Lazy Caturday Reads

Franz Marc Cat with kittens

Franz Marc, Cat with Kittens

Good Morning!!

Everyone wants to know when they will be getting their $1400 stimulus check. Some people were posting on Twitter last night that they had already gotten their direct deposit. People are also saying on Twitter that TD Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America are holding the deposits until Wednesday. WTF? My bank is TD Bank. 

So I guess I can stop checking my bank balance for the time being. They have the deposits, but they are going to collect a few days’ interest before they let us have our money.

On Monday, we should be able to track our payments on-line. Forbes: 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could start sending stimulus checks as early as this weekend. If you got a first stimulus check or second stimulus check, you know how important it is to check the status of your stimulus payment. You can check the status of your third stimulus check using the Get My Payment Tool, which is available on the IRS website.

Beginning Monday, March 15, 2021, it is expected that you can use the Get My Payment Tool to check the status of the American Rescue Plan stimulus payments, also known as an Economic Impact Payment. The IRS website says that the IRS is reviewing the tax provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which President Joe Biden signed into law on March 11, 2021.

In other news, the Washington DC media is working very hard to find ways to criticize Joe Biden. They have all been harping on why Biden hasn’t yet held a press conference. The Washington Post: After 50 days as president, Biden still hasn’t given a news conference. Critics and allies wonder why.

Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton both did their first one after just nine days in office.

Barack Obama waited 20 days.

The Checkered Blouse, Pierre Bonnard, 1892

The Checkered Blouse, Pierre Bonnard, 1892

And Donald Trump had been president for only a week before giving his first news conference, where he fielded questions alongside then-British Prime Minister Theresa May.

But Joe Biden still hasn’t had a formal news conference since his inauguration on Jan. 20. Thursday was his 50th full day in office.

The seven-week stretch is the longest a new president has gone without meeting the press in the past 100 years, dating back to when Calvin Coolidge, a man known as “Silent Cal,” was president, according to research by the American Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Biden delivered his first prime-time address to the nation Thursday night — but it appears the nation will wait longer to see him respond to questions at his first presidential news conference. He has often taken a question or two from reporters at the end of speeches or statements, as he did Wednesday after remarks about an increase in the coronavirus vaccine supply. But his record as president so far mirrors his behavior as a candidate, when Biden gave several interviews but rarely interacted with a roomful of reporters.

His reluctance to do so since becoming president has attracted comment and criticism from allies and foes alike.

Of course he’s been kind of busy rolling out vaccines and helping pass a huge stimulus bill. In addition his press secretary has been holding daily briefings. But the press has to find something to complain about.

The latest thing is the media asking why Biden isn’t giving Trump credit for the millions of vaccines have have now been distributed. 

And it’s not just Fox News either. Here’s The New York Times: Biden Got the Vaccine Rollout Humming, With Trump’s Help.

When President Biden pledged last week to amass enough vaccine by late May to inoculate every adult in the United States, the pronouncement was greeted as a triumphant acceleration of a vaccination campaign that seemed to be faltering only weeks earlier.

And it is true that production of two of the three federally authorized vaccines has sped up in part because of the demands and directives of the new president’s coronavirus team.

But the announcement was also a triumph of another kind: public relations. Because Mr. Biden had tamped down expectations early, the quicker timetable for vaccine production conjured an image of a White House running on all cylinders and leaving its predecessor’s effort in the dust.

“On Saturday, we hit a record of 2.9 million vaccinations in one day in America, and beyond the numbers are the stories,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday at a White House event to celebrate the latest vaccine advancements. “A father who says he no longer fears for his daughter when she leaves to go to work at the hospital. The children are now able to hug their grandparents. The vaccines bring hope and healing in so many ways.”

Beyond the triumphant tone, a closer look at the ramp-up offers a more mixed picture, one in which the new administration expanded and bulked up a vaccine production effort whose key elements were in place when Mr. Biden took over for President Donald J. Trump. Both administrations deserve credit, although neither wants to grant much to the other.

NBC News got in on it too. Mediaite: WATCH: NBC News’ Peter Alexander Literally Wrote a Statement for Biden to Credit Trump on Vaccines, Read it Aloud at Briefing.

NBC News White House correspondent Peter Alexander took the initiative to compose a statement that President Joe Biden could use in order to give former President Donald Trump some credit for the success of the vaccination program that’s currently underway.

Several news outlets, including ABC News and The New York Times, criticized President Biden’s address to the nation on the anniversary of the Covid pandemic shutdown for failing to credit Trump.

Theodore Duret in His Study, Edouard Vuillard, 1912

Theodore Duret in His Study, Edouard Vuillard, 1912

At Friday’s White House daily briefing, Alexander asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki about that aspect of the speech, and went a step further by reading his own version of what Biden could have said to credit Trump.

Alexander said that Biden “spent a lot of time touting the success of vaccines, yet there was no mention of the president under whose administration these vaccines were developed,” and asked, “Does former President Trump not deserve any credit on vaccines?”

Psaki noted that the President and his team have praised the development of vaccines as “a Herculean incredible effort by science and by medical experts. And certainly, we have applauded that in the past, and we are happy to applaud that again.”

“But, I would say there is a clear difference, clear steps that have been taken since the president took office, that have put us on a trajectory that we were not on when he was inaugurated,” she added. “And leadership starts at the top, it includes mask-wearing, it includes acknowledging it is a pandemic, it includes getting a vaccine in public.”

Psaki went on to say that most of the infrastructure to vaccinate people was not in place when Biden took office.

Alexander conceded some of Psaki’s points, and said: “But on the development of the vaccines, it was Operation Warp Speed that was invented, executed, initiated under the former president.”

“So in the spirit of bipartisanship and unity last night, as opposed to the first comments which were about the denials in the first days weeks or months, why not just say, ‘With credit to the previous administration and the former president for putting us in this position, we are glad that we have been able to move it forward?’” Alexander asked.

“That is an excellent recommendation as a speechwriter,” Psaki said with a smile, then restated much of her previous answer, and told Alexander the purpose of the speech, as she saw it.

It’s looking worse for Andrew Cuomo as more women come forward and more people talk about his bullying and incompetence. Definitely check out Rebecca Traister’s long article at New York Magazine’s The Cut.

Traister also gave an interview to Audie Cornish at NPR: Gov. Cuomo’s Pattern Of Abuse Of Power.

CORNISH: Let’s just start with some of the common threads. What did you hear from some of these women?

TRAISTER: Well, I spoke to women and men, and I heard of a variety of ways in which Andrew Cuomo wields his power and in many cases, I think, abuses it both within the office, how he treats personnel and employees, and in terms of how he governs.

In terms of what I heard from some of the women who have worked for him, there were all kinds of common patterns – the feeling of being objectified, in some cases being hired because of how they looked. There is a woman who tells the story of meeting him at a party for two minutes and then getting invited in for a job offer two days later for no other reason she says she understood at the time except that he liked the way she looked at the party, a meeting where he also sort of grabbed her uncomfortably and did a dance move in front of a photographer.

Marc Chagall, The cat tramsformed into a woman,

Marc Chagall, The cat transformed into a woman,

There was a lot of women talking about how he touched them uncomfortably – again, not necessarily the kind of groping that he has reportedly been accused of by one woman in Albany in an incident that’s been reported to police, but touching them at weddings, kissing them on their heads. And then one thing is…

CORNISH: And you stress this a couple of times. You talk about the idea of diminishment, tokenization, and that sometimes that takes a sexualized form but doesn’t always.

TRAISTER: Yes, some of it is objectification. A lot of women talked about his constant commentary on how they were dressed, how they looked, whether they’d done their makeup that morning, questions about their dating life, use of nicknames or – not just from Cuomo but from some of his high-up staffers – a refusal to sort of learn their real names or refer to them by names. It’s all various forms of making other people feel small, in part to emphasize his own power and maintain these hierarchies within his administration.

CORNISH: Another thing you noted is that there was a sense that there was no information-sharing, that it allowed the governor’s office to evade responsibility on some things. Can you talk about how and why you see a link between this – the allegations we’re hearing now and the problems that Cuomo is having when it comes to the deaths at nursing homes, for example?

TRAISTER: Well, I think so much of it is about his approach to power and how he wields it. He’s often been written about for years as somebody with a hard-knuckled style of politics, which sort of refers to this kind of old white male brute patriarchy in which toughness is read as strength, you know, in which – and in some cases abuse, I think, is read as strength. But what’s common there is this sense of impunity, and I think you can see that – that he’s so powerful that he can get away with things.

Read more or listen at the link. A couple more new articles:

The New York Times: For Some Women, Working for Cuomo Is the ‘Worst Place to Be’

In interviews over the past week, more than 35 people who have worked in Mr. Cuomo’s executive chamber described the office as deeply chaotic, unprofessional and toxic, especially for young women.

It is a workplace, the current and former employees said, where tasks are assigned not based on job titles, but on who is liked by Mr. Cuomo and his top aides.

Cat with Cactus Flower', 1921 - Dorothea Maetzel-Johannsen

Cat with Cactus Flower’, 1921, Dorothea Maetzel-Johannsen

Those interviewed described an environment where the senior executive staff regularly deride junior workers, test their dedication to the governor and make them compete to earn his affection and avoid his wrath.

The workers, for the most part, said they did not personally witness overt sexual harassment. But many said they believed that Mr. Cuomo and other officials seemed to focus on how employees looked and how they dressed. Twelve young women said they felt pressured to wear makeup, dresses and heels, because, it was rumored, that was what the governor liked.

One high-ranking current official and two former aides said they believed they had been denied opportunities because they did not dress in the preferred manner.

The workplace culture described by the employees is not uncommon in Albany, a state capital with a long history of sexual misconduct scandals and a reputation for after-hours mingling among lobbyists, elected officials and their aides at bars and fund-raisers. But the issues are notable for a governor who has cast himself as a champion for workers and women.

Michael Shnayerson at Vanity Fair: “I Started to Think, This is a Bad Guy”:  Andrew Cuomo’s Biographer on the Governor’s Brutish History.

In 2012, I began writing an unauthorized biography of the governor of New York, who’d been in office a year. I talked to his associates and enemies. I gathered a dossier on his bullying ways and confrontational tactics. I pored over court documents surrounding his nasty split, a decade before, from his wife, Kerry Kennedy, a member of another powerful Democratic dynasty. As I plunged into writing, I hoped he might even agree to sit for an interview—and he did agree, sort of.

By the time I was about to hand in my manuscript, the governor had a book of his own in the works. It was titled All Things Possible. And his intention was to beat me to market. But I was ahead. Back came word that if I would let his book appear first, he would grant me all the interview time I wanted. So I agreed. But the governor pulled a fast one. I never did get that interview; his book came out in October 2014, a full five months ahead of mine. And there was, after all, no longer anything he needed from me. It was a quintessential Cuomo move: underhanded, stealthy, self-serving, and hard-ass.

This week I decided to dip back into the pages of my 2015 Cuomo biography, The Contender—and to do some additional reporting, given the news swirling around the governor. And I discovered that much of Cuomo’s M.O. and many of his character flaws—some of which have resurfaced as he’s been upended by the nursing home scandal and claims of sexual harassment, workplace misconduct, and predatory behavior (currently under investigation by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, and prompting an impeachment investigation by state legislators)—have been evident for years.

Here, then, are 12 hard truths I learned about Andrew Cuomo while writing The Contender.

Read the rest at Vanity Fair.

Those are my suggested reads for today. What’s on your mind?


Lazy Caturday Reads: A Bit of News and Some Fascinating Long Reads

The cat’s lunch, Pierre Bonnard, circa 1906

Good Afternoon!!

I’m sick to death of politics right now, but I don’t want to completely ignore it either. So today I’ll begin with a few of today’s news stories and then I’m going to recommend some interesting long reads that I’ve enjoyed this week.

Harry Litman at The Washington Post: Release the Mueller team’s summaries. Now.

In the (so far) quiet war of words between the Barr and Mueller camps, we have learned that the special counsel’s report was prepared with summaries of each section that were designed purposely for quick delivery to Congress. These summaries have been scrubbed of all or nearly all controversial material and, therefore, consist of Mueller’s analyses and conclusions without disclosing the supporting, potentially confidential, evidentiary material.

‘Company’ by English painter & illustrator Ophelia Redpath (b.1965)

The summaries should be released to the Congress and the public. While some at the Justice Department assert that the materials are marked as containing grand jury material, we know from Mueller’s team that they were prepared for the purpose of quick release. It, therefore, stands to reason that any problematic material they contain could be removed in short order. They are core explanations of Mueller’s work, which the public has been hungry to learn about — and which Mueller intended the public to have.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, should set to the side for one day the maneuverings over grand jury material and other redactions. The Justice Department should similarly reserve its prerogative to fight over these materials in court. For today, all parties should agree immediately to produce the summaries of Mueller’s work that would greatly illuminate the currently obscured special counsel’s report.

Marcy Wheeler at The Washington Post: We already knew Barr’s summary was too easy on Trump. Public records prove it.

When Attorney General William P. Barr released a four-page memo two weeks ago opining that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” we already knew enough to be sure that Barr was spinning the contents of the report his memo claimed to summarize, as multiple reports now say he did.

Girl with Cat, by Lotte Laserstein, 1898-1993, was a German-Swedish painter and portraitist

That’s because there was already public evidence at the time that undermined Barr’s conclusions. Barr’s letter may have been accurate, technically speaking. But based on what it omitted about two key associates of President Trump — his longtime adviser Roger Stone and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — it was obvious that the attorney general had left whole areas of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings out of the summary. That Mueller’s team thinks Barr made the investigation’s findings look less damaging to Trump should not come as a surprise.

For example, the indictment of Roger Stone, who isn’t mentioned in Barr’s “summary.”

When Attorney General William P. Barr released a four-page memo two weeks ago opining that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense,” we already knew enough to be sure that Barr was spinning the contents of the report his memo claimed to summarize, as multiple reports now say he did.

That’s because there was already public evidence at the time that undermined Barr’s conclusions. Barr’s letter may have been accurate, technically speaking. But based on what it omitted about two key associates of President Trump — his longtime adviser Roger Stone and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — it was obvious that the attorney general had left whole areas of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings out of the summary. That Mueller’s team thinks Barr made the investigation’s findings look less damaging to Trump should not come as a surprise.

Read more examples at the WaPo.

Think Progress: Lawsuit alleges utterly flabbergasting sexism at law firm closely associated with Donald Trump.

By Suzanne Valadon (French, 1865-1938) Jeune Fille au Chat

A $200 million lawsuit filed against a law firm closely associated with President Donald Trump alleges that the firm fostered a “fraternity culture” featuring heavy drinking, an overbearing male leader, and sexism that was often so absurd it reads like something out of a gross-out comedy from the 1980s.

The suit against Jones Day, a 2,500 lawyer firm that played a significant role in placing Trump in the White House — the Trump campaign paid Jones Day $3.3 million in legal fees according to a 2017 report — alleges a culture where women attorneys were denied promotions despite exemplary work, excluded from mentoring opportunities afforded to male associates, asked to leave the firm after taking maternity leave, and subjected to cruel and sexist jokes by male colleagues.

Trump appointed numerous Jones Day lawyers to high-level positions within his administration, including Solicitor General Noel Francisco, former White House Counsel Don McGahn, and the two highest ranking attorneys in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Trump also appointed two former Jones Day partners to federal appellate judgeships.

At one event hosted by a Jones Day partner, the complaint alleges that a male summer associate (“summer associate” is the title typically given to highly paid law students who work at a firm during their summer vacation) pushed a female colleague into the partner’s swimming pool while the woman was wearing a white dress. According to the complaint, “the male summer associate who pushed her was applauded and high-fived by the Firm’s summer associate committee and leadership rather than reprimanded.”

In another incident, a partner allegedly “demanded that three female summer associates sing and dance to a Care Bears song (an event captured on video).” These three summer associates were allegedly told that they must humiliate themselves in this way “to receive verbal offers to join the Firm as associates.”

During a limo ride to a firm event, male Jones Day lawyers allegedly played a game called “Fuck, Marry, Kill,” in which they “named coworkers from the office and proposed to whom they would do each of these things.” At the event itself, a male associate allegedly “called several of his female colleagues ‘cunts,’” yet the lawsuit claims that he remains employed by the firm.

More disgusting allegations at the link.

Now for those longer reads:

This one is political. The New York Times, April 3: Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections.

Léonard Tsugouharu Foujita (aka 藤田 嗣治, Fujita Tsuguharu) 1950s Self Portrait

In a manifesto posted online before his attack, the gunman who killed 50 last month in a rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, said he drew inspiration from white extremist terrorism attacks in Norway, the United States, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

His references to those attacks placed him in an informal global network of white extremists whose violent attacks are occurring with greater frequency in the West.

An analysis by The New York Times of recent terrorism attacks found that at least a third of white extremist killers since 2011 were inspired by others who perpetrated similar attacks, professed a reverence for them or showed an interest in their tactics.

The connections between the killers span continents and highlight how the internet and social media have facilitated the spread of white extremist ideology and violence.

In one instance, a school shooter in New Mexico corresponded with a gunman who attacked a mall in Munich. Altogether, they killed 11 people.

Please go read the whole thing. I think this is an important story. How are these white supremacist networks any different from the on-line “radicalization” of Islamic terrorists? The interest has made it much easier for crazy people to find and communicate with others like them.

The New Yorker: The Day the Dinosaurs Died, by Douglas Preston

I loved this article! I can’t possibly do it justice with a few excerpts. It’s about a paleontology grad student, Robert De Palma, and his discovery of a rich fossil bed in North Dakota that may shed light on the rapid extinction of dinosaurs. Here’s a taste:

By Zviad Gogolauri

On August 5, 2013, I received an e-mail from a graduate student named Robert DePalma. I had never met DePalma, but we had corresponded on paleontological matters for years, ever since he had read a novel I’d written that centered on the discovery of a fossilized Tyrannosaurus rex killed by the KT impact. “I have made an incredible and unprecedented discovery,” he wrote me, from a truck stop in Bowman, North Dakota. “It is extremely confidential and only three others know of it at the moment, all of them close colleagues.” He went on, “It is far more unique and far rarer than any simple dinosaur discovery. I would prefer not outlining the details via e-mail, if possible.” He gave me his cell-phone number and a time to call.

I called, and he told me that he had discovered a site like the one I’d imagined in my novel, which contained, among other things, direct victims of the catastrophe. At first, I was skeptical. DePalma was a scientific nobody, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Kansas, and he said that he had found the site with no institutional backing and no collaborators. I thought that he was likely exaggerating, or that he might even be crazy. (Paleontology has more than its share of unusual people.) But I was intrigued enough to get on a plane to North Dakota to see for myself.

DePalma’s find was in the Hell Creek geological formation, which outcrops in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, and contains some of the most storied dinosaur beds in the world. At the time of the impact, the Hell Creek landscape consisted of steamy, subtropical lowlands and floodplains along the shores of an inland sea. The land teemed with life and the conditions were excellent for fossilization, with seasonal floods and meandering rivers that rapidly buried dead animals and plants.

Ludwig Kohrl (1858-1927)

The Hell Creek Formation spanned the Cretaceous and the Paleogene periods, and paleontologists had known for at least half a century that an extinction had occurred then, because dinosaurs were found below, but never above, the KT layer. This was true not only in Hell Creek but all over the world. For many years, scientists believed that the KT extinction was no great mystery: over millions of years, volcanism, climate change, and other events gradually killed off many forms of life. But, in the late nineteen-seventies, a young geologist named Walter Alvarez and his father, Luis Alvarez, a nuclear physicist, discovered that the KT layer was laced with unusually high amounts of the rare metal iridium, which, they hypothesized, was from the dusty remains of an asteroid impact. In an article in Science, published in 1980, they proposed that this impact was so large that it triggered the mass extinction, and that the KT layer was the debris from that event. Most paleontologists rejected the idea that a sudden, random encounter with space junk had drastically altered the evolution of life on Earth. But as the years passed the evidence mounted, until, in a 1991 paper, the smoking gun was announced: the discovery of an impact crater buried under thousands of feet of sediment in the Yucatán peninsula, of exactly the right age, and of the right size and geochemistry, to have caused a worldwide cataclysm. The crater and the asteroid were named Chicxulub, after a small Mayan town near the epicenter.

De Palma was fascinated by bones even as a child, and he has been finding fossils for his entire life. If you have any interest in prehistory and dinosaurs, please read this article. You won’t be sorry.

The Washington Post, April 3: The last survivor of a slave ship has been identified, and her story is remarkable.

by Suzan Visser

She was captured at about the age of 12 in West Africa and forced aboard the Clotilda, the last slave vessel to arrive in the United States in 1860.

Now researchers have identified Redoshi as the last known African-born survivor of the transatlantic slave trade when she died in 1937, according to a statement released Tuesday by Newcastle University in Great Britain. Renamed Sally Smith in Alabama, she may have been 110 years old at the time of her death.

Until now, researchers believed the last survivor of the transatlantic slave trade was Oluale Kossola, also known as Cudjo Lewis. But, according to research by Hannah Durkin, a lecturer at Newcastle University, Redoshi lived two years longer than Cudjo, who died in 1935.

Durkin said she first saw a reference to Redoshi in the writings of Zora Neale Hurston and began researching her life story from other writings.

In 2018, HarperCollins published Hurston’s manuscript, “Barracoon: The Story of the Last ‘Black Cargo,’” 90 years after she wrote it. “Barracoon” detailed the life of Kossola, or Cudjo Lewis, who was just a teenager when he was captured in what is now Benin. Kossola and more than 100 Africans were forced to board the Clotilda in 1860, even though the United States had banned the importation of enslaved people in 1808.

Read the rest at the link.

One more from NBC News: Revolutionary War hero Casimir Pulaski might have been a woman or intersex.

Casimir Pulaski, hero of the Revolutionary War and the pride of the Polish-American community, may need a new pronoun — he may have been a she, or even a they.

By Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938)

Researchers who used DNA to identify Pulaski’s bones are convinced the gallant Pole who died fighting for America’s freedom was either a biological woman who lived as a man, or potentially was intersex, meaning a person whose body doesn’t fit the standard definitions of male or female.

That’s the eye-opening takeaway from a new Smithsonian Channel documentary titled “The General Was Female?,” which premieres Monday and is part of the “America’s Hidden Stories” series.

“One of the ways that male and female skeletons are different is the pelvis,” Virginia Hutton Estabrook, an assistant professor of anthropology at Georgia Southern University, told NBC News. “In females, the pelvic cavity has a more oval shape. It’s less heart-shaped than in the male pelvis. Pulaski’s looked very female.”

While the Pulaski skeleton showed tell-tale signs of extensive horseback riding and a battle wound on the right hand that the general is known to have suffered, the facial structure and jaw angle were decidedly female, Estabrook said.

Read the rest at NBC News.

I hope you’ll find something here that appeals to you. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Having a childish, incompetent madman in charge of the government is so exhausting. How much more of this can we take? Today, Donnie is headed for the Texas border with Mexico to do something or other. Who knows what insane gibberish will spew from his deformed lips. All I know for sure is that it won’t make sense.

Donnie has been touting his “steel slat” fence for the past week, but guess what? Those slats can be cut through with a common household saw.

NBC News: Test of steel prototype for border wall showed it could be sawed through.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly advocated for a steel slat design for his border wall, which he described as “absolutely critical to border security” in his Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday. But Department of Homeland Security testing of a steel slat prototype proved it could be cut through with a saw, according to a report by DHS.

A photo exclusively obtained by NBC News shows the results of the test after military and Border Patrol personnel were instructed to attempt to destroy the barriers with common tools.

The Trump administration directed the construction of eight steel and concrete prototype walls that were built in Otay Mesa, California, just across the border from Tijuana, Mexico. Trump inspected the prototypes in March 2018. He has now settled on a steel slat, or steel bollard, design for the proposed border barrier additions. Steel bollard fencing has been used under previous administrations.

However, testing by DHS in late 2017 showed all eight prototypes, including the steel slats, were vulnerable to breaching, according to an internal February 2018 U.S. Customs and Border Protection report.

Photos of the breaches were not included in a redacted version of the CBP report, which was first obtained in a Freedom of Information Act Request by San Diego public broadcaster KPBS.

Gail Collins mocks Donnie’s wall obsession at The New York Times: Trump Hits the Wall. And what’s all that sniffling about?

We need to look at the bright side of Donald Trump’s border wall fixation.

Sure, he’s shut down the government and thrown the nation into chaos. But it could be worse. He could be demanding a fiery moat between us and Canada. Or building a 36,000-foot-deep barrier across the Pacific Ocean to drive home his commitment to tariffs.

See? There’s always a silver lining.

On Trump’s strange oval office address:

Maybe all this wall obsessing makes Trump tired. He certainly seemed low-energy during his Oval Office address. “He makes Jeb Bush look like a combination of Mighty Mouse and Bruce Springsteen,” a friend of mine said after the president finished his nine-minute speech to the American people.

For every viewer whose response to the talk was “Wow, we should do something about immigration!” there must have been a hundred whose first reaction was “Why does this man keep sniffing?” Deviated septum? Nasal polyps? Trump’s breathing has actually sounded strange for a long time, but most of us have chosen to ignore it rather than engage in a national conversation about the president’s nose.

If you watched the address — and really, you could have, it was only about as long as it takes to microwave popcorn — you saw a 72-year-old guy squinting at the teleprompter and making rather alarming breathing sounds while reading a speech about how we need a wall to protect women who are “sexually assaulted on the dangerous trek up through Mexico.”

This is not a man who should wrap his arguments around the idea of protecting women from sexual assault. But also, gee, he sounded like Uncle Fred who you haven’t seen for a while and suddenly he shows up for Thanksgiving with weird colored hair and vacant eyes and he’s talking into his mashed potatoes.

As the Trump shutdown continues, the administration has been giving tone-deaf advice to government employees who are going without pay.

The Washington Post: Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown.

Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”

The suggestions were part of a five-page tip sheet published by the Coast Guard Support Program, an employee-assistance arm of the service often known as CG SUPRT. It is designated to offer Coast Guard members help with mental-health issues or other concerns about their lives, including financial wellness.

“Bankruptcy is a last option,” the document said.

The Coast Guard receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security and is subjected to the shuttering of parts of the government along with DHS’s other agencies. That stands in contrast to other military services, which are part of the Defense Department and have funding.

This is interesting, from Buzzfeed News: ICE Might Be Violating Federal Law By Keeping Immigrants Detained During The Shutdown.

A lengthy government shutdown over border wall funding has potentially put Immigration and Customs Enforcement at risk of violating a more than 100-year-old law that could not only require the release of “non-dangerous” individuals in the agency’s custody but also stop it from continuing to arrest and detain certain people, according to former senior ICE officials and experts.

The potential violation could complicate ICE’s operations at a time when President Donald Trump has argued that the shutdown is necessary to force Democrats to implement tougher immigration policies, such as building a wall on the US–Mexico border.

ICE contracts with nonfederal detention facilities, like county jails and private detention contractors, across the country to hold individuals detained by immigration agents. The agency pays for the bed space in various ways, including monthly payments or, in some cases, in advance.

As of Jan. 1, the agency was detaining more than 48,000 individuals, which is 8,000 more than the levels that had been provided for by the now-expired congressional funding. But nearly three weeks after its funding lapsed because of the shutdown, ICE has likely run out of money to pay contractors for the detention space it uses.

And while ICE has some non-appropriated funds it can lean on, those are not enough to pay for the overall detention space for more than a few weeks, said Kevin Landy, who was appointed during the Obama administration to run ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, a position he held for more than six years, up until 2017.

In other news, Kamala Harris is close to announcing a run for president in 2020.

KCBS Radio: Kamala Harris Ready To Enter Race For President, Sources Say.

Sen. Kamala Harris has decided to run for president in 2020 and will announce her candidacy on or around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, probably at a campaign rally in Oakland, sources close to the freshman senator from California tell KCBS Radio.

Harris, 54, has been making the rounds of television talk shows and appearing at several events this week as part of a brief tour to promote her new book, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.”

At every stop, when asked about running for president, Harris has answered with some variation of “I’m not ready yet” to announce her decision, citing family considerations. But several sources knowledgeable about her plans say she is ready, and has in fact decided to run, with the enthusiastic blessing of her husband and two stepchildren.

The debate within her camp is how, and where, to launch her campaign. The tentative plan is for Harris to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with a campaign rally, most likely in Oakland, where she was born and began her legal career.

And the media continues to belatedly vet Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. Politico: Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate.

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention in July of 2016, Bernie Sanders’ staffers went out to a Mediterranean restaurant and hookah bar in Center City Philadelphia to celebrate and mourn the end of the campaign.

Sitting at the bar sometime after midnight, convention floor leader Robert Becker—who oversaw Sanders’ Iowa campaign, then helped lead his efforts in Michigan, California, and New York as deputy national field director—began talking with a female staffer who had worked under him along with her boyfriend.

Becker, now 50 years old, told the 20-something woman that he had always wanted to have sex with her and made a reference to riding his “pole,” according to the woman and three other people who witnessed what happened or were told about it shortly afterward by people who did. Later in the night, Becker approached the woman and abruptly grabbed her wrists. Then he moved his hands to her head and forcibly kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth as he held her, the woman and other sources said.

The woman said she didn’t come forward at the time, because Sanders’ campaign was over. But when she was recently contacted by Becker about 2020 the women felt she had to speak up.

“Candidates who allow people like Robert Becker to lead their organizations shouldn’t earn the highest office in our government,” said the woman, who was granted anonymity because she feared retaliation from supporters of Sanders and Becker, who has a loyal following of his own.

“It just really sucks because no one ever held him accountable and he kept pushing and pushing and seeing how much he could get away with. This can’t happen in 2020. You can’t run for President of the United States unless you acknowledge that every campaign demands a safe work environment for every employee and volunteer.”

 


Thursday Reads: Women’s Righteous Rage

Good Morning!!

Two new books explore the power of women’s rage. One is already available and the other will be released on October 2. The first is Rage Becomes Her, by Soraya Chemaly. The second is Good and Mad, by Rebecca Traister. There couldn’t be a more appropriate time for these books and for women to embrace their righteous rage.

Just a short time ago, we saw Serena Williams viciously attacked for defending herself against an unfair tennis umpire in milder ways then men have been getting away with for decades. And now we have the spectacle of old white Republican men bullying a survivor of sexual abuse because she dared to speak out publicly about the man they desperately want to install on the Supreme Court.

Women are sick and tired of being pushed around–at least millions of us are. We are sick of being treated like property and being told we shouldn’t be able to make choices about our own bodies and our own futures. After hundreds of years of struggle, women are finally “allowed” to hold positions previously forbidden to us–doctors, lawyers, professors, Senators. But we still earn less money than men and we are still expected to accept being sexually harassed on the job, sexually assaulted, and beaten by our husbands and boyfriends. When we dare to speak out about male violence, we are expected to deal with death threats, rape threats and having our personal information posted on the internet.

On Tuesday I wrote about being triggered by the Brett Kavanaugh attempted rape controversy and the ugly reaction by the old white men of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yesterday, my rage at this situation became so all-consuming that I felt as if I were having an out-of-body experience. Today, I’m a little calmer, but still angry as hell. I know I should try to detach from this controversy, but I can’t. It feels too important.

That’s all I can write for today. I’m going to list some important articles I’ve read yesterday and this morning. I just don’t have the strength to do excerpts, sorry.

Please don’t miss this one by Elizabeth Bruenig at The Washington Post: Twelve years ago, Amber Wyatt reported her rape. Few believed her.  Her hometown turned against her. The authorities failed her.

Isaac Chotiner at Slate: An Interview With the Psychiatrist Who Says White House Officials Called Her With Concerns About Trump.

The New York Times: From the Anonymity of Academia to the Center of a Supreme Court Confirmation.

The Washington Post: ‘These are the stories of our lives’: Prep school alumni hear echoes in assault claim.

Vanity Fair: The Toxic Politics of the GOP’s Plan to Save Brett Kavanaugh.

Sandra Newman at The Washington Post: Want to help prevent rape? Withdraw Kavanaugh’s nomination.

HuffPost: Brett Kavanaugh Liked Female Clerks Who Looked A ‘Certain Way,’ Yale Student Was Told.

Thiru Vignarajah at The Washington Post: Kavanaugh’s accuser deserves a fair criminal investigation.

Washington Post Fact Checker: Brett Kavanaugh’s unlikely story about Democrats’ stolen documents.

The Boston Globe: Elizabeth Warren for president? New survey shows Mass. voters don’t love that idea.

Lili Loofbourow at Slate: Men Are More Afraid Than Ever. Why Kavanaugh advocates would rather defend malfeasance than deny it.

HuffPost: Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong.

Business Insider: ‘We’re in the fourth quarter’: James Comey says Mueller may be about to finish his investigation into Trump.

This is an open thread. Have a nice day and embrace your anger!


Monday Reads: #MeToo v Brett Kavanaugh #Be Silent No More!

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

When preppy smug Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser unmasked herself in WAPO yesterday I knew exactly what this Monday Post would explore.  There were inklings of all kinds of moral lapses and weirdness in Kavanaugh’s binders full of boys will be boys.

He had a lascivious obsession with the details of the Lewinsky/Clinton affair. He worked for predator Judge Alexis Kozinski but managed to see or hear nothing. He belonged to an all boy social club known informally as “Tit and Clit” because that was evidently all it was about.  He was an infamous heavy drinker and rumors swirled about possible gambling addictions and odd debt and financial transactions.  Additionally, it’s pretty clear he’s lied before several senate committees under oath.

We were supposed to be distracted by the cute kids he coaches and his indefatigable list of 65 high school women that magically appeared to vouch for his activities.  But, women every where are beginning to learn the Truth will set you Free.  Listen, I knew the Jesuit prep school culture in Omaha during my high school years.  Those guys had some of the girls schools labelled the source of Madonnas and potential wives and other ones the girls were whores and prey. I was repeatedly warned by Catholic school girl friends to make sure you were never alone with a group of them. I can’t imagine it was anything but the same situation on steroids in those exclusive DC suburbs. This could be stuff I witnessed ten years earlier. I’m tempted to ask my daughters if those same prep schoolers still behave like this. I have a feeling they do.

Judge, a classmate of Kavanaugh’s at the all-male Georgetown Prep the time of the alleged assault, tells stories in his 1997 memoir, Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk, of binge drinking at teen parties and trying to “hook up” with girls.

It was at one such gathering, Ford told the Post, that Kavanaugh and Judge, both drunk, shoved her into a bedroom. She said that Kavanaugh locked the door, pushed her onto a bed, fumbled with her clothing, held her down and attempted to force himself on her. Ford said she managed to escape when Judge jumped on top of both of them. Kavanaugh has “categorically” denied the accusations.

Judge recalls in his book how his life changed when he first got drunk at the age of 14 and later battled alcoholism.

His “immersion” into alcohol began the end of his sophomore year during a typical annual “beach week,” when Catholic high school students headed to the shore after school was out. “Now I had an opportunity to make some headway [with girls]. Most of the time everyone, including the girls, was drunk. If you could breathe and walk at the same time, you could hook up,” he wrote.

His drinking became so extreme that he had blackout episodes, and woke up on the floor of a restaurant bathroom with no memory of how he got there. Once “I had the first beer, I found it impossible to stop until I was completely annihilated,” he wrote.

And that’st the deal, I wonder if we can ever get rid of this culture of raising young men to be predators. But back to the cad at hand.  I put this up on the thread yesterday but I’m giving it my full attention now because, well, THIS!!!  Professor of constitutional law at the University of Baltimore and writer for the Atlantic wrote this yesterday: “The Subtext of Kavanaugh’s Nomination Bursts Into the Open. A sexual-assault allegation against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee brings the fight over gender and power to the fore.”

The gendered subtext of this moment is, not to put too fine a point on it, war—war to the knife—over the future of women’s autonomy in American society. Shall women control their own reproduction, their health care, their contraception, their legal protection at work against discrimination and harassment, or shall we move backward to the chimera of past American greatness, when the role of women was—supposedly for biological reasons—subordinate to that of men?

That theme became became apparent even before the 2016 election, when candidate Donald Trump promised to pick judges who would “automatically” overturn Roe v. Wade. The candidate was by his own admission a serial sexual harasser. On live national television, he then stalked, insulted, and physically menaced his female opponent—and he said, in an unguarded moment, that in his post-Roe future, women who choose abortion will face “some form of punishment.”

In context, Trump promised to restore the old system of dominion—by lawmakers, husbands, pastors, institutions, and judges—over women’s reproduction. Arguably that platform propelled Trump into the White House: Many evangelical Christian voters chose to overlook Trump’s flagrant sexual immorality, his overt contempt for the basics of faith, because they believed he would end abortion forever.

It’s also why Trump is going all in on the nominee. Kavanaugh’s got the same MOs as Trump.  They’re freaking soul mates.  Both are entitle dicks who hate women and feel they have the right to take and do whatever they want and to say whatever they want, and to freaking make decisions over “lesser beings” like people from shithole countries and women. Trump sees conspiracies when people actually try to hold any of them all to account for immoral, terrible behavior. They’re alllowed in their mind’s eye.

In the hours after a 51-year-old California professor came forward to publicly allege that Judge Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while they were in high school, the White House signaled no interest in slowing Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination.

Instead, the president’s team and his allies on and off the Hill began to mount a vigorous defense against the accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, questioning why she had identified herself only now, and framing Kavanaugh’s alleged behavior as almost commonplace in nature.

A senior White House official told The Daily Beast that, as of Sunday evening, things are still “full steam ahead” for Kavanaugh. On Friday afternoon, a different White House official confirmed that President Trump had been made aware of the earlier reports involving the Kavanaugh sexual-misconduct allegation—reports that did not name the accuser.

The president has told those close to him in recent days that he believes there is a “conspiracy” or organized effort by Democrats to smear Kavanaugh and try to derail the nomination of a “good man.” One Trump confidant said Sunday that they “can’t imagine that” Ford coming forward will change the president’s position, and that it will far more likely cause Trump to dig in and attack those going after Kavanaugh.

The response from Team Trump rang all too familiar for women who have come forward in the past to allege that they had been targeted by prominent male officials. And for veterans of Clarence Thomas’ nomination for the Supreme Court seat some three decades ago, the echoes were even more profound. The extent to which lessons have been learned from that episode —and what specific lessons they are—could very well determine Kavanaugh’s fate in the coming days.

I’ve been mad about stuff like this for a very long time and I’ve never cooled down over it.  I will never, EVER vote for Joe Biden because ANITA HILL.  And you want a story? I was assaulted in the choir room in my high school by 2 hyperchristians.  I felt fortunate I didn’t get raped.  I just finally started talking about it 3 years ago.  I’m finally talking about what my exhusband did to me when I was 36 and both my kids’ godparents saw the bruises as did my parents and his mother.  My oldest daughter’s godparents even asked me if it was okay they talk to him at her wedding because they knew what he did to me. Just about every victim of abuse has to think long and hard about coming forward.  My friend in college was raped in the University of Nebraska Library Stacks.  She thought she had no options because she had smoked a joint prior to going to study.  At the time, the laws let her sexual history and all kinds of crap come forward. It was and still is a torturous process for victims no matter how long  SVU has been on TV.

And she was 15 and he was 17.

And his behavior was not the normal high school boy stupidity. Read the details.  Dr. Christine Blasey Ford has a posse and it includes me because I know what it’s like.  I know it includes most of his here including many men.

A group of women who went to Christine Blasey Ford’s high school are circulating a letter to show support for the woman who has alleged that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh tried to sexually assault her while they were in high school.

“We believe Dr. Blasey Ford and are grateful that she came forward to tell her story,” says a draft letter from alumnae of Holton-Arms, a private girls school in Bethesda, Maryland. “It demands a thorough and independent investigation before the Senate can reasonably vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.”

The women also say that what Ford is alleging “is all too consistent with stories we heard and lived while attending Holton. Many of us are survivors ourselves.”

The letter is a boost of support for Ford, who has been thrust into the political spotlight and had her credibility questioned by going up against Kavanaugh and the White House. The signatories span decades at the school, both before, during and after Ford attended.

More than 200 women had signed the letter as of late Monday morning, said Sarah Burgess, a member of the class of 2005. Burgess said she and some of her schoolmates wrote the letter because hearing Ford’s story felt “personal.”

“I know that in the coming days, her story will be scrutinized, and she will be accused of lying,” Burgess said in an email. “However, I grew up hearing stories like hers, and believe her completely.”

Politico had this to say this morning: “Why God Is Laughing at Brett Kavanaugh”.

It is on this point that the cosmos may be having a laugh not just at Kavanaugh’s expense but at many other people’s. After decades of competitive moralizing and situational ethics—in which every accuser in due course becomes the accused, and anyone riding a high horse can expect to be bucked off—even the concept of fairness in American politics seemingly is defunct.

Three decades of remorseless ideological and cultural combat—over Robert Bork, over Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, over Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, over Bush v. Gore, and, at last and above all, over Donald Trump—have made the question virtually irrelevant.

Fairness is rooted in the idea of principles, precedent, proportionality. Few people in American life witnessed at closer range than Kavanaugh the modern reality that when things really matter—in the way that the balance of the Supreme Court matters—all these fine notions matter less than the cold, hard exercise of power.

So here was Kavanaugh—who spent his early 30s as a Ken Starr warrior pursuing Bill Clinton for the political and legal implications of his most intimate moral failings—now in his early 50s facing a political crisis over disturbingly vivid, passionately contested, decades-old allegations about Kavanaugh’s own possible moral failings.

Few prosecutors, it seems likely, would ever open an assault case—36 years later—on the basis of Christine Blasey Ford’s account of being pinned down on a bed by a drunken Kavanaugh, then 17, and being aggressively groped until a friend of his physically jumped in.

But few prosecutors in the 1990s would have pursued an extensive criminal investigation over perjury into a middle-aged man’s lies about adultery if that person had not been President Bill Clinton. In his zeal at the time, Kavanaugh, like Starr, may have worked himself into a belief that this was about sacred principles of law, but to many others—and ultimately to a clear majority of the country—it was obvious that the case was fundamentally about political power.

Kavanaugh’s fate, too, now depends on precisely the same thing: Do the allegations change the calculation for the perhaps half-a-dozen senators—including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—whose minds were not already made up by earlier political calculations?

With the benefit of hindsight, Kavanaugh later concluded presidents should be shielded from criminal investigations of the sort he helped wage against Clinton. At the time, however, he was filled with righteous indignation. “It is our job,” he wrote colleagues in Starr’s office in an email, “to make his pattern of revolting behavior clear—piece by painful piece.”

Can Kavanaugh and his supporters really be surprised that opponents of his nomination will feel similarly righteous in wanting to examine allegations against him piece by piece?

Both Judge* Kavanaugh and Professor Ford are willing to testify.

Democrats say the vote should be delayed so that the committee can hear Dr. Blasey — a move Republicans have said is a stalling tactic. Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings have drawn raucous protests and partisan fights, even before Dr. Blasey’s allegations became public.

Dr. Blasey was willing to testify before Congress, Debra Katz, a lawyer, said on Monday about her client, who has been referred to in news accounts as Ms. Ford but goes by Dr. Blasey professionally.

“We hope that this hearing is fair and not another weaponized attack on a woman who has come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against a powerful man,” Ms. Katz told The New York Times.

There was no indication early Monday that the Judiciary Committee had requested such testimony or that the panel planned to delay the vote.

A key Republican on the committee, however, Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, told Politico that he was “not comfortable voting yes” on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination until he learned more about Dr. Blasey’s account. Mr. Flake’s objection could force a delay for the committee, which has 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

Senate Republicans have also expected they could win the support of some Democrats who face tough re-election campaigns in states Mr. Trump won in 2016. One such Democrat, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana, said on Monday that the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh were “serious and merit further review.”

This week is going to be a wild and bumpy ride.  We’re about to see if the recent women’s marches and the incredible removals of powerful men in charge of media and entertainment interests as well as holding political positions has sunk in enough to to make Anita Hill proud of us all.

This was the one thing I always wanted to protect my daughters from and it pains me to think the girls and women today are still not believed and the men are still waved off with the “boys will be boys” mentality.

He was 17 and she was 15.  She was afraid her parents would find out where she’d been.  She was afraid of all kinds of things that would happen and are happening now that she spoke out.

We should be on her posse just as I will always be on Anita Hill’s posse.  I believe them both.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  This is still an open thread so share everything!