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TM, ®, Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

The Supreme Court is on track to become the LEAST trusted institution in the USA
Not "if" but "When and Where" - Guns in the USA Part 653
Tucker Carlson and the Fifth Column
The US Slide towards One-party Rule
The USA never was a Democracy
Trump & the Shitholes
The Trump Inflation
Articles on the USA published before 2022

  • (june 2022) The Supreme Court is on track to become the LEAST trusted institution in the USA, widely viewed as a gang of perverts, liars, crooks, bigots and terrorists ("supreme clowns", not supreme judges), with a tiny minority of members who can be called "honest and respectable" by the standards we apply to neighbors. On the same week of 2022, the Supreme Clowns of the USA decided to restrict the ability of states to regulate guns while expanding the right of states to regulate abortion.

  • (may 2022) Not "if" but "When and Where" - Guns in the USA Part 653.
    Every year there are mass shootings in the USA, shootings that kill ten people or more, due to the ready availability of deadly weapons. The question in most countries of the world is whether there will ever be a mass shooting or not. The question in the USA is not whether there will be another one, but "when" and "where": we know for sure that there will be another one, and many other ones. Every year i publish an article titled Congratulations NRA on another well-executed massacre. Every year those voices like mine that implore politicians to disarm citizens are quickly dwarfed by the much louder and richer voices of the neofascist establishment (mostly concentrated around the TV channel Fox News) that defend "the right to bear arms" (incidentally, there is no such right in the US constitution: there is a right to bear the arms available in the 18th century, when the constitution was drafted, not today's much deadlier arms). The twist of the 2020s on the mass shootings of the USA is that they are now increasingly motivated by racial hatred (hatred spread on the same neofascist platforms like Fox News).

    Anyway, the propaganda of the pro-gun lobbies can be summarized as: a) you are safer if you own a gun; b) cars kill more people than guns; c) the problem is mental health, not guns; d) guns are important to defend the democracy.

    Let's see...

