Hungary, Soft Facism, and the Future of America

Ten years ago Hungary was a thriving democracy, but today without violence or revolution it has officially declared itself an authoritarian state.

In 2010 Viktor Orban was elected Prime Minister on a wave of populism by fear-mongering LGBTQ citizens and his promise to pass a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, by demagoguing immigrants, and creating bogeymen for Hungarians to fear, like a Muslims “takeover,” the “failing” EU, and George Soros, all of this despite very anti-democratic comments and being perceived as a “clown.”

Since then he “built a wall” to keep out foreign “invaders,” turned to Putin and Russia as a key ally, attacked the media as “fake news” and essentially sidelined them, increased his power, officially declared the country a “Christian” nation despite its founding as a secular country, and if all if this sounds familiar, one of Orban’s key advisors is Trump’s former advisor Steve Bannon.

After years of inching away from democracy, then letting the new normal set in, and inching farther way from democracy again, today Monday March 30th the Hungarian parliament willfully and overwhelmingly handed the entire control of the country over to one man, Viktor Orban.

Today this is Hungary’s new normal:

  • State of emergency without a time limit.
  • Viktor Orban rules by decree.
  • Parliament suspended.
  • No elections.
  • Spreading “fake news” or “rumors” will be met with up to 5 years in prison.
  • Leaving quarantine will land you up to 8 years in prison.

Hungary’s democracy is gone. Gone. And they won’t be getting it back because their largely conservative population doesn’t want it back. They’ve been primed by Orban’s state run media that democracy can take a back seat during Orban’s pursuit to “Make Hungary Great Again.” (His actual slogan.)

This is a warning. This type of “soft” fascism, where democratic tools are used to undermine democracy itself, has already been exported to other countries, like Poland.

Think about where we were five years ago and think about how far conservatives have fallen.

Today the press is “fake news.” Today conservatives look to Russia and shun the EU. Today conservatives ignore outright corruption and allow their leaders to profit from their businesses while funding the leader’s family with taxpayer money. Today the only requirement to being a conservative is your unquestioning loyalty to its leader. Today conservatives fought to give up the greatest constitutional check on the executive, the power of the purse. Today conservatives fought for a president’s right to fire those investigating him, and cheered their demise. Today conservatives fought and cheered to allow a president to bribe foreign governments to interfere in our elections. Today conservatives fought and cheered for the “unitary executive theory,” that if a president does something illegal, even if it is for his own re-election, then must be legal. Today conservatives are taught to embrace conspiracy theory, racism, and xenophobia from a propaganda network calling itself news.

Republicans have put us on this path. This is your future. The 2020 election is your most significant election in this generation’s history.

If you still think it cannot happen here then just remember one fact, Bannon exported Trumpism to Hungary and this is the result.

Brian Stelter is Wrong About Debunking a Left Wing Conspiracy

CNN’s Brian Stelter attempted to debunk what he called a “left wing conspiracy” that Fox News’ Shepherd Smith was forced out because of a secret meeting between Bill Barr and Rupert Murdoch, citing reporting that Smith was considering leaving for weeks.

Reality

First, what is Donald Trump’s Attorney (General) doing secretly meeting Rupert Murdoch, with the owner of his propaganda network, right after Trump complains on Twitter about Fox polling finding a majority of Americans approve of impeachment and removal?

Second, CNN’s Brian Stelter is dead wrong. While it may be true Shepherd Smith was ready to quit Fox News over their dangerous deeper turn to propaganda, there has been a concerted effort by Trump and his administration to push out critical voices at Fox. 

Examples include:

Trump attacks Megyn Kelly, boycotts debate with Kelly as moderator, next interview with Kelly is *fawning*, and Kelly is out a few short months later.

(https://youtu.be/jtYg35zf5mw)

Trump attacks Howard Kurtz after he “crossed bright red line” for embracing Kim Jong Un, Kurtz goes right back to licking Trumps boots again. 

(https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/kyle-drennen/2019/07/16/howard-kurtz-scolds-media-treating-trump-racist-label-fact)

Fox News holds a very popular town hall with Bernie Sanders in Bethlehem, PA, Trump complains Fox is worse than CNN. No more town halls. 

(https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/capitol-ideas/mc-nws-pa-fox-news-bernie-sanders-presidential-town-hall-20190403-q2rr4onlizekpdqch6hwcdb5je-story.html?outputType=amp)

Trump attacks Sandra Smith for straight interview with DNC’s Xochitl Hinojosa, next interview Sandra Smith is combative.

(https://www.mediaite.com/tv/fox-news-anchor-leaps-to-trumps-defense-over-sharpie-gate-claims-we-dont-have-any-evidence/)

After Ed Henry shows Mark Levin is a complete nut, Trump hate tweets Henry 20 times! Henry goes back to being a Trump booster. 

(https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-boosts-attack-on-lying-sht-head-fox-news-reporter-ed-henry)

Shepherd Smith fact checks white supremacist Tucker Carlson, Trump and Carlson coordinate attacks on Smith, Shep Smith quits a few weeks later. 

(https://www.businessinsider.com/shep-smith-left-fox-news-low-ratings-pro-trump-bias-2019-10)

Right-Wing Lie Obama Gave Iran Billions

Talk about Iran around a Trump supporter and they will undoubtedly bringing up Barack Obama secretly flying crates of cash to Iran in the middle of the night as a ransom payment.

Thing is, it’s a lie.

Yes the Obama administration gave Iran $1.7 billion dollars. Yes Iran freed four prisoners on the same day. But the Trump supporter is lying the two are connected or it was a secret.

It’s okay it’s not their fault. Republican media in their attempt to create an alternative reality has told them this lie again:

U.S. Sent Cash to Iran as Americans Were Freed

and again, and again, and again.

Reality

In short

That $1.7 billion was Iranian assets frozen by sanctions in the 1980’s and returned after we lost in arbitration in international court. The transfer of the money was publicly announced months before any prisoner swap.

A longer explanation

In 1979, Iran’s then-monarch Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid $400 million to the United States government to purchase military parts. But that year’s revolution toppled the American-back Shah, the military parts were never delivered, and we kept the money.

To regain its funds, Iran filed a claim against the United States in 1981 in the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, which adjudicates disputes between the two nations. The body, located at the Hague, was established amid negotiations to end the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, in which pro-revolution students took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The US-Iran Tribunal at The Hague on July, 2, 2014 awarded Iran victory in the case.

On January 17, 2016 both Iran and the United States came to terms on a dollar amount settlement. Take note, “Iran will receive the balance of $400 million.”

On the same day the President Obama made a statement regarding the settlement, “Since 1981, after our nations severed diplomatic relations, we’ve worked through a international tribunal to resolve various claims between our countries. The United States and Iran are now settling a longstanding Iranian government claim against the United States government. Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount Iran sought. “

On May 9th, 2016 remaining smaller claims were settled at the Tribunal at the Hague.

With interest on the $400 million dollars over 30 years, that came out to $1.7 billion dollars, which the Obama administration actually got a deal on if they had not settled.

Again all of this has a paper trail, it was open and available at the time, and it all happened and was settled before the hostages were freed.

Was there any connection?

Yes. The ransom payment was used as leverage for a few hours to ensure Iran did release our prisoners on time.

That is nowhere near a scandal or the claims were made by conservative news.

Conclusion

What you could do is chalk this up to bad optics on the Obama Administration part, but I would rather point out the dishonesty in the Republican media to falsely conflate the two.

Donald Trump and Fox News Are To Blame for Mass Shootings

I’d like to point something out about this weekend’s tragic and horrible mass shootings.

NBC and the New York Times reported law enforcement has the El Paso shooter’s manifesto that he posted online a few short minutes before the attacks, which was described as “wildly anti-immigrant” and three pages filled with hatred against immigrants, viewed Hispanics as invaders to Texas and the rest of the United States, and include concepts that the United States is full and white Americans are being replaced by Mexican immigrants.

Where have we heard this before? Let’s break down each point.

ANTI-IMMIGRATION

Trump’s entire platform of “America First” was a pushback on both legal and illegal immigration, and I have cataloged 230 examples of the anti-immigration policies and rhetoric of Trump and his administration. Such as a Muslim ban, refusing refugees, calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and labeling Hispanic and African countries as shitholes.

Some highlights include Donald Trump telling four women of color, one of them a refugee, to “go back to the crime infested countries they came from.

Two days prior, Fox News host Tucker Carlson put on a show where he targeted that same refugee woman of color to “go back to her own country.”

Here is Tucker Carlson in September 2018 arguing “How precisely is diversity our strength?” And then going on to make a point commonly used by ethonationalists that diversity leads to tension and a lack of cohesion.

MEXICANS ARE INVADERS

Donald Trump has run around 2,200 Facebook ads since May 2018 mentioning the word “invasion” referring to immigrants.


Here is Fox News host Laura Ingraham on her podcast in March clearly calling immigrants, specifically Hispanic children seeking legal asylum, are “invaders” and she even pointed out criticism of her using white nationalist language and continued on using the term again.

Here is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in May claiming Hispanics are “plundering our wealth” and America had become a “piñata.”

Here is Fox News’ Tucker Carlson in December 2018 telling his viewers immigration is making the United States “poorer and dirtier and more divided.”

Here is Fox News host Laura Ingraham calling Hispanic immigrants “an invading horde.

Here is Donald Trump claiming without evidence gang members are mixed in with a “migrant caravan” who are part of an “an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!”

Here is Fox and Friends and author Michelle Malkin fear-mongering in agreement a “migrant caravan” is “a full scale invasion.

Here is Fox and Friends host Brian Kilmeade in a discussion that the immigrant “invasion” is full of “diseased.”

Here is Laura Ingraham in June 2018 calling immigrants a “slow-rolling invasion of the United States”

“THE GREAT REPLACEMENT” THEORY

Here is Fox News host Tucker Carlson promoting “The Great Replacement” theory on a show a few weeks ago in July 2019, warning his viewers that countries should not import “a replacement population from the Third World” and instead work to increase their own birthrates.

Here is Fox News host Laura Ingraham falsely claiming Democrats are for open borders and going on to say it’s because they want to “swap out the current American population, with a new population,” one that puts “Spanish on par with English.

Here is Fox News host Laura Ingraham telling her viewers “the America you knew doesn’t exist anymore” because of “demographic change you didn’t vote for.

Here is Lou Dobbs in October 2018 with Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell claiming Jews are funding a “migrant caravan” to change the racial makeup of America.

CONCLUSION

Here is Jared Taylor, one of the most deplorable white supremacists in America today, during a 2011 interview making his case that diversity is a weakness for America, especially “whites,” and is “the source of tension and conflict, all around the world wherever you look.”


Wait! Where have we heard that before?

Above in the list this is the exact same language used by Tucker Carlson on Fox News in September 2018.

Take an academic eye and watch Jared Taylor’s interview. Every point he makes in 2011 is being promoted by Fox News and Donald Trump today. If you closed your eyes and were asked what show you were watching, if you said Tucker, The Ingraham Angle, or Lou Dobbs I wouldn’t blame you.

There is a pipeline that goes directly from neo-Nazis, to Fox News, to the lips of the President of the United States of America.

Take for example, white supremacy sites like Stormfront were pushing a conspiracy theory of “white genocide” among farmers specifically in the country of South Africa, where farmers were being murdered or having their lands seized.

Despite a BBC investigation that found while attacks have been commonplace for some years, murder rates among South African farmers had actually decreased and no mass seizures occurring, Tucker Carlson was promoting this exact same South African white genocide conspiracy theory on his show a few weeks later. A few weeks later.

This idea of white genocide enraged Donald Trump so much, he tweeted he was ordering his Department of Justice to spend time and resources to investigate the plight of “white farmers.”

Think about that. His worldview is in such a place where this claim did not sound dubious and no critical thinking skills were sparked.

Tucker, after seeing advertisers flee and being fact-checked, to this day still continues that debunked “white genocide” conspiracy theory that he plucked from neo-Nazi websites, mentioning it again in June 2019.

These are not hidden code messages of racism, like “state’s rights,” but bullhorn calls to motivate white nationalism.

We’re not racist because of Donald Trump, American has had a racism problem for a long time. We’re not racist because of Fox News, but what Fox News is doing is slowly putting its viewers in lock-step with the KKK and neo-Nazis, by repeating KKK language in increasingly larger doeses it is making white supremacy normal. Making Donald Trump’s white supremacy normal. All for political gain.

You don’t get to spend money and effort to sell racial fears while blocking gun control, than take no responsibility when white nationalists buy into your product then go drive to a heavily Hispanic area and shoot up a Walmart.

How Conservatives Learn Lies

Ever wonder how your friends, family, and co-workers cite out-of-this world crazy statistics and make claims you understand to be completely out of sync with reality.

Introducing PragerU, whose motto “Undoing the damage of the University… five minutes at a time” fits squarely into the anti-intellectualism promoted by extremist conservatives. PragerU isn’t actually a university, or a school, just a website created by Neo-Conservative talk show host Dennis Prager, which pumps out five-minute videos on various topics filled with Republican talking points, skewed facts, and rarely gives quality academic citations.

There are literally hundreds of videos on the PragerU website that cover many right-wing favorites such as, learning how to deny the fundamentals of science, ignore systematic racism in police departments, recognize it’s a compliment when women are sexually harassed, and making anti-Semetism palatable to the public.

For a deeper dive let’s review one of their latest five-minute course on why freshman Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and progressive politicians are wrong about raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour.

First, watch the video. Don’t worry your face won’t melt and your kids won’t turn into little Ronny and Nancy Reagans, but it will help set the stage for the rest of the article and understand their “facts”, but before you do, notice the video’s thumbnail. A sharp, smiling professional CEO Andy Puzder vs. an out-of-focus no-nothing stupid bartender AOC. (Who actually graduated cum laude from Boston Univ. in economics.)

It’s an ugly personal attack right off the bat to prime the viewer the two are not on equal levels, which will set the theme for the classism highlighted in the entire video.

The premise of the video hosted by former Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. CEO and a failed nominee for Trump’s Labor Secretary, Andy Puzder, boils down to two parts:

  • A raise in the minimum wage will result in a massive loss in jobs.
  • If you are lucky enough to still retain employment your hours will be cut.

As far supply-side economic theory goes, Mr. Puzder’s beliefs are very run-of-the-mill. He goes on by making the following claims:

  • Economists everywhere are all in agreement to not raise the minimum wage.
  • A $15 dollar an hour minimum wage is too steep of an increase.
  • A Harvard Business study found for every $1 increase to the federal minimum wage 4 to 10% of restaurants will close.
  • A 2014 CBO study found raising the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour would result in 500,000 jobs lost.

The first problem with these claims, is the same problem all PragerU videos have, there are no citations. Not in the videos themselves, not at the end, not in the video description, and not in the “course” transcript. For instance the host will mention a “Harvard” study, but frequently will neglect to mention the name of the study, the authors, the year, what scientific journal published it, or provide any link or other information about the study. This makes it extremely hard to verify their statements, and because it’s so common it means PragerU is either sloppy or intentionally deceptive.

See for yourself:

Look Mom, no citations!

The second problem with PragerU’s video is it is highly partisan with several politically-charged comments, which makes it hard convince an objective observer that the ideas being presented is coming from a place of honest information sharing.

Some of the partisan comments include:

  • “Progressive politicians love talking about the minimum wage. It makes them sound caring, compassionate, and concerned.”
  • “The left casts the minimum wage debate as a war between employee and employer.”
  • “The progressive politicians mislead voters that it is the right thing to do.”

The only way this information appears to be on-the-level is if you are coming from a far-right ideology, where there are already negative assumptions on the motives of left-of-center politicians baked into your beliefs.

A more intentionally informative video would have explained the different approaches to a federal minimum wage. It would explain the methodology of Democrats in increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, closer to the national living wage of $16 dollars per hour, is to increase the amount of disposable income available to low skilled workers, which would then increase access to health care, food, education, as well as increase consumer spending, which drives an economy.

It could have reviewed some of the alternatives to minimum wages used in other countries, such as a Basic Income, Guaranteed Minimum Income, or Refundable Tax Credits.

But instead the video only focuses on the Republican belief that an increase in the federal minimum wage will increase a business’ costs of production, therefor leading to greater unemployment.

It’s just delivering talking points, nothing else.

Claim: Economists everywhere are all in agreement to not raise the minimum wage.

The video makes this statement in its description and as an overall theme that raising the minimum wage is just a no-brainier, and such a no-brainier it should already be assumed, with some really up-front graphics telling you raising the federal minimum wage is calculated to be “not worth the risk.”

This would be true, if not for the vast body of scientific papers published in respected peer-reviewed journals. The reality is far more complicated.

Many studies find that minimum wage laws reduce employment, and many other studies on the exact same laws find they have little or no effect on jobs. Some 60 years and hundreds of research papers from prestigious universities, government agencies and private organizations have created little consensus on the subject, academic or otherwise.

For example we can take a look at Seattle, which in many ways was the guinnia pig of minimum wage increases, and see one study by Berkeley found a net positive and another found a net negative looking at the same data.

Bottom line, there is no agreement, and this makes this statement by PragerU a lie.

Claim: A $15 dollar an hour minimum wage is too steep of an increase.

The PragerU video puts up a few graphics and makes several statements designed to shock the viewer into believing in the danger of a $15 dollar an hour federal minimum wage.

“It’s more than double the current federal rate of $7.25.” Good God!!!

What is not explained is minimum wage laws, on the local, state, and federal level, all have stages spaced out over several years, giving businesses and organizations the time to adjust.

For example Seattle’s minimum wage gradually increased only by $0.50 per hour for the first five years for small businesses with under 500 employees, and the state of California would increase their minimum wage by $0.50 cents the first year then by $1 over the next five years. This is not at all the dramatic incline like a steep mountain as communicated in the PragerU video.

And $15 dollars an hour isn’t really that big of an increase in the federal minimum wage, because it has fell behind productivity over the past 50 years. This is called the “Productivity-Pay Gap,” and what it means is we are doing more, but getting paid less relative to our output. If wages have kept up with productivity since 1970, the minimum wage would be about $20 per hour.

Again, there is no shock. There is a gradual increase over years. Just another complete misrepresentation of the truth by PragerU, otherwise known as a lie.

Claim: A Harvard Business study found for every $1 increase to the federal minimum wage 4 to 10% of restaurants will close.

This was a claim that was made without any citations, but a little searching of rightwing sites that parrot this exact claim word-for-word made it easy to find the original study which you can read for yourself here.

Reading over the Harvard Business School study entitled “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit” authored by Dara Lee Luca and Michael Luca, first we have to recognize this is a “working paper,” meaning it is a draft that contains preliminary information and had not yet been submitted to the important step in the scientific method of peer review.

This doesn’t mean because PragerU is citing a working paper means the data and conclusions being presented are invalid or wrong, but needs to be placed in context that the data and conclusions have not yet gone through the rigor and process of being double-checked by other experts in the same field that comes with every scientific study.

This important distinction is something that PragerU does not communicate to the viewer, hiding the fact that this is a draft.

Moving on to the contents of the Harvard Business School study, the premise and conclusions are actually not accurately represented in the PragerU video, which claims the study’s findings are “Each $1 increase in the minimum wage results in a 4-10% likelihood of restaurants closing.”

What the study actually did was break out restaurants in the San Francisco area depending on their Yelp reviews and see what each group’s likelihood of closing compared to if there was no minimum wage increase. What the study found was those with 5-star Yelp reviews had no impact on employment when the minimum wage increased. Those restaurants with a 3.5-star Yelp reviews were 14% more likely to go out of business when the minimum wage increased. And those with a 1-star Yelp review were 50% more likely to go out of business.

Compare the study’s actual findings with what the PragerU’s claims about the study and the two simply do not match. Restaurants with lousy Yelp reviews that were already on the verge of closing is not the same thing as all restaurants. This means that PragerU was intentionally misrepresenting the findings of the Harvard study. They are purposefully lying to the viewer.

The most telling chart in the entire Harvard Study actually helps undercut the entire premise of PragerU and conservatives on the minimum wage. When comparing restaurant closings in cities that raised their minimum wage with those that have not, the trends are virtually identical, showing no effect on employment. (Figure 2, Page 29)

Claim: A 2014 CBO study found raising the federal minimum wage to $15 dollars per hour would result in 500,000 jobs lost.

The Congressional Budget Office is an excellent source to cite, legally required to be non-partisan, used by both political parties for policy making decisions, and was a rare instance of a good citation by PragerU.

We can read the 2014 CBO report here titled, “The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income“.

Again, the information contained in the CBO report does not exactly match what is being presented in the PragerU video. Only the information that is beneficial to the host is being repeated, this is a dishonest debate tactic known as “cherry picking.”

Increasing the minimum wage would have two principal effects on low-wage workers. Most of them would receive higher pay that would increase their family’s income, and some of those families would see their income rise above the federal poverty threshold. But some jobs for low-wage workers would probably be eliminated, the income of most workers who became jobless would fall substantially, and the share of low-wage workers who were employed would probably fall slightly.

The CBO is saying with “two principal effects” there will be winners and losers, but the PragerU video is only reporting on the negative effects, and not mentioning it is only to “low-wage workers.” Again, withholding information is the same as lying.

The PragerU video said 500,000 jobs would be lost but is also not telling its viewers the CBO projected multiple scenarios, a $10.10 dollar minimum wage, and a $9 minimum wage. The host only gave the job loses for the worst-case $10.10 scenario, where the $9 scenario had a much better sweet spot that minimized job losses, and even possibly job increases.

Information that would devastate their entire premise… not included.

And while any job loses in the hundred-thousand range would be painful for those families, who are more than just numbers on a chart, the CBO found that 16.5 million workers would see more money in their paychecks. That is a huge net positive that PragerU is simply refusing to inform their viewers about. By withholding key information, they are lying.

Again no one wants to be on the side that loses with a minimum wage increase, but there is a 33:1 net positive ratio PragerU is simply refusing to tell its viewers.

Conclusion

Out of the hundreds of videos on its website, the only PragerU video found so far that presents an accurate set of facts is this “course” on “Was the Civil War About Slavery?” hosted by the head of military history at West Point. And to PragerU’s credit the host correctly walks viewers through the evidence of “YES OF COURSE IT WAS!” and was even released during the height of a national argument on Confederate monuments.

However after reviewing each of the claims made in this PragerU video, it is highly partisan, highly deceptive, and should not be trusted. This is not the only PragerU video that goes out of its way to push a false narrative in order to maintain negative political assumptions, provide “talking points,” instead of presenting a honest argument.

This comes to no surprise, because Andy Puzder at the time of making this video was a CEO of companies that rely on low wage workers who would be directly impacted by a minimum wage increase. It would cut into his corporation’s billion-dollar bottom line, which would make its investors not happy. So Puzder has a strong motivation to ignore key information, and present the half of the story that financially benefits him.

The sad reality is wages have remained low in this country, lagging far below every other developed nation, while the United States’ productivity has greatly increased. Meaning we are doing more while working for less.

This is a problem.

What PragerU and Puzder are deftly doing by injecting highly partisan rhetoric and only repeating the facts that suit them is turning an up/down argument against labor and management, into a left/right argument, meanwhile
CEO pay, like Puzder’s, has increased 90 times more than your average working over the past 30 years.

Republicans Do Not Want a Democracy

If you still support Donald Trump you have no interest in a democracy and you need to come to terms with this.

Let me be very clear. Today is the day we warned you about in 2016. We warned you. We told you Donald Trump is an authoritarian and many of you didn’t seem to care.

It’s always been a concern because you didn’t seem to care after he mocked people for their disabilities, admitted to being a sexual predator, praised Nazis, lies on average 6 times a day, colluded with Russia, hired white supremacists, bowed to Putin in Helsinki, separated children from their parents to discourage future legal and illegal immigration, and banned people from the country because of their religious beliefs.

And now, Trump is abusing his power by declaring a false national emergency to build a border wall with our closest ally Mexico by re-appropriating $8 billion taxpayer dollars from funds already set aside by Congress for other uses, all over something that he originally promised his supporters Mexico would pay for.

Founding father James Madison was very clear in the Federalist Papers in his explanation of why only Congress can appropriate funds and it was the job of the president to spend those funds exactly how Congress laid out. What Madison called “the power of the purse” was to serve as the legislative branch’s biggest check on executive overreach.

The importance of Congress’ power of the purse keeps showing up several times in the writing of our founding fathers, most notably Alexander Hamilton in “The Federalist Papers Number 78” where he explained the judicial branch was the weakest of the three branches of government because it had, “no influence over either the sword or the purse.”

It is a fundamental cornerstone of our democracy that separated us from the monarchy of England who had total control of how and where taxpayer money was spent. (Remember “no taxation without representation”? We fought a war over it?)

I’m old enough to remember five years ago when conservatives blew their tops when Obama used executive orders to protect Dreamers, saying he “ruled by fiat” and was a “king.”

For example here is Vice President Mike Pence in 2014 as the Governor of Indiana saying, ”It would be a profound mistake to overturn immigration laws with a stroke of a pen.”

And here is Donald Trump himself tweeting, “Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/535441553079431168

The reality was no laws were changed, no laws were created, all Obama’s executive actions were doing was simply de-prioritizing the prosecution of Dreamers, illegal immigrants who came here as children. Something Fox News and Republican media failed to tell their viewers is several previous presidents including George W. Bush used that same executive lever, for example with the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative where gang members increased in priority to be prosecuted by the DOJ, and this was not at all out of the ordinary. Even Donald Trump himself touched that exact same lever when he undid Obama’s executive order.

But even if you honestly still believe Obama was acting like a tyrant, as so many Fox News host would say, why is Donald Trump actually circumventing Congress and smashing a fundamental pilar of our democracy specifically spelled out in Article I of our Constitution doing something that is to be supported?

Do you not see how far you are willing to excuse an erosion of democratic norms just to win at any cost?

Do you not see you are being conned? How everything about this so-called emergency is a lie.

Donald Trump waited 26 months to call for his emergency, made zero effort to build a wall during the two years Republicans had absolute control of all three branches of government, and during his announcement even said he didn’t have to call for an emergency and could have waited, but he just wanted to move faster.

That’s not what someone does in an emergency, because there is no border crisis.

Border crossings are at a 50-year low according to Trump’s own government statistics.

The spikes in border apprehensions we are seeing at the southern border are in-fact family units crossing the border and turning themselves over to authorities as part of the legal process of seeking legal asylum.
(https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/world/national-security/record-number-of-migrant-families-arrested-while-crossing-us-border-in-december/2019/01/09/cc435a4a-0f8d-11e9-84fc-d58c33d6c8c7_story.html)

Yes to seek legal asylum you must be physically present within the United States borders, regardless if you cross legally or not or present yourself at a port of entry. There is no other way, despite Fox News’ many claims to the contrary.
(https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-asylum/asylum/affirmative-asylum-process)

And we have over 100 years of scientific studies that unequivocally show illegal immigrants commit crimes and are incarcerated at far lower rates than the native-born population.
(https://www.cato.org/publications/immigration-research-policy-brief/their-numbers-demographics-countries-origin)

Not just here in America, but in every country. Here is Europe’s statistics: https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/tesat_2018_1.pdf

And at the end of the day, a border wall with Mexico wasn’t born out of any evidence-based observations, but was cooked up by Roger Stone as a mnemonic device for Donald Trump after recognizing he had zero understanding of immigration policies and needed him to remember to stay on message.
(https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/us/politics/donald-trump-border-wall.amp.html)

So today when you watch your Fox News and listen to your Republican radio, and you hear them try to make the case to go along with an invented emergency just so Donald Trump can keep a campaign promise that was never rooted in reality, recognize they had to lie and cheat and subvert our democracy in order to convince you to move your opinions to where you are today.

They’ve convinced you to ignore provable factual observations, to see others as lesser than you because of their nationality, and democracy isn’t that important, all in an effort for political wins.

I don’t think you want authoritarianism, but this is what you’ve convinced yourself to support.

You’ll say to yourself, “Well Trump had to do it.” No he didn’t. He’s not the first president to lose a policy fight. To understand the better argument usually wins, that’s democracy.

You’ll say to yourself, “But we need border security!” We do have border security. Both Republicans and Democrats listened to the experts and found the best compromise on their competing ideas and funded border security. That’s democracy.

You’ll say to yourself, “But we have to stop those illegals!” We do. The number one way people are in the country illegally by far is they overstay their visas. A wall won’t address that. We use evidence to make our arguments. That’s democracy.

You are giving up all of this, and more to pursue a strategy of win at any cost. That is not democracy. That is something else.

We need you to recognize this or be comfortable with what type country you want to live in. Because if you truly want to live in a constitutionally limited democratic republic, you need to come back.

A Primer on Trump’s Border Wall Prime Time Address

Let’s do a quick rundown of where we are ahead of Trump’s prime-time address, which is being written by Stephen Miller and many believe will be about his claims of a “crisis” at the southern border.

Donald Trump is a Racist

We need to get this out of the way, right away. Ask yourself, why are we only talking about a border wall with Mexico and not Canada?

If drug flow into the United States is your main concern, and if there are three main drug corridors on our southern border, but with Canada there are five main drug corridors, why are we only talking about a border wall with Mexico?

It’s because Donald Trump doesn’t want the United States to be less white. He’s already told you he wants to stop Mexicans from entering the country because they are less pure, saying they are rapists and murderers who bring crime, drugs, disease, and some he assumes are good people.

Donald Trump has already told you he thinks Hispanic countries are “shithole countries,” and that he would like to see more European immigrants.

And the over 100 instances we’ve cataloged of racist comments, racist policies, hiring known white supremacists into his administration, retweeting known white supremacists, retweeting those same known white supremacists again, and defending white supremacists as “very fine people.”

Donald Trump is a racist.

White House Will Claim a Crisis at the Southern Border

During the shutdown negotiations, Donald Trump’s administration has tried to find numbers that look scary because they are numbers and pass them off as their rationale for a southern border wall.

Fox News (surprisingly) already debunked the Trump administration’s claim that a big number of 4,000 terrorists entered the United States through the southern border. The real number is six suspected terrorists, who were all let go.

The Trump administration has also claimed a number of 3,000 “special interest aliens” have been apprehended. But special interest aliens are just people who have come from countries that have ever produced a terrorist, they’re not terrorists themselves.

In a press conference with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, where Trump took credit for a shutdown, Trump claimed ten terrorists were captured at the Mexican border. That was a lie.

Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security couldn’t find that number:

Instead, DHS would only say that it apprehended, on average, ten “known or suspect[ed] terrorists” per day who attempted to enter the country “by air, sea, or land” from October 2017 through September 2018.

To be clear: An average of ten “known or suspected” terrorists who tried to enter the country anywhere by any means, is not “Ten terrorists were captured at the southern border.”

And just days before Trump’s prime time address, his own Department of Homeland Security released a report detailing very clearly that there is no crisis.

“In FY17, CBP recorded the lowest level of illegal cross-border migration on record, as measured by apprehensions along the border and inadmissible encounters at U.S. ports of entry,”

In that report, it’s very clear illegal border crossings haven’t changed in over five years, and down 80% from their peak of 1.6 million crossings back in 2000.

Table 1: Southwest Border Apprehensions and Individuals “Inadmissible” at Ports of Entry Compared by Fiscal Year

October-May

FY 2018

October-May

FY 2017

October-May

FY 2016

October-May

FY 2015

October-May

FY 2014

October-May

FY 2013

340,030 306,793 362,020 284,020 380,116 329,428

And Trump’s own Department of Justice hasn’t prosecuted a single terrorist from the southern border.

Not one.

If there was any credible threat we would have seen thousands, as the Trump administration has claimed, of terrorists being tried openly in a public court of law. But there hasn’t been any prosecutions because there hasn’t been any terrorists.

According to Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security the number of terrorists entering the United States via Mexico is a whopping zero per ever (emphasis added):

At year’s end there was no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels, or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.

“Walls Work”

You’ve heard this talking point a lot from Republican media, “Walls work.” They’ll point to Jerusalem as their prime example.. which may not be the best example.

But they’ll conveniently neglect to mention the Maginot Line, the Great Wall of China, and thousands of other walls that didn’t work throughout history including the Berlin Wall, which one famous Republican once asked for it to be taken down.

The reality is, if they are looking for a physical barrier to stop illegal immigration… we already have that. From PolitiFact:

The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, authorized about 700 miles of fencing along certain stretches of land between the border of the United States and Mexico.

The act also authorized the use of more vehicle barriers, checkpoints and lighting to curb illegal immigration, and the use of advanced technology such as satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.

At the time the act was being considered, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were all members of the Senate. (Schumer of New York is now the Senate minority leader.)

Obama, Clinton, Schumer and 23 other Democratic senators voted in favor of the act when it passed in the Senate by a vote of 80 to 19.

So much for Democrats being against border security.

But this all begs the question, if we already have a physical barrier, shouldn’t that already satisfy the Trump need for one? What’s the point of spending money to build physical barrier if there is already a physical barrier?

The reality is it doesn’t make sense, it’s not practical and it was never meant to be. In 2014 when Trump was exploring a presidential run after leading the racist “birther” movement, his aides Roger Stone recognized that Trump isn’t the smartest cookie in the box and designed “the wall” as a memory trick so Trump can stay on message about immigration.

As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration.

So there is no evidence, no research went into this idea, it was just a way for a stupid man to remember his racist talking points.

The Government Shutdown is Trump’s Fault and Republicans Can End It At Any Time

Back in December, the Republicans, Democrats, and Trump and the White House all agreed on a budget deal that would fund the government until February. The Senate brought the budget deal to the floor for a vote on December 19th and unanimously passed the bill 100 – 0.

The next day Paul Ryan and the House were all set to vote on the same budget deal until Donald Trump was catching up on cable news during his nine hours of “Executive Time” and saw pundits like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh raking him over the coals for not securing a border wall in the two years Republicans had total control of all three branches of government, then backed out of the budget deal causing parts of the government to shut down.

Once Democrats were sworn into office, after historic wins where Trump’s immigration and wall policies were the central argument, the first bill to pass was the same Senate bill that passed 100 – 0 a few weeks prior.

Now all Mitch McConnell in the Senate has to do is bring up that same budget to vote again, which he already knows he has the votes for, having previously passed unanimously, but refuses. His reasoning is he won’t bring a bill to the floor that he knows the president won’t sign.

Mitch McConnell is obstructing again.

Donald Trump would most likely veto any spending bill that does not have funding for his border wall, but the United States Constitution is very clear, you only need a 2/3rds majority to override a presidential veto. That bill previously passed unanimously. It has the votes. McConnell is just doing what he does best, obstruction.

So Republicans can reopen the government. They just don’t want to because it would make their president look bad. The reality is Republicans in Congress, which is a co-equal branch of government, can open the government at any time.

Instead they’re trying to blame it on the Democrats, even though it was Donald Trump who went back on the deal. It was Donald Trump who said he would “proudly” hold the mantle. It was Donald Trump for months would say at rallies “we could use a good shutdown.”

Conclusion

Trump is a racist. The idea for the border wall was nothing more than a gimmick created for a candidate who had zero interest in policy. We already have physical barriers at our border. And Republicans can open the government at any time.

Fox News Falsey Claims Obama Comitted an Election Felony

Fox News creates an alternative reality for their viewers by ignoring key facts, withholding context, and making stuff up.

Fox’s latest excuse for Trump’s multiple felonies is falsely claiming Obama did it too by suggesting Obama hid $2 million dollars during the 2008 campaign, and that is much worse than only the $300,000 dollar payments Michael Cohen hid to pay off Trump’s mistresses.

One problem… Obama never hid payments. Fox News is lying to their viewers.

An FEC audit concluded in 2012 found that out of the billion dollars of donations to the Obama 2008 campaign, the Obama team failed to give the *names*, not the money, of some of the donors totaling $1.8 million dollars within the required 48 hour time limit.

(See: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-campaign-money-idUSBRE83I1ID20120419)

Those donor names were simply late, no one controversial was on that list, and while the FEC found it to be nothing more than an infraction, it still levied the largest campaign fine ever against Obama and the DNC.

Compare this with Donald Trump directing his “fixer” Michael Cohen to create fake shell companies to hide illegal hush money payments just days before the 2016 election to avoid a negative impact on his campaign for president.

Trump’s own Department of Justice considers this a felony.

Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation and the Continued Republican Effort to Undermine Our Democracy

The loss of the Republican soul just to win at any cost is one of the most dangerous trends facing our democracy today. The confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh is more proof of how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine our democracy just to “own the libs.”

Let’s take a moment and check to see how far we have come.

Sexual Assault – Republicans have no problem with sexual assault, this is very clear first voting for Donald Trump, who bragged about his ability to grab a woman’s pussy because he’s famous, and the large support behind Brett Kavanaugh. They’ll question her motivation for coming forward now in the 11th hour, ignoring the fact that she came forward before Kavanaugh was even nominated. They’ll deflect and claim Dr. Ford was lying because she said she was afraid of flying yet she took an airplane to Washington D.C., ignoring the reality that many of us are afraid of needles but we still get our flu shots and this has no effect on our credibility. Democrats turned on Al Frankin when his sexual assault accusations became public, Republicans have shown they are only interested in protecting victims of sexual assault when it is politically convenient for them.

Cheating – Republicans wouldn’t give Merrick Garland a hearing, a violation of their Constitutional duties, then invoked the ‘nuclear option’ to force two and possibly more partisan activist judges on the Supreme Court. They’ll give bullshit answers like, “Oh the Biden rule!” which didn’t apply to the Garland situation and nobody ever took seriously enough to even consider it as a rule. Or “Oh Democrats are obstructionists!” forgetting they obstructed ALL of Obama’s federal judge nominees and Merrick Garland, and there are 49 Democrats in the Senate… if every Republican votes together Democrats have no power! The lies they will tell themselves to rationalize their cheating is outrageous.

Perjury – Brett Kavanaugh lied under oath. He repeatedly claimed Ford’s accusation has been “refuted” by others who she said attended the party — even though the other attendees have said no such thing. Kavanaugh said he “did not travel in the same social circles” as Ford, but he did. Kavanaugh attempted to fabricate an alibi by suggesting he did not drink on weekdays and was out of town almost every weekend night of the summer of 1982, but his calendar clearly refuted this. Kavanaugh said he had no connection to Yale University prior to attending undergrad and law school there, but he was a legacy admittee. Kavanaugh cited Maryland’s drinking age in explaining his behavior, even though he was too young to legally drink in any case. These are just a few examples of lying, under oath, while in a job interview for a seat on the highest court in the country. Republicans do not see a problem with this.

Law and Order – It’s a sham. Republicans are only out to win at all costs. (See: Merrick Garland, nuclear option, Kavanaugh) The FBI investigation was limited by the White House to only 9 individuals that did not include Dr. Ford or Brett Kavanaugh, which is typical for an investigation of this type, as well as the over 40 individuals who came forward and was willing to give their testimony. There was no effort to look into the lies Kavanaugh told under oath. Now the Kavanaugh confirmation process is over they can now go back to protecting Donald Trump, the first president to ever continue to own, operate, promote, and receive profits from over 400 businesses he has never divested from, and which as we learn more and more through intrepid reporting, Trump is a tax cheat.

The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process has shown Republicans have not learned from their support of credibly accused sexual predators, such as Donald Trump, and instead are willing to ignore women, ignore their credible stories, ignore broken laws, willing to accuse Democrats of their own sins, and cheat their way to victory at any cost.

How Fox News Gets Away With Using KKK Talking Points

At Stop The Donald Trump we are constantly pointing out Fox News has spent a lot of energy in creating an alternative reality for their viewers by ignoring key facts, withholding context, and making stuff up.

Fox also uses strategy of vilifying the rest of the news media (“The liberal media!”, “The mainstream media”) which has been so successful that most Fox News viewers only get their information from Fox News.

This is a dangerous recipe that makes it very easy for Fox to get away with overtly racist arguments because if you’ve lived in this worldview they created and maintained for the past 20+ years it is all very normal.

So when Fox News ignores systemic racism and on a daily basis repeats ideas like “blacks must try harder to get ahead”, “Irish, Italians, and Jewish minorities overcame prejudice and now it’s African American’s turn”, and generations of slavery and Jim Crow is not a factor in discussions on upward mobility, what would seem cruel, ridiculous, and missing important context to the rest of the world, a regular Fox News viewer doesn’t blink.

Like remember when Megyn Kelly shoutted “Santa Claus is white kids! He just is!” and nobody on her panel did a double-take.

This is because their viewers have been conditioned for decades to fear minorities, foreigners, other religions, paint liberals as Jesus-hating communist baby murders who want to turn your kids gay, and because of the mistrust they instill of other actual news media, they can outright lie to their viewers.

Some examples include:

  • Saying the United Nations was laughing with Trump and not at him.
  • Giving full credit to a booming economy Trump was gifted to by Obama.
  • Claiming the FISA judge was unaware the Steele Dossier was funded as opposition research.

There has been two specific moments that normalized white supremacy enough where Fox News has been able to be more open with their racism.

  1. Milo Yiannopoulos’ “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right”
  2. The candidacy and election of Donald Trump.

What Milo did in his successful Breitbart article was paint the alt-right as just another conservative movement by downplaying the white supremacist origins and made the ideas of a white nation more palatable to a larger audience.

And people forget that article was widely shared, written about, and discussed in conservative circles, including months of sympathetic portrayals of the alt-right on Fox News, right up until (and during) Charlottesville. 

That really pushed white nationalism into the open and mainstream.

And I could talk for hours about Trump, but in short his election validated his racist, sexist, and xenophobic comments and made them more everyday normal. Case in point, Trump attacked a sexual assault survivor to a cheering crowd and it’s not a scandal today.

If we recognize we live in a country where racism has all been normalized because of the efforts of Fox News and Republican radio hosts, it makes sense that someone like Tucker Carlson can literally repeat talking points of the KKK verbatim (“It’s okay to be white”) and it is seen as acceptable and popular to a Fox New audience. 

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