Trumps War on the Press Follows the Mussolini and Hitler Playbook

Beneath the madness and the lies of The Year of Trump there remains a constant drumbeat, unyielding and determined. It broke cover on Jan. 22, 2017 when Kellyanne Conway introduced the term alternative facts.

The abasement of language by Donald Trump and his assorted flacks began long before, but this concept was so naked, so novel and so unblinkingly forthright that it established the rules for the assault to come, just as the first salvo of an artillery barrage signals the creation of a new battlefield where there will be many casualties.

And lets face it, the English language has taken a real pounding since then. Lies have poured forth from the White House at an astonishing rate: The Washington Post estimated that in Trumps first 355 days he made more than 2,000 false or misleading claims, averaging five a day.

Trump has spent two years vilifying the dishonest media (including The Daily Beast), even invoking the Nazi chant of enemies of the people. Aided by the alt right zealots at Breitbart, he has successfully persuaded millions of Americans that The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and MSNBC are seditious forces bent on denigrating and destroying the man they elected.

It is dismaying that it was so easy for him to do this, dismaying that independent journalism of quality is so easily discredited and dismaying that none of this seems to trouble the Republican Party.

And lets be clear: The protection of independent journalism isnt something that a lot of politiciansor a good number of the populationreally care about. Yet, in the end, it has really been a strong year for journalism. In particular, two papers, The New York Times and Washington Post, have re-established themselves as bulwarks against abuses of power, as they were at the time of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.

Why have these two newspapers in particular once more demonstrated the best of American journalism? Its partly luck. The Post was basically saved by Jeff Bezos whose deep pockets have restored the resources of the newsroom. Under the editorship of Marty Baron they were positioned to seize the Trump moment and rediscovered the art of investigative reporting. Similarly the Times passed through a period in which it struggled to find a new business model for the digital age and eventually found it, enabling its Washington newsroom to become competitive again.

This underlines the fragile dependency of journalism on enlightened patronageon who owns a newspaper and particularly who owns the two papers that are regarded as national in prestige and potency together with the editorial independence and authority that that position requires. For all its fine reporting over the last year The Wall Street Journal does not have that kind of reputational backbone because it is owned by Rupert Murdoch, blatantly a Trump stooge.

But the battle is not yet won, and will not be without eternal vigilance. To realize the gravity of where we are now we need more context than is provided by recent history, we need to look at the history of Italy in the 1920s and Germany in the 1930s. In both nations tyrants arose who on the way to seizing power found it remarkably easy to denigrate and destroy independent journalism.

In Italy, Benito Mussolini came to power in October 1922. At the age of 39 he was the youngest ever prime minister, charismatic and full of energy. He was also careful to move slowly as, almost by stealth, he built a new illiberal state. In a country that for years had lacked unity he proposed a new focus for nationalism: himself. He was Italy. He described a parliament made impotent by its own factionalism a gathering of old fossils. Parliaments powers and the rights of a free press were stripped away.

The people, Mussolini said in July 1924, on the innumerable occasions when I have spoken with them close at hand have never asked me to free them from a tyranny which they do not feel because it does not exist. They have asked me for railways, houses, drains, bridges, water, light and roads. In that year the fascists won more than 65 percent of the vote in national elections.

Mussolinis absolute hold on power was made clear on Jan. 3, 1925, when he said: I and I alone assume the political, moral and historic responsibility for everything that has happened. Italy wants peace and quiet, work and calm. I will give these things with love if possible and with force if necessary.

As the editor, successively, of two newspapers in Milan and with a talent for populist polemic Mussolini had skillfully used the press for his own ends. Now he made sure nobody else would follow his example. Within a few years most of Italys newspapers were suppressed or put under party control. Some smaller newspapers claiming to be independent were still tolerated to give the appearance of freedom of opinion but they were a fig leaf to cover the end of press freedom. Without any effective challenge Mussolinis megalomania flourished. The crowds who gathered for his speeches cried Duce, Duce, Duce! We are yours to the end.

None of the ministers, officials and party secretaries around him were safe from his caprice. He was always right and anyone who contradicted him was fired. Mussolini was, simultaneously, prime minister, foreign minister, minister of the interior, commander in chief of the militia, and minister for the whole military, army, navy, and air force.

Some smaller newspapers claiming to be independent were still tolerated to give the appearance of freedom of opinion but they were a fig leaf to cover the end of press freedom.

These flagrant excesses of the founder of European fascism were later to seem buffoonish against the cold-blooded terror machine that Adolf Hitler built, just as rapidly, in Germany. But there was nothing comical about the 1920s for Italians: they had succumbed very readily to a maniac, and a maniac who understood that the state should control all propaganda (which is, after all, an Italian word) down to details such as decreeing that the national tennis team should wear black shirts.

In Germany the man who would go down in history as the evil genius of alternative facts, Joseph Goebbels, was appointed Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda on March 14, 1933little more than a month after Hitler came to power in Berlin.

Goebbels said he wanted a ministry that was National Socialist [Nazi] by birth.

To staff it he was smart enough to tap into one of the most corrosive influences on the national mood at the time: a grudge, widely held, that Germanys descent into economic chaos had left many of the countrys best educated young people out of well-paid government jobs. From this group Goebbels recruited party zealots who were notably younger and smarter than other Nazi officialshe specified that he wanted those who displayed ardor, enthusiasm, untarnished idealism. (Watching the instant classic encounter between CNNs Jake Tapper and Trumps senior adviser for policy, Stephen Miller, suggests that Miller would have been a perfect recruit.)

Goebbels priority was to exert immediate control of the pressthe press, he instructed his staff, had to be a piano, so to speak, in the hands of the government. Germanys newspapers had been messengers of decay that were harmful to the beliefs, customs and national pride of good Germans.

Within a year all of Goebbels goals were achieved. Three previously independent news services were merged into one state-directed national news agency, the German News Service. All journalism was subjected to the policy of Gleichschaltungmeaning that they had to toe the party line on all issues.

A piano, so to speak, in the hands of the government.
Joseph Gobbels on the press

Previously newspaper publishers had been the legal entity responsible for everything that was published. Goebbels issued the Editor Statute that made editors equally accountable and any editor who resisted Gleichschaltung could be removed and, if particularly recalcitrant, would be sent to a concentration camp.

However, as had Mussolini, Goebbels recognized that the German press should be left with a fig leaf of apparent independence. One great liberal newspaper that happened to have an international following, the Frankfurter Zeitung, was allowed to remain publishing until 1943. Its editors grew expert at a kind of coded reporting with a semblance of neutrality that allowed experienced readers to sense what was really going on.

Two new and growingly important news outlets, radio and cinema newsreels, were put totally under Goebbels control: We make no bones about it, he said, the radio belongs to us, to no one else! And we will place the radio at the service of our idea, and no other idea shall be expressed through it.

The collapse of media independence was rapid and complete. But, as with all historical comparisons, this one can be pushed either too far or too little. Plainly America in 2018 is not the Europe of the 1930s and liberal paranoia in itself is not a sound basis for assessing just how dangerous an assault on journalism may turn out to be.

In 1933 Hitler was at the threshold of creating the instruments of a terror state. We are nowhere near that point. But what is striking now is how friendless the press was. Nobody fought the Goebbels takeover. Mussolini had identified and seized the same opportunity, finding it easy to issue edicts that closed down critical newspapers on the grounds of sedition.

This might seem astonishing in a country like Germany that had one of Europes most deeply rooted intelligentsias. But the universities were quiescent, the bourgeoisie, the aristocracy and the barons of industry were all tired of the Weimar Republics violent polarization between the fascists and the communists and for them press freedom was secondary to personal interests like jobs and, for the industrialists, to the fortunes to be made from re-armament.

Of course Trump has little if any grasp of European history and probably only the vaguest idea of who Goebbels was but his use of tweets reflects one of Goebbels basic tenets about propaganda: Berlin needs sensations as a fish needs water. Any political propaganda that fails to recognize that will miss its target.

So it happens that when it comes to news management Trump has pulled off something that Goebbels would applaud. He has made himself the Great Dictator of the news cycle. To do this he didnt need to knowingly emulate anyone in the propaganda arts because he is directed by his two dominant personal traits: narcissism and paranoia.

Almost every event is refracted through his own response to it, its media lifespan no longer than can be held in his own gnat-like attention span. His tweets are so bizarre, unhinged and frequent that they effectively confuse and distract much of the competing daily coverage. What seems aberrant at 6 p.m. suddenly seems the new normal by 7 p.m. (As Ron Rosenbaum powerfully demonstrates writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, getting people to readily accept the aberrant as normal was one of Hitlers most effective early tactics.)

He has made himself the Great Dictator of the news cycle. To do this he didnt need to knowingly emulate anyone in the propaganda arts because he is directed by his two dominant personal traits: narcissism and paranoia.

And when Trump faces a news narrative that he cant derail, like the Mueller investigation, he sees it as a violation of his own powers, as he imagines them to be rather than as they really exist under the constitution.

Mussolini, very early in his rule, did the same thing, equating himself with the nation and regarding any insult to him as an insult to Italy. In Trumps mind it his base that exclusively represents the nationa belief constantly reinforced by Fox News for whom that base is a ratings gold mine. Trump and his lackeys on Fox have succeeded in equating respect for the kind of truth-telling that is built on learning and the ability to marshal facts with a simple demographic: its the exclusive province of metropolitan elites.

This tactic is based, at least in part, on a condition described by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist. He calls it cognitive ease in which humans tend to avoid facts that are uncomfortable or require work to understand.

Goebbels understood that the reinforcement of prejudice was an intoxicating weapon of propaganda. Fed the right message, aggrieved and resentful minorities could be made to coalesce into a critical mass of activists. The Trump base has been built on this principle, and feels grateful to be led by such a man with whom they readily identify, even though his real interests (personal enrichment) are the opposite of theirs.

But perhaps the weirdest side of Trumps perception of his role and office is that in his mind his fate and that of the mainstream media are locked together in a life or death embrace. This is new. No demagogue in recent history has seen the effectiveness of his role being interdependent with a force that for most of the time he purports to despise.

Consider how he framed this belief when Michael Schmidt of The New York Times recorded one of the most bizarre interviews with him in the Grill Room of his West Palm Beach golf club during the holidays:

Were going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and were being respected again. But another reason that Im going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if Im not there because without me their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually probably six months before the election theyll be loving me because theyre saying, Please, please, dont lose Donald Trump.

