Monday Reads: Horticulture

Woman With Flower 1932 By Pablo Picasso

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m going to borrow something–well steal it directly–with attribution to my friend and writer Michael Tisserand. It’s a reference to Dorothy Parker which is a hell of a lot better to read about than anything I can find on a Monday Morning in Trumpist America. It’s also a one word reminder for me to get my horticulture class finished up shortly despite that the weather here is really messing with everything except my damn banana trees. Michael wins the internet for the entire month of July with his tweet hands down! (See below).

So, let’s do the background work for Michael’s punchline in which Dorothy is brilliant and Michael is spot on. You can see his tweet below and how he revamped it for the bizarre announcement that Melania has suddenly taken an interest in revamping the Rose Garden.

There is substantive evidence that Dorothy Parker created the horticulture pun while she was participating in a word game at a party. She may have spoken it during a meeting of the famed Algonquin Round Table. These gatherings were held regularly by a group of columnists, playwrights, actors and other bright individuals at lunch within the Algonquin Hotel in New York City between roughly 1919 and 1929.

The earliest evidence, however, appeared several years later in 1935 in the widely-syndicated column of Walter Winchell. The actual pun was too taboo to print in a newspaper in the 1930s; hence, Winchell’s comment was curiously cryptic. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

Dorothy Parker can make up a sentence containing the word “Horticulture,” but hardly here.

A month later another gossip columnist named Harrison Carroll printed an elliptical comment that also linked Parker to the pun without sharing with readers the details of the witticism: 2

What was Dorothy Parker’s priceless offering when the gang at the James Gleason party were playing one of those “make a sentence with a word” games and someone suggested “horticulture”?

Special thanks to top researcher Bill Mullins who located the two citations given above.

The earliest account presenting a full version of Parker’s remark that QI has located was published in 1962 in a magazine of arts and literature called “Horizon”. An article by the prominent drama critic John Mason Brown referred to two puns. The first quip was based on the word “meretricious”, and an exploration of its provenance is available in another entry here. The second jest was ascribed to Parker: 3

Frank Adams’s solving the problem of building a sentence around “meretricious” with “Meretricious ‘n’ a Happy New Year,” and Mrs. Parker’s solving the same problem with “horticulture” by coming up with “You may lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think”—these and a hundred others of their kind may by now have become enfeebled by familiarity. But they were born of a moment, and meant for that moment, and at that moment they were triumphant.

In addition to wordplay with “horticulture” Parker cleverly refashioned a very old English proverb about stubbornness: You may lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. As noted previously, when Parker delivered her joke it was too racy to be reprinted in contemporaneous books or periodicals published for a wide audience.

See the source image

Frederic Bazille: Black Woman with Peonies 1870

So, given those disastrous–albeit not permanent–Christmas displays where she ruins the White House annually, I can only wonder how dark and deranged the nation’s First Illegally visa’d sex worker will make the Rose Garden. My guess is this is another attempt to distract us from the miserable job her Sugar Daddy has done on everything and his continued assault on civil liberties as well as his massive grifting enterprise.

And then, not to mention the folks around him like crank Economist Peter Navarro who felt inclined to mock Dr. Fauci’s first pitch today.

“You know, the only thing I regret is Dr. Fauci’s pitch the other day at Opening Day. I felt bad for him,” Navarro said. “But I always look forward, and we’re all part of the team. And he actually tells people to wear the masks, and my job is to get them made.”

All the best people! All the BEST! People! Be BEST!

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Jeune fille aux anémones sur fond violet

Okay, enough levity. It’s back to the Sugar Daddy billing it all to us and the depths of depravity he brings to this country.

So, I don’t often read Town & Country, but when I do I make sure the article is almost as cheeky as Dorothy Parker. “How Brooks Brothers Became a Symbol of What Not to Wear to the Revolution. That notorious “Ken and Karen” couple from St. Louis politically slimed a 202-year-old staple of American belonging. Is it still Ok to wear sensible chinos and a pink polo?”

Clothes are not the only politicized aspect of our appearances now—nor were they ever; hair is also a prominent battleground. During the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette’s signature powdered pouf was copied by the bourgeoisie, but it was reviled by the starving sans-culottes, who saw it as a wasteful indulgence, another representation of her to loucheness and profligacy.

A more modern hairdo once popular with hipsters is the shaved/faded sides and long-on-top look, or grown-out “high and tight” once favored by everyone from Macklemore to David Beckham. That, too, has been appropriated by far-right figurehead Richard Spencer and his ilk, who have taken to wearing it with Brooks Brothers suits, because Nazis used to wear the hairdo to look tidy under their helmets.

The New York Times once dubbed it the “Hitler Youth,” but it has since gone on to be nicknamed the “Fashy Haircut”—short for fascist, natch—and some of its adherents seem blithely unaware of the politics telegraphed by their coiffure. In 2016, the Washington Post once noted the irony of white nationalists “sporting a hairstyle that’s already been repurposed in the 21st century by young people whose ethos is radical safe-space inclusiveness, not ethnophobic separatism with eugenic undertones.”

In the context of today, that misdirection is precisely the point. The alt-right has intentionally become more sophisticated about blending in, substituting red tank tops and MAGA hats with more ambivalent iconography, the kind of fungible avatars that can be taken at face value, or interpreted as dog whistles if weaponized.

