The new 'businessman's conspiracy' authoritarian plot is closer than you think

This week may be the last chance before the next election for Joe Biden and the Democrats to prove they can actually govern and accomplish things the American people want. If they fail, fascism wins.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

History shows that most democratic nations don't realize how serious their fascism problem is until it overtakes them altogether. We saw it in the 1930s in Italy, Germany, Spain and Japan; today it's happened in Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, Russia, The Philippines and Brazil, and is well underway in Poland, India and multiple smaller countries.

Here in America, the GOP today has a serious fascism problem, and it's endangering all of us. It's closer than most of us realize.

Fascism isn't just about the merger of oligarch and state interests; it also requires a repudiation of the rule of law and the institutions of democracy itself.

This is exactly what is happening deep within the Republican Party at this very moment. Trumpism was always about fascism.

Those few Republicans who voted to impeach and convict Donald Trump are finding their local and state parties repudiating them, fueled by the rage of people who've bought into false beliefs of a Jewish- or Black-controlled "deep state" that's working against their savior, Donald Trump.

We've seen this movie before, and, tragically, history tells us most countries only recognize their fascism problem in the rear-view mirror after it's consumed their democracy.

This is very much how Adolf Hitler rose to power in Germany a decade after he was arrested and imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the government of Bavaria in 1923. It took his movement and his political colleagues ten more years to worm their way into power in 1933.

They did it by spreading books like Mein Kampf and pamphlets proclaiming deep state socialist and Jewish conspiracies and a Lugenpresse or "lying press," promoting them with a particular emphasis in right-leaning southern states like Bavaria and the economically hard-hit rural parts of the country.

What took the German fascists a decade is happening in a matter of a few short years here in the United States because of the velocity of social media.

It's being amplified by oligarch-owned media and the cowardice or opportunism of senior Republican officials, unwilling to honestly and openly confront the lies pushed by fascist conspiracy theorists or willing to embrace Trump's fascism so they can win elections in 2022 and 2024.

Last January, Democratic senators voted to convict Donald Trump of incitement to insurrection, while Republican senators representing about 40 million fewer voters blocked his removal from office.

Nonetheless, the message in rightwing media and across the fascist underground on social media, often echoed by mainstream media, was that the Senate voted to "exonerate" or "acquit" Trump." (In fact, the vote merely "failed to remove" him, although a majority of the Senate voted to convict.)

To see how pervasive this fascism crisis is within conservative media, just check out the daily newsletter tracking them over at therighting.com.

These are all symptoms of a political party taken over by a fascist element. For six years now, this element has been nurtured and fed online by foreign governments, a small number of American oligarchs, and angry white supremacist Americans.

A country slides into an oligarchy when its legislature ceases to attend to the needs of the majority of the people, and instead only passes laws or promulgates policies that help the oligarchic class.

As several studies have documented, particularly the work of Gilens and Page, this process began with the Reagan Revolution in 1981 and by the early 2000s was so solidified in our national politics that Congress had ceased to pass laws and policies that bore any resemblance to what the majority of Americans wanted, shown by national public policy polling.

Prior to the Reagan Revolution of 1981, Congress typically did what the majority of Americans wanted. That's how we got Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps, housing supports, Pell Grants for college, long-term unemployment, a minimum wage, food and drug safety, and laws and agencies protecting our clean air and water.

Since the Reagan Revolution, however, Republicans in Congress have been largely fixated on deregulating industry and unleashing predatory bankers and industrial polluters on the American public. Their singular focus has been tax cuts for morbidly rich people, which have driven tens of trillions of dollars out of the pockets and wealth of the American working class and into the money bins of this nation's oligarchs.

This is extraordinarily dangerous.

Oligarchy rarely lasts more than a generation; it's an unstable form of government, because the people are not getting what they want or need.

Typically, oligarchies flip in one of two directions within that generation: either back to democracy, or into a full-blown fascist police state.

Twice before in American history, oligarchies have risen up and challenged our government itself, and both times we defeated them.

The first time happened in the 1830-1860 era in the South, when southern plantation owners consolidated power in those states and ended any semblance of democracy, rigging elections and imposing a police state. They finally reached out to destroy that bothersome democracy to the north in what we call the Civil War.

We defeated those oligarchs and broke up their political and economic fortunes. The plantation of Robert E. Lee, for example, is now known as Arlington National Cemetery and the Parchman plantation in Louisiana is now a state prison.

Fascist oligarchs rose up again in America in the 1920s and 30s, and in 1933 put together a "businessman's conspiracy" plot to kidnap or kill President Franklin D. Roosevelt and replace him with a "good Republican."

President Roosevelt got ahead of that curve, after Marine General Smedley Butler blew the whistle on the conspiracy, and declared open war on the oligarchs he referred to as "economic royalists."

"These economic royalists," FDR said, "complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power."

Back then, oligarchs funding the Republican Party also complained that helping the average person instead of just giving tax cuts to the rich was "unconstitutional," and cluttered their stages with American flags when they gave political speeches, as if to demonstrate their uber-patriotism.

FDR called them out: "In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike."

FDR called together the American people with his regular fireside chats, and the American people rejected the Republican's fascist oligarchs. As a result, the GOP never controlled Congress for more than a two-year period from 1933 to 1996.

Today, using the cloak of social media that allows their most virulent and poisonous lies to spread invisibly and unchecked, fascist oligarchs, foreign trolls and an authoritarian-loving group within the Republican grassroots are again denigrating democracy and the rule of law in America.

Some Democrats, watching this process and its consequence, are delighting in the internal battles within the GOP. We should be careful what we root for.

Both psychology and history show that about a fifth of the population of any country are people who lean toward authoritarianism. Rather than valuing democracy, debate, and the rule of law, their highest value is safety and stability.

Therefore, they will embrace any oligarch who points to an "other" and provides even the weakest evidence that those "others" are responsible for the country's current crisis.

This is exactly the dynamic we're seeing play out right now. The "others" these fascists are identifying specifically include "socialist" Democrats; Black people in large cities like Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia who Republicans say were engaging in widespread "voter fraud"; and wealthy Jews like George Soros who, they say, are funding them.

This bizarre claim is at the foundation of Donald Trump's "stop the steal" movement, and represents the greatest threat to the future of democracy in America.

Fascist Republican politicians are, at this moment, using it to craft and promote increasingly draconian voter suppression legislation; over 100 such laws have been passed in about two dozen states just since Trump lost the election.

As former Congressman Riggleman told CNN, the GOP's plan for 2022 is to run on "stop the steal" and "ballot integrity."

These are code for making it harder for all but middle-class white people to vote, and represent a direct assault on the very foundations of American democracy.

Most authoritarians are "authoritarian followers," so they're primed to rapidly follow any competent "authoritarian leader" demagogue who claims that he alone can save them.

The spread of this fascist movement within the Republican Party, and its embrace by powerful and high profile people like Senators Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Rick Scott and Josh Hawley, represents the greatest threat America has faced since the 1930s.

All genuinely patriotic Americans must unite to repudiate this quick-spreading cancer in the Republican Party.

If we don't, 2024 in America may simply echo 1933 in Europe.

Santa Claus is about to drop a bomb on Biden

The stock market is falling today, in part a reaction to GOP threats to shut down the government: it's all part of their plan.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen last week warned us that the GOP is about to use Jude Wanniski's "Two Santa Clauses" fraud again to damage Biden's economy and our standing in the world. And, sure enough, Mitch McConnell verified it when he said last week there would be "zero" Republican votes to raise the debt ceiling.

Yellen responded yesterday by telling The Wall Street Journal that if the Republicans force a shutdown of the US government like they did to Obama in 2011, "We would emerge from this crisis a permanently weaker nation." But the GOP is adamant: they have their strategy and they're sticking to it.

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

First, the Two Santas strategy dictates, when Republicans control the White House they must spend money like a drunken Santa and cut taxes to run up the US debt as far and as fast as possible.

