The Virtual Pub Is Open

image of a pub Photoshopped to be named 'The Beloved Community Pub'
[Explanations: lol your fat. pathetic anger bread. hey your gay.]

Belly up to the bar,
and be in this space together.

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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by stylish bookends.

Recommended Reading:

Imani Gandy: [Content Note: Racism] Activist DeRay Mckesson Sues Judge Jeanine Pirro and Her Employer, Fox News, for Defamation

David Neiwert: [CN: Normalization of Nazis] How Not to Normalize Nazis — In Print, and In the Real World

Akiba Solomon: Malkia Cyril Explains Exactly Why the Loss of Net Neutrality Matters — and What's Next

Ariel Henley: [CN: Exploitation; identity reduction] I'm Done with the Faux-Woke Exploitation of Marginalized Writers

LaLa Drew: [CN: Racism; transracial adoption trauma] Adoptees Adopting Themselves

Princess Weekes: [CN: Brooklyn Nine-Nine spoilers; discussion of biphobia; moving GIFs at link] Rosa Diaz: The Bisexual Avenger

Delaney Strunk: [CN: Moving GIFs at link] The Ocean's 8 Poster Is Here, and Someone Help Me, My Body Isn't Ready

Nick Holmes: "Fly you fools!"

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Fundraising Reminder

image of a white piggy bank wearing black glasses accompanied by text reading: 'Shakesville End-of-Year Fundraiser'

In case you missed it, last Friday I posted Shakesville's End-of-Year Fundraiser. There is more information at the link, but the basic gist is this: If you value my work here and/or on Twitter, please remember that Shakesville is run exclusively on donations. I need your support, if you are able to chip in.

Thank you so much to everyone who has already donated and/or set up (or increased) a subscription. I am so appreciative. ♥

This will be one of a couple reminders I run over the next couple of weeks, and then we'll go back to every other month reminders.

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Weinstein Blackballed Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino

[Content Note: Rape culture; misogyny.]


To be clear, I'm not suggesting that there's no such thing as a woman who is difficult to work with. What I'm saying is this: Lots of abusive men leverage cultural narratives about women in general being difficult, being bitchy, being divas, being crazy to isolate women whom they have harmed and who refuse to be quiet about it.

If a man warns you not to deal with a woman on the basis that she's "a nightmare," you'd better make sure to find out for yourself exactly what that means.

Because it usually doesn't mean what you think.

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Discussion Thread: How Are You?

I am very, very tired of reading about, hearing about, talking about, reading about, writing about, and thinking about Donald Trump and every other member of the Republican Party.

I did, however, attend a concert last night, given by one of my favorite artists, Aimee Mann, whom I've always wanted to see in concert, so that was tremendous.

She and Ted Leo did an amazing performance of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," which I loved with one million hearts.

How are you?

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat sitting on the piano
Wee Sophs, on the piano. Cheeky little munchkin!

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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We Resist: Day 330

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures (plus the occasional non-Republican who obliges us to resist their nonsense, too, like we don't have enough to worry about) is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: This Is Sabotage and Today in Rape Culture.

Stephen Ohlemacher and Marcy Gordon at the AP: GOP Leaders Move to Appease Rubio, Finalize Big Tax Bill.
Congressional Republicans finalized their sweeping tax package Friday, expanding its child tax credit to placate a reluctant GOP senator as they pushed to muscle the bill through Congress next week and give President Donald Trump his first major legislative victory.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has been a potential holdout, though lawmakers have been working to appease him. Rubio wrote on Twitter earlier Friday that he was dissatisfied with the size of a tax credit that low-income families can claim for their children.

...At the White House, Trump said he was confident that Congress would pass the legislation. The package would give generous tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest Americans — Trump among them — and more modest tax cuts to low- and middle-income families.

"We're putting in a tremendous child tax credit and it is increasing on a daily basis," Trump said. "I think that we are going to be in a position to pass something as early as next week which will be monumental."

I don't know what I can say that I haven't already. This is a vile bill, and it will fundamentally alter life in the United States for the worse, for hundreds of millions of people.

Meanwhile, Ed Pilkington at the Guardian: A Journey Through a Land of Extreme Poverty: Welcome to America. And that's what is happening in this country now, before this despicable bill passes.

Fuck the Republican Party. Greedy, deplorable scum.

* * *

Eleanor Clift at the Daily Beast: Trump's Numbers Near a Tipping Point. "Public opinion can take off like a runaway train once it gets going. [Donald] Trump, already polling lower than any of his predecessors in his first year, might soon be hearing the hoofbeats of history. At 32 percent in the most recent Pew and Monmouth polls, he is perilously close to what most historians and political scientists say is a tipping point of 30 percent, below which a president can no longer effectively lead."

Which would matter if this were a traditional presidency, but it is not. Trump was never able to effectively lead. And he doesn't respond to poll numbers, which he simply decries as "fake news." As long as there are people who will still show up to applaud for him at rallies, he'll feel popular enough to not give a fuck about anything else, and, if his ego starts to feel threatened by low polling, he'll start a war to drive his numbers back up, because he's an authoritarian nightmare.

Speaking of which, since Nikki Haley's attempt to sell a war with Iran has been "met with skepticism," Lindsey Graham is continuing his reprehensible crusade to sell a war with North Korea. Goddammit.

In other dreadful foreign policy news... Peter Beaumont at the Guardian: Mike Pence's Holy Land Visit in Disarray After Jerusalem Recognition.
The lights are already illuminated on Bethlehem's huge Christmas tree in Manger Square.

Nearby, at the narrow entrance to the Church of the Nativity, holiday pilgrims queue daily for their chance to descend into the cramped subterranean shrine said to be the birthplace of Jesus.

One person, however, who will not be entering the church, barring a last-minute diplomatic miracle, is the US vice-president, Mike Pence.

