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Trump Plans to Cram His Entire Legislative Agenda Into Days 96-99

Mother Jones

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Did Mack Sennett ever make “The Keystone Cops Go to Washington”? No? No matter. That’s what it feels like right now.

Let’s see if I can do justice to our current legislative follies. For starters, it appears that we’re going to get health care, tax reform, and infrastructure all in one week. Why? I guess so that President Trump can say he got going on all of them in his first hundred days. Which totally doesn’t matter and Trump couldn’t care less about it. But he released a truly comical list of all his accomplishments anyway. Not that he cares. But anyway. Let’s move on.

Health care: The House Freedom Caucus has allegedly agreed to an amendment to the previous House bill—the one that crashed and burned last month thanks to the HFC’s opposition—that now makes it acceptable. They haven’t actually said so in public yet, but maybe tomorrow they will. Maybe. Basically, it allows states to opt out of the essential coverage requirements of Obamacare. Except for Capitol Hill, that is. Members of Congress will continue to get every last thing on the list. And there’s no change to pre-existing conditions except for one teensy little thing: insurance companies can charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition. How much more? The sky’s the limit, apparently. Does $10 million sound good? In practice, of course, this means that they don’t have to offer coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.

Tax reform: It turns out the Treasury Department really was taken by surprise on this, so Wednesday’s announcement will be little more than the same stuff Trump released on the campaign trail. Corporate taxes get cut by nearly two-thirds, to 15 percent. Ditto for “pass through” corporations like, oh, just to pull an example out of the air, The Trump Organization. There will be no offsetting spending cuts. There will be no border tax. There will be nothing much for the non-rich except a modest change to the standard deduction. There will, of course, be no details about which deductions and loopholes, if any, Trump plans to plug. It will be a gigantic deficit buster. And just for good measure, it’s probably literally unpassable under the Senate’s rules.

Infrastructure: In a laughable attempt to get Democratic support for his tax bill, Trump plans to add infrastructure spending and a child tax credit to it. The problem is that Trump’s infrastructure plan is little more than a giveaway to big construction companies, and his child tax credit—designed by Ivanka!—is little more than a giveaway to the well off. In other words, instead of one thing Democrats hate, the bill now has three things Democrats hate. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m not sure this is how you make deals.

This is lunacy. The barely revised health care bill probably won’t pass the House, let alone the Senate. Tax reform is just a PowerPoint presentation, not an actual plan. Plus it’s such an unbelievable giveaway to the rich that even Republicans will have a hard time swallowing it. And the infrastructure stuff is DOA. It will almost certainly be opposed by both Republicans and Democrats.

This is like watching kids make mud pies. I guess that’s OK, since this is all terrible stuff that I hope never sees the light of day. Still, I guess I prefer even my political opponents to show a little bit of respect for the legislative process.

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Trump Plans to Cram His Entire Legislative Agenda Into Days 96-99

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

Mother Jones

A month after President Donald Trump took office, khalid kamau was eating lunch in the cluttered kitchen of the Mayday Space, a leftist community center in Brooklyn. A year earlier, the 39-year-old (who prefers to spell his name without capital letters) had been driving a bus in Atlanta. Then his life took a hard left turn. When the city slashed public pensions, he became a union organizer. He then launched a Black Lives Matter chapter, became a delegate for Sen. Bernie Sanders, and led a walkout at the Democratic National Convention when Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination. In December, kamau announced his candidacy for City Council in South Fulton, Georgia. Not long after that, he joined the Democratic Socialists of America.

kamau, who was wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Don’t let your new president get your ass whooped,” had been a DSA member for all of a few weeks, but he already had big plans. Leaning forward on his wooden stool, he said, “I want to be the Obama of democratic socialism.”

First, kamau needed to win an election. Which is why, on an unseasonably warm weekend in February, he had come to Brooklyn for the Revolution at the Crossroads conference, a gathering of about 300 teen and twentysomething leftists that was sponsored by the Young Democratic Socialists, a subgroup of the DSA. After speaking on the kickoff panel the night before, kamau had taught the attendees how to use the free canvassing app MiniVAN and signed up dozens of volunteers for his campaign. (His organizing paid off; last Tuesday, kamau won his runoff election with 67 percent of the vote.)

Founded in 1982, the DSA claims to be the largest socialist organization in the country. It’s not a political party along the lines of the Communist Party USA or the Green Party. Many of its members are Democrats or the kind of left-­leaning independents who usually vote for Democrats. But just as the Obama era ushered in a boomlet of libertarianism on the right, the DSA is banking on Trump to make socialism great again. Its goal is not just to stop Trump’s worst policies, but to push the political conversation on the left even further to the left through a mix of political action and cultural engagement. There are signs it’s already working.

Fueled by disenchantment with the traditional institutions of the Democratic Party, the promise of Sanders’ candidacy, and the specter of Trumpism, DSA membership has more than doubled since the election. The DSA now boasts more than 20,000 members and more than 120 local chapters. Sure, you could fit just about everyone comfortably inside Madison Square Garden, but being a socialist hasn’t been this cool in years.

“The Bernie campaign really opened that Overton Window,” said Winnie Wong, a 41-year-old activist who co-founded the group People for Bernie and coined the phrase “Feel the Bern.” “We funneled thousands of people, hundreds of thousands—15 million people!—through to the other side. Are those people democratic socialists? No. Do they feel comfortable with the idea of socialism? Well, yeah! Because they voted for it.” Normalizing socialism, she said, is “the most important thing we can do.”

MAD LIBS: A quick guide to channeling your anti-Trump fervor

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Revolution at the Crossroads existed in a parallel universe to other political confabs, such as the Conservative Political Action Conference, known for its corporate sponsors, bad suits, and ritzy Beltway hotels. The opening panel was delayed because the speaker system was picking up an AM radio station. An attendee joked that “neoliberal capitalism”—”neoliberal” being the epithet of choice among the DSA set—was to blame. Sleeping bags littered the side walls. The dress code was plaid.

Socialism’s hipster makeover has been accelerated by a flowering of leftist media and culture. The DSA’s unofficial hype man is not Sanders—who is not a member—but the comedian Rob Delaney, who joined up after the election, inspired by his positive experiences with the British National Health Service as an expat living in England. Delaney has tweeted about the DSA more than 100 times since November and describes himself as a “fucking cockroach” for socialism, because of his persistence. “A lot of people have written me and said that they’ve joined because I won’t shut up about Democratic Socialists on Twitter,” he told me. He even raised money to defray expenses for some of the students who traveled to Brooklyn.

A popular gateway drug for democratic socialists is Chapo Trap House, a podcast hosted by a small clique of millennial Sandernistas that takes its deliberately head-scratching name from the jailed Mexican cartel king. It is incisive and irreverent but often scathing toward politicians, journalists, or anyone else insufficiently in line with its politics. (For instance: Clinton is an “entitled fucking slob,” and Democratic leaders should have “fucking killed themselves” after losing the election.)

Outside the conference, activists hawked Workers Vanguard, the ubiquitous Trotskyist newspaper. But inside, students chatted with writers from the two-year-old journal Current Affairs (“the world’s first readable political publication”) and Jacobin, a quarterly launched in 2010 by Bhaskar Sunkara, then an undergrad at George Washington University. Jacobin aims to do for socialism what National Review did for conservatism half a century ago. It’s polemical but not stodgy; its writers are as likely to discourse on the NBA as they are to inveigh against Uber. The magazine’s audience doubled, to 30,000 subscribers, in the four months after the election.

At the conference, where he was selling the most recent issue from a folding table along the wall, Sunkara, also a vice chair of the DSA, was a minor celebrity. “I think there’s a feeling that with the center kind of defeated, or at the very least temporarily discredited, we are the new center-left,” he told me. That newfound popularity has caused him to rethink the limitations of leftist politics. “Compared to where the goalposts were five years ago, we’re already basically there,” he said. Socialists won’t run Washington by 2020—but maybe they will in his lifetime.

But the DSA’s continued growth is hardly guaranteed. One challenge as it seeks to broaden its appeal is messaging. Members of the new socialist vanguard pride themselves on a certain degree of unfiltered vulgarity, and they target mainline liberals as often as they do Trump-backing conservatives. Amber A’Lee Frost, a Chapo co-host and YDS panelist, has referred to her cohort’s style as the “Dirtbag Left.” Frost contends that rudeness is essential to disrupting the political status quo. It is, however, a weird way to make new friends. Coalition politics are hard when everyone else is a sellout.

More pressing than its inability to play nice is the movement’s inescapable whiteness. If the audience at the conference was any indication, the DSA’s future is doomed to demographic failure—a point kamau emphasized on the event’s opening night. “I want you to look around the room,” he said, “and then I want you to realize that we’re in Flatbush, Brooklyn, right?” It was Bushwick, but the point stood. “I love Bernie, but I also think that the leaders of the Democratic Party and the leaders of the left are going to have to come to terms with the fact that the American left is a movement of black and brown people,” he told me. “And the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t look like that—the leadership of the DSA doesn’t look like that.”

In South Fulton, a mostly working-class, African American community of 100,000 people, kamau sees an opportunity to broaden the appeal of democratic socialism. He believed his race, which was nonpartisan, was a chance to act on a DSA manifesto that calls for running “openly democratic socialist candidates for local office, in and outside the Democratic Party,” and “taking out pro-corporate, neoliberal Democrats.” YDS had given each conferencegoer a three-page reading list with titles by writers such as Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and Barbara Ehrenreich. Wong suggested that young socialists study up on the hard lessons of electoral politics instead. “Learn about the mechanics it takes to win these elections,” she said. “You’re not gonna learn those by reading all three volumes of Capital, I promise you.”

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Donald Trump Has Made Socialism Cool Again

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Jeff Chang’s Resistance Reading

Mother Jones

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We recently asked a range of authors, artists, and poets to suggest the books that bring them solace or understanding in this age of political rancor. Two dozen or so responded. Here’s what the acclaimed hip-hop writer and cultural critic Jeff Chang brought to the table.

Latest book: We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation
Also known for: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
Recommended Reading: Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit’s essential collection of essays, written at the darkest moment of our despair amid the Iraq War, was republished last year when it seemed we needed it most—again. Solnit is our angel of hope, always pointing us through the haze of fear and confusion toward faith and trust in our own collective possibility. Every time I read her I’m reminded that “the unimaginable is ordinary.” Then there’s The Next American Revolution, by Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige. Steve Bannon and the racist right hope to pull the nation into a final, inexorable “clash of the civilizations”—between white Christian Americans and the rest of the world. Working from within the ruins of Detroit, Boggs reframes revolution as not a bloody, destructive process but a set of soulful, creative acts that grow community and consciousness. Her vision of hope, freedom, and sustainability guides us now as we bring together justice movements and build the resistance.
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So far in this series: Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, Piper Kerman, Tracy K. Smith. (New posts daily.)

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Jeff Chang’s Resistance Reading

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Watch the Top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee Explain the Trump-Russia Scandal

Mother Jones

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The US Senate intelligence committee on Thursday convened its first hearing in its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. In stark contrast to the House intelligence committee’s investigation—which has been brought to a halt by the partisan brinksmanship of the panel’s chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—the leaders of the Senate investigation say they are trying to keep things as bipartisan and transparent as possible. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the committee’s vice chairman, used his opening statement to sum up Russia’s election interference—and the ways that Trump associates may have been connected to this Kremlin operation. “We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but there’s clearly a lot of smoke,” Warner said. Read his full statement below:

Today’s hearing is important to help understand the role Russia played in the 2016 presidential elections.

As the U.S. intelligence community unanimously assessed in January of this year, Russia sought to hijack our democratic process, and that most important part of our democratic process, our Presidential elections. As we’ll learn today, Russia’s strategy and tactics are not new, but their brazenness certainly was.

This hearing is also important because it is open, as the chairman mentioned—which is unusual for this Committee. Due to the classified nature of our work, we typically operate behind closed doors.

But today’s public hearing will help, I hope, the American public writ large understand how the Kremlin made effective use of its hacking skills to steal and weaponize information and engage in a coordinated effort to damage a particular candidate and to undermine public confidence in our democratic process.

Our witnesses today will help us to understand how Russia deployed this deluge of disinformation in a broader attempt to undermine America’s strength and leadership throughout the world.

We simply must – and we will – get this right. The Chairman and I agree it is vitally important that we do this as a credible, bipartisan, and transparent a manner as possible. As was said yesterday at our press conference, Chairman Burr and I trust each other, and equally important, we trust our colleagues on this committee that we are going to move together and we are going to get to the bottom of it and get it right.

As this hearing begins, let’s take a minute to review what we know: Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a deliberate campaign carefully constructed to undermine our election.

First, Russia struck at our political institutions by electronically breaking into the headquarters of one of our political parties and stealing vast amounts of information. Russian operatives also hacked emails to steal personal messages and other information from individuals ranging from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta to former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

This stolen information was then “weaponized.” We know that Russian intelligence used the “Guccifer 2.0” persona and others like WikiLeaks and seemingly choreographed times that would cause maximum damage to one candidate. They did this with an unprecedented level of sophistication about American presidential politics that should be a line of inquiry for us on this committee and candidly, while it helped one candidate this time, they are not favoring one party over another, and consequently should be a concern for all of us.

Second, Russia continually sought to diminish and undermine our trust in the American media by blurring our faith in what is true and what is not. Russian propaganda outlets like RT and Sputnik successfully produced and peddled disinformation to American audiences in pursuit of Moscow’s preferred outcome.

This Russian “propaganda on steroids” was designed to poison the national conversation in America. The Russians employed thousands of paid Internet trolls and bot-nets to push-out disinformation and fake news at high volume, focusing this material onto your Twitter and Facebook feeds and flooding our social media with misinformation.

This fake news and disinformation was then hyped by the American media echo chamber and our own social media networks to reach – and potentially influence – millions of Americans.

This is not innuendo or false allegations. This is not fake news. This is actually what happened to us, and understanding all aspects of this attack is important.

Russia continues these sorts of actions as we speak. Some of our close allies in Europe are experiencing exactly the same kind of interference in their political processes. Germany has said that its Parliament has been hacked. French presidential candidates right now have been the subjects of Russian propaganda and disinformation. In the Netherlands, their recent elections, the Dutch hand-counted their ballots because they feared Russian interference in their electoral process.

Perhaps, most critically for us, there is nothing to stop them from doing this all over again in 2018, for those of you who are up, or in 2020, as Americans again go back to the polls.

In addition to what we already know, any full accounting must also find out what, if any, contacts, communications or connections occurred between Russia and those associated with the campaigns themselves.

I will not prejudge the outcome of our investigation. We are seeking to determine if there is an actual fire, but there’s clearly a lot of smoke. For instance:

• An individual associated with the Trump campaign accurately predicted the release of hacked emails weeks before it happened. This same individual also admits to being in contact with Guccifer 2.0, the Russian intelligence persona responsible for these cyber operations.
• The platform of one of our two major political parties was mysteriously watered-down in a way which promoted the interests of President Putin — and no one seems to be able to identify who directed that change in the platform.
• A campaign manager of one campaign, who played such a critical role in electing the President, was forced to step down over his alleged ties to Russia and its associates.
• Since the election, we have seen the President’s national security advisor resign — and his Attorney General recuse — himself over previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian government.
• And, of course, in the other body, on March 20th, the Director of the FBI publicly acknowledged that the Bureau is “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts.”

I want to be clear, at least for me: This investigation is not about whether you have a “D” or an “R” next to your name. It is not about re-litigating last fall’s election. It is about clearly understanding and responding to this very real threat.

It’s also, I believe, about holding Russia accountable for this unprecedented attack against our democracy. And it is about arming ourselves so we can identify and stop it when it happens again. And trust me: it will happen again if we don’t take action.

I would hope that the President is as anxious as we are to get to the bottom of what happened. But I have to say editorially, that the President’s recent conduct — with his wild and uncorroborated accusations about wiretapping, and his inappropriate and unjustified attacks on America’s hard-working intelligence professionals — does give me grave concern.

This Committee has a heavy weight of responsibility to prove that we can continue to put our political labels aside and get to the truth. I believe we can get there. I have seen firsthand, and I say this to our audience, how seriously members on both sides of this dais have worked so far on this sensitive and critical issue.

As the Chairman and I have said repeatedly, this investigation will follow the facts where they lead us .If at any time I believe we’re not going to be able to get those facts, and we’re working together very cooperatively to make sure we get the facts we need from the intelligence community, we will get that done.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your commitment to this serious work and your commitment to keeping this bipartisan cooperation, at least, if not all across the hill, alive in this committee. Thank you very much.

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Watch the Top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee Explain the Trump-Russia Scandal

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Stop Being Shocked That Teen Girls Give a Shit About Politics

Mother Jones

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Over the last few months, Teen Vogue‘s clear-eyed, accessible coverage of the Trump administration has caught the collective attention of the internet. A major force behind Teen Vogue‘s recent work is Lauren Duca, the magazine’s weekend editor. Her piece on Donald Trump’s gaslighting of the American people went viral back in December, as did her powerful response to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, after he suggested on air that instead of writing about politics, she should “stick to the thigh-high boots.” Cringe.

But Carlson’s comment was actually less annoying to Duca than the fawning masses who seem so surprised that a magazine for teenagers can also produce great news commentary. I talked to Duca, whose new column launched last week, about her role in shaping Teen Vogue‘s work—and why the magazine’s political coverage reaches far beyond its target demographic.

Lauren Duca

Mother Jones: How did you start writing politically opinionated pieces for Teen Vogue?

Lauren Duca: Their mode of coverage has been really rigorous and committed to informing their audience since I started in January 2016, and also earlier. I was on the weekend that the Pulse shooting happened. It was really a high level of support editorially for taking these things on in a way that was unflinching and honest. So it was honestly kind of an organic segue into becoming more political as things took on more urgency. My job on the weekends was just to be deciding what the coverage was for the weekend. So that meant everything from Selena Gomez has a new Pantene ad to Donald Trump is lying to the American public. That was the scope of possibilities.

I think the reason they hired me, too—it wasn’t just a random thing. I had a culture column called Middlebrow at HuffPost and a reporting background. But weekend editor is typically a more starting-level position, and they took someone who they knew did a lot of cultural analysis. And when I say “they,” I mean specifically Phil Picardi, the editorial director. So hiring me was a very deliberate choice. It was kind of like, these are the ethically driven people with skills that are already in place. And this was kind of the work that Teen Vogue was already doing. So people being shocked is a little annoying.

MJ: It seems like just since Trump was elected, Teen Vogue has really ratcheted up the coverage. Was there a particular moment that you felt a real shift at the magazine?

LD: When I came on, it was already the kind of place that was doing that kind of thing. The wellness stuff, for example, is political in a nontraditional way. LGBTQ work and mental health work and being frank about sexuality—all those kinds of areas where they’ve been “woke” for a long time. It’s just taking on that mode of informing young women, and just a natural segue into traditional politics.

MJ: So it’s annoying that everyone is kind of fawning and surprised that Teen Vogue is showing up with political coverage.

LD: Yeah, there’s a spectrum of those responses. There’s definitely a mode of stealthy condescension sometimes, where I’m almost relieved by the Tucker Carlson comment in a way. Because the sort of “stick to the thigh-high boots” denial of access to a political conversation is such an explicit version of what I was already kind of itching over with the response. Other versions of the Tucker Carlson comment: “Her last post was about Selena Gomez’s makeup.” And it’s like, yes, it’s possible to do both those things, especially because I was on weekends. That’s part of why I didn’t have a specific beat. But the moment we’re living in right now, a politically active voice is required of everyone, and they’re still allowed to have nonserious interests. And I don’t see why that’s not true for young women.

MJ: Right, it’s just sort of baffling, the idea that teens aren’t political.

LD: It’s so frustrating. Especially because there’s so much political potential for young people. Millennials are now as big of a segment of the population as baby boomers. If we can actually can get everyone to show up and vote and be active, there’s a potential to shape elections for the next 35 years based on those statistics. I think young people absolutely care. They care in different ways. That generational divide, how it shows up in political discussions is especially ugly. It’s all, “Ugh, millennials and selfishness and narcissism, and oh my god, they’re taking selfies.” It’s like, “No, this is how we’re interacting with our world, and it’s different from the way you interact with your world, and by the way, thanks for the mountains of debt.”

MJ: So when you write, are you writing for millennials or teenagers?

LD: The audience for Teen Vogue is young women specifically. I think the reason the Trump gaslighting article did so well was that it wasn’t like, “Hey, teen girls.” It was like, “hey everybody.” I think the idea of political coverage that’s accessible to young women, the reason it took off so much is because so much of political coverage—people feel alienated from it, they don’t necessarily have the news literacy to make sense of everything. Everything is legitimately confusing. I think that things that are accessible to more people are just going to empower more people with information. And I think there are more people reading Teen Vogue now. I certainly get a lot of letters like, “I’m a 64-year-old man, and I certainly never would have read Teen Vogue before.” It’s like, relax. In the column I’m starting, I’m hoping it can be breaking things down and providing resources on what to read and what to prioritize in thinking about all the drain clogging and disinformation from this administration. I would love if that went beyond the typical readership.

MJ: What are you hearing from the actual teen readers of Teen Vogue?

LD: I’m hearing some really cool stuff. I have people doing school projects on me, which is insanely amazing. Yesterday I got an email from a high school junior who was doing a speech on me and my work, and do I have a message for her audience. I was like, this is insane, this is incredible. So yes, it’s reaching the people it’s meant to reach, too.

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Stop Being Shocked That Teen Girls Give a Shit About Politics

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