Monday Reads: Fired up! Ready to GO!

Rev Al Sharpton and Trans Activist Ashley Marie Presley introduce Senator Elizabeth Warren to the Power Stage (my photo)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual Essence Fest this weekend.  It was a great experience and a good way for me to hear some of the Democratic Presidential candidates in person.  There were unexpected visits by Colorado Senator Bennet and New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio.  They addressed those of us assembled in front of the Power Stage.  Later, I heard Senators Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Elizabeth Warren who spoke and then took questions from a panel led by Rev Al Sharpton.  There were a lot of things going on, as usual, all over the Morial Convention Center but I want to make sure you got to hear and see a bit of what I saw in these candidates as they addressed the crowds.

Just a few notes. I left before Beto hit the stage and did not come back Sunday for Mayor Pete.  Biden and Bernie were no shows which I believe was a serious mistake.  I’m not sure about the others but Biden and Bernie made the usual “previous commitments” out

I have to admit that there were several moments that really thrilled me including the short speech from Auntie Maxine who was introduced by my former mayor Marc Morial.  Congresswoman Maxine Waters is a national treasure.  From the Essence: “Rep. Maxine Waters Reminds Black Women At Essence Festival: ‘We Don’t Take S— From Nobody’”.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters brought the heat to the Essence Festival Power Stage on Saturday afternoon. In a stirring address, she told thousands of attendees that the time for Black women is now.

As the nation readies for the 2020 elections, Waters did not mince words about the power of the specific voting bloc and the community as a whole. The veteran politician from California also used herself as a blueprint for what needs to be done to remove Donald Trump from office.

“I’m not intimidated. I’m not afraid,” Waters said about opposing the man in the Oval Office. “All of my life I have been trained to deal with demagogues like him. I will take him on any day of the week. And so what I want to leave with you today is this is our time, ladies.”

Waters pointed to the many ways in which Black women have proven that they are ready to step up to the challenge of not only removing Trump from office but also taking on the harmful policies that have been created since his election.

“Black women are moving forward,” Maxine triumphantly stated before adding that we are getting elected to public office in record numbers, remaining civically engaged in our organizations, leading the fight in our educational institutions, and being all-around change agents in our cities and neighborhoods.

“Don’t be discouraged.

“Don’t be disgusted.

“Don’t give up.

“Show Donald Trump who we are!” Waters said to cheers.

All of the candidates spoke to empowering black women to become entrepreneurs by giving better access to capital for their business ventures. There was also a lot of emphasis on closing the gap between wealth accumulation of white and black families with each candidate having a somewhat similar approach. Corey Booker suggested “baby bonds” be available to all families on the birth of a child with income-indexed contributions provided each birthday until that child is 18.  This would be available to all babies born in the US.  The two women definitely brought the excitement to the audience but Booker was well-received.  He also had the home court advantage since he was born and raised here.

This is also from Essence.

Even with this shifting demographic, Black women still overwhelming vote Democrat, and still have the power to determine election outcomes, something of which Booker is keenly aware.

“Black women are going to be the highest voters in this country, then the agenda of African American women has to be at the center of the Democratic Party’s agenda…because right now the reality is unacceptable,” Booker insisted from the Essence Festival Power Stage to loud applause.

Reading from his notes, Booker itemized the oppression of Black women in this country:

“Black women have the highest level of workforce participation. Eighty-percent of Black mothers are the breadwinners for their families. But still the pay gap for Black women making only 61 cents of every dollar that a white male makes is unacceptable in our country. The fastest growing group of entrepreneurs are African American women who don’t get the access to capital that they deserve. Black women have four times the maternal mortality rates of white women. This is unacceptable.

Channeling James Baldwin, who wrote in Notes of a Native Son (1955), “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually,” Booker located Black women’s pain within the larger white settler-colonial project known as the United States, telling the Essence Festival audience, “If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.”

In his closing pitch, the senator from New Jersey set his sights on Donald Trump, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., saying, “We are in a time right now where a person in the White House is spewing bigotry and racism…a person pushing policies that hurt communities of color.”

“But, the existence of demagoguery and hate has never defined us as a nation,” Booker claimed. “What defines us is how we choose to respond to the challenges before us.”

Senator Booker’s speech is here at MSNBC.  I continue to like the Senator but I’m not sure he has the fire required to do this election.  Both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris left me with no doubt.

My shot of Senator Bennet. I was in the middle of the room but far away from the stage. Thank goodness for the big screens!!

A good capsule of the weekend can be found at WAPO where, for some reason, Biden still got the freaking headline.  They just can’t help themselves I guess.

Arriving to a smattering of polite applause from the thousands of women in the room, Buttigieg, whose campaign has struggled with black voters, immediately began trying to win over the audience. “I stand here knowing that black women aren’t just the backbone of the Democratic Party, you are the bone and sinew that make our democracy whole,” Buttigieg declared. “When black women mobilize, outcomes change. And we need some different outcomes at a time like this.”

Buttigeig’s appearance came a day after six other candidates spoke at the festival, each appealing to black women in different ways.

Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) pitched policy proposals aimed at closing the racial wealth gap. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio argued for universal health care. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) championed his support for a new voting rights act. And Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) invoked the road trip he’d taken to the festival through impoverished areas of rural Mississippi to pitch his plan to improve the nation’s education system.

I had the pleasure to sit next to a retired black woman from my families’ home of Kansas City.  She gave polite applause to every one.  Polite applause went to every one including Kamala whose #KHive section was filled with enthusiastic sign waving supporters from the sorority sisters at HBCs.  She was basically for Biden but had also was warmed up to Elizabeth Warren.  I asked her if Biden’s history of supporting state’s rights bothered her.  She shrugged and said it was a long time ago and that if Biden was good enough for Obama that was good enough for her.  She proudly told me that she had paid off her own home and talked about what happened when Kansas City Power and Light–her old employer–got bought out by a private provider.  She was just the perfect example of a Kansas City, church going lady that I saw every weekend we visited the family.  She did remind me that there would’ve been no gay marriage without Joe’s push.  I nodded and said yes, there is that.

Bill DiBlasio was a fiery speaker and made certain he gave a shout out to his wife the first lady of New York.  He came out from behind the podium and addressed a lot of issues in his short period of time. (Via NY1)

Mayor de Blasio looked to raise his profile with black voters Saturday while speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

The annual event is always one of the largest gatherings of African American women in the country.

After being introduced by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Saturday, de Blasio touted First Lady Chirlane McCray’s mental health initiative, Thrive NYC.

“She is taking away the stigma related to mental health. She is making people realize that we have to do something different in this country and get people the help they need,” de Blasio said. “There is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition. There is something wrong when people can’t get the help they need. Right? So join me in thanking the first lady of New York City, the love of my life, Chirlane McCray.”

Image may contain: 1 person, on stage, standing and indoor

I caught Senator Harris on one of the big screens. You can tell she was having fun and in her element. She’s looking straight at the #KHive

Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado is wonky as it comes. I’m not sure he has a plan for it all but he sure can speak to the issues. This is from Essence.   Bennet’s background is in Public Education and he basically spoke to his strength.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

Democratic Candidate Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.) took to the Power Stage at the 2019 Essence Festival to remind us all about the importance of education when it comes to transforming the economy and creating a better future.

“There was a time in America when Public Education was the wind at our back in transforming our economy but today, taken as a whole, our education system is reinforcing the income inequality that we have, not liberating people from it,” Bennet told the crowd Saturday morning.

Income disparity and access, Bennet pointed out, are the main issues when it comes to the quality of education a child receives. And unless everyone has access, “equal is not equal,” as he pointed out.

“When one group of children has access to preschool and the other through no fault of their own does not, when one group has access to $1 million house and therefore a quality K-12 education and the other does not, when one group has access to tutors and counselors and parents who went to college themselves and the other does not then even equal is not equal and we need to make a change,” he said.

So, that leaves me down to Harris and Warren who were basically the two candidates that got the most enthusiasm that I could see.  I sat with a friend my daughter’s age who has been politically active as a New Orleans native.  I also sat in front of a older black couple from Detroit and next to a black woman and her daughter from here.  I was surrounded by Warren Fans.  Literally. Warren’s volunteer desk even was handing out Warren Planners!  She and Kamala definitely had the best swag.  There was a desk in the middle that rotated from Booker to Beto as the day wore on but all my friends were either at the #KHive or All in with Warren.

So, let me just put their speeches up.

 

You can hear the Kamala Chants and feel the excitement as she speaks to things she feels strongly about.  This is from ABC News. “Kamala Harris stars as 2020 presidential candidates pitch African American voters at Essence Fest”.  

Harris, the only black woman running for president, and the only black woman in the Senate, hit the stage to Tupac’s “California Love,” a nod to her home state, and got an enthusiastic “Skee Wee” from the large number of sorority sisters from Alpha Kappa Alpha — a black sorority founded at Howard University, Harris’s alma mater — in attendance.

“Good morning, my beautiful sisters,” Harris said, before launching into her plan to boost home ownership among African Americans.

This is from Essence and takes from the Campaign that has the plans. I also have to say that I met with Warren campaign staff on Friday night. There were two things that impressed me. First, they come from Stacey Abrahms’ campaign. Second, they asked each of us what we want Elizabeth to know about what’s important to our community. By the next afternoon, Warren addressed those items in her speech. The audience for Warren was much older. Both women had a following among white gay men and white women who both showed up in the volunteer desks and in the audience. Both campaigns have diverse volunteers and staff.

“It is good to be at a party with purpose and I am here with purpose. Our purpose is to take back the White House in 2020,” Warren said as she opened her remarks. “We must win, but winning is not enough. When we win we must make real change in this country, and yeah, I got a plan for that.”

Warren started telling her own personal story of grappling with access to childcare as a young professional, struggling to find work-life balance only to have babysitters quit on her and childcare centers not work out. She came out on the other end thanks to the help of one of her aunts. But not everyone has an aunt like she did, Warren acknowledged.

“How many women of my generation were just knocked off the tracks because of childcare, how many women of my daughter’s generation were knocked off the tracks, how many women and how many men today just get knocked off the tracks because childcare today is harder than it was two generations ago,” Warren said. “I’m running for president of the United States and yeah I got a lot of plans because [if] you want to get something done, you better have a plan to do it.”

At the top of Warren’s plans, as many of us already know, is her wealth tax – a tax on the top one-tenth of the one percent which would require the super-rich to give two cents on their 50 millionth and first dollar, and an additional two cents on every dollar after that.

“You know what we can do in America with two cents?” Warren asked, getting visibly excited as she listed the possibilities. “We could start by providing universal childcare to every baby 0 to 5 in this country. We could provide universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old in this country. We could raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in this country.”

“And with that same two cents, we could do more. We could provide tuition-free technical school, community college and four-year college to every one of our kids who wants an education. We could also level the playing field and that means a $50 Billion investment into HBCUs,” she continued. “We could cancel student loan debt for 95% of the kids who got it. We can start to close that Black-white wealth gap.”

In the Q&A segment, speaking to Rev. Al Sharpton, ESSENCE CEO Michelle Ebanks and Founder and Chair of Essence Ventures Richelieu Dennis, Warren expanded on her ideas on the wealth gap, pointing out that it has led to a Black-white entrepreneurship gap.

The big headliner of the Day was former First Lady Michelle Obama.   Here’s USA Today’s coverage of her discussing living through hard hits with Gayle King.

Speaking onstage to Gayle King on Saturday at Essence Festival’s 25th anniversary celebration in New Orleans, the former first lady got real about how she learned to shake off hateful comments.

“It was important to tell that part of the story (in “Becoming,” her 2018 best-selling autobiography) because they see me and Barack now, but they don’t know how many punches it took us to get there,” said Obama, according to Essence. “People from all sides, Democrats and Republicans, tried to take me out by the knees. And the best way they could do it was to focus on the strength of the black woman, so they turned that into a caricature.”

So, this is how I spent my weekend.  I know that every one wants to speak on the breaking news about Jeffrey Epstein and I’m also sure that BostonBoomer will be far better equipped to elabortate on that tomorrow.  But, they  SDNY just gave a presser and it was a doozy.  My suggestion for a read to start that discussion of is this one from New York Magazine: “Everything We Know About the Sex Crimes Case Against Jeffrey Epstein” b

On Saturday, billionaire financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested for the alleged sex trafficking of dozens of minors in New York and Florida between 2002 and 2005. In a criminal indictment unsealed Monday, federal prosecutors claimed that Epstein lured underage girls, some as young as 14, to his luxurious homes in Manhattan and Palm Beach under the guise of paying them cash for massages. He then molested them and encouraged them to recruit other young girls to return with them. The victims who returned with new victims were paid a finder’s fee.

“In this way, Epstein created a vast network of underage victims for him to sexually exploit, often on a daily basis,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

The hedge-fund manager and former friend of presidents Trump and Clinton faced similar charges a decade ago but escaped federal prosecution via a widely criticized, shockingly lenient plea deal. After a decade of legal efforts by many of his victims — and, more recently, increased scrutiny from lawmakers and the media — Epstein faces prosecution by the notoriously tough Southern District of New York and a long prison sentence if convicted.

Trump’s name comes up several places.  Read the article to find out more.

And now … what’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Wednesday Night Live Blog of the first Dem Debates

The first 10 Candidates for the Democratic Nomination for President debate tonight on several channels at 9:00 pm EST.  This kicks off our discussion with the basic information via NYT.  Join us for the discussion!!

  • You can watch it on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo. It will also stream live on Twitter and YouTube. The debate is taking place in Miami.

  • The 10 Democratic candidates in this debate (10 others will debate on Thursday) will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds for rebuttals. There will be no opening statements, and each candidate will give a one-minute closing statement. The debate will be broken up into five segments with four commercial breaks.

  • Lester Holt of NBC News is the moderator. He will be joined in the first hour by Savannah Guthrie of the “Today” show and José Díaz-Balart of Telemundo. Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press” and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC will appear in the second hour.

Via NPR:

Up first on Wednesday night: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Candidates will have to be succinct: The debate’s rules grant 60-second answers and 30-second follow-ups. There will be no opening statements. Each night will offer some chances for candidates to catch their breath — four commercial breaks among five segments during each two-hour event.

The best news is that there will be more women and POC than ever before! (Via Vox)

It’s a significant milestone for a whole slew of reasons. For one, the presence of more diverse voices ensures that there are a range of perspectives expressed on issues central to the Democratic Party, including health care, immigration, and wages. For another, the presence of more women candidates this cycle on both the debate stage and the campaign trail normalizes the idea of women as presidential candidates, helping shift the definition of “electability.”

While the Democratic field is still predominantly male (19 of the 25 candidates, to be exact), the debates this week offer an opportunity to see what the conversation looks like as gender parity in politics continues to grow.

Until this cycle, only a handful of women candidates have participated in presidential debates held by either party: Democrats Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun, and Hillary Clinton, and Republicans Carly Fiorina and Michele Bachmann.

None of them ever faced each other on a debate stage.

What should we keep a eye out for? Here’s Five-Thirty-Eight’s political Chat.

 

sarahf (Sarah Frostenson, politics editor): The first Democratic primary debates are finally here. And with two back-to-back nights, featuring 10 candidates each, it’ll be a challenge for many candidates to make an impression, especially those hovering around 1 percent in the polls.

 

So, join us  for the live action!

I’m pretty sure we won’t be in for a lot of finger wagging tonight but what else will we find out?

 


Fresh Hell Friday Reads: “He will Kill us All’

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Well, the Iran Situation is turning into the usual Trumpian Clusterfuck. And, this is what some Dems on Facebook. etc want in his place:

“Grampa Simpson runs for president”

The concern, as articulated by his Democratic rivals and a wave of harsh online commentary, is that Biden sees contemporary America through a distorting haze of nostalgia.

I watched the Battle for Winterfield again last night. I can’t seem to get enough of the haunting “Night King” composition by Ramin Djawadi. I also keep looking for Arya to creep up behind what passes for our President these days with something that vaporizes him. Plus, there’s Joe imploding as he usually does to a chorus of but he’s our only hope. Voters of American, if Joe Biden is your answer you are asking the wrong damned question! The Grampa Simpson take is from politico and the keyboard of John F. Harris.

As thunderbolts crash around him, Joe Biden is facing an urgent question: What exactly is the rationale for his presidential candidacy?

The answers given by Biden sympathizers usually are rooted in character and personal history. Here is a decent man who has lived long and seen a lot, through setbacks and tragedy, and knows enough to understand and defend the timeless virtues that are so absent but also so needed in modern Washington. Late in life, the man and moment are in harmony at last for a heroic final chapter.

I’m sorry but Biden’s record in Congress and his habit of serially plagiarizing others, his treatment of Dr. Hill, and his damn inability to apologize for being totally insensitive to the feelings of others is disqualifying. A decent man does none of those things. A decent man realizes when what he says and does hurts others intentionally or not and he freaking APOLOGIZES and he makes amends and he works to never EVER do it again!

The hope is that voters will embrace Biden as a kind of American Churchill.

The past 24 hours raise, not for the first time, a more painful possibility: Grampa Simpson is running for president.

“There’s not a racist bone in my body,” Biden bristled indignantly on Wednesday evening. But that wasn’t the primary concern about a 76-year-old’s paean to his youthful past, in which conscientious senators like himself supposedly could work productively and with “civility” even with segregationists like James Eastland and Herman Talmadge.

The concern, as articulated by his Democratic rivals and a wave of harsh online commentary, is that Biden sees contemporary America through a distorting haze of nostalgia, that his values and assumptions were shaped by the last generation or even the one before that, that after many years in public life he still lacks the self-awareness or self-discipline to wonder whether modern voters will find his vagrant ruminations about the past as interesting or relevant as he does.

I’m not voting for fucking Joe Biden and I’m not going to be bullied into it or pleaded into it or kumbayah’d into it. Not going to do it. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.

Biden, during 48 years on the national scene, has never had an especially strong ideological profile: He’s been a reasonably centrist Democrat for all of them. When he has deviated it was usually in right-leaning directions, as with his opposition to forced busing for integration in the 1970s or his support for expanding crimes covered by the death penalty in the 1990s.

Or his treatment of women and his real views on Abortion rights.

This history means that the most likely answer to the “why Biden” challenge will rest on character. The evidence of the past couple days—redundant to evidence amassed over several decades—is that if voters are going to embrace Biden’s character they must also embrace or overlook his penchant for the cringe-worthy remark. And realize that often the most cringey remarks will flirt with racial themes.

And misogynist and handsy. And yeah, totally ignoring any one at any time when it’s inconvenient for him.

Now, about the problem of Trump and his inability to have a cogent thought, any kind of strategy, and finding good people that can do that for him. This is the headline I woke up to from the NYT: “Trump Approves Strikes on Iran, but Then Abruptly Pulls Back.” Sort’ve sounds like a headline made for an impotent, senile old man doesn’t it? Only this one is not just playing with himself. He is the Commander and Chief and that should make all of us very afraid. Did some bad men shoot down your unmanned toy?

Yes he charged forward and then pulled out. Brave Brave Sir Donald! Dumb Dumb Sir Donald! This piece is written by the usual suspects: Michael D. Shear, Eric Schmitt, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman.

President Trump approved military strikes against Iran in retaliation for downing an American surveillance drone, but pulled back from launching them on Thursday night after a day of escalating tensions.

As late as 7 p.m., military and diplomatic officials were expecting a strike, after intense discussions and debate at the White House among the president’s top national security officials and congressional leaders, according to multiple senior administration officials involved in or briefed on the deliberations.

Officials said the president had initially approved attacks on a handful of Iranian targets, like radar and missile batteries.

The operation was underway in its early stages when it was called off, a senior administration official said. Planes were in the air and ships were in position, but no missiles had been fired when word came to stand down, the official said.

There’s no adult in charge of the Pentagon right now. WTF? Why even think about this unless John Bolton is sitting on your shoulder whispering sweet war diatribes in your ear?

Jacqueline Alemany writes this for WAPO :Power Up: Impeachment, Iran, Immigration: Trump’s “I” word trifecta”

AND THEN THERE WERE THREE: Reps. Sean Casten (Ill.), Katie Porter (Calif.) and Tom Malinowski (N.J.) are three Democrats who knocked off Republicans to win their seat in 2018 and take back the House majority. As of this week, they’re also now all in favor of initiating impeachment proceedings against President Trump, despite the potential electoral consequences.

  • “I didn’t run for Congress to impeach the president” is becoming a common disclaimer for those members who are hesitant to launch formal impeachment proceedings against the president.
  • Trickle effect: The momentum for impeachment keeps growing as slowly, more Democrats come out in favor of an official inquiry because they are defending their oversight function under the Constitution. That despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) firm opposition to formal impeachment proceedings.
  • The tally: Seventy-three lawmakers are now in favor of beginning impeachment proceedings, per a running list being kept by my colleagues J.M. Rieger, Amber Phillips and Kevin Schaul.

These are a lot for a person with a sound mind to deal with but I can’t even begin–and wouldn’t want to be there–to wander through the mind of Dotard Donald. You order your military on a mission and THEN you worry about fucking casualties? If this doesn’t move the impeachment meter, we’ve got no hope for the republic.

President Trump ordered an attack on Iran on Thursday in retaliation for the downing of a surveillance drone in the Strait of Hormuz but called the operation off just before it was due to occur because it would have caused extensive casualties, he said Friday.

In a series of morning tweets, Trump said he called off strikes on three Iranian sites minutes before they were to be launched because he was informed of the likely loss of life among Iranians.

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die,” Trump tweeted. “150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it.”

Such a death toll was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” Trump wrote, adding: “I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”

Trump’s Friday morning tweets appeared to gloss over the fact that he was the one, as commander in chief, who had ordered the retaliation against Iran in the first place.

Iran said Friday the United States had “no justification” for a retaliatory strike and vowed to respond “firmly” to any U.S. military action.

Look. Old white men have been making bad decisions and failing upwards for way too long. They’ve been using the rest of us and ignorning what it does to us on the way.. Today just really reminds me of why it’s necessary to look for a leader that knows what it takes to face a complete uphill battle and still get there. It’s time for a different brand of leadership. I’m tired of being scared to death by ego and sheer incompetence.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Listen to this haunting background to the peak of the Battle for Winterfall and enjoy the work of this very talented musician and composer.


Impeachment Monday Reads

2_weyantGood Morning Sky Dancers!

I guess now’s as good as any time to discuss the roadmap to impeachment.  I don’t know about you but I’m more than ready to start the roadtrip.  Let’s start with moving forward by looking back with The New Republic’s Matt Ford and his interview with an assistant to the Judge that decided that sitting presidents can’t be indicted while said Judge was writing the memo.

It’s a weird story that Rachel Maddow has covered because it links directly to Spiro Agnew.  Her podcast, Bag Man, took on the legacy of Agnew and how his criminality impacted the approach to Nixon‘s removal. So, why can’t sitting presidents be indicted?  Why can’t we just lock him up instead of letting him rot out here with unidicted co-conspirator status?  Should we revisit the Dixon memo?

Robert Mueller made a surprising assertion last month about the limits of his power. In his report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and President Trump’s potential obstruction of the investigation, the special counsel explained that Justice Department policy effectively prevented him from charging Trump with a crime while in office. But in his surprise press conference in May, he went even further. “[The report] explains that under long-standing department policy, a president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office,” he said. “That is unconstitutional. Even if the charge is kept under seal and hidden from public view—that too is prohibited.”

This remains an open legal question, despite Mueller’s unequivocal assertion. The Constitution itself is silent on the matter, and no court has ever ruled otherwise because no sitting president has ever been indicted. Mueller’s nod to “long-standing department policy” likely was a reference to the so-called Dixon memo, a 1973 Office of Legal Counsel opinion in which Assistant Attorney General Robert Dixon concluded that there were multiple practical and constitutional hurdles that made it effectively impossible. “The spectacle of an indicted president still trying to serve as chief president boggles the imagination,” Dixon wrote.

That memo’s primary purpose, however, was not to conclusively decide whether a president could be indicted while in office. While it’s commonly assumed that the memo came about during the Watergate scandal, it instead sprang from the Justice Department’s efforts to prosecute Vice President Spiro Agnew in a tax-evasion case. Agnew argued that he was only subject to impeachment by Congress, and Attorney General Elliot Richardson asked Dixon to write an opinion on the question.

To understand the Dixon memo’s unusual origins and its continuing impact, I spoke with J. T. Smith, an attorney who worked as Richardson’s executive assistant during the Watergate scandal. Smith was present at the creation, so to speak, of the Justice Department’s policy on indicting a sitting president. He told me that if Richardson “had the benefit or detriment we have of the behavior of this particular White House, he almost certainly would say it’s high time this whole matter get revisited.”

1_summers_0The Dixon memo was FOIA’d last year. Here’s a link to the memo itself along with the letter acknowledging the FOIA request.    So here’s the Judge’s assistant’s direct response to if the Dixon Memo should be revisited.

Did you happen to see Mueller’s press conference the other day, where he said outright that it would be unconstitutional to indict a sitting president?

I saw that, and I’m not clear why he said it. It’s one thing to say that it is Justice Department policy, long standing, that a sitting president should not be subject to criminal process, but he sort of surprised me when he characterized it as being unconstitutional. Because the Dixon memo of 1973, I think, ends up on grounds that are policy-based more than Constitution-based, and indeed, the Dixon memo says that the Constitution doesn’t squarely address the topic.

DcccvljW4AA3RYlThis bit of wiggle has allowed Trump and his current AG to say, basically, nothing to see here when there is plenty to read there if any one would take the time to read the Mueller Report or listen to the folks that have.

Nancy Pelosi “is putting up guardrails” if you believe the analysis at WAPO by Amber Phillips.

As leader of the House of Representatives, she has quite a bit of sway. She is the top elected Democrat in Washington. And she decides what bills her chamber votes on. The lawmakers in the House and Senate actually running for president — 11 in all — just get to vote.

So it’s notable that under her leadership, the House hasn’t voted on any big-government policy package championed by the Bernie Sanderses and Elizabeth Warrens of the world.

In May, the House voted on seven health-care bills designed to bandage Obamacare now that the Trump administration is trying to kill it by a thousand cuts. Not a single one of those bills would establish universal health care, even though Medicare-for-all is a defining policy debate of the 2020 presidential primary. Five of the seven senators running for president support a Medicare-for-all bill.

She also hasn’t allowed a vote on the Green New Deal, a plan to tackle climate change with Roosevelt-era-style government-funded jobs, despite the fact that many 2020 candidates support some aspect of the plan. And she’s held off her party from taking the first steps to impeach President Trump even though 67 House Democrats — and a number of presidential candidates — want to.

Pelosi’s logic is simple. She’s not thinking about the Democratic primary.

She believes the battle for her House and the White House next November will be waged in communities that voted for President Trump in 2016 such as in Rep. Elise Slotkin’s Lansing, Mich., district or in Georgia where Rep. Lucy McBath got narrowly elected last year or in Iowa, where Rep. Abby Finkenauer is campaigning to stay elected after knocking off a Republican member of Congress. All three represent districts that voted for Trump in 2016 in states Trump won. None of them support impeachment of Trump.

20190423edbbc-a_1You can tell all of this talk of impeachment is getting to Trump.  His tweets over the weekend were some of his most unhinged screeds to date.  He also spoke to the many reporters questioning him on the topic.

The ABC interview with Stephanopolous was shown in Full on Sunday and Trump’s state of mind was on full display.  His usual “no collusion, witchhunt” rant seemed particularly hollow this weekend.  He’s fired a group of his pollsters and is undoubtedly flipping out about the latest poll showing the public’s move Impeachment Inquiry Curious.  This is from The Hill.

The report cited more than 100 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia but said there was insufficient evidence to conclude there was a conspiracy. Investigators also did not make a determination on whether Trump obstructed justice, with Mueller saying it was because a sitting president cannot be prosecuted.

In the same interview, Trump waved off a letter in which more than 1,000 federal prosecutors said he would have been indicted for obstruction were he not a sitting president, saying the signatories were “politicians” and “Trump haters.”

His interview was broadcast as a poll from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found that support for impeachment hearings had increased 10 points since May, to 27 percent. The increase was largely driven by Democrats, 48 percent of whom now favor impeachment, up 18 points from last month.

The new poll found that the number of Americans who believe Congress should continue to investigate whether there is sufficient evidence to hold impeachment hearings fell 8 points to 24 percent.

A Fox News poll released Sunday, meanwhile, found that that 50 percent of respondents said they believe the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia, up 6 points from March. Forty-four percent of respondents said they don’t believe there was collusion.

Half of that poll’s respondents favored impeachment, with 43 percent supporting impeaching and removing Trump — a 1-point increase from March — and 7 percent endorsing impeachment but not removal, compared to 48 percent who opposed impeachment. The same survey found that 56 percent of respondents said it was “not at all” likely that Trump will eventually be impeached.

The surveys come amid increasing chagrin from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) hard line against impeachment proceedings.

1_194Heather Cox Richardson–writing for The Guardian–makes “The historical argument for impeaching Trump.” It’s a run down of all the times Republic Presidents pushed the envelope on the imperial presidency.

The question of impeaching Donald Trump is about replacing the toxic partisanship of today’s Republican party with America’s traditional rule of law. It has become a constitutional imperative.

Since Richard Nixon, Republican presidents have pushed the envelope of acceptable behavior under the guise of patriotism, and Democrats have permitted their encroaching lawlessness on the grounds of civility, constantly convincing themselves that Republicans have reached a limit beyond which they won’t go. Each time they’ve been proven wrong.

Nixon resigned in 1974 because his attempts to cover up his involvement in the Watergate burglary made his obstruction of justice clear. Republican leaders warned Nixon that if the House of Representatives impeached him, the Senate would convict. Republican congressmen of the time believed in the rule of law.

Gerald Ford’s subsequent pardon of Nixon was perhaps given in that spirit: when the law rules, it permits mercy. But the absence of a humiliating public exposure of Nixon’s participation in Watergate, and the lack of a permanent bipartisan condemnation, gave Nixon loyalists cover to argue that he wasn’t guilty of crimes. Instead they claimed Nixon had been hounded out of office by outlandish liberals determined to undermine him and the country.

Ever since, Republican extremists have employed this rhetoric whenever they break the law or erode constitutional norms.

When Ronald Reagan’s administration was exposed for having illegally sold arms to Iran to raise money covertly for the Contra rebels fighting the Nicaraguan government, Reagan acknowledged that the evidence was damning – yet defended the principle behind the scheme. Reagan’s successor, George HW Bush, pardoned the six leading figures of the Iran-Contra affair because, he said, “whether their actions were right or wrong”, they were motivated by “patriotism”. The investigation into their actions was “a criminalization of party differences”.

2_174Quite a rundown, isn’t it?  Well, put that in light of the Trumpian window.

The same Republicans who had threatened to impeach Hillary Clinton remained silent when, immediately after his surprise victory, Trump refused to abide by laws about emoluments or nepotism, openly profiting from the presidency and filling the White House with personal relatives. They continued to remain silent when Trump fired the FBI director, James Comey, who was investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, then pointedly pardoned Scooter Libby, saying he was “treated unfairly”. They did not protest in February 2019 when the Trump administration openly defied the law by refusing to give Congress a required report on Saudi involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

By May of this year the White House was refusing to honor any congressional subpoenas on the grounds that “it’s very partisan – obviously very partisan”, as Trump told the Washington Post.

When the House committee on ways and means demanded Trump’s tax returns under a law that leaves no wiggle room, Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, nonetheless refused to deliver them, saying he saw no “legitimate legislative purpose” for such a request. An attempt by the executive branch to dictate to the legislative branch, the only branch of the American government that has the unilateral power to make law, is shocking, but Republicans stayed quiet. They also stayed quiet when Trump used declarations of national emergency to override laws passed by Congress, and on Monday the Trump White House asserted in court that Congress had no authority to determine whether the president has committed crimes.

Yet only one congressional Republican – Michigan’s Justin Amash – has called for impeachment.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, provided ample evidence that the president should be investigated for obstruction of justice in his attempt to quell the Russia investigation by firing Comey and urging aides to lie. At the same time, Mueller reminded Americans that the constitution charges Congress with presidential oversight. Indeed, under current Department of Justice policy, a sitting president cannot be indicted; congressional oversight is the only way to rein in a lawless president.

It’s a long, thoughtful essay.  You should read it all.  Yes, one Republican has called for impeachment still and yes, there’s that pesky Dixon Memo again.

But back home in Michigan, many people who know Amash say they’re not surprised at all by his willingness to go against his own party — even if that decision costs him his seat in Congress.

“Five-year-old Justin Amash was a lot like 39-year-old Justin Amash is like,” says Jordan Bush, who first met Amash when they were in kindergarten.

Bush says Amash is diligent and intentional. Someone who doesn’t bend his principles.

Other longtime friends echo similar sentiments. In high school, Amash became known for always finishing his homework, even if it meant his friends had to wait to hang out. Amash eventually went on to become valedictorian.

Amash’s parents are both immigrants. His mother is originally from Syria. His father, Attallah, came to the United States in 1956 as a Christian refugee from Palestine.

“Justin just always had a keen sense of what was at stake in terms of what governments do or don’t do, how much they interfere, how much they limit themselves,” says Jessica Bratt Carle, who got to know Amash in high school.

By the time Bratt Carle and Bush got to know the Amash family, they had built a successful family business, which they still own.

“I think a lot of that work ethic,” Bush says, “largely comes from his father.”

When Justin Amash got elected to Congress, Bush served in his district office. He says he saw the same person there that he did in kindergarten.

“Justin is the least surprising representative in Congress once you have an understanding of how he views his role,” Bush says.

That role, according to Bush, is to uphold the Constitution and protect individual liberty.

Amash is known as one of the more libertarian members of Congress. Some have speculated Amash could even dump the Republican Party to run as the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. Amash has not ruled out that move.

But for now, he remains in the Republican Party, despite his many disagreements with party leadership.

When the 448-page report by former special counsel Robert Mueller was released to the public in April, Amash initially gave no comment. He posted on Twitter that he would read the report “carefully and completely” before saying anything.

And for nearly a month, Amash said nothing.

Then, in a string of tweets posted on May 18, Amash gave his conclusions from the report.

He said the report showed President Trump engaged in impeachable conduct and that Attorney General William Barr intentionally misled people about what’s in the report.

So, if you’d like cunning political commentary and a laugh to cheer you up then you should watch John Oliver whose commentary includes that impeachment talk is “effective hospice care” when a family with a father who died peacefully once they told him he Trump was impeached.  But, there’s more than that … watch the clever comedian talk about Nancy Pelosi too.

With a national conversation underway about the possibility of impeachment, John Oliver discusses whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

And believe me, we all could use a good laugh at Trump’s expense in these times.

Impeachment in no way Guarantees the removal of a President.

With that, I’ll leave you to think on it and discuss. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Fresh Hell Reads

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

This weekend celebrated Pride!  Please enjoy these pictures from the New Orleans celebration!

 

If you ever had any serious doubt about the entire Republican Party having topped its performance during the Tea Pot Dome scandal or Watergate, look no further than today’s headlines.  I’m not sure how we’re going to stop this when there’s basically half of each of the three branches actively working against the country’s interests and solely for their own.

From John Swaine writing for The Guardian: Company part-owned by Jared Kushner got $90m from unknown offshore investors since 2017.  Overseas investment flowed to Cadre while Trump’s son-in-law works as US envoy, raising conflict of interest questions.”  So, first we’ll start with the Trump Family Crime Syndicate then move to Mitch McConnell.

A real estate company part-owned by Jared Kushner has received $90m in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since he entered the White House as a senior adviser to his father-in-law Donald Trump.

Investment has flowed from overseas to the company, Cadre, while Kushner works as an international envoy for the US, according to corporate filings and interviews. The money came through a vehicle run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guarantees corporate secrecy.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s elder daughter Ivanka, kept a stake in Cadre after joining the administration, while selling other assets. His holding is now valued at up to $50m, according to his financial disclosure documents.

Cadre’s foreign funding could create hidden conflicts of interest for Kushner as he performs his work for the US government, according to some ethics experts, who raised concerns over the lack of transparency around the investments.

“It will cause people to wonder whether he is being improperly influenced,” said Jessica Tillipman, a lecturer at George Washington University law school, who teaches government ethics and anti-corruption laws.

Kushner resigned from Cadre’s board and reduced his ownership stake to less than 25% after he joined the White House, according to his attorneys. He failed to list Cadre on his first ethics disclosure, later adding the company and saying the omission was inadvertent. Cadre says he is not actively involved in the company’s operations.

The names of the foreigners investing in Cadre via Goldman Sachs are not disclosed by the companies, which are not required to make the information public. Two sources familiar with the firm said much of the money came to the Cayman Islands vehicle from a second offshore tax haven, while some came from Saudi Arabia.

French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana

Jared Kushner appears destined for jail like his father.  From WAPO: “New revelations show the Trump administration is making the swamp even swampier.”  This is an op ed by Paul Waldman about Elaine Cho, Secretary of Transportation who is the beard wife of Mitch McConnell the Demon Majority Senate Head of K Street.

But the corruption of the Trump administration is so comprehensive and wide-ranging that it contains important — and depressing — lessons about how corruption works and why it is so difficult to eradicate.

Some facets of Trump corruption are new and unique. For instance, for two centuries nobody thought much about how the emoluments clause of the Constitution should be understood, because the idea that any president would use his office for personal financial gain was absurd. But then there are Trump administration scandals that sound extremely familiar:

The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.

Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications.

This comes on the heels of news that Chao tried to include members of her family, which owns a large shipping firm that does extensive business in China, in official meetings with the Chinese government. If there’s anything unusual about these stories it’s that Chao was one of the few people in Trump’s cabinet who actually knew their way around government; among other things she was secretary of labor under George W. Bush. As someone who had been a member of the Washington elite before Trump arrived and will remain so after he departs, she might have been a less likely suspect for corruption.

According to Politico, Chao has been earning her keep.  “Chao created special path for McConnell’s favored projects.  A top Transportation official helped coordinate grant applications by McConnell’s political allies.”

The circumstances surrounding the Owensboro grant and another, more lucrative grant to Boone County, highlight the ethical conflicts in having a powerful Cabinet secretary married to the Senate’s leader and in a position to help him politically. McConnell has long touted his ability to bring federal resources to his state, which his wife is now in a position to assist.

Chao’s designation of Inman as a special intermediary for Kentucky — a privilege other states did not enjoy — gave a special advantage to projects favored by her husband, which could in turn benefit his political interests. In such situations, ethicists say, each member of a couple benefits personally from the success of the other.

“Where a Cabinet secretary is doing things that are going to help her husband get reelected, that starts to rise to the level of feeling more like corruption to the average American. … I do think there are people who will see that as sort of ‘swamp behavior,’” said John Hudak, a Brookings Institution scholar who has studied political influence in federal grant-making.

In fact, days after launching his 2020 reelection campaign McConnell asked Owensboro’s mayor to set up a luncheon with business and political leaders at which the senator claimed credit for delivering the grant.

“How about that $11 million BUILD grant?” McConnell asked the crowd rhetorically, according to the Owensboro Times. He then recalled his role in securing earlier grants to the city, adding, “It’s done a lot to transform Owensboro, and I was really happy to have played a role in that.”

McConnell’s role — along with Chao’s and Inman’s — was also celebrated by local officials when the $11.5 million grant was approved — to much local fanfare in December 2018.

Meanwhile, Trump is making pronouncements about things that only appear to exist in his fever dreams.  Here’s just a few of them.  From the NYT: No Secret Immigration Deal Exists With U.S., Mexico’s Foreign Minister Says”.

The Mexican foreign minister said Monday that no secret immigration deal existed between his country and the United States, directly contradicting President Trump’s claim on Twitter that a “fully signed and documented” agreement would be revealed soon.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s top diplomat, said at a news conference in Mexico City that there was an understanding that both sides would evaluate the flow of migrants in the coming months. And if the number of migrants crossing the United States border was not significantly reduced, he said, both sides had agreed to renew discussions about more aggressive changes to regional asylum rules that could make a bigger impact.

“Let’s have a deadline to see if what we have works and if not, then we will sit down and look at the measures you propose and those that we propose,” Mr. Ebrard said, describing the understanding reached by negotiators last week.

Mr. Trump has insisted for several days that the agreement reached with Mexico Friday evening is a strong one, rejecting criticism that it largely called upon the Mexicans to take actions to reduce the flow of immigration that they had already agreed to months earlier.

Meanwhile, here is the new face of the US Immigration under Trumpism and White Christian Nationalists.  From NYT “Migrants in Custody at Hospitals Are Treated Like Felons, Doctors Say.”

Rom Rahimian, a medical student working at Banner-University Medical Center Tucson, was trying to help a 20-year-old Guatemalan woman who had been found late last year in the desert — dehydrated, pregnant and already in labor months before her due date. But the Border Patrol agents lingering in the room were making him uncomfortable.

The agents remained in the obstetrics ward night and day as physicians worked to halt her labor. They were present during her medical examinations, listened in on conversations with doctors and watched her ultrasounds, Mr. Rahimian said. They kept the television on loud, interfering with her sleep. When agents began pressing the medical staff to discharge the woman to an immigration detention facility, the doctors took action.

“It was a race against the clock to see if we can get her into any other situation,” Mr. Rahimian said. He called a lawyer and asked, “What can we do? What are her rights?”

As apprehensions of migrants climb at the southwest border, and dozens a day are taken to community hospitals, medical providers are challenging practices — by both government agencies and their own hospitals — that they say are endangering patients and undermining recent pledges to improve health care for migrants.

There’s that “pro-life” attitude at it again!

Yes! Nadler is still on the attack!!!

Chairman Nadler made the following statement:

“I am pleased to announce that the Department of Justice has agreed to begin complying with our committee’s subpoena by opening Robert Mueller’s most important files to us, providing us with key evidence that the Special Counsel used to assess whether the President and others obstructed justice or were engaged in other misconduct. The Department will share the first of these documents with us later today. All members of the Judiciary Committee — Democrats and Republicans alike — will be able to view them. These documents will allow us to perform our constitutional duties and decide how to respond to the allegations laid out against the President by the Special Counsel.

“Given our conversations with the Department, I will hold the criminal contempt process in abeyance for now. We have agreed to allow the Department time to demonstrate compliance with this agreement. If the Department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps. If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies. It is critical that Congress is able to obtain the information we need to do our jobs, ensuring no one is above the law and bringing the American public the transparency they deserve.”

Brian Beutler suggests he go “rogue” writing this at Crooked Media.

Nadler doesn’t have an unruly temperament, but he is in many ways ideally suited to make a power play like this. He has served in the House for nearly 30 years, and is an accomplished, scholarly, respected legislator. The only political risk he faces as an elected representative is hypothetical: a surprise, AOC-like primary challenge from the left. And he has compelling interests in forging ahead over Pelosi’s objections.

Many of the House Democrats who have publicly called for an impeachment inquiry serve on his committee. Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment has placed Nadler in the difficult position of denying his committee members the inquiry he and they believe is necessary. But more importantly, it has damaged the committee as an institution. By forming House strategy based on the conclusion that impeachment shouldn’t happen, Democratic leaders have abandoned their chairmen to let Trump run roughshod over them. They have been inhibited from defending their prerogatives aggressively because confrontation with an increasingly lawless Trump might leave them no choice but to impeach him, and they have already foreclosed that option. Nadler has thus secured testimony from zero of the special counsel office’s witnesses, and zero of its prosecutors. He has been reduced to hosting a hearing with Richard Nixon’s former White House Counsel John Dean, and former federal prosecutors who had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. He surely does not want to wind down his career as the chairman who proved that the House Judiciary Committee could be contemptuously defied without consequences. But to vindicate his committee and the rule of law, he’d have to be willing to wield power aggressively.

The good news for him is he wouldn’t have to go rogue alone. Nadler could flip this switch today, all by himself, if he wanted to, but he could also make use of the fact that dozens of Democrats—more than enough to grind House business to a halt—would have his back. The mere threat of coordinated action would likely be enough to force House leaders to stop whipping against impeachment and start whipping for it. With their support, the House could pass a resolution in support of his inquiry, and neutralize Trump’s last defensive weapon against the impeachment inquiry he plainly fears.

I still am on the side of Nancy’s tactical approach but fast losing hope and faith that we’ll get rid of this dangerous POTUS and his krewe of grifters and religious nutters.

I could spend all day finding more examples popping up all over the place. All I really think is that whatever happens with Trump, the Dems must retake the Senate.

From The Hill: “Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate”.

Democrats facing a steep uphill climb to win back the Senate want Beto O’Rourke to reconsider his long-shot bid for president and take another look at running for the Senate in Texas, especially if his White House bid fails to pick up momentum.

They feel the same way about two other White House hopefuls who are polling at around 1 percent or lower: former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

Political experts give O’Rourke, Bullock and Hickenlooper little chance of winning the White House but say they could give GOP incumbents in their states a run for the money.

If they don’t run, Democrats will have a slimmer chance of winning in the states and taking back the Senate majority in either 2020 or 2022. And that would hamper a Democratic president — if the party can defeat President Trump.

Democratic senators won’t call out the low-polling presidential candidates by name in public, but they’re not shy about making the argument that some would do more for their party in Senate races than in the crowded presidential fight.

“The clock is running out for people who have not demonstrated any ability to mount a serious presidential bid to help make a real difference in their country by helping to turn the Senate,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), articulating a sentiment that other Senate Democrats expressed privately.

“It would be a shame if we elected a new president who faced the same enmity and obstruction in the Senate that Obama had to live through, all because a lot of candidates who had no shot wouldn’t run for winnable Senate seats,” he added.

So, that’s enough from me this afternoon!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Friday Reads: Just Say Hell, No to Joe (Don’t give me no lies and keep your hands to yourself)

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Well we knew this was coming but it doesn’t make the circumstances any better.  Joe Biden announced he and Bernie would be skedaddling together for the Democratic Nomination for POTUS, By Gum, for the benefit of all white men every where!  Women and People of Color should start swooning!  It’s the No “real” Apologies Tour!!

He’s got a long list of explaining and apologizing to do and so far, he’s fucked up the very first one by telling Anita Hill that he regretted what she had to endure.  He failed to mention his role, control and actions that created the circumstances of “what” she had to endure.  He absolutely showed us the meddle of a man in that one action and it doesn’t get any better.  Not his records today.  Not his actions yesterday.

Well to that and his campaign  I say a big Oh, Hell, No!  To Joe. We see what you’re doing right down to the timing of this contact with Professor Hill.  It’s a little too little and a lot too late!

Via Essence and Tanya A Christian: “This Is Why I Call BS On Joe Biden’s ‘Apology’ To Anita Hill”.

As I’ve watched the documentaries, read articles, and consumed copious amounts of media around the definitive moment in American history, I’ve been forced to concede that a man that I, on more than one occasion, have referenced as “Uncle Joe,” a man who I actually like, for the record, was a very clear culprit in the character assassination of the attorney turned professor.

This week former Vice President Joe Biden and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the time of the Thomas hearings admitted such to a crowd in New York City, saying:

“We knew a lot less about the extent of harassment back then, over 30 years ago. She paid a terrible price, she was abused for the hearing. She was taken advantage of. Her reputation was attacked. I wish I could have done something. To this day I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved, given the courage she showed by reaching out to us.”

It’s not the first time Biden has expressed these sentiments. In fact, the 76-year-old has been vocalizing regret over his scarlet letter “A” —for Anita— for quite some time now. But as the 2020 democratic field gets increasingly more crowded, and rumors of a run from the former Delaware senator continue to swirl, people are, more and more, looking to the long-time politician to answer for this one particular transgression. In the nearly 30 years since the event, Hill has said that she never did receive a formal apology from the former lawmaker, and it’s indeed high time. But even if that happened, what does that mean for a Biden candidacy?

As a Black woman who has empathized with Hill since I was five years old (I mean — my dad made it impossible not to), Biden’s handling of her case makes me question his fitness for the job. And it’s not because of what went down three decades ago — he’s done a lot of good since then. My issue stems from the fact that Biden often connects his apologies to something along the lines of “It was a different time” or “She deserved better” or my favorite, “I wish I could have done more.”

It’s funny. “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride,” is another phrase my dad commonly used, and one that I often reflect on when I hear sound bites from Biden’s sometimes-draining apology tour. Mainly because I don’t want a President who wishes they could have done more. I rather one who takes it on the nose and admits they could have done more, but didn’t. One who acknowledges faults, without caveats. And one who will protect the interests of Black women, not because we need a handout, or even that “we exhibit courage” — that’s a given — but because we’re the most loyal voting block in the Democratic party and we deserve at least that..

From Vanity Fair and Alison Durkee.  “ANITA HILL EVISCERATES JOE BIDEN’S ”APOLOGY” IN SCATHING INTERVIEW”.

For Hill, though, the one-on-one with Biden was apparently too little, too late. Soon after news of their conversation broke, The New York Times published Hill’s own account of their discussion, which she said left her feeling ”deeply unsatisfied” and could not characterize as a full apology. “I cannot be satisfied by simply saying I’m sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose,” Hill told the Times, adding that she would not be supporting Biden’s candidacy. Biden “needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw,” she said.

This will be only one of a hell of a long list of things he must address and address fully.

His record reads like that of an old school Conservative Republican despite how much he likes to call himself a liberal right now.  BB posted this Harpers Magazine Op Ed but did not quote from it.  Let me do that. “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy” from the keyboard of Andrew Cockburn.

It fell to Biden to highlight some redeeming qualities when called on, inevitably, to deliver Thurmond’s eulogy following the latter’s death in 2003 at the age of one hundred. Biden reminisced with affection about the unlikely friendship between the deceased and himself. Despite having arrived at the Senate at age twenty-nine “emboldened, angered, and outraged about the treatment of African Americans in this country,” he said, he nevertheless found common cause on important issues with the late senator from South Carolina, who had been wont to describe civil-rights activists as “red pawns and publicity seekers.”

One such issue, as Branko Marcetic has pitilessly chronicled in Jacobin, was a shared opposition to federally mandated busing in the effort to integrate schools, an opposition Biden predicted would be ultimately adopted by liberal holdouts. “The black community justifiably is jittery,” Biden admitted to the Washington Post in 1975 with regard to his position. “I’ve made it—if not respectable—I’ve made it reasonable for longstanding liberals to begin to raise the questions I’ve been the first to raise in the liberal community here on the [Senate] floor.”

Biden was responding to criticism of legislation he had introduced that effectively barred the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare from compelling communities to bus pupils using federal funds. This amendment was meant to be an alternative to a more extreme proposal put forward by a friend of Biden’s, hall-of-fame racist Jesse Helms (Biden had initially supported Helms’s version). Nevertheless, the Washington Post described Biden’s amendment as “denying the possibility for equal educational opportunities to minority youngsters trapped in ill-equipped inner-city schools.” Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, then the sole African-American senator, called Biden’s measure “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.”

By the 1980s, Biden had begun to see political gold in the harsh antidrug legislation that had been pioneered by drug warriors such as Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, and would ultimately lead to the age of mass incarceration for black Americans. One of his Senate staffers at the time recalls him remarking, “Whenever people hear the words ‘drugs’ and ‘crime,’ I want them to think ‘Joe Biden.’” Insisting on anonymity, this former staffer recollected how Biden’s team “had to think up excuses for new hearings on drugs and crime every week—any connection, no matter how remote. He wanted cops at every public meeting—you’d have thought he was running for chief of police.”

The ensuing legislation might also have brought to voters’ minds the name of the venerable Thurmond, Biden’s partner in this effort. Together, the pair sponsored the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, among other repressive measures, abolished parole for federal prisoners and cut the amount of time by which sentences could be reduced for good behavior. The bipartisan duo also joined hands to cheerlead the passage of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and its 1988 follow-on, which cumulatively introduced mandatory sentences for drug possession. Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that “through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,” Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine “no bigger than [a] quarter.” That is, they created the infamous disparity in penalties between those caught with powder cocaine (white people) and those carrying crack (black people). Biden also unblushingly cited his and Thurmond’s leading role in enacting laws allowing for the execution of drug dealers convicted of homicide, and expanding the practice of civil asset forfeiture, law enforcement’s plunder of property belonging to people suspected of crimes, even if they are neither charged nor convicted.

Despite pleas from the ­NAACP and the ­ACLU, the 1990s brought no relief from Biden’s crime crusade. He vied with the first Bush Administration to introduce ever more draconian laws, including one proposing to expand the number of offenses for which the death penalty would be permitted to fifty-one. Bill Clinton quickly became a reliable ally upon his 1992 election, and Biden encouraged him to “maintain crime as a Democratic initiative” with suitably tough legislation. The ensuing 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed with enthusiastic administration pressure, would consign millions of black Americans to a life behind bars.

In subsequent years, as his crime legislation, particularly on mandatory sentences, attracted efforts at reform, Biden began expressing a certain remorse. “I am part of the problem that I have been trying to solve since then, because I think the disparity [between crack and powder cocaine sentences] is way out of line,” he declared at a Senate hearing in 2008. However, there is little indication that his words were matched by actions, especially after he moved to the vice presidency the following year. The executive director of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Eric Sterling, who worked on the original legislation in the House as a congressional counsel, told me, “During the eight years he was vice president, I never saw him take a leadership role in the area of drug policy, never saw him get out in front on the issue like he did on same-sex marriage, for example. Biden could have taken a stronger line [with Obama] privately or publicly, and he did not.”

Amber Phillips  of WAPO expands on the notion that Biden will have a “woman problem”.  I know  I’m not alone in saying yes he will.  I’m one of the women that has had a problem with him for a very damn long time.  I found Obama’s choice specious to say the least.

When given the chance to apologize or explain some of his actions, Biden has recently stumbled. None of this is to say that Biden cannot deftly navigate or overcome these potential pitfalls. But in 2020, there are more layers of Biden’s record with women for voters to consider than there were in his past two presidential campaigns.

The Cut, which published an essay by his original accuser, Nevada lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores, is keeping a running list of his accusers, which is a Google search away for anyone who cares to look it up. The accusers range from Flores, who says Biden came up behind her and kissed the back of her head, to D.J. Hill, who said he rested his hand on her shoulder, then started to move it down her lower back.

Biden tried to address their concerns by saying he takes them seriously, but he didn’t apologize. Then he made a joke about it the first time he was out in public. The message Biden seemed to broadcast, I wrote: These women are making a big deal out of nothing.

Biden’s issues go deeper than that.  His original position on women’s choice issues was a total patriarchal stinker.  The National Review calls it to the right of most Republicans.

  • Biden once said Roe v. Wade went “too far” and voted in 1982 for an amendment to allow states to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision; he changed his mind and voted against the same bill in 1983.
  • Biden repeatedly voted for the ban on partial-birth abortion, a particular late-term abortion procedure in which a child’s body is mostly delivered breech before her skull is punctured and crushed. “It did not, as I would have liked, ban all post-viability abortions,” Biden said of the ban in 1997. “I was and still am concerned that in banning only partial-birth abortions, we do not go far enough.”
  •  Biden has repeatedly voted for the Hyde amendment, which bans federal funding for elective abortions for Medicaid recipients. “I will continue to abide by the same principle that has guided me throughout my 21 years in the Senate: those of us who are opposed to abortion should not be compelled to pay for them,” Biden wrote to a constituent in 1994. “As you may know, I have consistently — on no fewer than 50 occasions — voted against federal funding of abortions.”

There is no such damn thing as these freaking procedures called “partial birth” or whatever they want to describe.  After viability, it’s a successful or unsuccessful delivery and most fetal death at that point is due to severe malformity. Just ask a damn board certified OB/GYN like my daughter for example.

I have no idea why any woman wants to get on board with any of this unless they are, in fact, a right wing Republican.  Oh, and about making a young woman–whose name you don’t even speak–the prop in your introduction …  THIS  from Heather Heyer’s mom.  Yup, she had a name.  SHE HAD A NAME!!!

What exactly does it say about Biden that he couldn’t speak her name or talk to her mother to see if using her memory would be alright for his big fucking centerpiece of a “White Male Savior” propaganda?

What does it fucking say to us all?

Oh, and thank you @HelenStickler  AGAIN!  for the artwork for all of us that want something a helluva lot better than a Biden or a Bernie or a Beto or, well, hell just go down the list.

 

We need to stop a lot of things besides Trump.  Pence is behind him. McConnell is right there stacking the courts for who ever.  We need the best and we need a fighter for all of us!  I’ve been sending donations to all the women right now and Julian Castro because I want to hear some ideas that aren’t as stale as the front runners.  I don’t want to fight for abortion rights with a Democratic President. Believe me, it’s bad enough with one attack our rights down here in Louisiana.  Let’s not settle for “it could be worse” because that’s really, really really, an argument to elect some one.  Nor is, well, we think he could beat Trump if there’s a high enough turnout.  I can’t imagine Joe turning out the largest parts of the Democratic base and I’m tired of pandering to white men.

That’s my screed for today.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


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?