SNL: 'Village People' threaten to shave Ivanka's head if Donald Trump won't stop using 'YMCA' at rallies

The fake Village People made a surprise appearance on "Saturday Night Live" to tell President Donald Trump to stop using their music at his rallies or they'll shave Ivanka Trump's head.

"If you have been watching the Trump rallies, you probably noticed Trump dancing to The Village People," said Colin Jost during the Weekend Update segment. "If you haven't, let's take a look."

He explained that the Village People had their own special message for the president. The group of SNL cast members came out dressed in traditional Village People outfits and sang their cease and desist for the president.

"Stop it! Yeah I'm talking to you," they sang. "I said, stop it. This is long overdue because we never said that we support you. You must pay us to use our songs, Donald. Because of all of your lies, we're playing hardball, and we got a surprise he's a lawyer who you might recognize he is Alan Dershowitz Hello! He's going to send you a cease and desist. Get ready for a cease and desist. Alan knows where you been. He knows what you've seen on that island with Epstein..."

"Wait, wait, wait, wait," Jost cut in. "You can't say that! You can't just say that!"

"What? I mean, why? It's just music, man. We're just singing," said Kenan Thompson.

"No, because that's a really serious allegation. Also, isn't Alan Dershowitz for Trump?"

"Oh, he flipped," Thompson said.

"Do you guys all feel the same way about Trump? You're all from different walks of life, right?" asked Jost.

"It's kind of complicated. You see --" Thompson before the group started to sing again.

"The soldier said that you let him down. And the gay man said you don't want him around. And the Native is sick with COVID-19. Only the construction worker still believes. Although he is only one man, he must comply with all our demands. So, we voted and came up with a plan. I promise you we will shave Ivanka's head we're going to shave Ivanka's head it won't be that hard she'll look like Jean-Luc Picard."

"Hey, hey, stop! Wait. You're saying you're going shave Ivanka's head? You can't just say that!" shouted Jost. "That's got to be, like a felony!"

Thompson explained that everything is legal if you sing it in a song!

See the video below:

news & politics

Trump lawsuit to stop Nevada mail-in vote count condemned as 'obvious' and 'desperate' suppression attempt

In a move the Nevada Democratic Party denounced as a "desperate play" to suppress votes just ahead of the November 3 election, the Trump campaign on Friday filed a lawsuit seeking to stop officials from tallying mail-in votes in the Silver State's most populous county on the basis of alleged problems with ballot observation and processing procedures.

"This lawsuit from Trump and Republicans is nothing more than an obvious attempt to impede record-breaking momentum in Clark County, the most diverse county in the state," Nevada State Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II said in a statement. "The demands articulated in the GOP's lawsuit amount to voter suppression, plain and simple... this suit is nothing but a sham."

Late Friday, a judge denied the Trump campaign's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the counting of mail-in votes. "That doesn't mean the legal battle is over, though," the local Nevada Independent reported. "Carson City District Court Judge James Wilson has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Wednesday morning."

The lawsuit (pdf) against Nevada's Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Clark County Registrar of Voters Joseph Gloria—just one of many election-related suits the Trump campaign and Republicans have filed across the nation in recent months—alleges that Nevada officials are not providing adequate accommodations for ballot observers.

"Notably, observers are often located more than 25 feet away from certain processes, and cannot see the computer screens or monitors of individual workers," the complaint reads.

The suit also claims that Gloria lowered the "tolerance level" of a machine used to match signatures, allegedly opening the door to "fraudulent and improper ballots... being tabulated by Clark County."

In a statement responding to the lawsuit, the Clark County Election Department said the Trump campaign's complaint "contains many misleading or inaccurate claims."

"Perhaps most notably, the judge commented during a hearing today that the County Election Department is complying with state statute regarding observation requirements," said department spokesperson Dan Kulin.

In a pair of tweets late Friday, Nevada's Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford rejected the lawsuit's assertion that a "proper" vote-counting procedure is not in place in Clark County and denounced the Trump campaign's "illegitimate efforts."

"We will always protect the right to vote, and we won't let it be suppressed," Ford wrote. "Keep counting, Clark."

election '20

You're not supposed to understand the Hunter Biden smear. Chaos is the point

Acclaimed journalist and historian Anne Applebaum understands the universe of propaganda as well as anyone alive today. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, she has devoted the past three decades to studying Russia and Eastern and Central Europe, with an emphasis on disinformation and propaganda so acute that she was herself targeted—by a Russian-originated smear campaign in retaliation for her writings about Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea. She now contributes her cache of knowledge to The Atlantic, among other publications.

For someone so well-versed, analyzing the blatant behavior of propagandist right-wing media outlets such as Fox News is something akin to a chess master analyzing the strategy of Tic-Tac-Toe—simple, and even relaxing. So after watching the antics of Donald Trump during his final debate with Joe Biden, she wrote a piece for The Atlantic on Friday that explains what millions of Americans are still shaking their heads in bewilderment about today: the source—and more importantly, the purpose—of Trump's bizarre accusations about Hunter Biden and his allegedly nefarious dealings with certain obscure individuals.

Of course the direct conduits of this nonsense are what we in the sane world regard as the fever swamps of paranoiac right-wing conspiracy thinking, most visibly manifested on the Fox News channel. As Applebaum notes, the actual storyline, spun out of whole cloth, is purposefully designed to be opaque, leading someone trying to divine the actual facts to become frustrated and give up trying to make sense of them. In fact, as her article's title suggests, "You're not supposed to understand the rumors about Biden."

Because the story is not intended to make sense, but to create a fog of doubt.

Just like the fictional legend these same people wove around "Hillary's emails," the Hunter Biden fiction also concerns emails—these ones allegedly kept by a former business partner of Hunter Biden, and miraculously disclosed to a peripheral former and supposed "investigative journalist" named Matthew Tyrmand. Tyrmand, notably, was formerly (and peripherally) associated with the right-wing fraudster and provocateur James O'Keefe.

That piece of critical information would lead most knowledgeable people to immediately shelve the unfounded Hunter Biden scheme in that mental compartment where bad ideas go to eventually die. But the Fox News audience is by definition anything but "knowledgeable people." On that network, the Hunter Biden nonsense is not something analogous to the disappointingly empty caverns of "Al Capone's vault," but rather an ever-opening flower, chock full of conspiracy-thinking goodness.

In releasing the 26,000 emails, Tyrmand and his collaborator, the Breitbart News contributor Peter Schweizer, are not bringing forth any evidence of actual lawbreaking, or an actual security threat, by either Hunter or Joe Biden. They are instead creating a miasma, an atmosphere, a foggy world in which misdeeds might have taken place, and in which corruption might have happened. They are also providing the raw material from which more elaborate stories can be constructed. The otherwise incomprehensible reference in last night's debate to "the mayor of Moscow's wife," from whom Joe Biden somehow got rich, was an excellent example of how this works. A name surfaces in a large collection of data; it is detached from its context; it is then used to make an insinuation or accusation that cannot be proved; it is then forgotten, unless it gains some traction, in which case it is repeated again.

Applebaum provides some basic background for the uninformed and uninitiated (i.e., normal Americans).

Those who live outside the Fox News bubble and intend to remain there do not, of course, need to learn any of this stuff. Judging by what has been published, the very worst thing that Tyrmand's email cache could reveal (if it is authentic) is that some unattractive people sought to use Hunter Biden's surname and connections to get business deals or score a visit to the White House for their clients. But we already know about Hunter Biden's involvement with unattractive people, and his struggles with addiction; we also know that, under normal circumstances, dozens of people visit the White House every day. On the grand scale of misdeeds committed by politicians and their relatives, this kind of thing barely registers.

Applebaum then helpfully includes a laundry list of Trump's corruption that puts to shame whatever the right hopes to spin out of this email concoction. As readers of Daily Kos, you're more than familiar with these.

But there is a purpose lurking here in the mind of Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch. The first and most obvious? To assist Trump in deflecting attention—for these final 10 days—from his horrific malfeasance in the face of a pandemic whose vicious resurgence is soon likely to be the sole focus of the nightly newscasts. The second reason is to provide a ready well of sludge to draw upon in the seemingly likely event (as Murdoch himself has acknowledged) that the polls turn out to be correct, and Trump loses the election.

They will continue to serve a function after the election as well. If Biden wins, Foxworld will need some way to keep its audience focused on something other than the Cabinet he appoints, the new legislation he passes, and all the other events, decisions, and changes that used to constitute "news." Instead of all that real-life stuff—laws and regulations, statistics and investigations, debates about the economy and health care—the leading figures of the right-wing conspiracy bubble will, over the next months and years, dip into the email caches to keep their followers focused on an alternate reality in which Joe Biden is a secret oligarch, his son is an important figure in the Chinese mafia, and LOL nothing matters. Just as you need to know the backstories of the stars in the DC Comics universe in order to understand the nuances of a Batman movie, six months from now you might also need to know all about Cooney and Archer and the wife of the mayor of Moscow if you want to understand Ingraham's monologues.

Applebaum, a rapt student of propaganda, knows that outside of hosting the inevitable guest appearances (between court dates) that Donald Trump will insist on during the next four years—assuming he loses—the Fox News yappers need something to talk and talk about, and it certainly isn't going to be Republican policies. So this fictional narrative serves the interests both of Fox News—whose main concern is keeping its soon-to-be demoralized audience content and soporific—and also helps to deflect the inevitable horror stories that will be uncovered by a Democratic-controlled Congress investigating the Trump crime family's vast trail of detritus throughout our government.

By talking about Hunter Biden, the Trump family, especially the Trump children, also hopes to deflect attention from their own greatest weakness, namely the amoral, kleptocratic nepotism that they embody like no family ever before in American history...
None of them can win using ideas anymore, because they don't have any. All they can do is seek attention: gesticulate, wave their arms in the air, shout at the crowd, invent things, and try to attract the fame and attention they feel they deserve, even though they can no longer explain why they deserve it.

Put simply, assuming Joe Biden wins this election, we should all gear up for four long years of Fox News-inspired fantasy programming.

Of course, there's always the mute button.


Pennsylvania small business owners have a drastically different take on Trump than they did 4 years ago

Small business owners in Pennsylvania are sharing their reaction to life after four years under President Donald Trump, the only Republican president to win the state since 1988.

With all that has occurred over the last several months, many voters are having reservations about the possibility of Trump winning a second term. It is no secret that small businesses have been hit particularly hard amid the ongoing pandemic.

Joshua Mast, who owns a small business venue and restaurant in Scranton, Penn., happens to be one of them. He expressed concern about Trump's presidency as he admitted that his business is not better off than it was four years ago. He also shared his concerns about health care.

"I would have to say over the past four years we have not been better off," Mast said. "It would definitely take one level of stress away if [health] insurance was paid for or even reasonable. For any small business, that's a huge burden."

Mast also noted some of the characteristics he expects the president to have. Not only does he expect the president to have extensive knowledge of Washington, he also wants a president who will be proactive in the advancement of small businesses.

"I feel right now we need somebody who knows Washington, who is going to do something for the small-business owner and who's going to get something done."

Mast admitted that while he can manage to keep the doors of his business open, he knows that it will not be able to grow with Trump in office another four years.

"I will continue to have side hustles, as they say, to be able to keep my business open," he said. "But I will not be able to grow if we have another four years of this president."

Like Mast, many other Pennsylvania business owners are also facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. In fact, according to PennLive, requests for COVID relief funds for small businesses in Pennsylvania are reportedly outpacing the state's funds available by more than $600 million. The staggering deficit signals are major problem that could lead to long-term, and possibility permanent impacts, on small businesses in the state.

In addition to business owners like Mast, the Post-Gazette also reports that at least 33 mayors in Pennsylvania cities have also announced their support of Biden.


Production firm in Paris attack involved in Charlie Hebdo documentary

The Paris-based production company, whose employees were injured in a knife attack, had helped produce a documentary about the attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo editorial team."Three Days Of Terror: The Charlie Hebdo Attacks" is the name of the documentary that was produced for the US broadcaster HBO, the BBC and French broadcaster France 2.Witnesses, police officers and survivors speak in the film about the series of terrorist attacks in January 2015, in which a total of 17 people were killed over several days, according to the website of the company Premieres Lignes.The ...


Investigation reveals just how dangerous Trump's rallies are for public health

An investigation into the latest accelerated spread of coronavirus in multiple states appears to be linked to President Donald Trump's string of campaign rallies over the last several weeks.

As coronavirus plagues states all across America, Trump continues to blatantly disregard how dangerous his campaign rallies are for his campaign staff, White House advisors and aides, and everyone who attends his political events. Now, USA Today has explained the extent of the spreads in several counties following the president's rallies.

According to the analysis released by USA Today, case rates in at least five counties—Blue Earth, Minnesota; Lackawanna, Pennsylvania; Marathon, Wisconsin; Dauphin, Pennsylvania; and Beltrami, Minnesota—increased at a faster pace after Trump's rallies. Collectively, these counties reported 1,500 additional new cases in the two weeks after Trump's campaign rallies. The previous number of 8,069 jumped to 9,647 cases.

As President Donald Trump jetted across the country holding campaign rallies during the past two months, he didn't just defy state orders and federal health guidelines. He left a trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake.

While the absence of full contact tracing will make it a bit more difficult to definitively determine whether or not Trump's rallies were the sole cause of the coronavirus' accelerated spread in multiple states, the upticks in the counties highlighted clearly indicate that the president's events likely influenced the spread.

Public health officials have also managed to link some cases and hospitalizations in Wisconsin to the president's recent rallies.

Public health officials additionally have linked 16 cases, including two hospitalizations, with the rally in Beltrami County, Minnesota, and one case with the rally in Marathon County, Wisconsin. Outside of the counties identified by USA TODAY with a greater case increase after rallies, officials identified four cases linked to Trump rallies.

The USA Today report comes as the United States battles its highest number of coronavirus cases in a single day, now surpassing the massive surge over the summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, the United States topped 80,000 cases in a single day on


Faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matters (BLM) has been portrayed by its detractors as many things: Marxist, radical, anti-American. Added to this growing list of charges is that it is either irreligious or doing religion wrong.

In late July, for instance, conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan tweeted that BLM was “incompatible" with Christianity.

He isn't alone in that belief. Despite receiving the backing of diverse faith leaders and groups, BLM has been attacked by sections of the religious right. One evangelical institution felt compelled to issue a statement warning Christians about the movement's “Godless agenda." Other evangelicals have gone further, accusing BLM founders of being “witches" and “operating in the demonic realm."

Joining conservative Christians are some self-proclaimed liberals and atheists who have also denounced BLM as a social movement that functions like a “cult" or “pseudo" religion.

As scholars of religion, we believe such views fail to acknowledge – let alone engage with – the rich spiritual and religious pluralism of Black Lives Matter. For the past few years, we have been observing the way the movement and affiliated organizations express faith and spirituality.

Since 2015 we have interviewed BLM leaders and organizers as well as Buddhist leaders inspired by the movement. What we found was that BLM was not only a movement seeking radical political reform, but a spiritual movement seeking to heal and empower while inspiring other religious allies seeking inclusivity.

A love letter

Black Lives Matter was born from a love letter.

On July 13, 2013 – the day of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had killed an unarmed black teenage named Trayvon Martin – soon-to-be BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, posted “A Love Letter to Black People" on Facebook. She declared:

“We don't deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter."

Since its inception, BLM organizers have expressed their founding spirit of love through an emphasis on spiritual healing, principles, and practices in their racial justice work.

BLM leaders, such as co-founder Patrisse Cullors, are deeply committed to incorporating spiritual leadership. Cullors grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, and later became ordained in Ifà, a west African Yoruba religion. Drawing on Native American, Buddhist and mindfulness traditions, her syncretic spiritual practice is fundamental to her work. As Cullors explained to us, “The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight."

Theologian Tricia Hersey, known as the “Nap Bishop," a nod to her Divinity degree and her work advocating for rest as a form of resistance, founded the BLM affiliated organization, The Nap Ministry in 2016.

In an interview with Cullors, Hersey said she considers human bodies as “sites of liberation" that connect Black Americans to the “creator, ancestors, and universe." She describes rest as a spiritual practice for community healing and resistance and naps as “healing portals." Hersey connects this belief to her upbringing in the Black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, where, she explained, “I was able to see the body being a vehicle for spirit."

The movement is committed to spiritual principles, such as “healing justice" – which uses a range of holistic approaches to address trauma and oppression by centering emotional and spiritual well-being – and “transformative justice" which assists with creating processes to repair harm without violence.

Black Lives Matter protesters pray near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Transformative justice, central to the beliefs of many in the BLM movement, is a philosophic approach to peacemaking. With roots in the Quaker tradition, it approaches harms committed as an opportunity for education. Crime is taken to be a community problem to be solved through mutual understanding, as often seen in work to decriminalize sex work and drug addiction.

BLM affiliated organizer Cara Page, who coined the term “healing justice," did so in response to watching decades of activists commit themselves completely to social justice causes to the detriment of their physical and mental health. She advocates that “movements themselves have to be healing, or there's no point to them."

'Without healing, no justice'

BLM-affiliated organizations utilize spiritual tools such as meditation, reiki, acupuncture, plant medicine, chanting, and prayer, along with other African and Indigenous spiritualities to connect and care for those directly impacted by state violence and white supremacy.

For instance, Dignity and Power Now or DPN, an organization founded by Cullors in Los Angeles in 2012, hosts almost weekly wellness clinics on Sundays, often referred to as “church" by attendees.

On July 26, 2020, they held a virtual event called Calm-Unity, to remind people that “without healing there is no justice." Classes included yoga, meditation, African dance, Chinese medicine, and altar making.

In interviews, movement leaders described honoring their body, mind and soul as an act of resilience. They see themselves as inheritors of the spiritual duty to fight for racial justice, following in the footsteps of freedom fighters like abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

BLM leaders often invoke the names of abolitionist ancestors in a ceremony used at the beginning of protests. In fact, protests often contain many spiritual purification, protection and healing practices including the burning of sage, the practice of wearing white and the creation of sacred sites and altars at locations of mourning.

'More religion, not less'

BLM's rich spiritual expressions have also inspired and transformed many American faith leaders. Black evangelical leader Barbara Salter McNeil credits BLM activists in Ferguson as changing the Christian church by showing racism must be tackled structurally and not just as individual sin.

U.S. Buddhist leaders presented a statement on racial justice to the White House in which they shared they were “inspired by the courage and leadership" of Black Lives Matter. Jewish, Muslim and many other religious organizations, have incorporated BLM principles to make their communities more inclusive and justice oriented.

As University of Arizona scholar Erika Gault observes, “The Black church is not the only religious well from which Black movements have historically drawn," and with Black Lives Matter, “We are actually seeing more religion, not less."

Religious pluralism

Attempts to erase the rich religious landscape of Black Lives Matter by both conservative and liberal voices continues a long history of denouncing Black spirituality as inauthentic and threatening.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation's newsletter.]

The history of white supremacy, often enacted within institutional Christianity, has often vilified and criminalized Indigenous and African beliefs, promoted the idea that Black people are divinely destined to servitude, and subjected communities to forced conversions.

As Cullors said to us in response to current attacks against BLM as demonic, “For centuries, the way we are allowed to commune with the divine has been policed; in the movement for Black lives, we believe that all connections to the creator are sacred and essential."The Conversation

Hebah H. Farrag, Assistant Director of Research, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and Ann Gleig, Associate Professor of Religion, University of Central Florida

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

human rights

Election holds future of young, undocumented immigrants in the balance

SAN DIEGO — Among the many policies that will be on the ballot Nov. 3 is what will happen to the lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.The Trump administration has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which began under the Obama administration. For the past four years, Trump officials have argued that the program is illegal and should be stopped.DACA has so far survived only through court intervention. Even after the Supreme Court issued a decision in June that it should be fully restored because it wa...

more news

It sure seems like Trump is gearing up to blame McConnell for for blocking a new stimulus

In Thursday night's debate, President Trump skirted Joe Biden's observation that it's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican Senators — not House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who are blocking the "go big" stimulus package that Trump recently decided to promote before the election.

Trump kept on blaming Pelosi. But suppose that, with Nov. 3 in sight but unable to see beyond his immediate self-interest, he shoots himself in the foot by lambasting the Republican senators for blocking the stimulus he wants, thereby prompting some of his base to "punish" them at the polls, very possibly helping to hand the Senate to Democrats.

Although that would be a self-defeating strategy for Trump, it might not be bad for hundreds of thousands of his followers who are small businesspeople or self-employed in other ways and who, along with their customers and clients, need the stimulus as desperately as Trump does, albeit for "gut" economic reasons, not his narrow political ones. A Democratic Senate would probably join with the House (and a President Biden) to pass a stimulus package even more ambitious than whatever Pelosi and Mnuchin find possible.

Trump's self-absorption and opportunism have spotlighted not only philosophical divisions between Senate Republican hawks who can't stomach a $2 trillion stimulus and the office-holders who want only to hold on to their offices; Trump's pro-stimulus move also spotlights the economic canyon that yawns between our high-rolling con man of a president and millions of hard-working people whom his Republican Party has betrayed.

McConnell, currently in his own re-election fight, assumes that enough Kentucky voters are anti-government ideologues who will keep on shooting themselves in the foot by backing him and other Senate Republicans in blocking a stimulus. (Recent polling has him leading his challenger Amy McGrath statewide across income brackets and education levels.) He may be right to believe he can count on the support of the slice of Kentucky voters who believe "a wildly misleading image of recipients of public aid as thieves bleeding taxpayers dry," as New York Times economics columnist Eduardo Porter put it in his book "American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise":

"'Welfare queens' and other racial stereotypes peddled over the years by the political foes of redistribution… convinced white Americans that people of color are undeserving moochers from the public purse," Porter writes. "White voters marginalized by the same economic forces … could not figure out that they were shooting themselves in the foot" by cutting programs they imagined were serving only non-whites.

Thus many of McConnell's supporters have embraced "welfare reform" and Medicaid rules that culled 100,000 people from the rolls in recent years, even as the state, Porter writes, has "the most cancer deaths in the nation, and the most preventable hospitalizations" and is near the top in its death rate from diabetes. (Kentucky's Medicaid program has been a rollercoaster over the last several years; one of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear's first orders of business last December was to roll back the work requirements his Republican predecessor Matt Bevin put on Medicaid recipients in an effort to derail the expansion enacted under the Affordable Care Act.)

A Kentucky friend of mine shared with me the phrase "shame-natured" to describe the mixture of "low self-esteem and fierce pride, independence, and a sense of honor," as she puts it, which some conservative white working-class Southern voters have long carried with them into the booth. But the pandemic has up-ended much in their lives, and a parsimonious response could put McConnell on thinner ice with GOP reliables whose incomes have shriveled due to the virus. Perhaps McConnell hasn't yet heard the concerns of Republican voters like the Corbin truck driver who told the Washington Post back in August that he's "scared to death of losing everything" and angry at GOP leaders for failing to authorize another round of stimulus payments.

Or perhaps McConnell is hoping that party-line voters who are hurting economically will give him a pass, especially in the rural parts of his state, or at least let him ride Trump's coattails as the President rails against "Democrat-led cities" and other dog whistles in his rallies and tweets. McConnell knows that whites' anger and resentment can shift easily, with a little prompting from the right, into blaming minorities for the many little increments of humiliation and loss that have accumulated in their own lives. The more obvious it becomes that their racism is hurting not only Black people but also themselves, the more furiously some people deny it, like philosopher George Santayana's fanatic, who redoubles his energy when he has forgotten his aim. Trump's demagoguery channels their hurts into cravings for scapegoats — not only Black people, but also the "elites" — and for revenge.

We have to hope that COVID is bringing a different set of priorities and calculations home to Trump's and McConnell's bases. The state's recent election of Beshear may signal the beginning of a slow shift in that direction (though recent polls suggest that approval of Beshear isn't necessarily boosting McGrath's chances in her race against McConnell, and Trump is projected to win Kentucky handily, if by a slimmer margin than 2016).

Opportunist that Trump is, he seems poised to seize on a shift in the wind if he deems it advantageous. McConnell may not sense it, or he might have too much invested in his own image as the power-broker and conservator of right-wing ideals to switch lanes now. With or without a big pre-election stimulus announcement, we'll see soon enough how much of the national Republican base is shifting and fragmenting as COVID cases rise and economic destitution sets in, and how much of it still resembles Santayana's fanatics after this election.

Amy Coney Barrett and the Second Amendment: Why her 'expansive view' is total BS

"Pro-life" Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who will almost certainly be seated on the Supreme Court this week, seems to have no problem putting guns in the hands of individual Americans who want to buy them — every Tom, Dick and Kyle. She reportedly takes "an expansive view" of the Second Amendment, writing in her only ruling on gun regulation that it should not be considered "a second-class amendment."

A number of groups advocating gun control and gun safety, including Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, expressed their deep concerns with Barrett's nomination in a recent letter sent to leading members of Congress.

The 2008 Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller expanded the meaning of the Second Amendment far beyond militias — regulated or not. And that 5-4 majority opinion was written by Barrett's mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia.

It might be useful to look back on that ruling to take another look at the "textualist" approach to reading statutes and the "originalist" approach to reading constitutional questions, and to learn what one might then expect of a Justice Barrett.

There are a number of things one might find admirable about Barrett. She was a seriously engaged student at all levels of her education, taking an English degree at Rhodes College and graduating at the top of her law school class at Notre Dame. She's a mother (of seven) who manages to work in a demanding career. At her gym, she's apparently known for her commitment to doing pull-ups, for gosh sakes.

Barrett is also a self-proclaimed "textualist" or "originalist" when she looks at statutes or the Constitution. In rendering decisions as a judge, she says she believes in adhering to precedent but also in closely reading the text of an enacted statute or the Constitution, seeking the reasonable meaning of that text, in the context of what most people at the time it was written would consider it to be.

In speaking to Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, during the confirmation hearings, Barrett put it this way: "My own approach to it would be textualism. The intent of a statute is best expressed through the words — so, looking at what the words would communicate to a skilled user of the language."

Barrett works both as a textualist and as a particular kind of "originalist," one who focuses on the original meaning, not the intent, of the founders, taking the same approach most recently popularized by Scalia, for whom she clerked in 1998-1999. (Apparently, the "intent" approach had been discredited in the 1990s, so conservative judges moved on to a seemingly paradoxical "new originalist" approach of looking for original meaning.)

To understand how this can work, a look at the language of the Second Amendment may be instructive, followed by a brief discussion of the Heller decision resulting from Scalia's divining of the text of the framers, as ratified by Congress as part of the Bill of Rights in 1789.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As we all know, that's it — 27 words with some oddly placed commas and capitalized terms. (Odd for us, but not for that era; look, you are newly on your way to being a new originalist!)

Given that Barrett has a bachelor's in English, from Rhodes College in Memphis, it seems fair to turn to a well-regarded reference here. According to "Fowler's Modern English Usage," there should be, in this case, no comma after "Militia" because what we see in the amendment is an instance of something called "absolute construction." Fowler defines it this way:

Defined by the OED [Oxford English Dictionary] as 'standing out of the usual grammatical relation or syntactical construction with other words', it consists in English of a noun or pronoun that is not the subject or object of any verb or the object of any preposition but is attached to a participle or an infinitive, e.g., The play being over, we went home./Let us toss for it, loser to pay.

That might be a bit dizzying, but given that Barrett was an English literature major and is a textualist, her imperative to avoid misinterpretation here would seem like a piece of cake.

To me (and to many others, including a number of Supreme Court justices), the obvious sense here is "In that a well-regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The latter thing, the right, is contingent on the former thing, the well-regulated militia and the need for such.

The original Congress that passed the Bill of Rights might have chosen to turn it around, as in "The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed because a well-regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State" (and it was in that order in an original draft by Madison), but they chose to emphasize the "well-regulated Militia being necessary" clause, which in effect makes it a conditional clause — if this is true, then this other thing follows.

But a textualist and/or originalist looks not at what the text reasonably means to people today but to the people at the time the provision or statute was enacted. The argument is that in doing so, they are honoring the enacted law, as explained in a 2019 article on The Federalist Society blog:

… the bottom-line principle of textualism is that the enacted text of a law is to be given supreme deference as the ultimate repository of the law's purpose. Because the object of textualist interpretation is enacted text, many mainstream textualists reject the use of legislative history — history that has never been enacted into law.

Hold that thought, because when the text is considered to be not as clear as it needs to be, the textualist then is able to hunt for more information — in history, traditions and, if things are still murky, in more esoteric areas, say, sea shanties. (Okay, likely not sea shanties, unless the statute has to do with, say, whaling or piracy. Then maybe so.)

Speaking of militias, the Militia Act of 1903, also known (somewhat hilariously) as the Dick Act, for Ohio congressman Charles Dick, was passed after militia groups sent by states proved untrained and disorderly and generally lacking standards (e.g., different uniforms) during the Spanish-American War. Unfortunately, the act mentioned the creation of both an "organized" and an "unorganized" militia, and thereby confused the issue.

The organized militia became the National Guard; what was meant by the "unorganized militia" was simply a reserve of all men 17 to 45 years of age who might be called into service, if needed. It certainly did not mean a ragtag militia that gathers together for regular gun-fondling sessions or, just for instance, to concoct a plot to kidnap, "try" and execute a duly elected state governor. (You know, for tyranny.)

The "Dick Act" works on a few levels, then — it's all male, and it's a bit confused, like many men (I include myself). Although that particular Dick served long ago, it seems we still have a slew of Dicks in Congress purposely drawing up vaguely worded legislation, the very bane of a textualist.

Muscle-bound ponytailed oldsters riding around on choppers and those odd insect-like three-wheeled motorbikes as "militia" members often claim that the Dick Act gives them an absolute right to amass a personal armory as part of an unorganized militia. But, again, that is not what was meant.By the way, The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) estimates there are at least 300 private militia groups in the United States, nearly all of them far-right so-called patriot groups.

According to the SPLC blog Hatewatch, far-right militia member Ryan Balch, who was photographed walking with Kyle Rittenhouse before Rittenhouse killed two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August, said they were not part of a well-regulated militia:

"There was not a whole lot of communication [that night], and that was even within the protesters themselves," Balch told Hatewatch. Asked what he would need to call a militia well-regulated, Balch said, "There would have to be some organization."

That last bit is worth repeating: "There would have to be some organization."

The Scalia-led Heller decision took gun ownership beyond even the contested context of a well-regulated militia, extending it to personal ownership of handguns in defending "hearth and home." Further, it dispensed with the part of the law in Washington, D.C., that called for guns in the home to be locked up or otherwise secured when not in use.

Soon after Heller, states began to pass laws allowing citizens to carry guns nearly anywhere they desired. Walmart? City Hall? Church? Sure, why not?

