Friday, August 16, 2019

Desperadoes

Aside from the blatant bigotry that it exposes on the part of both Trump and Netanyahu, the move to bar two U.S. members of Congress from visiting Israel strikes me as a truly desperate move.

Trump is being his usual infantile self, striking out at Rep. Ilan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), the only two Muslim women in Congress.  Getting Netanyahu to go along with him shows that the Israeli prime minister, already in a precarious position in his upcoming election — called because he couldn’t form a government after the last one — is not only a sniveling bigot — not a shock — but is Trump’s puppet, dancing to his tune.  How does that convey strength?  All it tells the Israeli electorate is that Bibi is under the thumb of a foreign power, and a manifestly dangerous one at that.  That’s how he conveys strength?  Oy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Trump And Evangelicals: Thick As Thieves

Via the Washington Post, a lot of evangelicals are just fine with supporting an adulterous misogynistic homophobic narcissistic con man: they’re in the same racket.

Trump enjoyed overwhelming support from white evangelicals in 2016, winning a higher percentage than George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. That enthusiasm has scarcely dimmed. Almost 70 percent of white evangelicals approve of Trump’s performance in office, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center poll.

Interviews with 50 evangelical Christians in three battleground states — Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — help explain why. In conversation, evangelical voters paint the portrait of the Trump they see: a president who acts like a bully but is fighting for them. A president who sees America like they do, a menacing place where white Christians feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. A president who’s against abortion and gay rights and who has the economy humming to boot.

I’ve always known that those evangelical Christian preachers were less about spreading their mythology and more about controlling other people’s lives and picking the pockets of their flock, and they’ve been peeing on the campfire of mainline Christians ever since they realized they could get away with it.

Their hypocrisy is legion: they hate abortions but won’t support a child once it’s born (or gladly pay for their mistress’s abortion with a credit card to get travel points). They bemoan marriage equality and rights for the LGBTQ community because it threatens “traditional values,” but are proud to destroy their own family when it turns out they have a gay son or lesbian daughter or brother or sister or mom or dad by throwing them out. Or better yet, check their Grindr profile and hook up with “HotDiscreteMusclBoy” at the Courtyard by Marriott over by the interstate.

They’re all too happy to tell other people how to live their lives but do nothing to help their own community struggling with poverty and opiod addiction or domestic violence or mass shootings because “thoughts and prayers” are good enough.

They detest immigrants from other countries, especially the brown ones who don’t speak their language, which is ironic in the supreme because the messenger they believe is the son of their god was basically an anchor baby born out of wedlock to an immigrant woman who was most likely a person of color and couldn’t come up with enough money to afford decent health insurance.

And they’re happy to support and vote to re-elect a charlatan who embodies everything they purport to deplore because he’s conned them into thinking they’re gonna get rich. Isn’t there a passage somewhere in their book of fables about the love of money being the root of all evil? It’s just another lesson they completely forgot, along with the ones about love thy neighbor as thyself, feed and clothe the stranger, and judge not lest ye be judged.

I get it that they feel mocked and threatened for their beliefs. That’s because their beliefs are hateful, anti-democratic, and authoritarian.  It’s not surprising that they’re mocked and threatened: they brought it on themselves. Martyrdom only works if you’re willing to sacrifice for the greater good of humanity.  But if all you’re suffering for is being a controlling and vacuous gasbag, go ahead and drop dead for all anyone cares.

But, Karma, thou art a heartless bitch. It is a concept that transcends religious boundaries. It’s Newtonian: what goes around, comes around. At some point, sooner hopefully rather than later, both Trump and these sniveling Jesus-shouting bigots and hate-mongers will get their comeuppance. The sad part is that the lesson will be lost on them and they’ll come weeping and wailing about how they were so blind to be taken in by Trump and the preachers that went along with him and were in on it. It will be hard to refrain from mocking them. Maybe we should offer them “thoughts and prayers.”

Monday, August 12, 2019

Gee, Ya Think?

The New York Times is on the case.

Tucker Carlson went on his prime-time Fox News show in April last year and told his viewers not to be fooled. The thousands of Central Americans on their way to the United States were “border jumpers,” not refugees, he said. “Will anyone in power do anything to protect America this time,” he asked, “or will leaders sit passively back as the invasion continues?”

When another group approached the border six months later, Ann Coulter, appearing as a guest on Jeanine Pirro’s Fox News show, offered a dispassionately violent suggestion about what could be done to stem the flow of migrants: “You can shoot invaders.”

A few days after, Rush Limbaugh issued a grim prognosis to his millions of radio listeners: If the immigrants from Central America weren’t stopped, the United States would lose its identity. “The objective is to dilute and eventually eliminate or erase what is known as the distinct or unique American culture,” Mr. Limbaugh said, adding: “This is why people call this an invasion.”

There is a striking degree of overlap between the words of right-wing media personalities and the language used by the Texas man who confessed to killing 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso this month. In a 2,300-word screed posted on the website 8chan, the killer wrote that he was “simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

It remains unclear what, or who, ultimately shaped the views of the white, 21-year-old gunman, or whether he was aware of the media commentary. But his post contains numerous references to “invasion” and cultural “replacement” — ideas that, until recently, were relegated to the fringes of the nationalist right.

An extensive New York Times review of popular right-wing media platforms found hundreds of examples of language, ideas and ideologies that overlapped with the mass killer’s written statement — a shared vocabulary of intolerance that stokes fears centered on immigrants of color. The programs, on television and radio, reach an audience of millions.

In the four years since Mr. Trump electrified Republican voters with slashing comments about Muslims and Mexicans, demonizing references to immigrants have become more widespread in the news media, the Times review found.

Sometimes the hosts are repeating the president’s signature phrases. Sometimes the president appears to take his cues from television pundits. The cumulative effect is a public dialogue in which denigrating sentiments about immigrants are common.

But Tucker Carlson and Rush Limbaugh will tell you it’s violent video games and Barack Obama wearing a tan suit that drove them over the edge; banning assault weapons and doing real background checks will do nothing to save America.  And anyone who thinks otherwise is the REAL RACIST, not them.

Trump kept returning to hit back at the “fake news” media attacks on him, saying of claims from the Democrats that he is a racist, “That is the only ammunition they have.”

Trump also made fun of US allies South Korea, Japan and the European Union — mimicking Japanese and Korean accents — and talked about his love of dictators Kim Jong Un and the current ruler of Saudi Arabia.

It kind of makes one wonder where anyone who might listen to AM radio or watch Fox News might get the idea that we’re being invaded by brown hordes and that Hillary Clinton not only killed Jeffrey Epstein, ran a child porno ring out of a pizza joint, and the remains of the Lindbergh baby were found in her crawlspace, and that they might go all Rambo and drive ten hours to shoot up a Wal Mart.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Willkommen In Nürnberg

Via TPM:

Ahead of his visit to the sites of two mass shootings that killed more than 30 people over the weekend, President Trump on Wednesday swatted away questions from reporters about the impact of his rhetoric.

The President claimed that his remarks in the aftermath of the shootings were unifying, rather than divisive, before pivoting to talk about his ongoing trade war with China.

“No I don’t think my rhetoric has at all, I think my rhetoric — it brings people together. Our country is doing incredibly well, China is not doing well if you look at the trade situation.”

Like this:

Not Welcome At All

Brace yourselves, El Paso and Dayton.

Trump is preparing to visit El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday, appearances that will not be universally welcome as the two cities grieve from weekend mass shootings that left 31 dead and many injured and rattled.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway confirmed Trump’s plans while speaking to reporters Tuesday, saying he “has wanted to go there since he learned of these tragedies.”

Conway suggested that Trump’s itinerary would be similar to other visits in the wake of mass shootings or natural disasters, which have included meetings with those affected and with law enforcement and first responders.

Several Democratic officials have urged Trump not to visit El Paso, a city of about 683,000 with a largely Latino population, in the aftermath of Saturday’s anti-immigrant attack at a Walmart Supercenter that left 22 dead.

And on Tuesday afternoon, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D) encouraged people unhappy over Trump’s upcoming visit to the city of about 140,000 to protest.