This produces three results: it stimulates the economy thus making people think that the GOP can produce a good economy; it raises the debt dramatically; and it makes people think that Republicans are the "tax-cut Santa Clauses."

Second, when a Democrat is in the White House, Republicans must scream about the national debt as loudly and frantically as possible, freaking out about how "our children will have to pay for it!" and "we have to cut spending to solve the crisis!" Shut down the government, crash the stock market, and damage US credibility around the world if necessary to stop Democrats from spending money.

This will force the Democrats in power to cut their own social safety net programs and even Social Security, thus shooting their welfare-of-the-American-people Santa Claus right in the face.

And, sure enough, here we are now with a Democrat in the White House. Following their Two Santas strategy, Republicans are again squealing about the national debt and refusing to raise the debt ceiling, imperiling Biden's economic recovery as well as his Build Back Better plans.

And, once again, the media is covering it as a "Biden Crisis!" rather than what it really is: a cynical political and media strategy devised by Republicans in the 70s, fine-tuned in the 80s and 90s, and rolled out every time a Democrat is in the White House.

Jude Wanniski hatches the scheme that saves the GOP

Republican strategist Jude Wanniski first proposed his Two Santa Clauses strategy in The Wall Street Journal in 1974, after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace and the future of the Republican Party was so dim that books and articles were widely suggesting the GOP was about to go the way of the Whigs. There was genuine despair across the Republican Party, particularly when Jerry Ford couldn't even beat an unknown peanut farmer from rural Georgia for the presidency.

Wanniski reasoned the reason the GOP was losing so many elections wasn't just because of Nixon's corruption, but mostly because the Democrats had been viewed since the New Deal as the Santa Claus party.

On the other hand, the GOP, he said, was widely seen as the party of Scrooge because they publicly opposed everything from Social Security and Medicare to unemployment insurance and food stamps.

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

Even worse, Democrats kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for all this stuff — and those taxes on the rich didn't have any effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up until the Reagan Revolution, in fact).

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

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

Therefore, Wanniski concluded, the GOP had to become a Santa Claus party, too. But because the Republicans hated the idea of helping out working people, they had to come up with a way to convince average voters that they, too, have the Santa spirit. But what?

"Tax cuts!" said Wanniski.

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

To lay the ground for Two Santa Clauses, in 1974 Wanniski invented a new phrase — "Supply-Side Economics" — and said the reason economies grew wasn't because people had good union jobs and thus enough money to buy things but, instead, because business made things available for sale, thus tantalizing people to part with their money.

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

At a glance, this move by the Republicans seems irrational, cynical and counterproductive. It certainly defies classic understandings of economics. But if you consider Jude Wanniski's playbook, it makes complete sense.

To help, Arthur Laffer took that equation a step further with his famous napkin scribble. Not only was supply-side a rational concept, Laffer suggested, but as taxes went down, revenue to the government would go up!

Neither concept made any sense — and time has proven both to be colossal idiocies — but if Americans would buy into it all they offered the Republican Party a way out of the wilderness.

Ronald Reagan was the first national Republican politician to fully embrace the Two Santa Clauses strategy. He said straight out that if he could cut taxes on rich people and businesses, those "job creators" would use their extra money to build new factories so all that new stuff "supplying" the economy would produce faster economic growth.

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

But Wanniski had been doing his homework on how to sell "voodoo" supply-side economics.

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

Republicans could stimulate the economy by throwing trillions at defense contractors, Jude's theory went: spending could actually increase without negative repercussions and that money would trickle down to workers through the defense industry, which had reacted to Eisenhower's warning by building factories in every single one of America's 435 congressional districts.

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

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

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They'd be forced into the role of Santa-killers if they acted responsibly by raising taxes, or, even better, they'd be machine-gunning Santa by cutting spending on their own social programs. Either one would lose them elections.

Reagan, Greenspan, Wanniski, and Laffer took the federal budget deficit from under a trillion dollars in 1980 to almost three trillion by 1988, and back then a dollar could buy far more than it buys today. They and George HW Bush ran up more debt in twelve years than every president in history up till that time, from George Washington to Jimmy Carter, combined.

Surely this would both "starve the beast" of the American government and force the Democrats to make the politically suicidal move of becoming deficit hawks. And that's just how it turned out.

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

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

Clinton took their advice to heart, raised taxes, balanced the budget, and cut numerous programs, declaring an "end to welfare as we know it" and, in his second inaugural address, an "end to the era of big government."

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

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

Looking at the wreckage of the Democratic Party all around Clinton in 1999, Wanniski wrote a gloating memo that said, in part:

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

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

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

Two Santa Clauses had gone mainstream.

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

When Jude Wanniski died, George Gilder celebrated the Reagan/Bush adoption of his Two Santas scheme in a Wall Street Journal eulogy:

"...Jude's charismatic focus on the tax on capital gains redeemed the fiscal policies of four administrations. ... Unbound by zero-sum economics, Jude forged the golden gift of a profound and passionate argument that the establishments of the mold must finally give way to the powers of the mind. ... He audaciously defied all the Buffetteers of the trade gap, the moldy figs of the Phillips Curve, the chic traders in money and principle, even the stultifying pillows of the Nobel Prize."

The Republicans got what they wanted from Wanniski's work. They held power for forty years, made their donors trillions of dollars, and cut organized labor's representation in the workplace from around a third of workers when Reagan came into office to around 6 percent of the non-governmental workforce today.

Think back to Ronald Reagan, who more than tripled the US debt from a mere $800 billion to $2.6 trillion in his 8 years. That spending produced a massive stimulus to the economy, and the biggest non-wartime increase in American national debt in all of our history. Nary a peep from Republicans about that 218% increase in our debt; they were just fine with it and to this day claim Reagan presided over a "great" economy.

When five rightwingers on the Supreme Court gave the White House to George W. Bush he reverted to Wanniski's "Two Santa" strategy and again nearly doubled the national debt, adding over a trillion in borrowed money to pay for his tax cut for billionaires, and tossing in two unfunded wars for good measure, which also added at least (long term) another $5 trillion.

There was not a peep about that debt from any high-profile in-the-know Republicans; in fact, Dick Cheney famously said, amplifying Wanniski's strategy: "Reagan proved deficits don't matter. We won the midterms. This is our due."

Bush and Cheney raised the debt by 86% to over $10 trillion (and additional trillions in war debt that wasn't put on the books until Obama entered office, so it looks like its his).

Then came Democratic President Barack Obama, and suddenly the GOP was hysterical about the debt again. So much so that they convinced a sitting Democratic president to propose a cut to Social Security (the "chained CPI"). Obama nearly shot the Democrats' biggest Santa Claus, just like Wanniski predicted, until outrage from the Democratic base stopped him.

Next, Donald Trump raised our national debt by almost $7 trillion, but the GOP raised the debt ceiling without a peep every year for the first three years of his administration, and then suspended it altogether for 2020 (so, if Biden won, he'd have to justify raising the ceiling for 2 years' worth of deficits, making it even more politically painful).

And now Republicans are getting ready to use the debt ceiling debate to drop their Two Santas bomb right onto President Joe Biden's head. After all, it worked against Clinton and Obama. Why wouldn't they use it again?

And if Republican debt-ceiling default threats could lower the stock market, as they did to both Clinton and Obama, all the better: Republicans could just blame the Democrats in power!

Americans deserve to know how we've been manipulated, and by whom, for the past 40 years. Hopefully Democratic politicians and our media will begin to call the GOP out on Wanniski's and Reagan's Two Santa Clauses scam.

The cancer of money in our politics gives a 'thumbs-up' for corporations to kill more of America

Want to know who owns your member of Congress? Just look at how they vote.

