In Heather’s video chat today (5/13/2021), she talked about Stephen Douglas. Stephen Douglas, of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, drafted the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 to allow the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide whether or not to allow slavery, rather than to be decided by Congress, and the Northerners in opposition to slavery and oligarchy formed the Republican Party. The Democratic Party split between north and south. As the Southern Democrats escalated to the point of seceding from the Union, Douglas took a stand that secession was in opposition to democracy and sided with Lincoln and the Union for a mainstream position. With the split in the Democrats, the Republicans prevailed. As it echoes to today, the party split looks like a good thing.

Heather’s point was that the spin-off element can become very dangerous.

As Heather describes the campaign of the Heritage Action for America, we see ever more clearly how the danger comes in the form of not “just” the Jan. 6 insurrection, but the sophisticated monied manipulation of state legislators, and even of public opinion, as through letters to the editor, to create the appearance of legitimacy and “the will of the people.”

How is Heritage connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? Both are funded by the Koch Foundation. Note that ALEC wrote the 360 voter suppression bills pending/passed across the country.

What is the counterpart progressive PAC that is spoon-feeding legislation to elected officials and their staff?

Fellow HCR Reader Jeff Carpenter looked for a progressive PAC. The best he could find is the State Innovation Exchange (SiX):

New Republic article of 1/03/2020, “Have Democrats Found Their ALEC?”


The State Innovation Exchange (SiX) provides an online database of liberal and progressive model state-level legislation that has been passed in a state for politicians and activists to replicate and enact in state legislatures.


Jeff learned that progressive state groups are more like libraries than lobbies, and big donors prefer national legislation over state legislation. Jeff contacted a SiX spokesperson who said:

“We do not operate like ALEC (For example, we’re not a “bill mill” that churns out copycat legislation. We know that policy alone won’t fix our democracy and economy, so we take a policy plus approach--we share policy research from issue experts, as well as communications, strategy, connections with movement partners, and other types of support that legislators need.) We do provide tailored support for state legislators, and democracy is one of our primary issue areas.”

However daunting, our despair can only be a feeling that we redirect into action. Barriers to voting, voter suppression bills, are already being passed as a set up for the minority to overpower the majority in the 2022 elections and beyond. The time is now to make our voices heard as individuals by writing/texting/calling elected officials, corporations, local newspapers, and social media.

How to get started, if you haven’t already? Here are 5 of more than 40 grassroots organizations:

Vote Forward: https://votefwd.org/

Fair Fight: Home | Fair Fight

League of Women Voters (members do include men!): https://www.lwv.org/

Common Cause: commoncause.org

5 Calls: https://5calls.org/

What’s your favorite organization in support of democracy?

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When I was studying abroad in Germany at one of that country's most prestigious universities in the early 1980's, I was shocked at how students would call us "stupid Americans." Only after gaining a tiny grasp of a global perspective did I realize they were right. The evil of Nazism and what happens when a strong leader casts his spell over the masses was pounded into German consciousness daily. They knew what they were talking about.

In the context of The Big Lie, we are to a degree a nation of misinformed, xenophobic, racist people whose political leaders assume this when they offer a distorted reality as platform. It's sickening to witness.

Between the end of the Vietnam War and 2016 America has pretty much skated, economic challenges notwithstanding. With the election of Trump, basic freedoms were suddenly challenged. I only partly blame the McCarthys and McConnells for the current threat against our democracy. Millions of have swallowed Republican lies and conspiracy theories hook line and sinker. We the People are to blame. And now the world calls us, "REALLY stupid Americans."

There is only one solution to our constitutional crisis. Vote our asses off to stop the voter suppression and lies. That includes you, Joe Manchin. That includes you.

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What are the GOP hoping to achieve here? Power and control, yes. But over what? A nation reduced to rubble? An impoverished failed state? A sitting duck for alien nations ? A population of uneducated, sick, malnourished toothless citizens with a life expectancy of 35? What? They want to sit on gold thrones presiding over a waste dump?

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Today, Heather revealed a story, 'a blockbuster'. that I love for obviously reasons, and I've got the names of a couple of giant companies that continued to contribute to the GOP after the so-called pause; It was the corporate way of showing their very mild displeasure with the Party after the January 6th siege on the Capitol. That is for another day. This comment is reflection on President Joe Biden.

"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic," Walensky said (Director of the CDC)

Who is the most important person behind this new sense of freedom? It is Joe Biden. Lawrence O'Donnell interviewed the President this Wednesday before the 'Vaccination America' Town Hall on MSNBC. At the very end, O'Donnell mentioned Beau, the president's son who died of brain cancer on May 30th, 2015. President Biden looked down and sweetly chided Lawrence for bringing Beau up. Then, with in face full of feeling, he said, 'Beau should be siting in this chair'. It was the most intimate moment possible on a TV screen.

Is Beau a major factor in Biden's strength, determination, good will and warmth? Beau is part of Joe Biden's journey to the President's chair. American voters made the right choice. Joe Biden has the qualities, which draw us to him and he grows hope. Joe Biden is a dear man. He loves us and we love him back. Thank you, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

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Not to forget, Barbara Ledeen is the current wife of Michael Ledeen, identified by Charlie Pierece as a "professional ratfcker" going back to the Reagan Administration.

Charlie points out:

In 2015, Barbara Ledeen, a close ally of disgraced General Michael Flynn, tried to start her own investigation of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s emails. As an aide to then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, Ledeen was deeply involved as an administration mole during the early stages of the Russia investigation. She is the second wife of Michael Ledeen, and there scarcely has been a Republican presidential scandal in the past 40 years that Michael Ledeen hasn’t had a hand in. In 1980, he wrote some spurious articles for the New Republic, which was having a very bad decade, alleging that the brother of President Jimmy Carter was on the payroll of both Muammar Gaddaffi and the PLO. The Wall Street Journal later reported that the stories had been part of an anti-Carter disinformation campaign.

During the Reagan Administration, Michael Ledeen pushed the notion that the Bulgarian government had been behind the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, which subsequent reporting has proven to be more moonshine. Later, he was the guy who introduced Manuchar Ghorbanifar to Reagan aide Robert MacFarlane, which put Ledeen in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Moving on, during the second Bush administration, Ledeen pushed the fable about Iraq’s buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. Ledeen always has been a true believer in the redemptive power of American imperial violence. In criticizing Brent Scowcroft’s warning against the invasion of Iraq, Ledeen wrote:

"One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists."

This, it is safe to say, did not age well. Thank god Ledeen never got the war on Iran that would have set him ascending to glory.

I dredge all this up in the context of the NYT’s latest revelations because, once again, this is being cast as yet another aberrant episode on the part of the former president. The Ledeens have found work with every Republican administration since 1980, and Barbara Ledeen found a job with the chairman of Senate Judiciary. When Camp Runamuck went looking for Beltway ratfckers, they came up with some of the same people that Reagan and both Bushes called. The rot is old, chronic, and deep in the wood.

The whole campaign is Machiavelli's "The Prince" as staged by the Three Stooges.

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This is why I am trying to write at least 10 letters a day for Vote Forward to voters in the New Mexico Special Election. I have until the 18th. So far 50 in the mail. I am shooting for 100 total

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While I’m not surprised an active duty Marine has been charged in the January 6 insurrection, I’ll say that his participation and arrest are EXACTLY why I don’t simply show instant respect to anyone in a position of law, justice, fire, or the military. Don’t get me wrong, I respect anyone who chooses to enlist in the military. But it is a CHOICE - you are not awesome simply because you enlisted. My dad served, I have a BIL who is one of the most humble people I know and he is guided by his deep integrity of doing the right thing. I see the military in him all the time - but he isn’t a jackass and he doesn’t demand that anyone respect him just because he served. And one of my best co-workers was a guy who served in Kuwait. People are worthy of respect based on their actions - I hope Christopher Warnagiris is convicted, stripped of any military benefits and pension.

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CDC’s Dr. Rochelle Walensky represents the best of American science, Rachel Maddow represents the best of American journalism, two incredible women representing the best of women and our men, Americans of uncommon genius, good humor, deep decency, uncommon tolerance, intellectual curiosity, gut fairness, core generosity of spirit one a liberal tolerant Catholic, one a smiling warm loving Jewess, both just fantastic.

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While most of this letter concerns “Heritage Action,” which appears totally evil & villainous, much like Ian Fleming’s SPECTRE or Marvel Comics HYDRA, (Which both have similar, many-armed symbols), I will take a moment to rag on the IDIOT (and evil) Governor of Floriduh, Ron DeathSantis who seems to resent that his Idol the villainous, POSer ex-president has managed to kill more ppl by COVID-19, than he has.

In the height of the pandemic, he refused to order mask mandates and countermanded those large municipalities in SoFlo that did. Then, when the cruise companies who had dealt with COVID “plague ships” early in the pandemic were stopped from operating for the duration of the aerially transmitted virus, he most recently sued the feds to start the cruise industry again. Seeing how the vaccines were decreasing transmissions, the feds complied with safety precautions which the cruise lines accepted with 90% of passengers & crew being vaccinated against this disease. But now the IDIOT Governor is suing again because he does not want the specter of a “COVID Passport” to be implemented, which prompted Norwegian Cruise Line from threatening to pull its ships out of Floriduh. Yesterday at a news conference the IDIOT cited other nations in the world with higher incidence of COVID, allowing cruise ships to operate without the vaccination requirement. He did not cite which IDIOT nations those were but he said NCL was a small cruise line (It is 3rd from the top and in 2019 was building a huge new terminal at Port Miami), so I suspect he is pulling all that other shit out of his ass as well.

Most of the ships are registered in Nassau and I suppose are subject to Federal law in each nation where they dock so IDK what a legal challenge a state IDIOT Governor has. Plus, before this pandemic, we had Norovirus which plagued ships due to its enclosed crowded conditions ripe for surface transmission. Every ship had hand sanitizers to every dining place and actually encouraged washing hands with soap and water. These were the mandated precautions on every ship I’ve been on this century. Oh, and having required certification of your vaccination against communicable diseases is not new in International Travel. In the 1970s we had the yellow cards showing our vaccination against smallpox, yellow fever, typhoid, cholera etc. to travel thru Asia & Centro America. It was the law and ppl seemed more willing to obey such precautions back then without question. But that was before WARBI (We Are Ruled By Idiots).

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Oh my, Dr. Richardson, oh my. How naive so many of us have been and are. Thanks to this community, and Ellie Kona in particular today, for the suggestions and links to organizations. Dark money and the Koch family et al. may be the Goliaths but we, and others like us can be a collective David in our actions. So easy to be discouraged but we must not give up spreading the truth.

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Excellent letter. Good to see more concrete evidence of Heritage’s state and federal efforts to promote voter suppression. Hopefully people note the fact that, as you report, it will use its ‘echo chamber of support’ to fulfill this mission. It is important to keep in mind how ubiquitous and well-funded this network is throughout think tanks, so-called non-profits, foundations, university departments and programs, judiciary & legislative training programs, Congress, media outlets and more. They operate collectively and highly effectively, funded in the billions, I believe, by Koch, billionaire allies and some corporations. Know what you are up against. Never have votes been more precious or critical in the fight to preserve democracy. Their goal of voter suppression and oligarchic rule by an elite few supporting a highly limited role for government is clearly laid out in Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains, Jane Mayer’s Dark Money, and Anne Nelson’s Shadow Network. I promised myself I wouldn’t write about the Koch et al. networks again. Back to the drawing board.

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Yesterday evening, Ari Shapiro, on NPR's All Things Considered, had a great conversation with Masha Gessen, author of Surviving Autocracy, about where the Ghastly Obstructionist Party is headed. It is definitely worth a read or listen--They (Gessen) was very clear about where this whole mishegoss is headed. And it was also wonderful to hear a non-binary person featured. Gessen is super eloquent. https://www.npr.org/2021/05/13/996617553/the-u-s-is-headed-away-from-the-ideals-of-democracy-says-author-masha-gessen

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Professor, thank you such a well-crafted letter. Just when I am anticipating a smorgasbord of news you throw this bomb about The Heritage Foundation! You write, "But the real blockbuster political story of the day came in the form of a video obtained by Mother Jones and written about in a detailed article there by Ari Berman and Nick Surgey. The leaked video shows Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America—the political arm of the right-wing Heritage Foundation think tank—explaining to big-money donors that Heritage Action has worked closely with Republican state legislators to enact voter suppression laws."

The Heritage folks have been a premier user of the astroturf strategy of poisoning American politics since its founding in 1973! "The 'grassroots' protest against 'voter fraud' is, in fact, conceived, funded, and organized by one of the most powerful elite political organizations in the country." you write.

We have to pursue a strategy to get rid of the filibuster to pass the restoration of voting right.

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It says a great deal about today's Republican Party that its members are far more outraged about Liz Cheney's comments about the Orange Asscactus than they are about Matt Gaetz' (alleged) sexual misconduct, Marjorie Taylor Greene's anti-Semitism and just outright lunacy, Madison Cawthorn's Hitler fetish, Lauren Boebert's gun fetish, etc., etc.................

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Might as well start identifying them as the "Trumpublicans" -- not only because of their blind loyalty to the former "president" but also for their agenda to trump any efforts to safeguard democracy.

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"Almost immediately, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) shot Manchin’s plan down." Of course, he did. I think Churchill was right - never underestimate the American people's ability to do the wrong thing...............although he did add we usually get it right in the end. I wish I felt confident we'd get it right in the end here, too.

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