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Here's How Trump's 2018 Midterms Strategy Echoes the Dangerous Impulses of Richard Nixon

October 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

New York Times reporter Nick Confessore pointed out the similarities.

Discussing the growing concern about President Donald Trump's explosive and irresponsible rhetoric, New York Times reporter Nick Confessore made a revealing comparison Thursday on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” to one of the United States' most sinister presidents in recent history.

“I was thinking about a phrase from Pat Buchanan back from his days working for Richard Nixon,” Confessore told host Nicolle Wallace. “He said, 'Our strategy is to divide the country in half and hope that our half is the larger half.'”

He continued: “And that is Trump's strategy. He casts his opponents as part of an alien force: People who do not share your values, or your country, or your patriotism.”

“They represent a 'threat,'” observed Wallace.

“A threat. A threat to your lives and your culture. That is what he revels in. It is the entire arc of his politics — from day one. His words matter, they have consequences. He has a huge soapbox, and he uses it. And he constantly uses it to stoke hatred and fear. That is his style as president,” Confessore concluded.

Confessore's characterization of Nixon's politics closely echoes a report from 2016 in which Dan Baum of Harper's Magazine reported a comment from John Ehrlichman, one of Nixon's top aides, that he made in 1994. Discussing the administration's launch of the war on drugs, Ehrlichman reportedly said:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

This criminalization and targeting of Nixon's political enemies allowed him to frighten Americans into believing that they were under threat …read more


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Trump Lawyers Claim He Was Forced to Buy $10,000 Portrait of Himself With Charity Money Because No One Else Would

October 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Matthew Chapman, AlterNet

At the Trump Foundation trial, Trump's lawyers offered a bizarre excuse for why the organization bought the infamous giant portrait.

On Thursday, Manhattan Supreme Court judge Saliann Scarpulla heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by New York State, arguing that President Donald Trump's charitable foundation, which predates his presidency, was being used as a slush fund.

One of the issues brought up during the hearing was a painting of Trump that was purchased with $10,000 in Trump Foundation money at a fundraising auction at Mar-a-Lago in 2014.

But Trump's lawyers presented an incredible excuse for this: Trump had to buy the painting because no one else offered a bid on it.

“So Mr. Trump donates $10,000 to start the bidding,” said attorney Alan Futerfas, “and then when the bidding goes on and no one else bids, they’re stuck with the painting.”

That is all well and good, but it does not explain why Trump, who is very famously a billionaire, did not then just purchase the painting with his own funds, rather than use money that was marked out for charitable funds.

Trump may have believed what he was doing was okay because the auction itself was being raised for a charitable cause, the Unicorn Foundation. But it is harder to explain away other transactions that were allegedly paid for by the Trump Foundation, including to pay off golf debts, decorate his country club, boost his campaign for president, and, perhaps shadiest of all, to settle lawsuits against him.

Questions about the Trump Foundation have lingered since the 2016 campaign. Indeed, this is not the only giant portrait of Trump that the Trump Foundation is accused of buying improperly — another was purchased for $20,000 in 2007.

According to the New York Post, Scarpulla has said that she will put any ruling on hold until a Manhattan appeals court can rule on whether there is standing to sue a president in a civil state court.

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Former GOP Strategist Reveals the Covert Message Trump Sent to Neo-Nazis by Proclaiming Himself a 'Nationalist'

October 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Far-right racists loved the message.

While discussing the racial politics of the Florida gubernatorial election, ex-Republican strategist Steve Schmidt argued Thursday that the whole party has been dragged down into a dangerous association with racists because of President Donald Trump's rhetoric and policies.

Schmidt asserted during an appearance on MSNBC's “Deadline: White House” that Trump's recent declaration of himself as a “nationalist” was a direct message to some of the most pernicious parts of the far right.  

“When Donald Trump declares himself a 'nationalist,' the nationalists understand exactly what he means,” said Schmidt. “By the way, let's stop calling them 'white nationalists' and call them by their names, which are 'neo-Nazis' and 'Klansmen.'”

