#1604 The Border Crisis is Manufactured for Political Opportunity (Transcript)

Air Date 1/17/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we will look at why it is evident that the immigration debate is more about acquiring raw power than about immigration, as demands from the Republican party change along with whatever strategies they feel are most likely to get Republicans elected. And in the age of Trump, of course, that means the most draconian, harmful, and ultimately pointless and cruel demands to date. Sources today include Under the Shadow, Democracy Now!, The NPR Politics Podcast, What Next, and The Thom Hartmann Program, with additional members-only clips from The Majority Report.

The Beginning Monroe and Migration Part 1 - Under the Shadow - Air Date 1-9-24

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: 200 years ago, on December 2nd, 1823, under a dark, moonless sky, then-President James Monroe delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress. In his address, Monroe lays out what would become both one of the most consequential and devastating ideas for Latin America. It would be called the Monroe [00:01:00] Doctrine, an articulation of the United States's sovereign right to bend Latin America to its will. And the US would repeatedly cite it as a perennial warrant to invade foreign countries, overthrow leaders, and police the Americas. At least that's what it became. But that wasn't the idea in the beginning. 

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, yeah. I mean, other countries have statements; we have doctrines. You know, that's the thing. 

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: That's historian Greg Grandin. 

GREG GRANDIN: I teach history at Yale University. And I'm the author of a number of books, the most recent one being The End of the Myth. 

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: He's also the author of Empire's Workshop, which looks at Latin America's role as a testing ground for US imperial strategies. 

GREG GRANDIN: So basically the language of the Monroe Doctrine, it was scattered throughout this larger, many thousand word speech, and it was very vague on what the intentions were. Basically, summed up, it said that, quote unquote, the free and independent nations of the two American continents were off limits for [00:02:00] future colonization by any European power. And Monroe let it be known that any effort to, quote unquote, extend Europe's system to any portion of the hemisphere would be viewed as the United States as a threat. That's the core of what we think of as the Monroe Doctrine.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: It was actually a pretty simple idea. Europe, stay out of the hemisphere.

Remember, by 1823, most of Spain's former colonies in the Americas had just won their independence. 

GREG GRANDIN: But at the time, the Monroe Doctrine was celebrated by Latin America, by independence leaders. One, they were happy that the United States seemed to finally come out to Latin America, Spanish American independence. That was a huge thing. There was still a couple of big battles left before Spain finally gave up completely.

But the more important thing is that they [00:03:00] read in the Monroe Doctrine a corollary to their own anti-colonialism. They didn't read it as a doctrine of neo-colonialism. They read it as a doctrine of anti-colonialism, that no part of the Americas is eligible for reconquest. They saw it as analogous to their own anti-colonialism.

So there was a lot of, celebratory messages to Monroe from Latin American leaders, thanking him for, not the doctrine, but for the pronouncement. 

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: This is important to understand. Remember, at the time, the US was still small. Settlers were paving their way across the country, violently pushing indigenous peoples from their land. But the United States was far from an empire. In fact, like its newly independent Spanish American neighbors, the US had also freed itself from empire and monarchy only 40 years before. 

MARIXA LASSO: We need to understand that the big division at the time wasn't US/Latin America. It was the [00:04:00] division between republics and monarchies.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: That's Marixa Lasso, she's a Panamanian historian whose research has focused on the Panama Canal and South American liberator Simón Bolívar. 

MARIXA LASSO: This is what people understood at the time and this is really important, because we take it so much for granted, the idea of being a republic, that we forget how radical it was in the early 19th century, how fragile it felt for protagonists like Simón Bolívar. How new it was. Think about it: Only the US was a republic, and then all of these Spanish American new republics. France was not a republic anymore by then. And then you had also Haiti. So, it was new, it was fragile.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: In 1826, Simón Bolívar convened an international congress in Panama, which at the time was still [00:05:00] part of Colombia. Representatives came from most of the newly independent Spanish nations. One of the items on the agenda was, ironically, the establishment of the Monroe Doctrine as a guiding framework against threats of reconquest from Europe, and in particular, Spain.

For this podcast, I visited the location where the conference was held in Panama City. The convent where it took place is gone, but a large statue of Simón Bolívar stands in its place, in a little square down by the waterfront and across the street from Panama's Ministry of Foreign Relations. Bolívar's dream was to unite the countries in some sort of federation.

It failed for far too many reasons to discuss here.

Just three years later, Bolívar is quoted to have said, The United States appears to be destined by providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty. Prophetic words.[00:06:00] 

The US grew, expanded west, killing and removing indigenous peoples from their lands. The United States invaded Mexico, captured Mexico City, and took more than half of the country's land, what is now today most of the Western United States. It was only the beginning. Greg Grandin. 

GREG GRANDIN: As time goes on, the Monroe Doctrine becomes more of a doctrine of, as I mentioned, informal empire, mandatory power. And this is explicit with Theodore Roosevelt and his corollary, which says, Monroe Doctrine basically gives the United States the right to police the hemisphere.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT: The great fundamental issue now before our people can be taken free. 

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: That is the voice of President Theodore [00:07:00] Roosevelt. Unfortunately, there are no recordings of him delivering his 1904 State of the Union address when he made this addendum to the Monroe Doctrine, or what's called the Roosevelt Corollary. The full text, however, is pretty shocking. We asked a voice actor to read an excerpt. 

VOICE ACTOR: Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship. If a nation shows that it knows how to act with reasonable efficiency and decency in social and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, it need fear no interference from the United States. Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, [00:08:00] may, in America, as elsewhere, ultimately require intervention by some civilized nation. And, in the Western Hemisphere, the adherence of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force the United States, however reluctantly, in flagrant cases of such wrongdoing or impotence, to the exercise of an international police power.


MARIXA LASSO: Certain circumstances may force the United States to be exercised upon international police power. No? To protect the world from the general loosening of the ties of civilized society. Those are his words. 

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: Professor Marixa Lasso says that 1904 speech is a justification in many ways... 

MARIXA LASSO: of what happened in Panama, [00:09:00] which is that he supported the separation of Panama from Colombia and then taking control of an area of the Isthmus.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Rep. Greg Casar on GOP’s Hard-Line Immigration Demands in Ukraine Funding Request - Democracy Now! - Air Date 12-13-23

REP. GREG CASAR: It is a really scary time here on Capitol Hill, where Republicans in the Senate are asking Democrats to cave in and hand them some of the worst changes to our immigration system in decades. Republicans and Democrats alike have both said that they support continued assistance to Ukraine, but the Republicans have held that hostage and have said, “First you’ve got to throw immigrant families under the bus.” And like you’ve described, this would mean actually closing legal pathways for migration here and accelerating the deportation and separation of immigrant families.

And so, in the mainstream media, this is often being reported as, “Well, are they going to trade border security for Ukraine money?” But this has nothing to do with changing or improving a situation at the border. What the [00:10:00] Republicans are demanding is making it less easy to legally migrate, and therefore fuel more irregular migration. What they’re talking about is punishing families that are already in our cities and communities, dismantling the asylum system that we established after the enormous we made after World War II, turning refugees away. It is sick.

And so, what we’re asking is for the Biden administration to stop encouraging these talks, asking Leader Schumer to just step in and say, “If we want to debate Ukraine, we should debate Ukraine, but we shouldn’t start throwing immigrant families under the bus.” Next thing, they may ask for an abortion ban nationwide in exchange for something. Are they going to be asking for a ban on gay marriage next time? We just can’t have Democrats doing the Republicans’ dirty work here.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Congressman, as we discussed at the briefing yesterday, the United States has spent over $330 billion the past 20 years on [00:11:00] agencies that do border enforcement, and yet we have record numbers of people attempting to cross the border. What can be done to get Congress to finally address the issue of a much more comprehensive reform of our immigration system?

REP. GREG CASAR: We have to actually want to improve the system for folks in the United States and for people migrating here. Unfortunately, the right wing wants to keep the system as broken as possible so that they can then complain about it. It’s the classic case of the arsonist trying to blame the firefighters for the flames.

And so, in this case, Republican policy—and, frankly, even some conservative and neoliberal Democratic policy—has only fueled greater challenges. Those policies are things like sanctions, imposing harsh sanctions in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, then forcing people who are starving, in part because of our policies, to migrate, and [00:12:00] then complaining about it. Instead, we should make sure that people, if they want to be able to stay at home, stay in their home countries, that they can, and then open up legal pathways for migration. Instead, the Republican proposals we’re dealing with, actually what they mostly would help is cartel profits, because what they want to do is close legal pathways for migration, force people that we are helping starve have to move, oftentimes have to pay criminal organizations, and then the Republicans get to complain about it. It is a toxic brew that Democrats shouldn’t be playing into.

Instead, we should say, “Let’s open up more legal pathways for people to migrate here. Let’s open up the ability for folks to ask for parole and get on a plane and apply and come here and get a work permit quickly.” That would relieve a lot of what you’re seeing on the TV, Fox TV cameras on the border, and actually make things better for people in Latin America and in the United States. But instead, we insist on punishing Latin America, pushing people out of their home countries, and then not opening up legal pathways for them to migrate.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, I [00:13:00] wanted to put this question to you. You and Congressmember Greg Casar were part of a panel yesterday called “200 Years Is Enough: Moving Past the Monroe Doctrine Toward a New Era in U.S.-Latin American Relations.” Can you put this current push at this moment, because the House speaker says they’re going to go home at the end of the week if they don’t get their way on border, Biden is desperate to get money for Ukraine, and so we don’t know at this point what’s going to happen. McConnell says there’s no way they can do this before Christmas. But put this in that broader 200-year context. I mean, you wrote that incredible book that’s now a textbook in so many college classes, called Harvest of Empire. Talk about how this fits in with the Monroe Doctrine and what that was.

JUAN GONZALEZ: The Monroe Doctrine for 200 years has been the basic policy that the United States has pursued in the entire Western [00:14:00] Hemisphere, but especially toward Latin America, telling European and other colonial powers, “You stay out of the Western Hemisphere. This is our backyard,” in essence. And it’s been used repeatedly by U.S. presidents and congresses to invade countries in Latin America, to foment clandestine or covert operations to remove leaders that weren’t sufficiently obedient to the United States. And I think it’s never really been repealed or refuted by U.S. leaders. I mean, there was a small attempt by John Kerry during the Obama administration to claim it was over, but President Trump backtracked on that and went back to the bullying of the United States in Latin America. And I’m wondering, Congressman Casar, your sense of the prospects for being able to have a new [00:15:00] policy for Latin America in the future.

REP. GREG CASAR: It’s time for us to leave that 200-year Monroe Doctrine legacy behind us. And I think a small number of progressives who start to open up a window to a new relationship in Latin America are going to carve the path forward here, because instead of spending our limited resources on things you’ve covered, Juan — overthrowing the government in Guatemala in the ’50s, the invasion of Cuba, arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua, currently continuing to starve instead of feed people in places like Cuba and Venezuela — instead of engaging in that, that, honestly, doesn’t help in Latin America and doesn’t help us here, we can create a new partnership.

I was just in Chile for nearly the anniversary of us helping overthrow the Chilean government of Allende back in the day. And part of the reason we did that is because we wanted to protect United States and Chilean elites in the copper industry. That was [00:16:00] disastrous. So many people died. It helped no one. But instead, finally, we could have a conversation about how do we support democracy and support one another in rising authoritarianism; how, as we head towards a renewable and climate more resilient future, they have, instead, the resources for us to create batteries. How do we create those together and make sure working-class people in Chile and the United States benefit, not just big corporations? There is a real ability for us to work with Latin America to tackle the climate crisis, beat back authoritarianism, address migration. That would actually benefit our constituents and our communities. And I think folks would get reelected on that kind of work in Latin America rather than continued invasions. 

The Migrant Crisis On The Border And The Hill - The NPR Politics Podcast - Air Date 1-11-24

ASHLEY LOPEZ: Migrants are crossing the southwest border in high numbers. In December, border authorities reported 225, 000 encounters with migrants at the U. S. Mexico border. And House Republicans are blaming the Biden administration for the influx of migrants and targeting Homeland Security [00:17:00] Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Wednesday they began the process to impeach the secretary. 

Before we get to all that, though, Jasmine, remind us who is crossing the border right now and why is this happening at such high volumes?

JASMINE GARSD: Sure. I've been covering immigration for several years and I've never seen anything quite like this at the border. And what I'm talking about is a really diverse group of people over the last two years or. So I've met people from Ukraine, from Russia who are fleeing that conflict, a lot of people, a lot of people from Venezuela who are trying to get away from a very repressive government and poverty. A ton of people from Ecuador who, as we saw in very recent news is being really run over by violent gangs, which leads to the next point, which is, I don't think you can talk about this big influx of migration [00:18:00] without talking about the fact that there was a historic rise in the last Year of displaced people worldwide. That's according to the UN, the White House has also signaled that, and it's really, really tangible when you get to the border, that displacement. 

ASHLEY LOPEZ: I know this has changed over time, but can you tell us what happens to these migrants now? They actually reached the border. 

JASMINE GARSD: It really depends on who we're talking about. Really the centerpiece of the Biden administration's immigration policy has been this carrot/stick approach where it encourages people to apply. through legal pathways. You also get plenty of people who are coming in through non legal pathways, and I have to say there's a lot of misinformation there.

I think a lot of people are crossing through via organized crime, and they are being told, "if you cross, just turn yourself over to Border Patrol and you'll get [00:19:00] asylum", which isn't how it works. So many people who I've spoken to in the last year, what happens is they either turn themselves in or they get apprehended and they're given an NTA, a notice to appear in court, which is the initiation of a deportation proceeding. And they can apply for asylum, but the asylum application process, it's really, really complicated. 

ASHLEY LOPEZ: Yeah, and Deidre, the optics of thousands of people amassing at the US border with Mexico obviously is not great for the Biden administration, but optics and policy are two very different things. What is your sense of the reasoning House Republicans are giving for impeaching Secretary Mayorkas right now? 

DEIDRE WALSH: I mean, House Republicans or Republicans in general, I think, see this issue of the crisis at the border as a huge political advantage for their party going into the 2024 election. And in terms of Mayorkas, House Republicans are really singling out the Secretary [00:20:00] of Homeland Security as sort of the person responsible for the failures or the overwhelmed system at the border right now.

They say he's ignoring the law, other people say he's not enforcing the law, but they're making him the poster child. And I think part of that is that the border, whether it's In districts or states along the border, or in districts even away from the border, they're feeling the impact that this situation is having, whether it's in terms of migrants being moved into their communities, like places like New York, or the fentanyl crisis that continues to plague this country and have an impact around the country.

And I think the politics, too, are that there seems to be agreement among House Republicans, which aren't always on the same page, about the issue of addressing immigration and impeaching Mayorkas, while there isn't agreement necessarily about impeaching President Biden. [00:21:00] I mean, they are moving on two tracks to do both, but it seems to me right now they have more agreement amongst their members about targeting the Homeland Security Secretary.

GOP Bets It All on the Border - What Next - Air Date 11-8-23

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: If you are wondering why some Republicans are digging in their heels so hard when it comes to immigration, Mariana Sotomayor says there's a simple reason for that. When Americans get asked who they trust more when it comes to border policy, their answer is Republicans, hands down. 

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: I think when these questions are asked in polling, it is about the border and migrants that are coming in. And there has been a shift in the public about how many people are coming in. There was a record 250,000 migrants that came in through the border in December. 

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: I think you wrote that it was the most recorded ever crossing the border in one month. 



MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: More people are paying attention. It's been interesting even, I will be honest, during this holiday break, going back home, talking to friends who are not even politically involved, kind of having this [00:22:00] top of mind of, "whoa, did you see this?" Republicans are messaging this as part of broader security. The migrant crisis plays into that fear, and Republicans are obviously using that, and they've been good over the years to use that kind of fear politically to be able to win a number of races.

So, it seems like this issue is more front of mind for the public, and the reason it seems like they're siding with Republicans is because there is this feeling of "well, what is Biden doing about it? What is Biden doing about it?" And that's what I hear from voters too, "Why isn't Biden doing anything?"

Well, here's the thing, Biden can only do so much, any president can only do so much through executive order. Through executive order, you definitely can't just overhaul the immigration system. This fundamentally falls on the shoulders of Congress, and they have been unable, for decades, to be able to figure this out. And again, goodwill exists to do that, but because of the margins, because of how politically toxic this issue has become, [00:23:00] Congress has been unable to deal with it. And if past is precedence, then I don't know if they'll be able to figure it out this time. 

And again, it's interesting to me that the public doesn't necessarily realize that, that this is a Congress issue. It is way easier to blame one person. 

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: You're saying Congress is like the hot dog guy meme. Like, "ooh, we're going to look into who did this!" 

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: Yes. Literally, yes. Yes. 

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: Republicans are going to get a chance to focus on immigration in a different way than this bill they're trying to pass when they open up impeachment hearings against the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Can you just tell me what's going to happen with that and how quickly once Congress gets back in session?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: It actually could be pretty quickly. Many Republicans have said that impeaching Mayorkas has always been the lowest hanging fruit, because of the border issue and how it animates the base, and Republicans have successfully made [00:24:00] Mayorkas into a boogeyman from I think the moment he was nominated, not even confirmed to be DHS secretary.

And we have seen the patients run out from certain far right members to impeaching him. Marjorie Taylor Greene in particular, last year, tried to force an impeachment vote against Mayorkas, twice. Both times they referred back to the committee, the Homeland Security Committee, who has already been investigating Mayorkas over time, over this past year in particular.

And what the chairman, Mark Greene, has been saying is there's mounting evidence that he has neglected his duty and they're just pointing to the simple fact that, yes, under the Biden administration, there has been a record uptick of border crossings. 

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: What do they want mayorkas to do about it? 

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: Well, what they want is a little bit of what we see in HR 2, that bill that [00:25:00] House Republicans passed. Ideally, if the far right had their way, they want to immediately shut down any border where it could be overwhelmed by migrants. They want to reinstitute a number of Trump policies, like Remain in Mexico. They just want Mayorkas to shut everything down immediately.

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: But impeachment is mostly about malfeasance, right? Are they accusing Mayorkas of doing something wrong, illegal, something that should get him kicked out? 

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: This is all messaging, and there actually have been some Republican lawmakers who have admitted that this is all about messaging, "it's all about electing Trump."

This again, just animates their base. And here's the thing. If House Republicans hold a vote to impeach Mayorkas, I am not sure at this moment if there are enough votes, by just House Republicans alone, to be able to actually impeach Mayorkas, we will see. And that, in and of itself, it's going to be fascinating, because we have already seen far [00:26:00] right House members go after their colleagues when they voted against things that they thought they should have voted for, does that amp the pressure against those members to vote for, to impeach Mayorkas just because they don't want any of the political toxicity? 

MARY HARRIS - HOST, WHAT NEXT: So, you've laid out the case for how Republicans are going to try to make 2024. the year of immigration, if you were a betting woman, what do you think happens now? 

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR: You know, it's going to fall on Speaker Johnson. He's obviously new to this job. He was just a member. He was very low ranking in leadership, and to be thrown into such a position, I mean, I do not envy him. Every single decision is going to fall on Johnson's shoulders.

The Beginning Monroe and Migration Part 2 - Under the Shadow - Air Date 1-9-24

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: Maria is Honduran, 33 years old. Intense, dark brown eyes. She wears tiny earrings in the shape of the cross. Her long, curly hair is pulled up over the top of her head. She looks both beautiful and exhausted. Her two young boys scramble over her. [00:27:00] One of them holds a pink plastic toy gun. "My life is in danger," she says. "I've denounced it with the police, but they're waiting to kill me. My children are in danger, and that's why I've left Honduras." 

In 2022, she made it all the way to the US border before she was caught by US Border Patrol guards. She was detained for a week. She says they told her they weren't accepting Hondurans, and she was deported back home. There, she collected her kids, and now, she's trying again. "There's no future in Honduras. There are too many gangs, too many crises," she says. "I did what I could to survive there. Some days I ate, some days I didn't. I cried, so did my kids, because I didn't even have the money to buy a small bag of salt. So I'm looking for a better life for my children, and with God's help, I'll make it." Maria says she's waiting to receive her humanitarian visa in Mexico. Once she has her papers, then she and her kids will continue [00:28:00] the long journey north to the US border. There, she says she wants to do everything right to request legal asylum in the United States. But it's all a really slow process. And there's no promise that she'll even get it. "This is really stressful. Sometimes I cry because I don't want to be here in Mexico," she says. "I would love to be on the road, but I can't go without papers, because I know that without papers, they'll just grab me and deport me back to Honduras." 

Everyone is desperate and tired of waiting. Tapachula has a way of sucking you in, migrants say. Grinding you down. The wait can be long and tedious. And many just want to make a run for it.

Caravans are leaving once every couple of days, with hundreds of people as they work their way, they leave down the highway and work their way north. And it's the constant stream of these caravans, and the question is how far they'll actually get. 

Caravans like this.

The bulk of travelers [00:29:00] on this road today are Venezuelan. But there are people from countries across Latin America and the globe. They're still in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, but about a day or two hike up the highway from Tapachula. "We've been walking from Colombia." Venezuelan migrant Alexis tells me without breaking pace, walking, asking for rides, praying to God that we arrive alright.

Up the road, 20-something Xon and two friends are ahead of the pack and making good time. "The dream is the US border," he says. "With God's will, for us and those who are behind us." 

The phenomenon of the caravans started about five years ago. 

REPORTER: Through the rain, scorching heat and humidity, thousands of migrants make the perilous journey through southern Mexico, hoping to reach the United States. It's been called the largest Central American migrant caravan in decades. And thousands more [00:30:00] migrants are joining, fleeing dire conditions in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: That was 2018, when migrant caravans traveling through Mexico became headline news and an endless source of political hysteria throughout the US midterm elections.

But those weren't the first caravans, and they certainly weren't the last. We barely hear about them in the media today, but countless caravans of people are still traveling from Tapachula and marching through Mexico. 

 Professor Adrienne Pine is the author of the 2020 book, Asylum for Sale: Profit and Protest in the Migration Industry.

ADRIENNE PINE: The vast majority of migration, especially if we're talking about migratory flows north in the Americas toward the United States, is a result of US foreign policy. And [00:31:00] which US foreign policy we're talking about differs depending on the state. But regardless, it's all harmful. It's all displacing people. And it's all rooted in US imperialist capitalism, right? It's US using its military occupation of many countries in Latin America and its military and other war threats.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: As we'll look at in the coming episodes, Central America has been ground zero. Whether it was US support for genocide in Guatemala, or for the authoritarian regimes in El Salvador in the 1980s, or the 2009 Honduran coup. 

ADRIENNE PINE: Each of these events, some of them short term, some of them long term, were followed by massive waves of people fleeing the violence, the US-led violence in their countries, fleeing and going to the most obvious place, which is the United States, which of course ironically caused that violence in the first [00:32:00] place.

So you have, in some cases this sort of direct US military intervention. Or in other cases you have instances where the United States is very friendly with the government, but that's only because the government is, bowing down to the US's demands.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: Quick refresher course: 

REPORTER: Angry protestors at the doorsteps of Honduras's Presidential Palace want President Manuel Zelaya back. 

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: In 2009, the Honduran military removed the country's democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya from power. The United States adamantly backed the coup. The US-backed coup unleashed a series of repercussions including political repression, spiraling violence, cuts to the social safety net, government corruption, and rising inequality. Honduran migration increased only a few years later. 

In the wake of the 2017 elections, repression against protesters was reminiscent of [00:33:00] the crackdown after the coup, fueling a new exodus. 

ARTURO J. VISCARRO: Hondurans are still usually the number one Central American population that is going through. So apart from the political stuff, there's obviously the violence of the state, the violence of criminal organizations, in this case the gangs, and, of course, economic violence and, inequality that has been prevalent for a very long time in the region.

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: It was not the first time that US foreign policy or intervention deteriorated the situation inside a country, resulting in increased migration toward the United States. In fact, although this is barely ever talked about, the United States itself is at the root of much of the so-called migration crisis the US has seen in recent decades, and which former President Donald Trump, among many [00:34:00] other prominent public figures, continues to use as political fodder. 

DONALD TRUMP: They're poisoning the blood of our country. That's what they've done. They're pouring into our country. Nobody's even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous. The terrorism is going to be -- and we built a tremendous piece of the wall, and then we're going to build more....

MICHAEL FOX - HOST, UNDER THE SHADOW: That was him in December 2023.

ARTURO J. VISCARRO: Then there's his actually looking at the actual policies, the military intervention, the propping up of dictatorships, the violence people were fleeing. But then there's just the economic policies that have continued to be mostly dictated by the US. Then you have to come to -- you should come to the realization that the US bears a ton of the responsibility for why people leave these countries.

And yet we can't really have an honest conversation about that. Yet [00:35:00] the vulnerable people that are migrating are the ones that are blamed for it. And it's absurd, and it's cruel, and it's lazy. 

Trump Plans to Declare War on Who - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 1-9-24

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: So, Donald Trump, he has announced on multiple occasions, various plans when he becomes president again which he's hoping to do. He wants to become dictator for at least one day. He wants to basically make himself president for life. It just goes on and on.

So now he's got this new thing, and Stephen Miller has been talking about this, as has Donald Trump, and it's a law that has been on the books for a long, long time, it's called the Alien Enemies Act, and the Alien Enemies Act is basically a piece of legislation that was designed to target foreign agents, principally spies, within our country during time of war.

This goes back to World War I, World War II. Say, during World War II, if there was a German spy here in the United States, you'd go after him with the Alien Enemies Act. It's substantial. It gives you the ability to arrest people, to deport [00:36:00] people, to put people in prison for long periods of time.

So Donald Trump and Steve Miller say that if this law, which was first passed in 1798, and it says that the president himself can remove any foreign national over the age of 14 from the United States, and by the way, you have to have declared war on a country. We haven't declared war on a country since World War II.

But he says that he's going to identify cartels, gangs, and drug dealers in Latin America and within the United States who have... he's saying we can use this law to attack Mexico because they're so corrupt. And we can use this the law to attack gang members in the United States. 

This is the kind of, "I don't care what the law says, I'm a tough guy," stuff, that appeals to authoritarian right wingers. They love this kind of [00:37:00] stuff. And he even said, it's not enough to deport the bosses and the drug dealers. He wants to expel their family members and their associates as well. A future Trump administration could, "suspend the due process that normally applies to a removal proceeding," that's a quote from Steve Miller. He was on a talk radio show back in September and he said this. So that Trump could carry out mass deportations and he could start filling his concentration camps, essentially the same way that Adolf Hitler did in the early 1930s in Germany. 

The first camps, I've been to Dachau a couple of times it's near Munich, between Munich and Nuremberg, and I used to live just north of Nuremberg, and Dachau was not built as a death camp. There were literally hundreds, I believe over 400 of these concentration camps built in Germany, and they were called concentration camps because they concentrated people.

In other words, they were points where the criminals in [00:38:00] society were brought. They were basically just, prisons, prison camps. Now, toward the end of the war, they started killing people in those concentration camps, but the death camps, Hitler built all of the death camps outside Germany.

So if they were ever discovered, he could say, Oh, Belsen, Belsen, that's the Dutch. Oh oh, I'm forgetting the name of the city in Poland. But, well, that's, that was Poland. And on and on and on, right? He could just, he could blame other countries. Well, this is what Donald Trump wants to do, not the death camps part, he hasn't come out and said that, but the concentration camps for sure.

He's bragging about it, he wants to put millions of people in concentration camps in America, and just like Hitler, Hitler started out by saying, we're going to put the enemies of the state in there, we're going to put illegal immigrants in there, we're going to, we're going to put communists in there, people who there's a broad consensus are, bad for our country. And then, within a matter of months, journalists started appearing in Dachau, and politicians started appearing in [00:39:00] Dachau, and just that continued for the next seven years, eight years, for the rest of Hitler's rule. 

This is what Donald Trump says, out loud, he wants to do here in the United States. So we should take him seriously.

Under Attack TX Law Targets Immigrants as Trump Cites Hitler, GOP Pushes for Border Crackdown - Democracy Now! - Air Date 12-20-23

AMY GOODMAN: Senate leaders say President Biden will have to wait until next year to negotiate a deal with Republicans on immigration as part of an emergency funding package for Ukraine and Israel and Taiwan and more. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate in next year’s presidential race, doubled down on his hateful comments about immigrants at a campaign event Tuesday in Iowa, when he paraphrased the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as he spoke between two Christmas trees.

DONALD TRUMP: It’s crazy, what’s going on. They’re ruining our country. And it’s true: They’re destroying the blood of our country. That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country. They don’t like it when I said that. And I never read Mein Kampf.

AMY GOODMAN: [00:40:00] Hitler used the phrase “blood poisoning” in Mein Kampf to argue German blood was being, quote, “poisoned” by Jews. Trump drew outrage for similar comments at a rally Saturday in New Hampshire.

This comes as Texas Governor Greg Abbott, major Trump supporter, approved a sweeping new law, just signed it into law, that allows police to arrest anyone they suspect to have entered the U.S. without authorization.

For more, we’re joined by Marisa Limón Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, which is part of a lawsuit to stop the new Texas law from going into effect in March. Her op-ed for The Messenger is headlined “The Senate Shouldn’t Treat Migrants as Bargaining Chips.”

Marisa, welcome back to Democracy Now! Let’s start with the law that the governor signed in the last few days. The significance of what this means, and why even local police chiefs are against this in Texas?

MARISA LIMON GARZA: So, [00:41:00] Senate Bill 4 here in the state of Texas is part of legislation that the governor has been pushing since the regular session. This was just the end of the fourth special session, specifically to push on school vouchers, public education, as well as on this anti-immigrant, racist policy. This is built off of the knowledge of what happened with Arizona in SB 1070, the “Show Me Your Papers” law there. And it finds — it’s a little more slippery. It finds loopholes that are able to make it so that any peace officer anywhere in the state of Texas, not just along the southern border, but anywhere, and loosely defined — if this peace officer has probable cause, they can make the determination that if a person has not crossed into Texas from Mexico at an official U.S. port of entry, they can then be detained, jailed and even deported. Obviously, this is the jurisdiction of the federal government, which is why we’re calling on the Department of Justice to immediately get involved. And yes, Las [00:42:00] Americas, along with American Gateways, our partners at the El Paso County and the ACLU, are in litigation against SB4 and its rollout.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Marisa, you’ve written that your office had received a staggering number of calls, up to 7,000 a day, from asylum seekers in Ciudad Juárez. How do you see the situation now, especially those Americans who say that the situation at the border is completely out of control?

MARISA LIMON GARZA: So, I’d just like to paint a picture. You know, the reality at the southern border is we have been seeing a small piece of what is global migration. So, this phenomenon is 110 million people forcibly displaced across the globe, according to U.N. statistics, for the month of September. And so, this is just one pedazito of that reality.

And it’s important also to recognize that the state of Texas is, in fact, you know, [00:43:00] a multiracial democracy. It just happens to be one that is severely oppressed. And this attempt at erasure really makes things a lot more complicated. We have to take that into context, along with the reality that Texas has very lax gun laws, the reality that Texas does not really make it easy for people to vote, does not provide a quality education for the young people of this state. We’re focused on banning books. We’re focusing on eliminating diversity, equity, inclusion at public universities. So it’s basically the silencing and the erasure of a people. And that cannot go uncontested.

And if we, again, zoom out, we know that this global migration — and specifically the people that we’re seeing along the U.S.-Mexico border reflect global migration, but it also reflects U.S. involvement around the globe, but particularly in Central and South America. Whether it’s destabilization during the Obama administration, whether it’s further back, there are U.S. fingerprints [00:44:00] all over the migrants that we see at the southern border.

Our work is to accompany. So we do that as folks reach out to us, whether it’s from Tapachula, Querétaro, Mexico City, to Ciudad Juárez. We accompany people across the port, and then we accompany people in the U.S. detention settings, as well as in our community. And we like to do as warm handoffs as possible to folks in the interior. And it’s important to recognize that, actually, USCIS is doing a phenomenal job of a new program where they are collocating with us at the southern border in San Diego, El Paso and Brownsville to make sure that people, migrants who use CBP One, the application that this administration has put forward as the tool that should be used, if they come through that app and they come to one of the shelters that’s offering the service, they will be able to leave our community with a work authorization. That means that when they get to Chicago, New York, L.A., wherever, they will rely much less on the social safety nets of those communities and will begin [00:45:00] to have a dignified life as they go through their asylum claims.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And we have about a minute left. Could you talk about the response of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to the Biden administration basically not even consulting them in terms of its decisions on negotiations for another $14 billion in border security money that the president is requesting?

MARISA LIMON GARZA: Yes. We were all duped. You know, we’ve been involved in conversations with the Biden administration since they were the transition team. I personally have hosted Secretary Mayorkas in our office. I sat next to the vice president when she was here. Our local bishop welcomed President Biden and spent several minutes with him in private. They know our reality. And they know that these leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus represent us. And they’re not being quiet. They’re being quite loud. And the fact that they’re not even being given the respect of a seat at the table [00:46:00] is a further slap in the face of everything that we’re trying to accomplish.

And the representation that we have, none of the Senate negotiators are people of color. The one senator who is a person from a borderland state is Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, and she does not live near the border. Our two senators here in Texas, Ted Cruz and Senator Cornyn, do not have offices in El Paso. If you go to their website, it says “contact us. So they have them everywhere else.

And so, it’s very clear that we are under attack. It’s very clear from the language of the previous president and from our governor, who’s interested in being his running mate, that we have targets on our backs. And we in El Paso, along with people in Uvalde and all across the country, know that when you mix that kind of rhetoric with gun laws that we have and policies and laws like SB4, it’s very dangerous cocktail.

Fox Host Admits GOP Doesn’t Give A Sh— About Immigration - The Majority Report - Air Date 1-12-24

GREG ABBOTT: We are using every tool that can be used, from building a border wall to building these border barriers to passing this law that I signed that led to another lawsuit by [00:47:00] the Biden administration where I signed a law making it illegal for somebody to enter Texas from another country. And so, they're subject to arrest, uh, and subject to deportation. And so we are deploying every tool and strategy that we possibly can. The only thing that we're not doing is we're not shooting people who come across the border because of course the Biden administration would charge us with murder. 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: But you know, if we could get away with it... 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: ,,,we would. They know that Biden's, that the federal government's going to sue them, by the way. Like, they know that the DOJ is going to respond to them kind of superseding federal authority over the border. 


EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: This is why... I mean, I really can't stress this enough. The Biden administration is being so short-sighted and stupid about the border by not providing any alternative narrative whatsoever and letting the right determine it. Because Biden, you know, wanted to keep Title [00:48:00] 42. I mean, he's giving all... he is acting quite conservatively, quite right wing, on the border. It doesn't matter. Like, they're still going to be provocative in Texas. They're still going to challenge him. And then when the Biden administration is like, Okay, you're breaking, kind of, federal law here, this is our jurisdiction, and they sue them or they go after them, that'll be an opportunity for Abbott and Fox News to say, Well, look at that, he's soft on the border. It doesn't matter what he does. 


EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It does not matter what he does. He is soft on the border which, maybe, a smart move would be, what does it mean to be a border hawk and what has that led to? Can the Democrats provide any kind of narrative for that? Can they provide, like... even in the Obama administration, we're talking about dreamers, we're talking about a pathway to citizenship. Has Biden addressed this whatsoever, instead of just freaking out and acting more right wing because he thinks that'll appease people? It won't. It won't. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Uh, [00:49:00] the point is you need to sort of build a long term sort of like, a set of policies that you can articulate to the American public. And it feels like Democratic administrations are just like, We're not in the business of doing that. And it ends up coming back to bite them in the ass. 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Obama famously said in 2010, like, It's not my job to teach the American public about deficits or fight, you know, the ideas of austerity and this and that. And, um, had he done so, and we know this, like, you know... 

UNKNOWN SPEAKER: I was shocked. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Had he done so, there's a very good chance that maybe he could have salvaged, uh, more of his administration's ability to get stuff done on behalf of like the broader Democratic party. Uh, because now we're in an era of anti-austerity. So, it was certainly doable. Uh, it's just that he didn't push it at that time. 

Laura [00:50:00] Ingram just the other day was like, we should saying [sic] about Republicans. In fact, here's the clip, Matt. Laura Ingram was saying the other day, um, let's not make any deal with Biden on the border stuff because we don't want to give them the win. 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: \They don't really care about the policies. It's just as a wedge issue is that they see the value in it. And if you're getting played like that, you need to go on the offensive. You cannot attempt to just run into the arms of the people who are criticizing you. And here's Laura Ingraham talking about that. This is in the context of the government funding deals. 

LAURA INGRAHAM: Any border deal that has the support of McConnell and Schumer will be rejected by the Republican voters, period. Where were any of them, by the way, any of these top officials three years ago when the migrants were lining up at the border to rush in right before Biden was [00:51:00] inaugurated? Where was Mitch McConnell, and any, frankly, in the Senate leadership, when the Biden administration was making a laughingstock out of all of us on the issue of the border? So, anything drafted by some Chamber of Commerce flunky on immigration is meaningless. Mayorkas will simply take the money and use it to settle migrants in the United States more quickly, more efficiently. Isn't that great? So, Republicans should get out of these ridiculous negotiations. We invited Senator Lankford onto the show tonight. He's reportedly leading these talks, but he could not join us. He did say, though, that once the full text is out, he's going to come here and answer all of our questions. I look forward to that interview. Look, this is nothing personal toward him, or frankly, anyone. This is an issue of our country and its preservation. But we strongly recommend that Lankford refuse to be the face of this. Ask Marco Rubio how that worked out for him. What was that, back in [00:52:00] 2013? Imagine this audience, the audience reaction in a town hall in Oklahoma City. Remember, Langford's a senator from Oklahoma. Let's say he convenes a town hall in Oklahoma City to sell a border deal that would have to be enforced by Secretary Mayorkas. What do you think the reaction of that crowd would be in Oklahoma? We all know what it would be. It would be boo's. They would say, no way, no how, don't do it. So, this is a hot potato that McConnell has tossed to Lankford and that he should toss it right back. Let McConnell negotiate it. Think of it this way. Why on earth, after the Democrats did everything in their power to flood America with millions of indigents from across the globe, would Republicans ever give Biden an opportunity to take a victory lap, and then pretend that he's done anything to solve this problem? And by the way, if House Republicans do the smart thing and say no to this raw deal - speaker shouldn't even consider it, should say out of hand he's rejecting it - the Biden campaign is going to [00:53:00] hit the airwaves with the message, they've probably already made the commercials, See? The border's their fault. Bottom line, you can't make a deal with someone who has no intention of fulfilling the terms of the deal. I told you that at the end of 2023 that we're winning. And these two Biden moves, they're covering for an incompetent and insubordinate cabinet official and they're conniving to pin the blame on conservatives for their border. These are desperate measures for desperate people. And that's the angle. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Alright, that's it. So, uh, I mean, it gives away the game. Laura Ingraham, incidentally, was key when George W. Bush was trying to do immigration. And she was one of the key, sort of like, right wing radio hosts. Who, um, she's quite good at drumming up racial resentment. Funny that. Really well done. 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well-practiced in that. 

AOC Dismantles GOP Immigration Lies - The Majority Report - Air Date 9-25-23

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez went on CBS, their [00:54:00] Sunday political show with Margaret Brennan, I think it's Face the Nation is what it's called, and they were speaking about immigration policy at the southern border. AOC brings up the sanctions against Venezuela and sanctions in general and what those kinds of economic chokeholds do to countries and to populations in those countries who then become desperate and seek to live elsewhere so they can provide for their family. I think this is incredibly important to counter program the national discourse around immigration, which is just the borders of mass, we've got to get more militant and frankly...

MATT LECH - PRODUCER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: All these people want to come here just because of all the great stuff going on in America. 


MATT LECH - PRODUCER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Not because we've been like, yeah, sanctioning their country trying to do regime change.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yeah, because our streets are paved with gold and whatnot. It relies on like this adherence to American mythology that the rest of the world just doesn't share. But regardless, like the Biden [00:55:00] administration and Democrats in general should take a page out of her book here, because there needs to be a counter narrative, as I say, to the incredibly right wing framing around militants at the border, and I think she did a good job here doing so. 

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I definitely think that we need to have comprehensive immigration reform so that we aren't constantly doing this patchwork policy extensions, that has not happened for decades. But additionally, I think we also need to examine the root of this problem because if we are constantly engaging in foreign policy that drives people to our southern border, in this specific instance, U. S. sanctions that were originally authored by Marco Rubio began and precipitated, certainly took a large part in the driving of populations to our southern border. Shortly after those sanctions, those broad based sanctions...

MARGARET BRENNAN - HOST, FACE THE NATION: You're talking about Venezuela. 

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, shortly after those broad-based sanctions were enacted, we [00:56:00] started seeing dramatic increases in these populations that were coming to our southern border. And so we have to address the root of these population movements and the migration crisis. And we also have to address the domestic US policy issues when it comes to immigration reform. 

MARGARET BRENNAN - HOST, FACE THE NATION: But you know, the Maduro government has also been responsible for large parts of that. 


MARGARET BRENNAN - HOST, FACE THE NATION: Are you saying that you want to, you want the Biden administration to pull back pressure on him? 

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think we need to re examine the nature of these sanctions. There are sanctions that are very specific. For example, the Magnitsky Act sanctions that do actually focus on the decision makers and people who may be violating norms, practices, civil rights. But broad-based sanctions that punish the overall economy and harm everyday working people, that are driving them into the economic and political destitution, that force millions of people both, not just to the United States, but even to our regional partners... 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: [00:57:00] Yeah, um, that was an odd cut there, but that is, I thought, a very well-stated case for ending what she defines as broad-based sanctions there. Look, like, she is speaking to a broader audience than we would be on this program. So, she's going to give more deference to, you know, Margaret Brennan's needless interjection about Maduro there and things like that. But the reality is, is that Venezuela's economic contraction as a result of the United States sanctions is completely something that you can draw a line to in terms of the influx of migrants from Venezuela. Like, oil is a huge part of the Venezuelan economy, a massive part. And the sanctions that the United States has been engaged in, really since the Bush administration, and then they got ramped up and put on steroids under Trump, have resulted in deep economic desperation in Venezuela, forcing people to go elsewhere. And this was all a part, really, like... we pretend as if [00:58:00] this is a way to help the Venezuelan people long term, when in reality what it is, is a way to make the conditions in a nation so difficult that they turn on the leader that we, as the United States, don't like. First, it was Chavez, and now it's Maduro. And we propped up Juan Guaido, who claimed to be the leader of the country falsely, for years. And both parties were a part of that. And it hasn't worked and in fact it has, like, actually spilled over to the United States and then all the Republicans want to do is triple down and be even more cruel to the people that we starved.

Final comments on the naked power grab behind the immigration debate and Trump's long-held fascination with Hitler

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with Under the Shadow, explaining the history of the Monroe doctrine. Democracy Now! looked at the GOP's attempt to tie Ukraine aid to horrific immigration reform. The NPR Politics Podcast looked at the larger systemic forces [00:59:00] driving global immigration. What Next highlighted the political motivation for the GOP to focus on immigration. Under the Shadow looked at personal accounts and US policy to understand the driving forces of immigration. Thom Hartmann called out the fascist parallels of what Trump is openly calling for. And Democracy Now! zeroed in on the debate in Texas. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from The Majority Report, the first reacting to a Fox news host giving the conservative game away, and the second from The Majority Report highlighting AOC dismantling some GOP lies on immigration. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up. 

I just want to share a couple more things. The first is one more [01:00:00] piece of evidence, in case it wasn't already obvious enough, that the immigration debate isn't really about immigration. This got some coverage - I mean, obviously, I heard about it, but I'm not sure how much - and it feels like the sort of thing that should be turned into campaign commercials taking the GOP to task for abdicating their responsibility to actually govern rather than just vying for power. The New Republic wrote about this under the headline "House Republican admits hill kill border deal if it helps Biden". And this is just from early January. "Texas Representative Troy Nehls showed his true colors on Wednesday refusing to back any sort of border deal because he claimed it could help President Joe Biden's slumping poll numbers". Quoting Nehls, " 'Let me tell you, I'm not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat and to help Joe Biden's approval rating. I will not help the Democrats try to improve this man's dismal approval rating. I'm not going to do it. Why would I?'" 

[01:01:00] And to be clear, he's arguing that the House already passed a border policy bill and is complaining that the Senate hasn't taken it up. Of course, it's monstrous and stupid policy and the Senate is run by Democrats, so they're not going to just go with that terrible policy, nor would Biden sign it. So, the Senate tried to do what the Senate does and what, you know, government is generally supposed to do and tried to do some negotiating and pass something that no one would be happy with, you know, classic democracy. And that quote was the MAGA Republican's response. Not, It's not good enough, but, Not if it would help Biden while we're trying to win elections. Just a hundred percent gross and a total abdication of what it should be to be an elected official who is there to pass legislation.

The second thing today is something that you may also have come across. It's related to Trump's long held tendency to [01:02:00] be, you know, at the very least, fascism curious. But as an introduction, Seth Meyers on Late Night did a pretty good roundup.

SETH MEYERS - HOST, LATE NIGHT: In a 1990 interview with Playboy, he praised China's brutal massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. 

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Trump himself, very, very early on, way before he was a political, you know, figment of anybody's imagination, said to Playboy magazine, "When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak". 

SETH MEYERS - HOST, LATE NIGHT: So that was back in 1990. Donald Trump has changed his opinions on almost everything since then. He used to be pro-choice, now he's anti abortion. He used to be for gun control, now he's against it. But the one thing he's been consistent on his entire life is his support for dictators. Trump has been very clear that in the second term, he will aspire to be a dictator by using the language of dictators. His recent [01:03:00] embrace of fascist rhetoric has drawn comparisons to dictators like Adolf Hitler, who used the same language, which prompted Trump to defend himself this week in a way that only raised more questions.

DONALD TRUMP: It's crazy what's going on. They're ruining our country, and it's true. They're destroying the blood of our country. That's what they're doing. They're destroying our country. They don't like it when I said that. And I never read Mein Kampf. 

SETH MEYERS - HOST, LATE NIGHT: Still, pulled that title up pretty quick, didn't he? 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: And we also play back clip today of Trump emphasizing that he'd never read Mein Kampf. But when I first heard him say that it reminded me of this long past factoid about him, that I learned I don't know how long ago. Probably around the birtherism days, but, you know, I can't be sure. And the factoid is that his first wife had claimed again, coincidentally, in a 1990 interview, I guess that was a big year for him, that Trump had kept a book of Hitler's collected speeches in a cabinet by his bed. [01:04:00] Not Mein Kampf. But his collected speeches. And I thought that this was, you know, nearly lost to history and that I was going to have to bring it up as a reminder. But when I did a quick search today to find that original article, how surprised was I to see that several articles from mid-December, just a month ago, we're saying that this story had resurfaced, that this old interview had resurfaced. So, as I said, maybe it's made the rounds again and you've heard this but better to repeat it too often than not often enough, I say. So, again, he denied reading Mein Kampf, but what is probably more accurate and actually, like, fits better with the now history that we know came after this 1990 interview, it actually makes perfect sense. 

This is from the original interview . "Ivana Trump told her lawyer, Michael Kennedy, that from time to time, her husband reads a book of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, which he keeps in a cabinet by his bed. Hitler's speeches, from his earliest days up [01:05:00] through the phony war of 1939, reveal his extraordinary ability as a master propagandist". And I'm actually reading from a Business Insider article, so it explains that when Brenner, that's the original Vanity Fair writer, when Brenner asked Trump about how he came to possess Hitler's speeches, Trump hesitated and then said, "Who told you that?" brenner reportedly replied, "I don't remember". Trump then recalled, "Actually, it was my friend, Marty Davis, from Paramount, who gave me a copy of Mein Kampf, and he's a Jew." Continuing this Business Insider article, Brenner added that Davis did acknowledge that he gave Trump a book about Hitler, but quoting Marty Davis, "But it was My New Order, Hitler's speeches, not Mein Kampf", Davis reportedly said. "I thought he would find it interesting. I am [01:06:00] his friend. But I'm not Jewish". 

So, obviously, the key takeaway here is to be horrified, like probably not surprised, but still horrified that someone who's been praising dictators since at least Bill Clinton's first election year could himself become president at least once and, you know, stands a chance of doing it again, even after fully taking the mask off. But the second takeaway is that the weakness of his defense at the time is pretty funny. First, there's the classic 'who told you that?' defense, followed by, 'it wasn't me, it was my friend'. Topped off with the apparently incorrect assertion that his friend is Jewish. So his defense is basically, 'it's not like I took the initiative to be interested enough in Hitler to get his book. It's just that a friend of mine who knows me well and thoughtfully picked out a [01:07:00] gift for me after coming across Hitler's book and thinking, You know who'd really like this I think? Donald Trump. And, you know, as the old saying goes, I'm sure in many variations, when the character of a man is not clear to you, look to his friends. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and the bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. [01:08:00] You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patrion page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from

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#1603 Clarence Thomas and the Highest Court in the Land with the Lowest Standards of Ethics (Transcript)

Air Date 1/13/2024

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Audio-Synced Transcript


JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left Podcast in which we look at the most recent wave of scandal and manipulation of the nation's highest court, as well as historical controversies that go back much, much farther than that. However in a bygone age, scandal was handled much differently than today, putting our current state of dysfunction and hyper-partisanship into sharp focus. 

Sources today include the Ralph Nader Radio Hour, LegalEagle, The Majority of Report, The Kyle Kalinski Show, The Muckrake Political Podcast, the PBS NewsHour, and Robert Reich. With additional members-only clips from All In with Chris Hayes, and Now & Then.

Ralph explains the need for resignations and reform on the Supreme Court - Ralph Nader Radio Hour - Air Date 12-30-23

RALPH NADER - HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: The corruption of Clarence Thomas has been documented by ProPublica, the New York Times, in article after article. He's gone on these junkets by billionaires, he's accepted huge gifts that he has not disclosed. It's because until very recently, there were no ethic codes applying to Supreme Court justices the way [00:01:00] they apply to lower federal court judges, and now they have a weak new code of ethics, but they leave its enforcement up to each Supreme Court justice, which makes a mockery of satire.

And so what we're seeing here are mealy-mouthed Democrats investigating in the Senate Clarence Thomas and, to some extent, Justice Alito's freebies and junket, and not calling for the resignation. The columnist for the Washington Post, a Harvard Law grad, Ruth Marcus, just had a column demanding that Clarence Thomas recuse himself in the upcoming decision about Trump's assertion that he's immune from prosecution, because what he did occurred when he was exercising his duties as president in the White House, and she should be asking for his resignation. And the Senate Judiciary Committee under Senator Durbin and Senator Whitehouse, they've got loads of [00:02:00] evidence on Clarence Thomas, and they still haven't called for his resignation.

Now, the comparison under the period of Lyndon Johnson as president, Abe Fortas was a Supreme Court justice, was accused of taking a grant from a politically connected person who had a foundation in Florida, and after a few annunciations in the press, Abe Fortas tendered his resignation. Clarence Thomas has done far, far worse, and blatantly so, and he's arrogant about it, and he's defending it. And he's not remorseful, and the Democrats aren't even asking for his resignation. This illicit decline in public ethics and morality, decline is too easy a word, it's fallen off a cliff. And Clarence Thomas is really the Donald Trump of the Supreme Court. 

STEVE SKROVAN: Ralph, I just want to follow up, as long as we're talking about the Supreme Court, how do you feel about the Supreme Court as a branch of government? Because when I look [00:03:00] at what I know of the Supreme Court and the decisions they've made throughout history, aside from a few years in the 50s and 60s of the Warren Court, it seems like they've made mostly bad decisions on the big issues. You're talking about Dred Scott, or corporate personhood, or the second amendment, or Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, Buckley Vallejo, they seem not to make good decisions throughout history. Is it worth it for them? Is it worth it for us? 

RALPH NADER - HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: Well, they were the bastions of the property classes, as they used to say in the old days, and they made no bones about it. They presided over a period of slavery. They presided over a period where women didn't have the right to vote. They presided over the Jim Crow period after the Civil War. And they didn't disturb the entrenched status quo of a corporatist white male [00:04:00] domination. And of course, until recently, they were all white males. As you say, starting with the Earl Warren court, they produced Brown versus Board, saying that school segregation was illegal, and they fostered the civil rights movement in case after case, and then the Burger court took over, Warren Burger, and turned it to the right and then it hasn't stopped. It is now the most extreme court in generations, with the six three majority that is pro corporate, pro executive branch power at the expense of the congress, anti union, anti worker, and anti consumer, and the only time they defer to Congress and defeat the petition for the people is when they feel it necessary to rein in the regulatory agencies.

But worse is yet to come. They may come out with a decision next year stripping the [00:05:00] regulatory agencies of the delegation of authority to regulate corporations like the oil companies, the drug companies, the auto companies, they may issue a decision that strips them saying, and this is an unconstitutional delegation of authority by the Congress that is legislative in function and has no business being exercised by executive branch agencies, throwing it back to Congress saying, you want to regulate these corporations, you do it with thousands of pages of regulations, presumably, as if Congress has the expertise or is willing to labor more than three days a week when they're not in recess. 

So I think they are reaching a point, the sixth justice majority, of getting a huge backlash and calls for impeaching them all together before the Senate. I've written an article several years ago saying I don't call for impeachment of justices very easily, but when in case [00:06:00] after case, these justices come down on the side of artificial entities called corporations, which are never mentioned in the Constitution, against real human beings, whether they're workers or victims of different oppressions or looted consumers, that when they continually vote in favor of artificial persons are never mentioned or authorized in the Constitution, that that is a severe ground for collective impeachment proceedings before the US Senate. I think that's what we're going to be looking forward to if the progressive liberal interests in this country have any sense of being able to look at themselves in the mirror and not be seen as surrendering the sovereignty that the Constitution gave them as real human beings, surrendering to the supremacy of giant corporations.

Astonishing Corruption at The Supreme Court? - LegalEagle - Air Date 5-6-23

DEVIN STONE - HOST, LEGALEAGLE: Just a week after the initial report on April 13th, ProPublica published details of an October, 2014 real estate transaction [00:07:00] between Crow and the Thomas family. According to public documents, one of crow's companies paid just over $133,000 for two vacant lots and a single family home that were co owned by Thomas, his mother, and the family of Thomas's late brother. The transaction, which had not previously been disclosed, was the first known instance of money flowing directly from the Republican mega-donor to a Supreme Court justice.

Now, under the terms of the sale, Crow allowed justice Thomas's then 85 year old mother, Leola Williams, to live in her home for the rest of her life. She lives there currently rent free, but is responsible for property taxes and insurance. And after the sale was completed, contractors then undertook extensive renovations of the house.

Then on top of those transactions, according to an April 16th article by the Washington post, Thomas has reported hundreds of thousands of dollars of income from a firm called Ginger Limited Partnership for two decades. The problem here is that the real estate firm founded by his wife and relatives has not existed since 2006 the company's assets were taken over by a similarly named Ginger Holdings, LLC, but [00:08:00] Thomas's disclosure forms make no mention of a newer firm. Now, given the similarity of the names, it's possible that the company was just listed in error, but it merits mention given Thomas's decades long history of non disclosure. 

In a statement provided to ProPublica, Crow describes the Thomas's as " very dear friends" and defended the trips as the kind of hospitality he extends to all their close friends. "We have been most fortunate to have a great life of many friends and financial success, and we've always placed a priority on spending time with our family and friends."

With respect to the property purchase. Crow said he purchased the home with a plan to turn it into a public museum honoring Clarence Thomas. While he claimed the transaction was at market rate, Crow purchased a vacant lot and a house on the same block for $40, 000 the prior year. Crow did not explain why he bought the two vacant lots, but indicated that they had been sold. Crow also asserted that he has never attempted to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue, and claims he is unaware of any friends attempting to influence Thomas on the same. 

But at the same time, Crow serves on the board of multiple groups that have advocated at the Supreme Court through the filing of amicus briefs. And in [00:09:00] 2005, a company called Trammell Crow Residential that was formed by Harlan Crow's father and partly owned by Harlan Crow, was the defendant in a case before the Supreme Court. Clarence Thomas did not recuse himself from that case. 

In response to ProPublica's reporting, Clarence Thomas defended the trips and pleaded ignorance that it was wrong, and in a rare statement stated: 

"Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends and we have been friends for over 25 years. As friends do, we've joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. 

Early in my tenure at the court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends who did not have business before the court was not reportable. I've endeavored to follow that council throughout my tenure and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines. These guidelines are now being changed as the committee of the judicial conference responsible for financial disclosures for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance, and it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future." 

Now, this statement raises far more questions than it answers. For example, while Thomas acknowledges being gifted [00:10:00] family trips from Crow and perhaps others, he does not address the use of Crow's plane for other reasons, and as we'll talk about later travel and the actual vacation itself are treated differently.

For example, in 2016, Thomas used Crow's plane for a direct three hour trip to and from New Haven, Connecticut, which would have cost about $70,000, and it appears that Thomas might have been the only one on that plane. And obviously no one would ever vacation in New Haven, Connecticut, so the trip must have been for some other reason.

Additionally, Thomas asserts that he sought guidance within the judiciary and was advised that his hospitality from close personal friends was not reportable, but Thomas doesn't specify who advised him, whether they had any expertise, whatsoever, whether they were self-interested in that advice, whether this occurred before or after befriending Crow, or whether he followed up after this initial advice within the 30 years that this has been going on.

And while Thomas claimed that he has always sought to comply with disclosure guidelines. the justice has a documented history of forgetting to disclose certain things. In 2011, Thomas amended prior forms to reflect [00:11:00] income his wife earned between 1998 and 2003 from the Heritage Foundation, which is a conservative think tank, which Thomas claimed was inadvertently omitted.

A 2004 LA Times report revealed that Thomas had accepted private plane trips and expensive gifts, including a Bible that was previously owned by Frederick Douglass, valued at $19,000, and a bust of Abraham Lincoln valued at $15,000. The article also noted that Crow had donated $175,000 for a new Clarence Thomas Wing at the justice's childhood library in Georgia.

And after the [New York] Times Report, Thomas continued to take plane trips from Crow, he just stopped disclosing them. And ProPublica is not the first publication to raise questions about the relationship between Crow and the Thomas family. In 2011, the New York Times detailed numerous favors that the Texas billionaire had done for the Thomases, including helping to finance a library dedicated to the justice in Savannah, Georgia, and providing $500,000 for Ginni thomas to start a Tea Party conservative activism group, which came with a $120,000 a year salary for Ginni Thomas.

And in a move that stirred controversy at the time, Crow financed a multi million dollar restoration of a cannery that included a museum about the culture and [00:12:00] history of Pinpoint, Georgia, a pet project of the Associate Justice. Now Crow says he hasn't tried to influence Thomas on any issue, and it's true that people who are ideologically aligned are probably more likely to become friends, but if a billionaire gave my partner 500, 000 to start a political organization, flew us around the world on a private jet, bought property from me that would both house my mother for the rest of her life and promise to have that house turned into a museum honoring me, well, you might question the independence of this channel.

Harlan, call me. 

