Here's why Republicans suddenly love the Post Office

The Republicans are about to win a major battle in their war on electric vehicles, this time with the second largest vehicle fleet in America owned by the US Postal Service. It’s an outrageous story that most Americans don’t know a thing about.

To understand what’s going on with the Post Office right now, you first must know the backstory that, it seems, most media outlets aren’t interested in discussing. It’s an issue that’s hitting millions of Americans right now.

One of our kids, for example, recently became the first member of our family to buy a fully 100% electric car. She was so excited and has loved it driving around Portland…until she had to drive to another state for a conference, when she discovered what a problem America not having an electric charging infrastructure causes.

The way to solve this problem, of course, is to have a substantial and massive increase in electric vehicles and that’s exactly what the Post Office set out to jump-start back in 2006.

Transportation, after all, is the single largest source of global warming emissions from the United States. And the Post Office once thought they could do something about it.

Things were going well for the Post Office in 2006.

They were making money and had a surplus. They were therefore seriously considering replacing a large part of their fleet — the largest fleet of civilian vehicles in the nation — with electric and hybrid vehicles.

It would be a mighty boost for the electric car, and a huge slap in the face of the fossil fuel barons who had an outsized say in the Republican Party.

On May 17, 2006 Walter O’Tormey, the Post Office’s Vice President, Engineering, unveiled a new hybrid gas/electric mail delivery vehicle in Boston to an audience of “nearly 100 industry representatives, environmentalists, and Postal Service employees,” saying:

“As an agency that delivers mail to 145 million businesses and households six days a week, drives approximately 1.1 billion miles a year, and consumes more than 125 million gallons of motor fuel annually, we are in a unique position to demonstrate to the public and other businesses the growing viability and positive environmental and energy-savings benefits of alternate-fuel technologies.”

In their 2006 annual report the Postal Service openly bragged about their ambition to move away from relying entirely on fossil fuels:

“With more than 216,000 vehicles, the Postal Service has the largest civilian fleet in the United States. We continue to evaluate various fuel types and alternative fuel vehicles including hybrid trucks, hydrogen fuel cell vans, electric step vans and liquid natural gas delivery vehicles.”

If the Post Office pulled off a massive transition away from fossil fuels, it would jump-start the then-new electric, hybrid and fuel cell technologies, paving the way for wider use, a large national electric “refueling” infrastructure, and a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses.

Americans were excited by the possibility. Speaking on behalf of a coalition of mayors from all parts of the country to the World Congress on Information Technology annual conference in Austin on May 6, 2006, Austin Mayor Will Winn proudly announced:

“Transitioning the Postal fleet to plug-ins would serve as a springboard for the commercial production of delivery vehicles that could be extended to a wide variety of delivery services across America.

“The commercial market would also provide the economic certainty needed by automakers to make the production investments necessary for the mass production of plug-ins.

“The plug-in technology is available right now and represents a realistic near-term solution to the serious problems of over-reliance on foreign oil, out of control gasoline prices, as well as greenhouse emissions.”

Given that postal vehicles typically have a 30-year lifespan, this would produce a huge tilt in the balance of alternative-versus-fossil-fuel vehicles on the road.

But the possibility of that transition happening to the nation’s largest vehicle fleet was, in a word, intolerable to the morbidly rich rightwingers who’d made their fortunes drilling, refining, shipping and selling fossil fuels, particularly oil, diesel and gasoline.

The Post Office had to be stopped, and Republican Congressman John McHugh (NY) was just the man to do it. He’d been a member of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and was deeply in the pocket of right-wing interests.

As Wikipedia notes in an exercise of gentle understatement:

“[McHugh] was chairman of the Oversight Committee's Postal Service Subcommittee for six years and worked to pass legislation to significantly reform the U.S. Postal Service for the first time since it was demoted from a Cabinet-rank department with passage of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (Pub.L. 109–435) in 2006.”

ALEC, which writes corporate-friendly legislation and relies on its membership of Republican lawmakers around the nation to pass that legislation, just happened to have a model 2006 bill known as the Unfunded Pensions Liabilities Act, which called on state governments to account for exactly how they plan to fund future retiree benefits.

Adapting that ALEC concept to the Post Office, McHugh’s bill was passed by a voice vote in a Republican Congress and signed by Republican President George W. Bush. There is no record whatsoever of who voted or how they voted on the legislation.

It was preceded, however, by a virtual waterfall of op-eds and PR efforts by groups affiliated with the Koch network including the Reason Foundation, the National Taxpayer’s Union, and the CATO Institute.

What the law did was ram a poison pill down the throat of the Post Office.

It required the USPS to pre-fund its Retiree Health Benefits Fund for seventy years into the future, forcing the Post Office to take the money they planned to spend on electric vehicles and set it aside for the health benefits of future retirees who weren’t even born yet (and should be eligible for Medicare, anyway).

It’s an obligation that no other private business or government agency has ever had to comply with before.

Costing the Post Office $5 billion a year, it succeeded in stopping their plan to electrify their fleet dead in its tracks.

And it set it up more cleanly for eventual privatization, once enough infrastructure like postal drop boxes and million-dollar high-speed sorting machines was destroyed — a process Reagan called “Starve the Beast” — that “customers” were complaining about the service and public opinion finally agreed the Post Office would work better in private hands.

Reagan had tried to do the same thing to Social Security and the IRS, and Trump doubled down on that plan, offering tens of thousands of staffers early retirement to gut both agencies; they’re now so hobbled by underfunding and worker shortages that Social Security disability claims can take two years, and extremely wealthy people are no longer generally audited at all because of the cost and manpower needs determined by their complexity.

Which brings us to Louis DeJoy.

The Post Office is finally on the verge of getting out from under that $5 billion-a-year prefunding burden so they can now start buying that new fleet they proposed in 2006.

Postmaster General DeJoy was strongly encouraged by the Biden administration to give the contract to a company that would manufacture electric and electric/hybrid vehicles.

But DeJoy essentially told Biden to go screw himself: he’s going to buy fossil-fuel vehicles for 90% of the fleet instead.

The Washington Post laid it all out in the open to an article last week titled: Biden Officials Push to Hold Up $11.3 Billion USPS Truck Contract, Citing Climate Damage, noting:

“The Biden administration launched a last-minute push Wednesday to derail the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to spend billions of dollars on a new fleet of gasoline-powered delivery trucks, citing the damage the polluting vehicles could inflict on the climate and Americans’ health.

“The dispute over the Postal Service’s plans to spend up to $11.3 billion on as many as 165,000 new delivery trucks over the next decade has major implications for President Biden’s goal of converting all federal cars and trucks to clean power.”

And it’s not just the White House that’s outraged. CNN reported yesterday:

“Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service, called for DeJoy's resignation.

“‘Postmaster General DeJoy’s plan to spend billions on brand new gas-powered vehicles is in direct contradiction to the stated goals of Congress and the President to eliminate emissions from the federal fleet,’ Connolly said in a statement. ‘If Mr. DeJoy won’t resign, the Board of Governors has got to fire him -- now.’”

Because Republican senators are holding up confirmation of Biden’s Postal Board of Governors’ appointees, DeJoy can’t be fired by the current Trump-appointee-dominated board, a fact that Senator Sheldon Whitehouse pointed out last week, demanding the Senate move the Democratic nominees forward over GOP objections.

But DeJoy is itching to sign the contract for all those gas and diesel vehicles, and he still has the power to do so.

So, now that the possibility of electrifying the nation’s (now second) largest fleet of vehicles is pretty much dead and they’re planning to go ahead with fossil fuels, Republicans in Congress are fine with eliminating the retirement prefunding dead weight on the Post Office.

The vote in the House this week was 342-90 to end the prefunding requirement and give DeJoy the money to buy the gas-powered vehicles. Now it goes to the Senate, where the AP noted:

“Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said he expects his chamber to ‘move quickly’ on the measure. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he's planning a vote before a recess that starts after next week. The bill has 14 GOP sponsors and, with strong Democratic support expected, seems on track to gain the 60 votes most bills need for Senate passage.”

When asked Wednesday night on MSNBC why Congress had crippled the Post Office with that bizarre prefunding requirement in the first place, Senator Peters — one of the truly good guys in the US Senate — answered that he had no idea.

As is the case with most members of Congress; the pre-funding was essentially slipped into the bill at the behest of the fossil fuel industry and, at the time, got virtually no publicity. Thus, I tweeted him:

“Here’s what happened, @SenGaryPeters Around 2006 the post office rolled out a plan to convert their entire fleet to electric vehicles. They had a $ surplus and could do it. Republicans pushed a bill to cripple them financially. Now DeJoy has chosen a diesel truck vendor… Which is why now Republicans are willing to go along with funding the Post Office, because now the money will continue to flow to the fossil fuel industry for the avg. 30-year lifespan of postal vehicles. Look to the (ahem) petrobillionaires for the hand behind all this.”


It was incomplete on my part to miss the privatization bonus in the tweet, and the vendor will supply gasoline vehicles as well, but you get the point.

Like so many other weirdnesses in American politics, when you pull back the veil you find the hands of a fossil fuel industry that values profits and right wing ideology over the future of our children, our nation and the planet.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Psychopathic CEOs are quite literally committing crimes against the American people

Most recently, 100 mph winds swept grass-fires through Colorado, leaving thousands homeless. It was 116 degrees here in Portland last summer, as wildfires and drought ravage the West. The Gulf Coast, South and Eastern Seaboard are now annually torn apart by superstorms, while the Midwest faces mile-wide tornadoes never before seen with this ferocity and frequency.

Climate change has gone from the theoretical to slapping us in the face.

From drought and fires that killed hundreds in California, to massive tornadoes ripping apart Kentucky, to sea-level rise and flooding cities, America is being hammered and Americans are dying. Right now.

And it’s expensive. Individual families (and their insurance companies) are bearing the brunt of the burden right now, but as climate disasters continue to scale up it’s going to not only cost more and more American homes and lives, it’s also already costing the country hundreds of billions — soon to be trillions — every year.

So, who’s going to pay for this?

If an arsonist lit your house on fire, in addition to sending him to jail you could also sue his estate for damages.

In this case, we have corporations and individuals who intentionally lied to us for half a century about the impact of their fossil fuels on global warming just to enrich themselves.

Now they’re standing back with their hands in their pockets shrugging and whistling while people die and our homes are frozen, flooded or destroyed by tornadoes.

Those who perpetrated the lies that led to this must be held to account, both financially and with the force of criminal law.

On top of that, now that climate change is here and walloping us, we must harden our nation’s infrastructure and relocate both vulnerable people and those who lost their homes and communities to wild weather, drought, and floods.

Shouldn’t the fossil fuel companies and the millionaires and billionaires they’ve created pick up that bill, too?

We’ve been having a similar conversation around other 20th century corporate crime for decades, and generally we’ve screwed it up.

America is pock-marked with mansions and estates owned by families enjoying multi-generational wealth that came from their ancestors or parents lying to the American government and the public in ways that killed people.

For example, in 1943 Samac Laboratory told the nation’s largest asbestos producer, Johns-Manville, that asbestos exposure definitely and predictably caused the excruciatingly painful and always-fatal lung cancer called mesothelioma. The company’s executives made the corporate decision to cover the science up and then lied about it to their employees, customers and the government for two generations.

That was eight years before my father dropped out of college in 1950 and went to work in a Grand Rapids steel mill because Mom got pregnant with me; he was surrounded every day with a cloud of asbestos dust that his bosses told him was “safe.” Dad died of mesothelioma in 2006.

One of the best known of the many fabulously rich heirs to the Manville fortune was Tommy Manville, who became famous for marrying eleven blonde 20-something showgirls thirteen times. Seriously. The first paragraph of his obituary in The New York Times reads: “Tommy Manville, who took 11 wives in 13 marriages and was heir to the Johns-Manville asbestos fortune, died of a heart attack yesterday at his estate in Chappaqua, N.Y. He was 73 years old.”

To this day, no asbestos fortunes have been attached and none of the criminal liars went to prison: we missed that opportunity a generation ago.

Similarly, thousands of million-dollar estates across our country are owned by heirs or current executives of the tobacco industry, which also knew their product killed Americans and lied to us. We missed that chance to do right, too: none of these wealthy executives have ever gone to prison, even though their product continues to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year.

When it finally came out a few years ago that Roundup causes cancer, none of the multimillionaire heirs to the Monsanto fortune lost their mansions and none of Monsanto’s executives went to jail.

Neither did the owners of chemical companies that left behind deadly Superfund sites like the one that caused birth defects and stillbirths at Love Canal; others do so to this day across the nation.

When it came out that the Sackler family decided to lie that their new Oxycontin drug was less addictive than normal opioids they walked away with billions; none have seen the inside of a jail cell for even an hour.

Owners and operators of mining operations across the country lied to communities for generations that they’d clean up their poisonous waste: instead, they routinely bankrupt their companies and walk away with millions, leaving behind moonscape-like devastation.

Even banksters like “Foreclosure King” Steve Mnuchin, who reveled in “earning” around $200 million by throwing over 36,000 of California families out of their homes while his Wall Street buddies stole trillions of dollars, continues to troll us with his twitter pontifications like he’s some kind of elder statesman worthy of our respect.

As Honoré de Balzac noted in 1834 (in slightly less compressed language), “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime”:

Historically, the only corporate criminals we hold to account are those who rip off rich people: Ken Lay, for example, defrauding his Enron investors, and Bernie Madoff scammed millions from Wall Street oligarchs.

On the other hand, if you can make billions exploiting, poisoning, misinforming, or ripping off working-class Americans you’re generally guaranteed a soft landing.

We have to change the rules.

We’re now confronted with a crisis that goes far beyond this routine orgy of corrupted capitalism: climate change isn’t just killing a few Americans; it’s threatening civilization itself and perhaps even the future of the human race.

Fossil fuel companies have known for two generations that their products would at the least disrupt society and at worst produce a great extinction on the order of what killed off the dinosaurs.

Not only did they cover it up: they actively funded climate change “disinformation” campaigns with front groups and bought-off scientists openly lying in the press and before Congress.

And now, like with asbestos, tobacco, and dozens of other known-as-deadly products, the bill is coming due.

In the face of this fossil-fueled climate change we need immediate and expensive action: America needs to harden its infrastructure, and fast.

If high-tension power lines had been buried underground in California and Colorado, for example, the worst of the wildfires would have been avoided, as they were caused by wind-downed wires.

Cities from Miami to New York are regularly crippled by sea-level-rise flooding and therefore must spend hundreds of billions on levees, pumps and reconfiguring water, power, mass transit, and sewage systems.

So many American homes have been destroyed by global-warming-worsened fires and freezes (see: “Texas”) that building materials have exploded in price and fireproof “intumescent” house paint is the hot new product.

The bad guys should be paying for this. We’ve certainly established a legal framework for it.

Before my dad died, he joined an asbestos lawsuit that, after lawyer fees, got his estate around $40,000 which eased life for my mom. Similarly, states have received compensation from tobacco companies for their costs treating lung cancers and the federal government steps in to remediate old mines and superfund sites.

While the majority of people injured by the kind of raw capitalism we practice in this country never see a penny, there is precedent for holding lying industries responsible for the harms they intentionally and knowingly cause.

At the very least, this could take the form of a carbon tax, with the revenue going to reimburse victims and harden our infrastructure.

But given how egregious these companies have behaved — and how many are still, to this day, funding climate denial and lobbying against green energy — Congress should extract restitution and recompense from the companies and punish the psychopathic executives who oversaw their campaigns of deadly lies.

This goes way beyond garden variety crime, even dwarfing the damage caused by asbestos or tobacco. These are quite literally crimes against the American people and crimes against our larger humanity.

It’s time to hold the perpetrators to account and make them pay.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

This 232-year-old power has never been used by Congress — but it could save the republic

The Founders of this nation, and the Framers who wrote our Constitution, created (as Ben Franklin famously said) a constitutional republic: a government “deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed” through citizens’ (then white men) right to vote.

They referred to this as “republicanism” because it was based on the Greek and Roman republics (then thousands of years in the past but still remembered and idealized), and when put into law they called it “a Republican Form of Government.”

Today that form of government is in crisis in America, as that core right to vote that defines republicanism is under attack by Republican legislators in red states across our nation.

“In emergency, break glass” is the almost-never-used option available should a building catch fire or otherwise be in crisis. There’s a similar alarm and safety valve built into the US Constitution that, like that glass in so many buildings, has never before been used to protect our republic.

It’s called the Guarantee Clause, and it’s the basis of the Right To Vote Act that has passed the House and is stalled by a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

The Guarantee Clause, however, has never been used as a part of our everyday politics or law: most people, in fact, have never heard of it.

