Lies vs Democracy

This post first appeared at Imagine Democracy.

Well-funded lies are very effective.

The tobacco companies proved that with well-funded propaganda lies (a.k.a. “marketing”) you can get people to kill themselves while giving you their money.

The firearms industry proved that with well-funded propaganda lies you can convince people to allow kindergarteners to be killed while giving you their money.

Trump proved that well-funded propaganda lies (and media participation) he could convince people to kill democracy while giving him their money.

Now the oil&coal companies are proving that well-funded propaganda lies can get people to kill the planet while giving them their money.

Democracy doesn’t have an advertising agency to counter this stuff. This is why we need a Department of Democracy.

FDR And “Court Packing” – Just One More “Truth” That Isn’t True

A lot of things we “know” about history come from “one side.” For example, we “know” that “protectionism” caused the Great Depression. Except it didn’t.

Who benefits from convincing the public that protecting national interests is bad if it reduces corporate profits? There are so, so many “truths” like that.

Another “Truth”: Court Packing is Bad

Here’s another “truth.” FDR tried to “pack the Supreme Court” and it was very, very bad.

I thought I’d look up what the Supreme Court was actually doing that led to FDR trying to do something to balance the Court, and what happened when he finally did try. Go ahead and try to find answers (the actual truth) to that question. It’s hard to find.

Eventually, if you know the right search terms, you might come across this, at a site called fdr4freedoms. (I’ll be exploring that site further.)

From The New Deal and the Supreme Court,

In 1932 and 1936, Americans enthusiastically embraced FDR’s vision of a federal government ready to use its power to make real improvements in their lives. They voted for him overwhelmingly. With Democratic majorities (augmented by Republican progressives) dominating both houses of Congress, the legislature also resoundingly endorsed FDR’s program of bold experimentation.

… But opponents in business and elsewhere repeatedly sued to block the laws. As these challenges reached the high court in 1935, four justices, with the help of one or two swing votes, began striking down the new laws as unconstitutional.

Summary: FDR worked to save regular people from the suffering caused by the depression. The sensible things he wanted to do were very, very popular. But it threatened corporate profits. The Court struck down FDR’s attempts to use government to help and protect the public.

More specifically,

The court struck down laws securing a minimum wage, maximum work hours, and the right to unionize for workers. It rejected pension programs and child labor restrictions, price codes and farm subsidies.

… “The Constitution grants to Congress no power to regulate for the promotion of the general welfare,” as the majority proclaimed in a 1936 case striking down a minimum wage and other regulation in the coal industry.

The Court said the government has no power to protect the public from anything the rich and corporations do to them! It even ruled that states couldn’t set minimum wages by themselves!

What Happened When FDR Threatened To Add Justices?

FRD proposed a plan to reduce the Court’s workload (badly needed then and even more now) and balance the Court by appointing an additional Supreme Court justice for every sitting justice over the age of seventy.

Result: The Court began to rule for the public! The Court ruled in favor of state minimum wage laws. This was dubbed “the switch in time that saved nine.” Then the Court ruled in favor of the National Labor Relations Act, protecting striking workers. Next it upheld the Security Act’s retirement and unemployment benefits. And then one of the right-wing Justices announced his retirement.

After these reversals, interest in rebalancing and expanding the Court faded.

The “Court Packing” threat WORKED.

FDR proposed rebalancing the Court. Immediately the Court started ruling in the public’s favor. One of the right-wing Justices even retired.

It worked. Threatening to rebalance the court SUCCEEDED! So when you hear that Democrats shouldn’t try to balance the Court today because it was bad when FDR tried to “pack the court,” you’re hearing that because “one side’ has made it a “truth.”

It’s is time to rebalance the Court.

How Do You Argue With This?

I mean it as a question. How do you argue with this?

From a trumper I know:

Your friends seem to have all of this “information” at their fingertips, don’t they. So what! What is that information but leftist tropes designed to influence the masses and to gain power. They seize the territory of common belief, speaking earliest, loudest and most often. They employ a sprinkling of objective facts that may be easily confirmed, well-mixed with a carefully groomed, generous selection of friendly inventions that cannot. They tell a story calculated to most tickle sordid fancy and to invoke emotion, conclusion, and judgment. They leave no uncomfortable loose ends that encourage open-ended thought or provisional conclusion – the result of such is entirely unpredictable. They do these things so that they will be nearly impossible to contradict no matter how outrageous, grand, or comprehensive their departure from the truth. And they do this for what…a feeling of accomplishment…perhaps to be part of the regime, once the grand revolution has been accomplished?

