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Democrats Suggest Previous FBI Investigations of Kavanaugh Raised Concerns About 'Inappropriate Sexual Abuse or Alcohol Abuse'

October 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

They sent a letter disputing statements put out by the majority party.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee published a letter Wednesday night strongly implying that there may be evidence of Brett Kavanaugh's engaging in “inappropriate sexual abuse or alcohol abuse” in past FBI background checks.

The letter was written in response to a series of tweets from the committee on an account run by the Republican majority.

“As part of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to #SCOTUS, the FBI conducted its SIXTH full-field background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh since 1993. As part of these 6 prior FBI investigations, the FBI interviewed nearly 150 different people who know Judge Kavanaugh personally,” the tweet said. Another continued: “Nowhere in any of these six FBI reports, which the committee has reviewed on a bipartisan basis, was there ever a whiff of ANY issue – at all – related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse.”

It was this second tweet that the Democrats took issue with. 

“Each of us reviewed the confidential background investigation of Judge Kavanaugh before the hearing,” they wrote in their letter. “While we are limited in what we can say about this background investigation in a public setting, we are compelled to state for the record that there is information in the second post that is not accurate.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) sent a tweet reiterating the point of the letter. In response, the committee's account tweeted: “Nothing in the tweet is inaccurate or misleading. The committee stands by its statement, which is completely truthful. More baseless innuendo and more false smears from Senate Democrats.”

It was not clear what information the Democrats could be referring to or what the disagreement may specifically be about without further information. However, the dispute may rest on different interpretations of what it means to say the reports contained a “whiff” of the behavior in question.

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'Having Fun at Her Expense': CNN's Jake Tapper Condemns Trump's Cruel Mockery of Christine Blasey Ford That Echoed Her Story of Assault

October 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

It was a stunning moment in American politics.

CNN's Jake Tapper observed with dismay Wednesday that President Donald Trump had abandoned any pretense the night before that he has compassion for Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Though he has previously called her “very credible,” at a campaign rally Tuesday night, Trump turned Ford “into an object of ridicule,” Tapper explained. 

Trump mocked Ford's story for having holes in it, despite the fact that this is common in sexual assault allegations. He imitated Ford in a dull monotone and exaggerated the extent of her memory lapses.

“Let's just take a closer look at what President Trump was doing here,” Tapper said Wednesday. “Provoking laughter. Evoking a specific reaction from some of those in the crowd.”

Replaying video of the rally, Tapper showed how the audience delighted in Trump's mockery. Tapper observed how this jeering echoed the “uproarious laughter” Ford recounted hearing from her attackers in her Senate testimony last Thursday.

“Their having fun at my expense,” Ford had added.

“Having fun at her expense,” Tapper echoed. “Whether or not you believe that pain was inflicted by Brett Kavanaugh.”

Even many Republicans, Tapper noted, condemned Trump's decision to mock the victim of sexual assault.

Watch the clip below:

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Here's How We Could Finally See Trump's Tax Returns

October 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

A report this week from the New York Times dredged up the issue of the president's tax returns.

With a bombshell report in the New York Times this week detailing the sketchy tax evasion schemes and reported “outright fraud” President Donald Trump used to shield his massive inherited wealth from the IRS, the topic of his always promised but never released tax returns has reemerged with a vengeance.

And with the midterm elections in sight, there may soon be a way for the world to finally see the president's long-hidden returns.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Democratic lawmakers are frank about their goals: If they reclaim either the House or the Senate in the election, Democrats will have and use the power to obtain the documents from the IRS.

The power to request the documents would fall to the head of the Ways and Means Committee, which is likely to be Rep. Richar Neal (D-MA) in the event of a takeover.

“We will do that,” Neal told the paper when asked if his party would go after the returns.

The report continues:

If he gets the returns, Mr. Neal said he plans to consult with his staff, Democratic leaders and House lawyers on how to analyze them and whether to make them public, which would require a committee vote.

He could release entire returns or redact some information to protect the privacy of other individuals or focus narrowly on potential violations.

“This has never happened before, so you want to be very meticulous,” Mr. Neal said.

The documents examined in the New York Times report come from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, meaning that any tax-related crimes discovered therein would likely be well beyond the statute of limitations. However, more recent documents may be even more revealing, and would potentially open up the president to serious criminal liability if it could be shown he has broken the law.

There's also the potential that they could reveal embarrassing details about Trump's finances — like that he's much less wealthy than he has claimed — or dubious connections to shady figures or businesses.

