Look at the Court Ruling in a Positive Way

By Arlen Grossman

Published as Letter to Editor in Monterey Herald, May 5, 2022

As a progressive, I see a very significant silver lining in the Supreme Court’s intention to strike down Roe vs Wade. It might just wake up and motivate a slumbering Democratic Party electorate who would otherwise sit out the next election and allow Republicans to take back Congress. Watching the right wing court strip women of their right to control their own bodies should convince Democrats that elections do matter.

The only way to stop Republicans from dragging this country back into the dark ages is to go to the polls and elect representatives who will not only change the Supreme Court but will work for the people rather than just corporations and right-wing interest groups. The ballot box is the last and best chance to resist those forces who wish to crush  hope and progress in our troubled country.

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DeSantis’ Attack on Disney Shows how Fascism Progresses Toward the Later Stages of Tyranny

DeSantis, Abbott & other Republican neofascists are playing a dangerous game, that will rip America apart, using Disney as a proxy for the racial and gender minorities they want as whipping boys 

Thom Hartmann11 hr ago
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has declared war on Disney, while his colleague in Texas, Republican Governor Greg Abbott, is on a jihad against the parents of trans children.

This is how fascism progresses through its later stages toward tyranny.

Democracies typically don’t turn into fascist oligarchies by being invaded or losing wars. It usually happens from within, and is driven by an alliance between demagogic politicians, corrupt religious leaders, bigoted street brawlers, and some of the wealthiest people in society. 

First, fascists identify groups of people they believe are both vulnerable and sufficiently powerless that they won’t be able to fight back. Typically, these are racial, religious, political or gender/sexuality minorities.

Enormous efforts go into demonizing the people the fascists have identified; members of the group who’ve committed crimes are heavily publicized, while “think tanks” and fascist allies in the media identify malicious “reasons” for those folks’ “deviance.”

Efforts by members of the demonized groups to achieve parity or equality in society are characterized as a “theft” of privilege and assets from the majority, legitimizing both verbal, legal, and physical attacks on members of the group.

For example, the billionaire Murdoch family’s top-rated morning show, Fox & Friends, recently wandered into a discussion about white people being “marginalized” by the possibility of our public schools teaching the actual racial history of America.

“[T]hey are not only trying to raise up minorities and make sure the playing field is even,” Brian Kilmeade said, “they’re trying to take down the white culture!”

Kilmeade, in full “White people are the victims!” mode, went on:

“Why are we being marginalized on a daily basis…? And it’s not even subtle! It’s actually out there! It is written in black-and-white!”

It’s played out this way in every democratic country that has fallen to tyranny from within. It’s how it happened in the 1930s in Italy, Germany, Japan and Spain, and today in Hungary, Poland, Egypt, Russia, The Philippines, and Turkey, among others. 

More recently, Swanson Food Heir Tucker Carlson went on a rant about the Great Replacement Theory.

After identifying targeted minorities — for today’s GOP that includes Black people, trans kids (and their parents), pregnant women, and Democrats — and encouraging legal and physical violence against them, fascists move to the second major step: seizing enough economic and political power that they can reshape society itself.

This requires bringing in morbidly rich people and enlisting the aid of big business. 

So, first, they go after the biggest businesses. One of the biggest businesses in Florida is Disney, so Ron DeSantis tried to get them on his bigoted side. They didn’t go along with it, so now, in typical strongman fashion, DeSantis feels he has to destroy them to save face.

As German industrialist Fritz Thyssen writes in his book I Paid Hitler, he pressured German President von Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor, and then lobbied the Association of German Industrialists, that country’s and era’s version of the US Chamber of Commerce, to donate 3 million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party for the 1933 election. It brought Hitler to power.

Hitler’s sales pitch to the German people was that Jews, gays, and socialists had “stabbed Germany in the back” and were trying to “strip” good white Christian Germans of their “rights” and twist society to conform with their “perverted” ideas and lifestyles. 

Hitler blamed the 1933 economic crisis on German minorities, Jews and gays, and accused Germany’s second largest political party of complicity with them; the German people went along with him. Once the Nazis took power, they changed election laws in such a way that they would never again lose.

Republicans and rightwing billionaires, of course, are doing much the same thing right now in America.  One wonders if they’ll have the retrospective angst that haunted Thyssen until the day he died.  He wrote about it in I Paid Hitler:

“I am not a politician, but an industrialist, and an industrialist is always inclined to consider politics a kind of second string to his bow — the preparation for his own particular activity. In a well-ordered country, where the administration is sound, where taxes are reasonable, and the police well organised, he can afford to abstain from politics and to devote himself entirely to business.

“But in a crisis-ridden state, as Germany was from 1918 to 1933, an industrialist is drawn, willy-nilly, into the vortex of politics. After 1930 the aspirations of German industry may be summed up in one phrase: ‘a sound economy in a strong state.’ This was, I remember, the slogan of a meeting of the Ruhr industrialists in 1931. …

“I, too, approved this slogan, ‘To surmount the crisis it was necessary to reinforce the authority of the state.’ … I believed that by backing Hitler and his party I could contribute to the reinstatement of real government and of orderly conditions, which would enable all branches of activity — and especially business — to function normally once again.”

Unlike Thyssen, who volunteered to support Hitler’s rise to power with massive financial and business backing, Disney is pushing back against DeSantis’ efforts to remake society in an American neofascist mode. 

Unless they soon cave in, Disney’s executives probably won’t one day write in their memoirs, as Thyssen did in his:

“But it is no use crying over spilled milk. The strong state of which I then dreamed had nothing in common with the totalitarian state or, rather, caricature of a state, erected by Hitler and his minions.

“Not for an instant did I imagine that it was possible, one hundred and fifty years after the French Revolution and the proclamation of the Rights of Man, to substitute arbitrary action for law in a great modern country, to strangle the most elementary rights of the citizen, to establish an Asiatic tyranny in the heart of Europe, and to foster anachronistic aspirations of conquest and world dominion.”

This is not America’s first brush with oligarchic fascism, as I lay out in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy. President Franklin Roosevelt and Vice President Henry Wallace struggled with it in the 1930s with Charles Lindberg’s infamous Nazi-aligned America First movement.

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace’s answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. 

“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way.”

As if he had a time machine and could see the “conservative” media landscape today, Wallace continued:

“The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

But Disney refused to use their media platform to advance the fascists’ agenda. It has only, however, slowed them down a bit.

Ultimately, as fascists gain more power and grow bolder, nothing is off the table. This is the threshold we’re approaching today, where they don’t just trash minorities and march through the streets displaying weapons and huge flags, but began asserting justification for violence and even murder.

Alleging crimes against the majority’s children is a fascist favorite, as Hitler charged with his repeated attacks on Jewish teachers, leading 15% of the nation’s teachers and professors (including a guy named Albert Einstein) to flee the country when he began his attacks on education in 1933.

Fascist politicians start alleging the most vile of crimes by the groups they hope to destroy: words like “grooming” roll off their lips with a smarmy ease.  

Soon vigilante groups set out to destroy those accused, sometimes politically, sometimes physically.

German Nazis were particularly fond of accusing people they intended to destroy or kill of sexual “crimes.”  As Thyssen wrote:

“General von Fritsch’s affair is also a good sample of the peculiar methods used by the Hitler regime. Fritsch was to be ‘liquidated.’ To achieve this, it is said, the head of the Gestapo personally reproached him with practising homosexuality.

“Fritsch, who denied this from the very start, was ordered to call at the chancellery of the Reich, where he was to be unmasked in the presence of the Supreme Leader. … It seems certain that General von Fritsch has subsequently committed suicide. I can at least say that whatever the actual circumstances of his death may have been, he was anxious to die.”

While history usually sides with the victims of fascists, as we’re seeing today with the people Putin is starving to death in Mariupol, that’s small comfort as they confront terror and death.

DeSantis, Abbott and the other Republican neofascists are playing a dangerous game, using Disney as a proxy for the racial and gender minorities they want as whipping boys. It’s a high-stakes political game that has torn societies apart and destroyed millions of lives in the past.

Standing against them are their victims and the Democratic Party, albeit hobbled in their efforts by the perfidy of Manchin and Sinema.  This autumn’s elections may well be the last chance for people of good will who believe in American values and eschew fascism to rise in opposition. 

Make sure everybody you know is registered to vote, regularly double-check your own registration to make it through a voter purge if you live in a Republican-controlled state, and volunteer to help out inside the Democratic Party or through any of the great groups fighting for a more just America.  

Time is short, as Fritz Thyssen and Vice President Wallace would tell you were they alive today.

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Makes Sense

Germany

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Chris Hedges Interviews Cornel West

April 15, 2022

In this premiere episode of The Chris Hedges Report, Dr. West joins Chris Hedges to discuss the decay of the American empire, the struggle to show international solidarity in the face of escalating militarism, and what it means to examine this historical moment through a moral and spiritual lens.

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Wake Up, Democrats!

Published in Monterey Herald, April 6, 2022

Dems should fight

We are on the verge of losing what is left of democracy in America, and the Democratic Party seems to do little more than shrug its shoulders. Republicans are on the attack, accusing the Dems of all kinds of deeds and crimes, mostly without substance. Polls show a strong chance that the GOP, who have accomplished nothing at all, could win both houses of Congress this November.

To prevent electoral defeat, the Democrats need to expose the number of Republicans who have committed political crimes. Yet for some reason, Attorney General Merrick Garland has shown little willingness to prosecute Republicans for January 6 and attempting to nullify the 2020 election.  Donald Trump and his family always seem immune to legal accountability. And now the Manhattan District Attorney is bailing out on prosecuting the financial crimes of the Trump family.

What will it take to get the Democratic Party to see the danger ahead? Could it be that leaders like Nancy Pelosi (82), Chuck Schumer (71), and President Biden (79) are past their prime and Dems need new blood to light a fire and go on the offensive? Maybe so.

— Arlen Grossman, Del Rey Oaks

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Dems should fight

Letter to the Editor/ Monterey Herald/ April 6, 2022

We are on the verge of losing what is left of democracy in America, and the Democratic Party seems to do little more than shrug its shoulders. Republicans are on the attack, accusing the Dems of all kinds of deeds and crimes, mostly without substance. Polls show a strong chance that the GOP, who have accomplished nothing at all, could win both houses of Congress this November.

To prevent electoral defeat, the Democrats need to expose the number of Republicans who have committed political crimes. Yet for some reason, Attorney General Merrick Garland has shown little willingness to prosecute Republicans for January 6 and attempting to nullify the 2020 election.  Donald Trump and his family always seem immune to legal accountability. And now the Manhattan District Attorney is bailing out on prosecuting the financial crimes of the Trump family.

What will it take to get the Democratic Party to see the danger ahead? Could it be that leaders like Nancy Pelosi (82), Chuck Schumer (71), and President Biden (79) are past their prime and Dems need new blood to light a fire and go on the offensive? Maybe so.

dems

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RACHEL MADDOW CALLS OUT MERRICK GARLAND. HE CONTINUES TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY.

Where are Merrick Garland and the U.S. Justice Apartment When It Comes To Prosecution of Obvious Crimes? Why Does he seem to be sitting on his hands as Trump and his cronies Go Unpunished?   Rachel’s Comments Are From Last … Continue reading

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Joe Manchin’s Wife, Gayle, Has Her Own Conflicts of Interest

Joe Manchin’s wife, Gayle (left), cochairs a commission that distributes federal infrastructure grants across thirteen states, including West Virginia. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for the New Yorker)

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) isn’t the only Manchin in government mixing politics and business.

The corporate Democrat spent the past year grabbing headlines for obstructing his party’s agenda, in particular gutting and ultimately blocking climate legislation that would impact the fossil fuel industry in which he and his family made their fortune. Last week, for example, he vowed to block progressive nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin from the Federal Reserve due to her willingness to factor climate science into the Fed’s monetary policy.

Far less attention has been afforded to the senator’s wife, Gayle Manchin, a former West Virginia secretary of education, who in March 2021 was appointed by President Joe Biden to cochair a commission that distributes federal infrastructure grants across thirteen states, including West Virginia.

But now an investigation suggests Manchin might have financial ties to a recipient of funding from that commission, an economic development partnership agency called the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

Late last summer, ARC, awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Appalachian Investors Alliance (AIA), a nonprofit foundation that works to deliver investment to small Appalachian businesses. The nonprofit’s director, Mike Green, is a prominent West Virginia venture capital manager who also serves as the officer and organizer of West Virginia Growth Investment LLC — a company in which Gayle Manchin has invested, according to federal financial disclosures.

Virginia Canter, the chief ethics counselor of the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said that Manchin’s financial ties to Green may have posed a conflict of interest. Canter, who served as an ethics counselor to former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, recommended that the Manchin family divest their West Virginia business interests to avoid any potential issues:

Since ARC investments support hundreds of economic development projects across the Appalachian region, to avoid any potential conflict of interest, Ms Manchin should commit to divest her and her spouse’s investments in businesses located in that region that could benefit from ARC projects and funding.

Overlapping Financial Ties

Despite making the news in 2016 for her role lobbying for schools to stock epinephrine autoinjectors, leading to a near-monopoly for EpiPens manufactured by her daughter’s former employer Mylan, Manchin’s tenure in the Biden administration has largely flown under the radar.