It’s never been used or adopted as law by the courts so it’s essentially “potential power,” a powerful but tightly coiled force quietly waiting for a real emergency, buried deep in our Constitution for 232 years.

But it comes alive when Congress activates it for the first time, which could be right now because the Freedom to Vote Act does just that, explicitly firing it up by name.

Joe Manchin is one of its co-sponsors, although it’s mostly an effort by Senators Klobuchar (its main sponsor), Kaine, King, Merkley, Padilla, Tester, and Warnock. On the Republican side, it appears to have support from Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski.

And when you understand the background of the Guarantee Clause, the urgency and the consistency of The Right To Vote Act with the Framer’s vision about the possibility of this political moment is unmistakable:

July 18, 1787

It was a brutally hot summer in Philadelphia that year, and a week and a day after a mob chased down Mrs. Korbmacher on the streets outside Independence Hall (then the seat of the Pennsylvania legislature) and beat her to death for witchcraft.

Inside the Hall, the delegates were writing the Constitution for a new nation, and the question had come up whether the new US government should have the power — or the obligation — to “guarantee” that no state could so change its laws as to deprive its citizens of a “Republican Form of Government.

This was particularly important, as British law at the time specifically outlawed republicanism: only monarchy was allowed, and citizens had to swear fealty to the king. Nowhere in the “civilized world” of 1787, in fact, was it legal for a nation to elect their own representatives and live under their own laws, all made and enforced “by the consent of the governed” through “a Republican Form of Government.”

At the end of the long, intense day, James Madison wrote a short letter to Thomas Jefferson, who was then the US envoy to France and living in Paris, assuring him he was taking “lengthy notes” but couldn’t fill his mentor in on the details because he was “still under the mortification of being restrained from disclosing any part of their proceedings.”

In fact, those notes taken during the Convention wouldn’t see publication for another roughly 50 years, after all the men in the Hall were dead, a concession to numerous delegates who’d essentially sold out their wealthy acquaintances by ensuring a republican democracy or allowing slavery to continue (there were compromises on both sides, some of which, like the electoral college and setup of the 2-votes-only-regardless-of-population Senate, cripple us to this day).

Before them for debate that day was proposed constitutional language: “That a republican constitution and its existing laws ought to be guarantied to each state by the United States.”

An immediate objection came up from both New York’s Gouverneur Morris and New Jersey’s William Houston, because that language would allow the new states to keep laws that some delegates thought weren’t “republican” in nature.

Morris, in particular, was an outspoken abolitionist and (from the left) wanted slavery phased out, and also opposed (from the right) laws like the one Rhode Island’s legislature was then debating that would have equalized all wealth in that state every 13 years. That “Jubilee” idea was a prescription for chaos, Morris believed, and thus a threat to the new republic.

The judgment of history weighed on Morris. Madison later recounted that, “He came here as a representative of America; he flattered himself he came here in some degree as a Representative of the whole human race; for the whole human race will be affected by the proceedings of this Convention.”

Thus it was no surprise when Morris rose to object that the proposed language could keep terrible state laws in place.

“Mr. GOUVERNEUR MORRIS thought the resolution very objectionable,” Madison wrote. “He should be very unwilling that such laws as exist in Rhode Island should be guarantied.”

New Jersey’s William Houston, a mathematics professor and abolitionist who served as a Captain in Washington’s army, concurred — although he was more concerned with not wanting to encourage laws that maintained slavery and debt peonage.

“Mr. HOUSTON,” Madison noted, “was afraid of perpetuating the existing constitutions of the states. That of Georgia was a very bad one, and he hoped would be revised and amended.”

At which point several men rose to point out they were debating the power of the federal government to “guarantee a Republican Form of Government” to all the states — but what if power-hungry people in a particular state were to rise up in rebellion and seize control of that state’s government, thus ending statewide republicanism and creating a minor dictatorship or cult?

And then, what if that state then threatened other states’ ability to have a government reflecting the will of the people?

Or tried to take them over either by corrupting them from within or invasion? (This was not an idle fear: both happened just 74 years later in 1861.)

Massachusetts’ Nathaniel Gorham was particularly outspoken about this, given how there had been attempts by both rich landowners and Pilgrim clergy in his state over the past century to turn the state into a dictatorial theocracy (leading Roger Williams to flee and split off Rhode Island in the 1670s).

If such a thing were to happen again and succeed, Gorham wondered, shouldn’t the federal government have the power to intervene so it could guarantee the states around Massachusetts and its residents a republican form of government where those with political power had to answer to “the people” rather than just the clergy or the rich? What if a wealthy oligarch declared himself a monarch?

“Mr. GORHAM thought it strange that a rebellion should be known to exist in the empire,” Madison wrote, “and the general government should be restrained from interposing to subdue it. At this rate, an enterprising citizen might erect the standard of monarchy in a particular state; might gather together partisans from all quarters; might extend his views from state to state, and threaten to establish a tyranny over the whole,—and the general government be compelled to remain an inactive witness of its own destruction.” [emphasis added]

In response, Pennsylvania’s James Wilson, a scholar of Greek democracy and an abolitionist, suggested different language for the Fourth Section of the Constitution’s Fourth Article:

“[T]hat a republican form of government shall be guarantied to each state; and that each state shall be protected against foreign and domestic violence.”

That did the trick.

“This seeming to be well received,” Madison noted, “Mr. MADISON and Mr. RANDOLPH withdrew their propositions, and, on the question for agreeing to Mr. Wilson’s motion, it passed, nem. con.” The convention then adjourned for the day and Madison went home to write his letter to Jefferson.

That day’s debate is what gave us Section 4 of Article IV of the Constitution:

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

It’s an amazing sentence, that could be as sweeping in its power as the Commerce Clause (which JFK and LBJ used to force integration of the South), but has never really been used in any meaningful way since it was written on that hot summer day in 1787.

The first time this “Guarantee Clause” came before the Supreme Court, slavery was the law of the land and Chief Justice Roger Taney, a former slaveholder, was determined to keep it that way by bottling up that Clause’s power.

Seven years before he tried to cement slavery into the law of every state in the union with his Dred Scott decision, Taney ruled in Luther v Borden (1849) that his Supreme Court would never be allowed to interfere with state’s rights on the basis of the Guarantee Clause.

“Under this article of the Constitution,” Taney wrote, “it rests with Congress to decide what government is the established one in a state.”

In other words, Taney said: The definition of what a ‘Republican Form of Government’ actually means isn’t yet laid out in the law or previous interpretations of the Constitution: therefore, it’s politics. And politics is the province of Congress, not the Supreme Court, which must limit itself to law.

On that foundation, later Supreme Courts repeated Taney’s assertion that the question was political and not one to be decided by the courts: instead it was up to the politicians in Congress if they were going to “guarantee a Republican Form of Government” to — or within — any particular state at any point in the future.

Taney was quoted “lucidly and cogently” in Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph v Oregon (1912) and Chief Justice John Roberts noted in 2019 that, “This Court has several times concluded that the Guarantee Clause does not provide the basis for a justiciable claim.”

Thus, to this day, it’s up to Congress, not the Court, to decide what a “Republican Form of Government” is and how Congress will guarantee it to and/or within every state.

Which brings us to today, and how Congress can end partisan gerrymanders, dial back the power of money in politics, and guarantee the right of every American citizen to vote without undue difficulty.

The opening of the Freedom To Vote Act lays it out clearly:

“Congress also finds that it has both the authority and responsibility, as the legislative body for the United States, to fulfill the promise of article IV, section 4, of the Constitution, which states: ‘The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a “Republican Form of Government.”’” [emphasis added]

The proposed law even notes as justification for its existence how the Supreme Court has dropped — or laid down — the ball and therefore Congress must pick it up:

“Congress finds that its authority and responsibility to enforce the Guarantee Clause is clear given that Federal courts have not enforced this clause because they understood that its enforcement is committed to Congress by the Constitution.”

The Freedom To Vote Act ensures a “Republican Form of Government” in America by providing:

  • Automatic voter registration and online registration for 16 year olds who will be 18 and thus eligible to vote in the next election
  • Same day voter registration nationwide
  • Ends partisan gerrymandering
  • Limits campaign contributions to a maximum of $10,000
  • Criminalizes “pass through” groups to get around campaign finance laws
  • Requires companies to fully and rapidly disclose all election spending over $10,000
  • Requires all websites (like Facebook) with more than 50 million users to create a publicly available and publicly searchable archive of political ads
  • Brings web-based election expenditures under the same disclosure rules as TV
  • Makes it a federal crime to prevent a person from registering to vote
  • Requires 14 consecutive days for early voting, at least 10 hours each day
  • Requires easy access to polling places for rural and college campus voters, and easy access to voting for all voters by public transportation
  • Guarantees that all voters, nationwide, can vote by mail with no excuses necessary
  • Guarantees that all voters can put themselves on a permanent vote-by-mail list and automatically receive a ballot in the mail
  • Requires states to give voters the ability to track their mail-in ballots to be sure they’re counted or contest any challenge to their ballot
  • Forbids states from forcing mail-in voters to have their ballots witnessed, notarized or jump through other onerous hoops
  • Requires secured and clearly labeled ballot drop boxes in all jurisdictions
  • Requires the Post Office to process all ballots on the day they’re dropped off and without postage
  • Requires states to keep voting lines shorter than 30 minutes in all cases and places
  • Allows people waiting in line to vote to receive food or water from others
  • Gives the right to vote to all felons who have served their sentences, in all states
  • Prohibits voter “caging” where failure to return a postcard gets you purged
  • Prohibits states from deleting voters from the rolls because they haven’t recently voted
  • Empowers voters to sue in federal court any state or local officials who interfere with their right to vote
  • Criminalizes intimidating, threatening or coercing any election official or election worker
  • Requires federal prosecution of anybody who tries to harm or undermine public officials by doxxing the personal information of an election worker or their immediate family
  • Makes it a federal crime to publish or distribute false information about elections (when, where, etc.)
  • Increases federal penalties for voter intimidation or otherwise interfering with your absolute right to vote
  • Keeps partisan “poll watchers” at least 8 feet from voters in all circumstances, including while voting
  • Requires paper ballots in all cases and all elections (there are exceptions for disabled voters)
  • Requires post-election audits
  • Provides criminal penalties for any candidate or campaign that fails to fully and immediately report any interactions with foreign governments
  • Gives lower income individuals $25 they can use to give to candidates in $5 or more increments

The Freedom To Vote Act is more urgently needed with every passing day, as multiple Republican-controlled states openly (and ironically) tear down actual “republican principles” of representative government by continuing to pass laws that pre-rig election outcomes.

Some have even gone so far as to introduce laws that authorize their legislatures to ignore or reject votes they don’t like, in anticipation of the 2024 election.

Passing this law must now be the Senate’s first priority because, “It’s a republic, ma’am, if you can keep it.”

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It's past time for Democrats to defy the Supreme Court

Our democracy is in a crisis, with many thoughtful and not-prone-to-hysteria commentators wondering out loud if the Republican embrace of Trumpism has gone so far that it may take the entire country over the edge.

A brilliant recent analysis is Thomas Edsall’s article in yesterday’s New York Times, How to Tell When Your Country Is Past the Point of No Return, bookended by Barton Gellman’s shocking piece in The Atlantic, Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun.

Both deal with the immediate crisis brought to us by the six years that Trump has dominated the American political scene and his takeover of the Republican Party.

But neither is addressing the core problem America is facing that helped bring us Trump, but goes deeper than him: money.

Specifically, money — bribery — in politics that has been legalized and expanded by reactionary “conservatives” on the Supreme Court.

But what if Congress could tell the Supreme Court it disagrees that bribery of politicians should be legal, constitutional, and takes its own steps to solve that problem?

The majority of Americans, for example, want their drug prices to be reasonable like they are in Canada or Europe: the reason we pay as much as 10 times more than citizens of those countries is because the Supreme Court made it legal for the big drug companies and their lobbying groups to bribe our federal politicians.

The same is true for a wide variety of issues where federal law is wildly at odds with what the public wants fixed:

  • almost $2 trillion in student loan debt
  • strengthening Social Security and Medicare
  • bankster bailouts
  • health insurance ripoffs
  • billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry
  • billionaires paying 1% to 3% in income taxes (and corporations paying nothing) while average folks get soaked
  • 60,000+ factories moved offshore (along with tens of millions of good-paying jobs)
  • employers like Amazon and Kellogg’s engaging in blatant unionbusting
  • internet companies tracking your every move and every keystroke and then selling that information without your permission
  • climate change

Every single one of these problems continue to exist in the face of overwhelming public disapproval because one or another industry or group of rightwing billionaires has been empowered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to bribe politicians.

Americans watch with their jaws on the floor as Senator Sinema and the “corporate problem solvers” in the House take obscene piles of cash from Big Pharma and then refuse to vote to stop drug-price ripoffs.

There was a time in America when this was a crime called “bribery” and the overall process was called “political corruption.”

In particular, after the 1970s scandals involving both President Nixon and Vice President Agnew taking outright bribes, Congress put laws into place to stop elected officials from putting donor interests above those of voters and the nation.

But that was then and this is now.

Five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court gutted those laws with their 2010 Citizens United decision, over the loud objections of their four colleagues.

Democrats in Congress need to reverse that bizarre and nation-destroying decision with a new law declaring the end to this American political crime spree, and re-criminalize bribery of elected officials.

And they need to do it in a way that defies the Court’s declaration that money is “free speech” and corporations are “persons.”

That defiance requires something called “court stripping.“

Republicans understand exactly what I’m talking about: they tried to do the same thing most recently in 2005 with the Marriage Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives on July 22, 2004.

That law, designed to override Supreme Court protections of LGBTQ people, contained the following court stripping paragraph:

“No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C or this section.”

In other words, Congress wrote that this law is consistent with the constitution, and that they are deciding that…and the Supreme Court, with regard to the Marriage Protection Act, has no say in the matter.

This assertion that each of the three branches should have its own opinions about a law’s constitutionality, is consistent with a view of the Supreme Court expressed at various times by both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, among numerous others of the Founders.

There is literally nothing in the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the exclusive right to decide what the Constitution says: that is a power the Supreme Court took onto itself in 1803 in a decision, Marbury v Madison, that drove then-President Jefferson nuts. He wrote:

“[O]ur Constitution…has given — according to this opinion — to one of them alone the right to prescribe rules for the government of the others; and to that one, too, which is unelected by and independent of the nation… The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the Judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please.“

Court stripping when it came to constitutionality was how this country operated for its first 70 years, including when all the men who wrote the Constitution were alive and in our government.

The Supreme Court only ruled twice between the 1789 signing of the Constitution and the 1860s on a constitutional issue, and in each case both Congress and the president at the time ignored the ruling.

The first was President Andrew Jackson when the court ruled the Second National Bank was constitutional and Jackson shut it down anyway, claiming it wasn’t. He said:

“The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others… The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both.”

And then President Abraham Lincoln chose to explicitly ignore the Supreme Court’s confirmation of chattel slavery in its 1856 Dred Scott v Sanford decision, as did Congress, and even went on to free enslaved Americans before the Court could weigh in again.

In the year before his presidency when campaigning for office, Lincoln even mocked his opponent, Stephen A. Douglas (during the first Lincoln-Douglas debate) to “Roars of Laughter” for “respecting” Judge Taney and saying he’d go along with the Dred Scott decision if elected president.

When Republicans were pushing court stripping from the 1950s until they recently lost control of Congress, they constantly cited this long history of the practice.

The Marriage Protection Act died in the Senate, but it’s one of over a hundreds of pieces of court stripping legislation introduced — almost all by Republicans (House Whip Tom Delay was the master of this) — in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decisions in Brown v Board and Roe v Wade, tried to use court stripping to dial back the Court’s efforts to protect women and racial or gender minorities.

If it was worth trying for Republicans — and drew wide public support while having a strong influence, causing the Court to change its position on issues from guns to abortion — why wouldn’t it work for Democrats?

This process of “court stripping” is based in Article 3, Section 2 of the US Constitution, which says:

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

Regulations? Exceptions?!?

Turns out the Constitution says Congress can Regulate the Court by setting the number of their members, determining if their hearings have to be public/televised, or if they must live by the Judicial Code of Conduct (among other things).

And Congress can create “Exceptions” to the things the Court can rule on.

It defines a process where Congress decides what is constitutional and then informs the Court through legislation. In today’s crisis, Congress could say, “Supreme Court, you may no longer rule on whether money in politics is ‘free speech.’ We’re taking that power because the Constitution gives it to us and you have screwed it up so badly.”

And, it turns out, Congress has already gone there, most recently creating exceptions to what our courts may do in a law that was passed and signed by President Bush the very next year: The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.

