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Dear Time Travelers: Welcome To 2017

My Lord, these time travelers.

They’re everywhere.

I first noticed this influx of visitors from the past — men, mostly — shortly after the election. Filling my email inbox. Trolling my Twitter and Facebook feeds. Offering one unsolicited directive after another about how women should be conducting themselves.

We should leave the country if we don’t like President Donald Trump — and keep our opinions to ourselves. Good luck with that one, boys.

They mock our femininity and attractiveness and openly speculate on our sex lives. And oh, how they pity the men stupid enough to marry us. Over and over, we’re back to this: “If you love your husband so much, how come you didn’t change your name?”

It’s not so surprising, really, to see why these time travelers are showing up now. They feel emboldened. The man who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals got elected anyway. If you are the kind of guy who admires that, how could you not find hope in his being elected?

So here they are, ramping up the hate mail and acting as if we’re still taking orders from them. I was raised to be polite, so I tend to welcome them to the year 2017 and explain that women can think for themselves now and speak their minds, too. As most women know, this has been true of our gender for all of time, but I keep that bit of history to myself. I figure these time travelers will eventually return to women who wish they hadn’t, and those sisters are entitled to their secrets.

Lately, I’m wondering whether time travel isn’t contagious. Spreads like a syndrome maybe.

Take North Dakota, the largest producer of spring wheat and home of “Geese in Flight,” a piece of art made from used oil-well pipes and tanks that, according to Guinness World Records, is the largest metal sculpture in the world. I mention these things because I don’t want you to think the story of North Dakota begins and ends with the conduct of two state representatives who took on the womenfolk to defend so-called blue laws requiring some businesses to open late on Sundays and others to stay shut all day long.

State Rep. Vernon Laning seconded that emotion and added, “I don’t know about you, but my wife has no problem spending everything I earn in 6 1/2 days. And I don’t think it hurts at all to have a half a day off.”

Laning later told the NBC affiliate that people who are offended by their comments need to get a sense of humor.

How many times do we have to go over this? Nothing kills a joke like having to explain it. If we aren’t laughing, you aren’t funny.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, the Republicans voted Tuesday to formally silence Democratic colleague Elizabeth Warren. She dared to impugn the character of Sen. Jeff Sessions by reading a 1986 letter from Coretta Scott King urging the Senate to reject Sessions’ nomination as a federal judge.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained that Warren knew darn well she was violating an arcane rule of the Senate. “She was warned,” he said. “She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Nevertheless, She Persisted.

There’s a line for your bumper sticker and favorite T-shirt right there.

Look for that best-selling title, too, coming to a bookstore near you.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com)

IMAGE: Protesters gather for the Women’s March in Oslo, Norway, January 21, 2017. The march is being held in solidarity with similar events taking place internationaly. NTB Scanpix/Stian Lysberg Solum via REUTERS

Former ‘Apprentice’ Contestant Sues Trump Over Sexual Assault Denial

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – One of about a dozen women who previously accused President-elect Donald Trump of making unwanted sexual advances filed a lawsuit against him in New York on Tuesday, alleging he had made false and defamatory statements about her in rejecting the accusation, causing her emotional and economic harm.

The lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a one-time contestant on Trump’s reality television show “The Apprentice,” is focused on a stream of denials Trump aimed at her and other women accusers last October, just weeks before the Nov. 8 presidential election, when Zervos and others came forward to accuse the then-candidate of making unwanted sexual advances.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks called the allegations “absurd.”

“More of the same from Gloria Allred,” said Hicks, referring to Zervos’ high-profile attorney. “There is no truth to this absurd story.”

At the time the women made their allegations, Trump, a Republican, who went on to win the election and who takes office on Friday, adamantly denied all the accusations in posts on Twitter, statements, interviews and comments at rallies. He suggested at one rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Oct. 14 that the accusers were fabricating their stories for publicity or to damage his campaign.

With regard to Zervos specifically, Trump told the rally in Charlotte just hours after she made her allegations that it was “not hard to find a small handful of people willing to make false smears for personal fame, who knows maybe for financial reasons, political purposes,” according to the lawsuit.

