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'I was enabling them': This GOP operative realized he couldn't stop the dark forces in his party — and left

November 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

In Trumpworld, one of the worst things a Republican can be called is a “RINO” or “Republican In Name Only” — and conservative activist Tim Miller has been called that many times this year for his vehement opposition to President Donald Trump and support for President-elect Joe Biden. Miller, who served as communications director for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, remained in the Republican Party until recently despite his disdain for Trumpism. But on the conservative website The Bulwark, Miller explains why he has finally left the GOP after many years.

“This year, the Republican Party elected officials, with one Willardian exception, were united behind a birther who tried to ban people from travel based on their religion, told American Black women to ‘go back’ where they came from, and put a White nationalist collaborator in charge of our immigration regime,” Miller explains. “So today, it’s me who is heading for the exits. They have been clearly marked.”

Miller points out that there were reactionaries in the Republican Party long before Trump’s presidency, but under Trumpism, they have become especially outspoken. And looking back, Miller now says that the reactionaries were more prominent in the GOP in the past than he wanted to acknowledge.

Miller explains, “While Donald Trump and John McCain are polar opposites as men, the forces driving the illiberal and nativist elements of the Republican Party were there the whole time.… The thing is, in 2008, I had convinced myself these forces were just the nuts out on the margins, while I was one of the good ones. What I didn’t realize — but probably should have — was that these forces weren’t as marginal as I thought. That I was enabling them, and that they were increasing in power within the Party throughout the entire time I was a professional operative.”

When Trump was elected president, Miller writes, it became impossible to ignore the role that extremism played in the GOP.

Miller writes, “Trump’s win forced me to get outside of my bubble a bit and try to understand his appeal outside the urban pockets of fabulousness I inhabited. It opened my eyes to the lasting structural racism and resentments that still plague our …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump pardons Michael Flynn — making himself look even more guilty

November 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a “full pardon” for his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, a key figure from the start of Russia investigation and the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Flynn had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential transition. The reason for his lying was never fully explained. He also admitted to working as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkey while serving on the Trump campaign, work that included publishing a ghost-written op-ed in The Hill that argued for extraditing an American resident who is seen as an enemy of the Turkish government. After admitting to his crimes, Flynn attempted to recant and withdraw his guilty plea, an issue which had yet to be resolved by the courts.

Trump was widely expected to give a pardon to Flynn, who has become a hero on the right for his perceived martyrdom in the Russia probe. Despite the fact that he admitted his guilt and there is strong evidence behind the charges, Flynn was seen by many conservative figures as wrongfully prosecuted.

It’s not clear yet what conduct the pardon covers. Trump’s tweet about the matter did not specify how the pardon is worded, which could be significant for any potential future case against Flynn.

Flynn’s pardon follows Trump’s Summer commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone, another of his allies who was charged by the Mueller team. Additional pardons for others involved or those charged in other cases may bet yet to come.

It’s worth noting that the pardons undermine the whole point of having a special counsel, which is meant to protect sensitive cases that implicate the president’s interest from the White House’s influence.

In the Mueller report, the special counsel argued that the president’s repeated suggestions that pardons may be awaiting Flynn, Stone, and others could constitute criminal acts of obstruction of justice. Trump’s following through on giving these pardons could be seen as additional evidence for this crime.

In the case of Flynn, the report explained:

After Flynn withdrew from a joint defense agreement with the President and began cooperating with the government, the President’s personal counsel left a message for …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Report reveals a GOP anti-Muslim push led to 5 wrongful termination claims — costing the House $850k

November 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

President Donald Trump and some of his Republican allies have not been shy about fear-mongering over Muslims. And that fear-mongering, according to the New York Times reporters Noam Scheiber and Nicholas Fandos, is costing the federal government a lot of money. Scheiber and Fandos are reporting that this year, the U.S. House of Representatives “quietly” paid a total of $850,000 to “settle wrongful termination claims by five Pakistani-American technology specialists, after a set of routine workplace allegations against them morphed into fodder for right-wing conspiracy theories amplified by President Trump.”

According to Scheiber and Fandos, “What started as a relatively ordinary House inquiry into procurement irregularities by Imran Awan, three members of his family and a friend — who had a bustling practice providing members of Congress with technology support — was twisted into lurid accusations of hacking government information.”

Scheiber and Fandos recall that when Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland in 2018, he “implied that one of the employees involved in the House case — a ‘Pakistani gentleman,’ he said — could have been responsible for stealing e-mails of Democratic officials leaked during the 2016 campaign. His own intelligence agencies had concluded that the stolen e-mails were part of an election interference campaign ordered by Moscow.”

Rep. Ted Deutch, the Florida Democrat who chairs the House Ethics Committee, used Awan for tech support in the past — and he slammed Trump for defaming the Pakistani-American tech specialists.

Deutch told the Times, “It is tragic and outrageous the way right-wing media and Republicans all the way up to President Trump attempted to destroy the lives of an immigrant Muslim-American family based on scurrilous allegations. Their names were smeared on cable TV, their children were harassed at school, and they genuinely feared for their lives. The settlement is an acknowledgment of the wrong done to this family.”

The case, however, preceded Trump’s presidency and originated in 2016.

Scheiber and Fandos explain, “Officials in the House, then controlled by Republicans, began investigating claims that the specialists had improperly accounted for purchases of equipment and bent employment rules as they worked part-time for the offices of dozens of Democratic lawmakers. In the hands of the chamber’s inspector general and later the Capitol Police, the investigation slowly expanded to include concerns that the workers had illicitly gained access to, transferred or removed government data and stolen equipment.”

The Daily Caller, …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here's the fundamental reason so many are obsessed with Trump

November 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Amanda Marcotte

Are we addicted to Donald Trump? It’s a question that’s haunting journalists and political commentators, most of whom hate Trump but cannot deny that his name drives traffic and ratings. Even though Trump lost the election and Joe Biden will be the next president, Trump continues to be the big attention draw for political websites and cable news networks.

Part of that is completely understandable. Trump is still big news. He literally spent the past few weeks attempting a coup. While he failed, that doesn’t change the history-making fact that he even tried, or that he got so much support. Certainly Biden, whose main activity is finding boring-but-competent people to staff his administration, can’t compete with that, and there’s no real indication that he wants to. (Unlike Trump, Biden views governing as a job and not just an opportunity to get attention.)

But there is no doubt that the media remains flatly fascinated with Trump, in no small part because, as Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir argued Monday, “our readers and viewers have enabled and encouraged us at every step” and stories about Trump “outperform every other category of reporting, commentary or analysis we can possibly offer.”

As Philip Bump at the Washington Post documented Tuesday, since Trump first announced his run for president, he “is the political figure who garners the most search interest, cable news mentions or screen time each month since June 2015.”

Because of all this, it’s become quite fashionable in some circles to haughtily declare that all this interest is tawdry, and that if we simply ignored Trump, he would go away. Hardly a week goes by on social media where I don’t get some reader who, sick of it all, will lash out at me personally and demand that I stop writing about, tweeting about or otherwise giving attention to Trump.

But the command to ignore him didn’t make the bully disappear in junior high school and it certainly doesn’t work with the president. Nor can Trump’s importance in our politics be easily reduced to a pop psychology assumption that all fascination is inherently addiction and therefore bad.

The reality is that the Trump obsession isn’t really about Trump himself anyway. It’s about his followers.

Don’t get me wrong. I confess some interest in his psychology, which our traffic shows is widely shared. But let’s face it — even on the sociopath …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump is facing new debt collectors — and they're coming from El Paso

November 25, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

When President Donald Trump held a MAGA rally in El Paso in February 2019, it cost the West Texas city more than half a million dollars — and almost two years later, according to KTSM-TV (an NBC affiliate in El Paso), the city government is still trying to get Team Trump to cover those expenses.

KTSM’s Taniana Favela reports that El Paso City Councilman Peter Svarzbein, on Tuesday, said, “We all are seeing firsthand the struggles that everyday El Paso families have, in addition to the challenges that we have in our own budget. So, this amount of money is not inconsequential — and also, the message that we send that nobody is above the law is also an important one for our community to understand as well.”

El Paso is a Democrat-leaning city in a light red state that Trump carried by 6% in the 2020 presidential election. Although Texas on the whole leans Republican, its largest urban centers — including Houston, Austin and Dallas — lean Democrat. Nonetheless, Trump chose blue El Paso for a rally in February 2019. And that visit and event, according to KTSM, cost the city a total of $569,204.63.

This week, the El Paso City Council, including Svarzbein, unanimously voted in favor of hiring outside legal counsel — attorney Snapper L. Carr’s law office — in an effort to get that money from the Trump campaign. But Karla Nieman, city attorney for El Paso, acknowledged that after the 2020 presidential election, Trump’s reelection campaign is “likely to face a large amount of debt.” And according to Nieman, the City of El Paso might not sue Trump’s campaign — although Nieman didn’t rule out the possibility.

The Texas Tribune quoted Nieman as saying, “It does not necessarily mean that the City will be filing a lawsuit, but that we will be using various methods to attempt to collect the debt owed to the City of El Paso.”

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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"Paris is Burning" premieres in theaters

November 24, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

After more than five years of fundraising, shooting, and editing, the documentary Paris is Burning debuts in New York City on March 13, 1991. The groundbreaking look at the culture and characters surrounding the city’s drag ball culture changed the way many people thought about drag, queerness and even documentaries themselves.

Paris is Burning chronicles the “Golden Age” of ball culture in New York, drawing from extensive interviews with drag queens and others associated with the elaborate balls and complex social networks surrounding them. Filmmaker Jennie Livingston had almost literally stumbled across the subject while taking courses at New York University, striking up a conversation with two men whom she saw voguing (a stylized modern dance in which participants often competed at balls) in Washington Square Park. While cobbling together small amounts of funding from disparate sources, Livingston interviewed a cross-section of those associated with the ball, documenting the various categories of competition, extensively cataloguing slang, and conducting tying the experience to larger issues such as the AIDS crisis and the bigotry that routinely faced and even took the lives of the gay, transgender, and otherwise queer subjects of the film.

Paris is Burning was an instant hit, winning prizes at the Sundance Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, the Los Angeles and New York Critics’ Circle Awards, the GLAAD Media Awards, and more. Its failure to garner an Academy Awards nomination, along with the exclusion of other minority-focused documentaries like Hoop Dreams, led the Academy to revise its system for nominating documentaries in 1996. The Library of Congress added Paris is Burning to the National Film Registry in 2016.

…read more

Source: HISTORY

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Gloria Steinem publishes part one of "A Bunny's Tale" in SHOW magazine

November 24, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

After enduring a brief but grueling stint as a Bunny in Manhattan’s Playboy Club, feminist writer Gloria Steinem published the first half of her landmark account, “A Bunny’s Tale,” in SHOW magazine on this day in 1963. Steinem’s undercover reporting increased her profile and stripped back the glamorous facade of Hugh Hefner‘s empire to reveal a world of misogyny and exploitation.

Steinem, a freelance writer, was commissioned by SHOW to apply for a job at the Playboy Club under a fake name and document her experience. Ads for jobs as a server at the club, whose female employees were all known as Bunnies, portrayed the work as something akin to paid participation in a party straight out of Playboy Magazine. As Steinem quickly learned, the truth was far uglier. Bunnies were paid less than advertised and subject to a system of demerits, which could be given for offenses such as refusing to go out with a customer in a rude way (even though Bunnies were strictly forbidden to go out with most customers) or allowing the cotton tale on the back of their uniforms to get dirty.

Steinem’s account was replete with examples of the toll the work took on Bunnies: uniforms so tight one could barely move, swollen and blistering feet from hours of working in high heels, and near-constant harassment by the drunk businessmen who made up most of the clientele. After one night when roughly 2,000 people came through the club’s doors, Steinem estimated there had been maybe ten who “looked at us not as objects … but as if we might be human beings.”

“A Bunny’s Tale” was one of the first feminist attacks on Playboy and the “sexually liberated” but male-centric lifestyle it embodied. Hefner tried to take it in stride, stating that Playboy was on the side of the women’s liberation movement and asserting that applications to work at the Playboy Club had increased thanks to Steinem’s article. He also ordered the club to stop giving new Bunnies mandatory blood tests and gynecological exams, practices Steinem had questioned in her article.

Though it helped an early-career Steinem establish her credentials as a reporter and a feminist, she regretted the piece for years after it ran, dismayed by a slew of offers to take on sexualized undercover roles and haunted by photos of herself in the Bunny costume, which had been taken during …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Paul Ryan urges Trump to accept defeat — but gets ridiculed for taking so long to say it

November 24, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan has been keeping a low profile since exiting the U.S. House of Representatives in early January 2019, but this week, the Wisconsin Republican spoke out about the results of the 2020 presidential election — and he made it clear that he considers Joe Biden president-elect of the United States.

During Bank of America’s European Credit Conference on Tuesday, Ryan called for an “orderly transfer of power.” The former House speaker, according to Politico, said, “So, the election is over. The outcome is certain, and I really think the orderly transfer of power — that is one of the most uniquely fundamental American components of our political system.”

President Donald Trump and employees of his campaign have refused to accept the election results, filing a long list of lawsuits and making the baseless claim that Trump was robbed of a victory because of widespread voter fraud. But Ryan obviously doesn’t buy into that, and he stressed that Trump needs to accept the fact that Biden won.

Noting that the General Services Administration has formally moved to begin the transition from Trump’s outgoing administration to Biden’s incoming administration, Ryan explained, “I think maybe even more important is that these legal challenges to the outcome and the attacks on our voting system really need to stop, in my opinion. The outcome will not be changed, and it will only serve to undermine our faith in our system of government, our faith in our democracy.”

Ryan knows what it’s like to be part of a losing presidential ticket. In the 2012 presidential election, he was Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate — and Ryan debated then-Vice President Biden during 2012′s vice presidential debate. Much to Ryan’s disappointment, Romney lost the election when President Barack Obama won a second term. The former congressman acknowledged that it is a “terrible feeling” to “lose a national election.”

“I know there are a lot of people in this country who are …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Researcher reveals how far-right media is feeding viewers' post-election detachment from reality

November 24, 2020 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

President Donald Trump was furious when, on Election Night, Fox News’ decision desk called Arizona for Joe Biden — and many of Trump’s followers share his sense of betrayal. Trump has been urging his MAGA base to look to sources other than Fox News or Fox Business for information, and according to Renée DiResta — a technical research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory — some right-wing social media outlets are happy to tell Trump devotees what they want to hear.

After Fox News called Arizona for Biden, DiResta notes this week in an article for The Atlantic, the internet was full of anti-Fox hashtags from his supporters. And Trump devotees, according to DiResta, are also angry with Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

DiResta explains, “Throughout Election Day, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had been cracking down on a flurry of allegations about voter fraud in Arizona; the platforms quickly applied warning labels to new posts containing false or disputed information and reduced the distribution of groups spreading them. In response, pro-Trump influencers exhorted their followers to congregate on Parler.”

DiResta cites the social media app Parler as one of the right-wing outlets that has been willing to help Trump promote “baseless conspiracy theories.” And she points out that for some Trump supporters, Newsmax TV and One America News have become far-right alternatives to Fox News.

“For most of Trump’s term, Facebook and others had been loath to crack down on even baseless conspiracy theories, including those repeated by the president himself,” DiResta explains. “Freedom of expression, the argument went, covers the right to think and say even floridly false things, which were best addressed through corrections and counter-speech. Yet the major platforms concluded that misleading theories about the election were a distinct class of misinformation because of their potential to cause significant harm to the body politic.”

Other Trump-friendly outlets, DiResta observes, range from the tube sites Rumble and BitChute to the social media site Gab — which has been described as a far-right equivalent of Twitter.

“People are joining Parler today to find like-minded users to validate their own beliefs, but ultimately, some percentage will get bored and move on,” DiResta argues. “That subset will ultimately drift away from the app. It’s less user-friendly than Facebook, and it lacks one …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here's how Trump supporters are reacting to his losses on the ground as distrust in the election festers

November 24, 2020 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

Georgia’s Trump supporters are not giving up. On Saturday, scores massed outside the statehouse in Atlanta, a small sea of mostly men in red MAGA hats hoisting signs hurling accusations against Joe Biden and wearing campaign tee-shirts saying “STOP the STEAL.”

It barely mattered that Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had certified Biden’s unexpected nearly 13,000-vote victory one day before. Also irrelevant was Georgia’s unprecedented manual hand count of presidential votes on 5 million paper ballots, which was more than any 2020 swing state has done since Election Day to verify its votes.

Instead, Trump supporters in Georgia, like many across the country, are not just embracing a growing catalog of vote-counting conspiracy theories as the president pressures state officials to reject the popular vote and select him, via Electoral College slates, for another term. Among Trump’s ranks are activists who witnessed the latest vote-counting steps as credentialed GOP observers and have studied these steps via social media and online forums. These activists appear to be coalescing into a new right-facing election reform movement, much like left-leaning activists launched a progressive “election integrity” movement after the fraught presidential elections in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.

“Oh my God, where do I begin?” exclaimed Stacey, an official Republican Party observer during Georgia’s hand count last week in DeKalb County near Atlanta. Stacey, who didn’t want her last names used, was a blond woman in her 40s wearing an American flag sweatshirt and a bracelet with red, white and blue rhinestones and Trump’s name spelled out in baby beads. She was taking a break with a friend, another GOP observer.

The pair, like many Trump supporters watching Georgia’s audit, said they were citizens who cared about democracy and honest elections. But instead of appreciating that Georgia’s first-ever hand count of millions of paper ballots had found and fixed mistakes that added more than 1,000 votes to Trump’s total, they were increasingly incensed by the fine print in the election process they witnessed. Their discovery that election administration was under-resourced, complex, opaque and at times, mistake-prone, only affirmed their belief that the process had conspired to defeat Trump. Election officials across Georgia might have been counting every ballot, but that exercise and the overall process lacked the tools to convince a slice of the public that was critical and cynical.

“We’re not allowed …read more

Source: ALTERNET