Rex Tillerson just detailed Trump's stunning incapacity to do his job — and says he issued directives that violate the law

5 days 22 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098534'; Click here for reuse options! It's a terrifying picture of how the administration operates.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who was humiliatingly fired by President Donald Trump over Twitter — issued damning comments Thursday night about the commander-in-chief's leadership and capacity to do the job.

He spoke with CBS' Bob Schieffer at a fundraiser for MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. One of the most troubling remarks he made was about the frequency with which Trump gave illegal directives.

"So often, the president would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way," Tillerson said, according to The Houston Chronicle. "It violates the law."

Clearly, this is one of the reasons Trump was so frustrated with Tillerson and eventually fired him. Tillerson said that they never actually met until the day Trump asked him to be secretary of state, and the relationship went downhill from there. It's troubling to think that, as Trump has pushed out Tillerson and other officials that he has clashed with, he has surrounded him with people that may give in or find ways to accommodate his illegal demands.

And the fact that Trump spent so little time personally vetting Tillerson is indicated of the former secretary of state's larger indictment of the president's capacity for the fundamental tasks of being president — such as becoming acquainted with the issues he's supposed to make decisions about.

“It was challenging for me, coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil Corporation," Tillerson said, "to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, 'Look, this is what I believe, and you can try to convince me otherwise, but most of the time you’re not going to do that.'"

Oddly, Tillerson also seemed to be hesitant about seeming critical of the president, even as his remarks were, at least in their content, a scathing denunciation: "I don't want that to come across as a criticism of him," he said.

Famously, Tillerson once reportedly called Trump a "moron" while he was still in the administration. While he officially distanced himself from these reports, his remarks Thursday suggest that, at the very least, they reflect his true state of mind.

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Mueller reportedly questioned John Kelly as part of the special counsel investigation — a sign of its expansive scope

5 days 23 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098533'; Click here for reuse options! "Kelly is the latest high-ranking White House official known to provide information for Mueller's investigation," CNN reported.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a part of the sprawling Russia investigation, despite initial objections, according to a new report from CNN.

The report was published shortly after the outlet revealed that Kelly is likely to be ousted from the White House in the coming days and that he's no longer talking to President Donald Trump. It's not clear if the downturn in his relationship with the president was a direct result of his participation in the investigation — though rumors of tensions between the two have persisted for nearly a year. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn was likewise forced out of his job after it was reported that he had cooperated extensively in Mueller's probe.

Kelly was reportedly questioned about the obstruction of justice arm of the special counsel's investigation, which CNN reported Thursday was first launched by former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe shortly after his boss, James Comey, was fired.

As CNN noted, the fact of Kelly's late entry to the White House — he joined in July 2017 — shows the expansive nature of the investigation.

"Most of the dozens of other interviews have been with people who were associated with the Trump campaign, were part of the transition or served in the early part of the administration," the report said.

It also found that White House lawyers objected to the interview of Kelly at first, arguing that executive branch officials should be free from such obligations unless necessary. It appears these objections may have served to limit the scope of the interview.

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

The View’s Meghan McCain on Joy Behar feud: ‘I know what it feels like to be hated’

6 days ago
Google searches reflect reports that co-host Joy Behar called McCain an “entitled b*tch” and threatened to quit after the two got into an argument on air.

The View” co-host Meghan McCain complained about the way she’s portrayed online during a segment on comedian Pete Davidson.

The “Saturday Night Live” cast member responded to his critics on Instagram after angering many viewers for mocking Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw, a Navy SEAL veteran who was badly wounded while serving in Afghanistan.

“No matter how hard the internet or anyone tries to make me kill myself, I won’t,” Davidson posted. “To all those holding me down and seeing this for what it is – I see you and I love you.”

McCain said she could relate.

“I do think it’s different when you’re someone like Pete Davidson or someone like us, it’s not just social media,” McCain said. “Google me right now, there are articles written about me the past few days, what a huge bitch I am, how awful I am, the negativity and nastiness I’ve brought to the show. It’s real, it’s not just social media, it’s the media, as well.”

Google searches reflect reports that co-host Joy Behar called McCain an “entitled b*tch” and threatened to quit after the two got into an argument on air, and which reportedly continued backstage.

Sources close to the show deny Behar made those remarks, however.

“I know what it feels like to be hated in the same way Pete Davidson does,” McCain. “I’m not asking for sympathy, but I felt extreme compassion for his post.”

Fellow conservative Abby Huntsman said she had “received more hate” than she’d ever gotten since leaving Fox News for the talk show in September.

“Welcome to ‘The View,'” Behar said.

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Travis Gettys, Raw Story

Donald Trump Jr. attacks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with ignorant dog-eating meme

6 days ago
Donald Trump, Jr. may have crossed a line with this latest antic.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hasn't even been sworn in to office yet but the New Yorker who will become the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress is clearly making Republicans feel threatened, just by existing.

She's been attacked by so many on the right, including the massive Fox News machine, that recently Congressman-elect Ocasio-Cortez was only too happy to defend herself by telling them, "I’m not even sworn in yet. Don’t y’all have jobs to do?"

The latest Republican to reveal just how threatened he is by the 29-year old activist, educator, soon-to-be lawmaker, and former waitress is none other than Donald Trump Jr.

On his Instagram page, as The Hill reported, the president's eldest son posted a meme with a photo of Ocasio-Cortez, supposedly saying, "Why are you so afraid of a socialist economy?" AOC, as she is sometimes called, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

The meme then shows a photo of President Trump supposedly responding, saying, "Because Americans want to walk their dogs, not eat them."

He also commented, "it's funny cuz it's true."

It's unclear why Trump Jr. made the remarks, but there are a few reports of Venezuelans being forced to eat rats and dogs due to their failing economy. Venezuela does not have a democratic socialist or socialist form of government, but rather, an authoritarian socialist government.

That would make Trump's Jr's. "joke" not only not funny, but not true.

Also not funny: people who don't have enough food because their government is failing them.

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David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement

Wisconsin Republicans jam through 82 Scott Walker nominees in one day

6 days ago
Saying they “don’t trust” Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers, Wisconsin Republicans jam through dozens of nominees

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin state Senate rushed through more than 80 of outgoing Gov. Scott Walker’s appointees to prevent the incoming Democratic governor from choosing his own nominees.

Wisconsin Republicans are holding a lame-duck session apparently aimed at derailing incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers’ administration. Earlier this week the legislature passed a series of bills aimed at limiting the governor’s power.

On Tuesday, the Senate also voted to confirm 82 of Walker’s appointees in one day, including some who had only been nominated a day earlier and did not have a public hearing, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

The appointees include two members of the board that oversees public universities in the state, including one seat that had been empty for more than a year. Republicans also approved top Walker aide Ellen Nowak to be the new head of the state’s Public Service Commission.

Evers spokeswoman Carrie Lynch told the Wisconsin State Journal that more than 30 of the appointees had not had a public hearing.

Evers wrote a letter to Walker asking him to withdraw his nominees.

“These appointments should be fully vetted in the next legislative biennium,” Evers wrote. “Many of them have had no public hearing and some have not filed a statement of economic interest. Given the rushed timing and the fact that many of these appointments have gone unfilled for extended periods of time, I must request that you withdraw this slate of names to allow ample time for full review, not only for the State Senate, but for the people of Wisconsin, too.”

Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson insisted that 78 of the nominees were sent to the Senate “months ago” and three of the other four appointees were “sent to the Senate last week were due to vacancies created by recent resignations. The fourth, the student regent ... was selected months ago but was not forwarded to the Senate for confirmation because it was in recess.”

The mass confirmations come after Wisconsin Republicans pushed through several bills to weaken the governor’s office before Evers is sworn in. Republicans lost the governor’s race and attorney general race but held on to both chambers of the legislature as a result of a heavily pro-Republican gerrymander. Republicans won 64 percent of state assembly seats despite winning only 45 percent of the popular vote.

The legislation is aimed at stopping Evers from withdrawing from a lawsuit that seeks to dismantle Obamacare and make it harder for him to roll back some of Walker’s moves -- like the $3 billion subsidy for a Foxconn factory that Republicans pushed through -- and also to weaken Evers' power over the implementation of laws. Republicans backed down from a proposal to weaken the attorney general’s office by allowing Republican lawmakers to replace the attorney general with state-funded private attorneys when state laws are challenged in court, Politico reported.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said outright that the Republicans rolled back the governor’s power because they “don’t trust” the Democrat that the state’s voters put into power.

“Most of these items are things we never really had to kind of address because guess what — we trusted Scott Walker and the administration to be able to manage the back and forth with the legislature. We don’t trust Tony Evers right now in a lot of these areas,” he told WISN.

 

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Igor Derysh, Salon

Ahed and Malala: Why we revere some girl activists and not others

6 days ago
Both are young women facing down brutal military repression at the hands of fully-armed men, yet their stories could not have been received more differently.

After Israeli forces shot her 15-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet last December, Ahed Tamimi, a Palestinian girl from Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, stood up to the occupying Israeli forces and was arrested and charged for slapping a soldier. The story of the activist went viral.

But what Ahed was fighting for was largely buried beneath sensationalized media representations of her.

Her story is unlikely to circulate in the same elevated spaces granted to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who survived a brutal attack on her school by the Taliban, even though both Ahed and Malala are fighting for similar rights and freedoms. Both are young women facing down brutal military repression at the hands of fully-armed men, yet their stories could not have been received more differently.

