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Updated: 3 hours 30 sec ago

Ashley Judd Delivers Blistering Attack at Unrepentant Misogynist Trump

4 hours 46 min ago
Click here for reuse options! "Nasty women" poem energizes huge crowd.

"I am a nasty woman,” it began.

Actress and activist Ashley Judd launched a blistering attack on President Donald Trump before a packed mall in Washington DC, delivering a “nasty woman” poem slamming the new inaugurated president for his unrepentant misogyny.

Interrupting a speech being given by activist Michael Moore, Judd explained,”I bring you words from Nina Donovan,” a 19-year-old poet from Tennessee.

The actress then belted out Donovan’s slam poetry, beginning with, “I am a nasty woman. Not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust, a man whose words are a dis to America, Electoral College-sanctioned hate speech.”

“I feel Hitler in these streets, Nazis renamed,” Judd continued, before turning to Trump’s disturbing comments about his daughter Ivanka.

“I’m not as nasty as your daughter being your favorite sex symbol,” she exclaimed. “Our p*ssies ain’t for grabbing. This p*ssy is for my pleasure and giving birth to more nasty woman,” the poem concludes.

Watch the video below via YouTube:

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The One Thing We Can Never Let Ourselves Forget About Donald Trump

8 hours 50 sec ago
Click here for reuse options! Historians examine the reality TV star's rise—and the noxious lie that launched his political career.

In this web exclusive, Bill Moyers and four historians dissect the big lie Trump rode to power: the Birther lie. Nell Painter, historian and Edwards Professor of American History, Emerita, at Princeton University; Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School; Christopher Lebron, assistant professor of African-American studies and philosophy at Yale University; and Philip Klinkner, James S. Sherman Professor of Government, Hamilton College discuss the fertile ground on which the birther lie was sown: our nation’s history of white supremacy.



BILL MOYERS: I’m Bill Moyers. The most important thing to remember about Donald Trump is that he was the same man at 12:01 p.m. Friday after he took the oath of office as he was at 11:59 a.m. before his swearing in. His character: the same. His temperament and his values: the same.

What’s different is that in those two minutes Donald Trump was handed the most awesome power imaginable. He now controls the world’s most powerful nuclear arsenal. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are at his command. The FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the IRS, Homeland Security, the State Department, Justice Department, Treasury Department, the Department of Education, the Interior Department — all of the agencies of the executive branch — report, ultimately, to this one man. The world awaits his pronouncements, the markets and the media live by and for his tweets. So here’s the second most important thing to remember about Donald Trump: He rode to power on the wings of a dark lie — one of the most malignant and ugly lies in American history. We must never forget it.


LOU DOBBS (CNN 7/21/09): Up next, the issue that won’t go away: the matter of President Obama and that birth certificate.

DONALD TRUMP (The View, ABC 3/23/11): There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.

TRUMP (The O’Reilly Factor, FOX News 3/30/11): He doesn’t have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one, but there’s something on that, with maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know.

CHRISTOPHER LEBRON: I found that as cynical as I am, I couldn’t actually believe people would actually run with this story. But then the story had legs. And then people like Donald Trump didn’t let it go. And I remember when he was going to prove that President Obama was not American, that he was not able to offer that proof.  And even more amazingly, Trump has been able to not only convince himself for the longest time but has been able to convince a not-insignificant portion of the American people that no matter what documentation President Obama provides, he’s not American, which is an amazing thing to have done.

NELL PAINTER: The ground was very fertile for the birther lie, and in fact, if it hadn’t been, somebody could have said oh no, no, no, the president was not born in this country, he cannot be president — and it would have fallen to Earth. It never would have gone anywhere.

KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD: If it were true, we would have elected someone who had no right to run for president, let alone to become the first African-American president of this country, but more particularly it expresses the illegitimacy of a person of African descent as a true American, as someone truly endowed with the capacity to govern this great nation. And that lie is just the tip of the iceberg, though foundational for everything else that flows from Donald Trump’s lips.

TRUMP (SPEECH, 2/10/11): Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him — they don’t even know, they never saw him; they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.

PHILIP KLINKNER: There were a lot of rumors swirling around him that he was a Muslim, that he was raised in a madrassa, but the most common was that he was in fact not born in the United States and that his birth certificate from Hawaii was in fact a lie, that he was born someplace else, probably Kenya, but nobody was really pretty sure about that. The Obama campaign sort of pushed back at this pretty hard. They released a short-form birth certificate. They showed the birth notice in The Honolulu Advertiser at the time, but there was never any real question about this. But nonetheless, this lie began to gain real traction among his opponents.

And then once he got elected, then again it really sort of took off because it began to sort of seep into a lot of conservative and right-wing media circles, a lot of attention was paid to people who are going into federal court suing, attempting to either have Obama declared ineligible as president or arguing that he should release his long-form birth certificate.

And it really sort of festered there on the right for a number of years until the spring of 2011, when President Obama finally released the long-form birth certificate.

TRUMP (SPEECH 4/27/11): I was just informed while on the helicopter that our president has finally released a birth certificate.

I am really honored, frankly, to have played such a big role in hopefully, hopefully, getting rid of this issue. Now we have to look at it. We have to see, is it real? Is it proper? What’s on it? But I hope it checks out beautifully. I am really proud. I am really honored.

KLINKNER: But that really didn’t put it away. The number of Republicans who believe that Obama was born outside the United States dropped for a little while but then it popped back up again.

Trump at the time was a very big reality media star.

THE APPRENTICE open with SOT: “You’re fired.” 2/9/15

KLINKNER: NBC in particular, I think, wanted to sort of cross-promote one of its biggest prime-time franchises, The Apprentice. So he was on NBC quite a lot. He was on the Todayshow quite a bit.  He’d appear on other NBC shows. But he also appeared on other networks — ABC’s The View, things like that.

And the effect was to give Trump really sort of this unparalleled platform to sort of spread this. Whereas people who were doing it before were really just sort of fringe characters, who might get a little bit of time on some TV shows, but really not much at all. So he really took it mainstream.

PAINTER: I have said, more than once, that we would not have Trump without Obama.  And that is, on the one hand, we have this current, this running current, of white supremacy — the assumption that nonwhite people are sort of over there and they’re inferior, they don’t work hard.

Black people are not supposed to be powerful. What is the ultimate defiance of that assumption? The ultimate defiance is the president.

LEBRON: There is a strong subset of Americans who are fearful of black empowerment. And I don’t mean this in the radical sense; I mean just basic everyday citizenship empowerment. Be able to pick up on that.

Then also decades of Republicans and dog whistle politics, Willie Horton ads ….

WILLIE HORTON AD, 1988 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: One was Willie Horton, who murdered a boy in a….

LEBRON: …“super predator” talk, you know, with respect to criminality and law and order, which is basically code for policing black neighborhoods.

Somebody like Trump comes in and there’s a perfect storm of fear, loathing and a deep history of using policies to suppress blacks’ freedom and liberties. And Trump comes on the end of a black presidency and says, listen, this man is giving health care away for free; doesn’t that scare you? This man wants to let gay men and women marry. That’s not how you should live your life. This black man is doing that.

And that’s why it’s no accident he has stepped into the perfect storm, of basically, white paranoia, white fear, of an era of possible black…true black liberation and justice.

KLINKNER: I think it’s very much tied in to the discomfort and fear that a lot of white Americans had about the first African-American president. And we’ve seen this throughout American history, that white Americans have often sort of disregarded African-Americans as not just full citizens, but sometimes full human beings.

And so I thought it was interesting that here we have the first African-American president, and here was an attempt to sort of delegitimize him in a very overt way as not actually being American. Not just sort of saying you know he says un-American things, but in fact he is, in fact, not an American.

TRUMP (CNBC 5/29/12): Nothing has changed my mind. By the way you have a huge group of people. I walk down the street and people are screaming, “Please don’t give that up.”

JONATHAN KARL (ABC NEWS, 8/11/13): But you don’t still question he was born in the United States, do you?

TRUMP (TO KARL): I have no idea… Well, I don’t know, was there a birth certificate? You tell me. You know some people say that was not his birth certificate. I’m saying, I don’t know. Nobody knows.

KLINKNER: I think for many Americans, the whole definition of America is caught up with race: that whites are the only people who have the requisite characteristics that would allow them to be full citizens and therefore the political leaders of the country. And that’s something that goes back to the first African-Americans who were enslaved in the United States. It goes back to things like the three-fifths clause in the Constitution.

It goes back into the disenfranchisement after Reconstruction and the Civil War.

MUHAMMAD: When I think about the justification for this lie, I think of an image that comes from a broadside, a pamphlet, just after the end of slavery. It was published in 1866 and it’s framed by this image of the Capitol and it’s a commentary on what is about to become the Freedmen’s Bureau. At the center of it is this black man in tattered clothes, looking like someone who had just left the fields after having picked cotton. He’s leaning back with his arm resting just underneath his head. His feet are kicked up, one leg across the other, and it essentially says that if you support the federal government you will be supporting the black takeover of America. And this is a white man’s country.

This is what the big lie looked like in 1867. And it is exactly the same wiring and visual inputs and rhetorical tropes and frames that frames the illegitimacy of this man who has become president today and what we ought to do about it.

KLINKNER: If you’re going to tell a lie about somebody, it works a lot better if you focus on somebody who is different from you. They have a different skin color, they attend a different church or house of worship. They come from a different country or speak a different language.

It’s harder to sort of see them a common citizen. Easier to see them as somebody who’s different and therefore dangerous to you and to your country.

PAINTER: I would not say white supremacy is a big foundational lie.  I would say white supremacy is a big foundational fact. Because during our colonial period in the United States, they laid the ground work for a society that’s divided along racial lines. So in 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran on not approving the Civil Rights Act, he had a large following. It was not a winning following; it was not a winning strategy in 1964. But it said, hey, there are votes here.

MUHAMMAD: Barry Goldwater rose to power in 1964, absolutely rejecting the federal government’s responsibility in what was then fast becoming the Civil Rights Act of ’64

That essentially said the federal government has no right to make white people of the South like black people, and that if the federal government pushed too hard in enforcing such things, it was unconstitutional. That spirit, that rejection of the possibility for civil rights, is exactly what has crystallized in Donald Trump’s support on the right, because Obama essentially was perceived to have gotten through an electoral process that was rigged from the beginning.

That these illegitimate voters came to the polls — and, you know, all of them black or brown or yellow, but none of them really white folks, and that’s true. A majority of whites voted against Obama in 2008 and an even greater majority of whites voted against him in 2012. I mean, there’s something to be said for that, but that is exactly what stoked this notion that our country has been taken over by vandals. By mongrels, by mulattos, by Mexicans, by Muslims, by people who have no legitimate claim to the heritage of this — what they would say, white Christian nation.

TRUMP (PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY ANNOUNCEMENT SPEECH 6/16/15): When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.

PAINTER: I don’t believe Trump was an accident, because the Republican Party has been seeing and grasping the political power of white supremacy.

GEORGE WALLACE (SPEECH 1/14/63): And I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.

PAINTER: And when George Wallace made such a success in 1968, and then into the early 1970s — hey, there are really votes here.

So 1968 and Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy — a purposeful harnessing of white supremacists’ assumptions and beliefs.

One of the strengths of Donald Trump is that he has had so many Republican officeholders endorsing him. If the Southern strategy had not been such an important current in current Republican ideology, those officeholders would have said, no, no, no, no, no, no — this person is terrible.

KLINKNER: I think in the last couple of decades, we have been sort of building to this moment. There was a backlash by many whites against the civil rights movement, who were upset about the changing status of African-Americans. Adding to that were fears about immigration and changing the demographic character of the United States.

