Tuesday Reads: Today’s Blizzard of News

Good Morning!!

We’ve gone through two years with an unfit, incompetent “president,” but I don’t know how much longer we as a country can deal with this quickly worsening situation. Thank goodness the Democrats won the House and will be able to exert some control over this maniac beginning on January 3, 2019. In the meantime, the government is likely going to continue getting more dysfunctional; and every day we’re hit with so much news that it’s impossible to process all of it.

As comic relief, I’m illustrating this post with photos of dogs’ facial expressions when they’re getting treats. Click the link to Vieler Photography to learn more.

Here is some of what’s going on today.

Robin Wright at The New Yorker: Trump Completes a Shameful Trip to Paris, Just as He Needs the Global Stage.

In unrelenting rain, more than sixty world leaders—Presidents and Prime Ministers, kings and princes, from a third of all the nations on Earth—shared big black umbrellas as they marched together down the Champs-Élysées, in Paris, on Sunday. They gathered to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice that ended the fighting of the First World War, and to express global unity. Donald Trump was not among them. He drove to the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in the dry comfort of his limousine. Aides cited security. The only apparent threat was from an unarmed topless activist, with the words “Fake Peacemaker” emblazoned across her chest, who tried to run near his motorcade.

The President did the same thing the previous day, calling off a trip to honor the more than two thousand Americans buried in the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, some fifty miles outside of Paris. (All told, fifty thousand Americans died in the First World War.) The White House cited foul weather. The response was fast and furious on the President’s favorite medium. Nicholas Soames, the grandson of the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and a Conservative Party member of the British Parliament, tweeted, “They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen.” He added the hashtag “#hesnotfittorepresenthisgreatcountry.” Michael Beschloss, the Presidential historian, tweeted a picture of President John F. Kennedy and the French President Charles de Gaulle getting soaked (without umbrellas) in Paris when they honored the war dead, in 1961. There were numerous jibes on Twitter, including one from @votevets, about whether the decision had something to do with Trump’s hair. The same day, despite the rain, the leaders of France and Germany managed to visit Compiègne—also fifty miles from Paris—where the Armistice was signed in a railway car a century ago.

Trump flew his entourage almost four thousand miles for the commemoration but showed little interest in most of it. He lunched with his counterparts and offered brief remarks at a second American cemetery. But, otherwise, it was a dud of a trip. His disdain was all the more striking for the fact that he needs the rest of the world more than ever. The U.S. midterm elections produced a divided Congress, limiting movement on major domestic issues for the next two years. As he mounts his reëlection bid for 2020 Trump will need foreign-policy breakthroughs to appear either productive or Presidential. Yet he seems, instead, to be withdrawing further.

And back in Washington, Trump also failed to visit Arlington Cemetery on Veterans Day. Today, he’s on Twitter making excuses for his behavior.

At the Atlantic, James Fallows questions the “helicopter can’t fly in the rain” excuse:

Why, exactly, did Donald Trump not join Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Justin Trudeau at Saturday’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the original Armistice Day? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone outside the White House does at this point.

What I do know is that one hypothesis that has shown up in many stories about his no-show—that Marine One, the presidential helicopter, “can’t fly” in the rain—doesn’t make sense.

As you’re looking for explanations, you can dismiss this one. Helicopters can fly just fine in the rain, and in conditions way worse than prevailed in Paris on November 10.

Fallows is a licensed pilot and flew on Marine One when he worked for Jimmy Carter. Click on the link to read why Trump’s excuse is complete bullshit. I hope someone in the Marines speaks up about this.

Trump is also busy trolling Emmanuel Macron on Twitter. The Washington Post: In a morning tweetstorm, Trump takes repeated aim at France’s Macron.

In the first of several barbs Tuesday on Twitter, Trump again misrepresented what Macron had said during last week’s radio interview and reminded him of the U.S. military’s role in aiding France in World War I and II.

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump wrote. “But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two — How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along.”

How mature.

Trump also inaccurately summarized Macron’s comments when he initially tweeted about them Friday while on Air Force One arriving in Paris. Trump said he found Macron’s comments “very insulting” and said that France should “first pay its fair share of NATO.”

In his tweet on Tuesday, Trump again referenced France’s spending, writing: “Pay for NATO or not!”

I won’t bore you with anymore of the “president’s” churlishness, but there’s more at the link.

Matthew Whitaker’s appointment as acting AG is being challenged in court. Charlie Savage at The New York Times:

The State of Maryland is expected to ask a federal judge on Tuesday for an injunction declaring that Mr. Whitaker is not the legitimate acting attorney general as a matter of law, and that the position — and all its powers — instead rightfully belongs to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein.

Mr. Trump may not “bypass the constitutional and statutory requirements for appointing someone to that office,” the plaintiffs said in a draft filing obtained by The New York Times.

The legal action escalates the uproar surrounding Mr. Trump’s installation of Mr. Whitaker as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer, from criticism of his basic credentials and his views on the Russia investigation to challenges to the legality of his appointment. Last week, Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate’s top Democrat, sent a letter demanding to know why Mr. Trump chose an “unconfirmed political appointee” as acting attorney general, rather than follow the Justice Department’s statutory line of succession.

Maryland is asking a judge — Ellen L. Hollander of the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland, a 2010 Obama appointee — to rule on who is the real acting attorney general as part of a lawsuit in which it sued Mr. Sessions in his official capacity. Because Mr. Sessions is no longer the attorney general, the judge must substitute his successor as a defendant in the litigation, so she has to decide who that successor legally is.

The stakes are extraordinary. The acting attorney general is the most powerful law enforcement official in the United States and wields tremendous influence, from overseeing criminal and national-security investigations to deciding how to enforce immigration, environmental and civil rights laws.

Rep. Adam Schiff, who will likely chair the House Intelligence Committee next year warns Whitaker in today’s Washington Post: Matthew Whitaker, we’re watching you.

The president and Whitaker should heed this warning: The new Democratic majority will protect the special counsel and the integrity of the Justice Department. Should Whitaker fail to recuse himself — all indications are that he plans not to — and seek to obstruct the investigation, serve as a back channel to the president or his legal team or interfere in the investigations in any way, he will be called to answer. His actions will be exposed.

It is no mystery why the president chose Whitaker, an obscure and ill-qualified official never confirmed by the Senate, which many legal experts believe makes the appointment itself unconstitutional. Trump chose him to protect himself, his family and his close associates from the special counsel’s investigation and other investigations within the Justice Department.

Though I had many profound disagreements with Sessions, he was correct to follow the rules meant to ensure public confidence in the fair administration of justice and recuse himself, even though the president viewed Sessions’s compliance as a singular act of disloyalty. We must demand the highest ethical standards of everyone at the Justice Department, including the attorney general.

There is no indication that Whitaker has likewise consulted with ethics officials, as his past public statements, associations and the manner of his appointment make clear that he should have no role in overseeing the special counsel’s investigation or any matter related to the president and his campaign.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

CNN has decided to quit playing around with Trump and Sarah Huckleberry. NBC News: CNN files lawsuit against Trump administration over Jim Acosta’s press credentials.

CNN has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for revoking correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials, the network said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process,” a statement from CNN reads.

The network filed the suit in a Washington, D.C., district court, according to the statement, saying they have asked for “an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned” to Acosta.

