Scholar Lilliana Mason: “I’m worried about violent conflict between Democrats and Republicans”

From Salon:

Author of “Uncivil Agreement” on how politics has descended into a brutal team sport focused solely on winning

Chauncey DeVega
August 20, 2018

President Abraham Lincoln famously warned that “a house divided against itself, cannot stand.” More than 150 years later his alarm still resonates: While the conflagration will most likely take a different form than it did in Lincoln’s day, America in the era of President Donald Trump is increasingly a country of warring tribes rather than a united people possessed of a shared sense of identity and destiny.

Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, do not live in the same communities. They do not consume the same news media. They are divided by race, gender, religion and ethnicity. Republicans and conservatives have even tried to create their own alternate universe, a world free of facts not governed by empirical reality where right-wing ideology is a religion or cult that supersedes all other things.

The president of the United States is not a unifier who seeks to lead all people and by doing so to inspire the best of who and what America and the American people can be. Instead he is hell-bent on creating chaos and division. For his voters and other Republicans and conservatives, he is a champion and political godhead. For Democrats, liberals and other people of conscience he is closer to being a monster.

How did America become so divided? Why has political polarization become so extreme? In what ways have political parties become like sports teams where winning is all that matters and the common good is unimportant? Can American democracy to survive Donald Trump amid the rise of a conservative movement that views Democrats and liberals as an “un-American” enemy?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Lilliana Mason. She is a assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the author of the new book “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.”

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Lilliana Mason. She is a assistant professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and the author of the new book “Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity.”

How do you explain the election of Donald Trump and the current state of American politics?

Our party identities have been moving into alignment with other social identities. As a result race, religion, culture, geography and to some extent gender and other identities align with political parties. This means we become much more focused on the party winning. For Republicans this means white and Christian, rural and male. What Trump did was to activate a particular type of white identity. Then he made it clear to the Republican electorate that they should be paying attention to their white identities and voting based on it. Trump was also telling these voters what they had in their heads already.

He really pointed to a group of people who were feeling vulnerable and condescended to and made fun of and said, “You guys are losers, right? We’re all losers, we are losing all the time.” Then he said, “But I’m going to make you winners, I’m going to make us win again.” So it was this almost perfect message delivered to a group of people who were ready to hear a message like that, and were committed to defeating the Democrats because the other party is so socially “other” from them. Ultimately, Donald Trump tapped into a dynamic that has been developing over the last few decades in America.

America has a long history of extreme political polarization and partisanship. We actually fought a civil war that killed 750,000 people. Those fault lines of race still exist. Part of me feels like there is nothing really new about Trump and what he represents. In fact, America has only been a democracy on paper for about the last 50 years. Then again, Trump and his supporters’ unabashed contempt for democracy and overt racism and bigotry does feel new in the recent history of American politics. How do you reconcile those tensions?

This is not a completely new way of approaching politics, at least in the Republican Party — consider the racist Southern Strategy [of the 1968 election and thereafter]. But there are now such strong partisans that will do almost anything just for their political team to win. As I said earlier, this is partly because when our party “wins,” our racial group and our religious group and our other cultural and social identities “win” too. The victory of our political party is taking up more and more of what I describe as “self-esteem real estate.” Every part of us is involved now in the outcome of the election. So when our party loses, it hurts a lot more than it did before, because we used to have other meaningful identities.

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Why It Can Happen Here

From The New York Times:

We’re very close to becoming another Poland or Hungary.

By Paul Krugman
Aug. 27, 2018

Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a friend of mine — an expert on international relations — made a joke: “Now that Eastern Europe is free from the alien ideology of Communism, it can return to its true historical path — fascism.” Even at the time, his quip had a real edge.

And as of 2018 it hardly seems like a joke at all. What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe. This includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy as we normally understand it is already dead.

In both countries the ruling parties — Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary — have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.

And it could all too easily happen here. There was a time, not long ago, when people used to say that our democratic norms, our proud history of freedom, would protect us from such a slide into tyranny. In fact, some people still say that. But believing such a thing today requires willful blindness. The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.

Just look at what has been happening at the state level.

In North Carolina, after a Democrat won the governorship, Republicans used the incumbent’s final days to pass legislation stripping the governor’s office of much of its power.

In Georgia, Republicans tried to use transparently phony concerns about access for disabled voters to close most of the polling places in a mainly black district.

In West Virginia, Republican legislators exploited complaints about excessive spending to impeach the entire State Supreme Court and replace it with party loyalists.

And these are just the cases that have received national attention. There are surely scores if not hundreds of similar stories across the nation. What all of them reflect is the reality that the modern G.O.P. feels no allegiance to democratic ideals; it will do whatever it thinks it can get away with to entrench its power.