    • The a) argument is based on the fact that other people have guns, so it's not really an argument: obviously if you lived in the middle of a civil war you'd better arm yourself; but the whole point should be NOT to live in the middle of a civil war.
    • When you have so many people with guns, you cannot assume that any place is safe anymore. There is no safe place anymore in the USA. You may get killed in any neighborhood, in any building, in any circumstance. Inevitably, US citizens will demand that security be increased just about everywhere with armed guards, not only at schools but also shopping malls, concert halls, museums, post offices, hospitals, gas stations, city parks, and so on. Having an armed security guard on site will become a major marketing point. Big stores may start offering personal bodyguards for shoppers to make them feel safe inside the store. People will walk around town choosing the streets where there are more armed guards standing outside. I have seen this movie before: in some dangerous African and Latin American cities it was the norm to walk at night only in streets where private security guards abounded and avoid streets with no security guards. That was generally only at night. In the USA this may become the norm even in broad daylight: most of the mass shootings happen during the day.
    • A while back a former sheriff was telling me that one of three murders is left unsolved because there was no motive: someone randomly shot a stranger in the street and, even if there are witnesses, it's hard to catch the murderer when the murderer has no connection of any kind to the victim. He was an optimist: i just read that the percentage of unsolved murders is 39%. Almost half of them. Not only we are 40 times more likely to be killed than in Europe but there's a good chance that the killer will never be caught, never be stopped from killing again, never been punished. Guns don't make you safer: guns make it easier to kill you and your family, and even get away with it.
    • A standard argument in the propaganda of the pro-gun lobbies is that cars kill more people than guns. This is just false: "in 2020, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 45222 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S." (source: the CDC). The NRA routinely says "half of these are suicides, so they don't count". I'm not sure why they shouldn't count (if they had to slit their wrists maybe they wouldn't commit suicide), but, anyway, the same is true of car accidents: about half of the victims are the people who caused the accident. So that's false whichever way you want to look at it: more people are killed by guns than by cars (only in the USA and warzones).
      But it's a silly argument to start with. It's like saying that the death rate of hiking is higher than the murder rate: of course it is, but that's something that we hikers decided to do, because we think there are benefits to doing it even if it's dangerous, and it's our business whether we want to take the risk or not. There are many advantages to hiking (including health advantages), just like there are many advantages to driving that make it worth the risk. For example, driving a car saves time every day on the commute to work, and allows one to drived to the hospital for a medical emergency, or to pick up children at school so they don't get kidnapped by the many psychos of the USA.
      If you really want to compare gun deaths with car accidents, then you should compare how likely you are to get killed by a car when you are NOT inside a car. Number of pedestrians killed by cars in a year in the USA: 6,000. Number of bikers killed by cars: 1,000. Total: 7,000. So, even removing suicides, you are 3 times more likely to get killed by a gun than by a car. You should also count how many cars are on the road every day compared with how many guns are on the streets every day. There are very few guns on the streets every day and yet dozens of people are killed by guns every day.
      The countries where you can find this phenomenon are the countries in the middle of a civil war: Yemen, Central America (drug cartels, which acquire almost all their weapons from the USA), Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria... and the USA.
      As of 2020, the leading causes of death among children and teenagers in the USA are 1. guns, 2. car accidents, 3. drug overdose. If you have children, stop worrying about them being run over by a car or kidnapped by a maniac: the number one threat for them is the guns that you own and your neighbors own.
    • The neofascist establishment (Fox News, NRA, Donald Trump and assorted neofascist politicians like Ted Cruz and the governors of Texas and Florida) tries to disrupt the conversation by blaming mental health instead of gun ownership. The problem is that mental health changes throughout a person's lifespan: are we going to check the mental health of every citizen every week? Many mass shooters gave no signs of mental problems until the very last few days. And most people who are depressed or angry never kill anyone: are we going to jail any teenager who is in a bad mood for fear that he might grab a gun and kill 20 children? Last but not least, there are mentally unstable people also in any other country of the world, and occasionally they do something stupid, but, if they have no access to a gun, it is rare that they manage to kill 20 people. In fact, it is rare that they kill anyone at all.
    • As silly as the argument about mental health is, the neofascist establishment is on to something when it blames mental health: these frequent massacres are one of the visible signs of a decline in civility, i.e. of rising incivility, of which Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and politicians like Donald Trump are emblematic. The mental health we should be discussing is the mental health caused by the barbaric incivility of influencers like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump.
    • Faced with numbers that speak for themselves, gun advocates reply that guns are important to defend the US democracy. Anybody living in the democracies of Germany or Sweden or Australia will laugh: the USA is way less democratic than those countries (where very few people have guns to "defend" their democracy). If there is one Western country that is on the verge of falling into dictatorship, it is the USA: Donald Trump just attempted to a) imprison his opponents, b) silence the press and c) stage a coup.
    • No it is not true that Switzerland has a lot of guns but no gun violence. First of all, the USA has roughly one gun per person, whereas Switzerland has one for every four people. And in any case Switzerland (with the highest gun ownership in Europe) has the highest rates of gun violence in Europe, although only one tenth of the USA. In Switzerland automatic weapons are banned for civilians and, since 2007, facing a wave of accidental deaths and suicides, it has enacted restrictions on the sale and possession of ammunition. To buy a gun in Switzerland, you need to get a permit-to-purchase issued by the cantonal police. Guns are legal in Switzerland only (only) to protect the country, and (where allowed) for hunting, not (not) for personal protection. The Swiss are not idiots.
    • Finally someone still has to explain why most mass shooters (as well as serial killers) are white Christians. Read again What is wrong with White Christians?

