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“Heels On, Gloves Off!” Women March Against Trump’s Impeachment in Washington. But Really Not Many.

Mother Jones Magazine -

On Thursday, impeachment foes converged on Washington for the first big pro-Trump rally in the city since shortly after Donald Trump was elected president. According to its website, the “March for Trump: Stop Impeachment Now!” event was initiated by people who “want our President to know he is not alone and we stand with him.”

Judging by the crowd size—only a few hundred protesters were there—not all that many people seemed willing to take the day off to stand with Trump against impeachment. But that might have been as much a function of last minute transportation snafus as the country’s support for the president. Nonetheless, the true believers marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for a rally on the Capitol lawn. They had come from as far away as Arkansas, Florida, and Connecticut to participate. Armed with plenty of Trump 2020 banners and “Stop the Coup” signs, they chanted “Drain the swamp!” as they walked.

The marchers finally assembled on the west lawn of the Capitol where they’d been promised speeches from members of Congress. But the lawmakers were slow to materialize, so the audience had to make do with former Navy Seal Jonathan Gilliam, author of the personal safety book Sheep No More and an occasional Fox News guest, and Jack Posobiec, an internet troll and One America News host who helped spread the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.

Posobiec spent some of his allotted time consoling the marchers who may have lost friends because of their Trump support. “I’m sure everyone in this crowd who’s wearing one of these MAGA hats, are wearing a Trump hat, has got someone in their lives, someone in their family, that’s just so nasty to them because of who you support in politics,” he said, lamenting that people just can’t get along the way Roseanne and her liberal sister do on the sitcom.

Eventually, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), and Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) showed up to rail against their Democratic colleagues investigating Trump and rally the crowd to stand tall with the president. Collins told the crowd that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was trying to “overthrow the votes” of Trump supporters with the impeachment inquiry, while Scalise branded the proceedings a “kangaroo court.”

If the event had the feel of a reconstituted tea party rally, it might be because the march was sponsored by Women for American First, a nonprofit 501(c)4 organization headed up by former tea party activist Amy Kremer. That grassroots conservative movement emerged in 2009 after the election of Barack Obama to oppose his administration and some of its signature policies, such as the Affordable Care Act. The movement helped elect some of the most extreme members of Congress—remember Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)?—and forced out moderate Republicans including former House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

A former Delta flight attendant who calls herself one of the “founding mothers” of the tea party movement, Kremer was the longtime chief executive of the Tea Party Express, which organized bus tours across the country and worked on a variety of campaigns in 2010 and 2012 to help Republicans retake Congress. One of the best known tea party groups, the Tea Party Express was also well known for being run by a political action committee that raised tons of money from small donors and spent most of it on the political consultants who started the PAC rather than on candidates.

Kremer was an early Trump supporter during the 2016 presidential campaign when she started a political action committee called TrumPAC to raise money to support his insurgent campaign. The PAC, one of several that sprang up to fundraise off the Trump candidacy, ran afoul of campaign finance rules for using the name of a candidate without permission. It was later rebranded the Great America PAC. She left the Great America PAC after a falling out with its leadership and went on to join with the ex-wife of indicted Trump adviser Roger Stone to launch another pro-Trump super PAC, Women Vote Trump, that pledged to raise $30 million to support Trump’s campaign for president.

As CNN reported, the group came up $29,973,187 short of that goal, went into debt, and got in trouble with the FEC for the unauthorized use of a candidate’s name. The PAC changed the name to Women Vote Smart, but it continued to organize events under the banner of Women for Trump. In October 2018, the group hosted a “Women for America First Summit”—slogan “Heels on, gloves off!”—at the Trump International Hotel in DC, featuring a “deep state cocktail reception,” and the president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump. Over the summer, Kremer and her daughter Kylie started a new nonprofit, Women for America First, which can raise unlimited money to rally support for the president without disclosing its donors. That’s the organization behind Thursday’s rally. A spokesman for the group did not respond to questions about the its donors or who was paying for anti-impeachment march.

I stopped to talk with two women who explained what brought them to the event, and what they believe Trump has done for women.

As with the old tea party events, the pro-Trump marchers were overwhelmingly white, older and, of course, Republican. Likewise, the event featured a solid contingent of supporters of the late convicted fraudster and cult leader Lyndon Larouche, anti-abortion activists, Second Amendment enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists. I listened to one man try to explain to a heckler that the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry was simply a “smokescreen” designed to cover up their efforts to sabotage Trump’s 2016 presidential election. When the heckler asked the man to detail exactly how that all went down, he mumbled something about Ukraine, “the server,” and Democrats, and then gave up.  “Barr knows,” he concluded ominously. He was referring to Trump’s attorney general William Barr, who has been traveling abroad to solicit help from foreign intelligence agencies in a campaign to discredit the investigation into Trump’s involvement with Russia during the 2016 election.

A Trump supporter protests impeachment proceedings against him at the Capitol in DC.

The rally may have invoked some of the tea party’s characters and approaches, but the event often seemed more like a parallel universe. The March for Trump took place while an extraordinary stream of chaotic news from the White House, all mostly bad for the president, unfolded. After the rally, the Trump supporters spent the day visiting members of Congress to oppose impeachment. While they were on the Hill, the president’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, held a press conference in which he confirmed that the president had indeed withheld military aid to Ukraine to pressure its president to investigate the son of Trump’s potential 2020 opponent, former vice president Joe Biden. Trump himself has previously admitted that he solicited help from a foreign government for his 2020 reelection campaign. But marchers at the Capitol were having none of that.

Donna Gathright had come with her daughter from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to support Trump, and she said she refused to believe that he would ask a foreign country to meddle in the election. “That isn’t anything he would do. He loves this country,” she said. When I told her that Trump had admitted on TV that he’d done just that, she responded, “They lied on TV!” She said it was just fake news, just like the coverage of Trump’s comments after the deadly neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in 2017, when he said the white supremacists included some “very fine people.”

“He didn’t say that in Charlottesville either,” Gathright insisted.

“He gives us the warnings about fake news. Be aware, keep your eyes open, and you can’t believe everything you see.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Mary Simmons, another marcher from Arkansas who chimed in that Trump’s attacks on the media are one reason that she likes him so much. “He gives us the warnings about fake news,” she explained. “Be aware, keep your eyes open, and you can’t believe everything you see.” Both women seemed to believe that TV video is regularly doctored to make Trump look bad.

Gathright also claimed that it was not Trump but President Barack Obama who had enriched himself from the presidency. Simmons concurred, adding with a whisper that Obama had sent money into secret Swiss bank accounts. They love that Trump refuses to take a government salary as president, a sign of his benevolence stemming from the fact that he had already made his fortune before getting elected. A few hours after they were lauding Trump’s refusal to cash in on the presidency, Mulvaney announced that Trump had decided to host the G-7 gathering of world leaders next year at the resort he owns in Miami, the Trump Doral.

No one referred to the mass of criticism leveled at the administration by both parties for its abandonment of the Kurds in Turkey and Trump’s apparent endorsement of ethnic cleansing in Syria. For those who attended the march, the president was a hero, beloved by all and singlehandedly responsible for a booming economy, energy independence, and building the wall. “If those Democrats get power, look out,” Gathright warned. “They’re evil. Let the guy work. He’s doing great things.”

There were a few problems, however, with the march. As with the old tea party events, organizers had arranged for buses to bring in Trump supporters from around the country. But on Wednesday night, the buses were cancelled and organizers said many potential marchers were stranded in Boston and elsewhere—a possible explanation for the poor turnout. Trump supporters immediately saw a conspiracy at work, a theory promoted by Posobiec, who mentioned the transportation crisis during his speech at the rally. “I hear there was a bus issue today,” Posobiec said. “The company refused to work with folks.” Kremer acknowledged the bus problem and blamed the company in a Facebook post, saying, “We feel this was done intentionally.”

Kremer later released a statement saying, “Last night, less than two hours before our first chartered buses were supposed to leave for DC, we were informed that the bus company was cancelling all of our buses—including ones that were fully paid for. This move left hundreds of grassroots activists stranded and unable to attend the Anti-Impeachment rally today in front of the Capitol. We are incredibly disappointed at US Coachways, their actions prevented hundreds of Americans from exercising their first amendment rights and to have their voices heard.”

But according to Joseph Heap, the CMO of US Coachways, politics had nothing to do with the company’s decision to cancel the busses. He says that the march organizers started working with the Staten Island-based company just 10 days ago, but they refused to pay a deposit for the six buses they were trying to reserve. He said that on Wednesday, at 3 pm, just hours before one of the buses was scheduled to depart for DC, one of the organizers called to finally make a payment. The credit card was declined, he said.

It wouldn’t be the first time that one of Kremer’s political enterprises has run into financial problems. In 2017, she jumped into the Republican primary to fill the congressional seat vacated by Georgia Rep. Tom Price, who had left to become Trump’s secretary of health and human services. Two months before the special election, Kremer’s staff quit en masse, claiming that she couldn’t pay them.

Heap said the bus company tried to work with pro-Trump organizers and waited while they called the bank, but the credit card payments never went through, so they had to cancel the buses. “We didn’t care that it was a Trump rally at all. We don’t do things that way,” Heap told me. “We want the business. This is exactly what we’re in the business to do. We really did want to make it work for them. We worked with them all the way up to the very end. We really did. ”

Americans Are Getting More Satisfied in the Trump Era

Mother Jones Magazine -

Apropo of nothing in particular, here is the latest iteration of a poll that Gallup conducts monthly:

We Americans are never very satisfied with how things are going in our country, and we’ve been especially unsatisfied over the past few years. But we’re getting happier! And the Trump years have made us happier still.

Roughly speaking, satisfaction needs to be above 30 percent for an incumbent party to win reelection. That’s not a guarantee, though: Al Gore lost in 2000 even though satisfaction was sky high. Trump is currently at 33 percent.

Just sayin’.

First All-Female Spacewalking Team Makes History

TruthDig.com News -

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—The world’s first all-female spacewalking team made history high above Earth on Friday, replacing a broken part of the International Space Station’s power grid.

As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir completed the job with wrenches, screwdrivers and power-grip tools, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that men weren’t part of the action.

America’s first female spacewalker from 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, was delighted. She said it’s good to finally have enough women in the astronaut corps and trained for spacewalking for this to happen.

“We’ve got qualified women running the control, running space centers, commanding the station, commanding spaceships and doing spacewalks,” Sullivan told The Associated Press earlier this week. “And golly, gee whiz, every now and then there’s more than one woman in the same place.”

NASA leaders, Girl Scouts and others cheered Koch and Meir on. Parents also sent in messages of thanks and encouragement via social media. NASA included some in its TV coverage. “Go girls go,” two young sisters wrote on a sign in crayon. A group of middle schoolers held a long sign reading “The sky is not the limit!!”

At the same time, many expressed hope this will become routine in the future.

Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a three-time spacewalker who looked on from Mission Control in Houston, added: “Hopefully, this will now be considered normal.”

NASA originally wanted to conduct an all-female spacewalk last spring, but did not have enough medium-size suits ready to go until summer. Koch and Meir were supposed to install more new batteries in a spacewalk next week, but had to venture out three days earlier to deal with an equipment failure that occurred over the weekend. It was the second such failure of a battery charger this year, puzzling engineers and putting a hold on future battery installations for the solar power system.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine watched the big event unfold from Washington headquarters.

“We have the right people doing the right job at the right time,” he said. “They are an inspiration to people all over the world including me. And we’re very excited to get this mission underway.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent congratulations to Koch and Meir “for leaving their mark on history” and tweeted that they’re an inspiration to women and girls across America.

The spacewalkers’ main job was to replace the faulty 19-year-old old charge-regulating device — the size of a big, bulky box — for one of the three new batteries that was installed last week by Koch and Andrew Morgan. A preliminary check showed everything to be good 250 miles (400 kilometers) up, but several more hours were needed to confirm that.

“Jessica and Christina, we are so proud of you,” said Morgan, one of four astronauts inside. He called them his “astrosisters.”

Spacewalking is widely considered the most dangerous assignment in orbit. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who operated the station’s robot arm from inside during Friday’s spacewalk, almost drowned in 2013 when his helmet flooded with water from his suit’s cooling system.

“Everyone ought to be sending some positive vibes by way of airwaves to space for these two top-notch spacewalkers,” Dyson said early in the spacewalk.

Meir, a marine biologist making her spacewalking debut, became the 228th person in the world to conduct a spacewalk and the 15th woman. It was the fourth spacewalk for Koch, an electrical engineer who is seven months into an 11-month mission that will be the longest ever by a woman. Both are members of NASA’s Astronaut Class of 2013, the only one equally split between women and men.

Pairing up for a spacewalk was especially meaningful for Koch and Meir; they’re close friends. They’re also both former Girl Scouts.

It took two decades for women to catch up with men in the spacewalking arena.

The world’s first spacewalker on March 18, 1965, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, died last week. NASA astronaut Ed White became the first U.S. spacewalker less than three months after Leonov’s feat. Women did not follow out the hatch until 1984. The first was Soviet cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya. Sullivan followed three months later.

Friday’s milestone spacewalk was the 421st for team Earth.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

The post First All-Female Spacewalking Team Makes History appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

We’re Having the Wrong Mental Health Conversation

TruthDig.com News -

America’s mental health crisis is rooted in recent history that led not only to inadequate facilities and resources for those with illnesses, but also to a lack of understanding on a broader scale about the nature of the health issues. Another urgent problem inextricably linked to mental health is homelessness, given that not only do many people with psychological illnesses end up homeless due to a lack of options and resources, but that the conditions of living without adequate—or any—housing aggravate any mental health issues already present.

Psychiatrist and documentarian Kenneth Paul Rosenberg delves into these urgent topics in his latest book, “Bedlam: An Intimate Journey Into America’s Mental Health Crisis,” where he takes an objective look at the problem while interlacing the story of a nationwide system that failed his own sister, and including stories of others who’ve faced similar struggles.

Rosenberg, who is the featured guest on the most recent episode of Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer’s podcast, explains that part of the misguided drive behind closing down mental hospitals in the 20th century had to do with the idea that these institutions infringed on citizens’ civil liberties.

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“[In my book] I talk about a very brave family who spoke to me, Norm and Judy Ornstein, who unfortunately lost a son to serious mental illness,” Rosenberg says on the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.” “Judy said it better than anyone I’ve ever met. She said, ‘My son died with his civil liberties intact.’ He was able to live a life that was really substandard by any measure, where he was really living with his mental illness.

“I would have to say for my own sister,” the psychiatrist adds, “that it was very, very hard to get her treatment. And it’s very, very hard to keep someone more than three days or four days without a court order, without a conservatorship. And those things are changing. And at the same time, we must safeguard our personal autonomy, we must safeguard people’s civil liberties.”

Another factor was the discovery and popularization of psychiatric drugs that led many to believe hospitals and other facilities would become redundant.

“The thing that informed the whole deinstitutionalization,” Scheer says, “was that there were these new magic drugs—I’m not talking about illegal drugs, I’m talking about prescription drugs—that could basically solve the problem. And one of the revelations in your book is not only that the first generation of those drugs didn’t work very well—aside from the fact that you couldn’t get people to take them on a regular basis, but they just were not the panacea that had been predicted.

“There is no magic bullet of drugs for dealing with serious mental illness,” the Truthdig editor in chief concludes in conversation with Rosenberg about the book.

There is, however, one crucial thing, in tandem with other changes to laws and increased medical research, which the psychiatrist profoundly believes will change the course of this terrible episode in American history in which we’ve turned our most vulnerable members quite literally onto the streets.

“We have to realize that this is not someone else’s problem,” Rosenberg says. “The most important thing we have to do is have a conversation. … This is our problem that we have to confront. And I think the way to do it, trite as it sounds, is to have a conversation that we have not been having. And have it be a conversation not about the other, but about ourselves.”

Rosenberg also worked with producer Peter Miller to create a documentary series based on his book, also titled “Bedlam,” which will air on PBS in April. Below is a clip about the upcoming series.

<iframe width=”1249″ height=”480″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/doFvWkvF3L8″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Listen to the full discussion between Rosenberg and Scheer about the reasons behind the mental health crisis plaguing the U.S. as well as a possible path forward for the country. You can also read a transcript of the interview below the media player and find past episodes of “Scheer Intelligence” here.

—Introduction by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” where the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case, a man with great credentials, Kenneth Paul Rosenberg. He’s a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association; he’s associated with New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and he’s a practitioner in his own right. And he’s a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker dealing with some of the topics of mental illness that we’re going to be dealing with. But he has written a book that–it’s called Bedlam, and I’ll let him explain the title, the historical roots–An Intimate Journey Into America’s Mental Health Crisis. And it’s also an important part of the homelessness crisis. And interestingly enough, we’re doing this recording from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and we’re very close to the epicenter of this whole mental health, homelessness crisis.

And in your book, you kind of single out the LAC + USC, L.A. County + USC Medical Center. And then you have the L.A. County Jail. And kind of an important part of the theme of this book can be wrapped up in a statement you make in it, where the sort of the two main places we have for dealing with health, mental health, are those two institutions–and they’re woefully inadequate to the task. So why don’t we just begin with that?

Kenneth Rosenberg: First of all, thanks so much for having me on the show. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here, frankly. You know, they say we’ve deinstitutionalized people; I think we have trans-institutionalized people. We’ve sent them from the asylums–which were dreadful, no question–to the streets and the jails and the prisons, which are probably more dreadful. And we haven’t really done them a very good service. And as you say, where you are recording me from this moment is the epicenter of this nation’s crisis. I think, as a positive note, because of things that are changing in Los Angeles, it may also be the epicenter of change. But it’s definitely the epicenter of the crisis.

RS: You know, it’s interesting you should say that, because I’ve also done interviews on this show with people from the United Way; we’ve dealt with a movie called The Advocates, which is a very good inside look into these tents of the homeless. And the issues overlap in the sense that people have mental problems. And in your book, you’re very careful to point out we don’t really know the degree to which this is nature or nurture, to the degree that you’re born with it or it’s inflicted.

But one thing we do know is if you end up on the streets–and many people, I forget the number from the Federal Reserve, it’s something like 40% are a paycheck away from not having the ability to pay their rent. We live in an economy of increased, you know, for the last 40 years, of income gap between the well-off and this mass at the bottom. And the question is, that I had reading your book at first–there are many things to discuss. But one I had was, yes, you use the statistic 25% of the people in our vast homeless population here in L.A. and up in San Francisco, two incredibly prosperous cities, are there–are defined as seriously mentally ill. But the question then is, did they get that way by living on the streets? Or are they on the streets because they are that way?

KR: That’s a great question. I mean, if any one of us lived on the streets, Lord knows that we would probably, our sanity would be challenged if not completely lost. If any of us were exposed to the trauma of living on the streets, and the violence of living on the streets, and the drugs of living on the streets, and the alcohol abuse, and all those things, our minds would not be healthy. So I think it’s a great point.

However, it is estimated that 25% of males who are living on the streets, and 40%–four-zero percent–of women who are living on the streets, are there virtually because of their serious mental illness, because that’s the option that we’ve given them. We’ve taken away the hospitals, we’ve taken away the asylums, we’ve made the community mental health centers few and far between, so that people with mental illness end up on the streets, and they also end up in jails.

We’ve made having a mental illness largely a crime, so that at least 25% of people in the jails and prisons today have a serious mental illness. One in four. And we see, again, we’ve trans-institutionalized people; we’ve put them in–we had put them in dreadful asylums, and now we put them in dreadful institutions. And by the way, I think the jails and the prisons are doing the best they can, but law enforcement is not a medical treatment. And people didn’t go into law enforcement so they could be social workers, nor were the jails built to be mental health centers.

RS: So let’s just trace this deinstitutionalization, which as you point out just means we–instead of the big mental hospitals, I forget their names–one was Pilgrim here in California, I think, I forget the others–

KR: Yeah. Yeah, Pilgrim.

RS: And as I recall, when this all happened–and it’s interesting that California should be the epicenter. In part, some people think it’s the homelessness center because we have a better climate. But there is a real connection between the two in the history of the state. The deinstitutionalization as I understand it started here in California, and it started with a kind of an alliance between fiscal conservatives represented by Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Revolution when he was governor, and civil liberties organizations like the ACLU and others that were very concerned that people were being locked up in these dreadful institutions, they didn’t have basic rights, they were just being warehoused.

And the thing that informed the whole deinstitutionalization was that there were these new magic drugs–I’m not talking about illegal drugs, I’m talking about prescription drugs–that could basically solve the problem. And one of the revelations in your book is not only that the first generation of those drugs didn’t work very well–aside from the fact that you couldn’t get people to take them on a regular basis, but they just were not the panacea that had been predicted. But even after you trace the development of what you call the “me-too” drugs, all the different kinds of ways–and there is no magic bullet of drugs for dealing with mental illness, serious mental illness.

KR: Yes. Well, as you point out, the problem is multifactorial. And you know, it’s been said many times before that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think that the people who wanted to restore the civil liberties of people with serious mental illness meant well. The people who wanted to close down the institutions meant well. And the people who wanted to build community mental health centers in the sixties, that were completely ill-equipped to deal with people with serious mental illness, meant well. But it didn’t end up so well. The funding dried up; the facilities, community mental health centers, were not really equipped to deal with them, and people did end up on the streets.

There’s no Republican, Democratic governor to blame for this. Everyone was complicit. And I think as a society we’ve been complicit. We have said, you know–we’ve thrown up our hands. And you mentioned pharmacology–the medicines are very helpful, they’re very wonderful. But as you pointed out, Bob, there is no panacea, there is no magic bullet. The brain is very, very complicated, and the medicines are not what they should be. The molecules we use for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are effective, but they have serious side effects. And essentially, they’re molecules that are 70–seven-zero–70 years old. That’s not what we should be seeing in medicine, right?

So I think that it’s multi-factorial. But if you had to draw it down into one phrase or one sentence, I think as a society we just haven’t given a damn. We’ve really let the people with serious mental illness live on the streets, you know, go to the jails, go to the prisons, take outdated drugs with serious side effects. And said, you know, we wash our hands of it. I think, again, the ACLU has meant well; I think civil liberties and personal autonomy are the foundations of our American democracy. We should safeguard them. But we have to think about that, because in some ways, we’ve taken the expedient, the easy solution. We’ve said, you know, it’s their right to be mentally ill, it’s their right to live on the street, it’s their right to live and die on the streets. And in some ways, that’s kind of like the easy way out, without really caring and taking care of our neediest citizens.

RS: Well, that’s what makes your book so incredible, I think. Because you–you do what all of us should do; you say the other is not the other. And in your personal case, the other, this severely mentally impacted person, is your sister.

KR: Indeed.

RS: And the book is, as you call it, an intimate journey. And it’s an intimate journey where you encounter other professionals. This is what makes it, I think, a compelling read, because it’s not some abstraction. It begins with somebody you care a great deal about–your sister–and she cannot be reached by well-meaning parents, by the existing social system or so forth. You take us through the journey of others, people of means, hard-working taxpayers and so forth. You meet some fellow psychiatrists and other professionals who are in this business precisely because they’ve met the other in their own family.

And the conversation about, whether it’s about the homeless or the subset of severely mentally impacted people, it only becomes this reality when you have had a child or a sibling involved. And you weave that through the book. So you don’t let us off the hook, that these are just crazy people. Which is the way they were presented, it was throughout literature; you do an excellent job of tracing the history of mental illness, you know, and the way mentally ill people were dismissed, chained, abused, beaten. And then, yet, you bring it back to your sister–you don’t want your sister treated in that way. But that is what happens at some critical moment.

KR: Yeah, I think that’s–thank you for saying that. You know, 50% of us need some psychiatric care at some point in our lives. And serious psychiatric care, not just because we’re having a bad day or something like that. One in five families, maybe one in four families, have a family member with a serious mental illness. And that doesn’t even take into account substance abuse, which affects 15 to 20% of the population in terms of a lifetime prevalence. This is not about the other. We’d like it to be about the other, because we have such great stigma, such great shame.

You know, and I’m Jewish; we, my parents and family talked about it as a shanda, a great shame that cannot be discussed. And I think that’s just wrong. We’d like it to be the other, but it’s us. And when we realized it’s us, we realized it’s our family members, then we could not turn our back on ourselves and our family members, and wash–and allow society to wash their hands of the problem.

So I think it’s, you know, a very good point you make: It is not the other, it is us. And it doesn’t matter who the heck you are. You know, I’ve seen billionaires who have their children die on the streets, who can’t get their kids out of jail. It’s not an issue of any socioeconomic class–although poverty is a factor, and people of color are unfairly, you know, represented in people with serious mental illness because of the traumatic life and the stress of their lives. But still, it’s something that affects everyone, and it doesn’t matter who the heck you are. You know, you can’t manufacture a drug if you’re the richest person in the world. You can’t create a hospital bed for your relative if none exists. This is a problem that we have to address as a society, and no one is insulated from it.

RS: Well, let’s just trace the history very briefly. But we stopped with–OK, there was a movement in the post-war period–I mean, after there had been some movies that were quite sensationalist. I don’t know, I think one was The Snake Pit or something, and–

KR: The Snake Pit, Cuckoo’s Nest, yeah. I mean, brilliant films, but they–

RS: No, but I mean, and they had this whole idea that the traditional way of the big mental hospitals was barbaric, was awful. And then we grabbed this quick solution of outpatient, or some magic drug, and so forth. And that took hold. And I think it takes hold for the very reason that you outlined in your book. You’re not talking about your own child. Because if you’re talking about your own child, you want to know whether the new solution is actually working, and you check on it. And what we did is, as you say, we said, OK, that’s taken care of. And in fact, you bring us something I did not know before I read your book. But that when Medicare was written into law–and Medicaid–there was a restriction that none of this money could be used for mental illness treatment, unless it involved an institution that had fewer than 16 people. Correct me if I’m wrong.

KR: That’s correct, and we’re trying to change that in California. You have a lot of people in the Department of Health who are trying to change that. But it’s a–

RS: Right, but I want to focus on that, because the ideological blindness was that–

KR: It’s crazy.

RS: –that any larger institution would by its very nature become repressive, would violate the freedom and care about these people. So what do we end up, though? We end up–I’m teaching at a university here, the University of Southern California–we’re surrounded by people, many of whom obviously–I’m not talking about our student body, I’m talking about on the edges of our campus, where we have one of the–by the way, one of the larger private police forces making this campus supposedly safe from these other people. And they’re living there in what, under cardboard, with little pup tents or something. And there’s this incredible fear of this other. And yet periodically, I’ve had some friend or other come looking for their nephew, looking for their cousin. Right? And say, Bob, do you know where this street is, or something.

So I want to get at that kind of studied indifference, because you trace policy. And most of the policy is to sort of put people out of sight, out of mind, and not to raise serious questions about whether it’s working, how is it working, you know. And that’s what your book challenges, and I want to tip people off. They may not agree with everything in this book, because at the end, you really challenge the idea–and I challenge it every day when I drive home from school here. I live downtown, and I see people on the streets talking to themselves, yelling, deranged. And I–there’s a chapter, I forget the title of it. But you ask, did that–is that civil liberties? Or is that madness that’s indulged?

KR: Yes, exactly. I talk about a very brave family who spoke to me, Norm and Judy Ornstein, who unfortunately lost a son to serious mental illness. And they’ve spoken about it publicly, but in the book they were so kind and generous to talk about it with me. And basically, Judy said it better than anyone I’ve ever met. She said, “My son died with his civil liberties intact.” He was able to live a life that was, you know, really substandard by any measure, where he was really living with his mental illness.

And that story is, like every family story, is very complicated and nuanced. But I would have to say for my own sister, that it was very, very hard to get her treatment. And it’s very, very hard to keep someone more than three days or four days without a court order, without a conservatorship. And those things are changing. And at the same time, we must safeguard our personal autonomy, we must safeguard people’s civil liberties.

But we have to ask ourselves a very difficult question. Those people you drive by, Bob, when they’re screaming to themselves, when they’re sleeping under a bridge, is that really the life they deserve? Are we just turning our back on them? And are we really doing them a service by not offering them and urging them to have treatment, so they can make informed decisions?

Because, you know, there’s something in the medical terms called anosognosia, which means that you don’t know that you have a serious mental illness. Now, it’s a very slippery slope. And we have to, you know, again, I think the civil libertarians are absolutely right that we have to be very, very careful about this. But when the person that has a psychotic process that is taking over their brain, that is preventing them from knowing that they are in fact sick–whether it’s a form of denial, whether it’s just the stigma, or whether it’s a brain process, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter–their lives are really miserable. And we have to ask ourselves, is that really civil liberties? Is that the kind of society we want to live in? Where we say, ah–you know, it’s their problem.

But as you say, it’s our problem, because many people I know have family members who live on the streets who are seriously mentally ill. And it’s very, very hard to challenge that, very, very hard to get them help. And it’s a complicated question, but there now are some procedures to get people help. There’s something called assisted outpatient treatment–very controversial, but it uses what we call therapeutic jurisprudence. Having a judge who knows about these things say to the person, look, either you go to a hospital, or you get treatment. You know, very, very simple. And we have to provide the proper treatment; it has to be welcoming treatment, it has to be humane treatment. It can’t be these dreadful asylums that we used to throw people into. But still, I think that our citizens who are sick deserve treatment, deserve an opportunity to live healthy lives.

RS: Well, I think that’s the critical thing here, is whether we give a damn. And it’s interesting. As you mentioned, California is the epicenter of this, and it comes with a big cost to this society. Here you have two of the richest cities in the world in San Francisco and Los Angeles. And if you go to this new building, the Salesforce building in San Francisco, by day it’s the center of the new wired, internet world, and you know, apps and everything else. By night it’s like a campfire, an illusionary campfire, for homeless people. And just stretched out, block after block after block.

And you see that in L.A.; we have this incredible gentrification of the downtown, building all over the place and everything, and yet you have these miles of despair that rival, I think, anything I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. I mean, it’s unbelievable. You know, Bedlam is the title of your book; I mean, that’s what comes to mind. Well, the two can’t–they both can’t exist side by side. The fact is, this idea of the city of the future, which is how San Francisco–well, certainly New York has always been the city of the future. San Francisco, L.A.–they can’t coexist with this intense army of the dispossessed. They can’t. I mean, it’s unsafe, it’s costly–

KR: Yeah. Well, it’s a housing problem, right? I mean, above all else, these are cities that you point out in which housing is extremely expensive. And homelessness is fundamental–

RS: Right. Well, I want to separate the two and yet connect them. Because–and first of all, I want to go with your positive theme. The voters here in California did vote for–both in L.A. in the city, and on the county level–for spending money on building housing for the homeless. You know, they took that path rather than the traditional one of trying to zone them out of existence, and warehouse them somewhere far away where you don’t have to see ’em. So there is actually that sense that we need to get on top of it. And even, you know–not only even, but the United Way and business groups have led that battle. So that’s true.

However–however, they run up against the problem that your book addresses. Yes–get the housing. Yes, put people in that housing. And we featured a movie on this show, The Advocates–work with them. As you point out, it’s labor intensive. Psychiatry is not simple. Mental health is not simple. There isn’t a magic bullet. You say if you have supported housing, oh, you better have people that also watch what’s going on and helping people. And it seems to me what your book is demanding is the kind of seriousness of purpose that you exhibited towards your sister. Right?

KR: Yes. Well, we–

RS: The question is whether we’re going to exhibit that towards these people out there. Right? That are not related to us.

KR: Yes. We need wraparound services. We can’t just say, put them–give them a home, we need–ah, there’s very good diversion plans in California, but then what we need is follow-up. Because we could say, you know, we’re not going to put you in jail because you’ve committed a petty crime; we’re going to give you treatment, that’s the proper thing. But then we have to provide the treatment, and we have to provide the housing and the wraparound services–the mental health services, the pharmacology, all of those things that are really essential.

And I think that’s just really part of a civilized society. It also will save us money. It’s not cheap to put people in jails for mental health treatment. It’s not cheap to have 1500 men in Twin Towers Jail, mainly because they have a mental illness. It’s not cheap to treat people in emergency rooms. All of that’s extremely expensive. So we probably would save money and do the right thing at the same time.

RS: Well, you should give us some of those statistics about it not being cheap. Because actually, we’ve chosen the most expensive way of dealing with this. First of all, if you just do neglect, and people dying on the street, you’re also–you know, I hate to put it in these terms, but you’re also destroying your most valuable real estate. And you’re making an unstable society, because–

KR: Well, it’s very expensive. I mean, some people–you know, there are homeless mentally ill people who could cost a million dollars. Gavin Newsom, when he was Lieutenant Governor–you know, he’s in the book, and I’ve spoken to him many times about this–you know, realized that there were certain individuals in San Francisco, when he was mayor, who had cost literally a million dollars for the community. Because they were just getting the most expensive treatments, and it’s very expensive to keep someone in jail. A leading cost for the police is dealing with people with serious mental illness; a leading cost for people in jails and prisons is providing just the drugs.

The drugs alone are extremely expensive. And of course, when you’re in jail, when you’re in prison, my God, if you don’t have a mental illness to begin with, how traumatic and how difficult it is. But for someone with a serious mental illness, they decompensate severely. And I think it’s fair to say this is not the plan of law enforcement. This is not what they, as I said before, it’s not what they went into law enforcement to do. It’s not necessarily what they’re good at. They want to, you know, protect the public, not be treating people with serious mental illness.

RS: I should interrupt you just to read from your book. You point out, I’m quoting: “America’s three largest jails–the Twin Towers in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Cook County Jail, and Rikers Island in New York City–serve as the country’s three largest psychiatric inpatient facilities.”

KR: Yes.

RS: That’s a statement in itself of societal madness. As you point out, they were–

KR: I would have to agree. I mean, our jails and prisons are now the de facto asylums. And as bad as the asylums were, they’re probably worse.

RS: And as you point out, the irony of this is that it was done in the name of what, at least on the conservative side of saving money, right? Ah, you know–

KR: You know, I’m not questioning anyone’s reasons. I think that, you know, President Kennedy had good intentions when he speeded up the tearing-down of the asylums and created community mental health centers. I think Ronald Reagan, I would say had good intentions, because he saw the community mental health centers were wasteful, and they weren’t treating the sickest patients. So I think there were good intentions, and I think it’s a real mistake, and we’ve done this throughout the history of this discussion with people with serious mental illness. We’ve blamed people; we’ve blamed the doctors, we’ve blamed the police, we’ve blamed this one or that one. It’s really the illness, the illness is the enemy. But we also have to blame ourselves for our neglect of, as I say, our neediest citizens, who we’ve really turned our back on.

RS: Well, yeah, and I just want to make one correction right here. When I was saying that they were taking up expensive real estate, it wasn’t that I was equating human life with the cost of a block of real estate. What I was saying is there’s a contradiction in what people have in mind for cities. We care more about cities, all over the world the urbanization of population is moving very rapidly. And the fact of the matter is–and it comes across very clearly in your book–the two can’t coexist easily.

KR: It’s a great point. It’s not good for anyone to have a man or a woman living under a bridge and eating out of a garbage can. That is not what we want for our culture, is it.

RS: Right. But there isn’t a–you know, the easy alternative of jailing, that turns out to be more expensive, more inefficient. So I just want to get to a point that I think is very important in your book. We don’t have the luxury–it’s like people talking about climate change–we don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. Well, that’s true of how we’re ordering life in our cities. For one thing, the income inequality is not going away.

We’re going to have more poor people, and your book makes very clear, at some point you can’t really distinguish between the mentally ill and the poor. They’re sort of thrown in the same pot, you know, and there’s a general deterioration of life. And, you know, you can’t have a gated community that you know, cuts right down the middle of a city; it doesn’t work, and the numbers get larger. And there isn’t–again, I have to stress this. What I got from your book–you’re the expert, but what I got from the book is there isn’t likely to be some magic bullet, you know.

KR: No, there isn’t. And the point about poverty, just to note that–it’s not that the poor and people with mental illness are the same. It’s that poverty itself is a very traumatic thing, and exacerbates and stresses the human system. And if you have a vulnerability to having a serious mental illness, and you can’t pay the rent, and you don’t have a house to live in, and you can’t feed yourself or your children–my God, you know, that makes your life so much more stressful. And it opens up a window on all kinds of anxieties, depression, and so forth and so on.

RS: Well, all you have to do right now–I mean, when I leave here, you know, instead of going over to Staples Center to watch the Lakers game tonight I’m going to do. But, you know, normally I would go a bit south, what, six blocks away from a very glitzy scene. And I’m the middle of, again, Bedlam–that title of your book–I mean, it’s unbelievable. You know, and if you try to function–which people do; there are buildings here, you know.

In fact, one of the great contradictions with the Occupy Movement is when they came to crush Occupy here in Los Angeles, they said it was unruly, there were crimes against people, there was–you know, everything was going on, people were not using bathrooms and so forth. And I remember being there that night when they, you know, they militarily closed down the Occupy site, you know. But I had parked my car five blocks away, in the middle of the scene you’re describing. Far worse than any encampment around City Hall–but out of sight, you know. And there were people there, it was a wild scene of screaming, there was violence, and actually there were some murders committed that night. Five, six, seven blocks away from this City Hall thing, which was by comparison quite calm.

And so I want to end with, we’re really–how do we make this issue more visible? And what you use in your book is a literary device of introducing us to people that first of all, you and some of the other people you’re describing care a great deal about. So we learn their histories, and then we can’t just dismiss them as crazy people, and you know, lock them up or get rid of them or put them out of sight. And I just wonder whether journalism has failed in this regard. And even, not just journalism, but all the other institutions. I think here at the University of Southern California, in fact, we are administering the biggest hospital to deal with this issue, certainly in the western United States. And yet, it’s not a focus of attention. What we have done is actually gentrify the area, put up walls, and create indifference. And you know, you’re functioning in New York City; isn’t that what Manhattanization has all been about?

KR: Yeah, I think the most important thing to happen–there’s many important things. We have to change the laws, we need medical research. The cost burden of serious mental illness exceeds that of cancer, cardiac disease, all noncommunicable diseases. We have to realize that this is not someone else’s problem. The most important thing we have to do is have a conversation. And I’m very grateful, honestly, for you having me on the show, because this is exactly why I wrote the book. We have a film coming out on PBS on Independent Lens in April 2020 that will actually go into this in great detail. It lets us know that this is not something we could get habituated to, we could turn our back on, we could say–oh, that’s someone else’s problem. This is our problem that we have to confront. And I think the way to do it, trite as it sounds, is to have a conversation that we have not been having. And have it be a conversation not about the other, but about ourselves.

RS: Well, you raise a question, though. And there’s a phrase, “the throwaway people.”

KR: Yes.

RS: And, you know, I’m not going to get very religious here or anything. But one message, you know, we talk about being, people, some people talk about being a Christian nation. And you mentioned, you know, an accurate criticism of part of Jewish life, the keeping the shanda, you know, don’t make a shanda for outsiders. And you also have sort of lines where you want the gift of grandchildren and all that sort of thing. But you know, the fact of the matter is, there’s a part of Christian teaching that is stronger, maybe, than any other religious strain on the other.

You know, if you think of the tale of the parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, and that the standard is not how you treat those closest to you that you know. In your case, your sister, you did step up as best you could. But how do you treat these anonymous people? Do you recognize their life force, their fears? You know, and from my experience covering the homeless issue, I found terrified people. I found most people who didn’t go into, even when shelters existed, they were afraid to go into the shelters. You know, they thought they were–

KR: Right. We talk about them as violent, but they’re often the victims of violence, not the perpetrators. And by the way, you know, I think all religions are, you know, overall extremely kind and generous. But in every culture, religious or otherwise, we have really stigmatized mental illness. And I think that, you know, we all have done that, and that’s really what this conversation that we’re having in the book and the film, that you and I are having right now, is trying to do: to humanize the situation, and to stop stigmatizing people as being crazy or the other.

RS: Yeah. Well, finally, I do want to talk about the real danger in any problem thinking there is an easy solution. And then when you employ it and you don’t get the results, you get angry, you say it’s wasted money, you know, or so forth. And the great thing about your book–one of the great things, I think it’s very–first of all, it’s really so interesting that it’s so accessible. You know, this is not like reading some, you know, turgid medical text or something, but at the same time, it’s not simplistic. You get across that progress in this area is going to be difficult to come by. That it’s like knitting; you have to be patient, you have to get–you even have somebody who you quote saying she likes mental–I forget the way she put it, but I could understand–yeah, go ahead.

KR: Yeah, it was a psychiatrist who said that she finds psychiatry with people who are psychotic fascinating, because you know, this whole other world is extremely interesting to her.

RS: Well, not only is it another world, but it is also our world. We all have this capacity, we all have tensions. You know, I saw myself in some of these scenes, you know. And I think an important message of your book is a reminder, there is not a quick and easy solution. That doesn’t mean that these other steps that are taken are not meaningful. You know, and you mentioned you have some true heroes in this book. I mean, you had mentioned the wife of the New York mayor, I’m blocking on her name, the first lady of New York–

KR: Oh, Chirlane McCray, of course, yes.

RS: Yeah, and you know, when you talk about Monte’s sister, who’s–

KR: Oh, Patrisse, one of my heroes, of course.

RS: Yeah, and she’s here in L.A. Why don’t you–why don’t we end by talking about people who are really making a difference. That this is not a hopeless situation, this is a situation where if we were more focused, if we used our resources wisely, if we cared about the outcome, we actually could make great inroads here. And as a result, we’d all be winners, because you know, everyone will tell you they don’t enjoy being in the downtown area of any city with people constantly yelling at them, or scaring them in one way or another. So progress on this issue is in all our interests. But you know, what you’re asking for in this book is sort of a seriousness of purpose, a patience, you know; not looking for the quick fix. And watching a movie like The Advocates, which is all about people looking into these tents, engaging people in conversation. And people should be prepared for that if they’re really serious about it. This is going to be roll up your sleeves and, you know, work hard at it.

KR: No, I think that when, you know, as you’ll see in the PBS film that comes out in 2020 that I directed, you know, there are some real heroes in this. There are many heroes; I could, it would take me an hour to list them all. But in the film and in the book, we talk about them: Patrick Kennedy, a friend of mine; Adrienne Kennedy, who’s the president of the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In Los Angeles, Patrisse Cullors, Jonathan Sherin, Colin Dias, Dr. McGhee, who’s there–so many people who are really trying to change it.

And I think that we are at a hopeful moment. This is a watershed moment when we’re having the conversation, when laws are being changed. We had a parity bill that passed in 2010; we have, you know, many acts that have occurred. You have a governor now in Gavin Newsom who cares deeply about this issue. So, I think that we’re at a positive turning point, but your point is very, very well taken, Bob. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re not going to cure mental illness in a heartbeat. It’s not all going to go away with the best of governors, the best of presidents, the best of, you know, legislation, it’s not going to change, so we have to be patient. But we are patient with other diseases.

Cancer hasn’t gone away, but we still make progress. HIV hasn’t gone away, but we fight for the rights for people with HIV to live healthy and dignified lives. We have to do the same for our citizens with mental illness. And as we say over and over again, it’s not someone else; it’s our family members, it’s ourselves. We may not want to think about it. We may not want to realize it, but it’s everyone we know and love is often affected by this in some way, shape, or form.

RS: Yeah, I just want to follow up on one thing you just said about making progress. You do point out that the pharmaceutical industry is not the best agency alone for that–

KR: Of course not. Well, you know, I can’t blame them. They’re a business; their responsibility is to their stakeholders, and they need to make money, and they need to make quick money. I understand that. But we need as a society to be responsible for our neediest citizens. So we need university-based research, we need medical research that looks into the root causes of serious mental illness and comes up with novel treatments. And then the pharmaceutical companies will see an opportunity to make money, and then they’ll get involved. But I think to rely on pharmaceutical companies to do basic science research is a terrible thing.

It’s not their job, and it’s a business. As a society, we need to say this is important, we’re going to make it a priority, and march in the streets. And aside from Patrisse Cullors and a few others, there have been very few people who are willing to march in the streets on behalf of those with serious mental illness. That will change things.

RS: I just want to throw in, and then we’ll conclude this, a little editorial on my own part. Because I have tried as a journalist to cover this story. I spent some time in the psych emergency ward in San Francisco General, I’ve done that down here in L.A. and so forth. And I remember every time I tried covering this issue, I’d come back and say, you know, this is not an exercise in freedom that these people are doing down there in the streets. This is a weird romantic notion out of the sixties, or I don’t know what, that you know, that the crazy are really freer, or so forth–no. There is a situation, and you show it in your book, that the guy curled up and his sister lies down on the floor. She’s Patrisse, I think it is, right?

And she, you know–that sometimes you can’t do anything but hold someone. And that you know, there’s something about the–I don’t know, it’s a controversial point on which to end. But one way people get off the hook–and I’ve seen that in some of the recent television reporting, they’ll find somebody saying, oh, I like it down here on the street, and I’m not going anywhere, and this is my way of being free.

But when you walk those streets, and when you enter those shelters and so forth, that is not a prevalent mood. What you have are people who don’t even comprehend, or very often, where they are and what’s happening to them. And then when the police come, they get really frightened and they fear the worst, and they’re traumatized by it. And your book captures that. And I think that’s an important reminder. And then just the–the way we handle it, oh, let me give the guy some change. Or you know what, instead of engaging in conversation, which is the real challenge of figuring out where these people are coming from, it is a great human test.

And you know, as I say, I’m going to wrap this up, but Bedlam: An Intimate Journey Into America’s Mental Health Crisis–and you know what, surprisingly enough, it’s not a depressing book. Because actually, and the last point you made, good things are happening. I mentioned that here in L.A.–and you mentioned our governor willing to put, Gavin Newsom willing to put resources toward this, or coming up with, you know, Third Way programs. You know, no, it’s not civil liberties, but on the other hand you don’t have the right to just throw someone into, you know, put them back and change the way it was done for hundreds of years.

And that it requires–I’m going to say the great takeaway from your book is that it is informed by your sister; that you would not have written this book just based on your professional psychiatric knowledge. And that’s what you tell us from the first page, that had you not had someone you love fall into this, or be in this–be one of them, the other–you would not have, in fact you would not have become a psychiatrist.

KR: That’s absolutely right. I decided when I was 14 to become a psychiatrist, because my sister was then 20, 21, the age when psychosis hits. And she, you know, became very, very sick. And I saw that there has to be a way out of this, and that’s why I wanted to become a psychiatrist. And in fact did, and the book and my film are dedicated to my beloved sister, who unfortunately died from this illness. But hopefully her death is not completely in vain. And we can really change things with, you know, with this dialogue that you and I are having tonight.

RS: Well, that’s a good positive point on which to end it. And the book, as I say, and at the end the book introduces us to people who are doing something about this, from New York to L.A. And so read it, Bedlam: An Intimate Journey Into America’s Mental Health Crisis. The author is Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, who is also a highly lauded and talented filmmaker, and his film I guess is coming out in April. Maybe we’ll keep broadcasting it until it comes out on PBS. Thank you, again. Our producer here at the University of Southern California–which, you know, I didn’t mean to put down our institution either. I think their efforts in running a county hospital are well-intentioned. There’s a lot of discussion about that. Our producer here is Sebastian Gruber. The producer for Scheer Intelligence overall is Josh Scheer, who found this book and this subject. And we’ll be back next week with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence.”

The post We’re Having the Wrong Mental Health Conversation appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Blast at Afghan Mosque Kills 62 at Prayer

TruthDig.com News -

KABUL, Afghanistan—An explosion rocked a mosque in eastern Afghanistan as dozens of people gathered for Friday players, causing the roof to collapse and killing 62 worshippers, provincial officials said. The attack underscored the record-high number of civilians dying in the country’s 18-year war.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar Province, said the militant attack wounded 36 others. He said it was not immediately clear if the mosque was attacked by a suicide bomber or by some other type of bombing.

“Both men and children are among those killed and wounded in the attack,” he said.

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Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, strongly condemned the attack on his official Twitter account. “The Afghan government strongly condemns today’s suicide attack in a mosque in Nangarhar province,” he tweeted.

“The Taliban and their partners heinous crimes continue to target civilians in time of worship,” he added.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially Nangarhar province.

However, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s spokesman in a statement condemned the attack in Nangarhar and called it a serious crime.

Zahir Adil, spokesman for the public health department in Nangarhar Province, said 23 of the wounded were transferred to Jalalabad, the provincial capital, and the rest were being treated in the Haskamena district clinic.

The violence comes a day after a United Nations report said that Afghan civilians are dying in record numbers in the country’s increasingly brutal war, noting that more civilians died in July than in any previous one-month period since the U.N. began keeping statistics.

“Civilian casualties at record-high levels clearly show the need for all parties concerned to pay much more attention to protecting the civilian population, including through a review of conduct during combat operations,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.

The report said that pro-government forces caused 2,348 civilian casualties, including 1,149 killed and 1,199 wounded, a 26% increase from the same period in 2018.

The report said 2,563 civilians were killed and 5,676 were wounded in the first nine months of this year. Insurgents were responsible for 62 percent. July to September were the deadliest months so far this year.

Efforts to restart talks to end Afghanistan’s 18-year war picked up earlier this month, just weeks after President Donald Trump last month declared the talks “dead,” blaming a surge in violence by the Taliban that included the killing of a U.S. soldier.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visited Pakistan and met with the Taliban’s top negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Baradar is a co-founder of the hard-line Islamic movement and was head of a Taliban delegation to the Pakistani capital.

U.S. officials said Khalilzad was only in the Pakistani capital to follow up on talks he held in September in New York with Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan. They insisted he was not in Pakistan to restart U.S.-Taliban peace talks.

In western Herat province, six civilians including four children were killed Thursday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, said Jelani Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor. He added that five other civilians were wounded in the attack in the Zawal district.

The post Blast at Afghan Mosque Kills 62 at Prayer appeared first on Truthdig: Expert Reporting, Current News, Provocative Columnists.

Unveiling a State-by-State Plan to End our Mass Incarceration Crisis

ACLU News -

The United States locks up more of its people than any other nation in the world. A whopping 2.2 million people are living behind bars in this country on any given day. Our national incarceration rate is four times that of Australia, five times that of the United Kingdom, and six times that of Canada.

This uniquely American problem is not one crisis — rather, mass incarceration is a series of state-based catastrophes, each one different from the next. While much attention was paid to the federal reforms passed last year through the First Step Act, of the 2.2 million people locked up on any given day, 90 percent are under state and local jurisdiction.

Because the overwhelming majority of people are incarcerated at the state level, ending mass incarceration is not something that a single act of congress or a Supreme Court decision can fix. It will require changes to hundreds of laws and practices in all states.

For this reason, over the past three years, the ACLU and the Urban Institute studied the carceral systems in each state, and what it would take to cut each state’s incarceration rate by half. National data fails to guide the most impactful reforms because it misleads and masks important variations from state to state. For example: while some states, like Mississippi and South Dakota, can achieve substantial reductions in incarceration by reforming drug laws, others can’t.

We conducted in-depth reviews in each state, looking at who’s incarcerated, for what reasons, and for how long. We then analyzed the impact future reforms would have on each state’s incarceration rate, including its racial disparities and fiscal savings. We released our findings through 50 state blueprints that explain what each state can do to cut its incarcerated population in half.

This ambitious and first-of-its-kind prison population analysis of each state offers important lessons for anyone serious about ending mass incarceration.

Our findings pointed to a variety of drivers of incarceration. In many states, like Wisconsin, mass incarceration is driven by probation and parole officers sending people into jails and prisons for breaking their rules — some as simple as missing a curfew or not being able to afford a mandatory fee. In other states, it’s driven by needlessly long sentences, even for people who are ready to go back to their communities. Many states, like Michigan, also have rigid time-served requirements that impose extreme sentences on people, requiring they serve 100 percent of their time, with no opportunity to earn credits or good time for earlier release.

But we did find elements that all states have in common.

First, reductions in the number of people in prison do not necessarily translate into reductions in racial disparities. Shrinking the prison population may result in lower imprisonment rates for all racial and ethnic populations, but it will not adequately address disproportionality across populations. In fact, some of the worst racial disparities are in states that have seen the greatest reductions in incarceration. New Jersey leads the nation in decarceration and has seen over a 30 percent decrease in its prison population over the past 20 years — but it also leads the nation in racial disparities in incarceration, with a rate that is twice the national average.

Racial disparities are so ingrained in the criminal legal system that focusing solely on reducing the scale of mass incarceration cannot mitigate them. It requires a proactive strategy, one that focuses on reforming the discretionary components of the criminal legal system — mainly prosecutors and police, the two primary actors responsible for deciding who enters the criminal legal system in the first place and how to treat people once they’re in the system. This is why it’s so important to hold prosecutors accountable for decisions around which arrests to prosecute, charges to bring, bail to request, and plea bargains to offer. Similarly, we must hold police accountable for over-policing communities of color, including for practices like stop-and-frisk and broken windows policing.

Second, all states rely too heavily on incarceration, including long-term incarceration, for offenses involving violence, even though safe alternatives exist in many circumstances. The truth is, America will never end its obsession with mass incarceration unless we change how we respond to violence. Restorative justice programs which hold people accountable while supporting those who were harmed by a violent crime, have successfully reduced recidivism and decreased symptoms of posttraumatic stress with victims. These kinds of programs better protect public safety than knee-jerk responses to lock people up. For situations that may require incarceration, states should avoid extreme sentences and provide opportunities for people to rehabilitate and earn early release.

Finally, in all states, people with needs related to mental health and substance use make up a shockingly high percentage of people in prison. People with disabilities are two to six times more likely to be incarcerated than people without disabilities. Most of these people should never be brought into the criminal legal system in the first place, and incarceration only exacerbates their conditions. All states must implement reforms to imprison fewer people who would be better served by community interventions, such as voluntary treatment and diversion programs designed to help people experiencing mental health crises or substance use disorders. 

We can end mass incarceration in the United States, but it will require each state to take an honest look at the policies, assumptions, and politics that drive its incarceration crisis and implement the required reforms. Some of these reforms are readily achievable, while others are likely to be controversial. But we need audacious change to put an end to our crisis of mass incarceration.

Democrats Should Move Slowly on Impeachment

Mother Jones Magazine -

Should Democrats move fast or slow on impeachment? I say slow. For one thing, new evidence is pouring out like a fire hose right now, and we should keep the investigation going until we have as good a picture as we can get of what really happened. Politically, it’s also the best thing to do. Republicans want a fast impeachment so they can brush it off as a partisan stunt and get on with business. Democrats should want just the opposite. They need to treat it seriously, and they need time to build up public support as new revelations are unearthed. Until we get to the point where a third or so of Republicans support impeachment, there’s not much point in voting on articles in the House.

Will this interfere with campaigning? I doubt it. Will it prevent the House from working on other things? Nope. They’ve produced plenty of legislation and all of it goes straight into Mitch McConnell’s round file. So no worries there.

Keep up the committee work until there’s a rock-solid case with good public support. That’s when to stop, and not a moment before.

Khury Petersen-Smith on Turkey & the Kurds, Alex Vitale on the Purpose of Policing

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting -

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(cc photo: Kurdishstruggle)

This week on CounterSpin: “US withdraws from Syria, in a remarkable betrayal of the Kurds”  is a fair characterization of corporate news media’s take on recent events—the only problems being that the US has not withdrawn from Syria, and a US betrayal of the Kurds is not at all remarkable, if by that we mean surprising. World events can be confusing, but they’re made much more so by media coverage that insists, against all evidence, that righteousness is what guides US foreign policy. We talk about Syria and Turkey and the Kurds with Khury Petersen-Smith of the Institute for Policy Studies.

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Atatania Jefferson

Also on the show: The Fort Worth police officer who killed Atatania Jefferson has been arrested (and released on bond) and fired (after he resigned). As with the murder of Botham Jean in his home by a Dallas police officer, Jefferson’s killing is spurring handwringing over what it’s implied is a “corruption” of law enforcement, a turning against its original purpose of community protection and service. This time two years ago, CounterSpin talked about the mythology in that conception with Alex Vitale, professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and author of the book The End of Policing. We revisit part of that conversation this week.

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How an Indicted Oligarch Became a Key Player in Trump’s Ukraine Scandal

Mother Jones Magazine -

On September 29, Rudy Giuliani appeared on ABC News, waving a fistful of papers. The document in his hand was an affidavit from Viktor Shokin, a former top Ukrainian prosecutor who was fired in 2016 under international pressure due to his failure to combat corruption. Giuliani asserted that the affidavit supported his debunked claim that former Vice President Joe Biden had forced Shokin’s ouster to prevent Shokin from investigating a company tied to Biden’s son. But it did no such thing; the statement merely repeated an unproven allegation without backing it up. The affidavit, though, was evidence that President Donald Trump’s effort to smear his political rival has overlapped with the interests of Dmytro Firtash—a Kremlin-connected oligarch with purported ties to Russian organized crime.

Trump’s effort to smear Biden has overlapped with the interests of Dmytro Firtash—a Kremlin-connected oligarch with purported ties to Russian organized crime.

What Giuliani neglected to mention on ABC that day was that this affidavit was filed in an Austrian court by lawyers for Firtash, a Ukrainian tycoon who has for years been fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces federal bribery charges. In this document, Shokin also claimed that in late 2015 Biden took steps to prevent Firtash from returning to Ukraine from Austria. This claim—for which no evidence was presented—appeared intended to support Firtash’s argument that he has been the target of a politically motivated prosecution by the US Justice Department. In other words, Shokin’s affidavit, notarized on September 4, 2019, served the interests of both Firtash and Giuliani’s client, Trump.

The affidavit filed to help Firtash—and Giuliani’s use of it to try to help Trump—is just one of several indications that the Trump-Giuliani crusade to squeeze political dirt out of Ukraine has intersected with the world of an oligarch on the run from US justice.

Firtash has hired lawyers with close ties to Trump’s defense team, and he has retained Mark Corallo, who worked as a spokesman for Trump’s attorneys during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. But much of the cross-over involves Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who last week were arrested on campaign finance charges, including the allegation that they made secret donations to influence US policy on behalf of one or more Ukrainian government officials.

Parnas and Fruman were business associates of Giuliani. In addition, Giuliani has said that beginning in late 2018, these two men helped him pursue information in Ukraine that could benefit Trump. They connected Giuliani with former Ukrainian officials who alleged Biden had helped force out Shokin to stop him from investigating Burisma, the gas company connected to Biden’s son. Giuliani admitted this week that he was paid $500,000 by a company controlled by Parnas for what Giuliani claims was business and legal advice in 2018 and 2019.

At the same time Parnas and Fruman were collaborating with Giuliani, Firtash also was reportedly paying Parnas and Fruman. The duo gave the impression they were working with the oligarch when they attempted last year to force the replacement of the head of Ukraine’s national gas company and when they helped to cause the removal of US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to people familiar with their efforts. In a text exchange with Mother Jones last week, Giuliani said, “I have nothing to do with Firtash.”

Overlapping legal interests

Firtash is a controversial figure in Ukraine. He made a fortune—which Forbes in 2014 estimated at $500 million—by working with Russia’s Gazprom. The state-run natural gas giant gave Firtash a role as its partner in a business shipping gas from Russia to Ukraine. In 2010, Firtash was a key backer of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian leader accused of massive corruption. (Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chair now serving a seven-and-a-half-year sentence in prison, was a top consultant for Yanukovych.)

In 2014, shortly after Yanukovych fled Ukraine during the Maidan revolution, US prosecutors in Chicago indicted Firtash for allegedly bribing Indian government officials to secure a contract to sell titanium to Boeing. He once told the US ambassador in Kiev that years earlier he had to obtain the approval of Semion Mogilevich, an alleged Russian mobster, for his initial business endeavors. The Justice Department in 2017 called Firtash an “upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime,” an allegation he denies. In June, a US federal judge cleared the way for Firtash to face charges in Chicago. But he is fighting extradition from Austria, where he has been been under house arrest since 2014, arguing in court there that he was targeted for prosecution by US officials for political reasons.  

This summer, Firtash hired Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband-and-wife legal team known for championing Republican causes and defending Trump on Fox News. A year earlier, diGenova and Toensing had agreed to join Trump’s defense team, but that arrangement was scuttled due to conflicts of interest caused by the couple’s prior work for other clients involved in the Trump-Russia scandal. Toensing has also worked with Giuliani to find dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. She planned to join the former New York City mayor on a trip to Kiev in May, during which they hoped to gather more negative information about Trump’s Democratic rival. They canceled the trip after the New York Times reported those plans.

Shortly after Firtash hired diGenova and Toensing, his legal team fired a shot that jointly targeted a Trump enemy and a Firtash foe. They submitted a brief to an Austrian court arguing that an effort by Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann to convince Firtash to cooperate with the Russia probe demonstrated that the Justice Department’s case against Firtash was politically motivated.

A natural gas “shakedown”

Firtash’s interests intersect with the Trump-Ukraine scandal in other ways, as well. Reuters reported last week that since at least early 2018, Firtash has employed Parnas and Fruman. A source familiar with the two men’s actions told Mother Jones that, earlier this year, they “told people that Firtash was paying them.” Toensing has called claims that Firtash was in business with Parnas and Fruman “a crock,” though she says she hired Parnas this summer to work on Firtash’s defense team as an interpreter.

As Parnas and Fruman helped Giuliani do opposition research for Trump, they were also pursuing a lucrative natural gas deal involving Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-run oil and gas company. At an energy conference in Houston in March, Parnas and Fruman—accompanied by Harry Sargeant III, a billionaire oil magnate who lives in Florida—met with Andrew Favorov, a top deputy to Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev. As the AP first reported, Parnas and Fruman pressed Favorov to agree to a plan in which they would help him replace Kobolyev as Naftogaz’s chief. Parnas and Fruman hoped to then partner with Favorov on a scheme to export up to 100 tankers per year of US liquified gas to Naftogaz, which is eager to reduce its reliance on Russian gas. Favorov reportedly rejected this proposal, which he perceived as “a shakedown,” the AP story said.

During this meeting, Parnas and Fruman gave the impression that they were working with Firtash, according to Dale Perry, an American gas executive who does business in Ukraine. Perry tells Mother Jones that Parnas and Fruman informed Favorov that they wanted Naftogaz to pay Firtash $200 million he claims the company owes him. Perry, who did not attend the meeting but spoke to Favorov shortly after it occurred, says he memorialized Favorov’s account in a document he sent to State Department officials. 

According to Perry, Parnas also told Favorov that Yovanovitch, the US ambassador to Ukraine, would be fired within months. Yovanovitch was a vocal supporter of Kobolyev due to his reputation for opposing corruption; her removal could have cleared a significant road block in the campaign to oust Kobolyev. Yovanovitch had also backed Kobolyev in a dispute pitting Naftogaz against Firtash, in which Kobolyev claimed Firtash’s firms had illegally pocketed up to $2 billion since 2017 by stiffing the state-owned company on payments.

Parnas and Fruman “couldn’t get rid of Kobolyev because of the strong support that he enjoyed from the ambassador,” explains Perry. “So they [thought], We need to get the ambassador removed.”

Around that time, Parnas and Fruman were peddling unsubstantiated claims that Yovanovitch had privately denigrated Trump. Giuliani pushed other allegations about Yovanovitch to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. These attacks helped cause Trump to force Yovanovitch’s early removal from her post in May. 

Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport in Virginia on October 9. Both had one-way tickets to Vienna. Giuliani, meanwhile, revealed to reporters that he had intended to travel to Vienna the next day, sparking speculation that the travel plans of all three men were somehow related to Firtash. Giuliani told NBC News he “wasn’t planning to go see” Firtash in Vienna. John Dowd, a former lawyer for Trump who now represents Parnas and Fruman, did not respond to requests for comment.

The overlap between Parnas and Fruman’s business activities, their dirt-digging with Giuliani, and their interactions with Firtash raises questions about the true scope of the Trump-Ukraine scandal—a story that has grown far beyond the initial controversy over a phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. Is it possible that Firtash’s case, Parnas and Fruman’s plotting, and Giuliani’s freelancing in Ukraine are intertwined? Asked by phone whether Firtash hoped to win favor with Trump and his Justice Department by helping to undermine the president’s critics, Toensing declined to comment on the record and abruptly hung up.

“But How Are You Going to Pay For It?”

Mother Jones Magazine -

How much would Medicare for All cost? Let’s take a horseback guess.

  • CMS estimates total health care spending in 2018 of $3.6 trillion.
  • About 55 percent, or $2 trillion, is covered by private sources, mainly corporations. The rest is already paid for by state and federal governments.
  • Of this, perhaps 20 percent would be paid by individuals in the form of copays. This is about the average for health care plans in other countries.
  • The total outlay for employers is therefore $1.6 trillion.
  • Approximately 112 million people are currently employed in large corporations.
  • So 112 million people have to pay $1.6 trillion. That’s $14,000 per person. Currently, large corporations pay about $10,000 per employee in health care costs.

There are several options left to us here:

  • We could make large corporations pay $14,000 per employee. They’d just have to suck it up.
  • We could keep them at their current rate of $10,000 and raise the $400 billion elsewhere, perhaps from some combination of higher taxes on the wealthy and a small VAT.
  • We could make all but the very smallest employers pay a head tax. With a larger tax base, the cost per employee drops to $11,500 and there’s very little to make up.

This is rough, but it’s the basic lay of the land if we’re willing to make corporations continue to pay for health care at the same rate they pay now. They’d have no real beef since it would cost them nothing more and would free them from the overhead cost and hassle of dealing with health care. There’s also a strong chance that the head tax would rise more slowly than does now, since government-run health programs almost invariably cap cost growth better than the private sector.

This is a slightly more detailed version of my post the other day asking, yet again, why Democrats don’t propose this as the funding mechanism for M4A. Other countries do this without a problem, and there’s no special reason we can’t do it too. It certainly makes it far easier to provide a cogent and popular answer when reporters ask, “But how are you going to pay for it?”

Here’s How Mitch McConnell Could Sabotage an Impeachment Trial

Mother Jones Magazine -

At a lunchtime gathering of Senate Republicans on Wednesday, Mitch McConnell had some news to share about impeachment: Should the House Democrats vote to impeach Donald Trump by Thanksgiving—which appears to be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s preferred though perhaps hard-to-meet schedule—the Senate could start and quickly conduct the trial of Trump and wrap it up by Christmas. That, too, might seem an overly ambitious timeline. Action in Congress rarely occurs speedily. But one X-factor in the impeachment process—which so far has received little attention—is that Senate rules afford McConnell and the Republicans plenty of opportunity to derail an impeachment trial and turn the proceedings into a sham.

When House Democrats began raising the volume on impeachment talk earlier this year—especially after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, which detailed various alleged obstructions of justice committed by Trump—an idea was kicked around by pundits and commentators: What if the House approved articles of impeachment and McConnell refused to hold a trial? Two weeks ago, though, McConnell publicly noted that in the event of a House impeachment, Senate rules would compel the upper body of Congress to stick to the Constitution and put Trump on trial. But what sort of a trial might that be, if the Republican Senate majority did not truly want to mount one? Last time Congress went through an impeachment, both chambers were controlled by the same party. After House Republicans in 1998 enthusiastically approved two articles of impeachment accusing Clinton of lying to a grand jury and obstructing justice in the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The matter was sent to the Senate, which was also in the hands of Republicans, most of whom supported the impeachment (and conviction) of Clinton.

McConnell is renowned for his wily mastering of Senate rules—and for his willingness to bust norms for political gain. Though he has recognized the duty of the Senate to address—and not ignore—articles of impeachment, he may well have a trick or two in mind about how to conduct the trial.

This time, House Dems will be delivering articles of impeachment to a Senate controlled by a party loyal to Trump and hostile to the prospect of booting him out of office. So how committed will McConnell and his comrades be to staging a thorough and fair proceeding? Could they rig it in Trump’s favor? Given the Senate rules, they could try.

Any impeachment trial is governed by the Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate When Sitting on Impeachment Trials, which was last revised in 1986. These rules dictate the ins and outs of a trial to a great degree of specificity. They note that as soon as House impeachment articles are “presented to the Senate, the Senate shall, at 1 o’clock [on the] afternoon of the day (Sunday excepted) following such presentation, or sooner if ordered, by the Senate, proceed to the consideration of such articles.” The rules cite the precise proclamation the Sergeant at Arms must make once House manager of the impeachment appear in the Senate to present the articles of impeachment. They note how the chief justice of the Supreme Court must be told that he or she is to preside over a presidential impeachment and how an impeached official must be notified of his or her impeachment. (One method: leave “such copy at the last known place of abode of such person.”) And so on. 

These rules do include provisions that could be abused by a party that controls the Senate to jigger the proceedings. During a trial, they say, the Senate can “make all lawful orders, rules, and regulations which it may deem essential or conducive to the ends of justice.” This reads like a blank check for mischief. A Senate majority possibly could vote to limit testimony or witnesses. Perhaps it could impose a time limit on the proceedings that would prevent a full airing of the case against Trump.

But isn’t the chief justice in charge? (Put aside the question of his possible bias for a moment.) The rules say he is, but on some matters he can be trumped by the party in control. They state that the chief justice “may rule on all questions of evidence including, but not limited to questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy of evidence and incidental questions, which ruling shall stand as the judgment of the Senate, unless some Member of the Senate shall ask that a formal vote be taken thereon, in which case it shall be submitted to the Senate for decision without debate.” (Emphasis added.) So if there is a debate over the introduction of a certain piece of evidence—say, Trump’s legal team raises an objection—the chief justice decides. Unless the Senate Republicans vote to overturn his ruling. The final say will go to the GOP. 

The rules also allow the Republicans to keep much of the proceedings out of the public eye. Either the chief justice or a majority of the Senate can order that a committee of senators be established to “receive evidence and take testimony at such times and places as the committee may determine.” That can be done behind closed doors—though such a committee must subsequently provide the full Senate “a certified copy of the transcript of the proceedings and testimony.” The rules note that nothing prevents the Senate from “having the entire trial in open Senate.” But clearly a majority of Republicans could vote to conduct the trial in secrecy. (Most of the Clinton impeachment trial was public, but deliberations over the calling of witnesses and depositions taken of key witnesses were conducted privately. A bipartisan majority of senators voted to use excerpts from the videoed depositions instead of live witness testimony.) 

The rules also note that the deliberations of the senators—the debate over whether Trump should be convicted or not—could also be kept from the public. The Senate has the right to “direct the doors to be closed while deliberating upon its decisions.” 

At the GOP luncheon, McConnell told his Republican colleagues that a motion to dismiss the charges in a Trump impeachment trial—an idea floated by some Trump defenders as a way to short-circuit and quickly end the proceedings—would be determined by Chief Justice John Roberts. But the rules provide McConnell and his Republican majority latitude in other ways.

An impeachment trial is not straightforward business. The rules are not as well-established as those that cover federal trials. Important procedural questions can be presented to the chief justice. But the Senate rules essentially give the Senate the ability to reject key rulings of the presiding judge. McConnell is renowned for his wily mastering of Senate rules—and for his willingness to bust norms for political gain. (See Merrick Garland.) Though he has recognized the duty of the Senate to address—and not ignore—articles of impeachment, he may well have a trick or two in mind about how to conduct the trial—especially if he is bent on disposing of this controversy in a fast manner during holiday season. McConnell’s entire political career offers cause to suspect that his loyalty will be to a partisan outcome, not a fair process. And the rules of the Senate do not guarantee an impeachment trial will be free of McConnell shenanigans. 

Sentenced to Life in Prison as a Teen, How Cyntoia Brown Survived Sex Trafficking & Won Her Freedom

Democracy Now! -

At the age of 16, she was arrested for killing a man who had picked her up for sex, after she had been forced into sexual slavery as a child. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of first-degree murder for shooting the man who bought her for sex when she feared for her life. Today Cyntoia Brown-Long joins us to share her experience, what has happened in the 15 years she was incarcerated, and how she won her release. In an incredible development, after a years-long campaign to win her freedom, Cyntoia was granted clemency in January after former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam commuted her sentence. She was released from prison in August. We spend the hour discussing her experience as she recounts in her memoir, published this week, “Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System.”


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