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Dueling Billionaires; And the Rest of Us

Last Word | August 13th, 2020

“The essence of Russia’s foreign policy is strategic relativism: Russia cannot become stronger, so it must make others weaker. The simplest way to make others weaker is to make them more like Russia.” - Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom: Russia – Europe – America, 2018

“Democracies die when people cease to believe that voting matters. The question is not whether elections are held, but whether they are free and fair. If so, democracy produces a sense of time, an expectation of the future that calms the present…If we anticipate that another meaningful election will take place, we know that the next time around we can correct our mistakes, which in the meantime we blame upon the people whom we elect…If we come to believe that elections are simply a repetitive ritual of support, democracy loses its meaning.”- Timothy Snyder, Unfreedom

“In this one action (the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49) the Americans, along with the British, proved capable of supplying thousands of tons of supplies by air every day…good will, prosperity, and power were all on display. As the Cold War began, America and Americans seemed able to do what none of Moscow’s previous rivals had: to present a universal and attractive vision of life.” - Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

“In 2008, Vermont senator Patrick Leahy was traveling in a car 125 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border in the state of New York. They came to a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, which stopped the U.S. senior senator, and an agent ordered him to get out of the car. ‘What authority are you acting under?’ Leahy asked.

The agent pointed to his gun and said: ‘That’s all the authority I need.” - Todd Miller, Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security, 2014

“Does anybody even believe the bullsh*t that he’s a self-made man? What has he even accomplished on his own?” - Mary Trump, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, 2020

“By their measure, the Trump administration succeeded in one respect (Separation of desperate migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, June, 2018) – the act of separations and the damage it caused to thousands of parents and children. But where they failed, and will continue to fail, was to quash the determination, perseverance, and love that those they tortured share.” - Jacob Soboroff, Separated: Inside an American Tragedy

“I didn’t like what I saw out there. Factories are shut down. MY factories are shut down…when I’m not making money nobody is. And dammit…Roosevelt (FDR) has got to do something drastic. He’s got to come up with a new approach, a new plan, a new…something…Yes, I know he’s a Democrat but he’s a human being too…” - Daddy Warbucks, ANNIE

“Which side are you on? Which side are you on?” - Union Song

As I pulled up behind a dusty square backed vehicle at my Mandan, ND, Post Office Mail Box, I noticed his choices in bumper stickers: TRUMP, “Fight for Freedom (NRA)”, and “Stand Up for Freedom; Stop Hillary.” I consoled myself, thinking about what his like minded drivers in North Dakota, when stalled in traffic behind my car, were obliged to witness: “Persist” (Elizabeth Warren), “Immigrants Welcome Here,” and “HH4ND (former Democratic Senator) Heidi Heitkamp for North Dakota.” A Joe Biden sticker will soon be added, along with his VP running mate. I tell liberal friends who worry about “road rage” visited upon my vehicle and its driver that my car is paid off, and that “North Dakota Nice” applies to right wingers out here, as a rule. Besides, my other bumper sticker, “We Love Mail Carriers,” unites Red and Blue America.

It’s nice to know that my fellow citizen Trump supporter is as dependent upon the people’s mail as I am, and could be equally hurt by Trump’s slow down of Postal services, but ordinary folks like us can’t do much about Trump’s hatred of American values like “Mr. Postman.” Big shot Jeff Bezos, dependent on the U.S.P.S. like us - can, and will. Along with growing numbers of filthy rich folks who see Trump’s threat to any kind of “business as usual,” he is confronting Trumpism, both covertly and overtly, most notably as a “hands off” owner of the Washington Post. How much this benefits the country remains to be seen. There is more wreckage to come.

Whether Americans like it or not, our democratic fate, such as it is, depends upon the decisions of “big money,” as much as a big voter turnout in November. One other factor to keep in mind is that billionaires like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Bin Salman and America’s Sinclair Broadcast family, the Koch Brothers, and Betsy DeVos are on the same side. They despise democracy. They really hate it. Not mobs of bikers mouthing “freedom” in Sturgis, SD and making “stupid trouble” in a pandemic, but disciplined cadres of massed marchers in Selma, AL, or masked moms, mouthing “Black Lives Matter” in Portland, OR; making “good trouble” and facing down Trump’s and Barr’s unmarked “Rent-a-Nazis.”

