VIDEOS

Obama slammed Trump so badly at a rally that the president immediately live rage-tweeted

Former President Barack Obama was in Florida on Tuesday campaigning for the Biden-Harris ticket. It's Obama, a man who is already a great orator, and after three and a half years of Donald Trump, it's like listening to Moses. Fox News as well as other news outlets covered the speech. This meant that there was a good chance that Donald Trump may or may not know about it happening. There was a good chance Trump saw some of it.

Let's see what Trump is thinking about right now: "Now Fox News is playing Obama's no crowd, fake speech for Biden, a man he could barely endorse because he couldn't believe he won. Also, I PREPAID many Millions of Dollars in Taxes." I guess we know what he's doing to lead our country into 2021.

At one point, Obama went in on Trump directly, pointing out Trump's insistence that Lesley Stahl was really tough on him and 60 Minutes was just too tough for him to deal with are sort of sad. I mean, that's some high-level snowflake stuff. "Our current president whines that 60 minutes is too tough. Do you think he will stand up to dictators? He thinks Lesley Stahl is a bully."

Then Obama went in on Trump's biggest supporters: foreign dictators.

BARACK OBAMA: Just yesterday he said that Putin of Russia, Xi of China, and Kim Jong-Un want him to win. We know! We know because you have been giving them whatever they want for the last four years. Of course they want you to win. That's not a good thing. You shouldn't brag about the fact that some of our greatest adversaries think they'd be better off with you in office. Of course they do. What does that say about you? I mean, think about that. Why are you bragging about that? Come on!

Obama went on to point out that a Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration would, at the very least, be so much less exhausting since they would just be doing the job and not tweeting ridiculous things all the time. Specifically, Obama highlighted how desensitized we have all gotten as Trump has retweeted conspiracy theories that include the idea that Seal Team Six didn't in fact kill Osama Bin Laden.

Donald Trump had been tweeting all morning, and as we wrote above, was literally hate-tweeting Obama and Fox News at the same moment that Obama was criticizing him for tweeting instead of doing something productive in his role as head of the executive branch of our government.


President Obama slams Trump at Florida rally youtu.be


Obama takes Trump's lack of leadership to task and his penchant for bizarre conspiracy theories youtu.be


Barack Obama campaigns for Joe Biden in Florida – watch live youtu.be

news & politics

Top federal election official corrects Trump on what a 'proper' vote count looks like

Countering President Donald Trump's false suggestion Tuesday that tallying votes after Election Day is unlawful, a top official at the U.S. Federal Election Commission said that in fact "counting ballots—all of 'em—is the appropriate, proper, and very legal way to determine who won."

"An election is not a reality show with a big reveal at the end," Ellen Weintraub, an election attorney and a Democratic commissioner at the FEC, tweeted in response to Trump's insistence that a winner be officially declared on the night of November 3.

"All we get on Election Night are projections from TV networks," Weintraub noted. "We never have official results on Election Night."


Trump's comments Tuesday came amid growing fears that the president could attempt to take advantage of slower-than-usual vote counting—which is expected due to the unprecedented surge in mail-in voting amid the pandemic—to falsely declare victory on Election Night and dismiss as illegitimate legally submitted ballots counted after November 3.

Those concerns were intensified by Trump-nominated Justice Brett Kavanaugh's falsehood-riddled concurring opinion in the Supreme Court's late Monday ruling that barred the battleground state of Wisconsin from extending its absentee ballot deadline. The decision means that ballots received by Wisconsin officials after Election Day cannot be counted, even if they are postmarked by November 3.

In his opinion, Kavanaugh declared that absentee ballots arriving after Election Day—which is allowed in more than a dozen states—could "flip the results of the election." But as Justice Elena Kagan noted in her dissent (pdf), "there are no results to 'flip' until all valid votes are counted."

"And nothing could be more 'suspicio[us]' or 'improp[er]' than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on Election Night," Kagan added. "To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process."

Slate's Mark Joseph Stern warned late Tuesday that "by deploying so many falsehoods in his 18-page opinion, Kavanaugh sent a signal to lower court judges: Uphold voter suppression at all costs, even if you have to ignore or contort the factual record to do it."

"Trump's dozens of hackish judicial nominees will hear this message loud and clear," Stern wrote. "At least one member of the Supreme Court is willing to construct a fantasy world that is utterly detached from our grim reality of mass disenfranchisement. If we cannot trust the justices to tell the truth now, why should we believe them if they decide the election next week?"

election '20

Trump blasted by his own White House experts for ‘mind-boggling’ claim he ended COVID-19 pandemic

The leader of the free world on Tuesday continued the pattern of his administration spreading absurd and scientifically-inaccurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Donald Trump's White House Office of Science and Technology Policy touted Trump "ending the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Health officials and scientists working on the Trump administration's coronavirus response said on Tuesday they are personally offended by the White House's announcement that it has successfully ended the COVID-19 pandemic—a pandemic that is, in fact, worsening," Daily Beast correspondent Erin Banco reported Tuesday. "Four officials working with the White House coronavirus task force told The Daily Beast that they viewed the White House's statement as a personal slight and a public rebuke of their efforts to try and get control of the virus."

"It's mind-boggling," one official said. "There's no world in which anyone can think that [statement] is true. Maybe the president. But I don't see how even he can believe that. We have more than 70,000 new cases each day."

"The White House is operating on a completely different speed than the rest of the health agencies," one senior administration official said. "They've all but given up on the idea that there is more to do in terms of getting a handle on these new cases that are popping up. The rest of us still view the threat of those cases as the top concern."

Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control under Obama, went on record to discuss the claim.

"We have exploding case counts. Death rates will undoubtedly rise. They are living in a parallel universe that bears no relation to the reality that Americans are living," Dr. Frieden said. "And this idea that we should let it spread and protect the vulnerable is a really dangerous mistake. The idea that it [containing the virus] can't be done ignores reality."

More than 225,000 people have died of coronavirus in America.

economy

Trump claims he created a ‘booming’ economy. Economists say he inherited it from Obama

With the 2020 presidential election only a week away, President Donald Trump continues to brag that he single-handedly turned the U.S. economy around after taking office in January 2017. But journalist Rebecca Carballo, in a report for the Houston Chronicle, stresses that according to economists, Trump inherited an economy that was already in recovery when he took office.

"Despite Trump's claims of an economic renaissance under his administration," Carballo explains, "data show the pre-pandemic economy growing along trends established during the second term of former President Barack Obama. The coronavirus, however, disrupted those trends, reshaping the debate not only over who should get credit for the earlier boom, but also, how to respond to unprecedented hardships created by the pandemic and manage what economists say could be a long, difficult recovery."

Obama took office in January 2009 during the Great Recession, which was the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Economically, 2009 and 2010 were brutal. Unemployment in the United States reached 10% in December 2009 but decreased considerably during Obama's second term. In December 2016, Obama's last full month in office, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' official unemployment rate was 4.7%.

In other words, Trump's claim that his presidency alone created a "booming" economy is bogus. The president who oversaw the United States' recovery from the Great Recession was Obama, not Trump — although unemployment continued to decrease in 2018 and 2019 before soaring in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Trump's argument for another term has focused on the three years of prosperity before COVID-19," Carballo notes. "But even Trump's favorite indicator — the stock market — shows the economy's performance during the Trump Administration is similar to Obama's second term. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 45% during Obama's last four years, compared to 50% under Trump when the market peaked in February and 44% as of Friday's close."

culture

'Follow Trump off a cliff’: Psychological analysis reveals 14 key traits of people who support the president

As he himself said even before he won the presidential election in 2016, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." Unfortunately for the American people, this wild-sounding claim appears to be truer than not, at least for the majority of his supporters, and that is something that should disturb us. It should also motivate us to explore the science underlying such peculiar human behavior, so we can learn from it, and potentially inoculate against it.

In all fairness, we should recognize that lying is sadly not uncommon for politicians on both sides of the political aisle, but the frequency and magnitude of the current president's lies should have us all wondering why they haven't destroyed his political career, and instead perhaps strengthened it. Similarly, we should be asking why his inflammatory rhetoric and numerous scandals haven't sunk him. We are talking about a man who was caught on tape saying, "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy." Politically surviving that video is not normal, or anything close to it, and we can be sure that such a revelation would have been the end of Barack Obama or George Bush had it surfaced weeks before the election.

While dozens of psychologists have analyzed Trump, to explain the man's political invincibility, it is more important to understand the minds of his staunch supporters. While there have been various popular articles that have illuminated a multitude of reasons for his unwavering support, there appears to be no comprehensive analysis that contains all of them. Since there seems to be a real demand for this information, I have tried to provide that analysis below.

Some of the explanations come from a 2017 review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology by the psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew. Others have been put forth as far back as 2016 by myself, a cognitive neuroscience and psychology researcher, in various articles and blog posts for publications like Psychology Today. A number of these were inspired by insights from psychologists like Sheldon Solomon, who laid the groundwork for the influential Terror Management Theory, and David Dunning, who did the same for the Dunning-Kruger effect

This list will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump's intransigent support, and as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters' unbridled allegiance.

The psychological phenomena described below mostly pertain to those supporters who would follow Trump off a cliff. These are the people who will stand by his side no matter what scandals come to light, or what sort of evidence for immoral and illegal behavior surfaces.

1. Practicality Trumps Morality

For some wealthy people, it's simply a financial matter. Trump offers tax cuts for the rich and wants to do away with government regulation that gets in the way of businessmen making money, even when that regulation exists for the purpose of protecting the environment. Others, like blue-collared workers, like the fact that the president is trying to bring jobs back to America from places like China. Some people who genuinely are not racist (those who are will be discussed later) simply want stronger immigration laws because they know that a country with open borders is not sustainable. These people have put their practical concerns above their moral ones. To them, it does not matter if he's a vagina-grabber, or if his campaign team colluded with Russia to help him defeat his political opponent. It is unknown whether these people are eternally bound to Trump in the way others are, but we may soon find out if the Mueller investigation is allowed to come to completion.

2. The Brain's Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump

According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn't necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level

3. America's Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America's addiction with entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn't matter what Trump actually says because he's so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained

4. "Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn."

Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight, and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.

5. The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you've found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

6. The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat

A well-supported theory from social psychology, known as Terror Management Theory, explains why Trump's fear mongering is doubly effective. The theory is based on the fact that humans have a unique awareness of their own mortality. The inevitability of one's death creates existential terror and anxiety that is always residing below the surface. In order to manage this terror, humans adopt cultural worldviews — like religions, political ideologies, and national identities — that act as a buffer by instilling life with meaning and value.

Terror Management Theory predicts that when people are reminded of their own mortality, which happens with fear mongering, they will more strongly defend those who share their worldviews and national or ethnic identity, and act out more aggressively towards those who do not. Hundreds of studies have confirmed this hypothesis, and some have specifically shown that triggering thoughts of death tends to shift people towards the right.

Not only do death reminders increase nationalism, they influence actual voting habits in favor of more conservative presidential candidates. And more disturbingly, in a study with American students, scientists found that making mortality salient increased support for extreme military interventions by American forces that could kill thousands of civilians overseas. Interestingly, the effect was present only in conservatives, which can likely be attributed to their heightened fear response.

By constantly emphasizing existential threat, Trump creates a psychological condition that makes the brain respond positively rather than negatively to bigoted statements and divisive rhetoric. Liberals and Independents who have been puzzled over why Trump hasn't lost supporters after such highly offensive comments need look no further than Terror Management Theory.

    7. The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

    Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it's ever been, they simply take his word for it.

    The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn't just that they are misinformed; it's that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

    Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, "The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment." These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

    8. Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement

    Relative deprivation refers to the experience of being deprived of something to which one believes they are entitled. It is the discontent felt when one compares their position in life to others who they feel are equal or inferior but have unfairly had more success than them.

    Common explanations for Trump's popularity among non-bigoted voters involve economics. There is no doubt that some Trump supporters are simply angry that American jobs are being lost to Mexico and China, which is certainly understandable, although these loyalists often ignore the fact that some of these careers are actually being lost due to the accelerating pace of automation.

    These Trump supporters are experiencing relative deprivation, and are common among the swing states like Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. This kind of deprivation is specifically referred to as "relative," as opposed to "absolute," because the feeling is often based on a skewed perception of what one is entitled to.

    9. Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

    Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one's own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it's important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump's white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that "…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support." This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters' physical distance from the Mexican border. These racial biases might be more implicit than explicit, the latter which is addressed in #14.

    10. Trump's Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

    While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

    The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of "odd beliefs and magical thinking." One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

    Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

    11. Trump Taps into the Nation's Collective Narcissism

    Collective narcissism is an unrealistic shared belief in the greatness of one's national group. It often occurs when a group who believes it represents the 'true identity' of a nation — the 'ingroup,' in this case White Americans — perceives itself as being disadvantaged compared to outgroups who are getting ahead of them 'unrightfully.' This psychological phenomenon is related to relative deprivation (#6).

    A study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward 'outsider' groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

    Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being "true patriots" or "real Americans," he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of "identity politics," a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

    12. The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

    Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

    In Trump's speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A 2016 survey study of 406 American adults published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

    13. Authoritarian Personality Syndrome

    Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome — a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one's authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

    Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. President Trump's speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like "losers" and "complete disasters," are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

    While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored then-candidate Trump, which led to a correct prediction that he would win the election, despite the polls saying otherwise

    14. Racism and Bigotry

    It would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to say that every one of Trump's supporters have prejudice against ethnic and religious minorities, but it would be equally inaccurate to say that many do not. It is a well-known fact that the Republican party, going at least as far back to Richard Nixon's "southern strategy," used tactics that appealed to bigotry, such as lacing speeches with "dog whistles" — code words that signaled prejudice toward minorities that were designed to be heard by racists but no one else.

    While the dog whistles of the past were subtler, Trump's signaling is sometimes shockingly direct. There's no denying that he routinely appeals to racist and bigoted supporters when he calls Muslims "dangerous" and Mexican immigrants "rapists" and "murderers," often in a blanketed fashion. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study has shown that support for Trump is correlated with a standard scale of modern racism.

    Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him on Twitter @BobbyAzarian.

    science

    Here's what water on the moon means for the future of exploration

    Earth news is a bit anxiety-provoking these days, which might be one reason why the Internet pulled out all the stops to communicate collective enthusiasm over the discovery of vast amounts of water on the moon.

    The finding could be useful to humans who want to leave Earth immediately and live on the moon. (We're only half-joking).

    While scientists previously suspected that water existed in the shadowy, cold parts of the moon — such as its poles, where it would stay frozen — a pair of studies published on Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy confirm that there is a large amount of water on its sunlit regions, too.

    "We had indications that H₂O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon," Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a statement. "Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration."

    Yet even the data on water in the moon's darker, colder regions was always iffy. Part of the challenge of finding water on the moon is that the Earth's atmosphere, which has plenty of evaporated water, interferes with ground-based attempts to see water on the moon without the atmosphere interfering. Space telescopes or very high altitude telescopes can alleviate this problem. In this case, NASA used the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), an infrared observatory mounted on a Boeing 747 airplane, which takes observations from the air. SOFIA data suggests strongly that yes, water is present on the sunlit surface of the moon.

    That's particularly unusual given the temperature cycles on the moon: the moon during the day is a scalding 250 degrees Fahrenheit, well above water's boiling point. So why doesn't said water immediately evaporate? As explained in the study, titled "Molecular water detected on the sunlit Moon by SOFIA," scientists detail evidence that hypothesizes the water observed may be trapped in naturally-formed glass on the moon's sunlit regions. Being encased in glass means that the water is impervious to the heating and cooling cycles that would usually evaporate the water. Since the moon doesn't have an atmosphere and there's very little gravity, it's impossible for water to just hang out on its surface like it does here on Earth.

    The second study, titled "Micro Cold Traps on the Moon," catalogs all the potential sites that are cold enough for ice to remain stable, and where water could exist without being trapped in glass.

    "Our results suggest that water trapped at the lunar poles may be more widely distributed and accessible as a resource for future missions than previously thought," the authors state.

    To put the discovery into context, NASA says that the Sahara Desert has 100 times the amount of water than what was detected on the moon's surface.

    Intriguingly, it turns out that there is no shortage of potential places where water could exist on the moon without being trapped in glass. According to the study, the moon's southern polar region may hold nearly 40,000 square kilometers of lunar surface with water ice.

    These studies are changing the way scientists look at the moon. Perhaps it is more than a dark, dry, and rocky place.

    "Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space," Casey Honniball, a lead author of one of the studies, said in a statement. "Yet somehow we're seeing it. Something is generating the water, and something must be trapping it there."

    According to NASA there are a few ways the water could be stored— in either "beadlike structures in the soil," or "hidden" between "grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight."

    So, what does this all mean for moon colonization? Well, it might not mean that humans can move there once climate change gets us. But it does mean that NASA astronauts could perhaps spend significantly more time on the moon before needing to come home for a resupply.

    "The existence of significant amounts of water on the lunar surface can be helpful for establishing a sustainable base there in the context of NASA's Artemis program with its international partners," Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard's astronomy department, told Salon via email. "This will be the first step in advancing humanity to more distant destinations, such as Mars and beyond."

    Loeb added: "There is no doubt that our future lies in space, not only for national security and commercial benefits but mainly for scientific exploration aimed at opening new horizons to our civilization."

    belief

    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

    Justice Kavanaugh's 'sloppy' opinion is an embarrassing mess riddled with errors

    Late Monday night, the Supreme Court issued a ruling blocking a lower court's decision to force Wisconsin election officials to extend the deadline for accepting mail-in ballots, as long as they were post-marked by Election Day. This decision to limit ballot access was unsurprising given the conservative majority on the court, but as I noted, Justice Brett Kavanaugh's concurring opinion disturbed many readers because of the views it seemed to express about voting and elections.

    But there's a related aspect of Kavanaugh's opinion that has attracted significant attention in addition to its ideological bent. It was, many commentators noted, extraordinarily sloppy for a Supreme Court ruling. The opinion was riddled with errors, embarrassingly so, and some of which even relate to the substance of his argument.

    For instance, Kavanaugh wrote:

    To be sure, in light of the pandemic, some state legislatures have exercised their Article I, §4, authority over elections and have changed their election rules for the November 2020 election. Of particular relevance here, a few States such as Mississippi no longer require that absentee ballots be received before election day. See, e.g., Miss. Code Ann. §23–15–637 (2020). Other States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots. [emphasis added]

    But as Vermont's own secretary of state confirmed, the state had changed its election rules this year. It sent every voter a ballot by the first of October:

    That doesn't really change the substance of Kavanaugh's ruling, but it does throw doubt on his understanding of the current environment and shed light on his lackluster fact-checking.

    Another mistake from Kavanaugh, though, really is important to his argument. He wrote of the reasons that states have for limiting the deadline for absentee ballot returns to Election Day itself:

    States want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election. And those States also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter. Moreover, particularly in a Presidential election, counting all the votes quickly can help the State promptly resolve any disputes, address any need for recounts, and begin the process of canvassing and certifying the election results in an expeditious manner. See 3 U. S. C. §5. The States are aware of the risks described by Professor Pildes: "[L]ate-arriving ballots open up one of the greatest risks of what might, in our era of hyperpolarized political parties and existential politics, destabilize the election result. If the apparent winner the morning after the election ends up losing due to late-arriving ballots, charges of a rigged election could explode."

    But Kavanaugh's quote here from Professor Richard Pildes in The University of Chicago Law Review Online is extremely misleading. Pildes argued in the article cited for the opposite outcome. He urged that states extend deadlines for receiving ballots past Election Day:

    States that require absentees to be received by election night or shortly after should move this date back. Even if this fall the same percentage of absentee ballots as in normal elections would be rejected for coming in too late, the same point noted above holds true: a 3 percent rejection rate risks undermining the perceived legitimacy of the election if 70 percent of the vote is cast by absentee ballot. And this problem would be compounded, of course, if mailing back ballots five days before the election is normally sufficient to get them back in time, but not this year. The overall burden on the U.S. Postal Service makes that five-day figure less realistic this time around. Moreover, if a significant number of votes come in after a receipt deadline that has not been changed and that is much tighter than in other states, ex post litigation challenging that deadline is easy to imagine. This is exactly what we do not want to face for a risk that can be mitigated in advance.

    Now, Pildes' argument here isn't on exactly the same topic as the question before the court. But it's disingenuous for Kavanaugh to present him as if his argument supported the Supreme Court's decision. Pildes did agree that a long vote count could undermine trust in the election, but he also said that cutting off the deadline by Election Day also "risks undermining the perceived legitimacy of the election." It was dishonest and alarming for Kavanaugh not to acknowledge that the risks cut both ways, especially since the president that appointed him has been trying to discredit mail-in ballots.

    Pildes added:

    In Wisconsin's election, the federal court pushed the date back six days. But that was for a presidential primary. In the general election, participation rates will be much higher. In choosing an updated receipt deadline that anticipates a dramatic rise in mailed-in ballots, policymakers face a trade-off. The longer the permitted time, the more ballots will be valid. But the longer that time, the longer it will take for the final result to be known. If we thought voters would be patient, that would not pose any risk. But in our climate of existential politics—with partisans all too prepared to believe or charge that elections are being manipulated, and a social-media environment poised to heap fuel onto the fire—the longer after Election Day any significant changes in vote totals take place, the greater the risk that the losing side will cry that the election has been stolen.

    Election administrators in different states must weigh in on whether, in their circumstances, a six-day deadline post-election is appropriate, as the federal district court held for Wisconsin. The National Vote at Home Institute, one of the leading advocacy organizations for absentee and mail-in voting, suggests the deadline should be three business days after the election, which seems unduly short under our new circumstances. But state legislatures and election officials need to start facing this issue soon.

    Others picked up on another error in the section of Kavanaugh's opinion cited above. He warned about a situation in which "thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election" [emphasis added]. But this is completely wrong. Additional ballots don't flip the "results" of an election because there are no results until all the legitimate votes are counted. Kavanaugh surely knows this, because he worked on the Republican side in Bush v. Gore, which was an extensive argument about the counting of ballots after Election Day in Florida. There was no result until the election was certified. States don't typically "definitively announce the results of the election on election night," either, as Kavanaugh claimed. The media, of course, makes projections about what the final vote will be prior to certification, but that's not the same — as we learned in 2000 when the media incorrectly projected the Florida results. It's rhetoric like Kavanaugh's that truly serves to undermine the legitimacy of this process, rather than extensions of deadlines.

    Kavanaugh's argument also incorrectly claimed that the the desire to obtain a quick election result was the Wisconsin legislator's reason for not extending the mail-in ballot deadline. But as Talking Points Memo reporter Tierney Sneed pointed out, this is clearly not so. Otherwise, Wisconsin would have permitted mail-in ballots that were received prior to Election day to be counted ahead of time, making the final count much more efficient. It has not done so, which likely means the ballot counting will extend past Election Night.

    Despite Kavanaugh's claim, it's more plausible that the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature doesn't want to receive late mail-in ballots because they think those votes will advantage Democrats.

    Election law expert Rick Hasen pointed to another error in Kavanaugh's opinion in a piece for the Washington Post, pointing to an incorrect citation of precedent:

    Kavanaugh cited a case that came to the Supreme Court during the disputed 2000 presidential election before Bush v. Gore — Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Board — as standing for the proposition that state legislatures have this power — negating the power of state courts to expand voting rights under state constitutional provisions that protect the right to vote. As law professor Justin Levitt pointed out, though, Kavanaugh was wrong: The Supreme Court in the Palm Beach case unanimously raised but did not resolve that question. Kavanaugh further embraced this theory as advanced again by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist in Bush v. Gore itself, but that was an opinion joined only by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

    At another point in the opinion, Kavanaugh tried a clever argument to suggest that no matter the deadline that is set, some voters will miss it:

    But moving a deadline would not prevent ballots from arriving after the newly minted deadline any more than moving first base would mean no more close plays. And more to the point, the fact that some ballots will be late in any system with deadlines does not make Wisconsin's widely used deadline facially unconstitutional.

    This is true, but Kavanaugh seems to misunderstand the difference between a deadline for sending a ballot and the deadline for receiving it. Extending the deadline for receiving the ballot give more grace to voters for a consideration that is out of their hands: how quickly the postal service can deliver ballots. That's how many such deadlines work; for example, you only need to send your taxes into the government by April 15 — it doesn't need to receive them by that date. Kavanaugh's failure to notice the difference in this analogy is telling.

    It's notable that, in all the tumult controversy that surrounded Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, many people told us that — whatever his personal faults — he was an excellent and upstanding jurist. This latest opinion gives us reason to question that conclusion.

    Hasen, in particular, seemed disturbed by this turn of events.

    "Why was Justice Kavanaugh so sloppy with the facts and law here (and presumably in the earlier Wisconsin election per curiam)?" he asked on Twitter. "He is usually a careful writer. It just undermines his points. A huge, unforced error."

    The errors and sloppiness reflect another sad fact about the court: There's little we can do to encourage good behavior among Supreme Court justices. Short of impeachment or expansion of the court — either of which would be heavy lifts, though they're possible — there are few ways to limit their power. That means Kavanaugh can write sloppy and erroneous opinions on the bench with little fear it will cost him.

    Mitch McConnell gets torn to shreds as 'evil' and 'cruel' in local paper column

    Even if November 3 brings a major blue wave, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, according to recent polls, is likely to be reelected. McConnell is seeking a seventh term, but veteran progressive activist Ralph Nader, in an op-ed for the Louisville Courier, argues that the last thing the Kentucky senator deserves is to be reelected.

    "I have studied and interacted with many members of Congress," Nader writes. "McConnell is the most brazen evil, cruel and powerful legislator in the last 50 years. His lack of empathy for the vulnerable and disadvantaged is stunning."

    McConnell's record, Nader stresses, has been characterized by a total lack of compassion for those less fortunate than him. And he hasn't grown any more compassionate under Donald Trump's presidency.

    "McConnell, comfortably embraced by the Congress' socialized medicine, loses no sleep saying yes to a corporate-profit-glutted, wasteful corporatized health care industry whose denials, co-payments and exemptions are costing thousands of uninsured and insured American lives a year. He fought but failed to end Obamacare, pleased to consign another 22 million people to the dreaded, uninsured hell," Nader writes, adding that he has vigorously fought against relief for Americans who are hurting financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    According to Nader, "McConnell's back-of-the-hand to coal mine workers' safety, survivors' pensions and continuing black lung payments, mainly harms Kentucky, but his other aggressions against people in favor of big business affect the entire country. He bragged at an event in Owensboro that he and he alone decides what issues this Senate votes on."

    McConnell was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. This year, his latest Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, was hoping to unseat him. But McConnell appears heading for reelection.

    "McConnell has the gall to campaign on 'Kentucky Values,'" Nader writes. "Voters in Kentucky, with a little homework, or a factual memory of this senatorial oligarch, shouldn't have difficulty in rejecting those claims. McConnell has gotten away with ferociously shredding Kentucky values for 36 years. He smugly expects six more years."

    George Conway mocks Trump supporters in scathing parody op-ed: Corona sounds like 'a beautiful island in Italy'

    Conservative attorney George Conway, one of President Donald Trump's most vehement critics on the right, typically uses intellectual arguments when slamming the president — often referencing the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution. But occasionally, he uses blistering humor instead. And in a parody op-ed for the Washington Post, Conway mocks Trump supporters mercilessly.

    Conway's op-ed is headlined, "I Believe In the President, Now More Than Ever," and he lists a variety of reasons to reelect Trump next week on November 3. The reasons Conway lists are absurd, which is exactly the point: the conservative attorney is using humor to show how asinine pro-Trump arguments can be.

    Conway's "pro-Trump" arguments are hilarious — for example, "I believe Sleepy Joe Biden and that 'monster' Kamala D. Harris would turn America into a 'socialist hellhole,' and we'd all have 'to speak Chinese.' I believe they 'want to take out the cows' and 'any form of animals.' There will be 'no airplanes,' they'll 'rip down the Empire State Building,' and we'll only have 'little, tiny windows.'"

    Other gems range from "I believe Hunter Biden is a criminal, because someone got hold of his 'laptop from hell'" to "I believe the president is the 'least racist person' in any room he's in. I believe it was fine for him to tell the Proud Boys to 'stand by,' because 'somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left.' I believe 'corona' sounds like a 'beautiful seaside island in Italy,' and so, we must say 'China plague.'"

    The Never Trump attorney slams conspiracy theories on Hunter Biden, writing, "I believe the laptop didn't come from Russian intelligence. I believe Hunter Biden flew from his home in Los Angeles to Philadelphia, and then took a train to Delaware, because he needed a legally blind repairman there to fix his laptop. I believe Rudy Giuliani when he says the odds are 'no better than 50/50' he worked with a Russian agent to dig up dirt on the Bidens."

    "I believe Harris is 'nasty,' a 'communist' and a 'madwoman,'" Conway continued. "I believe we can't have 'a socialist president — especially a female socialist president.' I believe she has a funny name, and it's possible 'she doesn't meet the requirements' for the vice presidency because her parents were born abroad."

    Conway wraps up his parody piece with a recommendation that Trump leave the United States.

    "I believe that if the president somehow does lose, he might 'have to leave the country,'" Conway writes. "I believe he probably should."

    The war Trump started at home

    It was July 2017, a few weeks before the "Unite the Right" Charlottesville riots, when white men marched through the streets of that Virginia city protesting the planned takedown of a confederate statue and chanting, "Jews will not replace us." I was sitting at a coffee shop in my quiet town of Poulsbo in Washington State. I had set aside an hour away from my kids to do some necessary writing, while my husband, then second-in-command on a Navy ballistic missile submarine, sat suspended somewhere in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

    Our toddler and infant were home with a babysitter, offering me a rare chance to write, peacefully, amid the stressors of my life. I had a clinical social-work internship then, counseling war-traumatized veterans, and had spent months single-mothering while my spouse was at sea. To my surprise, I was suddenly jolted from my daydreams by chanting men. Glancing out the window at the usually placid waterfront of our town, I caught sight of a group of surprisingly large white men wearing animal skin loincloths, vests, and horned hats. They were also holding torches and -- I kid you not -- spears. They were loudly chanting, "Poulsbo! Poulsbo! Poulsbo!" And that was when I suddenly remembered that this was our annual Viking Fest in which groups of Washington residents from near and far celebrated the town's Norwegian founders.

    Cars parked more than a mile down our modest streets suggested that such gatherings were anything but local. This would be my second Viking Fest and I would be struck once again by how little I learned about how the town was actually founded, the values it stood for, and which of them might have survived to today. Poulsbo, after all, now existed in a largely militarized area, including a local submarine base, with white, privileged officer families -- those fortunate enough, at least, to be dual-income ones like mine or have trust funds -- purchasing and reselling homes every few years as the U.S. military moved them around the country and the world.

    Even in 2017, longtime residents were starting to move away to escape the smoke that snaked into the community earlier each year from ever-fiercer wildfires in ever-longer fire seasons, part of our new climate-changed reality. Meanwhile, Poulsbo's picturesque gingerbread house-style buildings were being replaced by larger condo complexes, as developers moved ever deeper into the town's hillside forests that would undoubtedly someday burn.

    Viking Fest, with its spectacle of white men banging spears and shouting aggressively, set my heart racing with an unnamed fear. It was, after all, a moment when the recently elected Donald Trump was already demonstrating that practically no behavior, including in Charlottesville soon ("You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides"), should be considered beyond bounds. Later, talking with another military wife, a rare woman of color visiting that town, about the Viking shout-a-thon, amid an almost all-white crowd of officers and their families watching the event, she said, "It's like there's no point. It's like a celebration of white people!"

    Who Are They and What Do They Stand For?

    Looking back now, it's hard not to see that evening's loud and prideful display of white masculinity, which merely disturbed the peace for stressed-out moms like me, as a harbinger of more sinister things to come. Shouting male nationalist groups like the Proud Boys that President Trump told to "stand by" at his first debate with Joe Biden and the Wolverine Watchmen, some of whom have allegedly been linked to a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, are increasingly commonplace in the news.

    As a military wife who has made five different moves over the last 10 years, I'm particularly aware of how racially and ethnically diverse this country and its military actually are. Under the circumstances, it's remarkable that much of white America lacks any understanding of just how threatening displays like Viking Fest must look to the rare person of color who happens upon them.

    It should certainly be obvious in October 2020 how destructive to our democracy fraternal, pro-Trump groups have become during Donald Trump's presidency. Take those Proud Boys. Among the founding principles their website offers are a vague set of notions that include "reinstating a spirit of Western chauvinism," "anti-political correctness," "venerating the housewife," "pro-gun rights" (in a pandemic-ridden country where, between March and July alone, an estimated three million more guns were purchased than usual), and -- get this -- "anti-racism." For the Proud Boys to say that they reject racism and venerate housewives did little more than provide them with a veneer of social acceptability, even as they planned armed counter-rallies in progressive cities like Providence and Portland with the explicit purpose of inciting violence among Black Lives Matter protesters and their allies.

    Other influences, like the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, are even more direct. For example, that site urged its followers to cyber-bully American University's first black female student government president, Taylor Dumpson after nooses began appearing on that school's campus in 2017. In April 2016, its founder Andrew Anglin had written, "Jews, Blacks, and lesbians will be leaving America if Trump gets elected -- and he's happy about it. This alone is enough reason to put your entire heart and soul into supporting this man."

    One thing is certain: all that matters as markers of humanity to the man who inspires and, however implicitly, endorses such groups, President Donald Trump, is white skin and political support. The other night at his town hall with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, a would-be supporter presented herself as the granddaughter of immigrants who had fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe. She asked the president about his plans to protect DACA recipients from having to return to their countries. The president responded: "DACA is somewhat different from Dreamers. You understand that... Where do you come from, by the way, originally? Where?" After the woman responded that her grandparents came from Russia and Poland, he stated, "That's very good." He then went on to discuss his border wall with Mexico; that is, keeping the wrong kind of immigrants out.

    The Military as a Recruiting Ground for the Far Right

    If there is any concept that these groups threatening to disrupt our democracy stand for, it's a version of individual freedom -- like not wearing masks -- that's akin to driving drunk and without putting on a seat belt, rather than waiting for a sober friend to drive you home. Yes, it's more comfortable not to wear a mask or a seatbelt. The short-term benefits, like physical comfort, are tangible, as is perhaps the exhilarating sense that you can do anything you want with your body. (Ask most anti-maskers about abortion rights, however, and you'll get quite a different perspective on the degree to which our bodies should be our own.)

    Yet the most current scientific evidence is that if all Americans wore masks (and social-distanced) right now, it would potentially save tens of thousands of lives. In the age of Covid-19, however, concerns over public health restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus, including lockdowns of gyms, bars, and other public facilities, have become political firestorms. Such mandated lockdowns were the main reason various gunmen collaborated with the Wolverine Watchmen in a plot -- fortunately foiled -- to kidnap the governor of Michigan and considered a similar plot against Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, people of color -- Blacks and Latinos -- die from Covid-19 at a rate about a third higher than their share of the population. In other words, it couldn't be clearer whose bodily freedoms are really considered at stake in these far-right struggles and whose are expendable.

    Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these groups is that they take a significant part of their manpower and know-how from the United States military with the tacit support of a Republican Senate. As a military spouse as well as the co-founder of Brown University's Costs of War Project, it's been no secret to me that our military's support for bigotry of all kinds is endemic. Racist and sexist remarks are commonplace both on the boats where my husband has served and in gatherings with officer colleagues and their families. Little more than brief reprimands (if that) are handed out in return.

    In a country where gun ownership and firearms training are seen by the far right as inalienable, all-American freedoms, the military is a ripe breeding ground for disaffected men looking for individual empowerment, a sense of belonging, and just such training. In fact, a recent New York Times investigation claims that veterans and active-duty military members make up more than a fifth of the membership of America's 300 anti-government, pro-Trump "militia" groups. According to a 2019 survey by the Military Times, about a quarter of active-duty service members reported witnessing signs of white nationalist ideology among their fellow soldiers, including racist and anti-Semitic slurs and homemade explosives shaped like swastikas.

    Nothing is more disturbing, when it comes to white nationalist-style hate, than the way the Republicans in Congress have implicitly sanctioned it. In 2019, after the Democratic-controlled House introduced a clause into the Defense Authorization Act to have recruits screened for white nationalist ideology, the Republican Senate nixed the provision. What more need be said?

    How did an institution that should be about service to the nation become a petri dish for people who stand for nothing of collective significance? Even one of the favorite and abiding principles of far-right actors (and many Republicans in Congress), the right to bear arms, seems eerily decontextualized from history in a country that leads the world by far in armed citizens (many with distinctly military-style weaponry).

    Let's remember that this right was grounded in the idea of organizing the revolutionary army against a colonial power that taxed people without representing them and forcibly billeted its military in their homes. The colonists, while rife with their own history of human-rights violations, were not a bunch of disaffected, irrationally angry individual crusaders with an urge to use weapons to threaten civilians.

    Two and a half centuries later, the party that regularly signals its support for the far right's armed tactics still controls the presidency, the upper chamber of Congress, and will soon control the Supreme Court as well. And yet it and its right-wing supporters eternally act as if they were the victims in our world and, from that position of victimization, are now threatening others (and not just Gretchen Whitmer either.)

    Many among them still see themselves as subjugated by this country's ruling elite, which may represent a kind of projection or, psychologically speaking, seeing in others the thoughts and feelings one actually harbors in oneself. And as a therapist who has worked with significant numbers of veterans and military service members, I can warn them: don't do it. As I know from some military service members who have told me of their time in distant lands, when they used guns against civilians, it shook to the core their belief in the principle of service to country, leaving them distrustful of the homeland they had been fighting for.

    Of course, an increasingly armed far right has responded by creating a world of symbols that are deeply comforting to them. Yet do they really stand for anything?

    I was recently appalled by a bumper sticker on a minivan featuring two large guns and three smaller ones aligned together like those stickers that show heterosexual nuclear families. Its tagline: "My guns are my family." At the wheel was a young woman with several children. I balk similarly at pictures on people's lawns that feature Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" flag -- how did he get a separate flag? -- and the word "Jesus" in all-capital letters.

    Guns and small children? A separate Trump state and Jesus? Never before has sociologist Émile Durkheim's idea that religious groups are less in need of a cohesive ideology than symbols to which they can all bow down in unison made more sense to me. Amid such incoherence (and symbolic violence), such an inability to justify their place in this democracy, it might be fairest to say that, as this election campaign heads toward its chaotic climax, Trump and the far right worship little more than one another.

    "At Least He Hasn't Started Another War"

    In October, the United States passed its 19-year mark in its second Afghan War of the last four decades. In many ways, that war and the dregs of the conflict in Iraq, which the U.S. invaded in the spring of 2003, have become as empty as the war that far-right groups wage in the United States. The hundreds of thousands of dead civilians, the flourishing of terrorist groups far deadlier and angrier than those the U.S. originally sought to defeat, the degradation of basic human rights including the rights to life and health -- the carnage has been significant indeed. As these wars enter or near their third decade, I often hear friends say about President Trump, "At least he hasn't started another war."

    Oh, but he has! This time, though, the war is at home. Even the Wolverine Watchmen and their co-collaborators in recent kidnapping plots saw themselves as initiating a civil war, or a boogaloo (to use far-right terminology). Not since the Jim Crow South years have we had to worry about people's physical safety as they approach the polls to cast their vote -- and the "Four More Years" folks and other gun-toting Trump supporters have, I fear, just gotten started. Never would it have been thinkable for a sitting president to overlook, or even implicitly endorse, plots to kidnap and possibly kill elected officials, but Trump has even gone so far as to respond to his supporters at a recent rally in Michigan chanting "Lock her up!" by saying "Lock them all up!" (a play both on his Hillary Clinton chants in the last election and on Governor Whitmer's pandemic lockdown orders).

    Twenty years later, our healthcare resources (never sufficient) are further depleted. A pandemic is again spiking across the country. Those who run for office and try to govern with dignity are being challenged in all too threatening ways. Think of it, whether in political or health terms, as our new war zone. I hope that those who appear to vote in person under pandemic conditions and increasing threats of voter intimidation will not come under attack next by far-right groups. To anyone who is listening in elected office anywhere in America: I hope you have a plan for a peaceful transition of power, since the "law-and-order" president is, of course, anything but that when it comes to sustaining our democracy, rather than his presidency.

    Andrea Mazzarino, a TomDispatch regular, co-founded Brown University's Costs of War Project. She has held various clinical, research, and advocacy positions, including at a Veterans Affairs PTSD Outpatient Clinic, with Human Rights Watch, and at a community mental health agency. She is the co-editor of War and Health: The Medical Consequences of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer's new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

    Copyright 2020 Andrea Mazzarino

    Ohio fringe candidate threatens governor with a revived far-right terror tactic: ‘citizen’s arrest’

    Renea Turner protested Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 orders earlier this summer, and this week declared she was making a citizen's arrest, but denies plotting to kidnap him.

    Citizen's arrests are all the rage among right-wing extremists these days, it seems. Barely two weeks after 14 Michigan militiamen were arrested as part of a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer under the rubric of a "constitutionalist" fantasy, a similar plot to make a "citizen's arrest" of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine—accused similarly of "tyranny" by imposing coronavirus-related health measures—bubbled to the surface this week.

    The alleged Ohio plot revolves around a fringe-right activist named Renea Turner, who ran a write-in campaign for governor in 2018. A man who worked with her told police that Turner had attempted to join her plan to perform a citizen's arrest of DeWine at his home—which he claims involved then trying him for treason and punishing him accordingly.

    On Thursday, Turner conducted a ceremony in Columbus (posted as a since-deleted video on Facebook) in which she announced that she was deposing DeWine as governor, and took the gubernatorial oath to replace him. On Monday, she held a press conference in which she denied she intended to harm DeWine—she merely intended to serve him with citizen's arrest papers, she said.

    The idea of using citizen's arrest powers against government officials engaged in the far right's conception of "treason" and "tyranny" has its origins in the "Patriot" militia movement's activism in the 1990s. It was a common strategy for so-called "constitutionalists" and "sovereign citizens" to file reams of documents containing flowery pseudo-legal language to claim that various government officials—including judges, prosecutors, and elected authorities—had betrayed their oaths of office and thus committed treason.

    Some, such as the Freemen in eastern Montana, issued bounties of $1 million for the arrest of various public officials on charges of treason. These tactics, in the Freemen's case, grew so egregious—along with the fraud the group committed among local businesses—that eventually the FBI began to arrest its members, culminating in an 81-day armed standoff near Jordan in 1996.

    The tactic largely fell into disuse during the first decade of the 21st century. However, its apparent revival among far-right extremists illustrates how deep the connection to old "Patriot" belief systems and strategies among current-day radicals really runs.

    x

    At her Thursday ceremony, Turner read a long-winded declaration (which she also posted on Facebook) to "alter and remove" DeWine, a Republican, as governor. "Mike DeWine has used his position; he has become so corrupt that he has oppressed the people," her statement read. "Governor Mike DeWine has become concentrated, grown and has become a Tyrant and will be held accountable immediately. He will receive a Tyrant's punishment."

    Turner's language was different from that preferred by sovereign citizens—she refers to herself throughout it as "one people"—but conceptually her declaration was identical to that made by the 1990s "Patriots." This included the apparent belief that the same "one people" who arrest the governor are automatically slotted to replace him.

    Afterward, she took the oath of office as governor of Ohio with the assistance of several supporters, one of whom was a notary public, and it was signed by several of the supporters as witnesses.

    "This is a huge step for America," she said afterward. "This is just getting started with Ohio. We have figured out a way to save America and we are starting it today."

    One of those witnesses—a man who Turner and her contingent referred to as "Wild Man"—wore a jacket declaring himself a "Patriot" and a member of the "III Percent" militia movement.

    The man who reported that Turner was planning to arrest DeWine told police that Turner, a Springfield native, had called him at his home the morning of Oct. 16 and asked if he wanted to participate in arresting the governor at DeWine's home later that weekend and try him for allegations of tyranny before a "citizens court." He also said that Turner had suggested two penalties for conviction: permanent exile or execution.

    He said that while he agreed that DeWine should be arrested, he expected the process to occur under established law enforcement authorities. He had hoped the group of DeWine critics could find a prosecutor who would charge him.

    "(The caller) said 'no, we the people, we're going to arrest him,'" the source said.

    "Do I think (DeWine) needs to be arrested? Absolutely," the man said. "But all that needs to happen within the confines of the law."

    Turner told cleveland.com that she had participated in the call, but insisted that she had only discussed placing DeWine under house arrest, and made no specific plans to do so. She dismissed the man's claims: "He's a dingbat," she said.

    The Ohio Capital Journal reported that a state representative said he recently met with Turner prior to the alleged call, and that she had inquired about the governor's home. Ohio State Police say they are investigating the matter, but Turner has not been detained.

    DeWine commented on Friday about the plot: "At this point in my life, nothing shocks me anymore," he said. "We're going to continue to do what we need to do every day. Our life goes on and I'm going to do what I need to do. I don't know the details of the so-called plan. I can't really comment about that. As I said in regard to what happened with Governor Whitmer, it's despicable anyone would want to in any way go around our legal process that we have. We are a country, a state, a rule of law, we have a long tradition of that and anybody that wants to violate that or go around that, we all have a responsibility to denounce."

    Ohio law on citizen's arrests permits them in only limited circumstances. There first has to be a reasonable belief—one based on real and not imaginary or theoretical evidence—that the arrestee committed a felony. You also can only detain a suspect until the police can furnish an arrest warrant; if there isn't a law enforcement officer, you have to transport the person to a court or judge who can make the determination.

    An Ohio sheriff explained: "Felonies are capital offenses and a reasonable person would know. J-walking, littering are misdemeanor violations. A citizen would not have the right to engage themselves in something of that nature, but that certainly shouldn't deter them from reporting a crime."

    The viability of citizen's arrests for broader uses such as Turner's, or the Michigan militiamen who appear to be planning a legal defense around the claim that they only planned to perform such an arrest of Whitmer, has never been recognized by any court or legal jurisdiction.

    Attorney Sarissa Montague of Kalamazoo explained to mlive.com that in order for defendants in the Michigan case to claim they were making a citizen's arrest, they'd have to prove "that a felony actually had been committed and that any reasonable person acting without passion or prejudice would have fairly suspected" the same.

    There was another citizen's arrest incident in Michigan recently involving a city councilman in Warren who attempted to make an arrest of his own. Eddie Kabacinski, a Trump supporter who at an April council meeting had donned a gas mask to mock anti-pandemic measures, is currently under investigation for having slapped a pair of handcuffs onto a protester who showed up at a Trump rally Oct. 14 in Eastpointe.

    The woman had stuck three small Black Lives Matter stickers on Trump signs placed along the boulevard. Kabacinski chased her and grabbed her, at which point she sprayed him with silly string. The councilman—who carries the handcuffs regularly—pulled them out and put them on the woman with her hands behind her back until officers arrived. Eastpointe officers promptly removed the cuffs and released the woman.

    "Putting a decal sticker over a Trump sign, and it says Black Lives Matter, you are promoting a domestic terrorist organization on a Trump sign and that's not good," he told a local weekly newspaper. "That's not the image that the Trump campaign or the Republican Party is trying to convey. We are trying to get back to law and order in this country."

    Kabacinski's behavior in other situations is also under fire. After the home of a Black family in his council district was attacked three times—rocks through windows, tires slashed, a Black Lives Matter sign shot up with a gun—he had shown up as a counterprotester at a Sept. 19 event intended to voice support for the family, dressed in military fatigues with a gun on his hip, carrying a large Trump flag.

    Most of the time, however, the threats of a citizen's arrest as a far-right tactic have been directed at public officials—and the intent has always been clear, too. In Montana in the 1990s, the judges who were threatened with it identified the issue clearly.

    "Terrorism is what it is," said Marty Bethel, a city judge in the town of Hamilton who had faced an "arrest" threat unless she dismissed a traffic charge against a member of a local militia. "I hope someone takes this seriously, before blood is shed. If you let these people walk up one side and down the other, all you've done is empower them."

    Clinical psychologist predicts what life after Trump will be like — and how the president will respond if he loses

    Clinical psychologist Dr. Alan Blotcky, Ph.D. spoke to Raw Story Tuesday to walk through what he thinks voters will see from President Donald Trump in the upcoming week ahead of the election.

    While Dr. Blotcky isn't part of the "Duty To Warn" movement, he does support it and he explained how mental health experts have been able to diagnose the president without ever having him sit in their offices.

    "The most important information that a mental health professional can get is observable behavior," he explained. "It's not just his observable behavior we have access to. We have thousands of examples of his tweets, of his statements, of his interviews, his audios, his videos. So, we have many years of his accumulated information directly from him both verbally and behaviorally. Yes, we don't get to meet with him in our office in a one-on-one session. And that's important because that would give us even more information into his thinking and feeling. But having access to vast amounts of verbal statements and behaviors is crucial."

    Dr. Blotcky explained that Trump is "so obviously impaired and so obviously disordered" that it would even be difficult to find a mental health professional who wouldn't agree with that assessment after four years in office.

    For anyone who thinks Trump is merely playing the role of an angry politician, he explained that throughout Trump's life, he's been consistent in his narcissism.

    "If you look at the whole of his life it's very consistent," he said. "It's outlandish to think this is just an act. This is him."

    As Trump goes into the final week of his campaign, Dr. Blotcky anticipates seeing more desperation from Trump. He thinks that Trump will bring more "wild accusations, conspiracy theories and threats." It has become clear that the president is reverting to what worked for him in 2016, "his old bag of tricks," as Dr. Blotcky described it. The only difference is that this time around, it not only isn't working to move the needle, but his multi-rally strategy is also serving as superspreader events.

    "I think he's going to throw out any outlandish things he can think of, hoping that something will stick," said the psychologist.

    In a normal campaign, the candidate would be pivoting to something that actually works to expand their base of support. Trump is sticking with his existing supporters, even if that means he won't have enough of them next Tuesday.

    "That's why he always doubles down, triples-down, quadruples-down," said. Dr. Blotcky. "He can't [change] because to change would be a sign of weakness or failure. And he always thinks he's right. He thinks he's the smartest person on the planet. He thinks he knows more than the experts. He thinks he knows more than the scientists. And so, what he thinks automatically becomes the prevailing strategy on his part and he can't pivot. He's incapable of pivoting. I think it comes from his psychiatric disorder. I think he is so grandiose and so self-absorbed that he can't see outside himself. And I don't even think he understands that he needs to pivot because I think he thinks he's right. And if he's right, there's nothing to talk about."

    For the every-day self-aware person who is capable of being insightful and psychologically minded, that level of delusion isn't an option.

    "I think until recently he has thought of himself as unstoppable," said Dr. Blotcky. "And I think he still thinks he's unstoppable. I think he thinks he's going to pull it out in the end just like he did in 2016 and if he can get it to the courts his new Supreme Court Justice will help tip the scales."

    If Trump loses, Dr. Blotcky thinks he will play the victim card, allege the election was rigged, there is a conspiracy against him and that mail-in votes shouldn't even be counted.

    "I think he's going to turn to his attorney general to try and get him to begin some actions," he continued. "I think he's going to try and take it to the courts and I think he's going to try to give the message to his supporters all around the country that he is the victim, that he is aggrieved, and that they need to support him in his victimhood."

    For Trump's supporters, even those who held their noses and voted for him four years ago, Trump has been able to tap in them a kind of grievance that they have been ignored by politicians.

    "They believe in him because they feel aggrieved," said Dr. Blotcky. "They feel like the political system has left them behind. They feel like victims. So, I think they identify with him and I think they like chaos. They like the rebelliousness of this president. They want to turn the political system upside down because they feel like the system has hurt them. So, he is kind of their supreme leader as far as wreaking havoc in the political system. When he says ridiculous things, they cheer him on because he's expressing their own pent-up frustrations and feelings our system has left them behind and have hurt them."

    One of Trump's greatest accomplishments has been in fearmongering and painting former Vice President Joe Biden as a socialist to people who don't know what that even means has been a successful tactic. It's one that the GOP has employed for years, but such an accusation isn't as effective as people understand American socialist programs like Medicare, the interstate system and public schools.

    "What he's been successful at is selling the idea that Joe Biden and the Democrats are socialists and they're going to change your neighborhood and that your way of life is going to be vastly different," said Dr. Blocky. "I think there's a group of Republicans that buy that. I know some people that buy that."

    Trump's claim that somehow neighborhoods are going to become chaos-driven riot-zones is a "fabrication," he said, but "fearmongering works."

    It is possible to bring those people back from that, but Dr. Blotcky says it will come with Biden including them as part of his new administration.

    "If you cut off the head, which is Trump, I think there is going to be residual stuff, but I think if Joe Biden keeps talking about being the president for all Americans, and not just Democrats, that's the strategy. That's the attitude you have to have — that our new president has to be the president for all of us, and they have to listen to him," Dr. Blotcky went on. "A lot of his supporters, I see them in the crowds, are people who really have been left behind by this economy and they feel like they are not listened to or valued. And I think one of the major functions of the president is to listen to everybody and have everybody feel like we're a part of what we're trying to do in this democracy."

    In the immediate aftermath, Dr. Blotcky agrees that the Trump supporters will still take to the streets and that there will be violence, but that Biden will have the capacity to calm the nation much more so than Trump.

    "If [Trump] gets agitated and riled up, you're going to see a lot of his supporters get agitated and riled up," he explained.

    In an interview Monday, Cindy, a self-described Republican evangelical explained that her children were kind and thoughtful in how they spoke to her about the election and helped her walk through options because she didn't like Trump, but still had conservative issues she was dedicated to. Dr. Blotcky agreed that the soft and kind way of speaking to Trump supporters is the best way to help move them. For some, he acknowledged that it's never going to work, but for those who are looking for other options in the final week of the election, it's the best way to persuade. No one moves voters by screaming "you're wrong!" at them.

    As the U.S. goes into the holiday season, he explained that's the best way to get through with your families. Yelling and screaming over politics never persuades anyone.

    Dr. Blotcky closed by reinforcing that what Trump has done to diminish the dangers of the coronavirus has been reckless and criminal.

    "Donald Trump has made the decision that losing American lives is fine. Our very lives have become unimportant, ignorable, even forgettable to him," he wrote for AL.com in May.

    Here's how right-wing misinformation could be accelerated after the election

    With Election Day less than one week away, anxiety is rising as the American public braces for the November 3 outcome. As Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden campaigns with social distancing in mind, President Donald Trump is still running amok as he continues to spread misinformation in an effort to sow seeds to doubt if the election outcome is not favorable for him.

    Sadly, reports now suggest that right-wing misinformation could "pick up steam" after the election. Although the rise of right-wing misinformation accelerated after Trump's 2016 win, Axios reports that this type of potentially harmful rhetoric will likely continue whether the president wins or loses his bid for re-election.

    Researchers with the the Harvard Kennedy School and the London School of Economics have indicated that the "economic incentives governing the internet and the information ecosystem broadly, have created a environment that actors, particularly on the right, will easily exploit with disinformation."

    In a new Harvard publication, Dipayan Ghosh, Ph.D., a senior researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School, along with Nick Couldry, who works as a media and social theory professor at the London School of Economics, both insist right-wing misinformation will continue to circulate because such information spreads easily.

    "Right now, there's a whole lot of people on the right whose view of how to gain influence does have an unusual relationship with truth," says Couldry. "They are quite happy to spread misinformation, because it's more effective."

    He added, "That plays into the fact that the business models of internet companies don't differentiate between the type of actor and whether it is incentivized to tell the truth or not."

    Investigative findings also support the researchers' theory. More than three dozen Facebook groups have been identified as "super spreaders" of right-wing misinformation. Nearly 40 right-wing pages reportedly focus on "spewing this type of misinformation leans right or is affiliated with right-wing movements, including pages like Gateway Pundit, Viral Patriot and MAGA Revolution."

    Another indication of the right-wing media spread is Fox News' Tucker Carlson's ratings. Carlson's show, which is known for echoing right-wing opinions, conspiracy theories, and other potentially harmful misinformation, is now considered highest-rated cable news program ever on Tuesday nights. The Fox News host's viewership if proof that right-wing media has become a dominant source of misinformation.

    An elections expert explains why a polling error might actually be devastating for Trump

    Many supporters of President Donald Trump have argued that his reelection campaign is in much better shape than polls have been indicating, noting that he outperformed expectations when he defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. But reporter David Wasserman, in an article published on NBC News' website this week, examines another possibility — that former Vice President Joe Biden is the one being underrepresented in polls.

    "As Election Day approaches and President Donald Trump continues to trail Joe Biden by high single digits both nationally and in key states, their respective bases are buzzing with either hope or dread that 'the polls could be wrong again,'" Wasserman notes. "In truth, public opinion polls are imperfect instruments, and there's always bound to be some degree of error."

    Pollsters have received a great deal of criticism following Trump's victory in 2016. But truth be told, the polls weren't as misleading as those critics say. The polls showed Clinton with a national lead; she won the popular vote. And some polls, in late October 2016, showed that swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida were close; Trump narrowly won those states.

    "It's important to remember that in 2016, the final pre-election average showed Hillary Clinton leading Trump 46.8% to 43.6 % nationally, according to leading polling aggregator RealClearPolitics," Wasserman explains. "That wasn't too far off the mark: she went on to win the popular vote 48.2% to 46.1%, not exactly strong evidence that hordes of 'shy Trump voters' refused to tell pollsters their true intentions."

    Stressing that polls have a margin of error, Wasserman notes that "in the Southwest, polls undershot Democrats' final margin in 17 of 19 cases, including by an average of 1.4 points in 2016 and 4.2 points in 2018. The Southeast was a mixed bag. In Florida, polls underestimated the GOP margin by an average of 2.4 points in 2016 and 3.3 points in 2018 — a polling error similar to that in the Midwest."

    Bearing these things in mind, Wasserman writes, it is possible that polls are underestimating Trump — but it is also possible that Biden is the one being underestimated.

    "In the end, the only certainty in the polling world is some degree of error," Wasserman emphasizes. "There's no guarantee 2020's errors will boost Trump again or adhere to the Southwest/Midwest patterns we observed in 2016 and 2018. But in light of recent evidence, it wouldn't be all that surprising if Biden defies polls by winning a higher share of the vote in Arizona than Wisconsin — or breaks through in Texas more than he does in Ohio."

    Here's the case for impeaching Clarence Thomas — the most corrupt Supreme Court Justice

    With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the radical right has completed its long and painstaking project to seize control of the Supreme Court, and to reshape constitutional law for generations to come. Barrett's elevation will give conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court and usher in a crisis of legitimacy for the third branch of government not seen since the 1930s.

    The right's triumph has prompted anger and soul-searching among Democrats and progressives, sparking calls to expand the number of Supreme Court justices, echoing Franklin D. Roosevelt's unsuccessful effort to add additional seats to the high tribunal in the midst of the Great Depression.

    Enlarging the Supreme Court is entirely within the power of Congress, as the number of justices is not set by the Constitution. The court's composition has, in fact, varied over time, ranging from six justices when the Constitution was ratified to 10 in 1863. The panel was reduced to nine by an act of Congress in 1867 and has remained there since then by statute.

    While Democrats should definitely demand court expansion if they retake the White House and the Senate and hold the House, there is at least one additional step they should take to address the court's legitimacy crisis—the impeachment of its most corrupt member—Clarence Thomas.

    Thomas should be impeached on charges of perjury for allegedly lying in his annual financial disclosure statements for over a decade and, more fundamentally, for lying in his 1991 confirmation hearing about his disgusting history of sexual harassment.

    Although federal judges are appointed for life, their terms are subject to "good behavior." Like all civil officers of the United States, they can be removed, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, "on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

    The impeachment process, as we were reminded by the experience of President Trump, consists of two basic steps: First, members of the House of Representatives impeach an official by adopting, on a simple majority vote, one or more articles of impeachment, which read very much like a criminal complaint or a grand jury indictment. Step two proceeds with a trial in the Senate, which has the power to convict on a two-thirds ballot. Ouster from office follows conviction automatically, and cannot be appealed.

    Only three presidents—Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Trump—have been impeached in our history, and all were exonerated in their Senate trials. A fourth, Richard Nixon, resigned in the face of near-certain impeachment and removal for his role in the Watergate scandal.

    The impeachment of federal judges, by contrast, has been far more common. To date, 15 federal judges have been impeached, and eight have been convicted by the Senate. Indeed, the only Senate impeachment trials resulting in convictions have involved judges.

    Since 1988, three federal judges have been impeached and removed on charges involving perjury. The last judge to be impeached was G. Thomas Porteous Jr. of the Eastern District of Louisiana, a Clinton appointee who was convicted by the Senate and ejected from office in December 2010 for accepting bribes and, among other derelictions, signing false financial declarations under penalty of perjury.

    Thomas, if targeted, would become just the second Supreme Court Justice to be impeached. In 1804, the House charged Associate Justice Samuel Chase with eight articles of impeachment for engaging in arbitrary and oppressive conduct and expressing political bias while serving as a trial judge in certain Sedition Act cases during an era when Supreme Court justices also conducted trials. An outspoken Federalist and supporter of John Adams, Chase incurred the ire of Thomas Jefferson and his Republican allies. Chase was acquitted the following year in a Senate trial presided over by Vice President Aaron Burr. (The chief justice of the Supreme Court presides only in presidential impeachment trials.)

    As the Senate's website instructs, Chase's exoneration has since been construed to insulate the "judiciary from… congressional attacks based on disapproval of judges' opinions." Guided by the Chase example, an impeachment proceeding against Thomas could not be initiated because of policy differences Democrats may have with him, even though Thomas has demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the constitutional rights of minorities, women and criminal defendants during his tenure on the Supreme Court.

    Like Porteous, however, Thomas is vulnerable to perjury allegations.

    Under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act, all high-ranking federal officials are required to file yearly financial disclosure statements for themselves and their spouses to safeguard against conflicts of interest. But for 13 years, Thomas failed to report his wife Virginia's earnings on the mandatory annual financial disclosure forms that he signed under penalty of perjury, indicating that his spouse had no non-investment income when in fact she was steadily employed in high-level jobs as a policy analyst and an outspoken conservative activist.

    According to Common Cause, Virginia—who is also a lawyer and a one-time aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey—received more than $686,000 between 2003 and 2007, working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2011, claiming incredulously that he had misunderstood his reporting responsibilities, Thomas amended his financial disclosures, which can now be examined on the OpenSecrets.org website.

    As University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos pointed out in a 2011 Daily Beast article, "The relevant question on the disclosure form isn't complicated: Even if Justice Thomas wasn't a lawyer, he shouldn't have needed to hire one to explain to him that the box marked NONE next to the phrase 'Spouse's Non-Investment Income' should only be checked if his spouse had no non-investment income." In Campos' view, Thomas' omissions were "criminal."

    Thomas' alleged perjury in his testimony before Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991 was of a far greater magnitude, centering on his denial under oath that he harassed Anita Hill and other female colleagues while he served as the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

    The clash between Hill and Thomas was televised and made for riveting viewing, even more so than the rancorous battle over the 2018 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. Thomas was treated with kid gloves by the all-male members of the Judiciary Committee, who sat largely in silence as he denied ever engaging in inappropriate behavior and claimed that he was being "subjected to a 'high-tech lynching.'"

    Hill, who is now a professor of social policy and law at Brandeis University, was treated with scorn and contempt by the Judiciary Committee. Some members called her "delusional," suggested she was mentally "unstable" and was a "scorned woman" out for revenge against Thomas for rebuffing her romantic advances.

    In addition to assassinating Hill's character, the committee, under the chairmanship of Joe Biden, then the senior Democratic senator from Delaware, declined to call three other female Thomas accusers to testify at the hearing. One of those accusers, writer Angela Wright, remains an outspoken critic of Thomas, and has publicly called for his impeachment. Anita Hill, too, has never wavered, insisting she told the truth.

    Unlike criminal trials, impeachment proceedings are not governed by statutes of limitations. In any event, it is never too late to do justice and provide Hill and Thomas' other accusers with the fair hearing they never received.

    Even assuming Thomas would avoid conviction in the Senate, his impeachment trial would be nothing like the farce of Trump's proceeding. With Democrats holding a majority in the Senate and Kamala Harris presiding as vice president, documents would be subpoenaed and witnesses, including Thomas, would be called to testify.

    The impeachment of Thomas would also offer Biden a full and final opportunity to make amends for the past. Above all, combined with a move to expand the number of seats on the Supreme Court, impeaching Thomas would restore the legitimacy of the judiciary as a bulwark of constitutional rights, and send a message that the nation has had enough of Republican efforts to return the country to the dark days before the New Deal and the civil rights movement.

    Before any of that happens, of course, Donald Trump and his GOP enablers must be defeated at the polls.

    Bill Blum is a retired judge and a lawyer in Los Angeles. He is a lecturer at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication. He writes regularly on law and politics and is the author of three widely acclaimed legal thrillers: Prejudicial Error, The Last Appeal, and The Face of Justice.

    This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute.

    Michigan judge accused of jeopardizing safety and democracy with reversal of open carry ban at polling places

    Dismissing glaring concerns about voter intimidation, a Michigan judge on Tuesday struck down a directive from the secretary of state banning the open carry of firearms at polling places on Election Day.

    The Associated Press reports Michigan Court of Claims Judge Christopher Murray granted a preliminary injunction in favor of gun rights advocates who had filed a lawsuit challenging an October 16 order from Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson declaring a universal ban on the open carry of guns within 100 feet of polling places on November 3. The injunction does not apply to places such as schools or churches that already prohibit open carry.

    "There are voters who are afraid, there are election workers who are afraid."

    —Heather Meingast, assistant state attorney general

    Benson had argued that the ban was needed to deter voter intimidation in the wake of the revelation of a plot by far-right militia members—who are supporters of President Donald Trump—to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.

    However, Murray asserted that Benson was attempting to create a new administrative rule without following the proper procedures.

    "It is important to recognize that this case is not about whether it is a good idea to openly carry a firearm at a polling place, or whether the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the secretary of state's ... directive," Murray wrote in his opinion.

    "The court's duty is not to act as an overseer of the [Michigan] Department of State, nor is it to impose its view on the wisdom of openly carrying firearms at polling places or other election locations," wrote Murray. "More importantly its constitutional role is properly limited to only declaring what the law is, not what it should be."

    "The secretary just didn't do this in the right way and at the right time," Murray said, adding that if she wanted to ban open carry at polling places she "should have done this months ago."

    The Detroit Free Press reports state Assistant Attorney General Heather Meingast countered that concerns regarding guns at polling places weren't as prevalent months ago as they are now, especially in light of the plot to kidnap the governor. Meingast said that now "there are voters who are afraid, there are election workers who are afraid."

    Benson and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, also a Democrat, vowed to appeal Murray's injunction.

    "As the state's chief elections officer, I have the sworn duty to protect every voter and their right to cast the ballot free from intimidation and harassment," Benson said. "I will continue to protect that right in Michigan."

    Armed far-right groups including the Oath Keepers and Q-Anon conspiracists have said they will heed Trump's call for an "army" of supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully," which many observers say is nothing less than an endorsement of—if not a rallying call for—illegal voter intimidation.

    Steven Gardiner, a scholar at the progressive think tank Political Research Associates, told The Guardian earlier this month that "the militias will absolutely seize on" Trump's comments.

    "The possibility of armed factions with military-style rifles showing up at polling places is very troubling," Gardiner said.

    New report reveals Trump taking the U.S. government's money for extravagant purposes

    When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he railed against crony capitalism in Washington, D.C. and promised to "drain the swamp" if elected. But a Washington Post article published this week takes a close look at the profits that his businesses have been enjoying at the expense of taxpayers because of his presidency.

    The Post notes that when Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, they did so at the president's Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida — which Trump described as the "southern White House."

    "For Trump, there was another hidden benefit: money," the Post reports. "At Mar-a-Lago, Trump's company would get paid to host his summit. In the next two days, as Trump and Abe talked about trade and North Korea, Trump's Palm Beach, Fla., club billed the U.S. government $13,700 for guest rooms, $16,500 for food and wine and $6000 for the roses and other floral arrangements."

    But according to Post reporters David A. Fahrenthold, Josh Dawsey, Jonathan O'Connell and Anu Narayanswamy, that meeting with Abe was hardly the only time Trump properties have profited from government business.

    "Since his first month in office, Trump has used his power to direct millions from U.S. taxpayers — and from his political supporters — into his own businesses," the reporters explain. "The Washington Post has sought to compile examples of this spending through open records requests and a lawsuit. In all, he has received at least $8.1 million from these two sources since he took office, those documents and publicly available records show."

    The Trump Organization, according to the Post, has been billing U.S. taxpayers for a wide range of items.

    "Since 2017," the Post reports, "Trump's company has charged taxpayers for hotel rooms, ballrooms, cottages, rental houses, golf carts, votive candles, floating candles, candelabras, furniture moving, resort fees, decorative palm trees, strip steak, chocolate cake, breakfast buffets, $88 bottles of wine and $1000 worth of liquor for White House aides. And water."

    The Post's reporting is receiving a great deal of attention on social media. Fahrenthold tweeted the article on Tuesday, noting, "Previously un-released documents show the government has paid $2.5 million to @realdonaldtrump 's businesses. Far more than we knew. Trump Org charged $7700 for a dinner, $6000 for floral arrangements…. and $3 for POTUS's own glass of water." And responses have been numerous.

    Twitter user Peter Charbonneau, @pcharbonneau21, sarcastically posted, "B-b-b-but he doesn't take a salary!" — to which @barefootnonna responded, "No but he spends many times more of taxpayer dollars on visits to his resorts. Taxpayers would be much better off if he would take his salary and quit benefiting himself financially at our expense. Imagine Obama that!"

    @Schnufflerowner tweeted, "$3 for a glass of water is a costly way to drain the swamp." And @007__NIL responded with more sarcasm, posting, "To be fair $3 for water wasn't bad given they had to supply it in a sippy cup."

    Other Twitter users, however, weren't so sarcastic — just angry.

    @BishesBrew wrote, "Trump has been stealing from the American taxpayers from Day One, just like Trump has also been violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution his entire corrupt presidency." And @HeatherBendit wrote, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for publishing this. I simply cannot understand why this isn't one of the Biden Campaign's non-policy talking points. Trump's official portrait should portray him with his hand in the White House Cookie Jar."

    @CobraMantis posted, "I like presidents who don't funnel taxpayer money directly into their own pockets." And @simplyadornedal tweeted, "We the people are getting bankrupted by the Trumps."

    Top FEC official's undisclosed ties to Trump raise concerns over agency neutrality

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    Debbie Chacona oversees the division of the Federal Election Commission that serves as the first line of defense against illegal flows of cash in political campaigns. Its dozens of analysts sift through billions of dollars of reported contributions and expenditures, searching for any that violate the law. The work of Chacona, a civil servant, is guided by a strict ethics code and long-standing norms that employees avoid any public actions that might suggest partisan leanings.

    But Chacona's open support of President Donald Trump and her close ties to a former Republican FEC commissioner, Donald McGahn, who went on to become the 2016 Trump campaign's top lawyer, have raised questions among agency employees and prompted at least one formal complaint. Chacona, a veteran agency staffer who has run the FEC's Reports Analysis Division, or RAD, since 2010, has made her partisan allegiance clear in a series of public Facebook posts that include a photo of her family gathered around a “Make America Great Again" sign while attending Trump's January 2017 inauguration.

    The public display of partisanship bewildered some FEC staffers, according to a former agency employee. For decades, the agency expressly banned employees from engaging in such partisanship, a cultural ethos that has stuck even after those rules were relaxed in 2011. Chacona's duties included discerning whether the inaugural committee's disclosures of donor information appeared to contain any “serious violations" of the law, an FEC procedures manual states.

    Tyler Culberson, who worked under Chacona as a senior campaign finance analyst from 2010 to 2015, told ProPublica that staffers were trained to never betray political preferences that could call into question their division's “neutrality."

    “Any public display of support or opposition to any candidate, campaign, anything on the federal level — we didn't do it," Culberson said. “When you are regulating partisan committees, the display of partisanship suggests the possibility of preferential treatment to that committee or candidate. So the mere appearance of it is problematic."

    The inaugural committee, a nonprofit distinct from Trump's presidential campaign, filed its initial 510-page report in April 2017, detailing a record-breaking $107 million raised from more than 1,000 contributors. Within two weeks, a news story and then a watchdog complaint filed with the FEC highlighted a host of misidentified and shady donations. Several months later, when the committee amended its filing to address the issues, Chacona ultimately signed off on it, records show. But the updated report continues to list donors whose addresses don't exist in public records. The committee has had other problems too: State prosecutors have accused it of spending lavishly on Trump properties, and federal investigators subpoenaed the nonprofit for donor records in an effort to track down any illegal contributions made by foreign nationals.

    Separately, emails and other records obtained by ProPublica show Chacona had frequent, friendly interactions on matters professional and personal with McGahn. The two worked together at the agency from 2008 through September 2013, when McGahn briefly entered private practice then went to work in 2015 as counsel for Trump's presidential campaign. After the election, he served as White House counsel.

    Chacona did not respond to requests for comment. McGahn said, “I don't comment on nonsense."

    Over the course of McGahn's FEC tenure, concerns over his ties with Chacona were relayed through official agency channels: at least one colleague complained directly to Chacona's supervisor that her closeness to the attorney could undermine the agency's nonpartisan credibility, and the relationship was the backdrop for a 2011 inspector general report that was shared with commissioners.

    The emails between Chacona and McGahn, obtained by ProPublica through the Freedom of Information Act, show that Chacona sought McGahn's advice on fine points of campaign finance law and regulation, and engaged in derogatory exchanges about Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic FEC commissioner, and Fred Wertheimer, one of the country's leading advocates for campaign finance reform. Democracy 21, Wertheimer's nonprofit, helped file the FEC complaint against Trump's inaugural committee.

    Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel who served in Republican and Democratic administrations, told ProPublica that an official in Chacona's position must be “fair" to all commissioners, and that expressing negative views to a commissioner about someone with business before the agency “raises questions about whether the person will get a fair shake."

    Noble added that, overall, it's “inappropriate for the head of a division to have such a relationship with just one commissioner. It makes you wonder in what ways she's steered RAD toward that ideological view in both subtle and obvious ways — what kind of things the division went after, and what kinds of things it didn't."

    Chacona's division provides the public's only window into how money is spent and raised on elections. She manages a staff of 70 employees, a portion of whom flag irregular contributions and potential spending violations that can prompt audits, civil penalties and, in rare cases, criminal prosecutions.

    Culberson said that Chacona is “ultimately the one who will say, 'We're not going to question this; we are going to question this.' There is a level of putting her finger on the scale if she wanted to."

    It is unclear whether the Trump campaign has received favorable treatment from Chacona. The FEC declined to address detailed questions from ProPublica, including whether Chacona and McGahn communicated about campaign finance issues during the 2016 election cycle, interactions that would introduce the prospect of favoritism.

    Ann Ravel, a Democrat who served on the commission, said Chacona's show of support for the president and the emails detailing her consultations with McGahn warrant an internal investigation to determine if there was any wrongdoing.

    “You assume everything Debbie is saying is based solely on her expertise and knowledge," she said. “At the very least, she should never, at any point, be involved in any decisions relating to Trump."

    Chacona's contacts with McGahn may have run afoul of a government ethics regulation meant to address circumstances in which close relationships can call into question an employee's decision-making, said Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. That rule requires that employees get approval from a designated agency official in cases where a “reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts" might question the federal employee's “impartiality."

    McGahn is not involved in the president's 2020 campaign, according to Tim Murtaugh, the campaign's communications director. He is now a partner at Jones Day, a Washington, D.C., law firm that has been paid millions of dollars this cycle by the campaign.

    Murtaugh declined to say whether the campaign was aware of McGahn and Chacona's relationship in 2016, if the two were in touch over disclosure filings that year or if the campaign is in communication with Chacona now.

    “As Usual, You Schooled Me"

    The tenure of McGahn, appointed to the FEC by President George W. Bush, was punctuated by discord between Republican and Democratic commissioners. Known as pugnacious and relentlessly partisan, McGahn led the agency's GOP wing as it regularly pushed back on campaign finance regulation. Votes on possible violations often resulted in a 3-3 deadlock as commissioners split along party lines, a lasting legacy that has earned him the reputation as one of the panel's most influential members of all time.

    The acrimonious dynamic was exacerbated by the Supreme Court's controversial 2010 Citizens United decision, which laid the foundation for removing essentially all limits on corporate and nonprofit election spending, as well as lifting restrictions on individual contributions to political action committees.

    As elections were flooded with far more money than ever before, the importance of Chacona's division grew.

    In this uncharted regulatory terrain, she looked to McGahn for guidance.

    “Wondering if a Super PAC that contributes to another Super PAC is still held to the contribution limit," Chacona asked McGahn in the summer of 2012, her email including a smiley face. “Your thoughts please."

    “No limit," he responded.

    Part of the exchange is redacted, so it's unclear where Chacona landed on the matter, but in her final response to him she said that “I even thought of some of what you said on my own (probably from reading all of your stuff over the years)."

    The trove of emails shows that she shared McGahn's negative view of those who saw Citizens United as a potential danger to democracy.

    In early 2010, Chacona and McGahn privately mocked Wertheimer, whose watchdog group, Democracy 21, often files FEC complaints. In a press release, Wertheimer contended that the Citizens United decision was “out of touch with the American people."

    Chacona forwarded the quote to McGahn, wondering if Wertheimer “ever talked with anyone outside the beltway about this stuff," because, she said, “they pretty much don't have a clue." Chacona concluded, “Sounds like he's the one out of touch," ending the sentence with another smiley face.

    McGahn replied that Wertheimer has “zero intellectual honesty, and will say anything about anyone."

    The contempt extended to Weintraub. In one 2011 exchange, the two discussed a Politico article that quoted Weintraub as saying she considered the Republican panelists “colleagues" and “not pals," prompting Chacona to ask, with her customary smiley face, “How broken up are you that Ellen doesn't consider you a pal?"

    Chacona told McGahn, who was quoted in the story deriding “superficial compromise," that he came across as “sensible and sincere."

    McGahn responded that to Weintraub a deadlocked commission vote is “a failure to give guidance, but [to] everyone else, it's a green light."

    A year later, early in what would become a more than $2 billion presidential contest between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama — then the most expensive race in American history — Chacona and McGahn were critical of journalists scrutinizing FEC disclosure reports. She wrote to him decrying a “media frenzy" over the issue. McGahn characterized the intense interest as “disclosuremania."

    The emails show Chacona held McGahn in high regard. “As usual, you schooled me," she wrote in one exchange about the Supreme Court and campaign finance. In an email about disclosure rules, she told him, “I should know by now you are always a step (or 2, 3, 4…) ahead."

    “A Bit Too Cozy"

    Chacona's closeness to McGahn prompted at least one top FEC official to complain to Chacona's supervisor, Patricia Orrock, about the appearance of a potential conflict of interest that could jeopardize the agency's integrity.

    Lynn Fraser, who retired in May 2017 as the head of the FEC's Alternative Dispute Resolution program, told ProPublica that she was troubled by interactions between the RAD official and the commissioner, which she described as “a bit too cozy."

    Fraser said she spoke up because the appearance that the head of RAD had a personal or political bias for McGahn, a staunch Republican, could hurt the division's promise of neutrality and might unintentionally influence RAD analysts worried about challenging a boss with a clear point of view.

    “Conflicts of interest are tricky little things because sometimes people don't even realize they have a conflict, they don't perceive it as such," Fraser added. “And that's actually more dangerous. It can color your worldview without you even being really aware of it. And Don was persuasive. He's really smart. And he knows campaign finance."

    In a closed door meeting, while McGahn was still a commissioner, Fraser said she asked Orrock to explain to Chacona that her relationship with the commissioner “looks really bad."

    “It's the appearance of impropriety that starts raising peoples' concerns," Fraser said she remembers telling Orrock, who remains Chacona's supervisor. “I got the assumption, and that's all it was, that she would say something to Debbie."

    It's not clear whether Orrock, who did not respond to a request for comment, ever talked with Chacona.

    Fraser's concerns did not come in a vacuum. In 2011, Chacona's husband, Marcus, lodged a complaint with the FEC's inspector general. The complaint included allegations that he had received anonymous calls relating to his wife and McGahn.

    “The nature of this contact is to apparently alert me about the nature of their relationship and they expressed that it is more than professional," he wrote.

    The resulting report, which was shared by commissioners, was unable to determine who was behind the calls because Marcus Chacona, who declined to comment, stopped cooperating and refused to turn over his phone records.

    A Look at the Trump Inaugural Committee's Filing

    Almost as soon as Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, reporters noted the crowd size at the event was smaller than it was for Obama's first inauguration in 2009. The accurate assessment touched off days of blustery pushback from the White House, which took on the media over its inaugural coverage. Chacona posted an image on Facebook of the event showing a packed crowd on the National Mall. “Here's a real picture from yesterday," she wrote.

    But while the dispute played out publicly, more significant problems faced the 58th Presidential Inaugural Committee.

    The nonprofit group had raised more than double what Obama's inaugural committee collected in 2009, and the FEC required it to account for its donors. When Trump's committee filed its initial FEC disclosure form in April 2017, the Huffington Post created a public spreadsheet to crowdsource its effort to vet the names, companies and addresses.

    Within days, the news outlet detailed hundreds of reporting mistakes, such as obscuring the true buyer of inaugural tickets and disclosing inaccurate donor addresses.

    A week after the story was published, Wertheimer's Democracy 21 and other watchdog groups filed a formal FEC complaint, arguing that inaugural officials had recklessly filed reports “they knew or should have known did not include required information."

    Trump's committee amended its filing to address some problems and asserted that the complaint raised mostly “technical reporting issues" and should be dismissed. To support its argument, the committee noted that RAD had sent both of Obama's inaugural committees formal requests for more information — inquiries the Obama committees satisfied by amending their filings.

    The FEC general counsel sided with Trump's committee in an October 2017 report and recommended the commission dismiss the complaint. While acknowledging that “we do not know the full extent of the Inaugural Committee's inaccurate reporting," the report concluded that the Trump committee had made “analogous errors" to those of Obama. “We do not believe it is an efficient use of Commission resources to pursue this matter," it said.

    In a footnote, the report explicitly states that Chacona had “discretion" over the Trump committee's amended report, and that RAD chose not to formally request more information.

    Years later, the Trump inaugural has still not resolved all of its reporting problems, and the committee continues to list donors with questionable addresses, according to an examination by CNBC. One $25,000 donation, for example, came from a Singapore address that does not appear in public records. It is illegal for an inaugural to accept donations from a foreign national, but in its report, the Trump committee asserted that the donor was an American citizen. An additional $100,000 came from a contributor whose Anaheim, California, address also could not be verified. Both discrepancies were confirmed by ProPublica.

    An inaugural committee spokesman said that if “additional corrections" to its report “are ever required, they will be addressed." He also said that McGahn played no role in responding to Democracy 21's complaint.

    Wertheimer, who had been ridiculed by McGahn and Chacona years earlier, told ProPublica that he “can't see any reasonable explanation" for why RAD hasn't asked the inaugural committee to resolve these discrepancies. He said the FEC should “look at whether this was a political decision or a policy decision that can be justified."

    Polling guru who predicted Trump's 2016 victory: 'We’re watching an incumbent self-destruct'

    With Election Day just one week away, polls signal that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will take the Oval Office. President Donald Trump's supporters are pointing to the outcome of the 2016 election in hopes that the president will defy the odds. Democratic voters are also on edge because they, too, vividly remember the upsetting outcome of that election.

    Now, the polling guru who predicted Trump's 2016 win is admitting that he, too, is betting on a Biden win. During a recent interview, Dave Wasserman, a polling expert who analyzes Congressional races polls via the non-partisan Cook Political Report, has revealed just how difficult it will be for Trump to win the upcoming election.

    According to Vanity Fair columnist Mark McKinnon, the takeaway was clear: the president will need an electoral sweep to beat Biden and it does not appear that will happen.

    After talking with him I came away with the sense that Trump is not just toast, but burnt toast. To use a poker metaphor: In the last election, Trump won by pulling an inside straight. This time he'll need nothing short of a royal flush—by pulling an ace from his sleeve.

    Wasserman outlined the differences between this election and the 2016 election that awarded Trump his first term.

    "There are a couple of important differences," Wasserman said, adding, "At the district level, the polling that we're seeing is pretty consistent; it's in line with the national polls that suggest that Donald Trump is underperforming his 2016 margins [by] anywhere from 8 to 10 points, with few exceptions."

    He also noted important differences between Biden and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    Wasserman added, "There are a couple of exceptions: One is in really heavily Hispanic districts. [These] are places where Donald Trump is approaching or even exceeding his 2016 performance. But we also are seeing in really wealthy suburbs or highly white-collar, professional suburbs—even in traditionally conservative metro areas—that Joe Biden is doing 10 or more points better than Hillary Clinton did."

    The poll expert also explained how Biden's polls fair differently from Clinton's polling in 2016. Wasserman compared the 2016 polls to the erratic diagrams you see on an EKG. Unlike Clinton, who rarely maintained a consistent lead over Trump, Wasserman notes that "Joe Biden has never been behind; he's had a fairly stable lead that's ebbed around the margins."

    So, what's the bottom line? Wasserman believes Trump needs to "win all of the states that are really close in the polls right now: Florida, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina." and "he's gotta break through in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Arizona to have a pathway to replicating his success in 2016."

    With all that has transpired, Wasserman is convinced that will not be an easy feat for the president because Biden appears to be "doing better in Arizona than in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania."

    Although Trump managed to snag the 2016 election, Wasserman believes what the American public is witnessing now is "an incumbent self-destruct."

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