Lazy Caturday Reads

The Marquis gave his hand to the princess, and followed the king, who went up first.” Illustrations by Harry Clarke. Published in The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, Charles Perrault (1922).

Good Afternoon!!

The Fourth of July is coming up and Trump is busily working to ruin it for everyone but his ignorant deplorable base and his billionaire buddies.

The Washington Post: Trump plans ticketed-access area for VIPs, friends and family at July 4 celebration.

Plans by President Trump to reshape Washington’s Independence Day celebration now include an area in front of the Lincoln Memorial reserved for dignitaries, family and friends that will be accessible only through tickets distributed by the White House.

The VIP section will stretch roughly from the steps of the memorial to the midpoint of the reflecting pool, according to the U.S. Secret Service. It is in front of the spot from which Trump plans to address the nation as part of his rebranding of the traditional July 4 event into his own “Salute to America,” which includes moving the fireworks from the reflecting pool to two different sites, including West Potomac Park.

The revamped festivities will include additional fireworks, military bands and flyovers by Air Force One, the Blue Angels and aircraft from all branches of the military.

Where Trump plans to speak is not yet clear.

Kisa the Cat carries off Ingibjorg’s Feet from the giant’s cave, from Andrew Lang’s Brown Fairy Book, 1932

On Friday morning, bleachers had been set up on the plaza below the Lincoln Memorial, and workers were erecting other structures. Seats faced away from the memorial and toward the Washington Monument,making it unclear where exactly Trump plans to stand while giving his speech.

More problems:

Many people who have long-standing practices for how they get downtown, or where they position their boats for the best vantage points and ease of access, will need to make adjustments. Even travelers passing through the region’s skies will be affected, with all operations at Reagan National Airport suspended for up to an hour and 15 minutes on July 4, the FAA said late Friday….

The ongoing shifts to what had been established security and crowd-control protocols have left officials in the District and some federal agencies confused about logistics as basic as what Metro stops and roads might be open or closed, and for what period, and how many fireworks displays will launch….

In West Potomac Park, softball fields were fenced off Friday morning, a day earlier than had been announced, while 36 portable spotlights were parked along Ohio Drive. A crew from Garden State Fireworks was setting up its launch site near a baseball backstop.

Come July 4, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, a major thoroughfare that was open in the past on the holiday, will be closed for the day, cutting off people trying to drive into the District from Arlington National Cemetery and other nearby points. Transportation officials warned that the Smithsonian and Foggy Bottom Metro stops could experience extra crowding as a result.

Read the whole story. It’s going to be a clusterfuck.

Crookshanks and Scabbers from Harry Potter, by Stephen Andrade

Richard Nixon tried to pull something “special” on the Fourth of July, 1970, although it was supposedly “bipartisan.” From Timeline.com: On the 4th of July in 1970, the nonpartisan Honor America Day turned into a drugged-up protest.

Tensions all over America were high in the summer of 1970. The Nixon administration’s bombing of Cambodia and the continued war in Vietnam were seen by a vocal section of the population to be murderous disasters. Outraged students raised their voice, and in May, the National Guard killed four of them at Kent State and two others at Jackson State. It appeared to some as if the country doubled down on its sins, adding the blood of its own citizens to the mix.

A month later, a group of wealthy and prominent Americans assembled to do something about the national divide. Their mission was not to address the problems behind it, but to invigorate a broad and vague spirit of appreciation for the United States of America. They called it Honor America Day: a massive, entertainment-filled ceremony, to be held in Washington DC on the Fourth of July. For a day, Americans could swap their discontent for waving flags, live music, and old-fashioned pride….

And while the event was ostensibly apolitical, The New York Times noted that committee members almost unilaterally supported Nixon’s campaigns in Southeast Asia.

Naturally, there were protests.

Given the national and international situation, a counter protest was inevitable. And it was a doozy.

Perhaps the most inflammatory was a Fourth of July smoke-in on the National Mall by anti-war and pro-legalization protestors, slated to compete with the more wholesome Honor America Day activities. “Before this is over,” joked Bob Hope, “I may need some of that stuff myself.”

Green Cat with Lights, by Dr. Seuss

On the other side of the political spectrum, neo-Nazis and conservative groups also turned out to represent their causes.

Some 10,000 people attended the interfaith service led by Billy Graham on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 10:30. But protesters appeared at the same time, with the audience cheering as security ejected those who broke past the line.

I wonder if there are protests planned for Trump’s idiotic celebration of himself. It will be interesting to see what happens, but I wouldn’t want to be there.

Colbert I. King at The Washington Post: Frederick Douglass would be outraged at Trump’s Fourth of July self-celebration.

“What, to the American slave,” Douglass demanded, “is your Fourth of July?”

Nearly 170 years later, Douglass’s bold declaration and haunting question resonate with new meaning.

President Trump has taken over Independence Day 2019, transforming the traditional celebration on the Mall of the nation’s founding into a salute to his egocentrism, staged with demonstrations of America’s military might, an Air Force One flyover and an address to the nation to be delivered by himself on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The brave signers of the Declaration of Independence — flawed men but men who, as Douglass said, “staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country” — will take a back seat next week.

This Fourth of July is Donald Trump’s — not theirs, not the nation’s, not mine.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

More food for thought from CREW: How Trump’s 4th of July Hijacking Could Violate the Hatch Act.

LEAFY KITTIES, Remedios Varo

Is President Trump trying to hijack the Independence Day celebration on the National Mall by turning it into a taxpayer-funded campaign rally? If he does, the Trump administration will violate federal appropriations law and the Hatch Act. In that case, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale had better have the campaign’s checkbook handy and be ready to write plenty of zeros.

At a kick-off rally for his re-election campaign last week, Trump sounded a lot like he was laying the groundwork for politicizing America’s birthday party—

This election is not merely a verdict on the amazing progress we’ve made. It’s a verdict on the un-American conduct of those who tried to undermine our great democracy, and undermine you. And by the way, on July 4th, in Washington, D.C., come on down, we’re going have a big day. Bring your flags, bring those flags, bring those American flags, July 4th. We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people. We’re going to celebrate America. Sounds good, right? July 4th. Celebrate America. This election is a verdict on whether we want to live in a country where the people who lose an election refuse to concede and spend the next two years trying to shred our Constitution and rip your country apart.

The very next day, Trump’s Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, responded by issuing an announcement confirming that the July 4th event “will feature remarks by President Donald J. Trump.” [….]

If Trump is careful and has the self-discipline to talk only about government policies, the event may amount to little more than a garish display of nationalism….

But when has anyone ever accused Trump of being predictable or sounding like a dry policy wonk? It seems far more likely that he’ll talk about his reelection bid or fling schoolyard nicknames at his political rivals. That sort of bombast would be a whole lot more fun for Trump than having to deliver dull prepared remarks. And, hey, it’s a party after all. Right? The problem – as is so often the case for the Trump administration – is the rule of law.

The Cheshire Cat John Tenniel 1865

In other news, Kamala Harris was the breakout star of the first Democratic Debate and the Russian bots and Trump and his on-line army are attacking her.

The Daily Beast: Kamala Harris Is Surging and Birtherism Is Back. As Harris spoke about race and the history of busing,

she was attacked on Twitter by a conservative provocateur for not being an “American black.” It’s a play straight out of the racist birther playbook used against Barack Obama when he ran for president a decade earlier. This time, though, those kinds of allegations don’t have to circulate for years on obscure right-wing forums before they reach a mainstream audience. On Thursday night, spammers and even one of President Trump’s sons spread the attack to millions of people within hours….

“She is half Indian and half Jamaican,” [Ali] Alexander wrote. “I’m so sick of people robbing American Blacks (like myself) of our history. It’s disgusting. Now using it for debate time at #DemDebate2? These are my people not her people. Freaking disgusting.” [….]

More Twitter users copied and pasted Alexander’s message verbatim and tweeted it as their own, according to screenshots posted by writer Caroline Orr. Some of those accounts, like “@prebs_73,” have copy-pasted other popular right-wing tweets verbatim. Other accounts with right-wing references in their usernames and biographies piled on, accusing Harris of not being black.mi

“Ummmmm @KamalaHarris you are NOT BLACK. you are Indian and Jamaican,” wrote a Twitter user with a cross emoji, the word “CONSERVATIVE,” a red “X” emoji (a right-wing Twitter trope), and three stars (a QAnon symbol) in their username.

Read more about this at Buzzfeed News: A New Racist Campaign Against Kamala Harris Is Taking Shape.

The New York Times has an important article on the crisis in Trump’s concentration camps: The Treatment of Migrants Likely ‘Meets the Definition of a Mass Atrocity,’ by Kate Cronin-Furman.

The mice hold a meeting, Belling the Cat, Aesop’s Fables for Kids

A pediatrician who visited in June said the [detention] centers could be compared to “torture facilities.” Having studied mass atrocities for over a decade, I agree.

At least seven migrant children have died in United States custody since last year. The details reported by lawyers who visited a Customs and Border Protection facility in Clint, Tex., in June were shocking: children who had not bathed in weeks, toddlers without diapers, sick babies being cared for by other children. As a human rights lawyer and then as a political scientist, I have spoken to the victims of some of the worst things that human beings have ever done to each other, in places ranging from Cambodia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Sri Lanka. What’s happening at the border doesn’t match the scale of these horrors, but if, as appears to be the case, these harsh conditions have been intentionally inflicted on children as part a broader plan to deter others from migrating, then it meets the definition of a mass atrocity: a deliberate, systematic attack on civilians. And like past atrocities, it is being committed by a complex organizational structure made up of people at all different levels of involvement.

Thinking of what’s happening in this way gives us a repertoire of tools with which to fight the abuses, beyond the usual exhortations to call our representatives and donate to border charities.

Those of us who want to stop what’s happening need to think about all the different individuals playing a role in the systematic mistreatment of migrant children and how we can get them to stop participating. We should focus most on those who have less of a personal commitment to the abusive policies that are being carried out.

A new take on Puss ‘n Boots by Ayano Imai

Cronin-Furman argues that the problem is that many of the people involved in what’s happening see themselves as just doing their jobs–or “following orders” as many people involved in the Nazi’s “final solution” did.

Testimony from trials and truth commissions has revealed that many atrocity perpetrators think of what they’re doing as they would think of any other day job. While the leaders who order atrocities may be acting out of strongly held ideological beliefs or political survival concerns, the so-called “foot soldiers” and the middle men and women are often just there for the paycheck.

This lack of personal investment means that these participants in atrocities can be much more susceptible to pressure than national leaders. Specifically, they are sensitive to social pressure, which has been shown to have played a huge role in atrocity commission and desistance in the HolocaustRwanda and elsewhere. The campaign to stop the abuses at the border should exploit this sensitivity and put social pressure on those involved in enforcing the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

 


Steven Spielberg’s Dark and Gloomy “Lincoln”

Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln

I went to see Spielberg’s latest film “Lincoln” today. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back. I admit that I’m not a fan of Steven Spielberg or of historical dramas, so maybe my judgment isn’t worth that much; but I’m going to write about it anyway. I am a fan of Daniel Day Lewis, and I suppose he was the best thing about the movie. The second best thing was that Tom Hanks wasn’t in it.

Spielberg’s film covers the last four months of Lincoln’s life and is centered on the fight for passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Certainly, the subject had the potential for a gripping drama, but instead Spielberg managed to turn a thrilling story into a movie that I found boring, pretentious, and depressing.

What bothered me most as I watched the film was how dark and grim it was–scene after scene after scene of men wearing dark clothing and talking incessantly. But as the endless scenes wore on,  I couldn’t keep my own present-day irritations from affecting my reactions.  I was incredibly annoyed to watching important national decisions being made solely by white men–most of whom were old and not very pleasant to look at–without any input from women or African Americans.

The make-up seemed designed to emphasize wrinkles, bags under the eyes, and unattractive facial hair in microscopic detail. Tommy Lee Jones was never handsome, but in his role as Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens he was made to look almost monstrous, with deep wrinkles, sagging jowls and giant pouch-like bags under his eyes.

But back to my growing irritation. After the misogyny and racism we have seen in this country over the past four years, I found the domination of “Lincoln” by white males to be incredibly annoying. And my irritation only grew as time went on. Surely there must have been black people who fought to pass the amendment–where were they?

The talk of “equality” of the races and the evils of treating “men” as property really rubbed me the wrong way, considering that women and children were to continue being treated as property for at least another hundred years after the passage of the Thirteen Amendment and that black men even in 2012 are still very far from being treated equally. Even our black President isn’t immune from the patronizing and bigoted attitudes of many Americans.

Admittedly, it’s unfair of me to judge the movie based on my present-day anger. Still, I think part of that feeling did arise from the fact that the movie–I think wrongly–ignored the thoughts and feelings of women and black people.

Only two women are shown having any kind of role in events: Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley. Mary Todd Lincoln is shown interpreting her husband’s dreams, trying to prevent her eldest son from enlisting in the Union Army, and supporting her husband’s policies. Her closest companion was Keckley, a black women who had purchased freedom for herself and her son, and become a seamstress. She was eventually introduced to Mary Todd Lincoln and went with her to the White House. Keckley wrote an autobiography, Behind the Scenes: Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House. But none of this was spelled out in the movie.

As for black characters, there is a sort of butler who says he was born a free man, a couple of black Union soldiers and anonymous black audience members who file in to the House gallery to watch the final vote on emancipation. I later learned that the “butler” was William Slade, who along with Elizabeth Keckley, was active in the abolition movement. Toward the end of the film, Thaddeus Stevens is shown getting into bed with a black woman whom I later learned was Stevens’ housekeeper Lydia Hamilton Smith. The two were lovers for 23 years, so why didn’t Spielberg emphasize her influence on Stevens’ attitudes about racial equality? Why was she included in the film almost as an afterthought?

At least one reviewer, historian Kate Masur, expressed a similar reaction to mine–except that hers was based on actual historical knowledge. Masur writes:

[I]t’s disappointing that in a movie devoted to explaining the abolition of slavery in the United States, African-American characters do almost nothing but passively wait for white men to liberate them. For some 30 years, historians have been demonstrating that slaves were crucial agents in their emancipation; however imperfectly, Ken Burns’s 1990 documentary “The Civil War” brought aspects of that interpretation to the American public. Yet Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” gives us only faithful servants, patiently waiting for the day of Jubilee.

This is not mere nit-picking. Mr. Spielberg’s “Lincoln” helps perpetuate the notion that African Americans have offered little of substance to their own liberation. While the film largely avoids the noxious stereotypes of subservient African-Americans for which movies like “Gone With the Wind” have become notorious, it reinforces, even if inadvertently, the outdated assumption that white men are the primary movers of history and the main sources of social progress.

I’m no historian–or movie reviewer–so I was relieved to learn that I’m not the only person who was deeply disappointed in “Lincoln,” despite fine performances by many of the white cast members. According to Masur,

In fact, the capital was also home to an organized and highly politicized community of free African-Americans, in which the White House servants Elizabeth Keckley and William Slade were leaders. Keckley, who published a memoir in 1868, organized other black women to raise money and donations of clothing and food for the fugitives who’d sought refuge in Washington. Slade was a leader in the Social, Civil and Statistical Association, a black organization that tried to advance arguments for freedom and civil rights by collecting data on black economic and social successes. The film conveys none of this, opting instead for generic, archetypal characters.

Masur was offended by the

brief cameo of Lydia Smith…housekeeper and supposed lover of the Pennsylvania congressman and Radical Republican Thaddeus Stevens… Stevens’s relationship with his “mulatto” housekeeper is the subject of notoriously racist scenes in D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film “Birth of a Nation.” Though Mr. Spielberg’s film looks upon the pair with far more sympathy, the sudden revelation of their relationship — Stevens literally hands the official copy of the 13th Amendment to Smith, before the two head into bed together — reveals, once again, the film’s determination to see emancipation as a gift from white people to black people, not as a social transformation in which African-Americans themselves played a role.

And why was Frederick Douglass left out of the film entirely? Masur notes that he was invited to the White House after Lincoln was inaugurated for the second time. According to Lincoln biographer Ronald C. White,

what the audience doesn’t fully understand, in the final scene – almost the final scene – where suddenly African-Americans arrive in the balcony as the final vote is to be taken, that one of those is Charles Douglass, the son of Frederick Douglass. Charles had fought in the famous Massachusetts 54th; he will write to his father after that climactic vote: ‘Oh, Father, how wonderful it is. People were cheering, they were crying tears of joy.’ So that had the potential for more black agency, but it doesn’t come to full fruition in the film.”

To add insult to injury, Lincoln is far too long at 2-1/2 hours (plus ads and previews). It could easily have been edited to 2 hours or less, especially since Spielberg chose to ignore the historical roles of African Americans and women in the events the film depicts.