Listed as defendants in the suit are Trump in addition to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, and the U.S. Secret Service and its director Randolph Alles and an unnamed Secret Service agent….

The lawsuit says that Acosta and CNN have been favorite targets of the administration, adding that they intend this suit to “ensure that the press remains free to question the government and to report the business of the nation to the American people.”

A number of derogatory tweets and comments made by Trump about CNN are mentioned in the suit. The suit noted that Trump retweeted “a video depicting him tackling and punching a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his face, adding the comments ‘#FraudNewsCNN’ and ‘#FNN.'”

Read more at NBC News. Interestingly, CNN is represented by legendary conservative attorney Ted Olson, who turned down Trump’s attempts to hire him.

Counting of votes from last Tuesday’s election continues in several states. Yesterday, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was declared the winner of Jeff Flake’s Senate seat in Arizona. Russia-friendly Dana Rohrabacher lost to Democrat Democrat Harley Rouda. The Florida recounts continue, and Democrat Stacey Abrams is still holding out in Georgia.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Judge orders review of provisional ballots in Georgia election.

A federal judge on Monday ordered election officials to review thousands of provisional ballots that haven’t been counted in Georgia’s close election for governor.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s order calls for a hotline for voters to check if their provisional ballots were counted, a review of voter registrations, and updated reports from the state government about why many voters were required to use provisional ballots.

The court decision comes as votes are still being counted in the race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams trails Kemp and would need to gain more than 20,000 additional votes to force a runoff election.

Totenberg said she’s providing “limited, modest” relief to help protect voters. The order preserves Tuesday’s deadline for county election offices to certify results and the Nov. 20 deadline for Secretary of State Robyn Crittenden to certify the election. The ruling enjoins Crittenden from certifying the election before Friday at 5 p.m.

Amy Totenberg is the sister of NPR’s SCOTUS reporter Nina Totenberg.

That’s it for me. What stories are you following today?

 

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Lazy Caturday Reads: Another Insane Week Draws to a Close

Good Morning!!

It has been another insane week in the USA, a third-world country that was once (theoretically) a democracy.

Nowadays, we’re ruled by an senile old man who thinks he’s a tin-pot dictator.

He throws tantrums at idiotic, incomprehensible press conferences and acts like a spoiled child at press scrums as he lumbers toward his helicopter.

He screams at reporters and calls them “enemies of the people,” reserving his most vicious epithets for black women journalists.

The Washington Post: ‘What a stupid question’: Trump demeans three black female reporters in three days.

President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for reporters, whom he calls “fake news” and “enemy of the American people.” He’s also had unkind things to say about women and people who are African American.

This week, he hit a trifecta, singling out three African American women who are journalists. The women — Abby Phillip, April Ryan and Yamiche Alcindor — earned his contempt apparently just for asking him questions.

Trump called one of Phillip’s questions “stupid,” described Ryan as “a loser” and brushed off Alcindor, saying her question was “racist.”

Phillip, a CNN reporter and former Washington Post journalist, drew Trump’s wrath on Friday, after she asked whether he hoped Matthew G. Whitaker, Trump’s appointee as acting attorney general, would “rein in” special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Trump’s presidential campaign.

What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question,” Trump snapped. He didn’t answer the allegedly “stupid” question, but he did pour more contempt on Phillip. “I watch you a lot,” he said. “You ask a lot of stupid questions.”

He suggested he was considering pulling other reporters’ press credentials to cover the White House, as he did with CNN reporter Jim Acosta on Wednesday. Among those he brought up in that context was Ryan.

“You talk about someone who’s a loser,” Trump said of Ryan, a reporter for American Urban Radio Networks and a contributor to CNN. “She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She gets publicity and then she gets a pay raise, or she gets a contract with, I think, CNN. But she’s very nasty and she shouldn’t be. You’ve got to treat the White House and the office of the presidency with respect.”

When the “president” is a fucking asshole and a complete moron, he doesn’t deserve anyone’s respect. Just my not-so-humble opinion.

Today, the wannabe dictator is in France where he undoubtedly will make a complete ass of himself in his dealings with foreign leaders and foreign press. And . . . he’s already done it. Is anyone surprised that Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Baltics and the Balkans?

Supposedly Trump is in France in honor of Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I. He was supposed to travel to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial but he cancelled because it was raining. So now he’ll be sitting in his hotel room, probably tweeting and watching TV.

Max Boot registered his disappointment on Twitter.

Boot wrote at The Washington Post: Trump should use his trip to France to learn a few simple lessons from history.

I am still haunted by my visit 14 years ago to the World War I battlefields of France, from Verdun to the Somme. All those long, neat rows of graves — all those young men struck down in a senseless, inconclusive conflict that claimed 40 million lives. Particularly heartbreaking were the markers commemorating “Soldat Inconnu, Mort Pour la France” (an unknown soldier who died for France) — someone whose identity has been erased from history.

I pray — with no expectation that my prayer will be answered — that President Trump will pause during his visit to France this weekend for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I to contemplate what happened and why. He will have a chance for some sober reflection, if he is capable of it, when he visits the American war cemeteries at Aisne-Marne and Suresnes. But it does not augur well that he will skip President Emmanuel Macron’s Paris Peace Forum,designed to bring together leaders to foster international cooperation.

Macron has been clear-eyed about what caused the Great War: “the leprosy of nationalism.” He warns that the danger of another catastrophe is rising because nationalism has been loosed on the world once again. “The world is fracturing, new disorders are appearing and Europe is tipping almost everywhere toward extremes and again is giving way to nationalism,” Macron said in a televised address. “Those who do not see what is going on around us are sleepwalking. Not me.”

His choice of word — “sleepwalking” — is significant because one of the best new histories of the outbreak of World War I, by the Cambridge University historian Christopher Clark, is called “The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914.” One cannot help thinking of the present day when Clark writes of “monarchs and statesmen” such as Kaiser Wilhelm II who “were positively obsessive about the press and spent hours each day poring through cuttings.” Sound like anyone we know? So, too, we can hear contemporary echoes when Clark describes “aggressive ultranationalist organizations whose voices could be heard in all the European capitals,” even though they “represented small, extremist constituencies.” Their aggressive ideology was the kindling that ignited when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

Sound familiar?

Trump also picked a fight with French President Macron. Politico:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday slammed Emmanuel Macron after the French president suggested earlier this week that Europe needs to build a “real European army” to protect itself from Russia, China and the United States.

“President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia,” Trump tweeted shortly after landing in Paris to attend a ceremony commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I.

“Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!” the president continued.

Of course Trump had no idea what Macron was actually talking about, but somehow Trump’s delicate feelings were soothed. Politico: Truce in Paris after Trump’s offense at Macron’s EU army pledge.

It was an awkward truce to avert a Twitter war, a day before the big Armistice Day commemoration in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Donald Trump, meeting at the Élysée Palace on Saturday morning, appeared to smooth over any differences after the visiting American took offense on Friday to comments Macron had made earlier in the week.

Macron, in the interview with Europe 1, had called for the EU to create its own army, “to protect us against China, Russia and even the United States of America,” citing Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Macron’s comments were perhaps provocative — but not for the reasons cited by Trump. Many other European leaders do not support the idea of an EU army, which many view as an overly integrationist approach to European common security and defense policy. It can be a subject of heated disagreement in Brussels.