“I think people should stand up and say they’re not happy if they’re not happy he’s coming,” Whaley told reporters.

What’s he gonna do, toss boxes of Band-Aids?

It’s axiomatic that Trump has no capacity for empathy, and he’s going to turn this into a political rally while blaming the Democrats for exploiting the massacres for political advantage.  And in El Paso, he’ll be doing it in front of a crowd that he demonized and inspired the shooter with his hateful rhetoric.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What We’re Up Against

Trying to have an intelligent conversation about what to do about guns is kind of hard when you’re up against this kind of rank stupidity and hatred.

In a laundry list of reasons why the United States is grappling with mass killings, an Ohio state lawmaker has settled on immigrants, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, disrespect toward veterans and “drag queen advocates.”

Candice Keller, a Republican state representative from Middletown, near Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were killed early Sunday, offered her diagnosis on her personal Facebook page, the Dayton Daily News reported. On Monday, the state leader of her own party called for her to resign.

“Candice Keller’s Facebook post was shocking and utterly unjustifiable,” Jane Timken, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Keller’s post came only hours after the Dayton shooting, as the nation still reeled from the Saturday mass killing of 22 people in El Paso and the discovery of an anti-immigrant, white nationalist manifesto believed to have been written by that alleged gunman.

[…]

Her list also included fatherless upbringing, violent video games and two arguments that conservatives have leveled at former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick — that kneeling protests over police brutality are insults to both law enforcement and veterans.

[…]

Keller also blamed President Barack Obama for “disrespect to law enforcement,” along with Democratic lawmakers, public schools and “snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.” Her post was later either removed from view or deleted.

To be fair, the reason this rant is making the news is because she’s a duly elected representative to the Ohio legislature, not some urine-soaked tin-foil-hat wearing homeless person living under an overpass.  But that also means that a majority of people in her district knew what she was like — this isn’t her first rodeo — and voted for her anyway, which says a lot more about the people of Middletown than it does about her.

No one said this would be easy, but it’s a lot harder when you’re up against this kind of nonsense.

PS: I would much rather hang out with drag queens, Colin Kaepernick, and Barack Obama than her, and I think the country would be a lot better off if we all did.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sunday Reading

When Hate Came to El Paso — Richard Parker in the New York Times.

EL PASO, Tex. — The older man next to me on the metal bench, dressed so dignified in his peach dress shirt, dark pants and dress shoes, touches me gently on the elbow.

It is Saturday late afternoon, and we are both in front of MacArthur Middle School, where the flags already droop in the desert heat, approaching 100 degrees, at half-mast. Police officers, Red Cross workers and firefighters of all kinds come and go. This little school is where the living come to look for the missing and the dead after a white male from the Dallas suburbs named Patrick Crusius, 21, allegedly came to my hometown to commit the largest massacre of Hispanics in American history. The handwritten sign over the schoolhouse door says it all: “Looking for Family and Friends.”

Behind his glasses, tears welled up in the eyes of my bench mate, Charles Almanzar, 70. Wordlessly, he shows me his phone: There is a picture of two small children, a girl of 2 and a boy of 5. The little boy is in the hospital. The little girl is still missing, the subject of a frantic search by Mr. Almanzar’s brother-in-law. Their mother, Jordan Kay Jamrowski Anchondo, at just 25, is dead, killed by Mr. Crusius, along with at least 19 others, at a Walmart not far from downtown El Paso.

If you want to know what a mass shooting is like in your hometown, it’s like this: text alerts on your phone, a frantic woman on local television begging people to bring water to waiting families, 200 people lining up to give blood in the blistering heat, helicopters thundering overhead, the dead left lying inside the crime scene called “horrific” by the police chief. Those waiting on word of dead and lost stand calm and dignified as strangers pull up with truckloads of that bottled water. It’s also like this: a stab in the heart not to your hometown, but to your people, in my case Latinos. Mr. Crusius specifically came here to my town, to kill my people.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God,” my little sister, Janet, also the child of an American father and a Mexican mother, says to me. “Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God.”

I read the manifesto believed to be by Mr. Crusius, though not confirmed by the police, who traveled over 600 miles to kill and wound men, women, old people and children. Cell phone video posted online by victims betrays the dreaded elapse of time as they die: ten shots fired from an AK-47, not in rapid succession but in cunning staccato. First a shot. Then a long pause. Then one after another after another. And then there is the shout in Spanish: “Hay, no!”

“Oh, no!” the man screams.

“This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” the manifesto reads, before eerily and coolly describing the killer’s preferences of weapons and ammunition, politics, economics and racist philosophy. His idea is devastatingly simple: Killing Hispanics will stop immigrants from coming and drive citizens to leave. “I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by invasion.”

Of course, Latinos arrived in Texas from Mexico in 1690, when it was all New Spain. My people settled the harsh brush country of south Texas, fought Comanches and Apaches and brought Christianity to America. My mother’s uncle, a Mexican citizen, fought in the Navy in World War II and perished. My Mexican grandfather came to Texas as an orphan, lived in Laredo and returned to Mexico. My Arkansan father, a soldier, met my mother in Monterrey and we settled way out here in the deserts of West Texas in 1970. We invaded nothing; we were already here long before Mr. Crusius was even conceived.

But he is just another passing figure in the moment of modern American violence that we all are living through: the predictable weakness of Republican politicians in the face of the gun lobby amid the ready availability of weapons of war. The other day, I perused a pawnshop, bought a fine fly rod but noticed that the only guns in vast supply were AR-15s, the kissing cousin of our favored weapon of war, the M-16.

Most significantly though, the El Paso massacre — and that’s what it is, it is not a mass shooting but a premeditated massacre — was the inevitable byproduct of the Trump era’s anti-immigrant, and anti-Latino invective, which with its pervasive, vile racism has poisoned our nation.

El Paso-Juarez is a big, bustling desert city of over two million, straddling the United States and Mexico. My hometown has virtually zero modern history of ethnic strife; El Paso alone is over 80 percent Hispanic. We switch from English to Spanish without skipping a beat and we are fine with that. But the Trump era is not.

It has brought us walls, internment camps and children in cages. The massacre is the outcome I have feared for years now, and I can’t help but feel that its genesis lies with the president of the United States.

To put all of this into perspective, there have been other massacres of Latinos in American history. The worst was the notorious Porvenir massacre, 101 years ago, in what is now a vanished border town. Texas Rangers descended on the town in the early morning hours of Jan. 26, 1918, led off 15 Hispanic men and boys and executed them. The remaining inhabitants did exactly what Saturday’s shooter wanted: They fled to Chihuahua.

Back at MacArthur Middle School, Mr. Almanzar tucks away his phone. A Jehovah’s Witness, he had been out knocking on doors when the horror struck. Many asked him how God would allow this, and he gently responds by showing me Job 34:10, which in part reads: “Far be it from God, that he should do wickedness.” No, we both agreed, switching from English to Spanish. God did not do this.

We did. In allowing those weapons of war on our streets. In giving credence to sociopathic racists, only one of whom will be in jail tonight. In poisoning our body politic with the occupant of the White House. On the horizon, storm clouds build over the desert mesas to weep upon this desert city. And still the people keep coming, desperately bringing water to those here, quietly searching for the dead.

Josh Marshall on the interplay of manifestos and right-wing dialogue.

Authorities are still sorting out the background of the gunman in this horrific far right terror attack in El Paso, Texas. But he appears to have left a “manifesto” and a lengthy social media trail. Assuming these identifications are correct, they portray a sadly familiar “great replacement” theory white supremacist radical.

What is particularly notable in this case is the intermingling and co-evolution of these manifestos with more mainstream righting media dialog.

There’s abundant evidence the shooter is a big fan of President Trump and certainly of his worldview. And yet the manifesto includes a sort of preemptive rebuttal of any claims that he is a Trump supporter or that Trump influenced. He predicts that “the media” will identify him as a white supremacist and blame President Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric for radicalizing him and provoking the attack. Such claims would be “fake news” and such claims will indeed only prove that “the media” is “fake news.

After these horrors, we expect rightwing talking heads to attack any suggestion that these attacks might be related to the President’s politics and rhetoric. But here the assailant is doing so himself in advance. Indeed he denies Trump’s influence by using Trump’s signature attack lines. For someone who specifically denies Trump radicalized him, he’s very focused protecting the President. He doth protest rather too much.

The gaslighting is actually baked into the attack itself. He wants to be both the assailant and part of the post massacre spin and pro-Trump defense.

Baltimore Responds — Osita Nwanevu in The New Yorker.

Not long after President Trump issued his first tweets about Representative Elijah Cummings, on Saturday—Cummings’s Baltimore-area district, Trump wrote, is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess”—the staff at Chase Street Accessories & Engraving, in the downtown Baltimore neighborhood of Mount Vernon, fired up a laser engraver for a one-off piece of merchandise: a mug printed with an outline of the city and the words “I LOVE MY DISGUSTING RODENT AND RAT INFESTED MESS.”

“It was really just for fun,” Robbie Marcouillier, the shop’s manager, told me on Monday. “We had no intention or plan of really doing anything other than making us happy.” But word about the mug spread quickly.

“I was actually at a community event, and I had people coming to my table, and they’re asking me, ‘Are you the disgusted people? We saw you on Reddit!’ ” he said. “It was, like, Wow, this is something people really didn’t like, having their home insulted like this.”

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Sun was working on its own soon-to-be-viral response to Trump’s comments. “While we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner,” an editorial posted that evening read, “we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are ‘good people’ among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.”

On Monday, I spoke to the editorial’s author, Peter Jensen, who has worked at the Sun for more than three decades. “I never in my life believed I’d be writing an editorial that describes the President of the United States as a rat,” Jensen told me. “That’s just sort of something that one doesn’t anticipate. And yet, there are so many people who apparently felt that needed to be said—who feel much better about themselves or about the country today because it was just said out loud.”

In the editorial, Jensen also argued that Trump’s attack on Cummings returned “to an old standby of attacking an African American lawmaker from a majority black district on the most emotional and bigoted of arguments.” Jensen said, “Naturally he fell back on the place being ‘unfit for human habitation,’ ‘devastated,’ ‘rat-filled’ and all the other terminology he knew. I mean, it’s just so obvious that I think even his supporters acknowledge this is a pattern of behavior.”

As the editorial acknowledged, there are parts of Baltimore that are genuinely and seriously grappling with crime and poverty. John Bullock, a professor of political science at Towson University, in Maryland; a Baltimore city councilman; and the head of the council’s Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, is intimately familiar with the parts of the city that are struggling the most and the changes that have reshaped it.

“Sometimes we use the term ‘rust belt’ when we look at cities that have gone through deindustrialization—the loss of manufacturing jobs and the poverty and population loss,” he told me. “Baltimore’s clearly an example of that. It’s also been exacerbated by drug addiction that has come along with it. So, yes, we do have significant issues of crime and public safety. My district is West Baltimore and Southwest Baltimore—and we do have some of the highest rates of folks who are returning home from prison, folks who are dealing with addiction, of gun crime, unemployment, all of those things.”

Twenty-two per cent of Baltimore residents live in poverty, a rate well above the national average, of about thirteen per cent. In 2017, Baltimore had the highest homicide rate of any major American city, with a rate of fifty-six murders per a hundred thousand people. Jill Carter, a state senator who represents parts of West Baltimore, emphasizes the role that racism has played in creating some of the problems facing the city. “Wherever you see places especially that are not just largely minority but largely African-American, you have to always look at the roots of the problem,” she said, “and the roots of the problem stem from slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, and ongoing discrimination and inequity in the lives of African-Americans in America and in places like Baltimore City.”

The disparities between Baltimore’s black and white residents are made plain in basic statistics. The median income of white households in Baltimore is around seventy thousand dollars a figure higher than the white national median, of sixty-two thousand dollars. Black households have a median income of less than thirty-seven thousand dollars, a figure just below the black national median, of about thirty-eight thousand dollars. “Now that Trump has highlighted some of these issues,” Carter said, “I think it’s incumbent upon him and other people of good will to figure out what we’re going to do now to make it better, as opposed to just casting aspersions on the congressman who happens to be investigating him.”

Dutch Village, in North Baltimore, is one of several apartment complexes in the Baltimore area owned by the family real-estate firm of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. In 2017, Alec MacGillis, of ProPublica, reported on shoddy construction, mice droppings, and sickening mold at a number of Kushner-owned Baltimore properties, including Dutch Village. The complex, which resembles a Dutch village about as closely as Trump resembles a statesman, consists of more than five hundred squat, identical townhomes. On Monday afternoon, Wendy Hosear was sitting outside the complex, braiding her hair. She grew up in West Baltimore and had lived in Dutch Village for about a year. I asked her what she made of Trump’s comments about Baltimore and her former community.

“Personally, I don’t see the problem in what he said, because he’s right,” she said. “I’m trying to figure out what all the money they send to him’s going to, because West Baltimore looks crazy! West Baltimore is so dirty—and it’s not like he was saying it to be disrespectful. He was telling the truth. And anybody who lives in Baltimore knows it’s the truth. That’s one of those ‘it hurts because it’s the truth’ type of things.”

“I lived in West Baltimore,” she continued. “I know what it’s like over there—the killing, the dirt, everything. The air is different over there. Just coming off the highway—police sirens.”

Hosear’s brother, Deyonta’ Hosear, came outside, and I mentioned the charge that Trump homes in on black figures and largely black cities—first Chicago, now Baltimore—when he talks about dysfunction and decay.

“Black people make a stronger statement,” Deyonta’ said, shrugging. “Especially when you talk about the struggle that black people go through compared to white-people struggles.” He went on, “You don’t see people on white social media always posting their friends that die. You don’t see them posting their relatives that are dead all the time. They aren’t struggling all the time like that.”

“Trump was trying to come for Elijah Cummings,” Wendy said. “I’m completely understanding everything Trump’s saying! They’re sending them so much money to help the communities in his part of the town or whatever—where is that money going to? Because I don’t see it going nowhere in West Baltimore. I don’t see no difference in West Baltimore. It’s been that way for a minute.”

Doonesbury — On the job.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday Reading

Words Matter — Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker on the garbled language of politics.

One function of the testimony that Robert Mueller, the special counsel who oversaw the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, delivered before two House committees last week was to illustrate how various factions in Washington have come to speak different languages. The words may be the same, but the meanings are not. “Un-American,” in the lexicon of Representative Denny Heck, Democrat of Washington, describes people in Donald Trump’s orbit who seek to cash in on their positions when dealing with Russians. For Representative Guy Reschenthaler, Republican of Pennsylvania, “un-American” means Mueller’s decision to include in his investigation’s report so much negative information about a man “who happens to be the President of the United States.” It’s hardly a wonder that Mueller occasionally appeared confused. Each time the questioning swung between the Democrats and the Republicans, he had to switch vernaculars.

More than that, Mueller had to navigate two different narrative realms. In the one more grounded in his report, Democrat after Democrat argued that, if Trump were not the President, he would have been charged with obstruction of justice. In an exchange with Representative Ted Lieu, of California, Mueller briefly appeared to agree that a Justice Department legal opinion that precludes charging a sitting President was all that had stopped him from doing so—but later clarified that, because of that opinion, he never got to the point of deciding whether an indictment was merited.

Meanwhile, the excitable Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, demanded to know why Mueller had charged “thirteen Russians no one’s ever heard of” but not “the guy who puts the country through this whole saga!” He meant not Donald Trump but Joseph Mifsud, whom he identified as a “mysterious professor who works in Rome and London,” and a key figure in the theory, popular on Fox News, that the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia contacts were actually just a cleverly engineered setup. As Jordan berated Mueller, he proclaimed what he called “the good news”: Attorney General William Barr is on the case. This was a reference to Barr’s commitment to an inquiry by Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice’s inspector general, of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign that the F.B.I. opened in 2016, and Barr’s appointment of John Durham, the Connecticut U.S. Attorney, to review the whole affair. The Wall Street Journal said that “Barr will never have a more important assignment” than pursuing the matter. Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, has also pledged to hold hearings.

Among other things, Horowitz’s investigation concerns how officials handled a dossier assembled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent with experience in Russia, who was working for a company called Fusion GPS, which had been retained by a law firm hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The dossier relates some wild claims—for instance, that “knowledgeable sources” said the Russians had compromising sexual material on Trump—which have never been substantiated. The thesis on the Trump side is that the dossier was a Russian disinformation operation, in which Clinton was complicit; in other words, that’s the real collusion.

Mueller, citing the Justice Department’s continuing inquiries, said that the dossier was “beyond my purview,” which only further incensed his questioners. So central has the dossier become to the Republican narrative of Trump’s victimhood that, when Mueller appeared slow to recognize the name Fusion GPS, some Fox News figures were left slack-jawed. (“What does that say about Robert Mueller?” Tucker Carlson asked. “This isn’t a medical program, so we’re not going to speculate.”) Trump retweeted the clip.

There are questions worth exploring about the Steele dossier, having to do with, say, the transparency of campaign spending. But they are not the questions congressional Republicans are asking. As in their prolonged hearings into the attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, they are likely to twist any useful threads into an unedifying tangle. This time, though, the Republicans are engaging in an even more dangerous delusion. The pretense is that, as long as they keep talking about mysterious professors and British spies, they aren’t ignoring the threat that Russia and other foreign powers continue to pose to the integrity of American elections. Hillary Clinton is, once again, their excuse for inaction.

The urgency of focussing on election security was one of Mueller’s key messages. It was underscored a day later, when the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report indicating that, in 2016, the Russian government likely probed American voting systems in all fifty states. (Many of the state systems are known to be vulnerable.) The attempts appear to have been mostly exploratory. They may go further, though, in 2020, and Russia might not be the only perpetrator. And yet, that same day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell killed legislation aimed at bolstering election security, saying that Democrats were just looking for a “political benefit.”

It’s not clear that the Republican Party can still conceive of a definition of the country’s interests—or of itself—that does not include support for Trump. It was thus all the more striking, during Mueller’s testimony, when certain Democrats seemed to be speaking his language—that of a straightforward officer of the law. One such moment came when Val Demings, of Florida, previously Orlando’s chief of police, asked about the written responses that Trump had submitted to Mueller, in lieu of sitting for an interview with his investigators. Was it true that Trump “simply didn’t answer” many questions? Mueller: “True.” Did he give answers that “contradicted other evidence?” Mueller: “Yes.” Could Mueller say that “the President was credible?” Mueller: “I can’t answer that question.”

Was it fair to say, Demings continued, that the President’s answers were not only inadequate but “showed that he wasn’t always being truthful?” Mueller: “I would say, generally.” That exchange is almost a catechism for keeping one’s bearings amid the tumult of a truth-mocking Presidency. Such a task won’t be easy in what is bound to be a bitter election, when the contested terms will include not only “un-American” but a more essential one: “American.”

Culture Of Fear — Will E. Young on censorship at Liberty University.

In my first week as editor in chief of the Champion, Liberty University’s student-run weekly, our faculty adviser, Deborah Huff, ordered me to apologize. I’d noticed that our evangelical school’s police department didn’t publish its daily crime log online, as many other private university forces do, so I searched elsewhere for crime information I might use in an article. I called the Virginia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators to find out what the law required Liberty to disclose. But the public affairs worker there told the Liberty University Police Department, which complained to Huff. She called to upbraid me: Apparently, I had endangered our newspaper’s relationship with the LUPD. Huff and Chief Richard Hinkley convened a meeting inside a police department conference room, and Huff sat next to me while I proffered the forced apology to Hinkley — for asking questions. Huff, too, was contrite, assuring the police chief that it wouldn’t happen again, because she’d keep a better eye on me.

This wasn’t exactly a rude awakening. I’d spent the previous three years watching the university administration, led by President Jerry Falwell Jr. (who took a very micromanaging interest), meddle in our coverage, revise controversial op-eds and protect its image by stripping damning facts from our stories. Still, I stuck around. I thought that if I wrote with discretion and kept my head down, I could one day win enough trust from the university to protect the integrity of our journalism. I even dreamed we could eventually persuade the administration to let the Champion go independent from its supervision. I was naive.

Instead, when my team took over that fall of 2017, we encountered an “oversight” system — read: a censorship regime — that required us to send every story to Falwell’s assistant for review. Any administrator or professor who appeared in an article had editing authority over any part of the article; they added and deleted whatever they wanted. Falwell called our newsroom on multiple occasions to direct our coverage personally, as he had a year earlier when, weeks before the 2016 election, he read a draft of my column defending mainstream news outlets and ordered me to say whom I planned to vote for. I refused on ethical grounds, so Falwell told me to insert “The author refused to reveal which candidate he is supporting for president” at the bottom of the column. I complied. (Huff and the police department declined to comment on the contents of this essay. Falwell and the university did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Eventually I quit, and the School of Communication decided not to replace me, turning the paper into a faculty-run, student-written organ and seizing complete control of its content. Student journalists must now sign a nondisclosure agreement that forbids them from talking publicly about “editorial or managerial direction, oversight decisions or information designated as privileged or confidential.” The form also states that the students understand they are “privileged” to receive “thoughts, opinions, and other statements” from university administrators.

What my team and I experienced at the Champion was not an isolated overreaction to embarrassing revelations. It was one example of an infrastructure of thought-control that Falwell and his lieutenants have introduced into every aspect of Liberty University life. Faculty, staff and students on the Lynchburg, Va., campus have learned that it’s a sin to challenge the sacrosanct status of the school or its leaders, who mete out punishments for dissenting opinions (from stripping people of their positions to banning them from the school). This “culture of fear,” as it was described by several of the dozen Liberty denizens who talked to me for this story — most of them anonymously, to protect their jobs or their standing — worsened during my four years on campus because of the 2016 presidential election.

By 2016, Liberty’s efforts to limit free expression were already well-established. (“The big victory was finding a way to tame the faculty,” Falwell told the New York Times last year for a story about privileging Liberty’s financial growth over its academics.) But the school’s methods became even more aggressive after Falwell endorsed Donald Trump early that year, according to multiple current and former faculty members. “The closer you get to the president’s office,” says former history professor Brian Melton, discussing a chilling effect on campus, “the worse it becomes.” Falwell’s staff now operates masterfully to squash challenges to his views and his rise in national political influence.

The dissent that did exist — from off-message campus speakers, insufficiently sycophantic board members, student activists and our newspaper staff — was ruthlessly neutralized. Liberty, founded on principles of fundamental Christianity, is now a place that has zero tolerance for new questions and ideas. Those who harbor them must remain silent, or leave.

Falwell, 57, possesses a certain Orwellian gift for painting Liberty as a bastion of tolerance where alternate viewpoints are not just permitted but encouraged. In March, he attended the signing of Trump’s executive order on college free speech and later claimed on “PBS NewsHour” that Liberty was inclusive of all ideas because it had invited Jimmy Carter to deliver its 2018 commencement address and Bernie Sanders to speak in 2015 at the assembly that students are required to attend twice a week. After Falwell learned last month that I was writing this essay, he posted a column on Liberty’s site disputing “sensational stories . . . that we do not allow opposing views.” He wrote, “If there’s one thing I’m certain of, it’s that there will be a strong and critical response to this article by a few former students and a handful of national media determined to paint Liberty in a completely different light on these issues.”

His Twitter account is a much better reflection of his approach to dissent. Falwell’s profile announces that “Haters will be blocked,” and several students who have disagreed or argued with him on Twitter have met this fate. Falwell outright lied on the platform to Sojourners Web editor Sandi Villarreal — who is now my colleague — when he said he’d removed a Champion op-ed criticizing Trump’s “locker room talk” defense because there was simply not enough room on the page. (The piece was already laid out on the page when he pulled it.) In fact, much of Falwell’s message control has to do with safeguarding Trump.

Mark DeMoss was something like Liberty royalty. His late father, Arthur S. DeMoss, gave $20 million to build DeMoss Hall, the school’s main academic building. Mark was also an alumnus, a former chief of staff to university founder Jerry Falwell Sr. and eventually a public relations executive who counted Liberty among his clients. He won a seat on the school’s board of trustees in 1991 after serving as Liberty’s spokesman and became the board’s executive committee chairman in 2008.

In January 2016, days before Trump was scheduled to speak at Liberty, Falwell emailed DeMoss asking whether he should endorse Trump for president. DeMoss says he recommended against endorsing anyone, and Falwell thanked him for the “great advice.” Falwell, at the speech, held back his imprimatur. But a week later, he anointed the billionaire with his support. DeMoss was horrified. “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defense — and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ,” he told The Washington Post at the time. Falwell seemed to take the rebuke in stride, saying he was “disappointed” in DeMoss but understood “that all the administrators and faculty have their own personal political views.”

Within a few months, though, DeMoss would be gone. The night before a Liberty board meeting that April, the executive committee, including Falwell, convened without DeMoss to vote on a motion to oust him from his role as chairman. DeMoss says that his criticism of the endorsement was the cause. (Before the meeting, Falwell had called him a pawn of rival campaigns.) DeMoss resigned as a trustee days later, on April 25, 2016, citing “a lack of trust.”

A week after that, Liberty changed the sign on DeMoss Hall to “Arthur S. DeMoss Hall,” making clear that the structure honored the father and not the wayward son. The message to faculty and students was clear: If you challenge Falwell, you will be not only removed but erased.

The culture of Liberty is governed by lists of principles. According to the Faculty Handbook, for instance, professors are expected to “promote . . . free market processes” and “affirm . . . that the Bible is inerrant in the originals and authoritative in all matters.” One cause of perpetual insecurity at Liberty is the school’s militant refusal to award tenure to any faculty member (outside the law school, which must offer it for accreditation). Instructors are instead hired on year-to-year contracts; during the spring semester, they find out whether they will be coming back the next fall.

The result is constant, erratic faculty turnover. One recently fired teacher describes the spring as a cycle of stressed-out, fearful professors wandering into each other’s offices to ask if they had their contracts renewed yet. “If you’re a conservative Christian in the academic world, the chances of you getting a job are nil in many areas,” says Melton, who worked at Liberty as an associate professor for 15 years before resigning because of what he described as the school’s surveillance and fear tactics. “The administration knows that, and . . . they wield that very effectively, keeping people quiet.”

Late-notice faculty removals have also become more commonplace, according to Melton, stemming in part from Falwell’s stated desire to tame the teaching corps. “He considers the faculty to be disposable beasts of burden,” Melton says. Last summer, 14 professors at Liberty’s School of Education were suddenly told that their contracts would not be renewed as part of what former Liberty spokesman Len Stevens called a “reorganization.” This June, a dozen faculty members at Liberty’s School of Divinity were notified that their contracts would not be renewed. By that late in the year, it is too late to find another job in higher education for the fall.

For former faculty members, Liberty’s culture of fear can live on. The school often requires terminated professors to sign a nondisclosure agreement if they want their severance packages, several told me — a practice that is extremely uncommon in higher education, according to Robert Bezemek, a California lawyer who represents labor unions at universities. (As Melton puts it, “They force this NDA on you by leveraging the ability to feed your family against you.”) Even former teachers who hadn’t signed NDAs told me they feared that talking to me on the record would somehow get them blacklisted from jobs elsewhere or imperil their friends who still work at Liberty. One thought my request to speak with him was a trap, calling my previous connection with the school “fishy.” When I contacted another for an interview, she warned me, “The university is on to you.” I confess I harbor a certain paranoia, too, from years of being watched at the Champion. Melton and several other current and former members of the faculty told me that they believe the administration surveils everything they do on Liberty’s server, tracking when instructors complete a task late and searching for evidence of “disloyalty,” as a former professor put it. Another onetime instructor declined to use his university-issued laptop because he thought Liberty had equipped it with spyware.

One cause for alarm came just before Trump’s inauguration, when then-Provost Ronald Hawkins ordered all campus faculty members to fill out an anonymous survey rating how politically and socially liberal they were on a scale of 1 to 5. “We are interested in how we compare with other institutions on political and social views,” Hawkins’s office said in a follow-up email to faculty members. But, according to a former professor who talked with others in her department, many initially refused to take the survey out of fear that if a department had too many left-leaning professors, the administration might target it for more oversight or even firings. There is no evidence of Liberty firing a faculty member explicitly for his or her political beliefs, but everyone I spoke to believed that the school could easily manufacture some other pretense. “There is zero trust between the administration and faculty,” Melton says. FIRE, a nonprofit that fights for free speech on campus, put Liberty on its 2019 list of the 10 worst colleges for freedom of speech.

Things aren’t much better for the 15,000 students on campus. In 2009, Liberty withdrew funding and recognition for its College Democrats chapter because, as Mark Hine, the senior vice president of student affairs, put it, the national party defends abortion, opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, supported “the ‘LGBT’ agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.” A.J. Strom, who graduated in May, tells me that several students wanted to revive the College Democrats but no faculty members were willing to advise them, without which Liberty will not recognize a student club. “They said they would love to sign on but that if Jerry saw their name on the club application, they would be fired,” Strom says.

Student leaders have consistently helped administrators enforce the culture. After the Charlottesville rally in August 2017, members of Liberty’s Student Government Association drafted a statement expressing solidarity with Heather Heyer, the protester murdered by a neo-Nazi, and all people demonstrating against white nationalism. Then-SGA President Caleb Johnson refused to release the message and send it to university administrators for fear of what Falwell might think. (Johnson said in an email this past week that the statement’s author was “a self-described ‘Never-Trumper’ ” and that “we would not allow the platform of Liberty Student Government to be improperly used by a political activist with obvious ulterior motives.”) “There’s 100 percent an atmosphere of fear at Liberty,” says Caleb Fitzpatrick, who was then the student government’s speaker of the House and helped draft the statement. “There was a need to avoid being seen as a liberal or progressive, or even being different.”

In September 2018, nearly a year into the #MeToo movement, Liberty invited conservative provocateur Candace Owens to speak at an assembly. A few days before her visit, Owens tweeted that the women accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault were “making it up.” In response, Addyson Garner, then president of a libertarian club on campus, organized a rally to support victims of sexual assault, called #LUforMeToo, which would occur right after the Owens speech. The day before, Jacob Page, then the student body president, summoned her to his office, where he and Vice President Derek Rockey pressured her to cancel the event, Garner says. She left the office in tears, but she and her fellow organizers decided to protest anyway. About 25 students attended, a rare show of defiance on a campus that discourages political dissent. (In an email this past week, Rockey said he thought students should attend a public dialogue on these topics rather than stage a protest. Page said he and Rockey “support bringing awareness to victims of sexual assault” but “felt it was unproductive to engage in partisan protests.”)

Guests at the school who deviate from the prescribed philosophy can be targeted, too. In October 2017, the anti-Trump pastor and writer Jonathan Martin arrived at the invitation of the Christian musical duo Johnnyswim, who were performing on campus that night; Martin also announced on Twitter that he would lead a prayer meeting with students the next morning. Falwell took it as an unauthorized protest, and the LUPD sent three armed officers to remove Martin from campus, telling him he’d be arrested if he returned. Martin tweeted that it was “evidently in response to my strong criticism of @JerryFallwellJr’s alignment not only with the darkest contours of Trumpism, but expressly with Steve Bannon & the alt-right he represents.” Falwell told the Champion that Martin’s forcible removal was “a matter of safety.”

A similar episode unfolded in 2015 when Jonathan Merritt, a Liberty alumnus and Christian writer, was disinvited to speak on campus after authoring an article critical of Hobby Lobby, the company permitted by the Supreme Court in 2014 to deny its employees contraceptive health-care coverage. The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, is close with Falwell. “You don’t seem to remember who your friends are,” Merritt remembers Falwell saying over the phone.

One afternoon in April 2016, when I was still a cub reporter in my sophomore year, I received a one-sentence email from Deborah Huff, our adviser: “need to talk to you about SG,” the subject line read; I should call her that night. She copied the editor in chief, a senior. I was clearly in trouble.

“SG” stood for Scott Garrett, a traditionalist conservative who represents Lynchburg in the state legislature. According to records I had found through the Virginia Public Access Project, he owned millions of dollars in stock, some from companies that lobby lawmakers in Richmond. A few days earlier, I interviewed him for the Champion about possible conflicts of interest stemming from his assets.

After dinner, I called Huff. She sounded annoyed. When I described my reporting to her, she told me the Champion would not run my story, because Garrett was afraid that the article would hurt his reputation. The message was clear: I had no business heckling Liberty’s friends and allies. (“I don’t remember the incident in question,” Garrett emailed me this week when I asked him for a comment. “And I don’t understand why I would say the article would hurt my reputation because there was no conflict of interest.”)

Out of fear that arguing with her would end my career at the paper — she selected which students would advance to editorships — I apologized for looking into Garrett’s finances and assured her that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen again. I understood that her job, and by extension mine, was to protect our righteous, evangelical university. Before becoming a Liberty teacher and then supervisor of the Champion, Huff worked for the Fundamentalist Journal, a now-defunct Falwell-owned periodical. I didn’t see defending the faith or protecting Liberty as the main purpose of journalism. But in the face of a mentor I trusted, I believed I must have been in the wrong.

Looking back on the emails from that episode three years later, I’m embarrassed by my naivete — and my willingness to abandon a scoop with obvious journalistic merit. The scales began to fall from my eyes as, over the next 18 months, I saw how in every issue of the Champion the administration strategically manipulated or erased stories. Huff discouraged us from following leads that might disrupt the image of Liberty as a prestigious, respectable evangelical institution. In pitch meetings, she made it clear that the Champion would not cover Liberty scandals, even those that appeared in mainstream news outlets (such as the Falwells’ secret business relationships or the wave of Liberty alumni who sent back their diplomas after Falwell defended Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the white-nationalist Charlottesville rally).

By the time I became the Champion’s editor, the censorship I hoped to stop was already shameless. In February 2017, I wrote an article on a higher-education task force that Trump had asked Falwell to lead. Falwell emailed me his personal edits, removing every quote from an expert concerning possible conflicts of interest that Falwell created by accepting the position (in the end, the task force was never formed). Months later, Huff ordered that my story about Martin’s expulsion from campus include lines about how Liberty is inclusive of different political beliefs, in the face of obvious counterevidence. An administrator spiked a news report about an on-campus swing dancing club that was temporarily banned. When film students drafted a petition in early 2018 objecting to “The Trump Prophecy” — a hagiographic tale about a firefighter who said he had prophesized Trump’s election, which Liberty students were compelled to produce in order to receive their degrees — faculty at the film school crafted our coverage into a fluffy bit of PR highlighting students who looked forward to working on set. Champion reporter Jack Panyard was so disgusted, he removed his byline from the piece. Then there was sports editor Joel Schmieg’s column about “locker room talk” after the “Access Hollywood” video came out; Falwell blocked it from publication.

This interference frequently caused shouting matches with, and passive aggressive emails from, administrators. “Too bad the editor and chief of The Champion penned this editorial for the homecoming edition without any effort to learn all that is being done at Liberty to prevent and react appropriately to sexual assault,” Liberty General Counsel David Corry wrote to Falwell and Huff about my column on campus sexual assault. Instead of sticking up for the journalists she supervised, Huff emailed me to complain that I did not “make sure Liberty was separated from the conversation or address what Liberty does that is different than other schools.” Later that day, the piece was removed from the website without my consent. (In his preemptive statement last month, Falwell seemed to address these episodes. “In the past few years, some students screamed ‘censorship’ when they didn’t get their every word published in our campus newspaper,” he wrote. “But that standard isn’t even attained within the newsroom of commercial newspapers.”)

In the wake of these run-ins, members of our staff often gathered in my office to daydream about taking the paper independent or grouse about Huff, whom we felt was gaslighting us. What kind of newspaper adviser would denounce our attempts to keep Liberty accountable and make us repeatedly apologize to administrators for trying? By this point, it was clear that the principles of investigative journalism I was learning in class were verboten when it came to Liberty itself. The Champion could never be an avatar of press freedom or truth-telling.

I grew up in a politically conservative household and was active in my denomination; my values changed at Liberty as I embraced a more inclusive and open vision of the church. My views of Liberty, and of the values I saw Falwell profess on a daily basis, changed as well. I considered transferring schools or resigning from the paper. The weekly fight for the right to publish was exhausting. Still, I decided to stay because I saw that, on the occasions we won — when we either persuaded administrators to leave an article alone or worked around their objections — we sparked dialogue among students on Twitter and in classrooms that challenged Liberty’s status quo. But ultimately, our fraught relationship with our overlords was untenable, and something had to give.

The end finally came for the Champion when a left-leaning faith group, the Red Letter Christians, organized a “Lynchburg Revival” in April 2018 to protest Falwell’s support of Trump and what the group called “toxic evangelicalism.” Two days beforehand, Liberty’s police department notified RLC leader Shane Claiborne that he would be arrested if he set foot on campus. The Champion had already decided to cover the event, but the stakes were higher now. Huff told us it would be too controversial for print, but the other editors and I didn’t think we could ignore it.

The day before the gathering, Falwell sent an email to Erin Covey, our assistant news editor: “Let’s not run any articles about the event. That’s all these folks are here for — publicity. Best to ignore them.” When we explained our dilemma to RLC organizers, they tipped off a reporter at the Religion News Service, which ran a piece detailing Falwell’s censorship. Covey gave on-the-record quotes. Panyard, who was set to succeed me as editor in chief in a few weeks, briefed the reporter on background, as did I. (Vox also picked up the story and amplified it, and I imagine it galled Falwell to be depicted as an insecure tyrant in a liberal publication.)

The school’s response was swift. Falwell convened a tele-meeting with Bruce Kirk, who was then dean of the School of Communication, and our entire staff. They reprimanded us for talking to the press, and Falwell justified his censorship by arguing that the Red Letter Christians were “not keeping with the values of the university.” Then he spoke candidly for the first time about, as he saw it, the virtues of censoring us: “That’s what you kids are going to run into when you get into the real world and start working for for-profit newspapers. That’s what they’re going to expect of you, and I want you to learn that while you’re here.” Kirk, who was sitting with us for the meeting, chimed in, agreeing with Falwell. Being censored by a higher-up in the media industry is “just a part of life,” he said. (Before he began at Liberty, he worked for a local news station operated by Sinclair Broadcasting.)

After the meeting, I felt sick. I hadn’t said a word while Falwell flayed us for trying to practice basic journalism and act with integrity. I went into my office, closed the door and waited until most of the staff had left the newsroom. Then I sat down at my desk and wept.

A week and a half later, Kirk called Panyard and Covey into his office and told them they were being let go as part of a “reorganization.” Nobody else was affected; they’d been fired. It was the most aggressive and direct action the administration had ever taken to silence the Champion. I was not fired — I was a lame duck anyway — but I resigned and refused to take part in the production of the year’s final edition. I cleaned out my office that same day. Soon after, I learned I would be the last student editor in chief of the Champion and that from now on the paper would be run directly by the school. (Kirk did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story.)

Even at Liberty, there are still those who publicly reject Falwell’s diktats. A petition supporting Mark DeMoss won more than 70 student signatures when Falwell ousted him in 2016. During the presidential election, free speech lived a little when Liberty United Against Trump, a student group, scored national media attention for its stance that the school did not uniformly approve of Falwell’s endorsement. It said it accumulated more than 2,000 student signatures for its statement.

Panyard, the deposed editor, launched a new independent newspaper, the Lynchburg Torch, with the help of other refugees from the campus weekly. In the past year, it has published stories that the Champion’s overseers would have blocked, such as a report on LGBTQ students who oppose Liberty’s position on same-sex relationships. Addyson Garner put on another rally this year to support queer Liberty students after transphobic comments from Falwell and his wife, Becki. (“We’re raising her as a girl,” Becki Falwell said of their granddaughter Reagan, as her husband looked on. “We’re not letting her have a choice.”) Dozens of students participated, according to Garner and posts on social media. It was the first time I had ever seen the rainbow pride flag flown openly on Liberty’s campus. The school is changing.

But in significant ways, it is not more tolerant, and it certainly does not celebrate “the open exchange of competing ideas” that Falwell described in his column. In a discussion with the incoming Champion staffers after I left, Kirk said, “Your job is to keep the LU reputation and the image as it is.” The students who recall a more open time at Liberty, before Trump, have now graduated. All those who remain chose to go to Falwell’s school after he endorsed Trump, forming a much more compliant student body that generally accepts and even supports Falwell’s crackdown culture.

I graduated last year. Since then, I’ve tried to put Liberty — and the stress and self-doubt that officials there saddled me with — behind me. But I still fume when Falwell spews dumbfounding conspiracies online or retweets a bigoted rant from Trump, and I still become uneasy when I see my diploma, which is sitting in a cluttered drawer at my parents’ house. I made amazing friends and memories on campus, but I’m realizing the extent to which I internalized the fear tactics; I still sometimes self-censor my thoughts and writing. How can a college education stifle your freedom of thought? When people ask me if I regret going to Liberty, as many do, I usually pause. I don’t know.

Doonesbury — Tweeterdum.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Civics Class For Dummies

From the Washington Post’s The Fix:

Trump believes the Constitution gives him a wide breadth of power. That’s the message he delivered ― not for the first time — on Tuesday while addressing a crowd of teenagers and young adults at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit in Washington.

There are numerous viral video clips from Trump’s 80-minute speech at the conference, but one of the most controversial moments came as he discussed Article II of the Constitution, which describes the powers of the president.

Trump lamented the duration and cost of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which he has repeatedly said found “no collusion, no obstruction.”

“Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,” he said. “But I don’t even talk about that.”

No, it doesn’t, and no, you can’t.

Article II grants the president “executive power.” It does not indicate the president has total power. Article II is the same part of the Constitution that describes some of Congress’s oversight responsibilities, including over the office of the presidency. It also details how the president may be removed from office via impeachment.

In short, Article II basically owns your ass if you’re president.

I really think that one of the basic qualifications for being president besides being over 35 and born in the U.S. is a Grade 8 civics test.  No multiple choice, and no pictures.  This gasbag would have never make it past the primaries.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Too Late To Turn Back Now

The New York Times:

Nervous Republicans, from senior members of Congress to his own daughter Ivanka, urged President Trump on Thursday to repudiate the “send her back” chant directed at a Somali-born congresswoman during his speech the night before at a rally in North Carolina, amid widespread fears that the rally had veered into territory that could hurt their party in 2020.

In response, Mr. Trump disavowed the behavior of his own supporters in comments to reporters at the White House and claimed that he had tried to contain it, an assertion clearly contradicted by video of the event.

Mr. Trump said he was “not happy” with the chant directed at Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a freshman Democrat who is Muslim. At the rally Wednesday evening, he had been in the middle of denouncing her as an anti-American leftist who has spoken in “vicious, anti-Semitic screeds” when the chant was taken up by the crowd.

Pressed on why he did not stop it, Mr. Trump said, “I think I did — I started speaking very quickly.” In fact, as the crowd roared “send her back,” Mr. Trump paused and looked around silently for more than 10 seconds as the scene unfolded in front of him, doing nothing to halt the chorus. “I didn’t say that,” he added. “They did.”

Of course nothing he does is ever his fault and if someone takes it the wrong way, that’s their fault, not his.  Remember, he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.  (Easy to say when you have an exoskeleton.)

And now the Republicans are getting nervous?  Oh, they think that this might somehow reflect on them and what they believe?  Gee, how could that happen?  None of them were tweeting about sending people back where they came from, so how could anyone think they agree with that?  “We saw nothing!  We know nothing!”

Via.

Mr. Trump’s cleanup attempt reflected the misgivings of political allies who have warned him privately that however much his hard-core supporters in the arena might have enjoyed the moment, the president was playing with political fire, according to people briefed on the conversations.

Among them were House Republican leaders, who pleaded with Vice President Mike Pence to distance the party from the message embraced by the crowd in Greenville, N.C. Mr. Pence conveyed that directly to Mr. Trump, according to people familiar with the exchange.

“That does not need to be our campaign call, like we did the ‘lock her up’ last time,” said Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina, a top official in the party’s messaging arm, referring to the chant that routinely broke out whenever Mr. Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Midway through that race, Mr. Trump told reporters he did not approve of that chant, but he never intervened.

Mr. Walker, who attended the rally on Wednesday night, later posted on Twitter that he had “struggled” with the chant. “We cannot be defined by this,” he said.

Well, guess what, pal.  It’s too late to suddenly realize that every Republican now running for office is lashed to this particular mast.  Or tree.  Or cross.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Don’t Mince Words

Of course Trump is a racist.  Has been from the beginning, and always will be.

Of course the Republicans are cowards.  The only time they’ll stand up to Trump is if in doing so will enhance their chances for re-election, and given the base of the party now, that’s not gonna happen anytime soon.

Of course this is a distraction, like the  ICE raids and threatening war with Iran, thanks to Jeffrey Epstein, Robert Mueller, and caving on the census citizenship question.  We all knew that.  We’ve seen it all before.  It’s a tantrum, pure and simple, and anyone who’s dealt with a child knows how to deal with it: a swat on the ass and pointedly not giving in.

So that’s what we do.  Now get back to work.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Have Some White Whine

Trump held a pity-party for his poor put-upon white Twitterpation pals.

Trump has invited personalities from across the right-wing internet to the White House on Thursday for a “Social Media Summit,” but the event is causing his administration headaches even before it begins.

So far, the summit has stirred up resentments among pro-Trump personalities who were never invited to the party, and one invitee has been disinvited over an anti-Semitic cartoon—raising questions for the White House about why he was invited in the first place.

The White House hasn’t released a public list of attendees for the Thursday afternoon event, but a number of pro-Trump personalities have posted invitations on Twitter. They include Ali Alexander, a right-wing operative pushing a smear that Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) isn’t really “an American Black,” a pro-Trump “memesmith” who goes by the screenname “@CarpeDonktum,” and blogger Jim Hoft, whose Gateway Pundit blog frequently promotes hoaxes.

The invitee list also includes more traditional White House visitors, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and representatives from campus conservative group Turning Point USA and conservative YouTube channel PragerU. In an Instagram post, Turning Point executive Benny Johnson promised to use the conference to give Trump “dank meme ideas.”

Neither Facebook or Twitter are reportedly attending the summit, suggesting that the event will mainly feature conservative allegations that the social media giants are biased against them.

Notably, the group so far doesn’t appear to include anyone who has actually been banned from major social platforms, even though those bans have played a significant role in driving accusations on the right that the social giants are biased. Pro-Trump figures like anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and Proud Boys men’s group founder Gavin McInnes, for example, don’t appear to have been invited.

That fact hasn’t been lost on fringe Trump supporters. In a livestream from Washington, D.C., InfoWars reporter and Jones lieutenant Owen Shroyer raged that no one from InfoWars was invited to the event, while people who hadn’t been banned were.

Shroyer declared that the event was an “abortion of truth” and compared the invitees to dogs getting a bone and a pat on the head.

“The people that are actually getting censored get ignored,” Shroyer said. “Isn’t that funny?”

It’s typical of Trump to hang out with sycophants and losers; they make him look good, at least in his own eyes.  And it’s not unlike his propensity to seek out and revel in summits with dictators.

It’s even more telling by the response by the folks who didn’t get invited: “What, we’re the ones who are taking the bullets for him and the white nation and we’re not invited?”  Maybe they should have told him they have access to teenage girls.  That would get them in.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Sanity Prevails

From the New York Times:

The Trump administration, in a dramatic about-face, abandoned its quest on Tuesday to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a week after being blocked by the Supreme Court.

Faced with mounting deadlines and a protracted legal fight, officials ordered the Census Bureau to start printing forms for next year’s head count without the question.

The decision was a victory for critics who said the question was part of an administration effort to skew the census results in favor of Republicans. It was also a remarkable retreat for an administration that typically digs into such fights.

