Tuesday Reads: Last Words on Kobe Bryant

Good Morning!!

Two days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, there has been almost no attention paid to the other 7 people who died in the tragic accident. Read about them at Buzzfeed News: Teenage Girls And Beloved Coaches Were Among The 9 Victims Of The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant.

John Altobelli, a 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and youngest daughter, Alyssa, 13, were among those who died.

Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. The team was set to play against a Fresno youth team on Sunday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.

John Altobelli had been a coach and mentor at Orange Coast College (OCC) for 27 years, helping many student-athletes earn scholarships so they could play at the four-year level, the college said in a statement.

“Coach Alto,” the college said, helped lead the Pirates to more than 700 wins and four state championships. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.

Altobelli family

The Altobelli’s are survived by two other children, a son JJ and daughter Lexi, now orphans.

Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team.

“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post. “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”

The couple has three children, ages 11, 9, and 3….

Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash. Payton was a basketball player, NBC News reported.

Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View Elementary School, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Payton, his former student, and her mother, calling them “two gorgeous human beings.”

“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt wrote in a Facebook post.

Christina Mauser

Chester leaves behind a husband Chris and two 16-year-old sons Hayden and Riley.

Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter, was a beloved figure in the aviation community. He was “instrument-rated” which meant he was able to fly in fog and clouds, KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci said.

Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot, according to one of his flight students, Darren Kemp.

So many people–including young children–are devastated by these deaths, but all the attention has gone to the former basketball player. I still can’t get past my anger at the lionizing of Bryant, who was credibly accused of rape and never publicly dealt with the damage he did to the life of a 19-year-old woman. Ever since I saw the way the basketball stars were treated as if they could do no wrong in my high school, I’ve resented the way athletes are allowed to get away with almost anything, especially violence against women.

Sarah and Payton Chester

Somewhere the woman that Bryant raped is watching the coverage of his death and most likely reliving the trauma she experienced as she sees so much praise heaped upon her abuser.

On Sunday, Jill Filipovic wrote that Bryant has a “complicated legacy.” No, it’s not really complicated. He was a huge basketball star with a giant ego and he got away with rape. He’s certainly not alone in that. Gavin Polone at the Hollywood Reporter:

I guess our society thinks that certain transgressions by celebrities can be forgiven. What’s perplexing is the con­trast between which wrongs are and aren’t forgivable. Based on what I’ve read, I believe Kobe most probably raped a woman and still was paid $26 million in 2015 by Nike, Hublot, Panini Authentic, Turkish Airlines and others to endorse their products; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping two women and still made more than $35 million for one year as an NFL quarterback; Greg Hardy certainly beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend and was signed to play defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston was sued for the rape of a student at FSU and didn’t even break stride to the NFL (having watched the victim’s recounting of events, I believe her). Both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were accused of sexual misconduct, yet the former still is performing and the latter practically has been deified.

But what isn’t forgiven? Killing someone? Nope, Ray Lewis was accused of that, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and now is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and played the next year. So violence, especially against women, can be excused.

Ara Zobayan

Here’s a piece at Vice by Albert Berneko that counters Filipovic’s “complicated legacy” notion: Kobe Bryant Was No More Complicated Than Anyone Else.

Maybe the actual very last thing the world needs or ever will need, ever again, is for one more man’s power or fame or brilliance or death to be used as a reason to throw the word “complicated” over his abuses like an obscuring blanket. It’s a dishonest sidestep, anyway. Everyone is complicated. You can be a tortured mass of endless complications and still never sexually assault anyone.

What the fact of having committed, or having credibly been accused of committing, sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word “complicated”: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so. I have integrated the fullness of this imperfect person; when I now return to praising him, be sure that it is with the appropriate level of personal internal conflicted feeling.

It seems reasonable to guess that former Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant was a complicated person, because he was a person and not the Archangel Gabriel. More relevant to a summation of his life, he was also a great and spectacular basketball player, one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, and a powerful man who, in 2003 and at the height of his celebrity, was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and then avoided a trial by leaking his accuser’s identity and shaming her into silence. I don’t think these things complicate each other, unless you happen to believe there’s a personal moral component to being good at making contested jump-shots.

Marty Baron

To top off the protect-Kobe hysteria, Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post–who was editor of the Boston Globe when the Spotlight team exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church–publicly shamed one of his reporters, Felicia Sonmez who is a survivor of sexual assault.

Vanity Fair:  “There’s Incredible Outrage”: Washington Post Newsroom Revolts after Reporter Suspended for Kobe Bryant Tweets.

As the collective grief crested on Twitter following TMZ’s shocking scoop that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez had a different idea. She shared a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing a rape allegation made against the NBA legend more than a decade earlier. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she tweeted Sunday, “even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”

Vitriol and threats streamed into Sonmez’s inbox, which she relayed on Twitter, along with screenshots of the attacks. The Bryant-related tweets have since been deleted. By Sunday afternoon, Somnez had been suspended—placed on “administrative leave”—a move that’s prompted anger and confusion inside the Post newsroom. “There’s incredible outrage. The outrage is like nothing I’ve ever seen here,” one Post source told us. “People just feel like it was way over the top.”

The Daily Beast article was an exhaustive chronicle of the allegations against Bryant and his response to them. While far from flattering to Bryant, it described an inescapable part of his history, and, fraught as social media can be in the current world of journalism, it was difficult for many to see how posting it was out of bounds. Post staffers were looking for clarity Monday after managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement that Sonmez violated the newsroom’s social media policy and “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”

Felicia Sonmez

I hope you’ll go read the rest. Sonmez spent the night in a hotel after her address was posted on-line by outraged Kobe fans. I’d also suggest reading this piece in the Post by Eric Wemple: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets.

I’ll be quiet about this now, but I just had to get it off my chest. I can acknowledge that millions of people are sad about the death of their idol. I just think there should be some recognition that the way we treat (male) athletes in our culture means that the people who dare to say no to their desires are publicly shamed and punished.

Some other news stories to check out today:

On the Bolton revelations:

NYT: Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says.

WaPo: Bolton book roils Washington as onetime allies turn on Trump’s former national security adviser.

Barbara McQuade at WaPo: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar.

Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone.

Other impeachment news and comment:

Axios: Republicans brace for domino effect on witnesses.

Impeachment expert Frank Bowman at The Atlantic: Trump’s Defense Against Subpoenas Makes No Legal Sense.

WaPo: Trump’s impeachment defense: Who is paying the president’s lawyers?

Jamelle Bouie at NYT: Mitch McConnell’s Complicity Has Deep Roots.

Vetting Bernie Sanders (finally)

NYT: Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army.

David Frum at the Atlantic: Bernie Can’t Win.

Richard North Patterson at the Bulwark: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders.

Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.