Rising numbers of nonwhites, growing political power, greater cultural status for nonwhites in America. And that made them sort of very fearful about all of these sorts of changes. And so when someone comes along and says that, “Here’s this person who’s ascended to the highest office in the land, but he really shouldn’t be there, he’s really not legitimate,” it plays to their fears, but also, perhaps, gives them a little bit of hope that those sort of fears and the things that they worried about actually haven’t quite come to pass yet.

MUHAMMAD: This explains David Duke’s appropriation of a civil rights movement for white people to roll back a big government intent on grinding them into insignificance, and ultimately this explains why no matter what Donald Trump says or does about women, about Mexicans, about Muslims, about Syrians, it speaks to the heart and soul of that part of America that insists that this may be our last chance to hold on to this nation.

And we’ve seen in midterm elections, we’ve seen in gubernatorial elections since 2008, the emergence of a class of political leadership that insists at the state level of creating a new class of pro-white warriors.

(RALLY, ARIZONA 7/11/15): [Crowd chanting: USA! USA!]

TRUMP: Don’t worry — we’ll take our country back very soon, very soon.

LEBRON: So, what I think has happened with Trump and his ability to hold onto this lie — I think he got invested in it because there is a cohort of Americans that were going to easily go along with him.

One thing I think Trump is actually very good at doing is, he’s a very good psychologist. And I think Trump saw that there are certain keynote themes that if you hit on them, you can rally the people, which is what makes him sometimes dangerous, where if you look at old —  I have to say, if you look at old Hitler tapes, for example, the ability to kind of rile the people up around topics about which they feel threatened, and the biggest threat for a lot of people is this black man who from their point of view is taking their country away from them.

KLINKNER: If there are any parallels between Hitler and his big lie and Trump and what he’s doing is that Hitler’s big lie was the stab-in-the-back thesis. The idea that Germany had lost World War I because it was stabbed in the back, not because it lost on the battlefield against the Allied powers; it was because at home, Jews and capitalists and Bolsheviks and socialists had destroyed Germany from within.

So that’s a big lie that he’s been pushing. And Trump, like many other demagogues throughout American history, have identified racial, ethnic, religious minorities as somehow working from within the country to destroy it.

LEBRON: Donald Trump is able to stir up the masses because he’s able to say this very simple thing that is plausible to a lot of people, but really taps into deeper fears about who is taking what from them. If they’re not as prosperous as they think they ought to be, who is doing this to them? It must be somebody else doing it to them, which is also the ironic thing. All of a sudden, the conservative reliance on personal responsibility gets completely off-loaded to this black man who was elected by the people.

KLINKNER: It’s not just Hitler; it’s demagogues everywhere. They get into this symbiotic relationship with their audience. That he throws them red meat and they respond and they cheer lustily.

TRUMP (RALLY IN MOBILE, ALABAMA 12/17/16): People who come into our country illegally, they’re taken care of better than our vets. Build the wall. Build the wall.

KLINKNER: And then he…he likes that, he likes that sort of response that he’s getting from the audience, and he feeds off that, and therefore he throws them even more red meat.

TRUMP (RALLY 12/17/16): Do not worry — we are going to build the wall, OK? Don’t worry; don’t even think about it.

MUHAMMAD: If we think about the legacy of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, it’s hard not to see the relationship of a big lie that blames the minority population for a nation’s problems.

That at the end of the day, this lie at the most granular level, especially in America right now, has always been part of the package of what made America actually great. Because in the end, those people have always believed that they were meant to be in charge. And our political systems, our museums, our classrooms have all advanced this point of view.

So the lie is broken down, and the only way to fix it, the only way to put it back together, is to wipe the world clean of these realities. To move these people out of the way, to get them out of the polls, to get them out of our classrooms. To tell them to go back to where they came from, so that we can have nice, neat images, whether they are in our own homes or in our classrooms or in our museums or wherever we find them, that reaffirm to us that the little lies we’ve always been telling ourselves — that we’re perfect, that we’re great as white people — is still true.

Obama’s physical presence shattered those little lies. And you need to get the big lie back in place.

TRUMP (RALLY IN WEST BEND, WISCONSIN 8/16/16): There can be no prosperity without law and order.

MUHAMMAD: When I think about his appeals to racism and this explicit call for law and order and the criminalization of black and brown people, he does remind me of Richard Nixon. But Richard Nixon, for all of his flaws, was a public servant. He was a career politician. And he did some good things and some bad things. It’s not clear at all that Donald Trump has ever done anything good for anyone but himself.

KLINKNER: We like to think people are rational, but they’re not. And when it comes to politics, people are partisan beings. They’re very much rooted to an identity as a Democrat or Republican, a liberal or a conservative. And we tend to get our information from like-minded people.

So when people like Donald Trump or a Democrat or Hillary Clinton, or whoever it is, tells something that’s not true, we tend to hold onto that. Even when it’s proven not to be true, we don’t want to give up that belief, because it’s a partisan belief, and therefore it goes to our identity of who we are or what we believe in, what types of people we associate with.

And in many cases, the correction almost makes us want to hold that belief even more deeply, rather than give it up.

A very famous political scientist years ago by the name of V.O. Key said that the voice of the people is but an echo chamber. That what comes out of an echo chamber bears a very strong relationship to what goes into it. And when you have people like Donald Trump, when you have prominent people in the media, in politics, that are expressing lies and misperceptions and untruths, the American people are going to say those sorts of things.

They’re going to come to believe those sorts of things, because that’s what they’re hearing from the people that they trust. The media also bear a very strong role in this, because they’ve been giving a platform to people like Trump. They haven’t been giving them the types of pushback and scrutiny that they really do deserve.

MUHAMMAD: Donald Trump did us a favor, because he shows us how active and significant white supremacy is in this country. I mean, we needed to know it. We needed to see it. We needed to punch a hole in the mythology of post-racialism, because we need to deal with it. I mean, we think about an oncologist — we don’t want our oncologist telling us a little lie that we don’t really have cancer.

Donald Trump — he provides us an opportunity, a window, an X-ray into a malignant tumor in our society. Now, the tumor’s always been there, but it’s grown. And we’ve tried to address it in ways small and large, and we’ve won some of those battles. But ultimately, the patient is very sick, it is our nation, and we need to extract it once and for all.


CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear

TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear

ROBERTS: That I will faithfully execute

TRUMP: That I will faithfully execute

ROBERTS: The office of president of the United States

TRUMP: The office of president of the United States

ROBERTS: And will to the best of my ability

TRUMP: And will to the best of my ability

ROBERTS: Preserve, protect and defend

TRUMP: Preserve, protect and defend

ROBERTS: The Constitution of the United States

TRUMP: The Constitution of the United States

ROBERTS: So help me God.

TRUMP: So help me God.

ROBERTS: Congratulations, Mr. President.

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WATCH: White Nationalist Richard Spencer Sucker-Punched in the Face During Trump Inauguration

10 hours 12 min ago
Click here for reuse options! The alt-right founder had been waxing about Pepe the Frog when he was clocked by a masked protester.

White nationalist Richard Spencer was reportedly sucker-punched in his face during the inaugural festivities for President Donald Trump today.

A video shared on Twitter shows Spencer discussing the “White lives matter” movement while he’s being harassed and heckled by onlookers. One person called Spencer a Nazi and Spencer corrected the person, claiming that Nazis actually hate him.

While Spencer was talking about the impact Pepe the Frog had during the election, an unidentified white man dressed in a black hoodie with a black cloth over his face approached Spencer and punched him in the face. Spencer collapsed to the side and quickly ran away while fixing his hair. Claims that this occurred during the inaugural festivities are unverified, however.

The attacker fled the scene in the opposite direction.

Spencer, a leader of the so-called “alt-right” movement, has come under political attack for his white nationalism and his targeting of professors. He notoriously held a gathering of neo-Nazis and white nationalists shortly after the election not far from the White House. Spencer’s final remarks led the crowd in a chant of “Hail Trump!” in which audience members raised their hands in a Nazi salute. Spencer’s mother has also come under fire in her Montana town and white nationalists have tried to organize a rally in support.

I made an animated gif out of the shitlord neo-nazi Richard Spencer getting clocked in the face at the #inauguration. You're welcome.

— Joseph Evers (@FuxNet) January 20, 2017

Some online have turned the video into a way to mock Spencer.

You can watch the attack below:

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Newt Gingrich Wants to Fire Federal Employees Who Voted for Clinton

January 20, 2017 - 9:34pm
Click here for reuse options! "There won’t be any real cooperation until we change federal law so we can fire them.”

As I write this, President-elect Donald Trump is set to assume control of the White House in a manner of hours, and his longtime adviser Newt Gingrich is giddy about reported plans to cut $10.5 trillion out of the federal government over 10 years by gutting federal agency budgets by as much as 10 percent while slashing 20 percent from the federal workforce.

The Trump transition team has reportedly met for months with career officials in the White House to outline a plan for massive cuts to the federal workforce. The plan, modeled after a budget championed by the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, essentially calls for cutting nearly all of the government’s discretionary spending.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is so excited by the prospects that Trump will finally be able to deliver the extremely right-wing restructuring of the federal government he’s championed for decades.

“I would say by one week after the inaugural, it will be very interesting to look at how many things have changed,” Gingrich recently said at a Heritage Foundation event. Gingrich predicted that “Trumpism produces a balanced budget largely as a consequence of its policies rather than by focusing on the balance itself.”

The only risk, Gingrich later noted to the New York Times, is that entering the White House and instantly slashing a federal agency’s permanent staff will likely lead employees “to find ways to sabotage each new cabinet secretary as soon as they walk through the door.”

Offering perhaps the most nakedly political argument for firing federal employees, Gingrich said, “all those bureaucrats overwhelmingly voted for Clinton. There won’t be any real cooperation until we change federal law so we can fire them.”

African-Americans account for nearly 20 percent of the overall federal workforce — a proportion larger than their population size of 13 percent. Gingrich’s cynical political play is likely very cognizant of this fact. After all, only two (and a half, when counting the Maine split) states out of the 20 most dependent on federal funding did not vote for Trump.

Gingrich’s vengeful suggestion comes days after he released an open letter calling for the abolishment of the Congressional Budget Office.

“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is simply incompatible with the Trump era,” Gingrich wrote, arguing that “it is a left-wing, corrupt, bureaucratic defender of big government and liberalism.”

The CBO is incompatible w/ the entrepreneurial, common sense Trump way of doing things & should be replaced

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) January 13, 2017

Gingrich complained that the only independent scorekeeper of congressional and executive budgets “is the opposite of [Trump’s] commitments” to Make America Great Again.

Since the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act created it in 1974, CBO has been the most legitimate and successful part of the federal budget process.

Led by Speaker Gingrich, Republicans in Congress applauded the CBO and its then Democratic director during the Clinton administration when its analysis determined that the president’s proposed health care plan would balloon the deficit.

On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office revealed that a 2015 bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 18 million in the first year. It also estimated that premiums in the nongroup market would increase by 20 to 25 percent within the first year.

Now, Gingrich says the CBO’s “scoring of Obamacare was not just wrong, it was clearly corrupt”:

CBO literally brought in the architect of Obamacare to be the adviser on scoring the very Obamacare legislation that he helped write. The score was a lie. It was so wrong it was totally indefensible. A year later the CBO produced a new score that was so much more expensive that it was clear Obamacare would have been defeated if it had been the original score.”

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Tapper Taken Aback by Trump's Address: 'One of the Most Radical Inaugural Speeches We've Ever Heard'

January 20, 2017 - 9:17pm
Click here for reuse options! "There was nothing particularly conservative about this Republican president’s speech," said Tapper.