Arguably, another head of hair that looks suspect in the current climate is worn by perennially corporate hyper-conservatives like Jared Kushner. It’s the third-grade-picture-day, combover haircut that announces you have a turtle in your lunchbox and get to wear big boy pants because you haven’t wet the bed in weeks. It’s hair that looks excessively Boy Scouty and feckless precisely because it isn’t, like when predatory octopods camouflage themselves by mimicking the ocean floor.

For maximum due diligence, ask yourself a few difficult questions before opting for the old standbys when getting dressed for your next Zoomtinis. Remember that something that looks “safe” on the surface rarely is. We must all make sacrifices during times of (culture) war, but dressing in flip flops and pajama bottoms is arguably better than walking out of your house looking like you want to annex the Sudetenland.

The McCloskeys, by the way, are looking at a possible felony for what the Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Louis called unlawful use of a gun “in an angry or threatening manner.” The fashion police, however, has not yet pressed charges, though a guilty verdict seems like a foregone conclusion.

⊰ Posing with Posies ⊱ paintings of women and flowers - Suzanne Valadon | The Blue Room, 1923

Suzanne Valadon | The Blue Room, 1923

And of course, having enough money to eke a roof and essentials during a global pandemic and a country wide depression is just too much for Republican Senators who want every one back lifting that bale and toting that barge. Maybe they should be forced to find a job in this environment. After all, they caused it.

From WAPO: “GOP, White House aim to temporarily reduce weekly unemployment benefit from $600 to $200. House Democrats have proposed keeping $600 benefit in place through January but the program is set to expire later this week; $200 would be bridge as states move to new system.”

“We have unemployment running out, we have renter protection running out, we have state and local governments going into new month and won’t have the money and will lay off thousands and thousands of people,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday morning on MSNBC. “We’re at all these cliffs and we still at this very moment don’t have a plan from the Republicans. We want to sit down and negotiate. But you can’t negotiate with a ghost.”

Given the difficulty of reaching agreement on the multiple contentious issues at play, Meadows and Mnuchin suggested over the weekend that Congress might need to pass a narrow bill including just the unemployment insurance, schools money and liability provisions.

Democrats have rejected that approach, and McConnell has yet to publicly embrace it, either.

The legislation will exclude the payroll tax cut President Trump had demanded, which Senate Republicans opposed. But it is expected to include language related to the FBI headquarters building that is diagonal from Trump’s hotel in downtown D.C. It was unclear exactly what the language would say, but Trump has said he wants to see a new headquarters building built on the site, and his administration killed a plan to relocate the headquarters to the suburbs.

The legislation also appeared likely to contain a number of other provisions pushed by a variety of Senate Republicans, which could potentially help secure more votes. These include a bill by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) aimed at bringing production lines back to the U.S. from China. Graham predicted over the weekend that half of Republicans wouldn’t support a new coronavirus spending bill.

Legislation by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on increasing incentives for advanced chip manufacturing also was being eyed for inclusion, as was a bill by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called the Safeguarding American Innovation Act.

See the source image

Woman Seated By A Bouquet Of Flowers Artwork By Suzanne Valadon

Nothing like the smell of bacon in the morning!!! Grifters gotta grift!!!

The plan does include an August payment to all of another $1200. The generosity and humanity underwhelms! So Greg Sargent has an interesting hypothesis up today. Is this just Click Bait or Wishful Thinking? “How Fox News may be destroying Trump’s reelection hopes”. This is also from WAPO.

It would be a peculiarly apt form of poetic justice if the entity that has done so much to help President Trump run this country into the ground — Fox News — ends up playing an outsize role in helping destroy his chances at reelection.

Yet that may be exactly what’s happening.

This possibility is thrust upon us by two remarkable new reports: one in The Post illuminating Trump’s unsettled mental universe as he grapples with the new coronavirus surge, and one in the New York Times reporting that his law enforcement crackdowns are only accelerating more protests in response.

For Trump, Fox News has two functions: With some exceptions, it largely functions as his “shameless propaganda outlet,” as Margaret Sullivan put it, aggressively inflating his successes and faithfully pushing his messages. When Fox occasionally departs from this role, Trump rages at it as a form of deep betrayal.

Okay, so this is enough for me today. But hey, we got the whole week and at least until January to endure all this pettiness, meanness, greed, law breaking, … oh, go ahead! Add to that list!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Some Good News for a Change

Good Morning!!

For once I can begin a post with some upbeat stories.

Chicago Tribune: llinois approves Equal Rights Amendment, 36 years after deadline.

The Illinois House voted Wednesday night to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment more than 45 years after it was approved by Congress, putting it one state away from possible enshrinement in the U.S. Constitution amid potential legal questions.

The 72-45 vote by the House, following an April vote by the Senate, was just one more vote than needed for ratification. It does not need the approval of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has said he supports equal rights but was faulted by Democrats for not taking a position on the ERA….

As has been the case for decades, the legislative debate over the Equal Rights Amendment was fraught with controversy. Opponents largely contended the measure was aimed at ensuring an expansion of abortion rights for women. Supporters said it was needed to give women equal standing in the nation’s founding document.

Opponents also contended the measure may be moot, since its original 1982 ratification deadline has long since expired. Supporters argued, however, that the 1992 ratification of the 1789 “Madison Amendment,” preventing midterm changes in congressional pay, makes the ERA a legally viable change to the constitution.

Read the whole thing at the link above. Some history:

On March 22, 1972, the Senate approved the Equal Rights Amendment, which banned discrimination on the basis of sex. The amendment fell three states shy of ratification.

