Saturday Report 10/7/23 - Is a "Dangerous conspiracy" to end democracy in 2025 succeeding with right-wing billionaires?
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— Is a “Dangerous conspiracy” to end democracy in 2025 succeeding with right-wing billionaires? Twice before in American history — first in the 1860s and then in the 1930s — America’s morbidly rich oligarchs tried to end our democracy. In the 1860s, it was roughly a thousand fabulously wealthy cotton baron families in the South who rose up against America in the Civil War and eventually even succeeded in assassinating our president. In the 1930s, a group of morbidly rich businessmen conspired with a group of veterans to storm the White House and kidnap or kill President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Washington Post names some of those in on the conspiracy: “Its members included J.P. Morgan Jr., Irénée du Pont and the CEOs of General Motors, Birds Eye and General Foods, among others. Together they held near $40 billion in assets, Denton said — about $778 billion today.” Now we’re facing a third attempt by wealthy Americans to end our experiment with democracy, this time by replacing President Biden with a “Red Caesar” figure who will rule America with an iron fist, a la Putin or Orbán. As Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch noted this week: “The alleged brain trust of an increasingly fascist MAGA movement wants an American dictatorship that would ‘suspend’ democracy in January 2025 — just 15 months from now.” This is how fascism takes over a country. The fascists start by driving wedges between citizens, stirring up hate and division over race, religion, gender, and even regionalism. Then they bring in elites who smooth things over, assuring everybody that with them in charge the trains will run on time and everything will be good. At first this works: Hitler, in 1939, was measurably the most popular politician in the world at the time, right down to fawning cover stories in TIME magazine. And then the people begin to realize what they’ve signed up for — and by then it’s too late. As Russian and Hungarian citizens who want to protest their own governments’ policies are finding out, even the smallest deviation from the party line can land you in prison or worse. People like me who speak out in public end up in jail (if an angry mob hasn’t burned their home down and killed them) and “average folks” who don’t publicly speak out learn to keep their mouths shut and only discuss sports and music. We can’t let America go down this road, no matter how badly the rightwing billionaires want it. Make sure you and everybody you know are registered to vote and, if you live in a Red state where they regularly purge city-dwelling voters, check that registration every single month as we head toward an election in 13 months that may well determine the fate and future of democracy worldwide.
— Is MAGA politics poisoning the world? America doesn’t have a corner on bigots and bigotry. Russian and Chinese internet trolls are providing the fuel and social media sites, backing away from any responsibility for the content on their platforms, are providing the spark: the result is a worldwide firestorm of hate and bigotry infecting mainstream politics. Most recently it’s hit Sweden hard. Martin Gelen, the US-based correspondent for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter writes for The Guardian that, “Swedish politics has always looked toward the US.” And, indeed, when Trump rose up within the GOP and became president, Swedish rightwing parties weren’t just paying attention: some even embedded themselves within the Trump campaign to get firsthand experience. And now they’re doing to Sweden what Trump did to America: spark culture wars and internecine warfare. Notes Gelen: “But over the past few years, something has genuinely changed. The political discourse is aggressive, focused on the culture wars, and seems stuck in a constant mode of outrage. The shrill vocabulary often seems to be lifted straight from American cable news. … Dehumanising immigrants is nothing new for Sweden’s nationalists and far-right groups. Now they and rightwing pundits’ attacks have broadened to encompass LGBTQ+ people, journalists, scientists, environmentalists, civil society, gun laws and an alleged cultural elite of educated urbanites failing to protect Swedish values.” Hate is almost always based in fear, and fear is contagious (a gift from evolution to keep us alert to dangers in a world where there are wild animals that want to eat us). Fascists know this and so keep sowing fear wherever they go; we can only overcome it by embracing each other and working together for a better future while we use the law to hold the fascists to account. As the example of Sweden shows, the world is watching how America will choose to deal with the fascists within our ranks.
— Trump discussed sensitive nuclear info with a foreign billionaire who paid him $200,000. That’s the cost of a membership at Mar-a-Largo (plus the $20,000/year ongoing fee) and Australian billionaire Anthony Pratt paid the money to Trump, who then shared with Pratt top-secret information about how many nuclear warheads our attack submarines can carry and how close they can get to Russian subs without detection. Pratt promptly told as many as 70 other people, meaning our submarine secrets are now completely compromised: if you or I had done this, Republicans would be calling for the electric chair like Roy Cohn gave the Rosenbergs when they were alleged to have given less sensitive information to the Soviets back in the day. But because it’s Trump and he’s a Republican — from whom we simply expect lies and criminality — it’ll just be another two-day blip in the news cycle before we move on to the next outrage. I’m getting exhausted by all the criminality coming from the Trump family. Are you, too? When are we going to put these people in the prison cells where they belong so the country can get back to normal?
— Will Gym Jordan as speaker strengthen the authoritarian “Red Caesar” movement or damage them? If Jordan becomes speaker he’s going to face the same dilemma that confronted Kevin McCarthy: to get anything done that’s good for the country (like keeping the government open) he has to work with Democrats, but the Putin Caucus Republicans are adamant that any Speaker who works with Democrats must be punished or even removed from his position as Speaker. Running committees in the House where he can bring in accomplished liars and bogus “proof” worthy of impeaching Joe Biden is one thing; being Speaker lifts Jordan an entire level higher and will bring a more intense scrutiny that he may well not survive if he puts country over party and keeps the government running. On the other hand, if he chooses Party and Putin over country and shuts us down next month, the damage to America and our allies (particularly Ukraine) will be inestimable. Which, of course, is exactly what Putin and his boy Trump want.
— Interest rates & jobs report: Alan Greenspan lives on. Alan Greenspan is often quoted as saying that part of his job as Fed chairman was to maintain a certain necessary minimum level of “worker insecurity.” In other words, whenever the employment market is robust the Fed should raise interest rates to throw a few million people out of work, causing them to stop demanding raises and simply be happy with what they have. This appears to comport with Jerome Powell’s view of his job at the Fed, too, so many across the country held their breath for a moment when we learned yesterday that the economy — which the Fed thought they’d cooled down — created 336,000 new jobs just in the month of September. While worker salaries are one of the less important variables in inflation (they’re usually a response to inflation, not a cause of it), they’re still the favorite whipping boy for Republican inflation hawks like lifelong Republican Powell, who seems hell bent on creating a recession just in time for the 2024 presidential election. Between this and the Saudi/Russian collaboration to jack up gas prices in the US, it’s entirely possible that Biden could be looking at mass layoffs and $7/gallon gas next November, which would lay a solid foundation for Trump to re-take the White House. As they say in TV-land: stay tuned; this could get wild.
— There are some crucial cases before SCOTUS this year that will impact Americans for decades if not centuries. One case could end Social Security and most regulatory agencies. Another could outlaw wealth taxes and prevent the IRS from going after offshore profits. Another will determine if laws preventing violent domestic abusers from getting guns are unconstitutional, while another case will determine how aggressively Republicans can gerrymander and purge voters. All in all, the justices have chosen a wish-list of GOP cases that could radically transform how our country runs for a long, long time. We all need to be paying attention to this!
— Breaking Good News/Bad News Alert! A federal court has approved a new congressional map for Alabama while the Governor of Virginia, Glen Youngkin, oversees the purging of tens of thousands of voters from that state’s rolls. Alabama has finally complied with a Supreme Court demand that they stop racially gerrymandering the state to advantage white Republicans, a bit of good news. On the other hand, Virginia governor Youngkin appears to be doing something like Jeb Bush did in 2000 when his brother was running for president and Jeb purged around 90,000 African Americans from the Florida voter rolls. There’s nothing new about Republicans putting their thumbs on the electoral scale for their own advantage, but it never stops being disgusting. Hopefully we’ll find out — as Youngkin is insisting — that the Virginia purge is merely a terrible mistake and they’ll fix it right away. Oops, voting is already underway in Virginia and those purged people are right now being given placebo “provisional ballots” that won’t be counted unless they go to the Secretary of State’s office and prove they were removed from the rolls improperly. Which most of them don’t even know they have to do. Will there be a serious investigation into this Republican governor? I’m not holding my breath.
— “Absolutely gobsmackingly bananas”: September 2023 was the hottest month in the history of humankind. Records were broken in every hemisphere and every part of the world, in the atmosphere and in the sea, records for temperature as well as severe weather. We are now transitioning, full-bore, into a new climate state and it’s one humans have never seen before at this scale. We’ve broken through the IPCC’s 1.5 degree Celsius ceiling and are in new territory altogether. And while we will never (in our lifetimes) go back, at least we can stop pouring billions of tons of carbon into our atmosphere and slow down the damage. While the fossil fuel industry continues to pay for lies and liars about our climate emergency, including the entire GOP, it’s up to the rest of us to tell the truth and demand action at the level of government. Our children and grandchildren are watching.
— Crazy Alert! Now we know how conservatives think children should be raised to not be snowflakes: they need to be beaten with a belt! Setting aside for a moment my outrage over my rightwing colleague Sean Hannity justifying violence against children, this is a tragedy and may help explain why Hannity would be so quick to defend the “strict father” model of government embraced by the GOP (as opposed to the “nurturing family” model used by Democrats). On his show this week, Hannity told how his father used to beat him:
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