Tuesday Reads: Happy May Day!Posted: May 1, 2018
Happy May Day! Spring is sprung!
I’ve written about this before, but when I was a kid back in the 1950s in Lawrence, Kansas, we had a nice tradition of making May baskets with spring flowers and leaving them on friends’ doors early in the morning. We hung the baskets on the doorknob, rang the doorbell or knocked, and then hid. My mom remembers doing this when she was growing up in North Dakota. Apparently some people still do it.
From NPR: A Forgotten Tradition: May Basket Day.
The curious custom — still practiced in discrete pockets of the country — went something like this: As the month of April rolled to an end, people would begin gathering flowers and candies and other goodies to put in May baskets to hang on the doors of friends, neighbors and loved ones on May 1.
In some communities, hanging a May basket on someone’s door was a chance to express romantic interest. If a basket-hanger was espied by the recipient, the recipient would give chase and try to steal a kiss from the basket-hanger.
Perhaps considered quaint now, in decades past May Basket Day — like the ancient act of dancing around the maypole — was a widespread rite of spring in the United States.
Read more at the link.
The Celts of the British Isles believed May 1 to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held.
This May Day festival was thought to divide the year in half, between the light and the dark. Symbolic fire was one of the main rituals of the festival, helping to celebrate the return of life and fertility to the world.
When the Romans took over the British Isles, they brought with them their five-day celebration known as Floralia, devoted to the worship of the goddess of flowers, Flora. Taking place between April 20 and May 2, the rituals of this celebration were eventually combined with Beltane.
Of course the Catholic Church absorbed these pagan traditions in order to get more followers. In my 1950s Catholic schools, we had May Day ceremonies with a Maypole and a May queen–taking an ancient fertility celebration and turning it into a day for the “Virgin Mary.”
I got started thinking about all this again when Delphyne tweeted this article about April 30, Walpurgis Night – “The Other Halloween.”
It’s so interesting how these ancient festivals are reflected in more recent traditions.
In modern times, May Day has also been associated with the Labor movement. From the History Channel again:
The connection between May Day and labor rights began in the United States. During the 19th century, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, thousands of men, women and children were dying every year from poor working conditions and long hours.
In an attempt to end these inhumane conditions, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which would later become the American Federation of Labor, or AFL) held a convention in Chicago in 1884. The FOTLU proclaimed “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.”
The following year the Knights of Labor – then America’s largest labor organization – backed the proclamation as both groups encouraged workers to strike and demonstrate.
On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers (40,000 in Chicago alone) from 13,000 business walked out of their jobs across the country. In the following days, more workers joined and the number of strikers grew to almost 100,000.
That was followed by the Haymarket riot a couple of days later.
Well that was a nice interlude, but now I have to return to the present day and the ongoing nightmare we’re living through.
Yesterday we learned that National Security Adviser John Kelly–like most Americans–thinks Trump is an idiot. NBC News: Kelly thinks he’s saving U.S. from disaster, calls Trump ‘idiot,’ say White House staffers.
White House chief of staff John Kelly has eroded morale in the West Wing in recent months with comments to aides that include insulting the president’s intelligence and casting himself as the savior of the country, according to eight current and former White House officials.
The officials said Kelly portrays himself to Trump administration aides as the lone bulwark against catastrophe, curbing the erratic urges of a president who has a questionable grasp on policy issues and the functions of government. He has referred to Trump as “an idiot” multiple times to underscore his point, according to four officials who say they’ve witnessed the comments.
Kelly called the allegations “total BS.”
Kelly has, on multiple occasions, referred to women as being more emotional than men, and wondered aloud to White House officials why the ex-wives of former staff secretary Rob Porter wouldn’t just move on from their accusations of domestic abuse.
How long will Kelly last? Officials are predicting he’ll be gone sometime in July when he’ll be just one more person who used to have a sterling reputation that has been destroyed by proximity to Trump.
The other big news that broke last night was a list of questions that Robert Mueller shared with Trump’s legal team and someone gave to The New York Times.
Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia’s election interference, has at least four dozen questions on an exhaustive array of subjects he wants to ask President Trump to learn more about his ties to Russia and determine whether he obstructed the inquiry itself, according to a list of the questions obtained by The New York Times.
The open-ended queries appear to be an attempt to penetrate the president’s thinking, to get at the motivation behind some of his most combative Twitter posts and to examine his relationships with his family and his closest advisers. They deal chiefly with the president’s high-profile firings of the F.B.I. director and his first national security adviser, his treatment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and Russians offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
But they also touch on the president’s businesses; any discussions with his longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, about a Moscow real estate deal; whether the president knew of any attempt by Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to set up a back channel to Russia during the transition; any contacts he had with Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime adviser who claimed to have inside information about Democratic email hackings; and what happened during Mr. TrumMp’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.
So who leaked the questions? Sam Stein suspects Rudy Giuliani.
Another theory comes from CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin. Raw Story: Robert Mueller’s former assistant explains how grammar errors prove ‘leaked questions’ came from Trump.
Michael Zeldin, who now works as a legal analyst for CNN, told “New Day” that he doesn’t believe these questions came actually from Mueller.
“We have, this morning, been calling these questions that Mueller propounded, but I don’t believe that that’s actually what these are,” he began. “I think these are notes taken by the recipients of a conversation with Mueller’s office where he outlined broad topics and these guys wrote down questions that they thought these topics may raise.”
He explained that the way the questions are written make it pretty obvious.
“Because of the way these questions are written,” Zeldin explained his methodology. “Lawyers wouldn’t write questions this way, in my estimation. Some of the grammar is not even proper. So, I don’t see this as a list of written questions that Mueller’s office gave to the president. I think these are more notes that the White House has taken and then they have expanded upon the conversation to write out these as questions.”
He agreed with fellow legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin that the questions seemed introductory in nature and that they indicate the investigation won’t end any time soon.
Here’s another expert opinion from former US Attorney Barbara McQuade: If Team Trump Leaked Mueller’s Questions, It’s Bound to Backfire.
First, who might have leaked these questions? Mueller himself or someone on his team could have done so, but Mueller is known for his tight-lipped approach to investigations. Not only is it against his nature to leak these questions, it is also against his interest. Sharing these questions with the media telegraphs areas of inquiry to all other witnesses. The president may get the extraordinary courtesy of advance notice of the questions to induce him to come to the table, but no other witness will likely receive this unusual benefit. Publishing these questions only stands to compromise Mueller’s investigation, and so it seems unlikely that the leak came from his camp.
That leaves Trump’s team with Rudy Giuliani new to the team. These questions were not leaked when they were first communicated to Trump’s team in March, but only now, after Giuliani has come on board.
Why might Trump’s legal team want to leak these questions? The answer may lie in Trump’s morning tweets. Trump criticized the leak, and then stated: “No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see…you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!” A second tweet said, “It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!” [….]
He seems to be making the public case that the investigation is now all about obstruction of justice, and not about coordination with Russia to interfere with the election. Even this premise is false, in light of the fact that several questions relate to contacts with Russians. Nonetheless, more than half of the questions appear to relate to obstruction of justice. Trump seems to be arguing that this focus on obstruction of justice exposes the investigation as an unfounded, politically motivated scandal.
Read the rest at The Daily Beast.
In other news, we’re learning more about Ronny Jackson, the former White House doctor whose reputation has also been shredded by his association with Trump. CNN Exclusive: Pence’s doctor alerted WH aides about Ronny Jackson concerns last fall.
Vice President Mike Pence’s physician privately raised alarms within the White House last fall that President Donald Trump’s doctor may have violated federal privacy protections for a key patient — Pence’s wife, Karen — and intimidated the vice president’s doctor during angry confrontations over the episode….
According to copies of internal documents obtained by CNN, Pence’s doctor accused Jackson of overstepping his authority and inappropriately intervening in a medical situation involving the second lady as well as potentially violating federal privacy rights by briefing White House staff and disclosing details to other medical providers — but not appropriately consulting with the vice president’s physician.
The vice president’s physician later wrote in a memo of feeling intimidated by an irate Jackson during a confrontation over the physician’s concerns. The physician informed White House officials of being treated unprofessionally, describing a pattern of behavior from Jackson that made the physician “uncomfortable” and even consider resigning from the position.
After Mrs. Pence’s physician briefed her about the episode, she “also expressed concerns over the potential breach of privacy of her medical condition,” the memo said. Karen Pence asked her physician to direct the vice president’s top aide, Nick Ayers, to inform White House chief of staff John Kelly about the matter. Subsequent memos from Pence’s doctor suggested Kelly was aware of the episode.
In addition, The Daily Beast reports: Jon Tester Has More on Ronny Jackson Than Has Been Made Public: Aides.
For days now, President Donald Trump has been angrily tweeting at Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, for spreading wild allegations that fueled the implosion of the Veterans Affairs nomination of Ronny Jackson. But privately, relations are nearly as strained between the White House and the committee’s top Republican over what West Wing officials have described as the “smearing” of the White House physician.
According to four sources familiar with the situation, both inside and outside of the West Wing, the Trump White House has grown increasingly angry with Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, for his apparent disinclination to warn administration officials in advance of Tester’s media blitz.
Numerous congressional and Veterans Affairs sources told The Daily Beast that Tester was closely in touch with his Republican colleague throughout the last two weeks, when committee members first heard allegations against Jackson and began to investigate them. There was even an implicit understanding that Tester would be the one to address those allegations with the press as Isakson and other Republicans, while wary of getting into an intra-party feud, were nonetheless eager to send a critical message to the White House about its porous vetting operation.
“They were trying to train Trump, but they didn’t have the balls to stand up to him,” said one top-ranking Democrat familiar with the plan.
There’s much more to the story. Click on the link to read the rest.
Jonathan Chait: Has Michael Cohen Already Flipped on Donald Trump?
So . . . what stories are you following today?