Monday Reads: How is this even a Thing? I try to fully Celebrate Black History Month this year

RL Barnes, Ph.D. ‏ @DigitalHistory_ 24 Oct 2018 More “In 1828, T.D. “Big Daddy” Rice, a struggling white actor, made his New York stage debut. With a single dialectical song performed in blackface, his routine radically transformed the cultural landscape of North America.”

Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers and it’s never too late to learn new things unless you’re Donald Trump.

The appalling way women have been historically treated was one of the hallmarks of the last two years. The #MeToo movement led to a very differently looking congress in 2018. The #BlackLivesMatter movement went back front and center yesterday at the Super Bowl.

It’s Black History month and it’s time to find teachers and take lessons.  It’s also evidently time to relearn a few lessons some people failed to get the first million times out.

I’m fully beginning to think that the next election will be about the historically shameful way that Black people have been treated up to and way pass the Emancipation Proclamation and the enfranchisement of Black men into the voting populace in 1870 with the passing of the 15th Amendment.  Virginia has once again taken center stage.

How can a man my age think that participating in any form of black face as an adult in any manner during–at the very least–the back half of the 20th century forward think that’s not an offense that should cause you to resign your position as Governor of the state that basically was ground zero for American slavery?  How can a Democratic leader who relied on votes from African Americans not do the right thing?  When will Virginia Governor Ralph Northram resign?

The drumbeat spread to the state’s public universities. The College of William and Mary on Monday announced that Northam would not attend Friday’s inauguration of new president Katherine Rowe, saying in a statement that “the Governor’s presence would fundamentally disrupt the sense of campus unity we aspire to and hope for with this event.”

University of Virginia president James Ryan issued a statement Sunday suggesting that Northam should resign, saying that if a leader’s “trust is lost, for whatever reason, it is exceedingly difficult to continue to lead. It seems we have reached that point.”

On Sunday night, the governor met with senior staffers of color to discuss his future following two days of defiance against the national clamor that he should resign. People familiar with that meeting said Northam had not reached a decision.

It was unclear who was present, but the group did not include Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who would become governor if Northam resigned, the people said. One Democratic official said the meeting was emotional in tone.

Calling the Sunday night meeting was a clear signal of Northam’s effort to weigh support within the administration as he evaluates his options. Although he pledged Saturday to stand his ground, he also said he would reconsider if he thought he could no longer be effective.

Though blackface was the No. 1 entertainment form throughout the United States in the 19th century, it has a particularly notable legacy in Virginia. The first globally famous minstrel troupe hailing from New York City rebranded itself as the Virginia Minstrels in 1843. Dan Emmett, the group’s founder, understood his minstrel troupe needed to project a sense of authentic, stereotypical blackness. Virginia, a state that imported enslaved Africans as a colony as early as 1619, embodied the complex relationship between blackface entertainment, slavery and American culture in a single word. The troupe did not just borrow Virginia’s brand, but shaped it: Its song “Dixie” became the unofficial Confederate anthem.

That legacy can be seen in the history of blackface at the University of Virginia, founded and designed by another Virginia governor: Thomas Jefferson. Virginia was a state built on enslaved labor, and U-Va. was no different. Beginning in 1830, the university would “hire out” enslaved people from the surrounding area. Eventually, U-Va. purchased humans like “Big Lewis” Commodore in 1832 at auction for $580, permanently separating him from his family.

Virginia’s slave empire ended when African American slaves fought for their freedom in the Civil War. After 1865, Lewis Commodore was free. But when slavery disappeared, fundraising with amateur blackface minstrel shows and city minstrel parades emerged. They featured fictionalized blackface slaves and their Klansman counterparts — a pairing on display in the Northam photo — to sustain Virginia’s infrastructure and segregated economy, as well as to inculcate new generations into a form of white supremacy associated with collegiality, school spirit and patriotism.

Over the weekend, BB introduced me to Dr RL Barnes and her area of research which is basically the not so subtle and the subtle ways that the Institutions of this country remind every one of what racists think is the “place” of Black Americans in their own country.  It’s also about how some of us passively, stupidly, and naively go along with it and internalize it.

I remember poring over literature, laws, and popular culture in the 1970s discovering how language, pictures, stories, and culture all work together to keep women in their “place”.  As a teenager and young adult, it became very freeing to be able to point these things out and to discover it wasn’t all in your head that menfolk and their enabling women were out to get you.

I knew there was similar things in place for people of color including all the stereotypes of Native Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans that culture, the law, and society can feed you.  I’m beginning to read stories of friends much the same way I read stories of friends screaming Me Too.

Over the weekend, I learned that decorating with recently picked cotton bolls was and is a thing.  Oh, this is not making faking spider webs with synthetic batting and its use isn’t the innocent thing that Way Fair, Hobby Lobby and others are making it out to be. 

There was also a history of casually tossing bags of them on to the lawns of “inconvenient” neighbors which seems a bit like something the KKK would do.  How is this a thing?

Bridging that gap requires unpacking why, for many black people and people of color, raw cotton is a symbol of racial terror.

Cotton represents the product of a system that required slave labor to function. More recently, perpetrators of racial intimidation have used cotton as a symbol of their hatred. Before white robes became the uniform, some KKK members wore ceremonial hornsstuffed with cotton. Two white men seeking to intimidate and unsettle members of the University of Missouri’s Black Culture Center littered the front lawn of the Center with cotton balls. The word even fills the mouths of students who bully their black peers by calling them “cotton pickers.”

Jasmine Gales, a black woman and social activist in Nashville, explains how this context translates into the contemporary mindset of many people of color:

“Black people’s association with the cotton plant is an obvious one of trauma and suffering,” she wrote for The Tennessean. “In being culturally sensitive to the history of African-Americans which includes slavery and the free labor of cotton harvesting, an institution wouldn’t choose to display it at a dinner meant to uplift the black experience.”

The individuals who reacted defensively or dismissively to the cotton complaints either ignored this context or were ignorant of it entirely. If there wasn’t an explicitly racist motive behind the design choice, they reasoned, then it wasn’t a problem.

Neither perception reflects an absolute truth. But the chorus of naysayers trying to drown out the voices of two black women reflects a power dynamic that must inform a culturally responsive interpretation.

So, I was horrified back in 1986 when the CJ Howell movie “Soul Man” came out. Haven’t seen it. Wouldn’t see it. Still can’t believe some one released and funded it and filmed it.  It had obvious implications for my generation because of the Bakke Supreme Court decision in 1978 and my experience with busing and integration prior to that in and around 1973.  There were mad white people every where about those decisions but I kind’ve wrote it all off to crazy white uneducated southern white trash and didn’t really explore it.  Well, I’m exploring it now and finding that my assumptions were naive.  Well, stupid if you really want the truth

There is, of course, no acceptable way for deeply unacceptable films to reach their merciful conclusions. But Soul Man manages to confound even one’s worst expectations. Before Mark’s big reveal to the campus, Gordon assumes the role of a pseudo-defense attorney, flipping the script on the product-of-his-environment argument. Mark, he argues, was brought up to be selfish and entitled, the product of an upper-crust white family in the suburbs. “Can you blame him for the color of his skin?”

For some reason, James Earl Jones’s character agrees with the assessment, and is even amused by Mark’s stunt. “You must have learned a great deal more than you bargained for through this experience,” he remarks, grinning. “I didn’t really know what it feels like, sir,” adding, “If I didn’t like it, I could always get out.”

That line is the movie’s nauseating coup de grâce, intended to justify the fact that Mark gets off with little more than a slap on the wrist for his deception. He tells Jones’s character that he wants to finish his law degree to “do some work that might be of use to someone.”

Mark’s happy ending prefigures a new era of racist film: the 21st-century white savior flick, a future constant in multiplexes and on Oscar ballots.

The deal is this.  The blackface thing in that Virginia med school during the 1980s wasn’t an outlier. It was evidently another one of those “things” that I had no clue was a thing.  I’m fortunate to know many New Orleans Writers and bloggers including a young black woman whose outrage at a cottonball decoration introduced me to more subtle ways that white culture continues to terrorize Black Americans.

My friend and blogger at The American Zombie reminded me this weekend that Tulane had a similar incident. One of the guys that was involved ran unsuccessfully for governor of Louisiana and now owns one of the state’s two big Newspapers. 

I thought it prescient to repost this story today to remind folks that institutionalized racism is still alive and thriving behind the closed doors of collegiate fraternities throughout the South.  Also to point out that the universities themselves should not be blamed.  As evident in my story, Tulane struggled for years to separate the DKE’s from the school’s namesake going so far as to kick them off campus and not recognize them as an official fraternity.  They existed as an independent entity living off-campus until the cancer finally died out around the late 90’s, or at least it went into remission. I would hope it’s dead but judging by the impenitent attitudes of the former DKE’s in the comment section of my post I would assume an entire new generation of kids are now carrying their fathers’ prejudices with them under alternate letters of the Greek alphabet.

My favorite dodge in that comment section was the DKE alum who tried to convince me that the noose in the 1975 yearbook picture was actually a tire swing sans tire:


A “tire swing sans tire” hanging twenty-something feet in the air would lead me to believe all these guys were on the Tulane pole vaulting team.  And how, exactly, did the tire disappear from the noose?  The tire split before the rope did? No one thought to ask, “Hey…you know…we have a noose hanging in our yearbook picture…should we take that down?”  What a load of shit. 

University of Oklahoma president David Boren voiced his distaste with the actions of the SAE’s but he may have a hard time eradicating the fraternity from the campus if he so chooses.  Once again, I don’t want to blame the educational institution itself, the actions of these fraternities do not represent the morals of the body wh ole.  Anyway, here’s the story, reposted:

State Sen. Ernie Chambers (2017)

You may read Jason Brad Berry’s 2010 story at this link.  I was in college at the University of Nebraska at the time. I was in grad school at the time of Northram’s adventure.  I personally know of no one in my circle that would’ve done anything remotely like that even though I did witness a number of horrifying angry white people during the Omaha Public Schools “busing” policy’s start.

I grew up knowing that Omaha purposefully designed its interstate system to isolate the black part of town that provided the  only black representative in the state’s unicameral.  His voice was powerful and pissed off that powers that be for decades which frankly thrilled me to pieces. Senator Ernie Chambers turned 80 in 2017 and his legacy will be a forever thing there.  Still, finding  all this stuff went on with me totally unwoke embarrasses me and made me extremely sad. Senator Chambers was my primary teacher on racism until I moved to New Orleans.  I  have found I need more teachers. I need to learn more about these things that I did not know were a thing.

As I delve more into Black history with so many motivations that it’s hard to unwind them all, I turn to this “How Frederick Douglass Harnessed the Power of Portraiture to Reframe Blackness in America”.  Douglass knew the power of an image before nearly any one.

For Douglass, this was no happy accident. Today, he is remembered as an influential advocate of emancipation and civil rights, a legacy defined by his best-selling autobiographies and powerful speeches. But what has largely been forgotten is the way he deftly manipulated the power of images to advance his cause.
To put it simply, Douglass was a photography buff. He penned four speeches expounding upon the medium throughout his life—one more than the man considered the Civil War era’s most prominent photo critic. He held Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype, in great esteem for broadening photography’s appeal beyond the upper class. Because of daguerreotypes, Douglass claimed, “the humblest servant girl may now possess a picture of herself such as the wealth of kings could not purchase fifty years ago.” He viewed photography as the most democratic of the arts.
He also believed deeply in its objectivity. “For Douglass, photography was the lifeblood of being able to be seen and not caricatured, to be represented and not grotesque, to be seen as fully human and not as an object or chattel to be bought and sold,” says Celeste-Marie Bernier, co-author of Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American (2015).
Photography was the perfect tool for a man trying to rewrite racial prejudices in the United States, and Douglass sought out every opportunity to be captured. With each portrait, he could present America with an additional image of blackness that contradicted the prevailing racist stereotypes.

Zulu 1937
The king of Zulu rides on his float.

The last time I really thought about the history of blackface was back when there was discussion of the role of Zulu and the incredible racist roots of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. Here’s something you may want to read about the krewe and its signature looks from New Orleans investigative paper The Lens

It’s hard to measure the scope of Zulu’s influence on what the Times-Picayune’s Doug MacCash has called the “new” Mardi Gras, and on what I have called the restoration of carnivalesque carnival, after the dark ages of the white supremacist anti-carnival ushered in by the Mystick Krewe of Comus in 1857. It’s a remarkable testament to the resilience of carnival spirit that, in the midst of the white supremacist era, when Comus, Momus, Proteus, and Rex ruled the day, the Zulu king first stepped off a banana boat in the New Basin canal wearing a lard can crown. The date: 1909.

That’s why it’s so upsetting — also a bit absurd — when people who have no understanding or appreciation for carnival aesthetics and social analysis chime in from hundreds of miles away with self-righteous finger-wagging. What they’re about is shaming traditions that are far more revolutionary than they are able to comprehend.

That’s exactly what has happened this year, when Tales of the Cocktail founder Ann Tuennerman went up on Facebook with a picture of herself in Mardi Gras regalia and since then, after taking flack for it, has been agonizing through a multi-part act of public contrition. Tuennerman’s sin is to have had the temerity to accept the great honor of riding in the Zulu parade on Mardi Gras morning, wearing the traditional mask of Zulu blackface.

I say “Zulu blackface” because the style of blackface worn by Zulu riders is distinct from other forms of blackface viewed as offensive due to their history as a tool of white supremacist ideology. One of the distinctive visual features of Zulu blackface is an enlarged white eye on one side of the face, which can be seen in depictions of the Zulu Big Shot as well as on Tuennerman’s face in her much-maligned social media posting. In the world of totalitarian expression — the opposite of carnivalesque expression — such nuances of signification go unnoticed.

typically clueless (and arrogant) response to Ann Tuennerman’s posting came from Chicago’s Nikkole Palmatier: “I have a problem with the blackface entirely. As do most people outside of the New Orleans tradition. Just as those who live outside of Cleveland think the Indians logo is racist and the term ‘Redskins’ is racist.”

Yeah. Just let that sink in for a minute. It’s hard to conceive of a more egregiously false analogy than this. Are the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins actually Native American institutions, founded, owned, and staffed, at all levels, by Native Americans?

Palmatier’s argument leads us to question whether Zulu’s iconography should be practiced by anyone, not just whether Zulu should accept white riders. And that’s a whole other can of worms. It calls into question the extent to which black people should be allowed agency in representing their own experience; it also places limits on how black people themselves choose to enunciate anti-racist arguments.

There’s also the Spike Lee film “Bamboozled” for an interesting take.  This film was made in 2000.

I feel this year that I need to unpack a lot more about black history and experience than reading inspirational speeches by the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.  We’ve all seen the images of black stereotypes that were prevalent in the pre Civil Rights era.  I’ve only used the original “Jim Crow” here but we likely all know many more.  For me, it’s time to learn some of the deeper stories and to listen more about how this country continually dehumanizes our Black Americans.

I intend to fully celebrate Black History month.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

Advertisements

Monday Reads: The End is Nearing!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I believe the end of our national nightmare may be coming to an end.  Yes, part of me really wants this to happen badly because I’m extremely tired of reading things like that useless wall plowing through a National Butterfly refuge and that children are dying in ICE custody because his base is a bunch of racist xenophobes and all  plus the rest of the horrid things he’s been up to. But, I’m old and I’ve been through this before.  Nixon resigned right after I graduated High School.  I’m seeing many of the same signs that his days may be numbered.  Oh, yes, the pictures are from our National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas (Hildago County along the Rio Grande).

Timothy O’Brien–writing for Bloomberg–explains how and why KKKremlin Caligula is in a ‘legal vise’.  There is not one thing that the Trump Family crime syndicate owns or has been involved in that’s not under investigation by some component of our Justice System.

As President Donald Trump and his lawyers turn toward the new year, they’ll have to contend with a legal narrative that’s taken fuller shape through a flurry of court filings and news reports that began landing about three weeks ago and extended through Friday afternoon: Members of Trump’s presidential campaign – and possibly “Individual 1” himself – may have orchestrated a number of criminal conspiracies that took root before and during the 2016 presidential campaign, continued after Trump won the election, and have tainted the White House’s policies and torn at its operations ever since.

The breadth of investigations is so sweeping – as many on social media and reporters with the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News have already noted – that few of the worlds Trump inhabits have escaped prosecutors’ attention. The Trump Organization, the Trump Foundation, the Trump family, the Trump campaign, the Trump transition, the Trump inauguration, and the Trump White House are all being probed for wrongdoing.

The Trump team’s possible collusion with Russia to sabotage and tilt the 2016 election, a probe spearheaded by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, pulls many strands of the investigations together. Trumplandia’s intersection with Russia may have started with business propositions more than a decade ago (such as the Trump SoHo hotel and condominium), and included more recent undertakings like a project in Moscow, before evolving into a political partnership during the 2016 campaign after Trump’s presidential prospects brightened.

A senate report details the incredibly complex and twisted the interference of Russian in the 2016.  The presidential election was so tight in key electoral states that it’s very difficult to not see that the Trump Presidency is not a legitimate one.  I can only imagine what the final Mueller report will elucidate.

 

 

Seriously, did he legitimately achieve the office?  This is by Marc Fisher writing for WAPO.  Between the Russian interference and the payoffs and suppression of affairs, who can say?

As if the country didn’t have enough to be divided about, now the forces aligned for and against President Trump are battling over whether his presidency is legitimate.

The evidence emerging in recent days and months of crimes committed to help Trump win the presidency is fueling arguments from Democrats and other Trump critics that the man in the Oval Office got the job through nefarious means. Even without proof that those crimes swayed votes, the critics say Trump has no moral hold on the office.

In the past week, the legitimacy debate has swelled with each new court filing in cases stemming from the investigations into Trump’s 2016 campaign.

First came the statement by federal prosecutors in New York that Trump attorney Michael ­Cohen “sought to influence the election from the shadows” by arranging to pay hush money to women who said they had extramarital affairs with Trump. Then, on Tuesday, executives at the National Enquirer’s parent company admitted paying hush money to prevent news of the candidate’s alleged infidelities “from influencing the election.”

In Congress, in the media and among activists, criticism of Trump is increasingly taking the form of arguments that he won office fraudulently — especially as the hush-money revelations have landed atop allegations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team that Russian agents engaged in a criminal scheme to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.

“People don’t actually really consider Trump a legitimate president,” former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean said on MSNBC last month. “He was obviously elected and all this business, but he does not represent American values.”

Back to the Senate report on Russian Interference via WAPO.  It’s pretty clear why Trump feels illegitimate and seeks to prove his election every time he speaks.

A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office.

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said whether it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly this week.

The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House Intelligence Committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm elections.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”

It appears they specifically targeted Black voters.  This is from NBC News’ Ken Delianian

Two separate reports on the operation were prepared for senators, both of which were obtained by NBC News. Both sets of researchers found, as Mueller did, that the Internet Research Agency set out in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, in part by inflaming right-wing conspiracy theories and seeking to engender distrust among — and suppress the vote of — left-leaning groups, including African-Americans.

The Russians set up 30 Facebook pages targeting black Americans, the researchers found, and 10 YouTube channels that posted 571 videos related to police violence against African-Americans. YouTube, which is part of Alphabet, the holding company for Google, was not correct when it said in a statement last year that Russian content did not target a segment of U.S. society, the researchers concluded.

The Russians also set up hotlines that encourage people to discuss sexual or other personal problems the researchers found, raising the possibility they could use the information later to blackmail people. Through deceit, the Internet Research Agency recruited many Americans to take various political actions, the researchers found.

The post that drew the most attention featuring Trump emerged on Jan. 23, 2017, after his inauguration — a conspiracy theory asserting that President Barack Obama had refused to ban Sharia Law and encouraging President Trump to take action. It was shared 312,632 times from a page created by Russian propagandists.

The top post featuring Clinton came a month before the election, the researchers found — a soup of conspiracy theories alleging that she would win because of voter fraud and alluding to an armed uprising. It received 102,253 engagements, which can be anything from likes and shares to comments.

“This newly released data demonstrates how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode trust in our democratic institutions,” said Senate Committee on Intelligence chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Frankly, Senator Burr, the same could be said about the Republican Party. This is why I agree with Melissa at Shakesville

From Melissa:

What’s crucial to understand about this dynamic is that none of it would have been possible without decades of groundwork laid by the Republican Party.

It would not have been possible had the Republican Party not, for example, critically undermined the sort of corporate regulation that would have prevented the monopolies and the vacuum of oversight in which social media giants proliferated, with zero accountability to the populations they exploited in reckless cash grabs.

It would not have been possible had the Republican Party not, for example, ruthlessly fomented divisions among the U.S. populace, which created fissures into which any bad actor could shove their own crowbar to create massive breaks.

It would not have been possible had the Republican Party not, for example, abandoned their responsibility of good governance, willing instead to compromise the security of the nation — and ultimately its sovereignty — in order to win.

We’re just beginning to see the connections between the NRA, Russian Money, the Republicans, and elections. What other Republicans will be found with Russian money and connections besides Dana Rohrbacher?  A new poll suggests no one believes Trump now. When will that extend to the rest of his cronies?  From NBC News: Poll: 62 percent say Trump isn’t telling the truth in Russia probe. More Americans want Democrats — not Trump — in charge of setting policy, a new national NBC News/WSJ poll finds.

Six in 10 Americans say President Donald Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, while half of the country says the investigation has given them doubts about Trump’s presidency, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The survey, conducted a month after the results of November’s midterm elections, also finds more Americans want congressional Democrats — rather than Trump or congressional Republicans — to take the lead role in setting policy for the country.

And just 10 percent of respondents say that the president has gotten the message for a change in direction from the midterms — when the GOP lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives but kept its majority in the U.S. Senate — and that he’s making the necessary adjustments.

Polls like these are likely to stick the more news we get from all these investigations.  How long can the party ignore them?  The Plum line argues that Trump’s been weakened.

Stephen Miller, the Trump kingdom’s Immigration Iago, wants you to believe that his boss retains great leverage in the ongoing government shutdown fight — so much so that he will, repeat will, get his great border wall. Miller, a top White House adviser, said Sunday that President Trump will “do whatever is necessary” to force Democrats to cough up the $5 billion he wants for the wall and will “absolutely” shut down the government to get it.

In reality, it’s not even clear that Trump has sufficient Republican support to get his wall money out of Congress. The New York Times now reports that Republicans aren’t even sure that this funding would pass the House, because many Republicans who were defeated in the midterms might not bother showing up to vote for it.

Wait, this cannot be! Miller, after all, spent much of his “Face the Nation” appearanceexcoriating Democrats over the wall. Democrats have instead offered far less in border security funding, with restrictions against spending it for that purpose. Miller suggested Democrats have the weaker position, claiming they must “choose to fight for America’s working class, or to promote illegal immigration.”

Wow, what a powerful message! That must be the same message that carried Trump and House Republicans to a great midterms victory! Oh wait, the opposite happened. This has gone down the memory hole, but last summer, Miller vowed that precisely that same contrast on immigration would prove potent for Republicans. They ran the most virulently xenophobic nationalist campaign in memory — and lost the House by the largest raw-vote margin in midterm elections history.

The meta-message that Miller hoped to convey is that Trump retains formidable strength in the shutdown battle over the wall, but the real story right now is that Trump is weakened. He lacks leverage in the shutdown fight, and it’s plausible that he’s losing influence over congressional Republicans.

So, how far can the party take the policy of dead and imprisoned immigrant children with tattoed numbers waiting to seek legal refuge and ravaged butterfly sanctuaries?  My guess is that everything but the tweets go dark in the six week hold up at Mar a Lago.   The NJ one is under investigation by the state so it seems he’s got few options to hide out these days.  He’ll have sixteen days to stew and discuss what to do with all the other out of touch greedos.

Meanwhile, I just hope we clear him out before he can do any more damage.  But, then there’s Pence …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Friday Reads: The Final Countdown?

Winter Scene from Arches National Park

Wow! Has it been cold here Sky Dancers!   It’s finally crept back up into the more seasonal sixties .  At least I’m not out in the cold but I’m thinking it’s just a bit of time before the Republican Party, its leaders, and the Golden Bull its been worshiping get thrown out on the ice floes.  Let’s hope there’s enough of them left by the time the country vomits them into history.

Enjoy the winter scenery at some of our nation’s best National Parks!  Let’s also hope they survive by the time we get rid of the party of corruption and destruction.

It’s not looking good for movement conservatives, war loving conservatives, or whatever Bill Kristol has become besides a Never Trumper. The headlines on the Trump mess are getting more brutal by the minute.  But, the folks on the outside are fairing pretty badly too.  The Weekly Standard is shutting down. John Poderhertz is out of a job but blogging all the same. It seems fitting that the demise of the Republican party should accompany the demise of the Standard.

The Weekly Standard will be no more. There is no real reason we are witnessing the magazine’s demise other than deep pettiness and a personal desire for bureaucratic revenge on the part of a penny-ante Machiavellian who works for its parent company.

There would at least be a larger meaning to the Standard’s end if it were being killed because it was hostile to Donald Trump. But I do not believe that is the case. Rather, I believe the fissures in the conservative movement and the Republican party that have opened up since Trump’s rise provided the company man with a convenient argument to make to the corporation’s owner, Philip Anschutz, that the company could perhaps harvest the Standard’s subscriber-base riches and then be done with it.

Winter in Yellowstone National Park

Where’s the tiniest violin in the world? Perhaps we should get an orchestra filled with them.  Here’s a bit from George Packer of The Atlantic: “The Corruption of the Republican Party. The GOP is best understood as an insurgency that carried the seeds of its own corruption from the start.”    At least we’ve switched from burying Nancy Pelosi to burying the Republican party.  I still argue it came the minute they let white evangelicals in the door.

The corruption I mean has less to do with individual perfidy than institutional depravity. It isn’t an occasional failure to uphold norms, but a consistent repudiation of them. It isn’t about dirty money so much as the pursuit and abuse of power—power as an end in itself, justifying almost any means. Political corruption usually trails financial scandals in its wake—the foam is scummy with self-dealing—but it’s far more dangerous than graft. There are legal remedies for Duncan Hunter, the representative from California, who will stand trial next year for using campaign funds to pay for family luxuries.* But there’s no obvious remedy for what the state legislatures of Wisconsin and Michigan, following the example of North Carolina in 2016, are now doing.

Republican majorities are rushing to pass laws that strip away the legitimate powers of newly elected Democratic governors while defeated or outgoing Republican incumbents are still around to sign the bills. Even if the courts overturn some of these power grabs, as they have in North Carolina, Republicans will remain securely entrenched in the legislative majority through their own hyper-gerrymandering—in Wisconsin last month, 54 percent of the total votes cast for major-party candidates gave Democrats just 36 of 99 assembly seats—so they will go on passing laws to thwart election results. Nothing can stop these abuses short of an electoral landslide. In Wisconsin, a purple state, that means close to 60 percent of the total vote.

The fact that no plausible election outcome can check the abuse of power is what makes political corruption so dangerous. It strikes at the heart of democracy. It destroys the compact between the people and the government. In rendering voters voiceless, it pushes everyone closer to the use of undemocratic means.

Today’s Republican Party has cornered itself with a base of ever older, whiter, more male, more rural, more conservative voters. Demography can take a long time to change—longer than in progressives’ dreams—but it isn’t on the Republicans’ side. They could have tried to expand; instead, they’ve hardened and walled themselves off. This is why, while voter fraud knows no party, only the Republican Party wildly overstates the risk so that it can pass laws (including right now in Wisconsin, with a bill that reduces early voting) to limit the franchise in ways that have a disparate partisan impact. This is why, when some Democrats in the New Jersey legislature proposed to enshrine gerrymandering in the state constitution, other Democrats, in New Jersey and around the country, objected.

Taking away democratic rights—extreme gerrymandering; blocking an elected president from nominating a Supreme Court justice; selectively paring voting rolls and polling places; creating spurious anti-fraud commissions; misusing the census to undercount the opposition; calling lame-duck legislative sessions to pass laws against the will of the voters—is the Republican Party’s main political strategy, and will be for years to come.

Winter in Sequoia National Park

One of the old things I won’t mind ringing out is Paul Ryan. I think I’ve made that pretty clear.   John Nichols asks this for The Nation: “What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan? It is outrageous that the House Speaker continues to block action to end US support for Saudi atrocities against Yemen.”  Paul Ryan is always wrong. Does why really matter?

What the hell is wrong with Paul Ryan? At a point when the whole world is demanding urgent action to end the Saudi-led bombardment and starvation of Yemen, the Speaker of the House has been scheming to prevent congressional debate on a resolution to get the United States out of a humanitarian crisis.

This is not about partisanship or ideology. As Ryan was blocking action in the House this week, 11 Senate Republicans—including some of the chamber’s most conservative members—voted with Democrats to open the Senate debate on ending US military support for the Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen.

The 60-39 vote to advance the bipartisan effort by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) to invoke the war-powers authority of the Congress to constrain military interventions and engagements by the Executive Branch, cleared that way for a 56-41 vote on Thursday in favor of the S.J.Res. 54: “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”

“Today we tell the despotic regime in Saudi Arabia that we will not be a part of their military adventurism,” declared Sanders, who has for months made the case for congressional action on Yemen, waging a two-pronged campaign for the resolution. First, he made a moral argument, telling his colleagues they have a duty to end US support for Saudi abuses that have fostered a “humanitarian and strategic disaster” in Yemen—a crisis so severe that United Nations officials say it could lead to the worst famine in a century. Second, the senator made a constitutional argument, explaining that “The Senate must reassert its constitutional authority and end our support of this unauthorized and unconstitutional war.”

Winter in Crater Lake National Park

Frankly, Paul Ryan is into starving and killing just about everything that’s of no interest to Paul Ryan’s pocketbook.  Glad to see him go back to Wisconsin to hopefully freeze.  As the nation’s justice system unwinds the Trump Crime Syndicate, we get a better idea of how exactly  The Steele Dossier got so much right.  Lawfare Blog has a good read up by Grad Student  Sarah Grant of Harvard Law.

 The dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele remains a subject of fascination—or, depending on your perspective, scorn. Indeed, it was much discussed during former FBI Director Jim Comey’s testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 7. Published almost two years ago by BuzzFeed News in January 2017, the document received significant public attention, first for its lurid details regarding Donald Trump’s pre-presidential alleged sexual escapades in Russia and later for its role in forming part of the basis for the government’s application for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page.

Our interest in revisiting the compilation that has come to be called the “Steele Dossier” concerns neither of those topics, at least not directly. Rather, we returned to the document because we wondered whether information made public as a result of the Mueller investigation—and the passage of two years—has tended to buttress or diminish the crux of Steele’s original reporting.

The dossier is actually a series of reports—16 in all—that total 35 pages. Written in 2016, the dossier is a collection of raw intelligence. Steele neither evaluated nor synthesized the intelligence. He neither made nor rendered bottom-line judgments. The dossier is, quite simply and by design, raw reporting, not a finished intelligence product.

In that sense, the dossier is similar to an FBI 302 form or a DEA 6 form. Both of those forms are used by special agents of the FBI and DEA, respectively, to record what they are told by witnesses during investigations. The substance of these memoranda can be true or false, but the recording of information is (or should be) accurate. In that sense, notes taken by a special agent have much in common with the notes that a journalist might take while covering a story—the substance of those notes could be true or false, depending on what the source tells the journalist, but the transcription should be accurate.

With that in mind, we thought it would be worthwhile to look back at the dossier and to assess, to the extent possible, how the substance of Steele’s reporting holds up over time. In this effort, we considered only information in the public domain from trustworthy and official government sources, including documents released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office in connection with the criminal casesbrought against Paul Manafort, the 12 Russian intelligence officers, the Internet Research Agency trolling operation and associated entities, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos. We also considered the draft statement of offensereleased by author Jerome Corsi, a memorandum released by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Adam Schiff related to the Carter Page FISA applications and admissions directly from certain speakers.

These materials buttress some of Steele’s reporting, both specifically and thematically. The dossier holds up well over time, and none of it, to our knowledge, has been disproven.

The Nisqually Entrance to Mt Rainier National Park in the Winter

Jared Kushner may be the only person in the administration more corrupt than his father-in-law.  It astounds me to think he could wind up as Chief of Staff.  The Daily Beast has this today from some of the stunners we learned this month: ” Jared Kushner Replaced Michael Cohen as Trump’s National Enquirer Connection. The president’s son-in-law grew tight with David Pecker during the early months of the administration.”  I actually think this guy would make Nixon blush.

Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was handed a task considered critical to the president’s operations. In addition to serving as a senior adviser in the White House, he would also be playing the role of the main conduit between Trump and his friend David Pecker, the National Enquirer publisher and chief executive of AMI, who prosecutors said on Wednesday admitted to making a $150,000 hush-money payment “in concert with” the Trump campaign.

During the early months of the Trump era, Kushner performed the task admirably, discussing with Pecker various issues over the phone, including everything from international relations to media gossip, according to four sources familiar with the situation. Pecker, for his part, bragged to people that he was speaking to the president’s son-in-law and, more generally, about the level of access he had to the upper echelons of the West Wing, two sources with knowledge of the relationship recounted.

The relationship underscored both the wide breadth of responsibilities that Kushner was given in the White House—a portfolio that saw him serve as a point person on some of the most critical government functions and as a chief protector of the Trump family image—as well as the degree to which Trump continued to value the relationships he’d built up with key media figures during his time in New York real estate and reality TV.

Pecker, after all, was no bit player. He has been a valuable asset within Trump’s orbit, at least until federal investigators came knocking. His ties to Trump began well before the president was elected to office. But before Kushner was his main conduit, that role was played by Michael Cohen, the president’s former attorney and fixer.

During the heat of the 2016 election, Pecker’s AMI and Enquirer—with Cohen helping facilitate matters behind the scenes—endorsed Trump, ran a catch-and-kill operation to suppress damaging stories of Trump’s alleged affairs, and published numerous negative articles on Trump’s political enemies and adversaries in the Republican primary. Trump himself used to contribute to the Enquirer and the future president reportedly also used the tabloid to settle his pettier, more personal scores. In late 2016, actress Salma Hayek claimed on a conference call hosted by the Hillary Clinton campaign that Trump had tried to date her and when she rejected him, he planted a false story about her in the Enquirer.

Pecker had banked on Cohen remaining in Trump’s political inner sanctum after the election. But during the presidential transition, it became clear that Trump’s then-fixer wouldn’t be landing a plum job in the administration—though he had told people close to him that he expected a senior position, even White House chief of staff, two sources with direct knowledge recall.

Big Horn Sheep at Waterton National Park during the Winter

These folks are so corrupt that even Chris Christie won’t touch the Chief of Staff position.  This is from ABC.

ABC News has learned former New Jersey governor and ABC News contributor Chris Christie interviewed for the position on Thursday, but released a statement Friday saying he’s asked the president to no longer consider him.

“It’s an honor to have the President consider me as he looks to choose a new White House chief-of-staff,” Christie said. “However, I’ve told the President that now is not the right time for me or my family to undertake this serious assignment. As a result, I have asked him to no longer keep me in any of his considerations for this post.”

The president is expected to continue the interview process over the weekend and next week, sources said.

Providing an update on his search Thursday, the president said he has whittled his list down to five candidates.

“We’re interviewing people for chief of staff, yes,” Trump told reporters, saying he has five “terrific” candidates lined up for the position so far.

Sources with knowledge of the president’s thinking told ABC News that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway are also on the list.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said the president is expected to make a decision on the post soon. He added, however, that Trump could decide to “extend” the current deal with Kelly. Kellyanne Conway also said Thursday on CNN that Kelly’s job could extend past the new year while the president continues his search.

So, we do seem to be in the middle of some TV presidency but I really don’t think it’s reality TV or even a crime series.  It’s more like a never ending soap opera with the bad people center stage and the good people waiting in the wings.  The New Congress cannot come soon enough.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Monday Reads: Out with the Old or a Change is Gonna Come

Minnesota’s new Congresswoman Ilhan Omar

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I want to start off with the one change that is coming that will hopefully bring some fresh air to desperate circumstances.  There’s a whole lot of diversity coming to the House of Representatives and there’s a whole lot of trash being sent back to the states from which it came.  Let’s start with the Granny Starver who enabled a huge, historic deficit while preaching austerity.  Austerity is for grannies and not real estate and finance high rollers.  Bye Bye Paulie Boy!  Just remember: Proportion of Democrats who are white men will drop from 41% to 38% while Republican figure will climb from 86% to 90%”  These dudes will finally be the minority they are.

Change is gonna come.  I can see it in the bright pages of places hidden from corporate media.

Ryan’s defenders portray him as a principled legislator trapped by the coalition he managed.

“Donald Trump was president of the United States, and that circumscribed Paul Ryan’s choices,” says Brooks. “You can dispute what he did, but he got as much of the loaf as he thought he could get given the factions of his caucus and Trump’s peculiarities. Did he like being speaker of the House? The results speak for themselves: He’s leaving.”

In this telling, Ryan’s principled vision was foiled by Trump’s ascendancy. Faced with a Republican president he had never expected, and managing a restive majority that mostly agreed on being disagreeable, Ryan defaulted to the lowest common denominator of Republican Party policy: unpaid-for tax cuts for the rich, increases in defense spending, and failed attempts to repeal Obamacare.

This is more or less the defense Ryan has offered of his tenure. “I think some people would like me to start a civil war in our party and achieve nothing,” he told the New York Times. Trump had no appetite for cutting entitlements, so Ryan got what he could, and he got out.

But would it have started a civil war in the Republican Party if the most publicly anti-deficit politician of his generation had simply refused to pass laws that increased the deficit? And even if it had, isn’t that the war Ryan had promised?

The question here is not why Ryan didn’t live up to a liberal philosophy of government; it’s why he didn’t live up to his own philosophy of government.

What’s more, Trump was clearly flexible when it came to policy. On the campaign, Trump repeatedly promised he wouldn’t cut Medicaid; as president, he endorsed legislation Ryan wrote that did exactly that. After winning the election, Trump promised he’d replace Obamacare with a plan that offered “insurance for everybody” with “much lower deductibles,” but he ultimately backed Ryan’s bill to take Obamacare away from millions and push the system toward higher-deductible plans. For Ryan to claim he was not driving the policy agenda in the Trump years is ridiculous.

Ryan proved himself and his party to be exactly what the critics said: monomaniacally focused on taking health insurance from the poor, cutting taxes for the rich, and spending more on the Pentagon. And he proved that Republicans were willing to betray their promises and, in their embrace of Trump, violate basic decency to achieve those goals.

Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)

Just as we’re about to see the start of a promise of a legislative body that has the look and feel of America we see the media trying to push us right back into that old corner. Andrew O’Hehir asks a brilliant question today in Slate: “First wave of 2020 panic: Is Biden vs. Bernie really the best Democrats can do? After the sweeping, female-fueled victories of the midterms, a battle of old white dudes could spell disaster.”  Why won’t they just go away?

In case you thought the Democrats’ big win in the midterms — a pickup of 40 House seats, and counting — meant that the weirdness and bitterness of the 2016 primary was behind us, and that the party is ready to come together and banish the Twitter-troll-in-chief to the doghouse (or to prison) two years hence, you have a number of other thinks coming. Consider this: The leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination, by far, are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Speaking as a friend, kind of: That should be avoided at all costs. It’s a tragicomic farce waiting to happen, one that threatens to undermine much of what the Democrats have apparently accomplished over the last two years. Both of them are profoundly decent men who have done a lot for this country. But, just, please no.

But right now we’ve got Joe and Bernie, who both look extremely likely to run and could easily end up as the principal antagonists. What in hell did we do to deserve this? I take no position on which of them is most likely to win, or even which of them should win — as Bill Moyers told me years ago, those are always the least interesting questions in politics. I do know that this could be disastrous for the Democratic Party, and not just because it opens the door for the re-election of What’s His Name. (Although that too.)

A Sanders-Biden throwdown would rip the scabs off old wounds, inflame entrenched divisions and cast the party in the worst possible light, making clear on a bunch of levels that it doesn’t know who it represents or what principles it stands for. At a moment when Democrats finally seem to be moving toward the future, this would make them appear stuck in the past.

I suspect that many political pros in and around the party feel similarly, which is why they keep trying to construct alternate scenarios that will make this one go away. So we have had the Oprah Winfrey boomlet (do you remember it fondly?), the Kirsten Gillibrand ponder, the Michael Avenatti moment, the Michael Bloomberg trial balloon, the Elizabeth Warren mini-wave and most recently Betomania, in which a guy who lost a Senate race in Texas has abruptly been inflated into the latest liberal dreamboat messiah.

Maybe lover-man Beto or one of those other people I mentioned will be elected president two years from now, and we’ll all look back and say, Of course! We should have seen it coming. But also maybe not. At the moment, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are starting out amid a crowded field of unknowns and semi-knowns, with huge advantages in terms of name recognition, fundraising ability and being generally liked more than the incumbent. (Which is admittedly not difficult.)

I think those two face a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma: It would be better for the country, arguably, if both of them concluded they’d had their shots and run their races and done their part, and it was time to let a scrum of younger Democrats fight it out, with unpredictable results. But if only one of them runs, he becomes the prohibitive favorite and a central focus of media attention — and each has concluded that he’ll be damned if he lets the other guy be the hero who un-Trumps America. So we lurch toward a battle of the dinosaurs that’s a bad idea to start with, and likely to get worse.

Rep.-elect Colin Allred, D-Texas., arrives for orientation for new members of Congress, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

I love the snark in this piece but really, do we have to do the least sensible thing to excite the country to the polls?  Haven’t we learned anything?

Politico covered some of the new Congress Critters right after Thanksgiving and I have a hankering to see something different heading off to Iowa and New Hampshire.  And, I want some action now before we face another presidential campaign season filled with MAGA Hatefests.  Can we just let these folks do something first?  And there’s a hell of a lot of them which begs the question why the focus on the new woman from NYC?  There’s plenty more that are headed east from other parts of the country.

Colin Allred: A former NFL linebacker and civil rights attorney, Allred knocked off GOP Rep. Pete Sessions, an entrenched North Texas incumbent. But Allred says there’s a lot more behind his congressional victory than just a flashy professional football résumé. “The impression that people have gotten, I think, around the country is that I was elected because I was a football player. And that’s not it,” he said. “Football is an icebreaker… but the other things that I’ve done and the story that I have growing up in North Texas is really what resonated.”

Allred told POLITICO his goal in Congress is to continue to be a moderate voice in the Democratic Caucus, even as he senses some liberal colleagues are trying to pull the group further to the left. “All of us who come from the red-to-blue districts, we are the closest to where the American people are,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that our new members coming from safer districts and the members that are already there understand why we have the majority.”

Rep.-elect Sharice Davids, D-Mo., walks past members of the media after checking-in for orientation for new members of Congress, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

See, there’s some life in Democrats from all over the country. Why focus on the old white dudes from Maryland and Vermont and the outspoken lady from Queens Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  who reminds my republican friends of a Democratic Sarah Palin which is not a really good thing?  I mean my cousins from Kansas City sent a nice Lesbian Native American Rep-elect Sharice Davids. Can’t we all do better?

Davids will be part of a record number of women and a historic number of female candidates of color elected to Congress. “The time for people to not be heard and not be seen and not be listened to or represented well changes now,” she saidon election night.

So far we see some movement from other Dems, but today’s headlines focused on Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has the core of her 2020 team in place if she runs for president. She has the seed money — there’s $12.5 million ready to go, left over from her recent Senate run — and a massive email list she’s amassed over years, boosted by a $3.3 million investment in digital infrastructure and advertising in the last election alone. Her aides have been quietly shopping for presidential campaign headquarters space in the Boston area in recent weeks, according to a source with knowledge of the move.

All that’s left is for her to give the green light.

I’m not sure she’s got what it takes either but again, why not focus what these folks that are coming in can do now?  Politico has named “19 to watch” in 2019.

NEW … THE PLAYBOOK POWER LIST — “19 TO WATCH IN 2019” is up. This list features politicians, activists and operatives across the country who are positioned to play a critical role in the political landscape leading up to 2020. From the new generation reshaping the Democratic Party to the behind-the-scenes players who keep Congress moving and those with their eyes on the presidential election, these are the people to watch over the next 12 months. The full list

THE LIST (in alphabetical order): Jarrod Agen … Aimee Allison … Anne Caprara … Saikat Chakrabarti  Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) … Justin Clark … Gary Coby … Michael Dreeben  Lauren Fine  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)  Lisa Goeas  Drew Hammill  Patti Harris … Tish James  Brendon Plack  Angela Ramirez  Juan Rodriguez … Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.)  Rep.-elect Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)

But what’s the agenda? Julie Wittes Schlack from NBUR believes the focus should be on legislation.

In contrast to the early and deep partisan divide in the country over health care, there is already a good deal of public agreement over some of the most crucial challenges facing us. A majority of Americans across political parties think that big money has too big an influence in government, and wants to see both greater transparency and constraints on campaign spending. A majority of Americans favor increasing the minimum wage and implementing some common-sense gun control. And though only 50 percent of Republicans believe that global warming is real (versus 90 percent of Democrats), the fact is that Americans who recognize the dangerous reality of climate change outnumber those who don’t by a ratio of 5:1.

Those four issues — voting rights and ethical leadership, a higher minimum wage, gun control and serious, radical measures to fight climate change — should comprise the muse and the mandate for the House for the next two years.

With HR1, their first planned bill of the year, the Democrats are off to a good start. This legislation calls for greater public funding of campaigns (making them more feasible for candidates who lack or don’t wish to take money from wealthy or corporate donors), requires super PACs and “dark money” organizations to reveal their contributors, requires the president to disclose his or her tax returns, strengthens the Office of Government Ethics, and most importantly, restores the Voting Rights Act and creates a new, automatic voter registration system. Will it pass in its entirety? Of course not; probably not even in pieces. But if the loud, clear, undistracted battle leads voters to question why Republicans oppose it, that may be enough to force some candidates to have an ACA-like change of heart or be voted out of office.

The Green New Deal — an audacious proposal to rapidly cut carbon emissions and move the U.S. to 100 percent reliance on clean energy in 10 years and guarantee every American a job building a sustainable food and energy infrastructure — is equally unlikely to win passage in anything resembling its current (still embryonic) form. But if educating the public and agitating for its passage succeeds only in putting the climate change deniers and fossil fuel profiteers on the defensive, that will at least create the conditions in 2020 for the kind of radical, urgent action we need to save jobs, homes, lives and, ultimately, the planet.

More suggestions at the link.

I have two notable international events to end with today. First is the Nobel Peace Prize. Both Winners came to prominence seeking justice for war rape victims Please read their compelling stories.

Denis Mukwege, a doctor who helps victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nadia Murad, a Yazidi rights activist and survivor of sexual slavery by Islamic State, are joint winners

Then, there is this news.

 

We also lost a woman who was a human Rights activist in Russia which is also not an easy place to extol Human Rights. “The extraordinary life of Lyudmila Alexeyeva. Meduza remembers a Russian human rights icon.”

The “Strategy 31” movement in 2009 belonged to Limonov’s National Bolsheviks. That year, on the 31st day of any month with so many days, a crowd of journalists would burst from the Mayakovsky subway station and descend on Triumfalnaya Square to watch the same spectacle unfold: protesters gathered to honor the Russian Constitution’s 31st article (which guarantees freedom of assembly), with some dragged into police vans, while officers shouted into megaphones: “Disperse! This is an unlawful assembly.” It was especially amusing to watch passersby, running late for a play at the next-door Moscow Satire Theater, completely perplexed by what was happening. Some of the least patient of these theatergoers also ended up in police vans.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, “For Human Rights” head Lev Ponomarev, and several other activists then formed a temporary and enormously fragile union with Eduard Limonov, the leader of “Other Russia.” At first, they simply provided assistance to detained demonstrators, but on December 31, 2009, Alexeyeva attended the meeting in person, dressed self-deprecatingly as Snegurochka (the mythological character commonly depicted as the granddaughter and helper of Old Man Frost, whose cultural role in Russia is similar to Santa Claus in the West). She was detained and shockingly manhandled by police. “They’ll probably charge me with swearing at them,” she told me in a call that night (this time from a mobile phone), citing the grounds most often used back then to detain demonstrators. Despite the holiday celebrations, the police released Alexeyeva with blinding speed, just as the outcry from state officials around the world started pouring in.

The falling out with Limonov didn’t take long. As always, Alexeyeva and the other human rights activists sought compromises and common ground with the authorities, and eventually they found some. The “31” rallies starting winning permits, but this approach didn’t appeal to the National Bolsheviks, and so they parted ways.

 

So, I guess there are some inspirational stories out there that have nothing to do with Bernie or Biden.  Let’s aspire to make all these voices count in 2019.  Out with the old white dudes.  In with the rest of us.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Veteran’s Day Reads

My mom and dad before dad headed over to England to join the bombing of NAZI assets

Today is usually a solemn day where we remember the sacrifice of many to our country.  Many of the men and women in this country give up their private lives and some times their lives altogether to defend the things that let our country aspire to become “a more perfect union” and to share our values of “liberty and justice for all”. Their personal sacrifices were made to make all of us better off.

We find many days in our national calendar to recognize their commitment to our country. Today is a big one. My Dad was a world war II bombardier in the US Army Air Corps.  His uncle and namesake took mustard gas in his lungs in trenches in France during World War I.  While Uncle Jack made it back home, he died quite young as the mustard gas eventually took his life.  My family has served in every war since Revolution and we were always reminded to honor our legacy.

There are so many instances of all kinds of Americans stepping up to this duty that it’s not difficult to wonder why we don’t fully step up for all of them.  Most Native Americans were not even considered citizens until 1924 but many fought in World War I. The Library of Congress has maps that show where their bodies were buried in the fields of such historic battles as Verdun.  Many lie in the places where the current Placeholder in the Oval office skipped out on a service honoring them, because, well, rain.

While searching through our collections for maps to use for display in the exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I, I found one among our uncatalogued holdings that caught my attention. As the title states, it is a map presenting the role of North American Indians in the World War. The map was published by the Office of the Adjutant General of the Army in 1925. The North American Indian in the World War map documents the places where Native Americans fought with distinction during the First World War. Furthermore, it represents part of the broader social and political fight for Native American citizenship.

The  map shows Native American participation, graves, notable battles, and military decorations awarded in France and Belgium.

The information for the map was taken from the work of Dr. Joseph Kossuth Dixon, a former Baptist preacher who became a photographer, author, and Native American rights advocate. Prior to the war, Dixon led three expeditions throughout the United States. Some of Dixon’s photographs can be found at the Library.

After World War I, Dixon traveled through Europe with the hope that documenting Native American service in the military would aid the struggle to obtain general U.S. citizenship. Forty percent of Native Americans were not citizens until 1924, though more than 12,000 served in the U.S. Army during World War I. As part of their service, many Native Americans of the 142nd Infantry, 36th Division became the nation’s first “Code Talkers.” Code Talkers sent messages encrypted in their native languages over radio, telephone, and telegraph lines which were never broken by Germany. On June 2, 1924, almost six years after the end of the war, Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act granting citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States.

African Americans also made a huge commitment of lives to the battlefields of World War I too which they too considered “the war to end all wars”.  We focus a lot on the stories of World War II with its Navajo Codetalkers’ vital role in helping end the war in the Pacific theatre. We also talk a lot about the Tuskegee Airmen and their role in the fight in the European theatre of WWII.  Black Americans were also present on the battle fields of WW1. This war not only shaped black lives in the countrry then, it shaped the lives of black Americans today.  Do you know about the migration of southern blacks to the factories of the north?

World War I was a transformative moment in African-American history. What began as a seemingly distant European conflict soon became an event with revolutionary implications for the social, economic, and political future of black people. The war directly impacted all African Americans, male and female, northerner and southerner, soldier and civilian. Migration, military service, racial violence, and political protest combined to make the war years one of the most dynamic periods of the African-American experience. Black people contested the boundaries of American democracy, demanded their rights as American citizens, and asserted their very humanity in ways both subtle and dramatic. Recognizing the significance of World War I is essential to developing a full understanding of modern African-American history and the struggle for black freedom.

When war erupted in Europe in August 1914, most Americans, African Americans included, saw no reason for the United States to become involved. This sentiment strengthened as war between the German-led Central Powers and the Allied nations of France, Great Britain, and Russia ground to a stalemate and the death toll increased dramatically. The black press sided with France, because of its purported commitment to racial equality, and chronicled the exploits of colonial African soldiers serving in the French army. Nevertheless, African Americans viewed the bloodshed and destruction occurring overseas as far removed from the immediacies of their everyday lives.

The war did, however, have a significant impact on African Americans, particularly the majority who lived in the South. The war years coincided with the Great Migration, one of the largest internal movements of people in American history.

Between 1914 and 1920, roughly 500,000 black southerners packed their bags and headed to the North, fundamentally transforming the social, cultural, and political landscape of cities such as Chicago, New York, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Detroit. The Great Migration would reshape black America and the nation as a whole.

Black southerners faced a host of social, economic, and political challenges that prompted their migration to the North. The majority of black farmers labored as sharecroppers, remained in perpetual debt, and lived in dire poverty. Their condition worsened in 1915–16 as a result of a boll weevil infestation that ruined cotton crops throughout the South. These economic obstacles were made worse by social and political oppression. By the time of the war, most black people had been disfranchised, effectively stripped of their right to vote through both legal and extralegal means.

Jim Crow segregation, legitimized by the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court ruling, forced black people to use separate and usually inferior facilities. The southern justice system systematically denied them equal protection under the law and condoned the practice of vigilante mob violence. As an aspiring migrant from Alabama wrote in a letter to the Chicago Defender, “[I] am in the darkness of the south and [I] am trying my best to get out.”

Wartime opportunities in the urban North gave hope to such individuals. The American industrial economy grew significantly during the war. However, the conflict also cut off European immigration and reduced the pool of available cheap labor. Unable to meet demand with existing European immigrants and white women alone, northern businesses increasingly looked to black southerners to fill the void. In turn, the prospect of higher wages and improved working conditions prompted thousands of black southerners to abandon their agricultural lives and start anew in major industrial centers. Black women remained by and large confined to domestic work, while men for the first time in significant numbers made entryways into the northern manufacturing, packinghouse, and automobile industries.

h/t to NW LUNA:

Women also played a vital role in World War1.  We all have heard of the nurses from all over struggling to save lives and provide comfort to the injured, wounded, and dying.

Aside from their mass involvement in these voluntary organizations and efforts, a key difference between women’s service during World War I and that of previous wars was the class of women involved.  Typically women who followed armies were from the working classes of society, but during the Great War, women from all classes served in many different capacities.  Upper class women were the primary founders and members of voluntary wartime organizations, particularly because they could afford to devote so much of their time and money to these efforts.  Middle- and lower-class women also participated in these organizations and drives, although they were more likely to be serving as nurses with the military or replacing men in their jobs on the home front as the men went off to war.  For the first time in American history, women from every part of the class spectrum were serving in the war in some capacity.

Another significant change to women’s service during the Great War is that American civilian women donned uniforms. The uniforms allowed women to look the part and claim credibility for their services, as well as to be taken seriously by others; many women saw their wartime service as a way to claim full citizenship, and the uniforms symbolized “their credentials as citizens engaged in wartime service.” 2

Other women donned uniforms because of their association with the military—World War I was the first time in American history in which women were officially attached to arms of the American military and government agencies.  Yeomen (F) served with the Navy and the Marine Corps, while the Army Nurse Corps was attached to the Army.  In France, 223 American women popularly known as “Hello Girls” served as long-distance switchboard operators for the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

And of course, those of us knowing the sacrfice of our military, well, we’re ashamed by these dreadful headlines this weekend: “Donald Trump jokes about ‘getting drenched’ during Armistice speech.”

‘You look so comfortable up there, under shelter,’ Donald Trump said while addressing second world war veterans at his armistice ceremony speech in Paris. ‘We are getting drenched, you’re very smart people,’ he said. The US president’s comments come a day after he cancelled a trip to a cemetery due to bad weather. Trump then went on to compliment the veterans: ‘You look like you’re in really good shape all of you. I hope I look like that someday, you look great’

And then, there’s this : “Macron reportedly asked Putin not to privately meet Trump during World War I commemorations — but they talked anyway.” Evidently, Putin ass kisisng was the Trump priority and not recoginzing the sacrfice of the millions of veterans of World War I lying dead in graveyards.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said France specifically asked him not to hold one-on-one meetings with US President Donald Trump during World War I commemorations in Paris this past weekend — but he ended up chatting with him anyway.

Putin on Sunday afternoon said he agreed to France’s request so as to “not violate” France’s planned events. “We will agree that we will not violate the schedule of the host party here: At their request, we will not organize any meetings here,” he told the Russian state-owned RT news channel, according to the state-run Interfax news agency.

Less than an hour later, however, Putin told reporters that he did end up having a brief conversation with Trump.

When asked by journalists whether he had a chance to talk to Trump, Putin said “yes,” Interfax and RT reported. According to RT, Putin added that the chat was “good.” Where and when that talk took place is unclear.

There are so many ways that KKKremlin Caligula is unfit for the job but the absolute lack of gravitas he brings to the world stage and to the rituals we set up to honor each other is perhaps the most mind boggling.  The first lady was not much better. She showed up to the somber events dressed like an 8 year old ready for an Easter Egg Hunt and other rites of spring. Her tone deaf ensembles just about take the cake.  From the “I don’t care do you?” jacket, to the colonial occupier costumes she wore to visit African nations, right to the fuck me pumps she always wears while tromping around national disaster sites, she’s got one hell of a display of really bad form.

While we wait for Mueller to dosey doe around the absolutely astounding appointment of a radical, radically unqualified Attorney General, I can only hope he’s as good as they say.  The massively good news of the weekend was the apparent call to real hearings discussed by incoming Democratic Committee Chairs.  Here’s a good list of who they are from WAPO.

I’ve picked the five that will upset the Trump family crime syndicate the most to highlight.

ADAM SCHIFF

Intelligence Committee

Schiff, 58, represents parts of Los Angeles, including Hollywood and Burbank. As the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, he has been one of Trump’s favorite foils in Congress. Schiff has repeatedly criticized the House’s Russia investigation, which his GOP colleagues conducted, saying it was inadequate.

Now Schiff will get his chance to conduct his own targeted investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign and its ties to Russia. He has said that he wants to look at whether Russians used laundered money for transactions with the Trump Organization. He also wants more information about communications the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., had with his father and others about a June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer.

___

ELIJAH CUMMINGS

Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Cummings, 67, will likely head the committee that could make life the toughest for the Trump White House because of its broad investigative powers.

Cummings would likely seek Trump’s business tax returns and other company-related financial records. He said he will work to make the president accountable, but will also challenge Republicans to uphold their oversight responsibilities, saying, “I think we as a body can do better.”

The Maryland Democrat, who represents parts of Baltimore city and most of Howard County, has said he would also like the committee to examine prescription drug prices and whether some states have engaged in voter suppression.

“We cannot have a country where it becomes normal to do everything in Trump’s power to stop people from voting,” Cummings said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

He would also seek to bring Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross before the committee to testify about the decision to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census.

___

JERROLD NADLER

Judiciary Committee

Nadler, 71, has been in Congress since 1992 and has served on the Judiciary Committee for much of that time. He represents a large swath of Trump’s hometown of New York.

He is expected to make one of his first priorities as chairman protecting special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and requesting that Mueller’s materials are preserved in case he is fired. Nadler said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that Matthew Whitaker, whom Trump named acting attorney general last week, “should recuse himself” from Mueller probe because he “expressed total hostilities to the investigation” and “if necessary” the Judiciary Committee will “subpoena” him to appear before the committee

The Judiciary panel would also oversee impeachment proceedings, if Democrats decided to move in that direction. But Nadler has expressed caution about the idea, saying there would have to be “overwhelming evidence” from Mueller and some bipartisan support.

The panel is also expected to look into family separation at the border and the Trump administration’s management of the Affordable Care Act.

___

MAXINE WATERS

Financial Services Committee

Waters, 80, is expected to chair a committee with oversight of banks, insurers and investment firms. She has opposed Republican-led efforts to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and is promising colleagues that she will prioritize protecting consumers from abusive financial practices. The California lawmaker, whose district centers on south Los Angeles County, can also conduct aggressive oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and steps it has taken to reduce enforcement actions against student lenders, pay-day lenders and others.

The president railed against Waters on the campaign trail this year, frequently mentioning her during his rallies. Waters accuses Republicans of serving as Trump’s “accomplices.

In other words, the cavalry is coming.  This time it includes native americans, black americans, hispanic americans, women, the glbt community.

Have a peaceful day of remembrance!

What’s in your reading and blogging list today?

 


Friday Reads: Crazy continues but January is coming

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

The nation’s overwhelmed electoral system is still delivering women to Congress and possible recounts.

 

 

45707316_1080749098770173_4246451701906669568_nRemember hanging chads?  Well, Florida is about to do it to us again for both the Senate and Gubernatorial races there.  Uncounted votes are still out there in Florida and Arizona.   This is about as good of a headline as any to start the day.  It’s from The Daily Beast and the keyboard of Will Sommer. “Republicans Freak Out as New Ballots Threaten Florida Senate Win”.

As the Republican margin in Florida’s U.S. Senate race narrowed and the contest headed toward a manual recount, everyone from elected Republicans to online conspiracy-mongers began screaming foul on Thursday night.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is clinging to a roughly 34,000-vote lead over Sen. Bill Nelson (D), held a press conference at the Florida governor’s mansion in which he called on law enforcement to launch an investigation and announced that he and the National Republican Senate Committee were bringing a lawsuit against officials in Broward County, where many votes are still being counted.

In other words, the state governor used his state-funded official residence to launch legal action against his own state’s election officials about an election he was a candidate in.

That was merely the formal legal tip of the brewing Republican pushback.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) had a social media meltdown, claiming in a long series of tweets that Democratic lawyers had come to Broward to “change the results of the election.”

It’s no wonder Florida gets to be the butt of every national joke.  I mean really. Can’t they ever get elections right?  From local TV station “local 10”:  Broward County elections supervisor explains why it’s taking so long to count ballots.”

As Broward County appears to be at the epicenter of another recount, Supervisor of Elections Dr. Brenda Snipes is on the defensive about how her office has handled Tuesday’s election results.

Snipes, who has been at the helm of Broward County elections since 2003, had a testy exchange with Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier during an interview Thursday.

The embattled elections supervisor was surprised by reporters as she stepped out of a bathroom and asked about the status of the recount.

“Could I please get a moment to go into the room and find out?” Snipes asked the group huddled around her. “OK, when I come back I’ll let you know.”

“But, Dr. Snipes, it is now Thursday,” Weinsier said. “We are still counting ballots in Broward County.”

“We’re counting five pages or six pages for each of the people who voted,” Snipes said.

“But other counties have been able to do it,” Weinsier said.

“But other counties didn’t have 600,000 votes out there,” Snipes shot back.

“Well, Miami-Dade did,” Weinsier said.

“Well, have you been inside my — never mind, let me go check. I’ll check,” Snipes said.

“But it’s a serious issue. It always seems like…” Weinsier said before Snipes interrupted him.

“It’s a serious issue with me,” she told him. “I’ve been doing this now since Oct. 22.”

“But if it’s a serious issue with you…” Weinsier said, only to be interrupted again.

“We ran 22 sites, we ran 14 days, we ran 12 hours, we had a big vote by mail (during early voting), so don’t try to turn it around to make it seem like I’m making comedy out of this,” Snipes replied.

Then Snipes walked away.

She later confirmed that 205 provisional ballots in the county are being looked at Thursday by a canvassing board.

This isn’t the first time Snipes has come under scrutiny for her office’s seemingly mismanagement of ballots.

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to members of the class of 2016 in her final commencement speech as first lady, Friday June 3, 2016, during commencement at CCNY in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

The Tampa Bay TImes is live blogging the recount/count events.  We finally got rid of Scott Walker. Can we get rid of Rick Scott  now?

9:05 — Rick Scott is also suing Palm Beach County. Here’s the lawsuit.

9:00 — Rick Scott filed suit against Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes over the county’s delay in completing its count of the votes from the midterm election. Scott sued as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, not in his capacity as governor of Florida.

Scott followed up by lashing out at Snipes in an extraordinary press conference at the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday night.

Broward County lags the rest of the state in completing the first, crucial phases of counting ballots from Tuesday’s midterm election. As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the same time the governor summoned reporters to the mansion, Broward County was the only one of the state’s 67 counties that had not reported to the state that it had completed its tabulation of early votes. Early voting ended Sunday in Broward.

Read the full recap of Scott’s press conference here.

8:55 — Republican House Speaker-designate Jose R. Oliva today released the following statement:

” I fully support and commend the Governor for directing FDLE to investigate. The power of the vote is only as strong as the trust in the count. With each new ballot ‘found’ that trust erodes.”

8: 46 — Andrew Gillum tweets his response to Rick Scott’s lawsuit.

Mr. @FLGovScott — counting votes isn’t partisan — it’s democracy.

Count every vote.

8:34 — Sen. Bill Nelson responded to Gov. Rick Scott’s late-night announcement through a statement from his spokesman Dan McLaughlin.

“The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately. Rick Scott’s action appears to be politically motivated and borne out of desperation.”

8:31 — “I am proud to be the next Senator for the great state of Florida,” Rick Scott said.

Scott ends the press conference without taking any questions.

8:30 — “Some believe this is simply rank incompetence. That is certainly true,” Rick Scott said. But it would be naive to think they are overruling the will of the voters, he adds.

Scott is asking for law enforcement to investigate immediately and he will use every legal options necessary, he said.

This race is tight and will hopefully cut into the Republican’s senate majority when finally called.

Suspense and uncertainty now hang over the supertight U.S. Senate race, which has Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally separated by just 9,610 votes, according to updated election results.

The results were updated after 5 p.m. Thursday, the first time since election night that the tallies had been substantially updated.

Sinema was leading as of 6:20 p.m. She had 932,870 votes,representing 49.10 percent of the total reported votes while McSally had 923,260 votes, or 48.59 percent. Green Party candidate Angela Green had earned 43,838.

It’s too soon to know who will ultimately prevail.

With tens of thousands of outstanding ballots, the campaign managers for both teams conveyed confidence, with each saying the remaining ballots would favor their candidate.

After Sinema’s lead widened Thursday, McSally’s campaign manager, Jim Bognet, predicted Sinema’s lead would “disappear.” In a written statement, he said outstanding ballots in Maricopa County arrived on days when early GOP turnout was higher than the votes reflected in Thursday’s results.

“With half a million ballots left to count we remain confidence that as votes continue to come in from counties across the state, Martha McSally will be elected Arizona’s next Senator,” Bognet said in the statement.

I’m peppering today’s posts with pictures of former First Lady Michelle Obama because her book is out and it’s going on my reading list.  Among the things she discusses are her trouble getting pregnant and how awful the placeholder in the oval office behaves.  She slams Trump.  This is from WAPO and the keyboard of Krissah Thompson.

The first-lady memoir is a rite of passage, but Obama’s is different by virtue of her very identity. “Becoming” takes her historic status as the first black woman to serve as first lady and melds it deftly into the American narrative. She writes of the common aspects of her story and — as the only White House resident to count an enslaved great-great-grandfather as an ancestor — of its singular sweep.

In the 426-page book, Obama lays out her complicated relationship with the political world that made her famous. But her memoir is not a Washington read full of gossip and political score-settling — though she does lay bare her deep, quaking disdain for Trump, who she believes put her family’s safety at risk with his vehement promotion of the false birther conspiracy theory.

“The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she writes. “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

It is the most direct and personal language she’s used about him. Trump reacted angrily Friday, jabbing his finger as he told reporters that “she got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always insist that you come up with controversy. Well, I’ll give you a little controversy back. I’ll never forgive him for what he did to the United States military by not funding it properly. It was depleted. . . . She talked about safety. What he did to our military made this country very unsafe for you and you and you.”

The notoriously private first lady speaks openly about a miscarriage which is a difficult conversation for any woman.  It’s perhaps another first step for a first lady who made history with a lot of firsts.

Former first lady Michelle Obama said she felt “lost and alone” after suffering a miscarriage about 20 years ago, during an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts.

“I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,” Obama said. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”

She added, “That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen.”

The free press is finding reasons for the Congress to refuse to recognize Mark Whitaker’s take over of the DOJ.  I would like to say that I am a Whittaker with two ‘ts’ and it takes two ‘ts’ to get to truth and integrity.  Here’s Jonathan Swan writing for Axios.

Matt Whitaker has been acting attorney general for just one full day but he’s already under extreme pressure.

Why it matters: President Trump, who shocked even some of his senior most staff with the hasty timing of his firing of Jeff Sessions, threw Whitaker into an immediate political and legal storm. The White House expected opposition from Democrats but the blowback is widening and now includes a growing body of conservative legal opinion.

  • Within hours of his appointment on Wednesday, Congressional Democrats began calling on Whitaker, a Trump loyalist, to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation because of comments about the Mueller probe that Whitaker made last year before he became Sessions’ chief of staff.
  • Whitaker wrote last year that the Mueller investigation was dangerously close to becoming a “witch hunt,” and during a TV appearance reportedly imagined a scenario in which the “attorney general doesn’t fire Bob Mueller, but he just reduces his budget to so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt.”
  • The N.Y. Times fronts a story by Charlie Savage, “At Justice Dept., A Boss Who Held Courts in Disdain”: Whitaker “once espoused the view that the courts ‘are supposed to be the inferior branch’ and criticized the Supreme Court’s power to review legislative and executive acts and declare them unconstitutional.”

A new problem emerged yesterday. Prominent attorneys Neal Katyal and George Conway wrote a New York Times op-ed in which they argue Trump’s appointment of Whitaker is illegal because the Constitution dictates that anyone serving in a “principal role” must be confirmed by the Senate.

  • “Conway and Katyal raise valid constitutional concerns,” said John B. Bellinger III, a partner at Arnold & Porter, who previously served as a senior White House lawyer and as the State Department Legal Adviser in the George W. Bush Administration.”
  • “The problem is not only that Mr. Whitaker does not already hold a Senate-confirmed position, it’s not even clear that he qualifies as an Executive branch ‘officer’ who may be asked by the President to assume the duties of Acting Attorney General because he was not an ‘officer’ exercising significant authority in his position as Chief of Staff.”
  • “In addition to politicizing the Department of Justice, the President is running a serious risk that any formal actions taken by Mr. Whitaker could be subject to legal challenge and declared invalid.”
  • “It would have been less controversial,” Bellinger told Axios, “and less legally risky if the President had named the Deputy Attorney General, or Solicitor General, or an Assistant Attorney General as Acting Attorney General.”

Trump’s case: There are respected lawyers arguing that Trump is well within his legal rights to appoint Whitaker as acting attorney general, as Axios’ Stef Kight and Alayna Treene report. (See their arguments.)

  • Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores emailed: “The VRA [Vacancies Reform Act] was passed in 1998 and Acting Attorney General Whitaker’s appointment was made pursuant to the procedures approved by Congress.”

Be smart: Trump likes and trusts Whitaker, and a source close to the president told Axios he could easily imagine Trump appointing Whitaker as Sessions’ permanent replacement.

  • But Whitaker’s path to Senate confirmation is filled with obstacles.

He needs to go.  Massive protests were held all over the world and the country last night.

Good news for the environment comes from the pen of a Judge. From the Hill “Judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline”  The reason is just terrific.

A federal judge blocked the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline Thursday, saying the Trump administration’s justification for approving it last year was incomplete.

In a major victory for environmentalists and indigenous rights groups, Judge Brian Morris of the District Court for the District of Montana overturned President Trump’s permit for the Canada-to-Texas pipeline, which the president signed shortly after taking office last year.

Morris’s ruling repeatedly faulted the Trump administration for reversing then-President Obama’s 2015 denial of the pipeline permit without proper explanation. He said the State Department “simply discarded” climate change concerns related to the project.

The decision once again throws into doubt the future of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL, which for much of the decade since its proposal by TransCanada Corp. has been a lightning rod in national energy policy.

The Trump administration had tried to argue that federal courts didn’t even have the right to review Trump’s approval, saying that it extended from his constitutional authority over border crossings. The court rejected that argument.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

So there’s a lot out there today in this time of hourly breaking news.  We can discuss it down thread.  I’m just waiting for January and Auntie Maxine, and Nancy and Elijah and all those banging gavels right now.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Wednesday Reads: Tank Girl Says It…Dems Got The House

We can turn this shit around!

 

Hey, I know…that is a little too positive, coming from someone like me…but even I have to grasp at some rays of hope. Yesterday, on my way to practice I took a picture of the sunset. It made me think of the future, in this way:

I said a little prayer, may this setting sun be the last of “tRumpian unaccountability”…and will tomorrow’s morning sun bring hope for our democracy.

That image of Tank Girl, it is morning…she is having tea and putting on her boots…preparing herself for the day’s ass kicking. We can turn this shit around! Let’s see what comes from winning the House?

 

Meanwhile, in Georgia:

As of 8:45 this morning, only 75,386 votes separate Kemp and Abrams…

Brian Kemp’s Lead in Georgia Needs an Asterisk – The Atlantic

The Democrat Stacey Abrams, a black woman, made a valiant effort to win the governor’s race in Georgia, one of the original 13 states, whose commitment to human bondage ensured that the U.S. Constitution would treat slavery with kid gloves. A state that was part of the Confederacy. A state scorched by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War. A state that refused to accept the outcome of that war, treating its black residents as second-class citizens—if that—until the federal government forced its hand, a century later, with the Voting Rights Act. She tried to write a new narrative for this state.

Although Abrams has not yet conceded, citing uncounted ballots, it looks as though the other side has won, and the narrative is the same as ever. Abrams didn’t have to fight just an electoral campaign; she had to fight a civil-rights campaign against the forces of voter suppression.

Indeed, I can’t quite bring myself to say that Abrams “lost,” because there’s an asterisk next to her Republican opponent’s victory.

Brian Kemp, who billed himself as a “Trump conservative,” refused to step aside as Georgia’s secretary of state; he ran for governor of a state while overseeing the elections in that state. Former President Jimmy Carter, a Georgian with much experience monitoring elections abroad, stressed that this conflict of interest ran “counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections—that the electoral process be managed by an independent and impartial election authority.”
Kemp had no intention of relinquishing a post he has held since 2010, and often wields as a weapon to cull Georgia’s electorate. He understood that he would need every trick in the book because he was up against a woman who, in addition to serving as the minority leader of the state’s House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017, founded a formidable voter-registration organization, the New Georgia Project.[…]Under Kemp, Georgia purged more than 1.5 million voters from the rolls, eliminating 10.6 percent of voters from the state’s registered electorate from 2016 to 2018 alone. The state shut down 214 polling places, the bulk of them in minority and poor neighborhoods. From 2013 to 2016 it blocked the registration of nearly 35,000 Georgians, including newly naturalized citizens. Georgia accomplished this feat of disfranchisement based on a screening process called “exact match,” meaning the state accepted new registrations only if they matched the information in state databases precisely, including hyphens in names, accents, and even typos.[…]Days before the deadline to register for the November election, the Associated Press reported that Kemp had put 53,000 applicants on hold due to exact-match problems. An analysis of Kemp’s records found that 70 percent of those applicants were black. (Georgia is roughly 32 percent black.) Separately, the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union found that some 700 absentee-ballot applications and almost 200 absentee ballots were rejected by county officials due to a law mandating that the signatures on absentee applications and ballots visually match the signatures on file. Thus, poor penmanship was added to the list of crimes that can lead to disenfranchisement in Georgia.[…]

In the end, it looks like Kemp won. It’s impossible to know if his attempts to restrict the franchise are what pushed him over the line. But if the Georgia race had taken place in another country—say, the Republic of Georgia—U.S. media and the U.S. State Department would not have hesitated to question its legitimacy, if for no other reason than Kemp’s dual roles as candidate and election overseer. Of course, there were other reasons. As of this morning, he led by about 75,000 votes; more than 85,000 registrations were canceled through August 1 of this year alone.

Stacy Abrams is vowing not to concede until all votes are counted. I think she should demand a recount…as well.

 

 

 

This is a good thread to round up the tRump effect:

From down along this thread:

Other observations:

This piece of shit is gone:

And…

On that note, here are a few cartoons:

Blue Shadow: 11/07/2018 Cartoon by Steve Artley

Cartoon by Steve Artley - Blue Shadow

I think Boston Boomer had this in one of her post, but it is so good I have to repeat it:

Election Sticker: 11/07/2018 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Election Sticker

11/06/2018 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

 

 

 

I wonder what the rest of today will bring?

See you in the comments…this is an open thread.