A proposed visit to Bethlehem and the Nativity church — now cancelled — had been intended as the highlight of a tour of the Middle East next week.

That tour has been thrown into disarray by Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the consequent refusal of Palestinian and many Christian leaders to meet Pence.

Part of the reason is that Pence — who stood next to Trump during his announcement — is seen by Palestinians as having been a key influence on Trump regarding the decision, and appears to have made little effort to repair the damage.
Accurate.

* * *

Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: DOJ Now Says Early Release of FBI Agents' Private Texts to Reporters Was 'Not Authorized' by the Department. "Sarah Isgur Flores, a DOJ spokeswoman, told Politico that the text messages exchanged between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were given to key members of the House Judiciary Committee the night before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's public testimony on Wednesday. The DOJ's Public Affairs division shared the same messages with a group of reporters after they were shared with the lawmakers, Flores said. But some members of the media 'had already received copies.' 'As we understand now, some members of the media had already received copies of the texts before that — but those disclosures were not authorized by the department,' she said." So does that mean the Deputy Attorney General of the United States just lied under oath?

Nicole Lafond at TPM: Mueller Requested Docs from Trump Campaign Data Firm. "Mueller reportedly asked the data firm, Cambridge Analytica, to provide his investigative team with emails of employees who worked with the Trump campaign, according to sources familiar with the matter who spoke with the WSJ. The House Intelligence Committee, which is also probing Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the foreign power, also requested similar documents from the data firm earlier this year. Cambridge Analytica's CEO Alexander Nix was interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, the people familiar with the investigation told WSJ."

The Democratic ranking members of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, Reps. Elijah Cummings and Jerry Nadler, want to know more about this, too.

David Ignatius at the Washington Post: The Russia Facts Are Hiding in Plain Sight. "Trump shouted out his defense earlier this month: 'What has been shown is no collusion, no collusion!' he told reporters over the whir of his helicopter on the White House lawn. Since then, Trump's supporters have been waging a bitter counterattack against special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, alleging bias and demanding: 'Investigate the investigators.' But what do the facts show? There is a growing, mostly undisputed body of evidence describing contacts between Trump associates and Russia-linked operatives. ...As Republicans seek to discredit the investigation, it's useful to remember just what we've learned so far..."

Aaron Rupar at ThinkProgress: The Major Tell in Trump's Comments About a Possible Pardon for Michael Flynn. "During a brief press scrum on Friday morning, [Donald] Trump was asked about if he would 'consider a pardon for Michael Flynn.' ...Trump did not deny that he has considered a pardon for Flynn. 'I don't want to talk about pardons for Michael Flynn yet,' Trump said. 'We'll see what happens, let's see. I can say this — when you look at what's gone on with the FBI and with the Justice Department, people are very, very angry.' The word 'yet' is particularly notable. By suggesting that he may eventually consider a pardon, Trump could be interpreted as indicating to Flynn that whether or not he gets one depends on the extent to which he protects Trump and his family."

* * *


[If you can't view the image embedded in the tweet, you can read the full statement at Rep. Waters' website.]

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman: I Will Sue to Stop Illegal Rollback of Net Neutrality. "Today's vote also follows a public comment process that was deeply corrupted, including two million comments that stole the identities of real people. This is a crime under New York law — and the FCC's decision to go ahead with the vote makes a mockery of government integrity and rewards the very perpetrators who scammed the system to advance their own agenda. This is not just an attack on the future of our internet. It's an attack on all New Yorkers, and on the integrity of every American's voice in government — and we will fight back."


* * *

[Content Note: Sexual harassment and assault] Jana Winter at Foreign Policy: Head of Congressional Ethics Office Sued for Abusing Position, Accused of Assaulting Women. "A top congressional ethics official who oversees investigations into misconduct by lawmakers is accused in a federal lawsuit of verbally abusing and physically assaulting women and using his federal position to influence local law enforcement, according to a complaint filed in a federal court in Pennsylvania last month. The ongoing lawsuit against Omar Ashmawy, staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, stems from his involvement in a late-night brawl in 2015 in Milford, Pennsylvania, and includes a range of allegations relating to his behavior that evening and in the following two-and-half years." Perfect. Just fucking perfect. Seethe.

Rebecca Leber, Andy Kroll, and Russ Choma: The EPA Hired a Major Republican Opposition Research Firm to Track Press Activity. "Using taxpayer dollars, the Environmental Protection Agency has hired a cutting-edge Republican PR firm that specializes in digging up opposition research to help Administrator Scott Pruitt's office track and shape press coverage of the agency. According to federal contracting records, earlier this month Pruitt's office inked a no-bid $120,000 contract with Definers Corp., a Virginia-based public relations firm founded by Matt Rhoades, who managed Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign." Cool. That makes me feel amazing about doing my job. And about paying my taxes!


Okay. I mean, neat curve on this garbage rollercoaster, or whatever.

Derek Hawkins at the Washington Post: Trump Judicial Nominee Fumbles Basic Questions About the Law. "Nomination hearings for U.S. district judges tend to be dry affairs that offer little in the way of mass entertainment — in other words, they're not typically the stuff of viral videos. But a clip of one of [Donald] Trump's federal judicial nominees struggling to answer rudimentary questions about the law garnered well more than 1 million views in a matter of hours on Thursday night and stoked speculation that another of the president's nominations might get derailed."


Kennedy is a Republican, by the way. That's just how bad these fucking nominees are.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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Q&A with Jason Fagone, Author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies

image of Jason Fagone, a white man in his 40s
Jason Fagone is the author of the new book The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies. It is the extraordinary and compelling story of Elizebeth Smith, whose mad codebreaking skills are the foundation of the modern science of cryptology.

What I really want to do is spoil this entire story for you, because it is so amazing, but I won't! Instead, I'm going to let Jason tell you exactly as much — or as little — as he wants to tell about his book and the remarkable woman at its center.

Jason and I had lunch one day to discuss The Woman Who Smashed Codes, telling women's stories in the age of Trump, and other things. We met at a retro diner which felt like a suitable venue to talk about how we're not making America great again, over burgers.

MELISSA McEWAN: The Woman Who Smashed Codes is an absolutely thrilling story. On the one hand, it's unbelievable that I've never before heard of Elizebeth Smith. On the other hand, it's entirely expected, given the way women are so often written out of history. Were you looking to tell a woman's story for your next book?

JASON FAGONE: I guess I was looking for any story that would work as a book and justify the time it takes to write anything good at book-length. There aren't so many stories like that. You have to keep your eyes open, hope for some luck.

MM: How did you come to discover Elizebeth's story?

JF: The start of this for me was Edward Snowden, his decision in 2013 to reveal secrets about NSA's surveillance programs. Huge story that blew up everywhere and left me disoriented. I didn't know much about NSA. I started reading about the history of the agency. And when you read about the history of NSA, all roads lead to this guy William Friedman, a famous American codebreaker who solved the Japanese "Purple" machine in World War Two. He's like the godfather of NSA.

Anyway, in reading about William, I noticed that his wife, Elizebeth, was also a codebreaker. How many husband-and-wife codebreakers can there be, you know? I thought it was interesting. I went looking for more info about Elizebeth, and there wasn't much, no biography, not a lot on the Internet. So I decided to visit the place that holds her personal archive, a private library in Lexington, Virginia. She donated 22 boxes of letters and diaries to that library before she died. And on my first day at the library, I started reading those letters and had one of those holy-shit moments that you get sometimes as a journalist, where you realize you're looking an amazing story in the face. At that point, it was all about the dopamine rush of reporting. One of the best feelings. Finding documents, starting to write, trying to do justice to the story as it unfolded.

MM: What is the thing you found most surprising about Elizebeth's life during your extensive research?

JF: Probably how astonishingly prolific she was. How she shaped American intelligence in all sorts of ways I had never heard anything about. She pops up in so many places, at so many key moments in U.S. history, sometimes behind the scenes but sometimes in very public ways, on the front pages of newspapers. It actually starts to seem kind of ridiculous. A hundred years ago, when she was 23, she was present at the birth of the NSA, working for this eccentric tycoon named George Fabyan, who ran a bizarre institution called Riverbank Laboratories that broke military codes for the U.S. government during World War One.

While working for this eccentric tycoon and breaking German messages, Elizebeth helped invent the modern science of cryptology, along with William Friedman. She was an uncredited co-author on many of his pioneering papers, which were her papers too. Then, after the war, when she and William moved to Washington, she became she secret weapon of the U.S. Treasury Department in its war against rum-running. She used her codebreaking skills to perform sophisticated counterintelligence investigations, mapping these underworld networks. She testified against gangsters, against Al Capone's men, at risk to her life. These were spectacular public trials, and newspapermen called her "the pretty little woman who protects the United States."

And that's not even getting into World War Two! What I mentioned so far is only what I found in her papers in the private library. There was nothing about the years 1939 to 1945. I had to go hunting for those records, and it took me two years to find them, and when I did — well, it was another holy-shit moment, because it turns out that Elizebeth spent World War Two hunting Nazi spies and destroying Nazi spy rings. She had created and built this team of elite codebreakers at the U.S. Coast Guard, and they were the technical firepower behind the hunt for Nazi spies in the Western Hemisphere. They gave their solved messages to J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Then after the war Hoover took credit for all of it and erased Elizebeth from the story.

And oh yeah, after Pearl Harbor she also set up the first cryptographic office for the organization that evolved into the CIA. That was basically side project that she completed in three and a half weeks, doing a favor for the spymaster "Wild" Bill Donovan. She thought he was an ass.

So: Elizebeth influenced the NSA, Treasury, the Coast Guard, the CIA, and the FBI. Like I said, it starts to seem ridiculous, but it's all there in the documents.

MM: It strikes me that Elizebeth's professional life as doing "the spy stuff," as she called it, and her personal life, e.g. throwing "cipher parties" with her husband William Friedman, bled back and forth into one another in a way I find really charming. What is your sense of how, or if, she found balance between her work life and her private life, doing such demanding and immersive work?

JF: I always come back to this sentence that Elizebeth wrote on an index card late in life: "WFF and ESF have always been fascinated by WORDS, even before we had need of them as 'tools of our trade.'" They just had this powerful love affair with words and languages and puzzles, and they integrated that passion into their marriage and their other relationships. When they were first falling in love, they included bits of cipher in their letters, speaking in a secret language that brought them closer. They taught their kids how to write letters to them in cipher from summer camp.

These "cipher parties" you mention — these were famous in their Washington circle of friends. You'd show up at the Friedmans' house, and Elizebeth would be there in a stunning gown, and she'd hand you an envelope with a cryptogram inside, and you had to solve the cryptogram to find the address of a restaurant somewhere in D.C. where the appetizer would be served, and then you'd go there and solve another cryptogram to find the main course. And the Friedmans really needed that private outlet, I think, because as years went on, their jobs for the government became more intense and stressful and secretive, and they couldn't talk about anything they did at work, even to each other. It was tough for them. William joked at one point that the Army wanted him and Elizebeth to sleep in separate beds for reasons of national security.

MM: Elizebeth also did a lot of emotional labor. She looked after William, who had profound and lasting depression, and also endeavored to conceal his illness, fearing the stigma would harm his career. That reminded me of the many accounts I've read of the wives of famous men — especially writers and politicians — who enable their work and help keep vulnerabilities away from public scrutiny. Would Elizebeth's career have looked different in any way, without this emotional labor?

JF: Yes. There were times for Elizebeth when caring for William and keeping the secret of his illness was like having a second full-time job. She would answer letters that arrived for him at the house, making up excuses for why he couldn't respond himself. At least once she even wrote a scholarly papers on cryptologic history that William had promised to some editor but couldn't deliver because he was ill. Some days he was so depressed he couldn't get out of bed, he was frozen, and she actually took him to work in the morning and placed a pencil in his hand and put her hand on top of his and started the lead moving across the page, and only then could he begin to work. The burden on Elizebeth only increased as William's illness worsened in the late 50s and 60s. And then, in the years before his death in 1969, and for some time after, Elizebeth was consumed with preparing and indexing William's massive archive of books and papers for donation to a research library.

It's hard to know what she could have done with that time. Probably she would have been a more prolific author than she already was. In her archive she left behind three mostly complete but never-published book manuscripts, including two children's books, one about the history of the alphabet and one about how to have fun breaking codes. These are just sitting in manila folders in Virginia, and I've read them, and they're wonderful. She was a great writer. She had a talent for explaining her passions to a popular audience.

MM: Elizebeth and William are essentially the parents of modern codebreaking and surveillance. What do you think they'd make of the vastness of the intelligence apparatus in the United States today?

JF: That's a great question. I can only speculate, but I think they'd find it both astounding and troubling. Toward the end of their lives the Friedmans were feeling fed up with the government and estranged from the very field they had helped to create. Everything in American codebreaking was getting a lot bigger. William felt that NSA was gathering too much intelligence, more than it could ever feasibly analyze, and that needles were bound to get lost in these huge haystacks, and also that too much information at NSA was being classified for reasons that didn't have anything to do with national security. Elizebeth didn't like that computers were starting to dominate the workflow — the Friedmans were the last of the pencil-and-paper heroes — and she complained that with computers you never got the thrill of seeing a message appear.

If you peel back these complaints a bit, I think what you find is the inner educator in Elizebeth, and same with William. They weren't just codebreaking experts and national-security professionals. They were also teachers, people who believed in sharing knowledge whenever possible, and it bothered them to see all of these high walls going up between the public and the experts. It wasn't how a democracy ought to work.

MM: You spent a lot of time with Elizebeth. What do you think her opinion would be of Donald Trump, as a president elected via foreign interference who bitterly feuds with the intelligence community?

JF: She wouldn't like him. I have zero doubt about that. He represents everything she stood against: wealth, contempt for science, contempt for women, power that wants to be unaccountable.

For her it would be like if George Fabyan somehow became president — Fabyan, the tycoon who dominated her life when she was in her twenties. I think she would find the lying especially repulsive.

This is a big part of why I admire the Friedmans. They were so committed to the importance of facts, and maybe more than that, the importance of science, because science is a way to know what's true without tricking yourself into seeing something that you really want to see, which happens all the time to the best of us. The Friedmans' personal credo was "Knowledge is Power." They had it carved it on their tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery.

MM: Elizebeth's story is one of a nontraditional route into a scientific pursuit. Do you think there is particular value to her story for girls and women whose aptitudes for science and creativity are often positioned as competing pursuits?

JF: Yes! Elizebeth never saw a difference between the creative and the technical in her work. It was all part of the same vocation, the same way of looking at the world that allowed her to solve these heinous puzzles over and over. There's no magic formula for breaking a code. Serendipity and intuition matter a lot. Even the Friedmans admitted that, and they were hardcore advocates of scientific rigor.

There's a famous story about the Friedmans from early in their careers. William had been struggling to identify a code word that would allow him to unlock a certain puzzle. After thrashing around for a bit and getting nowhere, he turned to Elizebeth. He asked her to relax in her seat, clear her mind, and say the first word that came to her. She said, "Machine." And that turned out to be the right answer. She was never able to explain how she did it.

MM: This feels like a very contemporary story to me, but I'm curious what you think most resonates about Elizebeth's story in today's world?

JF: Well, the whole episode where she's hunting Nazi spies in WWII feels very contemporary to me right now, because when you read about that, you're reading about a time when almost the entire country was unified behind the idea that Nazis were always bad, and this doesn't seem to be the case in 2017, and it's horrifying, absolutely horrifying, so now I'm going to give you a far less depressing answer, which is that Elizebeth's story shows that the truth always comes out eventually, as long as some kind of contemporary record is preserved.

Those of us who believe in facts and history and the free press — it's easy to feel right now that we’re getting our asses kicked, and nothing we do matters. But Elizebeth's story can now be told because she took small daily steps to preserve an unimpeachable archive of her life, half a century before she could have reasonably expected anyone to use it for anything, or to care. I think I describe her in the book as a "savage librarian." She left these little shards of glass in the stacks that still draw blood all these years later. And I love that. I love the idea that there's a reckoning that is preserved on paper, in a place that's protected from the daily shitstorm of whatever, and that over the really long run, 1,000 or 10,000 years from now, we'll be able to read and learn from these documents, if we're still around.

MM: In the title, Elizebeth is called — quite understandably, given the genesis of her journey — an "unlikely heroine." In this era of resistance, do you think we're going to see a lot of unlikely heroines emerge in defense of their nation?

JF: I think we already have. I mean, Elizebeth was someone who didn't set out for a career in public service. She was diverted onto that path through a series of accidents, the sweep of events in her time, and she rose to meet the moment. And I think a lot of women are there now, organizing and calling their reps and running for office, and speaking up about sexual assault and harassment, at personal risk. There are these core democratic values that float the whole America thing as we know it, and they turn out to be more fragile than we thought, and they really do need defending.

MM: Jason, thank you for your time. I am very glad to have had the opportunity to meet you and talk about your book before Trump blows up the planet.

JF: It looks like we made it. Anything that happens now is basically gravy.

* * *

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies is available for purchase now at your favorite bookseller.

[Image courtesy of Jason Fagone.]

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Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Minimization of sexual harassment and assault; descriptions of harassment and assault.]

So now we're in the part of the backlash where the rape apologia in the form of abuse ranking comes fast and furious.

On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders argued on Meet the Press that "There needs to be a differentiation between somebody who pats somebody on the backside and somebody who commits terrible acts against women," and, on Monday, I explained why that comment is hot garbage.

Yesterday, Matt Damon, who has been a massive disappointment during this moment, continued to disappoint, by saying about a dozen shitty things, including virtually the same argument Sanders made: "All of that behavior needs to be confronted, but there is a continuum. And on this end of the continuum where you have rape and child molestation or whatever, you know, that's prison. Right? And that's what needs to happen. Okay? And then we can talk about rehabilitation and everything else. That's criminal behavior, and it needs to be dealt with that way. The other stuff is just kind of shameful and gross."

Oh.

Meanwhile, at Vanity Fair, Joe Pompeo reports that the New York Times is definitely trying to figure its way through the "gray areas" of Glenn Thrush being an abusive dirtbag, but, as one "young female reporter in the [Washington] bureau" told him: "The Times has reported out a lot of stories like this, and by now, we know the difference between a Glenn and a Matt Lauer."

Oh.

In other news, there are new, additional allegations against Dustin Hoffman, Russell Simmons, and Matt Dababneh, the former chief of staff to California Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman:

Daniel Holloway at Variety: Dustin Hoffman Accused of Exposing Himself to a Minor, Assaulting Two Women.

Ben Beaumont-Thomas at the Guardian: Russell Simmons Accused by Kelly Cutrone of Attempted Rape.

Eric Garcia at Roll Call: More Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Former Sherman Aide.

Also:

Maggie Severns and Marianne Levine at Politico: House Office Silently Helps Members Resolve Harassment Claims. "Members of Congress and government watchdogs are questioning why a little-known House agency used taxpayer funds to investigate a sexual harassment complaint involving Rep. Blake Farenthold's office last year, and then failed to make the results public."

Amanda Taub at the New York Times: How One Harasser Can Rob a Generation of Women. "One of the consequences of Judge Kozinski's behavior toward women was that women had less access to those incredible opportunities."

Katie Van Syckle at the Cut: Hollywood Actresses Will Wear All Black to the Golden Globes in Protest. "According to sources, a small group of women coordinated to wear black gowns, but the word soon got out and now more than 30 female performers, presenters, and attendees are planning to participate."

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This Is Sabotage

On Wednesday, I wrote about how Republicans' latest transparent attempt to protect the indefensible Trump from accountability, by laying the groundwork for him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller for bias, on the basis that two FBI officials, long before they were assigned to Mueller's investigation, had exchanged texts critical of Trump.

As I noted then: Simply having an opinion about Trump — no less one that has been expressed by members of his own cabinet — is not evidence of bias.

This is something TPM's Josh Marshall also observes in his piece, "Don't Look Away from the Disgrace."

Public employees are allowed to have political opinions. Indeed, there are laws specifically protecting government employees from being disciplined or having their work affected by their political views. The only real infraction here seems to be that the two used government devices to discuss their private political opinions when they should have reserved those for their personal devices — hardly a major infraction.

Nonetheless, defenders of the President have leaped from these emails to saying the entire Clinton emails probe — Strzok was involved in both probes — and the Mueller investigation are irreparably tainted. Others are going so far as to say the DOJ and the FBI need to undergo a political purge. The head of one prominent right-wing legal advocacy group went as far as to say the FBI should be shut down. It is a stark reminder of how many will go so far so quickly to prevent the enforcement of the law and lawful investigations when it comes to Donald Trump.
This is clearly sabotage. It's alarming the lengths to which Republicans and Trump's Justice Department are going in order to protect him.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's decision to release the text messages in the first place is deeply troubling — and Democrats have questions about that decision. On Wednesday, during a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, they asked Rosenstein about the "unusual move" to invite reporters to the Department of Justice on the eve of his testimony, so reporters could examine and then report on the texts ahead of his appearance at the hearing.

Rosenstein explained that the DoJ "decided to make the text messages public after getting requests for them from Congress." He said in testimony: "Generally speaking, our goal is to be as forthcoming with the media as we can, when it is lawful and appropriate to do so. So I would not approve anybody disclosing something that was not appropriate to disclose."

This is a problem. Republican members of Congress request information be made public that they want to use to discredit the investigation into the president, and the Department of Justice makes them public, determining it's "appropriate" to disclose them, despite the fact that they are well aware how Republicans will (mis)use the information, which cannot reasonably be construed to be in the public interest.

The public interest doesn't matter to Republicans at all anymore.

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Open Thread

image of a pink couch

Hosted by a pink sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Kathy_A: "Who was your favorite elementary school teacher?"

Oh wow, I loved (almost) all of my elementary school teachers — and my principal, and his secretary, and the recess monitors, and the lunch crew, and the janitors, and the school nurse, and my speech therapist, and the room moms.

I was super lucky to have a whole lot of terrific women, and four men (principal, one 5th grade teacher, one gym teacher, and one janitor) who cared about my classmates and me during elementary school, which was not overall a great time for me, being the painfully shy and awkward kid that I was.

My favorite teacher was probably my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Dubovich. The reasons that many of the boys called her "Mrs. Dubo-bitch" were the same reasons I loved her.

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Shaker Gourmet

Whatcha been cooking up in your kitchen lately, Shakers?

Share your favorite recipes, solicit good recipes, share recipes you've recently tried, want to try, are trying to perfect, whatever! Whether they're your own creation, or something you found elsewhere, share away.

Also welcome: Recipes you've seen recently that you'd love to try, but haven't yet!

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I Guess We're Going to War with Iran Soon


I honestly don't even know what to say. I don't trust a thing that Nikki Haley, or anyone else in this administration, has to say about anything, least of all that they've got "irrefutable proof" of Iran's violation of a nuclear deal that Donald Trump has been calling ineffective since he started campaigning, and thus has a vested interest in "proving" is ineffective in order to "prove" that he was right.

This is like the Bush administration all over again, except even worse. What a fucking nightmare.

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Paul Ryan Might Leave Congress at End of Term


Two things:

1. Why?

The Politico story suggests Speaker Paul Ryan wants to go out on a high note, after (presumably) passing tax reform that will destroy America.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu has another theory: "Appears Paul Ryan fully understands the Democratic tsunami that will occur in less than a year. Also, he is scared of losing to @IronStache."

Maybe. But if anyone is confident in Mike Pence's and Kris Kobach's ability to rig the 2018 election for the Republican Party, it's got to be Paul Ryan.

Because I am uncharitable AF, I'm wondering if there are sexual harassment and/or assault allegations against him, and if he made a deal to retire from Congress in exchange for someone(s) not going public. That is a legitimate possibility, given what we now know about Conyers, Farenthold, et. al. cutting quiet, private deals.

To be clear, I have not heard anything about Ryan; I just think it's a question worth asking. Especially these days. Especially about men who, as an official policy position, don't regard women as rights-bearing humans with agency or the right of consent.

2. Is this good news, if true?

Unclear. Eastsidekate noted in a private conversation, which I'm sharing with her permission: "Hopefully Ryan really will retire and/or will be replaced by a Democrat, but folks need to not make the mistake of assuming that will happen."

She points out that his Republican challenger is a Bannonite nightmare. Extremely current example:


So, you know, that guy could replace Ryan. Or a Democrat could! But it's not at all clear that Ryan's seat will go to someone better, and could very likely go to someone even worse.

Classic 2017: There is some chance that things could be better, and a slightly larger chance that things will get even worse!

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat sitting on the dining room floor
There is no filter on this photo. Her eyes are really that blue.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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We Resist: Day 329

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures (plus the occasional non-Republican who obliges us to resist their nonsense, too, like we don't have enough to worry about) is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Net Neutrality: Today Is (Probably) the Day; Trump Is Our Greatest Threat to National Security; and Today in Rape Culture.

Well, it happened. The FCC voted along party lines to rescind Net Neutrality. Sob.


Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel both gave impassioned defenses, while Ajit Pai and his conservative minions treated the entire thing like a fucking joke.

I am gutted. This is such terrible news. The future of the internet looks very grim, and so does the future of a whole lot of other things as a result. Fuck.

Meanwhile...


Dan Goodin has more at Ars Technica: "Suspicious" Event Routes Traffic for Big-Name Sites Through Russia.

* * *

[Content Note: Guns; mass violence.] Today marks 5 years since the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. At the Guardian, Lois Beckett has a moving piece on how "the families of the 20 children and six educators killed have taken very different paths to honor the lives of their loved ones. Some family members have chosen to remain intensely private. Others have become prominent advocates for gun violence prevention. No single campaign represents all 26 families."

Judd Legum and Kira Brekke at ThinkProgress: Fox News and Congressional Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork for Trump to Fire Mueller. "Fox News hosts and commentators are aggressively pushing to have Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller fired and to end the investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 election. It appears to be a highly coordinated effort to prepare the Republican base for Mueller's firing and the firestorm of criticism that would follow if Trump went down that path. ...In a raucous hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans channeled their inner Hannity and used an appearance by [Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein] to savage Mueller. The message was unmistakable: If Trump attempts to fire Mueller, he won't encounter much resistance from Republicans in Congress."

Steven Zeitchik at the Washington Post: Disney Buys Much of Fox in Mega-Merger That Will Shake World of Entertainment and Media. "The announcement resets the Hollywood power grid. Disney, the nation's largest studio by box office returns and the company behind the Marvel and 'Star Wars' franchises, is acquiring Fox, the third-largest studio by that metric, known for the blockbuster 'X-Men' and 'Avatar' franchises as well as a host of mid-budget crowd-pleasers and critically acclaimed films. It also brings brands such as FX, National Geographic and 'The Simpsons' into the same fold as ESPN and ABC — all part of Disney's gamble that a beefed-up company will be better equipped to tackle a slew of Silicon Valley giants." One of the biggest media mergers in history, just in time for Net Neutrality to hit the skids.

[CN: Trans hatred] Melanie Schmitz at ThinkProgress: Roy Moore Refuses to Concede as New Campaign Video Targets Transgender People, Liberal Judges. "Failed U.S. Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore dug in his heels on Wednesday evening with a new campaign video in which he blasts progressives, abortion, and the LGBTQ community while simultaneously refusing to concede to special election victor, Doug Jones. 'We are…in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization, and our religion, and to set free a suffering humanity,' Moore says. 'The battle rages on. In this race, we have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots. This has been a very close race, and we are awaiting certification by the [Alabama] secretary of state.'" Jesus fucking Jones, this guy.

Jie Jenny Zou at the Guardian: Fueling Dissent: How the Oil Industry Set Out to Undercut Clean Air.
The state's environmental regulator — the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — has been criticized for not making things better. In fact, it's followed in the footsteps of Big Oil's biggest lobby, the American Petroleum Institute, which has forestalled progress on ozone for decades. Using consultants also hired by API, the commission has spent millions of taxpayer dollars in an effort to question scientific evidence linking particulate matter and ozone with bronchitis, asthma and premature death.

Air quality is the new frontier for climate-change skeptics long tied to API. The institute has fueled uncertainty on climate by producing what critics call misleading scientific and economic studies. Now, by attempting to discredit established research on ozone and fine particles, API and its cadre of doubters are trying to undermine the Clean Air Act — the landmark US law credited with saving millions of lives.
This, as hospitals have decided it's more profitable to neglect asthma than fix it.

[CN: Doctor misconduct; abuse] Marwa Eltagouri at the Washington Post: He Was a Renowned Surgeon — Until a Doctor Found His Initials Burned on a Patient's Liver. "Simon Bramhall, 53, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault by beating after he used an electric beam — typically used to seal blood vessels — to mark 'SB' into a man's and woman's livers during their transplant operations in 2013, according to the Telegraph. Doing so usually isn't harmful, as the marks would typically fade. But the woman's liver did not heal normally. During her follow-up operation, doctors allegedly discovered Bramhall's initials, the Telegraph reported. ...The General Medical Council in February issued a warning to Bramhall, saying his conduct didn't meet the standards required of a doctor, the Guardian reported." Ya think?!

[CN: Death penalty; disablism] Addy Baird at ThinkProgress: 90 Percent of All Executions in 2017 May Have Involved People Who Were Innocent or Had Disabilities. "New research shows significant evidence of mental illness, brain damage, intellectual disability, severe trauma, or possible innocence in nearly 90 percent of capital punishment executions carried out in 2017, according to a report compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center. ...Several had evidence of multiple impairments. Additionally, the report found that five of the 23 people who were executed this year had received 'glaringly deficient legal representation' or were denied substantial judicial review." Goddammit. End the death penalty NOW.

Public Policy Polling: Voters Think Trump Should Resign Over Harassment Allegations. "PPP's newest national poll finds that a majority of voters think Donald Trump should resign from the Presidency because of the allegations of sexual harassment against him. 53% think Trump should step down to just 42% who think he should remain in office. 53% of voters believe the women who have accused Trump of harassment, to 31% who think they aren't telling the truth." Yeesh.

And finally, in good resistance news...

Connor Sheets at AL.com: How a Former Sharecropper in an SUV Helped Drive Doug Jones to Victory in Alabama's Black Belt. "For the past two-and-a-half decades, [59-year-old Perman Hardy] has dedicated much of her free time to...trying to ensure that every single person in Lowndes County shows up to the polls for every election in Alabama. A native of the unincorporated community of Collirene, she has done about as much as one person possibly could to boost turnout in the impoverished, majority-black county with a population of just 10,458 people. 'That's my goal is to make sure everyone votes. That's always been my goal. This is what I do every election,' she said." Blub. That is what a patriot looks like.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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Today in Rape Culture

[Content Note: Rape culture; descriptions of sexual harassment and/or assault; rape apologia.]

A bunch of new allegations late yesterday and this morning...

Salma Hayek in the New York Times: Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster, Too.

I was so excited to work with him and that company. In my naïveté, I thought my dream had come true. He had validated the last 14 years of my life. He had taken a chance on me — a nobody. He had said yes.

Little did I know it would become my turn to say no.

No to opening the door to him at all hours of the night, hotel after hotel, location after location, where he would show up unexpectedly, including one location where I was doing a movie he wasn't even involved with.

No to me taking a shower with him. No to letting him watch me take a shower. No to letting him give me a massage. No to letting a naked friend of his give me a massage. No to letting him give me oral sex. No to my getting naked with another woman. No, no, no, no, no… And with every refusal came Harvey's Machiavellian rage.

I don't think he hated anything more than the word "no."
Catherine Pearson, Emma Gray, and Alanna Vagianos at the Huffington Post: A Running List of the Women Who've Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Misconduct. "These allegations span more than three decades, from the early 1980s to 2013... Trump and his administration have repeatedly denied all of the accusations, most recently tweeting that women he didn't know were making 'false accusations.' In October 2017, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that all of Trump's accusers were lying."

Daniel Holloway at Variety: PBS Suspends Tavis Smiley Following Sexual Misconduct Investigation. "PBS has suspended late-night talk show Tavis Smiley amid misconduct allegations against its host and namesake. ...The investigation found credible allegations that Smiley had engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates, sources said. Some witnesses interviewed expressed concern that their employment status was linked to the status of a sexual relationship with Smiley. In general, witnesses described Smiley as creating a verbally abusive and threatening environment that went beyond what could be expected in a typical high-pressure work environment. Several expressed concerns about retaliation."

Joe Coscarelli and Melena Ryzik at the New York Times: Music Mogul Russell Simmons Is Accused of Rape by 3 Women. "In recent interviews, four women spoke on the record about a pattern of violent sexual behavior by Mr. Simmons, disclosing incidents from 1988 to 2014. Three of the women say that he raped them. In each case, numerous friends and associates said they were told of the incidents at the time. The women said they were inspired to come forward in the aftermath of the accusations against Harvey Weinstein, as victims' stories have been newly elevated and more often believed. ...Black women, especially, felt powerless against Mr. Simmons and his cohort in the small world of urban music, with several saying that misconduct against them could go unchecked because their place in the industry was so tenuous. They feared being ostracized, or worse."

Beth Healy and Sacha Pfeiffer at the Boston Globe: For Years, Fenway Health Center Kept Prominent Doctor Accused of Harassment, Bullying. "Fenway Community Health Center permitted a doctor accused of sexually harassing and bullying employees to continue working there for four years after the first serious complaint was filed in 2013, according to interviews with current and former employees and documents reviewed by the Globe. The Boston medical institution, known for its pioneering care and advocacy for patients in the gay community, paid an outside law firm twice in the last four years to investigate allegations made against the doctor, Harvey J. Makadon, according to the sources. The second time, in 2015, chief executive Stephen Boswell ignored the lawyers' recommendation to fire Makadon, and failed to report the matter to the board of directors."

And a follow-up: Second Fenway Health Center Leader Steps Down Amid Furor over Handling of Sexual Harassment Claims.

Morgan Spurlock: I Am Part of the Problem. At the link, Spurlock confesses (sort of) to rape, sexual harassment, and infidelity — then offers a list of reasons why he might have sexually abused women. I have so many fucking problems with this, I hardly know where to begin, but, chief among my objections is this: Now, if any woman accuses him of any other abuse, lots of people won't believe her, because he didn't "confess" to it and, gee, he's so honest. This is a clear attempt to get out ahead of serious allegations and frame it himself before his victims can even tell their stories. I'm filthy angry about this, especially because, as Spurlock certainly anticipated, he's being widely congratulated for his bravery. Seethe.

Heather Caygle at Politico: Democratic Lawmaker: Women's Clothing an 'Invitation' to Harassment. "A female Democratic House member shocked fellow lawmakers Wednesday when she said that the revealing clothing that some members and staffers wear is an 'invitation' to sexual harassment. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) made the comments during a private Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday to discuss sexual harassment issues, according to two Democratic sources in the room. ...In a statement to Politico later Wednesday, Kaptur said she never meant to suggest that women are to blame for harassment they experience." Except, ya know, she did.

And finally, during a Q&A for their new film, The Post, Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep on separating (or not) the art from the artist:

TOM HANKS: If you threw out every film or television show that was — okay, yeah — made by an asshole, Netflix would go out of business. [audience laughter] So that's not a good idea. I think you do just have to — you wait, because this is a long game. Picasso was a womanizer — this is not excusing anybody. You just have to wait and see how it settles over the long haul. This is not a sprint; this is a marathon. And I think work does speak for itself, but character does come into the conversation at some point, but I think that lands over time.
Although she is not in the above video, Streep reportedly said: "We still revere Shakespeare. I mean we haven't thrown [The Merchant of Venice] out and there is no question that that play is antisemitic. There's no question that The Taming of The Shrew is misogynist. Everybody has their blank spots, but the genius that understands about the human experiment is worth safeguarding and shouldn't be touched… People who are terrible also have terribly clear insights on other subjects, so I don't think you throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Oh.

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Trump Is Our Greatest Threat to National Security

That Donald Trump is the greatest threat to the United States' national security is hardly a new idea. He was a threat, if not the biggest, even before he was president — back when he was merely a candidate, standing at a podium and inviting the Kremlin to hack federal government email servers.

But now that he is the president, his capacity for causing harm has expanded exponentially. And whether it's his provocation of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un or his embrace of Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte, his sexism toward German Chancellor Angela Merkel or patriarchal posturing with French President Emmanuel Macron, his hostility toward NATO or his indifference toward climate change, Trump is continually subverting U.S. leadership in the international community and alienating us from our allies.

But perhaps nothing makes Trump more dangerous to this nation, and to the rest of the world, than his position on Russia and his affinity for Vladimir Putin.

In an extraordinary and critical piece of reporting for the Washington Post, Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, Philip Rucker, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Julie Tate make abundantly clear how vast this peril truly is: "Doubting the Intelligence, Trump Pursues Putin and Leaves a Russian Threat Unchecked."

There is a lot there, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.

What emerges is the portrait of a president whose ego and temperament make him catastrophically unfit for the presidency, and whose stubborn fealty to the remarkably stupid idea that a friendship with Putin is both possible and integral to world peace renders him uniquely unsuited to lead at a moment in time when taking seriously the international threat of Russian destabilization of democracies is critical to global stability.

Simultaneously, what is painfully clear here is that there is no one — no one — in Trump's orbit who presents a meaningful challenge to his authoritarian insistence on not being questioned. The idea that Trump would surround himself with "smart people" was always a foolish one, because his refusal to abide criticism or dissent always meant he would surround himself with sycophants.

So here we are. This anecdote, as but one example of that chilling dynamic, is horrifying:

[National security adviser H.R. McMaster] gained an internal ally on Russia in March with the hiring of Fiona Hill as the top Russia adviser on the NSC. A frequent critic of the Kremlin, Hill was best known as the author of a respected biography of Putin and was seen as a reassuring selection among Russia hard-liners.

Her relationship with Trump, however, was strained from the start.

In one of her first encounters with the president, an Oval Office meeting in preparation for a call with Putin on Syria, Trump appeared to mistake Hill for a member of the clerical staff, handing her a memo he had marked up and instructing her to rewrite it.

When Hill responded with a perplexed look, Trump became irritated with what he interpreted as insubordination, according to officials who witnessed the exchange. As she walked away in confusion, Trump exploded and motioned for McMaster to intervene.

McMaster followed Hill out the door and scolded her, officials said. Later he and a few close staffers met to explore ways to repair Hill's damaged relationship with the president.
Trump's intractable misogyny led him to assume a Russian expert was a secretary, and then he got angry at her for insufficient deference. That is troubling enough, but McMaster knew who she was, and scolded her anyway, for the president's benefit.

Clearly, there is no one prepared to stand up to Trump. We are in very deep trouble.

One final note: Mike Pence is mentioned exactly once in this piece: "Trump took a seat at one end of a large table, with Vice President-elect Mike Pence at the other."

The article doesn't say what Pence's position on Russia is. It doesn't say what he's doing when Trump throws tantrums at having to hear even a mention of Russian interference. It doesn't address Pence's accountability for allowing this garbage, despite being a career politician. It doesn't address his accountability for abetting it.

It continues to be absolutely scandalous that Pence is just skating through all of this with seemingly nobody in the media caring about the critical role he is playing in the accelerated downfall of this nation.

He is significantly less of a concern at the moment than Trump, but, one day, he might not be.

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Net Neutrality: Today Is (Probably) the Day

I've been banging on about FCC Chair Ajit Pai and his crusade to destroy Net Neutrality for literally the entire year, and now the moment of reckoning has arrived: Today is the day when the FCC is scheduled to vote on Net Neutrality.

There has been no indication that Pai will delay the vote, despite the fact that an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office has found that "as many as two million comments [submitted during the Net Neutrality public comment process] misused the identities of real Americans, including over 100,000 comments per state from New York, Florida, Texas, and California," and that 18 state attorneys general have petitioned the FCC to delay the rule-making process.

So, this is it, folks. No more time to put off making noise to save Net Neutrality.

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