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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.