Heather November 10, 2022

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON

. ▷  LISTEN

Two days after an election in which the Republican Party attacked the Democrats for inflation, today’s consumer price index data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that inflation is slowing more quickly than expected. It rose just 0.4% in October, making the rate over the past twelve months also come in lower than expected at 7.7%. 

The stock market had its biggest jump since 2020, with the different indexes observers use to measure the market all rising. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped more than 1,200 points, or 3.7%; the S&P 500 jumped 5.54%; and the Nasdaq Composite surged 7.35%, the best it has done since March 2020.

In a statement, President Joe Biden promised to continue to work to get prices down but noted that his policies are having an effect. “[O]ur economy has reopened, new jobs are being created, new businesses are growing, and now, we are seeing progress in getting inflation under control—with additional measures taking effect soon.”

Then Biden appeared to reach out to Republicans interested in forging a way forward from their party’s politics of the recent past, while also recalling that for all their complaints about inflation, their only plan to fix the problem was to cut taxes for the wealthy again. Virtually no economist said cutting taxes would help inflation, and many said such a policy would actually make inflation worse. 

Biden said: “I will work with anyone—Democrat or Republican—on ideas to provide more breathing room to middle-class and working families. And I will oppose any effort to undo my agenda or to make inflation worse. We are on the right path—we need to keep moving forward to build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

Biden appeared to have wind under his wings, though, as with this recent vote of confidence he looks forward to the rest of his term. The 27th United Nations Climate Change conference is being held right now in Egypt, and the U.S. administration today announced a new policy for dealing with climate change. Arguing that climate change and the shortages and damage to supply chains it brings create significant financial risk for the government (that is, taxpayers), it advanced a plan to use the federal government’s power as the world’s largest buyer of goods and services—over $630 billion in the last fiscal year—to address climate change.

It would require any federal contractor who gets annual contracts worth more than $7.5 million a year to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, explain their climate-related financial risks, and set emissions reduction targets. 

Climate change is a key issue for Gen Z, who came out for Biden strongly on Tuesday, but Biden’s other major initiative on their behalf ran into trouble today as U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman, a Trump appointee, declared Biden’s student loan relief program illegal. The government has already appealed. 

Meanwhile, the counting of votes continues, with control of both houses of Congress still unclear.

What is clear is that there is a war erupting in the Republican Party. After former president Trump surged to an unexpected victory in 2016, there appeared to be a sense in the Republican Party that he had figured out how to mobilize previously unengaged voters to deliver victories to the Republican Party, and established Republicans increasingly rallied to his standard. 

But he has led the party to defeat now for the third time. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost control of the House, with Democrats picking up 41 seats. In 2020, of course, he lost the election, as well as control of the Senate. And while this year’s outcome is not yet clear, the Democrats have had one of the best midterm performances in recent memory. Suddenly, Trump no longer seems to have a magic formula. 

White nationalist Nick Fuentes told his audience that the solution to the fact Republicans are in a minority and keep losing elections is to establish “a dictatorship.” “We need to take control of the media or take control of the government and force the people to believe what we believe or force them to play by our rules.” 

Others seem to think the answer is just to dump Trump, although as Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) warned Republicans in his closing argument in Trump’s first impeachment trial: “If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel—and for all of history.” 

That his star is tarnished became clear today not just on cable television and Twitter, where right-wing users complained about his hand-picked candidates, and in Pennsylvania, where Republicans were stung by the loss of a Senate seat, but also on media owned by right-wing kingmaker Rupert Murdoch. Today the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal noted Trump’s perfect record of electoral defeat and said: “Trump is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.” 

Apparently stung, Trump unleashed a furious rant on Truth Social, claiming credit for DeSantis’s start in politics. It included an astonishing claim: “I was all in for Ron, and he beat Gillum, but after the Race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County, and Ron was going down ten thousand votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win. I stopped his Election from being stolen….” 

This is an apparent reference to the 2018 election that put DeSantis in the governor’s chair rather than his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum. The race was very close: just 32,463 votes out of 9 million cast, about 0.4%, separated the two candidates. Considering what we now know about Trump’s approach to election results, a claim to having rigged the 2018 Florida election was one heck of a statement. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted that even though Trump “is a pathological liar… this requires some explanation, if only a clear and definitive confirmation that this did not happen.”

Pundits are already suggesting Florida governor Ron DeSantis as a replacement for Trump as a presidential candidate in 2024. This is terribly premature. If, in fact, the party is going to move beyond the Trump years, it seems it might well not turn to DeSantis, who, among other things, is still under investigation for flying a plane load of legal migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, an act not just cruel but possibly illegal. 

There will be plenty of time to worry about 2024. 