Just last week after the Supreme Court’s decision, President Trump said he was asking his lawyers to delay the census, “no matter how long,” in order to fight for the question in court. He reiterated his unwillingness to give up in a Twitter message posted late Tuesday, saying he had asked administration officials “to do whatever is necessary” to get a citizenship question on the census form.

Word of the administration’s decision to stop fighting came in a one-sentence email from the Justice Department to lawyers for plaintiffs in a New York lawsuit that sought to block the question’s inclusion in the head count.

The email offered no explanation, but the administration was confronting weeks or months of additional legal challenges to the question. Meanwhile, the Census Bureau had said it needed to begin printing questionnaires by July 1 to meet the April 2020 deadline for conducting the census.

At some point we need to figure out why we had to go through all of this in the first place.  It was such a blatant attempt at bigotry and suppression in the first place.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Your Public Employees At Work

Via the Washington Post:

Congressional Democrats on Monday condemned postings made in a secret Facebook group for U.S. Border Patrol agents that targeted migrants and some prominent lawmakers with attacks that the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called “vulgar, disgusting and vile.”

The posts sparked special outrage among a delegation of more than a dozen House members who had just started a tour of federal immigration facilities in Southwest Texas when ProPublica broke the story.

Some of the Facebook posts discussed throwing burritos at the visiting lawmakers, while others joked in profane language about the deaths of migrants and included a vulgar illustration of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) being forced to engage in a sexual act by President Trump, according to images of the posts obtained by ProPublica.

Before they toured two Border Patrol stations Monday, several members asked their hosts in a private briefing whether they would be safe inside, said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).

The airing of the private attacks, Aguilar said, made it even more difficult for congressional overseers to trust the Border Patrol as the federal government works to address the surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“It’s very tough to back them up when their active and retired members are part of this Facebook page,” he said in an interview. “Even if it’s a very small percentage, it’s unfortunate they harbor some very dark imagery and very dark thoughts about migrants and members of Congress.”

Obviously this is a minority of the thousands of dedicated and hard-working men and women who are working to keep the country safe, but it’s still very chilling.  But given the tone of the one who nominally runs the administration, not that surprising.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Idiots Abroad

Can’t take these people anywhere.

Via TPM:

Trump brought Fox News host Tucker Carlson to North Korea on Sunday instead of his own national security adviser, John Bolton.

Several journalists reported seeing Carlson on the sidelines of Trump’s historic visit to the the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, and the hosts of “Fox & Friends” confirmed Carlson was there during a phone interview with him.

Meanwhile, Bolton was shipped off to Mongolia over the weekend.

While speaking to his Fox colleagues, Carlson defended Trump’s friendliness with the brutal North Korean dictator.

“[North Korea]’s a disgusting place, obviously. So there’s no defending it,” Carlson said. “On the other hand, you’ve got to be honest about what it means to lead a country. It means killing people.”

“Not on the scale that the North Koreans do, but a lot of countries commit atrocities, including a number that we’re closely allied with,” he continued.

Carlson’s declamation is the diplomatic equivalent of “I’m not a racist, but…” or “Some of my best friends are gay.”  And we’ve heard this bothsiderism excuse from Trump himself when asked about Russia’s treatment — and murder — of dissidents and journalists.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Novel Approach

Following up on this post from May 8 about the interesting relationship with Jesus-shouter/con man Jerry Falwell, Jr. and his relationship with Giancarlo Granda, a young and enterprising pool boy from Miami, the Miami Herald is getting in on the story.

The sun was setting at the Cheeca Lodge resort in Islamorada when Jerry Falwell Jr. smiled for the camera, a national evangelical leader nearing 50 posing next to a young man he had met poolside in Miami Beach.

The photograph shows Giancarlo Granda, a handsome, 20-something pool attendant whom Jerry and his wife, Rebecca, 52, befriended at the Fontainebleau hotel in 2012, and within months, would set up as part-owner and manager of a $4.7 million South Beach hostel.

It was an unusual partnership: The president of the largest Christian university in the world, a school that prohibits gay sex, agreeing to operate a Miami Beach hostel, regarded as gay friendly, in conjunction with a “pool boy” with virtually no hotel management experience after they met at the storied Fontainebleau, a favored South Florida vacation ground for the Falwells. Yet there they were, not only business partners but mingling socially at Cheeca, an idyllic, exclusive resort in the Keys.

The relationship between the Falwells and Granda forms the backdrop of an improbable Miami story that is causing political ripples beyond South Florida. It involves a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, the “pool boy” as he is described in the lawsuit, the comedian Tom Arnold, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now imprisoned political fixer, naked photographs — and a Miami father and son who say they were defrauded in a real estate deal then forced to change their names due to “threats.”

It’s a sideshow to the 2020 political campaign that’s just getting started with the first Democratic debate scheduled next week in Miami.

Falwell, 57, who took over the mantle of Liberty University following the death of his father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr., has denied the suggestion that in 2015 he sought help from Cohen, who told Arnold in a surreptitiously taped conversation that he embarked on a mission to recover “personal” photographs involving the Falwells.

There’s a trashy romance novel in there, and I’m going to write it.

By Any Other Name

People are being rounded up, held in one place, not allowed to leave, and the conditions are minimum.

Yes, of course they’re concentration camps.  That’s the definition of them.

[A] guarded compound for the detention or imprisonment of aliens, members of ethnic minorities, political opponents, etc., especially any of the camps established by the Nazis prior to and during World War II for the confinement and persecution of prisoners.

Republicans and Trumpistas are outraged that AOC called them that and are demanding she resign or whatever.

But they’re fine with the camps existing at all.

There’s your outrage.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tales From The Dork Side

This Axios interview with Jared Kushner is like something out of SNL.

Discussing the horrific death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” White House adviser Jared Kushner was noncommittal on whether Saudi Crown Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) must account for Khashoggi’s body.

Kushner said he’s still waiting for results of a U.S. investigation to assign blame, even though the CIA reportedly determined with a high degree of confidence that MBS ordered the murder, and the U.S. Senate unanimously declared that he was responsible.

Why it matters: Kushner, who shares the president’s view that Saudi Arabia is a crucial partner to counter Iran, has formed a close relationship with MBS and helped promote him as a great reformer. We see here that even eight months after Khashoggi’s death in a Saudi consulate, the White House still refuses to publicly hold the Saudi leader accountable.

  • Asked whether he would join Khashoggi’s fiancée in calling on the Saudi government to release his body (or identify where they put the body parts) so that his family might bury him, Kushner said: “Look, it’s a horrific thing that happened. … Once we have all the facts, then we’ll make a policy determination, but that would be up to the Secretary of State to push on our policy.”

Other highlights:

  • Kushner talked about how his grandparents came to America as impoverished refugees, after surviving the Nazis, and “they were able to build a great life for themselves.” He said, “It’s a great reminder of how great this country is, where my grandparents could be on the precipice of life or death and then come to this country and … 70 years later … their grandson’s working in the White House.”
  • I asked Kushner what he makes of President Trump’s decision to slash America’s refugee intake to the lowest level in 40 years. He defended that decision, saying the overall numbers are irrelevant given the scale of the global refugee crisis. Read Axios’ Stef Kight’s story on our exchange.
  • Kushner passionately defended Trump against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s charge that the president is a racist. I asked him whether Birtherism is racist. He wouldn’t answer the question — saying repeatedly that he wasn’t involved in Birtherism and that he knows who the president is. He also ducked whether Trump campaigning on a Muslim ban was an example of religious bigotry. Watch the clip.

Kushner said history will remember President Trump for two things above all else:

  1. Changing the types of people who come to work in Washington — “people who never would’ve been in Washington before who were not qualified by conventional standards … have brought great results to this country both economically and from a national security point of view.”
  2. Changing “how we think about America’s place in the world” — from a post-World War II era where everybody took advantage of America, to a new era of “rebalance” in trade and burden sharing. Kushner believes Trump has set America on a new course that will outlive his presidency.

It’s just mind-boggling.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Defining Treason

According to the United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

So people, even FBI employees, making snarky comments about a presidential candidate do not constitute treason, Liz Cheney.

If that were the case, the entire line-up of Fox News would have been lined up and shot during the Obama administration.

What an idiot.  Oops, I guess I’m a traitor.  Come and get me.