For example, this week Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Scott Peters (D-CA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY) and, on another committee, Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) all voted with 100% of their Republican colleagues to kill the ability of Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

To put this into context, the VA and every insurance company and hospital group in America negotiates prescription drug prices. Only Medicare is forced to pay around $60 billion a year more than they should. Which echoes as higher retail drug prices through our entire healthcare system.

And this time it isn't just about pharmaceuticals. As Rep. Schrader's hometown newspaper, The Oregonian, noted in their headline: "Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon Helps Kill Drug Pricing Bill, Endangering Biden Infrastructure Plan."

It's a safe bet that none of them did it because they were representing the interest of the people in their districts who helped put them in office. A national poll published just last week found:

An 87% majority of voters over age 65 favor allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices... Among Democratic seniors, 89% are in favor, as are 87% of Republican seniors and 81% of independent seniors.

Instead, these Democrats are enthusiastically and publicly representing the interest of the pharmaceutical industry, which, Senator Bernie Sanders notes, "[H]as spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions over the past 20 years and has hired some 1,200 lobbyists to get Congress to do its bidding."

Americans pay an average of $1500 a year more for prescription drugs than citizens of any other nation. But the crisis isn't just the rip-off that's making Big Pharma executives rich: it's quite literally killing us.

Dr. Nicky J. Mehtani, a resident physician at Johns Hopkins Hospital, writes about the pain of having to tell a family that their mother and grandmother has died when the most likely reason was because her patient couldn't afford the heart medication she'd been prescribed.

"[I]n this patient's case, there was no truer underlying cause of death than the blatant unaffordability of her prescription medications," writes Dr. Mehtani.

This is an everyday story all across America. Last year 2.3 million seniors (and 15.5 million people under 65) couldn't afford to pay for doctor-prescribed medication. One in four Americans say they "have difficulty" paying for pharmaceuticals, and one-in-eight "ration" their own pills.

Dr. Mehtani notes that the patient who died in her hospital had a prescription for the heart medications she needed.

"But upon arrival to her pharmacy," Dr. Mehtani writes, "she learned that, despite being insured, one of her heart medications would cost over $200 per month. Though she had $200 in her bank account, she also had eight grandchildren to care for and feed. She figured she could skip a few days of medication and fill the prescription two days later, when she was due to receive her Social Security check.
"But two days without these expensive medications was enough to cause her to have a second heart attack — one that would ultimately take her life and drastically change those of her eight grandchildren, some of whom would later enter the foster care system."

Meanwhile, members of Congress rake in the Big Pharma cash, laughing all the way to the bank as people in their districts cut pills in half and die.

It's easy to dismiss Reps Schrader, Peters, Rice and Murphy as corrupt sellouts and, certainly in this case, the label fits. And it's frankly surprising that they were the only ones who publicly sold out their constituents' grandparents: Big Pharma is throwing money around Congress and on TV ads like a kid with a Super Soaker at the beach.

You've probably by now seen the dueling TV ads from AARP and the pharmaceutical lobby about negotiating Medicare drug prices; the industry is trying to provide cover for the members of Congress who said, "How high?" when the big drug companies said, "Jump!"

But the cancer of money in our politics is much deeper than these four corrupted Democrats (and 100% of the Republicans), and it goes back to a corrupted and sold-out US Supreme Court.

In their 5-4 split 2010 Citizens United decision, they concluded not only that corporations are persons and thus able to exercise their Constitutional right to "free speech" by owning pet politicians but that, because corporations don't have mouths, the form of speech they (and the morbidly rich) can use is money.

That's right: that stuff you have in your pocket is "free speech."

At the time there were five Republican appointees on the Court and four Democratic appointees. Justice John Paul Stevens, a Democratic appointee, wrote the main dissent, noting:

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely eludes it… corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. … They are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Writing as if he were seeing the "swamp" the Roberts Court's decision left us with today, he added:

"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation. On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,' and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.'"

Our problem isn't just a few corrupt, for-sale Democrats; it's pervasive across our political system and mostly because five conservatives on the US Supreme Court chose to corrupt the system to benefit that corporations and billionaires who helped put them on the Court in the first place.

It's why our politics are more polarized than ever before in living memory; corporations and rightwing billionaires are pouring money down the throats of increasingly radicalized Republicans and a few sellout Democrats across the country.

As I document at length in my book The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America, until we overturn these corrupt Court decisions and get money out of politics, every effort to save lives and move this nation forward will face often-insurmountable resistance.

Here is the real crime that General Milley exposed

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley stepped outside the realm of his constitutional power to prevent Donald Trump from starting nuclear war with China or Iran. It was definitely unconstitutional and probably illegal. But he's not the true villain in this story; the true villain is almost never mentioned in the press.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

Trump's advisors aren't the villains, either, although Trump was just the latest Republican president advised by Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, whose partner in the years after they advised Nixon, Lee Atwater, had passed away from brain cancer after making a public apology for all the damage he did to our nation in the service of Nixon's party and, later, George HW Bush (Willie Horton, et al).

And Nixon, too, presented such a threat to world peace and democracy in America that his own Defense Secretary, James Schlesinger, took actions remarkably similar to Milley's, as was revealed by the Washington Post on August 22, 1974. Schlesinger and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs George S. Brown (who'd just taken that post on July 1, 1974), the Post wrote, "kept a close watch to make certain that no orders were given to military units outside the normal chain of command."

Specifically, Schlesinger and Brown were worried that Nixon would start a nuclear war to stay in power as he became increasingly under siege in the Watergate scandal. Congress relieved them of that burden when Barry Goldwater walked over to the White House and informed Nixon that both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate were going to vote to impeach and remove him from office if he didn't resign immediately.

Which highlights the true villains in the General Mark Milley story who are almost always overlooked in the press: 50 Republicans in the US Senate, led by Mitch McConnell, who twice refused to remove Trump from office after the House had impeached him.

It's not like these senators didn't know that Trump was an unstable narcissist who had both loyalties and financial ties to autocrats in Russia, Turkey and multiple other foreign countries. They not only knew but were informed in great detail during the first opportunity they were given to remove Trump from office in December of 2019.

The impeachment managers laid out in excruciating detail the evidence that Trump had repeated for the 2020 election what he and his children had tried to do with Russia in 2016: solicit foreign interference in a US election, this time by trying to bribe the president of Ukraine with the promise of American weapons. At any other time in American history that would have been prosecuted as outright treason.

For example, in the election of 1800, then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson benefitted from what we'd today call a tabloid journalist, James Callender, publishing stories about the XYZ Affair that explicitly suggested his opponent, then-President John Adams, had provoked the cold naval war with France that came out of the scandal just to help his reelection chances. The charges of treason hurt Adams badly in that election, helping hand it to Jefferson.

While Adams almost certainly hadn't committed treason to stay in office, Trump almost certainly did, or something close to it. But the Republicans in the Senate were apparently unconcerned.

They knew by then that Trump and his family had both openly and secretly solicited and received Russian help in the 2016 election, that he'd trashed American intelligence agencies while elevating Russia's in a public meeting with President Putin in Helsinki way back in July of 2018, and that he'd tried to strong-arm the president of Ukraine to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden.

Compared to Richard Nixon paying to bug the DNC headquarters in the Watergate complex and then lie about it afterwards, Trump's behaviors were monstrous. But Republicans gave him a pass on his criminal behavior. Twice.

If even a bit over a dozen of them had had the courage of the senate Republicans in 1974, Milley never would have been in a position to worry that an American president might start a nuclear war just to hang onto power and thus avoid prosecution.

But Senate Republicans are proudly lacking in courage, patriotism or any sense of loyalty to our nation or its ideals; their only loyalties are to their own power and the billions their donors use to seduce and control them.

Milley (and then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper) shouldn't have had to take actions that may well have saved the republic if Trump had played out what he was considering.

And the American media needs to put the blame for that squarely where it belongs: fifty Republicans in the US Senate who chose their own self-interest over our county when Trump's impeached fate was in their hands.