Macron told Europe 1: “We will not protect the European if we don’t decide to have a real European army. Faced with Russia, which is at our borders and which showed us that it could be threatening, we must have a Europe that defends itself more on its own, without only depending on the United States and in a more sovereign way.”

He also castigated Trump from withdrawing from the INF treaty. “Who will be the main victim?,” Macron asked. “Europe and its security.”

None of us will ever forget how James Comey kneecapped Hillary Clinton in 2016 because she used a private email server. Well guess what? Comey used his gmail account for FBI business! The New York Post: James Comey discussed sensitive FBI business on his private email.

Fired FBI chief James Comey used his private Gmail account hundreds of times to conduct government business — and at least seven of tho..se messages were deemed so sensitive by the Justice Department that they declined to release them.

The former top G-man repeatedly claimed he only used his private account for “incidental” purposes and never for anything that was classified — and that appears to be true.

But Justice acknowledged in response to a Freedom of Information request that Comey and his chief of staff discussed government business on about 1,200 pages of messages, 156 of which were obtained by The Post.

The Cause of Action Institute, a conservative watchdog group, filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit for Comey’s Gmail correspondence involving his work for the bureau.

The Justice Department responded that there were an eye-popping 1,200 pages of messages for Comey and his chief of staff that met the criteria.

Yes, these are right-wing sources, but the info seems legit.

I’m running out of space, and I haven’t even touched on the subject of Trump’s fake Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Here’s the latest:

The Washington Post: Federal investigators scrutinized Whitaker’s role in patent company accused of fraud, according to people with knowledge of case.

Federal investigators last year looked into whether Matthew G. Whitaker, as an advisory board member of a Miami patent company accused of fraud by customers, played a role in trying to help the company silence critics by threatening legal action, according to two people with knowledge of the inquiry.

Whitaker, named this week by President Trump as acting attorney general, occasionally served as an outside legal adviser to the company, World Patent Marketing, writing a series of letters on its behalf, according to people familiar with his role.

But he rebuffed an October 2017 subpoena from the Federal Trade Commission seeking his records related to the company, according to two people with knowledge of the case.

The FTC alleged in a 2017 complaint that the company bilked customers with fraudulent promises that it would help them market their invention. The FBI has also investigated World Patent Marketing, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Whitaker was not named in the FTC complaint. World Patent Marketing, without admitting fault, settled the case for more than $25 million earlier this year, according to court documents.

More on the scam company from The Guardian: Trump’s acting attorney general involved in firm that scammed veterans out of life savings.

The Daily Beast: ‘He’s a F*cking Fool’: Justice Department Officials Trash Matt Whitaker, Their New Boss.

The appointment this week of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general has sparked sharp concerns among lawmakers over the possibility that he may bottle up Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election.

Inside the Department of Justice, however, the fears are more expansive. Whitaker is seen as a rogue and under-qualified new leader whose impact won’t just be felt on the Mueller probe but throughout the federal government.

“He’s a fucking fool,” one trial attorney inside the department said of the new AG. “He’s spent so much time trying to suck up to the president to get here. But this is a big job. It comes with many responsibilities. He just simply doesn’t have the wherewithal.” [….]

“We’ve seen this over and over again with the Trump administration. They never vet these people,” said one former official from the department. “It shows that they don’t really have a strategy when it comes to these things and then they end up having to backtrack.”

Trump has already begun to disown Whitaker. The Washington Post: Trump distances himself from Whitaker amid scrutiny over past comments and business ties.

With the White House scrambling to manage public examination of Whitaker’s background and resistance to his leadership within the Justice Department, Trump sought to douse speculation that he had installed the partisan loyalist to curtail the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump insisted that he had not spoken with Whitaker about the investigation being led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — and the president upbraided a reporter when she asked whether he wanted Whitaker to rein in Mueller. “What a stupid question,” he said.

Defiant and testy as he departed the White House on Friday morning for a weekend visit to Paris, Trump claimed four separate times that he did not personally know Whitaker, who had been serving as chief of staff at the Justice Department.

“I don’t know Matt Whitaker,” Trump told reporters, adding that he knew him only by reputation.

That claim is false, according to the president’s past statements as well as the accounts of White House officials — one of whom laughed Friday at Trump’s suggestion that he did not know Whitaker.

Read more at the link if you missed the “testy” press availability yesterday.

More Whitaker stories, links only:

Vanity Fair: This Could Tarnish Whitaker for Life: How Far Will Whitaker Go to Prove his Loyalty?

CNN: Sessions realized too late that Whitaker was auditioning for his job.

CNN: Whitaker said he supports state’s rights to nullify federal law.

Vox: Exclusive: Trump loyalist Matthew Whitaker was counseling the White House on investigating Clinton.

The New York Times: Matthew Whitaker: An Attack Dog With Ambition Beyond Protecting Trump.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Orwell’s Dystopia Has Arrived in the U.S.A

Good Morning!

Today’s News is overwhelming, so here’s a list of top stories.

1. A Mass shooting in California:

UPDATE: USA Today says shooter identified as David Long, 28, former marine.

LA Times: Gunman kills 12 in ‘horrific’ mass shooting at Thousand Oaks bar packed with college students.

A gunman threw smoke bombs and rained bullets on a crowd of hundreds inside a Thousand Oaks bar Wednesday night, killing a dozen people including a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department sergeant who was trying to stop the carnage

Authorities have not yet identified the gunman, who died in the incident, or any of the victims inside the bar.

The gunman was dressed in black when he burst into the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country-music-themed venue that is popular with college students, around 11:20 p.m., according to Sheriff Geoff Dean.

LA Times: Some inside Borderline bar survived Las Vegas mass shooting, friends say.

2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg injured and hospitalized.

3. Constitutional Crisis

Yesterday Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Matt Whitaker, a partisan who could shut down the Mueller investigation, as acting AG. Important reads:

The Guardian: Trump’s acting attorney general was part of firm US accused of vast scam.

Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general was part of a company accused by the US government of running a multimillion-dollar scam.

Matthew Whitaker was paid to sit on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, which was ordered in May this year to pay a $26m settlement following legal action by federal authorities, which said it tricked aspiring inventors.

Court filings in the case against World Patent Marketing show that Whitaker received regular payments of $1,875 from the Florida-based company, and sent a threatening email to a victim of the alleged scam.

Whitaker publicly vouched for the company, claiming in a December 2014 statement that they “go beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action”.

Whitaker, a former US attorney for the southern district of Iowa, said at the time: “I would only align myself with a first-class organization.”

Whitaker’s role in the alleged scam was first reported by the Miami New Times in August 2017, shortly before he joined the Trump administration as a senior aide to Sessions.

The Daily Beast: Jeff Sessions’ Replacement, Matthew Whitaker, Led Secretive Anti-Dem Group.

It’s been a meteoric rise for the 48-year-old Republican, an ex-prosecutor and failed political candidate who less than two years ago was the head of a little-known conservative nonprofit with designs on a judgeship in his home state of Iowa.

Through that nonprofit, and with the help of a PR firm later tied to a bizarre conspiracy theory, Whitaker ran interference for Sessions at one of the most fraught moments in his tumultuous time as attorney general.

In March 2017, The Washington Post reported that Sessions had neglected to tell the Senate at his confirmation hearing about prior conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.