“Mr. Trump’s false, defamatory statements about Ms. Zervos – that, among other things, she made up her descriptions of Mr. Trump’s misconduct as a hoax, and that she is creating a ‘phony’ story just so that she can be famous – have been deeply detrimental to Ms. Zervos’s reputation, honor and dignity,” the lawsuit stated.

At a news conference in Los Angeles announcing the lawsuit on Tuesday, Zervos said she wanted Trump to apologize.

“Since Mr. Trump has not issued a retraction as I requested, he has therefore left me with no alternative other than to sue him in order to vindicate my reputation,” Zervos said.

Her lawsuit said she was seeking “all possible remedies,” including the apology and retraction, from Trump.

Allred, who also represents a number of women who have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct, raised the possibility at the news conference that Trump might be required to give a deposition in the case.

The lawsuit said Trump kissed Zervos without her consent at his office in New York in December 2007 and later at a hotel in Beverly Hills, California, kissed her, touched her breast, and tried to get her to lie on a bed during a meeting about a possible job.

She and the other women came forward after a video from 2005 surfaced showing Trump boasting of making unwanted advances toward women including grabbing women by the genitals – a video that he later apologized for but said was simply “locker room talk” and was not his actual behavior.

(Reporting by Dana Feldman and Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Summer Zervos listens as her attorney Gloria Allred speaks during a news conference announcing the filing of a lawsuit against President-elect Donald  Trump in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 17, 2017.  REUTERS/Mike Blake

How Mainstream Headlines Have Been Normalizing Donald Trump

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

President-elect Donald Trump is not a normal politician, which is evidenced by his actions, statements, and tendency to make and promote outright lies. But Trump’s break from the norm would not be clear to readers who only glance at headlines, as most do. For months, media have helped normalize Trump with headlines that sanitize his ties to extremists, uncritically echo his lies, and whitewash his incendiary comments. As media prepare to cover a Trump administration, they must work harder to craft headlines that portray Trump’s actions and statements accurately.

Headlines about the appointments Trump has made to his cabinet and White House staff have helped sanitize his nominees, despite their bigoted rhetoric. After Trump appointed Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart.com, to serve as his chief strategist, newspapers labeled Bannon as a “Conservative flame-thrower,” a “conservative firebrand,” and a “tormenter of establishment GOP.” These descriptions downplay the fact that Bannon ran an unabashedly white nationalist and anti-Semitic website, as well as Bannon’s own history of alleged anti-Semitism. Even when The New York Times reported that Bannon “occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners,” the headline referred to him as “Combative, Populist Steve Bannon,” ignoring completely his remarks. When Trump appointed Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to serve as his national security adviser, headlines downplayed his Islamophobia and his conflicts of interest and branded him as someone who “brings experience and controversy” and is “not afraid to ruffle feathers.” While the headlines may be accurate, they do not give readers the essential information they need to know about the people who will have Trump’s ear.

Headlines have also left out important context about Trump’s lies. After Trump falsely claimed that he “worked hard” to keep a Ford plant “in Kentucky,” media promoted Trump’s spin in headlines, leaving out the fact that the plant in question was never going to close. After Trump lied in a tweet claiming that he would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” mainstream media uncritically echoedhim in their headlines and on social media. Trump is an unprecedented liar, and by simply echoing Trump’s statements, the headlines might as well have come from a Trump press release.

This problem persisted before the election as well. When Trump addressed his history with the birther movement, headlines failed to mention that Trump had not apologized for his years-long crusade to delegitimize President Obama and that he lied by asserting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had started the rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya.

In the run-up to the election, headlines also helped normalize Trump’s behavior, which would be unacceptable for anyone else, let alone a candidate for president. Following the release of a 2005 Access Hollywood video where Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, media headlines characterized the conversation as “lewd.” Lewd is correct, but it misses the point. Trump was talking about imposing himself physically on women without consent. That is sexual assault. Media shouldn’t hide behind creative adjectives to normalize this behavior.

Headlines are indisputably the most important part of an article. As The Washington Post reported, “roughly six in 10 people acknowledge that they have done nothing more than read news headlines in the past week,” and “that number is almost certainly higher than that, since plenty of people won’t want to admit to just being headline-gazers but, in fact, are.” By continually refusing to use headlines to call out Trump’s ties to extremists, incessant lying, and his atrocious behavior, media are normalizing his actions. There have been pleas from many in media to stop normalizing Trump. Headlines would be a good place to start.

IMAGE: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (R) and vice presidential candidate Mike Pence speak in an overflow room at a campaign event in Roanoke, Virginia, U.S., July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The GOP Two-Step: Republican Trump Critics Fall In Line

What an election year. I feel like I’ve been transported through a cosmic squirrel hole and into a baffling political universe where facts are fiction, bizarre is normal and corruption is a virtue. Am I hallucinating? Or has this insanity really happened?

Since I can’t yet conjure up the deep meanings (or lack thereof) in this year’s national vote, I’ll offer instead a reflection on some of the oddities from this rutted and pot-holed general election road we’ve traveled, jouncing through the destruction brought largely by the furies howling from deep within The Donald.

Trump on his own splendiforousness:

“No one RESPECTS WOMEN more than me.”

“Nobody BUILDS WALLS better than me, believe me.”

“MY IQ is one of the highest.”

“Nobody knows more about TAXES than me.”

“Nobody knows BANKING better than I do.”

“I have a great relationship with THE BLACKS.”

“There’s nobody that’s done so much for EQUALITY as I have.”

“I’m the LEAST RACIST person you’ll ever meet.”

“Nobody’s ever been more SUCCESSFUL than me.”

“Nobody knows THE SYSTEM better than me.”

“I’m REALLY RICH. And by the way, I’m not even saying that in a braggadocious way.”

“There’s nobody who feels more strongly about WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES!”

“There has to be SOME FORM OF PUNISHMENT [for women who seek abortions].”

Finally, who can forget Trump’s assessment of his own magnificence in a 2015 Lincoln Day speech, when he declared: “Bing bing, bong bong, bing bing.” Honest Abe couldn’t have said it better, could he?

Trump’s limitless ego wasn’t the worst of the spectacle, of course. Again and again this year, packs of Republican Congress critters rushed to the media to denounce the boorish comments and bullying behavior of their party’s presidential nominee. And then, having blasted Trump as being somewhere between thuggish and morally depraved, they proceeded to urge voters to elect the brute our nation’s leader.

The worst of these gutless lawmakers are the top two GOP leaders, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Like clowns in a jack-in-the-box, they kept popping out to decry The Donald’s latest attack on the people he hates. Then this pitiful duo meekly folded back into the box, reiterating that, well, they would still endorse him to be president of our U.S. of A! For example, after October’s stunning revelation that Trump had bragged on video about how easy it is for him to assault women sexually, here came McConnell, professing outrage: “As the father of three daughters,” he sputtered, “I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize … for the utter lack of respect for women.” In turn, Ryan proclaimed that he was “sickened by what I heard.” Nonetheless, neither Mitch nor Paul was offended enough to withdraw his embrace of Trump, instead insisting that the misogynist should be our president. How sickening is that?

Then came the Congressional two-step, a Republican line-dance featuring stalwarts so appalled by the Trump Access Hollywood video that they summoned the integrity to withdraw their endorsement of the serial groper. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska declared Trump’s attitude “disgusting and totally unacceptable under any circumstance,” calling on him to withdraw; Sen. John Thune of South Dakota also demanded that the nominee step down, fuming that Trump’s boasting of grabbing women’s genitals was “more offensive than anything that [he] had seen” from the narcissistic candidate. At last, some political courage! But only momentarily. Scorched by a furious backlash from Donald diehards, Fischer and Thune quickly stepped back into line, obediently dancing again to Trump’s tune and pledging anew to support him.

Even though I still can’t make sense of it all, I do know that now more than ever it is important for us to continue to organize and mobilize across the country around populist issues and local campaigns. The Working Families Party, the Greens, the majority of Democrats (including Hillary backers) and the no-party people are in open rebellion and change is coming. To advance it, thousands of us Berniecrats have launched Our Revolution, an independent, state-based political network that flows from, and is building on, the progress and grassroots structures of Sanders’ seminal run. It’s already organizing for next year’s local elections and looking toward the 2018 congressional races, the 2020 presidential contest — and beyond.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Webpage at www.creators.com.

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts