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VIDEOS

Watch: Maine Republican stuns debate moderators and opponent with blatantly racist commentary

Incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine is facing Republican challenger Jay Allen, for her 1st District seat in a couple of weeks. On Tuesday night, the two faced off in a debate. Many issues were covered in the debate: public health, where Allen blamed nursing homes for not following the "rules" of public health, while also trying to say that mandating mask wearing was not a good public health policy. Rep. Pingree mentioned that wearing a mask was, at the very least, "a benevolent act for everyone else," and wondered aloud why anyone would refuse to wear one anyway. She also explained that the concept of "low risk," during these times is relative and therefore mask wearing is very important for everyone to participate in.

This was the tenor of the First Congressional District Debate. Oh, Jay Allen also wore a tie with an American flag pattern all over it, talked about creating a social security sliding scale that would get rid of some people's social security benefits, and was not able to give an actual replacement solution to getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Super classy stuff. But this was all overshadowed when race and law enforcement's relationship to race came up.

Allen began by bringing up some tangled sentence about law enforcement personnel having Black friends and other white people have Black friends. Seriously. The point was that we already have laws that say you cannot discriminate against Black people and so there isn't systemic racism. "People in general are not racist." He then blamed issues in the Black community on homes "without fathers." An old, factually incorrect, and racist trope. Then moderators asked about "qualified immunity" laws that give law enforcement blank checks to brutalize citizens with impunity.

Rep. Pingree explained that there are inequities in our society that fall along racial lines and to deny that is a non-starter in trying to fix it. She spoke about the need for programs that helped disadvantaged groups of citizens and her support for a task force that would look into modifying "immunity laws" for police as they frequently become great obstacles in investigations of police malfeasance and accountability.

Allen wanted to jump in to give his two-racist cents and talk about how police are awesome and … that, I guess? He then explained that there are programs for disadvantaged groups already. He must be talking about the ones that Republican politicians in Maine have been attacking and cutting funding from for about a decade. He then went on to give what is arguably the most concise racist logic about law enforcement's use of violence against Black people you will ever read. When asked if what he was basically saying was that Black people are more likely to be shot by police because Allen thinks the Black family unit has eroded, Allen went full-blown bananas cuckoo clock.

JAY ALLEN: No. They [police] are less likely. Because they know that if they shoot a Black person then they will face an inquisition if they shoot that Black person. So they have to be pretty sure that that Black person needs to be shot.

[Gulp]

Everyone took a slight pause there, trying to compute the confusing racist man with the American flag tie. Later on Allen called into question the science behind climate change. Just more of the Grand Old Party's stale greatest hits.


2020 Maine First Congressional District Debate www.youtube.com

news & politics

Ivanka Trump making an ‘eleventh-hour’ effort to win back suburban women whose support her father squandered: report

Suburban women used to be a major asset for the Republican Party. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge performed much better in the Philadelphia suburbs during the 1990s than he did in Philadelphia Proper; suburban women, from Orange County to La Jolla to Glendale and Burbank, played an important prominent role in many GOP victories back when California was still a red state. But during the Trump era, many suburban women have been leaning Democrat — and the GOP's problems with suburban women are the focus of new articles by The Atlantic and Politico, which reports that President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is hoping that his daughter, White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump, can win over suburban women for the president.

Journalist Elaine Godfrey, in The Atlantic, discusses a new generation of suburban female activists —who, she stresses, are working hard to get Trump voted out of office. In her article, headlined "Revenge of the Wine Moms," Godfrey explains, "These women aren't just expressing their outrage by voting in high-stakes national elections; they're funneling their energy toward a collection of smaller targets, including statehouse races, local party organizations and school boards. And all of this activism has the potential to shape American politics in a much more significant way than their biennial votes."

However, Godfrey wonders how long this "zealous engagement" of suburban women will last. Godfrey asks, "Is America entering a new age of activism — or is all of this just a Trump-era blip?"

Godfrey notes that in Ohio, one group of anti-Trump suburban female activists is GrassRoots Resistance, which was formed in late 2016 after Trump won the election. That anti-Trump group has since "grown to 150 members," according to Godfrey.

"They've channeled their energies toward fundraising and door-knocking for candidates, and they've given themselves hand cramps writing hundreds upon hundreds of get-out-the-vote postcards," Godfrey says of GRR. "For many of the GRR women, the group served as a kind of gateway drug, introducing them to other political projects of varying magnitude. A handful of members joined — and remade — the Ward 17 Club; others signed up for the League of Women Voters."

Godfrey also points out that "some on the political left have dismissed these women, many of them white, as 'wine moms' or 'MSNBC moms' — silly, unprincipled newcomers to the political scene who are more interested in watching Rachel Maddow with a glass of pinot in hand than agitating for systemic change. Black women in particular have been organizing for decades, forming the backbone of the Democratic Party. Where were the wine moms in 2016, leftists wonder, when 53% of white women supported Donald Trump?"

But the Atlantic journalist adds, "What the critics may be missing, though, is the scope of these women's influence — and their role in strengthening the Democratic Party's infrastructure. Despite the fact that most Democrats are concentrated in urban areas, resistance groups have sprung up all over the country, from the Arizona desert to rural Pennsylvania."

In the 2018 midterms, suburban women played a major role in the blue wave that gave Democrats a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives — and journalist Anita Kumar, in Politico, reports that President Trump's reelection campaign is hoping that Ivanka Trump will be able to help the GOP win back some of the suburban women who have been voting Democrat.

"In the past six weeks, Trump has made personal appeals for her father at 17 campaign stops, engaging in intimate question-and-answer sessions where she tells stories about the president," Kumar explains. "She's made stops at local businesses to pose with children in Halloween costumes. She's bought cider and doughnuts. She's rolled out bread for baking. It's the traditional politicking that is hard to imagine coming from any other Trump family member, let alone President Donald Trump himself."

Ivanka Trump has had a softer, very different tone from her father or her combative, snarky brother, Donald Trump, Jr. — who is wildly popular with the president's far-right MAGA base but repulses moderates.

"(Ivanka's) brothers, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and her sister-in-law, Lara Trump, are mostly sent out to throw red meat to Trump's conservative base," Kumar observes. "So, Ivanka Trump has become the de facto head of the eleventh-hour campaign to appeal to swing voters — specifically, the white college-educated women who helped propel the president's come-from-behind victory in 2016."

Ivanka Trump has been campaigning for her father in a long list of battleground states, from Arizona to Pennsylvania to Florida. But Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has her doubts about how effective it will be with the suburban women President Trump has been alienating.

Walsh told Politico, "The reality is that women voters are looking at the substance of what's happened It's kind of late, three weeks out, to try suddenly to be having a different tone and tenor. I don't think she alone can make up for what these women have been seeing the last four years."

election '20

Civil rights group sues Trump administration over voter intimidation: A 'clear threat to our democracy'

Latino civic engagement organization Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and several individual voters on Wednesday sued President Donald Trump and members of his administration for voter intimidation in violation of federal law.

The lawsuit (pdf), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, names Trump, Attorney General Bill Barr, and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf as defendants based on what the plaintiffs describe as their "violent suppression of public protests opposing police brutality, the encouragement of white supremacist 'vigilantes,' threats to send 'sheriffs' and other law enforcement to the polls, the undermining of mail-in voting, and the rejection of the peaceful transfer of power."

"Trump is a clear threat to our democracy," said Hector Sanchez Barba, the executive director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, in a statement released Wednesday by Free Speech for People, which serves as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "He has terrorized the Latino community, and has brought our country to the brink of ruin."

"Now in an outrageous turn of events, he and his senior officials are intimidating voters," Sanchez Barba added. "Court intervention is now critical to stop this illegal voter intimidation and to protect the fundamental right to vote."

Ron Fein, legal director at Free Speech for People, echoed Sanchez Barba. "The court should protect the fundamental right to vote," Fein said, "by blocking Trump's attempt to prevent a free and fair election."

The lawsuit alleges that the Trump administration's aforementioned actions constitute illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 as well as an "unconstitutional suppression of speech and votes under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments."

The plaintiffs accuse the Trump administration of a litany of crimes that undermine the ability of Americans to exercise their constitutional rights to democratic expression, from participating in peaceful demonstrations against police brutality to voting without fear of violent reprisal.


While the nationwide demonstrations against police violence and racism that erupted following the late May murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis law enforcement have "remained overwhelmingly peaceful," the statement noted, "Trump has repeatedly referred to participants as 'looters' and 'anarchists.'"

Together with Barr and Wolf, Trump "has falsely referred to the decentralized 'Antifa' (anti-fascist) movement as a domestic terrorist organization," the statement said, despite the fact that it is the pro-Trump members of heavily armed, far-right paramilitaries, such as Kyle Rittenhouse, who have provoked violent, sometimes deadly, confrontations on the streets of U.S. cities.

Furthermore, "the administration's response, which has included the deployment of unidentified DHS agents illegally detaining protesters and passersby in Portland, Oregon and questioning organizers of other assemblies about their political beliefs," has suppressed citizens' constitutional right to protest.

"Trump's deployment of federal law enforcement against assemblies of individuals perceived to be in opposition to him, coupled with his decision not to deploy federal law enforcement officials against assemblies of individuals perceived to support him, intimidates individuals who plan to express political opposition to Trump or vote against him," the complaint reads, "by communicating that Trump endorses physical violence against his political detractors."

Free Speech for People's statement further detailed numerous ways that Trump, who has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event of an electoral loss, has attempted to sabotage the election:

As many states have expanded access to voting-by-mail in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump has repeatedly attacked and attempted to delegitimize the practice. He has publicly confirmed that his efforts to intimidate and coerce people not to vote by mail are subjectively motivated by the intent to harm his political opponents in the 2020 presidential election.

Trump megadonor and Postmaster Louis DeJoy, meanwhile, "initiated or oversaw drastic reductions to USPS staffing and service, limited the use of mail trucks, and removed hundreds of public mailboxes and postal facility sorting machines to undermine" the post office.

Moreover, "those seeking to vote in person also face intimidation from Trump and his allies," given that the president "has called for armed military and law enforcement presence at polling stations in the name of preventing fraud, and encouraged supporters to serve as poll watchers for the campaign."

The statement explained that among Trump's supporters are the Proud Boys, a white supremacist organization whom Trump publicly told to "stand by" during the first presidential debate last month.

According to the lawsuit, "The pattern of conduct described above has had, as a foreseeable impact, an objective intimidating effect on eligible voters."

The plaintiffs allege that "many Americans have been intimidated by this conduct... to the extent that it has discouraged their plans to register to vote, to vote, or to conduct voter registration, persuasion, or mobilization activities at public assemblies."

The civil rights group is asking the court for a preliminary injunction restraining Trump, Barr, and Wolf from continuing to engage in voter intimidation in violation of multiple laws.

economy

Billionaire wealth has surged by nearly $1 trillion during 7 months of pandemic and economic collapse

Over just the past seven months—as millions lost their jobs and health insurance, tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered permanently, and more than 200,000 Americans were killed by the coronavirus—U.S. billionaires saw their combined net worth surge by more than $930 billion, bringing the collective wealth of just 644 people to a staggering $3.88 trillion.

That's according to an analysis released Tuesday morning by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), progressive organizations that have been tracking the explosion of billionaire wealth since the start of coronavirus lockdowns in mid-March. (See the groups' compilation of billionaire wealth data here.)

The new analysis shows that the collective wealth of America's billionaires grew by $931 billion—or nearly 33%—between March 18 and October 13, a period that also saw unprecedented job loss, a nationwide surge in hunger, and a sharp increase in housing insecurity.

The groups noted that the jump in billionaire wealth over the past seven months exceeds the size of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) so-called "skinny" Covid-19 relief bill and the estimated two-year budget gaps of all state and local governments, which have been forced to lay off more than a million public-sector workers due to revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus crisis.

"Sadly, the Gilded Age is here again," ATF executive director Frank Clemente said in a statement. "We have extraordinary gains in wealth by a small sliver of the population while millions suffer, this time from the ravages of the pandemic, much of which could have been avoided."

"In the short-term we need a robust pandemic relief package that meets the urgency of the moment, not Senator McConnell's skinny bill that offers political cover," Clemente continued. "In the long-term we need major reform that taxes the extraordinary wealth of the billionaires and millionaires and uses that wealth to create an economy that works for all of us."


The new analysis shows that a handful of billionaires "have seen a particularly astonishing increase in wealth" over the past seven months:

  • Jeff Bezos' wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $203 billion on October 13, an increase of 80%. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott's wealth of $65.7 billion on that day and the two had a combined wealth of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock.
  • Mark Zuckerberg's wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $101 billion on October 13, an increase of 85%, fueled by his Facebook stock.
  • Elon Musk's wealth grew from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $92.8 billion on October 13, an increase of 277%, boosted by his Tesla stock.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by 656%, to $49.2 billion from $6.5 billion seven months earlier.

"With Mitch McConnell's Senate paralyzed with inaction, U.S. society is kicking into inequality overdrive, with wealth surging up to U.S. billionaires," said Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality. "The juxtaposition between surging billionaire wealth and the imploding livelihoods of ordinary Americans is grotesque and unseemly."

culture

How toxic masculinity became a threat to public health

As if the first two waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States weren't enough to inspire serious political changes to stop the coronavirus, health experts have sounded the alarm that a third wave is underway. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising across the nation, specifically in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana, as the seasons change and the election nears.

It's certainly taken a lot of resilience and strength to persevere through this pandemic — particularly given the backdrop of political chaos, uncertainty and immense change in our daily lives. Yet perhaps it is this attitude of "staying strong," and acting stoically — which is rooted in a culture that favors and thrives off toxic masculinity — that has hurt and continues to hurt us the most.

Toxic masculinity, which has become a household phrase over the last few years, is when the archetypal image of masculinity, like displaying strength, becomes harmful to oneself. In 2005, in a study of men in prison, psychiatrist Terry Kupers defined toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence." The phrase is used to describe the issues men face or sometimes, wrongfully, justify them. Certainly, in a patriarchal society, toxic masculinity not only defines people but politics — as its mores trickle into our entertainment, discourse and politics.

Notably, the pandemic response is being led by the most psychologically compromised, toxic men in America. As I wrote last weekend, President Donald Trump's insistence on depicting himself as so strong as to be able to "work through" his COVID-19 illness is deeply harmful, and apt to put Americans' lives at risk who mimic his behavior — either by working while sick or hiding symptoms.

Meanwhile, Trump's re-election campaign has tried to frame Trump as a "warrior" — masculine, strong and void of emotion. The administration's individualistic, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric personifies toxic masculinity, and trickles down to Trump's underlings, too. In June, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal claiming there was no second wave of COVID-19, despite all the evidence to the contrary. "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy," Pence wrote then, adding "our greatest strength is the resilience of the American people."

Yet as psychologists will warn, there is a dark side to resilience.

"There is no doubt that resilience is a useful and highly adaptive trait, especially in the face of traumatic events," psychologists Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk wrote in Harvard Business Review. "However, when taken too far, it may focus individuals on impossible goals and make them unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances." In other words, self-sufficiency is not always a show of strength; humans, as social creatures, rely on others for society to function and to remain healthy. Denying that means hurting ourselves, either by delaying care or eschewing guidance that may help us or save others.

I've often wondered how much my so-called "resilience" in all of this is just making me numb and tolerant, in an unhealthy way. When looking at which countries have the pandemic somewhat under control, we look and judge their leaders. It's interesting to do this through a gendered lens. For example, New Zealand has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the world under Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's leadership. That's partly because she never advertised grandiose ideas about being above or stronger than the coronavirus. As I've previously written, the strengths—such as empathy and compassion— Ardern has brought throughout her tenure are the very same traits that have been used against women seeking leadership positions in the workplace and in the public sector. When male leaders display traditionally feminine qualities, they can also be maligned as weak — former House Speaker John Boehner, for example, used to shed tears in public; Politico's response was to ask, "Why Does John Boehner Cry So Much?"

It's obvious the Trump administration is terrified of appearing "weak" during the pandemic. But where has that gotten us? Prioritizing the economy over our health. Over 8 million infections, and 218,000 Americans dead. And the politicizing of wearing masks, as though wearing them were a sign of weakness — something Trump mocked his opponent Joe Biden for at their first and so far only debate.

As much as toxic masculinity's social repercussion are harmful to our physical health, it is also taking a toll on our mental health. A study published in JAMA Network Open in September showed that three times as many Americans met criteria for a depression diagnosis during the pandemic compared to before it. According to an analysis of Google Trends, symptoms of anxiety increased too.

Why? In part, it could be a result of having to power through these extraordinarily abnormal times without seeking help — that "bootstraps" mentality innate to toxic masculinity. One's attempts to hold it together can devolve into emotional suppression, which in return can cause more emotional distress. In July 2018, Penn State researchers found that women tried to suppress their fears about the Zika virus reported higher levels of fear later. "It turns out that not only is suppression ineffective at handling fear, but it's counter-productive," one researcher said. "It creates a cycle of fear — and it's a vicious cycle."

As a society, many of us — particularly men — haven't been authorized to express sadness publicly, and these studies reflect that. With over 200,000 Americans dead of coronavirus, their loved ones are grieving. Seven months later, we've yet to have a moment of national reflection to mourn.

As it is with the death of a loved one, grief isn't lessened by ignoring one's uncomfortable emotions. Instead, it requires collective vulnerability, compassion and patience. As author David Kessler told HBR:

Emotions need motion. It's important we acknowledge what we go through. [...] We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn't feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn't help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they'll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we're not victims.

As we try to stay strong through this pandemic, the strength we seek to feel will come from falling apart and allowing ourselves to feel the loss and the chaos—physically and emotionally. By persevering through that, still standing in so much unknown, we can experience real strength. In other words, the non-toxic kind.

science

White House documents expose the truth: Trump lied — and people died

President Donald Trump has known for over a month that new coronavirus infections have been soaring even as the White House has lied about the seriousness of the surge, documents released Tuesday by a leading Democratic lawmaker show.

HuffPost reports Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, published six weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports (pdf)—dated August 16, August 23, August 30, September 6, September 13, and September 20—proving the administration has known since early September that Covid-19 infections were rising rapidly.

However, instead of being forthcoming with the American people and the world, Trump opted to hide the reports while spuriously claiming that the virus "affects virtually nobody"— even as it caused record infections and deaths in numerous states in September.

Not only did the administration fail to honestly inform the nation, Trump held several so-called superspreader rallies and other events in September, including in states hit hard by surging Covid-19 infections, such as Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

On October 1, Trump declared that "the end of the pandemic is in sight." The following day, he announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus.

The reports also show that the White House was fully aware that the number of states in the so-called "red zone"—where new coronavirus cases rose above 100 per 100,000 people and where more than 10% of test results were positive—soared from 18 on September 13 to 31 on October 18.

On October 19, Trump told campaign staffers on a phone call that "people are tired of Covid... People are saying, 'Whatever. Just leave us alone.' They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," a reference to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Clyburn released a statement on Tuesday calling the reports proof that "Trump's contempt for science and refusal to lead during this crisis have allowed the coronavirus to surge."

"Contrary to his empty claims that the country is 'rounding the turn,' more states are now in the 'red zone' than ever before," Clyburn said. "It is long past time that the administration implement a national plan to contain this crisis, which is still killing hundreds of Americans each day and could get even worse in the months ahead."

Indeed, according to prominent University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, "the darkest part of the pandemic [will occur] over the course of the next 12 weeks."

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 8.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and nearly 221,000 deaths in the United States, representing just under 20% of the global death toll of 1.12 million people.

belief

Pat Robertson: 'The Lord told me' Trump will be reelected — and help set off the Apocalypse

Christian fundamentalist evangelical and televangelist Pat Robertson is predicting that President Donald Trump will win reelection and usher in the end of the world.

The 90-year-old Robertson, this week on his long-running show, "The 700 Club," predicted, "I want to say, without question, that Trump is going to win the election…. He's going to win; that, I think is a given."

Robertson went on to say that after Trump wins in November, major wars will follow. Those wars, according to Robertson, will be part of the End Times — and Christians who vote for Trump can help to bring that about.

The far-right evangelical argued, "We've never seen the likes of it before, but I want to relate to you again: there is going to be a war. Ezekiel 38 is going to be the next thing down the line. Then, a time of peace and then, maybe the end. But nobody knows the day or the hour when the Lord is going to come back. He said the angels don't know it, and only the Father knows it."

Trump's reelection, according to Robertson, will be part of a series of events in which Jesus Christ returns to Earth.

"I am saying that if things that people thought would be during the millennial time with the coming of Jesus, they are going to happen in our lifetime," Robertson told viewers. "And the next thing is the election that's coming up in just a few weeks — at which time, according to what I believe the Lord told me, the president is going to be reelected."

Robertson continued, "I'm saying by all means, get out and vote. Vote for whoever you want to vote for, but let your voice be heard. But it's going to lead to civil unrest and then, a war against Israel and so forth…. I think it's time to pray. But anyway, that is the word. You ask what's going to happen next, and that's what's going to happen next."

One of the most prominent figures in the far-right evangelical movement, Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network in the early 1960s and launched "The 700 Club" in 1966. Robertson, the son of the late Democratic Sen. Absalom Willis Robertson, ran for president in 1988 but lost to Vice President George H.W. Bush in that year's GOP presidential primary.

Robertson has a long history of predicting the Apocalypse, going back to at least the 1970s. In 1976, Robertson predicted that the Apocalypse would occur in 1982 — and when that didn't happen, Robertson predicted, in 1990, that 2017 would be the year of the Apocalypse. But since the End Times didn't come about in 2017, Robertson now has high hopes that a second Trump term will mean the end of the world.

human rights

Pope Francis says same-sex couples should be ‘legally’ protected by civil unions

Pope Francis is calling for same-sex couples to be "legally" protected by civil union laws.

"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family," the Pope says in a new documentary, Catholic News Agency reports. "They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it."

Later, Pope Francis defended his remarks in the film, saying, "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

"I stood up for that," he added.

The Pope said nothing about the morality of same-sex relationships, which the Catholic Church still vehemently opposes.

The Vatican leader's remarks, while a step forward, show the Roman Catholic Church continues to treat LGBTQ people unequally.

Some are calling the Pope's remarks a "major shift," and a "long overdue moment." Others have noted to Catholics in countries where same-sex relationships or marriages are banned it is a welcome sign.

Pope Francis continues to oppose marriage for same-sex couples. He has a lengthy record of vacillating between making compassionate statements about same-sex couples and gay people, while denouncing in the strongest possible terms affording them the same rights and responsibilities as those in different-sex marriages.

In 2014, for example, Pope Francis called same-sex marriage "anthropological regression."

One year later he said same-sex marriage threatened to "disfigure God's plan." He later called marriages of same-sex couples "disfigured." Also in 2015 he announced support for constitutional bans on marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

The following year Francis said the Catholic Church and Christians "must ask forgiveness" and "apologize" to gay people. In 2018 the Pope reportedly told a gay man, "God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say."

more news

There were several glaring omissions in the FBI's bizarre announcement about election interference

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray announced on Wednesday in a last-minute press briefing that both Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information and have "taken specific actions to influence public opinion."

In particular, Ratcliffe said that Iran has been found to have sent "spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump." He seemed to be referring to an incident described in a Washington Post story published right before the conference, which said the U.S. has concluded that Iran had sent emails pretending to be from the right-wing group the Proud Boys to Democratic voters.

The Post explained:

The messages appeared to target Democrats using data from digital databases known as "voter files," some of which are commercially available. They told recipients the Proud Boys were "in possession of all your information" and instructed voters to change their party registration and cast their ballots for Trump.

It's not exactly clear the intent behind the emails. Ratcliffe, a partisan Republican put in place by President Donald Trump because he wanted a crony leading the intelligence community, seemed to give contradicting explanations. If the emails were intended to intimidate Democratic voters out of voting, that would presumably help Trump. But if the emails were meant as a false flag, designed to make Trump supporters look dangerous, then that would "damage President Trump," as Ratcliffe said. It's hard to see how Iran could have intended both outcomes. It's troubling that his explanation was this unclear, especially since he doesn't have a reputation for independence and credibility. (Ratcliffe and Wray took no questions at the briefing, refusing to give the press any opportunity to clarify their remarks.)

The other aim, though, seems quite plausible — the emails were designed to sow doubt, fear, and confusion about the election and its security. When Wray spoke, he encouraged viewers to trust in the American election system.

"You should be confident that your vote counts," Wray said. "Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. We encourage everyone to seek election and voting information from reliable sources, namely, your state election officials. And to be thoughtful, careful, and discerning consumers of information online."

He added: "We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election."

Neither Wray nor Ratcliffe mentioned any details about how Russia is interfering in the election or what it might use voter registration data for. It's not clear whether that's because the FBI doesn't have any details about Russian interference or if it is simply unwilling to share them for whatever reason. This, too, is concerning, because the despite Ratcliffe's claim that foreign election interference isn't a "partisan" issue, Trump himself has repeatedly tried to cover up Russia's intervention in 2016 on his behalf. There's no way to be confident that isn't happening now.

But there was another even more glaring omission in the pair's comments. Neither mentioned the fact that Trump — not Russia, Iran, or anyone else — is by far the greatest threat to the credibility of the election. He has been fueling bogus conspiracy theories that the election is going to be "rigged" for months, and he has called mail-in ballots a "hoax." So there was something ridiculous about the press conference emphasizing the threat of foreign election interference, especially as Ratcliffe name-checked the president as authorizing the intelligence community's efforts to protect American democracy.

"The president has instructed me to keep the country informed as appropriate," Ratcliffe said. "We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections."

Wray's remarks about "early, unverified" claims that votes won't count, and that state election officials are the most reliable sources of information about the process, could be read as an implicit rebuke to the president. Trump has repeatedly contradicted local election officials in trying to spread doubt about the integrity of the vote.

And in urging Americans to be "thoughtful, careful, and discerning consumers of information online," Wray was, essentially, telling them to be the opposite of Trump, who has spread absolutely ridiculous conspiracy theories on Twitter recently. When asked to defend himself at an NBC News town hall, he said simply: "l put it out there, people can decide for themselves."

Bombshell study finds up to 210,000 Americans died of COVID because of Trump administration's ‘monumental screwup’

A bombshell Columbia University study finds President Donald Trump is responsible for the coronavirus deaths of 130,000 to 210,000 Americans.

"We believe that this was a monumental, lethal screwup by an administration that didn't want to deal with reality," Dr. Irwin Redlener, the lead author on the study and the founding director at Columbia's National Center for Disaster Preparedness told The Daily Beast.

The study calls Trump's response to the pandemic an "abject failure," citing "the staggering and disproportionate nature of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States."

"The inability of the U.S. to mitigate the pandemic is especially stark when contrasted with the response of high-income nations, such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, France, and Canada, as well as low- and middle-income countries as varied as Thailand, Pakistan, Honduras, and Malaysia. All of these nations have had greater success in protecting their populations from the impact of the coronavirus," researchers say in the report published Wednesday.

They note the U.S. per capita death rate is "more than fifty times that of Japan."

"If the U.S. had followed Canadian policies and protocols, there might have only been 85,192 U.S. deaths—making more than 132,500 American deaths 'avoidable.' If the U.S. response had mirrored that of Germany, the U.S. may have only had 38,457 deaths—leaving 179,260 avoidable deaths," according to the study.

The researchers say "Politicization, leadership vacuum, and the failure of top officials to model best practices" especially mask-wearing, have contributed to the disproportionately high U.S. death rate.

The report concludes the "two major deficiencies" of "inadequate testing and insufficient contact tracing, have blunted the United States' capacity to stop the exponential spread of COVID-19."

"According to Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), thousands of lives could have been saved if the White House had approved the distribution of over six million masks that were prepared for delivery in late February," the report notes.

Dr. Redlener does not mince words.

"Americans have a bad case of pandemic fatigue. We want to get back to some semblance of normalcy, but we never did what we had to do to achieve that state," Redlener told The Beast. "We've delayed the return of normalcy and fallen into this web of dishonesty and opposing science that was concocted by the president."

Redlener adds, "this incredibly anti-science administration has caused an enormous tragedy in America."

Read: Graphic handwritten letter from Maryland man who threatened to kidnap and ‘execute’ Biden and Harris

James Dale Reed is under arrest after leaving a handwritten and graphic note at a Fredrick, Maryland home that threatens to kidnap and kill Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The house has Biden/Harris signs on its lawn.

The suspect's image was caught by a video doorbell camera.

"This is a warning to anyone reading this letter if you are a Biden/Harris supporter you will be targeted," the letter states, according to WUSA9 News.

The threats in the letter (image below) are graphic.

(Trigger warning:)

"When We capture Grandpa Biden We will all severely beat him to the point of death as for Mrs. Harris she will be bent over and Anally raped by my rifle barrel," it reads.

It also threatens Biden and Harris "both will be executed on National Television [sic]."

"We have a list of homes and addresses by your election signs," the letter claims.

"We are the ones with the scary guns, we are the ones your children have nightmares about."

"We will not let Biden/Harris turn are [sic] country into a Communist wasteland," it also says.

"If Biden/Harris Want A War [sic] then they will get one, of course that means Black lives matter and Antifa."

Brad Bell, Maryland Bureau Chief for ABC 7 News, posted a photo of Reed and an image of the letter:


'Disturbingly Kafkaesque': Judge slams Betsy DeVos for denying 94% of student debt forgiveness claims

Arguing that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had undermined the agreement, a federal judge on Tuesday denied approval for a class action settlement over the Trump administration's handling of a student debt forgiveness program.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said DeVos had subverted the agreement by rejecting tens of thousands of applications from defrauded students without adequate explanation, Politico first reported.

Alsup, a Bill Clinton appointee, threatened to block DeVos from denying any additional applications, calling the denial notices "potentially unlawful" and the process faced by borrowers "disturbingly Kafkaesque."

The May settlement required DeVos to speed up the processing of about 160,000 backlogged applications, some of which had been pending for years. DeVos has thus far denied 94% of applications, approving just 4,400 claims while denying 74,000 others, according to Alsup. The department told borrowers they could appeal the decision but did not say why it had denied the applications, the judge said.

"All may not be entitled to relief, but all are entitled to a comprehensible answer," Alsup wrote. "For 18 months, the secretary refused, largely on the grounds that such answers required backbreaking effort and, thus, substantial time. Now, the secretary has begun issuing decisions at breakneck speed. But most are a perfunctory 'insufficient evidence' — without explanation."

Alsup also said he would consider requiring DeVos to be deposed in a probe of the administration's handling of the claims and authorized depositions for up to five Education Department officials.

The judge granted preliminary approval for the settlement in May, requiring the department to process the backlogged claims within 18 months. As the department began processing the applications, hundreds of students objected to the settlement. About 650 people attended a virtual hearing to raise concerns about the settlement earlier this month.

"Students came together to speak up for themselves and show the court the massive scope of the trauma they have endured at the hands of the Department of Education, and the courts are listening," Eileen Connor, the legal director at Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represents the students, told Politico. "We look forward to the next stage of litigation in which we depose Department of Education officials to explain their actions under oath."

Alsup noted in his ruling that the Obama administration had approved more than 99% of "borrower defense" claims, which allow students to seek debt relief if they were defrauded by for-profit colleges. Under DeVos, the department has rejected 89.9% of applications.

The Department of Education said it is "studying the ruling."

"It's important to understand that no claim is 'denied.' Many are simply ineligible, because the claimant wasn't enrolled in an eligible program at an eligible date," department spokeswoman Angela Morabito told The Hill. "Others claims don't demonstrate financial harm. Just because a claim was filed does not make it valid and eligible for taxpayer-funded relief. The department is following the publicly available process for resolving claims as quickly as possible, so those students who are eligible and were harmed get the relief they deserve."

DeVos revised rules related to the borrower defense program in 2019, prompting some Republicans to join Democrats to pass a bill blocking the policy.

"These for-profit colleges are the coronavirus of higher education," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said at the time, adding that DeVos' rules made it "extremely difficult, if not impossible, for students to find relief."

But President Donald Trump vetoed the bill and allowed DeVos to implement the new rules in July.

Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., the lead sponsor of the bill, said Trump's veto "sent a message to the American people that he cares more about enriching predatory schools than protecting defrauded students and veterans."

DeVos has repeatedly run afoul of the courts in the borrower defense litigation. Last year, a judge held the education secretary in contempt for violating a court order by trying to collect debt payments from thousands of students defrauded by for-profit colleges.

"At best, it is gross negligence," U.S. Magistrate Jude Sallie Kim said at the time. "At worst, it's an intentional flouting of my order."

Arne Duncan, who served as the secretary of education under former President Barack Obama, said DeVos "consistently chooses the powerful over the vulnerable."

"Luckily, she is not very good at it," he added, "and very consistently loses in court."

Progressive journalism faces uphill battle as conservatives bankroll free right-wing propaganda sites

A new report highlights the decline in liberal journalism outlets over the last 15 years with more than 25% of America's newspaper publications and news communities slowly becoming "news deserts" amid the rise of right-wing publications.

A report titled, "The Expanding News Desert," released by the University of North Carolina's Hussman School of Journalism and Media which revealed statistics about the decline in publications and the disappearance of nearly half of the journalists in the United States. According to the report, thousands of communities are now being described as "news deserts" as paid politically-charged journalism attempts to take centerstage.

Another issue that contributes to the war on journalism is the fast-paced production of algorithmically generated content. In 2019, the Lansing State Journal became aware of a website called, The Lansing Sun. At first glance, the website looked like a typical news outlet, but a closer look revealed that the site was, in fact, part of a network of sites baring only the appearance of an actual community news outlet.

Additional reports expounded on Columbia University's Tow Center's reporting of "at least 450 websites in a network of local and business news organizations, each distributing thousands of algorithmically generated articles and a smaller number of reported stories."

By August of 2019, the network of pseudo news outlets had expanded to more than 1,200 websites. In fact, The New York Times recently revealed a former journalist by the name of Brian Timpone was behind the rise of the "pay-for-play" network which fuels the spread of right-wing propoganda.

"Employees at the Illinois Opportunity Project, a conservative advocacy group, requested dozens of articles about specific Republican politicians in Illinois. The group has paid $441,000 to Mr. Timpone's companies, according to the nonprofit's tax records." - The New York Times

According to one report, the ongoing scheme further perpetuates the war on "the entire concept of media literacy."

"The scheme takes advantage of how profit-chasing has blown up the entire concept of 'media literacy.' When your local paper's website is as larded up with spammy-looking ad crud as an illegal Monday Night Football stream, these spare sites cannot possibly look any less 'real.' And as newspapers die and people get more and more of their news from social media, fewer people recognize which news 'brands' are supposed to be 'trustworthy.'

As these types of platforms continue to rise, American journalism is at stake.

Rudy Giuliani tricked by Sasha Baron Cohen into having ‘indiscreet encounter’ with young actress

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was reportedly tricked by comedian Sasha Baron Cohen into having an "indiscreet encounter" with a young actress who was playing as a far-right journalist in his new "Borat" movie.

The Guardian, which has seen footage from Cohen's upcoming movie, reports that "the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat's daughter."

The actress in question, 24-year-old Bulgarian native Maria Bakalova, posted as a right-wing journalist interested in interviewing Giuliani to ask him about his work for President Donald Trump.

According to The Guardian, Bakalova after the interview asks Giuliani to come to her hotel room for a drink.

Little does the New York mayor know, however, that Bakalova's room has been rigged with cameras — and as soon as Giuliani starts apparently playing with himself, Cohen's character bursts into the room and tells him that she's only 15 years old and thus "too old for you."

Why Donald Trump Jr. could crush Republican senators — and take over the GOP from his father

When Donald Trump first announced, in 2015, that he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, no one in the GOP gave much thought to his son, Donald Trump, Jr. But the younger Trump has since become a prominent figure in the Trumpian version of the Republican Party. Journalist David Smith discusses the rise of Trump, Jr. in an article published in The Guardian this week, explaining why he has become so popular with a certain type of Republican voter — even though some conservatives view him as a glaring example of the GOP's intellectual decline.

Combative, snarky, belligerent and mean-spirited, Trump, Jr. has a lot more in common with his father than he does with his sister, White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump — who fancies herself as more of a conservative intellectual even though her critics view her as low-information. Ivanka Trump at least pretends to have a thoughtful tone when she is giving a speech or writing a Twitter post, whereas Trump, Jr. openly disdains intellectuals. And even though Trump, Jr. is a millionaire, MAGA voters with a fraction of his income adore his anti-elitist schtick.

"When Don Jr. and his father bash Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and (former Vice President Joe) Biden at campaign rallies, they generate louder reactions from the crowd than when they set out agenda items or achievements," Smith explains. "Don Jr.'s Twitter feed offers his 5.8 million followers little by way of policy but a torrent of Democrat-baiting and conspiracy theories."

Trump, Jr., Smith stresses, is "adept at throwing red meat to" his father's MAGA base, and Trumpians eat it up when he is giving a speech at a rally.

But Trump, Jr., now 42, has his share of critics on the right, including conservative activist/author Rick Wilson — a former Republican Party strategist who is supporting former Vice President Joe Biden in this year's presidential election and was a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a right-wing anti-Trump group. Interviewed by The Guardian, Wilson slammed Trump, Jr. as a perfect example of the modern-day GOP's intellectual bankruptcy but stressed that he knows how to rally his father's base because he "speaks fluent MAGA."

The 56-year-old Wilson explained, "Trumpism replaced conservatism as the ideological underpinning of the Republican Party, and because of that, they don't really fight about issues anymore. They fight about effect and whether or not they're winning these ephemeral social media battles — and in that world, the highest order goal is the 'owning of the libs.' It is a throwaway phrase substituting the validity or strength of an argument with a sort of self-satisfaction that you have been transgressive in some way towards liberals or progressives."

The Never Trumper continued, "Donald Trump, Jr. is a master of that. He is a post-Republican Republican. He is there only to engage in that performative dickery that is lib-owning in the Trump world. It is a political performance art to show your contempt for norms, institutions and education."

But even though Wilson has a very low opinion of the president's son, he predicts that Trump, Jr. will run for president in 2024 and believes that the GOP has sunk low enough to give him the nomination.

Wilson told The Guardian, "What I tell all these Republicans who think they're going to run in '24 for president — Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — is they're not going anywhere. They should stop right now. They're wasting their time and everyone else's, because the nominee in 2024 is going to be Donald Trump, Jr. He will come in, he will have his father's endorsement, and he will promise great feats of lib ownership."

‘A relativist dressed in originalist drag’: Catholic paper urges Senate to ‘reject’ Barrett in scathing op-ed

Republican supporters of Judge Amy Coney Barrett have been citing her Catholicism as one of the reasons why the U.S. Senate should confirm her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible. But Barrett is by no means universally loved among Catholics. And the National Catholic Reporter has slammed Barrett this week in a blistering staff editorial, asking the U.S. Senate to "reject" her nomination.

In the editorial, the Reporter's editorial board argues, "We believed it was wrong for the Senate to consider this nomination in the first place given the precedent set four years ago when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February (2016), nine months before the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even hold hearings on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, saying repeatedly that the American people should have a say in the matter. This year, when the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created a vacancy less than nine weeks before Election Day, McConnell has seen fit to ram through the nomination."

The editorial complains that "hypocrisy is rank" with the nomination and that it is impossible to see how "rushing this nomination will be good for our democracy."

Although the National Catholic Reporter says that Barrett isn't responsible for McConnell's actions, she has let herself be used as a "vehicle for his agenda and that of President Donald Trump."

The Reporter stresses, "She could have phoned the White House and asked not to be considered for the nomination. Barrett is only 48 years old, and there will be other vacancies."

The publication also takes Barrett to task for being so evasive when answering questions from Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others during her confirmation hearings.

"It is her bad faith in discussing the law that warrants disqualifying her," the editorial stresses. "About the evils of climate change, access to health care and voter intimidation, Americans deserve better than a relativist dressed in originalist drag."

Democrats called on to impeach Bill Barr — immediately

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, more than 40 progressive groups urged the House Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Bill Barr—not only to hold his accountable for numerous wrongdoings while in office, but also as a procedural tactic to keep the Senate from confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The groups, including United We Dream Action, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Sunrise Movement, listed multiple offenses by the attorney general which would warrant impeachment proceedings, including:

  • Misleading Congress regarding the Mueller investigation
  • Supporting—and reportedly personally ordering—the use of federal troops against protestors in support of racial justice
  • Prohibiting the referral of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint to Congress
  • Failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives

Beyond holding Barr to account, as a team of legal experts also demanded the Democrats do in a report last week, beginning impeachment proceedings before this Friday, Oct. 23, would throw a wrench into Senate Republicans' plans to confirm Coney Barrett ahead of Election Day as well as their intent to use the court system to President Donald Trump's benefit.

"The administration's successful efforts to delay to 2021 court proceedings that would vindicate Congress's rights and to stack the courts with unqualified Trump judges—and Trump justices—means that the window for your actions to matter is rapidly closing," wrote the groups. "In a lawless administration whose only principle is helping the president's friends and hurting his enemies, and in the face of widespread efforts by the administration to prevent the peaceful transition of power, the final line of accountability lies with you."

The letter was drafted amid widespread frustration from progressives regarding the Senate Democrats' handling of Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings last week.

Democrats, particularly Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—"lent legitimacy to an illegitimate process," according to Adam Jentleson, public affairs director for Democracy Forward.

Jentleson on Wednesday blamed the Democrats for new Morning Consult poll results showing that support for the right-wing judge's confirmation has risen by 18 points among Democratic voters.

As the hearings adjourned last week, Feinstein praised committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for his "leadership" during the proceedings. She also refused to join her more progressive colleagues in calling for the expansion of the Supreme Court and offered Coney Barrett a passive "nonsense line of questioning" regarding her views on Roe vs. Wade and other issues, according to Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon.

Now that the hearings are over, the groups wrote Tuesday, House Democrats must use every procedural tool available to them to delay a vote on Coney Barrett.

If the Democrats initiate the impeachment process before Friday, the Senate will either be obligated to hold a trial or change the Senate rules to amend how the chamber responds to articles of impeachment, the groups explained.

"Either outcome is desirable," the groups wrote, explaining that if McConnell changes the rules, it "would lay the groundwork for future reform of Senate procedure and the rebalancing and depoliticization of the Federal Judiciary. The House of Representatives needs a Senate that is capable of acting on the legislation it reports, and only reform of how the Senate operates can make that possible."

"The best time for the House of Representatives to consider an impeachment of Attorney General Barr was months ago," the organizations continued. "The second-best time is right now. If you wait, it may be too late for the House, for the Senate, for the Supreme Court, and for our democracy. Time is running out."

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

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

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McConnell admits he's blocking COVID relief — while the media blames Pelosi

For months, Congress has failed to pass a coronavirus relief bill, despite the widespread economic devastation and the fact that, under Donald Trump's malicious mismanagement, the pandemic has spiraled out of control, infecting 8.25 million people and killing more than 220,000, as of Wednesday morning.

The mainstream media has firmly decided who they blame for the lack of a bill: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats who control the lower house of Congress. Blaming Democrats has been the dominant press narrative, even though it's been obvious from the get-go that Republicans don't want more relief legislation.

Now we have concrete proof that Republicans are to blame: Late Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "has warned the White House not to strike an agreement," on the grounds that any new deal struck with Pelosi and the Democrats and "could disrupt the Senate's plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week."

To anyone unburdened by the delusion that "balance" is a more important journalistic principle than truth, it was always obvious that Republicans were the reason no coronavirus bill was getting passed. For one thing, House Democrats already passed a robust relief bill in May, which Senate Republicans have basically ignored while avoiding any substantive efforts at negotiating a bill that can pass both houses. For another thing, there are obvious ideological differences between Democrats, where even the party's "moderate" wing supports increased social spending, and Republicans, whose only real goal is moving as much wealth as possible from the hands of working people to the rich.

Even setting common sense aside, there's plenty of concrete evidence that McConnell had no intention of passing a bill to stimulate the economy and control the pandemic. When he was asked in July if such a bill was going to pass, he laughed contemptuously. Facing down an August deadline when unemployment benefits from previous coronavirus relief legislation were set to expire, McConnell chose to adjourn the Senate instead of working on a replacement bill. When Trump started getting sweaty and worried this month, believing he needed such a bill to have a chance at re-election, McConnell torpedoed the idea yet again.

McConnell's behavior is not mysterious. For one thing, he's an ideologue who actively opposes any government spending that might reduce the vast wealth inequalities that plague our nation. Indeed, McConnell's main goal these days is installing Barrett on the Supreme Court — where she will arguably be the most reliably right-wing vote, or second only to Justice Clarence Thomas — in time for her to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, Trump's erratic behavior — angrily rejecting a bill and then desperately tweeting his longing for one hours later — strongly suggests that the president is torn between his hopes that such a bill can save his fading hopes of re-election and pressure from Republican senators not to pass one.

Nor does McConnell seem worried about the electoral consequences to Republicans of a collapsing economy. For one thing, he likely thinks that Trump will lose in November, and that he can do nothing to save the president from his downward spiral. So he's setting up a potential Joe Biden presidency to fail by refusing economic relief now. For another thing, McConnell's multi-year strategy of capturing the courts, voter suppression and gerrymandering is paying off. He has good reason to believe that Republican control of government will not be seriously imperiled by democratic accountability, even if Democrats win both the Senate and the White House this time around.

Despite all this, mainstream media has been desperate to blame the Democrats for a lack of a bill. As Media Matters has documented, CNN's coverage has been tilted for months toward suggestions that Democrats are the ones blocking new relief legislation. Shows like "Meet the Press" on NBC and "This Week" on ABC have uncritically advanced the narrative that Democrats are deliberately tanking the relief bill to damage Trump, even though Democrats are the ones who are actively negotiating with the White House while Senate Republicans twiddle their thumbs.

Things came to a head last week when Pelosi lashed out at CNN's Wolf Blitzer after Blitzer said that Americans were "waiting in food lines" and proceeded to blame Pelosi, rather than Republicans, for the lack of a bill.

Pelosi responded by saying, "I don't know if you're always an apologist — and many of your colleagues — for the Republican position" and followed up by telling Blitzer, "You really don't know what you're talking about."

That response set off a predictable round of sexist finger-wagging for Pelosi's supposedly out-of-control behavior — the male-dominated media really hates it when women talk back — but whoops, it turns out she was right. Blitzer was carrying water for sleazy Republicans who want to do nothing, while pretending the entire situation is Democrats' fault. McConnell is eagerly monkey-wrenching any effort to pass a new bill, and doing so while actively trying to seat a Supreme Court justice he hopes will destroy the Affordable Care Act, further plunging the American economy into chaos and causing the pandemic to get even worse.

Why on earth is the media so devoted to blaming Democrats, when Republicans are clearly the problem here? Part of it, as the response to the Blitzer/Pelosi exchange shows, is sexism. Pelosi is the lone female leader in Capitol Hill, and despite some #MeToo purges, there are still a lot of sexist men in control of the media and eager to find excuses to pin the blame for any and all problems on women.

But mostly, the issue is the plain old "both sides" fallacy, the one that leads reporters to believe that in the interest of "balance" they must pretend that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans, even if the facts show the opposite.

Over the past year, Republicans have been especially repulsive, covering for Trump's crimes that led to his impeachment and making excuses for his refusal to deal with a pandemic that's laying waste to the country. Far too many journalists are bending over backward to find some terrible thing they can say about Democrats in the name of "balance," and they've landed on these empty accusations about a stimulus bill.

Moreover, deliberately destroying the economy in order to undermine a sitting president of the opposition party is the sort of thing Republicans would do — and indeed have done. Under the false but stalwart media belief that "both sides" are equally bad, therefore, the assumption has reigned that Democrats are doing the same that, even though there's no real evidence for that. On the contrary, it's much likelier story that McConnell knows Biden is likely to be president soon, so he's pre-emptively undermining the economy to damage his administration in advance.

The reveal that it was Republicans who were the bad guys all along is unlikely to change the media's insistence on covering national politics through a "both sides" lens. The fear of getting angry tweets from conservatives about "bias" will apparently never stop mattering more than the actual truth. But it's just possible this report will make it a little harder for the Wolf Blitzers of the world to wax sentimental about the millions of Americans thrust into poverty while pretending that this is somehow Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats' fault.

House GOP vows to investigate Biden for campaigning on Amtrak

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden earlier this month took an Amtrak train ride to campaign in key Rust Belt states — and Republicans are vowing to get to the bottom of it.

Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday sent a letter to Amtrak CEO William Flynn asking him for information on Biden's train trips, which they implied without evidence caused delays in the delivery of needed medical equipment during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"We are concerned that the Biden campaign's use of Amtrak's charter train redirected Amtrak's scarce resources during a time of record losses, employee layoffs, and service cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic," the Republicans wrote. "We question whether the Biden campaign's use of Amtrak caused delays of freight trains at a time when supplies are crucial."

The Republicans then requested that Flynn provide the total cost to Amtrak of hosting the Biden campaign, and also "whether the Biden campaign's charter train delayed any Amtrak trains or disrupted any Amtrak services."

The GOP lawmakers also requested "a written response on how the Biden campaign charter train remained in compliance with Amtrak guidance and procedures on COVID-19."

Read the whole letter here (PDF).

NC Sons of Confederate Veterans division faces investigation over illegal campaign donations to GOP candidates

An investigation into the financial dealings of a pseudo pro-Republican political action committee sheds light on how right-wing conservatives are circumventing campaign contribution laws in an effort to fund the candidates they want in office.

According to Indy Week, the State Board of Elections has zeroed in on the North Carolina division of Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc. (SCV). The organization is at the center of an ongoing investigation which spawned from a 2019 email sent by Bill Starnes.

In an email to his Confederate colleagues, Starnes wrote, "We have men there. We can immediately provide them with funds to get the right folks in office." He also encouraged members of the organization to become actively involved in the political movement that aligns with their beliefs.

For more than a decade, the SCV has had the benefit of being classified under the 501(c)(3) status with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Since the organization is classified as a charitable organization, they have been able to dodge federal, local, or property taxes that for-profit businesses are typically faced with.

However, there is just one catch: the IRS prohibits such organizations from "directly or indirectly participating in" political campaigns, which is why Starnes and the organization are being investigated.

The organization reportedly began making sizable donations to the NC Heritage PAC, a pro-Republican fundraising platform that Starnes and other N.C. SCV leaders had been spearheading for years. With the donation approach the PAC has taken, they've managed to funnel campaign funds to Republican candidates while making it seem as if the SCV has no ties to the money.

In a nutshell, financial contributions were made to Republican candidates "in the name of another," which classifies as a Class II misdemeanor, according to John Wallace, former Assistant Attorney General in the N.C. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division.

"The Heritage PAC took a new funding approach that dodged any mention of the N.C. SCV in its future disclosures: gathering mass donations from within the statewide SCV chapter, getting hundreds of mostly-unwitting members to claim slices of the money, and pumping each slice into the Heritage PAC as an individual contribution, disconnected from the SCV.

The strategy is akin to one faucet pumping a single stream of water into, say, 150 different filters that all lead into the same cup. In this case, the faucet water is the N.C. SCV's money, the filters are N.C. SCV members laundering the money, and the all-encompassing cup beneath them is the Heritage PAC." - Indy Week

The group's future remains uncertain due to the ongoing investigation.

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