The reasons for our complicated responses to Malala and Ahed’s stories are as multi-layered as the political realities that shape their lives. They encapsulate a range of ideas about gender and the girl-child, nationalism and education, and about forms of activism that are palatable and therefore deemed legitimate and those which are not.

Disrupting gender

Both Malala and Ahed refuse to be victims. Malala has dedicated her life to advocating for girls’ education. Her story helps to send powerful and inspiring messages to girls around the world — girls like Ahed, who dream of being a lawyer. Ahed turned the Israeli female prison unit where she was held into a school, where she and other incarcerated Palestinian women read and studied legal texts.

But Malala’s platform also has the contours of a story that can buttress imperialist worldviews and justify militarized interventions in Asia. The use of rhetoric about saving women and children in the Middle East by politicians is one of the ways that liberalism appeals to Western emotions to garner support for the U.S. led “War on Terror,” as the scholar Maya Mikdashi writes.

Ahed is too empowered, too unmanageable and altogether too adulterated by her community’s struggle to appeal widely to liberal sympathies in the West. She is also too blonde, according to U.K. Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky. Loshitzky characterizes Ahed as someone who completely disrupts the gendered and racial logics of the Israeli occupation.

The point isn’t that Malala doesn’t deserve the platform she’s been given, but that while we celebrate Malala’s advocacy for girls’ education, we must ask why that platform is not extended to children like Ahed. Anything less is a disservice to them both.

The liberal politics of hope

Malala’s status as a worthy cause has a critical relationship to Ahed’s status as an exception to that cause. The differences between the reception of Malala and Ahed in the global cultural marketplace illustrate this point in fairly stark terms: Malala’s activism wins her the Nobel Prize, and takes her to Oxford, while Ahed’s activism landed her in an Israeli prison.

Prof. Shanila Khoja-Mooji powerfully writes that Ahed’s struggle, and the way it has been sidelined in the West by feminist and human rights groups, “exposes the West’s selective humanitarianism.”

Malala’s story emerged amid the politics of hope that characterized President Barack Obama’s campaign. She won the Nobel Prize in 2014. In 2016, the year Trump was elected, Ahed was denied a visa to the United States to be part of the speaking tour, “No Child Behind Bars/Living Resistance.”

Whether the Obama administration would have had the political courage to grant Ahed a visa is impossible to know. Obama’s gestures of support for Palestinians were largely superficial, while his financial support for the Israeli military was unwavering.

By comparing Ahed and Malala, we come closer to understanding the limits and even the failure of liberal visions of social progress in the 21st century. Ahed is a classic case of how American liberalism’s blind spots breed discontent around the world.

Life stories in a global marketplace

Malala’s advocacy circulates in a neoliberal economy in which much of the value of her story has become something that communicates the power of the individual to overcome extreme hardship and to effect social change against an enemy long reviled by the West. In this transaction, the politics that underwrite her suffering are managed by focusing on her personal story of survival.

In her story is redemption for the West, whose role in the violence that harmed her (and thousands of girls like her) is mitigated by their efforts to uplift her.

In Malala’s story of fighting for the right to education, as a girl, the Western media and political machinary finds a story that chimes powerfully with arguments used to bolster the U.S. led military invasion of Afghanistan.

In this sense, Malala’s message has been co-opted by the neoliberal idea that everyone can gain access to the same opportunities, so long as they follow the proper procedures. In her case, by fighting an enemy recognizable to us, Malala gains access to recognition, including entry to the oldest university in the country that colonized what is now Pakistan.

By contrast, Ahed cannot perform her suffering in ways that appeal to the paternalistic liberal imagination. Ahed’s story cannot be yoked to the Janus-faced work of neoliberalism, global development and military intervention.

Ahed’s enemy — the Israeli army that maintains and deepens the illegal military occupation of her country — can rarely be recognized in dominant Western discussions without accusations of anti-Jewish sentiments.

Stories like Ahed’s that insist on collective forms of liberation over individual liberation, draw our attention to diffuse and entrenched systems of oppression that cannot be remedied through individual acts of uplift.

“There is no justice under occupation and this court is illegal,” Ahed told her prosecutors, as she smiled and the international media captured the scene for the world to see.

Ahed’s smile in these photos unsettles liberal conceptions of suffering that separate the rights of the individual from their social, political and economic making. Wringing our hands and watching from the West, we are implicated in the sham of liberal justice.

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Sarah Kastner, The Conversation

An act of terrorism: The 1989 Polytechnique Massacre was an attack against all women

6 days 1 hour ago
Lépine targeted women who were destined for what then was considered a non-traditional occupation — engineering — claiming that they were taking over from men.

Late on the afternoon of Dec. 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine entered École Polytechnique de Montréal armed with a semi-automatic weapon.

He went into a classroom and ordered the men to leave. Alone with the female students, he told them, “I hate feminists,” before opening fire. The killer then moved around inside the building, shooting at women and then entered a second classroom where he targeted more women. Shortly afterwards, he took his own life.

By the time police intervened, it was too late. Fourteen women were dead — 13 students and one administrative assistant: Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, Annie Turcotte and Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz.

Lépine targeted women who were destined for what then was considered a non-traditional occupation — engineering — claiming that they were taking over from men.

Mass murders of women continue

Almost 30 years later, young men are still committing mass murders of women, this time under the pretext of being deprived of sex. These “involuntary celibates” (incels) are celebrated on social media — the place where calls for the murder and rape of women, as well as racist statements, intersect.

Alek Minassian, accused of using a van to kill 10 people in a driving rampage in Toronto in April, was hailed by members of the so-called incel movement as one of their own.

The ultimate act of terrorism

These new terrorists want to punish and terrorize women because they deny them sex, which they claim as an entitlement. All these mass murders ultimately constitute terrorism against women and feminists.

Thirty years ago, the word terrorism wasn’t used to describe the murders at l'École Polytechnique. Radio-Canada that evening described Lépine as a “mad killer.” But the ugly anti-feminist sentiments we hear so often today were also present then. Some men called into radio talk shows and said they understood the killer’s motives and wanted to imitate him.

Battle of interpretation

A debate started almost immediately to try to explain the attack — was the killer mentally ill or was he a misogynist?

Feminists argued it was a misogynistic crime because the killer targeted female engineering students. Some pro-feminist men called for self-criticism. Other people blamed the attack on television violence or the way in which police responded.

Meanwhile, some psychologists claimed Lépine was suffering from personality disorders — despite never having diagnosed the killer or viewed his medical file. The decision to psychologize the murder was to depoliticize the massacre. (A similar process happened after the January 2017 attack at a Québec City mosque where six Muslims were murdered.)

Was it the ‘absent father’?

Other people, including psychologist Guy Corneau, claimed the Polytechnique Massacre was the consequence of the “absent father” and the expression of a “masculinity crisis.” Members of an anti-feminist “masculinist” movement accused feminists of capitalizing on the attack.

Some media also incorrectly reported that École Polytechnique had rejected Lépine’s application to attend the school. (At that time, less than 20 per cent of the students were women.)

Eleven months after the killings, journalist Francine Pelletier obtained a copy of the suicide letter found on the killer’s body. In it, Lépine explained his political motivations and supplied a list of 18 names of women (and a group of anti-sexist men) he wanted to kill. They included well-known feminists, including Québec’s top female police officer and top female firefighter.

A ‘rational erudite’

Lépine anticipated his mental health would be questioned. “Even if the Mad Killer epithet will be attributed to me by the media, I consider myself a rational erudite,” he wrote, also noting that his actions were done for “political reasons.”

The ghost of Lépine is still being used to haunt women in Québec. A man was recently sent to jail for criminal harassment for using photos of Lépine and the hashtag #JeSuisMarc in a series of online posts aimed at the Facebook page of Réseau québécois d’études féministes (RéQEF), a research group on feminist issues at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

An openly anti-feminist website has even been dedicated to the killer, who is described as a “hero and martyr.”

On the 20th anniversary of the murders, there was finally an emerging movement that the 1989 killings should be viewed as an anti-feminist “terrorist attack” because the killer did not just target female students (the direct victims), but also sought to terrorize all feminists (the ultimate targets).

The struggle to impose an interpretation of the Dec. 6, 1989, killings continues over the decades. But at a time when society is obsessed with terrorism, it still seems too difficult for some people outside of the feminist movement to consider mass murders of women an act of terrorism.

This article was originally published in French.

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Francis Dupuis-Déri, Mélissa Blais, The Conversation

McConnell says it was a 'mistake' for Alabama voters not to elect a child molester to the Senate

6 days 1 hour ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098523'; Click here for reuse options! Republicans apparently have not learned much from what happened in the Alabama Senate race.

The Wall Street Journal's new interview with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is, for the most part, full of the usual bland dodges and preemptive scapegoating of Democrats for any potential setback to his party.

But one particular comment of his, when discussing possible Senate election opportunities for Republicans in 2020, was a lot more eye-opening.

"If you look at a map of America, there's a lot of red," he said, noting one obvious 2020 pickup opportunity for the GOP: Democratic Sen. Doug Jones's Alabama seat.

Mr. McConnell called Mr. Jones' victory over Republican Roy Moore "the Alabama mistake in 2017"—when Mr. Moore, in a special election, faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.