Now, Thomas's former law clerk, James Ho, who currently sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals defended his former boss by suggesting that the hypocritical double standards were at play saying that, "there's a big difference between. Actual corruption and the appearance of corruption." but even if there isn't any quid pro quo between Crow and Thomas, the entire crux of judicial ethics is based on avoiding any appearance of impropriety. But under 28 US code section 455, any federal judge, including the Supreme Court justices, are supposed to recuse themselves from any proceeding, "in which his or her impartiality [00:13:00] might reasonably be questioned."

Unfortunately, there are neither official rules nor a legal mechanism to force the justices to recuse themselves, and chief justice Roberts has long resisted calls to impose a code of ethics on the Supreme court. And not surprisingly, there is a wide ranging debate on this topic. Multiple legal experts told ProPublica that these non disclosures were not just unethical, but may have broken the law, specifically the ethics and government act of 1978.

And in a bit of cheekiness from Congress, the Congressional Research Service put out a helpful explainer of this law following "a recent article detailing undisclosed trips by an associate justice", whoever that could be. 

Supreme Court's Corrupt Financial Ties To Billionaire Exposed During Senate Hearing - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 5-3-23

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Yesterday, since we were talking about the Supreme Court yesterday, we played a clip of Sheldon Whitehouse talking about the conflict of interest that Clarence Thomas clearly had with his family member working for entities that had cases in front of the Supreme [00:14:00] Court, that being his wife and that being January 6th.

Whitehouse goes on in that same hearing to lay out all of the ethical violations that Clarence Thomas has appeared to have committed. Now, of course, the Supreme Court says, well, we don't have to respond. This came up in 2011 as well, the exact same thing. Clarence Thomas's relationship with Harlan Crow. Two judges actually came to testify in regard to it, Scalia and Ginsburg. That was back when the Supreme Court actually cared about its legitimacy. 

The important thing to understand here is that there's no mechanism. and Whitehouse has a piece of legislation that would impose at least a system to adjudicate whether there have been ethics violations.[00:15:00] 

I don't know that it would have any enforcement power, but at least it would place out there for our representatives a non partisan method of establishing that there has been an ethical violation. They then could have the opportunity to impeach the justice or whatnot. 

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE: Which brings us to Justice Thomas's recent non disclosure of supposed personal hospitality from a right wing billionaire and its problems. 

First problem: private jet travel is not in the personal hospitality exemption, which is limited to food, lodging, and entertainment. Exhibit 7. Some textualist, by the way. 

Second problem: Thomas said it was okay because he'd asked colleagues, but that financial disclosure committee, it's there to ask about financial disclosure. Setting aside that his name should give a clue, Thomas knew the committee [00:16:00] existed because concerns about his yacht and jet travel gifts from this billionaire were referred there in 2011, after some of these gifts were first revealed in this New York Times story, Exhibit 9, 

Third problem: there's no legal way not to disclose the property acquisition in Georgia. 

Fourth problem: some of this personal hospitality involve people dedicated to turning the court into a tool for right wing billionaires, namely Leonard Leo. This guy doesn't have business before the court, his business is the court. This disclosure mess has again been referred to the Financial Disclosure Committee, which raises the question of the previous referral to that same committee of the same billionaire's gifts to Thomas of yacht and jet travel.

The rules seem to require the committee to report its findings to the Judicial Conference. The records of the Judicial Conference are [00:17:00] public, and the records of the judicial conference contain no mention of any such report. So what became of the 2011 referral? Did anyone intervene? Is the committee still considering the 2011 referral more than a decade later? There is much yet to learn, which is why last week I sent a letter to the courts asking for further answers. Exhibit 10. 

Three things are needed to fix all this. Better enforcement, better recusal rules, and better disclosures. My bill would do all three.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: I mean, it is extraordinary. He's saying he didn't know, he asked people, he had been called to court, as it were, on these, not even similar things...


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: The same guy! It was just less numbers of trips at that point, because that was over a decade ago. And so [00:18:00] we're to believe that Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court Justice, when two of his colleagues went in front of the Senate, when there was discussion and a referral of his trips to the Financial Disclosure Committee, that he wasn't aware of any of that? And that's why he didn't do any more disclosures. He wasn't aware that he was like literally called up and publicly talked about, like the New York Times wrote about this. I mean, I get it, he doesn't want to read the New York Times because it's liberal lies, but he never heard about it? It's unbelievable. 

EXPOSED: Supreme Court Corruption CAUGHT Red Handed - The Kyle Kulinski Show - Air Date 4-27-23

KYLE KULINSKI - HOST, THE KYLE KULINSKI SHOW: We have more Supreme Court corruption to talk about. This is a really important story. The thing that I can't get over is just how much everybody pretends like, Oh, the Supreme Court? You mean the honorable gentlemen and gentlewomen over there? The ones who are above the fray and who are incredibly [00:19:00] intelligent? They are like our intellectual overlords and they just -- they only make the correct decisions based on the law. This is like the mythology that has been preached to us, this idea of the INDEPENDENT JUDICIARY is so important. 

But no, in reality, they are deeply, deeply political, even though they claim they're not. And they're corrupt. So now we know this: this is in Raw Story: "Justice Gorsuch failed to report property sale to CEO of law firm with cases before Supreme Court." Why would this matter? For those who don't understand, I think it's pretty intuitive and you can get it right away. But what do you think's going to happen in these cases? Gorsuch has a massive bias on the side of wherever the law firm is. He has a bias in favor of their side of any case. So he's probably not going to judge it on the merits, he's probably going to judge it based on his political connections and money. 

This is incredibly devastating. And this is on top of the recent Clarence [00:20:00] Thomas Supreme Court scandal, where he's basically, he has a billionaire sugar daddy, and he hears cases all the time where he has a massive conflict of interest and a bias. 

Another Supreme Court justice failed to disclose his financial relationship with an individual with business before the court. See, if there actually were a code of ethics or these people were not absolute goblins, they would recuse themselves.

No, actually, I retract that. They wouldn't have taken these gifts anyway. They wouldn't have done it. Neil Gorsuch has been trying to sell a 40 acre property he co-owned in rural Colorado for nearly two years, before Brian Duffy, the chief executive of one of the biggest law firms in the country, put it under contract exactly nine days after Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate in 2017, reported Politico.

Wow, would you look at that? What a coincidence that timing was. I'm sure it wasn't pay to play corruption. He and his wife closed on the house a month later, paying $1.825 [00:21:00] million according to a deed in the county's record system, reported political correspondent Heidi Prisbilla. Gorsuch, who held a 20 percent stake, reported making between $250,000 and $500,000 from the sale on his federal disclosure forms.

Gorsuch did not disclose the identity of the purchaser. The box was left blank. Gee, I wonder why. Couldn't be because he's trying to hide his obvious pay for play corruption, is it? The firm Duffy leads, Greenberg Traurig, has been involved in at least 22 cases before or presented to the Supreme Court since buying that 3,000 square foot log home and mountainous land from the justice, although Duffy says he has never argued a case before Gorsuch or met him socially. Quote, "I've never spoken to him." Sure. "I've never met him." Sure. 

By the way, this is how pernicious this stuff is. I just want everybody to understand this. The way it works in our legal system is in order to prove corruption, there has to be what's called a quid pro quo. Which is basically I will now [00:22:00] give you the money, and you will do X favor for me. Fill in the blank with whatever X is. That's quid pro quo corruption. Now the reason why that standard is absurd is because in most instances, the corruption is implied. So if you just buy the house, and you just let him get away with a $500,000 profit or whatever it is, you just do that, you don't say anything. It's implied, right? Oh, yeah, when that case gets in front of the court, and I'm on that side, it's implied, "Hey, man. I do you a solid, you're gonna do me a solid?" And also, to one extent or another, this is human nature, right? If I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Somebody does a solid for you, you're gonna wanna do a solid for them back in return. In fact, if that's not the case, you're kinda sociopathic. Now, in most instances in life, I scratch your back, you scratch mine is totally fine, but when it comes to politics, and people who are supposed to be above this, tit-for-tat, pay-to-play corruption type stuff, it's terrible, because his job is supposed to be, decide cases based on the [00:23:00] Constitution, based on the law, be objective. You are, by definition, no longer objective with this sort of conflict of interest.

By the way, I don't even believe him when he says I never spoke to him, I've never met him. But even if it were true, that doesn't change the nature of the case at all here. 

Duffy, a long time Colorado resident, said he had been looking for a property with access to fly fishing waterways for many years, and he insists he did not know Gorsuch was one of the owners when he made his first offer. I totally do not believe that, not even a little bit. Quote, " The fact that he was going to be a Supreme Court Justice was absolutely irrelevant to the purchase of that property," Duffy said. "It's a wonderful piece of property and we're so glad we bought it." Gorsuch has sided with Greenberg Traurig clients eight times and against them four times in the twelve cases where his opinion is recorded, including a case where he joined the other five conservative justices in agreement with a Greenberg client who challenged a Barack Obama measure to fight climate change by regulating carbon emissions from power plants. Quote, "We have seen a steady stream of revelations regarding Supreme Court justices falling [00:24:00] short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and of public servants," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin. "The need for Supreme Court ethics reform is clear, and if the court does not take adequate action, Congress must. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be closely examining these matters in the coming weeks." 

Okay. So let me point out this for you guys. It was implied here, but just so everybody understands. The way it works with lower federal courts, there is a code of ethical standards that they have to abide by. With the Supreme Court, there's no code of ethical standards. It's astonishing: the higher you get up the ladder, the fewer rules there are. So you have free reign, do whatever you want, and it's the honor system, basically. Oh, just trust me. I got this. They need a code of ethics. Absolutely. And I would get rid of the lifetime appointments for sure.

Now Durbin saying these things, okay, so he's nominally on the right side, but I'm gonna add to this in just a second here. He's not really doing his job right. [00:25:00] You're about to see, he's not really doing his job right. Durbin has asked Chief Justice John Roberts to testify next month before his committee on the court's ethics rules following revelations of Justice Clarence Thomas undisclosed financial relationship with billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow.

Here's what I just referenced. This was in Politico. "Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin says he didn't invite Justice Clarence Thomas to testify regarding ethics because he thought Thomas would ignore the invitation." So he didn't even try to get Clarence Thomas to testify, when he's like the heart of the corruption scandal.

Now by the way, Clarence Thomas has since sent a letter, where he was like, Yeah, I'm not really feeling it. We have separation of powers, so that means I get to do what I want. No the whole point of separation of powers is that so we have checks and balances, which is the exact opposite of how you're interpreting it. The separation of powers doesn't mean I get to get away with whatever I want, even if it's wrong. Separation of powers is, if I do something wrong, there's another branch of government that will check my ass. [00:26:00] But Clarence Thomas just flipped the meaning of that, to be like, "No I'm busy, I'm not gonna come to, yeah, I don't, this is a nothing matters." No, it is definitely not a nothing matter.

Ron DeSantis Sinking While Clarence Thomas Grifting - The Muckrake Political Podcast - Air Date 12-19-23 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: ProPublica will not leave poor Clarence Thomas alone, they have got his number. It's like Hershel Walker with Roger Sollenberger over at Daily Beast. It's like a dog just snapping at somebody, not letting go. ProPublica's Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, Alex Majerski, and Brett Murphy have released a report regarding Clarence Thomas's both public and private signaling to donors within the Republican party, the Supreme Court itself, and also the Republican party writ large, back in the early two thousands. Apparently Thomas was signaling all the way back then that, I don't know, he wasn't getting paid enough. Back then in 2000, he was making $173,000, which is the equivalent, Nick, if you want to feel bad about inflation, that's the equivalent of $300,000 a year at this point. 




JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Yeah, that's a tough one. Here's a quote from the ProPublica article: "In early January of 2000, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was at a five-star beach resort in Sea Island, Georgia, hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. After almost a decade on the court, Thomas had grown frustrated with his financial situation, according to friends. He'd recently starting raising his young grandnephew and Thomas's wife was soliciting advice on how to handle the new expenses. The month before, the justice had borrowed $267,000 from a friend to buy a high end RV." I give it to this guy, he loves his RVs. "At the resort, Thomas gave a speech at an off-the-record conservative conference. He found himself seated next to a Republican member of Congress on the flight home. The two men talked and the lawmaker left the conversation worried that Thomas might resign. Congress should give Supreme Court justices a pay raise, Thomas told him. If lawmakers didn't act, one or more of justices will leave soon, maybe in the next year."[00:28:00] 

Nick, that's right. Clarence Thomas, back in 2000, basically blackmailed the entirety of the Republican Party, the Supreme Court, and every Republican donor to pay off his debt and to corrupt him. He literally begged everyone to corrupt him. And you want to hear something wild, Nick? It worked. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: You know why it worked so well? The timing is important of this, right? What was going on in January 2000? 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: I can't even imagine at this point what possibly was cooking up in January of 2000 that would completely change the history of the nation.

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: So I actually saw Al Gore speak at a high school that I was a substitute teaching at, and it was later, it was probably the summer of 2000. But remember, I think what he was preying upon -- and this is why the timing is important -- was it looked like Al Gore was going to beat George W. Bush in the presidential -- 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Wait, correction. Correction, Nick. He did beat George. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: Okay. Let's get to that because it just so happens that Clarence [00:29:00] Thomas got to decide who won that race later on in that year. And this is really why it becomes a little bit more nefarious than a guy who all of a sudden woke up after, let's see, 10 years of being in Supreme Court justice and realized, shit, I don't get paid a whole lot. I thought I got in this to actually make some money. What did he think after, when he first got this job and committed his whole lifetime to doing this job that, all of a sudden he's I want money. And then that timing is really important because I think he realized there was pressure on everybody to maintain that because they thought -- 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: That's called recognizing the leverage, is what it is.

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: And if he were to resign when Gore was in presidency, then they lose that seat and becomes a lot less conservative. So this is a manipulation of all manipulations. I guess I want to give him credit. I didn't think he was that smart, but that's a pretty smart move. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: To be fair, I don't think he dreamed this thing up for himself. Ginny Thomas, very shortly after this, landed a six figure gig at the Heritage Foundation. She has done a really good job of understanding exactly what she can do because her husband is a Supreme Court justice. 

[00:30:00] Nick, we talked about George Santos. We said, probably the greatest liar and grifter that we have seen in Congress. The Supreme Court has been a bastion of grifters from the very beginning. Liars. Grifters. Manipulators. The very fact that corporations are people and the fact that was made up from whole cloth by a bunch of people basically who conspired to do it tells you who these people are. These are scoundrels in the Supreme Court, and they always have been. He, Clarence Thomas is on the Mount Rushmore of the most scoundrelish Supreme Court justices of all time. It's really incredible how blatant he has been about it. How big of a role he has played in to the blatant corruption of the modern Supreme Court. You have to take your hat off for him. You really do. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: And the veiled threats of like how the Constitution needed to be interpreted, and the quotes that he would have on this thing, it made it sound [00:31:00] like, it's " We all know how you want me --" Oh, here's the other thing. The backstory of this was he never asked a question for 20 years on the bench, which is completely strange. Everybody else asks something; he never would speak up because a) you could just assume that he was just uninterested or b) he was just waiting for the time to put his stamp on the Republican vote, whatever that's going to be in the conservative vote and then move on. I don't think he ever really spent much time thinking about any of these cases. And it just continues to add, we're going to add a little bit more context into what's going on, but it's I don't even know if it needs the context. The guy is corrupt. 

JARED YATES SEXTON - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: He's corrupt. He should not even be, he shouldn't even resign in disgrace. He should be let out of the Supreme Court in disgrace. He should have his ass kicked out of the court, if there was any justice. 

Also, for the record, what's that sound, Nick? Oh crickets. It's absolute crickets, as the Democrats say nothing about this, as they don't act on this whatsoever. As this hasn't even become a campaign [00:32:00] issue. Like we don't hear anything about this. We don't hear anything about Supreme Court reform. We don't hear anything about adding justices. We don't hear anything about it, and that is a disgrace, that they would rather protect the sanctity of our institutions, and big scare quotes around "sanctity of our institutions," than to actually call out some of the most blatant corruption that we will ever see. 

NICK HAUSELMAN - HOST, THE MUCKRAKE POLITICAL PODCAST: You know I think it would be a great -- remember I told you I would want to run for president and I would just say I'd release all the UFO information like that would probably catapult me to the White House. Maybe this way, I think that this wouldn't be a terrible idea to run on the Supreme Court, cleaning this up a little bit, I think. Maybe it's just me just wanting it, wanting someone to finally do something about it that had enough power because you would need the president's pressure to get anything done because they don't have anything to answer to. And that's I know how the Constitution was set up, but this is disgusting. It's repulsive. 

New Supreme Court ethics code 'does very little' to hold justices accountable, expert says - PBS NewsHour Air Date 11-13-23

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: Professor Clark, put this moment in context for us. For the first time [00:33:00] in the court's 234-year history, it's adopting a code of ethics. How big a deal is this?

KATHLEEN CLARK: This is not a very big deal. It does show that the Supreme Court can read the room. It knew that it had to do something to address the political and ethics crisis that it finds itself in. But in terms of substance, this new code does very little. And it provides no new mechanisms for holding justices accountable when they violate the rules.

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, let's tick through some of that public pressure from the reporting that has been laid out.

And I do want to take a moment to, in particular, note the many reports by ProPublica breaking news on this front over the last seven months. You're seeing a few of those stories right there. They raised concerns over donor influence, failure to disclose gifts, failure to recuse from certain cases.

So, Professor Clark, does any of this — is any of this addressed by the new code?

KATHLEEN CLARK: [00:34:00] This new code addresses none of that. It doesn't address donor influence. It doesn't address what will happen when justices fail to disclose gifts. It does address the recusal problem by saying, nothing will change. It views recusal as a decision for an individual justice. And if a justice fails to recuse, the court won't do anything about it.

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: So, you have read through the whole code now. What does it do? And if it doesn't do anything, why do you think all nine justices signed onto it?

KATHLEEN CLARK: I believe that the justices, all presidentially nominated and confirmed by the Senate, are, in that sense, politicians. And they realize that the court is in some jeopardy, in some political jeopardy, because of the scandals uncovered by ProPublica and other journalists. So they felt pressure to take some [00:35:00] sort of action, perhaps to stave off Congress from taking action and imposing an actual ethics code that would provide accountability. So, I think that this should be seen really as a political document, as a way of addressing a political problem that the court had.

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: You mentioned that congressional pressure. One of those who has been calling for Congress to impose and enforce a code of ethics is Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. He tweeted some of his concerns, which get to a point you raised earlier about enforceability. He said: "The question is enforcement. Where do you file a complaint? Who reviews it? How does fact-finding occur? Who compares what happened to what's allowed? That is where the rubber hits the road."

So, Professor Clark, do I hear you saying none of that is addressed in this code and there is potentially still a role for Congress here?

KATHLEEN CLARK: Oh, there's definitely a role for Congress here. And, yes, this code is utterly silent. It's basically a failure to address those [00:36:00] really important questions of who is it that will hold justices accountable, and how will they be held accountable? And if I could just add one thing, ironically, the court touts the fact that it imposes mandatory ethics training on the court's employees. It does not impose mandatory ethics training on the justices. And that's where the failure has been.

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, here's the question, because we have heard some of the justices publicly say they support a code of ethics. We have recently heard just earlier this fall from Justices Coney Barrett and Elena Kagan. Here's what they had to say then.

JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT: I think it would be a good idea for us to do it, particularly so that we can communicate to the public exactly what it is that we're doing in a clearer way than perhaps we have been able to do so far.

JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: It would [00:37:00] help in our own compliance with the rules. And it would, I think, go far in persuading other people that we were adhering to the highest standards of conduct.

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: Professor Clark, do you think there was a divide or there is a divide among the justices on how this should be addressed?

KATHLEEN CLARK: I don't — I'm not privy to the justices' conversations among themselves, but you could hear in both of those quotations a concern with public perception. And that, I think, is the bottom line about this new code. It's a way of addressing public perception, rather than addressing the heart of the problem, which is a lack of accountability.

AMNA NAWAZ - HOST, PBS NEWSHOUR: So, when it comes to public perception, we know the court has suffered a decline in public trust, like a lot of American institutions, in recent years. Does this code help at all with that trust and building it back up?

KATHLEEN CLARK: I don't believe so. I [00:38:00] believe what would actually help matters for the Supreme Court is for it to adopt an accountability mechanism, something like what has been suggested by, I think, Professor Stephen Vladeck and others, an inspector general, some kind of mechanism for investigating allegations of wrongdoing or violations, and as a way of actually holding justices accountable when they fail to comply with the law.

How to Fix a Broken Supreme Court - Robert Reich - Air Date 7-18-23

ROBERT REICH - HOST, ROBERT REICH: The Supreme Court is off the rails. And it's only going to get worse unless we fight to reform it. Public trust and approval of the court have hit historic lows due to seemingly partisan decisions and a growing number of ethics scandals. Here are three key reforms Congress should enact to restore legitimacy to our nation's highest court. 

Number one, establish a code of ethics. Every other [00:39:00] federal judge has to sign on to a code of ethics, except for Supreme Court justices. This makes no sense. Judges on the highest court should be held to the highest ethical standards. Congress should impose a code of ethics on Supreme Court justices. At the very least, any ethical code should ban justices from receiving personal gifts from political donors and anyone with business before the court, clarify when justices with conflicts of interest should remove themselves from cases, prohibit justices from trading individual stocks, and establish a formal process for investigating misconduct.

Number two, enact term limits. Article 3 of the Constitution says judges may hold their office during good behavior, but it does not explicitly give Supreme Court justices lifetime tenure on the highest court, even though that's [00:40:00] become the norm. Term limits would prevent unelected justices from accumulating too much power over the course of their tenure, and would help diffuse what has become an increasingly divisive confirmation process. Congress should limit Supreme Court terms to 18 years, after which justices move to lower courts. 

Number three, expand the court. The Constitution does not limit the Supreme Court to nine justices. In fact, Congress has changed the size of the court seven times. It should do so again, in order to remedy the extreme imbalance of today's Supreme Court.

Now, some may decry this as radical court packing. That's pure rubbish. The real court packing occurred when Senate Republicans refused to even consider a Democratic nominee to the Supreme Court on the fake pretext [00:41:00] that it was too close to the 2016 election, but then confirmed a Republican nominee just days before the 2020 election. Rather than allow Republicans to continue exploiting the system, expanding the Supreme Court would actually unpack the court. This isn't radical. It's essential. 

Now, I'm not going to sugarcoat this. Making these reforms happen won't be easy. We're up against big, moneyed interests who will fight to keep their control of the nation's most important court. But these key reforms have significant support from the American people, who have lost trust in the court. The Supreme Court has no real power to enforce its judgments. It has no army, it has no control over spending. Its power comes from only one source, the trust of the people. With neither the sword nor the purse, trust is all it has.[00:42:00] 

Bombshell new report on the Supreme Court’s abortion leak - All In with Chris Hayes - Air Date 12-15-23 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: I want to start with bringing people back to the timeline, which I had sort of forgotten a little bit until I read your piece today, which is basically that Mississippi passes this law banning abortion to 15 weeks. They know it's frontally unconstitutional under the court's current jurisprudence, but they want to test it anyway. And they want to send it up to the court, and they petition the court, and then Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies. Amy Coney Barrett replaces her. Tell us about the dynamics in what we think of as the conference in that court about whether to take up the case knowing how adjacent it is to Justice Ginsburg's death.

JODI KANTOR: So, one of the things that Adam Liptak and I found was that this was a real point of sensitivity for the court. You know, it's interesting: on the one hand, in our system of lifetime appointments, the passing of justices helps refresh the law. It's part of what [00:43:00] moves the law along. But if the law changes too quickly after a justice dies, it can look like - actually, Amy Coney Barrett wrote years ago in a law review article - it can look like this is about politics and power instead of law and reason.

So, there's this debate in early 2021 about whether to take up the case, not how to decide it, but whether to take it up at all, and it becomes a debate about timing. It's very clear that this new conservative supermajority has the votes to hear the case. They have the minimum of four. In fact, initially they have five. But there's disagreement about when to do it. Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas were very eager. They actually wanted to hear the case that term, the term before it was actually held. Whereas Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett were a little reluctant. Justice Kavanaugh suggested a plan [00:44:00] to relist it. In other words, to withhold from the public, the court's decision to take the case. And actually, Justice Barrett made a really strong stand. She said to the others, if you try to take this case this term, I will change my vote from a grant, a yes, to a deny, a no. And then one of the biggest surprises of the reporting is that that is what she actually ended up doing. She opposed hearing this case. 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: And it's key here to just set the context here when you quote that law review article, right? The perception from the outside is, the anti-Roe justices are sitting around waiting for their colleague to die and then be replaced with a new person. So, even before her body is in the ground, they can get to planning their long desired goal of overturning Roe. And I'm feeling, I'm reading into things here that you didn't report. I'm saying this is what it looks like to me, is that Justice [00:45:00] Barrett is like, That's going to look bad for me personally. Like, if we do this right away, she is objecting to it. But the most fascinating thing is that what Kavanaugh suggests they do is they decide to take the case and functionally deceive the public about doing so.

JODI KANTOR: So, he named some reasons. He says, we're going to watch the lower court cases on abortion. You know, we're going to see what happens, et cetera, et cetera. But it does have the effect of distancing, creating the appearance of distance from Justice Ginsburg's death. And I agree with you that Justice Barrett is in a fascinating position, because remember that President Trump said that he was going to appoint justices who would automatically overturn Roe. She gets appointed. She is a favorite of abortion opponents. She has, you know, she has seven Children. You know, that is the way she's read in the public mind. So, I think actually the fact that she voted against taking the [00:46:00] case gives us a lot to think about in terms of the court and also about her. You know, what is the meaning of her switching her vote? 

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: Ultimately, you only need four votes. They take the case and we all know that she ends up joining the majority, which was their gambit all along, that majority, that she would in fact join it. But just to, just because it's a technical thing, but it's important to me because in some ways it's my... I think the top line of this reporting is that they basically decide they're going to take it in February. But the way they communicate to the public isn't in February, we're going to take this case. Instead, they, they relist it, meaning we haven't decided yet, we haven't decided yet. And they keep doing that over and over again. They know they're taking it, but they are saying, Well, we don't know. Even though they know they took it three months after Ginsburg died, three months after Barrett. So, the public doesn't know that, but they know that, right? 

JODI KANTOR: I hear what you're saying, but I'm going to give you another [00:47:00] interpretation of the facts. This is also introducing a delay that opens a window for persuasion, because what happens next is that, you know, there's this sort of funny period when they have the votes. But this is not publicly announced. And Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer, a conservative and a liberal, both very drawn to consensus, neither of them interested in pursuing Dobbs, have this window for persuasion. And they try to convince the two newest justices not to take the case. Whether that affected Justice Barrett's decision, we can't totally say for sure. But we know that she ends up changing her vote. So, the appearance point you make is a strong one, but you also have to ask what is happening strategically during this point, because we know that justice Alito gets a little nervous and says to justice Kavanaugh, Is your vote firm?

CHRIS HAYES - HOST, ALL IN: And on that strategy, so [00:48:00] when we get to actually they take the case, they hear the arguments, they're drawing up the opinion, right? They have the five votes for overturning Roe. Frontally, Mississippi has changed once the case gets taken, they say, We're actually not asking you to rule on this law. We want you to go all outta Roe. They go all outta Roe in oral arguments. It's like, Do it, do the whole thing. They've got five votes. There is an effort you report on by Breyer, basically, and Roberts to try to pull a justice away from that to find some consensus position that upholds Mississippi law, which would radically pare back rights but not end Roe.What does the leak do to those efforts? 

JODI KANTOR: So, that's another thing we're able to establish in this reporting. I cannot tell you who leaked that document. I can't tell you for sure what the motive is. But Adam and I can tell you the effect, which is that the leak cemented these votes. Part of the [00:49:00] reason that the votes are secret is that justices do sometimes change their mind. They want that freedom. They need that freedom. History shows us that it's happened plenty of times with a lot of consequence. And so the leak interferes with that. 

It's hard to say what would have happened anyway. There isn't overwhelming evidence that, you know, three justice compromise that would have saved the right to abortion, you know, is on the cusp of becoming reality. We cannot say that. But we know that the deliberative process was at play, that there were efforts at persuasion. The chief justice only needed one vote to make his 15 week position work. And also, Justice Breyer was so interested in this that he considered joining this 15 week position, which would have been a symbolic move. And then the leak comes along and those efforts become hopeless. And so part of what we need to remember about this decision is that it really does [00:50:00] look like somebody did something really inappropriate and intended to interfere with the process in some way. 

Supreme Court Scandals: A Story of Justice Now & Then - Air Date 4-26-23

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON - HOST, NOW & THEN: Fortas starts to get into trouble. Three months after he was sworn in January of 1966, he received $20,000 from the Wolfson Foundation, which was a nonprofit organization organized by Louis Wolfson, and he got the money for consulting on charitable contributions, so he’s taken consulting money. Wolfson was an early corporate Raider. He had built his financial empire out of construction, streetcar, and marine salvage companies during the 1950s, and had come under fire from the Securities and Exchange Commission in that era for trying to dump stock in a company he controlled called American Motors Corporation, but he had come out from that investigation successfully. However, months before Fortas joined Wolfson’s Foundation, his handling [00:51:00] of a marine salvage company came under new scrutiny because he was accused of bribing a Boston financier to buy shares of that company.

Now, Fortas apparently didn’t know about that and about the investigation into it, and he continued to socialize with Wolfson. And when the Supreme Court went into recess in June of 1966, Fortas flew down to Wolfson’s horse breeding farm near Ocala, Florida. Then the day after he gets there on June 15th, 1966, the Securities and Exchange Commission complaint against Wolfson hits the public media. Fortas leaves the farm the next day, and in December of 1966, as Wolfson’s legal troubles are getting worse, Fortas returned the $20,000 consulting check to the Wolfson Family Foundation. 

The controversy doesn’t really get a lot of attraction until 1968, when Johnson nominates Fortas to [00:52:00] replace the chief justice of the Supreme Court, who’s retiring, back in the days when Chief Justice is retired, Earl Warren. And Fortas comes under fire initially, not for his connections to Wolfson, but for an honorarium he had taken to give 11 lectures at American University. He had taken $15,000 to do that, and it had been paid by former clients of his corporate firm, some of whom had cases that were coming up before the Supreme Court.

So, Republicans then dredged up the news that Fortas had also advised President Johnson on a several non-correlated issues while he was acting as a sitting justice, including discussing the Vietnam War. So, armed with the American University honorarium and the fact that Fortas had talked to Johnson, again in those days, theoretically, Supreme Court justices didn’t talk to members of the Executive branch, South [00:53:00] Carolina, Senator Strom Thurmond began one of his famous filibusters against the vote on Abe Fortas for Chief Justice. Recognizing that his vote was in trouble because of Thurmond. Fortas asked President Johnson to withdraw the nomination, and Johnson was beside himself.

And mind you, the backstory here of course, is that Strom Thurmond is appalled by Lyndon Johnson’s efforts to desegregate the United States and to get through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and here’s this way to get back at him with the guy who was after all protected individuals in the Gideon case. And Johnson says, “The action of the Senate, a body I revere, and to which I devoted a dozen years of my life is historically and constitutionally tragic. I urge all involved with and [00:54:00] concerned about our constitution and its form of government to pledge now that this shall be no precedent, that the Senate hereafter will act by majority will and never fail to address itself to the issues which it has the constitutional duty to answer, as in cut it out with the filibuster.”

JOANNE FREEMAN - HOST, NOW & THEN: basically, do your job.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON - HOST, NOW & THEN: Do your job. Fortas stays on the court without a lot of further incident until May of 1969 when a journalist for Life Magazine named William Lambert broke the story about Fortas and Wolfson wide open. That incident happened three years before it hadn’t gotten a lot of traction then. In early May of 1969, the Magazine ran a piece by Lambert outlining the $20,000 arrangement under the headline, “The Stock Manipulator and the Justice.” Fortas opted to resign 11 days later. He wrote Chief Justice [00:55:00] Warren, who was not retired of course, because there hadn’t been able to replace him, suggesting that he was not admitting misconduct, but that he wanted to protect the court by ending the controversy.

JOANNE FREEMAN - HOST, NOW & THEN: Fortas said, “There has been no wrongdoing on my part. There has been no default in the performance of my judicial duties in accordance with the high standards of the office I hold. So far as I am concerned, the welfare and maximum effectiveness of the court to perform its critical role in our system of government are factors that are paramount to all others. It is this consideration that prompts my resignation, which I hope by terminating the public controversy will permit the court to proceed with its work without the harassment of debate concerning one of its members.” So he’s talking about the welfare and maximum effectiveness of the court and resigning in the service of those things. [00:56:00] Now, his liberal allies on the court, particularly William Brennan, begged Fortas to stay on the court knowing that President Richard Nixon, who took office in January of 1969, was gearing up to nominate a particularly conservative replacement justice.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON - HOST, NOW & THEN: So interestingly enough, people are looking back to Fortas now as they’re considering what’s happening with Justice Thomas, and Adam Cohen in the New York Times recently said, “if our body politic were as healthy today as it was in 1969, leaders of both parties would be demanding Justice Thomas’s resignation, and he would be as worried about being impeached by a Republican House as Fortas was by a Democratic one.” But what really jumped out to me about the Fortas case and how different it was than the Field case when we were prepping for this was this Joanne, and I want to see what you have to say about it, because it struck [00:57:00] me that one of the reasons we are at the position we are in this moment is that, really beginning with Nixon, the Republicans ignored norms and really just said, “Well, we don’t care. We’re going to do whatever we want.” and the Democrats continued to try to accept norms to say, “Okay. I’m going to resign even though I didn’t do anything wrong. It looks like I did. So I’m going to back down.” And I wonder if the Democrats had, early on, done what the Republicans were doing that is Fortas said, “Hey, forget it. I’m staying here.” that there would’ve been such a popular outcry that we would’ve gotten the kinds of court reforms that we need. 

Whereas instead, because you could always look at Fortas and say, “Hey, look, the court’s fine. People are retiring when they need to, or they’re stepping down when they look corrupt.” Or the many different times that there have been something that looked bad on the Democratic side and the Democrat has said, “Okay. I’ll [00:58:00] step down.” Whereas on the Republican side, they’ve just said, “No. We’re going to brazen it out.”

So we have George Santos still in the House of Representatives and some of the other people as well who’ve been questioned for their behavior. And the stuff that we covered last week about how corrupt the Tennessee legislature appears to be, that maybe the correct thing for Fortas to have done was not to resign, but to openly take bribes and say, “Yeah. You don’t like it, fix it.” Instead of giving people the excuse of saying, “Well, no. We’re really okay because half the people are behaving.”

JOANNE FREEMAN - HOST, NOW & THEN: that’s like the ultimate constitutional game of chicken. Essentially what you’re saying is, well, if the Republicans were violating norms, the Democrats should have done the same thing because then it would’ve been such an obvious problem that people would’ve cried out and pushed against it. So that is a game of constitutional chicken because it’s assuming people would’ve pushed back. And one of the interesting things that has drifted through this episode is the fact that although the Supreme Court [00:59:00] justices serve for life during good behavior and are supposed to be separate and apart from the other branches of government, and in some way are not supposed to be shaped by popular will, is that the mood of the country and the assumptions of a country and what is right and wrong actually still can shape what happens to a Supreme Court justice.

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON - HOST, NOW & THEN: It is an intellectual exercise here advocating not playing by the rules, but what we’re talking about with the court as opposed to necessarily with Congress, in this case, really does come down to the individuals, because Abe Fortas said, “Okay. I’m out of here. I don’t like the way this looks. I care about the institution. I’m gone.” Today’s Supreme Court has destroyed the court’s legitimacy. They’ve just destroyed it. And instead of being like, “Man, we are really worried about the court’s legitimacy.” They’re like, “Throw me off.” The fact that Justice Thomas is, yet again, just amending [01:00:00] his financial disclosures, considering everything that has come out about that man is mind boggling.

JOANNE FREEMAN - HOST, NOW & THEN: Why are you assuming that back in time, if there had been widespread corruption, that there would’ve been a loud outcry and response? I mean, why are you assuming that the American public would’ve responded differently? And maybe part of the answer to that is the body politic was in a different place. Assumptions about norms were in a different place. I don’t know. But what is your answer to that?

HEATHER COX RICHARDSON - HOST, NOW & THEN: Both of the things you just said, but I think I’m actually looking at something slightly more instrumental in a partisan system, it’s easy to whip up one side of the equation against a corrupt justice, as Strom Thurmond attempted to do and successfully did with Abe Fortas. But if half the population could say, “No, no, no, no, my guys are fine, and we get rid of all your bad guys,” there isn’t a bipartisan outcry against ethical breaches. [01:01:00] So what we’ve got now is we’ve got a whole bunch of Democrats and some independents looking at the Supreme Court and going, what on earth do you people think you’re doing? Whereas the hardcore Republicans are like, “Hey, we love these guys.” And because it’s only happening on one side of the equation, I think you lose out on having everybody say, Hey, we got a systemic problem. And them simply saying, “No, this is all just about politics.”

Final comments on John Roberts' year-end report and the slide away from the possibility of accountability

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Ralph Nader laying out the case for resignations and reform on the Supreme Court. LegalEagle got into more of the details of Clarence Thomas's relationship with Harlan Crow. The Majority Report discussed why it would be impossible for Thomas to not have known about the ethical problems and reporting requirements he's been flouting. The Kyle Kulinski Show discussed Neil Gorsuch's questionable property sale. The Muckrake Political Podcast pointed to the long history of Clarence Thomas using his leverage on the court to get money from wealthy Republican [01:02:00] benefactors. The PBS NewsHour reported on the new ethics code written by and for the Supreme Court that will do nothing to change any behavior. And finally, Robert Reich laid out his proposals for needed reforms. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from All In with Chris Hayes discussing some of the inner workings of the court leading up to the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. And Now & Then discussed the differences between how court scandal was handled in a bipartisan way back in the sixties, compared to how it's basically ignored today. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I just wanted to share one more detail about what the court released to end this year, marked primarily by the exposure of vast [01:03:00] corruption within the institution. 

In addition to the toothless ethics rules intended to give the impression of ethical standards on the court rather than to create real standards, John Roberts, the Chief Justice wrote his annual report completely ignoring the topic of ethics. I think the Daily Beast sub-headlines it best: "The Supreme Court in 2023 faced ethics scandals and a serious loss of public trust. Naturally, the Chief Justice's response is a silly childish book report on AI." Continuing from the article: "He spends the first five pages giving a grade school-like report of how the court has evolved from using quill pens to typewriters and now computers. When Roberts does get around to discussing AI for barely two pages, his insights are so bland that Above the Law said about it, quote: 'If AI had a sense of shame, ChatGPT would be [01:04:00] embarrassed by this level of superficiality.'" 

now look, granted AI was also big news this year. I get why he might want to address its potential impact on jurisprudence. But one might also hope that someone in that position would have the self-awareness to realize when they're just not up to the task. Continuing from the article with this important point, quote: "He ducks any real discussion of the true legal ethics issues that AI implicates, such as how the use of it may affect client confidentiality, and what kind of disclosure duties do lawyers have to their clients when they use AI." 

This article and others on the subject make one last point as well, but first, a quick history lesson. This is as good a time as any to point out that Roberts was appointed to the court by George W. Bush after having spearheaded Bush's chaotic legal strategy during the 2000 election recount, that culminated in the so-called Brooks Brothers [01:05:00] riot, in which expensively-suited Republican lawyers literally banged on windows and doors trying to stop the recount, in line with their legal strategy that the only way to assure a fair election was to not count the votes. Now, I don't think Roberts was actually at that riot, but he was the leader of that team of maniacs. And it was rewarded with the appointment as chief justice. 

Secondly, his most famous catch phrase from his hearings was that judges are just umpires. They're just there to call balls and strikes, not make actual, you know, judgments. Which is why we should all be assured that his ideology wouldn't color any of his decisions. 

This was an argument that the left knew was bullshit at the time and said as much, but it was good enough cover for his extreme pro-corporate, anti-voting rights, anti-civil rights stances that he was confirmed without much controversy. 

Well, it turns out that now that [01:06:00] he's faced with the idea of actually mindless AI being integrated into the legal process, he no longer thinks that judges should be compared to relatively mindless umpires, simply calling balls and strikes. 

Back from the article, quote: " He searches for ways to show off his understanding of the limitations of AI. He says that in professional tennis, line judges have been replaced by optical technology to call balls in or out, which he asserts is inapplicable to judging. That's because, quote, 'Legal determinations often involve gray areas that still require application of human judgment.' So much for the umpire analogy." End of article quote. 

Now, of course, it's nice to know how we got here, and occasionally point out some hypocrisy that exposes what a powerful person like Roberts probably always knew was lies. But ultimately that all pales in comparison to the damage that's been done by the court's rulings over the past [01:07:00] 20 years. And it's not even just about the rulings they've made or some of the corrupt ways that justices have gotten their seats of power. The most important thing to understand is that we've created a system that effectively has no mechanism to check that power or corruption. The expectation was always that there would be enough honorable people filling the halls of power that the Supreme Court didn't need any mechanism for oversight beyond the threat of impeachment. But in the time of hyper-partisanship, the stakes, the political stakes, are perceived as being too high to act honorably. They see it as war, not governance. So the rules of war and raw power apply, not the behaviors that would produce good governance. 

And so accountability for corruption that would have been called for as obvious to practically all just a couple of generations ago, is now seen as essentially outside the realm of possibility. 

That is going to be it for [01:08:00] today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text to 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 

Now, thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian and Ben for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. 

And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them today by signing up at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads [01:09:00] and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can continue the discussion. 

So coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from

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#1602 What Happens in Israel and Gaza Doesn't Stay in Israel and Gaza (Transcript)

Air Date 1/5/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we will look at the accusations of genocide by Israel that have been filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice, and are reminded that the tactics and technology that is real develops and tests against Palestinians are sold around the world. Sources today include Democracy Now!, The Intercept, Up First, Making Contact, and The Chris Hedges Report, with additional members only clips from The Chris Hedges Report and the Ralph Nader Radio Hour. 

But first, I just want to quickly address a concern that seems to be fairly widespread, which is that antisemitism is being perceived based, not just on what some are saying about Israel, the war, or Jews in general, but also based on what's not being said, primarily from generally left-wing advocates, activists, and organizations. The accusation is that many on the left haven't prefaced their criticisms of the war or of [00:01:00] Israel with enough condemnation of the attack on Israel by Hamas, or with enough recognition of the pain being felt by the Jewish diaspora. For me, I can actually sort of understand the oversight and why so many on the left wouldn't have felt the need to condemn the attack by Hamas. And it's not out of a lack of concern for the Jewish community or some deep seated antisemitism. It's just so obvious. It seems like something that should go without saying. 

Well, that's how it feels from a left-wing, non-Jewish, non-antisemitic perspective. But the problem is that there are enough antisemitic extremists out there for whom an attack on Israel is not obviously bad which muddies the water to the point where everyone actually has to state their position on being for or against a war crime massacre. It seems absurd, but that's the [00:02:00] current state of play. Anyone speaking up to criticize Israel would be wise to state clearly their condemnations of the attack on Israel. And not just because it's being demanded of them, but because as Naomi Klein explained in her article a couple of months ago, "In Gaza and Israel, side with the child over the gun": "These Zionists' worldview is keen to interpret any perceived lack of support for Israel or Jews more broadly as antisemitism. Which is evidence that their project to build and maintain an ethno state through overwhelming force is justified".

So for those of us who don't support the use of that overwhelming force to maintain their ethno state, we don't want to do anything that would even accidentally help them support that ideology. And besides, for those of us who genuinely do stand with innocent people [00:03:00] against violence and murder being committed against those innocent people, our condemnation of the attack on Israel by Hamas back in October also happens to just be true. And there's really no harm in saying what's true. 

So, it's an absolute tragedy that condemnation of war crimes is something that needs to be clarified. But that is in fact, the tragic circumstances we are currently living with. So as we get into today's episode, which contains much criticism of Israel, I have no problem, starting with a full throated assurance that we stand against all violence related to this conflict, whether it's those in Israel and Gaza or those in the U.S. or elsewhere who are being targeted based on anger and hatred, inflamed by the current war. And stay tuned to the end where I'll talk a bit more about the perception of antisemitism coming from, not just the right, but also from the left.

Israels Push to Expel Residents of Gaza - Democracy Now! - Air Date 1-3-24

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Mouin Rabbani, I want to ask you about your new piece for [00:04:00] Mondoweiss headlined, “The long history of Zionist proposals to ethnically cleanse the Gaza Strip.” Israeli news outlets report that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told a group of Israeli lawmakers last week, quote, “Regarding voluntary emigration, this is the direction we are going in,” Netanyahu said. Israel’s Minister of National Security, the man who’s been convicted of terrorism, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has made similar comments.

ITAMAR BEN-GVIR: [translated] The solution of encouraging the residents of Gaza to emigrate is one that we must advance. It’s the right, just, moral and humane solution. I call on the prime minister and the new foreign minister, who I congratulate on his appointment: Now is the time to coordinate an emigration project, a project to encourage the residents of Gaza to emigrate to the countries of the world. Let’s be clear: We have partners [00:05:00] around the world whose help we can use. There are people around the world with whom we can advance this idea. Encouraging their emigration will allow us to bring home the residents of the communities near the Gaza border and the residents of the Gush Katif settlements.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Those were the words of Israel’s Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir. On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement rejecting Ben-Gvir’s comment, as well as those made by Bezalel Smotrich. Meanwhile, The Times of London reports Israeli officials have held secret talks with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and several other countries to take in Palestinians from Gaza. If you can talk about the history of this, Mouin? And also talk about when they refer to “voluntary migration” in Gaza. And also talk about Egypt and the pressure that’s being brought to [00:06:00] bear on Egypt to open its borders to the Palestinians of Gaza.

MOUIN RABBANI: Yes, and voluntary emigration is now, referencing that article you mentioned, being marketed as humanitarian emigration. In other words, we’re doing these people a favor by ethnically cleansing them.

I think the problem here is that many people associate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians with the Israeli extreme right, with people like Ben-Gvir, Smotrich, Netanyahu and so on. But the point I was seeking to make in that article, which is actually a lengthy Twitter thread that I then posted on Mondoweiss, is that ethnic cleansing, or what Zionists would call transfer, is intrinsic to Zionist and later Israeli policy towards the Palestinians from the very outset.

So, as early as 1895, Theodor [00:07:00] Herzl, the founder of the contemporary political Zionist movement, wrote that we need to “spirit the penniless population across the borders” and find employment for it in other lands. If you go to the period between the British Mandate and the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, you find that the Zionist movement set up a Transfer Committee, with very clear terms of reference, to ensure that refugees who were expelled would not be able to return to Palestine, to destroy their villages, and things of that sort. And the Gaza Strip, in fact, with a population that consists of more than three-quarters of Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed in 1948, has, since the 1950s, been a key target for depopulation by Israel, because it doesn’t want all [00:08:00] these refugees living within sight, so to speak, of their former homes on its borders. And it has produced a number of proposals and initiatives over the years to achieve that goal, including even one in the late 1960s to send over some 60,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to Paraguay, in return for which the Mossad would discover that it no longer had the resources to hunt Nazi fugitives being sheltered by the Stroessner regime.

So, my point was really to demonstrate that this is not a recent policy proposal by the extreme fringes of the Israeli political spectrum, but has been intrinsic to mainstream Zionism and later Israeli policy from the very outset.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: You say at the end of your piece, Mouin Rabbani, “As importantly, the 1948 Nakba did not defeat the Palestinians, who initiated [00:09:00] their struggle from the camps of exile, those in the Gaza Strip most prominently among them. It would take a Blinken level of foolishness to assume the expulsion of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip would produce a different outcome.” Talk about Netanyahu’s goal to de-Hamasify Gaza, and what exactly that means, and the effect of the killing, at this point, of over 22,000 Palestinians.

MOUIN RABBANI: Yes. Well, that takes me back to the second part of your previous question, which I had neglected to answer, which is that at the outset of the current war, Israel saw that it had unqualified, unconditional Western support from its U.S. and European sponsors, and resurrected this long-standing ambition to cleanse the Gaza Strip of Palestinians.

And the proposal that was put front and center, literally on October 7th and onwards, [00:10:00] was to move the population of the Gaza Strip to the Sinai Desert, to Egypt. And this was an idea that was very enthusiastically embraced by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And on his first trip to the region, he actually sought to market this to Washington’s Arab allies. And I think he is somewhat of a clueless airhead when it comes to the Middle East. And I think he was expecting to hear from U.S. allies, Arab allies, “How can we help you help our Israeli friends?” And instead he was met with categorical refusal and rejection for this proposal, first and foremost by Egypt.

And the U.S. and European governments later came out with a position that they would oppose forced displacement from the Gaza Strip, leaving open the possibility of what we’re seeing now, an Israeli [00:11:00] military campaign, a primary objective of which is to make the Gaza Strip unfit for human habitation, and then the encouragement of voluntary, or what is now even being called humanitarian, emigration in order to achieve the ethnic cleansing. And I think the genocide that we’re now seeing in the Gaza Strip — and this is something, of course, that’s going to be adjudicated by the International Court of Justice in The Hague after South Africa recently made an application under the Genocide Convention — all these things put together making the Gaza Strip unfit for human habitation.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Mouin Rabbani, we’re going to have to leave it there. I thank you so much for being with us, Middle East analyst, co-editor of Jadaliyya. We’ll link to your piece, “The long history of Zionist proposals to ethnically cleanse the Gaza Strip." 

South Africa Files Case Against Israel at International Court of Justice over Genocidal Gaza War - Democracy Now! - Air Date 1-2-24

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: If you can explain why it’s South Africa that’s bringing this charge, and what exactly is the International Court of Justice, where it fits into the [00:12:00] world justice system? And talk about the charge of genocide.

FRANCIS BOYLE: Well, thank you very much for having me on, Amy. My best to your listening audience.

Not to toot my own horn here, but I was the first lawyer ever to win anything under the Genocide Convention from the International Court of Justice, that goes back to 1921. I single-handedly won two World Court orders for the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina against Yugoslavia to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide.

And based on my careful review of all the documents so far submitted by the Republic of South Africa, I believe South Africa will win an order against Israel to cease and desist from committing all acts of genocide against [00:13:00] the Palestinians. And then we will have an official determination by the International Court of Justice itself, the highest legal authority in the United Nations system, that genocide is going on. And under Article I of the Genocide Convention, all contracting parties, 153 states, will then be obliged, “to prevent,” the genocide by Israel against the Palestinians.

Second, when the World Court gives this cease-and-desist order against Israel, the Biden administration will stand condemned under Article III, paragraph [e], of the Genocide Convention, that criminalizes complicity in genocide. And clearly we know that the Biden administration [00:14:00] has been aiding and abetting Israeli genocide against the Palestinians here for quite some time. This has also been raised by my friends in the Center for Constitutional Rights and in the National Lawyers Guild in a lawsuit against Biden, Blinken, and Austin.

So, I believe we will be able to use the World Court order. Right now my sources tell me the hearing will be January 11, January 12. Based on my experience with the Bosnians, we can expect an order within a week.

I would also say, with respect to the Biden administration, they are currently in violation of the Genocide Convention Implementation Act, that makes genocide a crime under United States law. And again, [00:15:00] once South Africa wins this order, the Biden administration also will stand in violation of the Genocide Convention Implementation Act.

So, I believe this is where we will be going between now, I would say, and the end of this month. And it is up to all of us, as American citizens, to figure out and support what South Africa is doing at the International Court of Justice here.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Francis Boyle, what’s the difference between the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, which is already considering allegations of war crimes by both Israel as well as the Palestinian militant groups?

FRANCIS BOYLE: Right, Juan. The International Court of Justice was originally established back in 1921, its [00:16:00] predecessor, legal predecessor, in law. And that is where I filed the genocide case. I was the first lawyer ever to win two orders in one such case since the World Court was founded in 1921, and it was on the basis of the Genocide Convention. The International Criminal Court is a separate international organization, set up in 2000.

The problem, Juan, is this. Back in 2009, after Operation Cast Lead, I advised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court for Palestine, which he did. I regret to report that the International Criminal Court has not done one darn thing [00:17:00] to help the Palestinians since 2009. The International Criminal Court has all the blood of the Palestinian people on its hands since 2009. And, Juan, that is why we set up a campaign to find a state willing to file a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice, the World Court.

The ICC basically operates at the behest of its funders and founders and masters, which is the U.S., the NATO states, the European states, etc. Until their expedited indictment of President Putin as U.S.-NATO lawfare against Russia, the International Criminal Court had not indicted [00:18:00] one American, one European, one Brit, one NATO citizen, and one Israeli, and one white person.

So, we have a campaign now to support the Republic of South Africa at the International Court of Justice. And we are asking — we’re starting this campaign today. I’m part of a coalition. We’re starting this campaign today to get members of the Genocide Convention to file declarations of intervention at the World Court in support and solidarity with South Africa against Israel and in support of the Palestinians.

A Conversation on the Horrors in Gaza with Jeremy Scahill and Sharif Abdel Kouddous - The Intercept - Air Date 12-20-23

JEREMY SCAHILL - HOST, THE INTERCEPT: I'm watching Al Jazeera and I see Wael wheeled into a hospital, his press vest with [00:19:00] blood on the side of it, and him wincing in pain as they have to then cut through clothes and figure out what kind of injury he suffered and he had been hit when he went to a hospital that had been bombed in an Israeli drone strike and Israel followed up when reporters were there by doing another strike and while got hit with shrapnel.

And the entire time when he's on that bed, he's telling them you need to go back for Semir, his longtime cameraman, and he's saying he's critically wounded. He's bleeding out. We need to send an ambulance back to get him. And so an ambulance tries to go and retrieve him and the Israelis fire on the ambulance, and they blockade the road, they will not allow anyone to retrieve the body of the main cameraman for Al Jazeera's bureau chief. And Al Jazeera's response to this then was to put a clock on their screen and start a timer of how many [00:20:00] minutes had gone by that Israel wasn't allowing any medical personnel to go and retrieve their cameraman, and it went on for more than five hours. He struggled to stay alive, and then he bled out and died.

This is not collateral damage. This is murder. This is murder of a journalist on television. This is beyond anyone's excuses or justifications. This is murdering journalists to silence them, to take the main network whose cameras have been capturing the war crimes and knock them out, and knock the people operating those cameras out. And you know what? Let's kill multiple generations of their families.

If I sound angry, it's because I am. I'm furious. I'm furious at what is happening to the people of Gaza and to my colleagues in Gaza. Sharif, it is unconscionable, the silence that we hear from so many. It's deafening in this country and around the world. [00:21:00] 

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Yeah, Jazeera is preparing a legal file to submit to the International Criminal Court over what it calls the assassination of Semir, and Reporters Without Borders is also intending to file a lawsuit with the ICC against Israel for targeting journalists in Palestine.

 I don't think, unfortunately, those are going to go anywhere. And then you're watching the journalists who are still alive, Dahdouh or Motaz Azaiza or these journalists will become the faces through which we understand of what's happening in Gaza, and I'm really afraid they're going to be killed.

Like I don't know how well is alive, actually, He was almost killed. And he keeps going out there and he keeps reporting. He's not leaving. And yeah, what angers me almost more is that yes, this response by Western news outlets. I'm not talking, they are reporting on what's happening, increasingly, there is more reporting on it and they do report on these journalists being killed. But [00:22:00] on the editorial line of it, the "Democracy dies in darkness" or whatever, stuff like that. Or the way they responded to Jamal Khashoggi or the way they responded to Evan Gershkovich. There isn't the same response, and this is so much worse. And yeah, it lays bare of a terrifying bias. Often corporate media outlets and journalists, there's this big debate over whether you're allowed to have a political opinion or not or objective journalism. And they often label outlets like Democracy Now!, like The Intercept or independent journalists as "activist journalists," as if we have some bias that that skews our reporting in a bad way. 

I can't see a stronger bias than what is being reflected in their coverage. It's just that their bias is framed by establishment orthodoxy. And it spans the political spectrum of Washington, basically. It doesn't fall outside of that. Anything that falls outside of that is [00:23:00] radical. But they're the ones who have a radical agenda, I think -- that is, if you're just an honest journalist, then you should be outraged. And this should be the number one story that you're covering. 

And I've spoken about this before with you, Jeremy, on Intercepted, about the coverage of places like the New York Times that I'm still somehow shocked by. I'm still somehow shocked. It's gotten better because of the scale of the killing and the length of it. But especially in the beginning, it was just outrageous reporting that on a very basic level of journalism was really handing a microphone to Israel and publishing their narrative without challenging it. That's a terrible bias. 

And then, yeah, what is going to happen to Palestine? What's going to happen to Gaza? They have made it unlivable. Even if the bombing stopped today, if there's a ceasefire at this moment, what's going to happen? The people have nothing to go back to. There are no homes left. They've destroyed it. [00:24:00] There's no water. There's no sanitation. They've bombed bakeries. They've bombed wheat mills. I don't know what the plan is. I don't understand. And I don't frankly, I don't think that there is one, a coherent one. 

Mosab, the poet that I just heard talk, he said, "You're not allowed to stay in Gaza. They're driving us out, but you're not allowed to leave it either." And he's, " I don't know what they want. I don't think they know themselves what they're doing. They're just killing and destroying." And I think that is right.

Northern Gaza has been turned into this hollow shell. It's an uninhabitable moonscape with few residents left. There's bodies, thousands of bodies or hundreds of bodies buried under the rubble. Southern Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians crammed into this even smaller space of the Strip, displaced in schools and tents and shelters. And there's a relentless bombardment and assault there as well. 

And can you think of any twin image that is more [00:25:00] illustrative of colonial expansion than that, a destroyed and empty geography alongside an overcrowded ocean of displaced suffering? 

And one can only assume that this mass slaughter and destruction that Israel has wrought in Gaza, it's just an intention to make the territory uninhabitable for the 2.2 or 2.3 million Palestinians who live there and to push for expulsion via a military-engineered humanitarian catastrophe.

Disease In Gaza, New York Times vs. ChatGPT, Hottest Year On Record - Up First - Air Date 12-28-23

A MARTINEZ - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: In Gaza, access to food, sanitation and clean water is scarce as the war between Hamas and Israel rages on.

ASMA KHALID - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: The World Health Organization warns disease may eventually kill more people than actual combat if the health system is not fixed. 

A MARTINEZ - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: You've got NPR's Ari Daniel here to walk us through what's being done to try to stay ahead of an outbreak. Ari, first off, can you give us a snapshot of infectious disease in Gaza right now? What's it looking like? 

ARI DANIEL: Sure. It's bad, and it may well get worse. The WHO says rates are, quote, soaring. [00:26:00] Here's one example: more than 100,000 cases of diarrhea, with rates among children that are 25 times higher than before the war. Our producer, Anas Baba, spoke to pediatrician Tahrir Alsheikh, who's seen some brutal cases of diarrhea.

PEDIATRICIAN TAHRIR ALSHEIKH: I treated a four month old baby who had 20 bowel movements in a day. 

ARI DANIEL: Along with a torrent of respiratory diseases. 

PEDIATRICIAN TAHRIR ALSHEIKH: I've had cases that didn't respond to any treatment. 