In 1923, three years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, suffragist Alice Paul drafted an amendment to guarantee equal rights for women. Known as the Equal Rights Amendment or the Lucretia Mott Amendment, it stated, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”

The amendment was presented to Congress in 1923, and re-introduced to every session of Congress for nearly 50 years. It mostly stayed in committee until 1946, when a reworded proposal, dubbed the Alice Paul Amendment, lost a close vote in the Senate. Four years later, the Senate passed a weaker version of the amendment that was not supported by ERA proponents.

Opposition to ERA came from social conservatives and from labor leaders, who feared that it would threaten protective labor laws for women. Support for the amendment increased during the 1960s as the Civil Rights Movement inspired a second women’s rights movement. The National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, led to movement for the passage of ERA.

In 1970, Rep. Martha Griffiths of Michigan succeeded in getting the ERA out of committee and before Congress for debate. The House of Representatives passed the amendment without changes 352-15 in 1971. The Senate passed the amendment on March 22, 1972, a day after voting against any proposed changes.

The passed amendment read: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

The second bit of good news, from The Washington Post: Virginia General Assembly approves Medicaid expansion to 400,000 low-income residents.

The Virginia legislature voted Wednesday to make government health insurance available to 400,000 low-income residents, overcoming five years of GOP resistance. The decision marks a leftward shift in the legislature and an enormous win for Gov. Ralph Northam (D), the pediatrician who ran on expanding access to health care.

Virginia will join 32 other states and the District in expanding Medicaid coverage. The measure is expected to take effectJan. 1.

“This is not just about helping this group of people,” said Sen. Frank Wagner (Virginia Beach), one of four Republicans in the Senate who split from their party to join Democrats and pass the measure by a vote of 23 to 17. “This is about getting out there and helping to bend the cost of health care for every Virginian. . . . It is the number one issue on our voters’ minds. By golly, it ought to be the number one issue on the General Assembly’s mind.”

Another Republican who broke ranks, Sen. Ben Chafin (Russell), is a lawyer and a cattle farmer from a rural district where health care is sorely lacking.

“I came to the conclusion that ‘no’ just wasn’t the answer anymore, that doing nothing about the medical conditions, the state of health care in my district, just wasn’t the answer any longer,” he said.

After the Senate vote, the House of Delegates approved the measure by 67 to 31 as the chamber erupted in cheers.

Also from the WaPo: Why Virginia’s Medicaid expansion is a big deal.

It’s another nail in the coffin for efforts to repeal Obamacare and a fresh reminder of how difficult it is to scale back any entitlement once it’s created. Many Republicans, in purple and red states alike, concluded that Congress is unlikely to get rid of the law, so they’ve become less willing to take political heat for leaving billions in federal money on the table.

Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.

Years of obstruction in the commonwealth gave way because key Republicans from rural areas couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their constituents any longer, moderates wanted to cut a deal and, most of all, Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections.

As President Trump steps up efforts to undermine the law, from repealing the individual mandate to watering down requirements for what needs to be covered in “association health plans,” the administration’s willingness to let states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients has paradoxically given a rationale for Republicans to flip-flop on an issue where they had dug in their heels.

And in New Jersey: Phil Murphy signs law protecting Obamacare from Trump with N.J. mandate to have health insurance.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday signed a law preserving a critical yet controversial part of the Affordable Care Act that President Donald Trump‘s administration repealed last year.

One of the laws creates a statewide individual mandate, which will require all New Jerseyans who don’t have health coverage through a government program like Medicare or their jobs to buy a policy, or pay a fee at tax time.

The landmark federal health care law, better known as Obamacare, imposed the mandate to ensure younger and healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance will buy-in and share costs.

But the tax package approved by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law by Trump will end the mandate in 2019. The requirement was one of the more distasteful parts of the law for lawmakers and the public who believe it allowed government to intrude into people’s lives.

State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, one of the prime sponsors of the law, said keeping the mandate “was needed to maintain a foundation for the insurance market and to allow the success of the ACA to continue.”

The resistance is making progress!

In other news, The Daily Beast reports that Trump wanted Howard Stern to speak at the 2016 Republican convention, according to his interview last night with David Letterman (emphasis added).

Letterman doesn’t spend much time on the subject of Trump, a person whom Stern has spent more time interviewing than anyone else on the planet, the host does ask the “King of All Media” how he feels about Trump’s tenure as president.

“Well you know, it was a very awkward kind of thing, because Donald asked me to speak at the Republican National Convention,” Stern reveals. “And he would call me from the campaign trail very often, and say, ‘Are you watching?’ I was tickled by this, because I really kind of felt, deep in my heart, that this campaign was really more about selling a book, or selling a brand. I didn’t really understand that he would really want to be president.” [….]

Stern continued: “I was put in a very awkward position of having to say publicly—and to him—that I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I always have been, and I was honest with Donald. I said, ‘Donald, you also supported Hillary.’ And I do consider Donald a friend but my politics are different.”

The AP has an interesting story on Republican efforts to protect Jeff Sessions’ job.

In private meetings, public appearances on television and late-night phone calls, Trump’s advisers and allies have done all they can to persuade the president not to fire a Cabinet official he dismisses as disloyal. The effort is one of the few effective Republican attempts to install guardrails around a president who delights in defying advice and breaking the rules.

It’s an ongoing effort, though not everyone is convinced the relationship is sustainable for the long term….