McConnell believes it was a "mistake" for voters in Alabama not to choose Roy Moore, who was credibly accused of molesting multiple teenage girls, over Doug Jones, a prosecutor who locked up Klansmen for the murders of children, in the Senate special election to replace Jeff Sessions.

While Republicans (at least those outside of Alabama) initially tried to distance themselves from Moore when these stories broke during the special election, President Donald Trump decided to double down on endorsing him and trash his accusers. The Republican National Committee then followed his lead, and although this failed to save Moore's disastrous campaign for Senate, it would form the blueprint for how Republicans stomped on sexual assault survivors during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and confirmed an accused rapist and perjurer to the Supreme Court over the objections of women across the country.

It is worth noting that McConnell is likely to blame for Moore winning the GOP Senate nomination in Alabama to begin with. While McConnell did not endorse Moore in the primary, he engaged in ham-handed efforts to prop up appointed Sen. Luther Strange, even though voters distrusted the corrupt way disgraced ex-Gov. Robert Bentley had elevated Strange from the attorney general's office to try to buy off an investigation into his extramarital affair. In the process, McConnell pushed out another GOP candidate, Rep. Mo Brooks, who might have either beaten Moore or split his voters to allow Strange a path to victory.

So to a large degree, the "mistake" in Alabama that cost Republicans a Senate seat might have been McConnell's.

Alabama is likely to be Republicans' top target in 2020, as Jones is one of only two Democrats up for re-election in a state Trump carried — a much smaller field for Republicans than 2018, when there were ten such Democrats running. There have been rumors that Sessions, who was fired from the Justice Department by Trump last month, might run for his old seat back, but so far he does not sound interested.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Tumblr bans adult content as sexual subcultures become collateral damage

6 days 1 hour ago
Tumblr has become a haven for fanfiction writers, artists, sex workers, kinksters, and independent porn producers.

The social networking and microblogging site Tumblr announced on Monday that from December 17 it will no longer host adult content on its platform. The Washington Post reported that the policy “removes one of the last major refuges for pornography on social media”.

But the move will affect more than just porn.

Over time, Tumblr has become a haven for fanfiction writers, artists, sex workers, kinksters and independent porn producers who have built subcultural community networks by sharing and discussing their user-generated content.

Tumblr’s definition of what constitutes permissible adult content fails to recognise the value of this kind of work. It separates sex from politics, preserves a class-based distinction between art and pornography, and limits representations of female nudity to reproduction and health.

The result is the loss of a dynamic cultural archive and the unnecessary sanitisation of public space.

Policing women’s bodies

In updates to Tumblr’s Community Guidelines:

Adult content primarily includes photos, videos, or GIFs that show real-life human genitals or female-presenting nipples, and any content—including photos, videos, GIFs and illustrations—that depicts sex acts.

Aside from the obvious regulatory dilemma of ascertaining which nipples appear to be “female-presenting”, this kind of targeting of women’s bodies has met with public criticism. For example, the Free the Nipple campaign has protested the criminalisation, censorship and fetishisation of women’s breasts.

Tumblr’s new policy still permits:

… exposed female-presenting nipples in connection with breastfeeding, birth or after-birth moments.

These policies are presumably a response to campaigns to normalise breastfeeding. Nipples are also permitted in:

… health-related situations, such as post-mastectomy or gender confirmation surgery.

These policies restrict representations of women’s bodies to their reproductive functions and repeat the tired framing of women’s bodies through medical lenses, at the expense of pleasure.

Distinguishing art and pornography

Tumblr will continue to allow written erotica and artistic nudity, which is defined as “nudity found in art, such as sculptures and illustrations”. But this policy reinforces a tenuous conceptual distinction between art and pornography.

The demarcation of art as something distinct from pornography was influenced by the increasing availability of photography in the 19th century, which threatened the very existence of art. While traditional paintings sought to imitate the real, photography was considered “too real” and “too close”. It prompted fears about proximity (its corporeal effect on the viewer), danger (its seductive power) and contagion (its potential to harm or infect).

Pornographic photography became a scapegoat. It was used to distinguish lowbrow forms of cultural consumption for the masses from highbrow forms of art for the elite. Pornography became a pejorative term that served to preserve and maintain the status of art.

Purging sex workers

Although Tumblr maintains its policy change was unrelated to its failure to effectively filter child pornography, the decision comes against the backdrop of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), which was passed in the United States in April.

FOSTA prompted platforms such as Google, Microsoft and Facebook to amend their terms of service to preclude nudity, sexual content and sexual services in order to avoid charges of promoting or facilitating sex work.

Unfortunately this legislation has not improved grievance avenues for those experiencing exploitation. Instead, this blunt law has shut down sites that law enforcement could use to trace criminal activity, platforms where survivors could seek assistance, and forums where sex workers could screen safety information.

Sex workers were pioneers of the web. They designed, coded, built and used websites and cryptocurrencies to advertise and transact in the context of criminalisation.

They helped sites like Tumbr to flourish by populating the platforms with content, increasing their size and commercial viability. Indeed, adult content was reportedly responsible for 20% of traffic to Tumblr.

Now sex workers are now being effectively erased from social media.

There is evidence about the human rights impact of anti-trafficking campaigns, which can victimise those they are intended to protect.

But the pressure to be seen as proactive partners in response to trafficking and child abuse is so significant that tech companies are willing to erase sex completely from their platforms and accept sex as a necessary casualty.

Containing the democratisation of culture

The sequestering of sex is not an inevitable response. It has not always been the case that adult content has been treated as something external to art, culture or society.

Depictions of sexual practices can be traced back to ancient civilisations. The sexually explicit frescoes of ancient Greece and Rome were displayed publicly and integrated into daily life rather than being, as Walter Kendrick describes, “locked away in secret chambers safe from virginal minds”.

It was the process of archaeological extraction in the 18th century that commenced a process of identifying and labelling ancient artefacts as “pornographic”, and removing them from public view.

Historians have found that the modern regulatory category of “pornography” was invented at the same time, alongside the emergence of technologies (such as the printing press) that allowed for mass-distribution. As Lynn Hunt argues, it was created:

in response to the perceived menace of the democratization of culture.

As the evolution of the internet promises increased access to technologies and rapid circulation of cultural materials, regulatory attempts to restrict them are being met with contest, protest and resistance.

Sanitising public space

Private corporations have now become the arbiters of community standards, making decisions about what content is permissible to circulate. Corporate monopolies now have a greater impact than national classifiers on what material the public can access.

Apple, which dropped Tumblr from its App Store on 20 November, has had a “homogenizing and sanitizing effect on the internet”. It refuses any apps that contain “pornographic” or “offensive” content, including hook up apps with “overtly sexual content”.

Steve Jobs himself has stated:

We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.

Designating representations of sex to the private, personal realm, outside of the public or political sphere, obscures the fact that heterosexual intimacies saturate public culture. Tumblr has been a site for LGBTQ, kinky and geeky individuals to build spaces, networks and cultures, and for sex workers to share skills and referrals for safety.

From December 17 (coincidentally, International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers), Tumblr will only permit nudity “related to political or newsworthy speech”. This positioning reflects the historical development of obscenity law that has viewed representations of sex as devoid of merit unless they are redeemed by “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value”.

In removing sex and nudity entirely from the platform, Tumblr’s new policy misses the fact that sexual subcultures are a crucial part of public life and contribute to critical social conversations and meaningful political alliances.

Zahra Zsuzsanna Stardust, The Conversation

Experts warn another recession could be just around the corner

6 days 1 hour ago
Here's why Wall Street and some economists suddenly worried about a recession.

The U.S. economy is growing at the fastest pace in five years, American companies are earning record profits and unemployment is at the lowest level in almost half a century.

So why are Wall Street and some economists suddenly worried about a recession?

Financial markets in particular have been signaling that trouble is brewing. The Standard & Poor’s 500, which tracks the biggest U.S. companies, has plunged as much as 6 percent since Dec. 4 because of worries about trade and slowing global growth. And a key bond metric that has presaged every recession since 1960 is warning another may be on the way.

As an economist who teaches and conducts research in international trade and finance, I see three credible concerns driving the worries.

Trouble in trade land

One major issue is the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

The U.S. has imposed tariffs on about US$250 billion of Chinese imports – almost half of all trade with the country – in what I consider a misguided effort to get Beijing to buy more American goods and grant greater market access to U.S. companies. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to apply duties to all imports if his demands aren’t met.

In turn, China has put tariffs on $60 billion of American goods.

This is bad for the U.S. economy because tariffs tend to reduce trade, slowing growth and making goods more expensive for consumers. A just-released study from the right-leaning Tax Foundation, for example, found that Trump’s tariffs have so far lowered incomes by an average of $146 a year for taxpayers who earn $27,740 to $43,800 and have reduced U.S. hiring by the equivalent of 94,300 full-time jobs.

On Dec. 1, markets initially breathed a sigh of relief after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a 90-day truce in the war, giving the two countries time to try to work through their differences. The optimism faded quickly, however, after conflicting reports emerged about what the two leaders actually agreed to and Trump called himself a “tariff man” in a threatening tweet.

The arrest of a Huawei official in Canada on a U.S. request further risked disrupting the tentative ceasefire, showing how fragile the Trump-Xi deal is and how easily the situation could return to a war footing.

Global headwinds

A second worry is slowing global growth.

