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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

‘Critical Race Theory’ May Not Be Taught in K-12, But Perhaps It Should Be


I have received quite an education from reading The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story about the history of slavery and racism in America. As a “history major” in college, I’m embarrassed at how little I knew about this aspect of American history.

Republicans, at least the Trumpers, would like to burn this book, and have succeeded in getting it banned from schools and libraries, because, for them, ignorance is bliss. They don’t want Americans to know their history.

I think this is an essential book that every student (and grown-up) should read and study.

Did you know that the capture and return of escaped slaves was primary to the creation of many police departments, especially in the South?

Did you know that 10 of our first 12 presidents were slave owners? That of the 84 clauses in the U.S. Constitution, six deal directly with the enslaved and their enslavement, and five more hold implications for slavery? That the Constitution prohibited the federal government from intervening to end the importation of slaves from Africa for a term of 20 years and allowed Congress to mobilize the militia to put down slave revolts and forced states that outlawed slavery to turn over escaped slaves to their enslavers in other states? That slavery existed in all 13 colonies, not just the South?

I was fascinated by the story of Virginia’s royal governor, the Earl of Dunmore, a slave owner himself, who warned colonists taking up arms that he would “declare Freedom to the Slaves,” prompting hundreds of slaves to join the British. Indeed more slaves joined the British than joined the colonists during the Revolutionary War.

It’s generally understood that the U.S. Constitution went against the noble statements in the Declaration of Independence regarding “all men being created equal,” but check out this excerpt from Chapter One:

“Thomas Jefferson spoke for other white Americans when he stated in the largest and angriest complaint in the Declaration of Independence, that Dunmore’s emancipation proclamation was a major cause of the American Revolution,” [Woody] Holton writes. Or, as historian Michael Groth put it, “In one sense, slaveholding Patriots went to war in 1775 and declared independence in 1776 to defend their rights to own slaves.”

Holton was referring to the last grievance in the Declaration of Independence that “He [the King] has excited domestic insurrections amongst us,” a specific reference to insurrections by slaves against their enslavers.

Another quote I highlighted:

As Frederick Douglass would explain in 1849, the Constitution bound the nation “to do the bidding of the slave holder, to bring out the whole naval and military power of the country, to crush the refractory slaves into obedience to their cruel masters.”

Northerners (like myself) were led to believe that racism, racial segregation and discrimination of all sorts was a Southern phenomenon, one which children born after the 1970s or 1980s might totally accept. But this book reminds readers that white politicians in the North implemented policies that segregated Blacks into slum neighborhoods and all-Black schools, and “Whites Only” signs were common in Northern businesses. California was among the non-Southern states which barred interracial marriages. It was the FHA which introduced (and mandated) racially tinged redlining to the mortgage industry.

This is history which all Americans need to know. And we need to know that right-wing opposition to teaching American history is anti-American. (Or perhaps we should label it “highly American,” given our history.)

The 1619 Project provides insight regarding the members of the Supreme Court who call themselves “originalists.” To be an originalist in that context means to support not just denying women the vote but supporting slavery and systemic racism.


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The ‘Big Lie’ Is the Gift That Keeps on Giving — for a Man With No Shame


We learned last week that Donald Trump conned his small-donor followers out of $250 million on the pretext that the money would be used by an “election integrity committee” to fund challenges to Joe Biden’s election, when in fact no such committee existed and none of the money was even used for ballot recounts. It went to his hotels, the Jan. 6th rally, and mostly to his political campaign. His donors are, simply, suckers, reminding me of how he said that he loves uneducated voters and his “deplorables.” (Yes, although he attacked Hillary Clinton for using that term, he used it himself to describe his rightwing and racist followers.)

Whether or not he intended to use it long-term, when Trump saw the fundraising potential of the Big Lie, he decided to double down on it. Money, however, is not the only way the Big Lie has paid off for him.

Because his supporters believe anything Trump tells them and have been inoculated to dismiss any fact-checking as “fake news” paid for by the likes of George Soros, the Big Lie has generated the kind of misguided enthusiasm that could propel the Trump Party (formerly the GOP) to victory. The Democrats don’t yet have as much get-out-the-vote enthusiasm, and turnout is what wins any election. Besides, will getting the most votes even matter?

Steve Bannon brilliantly conceived a precinct strategy built upon the Big Lie and has already showed impressive success in getting Trump’s true believers to take over grass roots Republican precinct committees and school boards and to win nominations for the Secretaries of State who run elections.

The Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative (and Catholic) majority is dismantling abortion rights and the separation of church and state. Five of those six were nominated by presidents who did not win the popular vote.

The Trump Party is following the playbook of fascist movements in the past, convincing supporters that any fact-checking by mainstream media is part of the conspiracy against their beliefs because those media are owned by the “radical socialist Democrats.”

The latest strategy is to include a mention of Snopes and within their emails, warning readers that they “will tell you this is not true, but don’t believe them!”

How can that many Americans be so easily conned into believing what the rest of us know to be obvious untruths?

Have we passed the tipping point in the rightwing takeover of our country? We’ll know that for sure if the Trump Party takes control of both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives and wins Secretary of State races in battleground states. That’s all that’s required to steal the 2024 presidential election. After all, the US Constitution does allow for state legislatures to go against the popular vote and send their own electors to the Electoral College.

If they pull that off, Americans will be “up in arms” figuratively, but they will be outgunned literally by the storm troopers armed with AR-15 rifles, so I suspect it won’t matter. Death threats and the threat of violence are highly effective political tools.

Consider the following item from Heather Cox Richardson:

Today, June 20, 2022, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Missouri, disgraced former governor Eric Greitens, released an advertisement threatening those Republicans he considers too moderate, the so-called Republicans In Name Only… In the ad, Greitens is armed with a shotgun and flanked by military personnel as they burst into a house. “Today, we’re going RINO hunting,” he says. “The RINO feeds on corruption and is marked with the stripes of cowardice,” he continues. “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

Of course, it’s the Trumpers who are the true RINOs.  The above excerpt is a tacit acknowledgement that only the non-Trump Republicans can save us, but will they? On June 6, 1954, Boston attorney Joseph Welch brought down Sen. Joseph McCarthy with his televised line, “Have you no decency, sir?” When will other Republicans join Rep. Liz Cheney and speak out?  When will they defy the death threats, stand up and say, “Have you no shame, sir?”


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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

If They Loved America, Wouldn’t Anti-Trump Republicans Speak Out?

  I’m reminded by the silence of mainstream Republicans of a quote often attributed to Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I hesitate to use the word “mainstream” because it appears that the Republican Party is now the party of Trump and that the values (or lack of them) of Donald Trump have been adopted by the Republican mainstream. The rest of us should be frightened.

Thom Hartmann, the radio host and newsletter writer I admire for his articulate coverage of the decline of American democracy under the spell of Donald Trump, wrote a particularly cogent newsletter this Monday.

In the headline, Hartmann asks, “Is the Anti-Democracy Movement Reaching a Tipping Point in the US and Around the World?

In it he notes: “Ukraine and Taiwan represent possible tipping points for democracy internationally, while Republicans passing laws that allow politicians to ignore the results of elections… could be a tipping point here.”

Hartmann notes that “virtually the entire Republican Party has rejected supporting democracy at home and supporting democratic governments abroad.”

This is no small matter. It is becoming clear that our Constitution is being used against us, and I see no way to avoid the death spiral of democratic rule in America.

Yes, the filibuster, which allows a minority of Senators to frustrate the majority, could be eliminated by a majority vote of Senators, because it is a Senate rule, not embedded in the Constitution. To their shame, two Democratic Senators prevented that from happening so that a voting rights bill they claim to support could pass without any Republican votes.

But even if the filibuster were eliminated, it does not change the structural issue built into the Constitution which gives the same vote in the Senate to Wyoming with fewer than 600,000 residents as it gives to California with over 39 million residents.  And the District of Columbia, which has more residents than Wyoming, has not one vote in the Senate (or in the House of Representatives).