The GOP's deranged obsession with power will end badly for us all -- including them

Many commentators and pundits have worried out loud that the Texas "precedent" of using vigilantism to end safe, legal abortion in that state is either wildly unconstitutional or, if it stands, will set a precedent to take down other rights like free speech or protest.

Republicans are playing with fire here, but it's not just around abortion rights. They're also explicitly going after a wide variety of other rights that Americans have fought to maintain for centuries.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

If they achieve their endpoint — the direction they're currently heading — they will ultimately see their own rights stripped away as well, leading to the end of our democratic republic.

Just look at the horrors they're pursuing:

— Lacking any meaningful evidence whatsoever of "voter fraud," Republicans have now severely limited voting rights in 7 states and have bills pending with a good chance of passage in at least a dozen others.

— Compounding this, and empowered by the Supreme Court, Republicans are using voter purges to strip people off the voting rolls in heavily Democratic areas of GOP-controlled states (like Brian Kemp throwing over a half-million Georgians off the rolls just before "beating" Stacey Abrams by only about 50,000 votes).

— Ignoring decades of evidence (and common sense) that comprehensive sex education in schools lowers both sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies, multiple states (Texas the largest) mandate that sex education be limited to "abstinence only" and forbid teachers from discussing birth control.

— Pretending the brutal history of religious fanatics in New England (see Monday's rant) and the warnings of everybody from Jesus to Jefferson that it's vital to separate church and state never happened, Republicans embrace hardcore fundamentalist hustlers who will turn on them as soon as it suits their own twisted purposes.

— Turning their backs on basic science, Republicans are rejecting both teaching evolution and wearing masks in our schools as, ironically, the Covid virus continues to evolve into more and more virulent strains.

— Spitting on the graves of our Founders who in many cases laid down their lives to codify and sanctify the right to protest, Republicans have passed laws giving a legal pass to bigots who drive their cars into protests and kill or injure people.

— Doing their best to prevent young people from learning that around half of our Founders were slaveholders, Republicans think they can whitewash (pun intended) our history rather than confront and learn from it to make our country better.

— Embracing anti-government militia movements, Republicans celebrate and empower people who openly deify the likes of Timothy McVeigh and Adolf Hitler while promoting anti-Americanism and even seditious insurrection.

— Tolerating blatant lawlessness and corruption within their own party, Republicans support politicians who participated in a conspiracy to "hang Mike Pence" and murder Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even calling the conspirators currently in jail "patriots" and "political prisoners."

— Sucking up to an obese orange-makeup-wearing billionaire who made his first fortune by stealing from his own family members and getting his Alzheimer's-addled father to sign papers he couldn't understand, Republicans continue to support a man who turned into a lifelong business model ripping off contractors and customers; lying to banks, insurance companies and the IRS; and taking dirty money from foreign oligarchs and tyrants.

— Taking billions in campaign contributions and other support from fossil fuel industries and its billionaires, Republicans use that support to maintain their power and build their own wealth while denying climate change — as the entire nation is hit repeatedly by "natural" disasters caused or exacerbated by global warming.

— Promoting rightwing media that traffics in hysteria, lies and racial hatred, Republicans replace honest policy discussions with jingoism, sloganeering and the "otherization" of anybody with whom they disagree or who looks, loves or prays differently than they do.

— Congratulating armed bullies in their "Trump trains" like those who drove Kamala Harris' campaign bus off the road and now regularly terrorize communities of color, Republicans embrace these 21st century Brownshirts.

In each case, the GOP — purely to seize and hold power — is moving America farther and farther from the goals and ideals this nation has traditionally held and ever more rapidly toward an authoritarian, oligarchic form of government like has seized Hungary, Brazil, Russia, The Philippines, and many nations across the Third World.

They think they can control this beast they've created, that they'll be able to pull it all back before it ends in utter disaster for our nation. However history, from our own Civil War to early 20th century Europe to today's countries where "conservative" parties have tried the same, gives the lie to their belief.

The monster of fear, hate, and greed that they've created — as it rises from the primordial mud and shakes itself into life — will eventually consume them every bit as enthusiastically as it has consumed dozens of other political parties and nations around the world.

Trump's shared psychosis is destroying the fabric of society

When I was young my favorite writers were Ernest Hemmingway and Hunter S. Thompson, and my favorite Thompson novel was his 1971 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Which is why a caller last year who started on a rant about "adrenochrome" caused me to both cut him off the air and go back to my copy of the novel to see if my memory was right.

Sure enough, there it was. Thompson was bemoaning running out of hashish and being almost out of opium when his "fat Samoan" sidekick offered an alternative:

"As your attorney," he said, "I advise you not worry." He nodded toward the bathroom. "Take a hit out of that little brown bottle in my shaving kit."
"What is it?"
"Adrenochrome," he said. "You won't need much. Just a little tiny taste."
I got the bottle and dipped the head of a paper match into it.
"That's about right," he said. "That stuff makes pure mescaline seem like ginger beer. You'll go completely crazy if you take too much."
I licked the end of the match. "Where'd you get this?" I asked. "You can't buy it."
"Never mind," he said. "It's absolutely pure."
I shook my head sadly. "Jesus! What kind of monster client have you picked up this time? There's only one source for this stuff…"
He nodded.
"The adrenaline glands from a living human body," I said. "It's no good if you get it out of a corpse."

When Thompson asks his "attorney" where the adrenochrome came from, the fictional character tells the fictional tale of having once been hired to represent a child molester/murderer who'd presumably extracted it from one of his victims.

"Christ, what could I say?" Thompson's sidekick told him. "Even a goddamn werewolf is entitled to legal counsel. I didn't dare turn the creep down. He might have picked up a letter opener and gone after my pineal gland." Which then led them to a discussion about eating pineal glands to get high…

That little seed, entirely fictional, planted in the national subconscious back in the early '70s, has now blossomed into a full-blown flower of a belief held by literally millions of Americans. As Rightwing Watch documents, uber-Trump cultist and "journalist" Liz Crokin explains in one of her many videos:

"Adrenochrome is a drug that the elites love. It comes from children. The drug is extracted from the pituitary gland of tortured children. It's sold on the black market. It's the drug of the elites. It is their favorite drug. It is beyond evil. It is demonic. It is so sick."

When OMB Director Mick Mulvaney used the word "pizza" in a televised Cabinet Meeting, Crokin laid out how she and all the other Trump cultists were being flagged as to the "reality" of a pizza restaurant in a DC suburb being the place where the children were being held prior to being tortured and having their adrenochrome "harvested":

"President Trump and his staffers are constantly trolling the deep state," she said of Mulvaney's reference as Trump nodded in agreement. "That's President Trump's way of letting you know that Pizzagate is real and it's not fake. He's constantly using their words against them and throwing it in their face and God bless him, it's amazing."

But that was then (2018) and this is now. This week, Matthew Taylor Coleman, a 40-year-old Christian surfing school owner, drove his two children, a 3-year-old boy and a nine-month-old girl, to Mexico where he slaughtered them with a spear-fishing gun.

His children "were going to grow into monsters so he had to kill them," said federal officials handling the investigation. Coleman told police that killing his kids was "the only course of action that would save the world" because they had "lizard DNA" and would grow up to threaten us all.

Federal officials believe he learned this from Qanon/Trump followers, as did Anthony Quinn Warner who died when he blew up his truck outside an AT&T building in Nashville last Christmas Day causing a widespread internet outage in an apparent attempt to cripple the "lizard people" network opposing Trump, which included Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Obamas.

The University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism notes that 68 percent of the open Qanon followers arrested at the US Capitol on January 6th who had also committed crimes before or after that coup attempt "have documented mental health concerns, according to court records and other public sources."

Their psychological issues included "post-traumatic stress disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Munchausen syndrome by proxy."