Thousands poured into Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of Donald Trump on Jan. 20, 2017 as he kicked off his administration with a memorable inaugural address. CNN’s Jake Tapper discussed the address with Wolf Blitzer during their ‘Newsroom’ coverage.

“It was very consistent to the Trump brand absolutely,” Tapper said, calling the address “one of the most radical inaugural speeches we’ve ever heard. It was purely populist.”

He continued, “It attacked Washington while standing inside the center of Washington, D.C. while surrounded by Washington insiders. There was nothing particularly conservative about this Republican president’s speech. It was purely populism.”

“It looked at the United States and the role of the United States in a way that departures greatly from what we’ve heard from all his predecessors,” Tapper said, calling it “consistent with his brand.”

Journalist Dan Rather also commented on the speech in a Facebook post on Friday, noting that Trump “painted a very dark picture of the current state of our nation.”

See Tapper’ full remarks below.

.@jaketapper: "I think it's fair to say, this is one of the most radical inaugural speeches we've ever heard"

— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) January 20, 2017


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President Donald Trump Is About to Victimize His Own Voters

January 20, 2017 - 9:16pm
Click here for reuse options! Our new president's supporters are likely to suffer from his regressive policies. I have no compassion for them.

In the weeks between Election Day and Donald Trump’s inauguration, I have found a new hobby. On a daily basis I read various newspapers, magazines and websites in search of stories about Trump voters and how they are surprised by their hero’s broken promises, scared that he may take away their health care or worried about his troubling connections to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. I then bookmark these news items in my Internet browser for later use. As Nero fiddles and his public dances I can at least try to find small joys and pleasures in the music.

This is my version of liberal Schadenfreude — with slightly more hostile intent. I doubt that I am alone in adopting this new distraction and source of pleasure.

The butcher’s bill is due.

There are many examples of Trump’s voters and their increasing pain and anxiety.

I am particularly fond of this explanation from a Trump voter who benefited from President Barack Obama’s health care reforms:

I’m not really a fan of [Obama’s] policies, but I like the fact that he gave me health insurance. And I have been worried about the fact that, you know, is it going to go away because, like I said, we’re in a situation now where I can’t afford to pay $1,200 a month. And I can’t go without insurance because [a family member] has to have it in order, you know . . . a transplant could be a million dollars. . . .  Well . . . we liked [Trump] because he just seemed to be a businessman.

The Instagram site Trumpgrets is also a source of great entertainment.

Many Kentucky coal miners supported Donald Trump even though he will likely take away their health care.

This Vox interview with a Trump supporter is priceless:

In the end, I voted for Trump because he promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that was the most important issue to my own life. Looking back, I realize what a mistake it was. I ignored the pundits who repeated over and over again that he would not follow through on his promises, thinking they were spewing hysterics for better ratings. Sitting on my couch, my mouth agape at the words coming out his mouth on the TV before me, I realized just how wrong I was.

There are many explanations for why a voter would might choose a candidate who is likely to do that person harm. The American electorate, to put it kindly, is not particularly sophisticated. The country’s schools are broken: A high percentage of graduates of either high school and college lack critical thinking and reading skills. Many graduates also cannot read and properly evaluate a newspaper editorial, or discern if a story is from a reputable source or is “fake news.” Voters also privilege different issues in their calculations. For committed conservatives, winning the “culture war” may be more important than basic pocketbook or bread-and-butter issues.

Social scientists have repeatedly shown the ways that American voters reason backward from their conclusions and ignore inconvenient information. The vast majority of Trump voters received their information from Fox News: Disinformation and lies are taken as truth; the phenomenon of circular and self-limiting knowledge that social scientists call “epistemic closure” creates right-wing political zombies. Racism, authoritarianism, bigotry and ethnocentrism are a toxic (and politically intoxicating) mix.

And perhaps the most basic truth is that Trump’s voters simply wanted to elect a human grenade as president. They pulled the pin and then forgot to run away from the explosion, likely because they were fascinated by the spectacle and eager to witness the harm that they believed Trump would do to their enemies.

The butcher’s bill is due.

Donald Trump’s proposed policies will not make America great again.

Rural Americans will suffer because of Trump’s environment, trade and agricultural policies. Wealth and income inequality will become more extreme, thus punishing and constricting the life opportunities of the vast majority of Americans of all races and backgrounds. Efforts to roll back and destroy Obamacare will deprive millions of health insurance and may lead to the hundreds of thousands of deaths. Potential deportations of undocumented immigrants will further damage the economy by raising the cost of food and services while also requiring large expenditures of federal money. The expansion of the “stop and frisk” Terrordome against black and brown communities will likely increase the number of people killed and brutalized by police while also draining public coffers to pay for the prison-industrial complex as well as to settle innumerable lawsuits against police.

As philosopher Henry Girioux has repeatedly warned, the “dead zone of capitalism” will only be expanded by Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s obsessive advancement of predatory capitalism and austerity. Red state America is already economically unproductive and parasitic, largely dependent on the taxes and economic activity generated in blue state America. As such, Trump’s policies will disproportionately punish his greatest supporters.

Well-intentioned liberals and progressives insist that we should empathize with Trump’s semi-mythical “white working-class” voters. These progressive and liberal dreamers reference examples of interracial alliances that struggled to advance shared class interests. Of course such alliances across the color line have occurred in the United States. The United Mine Workers union offers an important example of interracial, if uneven, collaboration and cooperation. At times, white and black sharecroppers across the South and elsewhere worked together against the planter-class plutocrats of the 19th and 20th centuries. In Texas, the “white scourge” of cotton was indeed king, but laborers — whites and people of color — found ways to work together to advance their shared economic interests.

Unfortunately, such interracial alliances are not common in American history. Poor and working-class white Americans have all too often chosen the psychological and material “wages of whiteness” instead of allying with people of color in the same economic class, even when the latter option would have lifted all boats. These white Americans were not tricked or hoodwinked or conned or bamboozled. They made a decision that loyalty to whiteness took precedence to  a shared sense of humanity and the common good. This is a persistent feature of American history from long before the founding of the republic through the era of Donald Trump.

When Trump’s administration fails to fulfill his promises and leaves the country worse off than before he became president, his voters will be faced with a choice. Will they continue to support him? Will they turn on their champion? Can the Great Leader successfully spin and obfuscate his failures?

M.T. Anderson, in a recent essay comparing Joseph Stalin and Donald Trump, offered the following prediction:

As Trump fumbles that economic transition, we can assume that his opponents, both in Washington and on Main Street, will be cast as “elites” who are, supposedly, causing the problem in the first place.

Trump’s voters will follow along in lockstep. They will blame Obama, focus their anger on “illegal immigrants” or simply default to blaming “lazy blacks” and “inner-city residents” for the country’s problems. This is a product of the deeply ingrained right-wing ideology and white identity politics that Trump leveraged to win the White House.

Author William S. Burroughs offered the wisdom, “Hustlers of the world, there is one mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.” Showman P.T. Barnum supposedly said there was a sucker born every minute. Both observations are appropriate for explaining how Trump’s apparatchiks and supporters are likely to react to his imminent crisis and failure.

The butcher’s bill is due.

American conservatives love to preach the gospel of “personal responsibility.” Perhaps Trump’s voters will have the opportunity to reflect on their personal responsibility for what is to come, in the very near future, from their president and his administration.

January 20 was Inauguration Day. The butcher’s bill has come due. America, how will you pay it?

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The 'Most Ominous' Inauguration in American History

January 20, 2017 - 6:54pm
Click here for reuse options! With Trump's arrival, American global exceptionalism is dead.

The sort of foreboding that pervades Washington on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration is not unprecedented, but it hasn't been felt so strongly in a long time.

Indignation about the usurping of democracy erupted when President George Bush was inaugurated in 2001. But the protest at the swearing-in of a lightweight dynast appointed by Supreme Court decision was not fearful. At the time, Bush was seen as a pretender, not the incompetent menace he proved to be. His inauguration was not boycotted like Trump’s has been.

Richard Nixon was inaugurated in January 1969 when the country was riven by rioting, assassination and a deeply unpopular war, but no one could doubt Nixon was the man most Americans wanted in the office. He was known as Tricky Dick, but he was more trusted than Trump.

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated at a moment when the country’s economy had collapsed and the ruling class was in in disarray. But FDR was both popular and had the confidence of the economic elite of which he was a scion. Even his enemies extended FDR goodwill as he came to office. Trump gets little goodwill from his defeated rivals because he extends none.

Today's fears are not nearly so ominous as they were in March 1861. Faced with the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, an anti-slavery Republican, the southern state prepared to secede. Lincoln felt obliged to say, “there will be no bloodshed unless it is forced upon the Government,” a caveat some doubted he would enforce.

Historically speaking, the fear and loathing that accompanies Trump’s ascendancy in 2017 most resembles the mood of Washington in 1829. Then as now, the capital’s political recoiled at the inauguration of a brash outsider contemptuous of the educated and financial elites. As the inauguration of Andrew Jackson approached, the political class in the nation’s capital—lawyers, lobbyists, clerks (now called bureaucrats), and newspapermen (the media)—feared and mistrusted the incoming president. Like Trump, Jackson was seen by many in Washington as an aberration and as incipient tyrant. Jackson, a war hero and slave owner, lauded common (white) men as the key to American greatness and excoriated the East Coast elite as their nemesis, thus coining two enduring themes of American politics that Trump tapped with demagogic skill. 

Of course, the parallels are not exact. Jackson was genuinely popular, while Trump is genuinely unpopular. Jackson gained the presidency by winning the popular vote handily. Trump lost the popular vote and was only elected by the archaic mechanism of the Electoral College. The Jacksonian insurgency had a popular legitimacy; a democratic character, at least in the white male electorate, that Trump does not have in multiracial America.

So while Trump’s inauguration is not prelude to civil war, it likely portends an epic struggle over the nature of the American government. Like the Jacksonian insurgency, the Trump ascendancy is a threat to the country’s ruling elite. Like secessionist south, the Trump ascendancy is a threat to democratic and constitutional government.

The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne calls it the "most ominous" inauguration in modern history, citing Trump’s hostility to democratic norms. Yahoo News’ Matt Bai sees the "end of the American century," citing Trump’s repudiation of the structures of American power since World War II such as NATO, the United Nations, and the global regime of free trade.

But Trump’s capture of the White House was made possible by the very weakness of those norms (which didn’t quite extend to the Bernie Sanders campaign or voters disenfranchised by the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act) and the evident failure of those power structures (which in recent decades have delivered growing inequality and unsuccessful wars, not economic security, to most Americans).

Exceptionally Exhausted

Behind the democratic deficit and economic dysfunction—and Trump’s triumph—is the exhaustion of American exceptionalism, that enduring civic creed that holds the United States is, or should aspire to be, a light unto the world, a "shining city on a hill.” In American politics, the term American exceptionalism (let’s call it AE) often has conservative connotations. But the notion that America is destined and entitled to extend its dominion over the world has deep roots in American history.

In 1942, Time magazine publisher Henry Luce coined the term the "American Century” in retailing the idea that only America deserved to be the world’s pre-eminent power. After World War II, liberal intellectuals played a leading role in building the national and international institutions that enforced American domination. Since the election of Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party has mostly deferred to this corporate order rather than reform or restructure it.

A conservative version of AE was popularized by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Reagan never tired of invoking the “shining city on a hill” even as his administration funded CIA dirty wars in Central America and subverted Congress with the Iran-Contra scheme. A neoconservative version of AE helped propel President George W. Bush into Iraq, believing that U.S. military force would remove Saddam Hussein and the grateful Iraqi people would adopt our politics and emulate our institutions. The neoconservative version of AE proved to be the gift wrapping on a package of folly, war crimes and defeat.