In Europe, the combined economies of the 19 countries that use the euro barely grew in the most recent quarter – the lowest in four years – and economists are warning recession may be coming to the continent. At the same time, Britain’s impending and potentially chaotic exit from the European Union is expected to hammer its economy.

And Trump’s trade war and tariffs – which are not only squeezing the Chinese economy but many other countries such as Canada, Mexico and members of the EU – are making matters worse.

All these challenges convinced the International Monetary Fund to lower its global growth forecast for 2019 from 3.7 percent to 3.5 percent and warn of increasing “downside risks” as a result of the tariffs and other problems.

A global growth slowdown means foreigners will buy less American-made stuff, which ultimately hurts the U.S. economy.

The Fed’s fears

These problems are serious enough that they’re even rattling the Federal Reserve.

Until now, the U.S. central bank has been on a deliberate path of gradually raising interest rates on the premise that the American economy was fundamentally strong and would continue to grow. As recently as October, Fed Chair Jerome Powell described the economy’s low unemployment and subdued inflation as sustainable and “not too good to be true.”

That may no longer be the case. Wall Street traders, who previously had some faith that the Fed will follow through on its plan to raise rates several times in both 2019 and 2020, increasingly don’t expect even a single rate hike next year. Since the central bank typically raises rates when the economy is strong, that suggests they believe it has serious concerns about its trajectory.

The resulting unpredictability over what the Fed’s going to do next has shaken investors and markets and contributed to fears about an impending recession, which is typically defined as two straight quarters of declines in overall economic activity. We may learn more on Dec. 19, when the Fed is expected to raise interest rates for the ninth time since 2015.

So is a recession imminent?

The current expansion has lasted since the official end of the Great Recession in June 2009, or almost nine and a half years. If it lasts seven months more, it’ll be the longest expansion in at least 160 years.

Because of the cyclical nature of business activity, there is no question that a recession will inevitably occur at some point in the future. Whether it’ll happen next year or further down the road is hard to predict. But you could argue, perhaps we’re due.

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Amitrajeet A. Batabyal, The Conversation

Fox News actually apologizes after Texas congressman goes on anti-Semitic rant

6 days 2 hours ago
In a truly tortured segue, Gohmert connected George Orwell to another George—Soros. Get it?

Fox Business’s Stuart Varney, a man that somehow makes Piers Morgan sound less smarmy, had wildly dumb Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert on his show Thursday morning. Varney was hosting a segment about how the tech giant Google has been willing to be complicit in the Chinese government’s censorship of the internet in order to penetrate the Chinese marketplace. Attacking Google for its complete lack of ethics is totally warranted, but of course the reason that Fox News is attacking Google is in order to build the vilification of China, justifying Trump’s incoherent trade while attacking a company perceived as being “liberal.” Rep. Louie Gohmert is sort of like having a drug-fueled 1970s rock-and-roll legend on your show—sure they’re narcissistic and terribly erratic asshats, but they will likely make for some entertaining television.

Gohmert makes a clearly well-worn and on-brand right-wing conspiracy joke about George Orwell. He then explains how Google has “literally sold their souls” to China. Classic rock god antics! Literally! Of course, the problem with putting an erratic and unsophisticated mind and mouth in front of a microphone is that, so very frequently, they veer off into truly insane (and thinly-veiled) anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

In a truly tortured segue, Gohmert connected George Orwell to another George—Soros. Get it?

Gohmert: You mention Orwell, it reminds me of another George, ah George Soros. Because Google is born in a free country and they go over and oppress others, help oppress others in another country. George Soros is supposed to be Jewish but you wouldn't know it from the damage he inflicted on Israel and the fact that he turned on fellow Jews & helped take the property that they owned.

Varney quickly moved on, probably afraid that Gohmert would pull out his Glenn Beck blackboard to begin drawing lines between Hitler, the Rothschilds, George Soros, and black ops helicopters. If Louie Gohmert has a “brand,” it’s called “Batshit Crazy.” But the awfulness of the claim, so grotesquely wedged into a conversation about China, clearly stuck in someone’s craw at Fox Business, and according to the Daily Beast, Varney made an on-air apology later in the segment.

In the following broadcast hour, Varney issued an on-air apology for Gohmert’s remarks: “Congressman Louie Gohmert, for some reason went out of his way to bring up George Soros and made unsubstantiated and false allegations against him. I want to make clear those views are not shared by me, this program or anyone at Fox Business.”

This isn’t the first, second, or last time he’s publicly promoted the abhorrent George Soros as a Nazi collaborator meme. But here’s a quick primer on George Soros:

When World War II began, and Jews were swept up into camps, with more than 6 million ending up systematically murdered by the Third Reich. George Soros was 9-year-old Jew living in Hungary with his family when the war began. Soros was 14 years old when the Nazis occupied Hungary, and his family forged false identification papers and split up, in order to escape being sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Soros and his father forged similar papers for other Hungarian Jews during that time, before leaving the country and relocating in England.

The erroneous meme about Soros that has taken off in right wing circles originated with Glenn Beck—back when he was the heinous Glenn Beck we all remember. An old 60 Minutes interview with Soros shows him explaining how, at 14—charged with pretending he was the Christian child of an Hungarian officer—he had to watch as Hungarian and Nazi officials stole away the property of Jewish citizens who had been sent to their likely deaths in concentration camps.

None of us can know how we would have responded under the kinds of circumstances people like George Soros were put in as children—and adults—during World War II. But I will bet you another blue wave in 2020 that at 14, Louie Gohmert would have sold his family to the devil to keep his hair.

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Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos

Trump loses it ahead of new Mueller filings — and tweets his most unhinged rant yet

6 days 2 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098516'; Click here for reuse options! The president is cracking under pressure.

On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller is scheduled to file new information in the court cases against President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort and attorney Michael Cohen.

And Trump is not taking it well.

Ahead of the new court filings, Trump posted an epic, meandering rant on Twitter that essentially named off every scapegoat vilified on Fox News over the last two years:

Robert Mueller and Leakin’ Lyin’ James Comey are Best Friends, just one of many Mueller Conflicts of Interest. And bye the way, wasn’t the woman in charge of prosecuting Jerome Corsi (who I do not know) in charge of “legal” at the corrupt Clinton Foundation? A total Witch Hunt...

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018

....Will Robert Mueller’s big time conflicts of interest be listed at the top of his Republicans only Report. Will Andrew Weissman’s horrible and vicious prosecutorial past be listed in the Report. He wrongly destroyed people’s lives, took down great companies, only to be........

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018

.....overturned, 9-0, in the United States Supreme Court. Doing same thing to people now. Will all of the substantial & many contributions made by the 17 Angry Democrats to the Campaign of Crooked Hillary be listed in top of Report. Will the people that worked for the Clinton....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018

....Foundation be listed at the top of the Report? Will the scathing document written about Lyin’ James Comey, by the man in charge of the case, Rod Rosenstein (who also signed the FISA Warrant), be a big part of the Report? Isn’t Rod therefore totally conflicted? Will all of....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018

...the lying and leaking by the people doing the Report, & also Bruce Ohr (and his lovely wife Molly), Comey, Brennan, Clapper, & all of the many fired people of the FBI, be listed in the Report? Will the corruption within the DNC & Clinton Campaign be exposed?..And so much more!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2018

There is quite a bit to unpack here, from the fact that Trump is praising Enron — which famously manipulated energy prices and defrauded shareholders — as a "great company," to the fact that it is not a conflict of interest for Mueller to have worked with James Comey or for his prosecutors to have made political contributions, to the fact that Trump does, in fact, know Jerome Corsi (and has a joint legal defense agreement with him), to the fact that Bruce Ohr's wife is named Nellie, not Molly, to the fact that the entire rant is basically just an endless stream of whataboutist distractions.

But Trump clearly has reason to be worried. The special counsel investigation has in recent weeks appeared to be gathering steam, with evidence mounting that Trump strategist Roger Stone had indirect ties to the Russian hack of Democratic emails, Cohen testifying that Trump pursued a real estate deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the presidential campaign, and the revelation that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been of "substantial assistance" to Mueller.

No matter how many times Trump complains he is the victim of a "witch hunt," the truth will eventually come out.

var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2018 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1098516'; Click here for reuse options!  Related Stories
Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Criminal investigator explains how Mueller 'will ultimately be victorious'

6 days 2 hours ago
In an effort to understand what may happen next in the Russia scandal, and in Robert Mueller's investigation of President Trump and his inner circle, I recently spoke with veteran defense attorney and criminal investigator Seth Abramson.

In an effort to understand what may happen next in the Russia scandal, and in Robert Mueller's investigation of President Trump and his inner circle, I recently spoke with veteran defense attorney and criminal investigator Seth Abramson. He is the author of numerous books, including his most recent, the New York Times bestseller "Proof of Collusion: How Donald Trump Betrayed America." Abramson has also been a regular commentator for numerous major news outlets, including the BBC, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, PBS and ABC News.

This is the second part of our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. Read the first part of this interview here.

We have learned that Paul Manafort apparently violated his plea deal with Mueller and was both lying to prosecutors and feeding information back to Trump via the latter's attorneys. Why is that so wrong? How would you respond to Trump's defenders who say that Mueller was trying to ensnare Manafort with a "perjury trap"?

[What Manafort did] is completely inappropriate. It is completely atypical. It is unethical, possibly illegal.

People who are using the term "perjury trap" generally, at least that I’ve seen online and in the media, don’t know what they’re talking about. A perjury trap really doesn’t exist in the way that it’s been discussed by Trump and his allies. To commit perjury, you have to be lying about a material fact that is relevant to a criminal investigation and would be critical and would be critical to the prosecution of a federal criminal case.

Donald Trump comes out and says, “Well, if you say something wrong about the weather you're going to be charged with perjury.” That’s not true. It has to be a material fact, number one. Number two, often prosecutors will give you opportunities to give full, complete and honest testimony. It is not the first recourse of any federal prosecutor to charge someone with perjury. You are only trying to charge someone who has deliberately, repeatedly given up any chance to correct themselves in regard to lying about a material fact. In doing so, by the way, they usually have hindered some federal criminal prosecution that is of great importance.

Now, in this case, you have Donald Trump through the media and apparently through his attorneys, dangling a pardon to Paul Manafort and getting that communicated to through Manafort’s attorney. That in and of itself is an act of obstruction. Even if we say that Donald Trump, under the Constitution, can pardon Paul Manafort, Trump could still be charged with an impeachable offense for a pardon that was an act of obstruction of justice.

Manafort's behavior is also what one would see in the mafia, where the underlings are willing to do anything to protect the boss.

Absolutely. The former director of the FBI, Jim Comey -- someone who knows the patterns of organized crime quite well -- said that in his very first conversations with Donald Trump, the ethos, the philosophy of living and working in the world that he sensed in the man, was that of someone in the mafia.

We need to trust Comey's opinion based on his experience. But frankly, any of us who have worked in the legal field can see the criminal bent that Donald Trump has. Trump attempts to infuse and inject those values into those who are his lackeys so they will be willing to commit crimes for him.

The total number of lies that Michael Cohen appears to have told to protect Donald Trump cannot be counted on one hand. Each one is prosecutable as an offense that could put Cohen in prison.

What I am amazed at is that Trump somehow manages to raise up this level of loyalty among his cronies, but it’s obvious that he would never show that loyalty to them. Again, we see that same pattern in the mafia.

Manafort seems willing to take the fall because Trump will pardon him. But could it also be that given the parties involved, such as Vladimir Putin, Russia oligarchs and the Russian intelligence agencies, Manafort may be afraid of what could happen to him and his family if he were to tell the truth?

That is certainly something that people have speculated on. There’s no question that Paul Manafort was in bed, business-wise with some of the most dangerous people on earth. There’s no question, based upon how Vladimir Putin and some of his chief allies among the Russian oligarchs have conducted themselves, that these are individuals who are not above harming innocents. Paul Manafort could be concerned about that.

Unfortunately, it all becomes speculation at this point. I’d say this: None of the possibilities are anything that one can feel sanguine about. Either Paul Manafort is absolutely sure of an obstruction-of-justice-enabled pardon by Donald Trump or he was in bed with some of the most dangerous people in the world or he is of such a criminal bent that he somehow believes that he can get away with virtually anything, commit as many crimes as he wants and never be caught. In which case it’s really terrifying, because he ran a presidential campaign.

What would you tell Donald Trump if you were his attorney?

First of all, that’s a position I would never want to be in. As I mentioned before, this is the first case I’ve really ever come across where I can’t find any exculpatory evidence. Keep in mind, as a defense attorney, that’s what you're trained to look for. I'm not coming from the prosecution end of this. I’ve represented thousands of people, read thousands of police reports, was trained both in law school and thereafter in practice to look for exculpatory evidence, and I can’t find it. That is why you see Donald Trump’s attorneys doing the most they can with what they have.

They have two particular things they have to think about. One is that Trump's attorneys will never have what you call client control, and they know that. They will never be able to tell their client what to do, stop him from hurting himself, stop him from committing crimes, stop him from making his situation worse, no matter what they say. It’s clear that they don’t even try. I should tell you that client control is a must in any course of criminal representation and if you don’t have any of it, you try to find a way to withdraw from the case because you can’t adequately represent that client. Clearly, his attorneys have given up on that altogether.

The second consideration that Trump's attorneys clearly committed to is that because you can’t indict and try Donald Trump while he’s a sitting president -- and Rudy Giuliani has said this before -- their attitude is that this is a purely political case. They’re going to represent Donald Trump as though this is simply a political matter of whether there are 67 votes for conviction in the U.S. Senate.

So many of the decisions Trump's attorneys are making, so many of the things that they are saying publicly, are things no attorney would ever do or say who has any self-respect and doesn’t want to face professional discipline from the American Bar Association.

There is another dimension to consider as well. People say to me, “Well, sometimes you seem to present Trump as a criminal mastermind. Other times you seem to be presenting him as someone who’s stupid.”

There is a very particular type of intelligence that someone who is pathologically criminal possesses. That is that they have an incredible instinct for their own self-preservation. They have an incredible instinct for their own gain that overwhelms everything else and can make them seem smart in certain respects because they’re able to nose out whatever is in their best interest in terms of making money or benefiting in some other way.

Donald Trump clearly has lived his whole life with that particular type of intelligence. I don’t think he’s a very sophisticated or smart man. I don’t even think he knows very much about business, even though he’s been in business for 30 years. He is smart in the same way, and I’ll only use this analogy because I have dogs that are hounds. Hounds are particularly good at understanding their own self-interest when they want to get food, for instance. They can become the smartest dogs you've ever seen in your life if there is food in the offing.

Otherwise, and I say this regrettably regarding my own dogs, they’re not that smart necessarily. They become smart in the right circumstance. That’s Donald Trump in a nutshell.

Why doesn't Trump just resign, take all his money, go somewhere that he can't be extradited from, and walk away from it all?

Look at it this way. While this is not going to end well for President Trump, he did become president of the United States. Up until a certain point, he would have been able to make the case to someone that he had, for all his past crimes and malfeasance, lived life in a way that allowed him to at least appear successful, have a certain amount of wealth, win the first-ever election that he ran in and become essentially the most powerful man on Earth.

That’s a lot of positive reinforcement for Donald Trump to get. It likewise encouraged his feeling that he will get away with everything he’s been doing for years and everything he did during the campaign. As the old saying goes, “Pride goeth before the fall.” That’s exactly the situation here. He has flown far too high for his skills. He is now exposed in the international sphere for what he is. Again, the end of Donald Trump’s story will be that he will be a new paradigm for treachery to the United States.

As a defense attorney, at what point do you sit down with your client and say, “They've got you dead to rights and now it’s damage control time.” Will somebody ever sit down with Trump and tell him, “Hey, they got you. Now we've got to figure out how to get out of this." 

If you're a good attorney, those conversations do happen. This is something a lot of people don’t understand about being a criminal defense attorney. You can only adequately represent someone if you know the truth about everything. You can’t conduct a competent direct examination or cross-examination at trial. You can’t give competent advice about whether someone should plead guilty or go to trial. You can’t give them advice on anything if you are working off lies.

There are some attorneys, who I consider to be less skilled, who believe that the less they know, the more they are not drawn into whatever is going on. They can perhaps go out and give public statements that they would know were false if they had more information. That "hear no evil, see no evil" attitude seems to be what all of Trump’s attorneys are doing.

None of Trump's attorneys, I would say, seem to be very skilled. I don’t know whether they know the truth or simply suspect the truth, but I will tell you this is the advice Trump's attorneys are likely giving him: "You need to stay in the Oval Office for as long as you possibly can, because the moment you leave the Oval Office, you are going to be indicted. If you can find a way to hold on to 2020 and stay in office another four years after that, then that is what you need to do, because once you leave office you'll be indicted."

That case can be stretched out to a number of years with appeals and so on and so forth. The hope is for Donald Trump to simply -- and I'm going to try to say this as delicately as I can -- he is advanced in years and just in terms of his natural lifespan, there are only so many years that he has left. As his attorney, you would say, “Let’s try to run out the clock essentially on your natural lifespan without you ever having to go inside a prison cell.” That’s the advice you’d be giving Donald Trump right now.

Some observers have suggested that Mueller knew that Manafort was lying, and basically used those lies as a way of later proving Trump's guilt. Is that a viable scenario?

It’s possible. But one thing that I am always wary of is turning anyone in any case into either a superhero or a supervillain, a mastermind for good or a mastermind for evil. Most of the people involved in this case are quite good at what they do. Robert Mueller is a very good prosecutor. The investigators are good investigators. Donald Trump is a very good criminal, or at least he has been up until this point.

Suggesting that each side is hatching these plots to stay six steps ahead is a dangerous game to get into. Yes, it’s possible that Robert Mueller knew that Paul Manafort was lying to him, at least after a certain point following his cooperation plea deal, and made a strategic decision to try to get answers from Donald Trump that would put him in legal jeopardy.

Here’s why I'm not so enamored with that particular plot line. It is very clear to Robert Mueller that he can indict Donald Trump right now for a host of offenses that would put him in prison for the rest of his natural life. I don’t think he’s desperate to get answers from Donald Trump that will add a few additional charges to what he previously had. Mueller probably knew that no matter what happened, Paul Manafort or not, Donald Trump was going to lie in his answers.

Therefore, just getting those answers in writing -- and if they are lies, leading to criminal liability for Donald Trump -- was what Mueller was after.

Thinking about Robert Mueller and his team: You're going down this rabbit hole, you have a set of tasks, you have to get the evidence, you're going to follow it where it may lead. What is that moment like when you start to see the connections and what is revealed is truly horrible?

My book "Proof of Collusion" establishes that it’s far worse than we previously imagined. There have been so many moments during the course of this investigation that I, even as someone who has seen a lot from when I practiced law, was deeply surprised by the level of graft and corruption and criminality and just the sheer scope of it.

Frankly, in some cases, just the sheer scope of the stupidity of some of those involved.

I'm sure that each time Mueller and his team discovered something new, there was a realization that they were involved in a case that will be talked about hundreds of years from now and will absolutely go down in American history as one of the most infamous scandals in any sphere of American life since the founding of the country.

There are a good number of Americans who feel that Mueller is taking too long, and this is all a big controversy over nothing. Others may feel like all politicians are crooks, so who cares? How would you explain the seriousness of the situation to them?

This situation is scary because the president of the United States is fully compromised by multiple hostile foreign nations. What that means is that, at this point, the foreign policy of the United States, at least as it comes out of the executive branch, is effectively an ideological vassal state of our enemies. There is no reason for us to be confident that any decision made by Donald Trump on the question of foreign policy is being made with the best interest of you and your family in mind.

Moreover, I would say that many of his decisions on the domestic front, for instance, his refusal to protect our elections, are being made for the benefit of himself in a corrupt way and those to whom he is clearly beholden overseas. Every American, whether you're Republican or Democrat, it does not matter to him.

You want to be safe. You want your kids to be safe. You want America to have a rule of law. You want us to be a democracy. You want our foreign policy and our values to mean something. Right now, our foreign policy is entirely phony. It was written by people overseas. It was paid for through corruption and graft and payments to the Trump family. That is terrifying to any American. It doesn’t matter what your position is on a climate change or on abortion, you have to think of the country first. This is a national emergency and people should act that way.

I have a theory about how this all plays out. At the end of this scandal Donald Trump may very well end up saying, “Yeah, I did it. I'm a patriot and I did it to stop Hillary Clinton. I dare you to do anything about it.” Do you think that’s far-fetched?

You're half right, because at least as far as Donald Trump is concerned, this isn’t so much a legal case or a legal investigation as it is a political situation. If Trump can stay in office, keep his base and build on it slightly in 2020 -- should he make it that far -- he would be able to save himself from indictment and prosecution until at least 2025. Thus there could be a time when Donald Trump admits, and maybe even is forced to admit, because of all the cooperation deals and all the public evidence that comes out from Robert Mueller and his report, “Yes, I did everything.”

I don’t think his justification would be Hillary Clinton. If you look very carefully at some of these internal communications involving the Russians and Middle Eastern nations, what is consistently referred to is the concept of peace. Donald Trump will attempt to justify his actions by saying that he wanted peace with the Russians, he wanted peace in the Middle East. He took these actions and, sure, they may have benefited him in some way or another because he happens to be a businessman, but ultimately, these were the right foreign policy decisions for him to make. He might make that claim. Hatred of Hillary Clinton is only going to bring along 40 or so percent of the American voting public who hate her.

To survive this, Trump is going to need something much closer to 50 percent of people saying, “Yes, I see now that this is the most treacherous course of conduct any of us have ever heard of in our lifetimes, but he was justified because he was 'promoting peace.'" There are letters in which Felix Sater, Trump's business associate, explicitly tells him to make that case.

What did you miss or underestimate in "Proof of Collusion," given what we're now learning about the investigation, that could come into play later on with indictments or impeachment?

There's a section in Chapter 11 of "Proof of Collusion" that lays out what I've called the "grand bargain." I expect that some of Mueller's forthcoming indictments -- or perhaps other, less dire law enforcement encounters and entanglements -- will include Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Erik Prince, Elliott Broidy, Thomas Barrack, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., all of whom would feature prominently in any future book on Donald Trump's multi-state pre-election collusion.

Given all that we have discussed, is there anything that gives you hope?

As an attorney, as someone who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, I believe in the rule of law and I believe in American democracy. I am confident that nothing Mr. Trump does or any of his allies, in Congress or in business, in politics or his voters, can stop this federal criminal investigation from reaching a just result.

It might take longer than it should. It will certainly be messier than it should be. But everything I see from the Mueller investigation is that it does not leak, it is thoroughly professional. It will be studied, I can tell you, for decades as one of the most effective and professional federal investigative operations anyone has ever seen. Robert Mueller and his team will ultimately be victorious in upholding our rule of law and holding to account those who violated our federal statutes.

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Chauncey DeVega, Salon

Former CIA chief John Brennan on the Mueller meltdown: ‘Mr. Trump knows what he’s done’

6 days 2 hours ago
Former CIA director John Brennan torched an “increasingly desperate” President Donald Trump over his Twitter meltdown over the Russia probe.

Former CIA director John Brennan torched an “increasingly desperate” President Donald Trump over his Twitter meltdown over the Russia probe, which should see several major developments later in the day.

The former intelligence chief appeared Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” just as the president appeared to have concluded a series of tweets attacking special counsel Robert Mueller, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, various other law enforcement officials — and Brennan himself.

“I don’t know what we expect to see today based on that tweet,” Brennan said. “I think Mr. Trump is seeing more and more of the walls closing in on him, which is why he’s becoming increasingly desperate. But I think some of his tweets just indicate how ill-suited he is for the presidency, and his handling of some of these issues demonstrates again he’s incompetent.”

Brennan said the president should fear the Mueller investigation, which he said appears to be coming to a crescendo.

“Who knows what sealed indictments are already out there?” Brennan said. “Now that Mr. Trump has given his written responses to questions, I think Bob Mueller and his team will feel that they can move forward with some of the other shoes that will be dropping on the people who are in the inner circle.”

The former CIA director said Trump appears to fear Russian president Vladimir Putin, and he said the special counsel would try to determine what leverage the foreign leader had over the U.S. president.

“I think if you just look at his tweets and his comments and his increasingly desperate attitude, I think he has a lot to fear, which is why he continues to try to delegitimatize the Mueller team’s efforts and the investigation overall,” Brennan said.

“Mr. Trump knows what he has done in the past,” he added. “He has demonstrated a lack of ethics, a lack of principle, and whether it be in his government affairs or in his private business dealings, this is something that’s going, to I think, come back and haunt him.”

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Travis Gettys, Raw Story

There's a progressive case against Beto O'Rourke for POTUS in 2020

6 days 2 hours ago
Does Beto O'Rourke have what it takes to win the presidency in 2020?

Anxious Democrats had barely recovered from their post-midterm election-night hangovers before pundits began breathlessly pontificating over the potential field of 2020 presidential candidates. Democrat Beto O’Rourke lost his Texas Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz, but that didn’t stop multipleoutlets from pondering whether he could run. He enjoys a national profile, a positive message, even punk rock roots, and lost his race by a mere three points, but some progressives aren’t convinced he’s the one to beat Donald Trump, should the president run in 2020.

Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig is one of them.

She writes on Thursday that despite her being from Texas, appreciating O’Rourke’s appeal and having “hoped as much as anyone for Cruz’s defeat,” America doesn’t need another Democrat in the Obama mold. Instead, she argues, “I think the times both call for and allow for a left-populist candidate with uncompromising progressive principles. I don’t see that in O’Rourke.”

Despite O’Rourke’s hiring a team of former Bernie Sanders organizers that helped him build “a grassroots army” of field operators, Bruenig finds his voting record and campaign priorities to be out of step with a leftist base eager for “Medicare for all,” tuition free-college, stronger limits on corporate power and other policies to level the economic playing field for Americans of all backgrounds. She notes that he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus, instead opting for the New Democratic Coalition, which she calls “a centrist caucus with Clintonian views on health care, education and trade.”

She further writes that O’Rourke has waffled on Medicare for all, and is not impressed at how, as a Politico article pointed out in July, he avoids using the terms “single payer” and “Medicare for all,” opting instead for the more amorphous “universal, guaranteed, high-quality health care for all.” Even his campaign website was vague, stating, as Bruenig says, “that he aims for achieving universal health-care coverage ‘whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise.’ ”

Bruenig calls O’Rourke’s statements on energy “surprisingly thin.” While newly elected representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are gaining both media attention and political traction for a strong stance on higher taxes on oil and gas companies, reducing carbon emissions and creating a new jobs plan centered on green infrastructure, Bruenig points out that O’Rourke “has called the decision between oil and gas and renewable energy sources “a false choice,” and proposes on his campaign website “mainly to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, empower the Environmental Protection Agency and enact energy reform.”

It’s not that Bruenig thinks O’Rourke is actively harmful, only that “[t]here’s no need to begin resigning ourselves to policies that are merely better than Republican alternatives.”

On the campaign trail for the Senate, O’Rourke brushed off questions about whether he would run for president. The Post previously reported that O’Rourke is rethinking this decision, having met with President Obama on Nov. 16. In addition, according to CNBC, he has been speaking with experts who could help him manage a primary campaign in key states, “fielding calls from senior operatives who worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign in the pivotal states of Iowa and New Hampshire as the Texas congressman considers running for president in 2020.”

Bruenig, however, would prefer that the political class stop looking toward a centrist Obama past and shift its gaze toward a progressive future, ending her column by saying:

I wish the Democrats would run a left-populist with sincere, well-attested antipathy toward Wall Street, oil and gas, welfare reform and war, who is willing to fight hard to win Medicare-for-all and drastically reverse our current course on climate change. I would love it if they came from Texas, but I would take one from anywhere.

Read the full column here.

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Ilana Novick, Truthdig

A major think tank resignation has the political class asking about the ethics of accepting donations from oligarchs

6 days 3 hours ago
Right-wing anti-Kleptocracy think tank Hudson Institute turned over by revelation of oligarch donor

The founder and executive director of the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative has resigned after learning that it accepted a donation from a Ukrainian-born billionaire who he considers to be an oligarch.

"Russian kleptocracy has entered the donor pool of Hudson Institute," Charles Davidson said in an exclusive interview with The New York Post. "Blavatnik is precisely what the Kleptocracy Initiative is fighting against — the influence of Putin’s oligarchs on America’s political system and society — and the importation of corrupt Russian business practices and values."

Writer Ann Marlowe, a Harvard alumna who is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute but never received money from or worked for it, summed up Leonard Blavatnik's background in an editorial for The New York Times.

As a Harvard alumna, I find this appalling. Mr. Blavatnik — who, with a net worth of over $20 billion, is the richest man in Britain and the 29th-richest in America — cut his teeth in the brutal aluminum wars in 1990s Russia alongside Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich, who has estimated that every three days someone in the business was murdered. Together, they acquired an empire of recently privatized metals and energy companies, often for outrageously low prices.

Those deals, and others, involved a series of transactions with individuals with checkered pasts, deep Kremlin ties and a reputation for corruption. Though Mr. Blavatnik is not under American sanctions himself, many of his associates are, including Mr. Deripaska. The aluminum giant Rusal, where he is a major shareholder, is facing direct sanctions due to go into effect soon; Rosneft, an energy company owned by the Russian government where he also made millions, expects the ax to fall shortly.

The Hudson Institute is based in Washington D.C. and has a strong reputation when it comes to the factual accuracy of its reporting, according to mediabiasfactcheck.com, although it has a notable right-wing bias. Its reputation as both a think tank that churns out respectable conservative ideas and as a place for cultivating conservative thinkers has helped it attract stellar speakers like House Speaker Paul Ryan and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, according to Quartz (the dinner at which they spoke earlier this month was also partially sponsored by Blavatnik's foundation).

In response to the controversy about accepting Blavatnik's $50,000 donation, the Hudson Institute told The New York Post that "the Blavatnik Family Foundation sponsored a table to our annual gala. We are grateful for all those who are supporting Hudson’s work tonight."

Meanwhile Ilya Zaslavskiy, a policy expert who sits on the Kleptocracy Initiative’s advisory council, insisted to the Post that Blavatnik is an "oligarch" and added that "it’s amazing how Blavatnik converts philanthropy into political access and influence. It’s a philosophical question: Can you do good things with bad money?"

Blavatnik has used his wealth to dabble in American politics quite a bit. During the 2016 presidential election cycle he donated a total of $7.35 million to Donald Trump and the political action committees of Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Mitch McConnell and John McCain, according to the Dallas Morning News. He also donated $1 million to Trump's Inaugural Committee, although he and his wife have also donated money to Democratic politicians like Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Kamala Harris and Chuck Schumer.

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Matthew Rozsa, Salon

John Kelly will resign from White House in coming days: report

6 days 3 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098512'; Click here for reuse options! Kelly has been with the Trump administration from the very beginning, and been at the center of some of its worst policies and scandals.

On Friday morning, CNN reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is expected to resign from the Trump administration shortly.

BREAKING: John Kelly is expected to resign in the coming days, two sources familiar with the situation unfolding in the West Wing tell CNN. via @kaitlancollins

— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) December 7, 2018

Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, was first appointed to the role in July 2017. Prior to that, he served as President Donald Trump's first Secretary of Homeland Security, where he presided over the initial implementation of the Muslim travel ban and first conceived of the idea for the horrific policy of separating migrant children from their families. He has reinforced and encouraged Trump's nastiest impulses toward immigrants, urging him to reject a bipartisan agreement to protect DACA and claiming that young immigrants are "lazy."

When he was first appointed chief of staff to replace Reince Priebus, he was characterized as an "adult in the room" who could bring order to a White House perpetually in a state of five-alarm fires. Instead, he promptly revealed himself to be as much a sower of destruction and scandal as anyone else, attacking a congresswoman for standing up for a bereaved military spouse with false smears, and shielding a top White House aide accused of assaulting women.

In the end, Kelly leaves the Trump White House as a man whose reputation is in tatters, and whose wholesale failure to course correct the Trump administration in any way will define his legacy.

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Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

Why doesn’t Trump have a dog — and should he get one? Experts weigh in

6 days 8 hours ago
The First Family has broken with tradition: There’s no canine companion in the White House.

In his homily for the state funeral of George H.W. Bush on December 5, Rev. Russell Levenson Jr. joked that Sully, Bush’s loyal service dog, had probably received more press attention in recent days than the former president himself. That sentiment echoed Fala, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, who was so popular with the American public that he received more fan mail than the president himself.

Historically, First Canines have been a staple of life in the White House. Barack Obama had Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese water dogs. George W. Bush had Spot, a Springer spaniel, and Barney, a Scottish terrier. Bill Clinton had Buddy, a chocolate Labrador retriever. Before he needed the services of Sully, George H.W. Bush had Millie, a Springer spaniel (Spot’s mother). Ronald Reagan had Lucky, a fluffy black Bouvier des Flandres. John F. Kennedy had Charlie, a Welsh terrier. The list goes on and on, stretching all the way back to George Washington, who cared for no fewer than 36 hounds, and who, in addition to being a founding father of the United States, was the founding breeder of the American foxhound. So why doesn’t President Trump have a canine companion? And should he get one?

“Dogs have been used in so many ways by presidents,” says Roy Rowan, author of the book First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Best Friends. For one thing, dogs have helped to deflect bad press: “We’ve seen Nixon use his dog Checkers to cover his $18,000 slush fund,” Rowan says of the famous “Checkers Speech.”

In more recent times, a dog may have been an unwitting pawn in a White House marketing campaign. Just a month before his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky became a national scandal, President Clinton adopted Buddy, a three-month-old chocolate brown Labrador puppy. At the time, he was criticized for getting a dog in an attempt to seem more sympathetic to the public. But according to then-White House spokesman Mike McCurry, Clinton got Buddy because, “It’s the president’s desire to have one loyal friend in Washington.”

“Presidential pets have actually changed presidential history,” says Ronnie Elmore, associate dean for admissions and diversity programs at Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, whose hobby is learning about First Pets. “And they have changed U.S. history.”

There’s no doubt that being the president of the United States is an incredibly stressful job—perhaps the most stressful in the world. In a 2014 interview with HuffPost, then-President Barack Obama described the unique pressure that falls squarely on the shoulders of the commander in chief of the world’s largest economy and most important nation to global affairs. “Everything’s a crisis; everything is terrible; everything is doomsday; everything is—if it doesn’t get solved tomorrow, you know, your presidency is going off the rails,” he said. “There must have been what, 15, 20 things that over the last seven years folks have said, ‘This is it. It’s over.’”

Obama has credited his ability to remain calm in a ridiculously high-stress environment to a few things: morning exercise, his Hawaiian roots and time with his family. “I don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” he said. Though he didn’t mention his dog Bo, who joined the Obamas at the White House in 2009, chances are that the Portuguese water dog played a part in keeping the 44th president so even-keeled.

 

President Obama runs down the East Colonnade with family dog, Bo, on the dog’s initial, exploratory visit to the White House on March 15, 2009. He became the First Pet the following month. (Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Research conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia has shown that even just petting a dog can boost your level of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress, and decrease the body’s production of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.” And there's more.

“Dogs help normalize brain chemistry,” naturalist Sy Montgomery, co-author of Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind, told the Independent Media Institute. “Petting your dog causes a spike in serotonin, the neurotransmitter that antidepressants are designed to elevate. Being with a dog boosts levels of the natural painkillers responsible for ‘runner’s high’ and dopamine, known as the reward hormone.”

Neurochemistry aside, there’s a fundamental reason that dogs are known as “man’s best friend.” For Montgomery, the answer is simple: “Dogs make us happy.” People are craving this kind of connection in greater numbers, as the number of Americans with dogs is steadily increasing. In 2000, according to market research firm Statista, 68 million dogs lived as pets in U.S. homes. Last year, that number reached nearly 90 million.

Dogs don’t just help reduce stress and improve our microbiome; they actually can help us live longer lives. A recent, expansive study of more 3.4 million people published in the journal Scientific Reports found that having a dog is linked to a longer life. Specifically, the researchers found that dog guardians had a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people without dogs, and a lower risk of dying from other causes—even after adjusting for other health-related factors, like socioeconomic status, body mass index and smoking.

While the study was not designed to identify the causal relationship between dog guardianship and longevity, senior author Tove Fall, a veterinarian and associate professor of epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden, says that it’s likely that taking care of a dog motivates people to lead healthier lifestyles. “I have met numerous owners [who] are convinced that their pet has been instrumental for them, often in terms of social support,” Fall told Time Magazine.

President Reagan gets some exercise with his dog Lucky and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the White House’s Rose Garden in 1985. (Photo credit: Reagan Library)

CNN anchor and correspondent Randi Kaye—who has a golden retriever named Gatsby, whom he has called “the best stress reliever”—has urged President Trump to get a canine companion:

All those nights you reportedly spend alone, pacing around the White House in that bathrobe would be in the past. A loyal companion would be at your side, and with just a few pats on the head your stress from the day would slip away. And no need to worry, a dog can’t wear a wire or be subpoenaed to testify (or bark, in this case) [for] special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

Lisa Vaught, a writer who lives near Knoxville, Tennessee, with Frax, her service dog trained to respond to seizures, wrote about the prospect of a dog moving into the White House. “It may be a while before the Trumps get a dog,” she writes. “Apparently allergies and their very busy lifestyle have kept the Trumps from getting a family pet.”

In fact, studies suggest that growing up with a dog can actually decrease allergies and asthma in children. It may be too late for Barron Trump, the president’s youngest son, now 12 years old, to take advantage of the positive impact a dog can have on allergy reduction, as the protective impact was found among children who grew up with dogs starting in the first year of life. The researchers believe that babies and young children can “train” their developing immune systems by being exposed to harmless bacteria, what they have dubbed “dog-associated house-dust.”

Barron was apparently excited by the prospect of a family dog—and there are several hypoallergenic breeds to choose from. But that excitement was before the Trumps moved into the White House, when Palm Beach philanthropist Lois Pope planned to give the First Family a 9-week-old goldendoodle—a hypoallergenic golden retriever-poodle mix named Patton after the World War II general. When presented with the furry brown puppy, Barron had an immediate connection. “This big smile came over his face, and it just brought a tear to his eyes,” Pope said. Sadly for Barron, it never came to pass.

In addition to boosting happy hormones and reducing stress hormones, a dog could help Trump with his weight problem through dog-walking. “Trump is overweight and he doesn’t get enough exercise,” said Trump’s doctor Ronny Jackson. Based on his height (6 feet, 3 inches) and his weight (239 pounds), Trump is just one pound shy of being considered obese, according to the National Institutes of Health’s online body mass index calculator. Perhaps having a First Fido could inspire him to take regular walks around the White House grounds, or even use the quarter-mile jogging track that President Clinton installed around the south drive in 1993.

But Trump simply doesn’t believe in exercise. In their book Trump Revealed, the Washington Post’s Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher wrote about Trump’s strange “battery” theory of energy:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

Maybe the reason that Trump doesn’t have a dog might be that he just doesn’t like them. After all—to the great consternation of dog lovers everywhere—he uses the term “dog” as an insult. In one tweet meant to undermine the credibility of Glenn Beck, Trump gloated about how the former Fox News host was once “fired like a dog.” He also conjured a dog to insult Arianna Huffington, saying that the HuffPost co-founder “is a dog who wrongfully comments on me.” Trump also insulted actress Kristen Stewart, calling her a dog.

Considering his negativity toward man’s best friend, it’s not clear that Trump would necessarily reap the benefits of being around a dog. “In order for this to work, you have to love the dog,” says Montgomery. “That’s where Trump might well run into trouble.”

On the flip-side, it could be cruel and unusual punishment for a dog to become a member of the Trump family. The dog may not get enough exercise, or might be fed unhealthy scraps from one of Trump’s favorite McDonald’s meals. The poor pup may also end up on the receiving end of one of Trump’s famous tirades. Perhaps, for the sake of the dog, Trump should remain dog-free.

“Trump’s supporters might offer many fine attributes of the president’s personality,” says Montgomery. “But everyone agrees that Trump is not patient. He is not affectionate. He is not loyal. He is not consistent. He has anger issues. He has exactly none of the attributes that make a good pet owner.”

But Lynn Hamilton, publisher of AnimalRightsChannel.com, doesn’t necessarily see that as a non-starter. “I feel so strongly about the psychological and physical health benefits of pet ownership that I would not deprive anyone of them,” she told the Independent Media Institute. Maybe it could be a perfect match. As she points out: “Dogs need to exercise every day and eat a low-fat, high-vegetable diet—and so does Trump—but if he can’t summon the self-discipline it takes to walk a dog and shop for the right food, I’m sure the White House could afford a dog minder … and there are excellent behaviorists out there who could train both Trump and his dog to behave appropriately.”

She also suggests that having a dog could help Trump be less self-centered, which would likely have a positive knock-on effect on his family, his staff and probably the public at large. “No one can maintain a dog and an inflated ego simultaneously. Dogs are constantly mirroring us the way comedians do. A dog would help Trump achieve a more realistic measure of his importance in the universe.”

Perhaps. But chances remain slim that we’ll see a dog in the Trump White House, probably because Trump prefers to fly solo. “It seems that Trump is basically a loner who does not seek connection with others,” said Montgomery. “He seems unlikely to seek out the kind of companionship that a dog—naturally a pack animal—provides and needs.”

President Harry Truman famously said, perhaps apocryphally, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” But for President Trump, known for his vanity, there may be a more superficial reason for avoiding a First Canine. As Hamilton points out, “Dogs inevitably mess up your hair.”

This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

 

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Reynard Loki, Independent Media Institute

CNN's office evacuated due to bomb threat as Trump unleashes a frantic Twitter attack on 'FAKE NEWS'

6 days 12 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098511'; Click here for reuse options! Just before the midterm election, CNN, among others, was targeted with a bomb.

CNN's New York City offices and studios were evacuated Thursday night due to a bomb threat, forcing the network to switch to pre-filmed programming.

"We were evacuated in the middle of my live show," reported CNN host Don Lemon. "Bomb threat. We’re running taped programming. NYPD is investigating.  Stay tuned."

Host Brian Stelter said: "The NYPD is investigating a bomb threat near CNN NYC's office at Columbus Circle. Due to the threat, the office has been evacuated."

Many observers pointed out that, not before the threat has been made public, President Donald Trump had posted a barrage of frantic tweets including one context-less attack on the press: "FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!"

Initial reports conflicted about the precise time of the bomb threat itself, raising questions about whether Trump's tweet might have instigated the attack. The NYPD posted on Twitter that the threat came in at 10:35 p.m., but then later amended that to 10:07. Trump's tweet was posted at 10:08. Earlier in the night, Trump had lambasted the "fake news media" on Twitter as well, falsely claiming that reporters don't mention the Republican midterm gains in the Senate.

Less than two months ago, the country experienced a wave of mail bombings, though none of the devices were activated. All the bombs targeted people Trump sees as enemies, and CNN itself received a bomb. The suspect, now in custody, was a man who was clearly enthralled by the president and his attacks on the media and others.

Though the police report suggests its unlikely Trump's tweet at 10:08 p.m. was the cause of the threat, the close timing of the two events highlighted the danger the president is courting with his unrelenting and malicious hostility toward the press. After the mail bombings, the president can't pretend to be unaware of the risks he's taking by inciting such hatred — he just doesn't care.

"A reminder that these threats are a(nother) attack on our free press, a fundamental pillar of our democracy, and prevent the American public from being informed," said CNN analyst Asha Rangappa. "Enough is enough."

This story has been updated with new information about the precise time of the threat.

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Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

MSNBC's Ari Melber proves Paul Ryan's speakership was a failure with basic math

6 days 14 hours ago
var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '1098510'; Click here for reuse options! The foremost budget hawk in Congress is leaving office having blown a massive hole in the deficit.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is retiring from Congress. And it is clear, in retrospect, that he has done nothing to deserve his Washington mystique as a wonkish numbers guy that he has carried with him for years.

In his early days, Ryan proved himself ruthlessly incompetent with a Social Security privatization plan that would have accidentally nationalized the means of production, and as House Budget Chairman he put forth a cruel plan to voucherize Medicare that would have effectively ended the program as we know it. There was never a public program Ryan wasn't willing to cut or slap pointless means-testing regulations on. And through all of this, he demonstrated an utter failure in the face of serious challenges to the political system and the rule of law.

But there is one simple metric by which even Paul Ryan himself admits he is a failure: nothing he did eased the national debt.

On MSNBC's "The Beat," Ari Melber delved into this single greatest failure.

"Ryan became Speaker in 2015, when there was a roughly $438 billion deficit, and he oversaw the growth of that deficit to $793 billion," said Melber. "It's now on track to surpass a trillion dollars."

He then played a clip of Ryan from 2009, just after the financial crisis when national stimulus was truly needed, saying, "We think the wrong answer is to have a new gusher of spending, a new gusher of taxes, a new gusher of borrowing."

One of the key reasons that Ryan failed to enact any meaningful controls on the federal budget was that he spent a huge portion of his time presiding over unified Republican government passing a $1.5 trillion unpaid-for tax cut on corporations and the ultra-wealthy, which did not deliver any of the promised growth and blew a hole in federal coffers. He then tried to make up for this by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare programs, a plan so blatantly toxic and anti-poor that even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted it wasn't worth trying.

"Under Paul Ryan and Donald Trump, the deficit now grows to $782 billion," said Melber. "That is the change, that is the growth with your Paul Ryan, Republican speakership."

Watch below:

Watch: As Speaker, Paul Ryan oversaw an exploding federal deficit...@AriMelber's special report puts Ryan's words against the numbers: pic.twitter.com/2iXi1pfj4R

— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) December 7, 2018 var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2018 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '1098510'; Click here for reuse options!  Related Stories
Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

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