Other campaign news:

NYT: How Some People of Color Feel Inside the Buttigieg Campaign.

Politico: Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire.

What stories are you following today?

 


Lazy Caturday Reads: Winter Solstice Edition

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

The Winter Solstice arrives tonight at 11:19 PM. Justin Greiser at The Washington Post: Winter solstice: There’s beauty in the darkest day of the year.

There’s something enchanting about the winter solstice, which arrives this weekend and marks our longest night of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere.

Perhaps it’s the stark contrast between daylight and darkness that we experience when the winter sun is shining and not hiding behind a thick blanket of clouds. Or maybe it’s the fact that the sun hangs so low in the sky all day at this time of year that it almost feels as if our nearest star is within tangible reach, despite being 91 million miles away….

When astronomical winter officially begins, we’ll be less than halfway through our longest night of the year, which lasts more than 14 hours here in Washington. On both Saturday and Sunday, the sun will be up for just nine hours and 26 minutes, rising in the southeastern sky at 7:23 a.m. and setting to the southwest at 4:49 p.m.

I’ve always considered the winter solstice one of my favorite days of the year. Long before the dawn of modern technology, ancient cultures and civilizations have celebrated the winter solstice as a seasonal turning point, welcoming the inevitable return of the sun’s light.

Even in the modern age of technology and artificial lighting, the darkest day of the year forces us to ponder the importance of sunlight in our daily lives. It affects our moods, our productivity and even our sleep patterns. While the dark, gloomy days of winter can trigger seasonal affective disorder in many people, there’s something about the sun’s blinding, golden glow around this time of year that feels bizarrely uplifting.

Yule Cat (Icelandic folklore)

In Icelandic folklore, there are Christmas monsters, one of which is the Yule cat. Smithsonian Magazine: Each Christmas, Iceland’s Yule Cat Takes Fashion Policing to the Extreme.

For most kids who celebrate Christmas, new clothes probably sit just above lumps of coal on the good present scale. But according to an Icelandic tradition, getting new socks before Christmas might just save your life. That’s because the Jólakötturinn, or Yule Cat, eats anyone who hasn’t received new clothes by the time Christmas rolls around, Matthew Hart writes for Nerdist.

The story of the Jólakötturinn likely dates back to the Dark Ages, though the oldest written accounts are from the 19th century. In any case, much like the Krampus, the Yule Cat has long been a Christmas-time enforcer of good behavior, Miss Cellania writes for Mental Floss. According to Icelandic tradition, anyone who finished their chores before Christmas would get new clothes as a reward. Meanwhile, lazy children who didn’t get their work done would have to face the Jólakötturinn.

For starters, the Jólakötturinn is no mere kitten—it towers above the tallest houses. As it prowls about Iceland on Christmas night, the Yule Cat peers in through the windows to see what kids have gotten for presents. If new clothes are among their new possessions, the big cat will move along. But if a child was too lazy to earn their new socks, the Jólakötturinn will eat their dinner, before moving on to the main course: the child herself, Hart writes.

Read more at the link.

I posted this story on the thread yesterday, but I’m doing it again just because: The mystery of the missing police station donation toys has been solved. The thief is very cute.

A Massachusetts police department has a thief in its midst.

Officers with the Franklin Police department had worked diligently to collect toys for needy children this holiday season, but noticed that some of those toys were disappearing, according to CNN affiliate WFXT.

Fortunately, the culprit was caught in the act and on camera. It was their own therapy dog, Ben Franklin.

“When Ben saw the toys, he thought they all belonged to him,” Deputy Chief James Mill told the station.

Among the stolen items was a baby doll.

Ben tried to outrun officers when they caught him carrying a baby doll in its carrier by the handle. But he ended up just leading them back to the stash of goodies by his bed under a desk.

Police were unable to recover the toys from Ben, due to an excess of slobber. Officers have instead replaced the stolen toys, the station reported.

He will likely not face charges, the station said, but he has been banned from the toy room.

I just love that Ben wanted to play with a baby doll.

I hate to have to post actual news today, but I’ll force myself.

A new story at The Daily Beast reveals that the White House is blacking out important information in documents it has been ordered by a judge to release: Trump Administration Officials Worried Halt to Ukraine Aid Violated Spending Law.

When President Donald Trump ordered a halt to aid to Ukraine last summer, defense officials and diplomats worried first that it would undermine U.S. national security. Ukraine is, as some of them later testified before Congress, on the front lines of Russian aggression, and only robust American support would fend off aggressive Moscow meddling in the West. This worry eventually helped galvanize congressional support for one of the two impeachment articles approved by the House of Representatives on Dec. 18.

By Inge Sigrid Micha Koeck

But there was also a separate, less-noticed facet of the internal administration uproar set off by Trump’s July 12 order stopping the flow of $391 million in weapons and security assistance to Ukraine. Some senior administration officials worried that by defying a law ordering that the funds be spent within a defined period, Trump was asking the officials involved to take an action that was not merely unwise but flatly illegal.

The administration so far has declined to release copies of its internal communications about this vital issue—the legality of what Trump had ordered. On Friday, in 146 pages of new documents provided to the Center for Public Integrity under a court order, the Justice Department blacked out —for the second time—many of the substantive passages reflecting what key officials at the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget said to one another.

But considerable evidence is still available that those at key institutions responsible for distributing the Ukraine aid worried the halt potentially violated a 45-year-old law written to keep presidents from ignoring the will of Congress, according to public statements and congressional testimony.

Click the link to read the rest.

Bloomberg: Trump Quest to Expose Whistle-Blower Hard to Pull Off in Senate.

President Donald Trump says his impeachment trial should deliver on a goal he’s nurtured for months: unmasking the whistle-blower who started it all. But that would pose legal and ethical challenges that would be hard to overcome….

A Senate demand that the whistle-blower testify would probably be challenged in court as a violation of the law’s protections, and as a move that could put the unidentified person at risk while extracting only secondhand evidence of limited value. Lawmakers of both parties may share those concerns….

By Kazuaki Horitomo

Experts on whistle-blower laws say disclosing the person’s identify, as Trump desires, would clash with protections from reprisal under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998.

“Everyone knows that the whistle-blower’s career will be devastated” if identified publicly, said Stephen M. Kohn, who has represented whistle-blowers for more than three decades. “There is no doubt that this whistle-blower will be attacked on social media vigorously and for years to come.”

I didn’t watch the debate, but reportedly one of the big issues was about the “progressive” candidates who have pledged not to hold fundraisers for big donors. Frankly, I think that’s silly as long as Republicans are raking in all the money they can. It only makes it harder for Democrats to compete. Anyway, a very generous donor is insulted. The New York Times: Democrats Sparred Over a Wine Cave Fund-Raiser. Its Billionaire Owner Isn’t Pleased.

To reach the wine cave that set off a firestorm in this week’s Democratic presidential debate, visitors must navigate a hillside shrouded in mossy oak trees and walk down a brick-and-limestone hallway lined with wine barrels. Inside the room, a strikingly long table made of wood and onyx sits below a raindrop chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals.

The furnishings drew the ire of Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Thursday, when she chastised Pete Buttigieg for holding a recent fund-raiser in a wine cave “full of crystals” where she said guests were served $900 bottles of wine….

Illustration by Théophile Steinlen, ’Compagnie française des chocolats et des thés’ (ca. 1895-1900)

On Friday, the billionaire couple who owns the wine cave — wine is often stored underground because of the cool, stable temperatures — said they were frustrated that their property had set off one of the fiercest back-and-forths of the debate. Watching the contentious moment on television, they grew frustrated as Ms. Warren and other candidates used their winery as a symbol of opulence and the wealthy’s influence on politics.

“I’m just a pawn here,” said Craig Hall, who owns Hall Wines, which is known for its cabernet sauvignon, with his wife, Kathryn Walt Hall. “They’re making me out to be something that’s not true. And they picked the wrong pawn. It’s just not fair.”

Mr. Hall said he had not settled on a favorite Democratic candidate, but that Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., was a leading contender. His positions on climate change, gun safety and immigration appealed to the couple, said Mr. Hall, who added that he wanted it to be easier for middle-class Americans to start successful businesses.

The Halls have given at least $2.4 million to Democratic candidates, committees and PACs since the 1980s, according to Federal Election Commission records. They have donated to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Kamala Harris of California before she ran for president.

Of course Warren had no problem beginning her campaign with money she got from wealthy donors.

The Washington Post published a shocking immigration story yesterday: Under secret Stephen Miller plan, ICE to use data on migrant children to expand deportation efforts.

The White House sought this month to embed immigration enforcement agents within the U.S. refugee agency that cares for unaccompanied migrant children, part of a long-standing effort to use information from their parents and relatives to target them for deportation, according to six current and former administration officials.

By Utagawa Hiroshige, ‘Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival’ (1857) Japanese

Though senior officials at the Department of Health and Human Services rejected the attempt, they agreed to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to collect fingerprints and other biometric information from adults seeking to claim migrant children at government shelters. If those adults are deemed ineligible to take custody of children, ICE could then use their information to target them for arrest and deportation.

The arrangement appears to circumvent laws that restrict the use of the refu­gee program for deportation enforcement; Congress has made clear that it does not want those who come forward as potential sponsors of minors in U.S. custody to be frightened away by possible deportation. But, in the reasoning of senior Trump administration officials, adults denied custody of children lose their status as “potential sponsors” and are fair game for arrest.

The plan has not been announced publicly. It was developed by Stephen Miller, President Trump’s top immigration adviser, who has long argued that HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement is being exploited by parents who hire smugglers to bring their children into the United States illegally. The agency manages shelters that care for underage migrants who cross the border without a parent and tries to identify sponsors — typically family members — eligible to take custody of the minors.

Read more at the WaPo.

That’s it for me. What stories are you following today?


Finally Friday Reads: Imagine!

Image result for imagine john lennon pianoGood Afternoon Sky Dancers!

It’s that time of year where I play John Lennon’s “Imagine” over and over and hope that an upcoming New Year will see a United States more in keeping with the spirit of the song.  We all look for places of refuge and peace.  There is a group of Americans trapped in a cult of hate and we must deal with them.  Impeachment may move forward.  We may see change in 2020 but until we deal with this cult there will be no peace and no justice.

Our country’s biggest sin has always been connected to mass imprisonments, genocides, and enslavement. It seems an odd time of the year to have to reflect on our continuing participation in creating horror for other human beings but we must.

I have two stories with bylines here in New Orleans.  My city is known for creating a uniquely American form of culture that includes joyful eating, celebrating, and making music.  Yet, we cannot escape the blood on the ground.  This is the headline from USA Today that disturbs me beyond any words I can conjure.  “Deaths in custody. Sexual violence. Hunger strikes. What we uncovered inside ICE facilities across the US”.  (TRIGGER WARNING GRAPHIC)

NEW ORLEANS – At 2:04 p.m. on Oct. 15, a guard at the Richwood Correctional Center noticed an odd smell coming from one of the isolation cells. He opened the door, stepped inside and found the lifeless body of Roylan Hernandez-Diaz hanging from a bedsheet.

The 43-year-old Cuban man had spent five months in immigration detention waiting for a judge to hear his asylum claim. As his time at Richwood dragged on, he barely answered questions from security or medical staff, who noted his “withdrawn emotional state.” He refused to eat for four days.

The day after his death, 20 other detainees carried out what they say was a peaceful protest. They wrote “Justice for Roylan” on their white T-shirts, sat down in the cafeteria and refused to eat. Guards swooped in and attacked, beating one of them so severely he was taken to a hospital, according to letters written by 10 detainees that were obtained by the USA TODAY Network and interviews with two detainees’ relatives.

Before that day, detainees at Richwood had chronicled a pattern of alleged brutality in the Louisiana facility. Detainees complained of beatings, taunts from guards who called them “f—ing dogs” and of landing in isolation cells for minor violations.

You may continue to read the horrifying things happening in this and other ICE Detention Centers if you can stand it.  It has a long list of reporters on the byline and they’ve all done their best work.

The White Evangelical Community appears to have some folks that have read the New Testament and are willing to speak up against the Pharisees in their Community.   I used to occasionally see copies of Christianity Today floating around my churches or friends.  I really had no idea of its history or connection to Billy Graham.  We know Franklin Graham has been willing to sell just about anything for earthly gains which is why these headlines today shocked many.  From CT: “Trump Should Be Removed from Office.  It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was.” This came from the pen of Mark Galli.

But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.

The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.

Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.

You can read more at the link. Franklin Graham could not leave this alone of course.  He posted to FACEBOOK.  I assume he can still find a mirror to see if he has a reflection.

Trump also had his say as reported by the AP.

President Donald Trump blasted a prominent Christian magazine on Friday, a day after it published an editorial arguing that he should be removed from office because of his “blackened moral record.”

Trump tweeted that Christianity Today, an evangelical magazine founded by the late Rev. Billy Graham, “would rather have a Radical Left nonbeliever, who wants to take your religion & your guns, than Donald Trump as your President.”

The magazine “has been doing poorly and hasn’t been involved with the Billy Graham family for many years,” Trump wrote. Some of his strongest evangelical supporters, including Graham’s son, rallied to his side and against the publication. Their pushback underscored Trump’s hold on the evangelical voting bloc that helped propel him into office and suggested the editorial would likely do little to shake that group’s loyalty.

Image may contain: text

 

So, tomorrow I will walk a few blocks to my nice little–usually only noisy because of small children–library and do what is done daily at Women’s Clinics around the country.  I will stand in a line, smile, and let the little children go hear story time at the library.  If some angry white male feels the need to scream, then he can scream at those of us that can deal with it.

This also basically the same pattern.  They don’t want anything but what they want for them, theirs, and the rest of us.  It gets old.

Image result for drag story time new orleans

 

My friend David Gladow has shared Drag Queen Story Time with his kids. Here are some details in an article from last year.  I should also mention that Vanessa is a friend too.

In New Orleans, the story time is the main focus, with traditional children’s books being presented in a fun, engaging way.

The presenter changes from event to event, but is always fun, glittery and a part of the community already. And perhaps more in New Orleans than in most any other city, the concept has been embraced (over 150 people showed up for a recent story time).

In a town that enjoys dressing up more than any other, where costumes are a part of the experience from Mardi Gras to New Year’s and all points in between, having a storyteller wear a costume isn’t exactly a stretch from the daily routine.

The only real message that is stressed is “different is okay.” For the kids, it’s less about “drag” and more about “character.”  They see characters in real life and it sparks their imaginations.

The event is about reading stories in a safe environment, having fun, and seeing the entertainers as normal people — but fancier.

Related image

Portrait of Felix Fénéon, Opus 217 ,1890, Paul Signac

The photo is of Vanessa and the Alvar Library in my neighborhood captured by the NYT.  Come on!  What little kid doesn’t like to play dress up and hear stories!  

Edie Pasek, who organizes story hour events in and around Milwaukee, said her readings had been “protested like the dickens,” especially in smaller cities like Oak Creek, Wis., and Zion, Ill. But she said she and the performers tried to stay focused on the point of Drag Queen Story Hour.

“We want to teach the kids acceptance, not bullying, learning to make good choices, how to be nice to other people,” she said. “I have a 6-year-old daughter and whatever I think we need to teach her is what we bring to story hour.”

Ms. Pasek said her group holds about a third of its events in libraries and a third in churches, where dozens of children sometimes show up.

“In the Midwest, we do drag in churches,” she said. They also hold events in private venues, like a popular Milwaukee cat cafe. “Let me tell you, people really love cats and drag.”

But protesters tend to show up wherever they go. Sometimes the protests upset the children, who are usually too young to understand the banner and chants, Ms. Pasek said.

She said her performers had developed “a little spiel” to explain all the ruckus to their young audience.

“Normally we say, ‘It’s O.K. to be the way you are, and the people outside are yelling because they don’t want us to be the way we are,’” Ms. Pasek said. “And the kids do the Mr. Rogers thing. They say, ‘We like you just the way you are.’”

Vanessa has already assured me that she will be there.  This group has shown up before.

Lucians Strange Creatures - Aubrey Beardsley - WikiPaintings.org

Lucians Strange Creatures – Aubrey Beardsley

So, last night I did watch the debate and had a chance to learn about “wine caves”.  The Daily Beast has an interesting take on the exchange between Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttgieg and upscale fund-raisers.  These are the kinds of events sworn off by Warren and also by Senator Kamala Harris whose campaign ran dry of funds. This is a discussion really of access to candidates and what that implies. I had no idea that this wine cave has a long history of granting access for Democrats wealthy donors.

The cave in question—more of a wine basement, if you want to get specific, built for storing and aging wine in barrels—has been a gathering place for Democratic politicians long before Warren pointed to it as evidence that Buttigieg is too close with wealthy donors to be able to deny them access, appointments and special favors down the road. Owned by Dallas billionaires Craig and Kathryn Hall, the cave’s fundraisers have benefitted at least a hundred Democrats over the years, in the estimation of California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“That cave’s been used by Democrats all across the country for fundraising,” Newsom told reporters in the spin room following Thursday night’s debate. “Probably a hundred congressional representatives have benefited from the use of that.”

After Thursday’s debate, however, the wine cave is serving as an entirely different kind of fundraiser after the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) purchased the domain PetesWineCave.com, which now redirects to Sanders’ donation portal.

Asked if he himself had attended a fundraiser at the wine cave—which, as the Associated Press first reported, features a “Chandelier Room” drowning in crystals—Newsom was straightforward.

“Are you kidding?” Newsom, himself a former vintner, said. “I’m in the business, so I know that place well.”

Other politicians who have attended fundraisers, receptions, and meet-and-greets at the Halls’ wine cave include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as current and former Reps. Leon Panetta, Reps. Ami Bera of California, Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, and Patrick Murphy of Florida.

The long and lucrative political history of the cave and its owners bolsters Warren’s contention that big-dollar fundraisers have helped pave a path for wealthy financial backers to ask for favors—but also Buttigieg’s defense that everyone on the debate stage has benefited from these types of financial backers, including Warren herself.

I’m not sure what is worse.  Self-funding billionaires getting access to debates or Big Bundlers like Kathryn Hall of Wine Cave fame buying access and an ambassadorship.  This is surely one example of where we can say both sides do it.

The problem is we’ve lost the voices of many good candidates that should’ve been on that debate stage when donations and name recognition rules the early days of polling and money.  The one thing I will say is the only candidate I wrote a check to because I wanted her on the stage is still there.  This is from The Atlantic: “Amy Klobuchar Is Still Here. The senator from Minnesota has outlasted flashier candidates, and dominated in last night’s debate. But can she escape the shadow of her nemesis, Pete Buttigieg, who has seized her sensible-midwesterner mantle?”

I asked Klobuchar why she thinks she’s spent the year being overlooked. She joked that it’s because she’s 5 foot 4—James Madison’s height, she then immediately pointed out. “Some people have this image of what they want right now,” she said. “And it’s not necessarily what the American people want right now, what the pundits think people should want right now.”

Klobuchar’s case for being the nominee, aimed right at panic-attack Democrats, is that they’d “better not screw this up.” She warns that the wrong candidate will give voters permission to reelect Donald Trump. She’s directing her pitch at voters like Sandi McIntire, a 68-year-old retired nurse from Ankeny who’s skeptical about the size of the government-funded programs being promised by other candidates. “I don’t know that they should happen,” McIntire told me. “If you get everything for free, you don’t appreciate anything.”

Just a few other things you may want to check out:

ABV NEWS ANNOUNCES TWO-HOUR SPECIAL AND EIGHT-PART PODCAST ON JEFFREY EPSTEIN AND THE WOMEN WHO SURVIVED HIS CRIMES  —  “Truth and Lies: Jeffrey Epstein” Airs on Thursday, January 9 (9:00 – 11:00 p.m. ET) on ABC and the Podcast Debuts the Same Day

Eric Newcomer / Bloomberg:
The Decade Tech Turned Dystopian

Tom Elliott / Grabien News:
Montage: 12 Most Mortifying Media Moments of 2019

So, what are you imagining today?

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This morning’s big news is that Iran shot down a U.S. drone. From The Guardian:

A full-scale model of The RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned plane

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Thursday that they had used a surface to air missile to shoot down what they called a US “spy” drone they claimed was flying in the country’s airspace.

US Central Command confirmed that one of its unmanned aircraft had been taken down, but said it was in international airspace. A CentCom spokesman, Capt Bill Urban said it was a US navy Global Hawk surveillance drone, which had been downed by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz at 11.35pm GMT.

“Iranian reports that the aircraft was over Iran are false. This was an unprovoked attack on a U.S. surveillance asset in international airspace,” Urban said.

The US military accused Iran last week of firing a missile at another drone that responded to the oil tanker attacks near the Gulf of Oman.

Tensions in the Gulf have been heightened since 13 June, when the US accused Iran of attacking two tankers in the the Gulf of Oman with mines. The US military released footage it said showed the Iranian military removing an unexploded mine from the side of one of the tankers. There have also allegedly been Iranian-inspired attacks on US oil and military assets in Iraq, and increasingly sophisticated weaponry being fired into Saudi Arabia by Houthi rebels.

The Iranian state news agency said the downed drone was an RQ-4 Global Hawk. “It was shot down when it entered Iran’s airspace near the Kouhmobarak district in the south,” the Revolutionary Guards’ website added.

Now here’s a delicious story about how karma caught up with fake christian Jerry Falwell Jr.

Miami Herald: How cut-rate SoBe hostel launched Jerry Falwell Jr. ‘pool boy’ saga, naked picture hunt.

Giancarlo Granda and Jerry Falwell Jr. at Cheeca Lodge

The photograph shows Giancarlo Granda, a handsome, 20-something pool attendant whom Jerry and his wife, Rebecca, 52, befriended at the Fontainebleau hotel in 2012, and within months, would set up as part-owner and manager of a $4.7 million South Beach hostel.

It was an unusual partnership: The president of the largest Christian university in the world, a school that prohibits gay sex, agreeing to operate a Miami Beach hostel, regarded as gay friendly, in conjunction with a “pool boy” with virtually no hotel management experience after they met at the storied Fontainebleau, a favored South Florida vacation ground for the Falwells. Yet there they were, not only business partners but mingling socially at Cheeca, an idyllic, exclusive resort in the Keys.

The relationship between the Falwells and Granda forms the backdrop of an improbable Miami story that is causing political ripples beyond South Florida. It involves a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, the “pool boy” as he is described in the lawsuit, the comedian Tom Arnold, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now imprisoned political fixer, naked photographs — and a Miami father and son who say they were defrauded in a real estate deal then forced to change their names due to “threats.”

The gist of the story is that photos of Falwell’s wife in “various stages of undress” have turned up in the court case. The Herald has seen three of them. These are the photos that Michael Cohen supposedly helped Falwell cover up.

Jerry Fallwell Jr. and his wife Becki

The timing of Cohen’s alleged photo-recovery mission roughly preceded Falwell’s pivotal evangelical endorsement of Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, which Cohen says he helped engineer. Ted Cruz, who became the last candidate standing in the fight to deprive Trump of the Republican nomination, wanted to land that endorsement for himself. That he didn’t get it remains a sore point with some of his backers and a source of curiosity, including speculation that the “pool boy” saga and the presidential endorsement could be somehow related.

“You have the chancellor of the largest Christian university in the world in South Beach, which is not exactly a hot spot for evangelicals to take a vacation, [who buys] a piece of property for someone with no business experience. There is something odd there,’’ said Rick Tyler, former spokesman for Cruz.

Tyler said that Falwell assured him that he had no intention of endorsing anyone in the primary in part because his board at Liberty University wouldn’t permit it. So Tyler and others on the Cruz campaign were caught off guard when Falwell suddenly endorsed Trump in January 2016 — a week before the crucial Iowa caucuses and at a time when Cruz and Trump were mounting a fight for key endorsements from powerful leaders on the religious right.

“Clearly, something changed that led him to endorse Trump, and I would like to know what that was,’’ said Tyler, who is now an MSNBC commentator.

Read the rest at the link above.

Joe Biden continues to get shoot himself in the foot with his 1970’s attitudes.

The Washington Post: Biden faces backlash over comments about the ‘civility’ of his past work with racist senators.

Racist Senator James Eastland

Joe Biden faced a growing backlash Wednesday from prominent Democrats — and a bit of second-guessing within his own campaign — over comments in which he proudly described his history of working hand-in-hand in the Senate with avowed racists.

Biden’s remarks, which came at a fundraiser Tuesday night in which he said one segregationist senator “never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son,’ ” seemed intended to highlight a central argument of his presidential candidacy: that he knows how to bring unity to a polarized nation.

Interestingly, segregationists Biden talked about working with–James O. Eastland and Herman Talmage– were Democrats, so he wasn’t even working “across the aisle.” Even Biden’s advisers were disturbed by his remarks.

As seemingly random as it was for Biden to reference Sen. James O. Eastland, a long-ago deceased segregationist senator from his own party, some in Biden’s campaign had heard him discuss this relationship before — and warned him against mentioning it in public. Eastland, who represented Mississippi in the Senate from the early 1940s to 1978, often said that African Americans were “an inferior race.”

Aides said they had urged Biden to find a less toxic example.

Apparently, another way that Biden resembles Trump (besides being an old white man who excuses racism) is that he doesn’t listen to his advisers.

From The New York Times:

Senator Kamala Harris of California said the former vice president “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country,” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Mr. Biden should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate.

Senator Kamala Harris of California said the former vice president “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country,” and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey said Mr. Biden should immediately apologize for using segregationists to make a point about civility in the Senate….

Yet for much of the day, Mr. Biden and his campaign appeared publicly unbowed and intent on defending, or at least explaining, his worldview of politics, which is rooted in his early days in the Senate when, he said, legislators who disagreed still worked together….

“Apologize for what?” he said Wednesday evening before appearing at a fund-raiser in Maryland, adding that he “could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more.”

Asked by reporters about Mr. Booker’s demand that he apologize for his remarks, Mr. Biden said: “Cory should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”

Calling an African American Senator and presidential candidate “Cory” is not a good look either.  If Biden keeps this up, he’s going to crash and burn just like he did in 2008 and 1988.

More karma: another white male candidate faces a reckoning on race.

Wesley Lowery at The Washington Post: Back home in South Bend, Buttigieg faces ‘his nightmare.’

Lowery writes that Pete Buttigieg was “the surprise success of the 2020 presidential campaign” until he got bad news from South Bend, IN, where he is mayor.

A white police officer had shot and killed a black man early Sunday. Buttigieg canceled several days of campaign events — including an LGBTQ gala in New York — and rushed back to Indiana to “be with the South Bend community,” in the words of a campaign spokesman.

Pete Buddigieg faces his worst nightmare

Instead of showcasing But­tigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. Since arriving on Sunday, Buttigieg has alienated the family of the dead man, Eric Logan, 54, skipped a vigil at the scene of the shooting, and sought advice from outsiders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York.

On Wednesday, Buttigieg finally made his first extended public remarks about the shooting, appearing at South Bend police headquarters to lecture the city’s new cadet class about the importance of turning on their body cameras when they interact with members of the public. During Sunday’s shooting, the officer’s camera had been turned off.

“This is his nightmare,” said Jorden Gieger, a community organizer who is close to Logan’s family. “You have to imagine the first thing he said to the police chief was, ‘You all had one job: Don’t shoot a black guy while I’m running for president.’ ”

Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.

A story from Courthouse News that adds evidence for the meme that in the Trump administration, the cruelty is the point: Feds Tell 9th Circuit: Detained Kids ‘Safe and Sanitary’ Without Soap.

The Trump administration argued in front of a Ninth Circuit panel Tuesday that the government is not required to give soap or toothbrushes to children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border and can have them sleep on concrete floors in frigid, overcrowded cells, despite a settlement agreement that requires detainees be kept in “safe and sanitary” facilities.

Trump concentration camp for immigrant children

All three judges appeared incredulous during the hearing in San Francisco, in which the Trump administration challenged previous legal findings that it is violating a landmark class action settlement by mistreating undocumented immigrant children at U.S. detention facilities.

“You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?’” U.S. Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asked the Justice Department’s Sarah Fabian Tuesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher also questioned the government’s interpretation of the settlement agreement.

“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” Fletcher asked Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”

The settlement at issue came out of Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese, filed in 1985 on behalf of a class of unaccompanied minors fleeing torture and abuse in Central America.

Read more at the link.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: No More Finger-Wagging Old White Men, Please.

Good Morning!!

Did you see the disturbing interaction between Joy Reid and Joe Biden at the Poor People’s Campaign forum? I didn’t watch it, but Rachel Maddow showed the clip last night.

Hundreds of women reacted on Twitter, calling Biden’s body language intimidating and his tone condescending. I agree.

Two male authors at CNN said Biden “forcefully pushed back against criticism that he is naïve to think Democrats can work with Republicans in Congress,” seemingly missing Biden’s threatening body language.

Here’s another Biden interaction with a woman that was posted on Twitter:

The Daily Dot: Voter behind Biden finger photo says they were ‘shocked’ by candidate’s actions.

We all know those people who say, “no one is a bigger feminist than I am” yet go on to show through their actions that they are anything buta feminist. A recent photo of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden pointing a finger in a womxn‘s face illustrates this type of character perfectly. And, hopefully, the memes emerging from this photo will put a spotlight on the former vice president’s policies concerning reproductive rights, abortion, and assault.

K.C. Cayo, who goes by @thelocalmaniac8 on Twitter, shared the now-viral photo of Biden—who is currently campaigning in Iowa—pointing a finger in their face with the caption, “Told Biden we need someone stronger on reproductive justice, and after his reversal on the Hyde Amendment, we asked him to protect assault survivors. He said, ‘nobody has spoken about it, done more, or changed more than I have.’ I told him we deserve better.”

Just what we need–another finger-wagging white male in his 70s. More from the Daily Dot story:

Cayo told the Daily Dot in a direct message on Twitter that they were “overwhelmed and excited” by the response to the photo, which was taken by Sarah Pearson. “I’m glad that survivors of sexual assault are finding that my experience resonates so much with them, and that we were able to capture Biden’s true colors,” they said….

“When it was happening, I was shocked—we all were,” they said. “This was not supposed to be a ‘gotcha!’ moment…this was supposed to be a candid discussion about why people like us were wary of his policies and voting record, followed by a question about how he would protect womxn by reforming and restructuring our courts to keep people like Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh off of it.”

“Our conversation never got that far,” Cayo continued. “He continued to change the subject to VAWA, got increasingly agitated, leaned close, raised his hand, and raised his voice.”

And where did Biden get the idea that he can get Republicans to work with him? Why didn’t he do it during his eight years as Vice President if he’s so confident?

According to The Washington Post, Obama administration veterans are mystified:

While Biden often cited his relationship with Obama, he left some members of the Obama administration frustrated with his promises to cooperate with Republicans.

Joy-Ann Reid, an MSNBC host who moderated the session, asked Biden how he would pass his plans through a stubborn Congress — in particular, how he would work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who makes little secret of his satisfaction at blocking Democratic initiatives.

Biden bristled at the suggestion that his approach was misguided. As he wound through his response, Biden moved nearer to Reid, who was seated, and leaned over her.

“Joy-Ann, I know you’re one of the ones who thinks it’s naive to think we have to work together,” Biden said. “The fact of the matter is, if we can’t get a consensus, nothing happens except the abuse of power by the executive branch. Zero.” He added that “you can shame people into doing the right thing.”

Biden’s suggestion that he could persuade McConnell to cooperate prompted skepticism from those who have interacted with McConnell. Alyssa Mastro­monaco, a former Obama deputy chief of staff, tweeted, “maybe you can shame people. you can’t shame McConnell. it would be dope to find a path to greater bipartisanship but this isn’t that path.”

I will never vote for Biden. Never.

The youngest white man in the presidential race is having facing some trouble back home in South Bend. USA Today: Buttigieg cancels campaign events after fatal police shooting in South Bend.

Pete Buttigieg this week canceled several campaign events after returning to South Bend, Indiana, following a police-involved shooting that left a black man dead.

South Bend resident Eric Logan was shot early Sunday after the police responded to a report that a suspicious person was going through cars, the St. Joseph County prosecutor’s office said, according to the Associated Press.

Logan was confronted by a police officer in a vehicle at an apartment building parking lot, the AP reported. The prosecutor’s office said Logan exited the vehicle and approached the officer with a knife raised and the officer opened fire, according to the AP. The name and race/ethnicity of the officer were not released.

Logan, 54, died at a hospital and an autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

Eugene Scott at The Washington Post: Police shooting in South Bend will put scrutiny on Buttigieg’s handling of race and police.

Buttigieg has spent the past few months trying to convince black voters that he hears, and understands, their concerns when it comes to issues of police violence against people of color — and that he will work to address those concerns if elected president.

During Buttigieg’s 2015 State of the City address, he used the phrase “all lives matter,” which critics say displayed a lack of awareness or a lack of sensitivity about the ongoing tensions between law enforcement and communities of color:

There is no contradiction between respecting the risks police officers take every day in order to protect this community and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses. We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.

“All Lives Matter” is a phrase often used to counter the argument made by those invoking “Black Lives Matter,” a slogan used to draw attention to police brutality against black people. The young mayor has said he was trying to acknowledge that police are worthy of respect for putting their lives on the line while also acknowledging implicit biases in the criminal justice system harm people of color.

Click the link to read much more about Buttigieg’s history with African Americans in South Bend.

Last night Trump sent a disturbing tweet about mass deportations of undocumented immigrants.

some people on Twitter referenced Kristallnacht in reference to Trump’s threat.

The Washington Post: Trump vows mass immigration arrests, removals of ‘millions of illegal aliens’ starting next week.

President Trump said in a tweet Monday night that U.S. immigration agents are planning to make mass arrests starting “next week,” an apparent reference to a plan in preparation for months that aims to round up thousands of migrant parents and children in a blitz operation across major U.S. cities….

Large-scale ICE enforcement operations are typically kept secret to avoid tipping off targets. In 2018, Trump and other senior officials threatened the mayor of Oakland, Calif., with criminal prosecution for alerting city residents that immigration raids were in the works.

Trump and his senior immigration adviser, Stephen Miller, have been prodding Homeland Security officials to arrest and remove thousands of family members whose deportation orders were expedited by the Justice Department this year as part of a plan known as the “rocket docket.”

In April, acting ICE director Ronald Vitiello and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were ousted after they hesitated to go forward with the plan, expressing concerns about its preparation, effectiveness and the risk of public outrage from images of migrant children being taken into custody or separated from their families.

It’s difficult to know if there really is such a plan for next week or if this is just bluster ahead of Trump’s hate rally in Florida tonight, where is supposedly announcing his run for reelection again. If he sees today’s Orlando Sentinel, he’ll have a nasty surprise.

Our Orlando Sentinel endorsement for president in 2020: Not Donald Trump | Editorial

Donald Trump is in Orlando to announce the kickoff of his re-election campaign.

We’re here to announce our endorsement for president in 2020, or, at least, who we’re not endorsing: Donald Trump.

Some readers will wonder how we could possibly eliminate a candidate so far before an election, and before knowing the identity of his opponent.

Because there’s no point pretending we would ever recommend that readers vote for Trump.

After 2½ years we’ve seen enough.

Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies.

So many lies — from white lies to whoppers — told out of ignorance, laziness, recklessness, expediency or opportunity.

Trump’s capacity for lying isn’t the surprise here, though the frequency is.

It’s the tolerance so many Americans have for it.

There was a time when even a single lie — a phony college degree, a bogus work history — would doom a politician’s career.

Not so for Trump, who claimed in 2017 that he lost the popular vote because millions of people voted illegally (they didn’t). In 2018 he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat (it is). And in 2019 he said windmills cause cancer (they don’t). Just last week he claimed the media fabricated unfavorable results from his campaign’s internal polling (it didn’t).

According to a Washington Post database, the president has tallied more than 10,000 lies since he took office.

Trump’s successful assault on truth is the great casualty of this presidency, followed closely by his war on decency.

Click the link to read the rest.

More stories of possible interest, links only:

The New York Times: Paul Manafort Seemed Headed to Rikers. Then the Justice Department Intervened.

Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Crickets. They’re Gone” Why the Mercers, Trump’s Biggest 2016 Backers, Have Bailed on Him.

The New York Times: Kremlin Warns of Cyberwar After Report of U.S. Hacking Into Russian Power Grid.

Yahoo News: Shanahan’s confirmation hearing for defense secretary delayed amid FBI investigation.

Politico: Pentagon sending 1,000 more troops as tensions with Iran grow.

Politico: Trump prepares to bypass Congress to take on Iran.

Politico: The House committee quietly racking up oversight wins against Trump.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Tuesday Reads: Enemies of the People (Trump, Barr, and the NYT)

Good Morning!!

The New York Times has really bitten the dust this time. Yesterday they announced they will no longer run any political cartoons. Not only are NYT editors terrified of offending Trump and his base, but also they clearly have no sense of humor.

Chapette reacted to his firing at his personal website: The end of political cartoons at The New York Times.

All my professional life, I have been driven by the conviction that the unique freedom of political cartooning entails a great sense of responsibility.

In 20-plus years of delivering a twice-weekly cartoon for the International Herald Tribune first, and then The New York Times, and after receiving three OPC awards in that category, I thought the case for political cartoons had been made (in a newspaper that was notoriously reluctant to the form in past history.) But something happened. In April 2019, a Netanyahu caricature from syndication reprinted in the international editions triggered widespread outrage, a Times apology and the termination of syndicated cartoons. Last week, my employers told me they’ll be ending in-house political cartoons as well by July. I’m putting down my pen, with a sigh: that’s a lot of years of work undone by a single cartoon – not even mine – that should never have run in the best newspaper of the world.

I’m afraid this is not just about cartoons, but about journalism and opinion in general. We are in a world where moralistic mobs gather on social media and rise like a storm, falling upon newsrooms in an overwhelming blow. This requires immediate counter-measures by publishers, leaving no room for ponderation or meaningful discussions. Twitter is a place for furor, not debate. The most outraged voices tend to define the conversation, and the angry crowd follows in.

Cartoon by Chappette

In 1995, at twenty-something, I moved to New York with a crazy dream: I would convince the New York Times to have political cartoons. An art director told me: “We never had political cartoons and we will never have any.“ But I was stubborn. For years, I did illustrations for NYT Opinion and the Book Review, then I persuaded the Paris-based International Herald Tribune (a NYT-Washington Post joint venture) to hire an in-house editorial cartoonist. By 2013, when the NYT had fully incorporated the IHT, there I was: featured on the NYT website, on its social media and in its international print editions. In 2018, we started translating my cartoons on the NYT Chinese and Spanish websites. The U.S. paper edition remained the last frontier. Gone out the door, I had come back through the window. And proven that art director wrong: The New York Times did have in-house political cartoons. For a while in history, they dared.

Along with The Economist, featuring the excellent Kal, The New York Times was one of the last venues for international political cartooning – for a U.S. newspaper aiming to have a meaningful impact worldwide, it made sense. Cartoons can jump over borders. Who will show the emperor Erdogan that he has no clothes, when Turkish cartoonists can’t do it ? – one of them, our friend Musa Kart, is now in jail. Cartoonists from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Russia were forced into exile. Over the last years, some of the very best cartoonists in the U.S., like Nick Anderson and Rob Rogers, lost their positions because their publishers found their work too critical of Trump. Maybe we should start worrying. And pushing back. Political cartoons were born with democracy. And they are challenged when freedom is.

I agree that this isn’t just about cartoons. Trump is succeeding in his war against the press, and the editors of the New York Times are helping him. Twitter commentary from two cartoonists:

Thread from Pat Bagley. More tweets on Twitter

Continuing on the subject of press freedom, CNN’s Jim Acosta has a book out: The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America. Sam Donaldson reviewed the book at CNN:

Reading Jim Acosta’s new book “Enemy of the People” is like watching a train wreck in progress, with passengers bracing for the inevitable crash.

Friends and critics agree we have never seen a president like Donald J. Trump, whose disdain, even contempt and apparent hatred for many members of the press is almost daily on display.
Acosta cites instance after instance when this President and many of his staff show that they are bent on interfering with the ability of reporters to bring the public an accurate account of the administration’s stewardship.

For most of his adult life, President Trump courted the press, lived for its attention, even for a time pretended he was someone else when calling reporters to sing Trump’s praises. Whether now he truly believes that the mainstream press, as he says, reports “fake” news and is the “enemy of the American people,” or that such language is simply part of a tactic meant to stoke the anger of his “base” while escaping an objective accounting of his actions doesn’t matter. The effect is to undermine the credibility of the media, leaving him free to pursue policies that harm us at home and abroad….

History shows that tyrants and would-be tyrants always attempt to destroy a free press. And that is why the First Amendment to our Constitution specifically forbids government from interfering with the work of the press.

Read the rest at CNN. I don’t know if I’ll read Acosta’s book, but what Donaldson has to say is vitally important.

I’m feeling so discouraged about the Democratic primary. There are far too many candidates and the ones leading the pack are pathetic. Biden, Buttigieg and Sanders? Please. At this point, I think Trump will win a second term unless his dementia gets so bad the press finally has to begin writing about it.

Eugene Robinson writes at The Washington Post: We don’t need 23 presidential candidates. There’s another important role to fill.

Dear Democratic presidential candidates: I know all 23 of you want to run against President Trump, but only one will get that opportunity. If you truly believe your own righteous rhetoric, some of you ought to be spending your time and energy in another vital pursuit — winning control of the Senate.

I’m talking to you, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who would have a good chance of beating incumbent Republican Cory Gardner. I’m talking to you, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, who could knock off GOP incumbent Steve Daines. I’m even talking to you, Beto O’Rourke, who would have a better chance than any other Texas Democrat against veteran Republican John Cornyn.

And I’m talking to you, too, Stacey Abrams of Georgia, even though you haven’t jumped in. You came within a whisker of being elected governor, and you have a national profile that would bring in a tsunami of campaign funds. You could beat Republican David Perdue — and acquire real power to translate your stirring eloquence into concrete action.

I agree that we absolutely need Senate candidates, but the even greater problem is the candidates that are topping the polls. Biden, Sanders, and even Warren are too old. Biden and Sanders have far too many negatives in their past histories. Buttigieg is too inexperienced, and can you really imagine him beating Trump? More from Robinson on the importance of winning the Senate:

As the Republican Party has long understood, it’s all about power. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) could not care less about lofty words and high ideals. Coldly and methodically, he has used his power to block widely supported progressive measures such as gun control, to enact a trickle-down economic agenda that favors the wealthy and to pack the federal bench with right-wing judges whom we’ll be stuck with for decades.

We all remember how McConnell refused even to schedule hearings for President Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, ostensibly because the vacancy occurred during an election year. Were you surprised when he said recently that if a seat were to come open in 2020, he would hasten to confirm a replacement? I wasn’t. That’s how McConnell rolls. He exercises his power to its full extent and is not bothered by what you or I or anyone else might think. Charges of hypocrisy do not trouble his sweet slumber.

McConnell is not going to be reasoned, harangued or shamed into behaving differently. The only way to stop him is to take his power away, and the only way to do that is for Democrats to win the Senate.

Another danger we face is Cover-Up General Barr’s hostile takeover of the Justice Department. NBC News reports: New details of Barr’s far-reaching probe into ‘spying’ on Trump 2016 campaign.

The Justice Department on Monday offered new insight into what it called a “broad” and “multifaceted” review of the origins of the Russia investigation, and sought to assure lawmakers that the probe ordered by President Donald Trump would work to protect sensitive intelligence at the heart of it.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said the investigation — referred to throughout as a “review” — would evaluate whether the counterintelligence investigation launched in 2016 into potential contacts between foreign entities and individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign “complied with applicable policies and laws.”

“There remain open questions relating to the origins of this counterintelligence investigation and the U.S. and foreign intelligence activities that took place prior to and during that investigation. The purpose of the Review is to more fully understand the efficacy and propriety of those steps and to answer, to the satisfaction of the Attorney General, those open questions,” Boyd wrote.

DOJ announced in May that Attorney Gen. William Barr had assigned John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut, to oversee a review long called for by Trump into whether the Russia probe, launched in the heat of the presidential campaign, was influenced by politics and whether established protocols were followed involving the surveillance of Trump campaign officials.

A counterpoint from former CIA Chief of Station John Sipher at The Washington Post: Trump’s conspiracy theories about intelligence will make the CIA’s job harder.

President Trump’s attempts to craft a public narrative that a government conspiracy was aimed at his presidential campaign moved off Twitter and into the real world of official documents last month. Trump issued a directive assigning Attorney General William P. Barr to probe the origins of the Russia investigation, giving Barr the authority to declassify secret intelligence. As the president stated, “We’re exposing everything.”

The order directly undercuts Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who is responsible for both protecting and potentially releasing intelligence. And it suggests that Trump is still disputing the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

The president hardly needs to create a public furor to determine what the intelligence community knew about Russian interference, when they knew it or how they learned it. The CIA would gladly provide detailed briefings to him, the attorney general or anyone Trump might request one for. There are well-established means of sharing information within the executive branch. If the president wants to see the specific intelligence, he can.

But that’s not what Trump wants, is it?

But a private inquiry would not provide Trump with the political weapon of a public scapegoat. If he’s looking to discredit the intelligence behind the unanimous assessment by U.S. agencies in 2016 — since affirmed by the Mueller report, numerous indictments and no shortage of public evidence — he seems to want someone to blame. The recent directive hints at Trump’s eagerness to find a CIA version of his favorite targets at the FBI: James B. Comey, Peter Strzok, Bruce Ohr, Andrew McCabe or Robert S. Mueller III’s “angry Democrats.”

Creating a boogeyman inside the CIA is probably an effective tool if Trump’s goal is to persuade voters that he faced a “coup” and that the Russian attack was a “hoax,” as he has claimed. The necessary secrecy of the CIA’s activities makes it easy to spin a conspiracy and scare the public. A weaponized charge can appear simple and compelling, while the CIA’s ability to respond is limited; the issues involved are complicated and hard to explain in the length of a tweet. It is not hard to whip up fear and assume the worst of a powerful and shadowy secret agency if the most powerful man in the world is willing to deceive the public in the process.

That’s it for me today. What stories have you been following?