Independence Day Reads

Jefferson’s Monticello West Front with Fish Pond

Good Afternoon!!

On this Independence Day, I’m going to begin with a story that reflects America’s complex and troubling history.

NBC News: Historians Uncover Slave Quarters of Sally Hemings at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Archaeologists have excavated an area of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello mansion that has astounded even the most experienced social scientists: The living quarters of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who, historians believe, gave birth to six of Jefferson’s children.

“This discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living. Some of Sally’s children may have been born in this room,” said Gardiner Hallock, director of restoration for Jefferson’s mountaintop plantation, standing on a red-dirt floor inside a dusty rubble-stone room built in 1809. “It’s important because it shows Sally as a human being — a mother, daughter, and sister — and brings out the relationships in her life.”

Hemings’ living quarters was adjacent to Jefferson’s bedroom but she remains something of an enigma: there are only four known descriptions of her. Enslaved blacksmith Isaac Granger Jefferson recalled that Hemings was “mighty near white . . . very handsome, long straight hair down her back.”

Her room — 14 feet, 8 inches wide and 13 feet long — went unnoticed for decades. The space was converted into a men’s bathroom in 1941, considered by some as the final insult to Hemings’ legacy.

This room, part of the South Dependency of Monticello is going to be restored as the residence of Sally Hemings. Norm Shafer / The Washington Post/Getty Images

A little more:

Fraser Neiman, director of archeology at Monticello, said Hemings’ quarters revealed the original brick hearth and fireplace, the brick structure for a stove and the original Brisbane Timber Floors from the early 1800s.

“This room is a real connection to the past,” Neiman said. “We are uncovering and discovering and we’re finding many, many artifacts.”

The Mountaintop Project is a multi-year, $35-million effort to restore Monticello as Jefferson knew it, and to tell the stories of the people — enslaved and free — who lived and worked on the 5,000-acre Virginia plantation.

In an effort to bring transparency to the grounds’ difficult past, there are tours that focus solely on the experiences of the enslaved people who lived and labored there, as well as a Hemings Family tour.

Monticello unveiled the restoration of Mulberry Row in 2015, which includes the re-creation of two slave-related buildings, the “storehouse for iron” and the Hemings cabin. In May 2015, more than 100 descendants of enslaved families participated in a tree-planting ceremony to commemorate the new buildings.

Hemings’ room is now being restored so people can see it. This is a lengthy, fascinating article with lots of photos. Please check it out if you can.

Trump may be about to encounter his first real foreign policy crisis. Does anyone believe he’s capable of handling it? The Washington Post reports: North Korea: Missile soared 1,741 miles high, marking successful test of ICBM.

North Korea on Tuesday claimed it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, a potential milestone in its campaign to develop a nuclear-tipped weapon capable of hitting the mainland United States.

In a special announcement on state television, North Korea said it launched a Hwasong-14 missile that flew about 579 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles. The U.S. military said it was in the air for 37 minutes, a duration that signals a significant improvement in North Korea’s technology, experts said.

A photograph released by North Korea’s official news agency on Tuesday that is said to show the intercontinental ballistic missile being launched. Credit KCNA, via European Pressphoto Agency

South Korean and Japanese authorities are now looking into whether it was indeed an ICBM; U.S. Pacific Command’s first statement on the test called it an intermediate range missile.

Whatever the missile’s classification, Tuesday’s news will renew questions about the development of weapons that Trump, as president-elect, vowed to stop. It also looks set to put North Korea back at the top of the president’s agenda, most immediately at Group of 20 meetings in Germany this week.

So far, Trump’s only visible response has been to post a series of idiotic tweets yesterday.

As news of the test broke, but before North Korea claimed it was an ICBM, Trump took to Twitter, calling out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and appearing to once again urge China to do more to pressure him.

“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump wrote.

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” he continued. “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”

I wonder if Trump knows that Japan doesn’t even have an army? He seems to be suggesting getting involved in another war. He probably doesn’t know he’s doing that either. What a clusterf*ck!

The Independent argues that Trump may have to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un: If Trump wants to avoid a missile crisis, he may have to invite Kim Jong Un to the White House.

Taking away the customary hyperbole what we saw, say international analysts, was a missile reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles and flying 580 miles before crashing into the sea. This would have reached Alaska, but no other part of the continental US. It could, however, also hit American military bases and forces in a wide arc in the Pacific.

Looking at the pace of development and pattern of the tests, one can conclude that North Korea would be able to produce a missile with a longer range in the not too distant future. It remains unclear whether Pyongyang can mount a nuclear warhead on the missile. But US officials acknowledge that this too is likely to happen.

The question is what can the US and the international community do to stop Kim Jong-Un acquiring a nuclear arsenal with ICBMs? The answer is that options are quite limited. There has been some tough talk from Washington about carrying out military strikes. But that is a highly risky path. Targets would not be easy to track down and hit while retaliation would put the South Korean capital, Seoul, nor far from the border, directly in the firing line. The numbers of casualties are likely to be massive.

General James Mattis, the US Defence Secretary, has warned “If this goes to a military solution, it is going to be tragic on an unbelievable scale. So our effort is to work with the UN, work with China, work with Japan, work with South Korea to find a way out of the situation.” ….

A photograph released by the North Korean news agency showing Kim Jong-un reacting after the launch. Credit KCNA, via Reuters

Will Trump agree to negotiate directly with North Korea’s leader?

During his presidential election campaign Trump had stated that he would be prepared to receive Kim Jong-Un in Washington and “ have hamburgers with him…What the hell is wrong with speaking? And you know what? It’s called opening a dialogue”.

Trump was derided across the American political spectrum, but North Korea’s state media praised him as “a very wise politician”. Now, with the military option seemingly off the table, and economic sanctions having little impact, Trump may well find that “hamburger diplomacy” is the way to fulfil his pledge that North Korea will not have nuclear missiles which can hit America.

At the end of the week, Trump will head to the G20 Summit in Germany. NBC News:

President Donald Trump’s second foray on the world stage will include navigating a much-anticipated meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and a potentially chilly reception from European leaders over his recent decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.

The stakes for Trump are especially high as he travels to the aya center in peru, beginning Friday to discuss critical issues of counter-terrorism, the civil war in Syria, and trade, among other topics, with his European counterparts. In his meeting with Putin, Trump will have to work to confront and deter Russia, but also find ways to work together on issues like Syria and combating ISIS, experts said.

And he must do this mindful of the increased scrutiny over his administration’s relationship with Moscow and an FBI investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Meanwhile, European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who in May said the U.S. could no longer be relied on as an ally, are prepped for tough talks on trade and climate change.”The G20 agenda is set for some uncomfortable conversations,” Charles Kupchan, a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow, told NBC News. “It will be dominated by climate change, by free trade, by immigration, and these are issues where Trump is — more or less — alone.”

Trump with Kris Kobach during the transition.

The other big story today is Kris Kobach’s commission dedicated to finding more ways to suppress Democratic votes. As everyone knows by now, Kobach sent out a letter to all 50 Secretaries of State demanding detailed information on every American voter, including voter “history,” felony convictions, and Social Security numbers. Charles Stewart III at Politico: What Is Kris Kobach Up To?

The form of the voter list request suggests Kobach is hoping to build a national voter registration list—a massive database consisting of every voter in the United States and their voting history over the past 10 years. The letter didn’t state this as the reason, but the consensus within the election administration community is that Kobach wants to conduct a huge data-matching project, to see how many noncitizens have voted in recent elections and to see how many people have voted twice in the same election.

These assumptions are based on Kobach’s reputation for his dogged determination that double-voting and noncitizen voting be eradicated in Kansas. He also has been an indefatigable advocate of the interstate crosscheck program, a Kansas-based program that facilitates the cross-state matching of voter lists. During the presidential transition, Kobach was photographed walking into a meeting with Donald Trump with talking points under his arm that revealed plans to “stop aliens from voting.”

If Kobach’s goal was to create a super crosscheck program, he would have been disappointed, even if every state had complied. His letter requests data that are ill-suited for accurate matching. Not only are the matching methods that are likely to be employed poorly suited to producing accurate results, the Department of Homeland Security immigration dataset, which might provide some information about the presence of noncitizens on voter rolls, can’t be searched by name.

Therefore, the data requested by the commission will leave unsatisfied anyone who has a serious interest in how much double-voting or noncitizen voting there actually is in the United States. Most likely, the results of low-quality matches using the voter files that do arrive will significantly overstate the amount of double voting and voting by noncitizens. If a poor match occurs, the list maintenance programs of the states will be unfairly impugned, lowering the confidence of voters for no good reason. This is why no one I have talked to who runs elections, Democrat or Republican, is happy with Kobach’s request.

Much more at the link. A couple more articles on this topic to check out:

CNN: Forty-one states have refused Kobach’s request for voter information.

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland official resigns from Trump voter fraud panel.

That’s all I have. What stories are you following today?


19 Comments on “Independence Day Reads”

  1. janicen says:

    Happy Fourth everyone! Every day I’m left speechless at Trump and what he and the Republicans have done to our country. Every day.

    Stumbled across this on twitter. It conveys some of the mood I’m in today about our nation. I’m just thankful that my daughter is an adult and I don’t have to explain all of this to a child.

    • quixote says:

      I’ve been seeing that everywhere, and it’s too true and beautifully put, as his speeches always are.

      I’ve also seen several mentions of how the descendants of the people who greeted Columbus could look at it.

      Interesting omission, as usual, of the biggest single group at the time who had no rights. (Look up coverture, if you think I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t named “slavery” but what else do you call it when somebody is owned?)

      An injustice against one is an injustice against all. I’m not saying the horrible stuff people are making noise about was not horrible. It was. But what bothers me is that in all the mentions of the horrible issues, half the human race always seems to be invisible.

      • Earlynerd says:

        Re: coverture: some years ago, as things got worse for everyone not a white Christianist male, I was thinking about the concept of “passing”, and how for women, unless they did some sort of elaborate, risky and long-term ruse, it was pretty much impossible.

        Then the modern-day version of coverture – still going strong – occurred to me. Women “pass” as creatures specifically not themselves quite frequently, especially among groups like wealthy Catholics, Republicans, etc., where power is male and being human is first and foremost defined as male.

        Women “pass” every day as Mrs. John Smith, Mrs. Rufus T. Firefly, Mrs. Some Guy. They legally have no name apart from the man who owns them, or who is seen as owning them.

        The NYT even does this on purpose to uppity women like HRC, while using Ms. to refer to compliant women (like Michelle Obama was for many years) whose only reason for being newsworthy is the man they’re married to.

        But fighting for women as women is still the hardest battle in America, so it looks like the majority is going to remain invisible.

        • Sweet Sue says:

          Brilliant comment, thank you.

        • quixote says:

          Doesn’t seem parallel to me, Earlynerd. Isn’t passing when you manage to fool people into thinking you’re an actual member of the group? Women in the Civil War who dressed as men so they could fight. That kind of thing.

          What you’re talking about is more being tolerated so long as you’re clearly wearing an ownership label. Sort of like cattle are okay, even cute, in the paddock but Animal Control is called if they’re wandering around at will.

  2. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

      read the attached Ezra Klein op Ed at vox … it’s good

      • janicen says:

        Unless you’re in a miserable funk the likes of which I haven’t felt since November 9, 2016, then don’t read the Ezra Klein piece because it will put you over the edge.

        I’m feeling a heavy sadness today. I’m staying in, watching movies and playing board games with the fam. Don’t feel like celebrating a damned thing.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    Who would have ever considered that 70 years after WW2 that Germany would be thought of as the leading country in the world while the USA trails the rest?

    Poor Sally Hemmings. For years they have been trying to “romantize” the relationship between her and Jefferson. It was no such thing. He owned her. She had no choice. It portrayed exactly what slavery represented. A master having his way with a black woman, bought and paid for. But because he was one of our brilliant Founding Fathers the only way to normalize it was to suggest a forbidden love story. Appalling.

    Like others here I have little interest in today’s Fourth of July celebrations with the lunatic currently in office and his enablers choosing to ignore his behavior. The article written by Ezra Klein sums it up perfectly.

    He has diminished the office and us as well. Frightening summation of where we stand as a nation and people.

  4. Fannie says:

    And a very happy 4th to all you skydancers.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    All the best everyone!

  6. RonStill4Hills says:

    Trumpsters go batshit over Declaration of Independence on twitter! Funniest story all day.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. dakinikat says:

    Not good news:

    There is now more than one conservative booster of President Trump with a fancy for buying Time Inc. — and its 94-year-old flagship newsweekly, Time.

    Robert Mercer’s Renaissance Technologies bought nearly 2.5 million shares of Time Inc. in the first quarter, according to a recent regulatory filing — a 2.51 percent stake valued on March 31 at $48.1 million.

    Mercer and daughter Rebekah are big Trump supporters. In fact, the 70-year-old investor is said to be among the top 10 political donors in the country — in a league with former Mayor Mike Bloomberg; casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal; and left-boosting George Soros.

    Mercer is also a backer of Breitbart News, which was headed by Steve Bannon until he left to become an adviser to Trump.

    His 43-year-old daughter, with her super wealth and experience running Make America Number One, a super PAC, and as part of the Trump transition team, was dubbed by Politico as the “most powerful woman in politics.”

    The second Trump booster possibly eyeing Time Inc. is David Pecker, who runs American Media, parent of National Enquirer.