Barack Obama was denounced by John Bolton and other right-wing critics for not believing in AE. Obama’s heresy was to note that other peoples and countries think of themselves as exceptional—and so they do. But Obama avowed he believed in AE "with every fiber of my being." He just had a different version of AE.

While Reagan and Bush’s AE tended to be nationalist, militaristic and implicitly Christian, Obama offered a more internationalist, diplomatic and multicultural variation. It was America’s evolution as a multiracial democracy (culminating in his own rise to power) and liberal post-war leadership (ditto) that made the USA a light unto the world, he said.

Obama’s AE was relatively attractive, at least to the college-educated. His personal story offered hope that the country had transcended its racial heritage and in some ways it had. But while Obama orchestrated stabilized and regulated the U.S. and global economy, he relied on the national and international economic elites to lead the country out of the Great Recession. He did not attempt any restructuring of the institutions that embodied and powered America’s exceptionally ambitious role in the world since 1945. He advocated progressive tax and health care policies, but he left job creation to the corporations who had every incentive to outsource. 

Obama was successful, especially in comparison to his successor. But his economics results were, at best, unevenly distributed. The free-trade deals that Obama touted offered little and delivered less for American workers without college degrees. Poverty didn’t begin to decline until his last year in office, and even that is disputed. To a lot of voters, Obama’s multicultural AE looked like the gift-wrapping on economic abandonment.

Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” may sound like an AE slogan, but it isn’t. Trump does not want to be America to be an example to the world any more than he aspires to be an example to your teenage son. He doesn’t trust the globalized economic regime because it has abandoned the working-class white voters who admire him most. Trump doesn’t want America to be exceptional—as in unique, just and inspiring. He wants America to be great, as in powerful, pre-eminent and independent.

So the opposition gathering in Washington to protest Trump’s inauguration has a double challenge: to resist Trump’s government of generals and billionaires while offering a vision of American government that doesn’t rely on the idea that America and its institutions are exceptional. Not with Donald Trump in command.

It won’t be easy. Trump’s opponents are united in opposition to the man, but still divided on tactics. While the battle cry "Not My President" voices a visceral feeling, it is hardly inspiring to tens millions of Trump supporters who want a president who puts American workers first every day. During the campaign, Hillary Clinton campaigned on the certainty that Trump’s sexual misbehavior would discredit his anti-elitist message. She assumed cosmopolitican AE would trump provinical #MAGA. She was wrong and here we are, filled with foreboding.

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Reich: 7 Hard Truths for Democrats—The Future Is Bleak Without Radical Reforms

January 20, 2017 - 5:33pm
Click here for reuse options! Democrats have to stop squabbling and understand the dire future ahead of us.

The ongoing contest between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders wings of the Democratic Party continues to divide Democrats. It’s urgent Democrats stop squabbling and recognize seven basic truths:

1. The Party is on life support. Democrats are in the minority in both the House and Senate, with no end in sight. Since the start of the Obama Administration they’ve lost 1,034 state and federal seats. They hold only governorships, and face 32 state legislatures fully under GOP control. No one speaks for the party as a whole. The Party’s top leaders are aging, and the back bench is thin.

The future is bleak unless the Party radically reforms itself. If Republicans do well in the 2018 midterms, they’ll control Congress and the Supreme Court for years. If they continue to hold most statehouses, they could entrench themselves for a generation.

2. We are now in a populist era. The strongest and most powerful force in American politics is a rejection of the status quo, a repudiation of politics as usual, and a deep and profound distrust of elites, including the current power structure of America.

That force propelled Donald Trump into the White House. He represents the authoritarian side of populism. Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign represented the progressive side.

The question hovering over America’s future is which form of populism will ultimately prevail. At some point, hopefully, Trump voters will discover they’ve been hoodwinked. Even in its purist form, authoritarian populism doesn’t work because it destroys democracy. Democrats must offer the alternative.

3. The economy is not working for most Americans. The economic data show lower unemployment and higher wages than eight years ago, but the typical family is still poorer today than it was in 2000, adjusted for inflation; median weekly earning are no higher than in 2000; a large number of working-age people—mostly men—have dropped out of the labor force altogether; and job insecurity is endemic.

Inequality is wider and its consequences more savage in America than in any other advanced nation.

4. The Party’s moneyed establishment—big donors, major lobbyists, retired members of Congress who have become bundlers and lobbyists—are part of the problem. Even though many consider themselves “liberal” and don’t recoil from an active government, their preferred remedies spare corporations and the wealthiest from making any sacrifices.

The moneyed interests in the Party allowed the deregulation of Wall Street and then encouraged the bailout of the Street. They’re barely concerned about the growth of tax havens, inside trading, increasing market power in major industries (pharmaceuticals, telecom, airlines, private health insurers, food processors, finance, even high tech), and widening inequality.

Meanwhile, they’ve allowed labor unions to shrink to near irrelevance. Unionized workers used to be the ground troops of the Democratic Party. In the 1950s, more than a third of all private-sector workers were unionized; today, fewer than 7 percent are.

5. It’s not enough for Democrats to be “against Trump,” and defend the status quo. Democrats have to fight like hell against regressive policies Trump wants to put in place, but Democrats also need to fight for a bold vision of what the nation must achieve—like expanding Social Security, and financing the expansion by raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes; Medicare for all; and world-class free public education for all.

And Democrats must diligently seek to establish countervailing power—stronger trade unions, community banks, more incentives for employee ownership and small businesses, and electoral reforms that get big money out of politics and expand the right to vote.

6. The life of the Party—its enthusiasm, passion, youth, principles, and ideals—was elicited by Bernie Sanders’s campaign. This isn’t to denigrate what Hillary Clinton accomplished—she did, after all, win the popular vote in the presidential election by almost 3 million people. It’s only to recognize what all of us witnessed: the huge outpouring of excitement that Bernie’s campaign inspired, especially from the young. This is the future of the Democratic Party.

7. The Party must change from being a giant fundraising machine to a movement.It needs to unite the poor, working class, and middle class, black and white—who haven’t had a raise in 30 years, and who feel angry, powerless, and disenfranchised.

If the Party doesn’t understand these seven truths and fails to do what’s needed, a third party will emerge to fill the void.

Third parties usually fail because they tend to draw votes away from the dominant party closest to them, ideologically. But if the Democratic Party creates a large enough void, a third party won’t draw away votes. It will pull people into politics.

And drawing more people into politics is the only hope going forward.

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5 Best Art World Protests Against Trump

January 20, 2017 - 5:18pm
Click here for reuse options! The revolution will be painted, drawn, photographed and sung.

Aside from the $10,000 self-portrait Donald Trump spent his charity’s money on, our president-elect is no fan of art. His disdain reached Jesse Helms levels Thursday morning when the Hill reported that among other draconian budget cuts, the new administration plans to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Is he unhappy with the ending of "Downton Abbey"? Does Barron think "Sesame Street" is passe? Does Trump miss the 1980s so much that instead of bringing back shoulder pads, he thought he’d revive the debates over government funding for Karen Finley’s chocolate-covered naked performance art or Robert Mapplethorpe’s erotic photos? Unless he tweets about it, we may never know, so fortunately the art world has been organizing its resistance.

Inauguration weekend, the organizers promise, is only the beginning of the creative resistance. Read on for five ways to get started. 

1. J20 Art Strike.

Art world luminaries such as Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman and Marilyn Minter are some of the 400-plus signees of a letter endorsing the J20 Art Strike, a request that museums and cultural institutions of all kinds close their doors on January 20. Among their demands:

"An Act of Noncompliance on Inauguration Day. No Work, No School, No Business. Museums. Galleries. Theaters. Concert Halls. Studios. Nonprofits. Art Schools. Close For The Day. Hit The Streets. Bring Your Friends. Fight Back."

Museums responded in a variety of ways, as Quartz reports. Some are closing altogether. Others, like the Whitney in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA and the Walker Center in Minneapolis offered pay-what-you-wish admission. The Brooklyn Museum hosted a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’s 1935 poem “Let America Be America Again."

Art website Hyperallergic has a running list of participating institutions.

2. Nasty Women art shows.

Artist Roxanne Jackson’s Facebook post was casual: “Hello female artists/curators! Lets organize a nasty women group show! Who's interested?” Little did she know she’d have 300-plus responses within an hour. What was initially conceived as a short, small group exhibition, blossomed, with the help of her co-organizers into a four-day Planned Parenthood fundraiser at New York City’s Knockdown Center, with nearly 700 participants who submitted their work to an open call.

It was the most egalitarian of group shows, with no one turned away as long as they submitted on time and adhered to size requirements, plus no piece was priced over $100, even for artists whose work regularly fetches into the tens of thousands. There were sculptures, paint and glitter, and gold. There are also now, according to the exhibition’s website, 23 confirmed sister exhibitions across the world running through February.

Even more importantly, $50,000 was raised, $42,000 for Planned Parenthood, and through an additional fundraiser, $8,000 for additional women’s charities. There was anger, yes, but as co-organizer Jasmine Fiore told New York Magazine, “Art creates resistance because it creates empathy. It exposes you to new ideas and connects you to new people and new communities. That’s always going to be its power.”

3. Artists Shepard Fairey, Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yeren raise $1.3 million on Kickstarter for protest art.

Ernesto Yeren, We The Resilient 

Shepard Fairey designed the iconic Hope images for the 2008 Obama campaign, featuring the president’s face bathed in red, white and blue light. Instead of spending inauguration day staring at posters as frayed as our feelings, Fairey joined fellow artists Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yeren and the Amplifier Foundation (an "art machine for social change") to design new art in time for inauguration weekend. The aim, according to the Kickstarter page, is to “flood” Washington with hopeful images.

As the campaign states, "On January 20, if this campaign succeeds, we're going to take out full-page ads in the Washington Post with these images, so that people across the capitol and across the country will be able to carry them into the streets, hang them in windows, or paste them on walls.”

Shephard Fairey, Greater Than Fear

At $1.3 million, they’re miles ahead of the initial $60,000 goal. Aside from being free, the best part is, none of the three images features the face of the 45th president.

Jessica Sabogal, Women are Perfect 

4. What a Joke Comedy Festival.

Comedians may have enjoyed eviscerating Trump during the campaign, but many of the jokes were topped with a giant scoop of "this can't happen here." Well, it can and it did, and now, all weekend long, residents of 20 cities across America can go to the What a Joke Comedy Fest and ask themselves the ever important question: Do jokes still work? All ticket proceeds go to the ACLU.

The shows feature bigger names like Janeane Garofalo, Laurie Kilmartin and Nikki Glaser, as well as up-andecomers like Josh Gondelman and Jo Firestone. Visit the What a Joke website for the full list of cities and shows and watch the trailer below. Don't have a show in your city? You can still buy one of their red and white What a Joke hats, which also benefit the ACLU and bear a striking resemblence to a certain orange menace's preferred headgear. 

Watch the trailer below: 

5. Banner Drop Against Hate.

On the morning of January 20, dozens of buildings in Atlanta and Philadelphia were adorned with artist-made banners or signs of solidarity, displaying, as the group's Facebook page describes, "messages of love and inclusivity to stand in opposition to hate and in protest of any and all that embolden divisiveness."

The idea started with Philadelphia artists and curators who wanted to display anti-racism banners on private homes. It eventually snowballed into a citywide movement, with business owners and residents alike agreeing to drop their banners Friday morning. A group of arts organizations heard about the project and decided to create a sister campaign. As the Philadelphia organizers put it, "We refuse to accept the normalization of divisiveness and the hate it breeds. Philadelphia is not only the birthplace of American democracy, but the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection." 