… Frankly, most people don’t have the time to respond to each and every misdeed, lie or slanderous canard put out by the press, the left or you and your friends. You and they, on the other hand, seem to have unlimited time to wear down and slander the opposition. Again, what is your end game? On second thought, I already know and won’t waste my time with the bark, bark, barking of the dogs of war. I have learned the futility of speaking civilly and factually with you and the others.

Disproving their nonsense proves there is a conspiracy to manipulate information, leading to the “grand revolution.”

Literally, how do you argue with this?

Older Democrats Learned The Wrong Lessons From Nixon and Reagan

In today’s news, Biden promises not to use the power he has to make people’s lives better, and boost the economy.

“…it’s arguable that the president may have the executive power to forgive up to $50,000 in student debt,” Biden said. “Well, I think that’s pretty questionable. I’m unsure of that. I’d be unlikely to do that.”

Biden does, in fact, have that power. He’s saying he will not use it.

My observation from watching this crap for so long is that there is a generation of Democratic politicians who learned terrible, wrong lessons from Nixon/McGovern and then Reagan and the rise of the “conservative” propaganda machine. They got beat up so bad and still don’t really understand what happened to them and are still cowering from doing anything that might provoke another beating.

Back then the Democratic party had been riding on the FDR (plus Medicare & Great Society) wave of Dem goodwill for so long that they let the structures and understandings that support political action atrophy. So along came a billionaire-and-corporate-funded conservative movement machine that understood marketing, and how to neutralize opposition, etc, and just wiped the floor with them.

Please don’t hit me again!

What those Dems unfortunately learned was not to do anything that could let them be accused of being “communists” or “soft on crime” or “taxing and spending” or “weak on defense” etc. (They also learned never to put on a protective helmet and ride in a tank.) They learned not to do or say anything that might trigger another beating. They especially learned not to ever propose doing things that help the public & is good for society because it will be portrayed as helping minorities.

They firmly believe that anything any Democrat does to help working people, the general public and society in general will be “portrayed” in a bad way that elects more Republicans, and they see it as their mission to stop any Dem from doing so. Lest they receive another beating. They always have to get the abuser’s permission to do anything. (They call that bipartisanship.)

Biden, Pelosi, Feinstein and so many others are representative of what I’m talking about.

So Much For The System

What was left of our “system” has now passed the turning point.

We wanted accountability for crimes we could clearly see with our own eyes. But Republicans effectively killed investigations or oversight in the Congress. The people at the top of the FBI and Justice Dept were removed and the rest held under threat of ruin. The entire system of checks and balances was besieged.

We the People were left hopeless and helpless, no part of our government able to step up and tell us why the crimes we could see happening were continuing. So we put all of our eggs in the Mueller basket for any remaining hope to save us.

We all saw collusion and obstruction in plain sight, and believed the Mueller investigation knew even more. We KNOW there was money laundering, extortion, bribery, fraud, lies and lies and lies and you name it. Don Jr lied to Congress and we know it. Erik Prince did, and we know that. Flynn and Gates and Cohen and others were given light or no sentences so they could tell us what happened.

We know that at the least Trump had lied about his plans to build Trump Tower Moscow. The Russians knew at the time that he had lied so he was compromisable. And he acted compromised. (Meeting alone with Putin with no transcription? Ending sanctions?)

Our remaining hope for accountability lay in Mueller’s investigation and we were let down. The basket dropped and our remaining eggs are broken. Those who want accountability have lost. We failed to kill the king and now we face the consequences. The right’s media/propaganda/lie machine has an ability to set the discourse and reach the public that outweighs our ability to do anything about it. Trump is now exonerated for every crime or future crime and will be beyond reach.

The right-wing drumbeat to leave Trump alone will now become merciless. Dems will now be cast as sore-losers who engaged in a plot to to smear a good, Godley man and his family for political gain. Anyone questioning Trump’s divine right to rule will be marginalized, ostracized, called you name it. Democrats will be the radicals who want to force us into communist training camps

I asked in May, 2017, “Will our system withstand the attack? We don’t know. Kleptocracy is powerful.”

Now we know the answer. The promise of a “taste” of the kleptocracy will buy Republicans a lot of good will. (Stock buybacks alone have topped $1 trillion since the tax cuts.)

The Republican project is complete. Accountability is over. Corruption rules. The rich and powerful are fully in charge. “American carnage” reigns.

There Are No Real Republican “Deficit Hawks.” Here’s Why.

Democrats are making a terrible mistake fighting the Republican tax cuts by saying they add to the deficit, that they will “blow a hole in the budget,” etc.