ARI DANIEL: The WHO says there are also numerous cases of meningitis, rashes, scabies, lice, and chicken pox. 

A MARTINEZ - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: Wow. Now we hear how hard it is to treat people who are hurt and sick right now.

Ari, what combination of conditions created the situation where an infectious disease disaster could really be right around the corner? 

ARI DANIEL: Well, Gaza's health infrastructure has really crumbled amidst Israel's bombardment and ground offensive. The WHO says more than half of Gaza's hospitals are no longer functioning. [00:27:00] And that's because Israel has accused Hamas of harboring fighters and weapons in and around those hospitals and under them in tunnels, putting them in the line of fire. Plus, the conditions inside Gaza are a perfect storm for the spread of infectious disease. There is intense overcrowding, colder winter weather, and a lack of clean water, sanitation and proper nutrition, which are services that are difficult to secure under Israel's near total siege of Gaza.

Here's Amber Ali, a deputy program manager for Doctors Without Borders in the Palestinian territories. 

AMBER ALI: It's just sort of a cauldron of possibility of infectious disease. This really just is an infectious disaster in waiting. 

A MARTINEZ - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: And that brings us back, I suppose, to the World Health Organization's prediction that disease could endanger more lives than military action.

ARI DANIEL: Exactly. And it's why global health groups are racing to ramp up disease surveillance efforts. 

A MARTINEZ - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: What did [00:28:00] that look like in Gaza before the war? 

ARI DANIEL: Pretty good, actually, despite the Israeli blockade. But the war's compromised all that. Here's Dr. Alsheikh again. 

PEDIATRICIAN TAHRIR ALSHEIKH: We used to culture bacteria in Gaza, prescribe medication based on the results. Now, we can't do cultures or anything, and the infections are spreading. 

A MARTINEZ - CO-HOST, UP FIRST: So then what are public health professionals doing to try and catch an outbreak before it even takes off? 

ARI DANIEL: Well, a WHO official recently traveled to Gaza with rapid tests for hepatitis and cholera. They want to resuscitate one or two of the local laboratories that used to do pathogen screening. Negotiations are also underway to bring a mobile lab into Gaza or ferry specimens out to Egypt for testing. For now, Rick Brennan, a regional emergency director with the WHO, told me it's fortunate that terrible diseases like measles or cholera haven't yet surfaced. 

RICK BRENNAN, WHO: To be honest, I'm grateful that we've got to [00:29:00] this point. We've got increased rates, but we haven't had a deadly outbreak yet. 

ARI DANIEL: Whether that good fortune lasts isn't certain. But early detection will be critical to keeping potential disease outbreaks contained before they lead to further suffering. 

Gaza, Solidarity, and the Movement for Palestinian Liberation - Making Contact - Air Date 11-29-23

LUCY KANG - HOST, MAKING CONTACT: We're going to zoom out from the situation on the ground in Gaza to looking at the various actors involved in these atrocities.

So I sat down with Nora to hear about the weapons that Israel is using in attacks like on al Shifa hospital and where they're coming from. I want us to take a closer look at Israel's military industry. So, Israel is one of the world's most militarized countries, as well as a major weapons supplier internationally. I'm wondering, could you maybe sketch out for us a broad picture of what Israel's military industrial complex looks like and how it enables this current genocide and the ongoing occupation? 

NORA BARROWS-FRIEDMAN: Israel is a settler [00:30:00] colonial rampart of Western imperial interests in the Middle East. Israel is not only a leading arms manufacturer that sells its so-called battle tested or field tested weaponry to other states around the world.

Of course, the research and development wing of these weapons are the people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, specifically Gaza over the last, 20 years. Tons of brand new weaponry are tested on Palestinians and then sold in the world market by Israeli arms companies, but it's also a leader in surveillance technology and biotech weaponry and technology.

So Israel is also a leading supplier of spyware for governments and bad faith actors around the world. And of course it is all supported and financed by the [00:31:00] US. The US finances the Israeli military up to three, sometimes six billion dollars a year. A lot of that is also through weapons contracts.

The US also uses Israel as a weapons storage depot where it can store weapons for US led imperial interests in the region. I mean, it is so expansive and it is so insidious. Israel's weapons industry is its biggest export. I mean, where do we start? I, Israel uses surveillance drones on Palestinians right now, as we speak. These same surveillance drones are the ones that the Department of Homeland Security has purchased to patrol the border wall between the US and Mexico. 

There are these weapons something that's called the ninja missile, I believe, and it is designed [00:32:00] to, upon impact, fan out these blades, and they're designed to rip flesh just into pieces. I'm just imagining. people in business suits, sitting around boardrooms, coming up with designs for these kinds of weaponry. I just, I have a lot of just fear for humanity that this is what our minds can come up with, and that these weapons are being used against mostly children in the Gaza Strip is just, I mean, there are no words. I keep losing words for this horror that we're seeing. I feel like we need to come up with a brand new vocabulary.

LUCY KANG - HOST, MAKING CONTACT: Yeah, absolutely. And when you were talking about this vision that you had of people in boardrooms, I was also thinking about the role of global defense corporations as well, who are not only enabling [00:33:00] the genocidal war, but also profiting from it. Can you talk about some of the other players who are profiting actively now? 

NORA BARROWS-FRIEDMAN: Yeah, the big three, in the US which is Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, which design and manufacture not just missiles, but also, the war planes the fighter jets, drones. We're talking about Elbit systems, which is an Israeli company, but which has headquarters in the UK and facilities in the US, especially on the East coast. I mean, it is an enormous industry, I think, and it's so ingrained with Western capitalism. I mean, they're just normal factories producing normal products for normal states to be used in normal situations. That's how it's marketed. 

Boeing, oh, they make airplanes as well. We all fly passenger jets. Boeing also makes weapons that kill people. Raytheon is one of the biggest weapons [00:34:00] manufacturers on the planet, Lockheed Martin as well, and it's just, these players are always excited when there's a global conflict or a war or a genocide happening because their stocks go up, because their products become more valuable. And we're seeing now, we're seeing these stock prices rise. We're seeing economic experts talking about how great this war on Gaza is for these weapons manufacturers. How it's all just normalized and into this sort of natural outcome of capitalism and Western interests. It's just, it's devastating, and it should not be normal. 

These weapons manufacturers are complicit in war crimes and crimes against humanity, and when we look at what's happening in Gaza, when children, fathers and mothers and grandparents, and doctors and journalists and school teachers are being shredded to bits by Western [00:35:00] weapons. We have to figure out ways to stop it. 

There are activists all over the country all over the world, but if we're focusing in on the US there are activists who every day since the start of this genocide in Gaza have been engaged in incredible direct actions and protests to stop these weapons manufacturers and these war criminal, conspirators from profiting and that is incredibly necessary. People are getting arrested. People are locking themselves down at the gates of Boeing and of Elbit facilities and stopping the weapon shipments on cargo ships just like the port of Oakland a couple of weeks ago, and then two days later at the port of Tacoma, Washington.

It's time for people to not see this as business as usual. The majority of people in this country do not want this genocide to happen, and It is incumbent upon us to do whatever we [00:36:00] can to stand in the way of these war crimes. We're seeing these marches nearly every weekend just here in California, and every day around the country, where thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are gathering to add their voice to this growing, exponentially growing choir saying not in our name, stop the bombing, stop this genocide, and warning the Biden administration that they're going to be voted out.

Gaza is a weapons lab for the arms industry w Antony Loewenstein - The Chris Hedges Report - Air Date 12-8-23

CHRIS HEDGES - HOST, THE CHRIS HEDGES REPORT: Let's talk about privatization. You talk about the neoliberalism that transformed Israel, which was a socialist state, major state-owned enterprises were sold off, privatized, especially in the 1990s. Israel has very high income inequality. Poverty rate at 23% in Israel, 36% for the Arab population. And you write, "Many Palestinians are unaware at how the occupation has been privatized, because it [00:37:00] makes no difference if a state officer or a private individual harasses or humiliates them". You go on to write, "Many checkpoints through which Palestinians are forced to travel to access their schools, workplaces, or Israel, if they are fortunate enough to get one of the few work permits handed out by the Jewish state, use facial recognition technology and biometric details to document their every move". But these are private companies, so explain that, what's happened to how essentially private for profit firms are managing the occupation? 

ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN: It's worth saying obviously that Israel was a self-described socialist country, but socialist country for Jews, and that's... 

CHRIS HEDGES - HOST, THE CHRIS HEDGES REPORT: Well, yes. Yes. That's right. 

ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN: And also, yes, and clearly I mean as some older viewers will be aware, it's amazing to think now that so much of the global left was enamored with Israel for the first really 20 years of its existence. Anyway, that was a bit of blindness that we can talk about some other time. But anyway. 

Yeah, look, Netanyahu [00:38:00] was a key factor in this, that yes, Israel had a quasi-socialist background. In the last 20 or so years, there's been a shift, to not just neoliberal policies within Israel itself, but also outsourced in the occupation. And in some ways, it sort of goes along with the massive expansion of settlements. You now have roughly three quarter of a million Jewish settlers living in occupied territory, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And a lot of the guards or security officers that are working on both settler checkpoints, but also Israeli checkpoints are run by private companies.

And I've spent some... I lived in East Jerusalem between 2016 and 2020 and been visiting there for close to 20 years. So I spent a lot of time looking into these kinds of issues and it's worth saying that, as I say in the book, yes, it's been outsourced and the accountability was zero, even if an Israeli soldier commits an abuse, let alone if a private interest does. And it's important also to say that, yes, a lot of these [00:39:00] companies are Israeli, but many of them, in fact, that are doing this are also foreign and international. And that's relevant because some viewers will remember the last years, the UN had tried for years to release this list of global companies and Israeli companies that were directly complicit in the occupation, and therefore they should be boycotted, essentially. And they released a list a number of years ago. It caused a big scandal in some circles. About 20 or so of those companies then removed themselves from being involved in managing the occupation, so to speak. But there are still, I think, around 100 companies, Israeli and foreign, that are directly involved day to day in so called managing the occupation.

That, to me, is not just illegal and immoral, but also ripe for a kind of boycott campaign, which I suspect will increase in the coming years after what we've seen in the last six weeks. 

CHRIS HEDGES - HOST, THE CHRIS HEDGES REPORT: Can you talk about AnyVision, I think it's changed its name to Oosto, and then Unit 8200? 

ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN: AnyVision, which you said [00:40:00] has changed its name, is a facial recognition company, an Israeli company that was testing this at Israeli checkpoints. So, what that means is that when Palestinians want to, say, move around the West Bank, if they want to potentially go from the West Bank into Israel proper, they have to have their details checked, their irises often checked now, and they were gathering all this information. We don't exactly know where that information was going, but clearly it was going into Israel, a massive database that they were using to gather personal data on pretty much every single Palestinian in the Occupied Territories.

Those tools are then marketed globally. They have appeared in huge amounts of infrastructure from airports to other places around the world. And when those companies promote it, whether, AnyVision uses the term 'battle tested'. I'm not sure, but they are saying it's been tested in Palestine successfully. So called successfully. And that does tie into Unit 8200, which is, as I said, [00:41:00] Israel's NSA. It is the body that is gathering intelligence on Israelis and on Palestinians and increasingly, I should say, there is a lot of evidence that increasingly the occupation is coming home. That a lot of Israeli Jews who for years believed that this was just happening to Palestinians down the road are increasingly being surveilled themselves.

And I'm not just talking about since October 7, although particularly since then, that there is a mood within Israel, increasingly, of criminalizing dissent entirely, whether it's by Arabs or Jews. But Unit 8200 has become this kind of quite infamous funnel of people who work in the military for years developing all these tools and methods to surveil Palestinians, which they then take to the private sector to develop various forms of repression, which they can then sell around the world.

And by maintaining those close ties, that's how it goes to my point earlier on, the NSO group was essentially an arm of the state. Many of these companies, these surveillance [00:42:00] companies, repressive tools, biometric companies operating in the Occupied Territories or in Gaza are then used by Israel as a key selling point to make new friends, so to speak.

It's a transactional friendship, transactional relationship, and it's why, as I really think, I think this more and more, that the Israeli arms industry really is an insurance policy. It's an insurance policy because, yes, there are some countries that oppose what Israel's doing. Not many, not enough. But even the countries that publicly do oppose what Israel is doing, many of them are still buying Israeli repressive technology. I mean, Mexico is one example amongst many. So, often I think words matter. Sure. What a government or, you know, prime minister or president says, it's not irrelevant. Yeah, sure. But what matters more is what you're doing, what you're buying, what you're deploying yourself in your own country.

So, when you have 130, 140 nations in the world that have [00:43:00] bought some form, in the last decades, of Israeli defense technology, drones, missiles, spyware, whatever it may be that's what matters. And I think those Israel believes probably with justification, those nations, at least for now, are unlikely to turn on Israel while they're so reliant on those tools of repression.

Gaza, Solidarity, and the Movement for Palestinian Liberation Part 2 - Making Contact - Air Date 11-29-23

LARA KISWANI: As Palestinians, we understand our movement as part of the movement against settler colonialism. We understand our movement as the struggle against Israeli apartheid. We understand that struggle as against ethno supremacy, white supremacy, religious supremacy, fascism, and right wing authoritarianism. And we understand that all these systems of oppression are used to exploit and dominate indigenous people and land, from manifest destiny to the Zionist colonization of Palestine, to fascist coups across the global South.

And as such, what we're witnessing in Palestine as part of a 75 year struggle against colonial [00:44:00] violence, 16 years of a brutal and inhumane siege on Gaza, most importantly, backed by and made possible by the economic, military, and political support of the US government. 

So from an abolitionist perspective, we need to unpack the violence the system uses to exercise state repression and inhibit people of color and poor people from their own self determination. I won't get into all the specifics of what Israel has done, but we know that they have oppressed us as Palestinians for 75 years. My father is older than the state of Israel. And they imagine that the old would die and the young would forget, and what we're seeing in the streets today and what we're seeing around the world is evidence that that is absolutely not true. 

And today, as anti racists, as feminists, as abolitionists, we must recommit ourselves to the critical work of defunding genocide, defunding war, defunding apartheid and militarism, and funding people's health, well-being, and freedom. Abolition, I [00:45:00] believe, forces us to ask the critical question of what are the economic and political priorities of this US government, and what do we need to do to shift those priorities?

Our immediate strategy as a movement is quite clear, it's plain and simple. We must do everything in our power to stop this war on Palestinians in Gaza and demand an immediate ceasefire. Without that, we cannot build or strengthen our movement, let alone any social justice movement. We, when I say we, it's the big we, right? It's all people of conscious. We're lucky today to have our anti Zionist Jewish allies like Jewish Voice for Peace taking bold and necessary steps to engage in mass civil disobedience against this war. We are fortunate to have other social justice movement partners joining us in that struggle, but right now we need everyone.

The call for an end to this war should be echoed by anybody who values human life, by all [00:46:00] freedom loving people. And we know that we will not stop until there is a ceasefire. And once there is, we will not stop until there is no more siege on Gaza. And once that happens, we will not stop until we end apartheid and Palestine is free and myself and my six month old child have the right to return.

What we have seen in the past, and in the current, that has had an impact, are the mass direct actions, what we witnessed at Grand Central Station with our Jewish allies, shutting down federal buildings, shutting down freeways, disrupting warmongers when they speak, as we saw with Blinken, making it so that nobody can turn a blind eye to this.

And let's continue to do that, to do everything we can to build and shift power, but while we work to demand an end to this war, we are also drawing on our historical memory of 9/11, and working to defend and protect our communities right here in the United [00:47:00] States against the growing rise of anti Palestinian, Islamophobic, racism, and violence, facilitated by the systems of policing, imprisonment, and surveillance. 

We're seeing the criminalization of any Palestine solidarity. Prior to this war on Gaza, in 37 states it was illegal to engage in boycott, divest, and sanctions against Israel. We are seeing the emboldenment of political repression, more laws attempted to be passed right here, including in California, where I live, to make Palestine solidarity on college campuses illegal. We're seeing surveillance increase with the targeting of Palestinian homes, communities, and faith institutions. Superintendents and school districts, democratic club parties, elected statements are fanning the flames of racism, calling for people to "stand with Israel". In layman terms, stand with genocide and war.

And just as the struggle, we know, [00:48:00] for a free Palestine emboldens those repressive systems of the prison industrial complex, Palestine solidarity also expands the terrain for social justice movements. To unpack and challenge militarism, policing, surveillance in the spirit of solidarity and collective liberation. So while we're watching the United States government. And so many of its Western allies clamor to beat the drums of war and annihilation of my people, we have a duty, for those of us in the belly of this beast, to stop this war, to defund this war, to defund apartheid. And we have learned from the movement against apartheid South Africa, what has worked.

As such, we call on everybody to boycott Israel. We call on institutions to divest from Israel. We call on the US government to sanction Israel and end its billions in military aid. We call on our communities and allies to stop the [00:49:00] annihilation of Palestinians by demanding an end to the siege on Gaza, end to the occupation, freedom for all of our political prisoners, and an end to US aid to apartheid Israel.

But despite The egregious violence our people are facing today, I also want to remind us of the gains we've made, because we have made gains over the last few decades where the question of Palestine is central to any social justice movement. Today, there's consensus across progressive communities that an attack on Palestine is an attack on all movements for justice.

And fundamentally, we also know it's never really just been about Palestine, it's about what the movement for Palestinian liberation represents—the ongoing anti colonial struggle against US imperialism, racial capitalism, global militarism, the decolonial liberatory potential of all our movements, and the development [and] implementation of a people-centered, multi racial democracy.

The revolutionary Palestinian [00:50:00] Arab tradition I come out of is indebted to, and shaped by, international feminists and abolitionists such as Angela Davis. Through that lens, we know what is made possible by understanding our struggles as linked, understanding the necessity of solidarity and internationalism. Bringing it back to the radical understanding of intersectionality, the Combahee River Collective. We understand solidarity's not just simply a moral imperative, it's a necessary way of life for all those committed to changing the course of history, and transforming society and ourselves in the process. 

The embodiment of that tradition is why and how I and AROC understand the struggle to abolish apartheid, the struggle to abolish Zionism, the struggle to abolish fascism in our homeland, As one in the same with the international struggle to free all political prisoners for economic and political democracy, for [00:51:00] education and healthcare, for right relations to the land, for social justice, for gender justice, for climate justice, shaped in the interest of working people.

So with the rebellions we've seen in the United States in recent years, we've also seen the unmasking of violence, of the violence of racial capitalism and policing. The whole world is questioning the foundation of this system, the historical exploitation and dispossession of Black and Indigenous people. And just as the system finds its origins in the exploitation of Black and Indigenous communities, it's also true that it finds its undoing in the centuries long emancipatory visions of these same people. Freedom for the indigenous people of Palestine is part and parcel of that emancipatory vision.

BONUS Gaza is a weapons lab for the arms industry w Antony Loewenstein Part 2 - The Chris Hedges Report - Air Date 12-8-23

CHRIS HEDGES - HOST, THE CHRIS HEDGES REPORT: Let's talk about the Alpha Gun Girls. So, a little sidelight, but something, just disgusting, didn't know existed until you wrote it, until I read it.

ANTONY LOEWENSTEIN: [00:52:00] Yes. Well, there is a side industry, I guess you could call it, of Israeli women, Jewish women, who are... often they've been in the military, they kind of have fetishized or sexualized the Israeli military. So, you have these groups of women who are scantily clad, often holding guns, often posing in photo shoots as if they're kind of in war in Gaza or somewhere else, as an idea and a way to show two things. One, the IDF is female-friendly. You can be a incredibly sexy woman and still be in the IDF and kill Palestinians. That's the implication. And secondly, that Israeli women are cool. I mean, that's the message they're trying to send. I don't know if it's particularly effective, but that's the message they're trying to send.

And for years, you know, I've been following this story that there's been a real push by the IDF, the Israeli army, to [00:53:00] show how gender-friendly they are, how in fact gay-friendly they are, how trans-friendly they are. By how vegan-friendly they are. I mean, this is, we sort of laugh in a way by saying this, but I have a big section in the book talking about, this is such a key part of Israeli messaging, so called 'hasbara'.

I'm not entirely convinced it's massively successful. I mean, people can argue that either way. But a lot of Israel's social media in the last 10 or so years has focused on this issue. We give vegan meals to soldiers who want it. We are trans-friendly. We are women-friendly. We are gay-friendly. You can, you know, wave the rainbow flag. In fact, some viewers will see, about two weeks after the Israeli invasion of Gaza, there was this Israeli soldier in Gaza, the background was apocalyptic, holding the rainbow flag. And this image kind of went viral, I did a story about it, essentially saying, and the message was very clear, you see, we want to liberate Palestinians in Gaza who are gay to just be [00:54:00] themselves.

Now, the mocking that this got, justifiably, was clear, as if people were saying, Right, so you've decimated Gaza and it's apocalyptic, but gee, you can be a gay Palestinian and some may have freedom in Gaza. I mean, the cognitive dissonance to actually believe that. And that ties into these girls you're talking about, just finally, that these women over the last years are traveling around Israel and the world promoting an image of Israel as liberal, but also militaristic, pro-feminist, but also gun-friendly. And that's why a lot of pro-gun groups in the U. S., and mostly men, let's be honest, are into these kinds of sexualization of Israeli gun wielding women. 

BONUS Christian Zionism - Ralph Nader Radio Hour - Air Date 12-30-23

HANNAH FELDMAN - CO-HOST, RALPH NADER RADIO HOUR: Reverend Wagner, my question is about how American fundamentalist Christian clergy fetishize the Holy Land. We've had previous guests speak to how Birthright Israel and other similar programs [00:55:00] fetishize Israel and try to turn Zionism into a core tenet of American Judaism. Could you speak to how American Christianity, whichever relevant sects, how they fetishize the Holy Land, and the work that you're doing to counteract that.

REV. DR. DONALD WAGNER: Yeah. Well, that's a book right there, but you can find it in my memoir, Glory to God in the Lowest. I deal with that. I grew up in this right wing evangelical Christian Zionism. It's actually a form of fundamentalism. It actually also predates Zionism, and worked with Zionism like as a handmaiden, symbiotically, back in the 1890s and so on.

But Christian Zionism as an evangelical fundamentalist movement really elevates the modern state of Israel, and it equates biblical Israel with the modern state. That in itself is [00:56:00] a heretical teaching. There's nothing in the Bible that says a modern state will be the fulfillment of prophecy. But this movement takes that kind of a direction, and it has kind of a three act scenario to it.

The first act is that we are now in a difficult period, but we must support Israel because that is not only the locus, but the movement that will bring Jesus back. The second act of this scenario is that soon we will enter a final period where Israel will be attacked from the north. Christians, who are true believers, as born again Christians, will be raptured, lifted out of history, conveniently. Now, this is all heresy, in my opinion. So, two thirds of the Jews will die in the final battle of Armageddon. So, that's Act 2. And Act 3 is that Jesus comes back, [00:57:00] and you have a chance to build a thousand year rule and convert to Christianity or go to hell. 

A great Jewish writer, Gershon Greenberg, was on 60 Minutes once, and he was asked about that. He said, yeah, it's a three act scenario, and we Jews, two thirds of us, die in act two, or we have to convert to Christianity. He said, as a Jew, I don't like my chances. So, that's a summary of the movement. It's very strong. It has a movement called Christians United for Israel, which has offices in every state, mobilizes groups, and Trump loved them and he had John Hagee, the director, on.

They work hand in glove with the pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, to mobilize evangelical Christian support and funding. They are funding settlements, they raise money, Hagee raises money and gives millions of dollars to the Israeli Defense Forces, and it's all tax exempt. That is a loophole that [00:58:00] has to be closed to shut this down. And they're aligned with many of these militant settlement groups. 

So, this is a dangerous movement, and it's not just in North America. It's growing in Central and South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. So, Netanyahu is reaping global support, and they bring people to Israel and spend a lot of money when no one else is coming, like now. 

So that's just a summary, but you can get more of this in my book, Anxious for Armageddon, and there's a great website that I worked on for a while called, where evangelicals critique this heretical theology and show alternatives. 

What we're hoping is we're going to have a powerful coalition working from the bottom up to mobilize more people at the grassroots to change Congress, but we're not quite there yet. So we need your help.

Final comments on the impacts of the antisemitism that is felt by the Jewish diaspora in the wake of the Hamas attack and war in Gaza

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Democracy [00:59:00] Now! describing Israel's strategy of voluntary migration. Democracy Now! also explained the process ahead at the International Court of Justice. The Intercept discussed a journalist being killed in Gaza. Up First looked at the rise of infectious disease amid limited medical resources. Making Contact focused on the export of Israeli military technology around the world. The Chris Hedges Report looked at the security apparatus in Israel and how it's sold abroad. And Making Contact featured a monologue laying out an anti-colonial vision of freedom. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from The Chris Hedges Report highlighting the inclusive marketing of the IDF, and the Ralph Nader Radio Hour discussed Christian Zionism in the U S. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at, or shoot me an email requesting a [01:00:00] financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

For more on our take of the war in Gaza and Israel more broadly, we've done several episodes recently that are worth checking out. Number 1584 covers the political turmoil in Israel before the attack by Hamas in October. 1589 gives first impressions, just 10 days out from the Hamas attack. 1591 looks at both traditional and social media in relation to the war. And 1592 looked deeper into some of the underlying causes of the conflict. So check those out. Again, those are episodes 1584, 89, 91 and 92. 

Now to wrap up, I wanted to share a couple of contrasting points that I came across while reading some of the latest on the reverberations of this war currently being felt here at home. There was an article in Politico titled "California lawmakers pull the fire alarm on anti-Semitism"[01:01:00] and it features an interview with a California assemblyperson who is also the co-chair of the legislative Jewish Caucus, expressing their concern about growing anti-Semitism that seems to be coming from both the left and right, in their perception. The quote that really stuck out is this one: he says, quote, "We now find ourselves in this incredible situation where we are trapped between the far right and the far left. Those two groups hate each other, see each other as a threat to everything they love and believe as holy, and the one thing they seem to agree on is that Jews are uniquely evil and that we are responsible for the world's problems. " Continuing, "Those are two segments of our society in the United States and around the world that are growing. And if one of the core ideologies that's made its way into both of those groups, is that Jews are bad and Jews are oppressors and Jews are evil. That's a very [01:02:00] problematic and scary thing for us given how we've seen this unfold in history over and over again." End quote. 

Now to me, that sounds practically unhinged. I mean, the description of anti-Semitism, as displayed quite frequently from the far right, makes perfect sense. The sort of conspiratorial anti-Jewish vision of a cabal of Jews being evil and causing all the problems in the world -- that's not a fantasy, that's not something that doesn't exist in the real world. It does. But I basically never hear about it coming from anyone who claims to be on the left. That seems to be almost exclusively a far-right conspiratorial mindset. 

Now I'm sure that there are some outlier examples that could be pointed to, but I mostly think that this kind of thinking stems from what I discussed at the top of the show: [01:03:00] that anyone who didn't do a good enough job of condemning the Hamas attack gets suddenly categorized as antisemitic in the minds of people like this California politician, that is basically equivalent to white supremacists. 

But for another perspective on this, let's turn to another recent article, this one is from the Guardian titled, "Anti-Defamation League staff decry dishonest campaign against Israel critics." So the Anti-Defamation League has made a name for itself over the last more than a hundred years as experts in extremism by tracking and cataloging antisemitism and extremist violence. However, they're not just a hands-off data organization. They also advocate quite explicitly for the state of Israel and for the ideology of Zionism. In 2022, the ADL CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said that, quote, [01:04:00] "Anti-Zionism is antisemitism." And he singled out Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace as groups that, quote, "Epitomize the radical left, the photo inverse of the extreme right that ADL long has tracked." End quote. 

So, again, this is taking an extreme position that I would argue defines antisemitism so broadly as to be basically absurd, and which has the effect of stoking far more fear of antisemitism from the left than could possibly be justified. 

It sort of conjures the idea that, before we thought the only danger was coming from the far right, but now we see that the danger has basically doubled and that it's coming from both sides, as the left-wing peace activists who criticize the policies of the government of Israel are equally dangerous to Jewish people as those primarily on the right who hold [01:05:00] conspiratorial. antisemitic views. 

But the good news being focused on in this article is that there seems to be a healthy amount of dissent within the ADL, which I had not heard before. Continuing from the article, just after that quote from the CEO, quote, " His remarks didn't only upset grassroots activists and Jewish groups critical of Israeli policy. It also set off a firestorm within the Jewish advocacy group. Some members of ADL staff were outraged by the dissonance between Greenblatt's comments and the organization's own research, as evidenced by internal messages viewed by the Guardian. 'There is no comparison between white supremacists and insurrectionists, and those who espouse anti-Israel rhetoric, and to suggest otherwise is both intellectually dishonest and damaging to our reputation as experts in extremism,' a senior [01:06:00] manager at ADL's Center on Extremism wrote in a Slack channel to over 550 colleagues. Others chimed in, agreeing. Quote: 'The afore-mentioned false equivalencies and the both-sidesism are incompatible with the data I've seen,' a long-term extremism researcher said." End quote. 

So I was really glad to hear that, and hold out hope that this perspective, one based on the evidence and data about where the actual dangers of antisemitism stem from, will be the one that prevails in the long run. But we can't depend on data alone. This is a mistake that the left makes often. How people feel, and how they perceive a situation, is almost always more relevant than what the data says. And the Jewish community feels attacked right now, obviously. The California assemblyman, when asked what [01:07:00] he wanted support to look like, ended up just talking about how it simply felt bad when critics of Israel didn't also acknowledge the pain and suffering that's going on in the Jewish community. 

Now for some, like the CEO of ADL, any criticism of Israel will be seen and felt as antisemitism. And I'm happy to have that debate, because I think that's nonsense. But for others, it seems like they feel attacked and just don't want to also feel abandoned at the same time. So if acknowledging the pain and suffering actually helps people feel less threatened, and helps sap the energy from the more extreme and dangerous instincts within the Zionist ideology, then, if you're criticizing Israel from the left without making your holistic perspectives clear about all of the violence on all sides, then I think you're doing your [01:08:00] left wing politics wrong. 

That is going to be it for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text to 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. 

Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our transcriptionist trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple Podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content, no ads, [01:09:00] and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community where you can also continue the discussion. 

So coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay!, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast, coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from 

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#1601 Christian Nationalism is not Christianity, it is Fascism (Transcript)

Air Date 1/2/2024

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast, in which we will look at Trump's greatest impact, that of bringing the fringes of the conservative movement into the center, and by strongly courting the evangelical Christian vote, helping accelerate the Christian nationalist movement to merge religion with patriotism. 

Sources today include Confronting Christian Nationalism, a little on the nose there, Fresh Air, Radio Atlantic, The Hartmann Report, Meet the Press, and The Chris Hedges Report, with additional members-only clips from the Benjamin Dixon Show and Democracy Now!.

A Threat to Church and State - Confronting Christian Nationalism - Air Date 9-9-23

AMANDA TYLER: We should have a common understanding about what we're talking about as far as Christian nationalism goes, and I'm going to point to the statement that's available at The work that we did back in 2019 was about providing an advocacy platform for people who are interested in learning more and for taking a public stand, and the centerpiece of the [00:01:00] project is a statement, and in the statement itself, we define Christian nationalism as a "political ideology that seeks to merge our identities as Americans and Christians." 

So a few things here: one, we are specifically talking in the American context. This is something that comes up, this is not particular to the United States, but In our work, we are really focusing on the American expression of Christian nationalism, and so we talk explicitly about American and Christian identities. But we also want to distinguish that Christian nationalism is not Christianity.

Christian nationalism is a political ideology, Christianity is religion. That said, you can't totally divorce Christianity out of it. It'd be great just to say, "Oh, this has nothing to do with Christianity," that would be really easy, right? That's not accurate, and that's because Christian nationalism uses the narratives and the symbols, [00:02:00] and in some cases, even the theology of Christianity to further this political ideology. But as we define Christian nationalism, it is not itself a religion. It is more about identity than religion in a lot of ways. And we get at this in one of our resources that we have available at ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism, a really handy one pager that your guests last week Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry helped us put together called, What is Christian Nationalism?, and we talk about how it's more identity than religion. 

When we define Christian nationalism, I think it's also important to say what it's not. It's not patriotism. Patriotism is a love of country, and we can love, we can show our love of country in a number of different ways. We can wave an American flag. We can protest in the streets. We can exercise our constitutional rights. These are all different ways to be patriotic. Nationalism is a love of country [00:03:00] that also requires an allegiance to it above everything else, including our theological views. And so when our patriotism starts to ask us to sacrifice our theological views, that's no longer patriotism—that's nationalism, and particularly as we're talking about here, Christian nationalism.

DOUG PAGITT: It really does seem like there's a lot of people who believe, as a matter of fact, that this was founded as a Christian nation with intent for a Christian community to express the desire and will of God in the world. I don't know. I hear that so often from people who I think would feel totally bothered by the fact that that would be Christian nationalism. They think it's just history. They think it's just a proper description of how the world came together. 

Can you talk a little bit about how do you make sense out of the history that so many people have been taught? Maybe it was in Sunday-school or school-school, or homeschool or somewhere along [00:04:00] the line, they just picked up from, I don't know, the pilgrims forward, that there were a bunch of religious freedom seekers that came to America to establish freedom from a oppressive government and that was God's call and the United States of America has a unique place and they just view the world through God's lens and they think God has given the people of Christian faith this land and we should be gracious to everyone, but, you know, it was a Judeo Christian place. How do you even begin to unravel that when that doesn't feel like a choice people are making or an ideology they're picking? They feel like it's history. What advice do you have for people trying to, make some better sense out of all that?

AMANDA TYLER: I think for one just engaging in conversation and not taking some of this history and sometimes I'll put that in air quotes, "history" as fact. You can cherry pick any kind of history of the United States. You can take different anecdotes about certain founders or constitutional framers own religious views. You can construct a [00:05:00] narrative as some of these Christian nationalists, like David Barton, have done in the past. 

David Barton is someone who has spent decades writing this history of the United States as a Christian nation, and a lot of this, as you said, gets into some of these curricula that homeschools and others use in order to teach this history—you can cherry pick that history. You could spend your time going anecdote for anecdote or quote for quote. I don't often think that that's really a productive way to do it, and so instead, and again I'm a lawyer and I lead this advocacy group about religious freedom for all, so I go to our founding documents and I go to the US constitution itself. And religion or religious is mentioned exactly once in the original US Constitution from 1787, in Article 6 where there says there will be no religious test for public office. And so I say if our founders really wanted to set up a Christian nation, this was a really [00:06:00] ineffective way to do it, to say from the beginning that there would be no religious test for public office. 

And then you can go to the first amendment, of course, that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. But if you are saying at the very first amendment to the US constitution that we are not going to establish a religion, there will should be no law respecting an establishment of religion, again, you're not setting up a Christian nation when it comes to the laws and the structure of our government itself. 

It was never meant, however, for there to be a total divorcement of religion from the public square, far from it, but as far as our government itself, our government was set up as a secular government, not one that was meant to promote one particular religion over others or even religion over irreligion. It was set up as a [00:07:00] secular government 

How Trump Is Dividing The Evangelical - Fresh Air - Air Date 11-29-23

TERRY GROSS - HOST, FRESH AIR: I think it's fair to say that you trace some of this to Jerry Falwell, who was a founder of the Moral Majority. And the Moral Majority is credited as being the evangelical group that helped Ronald Reagan get elected and that brought the evangelicals into the political realm and into a very forceful influence in American politics. So can you talk about that a little bit, the connection that you see?

TIM ALBERTA: Yes. I think, in many ways, when people ask, where does this story begin, I think it starts with Jerry Falwell Sr., and I think it starts with his Moral Majority. I think, perhaps even more to the point, Terry, it starts with the founding of a small Christian college in Lynchburg, Va., that was later renamed from Lynchburg Baptist College into Liberty University. And that period of time in the mid to late 1970s, when Jimmy Carter is president, when the culture wars are [00:08:00] beginning to rage around abortion and prayer in public schools, and pornography, and drug usage, and all of these things, Jerry Falwell Sr. senses an opportunity to use these massive organizations—his Christian school, his large Christian church, and this new organization, the Moral Majority—to use them in concert to apply pressure on the secular left and to enlist like-minded religious conservatives to join his cause.

And what he discovered was this incredibly explosive, dynamic formula for raising money, for mobilizing the grassroots to vote Republican. And I think what was so dangerous about it was that there's ample evidence to suggest that Jerry Falwell Sr. himself did not believe in most of this fear that he was peddling, this fear that he was using to [00:09:00] exploit the masses of evangelicals who he was raising hundreds of millions of dollars from, and buying a private jet and flying around the country, saying that the end is nigh. Falwell Sr. himself did not personally believe that, but he was planting this...

TERRY GROSS - HOST, FRESH AIR: But how do you know?

TIM ALBERTA: Well, I've spoken with a lot of people close to him. I've read some of his correspondences. There is ample evidence to suggest that Falwell, and his contemporaries at the time, some of whom spoke to me for this book, they knew that what they were doing was dishonest, that it was duplicitous, and they didn't particularly care because they saw this as a means to an end, the end being a conquest of the secular culture. And so once you justify things that way, then it's fair game.

TERRY GROSS - HOST, FRESH AIR: Would you say that Ronald Reagan opened the door to evangelicals basically becoming the base of the Republican Party?

TIM ALBERTA: I think in some ways, yes. [00:10:00] This kind of shotgun marriage between Jerry Falwell Sr. and his Moral Majority and the Ronald Reagan campaign in 1980, I think it completely reoriented American politics as we knew it to that point. And what we see today in terms of Donald Trump's relationship with the religious right, the throughline is Jerry Falwell Jr., who was probably the single biggest endorsement for Donald Trump back in the 2016 campaign because it was establishing a continuity between not only generations of the Falwell family, but generations of these evangelical activists who had finally found relevance and success in the political arena and were really reluctant to give that up.

TERRY GROSS - HOST, FRESH AIR: Oh, you describe one picture of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Donald Trump, and the background was one of Trump's walls at one of his homes, and it's filled with photos, and some of those photos are Playboy [00:11:00] models and other things that should be far outside of what Jerry Falwell Jr. would be endorsing.

TIM ALBERTA: Yes. And the great irony was that it was Jimmy Carter's presidency that really galvanized Jerry Falwell Sr. to get engaged and to mobilize these tens of millions of evangelical voters. And one of the specific things that Falwell Sr. cited was the fact that Jimmy Carter had the audacity to give an interview to Playboy magazine, which Jerry Falwell Sr. singled out as an avatar of America's cultural and moral decay. And here is his son and his namesake, Jerry Falwell Jr., a generation later, posing in front of a Playboy magazine with Donald Trump, giving a thumbs up and smiling broadly, and tweeting that out to all of his followers. And just that split screen, that juxtaposition, tells you so much about the [00:12:00] trajectory of this movement.

TERRY GROSS - HOST, FRESH AIR: Jimmy Carter was a much more liberal evangelical than the Falwells, but also, that's the interview, the Playboy interview, is the interview in which Jimmy Carter confessed that he sometimes had lust in his heart. Not that he acted on it, but that he had it in his heart, and I think the implication was he felt guilty about it. But Trump's lusted out loud. He's had affairs with Playboy models, and he's talked about sexually harassing women and how cool that is. So, that's a contrast, too.

TIM ALBERTA: I'm so glad you're raising that, Terry, because yes, in that Jimmy Carter Playboy interview that I believe he gave in 1976, that was what Falwell and some of his associates at the time seized all over. "How dare this person who would run the United States of America, be the leader of the free world, how dare this person admit that he has felt temptation and lust in [00:13:00] his heart? That is totally unacceptable for the leader of God's ordained country, the United States." And yet here we are, 50 years later, dealing with a president who has become the unquestioned leader of that religious right movement who has spent years parading his mistresses through the tabloids, boasting about sexually assaulting women, who was found liable recently of sexual abuse by a jury. 

So understanding the backslide here of what the standards are and what they aren't inside the American evangelical movement, and really, I think, just to put it very bluntly, understanding the rank hypocrisy that has guided this movement in recent years is at the core of this story.

TERRY GROSS - HOST, FRESH AIR: Do you see parallels between the split in the evangelical church and the split in the Republican Party? Just as many people have left their churches for more open-minded [00:14:00] churches, a lot of Republicans who are more from the Republican mainstream have abandoned the party.

ALBERTA: Oh, absolutely—the parallels are uncanny. I think they start with just this basic fact that Donald Trump, in many ways, represented the fringe of the party becoming the mainstream. That is probably the single biggest consequence of the Trump presidency is that these voices that once existed at the periphery of the GOP during the Tea Party years and even farther back, they, in Donald Trump, suddenly took over the mainstream of the party to the point now where anyone who is attempting to adhere to traditional conservative Republican policy beliefs is an outcast because they no longer belong in the party.

We've seen that same dynamic at work in the evangelical movement, which is to say that 15 or 20 years ago when you would [00:15:00] see Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside of funerals with these heinous, hateful banners that they would hold up, those people were rightly viewed as a cult, they were viewed as the fringe, but today, you have pastors who are even more incendiary, even more extreme than Westboro Baptist, and they have massive followings. They preach to millions of people online every Sunday. They've been invited to Trump's White House. One of these pastors in particular, Greg Locke, who has built this massive tent revival church in Tennessee and who is known for things like saying that autistic children are oppressed by demons, and for staging burnings of Harry Potter books, and he's debating flat Earth theology next week at his church, in fact— this pastor, he was invited to the White House, and he posed for a photo there with Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham. So these people who once would have been treated as outcasts [00:16:00] and pariahs, they are now very much in the evangelical mainstream.

How Trump Has Transformed Evangelicals - Radio Atlantic - Air Date 12-14-23

TIM ALBERTA: Floodgate is a church in Brighton, Michigan, which is my hometown. They had about 100 people, 125 people on an average Sunday for their worship services. So it’s a pretty small church—roadside congregation—in my hometown. And I grew up a few miles from there. I had never heard of it. 

Fast-forward to COVID-19: Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic governor of Michigan, had issued shutdown orders that implicated houses of worship, and most of the churches in the area, including very conservative churches—theologically, culturally, politically conservative—they decided to shut down for some period of time, and that included my home church, where my dad had been the pastor—the church that I grew up in, spent my whole life in, they closed down. And basically, at that moment, this massive schism was opened in the [00:17:00] community, not only in the community I grew up in, but in the faith community that I grew up in, sort of universally speaking when we talk about evangelicalism in America, because this same thing that happened in Brighton, Michigan, was happening all over the country, which was to say that churches that closed down had some number of their congregants who were up in arms, who were furious, who basically believed that the pastors there were cowards and that they were succumbing to the forces of secularism that had the Church in the crosshairs.

And meanwhile, churches like Floodgate that took a bold stance against the government and stayed open, those churches were doing the Lord’s work. And so what you saw at Floodgate was a congregation that had about 100, suddenly within about a year had gone to 1,500, and now they’re even much bigger today than they were at that time.

And so when you go into Floodgate on a Sunday morning, as I did many times, instead of some of [00:18:00] the traditional Sunday-morning worship rituals—the church creeds and the doctrines being read aloud, the doxology sung, some of the standard stuff that you would become accustomed to in an evangelical space—really what you would see was the pulpit being turned into a soapbox, and the worship service turning into a low-rent Fox News segment, with the pastor just inveighing against Anthony Fauci, against Joe Biden, against the Democratic Party, against the elites who are trying to control the population—very dark, very angry, very conspiratorial. And that’s what you would see inside of a church like Floodgate.

HANNA ROSIN - HOST, RADIO ATLANTIC: It’s not exactly an evolution. It’s more like an intensification, and I’m curious how the dots got drawn between a theological argument, and COVID-19 masking, and then went all the way to Fox News.

ALBERTA: Well, you’re right that it’s intensification. It is also evolution. [00:19:00] I’ll explain, I think, what is the arc that led us to this place. To understand this moment is to understand the sweep of the last 50 or 60 years in the evangelical world. 

So, during the mid-to-late ’70s, and certainly into the ’80s through the Reagan years, the Moral Majority is ascendant. You’ve got tens of millions of evangelicals who are suddenly energized, galvanized, mobilized politically. And then you begin to see, after the Iron Curtain falls and the Cold War ends, and we move into this period of a kind of peace and prosperity, that some of that panic starts to fall away a little bit.

A lot of churches ratchet it back, and things return to normal for a period. And you see that, really into the early 2000s, with a notable exception, I would add, of the Bill Clinton impeachment, which I think was a major moment for a lot of evangelicals—certainly my own father, my own church—where a lot of evangelicals wanted to take that moment to emphasize that [00:20:00] character matters, morality matters, and that our political system depends on having moral leaders.

And then you fast-forward, and things are still at a low simmer for a while there.

HANNA ROSIN - HOST, RADIO ATLANTIC: I think at the same time during the period that you’re describing, we do come to think, in our cultural imagination, of evangelical as equivalent to conservative, eventually as equivalent to Republican conservative, and then eventually as equivalent to white Republican conservative. Those definitions are also getting hardened during the period that you describe as quiet.

ALBERTA: I think that’s right, and I think that some of that owes to just a self-identification phenomenon. So, during George W. Bush’s presidency, he’s talking about his relationship with Billy Graham, he’s talking about evangelicalism, and so that is becoming a part of the political lexicon all over again.

I think really what starts to trip the alarms [00:21:00] inside of evangelicalism is the end of the Bush presidency and the election of Barack Obama. Now, for some reasons that are obvious, i.e., we’re talking about a white evangelical movement, portions of which, perhaps significant portions of which, are deeply uncomfortable with a Black president.

I also think that during Obama’s presidency, you see a significant move in the culture. I mean, even just on the issue of same-sex marriage, for example, Obama runs for president in 2008 opposed to same-sex marriage, and by the time he leaves office, he is in favor of it and the Supreme Court rules to legalize same-sex marriage nationally. All of that is happening in the space of less than a decade, and you’re seeing major cultural movement toward the left. And a lot of evangelical Christians during this period of time are really beginning to sound the alarm, they’re really hand-wringing, saying, [00:22:00] "Okay, this is it. This is the apocalypse we’ve been warning about for 50 years." 

Even if that apocalypse was once an abstract thing, something that they gave voice to but maybe didn’t really believe it, suddenly this convergence of factors is causing a lot of churches to become, not just more conservative, not just more Republican, but really more militant in a lot of ways—in the rhetoric you hear from the pulpit, with the tactics that they will choose to engage in some of the culture-war issues with. 

And so that leads us to Trump coming down in the golden escalator. And Donald Trump is not exactly a paragon of Christian virtue. The thrice-married, casino-owning, manhattan playboy who parades his mistresses through the tabloids and uses terrible, vulgar rhetoric—I mean, this is not someone who the rank-and-file evangelical would point to as an ally, much less as a [00:23:00] role model.

And I reported extensively in 2016 on a really well-organized, well-financed effort to rally evangelical leaders around Ted Cruz, because they at least viewed him as one of their own. But he also had all of that same pugilism, all of that same attitude, that "we’ve been pushed around too long, and now it’s time we fought back and we did something about this."

Donald Trump secures the Republican nomination, and then he realizes that he can’t get elected president without the support of these white evangelical voters and, frankly, without overwhelming support of those voters. And so, methodically, he starts his courtship of them. He chooses Mike Pence as his running mate. He releases this list of Supreme Court justices. He promises explicitly that they will be pro-life Supreme Court justices, something that had never been done by a presidential nominee. He’s doing all of this signaling [00:24:00] to evangelical voters. 

Perhaps most importantly, he goes to New York in the summer of 2016, and he meets with hundreds and hundreds of these prominent evangelical pastors from around the country, and he basically promises them, he says, look, I will give you power. If you elect me, I will give you power, and I will defend Christianity in this country.

And so there’s \ this transactional relationship where Trump gets the votes from these people, and they get not just the policies in return, but they get the protection in return. It’s almost as though Trump becomes this mercenary who, on their behalf, is willing to fight the enemies out in the culture, in the government. Anyone who is hostile to the Christian way of life as they view it, Donald Trump is going to fight on their behalf.

Will MAGA Mike Inflict a Religious Crusade on America? - The Hartmann Report - Air Date 11-2-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THE HARTMANN REPORT: Can we stop MAGA Mike and the Republican party from inflicting their religious crusades on America? We have the handmaidens tale alert—Idaho just [00:25:00] arrested their first teenager for abortion trafficking. But to start out my op ed today over at Hartman report. com is titled, Can We Stop MAGA Mike & the GOP from Inflicting Their Crusades on America?

Mike Johnson, it turns out about three and a half years ago, Mike Johnson gave a speech in which he said that he wanted a religious litmus test for office holders. , David Corn is reporting this over at Mother Jones. Johnson told attendees to a workshop on America as a Christian nation, quote, "You better sit down any candidate who says they're going to run for legislature and say, 'I want to know what your world view is. I I want to know what, to know what you think about the Christian heritage of this country. I want to know what you think about God's design for society. Have you even thought about that?' If they haven't thought about it, you need to move on and find somebody who has... we have too many people in government who don't know any of this stuff. They haven't even thought about it."

The idea of religious people taking over government is not, I'm pretty sure, what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is [00:26:00] God's," but Johnson goes on to clarify the phoniness of his embrace of Jesus when you consider his very anti Christ like positions on, for example, despoiling our planet.

He's a climate change denial person. He had tax cuts for billionaires. Whose taxes would Jesus cut? Really? And his opposition to health care and other welfare programs. I point out an article, and I'm not going to go through the whole thing again with you, because I say it so often on this program, but there is literally only one place in the Bible where Jesus tells his disciples what they have to do to get into heaven, and it's in Matthew 25, and he says, I was hungry and you gave me food. He says that, in the end days, he's talking to the sheep, the people who are going with him to heaven, as opposed to the goats who are going to hell. He says, I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came onto me. And at that point, his disciples freaked out and said, wait a minute. We've never seen you in any of these [00:27:00] situations. And he said, as you do, onto the least of these my brethren, you do unto me.

This is the essence of Christianity. It's also the essence of Judaism and Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism. It's told with different stories and different religions, but this message that it is our job as human beings, and particularly as followers of a religion, it is our job to care for our brothers and sisters. This is core to every religion in the world, and it is rejected by Mike Johnson and his right wing buddies. Rejected.

Mike Johnson voted repeatedly to end Obamacare, to overturn Obamacare. Oh, those 20, 30 million Americans, they don't need healthcare. Screw them. They're just low income people. This is clearly Mike Johnson's philosophy. And, it shouldn't surprise us, this has been the philosophy of the Republican Party since 1920, when Warren Harding basically kicked out all the progressives after the downfall of Teddy Roosevelt and [00:28:00] Robert Taft, and Harding flipped the Republican Party into pure oligarchy. That's where we're at.

So anyhow, Jesus is not, yes, there are places in the Bible John 14, where he talks about being saved through confession, or John 3:5, where he talks about baptism, but basically, that's the only place in the Bible where Jesus says, "Here's how you get to heaven."

I realize there's a debate among Christian theologians about whether it's possible to get to heaven without ever having done any good works, purely by confession, by saying the right magic words. I'll leave that debate to those folks. I'm not going to weigh in on it. I am a fan of " you are known by your works." but there's nothing. Jesus never said anything about taking over governments, or banning books, or cursing queer people, or trying to overthrow elections that you lost, or passing laws to enforce your religious beliefs. In fact, he said the opposite. Crippling the IRS, religious litmus tests, nothing about controlling women, or embracing AR [00:29:00] 15s, or trickle down economics. None of that stuff came out of the mouth of Jesus. But now we've got these fake Christians running around saying, "We know, we know what what Christianity is."

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, don't pray in public. and what do they do? What's the first thing they do as soon as Mike Johnson is elected speaker?

They gather around him and pray over him on the floor of the House of Representatives. Johnson even goes farther than that. He says that the environmental movement, "defies the created order of how this is all supposed to work." He believes environmentalists, presumably because they're looking at scientific data rather than reading the Bible. Johnson apparently believes the universe is 6, 000 years old and all that kind of stuff, noah's Ark held dinosaurs. 

Apparently because environmentalists are reading science instead of the Bible. He thinks they're working for Satan. He says, "when you take God outta the equation and you remove absolute truths... you gotta make all this stuff up. So what they've done is, as the devil always does, they take the truth, they turn it upside down. So the radical environments environmentalists—they actually [00:30:00] believe that the environment is God." How dare they, see the sacred in nature? Frankly, that's another part of most religions. 

I'm telling you, the fossil fuel billionaires must have laughed themselves silly when they found Johnson. They really hit the jackpot. Here's a guy two heartbeats away from the presidency, and he thinks doing anything about climate change is Satan's work. It doesn't get weirder than that.

Similarly, because democracy appears nowhere in the Bible, Johnson's just fine with strongman autocracy. He's the architect of the Republican Attorney General's strategy to sue before the Supreme Court to throw up Biden's votes in multiple swing states. After all, King David didn't need democracy, he wasn't elected. Why should King Donald have to be elected? 

Trump’s ‘personal shortcomings’ have become a ‘bonus’ for evangelical Christians, says Tim Alberta - Meet the Press - Air Date 12-24-23

KRISTEN WELKER - HOST, MEET THE PRESS: You write that "for decades, the religious right had imposed exacting moral litmus tests on public officials," and yet eventually "evangelical leaders embraced Trump's shortcomings." How do you explain this evolution?

TIM ALBERTA: It is an evolution, it's an arc. So you think about the [00:31:00] 2016 election and It's easy to forget now, but for a long time, Evangelicals were Trump's softest supporters. He had to really go to great lengths to firm up his support. He had to put Mike Pence on the ticket. He had to release the list of Supreme Court nominees. He really had to court this group. And there was this uneasy alliance, a transactional relationship, where he said, I will give you all these policy victories that you want in exchange for your votes. 

What that has morphed into is something very different, where those personal shortcomings that were once a real deficit in the eyes of those White evangelical voters, it's almost now like a bonus. And I think what I mean by that is, for a lot of these people who are panicked who are just stricken with fear about the culture changing so quickly, and the country turning on Christianity, and that their faith is in the crosshairs and one day they're going to be persecuted for their faith in this country— a lot of folks believe that. They think the [00:32:00] barbarians are at the gates, and so they need a barbarian to defend them, to protect them.

And so, they look at Trump, and the behavior, and the rhetoric, and in some sense, because he is not bound by biblical teachings, not bound by biblical virtues, he is free to fight for them in ways that no good Christian ever would. And that's the tragic irony to all of this is that in some sense, these people have decided that the best way to preserve Christian virtue in this country is to first set Christian virtue aside.

KRISTEN WELKER - HOST, MEET THE PRESS: Are you saying that evangelicals idolize? 

TIM ALBERTA: I think some portion of them do, absolutely. And I think an even bigger portion of them, Kristen, idolize America. They have taken this country, and held it up in a place of a covenant relationship with God, where if America suffers, then God himself suffers. And that is a-biblical, [00:33:00] it is bad theology but it's also dangerous to the precepts of what a pluralistic society is and how it functions. And to be clear, we now have some significant chunk of the American people who, they don't view these partisan political disputes as red team versus blue team, they view them as good versus evil. They view these everyday political debates as a proxy in a holy war. And I don't know that we've fully begun to grapple with the implications of that.

KRISTEN WELKER - HOST, MEET THE PRESS: It's significant because what you are describing is a relationship that evangelicals have with politics that supersedes what the average person feels when they think about politics, and you describe this evolution of evangelicals as increasingly entrenched within far right politics. Do you think that's because of Trump, or do you think that was also a natural evolution? 

TIM ALBERTA: Both. Trump [00:34:00] accelerated a lot of things and I think, even more so, Kristen, one of the, one of the factors here that sometimes goes underappreciated is COVID 19. And when you had a number of blue state governors issuing shutdown orders that implicated houses of worship, and people who had been marinating for decades in this message that the culture was coming for you, that the government was going to come for your churches, that they were going to shut you down, that you wouldn't be able to preach God's word in this country anymore, that's a real phenomenon dating back to the 70s and the 80s, this sort of end times prophesying. So when COVID 19 comes, it was like the prophecy was fulfilled for a lot of these people, and they were radicalized by it inside churches that preached that the end is here. 

KRISTEN WELKER - HOST, MEET THE PRESS: How did pastors respond to the challenge of guiding their congregations through COVID 19? You described this as really deepening this phenomenon that you're talking about. 

TIM ALBERTA: Yeah, and so there were some [00:35:00] pastors who decided to be war profiteers, who turned their churches into, they turned their Sunday morning worship into Fox News segments. They turned their pulpit into a soapbox and they really decided to lean into this. 

That, from all of my reporting, Kristen, represents a very small fraction of the clergy. Most of the pastors who I've spent time around, including a lot of just big, conservative Republican pastors in conservative communities, they took a safe, rational approach. They shut down their church for a few weeks or for a few months or whatever the case was with their congregation. And by doing so, they were labeled Marxists. They were labeled as collaborators with the regime. They were weak, spineless, squishes, whatever, and some small but vocal portion of their congregation would first wage war against them, trying to get them to relent, and then if the pastor wouldn't relent, they would leave the church, and they would find their way to one of these other churches that [00:36:00] had pounced on the COVID 19 fracturing as an opportunity to grow.

And as I document in the book, I've been to churches that have grown tenfold, twelvefold, just in that 18 month period or so during COVID, where the pastor saw an opportunity, a financial opportunity, because the people who come into your church, they put money in the plate, and suddenly, some of these churches have grown from small little roadside congregations to big, booming megachurches. So, there's an industry here and people have taken advantage of the fear and the grievance that was percolating at the grassroots level. 

The Trump movement is turning America fascist w/ Jeff Sharlet - The Chris Hedges Report - Air Date 10-27-23

JEFF SHARLET: The first rally I went to was in early 2016 in Youngstown, Ohio, which is, of course, a town just absolutely destroyed, a steel town just decimated. And there was a big crowd at the airplane hangar, and the first thing I noticed and realized was a staple was that while the press -- which was all penned up, they all agreed to stay in a little metal cage basically so that they can [00:37:00] be used as like a prop in Trump's passion play -- was twiddling their thumbs. 

He was introduced by one of the most right-wing preachers that [you'd] ever heard, just a local preacher, but a very, very militant guy. And I've heard a lot of right-wing preachers. And in fact that this was a staple of this, and it was a sort of a combination of that kind of wrath of God, but also at this particular -- or I think it was at this, but no, it was a different rally -- black preacher who often introduced him would say, "I don't see black. I don't see white. The only color I see is green." And I would listen to the people around me talking about, while they waited for his plane, Trump Force One, to come in -- remember, this is not a president, he's coming in his own president [plane] -- they would talk about all the gold with it; the plane was literally heavy with gold. And I realized that what was happening here was this appeal to the prosperity gospel when Trump says, "We're going to win so much you're going to get tired of winning." He wasn't saying that I'm just like you. He was saying like prosperity gospel preachers always do: [00:38:00] "Look at my blessings. Look at my airplane, my riches, my beautiful suit. I am obviously more blessed than you. But by falling behind me, falling into my wake, you can partake of that blessing too." 

And you raise Norman Vincent Peale, who he referred to as his preacher, Trump -- we make a lot of Trump's irreligious religiosity, but of course. I think we're confusing religiosity with piety. He is certainly impious. But he grew up really fascinated by Billy Graham on television as a charismatic figure, and Norman Vincent Peale, the power of positive thinking. He described Norman Vincent Peale as part of his "holy trinity" of mentors: his father, Fred, from whom he learned toughness; Roy Cohn, the legendary Red Scare warrior from whom he learned cunning; and Norman Vincent Peale, you could argue, from whom he learned bullshit. That, the point is the sale. Norman Vincent Peale boiled the gospel down to a [00:39:00] salesman's manual. And he carried that forth. And that's what was happening in 2016, I think, was really was he was saying, " Vote for me and you'll get a piece of the riches, you're going to get some of the gold. Your plane too will be heavy with this precious cargo." 

CHRIS HEDGES - HOST, THE CHRIS HEDGES REPORT: In that sense, he really replicates the role of a mega preacher completely, who is idolized, who can't be questioned, on the route to physical prosperity. 

But the second time Trump runs, which you also cover, you say the whole landscape has changed in a much darker way. How did it change? 

JEFF SHARLET: By 2020, of course we're into the pandemic. The "You're gonna win so much you'll get tired of winning," we can't really go with that. There was the aborted slogan tag, "Keep America Great", but MAGA just works so well that he's stuck with that. But it was darker in the sense of he had been using conspiracy theories -- and I think what's fascinating with that kind of narrative world that he was [00:40:00] creating, was winking at -- he's a little bit like a drug dealer who starts using his own supply. And I write in the book of a particular interview with Laura Ingraham in -- I think it was in 2019 actually the summer of '20, no the summer of 2020 -- and Laura Ingraham is doing what the right wing press did for him, which was always take his words, broadcast them, but also channel them into some kind of reason. And he was resisting it, sitting on the edge of his chair, leaning forward, looking very uneasy, talking about dark forces, men in black uniforms, circling in the planes above him, right now, he's using the present tense, and you could see Laura Ingraham trying to reel him back, saying by dark forces, you must mean Obama's people. And he's "No, people, you don't know who they are. I can't, I couldn't, I can't tell them the name." And he's no longer winking at the conspiracy theories he's trafficked in. I think he's fallen into the abyss and that kind of conspiracy thought was so definitive of the rallies I would go [00:41:00] to, where there's always a lot of blood and gore in the rhetoric of a Trump rally -- and that's been one of the failings of the press in not really addressing that; they would just ignore those stories -- but now he would go on at length about decapitations and disembowelments and "bad hombres" as he put it -- creeping in through windows, lots of these sort of horrible horror movie kind of rape fantasies and things that he knew that he couldn't even tell you about.

And it struck me as a kind of modernized, Americanized, bastardized, gnostic gospel. Gnosticism -- and I know that you've read deeply in this literature, but just to boil it down in the simplest sense -- an idea that there's an elect or a small group, initiates, who have secret knowledge, and that what's on the surface isn't real. And in fact, the actual God isn't real. There's a deeper power behind that. And of course gnosticism even has its own variation of the [00:42:00] deep state, the bureaucracy that gets in the way of the truth. And I think this is -- I don't think Trump actually believed QAnon, but he believed in this kind of gnosticism, this secret knowledge that you obtained not through rationalism, but through a kind of mystic connection.

And of course, this starts to sound a lot like fascism, which it is. 

Interview with Author Elle Hardy on Christian Nationalism - The Benjamin Dixon Show - Air Date 1-19-23

ELLE HARDY: Pentecostal Christianity is the fastest-growing religion in the world. And it's something that's been going a bit under the radar, I think, which is really why I wanted to write the book.

So it only started in 1906. It was founded by the son of freed slaves from Louisiana in a small Los Angeles church. And what really got it going then, and what's really making it explode now over the last 30 years around the world, is still a lot of the same things. It's really the faith of the world's working poor. And it really centers spirituality around the Holy Spirit. So it's the gifts of the Holy Spirit as told in the Bible. So it's things like speaking in tongues [00:43:00] that, that usually come to mind, but the main thing that's really getting people in the tent is health and wealth. In terms of getting people in the tent, it's about 35,000 people a day -- which I think is like pretty much like two Madison Square Gardens for context, so that's a lot of people -- and at the moment it's about 600 million and counting. And by 2050, there'll be about a billion people, or one in 10 people globally, who are Pentecostal charismatic. I tend to call them Pentecostal for ease of reference, but there are a few different branches and ways of referring to the movement. So it's a really significant thing that's going on. 

And the other thing that's pretty significant there is that there's been a lot of connections with the rise of what I call the radical right in politics. So Pentecostals were the first evangelicals in America to get behind Donald Trump, more so than before Southern Baptists and other groups like that. They were really prominent in J. O. Bolsonaro coming to power and just recently the storming of the Brazilian capital in Brazil. They've been behind people like Rodrigo Duterte in the [00:44:00] Philippines, very prominent in Nigerian politics. So it's a really influential movement and a global one. One I think is really fascinating. And as I said, something that I think has just gone a bit under the radar. 

BENJAMIN DIXON - HOST, THE BENJAMIN DIXON SHOW: Elle mentioned the foundations of the Pentecostal movement, and it immediately triggered in my mind, a memory of the Azusa Street revival. I know of it because of my biblical background, my church background, William J. Seymour, a Black man, son of a free slave is who founded it. So I asked Elle, how did this movement go from being one founded in Blackness to what it is now? A very forward-facing, nationalist, racist movement. And I want you to pay particular attention to her response and how historically as this movement grew and changed and evolved, there's still an alignment between Blackness, Black people, Black nations that have aligned with this new Pentecostal movement that is increasingly becoming the face of racism, [00:45:00] bigotry, and hatred, and even becoming the religious face of the Trump campaign. 

ELLE HARDY: There's a couple of things. There's certainly in terms of substance, I think that there's a real movement going on globally that we're seeing that a lot of conservative-minded people and a lot of conservative-minded Christians are really feeling besieged by the liberal world around them. You'll hear people say, I can't turn on the damn TV without, some Hollywood actor telling me who to vote for, or I lost my job because women are in the workplace now. And, as all you hear about is is the environment and climate change and that sort of thing.

So there is a real sense of a lot of people in a lot of very different contexts around the world, really feeling like a liberal mindset is closing in on them. Someplace in the US, they'll call it wokeness. But you're certainly hearing it in other places as well. In the developing world, particularly places like Brazil and Nigeria, where Pentecostalism is really huge, you hear a lot about gay marriage and people, saying, "Oh, look, the West has lost its way with gay marriage," and " look [00:46:00] at your societies are falling apart since you let the gays get married." And that's absurd, but it's something that unfortunately a lot of people believe.

So there certainly is that sense, but I think the style is really important too. Pentecostal preachers have been, from the very earliest days, they've been one of the people. These are often people that come from working class backgrounds or, might be the most charming guy in the village in some places, or because of they don't often need a theological training to get their position. So they tend to be very good at what they do. They tend to be "people persons." They tend to have a real sense of an audience. And you find a lot of common cause in people like Trump. Trump's rallies are, if you read out the sorts of things that he would say at his rallies, it's incomprehensible. But if you listen to it, it's about the sort of back and forth with the audience, and it's about playing on certain things and it's about getting the energy going. 

And so there just is some common cause, it's about preaching from the garden, not caring about what people say in books. And I think that is something that certainly can't be underestimated in the popularity [00:47:00] and how these political and faith-based movements have been able to aligned.

BENJAMIN DIXON - HOST, THE BENJAMIN DIXON SHOW: This is audio of pastor Greg Locke, who is the pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee. Now he doesn't identify as a Pentecostal. In fact, his church was taken from a traditional Baptist church. Listen to this audio. 

GREG LOCKE: I am not apologizing for what I said on this platform last week. [Applause] The Delta variant was nonsense then, it is nonsense now. You will not wear masks in this church! You will not wear masks in this church! I'm telling you right now. Do not get vaccinated! Do not get vaccinated! I don't care what you think about me. I don't need your money. I don't need your hand clap. I don't need more people on social media to follow me. I ain't following along with it. Joe Biden's days are numbered. I've told you the whole time this election was fraudulent. We got so much proof. The only people that can deny it are crack [00:48:00] smoking, demon-possessed leftists. I'm about to tear this whole pulpit in half. 

BENJAMIN DIXON - HOST, THE BENJAMIN DIXON SHOW: Greg Locke perfectly fits the description of what Elle Hardy was speaking about in our interview. Here she is with more.

ELLE HARDY: It can be really tricky, because a lot of people don't identify as Pentecostal. A lot of these, what we call now the third wave of the Pentecostal movement are broadly called neo-charismatics, but many won't call themselves that.

So it is very confusing. But the real unifying thing is the Holy Spirit. And so you can often see that in declarations of faith. You can see it on the focus on things like health and wealth. Greg Locke is a great example. Yeah, I do believe that he started out Baptist but you see him talking about the Holy Spirit. He's very focused at the moment on deliverance ministry. He's actually broken with Trump. I think he's saying that, he might not be the one for the next election and Locke really made his name by joining forces and by coming out for someone like Trump. And so yes, he's really moving into deliverance ministry, which is a very Pentecostal-based thing.

A lot of these churches now actually call themselves non-denominational because it's not great for business to exclude a [00:49:00] lot of denominations. So yeah, the thing to really watch out for is the Holy Spirit, is the style and is really focusing on the gifts like health and wealth and speaking to people's lives in the here and now as well as the ever after. That's a really significant thing. And once again, that's what's always really set Pentecostals apart from the beginning is an understanding of things like hip-pocket issues and and what's really bothering people in their everyday lives. 

Trump’s Escalating Racist Rhetoric & the Far-Right’s Plan for a Slow Civil War - Democracy Now! - Air Date 12-21-23

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Over the weekend, Trump claimed immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country.

DONALD TRUMP: When they let — I think the real number is 15, 16 million people into our country, when they do that, we got a lot of work to do. They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done. They’ve poisoned.

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Trump’s remarks sparked widespread criticism. Vice President Kamala Harris said Trump’s words were, “similar to the language of Hitler.” On Tuesday, Trump doubled down during a campaign stop in Iowa.

DONALD TRUMP: It’s crazy, what’s going on. They’re ruining our country. And it’s true: They’re destroying [00:50:00] the blood of our country. That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country. They don’t like it when I said that. And I never read Mein Kampf. They said, “Oh, Hitler said that,” in a much different way.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Trump was standing between two Christmas trees.

Jeff, first respond to this “poisoning of the blood” and the comparisons to Adolf Hitler. His wife, Ivana Trump, the mother of his first three children, who died falling down the stairs a little while ago, had said that he had a book of quotes of Adolf Hitler on his bedstand. 

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, I think it’s fascinating that Trump volunteers, “I haven’t read Mein Kampf.” And, in fact, the book he’s alleged to have had, and seems to recently have had, was a different book of Hitler’s. But what’s fascinating to me is he’s going out of his way to say that and to repeat that language, [00:51:00] after it’s already — the comparison has already been made. And I think he’s invoking that because it’s chaos and it’s drama. And I think he’s counting that in his base he’s going to be more helped by the high drama of Hitlerian operatics in World War II than the comparison to the worst fascist dictator in history. I don’t think he’s dodging it. I think he’s going toward it.

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, what do you think, Jeff, of the consequences of not taking these words of Trump’s seriously? And also, you know, is this likely to diminish his support or, in fact, increase it?

JEFF SHARLET: I mean, we can just — all we need to do is sort of look what’s happening. It’s increasing the support. Again, he’s understanding that drama and spectacle are what he purveys.

But in terms of not taking it seriously, I’m glad a lot of the press is still covering this race like it’s a horse race, as opposed to a last gasp of the closest thing [00:52:00] we could — you know, let’s hold on to what we have of American democracy. We’re starting to look at something called Project 2025. This is a 900-page blueprint put together by Trump’s allies, the Heritage Foundation, funded by Koch money. Press has made a lot of Koch — about the Kochs endorsing Nikki Haley, but they’re covering their bets. A 900-page blueprint for day one. Remember, Trump says, from day one — “On day one, I’m going to be a dictator,” which is another bit of language that I think he’s kind of rope-a-doping the press. “I’m going to be a dictator. I’m just joking. No, no, on day one, I’m going to be a dictator. Just joking. What was that word I kept saying? Dictator.” Again, even more important than the substance is the spectacle, the drama, that makes him the exciting and, in fascist terms, the man of action. Then you’ve got this 900-page document that lays out, agency by agency, with every right-wing think tank on board, [00:53:00] with the personnel, 20,000 personnel, already figured out, recruiting 5,000 lawyers to fight for this, with — talking about concentration camps, domestic surveillance, all the facets of a full-sized fascist government. He doesn’t have to have read that, just like he doesn’t have to have read Mein Kampf, to hit those notes.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, in the 2025 document that people should understand, this 30-chapter, as you said, 920-page document funded by the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, talking about defunding the Department of Justice, dismantling the FBI, breaking up the Department of Homeland Security, Departments of Education and Commerce — and your title of your book, the subtitle of The Undertow, Scenes from a Slow Civil War, can you tease that out as we move into 2024, [00:54:00] what you mean by a “slow civil war”?

JEFF SHARLET: I think the slow civil war — I mean, first of all, we look at the casualties of — that are already happening, people, pregnant people, forced to have children or suffering physically, even dying, the epidemic of trans and queer suicide, all these facets of a growing concentration of fascist policy. But the slow civil war also takes place through lawfare, through the laws that prevent people from getting the things they need. They are casualties of that.

What we see in that document is the blueprint for a massive acceleration of it. It’s an eight — the plan is based around 180 days. And they go back to — Heritage Foundation made its name by making a similar document for Ronald Reagan in 1980, 60% of which was implemented within the first six months of his administration. They cite [00:55:00] that, and they say, “OK, but that was for Reagan. Now we’re in the age of Trump. We need to go much further.” That’s the term that they actually use, “much further.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, Jeff, how representative would you say this document is to the far-right conservative movement? And do you think, irrespective of whether Trump is elected or not, some of these policies will be carried through, or an attempt will be made to carry them through?

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, I think that’s the other thing we have to remember. One, if, through some fluke of fate, it is, after all, Nikki Haley — a possibility I don’t take seriously, but if it does happen — this is ready-made for her, as well. But it’s also ready-made for right-wing activism. It’s putting the stamp of Trumpism. And that’s coming not from one group or another that’s been taken over, but Heritage Foundation, Alliance for Defending Freedom, which is the group arguably responsible for overturning Roe. We see the Christian right organizations. We see the libertarian big business [00:56:00] organizations. We see the intellectuals, as it were, of the right-wing movement, Claremont Institute, Hillsdale College. It’s a convergence. The document represents 400 contributors, many, many of them former Trump officials, defense contractors. So, I think what it — it’s a document also meant to display, once and for all, the full sort of application of the competence of the wonks put to work for the fury of Trump’s fascism and to sort of say, “OK, everybody’s on board. This is the shape. This is the project.” The project is Trumpism, regardless of where the man is.

Final comments on the idolatry at thte heart of Christian Nationalism

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today starting with Confronting Christian Nationalism explaining Christian nationalism, Fresh Air spoke with Tim Alberta about the evolution of the Christian right from Carter to Trump. Radio Atlantic looked at the transformation of churches into extremist political hubs. Thom Hartmann discussed House speaker Mike Johnson. Meet The Press also spoke [00:57:00] with Tim Alberta about the idolatry of Trumpism. And The Chris Hedges Report discussed Trump's role in the prosperity gospel. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from The Benjamin Dixon Show looking at the rise of Pentecostalism in right-wing politics. And Democracy Now! looked at the intersection of Christian nationalism and project 2025, the plan to seize dictatorial powers for the next Republican president. We did all show on it if you need more context. To hear that and of all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up, I just wanted to share a bit of the article that inspired today's topic to help drive home what I think is an important point. We heard from Tim Alberta, a couple of times in the show today. He's [00:58:00] Christian, but not a Christian nationalist. And he wrote an article in The Atlantic about how his father was a pastor of a church who sort of leaned into the merging of religion and patriotism a bit. For the first big chunk of the article, I thought it was just another of those stories that I now find completely boring about how a Christian conservative realized that the movement they've been supporting had, to their dismay, gone completely off the rails. Heard it. I'm sure that's hard for you. Welcome to reality. Try to keep up this time. Right? But I was glad to see that later in that same article, he actually got into some analysis that was truly illuminating. Up to that point, I had heard plenty about Christian nationalism; just, what it is, what it wants, why it's dangerous, et cetera. But I hadn't really heard what the pivot point is, what is the thing that differentiates a person who is both a Christian [00:59:00] and a patriot from someone who's a Christian patriot, if you know what I mean. 

So towards the end of this article - the article is "My father, My Faith, and Donald Trump" - the author, Tim Alberta, is speaking with a new pastor in his father's old church. Winans is the new guy's name, and Winans didn't follow the same hyper-patriotic path that the author's father had been on. And so people are beginning to leave the church and he's sort of struggling with this. So from the article, it says, "'A lot of people believe there was a religious conception of this country, a biblical conception of this country', Winans told me, 'and that's the source of a lot of our problems. For much of American history, White Christians have enjoyed tremendous wealth and influence and security. Given that reality and given the miraculous nature of America's defeat of great Britain, its rise to superpower status and its legacy of spreading freedom and democracy, and yes, [01:00:00] Christianity across the globe'" - just pausing for a second to recognize that this is coming from a certain perspective and at the very least, this is what people believe. There would be a lot of asterisks and counterpoints to the idea of us succeeding in spreading freedom and democracy, but we're setting that aside for now. So back to the article, given all of that, that he just mentioned, "'it's easy to see why so many evangelicals believe that our country is divinely blessed. The problem is blessings often become indistinguishable from entitlements. Once we become convinced that God has blessed something, that something can become an object of jealousy, obsession, even worship. At its root we're talking about idolatry. America has become an idol to some of these people. If you believe that God is in covenant with America, then you believe, and I've heard a lot of people say this explicitly, that we're a new Israel', Winans said, referring to the old Testament narrative of God's [01:01:00] chosen nation. ' You believe the sorts of promises made to Israel are applicable to this country. You view America as a covenant that needs to be protected. You have to fight for America as if salvation itself hangs in the balance. At that point, you understand yourself as an American first and most fundamentally. And that is a terrible misunderstanding of who we're called to be. Plenty of nations are mentioned in the Bible. The United States is not one of them. Most American evangelicals are sophisticated enough to reject the idea of this country as something consecrated in the eyes of God. But many of those same people have chosen to idealize a Christian America that puts them at odds with Christianity. They have allowed their national identity to shape their faith identity instead of the other way around'". 

And then skipping to the end of the article, the author asks the new pastor, "'What's [01:02:00] wrong with American evangelicals?' Winans thought for a moment. 'America', he replied. Too many of them worship America'". And I don't know about you, but I found that very clarifying. Maybe not particularly comforting, but definitely clarifying. On the other hand. Since idolatry is such a core no-no of Christianity - you know, the worshiping of false gods and such - then maybe turning the ship around won't be impossible because the idea of turning away from false idols is something that is already part of their whole framework and worldview. 

Now, of course it would take the right messengers to get the idea across. And I get that. We, as a progressive podcast, probably are not to those messengers. But it's definitely an idea worth spreading and perhaps the right message will eventually get to the right ears, coming from the right people and, uh, we'll save ourselves. But you know, [01:03:00] we'll see. 

That is it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben, for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships. You can join them by signing up today at, through our Patreon page, or from right inside the Apple podcast app. Membership is how you get instant access to our incredibly good and often funny bonus episodes in addition to there being extra [01:04:00] content, no ads, and chapter markers in all of our regular episodes, all through your regular podcast player. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from 

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#1600 Housing Cannot be a Fundamental Human Right and a Commodity at the Same Time (Transcript)

Air Date 12/23/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we will look at the fact that the housing crisis is at a worst point than at any time in recent history. Solutions are available and require political will to bring into reality, but because the problem is now so widespread, we may actually be able to take action that would have been untenable before. Sources today include Future Hindsight, Notes From America, The Majority Report, and the Thom Hartmann Program, with additional members-only clips from Notes From America and Channel 4 News in the UK.

Housing is a Moral Issue w Shaun Donovan - Future Hindsight - Air Date 12-7-23

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: So let's jump right in. Describe the current crisis in housing and how is it worse than it ever was?

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, I've been doing this about 30 years, starting in the South Bronx. I grew up here in New York City. And I would say the crisis has been getting worse over those decades. But during the COVID crisis, we actually saw rents increasing more than [00:01:00] we ever have since we started keeping records, literally never seen bigger increases, 18 percent increase in rent year over year. And I think what is different about it, beyond the numbers, is the level of homelessness we see on our streets.

And so often, the housing issues have been problems of the coasts or problems of big cities. Now, I was talking to a senator the other day who said, just nonchalantly, well, our housing crisis in Bozeman, Montana. And it is really that the crisis is everywhere now, the depth of it is so intense that I think people across the country are starting to grapple with issues that have long been issues in New York or other places, but now it's really become a national crisis in a different way.

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: It's interesting that you mentioned that the rents have increased so much, 18 percent in some spaces, and that there is a housing crisis in places like Bozeman, [00:02:00] Montana. What do you think is the source of this crisis? And is it really specifically COVID? Or is it well beyond that? 

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, what I would say is we've had a chronic crisis for a long time. If you go back decades, we've seen that more and more people are paying outrageous shares of their income towards rent, especially. And the challenge is that on top of that decades of increases, we then had this incredibly acute crisis on top of the chronic one during COVID. And part of that, frankly, was that people became much more interested in more space at home when you're working at home. You probably want to have something other than just a bedroom, right? And there was more and more demand for housing. But what we also saw was there was a short term help for people with rent. They were able to stay in their homes because the federal [00:03:00] government put lots of money into protecting people against evictions.

But As that money is going away, you have rents that are still much higher than they were, but people's incomes are going back down in ways that are really challenging them. And the most visible crisis that you see out of that is the homelessness on our streets. But there's a silent crisis too. Families living in shelters, people doubled up across the country.

And people not putting food on the table at night or not being able to buy their kids the books that they need or so many other ways that we always say rent eats first, everything else gets put to the side because rents are going up and up. 

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: Well, speaking of rent eating first, in your mind, what is affordable housing now? I know that simply means, broadly, that it's a housing that you can afford and that looks different in a place like New York or Bozeman or Detroit. But at Enterprise, how do you think about affordable housing? 

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, we think about it in a [00:04:00] few ways. The simplest way to answer that is we have a federal standard that people shouldn't pay more than 30 percent of their income, about a third of their income towards their housing. So that's a simple way of answering the question. But we also really believe that it isn't just about the housing being affordable. It is also about the quality of the housing. Think about the depth of whether it's asthma or lead paint or a whole range of problems that come from where we live. 

It's also about your neighborhood. The truth about housing is that where you live determines so many things in your life because when you choose a home, you choose a neighborhood, right? You choose where your kids go to school. You choose your access to jobs. Even one of the things we've seen, if your neighborhood isn't safe, if you don't have sidewalks, the ability to exercise, mental health, there's so many things that suffer based on the community that you [00:05:00] live in. And so we look at it not just as the affordability and the quality, but also making sure that homes are part of neighborhoods of opportunity. And housing is the primary building block, if you will, of neighborhoods.

Why NYCs Move to Privatize Public Housing Could Impact the Rest of the Country - Notes to America - Air Date 12-18-23

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: We are thinking this week about home: the place where you go for comfort and safety, where you settle down and unwind, maybe share holiday time off with your loved ones. How much should that cost us and how do we make it available to everybody? Because right now it's not something you can take for granted. 

There's an official measure that determines when you can't afford the place you call home. Whether you rent or pay a mortgage, if you have to spend more than 30 percent of your income on housing, the federal government considers you "cost burdened" and therefore at risk of losing your home. 

Right now, a record high number of Americans fit this definition -- more than 21 million households. Nearly 12 million renters [00:06:00] spend more than half of their income on housing. And we wonder why so many people feel so insecure about money. Perhaps it is more than gas prices, yeah? 

The problem is not that everybody wants an overly fancy place to live. On the contrary, over roughly the past decade or so, there has been a dramatic decrease in the supply of affordable housing all over the country. 

Now there is a very old solution to this problem. It's called Publicly Subsidized Housing, and I want to start this week by hearing from a young woman, a 17-year-old in New York City, for whom public housing has been a life changing force. Fanta Kaba moved around a lot when she was growing up because her family couldn't afford a place to stay. Public housing solved that problem, but she and many others now fear that the resource that gave her stability will not be available to the next generation of families. So she's been reporting on the future of public housing as part of WNYC's Radio Rookies program, which is a program that trains people to [00:07:00] tell first person stories of what's happening in their communities.

We'll hear a couple of reports from Fanta in this show. First up, she kind of sets the stakes for our conversation. Here's Fanta. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: [Sounds of family talking] 

I have a big family, so I barely get any privacy. When things get too loud or when my siblings annoy me, I just go to my room and shut the door.

All right, so this is my room. On the wall, there's a bunch of posters. One of them says, "Don't stop trying", and "Life is fantastic". I love my room. It's my favorite place. It's the one place where I can get some peace and quiet. 

So there's a poster of Jimi Hendrix. And there's another poster for Tim and Paula. And another one is Rolling Stones. And then I do have to share it with my annoying little sister. But it's [00:08:00] way better than when I had to share one room with all five of my siblings. Or when we lived with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Imagine, 15 people in a two bedroom apartment. That was one of the places we stayed.

Growing up, we moved around a lot. Harlem, Queens, the Bronx, even North Carolina for a while. My parents' jobs did not pay enough. My dad drove taxis and my mom was a home attendant. 

Alright, so when you first came to America, where did you first go? Like, what was your first place you stayed at? 

FANTA KABA'S MOTHER: When we first came to America we was living in Manhattan. Yes. Harlem. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: That's my mom. She and my dad moved here from Guinea, hoping for a new life. What they didn't know is that finding a home in a place like New York City is almost impossible. 

When I was eight, [00:09:00] after bouncing around, we ended up at a shelter. So how did it feel to stay in the shelter with six kids, you know it's a temporary housing situation. How was it for you? 

FANTA KABA'S MOTHER: Well, it was not that easy. But I was grateful at least I have a place to stay for my kids. And it was okay. It was okay. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: It was okay. We had a roof over our heads. But the shelter never felt like my home. It had blank white walls and I didn't put anything up. I knew we were just gonna leave again. I felt really uncomfortable there. 

Then, the workers at the shelter helped my mom apply for a new apartment, a NYCHA apartment. That's what everyone calls the New York City Housing Authority, or our city's public housing, the projects.

I knew there was some stigma around living in the projects, but my parents told us we were going to have a big [00:10:00] new apartment with four bedrooms. They took us to Home Depot to pick out paint colors. And they said, this time, we're not moving again. 

NYCHA gave my family stability and community. Out of everywhere I've lived, this is the only place I've ever considered home.

And I know thousands of New Yorkers can relate. Our buildings may not be the prettiest or the newest, but we know our rent won't go up. Everyone pays 30 percent of their income in rent, no matter how much or how little you make.

Biden In Trouble With Voters Over Inequality And Housing - The Majority Report - Air Date 11-28-23

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Recent New York Times / Siena poll of voters in six battleground states - and this is really the most relevant stuff too, right? - is 62 percent of Biden voters think the economy is only fair or poor compared with 97 percent of those who voted for Donald Trump. That's, uh... 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And there are four basically indicators on that scale. They're excellent and good, or poor and only fair, and the generational differences here are striking, in [00:11:00] my opinion. The 89% of folks, Biden supporters in those swing states who are 18 to 29, believe that the economy is either poor or only fair, and in the 30 to 44 age cohort, that's 80 percent there. And you can draw some conclusions based on that, or at least a correlation, which is that the supporters 29 and under, I would say that those are largely the folks who are being gouged by landlords, and who have to pay a ton in rent. And the 30 to 44 cohort are often people who are either also being gouged by rent, but maybe are trying to save for a home and they're seeing how high housing prices are and how the Biden administration has ticked up the interest rates in an effort to combat inflation during his presidency, what like ten times at this point it's more expensive to get a mortgage right now than it has been in decades. [00:12:00] 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, I mean to be clear, the Fed is theoretically independent, so it's not necessarily the Biden administration has done the ... but that is what's happened. Interest rate has gone, essentially, on a mortgage anyways, uh, from high twos, mid threes, to mid sixes, to mid sevens. And the difference on that in terms of your buying power, two things happen. One is that to afford, even if prices of houses stay the same, the same house cost $250,000 or $300,000 as it did three years ago, the cost of carrying, let's say it's a $300,000 house and you've got to put down 10%, the cost of carrying that $270,000 mortgage, we're at an [00:13:00] interest rate of, let's say, 3 percent, is somewhere around, just 'back of the envelope', 1,100 bucks, is now going to cost you 2,200 bucks a month, maybe $2,300-$2,400 a month.

And what that does is, A) it prevents people from buying their first homes, and it increases the pressure on the rental markets, raises the rents there, and B) it also keeps people locked in and have no choice but to stay where they are. So maybe you wanted to move because you've had another kid and you want to get a bigger house. You can't. Because the 3.5% you're paying to buy the same house is going to cost you double. 'Cause you don't get to carry that mortgage over. So, if I'm in a $300,000 house and I'm paying 1,100 bucks a month in a mortgage, I'm not going to go [00:14:00] get a $500,000 house because the mortgage is going to, like, triple.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And that explains those generational differences there, where it's not, like, if this was just due to inflation and prices still remaining high, that would, in theory, I would say, at least decrease some of these stark differences because, of course, you know, the more money, the older you have [sic], and you're supposed to have more savings, etc. But, like, prices would at least, if that was the driving factor, mitigate those stark differences to some degree. But that's clearly not the case here, right? So, 45 to 64 and 65 and older, they're much more likely to already have a home and have paid off a good amount of it. And, yeah, not be as subject to this.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And all you need to do is... I mean, there's two things going on here. You have the economic numbers that are showing, like, the GDP is growing at a good rate, that wages are up to a certain extent, even over inflation, although some of these prices are locked in and, again, [00:15:00] housing is such a key component because it's not only impacts like your costs, but your flexibility and this is... I think you also look at like how much wealth... 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: ...people at age 30 have now as opposed to what they would have had... 

MATT LECH - PRODUCER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: That's what the economy is good for.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: ...20 or 30 years ago.. boomers had more money at any given age than Gen Xers that had any more money than Millennials that had more money than Gen Z at the same age. When you compare apples to apples. 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Controlling for inflation, controlling for all of those things.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It's just in terms of who's controlling the amount of wealth in the country.

MATT LECH - PRODUCER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It's property relations. Like, these sorts of things, like, because we only ask by income. So, it's under 50k, 500... But we don't ask, like, how much property you have. Are you a rentier, are you a business owner, or are you a worker? But age is a good proxy for that. [00:16:00] So I'd imagine most 65 year olds are on the rent. 

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: It used to be. I mean, you, I'm saying that a 30 year old, in the year 2000 had more... 30 year old cohort had more of the wealth... 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: ...than a 30 year old today. And so what we're dealing with is like, at one point you hit a critical mass where people are like, This sucks! On top of which the boomers are like, You know, when I was your age, I wasn't whining about this as much. 

MATT LECH - PRODUCER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, speaking of boomers, Washington Post, November 13th, "Baby boomers are buying up all the houses this year. Median age for a repeat buyer was 58. According to...", yeah, it must be nice. I'd probably think the economy was pretty good.

SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: And the reason why that is the case is because if you're at that age, and you've owned your house for 25 years, you have a lot more equity. 


SAM SEDER - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: So, when you turn around, the interest rate doesn't influence you as much because you're going to have to borrow, if anything, less. And you can afford to put [00:17:00] down 50, 60, 70 percent, 80 percent in your house.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: What did those folks also pay for college as well? And how much did they have in student loans? Like, the perception of the economy for people 44 and under, that's going to affect that, a ton. And also by income. And I should also just say, like, Osita Nueva, who's been a guest on this program before, had a tweet just basically saying, You know how Biden could get his numbers up maybe, is, like, actually start running on something and have some initiative and tell people what he wants to do if he gets re-elected. And my suggestion would be a national housing initiative. Like, whatever he wants. I'm sure it would be in some form of vouchers. I'm sure that, you know, it would not be exactly what I wanted, but we could have a beginning of the conversation of repealing the Faircloth Amendment, where we build more affordable housing for people and hopefully drive down some of these prices.

I don't know. They can workshop it. But that would be [00:18:00] something that maybe young people would be incentivized to come to the polls for you for because, gotta be honest, there's a lot of folks who are pretty angry right now about not just the economy but of course the administration's enabling of Israel's mass killing in Gaza.

Housing is a Moral Issue w Shaun Donovan Part 2 - Future Hindsight - Air Date 12-7-23

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: I'm curious about your thoughts on the intersection of housing and democracy.

You know, it just does something that's a basic need that everybody must meet. You have to live somewhere. And since we are a pro-democracy podcast, we think a lot about the comments. Why is it important for a democratic society that everyone ought to be housed? 

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, I will say for me, housing is a moral issue, because it is one of our basic needs. And if you don't have a decent place to live, if you don't have a stable and affordable place to live, it is really hard to be a part of our democratic society [00:19:00] in fundamental ways. 

Think about a child who's living in a homeless shelter or moving from couch to couch with relatives. Think about the challenge we saw them during COVID -- the ability even to learn remotely. So many other things that are really hard to do. Hard to hold down a good job if your housing isn't stable. 

I do think there is a fundamental threshold of participation in our democratic society that requires housing to be a kind of platform or a foundation for that.

And I will say, in a country where it is an entitlement to get food assistance or to get assistance with health care, every child has the right to go to public school, only one out of five low income people in this country that is eligible on an income basis actually gets housing assistance. 20 percent get it. We need to have a fundamental conversation about housing, [00:20:00] whether you call it a right or say that everybody should get some assistance who needs it. So that's the first thing I would say. 

The second is that, given the levels of particularly street homelessness that we're seeing in this country now, I hear more and more from people that they are questioning the ability of our democratic form of government to work. People are asking, What is happening with my tax dollars? Is government actually functioning? Because homelessness is the sort of tip of the iceberg of all of our social challenges in this country. And it is visible to people in a way that so many other of our social challenges aren't. It is in many places, I think, starting to undermine the belief in our government and the ability of our democratic form of government to function, if we can't do the basics to help people find a place to live. 

And then the last thing I [00:21:00] would say about this is, one of the things that we're seeing is more and more segregation along economic lines. And as our politics have become more skewed across education and income levels and economic levels, people are living with people like themselves: wealthier people with wealthier people, Democrats with Democrats, Republicans with Republicans. And one of the things that I think is fundamentally contributing to the polarization that we're seeing in our country, the lack of a civic engagement with people that are different from yourself is because housing affordability challenges are increasing, not just our political polarization, but our geographic polarization; that It is harder and harder for a low-income person, a person without a college degree, to live in many places. And that stratification and that polarization is [00:22:00] compounding the challenges to our democracy in a way that I don't think we talk about enough. Most people will say, look, it's Facebook, it's all of the online ways that we're living in bubbles, but we're actually living In geographic bubbles. 

So I really worry about that because at the end of the day, what is the best way to change how people perceive people that are different from themselves? It's to have lived experience with them. It's for your kids to go to school with people that are different from themselves. It's for you to run in the grocery store or the post office or wherever it might be, somebody who has a different life experience and can begin to change your views about what "the other" is in this country.

And I think our democratic ideals, if we can't respect difference in this country, it's going to be hard for our democracy to survive.


Why NYCs Move to Privatize Public Housing Could Impact the Rest of the Country Part 2 - Notes to America - Air Date 12-18-23

YCHA is notoriously slow when it comes to fixing things. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of open [00:23:00] work orders across the city, and it takes an average of 360 days for NYCHA to handle each one.

JOHNATHAN GAVIA: As has been very well documented, we have not been getting sufficient capital funding for decades to maintain the buildings at the level at which they should be maintained. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: That's Jonathan Gavia, NYCHA's Executive VP for Real Estate Development. 

JOHNATHAN GAVIA: It is our hope that residents will see these opportunities as a way to bring the comprehensive renovations that they need and enhance services that they deserve.

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: And here's the opportunity NYCHA came up with: inviting private developers in to take over public housing. Because private companies do have money, and they can take on debt to finance these big renovations. This public-private partnership plan comes from the federal government. It started 10 years ago in Greene County, Illinois. Since then, about 200,000 public housing units across the country have gone under private [00:24:00] management, in big cities like Los Angeles and small cities like Ypsilanti, Michigan. Most of our tenant protections are supposed to stay the same, but people don't trust these landlords to follow the rules. And I can see why. A report from a nonprofit called Human Rights Watch says there's not enough oversight of these private companies. And city officials in New York are investigating eviction rates in these buildings with private-public partnerships. So tenants here are scared... and they're fighting back. 

CALLER: What private developer do you know that gives a damn about low income people? They don't. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: NYCHA's plan puts for-profit real estate companies in charge. They sign a 99-year lease. Then they pay for all the renovations and bring in a private management company. They do everything, from collecting the rent, to cleaning the hallways, to handling leaks.

So I wanted to know,[00:25:00] what does it really mean for families like mine? 

SANJI LOPEZ: Hi, I'm Sanji. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Hi. Nice to meet you, Sanji! Hi, my name is Fanta. 

SANJI LOPEZ: Nice to meet you. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Sanji Lopez grew up in Batances Houses, which is a few blocks away from my housing complex in the South Bronx. When Sanji's complex went under private management three years ago, Sanji's family thought the new company would come in and solve all of the leaks, mold and pest issues in their apartment. 

SANJI LOPEZ: They really showed us pictures of the before and after, of course, that got everyone excited and riled up, seeing what could be. Oh, they're gonna remodel everything. They're gonna take the cabinets down. Finally, these old cabinets that we've been dealing with for decades at this point are going to be removed and going to be replaced with better cabinets. The walls are going to be repainted, the bathrooms are going to be redone.

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: She was so excited about this plan, which is called PACT, Permanent Affordability Commitment Together.

She even appeared in a promotional video NYCHA made. I [00:26:00] found it on YouTube. 

SANJI LOPEZ: I trust that PACT has the residents best interests in mind. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: When did you realize the renovations weren't all cut up to be? 

SANJI LOPEZ: The paint was the first thing. The paint started chipping in a matter of days. And I realized, oh my gosh, this wasn't really well done. It was, I don't know, the contractor they hired wasn't good, but there was still spaces where they didn't paint. Spaces that were missing paint, spaces that were painted over improperly, spots that were chipping away so fast, and also it was like incomplete in the bathroom, we had to complain about missing sealants around the bathtub. Mold, also, again, accruing even more than it did with NYCHA, right? And whenever I would tell the.... 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Even though NYCHA usually takes forever to fix things, Sanji thinks this new system is much worse. 

SANJI LOPEZ: It's just, send the email, hope that somebody responds, follow up again, two or three times, and then maybe they'll come. 

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: She says some things are better. [00:27:00] The kitchen looks much nicer with dark brown cabinets and new countertops. Someone fumigates so there are fewer roaches. But overall, she said, it feels like she traded one bad situation for another. 

SANJI LOPEZ: Speaking to some neighbors on the same block, they've told me things, I've heard this quote twice, same crap, different toilet.

FANTA KABA - REPORTER, NOTES FROM AMERICA: She laughs about it because sometimes that's all we can do. Shrug it off. But the reality is, this is the plan that was supposed to make everything better. And residents in her building don't have another shot at another plan. Their complex is under private management now. For the next 99 years. 

SANJI LOPEZ: Still, we have issues with heat and hot water during the winter time, so that didn't go away. The issues didn't go away. We thought that privatization was going to solve all of our issues, but it didn't.

Why The US Is Failing At Housing And How To Fix It - The Majority Report - Air Date 7-9-23

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Now, your story talks a bit about how Rhode Island, in particular, [00:28:00] the state legislature in June approved this new pilot program meant to target housing. Can you talk a bit about that program and what makes it different, and what makes it encouraging? Maybe something that other states could follow.

RACHEL COHEN: Yeah, and I should say, and this wasn't my story and I feel bad about it, but it only adds to the thing. I actually learned following my story coming out, my story looked at a couple of states, Rhode Island was a big one, Colorado, Hawaii, California. It turns out, 3 years ago, Massachusetts actually, I think Massachusetts was first and that they have been doing on a smaller scale... what they've been doing, which is really new, but arguably not done since pre-New Deal, is the state is stepping up and we're going to put money into develop[ing] new mixed income housing, affordable and market rate. We're going to own it. And I think something to understand is that, [00:29:00] and you kind of briefly mentioned this earlier, but in the 1990s Congress effectively made it so that it's really, really hard now to build any new federal public housing due to something called the Faircloth Amendment. That's something Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been trying to repeal, but it is still around and so it's why, I mean, right now with federal public housing, there's tens of billions of dollars in backlogged repairs. That's where the leaky roofs and the clogged toilets and the mold and the asbestos, all that stuff that's not getting repaired, Congress is behind in funding those repairs, but they also are not building new units. We're fighting to maybe keep the units we have intact and out of disrepair. 

So, what's really interesting and to me, exciting, about what's happening in those states I was mentioning earlier, like Rhode Island, is they're saying, Okay, the federal government can't build new public housing for all the reasons we just talked about, but we are going to invest ourselves [00:30:00] and we are going to build new housing and we're going to own it, which is really a very different way of thinking about housing because a lot of times the way affordable housing development has worked in the past is they've been on these, like, 15-20 year subsidy things and government will basically give tons and tons of subsidies to a private company and then the private company will build it and they will be under certain restrictions about how high they can charge in rent. But then after the 15-20 years runs up, then it's out of their hands and then, you know, might not even stay affordable after that and it can become in the private hands.

So, this is new in the sense that they're building housing and they're saying, We're going to keep it, and we're going to also capture all the value that comes from owning that unit. And we might be able to reinvest that in more housing production or other social services. And so I find it a very interesting example of how the public sector is thinking about flexing its muscles that they haven't [00:31:00] really done in a very long time.

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, I mean, it's common sense, frankly, if taxpayer money - not to use an old, I guess, small 'c' conservative political term - but if taxpayer money is going towards the subsidization of this, then the government should own it. They should be the public developer of this project as opposed to just subsidizing it under private management, which is wildly inefficient, but it's just a way to get around the easiest answer to these questions, which I think a lot of members of our government don't actually want to reckon with. It reminds me of, I use this example all the time, during COVID, Nancy Pelosi bending over backwards for COBRA subsidies as opposed to temporarily expanding Medicare because, you know, we can't do that because of what that might lead to, as opposed to just doing what's most straightforward. 

RACHEL COHEN: And I think I do think part of what's happening here is, [00:32:00] you know, public housing, federal public housing, doesn't have a great reputation right now. I think part of that is because of rules and defunding that Congress has done. And it doesn't mean all public housing has to be bad. We have strong models elsewhere and some states do a better job than others, but what it has meant is that... there's a lot of skepticism right now that the government can get in the housing game and do it well, and, like, they think of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, which is sort of like the notorious example of, you know, segregated, underfunded, problematic towers, um, and so part of what I think is for all the people who are who are getting into this space, they're saying, Look, yes, mistakes were made. Yes, we know there are all these problems with federal housing programs, but that doesn't mean we can't get it, right? And that doesn't mean we're doomed to make the same mistakes again. And so I think a lot of what's happening now, and a [00:33:00] really sort of very competent kind of successful place where this is happening is in Montgomery County, Maryland, and that's at the county level, but that's a place where they are showing how this can be done how it can be done in the kind of apartments you or I would probably love to live in, like, next to transit, really nice looking. You can't even, you wouldn't even know it's public housing in the traditional sense of what we sort of imagine that to look like. And I think part of what this will require is just getting some more proof points, like Montgomery County, like Rhode Island, like Massachusetts and Colorado and Hawaii to sort of help people shake the stereotype of what they think American governments building housing can look like and mean, because we have such a stigmatized image based on, you know, how the federal program has kind of shaken out 

EMMA VIGELAND - CO-HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Well, the federal program, they've made it anemic. And then they say, Well, it's unfixable. And so we're putting a moratorium on [00:34:00] it. And when you talk about Montgomery County, that is a suburb, right? And so that, I think, changes the conversation around public housing as well, and also just the outcomes because we've seen urban sprawl, people having to move out of the cities in order to afford a place to live, and when you, I think, make public housing more widespread as opposed to confines to certain areas of cities, then you're including middle class renters as well, as you write about, which might make these programs more durable.

Housing is a Moral Issue w Shaun Donovan Part 3 - Future Hindsight - Air Date 12-7-23

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: So part of your organization is solutions, which I understand to mean that you work in collaboration with local partners on policy and on systems change. What kind of systems change do you think is most necessary in this moment, and then what are the public policy ideas that you think are most promising to get us there? 

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, right now, given the scale of the [00:35:00] challenges that we have, I think there is an opportunity to create systems change at a scale we haven't seen. And, you know, my old boss, Barack Obama used to say, a crisis is a terrible thing, but it's also a terrible thing to waste. And I do think the fact that housing has now become a challenge everywhere in this country and that more and more people believe that there needs to be system change, that we need to approach this in a different way, there is an opportunity to build at the federal level, but also at the state and local level, new solutions and policy change. One of the things that I think is most powerful is an increasing understanding that we're just not building enough housing and that barriers that stand in the way are outdated zoning codes, many of them racially and economically directed, where communities don't want low income people living [00:36:00] there and have resisted the ability to have denser housing, more affordable housing, and we're really seeing that start to change.

Zoning is generally controlled at the local level. We're seeing states and local communities stand up and say, We're going to create what's called inclusionary zoning rather than exclusionary zoning. That means when you build a new building, you could allow it to be a bigger building, but require, for example, that 20 or 30 or 40 percent of the housing has to be affordable housing. We're seeing more and more communities look at places where there are subway or train stops and saying, Because of the access to jobs that you get from a transit stop, we ought to be building bigger buildings there. And so they're up zoning. And we've also seen a lot of places say, Why does it take three or five years to build an apartment building? Why are we subjecting many of these processes to build new housing to [00:37:00] unending meetings and requirements that end up standing in the way of creating housing, making it much more expensive or just eliminating it altogether? 

And so states like California and traditionally blue states, but also you see red states like Florida and Georgia and others that are coming together across very different political lines - housing activists, advocates for racial justice, combining with builders and private sector organizations - saying the lack of housing is really standing in the way of the future of our communities, and I think that really is bigger picture. More and more places around the country are not able to attract the workers that they need. We now have studies showing that GDP growth in large parts of our country is slowing down because of housing affordability challenges. And so people are seeing that housing isn't just a moral issue or an issue of justice for low income people. [00:38:00] It's a larger challenge for our society in a way that I think you're starting to see kind of political strange bedfellows come together and start to make change at a systems level that is really different. And that's what we do at Enterprise. The solutions part of it is actually creating new policy that is really going to make systems change.

MILA ATMOS - HOST, FUTURE HINDSIGHT: So, what's a gold standard for you? What's an area where you're like, Wow, they're doing it right. Like, that's where we should be living, or that's how we should be living. 

SHAUN DONOVAN: Well, what I would say is I wish there were a nirvana for housing somewhere in the country. I've been working on this a long time and I think lots of places have really interesting pieces of this. Just to give you an example, the City of Minneapolis recently eliminated single family zoning.


SHAUN DONOVAN: Eliminated it. First place in the country to do that. And that has started to make real change, but there were also more incremental ways that people are [00:39:00] taking this on. Part of the problem here is the perception is when you hear affordable housing or you think about zoning changes, you're imagining you live in a single family home and there's going to be a 20 story building next door to you. That's not really the way it works. 

One of the exciting things is starting to happen in many communities is a really wonky sounding name, which is accessory dwelling units, ADUs. Basically, that's like a granny flat in the backyard. If you have a single family home, you can build a garage with an apartment above it. And you can go from one unit of housing on a parcel to two. That effectively could double the amount of housing you have in a community, but in a way that doesn't really change the look of the community that much or create challenges in a way that some people perceive when you start to talk about these issues.

So, that's been a big policy change that we've started to see in Los Angeles. It's been tens of thousands of new units that can be created through that. That's true even here in New [00:40:00] York City, where we have many, many communities that are single family homes and lower density. So, there are lots of different strategies that depend on where you're living. In some places, it's going to be much denser, taller buildings and others it's going to look different. The fundamental issue is understanding that we have millions of people who don't have an affordable place to live because we're just not building enough housing in the country.


Can the French Plan For Social Housing Save America From Hyper-Gentrification w Cole Stangler - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 11-9-23

hink most Americans are familiar with the word gentrification. I'm not sure all of them understand exactly what it means or how it plays out. Can you describe what you mean when you talk about hyper-gentrification in the subtitle of your book and how it might be different, the way it's playing out in Paris than the way it might play out in NEW York or in Boise? 

COLE STANGLER: Yeah, I mean, when I use the word gentrification, I'm talking about an economic process that I think there are really two fundamental manifestations of this process. One is rent hikes. So, significant rent hikes taking place in urban areas. [00:41:00] And the second part of that is displacement. So, you have people that are being forced to leave. And you have this process that can, you know, completely transform urban areas. We've seen it in so many cities in the United States. I'm from the northeast. I think about a place like New York, New York City, that has just been changed so much from the city that I knew that, you know, when I was growing up there, or when I grew up around there, excuse me. Or San Francisco. You have a lot of these cases in the United States of these cities that have been just completely transformed. Low income, working class people having to leave. And that changes the character of cities and in a lot of ways it's tragic to see the kind of identity being sucked out of these places because normal people, Ordinary people can't afford to live in them. 

So that's the process. Paris, you know, I use the word hyper-gentrification because it's already a city that has a lot of wealth in it. We're not talking about neighborhoods that are very, very poor. We're talking about neighborhoods that are, you know, where ordinary people can still afford to live, that have, you know, some amount of wealth in them, but I think we've seen so many waves of this play out, and I think we're [00:42:00] kind of at a very advanced stage in the city of Paris.

One other kind of very specific thing about Paris is that the city is already very, very dense. And so it means that one of the solutions people talk about for dealing with housing is often to build more housing. That's part of it. Increasing supply. But that can be quite hard to do in a place like Paris, where the city is already tremendously dense. So, that's just kind of one important aspect of it to underline.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: In reading in your book, you were talking about how you can still find an apartment, at least in this part of Paris, where you were living for 500, 600, 700 euros a month. But it's going to be a disaster. It's going to have a bathroom down the hall, or it's going to open onto a busy street, or you'll have to deal with rats crawling all over you. How bad is it? I mean, how bad has the situation become? And to what extent have the working class been driven out of Paris and its suburbs? 

COLE STANGLER: Yeah, you know, the rent hikes have, I think since the year 2000, roughly, I've gone up, uh, housing costs have increased three times since the year 2000.[00:43:00] 


COLE STANGLER: 200%. So, you know, you have more than 10,000 people that have been leaving the city every year, according to the official data. And, as you mentioned, yes, so these neighborhoods people are living in, you know, kind of cramped spaces to be able to hold on, but I think in some ways, you know, the book is kind of trying to raise the alarm in some respects in the Anglophone world, but it's also trying to celebrate these neighborhoods for what they are, and, you know, these are tremendously diverse places, and I think that's something that can often be forgotten about in, you know, outside of France, just how multicultural and diverse of a city Paris is, and really France as a country, and so the places that I'm talking about in the book have large shares of immigrant population from West Africa, from North Africa, from China, from India. We don't often think about, you know, Paris as being the sort of melting pot, but it is in a lot of respects. And that's because of historically, you know, there's been affordable housing in [00:44:00] the city and that I'm trying to also show. When you take that away out of the equation, it means that you have a negative impact on the character of the city. And I think, just another aspect to highlight what we're talking about, why these neighborhoods have persisted over the years, right now there's many key elements, but I think one above all that I want to highlight, and that is we have something called social housing in France. So that's, that's state-managed, state-regulated housing at below market rates. And, if you look at these neighborhoods where the working class still lives, you have pretty high shares of social housing. That's one of the really important policy tools that's quite effective that we don't have, unfortunately, in the United States.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: How would we do that in the United States? How would that lesson from Paris translate into a city in America? 

COLE STANGLER: Yeah, you know, I think there are a few kind of policy measures. So, social housing is a big one. It's interesting. I think the conversation is shifting a little bit, it seems like. Although I'm obviously not on the ground in the US, but there seems to be an acknowledgement that maybe we should be turning more to these kind of solutions we have [00:45:00] in Europe for dealing with housing, social housing being one of them.

I think Seattle just, if I'm not mistaken, a couple of years ago, passed a referendum that created a social housing agency to start experimenting with this because, you know, there's one thing again, I'm repeating myself, but I think it's so important to emphasize for American audiences. In the US, we often talk about the YIMBYs versus the NIMBYs, you know, 'yes, in my backyard', 'not in my backyard'. I'm simplifying, but oftentimes the debate can kind of be simplified into this, you know, Do you want more supply, or do you not want more supply? And, obviously that's part of the equation, but it depends who owns the housing, who owns that supply? Social housing is the government stepping into the market and saying, We're going to build housing or manage the housing and regulate the price. 

So, social housing is so key. And then rent controls are another tool that we do see in the United States to some extent. In Paris, they're experimenting with them again now, after a long break of not having rent controls. That's a very, um, it's an important tool as well. It's not a magic silver bullet, but[00:46:00] let's look at how Europeans regulate housing to think about, how can we deal with some of these problems that we have in the United States. I hope that's one of the takeaways, at least of the book.

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: How does social housing differ from what we refer to in America as the projects? 

COLE STANGLER: Yeah, well, I think one big difference is that you've had just a lot more government funding of social housing. It's been recognized as a kind of important policy tool. And it's not reserved for only the least well off in France. It's not reserved for just the lowest income bracket. You know, people who are lower to middle income, even to middle income, have the right to have social housing. And it's actually even a source of debate in Paris where people are saying, Well, maybe we shouldn't be allowing so many middle class people access to social housing.

So, you do have this tradition of having good funding for the program, quality housing stock, too, that's such an important point. If you look at the social housing that's being built in Paris today, um, you know, these are nice looking places. They're enjoyable places to [00:47:00] live. And I got to tour a few of them for reporting. It's a question of political will, too. You know, it's been a priority. This has been a priority to fund this and to use it as a tool to combat the housing crisis in Europe. And I think that we're starting to maybe think that way a little bit in the US, but maybe not there yet.

BONUS - Why NYCs Move to Privatize Public Housing Could Impact the Rest of the Country Part 3 - Notes to America - Air Date 12-18-23

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Which is to say in the 90s, as far back as the 90s now, there was a conversation about, Oh, we can't afford public housing, what if we privatize it? And I think some people, I certainly remember the coverage of that and the controversy at the time about the HOPE program. But it's interesting that it's something you hear about often now. I mean, this is not a big part of our public conversation, do you think?

TATYANA TURNER: It's not. But I will say residents do point to it when they do hear about PACT or, you know, when they hear about a possible demolition, they point to HOPE VI and they'll say, Oh, like look what happened at Cabrini Green or the Magnolia Houses in New Orleans. They'll point to...

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Cabrini Green in Chicago. 

TATYANA TURNER: In Chicago, yes. [00:48:00] And they'll point to other developments across the country and say, Look at what happened with the displacement. And just to give some figures for HOPE VI, 200,000 units were demolished. They were removed and only 50,000 were for low income. This is across the nation. But even with those 50,000, it wasn't guaranteed that those residents, low income residents, were able to move back into those properties. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: So, let me make sure I followed that. So the outcome of this, of the 1990s-era privatization idea, was that they tore down 200,000 public housing units, and then only 50,000 people moved back into public housing.

TATYANA TURNER: Only 50,000 units, uh, apartments were for low income when they rebuilt them. But, as for the number of residents, it's not 50,000, unfortunately. People had to get rescreened and, yeah. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: The demand was much higher than there was supply. 

TATYANA TURNER: Absolutely. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: What is at stake here in terms of, in privatization, in terms of [00:49:00] this tradeoff between investments that are needed financially and the rights of tenants? This is something that Fanta [Fanta Kaba, a reporter for WNYC’s Radio Rookies] has talked about, that there's not enough money to do the repairs and so they're doing privatization and then that means you lose some rights. So, what does that mean? What policy change goes with moving from public to private. 

TATYANA TURNER: Well, I want to say it's, like I said, with NYCHA, it's a sense of stability. Your rent is not going to go up. That's guaranteed. And under private management, there are more question marks. There's no definitives that I can give. Because, you know, with each developer it could be different. The relationship could be different. And let me just kind of break that down further. When I'm referring to PACT, each development that goes under the PACT program, they may each have a different developer. So, one development team may work better with a group than another might. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: So instead of having just 'the city', or the state or the [00:50:00] federal government as your landlord, now each complex has a different developer, and we know what that's like. Anybody living in private housing now, sometimes you've got a good landlord and sometimes you do not. 

TATYANA TURNER: Right. So, it's chancy, and that's what residents are really pointing to. Like, it could be great, and I believe it was Sanjeev Batandas [?] who was basically like, you know, We were told that this was going to be a great fix, and we were really believing these promises only to be let down.

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Yeah. So, where privatization has occurred, if the trade off is supposed to be more investment in exchange for these question marks around stability, has the investment followed? Have we seen nicer countertops and paint that isn't chipped and all of the things that we heard Fanta talk [about] in Fanta's report? Has that happened? Have they seen better repairs? 

TATYANA TURNER: That has happened. There's one tenant I remember speaking with a couple of months ago and I asked him, uh, he's at the Baychester Houses in the Bronx, and he was saying that he's happy with the changes. He said that [00:51:00] there's more upkeep, better communication in place, more security and he feels safer and he feels more pride not only within his unit but just the development as a whole. On the complete opposite end, I've heard residents say that the relationship with the development team is not great, and they wish that they could go back to the traditional public housing Section 9 model. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: So again, Section 9 model meaning that it's in public housing. 

TATYANA TURNER: In public housing. In NYCHA. Mm-hmm.. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: But again, I mean, so it's like, sometimes it's worked for you, sometimes it doesn't. I guess I want people to understand, or I want to understand, like, why that's a bad thing then? How's that different than housing in general? That's life in housing, right? 

TATYANA TURNER: I think because of a sense of familiarity and it might just, for residents that's uprooting them from what they know and the people that they know, the management that they know into other hands where you're just kind of taking chances that, yeah... 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: Right. And again, the idea [00:52:00] is that folks in public housing are there because they needed the stability because of housing insecurity. We heard Fanta talk about the tenant activism in New York around this. And one change that officials have made here is to allow tenants to vote on whether they want to go private. That's a big deal nationally, right? Like the fact that that's happening. Put that in context for us. Has that happened anywhere else? Or is New York the first place that's happening? 

TATYANA TURNER: To my understanding, it's New York so far. And just on Friday, Mayor Adams had announced that the Nostrand Houses in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, was the first development to go under a model called Public Housing Preservation Trust. But yes, that was the first development to ever even vote on what funding model they want for their future. 

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: And how did that vote go? 

TATYANA TURNER: So, at the Nostrand Houses, just to walk it back a little bit, they found out earlier this year, I want to say in July, that there would be a vote. And between July and November there was a 100 days of [00:53:00] engagement period, where NYCHA management along with organizations would go to Nostrand and speak with residents about this vote, the three options that they have. And the three options were to stay in Section 9, stay as is. The other one was Permanent Affordability Commitment Together program (PACT), or The Public Housing Preservation Trust, which is an untested model. That's the one where funds are unlocked through bonds and mortgages. And that's the model that they chose, which was Public Housing Preservation trust.

KAI WRIGHT - HOST, NOTES FROM AMERICA: But this seems like a lot, first off, for, I mean, I'm having trouble following that. I can't imagine, like, my housing being dependent upon me having to make that choice. That seems like ... is this really a solution? I mean, to have that's a fairly high level of sophistication for you to have about a housing market to choose your road forward. I mean, do you think this is the way to do it? And if not, why? 

TATYANA TURNER: I think that it's still too early to tell. My hope is [00:54:00] that it is a solution. From a financial standpoint, perhaps. But from a residential standpoint with people's experiences, I think it might vary. 

BONUS - How to build beautiful social housing in a crisis - Channel 4 News - 9-7-23

PETER BARBER: We looked at so many new developments, and this was the one that really caught our eye. 

RESIDENTS: I actually feel quite safe here. It's like a way of living that I didn't think my children were ever going to experience.

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: Forget tower blocks, forget glass fronted developments, forget the council houses of old. 

PETER BARBER: That's the wonderful thing about doing architecture, and then several years later it actually gets built.

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: This is the work of Peter Barber, an architect who focuses on urbanism and social housing. He's won accolades and admirers for his innovative approach. He takes small parcels of land and turns them into a housing haven, always centred around a street, a courtyard, where people mix, where communities form. 

PETER BARBER: When I see a big tower block sitting in a sea of tarmac or grass, I sort of want to turn it on its side and turn it into a terrace. 

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: [00:55:00] Because you look at, you know, all the houses, you look at tenements, you look at back to back housing. I guess they had a stigma before, but you feel like they're worth looking back into. 

PETER BARBER: Well, I think they are. These are places where people from all sorts of different backgrounds, and racial groups, and social groups, and economic groups are kind of thrown together and are at the very least visible to one another. The other advantage of this street-based housing that we have is that those people, the quite well off people and the not so well off people, are sharing the space, whereas quite often when you have tower blocks, you have a tower for the social housing, the tower for the wealthy people and they're kind of in glorious isolation.

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: Avoiding isolation is crucial. 

PETER BARBER: So there's a kitchen there. Uh, a shower room under there. 

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: Barber's practice built temporary housing for the homeless in Camden. Rather than adjoin the rooms along a corridor, they open out onto a garden space. 

PETER BARBER: I mean, that's literally two weeks after they'd moved in. 

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: He also built homes for people over 60 in Barking. Gardens at the front open out onto their own [00:56:00] street; architecture stimulating, socialising for those who might be lonely. And he won the Neave Brown Award for Housing for this development in Newham. Twenty-six townhouses, available for those on social rent or shared ownership. 

RESIDENTS: All the families have benefited the most probably, just being able to play freely like this is, is limited in London.

It's like a little family unit, if you need help, someone's there for you. 

We are really proud, we like the architecture, we like our neighbourhood. 

The council sort of making it affordable for us, it's really liveable. 

It's really nice that Peter's changed the aspects. I think it's given people that confidence to be able to say, yeah, you know, like, yeah, I'm living in social housing.

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: Barber works with local authorities, housing associations, as well as private developers. Like here, at Edward Mews in Finchley. Yet it's not all social housing. Many of the homes here are simply for sale, while others are available for shared ownership or classed as affordable housing. [00:57:00] 

Because when we talk about affordable housing, do you think it actually is affordable?

PETER BARBER: No, it's troubling. And I think this sort of umbrella of affordable housing is a little bit of a, it's not specific enough. If you're buying something in shared ownership, which is 80 percent of market value, then, if it's in certain areas of London, it's clearly, you know, still beyond a lot of people.

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: Is there a way to sort of solve the housing crisis? 

PETER BARBER: We should have a social housing program on the scale that we're able to manage after the Second World War. 

ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: We know now that we have built more than 300,000 houses, new houses, in 1953. 

PETER BARBER: In my mind, it's one of our proudest achievements as a society. In addition, I think we need to end the right to buy. They've done it in Scotland, they've done it in Wales, and I think we need to probably have rent controls as well. 

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: With the housing crisis in need of major intervention, Barber's work is a small part of the story, and only available in some pockets of London. 

PETER BARBER: It does feel like a drop in the ocean, and it does feel like a band aid on the [00:58:00] problem really. Ultimately, you know, politicians have to commit a lot more money to social housing. 

REPORTER, CHANNEL 4: Barber is slowly making waves in the architecture world. But as he admits himself, there's still a very long way to go.

Final comments on why North America Can't Build Nice Apartments

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Future Hindsight, describing the housing crisis. Notes from America featured a personal story about how public housing can provide stability. The Majority Report put the housing crisis in the broader context of current economics and interest rates. Future Hindsight looked at the moral issue of housing and its connection to democracy. Notes from America explored one effort to improve public housing through privatization. The Majority Report looked into publicly owned housing. Future Hindsight discussed how the political landscape may be ripe for transformational change on housing. And the Thom Hartmann Program compared the French housing plan with the US. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clips from Notes from America discussing various ideas, [00:59:00] including public housing residents getting a vote in their own futures. And the Channel 4 News in the UK did a report on one social housing effort. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at Remember that during December, we're offering 20% off on memberships for yourself, or as a gift. So, definitely take advantage of that while you can, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

For more on housing in America, I have a couple of our episodes to recommend. #1496, "Home is where the hardship is", was published back in June 2022, which discussed the growing crisis, including the fact that corporations buying up houses is a big part of the problem of the housing shortage. And 1565, "Co-housing builds community and [01:00:00] fights loneliness" is just from June of this year, 2023, and looks at a non-traditional form of housing that increases housing density and helps form community at the same time. So, check those out again. Those were episodes 1496 and 1565 in your podcast feed. 

Now to wrap up, I just want to add a point about housing regulation or maybe regulation more broadly. I came across this yesterday. A YouTuber was making a point about how a relatively small regulation on fire safety has had a massive impact on housing in North America. So, let's just walk through the highlights real quick.

NARRATOR: This type of apartment building is called the Point Access Block. Its defining feature is that all its units share one staircase and elevator to the ground floor, which allows for a smaller, skinnier apartment. And these buildings are a common element in some of the most desirable neighborhoods in the world.

So, why don't we build these apartments here in North America? [01:01:00] Well, in Canada and the U. S., all apartments above two or three stories need to give their units access to two separate staircases. We're some of the only countries across the world that are this strict about this requirement. In most other places, it only kicks in after six or more stories.

And this one rule has huge implications. Staircases take up a lot of space, and fitting two of them in a small building means that there's much less usable floor space on every floor. As a result, developers here construct much larger buildings so that the staircases and hallways take up a much smaller proportion of the overall building.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: So American apartment buildings into being big and bulky, which means they're harder and more expensive to build.

NARRATOR: Single staircase buildings, on the other hand, can be much smaller, which means you can often build them on just one property. I think that makes these buildings an important solution right now, because cities today are increasingly looking to add more housing into their single family neighborhoods.

Properties in [01:02:00] these areas are already small to begin with and I think it'd be very difficult to add more housing at scale without single staircase buildings. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Another weird problem is that double stair apartment buildings end up only having apartments with windows on one side. So like corner units are pretty rare and windows on opposite walls that maximize breathe-through air ventilation, it's nearly non-existent in the US. And then on top of the window problem, which, you know, if you think about windows are nice, nice to have more windows, so Americans get fewer windows, but the window's problem actually compounds because it makes it difficult to build apartment layouts with more than one or maybe two bedrooms. So, three bedroom apartments are also extremely rare. This is more clear if you can see the visuals in the video.

NARRATOR: This is a problem because our cities are facing a major shortage of apartments with three or more bedrooms, the kinds of spaces that are better suited for families. In Metro Vancouver, three bedroom apartments make up [01:03:00] 2 percent of units in the region's rental market, while studios and one bedroom apartments make up almost 75%. And this shortage of family friendly apartments is where I really see the potential of point access block buildings. When you have one staircase, you don't need a hallway, which means that units can wrap around the staircase in all sorts of different ways. That makes it easier to have more walls with windows, which allows for apartment layouts with more than one bedroom. Check out this apartment layout from France. You can see that the single staircase allows for a 3-bedroom unit, two 2-bedrooms, and two 1-bedrooms. 

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Now, I don't know about you, but for me, it's easy to never think about how three bedroom apartments basically don't exist in the US, or to just assume that well, yeah, there's no room for that many bedrooms in an apartment. Everyone knows that, apartments just aren't that big. And what logically follows is that if you need more than two bedrooms, like if you want a bedroom, a kid's room and a home office, which of course lots more people do now after the [01:04:00] pandemic, then the only option is to move to the suburbs and buy a bigger, detached, less efficient house than you would have otherwise, if only three bedroom apartments had existed. Now, the two staircase rule was put in place with very good intentions. It's all about giving people escape routes in case of fire. And that rule is more strict in North America because more of our buildings are made of wood than in Europe. And that role definitely saved lives over the past, you know, a hundred or however many years. But now the question is whether we actually still need it.

NARRATOR: As you can see on this chart, the US and Canada don't have the fewest fire deaths per capita. Not by a long shot. It turns out, there are so many other factors that contribute towards fire safety. In fact, it seems like the real success story of our building codes hasn't been so much about helping people escape fires, but preventing them in the first place.

For example, regulating the materials buildings are made out of, [01:05:00] requiring fire doors, pressurized staircases, sprinklers, fire alarm systems, and fire extinguishers. Today, almost every aspect of your home has been vetted for fire safety. Even your mattress is required by law to be made out of fire resistant materials.

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: So my takeaway from all this is about the potential benefits of reviewing old regulations to make sure they're still accomplishing what we need them to. There are a couple of old anecdotes that come to mind in cases like this. 

The first is a story about an NPR engineer who asked about very slightly changing the format of the show he was working on and was told, No, we can't do that because there's an NPR rule about show structure and that change would go against the role. So, the engineer looked into the rule and found that it dated back to when they had to design the show format in a way that would give editors enough time to physically cut audio tape and put it together between segments, obviously [01:06:00] something that's not needed anymore. 

Another story is about a family recipe that had been handed down and included some odd directions that no one could really understand the benefit of, but people followed the instruction specifically. It goes, you know, that's how grandma did it. Don't ask questions. And I think that eventually someone asks, Hey, grandma, these instructions are in this recipe. Why do you have to do it this way? And grandma explained, Oh, well that was just to accommodate the extremely small oven I had back in the day. You know, it required some creative thinking to get everything to come out right with such a constrained space. So, you know, we wrote the recipe for that reason alone. But like, no, of course you don't have to do it that way now. We have bigger kitchens, bigger ovens, the whole thing, right? 

So, this certainly isn't a lesson about how regulation is bad across the board, right? The narrator from the video didn't even want to abolish the ruling entirely, just tweak it so that it only applied to taller buildings where it made more sense and [01:07:00] not apply to shorter apartment buildings under six stories. Where it was just not as necessary. 

So, old rules rarely need to be entirely thrown out, but they may need some reviewing and some tweaking from time to time. The double staircase rule in North American apartment buildings seems to be a pretty good example of this, but there are undoubtedly others and in a crisis, like the housing crisis we are in, we should be looking at every option available. And besides, European-style apartments sound much nicer to live in, and are much more efficient than having families being forced out into the suburbs, into their own single family homes. So, the benefits to revising old rules may often compound in the positive direction, just as the drawbacks to those rules can sometimes compound in the negative. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or [01:08:00] send us a text to 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and Ben, who's making his triumphant return to the volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and a bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from 

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#1599 Taming the Beast: AI Regulation Before Human Relegation (Transcript)

Air Date 12/20/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall look at why AI needs to be regulated by governments, even though politicians don't understand computers, just as the government regulates the manufacturer and operation of aircraft, even though your average politician doesn't know their ass from an aileron. Sources today include In Focus, Your Undivided Attention, Democracy Now!, DW News, Today Explained, and a TED Talk, with additional members-only clips from the Thom Hartmann Program and In Focus.

How are governments approaching AI regulation - In Focus by The Hindu - Air Date 11-16-23

G. SAMPATH - HOST, IN FOCUS: So to start with, I was wondering if you can give us a brief idea of what are the real concerns about AI that are animating, that are driving the legislative efforts of governments around the world? What are the core concerns? 

DR. MATTI POHJONEN: Yeah, sure. So it's actually a very interesting debate. And as somebody who has been following the debate far before it became very publicly heated alongside JATCPT and some of the new models, is [00:01:00] that there has been a very kind of a mesh of different topics and themes that have been involved or underpinning lying some of the debates around how to best regulate and legislate artificial intelligence.

So I think a good way to start looking at this is that we start off with the kind of a negation or try to articulate or think about what potentially, or what has been one of the drivers of the debate that might not be the key thing to discuss in this podcast or in this conversation.

So there is a very popular kind of public conversation that has been going on around the image of machines, Terminators, artificial intelligence, as these machines take on the world. So there has been a very powerful debate around the kind of existential risk of AI, which has been driving some of the debates.

And once we start going into regulatory aspects of it, we can start seeing that there are various diverse interests that are actually underpinning the contemporary debates that are going on. So part of this what we call an existential AI narrative, there has been a lot of work that has been done around [00:02:00] what happens if AI becomes super, super intelligent and takes over and becomes this massive force that by the pure force of intelligence drives humans into extinction or into kind of a subservient position or what have you.

So there has been a counter-narrative that has been emerging in many, many kinds of different respects to this popular culture or this kind of narrative of AI as an existential threat is that one of the things that is often being hidden from the fact when we think about these very large questions around artificial intelligence is that what do these systems actually do, and how are they being concretely implemented in different aspects of society.

So there's a couple of versions of this kind of more critical narrative that has been advanced more in the attempts of trying to regulate different AI developments and companies. 

So one of them is that -- and you can see we can start sketching out some of these debates as they're taking place on the public conversations and starting taking place also in the kind of online conversation that are going on -- but the core idea behind that is that when we move away from this grand narrative of somehow AI [00:03:00] becoming super intelligence and being able to pose a certain existential threat to humanity or to the ones who develop it, there has been various pressures of what are the actual concerns that now the systems are becoming very advanced, developed, and the progress of development is going at a very fast rate. So there's been pressure from society, societal pressure from civil society activism, to think about what aspects of AI should be regulated in terms of questions around bias in the systems. Questions about privacy have been a very big issue around things like facial recognition technology and their practical uses. Increasingly, there has been talk about what happens with especially generative AI of the types of fake or artificial or synthetic content that can be generated. There's also been one big debate that has been also underlying some of these things. So what are the consequences of the use of automated AI systems, and especially security and especially in weapons and autonomous weapons? And there's been a big debate around what happens [00:04:00] when AI becomes embedded into weapons systems and what are the limits and what kind of rules and regulations should we have then? And as we have been seeing in Ukraine and Gaza, this is already a concern that many of the systems are, in one form or another, using different AI models to drive or augment the systems that are being used.

So again, many of these kind of different interests have been meshing for a couple of years, and now they're starting to concretely find form or manifest in various regulations that are being proposed. And I think in that context, there's been two of the key legislative things that have been done, there was the EU AI Act that you mentioned, which was in 2021, where some of these principles were starting to be sketched out into something practical, or what would it mean in practice, and then Biden executed the order. And in a way, the EU AI Act is the next step is going to be, they're trying to move that into a very concrete legislation that then would provide guidelines and rules for this.

So in a way, the environment seems to be right through this various influences [00:05:00] for now to be the moment that some preliminary and legislatively binding legislations will emerge that we look at these various debates. Again, we can start sketching out some of the more detailed nuances out of this, but it's interesting now, especially with the Biden legislation or executive order, how these things are being increasingly pushed from governments and different actors.

So yeah, that's the kind of very broad environment in which many of these various, often conflicting and diverse debates have been finding form in the last two, three years. 

A First Step Toward AI Regulation with Tom Wheeler - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 11-2-23

TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: So this 111-page executive order is a sweeping announcement that imposes guardrails on many aspects of the new AI models. 

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: One of the remarkable things about this executive order is that it really takes seriously the full scale of impacts AI has in society, and that's why it's so broad. So it mandates that companies share internal testing data, and very importantly, that companies must notify the government when they are training new Frontier Foundation models -- that is, models that go beyond 10 to the 26 flops, [00:06:00] which is a fancy way of saying things that are of scale GPT 5 and beyond, as well as anything that poses serious national security, economic security, or public health threats. 

The executive order also goes after the intersection of AI and biology by making federal funding for life sciences dependent on using higher standards around gene synthesis and the kinds of things that can be used to do nasty things with AI and biology.

The order also addressed the new development of cutting edge privacy tools and the mitigation of algorithmic bias and discrimination and the implementation of a pilot National AI Research Resource, or NAIR, which will fund AI research related to issues like health care and climate change. 

And finally, the executive order tries to solve the deficit of AI talent in the US government itself. They are launching an AI talent search on 

TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: I think what's most impressive about this order is just that it reflects the many different areas of society that AI touches, that it's not shying away from the multiple horizons of harm -- [00:07:00] privacy, bias and discrimination, job automation, AI expertise, biological weapons. Instead of saying these are way too many issues for the government to tackle, this executive order has bullet points for how it's going to try to signal a first step towards each of these areas. 

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: So, I actually was in the room as the president was signing the executive order. It was a privilege, really, to be there in this historic moment, and I was chatting with one of the White House lawyers, and he used a phrase that I thought was exactly right. He said, "This is the end of the beginning." 

I remember Tristan, you and I, back in March, really realizing that we're going to have to have something like an executive order. We did the AI Dilemma, and while, of course, it's not us pushing for an executive order that made it happen, we've now sort of completed this process where in March, this was not an issue. The executive order was signed. 

And so we're going to be discussing that today with Tom Wheeler. Tom Wheeler knows the tech industry from both [00:08:00] government and business perspectives. He was a venture capitalist in the cable and telecommunications industry, and he was chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, the FCC, from 2013 to 2017. These days, he is a Visiting Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he's been researching 21st-century tech regulation for his new book, Tech Clash: Who Makes the Rules in the Digital Gilded Age. Tom, welcome.

TOM WHEELER: Aza, thank you. It's great to be with you guys.

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: Well, and to the storytelling of one of the first times we visited Washington DC, trying to meet the various institutions in DC, Tom, we were actually at a meeting, I think was that at the United Nations, or it was held by Dick Gephardt and some other groups, to try to figure out how are we going to get our hands wrapped around this? And I'm so curious, given your very, very deep expertise in government and in Washington, what is your overall take on the executive order?

TOM WHEELER: Well, let me back up first of all to both of you have been engaged in a missionary effort [00:09:00] that has been really important. And I think you ought to feel good about the fact that the President of the United States has stepped up as he did. You know, it's been interesting to watch as Congress talked, the administration moved forward and they move forward in an evolutionary process, if you will, the first thing out of the box was the AI Bill of Rights, which was kind of aspirational. And then came the NIST standards for management and mitigation, which are terrific, but without any enforcement. Then came the voluntary commitments of the major AI model companies that again were well intended, but so general as to almost be unenforceable. And now what President Biden signed in the executive order -- I mean, 111-page executive order -- I was [00:10:00] struck by his use of the Defense Production Act and its enforceability, mandatory nature to require certain things.

But the problem with executive action is that most of the other things are guidance and are not enforceable. We need enforceable oversight of the digital activities and that, absent action by Congress, we're not going to get there because of the fact that we're still operating under industrial-era rules and industrial-era statutes and industrial-era assumptions.

So, bottom line on the executive order, hooray, great leadership throughout this entire process. But we really need an enforceable strategy that only the Congress can create.[00:11:00] 

You know, I often consider AI to be like the mythological Greek monster Hydra, the multi-headed monster. And, as I looked at the executive order, I think the president took a swing at every head he could find on the Hydra-headed AI monster. And that's terrific.

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: In terms of just signaling power, and it wasn't lost on any of us that the UK AI summit was happening directly after this announcement. And so there's a signaling value in saying the US is going to do something, or rather, that the US is taking it really seriously. And in the sense that we all have to do what we can do, I viewed this as incredibly good.

TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: This was sort of the maximum that Biden, or really the executive branch, could do. And so before we go into how might we fix the limits of our medieval or maybe industrial revolution-era [00:12:00] institutions, I do think it's important to walk through at least a little bit of what's in this executive order, especially around the use of the Defense Production Act to force government in the loop for frontier models and things like that.

And then let's step back to this larger question of structurally how might we redo governance to match the times? 

TOM WHEELER: Sure. Back to the question of enforceability and the Defense Production Act and the requirement that certain of the companies, and I guess it is yet undefined, but certain of the companies that are building foundation models need to inform the government as to what the training is going on, need to be running some red team activities to try and identify vulnerabilities and share that information, because it has national security and economic security implications, therefore there can be mandatory [00:13:00] requirements. Those are all good and those are important steps and we need to understand what's in the black boxes and have an ability to, based on that understanding, deal with whatever reality is created. I think it falls short of the Food and Drug Administration, for instance, we will run government tests on every new pharmaceutical and determine whether or not it can be released to the market, but it's a move in that direction.

And it's a mandatory requirement that the government is at least aware of what is going on. 

Now, the interesting thing, and we can get to this later, but the interesting thing is, I didn't see in the order specifically who was covered. And one of the fascinating things is, okay, how do we deal with open source models -- that is coming definitely from people [00:14:00] who we know are not covered by this.

Artificial Intelligence Godfathers Call for Regulation as Rights Groups Warn AI Encodes Oppression - Democracy Now! - Air Date 6-1-23

AMY GOODMAN: Tawana Petty, welcome to Democracy Now! You are not only warning people about the future; you’re talking about the uses of AI right now and how they can be racially discriminatory. Can you explain?

TAWANA PETTY: Yes. Thank you for having me, Amy. Absolutely. I must say that the contradictions have been heightened with the godfather of AI and others speaking out and authoring these particular letters that are talking about these futuristic potential harms. However, many women have been warning about the existing harms of artificial intelligence many years prior to now — Timnit Gebru, Dr. Joy Buolamwini and so many others, Safiya Noble, Ruha Benjamin, and so — and Dr. Alondra Nelson, what you just mentioned, [00:15:00] the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, which is asking for five core principles: safe and effective systems, algorithmic discrimination protections, data privacy, notice and explanation, and human alternatives, consideration, and fallback.

And so, at the Algorithmic Justice League, we have been responding to existing harms of algorithmic discrimination that date back many years prior to this almost robust narrative-reshaping conversation that has been happening over the last several months with artificial general intelligence. So, we’re already seeing harms with algorithmic discrimination in medicine. We’re seeing the pervasive surveillance that is happening with law enforcement using face detection system to target community members during protests, squashing not only our civil liberties and rights to organize and protest, but also the [00:16:00] misidentifications that are happening with regard to false arrests, that we’ve seen two very prominent cases started off in Detroit.

And so, there are many examples of existing harms that it would have been really great to have these voices of mostly White men who are in the tech industry, who did not pay attention to the voices of all those women who were lifting up these issues many years ago. And they’re talking about these futuristic possible risks, when we have so many risks that are happening today.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Professor Max Tegmark, if you could respond to what Tawana Petty said, and the fact that others have also said that the risks have been vastly overstated in that letter, and, more importantly, given what Tawana has said, that it distracts from already-existing effects of artificial intelligence that are widely in use already?

MAX TEGMARK: [00:17:00] I think this is a really important question here. There are people who say that one of these kinds of risks distracts from the other. I strongly support everything we heard here from Tawana. I think these are all very important problems, examples of how we’re giving too much control already to machines. But I strongly disagree that we should have to choose about worrying about one kind of risk or the other. That’s like saying we should stop working on cancer prevention because it distracts from stroke prevention.

These are all incredibly important risks. I have spoken up a lot on social justice risks, as well, and threats. And, you know, it just plays into the hands of the tech lobbyists, if they can — if it looks like there’s infighting between people who are trying to rein in Big Tech for one reason and people who are trying to rein in Big Tech for other reasons. Let’s all work together and [00:18:00] realize that society — just like society can work on both cancer prevention and stroke prevention. We have the resources for this. We should be able to deal with all the crucial social justice issues and also make sure that we don’t go extinct.

Extinction is not something in the very distant future, as we heard from Yoshua Bengio. We might be losing total control of our society relatively soon. It can happen in the next few years. It could happen in a decade. And once we’re all extinct, you know, all these other issues cease to even matter. Let’s work together, tackle all the issues, so that we can actually have a good future for everybody.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Tawana Petty, and then I want to bring back in Yoshua Bengio — Tawana Petty, what needs to happen at the national level, you know, U.S. regulation? And then I want to compare what’s happening here, what’s happening in Canadian regulation, the [00:19:00] EU - European Union - which seems like it’s about to put in the first comprehensive set of regulations, Tawana.

TAWANA PETTY: Right, absolutely. So, the Blueprint was a good model to start with, that we’re seeing some states adopt and try to roll out their versions of an AI Bill of Rights. The president issued an executive order to strengthen racial equity and support underserved communities across the federal government, which is addressing specifically algorithmic discrimination. You have the National Institute of Standards and Technology that issued an AI risk management framework, that breaks down the various types of biases that we find within algorithmic systems, like computational, systemic, statistical and human cognitive. And there are so many other legislative opportunities that are happening on the federal level. You see the FTC speaking up, the Federal Trade Commission, on algorithmic discrimination. You have the [00:20:00] Equal Employment Opportunity Corporation that has issued statements. You have the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who has been adamant about the impact that algorithmic systems have on us when data brokers are amassing these mass amounts of data that have been extracted from community members.

So, I agree that there needs to be some collaboration and cooperation, but we’ve seen situations like Dr. Timnit Gebru was terminated from Google for warning us before ChatGPT was launched upon the millions of people as a large language model. And so, cooperation has not been lacking on the side of the folks who work in ethics. To the contrary, these companies have terminated their ethics departments and people who have been warning about existing harms.

The EU agrees on AI regulations - What will it mean for people and businesses in the EU - DW News - Air Date 12-9-23

ANCHOR, DW NEWS: Now, the European Union has agreed on legislation to govern the use of artificial intelligence. The deal includes limits on facial recognition technology and [00:21:00] restrictions on using AI to manipulate human behavior. The EU says the future legal framework for AI will include tough penalties for companies breaking the rules but will not stifle development of the industry in Europe. It follows years of discussions among member states and lawmakers in the European Parliament. 

BRANDON BENIFEI: We had one objective: to deliver a legislation that would ensure that the ecosystem of AI in Europe would develop with a human-centric approach, respecting fundamental rights and the European values. 

THIERRY BRETON: This is really something that is much more, I believe, than a rule book. It's a launchpad for the European startups and also researchers to lead the global race for what our fellow citizens want, a trustworthy AI. 

ANCHOR, DW NEWS: For more on this, let's bring in our correspondent in Brussels, Bernd Riegert. Hello Bernd, uh, why did the EU decide that this law was needed? 

BERND RIEGERT: Well, the [00:22:00] EU felt it is about high time to regulate, and the EU wants to be the first in the world, the first big regional business area to regulate artificial intelligence. Neither the U. S. nor Asian markets have this regulation, and in this way the EU wants to set the world's standards for the whole industry, and the EU also felt that it is a high time to do this now because there are some dangers deriving from artificial intelligence and the EU sees itself as at the forefront of a revolution, actually, in business because AI will have impact on every field of daily life in the future.

ANCHOR, DW NEWS: The future is quite tricky when you think about AI, isn't it? Walk us through some of the measures that will be put in place and what they will mean for people and companies in the EU. 

BERND RIEGERT: The EU will divide AI applications into four risk classes. Some of them will be completely forbidden, like facial [00:23:00] recognition on a mass scale. There are some exemptions for military and law enforcement. And also behavioral control and the control of your thoughts, that will be also banned. But high risk applications, for example, in self-driving cars, will be allowed in the EU, but they have to be certified, the technique has to be open so that everybody can see how that works, and normal AI, I would call it like ChatGPT, on a medium risk level, that can be in the EU without any restrictions, but it has to be documented how this thing works, and everybody has to know that he is dealing with AI, that he's not talking to a human.

This is one of the essential measures in the whole legislations. You as a consumer shall always decide, Do I want to talk to a machine? I have to know that it's not human. This is the basic principle, but there are also some AI applications that will be not regulated. For [00:24:00] example, audio and video altering programs that make these well known deep fakes. These are not regulated. They don't pose a higher risk in the view of the EU. 

ANCHOR, DW NEWS: Okay, what has the reaction been so far? I assume quite mixed, right? 

BERND RIEGERT: Well, there are positive and negative reactions on both sides of the aisle, if you will. The business lobby is saying this is far too much. It's too far because, uh, it's over-regulation, it will hamper competition, it will prevent startups from coming up with new solutions. Some companies might even leave Europe to go to the United States or Asia to develop their applications there. On the other hand consumer protection groups say this is not far enough because the data are not protected very well. And there are some AI applications, for example, in toys that are not regulated, that could attack the thoughts and the behavior of our [00:25:00] kids. So both sides are not really satisfied that shows that they somehow reached a balance. 

EU vs. AI - Today, Explained - Air Date 12-18-23

ANU BRADFORD: So I would go back to early 1990s. That's when the U. S. really stepped back from regulation. 

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Because the Internet has such explosive potential for prosperity, it should be a global free-trade zone. 

ANU BRADFORD: Up until then, the U. S. had often been setting the rules that had global impact, but then the U. S. really adopted this market-driven dogma that was very anti-regulation. So the U. S. took the lead in promoting this deregulation agenda. 

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: It should be a place where government makes every effort first, as the vice president said, not to stand in the way.

ANU BRADFORD: And the EU stepped in and filled the vacuum because at that very point, the EU was ramping [00:26:00] up its own efforts to integrate the common European market. And that meant it needed to harmonize regulations so that we remove the barriers from within the member states for trading within the EU. So, the EU started proactively building a regulatory state, not for the purpose of ruling the world, but for the purpose of making Europe an integrated, strong trading area.

JACQUES DELORS: We will strengthen the impact of this community through the ongoing implementation of common foreign and security policies. 

ANU BRADFORD: So then the EU started focusing its regulatory efforts on digital economy. 

NEWS COMMENTATOR: The European Union has approved rules to force big technology firms such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter to remove illegal content... the European Union has hit tech giant Meta with a record breaking fine of over a billion dollars for defying privacy rules. 

ANU BRADFORD: And the gap between what the EU was producing and what the U. S. was failing to do in the regulatory space just became [00:27:00] larger and larger. But initially, it was really the U.S.'s decision to say that, Look, we trust the markets and the EU making philosophically a very different rule. And I think the inadvertent effect, the unintended consequence, was that the U. S. basically ceded this whole governance base to the EU. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - CO-HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: And what has it accomplished? Give us some of the greatest hits. 

ANU BRADFORD: Well, I would say the GDPR is by far the most famous hit. 

NEWS COMMENTATOR: The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, known to friends as GDPR, goes into effect tomorrow....

ANU BRADFORD: So, that was enacted in 2016. And that is a very significant regulation in shaping the entire global data privacy conversation and legislative frameworks. 

Then also antitrust. So, the Europeans are very concerned about the abuse of market power by dominant tech companies. 

MARGRETHE VESTAGER: You have to recognize [00:28:00] that you have powers beyond anyone else's and with that comes the responsibility. 

ANU BRADFORD: So, there have been four antitrust lawsuits against Google that have been successfully concluded in the EU and that have resulted in around 10 billion dollars in fines. 

And then there is the content moderation space. So, the Europeans are very concerned about disinformation, they're very concerned about hate speech, and the toxic environment surrounding Internet users when they are using the platforms. 

MARGRETHE VESTAGER: And we need to say to some of these service providers, you have a responsibility for the way you do business to make sure that people feel as comfortable when they are online as well as when they are offline.

ANU BRADFORD: So, the Europeans have moved to limit hate speech and limit disinformation, even though they remain committed to freedom of expression. There is just a sense that that important commitment to free speech is balanced against some other fundamental rights, [00:29:00] including a right to dignity. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - CO-HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: And a hard pivot away from dignity to your phone chargers, maybe the most tangible of all these Brussels effects. 

NEWS COMMENTATOR: There are USB-A chargers. There are USB- B chargers. There are USB-C chargers There are micro USB chargers. There are mini USB chargers... 

ANU BRADFORD: The EU also regulates consumer electronics. So there's an environmental concern surrounding consumer waste. And then another concern, just the consumer convenience, if you like, the idea that we do not want the consumers to have to buy different cords for all the different devices and all the different jurisdictions where they are using them.

So, uh, the EU standardized the common charger, which then led Apple to also switched its own charging port and extend that change, not just to Apple in Europe, but also outside of the EU.

NILAY PATEL: [00:30:00] You know, the word from Apple basically is like, 'the Europeans made us do it. But it’s time, and we don’t think people will freak out’. 

SEAN RAMESWARAM - CO-HOST, TODAY, EXPLAINED: Now, in a case like that, with the Apple USB-C charger situation, where literally everyone around the world who has this device will have their tech now changed because of this EU regulation, why does it make more sense for a tech company like Apple to change this charging port for the whole world instead of just for the European market. Tell us how the Brussels effect makes sense for a business. 

ANU BRADFORD: So, often for these tech companies, it's just a matter of efficiency and a cost calculus. So it is not efficient to run multiple different production lines. There are scale economies in uniform production. So they don't want to be producing different variations for different markets. And same applies for companies [00:31:00] like Meta's Facebook. They pride themselves of having one global Facebook. So if you and me are having a conversation and I'm in Europe and you are in the United States, they don't want there to be a different speech rules that apply to the conversation whereby I would not be seeing a part of the conversation that you are able to see because there are different content moderation rules that would make it really difficult to have effective cross border conversations. But I would say, Sean, that the most common reason is just simply it is just too expensive to have many varieties off the same product.

A First Step Toward AI Regulation with Tom Wheeler Part 2 - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 11-2-23

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: One thing I wanted to ask you about, Tom, for people who are not really familiar about this, one of the levers that the executive order uses is federal funding conditions. So basically in a few different places, the government's saying in this executive order as a condition, for example, life sciences funding, to get that funding from the government, you have to do these new and improved practices. So, for [00:32:00] example, one of the things executive order covers in the hydra -- which I think is a great term, it covers the many horizons of harm, to use our internal phrase here at CHT, that because AI affects bias, discrimination, jobs, labor, biological weapons, risks of doom scenarios, sci-fi scenarios, all the way up to the long term when something affects all those different horizons of harm at the same time, that's the hydra that you're speaking to. And I think again, applaud the people who are working extremely hard at this at the White House, Ben Buchanan, Bruce Reed, the whole teams that have been working very, very hard on this, and done in record time, I think six months, unprecedented. It's the most aggressive action that they could have taken. And one of the areas that they covered in that hydra is actually the intersection of AI and biology, and them mandating that there needs to be new and improved genetic synthesis screening so that labs have tighter controls on the kind of materials that one would use with AI to do nasty stuff with biology.

Can you speak to any of the history of this, the power of this lever? Because obviously this is only going to affect places that are affected by federal funding, but I think you have some background here. [00:33:00] 

TOM WHEELER: There are two principal ways in which the government affects the marketplace. One is through direct regulation, and the other is through its role as typically the largest consumer. And that's what this second part that you've been talking about is doing. And again, it's terribly important. 

I just have to pause here for a second. I agree with everything you just said about the incredible effort, speed, and dedication that went into doing this. I don't want to have that as somehow being Eeyore and complaining about the significance of this effort. But one of the drawbacks, one of the shortcomings of relying simply on government procurement or government funding is that it only goes to those who are procuring or being funded. And again, as you guys have been so terrific in your missionary work in pointing [00:34:00] out, this is much more expansive than that.

So huzzah, yes, use every tool at your disposal, but we also need new tools. 

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: I Think another thing that this executive order does is it lets us see when the tech companies are speaking out of both the left side and the right side of their mouth. It forces that hand. Because I remember, Tristan and I were at the Schumer AI Insight Forum and there was the moment that I think Schumer really wanted, when he asked, who here thinks the federal government will need to regulate AI and should regulate? And every single CEO, from Sam Altman to Mark Zuckerberg to Satya Nadella, from all the major companies, raised their hand. Right? And that led to headlines like "Tech industry leaders endorse regulating artificial intelligence." And "The rare summit in Washington."

And then right after the executive order comes out, NetChoice, which is funded by a lot of those same organizations, releases their quote, which is "Biden's new executive [00:35:00] order is a backdoor regulatory scheme for the wider economy, which uses AI concerns as an excuse to expand the president's power over the economy."

So here we go, right? They're saying like, yes, please regulate us. Just not that one. And they're with one hand they're saying yes, and the other hand they're saying no. So I would love for you to talk a little bit about that dynamic. 

TOM WHEELER: So Aza, as a recovering regulator, this is like the line in Casablanca, where Claude Rains says "There's gambling going on here?" This is a classic move in these kinds of environments that yes, I am all for puppies and apple pie and the flag. And now let's talk about what the specifics of that means. Oh, golly, we can't go there. This would be terrible. This would be awful. And against innovation and, then all come out all the detailed imaginary horribles. One should not be surprised. One of the things I'm proudest of is my term as chairman of the FCC was net [00:36:00] neutrality. I would meet with industry executives or listen to them make their speeches or testify. And we're all for net neutrality, but let's define net neutrality my way, which is it's only about blocking and throttling. 

This is why the job of policymaking is so damn difficult. I'd come home from work when I was chairman and I'd sit there at the dinner table with my wife and I would say, the public interest is fungible. There is nothing clear cut about "this is the public interest." There's this aspect of the public interest, and that aspect of the public interest, and the job of the policymaker is to sift through all of that and figure out what is the fungible answer to address the public interest. 

AZA RASKIN - CO-HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: You're saying, in the end, you have to choose a process that does good like sense [00:37:00] in decision making. It's not gonna be something just static in time. And one of the parts of the EO is this personnel as policy thing. Right now there's a dearth of knowledge of expertise about AI in the government. And so there's a huge hiring spree. There's going to be a head or chief of AI, I think in now every federal agency. And I think the White House is creating a White House AI Council, which will coordinate all the federal government's AI activities, staff from every major federal agency. 

So I'm curious then, in the frame of "the end of the beginning," what happens next? Is the AI Council the right way to think about it? And, of course, back to your fundamental question of how do we have governance keep up with the increasing pace of AI? 

TOM WHEELER: First of all, Bruce Reed, who's the Deputy Chief of Staff at the White House and is going to head the AI Council, is a really good guy who understands these [00:38:00] kinds of issues. But his job will be to be the maestro, if you will.

I think, at the end of the day, what we need is a new federal agency that is focused on the realities that digital has brought to a previously industrial economy and society and government. And that there has to be that kind of hands-on authority. At the end of the day, you're gonna need somebody with rule making authority to come in and say, "Okay, these are the decisions that we made; back to the question of what's in the public interest. Here's how we've put those various forces together." 

But let me pick up on one other thing that I was thinking as you were saying that. I watched Eric Schmidt on Meet the Press a month, six weeks ago, whatever it was, when they were interviewing him about AI, and he said, Oh, you gotta let the companies make the rules here [00:39:00] because there's nobody in government that can understand this. And I got infuriated because we used to hear that in the early days of the digital platforms. Oh, these digital platforms are so complex and if you touch it, you'll break the magic kind of a thing. And it seems to be the same kind of playbook, which is, well, let's let the company just go ahead and make the rules because they are really the only ones that understand.

And, I just kept saying to myself, well, wait a minute. We split the atom. We sent men to and from the moon safely in a government program. And sure, there is not the kind of in-depth knowledge widespread. But you know what? I bet that there are very few members of Congress who can explain jet propulsion or Bernoulli's principle that keeps airplanes in the air, but we sure do regulate the manufacture and operation of aircraft. 

How to Keep AI Under Control Max Tegmark - TED - Air Date 11-2-23

MAX TEGMARK: The [00:40:00] real problem is that we lack a convincing plan for AI safety. People are working hard on evals, looking for risky AI behavior, and that's good, but clearly not good enough. They're basically training AI to not say bad things, rather than not do bad things. Moreover, evals and debugging are really just necessary, not sufficient conditions for safety. In other words, they can prove the presence of risk, not the absence of risk. So, let's up our game, alright? Try to see how we can make provably safe AI that we can control. 

Guardrails try to physically limit harm. But if your adversary is super intelligent or a human using super intelligence against you, trying is just not enough. You need to succeed. Harm needs to [00:41:00] be impossible. So we need provably safe systems. Provable, not in the weak sense of convincing some judge, but in the strong sense of there being something that's impossible according to the laws of physics. Because no matter how smart an AI is, it can't violate the laws of physics and do what's provably impossible. Steve Omohundro and I wrote a paper about this, and we're optimistic that this vision can really work. So let me tell you a little bit about how. 

There's a venerable field called formal verification, which proves stuff about code. And I'm optimistic that AI will revolutionize automatic proving business. And also revolutionize program synthesis, the ability to automatically write really good code. So here is how our vision works. You, the human, write a specification that your AI tool must obey. That it's impossible to log in to your [00:42:00] laptop without the correct password. Or that a DNA printer cannot synthesize dangerous viruses. Then a very powerful AI creates both your AI tool and a proof that your tool meets your spec. Machine learning is uniquely good at learning algorithms, but once the algorithm has been learned, you can re-implement it in a different computational architecture that's easier to verify. 

Now you might worry, how on Earth am I gonna, like, understand this powerful AI and the powerful AI tool it built and the proof, if they're all too complicated for any human to grasp. Here is the really great news, you don't have to understand any of that stuff. 'Cause it's much easier to verify a proof than to discover it. So you only have to understand or trust your proof checking code, which could be just a few hundred lines long. And, uh, Steve and I envision [00:43:00] that such proof checkers get built into all our compute hardware, so it just becomes impossible to run very unsafe code. 

What if the AI though isn't able to write that AI tool for you? Then there's another possibility. You train an AI to first just learn to do what you want, and then you use a different AI to extract out the learned algorithm and knowledge for you, like an AI neuroscientist. This is in the spirit of the field of mechanistic interpretability, which is making really impressive rapid progress. Provably safe systems are clearly not impossible. 

Let's look at a simple example of where we first machine learn an algorithm from data and then distill it out in the form of code that provably meets spec. Okay? Let's do it with an algorithm that you probably learned in first grade addition, [00:44:00] where you loop over the digits from right to left, and sometimes you do a carry. We'll do it in binary, as if you were counting on two fingers instead of ten. And we first train a recurrent neural network, never mind the details, to nail the task. So now you have this algorithm that you don't understand how it works, in a black box, defined by a bunch of tables of numbers that we in nerd speak call parameters. Then we use an AI tool we built to automatically distill out from this the learned algorithm in the form of a Python program. And then we use the formal verification tool known as Dafny to prove that this program correctly adds up any numbers, not just the numbers that were in your training data. 

So in summary, provably safe AI, I'm convinced, is possible. But it's going to take time and work. And in the [00:45:00] meantime, let's remember, all the AI benefits that most people are excited about actually don't require superintelligence. We can have a long and amazing future with AI. So, let's not pause AI. Let's just pause the reckless race to superintelligence. Let's stop obsessively training ever larger models that we don't understand. Let's heed the warning from ancient Greece and not get hubris like in the story of Icarus. Because artificial intelligence is giving us incredible intellectual wings with which we can do things beyond our wildest dreams, if we stop obsessively trying to fly to the sun. Thank you.

Anti-Democratic Tech Firm’s Secret Push For A.I. Deregulation w Lori Wallach - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 8-8-23

THOM HARTMANN - THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: I understand from the press release that I got from you a couple of days ago [00:46:00] that these big tech firms that want to basically own artificial intelligence and use it for their own purposes and whatnot, really don't want to be regulated and they're trying to use some of these international trade deals to prevent that regulation. Am I correctly understanding what you're writing about? 

LORI WALLACH: That's exactly right. It is happening. It's a play you have revealed from big corporations before. This time it's the big tech sector that wants to use its lobbyists, its money, to rig trade agreements, to basically handcuff Congress, so that, finally, as Congress and the Biden administration and the regulatory agencies realize they need to regulate these behaviors for their monopoly abuses, for their privacy abuses, for who knows what AI civil rights and civil liberties abuses will ensue, [00:47:00] just as that's starting, the companies realize, Wow, we're not going to win in front of Congress in public. Let's try the old Trojan horse. They're trying to put new rules that would basically forbid regulation in trade agreements even though they have nothing to do with trade.

THOM HARTMANN - THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: I get it. My understanding is that treaties actually supersede federal law. They become the kind of the supreme law of the land, short of the Constitution. But these are being done as trade agreements, not as treaties. They don't require Senate ratification, or am I wrong? What am I missing here? 

LORI WALLACH: So, these are what are called international executive agreements. They're not a full treaty, like the past trade agreements were not full treaties. And the great news is the Biden administration isn't doing the bad old trade deals like the NAFTAs. They're not doing the outsourcing incentives. They're not doing the bans on Buy America. They're not doing the corporate [00:48:00] tribunals, the big pharma giveaways. But buried in the guts of a couple different trade initiatives, these big tech lobbyists, put arcane, weasley language that to the average reader doesn't seem like anything so bad: take away the regulatory tools that are needed to get big tech unleashed. 

So here's just one example, Tom, and this is what you saw the news release. We just did a report. And folks can see these reports at It's a study that shows the number one thing that Congress and the regulatory agencies need to regulate AI is transparency, they need to look at the algorithms in advance and make sure they're not racially biased or they're not invading our civil liberties. What the tech firms want is a new rule buried in the trade agreements [00:49:00] that forbid any government from requiring disclosure of even detailed descriptions of algorithms. And it's framed in language that makes you think it's, Oh, trade secrets must be good for business. But what it is is evading regulation and the companies want to put three or four of those kinds of rules buried in the hundreds of pages of trade language that, basically, they take away the ability of being held accountable.

THOM HARTMANN - THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: Now when I wrote this book, The Hidden History of Big Brother in America, I, you know, I wrote at some length about the algorithms that are driving social media, for example, and how black box they are. We have no idea why it is that, you know, conservatives do so well on Twitter and Facebook and liberals don't do so well. Um, but there are some indications that a lot of it has to do with how the algorithms are set up and they absolutely refuse to reveal these saying that they're trade secrets. [00:50:00] Are they taking the trade secret path on the AI algorithms too? 

LORI WALLACH: I mean, you have a right not to have your confidential business information disclosed to another company, but a trade secret protection is what you get when you are required to give your information to the government, for instance, to show a drug is safe and effective or that a pesticide is not going to give cancer. So, trade secrets protections is a different thing. That means like if I say, Tom, you've just created the best flavor of blah, blah, but the Food and Drug Administration needs to make sure it's safe, you send that to me. You have trade secret protection as the creator of that. That means, as the government, I can't show that to your competitor.

What this is, is a step beyond. This is saying the government can't see it. The government can't make sure it's safe and that's what they're... they already have trade secrets protections. That's already in the WTO. That's in the US law. [00:51:00] No one's giving the information away and in fact, interestingly, all the countries in the world have that WTO obligation not to do it. This is about, you can't regulate. Or here's another one that will just make your toes curl. They've got a rule that gives the company's apps guaranteed control over our data, and it literally says including personal data, as to where it can be stored, where it can be processed, can you get it deleted... it explicitly forbids the government from limiting the flows of data or limiting where it can be stored. And there's no,. Even an exception for like infrastructure where you'd want, you know, you'd want certainly sensitive data not to be susceptible to cybercrime. It's just given over so the government can't regulate. 

So these rules, they hope to slip into whatever trade negotiation gets done first. And they've been pushing this at the WTO, the big tech companies for some years. Now they start [00:52:00] trying to push it for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which is a commercial negotiation the Biden administration is doing. They're pushing it for a U. S. Taiwan commercial negotiation, they're trying to weasel it in there. It's like mushrooms after a rain. There's so many big tech lobbyists popping up with this nefarious language. 

But basically what we all need to do, this only works, this kind of Trojan horse strategy, only works if we're not aware. So we need to be running around with our mouths wide open, making sure our members of Congress, our local officials, because state law as well has privacy rules, we need to make sure everyone knows this stunt is afoot. They can't get away with it. 

How are governments approaching AI regulation Part 2 - In Focus by The Hindu - Air Date 11-16-23

G. SAMPATH - HOST, IN FOCUS: So I wanted to have a quick response from you on this, which is, this is one aspect, you mentioned it briefly just now, which is a big concern for anyone interested in AI regulation, which is the whole phenomenon of deep fakes. Hardly a week goes by without a deep fake controversy popping up on Twitter and Facebook.

[00:53:00] So are there any common approaches or safety guidelines that have been evolved or that are in the reckoning right now to check this phenomenon? 

DR. MATTI POHJONEN: There is a lot of stuff being done in terms of trying to develop these, but it's not very easy in terms of coming up with a very simple solution to various things.

And so some of the kind of things that you mentioned for instance, in the Slovenian elections that took place a couple of months ago, they had been demonstrating uses of, it's not a fake video, but it's the fake audio voice of some of the political candidates. And there has been debate, how much that influenced the final outcomes in a very tight election. And there has been, as I mentioned, there is a very growing concern or almost a panic about what's going to happen in the upcoming elections now that it's not only video, but you can also fake audio text and at a scale and speed that has not been happening before. 

So in terms of when you start looking at the way that people are thinking about mitigating this or trying to prepare for its risks, there's a various couple of different kind of initiatives being [00:54:00] done.

And so I've been following it. So Witness has been one organization that has been trying to establish some guidelines through which companies and policymakers should respond to trying to think about it in a more systematic way, what might be the risk of deepfakes. 

 And the thing is that at the same time, generative AI is being used for a lot of creative purposes. And the fact that it's being used for so-called inauthentic behavior or politically manipulated behavior, it's a very small component of it. So the balance is that how should we try to maintain the creative edge of it while dealing with this more nefarious purposes. UNESCO has a working group that they're trying to come up with some things.

There's a kind of arm's race in the computer science platform, social media platform of trying to find ways of trying to watermark them or creating ways that you could actually detect how things are fake. I'm a lecturer at the university. So why lecture at the university? So now the debate is that how much can students be using them and what are the ways of catching them?

So in a way, it's one of these things that has been going so quickly that the legislation, again, is trying to figure out what would [00:55:00] be the best balance to draw between the creative stuff, and then it's being used for political purposes. 

I just wanted to add very quickly, if you have time, one thing that there are two fundamentally different strategies that are now being competed, dealing with, especially the development of AI models. You have the proprietary models, such as Midjourney, and then you have ChatGPT and some other ones, which have quite strict control on the moderation of the content that can be produced by them because they have been receiving a lot of criticism.

But then there's a whole ecosystem of open source models that are then openly available that can be used for various purposes and have been already used for things like stable diffusion, for instance, was one of the big ones that was there. But it's even a more fundamental debate that because the foundation models, stable diffusion is no open source, but they basically open the model and people can fine tune them for further purposes. 

But there is now an interesting division rising both politically and within the corporate sphere between companies that want to keep [00:56:00] models private. So things like Google, some of them are open source, but they want to keep the foundational models private or not open source. And then companies like Meta and some other ones want to keep them open. And now the debate has been shifting all the way to regulation that should open source models should be regulated potentially for their ability to generate things that have not been as moderated as big companies are able to do. At the same time, the other side is saying is that you're actually by overtly regulating these models capability of doing things like also they're using as political disinformation.

If you regulate them too much, that means you're actually giving big companies support for their business. And you're getting rid of this more creative, small companies working with open source. And that's also becoming, so there's a lot of active lobbying going on behind the scenes where on the one hand you have some computer scientists like working for Meta who are saying open source ecosystem is better for development, it should be left open despite some of the concerns, whereas then there's other ones that we should regulate significantly so that the open source models [00:57:00] won't be given as much ability to cause damage.

So in a way, when you start looking at the kind of debate around regulation, it's also partially a debate around who gets to own the systems and the infrastructures for building new types of content. And so when you're looking at these proposals to regulate deepfakes, it builds into these various networks of different underlying debates that apply to more broadly also to like AI regulation that we have been discussing.

Final comments on the need to understand the benefits and downsides of new technology

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with InFocus explaining the public policy approach to AI. Your Undivided Attention broke down Biden's executive order on AI. Democracy Now! looked at the social justice threats from AI. DW News looked at the EU's approach to AI. Today, Explained explained the Brussels effect. Your Undivided Attention looked at more ways to inform policymakers about proper regulation. And a TEDTalk proposed a technical solution to creating safe AI. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from the Thom Hartmann Program, looking at how big [00:58:00] tech is trying to undermine regulation through trade agreements. And In Focus discussed the risk of deep fakes on elections and hurdles to regulation. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at During December, we are offering 20% off memberships for yourself or as gifts. So, definitely take advantage of that while you can, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up. I just wanted to reiterate an idea about new technology that I think can't be said enough because it helps to frame the discussion in an important way. The debate so often comes down to tech boosters versus the tech doubters, or the naysayers, or the ones pointing out that new tech based on old patterns will reinforce old systems of oppression like [00:59:00] racism, or otherwise, rather than remove it, and so on. So, my concern is that the average person listening to this debate - and is not like super well-informed - will just wonder, What, well, which is it?: Good or bad. Or even the people who are informed will feel the need to come down on one side or the other and proclaim that the new technology in question is either good or bad. But anyone who falls into that trap is going to be making a mistake and potentially blinding themselves to the perspectives of the other side. And that ends up getting us nowhere. 

The more accurate truth is to understand that new tech often ushers in simultaneous versions of both utopia and dystopia all at once. And I got this framing from Tristan Harris, who we heard from today on Your Undivided Attention. Years ago, he described this idea using ride hailing apps as the example. You know, the ability to [01:00:00] tap a button on your phone and have a car pick you up in a few minutes. And that's, like, a genuinely amazing thing. It's like sort of a techno utopia that that's possible now. But he also pointed to how that business model was looking to undermine the hard-fought benefits that cab driver unions had won. And, uh, you know, they were looking to reduce the pay and benefits earned by professional drivers, which is just the latest in the unbroken chain, going back all the way through capitalism, to attempt to pay labor as little as possible and maximize the profits for owners. And that is certainly not utopia. 

But it's important to understand both sides and appreciate why tech boosters believe in the benefits they trust the tech will bring. Genuinely good things come from technology all the time, from ride hailing apps to next generation vaccines. But similarly one must understand the current and potential [01:01:00] downsides that new tech has brought and will continue to bring. Otherwise these advocates on both sides will continue to just talk past each other. 

If you want to sing the praises of new technology, your entire framework must include safeguards, and not just against existential Terminator-type threats, but against everyday abuses and structural flaws that create oppression, as we heard about today. But if you are one of those, as I am, cautioning against the potential downsides of new tech, you also have to understand why people are so excited about the potential good that new tech like AI can bring, so that we're not equally dismissive of the upsides as the blind optimists tend to be of the downsides. 

Now one of my favorite phrases, that I only came across recently, is that you can't invent the ship without inventing the ship rack, which basically encapsulates this whole [01:02:00] idea. Because it highlights the in escape ability of downsides without making it sound like you shouldn't pursue the upsides. There are very few people, I would wager, who think that we shouldn't have invented ships because shipwrecks are so bad. But also it's really, really important to try to prevent wrecks as much as possible and to mitigate the harm they cause as much as possible when they do inevitably happen. As The Onion satirical newspaper wrote about the sinking of the Titanic, "World's Largest Metaphor Hits Iceberg. Titanic representation of man's hubris sinks in north Atlantic. 1500 dead in symbolic tragedy". 

So, the question is just whether we're going to introduce new tech with the hubris of the builders of the Titanic and not plan for any downside because we don't expect them to happen. [01:03:00] Or do we move ahead with the modesty and, yes, the regulation that has pushed modern ship builders to have to plan for the worst. 

That's going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave a voicemail or send us a text at 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, brian, and LaWendy for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and a bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to our Discord community, where you can also [01:04:00] continue the discussion. 

So, coming to you from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from 

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#1598 Kiss of Death: Henry Kissinger's Bloody Legacy of Indifference (Transcript)

Air Date 12/12/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we will look at how Henry Kissinger, it turns out, was actually a pretty good representative of the United States, the foreign policy actions we took, and the reasonings we gave for them, oh for the past, you know, century or less. He embodied the idea that the U.S. is always on the side of right, the world and its inhabitants are merely a game board and pieces for us to manipulate to our own ends, and that lives, particularly foreign lives, lost in pursuit of our interests are not of much concern. Sources today include the PBS NewsHour, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Majority Report, Democracy Now!, and The Take, with additional members only clips from Against the Grain and The Mehdi Hassan Show.

A look at the consequential and controversial legacy of Henry Kissinger - PBS NewsHour - Air Date 11-30-23

NICK SCHIFRIN: Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923 to a Jewish family. When he was 15, they fled Nazi Germany for New York. He was drafted into the American military, and [00:01:00] deployed to his home country to help with denazification. He taught at Harvard, giving him access to elite foreign policy circles, until President Richard Nixon named him National Security Adviser and later, simultaneously, Secretary of State.

HENRY KISSINGER: There is no country in the world where it is conceivable that a man of my origins could be standing here next to the President of the United States.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The moment that would make him famous led to what Nixon called "the week that changed the world," a secret 1971 trip to Beijing, ending more than two decades of mutual hostility.

The next year, Nixon made his own trip, setting a path to U.S.-China normalization. In that room that day, Kissinger aide and later Ambassador to China Winston Lord.

WINSTON LORD: Maybe it would have happened at some point, but it was still a very courageous and controversial move in the early 1970s. This meeting set the stage for the subsequent discussions and the opening up the relationship, which had a major [00:02:00] impact immediately by improving relations with the Soviets. It helped us end the Vietnam War. It restored morale in the United States that we were an able diplomatic actor, despite all our problems. It restored American credibility around the world.

NICK SCHIFRIN: But before he could end the Vietnam War, Kissinger had expanded it. Beginning in 1969, the U.S. secretly bombed Cambodia to try and disrupt North Vietnamese supply routes. The campaign is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

GREG GRANDIN: He had a remarkable indifference to human suffering. How many thousands of U.S. soldiers died as a result of that? How many thousands of Vietnamese soldiers died of that? His secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia resulted in 100,000 civilian deaths. But, more than that, it radicalized what had been a small nucleus of extremely militant communists. That brought Pol Pot to power. And that led to the "killing fields" and the [00:03:00] millions dead. I think he does have an inordinate amount of blood on his hands.

NICK SCHIFRIN: By 1973, Kissinger and his team negotiated an end to the Vietnam War in Paris, where Winston Lord was again by his side.

WINSTON LORD: Henry and I went out in the garden and we shook hands, and he looked me in the eye and said: "We've done it." And this had particular poignancy, because I'd almost quit over our Cambodia-related policy to Vietnam a couple of years earlier on that very subject. And so, after all we'd been through, this was a major moment.

NICK SCHIFRIN: The moment allowed Kissinger to share the Nobel Peace Prize with his North Vietnamese counterpart. But, two years later, the U.S. fled Saigon, and North Vietnam and Vietcong troops conquered U.S.-ally South Vietnam.

HENRY KISSINGER: The withdrawal from Vietnam was an American tragedy.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Kissinger never expressed regret over Vietnam or any decision. In 2003, he told Jim Lehrer the priority was to put Vietnam aside so he could focus [00:04:00] elsewhere.

HENRY KISSINGER: All you could do is try to preserve a minimum of dignity and save as many lives as you could.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Kissinger's peace efforts extended to the Middle East. In October 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur. Kissinger held so many regional meetings, he helped create the term "shuttle diplomacy." It helped lead to Israeli-Egypt negotiations and edged the Soviet Union out of the Middle East. 

Kissinger's concern over communism and his realpolitik peaked in Chile. In 1973, the U.S. helped the military overthrow the democratically-elected socialist government and install General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet's military dictatorship caused the death, disappearance, and torture of more than 40,000 Chileans.

But Kissinger's priority was preventing communist dominoes from falling, as he told the NewsHour's Elizabeth Farnsworth in 2001.

HENRY KISSINGER: First of all, human rights were not an international issue at the time, the way they have become since. We believed that the establishment of a Castroite regime in Chile would create a sequence of events in all of at least the southern cone of Latin America that would be extremely inimical to the national interests of the United States, at a time when the Cold War [00:05:00] was at its height.

NICK SCHIFRIN: Kissinger's Cold War strategy called for detente with the Soviet Union. In 1972, President Nixon and Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev signed SALT, the first limits on Soviet and U.S. ballistic missiles and ballistic missile defense. It opened decades of arms control agreements.

HENRY KISSINGER: The benefits that accrue to the United States are the benefit that will accrue to all participants in the international system from an improvement in the prospects of peace.

NICK SCHIFRIN: By then, Kissinger had reached his popular and policy peak. He was charming, funny, craved proximity to power, and was, in his supporters' eyes, a steady steward of American interests.

After Nixon's resignation, he remained President Ford's Secretary of State.

WINSTON LORD: I think his most significant achievement was holding together America and its foreign policy in the wake of Watergate and the ending of the Vietnam War. Kissinger remained untainted by the scandals, [00:06:00] pursued remarkable diplomacy under the circumstances, and maintained America's position in the world, as well as restoring some morale in the United States itself. It was a remarkable achievement.

NICK SCHIFRIN: But, to his critics, Kissinger symbolized the pursuit of order over justice and the kind of preemptive action that paved the way for continuous war.

GREG GRANDIN: I think he was absolutely indispensable in creating a sense of keeping the United States on a permanent war footing, this war without end, in which everything is self-defense.

Henry Kissinger's Huge but Deeply Problematic Legacy - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 11-30-23

FRED KAPLAN: Chile elected, in a fair and free election, a socialist, Salvador Allende, and Kissinger basically plotted to overthrow him, saying, "Why should we allow a socialist country in our hemisphere just because the people in the country were irresponsible?" Now, the reason why it's the darkest -- it's not necessarily the most damaging thing that Kissinger did, but it's the one [00:07:00] incident where the blame for what subsequently happened can be laid entirely on Kissinger. Many other things -- it could be Kissinger and Nixon, or Kissinger and somebody else -- but in this one, Nixon was actually about to have an appointment with a State Department underling of Kissinger's to talk about possibly forming some kind of modus vivendi with the Allende government. Kissinger got that meeting canceled and went to Nixon himself and convinced him that, no, we have to make the Chilean economy scream.

Kissinger, who was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State, became the chairman of a special committee, which consisted largely of CIA agents to overthrow the Chilean government. They worked hand in hand with the Teamsters, which organized a big trucker strike in Chile so that the economy would scream. What ultimately happened is that Allende was overthrown [00:08:00] by General Pinochet, who then launched a campaign to arrest and kill thousands of dissidents, during which time Kissinger told him basically do what you need to do, and instructed the State Department not to issue any démarches against what he was doing. Later, Pinochet was found by the international courts to be a war criminal and was barred from many countries. He was almost arrested once when he went to England. And one of the murders by Pinochet and his people took place in the streets of Washington DC. An exiled economist named Orlando Letelier was blown up with a car bomb as his car drove by the Chilean embassy, killing him and an American colleague. There's never been any apologies for any of this.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Oh, that's just what I was going to ask. If Kissinger ever expressed regret for empowering [00:09:00] Pinochet and all that he brought?

FRED KAPLAN: No... well, for one thing, the full extent of the US involvement in this wasn't even revealed until years later when Seymour Hersh uncovered it for The New York Times. It was denied until documents came out confirming it. 

Among many other things, Kissinger was actually a witty man, and often, he would just not address charges like this. Sometimes he would kind of dismiss it with a joke. For example, one time he said something like, " Illegal things, we do very quickly. Unconstitutional things, it takes a little longer." Everybody ha, ha, ha. He charmed people with this kind of thing. There have been whole books written about each one of the places in the world where Kissinger did dreadful things. 

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: One that people probably are not very familiar with that you said in your article is him being soft on a human rights [00:10:00] violating coup in Pakistan, which you say led to the deaths of millions of civilians. Millions?

FRED KAPLAN: Yes. Gary Bass wrote a book about just this sometime ago based on declassified documents. Yes, there was a coup in East Pakistan led by General Agha Muhammad Yahya. Because Pakistan was aligned with China against India, Kissinger did not want -- and there's one memo where he tells his staff, "Don't squeeze Yahya." Nixon and Kissinger were both very complicit in what went on. They used American weapons to do what they did. 

The horrible thing is that things that happen in places like East Pakistan, another one was Indonesia's invasion of East Timor, which resulted in the deaths of about a hundred thousand civilians. These kinds of spots on the map tend to be overlooked. The politics involved are [00:11:00] very complicated. I think there's probably some racial things that go into a lot of people just not taking a close look. Argentina was another case where there was a coup that he turned a blind eye to the excesses of killing thousands of dissidents and making them disappear. You might remember that phrase from the time. In that instance, he told the foreign minister of Argentina, "We would like you to succeed." That is, to succeed in suppressing these dissidents. The bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia, those are probably the deadliest things that he was involved in, but there, he shares the stage--

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: And probably the most well-known.

FRED KAPLAN: Yes, because we were involved in a war there at the time. Thousands of Americans were getting killed too. There, he shares responsibility for a war with President Nixon as well.

BRIAN LEHRER - HOST, THE BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: He also shared a Nobel [00:12:00] Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Vietnam War. Do you think that at least was deserved, or that his escalation policies helped hasten the wars end in any way?

FRED KAPLAN: No, I think it's disgraceful. For one thing, it's long since been shown that when Nixon was running for president in '68 and Kissinger was signed on to be his National Security Advisor, Kissinger arranged for communications to be sent to South Vietnam, whose leaders were engaged in peace talks with North Vietnam in Paris at the time, saying, "Don't negotiate. You'll get a better deal when Nixon is president." This was while President Johnson was negotiating talks. There was progress in these talks.

Now, it may or may not be that those talks would've resulted in an end to the war, but Kissinger's [00:13:00] communiqué to the South Vietnamese leaders to, "Hold on, don't take any deal now. You'll get a better one from Nixon." That very well could have prolonged the war by many years, and tens of thousands of American deaths. Then the peace treaty that he did come up with, it wasn't really a peace treaty at all. It was just a way to provide cover for an American withdrawal and an almost instantaneous collapse of the South Vietnamese government. That's one of the Nobel Prize's least stellar chapters.

Kissinger: An Architect of Genocide - The Majority Report w/ Sam Seder - Air Date 12-5-23

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: Nixon and Kissinger were immensely deceitful in what they would say publicly about the Vietnam War and what their designs were behind the scenes after Nixon got elected, and they expanded the war quite quickly after taking office.

And then during that time, when did Kissinger become Secretary of State? 

TIM SHORROCK: 69. Secretary of State was later. He was National Security advisor first. 

EMMA VIGELAND - HOST, THE MAJORITY REPORT: He was National Security Advisor at that time, and then he's the only person to have ever held that position simultaneously so [00:14:00] just to give people a sense of how powerful -- he was Secretary of State and National Security Advisor for quite a while. What was that like at that time, when LBJ was opening up some measure of diplomacy at the sunset of his presidency and then Nixon and Kissinger come into office and expand and then also launch the secret carpet bombing of Cambodia?

TIM SHORROCK: 1968 people might remember Johnson was relentlessly bombing Vietnam and the anti-war movement was really building up at home and people were really disgusted with the war and the violence being inflicted on Vietnam. And I remember marching in 1968 in Tokyo, Americans Against the War. And we were opposing the bombing of North Vietnam at the time, and also all the bombing and strafing that was going on in South Vietnam. And then during the election of '68, Nixon was promising a secret plan to end the war. And as we all learned later, Kissinger was telling anti-war [00:15:00] folks that Nixon was really serious and he himself -- Kissinger -- was really serious and agreed with the critics of the Vietnam War. And then it turned out that when these negotiations were going on with the Johnson administration in Paris to end the war, Kissinger was there feeding information from the South Vietnamese side to Nixon. And they basically persuaded the South Vietnamese government and its military government not to go along with any agreement until Nixon came in. And this is like this really cynical action. And that's kind of treasonous, to be sending top secret information back to a presidential candidate to undercut these negotiations. And then Nixon announces, Vietnamization, or, let the Vietnamese do the fighting, and the U. S. is going to slowly withdraw. But they just use this immense power of bombing and massive firebombing and, of course, they bombed Cambodia secretly for years, invaded Cambodia supposedly [00:16:00] to clear out the Vietnamese sanctuary, so-called. 

But it was such utter hypocrisy and, all this time, of course, he's working with Nixon to reopen relations with China, which was a good thing overall, but basically they opened relations with China and they wanted what Kissinger later called "a decent interval" to basically let the South Vietnamese government collapse, which everyone knew it would. And that finally happened in 1975. But it was all done through lies and deceit. 

And I was glad to see Lê Đức Thọ, who was the Vietnamese negotiator when they did reach the 1973 peace agreements, Kissinger and Lê Đức Thọ were given the Nobel Peace Prize. And Lê Đức Thọ refused to accept the award because he knew what a complete hypocrite and deceitful person and violent person Kissinger was, and to his credit, he [00:17:00] refused a Nobel Peace Prize. This was a piece after just mass murder in Indochina. 

And that's how I got into journalism was during the Vietnam War and looking at the economic factors, the role that business played in making the weapons and the military industrial complex and how it wanted more war. And that's how I started into journalism, but I kept pretty careful track of what was going on in the seventies. And I think that one of the worst things he did was to give a green light when he was working for president Ford in 1975 was going to Indonesia, meeting with General Suharto -- who had taken over in a very bloody coup in 1965, where over 500,000 people, communists and Chinese, were slaughtered in Indonesia -- and gave them a green light to invade the newly independent [00:18:00] nation of East Timor, which was alongside one of the islands in that archipelago there. And East Timor had just been decolonized, there had been a kind of revolution in Portugal and they had let go of their colonies. And so East Timor became an independent nation. And there was oil near there. And, the government that was taking over in East Timor was a progressive government. They wanted to better the conditions of its own people. And they gave him green light for Suharto to invade this little tiny defenseless island that had hardly any kind of military at all. And for years they did. And it was a genocide, hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in East Timor and it was a virtually unknown kind of struggle, but it just represented the kind of -- he just didn't give a rat's ass about people, any other countries, it's just the power of the United States and just use war [00:19:00] and bombing to get your way. 

And of course we all know what happened in 1973 in Chile, where he was behind the overthrow of Allende and undercutting that democratically-elected government, just a disgraceful record. 

And, it's just sickening to see all these political figures laud him for his statesmanlike actions and what he contributed to American foreign policy. Yeah, he contributed blood.

MATT LECH: I'm curious to hear you reflect the pride of place that he's maintained in American politics. Has it surprised you or is it just symptomatic?

TIM SHORROCK: It's symptomatic of the way the system works. We reward people who do things like this. Hillary Clinton. I saw Chris Christie praising him the other day. Democrats, Republicans that are in power and out of power, wanna get into power -- they love this guy because what he represented was ultimate use of American power to crush any kind of [00:20:00] opposition to US power anywhere in the world, and to use the most cynical means, the most violent means. But that's considered statesmanlike. And it's just appalling to hear these liberals, especially, praise this guy.


Henry Kissinger and the Moral Bankruptcy of U.S. Elites - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-30-23

GREG GRANDIN: Kissinger’s life is fascinating, because it spans a very consequential bridge in United States history, from the collapse of the postwar consensus, you know, that happened with Vietnam, and Kissinger is instrumental in kind of recobbling, recreating a national security state that can deal with dissent, that can deal with polarization, that actually thrived on polarization and secrecy and learning to manipulate the public in order to advance a very aggressive foreign policy.

I mean, we can go into the details, but I do want to say that his death has been as instructive as his life. I mean, if you look at the obituaries and notes of condolences, [00:21:00] they just — I mean, they just reveal, I think, a moral bankruptcy of the political establishment, certainly in the transatlantic world, in the larger NATO sphere, just an unwillingness or incapacity to comprehend the crisis that we’re in and Kissinger’s role in that crisis. They’re celebratory. They’re inane. They’re vacuous. They’re really quite remarkable. And if you think of — just think back over the last year, the celebrations, the feting of his 100th anniversary — 100th, you know, birthday, his living to 100 years. I think it’s a cultural marker of just how much — how bankrupt the political class in this country is. So his death is almost as instructive as his life.

NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:22:00] Well, we had you on, Greg, when he turned 100, when Kissinger turned 100.


NERMEEN SHAIKH - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: In that interview, you said that the best way to think about Kissinger isn’t necessarily as a war criminal. Could you explain why?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah, because that is the way — I mean, Christopher Hitchens popularized thinking about him as a war criminal, and that has a way of elevating Kissinger, in some ways, as somehow an extraordinary evil. And it’s a fine line, because he did play an outsized role in a staggering number of atrocities and bringing and dealing misery and death across the globe to millions of people. But there’s a lot of war criminals. I mean, you know, this country is stocked with war criminals. There’s no shortage of war criminals.

And thinking about him as a war criminal kind of dumbs us down. It doesn’t allow us to think with Kissinger’s — use Kissinger’s life to think with, [00:23:00] to think about how the United States — for example, Kissinger started off as a Rockefeller Republican, you know, a liberal Republican, an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller who thought Nixon was far out of the mainstream and a dangerous sociopath, I think, as he put it. And yet, when Nixon won — and he actually helped him win by scuttling a peace deal with North Vietnam — he made his peace with Nixon, and then went on, you know, into public office. And he thought Reagan was too extreme, and yet he made his peace with Reagan. Then he thought the neocons were too extreme, and he made his peace with the neocons. Then he even made his peace with Donald Trump. He called Donald — he celebrated Donald Trump almost as a kind of embodiment of his theory of a great statesman and being able to craft reality as they want to through their [00:24:00] will. So, you see Kissinger — as the country moves right, you see Kissinger moving with it. So, just that trajectory is very useful to think with.

If you also think about his secret bombing of Cambodia and then trace out that bombing, it’s like a bright light, you know, a trace of red, running from Cambodia to the current endless “war on terror,” what was considered illegal. I mean, Kissinger bombed Cambodia in secret because it was illegal to bomb another country that you weren’t at war with in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s his old colleagues at Harvard, who were all Cold Warriors, none of them peace liberals, who marched down to Washington. They didn’t even know about the bombing. They went to protest the invasion of Cambodia. And now, you know, it is just considered a fact of international law that the United [00:25:00] States has the right to bomb countries that — third-party countries that we’re not at war with that give safe haven to terrorists. It’s just considered — it’s just considered commonplace. So you could see this evolution and drift towards endless war through Kissinger’s life.

Kissinger’s life is also useful to think about how, you know, as a public official, first, national security adviser, and then Secretary of State to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Kissinger created much of the chaos that would later necessitate and require a transition to what we call neoliberalism. But then, out of office, as the head of Kissinger Associates, Kissinger helped to broker that transition to neoliberalism, the privatization of much of the world, of Latin America, of Eastern Europe, of Russia. So you see that, you know, that transition from [00:26:00] a public politician or public policymaker and then going on to making untold wealth as a private citizen in this transition.

So, you know, there’s many ways in which Kissinger’s life kind of maps the trajectory of the United States. You know, they celebrated him at the New York Public Library as if he was the American century incarnate. And in many ways, he was. You know, he really — his career really does map nicely onto the trajectory of the United States and the evolution of the national security state and its foreign policy and — you know, and the broken world that we’re all trying to live in, as your last two segments showed so. 

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Greg, I want to go to Henry [00:27:00] Kissinger in his own words. He’s speaking in 2016, when he defended the secret bombing of Cambodia.

HENRY KISSINGER: Nixon ordered an attack on the base areas within five miles of the Vietnamese border, that were essentially unpopulated. So, when the phrase “carpet bombing” is used, it is, I think, in the size of the attacks, probably much less than what the Obama administration has done in similar base areas in Pakistan, which I think is justified. And therefore, I believe that what was done in Cambodia was justified.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, that was Henry Kissinger in 2016. He was [00:28:00] speaking at the LBJ Library. The late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once said, “Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia — the fruits of his genius for statesmanship — and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milosevic.” If you can just respond to that?

GREG GRANDIN: Yeah. Well, that quote contains more moral and intellectual acuity and intelligence than the entire political establishment, both liberal and — both Democrat and Republican. It’s morally correct. It’s intellectually correct. And, you know, [00:29:00] it’s more accurate than most diplomatic historians, who trade on making Kissinger more ethic — morally complicated than he was.

In terms of Kissinger’s quote himself about Cambodia, there he’s playing a little bit of a game. So he’s lying. I mean, he carpet-bombed Cambodia. The United States massively bombed Cambodia and brought to power within the Khmer Rouge the most extreme clique, led by Pol Pot. You know, when you massively bomb a country and you destroy a whole opposition, you tend to bring to power the extremists. And that’s exactly why Kissinger is responsible, to a large degree, for the genocide that happened later on under Pol Pot. The bombing brought to power Pol Pot within the Khmer Rouge, which previously was a larger, broader coalition.

But Kissinger isn’t wrong when he [00:30:00] links it to Obama’s bombing of Pakistan. That was the point I was trying to make earlier. You know, Kissinger just had to do it illegally back — covertly back then, because it was illegal. It was against international law to bomb third countries, you know, in order to advance your war aims in another country. But now it’s accepted as commonplace. And it is true, he’s not wrong, when he cites Obama’s drone program and what Obama — and, you know, the continuation of the logic in the “war on terror” that started under George W. Bush. He’s not wrong about that. And that’s one of the lines that you can trace from Vietnam and Cambodia and South Asia to today’s catastrophe that we’re living in.


The Case Against Henry Kissinger: War Crimes Prosecutor Reed Brody on Kissinger’s Legacy of “Slaughter” - Democracy Now! - Air Date 12-1-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: So, when you talk about international human rights and war crimes, what are the avenues to hold a public official accountable? Why wasn’t Henry [00:31:00] Kissinger held accountable, tried for war crimes — where would he be tried for war crimes — when he was alive?

REED BRODY: Well, that’s a very important question. Of course, the modern era, let’s say, of international criminal justice began 25 years ago, 1998, with the creation of the International Criminal Court, on the one hand, and the arrest of General Pinochet in London, on the other hand; an international tribunal, on the one hand, and national courts using their universal jurisdiction to prosecute individuals, on the other hand. And that’s actually when we began to look seriously at the alleged crimes of Henry Kissinger.

Now, what’s interesting is that all of these things predated Henry Kissinger’s involvement in Cambodia, in Laos, in East Timor, in Pakistan, predated that modern era. But what’s really interesting is that in each of [00:32:00] the instances I’m talking about — Cambodia, East Timor, Pakistan — there actually were tribunals set up afterwards to look at war crimes. So, as you know, in Cambodia, the United Nations, after the Khmer Rouge fell, created an international tribunal to prosecute the crimes committed in Cambodia. But, of course, the U.S., which backed the tribunal, insisted that the jurisdiction of that tribunal only cover the Khmer Rouge period, not go back to the period of U.S. bombings. And, in fact, every time there was a tug of war between Hun Sen and the United States over the tribunal, which Hun Sen tried to — in fact, did control and made sure none of his people were involved, were investigated — he would threaten, said, “You know, we could go back and look at what you guys did.” [00:33:00] And so, you had a tribunal for Cambodia. It just didn’t include what the U.S. had done.

Same thing in Pakistan. There was eventually a tribunal established in East Pakistan, or in Bangladesh, as it’s called now, to look at crimes committed during that genocide. But it, too, did not take jurisdiction over those people who were not living in the country.

And finally, in East Timor, at the very end, after East Timor gains its independence and a reckoning began into who was responsible for what — and, of course, the East Timorese Truth Commission specifically talked about the United States’s role in creating the horrors and in supporting the Indonesian massacres — the East Timor [00:34:00] tribunal also chose, in fact, not to go back and look at the U.S. period.

So, very rarely — I mean, it was very unusual in the pre-1998 world, in the pre-International Criminal Court world, to have tribunals looking at past actions. In each of these three cases, you did have tribunals, but in each of these three cases, there was a choice made not to go back and look at what the United States, under Henry Kissinger, had done.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And why was that? Was the U.S. behind that, putting pressure on these countries? And also talk about the double standard. I mean, when you look at, for example, the International Criminal Court, how often it is not leaders from countries like the United States who are put in the dock?

REED BRODY: Well, of course, Amy, in the world I operate in of international justice, double standards is[00:35:00] the main obstacle. It’s the main sticking point. It’s very, I mean, still — it’s never easy to bring people to justice, even Third World dictators, but it is sometimes possible. But international justice has always fallen flat when it comes to dealing with powerful Western interests. We see at the International Criminal Court, for instance — of course, the International Criminal Court, it should be pointed out, in 21 years, and at the cost of $2 billion, has never actually sustained the atrocity conviction of any state official, not just Western, any state official, at any level, anywhere in the world. The only five final convictions at the ICC were five African rebels. But there have been attempts by the ICC to prosecute leaders, all in Africa, in fact. And, of course, now, more [00:36:00] recently, we have the indictment of Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.

And I think, you know, many people are contrasting — I mean, I would contrast — the international justice response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Russian war crimes in Ukraine — in that case, we saw a very vigorous and heartwarming response internationally. The prosecutor of the ICC, Karim Khan, immediately went to and made several visits to Ukraine, a country that he called a crime scene. Forty-one Western countries gave the ICC authority, jurisdiction, or triggered an investigation. Karim Khan raised millions of dollars in extrabudgetary funds to address the situation in Ukraine, and [00:37:00] within a year, of course, indicted Vladimir Putin. This is as it should be. This is exactly what the International Criminal Court is there for.

The contrast is, you know, in Palestine. As we talked about on your show once, for 15 years the Palestinian complaints at the ICC have been given this slow walk by the prosecutor, first several years — by three prosecutors — by the first prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, who spent several years evaluating whether or not Palestine was a state — was a state — before finally punting the issue. Then, after the General Assembly of the U.N. determined and recognized Palestine as an observer state, there was a lot of pressure on Palestine not to ratify the [00:38:00] ICC statute. Friends of the ICC, countries like Britain, and, of course, even the United States put pressure on the Palestinian Authority not to ratify the ICC treaty, because they didn’t want to inject justice which could interfere with the peace process, which of course was not going on. But Palestine did ratify the ICC treaty and filed a request for an investigation. And then the second prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, spent five years looking at whether there — crimes had been committed, finally determined, just as she was about to leave office, that there was sufficient evidence to believe that crimes may have been committed, crimes including illegal settlements, war crimes on both sides, and gave it to this prosecutor. This prosecutor, Karim Khan, has had those issues sitting on his desk for two years. He had one person in his [00:39:00] office investigating that case. And it wasn’t until October 7th and, you know, what has happened since that the ICC has kind of sprung into action. But the question has always been, you know: Why was Palestine treated differently? Why were the complaints, why were the issues there treated differently, until now?


The world Henry Kissinger built - The Take (Al Jazeera English) - Air Date 12-1-23

SPENCER AKERMAN: Kissinger, in order to make sure that he benefited in 1968, in terms of getting a senior political appointment, spied on and ultimately sabotaged talks to end the war in Vietnam, a war that continued with thousands and thousands and thousands of deaths, which led directly to the secret and illegal bombings of Cambodia and Laos, all for power. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Cambodia and Laos bordered Vietnam, and [00:40:00] Kissinger ended up overseeing a secret campaign to carpet bomb them.

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: During the Vietnam War, American planes dropped around 285 million cluster munitions on Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

...secret U. S. bombing of Cambodia that killed as many as 150, 000 civilians that Kissinger authorized during the U. S. war in Vietnam. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: It's been called a war crime by journalists like Spencer and others, and it's what Sophal Ear remembers most.

SOPHAL EAR: I mean, you know, they say only the good die young. In this case, he obviously lasted a hundred years. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Sophal is Cambodian American and fled Cambodia's brutal dictatorship with his family when he was a baby. A dictatorship that U. S. Cold War policy enabled, known as the Khmer Rouge. 

SOPHAL EAR: I'm a survivor of the Khmer Rouge, having escaped in, uh, '76. Having had the [00:41:00] opportunities that I've had to advance my education and career. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Today, he's a professor at the Thunderbird School of Management in Arizona, and he's learned a lot about Henry Kissinger's role since. 

SOPHAL EAR: His involvement was far more hands on than I knew at the time, you know, you think of these policymakers as, yeah, they write memos. But over time, having studied what, you know, how much he actually chose targets, it's clear that it was more than just policymaking. It's an involvement that's unusual in its extent. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And Sophal says he would hate for history to be written in a way where Kissinger's legacy in Southeast Asia is forgotten.

SOPHAL EAR: You know, obviously, he will be idolized by those who see him as a titan of foreign policy, of a genius who brought China to the United States and the United States to China, who served as Secretary of State for eight [00:42:00] years as National Security Advisor, as the very man who gave us the phrase, "there are no permanent friends or enemies, only interests", but who obviously had severe consequences on Cambodia, where I was born. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: Over the years, there were calls from around the world for Kissinger to apologize for the bombing of Cambodia and Laos. He never did. This was him speaking about it decades later. 

HENRY KISSINGER: In my 90s, so I've heard it. I think the word war criminal should not be thrown around in the domestic debate. It's a shameful, it's a reflection on the people who use it. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: He went on to compare the actions he sanctioned to the Obama administration's drone campaign in Pakistan. 

HENRY KISSINGER: Which I think it's justified. And therefore I believe that what was done in Cambodia was justified.[00:43:00] 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: And it was a tactic that the U. S. continued to use as the war in Vietnam dragged on. 

ARCHIVE NEWS CLIP: On Christmas Day, 1972, the U. S. launched an air war on North Vietnam to convince Hanoi to resume peace talks. 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: The 1973 Paris Peace Accords followed. That marked the beginning of the end of the U. S. war in Vietnam. Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, though it was later revealed that he had derailed talks years earlier, says Spencer.

SPENCER AKERMAN: You know, shudder to imagine how many people would still have been alive had Kissinger not sabotaged the Paris Peace Accords, which ultimately, and extremely cynically, he would win a Nobel Peace Prize for.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: The wars in Vietnam and Cambodia were all part of the U. S. campaign to stop the spread of communism. But when it came to the Soviet Union and communist [00:44:00] China, Kissinger turned to diplomacy. He helped Washington and Moscow negotiate their first arms control treaties. In 1972, in a move that shocked much of the world, the U. S. made its opening to China. President Richard Nixon visited Beijing. Kissinger spoke about that approach years later as well. 

HENRY KISSINGER: Our strategy was to position ourselves in such a way that we were closer to Soviet Union and China than they were to each other. So that in every crisis, we had more options than they did.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: But it wasn't just Asia and the Soviet Union. Kissinger left his mark around the globe. Backing military governments to stave off this perceived communist threat in Greece, Argentina, and Chile. 

HENRY KISSINGER: There was no policy, since, to assassinate any foreign official. [00:45:00] 

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: That was Kissinger not long after the coup in Chile, but secret White House recordings later revealed Kissinger knew the CIA helped General Augusto Pinochet launch the coup. And not only that, the U. S. State Department had tried to warn Pinochet's government against killing his political opponents. Kissinger canceled those warnings. 

HENRY KISSINGER: Sometimes statesmen have to choose among evils.

MALIKA BILAL - HOST, THE TAKE: For Spencer, Chile stands out in memory. 

SPENCER AKERMAN: It was a place where the Cold War became, perhaps you might say, its truest self.

It is difficult to understand the world we live in today without understanding, particularly in a place like Chile where, with Kissinger's crucial support for overthrowing a democratic socialist government in 1973 of Salvador Allende, through the [00:46:00] creation that followed of the Pinochet dictatorship and its use as a laboratory for neoliberalism, we see in a really important and direct way, a template for the neoliberal age enforced by American power that we currently live in.

Henry Kissinger’s Reactionary Idealism - Against the Grain - Air Date 10-11-17 

GREG GRANDIN: Oswald Spengler was a, you know, early 20th Century historian and one would use the word historian lightly because he actually rejected the empirical basis of history, he rejected the idea of the kind of a positive notion of looking at facts and analyzing the facts. And so historians less philosopher that wrote a very influential book that looked at the rise and fall and civilizations, used use climactic language, talked about civilizations that were in their springtime and that were in their summer period and then their fall and then their winter. And Spengler is very influential among not just Kissinger, but he influenced Dick Cheney. He influenced a [00:47:00] lot of these New York conservatives. He is, you might, one might think of him as a kind of low-rent Nietzsche, you know, listeners might be more aware of that kind of German romanticism associated with Nietzsche.

 But Spengler is of that tradition. And it's a legitimate tradition. And you know, it's a philosophical tradition and continental philosophy. And Kissinger in his undergraduate thesis revealed himself to be extremely influenced by it. But he rejected Spengler's pessimism. Spengler's analysis was based on the idea that all civilizations rise and all civilizations fall. And you can document the moment of decline when the bureaucrats take over, when the accountants take over, when the economists take over, when the poets and the priests and the warriors and the creative types that tap into the spirit, the Zeit of a [00:48:00] civilization, when they recede into the background, civilizations become over-bureaucratized. They become over-rationalized. They rely too much on fact and not enough on wisdom. 

And this is something that Kissinger, this analysis, Kissinger embraced fully. But he rejected the pessimism. Spengler basically said that there was no way to avoid it. That once the pessimists, once the bureaucrats show up, once the game theorists, once the accountants, once the economists, once the numbers coaches, once the Nate Silvers show up, you know, it's all declined, because they mistake information for wisdom.

Kissinger embraced the analysis, but rejected the determinism. He said that individuals - and by "individuals" he meant great men, great statesmen, right? For him, history took place in the realm of diplomacy, in the realm of international relations. So, great men, great statesmen can intervene, intercede in history and bend the curve upward.

So, if you actually look at his analysis, the terms of the way that [00:49:00] he criticized the Eisenhower administration in the 1950s, the Kennedy administration, or Robert McNamara as the head of the Department of Defense during the Vietnam War under JFK and LBJ, it was exactly in these terms that, they know they can do something, but they forgot why they should do it. They've mistaken numbers for wisdom, information for knowledge. And these are the terms of his criticism to this day. I mean, you could open up his latest book that came out last year, World Order, and it's exactly the same thing.

You know, they know how to get somewhere, but they don't know why we're going. And why this is important is because this is this kind of notion of the importance of intuition in history, in diplomacy, the notion of hunches, the notion of action, is exactly the terms of the neoconservative pushed in the early 2000s.

SASHA LILLEY - HOST, AGAINST THE GRAIN: But what's so interesting, though, in this, is that reading these early writings that you cite in Kissinger's Shadow, one is struck by [00:50:00] the emptiness of the argument. It seems to be action for action. So, as you say, he criticizes the technocrats and the bureaucrats for the how, but not the why. But one is left wondering what his why is.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, there is no why, and that's what's fascinating about it. One of the things that Kissinger is associated with is with purpose. You know, and he'll always, he'll use that word often. And a lot of this comes from this critique, this Spenglerian critique of technocracy. That we need to know not just how to do something, but why we are doing it. So, this notion of purpose. We have to know where we want to be in ten years time. But if you actually dig it out, there is no there there. There's an emptiness. Exactly what you say. There's a hollowness. There is no there is there. 

Kissinger's an extreme relativist. I wouldn't say that he's amoral, but that morality is really based on power. He has a morality based on power and there is a hollowness where ultimately when he talks about purpose, when [00:51:00] you excavate that concept, there is no sense, you know, we could say that the purpose of a good society is, you know, social justice to bring about a decent standard of living for the majority of people. That would be purpose, but there is no purpose. And that brings back to exactly what you're saying, the circularity... meaning is created through action. On this point, Kissinger is unfailingly clear. He said, he said it in 1950 and he said it in 2015. He believes that reality exists, he's not a solipsist, he doesn't believe that we as subjective beings have access to that reality other than our own, other than the meaning we bring to bear that's created through our action. So we always have to act. It's through action that we create meaning, that we come to our sense of understanding of ourselves, that we come to our sense of our interests. There is no such thing as objective interests. Interests are created through action. And this creates an extremely dangerous circularity, you know, circular kind of reasoning, that we have to act in order to [00:52:00] avoid inaction.

Power creates purpose, and our purpose is basically the projection of power. It's exactly that, and again, I would say that if you peeled back the layers of neoconservative justification of why we had to go into Iraq, setting aside the specific fallacies of weapons of mass destruction and democracy and all of that nonsense, it was ultimately a sense to give ourselves meaning, that we had become flabby as a civilization, that we had lost the will to act. And if you lose the will to act, then you won't be able to act when you need to act. So, therefore we have to act all the time in order to maintain that will. That's the neoconservative will to power and will to purpose.


Amb. Martin Indyk Pens Kissinger Book - The Mehdi Hasan Show - Air Date 11-12-21

You go through years of Kissinger's diplomacy in that region in hopes that the U. S. can learn lessons from it. In all the documents and interviews and archives you combed through, including, I believe, 12 interviews with the man himself, what do we learn about Kissinger and that period that's new? I mean, this is a man who's published a 3,000 page memoir on himself. [00:53:00] What's unique in your book, Martin? 

MARTIN INDYK: So, I think what's unique about it is that there's been no serious, deep history of Kissinger's work to try to achieve peace in the Middle East, or at least lay the foundations for an American-led peace process. And the, well, the controversy about Kissinger is focused on his activities in other areas of the world. Mostly when he was National Security Advisor, whether it was Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Chile, and so on, and Bangladesh. But here, Kissinger was trying to make peace, or actually trying to establish order using the peace process as his mechanism. And he was quite successful at that. And having tried and failed several times myself out of the Clinton administration, the Obama administration, I thought we could learn something from that. That's why I went back and took a look at it. I tried to illuminate the story, which is documented, a treasure trove of documents at Israeli archives, uh, with my own experiences to [00:54:00] try to figure out how to and how not to make peace. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: But Martin, isn't Kissinger, though, an embodiment of everything that's wrong with U. S. policy towards Israel? I mean, he was openly biased, as even you acknowledge in your book. We know he said himself his policy was to "isolate the Palestinians". He refused to basically acknowledge their existence, blocked the PLO from negotiations at the time. He embodied the double standard towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And yet you're saying, including in a recent piece in The Atlantic, perhaps Biden could learn something from him. Do you really want us to go backwards to the 70s in our approach to the Palestinians? 

MARTIN INDYK: No, I don't think Kissinger's approach to the Palestinians today is the same as it was in the 1970s. Let's think back to the 1970s before you were born, I guess. But in those days, the PLO was an out and out terrorist organization. On Kissinger's watch, they murdered two American diplomats in Sudan,[00:55:00] and they were dedicated to the overthrow of King Hussein in Jordan, another ally of the United States, and to the destruction of Israel. So it's not unreasonable that Kissinger took the position he did at the time, but nowadays he accepts the idea that the Palestinians should have a state. And he talked specifically about, you know, the need for the Palestinians now to have attributes of sovereignty. 


MARTIN INDYK: A state in the making. And that's part of his gradualist incremental approach, which I think is very relevant today to a situation in which the Palestinians are so divided and the Israelis are so divided that neither side can find a pathway to get to a two-state solution. So, we've got to find a more step by step approach. That's what I argue. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: I mean, the problem, of course, with gradualism and incrementalism is, in theory, it's great for you and I to sit in Washington, DC and America and say this stuff, but the [00:56:00] Palestinians are living under the longest military occupation on Earth. So, that's the problem with the whole gradualism and incrementalism thing. 

But before we run out of time, I do want to ask a very important question. This is a book on Kissinger and the Middle East, which has a sympathetic tone at times. It's at times very admiring of him and his achievements, I think it's fair to say, in that region. But I wonder, was it a deliberate decision to focus on Kissinger and the Middle East and avoid his role in Pakistan, Bangladesh, East Timor, Chile, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, places where he was accused of war crimes, complicity in genocide? I mean, this is a man, Martin, who according to Yale University historian Greg Grandin, has the blood of three to four million people on his hands.

MARTIN INDYK: Yeah, as I said, he's a controversial character. But my purpose was to study his role in the Middle East, which hasn't been studied. And that's my area of expertise. And all the other issues that you talk about have been dealt with in great detail. But his efforts [00:57:00] at actually trying to make peace in the Middle East has not. And so that's the justification for looking at the book. On top of that, because he is master of the diplomatic game, I wanted to see what we could learn from that. 

MEHDI HASAN - HOST, THE MEHDI HASAN SHOW: That's a valid argument, but I guess, put yourself in the shoes of some of his victims. You could say, Well, you know, it's very hard to write a book about him in isolation, to compartmentalize a man accused of so many crimes. Even if we accept he did a good job in the Middle East, a big question in itself, how do you divorce that from all the war crimes elsewhere? It's like saying, Hey, let's write a book about how Mussolini made the trains run on time. 

MARTIN INDYK: Well, I'm not divorcing it from it, I'm just focusing on one area as the other books have focused on those areas, like The Blood Telegram, that looked at his role in Bangladesh. So, I'm not ignoring it. I've stated upfront in the book itself. And the book itself, while admiring of his diplomatic prowess, is nevertheless quite critical of opportunities he missed to avoid the [00:58:00] Yom Kippur 1973 war and opportunities I think he missed and document there to make pace, particularly to advance the cause of the Palestinians, at that time in a Jordanian context, but which could have changed the whole trajectory of the Palestinian cause in a more positive way than the way it turned out. 

Final comments on our year-end membership drive

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with the PBS NewsHour, giving a broad biography of Henry Kissinger. The Brian Lehrer Show focused in on Kissinger's role in overthrowing governments around the world. The Majority Report discussed the secret and illegal bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war. Democracy Now! looked at how the ruling class in the US celebrates Kissinger. And Democracy Now! also looked at why it was so hard for the world to get any accountability. And The Take connected the dots between Kissinger's role in overthrowing democratically-elected governments with establishing the neoliberal order we still live with today. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from [00:59:00] Against the Grain, looking at Kissinger's main philosophical influence, and The Mehdi Hassan Show for a counterpoint invited on an author making the case for Kissinger being a good diplomat that we should look to for inspiration. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus contents delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at 

Now, I'm quite sure that we've all heard enough about war crimes for the day, so I don't think I have anything to add about the person who one show referred to as "the Forrest Gump of war crimes." And instead, I'll just remind you that we have about two and a half weeks remaining on our year-end membership drive. 

The absolute reality is that a show like ours, which isn't plugged into any massive content suggestion algorithms -- think YouTube recommendations -- we just have a harder time finding our audience, while at the same time, being more dependent on them. Paying members [01:00:00] make the show possible and help us invest a bit in trying to grow our audience. 

So if you get value out of this show and/or want to help others find it, become a member today. And we have a 20% off special going right now, so you can access our weekly bonus shows and all of the bonus clips that are in each regular episode at a discount. And that same offer is good for gift memberships as well. So take advantage of that while you can. 

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That is going to be at for today. As always, keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else. You can leave us a voicemail or send us a text to 202-999-3991 or simply email me to [email protected]. 

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#1597 The rise of fascism around the world driven by economic insecurity (Transcript)

Air Date 12/8/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall look at how neoliberalism has created a lot of economic suffering and insecurity over the past few decades and how now, in what may be the most devastating result of the ideology yet, neo-liberalism may be leading much of the world toward fascism, bolstered by legitimate grievances about economic precarity, which are co-opted by the false promises of right-wing populism. Sources today include The ReidOut, The Democracy Paradox, Democracy Now!, On the Media, and The Bradcast, with additional members only clips from On the Media and The Democracy Paradox.

Far-right extremism on the rise around the globe - The ReidOutwith Joy Reid - Air Day 11-28-23

JOY REID - HOST, THE REIDOUT: And we begin tonight with a dark moon rising around the globe. Just before we all broke for the Thanksgiving holiday, we received disturbing news from the Netherlands. The Dutch people handed anti-Islamic populist Geert Wilders a stunning and resounding victory. [00:01:00] What he offered his country was a referendum on leaving the European Union, or "Nexit", a complete hold on asylum seekers, and a migrant pushback at Dutch borders. He's also called for the de-Islamization of the country, which includes no mosques and no Islamic schools. It was a stunning swing for the country, which is one of Europe's most socially liberal, and has prided itself on tolerance. 

Now many of you probably don't know or remember Wilders, but he has been an opposition force in the country for years, and he's best known for his bottle blonde hair. He's also well known for his Islamophobic rhetoric, which has made him a magnet for extremists and popular among ultra-nationalist leaders worldwide. He once compared the Qur'an to Mein Kampf. His victory comes as Europe and the rest of the world go through this spasmotic tug of war between liberalism and ultra-nationalism.

Roughly a week ago, the Argentine people elected [00:02:00] self-proclaimed anarcho-capitalist libertarian Javier Milei as president. In 2020, as he announced his entry into politics, Milei told the world that he wanted to "blow up the system". He also defended the country's dictatorship and their atrocities. We'll soon get to see what that looks like. Milei has already promised to ban abortion, ban gay marriage, and slash the size of government. 

In October, the Polish people, who've been ruled by a conservative party that dismantled the judicial system, mainstreamed nationalism, and set the country at odds with the European Union, well, they voted that party out. Meanwhile, in Italy, Giorgia Meloni was elected prime minister. Her party, the Brothers of Italy, has roots in nostalgia for fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Meloni has moderated her stance, which is what Wilders has vowed to do. But he will have to bring together a governing coalition first. 

Naturally, you can't [00:03:00] help but wonder if this is what's in store for the U.S. Given that we are dangerously close to reelecting Donald Trump, a man who's made vengeance, xenophobia, and authoritarian crackdowns his 2024 political platform. Trump spent Thanksgiving "Truthing" unhinged promises about repealing Obamacare and screaming about his legal cases when he wasn't confusing Joe Biden for Barack Obama again. We already know what he wants to do to migrants in the United States, and it's a plan based on President Eisenhower's 1954 deportation campaign, offensively called "Operation Wetback", which is fitting for Trump trump wants to conduct sweeping raids to round up millions of migrants, shove them into camps and have them forcibly deported. This will be paired with a ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, and he plans to revoke visa status for foreign students who participated in anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian protests. He also plans to end temporary protected status for people like Haitians and Afghan immigrants fleeing the [00:04:00] Taliban. 

And for all of those who want to take to the streets and protest, well, he's already stated his desire to use the Insurrection Act to direct the U. S. military to crush dissent in mostly democratic cities. And frankly, the way our laws are written, and given the weakness and fecklessness of Trump's political party, there isn't much that can stop him. The signs we're seeing at home and abroad make it clear that we continue to face an existential crisis. And as Perry Bacon Jr. notes in the Washington Post, "it's more than democratic versus anti-democratic. It's whether we want a multiracial democracy or no democracy at all."

How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: Rachel, do you feel that discontent is just inherently anti democratic, or do you think that it's just a dissatisfaction with the way that we approach democracy?

RACHEL NAVARRE: I think there are some that do decide that, yes, you know, democracy doesn't work and, that, you know, the experiment has failed. But I do think a lot of it is a [00:05:00] discontent with how we expect democracy to occur, you know, the folk theory of democracy that we have. 

If you are in a community or something, you see everybody... well, most people around me feel like this, so why can't the politicians do anything? And it doesn't always have to be a feeling. I mean, we know that there are issues where the public's opinion is very much out of sync with what the politicians think the public opinion is and, like, the United States and stuff.

So, I think the fact that you do also have these anti-majoritarian policies and democracies, which, for the most part, I'm a little bit more in favor of those constitutional protections and stuff than that, but that might sound a little that that's not for constitutional protections. But I'm a little bit more on the rules to protect the constitutional order, I guess.

But I think it's this idea that, you know, if we're the majority, why don't we always get what we want? And not understanding [00:06:00] that sometimes there are these problems that we do see where there really is an outline where the government doesn't want to do what the people want. And sometimes that doesn't exist for protections of minority groups or things like that. And I think people do get frustrated when they look at a government and say, Well, we're the majority why aren't our policies what's winning?

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: So, Levitsky and Ziblatt just recently came out with a book, and I talked to Daniel Ziblatt about it called The Tyranny of the Minority. But it focuses a lot on specific circumstances related to the United States. The fact that the United States has so many different checks and balances, like Francis Fukuyama calls it vitocracy in the United States. You make the case that it's not just the United States that has what you call "weak voice", that many democracies throughout the world, both in Latin America and Europe specifically, don't necessarily always follow through on policies that have broad, widespread support. [00:07:00] And we're not just talking about things that affect minority rights. I mean, we're talking about policies that are bread and butter issues sometimes. So, Rachel, why is it that, in your words, that democracy has produced such weak voice in so many different countries?

RACHEL NAVARRE: I mean, I think a lot of it has to do with institutional structure. Some of it is also just the pressure of winning elections. You know, we had this period of neoliberal consensus where you start to see a lot of agreement on policies. So you start seeing the center left party or the left parties become closer and closer to the right parties, and the right parties also have the same thing.

But I think what it has to do a lot [with is] the growing agreement between the left and the right. You see this in the '90s, you see this after the fall of communism, we see the Washington consensus emerge, and we see left parties and right parties becoming more similar. So you have the rise of the [00:08:00] new left. And what happens is that gives parties or people less of a chance to go... different. So if you happen to want more left wing policies or more social safety net, the space for that has really diminished in very many countries. And so it gives the idea that, first off, all the parties are the same, they're all serving the same interests, they're all serving the same things. And so it gives an opportunity for the supply side of populism to come in and say, Look, look at these policies. They both want free trade, they both want to cut the social safety net, they both want to do this. They're exactly the same. Why don't you vote for me? At least I'm something different.

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Yeah. That consensus, that lack of differentiation between left and right, I think is the big driving factor. That's not an accident either. You know, we focus on the role of economic crises, that sort of acute mode as the spark that sets things off. But, you know, a spark doesn't make fire without fuel and the fuel, we argue, is this long standing [00:09:00] process, this inversion to neoliberalism and particularly deindustrialization, which critically undermine the organizational strength of the popular sectors throughout the democratic world. And what that means essentially is that effective voice is impossible. The effective voice of the popular sectors requires organization in order for people who don't necessarily have all the time or all the resources or all the educational resources to become politically effective on their own, to get together with others and become politically effective. 

So, you asked earlier, is discontent inherently democratic? I mean, there are aspects of it that are always dangerous because it's an aggressive form of politics. But I think the key variable there is, are there effective channels to where it can become a pro-reform impulse? And the answer in most contemporary democracies is no. Because of the organizational weakness of the popular sectors, to the point where, you know, Rachel mentioned people who want left wing policies, I think we're actually past that. People who sort of need or would benefit from left wing policies, [00:10:00] but really are so disconnected from other people, disorganized in terms of being part of the popular sectors that would benefit from them, they may not even really understand the policies that would benefit them or have a conception of what the possible solutions are.

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: Yeah, I think one of the problems with thinking through economic crisis as a cause of discontent, populism, or however else you want to name it is the fact that a lot of the parties that have been emerging, particularly in the United States and Europe, but even within Latin America in recent years, the parties of discontent, the parties of populism, are coming from the right. They're not necessarily coming from the left. I mean, we saw Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, but that happened a decade before the financial crisis actually occurred. The more recent examples seem to be coming from the right, which seems to have a very different explanation, which of course you guys get to, and we're going to kind of touch on that.

First, I'd like to kind of understand a little bit [00:11:00] more about the connection though, between discontent and populism, because I feel like we're going to mix those terms up and use them interchangeably in a lot of ways. Matt, do you think that discontent is a true cause for populism or do you think it's a specific type of populism?

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Actually, I think populism is rather a specific form of discontent. Discontent is sort of the umbrella term. It's this vague sense that the way things are being done is not working, that democracy is not effective, that it's not serving my interests, so on and so forth. And how that manifests. Really depends on the circumstances in a particular country and for a particular person. So, essentially, when people have these vague feelings, they generally go forth and search existing social narratives in order to explain why they feel the way they do, why they have these sentiments. And populist narratives capture that sense of discontent and give it more specificity, particularly they give it an [00:12:00] explanation. You feel discontented because these elites are evil and they are ignoring you, not you, the individual, but you, who is a member of this imagined unity that is called the people. It sort of morally ennobles the person and makes their discontent valid, which everybody wants to be validated. And it also gives them a very clear opponent to strike at, which is the elite and whoever's interests they are serving instead of the people.

Argentina's Trump Far-Right Javier Milei Wins Presidency with Echoes of Past Dictatorship - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-21-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Can you talk about the significance of this victory? I mean, months ago, Milei was hardly known to the general population of Argentina, became famous as he carried a chainsaw with him and would use it during his speeches. Talk about the significance of that and what he represents.

FRANCO METAZA: Hi, Amy. Very pleased to greet you. Well, what Milei implies for Argentina today [00:13:00] is uncertainty. He got to win the election with some promises. You mentioned one of them. And the main one is the dollarization, to change our current currency for the U.S. dollar. So, he made great expectations in the population. People want to earn their salary in dollars in the next month. And that would be impossible. So, what is one of the main issues? The uncertainty and the expectations for the U.S. dollar. And the other thing that I want to underline is the human rights. We are in a country that has a very deep history for the dictatorship we had. It was one of the most terrorific ones in the region. And we could [00:14:00] got all of them and make justice for the victims, and the genocides are in jail now. And he wants to take them out of jail. So, those are the main issues we are experiencing these days here.

JUAN GONZALEZ, CO-HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: And, Franco Metaza, could you talk about why the incumbent Peronist coalition, a center-left coalition, lost this election? What factors do you think contributed to that? And also, how you expect that Milei will be able to govern, since he doesn’t have a majority in the Legislature?

FRANCO METAZA: Well, I think we lost because of the inflation. When one analyzes all the elections in Argentina, they always have to do with the economy. And we have a very high inflation. What did cause that [00:15:00] inflation? Well, it began when the IMF gave us — not us, but the right-wing government of Mauricio Macri — the biggest loan in the history of IMF. They gave us $45 billion. And that’s even three times the amount they are giving to Ukraine to recover from the war. And we were not in a war. Even the pandemic hasn’t happened then. It was a political loan. And that make us — that make our country to pay a lot of money per month, and that is extremely difficult for our economy. So, we lost because of the inflation caused by the IMF.

And the second question you made is very interesting, because he doesn’t [00:16:00] have majority, but he has a political association with Mauricio Macri, so they will get more senates and more representatives than they have today. And that’s very important, because he got to win the election saying that he was the new, that he came up with new people, not the old politician, not the traditional elite, and finally, he will be part of this elite. He says — he said today who is going to be his minister of economy, and it was the same minister of economy of our former President Fernando de la Rúa, who ended with a crisis of 2001 that you might remember, and it was the same president of the central bank of Mauricio Macri, the previous right-wing government that lost the election with us in 2019.[00:17:00] 

How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism Part 2 - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: The other thing is, yeah, this is a process. People go out and look for narratives and they hear these ideas. They tend to get radicalized over time. They start out with relatively antiseptic, but still prejudiced and bigoted ideas about, Oh, the government only wants to help people of color, it doesn't want to help me, and then they kind of go layer by layer into radicalization as they go, they find increasingly, you know, extremist narratives and then get down into radical right populism. And I also think there is a taboo against sort of open bigotry and racism in most contemporary societies. And that taboo needs to be worn away. I think particularly in the United States, you see sort of opposition to Obama among conservatives taking increasingly racialized tone, repetition of the birther conspiracy. These things over time, they get mainstream, more and more people in office or in positions of authority or people in the media are at least treating these as plausible. And I think gradually that emboldens people [00:18:00] to visibly support these kinds of prejudicial politics, which is all laying the foundation for something like Trump.

But it does certainly take time because you don't switch away from a society where those ideas are considered taboo and also just, you know, those are outsider ideas. People who believe these things are not serious political actors because serious political actors don't believe these things. 

RACHEL NAVARRE: I mean, I think to what also happens, and this is something in the United States. In the United States, we have a tradition of the outsider. Everybody kind of always uses a little bit of populism, in the United States, especially. Everyone's always campaigning against Washington. And so I think part of it is, like Matt said, you have to have these narratives floating around and sometimes it takes time for them to come in. And Matt and I were both grad students in Texas when, say, Ted Cruz started his, you know, rise to power. And Ted Cruz would say, You vote for me, we're going to get rid of Obamacare. But he doesn't have the votes. There was no way they were [00:19:00] ever going to get rid of Obamacare. But if you're telling people, Hey, you vote for me, and I'm going to make this big change for you, a specific change, and that change doesn't happen, the conservative firebrand in the Senate has just gone further and further right. Why? Because every one of them is saying we're going to do this, we're going to get rid of whatever, we're going to get rid of Obamacare, and then they don't do it. They get elected and they don't do it. So this also sends people searching for people that will do it. And I think it can get further and further away.

And then you can also have this problem of the other side not recognizing what they're dealing with. So, going back to Obama and immigration, Obama was trying to get the Republicans to buy in desperately to the immigration package. You know, the amount of spending that went into the border, the amount of enforcement that went in. You have left groups calling Obama the "deporter in chief", and there's a bunch of debates about how deportations are counted and [00:20:00] things like that. But at the same time, so you see Obama kind of cracking down on immigration to try to get Republicans to say, Yes, the border is secure, but the Republicans were never going to say that they were never going to compromise. So instead you get a bunch of people on the left who see Obama being deporter in chief and not getting any of this comprehensive immigration reform that we want.

So, you're getting people frustrated with that. But you're also getting people frustrated on the right, with those that say, Oh, we're going to stop immigration completely, or we're going to shut down the border, or we're going to get rid of Obamacare. They can't do that. So, you get people that are frustrated with the way things are going on. You get politicians that are telling them, Oh, we can actually do this. And it just ends up getting people further and further into looking for new solutions and more and more upset with how things are going.

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: But where I'm struggling to understand is, because populist politicians do the same thing, that they make promises that they can't achieve. Donald Trump is a great example because [00:21:00] he did the same exact thing that Ted Cruz did. He said that he was going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that was significantly better. Not only did they not replace it with something that was better, they couldn't even repeal Obamacare. Another example of Trump in terms of immigration is he said that he was going to build a wall along the border. And I actually think that he probably could have found a compromise with the Democrats to be able to get more funding, to be able to build the border fencing and a wall if he had tried a little bit harder to be able to work for that. But he didn't. I mean, they didn't really make much progress on that. He didn't make any progress on immigration reform. Things are still kind of at the same point that they've been. And yet Trump has enormous loyalty from his supporters. So what is it about these populist politicians, both in the United States, in Latin America with Bolsonaro in Europe, with so many of the different [00:22:00] populist politicians, why is it that they have so much loyalty, even when they deliver results?

RACHEL NAVARRE: Typically once they're in power for a long time, it tends to fall apart. The problem is you can always go and blame, especially with populists who really go wholeheartedly in. Part of Ted Cruz's problem is he's not willing to go all the way he needs to go and no one likes him. So that also makes deals hard. But yeah, you know, Donald Trump is also willing to go in and just torch everything. You know, Donald Trump is willing to be fully conspiratorial. The reason it didn't work? Well, because those elites are still there and they're blocking us. The solution is for you to give me more power and more time. 

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Yeah, Justin, I think your previous statement makes sense outside of the populist context. I actually think you're operating on a false assumption, which is that he would have been better off building the wall through compromise than not building it through aggression. Compromise would have hurt him. The whole point of the [00:23:00] wall is punitive. It's 'we're going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it'. People forget that second part a lot. You know, think about the other catchphrase of Trump, 'lock her up'. These are deliberate, aggressive acts against perceived wrongdoers, whether the Mexican government for exploiting the United States and sending immigrants here and taking our jobs, yada, yada. Or, you know, Hillary Clinton for being corrupt, although he really wasn't ever talking about her. He was talking about her as an avatar of the entire political establishment, who she was as a person really wasn't all that relevant. And so the aggression really is the point. 

People who are charismatically attached to these figures are in a kind of identity crisis, they lose the ability to distinguish themselves from the leader. You know, when you see this in the leader's rhetoric, they say things like, I am your voice, or I am the people, I am the voice of the people. You know, Trump has used this language, Chavez used this language in Venezuela, it's a very common trope in populism. And the idea is, they're giving people vicarious satisfaction [00:24:00] because they alone are sufficiently powerful to go out and confront this elite that has evaded popular accountability for so long.

That said, once they get into power, that fiction becomes harder and harder to maintain. I mean, because the populist worldview is a sham. Like things are bad not because the elite are all bad people. They might not be all that great people. I mean, you can believe that, but that's not the reason. There are structural issues, historical issues. There's all sorts of stuff going on here that one person at one moment cannot overcome. However, they've already primed their followers at that point to follow them down the rabbit hole. And this is where conspiracy theories come in. We actually have a subheading in the book that a conspiracy theory is a warm hug. 

And the idea is that charismatically [attached] individuals, when they see this supposedly superhuman figure they follow faltering, it's terrifying. It's psychologically intolerable to accept that this person they followed is, in fact, you know, a venal and selfish and very stupid and incompetent human being. And so, it's much easier to accept that the deep state is doing this. I mean, QAnon, this whole conspiracy theory that we [00:25:00] talked about, is a really interesting example, because it's sort of a merger of old sort of antisemitic conspiracy theories on blood libel and the Protocols of of the Elders of Zion, but it actually started out pretty simply. And it was just this idea of, Trump was supposed to be destroying corruption, how is it that this respected Republican figure, Robert Mueller, is investigating? Those things don't go together. And so the narrative that emerges is, the investigation is a sham. Boy, it's actually an excuse for him to work with Trump to take down the deep state. So, if you actually look at the origins of this real bizarre conspiracy theory, it's excusing Trump's failure and corruption.

Media Coverage of the Trump Movement is Missing Vital Context - On the Media - Air Date 11-29-23

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: In his Veterans Day speech a couple of weeks ago, former President Donald Trump said this about his political enemies: 

SPEAKER 2: The proposals include leveraging the Department of Justice to go after his political rivals.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: On the campaign trail, he has been equally vivid in outlining his proposed agenda for a second term in office. 

SPEAKER 2: The 2025 agenda would also expand the hardline immigration policies Trump pursued during his first term in [00:26:00] office. 

TRUMP: We will begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Trump currently faces 91 felony counts in 4 criminal cases in Washington, New York, Florida, and Georgia. Back in June of this year, right around the time he was receiving his second indictment, we observed that some of the messages in defense of Trump from members of the GOP were incomprehensible to the casual reader.

For instance, Representative Clay Higgins from Louisiana tweeted that the summoning of President Trump to the Miami federal courthouse in June was, quote, "a perimeter probe from the oppressors. Hold. Our POTUS has this. Buckle up. 1/50K. Know your bridges. Rock Steady Com. That is all." 

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, after Representative Higgins tweeted that, a lot of people were delighted. They said, this was word salad, and look at these goofballs and they're harmless. [00:27:00] 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Jeff Sharlet is the author of the book The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, and a professor in the art of writing at Dartmouth College. For the book, which was published earlier this year, he crossed the country to trace the undertow.

I asked him back in June to translate Representative Higgins malicious speak for me. 

JEFF SHARLET: For a nation so steeped in war movies, I was surprised that more people couldn't figure out that a perimeter probe is testing the enemy. Our POTUS is real POTUS, the real President of the United States. But most importantly, 1/50K is 1 to 50,000. It's the scale of military-grade maps and maps used by the U. S. Geological Survey for areas mostly around military facilities. And "know your bridges," what he's referring to is a kind of longstanding militia fantasy, which rose out of a white supremacist movement, that the highest legal authority in the United States is actually your county [00:28:00] sheriff who has the right to nullify laws. The fantasy in militia world is that the feds are coming to take your guns, they're coming to invade the perimeter probe. It's an attack. They're getting ready for a big strike. Get ready to defend yourself. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: I knew that there was something going on in his tweet that I didn't understand, but is it important? Is he important? 

JEFF SHARLET: He is. Representative Clay Higgins, longtime sheriff, in many ways a media creation, the result of years of positive coverage from so-called liberal media for his kind of tough-on-crime viral videos. In the current Congress, he's Chairman of Border Security on the subcommittee on the Homeland Security Department. Moreover, he has militia credibility. He doesn't say he supports militias. He says he is militia. He identifies as a 3 percenter. 

So I've been driving back and forth across the country and the first thing I notice is more guns [00:29:00] than I've seen in 20 years. And I'm not afraid of guns. I'm a gun owner. But this is really something different. Churches arming up militias.

And you take any one of these stories individually, yeah, it seems fringe. But the better way to understand this is there's a great mass of fringe which is making the fabric of what I think we can, plausibly and without hyperbole argue, is an American fascist movement now. And I don't use that term lightly. And in fact, I've argued against it in the past, but here we are. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: I'm wondering how Trump's own reaction to this indictment reinforced and built on some of this. He tweeted that in the wake of the indictment, "the seal was broken" and that went right over my head. 

JEFF SHARLET: It's a seal on the indictment. A lot of people hear it as the seventh seal of the book of Revelation. It marks the coming of Jesus in this apocalyptic final battle, which Trump has been talking about for a while now. I've been writing [00:30:00] about the broadcast and the reception of Trump, paying attention always to these stories since 2015. In Trump's speeches of past, you would have long segments describing, in detail, stabbings, rape, decapitation, disembowelment.

TRUMP: These men took the bullets, the 50 bullets, dropped them in the pigs, swished them around. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: This is an old yarn about how General Jack Black Pershing killed Muslims a century ago. 

TRUMP: So there was blood all over those bullets, had his men, instructed his men to put the bullets into the rifles. And they shot 49 men.

JEFF SHARLET: Really violent, gory, horror movie rhetoric. But his post-indictment speech last Saturday:

TRUMP: We have a record crowd here today, so that's... 

JEFF SHARLET: represented a turning point in his rhetoric. He was talking about the final battle, which he's been doing. 

TRUMP: This is the final battle. This is the most important election we've ever had.

JEFF SHARLET: But then there was another element. He's speaking of [00:31:00] obliteration. He's saying, not only is there a risk of World War III, there will absolutely be World War III unless I am returned to power. 

TRUMP: I will prevent World War III. I will prevent it. And now people believe it, too. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Well, he said the same thing in the speech that just preceded January 6th.

He said, you have to fight as hard as you can or you won't have a country. 

JEFF SHARLET: Oh, no, that's not the same thing. When he means World War III, he's not talking about not having a country. He's talking about nuclear obliteration. 

TRUMP: This won't be a conventional war with army tanks going back and forth shooting each other. This will be nuclear war. This will be obliteration, perhaps obliteration of the entire world. I will prevent it. Nobody else can say that. 

JEFF SHARLET: I alone can stop it, which is of course a classic of fascist rhetoric. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: The Democrats are just gonna fire off a nuke for no reason? 

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, I think that is how it's being heard, that we are very close to nuclear war [00:32:00] with Russia, that he alone can stop it.

But it's even more abstract than that, right? So when he says, 

TRUMP: At the end of the day, either the Communists win, and destroy America, or we destroy the Communists, because that's what they are. They may go by a different name -- fascists, Marxists. 

JEFF SHARLET: He opens and closes the speech with some kind of classic antisemitism, talking about globalists and Marxists.

He's expanding the potent conspiracism of antisemitism so that it applies to all of his enemies. But, lest anyone be confused, he doubles down in the middle by talking about Jack Smith. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: The special counsel who indicted him. 

TRUMP: Jack Smith, what do you think his name used to be? I don't know, does anybody have it? Jack Smith, sounds so innocent. 

JEFF SHARLET: What is his original name? What's his real name? It's Jack Smith. But it couldn't be, that sounds so innocent, by which he means it sounds so all-American white. And then at the end, and this was new, he said: 

TRUMP: We will drive out the globalists.[00:33:00] We will cast out the Communists. We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country and wants to destroy our country. 

JEFF SHARLET: This is a reference to driving out the money changers, Jesus driving out the money changers. And to make sure you don't miss it, he refers -- the speech writer, I should say -- refers to both the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Matthew. The money changers, historically in antisemitism, are understood as the Jews, but in this moment, it's understood as the enemy. And the enemy is, it's Jack Smith, it's whoever is on the other side. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: That's interesting. Rather than cast the Jew as enemy -- that's the tradition -- here, that's already assumed, and so you cast the enemy, whoever that may be, as Jews.

JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, the Jew becomes metaphor, and he's got plausible deniability because, of course, there are enough right wing Jews, maybe Stephen Miller, who is Jewish, wrote that speech for him and has not been shy of using that language before, [00:34:00] so he can say, this isn't about Jews, in a way. For Trump, it's really not. His enemy is whoever is against him and his power. And then since he's become proxy, when I go out and I speak to everyday people, they see him as a martyr.

'Democracy on a Knife's Edge' Far-right electoral victories in Argentina, Holland; Trump threatens Insurrection Act - The Bradcast - Air Date 11-28-23

BRAD FRIEDMAN - HOST, THE BRADCAST: Trump has spoken openly about his plans, should he win the presidency, including using the military at the border and in cities that are struggling with violent crime. His plans also have included using the military against foreign drug cartels -- a view, by the way, that has been echoed by other Republican primary candidates. For example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, the former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor. You may recall that we discussed that after the the recent GOP presidential primary debates where both Ron DeSantis and the latest GOP sweetheart, Nikki Haley, both suggested, with little or no pushback from either the [00:35:00] other candidates on the stage, or most notably, from the moderators, that yes, they would send the US military into Mexico to fight drug cartels, which of course would be going to war against Mexico.

And you would think that would invite a follow-up question or two from the debate moderators, but apparently not. Apparently, maybe, that's one of the reasons why Republicans don't seem to be particularly troubled about Vladimir Putin marching into his neighboring country of Ukraine. Because, hey, sounds like a good idea. We could do that to Mexico, couldn't we? 

Now, on a side note today, in case Republicans come to their senses once primary voting starts and decide that they would prefer someone who'd be more difficult, most likely, for Joe Biden to defeat next year, the Koch networks, Charles Koch's network Americans for Prosperity, the AFP superPAC has now decided to, for the first time, to endorse a Republican presidential candidate in the primary, they have decided [00:36:00] to endorse Nikki Haley on Tuesday, and to unleash their tens of millions of dollars -- that's low balling it, it's more like hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge. boots-on-the- ground organization in all 50 states -- They've decided to unleash all of that behind her, behind Nikki Haley.

Will it make a difference with Trump still leading by -- I don't know, 30, 40 points, whatever -- I don't know, but the right-wing Koch-funded groups that are putting together Project 2025, the plan for the next Republican president, theoretically it's a plan for no matter who that Republican president turns out to be, includes, among other things, invoking the Insurrection Act on day one.

And those folks have a whole lot of money to spend on their favorite Republican next year. And by the way, in recent head-to-head polling, Nikki Haley is doing better against Joe Biden than either Ron DeSantis [00:37:00] or Donald Trump. That's why I say if Republicans come to their senses, I think Nikki Haley would be much more difficult for Biden to beat. At least according to the polls, at least according to the data that we have currently.

Attempts to invoke the Insurrection Act and use the military for domestic policing, the AP's Fields adds optimistically here, I think, would likely elicit pushback from the Pentagon, where the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is General Charles Q. Brown. He was one of the eight members of the Joint Chiefs who signed a memo to military personnel in the aftermath of the January 6, 2021 attacks on the U. S. Capitol. That memo emphasized that the oaths they took -- and it cited those oaths and called the events of that day -- which were intended to stop certification of Joe Biden's victory over Trump -- quote, "sedition and insurrection."

And I say that Fields cites that optimistically because, though the tenure [00:38:00] of the joint chief chair spans presidential terms, so C.Q. Brown would in theory still be the the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the military under whoever serves in the next term of the presidency.

I suspect that pushing him out, if it was Donald Trump, forcing him to resign in protest for any particular reason to then be replaced by someone more amenable to Trump's authoritarianism, I suspect that wouldn't be all that hard. Trump and his party retained wide support among those who served in the military, according to AP's in-depth survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide. It's called their VoteCast survey. They found that almost 60 percent of US military veterans voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. And in the 2022 midterms, 57 percent of military veterans supported Republican candidates. 

And it's not [00:39:00] as if Trump wouldn't be able to cite precedent for unleashing the US military for domestic purposes in order to offer a sort of a patina of legitimacy for all of this, because American presidents have done it before. In fact, they have issued a total of 40 proclamations invoking that law. It's not that unusual. All the other presidents did. Why shouldn't Donald Trump?

Lyndon Johnson invoked it three times in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington in response to unrest in cities after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. back in 1968. Presidents Johnson and John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower all used the law to protect activists and students desegregating schools. Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to Little Rock, Arkansas to protect black students integrating Central High School after the state's governor activated the National Guard to keep the students out. 

So Donald Trump wouldn't really be doing much different than that, right? Just keeping the peace. [00:40:00] 

George H. W. Bush was the last president to use the Insurrection Act in response to riots out here in Los Angeles in 1992, after the acquittal of the white police officers who beat black motorist Rodney King. 

"There are a lot of institutional checks and balances in our country that are pretty well developed legally, and it'll make it hard for a president to just do something randomly out of the blue," said Joseph Nunn, a national security expert at Brennan Center for Justice, who specializes in US defense strategy and the use of military force. He said, "But Trump is good at developing a semi-logical train of thought that might lead to a place where there's enough mayhem, there's enough violence and legal murkiness to call in the military." 

How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism Part 3 - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

JUSTIN KEMPF - HOST, DEMOCRACY PARADOX: One of the themes of the book is the fact that neoliberalism has taken away a lot of the security that government would provide people. It's kind of hollowed out government [00:41:00] resources for people. The final chapter that you have is titled, "Is neoliberal democracy sustainable?" You answer that in that chapter, but what I'd like to ask you is, do you feel that that's enough? That if we shift away from neoliberalism, that that would be enough to avoid future discontent? And for those who are currently discontented, is that all that's necessary to happen to be able to alleviate those emotions of discontent that would normalize politics? Is that what we need to do? And is that all that we need to be able to do at this point? 

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: So a couple of answers to your question. 

First of all, the things we do to avoid discontent and the things we do to get rid of it once it's already there and built up are probably two very different things. I think we know much less about how we deal with discontent once we've had full-blown effective polarization throughout society. It becomes self sustaining. I [00:42:00] think there are very different interventions that need to take place there. And some of the things you do to prevent discontent in an ordinary situation might actually be problematic in an already-polarized polity. 

The short answer is, moving away from neoliberalism, no, is absolutely not sufficient. Because neoliberalism has two effects. First of all, it's the economic insecurity, but it's also the hollowing of the democracy that needs to take place in order to support neoliberalism. Because technically speaking, I think very few people in ordinary society, very few of them are genuinely neoliberals. Theda Skocpol’s book on the Tea Party kind of lays this out.

People are neoliberal for groups that they don't like and socialist for themselves. They want to protect their own benefits and they want to get rid of benefits for young people or people of color or whoever they feel is outside of themselves. And so in order to actually build an effective democracy that also marries itself to neoliberalism, you have to essentially reduce democratic voice to the point where popular majorities really can't influence policy. Which is basically what we have in the United States. And it's what's happened in [00:43:00] the rest of the world, not so much through institutional veto points like we have here, but just through the breakdown of popular sector organization, the breakdown of unions, the center-left parties that have relied on them to advance their interests.

So if you just get rid of neoliberalism, you still have these hollow democracies that make people feel unheard and voiceless. And here's the thing: I also don't think you can get rid of neoliberalism. The people who are at the top like it and benefit from it. You need the re-democratization in order to accomplish the move away from neoliberalism to some sort of more pro-social economy.

And so my big focus that I've always said is democratization has to come first. You have to democratize the system, moving veto points, making systems more responsive, more representative. But a big part of that is actually outside of the state structure in most places, and it's about trying to figure out, how do we organize popular sectors effectively in this new post-industrial world? And I think you alluded to this when you talked about Podemos trying to not be a political [00:44:00] party, wants to be a movement of movements. Podemos, as far as I can tell, is doing that rather poorly, frankly. But there are political parties, one of which is the Broad Front in Uruguay, we discussed at length, is actually one that has effectively employed that strategy to provide voice.

So I think re democratization is absolutely critical and is in fact a necessary condition for increasing economic security because it's not going to happen without a push. 

RACHEL NAVARRE: Yeah. I mean, I think Matt's got a very good point. What we do to prevent it could be very different than what we do to solve it.

And, I am seeing very good signs in the United States, I think, that the hot labor summer and pushing back and having more people think about unions and seeing unions do really good stuff and getting the support for the Hollywood strike is huge. And so I think, seeing some of that in this talk of the UAW telling people, Hey, we need to have all of our union contracts come up in 2028, so we can see this movement. You're [00:45:00] starting to see some of these links that have been destroyed being built back up. So it's not quite the bowling alone scenario, but it is a little bit. We do have these disconnects between the people and the party. We're not seeing the same sort of influence.

So I think bringing that in is a good way to help stop populism rising on the left of the United States. But I do think that might be different than what you have to do once populism also exists. So I think bringing back in voice, recreating the social safety net. 

Now, of course, this still leaves problems, because while we focus on emotional transfer from economic crises, we don't focus on emotional transfer that might be caused by other crises.

So if you happen to have a cultural crisis or something like that, which is oftentimes more associated with the right, that can still have your emotional transfer as well. [00:46:00] So I think once you get into that stage, it's a little different. I don't think we have much to say on that yet..

BONUS Media Coverage of the Trump Movement is Missing Vital Context Part 2 - On the Media - Air Date 11-29-23

JEFF SHARLET: When I saw Ashley Babbitt, white woman, who led a mob, climbed up to a broken window, and a Capitol Hill police officer shot her and killed her. So we saw only the hands of the officer, and is a black man, and I understood immediately, as a student of American mythology and history, this is the lynching story: innocent, white womanhood killed by a black man. This is the template of Hollywood. You go back to the Birth of a Nation, one of the most influential movies of all time, 1915, based on a novel called The Klansman. It's a positive story about the Ku Klux Klan and a white woman flees from a dangerous black man and jumps over a cliff and dies, and thus the Klan must ride to avenge her.

Ashley Babbitt was such a productive martyr because she's wearing an American flag outfit, she's the only woman in this crowd, but she's really fierce and tough. She's also a veteran. And I started traveling around the country watching the myth in formation. [00:47:00] Who Ashley Babbitt was doesn't matter to them.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Given all the myth making about Ashley, you looked into her life and what did you find? 

JEFF SHARLET: She documented her life very extensively, 8,000 tweets, she made a lot of videos. I found someone I think would surprise a lot of people. Ashley Babbitt, from deep blue Southern California, a beach person. Votes for Obama twice, thinks he's the best president ever.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: How did she get from there to here? What was the turning point? 

JEFF SHARLET: She talks about a houseless man in Southern California defecating on her front lawn. And the compassion she's tried to have in her life, she just says, to hell with it. And Trump is right there with this story. You know what? That anger you feel? It's not anger. It's love for your country. You don't have to swim against the current. Give into the undertow. Let it take you out. Here's white supremacy. It's ready to carry you. And now she's got a leader and she's got a mythology, and it's so easy to go with it. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: [00:48:00] You call what's going on "a cult of militant eroticism"? Can you talk about that? 

JEFF SHARLET: Part of the aesthetics of fascism has always been titillation and the thrill, because the eroticism is of transgression. Think of Steve Bannon. Not an attractive man, and yet, here is a man, he does what he wants, he eats what he wants to eat, he smokes what he wants to smoke, if he was a truck driver, he'd be driving a coal roller, spewing out black, he lives fully.


JEFF SHARLET: Yeah, the same thing with so many of these right wing politicians doing ads where they're firing guns. For some people, that's sexy. And it's also saying, you know what, I'm free. And free is exciting. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: And after reporting your book, you concluded that we're in the midst of something you call "a slow civil war. That is, we're in the undertow." 

JEFF SHARLET: In spring of 2021, I started noticing academic [00:49:00] historians talking about civil war, and I'm married to a historian. Historians are necessarily cautious. They know that history usually moves slow. I came to the term "slow civil war" as I started to think no, wait a minute. There already are casualties, when we look at the wave of queer and trans suicide, the ways in which many people are now criminalized in 20 states and counting; all the pregnant people dying or in trouble for lack of reproductive rights; and so many of the victims of mass shootings. 

What I do is I read the manifestos and I see how each one builds on another. Literally, they cut and paste from the last one, and then they say, here's how I did it, and I'm probably going to die. In fact, that's my plan. But I hope the next man can learn from what I did and can carry this forward. 

When I look at the men who line up with AR-15s outside of hospitals and libraries and schools and bars.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Isn't that just performative? 

JEFF SHARLET: [00:50:00] Oh, this, that's my favorite question, Brooke. For so long, the political press, which was built to report on a fairly stable establishment, wants to dismiss anything outside of that as just theater. And that works really well for the growth of fascism, because fascism is theater. No "just" about it. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: You say that the mainstream media is reluctant to use the word fascism to describe the movement Trump fueled in road to power. Why is fascism a better characterization than the much more often used "crisis of democracy"? 

JEFF SHARLET: I'm actually against the term "the crisis of democracy", and I'm against "climate crisis." I understand why people use them. But crisis is, narratively, a word that supposes this is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It's going to have a happy ending or a sad ending. And that's not the nature of the situation we face. Some things were [00:51:00] lost. Fascism is understood in the press as a kind of an "F word," as opposed to describing a political movement. Look at these elements: the cult of personality, the idea that a strong man leader alone can fix it, that he transcends the normal rule of law, a persecuted in-group, a mysterious out-group that can take any form. But most importantly -- and I think this is also, this goes back to the militant eroticism -- not just a rhetoric of violence, but of pleasure and violence. That's a key part of fascism, and I think, inasmuch as we resist it, and I'm sympathetic to that resistance, but what if we don't see it as a crisis, as a final battle, but say, hey, that's the condition. How do we get through this? 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: Do you think this is a coast versus Midwest, rural versus urban divide? 

JEFF SHARLET: Both sides in this conflict want to believe that. But I know it's not, because I've been driving around the country and I can cross the [00:52:00] front lines, the battle lines in any given county in the United States.

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: But if you set out looking for fascists you're gonna find them. How widespread is it really? 

JEFF SHARLET: I think it's a powerful minority. There's all kinds of arguments: don't worry, they're just a minority, we're the majority; don't worry, the country is diversifying; don't worry, they're aging out. I'm 51. Since I was a teenager, I've been hearing that: don't worry, conservatism is dead, your generation's gonna save us we didn't save squat. The diversification story is ignoring the latest American contribution to fascism, what scholar Anthea Butler, author of White Evangelical Racism calls "the promise of whiteness." it brings in increasing numbers of people of color who believe that they can be part of this. 

So that's not going to get us out. I don't think you can just sit there and let a current carry you out of fascism. Democracy is not something you have. You have to actually go and do it, right? 

I think about that group, the 3 Percenters. A militia movement with which Congressman Higgins identifies, and they [00:53:00] believe that the American Revolution was fought only by 3%. So from their perspective, it only takes 3 percent to overthrow an empire, right? The British Empire. This isn't true. Scholars say the number is closer, maybe 25, 26%. But what matters is what 3 percent can do in terms of disrupting things.

And the reality is fascism, it's a minority, but it has a hold of more than 3%. I live in deep blue Vermont. I go up the road, I see the flag of Trump as Rambo. I go the other direction, I can see a Confederate flag. That ripples across the state. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: I don't see it in Brooklyn. 

JEFF SHARLET: You don't see it in Brooklyn. And the reality is, you want to know what? There are more Pride flags in America than there are fascist flags. There are. If you say that settles it, I guess we win. 

I think a better way to understand it than in terms of crisis -- which is narratively a word that supposes this is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an [00:54:00] end -- it's a little bit like we're striking matches. And none of them are flaring, thank God. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE - HOST, ON THE MEDIA: January 6th was a flare. 

JEFF SHARLET: January, it was a flare, right? But the flame didn't last. And that left a lot of them broken hearted for a while until they saw, oh wait, we're not going to show up to be arrested by the FBI. That's a trap. We're going to work in different ways. 


BONUS How Can Democracy Survive in an Age of Discontent Rachel Navarre and Matthew Rhodes-Purdy on Populism and Political Extremism Part 4 - Democracy Paradox - Air Date 11-28-23

 big part of the theory is that economic insecurity eventually leads to emotions that produce cultural backlash. One of the problems that I have wrapping my head around this idea is that many of the people that are experiencing cultural backlash tend to be older. They tend to be older in terms of age demographics, at least according to Pippa Norris and the Ronald Inglehart study on cultural backlash. They tend to be the most economically secure because they have a government pension. They have government health care provided for them. Oftentimes, [00:55:00] they oftentimes have savings that younger people don't have. They're dealing with kids. They're dealing with lots of different problems. They could get laid off at any moment. Why is it that those people, who I would think would be less concerned that the government actually puts more resources towards to be able to take care of, why is it that they're the ones who are experiencing the most cultural anxiety, rather than the younger people who should be experiencing the most economic insecurity?

RACHEL NAVARRE: Well, so we kind of talk about this and it's not so much your actual - you know, if we lay it down and put it on paper - it's not so much the actual insecurity you have. If you've never had anything, you don't have much to lose. It's the perception and it's the mismatch of where you perceive you should be in your expectation of what you should be. Because I mean, yeah, you know, it's not the guy that's contracted to work with the plumbing company, the low level [00:56:00] employee of the plumbing company, that's the Trumper. It's the plumbing company owner who's driving around in, you know, a $90,000 pickup truck. Because there is more to lose, they're not where they think they should be. And they also kind of perceive more of it as a zero sum, that if someone else gains, I'm losing. So, it kind of evolves into this sort of perception, and how do you feel. And, you know, they do have a lot to lose. You have one bad medical emergency and your nice, comfortable middle class life is gone. You get unemployed for a year, there is no safety net for you. It's either this continues to go and you continue to do good, or you could lose everything. So it's those people that have something to lose and that also perceive that they should be doing better and perceive that someone else maybe is getting ahead of them. 

MATTHEW RHODES-PURDY: Yeah. I mean, you think about people who retire [00:57:00] in the wake of 2008, I mean, the kind of people we're talking about who are Trump voters, if you're retiring in 2009-2010, you're not having the kind of retirement you thought you were going to. Social Security and Medicare are kind of cold comfort, right? Your 401k has been destroyed. The fact that the 401k is how you retire these days and not on a fixed pension for a lot of people is indicative of the kind of long term erosion of Social Security that we talk about throughout the book.

You're exposed to the vicissitudes of the market now. You don't have the kind of guaranteed lifestyle into old age and into death. But I think Rachel really hit most of it, which is just, yeah, a lot of Trump voters and a lot of the populace in general, particularly on the right, are comfortable. They have good lifestyle in terms of nice houses and nice cars, but yet, insecurity I think is underappreciated.

You know, there's been a lot of focus on deprivation. Recently, we've been talking a lot about inequality. What we conclude in the book is that really, insecurity is what's driving this. It's people who expected to have [00:58:00] comfortable middle class lifestyles, and expected to be able to provide those for their children, are now feeling like their children are going to be worse off than they are. 

Final comments on preparing for the 2024 election

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with The Readout making the connections between the election of a right-wing populists in the Netherlands and the continuing threat of Trump in the U.S. The Democracy Paradox looked at the failures of neo-liberalism and the need to re-establish real democracy. Democracy Now! discussed the election of a far right libertarian populist in Argentina. The Democracy Paradox dove into how unfulfilled right-wing promises help foster the conspiracy mindset. On the Media spoke with Jeff Sharlet about the slow civil war. The Bradcast warned that democracy in the U.S. appears to be balanced on a knife's edge. And The Democracy Paradox looked at how economic policy changes would be beneficial for reducing discontent, but insufficient for fully reversing the levels of [00:59:00] polarization and discontent that already exists. That's what everybody heard, but members also heard bonus clips from On the Media discussing how the media misses the importance of what it considers simply far right performative theater. And finally The Democracy Paradox got deep into the weeds of how economic procarity feels to different groups of people. 

To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members -only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at And during December, we're offering 20% off on memberships for yourself or as gifts. So definitely take advantage of that while you can. Or you can simply shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

For more on the international far right and the connection to neoliberal economic policies, I have a couple of our past episodes to suggest: # 1491 is [01:00:00] titled "Mismanaging Capitalism Can Lead To Fascism" and it was published back in May 2022 and focuses on how economic distress can destabilize societies. And #1519 titled "International Fascist Movement On the Move" is from October 2022 and looks at elections in Italy, Sweden, and Brazil, as the far-right was looking to make more gains in those countries. So check those out. Again, those were episodes 1491 and 1519. 

Now to wrap up, I'll just leave you with this. As nerve wracking as it is to face another potential Trump election, that is how much energy needs to go into election activism over the coming year: voter registration drives; voter inspiration drives, you know, phone banking, in person canvassing, and the like; support for organizations that fight against voter disenfranchisement through overly strict [01:01:00] voter ID laws; anything that any of us can do to help move the needle in next November's election will be crucial. I've been warning for a little while now that we should all be bracing ourselves for this coming year. Ever since it became clear that the bulk of Trump's trials would be playing out in the middle of the primary elections next year, it was obvious that the next 11 months will be an absolute shit show. But I've also been saying that the best way to manage the anxiety that 2024 will assuredly bring is to take action. There is so much we can't influence and that causes stress. But there are some things that we can influence and stepping up to do our part in support of maintaining at least a somewhat functioning democracy we'll not only be good for the country and the world, but will actually help each of us individually manage the disorienting and, sort of, likely overwhelming upheaval we are [01:02:00] headed for in the next year. 

So don't wait until you are potentially frozen with stress and anxiety next year to figure out what you're going to do. Make a plan for your activism now, so that you can look to that plan six months from now when things are looking bad for one reason or another, because they certainly will be. So have your plan ready because hope that others will act in sufficient numbers is not a plan. That is not a winning strategy at all. 

So here's just one option: VoteRiders provides voter ID assistance to help every American cast a ballot that counts, which is a caveat that I wish we didn't need, but we do. VoteRiders will help voters identify the documents needed to get an ID, request and pay for the documents, pay the DMV fees, and even drive voters to the DMV for free. They also help [01:03:00] educate on confusing voter ID laws for each state, including the new ID requirements needed to vote by mail in states like Texas and Florida. So voters can call or text to their helpline at 866-ID-2-VOTE, that's 866-432-8683, or go to to check state laws or submit an online form to get assistance. And if you don't need an ID, you can become a volunteer to help make sure that voters know the information they need and get the help they need or donate to support their sadly needed work. It's just one of the many concrete ways that you can help improve access to the ballot box leading up to the 2024 election. 

That is going to be it for today. As always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about this or anything else you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text to [01:04:00] 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and LaWendy for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at, now available for 20% off and you can join them by signing up today. It would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast, coming to you twice weekly thanks entirely to members and donors to the show from [01:05:00]

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#1596 Building a positive future by first envisioning it and then designing it (Transcript)

Air Date 12/5/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award winning Best of the Left podcast in which we will look to some positive visions for the future to get away from the doom cycle of complaining about what's going wrong all the time. Some positive visions include rethinking human nature, re-imagining our relationship with consumerism, reconsidering how design can work with nature instead of against it, and understanding how cooperation is actually better than individualistic competition from an evolutionary point of view. Sources today include Andrewism, Against the Grain, The Human Restoration Project, The New Humanitarian, The New Abnormal, and Our Changing Climate, with an additional members only clip from Your Undivided Attention.

What We Get Wrong About Human Nature - Andrewism - Air Date 1-11-23

ANDREW SAGE - HOST, ANDREWISM: Who are you? Who am I? What is the essence of humankind? What does it mean to be human? Human nature refers to the fundamental traits of humanity, [00:01:00] our most basic and natural ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. Human nature is supposed to be this universal concept that, regardless of nurture, regardless of our environmental, social, political, and psychological conditions, we cannot truly transcend.

I disagree. There are certain instincts we possess that I might consider universal to humanity, for instance fear as a means of basic survival, or disgust as a means of self preservation from disease. Yet not everyone experiences fear or disgust, and what we fear or disgust varies considerably from person to person, place to place, culture to culture.

Some people fear the depths of the ocean. Others fear the peaks of the mountains. Some people are disgusted by even the IDEA of eating crickets. For others, it's a healthy treat.

The balance of our hormones may also play a role in determining how we behave. But we are not slaves to our [00:02:00] hormones. We can and do override our base impulses when the situation calls for it.

We also, obviously, have certain shared needs: things like air, water, food, sleep, and shelter. We want safety, respect, and connection. We seek pleasure. But how we meet those needs vary also, according to culture, climate, and identity.

If human nature is just what humans do, then it is a concept of contradiction. Humans hate and humans love. Humans are violent and humans are peaceful. Humans destroy and humans create. Humans form hierarchies and humans tear them down. 

But when people bring up human nature, particularly in arguments about the viability of liberation from systems of oppression such as capitalism, patriarchy, and the state, they never seem to highlight our noblest features, only our most despicable. Humanity is defamed by humans themselves. To [00:03:00] the misanthropes and their ilk, we are all just agents of chaos and wanton environmental destruction. They sweep aside the vast antagonisms of class, gender, and race. They dismiss the distinctions between authoritarian empires and stateless societies, assign an all equal accusation.

Capital H U M A N I T Y overrides the examination of the social relationships and institutions that have forged our present outcomes. 

So the question persists. Our journey begins, to discover what exactly constitutes human nature. 

Another first person to explore the idea of human nature -- across history and throughout the world -- theorists and philosophers have posited different interpretations of the concept. Socrates believed that the life most suited to human nature involved reasoning. His student Plato, and [00:04:00] Plato's student Aristotle, developed a notion of the human soul in the fourth and fifth century BCE that consisted of two parts: one, home to instinct, passion, and desire; the other, home to logic and reason. Aristotle, in particular, also recognized man as political, meaning able to develop complex communities and systems, and mimetic, meaning able to use his imagination to create artwork. I say man, not humanity, because Aristotle saw women as subject to men. Of course. 

Elsewhere, Mencius, a Confucian philosopher in the 4th century BCE, argued that human nature was good, with an innate tendency to an ideal state formed under the right conditions. To him, the four beginnings of human nature's morality were a sense of compassion that develops into benevolence, a sense of shame and disdain that develops into righteousness, a sense of respect and courtesy that develops into propriety, and a sense of right and [00:05:00] wrong that develops into wisdom. He believed that the development of virtues came from reflection, and if one didn't reflect, they wouldn't develop their moral constitution. According to Mencius, evil came from a lack of reflection and self development in one's natural direction.

However, another Confucian philosopher in the 3rd century BCE disagreed. Junzi believed human nature was essentially bad, and that learning was the only cure for the destructive and competitive natural ways of humanity. Later on, the legalist framework of human nature would embrace the notion of it being inherently evil. However, unlike Junzi, they didn't think even education or self cultivation could eliminate or alter one's fundamentally sick nature.

Echoing many of today's proponents of capitalism, third century BCE legalist philosopher Han Fei argued that everyone is motivated by their unchanging selfish core to take [00:06:00] advantage of whoever they can, especially when they know they can get away with it. Similarly, Emile Durkheim believed humanity to be naturally egoistic, and David Hume assumed humans were driven by selfishness and emotions and needed society to make them more reasonable.

However, Hume also recognized that humans had an innate sense of honor, beauty, and nobility. In contrast, according to Akan philosophy, what it means to be a person is to selflessly contribute to one's family and community -- of course, adjusted for one's level of opportunity. The size or type of contribution matters far less than the practice itself.

Further east, along the West African coast, the Yoruba held similar beliefs. To be a person is to be substantially dependent on others. The community is the basis for the actualization of one's values and personality. This position can also be found in the Pan African philosophy [00:07:00] of Ubuntu, a form of African humanism developed in the 1950s that sees humanity as a quality we owe to each other. It can be neatly summarized by its particularly iconic phrase, "I am because we are." The Yoruba philosophy also recognizes that while humanity retains certain activities and needs, the way those activities are carried out and those needs are met are subject to change according to ever evolving material conditions.

Karl Marx's concept of species being was similarly informed by materialist analysis. He argued against traditional concepts of human nature as incarnating in individuals, in favor of human nature forming within social relations. To Marx, human nature wasn't permanent or universal, but rather always determined in a specific social and historical formation. Humans change their environments, and their environments, in turn, change them. The Rarámuri [00:08:00] tribe in the Sierra Madres region of what is now Mexico have traditionally believed in iwigara, the idea that all lifeforms are interconnected and share the same breath. Even the land itself and the winds that blow through it share kin.

Obviously, the sheer variety of the philosophies of indigenous cultures cannot be painted with one broad brush. But we can identify certain similarities. Many indigenous philosophies have recognized that we cannot be divorced from our environment. There is no neat separation between human and nature. We are part of the same family. Life can only be viable when humans view nature as kin, all part of the same ecosystem, enhancing and preserving, giving and taking. Anthropologists refer to this way of seeing the world as animism. Because animists believe all beings are related, they heavily regulate their interaction with living systems. For the most part -- and asterisks do indeed apply -- that means that while they may fish, hunt, gather, and [00:09:00] farm, they do so while remaining cognizant of the sustainability of those systems. They do so in the spirit of reciprocity, not extraction. They live by the principles of what today's ecological economists would call a "steady state" economy: never extract more than ecosystems can generate, and never waste or pollute more than ecosystems can safely absorb. 

The decline of animist ontology has coincided with the rise of capitalism, which has continued to sever our bond with nature, leading to many people embracing the view that human nature is fundamentally destructive. Human presence has come to be seen as a threatening corruption of the natural world. We've become estranged from our role as a species of stewards. 

Gabor Maté on Illness, Human Nature, Capitalism, and Socialism - Against the Grain - Air Date 5-30-2

SASHA LILLEY - AGAINST THE GRAIN: One thing that I think has been striking about the ways that the status quo has been justified and the system of capitalism has been framed as permanent and inevitable [00:10:00] and no way to transcend it or get beyond it is an evocation of human nature, that human nature is, at its root, based on a kind of individualistic selfishness, and we'd have to do great harm to each other if we were ever going to live in a more collective way, and hence, the gulag is evoked. 

You write about the uses that a notion of human nature can be put to. Can you say what you think about human nature and what it does or doesn't constrain in terms of our possibilities? 

GABOR MATE: Sure. Well, to quote two people I've already mentioned, one is Robert Sapolsky, who said that human nature is not to be constrained by our nature. And Noam Chomsky said that, and I quote both of them in my chapter on this, is that -- I say my chapter, by the way, I need to acknowledge my son, Daniel, with whom I wrote this book, so -- our chapter, our chapter on this -- is, there's no defined human [00:11:00] nature, that if Jesus was a human being and if Buddha was a human being and Hitler was a human being and Stalin was a human being, if Martin Luther King is a human being and Donald Trump is a human being then what is a human being? Then what is human nature?

So what is human beings? And human nature? And by the way, in this society, it's very common to say, when somebody does something selfish or manipulative or greedy, we say, oh, that's just human nature. But what about when people are kind or giving? Do we say, oh, that's just human nature? Why not? The kindness is very common. And all of us, when we're kind and open-hearted, we feel much better in our bodies. So why do we identify selfishness with human nature? 

We evolved as communal creatures for millions of years, hundreds of thousands of years, including if even the existence of our species, Homo sapien sapien, can be encapsulated in 60 minutes on a clock, then until [00:12:00] five minutes ago, we lived in small band hunter-gather groups where the communal need determined individual behavior, individual thinking and individual feeling. So giving, receiving, supporting, collaborating, that's what we did. We would not have survived as individualistic hostile creatures. We would not have survived. We could not have lived that way. Monkeys couldn't. Wolves couldn't. No mammals could. 

So, what we tend to do is to identify behaviors in a certain society with some kind of global human nature. It doesn't exist. What we know does exist are human needs. And, what I can tell you is human children have certain needs of warm attachment relationships where they're accepted for exactly who they are; where their emotions are accepted and welcome; where they don't have to work to make their relationship work with the parents; where there's free play -- free, genuine, authentic, [00:13:00] spontaneous play out there in nature that helps the brain develop properly, which is essential for brain development.

If you meet those conditions, you're gonna get human beings that are compassionate, for the most part collaborative, and they don't think in terms of individual greed as the way to satisfy their needs. 

This society, we don't bring up people like that. You see a prevalence of behaviors that are selfish, and not only are they prevalent, they're even celebrated. But it's a cultural construct. 

So you can't extrapolate from the way people are in a certain culture to some general idea of human nature. I don't think there's a human nature that dictates how we are. We have human needs, and we have certain conditions that will promote the healthy development of human beings, other conditions that will undermine it.

So that's how I understand human nature. 

Imagining a Solarpunk Education - Human Restoration Project - Air Date 5-11-23

NICK COVINGTON - HOST, HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT: In July 2022, Dr. Henry Giroux presented a keynote at the inaugural Conference to Restore Humanity, where he spoke on the topic of critical pedagogy in a time of [00:14:00] fascist tyranny. In this keynote, he connects our fading visions of the future to the lack of hope that we can ever actually imagine something radically different from the present.

DR. HENRY GIROUX: The commanding visions of democracy are in exile at all levels of education. Critical thought and the imagining of a better world present a direct threat not only to white supremacists, but also to those ideologues who narrowly embrace a corporate vision of the world, in which the future always replicates the present in an endless circle, in which capital and the identities that it legitimates merge with each other into what might be called a "dead zone of the imagination" and "pedagogies of repression."

NICK COVINGTON - HOST, HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT: And, more simply evoked by theorist Mark Fisher, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. And that's a well we have absolutely run dry in our desire for dystopia. We've imagined the world destroyed by AI, by climatological disaster, even by zombies. Judging by pop [00:15:00] culture, you could assume we have a preference for annihilation.

Stuck in this doom loop, we've created an entire media apparatus that not only imagines ever-worsening and horrific futures, but nostalgizes the past to keep us trapped in existing banal dystopias. In an era of increasingly rehashed ideas, corporations now openly flaunt reboot culture, negating any ability to imagine something new. "Nothing comforts anxiety like a little nostalgia," haunts the Matrix Resurrections, as a 2021 sequel to the nearly 20-year-old trilogy. 

Escaping the drudgery of futures imagined for us is no small feat. Philosopher Jean Baudrillard believed that our world had become so engrossed in the hyper-real that we are no longer able to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Or, as he wrote on Disneyland, 

NARRATOR: It's meant to be an infantile world, in order to make us believe that the adults are elsewhere in the real world, and to conceal the fact that [00:16:00] real childishness is everywhere. Particularly among those adults who go there to act the child in order to foster illusions of their real childishness.

NICK COVINGTON - HOST, HUMAN RESTORATION PROJECT: Teaching is the most stressful job in America. 86 percent of teachers report being stressed. 73 percent struggle with anxiety and 67 percent with ongoing depression. And even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, these shocking statistics dwarf healthcare workers and other highly stressful positions. So it isn't surprising that so many educators have become jaded and nihilistic about the state of education.

Stressed, depressed, and demoralized teachers, who are looking for an exit or believe that their classrooms have become a lost cause, are less likely to be able to create spaces of joy, wonder, and curiosity for students because, at the end of the day, why does any of it matter? 

The Doom Loop connects a dismal view of the future to lived realities within classrooms everywhere. Underfunded, risk-averse schools are [00:17:00] pressured to adopt an empty or scripted pedagogy, a standardized system, where the same thing is taught the same way to every student. In this way, the ends justify the means. Sold as a back to basics way to alleviate teacher stress and improve outcomes by simplifying instruction and assessment, standardizing classroom management, and securing higher scores by aligning curriculum with the demands of state tests.

With the best intentions, empty pedagogy means to make it easier to produce similar outcomes for all students. But the reality is that it's easier to sell scripted curriculum to a de-professionalized workforce that lacks the collective power to make pedagogical decisions, or even the collective understanding that there could be other educative outcomes worth pursuing.

An empty pedagogy eliminates the need for advanced degrees, certifications, and the deep pedagogical understanding that comes from years of experience, [00:18:00] opting instead to treat educators like easily replaceable, low skill, low wage employees at the bottom of a technocratic hierarchy. Of course, it also removes the artistry and personal connection that draws virtually all teachers to the profession, replacing purpose driven professionals with trained technicians, thus perpetuating the doom loop as educators burn out in a profession void of personal identity and the capacity for meaningful action.

As teachers burn out, it can be tempting to embrace scripted techniques to make the job easier, but this can be dangerous at the level of the system itself. The more schools come to value an empty pedagogy, the more sterile the classroom becomes. And the more sterile the classroom becomes, the more classrooms become isolated from society, unable to address the problems of today, let alone the future; content to batch process students with standards and objectives, but rarely in a direction or [00:19:00] with a purpose. 

Of course, young people can find this on their own, but systems that embrace the back-to-basics standardization of classroom curriculum lead young people to have to fight back against the demeaning and soul-sucking nature of school. In this way, schools become a vector of the doom loop itself. 

The majority of young people also find themselves bored, stressed, or tired in high school. Horrifically, the suicide rate of students increases between 30 to 43 percent during the school year. And as chronicled in Huck Magazine, young people are embracing nihilism. One young person states, "We are all just little grains of sand on a seemingly infinite beach." And numerous accounts show people not bothering to fight for just causes, such as environmentalism or social justice, because, after all, what's the point if the apocalypse is right on the horizon? 

The promise of a college-to-career pathway with a livable wage, stable job prospects and a decently sized home, nuclear family, and [00:20:00] other elements of the American dream have become structurally unattainable.

But the article also outlines the growing movement of positive or sunny nihilism. Australian writer Wendy Seyfried says that nihilism can be a gateway to a radical decentralization of the self, saying, "If you have been forced to recognize that the things you thought were going to promise you a good life aren't available anymore, you look beyond yourself to protect something bigger." she believes that when you embrace nihilism, you can start to recognize what the philosopher Nietzsche said about rules, laws, and morals: they're all social constructs. You can begin to reimagine yourself and the world around you in entirely different ways. And it becomes liberating to change the world because you recognize that all of it is, well, made up.

As one young person puts it: 

NARRATOR: It doesn't matter to me that it will all return to nothingness eventually. It exists, simultaneously with my [00:21:00] existence, and I get to climb trees, run about, and swim, all thanks to the earth. Human existence is beautiful, even if it's all for nothing. 

What science fiction teaches us about imagining a better world - The New Humanitarian - Air Date 1-11-23

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: I think what I did by accident was fill a hunger people had for a vision of things going well, despite the awful situation that we're in. There aren't that many books like it, and actually, Malka’s is one of them. But basically, it's an empty ecological niche in our cultural imagination. You say, ‘Oh, I want to read about things going well in the year 2050. I'll go to that shelf in the bookstore’. It is empty, that shelf is empty. And so people, when they find it, they begin to share it.

HEBA ALY - HOST, THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: 'The shelf is empty', that's interesting. But also, the few books that are on the shelf, the wider science fiction shelf, are often written by a very specific slice of the population. So if we talk about the politics of science fiction, and whose vision of the future is most [00:22:00] valued, science fiction is often dominated by White men – sorry, Stan – but with no particular social justice agenda, which is not your case. And the voices that are a bit more marginalised, don't often have the ear, when it comes to science fiction fans, that they might hope for, despite the a really rich tradition of people from, as I say, more marginalised communities trying to write themselves into the future or reimagining futures that might better serve them. And Afrofuturism, which really centres Black history and culture, is an example of that. So, maybe, Malka, is science fiction any less susceptible to oppressive power structures than any other field?

MALKA OLDER: Well, I mean, when we're talking about science fiction here, what we're talking about is publishers, right? Those are the people who decide not what gets written, but what gets to readers. I do think it is changing somewhat, and we're seeing that reflected in what's getting out. There's still a long way to go, obviously. But I think what's even more regressive than what's coming out in print [00:23:00] is what's been made into TVs and movies. And that's unfortunate, because that does actually reach, sadly, way more people and get more way more money funnelled into production. And I think that's, actually, a big part of the problem, because when you're spending a lot of money to make a show, it also means that there's a lot of people who have an interest in saying, Oh, we must make sure this is profitable, and we're gonna guess what's going to be profitable by looking at what was profitable last year. And that doesn't always work very well, and it also leads to very slow change, and sometimes really boring shows. Because those stories, again, affect how people think about the future, what they think is possible, what they're afraid of, what they hope for. 

To come back for a second to print, while we're starting to see more marginalised voices being published. The area that I think is really lacking, especially when we think about it from the humanitarian perspective, is translations and people from other countries, other parts of the world, and trying to get more of those voices. As we talk about [00:24:00] global futures, as we talk about global government, we really need to be doing more of that: more translation, more publishing. And it's hard to get that done in the US. That's one big issue that I think we need to keep looking at.

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Yeah, Octavia Butler is having a moment now. And she's been dead a couple decades. And when she was actually publishing those books, she was quite marginalised. So there's such a desire for those kinds of narratives that there's some backfilling; people go back into the tradition, and I really hope people start reading Joanna Russ, for instance, as an incredibly powerful, hilarious, and angry feminist voice in science fiction and one of the great stars of her time. And Ursula was more famous the longer her career went on, because of a desire for those kinds of narratives. So, science fiction can have everything ideologically, it can go from hard right reactionary QAnon type conspiracy [00:25:00] theory set into the future to communist and far left manifestos of liberation for all humanity. It's just the same as any other form of literature in terms of its ideologies. But if you're looking for positive visions of a mutual aid future for the world, then indeed, science fiction is the right place to look, then you have to kind of go hunting and pecking to get past the same old same old ray guns and lasers and blowing things up and spaceships zipping around, which is typically war stories or stories of feudalism. And a lot of fantasy is of course, straight feudalism: the kings, the servants, the troubadours, the dragons, it's all straight medievalism taken as a kind of an escapism, or a metaphorical vision of the present, where you wish you could have a magic sword and just chop their heads off. So a lot of escapism in all of literature in all of art. And when you try to have [00:26:00] committed or activist literature, then as Malka said, you run into the business of publishing: Who's gonna buy this? When they're looking for escape, and you write a gritty story of humanitarian work, who's going to buy it? Very few, because people read and watch TV to escape their current trapped reality rather than engage and understand it. So you have to perform some pretty convoluted Judo tricks and Cirque du Soleil-type jumps to make the kinds of things we write about entertaining, and get it through your industry to a readership that enjoys it, even though they're looking for escape. One of the escapes that would be nice is to imagine that things could still work out. So it could be that my novel Ministry for the Future is just as much a fantasy as a Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, because it isn't clear that we're going to be able to run the table and put all of the bricks in place in time to keep from having a [00:27:00] universal crash. But I'm very interested in, say, the refugee camps. So a Ministry for the Future has about maybe six or eight plot strands, and one of them is refugees. It's pretty much Syria: a country that's falling apart. They get to Switzerland, and then they're in a refugee camp for 20 or 30 years, and then they get out and they're Swiss citizens on a kind of Nansen passport. It takes up at least 15 to 20 percent of the text in Ministry for the Future, and nobody talks about it. Nobody. What can you say? It's an intractable situation. As a life, it's boring. Even though I was intent to write it, because the only solution I can see to the oncoming humanitarian refugee crisis, climate refugees, is a holistic solving of all the problems, at which point you don't have millions of people wandering the earth homeless and without much in the way of an ability to control their fate. [00:28:00] So…

HEBA ALY - HOST, THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: But when you say nobody talks about it, you mean in the reviews of the book, that's not a part of the book that is popular.

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Right. Exactly. Yeah. Not discussed. Let's talk about central banks. Let's talk about the carbon coin. Let's talk about geo-engineering. Let's talk about eco-terrorism. Let's talk about anything except for a life spent in the camps.

HEBA ALY - HOST, THE NEW HUMANITARIAN: And so how do you go about popularising a book that is essentially about – it's both a cynical and optimistic book at once, I suppose but – a book that is essentially about the future of human suffering. How do you go about making that something that people want to think about and understand?

KIM STANLEY ROBINSON: Well, some people go into survivalist fantasies: ‘oh, if the world fell apart, then my life would suddenly be more exciting’, which is not true. The other thing would be simply to do creative non-fiction and live the life; go in there interview people; and write that story up. And there are some great accounts out there in the non-fiction literature. How do [00:29:00] you find a plot that tells that story? The way I did it was to make sure that that was part of a larger global story that you had to remain interested in like, these are the stakes that are involved in solving climate change. These people will have their Nansen passports, you could imagine … I'm thinking about your specific issues, the involuntary migrants, the refugees, the climate refugees, could be a workforce to quickly decarbonise the planet, full employment plan, where governments gathered together and said, “Look, we need lots of workers, we have lots of people, could we put them to work in decarbonising fast so that we decrease the climate emergency?” Well, it would be hard, but it wouldn't be impossible. Can we match the solutions to the problems, which is sort of putting people in the right places and giving them agency and giving them expertise. It's a… it's a messy problem, and it's bearing down on us [00:30:00] hard. And when things bear down on us hard people tend to freak out and go back into fantasy land.

MALKA OLDER: Yeah, I just, I want to pick up on some of those things, because I think there's a ton of interesting stuff in there. I have a very small and brief refugee subplot in my second book, Null States, and basically, there's a war going on, and there's a bunch of refugees, and there's a fair for them, where all the governments from around come by and try to promote their governments as the place where these refugees should go, because in the world I created, population is power, almost as much as information is. So countries – they're not countries but the governments, there's these entities, these political entities – want people to choose them and want people to come to them. So, I would like to think that's imminent. I have hoped for it happening someday, because generally, studies show that refugees, migrants, are good for the host countries they land in, in a variety of different ways from [00:31:00] economic to social. But there's such a powerful narrative against that right now, unfortunately. But I have hoped that might change. And in the meantime, I hope that by writing about it in that way, it might trigger at least a few people to think about how ridiculous the current system is, which turns all this research on its head and says, ‘Oh, this is a huge problem that you have to worry about.’ Having these these visions and presenting them can be really useful for for even if you don't get to that place of like all the countries coming and having a fair where they like, 'look at our wonderful government, come to our city', even if we don't get that far, maybe we can get to a point where it's not: ‘Go away.’ Governments should be working a lot harder for our allegiance.

Elon Musk Has Become the Very Thing He Hates Most - The New Abnormal - Air Date 11-20-23


DANIELLE MOODY - HOST, THE NEW ABNORMAL: There are so many elements of your writing that is truly extraordinary because it isn't just imagining a post-apocalyptic world. It is imagining also what is possible. One of the elements of your writing [00:32:00] that I find that travels throughout is this intermingling between technology and plants. Between how we are utilizing the topography, our plants, the air, water, all of these things, and infusing that with technology. Your buildings are living. Your homes are living. The ships [sic] that Binti travels on is a fish. And so where does that imagination come from? Because it feels like, Oh, this is where our innovation and what it means to be building "green" should be, could be, if we continue to be attached to extraction and violence and mining and things that harm us. So where does that come from? 

NNEDI OKORAFOR: Yeah, that's really good because that's like the core of my imagining when it comes to the future. Like one of my basic philosophies is that nature is the greatest technology. That's the foundation of everything for me. Nature is the greatest technology. [00:33:00] Therefore... and I've always felt that like human technology, if it went more along with nature, we'd be greater. It's like going with the wind, as opposed to against the wind. We could move faster, we could do more if we went with what nature already was constructing because nature is the greatest technology.

So that's always been the standpoint that I come from. When I think about technology, when I think about what do I want to see, and then also looking at things in a not so dystopic way, you know, I feel like a lot of the ways that humanity looks at technology to begin with, is already dystopic because we view nature as something to control, something to jail. And I think that's where we go wrong. And that's like at the foundation of a lot of the technology that we create, that controlling aspect, that need to be the ones, the God of nature, which is, it just doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't make sense to me. And [00:34:00] so I just feel like, if we kind of addressed that within us, and a lot of it is due to ego, a lot of it is due to... the need to control comes out of fear, the need to control is fear. So it's like, I think that if we address that aspect in us and then kind of took it from there, I think a lot of the technologies that we create would be very different. And so, like, when we talk about Binti taking off, leaving the planet, in something living, I know exactly where that idea came from. Because when I think about space and space travel, what would I want to be in? I would not want to be in this bulk dead metal thing. I want to be in something that's alive. I feel more. It just, I'd feel more secure and safe in something that's alive.

And so like this idea of space travel and body and moving around in that way, in that fashion, I think that's where all of that comes from. I just feel like nature is the greatest technology. If we come at it from that point, then you get [00:35:00] living ships, you get living buildings, you get homes that are made of plants that are growing and that those plants are not necessarily things that we can control. There are things that we we move with. So if it wants to grow a room over there, then we figure out, Oh, this is how it... yeah, that's really, that's my philosophy. 

DANIELLE MOODY - HOST, THE NEW ABNORMAL: I love it because your idea, your vision of space and the future to me is a space that I actually want to be in, right? It is one that there is a coexistence and a co mingling between humanity and nature and technology. And I feel As if it's like, we're at this extraordinary tipping point in our reality where every headline is about artificial intelligence, every headline is about the end of humanity, and there was something that I gravitated to during the height of the pandemic in your stories, where I was just like, I need to get the fuck out of this place that seems impossible and move to a place that seems possible. And, you know, part of what is so [00:36:00] beautiful about your stories, too, is that there is both something that is ancient and futuristic elements about them. The tools that your protagonists are using are things that you yourself have researched and found throughout going and traveling in Nigeria and other parts of the continent. And I want you to talk about this one piece because I am so obsessed with it, when you posted it on your Instagram, which was the astrolab. So can you talk about this magnificent astrolab, which I thought, I'm going to tell you, I thought that you created out of your imagination. And then when you posted it, I like went down a Google rabbit hole.

NNEDI OKORAFOR: Yeah, there's so much. Oh my God. It's basically the first GPS. It's the first GPS. It is a tool that helps us to navigate the world. It is an ancient tool. This is not new. And I was obsessed with it [00:37:00] because what I learned about, I learned about it when I was in Sharjah, which is in the United Arab Emirates, they were talking about this device that was perfected by this woman. And then, and first of all, like the idea of, you know, an Arab woman in ancient times perfecting a technological device that reads the stars. I mean, come on. The minute I heard that, I was like, Ohhhh. 

There are times where, like, as a writer, when I hear certain things, I learned certain pieces of information, pieces of history, pieces of things that exist, where it's like something starts vibrating in my head. And when I learned about the astrolabe, I'm like, Oh, my God, this is a big one. And so, like, I immediately became obsessed with it. I went down the rabbit hole that you just talked about going down. And I was like, Why do I not know about this? Why? How did I not hear about, you know, how is this just coming into my orbit? And so, yeah, I mean, so then that went directly into the writing and the philosophy [00:38:00] behind Binti, this ancient... basically it was like talked about in a lot of the research that I was reading that it was the first GPS. And I love the idea of the old in the new. I'm obsessed with the old in the new and tools from the old and knowledge from the old in the new, that one is not better than the other and that they can play off of each other and they can commingle to create something greater. Like, I'm not all about leaving the old things behind, but I'm also not all about acting like new things cannot exist and that some of the old things need to be left behind. Like, it keeps coming back to Nigeria. It comes back to... the way I started writing science fiction was like seeing the juxtaposition and the commingling and the interaction between the ancient and the modern and how they are not always directly in conflict. How sometimes they are at play with each other. Sometimes they are married with each other. The astrolabe was just a great example of that once again, and it's like my favorite subject. So when I discovered [00:39:00] it, my head like just blew up. 

DANIELLE MOODY - HOST, THE NEW ABNORMAL: I bless you for that discovery because then my mind blew up and I was like, I need to understand it. Now I want one.

So, I also want to talk to you about this idea in your Akata series of the 'in between', the wilderness. This in between of the spirit world and our conscious human world. And what it means to bring also in these African traditional ritual practices intermingling with sci fi, intermingling with this idea of magic, and where this in between, this wilderness, came from for you.

NNEDI OKORAFOR: The wilderness... it's like you're bringing up all my themes, cause all of these are connected, all of them. The wilderness is the spirit world, right? But also one of the Igbo tenets, and it's not just Igbo, but I'm Igbo, so that's [00:40:00] where it comes from for me. The mystical and the mundane coexist. So like in a lot of Western ideas, they're separate. So you have to go to these places. They're complete. But the mystical and the mundane coexist at the same time. It's almost like the ancient and the modern idea. They're commingling. And that's, when I talk about African Futurism, that's something I need to be understood because it is a worldview. That is the reality. It is not magic. That is the way a certain part of the world thinks and sees the world. That the mystical and the mundane coexist. There are mystical things happening all around us. That's normal. So you take that idea, you take that point of view, And apply it to science fiction, so therefore the mystical can appear in a science fiction narrative. That's what African futurism is.

How We Can Build A Solarpunk Future Right Now (ft. @Andrewism) - Our Changing Climate - Air Date 4-20-22

CHARLIE KILMAN - HOST, OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: Drive out into the high desert surrounding Taos, New [00:41:00] Mexico, and you'll find beautifully unique houses that look as if they were crafted by the elements. These are Earthships, dwellings that are the brainchild of architect Michael Reynolds, who in the 1970s sought to build a completely off grid house that could withstand the extreme cold and heat of New Mexico.

Earthship design principles focus on core tenets like passive heating and cooling, using recycled and local materials, and fostering self reliance through integrated greenhouse gardens. And all of these methods are implemented in ways that look right out of a solarpunk drawing. The foundation of an Earthship, for example, is built with recycled tires stacked on top of each other with dirt tightly packed into them.

This not only provides structure, but as Earthship dwellers like to say, it acts as a battery. The sheer mass of an Earthship's walls soak in the warmth of sunlight during the day, which the roof is perfectly angled to let in the right amount, [00:42:00] and then the wall slowly emits that collected heat out into the room during the cold of the night.

As a result, some Earthship owners claim to not need any external heating sources. The Earthship is built around living with, and embracing, the natural world. It does so with technologies that are tangible and readily available. It uses other people's trash, like old tires and glass bottles, and the dirt around them to build something that's appealing and comfortable. And it does this in a way that ties people to the land. 

But to live in an Earthship is not some Eden. There are drawbacks. For one, recycled tires do eventually break down, releasing toxic gases into the air. Reynolds and Earthship builders claim that plastering the walls around the tires Protects homeowners from this off gassing. But other builders claim that you would have to be constantly sealing up cracks to have peace of mind. And claims of independence from the water grid through rainwater collection [00:43:00] are dubious in desert climates like Taos. And if you're hoping to heat your house through sunlight in an Earthship in a cloudy area, think again.

While Earthships certainly aren't perfect, they offer up promising ideas of how to integrate nature into everyday living. They are a solarpunk answer to the question, How can we live comfortably with the natural world? They won't work everywhere, but individual pieces of them can be integrated into housing anywhere.

Imagine homes using passive heating and cooling systems so they don't have to run the air conditioning or heating all the time. Imagine building gardens within a house. Imagine incorporating filtered rainwater into our plumbing. And imagine building a house with as many local and recycled materials as possible.

The Earthship shows us that there are already ways to live well and lightly on the land right now. And it does so in a way that melds low tech and [00:44:00] high tech ideas into a beautiful structure. This is solarpunk, finding the appropriate technologies to build aesthetically stimulating and livable dwellings that tie us tightly with the landscape.

Along the Hudson River in New York, Sam Merritt runs a zero carbon shipping company. No, he doesn't run a fleet of electric trucks, nor does he bike. Merritt ships local goods up and down the Hudson River by sailboat. That's right, in the age of massive gas powered cargo ships making globe spanning trips, Merritt has created a fossil fuel free cargo company based on sailing, one that is at the whims of the weather and the seasons, but makes the buyer appreciate the ebbs and flows of the natural world around them. This epitomizes a solarpunk future. Solarpunk envisions a world in which the technologies we use help us to appreciate and tune into the rhythms of the planet, and sailing in the 21st century has the potential of making that [00:45:00] happen.

Merit shows us that it's already feasible to do on a small scale, and when considering that sails and ropes for ships could support a thriving hemp farming operation that sequesters thousands of tons of carbon with each crop, Sailing cargo locally is an appealing possibility, but sailing in the 21st century runs the gamut of low tech rigs like Merritt's schooner to futuristic technologies that are beginning to see their first real world tests.

Right now, engineers and cargo companies are in the midst of wrestling with the polluting reality of international cargo, and are on the hunt for high tech solutions for big shipping. While solarpunk emphasizes the local, it can still embrace global travel and transport with emerging technologies, like retrofitting cargo ships with column-like sails that reduce fuel use by possibly as much as 30%, or future-thinking cargo ships with retracting rigid sails.

A solarpunk future that involves [00:46:00] international cargo recognizes the need for these high tech sailing solutions because they are appropriate for their high seas context. But what's important is that these high tech cargo ships are not viewed as a silver bullet. In a regional or local setting, hemp sails and schooners are a much more suitable and nature reliant solution.

So while a solarpunk future might envision rigid sail cargo ships traversing the open ocean to facilitate a thriving hemp trade between continents, a smaller canvas sailboat might bring those goods the last mile to markets. But at this point, you might be thinking, wait, wouldn't sailing mean that there'll be delays? Won't everything take a long time to get to me? To that, I would say that solarpunk does not prioritize Amazon Prime-like convenience. That kind of convenience is something people in the imperial core will have to learn to do without. It comes at the cost of the planet, and the people forced to work grueling [00:47:00] conditions and hours to get that package to your front door in one day.

Solarpunk envisions a world wherein we don't have to crush people and the planet in order to find comfort in our lives. So, yes, things might be a bit slower, but I would gladly slow down my life. If it meant that my community and my surroundings thrived. 

Although Earthships and sailing cargo do exist in this world, they aren't prevalent. Looking around, I usually see the plumes of smoke rising from cargo ships, not the undulating waves of a sail, and I see concrete buildings instead of earth-packed dwellings. So, what's holding us back? There is no simple answer. There are a huge host of reasons, but when it comes to these beautiful solarpunk worlds that artists around the world have begun to render, I can't help but think about, you guessed it, capitalism.

The profit centered global economy we've built, has driven us to create [00:48:00] technologies that, for the most part, function to expand margins and make more money for the capitalist class. Ideas and inventions that can't compete in the market, regardless of whether they are zero carbon or build community health, are pushed to the margins. Merritt's sailboat cargo company is a novelty because it can't compete with the monopoly of Amazon Prime or industrial shipping companies like Maersk. 

Solarpunk dares us to dream of a world outside of capitalism because even though these technologies do exist right now under capitalism, they are not widespread or "successful". The labor required to ram hundreds of tires full of dirt for an Earthship, for example, would bleed someone's bank account dry, while the wind reliant nature of a sailboat means that it can't provide the regimented convenience of one-day shipping. 

Combining low and high tech solutions, solarpunk demands a future built not on profit, but instead on [00:49:00] community and a strong relationship with the natural world. So, instead of focusing on technologies that make the most profit, solarpunk urges us to seek out ideas and tools that deepen our interpersonal relationships, as well as our ties to the earth beneath our feet. 

The Race to Cooperation - Your Undivided Attention - Air Date 2-2-23

ASA RASKIN - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: David, I think you have a story about chickens that might help explain this. Starting with the question, where do the noble traits come from and the conundrum that hit Darwin when he is like, "There's a thing that my theory can't explain." And that seems like a really gripping way to get people into these questions.

DAVID SLOAN WILSON : Yeah, I actually used a story in my conversation with His Holiness, the Dalai lama, which was an interesting experience and it bears directly on animal welfare. So I mean, this is a cool example with many implications, but it's also something which is important in its own right. So I mean, let's say that you're an animal breeder and you want to breed a strain of chicken that [00:50:00] lays more eggs. What do you do? So chickens have always lived in groups, nowadays, it's cages, I'm sorry to say, but you have many groups of chickens. You monitor the egg laying of each hen and then you select the most productive hen to breed the next generation of hens. So that seems to make sense except what you've actually selected is the biggest bully within each group. And after five generations, you've bred a strain of hyperaggressive hens that are literally murdering each other, plucking each other's feathers in their incessant attacks. And so, what seems to be like a benign form of competition turns out to be pathological.

So back to the drawing board. Now, let's say you monitor the productivity of whole groups and you select all the hens within the most productive groups to breed the next generation of hens. Now, you get a strain of cooperative hens that don't bully each other. 

And so, now in both cases, there's competition. [00:51:00] Competition is not a bad thing. In fact, competition is needed for change, but it's the level of competition in this case that makes all the difference. And that's what Darwin discovered way back when. And it was a gradual process for him because at first, he thought that his great theory could explain everything that had been attributed to a creator. But gradually he realized that traits that involved doing unto others was the one thing he couldn't explain. Because if natural selection is about favoring individuals that survive and reproduce better than other individuals, then it's the pro-social individual that loses that contest. But what Darwin realized was that there is the version of the second chicken experiment that even though selfishness beats altruism within groups, groups of altruists will robustly outcompete groups whose memories cannot cohere. 

And so, the second part of that statement is altruistic groups feed selfish groups, everything else is commentary. [00:52:00] And so, self-preservation is a good thing. Self-dealing is not. Helping kith and kin a good thing until it becomes nepotism and cronyism. My nation first, a good thing until it leads to international conflict. Strong growing economy is a good thing until it leads to global warming. And so, what you find is almost everything that we see is a problem, everything pathological, is actually a form of cooperation at a lower scale. And so, that is not hard to understand, but it explains so much that what we think we want actually gives us a world that we don't want. And this is why evolution doesn't make everything nice. It's what all creatures, all life forms inflict upon each other unless the levels of selection are configured the right way.

ASA RASKIN - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: This is so profound that I think it's worth stopping and dwelling on because [00:53:00] it is a root diagnosis for climate change, for inequality. Every time that what's good for me is bad for a group above me or our nation, or what's good for our nation is bad for everyone, that can be explained by seeing the world through this competitive landscape and then asking, "At what level are we optimizing for?" and when we look then through the lens of tech, we are almost always optimizing for individuals, individual usage, individual engagement. So would it be surprising at all that it would cause the thing above it, like groups, coherence, governance to start breaking?

TRISTAN HARRIS - HOST, YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: Yeah, your point about the chickens, I think, it's really worth pausing for people. So if I'm optimizing for what's the most producing chicken, if I just make a transplant of that metaphor to [00:54:00] Twitter, what's the most producing attention user on Twitter? Well, it's going to be the out grouping, aggressive, loud mouth, cynical, commenting on everything as loudly as possible because that's what's going to get me the most attention. And so, how do we create these cooperative mechanics is what the core of your whole work is. And I would like for you to respond to the idea that cooperation is for patsies, the peaceful tribes get killed by the warlike tribes, Daniel Schmachtenberger talks about that. The extractive energy economies win over the sustainable energy economies because they just get more resources and then kill the other guy and take their stuff. What you're talking about is a flip to the logic. How do we switch from this kind of ruthless Hobbesian war of all against all individual selection into this group selection?

DAVID SLOAN WILSON : It's here that we could begin to outline an optimistic picture about how the end of the day we really have a blueprint, you might say, an optimistic blueprint for how to make things better at all scales, all contexts, [00:55:00] including the global scale. But it begins with, I need to add a new concept which is the concept of major evolutionary transitions. And so, in nature, I mean, so often, we think that nature left to itself strikes some kind of harmonious balance. We could look at ecosystems or something and there's wisdom for us to learn and so on. But certainly most primate societies, including chimp societies, one of our closest ancestors, you would not want to live in those societies. Those societies would be despotic in human terms, naked aggression is over a 100 times more frequent in a chimp community than in a small scale human community.

And so, in most species and ecosystems, you see some cooperation, but you also see a lot of disruptive self-serving behaviors. But sometimes what happens is you get a shift in the balance. So that basically [00:56:00] altruistic groups beating selfish groups is what prevails. And when this happens, the higher level unit, the group actually becomes the new organism. And that explains what makes our species so special. Unlike so many animal societies where there's a little cooperation and a lot of competition, our ancestors evolved mechanisms to suppress bullying behaviors. So that between group selection became the predominant evolutionary force. And so, that's a major evolutionary transition. We're selected to cooperate originally in small groups, of course, just very small groups. But nevertheless, that cooperation caused the group to be the organism to a large extent.

And so, cooperation is required to explain our nature as a species. And I think it's become clear, it's a guarded form of cooperation. It's not just that we evolved to be nice, it's that we evolved to be vigilant [00:57:00] and capable of defending ourselves against within group disruption. And so, if human history is a process of cultural evolution leading to ever larger scales of cooperation. So you can't just say the cooperation often loses, absolutely not. Cooperation wins much of the time and we need to cause it to win more so in a larger scale.

Summary 12-5-23

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Andrewism, looking at why our general conception of human nature is wrong. Against the Grain explored the theme of human nature even further. The Human Restoration Project looked at the relationship between our education system and nihilism in the youth. The New Humanitarian looked at the benefits of Si-Fi with a positive vision for the future. The New Abnormal looked at Si-Fi that incorporates traditional knowledge into the future. And Our Changing Climate looked at architectural design techniques that can be an inspiration for building in a way that [00:58:00] works with nature rather than against it. 

That's what everybody heard. But numbers also heard a bonus clip from Your Undivided Attention, looking at the relationship between culture and evolution, and the benefits of working cooperatively and not always in competition with one another. To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership, because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

And now we'll hear from you.

Geoengineering concerns - Bud from Idaho


VOICEMAILER BUD FROM IDAHO: Hi, Jay. This is Bud from Idaho. I was just listening to your climate change episode, #1594, and I'm very interested in some of the geothermal options. I especially was impressed with the idea of using existing oil drilling resources, I [00:59:00] guess you would say. But the scariest part of it was the idea of geoengineering. There's two main things that I'm concerned about. One was that what you concentrated mostly on was reflecting solar away. And my fear there is probably two or three fold. One is that my freshly installed solar array might not work as well, and I may have to expand that. I would imagine that they would take that into consideration and that would be one of the first. The other two things that concern me about that are how long would it last, or would it be reversible? And then the other is, it sounds like, if I'm understanding what he said, this would cause more acidification of the oceans and more acid rain. So, I suppose it's all on a spectrum. If the water's cooler, maybe it won't be quite as acid? I don't know. [01:00:00] And then, finally, the last thing that concerns me about solar reflection, I guess, is that the - I'm assuming this, I don't have any actual - but, really anything to do with geoengineering would have to be done on such a scale that any unforeseen results, any unforeseen consequences, would also be on a global scale, which is very frightening. But, it was still a very informative episode. Keep up the good work. I'll talk to you next time.

Final comments clarifying some details about using Solar Radiation Management as a geoengineering strategy

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: Thanks to those who call into the voicemail line or write in their messages to be played as voicemails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record or text us a message at 202-999-3991, or send an email to [email protected]. 

Thanks to Bud for calling in with his concerns. I will do my best to address them all, I think. Not that I can explain them away,[01:01:00] because there are some real concerns here, but I can at least add some clarification. So, the first was reducing the solar energy efficiency, like on Bud's personal personal solar array. I can't speak to this one directly, but I believe we are talking in terms of reducing the percentage of solar radiation in the very low single digits. Of course, all of this is subject to change and needs more research, et cetera. But I believe that they're looking at only reflecting in the range of 1 to 2% of the sun's radiation hitting the earth away. So yes, that could impact solar energy generation. But not hugely. 

Then there was a question, how long would it last and is it reversible? And we are certainly getting into the crux of the matter here. In terms of it being reversible that's like a "yes", with a giant asterisk. So, the sulfur dioxide that would be [01:02:00] injected into the stratosphere naturally dissipates in only a few years. So if we tried to do this for like a year and we didn't like the result, then yes, it is reversible in a fairly short amount of time. But the question of how long we would choose to make it last is a stickier problem. In theory, we should only need it for as long as it takes us to decarbonize our society. But, even if we do it really well, that's going to be probably a decades long process. Right? And because the capacity of the atmosphere to trap heat is continuing to go up, if we were to start solar radiation management, we really wouldn't want to stop it once we'd been implementing it for more than just a few years. Because if we were to stop, there would be a shock to the system. As the shading effect wore off in a short amount of time and the [01:03:00] full impact of the warming would be felt, it would be sort of sudden and could be dangerous. So, if we do go down the path for more than a few years, we'd really want to be totally committed to the project and avoid going off of it to avoid the shock effect that could be dangerous. 

But now for some good news. Solar radiation management does not make ocean acidification worse. So, I think there was a bit of misinterpretation there. Ocean acidification is caused by an over abundance of carbon in the atmosphere. So, we're already causing that problem. Solar radiation management prevents as much heat from entering the system from the sun. But it doesn't increase nor decrease the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or how much of it gets absorbed by the oceans. So the point that Mike was making is that solar radiation management isn't a cure-all[01:04:00] and gave ocean acidification as an example of, like, See? This isn't going to be fixed by it. And so we should all understand that using solar, radiation management, is not an excuse to continue to do anything other than decarbonize the economy as quickly as possible. I think there was a double negative in there. No one should say, Okay, now we don't have to decarbonize as much because, you know, we're shading the sun, so it's okay. We don't have to worry. No, no, no, no. Because ocean acidification is still a major problem, we need to deal with it regardless. 

Now as for acid rain, that's a problem when sulfur dioxide is in the lower atmosphere, like we get from dirty cargo ship fuel emissions. The idea for the intentional geoengineering using the same chemical is that it would be put into the stratosphere. So, you get the same shading effect without the direct air pollution that impacts people. At least that's the [01:05:00] idea; as always, more research needed. 

And finally, concerning the unintended consequences that would be felt globally, that's definitely what further research would attempt to work out. And yes, some of it would be unavoidable and negative. But that's why we need enough information to be able to make a comparison between bad options. We already know that the status quo is a really bad option. So, what kind of problems are we going to create with this other idea and how do they compare with the terribleness of the status quo? 

But on that note, I did hear one pretty good idea that addresses multiples of these concerns. It was suggested that the solar radiation management program should only aim to reduce the warming of the planet by half of our actual goal. So say we're headed for a two degree increase over comfortable temperatures. We shouldn't reflect enough sunlight to reduce the warming [01:06:00] by two degrees, but by only one degree, and here are the benefits. One, it doesn't stop anyone's motivation to decarbonize because temperatures are still rising, just slower to give us more time to react. But still, we need to react. And two, if we aim to reduce the warming by only half, then hopefully the unintended negative consequences would also only be half as intense. And therefore more manageable. Which really brings us back to the need for international cooperation and agreement on a path forward. And that can only come with more research and information to make informed decisions. And of course the best case scenario is that we do the research and then we ended up not needing to use it after all because of a combination of other factors like new high-tech geothermal power that no one predicted until recently. Fingers crossed. 

That is going to be it for today. If you have any more thoughts or questions to add, please send them my way. Thanks [01:07:00] everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken, Brian, and LaWendy for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at You can join them by signing up today and it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, right along with a link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show, from 

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#1595 Pushing for Medicare For All in the Laboratories of Democracy (Transcript)

Air Date 11/29/2023

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JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we are honoring the death of Medicare For All activist Ady Barkan, who passed away this month, by looking at the progress of the movement for universal health care, as well as the efforts to reign in the power of Big Pharma that's used to gouge the American people with exorbitant prices for life-saving prescription drugs. 

Sources today include Democracy Now!, The Weeds, Code WACK!, the Thom Hartmann Program, Economic Update with Richard Wolff, and The Laura Flanders Show, with an additional members-only clip from The Brian Lehrer Show.

Healthcare Activist Ady Barkan Dies of ALS; Watch His 2021 Interview on Demanding Medicare for All - Democracy Now! - Air Date 11-27-23

AMY GOODMAN: Healthcare activist Ady Barkan has died at the age of 39 of the neurodegenerative disease ALS. After his diagnosis in 2016, Ady Barkan dedicated his life to the fight for single-payer healthcare. He continued to speak out even after ALS left him physically unable to talk, communicating with a computerized system that [00:01:00] translated his eye movements into spoken words. In 2019, Ady used the device to deliver powerful opening remarks at the first-ever congressional hearing on Medicare for All. His story is told in the documentary, Not Going Quietly. In 2021, I spoke with Ady Barkan just ahead of the film’s premiere.

 We end today’s show with one of the most remarkable healthcare activists in the country. His name is Ady Barkan. He’s a 37-year-old lawyer and father who’s dying of terminal ALS. Since his diagnosis in 2016, Ady has dedicated his life to pushing for Medicare for All. He’s continued to speak out even after losing his voice. He now uses a computerized system that tracks his eye movements and turns them into spoken words. Ady’s story is told in the new documentary, Not Going Quietly. This is the trailer.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Now, I want to have a chance to tell the story about my friend Ady Barkan.

JON FAVREAU: He’s been an [00:02:00] activist and an organizer all of his life.

REP. JIM McGOVERN: With us today is Ady Barkan. I can’t do Ady’s story justice. I will let him tell it.

ADY BARKAN: After Carl was born, we felt like we had reached the mountaintop.

Say hi.

And then, out of the clear blue sky, we were struck by lightning.

I was diagnosed with ALS today.

The knowledge that I was dying was terrible, but dealing with my insurance company was even worse. I wanted to spend every moment I had left with Rachael and Carl, but then Congress came after our healthcare. I couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

BROOKE BALDWIN: My next guest made headlines when he confronted a Republican senator on an airplane.

ADY BARKAN: This is your moment to be an American hero.

All right, ready to rumble.

We decided to start a movement.

To urge [00:03:00] people to stand up, confront the elected officials.

Paul Ryan, I’m going to knock on your door!

REPORTER: Did you just get out of jail? Are you going to keep protesting on Monday?

ADY BARKAN: [bleep] yeah!

PROTESTERS: What do we want? Healthcare!

ADY BARKAN: I am willing to give my last breath to save our democracy. What are you willing to give?

Liz, I’m having trouble breathing.

LIZ JAFF: I think we have to stop.

ADY BARKAN: Our time on this Earth is the most precious resource we have.

Carl, I love you so much.

Movement building allows me to transcend my body. And that’s the beauty of democracy, that together we can be more than our individual selves.

AUDIENCE: Ady! Ady! Ady!

ADY BARKAN: [00:04:00] The paradox of my situation is, the weaker I get, the louder I become.



AMY GOODMAN: The trailer to the new documentary Not Going Quietly. It premiered last night in Los Angeles and tonight at the Angelika theater here in New York. On Thursday, just before the L.A. premiere, I had a chance to speak over Zoom with Ady Barkan, who was at his home in Santa Barbara, California.

 Ady, I wanted to start off by saying this is one of the great honors of my life to be talking to you. So, thank you so much for making this time, right before the documentary is airing about your life.

Let me start off by asking you about the enormous emphasis on healthcare in this country right now, even in the corporate media, because of the pandemic. Yet [00:05:00] there is very little talk about Medicare for All, an issue you have dedicated your life to. Can you talk about why you have dedicated yourself to this issue?

ADY BARKAN: That is so generous, Amy. Thank you for your career of leadership.

Only a truly radical departure from our exploitative, for-profit model to one that guarantees healthcare as a right for all will ensure that we no longer live in a nation where people go bankrupt on account of their medical bills. Take this last year as a prime example of the breadth of cruelty possible in our for-profit healthcare system. COVID disproportionately devastated poor communities and communities of color. Death rates in Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities were over twice that of their White counterparts. Millions lost their jobs and, as a result, their health insurance. Hospitals that [00:06:00] primarily serve Medicaid patients shut down, prioritizing profits over people. Meanwhile, private insurers saw their profits double, because Americans delayed much-needed care. A system that profits off of death and people forgoing medical care is a system that is beyond repair. We need Medicare for All now.

AMY GOODMAN: What gives you the strength, Ady, to be the relentless activist that you are?

ADY BARKAN: You know, building a progressive movement means having your heart broken all the time. This comes with the territory. We organize for a better world, not in spite of our own pain, but because of it. We push forward because we are faced with no other option but to struggle for our freedom.

These last five years have been really tough, both personally and also collectively as a society. But take a breath and look around. You will find evidence of the profound beauty that our society has forged from the depths of pain, [00:07:00] especially this past year. Of course, there is a lot of work to be done. But placed in this context, it means there is also more community, more creation and more healing that is bound to emerge from our labor.

Why your health insurance is tied to work - The Weeds - Air Date 10-18-23

DYLAN SCOTT: The whole idea of a medical profession was pretty new. Like, up to that point, you know, there'd been, people might have gotten care at home, maybe there was somebody in your community who served as more of like an informal healer kind of person, but, like, medical science was in its very rudimentary forms. 

You know, it was around that time, the turn of the century, when medical did start to become more professionalized. You saw the creation of, you know, formal medical schools, different kinds of credentialing and accreditation, and hospitals. More hospitals started to be constructed and started to become a center where people might receive critical kinds of healthcare if they were really sick or got injured or something like that.

So, around that time people were sort of, like, Alright, maybe, you know, having to pay just [00:08:00] full freight every time I show up at the doctor or go to the hospital isn't the best way to do this. So, you started to see some early experimentation with different kinds of health insurance. One famous example, back in the Dallas area in the 1920s, there was this group of teachers who came to an agreement with Baylor University Hospital that, like, they could go to the hospital for so many days per year if they, you know, were paying this monthly payment, an early version of a premium, in order to be guaranteed that kind of access. What emerged over time was the Blue Cross, a form of hospital-based insurance, like coverage specifically for hospital services. And in parallel, you know, the physicians, doctors out in the community, family doctors who didn't see people in the hospital, they saw that model emerge and they were like, Hey, we, like, want to get in on the same idea. And so the Blue Shield version of plans emerged in the 1920s and 1930s. 

So, this was a pretty, you know, informal, totally, you know, locally driven kind of organic [00:09:00] system for providing an early version of health insurance for people, you know. It wasn't necessarily comprehensive, but the insurance scheme that would emerge in the United States was starting to take shape.

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: So, the function of hospitals and doctors changed and, in turn, so did how we paid for them. And then another major change came. This one was largely shaped by the great depression and FDR's New Deal. 

DYLAN SCOTT: In 1932, as dole queues lengthened across America, 13 million were out of work. Nearly a third of the people relied on handouts from private charities. There was no welfare state to help them. His allies in Congress, you know, they wanted the retirement program that would become social security, they wanted other forms of employment support, stuff like that. They were reluctant to include health insurance as part of the New Deal, even though it might have seemed like a natural fit.

Nowadays, people think of social insurance as including health insurance, but in those days it was a much less set [00:10:00] idea, and they were trying to decide what to prioritize, what wasn't worth the risk, and while his advisors cited medical coverage as one possible area for legislative action, as part of the Social Security Act.

Over time, its importance was de-emphasized. You know, they were facing already in those days backlash from doctors, from hospitals, who had partly encouraged these voluntary private insurance schemes in order to kind of stave off a more comprehensive government control of healthcare. And FDR just basically made the calculation that it wasn't worth fighting with the hospitals and the doctors over national health insurance when he had all these other things he wanted to do as part of the Social Security Act and all the other related New Deal provisions.

JONQUILYN HILL - HOST, THE WEEDS: I would love to dig into something that shaped the way American health care functions in the middle of the century, and that's the U.S. [00:11:00] entering World War II. 

ARCHIVAL NEWS CLIP: We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by air, President Roosevelt has just announced.

DYLAN SCOTT: A couple of important things happened. For one, obviously, like, a lot of men of working age who were the bulk of the labor force at that time were instead being deployed overseas to fight the war. And so a lot of women were entering the workforce at that time. Like, there was a real shakeup of the labor force and all of the labor dynamics. 

ARCHIVAL NEWS CLIP: Tens of thousands of women are already at work in aircraft. More are being added as fast as they apply. 

DYLAN SCOTT: Because we had, like, seven million working age men fighting a war instead of working in factories or other jobs, there was a huge labor shortage. Businesses were desperate to find workers and were willing to do a lot and offer all kinds of enticements to try to get people to work in their jobs instead of any of the other many available jobs that were open to them at the time. 

That obviously creates a [00:12:00] concern about inflation, which would obviously be a serious challenge to the economy when it's already on this war footing. So, FDR in what turned out to be a very consequential executive order, issued a directive that wages would have to be frozen. Employers started to work around those new restrictions and they were offering employees other benefits other than just higher wages. And those included the offer of health insurance benefits. 

That kind of starts to become the norm. Employers see this as an attractive opportunity to attract a workforce. And so the Internal Revenue Service decides to lend them an additional hand. In a 1943 decision, the IRS said that health insurance benefits... Being offered by employers to their employees should be exempt for taxation. Now, suddenly, like not only can you offer these additional benefits above people's wages to try to entice them, but then you can deduct the cost of those health insurance benefits from your taxable income. And so very quickly over the course of the 1940s, [00:13:00] there were about 20 million Americans who had some kind of health insurance, and I think we should be clear that, like, this could have been pretty bare bones, but nevertheless, like, they had some kind of health insurance in 1940, just 20 million people. By 1950, 140 million people had some kind of health insurance. 

Rethinking the path to winning single payer - Code WACK! - Air Date 4-10-23

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: The movement to win Medicare for All may be slowed at the federal level, but it's a different story in the states. In 2021 alone, 18 single payer bills were introduced in states including Massachusetts, New York, Colorado, and Oregon. Yet, as the most populous state in the nation, winning in California could be a game changer.

What's the latest single payer bill introduced in California, and how is it different from previous bills? To find out, we spoke to Michael Lighty, president of the Healthy California Now Coalition and former constituency director for Bernie 2020. Hi, Michael, welcome back! It's been such a long time since we've had you on and you've been busy. Tell us what you've been up to. 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, thanks, Brenda. It's great to be here again.

Well, [00:14:00] at Healthy California Now, we've been developing a campaign, ironically enough, called Healthy California Now campaign. And the idea is to create a viable path towards single payer in California, so that we can guarantee health care for all residents of the state that is better, better care and lower cost. The idea is that if we take a set of steps to engage stakeholders, that is people with a real stake in the system, and bring them together to collaborate, at the same time we would talk to the federal government about the kind of approvals that they will do, which are necessary to establish a guaranteed healthcare program in California, that those two tracks can come together and we can create recommendations to the legislature to then ultimately pass a full-scale single payer bill.

This process is embodied in Senate Bill 770, introduced by State Senator Scott Wiener from San Francisco. And the idea of the bill is [00:15:00] essentially that let's set up a process, support discussions with the Biden administration to get an understanding of what they would approve once California formally applies for that approval, and to also bring in folks with a real stake in the system to collaborate and engage with each other to formulate support for those discussions and ultimately recommendations to the legislature on a full-scale program. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: Thank you. As you mentioned, you're working with Senator Scott Wiener on this single payer bill. What's behind the choice to work with him? Does he have a special interest in this issue, or is it mainly because he's on the Senate Health Committee?

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, it is because he's on the Senate Health Committee. It's also true that he has a special interest in this issue. As you may know, San Francisco is certainly a place where, I don't know, 80 percent of the people in the city support Medicare For All-style reform, and he, of course, was a co-author of Assembly Bill 1400 last session in the legislature.

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: [00:16:00] Right. The CalCare bill would guarantee comprehensive, high quality health care to all California residents. 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: So, he's a long-time supporter of single payer, he is on the Health Committee, and he has a reputation for getting legislation done. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: Wonderful. Senate Bill 770 seems to build on the Healthy California for All commission report. Even the campaign is named Healthy California for All now. Can you give us a brief refresher about the commission and its conclusions? 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, it's not a coincidence that these have similar names, because the Healthy California for All Commission came out of work that the Healthy California Coalition had done back in 2018, 2019.

And so, the Healthy California for All Now campaign essentially builds upon the recommendations of the Commission. Because you hear in the media, oh, advocates say it's going to save money to do single payer. Well, in fact, it's the Commission that says we're going to [00:17:00] save money. And we can save money through single payer at huge levels. In fact, the comparison between a single payer approach and doing nothing is $500 billion over 10 years. A half a trillion dollars over 10 years is the difference between doing nothing and adopting single payer. That's a huge amount of savings.

But that's really secondary to the lives saved, 4,000 lives saved, the ending of medical bankruptcy, the ending of medical debt, the ending of out-of-pocket copayments, premiums, deductibles -- gone. And the peace of mind that comes from that and the equity that comes from that -- all of those things were part of the Healthy California for All Commission official report. So if you've got an official report of a pretty diverse group of folks saying, "Hey, this is a better system. We can save lives. We can save money," then of course we want to build on that momentum. And so Senate Bill 770 says, yeah, [00:18:00] legislature, adopt the findings from the Commission, build on those recommendations, and resolve those policy issues that remain from the Commission's work and formulate a program that the legislature can act on.

And that's why we have set up this process. We can't really do it in one fell swoop, but we can do it in sequential steps, building on the commission's report. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: So why can't we do it in one fell swoop? 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: It hasn't worked. We've been trying it since the nineties. And so it's not really like we couldn't do it, it's just that evidence and experience shows we haven't been able to do it that way. And so we need a different approach. And if we can understand what the federal government's likely to approve, use that to inform the legislature. If we can actually get supporters of single payer to collaborate on what policy recommendations they'll make to the legislature, and how we can [00:19:00] finance it, then the legislature is actually in a position to approve it, much more likely than just presenting them with a "take it or leave it" approach. We've got to engage in a process first with the federal government and also among ourselves to collaborate. And that produces a result that we think will be much more likely to succeed. 

BRENDA GAZZAR - HOST, CODE WACK!: Got it. So you mentioned California would have to get federal approval for single payer to move forward. Can you tell us more about the federal waiver process? 

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, the official process under the Affordable Care Act requires that the state legislature pass a bill that then is submitted to Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called CMS, and they decide on whether to approve that application for a waiver of certain provisions that exist in federal law and, as a part of that process [00:20:00] then, the monies that say have been allocated from the federal government to California through the Affordable Care Act, through Medicaid, through other federal programs can be pooled into a single source as the commission anticipated and as, of course, single payer supporters understand.

So the idea then is, in our process, let's get an informal discussion going with the federal government, as the Newsom administration has done, and let's support that, and let's provide assistance to that, and set deadlines so that there's a concrete timeline for getting those informal discussions done, getting a recommendation to the legislature, and then getting the legislature to act while we're certain that the Biden administration is still in position to approve it. So that's the other piece of this: getting the legislature the information it needs to make a timely decision to create that guaranteed healthcare system and to actually [00:21:00] set forward a process to move the Newsom administration and the legislature to a decision.

And that's what we haven't had before either. 

How Can This Predatory Exploitation Be Considered Health Care - Thom Hartmann Program - Air Date 11-15-23

THOM HARTMANN - HOST, THOM HARTMANN PROGRAM: This is also the big thing that Republicans are using to beat up President Biden. And again, the big companies are all in on this. Gas companies jacking up prices. Why? Because they can. Big retail stores jacking up price. Why? Because they can. Amazon did this test -- it had a code name even, where they just randomly jack -- or not randomly, they're very carefully organized -- jacked up prices on things to see what would happen. They made an extra billion dollars in profit, because they have basically monopoly control of the online marketplace. We've got five big insurance companies, too. And we've got five big hospital chains, maybe six or seven now across the United States, but basically we've seen consolidation in those areas as well.

To that, Congressman Ro Khanna, who's a regular on this program -- I'm assuming he'll be back with us on Friday this week most likely, Lord willing and the crick don't rise, and Mike Johnson doesn't do something insane -- but[00:22:00] Congressman Khanna just introduced a state based, it's called the State Based Universal Health Care Act.

See, here's the problem: Vermont and California have both tried to do single payer health care. And in both cases, what stopped them was that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in order to prevent fraud, because these are federal programs, track the dollars as they go to the states, to make sure that those dollars are ending up paying for actual health care services for the individual citizens of those states.

If you're Vermont, for example, with 600,000 citizens, and you've got 70,000 people on Medicare, retired people on Medicare, if you go to a universal healthcare system in Vermont that is entirely paid for by the state, there is no provision for those 70,000 people on Medicare to have that state insurance.

Or, more importantly, Vermont probably has about 100,000 low income people on Medicaid. There's no provision [00:23:00] for Medicaid for that money to continue to come into the state. If you say, we're going to do it ourselves, suddenly the Medicaid money vanishes, the Medicare money vanishes. And the state can't afford to do it any longer.

So this waiver would be a waiver to those laws around Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs, WIC and all these other programs, that would say these programs can, instead of directing their money to the individuals in the states, they can direct it to the state itself, and the state can roll that into the money that they are using to pay for the healthcare for those individuals.

We need this. So now might be a good time, if you're keeping a list, to call your representatives, this is in the House of Representatives right now. Obviously it's not going to pass with Republicans controlling the House, but still, we need to start building the pressure. Typically it takes a year, two years, three years, sometimes four or five years before a piece of legislation is ripe, before it's got enough support, before it's well known enough that it has enough support that politicians actually take it seriously. 

So the phone [00:24:00] number is 202-224-3121, 202-224-3121. And that gets you to the switchboard in Washington, DC. And just say, Congressman Khanna has introduced the State Based Universal Health Care Act that provides waivers for states that want to go single payer. Please support it. It's that simple. He said, "Our failing healthcare system, where millions are burdened by debt and nearly half of all Americans report struggling to afford the care they need, has increased the demand for state and federal action. We must empower states, including those such as California and New York that are working to create state based, single payer healthcare systems to guarantee that their residents can get the care they need when they need it." Great stuff. Important stuff. This is what we need to be doing. 

And, this is how Canada got single payer healthcare all across the nation. The province of Saskatchewan, their equivalent of a state, Saskatchewan did it first, Tommy Douglas was the governor, the premier, and he put into place single payer healthcare system in [00:25:00] Saskatchewan back in the 1960s, and pretty soon, next door, Alberta said, hey, that's kinda cool, we want that, and then Ottawa said, hey, we want that, and then British Columbia, oh no, we want that, and then, Ontario said, we want that, and pretty soon the whole country had it.

This is how you do it.

Biden vs. Big Pharma Medicare to Begin Negotiations to Lower Price of 10 Costly Drugs & Insulin - Democracy Now! - Air Date 8-30-23

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: The Biden administration has taken a step to rein in the soaring costs of prescription drugs in the United States. On Tuesday, the White House released a list of the first 10 prescription drugs Medicare can negotiate lower prices for. The list includes medication used to treat diabetes, cancer and heart disease. The Biden administration also added some insulin products, which surprised many. The White House says the price negotiations could lead to a savings of some $100 billion over the next decade. The move is seen as a major blow to Big Pharma, which has been fighting the plan in courts, filing at least eight lawsuit [00:26:00] since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, which gave Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices. President Biden spoke Tuesday.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Big Pharma is charging Americans more than three times what they charge other countries, simply because they could. I think it’s outrageous. That’s why these negotiations matter. Reducing the cost of these 10 additional drugs alone will help more than 9 million Americans. And by September 2024, HHS, Health and Human Services, is going to publish the prices it negotiated. In January of 2026, the new prices will go into effect.

AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont responded to the news by saying much more needs to be done to stop Big Pharma from charging higher prices in the United States. Senator Sanders pointed out one diabetes drug made by Merck costs $547 [00:27:00] a month in the U.S. but just $16 in France.

Joining us now is Peter Maybarduk. He’s director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program.

Welcome to Democracy Now! So, talk about why this has taken so long, but also why this is such a landmark announcement from President Biden and Vice President Harris.

PETER MAYBARDUK: Well, it’s obviously terrible that Medicare hasn’t had the ability to negotiate prices until this point. It was a corrupt deal when the Medicare prescription drug benefit was created nearly 20 years ago. And Pharma was against the reform, until it was for it, because it was able to ride out the possibility of negotiation. And so, since that time, a generation of health advocates have been working to give the government the basic right to negotiate drug prices with the monopolists [00:28:00] that our laws create and support. Countries around the world have that right. And not negotiating makes, obviously, our drug prices high and our tax dollars not go as far.

So, this list, long-expected announcement coming shortly after the one-year anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act, shows us where our government will begin negotiations, based on some of the most — the drugs that are most expensive to Medicare. And we expect the savings to be quite substantial. It includes six very commonly used medications to support heart health and fight diabetes. My father-in-law takes four of these drugs. They’re very important to seniors. It also includes three very expensive rare disease drugs, or drugs against arthritis and a blood cancer. But, as you mentioned, the inclusion of insulin is a welcome surprise — well, not just insulin, but six insulin products sold by Novo Nordisk, something that Insulin [00:29:00] for All activists have been fighting for for quite some time. One-point-three million Americans ration insulin. And this is another step toward breaking the back of the insulin cartel, that we’re very glad to see.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Peter, why so few drugs in the first batch that are going to be negotiated, compared to the thousands of drugs that are out there? And also, doesn’t this take effect, people will only feel the impact, in 2028? Why so long a period of time?

PETER MAYBARDUK: So, there’s a statutory mandate. They have to begin with 10 drugs, but they will add 15 drugs in the following year and another 15 drugs in the year after that. So the impact is going to grow substantially over a period of time. We, of course, would have liked to see the initial legislation be more aggressive and bring more drugs immediately into the negotiation portfolio. The VA negotiates on behalf of veterans already. They handle it with a large number of drugs. But this is the deal that was cut. But that [00:30:00] impact is going to grow.

The prices will take effect on January 1st of 2026, and it does take some time. There will be a negotiation. There will be an exchange of information this fall with the companies. CMS, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will sit down with patient groups and hear their perspective. And then there will be an initial price offer from the government in February and negotiations next summer.

But the Inflation Reduction Act, more broadly, already is having positive impacts on drug prices. Beyond the negotiation provisions, there are measures to curb price spikes — the “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli problem — that also is a standard industry practice, to increase the prices of their drugs that are already on the market year by year. In fact, AARP found that for the top 25 Medicare drugs, Pharma has tripled the price of those drugs since they came on market. Prices are going up, not down, after they put a drug on market. Anyhow, the Inflation Reduction Act also [00:31:00] includes, and has penalized so far — CMS, I believe, has penalized about 40 companies for taking price spikes, and ensuring that that practice stops. So, IRA is already holding prices in place for some drugs, and over time we will see price reductions through the negotiation. But, as Senator Sanders mentioned, there is quite a bit left to do and more that needs to be done outside of IRA

Inequality Undermines Health & Healthcare in the U.S. - Economic Update with Richard D. Wolff - Air Date 11-14-23

RICHARD D WOLFF - HOST, ECONOMIC UPDATE: Here's a question that has come at us, I don't know, for the last two to three years, at least once every other week. And it goes something like this. The United States health system, being the health system of one of the richest countries on the planet, seems to have done really poorly in dealing with COVID, and everybody wants to know why, given the number of people who died, the number of people who got ill, the number of people suffering long COVID, and all of that. Was it the president, Mr. [00:32:00] Trump, at the time? Was it the government that had the bad, wrong policy? Or was it part of an older and larger problem of poor health in the United States? What does your research suggest is the explanation for the poor performance of the United States?

STEPHEN BEZRUCHKA: Let's begin by looking at the term you used, "U.S. health system". That implies that there's some structure in the country designed to produce health. Now, health is different than healthcare. So, I tell my students every time, when you use the word health, do you really mean healthcare? So we should be speaking about the U.S. healthcare system, and was it responsible for our shameful COVID outcomes? And that word change makes you realize we conflate the terms health and healthcare in this country all the [00:33:00] time. Just think, we pay for health, access health, get health, insure health. We do nothing of the kind. We pay for healthcare, insure healthcare, get healthcare. So, I always ask the question, do you want health or healthcare? Because most people can't distinguish the two. 

So, then we have to ask, how much does healthcare do for improving health? What is the evidence there? And the evidence is very strong that at best, in terms of averting death, healthcare accounts for at most 10 percent of the ability to avert death. And, uh, you know, since we spend, well, in 2021, 4.2 trillion on healthcare, a sixth of our total economy, and which ends up being about [00:34:00] half of the world's healthcare bill, we're consuming healthcare, and there's no reason that should provide health, 10 percent at best. 

So, what about the COVID outcomes? Well, there are many studies linking COVID outcomes to economic inequality. Among the U.S. States, in a study in 2020, death rates were higher in the states that had higher income inequality. Among 84 countries, the same relationship was seen. There's something about inequality that produces conditions that lead to worse health. And that's, uh, you know, the reason for the title of my book, Inequality Kills Us All. The "kills us all" implies there's none of us that can escape the toxic effects of inequality. 

RICHARD D WOLFF - HOST, ECONOMIC UPDATE: Yeah, it sort of, it reminds me, because historically there's a mountain of [00:35:00] evidence of that. That's why we know about, you know, great plagues and great other moments of collapsed health in the world, because it affected everybody. If you let the poorer part of your people be sick, have bad health, you can't prevent the spread of that, there is no effective way really to do that, so it becomes self destructive even for the rich to allow poverty because it will come back to bite them in the proverbial rear end. 

Big Pharma Explained Why Are Meds So Expensive [& The Solution] - The Laura Flanders Show - Air Date 6-12-23

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: Dana, to you. Can you just underscore for people here who perhaps are unfamiliar or less familiar than they should be with the whole concept of public ownership, what makes that structure different? 

DANA BROWN: So what's happening in California is categorically different, because there's no profit motive here, there aren't shareholders, there's not a CEO in some other country who's making a lot of money for this. The public sector is going to be producing or entering into contracts to produce insulin [00:36:00] at cost or at a little bit more than cost to begin with. So no one's paying this extra amount of money to satisfy Eli Lilly or Sanofi or another corporation, and we as a society benefit. 

I'd also just like to underline that there are huge benefits for everyone. It's not only important to me as an American that Kevin, because he's a great person, gets his insulin, but it's actually important as a taxpayer and a human that millions of people get to participate in the workforce.

And that's also helpful. They pay taxes, right? People get to go to school and participate in their communities. This has economic and social benefits for all of us. 

And last thing, having the public sector take a bigger role in the production and distribution of medicine categorically starts to shift the balance of power.

With some of the examples that Luis brought up earlier, governments are often reluctant to take any action to regulate Big Pharma, for fear that they're [00:37:00] just not going to bring new drugs to market, or they're not going to cooperate with us. And the only reason that works is because they're the only game in town. If Big Pharma are the only folks making drugs, then they have all the leverage. Once the public sector is also making drugs, it starts to rebalance things and erode some of the regulatory capture and open up policy space for other reforms like price transparency and negotiating prices and all of those things.

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: How common is this outside of the United States, Luis? 

LUIS GIL ABINADER: We have seen a number of different public pharma initiatives in countries like Brazil, Sweden, Cuba, and several others. In Cuba, they have the ability not just to manufacture things like vaccines, but also to do the research and the development. And we saw that during the COVID-19 pandemic, where the Finlay Institute and the Center For Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba, both of them, each of them [00:38:00] launched their own COVID-19 vaccines. 

And so because of what we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccine inequity, what we're seeing is an increase in this type of initiatives where governments say we're not going to just rely on Big Pharma to get our vaccines and treatment. We're going to produce it ourselves with public funding and with sovereignty. 

And so for example, now Columbia, which 20 years ago had the ability to manufacture vaccines, but stop ped making those investments, stopped sustaining those public manufacturing capabilities because of neoliberal policies. They have realized that not sustaining that manufacturing capacity was a mistake. And so now they are creating, in the city of Bogota, the facilities to manufacture vaccines and other treatment now with the support of the federal government. 

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: Has the IMF that imposed a lot of those neoliberal structural adjustment programs on countries like Colombia changed? Is it singing a different tune, Luis?

LUIS GIL ABINADER: [00:39:00] Many international organizations are now realizing that the idea that developing countries should do like agriculture or textiles, and rich countries should control the technology, I think across the board, we're seeing international organizations realizing that was a mistake. And also governments in the global South are realizing that not sustaining their manufacturing capacity for things like vaccines is a mistake because you must have access to this type of products, and especially during health emergency, you cannot rely on big pharmaceutical companies that are driven by profit and governed by shareholders. 

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: Kevin, coming to you. Luis conveniently mentioned Cuba, which reminded all of us, I'm sure, of the backlash that's likely to come knocking at Gavin Newsom's reelection campaign. "It's socialism, it's anti the private profit motive, and it's, of course, stepping on the private rights and and freedoms of private corporations." How important is this moment to that [00:40:00] confrontation? 

KEVIN WREN: I think the opposition is purely free market capitalists that are just cutthroat and want to exploit the system. When this bill originally passed in 2020, it passed 31 to 8, so this is a bipartisan effort. In Washington state, where I'm from, we passed insulin copay caps almost unanimously. There was one abstention. This is a bipartisan issue and an apolitical issue, too. These are drugs that need to be regulated like a utility because they offer so much utility to people like me. Roughly 10 percent of the population has a chronic illness and they're exploiting and extorting our need for this drug and it's coming to an end.

LAUREN FLANDERS - HOST, THE LAURA FLANDERS SHOW: We produce this program with no money from private pharmaceutical companies. But boy, there's an awful lot of private pharmaceutical Big Pharma money in media these days. Dana, coming to you, you touched on the democracy questions early on, as did Luis. What's the Biden administration and what's Gavin Newsom up against?

DANA BROWN: You're right that it [00:41:00] makes sense to expect backlash in the current kind of political climate that we're in and also given the power of Big Pharma. But to echo Kevin, A, this is a pragmatic solution that I think is really bipartisan in nature. And the people that conveniently say, oh, it's California, therefore it's a radical thing. But you have to remember the state of Massachusetts has been producing vaccines and other biologics, biologic drugs in the public sector for over 125 years. The state of Michigan used to do it in the public sector; their lab was privatized in the nineties, but now there's a resurgence of interest from a Republican state senator who's been talking to the Democratic governor about reviving that tradition of producing drugs in the public sector.

A, this is a tradition in the United States. We've developed and produced medications in the public sector at various scales, from small public health labs at the municipal level to nationally under the Department of Defense, and this has been going on for [00:42:00] a century or a century and a half.

So really, we're actually just relearning how to do something that we already knew how to do as a country, and in terms of how can the public support, follow the Insulin for all folks on Twitter and social media, they will keep you focused on the prize. And really, I think, too, I, we just have to remember that we are "We the people" and the public sector belongs to all of us, and it's just our job to help remind it that it's supposed to work in our interest.

Bonus The Challenge of Caring for Our Elders Part 2 - The Brian Lehrer Show - Air Date 11-15-23

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Reed, you found that in many instances that was part of what people had to do, that in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage, people needed to reduce their assets. Is that correct? 

REED ABELSON: Yes that's very much correct.

And I think, what's very tough is sometimes you have a couple, and the question then becomes do we spend everything down, but then what happens to the surviving spouse or partner? And that's a truly [00:43:00] difficult decision. We came across some families where the decision was to keep someone at home, even though at times that they were at risk. And we found in other cases, the decision was yes, we'll spend down and hope for the best if the healthier spouse survives.

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: In your reporting, Reed, you note that the U. S., compared to other wealthy countries around the world, really lags when it comes to national response and investment in long term care. But just for our perspective, how far behind are we? How much does the U. S. not invest in these needs? 

REED ABELSON: It's interesting. I think we truly don't invest, we're behind a lot of other European countries. And what's frustrating, obviously, is that there have been a series of attempts, but we've never had the political will, and maybe even the cultural will, to tackle this. 

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: And, that's very much why we're [00:44:00] having this conversation, because obviously if we had better federal policies in place, we wouldn't be worried about the patchwork that doesn't seem to be holding together. But some policies have been proposed. What are some of the measures that Congress has considered, and what kind of political opposition have they faced? 

REED ABELSON: I think there is an argument and, many Republicans argue this, that this is something where people really have a responsibility to save, or to take other planning steps trying to find a long term care insurance policy.

But Congress has tried to address this. President Biden tried to increase some funding so that caregivers were paid more, but that funding was dropped in the final legislation. 

The difficulty is that this costs money. And so far, there just really hasn't been an appetite to fund this kind of care.

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: I want to go to Fred in Manhattan. Fred, thanks for calling [00:45:00] WNYC. 

CALLER: Thank you for taking my call. I am a 67-year-old single son of someone who's about to turn 101. I took care of her sister, her brother, my father. I'm very good at it, and I get them through very old ages in pretty good shape. But it has entirely ruined my career and my earning potential.

And a very specific recommendation that I would make, among many, Is that social security benefits be provided, or the credits be made, for people who basically have given up their own work in order to care for others. If I were a paid caregiver, I would get social security benefits. As someone who cannot be paid because I'm a relative, I had to give up everything. And I do it out of love, and I am proud that I've gotten my relatives to such good ages and such good shape. But there's no awareness of the next generation. When COVID [00:46:00] came, we avoided COVID, but I had to basically lock down with my parent for four years. And she's still alive, and she's still managing, but cannot manage on her own even for five minutes. So it requires constant presence. 

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Fred, thank you so much for your call, and thank you for everything that you're doing for your family. They are very lucky to have you. Reed, what I think Fred is suggesting there in terms of a credit sounds similar to what you said President Biden had attempted to include in the Build Back Better. But it seems to be very hard to get the political will to support those kinds of policies. 

REED ABELSON: Yes. I think it is possible that there could be specific changes to things like Social Security or trying to do tax credits, and I know under Medicaid, some Medicaid programs, family members who are caregivers can [00:47:00] get paid. But it's very difficult, and we don't take a sort of step back and think broadly about how to make lives better for people.

And I do want to echo that one of the true findings was that even when children managed to get their parents through, they were convinced -- and probably appropriately so -- that their own retirement years and older years would be really much more challenging. That they had either spent a lot of money, that they didn't have a pension, that there were a lot of factors that were going to make it even more difficult for them. 

BRIGID BERGEN - GUEST HOST, BRIAN LEHRER SHOW: Some of the other interesting -- there's so much that is in this series that we could talk for a very long time. But I wanted to spend a little bit of time seeing if we can offer some news or information people can use. One of the findings that I was struck by was that fewer than half of American adults have seriously discussed long term plans with a loved one. From your reporting, from everyone you spoke to, what kind of conversations do you think people should be having, and when should they be having them? 

REED ABELSON: I think they should be having them early on, [00:48:00] before there's a crisis. And it's absolutely true that we spoke to a lot of families who were in a crisis mode with having never really talked to their parents about what their financial situation was, and even more importantly, what their wishes were. And so I think that's a conversation definitely worth having. Thinking about, are there steps that one can take now to make it easier later? And what can they do? How can they think about this?

So I agree with you. That was stunning to me that more people hadn't had that discussion. 

Final comments on more good news from the fight against climate change

JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: We've just heard clips today, starting with Democracy Now! replaying an interview of theirs with Ady Barkan. The Weeds explained the origin of our private health care system. Code WACK! looked at California's efforts to implement universal health care. Thom Hartmann explained the process of achieving universal health care one state at a time. Democracy Now! reported on the [00:49:00] Biden administration's efforts to reign in the cost of prescription drugs. Economic Update described the difference between health and healthcare. And the Laura Flanders Show looked at the option of producing vaccines and other drugs as part of the public commons. 

That's what everybody heard, but members also heard a bonus clip from the Brian Lehrer Show, looking at some of the challenges in longterm care for elders. To hear that and have all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly to the new members-only podcast feed that you'll receive, sign up to support the show at, or shoot me an email requesting a financial hardship membership because we don't let a lack of funds stand in the way of hearing more information. 

Now to wrap up today. I just want to acknowledge that we've been a bit more positive than usual, which might feel a bit off-brand for us. I know you don't come to Best of the Left expecting to be uplifted. So, if that's been off putting for you, I apologize. Besides today's [00:50:00] episode looking at some progress being made toward a more just health system, we've recently been looking at positive visions beyond neo-liberalism, hopeful experiments to fight climate change, and, coming up, we're even going to look at some utopian visions to try to counteract all of the predictions of dystopia that we are practically swimming in right now. But not to worry: democracy is still on the brink in multiple countries around the world and, uh, I want to assure you that we will be panicking about that soon enough. 

But for today, I am sorry to say that I have a little bit more positive news to share. Just a day or two after publishing our episode on new high-tech geothermal drilling techniques that have the potential to breathe new life into the geothermal industry and make clean energy from below ground available in vastly more places around the world, this story from the AP caught my eye. The headline is "New Google geothermal electricity project [00:51:00] could be a milestone for clean energy". And keep in mind, the TED Talk that we heard in our climate episode describing this exact new geothermal design was a couple of years ago, and it was talking about how we may be on the brink of implementation. Well, here, we all are already living in the future as this story describes this new power plant that has just come online. From the article, "An advanced geothermal project has begun pumping carbon free electricity on to the Nevada grid to power Google data centers there", Google announced Tuesday. And the CEO of Fervo Energy, that's the company that Google partnered with, says, " I think it will be big and we'll continue to vault geothermal into a lot more prominence than it has been". And this current project is basically just a pilot program to prove the concept. It's adding around 3.5 megawatts of energy onto the grid. And you don't need to know how much 3.5 [00:52:00] megawatts is to know that it's a lot less than 400 megawatts. From the article, "Fervo is using this first pilot to launch other projects that will deliver far more carbon free electricity to the grid. It's currently completing initial drilling in Southwest Utah for a 400 megawatt project. And then the article goes on looking at the bigger picture. It says, "Google announced back in 2020 that it would use carbon free energy every hour of every day wherever it operates by 2030. Many experts believe huge companies like Google can play a catalytic role in accelerating clean energy". And the head of decarbonisation for Google noted that the company was also an early supporter of wind and solar projects, helping those markets take off.

But wait, there's more. The article continues talking about the governmental angle. "Last year, the Energy Department launched an effort to achieve aggressive cost reductions [00:53:00] in enhanced geothermal systems. This month, in announcing 44 million to advanced geothermal deployment nationwide, DOE said the United States has potential for 90 gigawatts of geothermal electricity, the equivalent of powering more than 65 million American homes by 2050". And then finally, it was discussed in Jamie Beard's TED Talk featured in our climate episode that as counterintuitive as it may be for environmentalists, it may actually be former oil and gas engineers who are needed to bring their drilling expertise to the geothermal industry if it's going to be able to scale up fast enough to make an impact. Well, it turns out, unsurprisingly, the CEO of Fervo Energy is a former drilling engineer in the oil and gas industry who's now helping transition away from coal, oil, and natural gas as quickly as possible to reduce carbon emissions, according to the article, and of course make money for his company, obviously. The [00:54:00] article doesn't mention that. And that fact, you know, may very well have been important in the actual working of the company, but it was definitely impactful in terms of the company being able to get funding to do its work. A partner with an investment firm that actually bought into the company, said that they invested "primarily because the company was really ready to start adding energy to the grid while others were lagging behind", and the that, referring to the CEO, "it's a plus that Latimer used to run a drilling rig. It was the right team who knew what kind of company that we're building". And I'll admit it does feel pretty weird to be cheering on oil and gas engineers because I never foresaw that there would be a path for them, not just ideologically, but like literally. I didn't foresee that there would be a path for them to be able to pivot away from fossil fuels. But here we are. 

Oh, wait, there is one last thing. I'm not sure that the point was hit [00:55:00] hard enough in the climate episode - the importance of the fact that geothermal is a 24 7 clean energy source - solar and wind will still have their place undoubtedly, but the biggest criticism of them has always been that the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. And that's true. But it's not just that they can't generate energy during those times, and so that's a bummer, it's that it means that there needs to be some other source of what's called base load power generation that is always partnered with solar and wind. And it's always been assumed that that would need to continue to be some version of fossil fuel or potentially nuclear. And advanced geothermal being a clean energy with the ability to provide base load power 24 hours a day is a real game changer. Again, apologies for all the good news. I'm as surprised as anyone. 

That is going to be it for today as always keep the comments coming in. I would love to hear your thoughts or questions [00:56:00] about this or anything else you can leave us a voicemail or send us a text 202-999-3991, or simply email me to [email protected]. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show and participation in our bonus episodes. Thanks to our Transcriptionist Trio, Ken Brian, and LaWendy, their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic designing, web mastering, and bonus show co-hosting. And thanks to those who already support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at You can join them by signing up today, and it would be greatly appreciated. You'll find that link in the show notes, along with the link to join our Discord community, where you can also continue the discussion. 

So, coming to from far outside the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcast coming to twice weekly, thanks entirely to the [00:57:00] members and donors to the show from

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