He who must not be named: how Harry Potter helps make sense of Trump’s world

2 days ago

For fans of the wizard series, the new political order is Dumbledores army v President Voldemort. Is it merely a juvenile comparing or have JK Rowlings books shaped a generations thinking?

Every generation has its go-to pop-culture political analogy. For decades, it was Star Wars. Its easy to see how Reagans 80 s space-based weapons shield initiative earned its nickname, for example, but the reference has endured, to the extent that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon expressed his admiration for the dark side in a recent interview: Darkness is good. Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. Thats power. But one name was missing from that listing: Voldemort.

The Harry Potter villain has risen again over the past couple of years, as fans have described comparisons, often humorously, between a world under threat from a narcissistic tyrant and that of the Harry Potter volumes. In February, Bannon was the subject of a Buzzfeed quiz that asked, Who Told It: Steve Bannon or Lord Voldermort ?; it was harder than you might have thought. JK Rowlings readers have grown up at approximately the same pace as Harry, Ron and Hermione, and with its hundreds of millions of book marketings and the massive success of the movie adaptations, the series reach has been enormous.

What Harry Potter has given a generation is a simple narrative of good triumphing over evil, and, as a result, it has been a frequent and controversial point of reference in this time of political divisiveness. At the worldwide Womens Marches in January, there were plenty of homemade signs that indicated Princess Leia as the face of a new resistance, but there were as many Potter ones, such as Dumbledores army, inspirational quotes from the series and references to Hermiones role in Harrys survival. Perhaps these placards had been inspired by an outpouring of affection for the books following the US election in November, as people began to post quotes on Twitter. Order of the Phoenix, mount up, wrote Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. There is even a Chrome extension that changes any mention of Donald Trump or his cabinet to the name of a notable Death Eater. Install it, and your browser will instantly refer to Betsy DeVos as Dolores Umbridge, Jeff Sessions as Antonin Dolohov or Rex Tillerson as Draco Malfoy.

Placards
Placards at the Girl March in Washington DC. Photo: Patsy Lynch/ REX/ Shutterstock

I would have been nine or 10 when I started read it, tells Jamie MacColl, 26, the guitarist in Bombay Bicycle Club. Last year MacColl set up the campaign group Undivided, which aims to ensure young peoples voices are heard in Brexit negotiations, and he recently appeared on the BBC Question Time panel. I remember the craze to read each new volume within minutes of it coming out, and queueing up in the midst of the night at the bookshop to get it. He says that he can only think of their political or social message in light of JK Rowlings transparently left-leaning Twitter presence. I think she has a similar kind of politics to me. But one of the things that struck me at the time was that it didnt matter who you were. Hermione had no wizard blood and was by far the most capable.

The broad central message of the Potter volumes is diversity and acceptance of difference. As the characters grow older, and the books more complex and matured, the political the effects of not heeding this doctrine become darker and more imperil. The baddies insistence on the superiority of purebloods over mudbloods has overtones of ethnic cleansing; the Death Eaters are fascistic. It would be mean-spirited to spoil the carefully guarded plot of The Cursed Child for those with tickets to see it, but it is fair to say that there is plenty in the play that stimulates this association clear.

Its a lot of fun to update the references and see how Rowlings vision works for the current epoch. Throughout the series, the Ministry of Magic is full of incompetent, pervert, bumbling figures whose only ambition is to cling on to power. The press is untrustworthy and hysterical. In a magical premonition of phone-hacking, the journalist Rita Skeeter transforms herself into a beetle in order to report on details nobody else could know about. The Daily Prophet is often used as a marionette of the system in order to sway popular positions. About the recent Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Rowling told, I was partly inspired by the rise of populism around the world .~ ATAGEND The explanation of the anti-magic sentiment rippling through 1920 s New York in the film could be taken from Brexit Britain: When No-Majs[ American for muggle] are afraid, they attack.

Steve
Steve Bannon, who recently told: Darkness is good. Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. Thats power. Photo: REX/ Shutterstock

In 2013, Anthony Gierzynski, a prof of political science at the University of Vermont, published a study called Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation, co-authored with Kathryn Eddy. It aimed to answer the question of whether the Harry Potter narrative had influenced the politics of millennials. In the introduction, Gierzynski discusses, with what now looks like quaint naivety, online comparings that at the time variously likened Voldemort to Rick Perry and Dick Cheney.

To say the political scenery has changed is an understatement, he tells me. We have a chairwoman whose rhetoric promotes intolerance and who fits the typical authoritarian personality. I would think the Harry Potter lessons are even more relevant today than they were for the 2012 election.

Rowling herself nodded to a Trump/ Voldemort comparison back in 2015, when Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the US. How horrible. Voldemort was nowhere near even worse, she tweeted. The connect has been made by others, and often; there are countless memes comparing the president to He Who Must Not Be Named.( Intriguingly, when criticising Trump in recent speeches or interviews, celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Kristen Stewart have declined to address him by name, a stance shared with many US activists .)

In the case of Trump, Gierzynski indicates, a better reference point would be an incompetent Ministry of Magic, Cornelius Fudge-type figure. But he also points out that hurling names around is unlikely to be helpful in the long run. Calling anyone Voldemort is problematic in terms of the debate you might have. It shuts down the debate, he tells. If you have a discussion[ about] what happens with these kinds of leaders, and how this leads to an fanaticism of out groups that is where the value of the Harry Potter series is, to me. It can provide lessons about how you deal with that sort of injustice and intolerance.

In 2016, Diana Mutz, prof of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics, published a paper called Harry Potter and the Deathly Donald, which cautiously was contended that reading Harry Potter or watching the movies lowered Americans opinions of Trump and his policies. Stories can sway peoples opinions; Harry Potter is just one that happens to have been read and viewed by a massive number of people. This stimulates it potentially more influential than most tales, she tells me by email. Fictional stories are more than simply analogies; they are a time-honoured style of influencing sentiments. Think of Uncle Toms Cabin and American attitudes towards slavery.