Because our electoral system is under so much discussion since the former president started claiming his election was stolen through massive fraud — the Big Lie, as we call it — we are becoming more and more aware of how fragile our democratic republic is, and I’m not hopeful that there will be a happy ending, even if we see Trump and his cronies go to jail, as they should, for the many crimes that are coming to light thanks to the diligent work of the Jan. 6th committee and multiple prosecutors in New York and now Georgia.

My Republican mother and father, for whom integrity, civility and respect for the law were paramount (and instilled in us children), would be astounded at how our country is being brought down by the opposite traits of a single man who boasted that he could murder someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and not lose a single vote.

The trendlines are all going in the wrong direction. Income inequality is on the rise, with the 10 richest billionaires doubling their wealth during the pandemic, while the government had to print money just to keep the bottom 99% above water. Non-partisan election officials are being terrorized by death threats and their jobs taken over by right-wing partisans. Legislatures are passing laws restricting ballot access and preparing to declare fraud if they don’t like the next presidential vote and send their own slate to the Electoral College. Tucker Carlson is convincing his viewers that we should support Russia instead of Ukraine. Where does this madness end?

As a wealthy white American, I have little to lose as long as I keep quiet in Trump’s new America, but it’s not an America I wish to live in.


A stark warning from Martin Baron about threats to truth, science, and democracy


Martin Baron is the former Executive Editor of The Washington Post and a highly respected journalist. On April 21st, he delivered a grim warning to an audience at MIT about the avalanche of lies and falsehoods permeating right-wing media outlets, posing a direct threat to democracy and civil society. 

His comments mirror my own (or vice versa) so I’m going to devote this month’s column to quoting his lecture, reprinting in edited form the following article by Peter Dizikes of the MIT News Office:

Baron focused many of his remarks on lies and misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the 2020 presidential election. “The path we are on today is an invitation to ruin,” said Baron, while delivering MIT’s annual spring Compton Lecture.

Baron, who served as executive editor of The Washington Post from 2013 to 2021, before retiring, focused many of his remarks on lies and misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic as well as the 2020 presidential election. Propagation of those kinds of lies, he emphasized, not only undermines public health and governance in the near term, but undercuts our collective use of facts to help organize society.

“The truth is, we may not survive another crisis in public health if we don’t come up with answers,” Baron said. “And we may not survive another crisis in our democracy like the one we’ve faced.”

Champion of independence

Baron has been one of America’s highest profile newsroom leaders for the last two decades. He began his journalism career at the Miami Herald in 1976 and worked for the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times before returning to the Herald as executive editor in 2000. He then served as executive editor of The Boston Globe for over a decade before moving to the Post.

Baron was portrayed by Liev Schreiber in the 2015 film “Spotlight,” winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film depicts the work of the Globe’s investigative reporting team, published in 2002, which revealed decades of covered-up abuse cases in the Catholic Church.

At Thursday’s event, Baron was introduced by MIT President L. Rafael Reif , who called the veteran editor a “champion of the independent press and its essential role in American democracy.” He added: “Marty’s distinguished career is a study in integrity, determination, and grace under pressure.”

Sustaining enlightenment

Baron began his talk with some broad historical brushstrokes, emphasizing the 18th-century Enlightenment as the time when a commitment to empiricism and rational inquiry helped form contemporary society. “Not one of you would be here without the values that informed that period,” he said.

That said, Baron added, today “verifiable fact, objective reality, is now under determined, deliberate, cynical, and malevolent assault. I can think of no greater threat to our system of governance, or to the public good.”

As a principal example, Baron cited the stream of lies disputing that former President Trump lost the 2020 presidential election.

“We know that Joe Biden won,” Baron said. “There is a mountain of evidence proving that he did. There is no credible evidence that he didn’t. There were multiple recounts, there were audits, some of them even real ones. There were court challenges to official results that failed one after another, and judges at every level cited lack of evidence.  And yet, as of last December, one-third of the American public, and a stunning 71 percent of Republicans, believe the election was stolen.”

When it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic, Baron observed, we are suffering from a similar wave of falsehoods.