What about developments at the national level? That’s where things get really scary. We’re currently sitting on a knife edge. If we fall off it in the wrong direction — specifically, if Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November — we will become another Poland or Hungary faster than you can imagine.

This week Axios created a bit of a stir with a scoop about a spreadsheet circulating among Republicans in Congress, listing investigations they think Democrats are likely to carry out if they take the House. The thing about the list is that every item on it — starting with Donald Trump’s tax returns — is something that obviously should be investigated, and would have been investigated under any other president. But the people circulating the document simply take it for granted that Republicans won’t address any of these issues: Party loyalty will prevail over constitutional responsibility.

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Emails Show Homeland Security Official Had Ties To White Nationalists

From The Forward:

By Alyssa Fisher
August 29, 2018

The Department of Homeland Security has denounced “all forms of violent extremism” following the resignation of a department policy analyst who was connected to white nationalists, The Atlantic reported.

Leaked emails seen by The Atlantic show that analyst Ian Smith had been in contact and planned events with a group that included known white nationalists. One email thread sent to Smith included the address of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. Jared Taylor, the founder of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, was also a recipient of an email sent to Smith.

The messages show how prominent white nationalists interact and stay in touch with each other, including gathering for what they called an “Alt-right Toastmasters” night.

When asked for comment, Smith said in an email: “I no longer work at DHS as of last week and didn’t attend any of the events you’ve mentioned.” Neither he nor DHS disputed that Smith is in fact included on the emails in question.

Others in the Trump administration have already been outed for their ties to white nationalism. White House speechwriter Darren Beattie left the administration after CNN reported earlier this month that he had attended a conference popular with white nationalists in 2016. And The Washington Post reported last week that Peter Brimelow, the publisher of the white nationalist website VDare, had attended a party at the house of top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.


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Al Gore to Donald Trump: “Resign!”

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White House Hosts Christian Leader Who Implied Trans People in Bathrooms Should be Shot

From Into More:

Kate Sosin
28 Aug 2018

As LGBTQ advocates scramble to head off a crisis of transgender murders in the U.S., the Trump White House sat down for dinner with a Christian leader who advocates shooting transgender people who dare use public bathrooms.

On Monday, The White House hosted James Dobson, along with a spate of vehement anti-LGBTQ religious leaders, at a dinner celebrating Evangelical leaders.

Dobson, the infamous anti-gay activist who founded Focus on the Family, implied transgender people should be murdered in bathrooms, after President Obama directed schools to allow students to use a bathroom corresponding with their gender identity in 2016.

Writing for World Net Daily, Dobson described transgender people as perverts.

“If you are a dad, I pray you will protect your little girls from men who walk in unannounced, unzip their pants and urinate in front of them,” he wrote. “If this had happened 100 years ago, someone might have been shot. Where is today’s manhood? God help us!”

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted a photo of himself strolling with Dobson and their wives on Monday.

Dobson was not the only radioactive figure embraced by the White House Monday night. Ivanka Trump, who reportedly worked behind the scenes to convince her father to keep Obama-era LGBTQ workplace protections, has been roundly criticized for posing for photos with anti-gay champion Jim Garlow, who also managed to squeeze into shots with Trump, Pence, Kellyanne Conway and Melania Trump.

Garlow has repeatedly claimed that same-sex marriage is the work of Satan. According to GLAAD, Garlow thinks Christians should rise up the way they did during the Revolutionary War.

“They would pick up a musket and ask: ‘Who’s going to go fight with me?’” Garlow said. “And so the revolutionary armies during that time came from pastors leading the churches. It’s known as the Black-Robed Regiment. And we need a black-robed regiment today. We need pastors who are willing to stand up. And we need persons who are in the pews to stand up with them…”

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Trump warns evangelicals of ‘violence’ if GOP loses in the midterms

This is flat out incitement to violence should real Americans actually exercise their Constitutional rights to vote Trump’s gang of thugs, traitors and thieves out of office come November.

Fifty years of hippie punching and waging war against the 1960s and we have come to this.  An Asshole in Chief who disrespects  John McCain, a war hero and the man chosen by Trump’s party to run for the highest office in the land in 2008.


Shame upon all who support this Clown.

Vote them out.

We have a Constitution and a Republic if we can defend it.

From CNN:

By Jeff Zeleny and Kevin Liptak, CNN
Tue August 28, 2018

(CNN)US President Donald Trump, facing scrutiny for hush money payments to a porn star and a former Playboy model, pleaded with evangelical leaders for political help during closed-door remarks on Monday, warning of dire consequences to their congregations should Republicans lose in November’s midterm elections.

“This November 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment. It’s a referendum on so much,” Trump told the assemblage of pastors and other Christian leaders gathered in the State Dining Room, according to a recording from people in the room.