    The ones who are telling you that US citizens need guns to protect their democracy are the ones who are trying to overthrow the US government to establish a Chinese-style dictatorship.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (february 2022) Tucker Carlson and the Fifth Column.
    There has a long history of US collaborators with nazism and fascism (from Charles Lindbergh to Ezra Pound - see Bradley Harts' "Hitler's American Friends"). Tucker Carlson, a top-rated host of the neofascist TV channel Fox News, represents today's "fifth column", that is working for and with Putin's Russia to sabotage the USA, NATO and European democracies. Tucker has consistently opposed the investigation on Russia-Trump collusions, has consistently defended Russia from accusations of interfering in US politics, and has consistently presented Russia's actions as justified, whether the invasion and annexation of Crimea or the invasion of Syria to defend its genocidal dictator Assad. Carlson also recycles old debunked conspiracy theories that try to acquit Russia of any responsibility in well documented cases of pro-Trump actions. For example, Carlson is still pushing a conspiracy theory for which Fox News was sued and eventually settled the lawsuit paying more than $10 million (in November 2020). It was the theory that a man named Seth Rich had done what the FBI determined was done by Russian agents. It wasn't just the FBI to blame Russia: Trump's own Justice Department, the Republican-led House and Senate intelligence committees, special counsel Robert Mueller and the CIA all reached the same conclusion, i.e. that Russia's military intelligence agency GRU had worked to sabotage Hillary Clinton's campaign and Seth Rich had nothing to do with it. Mueller even discovered the names of the 12 Russian agents (members of Units 26165 and 74455 of the GRU) who carried out the cyberattacks against the Democratic Party. Carlson's viewers know nothing of this: they think that Russia was innocent, both of this and many other cases of interference and sabotage. Carlson is a neofascist member of the Republican Party. The Republican Party used to be the party of "tough on Russia". Trump, always devout to his boss Putin, already changed that stance. Carlson finished the job by turning a wing of the Republican Party into a fifth column working for Russia. Carlson has consistently seeded doubts about every confirmed act of cyberterrorism carried out by Russian operatives, while consistently accusing the US government of misleading its public. Watch any official Russian TV channel and this will sound very familiar. Carlson's most significant impact on US society has been to consistently create divisions within the USA on every possible topic, from immigration to covid vaccines, which is precisely the top mission of Russia's secret services in the USA. Carlson is a star on Russia's national television, which keeps showing translations of his pro-Russia monologues. Russia Today's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan has publicly demanded that Putin grants an interview to the only TV host of the West who is willing to defend Putin's actions (she did it again, live on TV, on February 16 on Vladimir Soloviev's popular evening program). On the same night when Carlson was speaking about Biden over a banner that read "War Machine", Russia television had just aired a program about Biden over a banner that read "Warmongers". Coincidence? Carlson's support of Russia goes beyond spreading Russian propaganda: sometimes he's the one who creates it. Most media reported that Russia was spreading the conspiracy theory that Ukraine was preparing biological weapons in secret military labs set up by the USA. That was wrong: the conspiracy theory did not originate in Russia. Russia picked it up from right-wing media in the USA, where it originated. Basically, it was Carlson who first suggested it to the Russians and then Russian media adopted it as news coming from the USA itself. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. If someone behaves like a Russian agent, acts like a Russian agent and speaks like a Russian agent, what is he?

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2022) The US Slide towards One-party Rule (100 years after Mussolini)
    The centennial of Mussolini's rise to power (1922) should teach US citizens a few lessons.

    But first let's start with a bit of recent history. Daniel Ortega is widely considered the dictator of Nicaragua, but in reality he got elected legally in 2007. He exploited technicalities in Nicaragua's constitution and became president although he received only 38% of the votes. Nicaragua's constitution allows a "loser" of the popular vote to be appointed president. Once president, Ortega and his party proceeded to reshape the Supreme Court and the electoral bureaucracy. This was all done in line with the Nicaraguan constitution. Eventually he and his party began to reshape the armed forces and the police to gain full political control of the country. In the presidental elections of 2021 this system had the legal power to order house arrest for his main opponent, Cristian Chamorro (to "lock her up"). The friendly judges appointed (constitutionally) by Ortega and his party certified him as the winner of the 2021 election. The members of Ortega's party, the Sandinistas, are believing ever more grotesque Ortega lies, and treat like liars all those who tell the truth. Basically they live in a world of "post-truth". Does it sound familiar?

    Very few Republicans have unequivocally condemned the "insurrection" of January 6 that attempted to stop the certification of Joe Biden as president. One therefore feels that all those Republicans were not necessarily opposed to the idea of a coup but instead simply wanted to see how it would pan out. One suspects that, for many of them, the January 6 insurrection was a test-run to see how the institutions would react, how many citizens would get alarmed, what the military would do, and so on. The coup failed, but it showed, to those interested, that it was possible: it showed where the system is still strong (i.e. where it needs to be further weakened so that a coup could succeed). The coup was prevented by a handful of low-level local bureaucrats who stood up against Donald Trump's pressures and threats. Change those bureaucrats with Trump loyalists, and the result would have been different.