In the meantime, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to a Democratic National Committee Event today at the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. Harris told the audience members that their work sent a message to the entire world: Our democracy is intact…. [T]his what it looks like…. Some Democrats won and some Republicans won. That is what happens when more than 100 million Americans participate and vote in free and fair and open elections…. And the people in this room and around our country made that possible by standing up for basic American values: freedom, liberty, and the rule of law.  And I believe when you know what you stand for, you know what to fight for.”

Biden told the attendees that Democrats “beat the odds” in the midterms “for one reason—this is not hyperbole—because of you…. I really mean it…. You believed in the system. You believed in the institutions. You fought like hell for it. And that’s the most important thing that happened, in my view, in this election. It was the first national election since January 6th, and there were a lot of concerns about whether democracy would meet the test.” 

“It did. It did. It did.”

Notes:

NBC News @NBCNewsWATCH: “If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel — and for all of history.” Rep. Schiff makes his closing argument to senators in the impeachment trial of President Trump. 8:31 PM ∙ Feb 3, 2020589Likes172Retweets

Share

© 2022 Heather Cox Richardson
548 Market Street PMB 72296, San Francisco, CA 94104
Unsubscribe

Start writing

Gladiators versus philosophers

Gladiators, the successful ones who survived battle to the death after battle to the death, apparently became celebrity superstars in the Roman Colosseum. In an oligarchy with widespread slavery and poverty, the spectacle of superstar gladiators fighting to the death was the reality TV, the bread and circus, of its day. Passionate crowds were mesmerized and forgot their own troubles screaming at the carnage and voting for life or death at the end of the contest. The power of life or death!

There were also philosophers, scholars and historians in ancient Rome. There was little glory, or money, in any of that, so the intellectuals pursued what they did out of their own passion for knowledge. But they made the average hungry Roman feel stupid — who cares about what’s in a dumb book if you don’t know how to read? Bring on the mighty death defiers!

Which would you rather watch, a vicious battle to the death between heroic gladiators, with savage wild beasts on chains leaping at them to tear them apart, or some boring fuck droning on and on about stupid things you can’t even understand?

Capitalism remembers these important lessons from antiquity. They have been repeated in every epoch, are being repeated right now. It is rage. fear and passion — and courage in the face of death, and bold lies about courage in the face of death, if you lack that courage — that sway gigantic crowds of angry people with easily stirred eternal grievances.

People who think things through generally prefer peace to the hellscape of war. Even warmongers envision peace after the war is won. Eternal peace is every religious person’s vision of Heaven.

Men of action prefer action. Which is more exciting to see, a hard punch in the fucking face, or a thoughtful person thinking and speaking quietly?

Let us hope the iron law of capitalism has not made imbeciles of us all in a land where thoughtful people with the power to do so hesitate to punish open corruption and criminality that threatens everybody, seemingly cowed, while the fans of people powerful enough to remain always above the law arm themselves and prepare for mortal combat to decide what is justice.

I still think human decency and common sense wins, I think it wins tomorrow’s election too, but, if I’m wrong, I’ll see y’all in concentration camp.

Trump’s powerful, yet delicate, lawsuit against totally unfair NY AG

Stable Genius At Work. More political genius from the smartest man to lead a violent political movement since the Führer himself. Got to love this shit. The guy is truly sui generis. His ever-changing crew of lawyers may get fed up, quit, call him nuts, but he doesn’t pay them (unless the RNC ponies up their fees) and just gets new ones.

His latest batch of legal luminaries filed this in Florida state court, the other day, against the New York State Attorney General, after an argument against filing that the boss won. Smarter legal minds than my own have no explanation for this, outside of five dimensional chess in an alternate universe. Here are a couple of nice bits, apparently dictated by the smartest man in the world himself.

This lawsuit means he’s mad as hell, as he was as a baby, a child, a young juvenile delinquent, his father’s reluctant second choice, serially bankrupt business genius, leader of an enraged political movement. Oh, well, I guess he’s got a plan for his Grand New Party!

Propaganda 101 (and remaining nauseously optimistic for the midterms)

The aim of propaganda is the same today as it was when, hundreds of years ago, a Pope first came up with the idea of telling a compelling story, in all the languages of the known world, to propagate the One True Faith.  Motivated by true faith in the absolute truth, armies are capable of waging endless holy war. 

Propaganda is the same as ever, except that the techniques have greatly improved and the means of spreading and receiving it are now in everybody’s pocket, charging next to our beds to be seen as soon as we open our eyes.  Plus, we in the West are primed for propaganda and the non-critical thinking it produces.  We live in a culture where, since our earliest memories, we are bombarded by countless ads targeted directly to people our age, as we grow up.  We learn to mostly tune out ubiquitous ads (at great cost to our attention spans and ability to think critically), but ad-makers learn to influence us anyway.

A short history of American propaganda/advertising was laid out in season three of a great podcast called Drilled [1].  The skinny version is that Edward Bernays (see episode 6 summary [2]), the brilliant nephew of Sigmund Freud, arrived in the US prior to World War One and worked for Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information, the propaganda department tasked with making American men enlist to gloriously fight the enemy in a ridiculous war. They whipped up enthusiasm for The War to End War, The War to Make the World Safe for Democracy (and the war to ensure that American bankers did not lose a shit load of money if Britian and France lost the war).  Bernays distinguished himself with his astute psychological understanding of what motivates humans to fight to the death. Hitler was a great admirer of their ruthlessly effective propaganda and modeled his own propaganda on their zero-sum approach.

After the war Bernays brilliantly applied these same psychological techniques to commercial advertising, which he styled Public Relations.  He is regarded as the Father of Modern Advertising and became wealthy and very well-respected as an American thought leader.   One of his great coups was immensely increasing the market for cigarettes by making it a matter of asserting liberty, freedom and equality for women to smoke.   He also made a tidy sum helping the Oil Industry clean up their filthy image and advance their profit-driven interests.  

Why do millions of people believe plain, easily disproved lies?  They are exposed to nothing but propaganda, 24/7, personalized to tickle and outrage their prejudices.  We all want to be right and we respond best to what makes us feel justified, confirms our biases.  If the actual facts don’t support our views, fuck the facts!  Millions will never hear another side of the story, or the “facts” of the case.   That is by design.  Who decides what people will hear?  Billionaires who buy the public forum and reap vast profits from angry traffic on that forum.  Fair is fair.  Get the government out of our bedrooms!

If the 82 year-old husband of a top Democrat, second in line for the presidency, is assaulted with a hammer by a MAGA maniac looking to cripple the man’s powerful wife, right before a crucial election,… here’s an idea!  The 82 year-old is a randy old adulterous homo (and who does Christ despise more than one of those?) who got into a fight with a gay prostitute!!! Take that, libtards!  Click to retweet!  Click!!!  If you love Jesus, and hate homos, for the love of God, click!  I OWN Twitter, bitches!

This is the power of propaganda, boys and girls.  Where there is no dispute as to the facts — SF police witnessed the “alleged” hammer attack by a MAGA man who smashed a glass door to break into the house of his gay “client” — we can create one by sowing a distracting narrative millions will embrace.   Virtually no election fraud ever found in the US?   THAT DOESN’T MEAN THERE IS NOT A TON OF ELECTION FRAUD, YOU LYING FUCKS!   World burning up, wildfires, droughts, floods, apocalyptic killer storms every season?  BURNING FOSSIL FUELS IS GOOD FOR THE EARTH, YOU FUCKING COMMIE RATS!

And so forth.

I am nauseously optimistic about the 2022 midterm election.  I think, however the propagandists spin it, that a vast majority of Americans are sickened by the openly defiant MAGA march toward fascism.  I think triumphant American fascists (who represent at best 39% of us)  did an in-your-fucking-face victory dance a few months too soon after a zealot like Ginni Thomas (likeliest culprit) leaked Alito’s insane Christian Dominionist/medivalist draft to lock in a nakedly partisan, patriarchal, theocratic opinion clawing back 50 years of hard fought constitutional protection for half of the population.  Women, and men who care about women (most men, believe it or not), should be fucking outraged.   

There are two ways to vent outrage in today’s USA — one is by rioting to prove your lies are TRUE, the other is by voting and getting others to vote, in numbers too big to rig.  I’m hopeful that millions of first time voters, and formerly indifferent voters, are going to turn out to say HELL, NO! to American autocracy.  This is my hope in spite of knowing the diabolical power of propaganda/advertising and endless, lying attack ads.

53 or 54 actual democracy-focused Democrats in the Senate, maintaining even a slim majority in the House, and we have a decent shot to head off the criminals who openly defy all norms and all laws in the name of a higher calling: absolute power for the already obscenely privileged.  As one of their right-wing forebears famously put it (I paraphrase slightly)  “extremism in the cause of owning the fucking blood-drinking, child-molesting, godless commie, fascist Left is no vice.”   Nah, not in our democracy, assholes.

[1]  Here’s the link: https://www.drilledpodcast.com/s3-the-mad-men-of-big-oil/

[2] from Drilled:

Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, coined the term “public relations” when propaganda started to become a negative term. His specialty was using psychological know-how to manipulate the masses and orchestrate cultural shifts in his clients’ favor (clients like Standard Oil, the American Tobacco Company, and General Motors). A few decades later, W. Howard Chase built onto that foundation with the idea of issues management—predicting an industry’s potential issues, and manipulating political, social, and cultural forces to neutralize them. Chase is responsible for one of the best-known examples of greenwashing, the so-called “crying Indian ad,” which introduced the idea of “litter bugs” and individual responsibility for pollution. Transcript