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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: maga

Raging Battles Over Trump And Debt Ceiling Split GOP Senate Leadership

Percolating behind the scenes of the spectacular House Republican train wreck is a Senate Republican battle royal over leadership of the conference that promises to drag out over the next couple of years.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who already lost one bid last November to unseat Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, plans to continue nipping at the longtime leader's heels despite only garnering 10 votes to McConnell's 37 last fall.

Echoing Donald Trump's perennial criticism of McConnell, Scott told The Hill he's "tired of caving" on raising the debt limit and plans to lobby against McConnell making a deal with Democrats to avert a GOP-manufactured economic meltdown.

“I’m not going to back down,” Scott told The Hill.

Scott's declaration comes in the wake of news that McConnell ousted him and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah from their powerful positions on the Senate Commerce Committee, where they have sought to block agreement on fundamental congressional business—such as keeping the government's lights on. Specifically, Scott took aim at the $1.7 trillion year-end spending package that funds the federal government through September and ultimately passed with 18 votes from Senate Republicans.

Lee tried to torpedo the $1.7 trillion bill by offering an anti-migrant poison pill amendment aimed at reinstating Title 42. Trump also jumped into the fray, releasing a video urging "every single Republican" to vote against the spending package.

McConnell eventually hailed the passage of the bill as a win for Republicans because it increased defense spending above the rate of inflation while nondefense, non-veteran spending increased below that rate of inflation.

Scott and Lee are both part of a pro-Trump Senate GOP group that is promising to dog McConnell throughout the coming cycle. Ejecting them from the Commerce Committee sends a clear signal to other Senate MAGA enthusiasts—Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Braun of Indiana, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina—that kicking up too much dust will come with consequences.

On the other hand, Scott and Lee have very little to lose now by becoming perpetual thorns in McConnell's side—which, frankly, they would have been anyway.

In April 2021, Scott pushed a policy through the Senate Republican Conference stating their opposition to any debt-ceiling increases unless they were accompanied by "cuts in federal spending of an equal or greater amount" or otherwise "meaningful structural reform.”

Last month, Scott and Lee spearheaded a letter to President Biden signed by a total of 24 Senate Republicans who pledged to stick by that Senate GOP policy.

Scott, at the urging of Trump, spent much of the 2022 cycle attempting to poke holes in McConnell's armor. While boosting his fundraising network as chief of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott also released an 11-point plan promising to raise taxes on tens of millions while sunsetting Social Security and Medicare. It was a polling disaster, and McConnell devoted a lot of energy to shooting the plan down so it wouldn't kneecap Senate Republicans' effort to retake the upper chamber.

Now it's clear that the McConnell-Scott skirmish is anything but settled in what will continue to be the biggest challenge to McConnell’s leadership position since he assumed the post in 2007.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

How Crowdfunding Finances Right-Wing Extremist And Hate Groups

The American right is so awash in grifters weaseling every dollar they can out of their gullibly authoritarian followers’ bank accounts that what used to be a political orientation has just become a massive network of scam artists. Whether it’s Donald Trump ripping off his hordes of fans with bogus email appeals, the “MyPillow” guy and his MAGA cohorts pushing election denialism, Alex Jones and his Infowars operation reeling in the suckers with his health claims, Chris Rufo pitching “critical race theory” and “groomer” rhetoric to the eager media, or white nationalist Nick Fuentes setting up shop in a pricey Chicago suburb thanks to his eager donors, it’s just one big race to suck up those donor dollars.

Crowdfunding at platforms like GoFundMe has become an essential tool for right-wing grifters, notably people like the Jan. 6 insurrectionists who use pleas for legal assistance to suck up thousands of dollars in donations. The Anti-Defamation League this week released a report showing that extremist crowdfunders have generated at least $6,246,072 from 324 campaigns over the past six years—and that their preferred platform by far is GiveSendGo, the conservative “free speech” outfit with a high tolerance for extremism.

Examining the financial records of extremist groups, ADL researchers found that GiveSendGo hosted 230 campaigns “operated by or for extremists and their causes. These campaigns collected more than 86.5% of the funds tracked by the Center on Extremism.”

It also found that crowdfunding campaigns “played a significant role in the January 6 insurrection and Unite the Right rally, as well as other, smaller extremist events.”

As Will Carless at USA Today explained, the ADL report examined a broad range of extremist groups, but focused particularly on the insurrectionists like Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and extremist Black Hebrew Israelites, some of whom expound racist and antisemitic beliefs. Among those groups, the ADL found that $4.75 million has been raised for insurrection-related causes through crowdfunding over the past four years.

Although the majority of the crowdfunding campaigns tracked by the ADL raised relatively small amounts—hundreds or low thousands of dollars—a number have also raised much larger amounts, including hundreds of thousands. The money these groups made through crowdfunding provided for travel and supplies, as well as legal and medical expenses.

“White supremacists have used crowdfunding to enable a range of hateful activities, including harassing marginalized communities, covering legal expenses after violent actions, spreading hateful propaganda and purchasing property and supplies for white ‘ethnostates’ or compounds,” the report says.

Center for Extremism investigator Mark Dwyer told Carless that his team began to focus on crowdfunding after observing a significant increase in online fundraising following the January 6 insurrection.

"I would consider this to be the heyday of extremist funding," Dwyer said.

As Carless reports, the ADL also found a number of campaigns with more explicitly hateful and extremist causes, featuring names like "GoyFundMe" and "Hatreon." However, the ADL says these were relatively short-lived sites.

GiveSendGo, notably, took steps following the Jan. 6 insurrection to cut down on extremist fundraising, banning campaigns to raise funds for travel to political events that have a "risk for violence." This, however, simply meant that GiveSendGo became the go-to crowdfunding site—along with a handful of others—for extremists and their supporters.

The report explains:

GiveSendGo was founded in 2015 as a self-described Christian crowdfunding service, and the company has taken stances against “censorship,” providing a platform for campaigns that the “mainstream media had shut down.” Perhaps because of this laissez-faire moderation policy, GiveSendGo quickly became the platform of choice for extremists and conspiracy theorists seeking to raise funds. Since 2016, using Stripe as their payment processor, the platform has facilitated the donation of $5.4 million to extremist-related causes, 86.5% of the total cataloged in this report, and it has been a significant source of fundraising for January 6 defendants’ legal funds.

As an example of how GiveSendGo is providing financial support for extremists, the ADL points to the case of Whidbey Island, Washington, resident Tyler Dinsmoor, who was arrested in June 2022 for threatening his LGBTQ neighbors and issuing threats against an upcoming Pride event in the nearby town of Anacortes. It soon emerged that Dinsmoor’s radicalization was a product of an evangelical church he attends that preaches that homosexuality is a capital crime—namely, Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Vancouver, Washington, which is led by Pastor Aaron Thompson. Sure Foundation is part of the New Independent Fundamental Baptist (New IFB) network, a rabidly anti-LGBTQ Baptist offshoot founded by hate preacher Steven Anderson.

Dinsmoor’s bail was initially set at $1 million, which drew cries of outrage from anti-LGBTQ extremists. It was later reduced by a judge to $150,000, and Dinsmoor was released on bail. Nonetheless, two GiveSendGo campaigns were established to help cover his legal expenses: The first, set up by an associate of Dinsmoor’s, collected $30,650; the second was created by Dinsmoor himself when he discontinued the initial campaign. So far, it has collected $4,000.

As Talia Lavin explained in her expose of the site in The Nation, “on GiveSendGo, hate groups can prosper amid fundraising campaigns for homeless nuns, a church that provides tube socks for the unhoused, or infants with spinal cord injuries. Any backlash by payment companies risks raising the ire of a grievance-drunk right-wing media ecosystem primed to detect the traces of anti-Christian prejudice.”

“GiveSendGo seems to be one of the most significant spaces in which alt-right and Christian right converge,” researcher Chrissy Stroop told Lavin. “Of course, we know there is considerable overlap in ideology between right-wing Christians, white nationalists, the manosphere, 4chan types, etc. It can be difficult to trace the direct connections and networks, so I think the existence of GiveSendGo provides us with a sort of horrifying laboratory in that regard.”

"Crowdfunding is a financial lifeline for various extremists," Segal said. "Major servicers like GoFundMe and GiveSendGo have a responsibility to enforce their terms of service and stop the exploitation of their platforms by people and groups that traffic in bigotry and violence."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

New Report Reveals Santos Role In Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme

Rep. George Santos has been inundated with terrible publicity during his weeks in Congress, with countless reports detailing the many lies the Queens/Long Island Republican told on the campaign trail in the 2022 midterms. On top of lying about his employment and education history, Santos falsely claimed that his mother was inside the World Trade Center during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that his grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Records obtained by NBC News show that Santos’ mother was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on 9/11.

Despite all that, Santos has vowed to serve out his full two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is fine with Santos having committee assignments, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right MAGA Republican, has unapologetically defended Santos.

But the negative publicity surrounding Santos is not letting up. And that includes a Washington Post report on his alleged role in a Ponzi scheme involving the Florida-based investment firm Harbor City Capital. Santos has denied doing anything unethical on behalf of that company.

In an article published on November 25, Post reporters Jonathan O'Connell, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Emma Brown and Samuel Oakford, explain, “Santos worked as the company’s New York regional director for more than a year before the Securities and Exchange Commission filed suit in April 2021, alleging that the firm defrauded investors of millions of dollars in a ‘classic Ponzi scheme.’ Santos, the 34-year-old freshman Republican congressman from New York who lied brazenly about key aspects of his biography, has said he was unaware of any fraud by Harbor City.”

New York City resident Christian Lopez alleges that Santos, in November 2020, tried to persuade him to invest in the scheme. Two months earlier, according to the Post, Santos had been awarded $2 million in insurance money because of injuries he suffered at the hands of a drunk driver in Queens in 2018.

The 35-year-old Lopez recalled meeting with the embattled congressman at an Italian restaurant in Queens, telling the Post, “I felt like we were in ‘Goodfellas,’ like we were in a mafia movie. They were like, ‘Hello, I see you are here with George, right this way.’ Bringing us to this fancy restaurant and doing all this, I felt like he was doing it to capture us…. He was saying if you give me $300,000, I am going to make you money. I’m going to make you $3 million.”

According to O'Connell, Stanley-Becker, Brown and Oakford, “accounts gathered by the Post” show a “detailed picture of Santos’ efforts to recruit investors for Harbor City.”

“In two instances,” the Post reporters note, “he inflated his own academic or professional credentials, the Post found. In addition, Zoom recordings of workplace meetings show Santos offering anecdotes about his purported interactions with wealthy people — stories disputed by those involved — for potential inclusion in marketing materials or to impress prospective clients.”

The journalists add, “Two of the people he pitched said they did not realize until being contacted by a reporter that the man they’d known as ‘George Devolder’ was the newly elected congressman who, among other things, falsely claimed that his mother was working in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. ‘Devolder’ was Santos’ mother’s surname.”

Al Conard, a real estate agent from Minnesota, told the Post that he lost $50,000 to Harbor City and that George Santos and George Devolder are the same person.

“In internal Harbor City meetings,” the Post reporters note, “Santos refined his pitch, breezily offering stories he said he could tell investors to demonstrate his credentials or lighten the mood, according to the Zoom recordings obtained by the Post. Some of the tales were self-deprecating, but they delivered the same message: that he operated in the orbit of the rich and powerful.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Musk's Twitter Reinstates Yet Another Previously Banned Neo-Nazi

After being banned for almost two years, Twitter has officially reinstated the account of white nationalist leader Nick Fuentes, Rolling Stone reports.

Twitter banned Fuentes for "repeated violations" of the platform's rules in July 2021, and when he attempted to create another account in October after Musk took over, the platform banned him again.

The reinstatement of his account comes two months after Twitter CEO Elon Musk posted a poll to Twitter, asking users whether the accounts — he, himself, suspended — that “have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam” should be reinstated. Following the majority “yes” vote from users, the billionaire began restoring accounts of MAGA Republicans, such as MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin, who'd been banned from Twitter since 2013. Rolling Stone referred to "the return of extremist figures to Twitter" as a "hallmark of Musk's early tenure.

However, Musk is not treating all Twitter users equally. The tech CEO had suspended a select list of journalists, himself, last year from the platform "for, he said, violating the company’s terms of service." A few weeks later, he asserted that the journalists "were welcome to return to the platform" only if they would "abide by Twitter's rules."

Washington Post journalist Paul Farhi reported, “Twitter has privately demanded that the suspended journalists delete the tweets that drew Musk’s ire in the first place — a condition the reporters have refused to accept. The result is a stalemate: The suspended journalists remain in Twitter purgatory, unable to access their accounts.”

Unlike his treatment of the journalists, Musk is granting Fuentes, 24, free reign back on the platform.

The extremist first gained notoriety as a Boston University student attending the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he and other attendees chanted “Jews will not replace us.” He later founded the “America First Political Action Conference,” which has been attended by far-right MAGA Republican House of Representatives members like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

But more recently, the extremist anti-Semite met with former president Donald Trump and rapper Kanye West, now known as “Ye,” — who, at the time, also publicly spewed antisemetic remarks — at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

According to Rolling Stone, prior to reinstatement, Fuentes has been able to expand a "cult-like following" called the Groypers, and although the coalition describes itself as "Christian-conservative," members and followers often "weaponize antisemitic and racist tropes against their targets."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

FBI Arrests Three Active Duty Marines On Capitol Riot Charges

Arrests continue to be made as more information is revealed and investigations continue into the U.S. Capitol riot that occurred on January 6, 2021. Most recently, on Wednesday, three active-duty Marines were arrested for their participation in the insurrection, according to court documents unsealed Thursday. Identified as Micah Coomer, Joshua Abate, and Dodge Dale Hellonen, the three men were arrested on four charges each in relation to their participation in the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol two years ago, Military.com reported.

Since Marine Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, who was taken into custody in May 2021 on nine charges, the three men are the first active-duty military members to be arrested in connection with the failed insurrection. Records provided to Military.com indicate that all three work in jobs connected to the intelligence community, have been enlisted for more than four years, and have been awarded good conduct medals in the past.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, FBI agents arrested Coomer and Abate on Tuesday and the other defendant, Hellonen, on Wednesday.

The men were arrested after a search warrant was issued for one of their social media accounts in 2021, as a result of photos taken and posted from inside the Capitol—indicating they had partaken in the riot. One was captioned, "Glad to be apart [sic] of history,” the arrest complaint said.

According to court documents, the trio spent a little under an hour around the Capitol, when they placed "a red MAGA hat on one of the statues to take photos with it."

Court records indicate that after going through their social media, more evidence was found, including Coomer telling an unidentified person, "everything in this country is corrupt. We honestly need a fresh restart. I'm waiting for the boogaloo." When the other person asked what a "boogaloo" was, Coomer replied, "Civil war 2.”

According to Military.com, the term “boogaloo" is slang for a future race war. Experts, like the Anti-Defamation League, have noted though "most boogalooers are not white supremacists, though one can find white supremacists within the movement.”

In another conversation several days after the election, Coomer also said, “I just love how after years of trying to get trump out of office by any means the left all of a sudden is going to have a ‘fair’ election. They’re an absolute joke,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

In addition to finding evidence on social media that the marines attended the riot, court documents say that Abate admitted to being in the Capitol in a June 2022 interview that was part of his work security clearance process.

"During the interview, Abate discussed entering the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, with two 'buddies,'" the documents said. He added that they "walked around and tried not to get hit with tear gas."

"Abate also admitted he heard how the event was being portrayed negatively and decided that he should not tell anybody about going into the U.S. Capitol Building," the court document said.

The three arrests come as a shock because while others enlisted have been arrested, most have been lower rankings than these Marines, Military.com said.

But while their arrests come as a shock, they aren’t the only members of the intelligence community to be arrested for their alleged part in the insurrection. Others include Petty Officer 1st Class Hatchet Speed, a sailor assigned to the Naval Warfare Space Field Activity at the National Reconnaissance Office, was arrested last year.

In total, including the three Marines, about 12 service members—active, reserve, and National Guard—have been arrested for alleged crimes in connection to Jan. 6, 2021. According to the George Washington University's Project on Extremism, out of the 940 defendants charged with crimes related to the Capitol riot, 118 — or 12 percent — have some form of military background.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Fox Buries Bust Of New Mexico Shooting Suspect -- And His MAGA Motives

Fox News has almost completely neglected to cover breaking news developments in a series of shootings that targeted the homes of multiple Democratic officials in New Mexico, neglecting a story that would potentially call further attention to the network’s own promotion of conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

On Monday, an Albuquerque SWAT team arrested Solomon Pena, naming him as the suspected “mastermind” behind a series of drive-by shootings at the homes of four local Democratic elected officials, including two county commissioners as well as the incoming speaker of the state House. Nobody was injured in the shootings, but in one instance bullets went through the bedroom of a 10-year-old girl while she was asleep.

A crucial aspect of this story is the suspect’s alleged motive, reported by the Albuquerque Journal: Pena ran as the Republican nominee for a state legislative seat last November, losing with just 26 percent of the vote, and since then has made conspiratorial claims that the election was stolen. “Once the rigging is stopped, I will be sworn in as the State Rep for district 14,” Pena wrote in one Twitter post. He also was in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, when then-President Donald Trump gathered his supporters in an attempted insurrection to overthrow the results of the 2020 election, and has since repeatedly voiced his support for Trump’s false claims about elections being stolen by Democrats.

CNN has covered the story for a total of one hour and 35 minutes over the past two days, MSNBC has covered it for a total of two hours and 20 minutes, including interviews on both networks with one of the officials whose home was shot, and who described Pena’s earlier visit to her home to complain that the election had been fraudulent. In an astonishing contrast, Fox News has covered it for a grand total of less than one minute.

Pena’s false claims of election fraud align with past messaging from Fox News personalities, from defending the January 6 insurrectionists to telling viewers not to trust the results of the 2022 midterm elections before and after Election Day.

The first mention of this story on Fox News was not even intentional: The network was carrying a live feed of White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s briefing with reporters, when a journalist asked a question.

Fox first purposefully included the story during a headline update on Special Report, lasting less than 30 seconds. The story received another 20 seconds of coverage on Fox News @ Night, as part of a collection of stories headlined under Fox’s misleading category “America’s Crime Crisis.” Fox mentioned in both instances that Pena had lost his campaign for the state legislature, but the network did not mention his false claims that the election was stolen, the fact that he had previously visited a county commissioner’s home to complain about the results, or his presence in Washington on the day of the January 6 insurrection.

Fox News could never admit a connection between those conspiracy theories and a rash of terrorist acts, as doing so would call into question the network’s own recent coverage. Last November, for example, prime-time host Tucker Carlson questioned the election results in Arizona, where a number of statewide Republican candidates lost their races, and declared ominously that “Americans lose their faith in their democratic system and when they lose that faith, they tend to become radical and over time, they can become dangerous.” In addition, the network’s coverage last August of the FBI search for stolen documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate was clearly aimed at whipping up its viewers into further rage.

Methodology

Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC for any of the terms “shot,” “gun violence,” “death,” or “attack” or any variation of any of the terms “shoot,” “wound,” “kill,” “injure,” “gunfire,” or “terror” within close proximity of any of the terms “Solomon,” “Pena,” “Peña,” “New Mexico,” or “Albuquerque” from January 16, 2023, when authorities arrested Pena, through 12 p.m. ET on January 18, 2023.

We included segments, which we defined as instances when the shootings allegedly directed by Solomon Pena were the stated topic of discussion or when we found significant discussion of the shootings. We defined significant discussion as instances when two or more speakers in a multitopic segment discussed the shootings with one another.

We also included passing mentions, which we defined as instances when a single speaker in a segment on another topic mentioned the shootings without another speaker engaging with the comment, and teasers, which we defined as instances when the anchor or host promoted a segment about the shootings scheduled to air later in the broadcast.

We rounded all times to the nearest minute.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

GOP Candidate Who Cried Voter Fraud Is Arrested In New Mexico Shootings Case

In December and January, the homes of Democratic officials in New Mexico have been the target of no-so-random shootings. State Sen. Linda Lopez and Antonio Moe Maestas had shots fired at their home and workplace respectively. Three bullets entered the room where Lopez’s 10-year-old daughter slept. Bernalillo County commissioners Adriann Barboa and Debbie O’Malley’s homes were also the target of gunfire. Luckily no one was hurt.

On Monday, Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina held a press conference to announce a break in the case. Medina said that former Republican state House candidate Solomon Pena had been arrested. According to Medina, MAGA-candidate Pena is accused of “conspiring with, and paying four other men to shoot at the homes of two county commissioners and two state legislators.”

The motivation seems to have been that Pena didn’t believe he had lost his election. They even had video of Pena being arrested.

According to reports, Pena’s arrest comes about a week after an unnamed suspect was taken into custody. Police Chief Medina said the break in this case couldn’t come a day sooner. “We are very grateful that we were able to get this individual into custody and to hopefully bring a little relief to those that were affected and all of our lawmakers, especially with state legislature starting tomorrow.”

The Albuquerque Journal reports that investigators are looking into whether or not shots fired near Raúl Torrez’s campaign office—he ran for Attorney General—and shots fired near the office of State Sen. Antonio Maestas might be connected. However, at this time, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque Police Department say there is no evidence linking the group being accused of conspiracy in the other shootings with these shootings.

Pena was a Donald Trump, Kari Lake, Big Lie proponent who was trying some of that same pre-election day doubt-casting back in November.

The results were the same. He lost. Bigly. Watch his arrest.

Police make arrest after standoff www.youtube.com

Let’s leave this here for posterity.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Poll: Republican Party's Favorable Rating Now Lowest Since Insurrection

One week into the House GOP's follies in the majority, the Republican Party favorability rating plunged in Civiqs tracking Sunday to just 26 percent among registered voters—a two-year low point since hitting 25 percent in the weeks following the January 6 insurrection.

The party also notched a 65 percent unfavorable rating—it's highest point in almost six years since the first year of Donald Trump's tenure.

To be fair, the GOP's rapid descent doesn't fall entirely on the shoulders of House Republicans. The party's favorables have steadily declined ever since Republicans' 2022 midterm debacle. The party kicked off November at an already anemic 32 percent, yet things still took a turn for the worse after Election Day.

The drop off has mostly been driven by both Republican and independent men. Among men overall, GOP favorables have dropped nearly double digits since the election, from 38 percent in early November to 29 percent Sunday. That included a 10-point decline among independent men, from 27 percent to 17 percent, in the same timeframe.

But Republican men delivered the real blow, with their favorable feelings toward the GOP taking a 13-point hit since Election Day, from 75 percent to 62 percent over the weekend. As with Trump’s cratering favorability rating, it appears men really don’t like a loser.

The GOP suffered a similar decline in favorables after losing the White House in 2020. The difference for Republicans now is that they will no longer have unified Democratic control of government to serve as a foil for their own incompetence.

The party's lowest Trump-era favorability rating of 18 percent came during the GOP trifecta in September 2017, after Republicans tried and failed twice to repeal the Affordable Care Act—a constant GOP pledge for the better part of a decade.

Let's keep an eye on this space as House Republicans flaunt their true MAGA colors as the majority party in the lower chamber. It promises to be a very educational moment for the country.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.