    Trump rehearsed the method of using judges, county boards, state officials, and even the Justice Department, to get state legislators to appoint presidential electors, overriding the results of the election. Many Republicans don't necessarily like the way Trump tried to do it but they are inspired by the general idea to find loopholes to stay indefinitely in power, at both local and federal level. Wherever it can, the Republican Party is seizing control of the once-overlooked machinery of elections, replacing the low-level local bureaucrats who are not partisan with partisan ones. The Republican Party is reshaping the local boards that have the power to block certification of the vote results. Several Republican-controlled states like Texas have rewritten the law so that Republican loyalists will decide which results to certify and which to reject. At the same time, after realizing the strategic importance of local vote-counting jobs, thousands of Trump supporters are signing up for those jobs, literally infiltrating the electoral system. Imagine if members of Al Qaeda were signing up in droves to enter the US air force. All the Republicans who refused to go along with Trump's coup (from vicepresident Pence to congresswoman Cheney and including the various low-level election officials) are being removed, demoted or otherwise neutralized. Mitch McConnell will probably be next. In 250 years of history, the state governors have simply signed off on the numbers provided to them by their vote counting boards, but, technically speaking, it is the governors who decide which presidential electors the state sends to vote for president. In the current climate it is legitimate to fear that Republican governors will ignore the actual vote count and simply certify the Republican candidate. Ditto for the state legislature: in some states, the legislature has the power to declare the vote null and void and to appoint an alternative slate of presidential electors. A friendly Supreme Court (composed of judges mostly appointed by Republican presidents) may be willing to greatly expand the power of those legislatures over the choice of presidential electors. If Republicans win back the House and Senate in 2022, they will be firmly in charge of counting and certifying the electoral votes in the presidential election of 2024. The Republican Party is positioning itself to be able to subvert future elections. They only need to install a few generals who will go along with the coup, and this could well be the priority of the next Republican president. In fact, the 727 defendants charged in the January 6 riot include 81 with ties to the military, five who were active duty service members, and an air force veteran (the only one who was killed by the police). Mark Brewer, an election lawyer, has called this the "slow-motion insurrection".

    Just like Mussolini's rise to power was facilitated by the Catholic Church, the Republican Party is counting on the help of the "evangelicals". The USA is full of deeply religious Christians who are terrified by the rise of secularism and the decline of their religion. They view this historical process as creating moral chaos. They see mortal enemies in atheists, and maybe also in gays, feminists and Muslims. They perceive Christianity as cornered by a new kind of radical militant movement, the anti-religious movement. In the eyes of the evangelicals, these "radicals" are out to destroy the very notion of what is "good". These "radicals" are to be blamed for the breakdown of the family and the drug epidemic. Trump (a man who married three times and cheated on all his wives, and scammed innocents with a fake university and a fake foundation, not to mention the many sex-related lawsuits that he settled out of court) is not exactly a model Christian, but he captured 76% of the white evangelical vote because he upheld traditional Christian values, showed unconditional support for the state of Israel, opposed abortion, and criminalized Islam.

    Thanks to the actions of the National Rifle Association, which has consistently supported the right to bear weapons and even promoted semiautomatic weapons (called "machine guns" in the rest of the world), the right-wing militias are heavily armed.

    Originally, the right to bear arms was introduced to protect from a foreign invasion. For a long time the main fear that US citizens had was a foreign invasion that would change the way of life in a free country: Germans invading Britain and installing a Nazist regime; Russians invading Europe and installing a communist regime; Muslims invading the USA and installing shariha law. Now people fear their own compatriots: the threat to their way of life comes from people inside the nation, fellow citizens who embrace political agendas that seem more threatening than a foreign invasion. It is not Russia that threatens to change the way of life of the people of Idaho or Alabama: it is the "liberals". And viceversa: it is not China that threatens to change the way of life of the people of California: it is the "conservatives". The arms that those right-wing militias are assembling are not meant to protect from a foreign invasion but from fellow US citizens guilty of being "liberals".

    One disturbing aspect of the January 6 attempted coup is that the police didn't shoot at the Trumpists breaking into the Capitol. Imagine what the police would have done if the attackers were Antifa or simply black people. You would have a stronger reaction if you tried to enter a court without going through the metal detector. In fact, you would probably be shot in the first minute. Instead most of the police officers did not shoot at the Trumpists. The fact is that most police officers and most soldiers are Republican voters. Many of them sympathyze or outright side with the Trumpists. We can't trust them to protect the USA from a full-fledged right-wing coup.

    Looking back, the Republican Party has been the beneficiary of the undemocratic features of the US constitution: if only votes counted, the Republicans would almost never control the senate, neither Bush II nor Trump would have become president, the Supreme Court would be full of progressive judges, and so on. Trump showed how the electoral process can be further manipulated in a more systematic and pervasive manner. Trump showed that elections, just like in Russia, can be used as mere decoration, fodder for TV shows.