The "Qanon Shaman" of so many iconic 1/6 pictures has now pleaded mental illness as his reason for showing up at the Capitol, as have two others who "were found to be mentally unfit to stand trial and were transferred to mental health care facilities."

Of the six women arrested on 1/6 who'd also committed crimes before or after the coup attempt, the researchers note, "all six…have documented mental health concerns."

This should be no surprise: Donald Trump also has well-documented mental illness.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Bandy X. Lee edited a compilation of articles by accredited mental health professionals discussing Trump's issues and their possible impact on America, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. Psychiatrist Justin Frank MD wrote Trump on the Couch, a similarly chilling account of Trump's issues and their consequences.

Even Trump's niece, clinical psychologist Mary L. Trump PhD, has repeatedly and convincingly documented Trump's mental illness and its causes deep in his twisted and unhappy childhood with a psychopathic father.

And, it turns out, certain types of mental illness are functionally contagious. People with Trump's malignant narcissism can, essentially, activate or bring out narcissistic tendencies in others, which may explain in part the explosion of air rage among Trump followers infuriated by being told to wear a mask in-flight.

Followers yearning for a parent figure turn to a damaged leader hungry for adulation and create a symbiotic relationship that binds them together, notes Dr. Lee in an interview with Psychology Today.

When it reaches a lot of people, we see a repeat of the Salem Witch Trial-type of mass insanity that ripples through society. This is called shared psychosis.

"When a highly symptomatic individual is placed in an influential position," Dr. Lee notes, "the person's symptoms can spread through the population through emotional bonds, heightening existing pathologies and inducing delusions, paranoia and propensity for violence – even in previously healthy individuals."

We have multiple Republican governors now using the force of law in their states to force teachers and children to expose themselves to a deadly virus. One, Kristi Noem, has invited 700,000 bikers to come, unmasked and many unvaccinated, to her state for a giant superspreader event, which will — like it did last year with 250,000 people — spread disease, disability and death throughout the rest of the country in the coming weeks.

Half of the Republicans in Congress refuse to say if they're vaccinated (although all probably are; outside of Gomert, Greene and Boebert these people are grifters, not idiots), thus modeling behavior that is destroying families and killing people all across the country.

Meanwhile, a clearly delusional pillow salesman promotes a democracy-destroying conspiracy theory that the Senate of the State of Arizona has endorsed and thrown a pile of cash at…while Republican state officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania are trying to emulate Arizona's "audit."

If it all seems insane, that's because it is.

There's a very sad and very human aspect to all this.

We're all primed to be a bit gullible when it comes to fantastical ideas. Childhood myths like Santa Claus and most organized religions teach us that things beyond our understanding were both real in the past and will cause events in the future.

We all grew up tiny and helpless, depending on giant magical-seeming adults to take care of our needs, and that little, frightened child who just wants to be protected and loved is still alive and buried deep in the psyche of each of us.

The 918 people who died at Jim Jones' jungle camp in Guyana didn't join the People's Temple because they were suicidal: Jones' own psychosis either infected them or wore them down to a passive compliance.

We're all vulnerable to mass psychosis as a condition of our humanity.

So what do we do as a society when we're confronted with a psychotic former leader who's continuing to inflict and spread contagious forms of mental illness among our nation? How do we handle it, and repair the damage?

Dr. Bandy X. Lee says, "The treatment is removal of exposure."

Stop giving Trump any serious real-time coverage or echoing or amplifying his messages, and instead point out as often and as clearly as possible what a criminal, hustler, con artist and genuinely damaged person he is.

Replace him as the nation's "father figure" with a man of compassion and understanding like President Joe Biden, and make clear how destructive his policies were when he was in office.

Break the bond with his followers by crushing his aura of invincibility: indict and convict him of very ordinary crimes like public corruption, tax fraud, bank fraud, theft and rape.

If we fail to deal with Trump in this way, it'll be extremely difficult to rescue his followers who've fallen deeply into the Qanon/Trump rabbit hole.

And, like so many infamous leaders in history, he'll simply attempt a comeback and further tear apart the psychological and political fabric of our nation.

If we are to save America, we must convict and imprison Trump for his lifetime of very real crimes.

American hellscape: Here is how Trump's well-armed shock troops could become even more deadly and barbaric​

With armed militia groups trying to take down our democracy, from January 6th to invading state capitols, things seem bad, maybe even Civil War bad. But if they hook up with the Christian right — with one small change to their ideology — we could be plunged into a hellscape right out of the tenth century.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

There's a thin line between what we call "civilization" and the kind of grim barbarism created by ISIS, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda. That line is defined by a single and simple tweak of a culture and its main religion's primary story-line with a variation that, from time to time, infects human cultures.

Here it is:

Societies that believe one gets to heaven by doing good works define the baseline for today's "civilized" cultures. But the one characteristic of barbarous cultures, consistent across the ages, is the belief that the surest path to forgiveness of sins and instant entry into heaven is to die while killing others in a "righteous" cause.

We all recall how, after 9/11, followers of Al Qaeda's founder Osama Bin Laden were ridiculed for believing that there'd be "72 virgins" waiting for them when they reached heaven, as if this were some sort of weird, anomalous belief unique to Bin Laden's sect. And, within modern Islam, it is both weird and anomalous.

But throughout recorded history, this single difference in one of the many stories that make up cultures and their religions is the defining line between civilization and barbarity.

Multiple cultures, at multiple times (including western culture) have embraced the idea that dying in battle is the instant route to heaven. Every culture that embraces this belief turns monstrous until the story is purged.

If the hard-right fringe in American and European culture adopts this belief, western civilization will face its most serious and historic challenge. And we may be closer to that dystopian possibility than most people realize.

Recently I've been reminded of this since Louise and I binge-watched Vikings, a dramatic series originally produced for the History Channel of Canada that begins with the story of Ragnar Lothbrok, a famous Norwegian raider who terrorized Europe (and even seized Paris) in the 9th century.

As the series moves through its mid and later years (keeping in mind this is a violent drama, heavily fictionalized and based on more legend than history; these times predate Gutenberg by half a millennium), it begins to delve deeply into the differences between the Catholicism of that day and the "Pagan" religion of the Vikings.

The most notable difference is that at that time the Vikings believed the highest parts of heaven — Valhalla, where one would spend eternity with the Gods — were reserved exclusively for warriors who died in battle, transported to Valhalla instantaneously upon death.

Additionally, the highest value one could attain in life was to become a "legend" about whom stories would be told for generations to come. Particularly legends about ones' battles and death.

It made them formidable enemies on the battlefield.

Just a bit over a century later, Pope Gregory VII inserted this meme into that era's Christianity to encourage his warriors in the first Crusade to Jerusalem (1095-1099); subsequent popes continued the tradition for several centuries, promising remission of sins and an instant pass to heaven for any who died in battle "on behalf of Christ."

On November 27, 1095 Pope Urban gave one of history's most famous speeches to the Council of Clermont in France, calling for a holy war against Islam to unite factious Europe:

"God himself will lead them," the Holy Father proclaimed, "for they will be doing His work. There will be absolution and remission of sins for all who die in the service of Christ. Here they are poor and miserable sinners; there they will be rich and happy."

The result, as I wrote in a 2002 essay for the 9/11 anthology From The Ashes: A Spiritual Response to the Attack on America, was a group of Christian warriors willing to use the most extraordinary brutality to take on any foe. Medieval historian Raymond of Agiles wrote an eyewitness account of the attack and seizure of Jerusalem in 1099 by the triumphant Crusaders:

"Some of our men cut off the heads of their enemies; others shot them with arrows, so that they fell from the towers; others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen in the streets of the city. It was necessary to pick one's way over the bodies of men and horses.
"But these were small matters compared to what happened at the temple of Solomon, a place where religious services ware ordinarily chanted. What happened there? If I tell the truth, it will exceed your powers of belief. So let it suffice to say this much at least, that in the temple and portico of Solomon, men rode in blood up to their knees and bridle reins."