The case that Sessions’ protectors have outlined to Trump time and again largely consists of three components: Firing Sessions, a witness in Mueller’s investigation of obstruction of justice, would add legal peril to his standing in the Russia probe; doing so would anger the president’s political base, which Trump cares deeply about, especially with midterm election looming this fall; and a number of Republican senators would rebel against the treatment of a longtime colleague who was following Justice Department guidelines in his recusal.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has said that he will not schedule a confirmation hearing for another attorney general nominee if Sessions is fired.

Click on the link to read the rest.

Melania Trump has missing from the public eye for 20 days now. Yesterday her husband apparently decided to send a message from her Twitter account, but he forgot to make the language sound like her.

A few more stories to check out:

The New Yorker: How the Trump Administration Got Comfortable Separating Immigrant Kids from Their Parents.

Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times: Trump Immigration Policy Veers From Abhorrent to Evil.

The Washington Post: Trump plans to impose metal tariffs on closest U.S. allies.

The New York Times: For ‘Columbiners,’ School Shootings Have a Deadly Allure.

The Daily Beast: What Happened to Jill Stein’s Recount Millions?

The New York Times: How Trump’s Election Shook Obama: ‘What if We Were Wrong?’

NPR: Russia’s Lavrov Meets With Kim Jong Un, As Pompeo Tries To Salvage Summit.

CNBC: Trump will pardon conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted of campaign finance violation.


Thursday Reads: The Usual Insanity Reigns in Trump World

Good Afternoon!!

As usual, there’s way too much news out there this morning. In Trump world, there’s never an opportunity to catch your breath and focus on one important thing. I can’t cover everything, so here are some random stories that caught my interest.

Cecile Richards has a new book out–Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead: My Life Story–and she included some creepy revelations about Jared and Ivanka Kushner. People Magazine: Planned Parenthood CEO Says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Offered ‘Bribe’ to Stop Abortions.

In a riveting passage from Cecile Richards’ new memoir, the Planned Parenthood chief says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were, during Donald Trump’s 2016 transition as president-elect, so eager to be recognized as shrewd political dealmakers that the soon-to-be first daughter and her husband made an offer that felt like a “bribe”: an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortions.

Richards says she “reached out” to Ivanka at the suggestion of a friend, in hopes of finding an ally in the Trump White House. Ivanka insisted on bringing Jared, so Richards asked her husband Kirk Adams to come with her.

According to a statement from Planned Parenthood given to Time.com, the purpose of the meeting “was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.”

After Richards explained this, she writes that Kushner told her Planned Parenthood “had made a big mistake by becoming ‘political.’ ”

“The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”

According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”

“If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it was now. Jared and Ivanka were there for one reason: to deliver a political win,” she writes. “In their eyes, if they could stop Planned Parenthood from providing abortions, it would confirm their reputation as savvy dealmakers. It was surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women’s rights for more money. It takes a lot to get Kirk mad, but it looked like his head was about to explode.”

Richards explained that there was “no way” Kushner’s proposal would work and that they’d continue to fight for funding.

“‘Our mission is to care for women who need us, and that means caring for all of their reproductive needs — including safe and legal abortion,’” she recalls saying.

Can you imagine the nerve? In Trump world, everything is about money. These people can’t even begin to conceive of the notion that there are people with personal values that are non-negotiable.

There’s another new book about Trump world–this time by Trump booster Ronald Kessler. Still, a few embarrassing tidbits are coming out in advice of its release date.

The Cut: Trump Reportedly Called Jared Kushner a ‘Little Boy.’

According to journalist Ronald Kessler in his new bookThe Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, when Kushner addressed reporters during a live television appearance, President Trump told the aides watching with him, “Look at Jared, he looks like a little boy, like a child.”

Kessler also claims that Trump once told Kushner and his daughter, Ivanka, that “they never should have left New York,” and he “made it clear to them that he would not mind if they gave up their White House roles.” [….]

Trump calling Jared “a child” seems rather unfair. Not only has president given his son-in-law a set of absurdly stratospheric, decidedly adult responsibilities, Kushner clearly looks more like a haunted doll than a little boy.

Kessler writes that Kellyanne Conway is the “number one leaker” in the White House except for Trump himself, who leaks as as an “anonymous source” to specific reporters in hopes of positive coverage. According to Kessler, Melania Trump is an important adviser to her husband, and she once “walked out on” Trump in 1998 when she found out he was cheating on her. Now you don’t have to read the book, which reported is filled with Trump boosterism.

Luke Harding, who wrote the terrific book Collusion, has a new piece on Paul Manafort’s machinations at The Guardian: Former Trump aide approved ‘black ops’ to help Ukraine president.

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president, featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites, and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.

The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.

The strategies included:

 Proposing to rewrite Wikipedia entries to smear a key opponent of the then Ukrainian president.

 Setting up a fake “thinktank” in Vienna to disseminate viewpoints supporting Yanukovych.

 A social media blitz “aimed at targeted audiences in Europe and the US”.

 Briefing journalists from the rightwing website Breitbart to attack Clinton, when she was US secretary of state.

Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipates later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Another interesting long read from The Guardian by Donna Ladd: Dangerous, growing, yet unnoticed: the rise of America’s white gangs. It’s a portrait of one man–Benny Ivy–who as a kid joined “one of the oldest and largest white gangs in the US, the Simon City Royals.”

The Royals’ roots date to Chicago’s North Side in 1952, when two violent white “greaser” gangs – the Ashland Royals and Simon City – guarded Simon Park turf as Puerto Ricans moved in.

Early greasers were immigrants, often Italian, maligned by wealthier whites for greasing machines in blue-collar jobs. In 1968, the greasers united as the Simon City Royals, often rumbling with the nearby Latin Kings as well as the white supremacist Gaylords. (Their rhetoric is familiar: a Gaylords nostalgia websitecalled Latino gangs “storage bins for illegal immigrants”.)

The Royals were one of the biggest and most violent street gangs in Chicago by the 1970s, when they joined the Folk Nation alliance with the Black Gangster Disciples, began admitting Hispanics and, later, women and black members.

But by the 1980s, the gang had weakened after its leadership got locked up or killed.

Strength shifted to prisons, and the brand spread to midwestern and southern states like Mississippi, where the Royals are now one of the largest and most violent gangs in the state.

Surveys of young Americans have shown that 40% identifying as gang members are white, but police tend to undercount them at 10% to 14% and overcount black and Hispanic members, says Babe Howell, a criminal law professor at City University of New York who focuses on crime and race.

“Police see groups of young white people as individuals, each responsible for his or her own conduct, and hold young people of color in street gangs criminally liable for the conduct of their peers,” she says.

Much more at the link.

Trump is insisting on sending National Guard troops to the southern border because he heard about a so-called “caravan” of migrants marching across Mexico. We now have a “president” who uses to executive ordered to deal with fake crises. Trump probably doesn’t know that U.S. troops can’t take any actions against people to enforce domestic laws because of the Posse Commitatus Act. So he’s sending the troops down there anyway instead of just letting them train to do their real jobs. So what about this “caravan?”

The New York Times: ‘You Hate America!’: How the ‘Caravan’ Story Exploded on the Right.

It was the kind of story destined to take a dark turn through the conservative news media and grab President Trump’s attention: A vast horde of migrants was making its way through Mexico toward the United States, and no one was stopping them.

A Central American woman gives water to a baby as a large group of immigrants sets up camp for a few days at a sports center in Matias Romero in Mexico’s Oaxaca state late Monday. (Felix Marquez / Associated Press)

“Mysterious group deploys ‘caravan’ of illegal aliens headed for U.S. border,” warned Frontpage Mag, a site run by David Horowitz, a conservative commentator.

The Gateway Pundit, a website that was most recently in the news for spreading conspiracies about the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., suggested the real reason the migrants were trying to enter the United States was to collect social welfare benefits.

And as the president often does when immigration is at issue, he saw a reason for Americans to be afraid. “Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming,” a Twitter post from Mr. Trump read.

The story of “the caravan” followed an arc similar to many events — whether real, embellished or entirely imagined — involving refugees and migrants that have roused intense suspicion and outrage on the right. The coverage tends to play on the fears that hiding among mass groups of immigrants are many criminals, vectors of disease and agents of terror. And often the president, who announced his candidacy by blaming Mexico for sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States, acts as an accelerant to the hysteria.

That’s the fake story, now for the real story.

The New York Times: Inside an Immigrant Caravan: Women and Children, Fleeing Violence.

MATÍAS ROMERO, Mexico — With a sarcastic half-smile, Nikolle Contreras, 27, surveyed her fellow members of the Central American caravan, which President Trump has called dangerous and has used as a justification to send troops to the border.

More than 1,000 people, mostly women and children, waited patiently on Wednesday in the shade of trees and makeshift shelters in a rundown sports complex in this Mexican town, about 600 miles south of the border. They were tired, having slept and eaten poorly for more than a week. All were facing an uncertain future.

“Imagine that!” said Ms. Contreras, a Honduran factory worker hoping to apply for asylum in the United States. “So many problems he has to solve and he gets involved with this caravan!”

The migrants, most of them Hondurans, left the southern Mexican border city of Tapachula on March 25 and for days traveled north en masse — by foot, hitchhiking and on the tops of trains — as they fled violence and poverty in their homelands and sought a better life elsewhere.

This sort of collective migration has become something of an annual event around Easter week, and a way for advocates to draw more attention to the plight of migrants.

But this particular caravan caught the attention of Mr. Trump, apparently after he heard about it on Fox News. In a Twitter tirade that began Sunday, he conjured up hordes of dangerous migrants surging toward the border. He demanded that Mexican officials halt the group, suggesting that otherwise he would make them pay dearly in trade negotiations or aid cuts.

Mr. Trump even boasted that his threat had forced Mexico’s government to halt and disperse the caravan participants. But there was no evidence of that on Wednesday.

Read the rest at the NYT.

What stories are you following today? 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Students March for Their Lives (and other news)

By 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, a large crowd had already gathered for the March for Our Lives event in Washington on Saturday. Credit Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Happy Saturday!!

Today is the “March For Our Lives” in Washington DC to demand serious legislation to deal with the scourge of gun violence. There will be hundreds of other marches around the country and around the world. A couple of basic articles:

The Washington Post: March for Our Lives: The nation’s capital has been preparing for weeks. Today, the voices will rise.

Students, teachers, parents and survivors of mass shootings streamed into Washington Saturday for the March for Our Lives, a demonstration against gun violence that could draw hundreds of thousands of protesters to the nation’s capital.

The march is part of a surge of political activism that has transformed America’s entrenched debate over gun violence. It was organized by students who survived the mass shooting last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who hope to succeed where many adults have failed: By forcing Congress and the president to pass a comprehensive gun-control bill that will improve school safety.

Hundreds of sister protests are taking place in cities across the U.S., including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. The main demonstration in Washington is scheduled to run from noon to 3 p.m. on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Marchers gather in Boston

The New York Times: March for Our Lives: Students Protesting Guns Say ‘We Just Have Our Lives to Lose’

Tens of thousands of people, outraged by a recent massacre at a South Florida school and energized by the students who survived, prepared to spill out in public protest in Washington and communities across the world on Saturday as they call for an end to gun violence.

The student activists, many of them sharp-tongued and defiant in the face of politicians and gun lobbyists, have kept attention on the issue in a time of renewed political activism on the left, as they helped lead a national school walkout and pushed state officials in Floridato enact gun legislation.

On Friday, the Justice Department proposed banning so-called bump stocks, but President Trump signed a spending bill that included only some background check and school safety measures. The effectiveness of the students’ efforts will be measured, in part, on the success of Saturday’s events — their most ambitious show of force yet.

Here’s what we’re watching as protests unfurl around the globe:

• More than 800 protests are planned in every American state and on every continent except for Antarctica, according to a website set up by organizersHere’s a map of planned protests.

• The National Park Service has approved a permit for the Washington march, which estimates 500,000 people could attend. Called March for Our Lives, the main event there kicks off around midday, and some of the most prominent student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a shooting left 17 dead last month, will speak.

Heather Egeland Martin, 36, and Ashley Egeland, 34

In the buildup to the march, there have been a number of good stories about survivors of previous school shootings. The best one I’ve read was in Glamour Magazine: Two Columbine Survivors on Life After a Mass Shooting, and Being at the Lead of ‘The Columbine Generation’.

“We call B.S.,” Emma Gonzales shouted, mesmerizing the crowd—and the nation—just one day after a shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S.!”

The student walkouts that took place across the country today were a breathtaking display of activism for González, her fellow survivors, and other student crusaders. They have accomplished much since Nikolas Cruz turned their Valentine’s Day to carnage: They’ve faced down politicians from Florida’s capitol to Washington, D.C., mobilized the upcoming national March for Our Lives, (complete with merch and Oprah donations), and helped pass a law that raises the age for buying firearms in Florida from 18 to 21—NRA lawsuits be damned.

But after the march on the 24th, will the country fade back to apathy as it has after so many mass other shootings? And what will life really be like for students of Parkland after the media lights fade?

We asked sisters Heather Egeland Martin, 36, and Ashley Egeland, 34, who were both students at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold showed up with guns under their trench coats and left 15 people dead. At that time, Columbine was one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history; it was also the first to happen in the digital age, with real-time cell phone calls from inside the schools. Since that day in 1999, U.S. students—the Columbine Generation—have never known school to be safe from terror.

It’s been nearly 19 years since Columbine, and both Ashley and Heather are still recovering. They know it can be a long road ahead.

Heather and Ashley talk about their long journeys after major trauma–through eating disorders and drug addiction to recovery. But the trauma itself never goes away. As a survivor of early childhood trauma, I really identified with these women’s stories. The article brought me to tears. I hope you’ll read it.

A few more to check out:

Virginia Tech massacre survivor Lisa Hamp (Photo by Rod Lamkey Jr.)

The Atlantic: My Life Since the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting: Lisa Hamp’s Story.

Vox: They survived Columbine. Then came Sandy Hook. And Parkland.

Vox: “I hope you know that it’s not that we didn’t try”: a Columbine and Parkland survivor talk.

NPR: 20 Years Later, Jonesboro Shooting Survivors Conflicted Over Parkland.

Trump has fled to Palm Beach, where he’ll hole up and try to ignore the protesters and the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels tomorrow night. Once again, Melania refused to ride with her husband on the helicopter to Air Force One. CNN:

The day after a CNN interview with a former Playboy model who claims to have had a 10-month affair with her husband, first lady Melania Trump opted to leave President Donald Trump alone for the ride from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base.

The official White House schedule, released Thursday evening, stated the first couple would depart the White House together aboard Marine One en route to Joint Base Andrews, but Mrs. Trump did not appear beside her husband. CNN reached out to the first lady’s communications office for an explanation or comment on the change in plan but did not receive a response.
According to CNN, Melania plans to stay in Palm Beach for the entire week with her son Barron, who is on spring break.

As he flew out of town, Trump left the government of our once-great nation in turmoil.

The New York Times: After Another Week of Chaos, Trump Repairs to Palm Beach. No One Knows What Comes Next.

PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump decamped to his oceanfront estate here on Friday after a head-spinning series of presidential decisions on national securitytrade and the budget that left the capital reeling and his advisers nervous about what comes next.

The decisions attested to a president riled up by cable news and unbound. Mr. Trump appeared heedless of his staff, unconcerned about Washington decorum, or the latest stock market dive, and confident of his instincts. He seemed determined to set the agenda himself, even if that agenda looked like a White House in disarray.

Inside the West Wing, aides described an atmosphere of bewildered resignation as they grappled with the all-too-familiar task of predicting and reacting in real time to Mr. Trump’s shifting moods.

Aides said there was no grand strategy to the president’s actions, and that he got up each morning this week not knowing what he would do. Much as he did as a New York businessman at Trump Tower, Mr. Trump watched television, reacted to what he saw on television and then reacted to the reaction.

Aides said he was still testing his limits as president while also feeling embattled by incoming fire — from Congress, the Russia investigation, foreign entanglements, a potential trade war and a pornographic film actress and a Playboy model who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump and were paid to keep quiet.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Yesterday morning Trump threatened on Twitter that he was thinking about vetoing the just-passed omnibus spending bill, which the White House staff had worked out with both Republicans and Democrats. Then he called a “press conference” at which he whined about the spending bill that he had finally agreed to sign and then refused to answer any questions from the press. It was a pathetic, disgusting display of temper.