Even some Republicans seem to be …read more


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Remembering When Donald Trump Falsely Accused 5 Boys of Rape — And Actually Ruined Their Lives

October 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Hunter, Daily Kos

The lives of the Central Park 5 were shattered by Donald Trump, his ego, and his racism.


“I think that it's a very scary time for young men in America when you can be guilty of something that you may not be guilty of,” Trump said Tuesday afternoon outside the White House. “This is a very difficult time.” [...]

“You could be somebody that was perfect their entire life and someone could accuse you of something,” Trump told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “You are truly guilty until proven innocent.”

At the rally in Southaven, Miss., on Tuesday night, Trump went further.

[...] Trump said. “And a man's life is in tatters! A man's life is shattered.” [...] 

“Think of your son,” Trump said. “Think of your husband.” —…

It is quite surprising to see Donald Trump suddenly develop sympathy for people falsely accused of sexual assault.

It is not, however, a shock that his sympathy only manifests itself when the accused is a rich, Republican, middle-aged, white man.

Back in 1989, Trump had no fear of shattering lives. In fact, he led a lynch mob, taking out full page advertisements in every New York paper demanding that the death penalty be applied in the Central Park Jogger case.

The NYPD had arrested five black or brown children between 14 and 16 to demonstrate speedy progress after a horrific assault that led a young woman fighting for her life. NPYD detectives forced confessions, in the absence of lawyers or parents, from 4 of the 5 children.

Reflecting on that moment decades later, one of the young boys, Yusuf Salaam said:

“He was the fire starter,” Salaam said of Trump, in his first extended interview since Trump announced his run for the White House. “Common citizens were being manipulated and swayed into believing that we were guilty.” —…

Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Korey Wise, Antron McCray, and Raymond Santana, the five children who were falsely accused of rape and assault by Donald Trump were eventually exonerated in 2002. No physical evidence had ever tied them to the victim or the scene, but they’d been convicted nonetheless, on the basis of coerced confessions extracted …read more


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Here Are 5 Reasons Why the FBI’s Investigation of Brett Kavanaugh Is a Joke

October 3, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

This Is an Investigation on Trump and Don McGahn’s Terms

No sooner had Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona announced that he planned to vote for the confirmation of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court than he declared, on September 28, that his support of President Donald Trump’s nominee was conditional: Flake requested a limited, one-week investigation of the sexual abuse allegations that Palo Alto University psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford had made against Kavanaugh at her September 27 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. But truth be told, the FBI investigation being conducted this week is unlikely to change the outcome of the nomination. If anything, it is a public relations ploy designed to give the so-called “undecided” Republicans in the Senate—namely, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins—an excuse to vote for Kavanaugh. And more than likely, Kavanaugh’s confirmation will be rammed through the Senate despite all the sexual abuse allegations being made against him.

Here are five reasons why the FBI investigation of Kavanaugh being conducted this week is a joke and a sham.

1. The Investigation Is Brief and Superficial, Not Comprehensive  

The FBI investigation of Kavanaugh taking place this week isn’t meant to be a criminal investigation like the Russia-related investigation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been conducting. It is meant to be more of a background check, and the standards that apply in the Supreme Court nomination/confirmation process are much different from the standards that apply in a criminal trial. But even as a background check, the FBI’s Kavanaugh-related investigation has been a joke. A week isn’t nearly enough time for the FBI to seriously investigate Kavanaugh’s history and all the allegations being made against him.

2. The Investigation Gives ‘Undecided’ Senators an Excuse to Vote for Kavanaugh

For supposedly “undecided” Republicans like Flake, Collins and Murkowski—and possibly, Blue Dog Senate Democrats such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp as well—the FBI’s investigation is the best of both worlds. An investigation this brief and superficial is unlikely to produce any startling new revelations, but it will …read more


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Battle Brews over Banned Books and Evolution — but the Solution Is Simple

October 3, 2018 in Economics

By Neal McCluskey

Neal McCluskey

There’s been a battle brewing in Arizona over what public
schools will teach about the origins and development of all living
. Last week was also Banned Books Week, in Arizona and nationwide. And
in the midst of all this, Arizonans have been debating Proposition 305, which with a
“no” vote would kill expansion of the state’s
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program that gives parents
unprecedented control over education funding.

These things are not disconnected, and what applies to Arizona
applies to any state: Embracing school choice — in the case
of Arizona, keeping the expansion — may well be the key to
defusing destructive science and book battles, and providing
equality for all.

The first battle revolves around proposals from a state
department of education working group to alter how Arizona’s
curriculum standards frame evolution, the theory that life has
changed in incremental, natural steps over billions of years. The
proposed changes would refer to evolution as “an”
explanation for life on Earth, rather than the sole explanation.
Why the introduction of doubt? Many Arizonans, like many Americans, believe that the Earth and
the creatures on it were created by God, including human beings in
their present form.

