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Analysis reveals Trump operation paid $3.5m to organizers of the rally that led to deadly capitol attack

February 11, 2021 in Blogs

By Common Dreams

A new political spending analysis released Wednesday shows that former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign and its joint fundraising committees paid more than $3.5 million to the individuals and firms involved in organizing the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that presaged the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Investigators at OpenSecrets, a project of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics that examines how money influences U.S. elections and public policy, analyzed recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings and found “newly identified payments… [that] show people involved in organizing the protests on January 6 received even larger sums from Trump’s 2020 campaign than previously known.”

The findings come in the midst of the Senate impeachment trial that will determine whether or not Trump will be convicted for inciting the violent insurrection carried out by a mob of his supporters.

Anna Massoglia, one of the campaign finance researchers who unearthed more than $3.5 million in direct payments from the then-president’s political operation to the January 6 organizers, wrote that there are “unanswered questions about the full extent of [Trump's] ties” to the incendiary demonstration that preceded the pro-Trump mob’s invasion of the halls of Congress.

“Recent FEC filings show at least three individuals listed on permit records for the Washington, D.C. demonstration were on the Trump campaign’s payroll through November 30, 2020,” Massoglia noted. “The Trump campaign paid Event Strategies Inc., a firm named in a permit for the rally that also employed two individuals involved in the demonstration, as recently as December 15, just three weeks before the attacks on the U.S. Capitol.”

And yet, “because the campaign used an opaque payment scheme that concealed details of hundreds of millions of dollars in spending by routing payments through shell companies where the ultimate payee is hidden,” Massoglia wrote, “the American public may never know the full extent of the Trump campaign’s payments to organizers involved in the protests.”

The permit for the so-called “Save America Rally,” hosted by a pro-Trump nonprofit group called Women for America First, “did not explicitly allow for a march from the rally location, which was near the White House to the Capitol,” Truthout reported Wednesday. “But it does say that ‘some participants may leave to attend rallies at the United States Capitol.’”

Despite their attempts “to distance themselves from the …read more


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Here's the real reason Republicans are obsessed with hating Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

February 11, 2021 in Blogs

By Salon

Last week, on the verge of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial, Republicans and their hate media launched a coordinated attack on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York progressive Democrat. Why? Because she publicly shared the emotional trauma that she and many others suffered during and after the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol — and because she compared that to her personal history as a survivor of sexual assault.

As Salon’s Amanda Marcotte observed, the “targets of right-wing mockery aren’t usually people traumatized by car accidents or combat experiences, but people whose trauma is politically uncomfortable for conservatives.” Such mockery is often “leveraged against victims of sexual violence, as happened when Donald Trump made fun of Christine Blasey Ford for her story of being sexually assaulted by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.” Marcotte continued:

Mostly, conservatives who engage in victim-mockery tend to keep it in their own spaces (Trump attacked Ford at a rally, not a press conference) where they can high-five each other for their abusive behavior without drawing the attention of others who rightfully will be grossed out by it. But after the Capitol insurrection of January 6, this habit of reflexively mocking and denying the pain of trauma victims is being rolled out for a more national audience, as Republicans frantically try to minimize the violence of that day, looking to deflect from their own complicity in both causing and excusing it.

After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., took to Instagram to detail her horrific experiences during the insurrection, the right-wing noise machine moved into action, deploying the usual sexist stereotypes about hysterical, manipulative, deceitful women typically employed to discredit victims of rape or sexual harassment.

These most recent attacks on Ocasio-Cortez — a favorite punching-bag of the right ever since she came to national prominence — are more than an example of bullying, crude and antisocial behavior. They are an illustration of how today’s Republican Party has already embraced the worst kind of political deviance, and a warning of the even more extreme fascist and authoritarian dangers to come.

In total, the ugliness directed at one congresswoman offers insight into how Trumpist Republicans and their neofascist followers and believers see the world, as well as the type of world they want to force into existence in the near future.

Here are some of their values and …read more


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The impeachment case is overwhelming — so here's how the GOP is deflecting

February 11, 2021 in Blogs

By Jon Skolnik

On the second day of former President Trump’s impeachment trial, emotions ran high on the Senate floor as lawmakers across both aisles watched aghast at security footage that had never before been seen, revealing just how close the rioters were to breaching the Senate chamber while members of Congress were still inside.

Democrats serving as the House impeachment managers showed clips of Sens. Mitt Romney, R-UT, and Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and former Vice President Mike Pence narrowly escaping the violent mob of marauders as they spread throughout the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Impeachment managers methodically recounted a timeline of the events leading up to the insurrection, citing various instances during the many months prior in which Trump sowed the seeds of violence in his followers.

One of the more expected moments in the trial occurred when House manager Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, cited a call Trump had mistakenly made to Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, during the insurrection, thinking that he had, in fact, called Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-AL. Lee claimed that he’d quickly given the phone to Tuberville, who Trump “reportedly” asked to make additional objections to the election certification process over a 10-minute phone call, during which Lee and Tuberville grew increasingly panicked as the riot unfolded.

“Excuse me, Tommy,” Lee said he interjected at the time, “We have to evacuate. Can I have my phone?”

On Wednesday, Lee objected to Cicilline’s recounting of the report to say that Trump had asked Tuberville to slow down the certification process, ultimately leading Cicilline to withdraw the statement. The House managers did, however, reserve the right to clarify their point on Thursday.

During and after the trial, many GOP senators were relatively forthright about their emotional state following the second day of the impeachment trial — a tense scene in which, as Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, described, “you could hear a pin drop.”

Sen. Rob Portman, R-OH, expressed that it was “not easy” to watch the footage and admitted he and his colleagues were “not as protected as [they] thought [they] were.”

Sen. Romney, one of the six senators who has expressed his support of the trial, said that he felt “very fortunate” for Capitol police officer Eugene Goodman, who rushed him away from the Senate chambers with just minutes to spare. The “violence that our Capitol Police and others …read more


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'A crisis within the movement': New report warns self-proclaimed 'prophets' are proliferating in the U.S.

February 11, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Within evangelical Protestant Christianity, it isn’t hard to find self-proclaimed “prophets” who are known for making political predictions. Journalist Ruth Graham takes a look at the growth of such “prophets” in an article published by the New York Times this week, stressing that some of them have turned out to be way off in their predictions.

“In recent years, self-described prophets have proliferated across the country, accelerating in stature over the course of the Trump era,” Graham explains. “They are stars within what is now one of the fastest-growing corners of Christianity: a loose but fervent movement led by hundreds of people who believe they can channel supernatural powers — and have special spiritual insights into world events.”

Such “prophets,” according to Graham, are likely to promote political conspiracy theories.

“Many are independent evangelists who do not lead churches or other institutions,” Graham observes. “They operate primarily online and through appearances at conferences or as guest speakers in churches, making money through book sales, donations and speaking fees. And they are part of the rising appeal of conspiracies in Christian settings, echoed by the popularity of QAnon among many evangelicals and a resistance to mainstream sources of information.”

Graham points to 33-year-old Jeremiah Johnson as one of the many “self-described prophets” who predicted that President Donald Trump would be reelected in 2020 — only to be embarrassed when Joe Biden, now president of the United States, defeated him. Other evangelical “prophets,” according to Graham, predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would be long gone by April 2020.

“So many prominent prophets had incorrectly predicted the reelection of Mr. Trump that the apologies and recriminations now constitute a crisis within the movement,” Graham notes.

It is within evangelical Protestant Christianity specifically that the “prophet” phenomenon has caught on in such a big way. Evangelicals are distinct from Mainline Protestants, who range from Lutherans to Episcopalians to the African Methodist Episcopal Church. While evangelicals have strict fundamentalist views and believe that salvation can only come through Christianity, Mainline Protestants tend to be more accepting of non-Christian faiths and are more likely to engage in interfaith activities.

Trump is wildly popular in the far-right White evangelical movement, and Graham notes that Johnson received death threats after Biden won the election and he admitted to being wrong about Trump winning a second term.

After Biden was declared the winner, Johnson made an official statement and told his …read more


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'Fear was their main tactic': How the forces of labor have been crushed — and how they can be protected

February 11, 2021 in Blogs

By Tom Conway

When workers at Orchid Orthopedic Solutions tried to form a union, the company quickly brought in five full-time union-busters to torment them day and night.

The hired guns saturated the Bridgeport, Michigan, plant with anti-union messages, publicly belittled organizers, harangued workers on the shop floor and asked them how they’d feed their families if the plant closed.

The months of endless bullying took their toll, as the company intended, and workers voted against forming the union just to bring the harassment to an end.

“Fear was their main tactic,” recalled Duane Forbes, one of the workers, noting the union-busters not only threatened the future of the plant but warned that the company would eliminate his colleagues’ jobs and health care during a labor dispute. “Fear is the hardest thing to overcome.”

Legislation now before Congress would ensure that corporations never trample workers’ rights like this again.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, introduced on February 4, will free Americans to build better lives and curtail the scorched-earth campaigns that employers wage to keep unions out at any cost.

The PRO Act, backed by President Joe Biden and pro-worker majorities in the House and the Senate, will impose stiff financial penalties on companies that retaliate against organizers and require the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fast-track legal proceedings for workers suspended or fired for union activism. It also empowers workers to file their own civil lawsuits against employers that violate their labor rights.

The legislation will bar employers from permanently replacing workers during labor disputes, eliminating a threat that companies like Orchid Orthopedic often use to thwart organizing campaigns.

And the PRO Act will empower the NLRB to force corporations into bargaining with workers if they interfere in union drives. That means an end to the mandatory town hall meetings that employers regularly use to disparage organized labor and hector workers into voting against unions.

Orchid Orthopedic’s union-busters forced Forbes and his colleagues into hour-long browbeating sessions once or twice a week for months—and that was on top of the daily, one-on-one bullying the workers endured on the production floor.

“There was nowhere to go,” Forbes, who’s worked at Orchid Orthopedic for 22 years, said of the relentless intimidation. “You couldn’t just go to work and do your job anymore.”

A growing number of …read more


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The Surprising Origins of the Fortune Cookie

February 11, 2021 in History

By Michael Lee

They didn’t come from China.

Where did fortune cookies come from—and how did they become so ubiquitous?

It’s customary in many restaurants for diners to receive a small treat with their check: mints, hard candy, sometimes even chocolate. But at many Chinese restaurants around the United States, patrons get something a little different: a Pac-Man shaped, vanilla-flavored cookie containing a finger-sized slip of paper printed with a pithy fortune or aphorism.

While many Americans associate these fortune cookies with Chinese restaurants—and by extension, Chinese culture—they are actually more readily traceable to 19th-century Japan and 20th-century America.

From Kyoto to California

Women working at the Lotus Chinese Fortune Cookie bakery in San Francisco, c. 1977.

As far back as the 1870s, some confectionary shops near Kyoto, Japan carried a cracker with the same folded shape and a fortune tucked into the bend, instead of its hollow inside. It’s called the “tsujiura senbei,” or “fortune cracker,” according to Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, which recounts the history of the cookie.

The Japanese cracker, Lee wrote, was larger and darker, made with sesame and miso instead of the vanilla and butter used to flavor fortune cookies found in modern Chinese restaurants in America. Lee cited Japanese researcher Yasuko Nakamachi, who said she found these cookies at a generations-old family bakery near a popular Shinto shrine just outside of Kyoto in the late 1990s. Nakamachi also uncovered storybooks from 1878 with illustrations of an apprentice who worked in a senbei store making the tsujiura senbei, along with other kinds of crackers.

Lee says the fortune cookie likely arrived in the United States along with Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii and California between the 1880s and early 1900s, after the Chinese Exclusion Act’s expulsion of Chinese workers left a demand for cheap labor. Japanese bakers set up shop in places such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, making miso and sesame-flavored “fortune cookie-ish” crackers, among other treats.

One of the most oft-repeated origin stories of the American fortune cookie cites the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park as the first known U.S. restaurant to serve the treat. The Tea Garden sourced their cookies from a local bakery called Benkyodo, which claims to have pioneered the vanilla and butter flavoring, and to have invented a machine sometime around 1911 to mass produce the cookies. …read more