Among the very first comments Donald Trump made about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, almost a week after Hurricane Maria made devastated the island on September 20th, was a reference to the “billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with.” Five days later, he responded to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s pleas for aid by attacking Puerto Ricans for “want[ing] everything to be done for them.” When he finally visited the island on October 2nd, he remarked that it hadn’t faced “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” chided the island for “throw[ing] our budget a little out of whack,” and parroted a hoax circulating on right-wing blogs accusing local truck drivers of refusing to distribute relief supplies.

The death toll continues to climb as much of the island suffers without adequate food, water, power, and medical care, but Trump’s grotesque attacks on the victims continued on Thursday. Again raising the specter of “a financial crisis…largely of their own making” (an insidious lie—it’s a product of Wall Street greed and colonialist exploitation by the federal government), he warned that “[w]e cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders…in P.R. forever!”

As usual, Trump is merely putting his own high-decibel spin on the quieter horror that is mainstream Republican governance. On Wednesday the White House asked Congress to approve its first aid package to Puerto Rico—not an aid package at all, but a $4.9 billion bridge loan that will only burden the island with more debt. Conservatives have for weeks been openly plotting to exploit the devastation to enact privatization schemes and other right-wing reforms. House Speaker and prissy sociopath Paul Ryan on Thursday defended Trump’s latest comments by stressing the need for Puerto Rico—where over two million hungry people are being provided only 200,000 meals per day and getting sick is currently a virtual death sentence—to “begin to stand on its own two feet.”

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Soon after announcing his candidacy, Donald Trump jumped out to an early lead in Republican presidential primary polling and never lost it. No matter how pollsters sorted respondents—registered Republicans, likely Republican voters, Republican leaners, whatever—Trump maintained a clear lead throughout the primary calendar and in the end won nearly twice the number of primary votes as his closest rival. The belief, widespread in elite conservative circles, that a split field helped his chances is unfounded; he consistently led in various head-to-head matchups with his GOP primary opponents. He won more closed primaries than any other candidate, and carried registered Republicans in every open primary he won. Nearly 90 percent of voters who identified as Republicans cast a ballot for Trump in the general election, the same number that had voted for John McCain in 2008 and barely fewer than had voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

In seven months of governing, Donald Trump has not made a single appointment that a Republican president plucked at random from Congress could not conceivably have also made. His signature accomplishment to date has been the appointment to the Supreme Court of a far-right jurist beloved by the conservative establishment, the culmination of an obscene, antidemocratic, Republican plot to deprive the previous president of his constitutional power to fill the seat. His Education Secretary is a billionaire heiress who has devoted her adult life to the erosion of public education, a mainstream Republican goal for many decades. His Treasury Secretary is a former Goldman Sachs executive intent on dismantling what few consumer protections and checks on the financial industry’s power remain, another core GOP objective. His Attorney General is a lifelong Republican who personifies the GOP’s postwar realignment into a party sustained by racist law-and-order appeals to white voters concentrated in the South.

Donald Trump stands for the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich—the supreme principle around which Republican politics have been organized for even longer than they have championed white supremacy. Indeed, if anything separates him from the typical Republican politician, it is that he is especially Republican, a Republican’s Republican, in the degree to which his life has exemplified the party’s all-consuming drive to redistribute wealth upwards. He inherited millions from his father and used it to build a real-estate empire on the back of nearly $1 billion in public subsidies and tax breaks and untold millions in unpaid labor. In his latter days in the private sector, he used his celebrity to exploit and defraud vulnerable working people, and his election to the presidency was nothing if not the same fraud on a massive scale, a great victory for the wealthiest and most powerful won through a false prosperity-gospel swindling of crucial working-class voting blocs in the Rust Belt and elsewhere. In this he pulled off an only slightly more lurid version of the cons Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush had successfully run before him.

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Ten days ago in Charlottesville, a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of leftist protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. A gang of neo-Nazis surrounded 20-year-old Dre Harris and took turns violently assaulting him. On the following Tuesday, Herbert Gilbert, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot by police in Thomasville, Georgia. Last weekend, black counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Boston were kettled by riot police and attacked with batons. On Sunday a 22-year-old Cleveland man was hospitalized after being beaten by an assailant shouting, “You don’t belong here. Go back to your own country.” At a rally Tuesday night in Phoenix, the president of the United States signaled his intent to pardon a sheriff convicted of overseeing a draconian racial-profiling regime while police fired tear gas at demonstrators outside.

These are the wages of bigotry and oppression. People are murdered, terrorized, deported, impoverished, disenfranchised, blackballedextorted, poisoned, and in countless other ways made less free and less safe.

At some point in the last ten days or so, while many of the things above were happening or about to happen, a gaggle of dimwits at ESPN arrived at the decision—in the boring corporate way that boring corporations tend to arrive at decisions—that C-squad play-by-play guy Robert Lee would be reassigned from this Saturday’s UVA home opener “because of the coincidence of his name,” out of a desire, in the words of network president John Skipper, not to “create a distraction, or even worse, expose him to social hectoring and trolling.”

These are the wages of PC sensitivity. A guy was going to call a football game, and now he will call a different football game.

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The 2014 Colorado Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner presented a rare challenge for a Denver Post editorial board that has long made an art form of timid, anchorless, empty-headed centrism. Neither candidate offered the board an easy opportunity to do all of the things it does by default: curry favor with incumbents and frontrunners, fetishize bipartisanship for its own sake and issue tongue-clucking admonishments to the extremes on Both Sides, and attempt to buttress their fair-and-balanced bona fides among movement conservatives who couldn’t be less appeased. Confronted with a tight race between two unremarkable avatars of their respective parties’ mainstreams, for once the Post had a real choice to make.

When it chose Gardner, the board faced a second, far greater challenge: how to string some words together into a passably coherent argument for a vote that would help return control of the Senate to the Republican Party and a conservative agenda to which the paper was nominally largely opposed.

The resulting endorsement was roundly, deservedly ridiculed at the time—“baffling,” “asinine,” “genuinely bizarre,” “the most singularly box-of-rocks dumb rationale I ever read in my life”—but it’s only in light of this year’s healthcare saga that its awe-inspiring daftness can be fully appreciated. As the Senate under a unified Republican federal government hurries to pass—without a single hearing or committee vote, by what will likely be a razor-thin majority—legislation that will impoverish, immiserate, bankrupt, sicken and/or kill tens of millions of Americans, it’s worth revisiting, piece by piece, an artifact of the media’s credulous worship of process and propriety and consensus politics that helped get us here in the first place.

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All throughout 2017, as part of what he describes as a “personal challenge…to have visited and met people in every state in the US by the end of the year,” Mark Zuckerberg has taken to the half-trillion-dollar social-media platform he controls to share his awkwardly staged and cartoonishly one-dimensional attempts to interact with non-billionaires across the country. Here he is at a rodeo in Texas. Here he is on a shrimp boat in Louisiana. Here he is in Ohio, dropping in for dinner with a family he’d found by “ask[ing] his staff to find Democrats who voted for Donald Trump.” His excursion to Iowa over the weekend produced another pitch-perfect medley of sanitized clichés: cornfieldsfried food, a truck stop, a small-town ice cream parlor.

These canned photo ops and issue-specific listening tours are easily recognized as part of the grammar of political stagecraft, and in the wake of Donald Trump’s norm-shattering election to the presidency, they’ve unsurprisingly prompted widespread suspicion that Zuckerberg, the world’s fifth-richest man, is planning his own presidential run. There’s other evidence; last year he successfully pushed for a change in Facebook’s corporate structure allowing him to retain control if he were to take a “leave of absence…in connection with his serving in a government position or office,” and maybe most conspicuously of all, he made sure to announce in a Christmas Day Facebook post that he is no longer an atheist.

The implied, half-joking vision of a post-Trump world in which the presidency is contested among a small club of addled billionaires is in some ways appropriately bleak and cynical. But we’re still letting ourselves off the hook too easily. Zuckerberg probably has no interest in running for president; he and his corporate handlers have got something much worse in mind.

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Airports around the U.S. have been in chaos since last Friday, when the Trump administration without warning implemented a 90-day travel ban denying entry to nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Saturday and Sunday in cities as far-flung as Boise and Birmingham, and the eruption of outrage and grassroots energy has upended the political situation in Washington. Online, in print, and on television, the news has been dominated by coverage of the protests and political fallout for the past four days.

But there’s a dimension to the travel ban story that only becomes clear if you’re someone unfortunate enough to spend a lot of time on Twitter or otherwise inundated by news coverage, and that’s the full scope of the alarming actions taken by the Customs and Border Protection agency following the implementation of the order:

  • In the acts that have gotten the most attention thanks to their proximity to the D.C. press, CBP agents at Dulles have repeatedly defied U.S. congressmen and lawyers who were trying to enforce a court order allowing detainees access to legal counsel. One of the congressmen, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), called the situation “a constitutional crisis.”
  • Two U.S. congresswomen requested a meeting with CBP management at LAX regarding a student who was being deported to Iran in contravention of the stay granted Saturday night. CBP refused, and “[w]hen asked who they’re reporting to they said ‘Donald J. Trump.’”
  • Lawyers at JFK and elsewhere have reported that CBP agents are pressuring legal permanent residents, a.k.a. green-card holders, to sign away their legal status through threats and intimidation.
  • “Green card holders were handcuffed, their social media was reviewed, and they were asked their views on Trump.” The American Immigration Lawyers Association confirmed these reports to The Independent.
  • A Somali woman with her two children, both of whom are U.S. citizens, were detained for 20 hours without food. She was handcuffed “even when she went to the bathroom” and pressured to sign papers relinquishing her permanent resident status.
  • A 19-year old American citizen of Lebanese descent was detained for more than three hours at O’Hare, where CBP agents asked him, “Do you love your country?
  • An American citizen was interrogated in Houston, asked questions about his social media profiles and whether or not he was a Christian, and ultimately had his passport confiscated.
  • A 16-year-old Texas resident has been detained for more than three days despite the fact that he holds a valid visa and is a native of Jordan, which isn’t one of the countries included in the travel ban. His lawyer told the Houston Chronicle that after “speaking with colleagues across the country, he’s convinced immigration officials are not just barring or delaying citizens from the seven countries listed on Trump’s executive order.”
  • Today there were reports that U.S. Marshals were “refusing to enforce…court orders against CBP” at LAX.

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In an act of equal parts malevolence and incompetence, the Trump administration threw international travel into chaos on Friday with a hideous executive order that banned nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries—even those already granted legal permanent resident status, better known as green cards—from entering the United States. As reports of people being detained and deported began to proliferate, crowds gathered at airports around the country in protest.

A small number of Republican congressmen have joined Democrats in opposing the order, and both the Washington Post and Vox would have you believe that Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO)—last seen sneaking out the back door of a library where constituents were waiting to express concerns about the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act—is one of them.

This is bullshit. Coffman hasn’t said anything specifically regarding Trump’s order, much less anything in opposition to it. Here’s the one-sentence statement he released last night on Twitter:

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It wasn’t a surprise to see former state senator Mike Johnston become the first major candidate to enter the 2018 Colorado governor’s race on Tuesday. His ambitions have been plain for a while now, he’s backed by a well-connected network of insiders and consultants, and he has everything to gain by getting a head start on what are expected to be crowded primary fields in both parties.

What was a bit of a surprise, though, was the central piece of spin his campaign clearly wants to advance in the early going, and the media’s willingness to run with it. Remarking on Johnston’s “Frontier Fairness” slogan, 9News anchor Kyle Clark tweeted that he “sounds like Bernie with a belt buckle.” And if Clark nibbled at the line the campaign had fed him, Denver Post reporter John Frank swallowed it whole: “Mike Johnston announces 2018 bid for governor with the flair of Bernie Sanders,” read the headline in today’s paper.

“Johnston emphasized that his campaign will attract Sanders supporters — specifically his focus on college affordability, protecting immigrants living in the country illegally and his record against accepting campaign contributions from political action committees.

‘I think the Bernie folks will find a lot of the values that they share will be evidenced in our campaign,’ Johnston said in an interview.”

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Donald Trump is a monster—a confessed sexual predator, a toxic bigot, an unstable narcissist, a pathological liar, a con artist who built a business empire on plunder and fraud, a coward who thinks he’s a shark, a moron who thinks he’s a genius. For a person of such low character to occupy the presidency, wielding both its enumerated powers and its subtler, more symbolic ones, will be tremendously damaging to the country and to the world. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the greater part of the damage done by the incoming administration will have little or nothing to do with Trump himself.

Back in July, the New York Times famously reported that his campaign’s pitch to potential VP nominees was to offer them the chance to become “the most powerful vice president in history” who would be put “in charge of foreign and domestic policy” while Trump remained a celebrity figurehead. Much of what has been reported in the last few days has been consistent with this. Trump “was shocked when he won the election,” says the Times, may not live in the White House full-time, and is intent on “continuing to hold…large rallies” because of “the instant gratification and adulation that the cheering crowds provide.” Politico adds that Trump has barely had any contact with his own transition staff and that “sources in and around the Trump transition team said there was no evidence that the president-elect had even reviewed any of the binders of policy and personnel proposals produced by the team.”

Meanwhile, that transition team is aggressively putting the lie to a foundational promise of Trump’s campaign—that he was an insurgent outsider who would “drain the swamp” and rid the federal government of corruption and special interests. As the Times, Politico, the Washington Post, the AP, and others have reported, the fledgling Trump administration is dominated by the lobbyists, donors, influence peddlers, insiders and career politicians that Trump spent his whole campaign railing against. More than 4,000 political appointments will be made by a transition staff that consists almost entirely of representatives of corporate interests matched with the relevant departments and agencies—a food industry lobbyist staffing the Department of Agriculture, a mining industry lobbyist the Department of the Interior, a notorious oil and gas industry shill the EPA, and so on.

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