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“The Right To Feel Safe”: MSNBC Anchor Lives Every Female Journalist’s Nightmare

He threatened to kill my children.

He posted photographs of my house and my Atlanta-based advertising agency. He promised to send a “double-tap” my way, a marksman’s jargon for pumping two shots in close succession to my head.

He even posted “November 5, 1973”—the date of my father’s murder.

I reported the ominous messages to Twitter and sent screenshots to MSNBC executives, where I worked as a political contributor at the time. Using his Twitter handle, several followers were able to track him across various white supremacist message boards. They found his real name and the IP address he was using from a church in suburban Dallas.

“That bitch will get what’s coming to her,” he continued tweeting.

The messages were as brazen as they were brutal in nature. I remember pleading for help, demanding that someone in law enforcement take the threats seriously.

Ultimately, it would take three days and the intervention of NBC corporate security before Twitter suspended the anonymous account. The real danger, I was told by an in-house detective, might come from someone inspired by those hideous messages to carry out the threat. I was walking a friend’s daughter to summer camp at a nearby park that morning and suddenly felt vulnerable.

The damage had been done. If someone wanted me to be afraid, they had accomplished that mission many times over.

Like many of us in the public square, MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry has endured her share of malicious threats online. Monday night in an Iowa hotel, the Wake Forest professor came face-to-face with the sum of our collective fears. As caucus-goers crammed into various polling locations around the Hawkeye State, Harris-Perry was watching the cable news coverage on a television in the lobby when she noticed a man standing oddly close to her.

There was an initial query about the subjects she taught, and then a more pointed question about how she got her job at MSNBC.

“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC…”

“Well. It is not exactly a credential…” she said.

“But why you? Why would they pick you?”

His voice was angry then, she said, and he’s standing closer to her, so close that she can feel his breath.

“I just want you to know why I am doing this,” he told her. He then said something about “Nazi Germany” and “rise to power.”

Harris Perry was paralyzed in fear, as he continued telling her what he was going to do to her and why. Then she sprang from her seat, put a table between them and a friend came to her defense. The stranger was scared away by their yelling and sped away in his car.

“I don’t know if he was there to kill me,” she wrote on a university blog. “I know they [her students] were there to save me.” Her immediate fear was not just of dying, but being killed in front of her students.

Hotel security seemed hardly bothered by the incident, according to Harris-Perry, even after she explained the torrent of death threats she receives regularly.

I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to be told that I am “making a big deal” out things. So much so, that I now only report the most egregious offenses and I no longer host public meet-ups among my social media followers. I assess and triage each and every message. In every instance, I have to bet on being right.

I can certainly deal with the mocking attitudes of those who do not agree with my politics or policy positions. That comes with the territory. However, every few days or so, someone creates a fake Twitter account in my name in an attempt to assail my public reputation with malicious and sometimes lurid posts. At last count, one anonymous user has created more than 50 accounts specifically dedicated to trolling me. The most virulent threats came during the George Zimmerman trial. The night of the verdict, I spent hours blocking thousands of intemperate and sometimes threatening strangers.

The social tools afforded by Twitter and other social networks aren’t enough. But even the most effective security features would not have prevented what happened to Harris-Perry.

The goal is to terrorize, to make it too uncomfortable for us to continue taking public stands on any number of issues. All too often, they target women. For me, it doesn’t matter if it happens to Harris-Perry, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, or a housewife in Minnesota. We have the right to feel safe—online, in a public space, or in our homes.

 

By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Journalists, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Moral And Political Coward”: Speaker Ryan Can’t Reauthorize Voting Rights Act

Midway through his second term, President George W. Bush proudly signed the The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, And Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization And Amendments Act Of 2006 which was sponsored by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. It had been passed in the Senate with an unanimous 98-0 vote and in the House with a strong bipartisan 390-33 majority.

The Act needs to be updated because it was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. But they won’t. And they won’t because the Republican Party has become so racially hostile to blacks that they can’t overcome the resistance of their worst bigots. Speaker Paul Ryan met with the Congressional Black Caucus today and flat out said that he can’t get the Act fixed up and reauthorized.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told black lawmakers Wednesday that he supports new voting rights protections they’ve championed, but said he won’t bypass a committee chairman to move legislation, according to a Democrat who attended the gathering.

“He said it right in front of everybody — he said he supports the [Jim] Sensenbrenner bill,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), said after Ryan met with the group on Capitol Hill.

“So somebody was saying, ‘Well, why don’t you go tell your committee chair to do it?’ ” Cleaver added. “And he said, … ‘Look, I can’t do that.’ “

Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former chairman of the Judiciary panel, has sponsored bipartisan legislation to update the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in response to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a central provision of the 1965 law.

But Sensenbrenner’s proposal does not have the backing of the current Judiciary chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who maintains the Supreme Court left ample protections in the VRA, thereby making congressional action unnecessary.

I feel like Speaker Ryan could get this done if he wanted to, but I’m not sure what would happen if he rammed it through. I suspect that it would cause a major revolt, and perhaps even another coup like the one John Boehner just experienced.

I consider this important enough that Ryan should insist on principle and resign if his own caucus can’t live with it. It’s really a moral issue for me more than a political question. Ten years ago, it wasn’t even a partisan subject, but ten years ago we didn’t have a black president and a raging Tea Party revolt against the Republican Establishment.

Basically, I think Paul Ryan is a coward. He’s a political coward, but more importantly, he’s a moral coward.

P.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte has also used his position as Judiciary Chairman to prevent any legislative reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, kill comprehensive immigration reform and call for the deportation of DREAMers.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Paul Ryan, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Amazing Pretense Of A Third-Place Finisher”: When A Candidate Takes A ‘Victory Lap’ Without A Victory

In 1992, then-Gov. Bill Clinton faced brutal headwinds ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Rocked by controversy and personal allegations, the Arkansas Democrat was written off, dismissed as a candidate who would have to drop out sooner rather than later.

And yet, on Primary Night, there was Clinton, making a memorable declaration: “New Hampshire has made Bill Clinton the Comeback Kid.” What’s less memorable is the fact that Clinton actually lost that primary. In fact, Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) beat Clinton in New Hampshire by more than eight points. But because so many assumed Clinton would get crushed, his second-place showing seemed like a triumph.

It serves as a reminder that, as odd as this sounds, candidates don’t necessarily have to win to seem like they won.

What we haven’t seen, however, is a third-place finisher pretend to have scored an amazing victory. That is, until this week.

After losing to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in the Iowa caucuses Monday night, Marco Rubio told supporters, “This is the moment they said would never happen!” It was, of course, the moment literally everyone said would inevitably happen – Rubio was supposed to finish third in Iowa and he did.

But pesky details like election results notwithstanding, the Florida senator launched a strategy in which he’d simply act as if he’d won, and expect the political media, which often seems overly fond of Rubio, to simply play along with the charade.

Which is exactly what’s happening. Paul Waldman highlighted some gems yesterday

[T]oday’s headlines tell us of “Marco Rubio’s very big night in Iowa,” to “Forget Ted Cruz: Marco Rubio is the big winner of the Iowa caucuses,” that “After Iowa, keep your eye on Marco Rubio, not Trump or Cruz,” and “Why the Iowa caucus was a win for Marco Rubio, even though he lost to Ted Cruz.”

No wonder Rubio took a “victory lap” yesterday without an actual victory – which ordinarily would seem like a prerequisite to a victory lap.

Perhaps my favorite headline of all was published by the Wall Street Journal: “Rubio’s Rise Amid Trump’s Slump.” Remember, Rubio and Trump faced off in the same contest, in the same state, at the same time. Trump won more votes. Pundits don’t care.

It’s true, of course, that expectations shape perceptions, but Ted Cruz was expected to lose Iowa before actually winning the whole contest – a fact Rubio’s cheerleaders have deemed unimportant.

Why in the world is this happening? Waldman tried to explain this bizarre dynamic:

Rubio is a good speaker, is pretty informed about policy, and has a heartwarming personal story about his immigrant parents. When those journalists and commentators say so, and write stories describing how Rubio’s campaign is about to blossom, they’re expressing their faith in the process. Regardless of their personal ideology, they’d like to believe that this whole chaotic mess eventually winds up in a somewhat rational place. If the GOP nominates Rubio, it’s proof that the process works and one of our two great parties has not completely lost its mind. […]

[W]hether they’re consciously aware of it or not, most people in the media would probably prefer Trump to fall eventually, after we’ve all been thoroughly entertained by his candidacy. Rubio as the GOP nominee might not be as much fun, but it makes sense.

I’d argue with Waldman about Rubio being “pretty informed about policy,” but otherwise, his take sounds about right.

It’s unnerving to see so much of the political world simply pretend on behalf of its preferred candidate, expecting the hype to become self-fulfilling, but there’s a decent chance it’ll work.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Iowa Caucuses, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Donald Trump And His Subversive Sense Of Humor”: A Man Who Views Assessments Of Women On Their Appearance

I used to have this poster in my office reflecting the timeless wisdom of a relief pitcher named Larry Andersen. Today he does Phillies radio broadcasts. A friend who’s a calligrapher made it for me.

“Hey, you’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.”

The poster got lost after we moved, and my wife doesn’t miss it. Possibly because it reflects an aspect of my personality she’s sometimes uneasy with: the part that helps me do a pretty good Donald Trump impression. The part that reflects my bygone youth in New Jersey, the Insult State.

The part that makes her laugh until I imitate Trump attacking Hillary Clinton as a woman The Donald would not want to see naked.

The accent, gestures, and exaggerated mugging all come easy. You’ve just got to imagine a chimpanzee with a trust fund. See, if he hadn’t inherited a couple of hundred million bucks from his old man, Trump would have ended up cheating used car buyers and standing around on New York street corners patting his groin and hooting at passing women with the other primates.

“Hey baby, I got a piece of candy for you. Right here in my pants.”

Like that.

How Trump reacts to finishing second in Iowa remains to be seen. I’m guessing the minute he realizes he can’t bulldoze and bluff his way to the presidency, he’s gone. But at least he’s given us some laughs, more than you can say for most of them.

Which brings us to Trump’s big celebrity feud with Fox News head blonde Megyn Kelly. Has any victim of The Donald’s verbal assaults ever benefited more from his scorn?

Before the two tangled during the first GOP presidential debate, Kelly was best known among the cable channel’s audience of AARP All-Stars—a foot soldier in the annual “War on Christmas” who once indignantly assured viewers that Santa Claus is a white man. Also an imaginary man, but never mind.

Now thanks to Trump, she’s a name brand. It’ll be interesting to watch where the notoriety takes her. At 45, she’s probably too old to be the fourth Mrs. Trump, but wouldn’t that be an entertaining premise for a bad movie?

The feud began, as the world knows, when Kelly, an incisive interviewer, asked The Donald about his practice of calling women “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” He tried to joke his way out of it, but Kelly doubled down, asking about the time he told a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” how cute she’d look on her knees.

A classic bully, Trump whined that Kelly was biased. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever,” he told CNN.

He’s all chivalry, our Mr. Trump.

Bickering continued until The Donald tried to make Fox News drop Kelly as moderator of its next GOP debate, which he vowed to boycott unless he got his way. CEO Roger Ailes called his bluff. Refusing to show up now looks like a mistake after Iowa. Trump’s going to bully foreign leaders into submission, but a TV executive defied him and he’s afraid of a girl?

Not good for the brand.

Smarting, Trump then said he wouldn’t call Kelly a “bimbo” because it would be “politically incorrect.” That’s Republican-speak for refusing to call a spade a spade. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Know what they mean?)

Next he reposted some pinup shots of Kelly on Twitter: “Criticizes Trump for objectifying women. Poses like this in GQ magazine.”

I hesitate to admit that I laughed out loud. Low-cut negligee, “Hello, Sailor” look and all, Megyn didn’t much resemble Walter Cronkite.

Not that valuing women strictly as sexual objects was what Kelly complained about. But whatever else you can say about Trump, he’s got a subversive sense of humor.

Should it matter that Mrs. Donald Trump, version 3.0, has herself posed buck nekkid for GQ? Perhaps not, but it’s funny too. Built like a Slovenian outhouse, the fair Melania.

I wonder if Mrs. Trump’s pre-nuptial agreement is fully vested. Because it’s hard to think that First Lady’s a role that would suit her. In some ways, the White House is the jewel of the federal penitentiary system.

Meanwhile, Washington Post reporter Janell Ross, seemingly not from New Jersey, asked some pertinent questions:

“Doesn’t the content of that tweet… strongly support the core theories behind the question that Kelly asked Trump in the very first debate? Is a man who seems to view assessments of women based largely or perhaps only on their appearance fit for the Oval Office in 2016? And, if he is, what are the political ramifications of putting him in office and giving him the bully pulpit?”

The correct answers are: yes, no, and more of the same.

But Melania can rest easy, because it’s not going to happen.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fox News, GOP Primary Debates, Sexism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Shorthand For Progressivity”: New York Values Are At The Heart Of The American Political Divide

New York City is playing an unexpectedly outsized role in the presidential race, with both of the two major parties being sharply divided by candidates who embody very different sides of the city. It’s perhaps not surprising in an age of economic inequality that New York, itself a city where the enormous gap between the 1 percent and the working class is greater than that found in Brazil, would produce two such starkly contrasting figures as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Trump, the boastful, putative billionaire with his gaudy skyscrapers, is the perfect representative of the Manhattan uber-rich, just as Sanders is the voice of the New York of the trade-union movement and the once-thriving Jewish socialist culture that Irving Howe captured in his 1976 book, World of Our Fathers.

The two men both have husky outer-borough accents, leading them to pronounce words like huge (“yuge”) alike even as they shout starkly different messages. Yet as the results from the Iowa caucuses make clear, the two parties have responded quite differently to the rival versions of New York being offered. Trump’s undeniable saturation in New York values is turning out to be a liability among Republicans, even as midwestern Democrats have shown a surprising affinity for Sanders’s version of New York socialism.

Speaking to ABC News last night, Ted Cruz credited his win in Iowa to how he successfully stuck the label of “New York values” on Donald Trump. “As I travel the country here in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, everyone knows what New York values are,” Cruz said.

When Cruz first attacked “New York values,” many pundits thought he’d made a mistake, especially after Trump delivered a moving invocation to the city’s heroic response to 9/11 in the Republican debate in mid-January. But there is every reason to think that the attack was key to Cruz’s success. Forty-two percent of Iowa Republicans told entrance pollsters at the caucuses that the most important quality in a candidate was that he or she “shares my values.” Of that large block, 38 percent supported Ted Cruz, and 5 percent were for Trump. Simply put, Iowa Republicans accepted the idea that Trump was a cultural alien. Meanwhile, Trump’s own attempts to portray Cruz as an alien—by calling attention to his Canadian birth and loans from Goldman Sachs—fell flat.

Trump is not the first New York Republican to find that voters in his party just can’t stomach his origins in a city that many conservatives see as a modern Sodom and Gomorrah. In 2008, Rudy Giuliani looked on paper like a great candidate, widely admired in the GOP as a hero of 9/11. Yet Giuliani’s campaign floundered in the fields of Iowa, where his cultural liberalism, including a record of supporting reproductive freedom and LGBT rights, hurt him. In Iowa in 2008, came in 6th with 3 percent of the vote. (Admittedly, Giuliani avoided campaigning there because he knew he would do so poorly, but his campaign never picked up steam afterward). Given the track record of Trump and Giuliani, it seems unlikely that a strong New York personality, even one tied to foreign-policy hawkishness or hostility towards immigrants, can win over heartland conservatives.

The opposite is true of the Democrats. Sanders finished a very close second in Iowa, within a hair’s breadth of winning—an impressive achievement won against long odds given Clinton’s advantages in funding, name recognition, and endorsements. It’s notable that Clinton did not attack Sanders for his New York values, or even for his professed socialism. Her line of attack was that his policies, like universal healthcare, were politically infeasible—not that they were undesirable.

Instead, in her speech expressing “relief” over the Iowa results (which weren’t yet final), Clinton adopted a conciliatory stance and tried to appropriate Sanders’s politics by claiming to be “a progressive who gets things done for people.” Clinton sounded positively Sanders-esque in declaring that, as president, she would “protect our rights, women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, workers’ rights.”

Among the Republicans, association with New York is a political millstone around the neck that can sink a candidate. But if the New York values that Republicans dread are cosmopolitanism and egalitarianism, then among the Democrats, there’s no controversy around them, only disagreement as to how best to achieve them. In American politics, New York values has now become a shorthand for progressivity. That’s something both parties agree on, even as New York values lie at the fault lines of American politics.

 

By: Jeet Heer, The New Republic, February 2, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New York Values | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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