The attorney general came under blistering criticism, especially as he had not yet recused himself from supervising the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Then Whitaker spoke up. As executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, an organization that served primarily to level ethics complaints against Democrats, he released a statement defending Sessions.

“If we are going to have a national discussion about Senators meeting with ambassadors it is appropriate for all Senators to disclose who they met with so the public, and apparently the media, understand that all Senator Sessions did was his job,” Whitaker said in the statement.

Gee, I wonder why Trump installed Whitaker in the DOJ?

Into: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Has A Disturbingly Anti-LGBTQ Past.

With Whitaker suddenly in charge of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, and poised to disrupt investigations into President Trump’s possible collusion with Russia to steal the presidential election (among other things), we need to know as much as possible about who he is and what he believes.

In 2004, Whitaker was appointed by former President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. While serving as U.S. Attorney, Whitaker helped launch an extortion investigation into state senator Matt McCoy — then Iowa’s highest-ranking gay official.

But according to McCoy, the extortion charges were nothing but an excuse to target him for his gay rights advocacy in office, which included passing a school anti-bullying measure, fighting a state ban on same-sex marriage, and working to pass anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people in housing and employment. In a 2007 interview with the Advocate, McCoy said Whitaker was behind a campaign to smear him with extortion charges because he was a tireless proponent of LGBTQ rights measures, whereas Whitaker wanted to prove his conservative loyalties.

“Since coming out as an openly gay man, I have been a continuous target of groups targeting gays to advance their own agendas of intolerance and hate,”  McCoy told the Advocate. “Clearly, there is significant speculation about what has motivated federal officials to take this action against me.”

Whitaker made his anti-LGBTQ views known most prominently during his 2014 run for Iowa Senate. In an interview with the conservative Christian news site Caffeinated Thoughts, then-candidate Whitaker decried President Obama’s handling of same-sex marriage — which the Supreme Court did not make legal nationwide until June 2015.

More at the link.

Des Moines Register: Matthew Whitaker’s troubling opinion: Judges need a biblical view.

(Rekha Basu column from May, 2014)

If elected to the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker says he would only support federal judges who have a Biblical view, and specifically a New Testament view, of justice. “If they have a secular world view, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge,” Whitaker said at an April 25, 2014, Family Leader debate.

Whitaker didn’t return my call to his office, but as a lawyer, one might expect him to know that setting religious conditions for holding a public office would violate the Iowa and U.S. constitutions. He was effectively saying that if elected, he would see no place for a judge of Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or other faith, or of no faith. Yet no one in the audience or on the podium seemed to have a problem with that, and his answer drew applause.

The debate venue had something to do with that. The event was sponsored by the Family Leader, the conservative Christian organization that engineered the ouster by voters in 2010 of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. The moderator, blogger Erick Erickson, asked questions designed to compel the four Republican candidates to prove their Christian credentials. And though U.S. senator is a secular office, they mostly obliged.

More on Whitaker:

4. Sarah Huckabee Sanders bans CNN’s Jim Acosta from White House grounds, uses doctored Infowars video to falsely accused Acosta of “putting hands on” WH intern.

Newsweek: 

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders posted a video to Twitter of the clash between CNN’s Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump that appears to be a doctored version shared previously by an editor for conspiracy website InfoWars.

Acosta had his White House pass revoked after an incident in which he sparred verbally with the president and refused to hand over the microphone to a staffer. Acosta is CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent.

The edited footage is speeded up to make it look like Acosta forced the woman’s arm down as she went to grab the mic.

Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right conspiracy theorist and editor-at-large of InfoWars, wrote for the Alex Jones-run website that “Acosta clearly uses his left arm to physically resist/restrain the woman.”

On Twitter, Watson accused Acosta of using his arm “to overpower her” and shared the doctored footage, which zooms in on the reporter’s arm.

The original clip shows the staffer grabbing the mic and attempting to pull it away as Acosta holds on. Her arm meets with Acosta’s hand, which drops with his arm as she tries to pull the mic and turn to hand it to another reporter.

“We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video,” Sanders tweeted along with the misleading InfoWars version of the footage.

5. Election Updates

Yahoo News: Florida Governor Race Recount Now Likely, Andrew Gillum Claims Vote Gap Down To 15,000 Votes Behind DeSantis.

As the United States Senate race in Florida headed to a recount, the governor’s race there on Wednesday morning also looked likely to go to a recount of its own even though Democrat Andrew Gillum, as The New York Times reported, gave a concession speech on Tuesday and Republican Ron DeSantis, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, declared victory.

Though the latest vote count in the race, reported by The Times, showed DeSantis ahead by 55,439 votes, a margin of 0.7 percent — outside the margin of 0.5 percent which would entitle Gillum to demand a recount — according to one report, Gillum’s camp now says that the vote gap between the two candidates is much smaller.

According to April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, Gillum’s representatives as of Wednesday morning said that his losing margin was only about 15,000 votes.

 

Courage, Sky Dancers! Please share your thoughts and links to stories on any topic in the comment thread.


Election Day Reads: Today’s the Big Day!

People vote at the polling place in Krishna Temple during election day Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Good Morning!!

Today’s the day we’ve been waiting for. It won’t be long now. By early evening, we’ll be getting indications of whether a blue wave is going to materialize. Get out there and vote if you haven’t already. Vote as if your life depended on it, because the lives of of so many people are truly at stake this time.

Let’s see what the pundits are saying this morning.

 

Norman Rockwell, Election Day 1944

 

Politico: A staggering 36 million people have voted early, setting the stage for big midterm turnout.

A staggering 36 million voters cast their ballots ahead of Election Day this year, setting the stage for much-higher-than-usual turnout for a midterm — and, potentially, big surprises on Tuesday night

Republican enthusiasm for President Donald Trump and Democrats’ itch to repudiate him at the ballot box have driven people to the polls far faster than in 2014, when 27.2 million people voted early, according to Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks voter turnout.

And that trend is expected to extend into Election Day. Early voters in three states — Texas, Nevada and Arizona — have already surpassed total turnout in the last midterm election, McDonald’s data shows, and more states will blow past their normal non-presidential turnout with just a handful more votes on Election Day. The high voting rates have transformed expectations about who will show up in the midterms — and they could inspire results that diverge from any pre-election polls that did not reckon with this year’s unusually high enthusiasm.

“This is not a normal election,” McDonald told POLITICO. “The best guess is that we’re looking at some sort of hybrid midterm/presidential election” in terms of turnout.

McDonald predicted that by the time all of the early votes are compiled, every state could surpass its 2014 totals. Tom Bonier, CEO of the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, projected that early voting could surpass 40 million when all the ballots are received.

The New York Times: Trump Closes Out a Campaign Built on Fear, Anger and Division.

“We should reward ourselves after this with a new Congress.”

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — President Trump on Monday closed out an us-against-them midterm election campaign that was built on dark themes of fear, nationalism and racial animosity in an effort to salvage Republican control of Congress for the remaining two years of his term.

Mr. Trump’s fiery, invective-filled campaigning produced what may be the most polarized midterm contest in modern times as he played to tribal rifts in American society in a way that no president has done since before the civil rights era. The divisions exposed and expanded over the past few weeks seem certain to last well beyond Election Day.

On Tuesday, voters will choose a new House, decide one-third of the seats in the Senate and select new governors for battleground states that will be critical to the 2020 presidential campaign. On the line for the president will be his ability to legislate, build his promised border wall, appoint new judges and ultimately set the stage to run for a second term.

More than most midterms, this election became a referendum on Mr. Trump, as he himself has told his audiences it would be. The president’s energetic rallies appear to have bolstered Republicans who were trying to match Democratic fervor, rooted in antipathy for Mr. Trump. Even before Election Day, 36 million ballots were cast, with early voting higher than four years ago in 25 states and the District of Columbia.

Trump officially has his own state media. CNN: Sean Hannity said he wouldn’t campaign on stage at Trump’s rally. Hours later, he did exactly that.

Ahead of President Donald Trump’s final election rally, the Fox News host said he wouldn’t appear on stage with the President to help excite the Republican base before voters head to the polls Tuesday.

“To be clear, I will not be on stage campaigning with the president,” Hannity tweeted Monday morning, adding that he would simply “be doing a live show” from the scene.

A Fox News spokesperson offered a similar message to CNN and other news organizations, insisting Hannity would only be at the rally in Missouri to broadcast his show and cover the event for the network.

But, approximately 12 hours after Hannity posted his tweet, he was campaigning on stage with Trump.

A Fox News spokesperson didn’t respond to requests for comment Monday night about Hannity’s appearance at the rally, which was one of the clearest demonstrations yet of the cozy relationship between the network and the Trump White House.

It happened almost immediately after Trump took the stage in Missouri following an introduction from conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who had warmed the crowd up.

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: The Dark Certainty of the 2018 Midterms.

Ever since 2:29 a.m. on November 9, 2016, America has been waiting for this Tuesday, when a new set of elections would start to bring more clarity to how we should think about the stunning upset that made Donald Trump President. I don’t think the country, or the world, has got over the shock of that night. We haven’t moved on; we haven’t even really accepted it. We are having the same debates about Trump that we had then. We are still endlessly reliving the moment when America turned out to be a country so divided and unhappy that it could elect a man who seemed unelectable by every conventional standard. Trump himself often seems suspended in a time warp, stuck on the best night of his life; just look at how often he still mentions his “beautiful” win over Hillary Clinton.

So now, finally, comes another vote, and with it a chance to move on. For Republicans, the 2018 midterms are a bid to confer legitimacy on a President whose power has always come with the asterisk of not having won the popular vote. By frantically travelling around the country these past six weeks, insisting at rally after rally that this year’s election would be a referendum on him, Trump has made it one. If he and his party maintain control over Congress in a national vote, he will have shown that his Presidency is no fluke. The taint of minority rule will at least partly be washed away.

Trump’s opponents are, of course, well aware of those stakes. Democrats go to the polls this week anxious and hoping to prove that 2016 was indeed the unlikely lightning strike that it seemed. The President’s name is not on the ballot, and many individual candidates may be touting their health-care policies or their service records, but Trump is the inescapable subject of this year’s election.

And that, of course, is just how the President wants it. Disregarding the counsel of his party, Trump has created a closing argument that is all too reminiscent of his 2016 campaign. His endless rallies have been the distillation of his message down to its fearful, divisive essence: Close America’s doors; build the wall; stop the caravan of alien invaders; Democrats will turn America into a socialist hellhole. The President, whose Inaugural address warned of “American carnage,” and who believes that he won his office by lamenting the decline of American greatness, has not been able to adapt to a different narrative. Even the rosy economic statistics that the Republican Party would prefer to talk about are subordinated to the darker language of hatred and conflict, framed with a torrent of lies that, before Trump, would have been extraordinary from a political figure. “Believe me, folks,” he told his crowds back in 2016, before proceeding to lie to them. “I’m the only one that tells you the facts,” he told a crowd the other day.

The President wants us all to keep living in the time warp, to stay suspended in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, when he did what no one thought he could do.

And after the election, it will be Mueller Time!

The Washington Post: Buckle up. The Mueller investigation may once again take center stage.

…the lull in public action doesn’t mean Mueller and his team have been sitting on their hands. But because grand-jury investigations are secret, little is known about what might be happening. The press and public are left trying to glean information from witnesses who have testified or from obscure court-docket entries with titles like “In re Sealed Case.” But with the election behind us, we soon may be able to rely on more than just speculation.

The Mueller investigation has two areas of primary focus: Russian interference with the 2016 election and possible involvement of members of the Trump campaign; and potential obstruction of justice by the president through such actions as firing then-FBI Director James B. Comey. What news there has been in recent weeks has focused on the Russia conspiracy angle, and in particular on former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Mueller’s investigators reportedly have interviewed a number of witnesses concerning whether Stone may have had advance notice of, or perhaps even direct involvement in, the strategically timed release of stolen Democratic emails in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. If Stone was involved, it could just be sleazy politics — or it could open him up to charges such as conspiracy to defraud the United States through illegally influencing the election.

Stone certainly is not the only one potentially in Mueller’s crosshairs; a number of other senior campaign officials still could end up implicated in a conspiracy with Russians attempting to tip the election to Donald Trump. That could lead to more indictments, or Mueller could conclude that what he has found does not merit prosecution. The end result could be a report to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein rather than criminal charges.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “I’m Very Worried about Don Jr.” Forget the Midterms–West Wing Insiders Brace for the Mueller Storm.

The bigger threat for Trump than losing control of Congress is Robert Mueller’s looming report. Sources say Trump advisers are girding themselves for Mueller to deliver the results of his investigation to the Justice Department as early as Wednesday, although it’s more likely he’ll wait till later this month. Sources say besides the president, the ones with the most exposure are Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. “I’m very worried about Don Jr.,” said another former West Wing official who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The possible exposure would be that Mueller would demonstrate that Don Jr. perjured himself to investigators when he said he didn’t tell his father beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to gather “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. (Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, declined to comment.)

One potential sign of how seriously Trumpworld is treating the Mueller threat has been the near total silence of Rudy Giuliani. A constant presence on cable news over the summer, Giuliani hasn’t been on television in weeks. “What the hell happened to Rudy?” a former White House official said when I asked about Giuliani’s whereabouts. According to three sources briefed on Trump’s legal team, Giuliani has been in Europe visiting consulting clients as well as preparing a report with Trump lawyers Marty and Jane Raskin that is designed to provide a counter-narrative to Mueller’s document. “They don’t know what Mueller has but they have a good idea and they’re going to rebut it,” one Republican close to Giuliani said. But another source said Trump instructed Giuliani to stay off television to avoid hurting Trump’s midterm message. “Trump’s thinking is, ‘I gave you a lot of rope and now you got a lot of rope marks around your neck,’” the source said. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

Did you vote yet? What did you see and hear at your polling place? What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and please come back tonight for Dakinikat’s live blog!


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump and Fascism

By Edward B. Gordon

Good Afternoon!!

Over the past couple of weeks, Trump has downplayed an attempt to assassinate at least 13 present and former Democratic officials and prominent Democrats as well as the hate crime murder of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. His deepest expressed concern about these horrific events has been that they interfered with media coverage of his Hitler rallies. In addition, Trump has blatantly lied about a group of Honduran asylum-seekers, claiming their “caravan” represents a national emergency that requires the deployment of thousands of active-duty troops on the Southern border. I think at this point it’s appropriate to label Trump’s behavior and rhetoric as fascism. I’m far from the only one saying this.

The Washington Post: Trump deploys the fascist playbook for the midterms, by Ishaan Tharoor

President Trump’s message is as clear as it is ugly: Fearmongering about illegal immigration will deliver his party the votes it needs to retain control of Congress. And so, in the final stretch before next week’s midterm election, the president and his allies have launched a blitzkrieg of misinformation.

By Henri Lebasque (1865 – 1937)

In a move unprecedented in modern American history, Trump ordered thousands of active-duty troops to the border to intercept a caravan of Central American migrants, casting them as a menacing “invasion” of “unknown Middle Easterners” and other shadowy elements. His allies at right-wing media outlets spread lurid conspiracy theories about liberals enabling disease-bearing foreigners to infiltrate the country.

Even as attention shifted to a spate of right-wing violence, including the slaughter of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue that critics linked to the president’s rhetoric, Trump barreled on, undaunted. On Thursday, he gave a speech at the White House where he warned that U.S. troops would shoot violent migrants at the border. He also shared an ad that sought to connect the Democratic Party to murders carried out by a man twice deported to Mexico, and then to link the man’s murderous behavior to the supposed threat posed by all migrants.

Taroor links to several other writers on the subject, including:

Timothy Snyder at The Guardian: Donald Trump borrows from the old tricks of fascism.

The governing principle of the Trump administration is total irresponsibility, a claim of innocence from a position of power, something which happens to be an old fascist trick. As we see in the president’s reactions to American rightwing terrorism, he will always claim victimhood for himself and shift blame to the actual victims. As we see in the motivations of the terrorists themselves, and in the long history of fascism, this maneuver can lead to murder.

Comfy Chair, by Rae Andrews

The Nazis claimed a monopoly on victimhood. Mein Kampf includes a lengthy pout about how Jews and other non-Germans made Hitler’s life as a young man in the Habsburg monarchy difficult. After stormtroopers attacked others in Germany in the early 1930s, they made a great fuss if one of their own was injured. The Horst Wessel Song, recalling a single Nazi who was killed, was on the lips of Germans who killed millions of people. The second world war was for the Nazis’ self-defense against “global Jewry”.

The idea that the powerful must be coddled arose in a setting that recalls the United States of today. The Habsburg monarchy of Hitler’s youth was a multinational country with democratic institutions and a free press. Some Germans, members of the dominant nationality, felt threatened because others could vote and publish. Hitler was an extreme example of this kind of sentiment. Today, some white Americans are similarly threatened by the presence of others in institutions they think of as their own. Among the targets of the accused pipe bomber were four women, five black people and two Jews. Just as (some) Germans were the only serious national problem within the Habsburg monarchy, so today are (some) white Americans the only serious threat to their own republic.

How does this apply to Trump?

Trump and some of his supporters mount a strategy of deterrence by narcissism: if you note our debts to fascism, we will up the pitch of the whining. Thus Trump can base his rhetoric on the fascist idea of us and them, lead fascist chants at rallies, encourage his supporters to use violence, praise a politician who attacked a journalist, muse that Hillary Clinton should be assassinated, denigrate the intelligence of African Americans, associate migrants with criminality, run an antisemitic advertisement, spread the Nazi trope of Jews as “globalists”, and endorse the antisemitic idea that the Jewish financier George Soros is responsible for political opposition – but he and his followers will puff chests and swell sinuses if anyone points this out.

By Ivan Stepanovich Ivanov-Sakachev

If Trump is not a fascist, this is only in the precise sense that he is not even a fascist. He strikes a fascist pose, and then issues generic palliative remarks and denies responsibility for his words and actions. But since total irresponsibility is a central part of the fascist tradition, it is perhaps best to give Trump his due credit as an innovator.

The next piece is very long, but I hope you’ll go read it. I can’t do it justice with excerpts. From the Literary Hub, Aleksandar Hemon on Civility: Fascism is Not an Idea to Be Debated, It’s a Set of Actions to Fight. Hemon is from Bosnia. His essay responds to The New Yorker’s quickly aborted invitation to Steve Bannon to discuss his “ideas” with editor-in-chief David Remnick.

The public discussion prompted by the (dis)invitation confirmed to me that only those safe from fascism and its practices are far more likely to think that there might be a benefit in exchanging ideas with fascists. What for such a privileged group is a matter of a potentially productive difference in opinion is, for many of us, a matter of basic survival. The essential quality of fascism (and its attendant racism) is that it kills people and destroys their lives—and it does so because it openly aims so.

Witness Stephen Miller and Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance for illegal immigration” policy. Fascism’s central idea, appearing in a small repertoire of familiar guises, is that there are classes of human beings who deserve diminishment and destruction because they’re for some reason (genetic, cultural, whatever) inherently inferior to “us.” Every fucking fascist, Bannon included, strives to enact that idea, even if he (and it is usually a he—fascism is a masculine ideology, and therefore inherently misogynist) bittercoats it in a discourse of victimization and national self-defense. You know: they are contaminating our nation/race; they are destroying our culture; we must do something about them or perish. At the end of such an ideological trajectory is always genocide, as it was the case in Bosnia.

By Kenton Nelson

The effects and consequences of fascism, however, are not equally distributed along that trajectory. Its ideas are enacted first and foremost upon the bodies and lives of the people whose presence within “our” national domain is prohibitive. In Bannon/Trump’s case, that domain is nativist and white. Presently, their ideas are inflicted upon people of color and immigrants, who do not experience them as ideas but as violence. The practice of fascism supersedes its ideas, which is why people affected and diminished by it are not all that interested in a marketplace of ideas in which fascists have prime purchasing power.

The error in Bannon’s headlining The New Yorker Festival would not have been in giving him a platform to spew his hateful rhetoric, for he was as likely to convert anyone as he himself was to be shown the light in conversation with Remnick. The catastrophic error would’ve been in allowing him to divorce his ideas from the fascist practices in which they’re actualized with brutality. If he is at all relevant, it is not as a thinker, but as a (former) executive who has worked to build the Trumpist edifice of power that cages children and is dismantling mechanisms of democracy.

Relevant reading from Today’s news:

The Washington Post: Trump’s election-eve border mission puts the military in partisan crosshairs.

The Washington Post: Army assessment of migrant caravans undermines Trump’s rhetoric.

Think Progress: These prominent white supremacists interacted with the Pittsburgh shooting suspect on social media.

The Independent: Fascism has arrived in Brazil – Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency will be worse than you think.

The New York Times: Nigerian Army Uses Trump’s Words to Justify Fatal Shooting of Rock-Throwing Protesters.

Buzzfeed News: Trump Said US Soldiers Should Shoot Rock-Throwing Migrants, And Vets Were Having None Of That.

What stories are you following today?


All Hallows Day Reads

Good Morning!!

I wonder if life in Trumpworld will get better after the elections are over? My guess is no, but I’m still hoping. Today’s news is so depressing that I don’t even want to read most of it, much less post it here.

Trump released his very own Willie Horton-style ad, his big lies are getting bigger by the day, his hate speech is getting more and more overt, and he’s threatening to send 15,000 troops to the Southern border to defend against a rag-tag group of mostly women and children. And the awful truth is that members of the media are aiding and abetting his disgusting behavior.

Before I get to some recommended reads, here are some feel-good Halloween stories.

Buzzfeed: The Little Girl Obsessed With Michelle Obama’s Portrait Dressed As Her For Halloween.

Remember Parker Curry? She was the little girl who went viral in March after she was photographed staring in awe at Michelle Obama’s official portrait.

I’m sure you can guess what Parker wanted to be on Halloween.

Jessica told BuzzFeed News Wednesday that when she asked Parker what she wanted to dress as for Halloween, the toddler’s response was immediate.

“Flat out. No hesitation. Half of a second later. ‘I want to be Michelle Obama,’ and I was like Whoa,” Jessica recalled. “I thought she was going to be like, ‘I want to be Elsa or some other character like that.”

Jessica found someone who offered to make the costume. Here it is:

See more photos at the Buzzfeed link.

A little boy in Tennessee dressed as a “real-life” hero. Fox 26: Tennessee boy dresses as Waffle House hero James Shaw Jr. for school’s ‘Hero Day’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) – A boy from Gallatin traded in a superhero cape for medical tape Friday at his school’s “Hero Day.”

So, wearing a gray hoodie with the word “live” on his chest and tape on his right hand, Tayir showed up to Union Stem Elementary dressed as James Shaw Jr.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) – A boy from Gallatin traded in a superhero cape for medical tape Friday at his school’s “Hero Day.”

When a gunman opened fire at an Antioch Waffle House in April, James Shaw Jr. jumped into action and grabbed the barrel of the shooter’s AR-15 and threw it behind the diner’s counter. Police say the move saved many lives.

Taurean C. Sanderlin, 29; Joe R. Perez, 20; De’Ebony Groves, 21, of Gallatin; and Akilah Dasilva, 23, of Antioch, were killed in the shooting.

And then he got to meet his hero in person!

Here’s a little girl who dressed as Emma González from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Now for some reads:

The New York Times has an op-ed by psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman: The Neuroscience of Hate Speech. An excerpt:

Of course, it’s difficult to prove that incendiary speech is a direct cause of violent acts. But humans are social creatures — including and perhaps especially the unhinged and misfits among us — who are easily influenced by the rage that is everywhere these days. Could that explain why just in the past two weeks we have seen the horrifying slaughter of 11 Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, with the man arrested described as a rabid anti-Semite, as well as what the authorities say was the attempted bombing of prominent Trump critics by an ardent Trump supporter?

You don’t need to be a psychiatrist to understand that the kind of hate and fear-mongering that is the stock-in-trade of Mr. Trump and his enablers can goad deranged people to action. But psychology and neuroscience can give us some important insights into the power of powerful people’s words.

We know that repeated exposure to hate speech can increase prejudice, as a series of Polish studies confirmed last year. It can also desensitize individuals to verbal aggression, in part because it normalizes what is usually socially condemned behavior.

At the same time, politicians like Mr. Trump who stoke anger and fear in their supporters provoke a surge of stress hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine, and engage the amygdala, the brain center for threat. One study, for example, that focused on “the processing of danger” showed that threatening language can directly activate the amygdala. This makes it hard for people to dial down their emotions and think before they act.

Mr. Trump has managed to convince his supporters that America is the victim and that we face an existential threat from imagined dangers like the migrant caravan and the “fake, fake disgusting news.”

Click on the link to read the rest.

At Bloomberg Opinion, Jonathan Bernstein argues that Trump’s Bigotry Isn’t Working.

What is President Donald Trump running on in the final days of the midterm campaign? He’s going with – once again – full-on bigotry, with nonstop talk about fictional riots over sanctuary cities, fictional threats from a group of poor migrants heading north, and now a racist ad that is reminding people of the ugliest campaign spots in recent history. He’s also talking about taking citizenship away from … well, it’s not exactly clear. But certainly lots of very scary, very threatening Thems.

And, yes, he’s doing all this a week after bombs were mailed to high-profile Democrats and shootings in Pittsburgh and Kentucky. I think he’s also complaining that Democrats are dividing the nation. Contradictions of logic don’t bother him very much.

There’s a lot to say about a president who would campaign like this and a party that would mostly go along with it. But an important thing to remember is that, as the Fix’s Aaron Blake noted this week, we have no idea if any of this will actually help Republicans win.

So far, there’s very little evidence that it’s helping. Yes, Republicans have solidified their position in the Senate a bit, but it’s not clear that that’s due to any recent campaigning or events. (If there was one event that seemed to have moved Nate Silver’s Senate forecast, it was Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle.) It’s more likely due to natural Republican voters returning home, which was always the big danger for Democrats in states such as Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. And remember that Republicans are benefiting from this year’s Senate map: Democrats would have to win in safe states, swing states, and even some quite red states to gain any ground.

Read the rest at Bloomberg.

Kevin Drum writes that the Internet is helping, not hurting: Social Media Is Making the World a Better Place. Quit Griping About It.

I once wrote that the internet makes smart people smarter and dumb people dumber. Likewise, it might very well make good people better and bad people worse. But on average, that doesn’t mean the world is a worse place. So why does it seem so much worse?

That’s pretty easy: the internet boasts an immediacy that allows it to pack a bigger punch than any previous medium. But this is hardly something new. Newspapers packed a bigger punch than the gossipmonger who appeared in your village every few weeks. Radio was more powerful than newspapers. TV was more powerful than radio. And social media is more powerful than TV.

Contrary to common opinion, however, this has little to do with the nature of these mediums. Sure, they’ve become more visceral over time: first words, then pictures, then voice, then moving images, and finally all of that packaged together and delivered with the power of gossip from a trusted friend. But what’s really different is how much time we spend on them—and by this I mean the time we spend on news, not crossword puzzles or Gilligan’s Island. We are addicted to our smartphones, and that means we spend far more time absorbing news than we used to with TV or radio. There’s the news we actively seek out. There’s the news we get after acccidentally clicking on something else. And then, just to make sure we don’t miss one single thing, there’s the news that’s forced on us because we’ve set up our smartphones to buzz and beep at us when something happens.

This means that we are aware of much more news than in the pre-internet days.

And that brings me circuitously to my point: broadly speaking, the world is not worse than it used to be. We simply see far more of its dark corners than we used to, and we see them in the most visceral possible way: live, in color, and with caustic commentary. Human nature being what it is, it’s hardly surprising that we end up thinking the world is getting worse.

Instead, though, consider a different possibility: the world is roughly the same as it’s always been, but we see the bad parts more frequently and more intensely than ever before.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

Matthew Yglesias: Journalists should stop repeating Trump’s lies. Plus, we need a more robust theory of the media.

Covering President Donald Trump is hard, but the media is blowing the easy parts.

That’s what I thought as I read Ezra Klein’s fascinating, troubling take on Vox about how Trump manipulates the media. Ezra raises a lot of really good, really difficult questions about how the media can and should handle the situation in which Trump clearly wants to bait the press into a Trump versus the media narrative.

Yet what I’m hung up on are the easy questions. Tuesday morning, for example, Axios published an interview/scoop in which Trump floated the idea of trying to abrogate birthright citizenship via an executive order. This is ridiculous on its face as a procedural matter, but substantively Trump remarked that “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States.”

That’s a pithy, punchy line, but it’s also completely untrue. The citizenship standard known as unrestricted jus soli exists in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Jamaica, Barbados, and about 30 more countries, almost all of them, like the ones I named, located in the Western Hemisphere.

So hundreds of news outlets posted stories and tweets that repeated Trump’s lies. Yglesias’s suggestion:

When a public official makes a material misstatement of fact, you might want to do a story about the fact that he is lying or confused or ignorant or whatever you think is going on. But you don’t just relay the misinformation in your social media copy and headlines.

Read the whole thing at Vox.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Trump came up with another shiny object for his fans today. He told Axios that he plans to issue an executive order ending birthright citizenship. That would involve invalidating the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. There would be legal challenges and the question would end up in the Supreme Court. Would the Kavanaugh court go along with Trump? The New York Times:

President Trump said he was preparing an executive order to end birthright citizenship in the United States, his latest attention-grabbing maneuver days before midterm congressional elections, during which he has sought to activate his base by vowing to clamp down on immigrants and immigration.

“We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits,” Mr. Trump told Axios during an interview that was released in part on Tuesday. “It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. And it has to end.”

In fact, dozens of other countries, including Canada, Mexico and many others in the Western Hemisphere, grant automatic birthright citizenship, according to a study by the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that supports restricting immigration and whose work Mr. Trump’s advisers often cite.

Um . . . no.

Doing away with birthright citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants was an idea Mr. Trump pitched as a presidential candidate, but there is no clear indication that he would be able to do so unilaterally, and attempting to would be certain to prompt legal challenges….

To accomplish the idea he floated on Tuesday, Mr. Trump would have to find a way around the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

The amendment means that any child born in the United States is considered a citizen. Amendments to the Constitution cannot be overridden by presidential action, and can be changed or undone only by overwhelming majorities in Congress or the states, with a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress or through a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of state legislatures.

Hillary Clinton predicted in 2016 that Trump would try this.

Trump is really going all out with the hate leading up to November 6. This is just one more disgusting example of his pandering to the far right while trying to get the media to stop talking about violence attacks that he has contributed to with his rhetoric at his vile Hitler rallies.

Despite pleas from Pittsburgh’s Mayor and members of the Jewish community, Trump plans to go to visit the grieving city this afternoon. NPR: Trump To Visit Pittsburgh Despite Objections From Mayor, Jewish Leaders.

President Trump plans to travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon, as the city continues to mourn Saturday’s massacre that claimed the lives of 11 worshippers at a synagogue.

When Trump arrives, he is expected to meet with members of the local Jewish community. But the visit comes despite the wishes of some political and religious leaders who felt that the president should come at a later date — or not at all.

The visit is the same day of the first funerals for those killed at the Tree of Life synagogue.

The city’s Democratic mayor, Bill Peduto, urged the president not to come while friends and families were burying their loved ones.

“I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on families this week and if he were to visit, choose a different time to do it,” Peduto told CNN.

CNN: Local, national officials decline to appear with Trump in Pittsburgh.

Local and national officials are declining to appear with President Donald Trump on Tuesday when he visits a grieving Pittsburgh, where funerals for slain congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue are set to begin.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were all invited to join the President on his visit but declined, according to two congressional sources.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, was also invited to join Trump in Pittsburgh but declined, according to a spokesman, citing previous commitments in another part of the state.

A spate of local and state officials also said they would not appear with Trump when he visits a hospital and pays respects to the 11 victims of Saturday’s massacre.

The White House has declined to say who the President will meet with when he travels to Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon. One official described the visit as “understated.” He’ll be joined by the first lady, as well as daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are Jewish.

You’d think Trump would postpone this trip when even Mitch McConnell declined to accompany him. I wonder what he’s up to?

And then there’s Mike Pence and his fake rabbi. Pence asked a “rabbi” from “Jews for Jesus” to speak at an event he held in Michigan. The Jewish News: ‘Jews for Jesus’ Rabbi Speaks at Campaign Rally with VP Pence, Lena Epstein

An invocation from messianic Christian rabbi Loren Jacobs at a campaign rally in Waterford for Republican congressional candidate Lena Epstein has sparked outrage mere days after 11 Jews were murdered in Pittsburgh because of their faith.

Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Christian, was at the rally for Epstein. A spokesperson for Pence said he did not know Loren Jacobs of the Messianic congregation Shema Yisrael when he invited him to offer a prayer for the Tree of Life synagogue victims gunned down by an anti-Semite last weekend.

“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God and Father of my Lord and Savior Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah, and my God and Father too,” Jacobs, wearing a tallit, said. Jacobs was ordained at an evangelical seminary and uses the title “rabbi.” As Pence stood next to him, Jacobs ended his prayer by saying, “in the name of Jesus.”

Jews for Jesus, as many call messianic Christians, are not accepted in mainstream Judaism as one of their main missions is the conversion of Jews to Christianity. After Jacobs’ prayer, many took to social media to express their anger that a Jewish rabbi had not been asked to give the invocation.

A Pence aide told the Associated Press that Jacobs was invited to pray at the event by GOP congressional candidate Lena Epstein…..Rabbi Jason Miller said on Facebook that Epstein could have chosen any one of at least 60 rabbis on a directory of Michigan rabbis. “Yet the only rabbi they could find to offer a prayer for the 11 Jewish victims in Pittsburgh at the Mike Pence rally was a local Jews for Jesus rabbi? That’s pathetic!”

Epstein attempted to justify her recommendation–you can read her statement at the link. It certainly appears that Trump and Pence are trying to signal to their followers that more anti-Semitic violence will be met with shrugs from the administration.

Please check out this Twitter thread by Rafael Shiminov.

Shiminov writes that Jacobs (the fake rabbi) offered prayers for Republican candidates and the Republican Party and did not even pray for the victims of the massacre in Pittsburgh until Pence brought him up after the event to amend his remarks! Shiminov says this sends a clear message to Trumpists.

One final depressing story before I end this depressing post (h/t Delphyne).

The New York Times: 2 Sisters Were Found Dead in the River, Duct-Taped Together. Police Have Few Answers.

A person strolling through Riverside Park last Wednesday afternoon spotted something jarring on the riverbank and called the police.

There, below a small pier that juts out from the park at 68th Street, lay the bodies of two young women, bound together by duct tape at their waists and ankles. They had not been in the water long, the police said. Clad in similar black leggings and black jackets with fur trim, their bodies bore no obvious signs of trauma.

The police initially had trouble identifying the young women. Hints that they might be related surfaced a day after they were found when police sketches revealed striking similarities: the same curly dark hair, the same build, the same skin tone.

By Friday, detectives had learned the women were sisters from Saudi Arabia who lived in Fairfax, Va.

Rotana Farea was 22; Tala Farea was 16. They had a history of going missing, and they had recently requested asylum in the United States, the police said.

But beyond that, the circumstances of their deaths have remained a mystery. Investigators have struggled to piece together how two young women from a city more than 250 miles away turned up along Manhattan’s Hudson River shoreline.

The police are investigating the possibility that the sisters may have carried out a suicide pact, taping themselves together and throwing themselves in the river. But detectives have not ruled out murder. The medical examiner’s office has yet to determine the cause of death. No one has claimed the bodies.

Here’s Twitter thread about this story by Mona Eltahawy.

That’s about all I can handle for today. Please post your own thoughts and links in the comment thread below.