EPISODE 1: ELLEN
Compiled and Synthesized by Samia Mounts
00:06:07 Have hate crimes spiked since Trump was elected?
Yes. Here’s a report on the spike immediately after the election, as well as a full listing from Slate of all hate crimes since the election up to the present. The Portland train stabbing was sadly just one of many.
00:08:20 Was Barry Goldwater similar to Donald Trump?
Ellen talks about her decision to vote for Barry Goldwater in her very first Presidential election as an adult. She doesn’t mention this in the podcast, but when I pre-interviewed her over the phone, she told me quite a funny story about how she came to her decision. At the time, her new husband, a staunch Democrat, was disgusted with Lyndon B. Johnson and felt strongly that Barry Goldwater, who ran on what many analysts have said was a very similar kind of campaign to Donald Trump’s, was being misrepresented by the media. She thought her husband was probably right about that, so on polling day, she voted for Goldwater. After the fact, she found out that her husband couldn’t bring himself to vote for a Republican and instead checked the box next to Johnson’s name.
There was a lot of debate during the election about whether or not Donald Trump was another version of Barry Goldwater, with opinion pieces from both sides of the aisle being published throughout 2016. From the information I’ve gathered, Goldwater was an outspoken, unpolished conservative politician with lots of experience in public service and government. Ellen’s claims that he was treated unfairly by the media seem to have some validity, but his tendency to speak off the cuff about serious matters like nuclear war, and the fact that he voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it easy for Johnson’s campaign to tear him to shreds. I love this analysis from the New Yorker.
A more accurate comparison would be the campaign of George Wallace. He ran the same kind of passionately anti-establishment campaign as Trump, and he played on voters’ fears and hatred to rally support. A quote that says it all: “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. And segregation forever.” Read this great article from NPR for a detailed comparison of Wallace and Trump.
00:09:15 Where does the law stand on desecrating the American flag?
Ellen brings up the desecration of the American flag a few times in our conversation. Flag-burning in our country is considered a form of symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment, according to 1989 Supreme Court decision Texas v. Johnson.
Donald Trump has made several public statements that he believes anyone who burns an American flag should suffer legal consequences:
00:09:57 What’s the real deal with Hillary Clinton’s emails?
Here is a great in-depth analysis of Hillary Clinton’s email scandal. This analysis stops short of FBI Director James Comey’s later assertion on Nov 6, 2016, that the new emails being reviewed turned up no new evidence in the case against Clinton. After Comey’s letters to Congress on Oct 28 and Nov 6 were subject to intense controversy over how he may have affected the election results, the Justice Department announced they would be pursuing an investigation into Comey himself.
00:10:05 What really happened in Benghazi?
Here’s a concise analysis of what went down in Benghazi. A later episode of the podcast will go deep into the Benghazi investigation, so I won’t go further into it now.
00:10:09 Was the Clinton Foundation “just a big scam”?
Public record and fact-checking sites disagree with this assessment. The Clintons are not paid for their work with the Foundation, and 80-90% of the money the Foundation receives is sent to pay for its charitable programs, garnering them an A rating from Charity Watch.
00:11:32 Why is Ellen against Obamacare? And are her reasons supported by the most recent facts and figures?
We never got into why Ellen was so against Obamacare in our conversation, so here is her written statement as sent to me via email, along with fact checks of each claim she makes:
“Obamacare is incredibly expensive and complicated. Many insurance companies are leaving it. Many doctors in private practice won't accept patients insured by some insurance companies because of the complexity of dealing with the paperwork and payments.
“The intent was for the younger people to be paying for older members. That has not worked out. Many people who are not eligible for subsidies find the premiums and deductibles out of reach and are going bare. These people then face potential penalties. Many of this population previously had insurance thorough [sic] work or other means.
“The previously uninsured may be the only group that benefits which again is socialism renamed. Someone has to pay for it and it is a huge burden to taxpayers who then have to pay for their own healthcare costs in addition.
“It is important to look at how this program affects all citizens not just the ones who did not have coverage in the past--many of whom have always been eligible for medicade. [sic]”
“Bureaucracy is styfilling [sic] and expensive. Always has been--always will be.”
Okay, so there’s a lot to unpack here.
There has been a decrease in the number of companies willing to participate in the ACA, with those pulling out citing financial losses as the primary reason. But in at least one case, a federal judge found the insurance company in question, Aetna, was lying about their reasons for leaving the marketplace.
It’s true that many doctors are not in-network for ACA plans, which has frustrated consumers. But as far as the complexity of the paperwork, that may have more to do with the insurance companies themselves than the soundness of the ACA, as shown in this personal essay from a California doctor detailing how difficult the insurance companies made it for him to see ACA-insured patients.
Insurance companies lobbied aggressively to stop the ACA from becoming law, spending over $100 million in just 15 months leading up to the passage of the bill, and it stands to reason that they may have been trying to destroy it from the inside to lend legitimacy to the battle to dismantle it.
Premiums did increase with the ACA - but only for 3% of Americans. Most of the previously uninsured who gained insurance through the ACA did so through the massive expansion of Medicaid, to the tune of about 11 million people, which has been shown to benefit low-income populations and state economies.
Supporters of the ACA agree that it leaves a lot of room for improvement, but recent polls show that a majority of Americans are in favor of keeping the ACA in place.
00:12:16 Did the DNC purposefully hurt Bernie Sanders in order to guarantee a Clinton run for the Presidency? And did the DNC execute the same kind of bias against Hillary Clinton in 2008 to aid Barack Obama?
Thanks to Russian hackers, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shulz was revealed to have a clear bias against Bernie Sanders during the Democratic Primary, as evidenced in leaked emails.
There was a similar perceived bias in the 2008 Democratic Primary, this time in favor of Barack Obama, but it lacked the sensationalist scandal of leaked emails. The Democratic Party’s rules committee made a decision that damaged Hillary Clinton’s chances at winning that primary.
00:12:35 Why would Bernie supporters switch their support to Hillary?
Bernie Sanders officially endorsed Hillary Clinton in July 2016, and asked that his supporters do the same.
00:15:37 Does Donald Trump have a history of refusing to pay independent contractors who complete work for him?
There have been numerous allegations of contractors getting stiffed by Donald Trump after completing work for him.
00:15:42 What is “self-dealing” and did the Trump Foundation do it?
Federal law makes it illegal for leaders of non-profits to use their charitable funds to help themselves, their families, or their personal businesses in any way. The Trump Foundation admitted to self-dealing in its 2015 IRS filings.
00:16:40 Was any evidence of wrongdoing on Hillary Clinton’s part uncovered through the Benghazi and email investigations?
No charges were ever brought against Clinton, but it was clear she violated State Department regulations with her use of a private email server. It just wasn’t enough for the FBI to push for prosecution.
00:18:10 What is the Refugee Resettlement Program and it true that no one ever used it before the Syrian crisis?
The Office for Refugee Resettlement provides a history of our current refugee resettlement policy on their website. The first sentence gives me the feels, especially with what is currently going on with how refugees are being treated by our government:
“U.S. policy allows refugees of special humanitarian concern entrance into our country, reflecting our core values and our tradition of being a safe haven for the oppressed.”
This program started out as a reaction to our failure to help refugees fleeing Nazi Germany during World War II, and was later modified in 1980 in reaction to the fall-out of the Vietnam War.
The Obama administration pledged to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the US in the fiscal year beginning in September 2015. According to the Migration Policy Institute, the administration surpassed that goal, resettling a total of about 18,000 Syrian refugees between Oct. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2016. We accepted a total of about 85,000 refugees from all over the world in the fiscal year ending in September 2016.
00:18:21 Are refugees placed into tax-payer-funded settlements?
Ellen’s assertion that refugees are placed into “settlements” is inaccurate. In reality, they are placed in areas where housing costs are low and jobs are plentiful, and while they are given aid in finding housing and jobs, they are expected to become self-sufficient within a year. The United States does not maintain refugee camps.
00:19:20 Does the Detroit area have the largest concentration of Muslims in the US?
While I can’t find anything specifically stating that Detroit has the largest concentration of Muslims in the US, it is well known that the Detroit area (including nearby towns and cities) has a large Muslim population. Hamtramck, Michigan, has the designation of being the “first jurisdiction in the nation to elect a Muslim-majority council,” according to the Washington Post. The Post article does a good job of explaining the cultural clashes that have resulted from the influx of Muslim immigrants, and echoes what Ellen says while also presenting the other side of the story.
00:19:35 Is it true that our current refugee acceptance policy is based on what happened during World War II?
Yes. The moral failing on the part of the US in not accepting Jewish refugees from Germany prompted the creation of our refugee acceptance policy. Although, in the podcast, I say we turned “ships” around - in truth, it was one ship, the MS St. Louis, which carried about 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, They were turned away from Cuba, the United States, and Canada, before most of them were finally accepted in various European countries. It’s estimated that about a quarter of them ended up dying in concentration camps.
00:20:55 Is it true that “almost all terrorists are Muslims”?
This statement gets bandied about a lot. It’s just not true, at least not in the US and Europe.
Muslim-majority countries are a different story. In those countries, Muslims are more often both the perpetrators AND the victims of terror attacks.
00:21:12 Did the US turn away Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century because of trichinosis?
Well, it was an eye disease called trachoma, not trichinosis, but government historians say that was just an excuse to further buttress the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the late 19th century. According to the State Department’s history of the Acts, the legislation making it harder for Chinese immigrants to come to the US was heavily based on blatant racial discrimination.
00:21:41 What is Sharia law, anyway?
Sharia law is the system of rules that governs how Muslims practice their faith. While their are some violent passages, acting as if Sharia law is something that modern Muslims interpret literally is the same as expecting modern Christians to observe the draconian punishments listed in the Bible for minor offenses. Ellen seems to express a real fear of Sharia law especially in regards to the treatment of women, but there is no evidence of American Muslims putting Sharia law before the US Constitution, nor is their evidence to support the idea that the mainstream interpretation of Sharia law oppresses women. Only extremist groups who twist and barbarize their interpretation of Sharia law are able to make it so ugly.
Also, it’s relevant to this part of the conversation that there have been claims on the right that Dearborn, MI, actually implemented Sharia law - these claims have been proven false.
00:22:05 Did Germany’s open-door policy for refugees turn out badly for the country?
Not exactly. The most detailed analyses have shown positive short term and potential long term effects of allowing so many refugees to resettle in Germany. However, public sentiment regarding the policy is mixed, with many taking an anti-immigration stance and Angela Merkel’s approval ratings dropping because of the policy. Like any other political issue, this one is complex and nuanced. Personally, I applaud Germany for their willingness to accept asylum-seekers, and wish our current administration had the same attitude of magnanimity.
00:27:16 Is Sharia law “quietly practiced” in the city of Dearborn, Michigan?
No, no, and no. Again, this claim has been thoroughly debunked by multiple credible sources.
00:28:40 Would a “true, observant Muslim” want to impose Sharia law on the United States?
Not according to any of the research I’ve done. Ellen is conflating true Islam with the twisted, evil ideology of extremist terrorist groups like ISIS. They are not the same thing.
One heavily publicized (and deeply flawed) poll conducted by the Center for Security Policy, a right-wing think tank, claimed that a majority of Muslim Americans would prefer the US operate under Sharia law, but the poll results were easily debunked on closer analysis.
There have been many smear campaigns on the right directed toward the American Muslim community, and Islam in general. They are based on lies. American Muslims are a very small portion of the US population, are better educated on average than other Americans, and have frequently spoken out against terrorist violence.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has been working tirelessly to dispel the negative stereotypes surrounding Islam, and has launched multiple anti-terrorism campaigns as part of their efforts.
00:29:29 What is #BlackLivesMatter pushing for, anyway?
Want some background on #BlackLivesMatter, their organizers, and their goals? Check ‘em out here: www.blacklivesmatter.com.
From their ‘About’ section:
“We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people. As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.”
00:31:20 What did some black bloggers and activists have to say about the Women’s March?
Here’s the text of a Facebook post from author Luvvie Ajayi. It was shared almost 7,000 times.
“I was moved by the Women's Marches around the country (and world). And I was glad to hear that they were all ‘peaceful’ and there were no arrests.
“You know why there were no arrests? Because PR-wise, it was a march that would be attended by mostly white women. And in a world that doesn't protect women much, when it chooses to, it is white women it protects. If the marches were mostly Black and brown women, police would be emboldened to break them up, throw tear gas into the crowds, and be physical. How do we know? The BLM protests and marches, where the only things people had were their bodies and those were considered weapons. Ferguson. Baltimore. Chicago. Militarized police always showed up. LOOK AT STANDING ROCK.
“White women and white bodies can hold space on streets and shut down cities ‘peacefully’ because they are allowed to. Black and brown people who march are assaulted by cops, and in Trump's law and order administration, this will only get worse.
“Remember that you as a white person are walking in a body of privilege. You didn't show up before but you can show up now. NOW. When the next Sandra Bland, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Rekia Boyd, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner etc etc etc happens, you better come out. We will need you to show up again and again, in these numbers.”
00:31:38 How many people took part in the Women’s March on Washington?
The best estimates say there were at least 470,000 marchers in DC alone. When you count the sister Marches around the country and the globe, the number is around 4 million.
00:32:26 Show me this famous photo you mentioned of the unarmed black female protestor being charged by riot police!
This is the photo to which I’m referring. The woman’s name is Ieshia Evans, and she’s a 28-year-old nurse from Baton Rouge. The photo was taken on July 9, 2016.
00:32:43 Were the riots in Ferguson for “no reason”?
No. The riots were connected to mass outrage over a grand jury’s decision not to charge the officer who fatally shot unarmed teenager Michael Brown. There was looting and arson. Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. Demonstrations continued for days. After the court’s decision, the Department of Justice ordered Ferguson to reform its criminal justice system, and they were not nice about it. The result of the court case against the officer who shot Michael Brown is widely seen as a massive failure of the criminal justice system in this country.
00:32:46 Were there violent riots in Oakland, CA, after the 2016 election?
Yes. Oakland lost its damn mind after the election.
00:33:12 Have there been riots executed by predominantly white people over sporting events?
Yes. A sampler platter:
White communities in the US have a real double standard regarding riots executed by black people versus white people.
00:33:36 Does #BlackLivesMatter advocate for nonviolent, peaceful protests?
00:34:54 Is it true that riots are a new thing in the United States?
Not at all. Riots have been a constant in American society since the birth of our nation. Ellen has lived through some of the most intense riots of modern times, all sparked by massive social injustices, including the riots surrounding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Philadelphia, New York City, and Rochester, the White Night Riots, and the Rodney King riots. Her assertion that riots are a “new thing” displays a frightening - and common - lack of awareness of what’s been going on in this country for her entire life.
00:36:30 How many incidents have there been in the US of police shooting unarmed black people?
The LA Times compiled a list of fatal police shootings of unarmed black people as of July 2016, and the Washington Post put together a database of all police shootings searchable by year, race, gender, age, and whether or not the victim was armed.
The Chicago Tribune published an article showing that while more white people are shot by cops, black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed in such shootings.
00:36:46 Are police shootings and riots really a “vicious cycle”?
Many analyses and studies have found that racial bias in how police interact with communities is a real thing, and it’s not a response to civil unrest or even high crime in an area. Civil unrest, however, is sometimes a community’s response to real injustice in how they are treated by law enforcement.
00:40:15 What exactly was the Women’s March protesting?
This is the mission statement from the organizers of the Women’s March On Washington:
“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us - immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault - and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.
“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.
“We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.
“HEAR OUR VOICE.”
00:40:36 Is Donald Trump a misogynist?
You be the judge. Here’s a compilation of some of Trump’s most sexist public remarks over the decades.
00:40:40 What percentage of white women voted for Trump?
It was 53% of the white female vote.
00:41:41 Did Donald Trump use gendered language in attacking Hillary Clinton during his campaign?
The New York Times published a great piece on Trump’s gendered attacks on Clinton.
Here’s an opinion piece from Glamour magazine that voices my views on this pretty well.
And just because I love her and feel everyone should read her work, here’s a take on the deep misogyny that blanketed the entire 2016 election from Rebecca Solnit, one of my favorite feminist writers.
00:41:50 What happened with Donald Trump and Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado?
Watch Donald Trump discussing Alicia Machado’s weight in front of reporters.
Watch Alicia Machado speak up years later about how that experience made her feel, and the effects it had on her psychological and physiological health and well-being.
00:42:07 Did Donald Trump sexually harass female contestants on set for The Apprentice?
It certainly seems that way, based on interviews with former crew members, editors, and contestants. According to the Associated Press, Trump made lewd comments about women’s bodies and how they might perform in bed, sometimes behind their backs and sometimes to their faces.
Remember, this was in a work environment, in which contestants were expected to display their business acumen - not their cleavage. Needless to say, the male contestants were never told to wear skimpier outfits.
00:42:14 What did Donald Trump say about grabbing women by the pussy again?
In case you’ve been living under a rock and never got to see this gem, here’s the Pussygate video.
00:44:40 Did Barack Obama bring the nation’s economy out of the Great Recession, cut the unemployment rate in half, and get 20 to 30 million people on health insurance?
One of the key pieces of legislation that Obama introduced as President was the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was designed specifically to get our country out of the Great Recession of 2008, and prevent big banks from creating the conditions that led to the financial crisis again. Different analyses will tell you it wildly succeeded or spectacularly failed, but I like this more balanced one from the Guardian.
And here are some numbers showing what happened in our country during Obama’s presidency. My favorite highlights: the Recession ended, a bunch of people got health insurance for the first time (not the 20 or 30 million I said - the number was more like 16 million), and the unemployment rate did get cut in half. (Disclaimer: I am one of those liberals who has an eternal crush on Obama, so if you really didn’t like him as President, just look at the numbers and take everything I say with a grain of salt. The numbers don’t lie, though.)
00:49:17 Were there “massive protests” against Barack Obama after the 2008 election?
Well, to call them “massive” is really an overstatement, but there were protests. It’s a popular conservative claim that there were no protests against Obama when he was elected, but it’s just not true. The whole first year of Obama’s presidency was punctuated by Tea Party protests. Ellen is right that the protests against Obama were nowhere near as large and numerous as the ones against Trump.
00:54:14 Are most welfare recipients just taking advantage of the system, with no intention of getting off of government assistance?
Here, Ellen is playing into the myth of the Welfare Queen, which was put into the national spotlight by Ronald Reagan at campaign rallies in 1976 and 1980. The problem is, the Welfare Queen doesn’t really exist as any kind of widespread problem. I also really liked this myth-busting article about welfare and welfare recipients.
00:56:22 Is Medicare fraud a big problem?
Yes, Medicare fraud is big business for some people. We’re talking billions of dollars.
00:56:56 Does Michigan really use welfare money to help put middle- to upper-middle-class kids through college?
Yes. I heard this story on Reveal, an incredibly incisive investigative journalism podcast, which spent a whole episode on how welfare dollars are often used on programs that don’t benefit low-income people, including the one I mentioned, which gives grants to middle- and upper-middle-class college kids to help pay their tuition.
01:03:30 Is wearing the full veil controversial in Muslim communities?
Yes. I’ve collected a few resources I found helpful in understanding the symbolism of the hijab and the controversy surrounding it within the Muslim community. An essential point is that nowhere in the Quran is a headscarf mandated for women. The headscarf, the veil, all of it, is merely an interpretation of the Quran and other ancient texts, and one that has been hotly contested within the Muslim community. Many Muslims feel as negatively toward the headscarf as Ellen does. It is not actually a part of the religion, and whether or not to wear it should be the choice of the woman.
Here is a bite-sized history lesson on the veil in Islamic culture.
In this opinion article from the Washington Post, two Muslim women discuss common misunderstandings about the veil. This is a really good read. The article was written specifically to ask people of other religions not to wear the veil as a sign of solidarity with Muslims, because of how controversial it is within the Muslim community. And this isn’t the full veil, either; they are talking only about the headscarf.
If you really want to delve into how diverse the opinions are within the Muslim community on the veil, read this collection of opinions from real Muslim women from the NY Times.
Lastly, here’s a story from NPR’s All Things Considered exploring the role of the veil in Islam.
01:05:11 How oppressive to women is the Hasidic Jewish community?
For a glimpse into what life is like for women in the most extreme Hasidic Jewish communities, read this chilling depiction from writer Frimet Goldberger.
01:07:29 Is there pervasive anti-Muslim sentiment in the US that could be contributing to Muslim communities feeling unwelcome?
Anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States has been well-documented in this Gallup poll analysis, using data reported from 2007-2011. Although, there are signs from the most recent polls conducted by the Pew Research Center, that American views toward Muslims have been slowly improving.
01:11:18 What happened with the Achille Lauro?
In 1985, an Italian ocean liner called the Achille Lauro was hijacked by four men from the Palestine Liberation Front. They did indeed shoot an elderly man in a wheelchair and throw him overboard.
01:12:49 Is Islam a “religion of peace”?
No more than any other major world religion could be called such. This article from Slate does a beautiful job of explaining why Islam, like the other major religions, can neither be called inherently peaceful nor inherently violent. Here’s an excerpt:
“The reality is that Islam—like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and other major world religions—is neither inherently violent nor inherently peaceful. Like every other great religion, the history of Islam is darkened by periods of violent bloodletting. And the holy texts of all religions can be mined for quotes to legitimize terrorism—or indeed principled nonviolence.
“Thus ISIS and other extreme Islamist radicals have no difficulty finding justification in medieval Islamic texts for their ultra-violent ideology and barbaric practices. But these extreme interpretations have minimal support among Muslims around the world and tell us nothing about the propensity for violence in mainstream Islam.”
The article goes on to explain that murder kills far more people globally than political violence, so if one wants an accurate view of whether or not Islamic societies are more or less likely to be violent, one should look at the homicide rate. Spoiler alert: the homicide rate in Islamic societies is lower than the worldwide average, and much lower than the murder rate in the United States. Read the article, seriously. It’s too good to skip. Here’s one more snippet:
“The latest homicide statistics from the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime reveal that for every murder perpetrated in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, seven people are murdered in the United States. This reality should give American Islamophobes pause.”
Okay, last one, just because it’s so freaking important to understand this about ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East:
“In the radical Islamist conflicts that are tearing apart Syria, Iraq, and other parts of the region, the exclusionary politics, state repression, rights abuses, corruption, and incompetence of the regimes that the radicals have sought to overthrow provide more compelling insights into what drives the abhorrent violence of ISIS than does the extreme Islamist ideology that seeks to legitimize the killing.”
This article contradicts what I say in the podcast about Islam preaching peace, saying “Islam is not an inherently peaceful, either.” In response to that, I’d like to send you to this great blog post from the Muslim Times, about how the Quran teaches compassionate living above all else.
01:13:30 How extreme is our current refugee vetting process? And what about for regular immigrants?
It’s one of the most extreme and time-consuming vetting processes in the world. Here’s a detailed rundown of the current refugee vetting process in the United States.
For a more personal take on this, here’s a personal essay from a young man who actually went through the process himself in trying to escape with his family from the brutal Assad regime in Syria.
And for a personal take on the other side of the current vetting process, read this personal essay from a former US immigration officer.
This extreme vetting process applies only to refugees, not all immigrants coming to the United States. However, we aren’t exactly an easy country to get immigration status in, either. Here’s a summary of the other vetting processes already in place to protect the United States from potential terrorist threats.
01:14:31 Did the travel ban actually affect Nobel Laureates trying to enter the US?
Actually, no, I got my facts confused here. As far as I know, no current Nobel Laureates were stopped from entering the US during the travel ban’s brief time of enforcement before being stayed by the first of several federal judges. However, 51 Nobel Laureates signed a petition in protest of the ban, and many doctors, researchers, and scientists were directly affected by the ban.
01:15:45 Have their been “many elections” in which the winner of the Electoral College lost the popular vote?
No. This has only happened five times in American history - three of them were in the late 19th century, and the other two were in this one.
01:16:12 Is it illegal to call for electors to change their votes?
It is technically illegal for electors in thirty states to not vote the way they pledged to - to be what’s called a “faithless elector” - but most of those states impose no penalty for doing so. Here’s a great breakdown of state laws concerning faithless electors.
As far as whether or not it’s illegal to “influence” an elector, the only legislation I can find on that issue prohibits obvious things like bribery or using threats or force to intimidate any voter into changing their vote. Like, any voter in any election, not specifically the Electoral College voters. There’s nothing illegal about trying to persuade your state’s electors to vote their conscience.
There were reports, though, of electors getting besieged with threats of death and violence if they didn’t change their vote, and that is clearly illegal and something I think most Americans, including myself, would harshly condemn. It’s certainly not reflective of the the majority of liberal voters, in my experience, just as the toxic minds who call in death threats to liberal politicians and activists aren’t reflective of the majority of conservative voters. There just happen to be a few tragically damaged souls with telephones in every population.
01:16:22 Has the Electoral College been “working fine for 235 years”?
The National Archives show that 700 Constitutional amendments calling for reform or straight-up elimination of the Electoral College have been proposed in the last 200 years. The Electoral College has always been under the gun.
01:16:52 What is Republican gerrymandering?
Republican gerrymandering is a strategy used by Republican lawmakers to redistrict their voting constituencies in order to diminish the power of Democratic votes, giving the Republican party an advantage in elections. They do this by drawing the districts in strange, idiosyncratic ways that have the sole purpose of grouping as many liberal voters as possible into single districts, thereby diminishing their impact across an entire county, state, region, and even across the nation as a whole.
Here is a great explanation from the brilliant NPR podcast, Fresh Air, that explains Republican gerrymandering, and how it’s been an incredibly effective strategy to keep political power firmly in Republican hands.
01:18:38 Was the main purpose of the Electoral College to prevent the “coastal people from running the country”?
Actually, it was devised more as a compromise to appease the less populated Southern states, but the compromise violated human rights on multiple levels. In order to compete with the more populated North, the South struck a deal to allow them to count slaves in their total population, although one slave only counted as three-fifths of a person. And of course, slaves couldn’t vote, so this rationale was deeply unfair on every level. Also, back when the Electoral College was invented, women couldn’t vote. Neither could white men who didn’t own property. It was all kinds of fucked up.
Here’s another article that goes deep into how large a role slavery played in the origin story of the Electoral College.
Also, it seemed like the Founding Fathers were really uneasy with the idea of a direct democracy, fearing the masses could be too easily duped by ideological leaders who might lead them to enact legislation that infringed on the rights of others, which gave some credence to those who called for the Electors to change their votes in the 2016 election.
01:23:19 How many women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct or assault, and are any of their claims valid?
A lot of conservative sites make claims that the women who came forward about being groped, kissed without permission, or otherwise violated by Donald Trump were lying. I can’t find a single shred of credible evidence to support that, so I’m just going to send you to the NY Times article about Jessica Leeds and Rachel Crooks, as well as these comprehensive lists of all the women who have accused Trump of sexually violating them in myriad ways from Politico, NYMag, Huffington Post, and Mother Jones. If you want to say all of these women are lying to get attention, that’s your prerogative, but I don’t believe it. They have nothing to gain by lying. They are not suing him. They don’t particularly seem like people who are just seeking attention, or they wouldn’t have faded away from the spotlight so quickly. Victims of sexual assault are often shamed and discredited in this way, and I won’t link to sites that engage in that kind of anti-woman behavior.
01:23:24 Did Ivana Trump accuse Donald Trump of rape, and did she later come out in support of him?
Yes, Ivana Trump accused Donald Trump of rape in her divorce deposition. She goes into gruesome detail about the attack, saying how he ripped out chunks of her hair and forced himself on her. She said she spent the night crying in the bathroom, and when she emerged the next morning, he sneered at her and asked, “Does it hurt?” According to her, he was furious because a plastic surgeon she had recommended did a shoddy job on his scalp reduction surgery, which was supposed to remove a bald spot.
She later claimed the story was “without merit” - after walking away with $14,000,000 in the divorce settlement.
01:26:47 Do voter ID laws unfairly target minority and low-income communities who would be more likely to vote Democratic?
Here’s a great article from the Washington Post that analyzes how voter ID laws disproportionately target minorities, the poor, and the elderly.
01:28:18 What does the slogan “Vote Early and Vote Often” signify?
The phrase goes way back before the Chicago organized crime days, originating sometime in the mid-18th century. However, the slogan didn’t become part of the mainstream vernacular until the Chicago crime era.
The truth is that there is zero evidence of a rampant voter fraud issue in this country, which is what those restrictive voter ID laws in some (Republican-controlled) states are supposedly designed to prevent. Multiple studies have been carried out that all show that widespread voter fraud is not a thing.
There is no reason whatsoever to focus so heavily on something that is not a problem, which is why liberals speculate that the conservative obsession with this fictional problem of mass voter fraud has more to do with the fact that the poor minority communities their laws target would be more likely to vote Democratic. In other words, it’s political. There is no massive voter fraud problem in the United States, period.