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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 13,366

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Trump and allies ratchet up disinformation efforts in late stage of campaign

For President Trump and his allies, it was a week spent spreading doctored and misleading videos.

On Aug. 30, the president retweeted footage of a Black man violently pushing a White woman on a subway platform under the caption, “Black Lives Matter/Antifa” — but the man was not affiliated with either group, and the video was shot in October. White House social media director Dan Scavino shared a manipulated video that falsely showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seeming to fall asleep during a television interview, complete with a fake TV headline.

And Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking House Republican, released a video splicing together quotes from activist Ady Barkan — who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and uses computer voice assistance — to falsely make it sound as if he had persuaded Biden to defund police departments.

For the president and his top supporters, it was a campaign push brimming with disinformation — disseminating falsehoods and trafficking in obfuscation at a rapid clip, through the use of selectively edited videos, deceptive retweets and false statements.

The slew of false and misleading tweets and videos stood in contrast to the approach taken by Biden, the former vice president, who in 2019 took a pledge promising not to participate in the spread of disinformation over social media, including rejecting the use of “deep fake” videos.


President Trump's most important broken promise

Opinion by E.J. Dionne Jr.

Labor Day is an excellent moment to contemplate President Trump’s most important broken promise — other than the one he violates almost daily to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

I refer to his inaugural address, in which he declared: “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

Those men and women, and the pledge itself, have been lost in a Trumpian memory hole.

Recall how Trump apologists insisted after the 2016 election that racial animus did not explain Trump’s victory. What mattered, they said, was that “coastal elites” (their synonym for “liberals”) had ignored the interests of hard-working people in “the heartland” battered by economic change.

So how is the heartland doing? How much has Trump done for the working people whose votes he needed to carry states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio?

Precious little. Even before the economic downturn induced by the pandemic, the areas that were crucial to Trump’s electoral college victory lagged behind the rest of the country.


The fragile flowers of Tennessee's GOP legislature contravene a basic right

Opinion by Editorial Board

THE REPUBLICANS running Tennessee’s legislature must be sensitive souls who quake in the presence of raised voices and tremble when met with dissent. How they manage their own teenagers is anyone’s guess; what’s certain is that they come unhinged when confronted with hecklers who’d hardly rate a glance from Little League umpires, circus clowns or, for that matter, journalists at your average political rally.

How else to explain their legislative temper tantrum when, after encountering peaceful protesters at the Tennessee Capitol grounds for two months, they passed a bill that criminalized camping there, and on state property generally. Doing so will now subject activists, including the nonviolent racial justice ones who have undertaken the recent protests, to a felony charge and prison terms of up to six years.

By way of explaining why they outlawed what most civil liberties experts would consider protected speech, several GOP lawmakers acknowledged that they really don’t like being yelled at. One Republican state senator, Kerry Roberts, said “it’s really hard to be sympathetic to what someone is saying when they are yelling at you, when they’re trying to shame you, when they’re calling you names and so forth.” He said such criticism made him “extremely uncomfortable.” Then there was Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, evidently channelling King George III, who insisted it is a “serious crime” when people “knowingly thumb their nose at authority.”

Let’s hope the Tennessee Republicans never seek employment at an airport ticket counter or, heaven forbid, any department of motor vehicles; it’s equally clear they’re ill-suited to serve as public servants.


Trump's bad marriage with the military has finally exploded

Opinion by David Ignatius

Reconciling Donald Trump’s self-promoting “Art of the Deal” with the military’s reserved code of loyalty and service was always a stretch. In Trump’s early months in the White House, though, the two cultures seemed to coexist without much damage.

But the fabric began to fray by mid-2017. Trump increasingly treated the military as props in the reality-TV show of his presidency. He wanted them for parades and victory celebrations, not the anguish of combat. He seemed to take his strategic guidance from Fox News more than his commanders. The generals and admirals kept their mouths shut, but the resentment was building.

The bad marriage exploded this week, when former senior staff members told Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic of their shock at Trump’s crude comments about combat and loss — and his reported characterization of fallen warriors as “suckers” and “losers.” The quotes were anonymous, but it has been an open secret in Washington that many prominent retired four-stars have regarded Trump with growing horror as he assaulted the traditions of discipline and professionalism that are bedrocks of military life.

The first open break point came in June, after former military leaders watched Trump try to use the military to put down protests for racial justice. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denounced Trump for “politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.” Retired Gen. Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary, called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.” Retired Gen. John F. Kelly, a former Trump White House chief of staff, said he agreed with Mattis.


In Act of Heresy, N.R.A.'s Former No. 2 Calls for Gun Control

A new book from a controversial former executive accuses the National Rifle Association of “appealing to the paranoia and darkest side of our members.”

The National Rifle Association’s former second-in-command is breaking with the group’s orthodoxy and calling for universal background checks and so-called red flag laws in a new book assailing the organization as more focused on money and internal intrigue than the Second Amendment, while thwarting constructive dialogue on gun violence.

The former executive, Joshua L. Powell, who was fired by the N.R.A. in January, reinforces the kind of criticism made of the organization by gun control groups and state regulators, but it is the first critical look at its recent history by such a high-ranking insider.

He describes the N.R.A.’s longtime chief executive, Wayne LaPierre, as a woefully inept manager, but also a skilled lobbyist with a deft touch at directing President Trump to support the group’s objectives, and who repeatedly reeled in the president’s flirtations with even modest gun control measures.

The book, “Inside the N.R.A.: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America,” is to be published next week, the latest public calamity for an organization that has faced years of headlines detailing allegations of corruption, infighting and even its infiltration by a Russian agent.


The housing market is roaring now. Here are the worries that reveals.

One thing, above all, was relentlessly drummed into me at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business: You, private citizen, should not attempt to outguess the market. Asset prices represent our collective best guess about the future value they will return to owners. Those guesses are often wrong. (Predictions are hard, said Yogi Berra — especially about the future.) But your guesses are at least as likely to be wrong as everyone else’s, so there’s no point wasting money, or mental energy, on trying to time your bets.

The past six months have taken much away from me, but they have only built up my faith in this axiom. Had someone asked me in March, I would have predicted that after six months of pandemic, the housing market would be full of panicked people frozen in their homes, except for those who were being evicted. Instead, the housing market is roaring.

I won’t sully my diploma by prophesying some inevitable collapse. But I will outline my short-, medium- and long-term worries about what this reveals.

In the short term, the housing market tells a story of two Americas. One has the educated and professional classes, most of whom can work from home. They’re breaking leases to move to the suburbs or the country; trading up to bigger places; taking advantage of low interest rates to refinance; building additions for the new home office.


Cathy Smith, Who Injected John Belushi With Fatal Drugs, Dies at 73

After giving an interview to The National Enquirer, she was convicted in Mr. Belushi’s overdose death and served time in prison.

A headline on the cover of The National Enquirer in June 1982 became the defining element of Cathy Smith’s life.

“‘I Killed John Belushi,’” it read, alongside a large photograph of Mr. Belushi, the boisterous comedian. Below the picture another headline added, “World Exclusive — Mystery Woman Confesses.”

The headline and accompanying article were the catalyst that ultimately landed Ms. Smith in jail.

Before the Enquirer article, the circumstances surrounding Mr. Belushi’s death the previous March, at 33, had remained murky, and it was simply labeled an accidental drug overdose.


Big Oil just isn't as big as it once was

ExxonMobil’s expulsion from the Dow Jones industrial average is just the latest sign that major oil companies aren’t as important to the economy as they used to be

A dozen years ago, ExxonMobil was the bluest of blue-chip companies. Raking in record-breaking profit, it spent every quarter of 2008 as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.

Not anymore. The oil giant’s market value today is about a third of what it was in 2008, when it approached $500 billion. That slide culminated last month with Exxon ending its 92-year run on the Dow Jones industrial average.

The removal of the longest-serving component of the U.S. stock indicator — Exxon joined in 1928, when it was known as Standard Oil of New Jersey — is just the latest sign of the decline of oil as major driver of the U.S. and global economies.

Pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, which has stopped travel in its tracks and sent oil prices to historic lows, the energy sector became the smallest component of the S&P 500-stock index this summer after dipping below utilities, real estate and materials.


U.S. airlines have banned 700-plus passengers for not wearing masks

If you ignore the requirement to wear a mask on a commercial flight, you could join the more than 700 passengers who have been banned from flying on the nation’s largest airlines.

Delta Air Lines leads all carriers, having placed 270 passengers on its “no fly” list for flouting its mask policy. It’s followed by United Airlines, with 150; Spirit Airlines, 128; Frontier Airlines, 106; Alaska Airlines, 78; and Hawaiian Airlines, six.

Airline representatives said the carriers are not sharing the names of passengers with one another, making it likely that a passenger banned from one airline can continue to fly on others.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines declined to disclose how many passengers they have banned for violating the face-covering rule.


FBI pondered whether Trump was 'a Manchurian candidate elected,' former agent alleges in new book

Former FBI agent Peter Strzok alleges in a new book that investigators came to believe it was “conceivable, if unlikely” that Russia was secretly controlling President Trump after he took office — a full-fledged “Manchurian candidate” installed as America’s commander in chief.

In the book, “Compromised,” Strzok describes how the FBI had to consider “whether the man about to be inaugurated was willing to place his or Russia’s interests above those of American citizens,” and if and how agents could investigate that. Strzok opened the FBI’s 2016 investigation into whether Trump’s campaign had coordinated with the Kremlin to help his election and later was involved in investigating Trump personally. He was ultimately removed from the case over private text messages disparaging of the president.

“We certainly had evidence that this was the case: that Trump, while gleefully wreaking havoc on America’s political institutions and norms, was pulling his punches when it came to our historic adversary, Russia,” Strzok writes. “Given what we knew or had cause to suspect about Trump’s compromising behavior in the weeks, months, and years leading up to the election, moreover, it also seemed conceivable, if unlikely, that Moscow had indeed pulled off the most stunning intelligence achievement in human history: secretly controlling the president of the United States — a Manchurian candidate elected.”

Strzok seems to believe now that is not the case — though he told the Atlantic that Trump’s conduct is deeply problematic.

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