But despite Scalia's freewheeling textualist reading of the Second Amendment, ownership outside the context of service in that annoyingly modified militia was never mentioned in the Constitution or in Madison's drafts preparing for the convention. According to author Michael Waldman,

Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn't rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital's law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise.

It's also worth repeating that last line: In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise.

As you will see, Scalia's originalist reading somehow dispensed with the idea of a militia. The prefatory clause ("A well-regulated Militia, being necessary…") was reduced to a mere example of why Americans need to keep and bear arms:

The Amendment's prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause's text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms.

Once you take that leap, well, you can go anywhere you like. Scalia was likely humming the "Theme of the Fast Carriers" from "Victory at Sea" when he got over that hump. The justice looked to history and tradition, to philosophy and English law and "natural law" in justifying his decision to divorce the meaning of the right from the idea of a militia. He invokes an "ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms" and notes that most state constitutions allowed gun ownership. All of that may be true, but none of it can be found in the enacted text.

Scalia might as well have just gone ahead and adopted the NRA's concept of gun ownership as a "God-given right."

Speaking of that, a 2019 paper on the NRA and religious nationalism published in Nature notes:

Over the last 40 years, the NRA has deliberately pivoted to protecting the Second Amendment, not as something merely important but as something sacred to be defended at all costs from the profane hands of the government. The NRA has done this by deliberately using religious imagery, language, and icons such as Charlton Heston, that map onto the largely Protestant religious beliefs and religious nationalism tracing back to the founding of the nation.

Judge Barrett piously promises that she will not make law from the bench, that she will mostly be guided by precedent. But if textualism/originalism got us to a unprecedented precedent that has resulted in people brandishing guns in schools, churches and city halls, how much stock should we reasonably put into this technique? Whose right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness obtains here — the gun fetishist or the family of the murdered child? The family of the teenager whose suicide was made perfectly efficient by the presence of a handgun in the home?

The late Chief Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon appointee, famously wrote that the NRA had promulgated fraud about the meaning of the Second Amendment:

The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees a "right of the people to keep and bear arms." However, the meaning of this clause cannot be understood apart from the purpose, the setting, and the objectives of the draftsmen. At the time of the Bill of Rights, people were apprehensive about the new national government presented to them, and this helps explain the language and purpose of the Second Amendment. It guarantees, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The need for a State militia was the predicate of the "right" guarantee, so as to protect the security of the State. Today, of course, the State militia serves a different purpose. A huge national defense establishment has assumed the role of the militia of 200 years ago.

In an 2018 opinion piece published in response to the student-led nationwide March for Our Lives, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the original fears of a national standing army creating problems for states was no longer a legitimate concern. Stevens called the Second Amendment "a relic of the 18th century" and advocated that it should be repealed.

Even the NRA itself has tacitly admitted what the opening clause means for the rest of the statement. According to Waldman, who writes of the takeover of NRA leadership by gun-rights radicals in 1977, the NRA dropped that portion of the Second Amendment on their headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, posting only the latter part in large letters in the lobby, as if there were no contingency: … the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Nice trick, that, just removing the offending clause — as Scalia, in essence, did as well. The Second Amendment's "well regulated" may be the most willfully ignored modifier in history. The Heller decision also ensured that no one had to store guns at home with safety in mind.

In his book "American Dialogue: The Founders and Us," historian Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize winner, criticized Scalia's Heller decision as a kind of parlor trick used to push a political agenda:

If Heller reads like a prolonged exercise in legalistic legerdemain … that is because Scalia's preordained outcome forced him to perform three challenging tasks: to show that the words of the Second Amendment do not mean what they say; to ignore the historical conditions his originalist doctrine purportedly required him to emphasize; and to obscure the radical implications of rejecting completely the accumulated wisdom of his predecessors on the court.

On a larger level, a number of the founders — James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in particular — saw the Constitution as a living document. Jefferson wrote that "laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind." In a review of Ellis' book for the New York Times, Jeff Shesol wrote:

It would never have occurred to Madison … that the Constitution should dictate every answer or foreclose all debate, no matter what is said at meetings of the Federalist Society or in Supreme Court confirmation hearings. As Ellis argues, the prevailing conservative doctrine of "originalism" is a pose that rests on a fiction: the idea that there is a "single source of constitutional truth back there at the founding," easily discovered by any judge who cares to see it.

Another American historian, Heather Cox Richardson, covering the confirmation hearings for her "Letters from an American" newsletter, addressed Barrett and the real purpose of originalism, which is to serve "a radical capitalism":

The originalism of scholars like Barrett is an answer to the judges who, in the years after World War Two, interpreted the law to make American democracy live up to its principles, making all Americans equal before the law. With the New Deal in the 1930s, the Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt had set out to level the economic playing field between the wealthy and ordinary Americans. They regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure…. Their desire to roll back the changes of the modern era serves traditional concepts of society and evangelical religion, of course, but it also serves a radical capitalism. If the government is as limited as they say, it cannot protect the rights of minorities or women. But it also cannot regulate business. It cannot provide a social safety net, or promote infrastructure, things that cost tax dollars and, in the case of infrastructure, take lucrative opportunities from private businesses. In short, under the theory of originalism, the government cannot do anything to rein in corporations or the very wealthy.

If I were to try to play "textualist" myself, I would find it notable that the framers capitalized "Militia" in the amendment. Though they were also a bit "cap-happy" in those days, the fact that they capitalized the word is an intriguing clue as to what they intended. To me, that "well regulated Militia" reads as one entity — something perhaps in existence in all 13 states, but to be organized into a whole in defense of one nation — not the innumerable little "militias," heavily armed and running amok in their QAnon T-shirts and mail-order camouflage, that we despairingly see today.

Judge Barrett is smarter than I am. I have no doubt she can do more pull-ups, both physically and linguistically. But I'll stand on the side of a multitude of other very intelligent people who read the right to bear arms as constituting a right only when, and if, it is done as part of a well-regulated militia. And we have that — it's called the National Guard. You want to play with people-killing weapons? Join the Guard. Otherwise, grab a rifle or shotgun and go hunting, if that's your thing.

If you read anything else into that while claiming to be an originalist, you are perpetrating a very solemn-sounding con on the American public and likely should wear a tricorn hat when out in publick. You know, so we can see you coming.

Conservatives naturally want to keep the founders alive and the Constitution dead. Unless it serves a purpose for them; then, with originalism, they perform a kind of séance to bring the document back to a sort of sham life — and if the words themselves are a burden, they blithely look to English common law, philosophy and elsewhere for guidance.

I myself have cherry-picked some quotes for this piece. It's human nature — and I'm trying to keep this article from becoming so long that no one reads it. We may all be textualists now, as Justice Elena Kagan put it in her 2015 Scalia Lecture at Harvard (to the glee of the Federalist Society and some of her conservative colleagues), but we are also human — sometimes we see what we want to see. Or as Paul Simon put it, "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

What will Justice Barrett find in the words of the founders to help her rule on challenges to the Affordable Care Act, or Medicare, or the environmental regulations so critical to addressing climate change?

The way I read it, if Barrett were to be faithful in her reading of the amendment, she would stand less on the recent precedents funded by the Cato Institute and the NRA — precedents that have caused unending misery and grief and have made our society much less safe — and actually begin to curtail the so-called rights of gun owners.

In that last sentence, Barrett and other textualists might note that I purposively use the subjunctive. It is a mood that is already disappearing from the language, but in my time it was often used for contrary-to-fact statements.

USPS quietly awards $5 million contract to DeJoy's former company: 'Epic level of corruption'

The U.S. Postal Service last month quietly awarded a $5 million contract to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's former company XPO Logistics, raising fresh allegations of unethical activity by the Trump megadonor as he continues to come under fire for causing nationwide mail delays that could impact next month's election.

CBS News reported Friday that the Postal Service "will pay XPO $3.3 million annually to manage its route between the two cities, which are roughly 700 miles apart."

"The USPS database shows the contract has one of the highest annual rates out of more than 1,600 contracts the Postal Service initiated with outside firms in its most recent quarter, which is the first full quarter DeJoy has served as head of the agency," according to CBS.

Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers and ethics groups, DeJoy—who was a top executive on XPO's board before leaving the company in 2018—belatedly agreed last week to divest from XPO, in which he held between $30 and $75 million worth of stock. As CBS noted, the logistics company "still pays DeJoy about $2.3 million a year in rent and expenses for 220,000 square feet of office space he controls in his home state of North Carolina. XPO's lease agreements for DeJoy's properties run through 2025."

"This epic level of corruption is hurting the seniors and disabled veterans who rely on medicines by mail," advocacy coalition Lower Drug Prices Now tweeted in response to news of the XPO contract, which was negotiated in August and disclosed by USPS earlier this month.

As Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) researcher Meredith Lerner wrote last week, "DeJoy's initial decision to retain his interest in [XPO Logistics] relied on an explanation from a USPS ethics official that divestiture was not necessary because DeJoy would not make decisions affecting the company's contracts with USPS."

"While it is undoubtedly a good thing that DeJoy has agreed to divest his stake in XPO," Lerner wrote, "his delayed divestiture will not absolve him of possible conflict of interest violations related to the company that he may have committed in the months that he worked at USPS while retaining a significant interest in the company."

'An insult': Doctors furious as Trump peddles baseless claim they are inflating COVID death count for profit

Medical professionals responded with outrage late Saturday after President Donald Trump pushed the baseless claim that doctors and hospitals are intentionally inflating coronavirus death counts because they have a financial "incentive" to do so, a narrative that has been circulating for months in right-wing media circles and among some Republican lawmakers.

During a campaign rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin Saturday night, the president said "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they attribute to Covid-19 deaths that, according to Trump, should have been primarily attributed to comorbidities.

Trump's claim resembles falsehoods that have been spreading on Facebook and Twitter since the early stages of the pandemic, such as one viral post asserting that "hospitals get $750 if you die from the flu, and $17,500 if you died from Covid-19."

Deeming the claim false, PolitiFact noted: "Under the CARES Act, the largest of the three federal stimulus laws enacted in response to the coronavirus, Medicare pays hospitals a 20% 'add on' to its regular payment for Covid-19 patients. But there is no indication that hospitals are over-identifying patients as having Covid-19 for the sake of padding their revenue. If anything, evidence suggests the illness is being underdiagnosed."

"Medicare pays hospitals based on a diagnosis; whether a patient dies does not affect the amount," PolitiFact pointed out. "And even then, the same diagnosis might trigger one reimbursement amount at one hospital, and a different payment at a hospital in another location."

Experts have also rejected Trump's insistence that people with comorbidities who die after falling ill with Covid-19 should not be counted as a coronavirus fatality. Justin Lessler, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Scientific American last week that "when we ask if Covid killed somebody, it means 'Did they die sooner than they would have if they didn't have the virus?"

While preexisting conditions make people more vulnerable to coronavirus, Lessler said, "the fact is: they're not dying from that preexisting condition."

Trump's comments—which came as the U.S. coronavirus death toll approached 225,000, the highest in the world—were met with immediate condemnation by physicians and other medical professionals.

"As a doctor, this is such an insult," said Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare. "We report deaths how they occur. If you did your damn job we wouldn't be reporting so many Covid-19 deaths. About 130,000 fewer according to a Columbia University study."

Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease doctor and an associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine, tweeted that the president's claims are an affront "to the almost quarter of a million people who have died of this disease."

"In people with comorbidities, Covid, like any major insult to the system, serves to worsen the outcome," Bhadelia continued. "The virus is still absolutely the reason that person died. The comorbidities were their vulnerabilities that the virus took advantage of."

"This speech by the person who should supposedly be leading us through this crisis—it breaks me," wrote Bhadelia. "This apathy, utter willful disconnect from reality of the pain of this pandemic while the country spirals into what might be our worst surge yet—we cannot let this cruelty continue."

Democrats are missing a big chance to increase turnout and take down the Trump machine

The anxiety over changes and irregularities with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in August finally spilled over. A functioning postal service undergirds many of our society’s most basic functions, so there was no shortage of reasons to be alarmed. However, one concern—the threat to November’s election—overwhelmingly rose to the top. And the public outcry over that threat pushed a normally lethargic House majority into action, winning some mild but incomplete reversals from USPS.

Keep reading... Show less

'Unlawful abuse of power': These 3 cities just sued DOJ over 'anarchist' designation

When the U.S. Department of Justice declared New York City, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon "anarchist jurisdictions" last month and threatened to withhold federal funding, many progressive residents of the cities—especially New Yorkers—responded with derisive humor. But to leaders in the three Democratic-run cities, the designation is no laughing matter, and on Thursday they sued the DOJ in a bid to thwart the Trump administration's effort to hold back what could amount to billions of federal dollars.

The cities' federal lawsuit (pdf), in fact, calls the prospect of the administration's withholding of critical funding during the coronavirus pandemic "deadly serious," as well as "offensive to both the Constitution and common sense" and "an oxymoronic designation without precedent in U.S. history."

Leaders of the targeted cities condemned the administration's efforts to punish their residents as the nation enters what one leading epidemiologist called the "darkest days" of the pandemic.

"The Trump administration's political threats against Seattle and other Democratic cities are unlawful and an abuse of federal power," Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a press release announcing the suit. "It's immoral, unconstitutional, and shameful that we are forced to expend any resources on this political theater."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was even more blunt. "The only anarchy in this country is coming from the White House," he told reporters Thursday.

The "anarchist jurisdiction" designation could cost New York City alone some $12 billion, the New York Times reports, public money that is desperately needed to fund life-saving city services during the surging pandemic and critical transportation and other infrastructure. That's why city leaders—who were initially inclined to shrug off the defunding threat as just the latest inanity from President Donald Trump—decided to take action. When the Federal Transit Administration earlier this month cited the "anarchist" designation when casting doubt on New York's eligibility for a $10 million transit grant to fight the spread of Covid-19, leaders in the three cities began preparing to sue.

On September 2, Trump issued a memorandum accusing Democratic state and local leaders of contributing to "violence and destruction in their jurisdictions by failing to enforce the law, disempowering and significantly defunding their police departments, and refusing to accept offers of federal law enforcement assistance" to police racial justice protests in the wake of officer killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black and Latinx people.

In the memo Trump vows to "not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones." The DOJ designation followed on September 21.

Critics say Trump's attempt to paint some of America's most progressive cities as crime-ridden "socialist hellholes" belies the political motivation of his actions, with some observers noting that numerous Republican-run cities have much higher homicide and other violent crime rates than any of the municipalities targeted by the administration.

Trump walked into a trap on Obamacare — and the Lincoln Project pounced

The Lincoln Project quickly fired back at President Donald Trump when he revealed his true intentions regarding the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare.

During the president's debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, he admitted that the goal is to "terminate" Obamacare. As Trump offered multiple baseless excuses to justify his administration's reason for wanting to terminate healthcare for more than 20 million Americans, he walked into another debacle. When asked how he would replace Obamacare, the president failed to provide any serious answer to that question.

Instead, he pivoted and promised to deliver a "beautiful healthcare plan." But once again, Trump offered no substance to detail what that means. His remarks influenced The Lincoln Project's response.

The anti-Trump Republican group took to Twitter with highlights of the president's so-called healthcare plan. With a video compilation of the president's previous remarks about healthcare, The Lincoln Project shed light on what Trump really meant during the debate.

The tweet read, "JUST LEAKED: President Trump's healthcare plan."

Since January 2017, Trump has volleyed on healthcare often spewing lies about forthcoming release dates for his plan. On multiple occasions, Trump has claimed his full healthcare plan would be released in "two weeks," "one month," "soon," and so on, the truth is that it has been three and a half years and Trump still has not released a plan. The president's failed war on healthcare also sheds light on how reckless his decision would be to terminate healthcare for millions of Americans. The Lincoln Project's clip made that very clear.

The group's latest video is one of several clips that have been released to highlight the inconsistencies in Trump's promise to voters and his ability to execute. Over the last two weeks, The Lincoln Project's support on Twitter has surpassed that of the Republican National Committee which suggests there are many Republicans that may be jumping ship as Election Day approaches.

Trump Organization renewed the domain name for its proposed Moscow development — this year

The Trump Organization reregistered the domain name this June, internet records show, suggesting that contrary to President Trump's claims, the company has not necessarily abandoned its pursuit of the lucrative real estate deal that figured prominently in multiple investigations into his connections with Russia.

The Trump Organization has re-upped the domain every year of his presidency. This year it renewed its ownership on June 9, under a company called DTTM Operations, which Trump's financial disclosures show manages more than 100 company trademarks. DTTM Operations appears now to have registered a total of more than 3,000 domains, according to a whois search, including renewals for, and — 2,000 more than reported in 2017.

The domain was first registered in 2008, according to internet "whois" lookups, but the Trump Organization was not the first buyer. Longtime Trump associate Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman whose efforts to build the Moscow tower date back to the early 2000s, told Salon that he turned ownership of the domain over to the Trump Organization in 2015, when Trump signed a letter of intent to develop the project.

The domain was first reported in early July 2017, about two months before the Washington Post's bombshell report that during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Trump Organization had tried to strike a deal with Russian developers to build the luxury hotel and condo tower. A series of BuzzFeed News reports starting the next year illustrated the significant progress the project had made and the extent of Donald Trump's involvement.

Initially envisioned as the tallest building in Europe, Trump Tower Moscow was spearheaded on the Trump side by Sater and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, and included the personal involvement of Ivanka Trump. But even with a Russian developer on board, the project needed the blessing of government officials to get off the ground, a responsibility that fell to Cohen.

At one point the company proposed awarding Russian President Vladimir Putin the $50 million penthouse suite for free, a quid pro quo for the green light to break ground, and which had Trump's approval.

While Trump repeatedly denied having any "deals" with Russia, documents show that tower plans progressed well into the design phase. That proposal became a focal point of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, which eventually charged Cohen with lying to Congress, largely to minimize the extent of Trump's involvement in the deal. (Cohen says he was encouraged in this by one of Trump's attorneys, and Ivanka Trump reportedly reviewed his testimony in advance.)

Trump has insisted throughout his term that the Russia probe was a "witch hunt," but the continuing annual domain purchases indicate that his company has put money into the idea each year of his presidency.

"He's as bad a liar as he is a president," Cohen told Salon. "How stupid can someone be who refutes over and over again the continuation of a real estate project, while simultaneously paying to keep the domain name active? What's more, they're not even bothering to anonymize it, but slapping the Trump brand on it. Hence why I use the term stupid: His arrogance translates into idiocy. Does Trump really believe that the people of this country are ignorant?"

"It would be comical," Cohen said, "if it weren't really happening."

The annual domain registries, and especially the 2015 handoff to the Trump Organization with Trump's commitment to the project, are new dots in a constellation of redemption for Cohen, who, after pleading guilty to lying, has since launched a campaign to tell the truth about his former boss — claims that to date have led directly to at least two government investigations into the president's business dealings.

Cohen's confessions, moored by corroborating documents, have even pulled Trump a few steps closer to the truth.

"We were thinking about building a building," Trump admitted to White House reporters in November 2018, after years of denials and months after Cohen's perjurious testimony to protect him.

"I decided ultimately not to do it. There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it," Trump said. He repeated three times something he had denied throughout his campaign: "Everybody knew about it."

"Everybody knew about it. It was written about in newspapers. It was a well-known project," Trump said, none of which is true. "It was during the early part of '16 and, I guess, even before that. It lasted a short period of time."

According to Cohen, Trump wanted to visit Russia during the 2016 campaign in order to personally meet Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations — a plan Sater confirmed to Salon in a phone call.

"Make it happen," Cohen said Trump told him.

However, Trump and his associates in the U.S. and Russia kept a lid on the story through the election and beyond. (Russia granted Trump six trademarks in 2016, including four on Election Day.)

"I have no dealings with Russia," Trump said shortly before his inauguration in 2017. "I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away."

This week the New York Times reported that Trump's tax returns show that the president maintains a previously unknown bank account in China, which according to a company spokesperson was opened "to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia" and which has incurred nearly $200,000 in local taxes.

"Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose," the spokesperson claimed.

Asked whether the domain renewals, amid years of fending off allegations of improper ties with Russia, suggest that Trump was keeping his post-presidency options open, Cohen dismissed the idea.

"The business does not survive" after Trump leaves office, he said. "There's too much scrutiny, and too much knowledge."

Critics laugh at GOP's boastful tweets about Trump's 'accomplishments'

With less than two weeks until the upcoming presidential election, the Republican Party is going to great lengths to justify their support of President Donald Trump being elected for a second term. But their latest attempt to boast about Trump's "accomplishments" has fallen flat and Twitter users are taking advantage of the moment.

On Friday, the Republican Party took to Twitter with a series of boastful tweets detailing the president's accomplishments during his first-term. The first tweet read, "Pres. Trump is fighting for YOU! Here are some of his priorities for a 2nd term: *Establish Permanent Manned Presence on The Moon *Send the 1st Manned Mission to Mars *Build World's Greatest Infrastructure System *Establish National High-Speed Wireless Internet Network."

The party shared a total of three tweets but Twitter users quickly began weighing in with a comical array of responses. While some users insisted that the list of accomplishments only magnifies the broken promises Trump has failed to keep over the last four years as others were left reeling over Trump being lauded for "permanent manned presence on the moon" and sending the first "manned mission to Mars."

"With a global pandemic and a tanking American economy, why is the @GOP listing a mission to Mars as a top priority?" LGBTQ activist Eric Rosswood tweeted.

Even celebrities shared colorful responses as they criticized the Republican Party for the lackluster list of accomplishments. "Pineapple Express" star Seth Rogan tweeted, "Who in the fuck gives a flying fuck about putting motherfuckers on The Moon and Mars?"

Alyssa Milano accused Republicans of being "so completely and totally out of touch" with reality. Veteran news anchor Dan Rather sarcastically criticized the party for their focus on outer space as opposed to focusing on the problems here on Earth.

"This all makes a lot of sense when you realize COVID-19 isn't a problem outside of Earth. Oh, and "Waiting for Infrustructure Week" gets renewed. Yay,"

Others were flabbergasted by the fact that the series of tweets were not satirical.

As of Saturday, October 24, nearly 50 million Americans have already cast their vote for the upcoming election. At this rate, the Republican Party may already be aware that they are facing an uphill battle in their fight to get the president re-elected.

Legal experts slam Jared and Ivanka's 'abusively frivolous' lawsuit over Lincoln Project billboards

Legal experts are pushing back against President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump and her husband, White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner's latest threat to file a lawsuit against the Lincoln Project over the political action committee's billboards criticizing the White House's handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a letter released on Friday, Trump family attorney Marc Kasowitz released a statement condemning the former Republicans' billboards located in New York City's Times Square.

"We represent Mr. Jared Kushner and Ms. Ivanka Trump," Kasowitz wrote. "I am writing concerning the false, malicious and defamatory ads that the Lincoln Project is displaying on billboards in Times Square."

Kasowitz went on to describe the billboards and his interpretation of the ads saying: "Those ads show Ms. Trump smiling and gesturing toward a death count of Americans and New Yorkers, and attribute to Mr. Kushner the statement that '[New Yorkers] are going to suffer and that's their problem' (alteration in original), with body bags underneath."

However, multiple legal experts have taken to Twitter with their responses as they criticized the couple's stance. In fact, First Amendment attorney Ken White also described their actions as "absolutely frivolous."

"This is an abusively frivolous defamation claim," White tweeted. "In a normal era, shamefully stupid, but standard for Trumps and the amoral hucksters they hire as lawyers."

Robert Mueller's former top lieutenant Andrew Weissmann also chimed in via Twitter with words of criticism toward Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Weissmann tweeted, "The apple does not fall far from the Donald Trump tree."

Despite the couple's threat, the Lincoln Project released a response via Twitter as they dismissed the threatening letter. The group tweeted, "Jared and Ivanka have always been entitled, out-of-touch bullies who have never given the slightest indication they have any regard for the American people. We plan on showing them the same level of respect."

The anti-Trump group made it clear the billboards will remain in place. "The billboards will stay up," the group said in a tweeted statement. "We consider it important that in Times Square, the crossroads of the world, people are continuously reminded of the cruelty, audacity and staggering lack of empathy the Trumps and the Kushners have displayed towards the American people."

Why one neurology expert says Trump’s ‘forward-leaning posture’ and ‘body tics’ are cause for serious concern

A professor of Neurology at George Washington University says he believes there may be legitimate concerns over President Donald J. Trump's "forward-listing posture" that goes beyond the comical memes and gif responses normally shared on social media.

"I know something about political figures and observable signs of illness from afar," Richard E. Cytowic M.D. wrote in Psychology Today. "… The American public deserves an accurate account of our president's health."

"While most frequently observed in Parkinson's Disease, the bent posture so evident in Trump may also be seen in Alzheimer's Dementia, movement disorders of the basal ganglia, and as the side effect of certain medications," Cytowic continued. "Also noted are the sudden, jerking movements of Trump's right arm. Since they occur only on one side, the prefix "hemi" is applied, while "ballistic" means sudden or flinging in the manner of a projectile. Trump's hemiballistic arm movements are evident in news clips from Memorial Day (also here via C-Span) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as are his uncontrolled swaying and forward tilt. He is seen to grab his wayward arm with the left one in an effort to keep it under control."

President Trump at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day.

While Trump "aced" a 10-minute mental status screening in August, Cytowic said "the test is one an average adult should easily pass. To a neurologist, his way of walking, posture, and jerky movements are concerning and in want of explanation."

According to Cytowic, "It is true that individuals who have balance and gait issues similar to those observed in Trump can have degenerative brain disease in the frontal lobes, such as fronto-temporal dementia or Pick's Disease. Other possibilities are normal pressure hydrocephalus, sensory ataxia, peripheral neuropathy, small lacunar strokes in the basal ganglia, supranuclear palsy, the effects of too many medications, and Parkinson's Disease, which can begin on one side and also show early cognitive impairment."

Regardless, "The president is a public figure whose judgment we must trust," Cytowic said. "The American public is entitled to know about his neurological health given the enormous responsibilities placed on our Commander in Chief."

Jared and Ivanka will be ‘shunned’ by Manhattan social circles after taking part in Trump’s ‘national atrocities’: report

According to a report from the Daily Beast’s Hannah Seligson, Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner can expect a rocky road when it comes to social acceptance if they decide to return to Manhattan after serving as chief advisers to the highly unpopular Donald Trump.

Keep reading... Show less

Expert details the secretive ‘shadow network’ behind America's radical right for the past 40 years

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Moyers on Democracy. What is the shadow network behind the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? Who selected and groomed her for this moment? Who's financing the campaign to get her confirmed? Who's counting on her to side with President Trump if he's losing the election and wants the Supreme Court to declare him the winner? For the answers, Bill Moyers talks to journalist and investigator Anne Nelson about her book: SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT. In it, she exposes the powerful and little-known Council for National Policy, the organization behind the conservative movement of the past 40 years – from Ronald Reagan's secret war in Central America to their success in turning the Supreme Court into the Trump Court. Ms. Nelson has received the Livingston Award for her journalism and a Guggenheim Fellowship for historical research. Here to talk with her is Bill Moyers.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. It's a pleasure to talk to you.

ANNE NELSON: My pleasure.

BILL MOYERS: Let me begin with the most current part of the story, which comes just a little bit after your book is published when the conservative movement is facing a very decisive encounter with the very forces it's been trying to defeat now for 40 years. How do you think the shadow network reads the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court? What are they making of it?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that they consider it a great triumph and a kind of culmination of 40 years of effort. And I demure a bit at the term conservative because this is, for me, the radical right. It is so far to the right of mainstream American public opinion that I feel that it's in a different category both in terms of its ideology and its tactics. But they decided way back in the day of Paul Weyrich, one of the architects of the movement that they–

BILL MOYERS: In the early 1970s, right?

Read an excerpt

ANNE NELSON: We're going back to the '70s and even earlier, because he was active on the Barry Goldwater campaign. And he was frustrated time and again by moderates in the Republican Party and people who were willing to work with Democrats to advance policy and solutions to public problems. And he created organizations and tactics that he openly declared should destroy the regime, as he called it, which would be the U.S. government as we've known it for the last century.

BILL MOYERS: Paul Weyrich is the man I remember saying–

PAUL WEYRICH: I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populous goes down.

BILL MOYERS: He was essentially saying, as a newly anointed leader of the religious right, what their philosophy was. The fewer people vote, the better their chance.

ANNE NELSON: That's right. And from the beginning, in terms of their electoral tactics, it has been a matter of weaponizing certain churches and pastors and really exerting tremendous pressure on them to use churches as instruments of a radical right ideology. And then using similar tactics to suppress votes for Democrats, especially in key battleground states.

BILL MOYERS: So that's why you conclude in your book they were to the right of the Republican Party. They were not just an offshoot of the Republican Party. They were not just fundraisers for the Republican Party, but they were ideologically and organizationally taking the Republican Party far to the right.

ANNE NELSON: Absolutely, and somewhat to my surprise, I found that their prototype was the Southern Baptist Convention, where they decided that in order to move it to the right, they had to use questionable tactics to elevate their supporters to key positions of influence and purge the Southern Baptist Convention of moderates in the seminaries and in the colleges and among the pastors. And it was a fairly ruthless process, and once these tactics were developed, they applied it to the Republican Party. And you had the same kind of tactics going on of purging moderates, some of whom had been in office for years.

BILL MOYERS: I should point out to some of our younger listeners and readers that the Southern Baptist Convention at the time and still today was the largest Protestant denomination in America. You know, something like it eventually reached 16 and a half million members scattered throughout the South and the West. We'll come back to them in a moment. What do you think about the NEW YORK TIMES' assessment that Amy Coney Barrett represents a new conservativism rooted in faith. That's how their headline described a three-page portrait of her life and career. Does that make sense to you?

ANNE NELSON: Not entirely, because as a conservative Catholic, she follows in the footsteps of others such as Brett Kavanaugh and Antonin Scalia. So that's not very new. And what I look at in my book SHADOW NETWORK is how these interlocking organizations support each other. The book is about the Council for National Policy– a radical right-wing organization that is very secretive, and it brings together big donors like the DeVos family and oil interests from Texas and Oklahoma and political operatives. And, for example, members include the leadership of the Federalist Society. Well, Amy Coney Barrett was a member of the Federalist Society for a number of years and is still a speaker at their events. It includes the head of Hillsdale College, which is one of their campus partners. Amy Coney Barrett was commencement speaker for Hillsdale College this year. So, there are all of these organizations that have been turning their wheels to promote her really for several years going back. She appeared on previous lists of potential nominees for the Supreme Court, and I don't believe she would have been included in those lists had she not confirmed to their traditional idea of an activist judge.

BILL MOYERS: They knew what they were looking for.

ANNE NELSON: And I should add that one of the most powerful components in the Council for National Policy is the anti-abortion movement. Organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America and other interests, which are anti-environmentalist interests from the fossil fuels industry. So, I think that we've seen a roadmap of what to expect moving forward.

BILL MOYERS: Tell me, who does make up the Council for National Policy?

ANNE NELSON: So, the Council for National Policy has traditionally been around 400 members. From the beginning, it's included people with big money, a lot of them from the Texas and Oklahoma oil industries, but also the DeVos family of Michigan from the Amway fortune, and Betsy DeVos, of course. So, it has the big money to pay for things. It's got the leaders of so-called grassroots organizations. Now, I say so-called, because they do not spring from the grassroots the way that you would expect from the name. They are organized with a great deal of money from the top down. So, for example, the National Rifle Association– their leadership is part of the CNP. They get money from the donors, they organize their millions of members, and you combine these with the strategists and the media owners. And I spend a lot of time in my book talking about the power of fundamentalist and conservative radio in swing states. Things that people on the East Coast overlook to a terrible degree. And the same thing with fundamentalist broadcasting, which has really several of these broadcasters — the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Trinity Broadcasting Network have really turned into outlets replicating the messaging from this organization. So, you have them interlocking and interacting and each supporting each other's function. And I should explain something here, which is that they represent historically a white, Protestant, I'm sorry, but male-dominated patriarchy–

BILL MOYERS: No, that's okay.

ANNE NELSON: And I have to say that demographically its time has passed. The United States has become more diverse religiously, ethnically, and racially. And they recognize that their core positions are not supported by the majority of Americans. So, they went to the limit, pulled out all the stops to get Trump elected by a tiny margin, but they doubt that they can do that again. The signs are not good. What they can do is make their hold on the federal courts concrete through the Supreme Court, and therefore, get majorities in cases like gerrymandering, voter suppression, and their political activation of the churches with tax-exempt status. And further their hold on power through the courts.

BILL MOYERS: So which part of the shadow network do you think chose, mentored, and groomed Amy Coney Barrett for this moment?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I have to speculate here. But I would see a fairly straight line from her position to Leonard Leo's. Now, Leonard Leo is a very conservative Catholic. He was the operational figure of the Federalist Society for a number of years, and recently he shifted from that position to an even more activist position. Amy Coney Barrett was already a member of the Federalist Society. The Federalist Society has a pipeline through the lower federal courts, which she benefited from. So, in terms of this Catholic interaction they would be quite close to each other. Another key figure is Carrie Severino, who is from the Judicial Crisis Network, which was co-founded by Leonard Leo. And again, very right-wing Catholics who have tended to be overlooked while people focus on the fundamentalist Protestants. But Ralph Reed, who has been somebody who's been active with the fundamentalist politicization for decades declared openly years ago that the next step to their campaign was to enlist the Catholic vote. And they've been aggressively doing that in recent years.

BILL MOYERS: And then there's Don McGahn who was for three years Donald Trump's chief White House counsel, graduate of Notre Dame, admirer of Amy Coney Barrett, who was scouting himself for recruits to bring up, train, groom, and put into the mix for potential Supreme Court justices. And I read that he was highly enthusiastic about her, had talked to Leo and that they had you had both these White House and legal forces behind her, knowing that she was one of them.

ANNE NELSON: Yes. And I would guess that they suffered enough embarrassment over the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the discussion of possible sexual harassment that was involved, that it was a convenient moment to bring a female to the top of the list to avoid that. So, there were a number of elements in her favor. I should add that in the process of these nominations Trump cut a deal in 2016 with this movement, and it was publicly reported that he was going to accept lists of nominees from three organizations run by Council for National Policy members: the Heritage Foundation, the Federalist Society, and the National Rifle Association, believe it or not. And he has actually followed suit with that. The Federalist Society has taken the lead on this, but you will find the Heritage Foundation in the background of all of these proceedings, as well as the NRA.

BILL MOYERS: Did you see anybody from the shadow network at the White House when President Trump announced her nomination? Could you identify any there as members of the Council for National Policy?

ANNE NELSON: Why, as a matter of fact, I could. I've got the September 2020 membership list. So, I went through U.S.A. Today's publication of who was present at that event, which has been called the COVID superspreader event on September 29th. And what I found was that they had six members of the White House staff, nine members of congress, and 14 current members of the Council for National Policy.

BILL MOYERS: Fourteen?

The moment of truth in those hearings came when she [Amy Coney Barrett] was asked if it was against the law to interfere with the vote in a federal election. And she couldn't answer that. Which to me demonstrated either an ignorance of the law or a disregard for the law that is truly alarming on the eve of an election.

ANNE NELSON: Fourteen, and 12 of them were from the leadership bodies, the board of governors, and the gold circle elite members. So, they were there in force. They were having a victory dance this was a culmination of plans that had been in the works for decades.

BILL MOYERS: But if she is willing to put people at risk that way, to go along with the president in ignoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, are we okay in asking questions about her judgment? I mean, could she not have said, “Mr. President, I'm honored by this nomination, but can you wait until there's better days for us to do this?"

ANNE NELSON: I think that statement would have required someone who could restrain their ambition. And for me, the moment of truth in those hearings came when she was asked if it was against the law to interfere with the vote in a federal election. And she couldn't answer that either. Which to me demonstrated either an ignorance of the law or a disregard for the law that is truly alarming on the eve of an election.

BILL MOYERS: I was noticing in a story in THE WASHINGTON POST that the Council for National Policy had a three-day meeting in Southern California. And one member — a woman named Rachel Bovard — described Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Thomas as a crucial link to the White House. “She is one of the most powerful and fierce women in Washington. She is really the tip of the spear in these efforts." Did you come across Ginni Thomas in your book?

ANNE NELSON: I came across her repeatedly, and she has risen to the rank of the executive committee of CNP Action, which is their lobbying arm. She also is very active with another CNP member named Charlie Kirk who runs something called Turning Point U.S.A. She's also a so-called correspondent for a right-wing media platform called The Daily Caller, which is owned by members of the Council for National Policy. So, Ginni Thomas, who is from Omaha is married to a Supreme Court justice and is both a public and behind-the-scenes radical right-wing activist across the country. I don't know what the protocol is for spouses of Supreme Court justices, but I find it difficult to believe that people think this is appropriate.

BILL MOYERS: But what struck me about that is that so many of the characters that are now on stage in the third and fourth year of Trump's administration are clearly linked by the Council for National Policy, something few Americans have heard of. How did you come upon it?

ANNE NELSON: In my early 20s, I was a reporter in El Salvador. And from there, I joined the staff of Human Rights Watch. And so, I knew a lot about death squads in El Salvador, and learned in writing this book that the Council for National Policy and its partners had hosted death squad leader, Roberto d'Aubuisson, in Washington. An idea that was just shocking to me. They were heavily involved in the Contras during the Reagan administration. The support for the extreme right wing in El Salvador. I didn't know that at the time. I circled back to them decades later. I was in my hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma, driving to Walmart and had the radio on. And started hearing some radio accusations against John Kerry who was running for president at the time, that shocked me, because the local preacher was claiming that John Kerry would make heterosexual marriages unsanctified by promoting marriage equality. And it was a very strange statement. So later I started tracking who owned that radio station, and then I found out it belonged to a group of radio stations owned by members of the Council for National Policy. And then I said, “Well, what's that?" And, as you know, an investigative reporter just keeps pulling at the thread until something emerges. They were incredibly secretive, and I think it's only thanks to the internet and things that they've inadvertently published online that's made this research even possible.

BILL MOYERS: Let me summarize what I take away from your book the SHADOW NETWORK. You say that, for these past four decades, it's been a strategic nerve center for channeling money and mobilizing votes out of sight, correct?


BILL MOYERS: How did they get away with that?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I say a few times in the book that I think the Democrats have been asleep at the wheel. But part of the problem is rooted in our crisis in journalism. Because when I was growing up, you had lots of vibrant local newspapers that published AP and New York Times syndicate stories on international and national news, as well as the local news and the basketball scores. And you had a population across the country that was working from the same page, as it were. These newspapers have been dying off. They have lost their business model due to the digital revolution and the economic crises. And nature abhors a vacuum. In their place, these fundamentalist radio stations and this engine for misinformation has taken their place. And it makes me angry. When you lose the local professional news organizations, the substitutes can lead people down a terribly damaging path.

BILL MOYERS: How do you connect that to the growth of the Council for National Policy.

ANNE NELSON: They use a lot of stalking horses in terms of their organizations. So, I think most people wouldn't think of the National Rifle Association as primarily a political organization. Certainly, they didn't in the 1970s. It was kind of a shooting club. It's been converted into a political organization. And that has happened with tens of thousands of churches. And I grew up in those communities. I don't think my friends and neighbors and family members went to church thinking, “We're going to go get told how to vote." That's not what they went for. But now that's what they get. And they are given voting guides in the sanctuaries inserted into the church bulletin, right? You turn the page from the hymn, and there you get the voting guide basically telling you to vote for a Republican. But it doesn't have the signature of the Council for National Policy. It just says, iVoterGuide produced by the Family Research Council, whose president has been the president of the Council for National Policy. So, you've got t0 connect the dots, but the dots are all there and highly connectable. You have people who are identifying with organizations, and they're looking at news media such as The Daily Caller, such as the Christian Broadcasting Network, such as Salem Media, which are tied into this system. And it's not about journalism. It's about messaging: we're going to tell you what to think.

BILL MOYERS: But this organization started, with a handful of people. How did they multiply their effect so thoroughly throughout our political system that they now dominate. How did that happen?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that what you had is this odd element of our electoral system where the electoral college carries this weight. And a lot of candidates for national office focus on the popular vote, but the strategists like Paul Weyrich and others realize that the popular vote is actually irrelevant. The electoral college is what elects our president. So, what they figured out how to do was identify critical bands of voters who were corresponding to these mostly religious organizations in critical states. If you could reach these millions of voters, many of whom were not engaged, and convince them that it was a sin to vote for a Democrat, then you could win the state. And if you won the right states, you'd win the electoral college. And they worked on this approach over various decades. And they kept going to various Republican candidates and bringing their voters to them and trying to cut a deal where they would deliver the response in terms of power. And I have to say that, a number of presidents including Reagan and the first President Bush had those conversations and reneged on the deal, right? They did not deliver the cabinet appointments. They did not deliver the reactionary social policies. And what they found with Trump was a transactional president who didn't really care about abortion or gay marriage or any of the rest of it. He just wanted the office. So, he cut a deal and he honored it. And he gave the former president of the Council for National Policy, Tony Perkins, carte blanche to write elements of the Republican Party platform in 2016, which have been just renewed for 2020 without amendment. So, they worked behind the scenes. It's been influence peddling, and it's been big, big money. The book traces hundreds of millions of dollars that have sloshed around in this circular way where the DeVoses fund the Koch brothers' operations. And the Koch brothers fund the DeVoses and Foster Friess funds The Daily Caller. And when you have the Democrats not paying sufficient attention to the swing states, when you have the local media in a state of collapse, that is the window of opportunity.

Strategists like Paul Weyrich and others realize that the popular vote is actually irrelevant. The electoral college is what elects our president. So, what they figured out how to do was identify critical bands of voters.

BILL MOYERS: So, we have the pastors on one side and the plutocrats on the other side. You have this alliance between very dogmatic, religious zealots and men of huge wealth whose interest is not in piety. What joins them?

ANNE NELSON: Well, I think that, in religious terms, it's all about mammon.

BILL MOYERS: Mammon being the biblical term for money.

ANNE NELSON: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: The biblical metaphor for money.

ANNE NELSON: Yes. I keep looking at their so-called positions of principle. And, you know, you scratch at them and they don't go very deep. But what you do have with the Kochs' and the DeVoses and the various fossil fuel interests are people who've made immense fortunes and are terrified of losing their economic power. But also, these people don't want to pay taxes, and so pushing through a tax bill that favored the fraction of a 1% was a priority. And Donald Trump and the Republican Senate delivered it.

BILL MOYERS: The Washington Post last week released some video of the August meeting of the Council for National Policy. Let me just read a few things that were said at that meeting. Videos provided to the Post covering dozens of hours of CNP meetings over three days in February and three in August offer an inside view of participants' obsessions. Here are some of the things that were said:

BILL WALTON: This is a spiritual battle we're in. This is good versus evil. We have to do everything we can to win.

BILL MOYERS: –said the Council for National Policy's executive committee president, Bill Walton. Ralph Reed, chairman of the nonprofit, Faith and Freedom Coalition told the CNP audience that conservatives are going to be harvesting ballots in churches. “We're going to be specifically going in, not only to white evangelical churches, but into Hispanic and Asian churches and collecting those ballots.'" And then, here's the one that really stands out. At that meeting, J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department official and the president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a charity, described mail-in voting as the number one left-wing agenda. He urged the activists not to worry about the criticism that might come their way. Quote, “Be not afraid of the accusations that you're a voter suppressor." Any of that surprise you?

ANNE NELSON: Not in the least. On the contrary, you'll find the footprints of those statements in my book. One of the techniques that this movement has used is using data profiles and directing information to voters to either get them to vote for Republicans or to suppress the vote if they're not likely to. The Koch brothers brought state-of-the-art political data operations to the table with an organization called i360. And that was harnessed to organizations that were run by CNP members. So, for example, one of them was the Susan B. Anthony List, which is anti-abortion. One of them was the NRA. They also combined data from churches and from political data and consumer data. So that allowed canvassers for these organizations to do their door-to-door canvassing having a huge amount of information about each individual voter, and a tailored individual script for them. So, for example, if you are canvassing in Springfield, Missouri, and you're working for the Susan B. Anthony List, you know that at such-and-such an address, there's a Catholic housewife with six kids there who watched an anti-abortion film on Netflix and ordered LIVES OF THE SAINTS from Amazon. You have all of that in your cell phone, and you also have a script that's been prepared and tailored for that voter, right? But you're going to have a totally different script based on the data for the next-door neighbor who's a gun owner who's all about the second amendment. And the Democrats have lagged behind, not in terms of the data they have, but the way they've networked data across state lines and to organizations that are doing their political groundwork. So that's been a factor. The use of data has been very important in the last few campaigns, and not always well-understood. But there's also a really important matter of how data is used to suppress votes. And that's where I would direct people to a news story done by Channel Four in Britain. The Council for National Policy partners and the Koch brothers' data platform i360 used data from Cambridge Analytica with several hundred million voters, with some 2,000 data points for every voter. So that includes you and me, Bill, okay? They know a lot about us, and so what they did in this story documenting what happened with African Americans in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was find that if voters were not likely to vote for Republicans. If they leaned Democratic, they would target them with misinformation that would disincline them to vote at all. And in other cases, such as what's been documented in Michigan, some 90,000 African American voters were persuaded not to vote for the top of the ticket for Hillary Clinton by these methods. So, in these states, they always go by very, very narrow margins. So, I would argue that a lot of these data operations, some of them of questionable legality, have actually changed the course of electoral history.

BILL MOYERS: What do you think they're doing for this election in two weeks?

ANNE NELSON: Well, we know that the Trump 2020 app has highly questionable practices, in terms of its privacy and the way it accesses people's cell phone directories, all of their contacts, friends and family, and then sends messages out to them, often without the user knowing that they're doing it. They also combine that with consumer data. So, for example, if you downloaded their app on one phone that was a different account, they could trace your credit card records back to your own account. They also use geolocation, so once you download the app, they figure out where you are and what kind of messaging would appeal to you and leverage you to attract other voters. And they use this through beacons that are placed around areas like political rallies and churches, right, to locate the people with the apps and then engage them for political purpose. It has been recently revealed that these beacons had even been implanted in Trump yard signs. So, they're really, I would say, on the cutting edge of political technology. And it's in this very murky area of law where there are abusive practices involving privacy, but there's no clear legal framework to govern it.

BILL MOYERS: And what stuns me is their ability to connect this very sophisticated information gained by very up-to-date, modern technology to a lot of poor pastors in East Texas and Southern Alabama who are concerned about the state of the world. And here, they've been led into, one of the most sophisticated political campaigns that really has not their interest at heart. And they become soldiers in the crusade–

ANNE NELSON: Absolutely. And again, these are the people I grew up with, and I see a lot of cases where the pastors have been bullied into it. And they say, “Wait a minute, I want people to come to church and reflect on spirituality. We're not here to run a political campaign."

BILL MOYERS: Yet the fact remains, as you make clear in the book, that they have a very acute grasp of electoral college politics. How do you win the 270 votes of the electoral college, even if you lost the popular vote? How did they get there?

ANNE NELSON: Well, they work harder at it. I think they worked harder at it than the Democrats have. They've got a pollster named George Barna.


ANNE NELSON: And he has paid a lot of attention to these voters. He has identified characteristics to them, and one of them is that older white evangelicals from largely rural areas have a 91% turnout at the polling places. That is powerful. And that's something where it's not exactly fashionable in Democratic circles to talk about that. And why we should have a dialogue with these voters. So, when you get that information, and when you work over and over again to refine messaging that will touch a nerve with these groups, some of it's misinformation, and some of it's just hard work and smart strategy.

BILL MOYERS: And they have enlisted these fundamentalist white churches to serve as their political proxies by doing smart things, like inviting them on junkets that the CNP pays for, writing sermons for them to download, producing their church bulletins for them, and delivering voter guides to them for distribution to their congregations. That's down at the very grassroots. And they do it.

ANNE NELSON: They've even constructed a multi-million-dollar Museum of the Bible, steps from Capitol Hill. And it's really a kind of monument to conservative fundamentalist political ideology.

BILL MOYERS: It's really a remarkable turn of American politics in the last 40 years, and you have written a very smart, detailed, informative, and narratively-driven book on it. You say, in your epilogue, in the beginning, there were the Southern Baptists, and there were two of them in particular, Pastor Paige Patterson — who became president of the Baptist seminary I had attended long before him — and a state judge named Paul Pressler. In effect, you say, they started it all. The Southern Baptists were the core.

ANNE NELSON: They were kind of the godfathers, I would say, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: Southern Baptists had long believed in the inerrancy of the Bible, that the Bible is literally God's word. But my generation of Baptists were discovering historical criticism of the Bible and began to change the denomination. And what Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler did was to alarm the Baptists who still believed in the literal meaning of the Bible and said, “They're going to take it away from you if you're not careful." And so they were able to drive the moderate leaders out of the Southern Baptist Convention and replace them with literalist, fundamentalist pastors from churches around the country, including some very large churches. And before we knew it, the Southern Baptist Convention had become a radically conservative Republican denomination.

ANNE NELSON: Yeah, and I see that as tragic, because it divides families, it divides communities. It changes the nature of spirituality in these communities. But then you see those tactics, which are all about power, right? And they're replicated in the Republican Party. Same thing happens. You drive out the moderates, you defeat the moderates, and you replace them with ideologues or card-carrying members of the movement. And I think we can look at Amy Coney Barrett as another iteration of the same thing. What you're doing is weeding out the moderate and liberal judges and replacing them with people who will march to this beat. And traditionally, that's not been the principle for our court. People could say, “The courts need to have some kind of standard that's open to all Americans," not something that's driving a particular minority ideology. So, for me, that's the glaring danger that's facing our democracy.

BILL MOYERS: And you sum up the Council for National Policy as, “An elite club of high-powered fundamentalists, oligarchs, and their allies, deploying a media empire to flood the country with propaganda, bankrolling handpicked colleges to promote extremist Libertarian ideas, and to groom up and coming politicians," and I would say judges, “to advance its cause." And you say this is all aimed at the very heart of democracy.

ANNE NELSON: Well, democracy is the blind man and the elephant, because my democracy is an America where people from diverse religions and national backgrounds came together and chose to live together under the rule of law. It aspired to give everyone equal opportunity and rights as citizens. And I don't want another religion imposing its practice on me, that's not my idea of being an American or respecting my fellow Americans. If their idea of the American ideal is so different, I would think they'd have to show some evidence that the majority of Americans saw it their way. And the evidence is all to the contrary and moving in the opposite direction. So that's why we're seeing so many manifestations of questionable maneuvers for securing power, as opposed to winning it through the ballot box. We've got two weeks before the elections. Then we've got another period which is the interregnum until the inauguration. But then we're going to have this entire cohort in the judiciary which is going to be defining our public life for years, perhaps decades to come. So I'm afraid it's going to be no rest for the weary. The cliche is, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." And I think that eternal vigilance is going to be very important for everyone who wants to defend other people's rights.

BILL MOYERS: Anne Nelson, thank you so much for SHADOW NETWORK: MEDIA, MONEY, AND THE SECRET HUB OF THE RADICAL RIGHT. And thank you for your time today.

ANNE NELSON: Thank you so much, Bill.

ANNOUNCER: Thanks for listening to Moyers on Democracy. On our website, you can read an excerpt from Anne Nelson's book. Until next time, you'll find all this and more at

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.