David A. Graham writes at The Atlantic: Trump Can’t Get What He Wants and Doesn’t Know Why.

“I’ve signed this omnibus budget bill. There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill,” Trump said. “But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I’m not going to do it again.” [….]

Over and over again, he talked about defense spending, including reading through a litany of what would be allocated for specific craft in the bill. (“The tanker aircraft is very important based on everything.”) Though there’s little evidence that large swaths of the population are concerned about a dearth of military spending, Trump sounded like a garbled John F. Kennedy, with everything but missile gaps popping up.

The reason became apparent at the very end of the press statement. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was present and spoke briefly, and it seems he convinced the president to sign the bill despite his reservations. As Trump left, reporters shouted out questions, and the president said, “I looked very seriously at the veto. I was thinking about doing the veto. But because of the incredible gains we’ve been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our thinking.”

Trump also demanded that the Senate eliminate the filibuster, and called for the return of the line-item veto, the presidential tool ruled unconstitutional in 1998.

Graham writes that Trump simply doesn’t understand how legislation works and he isn’t interested in learning.

Trump’s grandiose, semi-authoritarian claim, “I alone can fix it,” in his speech accepting the 2016 Republican nomination was a subject of intense criticism, but in retrospect it seems to have represented not so much a vision of how Trump could transform the presidency but a mistaken impression of how the presidency already worked. Though political scientists and some journalists have explained clearly how the power of the bully pulpit is badly overrated, this was yet another case in which Trump had not carefully studied the realities of politics.

He seems to have subscribed, and may still subscribe, to an extreme version of what Matt Yglesias termed the “Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency,” in which presidents are superheroes who get what they want through sheer force of will. This is not, however, the way Washington really works, and while Trump has experienced that, he doesn’t seem to have quite come to understand it, thus his fury and threat on the spending bill Friday.

If Trump wanted to affect the text of the bill, he had ways to do it. He could have gotten intensely involved in the negotiation process early. He could have presented a budget that represented something like an opening volley in a negotiation, rather than a utopian scheme that Congress was never going to take seriously. But Trump has shown no appetite or patience for rolling up his sleeves and getting into the nitty-gritty. He’d rather make threats from the White House when it’s too late to change anything.

There’s more at the link. It’s a good piece, well worth a read.

What stories are you following today? What are your thoughts on the marches? Whatever you’re up to, have a great weekend.


Tuesday Reads: Trials of a Baby-Man

Good Morning!!

Like clockwork, the 70-year-old man-baby in the White House lets us know what he’s having a tantrum about this morning.

Apparently he was displeased with last night’s television coverage of his praise of a vicious dictator who murders journalists and political opponents and and his claim that the U.S. is no better because our military has killed people in war. It also seems he hasn’t yet figured out that the Iran deal was brokered with five other countries–including Russia!

Tomorrow we’ll likely be bombarded with tweets about whatever the judges decide in the muslim ban case, which is scheduled to be argued tonight at 6PM Eastern time. BTW, the audio of the hearing will be live-streamed. You can listen at that link.

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NBC News reports:

In an 11-page reply to arguments filed by opponents, the Justice Department restated earlier arguments that the president has “unreviewable authority” to suspend entry of “any class of aliens to protect the national interest” and that states (in this case, Washington and Minnesota) can’t challenge federal denial of entry by third-party aliens.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has rebutted that contention, saying on NBC’s “TODAY” that “we have a checks-and-balances system in our country, and the president doesn’t have totally unfettered discretion.”

Numerous businesses and public officials have weighed in against the baby-man’s executive order.

Almost 100 big tech companies asked the appeals court not to restore Trump’s order, arguing that the restriction “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to build operations — and hire new employees — outside the United States.”

Numerous other third-party filings — called amicus curiae briefs — were entered by pro-immigration and civil liberties groups opposing the president’s order.

And several former top federal officials — including former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser — filed their own statement of support for Washington and Minnesota.

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Yesterday in a ridiculous “speech” at the U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, the baby-man again bragged about winning and his support from the military and attacked the media, claiming that the press refused to cover terrorist attacks. From Talking Points Memo:

During his speech, Trump claimed that the media is not reporting on terrorist attacks, though he did not explain why.

“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it,” he said. “They have their reasons and you understand that.”

No one seem to know WTF baby-man was talking about, but that’s nothing new. Later yesterday, the White House released a list of 78 terrorist attacks that they believe the media didn’t cover adequately. The list included the Paris and Nice attacks in France, the San Bernardino attack, and the Pulse Nightclub attack, all of which received wall-to-wall coverage. The Washington Post on the list:

It was bare-bones in nature and seemed to have been hastily assembled. The document contained numerous typos and several factual inaccuracies. Some of the attacks listed were so high-profile and thoroughly reported that anyone with Google would be hard-pressed to say they didn’t receive sufficient attention. Among them were the Pulse nightclub massacre, the Bastille Day attack in Nice, France, the coordinated shootings and explosions in Paris, and the holiday party shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

The other attacks included on the list seemed to have been picked arbitrarily. More than half involved two or fewer deaths or injuries, so it’s no surprise that they didn’t receive front-page coverage.

Many significant attacks were missing from the list, and guess what they had in common:

Some of the countries most devastated by terrorism from Islamic extremists were left out entirely. Whether that suggests that the administration thinks they received adequate coverage is anyone’s guess. But it was a glaring omission either way.

In 2015, nearly three quarters of all deaths from terrorist attacks occurred in five countries — Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, according to the State Department. The White House chose not to include any attacks from Iraq, Nigeria and Syria on its list. The two others got a single mention each — a knife attack that wounded a U.S. citizen in Pakistan in 2015, and a suicide bombing that killed 14 Nepalese security guards in Afghanistan last year.

Similarly, between 2004 and 2013, about half of all terrorist attacks and 60 percent of fatalities from terrorist attacks took place in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Erin Miller, of the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, told the BBC.

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It appears the baby-man’s administration doesn’t think attacks on muslim victims are important.  I guess that’s why they ignored the recent attack on a Canadian mosque by a white supremacist tRump supporter.

Mark Follman at Mother Jones: The Terror Attacks Trump Won’t Talk About

On Monday, in a case little noticed by the national media, a man went on trial in federal court for plotting a potentially horrific terrorist attack in upstate New York. In 2015, this man allegedly planned to enlist accomplices to help him bomb a house of worship and open fire with assault rifles on any bystanders. “High casualty rates” was the goal. “If it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds,” he allegedly said, according to prosecutors.

Also on Monday, the Trump White House released a list of 78 attacks carried out in the US and abroad by “radical Islamic terrorists” since 2014, which it said were mostly “underreported,” following the president’s own claim earlier in the day that the media conspired to ignore such attacks. But had the upstate New York plotter succeeded, he would not have made the White House list. The individual charged with masterminding that plan was Robert Doggart, a 65-year-old white man from Tennessee who allegedly conspired to form a militia and attack a Muslim community in Islamberg, NY, on “behalf of American patriotism.” ….

After six people were killed and many others were injured while praying at a mosque in Quebec City on January 29, the White House and Fox News quickly ran with false claims that the suspected attacker was Moroccan. (That man was in fact interviewed as a witness.) Trump has not tweeted nor made any public remarks about the white nationalist (and Trump fan) who has been charged in the case.After avowed white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine people at Mother Emanuel Church in in Charleston in June 2015, Trump tweeted that the attack was “incomprehensible,” and expressed his “deepest condolences to all.” But Trump has said nothing publicly about the case at any point since Roof went on trial in December.

After a white man went on a deadly rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado in November 2015—apparently motivated by an infamous video sting that falsely claimed Planned Parenthood was trafficking in “baby parts”—Trump described the perpetrator as a “maniac.” But after that, he went on at much greater length about Planned Parenthood’s alleged misdeeds.

More at the link.

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We’re learning more about the botched Yemen raid that the baby-man approved over dinner with his pals. NBC News reports: Yemen Raid Had Secret Target: Al Qaeda Leader Qassim Al-Rimi.

The Navy SEAL raid in Yemen last week had a secret objective — the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who survived and is now taunting President Donald Trump in an audio message.

Military and intelligence officials told NBC News the goal of the massive operation was to capture or kill Qassim al-Rimi, considered the third most dangerous terrorist in the world and a master recruiter….

On Sunday, al-Rimi — who landed on the United States’ most-wanted terrorist list after taking over al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate in 2015 — released an audio recording that military sources said is authentic.

“The fool of the White House got slapped at the beginning of his road in your lands,” he said in an apparent reference to the Jan. 29 raid.

I have to agree that the baby-man in the White House is a “fool.”

The White House is also upset about the Saturday Night Live portrayal of Sean Spicer by Melissa McCarthy, according to Politico.

More than being lampooned as a press secretary who makes up facts, it was Spicer’s portrayal by a woman that was most problematic in the president’s eyes, according to sources close to him. And the unflattering send-up by a female comedian was not considered helpful for Spicer’s longevity in the grueling, high-profile job in which he has struggled to strike the right balance between representing an administration that considers the media the “opposition party,” and developing a functional relationship with the press.

“Trump doesn’t like his people to look weak,” added a top Trump donor.

Trump’s uncharacteristic Twitter silence over the weekend about the “Saturday Night Live” sketch was seen internally as a sign of how uncomfortable it made the White House feel. Sources said the caricature of Spicer by McCarthy struck a nerve and was upsetting to the press secretary and to his allies, who immediately saw how damaging it could be in Trump world.

Could Spicer’s days as press secretary already be numbered?

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Finally, poor Melania Trump’s lawsuit against The Daily Mail has been revealed to be based on the money she was hoping to make as part of her husband’s keptocracy. The Washington Post reports: Melania Trump missed out on ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to make millions, lawsuit says.

A lawyer for first lady Melania Trump argued in a lawsuit filed Monday that an article falsely alleging she once worked for an escort service hurt her chance to establish “multimillion dollar business relationships” during the years in which she would be “one of the most photographed women in the world.”

The suit, filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan against Mail Media, the owner of the Daily Mail, said the article published by the Daily Mail and its online division last August caused Trump’s brand, Melania, to lose “significant value” as well as “major business opportunities that were otherwise available to her.” The suit noted that the article had damaged Trump’s “unique, once in a lifetime opportunity” to “launch a broad-based commercial brand.”

“These product categories would have included, among other things, apparel accessories, shoes, jewelry, cosmetics, hair care, skin care and fragrance,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed on Trump’s behalf by California attorney Charles Harder….

The suit filed Monday did not spell out a plan by Trump to market her products during her tenure as first lady, but mentioned that her reputation had suffered just as she was experiencing a “multi-year term” of elevated publicity. The suit says the Daily Mail article “impugned her fitness to perform her duties as First Lady of the United States.”

Wow.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please share in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday.