

— Three weeks after Trump groveled before Putin in Helsinki while attacking US intelligence agencies from the podium, Rand Paul flew to Moscow on Trump’s behalf and hand-delivered a package of classified documents to Putin which remain undisclosed to this day. In response, Senator John McCain went to the floor of the Senate to say that “The Senator from Kentucky is now working for Putin.”

But with Bill Barr now in charge of the Justice Department and Derapaska’s guy Charles McGonigal in charge of the FBI’s oversight of Russian spying activity, these reports also appear to have gone nowhere.

Barr continues to stonewall about his involvement in the Durham investigation, including what may be substantial overreach or even crimes committed in the course of that investigation.

While shocking, this was not Bill Barr‘s first time playing cover-up for a Republican president who’d committed crimes that could rise to the level of treason against America.

Back in 1992, the first time Bill Barr was U.S. Attorney General, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as “Coverup-General Barr” because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush’s involvement in “Iraqgate” and “Iran-Contra.”

Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra “scandal.”

Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.

But Bush’s biggest concern wasn’t that he’d have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had mansions) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in the Iran-Contra treason.

In other words, George HW Bush’s concern was that he and his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office, a concern nearly identical to what Richard Nixon faced when he decided to resign to avoid prosecution.

Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him and Reagan, and Bush’s private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel’s office, were the key to it all.

Walsh had been appointed independent counsel in 1986 to investigate the Iran-Contra activities of the Reagan administration and determine if crimes had been committed.

Was the criminal Iran-Contra conspiracy limited, as Reagan and Bush insisted (and Reagan said on TV), to later years in the Reagan presidency, in response to an obscure hostage-taking in Lebanon?

Or had it started in the 1980 presidential campaign against Jimmy Carter with treasonous collusion with the Iranians, as the then-president of Iran asserted? Who knew what, and when? And what was George H.W. Bush’s role in it all?

In the years since then, the President of Iran in 1980, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, has gone on the record saying that the Reagan campaign reached out to Iran to hold the hostages in exchange for weapons.

“Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan,” President Bani-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor in 2013, “had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”

That wouldn’t have been just an impeachable crime: it was every bit as much treason as when Richard Nixon blew up LBJ’s 1968 peace talks with North and South Vietnam to win that November’s election against Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

Walsh had zeroed in on documents that were in the possession of Reagan’s former defense secretary, Caspar Weinberger, who all the evidence showed was definitely in on the deal, and President Bush’s diary that could corroborate it.

Elliott Abrams had already been convicted of withholding evidence about it from Congress, and he may have even more information, too, if it could be pried out of him before he went to prison. But Abrams was keeping mum, apparently anticipating a pardon.

Weinberger, trying to avoid jail himself, was preparing to testify that Bush knew about it and even participated, and Walsh had already, based on information he’d obtained from the investigation into Weinberger, demanded that Bush turn over his diary from the campaign. He was also again hot on the trail of Abrams.

So Bush called in his attorney general, Bill Barr, and asked his advice.

Barr, along with Bush, was already up to his eyeballs in cover-ups of shady behavior by the Reagan administration.

Safire had started referring to Barr as “Coverup-General” in the midst of another scandal — Bush illegally selling weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein — because the Attorney General was already covering up for Bush, Weinberger, and others from the Reagan administration in “Iraqgate.”

Ironically, that illegal sale of weapons to Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s and early 1990s was cited by George W. Bush, Bush’s son, as part of his justification for illegally invading Iraq in 2003.

On October 19, 1992, Safire wrote in The New York Times of Barr’s unwillingness to appoint an independent counsel to look into Iraqgate:

“Why does the Coverup-General resist independent investigation? Because he knows where it may lead: to Dick Thornburgh, James Baker, Clayton Yeutter, Brent Scowcroft and himself [the people who organized the sale of WMD to Saddam]. He vainly hopes to be able to head it off, or at least be able to use the threat of firing to negotiate a deal.”

Now, just short of two months later, Bush was asking Barr for advice on how to avoid another very serious charge in the Iran-Contra crimes they committed to defeat Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. How, he wanted to know, could they shut down Walsh’s investigation before Walsh’s lawyers got their hands on Bush’s diary?

In April of 2001, safely distant from the swirl of D.C. politics, the University of Virginia’s Miller Center was compiling oral presidential histories, and interviewed Barr about his time as AG in the Bush White House. They brought up the issue of the Weinberger pardon, which put an end to the Iran-Contra investigation, and Barr’s involvement in it.

Turns out, Barr was right in the middle of it.

“There were some people arguing just for [a pardon for] Weinberger, and I said, ‘No, in for a penny, in for a pound,’” Barr told the interviewer. “I went over and told the President I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others.”

Which is exactly what Bush did, on Christmas Eve when most Americans were with family instead of watching the news. The holiday notwithstanding, the result was explosive.

America knew that both Reagan and Bush were up to their necks in the Iran-Contra hostages-for-weapons scandal, and Democrats had been talking about treason, impeachment, or worse.

The independent counsel had already obtained one conviction, three guilty pleas, and two other individuals were lined up for prosecution in the case that lost Jimmy Carter the White House. And Walsh was closing in fast on Bush himself.

The second paragraph of the Times story by David Johnston laid it out:

“Mr. Weinberger was scheduled to stand trial on Jan. 5 on charges that he lied to Congress about his knowledge of the arms sales to Iran and efforts by other countries to help underwrite the Nicaraguan rebels, a case that was expected to focus on Mr. Weinberger’s private notes that contain references to Mr. Bush’s endorsement of the secret shipments to Iran.” (emphasis added)

History shows that when a Republican president is in serious legal trouble, Bill Barr is the go-to guy.

For William Safire, Iran-Contra was déjà vu all over again. Four months earlier, referring to Iraqgate (Bush’s criminally selling WMDs to Iraq), Safire opened his article, titled “Justice [Department] Corrupts Justice,” by writing:

“U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in rejecting the House Judiciary Committee’s call for a prosecutor not beholden to the Bush Administration to investigate the crimes of Iraqgate, has taken personal charge of the cover-up.”

Safire accused Barr of not only rigging the cover-up, but of being one of the criminals who could be prosecuted.

“Mr. Barr,” wrote Safire in The New York Times in August of 1992, “...could face prosecution if it turns out that high Bush officials knew about Saddam Hussein’s perversion of our Agriculture export guarantees to finance his war machine.”

He added:

“They [Barr and colleagues] have a keen personal and political interest in seeing to it that the Department of Justice stays in safe, controllable Republican hands.”

Earlier in Bush’s administration, Barr had succeeded in blocking the appointment of an investigator or independent counsel to look into Iraqgate, as Safire repeatedly documented in the Times.

In December, Barr helped Bush block indictments from another independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, and eliminated any risk that Reagan or George H.W. Bush would be held to account for Iran-Contra.

Walsh, wrote Johnston for the Times on Christmas Eve, “plans to review a campaign diary kept by Mr. Bush.” The diary would be the smoking gun that would nail Bush to the scandal.

“But,” noted the Times, “in a single stroke, Mr. Bush [at Barr’s suggestion] swept away one conviction, three guilty pleas and two pending cases, virtually decapitating what was left of Mr. Walsh’s effort, which began in 1986.”

And Walsh didn’t take it lying down.

The Times report noted that:

“Mr. Walsh bitterly condemned the President’s action, charging that ‘the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed.’”

Independent Counsel Walsh added that the diary and notes he wanted to enter into a public trial of Weinberger represented:

“{E]vidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public.”

The phrase “highest ranking” officials almost certainly included Reagan, Bush, and Barr himself.

Walsh had been fighting to get those documents ever since 1986, when he was appointed and Reagan still had two years left in office. Bush’s and Weinberger’s refusal to turn them over, Johnston noted in the Times, could have, in Walsh’s words:

“[F]orestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan” through a pattern of “deception and obstruction.”

Back in the 1990s, Barr successfully covered up the involvement of two Republican presidents — Reagan and Bush — in two separate and impeachable “high crimes,” one of them almost certainly treason committed just to win a presidential election.

And now we learn he apparently went so far as to cover up Trump’s involvement with Putin, leading to multiple opportunities for Trump to extort Ukraine and pass sensitive intelligence along to Russia.

Barr has a long history of supporting what many would call fascism in the United States.

He argued for more prisoners here in the US, at the same time we have 4 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of the world’s prisoners. He authorized, according to Senator Ron Wyden, illegal and unconstitutional spying on American citizens. And he stood by Trump throughout his efforts to extort Ukraine on behalf of Putin.

Bill Barr tries to portray himself as a teddy bear. Don’t buy it.

How is manufactured outrage working out for Fox News?

Tyre Nichols: We’ve Seen Too Many People Murdered By American Police. It’s Time for Genuine Reform. American exceptionalism strikes again. We live in the only developed country in the world where families go bankrupt simply because somebody got sick or went to college. We’re the only nation with a major political party that denies climate change. America, with 4 percent of the world’s population, has more people in prison than the total population of all prisoners in every other developed country together: fully a quarter of the world’s prisoners are held in US institutions. And now we find we lead the world in police killings of civilians. As I noted yesterday, you and I are 30 times more likely to be killed by police than are citizens of Germany or Great Britain. In 2018, for example, police killed over 1000 people in America. In Germany cops killed 11; in Australia 8; in Sweden 6; in the UK it was 3 people; and cops killed only 1 person in New Zealand. There are solutions but they require an honest political process, something that won’t happen this year or next while the GOP runs the House of Representatives. But, still, we should be preparing for the day we have an opportunity to elevate this country into 21st-century standards of civilization.

Can the debt ceiling be abolished or will the GOP dig in on slashing Social Security & Medicare? Back in 1917 when Congress authorized the government to issue special “Liberty Bonds” to finance WWI, they created a ceiling for our debt, largely as a sop to those legislators who today we’d call “deficit hawks.” It’s been routinely raised during every presidential administration from then until 1995 when Newt Gingrich discovered that old law and realized he could use it as a cudgel to hit Bill Clinton upside the head. Since then Republicans also attacked Obama with the debt ceiling and now are trying again with Biden, demanding the administration go along with drastic cuts to “entitlements” aka Social Security and Medicare. So far, Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have gone along with Republicans, stopping payments for non-essential government functions and deferring payments that can be put off. But soon the time will come when hard decisions must be made. Will Biden continue to refuse to negotiate with these economic terrorists? If he does, will Republicans really force America into default, crashing our economy and throwing the nation into a second Republican Great Depression? Will he mint a trillion-dollar coin to solve the problem? Or — my suggestion — will Biden at some point simply call their bluff and order Yellen to resume making payments and let the Republicans in Congress sue him before the Supreme Court to enforce the debt limit, a law that clearly conflicts with Section 4 of the 14th Amendment and is thus unconstitutional? And, regardless of how this plays out, now that Americans know the GOP wants to gut entitlement programs, what kind of political damage will that do to Republicans running for re-election in 2024? At the moment there are no clear answers, but these are the most salient questions.

— Bill Barr was the most corrupt Attorney General in modern American history, both when he helped George HW Bush avoid prosecution for Iran/Contra in 1992 and when he helped cover up Trump’s multiple connections to Russia and that nation’s help for him in the 2016 election. Claiming that the Obama administration, with help from the FBI, had “spied on” the Trump campaign and falsely tried to tie him to Russia, Barr appointed John Durham to get to the bottom of the “scandal.” Durham then proceeded to do just that, spending $6 million and 4 years to discover that there was absolutely no such spying or other efforts by the Obama administration. Durham did, however, discover at least one major crime. Italian authorities tipped him and Barr off to “financial crimes” committed by Donald Trump himself. Durham has not, as of yet, disclosed what those crimes were, and refused to prosecute Trump. But the other shoe is almost certain to drop soon.

— How is the manufactured outrage going for Fox-So-Called-News? Are you hearing from your friends & family about how Xbox is grooming kids over the energy savings mode? Or concerns about the M&M spokespeople? Or gas stoves? When you’re supposed to legislate in ways that will improve the lives of average Americans but instead take money from the morbidly rich to cut their taxes and protect their polluting industries, what do you do to keep voters from realizing how corrupt you are? Republicans and Fox “News” have embarked on a scheme of perpetual distraction with one phony scandal after another. Tucker Carlson complains that female M&Ms aren’t sexy enough. Fox hosts warn viewers that the new “sleep” mode for the XBox game console — designed to save electricity (and thus reduce emissions) — is really part of a conspiracy to indoctrinate children about climate change. And when multiple scientific studies show that at least 600,000 cases of childhood asthma every year are caused by a gas stove in the house, Fox and the GOP warned that Biden was going to send the oven police to rip your stove out of your house. I imagine myself working as a producer at Fox, trying to come up with a new phony outrage every day. Are they laughing themselves silly? Sure seems like it.

Hispanic voters are the target of a new multi-million dollar effort to swing that voting block to the right. Wealthy conservatives are buying up radio and TV stations, hiring staff, and preparing for the national launch of a Spanish language imitator of Fox “News.” Will Democrats figure out how badly this will hurt them in time to get their own donors on the stick (pun intended), buying up stations and transmitters that can broadcast a progressive message? Or will the Hispanic vote continue to swing to the right? More than a decade ago the DNC and its donors ceded rural America to the GOP and its 1500 rightwing radio stations. Sadly, it looks like they’re preparing to lose Hispanic voters next.

How is Chevron getting away with a $75 billion stock buyback after price-gouging Americans & slamming the climate crisis? After spending a year price-gouging Americans at the pump with the goal of hurting the Democrats in the 2022 election, the fossil fuel industry is now spending their ill-gotten profits. Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, and Shell made a record $199 billion in profits in 2022, half again higher than any fossil fuel profit record in the history of the world. Chevron just announced they’re going to recycle $75 billion of that profit back to their senior executives and wealthy stockholders by buying back stock in that amount, according to Bloomberg. Unsurprisingly, there’s almost no coverage of this in the mainstream media, although they were all over the high gas prices leading up to the November election when that information had a political impact.

Fascism Alert! Major corporations are backing book-banning politicians. While New York City libraries are offering free digital library cards to students across the nation, some of America’s largest corporations continue to shovel money at book-banning politicians. America is increasingly being split by the culture warriors of the right into a nation of the educated versus the uneducated, the gun-owning versus the unarmed, and the straight white men versus everybody else. All to gain political power to please and impress the billionaires who own the GOP. It’s a true American tragedy.

Students are suing Ron DeSanctimonious over AP African American studies. The College Board, the group that administers the SAT tests and approves courses for college credit, approved a national African American studies course that was eligible for advanced placement credits. Trump Mini-Me Ron DeSantis is now threatening teachers who try to teach the course, clinging to the Lost Cause Confederate white supremacist ideology of his white redneck base. But some students aren’t taking it: they’ve joined up with attorney Ben Crump to sue the Florida governor. As Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D-63) told a press conference announcing the lawsuit:

“He wants to control what our kids can learn based on politics, not on sound policy. He repeatedly attacks the First Amendment rights of Floridians with books being banned from libraries and classrooms and now throwing his weight against this AP African-American history course. He is undermining the rights of parents and students to make the best decisions for themselves. He wants to say that I don't belong. He wants to say you don't belong... But we are here to tell him, we are America. Governor, Black history is American history and you are on the wrong side of history.”

— Crazy Alert! You’d think George Santos would be more careful now that everybody in the country has figured out that he lies almost as often as Donald Trump, but…no. Santos’ biggest vulnerability right now is prosecution for violating campaign finance laws. Some $700,000 that ended up in his campaign — helping him win his seat — apparently has sketchy origins. Nobody’s sure if it came from the Russian oligarch who was supporting him or from the Ponzi scheme he was running before he joined up with the New York GOP, but odds are it’s one or the other. In either case, he could be looking at jail time, so he recently amended his campaign disclosure forms to acknowledge the money was not a “loan” from himself to his campaign. He neglected, however, to list where the money came from! This is far from over, but it begs the larger question: why is the GOP so enthusiastically embracing a con artist? Oh, yeah, sorry…it’s the GOP.

We've seen too many Americans murdered by the police

As the horror of the police murder of Tyre Nichols washes across our TV screens, we’re reminded again of the crisis, it’s severity unique to America among developed nations, of police violence.

As Nichols’ stepfather, Rodney Wells, told CNN:

“When I saw the police officer, you know, they have this little like stick, this metal thing that they pull out. I saw them pull that out and started beating my son with it. And I saw officers hitting on him, I saw officers kicking him. One officer kicked him like he was kicking a football a couple of times.
“But the most telling thing about the video to me was the fact that it was maybe ten officers on the scene and nobody tried to stop it or even after they beat him and they propped him up against the car, no one rendered aid to him whatsoever. They walked around, smoking cigarettes like it was all calm and like, you know, bragging about what happened.
“He was sitting there, and then he slumped over and an officer walked over to him and said, sit back up! mother — MF you know, while he's handcuffed. So he had to — they prop him back up, and he slumped over again, and they prop him back up again, but no one was rendering aid. I saw some fire department people come out there and they just walked around and nobody showed him any aid, and they're supposed to be trained in first aid.”

You and I are 30 times more likely to be killed by police than are citizens of Germany or Great Britain. In 2018, for example, police killed over 1000 people in America. In Germany cops killed 11; in Australia 8; in Sweden 6; in the UK it was 3 people; and cops killed only 1 person in New Zealand.

The reasons for this disparity are deeply systemic.

At the top of the list is the fact that the United States is the only developed country in the world lacking national standards for hiring, training, supervising, and disciplining police across the 18,000 departments in the country.

While it takes years to become an officer on the street in most developed countries, the average cop in America spends about as much time training as a barber. Many small police agencies require little to no training.

As a simple employer in Oregon, I’m subject to federal oversight regarding minimum wages, workplace safety standards, and rules around non-discrimination. The radio stations that carry my program must answer to the FCC. Most other professions are regulated, particularly those where lives are at stake. Physicians, for example, are subject to federal HIPPA standards, among other regulations.

Not so much for the police. In part, this is because the Constitution doesn’t mention policing and the 10th Amendment implicitly hands that power to the states.

This shouldn’t be a barrier to reform, though: the Constitution doesn’t mention speed limits either, but the federal government regulates them across the nation by withholding highway money from states that don’t comply. A similar solution could apply to national standards for policing.

Another problem comes from the US being the only developed country in the world that allows policing-for-profit, a system where police departments are funded in part by the revenue generated by moving violations and other fineable petty crimes. (Canada does have some limited cases of this.)

This system incentivizes police to make traffic stops for minor offenses and those stops, in turn, often turn deadly because of our lack of the standards mentioned above.

And then there’s the militarization of our police.

In 1990, during the GHW Bush administration, Congress, lobbied by defense contractors, rolled out an initiative based on Section 1208 of the National Defense Authorization Act that made “surplus” military equipment — from high-powered sniper rifles to armored personnel carriers — available to local police departments. In 1996 it was replaced by Section 1033 which expanded the program.

This has so heavily contributed to the militarization of our police that departments that are heavy recipients of such equipment are measurably more likely to kill their citizens than departments that aren’t.

In 2017, Congressman John Ratcliff introduced legislation to end the program, provoking a group of researchers to do a deep dive into the consequences of departments participating in it. They concluded:

“[R]eceiving no military equipment corresponds with 0.287 expected civilian killings in a given county for a given year, whereas receiving the maximum amount corresponds with 0.656 killings. In other words, moving from the minimum to the maximum expenditure values, on average, increases civilian deaths by roughly 129%.”

As Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego noted, the 1033 Program is:

“[O]ne of the most absurd programs in the United States government. Community police officers are not soldiers.”

Finally, the US is the only country in the world where a corrupt Supreme Court has unconstitutionally invented out of whole cloth a doctrine of “qualified immunity” which has, on numerous occasions, protected bad cops.

When Congress tried to fix this with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which passed the House of Representatives in 2021, police unions mobilized in opposition to its provision dialing back qualified immunity and the legislation died in the Senate.

Other developed countries figured this out decades ago.

When Louise and I lived in Germany back in the 1980s, we had a couple of encounters with the German police: each time they were super-professional and courteous. This surprised me at the time, but now that I know that it takes almost 3 years of training to become a police officer in Germany, and the pay and benefits make for a high-status lifetime career, respected by the community, it makes sense.

In America, however, police behavior is scattershot: in some parts of the country police culture is very professional; in others, it’s just plain militaristic.

I know this from personal experience: at the risk of sounding like Herschel Walker or George Santos, I’m a graduate of the Georgia Police Academy and had a badge and license as a private detective.

Back in 1996, the Olympics were coming to Atlanta and the city needed more security for the Olympics than was available from local police departments.

At the time, I was writing a novel about a private detective and shadowing an Atlanta PI, a now-longtime friend named DeWitt Wannamaker, who had held a variety of jobs in law enforcement from being a small town police chief to running his own private detective agency. He was my policing mentor.

The Georgia Police Academy had opened its doors to civilians that year with an “executive protection” training course for people who’d work for Olympic athletes and visiting VIPs, and DeWitt got me into the course. I ended up not only completing the course but getting licensed for two years as a private detective in the state of Georgia.

Many of the guys going through the Academy were small-town cops who’d never had any professional training at all, and I discovered there are a lot of really good, dedicated, and smart people who aspire to work in law enforcement. Most of the top-notch people were working to join the State Police.

I also discovered that there was no shortage of yahoos who were just really, really excited about the chance to get a gun and a billy club and have the legal authority to kick the crap out of people.

I encountered one of those guys in the “hand to hand” part of the Academy’s course (Stanley was his name, and he was from a small town in south Georgia) and still remember the bruises he gave me and the way he laughed as he meted out the punishment.

We are not without solutions to America’s crisis of police violence.

— Congress should pass legislation to create national standards for policing to regulate local and state police departments so violence-prone and violence-craving individuals like Stanley don’t end up as cops.

— It should establish minimum standards for police training and certification, limit police unions to negotiating pay and benefits rather than protecting bad cops, and end the militarization of our departments through the 1033 Program.

— It should incentivize community policing and non-police alternatives to deal with mental health crises and the like. And define specific limits and responsibilities for police unions.

— Congress should also demand full funding of police departments to end for-profit policing. Traffic cameras are increasingly ubiquitous and inexpensive: across Europe and in some American cities they catch routine traffic violations and generate revenue without the need for police stops. People receive the ticket in the mail.

— Given the dimensions of this crisis, Congress could also consider creating a Cabinet-level agency answerable to the president to deal with public safety.

We’ve seen enough citizens murdered by American police: it’s well past time for genuine reform.

Pssst! Wanna buy a Supreme Court Justice?

If you think Republican politicians in Congress are corrupt, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Check out how little it costs to purchase access to a Supreme Court justice!

Conservatives on the Supreme Court famously legalized billionaires and corporations bribing politicians back in 1976 and 1978, respectively (Buckley v Valeo and First National Bank v Bellotti), doubling down on and expanding the doctrine in 2010 (Citizens United).

Back in the 1970s Democratic politicians’ campaigns were largely funded by unions: the movement was awash in cash as it represented nearly a third of American workers. So when the Court legalized political bribery, most Democratic politicians ignored the event.

Republicans, however, jumped at the chance to sell their souls to corporations and the morbidly rich.

In the 1980 election Reagan floated into office on a tidal wave of cash from the oil industry, which had recently been stung by President Jimmy Carter declaring in 1979 that the nation was going to limit its use of fossil fuels to 1977 levels and rolling out his “Solar bank” that was designed “to meet 20 percent of the nation’s energy needs by the year 2000.”

To this day, Republicans take so much money from the fossil fuel industry that almost to a man and woman they deny the cause of climate change.

Now we find — thanks to some great reporting by Jo Becker and Julie Tate of The New York Times — that the justices themselves are almost as corruptible as GOP politicians.

A “donation” of as little as $25,000 can get you “face time” over dinner with a sitting justice of the US Supreme Court.

The neat little device the Court uses to invite donations is the Supreme Court Historical Society, an institution originally started by Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1974. It’s an independent non-profit located in Opperman House, a building on the block directly behind the Court building itself.

Burger started the Society to, as the Times noted, “make the court more welcoming to visitors and to restore dusty old portraits of justices of yore.” Since then it’s become a social club of sorts, with opportunities to interact with the justices themselves for its largest donors (known as “trustees” at the $5,000/year level, “patrons” at $12,500/year to $25,000/year, and “benefactors” who give more than $25,000/year).

And there’s been no shortage of benefactors.

When the Sackler family wanted the Court’s help protecting the billions they’d siphoned out of Purdue Pharma after dooming hundreds of thousands of Americans to a life of addiction or even death, they chose a lawyer who, along with his law firm, had given “at least $187,500” to the Society.

When power companies successfully sued at the Supreme Court to prevent the EPA from regulating their fossil fuel emissions, they chose a patron-level donor who’d joined the Society’s board in 2006.

When United Parcel Service (UPS) was sued by a pregnant worker for discrimination, complaining the company refused to put her into a job where she didn’t have to lift heavy boxes during her pregnancy, they probably hoped they could rely, at least in part, on their $550,000 contribution via their charitable foundation to the Society to help at least a little bit.

Ditto for Chevron, which has appeared before the Court on multiple occasions, and their $190,000 in donations.

After Facebook and Time Warner donated a combined $50,000, their lead attorneys were given the Society’s first “Amicus Curiae Awards” at an elegant dinner.

Around the time Goldman Sachs got a corporate-friendly decision from the Court “making it harder for shareholders to mount class-action suits alleging securities fraud,” as the Times noted, $25,000 went to the Society.

A leader of the anti-abortion movement, Reverend Rob Schenck, advised his colleagues to become donors to the Society. As Becker and Tate chronicled in the Times:

“He couched it as a bargain, advising that $10,000 was enough to get noticed.”

Giving to the Society also gave Schenck, he revealed to Jodi Kantor and Jo Becker in a separate article for the Times, an inside track when Justice Sam Alito leaked the results of the 2014 Hobby Lobby anti-birth-control decision that Alito had authored.

When Colorado baker Jack Phillips refused to bake a cake for a gay couple getting married, his case was argued by the First Liberty Institute, which, the Times chronicled, had given the Society $217,500 over a period of years.

The Court is no stranger to big money. Conservative justices have been flown around in private jets and wined and dined at the homes and resorts of activist billionaires for decades: Scalia and Thomas were famous for their visits with the Koch network, for example.

According to reporting by Alex Gangitano at The Hill, when Amy Coney Barrett was nominated by Trump the Judicial Crisis Network spent $3 million buying ads to influence Americans to support her elevation to the bench. Additional millions came, in aggregate, from the Judicial Crisis Network, the anti-abortion Susan B Anthony List, and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity.

It's estimated conservative groups spent at least $10 million each to get Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett onto this ethically challenged Court.

After all, no other federal court in the nation would allow a defendant in a case before them to fly a judge on a private Gulfstream luxury jet to a luxury hunting retreat in Louisiana and then, a week later, watch as that judge rules in that defendant’s favor.

But Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia did exactly that when Dick Cheney was sued for allegedly lying about his secret “energy group” that was planning the seizure and sale of Iraq’s oil fields as he and Bush lied us into the war that opened those oil fields up to exploitation.

No other federal court would allow a judge to give a speech before a group that was funding a case before them and then rule in favor of that group’s openly stated goal.

But that’s exactly what Neal Gorsuch did when he addressed the Fund for American Studies, itself funded by the Bradley Foundation that was helping fund the Janus v AFSCME case that gutted union protections for government workers.

No other federal court would allow a judge to swear revenge against a particular nonprofit corporation (in this case the Democratic Party), saying in his confirmation hearings that, “What goes around comes around,” and then rule in cases directly affecting that organization (like voting rights). But Brett “Rapey Beerbong” Kavanaugh did just that.

No other federal court would allow a judge to rule on a case where he owned a half-million dollars worth of stock in the company presenting amicus arguments before the court — it’s illegal in many states — but John Roberts did just that in the ABC v Aereo case. As did Roberts, Bryer and Alito in 25 of 37 other cases where they owned stock, according to the good-government group Fix The Court.

No other federal court would allow a judge’s wife to openly interact with and advocate for the interests of dozens of litigants before the court over decades, and take nearly a million dollars from a group regularly helping bring cases before his court but Clarence Thomas and his wife have done both, as recently revealed in a shocking New York Times profile.

And now the Court has gutted the EPA — the agency Justice Gorsuch’s mother infamously ran into the ground before resigning in disgrace during the Reagan administration — using Gorsuch’s own BS “textualist” rationale to go after the agency today.

In addition, these Republican appointees are openly shooting down Democratic efforts to fight gerrymandered maps while supporting GOP efforts to impose them on states.

The Constitution says Congress has the power to “regulate” the Supreme Court. It’s time.

Louise Slaughter proposed legislation in the House in 2015 that would require the Court itself to come up with its own code of ethics.

It went nowhere, and, besides, it would violate the basic premise of law dating back to Publius Syrus in 50 BC, cited by John Locke in the 17th century, and finally quoted by Madison in Federalist 10 that “no man shall be the judge in his own case.” Instead, Congress should write the ethics code for the Court and put it into law as the Constitution stipulates in Article III, Section 2.

President Biden’s Commission on the Courts recently recommended that the Supreme Court adopt an “advisory” code of behavior, but Roberts didn’t even bother to comment.

More recently, Senator Chris Murphy introduced the Supreme Court Ethics Act that would regulate the Court’s out-of-control politicking and conflicts-of-interest. Predictably, it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Last year Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation to clean up the Supreme Court (along with cleaning up the “money in politics” problem they created with Citizens United).

Titled The Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, their bill would bring the many abuses — like accepting lavish, expensive gifts and payments from rightwing thinktanks and billionaires (as Thomas has done) — of conservatives on the Court to an end.

With corrupt Republicans running the House of Representatives, the ability of your average lobbyist or corporation to buy face time with Supreme Court justices for $25,000 is unlikely to end.

But that shouldn’t stop us from calling out the Court’s corruption and preparing for the day when Democrats can regain control of Congress and pass meaningful court reform.

A media ceiling is about to fall in on Democrats

hartmannreport.com

A Media Ceiling is about to Fall In On Democrats

Thom Hartmann 9-11 minutes

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If you’re a Democratic candidate for office in New Mexico, Texas, California, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Colorado, New Jersey, New York or Illinois, get ready: the ceiling is about to fall in on you.

The white vote in America is split, leaning 53%-42% toward the GOP. The Black vote is reliably 83 percent Democratic. But the Hispanic vote is up for grabs: they represent the second largest and fastest growing demographic group in the country at 13.3 percent of the 2020 electorate (Blacks were 12.5 percent, whites 66.7 percent) and, as conservative Spanish-language radio proliferates, they’re shifting to the right.

If Republicans can pull just a few percent of the Hispanic vote their way, they can hold the House, retake the Senate, and seize the White House in 2024. Not to mention flipping multiple purple states red.

Now, wealthy partisans aligned with the GOP are going for that Hispanic vote in a big, big way. They intend to use the same tools that have turned state after state reliably red since the 1980s: radio and television.

Big business was consistently Republican through the 1920s, supported in large part by Father Coughlin, the nation’s first talk radio host, listened to daily by as many as a third of all Americans. But when Wall Street crashed the economy in 1929, Coughlin started supporting Democrats; FDR came into office with the election of 1932 and began hammering what he called the big business “economic royalists” with a relentless vigor.

Between that and World War II pulling America together politically, most businesses dropped out of politics and spent the period from 1941 through the mid-1970s simply making money.

Virginia tobacco lawyer Lewis Powell watched this dynamic unfold during his lifetime and thought it a big mistake. In 1971 he wrote his infamous “memo” to his friend Eugene Syndor, the head of the US Chamber of Commerce.

In it, he recommended that wealthy businessmen and big corporations create a conservative messaging infrastructure to combat what he saw as creeping “socialism,” an antiwar and anti-business bias in both American pop culture and media.

The morbidly rich answered Powell’s call, producing conservative think tanks, publications, and buying up media outlets. Today around 1500 radio stations and at least 300 television stations in America are owned by right-leaning corporations that program exclusively Republican content.

By contrast, on the progressive side there are a few dozen independently owned radio stations and not one single television station that programs Democratic content. The only progressive television network in America is Free Speech TV, which has never even launched an advertising or PR campaign to tell the nation it exists.

Red states are red in large part because their media infrastructure is exclusively Republican-friendly. There’s not a single progressive radio or TV station of consequence in any red state in America.

If the only message you hear all day long is that Democrats want gay people to seduce your kids, encourage minorities to move into your neighborhood to assault your wife and take your job, intend to raise your taxes, and are pushing teachers to indoctrinate your children about the wonders of cross-dressing, you begin to believe it.

This is the key to understanding the paradox that Thomas Frank identified with his book What’s the Matter With Kansas? In rural areas it’s not uncommon to drive an hour just to get groceries: people listen to the radio while driving. It’s the one constant across every red state, all of which are largely rural.

And there are no high-profile radio voices saying anything good about Democrats in any red state in the country. Even the music stations owned by the media giants in red states feature DJs who make disparaging quips about Democrats between songs.

Down in Florida, Hispanic districts surprised Democratic candidates as they swung heavily toward DeSantis and Rubio in the last election. This was because, according to Jen Psaki, of rightwing “disinformation” on Spanish-language media. The state features multiple conservative Spanish talk radio stations and shows, many of which just came online in the last few years: this is a glimpse into what’s coming to a swing state near you.

This didn’t have to be: Democrats surrendered the radio airwaves in 2010. The backstory is chilling.

Back on December 3, 2002, I wrote an op-ed for Common Dreams titled Talking Back to Talk Radio arguing that there’s a market in America for progressive talk radio.

I knew the business because my first “real job” in 1967 was as a weekend Country/Western DJ at WITL-AM/FM in Lansing, Michigan (I’d learned the trade at MSU’s Brody Hall campus radio station over the previous year). After bouncing around a few other stations (including a few months up in Newbury, Michigan as program director of WNBY) I ended up back at WITL doing morning-drive-time news until the mid-1970s while co-running an advertising agency and herbal tea company during the rest of the day.

Two venture capitalists from Chicago, Sheldon and Anita Drobny, read the Common Dreams article and called me up, asking me to meet them and Jon Sinton in Chicago. The article got them fired up and they raised the initial money to launch Air America Radio in March of 2004. (I’d already started my program in the spring of 2003 as a proof of concept.)

When Sheldon’s book The Road to Air America came out, he published my original article in an appendix as the “original business plan” for the network.

At its height Air America was heard across most of the country. The network was on 54 major stations across the nation — most throwing signals into multiple states — but all were leased from Clear Channel, then the largest network of radio stations in America. We had listeners in the millions, got a lot of press, and helped elect Barack Obama as the nation’s first Black president in 2008.

Mitt Romney’s company, however, acquired Clear Channel and, presumably looking toward the 2012 Romney/Obama contest, began replacing Air America programming with sports and rightwing talk. Without “big sticks” carrying their programming, both advertising and investor revenue dried up and Air America was bankrupt by January 2010.

A few years before the end of Air America, a group of the hosts and I visited Washington, DC to ask Democratic members of Congress to encourage investment in the network. Bernie Sanders, a regular on my program every Friday for 11 years, introduced us and gave a good pitch.

But a Senator who would later run for president argued that Democrats shouldn’t “interfere in the free market” and must just “let the radio industry itself sort it all out.” We walked out empty-handed.

While Rupert Murdoch lost over $100 million a year for several years to launch Fox News, Air America went down in flames after raising and spending a mere $17 million. That’s a rounding error when you consider the money Democrats raise and spend every two years during election cycles.

In 2018 the entire Clear Channel network of over 800 radio stations was for sale for just over a billion dollars. I wrote an article for Salon suggesting Tom Steyer or another liberal billionaire should buy it both as a money-making investment and an opportunity to put progressive talk on the air nationwide. The response: Crickets.

In 2020 I wrote an article for The Nation again arguing that Democrats should jump into the radio business with two feet, bringing their wealthy donors along as investors to buy radio stations. It would cost a hell of a lot less than what was being spent buying advertising every two years. The silence was deafening.

Which brings us to the ceiling that’s about to fall in on Democratic candidates.