That law explicitly strips from federal courts — including the Supreme Court — most of their power to hear appeals against the Bush administration detaining, torturing, imprisoning in Guantanamo, or even killing suspected Muslim terrorists.

It says: “[N]o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba…”

And that’s just the beginning. There’s even, as the Brennan Center notes, a court stripping provision in the PATRIOT act of 2001.

As you can read in the book excerpt below if you’re interested in the history and John Roberts’ gory details, the Supreme Court has recognized this congressional limitation on their own power virtually from the beginning of our republic.

And that’s what got Ronald Reagan and the GOP so excited in the 1980s.

If there had been enough public outrage about the Supreme Court to go along with them, they believed they could overturn both Brown v Board and Roe v. Wade, bringing back “Blacks only” schools, pools and water fountains, while putting women back in the kitchen. (As you can see, this idea can cut both ways.)

The guy who really brought court stripping to the fore during the Reagan administration was a young lawyer named John Roberts, who compiled a huge history of case law and precedents that could be used by Congress to justify overturning Brown and Roe. (see book excerpt below for details)

Today, he’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and his background in researching court stripping for Reagan may be why he worried out loud — after the Texas Abortion Vigilante law arguments —that the Court’s credibility and power are now at risk like never before.

The problem, specifically, was that the Texas law is just the newest wrinkle in court stripping.

Instead of forbidding the Supreme Court from ruling on its constitutionality, the Texas abortion law simply uses its vigilante provision as a way around the Court altogether: an innovative new form of court stripping.

And to add insult to injury, this time it wasn’t the United States Congress that was stripping the Supreme Court or any other lower court of its power, it was a state legislature!

“If the legislatures of the several states may, at will, annul the judgments of the courts of the United States, and destroy the rights acquired under those judgments,” Roberts wrote last week, “the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery. The nature of the federal right infringed does not matter; it is the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system that is at stake.”

After all, the Supreme Court has no police force to enforce its edicts, no army to facilitate its decisions, nor even control over its own budget, which is in the hands of Congress. It draws its legitimacy, and thus its power, from the agreement of the other two branches and the public.

Odds are small that any legislation reimposing limits on money in politics that directly contradicts Citizens United would today become law — there are just too many bought-off politicians now, from virtually the entire GOP to a large handful of Democrats — but taking it seriously and making it high profile would stir public debate.

It may even cause the Court to reconsider Citizens United.

After all, the last time their authority and credibility was seriously challenged was by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 when they threatened to declare Social Security unconstitutional. FDR threatened to replace all five justices on the Court over 70 years old — instant term limits — and most of the public was with him.

He backed them down, stirred up nationwide outrage, and they changed their mind (it was called “the switch [of opinion] in time that saved nine [justices]”), allowing Social Security, child labor, unemployment insurance and other progressive laws to go ahead, positions that hold to this day.

History shows that the Court does respond to pressure, and particularly fears loss of their own power and credibility.

As Tom Delay said back in the days of his court-stripping Marriage Protection Act: “Judges need to be intimidated” and “Congress should take no prisoners in dealing with the courts.”

Putting forward such a law would highlight how Citizen United’s “SCOTUS-legalized political bribery” is at the core of our political dysfunction, as rightwing oligarchs and giant corporations have taken total control of the entire GOP and corrupted more than a few Democrats, while polluting our public discourse with their think tanks and media outlets.

Congress needs to stand up for what’s right and consistent with widely-believed American values, and legally bribed politicians isn’t that. It’s time to end the bribery and get something done for the people, for a change.

-----------------------------------------------------------

What follows is an excerpt from my book The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America that highlights Chief Justice Roberts’ 1980s opinions on court stripping:

The year 1981 was a big one for court-stripping—or, as it’s sometimes called, jurisdiction-stripping. No fewer than 30 pieces of legislation were introduced that year into the US House of Representatives by Republican congressmen that included court-stripping provisions. It was a huge topic of discussion and legal activity among Republicans.

And a young lawyer working in Ronald Reagan’s Justice Department, an up-and-comer named John Roberts, was hot on the trail. …

The Roberts Plan to Strip the Courts

Reagan’s administration brought together a constellation of conservative white men to change the post-Civil Rights Act face of America. Ted Olson, who later argued Bush v. Gore before the US Supreme Court, led the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. As an assistant attorney general, Olson worked with counselor to the attorney general Ken Starr (appointed to that job in 1981), who was later (1989-1993) George H. W. Bush’s solicitor general. Other new faces Reagan hired into the White House included Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Starr tasked Roberts, a staunchly antiabortion Catholic, with reviewing the entire history of the US Supreme Court, looking for cases that suggested a legislative or administrative way to overturn Roe v. Wade and possibly even Brown v. Board.

Roberts wrote an extraordinary 27-page document that’s today almost unknown. It took the form of a memo on the letterhead of the Office of the Attorney General to Ken Starr, signed by Roberts as special assistant to the attorney general. It is titled, “Proposals to Divest the Supreme Court of Appellate Jurisdiction: An Analysis in Light of Recent Developments.

Roberts wrote that he had found “over twenty bills [then pending in Congress] which would divest the Supreme Court (and, in most instances, lower federal courts as well) of jurisdiction to hear certain types of controversies, ranging from school prayer and desegregation cases to abortion cases.”

What Roberts and his researchers found was substantial.

Court-stripping is based on the Exceptions Clause of Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution, which stipulates that the courts exist “with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

Roberts noted eagerly in his memo that “the exceptions clause by its terms contains no limit. . . . This clear and unequivocal language is the strongest argument in favor of congressional power and the inevitable stumbling block for those would read the clause in a more restricted fashion.” [iv]

Roberts was looking at the nuclear option. If he could build a strong case for Congress passing a law against abortion (or against desegregation), and persuade Congress to use the Exceptions Clause to render the courts moot, then this could be the magic bullet to restore segregation and recriminalize abortion!

Roberts concluded with a 1968 comment from Sam Ervin of North Carolina, one of the Senate’s most outspoken opponents of racial integration and abortion.

He wrote, “As Senator Ervin noted during hearings on the exceptions clause, ‘I don’t believe that the Founding Fathers could have found any simpler words or plainer words in the English language to say what they said, which is that the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is dependent entirely upon the will of Congress.’”

Roberts agreed: “[W]e are not considering a constitutional clause that is by its nature indeterminate and incapable of precise or fixed meaning, such as the due process clause or the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.”

This was clearly the original intent, Roberts argued, because “the exceptions clause ‘was not debated’ by the Committee of Detail which drafted it, or the whole Convention.”[v]

Citing the Federalist, no. 81, Roberts wrote, “Hamilton noted that the clause would enable ‘the government to modify [appellate jurisdiction][vi] in such a manner as will best answer the ends of public justice and security,’ and that appellate jurisdiction was ‘subject to any exceptions and regulations which may be thought advisable.’”

Section III of Roberts’s screed on court-stripping dives deep into Supreme Court decisions to find rulings explicitly saying that Congress can regulate the Supreme Court and block the Court from ruling on particular issues.

Beginning with the 1869 decision Ex parte McCardle, Roberts wrote, “A unanimous Court upheld the power of Congress to divest the Supreme Court of jurisdiction. The Court clearly based its decision on Congress’ power under the exceptions clause. Chief Justice Chase began the opinion by recognizing that the appellate jurisdiction of the Court “is conferred ‘with such exceptions and under such regulations as Congress shall make.’”

Quoting Chase again, Roberts added his own emphasis: “We are not at liberty to inquire into the motives of the legislature. We can only examine into its power under the Constitution; and the power to make exceptions to the appellate jurisdiction of this Court is given by express words [emphasis Roberts’s].

He continued his historical exposé of court-stripping with another 1869 decision, Ex parte Yerger, and then United States v. Klein (1872), Wiscart v. Dauchy (1796), Durousseau v. United States (1810), Daniels v. Railroad (1865), and The Francis Wright (1881).

In The Francis Wright, Roberts found that Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite (whose Court oversaw the infamous 1886 “corporate personhood” Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad case) wrote for a unanimous Court, quoting him as follows: “Not only may whole classes of cases be kept out of the jurisdiction altogether, but particular classes of questions may be subjected to re-examination and review, while others are not.”[vii]

Each case strengthened the idea that Congress could simply pass a law, without even needing a supermajority, that barred the Supreme Court from ruling on a set of issues—like Reagan’s hot-button issues of school desegregation and abortion.

Moving toward late-19th-century decisions, Roberts quoted the Court in Colorado Central Consolidated Mining Co. v. Turck (1893): “[I]t has been held in an uninterrupted series of decisions that this Court exercises appellate jurisdiction only in accordance with the acts of Congress upon the subject.”

Roberts, in his own voice, added, “Again, it bears emphasis that the basis for this theory is the implicit exercise by Congress of its exceptions power when it makes a limited grant of jurisdiction.”

Court-Stripping in the 20th Century

Still building his case, Roberts jumped into 20th-century rulings, starting with National Mutual Insurance Co. v. Tidewater Transfer Co. (1948). Writing for the majority, Justice Felix Frankfurter noted in the decision, “Congress need not give this Court any appellate power; it may withdraw appellate jurisdiction once conferred and it may do so even while a case is sub judice.”[viii]

About the 1944 Yakus v. United States case, Roberts wrote, “Justice Rutledge noted . . . that ‘Congress has plenary power to confer or withhold jurisdiction.’”

Regarding Flast v. Cohen (1968), Roberts quoted from Justice William O. Douglas, who wrote, “[A]s respects our appellate jurisdiction, Congress may largely fashion it as Congress desires by reason of the express provisions of Section 2, Article III. See Ex parte McCardle.”

In Section IV of his memo, Roberts again went back to the framing of the Constitution and brought us up to the present day, quoting another dozen or so cases that referenced, less directly, the power of Congress to exempt the Court from certain issues or decisions.

Roberts also noted that the original Judiciary Act (which created the federal court system) also refers to Congress’s power of exception.

Roberts and many of his colleagues in the Reagan administration and the Republicans in Congress believed that if school desegregation and legalized abortion stood, their (and their base voters’) white male power was in real danger of being diminished. It was an existential emergency to them, as much as a political opportunity.

In the face of such an emergency, they seriously considered—and tried more than 30 times that year in Congress—a nuclear option that had never been used in a big way before: court-stripping.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Here's why Democrats must reclaim their brand as the 'Freedom Party'

There was a time when Democrats called their party “the Party of Freedom.”

Largely because of the horrors of the Republican Great Depression, Americans realized that, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1944 State of the Union address, “Necessitous men are not free men.”

You can’t disentangle economics from liberty. Which is why Democrats have proclaimed since the 1930s that:

  • If you’re hungry and don’t have access to food, you’re not free.
  • If you can’t afford decent housing and therefore don’t have a safe place to live, you’re not free.
  • If you’re out of work and can’t support yourself or your family, you’re not free.
  • If you’re sick and can’t afford medical treatment, you’re not free.
  • If you live in fear of rightwing terrorism because of your religion or the color of your skin, you’re not free.
  • And if you have the inherent capability to be a scientist or union electrician but can’t afford college or trade school to reach your potential, you’re not free.

Instead, as FDR said in the next sentence of that speech:

“People who are hungry, people who are out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.”

It’s time for the Democratic Party to begin messaging like FDR did.

The debates today around infrastructure, Build Back Better, voting rights and ending the filibuster are not separate things: they all represent Democratic efforts to expand freedom that has been eroded by forty years of “conservative” policies.

And, indeed, historians tie Reagan’s gutting of union rights and impoverishing the American middle class directly to the upsurge of today’s hateful white supremacist movement. For two generations now, Republican politicians have promoted the lie that working white people weren’t getting poorer because of Reagan’s tax-cuts-for-the-rich and “free trade” policies, but because of the “Great Replacement Theory” Tucker Carlson promotes that claims Jews are helping “Black immigrants and illegals” take white people’s best jobs.

For most of our history conservatives have promoted the interests of slaveholders, big property owners, big business, and big money, while progressives have promoted the interests of freedom for average working people.

With the 1920 election Warren Harding won the presidency on a platform of tax cuts for the rich (from 90% down to 25%), deregulation of business, and privatization of government functions. All of which led directly to the Crash of 1929 and the Republican Great Depression.

Thus, when FDR took the White House in the GOP’s economic wreckage in 1933, he positioned the Democratic Party solidly in the progressive camp and proclaimed a new era of freedom in America.

Virtually every program of the New Deal from labor rights to Social Security, was, Roosevelt said, designed to protect and expand American freedoms.

By 1936, FDR had succeeded in completely rebranding the Democratic Party as the “Party of Freedom.” When he accepted the Party’s nomination for a second term in Philadelphia, he laid it out clearly.

“That very word freedom,” he thundered to the giant hall, “in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power.

“[I]t was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought.”

But, FDR pointed out, with the industrial revolution came a massive accumulation of wealth and political power in the hands of a very, very few. And that meant the freedom of average working people was now under attack by a new type of American tyranny.

“Since that struggle, however, man's inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution - all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.”

The rise of big business — he called them “economic royalists” — and their alliance with the Republican Party was, FDR said, a challenge that required a frontal assault on behalf of freedom for working class Americans.

“For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital — all undreamed of by the Fathers — the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service. …

“Throughout the nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.”

While fascism was rising in Europe, another type of tyranny was overtaking America, driven by bankers and industrialists who controlled vast wealth and political power.

If you lived under the thumb of an employer who refused decent pay and benefits, and you lacked the legal political power to join a union, you were not free.

“Liberty requires opportunity to make a living — a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

“For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor — other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.”

Which is where most Americans found themselves under the ravages of raw, unregulated capitalism. We had lost our freedom, and the Democratic Party was taking an explicit stand to restore it.

“Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair,” FDR said, calling out the morbidly rich oligarchs of his day and the Republican politicians who sucked up to them.

Like Nikki Hailey calling Democrats “socialists” on Twitter this weekend in a pathetic effort to ingratiate herself with rightwing billionaires, Republican politicians in the 1930s and 1940s called FDR everything from a socialist and a communist to an all-out tyrant.

But he threw it right back into their faces. His agenda, he said, was freedom.

“These economic royalists 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.

“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.”

When the GOP accused Roosevelt of being that day’s equivalent of a “bleeding heart liberal,” he proudly wore that badge. After all, in the finest American tradition, he and his Democratic Party were fighting for the freedom of all Americans:

“We do not see faith, hope, and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.”

It was under the banner of “freedom” that FDR accomplished so much of his agenda. Democrats today must do the same.

  • Build Back Better enhances the freedom of working-class Americans by providing a floor through which they won’t fall as they strive for economic success.
  • Ending or changing the filibuster to put voting rights into place ensures democracy — the essential bulwark of freedom — to citizens of every state, even those that Republicans are trying to turn into rightwing oligarchies.
  • Cancelling student debt and providing low-cost healthcare to all Americans frees young people from crushing financial burdens that are not experienced by the citizens of any other developed democracy in the world.
  • Vaccine and mask mandates slow or even (when fully implemented) stop the spread of this Covid pandemic, and thus are an explicit part of a “freedom agenda”: the freedom to take your kid to school, go to a restaurant or theater, or shop for groceries without fear of death and disease.

There are, of course, elected Democrats who oppose many of these things. Given the stakes of today, it’s not hyperbole to call them traitors to the Democratic Party specifically and the cause of freedom in America more generally.

In 1940, a faction that today we’d call “corporate problem solver Democrats” tried to hijack the party and force FDR to repudiate progressive Henry Wallace for a more “moderate” VP in the election that year. He was having no part of it.

“In the century in which we live,” FDR wrote, “the Democratic Party has received the support of the electorate only when the party, with absolute clarity, has been the champion of progressive and liberal policies and principles of government.”

After all, if they were the party of freedom then how could they possibly sell out to the “economic royalists” who were making common cause with the GOP?

You’re either a progressive party, FDR said, or you’re not: you can’t be both, and when you try to straddle that fence you will lose elections more often than not.

“The party has failed consistently,” he wrote to his party’s leaders, “when through political trading and chicanery it has fallen into the control of those interests, personal and financial, which think in terms of dollars instead of in terms of human values.”

If the Democratic Party is not all about freedom, he said, it can’t be distinguished from the GOP, which actively fights against freedom for all but the wealthy, and will fail.

“Until the Democratic Party through this convention makes overwhelmingly clear its stand in favor of social progress and liberalism, and shakes off all the shackles of control fastened upon it by the forces of conservatism, reaction, and appeasement, it will not continue its march of victory.”

Summarizing, FDR wrote to his party leaders:

“It is best not to straddle ideals. … It is best for America to have the fight out here and now. … The party must go wholly one way or wholly the other. It cannot face in both directions at the same time.”