Michael
Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Photograph: Warner Bros/ Sportsphoto/ Allstar

Like Gierzynski, Mutz suggests that the messages of tolerance and diversity in the Harry Potter world have influenced the beliefs of its readers, rather than reflecting an existing point of view. But she was surprised by the strength of the backlash she received upon publication of the paper. I have never received more hate mail than in response to this study; its a bit scary, to be honest. Clearly, people who like Donald Trump are uncomfortable with the studys findings, but with empirical data, you dont get to choose your findings. They are what they are, she says.( The current climate is so toxic that Gierzynski also expressed concern. Theres a bit of fear in our discourse. Usually, when I talk to journalists, I wouldnt worry, but these days I do .)

Trump advocates are not alone in criticising the use of Harry Potter as a political analogy. In a scathing post-election column for Esquire last November, Corey Atad wrote that even though he considers himself to be an enormous Harry Potter fan, he found the comparison of Trump to Voldemort, and the idea of an opposition that is Dumbledores army, to be repellent. In tweet after shameful tweet, intellectually and emotionally stunted adults sought to place the election of a fascistic president in terms they could easily understand, he wrote. The Huffington Post operated a narrative that called Trump/ Voldemort comparings inane and condescending, while Matthew Dessem, a writer for Slate, was similarly outraged: Are you fucking kidding me with this shit? … This is really happening.

All three pieces were written in the immediate aftermath of the election; the anger and anxiety is palpable and understandable. But the idea of using fictional narratives to understand and construe the world is as old as day; it is no coincidence that sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Handmaids Tale have risen since November. If, as academics such as Mutz and Gierzynski argue, the Harry Potter series has created a generation of people who are more open-minded and tolerant of change owing to the books they read as children, then it seems far from juvenile and reductive.

Besides, there is little to suggest that tweeting a Dumbledore quote is as far as a Potter fan might take it. In June last year, Yeni Lopez Sleidi, the editor of the site wwwayward, attained posters of Donald Trump underneath a motivational quote: There is no good and evil, there is only power, and those too weak to seek it. Potter fans may recognise these words as are subordinate to Professor Quirrell, recollecting what the Dark Lord taught him. Sleidi sold a number of posters to Trump advocates and donated the profits to Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a charity that supports LGBTQ Latino communities. If the purchaser had put the posters on their walls and turned off the lightings, they would have found that their purchase had a secret: in the dark, Trump vanishes, to be replaced by a glowing green image of Voldemort. Now thats magic.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Why do people dislike Hillary Clinton? The tale runs far back

10 days ago

A sense of untrustworthiness has haunted the Democrat this election, but the roots of hostility against her are much deeper

There is and perhaps there always will be a dedicated group of people who dont know Hillary Clinton personally, but nonetheless hate her.

Whether they are truly a vast rightwing conspiracy( as Clinton called them in 1998) or just many in number and conservative in outlook, theres no arguing that they exist or that they continue to try to influence public opinion on the Democratic nominee.

But even if people consider themselves savvy enough to repudiate the strangest conspiracy theories( sample asserts include that she is a mass-murderer, a closeted lesbian faking her 40 -year marriage, a member of the Illuminati and/ or an agent of the devil himself ), there seems little doubt that an undercurrent of hatred spanning decades has had an impact upon how she is viewed.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

What Trump did this week: Jerusalem triggers ire as Mueller follows the money

17 days ago

Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israels capital, as it emerged Deutsche Bank has provided Mueller with bank the recording of Trump affiliates

As the first anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches, the president seems keen to get points on the members of the security council in ways that don’t involve the interminable compromises and reversals of Congress- last week’s tax vote in the Senate notwithstanding. This week, he outraged liberals on a number of fronts where he has unilateral power, with moves on national monuments and the status of Jerusalem and full-throated backing for controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Last weekend

‘It
‘ It was his tweets about Flynn that landed him in trouble .’ Photograph: Evan Vucci/ AP

Following his former national security consultant Michael Flynn’s guilty plea in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling with the 2016 election, Trump went on a Twitter tear. The chairwoman lashed out at a San Francisco court‘s” miscarriage of justice “; the FBI (” its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History !”); an agent who was removed from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation squad because of anti-Trump text (” Now it all starts to make sense !”); a suspended ABC News reporter (” False and Dishonest “); and of course perennial targets Hillary Clinton and” the’ Justice’ Department “.

Timeline

The key events in the Trump-Russia investigation

2015

GCHQ advises US intelligence

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ becomes aware of suspicious “interactions” between people with Trump ties and Russian intelligence operatives. In late 2015, GCHQ cautions US intelligence.

10 March 2016

Hacking and ‘influence campaign’

The first phishing emails begin to hit Democratic someones( the Democratic National Committee having been hacked months earlier ). Hundreds or thousands of impostor accounts appear on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

31 March 2016

Trump foreign policy meeting

Trump is told about the Russian contacts of at least one aide, and Jeff Sessions shoots down a possible Trump-Putin meeting, according to multiple people present. Later Trump and Sessions repeatedly deny there had ever been such contacts by anyone in the campaign with Russian operatives.

9 June 2016

Trump tower session

Top Trump campaign advisers including Donald Trump Jr meet at Trump Tower with Russian spies, having been promised “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” A Russian present says sanctions were discussed.

18 July 2016

Republican national convention

The convention convenes in Cleveland, Ohio. Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak attends. Top Trump campaign aides vociferously deny contacts with Russian spies. WikiLeaks releases 44,000 emails from the Democratic National Committee.

September 2016

Publication of emails

Across the Fall, outlets including WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks publish tens of thousands of emails stolen from Democrats and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

September 2016

The Facebook campaign

As Russian impostor accounts spread divisive propaganda throughout social media over the Fall, the Trump campaign experiments aggressively with micro-targeting on Facebook, making on an “average day” 50,000 -6 0,000 ads, according to former digital director Brad Parscale

September 2016

Contacts and refusals

Top Trump campaign aides Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and others have dozens of contacts with Russian spies that are repeatedly denied in public across the Fall. “It never happened, ” a campaign spokeswoman said two days after the election.” There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

8 November 2016

Trump elected

Donald Trump is elected president of the United States.

December 2016- January 2017

Presidential transition

Trump aides keep up the relations with Russian operatives in the case of policy and appear to hide those dialogues from the US government and public. Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about the conversations, then later admitted that Jared Kushner had directed him to seek certain policy commitments from the Russian ambassador.

9 May 2017

James Comey fired

Trump fires the FBI director.” When I decided to only do it, I said to myself, I told ‘you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story’, ” Trump tells an interviewer two days later.

Thank you for your feedback.

But it was his tweets about Flynn that landed him in difficulty. A claim that” I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI” opened the president to accusations that Trump knew Flynn lied to the FBI( international crimes) where reference is asked former FBI director James Comey to go easy on him, something that would strengthen any case of blockage of justice. The next day, Trump renewed his denial that he ever stimulated that request of Comey and his lawyer John Dowd claimed– to some scepticism– that he had been the one who wrote the offending tweet.

Whether or not that was true, on Sunday Trump suffered a blow in his recent reported tries to cast doubt on the authenticity of the notorious 2005 Access Hollywood” grab them by the pussy” tape that nearly derailed his campaign. Writing in the New York Times, Billy Bush, the other voice on the tape, stated bluntly:” Of course he said it .”

Monday

Beverly
Beverly Young Nelson, pictured with her yearbook, accused Roy Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. Photo: Tami Chappell/ AFP/ Getty Images

Trump made it crystal clear he was endorsing Moore in next week’s Alabama Senate election, presenting a voted in favour of the Republican- who denies accusations of sexual harassment including one involving a 14 -year-old girl- as crucial for the GOP agenda. He then phoned Moore to tell him:” Go get’ em, Roy !” Trump has also been accused of sex misconduct by numerous girls, and also denies the accusations.

The same day, the president travelled to Utah to announce the dramatic shrink of two national monuments- the biggest elimination of public lands protection in US history.

Tuesday

Robert
Robert Mueller in Washington. Photograph: Charles Dharapak/ AP

It emerged that Deutsche Bank has provided special advise Mueller with bank records of Trump affiliates. In July, Trump said he would consider it a red line if Mueller started analyzing his or his family’s finances.” I think that’s a violation ,” he said.

Wednesday

Protest
Protest outside the American embassy in London against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Photograph: Barritt/ REX/ Shutterstock

In the teeth of vociferous opponent around the globe, Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. International critics said the status of the city- half of which is claimed by the Palestinians as their own capital- should be left to peace negotiations. Trump pledged to induce the change on the campaign trail, pleasing pro-Israel conservatives, evangelical Christians whose theological beliefs involve backing the Jewish country, and some parts of the US Jewish community, including Sheldon Adelson, a donor who gave Trump millions in 2016.

Play Video
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Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli troops in West Bank- video

An attempt by some Democrats to start impeachment proceedings against Trump was voted down in the House. Despite pressure from liberal activists for congressional Democrats to push for impeachment, they are reluctant to do so before Mueller finishes police investigations, for dread of jumping the gun, and are also conscious that any impeachment process might actually bolster is supportive of Trump, as it seemed to with Bill Clinton. Impeachment requires a majority of the House and two thirds of the Senate to pass- something vanishingly unlikely while Republican are in charge of both.

Thursday

Melania
Melania and Donald Trump attend a Hanukkah reception at the White House. Photo: Drew Angerer/ Getty Images

A fairly quiet day for Trump ensure him mark the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack that led to the US’s entry into the second world war, celebrate his Jerusalem decision at the White House Hanukkah party … and make one of his occasional forays into arts criticism.” Go get the new volume on Andrew Jackson by Brian Kilmeade … Really good ,” he tweeted, adding, presumably to indicate his source: “@ foxandfriends “.

Friday

CNN was forced into an embarrassing climbdown after getting a key date incorrect in a narrative reporting that an encryption key to unlock hacked material was emailed to Trump and his son two months before the presidential election. Donald Trump Jr was quick to demand a retraction, which he got. It must have been fulfilling for the first son after he attracted ridicule earlier in the week, when he quoth attorney-client privilege in refusing to discuss with lawmakers dialogues he had with his father regarding his controversial 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

” If you’re Bob Mueller and you get an interview of Donald Trump Jr, this is going to be one of the three or four main topics in your outline ,” said Andy Wright, a former White House associate attorney under Barack Obama.” Like at the Roman numeral level .”

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Family and neighbours describe Virginia shooter: reclusive with a violent past

17 days ago

People in Belleville, Illinois who knew James Hodgkinson, the man who opened fire on a congressional baseball practise, say he was aloof with firm political views

Behind an immaculately kept lawn and a neat gravel pathway, the unassuming two-storey house almost seemed like any other along the lane in Belleville, Illinois. If it werent for the FBI agents, who had been parked outside for 24 hours, and the smaller army of reporters camped on the roadside , none of the neighbours would have assumed anything untoward.

The homeowner, James Hodgkinson, kept himself to himself, told a 59 -year-old next-door neighbour who did not want to be named. In the 20 years Hodgkinson had lived only two homes from William Schaumleffel, the two men had never spoken. Hodgkinson didnt wave back when Schaumleffel, 77, would greet him on occasion. It was odd, thought Schaumleffel, but some people like their privacy.

William
William Schaumleffel and his wife Carmen, who live two houses away from Hodgkinsons home. Photo: Oliver Laughland for the Guardian

On Wednesday, Hodgkinson opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball practice in Virginia, critically injuring senior GOP congressman Steve Scalise and three others, and later dying of his injuries. As the 66 year-old joined the increasingly long listing of Americans involved in barbaric acts of mass firearm violence, the shooting reinvigorated the conversation about the tenor of debate in US politics after it emerged Hodgkinson likely intentionally targeted the politicians due to their political party. He had also articulated ardent criticism of Donald Trumps election victory on social media.

As Sue Hodgkinson, the 64 -year-old widow of the gunman, emerged from her home to face the press for the first time since the two attacks, clutching the arms of a St Clair County deputy sheriff in the intense humidity, she was unable to offer much insight into what might have motivated her husband to carry out such an act of brutality.

Sue
Sue Hodgkinson, under escort with the St Clair County sheriffs office. Photograph: Oliver Laughland for the Guardian

I merely dont know what I want to tell you people, she told, her voice cracking and her small frame nearly dwarfed by the microphone stand in front of her. I had no idea this was going to happen and I dont know what to say about it. I cant wrap my head around it.

A blurred picture of the shooters background and potential motive has begun to emerge following interviews with neighbours and family members that corroborated his violent past, staunch political views and reclusive nature.

Belleville,
Photograph: Mapbox, OpenStreetMap

Hodgkinson, who also went by the name Tom, had left the property in Belleville in late March after selling his local home inspection business and other assets. He told his wife he had gone to Washington to work with people to change taxation brackets and never returned.

The 66 -year-old had long advocated for tax reform, writing letters to the local paper, between 2008 and 2012, in which he argued against Reagan-era economics and advocated for the legalization of cannabis. In 2011 he attended a local Occupy Wall Street protest and told a Tv news crew: The 99% are get pushed around and the 1% are just not giving a damn.

St Clair County, where Belleville is the largest city, has for decades voted for Democrat, although the margins are nowhere near as large as they are further north in Chicago. The divisive nature of the 2016 campaign was felt no more acutely here than anywhere else in the country, and residents along Hodgkinsons lane said there was little discussion of politics throughout 2016. We didnt talking here politics or religion. People got their own beliefs and thats their right, said the next-door neighbour, who openly identified as a conservative.

Local progressive activist groups too said they had never encountered the gunman previously, and the extent of his volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign in the 2016 Democratic primary remains unclear.

Toxic masculinity and white privilege are the underlying themes of so many incidents like these, told Stuart Keating, a spokesman for the Democratic Socialists of America St Louis chapter, which represents members in Belleville. Until we address the systemic cause of incidents like these, we are not likely to see a reduction in such violence.

An employee at the district committee said they had never seen him attend local government sessions and the largest firearm store in township, Metro Shooting Supplies, told Hodgkinson was not a customer and had never used their firing range.

Those closer to Hodgkinson said he exhibited little interest in others, even those in his own family, and he remained reclusive during rare social gatherings.

He was kind of aloof, he wasnt friendly, told Victoria Knepper, whose foster son marriage Hodgkinsons foster daughter, Tasha, two years ago.( Another of Hodgkinsons foster daughters, Wanda Ashley Stock, killed herself at 17 in 1996, according to the Belleville News-Democrat .) I voted for Trump, so Im sure I would have got an earful if he knew, she said. But he didnt. He never talked about that[ politics ].

Victoria
Victoria Knepper. Photograph: Oliver Laughland for the Guardian

Knepper said the gunman would often sit alone in another room in front of a computer or in his garden shed during household collects.

He was not present at his promote daughters marriage and wasnt a very big father figure.

It was largely Sue wanting to adopt and he just went along with it, Knepper told.

In 2006 Hodgkinson was arrested for domestic assault and discharging a pistol after reportedly beating his foster daughter and two of her friends. The police report said he threw her around a room, pulled on her hair and reached her. He then fired a shotgun round as her friends ran away. The charges were later rejected.

According to a recent analysis of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, defined as events where four or more people are shot and killed, 42% of shooters exhibited red flag like this. Although the two attacks in Virginia was not domestic violence, 54% of mass shootings were somehow related to family or domestic violence cases.

Tasha, and her two-year-old son, had recently moved back into the family home after her marriage broke down. At the press conference outside the house in Belleville, Sue Hodgkinson said the stress of the move-in may also have prompted her husband to leave.

He was home all day long and he just wanted a violate, she told.

Immediately after Hodgkinson was named as the shooter, his wife Sue sent Knepper a text.

She said: I knew I had lost him. But now Ive truly lost him.

Just days before he left for Washington in March, police were called to his home after Schaumleffel reported he had been firing dozens of rounds from a high powered pistol out in his yard. He had pointed his weapon out towards a wooded area and the shoots rang out across the lane.

Schaumleffels two young grandchildren were playing close by in the yard and he rushed them inside after Hodgkinson did not stop firing.

I yelled at him, I told: dont shoot over there, theres homes on the other side of the trees. But you know he didnt act like hed even heard me, Schaumleffel recollected. According to a police report Hodgkinson was found to have a valid handgun license but was told not to fire into the wooded region again.

It was the first and last interaction Schaumleffel and his neighbour would ever have.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Rod Rosenstein: ‘honorable’ US attorney poised to be next Russia investigator

27 days ago

With Jeff Sessions recusal, the widely admired nominee for deputy attorney general could be dropped into the thick of the Trump administration controversy

As a young justice department lawyer, Rod Rosenstein was tapped to join Kenneth Starrs Whitewater investigation into Bill and Hillary Clintons real estate dealings. He depicted an uncommon ability with public corruption occurrences, demonstrating a wisdom and sensitivity beyond his years, his supervisors told.

Now Rosenstein, who induced his reputation as a competent, apolitical US attorney who served both Bush and Obama, may investigate another chairpeople ties to an even more high-profile scandal.

The us attorney general, Jeff Sessions, pledged on Thursday he would recuse himself from supervising any investigations of Russias role in the 2016 election. I should not be involved in investigating a campaign I had a role in, he said, a decision that came as bipartisan pressure from Congress over his failure to disclose two meetings with Russias ambassador during the election year.

Sessions recusal could immediately set Rosenstein into a much higher-profile position than he might have imagined when he was nominated to serve as deputy us attorney general. If corroborated, he would supervise any justice department investigation into Russian interference in the election including any contacts between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.

Rosenstein, who is currently the US attorney in Maryland, was a surprising option to serve as the No 2 official in Trumps justice department, told Philip Heymann, who was Rosensteins law professor at Harvard, and later his boss in the Clinton justice department. Rosenstein has served in the Department of Justice for 26 years, including in the tax division, the public integrity segment, and as an assistant US attorney in Maryland.

Rosenstein is a skilled prosecutor and a straight shooter, with a deep knowledge of the day-to-day runs of the department, but he did not seem especially close to either Sessions or Trump, Heymann told.

It surprises me that they didnt pick somebody who was more partisan, he said.

James Cole, who served for four years as Eric Holders deputy attorney general, also offered unqualified praise for Rosensteins skill and credibility.

He doesnt make any decisions that either are or appear to be political, he told.

Questions on the Russia investigation are likely to be at the center of Rosensteins confirmation hearing on Tuesday. He declined to comment.

Some observers have noted that during the Nixon administration, Senate Democrat used the confirmation process of Nixons us attorney general picking, Elliot Richardson, as leveraging and refused to confirm him for the job until he named a special prosecutor to supervise the Watergate investigation. Senate Democrat could take a similar approach to Rosensteins confirmation and demand a special prosecutor on Russias interference in the 2016 election, the Intercept suggested on Thursday.

On Sunday night, Richard Blumenthal, one of the Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, vowed on Twitter that he would use every possible tool to block DOJ Deputy AG nominee unless he commits to appoint[ an] independent special prosecutor.

Heymann said both Democrats and Republican would trust Rosenstein and that he was the perfect person to oversee an investigation into Russias interference in the US election an issue both Democrats and Trump have framed, in different ways, as an inquiry that strikes at the heart of Trumps legitimacy as chairperson.

I think were very lucky to have him in that stance, he said.

In February, the Baltimore Sun, Rosensteins hometown paper, called him an honorable public servant with wide bipartisan supporting who was too good to sell his soul by taking a task in the Trump administration.

Just dont go there. Say no to President Trump, a member of the Sunshine editorial committee advised Rosenstein in an open letter.

Former colleagues praised Rosensteins restraint. He understands that the justice departments role is to do justice rather than bring instances, told Steve Levin, a former federal prosecutor who worked for Rosenstein in Baltimore. Even as he rose into a politically appointed stance, he maintained the approach and the attitude of a career attorney, Levin said.

He is very professional and very determined to be the best prosecutor that he can be and he doesnt take that to entail the most aggressive prosecutor, Heymann said.

Heymann, a longtime justice department official, worked with the Watergate prosecutor, Archibald, Cox on the investigation that led to Nixons resignation, and was also part of investigations into Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. He said Rosensteins lack of a close relationship with Trump or Sessions could, paradoxically, induce his job supervising any investigation of Russian interference harder.

I think hes in an extremely challenging position. Ive learned over many, many years its easier to be independent if youre a close friend of the chairman than if youre not, he said, explaining the importance of having a presidents trust. I would anticipate that the White House would be very worried about anybody that they didnt are familiar.

As Marylands US attorney, Levin told, Rosenstein has gone after corrupt police officers and prison guards as well as violent gang members. This week, his office announced the arrest of 7 Baltimore police officer for racketeering.

Rosenstein has also worked to crack down on national security leaks, announcing charges last fall in a high-profile lawsuit against a National Security Agency contractor for stealing classified information.

In response to questions about Russias interference in the election he won, Trump has repeatedly was contended that the real scandal is not the endeavor of a foreign power to sway an American election, but “the member states national” security leaks that have made new slants of the questions populace.

Rosensteins predecessor as US attorney in Maryland triggered grievances that he was unfairly targeting Democrat in public corruption examples using his office as a political weapon. Rosenstein brought more stability to the office. When he has gone after public officials as US attorney, he did it an even-handed and a fair way, told Cole, the Obama justice official.

The deputy us attorney general is the justice departments chief operation officer, with broad officials responsible for overseeing litigation, crime-fighting strategy, and the federal governments national security policy. If confirmed, he will end up in the situation room a lot, Cole said.

During his confirmation hearing, Sessions built no mention of the two meetings he had with Russias ambassador during the election year, even when asked directly if he had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election. Saying the prosecutor general appeared to have lied under oath, some Democrats are continuing to demand that he resign. Sessions said that he should have mentioned the meetings with diplomat Sergey Kislyak, but that he did not recall any specific political discussions.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

‘Yes we did’: Barack Obama lifts America one last time in emotional parting

1 month, 7 days ago

Outgoing president devotes proud account of his eight years in office and pays moving tribute to Michelle, spouse, mom of my children and best friend

Yes we are capable of, he said one last hour. Yes we did. And the crowd roared.

Barack Obama the son of a Kenyan goat herder and self-described skinny child with a funny name who grew up to become Americas first black chairman had come to say goodbye.

But while for most of the past eight years it had seemed this night would be one of elation and nostalgia , now it came with a sober note, laden with omens and warns about a republic under siege.

Obama had hoped to be talking about passing on the baton to fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton. Instead Donald Trumps stunning victory implied an existential threat and called for him to paint on a bigger canvas. In a nation of our democracy speech he deftly concentrated his flame not on the president-elect but on the malaise that produced him. In 4,300 terms he only mentioned Trump by name once but delivered much by way of repudiation.

Obama rejected talk of post-racial America, in vogue after his own ascending in 2008, as unrealistic. He defended the rights of immigrants and Muslim Americans. He lambasted the individuals who refuse to accept the science of climate change. He warned of the threat posed by the rise of naked partisanship, with people retreating into their own self-confirming bubbles.

There was not, perhaps, the penetrating feeling of Obamas greatest speeches. But when he came to thank his wife, Michelle, for standing by him through it all, an eulogy that prompted one of the biggest cheers of the night, he wept.

They were back in their home city, Chicago, albeit in the unromantic surrounds of a dark and cavernous convention dormitory with giant US flag, presidential seal and TV screens. The make-up of the audience male and female, young and old, diverse in race and religion was itself a statement about who he was and what he stood for. They cheered and roared and whistled, rising in a wall of human noise, holding his memory tight.

Every day I learned from you, Obama told the audience. You built me a better chairperson and you attained me a better man.

Michelle
Michelle and Malia Obama react to the outgoing chairmen tribute. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ AP

It had been 2,989 days since the Obamas were greeted by almost a one-quarter of a million supporters gathered in Chicagos Grant Park on election night in 2008. Maybe you still cant think that we pulled this whole thing off, he told wistfully.

And before he made his stride there was an eruption from the audience. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! they chanted. The chairperson raised his hand and responded: I cant do that! This is not a monarchy, after all.

In 10 days the world will witness a hallmark of our democracy, Obama told. That elicited some boo, but he pressed on: The peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next. Now there was applause. I committed to president-elect Trump that my administration would ensure the smoothest possible transition, just as President Bush did for me.

Over the past eight years Obama has travelled the globe extolling the American experiment in democracy, acknowledging its flaws but insisting that it strifes for a more perfect union. He little expected to be ending his second term having to defend the great project on his home turf.

Democracy depended on equality, he argued, and the economy was growing again. But this was not enough. Stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic principles a recipe for more cynicism and polarisation in our politics.

Then he named a second menace to republic. After my election there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society.

Upholding laws against discrimination alone would not be enough, he told, adding that hearts must be amended. In a nod to the discontent in rust belt states that helped propel Trump to victory, he continued: For blacks and other minorities it entails tying our own struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face the refugee, the immigrant, the rural poor, the transgender American, and also the middle-aged white man who from the outside may seem like hes got all the advantages, but whos considered his world upended by economic, cultural and technological change.

But he added: For white Americans it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim crow didnt abruptly vanish in the 60 s; that when ethnic minority groups voice discontent theyre not just engaging in reverse racism or practising political correctness; that when they wage peaceful protest theyre not demanding special therapy, but the equal treatment our founders promised.

Obama went on to tackle a hot topic following the completion of last years bitterly divisive general elections: deep polarisation, even around what facts people eat. For too many of us its become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of venerate or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our premises.

The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every savour all this constructs this large sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only datum, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence thats out there.

Citing climate change as two examples, he added: Without some common baseline of facts, without a willingness to admit new information and be recognized that your opponent is making a fair phase, and that science and reason matter, well keep talking past one another, attaining common ground and compromise impossible.

Democracy was threatened when taken for granted, Obama said , noting the relatively low turnout in US elections. Our constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But its genuinely only a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own.

Democracy needs you, he told an estimated audience of 18, 000. Not just when theres an election , not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If youre tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.

If something wants fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organising. If youre disappointed by your elected official, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Depict up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes youll win. Sometimes youll lose More often than not your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed.

George Washingtons parting address warned of the divisiveness of political parties. Dwight Eisenhowers warned of the rise of the military industrial complex. So Obama cannot presume his terms will be heeded.

His professorial side had been at the fore all night. But when he came to thank his family there was a change. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the south side[ of Chicago ], for the past 25 years, youve been not only my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend. You took on a role you didnt ask for and you constructed it your own with grace and grit and style, and good humour. You constructed the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation defines its sights higher because it has you as a role model. Youve made me proud. Youve stimulated the country proud.

Teary Barack Obama thanks Michelle in parting speech

Michelle sat in the front row. The crowd erupted around her and devoted an extended ovation. Beside her the couples daughter Malia welled up with tears.

Obama also paid tribute to Malia and sister Sasha the latter absent due to a school quiz in Washington the next day saying: Of all that Ive done in my life Im most proud to be your dad.

Michelle and Malia, along with the vice-president, Joe Biden, and his wife, Jill, joined the president on stage to more cheers and goodbye waves from the crowd.

Sheila Baldwin, a 64 -year-old African American, who got her ticket on Saturday after queuing from 5am, told: My ancestors would appreciate and insist I see this historic event. It was thrilling for us to assure my mother, who is 91, witness the first black chairman; now to see it go full circle is a wonderful moment.

Obama shook hands with advocates, including civil right fight veteran Jesse Jackson, and stepped out of the limelight. To the end he appeared composed and serene: a man at peace with himself.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Meeting the Obamas: ‘It helped me become a better citizen of the world’

1 month, 9 days ago

We asked you to share your experiences of arriving face-to-face with the first family

Its been eight years since the US elected its first black chairperson. In that time, Barack Obama has been applauded and criticized for his administrations run, welcomed one dog and then another to the first household, and even began to enjoy a bit of senioritis before being pulled abruptly back to earth. We asked you to share your memories of gratifying the Obamas. Here is a selection of your replies:

A photo-op in the Oval Office

My son had finished two years working in the White House( as associate White House counsel and special assistant to the president) and he and his family and my wife and I were invited to the Oval Office for a private conference and photo-op with the president. Obama was in the midst of negotiating the accord with Iran. My wife and I were just back from visiting Iran, and she told the president how much the Iranian people liked Americans. Oh, you were in Tehran? the president asked. I answered, And also in Shiraz, other cities and even in Natanz, just outside the fence of their nuclear research facilities. With a sparkle in his eye, and not missing a beat, the president told, Oh, we know where you were! We all laughed. Ronald Florence, USA

Meeting the first lady

On a drizzly and humid morning in Washington DC in 2012, my mum and I stood in line outside Barnes& Noble to meet first lady Michelle Obama and receive a signed transcript of her book, American Grown. A week prior to the meet and greet, we were required to queue at Barnes& Noble, each buy a volume and hand over our passports for screening; they would contact us if there was an issue with background checks. A frantic commute from Georgetown couldnt dim our exuberance about meeting the first lady. Inside the bookstore, we waited for her arrival and in she walked, with confidence and warmth. She briefly spoke about the book, and then thanked all of us for standing in the rainfall to meet her. I went up to meet her and told her I was a law student from Scotland. She asked if I was on vacation, to which I said I was, along with my mum. She asked us if we were enjoying the city and if we had been to all the monuments and the White House. We thought it funny how she remarked about her home as the White House perhaps no matter how long you reside in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it will always be the White House and not my house. A very honest and genuine insight into the life of Americas first lady. Clare McCaughey, UK

Michelle
Michelle Obama hugs students at Martin Luther King middle school, an all-girls school in Dakar, Senegal. Photograph: Joe Penney/ Reuters

Meeting Obama made me a better citizen of the world

In 2008, I took my niece and husband to Obamas campaign stop at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. After his speech concluded, I worked my style to the front of the auditorium. I was able to shake his hand and tell him that he had the most beautiful smile and to keep on smiling because he was going to be the next president of the United States. Obamas inspiring campaign speech that day gave me the motivation to go back to college and get a degree, something that I always regretted not having. I graduated in 2012 at persons under the age of 63 with a degree in environmental surveys. That chance session was life changing, helping to build me a better citizen of the world. Thank you, President Obama. Janice Williams, USA

She refused to give autograph. She devoted hugs instead

How many people get to yell in falsetto at the president?

In 2010, after the passage of the Affordable Care Act for which I was an active advocate, I had the opportunity to meet the president at a fundraiser for California senator Barbara Boxer. I could not sleep for three days prior to the session because of nervousnes about what to say to Obama in my 10 -1 5 seconds as he walked down a reception line thanking advocates. I practiced my commentary in the car on the way there, working on my cadence, sincerity and tone. The chairwoman dedicated a short speech and then moved down the reception line, shaking hands and listening to people as they spoke. When he reached me, I shook his hand, appeared him dead in the eye and in a voice that was the highest falsetto and 75 decibels too loud, I told, Thank you, Mr President, for giving me hope again. He looked at me with a wry smile, as I promptly went red in the face. On the positive side, how many people get to yell in falsetto at the president of the United States? I am forever grateful he didnt laugh. Michael Ozaki, USA

Obama
Obama speaks in Iowa City in 2007. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/ AP

He was gracious and kind

Then senator Obama was on my flight from England back to the US. Upon boarding the plane, he dropped gifts that he had for Sasha and Malia, and I helped him pick them up only to discover that it was him! I gave him my university card, in case he needed a social worker on his faculty, and he humbly accepted the card. That was in January 2006, right before he announced his plan to run for office. He was a gracious and kind man, and I was happy to have met him. Kim Denu, USA

A opportunity encounter on the campaign trail

My mate and I were studying at Prairie Lights Bookstore, in Iowa City, during Obamas first campaign. We were the only ones on the second narrative when we realise there were snipers on the roof across from us. Obviously curious, we appeared out the window to consider what was going on, having had no idea Obama was planning to stop downtown after his speech. As “were in” appearing out the window, Obama himself came up the stairs. He called out to us as we were looking out the window, asking, Hey guys, would you happen to know where the childrens section is? Im looking for a Star Wars book. We pointed him back downstairs, and he told us that he was probably already in difficulty for heading upstairs before secret service had cleared it, so he better go back down. We agreed and wished him good luck. That was it, but such a casual and intimate moment that has been vivid in my mind ever since. Chris Moore, USA

Responses have been edited for duration and clarity .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Piecemeal labor reform is nice, but national action is what’s required | Susan Campbell

1 month, 10 days ago

We should celebrate higher minimum wages and paid leave passing in California and New York. Theyre what every US worker deserves

In 1931, banker-turned-writer James Truslow Adams argued with his publishers about the title of a book hed just completed. Adams wanted to call the book The American Dream, but his publishers believed no American in the Great Depression would shell out$ 3 for a volume by that name.

The publishers won. The volume was called The Epic of America, but Truslow had the last word. He included the phrase the American dreaming in the text some 30 times, and dedicated a name to the faith that You Can Construct It Here , no matter your origins.

We cling to this notion that Americans have the unique ability to move up the socio-economic ladder but that dream has become much more of a European one, where residents tend to enjoy more social mobility. Economic success and social fulfillment remain elusive to the vast majority of Americans.

That may be why last week, when country legislators in California and New York passed laws that will lift workers minimum wage to $15 an hour, and New York legislators approved a startlingly robust 12 -week( by 2021) paid family leave that will affect 6. 4 million New Yorkers, the stateside press covered it as if its a revolution.

New Yorks new leave law paid for by small payroll deductions enhances the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which promises to certain employees that their jobs will be waiting for them if they take a leave for the birth, adoption or placement of a foster child, or to care for an ailment loved one. New Yorks new statute goes deeper: it encompasses full- and part-time employees, and small businesses are no longer omitted. And the leave will be paid.

Nationwide, simply 12% of American workers have paid household leave through their employer. To be actually revolutionary to construct the US the land of opportunity we like to say we are we must go much further than New York and California, pushing for paid leave for all, for public policies that ultimately close the gender pay gap and for humane protections for all. Because these state policies are only a start: lower-wage workers and trade , notably, girls remain caught in a system that devalues the work they do.

As a culture, we dont value what has traditionally been called women work which largely revolves around caregiving. Yet caregiving is, as this essay by Anne-Marie Slaughter tells, the run that induces run possible. The growing need for childcare and elder care means that caregiving is likely to be the countrys largest occupation in four short years.

Recent analyzes show that when women enter a particular industry, the average pay for that industry falls. One study looked at 50 years of US Census data and found that even when controlling for education and ability, the more females work in a specific industry, the lower the average pay.( Believe secretarial run, which was traditionally a humen undertaking, or think working in parks. When women entered that particular marketplace, the pay dropped by 57%. The reversal holds true when humen enter an industry traditionally inhabited by girls .)

Then there is the apparently intractable gender pay gap, where women are paid merely 79 cents for every dollar made by a man and thats just for white people. If you look at the gender pay gap for women of colour, the gap is far worse.

What is it about our economic system that we cant taken into account in women or families? Compare the US family leaves to other countries. The United Kingdom provides 40 weeks. Iran provides 12 weeks. Vietnam offer 26 weeks, though if a mother has more than one child, they may take an extra 30 days for each child. If we are still the land of opportunity, we are that despite our public policies.

As we get ready to mark Equal Pay Day( 12 April 2016, the working day when women will have worked long enough to have earned the wages earned by the men the previous year ), we still want to believe in the American Dream. It fuels our ingenuity, and our can-do posture. But if we dont eliminate some roadblocks, it may forever be enshrined in our hearts, but it will remain far, far away from our reality.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Maine lawmaker attempts discrimination protection for climate change deniers

1 month, 12 days ago

State representative introduced a bill that would limit the state attorney generals ability to investigate or prosecute people based on their political speech

Maine laws protect individuals from discrimination based on factors such as race, disabilities and sex orientation, and a Republican lawmaker wants to add a persons beliefs about climate change to that list.

State representative Larry Lockman has introduced a bill that would limit the state attorney generals ability to investigate or prosecute people based on their political speech, including their views on climate change. It would also proscribe the country from making decisions on buying goods or services or awarding grants or contracts based on a persons climate change policy preferences.

Lockman, an independent business consultant from Amherst, told the Associated Press that he believes its an open question whether human activity is the primary cause of climate change.

Peer-reviewed examines, science organizations and climate scientists say that the world is warming from manmade forces.

State representative Lois Galgay Reckitt, a Democrat of South Portland and a marine biologist who sits on the judiciary committee that has the bill, said prospects for passageway are poor. She said she expected the entire Democratic caucus is going to loathe it, and some Republican will, too.

The issue for me is Im a scientist and I live near the ocean. Its absolutely clear to me that climate change is happen, and it worries me, she told. I will fight this tooth and nail.

Lockman wants to prohibit the state attorney general from analyse, joining an investigation or prosecuting any person based on that persons protected political speech.

But he said his bill wished to reiterate free speech by protecting climate change supporters as well.

I dont want to see a Republican state attorney general publish subpoenas for the records of progressive or liberal thinktanks or public policy groups to chill their free speech, he said.

Democratic attorney general Janet Mills declined to comment.

In his bill, Lockman says that the supreme courts decision in Citizens United continued the protection of protected political speech , no matter the source or message. That case permitted corporations and unions to stimulate unlimited independent expenditures in US elections.

Jonathan Reisman, an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias and a vocal critic of the scientific consensus on climate change, said he requested the bill.

He said the bill is an attempt to defend the first amendment freedom of those who speak out in such a way that does not reflect the consensus.

Its about Citizens United and the government abridging speech, he told. Its not about climate science. Its about climate policy.

Lockman has a history of causing dispute. He once garmented as a vampire outside a federal building in Bangor to protest the Internal Revenue Service. He also once accused liberals of assisting the Aids epidemic, saying they assured the public that the practice of sodomy is a legitimate alternative lifestyle, rather than a debased and depraved crime against humanity.

He said he couldnt predict the outcome of his latest bill but expected a lot of interest at a public hearing scheduled 6 April.

Lockmans bill is absurd and unnecessary, said Dylan Voorhees, climate and clean energy project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Clearly an attempt to provide cover for climate deniers, he said. I assure a trickle down from the Trump administration that has emboldened some folks to construct climate denial statements.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Paul Ryan deserts Trump campaign but won’t formally drop endorsement

1 month, 12 days ago

A day after contentious debate, the speaker of the House tells congressional members you all need to do whats best for you in your district

Top Republican Paul Ryan deserted Donald Trump on Monday after an aggressive debate attack against Hillary Clinton failed to appease mounting disgust over his attitude toward women.

The speaker of the House told congressional colleagues on a conference call that he would no longer defend Trump or campaign with him. He urged them to do whats best for you to save the partys majority and avoid giving Hillary Clinton a blank check in the White House, though stressed he was not yet formally unendorsing the partys official nominee.

A CNN poll proved 57% of respondents felt Clinton had won the second debate, as a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal survey taken over the weekend showed her leading Trump by 11 phases among likely voters. She is 5. 8 points ahead in polling medians calculated by Real Clear Politics, a position that translates into a base of 260 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, with 165 relatively strong for Trump and 113 to play for.

Trump immediately fired back at Ryan on Twitter.Paul Ryan should expend more day on balancing the budget, employment creation and illegal immigration and not waste his time on opposing Republican nominee, wrote Trump in a blast at the House speaker with whom he has long had a bumpy relationship.

Ryan dragged his heels on endorsing Trump after the real estate developer clinched the Republican nomination in May and disinvited him from a joint appearance in Wisconsin on Saturday in the aftermath of the leaked remarks Trump made about women.

As Clinton climbed the steps to board her airliner in Westchester, New York, on Monday to depart for a campaign rally in Detroit, a reporter hollered a question about whether she believed Trump would show up for the final debate. Laughing, she responded: Yes.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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