Natalie Allison is reporting for Politico that a new Spanish-language radio network is both going nationwide and expanding into television, expecting to be the Spanish version of Fox News in time for the 2024 election.

“The network has hired more than 80 Latino journalists and producers,” Allison wrote, “are expanding their radio presence to television, and by the end of the year will have studios in Miami, Las Vegas and D.C. with reporters covering the White House, Congress and embedding in 2024 presidential campaigns. This month, Americano is launching a $20 million marketing campaign to draw in new viewers.

Consider the impact this could have based on these numbers from Neeva AI:

“New Mexico has the highest Hispanic population as a percentage of the total population at 49.26%, followed by Texas with 39.75% and California with 39.42%. Arizona has a Hispanic population of 31.5%, Nevada 28.5%, Florida 25.8%, Colorado 21.7%, New Jersey 20.4%, and New York 19.1%. Illinois has a Hispanic population of 17.2%.”

Without conservative talk radio on 1500 stations across the nation, Donald Trump would not have become President in 2016. He probably wouldn’t have even won the Republican nomination: rightwing talk radio was nearly 100% behind him in the primary. And Congress definitely wouldn’t be in Republican hands.

Messaging matters, but having the messaging platform is step one. Media is critical to communication.

The failure of wealthy people aligned with the Democratic Party to invest in radio infrastructure is coming home to roost again…

Mass shooters celebrate while Republicans vow to protect us from librarians and history teachers

Saturday night 10 people were murdered by a mass shooter in California. It’s the 37th mass shooting this year. We’re 23 days into 2023 and over 2,200+ Americans have already died of gun violence.

We’re the only developed country in the world that unconditionally allows civilians to own military-style assault weapons, that allows “open carry,” and that lets gun manufacturers openly buy politicians (thanks, SCOTUS).

As a consequence, we’re also the only country in the world where the leading cause of death for children is being blown apart by bullets.

America has just a bit more than 4 percent of the world’s population, but, with more guns than people in our country, we have more than 40 percent of all the civilian guns in the world.

Specifically, as a Swiss-based research group found, there are “approximately 857 million civilian-held firearms in the world’s 230 countries and territories” and, as ABC News points out, in America, there are “over 393 million firearms in civilian possession” as of 2017.

About ten million more have been sold in the US since then: we are the only nation in the world with more guns than people.

For every 100 people in America, there are 120 guns. Among developed nations, next highest on the list is Canada, at 34 per 100 people, and all other developed countries are lower down the list than that: South Korea, Taiwan and Japan, for example, all clock in at fewer than one gun per 100 people.

This is entirely a recent phenomenon. Before the Reagan Revolution, gun ownership numbers in America resembled Canada’s.

Today, however, America not only leads the world in gun ownership but, predictably, we also lead the world in gun deaths. As an exhaustive study of gun deaths in the world’s 23 wealthiest countries published in The American Journal of Medicine found:

“US homicide rates were 7.0 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher. For 15- to 24-year-olds, the gun homicide rate in the United States was 49.0 times higher. Firearm-related suicide rates were 8.0 times higher in the United States... Unintentional firearm deaths were 6.2 times higher in the United States. The overall firearm death rate in the United States from all causes was 10.0 times higher.”

Astonishingly, they added, ninety percent of all women killed by firearms in these 23 countries are in the United States, as well as 91 percent of all children killed by firearms.

Fully 82 percent of all the human beings living in the world’s wealthy countries killed by firearms lived in the USA.

Only ten percent of the wealthy world’s firearms deaths occurred in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland combined.

Other countries have gotten their gun violence under control by simply reducing the number of guns in circulation and requiring gun owners to do two of the three things we do across America for car owners: be licensed and register your weapon.

I’d add that we should include mandatory liability insurance like we do for cars: the insurance companies would then sniff out the “high-risk” gun owners and refuse to insure them, thus preventing them from easily and legally owning a gun.

Gallup found last year that 57 percent of Americans, and 85 percent of Democrats, want stricter gun laws in America.

On the other hand, Republican politicians are moving in the opposite direction, endorsing gun violence and terror: then-Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn said after the Rittenhouse verdict that Republicans should “be armed and dangerous” while Marjorie Traitor Greene said, “[G]un rights are the only thing holding back the Communist Revolution the Democrats are waging.”

Because neofascists like these in the GOP continue to try to push America toward armed civil war, opposition to gun control appears to be an issue that animates Republicans — seemingly enthusiastic about seeing Democrats and people of color die at the hands of vigilantes — far more than Democrats.

That recent Gallup poll found “a drop in support [for gun control] among Republicans, from 36% in 2019 to 22% in 2020.”

It used to be that Republicans opposed gun control because of the NRA’s money, but the NRA is now a shell of its former self. Today, it appears they’re opposing rational gun control measures because so many of them are openly promoting gun-based right-wing terrorism on America’s streets.

America is caught in a crossfire between gun manufacturers bribing politicians with the blessing of 5 corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court, and a fascist movement fed by billionaire-owned media machines that have seized control of the GOP.

Mass shooters and child killers are celebrating. Meanwhile, Republican politicians vow to protect us and our kids from — wait for it — librarians and history teachers.

The rest of the world is looking at us, boggled. It’s way past time to wake the hell up and do something about guns. The number to call your members of Congress is 202-224-3121.

New report details why wealthy people really oppose democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s right, maximum wage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their numbers are negligible and they are stupid.“

And then came the 1960s.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, sure enough, it worked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tag, we’re it.

House Republicans are playing with fire

The United States is hitting our self-imposed debt ceiling this Thursday.

Outside of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, it doesn’t seem that anybody in Washington or our national media is taking seriously the House Republican threat to crash our economy if Democrats don’t agree to gut aid to higher education, the EPA, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

But the situation is worse than most people realize. McCarthy’s goons really intend to follow through on their threat to cripple America if Democrats won’t go along with cutting entitlements for average working people and regulatory agencies.

And the consequence, if history is any guide, could well be a worldwide depression that might even throw us into World War III.

House Republicans are doing this for two reasons, both fraught.

First, House Republicans think it’ll help them politically.

And it’s true this kind of brinkmanship will probably goose another few million campaign dollars out of their billionaire donors who’d like nothing better than to see the “big government welfare state” collapse so, if we ever start collecting income taxes from them, they won’t have to pay up.

After all, when House Republicans tried the same stunt in 2011 during the Obama presidency, billionaire investors made out like bandits on the back of the crisis. Warren Buffett, for example, bailed out Bank of America with a $5 billion cash infusion in exchange for preferred shares and other debt instruments with a guaranteed 5% return that are now worth well over $35 billion.

Financial crises — while they wipe out working class families leading to divorce, suicide, homelessness, and poverty — are great opportunities for morbidly rich investors to make big money.

The world’s 10 richest billionaires, for example, doubled their wealth since the pandemic started.

In the 1930s, most of America’s dynastic fortunes grew substantially: times of crisis are great buying opportunities.

Second, House Republicans have no sense of history.

A default could throw us into a second Republican Great Depression that, as the Treasury Department argues, “could last for more than a generation.” But there’s not a single person in Congress who personally remembers the last Republican Great Depression of the 1930s.

Arnold Toynbee is often quoted, probably apocryphally, as explaining the consequences of this loss of actual memory among legislators:

“When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies, the next great war becomes inevitable.”

In other words, nations whose leaders forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

The last great war ended in 1945, seventy-eight years ago. To remember that era, a person would be in their mid-to-late 80s or 90s today, and that generation is dying out. And even the senior statesmen and -women among them who do speak out are increasingly ignored by the House Republicans who view our nation’s credit rating so cavalierly.

In 1997 William Strauss and Neil Howe published The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny, arguing that roughly every eighty years America confronts a severe crisis followed by a major war. And it always happens, they assert, because the generation that remembered the mistakes from 80 years earlier has died out or lost any political power.

— We became a democracy after the Revolutionary War, which was kicked off in part by a worldwide economic panic in 1767-1770 that provoked England to desperately try to raise revenues by imposing new taxes on the American colonies. The Townshend Acts were followed by the Stamp Act, Tea Act, and the Coercive Acts leading to, and in response to, the Boston Tea Party of 1773.

— Eighty years later we experienced The Great Panic of 1857, when the Ohio Life and Trust Company collapsed causing banks across the country to fold, wiping out depositors from coast to coast and exploding unemployment. Across the South, demagogic politicians used the Panic to claim that “Northern bankers” were trying to destroy the South and ultimately intended to enslave working class white people, leading Senator James Hammond to make his infamous “King Cotton” speech in the Senate on March 4, 1858. Within four years we were embroiled in the Civil War.

— Eighty years after the Civil War, Republicans crashed the economy in 1929, leading the entire world straight into a financial panic. That crisis was exploited by Mussolini, Hitler, and Tojo — variously telling their people that Jewish bankers and western powers were mercilessly profiting from the crisis — leading humanity into World War II.

In two short years it’ll have been 80 years since we won WWII, and it’s apparent Republicans in the House of Representatives have no sense of this history and the dire consequences their actions could bring.

The economic crisis of the 1930s led rightwing dictators around the world to attack their fiscally weakened neighbors, assuming the west, preoccupied with the Depression, wouldn’t act.

If the billionaire-owned “Freedom Caucus” decides to throw the US and much of the rest of the world into a Second Great Depression it might, along those same lines, help Putin conclude it’s a great time to launch a full-out and possibly even nuclear assault on Ukraine, or Xi might decide it’s an opportunity to seize Taiwan.

Not to mention the domestic damage.

The last time House Republicans seriously threatened the full faith and credit of the United States was during Obama’s presidency (they almost never do this when a Republican is in the White House, per Jude Wanniski’s “Two Santas” theory of politics).

That single stunt — just having House Republicans walk us up to the edge of default, resulting in a downgrade of our nation’s credit rating — cost the country a literal fortune and caused widespread pain for average working people.

As the Treasury Department noted in 2013, looking back on that 2011 experience:

“In 2011, U.S. debt was downgraded, the stock market fell, measures of volatility jumped, and credit risk spreads widened noticeably; these financial market effects persisted for months.
“From June to August 2011, consumer confidence fell 22 percent…
“The S&P 500 index of equity prices fell about 17 percent in the period surrounding the 2011 debt limit debate and did not recover to its average over the first half of the year until into 2012.
“Between the second and third quarter of 2011, household wealth fell by $2.4 trillion. …”

The US government has never, in our country’s entire history, defaulted on its debt. Neither, in recent history, have most other advanced democracies. Debt default is very much a Third World kind of thing.

That’s why the US dollar and US government treasuries are at the core of the international financial system.

If the GOP takes us into default — even for a matter of hours — the consequences will be dire.

CBS News reports that Moody’s Analytics’ Chief Economist Mark Zandi says it would wipe out as many as 6 million jobs and destroy $15 trillion in household wealth. Unemployment would rapidly spike, he notes, to at least 9 percent and the stock market would fall by a third.

We’ve known how bad it could become for a while. The Treasury Department, back in 2013, noted that:

“In the event that a debt limit impasse were to lead to a default, it could have a catastrophic effect on not just financial markets but also on job creation, consumer spending and economic growth—with many private-sector analysts believing that it would lead to events of the magnitude of late 2008 or worse, and the result then was a recession more severe than any seen since the Great Depression.
“Considering the experience of countries around that world that have defaulted on their debt, not only might the economic consequences of default be profound, those consequences, including high interest rates, reduced investment, higher debt payments, and slow economic growth, could last for more than a generation.”

Back in 2011 John Boehner managed the negotiations around the debt ceiling, leading to a deal with Democrats that saved us from default (after causing all the pain noted above).

In his autobiography, Boehner notes that he passed over Kevin McCarthy as Speaker when he retired, choosing Paul Ryan instead, because McCarthy wasn’t willing to go along with the deal.

“[That] really pissed me off,” Boehner noted in his book.

So here we are in 2023.

McCarthy, whose willingness to burn the nation down in 2011 led to Boehner replacing him with Paul Ryan, seems perfectly willing to try another high-stakes game of chicken.

Although this time, multiple members of his caucus assert, they’re not going to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agree to massive cuts in entitlements and other programs.

And Democrats are adamant: as the White House declared last week, there will be no negotiations with political terrorists who’d hold our nation hostage just to get lower future taxes for their billionaire patrons.

House Republicans are playing with fire and appear to be blissfully ignorant of how destructive it could become.

Will this be our entre into Strauss and Howe’s “Fourth Turning”? Will House Republicans provoke a worldwide repeat of the Republican Great Depression that, history suggests, could easily lead the planet into another world war?

Anybody who thinks cooler heads will prevail like they did in 2011 doesn’t know these Republicans.

If they’re willing to offer excuses for Trump trying to overthrow the government of the United States, there truly are no guardrails to protect our nation from their avarice, stupidity, and willingness to destroy America for personal and political gain.

Buckle up. We’re in for a wild ride.

In the new 'McCarthy Era,' this column could get me thrown in jail

This column could get me thrown in jail.

And the fact that I’m even thinking that way is the entire point of Jim Jordan’s new Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, a subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee which Jordan chairs.

He and his fellow fascist seditionists want Americans to be afraid of them, particularly Americans who may be in a position to identify their crimes and hold them to account.

Frankly, I’d be pretty low on their list. Just like the notorious Republican Senator Joe McCarthy back in the 1950s, Jordan and his buddies appear focused on using their power to intimidate those who have actual legal power. Like the FBI, IRS, regulators, and elected officials.

But it would be foolhardy to think they won’t go after members of the press. Or whatever they’re calling people like me these days: “fake news,” “lamestream media,” or the Lügenpresse in the original German.

The Committee will have the power to pry-bar their way into ongoing investigations, terrorizing agencies and government employees looking into Republican participation in the attempted coup of January 6th and the weeks around it.

They’ve even acquired, in yesterday’s vote, the power to access and use top-secret information normally reserved to the highly-vetted members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Sources and methods. How the FBI knows which seditionist Members of Congress were involved in giving tours or conspiring with Proud Boys. Secrets Putin or the Saudi’s would pay billions for, as they apparently already have with Jared Kushner and Donald Trump.

As congressman Ruben Gallego said yesterday, it’s “as if we gave the mafia the right to investigate the Southern District of New York attorney’s office.”

Congressman Adam Schiff calls it The Coverup Committee. He’s right, but it’s worse than just that.

They’ve proclaimed their desire to intimidate the FBI, the Capitol Police, America’s spy agencies, and any politician who might show the temerity to suggest traitors should be held accountable for their treason.

We’ve seen this movie before, complete with the bombast, threats, lies, and bullying. And it tells us a lot about what we can expect over the next two years.

On February 9, 1950, an obscure first-term Senator who’d lied about his military service to get elected, Joe McCarthy, gave the first speech of a 5-city tour before a Republican women’s group in Wheeling, West Virginia. Apparently wanting to stir up some buzz, he pulled a random piece of paper from his pocket, waved it theatrically, and claimed it was a list of “205 known communists” who worked at the State Department.

Americans were worried about communists then, with some justification. The “communist miracle” was widely acknowledged under Stalin as just another form of brutal anti-democratic tyranny. Stalin had starved four million Ukrainians to death in what was known as the Holdomor, while he was imprisoning his own citizens in brutal gulags. The Soviet Union had exploded their first nuclear weapon just six months earlier, and that June North Korea, with help from the USSR, would invade South Korea.

By the end of McCarthy’s tour that month, reaching Salt Lake City, he’d reduced his claim to 57 communists in the State Department; in other cities he’d claimed the number was 81. It’s entirely possible he simply couldn’t keep track of his own lies.

In any case, no such list existed. Right up to the day he drank himself to death, May 9, 1957, McCarthy never was able to name a single communist in the State Department. But his demagogic claim got him on the front pages of newspapers across America.

McCarthy and his right-hand man Roy Cohn (later Donald Trump’s mentor) terrorized people working in the US government.

Being dragged before his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was a career-ender: over 2000 government employees lost their jobs because of his baseless accusations and innuendo.

In 1950, The Progressive magazine called McCarthy:

“[A]n ambitious faker living by his wits and guts, a ruthless egotist bent on personal power regardless of the consequence to his country, a shrewd and slippery operator with the gambler’s gift for knowing when and how to bluff.”

Even average Americans trembled before McCarthy, who was stepping into the anti-communist game late.

Three years earlier the “Hollywood Ten” (Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, and Dalton Trumbo)— none of them particularly rich or famous — had all been sent to prison for a year for refusing to acknowledge subpoenas and submit to public interrogation by McCarthy’s peers on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Their crime? Most were writers and one, Ring Lardner Jr., had written an op-ed very much like this one in which he noted:

“One of the first acts of the Republicans who took control of Congress in 1946 (for the first time in 20 years) was to convert a temporary committee [HUAC], which had been investigating fascist sympathizers during the war, into a permanent [committee] concentrating on the ... left…”

Off he went to prison.

And now, today, Jim Jordan and his colleagues have that same power of subpoena that was so bluntly wielded by McCarthy and his Republican collaborators when I was a kid.

We’ve been hearing about changes that the Republicans are making here and there in Congress since they’ve seized power, but now the full picture is coming into focus. I worried and warned about this two years ago in my book The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.

For example, back in April of 2009 the FBI/DHS issued a report titled: “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.” It had been prepared during the presidency of George W. Bush, but Obama was now president when it was released and the reaction from the right was immediate.

John Boehner said the report was “offensive and unacceptable” and was particularly outraged that it used the word “terrorist” to, in Boehner’s words, “describe American citizens who disagree with the direction Washington Democrats are taking our nation.”

That mild response caused Obama to essentially pull the report.

But imagine if such a report were issued today by the FBI. Jordan’s new committee could call before it — as McCarthy did in the 1950s — the actual government employees who’d done the research and written it.

Their careers would be destroyed, their homes and families under constant death threat, their lives turned upside down.

It would be a long time before any other federal employee would dare expose terrorism on the American right.

This is how fascists behave. It’s how they’ve behaved throughout history. It’s how they get what they want.

Unless you confront them with overwhelming resistance, you can’t negotiate with them; they keep taking more and more, right up to the point of using violence.

I hope I’m wrong, but everything I’m seeing tells me this is exactly the direction Republicans in the House are moving.

We’ve entered the new McCarthy era, and Kevin is doing everything he can to empower Jordan as the new Joe.

Only this time the goal isn’t just feeding the ego of an alcoholic narcissist: it’s to end democracy in the United States.

GOP treason is stalking democracies around the world

There’s a reason the Framers of our Constitution wrote the word “treason” into that document 7 times and the word “rebellion” 5 times: they knew how deadly rebellions are to democracy when they aren’t swiftly and severely punished.

Sunday saw that hard lesson play out in Brazil, with coordinated and simultaneous attacks — explicitly inspired by Trump’s assault on the US Capitol and cheered on by American Republicans — on Brazil’s presidential palace, capitol building, and supreme court building.

As The Guardian reports:

“Videos posted on social media showed fires burning inside the congress building. Furniture was broken and tossed around, objects were reportedly stolen in the presidential palace and the supreme court, and in some places sprinklers appeared to be dousing chambers.”

Trump’s buddy Steve Bannon, who reports suggest has been encouraging Brazilians to believe the election was stolen on his podcast, told the Washington Post for an article titled: Trump aides Bannon, Miller advising the Bolsonaros on next steps:

“What’s happening in Brazil is a world event.” And, “The people are saying they've been grossly disenfranchised. [The movement] has moved beyond the Bolsonaro’s in the way that in the U.S. it has moved beyond Trump.”

Brian Klass reports at his Garden of Forking Paths Substack newsletter that Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo was in Washington, DC for January 6th, has hung out with Trump at Mar-a-Largo, and the entire Brazilian event was egged on by American rightwingers:

“A guest on Bannon’s show, Matthew Tyrmand, suggested the use of military force in Brazil to put Bolsonaro back in power. Protesters in Brazil have held signs that say ‘Brazilian Spring,’ a term that Bannon coined to suggest that Bolsonaro’s authoritarian thugs were carrying the torch of pro-democracy protesters in places like Tunisia during the Arab Spring. Yesterday, Bannon referred to the mob seeking to overturn the election in Brazil as ‘freedom fighters.’”

Two years ago here in the United States a mob attacked our Capitol building, smearing feces on the walls, defacing priceless 250-year-old paintings, and ransacking the sometimes top-secret papers and offices of members of the House and Senate as they tried to locate and murder the Vice President and Speaker of the House.

Not a single Trump administration or congressional ringleader, planner, or facilitator of that attack has even been arrested or indicted a full two years later.

Donald Trump, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Ali Alexander, John Eastman, Mo Brooks, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Scott Perry, Josh Hawley, Mark Meadows, Ginni Thomas, Mike Flynn — the list of people who, by their own admission or now-publicly known actions, appear to have been central to or cheerleading for the plot, goes on for another dozen or so names — all appear to have skated scot-free.

To compound the crime, many of the people who are today trying to hamstring the House’s ability to function normally are, it appears, themselves unindicted co-conspirators.

Rebellion and treason are not new things in America: there was a time when we held traitors to account.

Shay’s Rebellion (1786-1787) is credited by most historians as the event that pushed American politicians to finally and fully abandon the Articles of Confederation and call a Constitutional Convention to create a federal government strong enough to deal with armed uprisings. They were known then as the Federalists, a name that’s been co-opted by people seeking to turn our nation into an oligarchy.

As Henry Knox, a close friend of George Washington’s who’d served under him in the Revolutionary War and would later become our first Secretary of War (today Defense), wrote to the future president on October 23, 1786:

“We have arrived at that point of time in which we are forced to see our national humiliation, and that a progression in this line, cannot be productive of happiness either public or private — something is wanting and something must be done or we shall be involved in all the horror of faction and civil war without a prospect of its termination.
“Every tried friend to the liberties of his country is bound to reflect, and to step forward to prevent the dreadful consequences which will result from a government of events.
“Unless this is done we shall be liable to be ruled by an Arbritary and Capricious armed tyranny, whose word and will must be law.” [punctuation modernized]

The crisis caused General Washington to come out of retirement and ride to Philadelphia to participate in the Constitutional Convention, where he helped Alexander Hamilton and James Madison successfully argue a new constitution was necessary.

In part because of Shay’s Rebellion — and out of an abundance of common sense informed by centuries of European history — the men who assembled in what’s now called Independence Hall in Philadelphia during the summer and early fall of 1787 made sure to emphasize their horror about such insurgencies and the threat they represent to democracy in our republic.

Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution gives immunity to legislators, unless they’re involved in an insurrection against the United States:

“They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses…”

Article II, Section 4 says that the President and Vice President:

“[S]hall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Article II, Section 3 defines treason:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”

Article IV, Section 2 says:

“A person charged in any State with Treason … who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.”

The 14th Amendment’s Section 4 is explicit:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

The Framers even wrote into the Constitution (Article I, Section 9) that habeas corpus — the most ancient of legal civil rights, one that dates back to King John being forced to sign the Magna Carta on the field at Runnymede on June 15, 1215 — could only be suspended in the United States “in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion…”

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land: every other law, be it federal, state, or local is subordinate to its explicit provisions.

And yet, today, all of the planners or ringleaders of the armed assault on our Capitol — a rebellion at the least and treason by any reasonable definition — are still walking around free two years later, continuing to agitate against democracy and advocate its destruction both here and around the world.

Pundits wring their hands about holding the senior-most officials of our government and their allies accountable for the treason of January 6th. “What about the backlash?” they wail, as if we should enthusiastically imprison asylum seekers but G-d forbid we hold traitors to account for fear it might piss them off.

Republicans in the House of Representatives have already extracted a promise from Speaker McCarthy that he’ll empanel a House committee specifically to investigate the FBI and the January 6th committee in a naked attempt at intimidation and a warning to those who may seek to hold Republicans to account in the future. At least a half-dozen of these Judas-like legislators had previously asked Trump for pardons: they know well the gravity of their crimes.

These turncoats’ behavior — and, perhaps most important, America’s failure to punish it — has now led to an open rebellion in Brazil where Jair Bolsonaro modeled himself and his presidency after Trump and his White House.

So closely, in fact, that Bolsonaro first fled to Mar-a-Lago and is now reportedly staying at the home of a mixed martial arts practitioner nearby. (Congressman Joaquin Castro is calling for his prompt extradition to Brazil to face the possibility of charges of treason.)

It empowered Putin to attack Ukraine and, sure enough, a handful of Republican quislings are already talking about stripping money for that democracy out of the Pentagon’s budget.

Authoritarian governments and movements around the world were empowered by Trump’s lawless presidency and his attempt to replace our free republic with a strongman authoritarian fascist state. Wannabee dictators, as we see in Brazil, are learning from Trump’s failed attempt at treason.

The fact that we have not arrested even one of these people gives them certainty about the weakness of democracy. And sureness that our time on the world stage as a democratic republic is limited.

If the Founders and Framers were here today they’d recognize in an instant what and who these back-stabbers are and what must be done. The timidity of the Biden administration and Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice would rightly horrify them.

In the middle of his second term as President, an aging George Washington was confronted by the Whiskey Rebellion, itself in many ways an echo of Shay’s Rebellion. Realizing the danger to our republic that armed groups of citizens defying our laws and attacking government officials represented, he gathered over 12,000 troops and led them on horseback, literally risking his own life (fortunately, it didn’t turn out as bad as it could have) to put down the insurrection.

When the Confederacy declared an insurrection against the United States, President Abraham Lincoln summoned the nation’s army to fight them, leading to over 600,000 casualties. When he was assassinated, giving his life in defense of democracy, and slaveholding southerner Andrew Johnson became president, Johnson began the process of holding harmless the ringleaders of the Confederate treason.

He pardoned their ringleader, Jefferson Davis, along with over 13,000 other men from the leadership of the insurrection. He issued a proclamation of amnesty for white men who’d taken arms against their country. He even pardoned Samuel Arnold, one of the men convicted of conspiring to assassinate President Lincoln.

President Johnson’s failure to enforce our constitution and the laws of this nation echo to this day. They inspired the “Lost Cause” mythology which informs the Benedict Arnolds in today’s political and media worlds.

As Rachel Maddow documented so brilliantly in her Ultra podcast, when members of the House and Senate took money from Hitler in the 1930s and 1940s to do the Nazis’ bidding and were eventually found out, the Truman administration’s DOJ basically let them get away with it.

When Richard Nixon committed treason in 1968, telling the South Vietnamese not to go along with a peace deal President Johnson had negotiated, he did it so Vice President Hubert Humphrey — Nixon’s 1968 presidential election opponent — couldn’t take credit for ending the war. Johnson was informed by the FBI but went to his grave with the secret.

When Ronald Reagan’s campaign cut a deal with the Iranian ayatollahs to hold their American hostages until after the election so he could destroy President Carter as “weak,” nobody made a serious effort to hold him or officials in his campaign accountable. Even after Iran’s then-president, Abolhassan Banisadr, came to America and published an account of Reagan’s 1980 treason, no officials called for accountability.

When George W. Bush’s brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, cancelled the voter registrations of around 80,000 African American voters in that state in the months leading up to the election of 2000 and it was widely publicized on BBC and other media, nobody demanded either of the Bush brothers pay a price for their sedition.

The Republican Chief Justice of the Supreme Court even put his stamp of approval on Jeb’s un-American action, writing in his decision in Bush v Gore that the statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court must stop (so much for the 10th Amendment):

“The counting of votes … does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner [George W. Bush], and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election.”

Now it’s Donald Trump and his wealthy and powerful allies who put American democracy in the crosshairs and, if history repeats itself, will not be held to account or, at most, will receive a slap on the hand.

This willingness to brook rebellion is not just hurting America. It’s threatening democracies all around the world.

And it’s damn well past time that the people who conceived and ordered and facilitated this crime against all the rest of us and the world are held to account in a meaningful way.

Is the anti-McCarthy crowd in the bag for the billionaires, Putin or both?

Amazingly, it’s the second anniversary of January 6th and we’re still talking about an ongoing attempt to sabotage the American government.

Yesterday, I argued that the Freedom Caucus members and their handful of compatriots voting against Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House may have been doing so because the rightwing billionaires who back them want to roll back FDR’s “big government” in America.

Now comes investigative journalist Dave Troy noting that America’s rightwing billionaires aren’t the only ones who want the US government to fail. So does Vladimir Putin.

And most of those voting against McCarthy not only appear to be in the bag for the billionaires but for Putin as well.

Troy argues that Russia endured a terrible default crisis in 1998 and would like nothing more than to see the US go through the same:

“Putin and others in his milieu well-remember what Russia defaulting on its debt was like in 1998. Now it seems they feel like it's payback time, as many of them feel that default was something engineered by the US between 1989-1998.”

There’s absolutely no doubt that a default by the United States would cripple our economy and lead to a crisis not seen since the Republican Great Depression.

CBS News reports that Moody’s Analytics’ Chief Economist Mark Zandi says it would nearly instantly wipe out as many as 6 million jobs and destroy $15 trillion in household wealth. Unemployment would rapidly spike to at least 9 percent and the stock market would fall by a third.

But is it possible that’s actually the goal of the anti-McCarthy crowd? And, if so, why or on whose behalf?

Does this have something to do with Kevin McCarthy, in 2016, coming right out and saying that he believed Donald Trump was on Putin‘s payroll?

Back in 2011, the last time Republicans played chicken with our national debt by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, our nation’s credit was downgraded, leading to higher borrowing costs and economic weakness that continued into the 2012 election year, badly (but not fatally) damaging Democrats and Obama’s re-election chances.

Had Republicans not blinked at the last minute and given in to lifting the debt ceiling so the Treasury could pay bills run up by Congress years before, we would have defaulted and the shattering consequences would still be felt today. It’s hard to overstate how much damage it would have done to America, American businesses, and American families.

But are the Republicans fighting against McCarthy really planning a repeat of blocking the debt ceiling only, this time, actually destroying our nation’s creditworthiness? Could they be that psychopathic?

And, if so, are they doing it because their billionaire sponsors think we should shut down most government agencies that support the middle class and the poor, or because Putin is supporting such an effort?

Or both?

Ryan Grim reported Wednesday in The Intercept that when insurrectionist Congressman Ralph Norman was asked if he and his colleagues actually intended to force McCarthy (or any other Speaker) to “shut down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling,” Norman replied:

“That’s a non-negotiable item.”

When asked if he was talking about shutting down the government or actually defaulting on the debt, Norman said:

“That’s why you need to be planning now what agencies — what path you’re gonna take now to trim government. Tell the programs you’re going to get to this number. And you do that before chairs are picked.”

Norman was explaining that if Biden and Congress don’t agree to kill off the federal agencies he and his buddies don’t like — HHS? FBI? EPA? SEC? FEC? — they will destroy America’s full faith and credit in the eyes of the world this summer when we hit the debt ceiling.

Troy argues this is all a continuation of Trump’s January 6th coup attempt and his desire to convert America from a democracy and ally of democracies around the world into a despotic strongman-rule nation aligned with Putin’s Russia:

“It's becoming clear now: This is January 6th, Episode II. The Freedom Caucus is demanding debt default, which will spark a ~$15T global financial crisis. COVID was ~$4T. This will only help Putin and his BRICS+/GGC allies.”

Skeptical but curious, I plugged the names of each of the 20 Republicans who voted against McCarthy in the first vote yesterday into a search engine along with the word “Russia.” Here’s what I found about 15 of them:

Andy Biggs voted against legislation to document Russian war crimes in Ukraine, as did Paul Gosar and Scott Perry.
Matt Gaetz, Dan Bishop, Paul Gosar, Ralph Norman, and Scott Perry all voted against suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus.
Dan Bishop, Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, and Chip Roy all voted against a bill to ban imports of Russian oil and gas.
Those four also voted against legislation to strip Russia from “most favored nation status” by the World Trade Organization.
Paul Gosar and Matt Rosendale both voted against a resolution that reaffirmed US support for Ukrainian sovereignty.
John Brecheen is new to Congress, but when asked by his local newspaper about whether America should support Ukraine against the Russian invasion he replied, “My position is I would not have voted for funding of war.”
Michael Cloud tweeted: “The Biden Admin has ignored a year-long invasion at our southern border but is considering risking the lives of U.S. soldiers to protect Ukraine's border? Ukraine is thousands of miles away.”
Voting against Sweden and Finland joining NATO, a pet Putin peeve, were Michael Cloud, Andy Biggs, Dan Bishop, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good, Ralph Norman, and Chip Roy.
Eli Crane says of the US supporting Ukraine, “This is a war we shouldn’t be involved in,” and it will make the Afghanistan exit “look like child’s play.”
Matt Gaetz tweeted: “Today the House didn't organize. Biggest loser: Zelensky. Biggest winner: U.S. Taxpayers.” He also tweeted: “I’m more concerned with the US-Mexico border than the Russia-Ukraine border. Not sorry.”
Opposing US aid to Ukraine, Matt Gaetz told a CPAC audience: “Why should Americans have to pay the costs for freedom elsewhere when our own leaders won't stand up for our freedom here?”
Paul Gosar tweeted: “Ukraine is not our ally. Russia is not our enemy. We need to address our crippling debt, inflation and immigration problems. None of this is Putin's fault.”
Paul Gosar wrote an open letter to the White House asking President Biden to “refrain from participating in its annually recurring nuclear exercise ‘Steadfast Noon’ in conjunction with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to ‘prevent further escalation.’”
Paul Gosar tweeted: “Putin puts Russia first as he should.”
Mary Miller, Bob Good, Ralph Norman, Andy Biggs, and Matt Gaetz co-sponsored legislation to forbid any further delivery of military equipment to Ukraine.
Mary Miller tweeted: “I will vote NO on sending additional money to Ukraine…”
Ralph Norman, who called for Trump to impose “Marshall law” to prevent Biden from being sworn in, first issued a statement on day one of the invasion of Ukraine condemning Russia but then voted “No” on US aid to Ukraine in September and continues to oppose such aid.
Scott Perry voted against aid to Ukraine.
Matt Rosendale issued a statement saying: “The United States has no legal or moral obligation to come to the aid of either side in this foreign conflict.” He voted against a resolution “supporting the people of Ukraine.” He also introduced legislation blocking any US aid to Ukraine.
Byron Donalds voted against US aid to Ukraine.
There were five exceptions. Andrew Clyde, Bob Good, and Andy Harris all publicly support Ukraine against Russia. Keith Self is new to Congress but told his hometown paper he thinks the US should support Ukraine so long as American soldiers don’t get involved. And Andy Ogles is also new to Congress and doesn’t appear to have ever stated a position on the issue.

While none of this proves that the anti-McCarthy forces are getting their marching orders from Putin, it does raise some significant questions about their commitment to the continuation of the current form and nature of our government. I think Dave Troy’s idea is worth taking seriously.

Because the outcome he contemplates is something both the rightwing billionaires and Putin could get behind

The real reason the Freedom Caucus hates Kevin McCarthy is larger than you think

While Kevin McCarthy’s struggle to become Speaker of the House of Representatives appears to be about personality and struggles within the House Republican caucus, it’s really about something much larger: the fate and future of American “big government” and the middle class it created.

Ever since the Reagan Revolution, the phrase “big government” has been on the lips of Republican politicians. They utter it like a curse at every opportunity.

It seems paradoxical: Republicans complain about “big government,” but then go on to support more and more government money for expanding prisons and a bloated Pentagon budget. Once you understand their worldview, however, it all makes perfect sense.

First, some background.

From the founding of our republic through the early 1930s the American middle class was relatively small. It was almost entirely made up of the professional and mercantile class: doctors, lawyers, shop-owners and the like. Only a tiny percentage of Americans were what we would today call middle class.

Factory workers, farmers, carpenters, plumbers, and pretty much all manner of “unskilled laborers” were the working poor rather than the middle class. Most neighborhoods across America had a quality of life even lower than what today we would call “ghettos.”

As recently as 1900, for example, women couldn’t vote, senators were appointed by the wealthiest power brokers in the states, and poverty stalked America.

There was no minimum wage; when workers tried to organize unions, police would help employers beat or even murder their ringleaders; and social safety net programs like unemployment insurance, Social Security, public schools, Medicare, food and housing supports, and Medicaid didn’t exist.

There was no income tax to pay for such programs, and federal receipts were a mere 3 percent of GDP (today its around 20 percent). As the President’s Council of Economic Advisors noted in their 2000 Annual Report:

“To appreciate how far we have come, it is instructive to look back on what American life was like in 1900. At the turn of the century, fewer than 10 percent of homes had electricity, and fewer than 2 percent of people had telephones. An automobile was a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford.
“Many women still sewed their own clothes and gave birth at home. Because chlorination had not yet been introduced and water filtration was rare, typhoid fever, spread by contaminated water, was a common affliction. One in 10 children died in infancy. Average life expectancy in the United States was a mere 47 years.
“Fewer than 14 percent of Americans graduated from high school. ... Widowhood was far more common than divorce. The average household had close to five members, and a fifth of all households had seven or more. …
“Average income per capita, in 1999 dollars, was about $4,200. … The typical workweek in manufacturing was about 50 hours, 20 percent longer than the average today.”

The Republican Great Depression of the 1930s, though, was a huge wake-up call for American voters, answered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

His New Deal programs brought us, for the first time, “big government” and the people loved it. They elected him President of the United States four times!

FDR created Social Security, unemployment insurance, guaranteed the right to unionize, outlawed child labor, regulated big business by creating the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other agencies, and funded infrastructure across the country from roads to bridges to dams and power stations.

He raised taxes on the morbidly rich all the way up to 90% and used that money to build schools and hospitals across the nation. He brought electricity to rural parts of the country, and put literally millions to work in various “big government” programs.

“Big government,” in other words, created the modern American middle-class.

By the 1950s a strong middle class representing almost half of Americans had emerged for the first time in American history.

By the late 1970s it was around 65 percent of us.

And that’s when the billionaires (then merely multimillionaires) decided enough was enough and got to work.

In 1980, David Koch ran for vice president with the Libertarian Party, an organization created by the real estate lobby to give an air of legitimacy to their efforts to outlaw rent control and end government regulation of their industry.

His platform included a whole series of positions that were specifically designed to roll back and gut FDR’s “big government” programs (along with those added on by both Nixon and LBJ’s Great Society) that had created and then sustained America’s 20th century middle class:

— “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.
— “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.
— “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.
— “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.
— “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.
— “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service.
— “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.
— “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.
— “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.
— “We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.
— “We advocate the complete separation of education and State. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.
— “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.
— “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.
— “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
— “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.
— “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.
— “We demand the return of America’s railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.
— “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called ‘self-protection’ equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.
— “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.
— “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.
— “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.
— “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.
— “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.
— “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
— “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
— “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”

Today’s challenges to Kevin McCarthy are mostly coming from members of the Republican House Freedom Caucus, pretty much a reinvention of the Tea Party Caucus, funded in substantial part by rightwing billionaires and CEOs who share the late David Koch’s worldview.

The world is made up of “makers” and “takers,” they’ll tell you. The billionaire “job creators” shouldn’t be taxed to support the “moochers” who demand everything from union rights to a living wage to free college.

Why, these Freedom Caucus members ask, should their billionaire patrons be forced — at the barrel of an IRS agent’s gun! — to pay taxes to support the ungrateful masses through “big government” programs? Isn’t it up to each of us to make our own fortunes? Wasn’t Darwin right?

These Republicans believe our government should really only have a few simple mandates: maintain a strong military, tough cops, and a court system to protect their economic empires.

That’s why they’ll support massive prison expansions and nosebleed levels of pentagon spending but (metaphorically) fight to the death to prevent an expansion of Social Security or food stamps.

And that’s why they hate Kevin McCarthy.

In the past, McCarthy has shown a willingness to compromise and negotiate with Democrats. Most recently, as Congressman Chip Roy pointed out on the House floor yesterday when nominating Byron Donalds to replace McCarthy, he failed to block the $1.7 trillion omnibus bill through Congress that was loaded with what rightwing billionaires consider “freebies” for “taker” and “moocher” Americans.

It appears all or nearly all of the Freedom Caucus members, dancing to the tune first played by David Koch, don’t believe in our current form of American government. They want us to go back to the pre-1930s America, before FDR’s New Deal.

Those were the halcyon days when workers cowered before their employers, women and minorities knew their places, and government didn’t interfere with the business of dynasty-building even when it meant poisoning entire communities and crushing small businesses.

They appear to agree with the majority of the Supreme Court Republicans who recently began dismantling the “big government” administrative state by ending the EPA’s power to regulate greenhouse gasses.

They’ve already succeeded, over the past 40 years of the Reagan Revolution, at whittling the middle class down from 65 percent of us to around 45 percent of us: NPR commemorated it in 2015 with the headline: “The Tipping Point: Most Americans No Longer Are Middle Class.” Now they want even more poverty for workers and more riches for their morbidly rich funders.

They’ve announced, along with other Republicans, that once they get their act together in Congress with a new speaker, their first order of business is going to be to cut more taxes on billionaires.

While the battle for House Speaker appears to be about personality, it’s really about ideology and policy. It’s about the future of “big government” and whether or not we will continue to have an American middle class.

And as long as Libertarian-leaning billionaires continue pouring cash into the campaigns and lifestyles of Republican members of Congress, this battle that’s been going on for over 40 years to tear apart the American middle-class is not going to end or go away any day soon.

When will Republican voters wake up to their own oppression?

When will Republican voters figure out how badly they’re getting screwed by Republican politicians?

— Desperate workers struggle with soaring rents (courtesy of Republican-donor hedge funds);
— lack of healthcare (12 GOP-controlled states still refuse to expand Medicaid for under-$15,000/year workers) is literally killing Americans;
— wages have flatlined since Reagan declared war on workers in 1981 while the merely rich have become the morbidly rich;
— Americans pay 10 times as much as Canadians for some drugs because Republicans block any effort to bring competition to that marketplace;
— at the same time Trump and his GOP buddies in the House and Senate borrowed $1.7 trillion to fund a tax giveaway to his billionaire buddies, student debt passed the $1.7 trillion mark…

Yet somehow the “conservative” base voters never seem to figure it out. Why?

Most Republican voters don’t think much about it, but there are two very distinct layers to the GOP. It’s like a pyramid with a capstone at the very top.

The vast base of the pyramid are the white voters who Richard Nixon invited into the party after the Democrats embraced racial equality in 1964/1965 with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

They mostly live in all-white neighborhoods, attend all-white churches, and send their kids to all-white schools. While most aren’t the Confederate-flag-toting “out and open” racists like the folks who showed up at the Capitol on January 6th, they’re nonetheless “uncomfortable” with nonwhite people. It’s their “culture,” they’ll tell you.

At the tippy-top of the pyramid, it’s capstone, are the handful of white billionaires who answered Lewis Powell’s 1971 call to get active and seize control of America’s political institutions.

They’ve funded think tanks in every state and at the federal level, sponsor anti-labor economics and political science professors in our colleges and universities, lever judges into positions all the way up to the Supreme Court, and pour a seemingly unending river of cash into Republican candidates for office.

These elite of the GOP live insular lives in their mansions with servants’ quarters and private security, travel on private jets, and vacation on private islands or their own personal super-yachts. They don’t really care that much about race because it’s not an issue in their daily lives: the people who enter the circle around them and their families are tightly regulated.

These conservative elite often own or are descended from the owners of America’s largest and most profitable businesses. Their issues, therefore, are their own income taxes and the regulation of their companies’ behavior.

They understand that Voltaire was dead serious when he said, “The comfort of the rich depends on an abundant supply of the poor.”

To keep their taxes low they fund movements to privatize public schools, gut “entitlements,” and oppose any sort of “welfare” aid to working class or poor people. To keep their businesses “free of government interference” they pay off politicians and hire judges to destroy unions, kneecap regulations, and spiff “conservative” media celebrities who lionized them as “job creators” and “geniuses.”

You’d think the white base of the GOP would have figured out by now that the Republican elite are more interested in keeping their wages down than having them as neighbors, but the “Makers” of the party have executed a brilliant strategy to keep their own taxes low and profits high while suppressing the “Takers’” wages and benefits among the party’s base.

Truth be told, many in the GOP base were beginning to figure this out by the end of the disastrous presidency of trust-fund-baby George W. Bush.

He’d begun the privatization of Medicare with his Medicare Advantage scam in 2003; lied us into two unnecessary and illegal wars; borrowed around $4 trillion to fund a massive tax cut for his donors, family, and friends; and to top it all off was only in the White House because his brother was governor of Florida and threw 80,000 Black voters off the rolls just months before the 2000 election…and still needed his father’s friends on the Supreme Court to get him into office.

Bush Junior was also the least racist of the Republican presidents since Nixon, and put two Black people at the top of the State Department: many in the white GOP base never forgave him for Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice.

All in all, most Americans — including a substantial margin of Republican voters — were done and over with Bush and the metaphorical horse he rode in on (as much as he wanted to emulate Reagan, Bush is afraid of horses which is why his Texas election-prop “ranch” was an old pig farm).

Combine that dynamic with Barack Obama being one of the most gifted political orators of the 21st century and in 2008 a Black man became President of the United States for the first time in history.

Obama’s ascension to the highest office in the land was a gift to the morbidly rich funders of the GOP: a “Black liberal from Chicago” being president broke the brains of the most reliable part of the GOP base.

The billionaires leaped to the opportunity. Resurrecting a meme from the tobacco industry’s “smoker’s rights” scam of the 1990s, they rolled out the 2009 version of the Tea Party, complete with millions of dollars to pay for buses, staged events, and well-funded PR operations to get it all into the media every day.

While the foreground was “taxed enough already” and “death panels,” the background was “Black man in the White House wants to give your tax dollars to his Black friends.” It was Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” all over again, only in a far more sophisticated form.

There’s a lot of truth to the internet meme: “Republicans have gotten over Trump’s sexual assaults, affairs, idolatry, greed, profanity and vulgarity…but they’ve never gotten over Obama being Black.”

By the end of Obama’s presidency, though, the Tea Party had become a caricature of itself: old white boomers with silly “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” signs wrote their own jokes.

So, with fellow billionaire (at least he said he was) Trump in the White House, the capstone funders of the GOP changed their brand positioning.

They plastered the word “freedom” all over everything, including the caucus they bought and paid for in Congress. They helped launch hundreds of Spanish-language radio stations to spread the gospel of “free markets” and “you, too, can have white privilege” to America’s fastest growing demographic group. Their media operations made billions and aligned themselves with Russia, Hungary, and other straight-white-male-power authoritarian states.

They even continue to financially support politicians who tried to overthrow the government of the United States.

Which brings us back to the question:

“When will Republican voters wake up to their own oppression at the hands of the GOP’s billionaire funders?”

My bet is that as long as Democrats continue to welcome racial and gender minorities into their party, Republican voters will stay with their nearly-all-white politicians. Particularly people like Steve “David Duke without the baggage” Scalise and Marjorie “Jewish space lasers” Greene.

Will investigations of Hunter Biden’s laptop or the FBI be enough for Republicans to re-energize their base and gain control of all of Congress and the White House by 2024?

Hold my popcorn…

Neil Gorsuch knows 'three co-equal branches' is a myth

Apparently trying to prove the old cliché about broken clocks and twice a day, Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch defied his 5 Republican colleagues on the bench and authored an honest and factual dissent in this week’s Title 42 case.

He came right out and said the Supreme Court shouldn’t be making policy.

It all started when Section 71.40 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations was written into US policy by Trump’s HHS Secretary Alex Azar on September 4, 2020.

TitledSuspension of the right to introduce and prohibition of the introduction of persons into the United States from designated foreign countries or places for public health purposes,” it expands previous public health laws to let the HHS Secretary block asylum seekers and immigrants from certain countries into the US because those countries represent a source of infectious disease that may be dangerous to Americans.

At that time, September of 2020, the pandemic was at its most full-blown and there was no vaccine or effective drug to stop Covid, so the Trump administration could at least use the fig leaf of public health law to prevent people from entering the US to apply for asylum.