He continued: “What Trump has done with regard to 'nationalists' is send a signal that, 'Well, we may not bring you home to Thanksgiving dinner and put you in the front row at the rallies, but you're an important and vital part of our coalition. And after Trump said he was a nationalist, if you go to the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, you see celebration that they have achieved a goal. That they have been given a seat at the table. That their views are held as somewhere in the mainstream, and they are part of a coalition that is led by Donald Trump.”

Schmidt also pointed out that, in the Florida gubernatorial election, Republican Ron DeSantis — who has cast himself as a Trump acolyte — used the loaded phrase “monkey it up” to attack his opponent, the black Democrat Andrew Gillum. 

“Which is deliberately racist,” Schmidt said.

DeSantis has also received support from white supremacists in the state, and he previously spoke at a conference for a racist organization.

Watch the clip:

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Here Are 5 of the Worst Far-Right and White Supremacist Terrorist Attacks of Recent Years

October 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

This problem is largely ignored.

This week, a long list of high-profile Democrats have become the targets of explosive devices—including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama, billionaire investor George Soros, Rep. Maxine Waters, former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro. An explosive device was sent to former Attorney General Eric Holder as well (with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Florida office used as a return address), and a suspicious package addressed to former CIA Director John O. Brennan forced the evacuation of CNN’s Manhattan offices.

It remains to be seen who is behind these attacks, which conservative Washington Times columnist Jennifer Rubin has correctly described as “a coordinated attempt at mass assassination.” Some wingnuts and conspiracy theorists on the far right, however, have jumped to the knee-jerk conclusion that “leftists” are behind the attacks. On Twitter, Newsmax’s far-right John Cardillo posted, “Investigators need to take a serious look at far-left groups like #Antifa when investigating the bombs sent to Soros, Obama and the Clintons. These smell like the false flag tactics of unhinged leftists who know they’re losing.” And AM talk radio host Rush Limbaugh speculated that a “Democratic operative” was sending the pipe bombs, insisting, “Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing.”

Limbaugh, Cardillo and others on the far-right are so deeply racist that they cannot conceive of terrorist attacks being carried out by far-right white males. In their view, only people of color or radical Islamists are capable of terrorist violence. But in fact, vicious terrorist attacks carried out by far-right white males have been plentiful in the U.S. for generations. Here are five of the worst ones that have occurred in recent years.

1. 2017: Heather D. Heyer Killed at Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville

After Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot by James Hodgkinson in a domestic terrorist attack on June 14, 2017, far-right AM talk radio host Michael Savage blamed MSNBC for the attack—which, of course, MSNBC vehemently condemned—and made the idiotic claim that the left was uniquely violent. But only two months later, …read more


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Here's What Everyone's Getting Wrong About Voter Suppression in Two Key States Before the Midterm Elections

October 25, 2018 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, Independent Media Institute

No simple solutions in Georgia and North Dakota.

With Election Day nearing, the partisan rhetoric over voting is growing and not helping those at the center of the storm—actual voters in key states.

Perhaps this is inevitable given a political culture where rants and raves take center stage, as best evidenced by President Trump making new noise about the virtually non-existent threat of illegal voters—people posing as someone else to vote. (Non-existent means 31 instances of voter impersonation out of a billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014.)

But back in real life, there’s plenty of rhetoric that’s not giving an accurate picture to voters in a handful of states with tight races where every vote might count in determining governors and who controls Congress. The bottom line is the reality of what will face ordinary Americans seeking to vote is being obscured.

Situations now unfolding in Georgia and North Dakota are prime examples.

Let’s start with Georgia, where, on Tuesday, a federal judge ordered the state not to reject mail-in ballots where there were discrepancies between what voters write on the envelope and state election records. (Those could be a signature that doesn’t look like what was on their registration form, or not correctly filling in a date on the envelope.)

Technicalities of that ilk are designed to disqualify and to disenfranchise. And they are part of a bigger pattern in this state that’s also holding 53,000 registrations hostage. These are paper voter registration forms, which, under a new “exact match” statute, are not getting approved without further scrutiny. This is not happening with voters who registered online or automatically when getting a driver’s license.

On Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Georgia not to disqualify those absentee ballots that had suspicious signatures or other disqualifying marks. Civil rights lawyers, as they’re wont to do, quickly declared victory over the voter suppressors.

“We are pleased that the court has enforced the due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution,” Sean Young, legal director of Georgia’s branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, <a target=_blank …read more


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Why Tsar Nicholas II and the Romanovs Were Murdered

October 25, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.

When Nicholas Romanov was crowned tsar of Russia in 1894, he seemed bewildered. “What is going to happen to me…to all Russia?” he asked an advisor when he assumed the throne. “I am not prepared to be Tsar. I never even wanted to become one.”

Twenty-four years later, he seemed just as bewildered as a group of armed thugs, members of the Bolshevik secret police, moved in to assassinate him. Though he had been deposed months earlier, his crown and his name stolen from him and his family imprisoned, he did not expect to be murdered.

But unlike Tsar Nicholas, historians have pieced together the exact reasons why the Romanov family was brutally assassinated and the context that led to their downfall.

Tsar Nicholas II and empress Alexandra in coronation robes, 1894.

Russians turn against Nicholas II after a series of unpopular decisions

The roots of the Romanov family’s murder can be found in the earliest days of Nicholas’ reign. The eldest son of Emperor Alexander III, Nicholas was his father’s designated heir. But Alexander did not adequately prepare his son to rule a Russia that was wracked with political turmoil. A strict autocrat, Alexander believed that a tsar had to rule with an iron fist. He forbade anyone within the Russian Empire to speak non-Russian languages (even those in places like Poland), cracked down on the freedom of the press, and weakened his people’s political institutions.

As a result, Nicholas inherited a restless Russia. A few days after his coronation in 1894, nearly 1,400 of his subjects died during a huge stampede. They had gathered on a large field in Moscow to receive coronation gifts and souvenirs, but the day ended in tragedy. It was a disturbing beginning to Nicholas’ reign, and his bungled response earned him the nickname “Nicholas the Bloody.”

Throughout his reign, Nicholas faced growing discontent from his subjects. He fought a war the people weren’t behind. His government massacred nearly 100 unarmed protesters during a peaceful assembly in 1905. And he struggled to maintain a civil relationship with the Duma, the representative branch of the Russian government.

Rasputin (TV-14; 1:59)

World War I catastrophes and Rasputin’s reputation erode Nicholas’ public support

Nicholas’ son, the crown prince, Alexei, was born with hemophilia. But the family kept his disease, which would cause him to bleed to death …read more


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Why It Took 17 Years to Catch the Unabomber

October 25, 2018 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

After a 17-year-long hunt, it would be Ted Kaczynski’s own words that would lead to his capture.

Theodore Kaczynski after his capture in 1996.

By the time federal authorities arrested Theodore J. Kaczynski (aka the “Unabomber”) at his primitive log cabin in Montana in April 1996, he had managed to outwit the law for more than 17 years.

From 1978 to 1995, the former math professor with a genius-level IQ and a massive grudge against modern technology had mailed or hand-delivered 16 homemade explosive devices to universities, businesses, homes and public areas across the United States, killing three people and injuring nearly two dozen more.

The desperate search for the Unabomber stands as one of the longest-running manhunts in U.S. history, eventually involving than 150 full-time investigators, analysts and other agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. In the end, after an investigation lasting nearly two decades, it would be Kaczynski’s own words that led to his capture.

Unabomber Arrested (TV-PG; 1:28)

A shadowy villain strikes.

