SYNDICATED COLUMN: Here’s How Democrats Could Win This Fall and the One After That and the One After That

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/03/2018 - 8:32am in

Image result for workers strike

Democrats are optimistic about their prospects for this November’s Congressional midterm elections. But, as I argued in The Wall Street Journal last week, the party’s growing (and increasingly powerful) progressive base may well decide to sit on their hands, staying home on Election Day — just as a determinative number of Bernie Sanders’ supporters did in 2016.

Don’t be mad at them. Would you vote for a party that promised you nothing whatsoever?

To avoid again snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Democratic leaders must energize their long-neglected base. They should take their cue from Newt Gingrich in 1994 by nationalizing the election with an unapologetically left-leaning platform promising substantial change if they take back the House and/or Senate. Item one seems obvious: they should promise to impeach Donald Trump.

But anti-Trumpism wasn’t enough to win in 2016 and it won’t be enough this year either, especially in races featuring incumbents defending gerrymandered districts. Democrats should set aside identity politics in favor of a class-based agenda that leverages the low unemployment rate in order to restore some of the power workers have lost to decades of downsizing, outsourcing and deunionization.

If not now, when? True, many employers are deploying monopsonic tactics like non-compete and no-poaching clauses to keep workers toiling at their firms without giving them a raise. Even so, there are so many new jobs that corporations are complaining about labor shortages. Working Americans are never going to have a better chance to pressure their bosses to treat them better.

What should the Democrats’ pro-worker platform for 2018 include?

Let’s start with a $25-an-hour federal minimum wage. Sounds radical, but it’s what the lowest-paid workers would earn if Congress had tied the rate either to increases in worker productivity since 1960 or to the official inflation rate (the real one is higher) since the end of the Vietnam War. Going forward, the minimum wage should be indexed to the (real) inflation rate. Bosses say they’d have to lay people off but studies show that’s a bluff. As a concession to employers, the minimum wage could be adjusted downward if there’s deflation.

The United States is one of the few countries on earth — perhaps the only country — with “at-will” employment. Under U.S. labor law, employers can fire workers for any reason that isn’t specifically illegal, such as discrimination by gender or race, or retaliating against a whistleblower. In Europe, there are no independent contractors. All employees get a contract. Unless it’s for good cause (like a worker caught stealing), bosses can’t lay you off without paying you months, or even years, of severance pay. American workers too deserve to be treated with dignity. Democrats should end the obscenity that is at-will.

Under a Clinton-era law, American workers get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for events like the birth of a baby. Talk about cheap! According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. is the only one of 41 countries that doesn’t offer at least two months of paid leave. Estonia gives more than a year and a half. Paid. Are Estonians better people, more deserving of time with their kids, than Americans? Germany offers more than 40 weeks — so who really won World War II?

Employers often fire workers because they want to join or organize a union. This is already illegal. But that law is toothless because employers simply make up some other reason to get rid of pro-union workers. Getting rid of at-will employment would solve the problem.

These fixes address issues that have long afflicted workers. Going forward, after this fall, Democrats should also take on the big systemic shifts in the workplace that are leaving even more working people underpaid and underprivileged despite putting in a hard week’s work.

Freelancers and independent contractors currently make up more than a third of American workers. They don’t get an employer-matched 401(k), much less a pension. They pay for their own healthcare. The 1099 set needs and deserves paid family leave, protection from fickle at-will employers and a nest egg for retirement.

Just shy of 20% of workers work part-time; many people hold multiple part-time jobs because they can’t find one full-time position. The system needs to take care of their health, retirement and worker-protection requirements as well.

No one is talking about the looming Generation X retirement — or lack of retirement — crisis. Nevertheless, it’s coming. Gen Xer retirement saving rates are terrifyingly low. An obvious solution is beefing up Social Security, but Republicans are slashing benefits instead.

Based on their record of inaction and subservience to corporate interests, I don’t expect Democrats to roll up their sleeves and take on the pocketbook issues progressives — and many swing voters — care about. But if I’m wrong, and they get serious about the stuff that matters most, they’ll win.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Harvard’s Laurence Tribe Has Become a Deranged Russia Conspiracist: Today Was His Most Humiliating Debacle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 3:43am in

Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe did not wait even 24 hours to exploit yesterday’s tragic crash of a Russian regional jet shortly after it took off from Moscow, killing all 71 people aboard. On Twitter this morning, Tribe (pictured above in 2010 with former Vice President Joe Biden) strongly insinuated that the Russian government may have purposely sabotaged the plane, murdering all of those on board, in order to silence one of the passengers, Sergei Millian, who has been linked to a couple of figures involved in the Trump-Russia investigation.

What’s wrong with Tribe’s claims? Everything. To begin with, Millian was not on that plane. The official list of victims includes nobody with that name; as the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern pointed out, the claim that Millian was on the plane was a simple hoax from the internet sewer, 4chan. Tribe apparently saw someone making this claim somewhere on the internet and then, without bothering to check if it was actually true, told his 289,000 followers that it was true, and then constructed a rabid, deranged conspiracy theory around it.

After dozens, if not hundreds, of people told him that what he said was false, Tribe — after more than 2,000 people retweeted it — posted a mealy-mouthed follow-up noting that he can’t “vouch” for the accuracy of the “plenty of reporting” he saw claiming this was true: “reporting” that he still has not identified.

Even if Millian had been on the plane, casually suggesting that Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, or some combination of other villains purposely murdered everyone on the plane in order to silence one witness is deranged to the point of being a clinical pathology. That sort of baseless conspiracy-mongering ought to disqualify anyone from serious company for a long time.

But it almost certainly will have no effect on Tribe’s standing. As BuzzFeed’s Joseph Bernstein documented almost a year ago, Tribe has become one of the internet’s most unhinged cranks, churning out wild conspiracy theories and, in the process, becoming a social media star and MSNBC favorite. Among his lowlights was his promoting of a story from the well-known liberal “fake news” site Palmer Report claiming that Trump paid $10 million to former GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Tribe was also one of the people most responsible for building the platform of Louise Mensch who — among other things — has claimed that Putin murdered Andrew Breitbart and engineered the Ferguson protests.

I’ll confess some personal disappointment with all of this, given that — as a law student and then a young lawyer wanting to practice constitutional law — Tribe was someone I had regarded with a great deal of admiration. He was a genuine scholar of constitutional law. But like so many people in the public arena, the combination of Trump’s 2016 victory and the fearmongering specter of Putin as an omnipotent mastermind seems to have broken his brain, or at least the part of it responsible for rational reasoning.

The more deranged he gets, the more Tribe — needless to say — becomes not just a social media star (his Twitter follower count, like most Russia-Trump conspiracists, has exploded over the last year), but has also become an MSNBC favorite, as they exploit his credentials and pedigree to depict his madness as some sort of insightful, investigative dot-connecting.

That’s because, as I documented this morning, false claims about Russia are now a routine part of the U.S. media diet. There has long been a fringe on the far right that believes the Clintons are responsible for murdering dozens of people in order to silence them. Sometimes, people who thought that way were in the mainstream, as evidenced by the leading role played by the Wall Street Journal editorial page in pushing the theory that Hillary Clinton had former White House attorney Vince Foster murdered.

But those people have been largely scorned and relegated to obscurity. The new conspiracy theorists — the ones who casually suggest that when a plane crashes, it is really a secret attempt by Putin and Trump to silence one of the passengers (who wasn’t even a passenger) — are found not on far right websites, but on MSNBC and at Harvard Law School, with constantly growing social media followings and increasingly viral tweets. The people who like to rail most about the dangers of “fake news” and conspiracy theorizing seem awfully uninterested in condemning them because their derangement is for the right cause.

The post Harvard’s Laurence Tribe Has Become a Deranged Russia Conspiracist: Today Was His Most Humiliating Debacle appeared first on The Intercept.

Dutch Official Admits Lying About Meeting With Putin: Is Fake News Used by Russia or About Russia?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/02/2018 - 12:43am in

Every empire needs a scary external threat, led by a singular menacing villain, to justify its massive military expenditures, consolidation of authoritarian powers, and endless wars. For the five decades after the end of World War II, Moscow played this role perfectly. But the fall of Soviet Union meant, at least for a while, that the Kremlin could no longer sustain sufficient fear levels. After some brief, largely unsuccessful auditions for possible replacements — Asian actors like China and a splurging Japan were considered — the post-9/11 era elevated a cast of Muslim understudies to the starring role: Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, ISIS and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and “jihadism” generally kept fear alive.

The lack of any 9/11-type catastrophic attack on U.S. (or any Western) soil for the past 17 years, along with the killing of a pitifully aged, ailing bin Laden and the erosion of ISIS, has severely compromised their ongoing viability as major bad guys. So now — just as a film studio revitalizes a once-successful super-villain franchise for a new generation of moviegoers — we’re back to the Russians occupying center stage.

That Barack Obama spent eight years (including up through his final year-end news conference) mocking the notion that Russia posed a serious threat to the U.S. given their size and capabilities, and that he even tried repeatedly to accommodate and partner with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is of no concern: In the internet age, “2016” is regarded as ancient history, drowned out by an endless array of new threats pinned by a united media on the Russkie Plague. Moreover, human nature craves a belief in an existential foreign threat because it confers a sense of purpose and cause, strengthens tribal unity and identity, permits scapegoating, shifts blame for maladies from internal to external causes, and (like religion) offers a simplifying theory for understanding a complex world.

One of the prime accusations sustaining this script is that the Kremlin is drowning the West in “fake news” and other forms of propaganda. One can debate its impact and magnitude, but disinformation campaigns are something the U.S., Russia, and countless other nations have done to one another for centuries, and there is convincing evidence that Russia does this sort of thing now. But evidence of one threat does not mean that all claimed threats are real, nor does it mean that that tactic is exclusively wielded by one side.

Over the past year, there have been numerous claims made by Western intelligence agencies, mindlessly accepted as true in the Western press, that have turned out to be baseless, if not deliberate scams. Just today, it was revealed that Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra lied when he claimed he was at a meeting with Putin, in which the Russian president “said he considered Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltic states as part of a ‘Greater Russia.'”

“Fake news” is certainly something to worry about when it emanates from foreign adversaries, but it is at least as concerning and threatening, if not more so, when emanating from one’s own governments and media. And there are countless, highly significant examples beyond today’s of such propaganda that emanates from within.

Russian Interference in Brexit Vote

The Guardian, January 10, 2018:

Reuters, February 8, 2018:

Russians Responsible for #ReleaseTheMemo Campaign

Associated Press, January 22, 2018:

Daily Beast, January 23, 2018:

Russian Interference in German Elections

Reuters, July 4, 2017:

New York Times, September 21, 2017:

Russians Hacked Macron Campaign:

Telegraph, May 6, 2017:

Associated Press, June 1, 2017:

And this is all independent of all those cases when the U.S. media was forced to retract, or issue humiliating editor’s notes, about stories regarding the “Russian threat” that turned out to be false. Even in those cases in which some evidence can be found suggesting that some “Russians” were engaged online in support for a particular cause, the size and impact of it is usually so minute as to be laughable. In response to months of demands and threats to Twitter from the U.K. government to investigate how its service was used by Russians to support the Brexit referendum, Twitter — to satisfy mounting complaints — finally came up with this:

For the six decades of the miserable Cold War, those Americans who tried to argue that the Russian threat was being exaggerated for nefarious ends and who advocated for better relations between Washington and Moscow were branded as “traitors,” Kremlin apologists, or at best, “useful idiots.” The revitalization of Russia as prime villain has also given new life to those old right-wing tactics, though this time wielded by the same people who were once its targets:

But the reason this matters so much — this coordinated devotion to once again depicting Russia as a grave threat — is because of the serious, enduring policy implications. New Democratic Party star Joseph Kennedy III is following in the footsteps of his Cold Warrior ancestors by proposing massive new military, propaganda, and cybersecurity programs to combat the Russian threat. Senators such as Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican John McCain routinely refer to “acts of war” when discussing U.S.-Russia relations. British generals and tabloids are hyping the Russian threat beyond all measure of reason in their quest to obtain new weapons systems and increased military spending at the expense of austerity-battered British subjects.

If there’s any lesson that should unite everyone in the West, it’s that the greatest skepticism is required when it comes to government and media claims about the nature of foreign threats. If we’re going to rejuvenate a Cold War, or submit to greater military spending and government powers in the name of stopping alleged Russian aggression, we should at least ensure that the information on which those campaigns succeed are grounded in fact. Even a casual review of the propaganda spewing forth from Western power centers over the last year leaves little doubt that the exact opposite is happening.

Top photo: The Dutch minister of foreign affairs Halbe Zijlstra speaks during a joint press conference with the German minister of foreign affairs Sigmar Gabriel at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin, Germany, 16 November 2017.

The post Dutch Official Admits Lying About Meeting With Putin: Is Fake News Used by Russia or About Russia? appeared first on The Intercept.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Why Do the Democrats Take Trump’s Trolling Lying Down?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/02/2018 - 9:23am in

Image result for trump tweet schumer

This is advice for the Democrats. Democrats never take my advice. So why do I keep giving it to them?

