Kiss leads to lawsuit

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In an Aug. 24, 2016 photo, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets supporters organizing voter registration and support for his campaign just before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla. A woman is alleging in a new lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, that Inside the RV seen here, Trump kissed a member of his campaign staff without consent. The woman, Alva Johnson, can be seen in the background of this photo wearing a Trump shirt and a hat on the left side of the frame.(Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

In an Aug. 24, 2016 photo, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets supporters organizing voter registration and support for his campaign just before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla. A woman is alleging in a new lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, that Inside the RV seen here, Trump kissed a member of his campaign staff without consent. The woman, Alva Johnson, can be seen in the background of this photo wearing a Trump shirt and a hat on the left side of the frame.(Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Ex-campaign worker for Trump sues over unwanted kiss claim


AP Legal Affairs Writer

Monday, February 25

MIAMI (AP) — A former worker on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign claims in a lawsuit filed Monday that he abruptly grabbed her by the hand and planted an unwanted kiss on her face during a Florida meeting with staff and volunteers.

Alva Johnson, who lives in the Huntsville, Alabama area, contends in the federal lawsuit that Trump made the non-consensual advance in August 2016 in Tampa, Florida. She says he “grasped her hand and did not let go” and kissed her on the corner of her mouth as she turned slightly away.

“The forced and unwanted kiss was deeply offensive to Ms. Johnson,” the lawsuit says, adding that she suffered “emotional distress, psychological trauma, humiliation, embarrassment, loss of dignity, invasion of privacy and other damages.”

The lawsuit, also reported earlier Monday by The Washington Post and The New Yorker, seeks unspecified money damages and an order preventing the president from “grabbing, kissing or otherwise assaulting or harassing women without prior express consent.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called Johnson’s allegations fabricated and said other people who were there say it did not take place.

“This accusation is absurd on its face. This never happened and is directly contradicted by multiple highly credible eye witness accounts,” Sanders said.

At the time, Johnson’s main job with the Trump campaign was to manage a fleet of recreational vehicles that served as traveling offices throughout Florida. According to the lawsuit, Trump visited one of these RVs in Tampa before a rally there when the unwanted kiss took place.

“He told her he knew she had been on the road for a long time and that she had been doing a great job. He also told Ms. Johnson that he would not forget about her, and that he was going to take care of her,” Johnson claims in the lawsuit.

Among those who allegedly witnessed the incident was Pam Bondi, at the time Florida’s attorney general and a Trump supporter. The lawsuit contends that Bondi “glanced at Ms. Johnson and smiled” after the alleged unwanted kiss.

Bondi did not immediately respond Monday to an email seeking comment.

Johnson’s lawsuit also recounts at least a dozen similar allegations made by women against Trump and notes that she realized she was not alone after the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape emerged in October 2016 in which Trump brags about groping and kissing women without asking permission. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

A Florida lawyer who she contacted not long after the incident, Adam Horowitz, said Monday that “she was definitely in distress and not just about her job.” She also told Horowitz she was seeing a therapist.

Horowitz said what they didn’t know at the time was that October 2016 was also the month Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal were being paid off through then-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to Cohen’s sworn statements. Horowitz ultimately did not take the Johnson case.

Johnson, who is African-American, also claims in the lawsuit that she was paid less than her Trump campaign counterparts because of her race and gender.

“The campaign knew that it was underpaying Ms. Johnson relative to her white counterparts,” the lawsuit claims.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany denied that claim.

“The Trump campaign has never discriminated based on race, ethnicity, gender, or any other basis. Any allegation suggesting otherwise is off base and unfounded.”

Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey in Washington and Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this story.

The Nation

Why Democrats Should Ignore the Chatter About Moving ‘Too Far Left’ and Go Big

Backlash is inevitable. So Democrats should be bold.

By Joshua Holland

The 2018 midterms brought an infusion of fresh blood, new ideas, and youthful energy into the Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill, and a number of lawmakers—notably those with presidential aspirations—are pushing ambitious, unapologetically progressive proposals to solve some very serious problems. The most prominent may be Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, but there several others: Senator Bernie Sanders’s proposal to significantly expand the inheritance tax; Senator Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax and universal-childcare plan; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bid to put predatory lenders out of business by empowering the Post Office to serve as a community bank; Senator Cory Booker’s proposal to use “Baby Bonds” to close the racial wealth gap and, of course, various versions of Medicare for All. And in the House, Democrats are championing a comprehensive proposal to advance key voting rights and curb the influence of deep-pocketed donors.

While it’s an exciting moment for progressives who have long urged Democrats to embrace these kinds of bold policy ideas, it’s also unleashed a predictable flood of hand-wringing from pundits, conservatives, and more moderate Democrats about whether the Dems are moving “too far to the left.” Rather than acknowledging that their own policy preferences hew to the center or the right, the story they tell is that Dems risk alienating college-educated suburban women or disenchanted Trump voters or some other group they ostensibly need to win over in 2020. We also hear endless concerns over the “price tag” for these kinds of policies—never mind that such questions don’t seem to come up when we’re talking about defense spending or high-end tax-cuts.

It’s a safe bet that these kinds of worries will be a staple of mainstream editorial pages and cable news panels for the foreseeable future. But we should really ignore them. Here’s why.

The first reason may seem depressing on its face, but could ultimately be liberating. There’s good evidence suggesting that voters punish the two major parties for enacting their agendas, and it doesn’t seem to matter that much what those agendas are. In other words, in this highly polarized environment, electoral backlash is inevitable, regardless of whether or not a party is seen as moderate or tries to “find common ground” with its political opponents. Negative partisanship is a powerful force.

The fight over the Affordable Care Act illustrates this perfectly. The ACA wasn’t, in fact, a scheme first championed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, but it did feature the same basic approach. In an effort to make the bill bipartisan, Barack Obama launched “endless efforts to cajole and encourage and beg and plead for Republican support,” as Paul Waldman wrote in The American Prospect in 2012, none which kept the GOP from calling it a “government takeover” of the health-care system that would leave millions of families in ruins and literally kill your grandmother.

In other words, Democrats can try to prevent backlash by compromising with the GOP, but they will probably find that it’s coming either way. Matt Grossman, director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University, looked at the electoral consequences of major legislation dating back to the early 1950s, and he made a compelling case that the kind of resistance Obamacare faced could have been anticipated. According to his research, when Democrats have passed significant laws, it’s consistently energized their opposition, and the same is true for Republicans: As we saw in November, when they enact their agenda, fired-up Dems come out and punish them at the polls.

In an article for FiveThirtyEight titled, “Voters Like A Political Party Until It Passes Laws,” Grossman wrote that while “it might not sound intuitive,…policy victories usually result in a mobilized opposition and electoral losses [as] voters usually punish rather than reward parties that move policy to achieve their goals.” It’s a dynamic that results from a two-party system in which “neither party seems capable of sustaining a public majority to carry out its governing vision to completion” because their congressional majorities are “simply too narrow and short-lived.”

When Republicans are in power, they tend to pursue a maximalist conservative agenda, even when public opinion isn’t with them. Last year’s tax scam was a good example. Many of us on the left attribute the GOP’s tendency to overreach to the fact that they know shifting demographics are not on their side, and they’re trying to lock in as many structural advantages as possible while they can. But perhaps they simply understand that electoral backlash is inevitable in a way that Democrats haven’t fully embraced.

If a backlash is inevitable, you might as well go big. But here’s an important caveat: Not all backlashes are created equal. Some dissipate relatively quickly. The Republican uprising over the Affordable Care Act came and went; the law became much more popular just a few years later when Republicans attacked it. That wasn’t the case with the backlash against California Republicans after then-Governor Pete Wilson ran a notably xenophobic campaign in 1994 and then pushed a series of measures that would bar undocumented immigrants from public education and health services. The party hasn’t recovered yet in the Golden State.

And there are also areas where pursuing a given policy is worth any painful electoral consequences that may follow. Climate change represents a policy area where we face something of a choice between taking sweeping and uncompromising action or facing potential catastrophe. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said after conservatives panned her arguably over-ambitious proposal to tackle the climate crisis, “We simply don’t have any other choice. If it’s radical to propose a solution on the scale of the problem, so be it.”

The other reason to ignore the hand-wringing over the Dems’ increasingly progressive agenda is that several studies have found that voters don’t punish presidential candidates, at least, for taking positions that the pundits view as “extreme.” Summarizing the data in The Washington Post, George Washington University political scientist John Sides wrote that the data show “there is scarcely any penalty for being extreme. To put it bluntly: Candidates may be extreme because they can get away with it.” (He added that while conventional wisdom holds that Barry Goldwater and George McGovern lost badly in 1964 and 1972, respectively, because they were outside the mainstream, “this had as much if not more to do with the fundamental conditions in the country, not with their own ideological positions.”)

Sides cautions that one shouldn’t conclude that “candidate policy views have no impact whatsoever,” but “it does mean that an American public that is not that ideological may not use ideology as a shortcut in voting for presidential candidates. And this in turn allows presidential candidates to have views well to the left or right of the average voter.”

Political scientists Christopher Achens and Larry Bartels have argued convincingly that most voters just don’t have a solid grasp of public policy and take their cues from politicians they admire and other influential voices. So there is a danger that the media’s relentless drumbeat about these proposals supposedly being outside the mainstream could convince voters that the criticism has merit.

That’s why we shouldn’t just ignore all the hand-wringing about Dems’ going too far. We need to push back against it aggressively before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Joshua Holland is a contributor to The Nation. He’s also the host of Politics and Reality Radio.

The Conversation

Robocalls are unstoppable – 3 questions answered about why your phone won’t quit ringing

February 26, 2019

Caller ID won’t always tell you it’s a robot doing the dialing.

Author: Raymond Huahong Tu, Assistant Clinical Professor in Machine Learning, Cybersecurity, and Computer Science, University of Maryland

Disclosure statement: Raymond Huahong Tu does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Editor’s note: When your phone rings, there’s about a 50 percent chance it’s a spam robocall. That’s not probability – it’s what the U.S. government agency regulating telecommunications says. U.S. mobile phone users received 48 billion robocalls in 2018 alone – more than 100 calls per line.

Raymond Huahong Tu, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland who has researched the technologies and practices of robocalling, explains more about these annoying parts of everyday life – and why they’re so hard to avoid.

1. Why does everyone get so many robocalls?

Advanced automatic dialing systems make it easier and cheaper for small operations to generate huge numbers of calls. Robocalling computer programs can dial many phone numbers at once, and play a prerecorded or computer-generated voice message to anyone who answers. A person running a robocall operation just has to set up the system and let it run. The program will call mobile phones, homes’ landlines, businesses and just about any other number – either randomly, or from massive databases compiled from automated web searches, leaked databases of personal information and marketing data.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve signed up with the federal Do Not Call Registry, though companies that call numbers on the list are supposed to be subject to large fines. The robocallers ignore the list, and evade penalties because they can mask the true origins of their calls. The autodialing programs encode Caller ID information that makes the robocall look like it’s from a local number, the Social Security Administration or even your employer’s head office. That means it’s harder to ignore the calls – and much more difficult to identify who’s actually calling.

The calls keep coming because robocallers make money. Partly that’s because their costs are low. Most phone calls are made and connected via the internet, so robocall companies can make tens of thousands, or even millions, of calls very cheaply. Many of the illegal robocalls targeting the U.S. most likely come from overseas – which used to be extremely expensive, but now is far cheaper.

Each call costs a fraction of a cent – and a successful robocall scam can net millions of dollars. That more than pays for all the calls people ignored or hung up on, and provides cash for the next round. Casting an enormous net at low cost lets these scammers find a few gullible victims who can fund the whole operation.

2. Why is it so easy to fake the Caller ID info?

The current Caller ID system relies on the phone – or computer system – placing the call to tell the truth about its own phone number. This is an artifact from the early 1990s, when Caller ID services began. At that time, the telephone network in the U.S., as in most countries around the world, was a closed system served only by a small number of trusted telephone companies like AT&T and MCI.

Today, of course, the phone system is open to the entire world, with thousands of companies offering telephone service over the internet. The international telecommunications standards, though, haven’t kept up and don’t yet offer a way to police a system in which mutual trust is not enough to guard against Caller ID abuse.

My own research has worked to develop a standard method of authenticating the Caller ID information. That system would let call recipients be more confident scammers weren’t disguising their phone numbers.

In the meantime, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has been asking U.S. phone companies to filter calls and police their own systems to keep out robocalls. It hasn’t worked, mainly because it’s too costly and technically difficult for phone companies to do that. It’s hard to detect fake Caller ID information, and wrongly blocking a legitimate call could cause them legal problems.

3. What can I do to stop getting robocalls?

The best approach is to protect your phone number the way you do your Social Security and credit card numbers. Don’t give your phone number to strangers, businesses or websites unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Of course, your phone number may already be widely known and available, either from telephone directories or websites, or just because you’ve had it for many years. In that case, you probably can’t stop getting robocalls. My advice for dealing with them is to stay vigilant. Don’t assume the Caller ID information that pops up for an incoming call is accurate.

You could, for instance, not answer the call and see if the person leaves a voicemail. Or you could ignore the call and dial the number it came from yourself – connecting you to the real person or organization the call pretended to come from. Lastly, if you do answer the phone, don’t assume the caller is telling the truth. Ask questions to help you determine that they’re legitimate – or not. And hang up if you have any doubt at all.


Give America’s ‘Helicopter Parents’ a Break

Hovering parents don’t need lectures. They need a more equal nation.

By Sam Pizzigati | February 26, 2019

A good many of us aging baby boomers are having trouble relating to the “helicopter parents” of our modern age — those moms and pops constantly hovering over their kids, filling their schedules with enrichment activities of every sort, worrying nonstop about their futures.

Back in the middle of the 20th century, baby boomers didn’t grow up like that. We lived much more “free-range” childhoods. We pedaled our bikes far from hearth and home. We organized our own pick-up games. We spent — wasted! — entire summers doing little bits of nothing.

We survived. So did our parents. So why do parents today have to hover so much?

The standard explanation: Times have changed. Yes, today’s parents take a more intense approach to parenting. But they have no choice. The pressures of modernity make them do it.

Economists Matthias Doepke of Northwestern University and Fabrizio Zilibotti of Yale have followed all the debate over helicopter parenting, and they’re not jumping on this blame-modernity bandwagon. If the pace and pressures of our dangerous digital times are driving parents to hover, the pair points out, then we ought to see parents helicoptering across the developed world.

We’re not.

In fact, researchers have found significant differences in parenting styles from one modern industrial nation to another. Parents in some nations today have parenting styles as relaxed as anything aging baby boomers experienced back in the 1950s. In other nations, by contrast, parents seem as intense as today’s helicoptering norm in the United States.

How can we account for these differences?

Doepke and Zilibotti have a compelling explanation. Levels of helicopter parenting, they note, track with levels of economic inequality. The wider a society’s income gaps, the more parents hover.

The two countries most notorious for their helicopter parenting, China and the United States, just happen to sport two of the world’s deepest economic divides. And those more relaxed parenting days of mid-20th century America? They came at a time when the United States shared income and wealth much more equally than the United States does today.

What’s going on here? Why should economic inequality have any impact on parenting styles?

In severely unequal nations, the evidence suggests, childhoods have become high-stakes competitions. Only the “winners” go on to enjoy comfortable lives when they grow up. You either make it into the ranks of your nation’s elite or you risk struggling on a treadmill that never ends.

In more equal societies, you don’t have to matriculate at the “best” schools or score a high-status internship to live a dignified life. In societies with income and wealth more evenly distributed, broad swatches of people — not just elites — live comfortably. That leaves parents, as Doepke puts it, “more room to relax and let the kids just enjoy themselves.”

Parents in highly unequal nations can’t afford to relax. They have too much to do. They have to shape their kids into winners. But the competition their children face will always be rigged, because the already affluent in deeply unequal societies have more time and money to invest in that shaping.

Researchers Doepke and Zilibotti call for greater public investments in social services — like quality child care — to narrow the competitive advantage that wealth bestows upon affluent American families.

The investments they recommend would certainly help ease the pressure on working households. Would they be enough to get our parents more relaxed? Not likely, not so long as rewards keep concentrating in the pockets of the few at the expense of the many.

Our helicopter parents, in short, don’t need fixing. Our economic system does.

Sam Pizzigati is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-editor, which ran an earlier version of this piece. His latest book is The Case for a Maximum Wage.

In an Aug. 24, 2016 photo, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets supporters organizing voter registration and support for his campaign just before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla. A woman is alleging in a new lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, that Inside the RV seen here, Trump kissed a member of his campaign staff without consent. The woman, Alva Johnson, can be seen in the background of this photo wearing a Trump shirt and a hat on the left side of the frame.(Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP) an Aug. 24, 2016 photo, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump meets supporters organizing voter registration and support for his campaign just before a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fla. A woman is alleging in a new lawsuit filed Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, that Inside the RV seen here, Trump kissed a member of his campaign staff without consent. The woman, Alva Johnson, can be seen in the background of this photo wearing a Trump shirt and a hat on the left side of the frame.(Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP)
News & Views

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