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October 6, 2021Heather Cox Richardson
Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) backed down from his obstructionism, agreeing to let the Democrats raise the debt ceiling by a simple majority rather than by the 60 votes they needed when the Republicans kept filibustering their bills. A quick recap: the issue at stake was whether the United States would default on its debts, which it has never done before. The threat to default was purely a political ploy on the part of the Republicans to try to force the Democrats to abandon their very popular infrastructure measure. Here’s the backstory: Congress actually originally intended the debt ceiling to enable the government to be flexible in its borrowing. In the era of World War I, when it needed to raise a lot of money fast, Congress stopped passing specific revenue measures and instead set a cap on how much money the government could borrow through all of the different instruments it used. Now, though, the debt ceiling has become a political cudgel because if it is not raised when Congress spends more than it has the ability to repay, the country will default on its debts. The cap has been raised repeatedly since it was first imposed; indeed, the Republicans raised it three times under former president Donald Trump. Once again, it is too low, and by October 18, the Treasury will be unable to pay our debts. To meet the nation’s obligations, Congress needs either to raise taxes, which Republicans passionately oppose, or to raise the debt ceiling so the Treasury can borrow more money. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has voted to raise or suspend the debt ceiling 32 times in his career, including the three times under Trump, refused to allow Republicans to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Although the ceiling needed to be lifted because Trump added $7.8 trillion to the debt (which now stands at about $28 trillion), in part with the huge 2017 tax cuts that went overwhelmingly to the wealthy, McConnell tried to tie the need for more money to the Democrats’ infrastructure plan. This was false: the debt ceiling is not an appropriation; it simply permits the government to borrow money it needs to pay debts already incurred. But McConnell and the Republicans want to dismantle an active government, not to build it. They hope to convince Americans that Democrats are racking up huge debts—even though it is the Republicans on the hook for today’s crisis—and that they should not be permitted to pass a bill that supports children and working parents and addresses climate change. The Democrats insisted that the Republicans should join them in raising the ceiling, since they had been instrumental in making it necessary, but McConnell and his caucus refused. Finally, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warning that defaulting would crash the economy and with financial services firm Moody’s Analytics warning that a default would cost up to 6 million jobs, create an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, and wipe out $15 trillion in household wealth, the Democrats tried to pass a measure themselves. Republicans wouldn’t let them. They filibustered it, trying to force the Democrats to save the country by raising the debt ceiling through a bill that can’t be filibustered, a process called reconciliation, which would make it harder for them to use reconciliation for their own infrastructure bill since Congress can pass only one of that type of reconciliation bill per year.It was a remarkably cynical ploy, risking the financial health of the country and our standing in the world to make sure that a Republican minority could continue to hamstring what the Democratic majority considers a priority. Republicans have played chicken with government shutdowns since the 1980s, refusing to pass measures to fund the daily operations of the government and thereby stopping paychecks and government operations. But defaulting on our obligations was a whole new game of brinksmanship. The greatest international asset the U.S. has right now is its financial system. To bring that to its knees to score political points would be interpreted, correctly, as a sign our country is so unstable it must be sidelined. Midday today, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted this international doubt when he took the unusual step of weighing in on politics. He warned that a default would “undermine the economic strength on which our national security rests.” Paychecks for 1.4 million active duty military personnel and veterans’ benefits for 2.4 million veterans, as well as payments on military contracts, would stop. Equally dangerous, defaulting on loans would devastate the nation’s international reputation “as a reliable and trustworthy economic and national security partner. Democrats said they could not guarantee the country would not default, and they were clearly starting to consider getting rid of the filibuster, at least for this particular issue, to enable them to pass a debt ceiling bill by a simple majority rather than by 60 votes. Then McConnell blinked (although he didn’t cave). In a scorching statement that laid all the blame for the crisis on the Democrats, he offered to “allow” Democrats to use normal procedures—that is, the Republicans won’t filibuster them!—to extend the ceiling into December. Democrats indicate they will take that deal. There is one major takeaway from this manufactured crisis: McConnell was willing to come right to the verge of burning the nation down to get his way. In the end, he stopped just before the sparks became an inferno, but it was much too close for comfort. Still, he stopped. Trump and his supporters did not. The former president has been pushing Republicans to use the threat of default to get what they want, and he was not happy that McConnell had backed down. He issued a statement blaming McConnell for “folding” and added “He’s got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it’s time to play the hand.” Trump’s willingness to burn down the country is ramping up as the January 6 investigation gets closer to him. Tomorrow is the deadline for four of his aides to respond to subpoenas for documents and testimony from the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, adviser Steve Bannon, and Defense Department aide Kash Patel. Meadows worked to overturn the 2020 election results and was in the thick of things on January 6, Scavino had met with Trump to plot to get congresspeople not to count the certified votes on January 6, Bannon strategized with other officials on January 5 to stop the count, and Patel was part of discussions about the strength of the Capitol Police.The four are expected to defy the subpoenas at Trump’s insistence, a defiance that suggests they think he and his people are going to regain power. According to Glenn Kirschner, a former U.S. Army prosecutor, contempt of Congress earns a year of prison time; obstruction of Congress, five years; and obstruction of justice, 20 years.The rest of the former president’s statements today were unhinged attacks on the committee.A final note for October 6: U.S. District Judge Robert L. Pitman has temporarily blocked enforcement of Texas’s S.B. 8, the so-called “heartbeat” bill prohibiting abortions after six weeks, when most women don’t know they’re pregnant. The Justice Department had sued to stop enforcement of the law. Pitman stopped it on the grounds that it deprived “citizens of a significant and well-established constitutional right.”—

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Noah Berlatsky  4 days ago

On Friday, congressional representatives got into a screaming match on the Capitol steps about, among other things, Christianity. High-volume theological disputes aren’t generally illuminating. But this one showed how Christianity remains a moral bedrock of political dispute in this country — and why that’s a bad thing.

The argument began following the passage of a House bill that would codify abortion rights into law. Right-wing conspiracy theorist and anti-abortion advocate Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., began to yell somewhat incoherently at gathered lawmakers and demonstrators. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., a supporter of abortion rights, yelled back at Greene that she was being uncivil.

“You should practice the basic thing you’re taught in church: respect your neighbor,” Dingell shouted. Greene blasted back, “Taught in church, are you kidding me? Try being a Christian and supporting life!” Dingell responded, “You try being a Christian… and try treating your colleagues decently!”

Dingell thinks being a Christian means being neighborly and civil. Greene thinks being a Christian means attacking anyone who supports abortion rights. But they both agree that being a Christian is morally good, and that Christianity is virtuous.

For a Jewish atheist like myself, that framework is wearisomely familiar. It’s also disheartening. Despite Dingell’s best intentions, the equation of Christianity and goodness buttresses Greene’s white Christian nationalism and the politics of hate and hierarchy that go along with it.