Now the pandemic crisis is largely over and the Biden administration would like to go back to using old-fashioned immigration law to filter and process asylum applicants; Republicans, refusing to negotiate any good-faith changes to immigration law, have asked the US Supreme Court to force the administration to continue using Title 42 to keep people from entering the US.

This April, the Biden administration said they were going to stop using Title 42 to block immigrants and asylum seekers, going instead with normal application procedures. Arizona and nineteen other Red states sued and, as Gorsuch’s dissent summarizes:

“From March 2020 to April 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responded to the COVID–19 pandemic by issuing a series of emergency decrees. Those decrees—often called ‘Title 42 orders’—severely restricted immigration to this country on the ground that it posed a ‘serious danger’ of ‘introducing’ a ‘communicable disease.’
“Fast forward to a few weeks ago. A district court held that the Title 42 orders were arbitrary and capricious, vacated them, and enjoined their operation. On appeal, Arizona and certain other States moved to intervene to challenge the district court’s ruling... The D. C. Circuit denied the States’ motion. In response, the States have now come to this Court…”

Five Republican justices on the Supreme Court agreed with Fox News and governors Abbott, Ducey, and DeSantis (among others), telling the Biden administration it couldn’t drop the Title 42 public health prohibitions on movement across the border until next year, and only then after the entire Court hears and rules on the case.

In an unusually lucid dissenting opinion, Neil Gorsuch wrote — with the concurrence of Democratic Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Jackson — that Title 42 was being used to block immigration in the name of a Covid emergency that’s now over.

“Even if at the end of it all we find … that the Title 42 orders were lawfully adopted, the emergency on which those orders were premised has long since lapsed. …
“And it is hardly obvious why we should rush in to review a ruling on a motion to intervene in a case concerning emergency decrees that have outlived their shelf life.”

Gorsuch then gets to the heart of the matter: if the governors of Texas, Arizona, et al want the federal government to block asylum seekers, they need to get an actual law passed through Congress that will do the job.

Determining immigration and asylum policy for the United States is not, Gorsuch wrote, any of the Court’s business:

“The States contend that they face an immigration crisis at the border and policymakers have failed to agree on adequate measures to address it. … But the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis. And courts should not be in the business of perpetuating administrative edicts designed for one emergency only because elected officials have failed to address a different emergency.
“We are a court of law, not policymakers of last resort.”

If only Gorsuch were following his own advice on pretty much every other issue.

In just the past year, Gorsuch has joined his five hard-right activists ruling to:

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

In every one of these cases, Gorsuch went along with the Court exceeding the authority given it by the Framers of the Constitution. Every decision above defies the logic he uses to reject Title 42.

In this Title 42 case, Gorsuch is right that the Supreme Court was not intended to be a policy-making body of our government. To paraphrase Patrick Henry at the Virginia constitutional ratifying convention of 1788, they may search that paper [the Constitution] and they will not find it.

The power to overturn laws passed by Congress and signed by the President was not granted by the Constitution: it was taken by the Court itself onto itself in 1803 in the case Marbury v Madison.

But even that decision, in which the Court struck down part of the Judiciary Act of 1789, didn’t claim to give the Court the power to write or delete policy for the United States.

In fact, Chief Justice John Marshall himself wrote in Marbury:

“The province of the Court is solely to decide on the rights of individuals, not to inquire how the Executive or Executive officers perform duties in which they have a discretion. Questions, in their nature political or which are, by the Constitution and laws, submitted to the Executive, can never be made in this court.”

That power to determine policy for the government is given, by the Constitution, exclusively to the elected branches: to Congress, with the assent of the President (unless his assent is withheld by a veto, which Congress may then override).

Chief Justice John Roberts himself once agreed, and wrote about it at length when he was a lawyer in the Reagan administration looking for ways Congress could overturn Brown v Board and Roe v Wade, as I document in detail here and in my book on the Court.

Since Roberts helped George W. Bush with his arguments before the Court in 2000, however, Bush put him at the top of the Supreme Court and ever since he’s been all-in on the Court writing law and second-guessing Congress on policy.

As if to justify their power to lord over America’s people without restraint or oversight, Roberts recently cited the myth of “separate and co-equal branch[es] of government.”

But that’s definitely not what the Founders and Framers had in mind.

In fact, the House of Representatives was intentionally given primacy in the Constitution, as it’s the branch that is directly elected by the people every two years.

All legislation must originate in the House, from laws that define criminal behavior, to raising taxes, to the federal government spending money.

Behind the House in power is the Senate, originally appointed by state governments and now elected to six-year terms. All ambassadorial and senior-level executive branch appointments must be approved by the Senate, along with all treaties.

Together, the House and Senate — the Congress — can override a president’s veto; create or shut down or de-fund any and all departments of government (including the entire US court system); “regulate” the Supreme Court and set “exceptions” to what the Court may rule on; set the pay for itself, the President, and members of the Supreme Court; and overturn Supreme Court decisions either by writing new laws or amending the Constitution itself.

After Congress — which is defined in Article I of the Constitution — comes the presidency, the executive branch of government, defined in Article II (which is half the length of Article I).

The president is subordinate to Congress in many ways: even as the “Commander in Chief” he cannot declare war; that power is reserved exclusively to Congress. His vetoes can be overridden and he can even be removed from office through impeachment by Congress. The Constitution requires him to present himself annually to Congress to explain the state of the nation, an opportunity to ask Congress for things he thinks the country needs that only they have the power to authorize.

Third in line of power and importance in the minds of the Framers of the Constitution is the court system and the Supreme Court. Article III is only a third the length of Article II, and clearly puts the Supreme Court under the control of Congress. Section 2 is unambiguous:

“[T]he supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

This was no secret to our Founders; they knew it well. In Federalist 51, James Madison proclaims:

“[I]n republican government the legislative authority, necessarily, predominates.”

In Federalist 78, Alexander Hamilton writes:

“[T]he judiciary is beyond compare the weakest of the three departments of power.” (italics theirs)

Search the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, Madison’s notes on the Constitutional Convention, and even the letters and published writings of this nation’s Founders and you will find no explicit reference to Roberts’ mythical “three co-equal branches.”

Just like you’ll not find a single word about the Supreme Court being able to strike down laws or create law or policy from thin air.

In recent years the Supreme Court has legalized bribery of politicians; refused to adopt even a rudimentary code of ethics for itself; and ignored openly seditious and unlawful behavior by its own members and their families. Not to mention exceeding its constitutional authority by inserting itself into political issues with startling regularity.

In this Title 42 decision, Gorsuch plays the role of the little boy who declared that the emperor was wearing no clothes. Now, if only he’ll be consistent in applying his new understanding of the Court’s power across issues beyond just immigration.

(Great resources on this topic include David J. Siemers’ book The Myth of Coequal Branches: Restoring the Constitution’s Separation of Functions, former Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer’s book The People Themselves: Popular Constitutionalism and Judicial Review, or my little book The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America.)

Is greed the biggest threat to America and democracy?

In the late 1970s, the US Supreme Court, under the guidance of Justice Lewis Powell, decriminalized political bribery: specifically, in 1976 they legalized bribery of politicians by the morbidly rich and in 1978 they legalized bribery of politicians by corporations.

With this newfound power to buy politicians and to shape American policy, CEOs and the very rich could have done anything. They could have ended childhood poverty. They could have made sure every American had a quality education at no cost. They could have given every American free, quality healthcare like in other developed nations.

Instead, they went after tax breaks to undo FDR’s raising the top income tax bracket to 91% in the late 1930s and early 1940s. And we’re still suffering for it.

The fruit of those two SCOTUS decisions was Ronald Reagan floating into the White House on a tsunami of fossil fuel money; he and bought-off Republicans in Congress then obediently dropped the top 74% personal tax bracket and the top 55% corporate income tax bracket down to 25% each. While they’ve risen slightly since then, they’re still filled with loopholes when it comes to the very, very rich and giant companies.

As a result, most morbidly rich individuals and large American corporations now pay virtually nothing in income taxes and have become fabulously richer. You and I shoulder the bill to run our government, paying as much as 50% of our earnings in income taxes every year (depending on your income and the state in which you live).

Name your favorite billionaire: Donald Trump (0%), Elon Musk (2.1%), Jeff Bezos (1.1%) or those more obscure. Every rich person you can name almost certainly pays a tiny fraction of what you do in taxes on your income or increases in your wealth, a situation that’s held since Reagan introduced America to neoliberalism in the 1980s as I detail in my new book The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America.

We’re at the tail end of a 40-year political, social, and economic experiment in this country. Reagan and his neoliberal buddies Hayek and Friedman told us that if we’d just let the greediest among us fully exercise their greed in ways that were previously illegal it would bring an explosion of prosperity to our country.

And, sure enough, there was an explosion of prosperity, but only for the top 10% of us. Meanwhile, the economic lifeblood was drained out of the rest of America. Fully $50 trillion has vanished from the wealth of the middle class and magically ended up in the money bins of the morbidly rich.

This “invisible hand” of the economy was so perfect, the neoliberals told us, that we wouldn’t even need to monitor CEOs and the morbidly rich to make sure they weren’t cheating, so we defunded the IRS, under four Republican administrations, so severely that they could no longer audit the returns of the very wealthy.

When the law required the IRS to audit President Trump’s taxes in 2018, for example, that agency was able to come up with one lonely guy to do the job, something that would have taken him two or three decades to just cover one year.

It’s estimated tax fraud by the morbidly rich costs America around $1 trillion a year, according to the IRS Commissioner.

Enough to end all student debt in 18 months. To wipe out child poverty in a year. To fully fund Medicare For All. To end homelessness in America. To cure most cancer and heart disease in less than a decade.

But the morbidly rich aren’t even bothering to hide their greed and corruption any more. Two billionaire families, for example, gave Republican Senator Ron Johnson’s campaign and its backers around $20 million.

In return, Johnson demanded a specific sentence be slipped into Trump’s tax-cut bill that, once it made it through, returned over “$215 million in deductions in 2018 alone” just to those two families, according to ProPublica.

As ProPublica noted, just that one tax “cut [inserted by Senator Johnson] could deliver more than half a billion in tax savings for Hendricks and the Uihleins over its eight-year life.”

This system, fine-tuned by 40 years of annual Republican tweaks, has become one of America’s most obviously corrupt scams: “invest” $20 million in a corrupt politician and make a $500 million return on that investment. And the entire party is proudly in on the act!

It wasn’t always this way.

Progressive Republican President Theodore Roosevelt started the campaign to stop corporations and the wealthy from bribing politicians, resulting in the 1907 Tillman Act, which made it a federal felony — complete with real prison time — for any agent of any corporation to give any money or any thing of value to any candidate for any federal office.

Five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court overturned it, leading to today’s orgy of greed by the elites of our society. Citizens United and its predecessors have turned the American economy into an aristocratic candy store for the morbidly rich, while the rest of us can hardly even see into the windows.

As a result, the rich have become richer than any time in human history — richer, even, than the pharaohs or the ancient kings of Europe — wages have stagnated, deaths of despair exploded, and student and medical debt or their threat now overwhelm more than half of all American households.

This is, in itself, a major assault on American democracy.

Political systems require widespread faith in their integrity to survive, and the crass and obvious unfairness of Reagan’s neoliberalism combined with a corrupt Supreme Court has bred much of the cynicism and open disdain for government we see across the political spectrum.

Like termites eating the floorboards of a house, like undiagnosed cancer silently metastasizing across a host’s body, this justified mistrust of a Supreme Court-rigged and billionaire-embraced system is killing our republic.

Senator Ted Kennedy, frustrated by Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage, famously demanded to know of his colleagues, “When does the greed stop?”

The answer is, “Never.”

Greed, one of the seven deadly sins, is both toxic to society and intrinsic to human nature. It can’t be ended or “stopped.”

But it can be regulated, which is the goal of good tax policy.

With a fully-bribed GOP set to assume control of the House of Representatives, where all tax legislation must originate according to our Constitution, the next two years will be challenging for Americans who would rather see children educated than more billionaires shooting themselves into space on giant penis-shaped rockets.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about how corrosive these twin poisons of bribery and greed are to our nation; we must never stop working to solve this crisis Reagan, the morbidly rich, and a corrupted Supreme Court inflicted on us.