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Roy Moore Proves The Moral Bankruptcy Of The Religious Right

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

 

He is a judge who was suspended from his position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for failing to uphold the Constitution of the United States. But that wasn’t enough to keep Roy Moore from winning the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. If anything, it was Moore’s defiance in the face of a federal court decision mandating that government officials issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples that won him the love of the Alabamians who turned out to vote for him.

Or maybe it was that time in 2003 when Moore lost his seat on the court for refusing to remove a 2.6-ton monument of the Ten Commandments from the courthouse—a monument whose placement Moore had overseen. Take that, First Amendment!

These are the kinds of antics that have won Moore the admiration of self-described Christians on the right side of the political spectrum. And while the Ten Commandments forbid the coveting of one’s neighbor’s wife, it says nothing of the neighbor’s daughter. So while Republican leaders and elected officials slowly assemble in opposition to Moore’s candidacy in the December 12 special election, significant and politically active right-wing evangelical Christian leaders have either maintained silence or defended Moore in the wake of allegations he assaulted two teenage girls when he was in his 30s, and pursued “relationships” with an additional three teenagers.

At the Values Voter Summit hosted last month by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council, Moore was presented as a star to a conference audience of right-wing Christian political activists, who cheered him with gusto. There he delivered a largely incoherent speech complaining of how America had lost its way. During a luncheon address to a smaller group earlier in the day, Moore called for the impeachment of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who wrote the majority opinion that legalized same-sex marriage, according to a report by Peter Montgomery of Right Wing Watch. In fact, Moore believes that sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex should be illegal, according to Montgomery. But sexual relations between an adult man and a teenage girl, whether she’s reached the age of consent or not, well that’s apparently the way God intended things to be.

Although Moore denies the allegations made by five women over the last several days that he sought dates or sex from them when they were teenagers and he was a thirtysomething district attorney, in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, Moore did not flat-out deny that he sought to date teenagers during that time in his life. He simply said that he “generally” didn’t seek such relationships. Now, even Hannity has revoked his support for Moore.

Yet not a peep has been heard from Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. Not a word about Moore appears in recent posts on either the Family Research Council or FRC Action websites, the latter of which still shows a press release announcing FRC Action’s endorsement of Moore. “These are challenging times and our nation is looking for bold leadership,” reads a quote from Perkins in the release. FRC Action PAC Vice President Jerry Boykin adds, “Judge Roy Moore has been a fearless champion of conservative values and a great friend to the Family Research Council. It is a true privilege to endorse him for the U.S. Senate. I have no doubt that Judge Moore will follow his conscience and not be swayed by political correctness or political expediency.”

On November 13, American Family Association official Sandy Rios defended Moore. Speaking on her radio program, Rios said, according to Right Wing Watch, “Honestly, do you think there’s a person alive on the planet—certainly, I’ll limit it a little bit, I will say any man listening to my voice—that doesn’t have something in his past, in his box of secrets, that he’s ashamed of sexually?” Rios asked. “Especially, let’s just say, beginning in the ’60s.”

And the Washington Post reports that in Alabama, state-level Republican officials are sticking with Moore, regardless of the call by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for Moore to exit the Senate race. Failing that, McConnell predicted that Moore would be expelled from the Senate if seated, a move that would require a two-thirds vote of the body.

The Moore candidacy for Senate never was McConnell’s idea of a good move; in the primary, McConnell, like President Donald J. Trump, endorsed the incumbent Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed to the post when Sessions vacated his seat to join the Trump administration. But Steve Bannon, the former Trump campaign CEO and White House strategist who now leads Breitbart News, saw the Moore candidacy as a tool in his proxy war against McConnell, whose Senate leadership Bannon told the New York Times he’d like to end. It’s all part of Bannon’s grand plan to wed Breitbart’s alt-right fan base to the religious right, according to reporter Sarah Posner, for maximum political effect.

If there were any doubt that religious-right leaders such as Perkins and Rios are more about the politics than Christian love, their respective silence on or defense of Moore lays that doubt to rest.

As Moore himself told the Values Voter Summit audience in a verse he penned himself, “You think that God’s not angry that our land’s a moral slum? How much longer will it be before his judgment comes?”

Adele M. Stan is a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

 

Trump Brings Out The Bible For Faith And Freedom

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

As Washington sat transfixed before the image of former FBI Director James Comey spilling some beans on the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump went to work. An expert in creating crises, Trump is not the kind to let his handiwork go to waste.

At a conference of mostly evangelical Christians convened in Washington, DC, by Republican political operative Ralph Reed, Trump reminded attendees of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual Road to Majority conference of their agenda and his. If he made any reference to the drama unfolding before the Senate Intelligence Committee, it was this: “As you know, we’re under siege; you understand that,” the president said. “But we will come out bigger, better and stronger than ever — you watch.”

Expressing his appreciation to members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition for their work on his behalf during the 2016 presidential race, Trump cited some 22 million pieces of mail sent, 16 million videos shared, 10 million phone calls made and 1.2 million doors knocked on “in the key battleground states.” He quoted the Book of Isaiah from the teleprompter.

He went on to recount what he had already delivered for his religious supporters: a drastic reduction in illegal crossings on the southern border; the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, a foe of abortion rights, to the Supreme Court; an “executive action” on religious freedom, a withdrawal of aid to overseas humanitarian groups that dare to speak of abortion, and withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. That last one elicited a raucous and sustained cheer from the assembled, seeing as how its very name combines two mutually repugnant ideas: the fact of climate change and a city in which people speak French.

Without naming it as such, Trump noted the leaked draft of a rule revision, dated May 27, under consideration at the Department of Health and Human Services that would appear to definitively permit religious orders that run hospitals and social service agencies to flout the current mandate that employer-provided health insurance include coverage for prescription contraceptives. “The Little Sisters of the Poor,” Trump said, referring to a Catholic religious order that brought a lawsuit against the Obama administration that challenged the mandate, had just won big with his executive actions on behalf of “religious freedom.” The president pointed at two nuns in the audience. “Stand up,” he instructed them. “You don’t mess with the Little Sisters,” he quipped. Never mind that the nuns obediently standing were from an entirely different order (the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist); they were old women in habits. They would do. The optics worked.

He went on at length to describe his instruction to the IRS to refrain from investigating houses of worship for political activity that would threaten their non-profit status as an unleashing of free speech from the pulpits of the nation.

The audience then received an accounting of the agenda yet to be undertaken—the part that requires legislation by Congress. Trump came to Road to Majority to set its army of socially conservative, mostly white churchgoers to work on Capitol Hill, lobbying senators and members of the House, as many groups do during national conference. But few get their marching orders directly from the president, even if not said in so many words.

First on the president’s list was the health care bill that is currently stalled in the Senate.

“Restoring freedom and opportunity also means repealing and replacing the disaster—known as—” He put his hand to is ear.

“Obamacare!” the crowd shouted.

“That was easy,” Trump replied. “Something—I hope great—is going to come out through [Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell in the Senate.”

The next big item was tax reform—“the biggest tax cut ever,” he said. But sadly, Trump added, they would have to pass each of these measures without a single Democratic vote, because Democrats are obstructionists who are “bad, right now, for the country.”

“The entrenched interests and failed bitter voices in Washington will do everything in their power to try and stop us from this righteous cause—to try to stop all of you,” Trump said. “They will lie, they will obstruct, they will spread their hatred and their prejudice, but we will not back down from doing what is right. Because, as the Bible tells us, we know that the truth will prevail, that God’s glorious wisdom will shine through, and that the good and decent people of this country will get the change they voted for, and that they so richly deserve.”

He patted himself on the back for deporting people he deemed “gang members” and “drug dealers,” and characterized his “summit” with Saudi leaders as a blow against global terrorism.

He made a call for unity, noting that “whether we are black, brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood.”

In America, he said, “we don’t worship government; we worship God.”

The speech, delivered at the conference luncheon, was well-received. Afterward, attendees boarded busses headed for the Capitol—the Senate’s Dirksen Office Building, to be exact. There they would be treated to a town hall-style meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers. The meeting was closed to the press.

Once it concluded, members of the group would lobby the senators from their respective states.

Milling outside the hearing room where the town hall would take place, Rebecca Clutter, a woman who looked to be in her 50s or 60s, offered her assessment of the president’s speech. “[I]t was amazing and awesome and it hit all the points,” said Clutter, who had traveled to Washington from Ohio, where she had knocked on doors during the campaign under the aegis of Women for Trump.

Casey Matta, a student at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, also loved the president’s speech, naming as his favorite points Trump’s anti-abortion rhetoric and “something about the Paris [climate accord].”

Asked how the US withdrawal from the climate accord agreement fit in with the religious purpose of the Faith and Freedom Coalition event, Matta thought a minute. “Well, I think it’s like a Republican religious convention so when he brings that kind of stuff for conservatives … I agree with that.”

What did he make of the probe of Russian meddling in the US election, and contacts between Trump campaign figures and Russian officials? Matta said he didn’t believe that Russia had intervened in the election. By his lights, it was all a put-up job by Democrats.

“I think [Trump] definitely is being targeted, with the Democrats and everything. I mean, they need to cool it,” he said. “Give him some time to worry about what he’s got to worry about now.”

Right now, Trump is worrying about, among other things, getting a legislative win. And Casey Matta, Rebecca Clutter, and hundreds of others came to the nation’s capital to help him get it, all in the name of God.

Adele M. Stan is a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

White America Proves How Much It Hates Women (And Latinos, Muslims, Blacks And Jews)

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

For many of the women of America—excluding those for whom the importance of their white, Christian identity supercedes that of the daily cruelties of misogyny—election night 2016 was the bitterest of pills. When Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office as he assumes the presidency, America will welcome into the White House a man who has boasted of sexually assaulting women, of referring to his opponent in negative, gendered terms, and of using his wealth and power to allow him to walk in on women in states of undress.

Nice goin’, America!

For this feminist, at least as difficult to grapple with as the Trump victory itself are the numbers of women who voted for him. Yes, Hillary Clinton won a majority of the female vote, but Trump still convinced 42 percent of women who voted to vote for him, according to exit polls posted by CNN. Among white women, Trump won the majority, 53 percent. And Trump won a far greater number of white, college-educated women than anyone expected: 45 percent.

In their day-after assessments of what went wrong for their candidate, liberals and progressives can be expected to advance the economic argument, the one that says it was the white people left behind in the new economy who elected Trump. But that’s just too simplistic an explanation to cover the whole reason for his victory. This did not happen simply because of economic displacement; it’s about changes in the social order.

Trump and Clinton evenly split the vote between people who earn more than $100,000 per year, and Trump won among those who earn between $50,000-$100,000. It was Clinton who won a strong majority among those who earn less than $50,000.

No, the Trump victory is not about the economic suffering of his voters; it’s a backlash to a new societal composition that allows non-white people to compete alongside whites; one in which non-Hispanic whites are shrinking in the share of U.S. population they represent. And one in which a woman dared to presume to seek the presidency.

On Election Day morning, I dashed from the taxi stand in front of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to the cab I was directed to by the dispatcher, when a young man accused me of rudely walking in front of him, and began screaming that I was a c*nt. “I hope Trump wins,” he said, looking me over. He continued yelling, hurling the c-word at me, saying I looked like garbage, saying he was glad his mother didn’t look like me.

Shocking, yes, but easy to write off as a chance encounter with a crazy person. But when I posted on social media and listservs about the incident, women began telling their own stories of similar recent encounters—a journalist was groped coming out of a Trump rally, another was yelled at. And then there’s the account published by Alison Turkos on Rewire of a particularly creepy act of aggression directed at her for the sin of wearing a Hillary T-shirt—a man sidled up to her as she waited at a street corner for the light to change, and whispered in her ear that Clinton was a c*nt and so was she.

Welcome to the Age of Trump. The president-elect has normalized this kind of behavior. After all, when Sid Miller, a Texas politician on the Trump campaign’s Agriculture Advisory Committee referred to Clinton herself by that awful, dehumanizing word, Trump never batted an eye, and even lauded Miller afterward for touting poll numbers that reflected positively on Trump. It was another of what Trump’s fanboys on the anti-Semitic, racist alt-right would call a Trump wink-wink. He didn’t specifically reward Miller for using the c-word to describe Clinton; he just talked up the tweet in which Miller did so.

Trump himself has made a habit of publicly demeaning women, sometimes sexually, even saying it would be OK for a radio host to refer to Trump’s daughter as “a hot piece of ass.” And who needs to be reminded of that Access Hollywood tape? Note, however, that Trump’s appeal to his voters is not something that exists in spite of such evidence of the president-elect’s misogyny; the appeal is in the misogyny.

In his pact with leaders of the religious right, Trump promised to appoint only anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court, and to defund Planned Parenthood. With a Republican House and Senate churning out anti-woman legislation, he’ll be expected to append his signature, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t.

The women of America—especially women of color—are in for it. For the other part of Trump’s appeal to his voters is his racism. And his nativism. And his religious bigotry. This was the backlash election to beat all backlash elections—backlash against a black president with a foreign-sounding name, and against the portent of a woman president.

For all of its glorious machinery, the Democratic Party (and the liberal establishment) has consistently failed to address the strength of the right-wing strain of populism in American politics. Designed for the launching and working of cyclical elections, the party apparatus, however sophisticated, is ill-suited to the sort of sustained base-building required to counter that of the right.

The Trump presidency is the result of more than 50 years of organizing and infrastructure-building by right-wing leaders, first among them Phyllis Schlafly, whose political career began with the 1964 Goldwater campaign, and reached its pinnacle with the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1982. Before her death in September, Schlafly endorsed Trump. One imagines her today, bursting with pride in the great beyond.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

IMAGE: Supporters of Donald Trump rally in front of the White House. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Pantsuit Feminism Is Real Feminism

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

On November 8, if America doesn’t make history by electing its first former beauty-pageant owner and reality-show star as president, it will do so by electing the first woman to occupy the Oval Office. A woman in a suit; a suit that has pants.

Much is made of Hillary Clinton’s sartorial choice of the matching jacket and slacks as her signature look. But whether the subject of celebration or mockery, the response stems from the same fact—that a woman in public life who shucks nylons and pumps in favor of the freedom of movement long afforded men, well, that’s a woman who is claiming power.

Some might claim that the pantsuit is merely a symbol of feminism, one that can belie the motives of the woman who wears it. Symbol though it be, there is nothing “mere” about it: the pantsuit, as worn by the first presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party, is feminism itself. Its existence as an acceptable form of female dress in the halls of power is the result of thousands of years of feminism, and in Western culture, particularly the last few hundred.

The battle to unbind women from corsets and crinolines and bustles and busks was the work of feminists. It’s hardly a coincidence that the doffing of the corset in the 1920s, together with the adoption of a shorter dress that hung loosely on the frame, coincided with the time women gained the right to vote. But pants were another thing entirely. Pants were—and often still are—symbolic of something other than comfort or even ease of movement. Pants are a symbol of power and self-possession. Pants encase and protect the genitals while skirts offer access. A woman in pants is claiming her body as her own, treading her own path in the world.

Feminists in the 19th century sometimes stepped out in pants, often in the context of bicycling (itself a controversial activity for women). Even in those circumstances, the sight of a woman in pants stirred outrage and fear. A photographic illustration from 1897 bears the caption, “The New Woman—Wash Day,” and shows a man in an apron hunched over a laundry basin while a woman wearing pants stands over him, jauntily smoking a cigarette. It would be another 24 years before American women won the right to vote, and another 72 years before a woman serving in the United States Senate would be permitted to wear pants while delivering a floor speech.

As late as 1938, a woman was arrested in Los Angeles for wearing pants in a courtroom, and was jailed for five days. The movie star Katharine Hepburn was frowned upon by Hollywood for wearing blue jeans to the set. In 1969, I was sent home from public school for wearing pants to class. The walk to school was long, the winter was cold and skirts were short. Had I worn a floor-length skirt, I would have been deemed weird, but not in violation of the dress code. But the sight of pants on the female form, it seemed, was transgressively distracting. It earned me my junior-high nickname, “Stan the man.”

In 1993, only months after Hillary Rodham Clinton became first lady, Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, the first African-American woman to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland in wearing pants on the Senate floor, prompting the sergeant-at-arms to change the archaic rule prohibiting women senators so clad from standing at their desks in the upper chamber.

* * *

As first lady, Hillary Clinton wore her share of skirts, and was hardly the first in that ceremonial role to wear pants from time to time. It wasn’t until she launched her own bid for a U.S. Senate seat, however, that the pantsuit became her everyday look.

It was in 2000, as Bill Clinton was finishing his second term as president, that the first lady threw her hat in the ring of electoral politics to vie for the seat being vacated by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, who was retiring. I was the Washington correspondent for the now-defunct Working Woman magazine, and managed to arrange a White House interview with the candidate.

I wore my best suit, a blue, brushed-silk number consisting of a matching jacket and skirt. With my limited resources as a freelance reporter, I wouldn’t have considered sinking real money into a suit of the sort that featured trousers. In conservative Washington, I didn’t want to risk having my best suit be one that might be frowned upon in some of the spaces my reporting took me to.

I was ushered into the Treaty Room, where I was greeted by Hillary Clinton, coiffed in an elegant but unfussy manner. She wore a brown suit with pants, a pink knit shell and a short, simple necklace of chunky beads. She looked great. And subtly transgressive. For the genius of a woman’s pantsuit is not only the power and self-agency conveyed by the pants; it’s that power combined with the elements of sartorial self-expression traditionally reserved for the female sex—choices of color, proportion, jewelry and other accessories. She’s clearly a woman—and she’s wearing THE PANTS.

This is why no amount of mockery by those who deem themselves arbiters of fashion—at least when It comes to the clothing choices of the first woman nominee of a national party, of heaven forfend, the first woman president of the United States—can dissuade supporters of Hillary Clinton from embracing the pantsuit. There were fundraisers called “The Night of 1,000 Pantsuits,” and a flash mob of dancers that poured into New York City’s Union Square on October 2.

In our interview, I asked Clinton how she endured the constant scrutiny and criticism, which seemed as much about the changing role of women in society as about her as a person. She paused for a minute, and said:

“You know, I stopped thinking about it very much because I want to live my own life the best way I can. And if I think too much about how other people may be perceiving it, that becomes burdensome. … I want to be as grounded, as centered as I can be, in who I am and what I believe and what I want to help make happen for people.

“I can’t really worry too much about what any one person or any group of people may see in me. I can only keep doing the best I can, and if that provides support or it provides some example to others—not about the way I’m living my life, but about the way I’m trying to make choices that are right for me—then I will be very happy about that.”

On Election Day 2016, many women will choose their attire with intention. Though the white pantsuit is yet to be considered a fashion-forward ensemble, it will be soon enough. Hillary Clinton is poised to ascend to the presidency, and those men made queasy by the notion of a woman in the nation’s top job may take comfort in the fact that, just like they do, she puts her trousers on one leg at a time.

https://youtu.be/GxHT4kFG14M

IMAGE:  U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacts before boarding her campaign plane at Miami international airport in Miami, Florida, U.S., October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Is Reckless Comey Seeking Revenge On Critics Via FBI Twitter Account?

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. 

Something very dangerous is happening in the Federal Bureau of Investigation: The nation’s foremost law enforcement agency appears to be at war both within itself and with the Department of Justice, to which it belongs. The disagreements all involve our national politics and the FBI’s appropriate role in them, leaving the American people with yet another major institution on their do-not-trust list. The government is coming ever more undone, so much so that a recent Twitter post from an FBI account is raising questions about who’s behind it—the director of the FBI, or agents seemingly beyond his control.

The chaos burst into public view on Friday, October 28, 11 days before the 2016 presidential election is scheduled to take place. That’s when FBI director James Comey issued—against the wishes of DOJ officials and counter to department guidelines—his infamous letter informing the chairmen of eight congressional committees that agents investigating a possible sex crime by former congressman Anthony Weiner had found correspondence on his computer, involving his estranged wife Huma Abedin, that may be pertinent to the bureau’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. (Abedin is a longtime Clinton aide.) Comey hadn’t seen the emails, he said, and didn’t know what was in them, leaving a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if he just wasn’t trying to sway the election.

In the meantime, as noted in a letter to Comey from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the FBI was investigating links between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the government of Russia. There again, it may well be that the FBI hasn’t uncovered any actionable information, but its director has not seen fit to write a letter to Congress in order to inform committee chairs that it has discovered a server used by the Trump Organization, possibly to conduct traffic between itself and the Alfa Bank of Russia.

According to news reports, the Bureau has also investigated the Trump Organization’s use of the server, but doesn’t know what’s been transmitted on it. Kind of like Anthony Weiner’s laptop, except that it involves a foreign government that is also believed by leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies to be behind the hacks of the emails of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the chairman of the Hillary Clinton for President campaign. (The Intercept published an article Tuesday claiming to debunk the theory of the “Trump server” communicating with Alfa Bank.)

So it seems that from a law enforcement perspective, the FBI behaved properly in not sending word to Congress about the server, or any as-of-yet unproven links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. But that same standard was not applied in the case of the Weiner laptop.

It’s been reported that Comey was feeling pressure, not just from Republicans who are furious with him for not indicting Clinton for her use of her private server for the conduct of government business, but from his own agents. And it would seem that Comey feels stung by the criticism he’s taking from Democrats regarding the letter he sent to Congress on Friday.

