Monday, April 24, 2023

Threats to Democracy Round Up


Influence of hostile foreign powers

[Like the late 1930s or peak of the cold war] Russian spy network operating in North Sea- spy ships disguised as fishing vessels to monitor potential sabotage targets

[Feels so much like the 1930s or depths of the cold war] Russian ‘ghost ships’ mapping wind farms [near the UK] in sabotage plot

Russian propaganda, disinformation, and related active measures

Another Russia/ US military angle: Sarah Bils, a former US Navy aviation electronics technician is allegedly behind a pro-Russian social media accounts 'Donbass Devushka' which allegedly  posted classified documents leaked by Air Guardsman Jack Teixeira

[More about Russian disinformation and active measures] U.S. charges four Americans with aiding Kremlin efforts- Charges are the latest Justice Department effort against secret foreign propaganda networks on U.S. soil

Kremlin tries to build antiwar coalition in Germany "marrying Germany’s extremes is an explicit Kremlin goal and was first proposed by senior officials in Moscow in early September" [active measures to encourage far-right and left- also seen in the US]

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s defence of Pentagon leaker is just absurd and dangerous "In the past, a massive tranche of documents being published would lead  to Republicans wanting to throw the book at the person who published  them"  

Hundreds of Russian and  Chinese state propaganda accounts are thriving on Twitter after @elonmusk  wiped out the team that fought these networks

Russians boasted that just 1% of fake social profiles are caught [raising the chances that the weird pro-Trump troll disparaging your Tweets is a bot or human from Russia]  

Conflicts of interest, corruption, crime

U.S. Treasury faces a wave of criticism over faltering push to unmask anonymous companies and track dirty money "quest to build a database of company owners [including those of]... shell companies ... beset  by delays and multiplying disagreements"

Judge rejects Trump’s last-minute bid to delay rape and defamation trial “It does not sit well for Mr. Trump to promote pretrial publicity and  then to claim that coverage that he promoted was prejudicial to him and should... support...delay”

"the United States is a nation of laws if you are an ordinary citizen.  However, with a little money and a little power — or at least a seat on  the Supreme Court — the law becomes less of a directive and more of a  suggestion"

Are they all mafioso?  "Sheriff...Clardy is heard discussing with commissioner... Jennings, investigator...Manning and jail administrator... Hendrix, the hiring of 'mafia hitmen' one of them claimed to know to  kill the newspaper’s owners and journalists"

[The company they keep] Charted: Trump’s web of indicted allies

[The eternal huckster] Trump boasts about making $4.6m from NFT cards that actually plummeted in value

Are they all criminals? "Timothy Teagan, a prominent member of the far-right anti-government  Boogaloo movement, pleaded guilty to gun- and drug-related charges... could spend 13 months in federal prison"

SCOTUS Justice Thomas' conflicts of interest, etc

Harlan Crow, SCOTUS Justice Thomas benefactor, makes his ideas clear, when in doubt, blame it on the leftists: "But I think that the media, and this ProPublica group in particular,  funded by leftists, has an agenda to destabilize the [Supreme] Court"

Plot of Justice Thomas' conflicts of interest thickens.  His generous benefactor Crow was affiliated with Club for Growth which "did have business before SCOTUS  while Thomas was on the bench" and "groups that ... lobbied [it via]...'amicus briefs'"

Inaccurate reporting: Justice Thomas "reported... his  family received rental income totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars  from a firm called Ginger, Ltd., Partnership" But that firm shut in 2006, transferred its assets to a similarly named company  

Ostensibly moralist Republicans and sexual crimes

How Trump fan Rep @Jim_Jordan (R-OH) intimidates opponents, eg  "calling a wrestler’s aging parents and asking them to persuade their son  to back off the charge that [then coach] Jordan knew about the abuse [by a team doctor] and did  nothing"  

Ali Alexander, the organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the Capitol riots, has apologised after being accused of asking teenage boys for sexual photographs.

[Are they all sleazy harassers?] TN "state Rep. Scotty Campbell (R)" resigns after violating harassment policy after "allegations...brought against him by an intern"

Trump's foreign entanglements

[Reminder of Trump's considerable conflicts of interests involving China, which Trump fans who constantly raise alarms about China ignore] China Paid Trump Millions In Rent. Then He Left The White House  

[A summary of his foreign entanglements, ie conflicts of interest, and likely violations of the foreign emoluments clause of the US Constitution] Trump made up to $160 million from foreign countries as president

Propaganda, disinformation, deception

New York Is a Hellscape, Republicans Say. A Cabby Told Them So - A look at the stagecraft behind the House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Victims of Violent Crime in Manhattan.” [And New Yorkers always believe what cabbies say - right]

Rush to judgment in SF: "part of a long-term phenomenon in which the public's fear of random violence has been fed by law enforcement advocates to burnish the image of police as the only bulwark  against a perilously unpredictable world"  

New data indicates declining confidence in childhood vaccines of up to 44 percentage points in some countries during the COVID-19 pandemic [due to] "growing access to misleading information, declining trust in expertise, and political polarisation"

What disinformation wrought: Man allegedly shot teen knocking on his door was "down the right-wing rabbit hole...doing the election-denying conspiracy stuff...COVID conspiracies and disinformation... buying into the Fox News, OAN" says grandson

[Are they all dishonest?] Trump-appointed judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, while under review to the Senate, concealed an article he wrote "criticizing Obama-era protections for transgender people and those seeking abortions" [and was this dishonesty illegal?]  

Propaganda/disinformation and reproductive and sexual politics

2 of the most influential people "discussed the non-existent population crisis... @elonmusk  blaming 'birth control, abortions'...on the impending  collapse of civilization....@TuckerCarlson asked how the 'urge to have sex'...has been 'subverted'" Really?

[Do as we say,  not as we do: the colossal hypocrisy of the Christian nationalist morality police]  Clip resurfaces of Rudy Giuliani in drag as Republicans target performers

The use of "abortionist" and "unborn human" have a clear purpose:  Readers are meant to infer that while the fetus is a human, the doctor  is not. [Use of "abortionist" suggests] "their occupation is the sum total of their humanity"

Follow the money re propaganda/disinformation

"All this, trial or no trial, makes clear what Fox News really is. It’s a  service provider. That service is the maintenance of a reality bubble  and the deference to beliefs that Fox’s hosts helped shape"  

Fox News settlement turns Dominion into private equity gold [Trust not in private equity: could Dominion's private equity owners have prioritized its lawsuit as a source of revenue, not as a defense of the truth]

"Dominion does not exist to serve the public interest.... It is a for-profit company owned by Staple Street Capital, a small private equity firm.... It’s not uncommon for a company to turn its back on the public good for the sake of enriching its owners"

Fascism, Nazism, white supremacy, neo-Confederacy, theocracy/Christian nationalism

"red states are maneuvering to block the federal government and their own  largest metropolitan areas from resisting their systematic attempt to  carve out...a 'nation within a nation,' operating with its own constraints on civil rights and liberties"  

[They want to persuade you that resistance is futile.  Don't believe them] The day the book banners lost in Pennsylvania’s culture wars "right-wingers who thought they had 'banned' a climate-change book in Kutztown only made it more popular"

Trying to disqualify Trump via the 14th Amendment "which prohibits  any 'officer of the US' who...'engaged in insurrection or  rebellion...' after... taking an oath to  support the Constitution — from serving in any federal office"

Laws based on extreme ideology are hazardous to your health "'stand your ground' laws were linked to an 8% to 11% increase in homicide rates, or roughly 700 additional deaths each year"

[Taking us back to the 19th century] Iowa Republicans pass law to allow child labour "allows children as young as 14 to work six-hour night shifts, as young  as 15 to work in plants on assembly lines, and as young as 16 to serve  alcohol"

How democracy could fail: "an organized, purposeful minority seizes strategic positions within the  system and subverts the substance of democracy while retaining its shell  — while the majority isn’t well organized, or doesn’t care enough, to  resist"

[They don't need no stinkin' voters, at least voters who aren't for them] Top GOP lawyer decries ease of campus voting in private pitch to RNC

"drop in applications, particularly for OB-GYN residencies, could exacerbate the lack of maternal health care in those states, which already have the highest maternal mortality rates" Living in far-right run states may be hazardous to your health

Christian nationalists rewriting "story of America through the lens of a narrow, fringe view of Christianity that will not tolerate any deviance  from... narrative that says that America was be Christian, white, heterosexual and run by men”

[Historical reminder] Why Did Madison Write the Second Amendment? [To prevent the US government from rendering state militias, "on which the South relied for slave control," useless by disarming them]

[Extreme fundamentalism can be profitable. Follow the money] Demons be gone: meeting America’s new exorcists "among evangelical Christians, deliverance is serious business – and it’s big business too"

Trump touts authoritarian vision for second term: ‘I am your justice’ - deploying the military domestically, purging the federal workforce and building futuristic cities [Mussolini promised to make the trains run on time.  Hitler built the autobahns]

Popularity is optional as Republicans find ways to impose minority rule "finding workarounds, using cogs in the machine  that have...received less attention from activists, journalists  and voters" [ie, they have hacked our rickety system of democracy]

[They don't want school children exposed to books on race and gender, but] South Dakota governor says her two-year-old grandchild has several guns [and they say they are pro-life and care about children?]

Christian nationalism and sexual/reproductive politics

[It's all about extreme sectarian religion] Leaks "reveal the deeply evangelical bent of the anti-trans movement....littered with false claims ... [eg] that show the group believes  they’re doing God’s work by targeting a vulnerable minority group"

[Worrying about early fetuses while smelling the benzene] In a town plagued by an environmental crisis, a local abortion debate consumes public attention  “It’s amazing, how those pro-birth people can get all that attention,”

The ruling against mifepristone cited Comstock who "became an anti-'obscenity' advocate: one of the most  ideological and extreme enforcers of public morality in the nation’s  history" How far they want to take us back

The [Republican] party of ‘freedom’ finds another way to squash it with NC drag show bill "It’s not just drag that could be threatened by this bill — it’s free expression altogether"  

Missouri to Restrict Medical Care for Transgender Adults, Citing Consumer Protection Law [in which a state AG, using a consumer protection act, decides he knows more about what harms patients than do health care professionals]

[Anti-trans campaign is all about extreme sectarian religious beliefs] the religious right went searching for an issue that would re-energize supporters and donors [but why should these beliefs be imposed on those who believe otherwise?]

Extreme sectarian right-wingers seem to dread trans people as having some sort of supernatural powers, eg Florida Republican calls trans people ‘demons’ and ‘imps’ during committee meeting  

Corporate funding of fascism, etc

"The rich are different from you and me: They have immensely more power.  But when they try to exercise that power they can trap themselves —  supporting politicians who will, if they can, create a society the rich  themselves wouldn’t want to live in"

When GOP Attorneys General Embraced Jan. 6, Corporate Funders Fled. Now They’re Back. [including health care corporations Walgreen's and Johnson and Johnson]

DeSantis' fascist Florida

[Turning to fascism in Florida] How DeSantis became Florida’s most powerful governor in a generation “The man is an instinctive authoritarian and practicing bully,”

Outrage as Florida Republicans pass ‘fascist’ bill to remove trans kids from parents [First they came for the transgender children, but I did not have any so I did nothing... then they came for...]


Why did Trump say "This lunatic special prosecutor named Jack Smith—I wonder what it was prior to a change?" It's "a classic anti-Semitic slur" suggesting Jews changed their names after emigration as part of a sinister plot  

[They no longer hide their antisemitism] Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) promotes pro-Hitler and Holocaust-denying site after it praised him for attacking “Jewish warmongers”

Neo-Nazis Hacked Porn Star Riley Reid and Tried to Recruit From Her Millions of Followers "they view pornography as a Jewish plot to weaken society"

Attacking freedom of speech and the press

Book Bans Rising Rapidly in the U.S., Free Speech Groups Find [The far-right, revealing themselves as fascists, are killing off First Amendment rights  piecemeal]

TN bill that allows students to report professors who teach 'divisive concepts' passes House and Senate [reminiscent of having children turn in parents in the Soviet Union]

Trump's Coup

[Are they all crooks?] Trump operatives had access to "breached" (ie, stolen?) voter data: "In mid-January 2021, two men hired by ...Trump’s  legal team discussed...what to do with data obtained  from a breached voting machine in a rural county in Georgia"

"In some state and local offices... election denialism is still recasting how elections are  conducted.... Republican  officials are gumming up the mechanics ... making it harder to cast a vote...tally votes...get results in a timely fashion"

Introducing the Threats to Democracy Roundups

 We started Health Care Renewal in 2004 to address the worsening dysfunction in health care, primarily in the US.  We were about

Addressing threats to health care's core values, especially those stemming from concentration and abuse of power. Advocating for accountability, integrity, transparency, honesty and ethics in leadership and governance of health care.

But starting in 2015, we began to realize that challenging health care dysfunction can only be done in the context of a reasonably stable and functional democracy.  As threats to democracy ramped up in the US and globally, we realized that our usual discussions of issues such as conflicts of interest and corruption in health care, poor management, lack of transparency, etc became increasingly suffused with the complications induced by ongoing threats to democracy.

Ultimately, we decided to pause Health Care Renewal while we took stock of our role in a changing and increasingly perilous world.

So now we are going to get back in the fray again.  I plan to author a new Health Care Renewal feature, more or less weekly, entitled the Threats to Democracy Roundup.  It will be essentially an old school link list, but focused on key threats to democracy.  Tentatively, we will be listing them under topics such as:

- Hostile foreign influnce

- Conflicts of interest, corruption, and crime

- Propaganda, disinformation, and deception

- Fascism, Nazism, white supremacy, neo-Confederacy, and theocracy/Christian nationalism

I will try to put these in a health care context when appropriate. 

As usual, we appreciate your questions and comments.