The Unabomber’s campaign of terror began on May 25, 1978, when a brown paper-wrapped package found on the campus of the University of Illinois in Chicago was returned to the supposed sender, a professor at nearby Northwestern University. As the professor had not mailed the package, he handed it over to campus security; it then exploded, injuring the security guard tasked with opening it.

By late 1979, two other bombs had exploded, including a second at Northwestern and one that exploded aboard an American Airlines flight bound from Chicago to Washington D.C. Another package bomb sent in early 1980 badly injured Percy Wood, the president of United Airlines. Aided by agents of the ATF and Postal Inspection Service, the bureau formed the UNABOM task force, named for the suspected serial bomber’s earliest chosen targets: universities and airlines.

The Unabomber’s explosives become increasingly sophisticated.

Though they conducted exhaustive forensic examinations of the bomb components and made efforts to link the victims in order to recover clues to who the bomber might be, investigators came up empty. The bomber made his explosives from common scrap materials—including wood, fishing wire, nails and tape—that were widely available, and had clearly taken great care to leave no identifying trace behind.

As FBI criminal profiler James R. Fitzgerald told NPR in 2017, lab …read more


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What Inspired Queen 'Bloody' Mary's Gruesome Nickname?

October 25, 2018 in History

By Una McIlvenna

She did burn hundreds of Protestants at the stake, but also history, as they say, is written by the victors.

Queen Mary I of England.

She was the first-ever Queen of England to rule in her own right, but to her critics, Mary I of England has long been known only as “Bloody Mary.”

This unfortunate nickname was thanks to her persecution of Protestant heretics, whom she burned at the stake in the hundreds. But is this a fair portrayal? Was she the bloodthirsty religious fanatic that posterity has bequeathed to us? While hundreds died under Mary’s reign, her dark legacy may have as much to do with the fact that she was a Catholic monarch succeeded by a Protestant Queen in a country that remained Protestant. History, as they say, is written by the victors.

During her five-year reign, Mary had over 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake in what are known as the Marian persecutions. It is a statistic which seems barbaric. But her own father, Henry VIII, executed 81 people for heresy. And her half-sister, Elizabeth I, also executed scores of people for their faith. So why is Mary’s name linked with religious persecution?

Protestants being burnt at the stake during the Reign of Queen Mary I.

Being burned at the stake was typical punishment for heresy.

First, it’s important to understand that heresy was considered by all of early modern Europe to be an infection of the body politic that had to be erased so as not to poison society at large. All over Europe, the punishment for heresy was not only death, but also the total destruction of the heretic’s corpse to prevent the use of their body parts for relics. Therefore, most heretics were burned and their ashes thrown into the river and Mary’s choice of burning was completely standard practice for the period.

Read more: 8 Things You Might Not Know about Mary I

Her sister, Elizabeth I, was a little more savvy: in her reign those convicted of practicing Catholicism by training as priests or sheltering them were convicted as traitors and punished accordingly, by being hanged and quartered. The idea behind the different crimes was that, while people could dispute religious belief, no one could ever possibly agree that treason was permissible.

If one person can be held responsible for Mary’s reputation, however, it …read more


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Young People like ‘Socialism,’ but Do They Know What It Is?

October 25, 2018 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Fifty-seven percent of Democrats and 51 percent of young people
have a positive view of socialism, Gallup reports, slightly more than those who
have a positive view of capitalism. That’s frightening. The
record of socialist countries, from the Soviet Union and Mao
Zedong’s China to today’s Venezuela, is horrific:
little or no economic growth, hunger, authoritarian government,
people risking their lives to flee.

So why are people talking about socialism again? It seemed to
start with Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential
campaign in 2016. Then came a new breed of Democrats fed up with
the influence of money in both parties, typified by Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over a prominent Democratic
congressman. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) says its
membership skyrocketed after Ocasio-Cortez’s June win.

Americans like free
enterprise, and very few of them want a more powerful

Socialism is back, after seemingly being buried in the dustbin
of history with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, for
several reasons. Young people never knew, and many older voters
have forgotten, what the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
and its Eastern European client states were like. The financial
crisis of 2008 certainly gave capitalism a bad name. Bailouts for
Wall Street, a very slow economic recovery, and endless wars left
people on all sides of the political spectrum looking for
alternatives. For some people that alternative was a tough-talking
billionaire president, but with his harsh rhetoric toward
immigrants and other groups, he seemed like a typical unfeeling
capitalist to many other voters.

So now half of Americans 18-29 say they have a positive view of
socialism. But there’s a lot of confusion about what that
means. The traditional definition of socialism, as summarized in
the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, is “a
centrally planned economy in which the government controls all
means of production.” That’s what the Communist Party
implemented in the Soviet Union and China. It was the goal of the
British Labour Party, and the nationalizations of coal, iron and
steel, railroads, utilities, and international telecommunications
after World War II led to decades of economic stagnation.

But most American “socialists” probably don’t
support government ownership of the means of production. Ask
self-proclaimed socialists what they want, and you get vague and
lovely answers. Ocasio-Cortez says that “in a modern, moral
and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to
live.” In the Liza Minnelli musical Flora the Red
, the Communist organizer sings, “Are you in favor
of democracy, the rights of man, everlasting peace, milk and
cookies for the kids, security, jobs for everyone, and against
slums, the filthy …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Debt the World Owes Hungary

October 25, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

BUDAPEST – In 1956, Eastern Europe was unsettled. Joseph Stalin
had died and the Soviet Union was negotiating both a political
transition and a social transformation. Polish unrest had forced
the country’s communist overlords into liberal concessions
that were reluctantly ratified by Moscow. In July, the hardline
general secretary of Hungary’s Communist Party, Matyas
Rakosi, was ousted.

On October 23, some 20,000 students marched in Budapest,
demanding political reform. Along the way, their number swelled
tenfold. Protesters waved Hungarian flags from which they had cut
out the communist coat of arms. Marchers highlighted their demands
by tearing down the 82-foot Stalin monument, a “gift”
to the Hungarian people from five years before.

The protests set in motion a full-fledged revolution that
overthrew Hungary’s communist regime and triggered a brutal
Soviet military intervention. Thirty-three more years would pass
before Hungarians finally won their freedom.

They led Europe’s
liberation from communism. This month, the anniversary of their
revolution, we would be wise to remember.

This extraordinary history is captured by exhibits at the House
of Terror in Budapest, which commemorates Hungary’s suffering
under tyranny both right and left. The building housed the fascist
Arrow Cross Party and then the communist regime’s secret
police. Cells from those oppressive times are preserved in the

Like many of its neighbors, Hungary’s agony was rooted in
the end of World War I. The Austro-Hungarian Empire fell along with
the German and Russian monarchies. An independent state of Hungary
emerged from the ruins, but lost much of its territory, primarily
to Romania, under the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. Brief social
democratic rule was followed by a disastrous Soviet-style
“republic” and then semi-fascist rule under Miklos

Seeking to reclaim lost territory, Horthy joined the Axis and
Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union. Yet by 1943, he
was seeking a way out. Horthy was ousted the following year by his
erstwhile allies; the country would suffer next under the Arrow
Cross Party, modeled after the Nazis, until the Soviets conquered
Hungary. Although the fascists were in power little more than five
months, thousands were murdered and tens of thousands were deported
during that time.

After the war, many Hungarians effortlessly moved from fascism
to communism, a process represented in the House of Terror’s
“Change Room,” in which the party uniforms are
displayed back to back. The Hungarian people voted against the
communists, but the Red Army ensured the party’s ultimate
triumph. Rakosi took power in 1949. Tens of thousands were arrested
and hundreds of thousands sent to the Soviet gulag before
destalinization after the Soviet dictator’s death ended
Rakosi’s reign.

His successor, Erno Gero, rejected the demands of liberal
demonstrators and called for …read more

Source: OP-EDS