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When the NY Times Helped Trump by Putting the Brakes on the Russian Hacking Story

January 20, 2017 - 4:16pm
Click here for reuse options! The Times fixed the FBI's PR problem; they also undermined national security.

Talk about strange bedfellows joining forces to produce an unlikely media alliance.

That’s what happened when The New York Times reported on October 31, 2016, that FBI officials had not been able to uncover any evidence that Russian operatives, through allegedly hacking Democratic emails, were trying to help elect Donald Trump.

“Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” read the October 31 Times headline which relied on unnamed “law enforcement officials.”

Acting as an almost unofficial time-out, and one that came with the Times’ seal of approval, the article helped put the media brakes on the unfolding Russian hacking story; the same Russian hacking story that has now morphed into a full-scale Trump scandal.

The message on October 31 from the Times’ sources was unmistakable: There’s no conclusive connection between Trump and the Russians, and the Russians’ efforts were “aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.” (Question: How do you not pick sides in a two-person election if you only undermine one of the candidates, the way Russian hackers only undermined the Democrat?)

The Times piece set off audible cheers within the conservative media, which usually holds the Times in contempt for its supposed “liberal media bias.”

In fact, pointing to the newspaper’s alleged Democratic leanings, conservative claimed that if even the liberal New York Times determined there was no Trump-Russia story, then it definitely must be true.

“And as far as liberals are concerned, the Democrats are concerned, when the New York Times clears you, you are cleared,” Rush Limbaugh told his listeners on November 1. “The New York Times carries as much weight as the FBI, and if the New York Times says there’s nothing to see between Trump and Russia and Putin, then there’s nothing to see.”

All across the conservative media landscape, the Times report was held up as putting the Trump-Russia story to bed.

However, to suggest the Times’ influential October 31 report “hasn’t aged well,” as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes recently put it, may be an understatement, as the unfolding hacking scandal continues to gain momentum and more evidence tumbles out regarding claims that Russians were trying to help Trump. (Hayes also correctly recalled that "At the same time the FBI was leaking like a sieve about Clinton, people around it went out of their way to dampen the Putin talk.")

The problems with the Times article are many. First off, Sen. Harry Reid’s spokesman claimed that Reid had been interviewed for the Times’ article, pushed back against its timid premise about there being no connection, and that Reid’s comments were omitted from the story.

More recently, we’ve seen all kinds of information revealed that contradicts the Times’ often-quoted October 31 report. For instance, FBI Director James Comey testified in December that Russia had “hacked into Republican state political campaigns and old email domains of the Republican National Committee,” but did not release information from those hacks. As Reuters pointed out, that allegation “may buttress the U.S. intelligence view that Moscow tried to help Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 campaign.”

More recently, the BBC reported that “a joint taskforce, which includes the CIA and the FBI, has been investigating allegations that the Russians may have sent money to Mr Trump's organisation or his election campaign.” Also last week, the Guardian reported that FBI investigators were so concerned with a possible Trump-Russia connection that they asked for a foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) warrant to monitor Trump aides during the campaign. (The warrant request was reportedly denied.)

Meanwhile, Britain’s The Independent reported that the former intelligence officer who wrote the recently revealed Trump dossier was frustrated that the FBI had “for months” ignored the information he passed along to the bureau about a possible Trump-Russian connection.

Note that just four weeks after the election, the Times itself reported, “Both intelligence and law enforcement officials agree that there is a mountain of circumstantial evidence suggesting that the Russian hacking was primarily aimed at helping Mr. Trump and damaging his opponent.” (Emphasis added.)

And from NPR: “FBI, CIA Agree That Russia Was Trying To Help Trump Win The Election.”

Here’s the larger context for the Times report and why it was seen as such a game-changer at the time.

On October 31, the FBI was dealing with two breaking news stories that were spinning out of its control and reflecting poorly on Comey.

The bureau was under withering criticism from legal experts, journalists, Democrats, and even some Republicans after Comey inserted insert himself into the final days of the campaign by informing Congress that the FBI was reigniting its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state. That last weekend in October the bureau was also battling damaging news stories that suggested its leadership had been slow to respond to the Russian hacking controversy as it pertained to Donald Trump.

Comey’s letter to Congress about the emails was dispatched October 28. In the days that followed, a steady stream of revelations undercut his actions. On October 30, CNN reported that the FBI had known about the new emails for “weeks” before Comey decided to go public with the information just days before the election.

The following day, news outlets reported that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) had sent Comey a blistering letter , insisting the FBI director was sitting on “‘explosive’ information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government.”

That same day, Mother Jones, foreshadowing the news last week about a dossier collected on Trump, reported that, “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country” had provided to the FBI with “memos, based on his recent interactions with Russian sources, contending the Russian government has for years tried to co-opt and assist Trump—and that the FBI requested more information from him.”

And that same day, CNBC reported, “FBI Director James Comey argued privately that it was too close to Election Day for the United States government to name Russia as meddling in the U.S. election.”

The contrast was startling: Comey had publicly reinvigorated the Clinton email investigation based on emails the FBI hadn’t even read (the emails turned out to be irrelevant), yet at the same time Comey allegedly sat on new information regarding claims that Trump had ongoing ties with Russia because Comey thought the optics would look bad.

Given all this, the FBI needed a way to stop the public relations bleeding. And late in the day on October 31, the Times provided the respite.

Specifically, the article helped push back on reports Comey didn’t want to go public with any Russian information close to Election Day.

“The reason Comey didn’t announce the existence of this investigation wasn’t because it was it was ‘explosive’ and could impact the election,” announced the conservative site, Hot Air, pointing to the Times article. “It was because the FBI had already figured out it was a dud.”

In other words, FBI PR problem solved. The problems with the Times report, however, were just beginning.


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Trump Snubs Ethical Norms Because We've Forgotten Why They Matter

January 20, 2017 - 4:15pm
Click here for reuse options! Make ethics great again.

Let’s be honest. Conflicts of interest are boring.

The president-elect knows this. In fact, he’s banking on it.

Instead of addressing his conflicts in a meaningful way at his press conference last week, Trump pointed to a stack of folders behind him. He then turned the press conference over to a lawyer, who talked about Trump’s plans for long enough for viewers to lose interest. It sounded official and complicated, even though it’s an embellished version of his November announcement to turn the business over to his children.

Many condemned Trump’s plan to handle his myriad conflicts of interest as president as wholly inadequate, including the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

But most likely, Trump will get away with it – for now – and continue to ignore the warnings of government ethics officials, tasked with preventing things from going terribly wrong.

For decades, they’ve been so successful at preventing a major government ethics scandal, Trump’s conflicts of interest now seem academic and even soporific to the average voter. Unfortunately for Trump, his unwillingness to listen makes a disaster much more likely. On the upside, a scandal would at least remind Americans why ethics-based precautions matter.

Owning is knowing

Trump’s plan consists of handing management of the family business to his sons, Don and Eric, and a current Trump executive. Trump pledges not to discuss business with his sons.

Trump will not be divesting his golf clubs, commercial properties, resorts, hotels or royalty rights. The plan also provides for no “new” foreign deals, though new domestic deals will be permitted subject to a “vetting process.” Existing foreign and domestic deals will presumably continue.

Walter Shaub, who directs the Office of Government Ethics, condemned Trump’s plan as “meaningless.” Turning over management of the business to others – especially his own children – is not a “blind trust” because Trump “knows what he owns.” Trump’s own attorney used this fact as an argument that nothing could be done about the conflict.

Shaub disagreed. If Trump divests his assets and places them in a blind trust – meant to prevent an elected official from making decisions that would benefit his or her own business interests – he won’t know what he owns. The independent trustee would make decision about selling assets and which assets to buy in their place. Under the government’s standard blind trust agreement, the trustee wouldn’t tell the president which assets are in the trust.

Much ado about nothing?

Nevertheless, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz called Shaub “highly unethical” for publicly criticizing Trump’s plan.

It’s certainly unusual, but, as with all things Trump, we’re in uncharted waters.

For some Trump supporters, all of this ethics criticism feels alarmist and exaggerated. One explained to me that these conflicts of interests are all hypothetical and abstract. Nothing terrible has happened yet. He argued that Trump’s potentially problematic behavior thus far – like his business-related inquiries of the Argentinian president or complaints to Brexit leaders about wind farms near his golf course – is small potatoes compared to other national priorities.

This reaction is understandable. It’s hard to imagine a giant presidential ethics scandal because there hasn’t been one since the Nixon administration. Why worry?

Anyone in the business of prevention understands this challenge. In “The Black Swan,” Wharton scholar Nicholas Nassim Taleb described the most “mistreated heroes” as those “we do not know were heroes, who saved our lives, who helped us [by] avoid[ing] disasters.”

Taleb presents the thought experiment of a hypothetical legislator who passed a law requiring that cockpit doors be locked as of Sept. 10, 2001. Yes, the legislator would have succeeded in preventing a terrorist attack. But he would also erase the proof that his legislation was valuable.

In the business of prevention, the benefits are hypothetical and the costs are real. The diseases prevented by vaccines have become so rare that they have reached the status of a hypothetical threat. Some parents now decline vaccines based on ephemeral fears because the benefits have become even more ephemeral.

William Ruckelshaus, a Republican and the first Environmental Protection Agency administrator, summed up the problem nicely:

“During the late ‘60s, the early ‘70s … [y]ou could see the air pollution on your way to work in the morning. When I first moved to Washington, the air was brown, mostly associated with automobile emissions. We had rivers that caught on fire like the (Cuyahoga) going through Cleveland, Ohio. …today it doesn’t galvanize as much public demand that something be done as was true back in the 1960s. EPA is a victim of its own success. A lot of the changes in the air and the water have been a result of a pretty vigorous agency going after polluters.”

Make ethics great again

Conflicts of ethics rules serve as preventative measures, as Shaub pointed out.

Blind trusts make conflicts of interest impossible because government officials both no longer have control of the assets and don’t know what they are. It is impossible to be influenced by ownership of an unknown asset.

All of the presidents since the Watergate scandal have acted as though the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 applied to them, even though technically it doesn’t.

In a sense, the entire Executive Branch has been vaccinated against conflicts of interest for the last 40 years. That is until now, with an incoming president who stated repeatedly during his press conference that conflict of interest rules don’t apply. So maybe we’re due for a scandal?

Sometimes, retrenchment can be helpful to the cause of prevention. In 2015, a measles outbreak at Disneyland led to an increase in vaccination rates. Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest could do the same for Washington, spurring a renewed push to bind the president to higher ethical standards.

At it stands, Trump’s failure to address his conflicts means that he remains exposed to the possibility of a full-blown conflicts-of-interest scandal. All it would take is for President Trump to have another conversation with British politicians about those pesky wind farms near his golf course in Scotland, this time from the Oval Office.

Yes, it would be a blow to the office of the presidency. But on the upside, it would – to borrow the president-elect’s favored phrase – make ethics great again.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Scahill: Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, the Brother of Betsy DeVos, Is Secretly Advising Donald Trump

January 20, 2017 - 3:45pm
Click here for reuse options! Democracy Now! spoke with Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, about his latest piece, "Notorious Mercenary Erik Prince Is Advising Trump from the Shadows."

The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill has revealed Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater, has been quietly advising Trump’s transition team, including helping vet Cabinet picks. On election night, Prince’s wife, Stacy DeLuke, even posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters. 

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, who you’ve been talking about, the founder of Blackwater. In July, he spoke to Steve Bannon, who at the time was the head of Breitbart News, the white supremacist, white nationalist news site; Steve Bannon, who’s now Trump’s senior adviser. Prince said Trump should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS.