In the name of triangulation, political strategy, and big-tent-ism the modern Democratic Party has seen itself repeatedly sabotaged from within.

First it was Bill Clinton’s embrace of Reagan’s corporate “free trade” and his proclaiming “an end to welfare as we know it” while killing off the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program put into place in 1936 by FDR.

Then came Joe Lieberman’s taking over a million dollars from the insurance industry to gut Obamacare of a public option during the single 74-day window Obama had with a filibuster-proof senate in his entire presidency.

And, of course, there’s today’s crisis with Manchin and Sinema blocking filibuster reform and the so-called “corporate problem solvers” caucus in both the House and Senate working like termites to undermine or co-opt any successful progressive legislation.

If the Democratic Party is to once again be the party of freedom, its leadership must take a stand like FDR did in 1940 when he defied the power-brokers and wealth-toadies in his own party.

Its members must sign onto the freedom crusade, and the party must actively work, through the upcoming primaries, to purge itself of those who are only in office to get rich or enjoy their moment of fame.

And, most important, the Democratic Party must reclaim “freedom” as its banner. For Americans, freedom is not only a sacred right and duty, but it’s also the ultimate political marketing tool…and it’s past time for Democrats to take it back and claim it as their own.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Republicans now stand for nothing except trolling, vigilante violence and death

The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict sent a shudder through America as terrorists and vigilantes celebrated: One right-winger called for wholesale slaughter of Democrats, saying on Telegram, "The left won't stop until their bodies get stacked up like cord wood."

On Facebook, right-wing sites celebrating the verdict were the most popular nationwide by a factor of nine to one.

The parents of Anthony Huber, shot dead by Rittenhouse as Huber tried to disarm him, put out a public statement that said, in part:

Today's verdict means there is no accountability for the person who murdered our son. It sends the unacceptable message that armed civilians can show up in any town, incite violence, and then use the danger they have created to justify shooting people in the street.

A right-wing militia group in New York celebrated in the streets and then put a punctuation mark on their disdain for the law and simple rules of a civil society by entering the New York subway system through emergency exits, bypassing the turnstiles. "Rules don't apply to us!" they seemed to be shouting, along with, "You can't stop us!"

RELATED: Investigative reporter David Neiwert: Rittenhouse verdict a "green light for right-wing extremists"

Trump wannabes in public office who are still trying to capture the white supremacist and white nationhood vote have doubled down on his strategy of fear, hate and vigilantism.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, for example, recently signed legislation that gives legal protections to people who drive their cars into protesters in the street, and defines everybody in any protest as a criminal felon if anybody in that protest breaks a window or engages in other illegal activity.

With DeSantis and other Republican governors pre-exonerating people like the driver who viciously killed Heather Heyer, as well as vigilante protest shooters like Rittenhouse, many are worried that we're entering a new era where vigilante shooters and drivers-into-crowds will become normalized and accepted, just as Amy Vanderpool documents how normalized daily mass shootings have become in America.

Laws similar to Florida's have been passed or are pending in numerous Republican-controlled states, presumably in anticipation of citizen protests when those states use their newly passed laws to overturn the will of voters in the 2022 and 2024 elections. Object to your politicians handing an election they lost to themselves? You go straight from the streets to the jail, just like in tinhorn dictatorships.

There's always been a fringe movement of violent white supremacist vigilantes in America, particularly since the end of the Civil War, but they've never before been embraced by or succeeded in capturing a political party. Today, astonishingly, that's the case in our country.

So, what's motivating today's vigilantes and the police who often aid and support them, as in the Rittenhouse case?

Centuries ago, as white people fanned out across this continent to occupy land stolen from Native Americans, it usually took years or decades for stable government institutions to be created, including local police forces. Therefore, communities would organize their own forces, called "vigilance committees" whose job was to be "vigilant" to protect their own homes and communities.

That sort of "classic vigilantism" pretty much completely disappeared in the U.S. after the Civil War, however, when the Southern states' slave patrols were merged into those states' militias (what we call the National Guard) and professional police forces, state and local, took over.

Modern post-Civil War violent vigilantism, therefore, doesn't usually emerge because the government is failing to protect citizens and therefore communities field their own equivalent of police forces.

Instead, these days it's almost always a conservative response to cultural change that creates a vigilante backlash.

Virtually the dictionary definition of "conservative" is "opposed to rapid change in society." That's why, as America becomes more diverse and states like Texas have become less than 50% white, racist "conservative" factions that have had a home in the GOP since 1968 are turning to violence to try to maintain the absolute dominance of straight white men in American society.

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When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, for example, those who were opposed to that change in our society, symbolized by the Roe v. Wade decision, organized vigilante groups that threatened women outside abortion clinics, followed and harassed women seeking health care and people who worked in the clinics, and murdered multiple doctors and bombed multiple clinics across the nation.

In the 1980s, conservative billionaires who supported Reagan helped impose neoliberal austerity on America, so for 40 years the country has been in steady decline as jobs went overseas, wages fell so badly the middle class sagged below 50% of Americans by 2015, and a general rage began to build across the country.

Much of that rage was channeled into "anti-government" movements that were encouraged by Reagan, who told us that government was the problem and not the solution. Neoliberal billionaires backed Republican politicians who kept their taxes low while openly and proudly obstructing any government efforts to help working class people.

The GOP also revived Nixon's "Southern strategy" in 1980, using open appeals to racism with Reagan warning about "strapping young bucks" and Black "welfare queens" taking white people's tax dollars. George H.W. Bush put it on steroids in 1988 with his "Willie Horton" television advertisements against Michael Dukakis, charging the Democrat wasn't doing enough to protect Massachusetts from violent Black criminals.

By this time the GOP had totally embraced neoliberalism and stopped proposing any sort of policies that would lift up America. Instead, their efforts went to subsidizing billionaires with tax cuts and increasing profits for polluting industries via deregulation.

Working-class white people continued to fall behind, particularly in rural areas, as wealthy CEOs and trust-fund billionaires made out like bandits, pouring their surplus cash into the campaigns of politicians because five right-wingers on the Supreme Court legalized political bribery with Citizens United in 2010.

The Republican answer to the growing white angst in the country was to start a movement against affirmative action in the 1980s and 1990s, calling it "reverse racism," reviving the old saw from the 1950s that "Black people want to take your job!"

Women, since the 1970s, have also been successfully competing for jobs formerly held by white men, building misogynist frustration and rage among lower-income and lower-education white men, and turning "incels" murderous.

Much of this white male rage was channeled in the 1990s into the fringe "white nationalist" movement, which got their martyrs with Ruby Ridge in 1992 and Waco in 1993, where heavily armed white supremacists shot it out with the feds and lost terribly.

That provoked Tim McVeigh to follow the "Turner Diaries" script for creating "a race-based civil war by provoking the government to seize guns so we can fight back," blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City on the anniversary of Waco in 1995, killing 168 and injuring 860.

He, however, was condemned by both political parties and ultimately put to death by a Republican president. The GOP had not yet fully turned toward embracing fascists, vigilantes and terrorists in the 1990s.

Modern race-based vigilantism with the support of the GOP took a big step forward after 9/11, when multiple Republican leaders used that crime as an excuse to vilify Muslims specifically and brown-skinned Arabs more generally. Most famously, Donald Trump perpetrated the lie that Muslims in New Jersey were celebrating in the streets the afternoon of 9/11.

George W. Bush took that anti-Muslim energy and amplified it as he pushed a revenge-based war against Afghanistan and Iraq, another Muslim country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.

Following Bush's presidency, a Black man whose middle name was Hussein became our president, creating a frenzy of bizarre conspiracy theories on the Fox Propaganda Channel and across right-wing internet and social media outlets.

Was Obama a "real" American? Was he really a secret Kenyan Muslim sleeper agent? Was he trying to flip America communist with his radical Obamacare program? Trump and Republicans asserted that those were all true claims.

With the hard right now empowered by these conspiracy theories on Fox and talk radio, in 2014 Cliven Bundy challenged the authority of the Obama administration to restrict him from grazing his cows on public federal land without paying a fee. Obama flinched and backed down, giving Bundy and armed, anti-government white men a huge national PR victory (as well as getting his cows back).

Two years later Cliven's son, Ammon Bundy, occupied another federal facility, this time the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon near the Idaho border. His armed vigilantes pointed their weapons at federal officers on live television, and again the Obama administration backed down.

Bundy's 2016 "victory" animated white supremacist vigilantes across the nation and made him enough of a media figure that he's now running in the Republican primary for governor of Idaho.

Things really stepped up throughout the Trump administration when the new president openly welcomed white nationhood militias and neo-Nazis into the GOP and praised them from the presidential pulpit, something no president had done since Woodrow Wilson hosted the debut of the Klan recruiting film "Birth of a Nation" at the White House in 1915.

Trump invited vigilantes to the southern border to "help" with the problem of brown-skinned refugees trying to enter the country, and sucked up to police, encouraging them to be even more brutal with (presumably minority) criminal suspects.

His presidency marked a turning point for American politics, with the GOP abandoning any pretense of caring about policy debates to full-on embrace of fear and hate of racial, religious and gender minorities as their core political position and strategy going forward.

As a result, NBC News chronicles, threats against federal officials reported to Capitol Police have about tripled since Trump's first year in office, reaching more than 9,000 incidents so far this year.

When we've seen these kinds of things happen in other countries, we've historically called them out as naked assaults on democracy; now Trump and his armed Republican faction have turned America's moral and political standing in the world on its head.

International observers have issued repeated alarms about the state of democracy in America since Trump's 2016 election. In 2017, the U.S. was downgraded by The Economist magazine's Intelligence Unit: instead of being a "full democracy," we are now a "flawed democracy." The international think tank IDEA just reported that we're now a "backsliding democracy."

Today, while the Democratic Party is working hard to secure benefits to all Americans, the Republicans have only two responses: Block legislation and support armed white nationhood vigilantes.

All the Republican Party has left, now that they've abandoned any pretense over the past 40 years of supporting working people or even rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, is hate, fear and death.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his 1933 inaugural address about an earlier generation of Republican obstructionists: "They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish."

And if we don't return to sanity, our democracy could perish as well.

The GOP's new 'Southern Strategy' evokes civil war and bloodshed — but it has a fatal flaw

On Wednesday, all but two Republicans in the House of Representatives went on record saying it's okay to openly encourage the assassination of one of their own, a person of color and elected Member of the House.

That part about Representative Ocasio-Cortez not being white was no coincidence, by the way. It was really at the core of the issue: Republicans now openly refer to her and the women of color who call themselves "the Squad" as the "Jihad caucus." As in "Muslim terrorists," as in "the Other."

Earlier in the day, known antisemite and racist Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called for her followers to prepare for war because "Joe Biden didn't win the 2020 election" and "the only way you get freedom back after you've lost it is with the price of blood."

We heard this rhetoric, too, many years ago when a much earlier generation of white supremacists tried to gin up bloodshed in America.

"The time for war has not yet come," Stonewall Jackson said in a speech to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in March, 1861, "but it will come, and that soon; and when it does come, my advice is to draw the sword and throw away the scabbard."

Jackson and his ilk frequently tried to pretend the Civil War was about some high principle instead of just being a naked defense of legal enslavement, but their own proclamations of secession betrayed them.

No matter how much Republicans — and some white Democrats — want to try to pretend that the difference between the Democratic and Republican parties today isn't primarily about race, it is. And it's only a small part of a much larger Republican political strategy that, itself, is also all about race.

There was a time in America when straight white people lived in nice, comfortable white bubbles. I grew up in one of them in the 1950s; the most "exotic" people in our lower-middle-class Lansing, Michigan neighborhood were Jewish, and I didn't even realize that distinction until I was a teenager.

The only people of color we saw were on TV; even the milkman, mailman and delivery people were white. And the non-white folks we saw on TV were always, always depicted as either criminals or buffoons. And gay people? Even discussing Liberace's sexuality was a no-no.

Mom was in the kitchen or pregnant, and knew her place. One white man with a union job could raise a family without debt beyond a mortgage and car payment. People of color need not apply for the American Dream.

This is the straight white world today's Republican Party wants to take America back to. They're all but shouting it with slogans like "Make America Great Again!"

When the GOP went nuts about six Dr. Seuss books being dropped by the author's family from publication, it was — no coincidence — the six books in which Seuss had drawn racist caricatures. And he wasn't violating the norms of his day: caricatures of buck-toothed Asians, swarthy gun-toting mustachioed Mexicans, and big-lipped Black people were all over the cartoons we watched as children in the 1950s. They are shocking today, but they were normal and common then, and the GOP wants to go back to that.

When we studied American history in elementary school the 1950s, we learned that Christopher Columbus was a great man who defied conventional wisdom and monsters at the "edge of the earth" to discover this golden land, just waiting for white people to show up and tame it. (A woman around my age who called into my program yesterday noted that she was "really pissed off" when, in her first year of college, she took a history course and discovered Columbus was actually a rapist, child-trafficker and a slaver.)

We also learned that most slave-masters (particularly the Founding Fathers) were really, really nice and thoughtful people who took good care of the poor, uneducated, primitive folks they "had under their care." To this day, there are still some textbooks in America that emphasize how slaveholding white people generously provided not only housing, food and clothing but also medical care for their charges.

Republicans today want to go back to that type of history for their children. They dress it all up with fancy language about "Critical Race Theory" but the bottom line for these white people is that they don't want their kids to grow up knowing that Black people and other people of color are just like them but with a different amount of pigment in their skin. They want that pigment difference to be THE defining characteristic, and they want teachers, police, and other authority figures to enforce segregation based on it.

In the years after the Brown v Board decision in 1954, entire public school systems shut down to avoid racial integration; one Virginia county went five years without a public school opening.

There was an explosion of "religious schools," from private elementary and high school "academies" to centers of higher education like Bob Jones University that were explicitly and entirely whites-only. Promoting these types of functionally all-white schools continued from the 1950s right through Betsy DeVos's time as Trump's Secretary of Education.

When white people show up at school board meetings shouting that "We know where you live!" and leaving death threats on people's home phones, it's not because they're flipped out by historic and legal nuances having to do with past discrimination: it's because they want their safely segregated schools back.

And they're getting them: American schools are more racially segregated now than they were in 1968.

And when those schools are almost entirely "whites only" (the school districts where we're seeing the majority of these "protests"), those "parents" want them purged of anything that might shatter for their white children the idea held by white people in this country for 400 years that everybody who's not white — from genocidally slaughtered Native Americans to Africans brought in chains to Mexicans whose land we also stole to Asians we once excluded from immigration — are all basically sub-human.

This is how these Republican white supremacists think, and if that sounds outrageous simply check out their literature and behavior. A good starting point is with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The news media sanitized the Virginia election, saying that Republican Youngkin won "on education issues." That's patently false: he won on racism. And it's damn well time that the media start pointing it out. It took them three years to start calling Trump's lies "lies" — how long will it take to call Republican racism "racism"?

When I went into the job market in the 1960s, the headings in the "Help Wanted" part of the newspaper were "Help Wanted – Men" and "Help Wanted - Women." There was no "Help Wanted – Black People" because everybody knew there was a very, very narrow range of jobs for which Black people could be hired. Like in much of America then, Black people (and most other minorities) were limited in where they could work, get a mortgage, live, and even walk or drive; if they pushed the boundaries, they risked violence and a horrible, painful death at the hands of police or vigilantes.

When I was a kid, Richard and Mildred Loving were rousted from their wedding bed by police for the crime of getting married; he was white and she was Black. They were sentenced to a year in prison: interracial marriage was a crime in parts of America until 1967.

When I got my first job in 1965 as a teenage hamburger-flipper in an all-white burger joint, there were large parts of Lansing where Black people simply couldn't go. I still remember my parents taking me to a fancy downtown hotel's restaurant for some celebration in the mid-1950s and there was a sign off to the side of the door that pointed toward the rear of the building and said, "Colored Entrance." That, at the time, was considered enlightened: at least the hotel let Black people into its public areas.

But race has always permeated politics, and voting is at the foundation of the political process.

In 1993, no state in the union required ID to vote, even though Paul Weyrich (co-founder of the Heritage Foundation and then with the Reagan campaign) said right out loud that, "I don't want everybody to vote. … As a matter of fact, quite candidly, our leverage in the elections goes up as the voting populace goes down."

But then Democrats in Congress pushed through the 1993 "Motor Voter" law that required states to let people register to vote when they got their drivers' licenses. Republicans went insane, charging that "millions" of brown-skinned "illegals" would now get drivers' licenses, get registered to vote in the process, and begin flipping elections toward Democrats.