This is part of the reason they called that time in history the "Dark Ages." Life was incredibly grim, and brutality was the first response to conflict, be it legal, political or ecclesiastic.

The power of this "honorable death in battle" meme wasn't limited to western culture. When my dad volunteered to defend the free world in World War II, the most feared enemy facing the Allies' Pacific Fleet were Japan's Kamikaze pilots, steeped in the Bushido code of the ancient Samuri and revived by the Emperor in 1944 as a last-ditch effort to win the war.

The Kamikaze pilots knew that if they died by crashing their plane into the deck of an American ship they'd be immediately transported to paradise.

All three of the world's monotheistic religions have, at various times, taught that if their adherents died in righteous battle they'd go directly to heaven (read the Book of Joshua for example). In each case when this belief was predominant, a type of warrior mentality arose that was nearly impossible to defeat and retarded the forward march of culture.

There is nothing more powerful than a warrior who doesn't fear dying but instead lives in anticipation of a "good death" on the battlefield.

So far, Trump's well-armed shock troops — the white supremacist "militias" the FBI has labeled as domestic terrorists — are only fighting for their vision of an apartheid white-power ethnostate, as laid out in their holy book The Turner Diaries and on websites like Stormfront.

They hate people of color, are wary of women in power like Nancy Pelosi and consider themselves superior to every other race; but they're still generally unwilling to go to prison or die for their cause.

But if a modern-day Christian version of Bin Laden — a wealthy, charismatic leader who has such religious magnetism that he can change heaven-and-hell stories back to where Christianity was in 1100 — rises in our country, everything changes.

Imagine if ISIS with their pickup trucks, semiautomatic weapons and giant flags were to take over America, beheading "blasphemers" and political enemies while setting up kangaroo courts based on their reading of scripture. Only this time the "ISIS" folks claimed Christianity and the Bible as their justification for violence and political power.

We're moving in this direction.

Folks adhering to a slightly softer version of this ideology are, Lawrence Wilkerson writes, already pushing the edge of hardcore fundamentalist ideology into our military.

Rightwing pastors who today are merely encouraging people to expose themselves to Covid and die would instead, if this meme became widespread, encourage people to die on the "battlefield" of America in actual combat. Even armed civilians with military training would find it difficult to fight against people intoxicated by such an ideology.

We think it can never happen here in America, but we came close once before: in the 1600s when "witches" and other uppity women were tortured and killed by religious leaders across Massachusetts and any man who dared oppose them faced brutal violence.

Its close cousin, religion-wise, also played out in the religious justification for the brutality of slavery, slaughter of Native Americans and a century of Jim Crow. Violent racism and patriarchy are breeding grounds for this kind of ideology.

And now the Moonies are talking about "a good way to die" fighting for fascism, as documented on Raw Story today.

In a more modern incarnation, those who "give their lives" for the cause would become martyrs, venerated and even one day prayed to. We're already seeing an attempt to get us there, as NBC News notes with the headline: Trump makes Ashli Babbitt, killed in the Capitol riot, into a martyr. Why that's so dangerous.

Some argue the "mass killings" that are so unique to America — young white men wanting to die and take others with them just to produce a "legend" about themselves — are an early warning of the kind of cultural collapse this ideology could produce in its early stages.

And Business Insider notes how violence as a solution to political problems is now embraced by about half of America's Republicans:

"Less than a year after a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol, nearly half of Republican voters (47%) say that 'a time will come when patriotic Americans have to take the law into their own hands,' per a new nationwide survey by George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs. …
"The poll also found that a majority of Republicans (55%) say 'the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast we may have to use force to save it.'"

Meanwhile, the radical right pastors have found their "demons" — liberals. Pastor Greg Locke comes right out and calls progressives "crack-smoking, demon-possessed leftists."

Qanon has built an entire pseudo-Christian Protocols of the Elders of Zion-like mythology around plain, vanilla Democrats like Hillary Clinton "drinking the blood of white children." The venom they direct at genuine progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad is even more severe, including frequent death threats.

This is cultural poison, and hard-right billionaires and wealthy foundations are pouring hundreds of millions into promoting politicians like Donald Trump who are aligned with or near to it.

Here in America on 9/11 we saw the outcome of Bin Laden's religious sect infected with that ultimate belief that death in battle takes you straight to heaven. It was an early warning.

If that meme jumps into hard-right Christianity and then gets exploited by political demagogues, all bets are off.

Trump's shadow cabinet is more than just a bizarre scam -- it is an integral part of his ongoing coup

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

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

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

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

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

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

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

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

In other words, the coup rolls on.

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the coup rolls on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, the coup rolls on.

It's time to trigger the nuclear option -- this might be our last chance to save democracy​

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

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

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

But the filibuster is not inviolable.

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

About those already-passed "constitutional" holes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The nation erupted.

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

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

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

The Constitution:

Requires each body of Congress to reset or re-ratify its rules at the beginning of every Congress (every 2 years)

Requires Congress to conduct the people's business in a republican fashion (by vote)

Requires elections every two years for 1/3 of the Senate, and the newer senators are freshly representing the most recent "will of the people"

Therefore anything that can permanently block the Senate from doing any constitutionally-mandated business is blocking republican democracy and thus the will of the people in violation of the spirit, if not the text, of the Constitution itself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's time to add a third.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Reagan Revolution collapsed America and the Florida condo

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

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And more people will die.

How Trump made being a psychopath fashionable

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

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychopath-driven inequality is making our society sick

Inequality is literally killing us, both individually and as a society, and its two main drivers are monopolistic business behavior, and greedy CEOs and politicians. Both are a result of psychopaths taking over politics and business.

Decades ago, when I was doing international relief work, I visited a school for Aboriginal children way up northeast near Cairns, Australia in a little town called Lockhart River.

One of the teachers there, a white guy who'd grown up in Sydney and was my guide around the place, told me the story of an "amazing, life-changing" revelation he had the first week he was teaching at the school.

He was supervising after-school activities, and a large group of the kids formed into two teams and were playing soccer. The game's score went back-and-forth, back-and-forth with the two teams, fairly evenly matched, taking turns with who was ahead.

"They played for about an hour," he told me, as I recall. "And then they stopped. They said the game was over, and I couldn't figure out why."

The revelation for him came when they told him that, by their rules, the game was over when both teams had achieved the same number of points. When things were even.

This is how things were across much of humanity before the psychopaths took over.

Humans are wired for cooperation and empathy; these are among the highest values in societies the predate the Agricultural Revolution and in cultures today who still remember their roots in such ancient societies.

The advent of agriculture 7,000 years ago, however, produced seasonal bursts of food from harvests, often followed by long, hungry winters. This gave some people—the psychopaths—the ability to (as Daniel Quinn wrote so eloquently in his book Ishmael) "lock up the food." It was the original sin of greed, the forbidden fruit of the garden, something that's considered a crime or a mental illness in Older Cultures.

Those greedy few who controlled the food had the power of life and death over everybody else, eventually coming to be known as kings, robber barons and CEOs as humanity moved into the modern era.

Multiple studies show that as many as 20% of American CEOs are psychopaths, accounting for a brutal business culture and a winner-takes-all economy.

Although humans are wired for empathy, collaboration and cooperation, there is a small percentage—most estimates run between .5% to 2%—of people among us who are psychopaths; these people rarely feel empathy and view cooperation as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

And, tragically, these psychopaths have mostly come to dominate the worlds of politics and business.

Most stunning, multiple studies show that as many as 20% of American CEOs are psychopaths, accounting for a brutal business culture and a winner-takes-all economy.

Depending on party affiliation, those numbers probably hold true in politics, as well; if psychopaths are over-represented in the Republican Party (Trump is the latest and most visible example), that would account for their brutal style of politics.

If psychopaths are under-represented in the Democratic Party, that would account for why Dems constantly want to compromise and work things out. Such behavior is, after all, the baseline norm for humans who are not psychopaths.

While psychopathic CEOs and politicians battling it out in their own realms may seem remote for the average person, the reality is their psychopathic, greedy behavior accounts for much of the massive inequality we see in the world today.

And that psychopath/greed-driven inequality is making us, as a society, sick.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the Equality Trust in the UK have spent years documenting how the more unequal a society is the greater will be their rates of crime, mental illness, violence, homicide, suicide, drug addiction, obesity, unwanted pregnancy and a whole host of other medical, psychological and social ills.

On the other hand, the more egalitarian or equal a society is the less frequently these societal ills present themselves. They've shown this is true from country to country, and even did an extraordinary break-down state-by-state in the US showing the exact same effect.

And now we're finding that just playing games that are based on psychopathic behavior like trying to wipe out your competitors and take all their assets triggers similar reactions in people to societal inequality itself. And some games are worse than others at this.

And the game that's the worst is Monopoly.

Back in 1903 Lizzy Magie, a British feminist and socialist, patented the board game that we know today as Monopoly. She invented the game as a warning about the dangers of unrestrained, unregulated capitalism, although over the past hundred years that has been almost completely forgotten.

As Chris Melore reports, "Monopoly stands out as the most debated—and most forbidden—board game of all time. In a recent survey of 2,000 U.S. residents, 20 percent say that their game nights with friends or family members are often or always disrupted by competitive or unfriendly behavior."

Perhaps the "good" news is that "only 11% of respondents said they witnessed a physical fight break out," but Monopoly—a game that is based on the prime psychopathic value of taking everything for yourself and thus increasing inequality—seems to trigger the worst in us.

Nobody's calling for a ban on the game of Monopoly, but as the Aboriginal kids taught their "westernized" teacher—and the extraordinary scientific research of the Equality Trust clearly shows—we will all be better off if we can reform our political and business cultures to be less greed-driven (psychopath-friendly) and more collaborative and fair (humanity-friendly).

Those psychopath-proofing reforms range from tackling actual business monopolies, to getting corporate and billionaire money out of politics, to strengthening our democracy by establishing an absolute right for all Americans to easily and comfortably vote like in other democracies (see: HR1).

It's a big lift, but if we all work together we can still make it happen.

The ugly truth: Republicans want more poverty and crime

The Republican Party is running a huge scam right now, similar to the one they ran in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush was setting up phony cocaine busts across the street from the White House having achieved his position by running his infamous Willie Horton ad four years earlier.

Here's the essential formula:

  • Increase levels of inequality in the country to the point where poverty and homelessness are a crisis.
  • Do this with huge, trillion-dollar tax cuts for rich people so they get massively richer, while gutting social safety net programs and supports for working-class people like unions.
  • Poverty and homelessness increase, which produces an increase in crime, and that freaks out middle-class people—the majority of voters.
  • Then, build your political identity and campaign around being "tough on crime" while completely ignoring the fact that the poverty you helped create is largely responsible for much of that crime.
  • Blame the poverty-driven crime, instead, on "welfare" programs Democrats have put into place to try to soften the blow of the poverty caused by Republican policies.
  • Get elected, create more poverty; rinse, wash, and repeat.

This is not a new idea. Around 170 A.D. Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius said, "Poverty is the mother of crime," although he was actually trying to reduce both in the wake of others who'd made poverty and thus crime worse.

And then there's inequality, which it turns out is at least as consequential as poverty as a driver of criminal behavior.

Years of research done by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett of the Equality Trust in the U.K. found that as inequality goes up, so does crime—particularly violent crime.

As their research notes:

Rates of violence are higher in more unequal societies. This finding holds up in many different contexts, we looked at via different methodologies and after controlling for other determinants of crime such as low income, unemployment, and teen birth rates.
Small permanent decreases in inequality—such as reducing inequality from the level found in Spain to that in Canada—would reduce homicides by 20% and lead to a 23% long-term reduction in robberies.

Inequality, it turns out, may be an even more effective driver of violent crime then poverty. And the United States today is the most unequal society in the developed world.

This week while taking a walk in Portland, my wife Louise was attacked by a homeless man, who threw a water bottle at her and chased her down the street. He was almost certainly mentally ill as well as poor; programs for the mentally ill were mostly nuked by Reagan and have never recovered.

And research from the Equality Trust shows that inequality is associated with mental illness; as societies become more unequal, mental illness increases. The data holds all over the world.

Nonetheless, the GOP continues to promote policies that increase inequality and thus increase violent crime and mental illness, while blaming it all on Democratic welfare programs.

And Republicans believe them. A 2014 Pew poll found that while 90% of Democrats want the government to do something about inequality only 45% of Republicans think anything should be done.

And now they're all over the media being positively hysterical, wringing their hands, about a post-Covid bump in crime during a time when eight million jobs have literally vanished from the American job market and will almost certainly not come back any day soon.

Republicans find this particularly easy to get away with because American media is mostly owned and run by very wealthy people and the "talent" we see on TV are almost exclusively, themselves, multimillionaires. Such folks are rarely comfortable talking about poverty and its relationship to inequality, although they're fine discussing crime anytime the GOP brings it up.

The same is true of most Republican politicians, funded as they are by billionaires, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) pointed out last July.

"Republicans are all upset that I'm connecting the dots between poverty and crime," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "I know most of them haven't experienced or seen these issues firsthand, but I have. This may be hard for them to admit, but poverty and crime are highly linked, both violent and nonviolent alike."

This blindness hits the entire economy. When Democrats work to lift people out of poverty, it lifts the entire economy. As Republicans work to cut taxes on rich people and spending on poor people, it whacks the economy.

Investment strategist Sam Stovall pointed out, in a USA Today article by Doug Stanglin, that "every Republican president since Chester A. Arthur (1881-85) had a recession during his administration."

Stanglin notes that Clinton "averaged 3.7% [economic growth] over eight years," while, "of the post-World War II presidents, only Truman, at 4.8%, Kennedy at 5.2%, and Johnson at 5.1% scored higher average growth rates. By contrast, Reagan averaged 3.5%, Carter 3.3%, Nixon 3.1%, Bush I, and Ford 2.2% and Bush II 1.65%."

Republicans, however, not only are not interested in discussing inequality or poverty and the relationship of both to violent crime, they even have a handy rejoinder to anybody who wants to talk about crime, particularly crime committed in minority neighborhoods.

For them, it's not inequality or even poverty that leads to crime, particularly violent crime: it's "character." And "character," more often than not, is simply a stand-in reference for "racial minorities" or, at best, "poor people."

They know it like a mantra because they've been saying it for years. Poverty is just fine. Don't worry about it. It's not causing crime; you can just look at those folks and see their criminality. As my right-wing colleague talk show host Dennis Prager asserts, "It is not material poverty that causes violent crime, but poor character."

Trump's administration even claimed to reverse the arrow of causation, arguing that poverty is caused by violence, and therefore we don't need to give poor people money but, instead, we need to throw more cops at them. "But to break the cycle of poverty," he said in March of 2017, "we must also break the cycle of violence."

Of course, they're wrong. Taking this out of the American political and social context altogether, a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) about the impact of poverty in China is instructive.

The study looked at two years of homicides across China and found that "poverty and low income levels" are "positively related to homicide rates."

But don't expect the Republicans to wake up any day soon. This is just science, after all. They will never, ever vote to raise taxes on the billionaires and corporations that own them. And they'll never work to use tax money to reduce poverty and inequality in America. Crime, after all, helps them beat Democrats.

Nor do they want to restructure our society in a way that gives working people the power to demand higher wages and better working conditions (unions), thus reducing both poverty and inequality.

And you can bet your bottom dollar they'll continue complaining about the crime that they've created, particularly in the election ads they'll start running next year.

Blowing up the billionaires' con that's shattering America

As we're struggling to recover from Trump's half-million unnecessary Covid deaths here in America, fighting to get a clear picture of how extensive the sedition was among Republicans in Congress around January 6th, and trying to pass legislation to ensure clean and safe elections and put the country back into shape, dark money, foreign oligarchs and rightwing media groups are hard at work tearing this nation apart.

This article was originally published at The Hartmann Report

And they're having considerable success.

About 75 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to "do what is right" when polled during most of the last years of the Eisenhower 1950s administration and early years of Lyndon B. Johnson's 1960s presidency.

In 2019, when the Pew Research Center released its most recent poll of public trust in the government, only 17 percent of Americans trusted their government. It's so bad that throughout 2020 armed protesters showed up nationwide to protest the "tyranny" of having to wear masks during a pandemic, and then stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the election, all cheered on by the then-President of the United States and multiple rightwing media outlets.

This is no accident; it's the result of a five-decades-long campaign by some of America's richest people to tear apart the governing fabric of our nation, formally kicked off by their man, Ronald Reagan, proudly proclaiming at his January 20, 1981, inauguration that, "[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

Put yourself in the place of the heirs to a multimillion-dollar fossil fuel empire, a situation akin to the "heroic" brother and sister who inherited a railroad from their dad in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged:

  • If you don't have to pay to dispose of cancer-causing byproducts from your refineries but can simply vent them into the air, and you make more money.
  • If you can cut wages and threaten employees because they don't have a union, you make more money.
  • If you can run a pipeline across sacred Native American land atop a major national aquifer with minimal safety oversight, you make more money.
  • If you can hide your money from the IRS because the agency has had its budget slashed so badly that it can no longer do expensive audits of morbidly rich people, you can keep more of the money you've made.
  • If you can get the government to cut social programs and public education, thus lowering your taxes, you can keep more of the money you've made.

So how do you pull this off, when every one of these things hurts average Americans?

Easy. Just embark on a 50-year-long campaign, through think tanks, right-wing media, and massive PR efforts to convince average Americans that government is the cause of, not the solution to, their problems. Convince working-class Americans that gutting government is a good thing that will ultimately help them in some mystical, magical way through the incredible "invisible hand" of the marketplace.

Lewis Powell, a lawyer for Big Tobacco, launched the movement to do just this with his infamous memo in 1971, and billionaires have funded and promoted politicians who jump on board the "government is evil" bandwagon ever since.

And it's largely worked, if the "trust in government" statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center since 1958 are accurate.

Years ago I was up late one night watching, as I recall, Bloomberg News on a hotel TV. The American host was interviewing a very wealthy German businessman at a conference in Singapore.

Amidst questions about the business climate and the conference, the host asked the German businessman what tax rate he was "suffering under" in his home country. As I recall, the businessman said, "A bit over 60 percent, when everything is included."

"How can you handle that?" asked the host, incredulous.

The German shrugged his shoulders and moved the conversation to another topic.

A few minutes later, the American reporter, still all wound up by the tax question, again asked the businessman how he could possibly live in a country with such a high tax rate on very wealthy and successful people. Again, the German deferred and changed the subject.

The reporter went for a third try. "Why don't you lead a revolt against those high taxes?" he asked, his tone implying the businessman was badly in need of some good old American rebellion-making.

The German businessman paused for a long moment and then leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees, his clasped hands in front of him pointing at the reporter as if in prayer.

He stared at the man for another long moment and then, in the tone of voice an adult uses to correct a spoiled child, said simply, "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country."

There are a few wealthy Americans who understand this. But the billionaires and foreign oligarchs who fund the Republican Party and right-wing media think it's perfectly fine to rip the financial and political guts out of their own nation and turn its people against each other if it makes them a few extra bucks.

They've funded and facilitated movements like the Tea Party and rightwing paramilitaries, media outlets like Fox News and Breitbart, and organizations like the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and ALEC. They throw piles of money at Republican politicians, so long as they never stray far from the "deregulate, cut, denigrate" line about American government. They sponsor climate denial to increase their own profits.

And over and over again, they've been successfully pulling this off for the past 50 years. The most recent example is the disaster we're seeing in Arizona where the majority of Republicans in the Arizona Senate, totally owned by rightwing billionaires, went along with Trump and started a phony "audit" to further erode Americans' faith in our government. Reaganism has become Trumpism, and it's all pointing toward destroying faith in democracy in America just to make a buck.

Similarly, a Morning Consult poll about saving Americans from the Covid crisis a few months ago had this headline: "With Congressional Stimulus Fight Looming, 76% of Voters Back $1.9 Trillion Plan, Including 60% of Republicans." Yet every single billionaire-owned Republican in Congress opposed it, and now they're opposing President Biden's efforts to rebuild our infrastructure, both hard and soft.

As this nation recovers from a deadly pandemic that — unnecessarily — killed more than 500,000 of our fellow citizens, and struggles with rightwing hate groups that are trying to provoke a second Civil War, let's remember how this all came about. And all for a few extra pieces of gold.

Will William Barr get away with covering up treason for HW Bush, Reagan and now Trump?

George HW Bush and Ronald Reagan were facing the possibility of treason charges. Who did they call? Bill Barr.

That was in the '80s and early '90s, but now we discover that Bill Barr really, truly, definitely also lied to America about presidential treason this decade. Shocking.

Mueller laid out 10 prosecutable incidents of Donald Trump committing felony obstruction of justice, all to cover up the assistance he was seeking and receiving from Russian oligarchs and the Russian government that ultimately helped him win the 2016 election.

Looking back now, seeing the actual documents from the time, Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson noted that Barr's lies to the American people, to Congress, and to federal judges were "so inconsistent with evidence in the record, they are not worthy of credence."

In other words, Barr lied through his teeth.

And he did it to avoid prosecuting Trump, who we can now see had clearly committed crimes — particularly reaching out to a foreign power for help — that would've landed any other American in prison for decades.

But this is not Bill Barr's first time playing cover-up for a Republican president who had committed crimes that rise to 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 and that he and his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office.

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 Iran-Contra criminal conspiracy limited, as Reagan and Bush insisted (and Reagan said on TV), to later years in the Reagan presidency, in response to a 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 treason.

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 had 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 ultimately came to refer to Barr as "Coverup-General" in the midst of another scandal—one having to do with Bush 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."

On October 19, 1992, Safire wrote 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. 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 Iran-Contra, 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. And Walsh was closing in fast on Bush himself.

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So, when Bush shut the investigation down by pardoning not only Weinberger, but also Abrams and the others involved in the crimes, destroying Walsh's ability to prosecute anybody, the New York Times ran the headline all the way across four of the six columns on the front page, screaming in all-caps: BUSH PARDONS 6 IN IRAN AFFAIR, ABORTING A WEINBERGER TRIAL; PROSECUTOR ASSAILS 'COVER-UP.'

Bill Barr had struck, and, like with Trump and the Muller investigation into his treason, Reagan and Bush's treason was now buried.

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, it was déjà vu all over again. Four months earlier, referring to Iraqgate (Bush's 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 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 1986 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, "evidence of a conspiracy among the highest ranking Reagan Administration officials to lie to Congress and the American public."

The phrase "highest ranking" officials 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, "forestalled impeachment proceedings against President Reagan" through a pattern of "deception and obstruction."

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.

Months later in January of 1993, newly sworn-in President Clinton and the new Congress decided to put it all behind them and not pursue the matters any further.

Will Biden do the same, for both Trump and Barr? He's publicly said that he's going to let his new attorney general, Merrick Garland, make those kinds of decisions.

And Garland, it seems, has unleashed the FBI and other investigators in ways that must be sending shock-waves through Mar-a-Lago and the ranks of former Trump officials.

One can only hope…

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