Most of the rest of that interview was delusional drivel that provided an alarming insight into his mental processesin fact, it served as a kind of impromptu warm-up for the revelations of Michael Wolffs book, a kind of journalistic bomb cyclone.

What Wolff delivered between the covers of a book was an explosive concentration of reporting that isnt achievable through the daily news cycle. His method is really no different than that used by Bob Woodward in his books, notably on the origins of the Iraq war, where whole scenes are reconstructed with dialog without attribution, but carry the ring of authenticity. The difference in public impact is that Woodward was reporting after the event whereas Wolff delivers as, so to speak, the crime is still in progress.

Some sniffy journalists, David Brooks surprisingly among them, have complained that Wolff doesnt operate according to their understanding of journalistic standards. Well, for one thing he doesnt have the resources of a paper to support him. And he also demonstrates another vital point about the scope of journalism: sometimes the force of one is equal to the force of hundreds. At this moment we need both kinds of consequential reporting, the collective effort of a newsroom and the disruptive brilliance of the loner.

Calling out the lies hasnt stopped Trump. His motives may differ from those of Mussolini and Hitler. Hes not ideological. In his case autocratic instincts come as a psychological motor in the pursuit of greed and the protection of his unbridled and ludicrous ego. The lack of ideology doesnt make him any less dangerous, though.

Trump has no time for scruples. With his lawyers unable to kill Wolffs book (can book burning be far off in his mind?) he once again threatened to ramp up the libel laws to prevent the defamation of people like him. Hes trying to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner in the hope that Time Warner will be forced to divest itself of his bte noir, CNN, hoping that someone more sympathetic to him will take it over, although Rupert Murdoch, the obvious candidate, says hes not interested, and he has been clearly looking for ways to punish Jeff Bezos for his re-arming of The Washington Post in changes to the tax code that would hit Amazon.

No demagogue in recent history has seen the effectiveness of his role being interdependent with a force that for most of the time he purports to despise.

All this should be very alarming, but Trump is operating in a worryingly permissive arena. There isnt, it seems, a stable public standard of truth in todays America. This is a culture where scientific truths are dismissed if inconvenient and ignorance is nourished. (Forty-three percent of Republicans believe that climate change is not happening.) One of the foundations of secular Western polities is that truth can be sustained only by honesty in language, that language must be used to interrogate information critically, no matter what its source.

In this struggle journalism is our last dependable line of defense. Its no exaggeration to say that the health, security, and integrity of the republic is at stake. History is an unforgiving judge and, just as the history of Europe in the 1920s and 30s reveals shameful failures in democratic institutions Americas current crisis will be judged by how effectively, or otherwise, the institutions designed to protect democracy worked.

No institution can achieve this without being able to operate on a generally agreed foundation of facts, of which the single most consequential fact is that the president is patently unfit for office. The second is that he is being kept in office by the obsequious Republican leadership who remain supine even after the outrage of the shithole outburst.

Principal among these are toadies like Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who, rather than pursue the investigation of Trump would rather pursue the whistleblower, the British former spy Christopher Steele. Other Republicans are calling for Muellers investigation to be purgedusing a term that Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin all employed to protect themselves. Then there is Ayn Rands posthumous wrecking ball, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who delivered a groveling encomium when Trump signed the so-called tax reform bill, thanking him for exquisite presidential leadership.

There is a word for people like these. Its a word that needs to be revived from earlier use: Quisling. It was first used as a general pejorative early in 1933 as Hitler came to power, identifying a Norwegian fascist named Vidkun Quisling who modeled his party on the Nazis and, when the Nazis invaded Norway in 1940, urged collaboration with them.

As is so often the case it was Winston Churchill who gave it a permanent meaning when, in 1941, he said: A vile race of Quislingsto use a new word which will carry the scorn of mankind down the centuriesis hired to fawn upon the conqueror, to collaborate in his designs and to enforce his rule upon their fellow countrymen while groveling low themselves.

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Psychiatrist who briefed Dems on Trump afraid restraining the president might look like a coup

While it seems like everyone in America is reading Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” an article in Vox is getting some attention as well. As Twitchy reported, a Yale psychiatry professor and editor of the book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” in December briefed some Democrats in Congress on the president’s mental state despite having not evaluated him in person. That psychiatrist, Bandy X. Lee, was interviewed by Vox, and her answers, published Saturday, tell quite a bit about the person calling Trump dangerous and mentally unfit to serve. For example, Lee, “who has devoted her 20-year career to studying, predicting, and preventing violence,” blames Trump for an increase in gun violence and claims his decision to locate America’s embassy in Jerusalem is “poking a beehive” in the Middle East. But it’s nothing partisan, OK?

Byron York highlighted a passage in which Lee says physically restraining the president and evaluating him “will really look like a coup, and while we are trying to prevent violence, we don’t wish to incite it through, say, an insurrection.”

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So, about that senator’s meeting with a psychiatry professor about Trump’s mental fitness

As Twitchy reported earlier this week, President Trump’s tweet about the nuclear button on his desk sent the media scrambling to fill the week with hot takes on Trump’s mental fitness, with CNN leading the way.

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Trump mounts extraordinary defence of his ‘mental stability’

President boasts of being a very stable genius and calls Michael Wolff a fraud but author says his explosive book will finally end this presidency

In an extraordinary public defence of his own mental stability, Donald Trump issued a volley of tweets that seemed guaranteed to add fuel to a raging political fire.

Suggestions in a new tell-all book that he was mentally unfit to be president were out of the old Ronald Reagan playbook, Trump wrote on Saturday.

Actually, the president added, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.

He also said he would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!

The book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, burst into the public consciousness on Wednesday, when the Guardian reported excerpts nearly a week ahead of publication. Trump threatened to sue but succeeded only in prompting the publisher Henry Holt to bring the book forward.

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Fire and Fury: Key explosive quotes from the new Trump book – video

Wolff presents a picture of a doomed administration lurching from crisis to crisis, steered by a childlike figure who responds to overstimulation with intense, reflexive outbursts.

The president may not be able to restrain himself from commenting but I can restrain myself from commenting on his comments, Wolff told the Guardian on Saturday.

At a lunchtime press conference at Camp David, the president was asked why he tweeted. In a characteristically freewheeling answer, he said: Only because I went to the best colleges or college. I went to I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people.

Went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success as you probably have heard. Ran for president one time and won.

In fact, in 1999 Trump mounted a first run for the White House when he sought the nomination of the Reform party.

The president continued, referring to Wolff: And then I hear this guy that does not know me doesnt know me at all by the way did not interview me for three he said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House it didnt exist, OK? Its in his imagination.

Trump called Wolff a fraud and his book a work of fiction and complained about US libel laws, which he has threatened to change.

The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, told a White House pool reporter the president tweeted to get around the filter of the media. Trump had not at all seemed angry on Friday night or Saturday, Kelly said, adding that the president had watched the Hugh Jackman movie The Greatest Showman about the hoaxer and politician PT Barnum with lawmakers and others.

Before Trumps tweets, Wolff spoke to the BBC. He said: I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear emperor has no clothes effect.

Suddenly everywhere people are going: Oh my God, its true, he has no clothes. Thats the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end this presidency.

The 25th amendment of the US constitution provides for the removal of a president if a majority of the cabinet and the vice-president agree. In Wolffs book, the then White House strategist Steve Bannon refers to Vice-President Mike Pence as our fallback guy. Pence stood to Trumps right at Camp David, his gaze rarely leaving the president.

Bandy Lee, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, briefed a dozen members of Congress last month on Trumps behaviour. At the end of a week that began with Trump taunting North Korea over the size of his nuclear button, Lee told the Guardian the danger has become imminent.

Fifty-seven House Democrats have signed on to a bill to establish an oversight commission to determine if a president is mentally and physically fit.

We need this legislation quite apart from the Trump administration, Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and the author of the bill, told the Guardian.

The 25th amendment was framed during the nuclear age the nuclear arsenal being a vast destructive power that is vested, as the president reminded us this week, in one person who views himself as having the power to press a button. We certainly dont want someone in that position who lacks the power of empathy.

The rising tide of questions around the presidents mental health reflects a lot of anxiety unleashed by the presidents nuclear taunts lodged at North Korea.

A queue for Fire and Fury at Kramerbooks, in Washington. Photograph: Guardian

The White House has forcefully criticised Wolff, who has said he stands by his work, which included more than 200 interviews and extensive access to the West Wing and key administration figures.

At Camp David, Trump referred to Bannon derisively as Sloppy Steve. The former Trump campaign chief has avoided extensive comment, though in the aftermath of the Guardian story he called Trump a great man.

Trumps reference to the Ronald Reagan playbook was a curious one. Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimers, a degenerative brain disease, in 1994, five years after leaving office.

The extent to which he suffered during his time in the White House remains a matter of contention. Reagan, like Trump in his 70s when in office, long faced questions over his mental state. Opponents pointed to his habit of forgetting names and making contradictory statements.

In the Hollywood Reporter this week, Wolff wrote of Trump: Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of his repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes hed repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions he just couldnt stop saying something.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has said Trump will undergo his annual physical examination on Friday 12 January. The results are due to be made public.

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Heather Heyer’s Mom: I Have To Hide Her Grave From The Nazis

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VirginiaHeather Heyers ashes are interred in a safe place, says her mother Susan Bro, at an unmarked, undisclosed, completely protected location.

This site cannot be publicly known because of all those extremists who profess their hatred for Heyer and Bro, and who convey their continued threats of violence toward Bro and others of Heyers family. The location is also secret to protect those who work there, says Bro.

She visits Heyer there in peace, and other members of the family and close friends have been to the location, or will be told in time where the place is and taken there.

Its a symptom of hate in society that you should have to protect your childs grave, for Petes sake, says Bro. So, Im protecting my child now.

As she tells me this, what sounds like the wheezing of a dying animal fills the small room we are in. Bro laughs at how horrific the computer hard drive sounds, especially as we are talking about the death of her daughter at the same time as the machines mortal gurgling continues. Every time I think I turn it off, the computer seems to turn itself on again and the guttural howling begins anew.

Shes here, Heathers here, Bro says, smiling, of the machine in the side office of the Miller Law Group, where Heyer worked as a paralegal, aiding people facing bankruptcy. Heyer, 32, was killed after being struck by a car while protesting against white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12. Many other counterprotesters alongside her were injured.

President Trump blamed many sides for the Charlottesville violence, and said there very fine people on both of those sides. After seeing these remarks, Bro would not take his calls.

Today, Bro will speak in detail about what she sees as Trumps encouragement of white supremacy, about her daughters alleged killer who she will face for the first time in court Thursday, of seeing her daughters body for the final time, and of cradling her asheswhich reminded her, piercingly, of cradling Heyer as a baby.

Bro will also speak of not living in fear of those who threaten her, and of her heartfelt commitment to consolidating a legacy of social justice in her daughters memory. Her plain-spoken warmth and fierce eloquence have impressed many.

When I ask if she holds President Trump in any way responsible for her daughters death, Bro says: Im starting to come to that conclusion because he definitely pushes forward a hateful agenda. There are family members that will possibly not have anything to do with me for saying so. Many family members are strong Trump supporters, and continue to be so despite everything they see.

At Miller Law, Heyers desk is occupied by another person now. Her boss and mentor Alfred Wilson admonishes himself when he picks up the phone to ask his trusted assistant something, and says Heather, rather than Amy.

Justin Marks, one of Heathers best friends, still sits opposite her desk. Her friend Courtney Commander, who was with Heyer protesting on Aug. 12, works at the firm. Her death made international news, and transformed Heyer into a civil-rights icon.

Here, in a modest office in a nondescript building outside Charlottesville, daily life carries on, and yet sometimes, Wilson tells me, its like a beat goes missing and Heathers loss, her absence, is all too apparent and raw. On Heyers old desk is a pencil and pen holder, a computer with two screens, and above her leather chair on the wall two professional certificates, one recognizing Heyers outstanding service, performance and dedication awarded to her just three months before her death.

At Miller Law, Bro, 61, has an office out of which she runs the nascent Heather Heyer Foundation, set up to support the next generation of social-justice leaders. Bro runs it with three volunteers. As long as Im doing something proactive, I can control the feelings, the emotions, a little better, Bro says, as the computers death-rattle wheezes on.

On a cold December night, there is a small puddle of flowers where Heyer was killed on Charlottesvilles Fourth Street on Aug. 12. On the brick buildings on either side of the street, graffiti is written in love and pride to her memory: No More Hate, Gone But Not Forgotten, Love, and Heather written in curled lettering, a chalk image of flowers above the real ones.

On television, when the video of James Alex Fields Jr.s Dodge Challenger driving into the anti-Nazi and anti-white supremacist protestersthat included Heyerwas replayed over and over again, the street in Charlottesville may have looked large to viewers.

In reality, it is not much more than an alley off the citys main shopping drag, the Downtown Mall. (A car speeding at a group of people in such a small space immediately made this reporter think of a bowling ball launched at a tightly packed group of pins.)

This stretch of Fourth Street, between Market and Water Streets where Fields drove his car, will reportedly be renamed Heather Heyer Way.

A preliminary hearing for Fields, 20, is scheduled to be held Thursday, at Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse. Fields is charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, three counts of aggravated malicious wounding, two charges of felonious assault and failure to stop that led to death. (Crowds are expected to gather at court; nearby streets will be closed off.)

Heyer was among a crowd of protesters who were demonstrating against the white supremacists, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, Klansmen, neo-Nazis and various militias who had descended on Charlottesville for a Unite the Right rally, organized by Charlottesville resident Jason Kessler. (On Monday, Charlottesville denied Kesslers application to hold an anniversary rally there. The proposed demonstration or special event will present a danger to public safety, the city wrote to Kessler.)

Nineteen people were injured by Fields car. He had traveled from Ohio to attend Kesslers rally, which had been organized to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from Charlottesvilles Emancipation Park, a few minutes walk away from where Heyer died and where there had been disturbances earlier that day.

A short walk from Lees statue is a statue of Gen. Thomas Stonewall Jackson in Justice Park. Both are now covered in black tarp, invisible but still present. At night they loom like giant phantoms.

The statue of Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia, where far-right protesters had gathered holding flaming tiki torches on Friday, Aug. 11, remains uncovered, a lone security guard keeping watch nearby.

Around 30 University of Virginia students had stood around the statues base as the mainly white marchers, dressed in khakis and polo shirts, had shouted such slogans as Blood and soil! You will not replace us! and Jews will not replace us!

Bro won plaudits for speaking so powerfully at her daughters memorial service held at Charlottesvilles Paramount Theater, delivering an impressive, moving, and fully rounded vision of her daughters life, where she also stated: They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what, you just magnified her.

I know that for whatever reason we were woefully unprepared and woefully unprotected for what ensued.

An independent report on the Charlottesville violence and police response to it, published this month, sharply criticized both the local law enforcement and local authorities.

Bro echoes the findings. I know that for whatever reason we were woefully unprepared and woefully unprotected for what ensued, she tells The Daily Beast. We need to look to cities like Boston and San Francisco to see how they prepare for when these hate groups come to town.

I ask if Bro holds the police and authorities responsible for Heyers death. Well, things could have turned out differently had they responded differently. Its not for me to figure out the whys and wherefores. But we know, according to the report, that all they put there was a school resource officer who definitely had a reason to fear for her safety. She wasnt given protection. And then to simply leave one sawhorse to stop traffic

He was not under any attack until he drove into the crowd. Then he was having people beat on his car because he was killing people and injuring people.

Does Bro hold Fields responsible for Heyers death?

Absolutely. Nobody made him do anything. I know he claims he felt threatened. The only time people were attacking his car was when he drove into a crowd, and people were attacking his car because he was driving over top of them. He was not under any attack until he drove into the crowd. Then he was having people beat on his car because he was killing people and injuring people.

It was a pretty stupid move. Hes old enough to know better. My husband Kim looked at what he did, and said it reminded him of a video game, except in one of those you drive through people, and bodies fly everywhere with no consequence. I dont know the kid, Ive never met him. The first time I will see him will be in court this week. I will be going.

Initially when her daughter died, Bro flinched at looking at anything related to it, all videos and photographs, until she got through the initial horror.

Then I thought, I have to know what is going on here. Part of making myself tougher and stronger and fixing my purpose and not turning away from it is partly as a response to the bullies who would love to me see cry and in pain.

I would like to say no other mother has to have her child die for social justice, but I know thats not happening, so I will do my part.

She will see Fields in court today, because I feel this is part of what I owe my child. It behooves me to be strong. It also renews my sense of purpose about why I am doing what I am doing. I would like to say no other mother has to have her child die for social justice, but I know thats not happening, so I will do my part.

The part of Fourth Street where Fields struck the protesters is small. Its an alley, not a road. Bro drove a lawyer past it recently. I was trying to explain to her whether he could see people or not, you could absolutely see the end of the street. There is no reason to gun it except for the sole intention of killing. There was no mistaking the fact he was driving into a crowd.

What would she ask Fields if she could?

What the hell were you thinking? What did you think was going to be outcome of this?

Fields has not been in touch. Bro is sure his lawyer would not want him to be.

Beyond Fields, I ask Bro if she believes white supremacy and hate killed Heyer that day?

Oh, of course. Of course. I mean she knew that was a possibility, but no one thinks they will be killed for standing up for their beliefs. She didnt go there to be a martyr. This is part of my frustration with people, who either make her out to be a martyr in that she went there to die, or that she was a saint and angel and godly person.

Bro claps her hands as she says the following words, slowly and loudly for emphasis: Heather was a normal 32-year-old girl.

I choose not to poke the bear in power, but Im definitely not happy with how he has chosen to drive forward with white supremacy and neo-Nazis.

Bro still does not want to speak to President Trump.

He responds off the cuff. He doesnt bother to think before speaks, or very calculatedly is trying to manipulate all of us. Im not sure which. I can grant there was a lot of violence on both sides, but to say there were good people on both sidesthats where I draw the line.

You cant say there were good people coming into town with their fists taped prepared to draw blood and do harm. Thats not good people. Nazis: bad people. White supremacists: bad people. And I dont see that you can call it any other way. If you choose to align yourself with those people, and you choose to call them good, then youve told me what sort of person you are. So now I have your number and now I know how I choose to respond to you. And in his case, that means: Im not responding to you, you dont get my time of day.

When you continue to misspeak, and continue to misspeak, until there are falsehoods and false stories, and make thoughtless remarks, that to me looks like a planned, intentional hurt.

A number of frantic phone calls came from the White House when she was at her daughters funeral. When she caught up with the news after Heyers funeral, she saw the controversy swirling around the presidents remarks.

I thought, Well, screw him, Im not dealing with this. Im not talking to him. I have no need to go through this charade of pretending to be nice and happy.

He is the president of the United States. That carries a certain weight and power with it. I choose not to poke the bear in power, but Im definitely not happy with how he has chosen to drive forward with white supremacy and neo-Nazis. When someone misspeaks a time or two, its one thing, but when you continue to misspeak and continue to misspeak until there are falsehoods and false stories, and make thoughtless remarks, that to me looks like a planned, intentional hurt. So, my respect definitely dims somewhat, shall we say.

I ask if Bro thinks Trump has aligned himself with white supremacy.

Well, his actions speak louder than his words. Look at the way he acted towards protesters at his rallies. He has definitely encouraged violence and hatred, and has made fun of people for race or disability, and then always tries to act like Oh, I didnt say anything. As a teacher, I can tell you that the child in the classroom who continually tries to act out like that and says, Oh, I didnt say or do anything, we held them responsible for their actions. I am seeing an upswell of those who are going to continue to hold this president responsible for his actions.

Think before you speak and speak only the truth please.

Heyer had quit speaking to a few of those family members before she died; Bro had negotiated a truce between her daughter and other Trump-supporting family members; others she left alone because the relationship wasnt strong in the first place.

Today, if she could address Trump directly, Bro would say: Think before you speak and speak only the truth, please.

He disrespects everybody, Heathers not special in that regard, Bro says of the president. He disrespects Native Americans, black people, history, everything. He has no respect for anybody. Having seen him pre- and since the election, its not surprising. He has never changed who he was. This man is not about respect. He never was, he never will be. Its who he is.

The last in-person conversation mother and daughter had was at a buffet restaurant where they talked politics, office, love life, recalls Bro. Mostly with Heather you got a word in sideways. After dinner, Kim went to the car to play video games: He knew Heather would talk for a while. Since the election, Heyers politics and commentary on Facebook had become more concentrated. She was a fervent opponent of any kind of bigotry, most recently challenging the proponents of a local anti-Muslim campaign.

On the day of her death, out on the Charlottesville streets, Heyer had calmly asked a female supporter of white supremacy why she was aligning herself with their politics.

Mother and daughters last actual conversation was by Messenger. Bro scrolls through her phone to find it, noting that so many people claim to be Heyer now.

Hey, you were you born in 56, and whats your social. Im setting up an IRA with work and I have to name a beneficiary, Heyer messaged her mom, who passed along her information as requested.

But stay alive, Bro added.

Heyer replied, lolol, Ill try thanks.

Id rather have you than the money, her mother replied.

Then she said lol, and we sent the love emoticon to each other, Bro says quietly.

And that was the last conversation I had with my kid.

Her voice cracks.

That was on August 3rd. You never think thats going to be the last time you talk to your child.

It was good that Heyer was getting her financial affairs in order, says Bro, even if it was all in process at the time of her death. Wilson was working with Heyer on plans to safeguard her income and have her invest in property.

The detective just said something to the effect of Your daughter was pronounced dead at such and such a time, and I remember putting my head down and wailing.

That Saturday morning, Bro didnt know Heyer was at the counter-demonstration. She had heard of the unrest in town without realizing Heyer was caught up in it. She had had a stressful week at work, and was relaxing.

Hours before Heyers death, Bro had posted this on Facebook: If I could give my daughter three things it would be the confidence to know her self-worth, the strength to chase her dreams, and the ability to know how truly, deeply loved she is.

It was meant as a spontaneous message of love and pride to her child. Time has transformed it into something more tragically moving.

You dont expect your kid to pass away, get killed. Like that, she says.

The first moment Bro knew that something terrible had happened was when Justin Marks called her. He told her the hospital was looking for Heyers next of kin. Bro kept calling the hospital, but was told they had no one of Heyers name there.

Bro screamed for her friend Cathy to take her to the hospital. Kim, who was elsewhere, would follow them.

A stranger answered Heyers phone and said he had found it on the sidewalk.

Bro called him back to try and get hold of Marissa Blair, a friend and colleague of her daughters who been with her at the demonstration and whose fianc, Marcus Martin, had pushed her out of the path of the car (he suffered a broken leg as a result).

Bro arrived at the hospital to find it barricaded off in a state of lockdown. Security checked her bag for weapons. I was trying to grit my teeth. I told them, I have been told my child is here. Two strangers grabbed me.

Bro takes a deep breath, pauses, and starts weeping.

I knew at this point it was not good. They grabbed me very tightly and walked me up the ramp to a room. I knew I was about to pass out. I walked in and sat down. A detective introduced himself. I dont remember his name, I remember his face.

He just said something to the effect of Your daughter was pronounced dead at such and such a time, and I remember putting my head down and wailing.

Bro is crying.

Then I called people. But every time I would close my eyes that night Id remember that moment and Id wail again. The week of the funeral I only slept 10 hours from the moment I got up on Saturday morning to the day she was buried five days later.

I kept saying to the hospital people, Thank you. I know you did your best. Im proud of how she died. And thats the only thing I could think of to get me through it.

I knew she was dead. I kept saying to the hospital people, Thank you. I know you did your best. Im proud of how she died. And thats the only thing I could think of to get me through it. I remember shaking hands with people, and people saying Im sorry. Id say again, Thank you. I know you did your best. Im proud of how she died. My brain was locked up, it was all I could say.

Wilson and his wife Feda and daughter Amina came to the hospital.

Alfreds kids loved Heather. She even shared her Amazon Fire Stick with them.

The day Heyer was killed the hospital had asked if Bro wanted to see her, but Bro had wanted to wait for her husband to get there. Bro didnt get to see Heyers body until the day before her daughters funeral. The medical examiner had her up until then.

The computers deathly wheezing rises in volume in the little room.

I was really, really dreading seeing her body, but I needed to see her one last time.

I held her hand, and I said, Im going to make this good for you. Im going to make this count for something.

One of the two ministers who spoke at Heyers funeral met Bro at the funeral home, and prayed with her.

I felt a calm come over me. When I saw her, her face and head were kind of messed up. I knew it was her but her arm, her left arm, I recognized more specifically. We had the same arm, she had longer fingers. It was bruised, it had a lot of bruises on it. But I held her hand, and I said, Im going to make this good for you. Im going to make this count for something.

Bro and Kim were with Heyer for 10 minutes; then her father and his friend went in separately; and Heyers brother and his wife, so everyone had their special time with her.

Bro says the National Institutes of Health called two days after her daughter died to ask if they could have Heyers brain for research.

Bro gave her consent (its not like she could use it). A NIH representative called back shortly afterward to say never mind, Bro says. The medical examiner said it was not usable. She pauses. That tells me there was brain damage. When I saw her, her long beautiful hair was not visible. Im guessing it had been cut off. She had a shower cap on, her forehead had a huge lump across it, her teeth didnt quite look like in the right place to me, and she had a hospital gown on, and I saw her arm and thats all I saw of her. I dont remember if she was in a body bag or covered in a sheet.

Bros voice quivers. Thats my driving force. Dammit, you killed my kid, but Im going to make something good come out of this, in spite of it. Youre not going to shut her up, youre not going to shut up the social justice she stood for. Were going to make it bigger than ever. Were going make big things happen.

The weight of the urn in my arms was about the same weight she was when she was born, and I just felt I flashed back to the day they put her in my arms when she was born, and I sat and held her for a long time.

She and Kim stayed with Heyer for five to 10 minutes that day.

After it was all over, when she was cremated and we had her ashes in an urn, we sat and held the urn for long time, Bro says, her voice cracking again.

When we are cremated theres not a lot left. I had a purple urn. Purple was Heathers color, its why her dog was named Violet. The weight of the urn in my arms was about the same weight she was when she was born, and I just felt I flashed back to the day they put her in my arms when she was born, and I sat and held her for a long time. And Kim held the urn for a long time. And that was the day we spent with my kid.

They said, Dont you want take some ashes home? And I said no. Why would I take her big toe or her pinky finger home? If other people want to do that and bring closure, fine. I have no need for that. Heather is with me in my heart. I dont need a piece of her body too.

At the memorial service, she said she felt she had one shot to introduce Heyer to the world: to explain who she was and why she was at the counterprotest. She asked Heathers birth father to talk about raising Heather, and her cousins to talk about her activism.

For herself, Bro wanted to tie all the elements of her daughters life together. She talked of her daughters strength, purpose, and also her as a person in all her complexity.

To me, I was just speaking the truth. Heather and I would laugh about how, at funerals, people who were wife beaters or alcoholics are suddenly talked of as if saints. I knew she would want her life to be deconstructed honestly and real.

We spent a solid two hours hugging and talking to people. By the end of it I felt elevated again, as if I had wings on my feet.

After her powerful oration at Heyers memorial service, by chance she and Kim drove home past where Heyer was killed.

When I saw, I grabbed my husbands arm and said, Oh my God, oh my God. I screamed and I almost jumped out of the car, because the pain hit me so hard. It was the first time I had ever been there, so that was really painful.

Bro falls silent. She went on a planned visit to the site a week after her daughter died. She and Kim got lost initially, and asked for directions at a nearby farmers market. I was just sick with grief at the thought of going there. Kim and I held each other and just sobbed for three and four minutes. When I looked up there was just this wall of people up at where the Mall was, and I said, Its OK, you can come now.

We spent a solid two hours hugging and talking to people. By the end of it I felt elevated again, as if I had wings on my feet. I was so full of love and caring from other people. I had dreaded it so badly, but it turned out to be a very helpful and healing experience.

Bro went back to the street about a month after Heyers death and recommended to city officials that it should reopen.

When discussions were underway about how to mark Heyers memory in Charlottesville, a statue was discussed or the renaming of a park, both of which Bro rejected, seeing them as yet another red flag to the white supremacists and associated groups who had come to Charlottesville to protest the Confederate statues in the first place.

That is why, Bro says, she gave her support to the suggestion of renaming Fourth Street to Heather Heyer Way.

Bro took home some of the artificial flowers at the site, and scarves and bandanas that had been left there. She gave away some of the flowers to passersby. She has washed and wears some of the scarves. She has also has a purple blanket she made Heather, which she wraps herself up in in the evenings. Thats my cuddle time with Heather, she says.

All of what has happened can seem unreal to Bro.

This time last year I was happily crocheting angels and hats. I was just cooking, and it feels like it was a different life another person lived through.

My grief is folded into my work. Without my work I would sit home and cry. I wouldnt be able to wrap my head around anything else.

Bro says she has lived through several incarnations. First I got married. That first time I thought I was a happy housewife and part-time office worker and then that dream got crushed. Then I was a single mom for a while on welfare and food stamps, and then I went back to school, so I was a student and single mom, then I was a schoolteacher; then I was a bookkeeper; then I remarried after 25 years of not being married.

This is the next incarnation. My grief is folded into my work. Without my work I would sit home and cry. I wouldnt be able to wrap my head around anything else.

She used to knit and crochet voraciously, but doesnt feel she has the mental capacity for it now. The bookkeeper inside her head wants to marshal the foundations paperwork, and in the office she feels close to Heyer.

Bro says her life now is a million light years from anything I ever expected. She declines to tell me where she lives, beyond it being a town a half-hour north of Charlottesville. They have such a small police force they have been trying to avoid connecting themselves to us, she says.

Since Heyers death, hatemongers have not just targeted Heyer herself, but Susan, too. They tell Bro that Heyer deserved to die, that she was fat, that the blunt-force injury to the chest recorded as her cause of death was a CPR machine, not Fields car. Bros life has been threatened, too.

Its kind of stupid, Bro says drily. You threaten the mother of someone you already killed because she dares to speak up.

Not only, says Bro, is local law enforcement unable to deal with threats to Bro and the family, Heyer also disagreed with the local authorities stance on social justice. Bro didnt hold her funeral there, partly because the authorities couldnt guarantee the familys security, and also because Heyers heart was in Charlottesville, she says.

Bros home areas authorities dont want hate groups coming to the area because of Heyer, her mother says; even a planned food drive in Heyers name was canceled because of fear of far-right groups.

Theres a dichotomy in my life, says Bro. I taught in a particular place for 15 years, then worked for that state and county. Now to act as if it doesnt exist is weird. But I dont look back, I look forward. You can only move ahead with the what you have in front of you.

Heyers apartment was in the center of Charlottesville, near where she died and where she was conceived, says her mother.

That pregnancy was a last-ditch attempt to save me and my first husband Marks marriage, says Bro.

Nick, Heyers brother who is five years her senior, had been born first. Bro had been especially delighted to have a son. I never imagined having a boy. I was so happy to have him and Heather. I felt bad I didnt bring them into a stable relationship. In my mind that was selfish and irresponsible. There was a lot of loud, angry yelling, a lot of tears. It was not a good thing for Nick or Heather to be around.

Nick, who is in the Army Reserves and is married with a small child, has been devastated by his sisters death, says Bro. She was not the first person close to him to have been murdered, and he wishes to stay out of the public eye.

At the time of Heathers conception, We were sort of using birth control, says Bro. I probably thought, Were doing OK now, and it was a disaster. He [Mark] had problems at the time, though is a changed man for the better now. We were both lousy spouses. It was a bad marriage, and we split up for a final time when Heather was five months old.

The marriage had lasted eight years, the divorce took three years.

Mother and daughter, both strong-minded, clashed over the years, but were never estranged.

We would clash because she was trying to impose her will on me, Bro says, smiling. She shows me a picture of Heather at 3, where she looks brimming with a quiet anger or resolve, or both.

Bro laughs. She was going to argue with me. The storm is brewing on her face. The way to make her agree was to explain something to her to her satisfaction. Bedtimes, mealtimes: Shed argue about everything. You always needed to explain to her why something was fair and right.

There are other pictures of her and Nick playing in the Styrofoam peanuts left behind from a box of toys sent by their Florida-dwelling grandparents. One of her favorite outfits was to wear a diaper, army helmet, and Bros high heels.

Others have told me all they could hear was the thud sound of bodies being hit. They didnt see the car till the last possible second.

Heyer was a boisterous child, at least early on.

She was born with only one ear, says Bro. Her left ear was folded over. There was no hole in her skull. During fifth grade, Heyer had a series of painful, corrective surgeries. She had 20 percent hearing in that ear.

Most of us forgot, including her mother, says Bro, because she coped so well. But that did mean she couldnt locate by sound, which may have been a factor that led to her death. If a crowd was yelling and a car was coming she may not know where the car was. Others have told me all they could hear was the thud sound of bodies being hit. They didnt see the car till the last possible second.

As a young girl, Heyer didnt have any ambitions. When her mother asked her what she would like to do, to try and nudge her, Heyer replied that she would like to be a fat cat on a pillow and not have to do anything. Her mother laughed and told her that was not an option. Thats often the problem with bright kids. Things are so easy for us, we have difficulty settling into careers.

College was costly, the family didnt have any money, and Heyer had screwed around in high school, her mother says. There were no scholarships coming.

As a schoolteacher for 20 years, Bro wanted her pupils (fourth graders, aged 9 and 10) to succeed, but neither of her children liked school. They were both strong and independent, she says, and she was keen to raise people, not sheeple. She made it clear she could only be there for them in financial emergencies; when they left home, they had to support themselves.

Both Nick and Heather started work at 14, she says. Heather did waitressing and bar work; she had seen Bro do the same to supplement her teaching salary. Food-service work was always something to fall back on, she had told her children.

Bro was thrilled when Heyer came to work at Miller Law in 2012. Her daughter was getting close to 30 at the time, and her mother thinks she was taking stock of her life, and figuring out she did not want to be a waitress at 70. That was a pivot point for her. I had mine closer to 40 or 50, Bro laughs.

After she died the crockpot from Easter was still in the fridge. She was single. She never looked in that fridge. My husband Kim very politely bagged it up and tossed it.

Heyer didnt want to have children, though she loved and doted on other peoples. She adored Violet, her Chihuahua (who now lives with a close friend of hers).

The family marked the holidays by going to Bros parents place.

I tried preparing a big meal a time or two. Heather said, Mom, youre killing yourself. This is no fun for any of us. At her suggestion, we stopped doing the big meal last Thanksgiving. So for Christmas, Easter, and what we would have done at Thanksgiving and Christmas, everyone went to Subway and got their favorite sub.

Heather also prepared a whole crockpot of mac and cheeseit was a deluxe, calorie-laden Paula Deen recipeand three dozen deviled eggs. I found out from her best friend after she died, she hated making them. She felt a family obligation to take it on: piles and piles food we couldnt possibly eat. After she died the crockpot from Easter was still in the fridge. She was single. She never looked in that fridge. My husband Kim very politely bagged it up and tossed it.

Cathy enters to say goodbye. Bro says they have been friends for 18 years, through thick and thin. It carries back and forth as to who needs who, and now I need her. I never had a close friend like that before, Im an odd duck. I laugh at the wrong jokes. I was much more stubborn and hard-headed in the past.

Her daughter was affected by Bros uterine-cancer diagnosis in 2010. For Bro, it was a health wake-up call. Bro thinks it made her realize she wouldnt be around forever.

Around the same time, a significant relationship of Heyersa first love boyfriendwas drawing to its end. Maybe life does that: Things converge and shoot you off into new directions. Its happened that way for me, Bro says.

Life has come at Bro hard and fast since her daughters death. But people who were near Heyer or who helped others who were injured have made themselves known to her. They are suffering, she says, a form of PTSD. Im dealing with the aftermath of a dead child. There are still people receiving medical treatment, people who will never be completely right again. Im not sure all the people are out of hospital yet. Theyre dealing with the trauma in a different way than me. I am dealing with one incident. They are dealing with the effects of being in a war zone.

Kesslers bid to hold another rally in Charlottesville next year may have been denied, but when we spoke Bro was not surprised he had sought it.

Im not happy about it. He feels it got him the bloodbath and the media attention he wants, so hes going to try again. With these sorts of rallies, Bro does not want to give the white-supremacist demonstrators the oxygen of publicity that a counter-demonstration would supply, but if you let them have the field that day, dont they think theyve won?

People have said to me, Heather shouldnt have been there, that people were warned to stay away, that she died from her own stupidity, that this is Darwins Law, that she wiped herself out, Thank God, Im glad thats over. My comment to them was, so when the Nazis came to town, we should all go into our houses and hide. Thats what happened in Germany originally: Its not my problem, not going to look at it, it wont affect me. But it does. It affects humanity.

Its kind of stupid. You threaten the mother of someone you already killed because she dares to speak up.

People have asked Bro why she bothers with her ongoing activism.

I said, Because Im making ripples in the pond, and as long as enough of us make ripples eventually a wave develops. This is part of me maintaining my ripple, my resolve.

Bro is doing a lot of traveling and talking, as she puts it. Her marriage to Kim is a fairly young, four years old. They have been together for seven years. When Heyer died, she said to Kim before she began her foundation work that she would be the face of it, and asked whether he was ready for that. Because this is going to change who I am a lot. Im not going to be that half hippie chick you married.

Kim said to her: Im game.

He travels with her, although has a bad back, so sometimes Cathy goes with her, or Alfreds wife, Feda. She worries that she hasnt seen some of her grandchildren since the summer. Part of that is due to security worries; they could not attend Heyers funeral because Bro felt their safety could not be guaranteed. It seems awful that Heyers family cannot even conduct the basics of grieving without being threatened.

The hate mail has been stupid, pointless, and mostly anonymous from idiot cowards, she says. The authors threaten her life, and make racist remarks like, as Bro recites: They should have killed more n**gers. I wish theyd killed more n**gers. Im glad your daughters gone. You know she didnt actually die. She just laid down of a heart attack, because she was a fat slob.

I take care of it before it takes care of me. Thats why some people think I dont care. I care very deeply, but its like diving into a cold pool and sucking it up, toughing it out.

Its a little insane, Bro says of this hatred, a little like stepping into reality TV. Kim and I had lessons from the FBI: how to watch ones back, be more aware of surroundings, like dont sit with your back to the door of a restaurant. But I dont live in paranoia and fear. I cant function that way. Its the new reality. It is what it is.

I don't allow myself to feel sorry for myself. Im not the only mother whos lost a kid. Im not the only person approaching the holidays who has lost a loved one. I just have to toughen up a bit and get through it. Thats how I survive. I take care of it before it takes care of me. That's why some people think I dont care. I care very deeply, but its like diving into a cold pool and sucking it up, toughing it out. I have to get on with my life, and my life right now is sharing Heathers life.

It saddens her most that it is affecting her grandchildren; one became anxious after his mother became anxious (the situation is now resolved); one young niece who was close to Heyer thinks of her as just daddys friend, and Bro hopes when she is older she will know how brave her aunt was and be proud of her.

After she died, Bro looked through her daughters Facebook posts: They were all to do with friends and social justice.

She hadnt understood how much Heyer had stood up for other people, and at such a young age, until after she was killed, when Bro found out her daughter had stood up as a kid herself for other kids bullied on the school bus, like the woman (and her brother) who set up a GoFundMe page for Heyers funeral.

A white teacher who had adopted an Asian child was abused at school; Heyer took those bullies on, too.

I didnt know she did all that stuff. She didnt talk about it, says Bro.

Heyers social-justice posts became more emphatic after the last election, her mother says.

Bro herself didnt understand white privilege or the politics of Black Lives Matter until her own activism evolved, although she recalls going out with Heyer and a black man she once dated and going to a restaurant and getting the worst service and evil looks from other people. We were followed in stores. That may have been an awakening for Heather as well. We never talked about the moment she became woke, but a few weeks before she was killed she said to me, Mom, I think youre woke now. I said, I think I always have been, but maybe now I am doing better at it.

Heyer, her mother says, lived larger than life and died larger than life. She was always funny, always intense. Her love was intense, her anger could be intense. The irony is that day she went out to be with her friends.

Bro is telling me about the glass table top of a Mexican restaurant, a favorite venue of hers and Heathers, which she only just felt able to return to. As she went to sit down, the glass top suddenly started rotating.

As she says these words, the computer turns itself on again, and the death rattle begins anew.

Bro says quietly, Heather, leave the computer alone please. Ill unplug it if you keep on.

She turns to me, and laughs. If the monitor comes on and typing starts appearing, then you can really freak out.

That day at the Mexican restaurant, Bro put her hand on the table and said, Heather, stop it. and the rotating glass stopped.

The other day in the office, Bro was talking to one of her daughters friends about a past relationship with a guy she had only marginally approved of, and the paper plate being held by the other person suddenly upended itself, sending the pastry on it flying off. Well Heather didnt like that, did she? Bro said.

Bro tries to stay focused on work when at the office, and laughs that her kitchen table at home is her second office space, its surface unseen since her daughters death so covered as it is with correspondence.

She feels Heyers presence mostly when shes driving; the two would sing along to the radio in the car. Heyer loved hip-hop, and both liked Pink, Adele, Amy Winehouse: Strong women singers, Bro says.

I would take it all back in a second to have her back. And yet, I also know this has made an impact on the world and I cant take that away from the world

The Saturday before our meeting Bro had been doing some Christmas shopping in Charlottesville when she was suddenly aware that she walking around with tears streaming down her face. She did not feel self-conscious; she is learning to live with the vagaries of when grief strikes.

Bro can also be positively surprised. The day before we meet, she went to a McDonalds drive-thru (for a yogurt parfait, she says; she and her husband are trying to stick to a diet).

In front of her was a man with a Sons of Confederate Veterans license plate. I thought, Do I hate him? Do I want to hate him?' I tried the thought on. No I didnt. I thought, 'Thats probably his family history. I dont know how he feels about Heather. But me hating him is not going to do any good. He looked a lot like my husband. I saw him see me in his rearview mirror, and recognize me.

I got to the drive-thru window, and the cashier said that my meal had been paid for by him. I pulled around when I was picking up the food, hollered thank you, and he waved. I think, even if a lot of people believe in the Confederate cause, they didnt want people dying that day.

Heyer herself was a private person, an activist happy to serve rather than lead. Bro feels that at some point this becomes my movement too. This is my tribute to my daughter, and its not exactly how she would have done things. My gut feeling is that she would understand why we are doing what we are doing with her memory. I would take it all back in a second to have her back. And yet, I also know this has made an impact on the world and I cant take that away from the world.

Her voice cracks.

I would love to have my child back. But I cant take away what this has meant to other people. If this is what it takes to snap the worlds attention around to say, This has to stop. We have to draw a line, then that is good. I have said before that I dont know why it had to take a white girls death to get everybodys attention, but that is what happened. Sadly, I think my daughters death is a pivotal point in historyand I do not mean to be inflated about that at all. Its just seeing the impact and ongoing impact from this. It's a moment not likely to be forgotten.

When I ask about the controversial statues themselves, Bro is careful first to say she does not live in Charlottesville herself.

For those of us who want to remove the statues, we are not trying to hide or bury history, but lets acknowledge why the statues are where they are. They were put up during Jim Crow times for the purpose of telling a newly confident and more affluent black community: We do not respect you, we still think of you as slaves who have managed to get a little ahead in life. Nothing happened during the Civil War in Charlottesville. Take them down, put them somewhere else, they dont belong here.

Im diabetic, I have to eat, Bro announces abruptly.

In a car en route to a nearby Burger King, she talks about growing up in Roanoke, an only child. Her mother did clerical work, her father was a draftsman. She was much less a tomboy than her own daughter, and grew up wanting to be a teacher, missionary or cowboy: Not a cowgirl. They were boring.

A young feminist, she demanded in first grade to be allowed to wear pants under her dress on snowy days. At her second marriage, to Kim, she recalls laughing gently, she asked that he promised to love and obey her, too.

She knew she was loved. I knew I was loved. We had no animosity between us hanging over. I don't want to let her go, but could let her go

At the drive-thru she orders a burger, onion rings, and a diet soda, and on the way back to the office she talks about worrying that her hippie-ish demeanor made her stand out at social events like a Miller Law Group summer cookout. Heather had told her she loved her mom just as she was.

One thing I felt when Heather was killed was that I had no regrets about our relationship. She knew she was loved. I knew I was loved. We had no animosity between us hanging over. I don't want to let her go, but could let her go. She knew that things were good between us. Bro only regrets the lack of pictures of them together.

Back in her small office at Miller Law, she shows me some framed tweets from Bernie Sanders (Heyer was a huge supporter, and did not vote in the election after the Democrats chose Hillary Clinton over him; Bro was angry with her for this).

There is a wrapped-up and folded banner from the Amsterdam Womens March, a handmade pillow, an honorary certificate from the governor of Virginia and the state flag, a painting of Heyer by an artist from Pittsburgh in her favorite purples. On Bros desk are official letterheads of the foundation, hearts colored purple, inscribed HH.

As the afternoon light leaks to darkness, Bro tells me that activism will now be the focus of the rest of her life. She always had opinions, she says, it was just nobody cared to hear them. The foundation will primarily focus on energizing and engaging young people, and training the next generation of social justice leaders.

She relishes connecting with other civil-rights groups and learning how to be a social justice advocate. I cant see myself doing anything else. By that first Sunday I told my husband I could never go back to my other job. I dont have the mind for it. My mind is wrapped in this now.

Bros health is not good; she says her immune system is collapsing in on itself, she finds it hard to turn her mind off when its time to go to sleep, her sleeping is erratic as is her diet. She has been following a clean eating plan, and then may have junk food, like today.

She talks of the people in airports or shops who approach her. Bro tries to have time for everyone, but she is always aware of those who shrink back, too tentative to say anything. What a strange new world it is, she says, where she may have to get an agent to handle her speaking requests. An agent, she says, laughing gently.

But beyond it all: the talks and award ceremonies, the hugs and thanks and solicitousness of strangers, the new and strange stardom, the life of committees and progressive alliances and celebrities and red carpets and interviews and public speaking, is the inescapable and all-encompassing loss of her daughter.

As we finish the interview, Bro asks where I am staying. I tell her the name of my hotel.

Downtown. Do be careful, Susan Bro says, and she is very serious.

Coming next: Heather Heyers mentor and friends remember her.

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UNHINGED: Rosie O’Donnell offers MEGA-BUCKS to GOP pols who stop tax bill

As Twitchy told you Tuesday, the House of Representatives will have to re-vote on the tax bill because the certain provisions violated Senate rules.

As that’s all happening, Rosie O’Donnell has gone off the rails:

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Trump Wins Tax Cuts, Kids Lose Health Insurance

Over the summer, President Donald Trump invited House Republicans to the White House Rose Garden to tout the passage of an Obamacare repeal bill through their chamber. It was a premature celebration, one that looked particularly silly when the Senate failed repeatedly to follow suit months later.

On Wednesday afternoon, the president brought GOP lawmakers over to the White House againthis time to celebrate the real thing.

For roughly half an hour, the president and Republican allies from Capitol Hill boasted of passing a major tax package that will, largely, benefit the wealthy and corporations. And, in true Trumpian fashion, he cast it as a prolonged fight between the winners and the losers.

"It's always a lot of fun when you win," Trump made sure to note, shortly after giving kudos to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the latter of whom he has repeatedly feuded with privately, as well as publicly.

Despite the pomp and circumstance, however, the law remains deeply unpopular, with most voters of the belief that their individual taxes are slated to rise. In fact, the majority of taxpayers will see a decline in taxes in the near-term, though that could change in the latter years of the law, when those individual rates expire.

We believe that the way the bill has been characterized in many cases has been misleading, a senior White House official told reporters during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers also were celebrating a major legislative win at the precise moment when the rest of the legislative docket remains stagnant. Shortly before they gathered with Trump to applaud the slashing of taxes, news broke that theyd failed to advance a bill that would re-authorize a program providing healthcare to 9 million children.

Senate aides told The Daily Beast they expected the debate over funding the program, CHIP, to be resolved sometime in January. But that is just one of the many pressing issues that the Congress has left for the next year. The others include protections for undocumented children, money for community health centers, and the funding of the actual government.

Sources close to the White House said on Wednesday that they were fully anticipating the possibility that this brew of major items could result in a government shutdown, thereby negating some of the economic gains that the tax cuts would facilitate.

But the administration, for its part, argued that Wednesday legislative win puts them in a better political position for those upcoming fights.

The reality is, [Americans are] going to get a tax cut, a senior White House official said. So we know were gonna be able to have the truth set us free.

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A journey through a land of extreme poverty: welcome to America

The UNs Philip Alston is an expert on deprivation and he wants to know why 41m Americans are living in poverty. The Guardian joined him on a special two-week mission into the dark heart of the worlds richest nation

Los Angeles, California, 5 December

You got a choice to make, man. You could go straight on to heaven. Or you could turn right, into that.

We are in Los Angeles, in the heart of one of Americas wealthiest cities, and General Dogon, dressed in black, is our tour guide. Alongside him strolls another tall man, grey-haired and sprucely decked out in jeans and suit jacket. Professor Philip Alston is an Australian academic with a formal title: UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

General Dogon, himself a veteran of these Skid Row streets, strides along, stepping over a dead rat without comment and skirting round a body wrapped in a worn orange blanket lying on the sidewalk.

The two men carry on for block after block after block of tatty tents and improvised tarpaulin shelters. Men and women are gathered outside the structures, squatting or sleeping, some in groups, most alone like extras in a low-budget dystopian movie.

We come to an intersection, which is when General Dogon stops and presents his guest with the choice. He points straight ahead to the end of the street, where the glistening skyscrapers of downtown LA rise up in a promise of divine riches.


Then he turns to the right, revealing the black power tattoo on his neck, and leads our gaze back into Skid Row bang in the center of LAs downtown. That way lies 50 blocks of concentrated human humiliation. A nightmare in plain view, in the city of dreams.

Alston turns right.

Philip Alston in downtown LA. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

So begins a two-week journey into the dark side of the American Dream. The spotlight of the UN monitor, an independent arbiter of human rights standards across the globe, has fallen on this occasion on the US, culminating on Friday with the release of his initial report in Washington.

His fact-finding mission into the richest nation the world has ever known has led him to investigate the tragedy at its core: the 41 million people who officially live in poverty.

Of those, nine million have zero cash income they do not receive a cent in sustenance.

Alstons epic journey has taken him from coast to coast, deprivation to deprivation. Starting in LA and San Francisco, sweeping through the Deep South, traveling on to the colonial stain of Puerto Rico then back to the stricken coal country of West Virginia, he has explored the collateral damage of Americas reliance on private enterprise to the exclusion of public help.

The Guardian had unprecedented access to the UN envoy, following him as he crossed the country, attending all his main stops and witnessing the extreme poverty he is investigating firsthand.

Think of it as payback time. As the UN special rapporteur himself put it: Washington is very keen for me to point out the poverty and human rights failings in other countries. This time Im in the US.

David Busch, who is currently homeless on Venice beach, in Los Angeles. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

The tour comes at a critical moment for America and the world. It began on the day that Republicans in the US Senate voted for sweeping tax cuts that will deliver a bonanza for the super wealthy while in time raising taxes on many lower-income families. The changes will exacerbate wealth inequality that is already the most extreme in any industrialized nation, with three men Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet owning as much as half of the entire American people.

A few days into the UN visit, Republican leaders took a giant leap further. They announced plans to slash key social programs in what amounts to an assault on the already threadbare welfare state.

Look up! Look at those banks, the cranes, the luxury condos going up, exclaimed General Dogon, who used to be homeless on Skid Row and now works as a local activist with Lacan. Down here, theres nothing. You see the tents back to back, theres no place for folks to go.

California made a suitable starting point for the UN visit. It epitomizes both the vast wealth generated in the tech boom for the 0.001%, and the resulting surge in housing costs that has sent homelessness soaring. Los Angeles, the city with by far the largest population of street dwellers in the country, is grappling with crisis numbers that increased 25% this past year to 55,000.

Ressy Finley, 41, was busy sterilizing the white bucket she uses to slop out in her tent in which she has lived on and off for more than a decade. She keeps her living area, a mass of worn mattresses and blankets and a few motley possessions, as clean as she can in a losing battle against rats and cockroaches. She also endures waves of bed bugs, and has large welts on her shoulder to prove it.

She receives no formal income, and what she makes on recycling bottles and cans is no way enough to afford the average rents of $1,400 a month for a tiny one-bedroom. A friend brings her food every couple of days, the rest of the time she relies on nearby missions.

She cried twice in the course of our short conversation, once when she recalled how her infant son was taken from her arms by social workers because of her drug habit (he is now 14; she has never seen him again). The second time was when she alluded to the sexual abuse that set her as a child on the path towards drugs and homelessness.

Given all that, its remarkable how positive Finley remains. What does she think of the American Dream, the idea that everyone can make it if they try hard enough? She replies instantly: I know Im going to make it.

A 41-year-old woman living on the sidewalk in Skid Row going to make it?

Sure I will, so long as I keep the faith.

What does making it mean to her?

I want to be a writer, a poet, an entrepreneur, a therapist.

Ressy Finley, who lives in a tent on 6th Street in Downtown LA. Photograph: Dan Tuffs for the Guardian

Robert Chambers occupies the next patch of sidewalk along from Finleys. Hes created an area around his tent out of wooden pallets, what passes in Skid Row for a cottage garden.

He has a sign up saying Homeless Writers Coalition, the name of a group he runs to give homeless people dignity against what he calls the animalistic aspects of their lives. Hes referring not least to the lack of public bathrooms that forces people to relieve themselves on the streets.

LA authorities have promised to provide more access to toilets, a critical issue given the deadly outbreak of Hepatitis A that began in San Diego and is spreading on the west coast claiming 21 lives mainly through lack of sanitation in homeless encampments. At night local parks and amenities are closed specifically to keep homeless people out.

Skid Row has had the use of nine toilets at night for 1,800 street-faring people. Thats a ratio well below that mandated by the UN in its camps for Syrian refugees.

Its inhuman actually, and eventually in the end you will acquire animalistic psychology, Chambers said.

He has been living on the streets for almost a year, having violated his parole terms for drug possession and in turn being turfed out of his low-cost apartment. Theres no help for him now, he said, no question of making it.

The safety net? It has too many holes in it for me.

Of all the people who crossed paths with the UN monitor, Chambers was the most dismissive of the American Dream. People dont realize its never getting better, theres no recovery for people like us. Im 67, I have a heart condition, I shouldnt be out here. I might not be too much longer.

That was a lot of bad karma to absorb on day one, and it rattled even as seasoned a student of hardship as Alston. As UN special rapporteur, hes reported on dire poverty and its impact on human rights in Saudi Arabia and China among other places. But Skid Row?

I was feeling pretty depressed, he told the Guardian later. The endless drumbeat of horror stories. At a certain point you do wonder what can anyone do about this, let alone me.

And then he took a flight up to San Francisco, to the Tenderloin district where homeless people congregate, and walked into St Boniface church.

What he saw there was an analgesic for his soul.

San Francisco, California, 6 December

The Gubbio project at St Boniface in San Francisco. The church opens its doors every weekday at 6am to allow homeless people to rest until 3pm. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

About 70 homeless people were quietly sleeping in pews at the back of the church, as they are allowed to do every weekday morning, with worshippers praying harmoniously in front of them. The church welcomes them in as part of the Catholic concept of extending the helping hand.

I found the church surprisingly uplifting, Alston said. It was such a simple scene and such an obvious idea. It struck me Christianity, what the hell is it about if its not this?

It was a rare drop of altruism on the west coast, competing against a sea of hostility. More than 500 anti-homeless laws have been passed in Californian cities in recent years. At a federal level, Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who Donald Trump appointed US housing secretary, is decimating government spending on affordable housing.

Perhaps the most telling detail: apart from St Boniface and its sister church, no other place of worship in San Francisco welcomes homeless people. In fact, many have begun, even at this season of goodwill, to lock their doors to all comers simply so as to exclude homeless people.

As Tiny Gray-Garcia, herself on the streets, described it to Alston, there is a prevailing attitude that she and her peers have to contend with every day. She called it the violence of looking away.

Coy Catley, 63, in her homeless box made of cardboard sheets on a sidewalk of Tenderloin, San Francisco. Photograph: Ed Pilkington for the Guardian

That cruel streak the violence of looking away has been a feature of American life since the nations founding. The casting off the yoke of overweening government (the British monarchy) came to be equated in the minds of many Americans with states rights and the individualistic idea of making it on your own a view that is fine for those fortunate enough to do so, less happy if youre born on the wrong side of the tracks.

Countering that has been the conviction that society must protect its own against the vagaries of hunger or unemployment that informed Franklin Roosevelts New Deal and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson. But in recent times the prevailing winds have blown strongly in the youre on your own, buddy direction. Ronald Reagan set the trend with his 1980s tax cuts, followed by Bill Clinton, whose 1996 decision to scrap welfare payments for low-income families is still punishing millions of Americans.

The cumulative attack has left struggling families, including the 15 million children who are officially in poverty, with dramatically less support than in any other industrialized economy. Now they face perhaps the greatest threat of all.

As Alston himself has written in an essay on Trumps populism and the aggressive challenge it poses to human rights: These are extraordinarily dangerous times. Almost anything seems possible.

Lowndes County, Alabama, 9 December

Aaron Thigpen discusses the poor sewage conditions in Butler County. Improper treatment has put the population at risk of diseases long believed to be extinct in the US. Photograph: Bob Miller for the Guardian

Trumps undermining of human rights, combined with the Republican threat to pare back welfare programs next year in order to pay for some of the tax cuts for the rich they are rushing through Congress, will hurt African Americans disproportionately.

Black people are 13% of the US population, but 23% of those officially in poverty and 39% of the homeless.

The racial element of Americas poverty crisis is seen nowhere more clearly than in the Deep South, where the open wounds of slavery continue to bleed. The UN special rapporteur chose as his next stop the Black Belt, the term that originally referred to the rich dark soil that exists in a band across Alabama but over time came to describe its majority African American population.

The link between soil type and demographics was not coincidental. Cotton was found to thrive in this fertile land, and that in turn spawned a trade in slaves to pick the crop. Their descendants still live in the Black Belt, still mired in poverty among the worst in the union.

You can trace the history of Americas shame, from slave times to the present day, in a set of simple graphs. The first shows the cotton-friendly soil of the Black Belt, then the slave population, followed by modern black residence and todays extreme poverty they all occupy the exact same half-moon across Alabama.

There are numerous ways you could parse the present parlous state of Alabamas black community. Perhaps the starkest is the fact that in the Black Belt so many families still have no access to sanitation. Thousands of people continue to live among open sewers of the sort normally associated with the developing world.

The crisis was revealed by the Guardian earlier this year to have led to an ongoing endemic of hookworm, an intestinal parasite that is transmitted through human waste. It is found in Africa and South Asia, but had been assumed eradicated in the US years ago.

Yet here the worm still is, sucking the blood of poor people, in the home state of Trumps US attorney general Jeff Sessions.

A disease of the developing world thriving in the worlds richest country.

The open sewerage problem is especially acute in Lowndes County, a majority black community that was an epicenter of the civil rights movement having been the setting of Martin Luther Kings Selma to Montgomery voting rights march in 1965.

Philp Alston talks to a resident. Many families in Butler and Lowndes counties choose to live with open sewer systems made from PVC pipe. Photograph: Bob Miller for the Guardian

Despite its proud history, Catherine Flowers estimates that 70% of households in the area either straight pipe their waste directly onto open ground, or have defective septic tanks incapable of dealing with heavy rains.

When her group, Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (Acre), pressed local authorities to do something about it, officials invested $6m in extending waste treatment systems to primarily white-owned businesses while bypassing overwhelmingly black households.

Thats a glaring example of injustice, Flowers said. People who cannot afford their own systems are left to their own devices while businesses who do have the money are given public services.

Walter, a Lowndes County resident who asked not to give his last name for fear that his water supply would be cut off as a reprisal for speaking out, lives with the daily consequences of such public neglect. You get a good hard rain and it backs up into the house.

Thats a polite way of saying that sewage gurgles up into his kitchen sink, hand basin and bath, filling the house with a sickly-sweet stench.

Given these circumstances, what does he think of the ideology that anyone can make it if they try?

I suppose they could if they had the chance, Walter said. He paused, then added: Folks arent given the chance.

Had he been born white, would his sewerage problems have been fixed by now?

After another pause, he said: Not being racist, but yeah, they would.

Round the back of Walters house the true iniquity of the situation reveals itself. The yard is laced with small channels running from neighboring houses along which dark liquid flows. It congregates in viscous pools directly underneath the mobile home in which Walters son, daughter-in-law and 16-year-old granddaughter live.

It is the ultimate image of the lot of Alabamas impoverished rural black community. As American citizens they are as fully entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Its just that they are surrounded by pools of excrement.

This week, the Black Belt bit back. On Tuesday a new line was added to that simple graphic, showing exactly the same half-moon across Alabama except this time it was not black but blue.

blue belt south

It depicted the army of African American voters who turned out against the odds to send Doug Jones to the US Senate, the first Democrat from Alabama to do so in a generation. It delivered a bloody nose to his opponent, the alleged child molester Roy Moore, and his puppetmasters Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.

It was arguably the most important expression of black political muscle in the region since Kings 1965 march. If the previous entries in the graphic could be labeled soil, slavery and poverty, this one should be captioned empowerment.

Guayama, Puerto Rico, 10 December

So how does Alston view the role of UN rapporteur and his visit? His full report on the US will be released next May before being presented to the UN human rights council in Geneva.

Nobody expects much to come of that: the world body has no teeth with which to enforce good behavior on recalcitrant governments. But Alston hopes that his visit will have an impact by shaming the US into reflecting on its values.

My role is to hold governments to account, he said. If the US administration doesnt want to talk about the right to housing, healthcare or food, then there are still basic human rights standards that have to be met. Its my job to point that out.

Alstons previous investigations into extreme poverty in places like Mauritania pulled no punches. We can expect the same tough love when it comes to his analysis of Puerto Rico, the next stop on his journey into Americas dark side.

Three months after Maria, the devastation wrought by the hurricane has been well documented. It tore 70,000 homes to shreds, brought industry to a standstill and caused a total blackout of the island that continues to cause havoc.

Its Time for a Grand Anti-Trump Coalition

Benjamin Wittes is one of those names you may have gotten to know in the Trump era. Not that you shouldnt have known him before, but in the past 11 months, the Brookings scholar has produced more than his share of posts that have gone viral on the Lawfare blog, especially the ones he wrote about his friendship with James Comey just after President Trump fired him.

That friendship and his frank posts have helped him carve out a unique space for himself in the Age of Trump. And he seems to know it and is prepared to use it. Over the weekend, in a move that ignited animated discussions in my circles, Wittes took to Twitter and produced 18 tweets dedicated to the proposition that all decent people of left and right must set aside their differences and unite to defeat Trump and Trumpism.

Under the hashtags #CoalitionofAllDemocraticForces and #IBelieve, Wittes argued that he wants to see a temporary truce on all [questions of disagreement], an agreement to maintain the status quo on major areas of policy dispute while Americans of good faith collectively band together to face a national emergency. #IBelieve that facing that national emergency requires unity. He wants Americans across the political spectrum [to] unite around a political program based on the protection of American democracy and American institutions.

Its a new and bold idea in the current context. In larger historical terms, of course, nothing is new. Its reminiscent of the old Popular Front idea on the left. The PF was the project of the communists of the 1930s who thought it would be of greatest strategic value to band together with socialists and even liberalswho communists in normal times reviled as servants of capitalismto defeat Hitlerian fascism. The project was launched in Moscow and thus took many different forms in England, France, and other countries. Here in the United States, the CPUSA under Earl Browder decided to support the New Deal. And when the USSR became our ally during World War II, Roosevelt and Stalin, two men with very different and indeed irreconcilable world views, were both Popular Frontists.

Wittes own politics are hard to distinguish. Hes not a liberal, though not exactly a conservative. On some matters, he has that I-dont-like-either-side posture that many liberals find infuriating. Here he is in The Atlantic in 2005, for example, saying that while he personally favors permissive abortion laws, hed much prefer to see Roe v. Wade die. A lot of liberals would say, and not without some justification, that centrists of this general type are partly responsible for Trump because their commitment to non-commitment, so to speak, prevented them from seeing the right for what it was these past 10 or so years and warning their publics about it. (I hasten to note here Im describing a type, not Wittes personally.)

But I say now, none of that matters. Im with him.

Hes correct about two basic things. One, that this is a national emergency. If I have to spell out why for you, youre reading the wrong column and should stick to the gossip pages. Trump is a clear and present danger the likes of which weve never seen. Two, that the top priority far and away of decent people of all ideologies has to be to confront Trumpism and to stop it.

The natural response of some partisans on both sides would be to refuse to commit to a project like this because of the past positions of some who might join it. Ill never work with Bill Kristol!, that kind of thing. Well, Bill Kristols done a lot of things I dont like. And Ive probably done a lot of things he didnt like, though I have only a fraction of his influence, so Ive never helped kill a major piece of legislation (Hillarys health care bill) or push the country toward war. But Im ready even to forget Iraq. Thats the very essence of Popular Frontism. If Kristol wants to stop Trump and is willing to commit to Wittes principles, then we should be too.

Those principles, by the way, are bipartisan and unobjectionable. Commitments to the First Amendment; to transparent government; to getting to the bottom of Russia; to science and evidence; to no Muslim-bashing, full stop; to fighting presidential abuse of power; and more along those lines. I think it could be a powerful and influential thing if Wittes can get 20 or 30 or 50 prominent people on both sides to sign a statement of principles, and thousands or maybe tens of thousands of regular citizens to co-sign on Facebook.

Of course one foresees problems. How exactly would this coalition make all politics stop and maintain the status quo on all our disagreements? What happens if Anthony Kennedy retires or dies? Would maintaining the status quo require conservative coalition members to oppose any Trump nominee, who would be by definition tainted by his or her association with Trump?

Such a coalition, too, would be propagandistic manna from heaven for the Our Revolution left, as it would affirm their view that sell-outs like yours truly always were destined to sacrifice their principles. Whatever. I look over the past 11 months, and I dont see that Ive changed a whit. Instead I see Kristol and George Will popping up on MSNBC, I see Max Boot emerge as one of the most powerful critics of Trumpism around, and I peruse Jennifer Rubins columns that with each passing week are reading more and more like Molly Ivins. Irving Kristol, Bills father, famously said that a conservative is a liberal whos been mugged by reality. Today, a liberal is a conservative whos been trumped by it.

Theyve changed. Not me. Im happy to make common cause with them. I dont know that Im important enough that history will judge me, but if I am, I will not have that judgment be that Tomasky abetted Trumpism by continuing to fight 15-year-old battles over Iraq. Ben, where do I sign?

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Hes Embarrassed Me: In North Carolina, Trumpists Start to Turn

WILMINGTON, North CarolinaA dozen voters assembled here for a focus group on President Trumps first year give him credit for a good economy and a robust stock market. Having said that, they used the forum to let loose with their condemnation of the tweeter-in-chief and the many ways he has embarrassed them.

It was a tough assessment, and the most stinging critique came from those in the group who had voted for Trump, with Republican women serving up the harshest words, saying he hasnt delivered on his promises, and hes crude and bullying.

I feel like he told people that he had all these big ideas and big plans, and it just seems to kind of roll to something else, said Emily Bell, a 32-year-old occupational therapist. Its like nothing is ever accomplished.

Annie Anthony, 56, who runs a small nonprofit, said, Hes embarrassed me by his behavior I cant imagine how they let him build a country club, let alone be in one. Because adults dont behave that way. She doesnt mind the tweets but wishes he would elevate his language.

He uses words like sad and badthats first-grade language. Were an intelligent population who elected you. Represent us!

There was only one staunch Trump supporter in the group, Cynthia Layton, a 64-year-old nurse, who loves the tweets. Thats how I hear from him… I dont need an elitist person talking down to me.

Layton says she doesnt trust the media, and she turned off her cable 10 years ago. She draws inspiration from Rush Limbaugh. I read my sites. I listen to his tweets, she says, which are simply what he honestly feels because he uses white and black language and doesnt give you all these flowery descriptions about everything. I appreciate that hes direct and tells it like it is.

The focus group on Wednesday evening was organized in collaboration with Emory University, and almost half the two hours focused on the opioid crisis, which everyone agreed is a huge problem. A 47-year-old single man described as a self-employed handyman said he had lost eight friends in the last six months, all to heroin, a stunning statement that prompted a round of personal stories.

Wilmington is the center of a growing addiction rehabilitation industry, and many who come for treatment relapse and stay. The group blamed pharmaceutical companies for downplaying the addictive potential of opioids, and doctors for peddling them. The word kickbacks came up repeatedly as the group discussed their ready availability.

I have Obamacare and Im grateful for it, but theyre slashing this and slashing that, and Im afraid that I might lose my health care, said Annie Anthony, who is divorced and voted for Trump. Like almost everyone in the room, she knows people grappling with addiction. Without insurance, people wont be able to pay for treatment, so they wont get to go. Youve got to pay like 24 grand upfront for some of these programs.

At the end of the session, Hart said to Anthony, Im not sure why you voted for Donald Trump. You would be an ideal person to explain to Donald Trump, heres why Ive been with you, and heres why Im not with you. Youve moved a long way since the election.

Anthony responded with a story of how she was driving an Uber one night and had one of Democratic leader Chuck Schumers assistants in her car. He was going to Jacksonville, which was a 90-minute drive, so there was plenty of time to talk, and he asked her the same question.Because of abortionand Benghazi, she replied. He was going to try to not have as many abortions, and I didnt see her as telling the truth with Benghazi.

Earlier in the discussion, Anthony had said, I expect our embassies to be safe, and she [Clinton] let our people down.

My kids think Im a confused Democrat, but Im actually a weak Republican, she said. Shes worried that her health insurance premiums will go so high she wont be able to afford to see a doctor.

These are the people Trump is losing, but predicting where they will land next politically is complicated. If the swamp is still full, Ill be voting to empty that swamp some more, Anthony said. And that doesnt mean Ill be voting for a Republican or a Democrat. Its going to be based on their behavior and whether I found them trustworthy.

The antipathy toward Hillary Clinton is so strong that it keeps voters in the Trump camp. Asked for a word or phrase to describe Clinton, there was a string of invectives: crook and thief and sore loser, someone who cant be trusted and who thinks the rules dont apply to her.

Michael Leimone, 41, a cook at a local pizza restaurant, is disappointed in Trump, but doesnt regret his vote. He calls Trump a loose cannon, but insists, Its still better than having the career politician in there.

The Russia probe never came up. Trumps vulnerability with these voters is health care. It came up a lot. They know whos doing the slashing, and theyll know who to blame when those premium hikes hit.

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