This fight is, of course, not new. Charles Darwin published
On the Origin of Species, laying out basic evolutionary
theory, in 1859, and schools across the country have been racked by
conflict over it since at least the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. What makes the
subject so volatile is that there is no middle ground for those who
believe that God created the Earth and everything on it and those
who hold that God had no role and, for many, that there is no

The result for public schools has been many high-profile
conflicts like the Scopes trial, but more often a quiet avoidance
of the topic. As political scientists Michael Berkman and Eric
Plutzer found surveying a national sample of high school
biology teachers
, most either skip or soft-pedal evolution,
likely to avoid inflaming controversy. The upshot is that neither
adherents of evolution nor creationism get what they truly

Public school book battles share the same root cause: People
with diverse views and values must fund a single system of schools.
Of course, schools cannot stock or assign every book; they have to
pick some and reject others. But that means beliefs and opinions
that some people dislike and even find intolerable will often be
advanced, while books espousing others’ powerful convictions will
never see the fluorescent light of a public school. Such inequality
can lead …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Amazon's Pay Rise Has No Lessons for Minimum Wage Policy

October 3, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

“Amazon to Raise Its Minimum U.S. Wage to $15
an Hour”
is a typical headline that one has seen

The company has announced that from November 1st its lowest pay
rate will increase to $15 per hour in the U.S., £10.50 in London
and £9.50 elsewhere in the U.K. It follows criticism of
Amazon’s pay and conditions from everyone from Fox
News anchor Tucker Carlson
to left-wing firebrand Senator Bernie Sanders.

Emboldened by this perceived victory, the ‘Fight for
$15’ in the U.S. and the “real” Living Wage
campaign in the UK now have a new company-level example to call on
in support of statutory legislation. If one of the world’s
biggest companies can raise their internal “minimum
wage,” then why can’t others?

This kind of argument is logically flawed. It’s important
to remember that Amazon has made this decision considering its own
perceived interest. It might be because it figures the bad
publicity surrounding the firm had the potential to dent sales. It
might be because they figured out that they could absorb any
increased costs much more easily than other proposed policies in
both countries (such as Senator Sanders ‘Corporate Welfare
Tax’ or the UK government’s proposed digital services

It might be because they expect future minimum wage hikes, and
so are getting ahead of the curve. It might be because they can
adjust compensation in other ways such that the move doesn’t
bring a dramatic cost increase. It’s also possible that the
company plans on making labour-saving technological investments
anyway, so can couple it with efficiency improvements in the
long-term with the added bonus of good PR today.

Whatever the thinking, Amazon thinks its business model can
cope. But this tells us nothing about the feasibility of pay hikes
for the low paid across the whole economy through raising minimum
wage rates. Remember,
the most robust evidence from Seattle
still suggests that
statutory pay hikes reduce job opportunities and maybe even lower
overall incomes for the low paid as a cohort.

Sadly, lots of proponents of hiking minimum wages are prone to
motivated reasoning here. They imply minimum wage increases bring
no trade-offs. They want to claim that wage hikes benefit both
workers and businesses – that firms will see big increases in
productivity and greater attachment from workers such that
firms’ bottom lines don’t suffer. So when a major
company decides to voluntarily increase pay, it is just further
evidence for their assertion. It just makes sense.

But this is wishful thinking. While some firms, such as Amazon,
might feel that raising pay is right for the business, it seems
unlikely that …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Immigration at Ellis Island: Photos

October 3, 2018 in History

By Madison Horne

More than 12 million immigrants passed through the doors of the storied station. See photos from its peak years.

Ellis Island seen from New York Harbor, 1903.

View the 12 images of this gallery on the original article

After opening in 1892, Ellis Island became known as the gateway to America and a symbol of a chance at the American dream. In the 62 years it was open, the island facility processed more than 12 million immigrants. It has been estimated that close to 40 percent of current U.S. citizens can trace at least one ancestor to Ellis island.

The immigration station saw its peak years from 1900 to 1914, when 5,000 to 10,000 people were processed every day. During that time the 3.3-acre island was expanded with landfill, reaching its current 27.5-acre size by the 1930s to accommodate new buildings and the steady influx of people. Most arriving at Ellis Island passed through fairly quickly, while others were detained on site up for up to a few weeks.

By November 1954, Ellis Island had closed its doors. Years later, it would fall under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, protecting its legacy. Following a $156 million-dollar restoration between 1984 and 1990, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum has featured many rooms as they appeared during the island’s peak years.