ERIK PRINCE: It was a vicious, but very effective, kill/capture program in Vietnam that destroyed the Viet Cong as a military force. That’s what needs to be done to the funders of Islamic terror. And that would be even the—the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Erik Prince. The significance of what he’s saying here, Jeremy?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, remember, Erik Prince views himself as the rightful heir to the legacy of "Wild Bill" Donovan, who was the head of the agency that was the precursor to the CIA. And, you know, immediately after 9/11, Erik Prince became very, very close to a number of people within the CIA and also Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney’s office. And they jointly came up with this idea that Erik Prince could run a kind of off-the-books hit squad that could roam the world conducting assassinations for the United States, and there would be no effective paper trail and no ability for Congress to engage in any oversight. Now, Leon Panetta, who was Obama’s CIA director early on in Obama’s term, said, "Oh, we shut down that program, and no one was ever killed." I don’t believe that for one moment. That was—that was part of the legacy of the Phoenix Program, that was a murderous death squad operation in Vietnam, that also included enhanced interrogation. What Erik Prince being around Trump indicates to me is that—

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about what you found out about election night and what his role is. We just have 50 seconds.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right, well, Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge funder, his daughter Rebekah ran one of the most important super PACs to Trump, Make America Number 1 super PAC. And Trump—and Erik Prince and his mother, Elsa, were two of the largest contributors to one of the most significant super PACs that supported Donald Trump. Erik Prince is very close to Robert Mercer. Prince was also at the "Heroes and Villains" party that Mercer threw in Long Island after the election. And, in fact, there’s a picture that Peter Thiel, the right-wing billionaire who destroyed Gawker—a picture of Peter Thiel, Donald Trump and Erik Prince, that Peter Thiel says is not safe for the internet. But it’s clear that Erik Prince, through Betsy DeVos, through Robert Mercer and through his very right-wing paramilitary crowd, has the ear of President-elect Donald Trump. And our understanding, from a very well-placed source, is that Prince has even been advising Trump on his selections for the staffing of the Defense Department and the State Department.

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Nurse Leader DeMoro: Access to Buying Insurance Is Not Health Coverage

January 20, 2017 - 3:43pm
Click here for reuse options! With the rush to repeal the ACA, things are in danger of getting very ugly fast.

A signature exchange early in the first Senate hearing Wednesday for Rep. Tom Price in his nomination to be the next Health and Human Services Secretary illustrates a lot about our still damaged health care system, and how it could get much worse.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose call to expand coverage through an improved Medicare-for-all was a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, forcefully challenged Price to commit to guaranteed health care for every American.

Sanders: The United States of America is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right. Do you believe that health care is a right of all Americans, whether they are rich or they’re poor? Should people, because they are Americans, be able to go to the doctor, be able to go into a hospital because they are Americans? In Canada, in other countries, all people have the right to get health care. Do you believe we should move in that direction?

Price: I believe that every single American has access to the highest quality care and coverage that is possible.

Sanders. ‘Has access to’ does not mean that they are guaranteed health care. I have access to buying a $10 million home; I don’t have the money to do that.

Unpack the evasions and you have the Ayn Rand Tea Party philosophy in a nutshell. You only deserve the health care you can buy, from private insurance companies that have a history of price-gouging with multiple restrictions on the care you can receive even after paying your premiums.

"Access to care" in the mouths of those devoted to shredding every vestige of our health care safety net only serves as a pointed reminder of the elevation of double-speak for an incoming administration whose press secretary, Sean Spicer, can praise the "totality of diversity" that is "second to none" for a cabinet where 13 of 16 nominees are white men. Or perhaps Spicer just meant the "diversity" of both millionaires and billionaires.

Any notion that the private health care market, which has long prioritized its profiteering above any guarantees of access, cost or quality, will somehow do a better job of assuring “every person the financial feasibility to purchase the coverage they want” requires a suspension of disbelief that is truly Orwellian.

Probably the best evidence of the failure of the market-driven system—which saw the U.S. fall to 37th in the world according to a World Health Organization ranking early in this century—is the decades-long push for major health care reform. The Affordable Care Act was a step forward, especially in access, through the expansion of Medicaid for many low- and moderate-income adults, and a ban on some of the worst insurance abuses that permitted more people to buy insurance plans through the ACA market exchanges.

Significant holes in the ACA, especially the failure to adequately control out-of-pocket costs for millions of people, opened the door to many of the attacks, as hypocritical as the ideological resistance has been from those in Congress to a plan that was evolved from conservative think tanks and designed to meet the desires of the health care industry.

Now, with the rush to repeal the ACA, things are in danger of getting very ugly fast.

Incoming President Trump did throw a wrench into the feeding frenzy in a series of statements insisting that the Republican majorities in the Senate and House adopt a concurrent replacement plan with repeal of the ACA. Further he set conditions, that no one lose coverage they’ve gained under the ACA, and that premiums and deductibles be lowered.

That has made it sticky for the repeal-and-replace crowd. Not one scheme they have talked about the past eight years comes close to meeting those parameters.

Not health savings accounts or tax credits to buy insurance without any controls on the predatory pricing practices of the industry.

Not “selling insurance across state lines” which is merely a race to the bottom, letting insurance giants decamp in the least regulated states so that other states, with stronger public protections, must accept those same lowered standards.

And not converting Medicaid to block grants, which Price, and now Trump, are proposing as a “solution” for expanded coverage.

The Medicaid block grant proposal is intended to sharply reduce federal funding for Medicaid, and then leave it to states, more than half now controlled by conservative budget hawks, to reduce their commitment to health coverage for low-and moderate-income people by restricting eligibility and cutting covered benefits.

Sanders also pressed Price on whether he would adhere to another Trump promise not to cut Medicare and Medicaid.

And then there was this exchange, in which Sanders pointed out another Trump call for increased negotiations to reduce prescription drug prices, which would be a sharp U-turn for congressional conservatives who have repeatedly blocked the ability of Medicare to negotiate discounts as most other countries do.

Sanders: Will you work with us so that Medicare negotiates prices with the pharmaceutical industry?

Price: You have my commitment to work with you and others to make certain that the drug pricing is reasonable and that individuals have access to the medications that they need.

There he goes again. “Access” to medications may mean you can stand in a pharmacy and admire the drugs on the shelves, but it still does not mean you can afford the massive price-gouging to get them.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.


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Pushback Against DeVos: Public Schools Are Our Best Future

January 20, 2017 - 3:24pm
Click here for reuse options! Teachers and parents rally to fight Trump privatizers and anti-immigrant agenda.

On a rainy Thursday morning at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland, Calif., parents dropping off their kids on the last day of Barack Obama’s presidency were greeted by an unusual sight.

An energized mix of teachers, Glen View neighborhood residents and an Oakland Unified School Board member, Roseann Torres, who co-sponsored a resolution last month making OUSD one of the state’s first “sanctuary” districts, were holding protest signs praising public schools and rejecting Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to deport millions, target Muslim-Americans and strip LGBT and reproductive rights.

“We’re passing out flyers, telling parents we are out here because we believe in public schools,” Ismael F. Armendariz Jr., a special education teacher and “walk-in” protest organizer said. “We believe in fully funding public schools and we also want to remind parents that our school is a safe school for students.”

Despite the wet day, a small crowd grew amid what’s normally a rush to lockers and classrooms. The Oakland protest was among 1,000 actions in 200 cities across the country Thursday led by the 3 million-member National Education Association, with NEA president Lily García showcasing schools in Los Angeles and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In Oakland, Rich Johnson, 72, stood amid red, white and blue posters from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and NEA saying, “The schools all our children deserve," and a handmade one saying, “Todos Pueden Estudiar Aqui”—all can study here.

“I’m just a neighbor, not a PTA member. I think the schools are important,” he said, saying he was inspired by what he saw—a core group of 100-to-200 parents in an 800-pupil school that actively supported their kids and the neighborhood middle school. He liked their values and what he saw its teachers doing.

“When I saw a leaflet with a walk-in, I said I’m going,” Johnson said, adding he quickly emailed others. “Walk-in day, not walkout day, where you go on strike. This is a very positive response that bunches of kids or their friend might be picked up by ICE [federal immigration police] because their paperwork is not in order. I like the name of that, walk-in… We don’t want ICE picking up parents either.”

The National Walk In marked the start of a new NEA push to engage and stand with communities by showcasing the successes and values of traditional public schools as they have come under escalating attacks. The threats began with ongoing efforts by super-wealthy entrepreneurs to privatize school operations, narrow curriculum to emphasize test preparation and retain teachers based on test scores. That was all before Trump’s attacks on minorities, which could reach into public schools and snare students.

While traditional public school advocates in Washington, D.C., spent this week showing how astoundingly unprepared Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education designate, is for that cabinet post, actions like Edna Brewer’s walk-in were a deliberate counterpoint, said Trish Gorham, Oakland Education Association president.

“In Oakland, our theme is SAFE: public schools are for everyone,” she said. “It is coming off of the sanctuary resolution that certainly is uppermost in our minds, but immigration is not only where our students need to be protected. They need to be protected with immigration status, gender status, religion, ethnicity. All of these are possibly being targeted and that’s where we are going to protect our students in all of those areas.”

Standing with students and their families was the priority on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, Gorham said, not bashing DeVos, a billionaire who never attended public schools or sent her children to any, nor served on a locally elected school board, and whose family foundation has given multi-millions to K-12 privatization entrepreneurs.

“We decided that we would not create this external target, but we would try and strengthen our community," Gorham said. "Because it is in strengthening our community and bringing our community together around our schools that ultimately will save our public school system.”

The strengths of traditional public schools, including how many are deepening ties with other local public agencies to help address health, housing and services that support poor families and their students, is the “untold story” in K-12 education, said NEA president Lily García.

“It’s not uncommon. It’s the untold story,” García said. “Privateers need a narrative that public schools are bad schools and privatized schools are good schools. Research belies that. Some of the best public schools in the world are American public schools. Those are usually the ones that are well resourced and that have programs and staff built to develop the whole student's diversity, talents and interests and needs. Our best public schools should serve as our model of where to go. They're our North Star.”

The 'Anti-Privatized School'

García, who decades ago began her career in eduction as a school lunch lady and then a grade school teacher in Utah, was en route Thursday to Las Cruces, New Mexico, for an afternoon ribbon-cutting ceremony and student-led discussion in a district that the NEA sees as modeling the best of traditional public schools. The district was expanding programs at a “community school” in coordination with local businesses and social agencies, and it has a new superintendent who told teachers to teach kids where they are and stop worrying about test prep and their career prospects based on test scores.

“Las Cruces looks more and more like America—suburban with a mix of rural kids bused in, a large immigrant population, income disparity,” García said. “What makes this school unique is that they're not waiting for some politician to give them permission to innovate. They don't want privatized charters. They want to hold these kids in the arms of the whole community.”     

Earlier this week on Tuesday night, the board meeting of Las Cruces Public Schools began in the humdrum way most locally elected school boards do across America, gaveling the meeting to order, amending the agenda and preparing the evening’s business. But then board chairwoman Maria Flores turned the podium over to several members of the audience who privately sponsored and ran an ongoing student essay and poetry contest, who in turn, introduced their latest winners to read what they wrote.

First was Andrew Angel, a Centennial High School junior who said in his essay that his grandparents had been beaten by whites for speaking Spanish when they attended Las Cruces schools, yet his grandmother became the school district’s first Hispanic nurse. He said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in solidarity with Cesar Chavez, inspired a vision of racial justice and nonviolent protest that has helped his family and inspired him.

