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A Review of Reviews of "The Handmaid’s Tale"

Mother Jones

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Below are excerpts from a baker’s dozen reviews of Hulu’s new adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale. Can you figure out what they all have in common?

New York Times: The television adaptation arrives with a newfound and unexpected resonance in Trump’s America….“We were hoping to be relevant, but we weren’t hoping it would be this relevant.”

io9: It’s incredibly difficult to watch The Handmaid’s Tale and not be affected, to feel like we’re so much closer to it being reality than when it was first written.

Washington Post: The phrase “now more than ever” has become a tiresome cliche in the past few months, but so what: “The Handmaid’s Tale” is here and it demands our attention, now more than ever.

Hollywood Reporter: Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale may be the most unintentionally timely show of the year.

Entertainment Weekly: Their performances — and the show’s consistent sense of textural, lived-in realism — anchor the drama in something beyond speculative sci-fi, making the story feel less like a quasi-fictional fable than an entirely possible preview of what’s to come.

Wall Street Journal: You can’t quite call it a bad dream come true, not yet. But given what might be termed “recent events,” it’s certainly cautionary, and more than urgent.

The Economist: As the Trump administration continues to cut funding and roll back family-planning services, it is easy to hear echoes of its rhetoric on the screen.

Vogue: Could the timing be any more apt?

TV Guide: The show and its source material feel more timely and relevant than ever….With women’s rights again on the chopping block under a Trump administration, and a common refrain from critics on the left to resist normalizing Trump, it’s difficult if not impossible not to draw parallels between the show and real-life events.

Deadline Hollywood: If ever a television series could border on being too relevant, Hulu’s gripping, chilling and brutal adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, which launches with its first three episodes on April 26, would be the one.

Huffington Post: Whether the show sets out to directly compare its dystopian themes with today’s political climate, for some readers â&#128;&#149; and for the story’s author â&#128;&#149; the similarities are ripe for picking.

Vanity Fair: All dystopias are meant as cautionary tales. But at this particular moment in time—one marked by a powerful but misguided nostalgia, and religious zealotry, and an increasing sense that paranoia is justified, with the powers that be seemingly determined to chip away at the rights of women—The Handmaid’s Tale feels especially current, cutting, and vital.

Harper’s Bazaar: You won’t see a more timely or essential onscreen story this year than Hulu’s extraordinary rendering of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, reimagined as a fundamentalist nightmare for the Mike Pence era….Like all the best dystopias, Gilead is not a truly fictional world, and The Handmaid’s Tale is not a dark fantasy. It’s a warning.

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A Review of Reviews of "The Handmaid’s Tale"

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American Carrier Still Not Headed For North Korea

Mother Jones

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From the Washington Post:

As tensions mounted on the Korean Peninsula, Adm. Harry Harris made a dramatic announcement: An aircraft carrier had been ordered to sail north from Singapore on April 8 toward the Western Pacific. A spokesman for the Pacific Command linked the deployment directly to the “number one threat in the region,” North Korea, and its “reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters on April 11 that the Carl Vinson was “on her way up there.” Asked about the deployment in an interview with Fox Business Network that aired April 12, President Trump said: “We are sending an armada, very powerful.” The U.S. media went into overdrive and Fox reported on April 14 that the armada was “steaming” toward North Korea.

Sending a carrier somewhere is a standard way of huffing and puffing without really doing anything of substance. Every president has done it. Trump, however, has brought it to new levels of irrelevant theater. Defense News tells us where the carrier and its strike group were really headed:

Rather, the ships were actually operating several hundred miles south of Singapore, taking part in scheduled exercises with Australian forces in the Indian Ocean. On Saturday — according to photographs released by the U.S. Navy — the carrier passed north through the Sunda Strait, the passage between the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. It’s about 3,500 miles from Korea.

For the geographically challenged among us, here is the Sunda Strait:

As you can see, the Sunda Strait is south of Singapore. North Korea is north of Singapore. In fairness, neither Trump nor the Navy said when the Carl Vinson was going to head north, so technically no one lied here. Our “very powerful” armada will make its way to the Korean Peninsula eventually, but apparently no one’s in any rush.

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American Carrier Still Not Headed For North Korea

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The Not-So-Crazy Plan to Get Trump’s Taxes

Mother Jones

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Unless you filed for an extension, your federal tax returns are due Tuesday night before midnight. Traditionally, it’s around this time that presidents make their own tax returns public as well—in part because presidents have a vested interest in maximizing federal revenue by encouraging people to file their taxes. On April 15, 2016, for example, President Barack Obama posted his 1040 on WhiteHouse.gov, revealing that he and Michelle Obama had earned $436,065 the previous year and had paid $81,472 in taxes. We also learned that they gave $64,066 to various charities, including Habitat for Humanity, the Beau Biden Foundation, and Mujeres Latinas en Accion.

President Donald Trump, however, appears set to end this tradition. He refused to produce his tax returns during the presidential campaign, claiming that he couldn’t do so because he was under IRS audit. Trump has never produced a letter from the IRS that would confirm the audit. It wouldn’t matter anyway—an audit doesn’t preclude anyone from releasing their tax returns. Press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at a briefing on Monday that Trump was already under audit for 2016. Fun fact: Presidents are audited by the IRS each year; it’s the law.

Maybe there’s another way, though. Lawmakers in more than two dozen states—mostly Democrats, but a few Republicans—have introduced bills intended to compel Trump to do what mass demonstrations and public shaming have thus far failed to accomplish. As written, the bills would require all candidates for president to release income tax returns in order to appear on that state’s ballot. New Jersey’s bill passed both houses of the state Legislature last month, although Republican Gov. Chris Christie is unlikely to sign it into law. The effort bears some similarity to a push by conservative lawmakers ahead of the 2012 election to force Obama to release his long-form birth certificate in order to appear on the ballot. (Obama had already taken the unusual step of releasing his short-form birth certificate, but many conservatives, including Trump, continued to insist that he may not have been born in the United States and might not, therefore, have been a legitimately elected president.)

All well and good—but would a tax return requirement be constitutional? A trio of experts—Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe; Norm Eisen, chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and Richard Painter, the former ethics chief in George W. Bush’s White House and a CREW vice chair—penned an op-ed for CNN asserting that these bills would be legal. Although courts have held that states cannot add additional “qualifications” to races for federal office—for instance, a state can not impose its own term limits for senators—they do grant states some latitude in deciding which candidates’ names are printed on the ballot.

They write:

Unlike prohibited qualifications, these laws do not impose substantive requirements on candidates beyond those imposed by the Constitution itself; that is, these laws do not limit which candidates may run for office based on any particular information in their tax return. Thus, they do not create an insurmountable barrier in advance to any set of individuals otherwise qualified under Article II of our Constitution. Instead, these laws require federally qualified candidates to comply with a relatively minor process of tax disclosure.

In other words, mandating tax returns might be fine; any conditions about what those tax returns actually say would be too onerous.

But the constitutional question is hardly settled. Pepperdine University law professor Derek Muller wrote in the New York Times that such measures were “probably unconstitutional,” arguing that “the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that states can’t use the ballot as a political weapon.” And in some cases, as with the previous demands for a birth certificate, legislators aren’t even hiding their intentions. New York’s version of the tax-returns requirement is called the Tax Returns Uniformly Made Public Act—or TRUMP Act, for short.

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The Not-So-Crazy Plan to Get Trump’s Taxes

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Left Hook: A Brief History of Nazi Punching in America

Mother Jones

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Long before the New York Times wondered, “Is it O.K. to punch a Nazi?,” far-right extremists were confronted by militant anti-fascists. These groups’ roots go back before World War II, when radicals battled nascent fascists and Nazis in the streets of Europe. The rise of violent white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in the 1980s sparked the American “antifa” (anti-fascist) movement. Street squads like Anti-Racist Action and Fuck Shit Up took a nod from their European predecessors and responded with their own brand of extremism. A timeline of the American anti-fascist movement:

One of five anti-KKK marchers killed in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

1979

Members of the Ku Klux Klan open fire on a “Death to the Klan” march in Greensboro, North Carolina, killing five people.

1981

The Dead Kennedys release “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.”

1982

In Southern California, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) forms in response to the growing white power movement.

1983

The Baldies, a multiracial street crew, forms in Minneapolis. They dish out “righteous violence” to members of the Twin Cities’ racist skinhead gangs.

1988

Members of the Baldies join up with other young activists to launch a nationwide network of anti-fascist groups called Anti-Racist Action (ARA). Members commit to confronting right-wing extremists face-to-face: “Whenever fascists are organizing or active in public, we’re there…Never let the Nazis have the street!”

Late 1980s

Fuck Shit Up (FSU), a.k.a. Friends Stand United, which the FBI later classifies as a street gang, expels neo-Nazis and racist skinheads from punk shows in Boston. (In 2011, its founder, Elgin James, released Little Birds, a movie loosely based on his life—and went to prison for extortion.)

1993

A SHARP member shoots and kills a 21-year-old white supremacist in Portland, Oregon.

1998

White supremacists murder two ARA members—a white man and a black man who were best friends—in the desert outskirts of Las Vegas.

1999

A follower of Matt Hale, the neo-Nazi leader of the World Church of the Creator, goes on a three-day murder spree across Illinois and Indiana. His victims include a Korean student shot in Bloomington, Indiana, which becomes a hotbed of anti-racist organizing.

Matt Hale Tim Boyle/Getty Images

2002

ARA and a Boston anarchist group skirmish with white supremacists who turn out for a speech by Hale in York, Pennsylvania. (Hale is currently serving a 40-year sentence for soliciting the murder of a federal judge.)

Police clear out anti-racist protesters in Toledo, Ohio. J.D. Pooley/AP

2005

More than a dozen neo-Nazis try to march through a predominately African American neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. Hundreds, including ARA members, shut down the march. Protesters throw bricks at cops, destroy police cars, and set buildings on fire.

2007

A 25-year-old man is beaten to death outside a punk show in Asbury Park, New Jersey, after reportedly refusing to take off a Confederate flag T-shirt. An alleged FSU member is arrested but not charged.

2009

Holocaust denier David Irving’s tri-state-area book tour is disrupted by ARA members. They also hack into and release Irving’s personal emails. In Chicago, an ARA member tries to infiltrate the National Socialist Front and is stabbed.

Mark Peterson/Redux

2011

Hundreds of protesters, including members of ARA and the New Black Panthers, clash with neo-Nazis in Trenton, New Jersey.

2012

Members of the Hoosier Anti- Racist Movement (HARM) and ARA attack white supremacists at a restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, leaving three people hospitalized. The Tinley Park Five are later convicted for their roles in the assault.

2013
Followers of a white nationalist group led by Matthew Heimbach protest a talk by an anti-racist author in Terre Haute, Indiana. They are allegedly beaten by HARM members wielding padlocks inside socks.

Feb. 2016

Ku Klux Klan members and antifas fight in Anaheim, California. Klansmen stab three people.

April 2016

The Bastards Motorcycle Club, an anti-racist motorcycle gang from South Carolina, confronts KKK members in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

June 2016

Antifas and anti-racists spar with white nationalists outside the California state Capitol in Sacramento. Fourteen people are injured, including seven with stab wounds.

“Alt-Right” godfather Richard Spencer is sucker punched on Inaguration Day Australian Broadcasting Cooperation

Jan. 20, 2017

White nationalist and “alt-right” godfather Richard Spencer is punched in the head by an unidentified man on the streets of Washington, DC, on Inauguration Day. He responds by suggesting alt-right vigilante squads for protection; the internet responds with “Nazi punching” memes. That night, an anti-fascist demonstrator is shot in Seattle by a Trump supporter during a protest of a speech by then-Breitbart troll Milo Yiannopoulos.

Feb. 1, 2017

Antifa and “black bloc” protesters violently shut down a talk by Yiannopoulos at the University of California-Berkeley.

Apr. 15, 2017

Pro-Trump supporters hold a “Patriots Day” rally in downtown Berkeley. They are confronted by antifascist counterdemonstrators and fighting breaks out. Police report 20 arrests and at least 11 injuries.

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Left Hook: A Brief History of Nazi Punching in America

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Republicans Just Went Nuclear. Neil Gorsuch Is Heading to the Supreme Court.

Mother Jones

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Senate Republicans on Thursday voted to kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, invoking the so-called “nuclear option” so that a minority party will no longer have the ability to block a vote for nominees to the nation’s highest court. The rule change cleared the way for the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to fill the empty seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch is expected to be officially confirmed Friday.

Over the past two weeks, Democrats coalesced around a strategy of filibustering Gorsuch when all but three Democratic senators announced they would oppose him—even though it was widely believed that Republicans would respond by changing the rules to prohibit filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. The decision was risky because it means Democrats will now have even less leverage if one of the more liberal justices leaves the court while Trump is in the White House.

Democrats’ actions were in part a result of the party’s activist and donor base, which has been pushing lawmakers to resist Trump and his nominee to the fullest extent possible. Democrats want to keep their base energized, not demoralized. But Democrats had other reasons for filibustering, as well. There was the issue of Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court last year, whom Republicans in the Senate refused to even consider. The Garland episode helped persuade Democrats that temporarily preserving the ability to filibuster would be of little use, since Republicans were already prepared to do whatever it takes to put conservative justices on the court. As a progressive activist explained to Mother Jones, “Any vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans take is really just the icing on the cake—this thing has been cooked since Senate Republicans defied any sense of decorum in their treatment of Barack Obama.”

Democrats were also motivated by deep concerns about Gorsuch’s jurisprudence and his performance during his confirmation process. In his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch was so disinclined to reveal anything about his judicial philosophy that it took considerable cajoling to get him to express an opinion on Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that struck down segregation in public education.

What Democrats could ascertain from Gorsuch’s record suggested that he was an ultra-conservative jurist who would go out of his way to issue broad rulings rather than taking a narrow approach to decisions, including in a case that limited aid for special education children in public schools. In remarks on the Senate floor Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) suggested that Gorsuch could become the most conservative member of the Supreme Court.

Finally, Democrats were put off by how Gorsuch conducted himself in the meetings he held with senators. Three senators, all women of color, claimed Gorsuch had failed to meet with them after their offices had tried to schedule a meeting.

As Ian Millhiser, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, explained to the Washington Post, Gorsuch hurt his chances with Democrats throughout the process: “He mansplained fairly basic concepts to women senators. He pushed way too hard on the ‘I’m not going to express a view about anything, ever’ fallback—much harder than previous nominees. And then, after the Supreme Court unanimously overturned one of his opinions, he defended himself by misrepresenting his own opinion.” On the third day of Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court handed down a unanimous opinion overturning Gorsuch’s approach to enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a piece of Gorsuch’s record that had particularly irked Democrats.

Gorsuch will soon be a Supreme Court justice, but his confirmation will go down as a major moment in the continued breakdown of the US Senate.

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Republicans Just Went Nuclear. Neil Gorsuch Is Heading to the Supreme Court.