It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence. When you look at Antifa — these are violent people,” Trump said, describing what would happen should his voters fail to cast ballots. “You have tremendous power. You were saying, in this room, you have people who preach to almost 200 million people. Depending on which Sunday we’re talking about.”

Antifa — a loose collection of anti-fascist groups who regularly stage counter-protests against white supremacists and neo-Nazis — have emerged as an effective bogeyman for segments of the US right.

In a video released last year by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the pro-gun group used footage from street protests and occasional Antifa violence to paint all on the US left as seeking to “bully and terrorize the law-abiding.”

Trump previously appeared to link Antifa to violence at a Charlottesville demonstration last year in which a white supremacist killed a left-wing counter protester and injured 19 others. The President later said there was “blame on both sides.”

‘Get people to support us’

Evangelicals have provided a solid block of support for Trump, even amid the scandals involving alleged sexual affairs.

After news of those purported encounters emerged, his standing among white evangelicals did not slip. But inviting the leaders to the White House only days after the President was newly implicated by his longtime personal lawyer’s guilty plea underscored the degree to which Trump is trying to keep his supporters on his side.

“You have to hopefully get out and get people to support us,” Trump said. “If you don’t, that will be the beginning of ending everything that you’ve gotten.”

Trump will need to maintain that support if he hopes to help Republicans stay in power on Capitol Hill or win re-election himself in 2020. On Monday, he touted the steps he’s taken to promote religious liberty, such as loosening restrictions on political speech from the pulpit, which previously could jeopardize religious institutions’ tax-exempt status.

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A Candidate Backed Medical Marijuana. Wells Fargo Closed Her Bank Account.

Wells Fargo has gotten worse by the month over the last year.  I keep feeling like they really don’t want to do business with people below a certain place on the economic scale.

From The New York Times:

By Emily Flitter
Aug. 20, 2018

Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for agriculture commissioner in Florida, has made no secret of her support for medical marijuana.

Further expansion of the state’s program is the highest priority on her campaign website. Before entering the race, she ran a lobbying firm, Igniting Florida, and described herself as “one of most visible faces and key activists in Florida’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.”

Even so, employees at Wells Fargo, where her campaign held an account, had questions about her platform.

The bank, which says it has a policy against serving marijuana-related businesses, had noticed that Ms. Fried was “advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana.” It asked the campaign in July whether it would be receiving money from “lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity.”

The campaign replied that, yes, Ms. Fried would be receiving donations from lobbyists as well as “executives, employees and corporations in the medical marijuana industry.”

Last week, the campaign said it had received written notice that Wells Fargo was closing its account.

On Monday, Ms. Fried urged her supporters to consider pulling their money from the bank.

“This is absolutely unprecedented,” she said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been in this campaign since the beginning of June. Everybody in Florida knows that I’m one of the main proponents of the expansion of medical marijuana.”

Wells Fargo isn’t the first bank to close a customer’s account over money that could be related to the sale of marijuana, which is legal in some form in states including Florida but still prohibited by federal law.

That conflict has had banks large and small walking a line for more than a decade, since the first states began changing their cannabis laws. Marijuana growers have struggled to open and maintain bank accounts, and dispensaries have relied on cash to do business instead of credit cards. Businesses like construction companies and electricians that provide services to the growers and distributors have also had problems.

The biggest banks are traditionally the most cautious. But Wells Fargo’s scrutiny of Ms. Fried’s political beliefs set its decision apart.

“If a bank is going to start drawing a line based on a candidate’s particular advocacy, where does a bank draw that line?” asked Christian Bax, who until Aug. 10 was Florida’s medical marijuana director. “Is it going to extend to every candidate in Florida who advocates for medical marijuana?”

A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to discuss Ms. Fried’s case specifically, but said the bank has a policy of avoiding the marijuana industry.

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Feminism and Fame

From The Tablet:

In the third of four excerpts from Phyllis Chesler’s ‘A Politically Incorrect Feminist,’ fear of flying

By Phyllis Chesler
August 17, 2018

I had chosen to work with Betty Prashker, who was Kate Millett’s editor at Doubleday.

After Kate read Women and Madness, she immediately endorsed it, which made me very happy. This was new—women being able to blurb each other’s books in a way that impressed publishers. I called Kate to thank her. We made plans to get together.

I visited Kate at her farm near Poughkeepsie, New York. She viewed the land she had bought in a 19th-century kind of way, as the only thing that one can count on. Kate planned to grow Christmas trees and sell them to pay the taxes and for renovations. The property had three big buildings that needed upgrading and perpetual care. Kate also envisioned the place as a summer retreat for women artists, who would work on the farm half the day (mowing, planting, building) and on their own work the rest of the time.

Kate and I had a wonderful evening. She grilled thick steaks and opened bottle after bottle of wine, and we laughed about “our movement.” It was a bit like being in a college dormitory or like having a sister, something I knew nothing about.

We were up quite late. Kate said: “They may think they’ve seen everything, but wait until they see you. You’re something else.”

Our dear friend Linda Clarke tells me that Kate told her: “Phyllis is going straight to the top.”

How much pleasure I took in being able to pledge the sorority of our first feminist icon. Icons are mesmerizing. Kate was there first, right on the cover of Time magazine. Kate had died for our sins, so to speak. Kate knew how to boss women around, but all the bullying she’d done could not compare with how prominent anti-feminists mocked her and how lesbian feminists had bullied her into coming out as bisexual and/or as a lesbian. Kate also suffered resentment, envy, even hatred because she was famous. She wrote about this in her next book, Flying.

A year later, our editor, Betty, followed me into the bathroom and urged me to persuade Kate to remove “all the lesbian material” from Flying, because with it the book was not going to fly at Doubleday. I told her I couldn’t do that. Betty probably feared that the lesbian content would doom the book. How could she have known that a gay and lesbian movement would soon become a major and visible force fighting for equality?

Perhaps Betty also did not like the self-indulgent and demanding voice of the book, which I found Joycean and was the very thing that I admired about it.

In 1973, my friend Erica Jong’s comic novel Fear of Flying was published. It garnered John Updike’s effusive praise and began its path to best-sellerdom. Kate lost Doubleday and moved to Bob Gottlieb at Knopf, where the book was published in 1974 and bombed. I love both books.


Before the 1970s, most women who worked in publishing were secretaries and editorial assistants, were grossly underpaid, and watched as young man after young man was promoted to editor. Reviews of women’s books were not as frequent or as positive as reviews of books by men; more men reviewed books in mainstream and intellectual media than women did. Eventually feminists protested this and made some headway, but all too soon editors began to tap feminists who were at loggerheads ideologically to review each other’s works, which they were only too happy to do.

In the 1960s, women did not write feminist books. Women wrote some best-sellers, but mainly they were cookbooks or about sex, not liberation. Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and William Masters and Virginia Johnson’s Human Sexual Response (1966) were sensations. Betty Friedan’s landmark book The Feminine Mystique (1963) was not an immediate best-seller.

However, from 1970 to 1975, “dancing dog” feminists (the phrase is Cynthia Ozick’s) turned out book after book. We were sought after, written up, interviewed, and could do no wrong. Suddenly our work was celebrated, and publishers or other writers gave us book parties.

At a book party for Alix Kates Shulman’s 1972 novel Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen, Vivian Gornick rushed up to me, breathless and panicked.

“What does she want from me?” Vivian pleaded. “What am I supposed to do?”

“She” was the lesbian activist Rita Mae Brown.

Rita Mae casually strolled by and said: “Just look at her beautiful green cat eyes. I can’t stop looking at them.”

She was completely and defiantly oblivious to the panic she was causing.

Rita Mae, a daughter of poverty, went on to publish Rubyfruit Jungle, live briefly with the tennis star Martina Navratilova, settle down, fox-hunt in the Southern countryside, and write best-selling detective novels with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown.

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Massachusetts is now ground zero in fight for trans rights

From The Washington Blade:

by Chris Johnson
August 22, 2018

Massachusetts will be ground zero in the fight for transgender rights on Election Day when state voters will decide whether to approve or reject a referendum aimed at compromising public bathroom access for transgender people.

The referendum, Question 3, seeks to repeal an update to the state’s non-discrimination law approved by the Massachusetts Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in 2015 barring discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations, including hotels, restaurants as well as public restrooms.

Should voters decide to repeal the law with a majority vote of “no” on the referendum, transgender people would still have recourse under state law if they faced discrimination in employment, housing and education, but not if they’re turned away in bathrooms or other public accommodations in Massachusetts.

David Topping, field director for Yes on 3, said the campaign is “working every day” to ensure Massachusetts voters know what’s at stake for transgender people if the referendum fails.

“It means transgender people can be transgender at home, they can be transgender at work, they can be transgender at school, but they can’t go out in public and be transgender,” Topping said.

Topping said Yes on 3 is “building a robust campaign” that includes staffers in major cities, such as Boston and Worcester. In terms of finances, Topping was reluctant to disclose goals, but said the campaign has a more than $1 million budget and reserved $1 million in airtime for TV ads throughout Massachusetts.

The stakes are high not just for transgender people in Massachusetts. The referendum marks the first time a transgender non-discrimination measure will come before voters at a statewide level. The results will likely impact the national discussion on such protections.

Kasey Suffredini, president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans, said the coalition seeking to uphold the law recognizes the outcome of the vote will have bearing outside Massachusetts.

“It’s a fight of tremendous local significance because it impacts the very basic ability of transgender people to just about their daily lives in public,” Suffredini said. “It also has national significance because it is the first statewide vote on transgender non-discrimination protections in our country’s history, and the anti-transgender activist who put this question on the ballot have said if they are successful in Massachusetts, they will work to roll back LGBT protections across the country.”

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Why is the far right dominated by men?

From The Guardian UK:

It is time we take masculinity more seriously in discussions of the far right and right wing politics

Fri 17 Aug 2018

What if male identity, rather than racist ideology, is the most important reason why people join far-right groups? That is the central claim made by Michael Kimmel, a US sociologist, in his new book Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into – and Out of – Violent Extremism, which studies why young men join (and leave) extreme right groups in Germany, Sweden and the US.

While the central thesis is slightly overstated, the book is remarkably well-written and researched. Kimmel, a longtime scholar of men and masculinity, fills the book with quotes from his many interviews with so-called “formers”.

Almost everyone will have noted that far-right groups and rallies are predominantly male, from the original, deadly Unite the Right rally last year to the pathetic Unite the Right 2 last weekend, but Kimmel is one of the few to have made this the focus of his research.

From interviews with former activists, Kimmel summarizes that far-right groups use masculinity in three distinct, but related, ways. First, they use it to describe or explain their personal situation – for instance, you are single or unemployed because “Others” took your girl/job.

Second, masculinity is used to problematize “the other” – they are not real men because either they are too effeminate or too animalistic. Third, and finally, they use it to recruit members – you can regain your masculinity, and thus your girl and job, by fighting the “Others”.

While Kimmel’s conclusions are based on interviews with members of a specific subset of the far-right universe – mostly small neo-Nazi groups, which more resemble street gangs than political parties – the importance of masculinity has been noted in other far-right groups too. In Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America, US historian Kathleen Belew argues that the origins of the contemporary white power movement, and particularly its paramilitary form, militias, are to be found in the trauma of the Vietnam war.

Belew shows the importance of Vietnam veterans in the white power movement – most notably Louis R Beam Jr, who popularized the notion of “leaderless resistance” within the far right, inspiring terrorists from Robert Jay Matthews to Timothy McVeigh. She also points out how the defeatist mood in the US led to a push for “remasculinization”, expressed through paramilitarization far-right subcultures. In other words, weekend warriors joined militias to regain their manhood as they prepared to protect America (especially women and children) from a range of perceived threats from non-white “barbarians” to so-called UN-operated “black helicopters” believed by conspiracy theorists to be plotting a takeover of the United States.

It is tricky to translate insights from smaller, more activist and extreme groups to the broader electorate. Still, it is clear that gender, and specifically masculinity, also plays a role in terms of the propaganda and appeal of radical right parties and politicians. Michael Kimmel’s earlier book, Angry White Men, originally published in 2013, noted the importance of masculinity in the broader rightwing subculture of America, ie “the Trump base before Trump”.

Most radical right parties have a clear gender gap in their electorate, which is usually roughly 60% male and 40% female, despite the fact that men and women support radical right attitudes to a largely similar extent. In fact, a recent study on “the demography of the alt-right” by George Hawley of the University of Alabama, showed that white US women have stronger feelings of “white identity” and “white solidarity” than white American men.

But just like extreme right groups, many radical right parties espouse a strongly gendered discourse, in which they appeal to a frail masculinity, threatened by emasculating feminists, effeminate liberals, and overly virile “Others”. While women are mainly presented as victims, particularly of the latter – rape of white women by non-white men is an age-old favorite of the far right – men are called upon to protect their “nation” or “race”.

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If You Confirm Brett Kavanaugh, You’re Complicit In Trump’s Federal Crime

From Huffington Post:

By Michelangelo Signorile

Donald Trump is an illegitimate president. He cheated and stole the election, and the man is now implicated in a federal crime. He simply can’t be allowed to continue with his presidential duties.

And any senator who votes to confirm his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh ― scheduled for confirmation hearings in two weeks ― is complicit in the president’s stolen election and his alleged federal crime.

That may sound unrealistic and extreme; however, we’re in a massive national political crisis unlike anything many of us have ever seen. And it calls for speaking boldly and demanding strong action.

Let’s look at the facts.

Many things could have impacted the 2016 election and handed it to Trump, who lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College by less than 80,000 votes in three states. Russia’s interference, James Comey’s late letter on Hillary Clinton’s emails, and voter suppression in swing states all likely played a role.

But on Tuesday, Trump’s former longtime attorney Michael Cohen admitted ― under oath in a court of law ― that he was directed by the then-presidential candidate to pay off two women to stay silent about their stories of sexual affairs with Trump. This demonstrates a deliberate and direct action by the Trump campaign to interfere with the 2016 election.

Had the allegations of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal been made public in the last weeks of the presidential campaign, Trump would have surely experienced a loss of support, coming on the heels of the already-damaging Access Hollywood tape. Even a small dip could have been enough to cost him the race.

Any senator who votes for Kavanaugh legitimizes Trump’s stolen election ― and must be held accountable.

And in fact, Trump knew the women’s stories would sink him ― so much so that, according to Cohen (I repeat, under oath in a court of law), Trump directed his former lawyer to move ahead with the payments and negotiations.

Cohen pleaded guilty Tuesday to eight criminal counts, including bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations. He told a federal court in Manhattan that “in coordination with and at the direction of a candidate,” he and the head of a media company conspired in the summer of 2016 to keep an individual (very likely McDougal) from disclosing information that could hurt “the candidate.” (That media figure is loyal Trump supporter David Pecker of America Media, which bought the rights to McDougal’s story for its publication The National Enquirer, then killed it.) And Cohen admitted he worked “in coordination” with the same candidate to make a payment to another woman ― very likely Stormy Daniels.

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Is the Trump presidency a religious cult? | Reza Aslan

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Something Not Rotten in Denmark

From The New York Times:

By Paul Krugman
Aug. 16, 2018

To be or not to be a socialist hellhole, that is the question. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Last weekend, Trish Regan, a Fox Business host, created a bit of an international incident by describing Denmark as an example of the horrors of socialism, right along with Venezuela. Denmark’s finance minister suggested that she visit his country and learn some facts.

Indeed, Regan couldn’t have picked a worse example — or, from the point of view of U.S. progressives, a better one.

For Denmark has indeed taken a very different path from the United States over the past few decades, veering (modestly) to the left where we’ve veered right. And it has done just fine.

American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here. American policy has been increasingly hostile to organized labor, and unions have virtually disappeared from the private sector; two-thirds of Danish workers are unionized.

Conservative ideology says that Denmark’s policy choices should be disastrous, that grass should be growing in the streets of Copenhagen. Regan was, in effect, describing what her employers think must be happening there. But if Denmark is a hellhole, it’s doing a very good job of hiding that fact: I was just there, and it looks awfully prosperous.

And the data agree with that impression. Danes are more likely to have jobs than Americans, and in many cases they earn substantially more. Overall G.D.P. per capita in Denmark is a bit lower than in America, but that’s basically because the Danes take more vacations. Income inequality is much lower, and life expectancy is higher.

The simple fact is that life is better for most Danes than it is for their U.S. counterparts. There’s a reason Denmark consistently ranks well ahead of America in measures of happiness and life satisfaction.

But is Denmark socialist?

The libertarian Cato Institute says no: “Denmark has quite a free-market economy, apart from its welfare state transfers and high government consumption.” That’s some qualification.

It’s true that Denmark doesn’t at all fit the classic definition of socialism, which involves government ownership of the means of production. It is, instead, social-democratic: a market economy where the downsides of capitalism are mitigated by government action, including a very strong social safety net.

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The G.O.P.’s Climate of Paranoia

From The New York Times:

By Paul Krugman
Aug. 20, 2018

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Truth isn’t truth.

Rudy Giuliani’s latest bon mot is a reminder, if anyone needed it, that calling the Trump administration Orwellian isn’t hyperbole, it’s just a statement of fact. Like the ruling party in “1984,” Donald Trump operates on the principle that truth — whether it involves inauguration crowd sizes, immigrant crime or economic performance — is what he says it is. And that truth can change at a moment’s notice.

For example, not long ago, Republicans insisted that Russia was our greatest threat, and that Barack Obama was betraying America by not confronting Vladimir Putin more forcefully; now Putin is one of the good guys, and the base has gone along with the change. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

And if you thought you heard something different from the Trumpian version of reality, blame evil conspirators and saboteurs, whom you get to denounce in the Two Minutes Hate, chanting “lock her up.”

But how did this happen to the whole Republican Party? And it is effectively the whole party: There is no serious G.O.P. opposition to Trump or his vision. Why did the party’s belief in objective reality collapse so suddenly and completely?

I don’t claim to understand the whole story. But one thing is clear: The Orwellification of the G.O.P. didn’t start with Trump. On the contrary, the party has been moving in that direction for years; the mind-set Trump is exploiting was already well in place before he burst on the scene.

Consider the claims of Trump and his allies that evidence of his collusion with Russia — not “alleged” collusion, because there is no longer any real doubt — is a hoax perpetrated by the “deep state.” Where have we seen something like that before? In Republican attacks on the evidence for climate change.

Fifteen years have passed since Senator James Inhofe suggested that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” This was and is an even crazier claim than the assertion of Trump and company that all of the tweeter in chief’s woes are the product of a vast deep-state conspiracy; it’s not far short of Pizzagate or QAnon territory. To take it seriously you have to believe in a vast international conspiracy involving thousands of scientists, not one of whom dares speak out.

Yet this paranoid fantasy has in effect become the official position of the G.O.P. Climate change deniers have pretty much given up on arguing about the evidence, although the old line “it’s a cold day, so global warming is a myth” still pops up now and then. Instead, it’s all about the supposed conspiracy.

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Elizabeth Warren Unveils Radical Anti-Corruption Platform

From The Intercept:

August 21 2018

Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping set of reforms that would radically restrict and publicly expose corporate lobbying in Washington.

In a major speech at the National Press Club, she laid out the parameters of what she is calling the “Anti-Corruption Act.” If just half of it were implemented, it could transform the political economy of Washington and fundamentally upend the lawmaking process as it currently exists.

Warren began her speech by noting that only 18 percent of the American people now say that they have trust in the government. “This is the kind of crisis that leads people to turn away from democracy,” she said. “The kind of crisis that creates fertile ground for cynicism and discouragement. The kind of crisis that gives rise to authoritarians.”

In broad strokes, Warren is attempting to take the profit motive out of public service by making it extremely difficult for former lawmakers and government officials to cash in on their government experience, while simultaneously giving Congress and federal agencies the resources needed to effectively govern without the motivated assistance of K Street.

In 1995, when Newt Gingrich and the “Republican Revolution” took over Congress, he systematically dismantled the intellectual infrastructure of the institution, defunding major functions of Congress and slashing budgets for staff. The public-facing explanation was to cut back on wasteful spending, but the true intent was to effectively privatize lawmaking, forcing Congress to outsource much of the work of crafting legislation to K Street. What followed was an explosion in the lobbying industry in Washington.

Warren proposes much stricter restrictions on the revolving door between public service and lobbying, but, more fundamentally, flat-out bans on any lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, an industry that has come under increased scrutiny as a result of the trial of Paul Manafort, who made his fortune carrying water for foreign governments in Washington, often whose interests ran against those of the U.S.

Under current law, foreign agents must register and disclose any contacts with government officials — they would now be banned and under Warren’s law, all lobbyists would have to do what foreign agents do now.

Her bill would also mandate that the IRS release tax returns for candidates, and that the president and vice president be subject to conflict-of-interest laws. She would create a new Office of Public Integrity to enforce the new ethics laws.

The new proposal comes on the heels of the Accountable Capitalism Act, and is a window into what she sees as one of the main functions of government, to be a check against runaway capitalism but in significant ways to strengthen, rather than challenge, the free market. “I am a capitalist to my bones,” Warren said recently, in response to the conversation around democratic socialism.

Where some on the left view markets with deep skepticism, Warren’s ideology sees concentrations of corporate power as a great threat, but views functioning markets as a check against that consolidated power. For markets to function properly, she has long argued, robust government regulation and serious enforcement of laws must be in place, otherwise fraudsters and monopolists ripoff both consumers and investors. That ideology led to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and undergirds her more recent proposals.

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OMAROSA! A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

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How ID laws can put trans people in danger

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Billionaires reach for the stars while world suffers

From CNN:

By Jeffrey Sachs
August 15, 2018

With all due respect to Jeff Bezos and other billionaires who plan to spend billions of dollars of their personal wealth on space travel, hundreds of millions of children who lack access to basic health care and schooling more urgently need help right here on Earth.

The world economy is pumping trillions of dollars into the accounts of a few thousand people. These riches should be directed first and foremost to end the millions of needless deaths caused by extreme poverty, and to educate the hundreds of millions of children who lack schooling. The billionaires would still have enough left over to indulge their longing for mega-yachts, personal space ships, private tropical islands, and other conspicuous consumption.

The digital age has created winner-take-all markets in information — including our personal data — and Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergei Brin, and others are giddily reaping the benefits. In the past dozen years, according to Forbes Magazine, the number of billionaires and their net worth have both roughly tripled, from 793 billionaires with $2.6 trillion in net worth in 2006 to around 2,200 billionaires with $9.1 trillion as of March this year.

The flood of wealth to the top vastly outpaces economic growth. Much of the wealth reflects the redistribution of income from low-skilled workers, whose jobs and earnings are being lost to robots and artificial intelligence, to the super-rich owners of these “smart” systems. National income is shifting away from lower-skilled labor to the owners of high tech, including key technologies whose development was originally taxpayer-funded, like the Internet itself and Google’s search engine.

The system is rigged for those at the top. The tech giants divert their mega-wealth offshore, usually with the connivance of the IRS, which turns a blind eye on outrageous schemes that reassign US-based intellectual property to overseas tax havens.

The companies harvest our personal data, for which they pay nothing, to earn their fortunes. They are given patents that create 20-year artificial monopolies on technologies that should be in the public domain.

The billionaires and the corporations they own use campaign donations and media power to cajole our “representatives” in Congress to represent them rather than us. The result is tax cuts and tax gimmicks for the billionaires, and massive deficits and debt left for us and our children to repay. Companies like Amazon entice cities to join the fiscal race to the bottom, as they compete to attract Amazon through offers of local tax breaks and publicly financed infrastructure.T
The wealth at the top is rising so rapidly that even when Bill and Melinda Gates, the greatest philanthropists of our age, nobly give away several billion dollars each year to fight disease and hunger, their wealth soars anyway, with new capital gains vastly outpacing their giving. In 2010, Gates pledged to give away at least half his wealth and called on other rich individuals to do the same. At that time he was worth $53 billion. Today, his net worth is $94.8 billion.

Nearly 200 wealthy individuals have joined the Giving Pledge over the past eight years, fewer than 10% of the billionaires. Moreover, there is no reporting or accountability of their actual giving. All in all, most of the world’s richest people have not yet joined the battle to end poverty. Yet their wealth is so vast that these few individuals could dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

Hundreds of millions of impoverished children live without access to basic health care or schooling. Around 5.6 million children under the age of five die each year because there is no clinic to safeguard their births, help them, if necessary, to take their first breath, provide life-saving antibiotics to fend off respiratory infections, or ensure timely access to a $1 dose of life-saving anti-malaria medicine in the event of an infective mosquito bite.

Hundreds of millions of children lack access to adequate public schools with trained teachers, electricity, books, and hygienic facilities. The result is that kids leave school after a few years without basic skills needed for the 21st century.

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Ignore, Condescend, Dismiss: Debate Playbook for Men Facing Women

Who is Ben Shapiro?  What qualification doe he have other than a penis?  Why is he suddenly someone a female candidate is supposed to debate, he isn’t running against her?

These MRA/incels are just too much. Arrogant nothings.

From The New York Times:

By Ginia Bellafante
Aug. 15, 2018

Last week, Ben Shapiro, the right-wing pundit, elicited outrage on his behalf from conservatives when he asked the Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to debate him and she said that she did not owe a response “to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.”

Mr. Shapiro had offered an hour of his time, $10,000 that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez could keep for her campaign or give to charity, and the opportunity, as he put it in a taped request, to make “America a more civil and interesting place.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and her admirers doubted the sincerity of someone who on his website, The Daily Wire, once posted a video cartoon characterizing Native Americans as murderous savages until Christopher Columbus arrived to enlighten them. (He later apologized.) Mr. Shapiro and his followers saw in her refusal further proof of the left’s antipathy to engaging with ideological difference.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, of course, is under no obligation to debate someone who is not running for anything. She does find herself, however, in the comparatively unusual position of igniting the interests of men who want to argue with her, whatever their motives.

It has not always been this way. When a victory over Joseph Crowley, the 10-term congressman she challenged in the Democratic primary seemed so improbable, he did not rush to join her on stage and argue about housing policy. The two candidates debated twice; on two other occasions Mr. Crowley said he could not attend because of scheduling conflicts, and on one of those he sent a surrogate, Annabel Palma, a former City Councilwoman, which left the impression that the girls ought to just work things out among themselves.

Feminism’s grand resurgence this past year — striking in the results of the Democratic primary in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District on Tuesday in which Ilhan Omar, a young Somali immigrant, won in a six-way race that had three male candidates cumulatively receiving less than 9 percent of the vote — seems to have had little effect on heightening the sensitivities of male politicians to the optics of dismissing their female opponents. When women in politics are not facing the tediousness of having men explain things to them, they are often up against the indignities of their apathy.

Debates in particular have long wielded a special power to trigger male condescension. During the first with a female candidate to be televised nationally — the 1984 vice-presidential debate between George H.W. Bush and Geraldine Ferraro — Americans bore witness to Mr. Bush patronizing a prominent congresswoman, who served as the secretary of the House Democratic Caucus, on the subject of foreign policy. (“Let me help you with the difference, Mrs. Ferraro,” he said, “between Iran and the embassy in Lebanon.”)

Before Donald Trump stalked Hillary Clinton on stage, commandeering the frame in one of the 2016 presidential debates, Barack Obama had derided her as “likable enough,” in a primary debate eight years earlier.

Not showing up at all amounts to another expression of entitlement, and when men are the ones not showing up, the implications easily become gendered. In 2014, Zephyr Teachout, a law professor challenging Andrew M. Cuomo in the Democratic primary for governor in New York, hoped to stand next to him and talk about corruption in Albany, Wall Street influence, money in politics, education funding — but he refused, saying, at one point, that he had participated in many debates over the course of his career and that he found some to be “a disservice to democracy.” Later, in the general election, Mr. Cuomo debated his Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, and two other men running on alternate party lines.

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