    The Republican Party has a powerful ally in the US constitution itself, a vastly overrated document that was written by a handful of aristocrats of which 25 were slaveholders. The USA is a republic, not a real democracy, but a representative one, where we vote for others to vote for us. The US constitution doesn't say that the person who gets the most votes becomes president. The US constitution says that the electoral college decides who becomes president. And so all a candidate has to do is win the majority of presidential electors, not necessarily the majority of votes. The US constitution also says that the presidential electors are chosen according to rules decided by each state, i.e. by the state legislators. Article II: each state shall appoint presidential electors "in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct". So far every state has respected the will of its voters, automatically certifying presidential electors who support the victor at the polls, but the constitution grants the state the authority to take back the power to appoint presidential electors. And Trump's legal adviser John Eastman was absolutely right that the vicepresident has the power to do "the counting, including the resolution of disputed electoral votes - and all the Members of Congress can do is watch". In other words, the outgoing vicepresident can decide whom to crown president-elect. Trump's grey eminence Steve Bannon declared that "people are going back to the original interpretation of the Constitution."

    The Republican Party is therefore working to "win" the elections (no matter who we voted for) by a) making it difficult for others to vote; b) making sure that only some votes are counted; c) making sure that the people in charge of certifying votes will certify what the party wants. As a friend keeps reminding me, this would not be the "end" of the US democracy because the USA was never meant to be a full democracy. Just read the US constitution. There is a strong chance that, leveraging the undemocratic features in the constitution, the Republican Party is not going to accept defeat anymore.

    Two conservatives, Jonathan Rauch and Peter Wehner, wrote about their party: "The Republican Party has abandoned its core commitments to constitutional norms, to conservative principles and even to basic decency. It has allowed itself to be hijacked by a reality television star who is a pathological liar, emotionally unsteady corrupt, incompetent and even treasonous." I think they are being naive. On the contrary, i think that the Republican Party used Trump as an experiment and is now ready to ditch Trump and try something much more ambitious, something that will make Trump look like the cartoonish apprentice.

    Through its gun-friendly laws and the Fox News propaganda, the Republican Party has created a violent political mass movement. The problem is not only the sore loser in chief, the sore whiner in chief: whining has spread to an entire party, and now 68% of all Republicans believe that the election was stolen by Biden. Analysts who are surprised how many Republicans believe in Trump's "big lie" don't seem to remember that Trump and others tried to overthrow Obama with another lie, that Obama was not born in the USA, and millions of Republicans believed it. A Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 12% of US citizens believe both that the election was stolen from Trump and that "true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country". Despite being responsible for thousands of covid deaths and for an attempted coup, in 2021 Fox News was the most-watched network not just in cable news but in all of cable television, with an average audience of 1.5 million. Just like Mussolini and Hitler before him, Trump has convinced millions of supporters that intimidation and even violence is a legitimate way to win an election.

    The Republican Party is de facto an armed fascist militia like the ones that propelled Mussolini to power.

    The USA never was a full democracy (see also The USA never was a Democracy). The founders made sure that it would not be a democracy, and the constitution includes several undemocratic prescriptions (the electoral college and the senate are the obvious ones). The USA was always a "pseudo-democracy". The founders also made sure that citizens would be allowed to bear guns. For a while this well-armed pseudo-democracy was the most democratic country in the world because the other democracies were even less democratic. The risk is that the undemocratic features will steadily erode the democratic ones. It could be that the US constitution, widely admired for its separation of powers, is the reason why the USA is doomed to slide into one-party rule. If one thinks of which major democracy is more likely to slide into dictatorship, that country is the USA, that already has the most undemocratic institutions and is now seriously under attack by Republicans who are exploiting those undemocratic institutions to make sure that they will win all future elections. The USA could become a one-party system like China. The Party will progressively silence all opposition (like Trump wanted to do) and leave only the media affiliated with the party, and install a party member on the boards of every major high-tech corporation in order to censor all information. If one looks forward 20-30 years, it is more likely that China and Russia will have become democratic (once the current cadres die) than the USA will have remained as democratic as it is now.

    This is no longer about policy. Over the last 20 years the Republican Party has done little other than cut taxes for the rich, and over the four Trump years it has reneged on almost all its tenets. The party of immigration has become the party of xenophobia, the party of fiscal responsibility has become the party of big spending, the party of free trade has become the party of protectionism, and the party of intervention has become the party of appeasement (particularly towards Russia). The Republican Party's new policy is similar to the policy of the Communist Party of China: stay in power forever.