So ARC’s announcement last September that it had awarded $1.5 million to the AIA received little attention. The grant, part of ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, was characterized as a “special regional project” that would “create new access to capital by creating and supporting angel and micro-venture funds in small and growing Appalachian businesses.” According to the Ironton Tribune, the POWER initiative “targets federal resources to help revitalize the economy in fossil-fuel impacted communities.”

Financial records show Manchin owned a stake in West Virginia Growth Investment LLC worth between $15,000 and $50,000 in 2020. Green is listed as the LLC’s organizer and officer in West Virginia business records.

Green and Manchin have also worked closely in the past: Manchin previously served as president of the West Virginia Board of Education while Green was the board’s vice president.

Green doesn’t just serve as the AIA’s director. The nonprofit’s website also lists Green’s venture capital firm, Mountain State Capital, as one its angel investors. Among the case studies on the alliance’s website is Conservation Labs, a water monitoring startup that received seed funding in November 2019 from Green’s Mountain State Capital and other funds. The alliance’s website states that “Mountain State Capital identified Conservation Labs, Inc. as a company that stood this test of diligence” and that many of the funds affiliated with AIA joined in funding Conservation Labs after a diligence process led by Green’s VC firm.

According to her financial disclosure documents, Manchin’s investment in Green’s West Virginia Growth Investment LLC includes stakes in Valtari and Peca Labs, two companies that Green has funded through his VC firm.

Green sits on the board of Valtari, a stroke diagnostic startup incubated at West Virginia University with the help of Mountain State cofounder Matt Harbaugh. Peca Labs, a medical device technology company, is also part of the Mountain State Capital investment portfolio.

“Safeguards in Place”

When she joined the Biden administration, Gayle Manchin signed an ethics ethics agreement that stated:

I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter . . . in which I know that a person whose interests are imputed to me has a financial interest directly and predictably affected by the particular matter, unless I first obtain a written waiver.

Canter, the chief ethics counselor at CREW, said Manchin’s investments may have posed a conflict of interest.

“Under the criminal conflict of interest statute, 18 USC 208, Ms Manchin is required to recuse from any particular matter that would have a direct and predictable effect on her financial interests,” she said. “For example, she would be barred from participating in the Appalachian Investors Alliance award, if it would affect her financial interest in West Virginia Growth Investment LLC or any of its underlying investments.”

According to Canter, in the case of the ARC grant awards, “If her coinvestor was representing the grantee, she would arguably have a recusal requirement based on her outside business relationship with him since it would cause a reasonable person to question her impartiality.”

A spokesperson for the Appalachian Regional Commission said that “ARC has safeguards in place to protect the integrity of our work.”

The spokesperson added:

Federal cochair Gayle Manchin does not have any financial relationships with organizations that have received ARC funding. If ARC were to receive a grant application from an entity with which she has financial ties, the federal cochair would recuse herself from involvement, per federal government ethics requirements.

The ARC spokesperson and its inspector general did not respond to questions about whether Manchin recused herself from discussions involving the AIA grant or sought an ethics waiver on the matter.

You can subscribe to David Sirota’s investigative journalism project, the Lever, here.

Daniel Boguslaw is an investigative reporter covering American politics and corporate greed. He has written for the New Republic, the Nation, Sludge, the Intercept, and the American Prospect.

David Moore is a money-in-politics reporter for the Lever.

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ABSOLUTIST OPINIONS

By Arlen Grossman

I somehow found an email thread that seemed to be populated with Republicans, who wanted to blame and tear down President Biden for all the problems of this country and the world. Here was my response:

The problem with all these absolutist opinions is that people shouldn’t be so sure they have all the answers. My side (Democrats, pro-Biden) believes Trump should have been convicted after his impeachments. The other side (Republicans, pro-Trump) is convinced everything is Biden’s fault and he should be impeached.

 

As you can see, both sides live in different realities. My side gets most of its opinions from MSNBC, CNN, The NY Times and other “mainstream” news sources. The other side gets most of its opinions from Fox News and it’s TV imitators, talk radio, right-wing websites, etc. Thus we are left with two realities, two “truths.”

 

If we continue like this, our country will continue going downhill, and we will find it difficult to find solutions we can all agree with. I guess what I am trying to say is that we can’t be all sure we have all the answers. Somehow we have to find a way to come together to solve the multiple problems this country has. 

 

Thus, as tempting as it is, we can’t blame everything on Trump nor everything on Biden. We should at least make an effort to be open-minded and understand that not everything is black and white, but rather there are some gray areas. Am I alone in thinking like this? Is there a better way to understand politics than “my side” is always right, and “your side” is always wrong?

 

Food for thought.

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