Why are Democrats saying this? They are using the “increase deficits” line because they think they can appeal to a few “deficit hawk” Republicans who spent the Obama years complaining about government sending and “deficits.”

It is a mistake for Democrats to think they can “get Republican votes” by mouthing Republican deficit-fear rhetoric without understanding the strategy behind their rhetoric.

Strategy: Republicans Create Deficits, Stoke Deficit Fear, Then Campaign Against Government Spending

Here’s the thing. There are no real Republican “deficit hawks.” Republicans stoke deficit fear, and then say they are opposed to budget deficits. But they always, always increase deficits. On purpose. There’s a reason.

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White House Propaganda, Graft: This Is Not Normal

Early in this millennium, Mississippi’s Trent Lott was the Senate’s Majority Leader. Then it was disclosed that he had done something outside the bounds of what most Americans considered “normal” and acceptable. Lott had spoken favorably about Strom Thurmond’s 1948 Presidential candidacy on a platform of racial segregation. So he had to go.

Favorable comments about a segregationist were enough to unseat a national leader fifteen years ago. This was considered a major scandal, and a short time after his comments were revealed, Lott was forced to resign his leadership position in the Senate.

That is what “normal” used to mean. That was then, this is now.

Breitbart is a “news” website, which was until recently run by Steve Bannon. It is a far-right outlet that promotes “alt-right” concepts often involving white nationalism.

Bannon often refers to what he calls a “‘Camp of the Saints’-type invasion” to describe what he sees as a rising tide of threats to Western civilization. When he says these things,  Bannon is referring to a 1973 French novel that “describes the takeover of Europe by waves of immigrants that wash ashore like the plague,” and “reframes everything as the fight to death between races.”

Steve Bannon, race-baiting propagandist, is now the White House Chief Strategist. Yet this is not a national scandal.

In fact, Bannon is not the only “alt -right” person in the Trump White House. Other Breitbart staffers are also getting jobs in the new administration, as are other far-right figures. It is said that White House alt-right figures removed reference to the genocide of Jewish people in the White House’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.

This is not normal.

President Trump recently accused former president Obama of a massive criminal conspiracy involving abusing presidential power to “wiretap” Trump’s campaign to help Trump’s opponent. This is , to say the least, not normal.

The White House has begun sending Americans a daily state-propaganda email “newsletter” called “Your 1600 Daily.” It is sent unsolicited, in violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act. It comes from an official White House government email address, and is signed by “The White House. ”

One day this briefing advertised a meeting with “victims of Obamacare.” Another asks Americans to “Share Your Obamacare Disaster Story With President Trump.” Wednesday’s makes the claim, “Under his leadership, the United States will be the world’s great magnet for innovation and job creation.”

It promotes extremist news outlets like Townhall, and white nationalist outlets like Breitbart.

This is just not normal. In other times this, too, would be a major scandal.

And then there is the blatant moneymaking. Last week China granted Trump a number of lucrative trademarks, after Trump broke a campaign promise to declare China as a currency manipulator, which would have initiated a process that could lead to tariffs on Chinese-made goods entering the country.

This week we learn that the family of Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner will make at least $400 million in “a sweetheart deal” with a Chinese-government-connected firm.

But there are a number of red flags surrounding the transaction, and no way to rule out concerns that this represents just the latest instance of potential conflicts between the Trump administration’s obligation to the public and its own financial gain.

And that’s just a taste of the financial shenanigans going on. For example, despite Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington from the influence of lobbyists, his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has started a lobbying firm. See if you can guess what he’s selling to clients.

Fox News commentator Monica Crowley was asked to join the Trump White House, but had to back out after it was disclosed that she had engaged in plagiarism. Now it is reported that she is going to work as a lobbyist for Victor Pinchuk, a Ukrainian billionaire and Putin supporter. She’s making big bucks, because she has influence with the Trump White House. That is just a recent example of so many examples of corruption.

But wait, there’s more. The President of the United States is holding campaign rallies just one, two months into presidency. And he is raising “campaign funds” from donors. What?

Meanwhile the Republicans in Congress, in the thrall of corporate cash and billionaires, assist their benefactors rather than do their Constitutional duty to hold these people accountable.

This is like the story of the frog in boiling water. The water is starting to boil, but because the warming happens slowly, the frog gets used to it and doesn’t notice it is cooking.

What’s going on here is not normal. They are so much not normal and happening so fast that we risk becoming desensitized to what normal means.

So a reminder: This is not normal. Do not allow yourself to ease into any level of acceptance of this, or a belief that what is happening in our country is part of a pattern or a political pendulum that will swing the other way or a back and forth between parties or think checks and balances are going to save us and our nation.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.

Trump Punch Down Strategy Endangers Local Union Leader

“You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.” That’s the kind of threats a local union official is getting after President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump tweeted something bad about him.

“You gonna die. Death is coming to you real soon.” A Florida woman is arrested for threatening the parents of a child killed at Sandy Hook. Trump-tied “fake news” sites claim the shootings there were a “hoax” intended to push gun control.

A guy shows up at a Pizza shop based on conspiracy theories — some pushed out by Trump insiders, others by the same Trump-related websites and radio shows that pushed the Sandy Hook hoax — claiming Hillary Clinton runs a child sex trafficking ring from its basement. He brings an assault rifle,

… terrifying customers and workers with his ­assault-style rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States…

Is this the “new normal” for our country?

Trump Attacks Local Union Leader

The latest example of this top-down attacking involves Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) local 1999. Local 1999 represents workers at Indiana’s Carrier furnace and air conditioner manufacturer.

After Trump falsely announced that he had made a deal to “save” 1,100 Carrier jobs Jones said Trump had, “… for whatever reason, lied his a– off.” (See LA Times, Trump’s Carrier jobs triumph looks more like a sham every day.)

Trump publicly responded to Jones on Twitter,

and

This is the next President of the United States publicly attacking a guy who is president of a local union in Indiana, singling him out for national attention. And this national humiliation and endangerment by the next President of the United States is because the guy told the truth after Trump did not.

According to the Washington Post report, Donald Trump insulted a union leader on Twitter. Then the phone started to ring., “My first thought was, ‘Well, that’s not very nice,’ ” he told The Washington Post on Wednesday night. “Then, ‘Well, I might not sleep much tonight.’ ”

Then things started to get bad,

Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.

He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

But there’s more to it. Attacking a union’s leadership, saying “no wonder companies are fleeing the country,” the union should have “kept those jobs in Indiana” and saying the union should “spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.” is classic management anti-union propaganda. Saying the union is costing jobs is a union busting tactic intended to drive a edge between the union and rank-and-file workers.

This anti-union action shows the mindset of Trump toward working people. It sends a signal. If unions try to help their membership, and challenge Trump’s tactics and facts, Trump will attack them and threaten their leadership.

Support For Jones: #ImWithChuck

Not everyone is intimidated by these attacks on individuals by the next President.

In response to Trump’s attack on Jones, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued this statement,

Chuck Jones is a man of passion, conviction and integrity who would do anything for his union brothers and sisters. President Gerard is exactly right – Chuck is a hero. An attack on him is an attack on all working people.

Chuck is right to call out the president-elect for inflating the number of jobs that will be saved at Carrier. He understands better than anyone that these are more than numbers—they are people with families to support and bills to pay.

Instead of attacking those who have been working hard to save jobs, the president-elect needs to engage with local union leaders at Carrier and at his hotel in Las Vegas. Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is breaking the law by not bargaining with its newly unionized employees. Mr. Trump will soon occupy the White House. His words and actions need to befit that office.

Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing tweeted this about Jones,

Also on Twitter, the hashtag #ImWithChuck has messages of support of Jones.

This Is The Next President?

Trump, believe it or not, is President-elect on the United States. That is a position of great power, commanding great influence over what people think and do. When Trump or those around him “punch down” and publicly attack individuals or advance bizarre conspiracy theories, it puts people in danger. Trump and those around him don’t seem to care. And by publicly not caring and continuing to do it, it starts to look like intent.

Trump and the people around him are, in essence, sending these nuts after people. Provoking. Inciting. But with the tweets attacking Chuck Jones using classic union-busting propaganda Trump is also strategically attacking the interests of all working people.

Republicans ‘Working The Ref’ With War On IRS

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was forced to testify on Wednesday before a Republican impeachment committee. Republicans are doing this because the IRS (under a previous commissioner) dared to check whether organizations applying for special IRS nonprofit status were following the law or illegally promoting candidates.

Republicans in Congress want to send the IRS and other government agencies a clear message: If government employees try to make corporate/conservative movement organizations follow the laws and rules, Republicans will make their lives miserable, bankrupt them and ruin their careers. And thanks to the huge sums of “dark” money flowing to Republican candidates from billionaires and corporations, they have the power to do it.

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Chamber of Commerce Works To Defeat, Not Implement Its Own Members Preferences

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims to be “a business federation representing companies, business associations, state and local chambers in the U.S., and American Chambers of Commerce abroad.” They claim to be “the voice of” their members. They are supposed to represent their members.

So what does the Chamber do when it learns that their members support policies that do not align with the right-wing ideology of the “conservative movement”? Do they work to implement the policies their members support? Or do they hire experts to manipulate their members and the public into thinking that businesses do not support what they know their members actually do support? (Hint: they don’t go with their members.)

If the Chamber of Commerce is not really the voice of its members as it claims, whose voice does the Chamber really represent, and why?

Wait, What?

Here’s the story. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) – the people who exposed ALEC – obtained a confidential poll and webinar done by LuntzGlobal, the polling firm of prominent GOP pollster Frank Luntz, for Chamber of Commerce lobbyists.

The Council of State Chambers (COSC) commissioned Frank Luntz’ firm LuntzGlobal to poll members and potential members, and found they overwhelmingly support progressive policies. The poll of 1,000 local, state and national top senior corporate executives who are either current or prospective Chamber members found that business executives overwhelmingly support progressive policies. Some of the poll results:

● 80 percent of current or prospective Chamber members support raising their state’s minimum wage – only eight percent opposed it,
● 73 percent support paid sick days,
● 78 percent support predictive scheduling policies,
● 72 percent support increased maternity leave time,
● and 82 percent support increased paternity leave time, among other policies.

What did the Chamber do after learning that their members support these policies? In response, the Chamber had Luntz’ firm instruct lobbyists on messaging to use to defeat policies their own members support.

Webinar On How To “Combat” What Its Members Support

LuntzGlobal held a webinar for the Chamber’s Council of State Chambers lobbyists on how to counteract this support, so they can advance their anti-worker agenda. From the webinar:

“So what we’ll try to do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these [workplace reform efforts and their popularity among business leaders] in your states…”

“This webinar reveals just how deeply corporate interests and their lobbyists are influencing the priorities of state Chambers of Commerce, even when that agenda contradicts the opinions of their local business members,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of CMD. “Rather than listening to its members and crafting a policy agenda that reflects their priorities, Chamber lobbyists pick their policy positions behind closed doors and then figure out how to convince their members to fall in line.”

According to CMD:

The U.S. Chamber has close ties to some of the largest multinational corporations in the world, including Koch Industries, whose leaders, Charles and David Koch, have funded an array of groups that actively oppose policies like increasing the minimum wage. The Koch brothers’ group Freedom Partners has donated millions to the Chamber of Commerce in recent years. In January, the Council of State Chambers held a session for state lobbyists on “Policy and Politics in 2016,” where Marc Short, then-President of Freedom Partners, was a designated speaker.

The LuntzGlobal survey reflects a national sample of business owners and executives who are registered voters and who are members of the local, state, or U.S. Chamber of Commerce or match the profile of executives that the chambers would want to attract. In all, 73% were CEOs or owners; more than half (59%) had revenues of between $50 million and $500 million; 39% had fewer than 100 employees while another 41% had 100-499 employees. The results included 250 responses per region (East, Midwest, South, West), with results weighted among all states in each region.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog covered this story Monday, in “Leaked documents show strong business support for raising the minimum wage,” It begins:

Whenever minimum wage increases are proposed on the state or federal level, business groups tend to fight them tooth and nail. But actual opposition may not be as united as the groups’ rhetoric might make it appear, according to internal research conducted by a leading consultant for state chambers of commerce.

The survey of 1,000 business executives across the country was conducted by LuntzGlobal, the firm run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, and obtained by a liberal watchdog group called the Center for Media and Democracy. … Among the most interesting findings: 80 percent of respondents said they supported raising their state’s minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed it.

CMD’s Mary Bottari explains, in “Highlights of Luntz Poll of American CEOs Shows Broad Support for Progressive Policies“:

There is no force in America that has spent more time and effort to keep wages low than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the state chambers that aggressively lobby against increasing the minimum wage. The U.S. Chamber is a $165 million dollar lobby shop (2013 990), which raised and spent $35 million in the 2014 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.

The Chamber has lobbied on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country to block, federal, state, and local wage hikes. It has been active in states like Wisconsin to preempt local minimum wages ordinances. It has lobbied against paid sick days in many states, including recently in New Jersey. At the federal level, the Chamber has lobbied againstthe “Minimum Wage Fairness Act,” which gradually raises wages to $10.10.

“Unconscionable”

“With their internal polls showing that business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage by an overwhelming 80-to-8 percent, it’s unconscionable that the U.S. Chamber and state chambers continue to fight the wage increases that America’s workers and our economy need,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

You can see videos, transcript, the poll, and presentation slides from the webinar here.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.