    That's not to say that the Trumpists are unjustified in their grievances against income inequality, Washington corruption, political correctedness, decline of the middle class, and so on. I am sure that many people vote Republican simply because they honestly believe that the Republican Party has a better program (or, more likely, that the Democratic Party sucks). But, as the Catholic priest wrote in 1942: "First they came for the Jews, and i didn't speak up. Then they came for the Communists, and i didn't speak up. Then they came for me". It won't take long before the Trumpists realize that both Biden and Pelosi are Catholics. It won't take long before they turn against high-tech workers. And it certainly won't take long before they single out all immigrants and maybe even children of immigrants. The Republican Party is just a well-armed fascist organization intent on installing a Putin-style mafia-dictatorship on the USA. Good luck to all the naive citizens who will vote Republican at the next election.

    Voting for the Republican Party in 2022 is like voting for Mussolini in 1922, exactly one century ago.

    The press is "luegenpresse" (fake news) - Adolf Hitler
    Journalists are "vrag naroda" (enemies of the people) - Joseph Stalin
    Let's make America great again - Benito Mussolini (1927)
    The press is fake news and journalists are enemies of the people. Let's make America great again - Donald Trump

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2022 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (january 2022) The USA never was a Democracy (on the occasion of Biden's "Summit for Democracy")

    The US constitution is a vastly overrated document that was written in 1787 by some 50 aristocrats, half of which were slaveholders, and none of which cared for the right of women to vote.

    The US constitution was never meant to be democratic. None of the founders believed in democracy.

    Alexander Hamilton stated: "The body of people do not possess the discernment and stability necessary for systematic government. To deny that they are frequently led into the grossest errors by misinformation and passion, would be a flattery which their own good sense must despise." (Speech to the New York ratifying convention, 1788)

    John Adams: democracy "never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide" (Letter to John Taylor, 17 December 1814)

    James Madison: “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob"

    The framers of the US constitution were strongly anti-democratic people, jealous of their (aristocratic) rights, with no intention to surrender power to the masses.

    It wasn't Athens that inspired the founders of the USA. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin had a different model of government in mind: the Iroquois Confederacy. Thomas Jefferson spent a year with the Iroquois in upstate New York. The constitution was inspired by Iroquois practices, like checks and balances. The US constitution conveniently left out aspects of the Iroquoi society that would have altered the balance of power in the USA. For example, among the Iroquoi only women could vote even though only men could serve; and of course there was no slavery.

    Whatever the origins, the USA was born as a federal, constitutional republic. States are the ultimate arbiters of power, and the federal government has limited powers. Neither the states nor the federal governments are meant to be fully democratic, except for the House (parliament). Originally, the senate was not elected by the people. Now it is, but each state is represented by two senators, which makes it the most undemocratic institution of all: a citizen of Wyoming (population 600,000) is represented by two senators just like California (population 39 million), i.e. the vote of a citizen of Wyoming counts 70 times more than the vote of a citizen of California. Worse: article V of the constitution makes it impossible to change this because it permanently forbids amendments allowing proportional representation in the senate.

    The constitution does not grant any representation in the house or senate for those who live in Washington DC: the District of Columbia is a federal district, not a state, and therefore has no representation in the house or the senate. So the 578,000 citizens of Wyoming get two senators in the Senate while the 692,000 citizens of Washington DC get zero. Ditto for Puerto Rico, which is a colony (an "unincorporated territory"), not a state.

    The Supreme Court has (intentionally) little to do with the will of the people, but, unfortunately, it also has little to do with the merits of the judges who get there: judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate and they remain in power until they either resign or die. The composition of the Supreme Court depends on whoever is president and whoever controls the senate when one judge dies or resigns. It is a lottery, not a meritocracy. Today, conservative (Republican-appointed) judges enjoy a staggering 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court despite the fact that the Republican Party has won the presidential popular vote only once in the last 34 years. Trump was president only for four years, having lost the election to Hillary Clinton by three million votes, but was lucky to preside over the death of three judges of the Supreme Court (i.e. 33% of the Supreme Court). Obama was president for eight years, having won the majority of the popular vote both times, and appointed only two. Like all lotteries, its outcome can be irrational and unfair.

    The key aspect of the US constitution was and is the separation of powers, but that separation is achieved again through an undemocratic trick: the Congress (elected by the people) is checked by the president (who is appointed by the electoral college based on which presidential electors the states appoint, which is generally not proportional to the votes) and by the judiciary (whose federal and supreme judges are appointed, not elected, and for life). Basically, the USA is a mixture of monarchy (the president), aristocracy (senators, who were originally appointed by state legislatures, plus federal/supreme judges, nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate), and democracy (the House representatives, i.e. the parliament).

    Defenders of the undemocratic aspects of the constitution point out that those undemocratic aspects defend the rights of minorities. It turns out that the "minority rights" that the founders most cared for were property rights because they (the founders) came from the wealthy families of the colonies and wanted to make sure that the majority would never confiscate their properties. In fact, there was nothing in the constitution to protect the rights of minorities like blacks and Chinese, not to mention women who are not even a minority. For the same reason they loved the right to bear guns: i doubt they deluded themselves that, in the event of a war against an invading enemy, militias made up of ordinary people would be more effective than the army, but they certainly wanted to have guns to defend themselves from mobs, a more likely scenario.

    The framers of the constitution were far less interested in democracy than in protecting their own rights. The constitution didn't grant any right to slaves, nor to women. Slaves won freedom (if not voting rights) some 70 years later after a civil war that could have gone either way. Women won the right to vote 140 years later in 1920: the 19th amendment, which means that 18 amendments were considered more urgent/important than giving women the right to vote.

    Was the undemocratic constitution meant to defend the rural states from the urban states? Maybe so, but the dichotomy rural/urban has long become obsolete. Why not divide the states between post-industrial (i.e. high-tech) and old industrial? Does the constitution defend the rights of Florida (home to old-fashioned corporations, none in the top 80 of the Fortune 500) from Washington state, the state of Seattle (i.e. Microsoft, Amazon)? Or why not divide the states between sea states and landlocked states? Why in heaven the only dichotomy that matters is between rural and urban?

    In any event the constitution that was meant to defend the rights of the rural states is the main reason that the USA is sliding into "minority rule", de facto a dictatorship of the sparsely populated rural states (a tiny minority of today's population) over the majority (the densely populated states). Apparently, the US constitution was designed to defend the rights of the minority but not the rights of the majority. The constitution is not helping the peace between rural and urban states: it is fostering a new civil war as that minority has learned to exploit the undemocratic aspects of the constitution to seize and remain in power while the majority, justifiably, feels under-represented, disenfranchised and cheated.

    The USA was the "leader" of the democratic world when the rest of the world was less democratic than the USA's pseudo-democracy. Now there are many countries, notably in Europe, that are more democratic. Whether full democracy is a good idea or not is a different discussion, but US presidents like Biden should stop pretending that the USA is the leader of the democratic world. In fact, this hybrid two-party system that is in danger of becoming a one-party system (see The US Slide towards One-party Rule) tends to legitimize other pseudo-democratic regimes like Putin's Russia and Erdogan's Turkey.

    See also Should California Declare Independence?

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  • (january 2022) Trump & the Shitholes
    Returning from a one-month trip to Europe, i was reminded of something that Trump said. Trump once asked a good question: "Why does America get so many immigrants from shithole countries and not from countries like Norway"? While displaying his typical racism (he was referring to countries where people are black) and ignorance (most immigrants actually come from China and India, which are probably not the "shitholes" he had in mind), it was a legitimate question; and unfortunately everybody focused on the racism of the question rather than trying to answer it. "Why does the USA (the country that used to receive millions of European immigrants) now gets so few European immigrants and, in general, so few immigrants from developed countries?" Trump and his Republican friends didn't have an answer because they fail to see how far behind today's USA now lags in many key factors that determine the quality of life. The fact is that most Europeans, especially Trump's favorite Scandinavians, don't want to emigrate to the USA. The reasons are mainly related to Republican policies, and that's probably why Republicans didn't look for an answer. Start with guns and violence in general: you are 40-50 times more likely to be murdered in the USA than in Europe. How many US citizens would emigrate to a country where they would be 40-50 times more likely to be murdered? That's precisely the kind of question that Europeans (and now also Chinese) ask themselves.

    The USA also lacks universal health care, which is normal in Europe (as well as Canada, Australia and Japan). Immigrants from poor undeveloped countries are willing to live with a system that may or may not provide you with a doctor and a hospital bed, but immigrants from Trump's favorite countries are less likely to take the chance. (In general, in the USA, when available, health care has little to do with "health" - see Health care does not mean health).

    It doesn't help that the USA still uses the bizarre, ancestral measurement system of miles and gallons (and even Farenheit degrees) instead of the metric system that is used in every other country of the world: when you cross the border into the USA, you don't feel like you're entering the future, you feel like you're going back 200 years.

    The USA used to be the most democratic country in the world but the rest of the world has progressed while the USA seems to be regressing. Today the USA does not rank among the most democratic countries in the world. The undemocratic aspects of its constitution (the way the president if elected by an electoral college instead than by the people, the way the senate disproportionally represents sparsely populated rural states, the way judges are appointed to the Supreme Court for life) have become highly visible aberrations. The threat of a Trump-style dictatorship is clear. The USA is more likely to become a dictatorship than any Western European country. (See The US Slide towards One-party Rule). Soon, it could be Trump's favorite Norway that thinks of the USA as a "shithole".

    Last but not least, it is hard to see the attractiveness for European immigrants (or Japanese or Canadian) of a broken immigration procedure that humiliates those who want to immigrate legally, especially those who have a degree and a good job: it takes years to obtain a "green card" and during that period one is basically a second-class person. The current US immigration system assumes that it is the USA to do a favor to those who are willing to immigrate to the USA instead of assuming that the USA needs to encourage valuable people to leave their countries and cross the ocean. Why would anyone cross an ocean to a country where they feel unwanted?

    Decades of complacency have eroded the charisma of the USA and a few more decades of political madness could turn the USA into a Trump-ain "shithole".

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  • (january 2022) The Trump Inflation
    Economists are pointing out all the obvious factors that explain why prices are rising so quickly in the USA; and many people are blaming Biden's policies (although very little of Biden agenda has been passed in Congress and almost nothing has been implemented yet). All those factors are certainly true but it is surprising that three actions by Trump are being ignored despite their obvious impact on prices.

    First, Trump slapped tariffs on Chinese goods. Biden has not removed them, so i am not blaiming only Trump, but it is a fact that those "tariffs" amount to a tax on the middle class. Europeans are more honest and call them "valued-added taxes". Trump called them "tariffs" so they sound patriotic and a slap in the face of China, but in reality they are paid by US consumers. The net result is that everything that is made, or that used to be made, in China, from shoes to car parts, has become more expensive. China does not pay for it: the US consumers pay for it. It just took a couple of years to show up, but the Chinese tariffs are causing pressure on consumer prices.

    Secondly, Trump restarted the "cold war" with Iran, which has taken a toll on the price of oil. Iran's crude oil exports declined by approximately 80% between April 2018 and October 2019. China is pretty much the only country that dares import oil from Iran. Everybody else lined up behind the USA and stopped buying Iranian oil. Iran's oil production has plummeted to a 40-year low, below 2 million barrels per day. While Iran doesn't have the same influence on oil prices that it had before the Islamic revolution of 1978, it doesn't help that millions of Iranian oil barrels have disappeared from the market (at the same time that Libya is in the middle of a civil war) just when the world economies are finally recovering from the covid recession. It only helps the OPEC nations and, of course, Trump's favorite nation: Russia.

    Thirdly, there is little talk of the effect of Trump's anti-immigration policies on inflation. The USA desperately needs workers, especially low-end workers, those who pick tomatoes in the fields and wash city streets. The USA also needs nurses (especially home health aides), software engineers, data scientists and many other skilled workers. Trump's war on immigrants has had a simple effect: pressure on wages. These categories benefit because their salaries increase but everybody else pays the price because eventually the costs of those salaries are passed on to the consumers. To be fair, the effect of Trump's war on immigrant was compounded by the restrictions on international travel following the covid pandemic.
    Whether it is morally right or wrong to impose tariffs on China, to keep sanctions on Iran and to discourage foreigners from emigrating to the USA is another discussion. The fact is that the combination of these actions has laid the foundations for the spike in inflation that is costing dearly to the middle class.
    As for the morality of these actions, one wonders why the USA has sanctions against Iran but doesn't slap sanctions on Saudi Arabia given that Saudi Arabia has funded Islamic terrorism, treats women like animals and has recently slaughtered a US journalist; and why there are tariffs on Chinese goods but not on Israeli goods despite the fact that Israel's policies on Palestinians are not any more humane than China's policies on Uighurs, and Israeli spies have been found several times stealing US technology, and Israeli spyware Pegasus is used by dictators and druglords all over the world to intimidate journalists. Again, it's not only Trump to be blamed. His successor has changed very little. (See Joe Biden = Donald Trump part II ).

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