“We were allowed to come to something from nothing, as equals to any other Americans,” Angel read. “Dr. King helped me not only as a Hispanic but a member of a more tolerant generation, both on acceptance and non-violent expression… I intend to live my life this way and give my country in my thoughts and my actions the only thing that was ever needed: love. Love drives us all toward progress and love is the only truth that transcends race, religion and gender.”

Then came Mireya Sanchez-Maes, a freshman at Mayfield High School. Her essay described what the Mahatma Gandhi quote—“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”—meant to her, which was finding her voice, including challenging “overtesting” and urging more music and technology classes.

“So what’s my voice?” she read. “It is knowledge in the face of ignorance. Light in the face of darkness. My voice is standing up for someone who can’t stand up for themselves… My voice is fighting for what’s right, even when the battle is one fought uphill. Martin Luther King Jr. said our lives begin to end when we become silent about the things that matter. I have never felt more alive.”   

Gregory Ewing, the new superintendent, beamed and responded, echoing what many of the walk-in protesters at Oakland’s Edna Brewer Middle School were telling the students and community—that he would use all of his legal authority to protect students from the worst threats posed by the incoming Trump’ administration.     

“I would just like to say how proud I am to see these students come up and speak,” Ewing said, noting he was a member of ALAS, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents and MALDEF, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund. “As the superintendent, I say to the students in the school system, as long as I am your el hefe, I pledge to you you will always be protected, not only under my leadership but the leadership of my entire team. We are here for you. We believe in you.”

This small but stirring scene wasn’t the only dramatic pronouncement from Ewing on Tuesday. He addressed the concerns of students and teachers that recent state and federal laws are excessively and harmfully focused on standardized tests, to the detriment of helping students more holistically and giving teachers leeway to address individual student difficulties.

“I am in the first 90 days of the look, listen and learn tour. And here’s what I am hearing,” he said. “There’s a lot of anxiety with students about all the testing that’s taking place in schools and in classrooms. There’s also anxiety with teachers. So I would like to say to you as your superintendent, with the powers invested in me by the state, I say to all teachers in the district, you have my permission to take charge of your classrooms… I want you to stop worrying about all these national and standardized tests. I want to say to our teachers and I want to say to our students, return to teaching, return to learning.”

The lines drawn by Ewing and heartily endorsed by his superiors, Las Cruces’ elected school board, are indicative of the fault lines facing traditional public schools across America. The fight against privatization is not new but takes different forms. In Las Cruces, it is seen in testing regimes imposed by appointees of a former Republican governor with deep ties to a nationwide testing regime that was underwritten by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Like many wealthy social entrepreneurs, he wants K-12 schools to be more like metric-driven corporate America. In Oakland, many wealthy entrepreneurs—and not just in tech—have been underwriting charter schools, which has led to multimillions in funds diverted from traditional schools, and to increasingly segregated schools in a proud, mixed-race community.   

“I began the morning in one of America’s largest public school systems and will end it in a small one,” NEA’s García said Thursday. “It doesn’t matter—urban, suburban or rural. American public schools have the answers. We’re not waiting for permission. We will proceed until apprehended to design the schools our children deserve… We’re creative about pulling communities together to make sure kids have what they need, whether that’s a meal or an Advanced Placement math class.”

Emphasizing those solutions was why García went to Las Cruces and why the NEA organized nationwide walk-in protests at 1,000 schools across the country in 200 cities, she said.

“They are cutting a ribbon at the Lynn Community Middle School [in Las Cruces]. The superintendent is calling for a moratorium on testing! The parents want this and are part of designing this,” she said. “It’s the anti-privatized school. It’s the community standing up and saying our school belongs to all of us and is not a commodity on the market. It’s a public trust—and we’re the public.”     
'People Were Crying on November 9'

Meanwhile in Oakland, where dozens of neighbors turned out for the Thursday walk-in, special ed teacher Ismael Armendariz pointed to a school board member, Roseanne Torres, who showed up with a hand-lettered sign, “Todos Pueden Estudiar Aqui”—all can study here.

Torres, a lawyer who works with many Latino families, not only drafted and co-sponsored the sanctuary district resolution passed by the OUSD in December, but won re-election in November despite more than $160,000 in negative ads from some of the nation's richest and best-known pro-charter school advocates. That list includes former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, California's charter trade association and a new group, Go Public Schools, underwritten by the family that once owned Dreyer’s Ice Cream, a local chain that is now a subsidiary of Nestlé.

The fight over preserving, funding and improving Oakland’s traditional K-12 schools was already very heated, Armendariz said, and that was before Trump campaigned on pledges to target undocumented immigrants, which strikes deep fears in this community.

“We’ve done a few walk-ins at our schools and it’s been mostly centered around public school funding and supporting public schools,” he said, recounting the recent activism. “In Oakland this school year, what’s happening is a lot of people are more on edge or more hyper-aware because during the school board elections, late in the election there was a lot of investigation into the funding of our school board candidates… And then Trump got elected, and he ran on the same message that the Go Public Schools people run on, ‘We need options.’ ‘We need school choice.’ That’s where it all ties together.”

“It all translates. People were crying on November 9th,” Torres said, saying she quickly drew on language under review at the Latino School Board Association to create OUSD’s sanctuary district resolution. “By law, our children have every right to be in school. We had to act fast. I know how immigrant communities think. They don’t know the law. They don’t know the language.”

But while Trump’s threats may be a tipping point that will ignite activism and resistance unlike anything seen in America in decades, Torres said there was a wider set of challenges from privatizers that were ongoing and accelerating—especially with the Trump administration’s pro-privatization crusaders.

“That kind of [campaign attack ad] money doesn’t get spent” for no reason, she said. “That is all connected to the Trump-type people. DeVos, Bloomberg, the billionaires… Go [Public Schools] is DeVos and DeVos is Go. For people to think anything else is because they are being misled by their very slick marketing.”

“It’s not that all charters are bad,” Torres continued, “but they disrupt district programs, lead to cuts in music, arts, teacher layoffs, and are especially disruptive with special education. The biggest challenge there is rising costs. You need classes with six-to-one student-teacher ratios, or 12-to-one classes, and nurses. Charters don’t offer support at that level… We need to talk about what is really happening in public education.”

“It is a direct attack on public schools,” said Trish Gorham, Oakland Education Association president. “Some have misaligned or misdirected priorities. Some are purely out for plunder. That’s kind of the problem. There are people calling for school reform out of a deep concern and out of good intentions. But their solutions are wrong. And they’ve been proven to be wrong. And have they been proven to divide our cities and segregate and schools more than in the last 40 years… Creating these unique boutiques does a disservice to what our schools are about, which is the foundation of a democracy.”

And that is the divide the NEA is seeking to underscore at the local and national level, where on their side are local communities, locally elected boards and traditional public schools that embody democratic values and resist commercialization and a broken—and possibly worsening—federal justice system.

“While so much changes... with the change of administration, nothing changes for educators and parents and advocates for public education,” García said. “Our students will need us more than ever before to protect them and fight for them. Today, we put on the battle gear. We will not permit billionaires and profiteers to hurt our students. We will stand in the gap. To hurt them, you'll have to go through us first. And there are millions of us.”

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The Trump Administration Quietly Purges All Mention of Civil Rights and Climate Change from White House Website

January 20, 2017 - 2:36pm
Click here for reuse options! The new offers a harrowing glimpse of American life under our new president.

Donald Trump has been president for less than 24 hours, but he's already begun his assault on America's democratic values and the natural world. Since the inauguration Friday afternoon,, the official website for the White House, has purged all reference to civil rights, LGBT rights, health care and climate change. In their stead are a list of top "issues" for the Trump administration whose language is vague, contradictory and frequently vindictive—much like Trump himself.

Under the heading "America First Energy Policy," the Trump administration vows to eliminate "harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule." After promising to reignite the country's clean coal industry, which does not exist, it claims the EPA will honor its "essential mission of protecting our air and water."

Under "Making Our Military Strong Again," the White House pledges to get our soldiers the care they need by "firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down." Trump is considering privatizing large swaths of the VA office.

A page devoted to civil rights has been replaced by a screed labeled "Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community." notes that the homicide rate in Washington, D.C., is up 50 percent, which is demonstrably false. It also promises to increase the country's police presence and provide security for Americans who have "not known safe neighborhoods for a very long time." The words "African American" do not appear in any portion of the text.

Meanwhile, the "America First Foreign Policy" page promises to destroy Islamic fundamentalism, guaranteeing "peace through strength."

Welcome to Donald Trump's America. This is your country now.

Update: Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks tells The Huffington Post that more content will be added to WhiteHouse.Gov in the coming weeks and months as the site is in a state of "transition." She makes no mention of whether future iterations will contain pages devoted to the aforementioned subjects.

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The Threat Embedded in Trump's Angry Address

January 20, 2017 - 1:22pm
Click here for reuse options! Friday's inauguration saw promises of jobs and war—and hints of intimidation to come.

Amid the pomp and circumstance that belied an extraordinary reality, the U.S. government transferred the power of the presidency to Donald Trump, a swindler, reality TV star and serial liar whose living predecessors in attendance are all on record saying he is unfit for the office he now holds.

The ritual invocations of the peaceful transfer of power were moving, not the least because the recipient is beloved by many, and seen as dangerous by many others. A celebration of American democracy that buoyed Trump's supporters was laced with fear for its future, and with good reason. Before the ceremony Trump received a briefing on how he can launch a nuclear attack in 30 minutes. 

The crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered on the National Mall was smaller and more racially homogenous than the throng that greeted Barack Obama eight years ago, though no less excited about witnessing history. Security and crowd control measures were tighter than 2008, with National Guard troops stationed on street corners a mile away from the site where Chief Justice John Paul Roberts administered the oath of office.

As protesters clashed with police outside the security perimeter, Trump began his presidency with a variation on his campaign stump speech. He was vehement to the point of angry as he depicted the United States as a country ravaged, cheated and impoverished.

"For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost," he declared.

With the exception of a couple of tacked-on grace notes—a thank you to the Obamas and an aside about the common dreams of children born in Chicago and Nebraska—Trump’s oration was most notable for its focus on jobs and war, along with a characteristic hint of intimidation. If the speech indicates anything about Trump's policy priorities, the president wants a big public infrastructure program, and a war of annihilation on Islamic radicals.  

Trump used the word “rebuild” in the second sentence of the speech. Later, he did what presidents Obama and Bush, as well as most the U.S. military commanders, have chosen not to do: cast the fight against terrorists as a war on “radical Islamic terrorism.” He said nothing of traditional Republican priorities such as smaller government, tax cuts or fiscal restraint. Without mentioning Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump hinted that a U.S.-Russia alliance may be in the offing.

"We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones, and unite the civilized world against radical islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth," he said.

The conflict between Trump’s visceral desire to wage a war of annihilation on Islamic radicals and the futiilty of waging war on a tactic and a religion is likely to define U.S. foreign policy for as long as the Trump era lasts.

Trump’s vision for rebuilding America was the most attractive part of the speech, playing to his reputation as a builder and expressing his sympathy for the common man.

"We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation,” he declared. “We will get our people off of welfare and back to work—rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American."

Trump’s ambition to launch a public works jobs program, guided by protectionist rules, harkens back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. It also puts him at odds with all of the Republican Party leaders who sat on the dais with him, and generations of GOP doctrine. The conflict between Trump’s domestic ambitions and Republican fiscal policy is likely to be central to the future of his administration.

But the most revealing—and disturbing—part of Trump’s speech came in his appeal for unity in a nation where he is remarkably unpopular. The rhetorical strategy is classicly authoritarian; as he was invested with power, he invested that power not in the people generally, but in his supporters.

