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In order to receive hurricane relief, Texas town requires residents to reject Israel boycott

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In the aftermath of one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the Texas coast in years, one city is requiring all applicants for relief money to provide in writing a guarantee they do not and will not support the boycott of Israel.

Located thirty miles southeast of Houston, the city of Dickinson is just seven miles from the Galveston Bay which connects to the Gulf of Mexico. The city and surrounding area have been some of the hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey.

“Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment” said Andre Segura, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas. Segura called the stipulation “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.”

Galveston County — where Dickinson is located — has already received $44.7 million in federal FEMA aid, the second highest among eligible counties in Texas. The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center which serves all of Galveston County is located in Dickinson.

Dickinson has just begun accepting applications from individuals and businesses for hurricane relief grants to be paid out from the Dickinson Harvey Relief Fund. The fund appears to consist of a single, but large, $1 million donation from Bill and Amy Gurley, according to the city’s website.

But applicants, still reeling from the devastation of lost life and property, have found they are now subject to a political litmus test (and a particularly subjective one at that) in order to receive the donated funds.

Titled “Verification not to Boycott Israel,” section 11 of the relief grant application stipulates: “By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”

The language apparently stems from a bill signed into law by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, known as the Anti-BDS bill. The law, which became effective on September 1, 2017, requires the state to create a blacklist of private companies that boycott Israel. The law also prohibits all state agencies from contracting with or investing in those companies.

Palestine Legal, in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council on American Islamic Relations of Texas and other legal advocacy groups, issued a legal rebuke at the passage of the Texas Anti-BDS bill. It noted that the law violates First Amendment protections, is unconstitutional and that a blacklist “will have a chilling effect on protected speech.”

As of September, a total of 21 states have enacted similar legislation, according to Palestine Legal.

Julie Masters, the mayor of Dickinson, said the city is required to include this language in order to comply with the above mentioned legislation. Masters referred to the following statement, issued by Dickinson City Attorney David Olson, to explain the action:

“The Texas Legislature adopted a new statute, which became effective on September 1, 2017, that requires that all city contracts for goods or services contain “a written verification from the company that it: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract” 

“Please don’t crucify the messenger, the City of Dickinson is only following State law” Masters told Mondoweiss when reached for comment.

The city is hiding behind or at the very least being guided by state law in allocating funds, despite the fact that the funds were acquired through a private donation.

Further, the grant is meant for both Dickinson homeowners and business owners, yet it remains unclear how the state law will affect both.

Since Hurricane Harvey hit, the author of the Texas anti-boycott bill, State Senator Brandon Creighton, has made much to-do about traveling around the state and meeting constituents with supplies. What does he  think about the law being applied to disaster relief funds?

“I am proud of the legislation we passed that was supported by Lieutenant Governor Patrick and signed by Governor Abbott that prohibits Texas from doing business with any company that boycotts or discriminates against Israel,” Creighton told Mondoweiss in a statement. “I filed this to show the rest of the country and the world that Israel is a key ally who has earned the support of the Lone Star State.”

Rabbi Joseph Berman, Government Affairs Manager at Jewish Voice for Peace called the move “outrageous” and “unconstitutional.”

“This is disaster relief in Trump’s America,” Berman told Mondoweiss.

On September 14, after surveying and being briefed on the damage, Texas Governor Abbot assured the Washington Post that “the risk to lives has now been reduced, if not completely eliminated.”

Surely Abbot’s assurances ring hollow should Dickinson residents be denied aid based on their political views.

Jesse Rubin

Jesse Rubin is a freelance journalist from New York. Twitter: @JesseJDRubin

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49 Responses

  1. just on October 20, 2017, 4:20 pm

    This is deplorable and undemocratic. Go Palestine Legal, ACLU, CCR, CAIR, etc. Damn Creighton and Masters and Abbott…

    “Please don’t crucify the messenger, the City of Dickinson is only following State law” Masters told Mondoweiss when reached for comment.”

    Shame on you! Did you say that with a whine, too?

