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John Oliver breaks down how Dems can bring the pain to Mitch McConnell — even if he wins re-election

"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver returned to his Sunday show, fresh off of an Emmy win, to explain how the United States got so incredibly f*cked up.

Oliver began by remembering Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and noting that her seat will be taken over by a far-right conservative justice who will unmake healthcare, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ rights and more things Americans have indicated they want.

He played a clip of Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) claiming that America is a "center-right" country, which Oliver called outright "bullsh*t." Not only do Americans overwhelming support reproductive freedom, they also support LGBTQ equality. At the same time, Americans also believe, overwhelmingly, that President Donald Trump shouldn't be allowed to appoint the next justice.

After walking through the corrupt ways America got to this point, namely Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), he suggested major ideas required for bringing down this disparity in the United States that gives the most amount of power to small, less populous states.

However, "as easy and as fun as it is to blame Mitch McConnell and his mule piss for everything, it is a mistake to focus just on the people involved here because there is a whole system underneath them that has enabled them to do what they have done," said Oliver.

After blaming Mitch McConnell as one of the ways we got to where we are, Oliver then blamed the undemocratic systems that still exist in the United States. Namely, Oliver called out Republicans for claiming that because they hold the Senate majority, it means they have a "mandate" to do whatever they want. The problem with that logic is that neither the Senate nor the presidency reflects the so-called "will of the people."

"First, take the White House," said Oliver. "A Democrat has won the national popular vote in four out of the last five elections. But we've spent 12 of the last 20 years with a Republican in office. And that is because the Electoral College, with its winner-take-all approach of the states, can distort the will of the majority. On top of which, it gives disproportionate power to less populous states, which tend to be rural and more conservative. Something that is even more pronounced in the Senate."

He explained that 15 states represent 38 million people, and they have 30 American Senators. California has a population of about 40 million people, but they still only get two senators. Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have a population of about 4 million Americans, the same of Rhode Island, Montana, and Wyoming.

The Senate gives the average black Americans only 75 percent as much representation as white Americans in a government that purports to be "by and for the people." The average Hispanic American only gets about 55 percent as much representation as whites in the U.S. Talk about separate but equal.

So, when Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, "a president who lost the popular vote will have picked the quarter of the federal judiciary and one-third of the supreme Supreme Court. And his choice will be rubber-stamped by a Senate-Republican majority that represents 15 million fewer people than the Democratic minority."

Oliver walked through what Democrats can and should do if they take power in 2020. It's time for fast and sweeping change, and they can't wait around for "bipartisan" buy-in because they'll never get it. If we truly want America to be a representative democracy, we have to give representation to every American and ensure they're treated equally. That doesn't exist now, but if Democrats win, it could.

And now, here's a poem Oliver wrote about Ted Cruz:

"I do not like that man, Ted Cruz.
I do not like his backward views.
I do not like his stupid suits.
I do not like his cowboy boots.
I do not like him when he sneezes.
I do not like him eating cheeses.
I hate to see his dumb face smirkin'
Because his beard looks like a merkin."

See the video below:

The Supreme Court: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

news & politics

Here's the real reason Trump is being so open about his plot to steal the election

Donald Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses in November should alarm every American. "You know that I have been complaining very strongly about the ballots,” he said on Wednesday. “Get rid of the ballots and you'll have a very peaceful — there won't be a transfer frankly. There'll be a continuation.” It was Stalin-esque.

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election '20

Ralph Nader offers practical advice for casting informed votes

Here is some practical advice for casting informed votes to improve the livelihoods of all Americans where they live, work, and raise their children and also to lessen their anxiety, dread, and fear.

Democratic voters should demand that the Democratic Party candidates pledge to vote to (1) raise the long frozen, federal minimum wage of $7.25 to a living wage; (2) support more efficient full Medicare for All (with free choice of doctors and hospitals and no cruel, irritating networks); (3) repeal Trump's two trillion dollar tax cut, with additional loopholes for the rich, and huge corporate subsidies and giveaways; and to use the money to upgrade and rebuild the job-rich public works sector as well as the infrastructure in every community in the country – both in the red and blue states; (4) crack down, with law and order, on the corporate crimewave that bleeds consumers out of trillions of dollars a year; (5) repeal anti-labor laws to facilitate empowering tens of millions of workers who want to join unions to defend their economic and safety interests; and (6) accelerate the transition to a solar-based economy with better air, water, greater neighborhood self-reliance, and to reduce the devastating climate disruption from the burning of fossil fuels.

Democratic candidates will benefit by embracing such a covenant. Moreover, candidates who repeat the planks of this covenant incessantly and authentically in political communications and grassroots mobilizations will be seen as caring for the people in their daily lives and struggles in all the states of our union.

This covenant can be contrasted with the offerings of the Republican Party, which failed to adopt a new platform for 2020. Instead, the Republican National Committee (RNC) said, "The RNC enthusiastically supports President Trump and continues to reject the policy positions of the Obama-Biden Administration, as well as those espoused by the Democratic National Committee today…" The RNC largely supports turning the government over to Big Business and further entrenching Wall Street rule over Main Street.

The contrast also illustrates the Republican Party's callous indifference to the immediate desperate needs of millions of Americans. Senate tyrant Mitch McConnell is blocking the House-passed six-month renewal of the much needed $600 a week Covid-19-driven assistance for families nationwide. This and other crucial aid to states and localities is necessary to make schools safer and to provide protective equipment and other assistance to patients in hospitals and clinics, and to nursing home residents.

Monopolist Mitch is shafting his own state of Kentucky while hypocritically seeking the people's votes for his re-election to extend his long and evil tenure in the Senate, and his more recent total toadying for Trump.

Trump and his "gangster regime" (conservative columnist George Will's words) have failed to deliver on Trump's phony 2016 campaign promises on health care, clean air and water, and creating millions of good-paying jobs. And, with Mitch McConnell's help, Trump has jeopardized public health, soiled the environment, and abandoned workers to global corporations.

Now a few words for voters inclined to support dictator Donald Trump. You surely admit Trump did not deliver for you. How long can you wait? Now, Trump is gathering large crowds of supporters who, shoulder-to-shoulder and mostly without masks, listen to him scoff at the Covid-19 pandemic as he and they flaunt mask requirements in violation of state and local laws. When asked about the safety of these events, Trump ignores public safety and says that he is on the stage and safely far away from the crowd. At least dangerous Donald is not passing out little cups of bleach.

Donald Trump is the hyper-super spreader of the deadly Covid-19 virus and he is endangering the tens of thousands of people attending his rallies. Ask your physician about this 'clear and present danger' to public health and life.

Now, about the reasons you voted for devious Donald in 2016 other than the "anybody but Hillary" rationale. Many Trump voters want anti-choice judges. (You may not recall, for years, Trump was pro-choice.) But the hundreds of federal judges nominated by Trump are also clenched-teeth corporatists, who rule for corporations when the conflicts involve the lives of workers, consumers, and the environment. They are dyed-in-the-wool boosters of expanding big business power and control over you. These extremist judges also support big foreign and domestic corporations getting lavish tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies.

Some people like Trump's talk about "de-regulation," getting big government off your back. In reality, Trump is taking the federal cops off the backs of corporate crooks and de-funding the corporate crime police. This year Trump brazenly said he is stopping or limiting enforcement of the laws designed to protect consumers from companies that sell you and your children hazardous products, pollute your air and water, defraud you in the marketplace, and fail to recall your defective cars/trucks.

Trump even announced in March that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would suspend or postpone inspection of imports from abroad, including the bulk of the medicines that Trump still allows to be imported from China. One would think some serious hoodwinking or just plain lying is going on here.

Well, you might say – at least Trump cut taxes. Come-on, the vast benefits of his tax cuts went to the rich and big corporations. All those bonanzas could have been used to fix your roads, bridges, mass transits, schools, clinics, and drinking water systems. Egomaniac Trump doesn't care about you; for him, it's about using the government to enrich himself and his family members and to bail out his failing hotels and golf courses.

Maybe you still like Trump because he says he is against immigrants "invading" our country. Trump, however, had no problem illegally hiring undocumented workers for his golf course and his residences (and earlier for his construction projects in New York), until he was exposed. Trump has no concern for the exploited foreign workers in the meatpacking, poultry processing, and agribusiness companies owned by his campaign-contributing buddies.

Before you cast your ballot, let's toast your informed self-respect as clear-minded voters who can see an immoral, law-breaking, greedy Trump regime full of plutocrats who couldn't care less about America and the people they've exploited.


Trump made a promise he never intended to keep: 'There was no plan'

Bob Kemper recalls the hope Donald Trump intentionally stirred in 2016 by pledging to revive manufacturing and keep factories busy producing steel, aluminum and other materials for a major infrastructure overhaul.

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Netflix stands by decision to adapt novel written by supporter of China's Uyghur persecution

Netflix has stood by a decision to adapt a sci-fi novel written by an author who made disparaging remarks about China's Uyghur Muslim minority.The entertainment service stood by its decision in a letter addressed to Republican senators who asked it to reconsider adapting Liu Cixin's 'The Three Body Problem' for home streaming. Liu sparked controversy when he voiced support for China's detention of over a million Uyghur Muslims in so-called reeducation camps."Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks?" Liu said in an interview with theNew ...


Here's the surprising element ancient microbial life used to thrive in a world without oxygen

Ancient microbial life used arsenic to thrive in a world without oxygen

Pieter Visscher, University of Connecticut; Brendan Paul Burns, UNSW, and Kimberley L. Gallagher, Quinnipiac University

Billions of years ago, life on Earth was mostly just large slimy mats of microbes living in shallow water. Sometimes, these microbial communities made carbonate minerals that over many years cemented together to become layered limestone rocks called stromatolites. They are the oldest evidence of life on Earth. But the fossils don't tell researchers the details of how they formed.

Today, most life is supported by oxygen. But these microbial mats existed for a billion years before oxygen was present in the atmosphere. So what did life use instead?

Our team of geologists, physicists and biologists had found hints in fossilized stromatolites that arsenic was the chemical of choice for ancient photosynthesis and respiration. But modern-day versions of these microbial communities still live on Earth today. Perhaps one of these used arsenic and could offer proof for our theory?

So we joined a surveying expedition of Chilean and Argentinian scientists to look for living stromatolites in the extreme conditions of the High Andes. In a small stream deep in the Atacama Desert, we found a big surprise. The bottom of the channel was bright purple and made of stromatolite-building microbial mats that thrive in the complete absence of oxygen. Just as the clues we'd found in ancient fossils suggested, these mats use two different forms of arsenic to perform photosynthesis and respiration. Our discovery offers the strongest evidence yet for how the oldest life on Earth survived in a pre-oxygen world.

Turning sunlight into energy

For the last 2.4 billion years, photosynthetic organisms like plants and blue-green cyanobacteria have used sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to make oxygen and organic matter. In doing this, they turn energy from the Sun into energy to be used by life. Other organisms breathe in oxygen as they digest organic carbon, gaining energy for their respiration in the process.

Microbes in the ancient world also captured energy from sunlight, but their primitive machinery could not make oxygen from water or use oxygen for respiration. They needed another chemical to do this.

From a biochemical perspective, there are only a few possible candidates: iron, sulfur, hydrogen or arsenic. A lack of evidence in the fossil record and minuscule amounts of some of these chemicals in the primordial soup suggests neither iron, sulfur nor hydrogen would be likely candidates for the earliest form of photosynthesis. That leaves arsenic.

In 2014, our team found the first clue that stromatolites were produced by arsenic-assisted photosynthesis and respiration. We collected pieces of 2.72-billion-year-old stromatolites from the pre-oxygen world by drilling into an ancient reefs in the Outback of Australia. We then took these samples to France and cut them into thin slivers. By measuring the X-rays that came off these samples when we bombarded them with photons, we made a map of the chemical elements in the sample. If two kinds of arsenic are present in the map, then it is a sign that life was using arsenic for photosynthesis and respiration. In these relics of ancient life we found lots of both forms of arsenic, but not iron or sulfur.

This was tantalizing, but we wanted more proof: a modern analog to help prove our arsenic theory. No researchers had ever found a microbial mat community living in a place completely free of oxygen, but if we found one, it could help explain how the first stromatolites formed when our planet's oceans and atmosphere were lacking oxygen.

Modern microbes, ancient analogs

The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place on Earth, flanked by volcanoes and exposed to extremely high UV radiation. It's not too different from how the Earth looked 3 billion years ago and not exactly supportive of life as we know it. Here – with the help of a team that spanned four continents and seven countries – we found what we were looking for.

Or destination was Laguna La Brava, a very salty shallow lake deep into the harsh desert. A shallow stream, fed by a volcanic groundwater spring, led into the lake. The streambed was a unique, deep purple color. The color came from a microbial mat, thriving quite happily in waters that contained unusually high amounts of arsenic, sulfur and lithium, but missing one important element – oxygen.

Could these slimy purple blobs offer answers to an ancient question?

We cut a piece of the mat and looked for evidence of minerals. A drop of acid made the minerals fizz – carbonates! – this microbe community was forming stromatolites. So our team went to work, camping out at the site for days at a time.

We measured the chemistry of the water and the mat with our field equipment during day and night, summer and winter. Not once did we find oxygen, and back in the laboratory we confirmed that sulfur and arsenic were abundant. Looking through the microscope, we saw purple photosynthetic bacteria, but oxygen-producing cyanobacteria were eerily absent. We had also collected DNA samples from the mat and found genes for arsenic metabolism.

In the lab, we mixed up microbes from the mat, added arsenic and exposed the mix to sunlight. Photosynthesis was happening. The microbes used both arsenic and sulfur, but preferred the arsenic. When we added a minuscule amount of organic matter, a different arsenic compound was used for respiration and preferred over sulfur.

[You're too busy to read everything. We get it. That's why we've got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]

All that was left was to show that the two types of arsenic could be detected in the modern stromatolites. We went back to France, and using an X-ray emission technique made chemical maps from the Chilean samples. Every experiment we performed supported the presence of a vigorous arsenic cycle in the absence of oxygen in this unique modern stromatolite. This validates, beyond doubt, the idea that the fossil Australian samples that we studied in 2014 held evidence of an active arsenic cycle in deep time on our young planet.

Answers on Earth, leads for Mars

The harsh conditions of the Atacama are so similar to Martian and early Earth environments that NASA scientists and astrobiologists turn to the Atacama to answer questions about how life began on our planet, and how it might start elsewhere. The arsenic-cycling mats we discovered at Laguna La Brava offer strong clues to some of the most fundamental questions about life.

On board the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover that is currently hurtling through space is an instrument that can observe elements using the exact same process we used to make our element maps. Perhaps it will discover that arsenic is abundant in layered rocks on Mars, suggesting that life on Mars also used arsenic. For over a billion years, it did so on Earth. Under the harshest conditions life finds a way, and it is that way we are trying to understand.The Conversation

Pieter Visscher, Professor of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut; Brendan Paul Burns, Senior Lecturer, UNSW, and Kimberley L. Gallagher, Adjunct Professor of Chemistry, Quinnipiac University

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


Barr to be honored for ‘Christlike behavior’ with award from right wing Catholic group with strong ties to Trump

Attorney General Bill Barr will be honored for his “Christlike behavior” at Wednesday’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, according to Roman Catholic Sister, author, and anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean.

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human rights

Reporters from a conservative outlet get arrested at Louisville protests

Two reporters from the conservative outlet The Daily Caller were arrested Wednesday night while reporting on the protests and unrest Louisville, Kentucky, over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. The reporters were not, from all appearances, doing anything other than their jobs.

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more news

Lincoln Project co-founder exposes Trump’s greatest weakness — and it will haunt him at Tuesday’s debate

In a candid interview for the Daily Beast's "New Abnormal" podcast, Lincoln Project co-founder Mike Madrid stated that Donald Trump will flounder about on stage on Tuesday night when he debates Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

With both Madrid and podcast host Rick Wilson laughing uproariously at the idea that the president would be going through pre-debate prep, Madrid said the president's greatest weakness — uncertainty — would be on full display on Tuesday.

Regarding Trump readying himself for the debate, Madrid said, "Look, I'm sure they'll schedule it, run a few things by him and he won't pay attention."

"Here's what I think Trump's biggest weakness is in the debates," He continued. "The fact that you're not going to have a live audience is really going to destabilize him. He doesn't need a big one, he just needs a handful of people who will give some sort of group cackling or group response. Without that, that is where Trump is at his worst."

"Recall in the past month or so when he did these one-on-one interviews with journalists," he continued. "He has literally no gauge when he is not getting some sort of feedback from others over whether he is going off the rails or whether what he is saying is smart or stupid or coherent or whatever it is."

"He literally needs the feedback and the larger the crowd, the more comfortable he is with his P.T. Barnum persona," Madrid added. "Without that he's going to be wandering around like a goat in the wilderness."

You can listen here:

Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 — and nothing in 10 of the last 15 years: NYT bombshell

Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, the same year he told his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, during a presidential debate not paying taxes "makes me smart."

The New York Times reported the bombshell news Sunday evening, adding that in 2017 Trump against paid just $750.

"He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made," the Times adds, noting it has obtained the president's tax returns for the past two decades.

Today, Trump's "finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million."

The Times suggests Trump appears to be a con man.

"The tax returns that Mr. Trump has long fought to keep private tell a story fundamentally different from the one he has sold to the American public. His reports to the I.R.S. portray a businessman who takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year yet racks up chronic losses that he aggressively employs to avoid paying taxes. Now, with his financial challenges mounting, the records show that he depends more and more on making money from businesses that put him in potential and often direct conflict of interest with his job as president."

Read the entire report at The New York Times.

Trump's top 10 tricks: Here's a useful guide to have on hand as the presidential debates get underway

Ready for even more Trumpian disinformation?

Cornered by a continuing pandemic, teetering economy and racial strife, President Houdini has been resorting to rhetorical tricks honed over a lifetime to escape political calamity. One way to prepare for this Tuesday's first debate and his Fall barrage is to reveal Trump's "magic" beforehand so that viewers and voters can be their own BS Detector when he next tries to sliver away from lying about Covid-19 or his fascistic plans to overthrow the election.

1. Cherry-picking -- Black Swans.

This trick is based on seeing a black swan and then pretending all swans are black.

So when millions of Black Lives Matter protesters peacefully march against police brutality, Trump will cite one who years ago allegedly called cops "pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon" to imply that all are looters and anarchists. And when a Republican US Attorney in Pennsylvania this week told AG Barr that his office had found nine discarded Trump ballots (later changed to seven), the White House immediately played it up to imply that this was organized mail-in ballot fraud (though it was quickly shown to be an isolated, local administrative error, not a Democratic conspiracy).

The idea is to make the aberrational appear typical. Would anyone judge Michael Jordan's career based on a reel of three missed clutch shots rather than his career stats?

2. Adjectives and Assertions.

Since it's hard to enact legislation, why not instead just predict great or awful events since hard to prove the contrary. Or to paraphrase Nike, "Just Say It."

Hence "next year [the economy] will be the best ever." This summer Trump began declaring that Democrats would "destroy the suburbs." How? Presumably by prohibiting segregated public housing, stating that this time the 2018 "caravan" from Latin America might directly settle in White Plains, New York.

The 'tell' here his frequent refrain, "believe me!"

3. The Bully's Pulpit.

Humorist Larry Wilmore joked that Trump was indeed our Roosevelt since "the only thing Trump has is fear itself."

Politico reported that a third of his first 2000 president tweets disparaged people, totaling a hard-to-believe 598 people by the end of 2018. Here he's channeling the Italian philosopher and politician who said five centuries ago, "it's better to be feared than loved."

Like Machiavelli's princes, Trump loves being feared. And since a president's bullying can do real reputational damage, this thuggish tactic often produces the desired effect of anticipatory obedience by those fearing massive retaliation. That helps explain why 52 of 53 Senate Republicans during his Impeachment trial, faced with his open-and-shut political extortion of Ukraine, concluded that what happened didn't happen.

4. Rhetorical Questions.

This is a low-grade but popular sleight-of-hand -- burying a disrupted premise in the form of a question in order to mislead listeners to a false conclusion. "What do you have to lose?", he would repeatedly ask Black audiences in the 2016 campaign (now they know). And "why would" Putin interfere in that election? (Duh.)

5. Upside-downism.

Trump repeatedly accuses others of his own misconduct in order to confuse "low education voters" (his phrase). Recall how he indignantly declared that Democrats are the real "liars" who are trying to "rig the election" while Biden's the one fomenting violence and Harris undermining science. When Nancy Pelosi said that Trump was trying to "Make America White Again," he accused her of racism because in Trumpland even talking about race is racism.

6. Figures Don't Lie but Liars Figure.

Trump reverses the scientific method: facts don't lead to conclusions but rather conclusions lead to "facts", which is otherwise known as confirmation bias. This trick has a long history, from the 1920 Scopes Monkey trial and Lysenko-ism in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Today's version of Creationism is his river of obvious lies about Covid-19, Climate, Crime and Race, as when a whistle-blower just charged that DHS ordered staff to underplay violence by white nationalists and Russian campaign interference.

In his acceptance screech this past August, for example, he bragged how his administration "had created" nine million new jobs, which sounds good until you realize that it followed three months where the economy lost 20 million jobs.

7. Rooster-Taking-Credit-for-the-Dawn.

With vanishingly few positive accomplishments, Trump will keep claiming credit for the good work of others while shunning any responsibility for his own wrongdoing.

He's said or tweeted over 350 times a version of -- 'we have the greatest economy in our history.' Which a) isn't true since his six immediate predecessors all had better jobs and GDP numbers and b) it was Obama who turned Bush's Great Recession into seven years of steady growth, which Trump has merely coasted on, albeit at a slower pace.

This trick veered into parody when he claimed that there were no passenger airline fatalities in his first year as president. True... although there had also been none for the prior seven years. He abandoned this particular boast after Boeing's 737 Max planes twice crashed because of failures by Boeing and the FAA.

8. Both-sidesism.

Whenever criticized, he and his team search for some arguably equivalent offence in history to exonerate him. Recall how he would cite Monica Lewinsky to wave off the few dozen women accusing him of sexual abuse and famously declare there were "fine people" on both sides of that Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville.

This maneuver can backfire. After flailing Hunter Biden's business work during the Obama-Biden administration, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper about Trump's sons traveling the world making deals at taxpayer expense. Replied Mnuchin, "I don't want to get into those details."

9. The Hyperbolic.

The man exaggerates exaggerations. Trump tries to explain away this repeated trick as "bravado...truthful hyperbole." Actually -- see "beautiful coal" -- it's untruthful hyperbole. So he announced that there would have been a nuclear war with North Korea if he hadn't been elected in 2016 and he is the world's leading expert on "drones, nuclear weapons, technology, banks…[plus another 30 specialized categories]."

Speaking of Kim, listen carefully and you'll hear Trump sound like the North Korean dictator who claimed to have shot five holes-in-one playing his first round of golf.

10. The Lyin' King. The problem is not merely that Trump, like all presidents, has at times lied, fibbed and cut-corners but that he nearly always does. His go-to response to any public criticism is "fake news," even as he deploys what he deplores.

It's hard to arrive at any other conclusion after Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler has documented (so far) 20,000+ lies or falsehoods from his mouth -- or 22 a day for the past year, including when he pretends that prosecuted aides were invariably minor figures to him (Manafort? Cohen? Stone? Bannon? Flynn?). His lava of lies and disinformation reflects a comment attributed to Katherine the Great, "the first lie wins."

Off camera, Trump knows exactly what he's doing. After grossly puffing up his TV ratings, he then explained to Billy Bush, of Access Hollywood fame, "Billy, look, you just tell them and they believe it. That's it. They just do."

A different approach was taken by our 32d president. FDR speech writer Robert Sherwood, in his book Roosevelt and Hopkins, wrote that "the New York Times can make mistakes but the President of the United States must not make mistakes. After 1940, Isador Lubkin, the Commissioner of Labor Statistics, was constantly available and incalculably invaluable to Roosevelt in checking every decimal point."

Now we're about to find out whether, contrary to everything our parents told us, dishonesty is the best policy. Or whether truth still matters. For without truth there can't be trust and without trust civilization can fracture and collapse.

Why Trump's Supreme Court nominee believes all Civil Rights legislation is 'illegitimate'

Amy Coney Barrett regards herself as an "originalist," that is, someone who believes that all legal decisions must be based on the "original understanding" of the Constitution. This is often put forward as a straightforward, consistent lens through which law can be viewed, rather than trying to put into context little things like shifting views on race and gender equality. However, originalism is further complicated by a split between groups focused on "intent" and those focused on "meaning." And if you think those are the same things … well, you're just wrong. Intentionalists believe the law is determined by what the original authors of the Constitution intended when they took quill to parchment. Those focused on meaning insist that they support the "public meaning" of the words at the time they were written. People who, like Barrett, belong to the later group, insist that their interpretation is more consistent.

In fact, both approaches require jurists to peer into the minds of 18th-century Americans, interpreting words, attitudes, and relationships that have shifted enormously over two and a half centuries. In short, any claim that the nation can be properly governed by divining the inner monologue of wig-wearing slaveholders not only makes about as much sense as using the plans for a Conestoga wagon as the repair manual on the Space Shuttle, it's also just plain bullshit.

But there's something even more odd about how conservatives like Barrett apply originalism. Because they seem to believe that the "original meaning" of every word and phrase just happens to be a conservative meaning. And where they can't find the meaning that they want, these dedicated preservationists have a second approach … throw it out. Throw it all out. Like the entire 14th Amendment.

The 13th Amendment may have abolished slavery when it was ratified in 1865, but it took the14th and 15th Amendments to define what the end of slavery really meant in terms of law. After all, slavery is more than just forced labor. If slavery "ended" but some people still were denied equal protection, equal rights, and equal representation, was slavery really over? It took until 1868 for the 14th Amendment, upholding citizenship rights and equal protection, to be ratified. It wasn't until 1870 that the 15th Amendment extended this to voting rights.

As far as the 14th Amendment goes, it includes what are now referred to as the Citizenship Clause, the Privileges Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause. In short, it says that everyone born in the United States is a full citizen, with the full rights due to a citizen, and can't be deprived of those rights unless they're given due process of law. All of this makes the 14th Amendment integral to questions of citizenship, and foundational for Civil Rights legislation. It's such an important amendment, that legal scholars have called it "the second Constitution" for its attempts to tear out the elements of slavery built into the original document. Among other things, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 rests entirely on the authority granted to Congress by the 14th Amendment.

For clarity, here's Section 1 of the 14th Amendment.

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

That's not just pretty straightforward, it's a pretty undeniable good. So how did it come to be that when Barrett writes about this text, she mentions it in this way.

"Congress has to decide whether to … rely on the power conferred by the possibly illegitimate Fourteenth Amendment." Or … "The originalist legislator might have to face questions … such as the legitimacy of the Fourteenth Amendment."

How did originalists, the people who are supposed to be following the text as written, come to doubt the legitimacy of a whole chunk of that text? Specifically, how did they come to X-out the part of the Constitution that ensures rights are extended to people of color and children of immigrants?

Back in 2011, The Atlantic took a look at this question and how conservative Republicans became "14th Amendment deniers." For some Republicans, the 14th Amendment was viewed as being only intended to help those who had been directly enslaved, and not applicable to future generations. This view has become common in right-wing media, and sorry as that sounds, it's not even the most radical view.

The even uglier approach has been to outright challenge the validity of 14th Amendment because members of Confederate states were not seated in Congress when the amendment was proposed just after the end of the Civil War. Because of this, say the deniers, the Congress itself was illegitimate, and so anything it recommended—including the 14th and 15th Amendments—are illegitimate.

This is not even worthy of being called a "myth." There is not the least bit of justification under law to support this position. There never has been. However, this claim has become deeply embedded in the whole Lost Cause, South Shall Rise Again, Back to the Cotton Fields culture of conservatives—especially Southern conservatives. And just like Confederate statues, this mythology has found admirers in the modern Republican Party.

How far has it gone in the past? Far enough that in 1957, Georgia's state legislature passed a resolution titled "A memorial to Congress of the United States of America urging them to enact such legislation as they may deem fit to declare that the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States were never validly adopted and that they are null and void and of no effect." The reason that Georgia did this in 1957 was simple—it wanted to uphold segregation, and it rightfully understood that the 14th Amendment made that position impossible.

To be absolutely clear, there is nothing in textual originalism that requires adherents to view the 14th or 15th Amendments as any less legitimate than any other additions to the original document. The idea of the "illegitimate 14th Amendment" is simply not a serious legal argument. It is white supremacist mythology that has gained supporters within the Republican Party specifically because it presents the basis by which all Civil Rights legislation can be undone.

That Barrett brings up questions of the 14th Amendment being legitimate in her writings with considerable frequency and apparent support should be an absolute bullhorn to the nation that she believes all Civil Rights legislation to rest on thin air. While Barrett has listed Brown vs. Board of Education among those Court decisions she regards as "super-precedents," she voted in 2017 to refuse a re-hear a case in which a company segregated employees by race to different locations. She has clearly stated her opposition to marriage equality, denied that rights extend to transgender Americans, and all that is on top of her direct threat to Roe.

Amy Coney Barrett stands as a threat to not just everything Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg achieved in her career, but to work that has been upheld by many members of the court—Democrats and Republicans—over the last half-century and more. She's not an originalist, she's an "eraserist."

Trump’s Supreme Court pick has a serious problem with the Constitution

Nomination of conservative Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court makes us think about the role of government in our lives and the Republican majority view of winning vs. fairness.

That her lifetime confirmation will change the direction of the Supreme Court for many years is a given, and, as it happens a sop toward Donald Trump's re-election efforts.

But what is there to learn here?

Here's the good news about nominee Barrett: There will be no nonsense about a woman as the nominee, and minimal attention on her choices about religion, lifestyle and what she wears. She will get the same black robe as the rest.

It finally is a choice that is about ideas and about visions of what we want as a nation – even if it comes as forced march by a Senate that has no time to deal with coronavirus aid.

Her professed allegiance to "originalism" in the law, the mostly conservative but often libertarian view that the original words of the Constitution and the law should suffice for modern challenges—a view she shares with the other recently named justices — is something we need to understand to chart the Court's future.

We can expect that originalism, for example, will become the substantial legal argument that will lead her to vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, over narrow interpretations of tax law, or to eliminate legal abortion as having been argued previously under the "wrong" section of the Constitution. It's not her particular brand of Catholicism that will drive her anti-abortion decision-making – though she is seriously anti-abortion as a person – but her insistence on interpreting the Constitution literally that will lead to the same place.

Barrett's Record

In her record as clerk, law professor and judge, there is evidence of far more – a tendency to view the Bill of Rights as anything but generous for life choices. Mark Joseph Stern, who writes about law for Slate, noted that in reading through all of her written decisions, what comes across is not conservatism as much as a certain meanness about the fate of the individual against business, institutions and government.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg saw the Bill of Rights and civil rights acts as generous guarantees of human dignity that must be read expansively to achieve their purpose. By contrast, Barrett's view of the law is fundamentally cruel. During her three years on the 7thCircuit Court of Appeals, Barrett either has written or joined a remarkable number of opinions that harm unpopular and powerless individuals who rely on the judiciary to safeguard their rights.

"Faced with two plausible readings of a law, fact, or precedent, Barrett always seems to choose the harsher, stingier interpretation. Can job applicants sue employers whose policies have a disproportionately deleterious impact on older people? Barrett said no. Should courts halt the deportation of an immigrant who faced torture at home? Barrett said no. Should they protect refugees denied asylum on the basis of xenophobic prejudice? Barrett said no. Should they shield prisoners from unjustified violence by correctional officers? Barrett said no. Should minors be allowed to terminate a pregnancy without telling their parents if a judge has found that they're mature enough to make the decision? Barrett said no. Should women be permitted to obtain an abortion upon discovering a severe fetal abnormality? Barrett said no."

Per her record, If the case is about religion or guns, Barrett is for the individual; if it is about abortion or gender, Barrett seems to forget about the individual.

Barrett has criticized Chief Justice John Roberts' decisions to uphold narrowly Obamacare, presumably in part out of a belief that the Court is in no position to simply strip 20 million Americans of health care. So, health care rather than abortion undoubtedly will be the key question that Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee find for focus – because Barrett is on the record. There is no Republican legislative remedy for this, and we will have yet more chaos in the midst of a pandemic – for the right to uphold a strict interpretation of Constitutional law.

From past decisions, it is clear that she will uphold the Trump steamroller to obliterate environmental regulations and to monitor labor grievances or regulate Wall Street.

Futile Confirmation Hearings?

With the votes already lined up, the idea of confirmation hearings seems almost futile. Nevertheless, it is a chance for us to feel as if we know what we will be getting into.

My question for Barrett is this: We get the originalism idea, but how does that concept allow us to pick and choose its way about protection of the individual?

I want to know how she matches the specifics of the law – and its legal precedents – with the realities we face in our country.

Do we believe in justice that advances individual rights? If so, why is religion a shield, and consumerist legislation not? Why is legislation that enables government to decide what constitutes marriage OK, and individual rights to health treatments not OK? Why are Americans to be afforded the right to assault weapons but not clean air? What is the role of actions to balance centuries of racial unfairness?

There is a certain sense that the approach is more important than a sense of "justice." These confirmation hearings always are a bit of a crapshoot since the judges won't really talk about their views. But an examination of their records should tell us about how they approach the job.

There will be attempts to ask about her affiliation with People of Praise, a religious group that until recently referred to its female leaders as "handmaids" ― evoking comparisons to Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel "The Handmaid's Tale." I hope they are set aside quickly – other than establishing that personal beliefs are no substitute for creating a legal precedent.

The Court is about to launch a revolution in exact opposition to the majority of its citizenry. We need to understand how we deal with that.

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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Busted: GOP canvasser caught on surveillance video removing Democratic yard signs

A canvasser for the Montana GOP was recorded removing yard signs in support of U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Steve Bullock in Billings, Montana, the Billings Gazette reports.

The video, which circulated on Facebook Wednesday, shows a man pulling up to a yard and removing the Bullock signs from the ground before putting them in his car. The same man later appears on a separate surveillance camera at a nearby house where he reportedly campaigned for Bullock's Republican opponent, Sen. Steve Daines. The Daines campaign said the man did not work for Daines specifically, but for the Montana Republican Party.

"We don't condone this behavior, or the countless egregious examples of sign vandalism against Republicans," a spokesperson for the Montana Republican Party told Billings Gazette journalist Rob Rogers by email.

Residents across the state told Rogers vandalism happens every election, but Billings volunteers claim to see an uptick in instances this year.

Democratic campaign volunteer Patrick Ranger told Rogers he "can't believe" the amount of vandalism he's witnessed in 2020,

"We never saw any of this" in the past two elections, he told Rogers.

"It's not going to get any better," Ranger added. "We've got to stop it somehow."

Meet People of Praise: Here's why this far-right cult shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the Supreme Court

This week, President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court—and one of the possible nominees is 48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate judge. Trump has made it clear that he plans to nominate someone who is not only fiscally conservative, but a severe social conservative who would have no problem overturning the Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973. Barrett fits the bill, especially in light of her reported association with an extremist, predominantly Catholic group called People of Praise.

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Sitting federal prosecutor says AG Barr has ‘brought shame’ and ‘unprecedented politicization’ to DOJ

Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts James D. Herbert on Thursday slammed Attorney General William Barr for his "unprecedented politicization" of the Department of Justice, marking the first time a sitting U.S. attorney has publicly rebuked the head of the DOJ.

Herbert made the remarks in a letter published by the Boston Globe, arguing the attorney general's efforts to serve President Donald Trump are "a dangerous abuse of power."

"While I am a federal prosecutor, I am writing to express my own views, clearly not those of the department, on a matter that should concern all citizens: the unprecedented politicization of the office of the attorney general," Herbert wrote. "The attorney general acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump. This is a dangerous abuse of power."

Herbert cited Barr's "misleading summary of the Mueller Report" as one example of the attorney general's apparent willingness to protect the president at the expense of truth. Barr offered his abridged summary of the report in 4-page letter to the members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee, and also commented on the report during an April 18 press conference. Mueller himself said Barr's letter "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance" of his report.

"William Barr has done the president's bidding at every turn," Herbert argued in his letter to the Boston Globe. "For 30 years I have been proud to say I work for the Department of Justice, but the current attorney general has brought shame on the department he purports to lead."

'Truly horrifying': Fury mounts over Trump nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to SCOTUS

President Donald Trump's nomination Saturday of Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court sparked a chorus of outrage from Democrats and progressive groups who warned her confirmation could shift the court to one that would dismantle the Affordable Care Act and "work to preserve the Trump agenda for decades to come."

'"To maintain security, liberty and prosperity, we must preserve our priceless heritage of a nation of laws," Trump said during the Rose Garden announcement. "And there's no one better to do that than Amy Coney Barrett.

In her remarks at the ceremony, 48-year-old Barrett praised her former mentor, the late right-wing Justice Antonin Scalia, saying that "his judicial philosophy is mine too."

Republicans, who refused to hold hearings for President Barack Obama's SCOTUS election year nominee Merrick Garland, have already set up a lightning fast timeline for a confirmation vote to replace the seat held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, reportedly as soon as Oct. 29. That's despite new polling showing a majority of Americans want the seat filled after Election Day.

"Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett means yet another ultra-conservative jurist could be confirmed to a lifetime term on the court—and that is unacceptable."
—Sean Eldridge, Stand Up America Trump critics say the swift timeline and Barrett's voting record mean issues including access to healthcare and ballots and reproductive and LGBTQ rights—as well as the outcome of the presidential election—are under immediate threat.

In an op-ed published Friday at the Washington Post, David Cole, national legal director of the ACLU and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, wrote that if Barrett is confirmed, "the resulting shift [to the Supreme Court] will be tectonic."

The change would "fundamentally alter the court's ideological balance, giving it six conservatives and three liberals," wrote Cole, who pointed to major rulings in the past decade that were decided in narrow 5-4 rulings, including the United States v. Windsor marriage equality case.

The top court is already scheduled to begin hearing arguments in a case challenging the legality of Obamacare November 10.

"Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett means yet another ultra-conservative jurist could be confirmed to a lifetime term on the court—and that is unacceptable," Stand Up America founder and president Sean Eldridge said in a statement Saturday.

"The American people see this rushed process for what it is," said Eldridge. "An attempt to cement a right-wing supermajority on the highest court in order to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic and overturn Roe v. Wade."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made Medicare for All a pillar of his presidential bids, also warned that millions more Americans could join the ranks of the uninsured if Barrett is confirmed.

"President Trump and Senate Republicans have badly mismanaged a deadly pandemic for months. Now, in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis, they are willing to ram through a Supreme Court nominee—within days—who will vote to destroy the Affordable Care Act, kick millions of Americans off their healthcare, and eliminate protections for millions more who have preexisting conditions," said Sanders.

"This is an absolute outrage," he said.

According to advocacy group Indivisible, "Barrett is a conservative's dream to fill RBG's seat." In a Twitter thread following her formal nomination, the group highlighted parts of Barrett's voting record to show why she is "a truly horrifying pick":

Writing at Intelligencer, Sarah Jones likened Barrett to Equal Rights Amendment foe Phyllis Schlafly to emphasize the Trump nominee's far-reaching threats. Jones wrote Saturday:

For all the power the right wing is about to hand her, though, Barrett has indeed chosen a self-limiting ideology, and not just because of her views on Roe. Conservative women aren't interested solely in abolishing abortion, or in limiting the scope of modern gender equality laws. Schlafly was an anti-communist who belonged to the John Birch Society before she ever campaigned against the ERA. Her anti-feminism comprised one strand of a comprehensively dangerous ideology. The women who serve the Trump administration aren't much different, and neither is Barrett. A Supreme Court justice with right-wing perspectives on labor, the environment, immigration, and criminal justice can harm women from all backgrounds in all aspects of their lives. That is the intention, and not the accidental byproduct, of constitutional originalism. As embraced by jurists like Barrett and her old boss, Antonin Scalia, originalism is its own dogma; the extension of a political theology committed to an older and more exclusionary version of America.

Barrett understands all that. She's exactly as intelligent as her advocates say, and she's made all her choices with a sound mind. Her reward is power. If she's confirmed by the Senate, she'll be able to finish what Schlafly once started. She could help lock in Trump for another four years. She'll be able to deal democracy and yes, the feminist movement the blows the Christian right has dreamed of landing for years.

In light of what's at stake, Barrett's critics are calling on senators, Democrats and Republicans alike, to refuse to vote on a replacement for RBG's seat until after the election.

Among that chorus are Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, co-chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association.

"The nomination of arch-conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett should alarm anyone who cares about the future of this country," said Healey and Rosenblum, warning that "healthcare, marriage equality, the right to abortion, worker protections, access to the ballot box, and so much more" is on the line.

"To every member of the Senate: find your backbone, buck McConnell, and let the people vote first," they said.

People For the American Way president Ben Jealous directed his attention to Republican senators, asking in a statement: "Will they follow Trump and Mitch McConnell over the cliff in ramming this disastrous nomination through? Or will they stand up for their constituents who want their healthcare protected and expanded during this pandemic, and the millions of Americans who could lose coverage for preexisting conditions?"

"It comes down to this," said Jealous. "Senators who ignore the will of the people so they can put another nail in the coffin of healthcare are putting another nail in the coffins of their own constituents. Come November, voters will remember this betrayal."