“We are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another,” he said at the outset, “but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American people.”

Thus the "people" are distinguished from the political parties and from the people who disagree with him, and even the institutions of government. The will of the democracy is claimed by the chief of state. At the Republican convention last summer, Trump said of the American condition, “I alone can fix it.” Now he takes his second-place finish in the national vote as a mandate to rule in the name of his supporters.

Mostly chillingly, he went on to invoke the traditions of democracy with language that throbs with the double meanings favored by autocrats.

“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other," he said.

The suggestion that Americans should aspire to unity—a defensible proposition—carries with it the implication that those who do not share Trump’s conception of patriotism are disloyal, not only to their country, but to their fellow citizens. Those who dissent betray their neighors.

“When you open your heart to patriotism,” he went on, “there is no room for prejudice."

True patriots, he suggested, are not prejudiced, again a worthy sentiment containing a retracted blade: if you are not patriotic, you are prejudiced. Those who see racism are unpatriotic racists.

“The Bible tells us," he went on, "‘how good and pleasant it is when god’s people live together in unity.”

So those who do not choose to unify behind Trump are cast as bad and unpleasant people. Those who do not unite with Trump are ungodly.

And finally this: “We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity."

Fifty-six years before, on this same ground, President John F. Kennedy offered an utterly different vision of American citizenship: "Ask not what your country can do for you," JFK said, "Ask what you can do for your country."

Instead of JFK's open call to public service, Trump asks us to close ranks behind his crusade to "make American great again." He insists that a nation, divided in no small part by the lies and hateful rhetoric of his campaign, must now pursue solidarity. Those who speak too openly or disagree too long are somehow disrupting the work of the nation.

“The time for empty talk is over,” he said. “Now arrives the hour of action.”

For an inaugural address some hoped would be forgettable, it was actually kind of frightening.

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Protesters Attempt to Disrupt Inaugural Events in Washington

January 20, 2017 - 12:52pm
Click here for reuse options! Some demonstrators clashed with police and tried to shut down security points as hundreds mobilized in the nation’s capital against the next president.

As Donald Trump’s election victory was cemented during celebratory inauguration events in the nation’s capital, the dissent and divisive discord his campaign produced was evident on the streets of Washington DC as throngs of protesters arrived to disrupt proceedings.

A large group of activists from the anarchist group known as the black bloc smashed storefront windows and cars as they clashed with police shortly before the swearing-in ceremony was due to begin. Officers in riot gear responded with pepper spray and stun grenades as the breakaway protesters were overwhelmed with force less than two miles from the US Capitol.

The group of around 200 people, many wearing black hoodies and masks, were eventually contained by officers as they chanted: “This is what a police state looks like” and “You’re protecting fascists.” Eyewitnesses reported only a handful of arrests.

Most of the protesters declined to be interviewed or named, but one said their purpose was to reject “a system of economic exploitation called capitalism.”

“It’s not just about no order,” he said. “It’s about human freedom and an economy that’s run by the people.”

Another group of activists attempted to shut down a number of the security points allowing access to the public viewing area of the inauguration on the National Mall on Friday morning.

The small groups at these checkpoints, organised by a group named Disrupt J20, linked arms as some members were led away by police wearing body armor. The organization claimed on social media that they had temporarily shut down a number of the dozen checkpoints around the Mall, with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters reportedly closing access at one location for over an hour.

Hundreds of protesters appeared to have gained access to the public viewing areas on the Mall, many chanting “not my president” and holding signs with slogans including “Can we impeach him today?” and “Fascist.”

As the chief justice, John Roberts, rose to administer the oath of office for the incoming president, six protesters, seated on the lawn just in front of the steps to the Capitol, tore off their coats, jumped on to their chairs and began chanting.

“A nation united can never be divided,” they said. Together the letters on their shirts spelled: “Resist!”

Around them, supporters shouted and called for them to leave. A man shook their chairs until one of the protesters fell. Eventually, security arrived and they were removed from the event.

The focal point for many was likely to be an organized rally being held at the US Navy Memorial, which is situated along the inaugural parade route. Dozens of speakers from activist groups around the country were addressing a crowd of a few hundred people on Friday morning, as some complained that “thousands more” were waiting to get into the rally but had been prevented from entering by the secret service.

James Ebersole, a protester who had come to Washington from Virginia, said he had decided to come to DC in order to “voice dissent, to say that this is not OK.”

“I think it’s unifying people,” he said of Trump’s election, while brandishing a sign that read “Misogyny is a danger to society.”

“It’s a call to action, a wakeup call, and it unites us against this threat.”

Barbara McQueeney had never attended an inauguration before, but she felt compelled to fly out from St Augustine, Florida, to protest outside the barricades lining the National Mall.

“I live in an area where there’s a lot of Trump supporters and I’m crushed,” she said. “We need hope.”

McQueeney, who is retired, did not engage in much shouting. She instead stood quietly at the center of a protest lifting a homemade poster with the letters USSR spelling out “United States Satellite of Russia.”

“Everyone knows they were involved,” she said of Vladimir Putin’s government, “but everyone is just going forward like it’s business as usual.”

“This day is about celebrating a peaceful transfer of power, but it’s the first time we transferred from a free country to a country that’s influenced by a foreign power.”

Hundreds of thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Washington for a Women’s March that is scheduled for Saturday, with similar events organized in cities around the country.

On Thursday night police used pepper spray to disperse protesters as chaos erupted outside an event, named the DeploraBall, attended by a number of figures associated with the so-called “alt-right,” a far-right movement that endorsed Trump during the campaign.

“Nazi scum!” a masked man yelled through a police barricade at a woman in a sequined gown as she defiantly waved her ticket for the event. A woman held a sign that read “Look, Ma. It’s a racist misogynist” with an arrow pointed toward the guest line. In response a man flipped open his suit jacket to show her his shirt, which read: “Deplorable lives matter.”

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Scenes From Deplorable America: Some Trump Supporters Are Putting Their Bigotry on Full Display

January 20, 2017 - 12:32pm
Click here for reuse options! Donald Trump's supporters are letting their bigotry show for all the world to see.

If you want to know why Hillary Clinton referred to Donald Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables,” you need look no further than the deplorable behavior being displayed among them in Washington during the inauguration.

Courtesy of Jared Yates Sexton, who writes for the New York Times and the New Republic:

Small skirmishes between people wearing Trump hats and scarves, groups yelling at them, calling them racist.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Everywhere you go people in Trump and Clinton gear are segregated, staring daggers. Not a comfortable scene by any measure.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Man in Deplorable Me shirt, pointing at protestors and National Guard: Itd serve these idiots right if these fellas opened fire

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Man in Trump gear with family, walking by protestors: "Got to make sure I don't drop my wallet so a bunch of faggots don't bump up on me"

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

You can't walk a few feet without hearing a racial or homophobic slur

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

I'm staring at the Capitol, waiting on a president to be sworn in, listening to a guy complain about "the gays." It's 2017.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Sign I just saw confiscated: Obama's lucky he's leaving before WE MADE him leave.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

White people. Most celebrating Obama leaving, vocalizing Trump as revenge. They're reveling in sending him as punishment, not governance

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

This isn't about government. This is about winning.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

People are saying, in so many words, that this is about spitting liberals and multiculturalism. They're celebrating it openly.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Two men walk by holding hands, someone yells "it's not your country anymore"

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Somebody talking loudly about how Russia didn't hack election, that Obama was installed by China.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Guys catcalling female police officer: Hey sexy, over here

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

"Hope the illegals get their fun in cause they got three hours before they're shipped back to Mejico."

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

High schoolers walking by, guy near me to his buddy: "I don't care if she's fifteen, she's got the twins out"

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

This isn't about left and right, Democrat or Republican, this is about two very different strains of Americans. It's about prideful hate.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Guy yelling Thank Allah Obama's gone! Cheers, laughter, high-fives.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Man screaming that Obama's not welcome here. Says go back to Chicago, someone yelled Kenya, another Arabia. Someone yells "fuck him"

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Never ceases to amaze me how much pleasure Trump supporters always show in calling Obama racial slurs. It's pure, unadulterated joy.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Guy wearing a Confederate flag bandanna pointed to it as protestors with LGBTQ signs walked by and said, "This means you're not welcome"

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Somebody walked by with a sign calling Trump a racist, supporter tried to start something, another supporter stepped in and stopped it.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Such a weird divide. Trump supporters are just jubilant. So many downtrodden protestors. Couldn't be a better metaphor for 2017 America.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Someone watching video of Obama: You don't have to go back home to Africa but you can't stay here.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

It's so cold and miserable.

— Jared Yates Sexton (@JYSexton) January 20, 2017

Courtesy of Daniel Dale, Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star:

Spotted in Washington this morning.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

There is a security checkpoint beside the Canadian embassy and the woman behind in line me just said "Canadian flags. What's up with that."

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Now the man beside me in line says investors are holding off on pushing the Dow above 20,000 because they don't like Obama.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Kirk Barber of Maryland. A common sentiment here today.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Vincent Bevan, a Bronx doorman, disliked Bush and Obama. Now, he says, "We actually have a man in the White House," someone with "balls."

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Trump's inauguration crowd appears 90-plus-percent white, a stark contrast with Obama's.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Jeff Sobolowski of Michigan explains that "the Muslims" now own the major media. He likes Trump because he'll fight against Muslims.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Just like old rally times: protesters shouting about white supremacy, Trump supporters calling them terrorists.

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) January 20, 2017

Trump supporter angrily asked me why media didn't cover the assassination attempt on Trump. I told him it didn't happen. He said "Oh! Okay."

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Lone Democratic Speaker at Trump's Inauguration, Chuck Schumer, Makes a Gutsy Statement

January 20, 2017 - 12:28pm
Click here for reuse options! "We're all exceptional in our commonly held yet fierce devotion to our country."

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer set the tone for Democrats when he threw some unexpected shade at Donald Trump during his inaugural speech on Friday.

"My fellow Americans, we live in a challenging and tumultuous time," Schumer told the crowd gathered to see Trump sworn into office.

The lone Democratic speaker in the ceremony then warned of "a rapidly changing economy... a fractured media... and threats, foreign and domestic."

"In such times, faith in our government, our institutions, and even our country can erode," Schumer stated. But, he expressed confidence in the American people nonetheless, garnering applause.

"We Americans have always been a forward-looking, problem-solving, optimistic, patriotic, and decent people," he explained.

Then, drawing on Trump's campaign rhetoric, Schumer said this:

"Whatever our race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, whether we're immigrant or native-born, whether we live with disabilities or do not, in wealth or in poverty, we're all exceptional in our commonly held yet fierce devotion to our country and our willingness to sacrifice our time, energy and even our lives to making it a more perfect union." 

Schumer finished by speaking of a time America was even more divided than today; during the Civil War “when the North and South were lining up for their first battle." The Senate minority leader then read a letter from Maj. Sullivan Ballou, a Union officer in the Civil War who sacrificed his life for his country at the war's start.

"My love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield," Ballou had written to his wife just one week before he died. 


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Watch: Alec Baldwin Hilariously Reprises Trump Spoof at NYC Protest

January 20, 2017 - 10:52am
Click here for reuse options! There was no shortage of A-listers at an anti-Trump protest in New York on the eve of the ceremony.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has struggled to land big name performers for his inauguration on Friday. But there was no shortage of A-listers at an anti-Trump protest in New York on the eve of the ceremony. Robert De Niro, Alec Baldwin—who has famously spoofed Trump on Saturday Night Live—Mark Ruffalo, Sally Field, Michael Moore, Shailene Woodley,…

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To watch the video, scroll to the end of this article.


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