    ( I used much different language when I read about this early this morning in Haaretz!)

    • Jasonius Maximus on October 20, 2017, 5:32 pm

      Typical greedy, lying politician! I guess, with all that money burning a hole in her back pocket it can be very hard to remember that State Law cannot override the Constitution.

      I hope to hell the ACLU tears them a new one and that this makes it all the way to the Supreme Court. We need to be free of this disgusting influence that our politicians have unanimously allowed a foreign government to hold over every single American citizen.

      • just on October 20, 2017, 6:49 pm

        Good comment, Jasonius!

        “The Electronic Intifada has found that several major cities in Texas are also requiring similar verification from people who want to do business with them. …

        The ACLU said the measure appeared to be an effort to enforce a recently passed Texas law that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel.

        When signing that law, Governor Greg Abbott declared, “Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.”

        Major cities require no-boycott pledge
        An examination of the websites of about a dozen other hurricane-affected Houston-area municipalities did not turn up similar measures to Dickinson’s.

        But guidelines issued in September by the city of Galveston for contractors wanting to bid for neighborhood projects contain an Israel anti-boycott provision. The Galveston police also issued a tender for uniforms that requires bidders to verify they don’t boycott Israel. The cities of Austin and San Antonio have adopted similar provisions.”

        These pols need to go!

    • echinococcus on October 20, 2017, 8:33 pm

      That’s perhaps the best part of it.
      “We only followed orders”. Again.

      • genesto on November 2, 2017, 7:31 pm

        Reminiscent of another citizenry some 80 or so years ago that helped lead us into WWII.

    • Misterioso on October 21, 2017, 10:53 am


      “Ken Loach donates Israel screening profits to BDS.”

      “British director Ken Loach donated the proceeds from the screenings of his latest film in Israel to the anti-Zionist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The film, I, Daniel Blake, was widely acclaimed and screened in front of audiences at packed theatres in Israel last spring. At the end of the week, the British branch of the boycott group published a statement revealing it had been the recipient of all proceeds from the film’s screening in Israel donated by Loach. ‘Ken Loach, thank you for the support and generosity, it gives us strength’, the organisation’s members told the British Director. They did not specify the amount they received from him. 

      “I, Daniel Blake came out last year and won the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Best British Film award at the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA), as well as being nominated and named best film in many other prestigious festivals. 

      “The film tells the story of Daniel Blake, a working-class man who was crushed under the weight of bureaucracy after suffering a heart attack and being denied benefits despite his inability to work, forming a unique friendship with a single mother in the process. 

      “The film’s director, Ken Loach, is considered to be one of the best directors working in Britain today. Alongside Roger Waters, Loach is also the most prominent supporter of BDS in Britain.” 

  2. Citizen on October 20, 2017, 6:37 pm

    Nothing in main media about this gross prima facia violation of the First Amendment by 21 state legislatures. Puke.

  3. oldgeezer on October 20, 2017, 6:40 pm

    Zionism is not merely a movement for a jewish homeland. It is a threat to our freedoms and democracies.

  4. Keith on October 20, 2017, 7:13 pm

    “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” (George Orwell)

    These anti-BDS laws are a glimpse into an increasingly authoritarian future. A couple of quotes and links to provide more examples.

    “The official interpretation of reality is already in place: western civilization is beset on all sides by maniacs that want to take away our freedoms. The surveillance is already in place through programs like the Five Eyes alliance and ECHELON, PRISM, Boundless Informant, FISA, Stellar Wind, and many others. What remains is to tighten the noose of censorship around the neck of our open western societies.