We then used signature-matching to confirm identity (you showed ID to register to vote, and your signature was kept on record), which is the most secure form of identity confirmation easily available. You can buy a reasonably good fake ID for $50, but try forging somebody else's signature while an election official is watching you: it's pretty much impossible. Signatures are called "biometric markers" and they're even more secure than ID.

But Republicans were so certain that hordes of Brown people were going to show up at the polls that they passed laws in state after state to require ID at the polls on top of comparing the voter's signature. It's a pathetic and futile effort: those "illegals" never showed up. Virtually all of the extremely rare "voter fraud" that happens in America is done by white people (most Republicans, based on those busted after 2020) or ex-felons who didn't realize they couldn't vote in their state.

As I lay out in The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote and How to Get It Back, the past thirty years have seen a grotesque orgy of laws, regulations and policy changes designed specifically to make it easier for white suburban voters — and harder for college students, Black city dwellers, and social security voters — to cast a ballot.

Using the political power they get from skewing elections, Republicans want schools to help their children to grow up like many in my generation did, thinking at some unconscious (and often conscious) level that those racist caricatures were depictions of reality and only white people could be thoughtful, intelligent, peaceful problem-solvers like Dad on Leave It To Beaver or Gunsmoke's Matt Dillon or Superman. Or members of Congress or presidents.

White is good, they want their kids told: everybody else is weird, odd, comical, dangerous or "one of them." Or a Democrat.

The last Democrat running for president who won a majority of white people in his election was Lyndon Johnson.

While it's sometimes mentioned tangentially that Carter, Clinton, Obama and Biden all lost the white vote, a sort of parenthetic footnote to election results, it's the foundation of the entire Republican strategy and has been since Nixon invented it with his "Southern Strategy."

When LBJ signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964/1965 he left the white racists who'd supported the Democratic Party since before the Civil War without a home. Nixon prepared one, Reagan fluffed up the pillows, and Trump stood out front with a bullhorn and a "whites only" sign.

As it's becoming increasingly obvious to these "racially apprehensive" white people that America as a whole is never returning to the Leave It To Beaver era, they're falling back on their old intimidation and segregation strategies. Red counties in Oregon, for example, are teaming up with white voters in next-door Idaho and won nonbinding ballot measures to secede from Oregon. That sort of thing is popping up all over the country.

It won't work, any more than liberal fantasies of avoiding the armed and angry racists by having California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii split off into their own country will work.

Red/Blue rhetoric aside, America is one country. The Mike Flynn's and Donald Trump's of the world realize this and are calling for straight white people to rise up and take over by force, imposing a single religion, rigid gender roles, putting women "back in their place," and re-marginalizing all nonwhite minorities.

The "battle for the soul of America" so often highlighted, headlined, and bemoaned by the media is real, but they almost always miss the real story, the signal, for all the noise (to paraphrase Steve Bannon). It's actually a battle between a vision of America that's once again entirely under the thumb of straight white people versus one where everybody has an equal voice and an equal chance.

There are a hell of a lot of white racists out there; enough to put Trump in the White House, put race-baiting Republicans in the House and Senate, and secure control over thirty states.

But culture is inexorably changing. People from a multitude of hues and gender identities are showing up in media and business, and their numbers are growing. White supremacist school board assaults aside, educators and their students are teaching and learning the true racial history of America. (It's increasingly hard to avoid!)

No matter how much people like Marjorie Taylor Greene talk up civil war and bloodshed, they can't stop progress. They may win for a short while, maybe even a few years or election cycles, but time and history run against them.

The fight for democracy and humanity will continue, no matter how many people vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse or the cops kill, no matter how many racist white Republicans threaten the lives of their nonwhite colleagues.

Genuinely patriotic Americans who want a country that pulls together for the good of all — an E Pluribus Unum ("Out of Many, One") America — are on the ascent across America, even as the GOP has gone insane.

Nonetheless, it will take a lot of involvement and work to overcome both our racist history and the forces (both domestic and foreign) that seek to exploit racial divisions in this country.

Racism and violence are the GOP's brand these days, and if the media doesn't start calling them out explicitly for it, things are going to continue to get worse.

A new poll by the Marquette Law School found that while the GOP is largely united behind a 2024 Trump run for the White House, only 28 percent of all Americans agree. Seventy-one percent of Americans want Trump to leave our politics alone and go back to being a billionaire grifter.

Racist Republicans are the outliers, but they are motivated and well armed with significant white billionaire backing.

If we want democracy and decency to ultimately prevail, we have an enormous amount of political and restorative work to do before we rest. Don't lose faith: as Winston Churchill famously said, "Never give up!"

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

IN OTHER NEWS: 'Stunning diversity': AOC mocks white male 'peanut gallery' behind McCarthy during floor speech

AOC and Raskin scoff at Kevin McCarthy during lengthy floor speech www.youtube.com

Will you storm the Capitol if the 2024 election is stolen?

We're demonizing the wrong people.

This is not a call to "understand" or "have compassion" for Trump voters. Instead, it's a call for a wholesale political and social indictment of Trump's Big Lie, along with every elected Republican politician or media member who knows Trump lost but keeps perpetuating that Lie.

If we fail, history may repeat itself and — this time — the result will be far worse than Bush's lying us into two wars and privatizing Medicare.

That, in part, is because numerous Republican-controlled states are passing laws and gaming out scenarios that could enable a repeat of a variation on the election of 1876: if GOP-controlled swing states submit multiple slates of electors denying either candidate 270 uniquely certified Electoral College votes, the election could again get thrown to the House of Representatives (as was the election of 1800, too), where Trump (or another neofascist Republican) would win.

Democrats tend to forget that Donald Trump received about 10 million more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. It's why he's still a potent political force in America and around the world.

READ: Trump investigators tipped off on 'viable charge' to take the former president off the streets

Although Biden got around 7 million more votes than Trump and overwhelmingly won the popular (and Electoral College) votes, Trump's raw-numbers electoral popularity actually went up at the end of the 4 years of his presidency.

Those Trump voters — from the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th to the folks who just quietly showed up at the polls and never mentioned anything political to neighbors, friends or relatives — believed he was the best guy for the presidency.

And today, about three-quarters of them (76%) also now believe that his presidency was stolen from him in 2020.

Consider, for a moment, if the tables were reversed:

It's 2024 and President Biden and Donald Trump just faced off in the election. Biden wins the popular vote by over 10 million, but the Electoral College vote is up in the air because of a weird constitutional technicality.

Just like in the election of 1876, several swing states in the midst of political turmoil have submitted dueling slates of electors, one (based on the popular vote) for Biden and another (reflecting the will of the state legislature) for Trump. And, just like in 1876, when you exclude the "contested states" neither candidate hits the 50%-plus-one electoral votes needed (now 270) to win the White House.

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Under the 12th Amendment, as John Eastman pointed out in his 2020 memo to Trump (and echoed by Jenna Ellis and Mark Meadows), that throws the election to the House of Representatives, where each state has one single vote, that vote being decided by each state's legislature back home. Thirty states are Republican controlled and submit their 30 votes for Trump, with Biden receiving the remaining 20: the House declares the election goes to Trump.

Democrats immediately sue before the Supreme Court, but — for the second time in history — the Court awards the presidency to the Republican who lost the popular vote amid a contested Electoral College vote.

Trump, say the Republicans in Congress and on the Court, is to be sworn in as president a few weeks after the votes are certified on January 6th, 2024.

But President Biden calls a press conference to tell the nation that the states that submitted dual ballots were behaving with corrupt intent just to allow this very scenario to play out.

READ: Trump's plan to escape accountability for Capitol riot just hit a major snag

"Trump and his Republican allies used a technicality in our Constitution and law to claim they won an election they very clearly lost," Biden says. "Americans shouldn't stand for this!"

All across the country, people begin pouring into the streets. Pitched battles break out between Trump and Biden supporters, as cities are set afire and hundreds die from gunshots.

What do you do?

This would be, after all, the fourth time Republicans have tried to use this same strategy to bring a presidential election around to themselves on their own terms, and the first two out of three times they were successful.

How Republicans Pulled It Off In 1876

The first was the election of 1876, when the Republican who lost that election (both popular and Electoral College), Rutherford B. Hayes, was nonetheless installed as president by the House of Representatives in March, 1877.

READ: Trump rages at 'inglorious lightweight' former official after she trashes him while appearing on 'The View'

Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote nationwide but, with 184 electoral votes, was one vote short of the then-necessary 185 electoral votes to become president.

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes not only lost the popular vote but had only 163 uncontested electoral votes. (He was sold to voters as an antidote to the Radical Republicans like Thaddeus Stevens who'd worked so hard to bring formerly enslaved people into politics. White supremacists were rising again…in both parties.)

Ohio's Republican Congressman James Monroe (not related to the president of generations earlier of the same name) wrote the definitive summary of that election and how it played out in Congress, a narrative he published in the Atlantic in October 1893.

Pointing out that "the votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina, with an aggregate of 22 electors" would turn the election to either Hayes or Tilden, Monroe (who was there) wrote, "From the States just named there were two sets of returns, one favorable to General Hayes, the other to Mr. Tilden."

The dispute had to do with three of those four states then being occupied by the Union Army (this was just 11 years after the Civil War ended, and Reconstruction was in full swing). At the same time, the Klan was riding high in all four states and ran much of Oregon's politics as a "utopian all-white frontier."

Formerly enslaved African Americans were trying to turn out large numbers of voters for the Republican candidate, but there was also widespread Klan activity suppressing that Black vote. On the other side, Democrats in Congress charged that Union soldiers had intimidated Southern Democratic voters, suppressing their vote.

Monroe wrote the Democrats charged "that these returns [in those four states for Republican Hayes] were a product of fraud and dishonesty; that, in preparing them, the vote of whole precincts, parishes, and counties had been thrown out in order to secure Hayes electors… [and] they did not represent the people of those States, but were themselves the product of fraud and corruption, and were kept in place only by what was called the 'moral influence' of Federal bayonets."

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The nation nearly exploded, wrote Monroe:

"The feeling of mutual hostility had been greatly intensified by party leaders, orators, and presses. In some of our cities it took all the terrors of the police court to keep Democrats and Republicans from breaking the peace."

The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, had a simple solution to the problem of neither candidate winning a majority of electoral votes. "[I]f no person have such majority," the 12th Amendment says, "then… the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote…"

Because all the Southern states had now been re-admitted to the Union, a majority of the House of Representatives that year were controlled by Democrats, as were a majority of the states. With each state's delegation having only one vote, the Democratic-controlled House representing a Democratic majority of states would end up making Democrat Tilden the president, something the Republicans wouldn't go along with.

Republicans added that because the 12th Amendment also says that "The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the [electoral] votes shall then be counted…" that the president of the Senate should be the one to make the call as to which state's contested votes were legitimate.

The Constitution provides that the vice president shall be the president of the Senate, but President Ulysses Grant's veep, Henry Wilson, had died the previous year and Grant hadn't replaced him; the president of the Senate in 1876 was Senator Thomas Ferry of Michigan, a Republican.

"[I]t would have been as unsatisfactory to Republicans to have the vote declared by the House," wrote Monroe, "as it would have been to Democrats to have it declared by the President of the Senate."

"The situation was serious," Monroe wrote. "Some thoughtful men felt that perhaps the greatest peril that the Republic had encountered was not that of the Civil War" but that "within a hundred days, people would be cutting each other's throats."

Of Senator Banning of Ohio, "My colleague," Monroe wrote, "declared in a speech, that, if the Republicans should attempt to carry out their theory of the election, and if a part of the army with eighty rounds of ammunition, and the navy, should be ordered to support them, then the people would put them all down."

In response, Virginia's Congressman Goode stood up and loudly asked his colleagues if they were willing to restart the Civil War.

"A shout of 'Yes' went up from the Republican side of the House," wrote Monroe.

Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and both sides worked out a compromise that gave the GOP the White House but only on the condition that the newly minted President Hayes would remove Union troops from the Southern states, ending Reconstruction.

The republic was saved and the Republicans took the White House, but only by selling out Southern Black people for the next hundred years.

How Republicans Pulled It Off in 2000

In the 2000 election, Texas Governor George W. Bush and his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, appear to have worked together to rig the Florida outcome. Because it all came out after Bush was already sworn in a month earlier, the American media largely ignored the story when the BBC broke it on February 16, 2001.

Greg Palast did the report for the BBC, which has a transcript on their website. They note:

"Did Governor Jeb Bush, his Secretary of State Katherine Harris, and her Director of Elections, Clayton Roberts, know they had wrongly barred 22,000 Black, Democrat voters before the elections? After the elections did they use their powers to prevent the count of 20,000 votes for the Democrats? The Democrats say the answers to both questions are yes."

Jeb Bush, Palast found, had paid an outside vendor $4 million to take a felon list supplied by Texas and compare its names against the entire Florida voter database, using loose matches that didn't always involve middle names or dates of birth.

As a result, at least 22,000 Florida voters, most Black men with similar names to Black felons in Texas, were purged from the voting rolls just before the election. (His report for the BBC is at the bottom of this article.)

While the American public was largely unaware of this aspect of the 2000 election, the Florida Supreme Court approved an appeal from Florida Democrats and ordered a recount of that state's vote.

Roger Stone claims he helped organize the so-called "Brooks Brothers Riot" in which staffers for multiple Republican lawmakers went to Florida and, along with local GOP activists, demanded that the State Supreme Court-ordered recount be stopped. It got nationwide news coverage, although it was presented merely as average Floridians expressing outrage.

Piggybacking on the apparent GOP outrage in Florida, five Republican appointees on the US Supreme Court stopped that then-already-ongoing recount of the Florida vote, something that had never before happened in US history.

In the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision in 2000 that stopped the Florida recount — and thus handed George W. Bush the presidency — Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his opinion:

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

Apparently, denying the presidency to Al Gore, the guy who actually won the most votes in Florida and won the popular vote nationwide by over a half-million, did not constitute "irreparable harm" to Scalia or the media.

And apparently it wasn't important that Scalia's son worked for a law firm that was defending George W. Bush before the high court (with no Scalia recusal).

READ: Trump faces 'very long odds' in his latest appeal to keep Capitol riot records hidden

Just like it wasn't important to mention that Justice Clarence Thomas's wife worked on the Bush transition teambefore the Supreme Court shut down the recount in Florida — and was busy accepting resumes from people who would serve in the Bush White House if her husband stopped the recount in Florida…which he did. (No Thomas recusal, either.)

More than a year after the election a consortium of newspapers including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and USA Today did their own recount of the vote in Florida — manually counting every vote in a process that took almost a year — and concluded that Al Gore did indeed win the presidency in 2000.

As the November 12th, 2001 article in The New York Times read:

"If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won."

That little bit of info was slipped into the seventeenth paragraph of the Times story so that it would attract as little attention as possible because the 9/11 attacks had happened just weeks earlier and journalists feared that burdening Americans with the plain truth that George W. Bush actually lost the election would further hurt a nation already in crisis.

How Republicans Tried To Pull It Off a Third Time in 2020

The third time wasn't the charm.

Roger Stone and his friends pulled together another "stop the steal" event on January 6th to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president, using the same sort of rhetoric about "sore loser Democrats" that had worked so well for them in Florida 20 years earlier.

Blowing up his scheme, the Supreme Court refused to intervene this time and the election went to Biden. But Trump continued — as President of the United States — to insist the election had been stolen from him.

In 2000 the mainstream American media had largely turned against Al Gore, as the five rightwingers on the Supreme Court had given an aura of legitimacy to Bush's selection as president.

In 2020, by contrast, the Court said "No," so mainstream media clearly saw and reported that Biden had won the election.

Multiple rightwing media outlets, however, including 1,500 rightwing English-language radio stations, several hundred Spanish-language rightwing radio stations, and three rightwing television networks, picked up Trump's claim of a stolen election and echoed and amplified it as if it were true. Facebook's algorithm pushed Trump's false claim into millions more American homes.

The result was the most massive polarization of the American electorate since the Civil War, and an open and armed assault on the US Capitol.

Which brings us back to 2024.

If the media chooses their 2020 course, Biden may prevail.

If they follow their 2000 script, though, ignoring election irregularities and outright fraud that benefits Republicans, Trump will probably be installed in the White House.

And the Supreme Court may again play an illegitimate role in it all.

So, what will Democrats do? Will we be in the streets? Will protest even be possible?

Will second-term President Trump succeed in mobilizing the military — as he unsuccessfully tried to do in 2020 — to violently put down protests like tinhorn dictators do, and again begin snatching people off the streets in unmarked vans like he did in Portland last year?

And, thinking of the scenario in these terms, consider what it teaches us about how we should deal with the "stolen election" dynamic Trump is now promoting.

It depends in large part on Republicans continuing to believe Trump's Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

The best way to stop this nightmare before it happens is for both elected Democrats (and the few semi-sane Republicans left, like Cheney and Christie) and the nation's media to not only call out Trump's lie, but also call out the media that keeps it alive.

And fixing our broken Electoral College by revising the 1877 Electoral Count Act that followed the election of 1876 couldn't hurt (taking the Electoral College out of the Constitution altogether, the best solution, is an unrealistically big lift for today).

Otherwise, we may well be facing that terrible question that Trump true believers faced last year: what do we do?

It's time to stop this before it goes any farther. Winter is coming...


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The mounting evidence of extreme danger posed by the QAnon doomsday cult

A significant number of Qanon followers, according to NBC News reporter Ben Collins, believe the end-point of their religion will be reached when Donald Trump takes back control of America, unleashes police to mass-arrest elected and other high-profile Democrats, and Qanon followers then engage in an orgy of violence and murder against Democratic Party-aligned neighbors, friends and family.

Already, one believer has murdered two of his children, saying they had "serpent DNA" and had to be killed to save humanity. There's evidence that a majority of the people who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th, leading to more than a half-dozen deaths and nearly overthrowing our republic, were solidly within the Qanon cult.

This isn't quite as weird as it sounds; mass death or even murder of unbelievers, often for political or "End of Days" rationales, is a familiar trope within multiple world religions.

Over the years I've spent a lot of time in Israel, which is frequently the target of evangelists trying to convert Jews in anticipation of the End Times.

Many of these evangelists are quite upfront about their belief that in the end times, in preparation for the return of Jesus, all but 144,000 of the roughly 7 million Jews in Israel must die. And those who survive will all be converted to Christianity and "wear the names of the Father and Son on their foreheads throughout eternity." When that happens, Jesus comes down from the sky.

It's a belief that millions of Christians — and a solid majority of white Evangelicals — fervently hold, and one of the reasons why there's so much support for Israel among the Republican white Evangelical movement: that's where the mass death has to happen to bring back Jesus.

Jim Jones and David Koresh were proponents of such End Times beliefs, among others, and Hitler leaned heavily on Christian themes and prophecy to justify his slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and gays.

"In defending myself against the Jews, I am acting for the Lord," Hitler said. "The difference between the church and me is that I am finishing the job."

There are similar death-cult movements within Sunni Islam, most famously offshoots of the Wahabism that's as widespread in Saudi Arabia as Evangelical Christianity is in the United States.

In both cases, the death-cult aspect of these religions has emerged in just the past two centuries; the most spectacular unveiling of Wahabism's willingness to kill was seen by the world on September 11, 2001 at the former World Trade Center in New York City.

The genocide of Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority (mostly promoted via Facebook, which has been accused of complicity in the slaughter) was justified, they said, by the religion of Buddhism, which is generally considered one of the more peaceful among the world's great faiths.

Much like the "Old Testament" documents numerous slaughters called for or approved by G-d (particularly in the Book of Joshua), the Hindu Vedas detail multiple, sometimes genocidal wars, both as metaphors for the "battle for inner peace and enlightenment," and as actual historical stories.

So what are we to make of the apparent reality that several million Americans — many sucked into this by Facebook and other social media, just like the killers in Myanmar — are followers of a religion that either predicts or calls for the murder of Jews and Democrats?

So far they've racked up an impressive record, by American cult standards. They include, as reported by Lois Beckett at The Guardian:

All, apparently, in the name of Qanon, the religion that has now become the core of their lives.

And that doesn't include the better-known instances, like the guy who shot up a pizza joint near DC looking for the basement where Hillary Clinton hid children whose blood she was going to drain to obtain adrenochrome.

Or the fellow who blew himself up in front of the AT&T building in Nashville to stop the lizard people.

One theory is that a "tribe of the mentally ill" are finding each other through Facebook and other social media and being led by Donald Trump, himself a case study in mental illness.

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."

But that's probably far too glib an explanation: tens of millions of Americans are members of odd cults, many that believe in the end times, and most mental health professionals would be reluctant to call them all mentally ill.

Mainstream Christians teach their children about a guy who has flying reindeer, after all, and most Americans profess to believe in a Jewish guy 2000 years ago who rose from the dead after walking on water and turning water into wine.

Another theory is that Qanon is meeting some deep social or psychological need for people who otherwise feel marginalized in society. A year of lockdown from Covid could certainly exacerbate this loneliness and search for community and belonging.

Or maybe it's just the power of Facebook's algorithm and new "group" system. At the very least, it's been mobilizing Qanon-friendly/aligned white people across small-town America.

Last summer on a warm Sunday night in the small Oregon town of Klamath Falls about 200 locals showed up downtown with guns, baseball bats, and whatever other weapons they could find around the house to fight off the busloads of Black Antifa marauders who they believed Jewish billionaire George Soros had paid to put on a bus in Portland and was sending their way.

Of course, George Soros had done no such thing and there were no busloads of Black people. But the warnings were all over the Klamath Falls Facebook group, and, it turns out, similar Facebook groups for small towns all over America.

Literally, from coast to coast, that weekend white residents of small towns showed up in their downtown areas with guns, rifles, hammers, and axes prepared to do battle with busloads of Black people being sent into their small white towns by George Soros.

Nobody's sure whether these messages, which activated frightened white people across the nation, came from local white supremacist groups trying to gauge if they could actually kick off a second American Civil War, or whether they came from some foreign government trying to tear America apart.

But they worked.

In the tiny town of Falls, Washington, frightened white people brought out chainsaws and cut down trees to block the road leading to their town.

In South Bend, Indiana police were overwhelmed by 911 calls from frightened white people wanting to know when the "Antifa buses" were arriving.

And in rural Luzern County, Pennsylvania, the local neighborhood social media group warned people that busloads of Black people were "organizing to riot and loot."

Similar stories played out that week from Danville, California to Jacksonville, Florida, as documented by NBC News.

Facebook announced they were banning Qanon groups from the platform, but if their history banning right-wing extremism and Covid lies is any indication, it has little impact.

So what do we do about cult-aligned neighbors who are fantasizing about killing Jews and Democrats?

The FBI has already designated the group as a domestic terrorism threat, although the laws against domestic terrorism are somewhere between weak and non-existent.

And for good reason: if you're a progressive, for example, would you want the force of the federal government coming after you for "domestic terrorism" during a Trump or Josh Hawley administration? That's exactly what's happening in Russia, Hungary and Turkey at this moment, by way of taking down political opponents of those authoritarian regimes.

Deprogramming cult members is a terribly weak game of whack-a-mole. One of my closest friends worked with Ted Patrick back in the 1980s deprogramming cult members who'd been kidnapped or lured away from their cults. It was the tiniest of drops in the bucket, although the deprogramming industry may re-emerge as Covid wanes.

Or are most of these people just so deeply craving social connection and meaning in their lives that Qanon is, for the moment, meeting those needs?

If so, and that was probably the case with many of the cults that were widespread in the 1970s and 1980s, odds are as the cult is discredited they will fall away and join organizations that offer a healthier outlet for their social and activist needs.

That's certainly what happened in the 1980s around the McMartin Preschool "ritual satanic child abuse" allegations that bear such a striking resonance to Qanon's assertion that Democrats are drinking children's blood in new Satanic rituals.

Given that millions of Americans are now members or followers of Qanon, it's also possible the religion will undergo the same kinds of transformation that many of today's smaller but mainstream religions have.

The Seventh Day Adventists, for example, started out as a doomsday cult and are now a healthy and respectable Christian sect. Ditto for the Mormons, the Salvation Army, and, some would argue, the Jehovah's Witnesses.

On the other hand, if the emerging leadership in Qanon continues to center the religion around deifying Trump and fantasizing about killing Jews, Democrats and elected officials, it'll continue to evolve more and more in the direction of being a political hate group like the Klan, which has its own set of Christian-align and antisemitic theories.

To that end, the FBI is now tracking the movement.

It's not surprising that America — which has been an incubator for weird cults for much of our history, particularly in the 1600s and the late 19th century — has come to this place with this newest cult, which is now spilling over worldwide.

And there are still open questions about how much of the Q activity in this country is being incited or driven by foreign actors.

Over time, Qanon will probably either become more of a mainstream religion/social club with a gradually normalizing belief set, or will continue down the antisemitic and racist rabbit hole and shrink in size as their willingness to condone violence becomes more problematic.

However this all shakes out, if a member of your circle of friends or family has fallen into the cult, cutting them off altogether may be the least useful strategy: it will just drive them deeper into the cult, seeking a replacement for lost friends and family and affirmation of their new worldview.

If they're hoarding weapons and talking about killing Jews and/or Democrats, though, it's a good idea to flag family members and let someone in the law enforcement community know.

Freedom of religion is one of America's top values and deserves respect. Terror groups, on the other hand, have no place in a civilized society.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Are Trump and his associates guilty of mass murder?

All across America this past year-and-a-half 700,000 people have died an agonizing, terrifying, drowning-in-their-own-fluids death, their relatives helpless, saying goodbye using Zoom or FaceTime. Families broken and shattered; husbands, wives, children and grandchildren left bereft; doctors, nurses, and physicians assistants dying along with them or holding their hands as they draw their final, tortured breath. Many of those deaths were absolutely unnecessary.

They happened because of decisions made by a small group of people led by Donald Trump.

If you or I made any decision, grounded in the desire to gain a political or other type of benefit, that caused even one single person to die we'd be on our way to prison. Look at people who simply decide to text while driving…and then kill a pedestrian. Prison.

Trump not only caused over 130,000 Americans to die unnecessarily (according to Dr. Deborah Birx's sworn testimony before Congress last week), but there's a pile of evidence — which I'll lay out below — that he did it because he believed the virus was hitting Blue states and Black people the hardest.

If this is true (and I'm building a case here that it is), it's called second-degree murder, which, to use the definitions of the State of Florida where Trump lives (there is no federal homicide law) constitutes:

"The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life…"

From the first case in the US on January 20, 2020 until the week of April 7th of last year, for four months Trump and his team were actually trying to do something about the Covid pandemic.

Trump put medical doctors on TV daily, the media was freaking out about refrigerated trucks carrying bodies away from New York hospitals, and doctors and nurses were our new national heroes.

By March 7th, US deaths had risen from 4 to only 22, but that was enough to spur federal action. Trump's official emergency declaration came on March 11th, and most of the country shut down or at least went partway toward that outcome that week.

The Dow collapsed and millions of Americans were laid off, but saving lives was, after all, the number one consideration. Jared Kushner put together an all-volunteer taskforce of mostly preppie 30-something white men to coordinate getting PPE to hospitals.

They even had a plan for the Post Office to distribute 650 million masks — 5 to every American household — to stop the pandemic.

But then came April 7th, when the New York Times ran a front-page story with the headline: Black Americans Face Alarming Rates of Coronavirus Infection in Some States.

Other media ran similar headlines across the American media landscape that day, and it was heavily reported on cable news and the network news that night. Most of the non-elderly people dying from Covid, the report found, were Black or Hispanic, not white people.

White conservatives responded with a collective, "What the hell?!?"

Limbaugh declared that afternoon that "with the coronavirus, I have been waiting for the racial component." And here it was. "The coronavirus now hits African Americans harder — harder than illegal aliens, harder than women. It hits African Americans harder than anybody, disproportionate representation."

It didn't take a medical savant, of course, to figure out why, and it had nothing to do with the biology of race: it was purely systemic racism. African Americans die disproportionately from everything, from heart disease to strokes to cancer to childbirth.

It's a symptom of a racially rigged economy and a healthcare system that only responds to money, which America has conspired to keep from African Americans for over 400 years. Of course they're going to die more frequently from coronavirus.

But the New York Times and the Washington Post simultaneously publishing front-page articles about that disparity with regard to COVID19, all on April 7th, echoed across the rightwing media landscape like a Fourth of July fireworks display.

Tucker Carlson, the only prime-time Fox "News" host who'd previously expressed serious concerns about the dangers of the virus, changed his tune the same day, as documented by Media Matters for America.

Now, Tucker said, "we can begin to consider how to improve the lives of the rest, the countless Americans who have been grievously hurt by this, by our response to this. How do we get 17 million of our most vulnerable citizens back to work? That's our task."

White people were out of work, and Black people were most of the casualties, outside of the extremely elderly. And those white people need their jobs back if we're going to get Trump's economy back on track in time for the upcoming election!

Brit Hume joined Tucker's show and, using his gravitas as a "real news guy," intoned, "The disease turned out not to be quite as dangerous as we thought."

Left unsaid was the issue of for whom it was "not quite as dangerous," but Limbaugh listeners and Fox viewers are anything but unsophisticated when it comes to hearing dog-whistles on behalf of white supremacy.

Only 12,677 Americans were dead by that day, but now that Trump and his rightwing media knew most of the non-elderly were Black, things were suddenly very, very different. Now it was time to quit talking about people dying and start talking about getting people back to work!

It took less than a week for Trump to get the memo, presumably through Fox and Stephen Miller.

On April 12th, he retweeted a call to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci and declared, in another tweet, that he had the sole authority to open the US back up, and that he'd be announcing a specific plan to do just that "shortly."

On April 13th, the ultra-rightwing, nearly-entirely-white-managed US Chamber of Commerce published a policy paper titled Implementing A National Return to Work Plan.

The next day, Freedomworks, the billionaire-founded and -funded group that animated the Tea Party against Obamacare a decade earlier, published an op-ed on their website calling for an "economic recovery" program including an end to the capital gains tax and a new law to "shield" businesses from lawsuits.

Three days after that, Freedomworks and the House Freedom Caucus issued a joint statement declaring that "[I]t's time to re-open the economy."

Freedomworks published their "#ReopenAmerica Rally Planning Guide" encouraging conservatives to show up "in person" at their state capitols and governor's mansions, and, for signage, to "Keep it short: 'I'm essential,' 'Let me work,' 'Let Me Feed My Family'" and to "Keep [the signs looking] homemade."

One of the first #OpenTheCountry rallies to get widespread national attention was April 19th in New Hampshire. Over the next several weeks, rallies filled with white people had metastasized across the nation, from Oregon to Arizona, Delaware, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and elsewhere.

One that drew particularly high levels of media attention, complete with swastikas, confederate flags and assault rifles, was directed against the governor of Michigan, rising Democratic star Gretchen Whitmer.

NBC News, when they'd gotten hold of April emails from within the White House, ran the headline: "Trump Administration Scrapped Plan to Send Every American a Mask in April, Email Shows."

When Rachel Maddow reported on meat packing plants that were epicenters of mass infection, the conservative Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court pointed out that the virus flare wasn't coming from the "regular folks" of the surrounding white community; they were mostly Hispanic and Black.

The conservative meme was now well established.

Then came news that the biggest outbreaks were happening in prisons along with the meat packing plants, places with few white people (and the few whites in them were largely poor and thus disposable).

Trump's response to this was to issue an executive order using the Defense Production Act (which he had refused to use to order production of testing or PPE equipment) to order the largely Hispanic and Black workforce back into the slaughterhouses and meat processing plants.

African Americans were dying in our cities, Hispanics were dying in meat packing plants, the elderly were dying in nursing homes.

But the death toll among working age white people, particularly affluent white people (who were less likely to be obese, have hypertension or struggle with diabetes), was relatively low.

And those who came through the infection were presumed to be immune to subsequent bouts, so we could issue them "COVID Passports" and give them hiring priority.

As an "expert" member of Jared Kushner's team of young, unqualified volunteers supervising the administration's PPE response to the virus noted to Vanity Fair's Katherine Eban, "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

It was, after all, it was exclusively Blue States that were then hit hard by the virus: Washington, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's grandson Max Kennedy Jr, 26, was one of the volunteers, and blew the whistle to Congress on Kushner and Trump. As Jane Mayer wrote for The New Yorker, "Kennedy was disgusted to see that the political appointees who supervised him were hailing Trump as 'a marketing genius,' because, Kennedy said they'd told him, 'he personally came up with the strategy of blaming the states.'"

At year's end, the United States was ranked 5th worst in the world in our response (behind Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Iran); we have about 20% of the world's Covid deaths, but only 4.5% of the world's population.

Why? Apparently because Trump and his Republican enablers and co-conspirators were just fine with Black people dying, particularly when they could blame it on Democratic Blue-state governors.

And once they put that strategy into place in April, it became politically impossible to back away from it, even as more and more Red State white people became infected.

Everything since then, right down to Trump's December 26th tweet ("The lockdowns in Democrat run states are absolutely ruining the lives of so many people — Far more than the damage that would be caused by the China Virus."), has been a double-down on death and destruction.

How could anybody think this was anything other than negligent homicide at best and intentional murder at worst?