Now comes word, via Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal, that agents who were investigating allegations of influence-peddling involving the Clinton Foundation were incensed when higher-ups at the Justice Department urged them to tread carefully so as to adhere to department guidelines against taking action that could influence an election, and that members of the Department’s anti-corruption unit didn’t think the FBI had a strong case.

It seems as if whoever controls a Bureau Twitter account called @FBIRecordsVault has struck back against all those Clinton surrogates who are calling foul on Comey. The account, whose purpose is the posting of documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests, appears to have been dead for a year—no postings since Oct. 7, 2015. Suddenly, on Tuesday, it sprang to life with a handful of posts, one a nothing-burger on Fred Trump, father of the Republican standard-bearer; and another on an old investigation of the Clinton Foundation and President Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, then a fugitive hedge-fund manager whose wife had donated to the DNC and the Clinton Foundation. It was Comey who brought the criminal case against Rich, Bloomberg News reports, and is said to have been “stunned” by Clinton’s pardon of the financier. The documents linked in the tweet don’t say much of anything (they’re heavily redacted), but the tweet itself does reinforce in the public mind the controversies advanced by Clinton’s enemies about the foundation. It’s not the fact of the tweet that’s at issue—the material was released via FOIA—but the timing of it from an account that was only reactivated Sunday.

Over the years, leaders and members of the FBI have given the American people many reasons to draw the conclusion that, in matters involving the American political landscape and the people who inhabit it, the Bureau cannot be trusted. Among them are the FBI’s attempts to undermine Rev. Martin Luther King at the height of the civil rights movement, and the bureau’s infiltration of civil rights and anti-war groups in the 1960s through its COINTELPRO operation and a similar operation that targeted the American Indian Movement.

In subsequent years, the Bureau was seen as more or less chastened and rehabilitated, thanks to the 1976 Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, popularly known as the Church Committee (named for its chairman, Sen. Frank Church of Idaho).

Now we have entered a new era, in which the director of the FBI, with his letter to Congress, is acting so recklessly as to harm the very process of democracy. It seems that he’s either signed off on an election-week records dump, via Twitter, from an old investigation of the Clinton Foundation, or has lost control of the agents who staff the FBI’s Twitter account. Either way, he’s made a choice to let chaos reign in the closing days of a presidential campaign.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

IMAGE: FBI Director James Comey walks during a break in testimony during a House Judiciary hearing on “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy” on Capitol Hill in Washington March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Is Comey’s FBI Sitting On A Scandal That Could Destroy Trump’s Candidacy?

Reprinted with permission by AlterNet.

So, whatever happened with that FBI investigation of the hacks of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, as well as the email account of John Podesta, chairman of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign? That’s what Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid wants to know. Reid claims the bureau is sitting on “explosive information” linking Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to the Russian government, which is implicated in those email hacks.

On Friday, FBI director James Comey threw the 2016 presidential race into turmoil with a vague letter sent to the chairmen of eight congressional committees informing them that his agency had located additional emails that may be pertinent to the ongoing investigation of the Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a private email server for conducting government business during her tenure as secretary of state. At the time the letter was delivered, Comey had not yet examined the emails, and he admitted that they might amount to a whole lot of nothin’. (The FBI has since obtained a warrant to seize the newly discovered cache.)

According to Reid, in a letter to Comey on Sunday, the FBI director “possess[es] explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government—a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity.”

Reid continued: “I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public…and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.”

The latest episode in the Clinton email saga involves the FBI’s investigation of former congressman Anthony Weiner of New York for allegedly sexting a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina. (Because the alleged crime took place across state lines, it is in the purview of the FBI.) During the course of that investigation, the FBI discovered emails from Clinton aide Huma Abedin on Weiner’s computer. Abedin is married to Weiner, but the two separated after Weiner’s last reported transgression in August, when he texted a woman a photograph of his bulging crotch as his four-year-old son napped in bed next to him.

Yet in a news conference, after news broke of one of the DNC email hacks and alleged Russian involvement in the breach, Trump invited Russia to have at Clinton’s private email server, despite whatever consequences that might portend for U.S. foreign policy. And Trump’s own involvement with Russian interests is well-documented.

In his letter to Comey, Reid also suggests that the nation’s top cop may have violated the Hatch Act, a law that forbids actions by members of the executive branch—including all employees of the federal government—from taking actions that could sway an election.

If legal action is taken against Comey charging a Hatch Act violation, it will create an interesting test of the law, which is more often applied to such situations as federal employees using their work emails for political purposes, or wearing campaign gear to work.

Read more from AlterNet on Donald Trump’s links to Russian figures.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump points at the gathered media during his walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

The Great 2016 Campaign Mystery: Who’s In The Electorate?

Reprinted with permission by AlterNet

It’s often said that the 2016 presidential campaign is unlike any other, starting with the barrier-breaking gender of one candidate, and the use of misogyny and racism as positive brand-identifiers by the other. But there’s another factor that could spell a departure in the 2016 race from the presidential contests of 2012 and 2008, which will not be known until after the vote is in: just who will decide to vote?

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Saturday shows Clinton squeaking by Trump with a mere 2-point lead, a far different result from the 12-point Clinton lead the very same poll showed a mere five days before. The survey’s pollster says the sudden shift is more indicative of a changing view of who’s likely to turn out than of changes in the preferences of voters previously surveyed. Among them, a big bump up in the percentage of non-college-educated white women identifying as Trump voters, and a reluctance on the part of certain Democratic-leaning eligible voters to actually turn up at the polls.

As described by Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates, the firm that conducted the polling for the news outlets, according to an ABC News press release:

  • In one example, there are 6 points more Republicans and GOP-leaning independents showing up in the ranks of non-college white women. This group was broadly for Trump a few weeks ago, then less so; it’s now back, favoring him by 59-29 percent.
  • Loosely affiliated or reluctant Clinton supporters look less likely to vote, perhaps given their sense she can win without them—a supposition that looks less reliable today.

These surveys were taken before news broke of FBI director James Comey’s dark and vague letter to the chairmen of a number of congressional committees stating that new emails had been found on a laptop belonging to former congressman Anthony Weiner that may be pertinent to the FBI’s earlier investigation of emails hosted on Hillary Clinton’s private server while she was secretary of state. (Weiner is the estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin; the FBI is currently investigating his lewd text messages sent to a 15-year-old girl. In short, he’s disgusting.)

While the Trump campaign is likely reveling in news that a growing segment of the electorate is inclined toward its candidate (those Trump-appreciative women who were not expected to vote in this election), Bloomberg News published an exclusive report on the Trump campaign’s attempts to actually depress voter turnout among certain segments of the potential electorate, through the use of marketing techniques. The voters they hope to keep home are from constituencies more naturally aligned with Clinton: young women, African Americans and “idealistic white liberals” (Trumpspeak, one imagines, for Bernie supporters).

Campaign staffers who talked to Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg said Trump’s publicity stunt in the hour before the second presidential debate, when he sat at a long table in a hotel conference room, flanked by women who accused former president Bill Clinton of assaulting them, was designed to depress turnout for Clinton among young women. More quietly, the Trump people are pushing to black audiences a line Hillary Clinton delivered in a 1996 speech in which she referred to members of violent gangs as “superpredators,” a remark Trump and his surrogates describe as a broad-brush characterization of black teenagers. (Clinton has repeatedly expressed regret for her use of the term, which was in vogue in that era.)

From the October 27 Bloomberg report:

On Oct. 24, Trump’s team began placing spots on select African American radio stations. In San Antonio, a young staffer showed off a South Park-style animation he’d created of Clinton delivering the “superpredator” line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook “dark posts”—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as Parscale puts it, “only the people we want to see it, see it.” The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. “We know because we’ve modeled this,” says the official. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.”

The Trump team’s effort to discourage young women by rolling out Clinton accusers and drive down black turnout in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood with targeted messages about the Clinton Foundation’s controversial operations in Haiti is an odd gambit.

The Bloomberg writers report that the Trump campaign’s organizing model, according to its data and marketing guru Brad Parscale, is a Facebook strategy which, if it doesn’t succeed in suppressing the more progressive segment of the vote, is destined to at least yield Trump a fat list of dedicated followers before it’s all over.

* * *

In the meantime, a group of purported political insiders who talk regularly to Politico are still expecting to see a “Bradley effect” in the final vote tallies that shows voters who talked to pollsters were reluctant to admit that they planned to vote for Trump. According to Politico:

Most Republican insiders don’t believe [the polls are] accurately capturing Trump’s true level of support.

That’s according to the Politico Caucus—a panel of activists, strategists and operatives in 11 key battleground states. More than seven-in-10 GOP insiders, 71 percent, say the polls understate Trump’s support because voters don’t want to admit to pollsters that they are backing the controversial Republican nominee.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s lead over Trump among women overall is looking to be epic. When FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten parsed the polls by gender on October 17, Clinton enjoyed a 20-point lead among women voters in FiveThirtyEight’s “average of the most recent live-interview polls from each pollster to test the race in October.”

Anecdotally, there is some evidence of Republican women choosing either to vote for Clinton or to vote only in down-ballot races, skipping the race for the presidency. The New York Times talked to several women leaders in the GOP, following Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich’s attempt to slut-shame Fox News Megyn Kelly when the host of “The Kelly Files” dared to bring up the Republican nominee’s alleged groping of women.

From the New York Times report by Trip Gabriel:

“I think we’ll see a lot of women walk away from the party over this,” said Katie Packer, who was Mr. Romney’s deputy campaign manager. “What you’re seeing is 20 years, 30 years of frustration coming together and really, really compounded in the last couple of weeks.”

In Marie Clarie, Lyz Lenz wrote of her friends in her nearly all-Republican evangelical community secretly vowing to vote for Clinton. Lenz interviews a friend:

“It’s just not worth the capital for me to support Clinton in a visible context,” she says. “But one on one, I try to convince people that there are other alternatives to Trump.”

For the most part, though, she’s content to “pass” as a Trump voter. “In a normal election cycle, most Evangelical Christians are assuming others are like them,” she says. “I don’t correct their assumption.”

* * *

In any election, evidence of the makeup of the electorate is delivered no sooner than election day. But this election may not even offer that if there are an appreciable number of “shy” Trump voters and “shy” Clinton voters. Would these people even tell exit pollsters the name of their candidate?

And this election is different from all those before in other ways: Facebook itself has changed, and the Trump campaign is taking advantage of those changes with its use of “dark posts” and other new features designed for marketers.

In every election cycle, the electorate changes, according to the cycles of life. People turn 18 and register for the first time; other people die. People move to other states, drop out of voting, or decide to vote after not having done so in a while. But in a chaotic cycle in which the Democratic Party has seen a primary battle between its liberal and progressive wings, and the Republican Party has been all but wrecked by a candidate whose few stated policies often diverge from the party’s stated policies (say, on tariffs and trade), a very different assemblage of people from past presidential years could turn up at the polls. Will a sizeable number of white women who did not go to college and who haven’t voted in a while turn up to vote for Trump? That latest Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests that could happen.

The trick for pollsters will be to find ways of measuring any such changes to the composition of the electorate. The trick for everybody else: understanding what it means for our politics.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

IMAGE: Trump supporters listen as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan December 21, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Donald Trump’s Very Weird Russia Thing

Donald Trump, the Republican Party presidential nominee, has a Putin thing. The Trump campaign has a Russia thing. And Trump Tower has a Russian mobster-running-an-illegal-gambling-operation thing.

The Clinton campaign has a Russian-hacker thing, as does the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks is apparently on the receiving end of the yield from the Russian-hacker thing—the Clinton campaign and the DNC being the purloined-upon.

Roger Stone, the dirty trickster and Trump campaign adviser, seems to have a very good WikiLeaks thing going for him, but it would have gone much better if that video footage of Trump on the “Access Hollywood” bus hadn’t crapped all over it. Still, you’ve got to admire the sheer ambition of certain men, the lengths to which they will go to achieve their idea of world domination.

Stone’s former business partner, Paul Manafort, had to leave the Trump campaign, of which he was chairman, when documents unearthed in Ukraine called attention to his work for the pro-Russia side in Russia’s grab of the Crimea. Oops, wrong side.

The persistent subdominance of Russia-linked themes in this election has reached levels a Russian absurdist would love. Had it not been for the leak of the 2005 Access Hollywood video, this campaign would be all Russia, all the time. Russia messing in our election with a very psy-ops approach, Russia messing with our heads. And that’s f*cking weird.

While there may be an anti-Russia bias in U.S. media, that doesn’t disprove the obvious fact that the Trump campaign has ties to Russia, that Trump has admired Putin and has sought his favor, and that law enforcement and U.S. intelligence sources seem convinced Russian intelligence agents are involved in the hacking of the emails of Trump’s opponent. It’s like a “Get Smart” plot.

There’s a toxic brew of archetypes served up in the Russia election drama. In Vladimir Putin one finds the kind of classic, cold authoritarian who served as a role model for Trump, starting with his father, whose “stinginess with praise” for his children was noted by Jason Horowitz in a New York Times story about the Trump family.

When challenged in a televised forum about expressing admiration for Putin, the dictator who disappears journalists and has incited violence against LGBT people, Trump responded, “Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I’ll take the compliment, OK?”

Maybe I shouldn’t be indulging in such armchair psychologizing, being completely unqualified. But shit, you don’t need to draw me a picture. Truth be told, this campaign has completely unshackled me. Pussy pussy pussy pussy, piz’da (Russian for pussy). But enough about me.

What we have in Donald Trump is a little rich boy spoiled with everything he could possibly want, save his father’s affection—the one thing he couldn’t grab with impunity.

Roger Stone is long known as a dirty trickster who does his thing by jamming the works, sneaking through the back door and planting false narratives, sometimes through the use of a little walking-around money. For Stone, the thrill in winning is the thrill of the cheat, as when he told the Weekly Standard how he worked for the candidacy of third-party candidate John Anderson in 1980 in order to help Ronald Reagan win the electoral votes of the state of New York. He’s the ultimate evil imp, the joker, dandied up in a striped suit, transparently transgressive of the truth, boasting of his ability to change the dynamic of a race.

For Trump’s 2016 presidential run, Stone started out as an official member of the campaign staff, but left in August 2015 after conflicts with others on the campaign, only to assume a role as an “informal” adviser. He helped usher the exit of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and the hiring of his old business partner, Paul Manafort, to take Lewandowski’s place.

In the same Weekly Standard story, writer Matt Labash mentions in an aside that Stone, during the course of the writer’s interviews with him, suggested the two go to Ukraine together, where Stone has a client in Volodymyr Lytvyn, who was making a run for Parliament. What Labash doesn’t mention is that Stone’s client has been implicated in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, a thorn in the side of then-president Leonid Kuchma, for whom Lytvyn served as chief of staff. It’s a story full of intrigue—surreptitiously recorded tapes, an interior minister who may or may not have killed himself. The perfect client for the likes of Roger Stone.

Perhaps Stone’s most epic bit of stagecraft—thus far—is the so-called Brooks Brothers riot, when, as recounts of the 2000 election returns took place in Florida, he organized Republican Capitol Hill staffers to board buses to Miami and raucously storm the Miami-Dade board of elections offices where the recount was taking place.

In the interest of boosting Trump’s electoral fortunes, according to the Associated Press, Stone gave $2,500 through a pro-Trump PAC to Kathy Shelton for her story of Hillary Clinton’s work as a public defender on behalf of a man who had sexually assaulted Shelton when she was 12 years old. At Trump’s pre-debate press stunt October 9, which also featured three women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault or harassment, Shelton accused Hillary Clinton of making her life a misery during the course of the trial, which resulted in Shelton’s rapist (who pled guilty) ultimately gleaning a light sentence on a lesser charge. Trump has alleged that Clinton “laughed at” Shelton’s victimization during an interview with an Arkansas reporter, a charge PolitFact has deemed “false.” (There’s no evidence of Clinton doing anything other than what a good public defender should do on behalf of her client.)

Stone is also said to have raised money for Kathleen Willey, one of Bill Clinton’s accusers, to pay off her mortgage, according to the AP. Stone has also coordinated with radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to advance the claim that Hillary Clinton belongs in jail. (Jones’ latest contribution to campaign rhetoric is a contest with cash rewards for people who attend Clinton rallies and shout, “Bill Clinton is a rapist!”)

But Stone’s biggest boast of the 2016 campaign so far was made August 8, regarding his purported communication with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange through “a mutual friend,” promising an “October surprise.” On August 21,Stone tweeted that “it will soon [be] [Clinton campaign chair John] Podesta’s time in the barrel.” On October 4, as he periodically does, Assange appeared from his self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, live-streaming on the laptops of reporters throughout the world like a Cardassian general popping up on the screen of the Starship Enterprise command deck, promising a pre-election dump of documents that would embarrass Hillary Clinton.

The surprise turned out to be the hacking of Podesta’s email account by perpetrators purportedly linked to Russian intelligence agencies, according to FBI sources who talked to the Wall Street Journal—a charge Vladimir Putin himself does not deny.

“Everyone is talking about ‘who did it’ [the hacking],” Putin said in a speech at the October 12 VTB Capital ”Russia Calling!” Investment Forum in Moscow,according to Reuters. “But is it that important? The most important thing is what is inside this information.”

Big Daddy speaks. Trump is simply the conduit through which Putin communicates with America, chuckling as he executes a massive headtrip. It surely plays well to the folks back home in Russia. Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out….

From 1980, when he worked on the Reagan campaign, to 1996, Roger Stone was a business partner of Paul Manafort in the consulting firm Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly (BMSK). A staple of their business was representing the interests of dictators and strongmen such as Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, and Angolan guerilla leader Jonas Savimbi before the U.S. Congress and government agencies.

In 1992, the Center for Public Integrity published a report called “The Torturers’ Lobby,” naming BMSK among the top five public relations and lobbying firms representing regimes with horrendous human-rights records. When BMSK merged with another firm in 1996, Manafort left to form a new entity, Davis, Manafort & Freeman, and got in deep with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch, and Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin president of Ukraine who was deposed in a 2014 popular revolution sparked by Yanukovych’s about-face on his promise to sign an association agreement with the European Union in favor of stronger economic ties with Russia. He fled to Russia, where he remains today.

On August 14, the New York Times reported that ledgers left behind in a Kiev office by officials of Yanukovych’s Regions Party showed $12.7 million in cash payments designated for Manafort in what Ukrainian officials describe as an illegal, off-the-books operation. Manafort denied ever having received such payments, but the revelation was too much even for the Putin-loving Trump campaign, and Manafort made his way toward the door. Initially, it looked as if he would stick around after the hiring of Breitbart News chief executive Stephen K. Bannon and pollster Kellyanne Conway to run the show, but that arrangement soon proved untenable, and Manafort left the campaign.

It’s not just Manafort and Stone who enjoy the company of Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs; Trump has shown himself to be quite impressed with those who have reaped the rewards of being part of Putin’s kleptocracy. Upon announcing that the 2013 Miss Universe pageant (of which Trump was then part-owner) would take place in Moscow, Trump tweeted: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant? [I]f so, will he become my new best friend?”

Although apparently disappointed after having tried so hard to lure the Russian dictator to the pageant, the man who is now the Republican standard-bearer was nonetheless pleased with the draw of his November event. “All of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump told the New York Post after he returned to the U.S., according to a report by Michael Crowley in Politico. Among them were Aras and Emin Agalarov, the father-and-son team whose Crocus City Hall was the pageant venue.

Emin Agalarov, Crowley tells us, is a B-list pop star who got Trump’s attention when he made a music video featuring 2012 Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo, whom he stalks in the vid. Soon Trump was making the deal for the Moscow pageant with Emin’s dad, and talking about teaming up on real estate development projects in Russia. (Trump even appeared in a later video of Emin’s, reciting his trademark line—“You’re fired!”—from his reality show, “The Apprentice.”) Agalarov is said to be close to Putin. As of yet, no Trump-Agalarov partnership has been announced, though Crowley notes that Trump’s attention may have turned toward his plans to run for the U.S. presidency.

But just months before Trump announced his pageant plans for Moscow, something far stranger took place at Trump Tower, according to an investigation by David Corn and Hannah Levintova of Mother Jones. In April 2013, federal agents raided an apartment in Trump Tower—luxurious digs a floor below the Donald’s own sumptuous sanctuary—as “part of a larger raid that rounded up 29 suspected members of two global gambling rings” that were allegedly overseen by a big-deal Russian mobster named Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, who was said to have collected $10 million in just two months from the gambling operation. Caught in the web was the owner of the Trump Tower apartment, Vadim Trincher, and his business partner in the gambling enterprise, Anatoly Golubchik. Each was sentenced to five years in prison and made to forfeit $20 million in assets. Corn and Levintova write:

The indictment also targeted an associated gambling ring operated by Trincher’s son Illya, Hillel Nahmad, the son of a billionaire art dealer, and others. (Nahmad also reportedly owned the entire 51st floor of Trump Tower.) This crew managed a high-stakes betting operation and money-laundering shop.

Nahmad and Illya Trincher pled guilty.

Not caught was Tokhtakhounov, who remains a fugitive from U.S. justice. But that didn’t stop him, just months after being indicted by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, from attending Trump’s Miss Universe pageant, and walking the red carpet.

Not quite Putin, but one big kahuna.

Overshadowed by his #pussygate scandal in the second presidential debate was Trump’s defensive response after Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton accused him of being a Putin admirer when agents of Russian intelligence operations were hacking into the emails of the Democratic National Committee.

“I don’t know Putin,” Trump said. “I think it would be great if we got along with Russia because we could fight ISIS together, as an example. But I don’t know Putin.” Apparently not in that “new best friend” category yet.

Trump continued: “But I notice, anytime anything wrong happens, they like to say the Russians are—she doesn’t know if it’s the Russians doing the hacking. Maybe there is no hacking. But they always blame Russia. And the reason they blame Russia because they think they’re trying to tarnish me with Russia. I know nothing about Russia. I know—I know about Russia, but I know nothing about the inner workings of Russia. I don’t deal there. I have no businesses there. I have no loans from Russia.”

Had anybody asked Trump if he had loans from Russia? No. Clinton simply mentioned that he might have business interests there, which is probably a fair bet, if for no other reason than Trump’s Miss Universe adventure in Moscow where, gee whiz, all the oligarchs were in the room.

He then went into a seeming non sequitur about what a “great balance sheet” he has, saying because of that balance sheet, the U.S. government chose him to develop the site of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington DC.

“One of the primary area things—in fact, perhaps the primary thing—was balance sheet,” Trump continued. “But I have no loans with Russia. You could go to the United States government, and they would probably tell you that, because they know my sheet very well in order to get that development I had to have.”

Still, no one had asked him if he had loans with Russia, and now he had mentioned it twice.

And now he had contradicted himself with his assertion that he had no knowledge of Russia, having said during a Republican primary debate, “I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago, Miss Universe contest which was a big, big incredible event, an incredible success.”

While Trump may have no firsthand knowledge of hacking, during a July press conference, he invited Russia to hack into Clinton’s private email server, the one on which she controversially conducted government business during her tenure as secretary of state, and the subject of endless investigation by Republicans in Congress.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump to justify his praise for Putin in light of the fact that Putin “is a person that kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries.”

“Our country does plenty of killing also, Joe,” Trump responded. “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

It’s a hell of an election season, what with the Russian thing, and the pussy thing. Which has me thinking, pussy, Russia, pussy, Russia, Pussy Riot. Whatever happened to them?

Huh.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin cups his ear to listen to a question as he departs after a summit on the Ukraine crisis at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 2, 2015. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer  

Trump’s ‘Nasty Woman’ Comment Becomes Rallying Cry For Female Voters

Donald Trump just couldn’t help himself. At the third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas Wednesday night, after calling Hillary Clinton a liar, a thief and a criminal, he buckled under a crack she made about his character. Discussing her plan for changing the ceiling on taxable income for Social Security, she noted that even Trump would only have to pay an incremental increase under her plan, “assuming he can’t figure out a way to get out of it.”

“Such a nasty woman,” Trump interjected.

And with that, every smart woman who’s sought to make her way in the world summoned a memory.

Maybe it was a schoolyard memory of a boy she bested in an argument. Maybe a memory of a coworker telling her some guy at the workplace had said that about her after she made a forceful defense of an idea. Maybe some random guy on the street who felt rejected after she ignored his order to smile on command.

Note that Trump didn’t simply say, “that’s unfair,” or maybe, “that’s nasty.” It was important to label Hillary Clinton, the person, in a gendered way. His opponent is not merely “nasty,” she is “a nasty woman,” something far more horrifying.

Because, in his estimation, women are always supposed to be nice to Trump. It’s their duty, and his right to expect. Grab ‘em by the pussy, and expect them to be nice. Walk in on them in their dressing rooms, and expect them to be nice. Tell a radio shock jock it’s okay to call your daughter “a great piece of ass,” and expect her to be nice. It’s his birthright, after all, to have all women, everywhere, be nice to him, regardless of what he says or does to them. Surely, all of the women in his life are nice to hime—but they all report to him, in one way or another.

I’ve been called nasty simply for arguing politics with a man at a party. Nasty for trying to keep a know-nothing at a workplace from doing something that would have harmed the company. Nasty for challenging brogressives on their support of a neo-libertarian. But I digress….

Yet if Trump can turn even a question about the Supreme Court to an answer about how he felt treated by an individual justice (Ruth Bader Ginsburg said mean things about me!), why can’t I make this debate all about me?

I’ve been grabbed by the pussy, rated on my appearance, walked in on while dressing, had my rights abridged by the law, my former status as a menstruator mocked, and my intelligence insulted when I was deemed—physical flaws notwithstanding—too hot to be smart. And you know what? So have a lot of other women; women who vote.

The more Trump makes this election all about himself, the more women of America will choose to make it about themselves. And in that event, Trump clearly loses. Not that he’ll necessarily accept the outcome.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trumpspeaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their third and final 2016 presidential campaign debate at UNLV in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., October 19, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Ralston

In Blustering Speech, Trump Hints At Anti-Semitic Themes — And Future Mayhem

It would be tempting to label as “unhinged” the speech Donald Trump delivered in West Palm Beach on Thursday—a speech in which he dog-whistled a worldwide conspiracy against him (without actually uttering the word “Jews”) and disparaged the appearance of women who have accused him of sexual assault and transgressions.

But it was not unhinged. The speech was hinged to the original purpose of his campaign: to trade on the resentments of a restive remnant of white America—angry white men and the women who love them—and set the stage for mayhem in the wake of his likely electoral defeat.

This was not your standard, off-the-cuff Trump rant. This was a scripted speech, delivered with a teleprompter. It was crafted. It featured the key words of right-wing complaints: “sovereign,” “global bankers” and “slander.” Really, it came right out of a Nazi propaganda playbook. And when one considers the themes common between Nazi propaganda films and the films made by top Trump campaign staffers Stephen K. Bannon and David Bossie (as analyzed by AlterNet), we should hardly be surprised.

Trump began with an attack on the New York Times (whose majority owners are a Jewish family), which he said was engaged in a conspiracy of global proportions with the Clintons, international bankers and major corporations, all to stop him from winning the presidency.

“For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind. Our campaign represents a true existential threat, like they haven’t seen before. This is not simply another four-year election. This is a crossroads in the history of our civilization that will determine whether or not we, the people, reclaim control over our government,” Trump told a cheering crowd. A few beats later, he said, “We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.”

He then went on, at great length, describing what he alleged was coordination between the New York Times and the Clinton campaign, noting the newspaper’s Wednesday night report detailing allegations by two women who said Trump had sexually accosted them. Of course, he contended the women were liars. He also offered a disquisition on previous New York Times pieces about his behavior with women. It was all a grand conspiracy, he said, not just against him, but against the United States of America.

The agenda of the “media establishment,” Trump said, was to elect “crooked” Hillary Clinton, in the service of “special global interests rigging the system.” There are a lot of ways in the land of Wingnuttia to telegraph that your target is Jews, and these are two of them. Remember them: You’ll be hearing a lot in coming days about the “media establishment,” “global special interests,” oh, and “bankers.”

“Anyone who challenges their control,” Trump continued, “is deemed a sexist, rapist, xenophobe and morally deformed. They will attack you. They will slander you. They will seek to destroy your career and your family. They will seek to destroy everything about you, including your reputation. They will lie, lie, lie, and then again they will do worse than that. They will do whatever is necessary. The Clintons are criminals. Remember that, they’re criminals.”

When the crowd began chanting, “Lock her up!” Trump chimed in, “So true. Honestly, she should be locked up. She should be. Should be locked up.”

Of his accusers, Trump told his audience to have a good look at them, implying they weren’t good-looking enough to have attracted his attention. Of the women interviewed by the New York Times, Trump said, “You take a look at these people. You study these people and you’ll understand also. The claims are preposterous, ludicrous, and defy truth, common sense and logic.”

Speaking of Natasha Stoynoff, the People magazine writer who Wednesday nightpublished an article detailing what she said was an assault by Trump against her at his Mar-a-Lago home, Trump said, “Take a look. You look at her. Look at her words,” he said. “You tell me what you think. I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”

Trump went on to say he has evidence to refute the claims made against him in the New York Times report, evidence he would reveal “at an appropriate time.” He also promised to take down the Times—put it out of business—with a lawsuit he is preparing against the newspaper. It is telling that one of his big supporters is Peter Thiel, who took down Gawker by backing Hulk Hogan’s privacy-violation lawsuit against the website.

Perhaps most chilling in all of the hate-stoking and conspiracy-mongering Trump demonstrated Thursday is his assertion that “this is war”—that the “media establishment” and the Clintons are engaged in a conspiracy that is making war on the American people “no matter how many lives they destroy.”

“For them, it’s a war,” Trump said. “And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds. This is a struggle for the survival of our nation.”

Trump has learned well from his white nationalist friends. After all, the guy who likely wrote Thursday’s script—Trump campaign CEO Stephen K. Bannon—is the one who boasted of providing “the platform for the alt-right,” that anti-Semitic, misogynist movement from which Trump has derived such succor.

With Thursday’s speech, Trump has baldly laid out his true agenda: a post-election insurrection.

IMAGE: A supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a sign at a Trump campaign rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., October 13, 2016.   REUTERS/Mike Segar

Reprinted by permission from Alternet.

How To Decode Mike Pence’s Misogyny (And Why It Matters)

If there’s any one thing the Trump campaign wants you to remember about Hillary Clinton, it’s that she’s a woman—a play for the votes of people who believe that’s not a good thing.

In Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, Mike Pence, the right-wing extremist Indiana governor who is the running mate of Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, attempted to paint the foreign policy of Trump’s Democratic opponent as weak, saying of the war in Syria, “Look, we have got to lean into this with strong, broad-shouldered American leadership that begins by rebuilding our military.”

Ah, that broad-shouldered leadership. You know who doesn’t have broad shoulders? The woman!

It’s not the first time Pence has trotted out the term. Just before the September 26 debate between Trump and Clinton—the first time a woman has stood on the debate stage as a major-party presidential nominee—Pence said of his boss, “Look, Donald Trump’s got broad shoulders. He’s able to make his case and make a point.”

Pence is smooth, carefully choosing his turns of phrase. Nothing crass here, just very polite sexism of the kind that could serve him well when he vies for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.

Other Trump surrogates are less adroit. On Sunday, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani went straight to the point. Addressing a New York Times report indicating that Trump may not have paid personal income tax for some 18 years, Giuliani described his man as a “genius” for having worked the system so brilliantly.

“Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman?” Giuliani asked during an appearance on ABC’s This Week.

The Trump campaign has long played to the fears of a large constituency of white men unnerved by the changing role of women in the world. More than any one thing, the place of white men in society is what this election is all about. For them, knowing that no matter how hard the times on which they’ve fallen, they’ve still got a leg up on people who are not like them—be they women, black people, or brown-skinned immigrants—is no longer a given.

In addition to Trump’s crasser statements of misogyny, he’s suggested that Clinton “doesn’t have a presidential look.” (Her shoulders are not broad enough?) And, of course, Trump’s repeated questioning of his opponent’s “stamina” is all about gendered stereotypes—as if we still lived in the days when corseted upper-class white women regularly took to fainting couches from forcing themselves into lung-crushing garments constructed of grommets, laces, and animal bones, all to have a figure like that of a Miss Universe pageant winner.

Questioned about his “presidential look” comment by moderator Lester Holt,Trump doubled down. Clinton neatly dispensed with his reply, saying, “As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a ceasefire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world, or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina.” (During her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton’s travels covered 956,733 miles; she spent 401 days on the road.)

The upshot of Trump’s debate performance in September was to reopen Clinton’s lead among women. Going into the first debate, Clinton’s advantage among women, according to national polls as parsed by the International Business Times, was as low as 5 percent. But in the days following the debate, her advantage soared by as much as 20 points, according to two Fox News polls. Meanwhile, according to the most recent CNN/ORC poll, Trump is winning men by 5 points.

Trump is not likely to win back many of those women voters, so his campaign has little choice but to make a fierce bid for every vote of every white man in the country who fears the usurpation of the Barcalounger throne in his cul-de-sac castle. Hence, whatever such a man’s misgivings about Trump, he’s got to be, as Giuliani so baldly put it, “better than a woman.”

Yet the very things that set off alarm bells in such men are the very things that appeal to women. Hillary is confident, capable, and remains unruffled by the very sorts of insults that every woman who has sat in a male-dominated workplace meeting, or simply walked down the street alone, has had to endure. She’s the embodiment of the Urban Dictionary’s definition of a “broad.” Once a pejorative term, “broad” came to denote something admirable, according to Urban Dictionary contributor Alexei Kotsov. “Broads … know how to compete and win in a man’s world,” he writes. To summarize, Kotsov quotes Bette Midler, who said, “People always love a broad—someone with a sense of humor, someone with a fairly wicked tongue, someone who can belt out a song, someone who takes no guff.”

No one yet knows the true dimensions of the 2016 electorate (the people who actually cast a ballot on Election Day). But we do know that women historically vote in greater numbers than men.

In the vice presidential debate, Pence offered little defense of his running mate—except for Trump’s broad shoulders. But women voters are likely to pick the broad minus the shoulders, as are a number of guys who find broads more appealing than bluster. That leaves Trump scurrying to muster a militia of angry white men large enough to put him over the top. More misogyny is surely on tap.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Meet Gary Johnson’s Money Men

Published with permission from AlterNet

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, is currently having a moment with younger voters. Presumably this is because he has emphasized his pro-marijuana stance and stayed away from touting his views on nearly everything else, which, as AlterNet has reported, are very right-wing. Yet look behind the curtain, and you’ll find that Johnson’s candidacy is fueled by money provided by funders who are driving forces behind things most young voters abhor, like the privatization of public education and the “right” to pollute the environment.

A combination of engaging social media launched by pro-Johnson PACs and the candidate’s goofy, likable personality add up to 29 percent of voters between the ages of 18-34 telling pollsters for NBC News that they plan to vote for the third-party candidate. (His “What is Aleppo?” gaffe seems not to have made a dent in his numbers.) Several respected pollsters and political scientists have deduced that Johnson’s totals cut further into votes that would normally accrue to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton than to Republican nominee Donald Trump. Young voters comprise a critical constituency in the Democratic coalition, and Clinton has struggled to engage them, even gaining the endorsement of Bernie Sanders, the primary challenger who garnered great enthusiasm among young Democrats.

Johnson’s plan, as reported by Politico’s Ben Birnbaum, is to siphon enough votes from both major-party candidates to deprive each of the 270-electoral vote majority a candidate needs in order to win the White House. Then the race gets thrown into the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where the third-party candidate quixotically expects to win. But even if this long-shot scheme had a chance, it’s hard to imagine members of the Republican majority in Congress voting to hand the White House to someone other than their party’s nominee. That all raises the question, what is Johnson really up to, and whose interests does he represent?

Birnbaum reports that the Johnson campaign has “recently reshuffled its map,” focusing on states “with large numbers of disgruntled Sanders voters,” which he identifies as Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon and Washington. In addition, the Johnson forces are also making television and radio ad buys, according to Advertising Age, in Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire and Maine—all states identified by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten as more-or-less “must-win” states for Clinton (meaning her chances of winning the general election drop precipitously if she loses any one of them).

While the Johnson airtime buys are tiny compared with Clinton’s, they amount to gauntlets thrown, especially when you factor in the Johnson forces’ clever online strategy. If your target is young voters, television buys probably aren’t a great use of your resources. But creating viral videos probably is, and the pro-Johnson AlternativePAC is doing just that.

Despite the fact that Johnson’s poll numbers—he’s at 8 percent in the Real Clear Politics average—are higher than any previous modern-era third-party candidate at this point in the election cycle, he still has a long climb to make the 15 percent threshold required for inclusion in the presidential debates. So, the campaign’s present focus is on elevating his profile so his poll numbers go up, with the hope of making it onto the debate stage October 9. (On Friday, he stuck out his tongue for the television cameras as a way of demonstrating what he might do if he makes it.)

According to independent journalist Mark Ames, in Johnson’s 2012 presidential bid, the candidate enjoyed the wisdom of his notorious adviser, Roger Stone, the dirty trickster who is now advising the Trump campaign. Stone is the guy who brought conspiracy theorist Alex Jones into the Trump camp (and convinced Trump to make a December appearance on Jones’ InfoWars radio program), and has formulated and advanced much of Trump’s anti-Clinton rhetoric.

Ames dug up a 2007 interview Stone gave to the Weekly Standard in which he shared his formula for winning an election for a less-than-popular major-party candidate: Get a credible third-party candidate to split the opponent’s vote. Stone claims to have been in on just such an operation in 1980 on behalf of third-party candidate John Anderson, whose candidacy helped to deliver New York State for Ronald Reagan by skimming votes that would have likely otherwise gone to incumbent president Jimmy Carter.

One indication of whose interests Johnson represents is his source of funding. It’s likely we’ll never know the sources of all the money flowing to pro-Johnson efforts (or those of other candidates, for that matter), since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United allows all manner of non-profit groups to run ads and canvass for political candidates without revealing the names of their donors.

But we do know enough to look at who’s behind a couple of pro-Johnson political action committees, and the corporate entities whose employees donate the most money directly to the campaign: Jeffrey Yass of Susquehanna Group International, a financial options-trading firm, and Chris Rufer, president and founder of the Morning Star Packing Company, an agribusiness tomato-grower and processor of tomato products. And Johnson’s past association with Koch Industries, which benefited from a multimillion-dollar no-bid contract for a New Mexico highway given one of its subsidiaries during Johnson’s tenure as governor of that state, has led to speculation he will receive support from political groups in the Koch network.

Booking ads for Johnson is Purple PAC, where Yass is so far the largest donor, at $1 million, which was reportedly used for an August Purple PAC buy for ad time on CNN and Fox. Since September 8, Purple PAC has purchased airtime on Johnson’s behalf to the tune of $800,000, according to Federal Election Commission reports available via OpenSecrets.com. Purple PAC was founded by Ed Crane, former president of the Cato Institute. Both Yass and Crane sit on Cato’s board of directors, as does David Koch.

The ad Purple PAC is placing on Johnson’s behalf paints Clinton and Trump as equally undesirable, and champions Johnson as a saner alternative, one who is “socially tolerant,” but champions “free enterprise” and low taxes.

But it’s the privatization of public education that appears to be the cause closest to Yass’ heart. Last year, Paul Blumenthal, the Huffington Post’s money-in-politics reporter, undertook an exhaustive review of spending by two non-profit groups funded by Yass and his partners at Susquehanna, tracing donations from the groups Rosebush Corp. and Green Orchard Inc., to various groups and PACs that either support the diversion of tax dollars to privately-run charter schools, or the voucherization of public-school funds to be applied to tuition at private and parochial schools. Last year, Yass and his partners at the Susquehanna Group International bankrolled Philadelphia mayoral candidate Anthony Williams, a proponent of voucherizing public education.

“In 2011,” writes Blumenthal, “Rosebush Corp. contributed $100,000 to the American Federation for Children, an education reform group that billionaire Republican donor Betsy DeVos founded in 2010.”

Betsy DeVos is a member of the super-rich family that founded Amway, a family that is also active in funding the network of political organizations and entities built by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire principals of Koch Industries. Known for her opposition to sex education in favor of teaching abstinence, DeVos is also a force behind the pro-privatization organization, Students First, that is fronted by Michelle Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of Washington, D.C.’s public school system. According to Blumenthal, the American Federation for Children gave $700,000 to Students First in 2011.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to Blumenthal’s report, the two non-profits linked to Yass and his partners have dispensed millions to groups lobbying for the privatization public education.

Yass is also a major donor to the Club for Growth Action, a super PAC known for supporting primary challenges to Republican candidates who don’t adhere to the sort of small-government, anti-regulatory ideology sold by the Koch brothers. In the current election cycle, Club for Growth Action has spent more than $14 million. Yass’ Susquehanna International Group has already given the super PAC $500,000 so far in the 2016 election cycle.

Chris Rufer, the founder and president of Morning Star Packing Company, likes a good fight. He’s fought with the FEC over legal limits on independent expenditures by political parties (he and his co-plantiffs lost), and now he’s fighting California’s Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board over a $1.5 million fine imposed upon his company for enlarging wastewater ponds beyond the limits stated on his permits, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The water board charges Morning Star with polluting groundwater with excess salts, nitrates and organic waste.

“We don’t see that magnitude of problems very often,” Wendy Wyels, environmental program manager of the control board, told Geoffrey Mohan of the Los Angeles Times. Rufer has vowed to fight the fine in court. It’s not the first time he’s been cited by the water board: In 1995 it cited the libertarian entrepreneur “for dumping too many pollutants into surface and ground water,” according to the Times.

Rufer has donated both directly to the Johnson campaign, and given $500,000 to AlternativePAC, a pro-Johnson group that is promoting, through a viral video, a matching service for Johnson supporters that the PAC wordsmiths call Balanced Rebellion. He’s also an unabashed donor to organizations in the Koch network, and an attendee of the brothers’ biannual summit, according to a report in The Hill. The idea is that a traditionally Democratic voter can, via the Balanced Revolution website, match his or her pledge to vote for Johnson with that of a traditionally Republican voter, ostensibly ensuring their votes do not draw exclusively from one or the other of the major-party candidates. “Like Tinder, but not gross,” the promotional video promises.

The video, produced by the ad agency that brought you clever internet spots for Squatty Potty and Poo-Pourri, features “dead Abe Lincoln” explaining what he sees as horrible about both Trump and Clinton, and promoting the Balanced Rebellion idea. “Dead Abe Lincoln” even makes assassination jokes about himself and claims to have been a third-party candidate. It’s so weird it’s hard to look away, ensuring the viewer stays tuned for the full five minutes.

AlternativePAC is run by Matt Kibbe, the former chief executive officer of FreedomWorks, a Washington, D.C., astroturf group that helped organize raucous townhall meetings in congressional districts across the country in opposition to the Affordable Care Act. FreedomWorks is credited with having helped found the Tea Party movement.

Despite the modest investments made so far in the Johnson campaign by wealthy right-wingers, the impacts could be significant. If Johnson is able to tip a couple of Clinton’s must-win states, he could throw the presidential race into disarray. And chaos, as we’ve seen, tends to favor Donald Trump.

Photo: Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is seen during an interview before a rally in New York, U.S., September 10, 2016.  REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

Clinton’s Ingenious Debate Strategy Lays Bare Trump’s Racism, Sexism and Venality

Published with permission from AlterNet

In the annals of feminism, Monday’s debate will rank with the epic tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King.

If there’s anything you want in a president of these United States, it’s the ability to execute a superior strategy against a foe who threatens to tear the nation apart. In Monday night’s historic presidential debate at Hofstra University in New York, Hillary Clinton demonstrated that when it comes to strategy, she has the stuff.

In the days leading up to the debate, no one doubted that Clinton’s command of policy far outstrips Donald Trump’s, or that her intellect is superior to his. But given the uneven playing field she would occupy on account of her gender, there were doubts as to whether she could win the debate without transgressing the standards for likability and loveliness required only of women candidates, while managing to appear presidential. She achieved all that and more by shaping the debate on her terms, and turning disadvantages to her favor. Would the male candidate be permitted to repeatedly interrupt her? Fine, let him. Just use his own vanity to unnerve him before the games even begin.

The debate hadn’t even commenced when Clinton landed her first blow. Greeting her opponent onstage before they set out to their respective podiums, Clinton said, “How are you, Donald?” Not “Mr. Trump.” (Everybody knows he hates to be called by his first name.) That may seem like a small thing, but with those four words, Clinton both attacked his sense of self-importance, and claimed her right to be treated as his equal. Once proceedings were underway, she called him only by his first name throughout.

It clearly irked him. In their first exchange, about jobs and trade deals, Trump referred to her as “Secretary Clinton,” and then turned to her and said, “Is that OK? Good. I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me.” His aside came off as more petulant than respectful.

It was hardly the evening’s most memorable moment, but it was the one at which Trump lost the debate—the second at which he turned from the much-vaunted “teleprompter Trump” into reality-show Trump (otherwise known simply as Donald Trump). Early on in the debate, when moderator Lester Holt of NBC News asked Clinton to respond to Trump’s answer to a question about how he would bring jobs back to the U.S., Trump interrupted Clinton more than 20 times, as Holt stood haplessly by. It didn’t play well for Trump. Clinton kept her cool and pressed her point, punctuating the exchange with a zinger.

Steering her answer to the development of the creation of new clean-energy jobs, she said: “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.” When Trump interrupted, claiming never to have said that (actually, he made that assertion in a tweet) Clinton responded, “I think science is real.”

Trump went nuts, badgering Clinton, trying to nail her on her apparent support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal while she was in the administration, trying to claim credit for her present position in opposition to the deal (when actually pressure from labor unions and Bernie Sanders’ supporters surely had more to do with her embrace of an anti-TPP position). In short, he came off looking like a jerk—on what perhaps was the one topic he on which he could have scored some points, if only he could have kept his ego in check. Instead, he continued to unravel.

She attacked him for “stiff[ing]” hundreds of working people in the bankruptcy proceedings he’s undergone for his various companies, citing working-class people, such as drapery-makers and dishwashers who lost income because of them, and noted that in the audience was an architect whose bill Trump had shorted. She noted his glee at the impending bursting of the housing bubble in 2006, despite the lost family wealth it meant for regular Americans. “It’s called business, by the way,” Trump interrupted.

Holt asked Trump why he wouldn’t release his tax returns, and in her rejoinder, Clinton noted that the several tax returns of Trump’s that were made public (because of a casino deal he was making) revealed he had paid no federal income tax.

“That’s smart,” he interrupted, again.

By the time Holt found his footing, in the second half of the debate, to ask difficult questions, Clinton had already thrown Trump so far off any kind of strategic game he may have had that he couldn’t even play the race card for his base from a strong hand. His response to a question about healing the racial divide was to call for the restoration of the stop-and-frisk policies of the past. That, in and of itself, was not a strategic mistake for him, given the base of resentful white people he has claimed for himself. But when Holt reminded him that New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy had been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge, Trump refuted the fact.

Asked about his longstanding crusade perpetuating the false claim by right-wing activists that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, Trump attempted to lay the narrative in the hands of operatives of Clinton’s 2008 campaign. While sizable numbers of Republican voters may believe him, his assertion also left Clinton the opening to show how Trump sought to delegitimize the nation’s first black president.

Where Clinton likely made the strongest case with voters who may not yet be in her camp was in one of her final speeches of the debate, after Holt asked Trump what he meant when he claimed that his female opponent did not have “a presidential look.” He refused to elaborate on that, but then reiterate a claim he makes frequently questioning the former secretary of state’s stamina.

“Well, as soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease-fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities in nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina,” Clinton replied.

Then, after noting Trump’s pivot from the question regarding what he said of Clinton’s looks to a point about stamina, she recounted the insults Trump has hurled at women. “[T]his is a man who has called women pigs, slobs, and dogs,” she said. Then she recounted the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe (a beauty pageant Trump once owned), who claims that Trump called her “Miss Piggy” when she gained some weight, and disparaged her as a Latina by calling her “Miss Housekeeping.”

“Where did you find this?” Trump asked. But he didn’t deny it. Then he all but asked to be granted points for not saying something “extremely rough” he had planned to say about Clinton and her family.

Women who normally vote Republican may well be inspired to vote for Clinton by this exchange, and Machado’s story could help boost Latino turnout at the polls.

But there wasn’t much in the debate, aside from an early mention by Clinton of her plan for “debt-free college” that specifically targeted millennials, many of whom are enamored of third-party candidates.

Still, in the annals of feminism, Monday’s debate will rank with the epic tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. It remains to be seen whether it has moved the needle in what is presently a very close presidential contest.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton listens during their first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Debate Prep: How Sexism Makes Hillary’s Task Infinitely More Difficult Than Trump’s

Published with permission from AlterNet

To succeed in her first match-up with Trump, she must meet his simian displays with the finesse of a ballerina.

Everybody who’s ever watched Hillary Clinton in a debate knows just how very good she is in that format. No one comes more prepared on matters of fact; she has a keen sense of debate strategy and can land a zinger—even while bearing the burden of gender, that weight that deems a woman to not only prove herself smarter than her male opponent, but to do so while smiling more than he does (though not so much that she lacks gravitas) and being very careful not to completely emasculate her male opponent, lest she be seen as a knife-wielding bitch.

This is the challenge Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, has faced in her past debates against Democratic opponents in two presidential primaries, and against her Republican challenger in her successful bid for a seat in the United States Senate—all events in which her opponents generally adhered to the norms of behavior in such forums (except for that time when Rick Lazio strayed toward her podium, which didn’t work out so well for him). She’s now one of the best on the political debate stage.

But on September 26, she will face a completely different challenge: debating a male opponent whose trademark is a defiance of behavioral norms. In fact, the success of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump stems, it seems, from repeated transgressions of the standards of public behavior in politics. Clinton’s difficulty lies in the fact that for a woman, especially one facing off against a man, behavioral norms are still evolving, and she must dance around the obvious discomfort broadly experienced in American culture with the notion of female leadership.

On the September 21 edition of NPR’s Morning Edition, Republican debate strategist Brett O’Donnell explained Clinton’s dilemma. “Her biggest weakness is likability,” he said of Clinton, “and this is a big tightrope, particularly for a female candidate because gender communication research tells us that men, when they are aggressive, are received pretty positively, when women are overly aggressive, they tend to be received negatively.”

Read that quote carefully. In O’Donnell’s seemingly impassive analysis, his own bias is subtly evident. In describing different perceptions of aggression in male and female candidates, he inserts the word “overly” in his description of the attribute in a woman contender. And here, he’s just talking generically. He’s not even factoring in the spectacle that is Trump.

Meanwhile, Trump appears to adhere more to the behavioral norms of non-human primates.

In a stroke of genius, James Fallows of The Atlantic interviewed the renowned primate specialist and anthropologist Jane Goodall for an assessment of Trump’s antics. From Fallows’s article:

“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Jane Goodall, the anthropologist, told me shortly before Trump won the GOP nomination. “In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

And for these displays, Trump has been richly rewarded—with the Republican nomination, with real-estate riches, with poll numbers. It is not possible that any woman could succeed at anything by throwing rocks and slapping the ground (though, at this point in my career, I’m tempted to try it).

By contrast, Hillary Clinton will be expected to turn in the performance of a ballerina, exuding a form of feminine grace that demands extraordinary muscular strength and mind-body coordination. In short, she must perform a pas de deux with a stamping, branch-dragging display junkie, stepping out with a big, likably womanly smile to do a perfectly executed pirouette en pointe while balancing a briefing book on her head, all the while appearing ready to be the commander-in-chief.

We’re told that women excel at multitasking, and we know that Clinton is determined to excel at all things. Excelling at debating Trump? She might just pull it off.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clianton arrives at a campaign event in Orlando, U.S. September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

12 Ways Gary Johnson Is A Hardcore Right-Wing Radical

A recent NBC News/Quinnipiac poll reveals that more than a quarter of young voters—many who had supported the presidential bid of Sen. Bernie Sanders—plan to cast their presidential ballots for Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Democrats are increasingly nervous that Johnson’s candidacy could pull more voters from Hillary Clinton than from her Republican rival, Donald Trump, especially in key states like Colorado and Wisconsin. While Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein draws mostly progressive voters, Johnson’s support hails from the breadth of the political spectrum, making it more difficult to suss out. However, because he is on the ballot in all 50 states (Stein is not), most pollsters consider his campaign to be a greater threat to Clinton’s chances in some swing states. And because the U.S. uses the electoral college system to determine the outcome of presidential elections, that could matter on November 8, no matter Clinton’s overall support among the general population.

Johnson’s former adviser, Roger Stone, is now advising the Trump campaign, and has talked in the past of how to use a third-party candidate to split an opponent’s vote.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has emphasized his support for marijuana legalization and touts an anti-war stance in an attempt to lure progressives to his cause. But progressives are likely less aware of his links to the radical right and the Koch brothers, as well as his billionaire-coddling tax policies. AlterNet found that the largest corporate donor to his campaign is a California polluter, and that the pro-Johnson political action committee, Purple PAC, is primarily financed by a member of the radical right involved with efforts to privatize public education.

Here we examine a few of Johnson’s alarming stances and ties.

1. Opposes federal guarantees for student loans. In June, Johnson told Julia Glum of the International Business Times that the reason college tuition is so high is that federal government-guaranteed loans eliminate competition for students. At the crux of Johnson’s argument is that if you don’t have the money up front to attend college, you shouldn’t have the opportunity to attend college.

2. Opposes virtually all forms of gun control. Even more trigger-happy than most of the Republicans in Congress—who wouldn’t even pass loophole-closing gun legislation in the wake of the Orlando and Sandy Hook mass shootings—Johnson has bought into the National Rifle Association’s “good-guy-with-a-gun” trope, which argues that levels of gun violence would decrease if everybody had a gun.

3. Opposes the minimum wage. “I do not support the federal minimum wage,” Johnson told CNN in June. In July, he told the Washington Examiner, if given the chance, “I would sign legislation to abolish it. I don’t think it should be established and I, having been in business, having employed a thousand people myself, the minimum wage was never an issue.” But if you think he’s all for a state-level minimum wage, consider this: In 1999, during his first term as New Mexico governor, Johnson vetoed a bill that would have raised his state’s minimum wage from $4.25 an hour to $5.65.

4. Opposes equal-pay laws. According to the website ISideWith.com, Johnson answered the following when asked whether he supports requiring employers to pay men and women the same for performing the same job: “No, there are too many other variables such as education, experience, and tenure that determine a fair salary.”

5. Opposes collective bargaining for public employees. When it comes to his stance toward labor unions, Johnson is on par with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Like the Koch-linked Walker, Johnson opposes allowing public employees to collectively bargain. In May 1999, Johnson vetoed a bill that would have renewed the contracts of the state’s public employees, as well as one that would have renewed the state’s collective bargaining law that covered state employees.

6. Proposes cuts to Social Security and removing Medicare and Medicaid from federal control. Johnson says he believes in “devolving” Medicare and Medicaid programs to the states, and raising the retirement age for collecting Social Security. Given his druthers, Johnson would also means-test eligibility for Social Security.

7. Supports private prisons. Johnson touts the discredited notion that private prisons are more cost-effective than public facilities while adhering to state and federal standards. When Johnson came into office in New Mexico, the state was housing some 700 prisoners outside its borders because the Department of Justice had found New Mexico’s facilities to be inadequate for the number of prisoners held by the state. Johnson brought in private contractors to build two new prisons. But in April 1999, one of the prisons run by Wackenhut Corrections Corporation erupted into violence when prison administrators refused to provide Native American prisoners the firewood needed to practice their spiritual traditions, as mandated by law. That same month, Johnson vetoed a bill that would have provided enhanced oversight of New Mexico’s privately run prisons.

8. Gave a sole-bidder contract to Koch Industries. In 1998, Gov. Johnson announced that Koch Materials, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, was contracted by the state for a $323 million highway project that involved the widening of N.M. Highway 44 to four lanes. A loophole in the controversial $62 million (on top of the construction costs) warranty provision of the contract, as well as the relegation of payment to federal highway funds (after Johnson vetoed the use of a gas tax for such projects) ultimately cost the taxpayers of New Mexico some $20 million a year in federal highway funds over the course of the next five gubernatorial administrations. After winning the contract, Koch Industries donated the maximum allowable $5,000 to Johnson’s re-election campaign.

9. May have Koch backing for 2016 effort. The Daily Caller, a right-wing website,breathlessly reported in May an anonymous Johnson campaign staffer’s assertion that David Koch had pledged “tens of millions of dollars” to bankroll Johnson’s 2016 campaign. (David Koch was the Libertarian Party’s 1980 vice-presidential nominee.) According to reporter Drew Johnson, “[a] Koch spokesman declined to comment on record.” But after his article was published at the Daily Caller, Drew Johnson wrote, the unnamed spokesman said Koch had not pledged his support to any presidential candidate. So, who knows? You don’t have to pledge your support in order to pass money to a PAC.

0. Uses dirty tricksters. In his 2012 presidential campaign on the Libertarian Party ticket, the Johnson campaign employed several unsavory operatives, as documented by independent reporter Mark Ames. They included Maureen Otis, a right-wing vote-caging specialist affiliated with the anti-immigrant Minutemen Civil Defense Force militia group; Jim Lacy, also involved with the Minutemen; and birther propagandist Floyd Brown, who also created the infamous racist Willie Horton ad that many credit with having won George H.W. Bush the presidency. Then there’s Roger Stone, now an adviser to the Trump campaign.

11. Accepted $1 million in PAC money from anti-education right-wing donor.Since September 8, an entity called Purple PAC has purchased $550,000 in airtime and online advertising on behalf of Johnson. Founded by former Cato Institute president Ed Crane, Purple PAC has few donors, and is primarily bankrolled by Jeffrey Yass, an options trader whose pet cause is the privatization of public education. In the 2016 election cycle, Yass, who has donated $1 million to Purple PAC, sits on the Cato board with David Koch. Yass is also known for his work with Students First PAC, a group formed by the right-wing Betsy DeVos, a member of the Koch network and the religious right. The PAC shared its name with the Students First initiative of Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools who is a star proponent of education privatization.

12. Top corporate contributor slapped with $1.5 million pollution fine. The top corporate contributor to the Johnson campaign (as opposed to PACs) is Morning Star Packing Company, an agribusiness tomato grower and processor of tomato products. Morning Star is also the top donor to AlternativePAC, which is behind a purported “matching service” between liberal and conservative voters inclined toward Johnson in order to falsely assure such voters they won’t be skewing the election toward either Clinton or Trump should they cast a vote for Johnson. In March, the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board in California slapped the company with a $1.5 million fine for illegally enlarging wastewater ponds, polluting groundwater with excess salts, nitrates and organic waste.

 

Published by permission of AlterNet.

The Normalization Of Evil In American Politics

Published with permission from AlterNet

The racist, misogynist, authoritarian strain has always been there, but Trump’s candidacy has brought it into the mainstream. And media have helped.

Time was when a presidential candidate who played footsie with segregationists and white supremacists would have banished to the fringes of the American political scene. But Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has changed all that.

Oh sure, there have been plenty of codes telegraphed to the anti-black base of the GOP’s southern flank: Ronald Reagan’s choice of Philadelphia, Mississippi, as the place to make a “states’ rights” speech in his 1980 presidential campaign; Richard Nixon’s southern strategy and “Silent Majority” framing. But after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, expressions of outright racism were frowned upon in presidential politics. And articulations of misogyny were generally doled out in the form of withering condescension.

I don’t need to recount for you Trump’s friendliness with the alt-right, the white nationalist movement that was given a platform at Breitbart News by Stephen K. Bannon, the man Trump hired as his campaign CEO. You don’t need to take my word for it; Bannon has boasted of this fact. And you surely know of Trump’s numerous retweets of posts and memes from white supremacist websites. And who can forget all of the lovely things he’s said about women, calling them fat pigs and demeaning them for having menstrual periods?

Just yesterday, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, declined for a second time to say that former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke was “deplorable,” stating that he isn’t “in the name-calling business.” Isn’t it enough, Pence asked, that he and Trump have disavowed Duke’s endorsement?

Trump yesterday won the endorsement of Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, an anti-choice extremist who co-authored a 2003 bookaccording to People for the American Way, that “argued that the government has a responsibility to execute abortion providers.” In 1988, Newman’s co-author, Cheryl Sullenberger, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic.

On Friday, Donald Trump appeared before evangelical Christians assembled at the Values Voter Summit, an annual confab convened by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council. The conference exhibit hall featured the booths of such co-sponsors as Tradition, Family and Property, a paleo-Catholic cult whose founder described the Spanish Inquisition as the church’s most glorious moment, and the conspiracy-theorist and segregationist John Birch Society, which William F. Buckley thought he had managed to purge from the conservative movement in 1962. This was the first time the JBS appeared in the Values Voter hall of sponsors. It could be said that the Trump candidacy helped pave the way, what with his embrace of the conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones, and his numerous winks to white nationalist extremists.

The following day, FRC President Tony Perkins, who has endorsed Trump, defended the alt-right when I asked him about the movement at a press conference. Its existence, he seemed to say, was the fault of President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, for having “snuffed out” the voices of people who disagree with the administration’s policies.

To lay all of this at Trump’s feet would be to give him too much credit. As I’ve argued before, the misogynist, racist, nativist, anti-LGBT right wing that took over the GOP in 1980—of which Perkins himself is evidence—has much to answer for, not least of all, the rise of Donald Trump as the party’s standard-bearer. Trump may not have been the first choice of right-wing leaders, but they created the conditions that cleared his path to the nomination, and most have lined up behind him since he won it.

But mainstream media are also complicit in this normalization of hatred, allowing it to masquerade in the guise political positions. For decades, when reporting on the Christian right, for example, media have treated it as a religious movement, barely mentioning—if at all—the roots of movement positions in the segregationist backlash of the South. Instead, media executives allowed themselves to be cowed by the right wing’s outrage machine, every time it cranked up its conveyor belt of allegations of the anti-religion bent of reporters.

Today, the same tendency is evident in the false-equivalence reporting prevalent in the degrees to which media cover different stories. Questions about Clinton’s emails demand teams of reporters toiling for months; scandals involving Trump are too often written as one-off reports—so fearful are mainstream editors of fielding an accusation of liberal bias.

In the meantime, a monster has been allowed to grow in our midst. Bannon take an obscure fringe of the right and elevates it to a platform that garners tens of millions of pageviews per month. Trump hires Bannon. Media say, hey, that’s interesting, do one story, and say, “Next?”

Covering the Values Voter Summit this September 9 and 10 was downright depressing. Trump addressed the conference on Friday, and Pence on Saturday—meaning that the conference attendees represent a legitimized constituency of the GOP, as they have for 30 years. The founders of the religious right are passing onto their just rewards. Organizers Paul Weyrich and Howard Phillips died in 2008 and 2013, respectively; Phyllis Schlafly died on September 5 (but not before she took the opportunity to endorse Trump). The movement they founded, however, continues to wreak the havoc of hate on the American political landscape, and the media dare not call it by its name.

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the National Guard Association of the United States 138th General Conference and Exhibition in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., September 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar