Monday Reads: MLK Holiday, Super Blood Wolf Moon, and waiting for this too to pass …

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

The beginning of our celebration of the American Civil Rights Movement and the birth of Martin Luther King began with the syzygy of a Super Blood Wolf Moon in lunar eclipse.  I hope you had as good a view of it as we did down here in New Orleans.  It was amazing.  

We began the day with another Democratic Party contender for President in 2020. Kamala Harris threw her hat in the ring.  We have an amazing number of women with serious potential and ability eager to take on the Russian Potted Plant. This is the legacy of many and most importantly Hillary Clinton.  Today, made me think of my childhood shero Shirley Chisolm.  Kamala gave her a shout out!   Chisolm would be ecstatic to see so many serious women candidates.  Politico’s Christopher Caledego assesses Harris’ plan to run as a former, high profile prosecutor which worries many.

According to interviews with a half-dozen of her confidants and strategists, Harris will court voters wary of law enforcement by presenting herself as a kinder and gentler prosecutor — a “progressive” attorney who advocated for the vulnerable and served the public interest. At the same time, they believe leaning into her background will allow her to project toughness against Donald Trump, and contrast what they call her evidence-based approach to law and politics with the president’s carelessness with facts and legal troubles with the special prosecutor.

“In the face of a lawless president and a lawless administration, Americans are going to be looking for somebody who represents and stands for the rule of law,” one Harris adviser said.

But it will be a tough balancing act, and it’s an open question whether Harris has the political dexterity to pull it off. A scathing New York Times op-ed by a California law professor last week gave a taste of what the Californian is in for: It argued that Harris was overzealous against defendants in a slew of cases she or her office handled. Her critics and opponents quickly circulated the article.


A view of the lunar eclipse pictured in Jubilee Park, in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo: OLIVIER HOSLET, EPA-EFE)

We need immense criminal justice reforms as well as the reform of our immigration process. We have incredible problems nationally with local police forces and their treatment of minority communities.  Does Kamala have the chops for these issues? Astead W Herndon of the NYT writes about her candidacy and her chances today.

In California, Ms. Harris sought to fashion a third-way approach to criminal justice as a city and state prosecutor, what she dubbed being “smart on crime.” But like many Democrats, she has sought to align herself with the party’s leftward drift in recent years, proclaiming her support for “Medicare for All” and, after an initial hesitation, disavowing most corporate donations and embracing the legalization of recreational marijuana, which Ms. Harris once rebuffed.

But it remains unclear how exactly Ms. Harris will position herself on the ideological spectrum in this race. She does not hurl rhetorical thunderbolts at Wall Street in the same fashion of colleagues and rivals like Senator Warren. Still, she is no centrist and would likely embrace an agenda that is more unreservedly progressive than some of her moderate opponents.

Ms. Harris focused her initial campaign themes on broad themes of unity and revitalization, which emphasize her unique status as one of — if not the — most viable black women to ever run for president. Her announcement video borrows language from “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the song and poem written in 1900 and long referred to as America’s “black national anthem.”

At a recent appearance to promote her latest book “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” Ms. Harris, when asked why she would run for president, cited the need for leaders who have a “vision of our country in which everyone can see themselves.”

Democrats flocked to see her at a handful of public events tied to the book and many were enthusiastic about her potential.

“Her message of unity is key — people need that hope again,” said Valoree Celona, a 50-year-old insurance executive, who attended one of Ms. Harris’ book events earlier this month in New York. Ms. Celona, who said Ms. Harris caught her attention during Senate hearings, described the senator as “tough, but she’s fair.”

“I didn’t think someone from California could speak to all parts of the country, but I was impressed,” said Ava Leegant, a surgeon from San Francisco who also came to the New York event.

The super blood wolf moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse near Salgotarjan, northeast of Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: PETER KOMKA, EPA-EFE)

VP Pence–whose sole mission in life seems to be taking rights from others–has been co-opting the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  CNN’ Julian Zelizar calls his behavior and words “shocking”.

In the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Vice President Mike Pence shockingly invoked a line from the civil rights leader’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech to build support for President Donald Trump’s proposed deal on the border wall. Asking legislators to agree to Trump’s proposal of spending $5.7 billion on a border wall along with a temporary extension of the DACA program(that Trump dismantled), Pence said, quoting King, on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” “Now is the time to make real the promises for democracy.” He compared King’s belief in using the legislative process to solve social problems to what the President is trying to do.

The “I Have a Dream” speech continues to resonate to this day as one of the most important symbols of a civil rights movement that was committed to ending social injustice and dismantling policies that enabled the inhumane treatment of people living in the United States and all around the globe.

The comments made by Pence — who works at the top of an administration that promotes policies that directly contradict King’s message — fly directly in the face of Martin Luther King’s legacy.

It does so because this is an administration that right now is holding the government hostage — leaving civil servants without paychecks and citizens without full benefits — in exchange for a monument made of brick and mortar or steel that most experts agree won’t do much to enhance border security. Not to mention that, under this administration, thousands of parents have been separated from their children at the border.

In a stark contrast to what King stood for, the Trump administration has repeatedly sent encouraging signals to the forces of white nationalism, starting with the President saying that there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, the keepers of the flame for the white Americans who did everything in their power to stop civil rights back in the 1960s.

And as a way to promote the passage of new voting restrictions — which would fall hardest on marginalized groups of voters — the administration has promoted false claims of election fraud.


Blood Moon. A super blood wolf moon over the peace statue on Brighton seafront during a lunar eclipse. Picture date: Monday January 21, 2019. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire URN:40746499 (Press Association via AP Images)

I wake each day with one thought on my mind. Is today the day we can make him go away?  Max Boot writes on the two year anniversary of this travesty of everything right and democratic at WAPO.  “A look back on two dismal years of the Trump administration”.  I’ve chose to share the section on incompetence with you.

Incompetence: If Trump has a saving grace, it is that he is so incompetent: A more cunning populist would be far more dangerous. His tweets are riddled with spelling, grammar and factual mistakes. (Remember the “smocking gun”?) More significantly, he couldn’t get a Republican-controlled Congress to approve a border wall or repeal Obamacare. His attempt to implement his Muslim ban led to chaos in airports and a lengthy court battle. He has record-setting turnover and numerous vacancies among his staff. (There is still no nominee for 37 percent of key administration jobs.) He impetuously announced a ban on transgender soldiers, the suspension of military exercises with South Korea and the withdrawal from Syria, catching the Pentagon by surprise. His administration leaked so badly that one anonymous official boasted in a New York Times op-ed of obstructing Trump’s agenda. He launched a trade war with China and a government shutdown with no exit strategy. His midterm campaign backfired, leading the Democrats to pick up 40 House seats. He can’t consistently break 40 percent approval despite a booming economy. And he’s not learning from his mistakes. From the vantage point of 2019, in the midst of a record-setting government shutdown, the chaos of 2017 looks like the good ole days.

Full moon rises behind snow-covered mountains in Hakkari province of Turkey
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

We’re learning more about the cadre of young men from Kentucky whose parents sent them on a jaunt to the District to assert their white male privilege over the bodies of women.  While it appears that the story began as a rush to judgement, the initial judgement was not that off.  This situation still reeks of the white washing of Brett Kavanaugh and the fact they have the same smug little looks on their faces as they pronounce their sanctimonious BS still lets me know one thing.  The struggle is real and the MAGA hats are today’s white hoods.  This is via the NYT which has a history of white washing.  Look out for the mayo!

In a lengthy video posted to YouTube, the Hebrew Israelite activists shouted insults at Native Americans and the high school students. One of the activists, Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan, denied in a Facebook video that his group had been instigators.

On Sunday night, Mr. Banyamyan said that their words had been misconstrued as hateful and that they, in fact, were being mocked by the students.

“I know we seem aggressive reading the Bible, but the Bible states for us to cry aloud and don’t spare anybody’s feelings,” he said. “We’re not violent or ignorant.”

A parent of a Covington Catholic sophomore, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns for his family, said his son, who attended the event, said the students were shouting school chants to drown out harassment from the black men. When it worked, the students were “hyped up and high-fiving each other,” he said.

The parent and Mr. Sandmann’s statement denied that the students chanted about building a wall at the border with Mexico, as Mr. Phillips had said. But in an interview on Sunday, Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesman for the Indigenous Peoples Movement, which organized the march, said he had also heard chants of “build that wall,” a rallying cry of supporters of Mr. Trump.

Marcus Frejo, an Indigenous hip-hop artist who is also known as Quese Imc, said he was standing with a friend near the black men when tensions flickered. He said he was worried “something ugly” was going to happen.

Around that time, he said, Mr. Phillips approached, asking to borrow a drum. Together, they headed into the center of the students, creating a sort of prayer circle. They sang what he said was a well-known spiritual song associated with the American Indian Movement of the 1960s and used for prayer and resistance.

Any one wearing a MAGA hat is not going to be taken as a person of good intent. I do not care how self righteous the kid and his friends say they’ve been in this situation. And, all women and all POC  know that “look” of white patriarchy asserting its superiority.  Little white boys at expensive prep schools learn that look well.

The struggle continues.

Here’s a link to The Guardian’s pictures of last night’s moon. They’re worth a look.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Wow.  I almost feel human this morning!  I spent the last few days with a terrible flu.  First, I couldn’t get warm, then I couldn’t cool down.  My joints and muscles hurt like crazy.  I also had congestion and stuffiness everywhere possible.  I gave up on trying to accomplish anything on Friday and just took to bed.  Watching TV was too much effort even!   Hope you can avoid whatever that was because it made me miserable.

There is one bit of new news.  Huntsman is quitting the GOP race for President. 

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. informed his advisers on Sunday that he intends to drop out of the Republican presidential race, ending his candidacy a week before he had hoped to revive his campaign in the South Carolina primary.

Mr. Huntsman, who had struggled to live up to the soaring expectations of his candidacy, made plans to make an announcement as early as Monday. He had been set to participate in an evening debate in Myrtle Beach.

It looks like I missed a lot of theatrical politics for the benefit of the American Taliban this weekend.  I did enjoy hearing about the Broncos-Pats games.  The Saints outcome was gut and heart wrenching.  Tewbow’s endzone piety leads to a good question, imho.  Can’t we have at least one area of our lives where we don’t have to be subjected to endless shows of self-righteousness?  Do football players really have to wear hairshirts on the field?  We certainly would take see many folks take issue with football players insisting on prayer rugs and bowing to Mecca down there on the field.  Wouldn’t people fight the idea that we stop playing games on Friday night so Jewish football players don’t disrespect the Sabbath?  This is getting worse than those nasty Mel Gibson movies.

Sports used to be a refuge from the division and hatred which permeates the media nowadays. Not anymore. This all began in 2010 when Tebow and his mother starred in a controversial pro-life commercial sponsored by FOTF during the Super Bowl aired by CBS. What made it so controversial is that CBS had already turned down ads from left-leaning organizations like PETA and There was no room for their message on Super Sunday, but just like last night CBS has no problem airing evangelical right wing messages.

Of course the reason the FOTF commercial was aired in the first place was because Tebow was playing in the game. The Tebowization of the NFL will continue in this year’s Super Bowl as Randall Terry (Who is running as a conservative Democrat challenging President Obama) plans to air a gruesome commercial featuring aborted fetuses. The Right has found their savior in Tebow and the NFL, which is obviously willing to turn Denver Bronco games into Christian recruiting lovefests.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Tim Tebow is a nice guy. However when you make the decision to wear your religion on your sleeve, you are pushing your beliefs on people who do not want to hear or see them, especially during an NFL playoff game. I don’t begrudge anyone their own personal beliefs. When you push them and use your position as an NFL player as a platform to foist them on the public, that’s out of bounds. Tebow also energizes the evangelicals who see him as a vessel to push their political agenda. (Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have already co-opted the Tebow mystique.)

Thanks to CBS and Tebow’s followers, we are headed down a slippery slope. Would it be too much to ask that sports be declared a no-religion zone?

You just can’t get away from the sanctimonious these days. Our local ABC affiliate has now picked up the slogan “God Bless Louisiana”. They’ve got it festooned on billboards and TV.  Why this sudden urge to play Pharisee every where I look?  I refuse to watch the entire line up now on that station.  It’s like an assault.  Sorry ABC.  I don’t care what you run.  I’m not watching until you tell your affiliate to put a sock in it.

I couldn’t even watch TV news this weekend with out enduring the Christian Taliban Hate Fest down there in Texas.  We’re fricking infested with these pests!  Somebody grab the Constitution and swat them please!  At least, remove take tax exempt status away from these guys so they have less money to throw around!

Right now, there’s a somewhat frantic effort among some on the Christian right to corral their movement behind Santorum, who has already proved to be the favorite of evangelicals in Iowa. Many religious right figures are still haunted by their failure in 2008 to rally to Mike Huckabee, which they feel enabled the victory of John McCain, who they distrusted even more than they do Mitt Romney.

On Saturday, more than 150 leading religious conservatives gathered in Brenham, Texas, to see if they could agree, this time, to coalesce behind a single candidate. Perry was eliminated on the first ballot. By the third, when some attendees had already left, Santorum won the group’s imprimatur with 85 votes, compared to 29 for Gingrich. In a conference call about the results, Tony Perkins, head of The Family Research Council, said we could expect fundraising drives and other sorts of activism on Santorum’s behalf from the group’s participants.

Gloria Hein, one of my prayer breakfast tablemates, said the Texas group’s Santorum endorsement made her more likely to vote for him. “I’ve been rooting for Santorum, but I thought he didn’t stand a chance,” she said. “I think that’s a great encouragement that they’re behind him. I’m getting chills right now!”

Maybe she’s just got the flu that I had.

So, today is MLK day.  It seems we have a long way to go on all fronts of civil rights.  The current discussion over FLOTUS is just one example. Women get the bitch and anger labels whenever they have strong opinions.  The usual suspects lined up to point fingers.

The political downsides for both of the Obamas are clear enough. In using the words she did, she risked reactivating an entire narrative that had surrounded her in 2008. This idea that she was in some nebulous way radical and less-than-fully American had been a corrosive one, buttressed most powerfully by her now-infamous campaign trail statement that “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country.”

That image was one that it took a great deal of time and work to undo — beginning, perhaps, with her ostentatiously patriotic address to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and continuing with her signature White House initiatives on the most uncontentious of issues: childhood obesity and the welfare of military families.

Last week’s remarks opened the door for ideological opponents of Obama to argue that she was up to her old antics. They needed no second invitation to march through it.

“She comes from a very angry, black nationalist background,” David Webb, a conservative radio talk show host and Tea Party activist who is himself African-American, told The Hill.

In Webb’s view, Obama had emerged from a family of modest means, had been afforded “enormous opportunities” and had gone on to the crowning heights of the White House. Given her official role, he said, she ought to realize that “you have to couch your views, because you’re representing the nation.”

Webb added that the danger in Obama’s remarks was their capacity to turn off even the ideologically uncommitted.

“It’s un-American,” he said, referring to her raising of racial issues. “The majority of Americans do not like that approach, this underhand way of doing things.”

So, here’s a great story from The Christian Science Monitor that highlights 8 peaceful protests that usheredin civil rights laws.  One of the most effective was the Montgomery Bus Boycott that

Rosa Parks and Doctor Martin Luther King

lasted a year.

The protest began, on Dec. 1, 1955, after African-American Rosa Parkswas arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The next day, Dr. King proposed a citywide boycott of public transportation at a church meeting.

The boycott proved to be effective, causing the transit system to run a huge deficit. After all, Montgomery’s black residents not only were the principal boycotters, but also the bulk of the transit system’s paying customers. The situation became so tense that members of the White Citizens’ Council, a group that opposed racial integration, firebombed King’s house.

In June 1956, a federal court found that the laws in Alabama and Montgomery requiring segregated buses were unconstitutional. However, an appeal kept segregation intact until Dec. 20, 1956, when the US Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The boycott’s official end signaled one of the civil rights movement’s first victories and made King one of its central figures.

This made me think about the gender-segregated buses in Israel.   I think the US should refuse to fund any country that allows this kind of thing. Here’s a link to the New Israel Fund that is committed to democracy, justice and equality for all Israles.  It’s hard to believe a modern democracy could do this to women, isn’t it?

  • Israel’s High Court of Justice has given Transport Minister Israel Katz (Likud) until December 27 (update: the deadline has been extended) to present his position on gender- segregated bus lines. The order followed a report by a special committee set up by the Ministry of Transport, which ruled that these bus lines are illegal because they humiliate and discriminate against women passengers.
  • The Ministry of Transport committee was set up following a petition in 2007 by veteran New Israel Fund grantee Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) for Progressive Judaism (Reform) and novelist Naomi Ragen against the gender-segregated bus lines. The court ordered the committee to consider, rule on and regulate the matter.
  • More than ten years ago, the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community asked Israel’s public bus company, Egged, to provide segregated busses in their neighborhoods.  By early 2009 more than 55 such lines were operating around Israel.  Typically, women are required to enter through the bus back doors and sit in the back of the bus, as well as “dress modestly.”
  • Some buses operate in or through mixed neighborhoods and are the only buses running on particular routes.  In Jerusalem, the segregated buses actually charge lower fares than ordinary Egged busses.  Women who refuse to sit in the back of the bus are frequently threatened verbally and physically by haredi men who “enforce” the segregation system.
  • In October, the special Ministry of Transport committee recommended a year-long trial in which men and women could choose to enter the buses by separate doors and sit separately, but stressed that all seating on public buses must be voluntarily and no coercion must be used. The committee further stressed that there is no separate, publicly-run bus system for haredi communities, and every member of the public has the right to use buses in accordance with basic human rights and the principle of equality.
  • Many Israelis fear that the right-wing governing coalition, which includes all but one of the major religious parties, will pressure the Minister into rejecting the committee report and supporting the continuation of segregated and discriminatory public transportation.

It seems that a lot of countries are having problems with their fundamentalist religious sects who are demanding that discriminatory, hateful, and unreasonable practices be enacted.   Our country must respect the right of each individuation to practice their beliefs, but our laws, civil rights, and culture should not be skewed to bow down to these narrow beliefs.

Happy MLK Day!  I can hear the parade going down Claiborne as it goes through the Ninth Ward to Down Town.  Let’s remember the dignity of no person should be limited due to the narrow views of any religion.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?