Millionaires like the NBA’s LeBron James, and Hollywood’s Sean Penn are genuine lovers of democracy, and major players, but, alas, they are not billionaires: commanding our economy like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Tech giant former NYC Mayor, Mike Bloomberg. These men might have liked to have it both ways with dictatorships and democracies in the past, but Vlad Putin’s pawns in the White House and Republican Senate leave them no choice. Trump’s efforts to shut down the November 3, 2020 election amidst a pandemic, endangers “free enterprise” as much as freedoms of their customers in the U.S., aka. “current and future, voting age citizens.”

A case in point would be Nike Corporation. As Black Lives Matters takes over the imaginations of athletes of all colors across the sports spectrum, democracy takes over the fate of their shoes and Nike “does the right thing.” At this point, I don’t care what their motives are, I’m just happy they are underwriting “the good guys.” Such issues of free enterprise, speech, assembly, and their enemies, have caused me brain cramps, so I sought the wisdom of my KGB animal friends.

High Plains Reader: Dear friends! Why did Thomas Jefferson write “All Men Are Created Equal,” if he didn’t really mean it? Was that the same thing as today’s billionaires funding ads for Black Lives Matter, but still running their companies like monarchs or generals?

Putin: It’s only the same if you believe that money doesn’t “talk,” but it does. When billionaire CEOs like Tom Steyer or Mike Bloomberg put their mouths, and money behind democratic movements, you have a fighting chance against billionaires who are malefactors of great wealth. Jefferson devoted his mouth and pen to democracy, but his money stayed put with slavery.

Rasputin: While money “talks,” it couldn’t “walk” then anymore than it can now. Millions of folks, many of them white, have backed Black Lives Matter since the murder of George Floyd, using tactics of non-violent, civil disobedience. They have produced in 2020, results unrealized by violent, “people of Paris” in 1794, forcing the French National Assembly to enact full civil rights for black Frenchmen. There was no “turnout” for democracy back then like there is now.

HPR: I know that “turnout matters” in elections as well as revolutions, but Trump, Moscow Mitch, and captive Republicans have tools in the Executive Branch to suppress voting, like the hamstringing of the U.S. Postal Service. Mail is moving slower, even in Red State North Dakota.

Mr. Crying Wolf: Slower yes, but not stopped. They still advertise for new positions at the Mandan, ND branch. Trump never cared whether he screwed Republicans in Blue States or Red States; and he cares even less now that his poll numbers are in the toilet.

Chicago Dog: Underfunding the Post Office is one thing. Defunding it needs to get past Nancy Pelosi, and the most democratic feature of the U.S. Constitution bequeathed us by our Founding Fathers: the House of Representatives. The mail will move through public channels one way or another and Moscow Mitch knows it. He needs it in Kentucky as much you do in North Dakota.

Mr. Swamp Fox: Trump Republicans just want to suppress mail in voting; not checks and medicine for their constituents. They are trying to survive Trump as well as the rest of us.

Ms. Recovering Republican Lap Dog: Jefferson and your Founding Fathers knew their own hypocrisies, but also those of the populace of their time, and throughout history. Realists as well as idealists, they subscribed to three major tenets of the 18th Century Enlightenment: Enlightened Despotism, Constitutionalism based on Natural Rights, and Democracy based on Natural Rights.

HPR: Our current “Despot” in the White House doesn’t seem very enlightened.

Chicago Dog: The Founding Fathers anticipated this with the process of Impeachment, but they also wrote in regular election cycles and the First Amendment, among other powerful tools of “checks and balances” constitutionalism in the U.S., available to democratic patriots if needed.

Lena: It is willingness of a critical mass of American people to use such tools to check a would be despot like Italy’s Mussolini, as Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC) put it, that matters. That’s why Benjamin Franklin said the U.S. Constitution was a “Republic, Madame, if you can keep it.”

Schickelgruber: “Privatizing” is what kings and dictators do, either by tradition or force. That crap is what the American, French and Russian Revolutions were trying to change. “Privatizing mania” was a conservative think tank and Wall Street fraud, laid down by Ronald Reagan in 1980, and still alive at the Wall Street Journal, National Review, and other dens of “conservative gurus;” despite its destroying of American standards of living rather than conserving them.

Kim Dog Un: As an “unenlightened despot,” on August 8, at his Bedminster, NJ “golf castle,” grinning like a kid pulling a fast one on his parents, Donald Trump honed his self-image of “I alone can fix it,” by signing 4 Executive orders, appointing himself fiscal agent of the Republic, and further shredding the U.S. Constitution. Aside from continuing chaos Vladimir Putin expects him to carry out, Trump has just doubled Mitch McConnell’s $200. Unemployment Insurance gambit, without getting anything in return. “Art of the Deal?” Not unless (Treasury Secretary) Mnuchin convinced him that screwing Moscow Mitch was a good thing vote-wise. That’s clever.

Señor Perro: The Founding Fathers were skeptical whether democracy based on natural rights could function, if not tempered by “enlightened despotism,” written into Articles I (Indirect election of Senators), II (Executive Branch) and III (Judicial Branch) of the U.S. Constitution, itself grounded in natural rights they sought to codify. The House of Representatives in Article I was the only truly democratic feature, and it could be further diluted by local money and politics.

HPR: That wasn’t very democratic!

Rocinante: Of course not! It was the 18th Century. Even Enlightened Despots were scarce. But they have multiplied in the 21st Century as “Enlightened Millionaires and Billionaires.”

Putin: CEOs like Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, Dorsey and Bloomberg are still “despots” of course. You can’t run a lucrative corporation by having a vote on every damned decision. But you CAN run a democracy if you are not trying to make money all the time. It’s called public service for a reason, and those billionaires who back it and participate in it are quite necessary nowadays.

HPR: But billionaires Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer got hammered by (Senator) Liz Warren (D-MA) in the debates, and South Carolina black voters in support of Joe Biden in their primary.

Rasputin: Rejoice and be grateful, my friend! You are witnessing what happens when “Black Lives Matter,” and “Women’s Emancipation” is backed up by a white male power structure realizing that “Black Voters Matter,” and “Women voters matter.”

Kim Dog Un: The First Amendment is suddenly popular with Microsoft’s enlightened despot, Bill Gates, offering to take over American rights to TikTok, to defend that democratically inclined video app against singularly unenlightened despots in China and the White House, and also enhance his bottom line. “Free enterprise,” and free speech: in remarkable, ironic harmony.

Omar Khayyam: Facebook’s and Twitter’s “enlightened despots” taking down misleading messages about the coronavirus by Trump’s reelection campaign is a check on unenlightened despotism. Known as “Regulation,” it used to be done when the Federal Elections Commission was allowed to function as a defender of democratic norms under previous Presidents.

HPR: I can’t believe that white voters have changed so quickly in favor of multi racial democracy that billionaires are obliged to play “catch up.”

Mr. Swamp Fox: That’s because you and the East Coast media didn’t pay attention to what went on in Chicago from 1983-1987. A thin slice of white folks helped Chicago’s first black Mayor, Harold Washington, to power against the resources of the “Daley Machine” in 1983, because they wanted change in the old corrupt system. A far larger slice of white ethnic voters: Poles, Italians, and Germans, joined with Black, Puerto Rican and Mexican voters to give Harold a larger margin of victory in 1987, because he was a fiscally conservative and socially conscious Mayor, bringing back white money, power and their families into the city; while distributing city services fairly, white Wards included. Harold’s appeal was unique, but he died too soon.

Chicago Dog: Barack Obama took notice of this “rainbow reality” in Chicago, but the rest of the political world portrayed a racist backlash of “Beirut on the Lake,” against a Mayor being effective “while black.” This enabled Tea Party racists, Donald Trump, and Moscow Mitch to pushback against a fiscally responsible, socially conscious, fair minded Commander in Chief, doing it “while black.” It will be harder in 2020, having wasted 40 years of Chicago wisdom, and against armed haters of democracy, but an “American Rainbow” coalition, and billionaire backers are finally ready to put their money and their lives on the line for democracy for all. George Washington’s “sacred honor” and Abe Lincoln’s “last best hope on earth” are at stake.

Prudence Possum: Trump knows he’s in trouble, but, like most narrow-minded gangsters, he blames everyone but himself. One of his despairing, despotic deputies leaked this pathetic poem:

Donald Trump: Fake Billionaire…………………………………………….……………………..…….Alligator #1
I wish my billions weren’t so really fake
That even Microsoft can call my bluff;
And if that insult were not bad enough,
I’ve got the blows from Deutsche Bank to take.

Perchance I yet can steal another term
And so avoid the slammer once again.
But if I don’t; My fate could quickly spin
Out of control, and make me twist and squirm.

The lying that my Daddy taught to me
Has been so helpful all these gangster years;
But now the Presidency blocks my path
Of exit; to those scams that made me free.
My past is catching up to match my fears
Of failure. Brought to ground by voters’ wrath.

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