Even Sweden has put together a commission to look into their government's response to the pandemic, and it's already reporting its result.

In Brazil, their Senate has compiled a 1000+ page report, detailing the mistakes and malicious actions President Bolsinaro took — very much like Trump did — that caused hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths, and they're recommending he be prosecuted under Brazilian and international law.

It's astonishing that there's no major, national commission or special prosecutor looking into what happened here in the US, particularly when so much of the evidence of the Trump administration committing murder is publicly available.

If a half-million people had died — unnecessarily — under Obama as president, you know how the GOP would react.

After all, they spent millions to hold 4+ years of multiple hearings across several congressional committees over 4 American deaths in Bengazi, taking thousands of hours of testimony, including an 11-hour day from Hillary Clinton.

During the Clinton presidency Republicans gave Ken Starr and his assistant Brett Kavanaugh four years and $70 million to uncover the democracy-ending crime of Bill Clinton getting a BJ from a consenting adult. (Seriously: Newt said it endangered "the survival of the American system of justice.")

In this case, there are actual dead bodies, and a hell of a lot more than four of them.

Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer must appoint select committees in the House and Senate to investigate this crime, and Attorney General Merrick Garland must appoint a special prosecutor with a grand jury.

Americans deserve to know why their friends and relatives died such a terrible death when every other country in the world (except Brazil) took strong and effective action to limit infections and fatalities.

And if it can be proven that Trump and his buddies like Scott Atlas let all these Americans die because they thought it would help them politically, people need to go to prison.


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Here's how right-wing media outlets kill people who take their advice

It happened three times yesterday, and I only watched or half-watched a few hours of TV news. It happens every day, it seems. Somebody wonders out loud (yesterday's most prominent was Alex Witt with Dr. Anthony Fauci) why over 60 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated are still refusing — including hospital workers in some parts of the country.

Everybody treats it like it's a confounding question with no easy answer. The actual answer, though, is pretty straightforward: the psychopaths running the rightwing media ecosystem dominated by Fox "News" and social media, and echoed by 1500 radio stations across the country, have decided people dying and being disabled is both profitable and politically advantageous to them.

When Joe Biden was elected president the Republican Party and their joined-at-the-hip rightwing media did a sudden about-face from praising Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" to encouraging their followers to remain unvaccinated so President Biden would struggle to get the economy back on sound footing.

That, they figured, was their best bet to take back Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024, and they've stayed on-message ever since Biden took office on January 20th. As I noted in considerable detail back in July, death is their political strategy.

And now, as if to put a punctuation point on it, the headline at Raw Story warns: Fox News host uses Colin Powell's death to launch anti-vax rant: "Fully-vaccinated are dying of Covid."

Almost 750,000 Americans have died of Covid and recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that as many as half of the 45 million Americans who've been diagnosed with the disease will suffer long term consequences, the main ones being dementia, exhaustion and damage to the heart and kidneys.

It used to be in American business that you knew where the psychopaths were: tobacco. It's an industry producing a product that, when used as directed, kills around a half-million Americans every year.

Being able to comfortably fall asleep every night knowing that the product of your workday had killed another 1300 people is a rare competence that typically requires the mental illness of psychopathy.

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 politics, as well as in criminal and prison environments.

Thus, the CEO of Fox "News" — the network that daily spreads vaccine misinformation leading to deaths that are tearing apart American families — tells the Hollywood Reporter that she sleeps "well at night." Just like the tobacco CEOs.

Meanwhile, people who watch Fox and all its imitators across various media are taking the implicit advice of Fox's primetime hosts and avoiding vaccination…and getting sick and in some cases dying.

They're embracing quack cures promoted on the network and across rightwing media, including hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin, giving their viewers the false sense of security that if they get sick with this awful disease there's a ready cure at hand…so there's no need to get vaccinated.

Even worse, consumers of this media are doing their best to disrupt rational public health efforts like mask and vaccine mandates by harassing public health officials, school boards, and elected representatives across the country — all leading to even more disease and deaths.

When Americans realized, mostly as the result of massive lawsuits in the 1990s, that the CEOs of the tobacco industry were knowingly killing people (and even reaching out to addict children) we took action.

We limited access to this death-dealing product, from outlawing television advertising to limiting placement of cigarette vending machines and strict enforcement of age-limited retail sales. We also required that the product be honestly labeled: "Tobacco kills."

This isn't an option for media, and rightly so because of our First Amendment protections of the press (including this article). And nobody wants to take those freedoms and protections away.

But the most important and effective campaign our nation embarked on to cut tobacco use was the nationwide campaign to educate people about the dangers of tobacco use. We taught adults and schoolchildren alike how the industry was trying to addict them and showed them the consequences of using that deadly product.

Now that rightwing media has arguably caused more Americans to die in the past year than has tobacco, it's time to consider a similar strategy to balance the lies and misinformation streaming out of them every day.

If we can't rely on the news and social media industries' content producers or executives to stop spreading death-dealing misinformation, we can at least wake people up to the dangers of their products.

#RightwingMediaCausesDeath


Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The sinister story of Kyrsten Sinema's turn to conservatism and political corruption

When Bobby Kennedy went after organized crime in the early 1960s, one of the things he learned was that the Mafia had a series of rituals new members went through to declare their loyalty and promise they'd never turn away from their new benefactors. Once in, they'd be showered with money and protection, but they could never leave and even faced serious problems if they betrayed the syndicate.

Which brings us to the story of Kyrsten Sinema.

For a republican democracy to actually work, average citizens with a passion for making their country better must be able to run for public office without needing wealthy or powerful patrons; this is a concept that dates back to Aristotle's rants on the topic. And Sinema was, in the beginning, just that sort of person. But I'm getting ahead of myself…

After the Nixon and Agnew bribery scandals were fully revealed with a series of congressional investigations leading to Nixon's resignation in 1974, Congress passed and President Jerry Ford signed into law a series of "good government" laws that provided for public funding of elections and strictly limited the role of big money in campaigns.

Just like the 1/6 attack on the Capitol produced a "select" committee to investigate the anti-democracy crimes of Donald Trump and his cronies, Congress authorized the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to look into Nixon's abuses and make recommendations.

The committee's 100-page report documented how Nixon had taken bribes (most notably $400,000 from ITT to squash an antitrust lawsuit); used "dark" money from wealthy friends and corporations to set up astroturf "citizens committees" (an early version of the Tea Party) to make it appear he had widespread support among the American public; and used off-the-books money to both support loyal Republican politicians whose help he needed as well as to pay for his "opposition research" surveillance which included the Watergate break-in of the DNC's headquarters.

In response to the report, Congress passed an exhaustive set of new laws and regulations, most significantly creating from scratch the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), outlawing secret donations to politicians while providing for public funding of federal elections to diminish the power of big money. (Jimmy Carter was the only presidential candidate to win using such public funding.)

Over the years since, conservatives on the Supreme Court have repeatedly gutted provisions of the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), most famously in 2010 with their notorious Citizens United decision.

With that stroke, over the loud objections of the four "liberals" on the Court, corporations were absolutely deemed as "persons" with full constitutional rights, and billionaires or corporations pouring massive amounts of money into campaign coffers was changed from "bribery and political corruption" to an exercise of the constitutionally-protected "right of free speech."

Into this milieu stepped Kyrsten Sinema, running from a seat in the Arizona Senate for the US House of Representatives in 2012 as an "out" bisexual and political progressive. The campaign quickly turned ugly.

Following the Citizens United script, the Republican she confronted in that race (Vernon Parker) used corporate and billionaire money to carpet-bomb their district airwaves with ads calling her "a radical left-wing activist promoting hatred toward our country, our allies, and our families" and warning people that she "engaged in pagan rituals."

The district was heavily Democratic (Obama handily won it that year) but the race was close enough that it took six full days for the AP to call it for Sinema. And that, apparently, was when she decided that if you can only barely beat them, you'd damn well better join them.

Sinema quickly joined other Democrats who'd followed the Citizens United path to the flashing neon lights of big money, joining the so-called "Problem Solvers" caucus that owes its existence in part to the Wall Street-funded front group "No Labels."

Quietly and without fanfare, she began voting with Republicans and the corporate- and billionaire-owned Democrats, supporting efforts to deregulate big banks, "reform" Social Security and Medicare, and make it harder to for government to protect regular investors or even buyers of used cars from being ripped off.

She voted with the Chamber 77 percent of the time in her first term; in return, political networks run by right-wing billionaires and the US Chamber of Commerce showered her with support. In her first re-election race, in 2014, she was one of only five democrats endorsed by the notoriously right-wing Chamber.

She'd proved herself as a "made woman," just like the old mafiosi documented by RFK in the 1960s, willing to do whatever it takes, compromise whatever principles she espoused, to get into and stay in the good graces of the large and well-funded right-wing syndicates unleashed by Citizens United.

So it should surprise precisely nobody that Sinema is parroting the Chamber's and the billionaire network's line that President Joe Biden's Build Back Better plan is too generous in helping and protecting average Americans and too punitive in taxing the morbidly rich. After all, once you're in, you leave at your own considerable peril, even when 70 percent of your state's voters want the bill to pass.

And this is a genuine crisis for America because if President Biden is frustrated in his attempt to pass his Build Back Better legislation (that is overwhelmingly supported by Americans across the political spectrum) — all because business groups, giant corporations and right-wing billionaires are asserting ownership over their two "made" senators — there's a very good chance that today's cynicism and political violence is just a preview of the rest of the decade.

But this isn't as much a story about Sinema as it is about today's larger political dysfunction for which she's become, along with Joe Manchin, a poster child.

Increasingly, because of the Supreme Court's betrayal of American values, it's become impossible for people like the younger Sinema to rise from social worker to the United States Senate without big money behind them. Our media is absolutely unwilling to call this what even Andrew Jackson would have labeled it: political corruption. But that's what it is and it's eating away at our republic like a metastasized cancer.

A guest on Brian Stelter's CNN program yesterday pointed out that there are today more autocracies in the world than democracies and, generally, democracies are on the decline. This corruption of everyday politics by the rich and powerful is how democracies begin the shift to autocracy or oligarchy, as I document in gruesome detail in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy: Reclaiming Our Democracy from the Ruling Class.

While the naked corruption of Sinema and Joe Manchin is a source of outrage for Democrats across America, what's far more important is that it reveals how deep the rot of money in American politics has gone, thanks entirely to a corrupted Supreme Court.

In Justice Stevens' dissent in Citizens United, he pointed out that corporations in their modern form didn't even exist when the Constitution was written in 1787 and got its first ten amendments in 1791, including the First which protects free speech.

"All general business corporation statues appear to date from well after 1800," Stevens pointed out to his conservative colleagues on the Court. "The Framers thus took it as a given that corporations could be comprehensively regulated in the service of the public welfare. Unlike our colleagues, they had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans they had in mind.

"The fact that corporations are different from human beings might seem to need no elaboration, except that the majority opinion almost completely elides it…. Unlike natural persons, corporations have 'limited liability' for their owners and managers, 'perpetual life,' separation of ownership and control, 'and favorable treatment of the accumulation of assets….' Unlike voters in U.S. elections, corporations may be foreign controlled."

Noting that corporations "inescapably structure the life of every citizen," Stevens continued: "It might be added that corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations help structure and facilitate the activities of human beings, to be sure, and their 'personhood' often serves as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of 'We the People' by whom and for whom our Constitution was established."

Even worse than the short-term effect of a corporation's dominating an election or a ballot initiative, Stevens said (as if he had a time machine to look at us now), was the fact that corporations corrupting politics would, inevitably, cause average working Americans — the 95 percent who make less than $100,000 a year — to conclude that their "democracy" is now rigged.

The result, Stevens wrote, is that average people would simply stop participating in politics, stop being informed about politics, and stop voting…or become angry and cynical. Our democracy, he suggested, would be immeasurably damaged and ultimately vulnerable to corporate-supported demagogues and oligarchs. Our constitutional republic, if Citizens United stands, could wither and could die.

"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices," Stevens wrote in 2010, "there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter. Corporate 'domination' of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy.

"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing.

"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders 'call the tune' and a reduced 'willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.' To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled." (Emphasis mine)

As if he were looking at Kyrsten Sinema facing a tough choice about her own political survival leading up to the 2014 election, Stevens added:

"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation."

And, again looking into his time machine to today, the now-deceased Stevens pointed to the frustration of average Americans with Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

"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.'"

Stevens and his fellow "liberals" on the Court were both prescient and right.

They warned in their dissent that foreign money would corrupt our elections and we saw that in a big way in 2016. There's apparently no way of knowing how much of today's political turmoil — from school board to election commission to hospital and airplane violence — is being orchestrated and amplified by foreign players on social media masquerading as Americans to weaken our country.

They warned that because of the Citizens United decision Americans would become cynical and reactionary; that's happening today. Armed militias are in our streets, people are regularly assaulted for their perceived politics, and right-wing media demagogues make millions (literally) promoting hate and fear.

And, they warned, it could doom our republic, something that's now within our sight.

In other news, former President Donald Trump could soon be off the hook in the Stormy Daniels payoff case — and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is disgusted. WATCH:

Pro-Trump candidate suggests taking 'all the boats out of the water' to lower sea levels youtu.be

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30+ other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The QAnon crowd has a familiar face: How right-wing cults have always plagued our politics

The latest white guy going on a rage-bender before being "respectfully" taken into custody for "mental health evaluation" was at the Miami airport, an incident that broke the internet last week.

Since Trump began his campaign of self-centered, self-entitled whining, preening and racist "straight talk" in 2015, hate crimes and violence against women have exploded by around 20 percent.

Meanwhile, "conservatives" have created a "watch list" of college professors suspected of teaching "liberal" climate science or the actual racial history of America; fossil fuel billionaires and their buddies, with the Supreme Court's blessing, have corrupted Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and the entire GOP; and school boards, teachers and election officials receive daily harassment and even death threats.

All across the internet, we're hearing weird theories that Trump and his followers have stolen some obscure idea from Roy Cohn and Roger Stone or are trying to reinvent German Nazism in an American wrapper.

But the misogyny, hate and intimidation that the newly-Trumpy GOP have embraced since 2015 isn't new, and certainly isn't unique to America; indeed, it's played a huge role throughout the centuries of our history.

Today's "proud boys," for example, are just a modern version of the New England "churchmen" of the 1700s, the Klan riders of the 1800s, and Joe McCarthy's fervent followers of the 1950s. Our sold-out "conservative" anti-Critical Race Theory politicians are just this generation's versions of white supremacist John C. Calhoun fronting for morbidly rich "plantation" owners in the mid-1800s.

Historically these bullies lose, but in the process they cause extraordinary pain and disruption to our nation. We must revisit, and learn from, history.

When authoritarian men seize power, they always go after advocates for broader democratic rights and even modernity itself. And they particularly go after objective science, women, and minorities of every sort.

The Catholic Church went after Copernicus and then promoted repeated wars — "crusades" and pogroms — against Jews and Muslims. Authoritarians throughout history, motivated by deep-seated fears and ignorance, similarly hate science, egalitarian values, and those who think or look different from them.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the most influential of the Founders when it came to the shaping of the Constitution and our nation, and he was horrified by the power that right-wingers (rationalizing their largely economic and political power grabs with religion) had seized in his birth state of Massachusetts and nearby New Hampshire.

As a teenager, he fled the state for Philadelphia, where there were no religious tests and people weren't required by law (as they were in most of Massachusetts and New Hampshire) to tithe and attend church every week.

"Scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age," he wrote in his first autobiography, "when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of revelation itself."

Today, churches and radio/TV/YouTube preachers are the second largest vehicle for promoting anti-democracy behaviors and protests, behind social media. Franklin knew that even when their style of threats and violence were used to "enforce morality," it's really about power and political control.

This knowledge led him to campaign against authoritarianism and in favor of "free thinking" for much of his life. As his peer Joseph Priestly wrote of him, "It is much to be lamented that a man of Dr. Franklin's general good character and great influence should have been an unbeliever in Christianity and also have done so much as he did to make others unbelievers."

Louise and I used to live just a short drive from Dover, New Hampshire, the fourth-largest city in the state, near the Maine border and the Atlantic seacoast. Generations ago, rightwing politicians and preachers were enforcing social control, and John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "How the Women Went from Dover" tells the tale of three young women who dared to challenge that day's powerful men, that early generation of what today we would called Trump followers.

Whittier's poem begins:

The tossing spray of Cocheco's fall
Hardened to ice on its rocky wall,
As through Dover town in the chill, gray dawn,
Three women passed, at the cart-tail drawn!

The three women were Anne Coleman, Mary Tomkins, and Alice Ambrose, and their crime was adhering to and promoting peace-promoting Quaker beliefs in a rabidly rightwing town.

This so enraged the minister of Dover's Congregational church, John Reyner, that he and church elder Hatevil Nutter (yes, that was his real name) lobbied the crown magistrate, Captain Richard Walderne, to have them punished for their challenge to Reyner's authority.

It was a bitter winter when Walderne complied, ordering the three women stripped naked and tied to the back of a horse-drawn cart by their wrists, then dragged through town while receiving ten lashes each. As Whittier wrote:

Bared to the waist, for the north wind's grip
And keener sting of the constable's whip,
The blood that followed each hissing blow
Froze as it sprinkled the winter snow.

A local man, George Bishop, wrote at the time, "Deputy Waldron caused these women to be stripped naked from the middle upwards, and tied to a cart, and after a while cruelly whipped them, whilst the priest stood and looked and laughed at it."

It was a start, from Reverend Reyner's point of view, but hardly enough to scare the residents of the entire region from which he drew his congregation. So, he got the young women's punishment extended to 11 nearby towns over 80 miles of snow-covered roads, all following the same routine.

So into the forest they held their way,
By winding river and frost-rimmed bay,
Over wind-swept hills that felt the beat
Of the winter sea at their icy feet.

The next town was Hampton, where the constable decided that just baring them above the waist wasn't enough. As Sewall's History of the Quakers records, "So he stripped them, and then stood trembling whip in hand, and so he did the execution. Then he carried them to Salisbury through the dirt and the snow half the leg deep; and here they were whipped again."

Once more the torturing whip was swung,
Once more keen lashes the bare flesh stung.
"Oh, spare! they are bleeding!" a little maid cried,
And covered her face the sight to hide.

Whipping, beating, stoning, hanging, nailing, being pilloried (publicly clamped to a post through neck and wrist holes, often naked and sometimes for days at a time), dragging, burning, branding, and dozens of other techniques were employed by religious and government authorities in the early American colonies to enforce thought and behavior.

And Trump and his "boys" who strut around with T-Shirts celebrating General Pinochet's practice of throwing "liberals" out of helicopters in Chile in the 1970s would bring it back if they gain power again.

If her cry from the whipping-post and jail
Pierced sharp as the Kenite's driven nail,
O woman, at ease in these happier days,
Forbear to judge of thy sister's ways!

On July 17, 1658, for example, Massachusetts Puritans seized Quakers Christopher Holder and John Copeland and chopped off each man's right ear. They were then imprisoned and brutally whipped "on a set schedule" for "nine weeks straight."

Expelled from the Massachusetts territory, Holder and Copeland were told that if they returned, their left ears would also be cut off and a hole would be bored through each of their tongues with a hot poker.

In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter, set in Puritan Boston, which dramatized how rule-breakers were stigmatized in Massachusetts. In Hawthorne's telling, Hester Prynne was forced to wear a scarlet "A," stigmatizing her as an adulterer.

It's why there was debate about admitting Massachusetts to the new United States if they wouldn't drop their laws supporting hard-right religion; the state finally, after massive debate and over the objections of multiple churches, complied and agreed to ratify the Constitution with its hated free speech and freedom from religion clauses.

So this generation of democracy-hating, bizarre-religious-cult-Qanon-believing right-wingers are really nothing new.

Instead of public whippings to humiliate their enemies, they use social media, truck caravans with semiautomatic weapons and giant flags, and pick fights in airports and public parks.

Instead of denying the Earth goes around the sun, they deny the dangers of Covid and global warming.

Instead of closing schools they force teachers to expose themselves to disease while harassing and threatening them if they dare teach science or actual American history.

Instead of requiring the payment of church taxes to vote, they require elaborate proofs of citizenship and purge "undesirable" people from voting lists with a nod and a wink from the Supreme Court.

From Ben Franklin's time to today, every generation of Americans have confronted rightwing authoritarians bent on maintaining violent white male supremacy using the twin levers of religious fanaticism and concentrated wealth.

It's probably beyond the power of human nature to prevent this from ever happening again, but we must not resign ourselves to another authoritarian movement now rising to power in America. Get active!

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Ron DeSantis and the for-profit medical death trap

It has to be a scurrilous lie. Seriously: nobody is that evil.

Although it is the sort of thing that we've come to expect because our unique-in-the-world, for-profit health insurance system leaves Americans financially vulnerable to sickness but offers huge profits to companies and CEOs in the system.

Some cynical people are suggesting that the reason Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is forcing teachers and children to sit for hours every day in classrooms with unmasked children is because he wants them all to get infected with Covid…to make money for a friend of his.

Seriously. There's that theory out there, and it's almost too evil to believe it could be true.

That DeSantis is intentionally trying to expose children, families and public-school teachers to a deadly disease simply because it'll make a few million extra dollars for his largest donor, billionaire Ken Griffin, whose fund is one of the biggest stockholders in the company that makes the only available monoclonal antibody drug approved to treat Covid.

And, of course, it might also take out a few hundred unionized teachers, a bonus in any Republican's book.

But it can't be true that DeSantis is spreading disease just to goose healthcare profits, can it?

After all, when the federal government offered to give Florida billions of dollars to expand their Medicaid program to provide free healthcare for the state's working poor, Governor Rick Scott and later Governor DeSantis said a firm "no."

Even though all that money coming into the state to pay for healthcare could have goosed up the profits of any number of hospitals and health operations Griffin could invest in, DeSantis still refused to expand Medicaid statewide. (He did eventually sign an expansion of Medicaid for new moms, but it's a pittance and arguably a shout-out to the forced-birth crowd.)

Far more likely is that DeSantis just wants to win the Republican primary for president in 2024 and thinks having the Trump "base" and Fox "News" on his side will get him there.

After all, having hundreds of thousands of Floridians suffer disability or die — bankrupting family after family — just to score points with Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson demonstrates all the manly cred he'll need. Right?

It's another danger of having a for-profit health insurance system that doesn't cover everybody, so when a corrupt governor like DeSantis uses death and disease for political manipulation families end up ill, broke and desperate — as are millions of American families right now because of Covid.

Whatever's going on with DeSantis, we're not Brazil and we really do need to get past behaving like a third-world country where the boss-man plays games with deadly diseases for political gain.

And the best way to do that is to finally join pretty much every other developed country in the world and put into place a single-payer healthcare system like Medicare For All.

When this pandemic started, America had 87 million uninsured or underinsured citizens. As a result, a FamiliesUSA study found:

  • Nationally, roughly 1 out of every 3 COVID-19 deaths are linked to health insurance gaps.
  • More than 40% of all COVID-19 infections are associated with health insurance gaps.
  • By February 1, 2021, 10.9 million infections and 143,000 COVID-19 deaths may have been associated with health insurance gaps.
  • A national healthcare program that extended to all Americans would keep state governors from grandstanding on healthcare issues. Even better, like every other developed country in the world, it would provide a nexus for health data and a single point of advocacy for health consumers, something sorely lacking today.And it would keep America healthy.

    As Public Citizen noted, "For every 10% increase in a county's uninsured rate, the researchers found a 70% increase in COVID-19 infections and nearly a 50% increase in deaths from COVID-19."

    Uninsured people often live paycheck-to-paycheck and have no paid sick days, so they have little choice but to show up sick if they want to pay the rent and provide food for their families. It's well known that's how and why flu and other communicable diseases are transmitted by desperate low-wage workers and it's one of the strongest arguments for a national healthcare system.Individual health is public health, and vice-versa.

    Our failure to put into place a Medicare For All type of health insurance system causes uninsured or poorly insured people to postpone medical care early in the course of a disease, hoping to make it through without incurring medical expenses.

    This is particularly dangerous with Covid: monoclonal antibody treatment works to cut the severity of the coronavirus infection, but only if given when first symptoms appear and before people are so sick they need hospitalization; after that point it's useless.

    In a pandemic, a national health insurance and healthcare system becomes critical to keeping the public safe.

    I open my new book, The Hidden History of American Healthcare: Why Sickness Bankrupts You and Makes Others Insanely Rich, with the story of how Taiwan used the national database from their single-payer system to quickly put together a testing-and-contact-tracing system that kept the coronavirus at bay through the first year of the pandemic until vaccines became available.

    Here, by contrast, our for-profit health insurance system is so corrupt that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently had to go after multiple insurance companies with the threat of huge fines for refusing to pay for all or part of Covid testing, even though paying for it was mandated by federal law.

    When a single health insurance CEO — like "Dollar Bill" McGuire of UnitedHealth — can walk away with over a billion dollars, you know something is seriously screwed up.

    Administering a health insurance system is one of the easiest, most banal and straightforward processes in the world, which is why most developed countries (and even small countries like Costa Rica) have the government perform that function with single-payer instead of letting for-profit leeches skim billions off the top.

    The Covid pandemic has shown how well single-payer and other national systems work in countries like Canada and across Europe, where medical bankruptcies are largely unknown. It's similarly exposed how corrupt and dysfunctional the American patchwork-quilt for-profit system has become.

    Medicare For All, like Canada has, would save most American families thousands of dollars every year and do away with the 500,000+ annual bankruptcies in this country that happen only because somebody in the family got sick.

    But it would kill the billions every week in profits for the half-dozen corporate giants that dominate the health insurance industry and throw millions every year at politicians and PACs. So expect DeSantis and the Republican Party to continue to fight it tooth and nail.

    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

    When will we stop letting our presidents lie America into wars?

    Let's never forget that what we are watching happen right now in Afghanistan is the final act of George W. Bush's 2004 reelection strategy.

    After 9/11 the Taliban offered to arrest Bin Laden, but Bush turned them down because he wanted to be a "wartime president" to have a "successful presidency."

    The Washington Post headline weeks after 9/11 put it succinctly: "Bush Rejects Taliban Offer On Bin Laden." With that decision not to arrest and try Bin Laden for his crime but instead to go to war George W. Bush set the US and Afghanistan on a direct path to today.

    More recently, Trump and Pompeo gave the Taliban everything they wanted — power, legitimacy and the release of 5000 of their worst war criminals — over the strong objections of the Afghan government in 2019 so Trump could falsely claim, heading into the 2020 election, that he'd "negotiated peace" in Afghanistan when in fact he'd set up this week's debacle.

    "The relationship I have with the Mullah is very good," Trump proclaimed after ordering the mullah who yesterday named himself President freed from prison over the furious objection of Afghan's government, who Trump had cut out of the negotiations.

    Now Trump and the GOP are scrubbing the record of that betrayal of both America and Afghanistan and embrace of the Taliban from their websites, as noted here and here.

    And the UK is coming right out and saying that Trump's "rushed" deal with the Taliban — without involvement of the Afghan government or the international community — set up this disaster. "The die was cast," Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC, "when the deal was done by Donald Trump, if you want my observation."

    Trump's sabotage notwithstanding, President Biden, the State Department and the Pentagon should have anticipated this week's debacle in Afghanistan. The fact that they didn't speaks volumes about how four administrations, the Pentagon and our defense contractors covered up how poorly the Ashraf Ghani government was doing there. Just like they did with Vietnam. It's on all of them.

    And this isn't the first time a president has lied us into a war.

    · Vietnam wasn't the first time an American president and his buddies in the media lied us into a war when Defense Secretary Robert McNamara falsely claimed that an American warship had come under attack in the Gulf of Tonkin and LBJ went along with the lie.

    · Neither was President William McKinley lying us into the Spanish-American war in 1898 by falsely claiming that the USS Maine had been blown up in Havana harbor (it caught fire all by itself).

    · The first time we were lied into a major war by a president was probably the Mexican-American war of 1846 when President James Polk lied that we'd been invaded by Mexico. Even Abraham Lincoln, then a congressman from Illinois, called him out on that lie.

    · You could also argue that when President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 leading to the Trail of Tears slaughter and forced relocation of the Cherokee under President Buchanan (among other atrocities) it was all based on a series of lies.

    Bush's lies that took us into Afghanistan and, a bit over a year later into Iraq, are particularly egregious, however, given his and Cheney's apparent reasons for those lies.

    In 1999, when George W. Bush decided he was going to run for president in the 2000 election, his family hired Mickey Herskowitz to write the first draft of Bush's autobiography, A Charge To Keep.

    Although Bush had gone AWOL for about a year during the Vietnam war and was thus apparently no fan of combat, he'd concluded (from watching his father's "little 3- day war" with Iraq) that being a "wartime president" was the most consistently surefire way to get reelected and have a two-term presidency.

    "I'll tell you, he was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," Herskowitz told reporter Russ Baker in 2004.

    "One of the things [Bush] said to me," Herskowitz said, "is: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of (Kuwait) and he wasted it.

    "[Bush] said, 'If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.'"

    The attack on 9/11 gave Bush his first chance to "be seen as a commander-in-chief" when our guy Osama Bin Laden, who the Reagan/Bush administration had spent $3 billion building up in Afghanistan, engineered an attack on New York and DC.

    The crime was planned in Germany and Florida and on 9/11 Bin Laden was, according to CBS News, not even in Afghanistan: "CBS Evening News has been told that the night before the Sept. 11 terrorists attack, Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan. He was getting medical treatment with the support of the very military that days later pledged its backing for the U.S. war on terror in Afghanistan." When the Obama administration finally caught and killed Bin Laden, he was again in Pakistan, the home base for the Taliban.

    But attacking our ally Pakistan in 2001 would have been impossible for Bush, and, besides, nearby Afghanistan was an easier target, being at that time the second-poorest country in the world with an average annual per-capita income of $700 a year. Bin Laden had run terrorist training camps there, unrelated to 9/11, but they made a fine excuse for Bush's first chance to "be seen as a commander-in-chief" and get some leadership cred.

    Cheney, meanwhile, was in a world of trouble because of a huge bet he'd made as CEO of Halliburton in 1998. Dresser Industries was big into asbestos and about to fall into bankruptcy because of asbestos lawsuits that the company was fighting up through the court system. Cheney bet Dresser would ultimately win the suits and had Halliburton buy the company on the cheap, but a year later, in 1999, Dresser got turned down by the courts and Haliburton's stock went into freefall, crashing 68 percent in a matter of months.

    Bush had asked Cheney — who'd worked in his father's White House as Secretary of Defense — to help him find a suitable candidate for VP.

    Cheney, as his company was collapsing, recommended himself for the job. In July of 2000, Cheney walked away with $30 million from the troubled company and the year after that, as VP, Halliburton subsidiary KBR received one of the first no-bid no-ceiling (no limit on how much they could receive) multi-billion-dollar military contracts.

    Bush and Cheney both had good reason to want to invade Afghanistan in October 2001:

    Bush was largely seen as an illegitimate president at the time because his father's appointee on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, had cast the deciding vote that made him president; a war gave him legitimacy and the aura of leadership.

    Cheney's company was in a crisis, and Afghanistan War no-bid contracts helped turn around Halliburton from the edge of bankruptcy into one of the world's largest defense contractors.

    Even Trump had to get into the "let's lie about Afghanistan" game, in his case to have bragging rights that he'd "ended the war in Afghanistan."

    In 2019, Trump went around the Afghan government (to their outrage: he even invited the Taliban to Camp David in a move that disgusted the world) to cut a so-called "peace deal" that sent thousands of newly-empowered Taliban fighters back into the field and drew down our troops to the point where today's chaos was absolutely predictable.

    Trump's deal was the signal to the 300,000+ Afghan army recruits that America no longer had their back and if the Taliban showed up they should just run away. Which, of course, is what has happened over the past few weeks.

    As The New York Times noted: "The Taliban capitalized on the uncertainty caused by the [Trump] February 2020 agreement reached in Doha, Qatar, between the militant group and the United States calling for a full American withdrawal from Afghanistan. Some Afghan forces realized they would soon no longer be able to count on American air power and other crucial battlefield support and grew receptive to the Taliban's approaches."

    Jon Perr's article at Daily Kos does a great summary, with the title: "Trump put 5,000 Taliban fighters back in battle and tied Biden's hands in Afghanistan." Trump schemed and lied to help his reelection efforts, and the people who worked with our military and the US-backed Afghan government are and will pay a terrible price for it.

    As President Biden said Friday:

    "When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on U.S. Forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew U.S. Forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies' Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country's civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth."

    America has been lied into too many wars. It's cost us too much in money, credibility and blood. We must remember the lies.

    When President Ford withdrew US forces from Vietnam (I remember it well), there was barely a mention of McNamara's and LBJ's lies that got us into that war. Similarly, today's reporting on the chaos in Afghanistan almost never mentions Bush's and Cheney's lies and ulterior motives in getting us into that war in the first place.

    We can't afford to let this one go down the memory hole, too. We must learn from our mistakes.


    Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of American Healthcare and more than 30 other books in print. He is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute and his writings are archived at hartmannreport.com.

    This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.