Want more HISTORY? Read these stories:

9 Things You May Not Know About Ellis Island

Remembering Annie Moore, Ellis Island’s First Immigrant

Rotten Meat and Stewed Prunes? Welcome to America

Most Immigrants Arriving at Ellis Island in 1907 Were Processed in a Few Hours

The Birth of ‘Illegal’ Immigration

…read more


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Thoughts on Today's Supreme Court Oral Argument in Knick v. Township of Scott – a Crucial Property Rights Case

October 3, 2018 in Economics

By Ilya Somin

Ilya Somin

Earlier today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in
Knick v. Township of Scott, an
important Takings Clause property rights case. The outcome in the
case is far from clear. Predicting the justices’ votes based on
oral argument is far from an exact science. But property rights
advocates have grounds for cautious optimism.

Property rights advocates
have grounds for cautious optimism.

The main point at issue in Knick is whether the Court
should overrule or limit Williamson
County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank
, a
1985 decision that makes it virtually impossible to bring many
types of takings cases in federal court. Under Williamson
, a property owner who contends that the government has
taken his property and therefores owes “just compensation” under
the Fifth Amendment, cannot file a case in federal court until he
or she has first secured a “final decision” from the relevant state
regulatory agency and has “exhausted” all possible remedies in
state court. At that point, it is still often impossible
to bring a federal claim, because various procedural rules preclude
federal courts from reviewing state court decisions in cases where
the case was initially brought in state court. I discussed the
issues at stake in the case in a recent Wall Street Journal op ed,
and more fully here, and in an amicus brief I coauthored on behalf of the
Cato Institute, the National Federation of Independent Business,
the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the Beacon Center of Tennessee,
the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine and
this website), and myself.

After reading the oral argument transcript, it seems to me
there is a decent chance of a 5-3 decision in favor of the property
owner, one that will overrule or significantly limit Williamson
. The three conservative justices who asked questions -
Chief Justice John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, all
seemed clearl sympathetic to the property owner’s argument. For
example, the Chief Justice was highly skeptical of the main
justification for Williamson County: that no real
violation of the Takings Clause has occurred until state courts
rule against providing compensation. As Roberts noted in a question
to the lawyer for the township, “the compensation that is due runs
from the moment of the taking… In other words, if it takes you
six months to adjudicate the— the claim and you say, well,
this is how much you owe, you owe interest going all the way back
to the point at which the property was taken…” Gorsuch similarly
indicated that “maybe it makes sense to wait when the state has
acknowledged …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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For 40 Minutes in 1971, It Seemed the End Was Near

October 3, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Every TV and radio station in America was interrupted with an emergency message indicating nuclear war was imminent.

What would happen if the United States were about to be hit by nuclear weapons? Hopefully, the government would provide some warning through the federal alert system. But that system hasn’t always been in place—and it hasn’t always worked. For over 40 minutes on February 20, 1971, a test gone awry led to widespread panic that America had been plunged into nuclear war.

Since 1951, the United States has had a way to use existing TV and radio stations—and now cell phones—to broadcast information about emergencies. The system has its roots in Cold War-era nuclear fears. As relations between the United States and the USSR chilled, defense officials decided to create a system that would not just allow officials to transmit information to the American people, but to confuse potential Soviet aircraft. CONELRAD was designed to quickly switch off American radio stations, then activate select ones to transmit civil defense information in an attempt to prevent aircraft flying over the U.S. from using radio signals to navigate.

The main battle staff position in the Combat Operations Center at Headquarters North American Air Defense Command, Colorado Spring. (Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

In 1963, the system was upgraded to the Emergency Broadcast System. This new system could be used for national emergencies and to transmit information about weather and natural disasters on a local level. If a national-scale emergency were to occur, an emergency alert would go to the entire nation from the National Warning Center inside NORAD, the nation’s aerospace defense command center located deep inside Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. Once the EBS was activated, the president could speak to the entire nation within 10 minutes.

At least, that was the plan.

The system was tested every Saturday. But on that Saturday in 1971, a real message—not a test message—came over the special teletype network that sat inside every radio and TV station. “Message authenticator: hatefulness, hatefulness, it read. “This is an emergency action notification (EAN) directed by the President. Normal broadcasting will cease immediately.”

“Hatefulness” matched up with the special daily code words sent to broadcasters to verify an emergency alert. This wasn’t a drill.

VIDEO: WOWO EBS False Alarm: February 20, 1971.

Immediately, broadcasters sprang into action. They cut into their normal programming and read a special, federally mandated script …read more