“We know that vaccines work,” Baron said. “For decades, they have rid the world of devastating illness and death. And yet a substantial portion of the public believes vaccines will sicken and even kill you. Nothing could be more threatening to the public’s health than to deceive people about which medicines are safe and effective, and which are quackery, with potentially fatal outcomes. Here at MIT you know that as well as anyone.”

As a result of such large-scale lying, Baron said, the U.S. is losing its ability to properly govern itself.

“Ours is a country that rightly encourages vigorous debate about the problems we face and the policies required to address them,” Baron said. “That is liberty. That is democracy. That is what has distinguished our country in the eyes of people throughout the world.”

However, he added: “What happens when the underpinnings of that democracy are eroded? What happens when instead of debating policies, we find ourselves debating the most basic facts? What happens when we can’t even agree on what constitutes a fact? What happens when all those elements we rely upon for determining what is a fact — expertise, education, experience, and evidence — are routinely devalued, dismissed, and denied? That’s where we are today.”

Decline in confidence

As Baron emphasized, this is not simply a media or governance issue. He noted that there is a widespread decline in public confidence toward both the media and the medical professions, among many other institutions oriented around empirical reality.

“We in the press and you who are in science are in the same leaky, rickety boat,” Baron said.

Observing that there is “a systematic effort to sabotage independent sources of fact,” Baron noted that “the mission of these saboteurs … is not the pursuit of truth. They seek something else: power. Political, personal, and commercial power.”

Baron also listed a series of empirical questions about facticity, knowledge, and communication that he believes are worth pursuing, as one part of a larger societal effort to fight back against falsehoods and the accumulation of power they may abet.

To get us back to a society firmly rooted in objective reality, I believe we will have to come up with answers to some urgent questions,” Baron said. “Here are a few. What makes the human mind susceptible to falsehoods from nonexperts and resistant to evidence-based facts from people with expertise? How can we better signal to the public that knowledge is not static? … How can we get the public to better understand and weigh the risks they face in daily life?”

He added: “How do we better signal that there is a distinction between scientific facts and policy decisions?…  How can reality-based professionals disseminate information in a manner that is more persuasive to more people?”

Impact on ordinary people

During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Baron further discussed the pursuit of truth in journalism, which he characterized as a process of searching for facts while questioning one’s own assumptions.

“It’s not so much maintaining a middle ground, it’s maintaining an independent ground,” Baron said. “Objectivity is a method. You want to make sure that your own preconceptions don’t get in the way of an objective search for the facts.”

[End of article about Baron’s lecture]

From Jim Smith:

It seems obvious to me that one single individual is responsible for this situation, and that is Donald Trump. The Big Lie about the 2020 election only gained a following because he started it. It is his single worst legacy, and one that could bring America down. Shame on him.


Saturday, May 21, 2022

Hypocrisy of Pro-Life Crowd


HuffPost article details Trump's business failures and more in a required SEC filing

Whenever a business raises money, either in a public offering or a private placement, SEC rules require full disclosure to potential investors of that enterprise's risks.  What's delicious about this HuffPost article is that the disclosures were not the result of investigative reporting but rather of honest self-disclosure.  Enjoy....

Donald Trump's New Business Partners Just Published A Damning List Of All His Failures

The former president's lengthy history of bankruptcies, failed licensing agreements and lawsuits are laid bare in excruciating detail in a filing for his new media company.

A document filed by Donald Trump’s new business partners makes terrible reading for the former president.

Trump’s business failings — and the number of lawsuits he currently faces — are laid bare in damning detail in the S-4 registration statement that Digital World Acquisition Corp., the special-purpose acquisition company that is merging with Trump’s Trump Media & Technology Group Corp. to take it public, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday.

Multiple risk factors associated with doing business with Trump are highlighted in the filing because, it says, the company’s success depends largely on his reputation and popularity.

Of Trump’s lengthy history of bankruptcies, it states:

Entities associated with President Trump have filed for bankruptcy protection. The Trump Taj Mahal, which was built and owned by President Trump, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991. The Trump Plaza, the Trump Castle, and the Plaza Hotel, all owned by President Trump at the time, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992. THCR, which was founded by President Trump in 1995, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2004. Trump Entertainment Resorts, Inc., the new name given to Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts after its 2004 bankruptcy, declared bankruptcy in 2009. While all of the foregoing were in different businesses than TMTG, there can be no guarantee that TMTG’s performance will exceed the performance of those entities.

Of failed license agreements with Trump, it notes:

Trump Shuttle, Inc., launched by President Trump in 1989, defaulted on its loans in 1990 and ceased to exist by 1992. Trump University, founded by President Trump in 2005, ceased operations in 2011 amid lawsuits and investigations regarding the company’s business practices. Trump Vodka, a brand of vodka produced by Drinks Americas under license from the Trump Organization, was introduced in 2005 and discontinued in 2011. Trump Mortgage, LLC, a financial services company founded by President Trump in 2006, ceased operations in 2007., a travel site founded by President Trump in 2006, ceased operations in 2007. Trump Steaks, a brand of steak and other meats founded by President Trump in 2007, discontinued sales two months after its launch. While all these businesses were in different industries than TMTG, there can be no guarantee that TMTG’s performance will exceed the performance of these entities.

In both cases, the statement warns there are “no assurances” that the new company will not go the same way as Trump’s past scuttled ventures.

The filing also details the “numerous lawsuits and other matters that could damage his reputation, cause him to be distracted from the business or could force him to resign from TMTG’s board of directors.”

They range from the congressional investigation into Trump’s role in the incitement of the deadly U.S. Capitol riot and his alleged removal of classified documents to a defamation lawsuit from writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of rape.

“The foregoing does not purport to be an exhaustive list,” the document warned.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

What Defines & Motivates America’s Right Is Intolerance


In the past, I have joined other analysts in characterizing Trumpers and those Republicans who have fallen under his spell as driven by racism.

While racism is clearly a dominant theme, the larger theme motivating Trump Republicans, as I see it, is intolerance. (Note: Not all Republicans are alike in their opinions, just as not all Democrats are alike. Consider the following as reasoned generalizations.)

Republicans are intolerant of immigration, often railing against “white replacement” by people of color and the culture of diversity. Democrats see America as the “melting pot” and see immigrants as the people who built America from the beginning. Most of us are children of immigrants. My observation from studying first generation immigrants such as Jacob Riis, Nikola Tesla, Andrew Carnegie, Albert Einstein, Henry Kissinger and others, is that they are more driven to succeed and live the American dream and more appreciative of our freedoms and our free enterprise system than those of us who are, happily, in the position to take America’s freedom for granted.

Republicans are intolerant of government and taxation, whereas Democrats recognize the need for government and for taxes to fund government services. That doesn’t mean that Democrats accept corruption, malfeasance and waste in government, although Republicans often portray them that way. Democrats would like to minimize taxation, but not at the expense of important social services.

Republicans are intolerant of progressive taxation and “income redistribution,” whereas Democrats support higher tax rates for the wealthy and consider addressing poverty a matter of “social justice.” Republicans opposed Social Security until it was too popular.  They opposed Medicare and Medicaid until they were too popular. They opposed the Affordable Care Act, but that, too, is fading now that “Obamacare” is gaining in popularity. Democrats would move faster toward such things as universal healthcare, higher minimum wages, and other social justice issues, but Republicans still get political mileage (for now) by labeling such efforts “a radical socialist agenda.” If voters understood and appreciated how such policies would benefit them and have made the Scandinavian countries the happiest populations on earth because of their socialist policies (and high taxes to support them), then that Republican strategy would not be as successful as it is, but Americans who would benefit from such programs are, sadly, underinformed and easily manipulated by politicians who appeal to their other intolerances such as of people of color.

My biggest fear is that social media and right-wing “news” networks such as Fox have allowed 30-40% of Americans to be protected from real news and voices that don’t play to their insecurities and intolerances.

I think it was in the book How Fascism Works, by Jason Stanley, himself the son of immigrants from Nazi Germany, that the author noted that democracy, because of its freedom of speech, contains within it the seeds of its own destruction, and we are definitely seeing that play out, thanks to Trumpism. (Please read that book!)

Other intolerances exhibited by Republicans include universal voter registration and easy ballot access. Our diversifying population is terrifying to white males, who see easy ballot access as a death sentence for white supremacy. Democrats don’t fear a universal franchise, they welcome it.

Republicans are intolerant of non-Christian religions and voters, while ignoring Jesus’ teachings about serving the poor and needy. They are intolerant of diverse sexual orientations and preferences and of a woman’s right to choose. The list goes on. As I said, the dominant theme is intolerance.

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m of the belief that intolerance is built on insecurity. Republicans are made insecure by the growing presence of diverse races and religions in our “melting pot.” Insecurity is a close cousin of fear. Republicans build their intolerant base by playing to their fears, whether economic, social, or other. My fear is that they’ll succeed.

My thanks to the readers who support this column through my GoFundMe campaign at


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Democracy Is Looking More & More Like an Experiment -- That Could Fail


As a Baby Boomer, I grew up taking democracy for granted, sort of like how a fish takes water for granted. We elected class presidents in school. We held mock United Nations meetings. Every public office was either elected or appointed by elected officials.

In school we had classes in civics. We learned how democracy came about, how it works, and about other models that oppose democracy. We also studied the religions of the world, even in parochial schools.

Elected officials were “public servants” whose tenure was based on maintaining the confidence of voters. Although there were party labels, each legislator voted in a deliberative atmosphere not dictated by his party leaders. "Party-line votes" were less common. 

We had a “middle class” and most politicians wooed the middle class by adopting policies under which the middle class would grow and prosper.

There were more romantic comedies and fewer action and horror movies. There were far fewer guns and much less promotion and acceptance of them.

When Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was founded in 1978, it had a policy that the highest paid executives should be paid no more than five times the lowest paid workers.

Racism, we now realize, was systemic, but hate crimes were rare because political leaders did not embolden those with racist attitudes to act them out in violent ways. The KKK and other white supremist groups existed but they were in the shadows, not recruiting others by appealing to latent racist feelings that we would be embarrassed or afraid to voice publicly.

It felt right to us, and our country was a model for the world. By the late 20th Century, democracy was ascendant, or so it seemed. The “American way of life” was peaceful, honest, rewarding to hard workers, and above all it felt fair. Anti-trust legislation had “busted the trusts,” and unions — the honest ones — built up the middle class, raising wages across the board within a democratic framework.

But life has changed, hasn’t it?

Those who earned or inherited millions of dollars have figured out how to buy democratically elected legislators and get them to vote based on personal interest (campaign donations and more) rather than based on the public good.

They became masters at manipulating the middle and working classes to vote against their financial interests in exchange for promoting their inner prejudices. Fear, they learned, was the best tool for gaining the support of people while working against what used to be their needs and wants. They were able, for example, to sugar coat massive tax cuts for the rich with minor tax cuts for those in the lowest tax brackets.

The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court legalized unrestricted political donations by corporations, giving us what we have today — a Congress which is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the National Rifle Association, voting against policies like universal background checks which most Americans, including NAR members, support. Why? Because the NRA has been bought, lock, stock, and barrel, by the manufacturers of guns.

Ben & Jerry’s abandoned its five-to-one ratio policy in 1994 when it recruited a new CEO. Today, it’s common for the pay of a CEO to be several thousand times the pay of line workers for the same company — and to get a bonus even when the company is suffering financially and laying off workers. The income gap between rich and poor is obscene now, a condition that in previous times would have led to revolution.

During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, when told the peasants had no bread, famously said, “Let them eat cake,” showing how out of touch royalty was. Today it’s different. Certain leaders act on the knowledge that constituents will even suffer hunger if you appeal to their fears of minorities, of crime, and of “socialism,” ignorant of how socialism might serve them.

It’s clear to many now, including me, that the “American Experiment” is just that — an experiment. And experiments can fail. Ours appears to be failing due to the manipulated ignorance of the general population, exacerbated by the death of local newspapers and the purchase of big city dailies by hedge funds interested in profit, not in serving the public good.

My thanks to the readers who support this column through my GoFundMe campaign at


Friday, March 4, 2022

Trump Lovers Who Call Biden Senile Should Watch this 30-minute Interview of Biden by a Historian

We all get tired of watching politicians read prepared remarks on a Teleprompter. Who wrote it, we wonder?  So it's refreshing to see how competent the president is in a totally unscripted situation not intended for broadcast.  President Biden really showcases his intelligence, knowledge of American history, and competence in this interview with Heather Cox Richardson:

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Let’s Look at the New Civil War and How It Is Evolving

 You have probably noticed, as I have, the increasing talk about whether the intractable divisions within America are going to lead to a new civil war. However, war isn’t limited to armed conflict, and it’s time to recognize that we are already in a civil war and to consider how it might evolve over the coming months and years.

As I write this, Russian troops are encircling Ukraine. Cyber attacks have been launched and disinformation is a potent weapon of choice. The parallels with America seem obvious. American democracy is in the not-so-early stages of an “incursion” by anti-democratic forces that is a prelude to a complete takeover. We saw an early skirmish on Jan. 6, 2021, but there will likely be more violence as time progresses. Violence against others shows the rest of us what could happen if we resist non-violent attacks — that’s how terrorism works.

The new civil war is being waged on several levels. Politically, non-compliant Republicans are threatened with primary challenges by Trump-endorsed candidates. Members of his “base” reinforce the demands for compliance with death threats against them and their families.

Also on the political level is the “precinct strategy” of Steve Bannon, the former president’s close political adviser whom Trump pardoned of federal fraud charges. On his “War Room” podcast the night before the Jan. 6th insurrection, Bannon rallied his millions of listeners, saying, “We’re on the point of attack. All hell will break loose tomorrow.” As reported by Pro-Publica on Sept. 2, 2021, while the insurrection was happening, Bannon said, “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?”

After that uprising failed to keep Trump in office, Bannon’s strategy evolved, producing results we can all see. To quote the ProPublica article, 

The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.”

It’s called “asymmetrical warfare,” a term coined by Andrew J.R. Mack in a 1975 article, “Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars.” Disinformation, supercharged now by social media, was rendered mainstream if not invented by the Soviet KGB, which created a “special disinformation office” in 1923. Disinformation, such as "the big lie" and “critical race theory,” is a primary tool of the forces within the Republican Party which want to supplant our liberal democratic heritage with an autocracy rooted in racism and white supremacy. 

There are enough Americans with expressed and unexpressed racial animus to provide a boots-on-the-ground army to intimidate and, if necessary, attack opponents in a guerrilla war against the rest of us. The anti-racism movement has only empowered and inflamed those elements of our society.

Democracy worked fine for those forces when they were in the majority, but as America diversifies and they find themselves unable to win free and fair elections, stronger measures are needed, starting with voter suppression.

Of course, ultimately a war requires arms, and the rightwing forces are well armed, as the rest of us are keenly aware. The majority of weapons, especially assault rifles, are in the hands of the right wing and its militias, making verbal threats a highly effective weapon.  Brandishing arms often suffices. Although we could see assassinations and other violence, this may be a war which the right wing wins without much armed conflict.

Death threats and threats against their families have been highly effective at getting non-compliant school board members, election workers and elected officials to cut and run, surrendering our schools, election boards, city councils, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress to the forces of autocracy.

Effective manipulation of voting laws provides an air of legitimacy to the new autocrats. Thanks to the lifetime appointment of like-minded judges to our courts, especially the Supreme Court, repressive and anti-democratic laws have been upheld by the Supreme Court in the past (think Plessy v. Ferguson et al.), and we could see that again.

It’s sad and disheartening to see the disinformation spouted on rightwing media repeated by ordinary citizens. I see it in my inbox regularly.  If these forces prevail in 2022 and 2024, I fear that the “American Experiment” will have failed.

My thanks to the readers who support this column through my GoFundMe campaign at