About two thirds of Americans describe themselves as Christian. So it makes sense that people in public life would frame Christianity as a good thing. Christians may disagree strongly about what the Christian virtues are, but they agree that Christian virtues are, well, virtues. That’s part of what being a Christian means.

Many of us, though, aren’t Christian, and don’t want to try to be Christian. Just to take one example: Jewish people’s experience of Christian morality has not been universally uplifting, to say the least.

Some will argue that antisemitism is not real Christianity. But you can’t just disavow a couple of thousands years of persecution and hate. And if Christianity equals virtue, where does that leave Jewish people — or Muslims, or atheists, or Buddhists, for that matter?

Of course there are good Christians, as there are good people of every faith, and of no faith. But one of the hallmarks of immoral forms of Christianity is a belief that Christianity can only be good — and that the good can only be Christian.

This is the logic of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the rabidly Trumpist politics she represents. Sociologist Philip Gorski argued in a 2019 article that evangelical white Christians loved Trump not despite his violent and scabrous language, but precisely because he told them they were better than everyone else. Evangelicals, Gorski said, responded to “Trump’s racialized, apocalyptic, and blood-drenched rhetoric.” That rhetoric harkened back to the Christian language deployed to justify slavery and Native American genocide.

Trump told white evangelical Christians that they had a right and a duty to impose their morality, through force, on others. Marjorie Taylor Greene is following through on a tradition of dispossession and cruelty when she insults abortion supporters or tries to seize control of people’s bodies in the name of a higher morality.

Deb Dingell’s Christianity would seem to be more inclusive — her definition of loving thy neighbor translates politically into policy (same-sex marriage, abortion rights, etc.) that Marjorie Taylor Greene abhors. But nonetheless, it also, inadvertently, reinforces one of the chief tenets of white Christian nationalism — the idea that Christianity has a monopoly on virtue.

Christianity is a powerful and important tradition in the U.S.; it shouldn’t just be left to the Greene’s and the Trump’s. But part of contesting their hold on Christianity is refusing to acquiesce to Christian supremacy. It means acknowledging non-Christians in discussions of America, and in discussions of goodness.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is, unfortunately, still a Christian when she spews ugly antisemitic conspiracy theories about Jewish space lasers. She’s still a Christian when she attacks her colleagues. She’s still a Christian when she tries to force people to give birth because of her own particular convictions about souls and cell clusters. But being a Christian doesn’t make you a good person, just as being a good person doesn’t make you a Christian. When we, including Dingell, accept that, maybe we’ll be closer to defeating the evil, violent and Christian movement of which Greene is a part.


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September 30, 2021
Heather Cox Richardson
Oct 1
Tonight, President Joe Biden signed into law a bill that extends funding for the government until December 3, 2021. The government won’t shut down tomorrow.In the Senate, Republican Tom Cotton (R-AR) tried to amend the measure to stop aid for Afghan refugees who were evacuated to the United States. That amendment reflected the demands of former president Donald Trump, who insisted that Republicans should oppose the bill, calling it “a major immigration rewrite that allows Biden to bring anyone he wants from Afghanistan for the next year—no vetting, no screening, no security—and fly them to your community with free welfare and government-issued IDs.” Trump suggested they would bring “horrible assaults and sex crimes” that would be “just be the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming if this isn’t shut down.”For all their talk of concern about taking care of our Afghan allies during the evacuation of Afghanistan, all 50 Republican senators voted for Cotton’s measure. Democrats killed it on a strict party line vote.Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) also tried to amend the bill. He wanted to prohibit the use of federal funds to implement vaccine requirements for the coronavirus. This failed, too, but only after all Republicans voted for it.The Senate went on today to confirm Rohit Chopra to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for a five-year term. Chopra worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to establish the CFPB after the financial crisis of 2008, and in its first five years it recovered about $11.7 billion for some 27 million consumers. Former president Trump appointed former South Carolina representative Mick Mulvaney to head the bureau while he was also the director of the Office of Management and Budget; when he was in Congress, Mulvaney had introduced legislation to abolish the bureau. At its head, Mulvaney zeroed out the bureau’s budget and set about dismantling it.When he took office, Biden began to rebuild the bureau and, in mid-February, appointed Chopra to head it, but Republicans objected to him. Now, more than seven months later, with Republicans insisting he would be anti-business, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the deciding vote to confirm his appointment.The rest of the congressional day was consumed with Democrats trying to hash out a final version of the Build Back Better infrastructure bill. While the Republicans largely sat the debate out—they oppose the Build Back Better plan altogether—conservative Democrats want to pass a smaller $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure before taking up the larger $3.5 trillion measure currently under discussion. That smaller measure focuses on repairing roads and bridges and extending broadband, and lobbyists for construction industries are very keen indeed on getting it into law.But progressive Democrats cut a deal months ago that the smaller measure would go forward together with the larger one, and they are refusing to allow conservatives to change the terms of that deal now. The Build Back Better bill appropriates $3.5 trillion over ten years to expand child care and elder care, expand Medicare, cut prescription drug prices, provide two years of community college, extend the child tax credit, and combat climate change.Aside from the measure itself, there are two issues at stake in the debate over it.The first is about how the Democrats should interpret their victory in 2020. Conservative Democrats like Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) appear to think the Democrats should limit the scope of their legislation to try to pick up moderate Republican votes in the future. More progressive Democrats, led by Pramila Jayapal (WA), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, believe the Democrats were elected to pass laws that help ordinary Americans who have felt unrepresented by Republicans.The other fight behind the Build Back Better measure is over how Americans choose to spend their tax dollars. Republicans, and even some conservative Democrats like Manchin, believe that spending $3.5 trillion on human infrastructure is a waste of money and that the new programs will create an “entitlement mentality.”In contrast, though, Congress spends very little time discussing the defense budget, which, at its current rate, would cost $7.78 trillion over the next ten years. That amount is significantly higher than the defense spending of any other nation in the world. In 2020, the U.S. spent $778 billion on defense, making up 39% of our overall spending. China, the country with the next highest defense budget, spent 13% of its overall spending on defense at $252 billion, India spent 3.7% at $72.9 billion, Russia spent 3.1% at $61.7 billion, and the United Kingdom spent 3% at $59.2 billion.At the heart of the question of how we spend our tax dollars, of course, is who pays those tax dollars. The Biden administration wants to fund the Build Back Better plan not by borrowing, but by closing tax loopholes and clawing back some of the 2017 cuts to corporate taxes and income taxes on the nation’s highest earners. At Rolling Stone today, reporters Andy Kroll and Geoff Dembicki wrote that political groups funded by the network of right-wing libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, who is deeply invested in fossil fuels, are pouring money and effort into killing the Build Back Better plan.Meanwhile, the Senate still has not taken up either of the two voting rights acts passed by the House or the Freedom to Vote Act hammered out this month by Democratic senators led by Manchin.Yesterday, the nonpartisan Voting Rights Lab released a report that noted the new voter suppression laws in place in 18 Republican-dominated states but focused instead on 17 new election subversion laws in 11 of those same states. Those new laws put into place the policies former president Trump’s campaign demanded in 2020. They threaten election officials with prosecution if they send out mail-in ballots to anyone who has not requested one, require legislatures to agree to changes in election rules, transfer control of elections or reporting results from nonpartisan officials to political operatives, and allow candidates to demand recounts at will.A new law in Arizona, for example, “shifts control of election litigation from the secretary of state (currently a Democrat) to the attorney general (currently a Republican). The provision is designed to sunset on January 2, 2023, when a new attorney general potentially takes office.”“When Voting Rights Lab launched a few years ago, we knew we’d be busy tracking many disturbing, and oftentimes veiled efforts to suppress the vote of historically excluded Americans,” the report concludes. “What we couldn’t have anticipated at that time was that current officeholders would warp the election process itself….”—Notes:

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Nicolaus Mills  5 hrs ago

These days few periods in American history hold more interest for us than the Reconstruction era of the 1860s and 1870s. Our struggles with voter suppression laws and the policing of Black communities are all too often nothing so much as extensions of the racial legacy of the post-Civil War era.

It is this connection between past and present that makes Robert S. Levine’s The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson especially timely. Levine begins by telling us that the promise of Reconstruction “remains unfulfilled to this day,” but it is not a point he has to stress. The Supreme Court’s decision this July 1 upholding Arizona’s new voter restriction laws in the case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee is all the reminder we need of how the current battle for Black voting rights goes straight back to 1870 and the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, which prevents states from denying the right to vote on account of race or color.The hero of Levine’s book is Frederick Douglass. In his portrait of Douglass, Levine’s aim is to go beyond the histories of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, that focus on the Radical Republicans. Levine’s intention is to move Douglass and his African-American contemporaries “from the background to the foreground of the four years of Reconstruction under Johnson.”

In Andrew Johnson, Levine has the perfect foil to Douglass. Johnson proclaimed himself to be the Moses who would lead Black Americans to their freedom. He thought of himself as a worthy presidential successor to Lincoln despite the adverse impact his actions had on America’s former slaves. Johnson saw nothing to regret when in 1865 he issued an Amnesty Proclamation that pardoned most ex-Confederate leaders if they pledged loyalty to the Constitution and the Union. And he saw nothing harmful in his 1866 veto of Congress’s extension of the Freedmen’s Bureau, the key institution for distributing food and clothing to the four million newly freed slaves in the South.

Levine resists the temptation to caricature Johnson. He sees him as a complex figure, noting that after Johnson left the presidency, he made a political comeback, winning election to the Senate from Tennessee. Levine’s point is not that Johnson deserves to be redeemed but that he has been given too much blame for the failures of Reconstruction. “There is something shortsighted in conceiving of the failure of Reconstruction as the fault of one white man,” Levine argues. “The stigmatization of Johnson allows for speculation that a different leader would have guided the nation to interracial reconciliation.”

In Levine’s judgment the Radical Republicans need to be seen as having played a major role in the failures of Reconstruction. Their own racism was a liability that hampered them throughout the post-Civil War years. Levine notes how at the Southern Loyalists’ Convention, which took place in Philadelphia in September 1866, Douglass was treated with disdain. Even before he got to the convention, a number of Republican delegates urged him not to attend because his very presence made so many in their party uneasy.

For Levine, Douglass’ willingness to face down racism from northern Republicans, rather than accept it, was emblematic of his larger vision. Levine emphasizes the distinction Douglass made between theoretical rights and actual right in terms of day-to-day politics. In a lecture he delivered in 1876, the year of America’s centennial, Douglass pointedly asked his white audience, “What does it all amount to, if the black man, after having been made free by the letter of your law, is unable to exercise that freedom?”

In Levine’s judgment what is especially compelling about Douglass is the long view he took of the enduring legacy of slavery. Douglass never lost sight of the time it would take to undo the damage of slavery. “There is no such thing as instantaneous emancipation,” Douglass observed three years after the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery became law. “The links of the chain may be broken in an instant, but it will take not less than a century to obliterate all traces of the institution.”

Douglass’ long view of the legacy of slavery enabled him to keep going at a period in his life when he had every reason to feel discouraged. The surge in lynching in the 1880s and the Supreme Court’s 1883 decision declaring the Civil Rights Acts of 1875 unconstitutional reflected the backward steps the country took in Douglass’ later years. His death in 1895 spared him from having to deal a year later with the Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision that made “separate but equal” the law of the land, but Douglass would not have wanted to be spared from the fight over Plessy v. Ferguson.

Were he alive today, it is easy to imagine Douglass taking satisfaction in the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee from its pedestal on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. But his greatest energy would have been devoted to countering the assaults on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Nothing links Douglass to the present moment more than his belief that the federal government, not the states, must be the ultimate guarantor of voting rights.

John Lewis’ proposed Voting Rights Advancement Act now languishing in Congress—which updates the power of the Justice Department to approve any changes in voting laws in states or political subdivisions with a record of discrimination—would be a common sense remedy to Douglass. He even had a name for what follows when Black Americans are systematically excluded from their right to vote: “emasculated citizenship” he called it.

Nicolaus Mills is professor of American literature at Sarah Lawrence College and author of Like a Holy Crusade: Mississippi 1964—The Turning of the Civil Rights Movement in America.

Read more at The Daily Beast.


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Opinion by Richard Galant, CNN  16 mins ago

On November 7, 1962, Richard Nixon met with reporters to concede that he had lost his bid for governor of California — and to grumble about the way the press covered his campaign. It was two years since he had lost his race for president against John F. Kennedy, and few thought Nixon would ever run for office again.

Donald Trump holding a gun: HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 11: Former US President Donald Trump speaks after the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)© Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 11: Former US President Donald Trump speaks after the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

“Just think how much you’re going to be missing,” the defeated Republican said. “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because gentlemen, this is my last press conference, and it will be one in which I have welcomed the opportunity to test wits with you.” It turned out to be far from the last press conference for Nixon, who won the presidency in 1968 and in 1972. But its petulant tone made political history.

a close up of a book© David Horsey/Tribune Content Agency

When Larry Elder conceded defeat this week in his bid to unseat California Governor Gavin Newsom, he sounded a different note than Nixon: “Let’s be gracious in defeat,” the talk show host said. Still, at least he and Nixon admitted they were beaten — something former President Donald Trump could never bring himself to do after the 2020 election.

a close up of a sign© Nick Anderson/Tribune Content Agency

Elder’s post-election concession clashed with his earlier embrace of Trump’s “big lie” strategy — the notion of massive election fraud which the former president has been promoting ever since he lost to Joe Biden. “The conservative ecosystem that backed Elder’s run didn’t seem to be simply looking for him to win, even though the uniquely arcane mechanisms of California’s recall politics made it briefly seem as if that might be possible,” wrote Jeff Yang.

“The true goal of Elder’s Republican backers appeared to be for him to at least lose by a margin that would allow them to contest the results in order to claim that Democrats had once again engaged in magical manipulation of ballots, voting machines or the brains of voters themselves, thus making the election seem null and void and expanding already widespread doubt and paranoia about the nature of our democracy.”

That corrosive approach to politics seems certain to survive Elder’s crushing defeat. “Republicans are no longer running against Democrats. They’re running against democracy,” Yang concluded.

Trump’s refusal to concede set the stage for the events of January 6 — a fact that apparently wasn’t lost on former President George W. Bush, who last weekend drew a parallel between the Capitol rioters and the 9/11 attackers. “The 9/11 terrorists and the January 6 attackers do share the same ‘foul spirit,'” Dean Obeidallah wrote, quoting Bush.

But Obeidallah added that “one glaring difference is that the al Qaeda attackers were incited and directed by Osama bin Laden, while the January 6 attackers were incited by an American president, Donald Trump. It was Trump who for the two months after the election radicalized people with a tsunami of lies, claiming that the election was ‘stolen.'”

California’s election results, with Newsom decisively quashing the recall, may have national implications for the 2022 midterms, wrote Lincoln Mitchell. “The recall was a referendum on Newsom, but indirectly on Biden and the Democrats as well. The numbers show that it wasn’t close and that Californians, including the White women whose support is so crucial to the GOP’s future in the state, were not buying whatever the GOP and Elder were selling,” Mitchell noted.

“Who knows what would happen if the GOP were at all interested in trying out good candidates with views that appeal to a wider range of voters, instead of merely identifying the Trumpiest candidate on the menu and letting them run riot,” asked SE Cupp. “But so far, in most cases, the GOP is not interested. It is, in fact, systematically purging those very people from its party. When it comes to 2024, the GOP doesn’t appear to be considering running anyone other than Trump. I wonder how long — and how many failed elections — it will take Republicans to realize that they are shrinking the voter base this way.

It may please the former president, Frida Ghitis observed, but it’s bad news for America: “The example set by Trump — disparaging, assaulting and undercutting a country’s democracy — has now become the template for political players with authoritarian leanings around the globe.”

Gen. Mark Milley’s calls

The continuing cascade of books on the Trump presidency brought forth new revelations this week — some gobsmacking, and others in the “shocking but not surprising” category. As Peter Bergen noted, “in the last few months of Donald Trump’s presidency, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley made two phone calls to reassure his Chinese counterpart that the US was stable and not considering a military strike against China, according to a new book by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.” Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio were quick to accuse Milley of treason, but that charge is very wide of the mark, Bergen said.

“What Milley did was put his country above his commander-in-chief. Given the irrational rage that Trump was exhibiting after his election loss, Milley made the right call to reassure the Chinese about the stability of the US national security apparatus. But Milley’s actions could set a dangerous precedent and we should carefully consider how high-ranking military officers in future administrations might insert themselves into the chain of command under a different president.”

In the Washington Post, Josh Rogin wrote: “The legitimate criticism of Milley is not that he betrayed the country to China. Milley’s failing was that he believed, according to this and many other recent books, that it was his job to save the Republic from the president. Milley’s offense was not treason, it was hubris.

Milley was just doing his job, wrote retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. “Given that the former president had already made worrisome comments about summarily pulling US forces out of various areas around the world, and given media reports of Trump’s earlier threats to attack other nations, Milley found it necessary to communicate directly with his counterparts overseas, with whom he had a professional relationship.”

“He was right to do so, because he was reacting to the realities on the ground. Straight talk with our allies and partners, lowering the temperature when tensions are rising, is critical to avoiding misunderstandings and perhaps deadly unintentional consequences.”

Melania Trump and Stephanie Grisham’s book

Politico reported that in Stephanie Grisham’s forthcoming book, the former White House press secretary contends that Melania Trump ducked opportunities to condemn the January 6 violence and to invite Jill Biden for the traditional tea provided by outgoing first ladies. (Melania Trump issued a statement condemning the book as untruthful and a “betrayal.”)

“Every word of Grisham’s forthcoming tell-all might be true,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “It might accurately paint Donald, Melania and many of their family members and staffers as among the most deplorable and morally hideous people to ever occupy the White House.

“But don’t forget: Grisham isn’t a light illuminating the Trump administration’s darkness. She is one of them, who pushed Trump’s vile messages and left America cracked and perhaps forever wrecked. …We can be glad the truth about Melania is being told. But we do not have to rehabilitate the reputation of someone who, like the Trumps, has never apologized, never tried to make amends and never been held fully accountable.”

To boost or not to boost?

The Delta variant may finally have peaked in the US, wrote Dr. Kent Sepkowitz. So is it time to declare victory over Covid-19?

“Of course not,” he argued. “The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t going to miraculously disappear…”

“As with the previous claims of victory based on a few weeks of improvement, celebrating any end of the pandemic surely is a mistake. We have new variants to worry about, immunity possibly waning in the elderly, the cruel recalcitrance of those refusing vaccination, the uneven global distribution of the vaccine and roughly 50 million children in the US who aren’t even eligible for vaccine yet.”

Scientists are debating the case for vaccine booster shots. In the Lancet, leading experts, including two scientists who are stepping down from the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, said the “current evidence does not … appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high.” Other scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, disagreed. On Friday, scientists advising the FDA recommended boosters of the Pfizer vaccine only for those 65 and older or people at high risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19.

Writing for CNN Opinion, William Haseltine, observed that, “for those in the US who received mRNA vaccines, a third dose is the minimum we should pursue for Covid-19 protection, and people should prepare themselves for the possibility that they will need additional doses or annual shots in the months and years to come. For those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, there is not enough data so far to say with certainty whether a booster is advisable.”

It’s not that the vaccines don’t work well, Haseltine noted, but because “coronaviruses, like influenza viruses, are masters at evading the immune system … SARS-CoV-2 can turn off our body’s ability to mount an innate immune response which means, for protection, vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies must be significant and powerful.

The school district that serves more than 600,000 students in Los Angeles is requiring vaccinations for in-person classes, as Dr. Smita Malhotra noted. As the district’s medical director, she wrote, “This bold decision by our school board is sound and backed by science. It is one that I hope will spark a trend across the country and the world that emboldens social responsibility. Our school board and superintendent understand that vaccinations will bring back in-person learning in the safest way possible, and more importantly, that it’s the right thing to do for communities and children, especially for those children, like my own, who are too young to receive a vaccine.”

For more:

Nicole HemmerThe tricky agenda behind vaccine resistance

Peggy DrexlerThe real issue with Nicki Minaj

‘Tax the rich’

Covid-19 canceled the Met Gala last year, but it roared back this week as fancifully-dressed celebrities once again dazzled social media at the benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “made her Met Gala debut in a long white off-shoulder mermaid gown, with ‘Tax The Rich’ scribed across the back in massive, flag-red letters,” wrote Holly Thomas. “It was explicit, as close as you could come to having a placard at the gala without literally bringing one.” It was also controversial. “Donald Trump Jr. led the charge, and Newsmax’s Benny Johnson and actor and comedian Michael Rapaport joined in to complain about the apparent hypocrisy of a politician who’s targeting the rich showing up to a $35,000-per-ticket event almost exclusively populated by the extremely wealthy and/or famous. They appeared unaware of the fact that, as Ocasio-Cortez pointed out on Instagram, New York City’s elected officials are regularly invited to the Met Gala for free,” Thomas noted.

“The general social media backlash also sidestepped the peculiarity in calling a politician who consistently calls for higher taxes on the rich, and is part of the progressive movement pushing a wealth equity agenda as the Democrats’ budget bill moves through Congress, a ‘hypocrite.’ By showing up at the Met showcasing that phrase, she did exactly what she always does when she’s in the spotlight and as a member of the House, hardly new to doing so surrounded by the uber-privileged.”

President Joe Biden is fully in accord with the “tax the rich” idea, but when his allies in the House unveiled their tax proposal this week, it signaled a partial retreat from the President’s agenda.

“Biden’s $400,000 cutoff (which rules out tax hikes on more than 95 percent of Americans) had limited funding options,” wrote Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post. “But Democrats have been reluctant to levy some of the tax hikes that Biden did ask for.

“Yes, Democrats plan to raise top rates on personal and corporate income taxes. That’s not nothing. But it’s not nearly sufficient to pay for the generous welfare state Democrats want to build. Paying for that would ultimately require levying higher taxes on the middle class, too, as other countries with more expansive safety nets do.”

Biden’s trouble

Biden’s declining approval ratings are alarming people on the left and cheering the right.

“For most people Joe Biden was not elected last November to get us out of Afghanistan,” wrote Arick Wierson and Bradley Honan. “His election was not a blank check to oversee a dramatic expansion of the federal government. … Biden’s mandate was to ensure that Trump would never, ever, occupy the White House again — and ideally leave the political stage for good.” But, they added, “through a series of self-inflicted wounds, miscalculations and gaffes, the Biden administration is ‘priming the pump’ for a Trump presidency, part deux.”

Scott Jennings observed that “when you are the president, you have two primary ways to move people to your point of view: inspiration or coercion. It was said that Biden would employ the former, but he has resorted to the latter via a series of executive mandates and scolding speeches as he seeks higher vaccination rates. Gone is the soaring rhetoric of Biden’s campaign, replaced with the kind of bile and disdain many Americans hated about ‘the former guy,’ as Biden would say.”


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September 6, 2021Heather Cox RichardsonSep 7This week, lawmakers will begin to construct the details of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package they declared their intention to pass. On August 11, the Senate approved a budget resolution telling committees to hammer out the details of a bill that will deal with the “soft” infrastructure not covered in the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that dealt with roads, bridges, broadband, and other “hard” infrastructure needs. The larger bill will focus on child care, education, elder care, health care, and climate change.If this measure passes, it will expand the ways in which the government addresses the needs of ordinary Americans. It updates the measures put in place during the New Deal of the 1930s, when Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt shored up nuclear families—usually white nuclear families—by providing unemployment insurance, disability coverage, aid to children, and old age insurance.After World War II, people of both parties accepted this new system, believing that it was the job of a modern government to level the economic playing field between ordinary men and those at the top of the economic ladder. Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon expanded government action into civil rights and protection of the environment; Democrats Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter expanded education initiatives, health care, anti-poverty programs, civil rights, and workers’ rights.But opponents insisted that such government action was “socialism.” In America, this word comes not from international socialism, in which the government owns the means of production, but rather from the earlier history of Reconstruction, when white opponents of Black voting insisted that the money to pay for programs like schools, which helped ordinary and poorer people, must come from those with wealth, and thus redistributed wealth. They demanded an end to the taxes that supported public programs.They elected Ronald Reagan president in 1980 to reject the post–World War II “liberal consensus” that used the government to level the economic playing field, focusing instead on cutting taxes to return power to individuals to make their own decisions about how to run their own economic lives. Over the past forty years, that ideology has cut the national safety net and moved economic power dramatically upward.True to that ideology, opponents of the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package are already calling it, as Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) said, a “freight train to socialism.” But more than 60% of Americans want to invest our money in our people, as lawmakers of both parties did from 1933 to 1981.Grover Norquist, a former spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who rose to power by pushing the opposite idea, that economic development depended on consistent and complete tax cuts, told Michael Scherer of the Washington Post, “We are really on this precipice, this knife’s edge, and each party goes, ‘If I just push a little bit harder I can control politics for the next 20 years.’” The conservative activist added, “And it’s true.”But what Norquist didn’t spell out was that Democrats are trying to win control by protecting the ability of Americans to have a say in their government, while Republicans are trying to make their ideology the law of the land by skewing the mechanics of our democracy to permit a minority to rule over the majority.Scherer laid out what this skewing looks like. Since 1988—the year George H. W. Bush was elected—Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of nine presidential elections. And yet, Republicans have taken the White House through the Electoral College and have appointed 6 of the 9 justices now on the Supreme Court.The concentration of Republicans in rural states with smaller populations means that the Senate is also skewed toward the Republican Party. Public policy scholars Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley crunched the numbers to show that today’s 50 Democratic senators represent 26% more people than Republican senators: 202 million compared to 160 million. They go on to say: “A Black American is 16% less represented in the Senate than an American on average; [a] Latinx American 32% less.”Ettlinger and Hensley note that, as the Senate has become less representative, Republican senators have relied on arcane rules to let a minority stop popular legislation. “In the current Senate,” they report, “41 Republican senators representing as few as 75 million people can block most legislation from even coming to a vote—thwarting the will of a group of Democratic and Republican senators representing as many as 270 million Americans.”In the House of Representatives, gerrymandering allows Republicans to hold more seats than their share of the popular vote. In 1996 and 2012, Republicans lost the national vote tally but controlled Congress nonetheless.The skew in state legislatures is also large. Scherer points out that the Michigan legislature, for example, has a Republican majority although Democrats have won a majority of the popular vote there for a decade. In North Carolina in 2018, Democrats won 51% of the popular vote but got only 45% of the seats.After the 2020 election, Republican-dominated legislatures in states where Democrats likely make up the majority—Georgia, Texas, and Florida, for example—have worked aggressively to restrict voting rights. More than a dozen states have enacted more than 30 new laws to suppress votes. Tonight, Texas governor Greg Abbott announced that tomorrow he will sign another major voter suppression measure in his state.Noting “how far the [Republican] party has fallen on fundamental matters of democracy,” the Washington Post editorial board today called on Democrats to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore and expand the Department of Justice’s protection of the right to vote, gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 and 2021.The board continued: “They should merge it with other provisions designed to promote fairness at the ballot box, such as universal voter registration, protections for absentee voters, standards to guard against rampant gerrymandering and restrictions on partisan interference with vote counting. They should dare Republicans to vote down a package that unambiguously enhances democracy, with no extraneous measures. If Republicans continue to unify against it, they should consider ways to reform the filibuster rule blocking urgent democracy reform.”At stake is whether our government will work for ordinary Americans who make up the majority of our population—including in 2021 women and minorities as well as white men—or whether it will serve an entrenched minority.—-Notes: E. Elias

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US Capitol attack

Hugo Lowell in Washington

Mon 6 Sep 2021 02.00 EDT 


Top Republicans under scrutiny for their role in the events of 6 January have embarked on a campaign of threats and intimidation to thwart a Democratic-controlled congressional panel that is scrutinizing the Capitol attack and opening an expanded investigation into Donald Trump.

The chairman of the House select committee into the violent assault on the Capitol, Bennie Thompson, in recent days demanded an array of Trump executive branch records related to the insurrection, as members and counsel prepared to examine what Trump knew of efforts to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election win.

House select committee investigators then asked a slew of technology companies to preserve the social media records of hundreds of people connected to the Capitol attack, including far-right House Republicans who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The select committee said that its investigators were merely “gathering facts, not alleging wrongdoing by any individual” as they pursued the records in what amounted to the most aggressive moves taken by the panel since it launched proceedings in July.

But the twin actions, which threatened to open a full accounting of Trump’s moves in the days and weeks before the joint session of Congress on 6 January, has unnerved top House Republicans, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, decried the select committee’s investigation as a partisan exercise and threatened to retaliate against any telecommunications company that complied with the records requests.


“A Republican majority will not forget,” he warned, in remarks that seemed to imply some future threat against the sector.

The warning from the top Republican in the House amounted to a serious escalation as he seeks to undermine a forensic examination of the attack perpetrated by Trump supporters and domestic violent extremists that left five dead and nearly 140 injured.

But his remarks – which members on the select committee privately consider to be at best, harassment, and at worst, obstruction of justice – reflects McCarthy’s realization that he could himself be in the crosshairs of the committee, the source said.

Most of McCarthy’s efforts to undercut the inquiry to date, such as sinking the prospects of a 9/11-style commission to scrutinize the Capitol attack, have been aimed at shielding Trump and his party from what the select committee might uncover.

But deeply alarmed at the efforts by House select committee investigators to secure his personal communications records for the fraught moments leading up to and during the Capitol attack, McCarthy went on the offensive to pre-emptively protect himself, the source said.

McCarthy was among several House Republicans who desperately begged Trump to call off the rioters as they stormed the Capitol in his name, only to be rebuffed by Trump, who questioned why McCarthy wasn’t doing more to overturn the election.

Thompson previously told the Guardian in an interview that such conversations with Trump would be investigated by the select committee, raising the prospect that McCarthy could be forced to testify about what Trump appeared to be thinking and doing on 6 January.

The statement from McCarthy asserted, without citing any law, that it would be illegal for the technology companies to comply with the records requests – even though congressional investigators have obtained phone and communications records in the past.

The threat is unlikely to be viewed as a violation of federal witness tampering law, which, as part of a broader obstruction of justice statute, makes it a felony under some circumstances to try to dissuade or hinder cooperation with an official proceeding.

Congressman Jamie Raskin, a member of the select committee and the former lead impeachment manager in Trump’s second trial, said that he was appalled by McCarthy’s remarks, which he described as tantamount to obstruction of justice.

“He is leveling threats against people cooperating with a congressional investigation,” Raskin said. “Why would the minority leader of the House of Representatives not be interested in our ability to get all of the facts in relation to the January 6th attack?”

Meanwhile, other members on the select committee have also seized on McCarthy’s threat as a reminder that Republicans could not be trusted to engage in the inquiry in good faith, according to a source connected to the 6 January investigation.

It also underscored to them, the source said, the nervousness among top Republicans as the select committee ramps up its work, even though the inquiry is still in its early days and has yet to sift through thousands of pages of expected evidence.

Emboldened by McCarthy’s combative stance, Trump denounced the select committee as a “partisan sham”, while Republicans under scrutiny by the panel such as Marjorie Taylor Greene threatened any companies that complied with the records requests would be “shut down”.

The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Andy Biggs, is now also asking McCarthy to remove from the Republican conference Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – the two vocal critics of Trump appointed to the select committee – whom he called “spies” for Democrats.

Biggs on Thursday suggested in a letter, first reported by CNN, that Cheney and Kinzinger should be ejected because they are involved in investigating Republicans over 6 January and the party should be able to strategize without having the pair present at conference meetings.

Still, McCarthy remains unable to shape an investigation likely to prove politically damaging to Trump and to Republicans at the ballot box at the midterms next year, a reality that has come largely as a result of his own strategic miscalculations.

The proposed 9/11-style commission into the Capitol attack had envisioned a panel with equal power between Democrats and Republicans, and McCarthy’s decision to boycott the select committee in a flash of anger inadvertently left Trump without any defenders.


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Rob Rogers Comic Strip for September 03, 2021
Stuart Carlson Comic Strip for September 03, 2021
Mike Luckovich Comic Strip for September 02, 2021
Chris Britt Comic Strip for September 03, 2021


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It is apparent the the GOP has continued to push for re civil war and 50’s and 60’s policies that benefit their agenda while keeping a foot on the necks of anyone of color and more directly now women and their health. These so called religious rightists have emerged and reemerged several times with the backing of political types whose sole objective is control of the government at any cost. MA
September 3, 2021Heather Cox RichardsonSep 4The new anti-abortion law in Texas is not just about abortion; it is about undermining civil rights decisions made by the Supreme Court during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. The Supreme Court declined to stop a state law that violates a constitutional right.Since World War II, the Supreme Court has defended civil rights from state laws that threaten them. During the Great Depression, Democrats under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt began to use the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net—this is when we got Social Security—and promote infrastructure. But racist Democrats from the South balked at racial equality under this new government.After World War II, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Republican appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, and Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Republican appointed by Richard Nixon, the Supreme Court set out to make all Americans equal before the law. They tried to end segregation through the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision prohibiting racial segregation in public schools. They protected the right of married couples to use contraception in 1965. They legalized interracial marriage in 1967. In 1973, with the Roe v. Wade decision, they tried to give women control over their own reproduction by legalizing abortion.They based their decisions on the due process and the equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, passed by Congress in 1866 and ratified in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War. Congress developed this amendment after legislatures in former Confederate states passed “Black Codes” that severely limited the rights and protections for formerly enslaved people. Congress intended for the powers in the Fourteenth to enable the federal government to guarantee that African Americans had the same rights as white Americans, even in states whose legislatures intended to keep them in a form of quasi-slavery.Justices in the Warren and Burger courts argued that the Fourteenth Amendment required that the Bill of Rights apply to state governments as well as to the federal government. This is known as the “incorporation doctrine,” but the name matters less than the concept: states cannot abridge an individual’s rights, any more than the federal government can. This doctrine dramatically expanded civil rights.From the beginning, there was a backlash against the New Deal government by businessmen who objected to the idea of federal regulation and the bureaucracy it would require. As early as 1937, they were demanding an end to the active government and a return to the world of the 1920s, where businessmen could do as they wished, families and churches managed social welfare, and private interests profited from infrastructure projects. They gained little traction. The vast majority of Americans liked the new system.But the expansion of civil rights under the Warren Court was a whole new kettle of fish. Opponents of the new decisions insisted that the court was engaging in “judicial activism,” taking away from voters the right to make their own decisions about how society should work. That said that justices were “legislating from the bench.” They insisted that the Constitution is limited by the views of its framers and that the government can do nothing that is not explicitly written in that 1787 document.This is the foundation for today’s “originalists” on the court. They are trying to erase the era of legislation and legal decisions that constructed our modern nation. If the government is as limited as they say, it cannot regulate business. It cannot provide a social safety net or promote infrastructure, both things that cost tax dollars and, in the case of infrastructure, take lucrative opportunities from private businesses.It cannot protect the rights of minorities or women.Their doctrine would send authority for civil rights back to the states to wither or thrive as different legislatures see fit. But it has, in the past, run into the problem that Supreme Court precedent has led the court to overturn unconstitutional state laws that deprive people of their rights (although the recent conservative courts have chipped away at those precedents).The new Texas law gets around this problem with a trick. It does not put state officers in charge of enforcing it. Instead, it turns enforcement over to individual citizens. So, when opponents sued to stop the measure from going into effect, state officials argued that they could not be stopped from enforcing the law because they don’t enforce it in the first place. With this workaround, Texas lawmakers have, as Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissent, “delegate[d] to private individuals the power to prevent a woman from…[exercising]…a federal constitutional right.”Justice Sonia Sotomayor was more forceful, calling the measure “a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny.” And yet, the Supreme Court permitted that state law to stand simply by refusing to do anything to stop it. As Sotomayor wrote in her dissent: “Last night, the Court silently acquiesced in a State’s enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents.”A state has undermined the power of the federal government to protect civil rights. It has given individuals who disagree with one particular right the power to take it away from their neighbors. But make no mistake: there is no reason that this mechanism couldn’t be used to undermine much of the civil rights legislation of the post–World War II years.On September 4, 1957, three years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a crowd of angry white people barred nine Black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. The white protesters chanted: “Two, four, six, eight, we ain’t gonna integrate.”In 1957, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower used the federal government to protect the constitutional rights of the Little Rock Nine from the white vigilantes who wanted to keep them second-class citizens. In 2021, the Supreme Court has handed power back to the vigilantes.—-

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Chauncey DeVega  21 hrs ago

I had not seen my mother for two years, for reasons we all understand too well. Several weeks ago, I was finally able to journey home.

It was wonderful to see my mother again. Blessed are those who can experience unconditional love, even if for only a few days. As I sat in that old, crooked, comfortable lounge chair in the den I noticed all the friendly “ghosts,” those memories that populate a home.

I was sure I saw the ghosts of our two dogs who passed away almost 10 years ago. I am even more sure I heard one of them bark in the middle of night. He always protected my mother. I’m sure he still is.

A home also consists of the objects that accumulate there. As I always do when I come back home, I hunted through the closets. I found a picture of my father, then 19 or 20-years-old, wearing his World War II U.S. Army service uniform.  

His Colt M1911 service pistol rests in a box nearby along with some ammunition. My father rarely talked about the war. But if prompted he would humbly brag that he was lethal with that pistol, an “A-plus” as he would explain it. Once I asked him to watch “Saving Private Ryan” with me. A few minutes into the film he said, “I saw stuff like this in person” and that there was no purpose in him watching it on TV. My father stood up and walked out of the room. I didn’t bring up the war again. 

I am not sure if we have truly forgotten those things which we “find” in our childhood homes. It seems more likely that our minds “forget” so that we can have the joy of rediscovering those objects again.

After 40 years, my father’s employer “advised” him to “retire.” I told my father that he would be dead in a year from loneliness and boredom and that he should fight to keep his job. Better to die at work while feeling useful than lying in a hospital bed. Almost 80 at the time, my father was tired and convinced himself that “retirement” was a good thing. But I was right: He did not last a year after being forced out of his job.

One day, shortly after that “retirement”, my father was in the kitchen having an enthusiastic conversation with someone on the phone. I thought it was his best friend. I watched until he acknowledged me. “Who was that?” I asked. He said it was a telemarketer and told me they are nice people who have interesting things to say. I realized my father had become one of those older folks who are so lonely they make friends with the telemarketers. I walked into the den, sat down in that old lounge chair and went to sleep.

There are many such people who instead of being “nice” are selling pain, anger, misery, rage, hate and fear to the lonely among us. These voices also promise “solutions,” offering a life of meaning through feelings of community, loyalty and “patriotism”.

I receive dozens of email newsletters and updates every day from right-wing news sources, political action committees, interest groups, think tanks and other parts of the right-wing propaganda machine. I seek out these sources and always make sure to subscribe.

In my public warnings about the Age of Trump and America’s descent into fascism, I have often been far ahead of the hope-peddlers, stenographers and professional centrists of the mainstream news media. But I am no Cassandra or otherwise possess any preternatural gifts. I simply pay close attention to what the Jim Crow Republicans, Trumpists and other neofascists say and do — and I take them at their word.

As a black working-class person in America I do not have the privilege and luxury that many white folks do — especially those with money — of pretending that everything is going to magically be fine, that “the institutions are strong,” that the “norms” of democracy will hold, or that “we are a good people.” I know for certain that the Trumpists and other neofascists are not “exaggerating” or engaging in “hyperbole” in their threats to create a new American apartheid.

To deny reality and embrace such fictions is an example of a particular type of white freedom. On this James Baldwin wrote, “People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.”  

What have I “learned” from reading right-wing propaganda emails and other missives in recent weeks and months?

I have learned Joe Biden should be impeached because he is a traitor and perhaps mentally incompetent. Biden and Kamala Harris hate America and are responsible for every “crisis” from Afghanistan to “the border” and the overall downfall of American society. “Critical race theory” is the equivalent of the Taliban. “Liberals,” Democrats and other “America-haters” should be dealt with by “patriots.” 

Donald Trump is perfect and a great leader. America is perfect and divine and should never be criticized.

Trump had a plan to defeat the Taliban, but Biden, the Democrats and the liberal media stabbed our military in the back.

Evil socialists are everywhere. They are plotting and scheming against America and our freedom.

I have also learned, of course, that Democrats and their allies stole the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Black Lives Matter and antifa are terrorists working to destroy the country. Trump’s followers who attacked the Capitol were originally said not to exist at all, but are now described as noble patriots being unjustly incarcerated as political prisoners.

There are also great schools I can enroll in online that will teach me the true history and facts of America and the Constitution from a patriotic perspective.

Through these emails I now know that there are Black conservatives who are not on the Democratic Party’s “plantation.” They love America and are smart enough to know that the Republican Party represents Abraham Lincoln while the Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan and slavery.

COVID-19 is not really a danger to the country or the world — yet somehow Donald Trump also helped create vaccines to defeat the disease.

Donald Trump loves his followers and has issued membership cards that they should carry to prove their loyalty to him. Trump also needs true American patriots to give him their money to defend the country. 

In total, the right-wing echo chamber is a powerful reality-altering propaganda lying-machine for those who choose to live in it. It constitutes a lifeworld, existing in a state of epistemic closure where facts and reality are rejected in favor of lies and myths.

In this most recent iteration, the right-wing echo chamber is now TrumpWorld, revolving around its high priest and cult leader. Its doctrines include fascism, authoritarianism, white supremacy, Christian nationalism, ignorance, misogyny, a veneration of violence and other antisocial beliefs and values.

Liberals, progressives, Democrats and other rational thinkers must accept one crucial reality if they are to save America’s democracy (and themselves): Those who live in the right-wing echo chamber really do believe what they are being told. Those beliefs are now extensions of their core identities.

On the question of such society-wide collective madness, psychologist Erich Fromm warned in his 1955 book “The Sane Society”: “Just as there is a folie à deux there is a folie à millions — the fact that millions of people share the same mental pathology does not make these people sane.”

In a new essay for Mother Jones, Kevin Drum explores the extreme political polarization in America and the role played by Trump’s Republican Party and the right-wing hate media in creating it. He points first of all at Fox News:

And as anyone who’s watched Fox knows, its fundamental message is rage at what liberals are doing to our country. Over the years the specific message has changed with the times — from terrorism to open borders to Benghazi to Christian cake bakers to critical race theory — but it’s always about what liberal politicians are doing to cripple America, usually with a large dose of thinly veiled racism to give it emotional heft. …

Drum observes that the “Fox effect” is real, and that “rage toward Democrats means more votes for Republicans”:

As far back as 2007 researchers learned that the mere presence of Fox News on a cable system increased Republican vote share by nearly 1 percent. A more recent study estimates that a minuscule 150 seconds per week of watching Fox News can increase the Republican vote share. In a study of real-life impact, researchers found that this means the mere existence of Fox News on a cable system induced somewhere between 3 and 8 percent of non-Republicans to vote for the Republican Party in the 2000 presidential election.

The Fox pipeline is pretty simple. Fox News stokes a constant sense of outrage among its base of viewers, largely by highlighting narratives of white resentment and threats to Christianity. This in turn forces Republican politicians to follow suit. It’s a positive feedback loop that has no obvious braking system, and it’s already radicalized the conservative base so much that most Republicans literally believe that elections are being stolen and democracy is all but dead if they don’t take extreme action.

Drum observes that “this is not an exciting conclusion” and that it may sound “more interesting to go after something new, like social media or lunatic conspiracy theories.” But Fox News is the No. 1 perpetrator in stoking discord, division and far-right ideology. 

Tens of millions of Americans are now lost to the right-wing cult. As repeatedly shown throughout the Age of Trump and beyond many of those people are willing to kill or die for a man who in fact despises them. (That is only one of the important facts they do not understand, but a highly salient one.) In that way, Trumpism is a license for a particular type of white rage, directed toward nonwhite people in particular and the other more generally.

Trumpism and other forms of fascism are not abstractions of political theory and philosophy. In practice, they are a force that lives through, by and against actual human beings. As I navigate and document the right-wing echo chamber (and the larger political madhouse of which it is a part), I repeatedly return to the human costs.

In a 2018 interview with Salon, Jen Senko, director of the documentary “The Brainwashing of My Dad” discussed this with me in a conversation that merits extensive quotation. My comment is in bold. We discussed the fact that in Fox News programming, everything is presented as “breaking news” or some kind of “alert.”

This is exciting for older people and it can actually become addictive. Young people are watching Fox News too of course, but it really is targeted at older people. Just think about it. You are an older person, you don’t have that much of a social life and you’re at home. Fox News provides excitement. It provides a purpose. Fox News viewers are on a team. They feel special. There’s like an in-group. Fox News is also like a cult because it’s exclusive and the other side isn’t just wrong, they’re evil. That’s what they have going for them.

After making the documentary you have likely had many people reach out to you. They see their relatives acting like your father.

Every day I get emails from people who want to help their parents or grandparents and other relatives. It is really heartbreaking. People reach out to me after watching my documentary, because for them it was like watching their own family. Most people are relieved that they’re not alone. They tell me, “Now I understand why they’re so angry.” Now these people who have relatives addicted to Fox News know that they don’t have the problem, they are not crazy. It’s like when you’re sick and you have a diagnosis and it makes you feel better. The same applies here.

An acquaintance told me about how when Obama first got in office she went to her uncle and aunt’s house on Thanksgiving. She thought she could talk about the economy, because obviously Obama had just gotten in and he couldn’t have had anything to do with the state of the economy at that point. Her uncle got so mad. He said, “Don’t you talk about that man in my house. Get out!” She said, “No. I’m not leaving.” He goes upstairs, gets a pistol, comes down, points it at her. She’s scared to death. He lowers the gun and then shoots the floor.

Donald Trump’s followers are no longer content with shooting the floor. 

Law enforcement and other experts have warned that the United States is likely to experience a violent right-wing insurgency that could last for years. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have warned that white supremacists are now a greater threat to the U.S. than Islamic terrorists.

There will be blood. There has already been much blood spilled.

American democracy is facing an existential threat, as seen on Jan. 6, in Trump’s extended coup attempt and in the nationwide campaign by Republicans and the larger white right to restrict the voting rights of Black and brown people. Almost none of this is happening in secret. It is announced and loudly promoted almost every second of every day across the right-wing propaganda echo chamber. You can look away, but you do so at your own peril.


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