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The Engine Room of Right-Wing Propaganda

  Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I’ve written not a word in a week. Here, therefore, is an oldie from September 2021, a sort of backgrounder on the Heritage Foundation, whose “fellows” are even now hard at work on Project 2025 , which they hope will finish off democracy once and for all.    How many times, over the last few decades, have we heard mention of the Heritage Foundation, and thought nothing of it? It’s always been one of those names in the background, just below the surface of the discussion. It’s often accompanied by the words “conservative think tank,” which led me to wonder what they think about. Especially in this age of big lies, insurrection, and election subversion. So I took a closer look. Turns out, “think tank” is an apt description, because these are the guys who do the actual thinking — such as it is — for the Republican party. Ever since Reagan, Heritage has provided Republicans with the specious reasoning they use to explain — or
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The Media Wakes Up and Smells the Fascism

  A funny thing happened on the way to the 2024 horserace. The mainstream media brought Hitler into the conversation. Trump gave them no choice. He kept amping up his rants in terms that were so explicitly Nazi, so lifted — practically verbatim — from Hitler’s speeches, that it was hard for them to keep ignoring what they’ve willfully ignored for so long. When Trump used the word ‘vermin’ in his Veteran’s Day speech , he was taking a whole chapter from the fascism playbook. Whether he knew it or not. Dehumanization — the art of equating human beings with insects — is a classic stochastic terrorism technique, beloved of dictators the world over. In Rwanda in the nineties, the Hutu tribe openly called its rival Tutsis “cockroaches” on the radio, inciting its members to exterminate them with machetes, which they did. We’ll probably never know who actually wrote the Vermin speech — Stephen Miller or Steve Bannon are likely suspects — but we can be sure it wasn’t T

Do We Have to Talk About Trump Again?

  Donald Trump has achieved his life’s work. All he ever wanted was to be rich and famous, and he certainly has a claim on both. But the results are mixed, and in both cases, he might have been more careful what he wished for. Rich? Rich was something bestowed on him by his father, despite an obvious dearth of business aptitude. Somehow, through sheer chutzpah, he managed to impersonate a self-made tycoon for forty years. More than that, he lived rich, flamboyantly so, and not enough people questioned where that money came from. We now know that astonishing amounts of his gains were ill-gotten, but we still don’t know the real extent of those gains — or losses, for that matter — and may never. But as his assets get sent into receivership in the next months and years, we’ll learn more about the murky business practices that were covered up by Alan Weisselberg’s cooked books and false valuations, and we might even learn how rich Trump actually is. Or was. Or wasn’t.

Things Have Been Too Cheap for Too Long

  Once upon a time, gasoline cost roughly 35 cents a gallon. That halcyon era came to an abrupt halt during the Carter administration, when oil-rich Arab states severely constricted our petroleum supply, causing hours-long lines at the gas pump that are still fresh in the memory of anyone who was there. When the dust cleared, gas was four times more expensive, and now we count ourselves lucky if it’s only ten times that long-ago price. But we did get over it, more or less. We learned to live with it. Around that time, some pundit I can’t remember said something that has stuck with me ever since. To paraphrase, “This country was built on cheap energy and cheap labor, and we’re running out of both.” It stuck with me because it’s even truer now than it was then. This despite the best efforts of corporate interests — and their Republican flunkies in government — to do all they can to keep both energy and labor as cheap as possible. For several decades, they made

Warning: Red States may be Hazardous to your Health

In late September, a Nebraska woman was sentenced to two years in prison for helping her daughter obtain abortion pills. The case was less about abortion than about some bizarre behavior regarding the burial of the fetal remains, but this is still appalling on any number of levels. Even so, that’s not what piqued my interest. Rather, I was drawn to one curious footnote to the story, and I’ve heard nothing about it since. Apparently, the judge in the case had ordered the woman to undergo a psychological evaluation prior to sentencing. Presumably, the results might have helped to mitigate her sentence. Which sounds reasonable, perhaps even routine. But that evaluation never happened. It was, strangely, “cancelled due to lack of funding.” Huh? A person whose future may have hinged on that evaluation was denied it because the state couldn’t afford it? How underfunded are we talking? How many other people moving through the Nebraska judicial system haven’t rece

What Poland's Election Tells Us about Us

  It’s hard to identify the most important story of the last few weeks. Between the Mideast crisis, the flipping of Trump’s inner circle, and the inanity of Jim Jordan and his GOP clown show, it’s hard for anything less than a major bombshell to get our attention. So what was arguably the most consequential event of the bunch slipped largely under the radar. That would be the parliamentary election in Poland, where a democracy on life support just might have been saved, and in the nick of time. The eccentric movements of history always take a while to understand, but I, for one, hope to look back on this particular moment as a clear marker in the pushback against fascism, a pushback that has been percolating for some time. I consider this event monumental in the same way that the repudiation of Trump in 2020 was monumental, its foul aftertaste notwithstanding. This is right up there with the Kansas abortion referendum of 2022, the spectacular midterm wins of tha

The Middle East Situation is All Question Marks

Even after a week, the obscene Hamas attacks on Israel have lacked for a coherent narrative.  I tried to construct one, and gave up in frustration. There are simply too many threads to follow, and each thread ends in a question mark. As I tend to follow the threads less travelled, here are some of the questions I’ve been asking, not that I expect any real answers: Were Russia and Iran just as Surprised as Israel? When news of these attacks first broke, it was widely assumed that both Iran and Russia were key figures, lurking in the background, pulling the strings. Iran had supplied Hamas with missiles. Russia had repeatedly hosted Hamas leaders in Moscow. All this was suggestive of multi-dimensional chess being played by the big boys in the region. But not so fast. More recent reports , citing U.S. intelligence sources, have revealed that they don’t think Iran knew anything about Hamas’ plans. Or at least they were taken aback by the news. Then Mark Galeotti — a go-to Russia