These “what Democrats ought to do” columns aren’t really for the Democratic Party leadership. They’re for you, dear left-of-center reader. I’m explaining what the Dems should be doing and comparing it to what they’re actually doing. That gap between what makes sense and what is going on, I hope you’ll conclude, is so big that we should declare the Democratic Party dead and gone. Giving up on the Dems is important.

The Left will never roll up its sleeves and start building a genuine alternative to the current system until it stops trying, somehow, to take over or sway the Distracticats.

This week, I’d like to showcase the stunning ineptitude of the Democrats’ communications strategy.

There are many examples to choose from, but lately I have been marveling at Democratic leaders’ wimpiness in the face of the president’s Twitter-trolling.

On November 28, 2017, Trump tweeted: “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working. Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi canceled their scheduled meeting with Trump. “Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, we believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. “Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement, we’ve asked (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell and (House Speaker Paul) Ryan to meet this afternoon.”


Schumer and Pelosi were right to cancel — but not because of Trump’s stated pessimism about arriving at an agreement. They should have canceled because Trump insulted them. “Chuck and Nancy”? Really?

As Frederick Douglass said, people naturally have contempt for a person who won’t stand up for himself. Schumer and Pelosi should have fought back. They should have refused to let Trump big-dog them.

They could have taken the high road: “Until the President learns to address us politely, like an adult, using our proper titles and names — Senator Schumer, Representative Pelosi, Leader Schumer, Leader Pelosi — we Democrats will have no communications with him whatsoever.”

Or they could have gone the Ted Rall route: “We’re sorry, silly fat Orange Donald, that your mother didn’t raise you properly. Until you delete your Twitter account, apologize on TV and sign a contract agreeing to never darken social media again — oh, and no pussy grabbing either — you can go f— yourself.

Either way, they’d have to mean it. That would mean no more meetings, no more tolerating the president’s wanton rudeness. Total obstruction.

I know. It ain’t gonna happen. Democratic leaders obviously believe that they risk debasing themselves if they lower themselves to Trump’s rhetorical level. What they don’t get is that Trump is a bully. The only way to deal with a bully is with shock-and-awe brutality.

The debasement follows the insult. Your decision not to climb into the gutter with the bullying idiot may seem admirable — “when they go low, we go high,” Michelle Obama said — but it allows your tormentor to cast you as a coward. When you allow the bully to insult you over and over and over, as Trump does to his enemies, you tacitly endorse their insults. Why, otherwise, do you tolerate disrespect?

Or, to look at it another way, consider why Trump’s fans love him. They love him because he “says it like it is,” doesn’t take prisoners, doesn’t mince words. One person’s lack of impulse control is another’s courage. Imagine, if a progressive were as rude and aggressive as Trump, how exciting that would be?

On January 26, 2018, Trump was back at it — not that he ever took a break. “DACA has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that Cryin’ Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!” Trump tweeted.

Imagine you were Chuck Schumer. You’re a U.S. senator. He’s been in Congress since 1974, when Trump was still making his name refusing to rent apartments to black people. Why, you might ask yourself, should I put up with this patak who dares to give me a ridiculous nickname?

Four days later, here was Schumer, calling him “President Trump” and “the President.” WTF?

Schumer and the Democrats won’t even defend themselves. Do you seriously think they’ll lift a finger for you and me?

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The Nunes Memo and Katie Roiphe Article Show How Concerns for Due Process and Civil Liberties Are Highly Selective and Self-Centered

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/02/2018 - 2:57am in

In 2010, civil libertarians encountered a surreal moment: After years of trying, largely without success, to get Americans to care about the assaults on basic rights carried out in the name of the war on terror, these issues suddenly exploded with great prominence to the forefront of our national debate. Suddenly, everywhere one turned, one heard paeans to the importance of privacy rights and the need to balance security concerns with respect for core liberties.

What caused this outburst of civil libertarianism was the implementation at airports by the Transportation Security Administration of new, invasive body-scanning machines that generated quasi-nude images or, if one refused that, physical pat-downs that included the groin area. Unlike far more egregious abuses that Americans largely ignored, if not sanctioned — from putting people in cages in the middle of an ocean for years without any trials to torturing helpless detainees convicted of no crimes to targeting even American citizens for assassination with no due process — these invasive procedures were being applied not just to Muslims, but also to Americans generally of all types. As a result, the TSA machines and pat-downs transformed huge numbers of people into newfound privacy and civil liberties advocates because the rights that they felt were being assaulted weren’t just those of Muslims and foreigners, but their own rights and those of people like them.

The lesson civil libertarians learned from that episode is that many Americans will remain blissfully ignorant, if not aggressively supportive, of even the most extreme rights abuses — unless they believe that they themselves or people who look like them will be affected, in which case they will become highly agitated in defense of the very same rights that they are more than happy to watch be eroded when the victims are other people. Two widely discussed controversies from this week illustrate this principle quite vividly.

The first is a long-anticipated essay in Harper’s about the #MeToo movement by Katie Roiphe, a longtime critic of various aspects of contemporary feminism and one of the most polarizing writers on these issues. Roiphe’s essay expresses various forms of ambivalence and criticism about what she regards as the movement’s excesses. One of the targets of her criticism is the so-called Shitty Media Men list, a document that was widely circulated among journalists that purported to identify dozens of men in journalism who have allegedly engaged in abusive, assaultive, or otherwise “creepy” behavior toward women.

The objections voiced by Roiphe to this list are ones that have been expressed by many genuine supporters of the #MeToo movement: namely, the accusations it contains are unvetted and unverified; anyone can add accusations on the list while remaining completely anonymous; and because the list purportedly was intended never to be published (a claim Roiphe questions), those accused of misconduct may never know that they’ve been accused and, in all events, have no ability to challenge or dispute the accusations made against them, ones which could nonetheless severely harm their reputations or even destroy their careers. Roiphe’s objection to the list is, in essence, one of due process: It enables people to be punished with no evidence of guilt, no guarantor of reliability, nor any meaningful opportunity to contest the accusations.

In her attempt to induce readers to feel anger over this media list, Roiphe tries to imagine a hypothetical analogue that would be self-evidently infuriating and thus, invites readers to feel the same way about this list. She writes:

As amazing, or at least as horrifying, as it is, Roiphe seems completely unaware that the hypothetical list of dangerous “Muslims who might blow up planes” that she asks readers to fantasize exists does, in fact, already exist. It’s called the “no-fly list.” It’s a list compiled by the government in total secrecy, of people (almost entirely Muslims) who the government, with no notice or evidence or process, has decided are too dangerous to board airplanes. In other words, it’s “a secretly circulating, anonymously crowd-sourced list of Muslims who might blow up planes.”

Contrary to Roiphe’s implied claim that the existence of such a list would provoke the intense level of rage and fury she wishes were directed at the Shitty Media Men list, the no-fly list has existed for years and barely anyone has cared. I know this personally because I’ve written repeatedly about it: about American Muslim teenagers who show up at the ticket counter of an airport for a long-anticipated trip to Somalia to visit their grandparents and relatives for the first time only to suddenly learn, to their great humiliation, that their own government has secretly banished them from planes; or U.S. Air Force veterans who live abroad and are barred from visiting their dying mothers for the same reason; or American Muslims detained in Kuwait without charges who can’t be released because the U.S. government secretly declared them unfit to fly. The American Civil Liberties Union has repeatedly sued the government, arguing that these lists are an unconstitutional violation of due process, and have often lost.

Roiphe ignored these controversies because, it seems, the victims of these anonymous, due-process-free lists were just black Muslims. She’s become incensed with due process deprivations only now when those being punished — to a far lesser extent than those on the no-fly list — are her white media friends and those who look like her and come from similar backgrounds. Her “hypothetical” example that, in fact, has existed for years reveals that she literally had no idea about these far more extreme rights abuses, and her belief that such a list would provoke rage if it were aimed at Muslims — when the actual list provoked widespread indifference among Americans (including her) — demonstrates how insular and self-absorbed media elites are when deciding which rights infringements bother them and which do not.

Exactly the same dynamic is evident in a seemingly much different controversy: the one provoked by release of the Nunes memo, which claims that the Department of Justice and FBI abused its spying powers by concealing material evidence from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court in order to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on the communications of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. As a result of these assertions, people like Nunes and House Speaker Paul Ryan have spent the last week prancing around as fierce opponents of surveillance abuses and opaque warrant procedures.

But these are the very same people who have spent the last decade empowering, cheering, and enabling exactly these same abuses when they have been directed at Muslim-Americans. Just as is true of Roiphe and those cheering her essay, these Republican authoritarians only care now because the supposed victim is someone who is like them, someone with whom they identify.

Indeed, civil libertarians have spent the last two decades vehemently objecting that the FISA court is a joke, that it rubber-stamps anything the DOJ and FBI want, and that Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act allows massive, warrantless eavesdropping on Americans. Back in 2014, The Intercept, using Snowden documents, revealed (with their consent) the names of five prominent Muslim-Americans who had been targeted by the National Security Agency and/or FBI for invasive surveillance for reasons that were almost certainly political.

Not only did people like Devin Nunes and Paul Ryan never care about any of those abuses — far worse, they actively supported and empowered those abuses. Indeed, just three weeks ago, Nunes and Ryan joined with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, to increase the domestic spying powers of the Trump FBI and NSA while blocking all reforms and safeguards. That’s because — unlike consistent defenders of free speech (ACLU and FIRE) and consistent defenders of privacy and due process (Russ Feingold and Justin Amash), these charlatans are more than happy for these abuses to occur as long as those subjected to them are Muslim-Americans or people who, for whatever reasons, are powerless in Washington.

This is one of the most toxic pathologies of America’s ruling class: They are utterly indifferent to the suffering and victimization of the rights and civil liberties of people who are unlike them and distant from them. But as soon as far more benign erosions affect them and those like them, they become shrilly and selfishly outraged.

That’s the dynamic that caused the former ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, to spend years vigorously defending warrantless NSA spying under George W. Bush, only to turn into an overnight privacy fanatic when she learned that her own conversations, in which she was plotting with a suspected agent of the Israeli government, had been eavesdropped on by the FBI. It’s why Jonathan Chait writes tens of thousands of words railing against “PC culture” and “the intolerant left” when his friend Hanna Rosin, a professional writer, is criticized, but stays almost entirely silent when far more severe and pervasive censorship — aimed at Israel critics — takes root on American campuses and other institutions. It’s why Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein spent decades as one of the most devoted CIA and NSA loyalists — until she learned she had been spied on by the CIA during her torture investigation, when she suddenly discovered the need for safeguards and privacy protections. As the consistent rights crusader Radley Balko put it recently:

Pearl clutching over alleged misleading info on the Page warrant applications reminds me of gasps over the no-knock raid on Manafort. When the political class gets the tiniest taste of injustices inflicted on regular people daily, they make themselves into Mandelas.

If these self-centered outbursts of anger and offense actually engendered an enduring, generalized commitment to the need to safeguard these rights — not just when they affect elites and their friends, but people generally — then one could at least find some value in these episodes even while remaining repulsed at the unprincipled self-centeredness that fosters them. But that almost never what happens.

Instead, people like Roiphe, Nunes, and the rest are not really animated by any principles that can endure or find general application. They’re just motivated by personalized grievance on behalf of themselves and their socioeconomic cohorts. As a result, these episodes produce little beyond special pleading, petulant self-victimization, and the perpetuation of a framework that holds that only elites truly deserve due process rights and core civil liberties protections.

Top photo: Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, answer questions at the U.S. Capitol during a press conference March 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.

The post The Nunes Memo and Katie Roiphe Article Show How Concerns for Due Process and Civil Liberties Are Highly Selective and Self-Centered appeared first on The Intercept.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Could Lose Again in 2018

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/02/2018 - 9:23am in

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You’re reading this, so you probably follow political punditry. And if you follow political punditry, you’ve been hearing the usual corporate suspects predict that one of two things will happen in this fall’s midterm elections: either the Democrats will win big (win back the Senate), or they’ll win really big (the House too). Outta the way, Congressional Republicans: here comes the Big Blue Wave!

Of course, these are the same clowns who called it big for President Hillary. Yet on and on they yammer, and we have to listen to them since big-money political media won’t hire anyone who has a clue.

Interestingly, there are early warning signs — just as there were throughout the 2016 presidential race — that Democrats may be counting their electoral chickens before they’re aborted.

“The Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot, which asks people whether they’ll vote for Democrats or Republicans for Congress, has dwindled since the heart of the tax debate in December,” Nate Cohn reports in The New York Times. “Then, nearly all surveys put Republicans behind by double digits. Now, poll averages put the Democratic lead at only around six or seven percentage points…the last two weeks of polls have gone further than a reversion to the mean. They’re arguably the best two weeks of polls for Republicans since the failure of the Senate health care bill in July. A highly sensitive poll average — like the FiveThirtyEight tracker — might put the Democratic lead down to roughly six points, basically the lowest level since the spring.”

As Cohn notes, there are nine long months to go before November. Things can and will change. Historically, the party in power usually gets “shellacked” during midterm elections. Democrats hope that voters will punish GOP senators and representatives as proxies for their party’s incredibly unpopular standardbearer.

People hate Trump. Yet Democrats have good cause for concern. Americans vote their pocketbooks, and their wallets are feeling better than they have in a long time. Unemployment hasn’t been this low since 9/11 — to the point that employers are complaining about labor shortages. Consumer confidence hasn’t been this high since Bill Clinton was president. Most people don’t own stocks, but the Dow is soaring — and that’s usually better for jobs than the other way around. Fuel prices have been lower. Like it or not (I don’t), the GOP’s tax bill is becoming more popular.

Given what a turd Trump is, you’d think the booming economy might not be enough to keep voters from turning out against incumbent Republicans this fall. But you’d be forgetting the Democratic Party’s inimitable talent for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Democrats are still hobbled by the same internal divisions that led to Clinton’s defeat. The Bernie progressives have the energy and the momentum but the DNC is still under the Clintonista jackboot. In most Republican districts, the Democratic challenger is a corporate right-winger Bernie’s peeps won’t care enough to drag themselves to the polls on a rainy Tuesday in November. A lot of them (women, people of color) play to identity politics over class-based populism — that was a loser in 2016, and it could easily bomb again this year.
The biggest issue for the Democrats is their lack of issues or, more precisely, their lack of a coherent platform of policies with which to unify scores of local campaigns into a national referendum, as Newt Gingrich did for the GOP with his Contract for America in 1994.

What would the Dems do if they got their sweep? No one knows.

Would they impeach Trump? They’re not saying.

Would they repeal the Trump tax law? Probably not (but they should say they would).

Would Democrats push for a higher minimum wage? A national abortion-rights bill? Cutting back NSA surveillance? Bringing back troops from Afghanistan and Iraq? Closing Gitmo? Probably none of the above — so why would left-of-center voters get excited about more of the same?

Democrats aren’t promising anything. Voters may take them at their word — and let the Republicans keep on keeping on.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall) is co-author, with Harmon Leon, of “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” an inside look at the American far right, out now. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Democrats Have Hijacked the Anti-Trump Resistance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/01/2018 - 3:52am in

Image result for women's march democrats

Conservative “tough on crime” Democrat Kamala Harris trolls for 2020 votes.

Leftists want to change the world. They want peace, equal income, equal wealth, equal rights for everybody.

Democrats are not part of the Left. If Democrats have their way, the fundamental inequality of American capitalism, a system in which 1% of the people “earn” 82% of the income, will never change. Democrats apply identity politics as a distraction, in lieu of systematic solutions to class-based discrimination. Democrats demand more women directors in Hollywood, more African-Americans admitted to Ivy League schools, transgendered soldiers in the military so they can join the slaughter of brown people in other countries.

Donald Trump represented a rare opportunity for the Left. After eight years of fascism with a smile, the American system got a figurehead as visually and tonally repugnant as its foreign policy (drones, aggressive wars, coups, undermining popular elected leaders) and its domestic reality (widespread poverty, crumbling infrastructure, no social safety net, for-profit healthcare and education). “Hey,” the Left could finally say, “the U.S. is a disgusting monster headed by a disgusting monster. Let’s get rid of that monster!”

It has become painfully apparent that Democrats have hijacked the anti-Trump Resistance.

“I feel like the revolution is now,” a demonstrator at last weekend’s second Women’s March told a New York Times reporter. “I want equal pay,” added her 11-year-old daughter, Xenaya, chimed in. “And equal rights.”

Definition of “revolution”: “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.”

At those very same marches, however, (establishment Democratic) speakers like Nancy Pelosi and Kirsten Gillibrand urged women to run for office (presumably as Democrats) and to support Democratic candidates (whether they’re women or men). Even if you think that is a beautiful and important idea, it is not revolution.

Running for office and validating the status quo by voting for major-party candidates is the exact opposite of revolution.

USA Today’s take was typical: “Women’s March returns, but the real focus now is the midterm elections.” The paper quotes Linda Meigs, who is challenging a GOP incumbent in Alabama: “I just feel that there’s a blue wave coming, and it’s a wave of women – women who were energized by the Women’s March and by what’s going on in Washington in the White House.”

Meigs is probably right. Even Republicans think so. But so what?

Even if Democrats take back the House and the Senate, women Resisters who fall for the Dems’ co-option game hoping for “equal pay” and “equal rights” will be sorely disappointed. Not because Trump will get in the way — because Democrats won’t fight for anything substantial.

Consider the Democrat most Women’s Marchers probably voted for. Like the rest of her fellow Democrats, Hillary Clinton (a multimillionaire) supported raising the minimum wage to a pitiful $12 per hour. (If it had merely kept up with inflation, it would be $23 per hour now. Given increases in worker productivity, it ought to be at least $25 per hour.)

Nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women.

Clinton gets better-a-century-late-than-never cred for endorsing the long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment. But Democrats controlled the White House, House and Senate as recently as 2010 — and never mentioned it.

Even on the signature identity-politics issue of abortion rights, Democrats have long deployed a form of psychological terrorism against women. Unless you vote for us, they’ve been telling women, some Republican president might appoint a Supreme Court justice who might cast the deciding vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Women and their partners shouldn’t have to rely on a wobbly 45-year-old court decision. Why don’t Democrats ever propose a bill legalizing abortion nationwide? Considering that 58% of voters, including many Republicans, support abortion rights, and that Democrats could characterize Congressional opponents as misogynists in attack ads, it’s entirely possible that an abortion-rights law could pass Congress. They certainly could have tried under Obama. But they didn’t. Because Democrats don’t care about people. Democrats care about electing and collecting campaign donations for Democrats.

There is no reason — zero, none, nada — to believe that the Democratic Party’s half-century-old refusal to lift a finger to help the disenfranchised will change if and when they win back Congress. Which makes the squandering of the anti-Trump historical moment so tragic.

It’s time for the actually-existing American Left to do some serious soul-searching, analysis and — most of all — organizing. Why didn’t militant leftists insist on greater prominence at the Women’s Marches than those Democratic hacks? Where is the grassroots organizing? Where are the left-wing thinktanks to create an intellectual and theoretical basis for our arguments? Why aren’t there protests daily, as opposed to annually? Trump and the Republicans and the Democrats shouldn’t be able to show their faces in public without facing a crowd of loud and angry protesters.

It’s not like the Democrats are a fiendishly clever adversary! Allowing the idiots who chose Hillary over Bernie to steal anti-Trumpism points to complete impotence and political incompetence on the part of what’s left of the Left.

(Ted Rall’s (Twitter: @tedrall) brand-new book is “Meet the Deplorables: Infiltrating Trump America,” co-written with Harmon Leon. His next book will be “Francis: The People’s Pope,” the latest in his series of graphic novel-format biographies. Publication date is March 13, 2018. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

The anti-Trump “Resistance” Is Nothing More Than a Democratic Party Fundraising Campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/01/2018 - 1:03am in

One year after Donald Trump took office and the Women’s March supposedly marked the rise of a new anti-Trump Resistance, it is crystal clear that the Resistance amounts to nothing more than a campaign to elect more Democrats to high office. The only trouble is, Democrats never push for liberal, much less progressive or left, politics once they get into power. The Democratic Party is where the American Left goes to die…and Trump hasn’t changed that.

Centrist Democrats Launch Smear Campaign Against Young Transgender Woman, All to Keep an Old, Straight, White Man in Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/01/2018 - 1:46am in

Over the weekend, Chelsea Manning announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate by posting a video outlining the broad themes of her campaign. Manning, a whistleblower who served seven years in a U.S. military brig for exposing systemic U.S. war crimes, was held under prison conditions so brutal that the United Nations formally denounced them as “inhumane.”

While her whistleblowing made her a hero around the world, Manning has also now become an icon of LGBT equality and transgender rights with an act of profound bravery that at least matches, if not surpasses, her whistleblowing. She announced her transition and demanded the dignity and treatment to which she was entitled, while she was imprisoned in the middle of a sprawling U.S. military base, in a brig at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Since her release from prison, she has become a visible and outspoken advocate for the rights of trans people. She has used her position as a Guardian columnist to stake out a wide range of positions, including drafting a proposed law to provide protections for whistleblowers. She certainly has more political experience and activism than many other Senate candidates previously supported by the Democratic establishment (Al Franken comes to mind as one example). If elected, Manning would become the first transgender woman ever, and the youngest woman ever, to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Manning’s opponent in the Democratic Party primary is one of the most standard, banal, typical, privileged, and mediocre politicians in the U.S. Congress: Benjamin Cardin, a 74-year-old white, straight man who is seeking his third six-year Senate term. Cardin’s decadeslong career as a politician from the start has been steeped in unearned privilege: He first won elective office back in 1966, when his uncle, Maurice Cardin, gave up his seat in order to bequeath it to his nephew Benjamin. With this dynastic privilege as his base, he has spent the last 50 years climbing the political ladder in Maryland.

Cardin has remarkably few achievements for being in Congress for so many years. One of his few distinctions is that he has become one of the Senate’s most reliable and loyal supporters of AIPAC’s agenda and the Israeli government, if not the single most loyal. In 2015, he joined with Lindsey Graham in kicking off the annual AIPAC conference, causing neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin to gush about how identical they sounded.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., left, listens as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks during their appearance at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, Sunday, March 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Ben Cardin and Lindsey Graham at the annual AIPAC Conference, 2015

Photo: Cliff Owen/AP

But Cardin’s crowning achievement came last year when he authored a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel — a bill that was such a profound assault on basic First Amendment freedoms that the ACLU instantly denounced it and multiple senators who had co-sponsored Cardin’s bill (such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand) announced that they were withdrawing their support.

Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, establishment Democrats wasted no time in mocking and denouncing Manning’s bid to become the first-ever trans woman in the Senate, instead quickly lining up in support behind the straight, white male who has wielded power for decades. To demean Manning, many of these establishment Democrats invoked the primary tactic they now reflexively use against anyone they view as a political adversary: They depicted her as a tool of the Kremlin, whose candidacy is really just a disguised plot engineered by Moscow.

Leading the way in spreading this obviously deranged but acceptable-in-D.C. conspiracy theory was Neera Tanden, president of the largest Democratic Party think tank in Washington. Last night, Tanden spread a viral tweet that strongly implied — without even pretending to have a shred of evidence — that the Kremlin had engineered Manning’s candidacy as punishment for Cardin’s hard-line position on Russia:

This conspiracy theory mocks itself. The idea that Vladimir Putin sat in the Kremlin, steaming over Cardin’s report on Russia and thus, developed a dastardly plot to rid himself of his daunting Maryland nemesis — “I know how to get rid of Cardin: I’ll have a trans woman who was convicted of felony leaking run against him!” — is too inane to merit any additional ridicule. But this is the climate in Washington: No conspiracy theory is too moronic, too demented, too self-evidently laughable to disqualify its advocates from being taken seriously — as long as it involves accusations that someone is a covert tool of the Kremlin. That’s why the president of the leading Democratic think tank feels free to spread this slanderous trash.

(As a side note: Tanden’s ongoing attempt to smear all of her critics as agents of a foreign power is particularly ironic given that the think tank she runs, the Center for American Progress, conceals the identity of many of its largest donors, but admits that one of its largest contributors is one of the world’s most repressive regimes. If there’s any entity worthy of the type of disloyalty innuendo that Tanden loves to spread, it’s the one she runs:

Why have so many establishment Democrats so quickly decided to back a white, straight male politician steeped in privilege, while devoting themselves to opposing a candidate who would make history by becoming the first trans woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate, in the process inspiring trans youth around the world and helping to erode the stigma that has made them so vulnerable to discrimination and violence?

They’ve decided to do this presumably because they find Cardin’s centrist ideology and politics more appealing than Manning’s more radical politics and believe that this trumps what could be the historic value of Manning’s candidacy. They’ve apparently decided to prioritize their own centrist ideology over the important gender, sexual orientation, and trans equality progress that Manning’s victory would ensure.

One can certainly make an argument that the license they’ve granted themselves here — to prioritize ideology and politics over identity — is a reasonable one. But one wonders whether they intend to maintain a monopoly on this license or extend it to others.

Update: Jan. 16, 2018

Establishment Democrats have spent all day attacking this article with one claim: that it cites “only” one example of a Democrat who depicted Manning’s candidacy as a Kremlin plot — CAP President Neera Tanden — and therefore it’s baseless to say that there’s a smear “campaign” against Manning from centrist Democrats. It’s worth making a few points about this claim:

  1. The idea that Tanden is just some random person I picked off Twitter whose views are irrelevant to Democratic Party politics — when she is in fact the president of the largest and most influential Democratic Party think tank in Washington (which is why I cited her) — is really quite laughable.
  2. This objection is completely ancillary to the actual point of this article, which is the extremely inconsistent, self-serving way that centrist Democrats use identity politics: They give themselves license to support old, straight, white men at the expense of pioneering minority candidates when doing so advances their ideological agenda, whereas leftists who do so are vilified for doing the same thing (see the rhetoric from Hillary Clinton supporters in the 2016 Democratic Party primary about the misogynistic, malignant motives of Bernie Sanders supporters for how that works).
  3. The fact that I cited “only” Tanden does not mean that she was the only one spreading this inane Kremlin conspiracy theory about Manning’s candidacy. The claim was all over Twitter. It was re-tweeted thousands of time. I obviously couldn’t list all of the instances in a single article, so I chose the most important one. But for those who need to see more, here are several, beginning with this former official from the Clinton campaign:

Then we have this, from one of the U.S. media’s favorite Russia-obsessed “experts”:

Then we have one of the #Resistance’s most beloved MSNBC personalities, helping to spread the same conspiracy theory as the one Tanden re-tweeted:

And then we have this from the former RT anchor, who is widely celebrated in Democratic Party circles for having left the network:

I could literally spend the rest of the evening posting examples from large accounts that — within 24 hours of Manning’s announcement of her candidacy — tried to tie her and her campaign to the Kremlin. Even if it had “just” been the head of the Center for American Progress doing it, that would have justified this article; but clearly, it was far more widespread and coordinated than that.

And just to underscore the point again: This issue is totally ancillary to the primary point of the article, which is about how centrist Democrats exploit identity politics when it suits them, but then feel free to keep old, white, straight men in power at the expense of marginalized minority candidates, such as Manning.

Top photo: Chelsea Manning attends the 22nd Annual OUT100 Celebration Gala at the Altman Building on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, in New York.

The post Centrist Democrats Launch Smear Campaign Against Young Transgender Woman, All to Keep an Old, Straight, White Man in Power appeared first on The Intercept.

The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/01/2018 - 1:24am in

Leading congressional Democrats have spent the last year relentlessly accusing Donald Trump of being controlled by or treasonously loyal to a hostile foreign power. Over the last several months, they have added to those disloyalty charges a new set of alleged crimes: abusing the powers of the executive branch — including the Justice Department and FBI — to vindictively punish political opponents while corruptly protecting the serious crimes of his allies, including his own family members and possibly himself.

The inescapable conclusion from all of this, they have relentlessly insisted, is that Trump is a lawless authoritarian of the type the U.S. has not seen in the Oval Office for decades, if ever: a leader who has no regard for constitutional values or legal limits and thus, poses a grave, unique, and existential threat to the institutions of American democracy. Reflecting the severity of these fears, the anti-Trump opposition movement that has coalesced within Democratic Party politics has appropriated a slogan — expressed in the hashtag form of contemporary online activism — that was historically used by those who unite, at all costs, to defeat domestic tyranny: #Resistance.

One would hope, and expect, that those who genuinely view Trump as a menace of this magnitude and view themselves as #Resistance fighters would do everything within their ability to impose as many limits and safeguards as possible on the powers he is able to wield. If “resistance” means anything, at a minimum it should entail a refusal to trust a dangerous authoritarian to wield vast power with little checks or oversight.

Yesterday in Washington, congressional Democrats were presented with a critical opportunity to do exactly that. A proposed new amendment was scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives that would have imposed meaningful limits and new safeguards on Trump’s ability to exercise one of the most dangerous, invasive, and historically abused presidential powers: spying on the communications of American citizens without warrants. Yesterday’s amendment was designed to limit the powers first enacted during the Bush years to legalize the Bush/Cheney domestic warrantless eavesdropping program. The Intercept’s Alex Emmons on Wednesday detailed the history and substance of the various bills pending in the House.

Although the Trump White House and a majority of House Republicans (including House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes) favored extension (and even an expansion) of the current law’s spying powers and opposed any real reforms, a substantial minority of GOP lawmakers have long opposed warrantless surveillance of Americans and thus, announced their intention to support new safeguards. Indeed, the primary sponsor and advocate of the amendment to provide new domestic spying safeguards was the conservative Republican from Michigan, Justin Amash, who, in the wake of the 2013 Edward Snowden revelations, worked in close partnership with liberal Democratic Rep. John Conyers to try to rein in some of these domestic spying powers.

Despite opposition from GOP House leadership and the Trump White House, Amash was able to secure the commitment of dozens of House Republicans to support his amendments to limit the ability of Trump’s FBI to spy on Americans without warrants. The key provision of his amendment would have required that the FBI first obtain a warrant before being permitted to search and read through the communications of Americans collected by the National Security Agency.

To secure enactment of these safeguards, Amash needed support from a majority of House Democrats. That meant that House Democrats held the power in their hands to decide whether Trump — the president they have been vocally vilifying as a lawless tyrant threatening American democracy — would be subjected to serious limits and safeguards on how his FBI could spy on the conversations of American citizens.

Debate on the bill and the amendments began on the House floor yesterday afternoon, and it became quickly apparent that leading Democrats intended to side with Trump and against those within their own party who favored imposing safeguards on the Trump administration’s ability to engage in domestic surveillance. The most bizarre aspect of this spectacle was that the Democrats who most aggressively defended Trump’s version of the surveillance bill — the Democrats most eager to preserve Trump’s spying powers as virtually limitless — were the very same Democratic House members who have become media stars this year by flamboyantly denouncing Trump as a treasonous, lawless despot in front of every television camera they could find.

Leading the charge against reforms of the FBI’s domestic spying powers was Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee who, in countless TV appearances, has strongly insinuated, if not outright stated, that Trump is controlled by and loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, just this weekend, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Schiff accused Trump of corruptly abusing the powers of the DOJ and FBI in order to vindictively punish Hilary Clinton and other political enemies. Referring to Trump’s various corrupt acts, Schiff pronounced: “We ought to be thinking in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, beyond these three years what damage may be done to the institutions of our democracy. ”

Yet just two days later, there was the very same Adam Schiff, on the House floor, dismissing the need for real safeguards on the ability of Trump’s FBI to spy on Americans. In demanding rejection of the warrant requirement safeguard, Schiff channeled Dick Cheney — and the Trump White House — in warning that any warrant requirements would constitute “a crippling requirement in national security and terrorism cases.”

Standing with Schiff in opposing these safeguards was his fellow California Democrat Eric Swalwell, who has devoted his entire congressional term almost exclusively to accusing Trump of being a puppet of the Kremlin, in the process becoming a media darling among the MSNBC set and online #Resistance movement. Yet after spending a full year warning that Trump’s real loyalty was to Moscow rather than America, Swalwell echoed Schiff in demanding that no warrant safeguards were needed on the spying power of Trump’s FBI.

If one were to invoke the standard mentality and tactics of Schiff and Swalwell — namely, impugning the patriotism and loyalty of anyone questioning their Trump/Russia accusations — one could seriously question their own patriotism in handing these vast, virtually unlimited spying powers to a president whom they say they believe is a corrupt agent of a foreign power.

Joining the pro-surveillance coalition led by Trump, Paul Ryan, Devin Nunes, Schiff, and Swalwell was the House’s liberal icon and senior Democrat, Nancy Pelosi. The San Francisco Democrat also stood on the House floor and offered a vigorous defense of the Trump-endorsed bill that would extend to Trump’s FBI the power to spy on Americans without warrants, in the process denouncing the minimal warrant safeguards favored by many in her own party. Pelosi’s speech earned praise from GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan: “I want to thank [Pelosi] for coming up and speaking against the Amash amendment, and in favor of the underlying bipartisan [bill].”

In one sense, Pelosi’s pro-surveillance stance is not surprising. Back in the summer of 2013, as the Snowden revelations of mass domestic surveillance sparked a global debate about privacy and abuse of spying powers, an extraordinary bipartisan alliance formed in Congress to impose serious limits on the NSA’s power to spy on Americans without warrants. Back then, a bill that would have imposed real limits and safeguards on the NSA, one jointly sponsored by Conyers and Amash, unexpectedly picked up large numbers of supporters from both parties — despite opposition from both parties’ congressional leadership — to the point where it looked like it was unstoppably headed for passage.

Official Washington and its national security community began to panic over what looked to be the first rollback of government national security power since the 9/11 attack. Fortunately for the NSA, CIA, and FBI, they found a crucial ally to kill the bill: Nancy Pelosi. Behind the scenes, she had pressured and coerced enough House Democrats to oppose the reform bill, ensuring its narrow defeat. The Conyers/Amash bill — which would have severely limited domestic mass surveillance — was defeated by the razor-thin margin of 217-205. Foreign Policy magazine correctly identified the key author of its defeat, the person who singlehandedly saved NSA mass surveillance in the U.S.:

For anyone who believes in the basic value of individual privacy and the dangers of mass surveillance, Pelosi deserved all the criticism she received back then for singlehandedly saving the NSA’s mass surveillance powers from reform. But at least then, her partisan defenders had a justification they could invoke: At the time, the NSA was under the command of Barack Obama, a president they believed could be trusted to administer these powers responsibly and lawfully.

Now, four years later, Pelosi has reprised her role as key protecter of domestic warrantless eavesdropping — but this time with the benevolent, magnanimous, noble Democratic president long gone, and with those agencies instead under the leadership of a president who Pelosi and her supporters have long been maligning as an enemy of democracy, a criminal, a despot, and a racist cretin. For anyone (including Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell) who genuinely believes anything they’ve been saying about Trump over the last year, what conceivable justification can be offered now for Pelosi and her key allies blocking reasonable safeguards and limits on Trump’s warrantless domestic spying powers?

That leading House Democrats (their minority leader and top Intelligence Committee member) united with Trump to support this bill and oppose reform amendments, was sufficient to cause enough Democrats to side with Trump and ensure passage of the bill. The Trump-favored bill ended up passing by a vote of 256-164.

As the American Civil Liberties Union put it bluntly about the bill supported by Pelosi and Schiff: “The House just passed a bill to give the Trump administration greater authority to spy on Americans, immigrants, journalists, dissidents, and everyone else.” The privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation echoed that sentiment: “The House just approved the disastrous NSA surveillance extension bill that will allow for continued, unconstitutional surveillance that hurts the American people and violates our Fourth Amendment rights.”

While Trump, as president, is the head of the executive branch, the official with the greatest control over the FBI they just empowered is his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. In other words, Pelosi, Schiff, and their allies just voted to vest great, unchecked power in an official the Democrats have (with good reason) long denounced as corrupt and deeply racist. As Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden (who has vowed with Rand Paul to filibuster the bill when it reaches the Senate) put it yesterday: “This Section 702 bill would give AG Jeff Sessions unchecked power to use this information against Americans. This bill prevents his decisions from EVER being challenged in court.”

But more significantly, the Amash amendment containing the proposed reforms (including a warrant requirement) was defeated by a much smaller margin: 233-183. While 125 Democratic House members were joined by 58 GOP members in voting for these reforms, 55 Democrats — led by Pelosi and Schiff — joined with the GOP majority to reject them, ensuring defeat of Amash’s amendment by a mere 26 votes.

This means that Trump’s bill to ensure his FBI’s ongoing power to spy on the communications of Americans without warrants was saved by Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell abandoning the large majority of their own Democratic caucus, and instead joining with Ryan and the GOP majority to ensure defeat of all meaningful reforms. Here are the 55 Democrats who not only voted in favor of the Trump-endorsed spying bill, but who also voted against the reform amendment to require a warrant. Beyond Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell, it includes the second most-senior Democrat Steny Hoyer and former Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz

One can, of course, reasonably debate the proper balance between privacy, civil liberties, and national security. Questions of how much power to vest law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the name of terrorism are not always simple ones. But if there is any principle that ought to command support across party and ideological lines, it’s the one long embedded in the Constitution: We do not want our government spying on us unless it can first obtain a warrant to do so — the principle that was trampled on yesterday by the unholy alliance of Trump, the GOP congressional leadership, Nancy Pelosi, and Adam Schiff.

Indeed, several of Pelosi’s own caucus members made all of these points with usually explicit rhetoric. Here, for instance, was Rep. Ted Lieu of California who — like Schiff and Swalwell — has become a media and #Resistance star this year for his unflinching denunciations of Trump as a corrupt Kremlin tool but who, unlike his California colleagues, cast the only vote rationally reconcilable with his yearlong crusade to impose limits on Trump’s spying powers.

The increasingly impressive Democratic freshman member of Congress from California, Ro Khanna, was even more scathing about his fellow Democrats who joined with Trump to pass this bill.

But the most important point here is what this says about how Democrats really view Donald Trump. How can anyone rational possibly take seriously all the righteous denunciations from people like Pelosi, Schiff, and Swalwell about how Trump is a lawless, authoritarian tyrant existentially threatening American democracy when those very same people just yesterday voted in favor of vesting him the virtually limitless power to spy on Americans with no warrants or safeguards? If someone really believed those accusations about Trump — as opposed to just pretending to believe them for cynical political manipulation of their followers — how could they possibly have done what they did yesterday?

Cliches are boring to hear, yet often contain truth. That actions speak louder than words is one of those. The next time you see Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, or Eric Swalwell waxing indignantly on cable TV about how Trump is a grave menace to the rule of law and American democracy, focus less on their scripted talking points and more on their actions, beginning with their vote yesterday to vest in him these awesome powers while blocking safeguards and checks. That will tell you all you need to know about who they really are and what they really believe.

Top photo: Rep. Adam Schiff, right, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speak during the Los Angeles LGBTQ #ResistMarch, Sunday, June 11, 2017, in West Hollywood, Calif.

The post The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers appeared first on The Intercept.