    To that end, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently announced that citizens that view too much extremist material online could face up to 15 years in jail.” (Jason Hirthler)

    “Conveniently, since the Brexit referendum and unexpected election of Trump (which is when the capitalist ruling classes first recognized that they had a widespread nationalist backlash on their hands), the definition of “terrorism” (or, more broadly, “extremism”) has been expanded to include not just Al Qaeda, or ISIS, or whoever we’re calling “the terrorists” these days, but anyone else the ruling classes decide they need to label “extremists.” The FBI has designated Black Lives Matter “Black Identity Extremists.” The FBI and the DHS have designated Antifa “domestic terrorists.” Hosting corporations have shut down several white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites, along with their access to online fundraising. Google is algorithmically burying leftist news and opinion sources such as Alternet, Counterpunch, Global Research, Consortium News, and Truthout, among others. Twitter, Facebook, and Google have teamed up to cleanse the Internet of “extremist content,” “hate speech,” and whatever else they arbitrarily decide is inappropriate. YouTube, with assistance from the ADL (which deems pro-Palestinian activists and other critics of Israel “extremists”) is censoring “extremist” and “controversial” videos, in an effort to “fight terrorist content online.” Facebook is also collaborating with Israel to thwart “extremism,” “incitement of violence,” and whatever else Israel decides is “inflammatory.” In the UK, simply reading “terrorist content” is punishable by fifteen years in prison. Over three thousand people were arrested last year for publishing “offensive” and “menacing” material.” (C J Hopkins)

    • JWalters on October 20, 2017, 9:04 pm

      I wonder how much of the investments in these companies came from zionist sources.

  5. JosephA on October 21, 2017, 12:41 am

    Ridiculous! I hope this story gets more and more traction.

  6. DaBakr on October 21, 2017, 1:13 am

    Ooh boo hoo. Here on mondoweis commenters swoon with every report of some third tier european pension fund or landscape company exercising their right to “blacklist” an israeli firm doing business in israel. Yet, when it’s Texas that that exercises it’s own right to stipulate what rules businesses and property owners must comply with to access state funds suddenly the word “blacklist” is slung around as if the citizens of Dickenson county aren’t getting any disaster relief and the damn jewish lobby is preventing texans (who approve of the rule anyway) from receiving disaster relief. it’s not only not true but is the worst kind of hyperbole and low rent cause that the current aclu is taking on and destroying whatever is left of its former credibility. the aclu has been reduced to the same left wing obsession with israel the far left fringe engages in. so patriotic.

    Second- nobody is depriving anybody of standing on their roof and yelling how much they disagree with the rule and how much they support bds which they are free to do until the cows come back.

    Third- paragraph 15 needs something like a comma after “hit” or the sentence reads like the hurricane personally attacked the texas state senator. *

    * Which reminds me of the other storm harvey w. and how there is no mw hit piece on him. just thinking of the irony of him trying to plan potential ‘friendly asylum’ routes (of course he thinks he’s that important) and how, on fairly good authority, it was made very clear to him to him he has ‘no friends’ in goi because bibi will never ever forgive him for releasing Miral in ’10. lol.

    • Misterioso on October 21, 2017, 10:17 am

      The ACLU responds:

      October 19, 2017

      “HOUSTON — The city of Dickinson, Texas, is requiring applicants for Hurricane Harvey rebuilding funds to certify in writing that they will not take part in a boycott of Israel. The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the city’s condition as a violation of free speech rights.

      “’The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression,’ said ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura. ‘Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.’

      “The city’s website says that it is accepting applications from individuals and businesses for grants from money donated for hurricane relief. The application says that by signing it, ‘the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.’

      “The city appears to be enforcing a recently passed Texas law that requires all state contractors to certify that they are not participating in boycotts of Israel. While the ACLU does not take a position on boycotts of foreign countries, the organization has long supported the right to participate in political boycotts and has voiced opposition to laws and bills that infringe on the right to boycott.

      “The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that political boycotts are protected by the First Amendment, and other decisions have established that the government may not require individuals to sign a certification regarding their political expression in order to obtain employment, contracts, or other benefits.

      “On October 11, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Kansas law on behalf of a high school math teacher who is being required by the state to certify that she won’t boycott Israel if she wants to take part in a teacher training program.

      “In July, the ACLU sent a letter to members of Congress opposing a bill that would make it a felony to support certain boycotts of companies doing business in Israel and its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. As a result, Senate sponsors of the bill are considering changes.”

      This will prove to be a really dumb move by the Zionists. Americans are waking up.

      • Antidote on October 22, 2017, 7:47 pm

        “This will prove to be a really dumb move by the Zionists. Americans are waking up.”

        Sure, that’s why they voted for Trump and Pence, , and Kushner and Ivanka, and Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel.

    • Mooser on October 21, 2017, 1:03 pm

      “Dabakr”, I have acheived nirvana! When I read your comments, I can clearly hear the sound of one hand tweaking.

      • Citizen on October 21, 2017, 10:36 pm

        Sure it’s not the sound of one buttock tweaking?

    • Emory Riddle on October 21, 2017, 6:15 pm

      You have to make no sense and be quite obnoxious to defend this particular lawfare strategy from “The Jewish State”.

      No hophmi? DeBakr fits the bill.

      • DaBakr on October 25, 2017, 8:22 pm


        And you would definitely know what the apex of making absolutely no sense means based on so many of your past comments. Maybe most Texans think you and mondoweiss are quite “obnoxious” . It certainly would seem so.

      • Mooser on October 26, 2017, 5:08 pm

        “most Texans think you and mondoweiss are quite “obnoxious” .

        “Dabakr” knows this. He’s an old cowhand from the Rio Grande.

  7. on October 21, 2017, 2:22 am

    First Amendment? The Constitution? These things have now been obsolete for a long time. Merica does not apply the Constitution anymore. Instead, it is quite happy for the president to enter into wars whenever he feels like it, and for Israel to set the new laws.

    Merica is increasingly a puppet of the Zionist state, which does not have a constitution itself, and has its US-based Zionists/neocons to run the show.

    • Antidote on October 23, 2017, 8:26 am

      “Merica does not apply the Constitution anymore.”

      Please enlighten me: when was the Golden Age when America applied the constitution? Because I don’t see it

      • on October 23, 2017, 9:05 am

        I believe pre-WW2 it was adhered to more than post-WW2. Having said that, the founding fathers themselves were slave owners & therefore contravened the constitution. But seems that the overall process has been a gradual erosion of the adherence, with an acceleration post-WW2.

  8. dx on October 21, 2017, 5:07 am

    I’m a Texan and the storm flooded our city, too, and I am glad this unconstitional situation is getting so much publicity. Thanks to everybody for picking up the story. This anti-boycott law is dangerous and against the first amendment. Hopefully, it will cause more people to examine the abuse perpetuated by the Israeli govt and American support for it.

  9. Marnie on October 21, 2017, 5:23 am

    Demanding loyalty for tRUMP is horrible enough, but to demand citizens of one country to make an oath to the citizens of a foreign government is brand new territory. I don’t understand how the so-called current president of the US can make unconstitutional demands (NFL players must stand – NFL says forget about it) on americans and lose, but a foreign govt which murdered US sailors, US citizens and flagrantly violate UN articles, that foreign govt or agents for that foreign govt can make demands of fealty in exchange for disaster relief a reality then everything is truly upside down, wrong is right, etc, etc, etc. #BDS

  10. hophmi on October 21, 2017, 8:50 am

    Oh please. Every state official has made clear that this is some local idiot’s misinterpretation of the law, not a legal application of it. The amount of ink spent on this nothingburger belies the narrative here of a mainstream medium that is in any way pro-Israel.

    • Elizabeth Block on October 21, 2017, 10:27 am

      Every so often something pops up where people are required to swear to something they don’t believe, in circumstances where no one cares if they believe it or not. I call it suborning perjury.
      But what’s a little perjury among friends?

      • John O on October 21, 2017, 10:40 am

        The great loyalty oath crusade in “Catch-22” was supposed to be satire, not a prediction.

    • annie on October 21, 2017, 11:26 am

      belies the narrative here of a mainstream medium that is in any way pro-Israel.

      do you mean mainstream media? if not, what is mainstream medium?

      • Mooser on October 22, 2017, 2:38 pm

        “what is mainstream medium?”

        For men, usually a 38-R, isn’t it?

    • Marnie on October 21, 2017, 2:03 pm

      This isn’t being pro-israel. It’s being forced, like a rape, but that’s the only way israel gets love.

    • Keith on October 21, 2017, 2:42 pm

      HOPHMI- “Every state official has made clear that this is some local idiot’s misinterpretation of the law, not a legal application of it.”

      Have these state officials said what the state plans to do about this “misinterpretation” of the law?

    • Xpat on October 21, 2017, 11:56 pm

      “Oh please. Every state official has made clear that this is some local idiot’s misinterpretation of the law, not a legal application of it”

      E.g. Rep. King, the author of this unconstitutional law, who said:
      “the law is aimed at preventing taxpayer money from going to companies boycotting Israel. But Dickinson’s hurricane relief grant fund is made up of donations. “Those are not taxpayer dollars so they have nothing to do with the anti-BDS legislation,”

      So, whatever money people manage to raise for relief is exempt from the anti-BDS law, but if you want any of the billions of federal and state aid, you must first declare your loyalty, not to the U.S. but to a foreign power. Otherwise, you can go shout from your rooftop.

      Even Joe McCarthy only persecuted those who were not American enough in his eyes.

      • just on October 22, 2017, 9:28 pm

        Good comment, Elliot~ thank you.

        I read this in Haaretz:

        ” … When asked by Haaretz if he means that this was simply a mistake committed by a local official, King said that “I hate to use the word mistake, for me it’s just a misunderstanding, a misapplication of a very new law. I think we need to take steps to clarify things, so that something like this doesn’t happen again.” 

        King proposed the legislation in the first place, he says, because “Israel is our fourth largest trade partner, and it’s important for us to support the economy of our friend and trade partner. We also share the same values.” King said that he was not aware of other cases of confusion like the one that took place in Dickinson, but that nevertheless, it was important to “clear up any ambiguity,” and do so quickly. “That’s why I’m very happy that you called me,” he concluded.

        Some leading Jewish groups have responded, questioning the wisdom and usefulness of anti-BDS measures. The head of the Reform Movement in the U.S. stated that some of these laws do more harm than good.”

        read more:

        “We also share the same values”

        Apparently so …

        (LOL, ‘America First’, LOL)

      • hophmi on October 24, 2017, 9:52 am

        You are completely wrong. First of all, these are applications for Federal aid. There is, as of now, no federal anti-BDS law. Second, the legislation that exists on the state level is to prevent the state from contracting with businesses which participate in a boycott, not to prevent individuals from receiving federal and state aid. Local officials are often not the smartest tools in the shed, and they often misinterpret state and federal laws. This is an example of that.

  11. Vera Gottlieb on October 21, 2017, 10:17 am

    How utterly contemptible but then…what else to expect from the Zionists.

    • Mooser on October 21, 2017, 1:15 pm

      Gee, you don’t think people will be happy to have their hurricane aid delayed by Jewish interests?

      Look at it like “Hophmi” does; people in Texas will be very impressed by how rigorously Jews adhere to the law.

      • hophmi on October 24, 2017, 9:55 am

        Most people in Texas are strongly supportive of Israel, so Mooser’s stupid comment is, as most Mooser comments are, inaccurate and a waste of time.

        I’m sure Americans love when the campuses that they send their kids to for college are highjacked by pro-Palestinian activists funded by dictatorships abroad yelling Long Live Intifada.

      • Mooser on October 24, 2017, 12:01 pm

        “I’m sure Americans love when the campuses that they send their kids to for college are highjacked”

        Perhaps the Sattler brothers will do something about that. They know all about getting Jack and Jill high.

      • Mooser on October 24, 2017, 6:51 pm

        “Most people in Texas are strongly supportive of Israel”


  12. on October 21, 2017, 11:17 am

    Agreed that the statute is being misused and misapplied by Dickinson and other Texas municipalities denying hurricane aid. From a statutory interpretation standpoint, the law says: “all city contracts for goods or services [must] contain a written verification from the company that it does not boycott Israel . . .” Clearly this is intended to cover acquisition of goods and services, not the dispensation of funds to hurricane victims.

    Even if the statute were being correctly applied, it’s clearly unconstitutional as the Supreme Court has ruled that protected free speech includes words, money and political action such as anti-Israel boycotts, so governments can’t legally interfere with participation in those boycotts or chill such participation with rules that discriminate against and muzzle people in the exercise of their rights.

    Even if the speech sought to be muzzled could be deemed commercial speech, a category in which courts have given municipal, state and federal governments broader deference to regulate, past and recent Supreme Court utterances have made clear such regulations must be enacted with caution because of their potential for abuse, stating that the line between commercial and non-commercial speech is not always clear. If affixing the commercial label permits the suppression of any speech that may lead to political or social volatility, then protected free speech could be endangered and the laws should be struck down in that respect.

    Such is the case here. And if the law is being misapplied or unconstitutional, why isn’t the Texas Governor or Attorney General taking action against these municipalities, especially because of the important public policy of getting hurricane aid to victims who are members of the general public and supposedly the people Texas officials are working for.

    Let me suggest it’s because government officials throughout the U.S. are often in the thrall of the Israel Lobby, which is behind much of the effort to thwart and wipe out the anti-Israel boycott movement (publicly stated to be the top priority in AIPAC’s 2017 agenda) or indeed any criticism of, or action against, Israel. The Israel Lobby could not care less about democracy and constitutional law, finding totalitarianism much more to its liking.

  13. James Canning on October 21, 2017, 1:30 pm

    What utter lunacy from Dickinson, Texas.

  14. michelle on October 22, 2017, 6:32 am

    So it’s a bit like a day in the life of a Palestinian
    Though for a Palestinian it might be considered
    A good day
    G-d Bless

  15. Boomer on October 22, 2017, 8:29 am

    This episode is yet another demonstration of the pervasive power of Zionism in the U.S. It is also yet another demonstration that the plight of Palestinians–and U.S. complicity in perpetuating it–is rarely acknowledged in the U.S. corporate media. This case has garnered some attention about the legality of the restriction as applied in Dickinson, but little is said about the perversion of our political process by a special interest, nor about the underlying reason why some people might want BDS. Based on the coverage I’ve seen in the MSM, someone who didn’t already know the facts might well assume that BDS is indeed prompted by anti-semitism and inexplicable hatred of Israel.

    • Jasonius Maximus on October 24, 2017, 2:10 am

      Presenters and journalists in U.S. corporate media would rather eat a bowl of broken glass than tackle this issue head on. For all their talk and bluster about Congress members bowing to lobbyists to protect their careers, our media are just as complicit when it comes to AIPAC.

      They’d literally rather pick a fight with our own White House, Congress, Supreme Court, Pentagon, CIA, FBI and DOJ combined than even mention the name AIPAC in any kind of negative coverage. Think about that for for just one minute…

      Our media fears the domestic agents of a foreign nation more than members our own government. Heck! They’d even prefer a fight with the NRA than even tackle the AIPAC or Israel issue.

      If that isn’t a terrifying indictment of the stranglehold a foreign nation has on America, nothing is!

  16. iResistDe4iAm on October 24, 2017, 9:27 am

    Sadly, the 2017 hurricanes are the latest of many natural disasters, but Palestine is the world’s longest 69-year Israeli-made UNNATURAL disaster.

    Thankfully, unlike natural disasters, man-made UNNATURAL disasters (aka. crimes against humanity) can be stopped.

  17. David Green on October 24, 2017, 9:01 pm

    “Rabbi Joseph Berman, Government Affairs Manager at Jewish Voice for Peace called the move “outrageous” and “unconstitutional.”

    “This is disaster relief in Trump’s America,” Berman told Mondoweiss.”

    I’m a member of JVP, but no reason to single out Trump. But JVP does suffer from an unfortunate case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, which is why I was reluctant to re-up my membership (but finally did).

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